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.”

 

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.

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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.

Priceless!

And so worth a post on YouTube.

 

 

 

HE Tai Situpa Rinpoche

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

ME condensed

Wrong.

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.

Crazy.

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.

Bowing to TS

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.

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.

Surrey

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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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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