A Year in Review – 2013

Frank in 2013 – a year in review
written by his wife on December 12th, 2013

A bio wouldn’t really help you get to know Frank but maybe a glimpse into his life in 2013 will help. He’d tell you that it has been the best year of his life but it has also been his worst.

FRANK'S UNIQUE QUIRKS

For those who’ve met him in person, they’ll tell you about his energetic enthusiasm, his loud and ‘unique’ laugh that is always looking for a reason to fill the room and his manic drive to organize everything into a plan to get things done. Read More

As seems to be the artist’s way, that outward persona doesn’t tell the whole story. Frank lives with a lot of inner turmoil. He lives with an ever-present angst. He’s filled with the fear of not accomplishing enough – today, tomorrow and in life. He has small flashes of ego (probably inherited from his grandmother) but mostly he feels a lot of worthlessness, struggling with self-doubt. He’s impatient, loathes wasted time, can’t stand waiting – for anything. He’s the type that never rests although this year exhaustion set in and changed his usual self.

Out of the corner of my eye, I see him right now. He’s actually much more energetic than yesterday but his brain is tormented by figuring out how to order an out of place dishcloth. We’ve always joked about his ‘OCD acting up’. But I read an article a few days ago about Justin Timberlake, David Beckham and others and how they struggle with it. We probably shouldn’t have joked after all.

For someone who hates wasting time, he’ll stop dead in the kitchen to line up the tomatoes on the counter. But he balances that by not wasting time on other things like figuring out what music to listen to. He continuously listens to his entire iTunes library in alphabetical order by song title. Yes, you heard me, alphabetical order by song title (he doesn’t trust iTunes’ random mode). And since he has eclectic tastes in music that makes for some ‘interesting’ mood changes and song pairings.

2013, THE GREAT

Weird quirks and all, he’s passionate about creating music. He says that this has been the best year of his life and I know it’s because he’s never created so much music before. He’s been writing like crazy. He’s been working with pianists, other soloists, chamber ensembles, choirs, etc. to write pieces for their upcoming performances. He’s had more premieres than ever before. Read More

The cherry on top was that this past March he began recording his first band album, I Can See You. It’s a very personal album (that’s a whole other story) and yes, it’s filled with the angst, the dread of waiting and the fear of not accomplishing anything with one’s life. But creating it was uplifting for him. He found a kindred spirit in producer, Jean Martin (hopefully minus the OCD… Jean?). Both are deeply committed to creating the best sound and Frank was able to trust in him, which considering the ‘OCD’, is a big deal. His previous albums were all solo piano so his excitement grew as he began the collaboration with the other talented musicians – Felicity, Christine, Joe, Justin, Thom and Michael.

BRINGING TEARS TO HIS EYES

I think because his previous albums were solo, he never wanted to listen to them (i.e, listen to himself). But I’ve seen him this year… playing, I Can See You, just for the pleasure of it. I’ve actually seen him almost with tears in his eyes as he takes it all in.

2013, THE DARKER SIDE

Unfortunately, 2013 wasn’t all about creating music for Frank. It’s been a battle of will to gather the strength to move forward and to not fear what lies ahead. First though, you’d have to look back a bit to understand the present…

CROHN'S AND FOOD

Frank doesn’t like anything getting in the way of doing. In university he resisted what was happening to him for a long time because it was slowing him down. He began losing weight quickly, he became weak and looked gaunt. It was a struggle for him to get off the couch and go to school. Basically, he was suffering from malnutrition brought on by what was finally diagnosed as Crohn’s Disease. Read More

Thanks, thanks and thanks again to a family friend, we discovered the SCD diet. It calls for going cold turkey and eliminating all foods from your life except meat, eggs, most vegetables, fruit, honey, nuts, some legumes and a little bit of cheese and homemade yogurt. It suggests doing this for at least 2-3 years. That’s no grains, sugar, dairy, chocolate, etc. for 2-3 years and then some.

CROHN'S CHALLENGES

Day 1 of an eternity of not eating what you’ve always loved is a battle of mind and body. And, doing this in a sick state couldn’t have been easy (and it wasn’t). But after just two weeks the benefits outweighed the temptations of chocolate cake or making a call for pizza. He begun to feel alive again and that was enough to keep his willpower high. It might not have been for everyone but it was for him. Read More

It still wasn’t without its challenges though. The new diet was expensive, for a university student, and time consuming. Since he didn’t eat grains anymore we’d bake bread from nut flour. The other music students lovingly called him ‘nut boy’ as he ate a lot of nut flour to fill the body of a 20-yr old, 6’2″ guy.

Then, we got married and had planned a 3-week driving trip around the Maritimes. So, we packed a cooler full of food to take with us. We bought fruits and vegetables on the road and for dinners he ate a lot of plain steaks. You could say we sacrificed but I say I got the love of my life back.

THE GREEN KEYS TOUR

We rode the benefits of this diet for years and years. Then, it all started to change. I think you can trace it back to Frank’s Green Keys Tour in 2010-11. While on tour through 63 cities in Canada and the US, it was often difficult just to find food to eat, never mind good food. When it was over, we also got more lax at home with the diet, trying to spend less time making food and more time being productive. Read More

But then it seemed that things started bothering him again. So, we got all strict with the nut bread and everything else. That worked, for a while. Then the weirdest thing happened. Over the years he’s told me that even when he feels good his stomach always has some level of discomfort but he’s learned to live with that familiar feeling. But now, he couldn’t feel his stomach anymore because it felt so good… but his head hurt like crazy…

A YEAR OF HEADACHES, MAYBE MORE

December 24th of 2012 was a bit of a panic. Frank could hardly move his neck and his head hurt like never before (he never was one to get headaches). Frank didn’t want to waste time going to a chiropractor but I knew he couldn’t get through the holidays without some relief so I found the closest one that was still open. Read More

His neck pain eventually got better but his headache was ever present. But, that wasn’t all. We had tried to make excuses and ignore it but Frank was really tired again, absolutely exhausted. Even though his food was settling well he started to look gaunt and just didn’t have the energy for all the stuff he was driven to do – working on I Can See You, teaching a studio of music students, being President of our local arts org, VP at the Ontario Registered Music Teachers’ Association to name a few things he was up to. True, most of us wouldn’t have the energy for all that but Frank had always had it.

THE QUASI-DIAGNOSIS

Some doctors said it might all go away come Spring, but it didn’t. There weren’t many other theories to what it might be so he went to see a neurologist. And, after many tests and an MRI, we expected not many theories from him either. But then we were thrown for a loop. You might have MS, said the neurologist. MS? That had always been a distant concept that kids read books to raise money for. Of which, Frank had always participated and I now guilt-ridden realized I hadn’t. Read More

I don’t know how Frank processed this information. What MS would mean for a concert pianist; never mind any human being; never mind yourself. We’ve never had a firm diagnosis. Basically time will only tell. But, since I also don’t like the concept of waiting, I did some reading. The more enlightened in the medical field see that there is a connection between Crohn’s and MS and therefore between MS and food.

THE SCD/PALEO/MS/WAHL'S DIET

It has been over 20 weeks now that we’ve been on a new diet to try to save the day. This one is just meat, some fruits and vegetables and honey, period. Frank got a food intolerance test done and he’s intolerant to nuts – the real ones and the ones Read More in name only – almonds, macadamia, peanuts, coconut. So, no more ‘nut boy’. If he eats a nut now, within half an hour his headache starts pounding even more aggressively. This diet has been harder than the first one I think. Frank felt worse after 2 weeks rather than better and although he’s getting a little better now, he’s still nowhere near 100%. And, there is obviously less variety to eat (the itemized list of ok foods fits on a very small page). We eat almost everything on that list every day. And, with headaches, fatigue, some despair and now actual hunger added to the mix it has been rough, to say the least.

AND, THEN THERE WAS THE 24HR PIANOTHON

Ever since I’ve know Frank (and that’s a long time), he’s always wanted to do some strenuous 24hr event. Prone to tiredness myself, I’ve always tried to steer him away from doing one. But of all years, this was the year that his 24hr marathon was to be. He played piano for 24hrs straight to raise much needed money for our local arts organization. Read More

And, he didn’t look good just hours into it. Actually, he didn’t even look good in the Rogers TV promo that was shot a few days before. But, for some reason this 24hr concept drives him, so even while battling fatigue and a constant headache, he made it. Even I made it, which was an achievement in itself. All 24hrs are up on YouTube if you want proof that he did it or to see how tired he was. And, I’ll show you pictures some time of the SCD/Paleo/MS Diet spread I made for him that day.

We made it. That’s what 2013 was all about.

2014, INTO THE FUTURE

That was a little longer than a bio but what’s a bio if you don’t understand the whole story? Well there’s always more to the story, like what a wonderful husband he is, etc., etc. But, I’ll leave that kind of thing for song.

So, Frank will enter 2014 with angst and fears and self-doubt and probably a headache and fatigue but also with his laugh and the experiences he’s had in 2013 that have made him an even better person. I think 2014 will be about the release of I Can See You, great health and so many more good things. As a bonus, we’ll all get to see how one person’s life experiences add up into art for all of us to share.