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.

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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.

 

 

George Clooney and Buying a Home

Years ago I realized my dream wasn’t going to come true and I wasn’t marrying George Clooney. Being George’s wife would have made me happy but he married someone else. I was left to find other ways to be content.

I survived… and oddly enough, I’m happy.

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When I hear a local news report about how Vancouver real estate prices have become too high for most people I scream at the radio… “And I’m not Mrs. Clooney!”

Suck it up people… sometimes dreams don’t come true. Just because you want something doesn’t mean it will happen. Vancouver doesn’t owe you.

And guess what, owning a home doesn’t guarantee you will be happy.

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I know lots of people that own homes and are stuck in a job they hate because they need the money to pay their mortgage. Or they’re trapped in a relationship and can’t leave because they would have to downgrade their lifestyle.

No, owning a home does not equal happy. It might, but it might not. And are you prepared for that? Sink all your money into this one dream only to find out it isn’t the golden ticket.

Get over it.

I got over the George thing.

But I also got over the home ownership thing.

I left a high-paying stressful job for a career that I love. It doesn’t make me enough money to buy a home. I gave up trying to make relationships work and opted to live contently alone. A single income is not great when applying for a mortgage.

And that’s OK… I’m happy. Very happy.

Part of my happiness is because I live in the best place on earth. Vancouver.

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I was born here, lived a few other places and then came home.

A day in Vancouver is better than almost anywhere else.

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You can complain all you want about the high cost of living and the fact that you can’t buy a home. And I really hope they find a way to solve some of these issues. But this isn’t “breaking news”. And even a minor fix to the problem won’t help the “poor” people.

It would be nice if we all got what we wanted… but that’s not going to happen.

I’m never going to marry George Clooney.

And yet I’m still happy.

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Tartan Day Penguins

It was going to happen sooner or later. I can blame it all on Tartan Day but that would be a lie. For the second time in 153 weeks I didn’t post a blog on Wednesday. The last time this happened I was in the hospital.

This time I was so exhausted even a penguin couldn’t help me.

Yesterday, April 6th, was Tartan Day. For the last seven years I’ve been putting on some sort of event to mark the day. This year was no different except that this year may be my last.

I’m not an “events” person. People think I am, but they’re wrong.

Yesterday I joined up with Rob MacNeil and Nic Brand. I love these guys! Nic is the founder of Men In Kilts and let us use his tartan firetruck to drive around downtown Vancouver. Rob is the Cultural Committee Chair of the Scottish Cultural Centre and got us two pipers and a dancer to provide the entertainment. We made stops at many iconic Vancouver places, put on a mini show and in-between, drove around the main streets of downtown with the bagpipes going strong!!!

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Lots of fun but very crazy and a little hard to organize.

It’s “gorilla-style” with the premise that you do something and ask for permission later.

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A tad bit stressful for the person in charge.

Before we headed out I wanted to address the issue that I might lose my cool while we were on the road. (And when I say lose my cool I mean I could go insane and yell at everyone.)

So I gave this little speech to Rob, Nic, Roger Lye, Aiden Fowler, Alexandra Lye and the parents.

“We’re going out to have as much fun as we can, but I know that if I get stressed about something I can go a little crazy, get mad and totally crap out. It’s very ugly! So… if you see me start to get a bad face and get mean… I want you to immediately say a special word to me. And that word is PENGUIN! Then all I’ll think about are my favourite animals and the way they are so cute and how they walk funny and I will stop being mad. OK?”

I even tossed in my imitation of a penguin walking.

Everyone laughed.

The speech wasn’t for their benefit, it was for mine. It was a safety net in case the event went bad. In case I went bad.

But the day went well and no one said “penguin!”  The crowds smiled, took pictures, waved and realized it was indeed Tartan Day.

We only had trouble with two security people. Even those encounters ended well.

I got home after the fifteen hour day and wrote my blog. Then I accidentally deleted it. An exhausted, stupid move. I wrote another one and it was shit. I wrote a third one and can you believe this; my computer crashed and I lost it all.

I wanted to cry and scream and say I will never blog again.

Instead I said the magic word and went to bed.

Penguin.

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Behind Closed Doors

I love my apartment building. We are our own little neighbourhood.

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It helps that we’re also in Kerrisdale, a perfect, throwback, mid-scale, little part of Vancouver.

You get to know your neighbours. People come and people go. Some, like me, have been here for years. We chat in the laundry room, parking lot and stairwells. At Christmas I invite most of the tenants to my open house.

Most of the tenants.

I will never invite the people that live right next door to me. And luckily, they never read my blog.

He looks like an upscale businessman. He’s not. She’s his mother. They’re always very polite when we pass in the hall. She speaks in a whisper.

A few times a month, behind their closed door, they scream at each other like two deranged banshees. Shrieks of accusations. Raging condemnations. It goes on for hours.

I can hear them from my bathroom.

So I know their little secret. They hate each other.

In this building we tend to look out for the people around us.

Jack lived on the second floor and was in a wheelchair. A friendly chap. Once when the fire alarm went off we all ended up in the lobby. It only took seconds for two men to turn and head back up the stairs to carry Jack down. It was a false alarm but from then on we put a system in place as to who would make sure Jack was OK in an emergency. I liked that we did that. It’s what your neighbours should do.

We also share books in the laundry room library.

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Someone has hung “paintings” in the carport.

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For a few weeks we had a lady living under the tree by the side of our building. It was well protected and she just “moved” in. Oddly enough we were all respectful of her space. When the weather turned, someone found her a better place to stay.

There’s a generous on-going dose of common courtesies.

People come and people go. Some people stay for years and years. Jack got sick and died.

We old-timers rate the newbie’s but we’re also quick to welcome them in.

Yelling neighbours, well they’ve taught me that you never really know what goes on in someone’s home when their door is closed… and locked.

We all have secrets. The way we act. What we think. Things that make us mad. Things that give us our greatest joy. And the people we choose to hate.

I swear I haven’t looked the mother or son straight in the eye since I heard the first yelling match.

I’m afraid they would know I know.

And how could I live with that?

Or worse… how could they.

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Procrastination & Inspiration

Three weeks ago I sat in this room at the Long Beach Lodge and vowed that I would stop procrastinating.

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By the end of February I would get my ass in gear and somehow build a new website.

Six days ago it seemed procrastination would win. I had done nothing.

Then I asked my friend, Jennifer Browne (writer/editor/blogger/social-media-manager) if her website builder extraordinaire, Christian Lind, could give me a hand.

Hours, and yes, I mean hours later this new website was built.

Procrastination got kicked in the butt.

I’ve been warned there’s tons to learn and  lots of work to do.

Surrounded by these amazing people I’m motivated to carry on.

And with that, inspiration has taken center stage.