Surrey International Writers’ Conference

It’s all about the people you’ll meet. That’s the power of the Surrey International Writers’ Conference.

I’ve been attending the event since 2011 and this still holds true.

Yes, in the end it will all be on my shoulders. As much as I don’t like this fact, it’s the truth. If I don’t write the book and put it out into the world then nothing will happen.

All the wishing and hoping and yes, even praying, are for naught unless you step up.

You must write it.  You must finish it.  You must pitch it to get a book published.

SiWC gives you that chance and can make the journey much easier… or at least make it feel possible.

I’ve learned more about my craft and even more about myself at the conference. I’ve begun to appreciate what I know and what I still need to learn. The process can feel relentless.

The weekend can feel magical.

Again this year, I got to have dinner with Anne Perry. We both tend to arrive at the hotel at the same time and sharing a meal and a good chat is a great way to start the weekend. I cherish her words and perspective.

The reason I had a new book to pitch this year is because I volunteered as the conference’s Sponsorship Coordinator. During one of my meetings with SiWC Board Member, kc dyer, she suggested I write something from a fitness professional perspective. That conversation led to an idea that has morphed into a book.

The next step was talking to Donald Maass. Only at a place like SiWC would you have the chance to pitch to someone of his caliber. (Or in my case, the opportunity to request an impromptu meeting.) His encouragement has given me the motivation to keep moving forward with this book. Priceless.

There were so many other moments that cemented my love of SiWC.

One fact still remains the same and the reason I will always return to Surrey each and every year.

Some people I’ve met there have become the best of friends.

And that is almost better than writing a bestseller.

Almost.

 

Say It Now

I’ve said this before but the message isn’t getting through.

I was again struck by the outpouring when a celebrity dies. A mass amount of tributes and stories takes over social media. It happened last week when Tom Petty died. If the death is unexpected the jolt is real. One day you’re dreaming about seeing him in concert, the next you’re listening to all his old songs with tears running down your face.

What always surprises me is that people talk about all the memories they have, all the moments a song has gotten them through a tough time. Maybe the music reminds them of the best time of their life.

People reminisced about what Tom meant to them.

My advice is always the same.

Don’t wait, say it now.

Tonight, go through your record collection, your bookcase, and if you still have them, your old VHS tapes. Even better, think about that special teacher or neighbour that helped you when you were a kid. Recount the times in your life when someone did something that formed your world.

Then find that person and send them a note. Do it now. Tell them how much their song meant to you or how much what they said mattered when you were in pain.

We all have those memories. Don’t wait until the person is dead and tell everyone else what they meant to you. Tell THEM.

And before I forget…include your friends and family members on that list.

Days ago the legendary broadcaster, Rafe Mair passed away. The tributes started soon after the notice circulated. As I mourned the loss, I was thankful for an email conversation years ago. Rafe didn’t know me, but for a few moments, he did know how much I appreciated him.

Tom would have loved this but maybe we should have done it sooner.

 

I’m a Personal Trainer

It usually comes back to the basics. No matter how much I learn about the art of personal training the main facts never change.

Get stronger, keep moving, and use your common sense.

I add the philosophy that you should start by helping your client define their own goals. It doesn’t matter what I want, it only matters what is important to them.

Once that is known there is always a way through. We just need to figure it out.

These are the foundations of my practice.

Then once every two years the business side of being a personal trainer needs attention.

I just finished my tenth re-certification to keep my credentials up to date with the International Sport Sciences Association.  I’ve been a trainer for 20 years and for the last 10 I’ve held the “Specialist in Fitness for Older Adults” accreditation.

This time I turned my attention to help people deal with Parkinson’s disease. There are books, courses and tests to complete to become a specialist in this area. As a professional you cannot venture in without the accreditation and as much medical knowledge as you can acquire. Clients need to know you have a solid background.

But in the end, I believe I learn more about the disease from the people that are dealing with it every day.

Each person is different. Listen to what they have to say. Then put all your resources towards making their lives better.

Luckily every certification has to include updating my CPR and First Aid. As some of my previous blogs have noted, that training has come in handy. This time around I was with a small group all attending the class for their first re-certification. I felt just a tiny bit smug when I shared that this was my tenth. I truly appreciate the updated training. This year I was reminded how lucky I am to have taken some of the courses from active firemen. Their practical added input has been invaluable.

Every two years I go through this re-certification process. As someone who hates tests, I’m relieved when it’s over.

I’m happy to get back to work assisting my clients.

In the end that’s all that matters.

 

I’m Guilty

My year of medical issues had one final hurrah this past week. Why not go out with a bang?

A minor cut became infected and landed me in the ER at Vancouver General. I won’t give you all the gory details but I’ll share that I’m embarrassed that what should have been a minor issue escalated to me screaming with pain when the doctor touched me. This was not my usually stoic self. I was wimpy and pathetic. Yup, I begged for mercy.  Morphine and fentanyl did nothing to ease the situation. Thank goodness the medical team opted to just knock me out.

I woke up out of pain and with a profound love and appreciation for everyone at the hospital. The profound love may have been the drugs still in my system… but I still thought I was damn lucky to have survived.

At 5am I was stable enough to be sent home and told to come back in 24 hours for more meds and most likely more pain. I was given a prized “fast-track” designation so I wouldn’t have to wait in line back at admissions. Lucky me… that’s how you make a patient feel special.

The hospital emergency entrance is a quiet place a 5am

So Saturday morning I showed up at 5am. The staff laughed. I found out no one expected me to actually come in in exactly 24 hours. I had the pass; I didn’t have to be that early. More pain and meds ensued but things had greatly improved. Out of caution they wanted me back again… we laughed because we all knew I would return at 5am.

I liked these people. And part of me noticed just how different we all looked. One nurse was covered with tattoos and had purple hair. She’s the one that gave me the fentanyl and tried to help me stop crying. The first doctor was an older Asian looking man, the second, a very young Caucasian woman. One nurse had dark skin and probably sounded more Canadian than me.

A global community all trying to help me feel better. I am blessed.

Spending any time in the ER is a chance to notice all the other people in desperate need. If you ever want to feel empathy sit in the waiting room. People are in pain, people are afraid. All of us are there hoping these kind doctors and nurses will save us.

So, Sunday morning, same place, same time. The staff laughs at me again. I get my regular chair where they administer the IV. It’s a good spot because you can see everything that’s going on. I like to watch people.

A young man comes in, sits a few chairs away from me and the doctor greets him right away and asks what the problem is. The man explains that he fell two days ago and his hand “Isn’t right.” He can’t do his regular push-ups. The doctor starts to examine the hand and asks if there is any pain. The man says no.

“So no pain at all?”

“No, but I need an x-ray, I can’t do pushups, it might be broken.”

The doctor continues to examine the hand and then explains that if he can do all the manipulations then it’s not broken and will probably just take a week or so to heal. The conversation goes back and forth for a few minutes. The young man gets angry and with a raised voice explains, “I never get mad but I want a different doctor and a lawyer! I want an x-ray. My hand might be broken. Do something.”

The doctor’s voice stays soft but firm. The young man finally stands up and struts out. I hear other raised voices as he makes his way to the exit. The doctor followed, but I’m sure it was just to make sure things didn’t escalate with anyone else. Within minutes the doctor is back at his post looking at someone else’s chart before heading into another examination room.

My point in telling you this story and the reason I will get in trouble for telling you this story…

We humans are all so damn predictable.

The nurse that hooked up my IV that morning was Japanese Canadian. The doctor was a middle aged man and he could not have looked more Jewish if he tried. He sounded BC born and raised.

And the young man upset because he couldn’t do his pushups… well he looked African Canadian but his accent sounded American. He was wearing a full camo emblazoned outfit. He had style.

And me?  I’m a middle aged, Caucasian Scottish Canadian woman that thanked all the staff before I left that morning.

Sometimes we are all so very typical.

And guilty.

A much happier face with all the help from the folks at VGH

Saying Thank You

Saying thank you.

From the amount of cards I have in my arsenal, you can rest assured that I’m always ready to compose a heartfelt message when the need arises.

This week there was a very good reason.

My connection with a local doctor is that I train her mother. The relationship has gone on for years. Every month I email her an invoice with a chatty update. A few days later I receive a cheque in the mail with a small note of thanks.

We have done this for years. The system works.

Five years ago she referred a patient to me. The impact of her passing along my name and endorsing what I do changed my life and the work I do today.

This past week she was filling in for my doctor. We got to meet face to face. Not only did I give her a card and gift… but I got to tell her how grateful I am.

In a world of emails and texts and posts on Facebook, the simple act of giving a card and saying kind words has become a rare occurrence.

What’s not rare are all the reasons why we should.

Who will you thank today?

 

An MRI, STAT

I love experiencing life’s unusual happenings. In our interconnected world it’s good to travel down many paths. Empathy is best learned with knowledge. Sometimes the only way you really know about something is to walk the walk.

Last week I had an MRI of my spine and brain.

Lucky me… one hospital visit and two MRI’s.

In the days leading up to the scan I was warned of the hell I would go through and how taking a sedative is the best option. I laughed and explained I wasn’t that claustrophobic, and besides, “I’m a Buddhist, we just meditate.”

What I found unbelievably cool was that I was booked to have my scan at 1am at St. Paul’s Hospital in downtown Vancouver. Our medical system has decided to run a graveyard shift in an attempt to clear off the backlog of people waiting for scans.

At that time of night the only entrance available was through the ER. It’s a pretty active place in the early morning hours. And when I say active I mean the mayhem of people and bodies and police and paramedics. It looked like a war zone. A security guard pointed me towards a corridor and opened the locked doors to let me pass.

Moments later I was in the deserted main building. I’ve been here before and know the halls to be packed with people. Now there was just silence. Empty silence.

Upstairs at the MRI clinic there was a receptionist and one other person. I was asked to take a seat and as I settled in I could hear the machine working away. I had been warned about the noise.

Once it was my turn the technician went through the procedure and how we would do this. I got to wear scrubs and was allowed to keep my blessing cord around my neck. “I have to keep it on because of my religion… and it’s only string.”

I thought I could use the religious line because of the sign in the waiting room. If the hospital was going to talk about God I would toss back a little bit about Buddha.  All’s fair.

I will admit the procedure was not fun. One scan would have been fine but to do two back-to-back was brutal. Yes, I did a “taking and sending” meditation and will also admit to singing Ed Sheeran songs in my head. 46 minutes is a long time to stay absolutely still. Eddie helped.

Before I knew it I was out of there with nothing but kudos for the people that work the night shift.

Too bad I have to wait until January to see the specialist about the results.

Maybe the people in charge need to think this through a little bit more.

 

 

 

Dale Jr Retires

The plan was to write a witty blog about the weather in Vancouver and how annoying I am with my Pollyanna attitude.

But like most agendas that involve our skies around the Lower Mainland, my idea got blown away with yesterday’s devastating news.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. announced his retirement from NASCAR car racing.

Most people reading this will say, “Dale who?”

I freely admit I’m one of the few NASCAR fans in Vancouver. I watch the races alone. My friends mock me for my obsession. Many Sunday afternoons I can be found at home screaming at my TV, “Go, Dale go!” For over 30 years I’ve been a huge fan of Dale Earnhardt and now Dale Jr. I’m a part of Jr. Nation.

I love the whole sport. You get to have your favourite drivers but it’s just as much fun having the ones you like to hate. Hours of good entertainment and, contrary to popular belief, it’s not just a bunch of cars going in circles.

When Jr’s news broke on Twitter it was a shock, but we fans had been secretly dreading the day. Dale was injured last year and to even have him come back to race in 2017 has been a blessing. But we knew… we just knew.

Dale has been voted the most popular driver in the NASCAR series for the last 14 years. He’s a winner and someone you would want to hang out with. A very good man.

I’ve always loved NASCAR for how they treat the public. There’s a tremendous connection between the drivers and fans. They are reachable… you can go to a race track and actually meet your idol.

Sure, it’s a professional sport, but I think everyone involved, from the drivers to the team owners and the sponsors, know they have built something that works.

It’s a sporting event that still starts each race with a local pastor giving a prayer for God to keep the drivers safe. You might think that troubles me, but it doesn’t. Let’s never be so politically correct that we can’t pray for something good.

Yesterday morning I took comfort that a local news person, Ria Renouf at CKNW, tweeted out the news. I was not alone here in Vancouver.

Luckily Dale Jr. will race till the end of this season. I have laps and laps to still cheer him on.

And as for yesterday and that planned blog about the weather. I was only going to upset you all by saying I really didn’t think the last 3 months had been so bad. Then I’d ask why people complain about something they can’t do anything about? Maybe the message is to just accept and embrace what you can’t change.

To make my point, last night I put on my baseball cap and penguin scarf (yes it was #World Penguin Day) and went for a walk in the drizzle.

I tried to take a selfie but looked too sad. Nothing was going to make April 25, 2017 a happy day.

Dale’s drives car #88

 

Intent

On April 10, 2013 I wrote my first blog. It was all about Intent. I blabbed on about what the word meant to me and the people around me.

I also proclaimed it was my intent to write a blog every Wednesday.

Done.

One hundred and eighty-three blogs later I can safely say I did what I set out to do. I made sure at least once a week I wrote something for the public. Some weeks it was easy… some weeks the ideas wouldn’t come and I scrambled late into Wednesday evening trying to put some words together.

I’ve talked about everything!

And you’ve listened.

That alone is the reason I write. You will never know how grateful I am to you and the time you’ve invested here.

Now it is my intent to revise my book (again). On Monday, The Long Game got an insightful review from one of my favourite people at the Surrey International Writers’ Conference.  The only way forward will be to invest my writing time into the revision.

And since it is my intention to get published I must move in that direction.

Or I could quit. (Which is still an option, but not this week.)

So my new intent will be to post a blog every second Wednesday.

I’m sure that the Wednesdays when I don’t post I’ll be in a corner wondering what to do with the ideas in my head.

This might seem like a holiday to my faithful beta readers that have been with me from the beginning. Gerry and Debbie have been amazing and their critique and cheers have humbled me.  And Jim… well he found my grammar errors and would send a polite email to point out the mistake. He was always right.

It’s a hard decision to give this up. And before you say, “Hey, you’re still going to be blogging!” Yes, I know, but this weekly endeavour has kept me sane through some of my toughest days.

I’m not good with change.

So let’s start again.

It’s my intent to write a blog every second Wednesday.

Done.

2016-10-30-08-09-44

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With Malice

Wherever your summer holidays find you, take along Eileen Cook’s WITH MALICE and I can guarantee you a journey you will never forget.

This is one of my favourite books of the year, but the title rated number one. “WITH MALICE” I love when an uncommon word jumps into my sphere. I’m left wondering how I can sprinkle it into my daily conversations.

If I was a book reviewer, my headline for WITH MALICE would be “Denial, Escape and Awe.”

Denial… because for me, that is a theme of WITH MALICE. Everyone seemed to be in denial of what the characters’ true intentions could be.

On a personal level, there’s denial because this summer I’m not taking a holiday break. There will be no downtime. This means my reading will be grabbed between clients, various projects and fast approaching deadlines. I’m in denial of how important taking time off is for one’s well-being.

Luckily at the end of a packed day, I was carried along by the rush of friends from the Surrey International Writers’ Conference and attended Eileen’s book launch. Even though the book sold out I was fortunate to grab a copy. There was no denial that this was being in the right place at the right time.

Malice blog 2

Escape… because I haven’t had this type of pure escapism with a book for a long time. Eileen tells a story about a girl and her friend and what might be a murder. She makes it all so believable and so very unbelievable. In today’s world you can imagine this happening but so want it not to be true. It reminds me of that saying, “Expect the unexpected.” With my life, having a few hours to lose myself in a great story is as good as any holiday. Well almost… sleeping in then opting to start drinking at noon and then reading the great book would be a perfect escape.

But what about escaping murder?

Awe… because this book will become a classic. It is crafted so well I can imagine workshops in the future being based on the way it’s written. If you’re a writer and want to see how it’s done well, race to your local bookstore, pick up a copy, and start to read it now. The hours you spend devouring WITH MALICE will be a masterclass.

At Eileen’s book launch she talked about how she wrote the book. She’s an engaging speaker and her humble humour is deceiving. Luckily she will be speaking again at the Chapter Indigo in North Van on August 6. Go. I guarantee you will be inspired.

eileen chapters

With malice means evil intent.

WITH MALICE means summertime reading has finally arrived.

malice blog 3

 

 

 

 

Sleep and Water

There are only two things your body needs on a daily basis.

Everything else we can do without for days and even weeks.

But you must have water and sleep. No that’s wrong. You must have sleep and some sort of liquid. You won’t last long without them. You will die.

And even if you don’t die because of dehydration or sleep deprivation, you will die because going without will make you stupid and then you will do something that will kill you.

Today, that’s my message.

Now I could be telling you this because I have just been through a week of birthday celebrations and have barely squeezed by with enough of the essentials.

And I hate to be a hypocrite. I blabber on and on to my clients about water and sleep. I’d be a fool not to listen to my own advice.

But I’m human… and I’ve been in celebration mode.

So as I got back from eating my last “birthday” blizzard, served up by one of my favourite caristas (that is someone that makes great ice cream treats… and yes, I just made up the word.)

sleep blog 6

I reflected on two things….

One.  I need to get more sleep and drink tons more water every day.

Two.  If I wrote a health and wellness book it would only have these 8 words on each page…

sleep blog 9

OK, there is a number three.  This birthday has been fun and endless.

Yes, we all need sleep and water but…

Now I have enough whisky to last until I finish the first draft of my next book.

sleep blog 7

I never knew how beautiful red roses could be.

sleep blog 8

And I’ve been reminded that great friends are priceless.

My only wish would be that one of the lottery tickets that those friends gave me had been the winner.

sleep blog 4