2018 – The Year of the Penguin

We all thought 2016 was a bad year. We were a little delusional that 2017 would be better.

As this year winds down I believe it’s time for a helpful reboot. Just thinking positive thoughts and counting blessings hasn’t been enough.

With this in mind, I am proclaiming 2018 will be the “Year of the Penguin”.

Chinese astrology is calling it an Earth Dog Year… maybe they’re wrong. Or maybe we just need something happier. How about a Space Penguin Lunar year? Now didn’t that thought just make you smile?

Everyone knows I love these little guys. But really, does anyone not like penguins?

Penguins are so cool they had Morgan Freeman narrate a movie about them, March of the Penguins.

Penguins have some sort of super power to make us laugh. They’re cute but ridiculous at the same time. They can’t fly… and have you seen them walk? Maybe if we humans all just walked like a penguin for a couple of minutes every day things would lighten up. At least it would make us giggle.

Look how many movies have been made about penguins, Happy Feet, The Penguins of Madagascar and so many more. We named a hockey team after them… people write book series about them…

Penguins are loved. They make us happy.

I counted my blessings last New Year’s Eve and tried to explore some ways to look forward with a smile.  http://triciabarker.com/glass-half-full/. Clearly that didn’t have a lasting effect. But maybe nothing could have curtailed the challenges we all seemed to encounter in 2017. Life seemed to come crashing down on us.

That’s why I think we need a more drastic measure to turn this world around.

Yes, it is convenient for me to opt for 2018 to be the “Year of The Penguin”.

I have all the props and this Christmas I was surrounded…

my desk

I even have the sweaters.

I am ready.

Now if only I could have gotten Morgan Freeman to narrate this blog…

Change Sucks

Why is change so difficult? Even if it’s something we want it can throw your life into chaos. If it’s something we don’t want, well then there’s a mountain of negative frenzy to plow through.

I don’t like change. Negative or positive. But I also know that deciding not to change may be the worst decision to make. In a way, change is easier when it’s forced on you. Deciding to leap is tough.

With all these ideas floating around my head, I resigned my position as Fundraising Coordinator at the Surrey International Writers’ Conference.

Yes, shocking news if you recently read my last blog about SiWC. (read it here)

I’m well known for telling people that it’s all about intent. If you ever have a question about what to do, just remember your original intent and the answer will be clear.

My intent all along has been to get a book written and published. It’s that intent that led me to my first Surrey Writers’ Conference. It’s been a long journey and I feel that time is running out. I need to get this done.

Heading into 2018 was my kick in the butt.

And let’s face it; I’m not the fundraising sort of person. The position was a great way to procrastinate and not write my book.

So I stepped aside.

As much as I hate change it can make me nostalgic. It made me remember all the people I’ve met at SiWC… some of the highest points were not the most public moments.

-That first year, a writer named Ace Baker gave me the courage to sit down with Jack Whyte so he could critique my stories.

-Chats with Anne Perry are always a lesson in living well and getting on with the work.

-Paula, Joe, Helga, Karalee and Silk…. 5 writers on the same journey. We always talk about it in the bar.

-Terry Fallis gave me more inspiration than I thought was possible and it still resonates today.

-One year, Maryam Tajilrou, one of the staff at The Sheraton Guildford, saved my whole conference by stepping up with an act of kindness.

-Sean Cranbury and Jane Porter and DinoPorn

-Thanks to kc dyer for pointing out that I’m a personal trainer and that’s where my story lives.

-Regan Ross showed me what real courage is.

-Jasper Fforde is a very kind man and gave me faith in my words.

-Tyner Gillies has your back during any emergency.

-And most important of all…being friends with Jen Browne is a blessing and privilege.

Yes, there have been lots of other moments… the joy of being around SiWC and attending the conference is that it could change your life.

It changed mine.

Sometimes change is good.

 

For Dad

Again, this weekend will be for Dad.

My blog from last year, and I do believe I will be re-posting this every year!

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There was never any doubt I would be running the Salvation Army Santa Shuffle again this year. I also knew it would be the topic of my blog this week. As I sat down to write the piece I realized there was no way I could top what happened with my story last year. The Salvation Army people posted it on the homepage of their website…

Sal Dad

I’ve never been so proud of anything I’ve ever written and I’m pretty confidant Dad would have been thrilled.

So it is worth repeating…

Blog from December 3, 2014

My twitter feed asked a question that gave me the answer to what I would blog about this week…

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Why do I run the Salvation Army’s Santa Shuffle every year?

On December 4th, 2008 I went to visit Dad. He was not well and the dementia was looming large. We somehow managed to chat about my running in the Santa Shuffle to raise money for the Salvation Army. Because of the run and the time I needed to spend with the triplets, I would not see Dad for two days. Unheard of in the midst of our usual daily visits. But Dad thought the run was important and I think he knew I was also doing it for him. The Salvation Army was his favourite charity.

The run was on Saturday, December 6th. After we finished I spent the day with the kids. As I headed home I picked up the phone message. Get to the hospital as fast as I could.

I was too late. When I arrived Dad was gone.

The next year I did the run and cried for the entire 5k. But I did it for Dad. He would have wanted and expected me to carry on.

I have run the race every year since then. I make a donation and know it’s how Dad would want me to remember him.

The last time Dad and I talked he wished me good luck for the race. And then his last words were, “You are a good daughter.”

I will never know if he was referring to my helping the Salvation Army, or if he meant something more.

I choose to think it was more.

This is why I will run the Santa Shuffle this year.

For Dad.

Friends

This past week I read a Facebook post by someone I used to consider a dear friend. We don’t see each other anymore. He’s moved on.

I find that often happens when a friend starts to date someone or even more dramatically, when they move in or get married to the love of their life.

It can be a little melancholy.

It got me thinking about what makes friendships last. And even more basic, why do we become friends with someone in the first place? What glue keeps us together? What tears us apart?

We humans are funny.

This week I also talked to a friend about the importance of speaking up and telling your truth. We talked about how that’s important in building relationships; real relationships and not just casual acquaintances.

It all leads to thinking that a good friend would listen to what you have to say and believe you. In a world where we need people to “have our back” I think it should start with a simple trust.

I’m blabbering a bit here… but stay with me.

We need our friends. Real friends. People that know us and love us. The people that you can call at 3am and they will come running. No questions asked.

These are best friends.

Yes, some friends will be around for a while and then slip away. I think that’s natural. It says something about what the relationship was built on and the fact that we are all changing all of the time. Life changes us in ways we could never expect.

I’ve been lucky to have a few really great friends. I understand how rare and precious they are. I would not be here if they weren’t in my life. You would be surprised to know who they are.

I’m also lucky to have many of the other kinds of friends and blessed to be surrounded by some outstanding people. If for some reason we part I will know my life is better for the time we shared.

My Buddhist teacher, Lama Tara, gave the best antidote to heal the pain when I lost that cherished friend that moved on. She explained that I had stopped the story in the wrong place. Instead of continuing the narrative to the sorrow of not spending time together, in my mind, I should end that chapter of our friendship when our time together was filled with laughter and comradery. Stop the story there. It will allow you to move forward and look back with affection and gratitude.

It’s a good plan and has served me well.

Lama Tara also reminds me that nothing lasts forever.

But just maybe a best friend makes you believe they will be around for a very long time.

No More Match.com

Eight coffee dates, too many hours of texting, emails galore, three con artists, two lovely dinners… and with that, my time on Match.com has come to an end.

The process has been priceless.

And it’s not because I found the love of my life, or even someone close.

Match.com taught me a valuable lesson that I will keep close to my heart forever.

I am surrounded by the most amazing men.

And because of this, my bar has been set very high. Some may say unrealistically high.

I’m OK with that.

I’m also happy for my friends that have found love on Match.com.

It just wasn’t for me.

As I started to chat with men looking for love on the internet I became frustrated with the lack of truly interesting characters. Lots of these fellows were decent people with good lives. There was nothing wrong with them. But there was also nothing remarkable.

The guys didn’t come close to the people that surround me every day. My clients are the standard of men you read about in hero books. Leaders who are intelligent, creative and compassionate. I’m constantly in awe that I get to spend time with them. My male friends are funny, bright and best of all; most of them are following their creative dreams and winning! The men around me set a standard that is hard to compete with. Even my god-sons are rising up and becoming the best at what they do in big ways!

I know men that are doing something positive with their time and energy. They inspire me. They motivate me. They make me laugh.

They could all be a woman’s dream partner and most already fulfill that role.

How the hell did I get so lucky to know them?

I’ve written about many of these people and their deeds, their lives and how they choose to spend their time. Most of my friends are story worthy.

I just don’t see how the normal guy on the street can compete with the men in my life.

Thanks to Match.com for this reality check.

There’s no need to settle for second best.

 

 

 

Match.com

My friend had a broken heart and decided to get back out there to hasten the mending process. He’d heard my tales from people I know that have found love on Match.com. I was thrilled he was going to take the leap and sign up.

I didn’t foresee he would ask me to join him.

But a friend in need… well yes, is a friend indeed.

And that’s how I ended up on Match.com

It isn’t because I suddenly decided to start dating. There was no epiphany that I needed a partner. I have no such agenda. Really, have you met me?

I’m just supporting my friend.

And before you jump in with the bit of wisdom that I’ve heard so many times in the last few weeks… “It’s when you aren’t looking for someone that your soulmate comes along.”

Stop.

That is a platitude that doesn’t work here.

Again I’ll ask, “Have you met me?”

But… a friend in need…

So I signed up.

And what have I learned about diving into this pool of wants and needs and hopes?

58 years old isn’t a very dateable number.

Most older men on Match say they love to drink wine.

My humour might not translate well on this type of platform.

Most older men on Match own motorcycles.

I draw the line at camping.

Most older men on Match love to say they are honest and compassionate.

I now realize I’m not very good at explaining my wants and needs and hopes.

Most older men on Match aren’t good judges of acceptable photos of themselves.

I also found out that there are some really lovely men just looking for someone to share their lives with. It’s hard to put yourself out there for people to judge. I’ve started to feel very protective of some of the people I’ve chatted with. I hope they find the perfect person to make them happy. And if that woman loves wine and can’t wait to ride on their motorcycle… then all the better.

As for me…

I’m happy and content with my life.

Watching People Watching

I love to walk. And as I write this blog I realize I probably got it from my Dad. He walked.

Anyone that has the habit of going for long walks knows it’s more than just moving your feet. It’s time to think, and for me, the space to contemplate almost anything.

My greatest walk was my trek the length of Scotland. That’s where I found out who I was. It cemented my love of walking.

I like to wear reflective sunglasses while I walk so I can watch people. This makes it much easier to spy on them. I’m ridiculously curious about what others are thinking. This is heightened when I see people out on the same paths I tread. What secrets are you mulling over? What mundane facts fill your head while you stride along? Everyone is thinking about something. Is it a lie? Is it an untold truth? Or maybe it’s just a boring fact.

I always wonder.

Then I took the first picture of someone I didn’t know while they were looking at a horizon. It was my window into their mind. If I could see what they were seeing maybe I could get a glimpse of what they were thinking.

The method never worked. I am still left to wonder what fills people’s soul.

But the picture idea survived.

So I started taking photos of people watching things. Then I started giving them away. At first I was a little nervous with the approach. Then it became my norm.

“Excuse me, I just took this picture of you… can I email it to you?”

Very few say no and last year 67 people said yes.

When asked why I do it I’ve said it’s just a little gift of happiness that’s easy to give.

And it gives me joy.

I have a pile of email replies about how much my images are loved. I get to hear how they have been turned into Christmas cards, used on Facebook headers and shared with friends.

I’ve discovered these pictures serve as reminders of a time and place.

So I may not know what these people are thinking when they crossed my path, but I see what they are looking at and that is close enough.

 

 

 

 

 

Step Up

I’ve always volunteered. It’s become part of my life. It’s also an easy way to meet interesting people and do different things.

Big jobs or little projects, it doesn’t matter.

Early on I was manning phones at the Variety Club Telethon. Then I did a stint at the Vancouver Triathlon. For a couple of years I helped serve Christmas dinners to the homeless at the Carnegie Centre. There have been lots of others in between.

Something catches my eye and I jump in.

A once in a lifetime experience was volunteering at the Vancouver 2010 Olympics. Nothing will beat that for pure joy and a sense that you are part of something huge. Working to help put on the opening and closing ceremonies was epic (and I rarely use that word!).

On May 14, 2007 I signed up to volunteer at the BC Highland Games. The night before that year’s event I helped put up tents. Who knew how much that “sure I can do that” would change my life?

Last night I stepped down as the President of the St. Andrew’s and Caledonian Society and handed in my medal.

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The end of an era for me.

The society is part of the Scottish Cultural Centre that runs the BC Highland Games. Over the years I’ve been VP of the Centre, Marketing Coordinator for the Games, and have been a Director for 8 years. I’ve met some amazing people. I would not have been there without Angus MacPherson and Rob MacNeil; two outstanding men that have the ability to inspire the people around them. This volunteer work led to my job with the SFU Centre for Scottish Studies, the Robbie Burns Marathon, and of course, the Haggis Hunt.

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It also immersed me into my Scottish roots.

Volunteering can change your life.

For me, it all comes down to the human element. That’s what makes the experience rich and makes it worth the time and effort. My best advice is to volunteer to work with good people that have integrity. It also helps if they’re fun and make you laugh.

It’s also the reason that these days my time has been filled with the Surrey International Writers’ Conference. The people running that show tick all the boxes.

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Step up and see where it takes you.

In the end we are all using up our precious time.

Choose well.

Pooh and Penguin

There were many stories crowding the headlines this week.

Bowls of Skittles, The Megga Breakup, Dancing with the Rioters, Platitudes at the UN, Hillary’s Dead Again and the one that annoyed me the most, Gord Downie is back for another concert.

When will we start to notice the things that really matter?

When will we stop accepting the press releases about “Late Breaking News.”

There was one story that captured my attention. I really really hoped it was true and not someone playing a stupid internet game with the intent to make people look stupid.

I don’t want to look stupid.

The reason I wonder if it’s true? I have asked at least 15 people about the big news and I seem to be the only person to hear about it.

Which makes me wonder who my friends follow on Twitter.

Everyone has said it cannot be real. Some are appalled. One person said she was deeply offended.

I think it’s the best piece of literary news I’ve seen in months, maybe years.

This is better than any Harry Potter rumour.

I’m starting to suspect it’s a hoax but fear googling for the facts.

Instead I’ll just enjoy this picture and bask in a world that loves penguins.

pooh-and-penguin

“It’s very nice to walk with you Pooh.”

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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