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Return to Scotland

Ten years ago I made the decision to walk Scotland’s West Highland Way and Great Glen Way to celebrate my 50th birthday. The half-century celebration was a 297km solo trek through the Highlands. Starting near Glasgow, and ending in Inverness.

overlooking Loch Lomond

The walk took 13 days, then I headed to Aberdeen to meet some very distant relatives. It was a first for me… actual blood relations! A joy few adopted people get to experience.

distant distant distant relatives

My goal in going to Scotland was to dig deeper into my roots. To go and find out more about who I am.

Luckily all that happened and my 50th was a complete success.

This year I turn sixty and plan to once more make the journey.

Even now I still think back to the day before I left Vancouver.

Dad was slipping fast. His mind was faltering. He knew I had opened my adoption papers, had found my birth family and was heading to Scotland to discover more. He wanted to help. He promised to pay for my flight. It’s one of the main reasons I was able to go.

Two things happened on the last day I saw him before I left. Actually three things happened.

I showed him my itinerary and the messages from some of the Third family clan in Aberdeen. I talked to him about my plans and the excitement.

As I talked about meeting these people he got teary eyed and said, “Remember you will always be my daughter. I will always be your father.” Up until that point I hadn’t realized the distraught this trip could carry for him. I told him he was my Dad and that would never change. I hope he believed me.

Then I showed him the bill for the flight and reminded him in the gentlest way of his promise to pay for it. He said of course, and went to his den. I waited. He came back and said his wife wouldn’t give him the money. He handed me his wallet and said I should take all the money inside to help pay for the trip. I opened it and found 23 cents. My heart broke.

I told him I’d already paid for the flight and he needed to keep his money to buy some coffee. Dad laughed, he loved cups of coffee. I lie very well.

As I left his home I told his wife what happened. She offered nothing.

I headed back to work and my last client before the trip.  He was a kind man with a very successful business in West Vancouver. His father had recently passed. We were pretty sure our Dad’s knew each other from years ago. There was a connection.

I told him what had happened. I was relying on Dad’s help and that had now disappeared. I cried. He seemed to understand. He was a very kind man.

As we finished the session, I was packing up my gear and he disappeared into the other room. He came out and handed me a cheque for the full amount of the airfare. He said my Dad wanted me to have financial help with the trip and he was in a position to make it happen.

I cried again. He hugged me and told me to have the best birthday celebration.

I did. And I never forgot how I got there.

 

 

Good Should Win

“The more things change the more they stay the same.”

Years ago, OK, decades ago, I was in charge of hiring performers to appear on some of the biggest and most famous advertising campaigns in Western Canada.

I was also in charge of the overall budgets of those campaigns. The client would give us a certain amount of money and we had to produce radio or TV commercials within that budget. There wasn’t much leeway. You had to make it work. And I, along with the creative team and account people at the agency, always made it work.

This is why I’m laughing at the hoopla over the “a man got paid more than a woman for a reshoot on a film” issue. The male actor is being called out. What bullshit.

I’m guessing that both actors didn’t have much to do with the final terms of the contract for the work. Their agents would have been the people conducting the negotiations. Performers rarely deal with the money side of their business and there is a good reason for it.

Number one, business is business and agents can usually get you a better deal as well as knowing the rules of the game. Number two, and maybe the most important aspect… the actor gets to be removed from the debate and blame for anything said or done during the negotiations. They can show up on set all nice and friendly and everyone’s pal. This system works very well.

I don’t know if this was done with the actors for the re-shoots for “All the Money in the World” but I would guess it was. So maybe we should have thrown the agents under the bus instead of the actors. We could have stopped yelling.

Even my fav picture with a celebrity follows that same story. I had trouble locating Mr T’s agent and had phoned every place I could think of to secure Mr. T’s appearance on a commercial. Then I got the call… and please imagine this being said in the iconic Mr T voice… (I do a pretty good imitation)

“Hello Trisha Barka, this is Mr. T talkin’. Everywhere I go people tellin’ me Trisha Barka tryin’ to find me. She been callin’ everyone. So I know I betta call her and tell her I hear her. I preciate the hard work to find me. My agent will call you.”

You get the gist of it. Hey, it’s Mr T!! At no time during our conversation did he say he would work on the campaign. All he said is that his agent would call. Luckily we were able to negotiate a contract and I got to meet the man. Even though I acted as his personal assistant while he was in town, at NO time did he and I discuss the terms of the contract. Never. If there was an issue I would have called his agent. Luckily there were no problems and he was a pleasure to work with.

It was the same with every other celeb we dealt with from Lou Rawls to Howie Mandel. From Leslie Nielsen to Ruth Buzzy (look her up!) We always dealt with the agents.

It was all our safety net.

Something else to note. The actors union that controls most of the productions done in Canada designates an actor as a performer. Not male or female, but a performer.

I’m not saying that women should not make as much as men, but I am saying that maybe we are screaming at the wrong thing.

I loved being in control of the negotiations back at my old job. Here’s a little story on what I felt was important.

Our local voice-over performers working on commercials had set fees and often didn’t use agents. This was long before it became the norm for most people in the business.

A few times a year we recorded radio commercials for the biggest selling beer in BC. It was huge and very iconic. The performers that appeared on the commercials were very well known.

The lead male had a set fee for the year. We paid him lots of money and he was worth every penny. He was the star. There were three others regulars. One was a woman that appeared in only a couple of spots and she was compensated well at her usual pay scale for the minor character on the campaign. Another male played an iconic part and negotiations with him were brutal. He pushed too hard and asked for too much each time. The back and forth went on forever before a fee was agreed to. He had us over a barrel and knew it. The last man was a beloved local TV guy. He never negotiated and always seemed so happy to get the call to come work on the campaign. I always paid him the same as the jerk that caused us grief.

I did this because I felt you should never be penalized for being a nice guy.

It was my own way of balancing the playing field.

Life is not fair but a good person should always win the day.

Back in the day when I thought I ruled the world.

 

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…

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…

santa shuffle blog

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.

Happy Birthday to Me

If you’ve ever received a birthday wish from me I bet I added in the line “Today you should celebrate yourself!”

I believe most of us adults are prone to play down how we should act on the day.

Tomorrow is my birthday and I will heed my own advice.

Why not celebrate turning 59? Why not celebrate me?

Why not, indeed?

OK, I can see why my friends smirk when I write it in their birthday cards. It’s tough to celebrate yourself.

But I’ll give it a try.

This past year has had some drastic ups and downs. And to be honest, most of the “ups” were just that I survived the big “downs”.

The joy of being an optimistic person is that my glass is always more than half full so I tend to have a good cry when things go bad, then carry on. And when I say carry on, I don’t mean put on a stoic face and just move forward. I mean get up off the ground, search out where happiness is and claim it.

So with that in mind,  I’ve been thinking about what I loved most about the past year.

There is no question that my time with the kids rates as number one!

And the last couple of hours have been the best reminder of what makes me truly happy. I’ve tried to write this blog and been constantly waylaid by texting with my best girlfriend. She’s away right now but we keep chatting. Time with her makes everything better and I’m blessed to have her in my life! Then another friend called and 30 minutes slipped away. He makes me laugh. Back to writing and my brother phones me! Of course I have time to talk… you’re my brother! And even now the birthday messages are starting to come in. Hell, I think I’ll cheat and open up the cards I’ve gotten! Why wait until tomorrow?

Then it dawns on me. Someone once told me this weird saying.

Tomorrow I am going to celebrate the person I think my true friends think I am.

And that’s going to make for a very good day.

 

 

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.

It Was Funny

It made her laugh.

The only good thing about the lead up to today’s colonoscopy was that it made a good story to tell my dear client that had just been put into a care home.

Anne has Alzheimer’s and I’ve worked with her for ten years.  I’ve seen the steady decline. But I’ve also seen that our shared strange sense of humour has remained. We laugh at the same things and most of the time they’re ridiculous.

Settling someone into a care home can be difficult. But it’s the best decision for Anne’s well-being and I wanted to help with the transition. Dementia and change don’t mix well. It causes confusion to run rampant.

So I sat with Anne in her new little room, held her hand, and hugged her close when she cried.

Through the tears she’d ask me what she was doing here. I told her about her mild heart attack and the care she needed. When she asked if I could stay with her for dinner, I told her I wasn’t able to because I was going to have a colonoscopy the next day.

“What’s that?”

I laughed and said, “They stick a camera up your bum!”

This made Anne giggle. “That’s ridiculous!”

I would stand up, bend over, point to my bum, and we would laugh even harder.

Laughing opened the door to better things to chat about.

But in less than ten minutes she would start to cry and ask what she was doing in this strange room.

I would repeat my same answers. We would both end up laughing.

The cycle happened again and again.

My only concern was to make my voice sound like this was the first time I was answering the question. I would keep at it as long as it made Anne laugh.

Anne’s son was in and out of the room trying to organize things and get the move sorted.

An hour into my visit he had had enough, “Are you telling Mom that stupid story again?”

#1 Yes I am.

#2 It is a stupid story.

#3 It makes her laugh.

#4 I will tell it for as long as it’s needed.

No doubt the look I gave him conveyed all this information.

I’ve been asked if it takes a great deal of patience to do this for someone with dementia. That’s never been an issue for me. No patience is required when you get to tell a joke that makes someone laugh.

It all comes down to intent.

And as for that colonoscopy? Three years ago the same procedure left me buckled over in pain and rushed to the ER. (It made a very good story for a blog) This time the doctor and staff were more than ready to make sure things went smoothly. I was nervous as hell, but hoped for the best.

Three hours later I was back at home feeling more blessed than I’ve been in a long time.

Then the sun came out and I got in my daily 10k walk.

Life really is good.

my walk today was filled with happy and a few flowers

 

 

 

The Depression Dance

I battle depression but it’s not always a fight…

Sometimes it’s a negotiation.

Sometimes even a partnership.

Lately there has been some give and take.

Life changes, the disease changes and I’ve certainly changed.

I believe the trick is to live a life where you can learn what can help.

Luckily it’s 2017 and the concept of depression is becoming widely known. The Bell Let’s Talk campaign is brilliant for getting the word out and rallying the troops. I give credit to each person that suffers and is brave enough to come forward and confront the stigma.

You see, depression is not prejudiced. It doesn’t care what colour you are or what religion you follow. It doesn’t care where you were born or who you like to have sex with. Rich, poor, famous or a no-name; depression can climb inside anyone. It can strike at any time.

I’ve been inspired by a local writer, Owen Laukkanen, and the way he’s transparent about his struggles. I’m guessing Owen has been a beacon of hope for many in his huge fan base.

Owen is one of the reasons I started to put more effort into my photography.

As more people share their stories I embrace the fact that I’m part of a huge community.  Even better? Some of these people are pretty cool. It’s like an elite club with a harsh entry fee. But once you’re in and look around you wonder at the incredible people who share your journey.

Lately, to ease my mind and give the semblance of moving forward, I’ve been walking at least 10k a day. It wasn’t a plan and I wasn’t in distress but the concept seemed right. Having a fitbit has helped to keep me honest. To make the hours I spend out there a little more interesting, I started taking pictures. It’s odd how your mind can be consumed with looking for a perfect shot to post on social media. There’s nothing like that type of one-pointed concentration to positively focus the mind.

And the extra added bonus… When reaction to the picture is positive the endeavour comes full circle. Motivation, meditation, magic. It’s rewarding to share the moment.

So this blog is to thank each and every one that has liked or loved or commented on one of my “walking” pictures.

As for my long standing dance with depression…

There’s no guarantee who will be the ultimate winner. A fighting chance is all I can ask for.

 

 

 

That pissed you off?

These last couple of weeks has tried my patience and stoked my resolve. A broken phone, work problems, and endless bureaucracy timesucks. Through it all I’ve attempted to keep my heart empathetic and my language as tame as it can be when I’m upset. I’ll let the people around me judge how I did…

Well except for that one guy. He’s the man with the brilliant idea to attack my religion. No, in truth he didn’t really attack the religion, he attacked me for my religious beliefs. It was probably my fault for announcing that January 24 was the 17th anniversary of taking my vows to become a Tibetan Buddhist. It’s a special time for me but I should have been quiet. These days you never know what will rile people up when it comes to religion and personal beliefs.

Though as a Tibetan Buddhist I have it pretty good. People don’t tend to say bad things about His Holiness the Dalia Lama. What are you going to say… he laughs too much?

But this man decided to get very vocal about my choice and “why if you were born a Christian would you EVER decide to change religions, are you stupid?”

The only stupid thing I did was stay at the table where he was and let him rant at me. He did go on and on. I just laughed. I also asked him why he cared. This made him a tad angrier. I laughed even more.

I do not advise laughing at strangers when they are mad at you.

Luckily he got tired of taunting me and left to probably judge someone else.

I was left with the knowledge that a Muslim would not have gotten off as easy as I did.

Hate is everywhere and can easily catch fire.

I was blessed to leave that all behind and go spend a few days at Long Beach to look out at the ocean.

Hate is everywhere and the water’s edge is my antidote.

Long Beach, Vancouver Island January 25, 2017