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.

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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?”


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.

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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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YouTube and the Pipe Band

Why would I ever post anything on YouTube?

Why do I make the trek to visit the Victoria Highland Games every year?

Why do I endure the long weekend ferry line ups?

Why am I such a big fan of the SFU Pipe Band?

Here’s why…

It’s become a tradition. I visit some of my friends that live there and reconnect with the good people that put on this amazing event.

And it’s not just my yearly selfie with Jason. (Yes, that’s Jason Paguio, the world champion Drum Major for the SFU Pipe Band.)

Me and Jason

It’s not just eating a “double” portion of haggis! (And then coming back for more!)

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It’s not just having my camera ready for an iconic picture that receives thousands of views when I post it on Twitter.

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It is “being in the right place at the right time” and opting to start a video recording.


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A highlight of the Games is the impressive massed band at the opening and closing ceremony. I positioned myself to be on the side where the SFU pipe band would be.

Little did I know they would invite this young man to march with them?

Playing alongside a world famous pipe band is like skating with Sidney Crosby or cooking with Rachael Ray.


And so worth a post on YouTube.




HE Tai Situpa Rinpoche

People saw the picture and said I looked calm and serene.

ME condensed


What was really going on inside my head?

“Don’t drop it. Don’t trip. Don’t cry. Seriously… when you look into his eyes, don’t cry!”

I waited seventeen years to see Tai Situ Rinpoche again. I would never have guessed I would be one of the people offering a statue to him at the Thrangu Monastery last week.


I first met His Eminence Chamgon Kenting Tai Situpa in 1999.

Tai Situ Lunch

On that day he set the direction for my life’s work. I would never again question the path my personal training was taking me. One of those fortunate times when everything seemed clear and correct.

This day was my opportunity to thank him for changing my life.

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I expect His Eminence has that effect on most of the people he meets.

You would expect no less from the man prophesied to be the next Buddha.

I won’t bother you with the lineage and history of Tibetan Buddhism. It’s all widely proclaimed and many books have been written about what will be. Once I met Tai Situ I had no doubt it was true. But who knew the next Buddha would be so funny and entertaining? He captivates the audience with his laugh and self-effacing jibes… then without a blink gives a profound, clear and simple teaching.

Tai Situ

His advice is filled with common sense. The bare essence of how we should act.

His words will echo within me forever. His laugh is the music I want to replay. His face is the portrait framed in my heart.

He made me laugh. And think. And be astounded by my own good karma.

So what happened moments after the picture was taken and I presented Tai Situ with the statue?

He blessed me, I looked into his eyes, whispered “thank you”, bowed my head and walked away.

Then I cried.

Bikers Against Child Abuse

This morning I woke up without an idea for today’s blog. After a couple of minutes looking at my Twitter feed the topic became obvious. My friends were back!

Trump and fires and where the rich are hiding their money can only divert our attention for a few news cycles.

Woody is back! Ghomeshi was taking up space near him! Even Facebook stepped up and asked if I wanted to be “friends” with the man that abused me. The day’s direction was clear.

I’ll write about a gang of bikers.

It’s shocking I’d never heard about these people before: The BACA, “Bikers Against Child Abusers.”

Why should I care?

I’m not a survivor of child abuse because I didn’t survive. I only cope. And that’s after years of counseling and growth. The abuse did give me the gift of empathy. Not only do I know what it’s like to be abused but I know what it’s like to not have anyone defend you. Not be listened to. Not be believed.

When I was still a teenager, my boss at the recording studio explained how he would kill my step-father for what he did to me. We laughed. His plan was hilarious. But more important, he was the first person that stepped up to defend me. He was going to make sure I was never hurt again. What a concept. What a gift.

These bikers from BACA do the same.

Once I heard about them I started reading the stories and watching their videos. I was happy to hear each and every one has to go through an extensive police check. They are vetted.

Then they defend the kids. They stand behind them, beside them and even in front of them. Day or night. Whatever it takes.

They look like a mean bunch but give themselves names like Scooter and Pooh Bear to be more kid-friendly.

I can’t even imagine what it would have been like to have them near me when I finally spoke up.

There is a chapter in Vancouver and it gave me great joy to read their mission statement,

Bikers Against Child Abuse (B.A.C.A.) exists with the intent to create a safer environment for abused children. We exist as a body of Bikers to empower children to not feel afraid of the world in which they live. We stand ready to lend support to our wounded friends….

They say more but I love that they end with:

We stand at the ready to shield these children from further abuse. We do not condone the use of violence or physical force in any manner, however, if circumstances arise such that we are the only obstacle preventing a child from further abuse, we stand ready to be that obstacle.

“They stand ready to be that obstacle.”  They would have protected me.

I only have two pictures of that time in my life.

This one is dark and I might be smiling. All I remember is my nights were filled with horror.

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I needed a Biker Gang to come and save me.



A Funeral

I went to a funeral today.

I promised I wouldn’t blog about the death.

We all have secrets. We all tell lies.

I looked around the room and wondered how many know the truth.

You may think you know, but are you just kidding yourself?

Do we have any sense of what someone else is really thinking?

I don’t think so.

I know I don’t know.

Even if the person closest to you whispers in your ear… aren’t they just telling you what you want to hear?

Aren’t you doing the same?

Death is a great equalizer. And as much as I hate it, I love the clarity it brings.

Life is much easier if you don’t fear death.

Start that discussion and you might edge closer to the truth.

I promised I wouldn’t blog about this death.

But I can’t think of anything else.

I went to a funeral today.

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This Day We Write / This Day I Sell

When you receive a rejection letter from an agent you’ve set your heart and hope on, it helps if you’ve been to the Surrey International Writers’ Conference. Not because they taught you all the ins and outs of getting published. Not because they’ve given you the tools to pitch again. Not because they showed you how to write a better book.

It’s because they understand what it is to be a writer and they have your back.

Yes, they have your back.

It was at a conference lunch three years ago when I bared my soul about a rejection I’d received that morning. The rallying embrace was enough to help me carry on. It made me carry on.

I still feel that embrace today.

I’ve met people at SiWC that have become my greatest friends.

During those days I’ve cried and laughed and been scared shitless.

I’ve also been inspired.


So now it’s time to give back.

Once you arrive at the conference you’re given a brochure. It’s a map to everything that will happen. A guide to help you through the overwhelming maze of overwhelming moments.

My first year I don’t think I put it down once. It was my safety net and helped me decide what I should do next. I love looking back at the notes in the margins and stars beside the must attend workshops!

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This year I’ve been asked to assist in getting people to advertise in the 2016 brochure. OK, not the type of job I usually do, but when you think about it, I’m a person who knows how precious the pages are. And as I said, it’s a way for me to thank the SiWC Board for all the brochures that have shepherded me through the conference.

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Let’s be honest… I love to talk about things I love.

You can ignore my musings on penguins and Dairy Queen Blizzards… but if you’re a writer or want to be around writers you shouldn’t ignore my chatter about the Surrey Writers’ conference.

In fact, I bet you’ll be like so many others and thank me.

Just imagine you’re sitting across the table from Diana Gabaldon or Anne Perry or Jack Whyte. They’re about to read something you’ve written….

If you’re not brave enough for that, they always have time for a quiet little chat.

Everyone at SiWC is there to help you be a better writer.

And you will be.

Now I just wish they’d given a course in how to sell advertising in conference brochures?

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Talk to Owen Laukkanen

I read the last lines of the acknowledgment and started to cry.

“Heck, talk to me if you want. My contact info’s on the back cover flap, I usually stay up late. Just, you know, talk to somebody. We’re all in his together.”

This is how Owen Laukkanen ends his latest book The Watcher in the Wall.

It should be required reading in every high school.

On the surface, it’s a great piece of crime fiction that follows Owen’s stars, Stevens and Windermere, through another case. A horrifying story that keeps you hanging on to find out if the good guys win.

But this one’s so much more.

Owen tackles the tragedy of teenage suicide.

I’m not a book reviewer or a counselor so I won’t pretend to speak with that type of authority on either subject. Bookpage is just one of the places where you can read about the story itself.

I am a person that has battled depression and still wages the war. I’ve come very close to taking my own life. I wish I’d read this when I was younger. I’m glad I’ve read it now.

And I’m honoured to know Owen. He’s stepped up and will make a difference.

He’s even hidden all this in a really great book!

Owen, you’re a very creative and clever man.

I got to introduce a young friend to him recently. She’s read his YA book, How To Win At High School (written under the name of Owen Matthews.) She was beside herself to meet him. Owen took the time to connect with her. He’s like that. And I could instantly see how he related to someone still in the throes of figuring out life.

Aside from the superb writing ability, the weird obsession with trains, and the love of a certain dog named Lucy, Owen is a very good man. And handsome. Did I mention that, or have you seen his pictures?

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Start following him on Twitter or Instagram. You will never look at trains the same way again.

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There’s a tiny bit of time when you’re thinking about ending your life and you can be turned. Too many come to that crossroad and never see a different direction. I think Owen, his honesty with his own troubles, and this book, can make you look for another way.  A small glimmer that there might be a safe path away from the pain.

I hope Owen will find himself staying up very late once more people read this book.

It will be worth it.