Life is short

Do you have one of those special friends?

No matter how long you’ve been apart, once you reconnect the rapport takes minutes to revive. Year’s slip away. Conversations continue without hesitation. There’s an agreement we don’t need to explain.

The phenomenon is close to magic and maybe even a little bit spooky. In my world it’s a belief in past lives and karmic connections. Others might think there’s just an underlying bond.

However you define it, if you experience this, don’t take it for granted.

Cherish each time it happens.

That’s how I felt when I saw Pete last week. Even though it had been 6 years since our last coffee chat, we fell into our relaxed patter. A comfortable ease.

OK, it’s a little freaky how alike we are. I won’t list the attributes, but trust me; it’s weird in a very cool way. I will admit Pete is probably the better writer, and for sure the better coach if you want help to run a marathon.


In complete agreement on how to spend the day.

Over the last few days I’ve asked people if they have this type of friend. The answer’s usually yes.  And when they start to talk about it I swear their whole being changes. Their voice softens, a smile appears and then I hear the stories.

It’s tougher when you’re the opposite sex. People’s assumptions of “dating” are boring and a waste of time. That path is well tread and there’s no need to retrace the steps.

Could it be that I’m now old enough to appreciate the joy of a really good friend? Or maybe I’m just tired of the crap that can fill a day. I’ve been edging towards a purge of relationships that don’t bring happiness.

Being around Pete reminds me this is a wise pursuit.

These days I often repeat the mantra “Life is good.”

Pete is always quick to add “Life is short.”

He’s right.

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.


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.


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.


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

The Melanoma Word

It’s pretty weird. Once you buy something, or think about something, it seems to be everywhere. Test-drive a red car and you see all the red cars on the road. Buy tartan Converse and everyone’s wearing them.

Get diagnosed with Melanoma and you start to hear the word in too many conversations.

I’m sure it’s just a fluky trick your mind gets to play.

I’ve heard some bad stories in the last month when people didn’t know about my predicament. It’s scary that many were, “His son died of melanoma.” “It was melanoma that killed her, they caught it too late.”

I don’t jump in and say, “Hey, I’ve got the disease and you’re not making me feel great.”

No, mostly I’m just listening.

Of course when I tell someone I have melanoma I always hear, “Oh, no biggie, I/my friend/that famous actor had it and everything was OK.”

However well meaning, it’s the typical response.

I’ve got my surgery booked and this time next week those cancerous cells will be gone.

The last two months have reminded me of 2007 when during a routine mammogram the doctor saw something and our amazing medical system took over. I was booked for surgery and had to wait about the same amount of time as for this cancer scare. During those weeks I ate tubs and tubs of ice cream in an effort to calm my fears. I got fat.

Funny how my weight and the sales at my local Dairy Queen have skyrocketed in the last few weeks. I am so predictable. Clearly I eat when I’m afraid.

Back in 2007 I also decided to say “Fuck You” to cancer. It wasn’t the best timing, in fact it was bad timing, but I was registered to run a half marathon four days after the surgery. Without telling the doctors or race director, I decided that no matter what, I would compete in the race. “Yeah cancer, you don’t get to be the boss of me!” I hauled my fat ass to the start line, checked to see that my stitches were firmly in place and walked those 21 kilometers. I came in last. My time sucked. But I finished. When my doctor found out he was pissed. The race director said he would have banned me.

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Crossing the finish line made me stupidly happy.

“You are not the boss of me.”

So what will I do this time?

I don’t have a race to run.

But I do have a life to live.

Most likely I’ll just start to notice people that have ugly scars on their legs.

And that’s OK.



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.”


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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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.)

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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.