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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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With malice means evil intent.

WITH MALICE means summertime reading has finally arrived.

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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.)

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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…

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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.

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I never knew how beautiful red roses could be.

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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.

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60 Years Old

“Soon I’ll be 60 years old …”

That’s a line in the song I’ve been listening to lately.

I started this blog three years ago and commented on the merits and drawbacks of turning 55. Nothing could foretell I would be here again, on my birthday, writing another week’s blog.

And before you jump in with comments about me not looking my age, let’s just agree that this is what a 58 year old looks like.

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I can prove it with my driver’s license (which if you saw it makes me look like a 68 year old convict.)

I believe people can’t guess my age because of my immature actions and style.

But I digress.

Or maybe not.

Back to the song.

It’s Lukas Graham’s 7 YEARS  (you can watch it here)

My favourite line is, “I made a man so happy when I wrote a letter once.”

I don’t know who Lukas was thinking about but I love the way he throws the line in and then moves on.

Have you ever done this, written a letter just to make someone happy? And the trick is; the letter doesn’t have to be to that person. It could be written on their behalf. It could right a wrong. It could change a mind. Or maybe make up a mind.

Here’s an idea… if you want to do something for me to celebrate my birthday, write a letter to make someone happy. I don’t mean write a letter to me, though that would be nice. Write one to make someone else happy.

It’s simple to do. I am confident you will do it well.

All this talk has made me think about my most popular blogs. They are always the ones that tell someone else’s story.

Sometimes the story will make you cry.

I hope most of them make someone happy.

In the end that’s all that matters because…

“Soon I’ll be 60 years old.”

 

Ian and Sam

It’s all so personal. What we like, what we hate.

I love reading crime fiction.

I love short sentences.

I love reading about places I love.

I love when a few words say everything.

Last week I read a book with some of the best sentences I’ve ever read. Last week I read INVISIBLE DEAD by Sam Wiebe.

Sam has become one of my favourite writers. His first book, LAST OF THE INDEPENDANTS, made me an instant fan. He sets his stories in Vancouver. His characters feel real. I can see them walking these streets. Sam covers local issues. He makes them huge but intimate. I want to know his characters. I want to drink with them, hang out with them. I mean the good guys, not the killers.

I’ll read both books again. Even if just to enjoy those sentences.

Sam is our Ian Rankin. Ian introduced the world to the real Edinburgh. Sam will do the same for Vancouver. Drayton and Wakeland are our Rebus.

It may take a few books. But I’m counting on Sam to do it.

Oddly enough, Sam is also a big Rankin fan.

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So here’s the rub.

Sam might be moving away. This doesn’t work into my grand scheme. Sam needs to be here and writing about my home.

He knows I’m not happy. But he doesn’t know he should just give up now.

Sam says he can write about Vancouver from Montreal.

No.

I have a few months to petition Sam to stay.

My default position is to cover my ears and say “I can’t hear you la la la” when Sam mentions his future. So far this hasn’t made a dent in his plans.

Plan B is to start a hashtag campaign.

I ran the wording past Owen Laukkanen. He knows Sam. Owen also writes crime fiction. He agreed with my choice for the tag but I think he was only humouring me.

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This isn’t just about me and my wants. Once you read one of Sam’s books you will be on board. Trust me. You will want Sam to stay. You will beg Sam to write about Vancouver again.

You will want to wear one of the pins.

Now if only I can get Ian Rankin to jump on the bandwagon.

Could you help us out @Beathhigh?

#SamStays

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Haggis Hunt

It’s hard to believe I was the person that discovered these mythical little creatures eight years ago. Until then, people didn’t Haggis Hunt at the BC Highland Games. Until then, we didn’t have kids running around Percy Perry Stadium searching for these wild, wee animals. Until then, I didn’t spend my day surrounded by Haggis Wranglers.

Who knows how I conjured up the hunt? Like so many thoughts, you can only feel blessed when your mind comes up with this kind of idea. I was thrilled that Angus MacPherson and his team, approved the concept.

The Haggis Hunt was born!

I was even luckier that a long drawn out search and a trip to Seattle led me to K-Mart. Apparently that’s where most of the Haggis lived back then. (Insert big wink here)

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The Haggis Hunt debuted on June 27, 2009.

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Since then we’ve been making lots of children very, very happy.

We even had a TV star, Brendan Meyer, join the Hunt one year!

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Then last year, Nic Brand of Men In Kilts stepped up to sponsor the Hunt.

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We decided to make searching for Haggis even better and Men In Kilts made that happen!

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Now it’s time to pass the torch.

Yes, all my friends and clients and acquaintances and neighbours and even random people on the street will be happy they won’t hear me endlessly talking about the wee Haggis for the entire month leading up to the Games. Everyone will be happy I won’t beg them to come and volunteer for the day.

And I’ll be happy because the Hunt will continue with the Men In Kilts as the official Haggis Wranglers.

Of course I will still be there every year. How could I not?

The look on those children’s faces when they spot a Haggis, find enough to fill their stamp page, and then receive their official pin is fantastic.

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The joy of knowing the hunt is in good hands and will carry on? Relief.

The joy of awarding the winner a wee Haggis each year? Priceless.

The joy of having one of these little guys forever by my side? Beyond words.

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Behind The Smile

I just got back from the doctor’s office. His last words to me were, “Now you can stop worrying.” Dr. Ho knew I had been going crazy with the stress of “what if…”  Dr. Ho can sometimes read my mind.

I hadn’t shared my health scare with the people around me. Right now it seems that everyone is dealing with some sort of loss, so there was no sense in adding in my little issue.

But this did remind me of a blog I wrote a couple years ago… and since I’m sore from today’s very minor medical procedure, I thought I would just re-post one of my favourite blogs…

Raise Your Hand

The only good thing about a loss is what it might teach you. I hate that we are meant to look for the lesson when things go bad. Fuck that. When things go bad there is nothing good to say. Bad is bad.

While you wallow, it might dawn on you how much crap there is all around us. There is pain behind so many smiles. People go through shit all the time. Sometimes it’s easier to deal with and sometimes the pain will cripple forever.

I watch myself cry each day. And I’ve done that for the last 97 days. No one else knows. The world only sees me carry on. I work, I play, I write, I even laugh. Then when I least expect it there is a flash of what I’ve lost and the tears come. My grief has become a silent pursuit. It’s not that I believe no one cares but I believe no one needs to be a witness. My story has become boring and not worth the counsel or examination people offered three months ago.

I inwardly cringe when asked how I am. There is no need to tell the truth. Lying is the way to cover the grief. On my worst days I feel anger at having to carry on and pretend all is fine. Quit asking me questions and forcing me to lie to you. Please stop. My wave of self-pity can easily turn to thoughts of hate and revenge.

When is the line, “I will never be happy again” not a cry for help but a simple statement?

So what am I learning? I am not alone. At least I’m not alone in what I’m going through. Now when I look at people I try to grasp what devastation is behind their smiling face. I can’t stop taking the extra second to search for a glimmer of truth of what is really going on inside each person I meet. What pain are you hiding? Have you had to cry today? Is your heart so broken you may never be whole? Is your loss stealing every ounce of joy? How are you surviving? And what the hell do you answer when asked “How are you today?”

One day I’ll ask for a show of hands of who is hiding their pain.

Behind the Smile Blog

Olympic Gold Medal

He gave me a little smile and said, “I don’t know if you’re serious or not.”

“What? Of course I’m serious! As far as I’m concerned, we’re going to compete and probably win a gold medal at the next Winter Olympics.”

Then I gave my classic, disbelieving, shake of the head. I do this to show how offended I am when someone questions my intent. I use it often.

His wife said, “And that’s why your company is called Go Big Or Go Home?”

“Correct.”

I’ve only known him for 4 months. He’s a new client, 83 years old, with Parkinson’s. My job is to make him stronger. We’re getting there… slowly.

Pretty early on I added in this idea of the Olympics. Everyone needs a goal. Why not aim for an Olympic Gold medal?

I thought the two-man bobsled was our obvious sport. He said we should ski. I told him that is ridiculous since it’s a solo sport AND I don’t know how to ski. He just shrugged his shoulders.

I pushed for the bobsled idea. He said I was an idiot.

It is our on-going conversation.

I will not give up. We’re doing the bobsled.

“We can get Brad Fay to interview us. He’s the big Sportsnet Olympic host! He follows me on Twitter. We’ll be fantastic on TV.”

This comment gets a big smile. Maybe people just like Brad Fay?

At our next workout session he tells me I’m delusional.

Maybe I am.

But my history has told me that dreams do come true.

The trick is to aim high. Know what you want. Work hard. And throw in a little good karma.

Then sit back and appreciate the journey.

Many people spent this past week talking about Mohamed Ali. They spoke about his courage and how he battled against this debilitating disease. The grace in how he handled his decline.

I spend two hours a week with someone still waging the war. Every day he must fight to move. To me he’s a hero in how he handles himself with grace and a stubborn resilience. He does not give up and pushes when all hope is draining away. What more defines an Olympian than that?

I bet there are people all around you that are fighting. Some are winning, some are just hanging on.

And some are thinking about a gold medal.

Olympic Flame #2 (2)

My Little Brother

Forty-three years ago I gave my brother a hug before I walked out of his life. I was 15 and he was 10. It was a quick grasp without much meaning. Little did I know it would haunt me for decades.

Life rarely gives us a “do-over” or a chance to make something better.

Last week I got to do both.

Last week I got to hug my little brother again.

For all the complaints about the internet, it can be pretty darn amazing.

And because of a random late night google search and a few haphazard clicks, I connected with my long-lost brother.

A few more clicks and a couple of emails and my brother was back. Or should I say, I was back.

It wasn’t until we met in person that I realized how much my casual goodbye had crippled me.

I was young and stupid and had no idea how much I would miss my closest companion.

It wasn’t until I saw his face that I understood my own guilt in having left.

Yes… I was young and stupid and only looking after myself.

Now I am wiser.

And my little brother has grown into a handsome, successful, and kind man.

What a relief.  I can breathe again.

The collateral damage from the adults that surrounded us back then was horrendous. We still have the scars. My brother and I didn’t have to explain or hide our wounds. They bond us.

We survived.

Have you ever wondered “what if”? Have you ever wished you had the second chance to say what you were thinking? Have you ever wanted a “do-over”?

If it’s not too late to get off your ass… get off your ass. Make the call, send the email, knock on the door.

It might not work out, but then again, it might.

Last week I got to hug my little brother again.

This time I held him for a really long time.

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