As I reflect on the outgoing year, I realize there are many people that have had an impact on me; too many to mention. However, I’d like to take a few moments to acknowledge nine of the people that¬†inspired me in new and interesting ways.

Thank you EVERYONE for your contributions to my 2009!

9) ADAM SAVAGE, process

Many TED talks have had an impact on me. Few as shocking as the night I was cleaning up my office while Adam Savage talked about obsessions on my computer just a few feet away. I have to admit that it was a bit unsettling at first that with each passing minute Mr. Savage talked faster and more excitedly about minutae of recreating movie props. About halfway through his talk, though, I started to see myself and how I approach my passions in him. The payoff, however… the payoff was worth all of the bizarre obsessive stuff in his talk. Mr. Savage hit a towering home run with his parting thought that his obsession is about the process, not the product.

8 & 7) BOB AND JAMIE O’FARRELL, strength [photos coming]

Back in the day we spent so much time together that it became a running joke with other friends of mine that my two virtual brothers were actually one person, “Bob-n’-Jamie”. They spent the last half of this year watching their younger brother suffer through a very aggressive cancer and stayed with him during the final, harrowing days of his battle. What they witnessed, particularly in David’s final hours, would break most people. Bob and Jamie proved to be stronger than I ever imagined them being.

6) JOWI TAYLOR, passion

Jowi was the keynote speaker at PAB2009 and he brought the house down with his talk about his creative projects, exploring possibilities and especially about his passion for the Six String Nation Guitar, a guitar made of 63 pieces of Canada. His insight into real stories and real people, how they define us and reflect our identity was extremely moving. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house and the spontaneous outpouring of financial support from the community demonstrates the impact he had on everyone.

5) CAROLINE COADY, belief

Our friend Caroline was diagnosed with cancer in June and wasn’t given much hope. The diagnosis had apparently come late and doctors figured that her stage 4 colorectal cancer had spread to her lungs and ovaries. Caroline stood tall and somehow managed to look healthy throughout her aggressive chemo regimen and frequent setbacks. She always believed she would be a survivor. Things took a turn for the worse and Caroline required emergency life threatening surgery. During what ended up being laproscopic surgery, the surgeon discovered a single 2cm tumour and no other cancer in her body. Whether you believe it was the treatment she received to that point or that her belief and attitude got rid of the cancer, it’s still a miracle that Caroline is now one surgery away from being cancer free.

4 & 3) BERT AND RHODA BLEVIS, family [photo coming]

I was probably 13 when I last admired my parents this way. Besides the normal distance that ebbs and flows throughout the evolution of the parent-child relationship, we had additional strains over the years. None of that mattered to my parents when Andrea was diagnosed with breast cancer. My parents “shortcutted” past all formalities, bypassed lip service and went straight into action to help and support us. They’ve cancelled social plans, trips and a three-month condo rental in Florida during the worst months of the winter so they can be hear for Andrea, me and our two daughters throughout Andrea’s treatment.

2) HENRY WINKLER, caring

Andrea, Lucy, Bayla and I went to see Henry Winkler speak at an event in Ottawa this past September. Of course, we’re fans of his from Happy Days, Arrested Development and we had interviewed him about Hank Zipzer books, but hadn’t realized the extent of his humanitarian work until we read his bio. Trust me on this one… there are very few people in the world who have invested themselves in helping others and still managed a career of their own the way Mr. Winkler has. As I noted in a blog post I wrote about his presentation, all of his stories illustrated a life that seems to have taken place as if by design and certainly too amazing to be a Hollywood movie. If it wasn’t enough that he inspired us that evening, Mr. Winkler also left a powerful and moving voice mail message for Andrea after her breast cancer diagnosis (in fact, he was the FIRST of 130 children’s book authors/illustrators to leave a message).

1) ANDREA ROSS, survivor

It’s really hard to believe what Andrea’s been through since she first discovered a lump in her breast four months ago. Besides the emotional strain, she’s had three surgeries, a secondary cancer scare (that proved to be nothing), a battery of disruptive and even invasive tests and she’s begun a regimen of chemotherapy. Seeing her walk tall, recover quickly and shine through all of this is powerful and makes me feel incredibly selfish for the times I feel railroaded by the entire process. Andrea’s amazing medical care combined with a network of energy workers, our support system and especially her positive attitude proves this whole process will be a measured inconvenience after which we can celebrate Andrea becoming a breast cancer survivor.