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Blonde Again

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

On my last blog, I explained that I was going back to Scotland to celebrate turning 60 because I did the trip to mark my 50th birthday.

For months I’ve also been remembering what and who I was when I turned 40. Funny how big birthdays can get you reminiscing about the past. In 1998 I was just retired from my full time job at the ad agency and making my way with a new career. I was dealing with people and my surroundings in a different way. I was evolving into an adult.

Part of the shift was becoming a personal trainer that would opt to shave her head to support a client going through chemo. Why not? It was only hair and a perfect way to make a mark about how I wanted to support my clients and how I wanted to live my life.

Years later I wrote a story about the experience.

 

Bald

Today I am a forty year old bald woman.

Yesterday I had long black hair down to my shoulders.

Today I notice my ears are too big for my face.

Yesterday I looked like everyone else.

Today the wind on my bare scalp chills me to the bone.

Yesterday I still had all my hair to hide behind.

Today people stare at me.

Yesterday I walked into my hairdressers and had my head shaved.

The first step was to cut the bulk of my long hair with scissors.  I was spellbound sitting there watching my reflection as my cherished locks fell away.  The next step came as he used the electric razor for a close crop.  You could now see the shape of my head.  Thank God I had no strange lumps and bumps.  That would have been too much!  Then finally the razor blade to finish the job. There were no tears, just the reflection of a forty year old bald woman looking back at me.

Today I visited my bald client with breast cancer.  She is bald from the chemo and was excited about my gesture to shave my own head to support her journey.  Today she quietly tells me she can’t stand to look at me because it reminds her how sick she is.  She doesn’t want to look at the face of another bald woman.  I am banished.  She tells me to leave and not come back.

Yesterday I was a person embarking on a symbolic gift for a friend.

Today I am a forty year old bald woman.

This piece not only told the story, but helped me find a way to share my life and experiences.

I became a writer. I found my voice.

If I wanted to say something, I would tell you a little tale.

So there was no better way to explain to you the reason why I look like this today.

It really shouldn’t come as a big surprise to the people that know me best.

And face it, there’s something cathartic to reflect about what it means to turn 60. What I’ve learned, what I care about, and what doesn’t matter at all.

Doing this while being blonde just makes me laugh.

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

 

 

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.

 

 

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!

________________________________________________________________________________________________

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.

Say It Now

I’ve said this before but the message isn’t getting through.

I was again struck by the outpouring when a celebrity dies. A mass amount of tributes and stories takes over social media. It happened last week when Tom Petty died. If the death is unexpected the jolt is real. One day you’re dreaming about seeing him in concert, the next you’re listening to all his old songs with tears running down your face.

What always surprises me is that people talk about all the memories they have, all the moments a song has gotten them through a tough time. Maybe the music reminds them of the best time of their life.

People reminisced about what Tom meant to them.

My advice is always the same.

Don’t wait, say it now.

Tonight, go through your record collection, your bookcase, and if you still have them, your old VHS tapes. Even better, think about that special teacher or neighbour that helped you when you were a kid. Recount the times in your life when someone did something that formed your world.

Then find that person and send them a note. Do it now. Tell them how much their song meant to you or how much what they said mattered when you were in pain.

We all have those memories. Don’t wait until the person is dead and tell everyone else what they meant to you. Tell THEM.

And before I forget…include your friends and family members on that list.

Days ago the legendary broadcaster, Rafe Mair passed away. The tributes started soon after the notice circulated. As I mourned the loss, I was thankful for an email conversation years ago. Rafe didn’t know me, but for a few moments, he did know how much I appreciated him.

Tom would have loved this but maybe we should have done it sooner.

 

An MRI, STAT

I love experiencing life’s unusual happenings. In our interconnected world it’s good to travel down many paths. Empathy is best learned with knowledge. Sometimes the only way you really know about something is to walk the walk.

Last week I had an MRI of my spine and brain.

Lucky me… one hospital visit and two MRI’s.

In the days leading up to the scan I was warned of the hell I would go through and how taking a sedative is the best option. I laughed and explained I wasn’t that claustrophobic, and besides, “I’m a Buddhist, we just meditate.”

What I found unbelievably cool was that I was booked to have my scan at 1am at St. Paul’s Hospital in downtown Vancouver. Our medical system has decided to run a graveyard shift in an attempt to clear off the backlog of people waiting for scans.

At that time of night the only entrance available was through the ER. It’s a pretty active place in the early morning hours. And when I say active I mean the mayhem of people and bodies and police and paramedics. It looked like a war zone. A security guard pointed me towards a corridor and opened the locked doors to let me pass.

Moments later I was in the deserted main building. I’ve been here before and know the halls to be packed with people. Now there was just silence. Empty silence.

Upstairs at the MRI clinic there was a receptionist and one other person. I was asked to take a seat and as I settled in I could hear the machine working away. I had been warned about the noise.

Once it was my turn the technician went through the procedure and how we would do this. I got to wear scrubs and was allowed to keep my blessing cord around my neck. “I have to keep it on because of my religion… and it’s only string.”

I thought I could use the religious line because of the sign in the waiting room. If the hospital was going to talk about God I would toss back a little bit about Buddha.  All’s fair.

I will admit the procedure was not fun. One scan would have been fine but to do two back-to-back was brutal. Yes, I did a “taking and sending” meditation and will also admit to singing Ed Sheeran songs in my head. 46 minutes is a long time to stay absolutely still. Eddie helped.

Before I knew it I was out of there with nothing but kudos for the people that work the night shift.

Too bad I have to wait until January to see the specialist about the results.

Maybe the people in charge need to think this through a little bit more.

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

A Religious Week

This has been a very religious week.

Yesterday I attended an Anglican memorial service for my dear client and friend, Anne Brailey. I wrote about her in a blog a few weeks ago.  Link to blog

We called each other secret sisters because our sense of humour was both alike and very inappropriate. This led to many uncontrollable fits of laughter.

Anne and I often talked about my religion and she knew I would do Buddhist prayers for her after her passing to mark the day of her predicted rebirth. She enjoyed the concept. I also told her about one of my favourite teachers, Mingyur Rinpoche. She loved that he was always laughing and looked so happy.

Anne had a soft spot for joyful people.

How interesting that this week he was teaching in Vancouver after a seven year hiatus.

I was able to attend four of Mingyur Rinpoche talks and teachings.

My weekend was a blur of his smiling face!

He recently returned from a four year retreat when he left all his worldly goods behind and led the life of a wandering yogi. He walked the walk. I highly recommend you watch some of his internet content. His practical advice on meditation is in itself enlightening. I bet he makes you laugh.

Now he is back to teaching and luckily Vancouver was one of his stops.

We met on his first visit to Vancouver back in 2001. We both looked so young!

Me with Mingyur’s translator

Years later he encouraged me to take a vow that I had been contemplating for a couple of years. That blessing changed the direction of my life. The vow went hand-in-hand with the work I do for my clients at the end of their lives.

And that brings me back to Anne.

On June 28th I will light a candle for her at the monastery where Mingyur Rinpoche spoke on Monday night.

In my heart I will recite one of our favourite jokes…

And we will both laugh.

13 Reasons Why

When my friend told me to watch the new Netflix hit 13 Reasons Why I asked him for one reason why I should. He told me it was the best thing he’d ever watched. When a 16 year old says that you need to listen.

His brief summary sold me, “A girl makes 13 tapes and sends them to the people that are responsible for her suicide.”

A few days later, a friend and extensive reader said, “The Netflix show is really good, but the book was better.”

Nothing more was required; I sat down for a 13 hour binge.

As I watched the closing credits I sent my friends each a thank you note. They were right.

13 Reasons Why has restored my faith that people can make shows that matter. This Is Us, the NBC show that debuted this year, gave me hope that we would go back to making shows that didn’t rely on fluff. 13 Reasons Why crossed the finish line.

The story covers many topics as it delves into why Hannah would make the ultimate decision. Bullying, rape, the social media frenzy, neglect, words left unspoken. I think most people can see a glimmer of themselves in one of the 13 scenarios. It’s hard to watch. Yes, devastating in places, but I have recommended it to everyone I know.

What shocked me were the media reports about the Vancouver School Board coming out with a warning about the series. The airwaves were filled with experts talking about how the show glamorized suicide. I yelled at the radio, “Have you even watched it?” I could tell most of them hadn’t. I read the VSB message to parents; it said the show should be a part of a conversation. Talk to the young people around you. Watch the show together. Talk about the Reasons Why.

The show reminded me what is was like to be 16 years old again. Did my parents know anything I was doing? The big difference between then and now, when I was young we had no social media. There was everything else, but we had no way to flame the fire into an unstoppable frenzy.

Thank God. I may not have survived.

Here are 13 reasons why I want you to watch…

1.  The writing is perfect.

2.  The actors become the characters. You will never forget them.

3.  The simple devise to indicate the flashbacks is clever and pure genius.

4.  This is happening with teenagers right now.

5.  The violence is not gratuitous.

6.  You can watch the series and then read the book.

7.  You can read the book and then watch the series.

8.  My young friend will know his opinion matters and I’ve told everyone.

9.  The soundtrack is brilliant.

10.  The characters are diverse without trumpeting the fact.

11.  You never know what will change someone’s mind.

12.  Because kids are dying and we can do something about it.

13.  Stop reading this blog, go watch the show, then talk to someone.

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.