Surrey International Writers’ Conference

It’s all about the people you’ll meet. That’s the power of the Surrey International Writers’ Conference.

I’ve been attending the event since 2011 and this still holds true.

Yes, in the end it will all be on my shoulders. As much as I don’t like this fact, it’s the truth. If I don’t write the book and put it out into the world then nothing will happen.

All the wishing and hoping and yes, even praying, are for naught unless you step up.

You must write it.  You must finish it.  You must pitch it to get a book published.

SiWC gives you that chance and can make the journey much easier… or at least make it feel possible.

I’ve learned more about my craft and even more about myself at the conference. I’ve begun to appreciate what I know and what I still need to learn. The process can feel relentless.

The weekend can feel magical.

Again this year, I got to have dinner with Anne Perry. We both tend to arrive at the hotel at the same time and sharing a meal and a good chat is a great way to start the weekend. I cherish her words and perspective.

The reason I had a new book to pitch this year is because I volunteered as the conference’s Sponsorship Coordinator. During one of my meetings with SiWC Board Member, kc dyer, she suggested I write something from a fitness professional perspective. That conversation led to an idea that has morphed into a book.

The next step was talking to Donald Maass. Only at a place like SiWC would you have the chance to pitch to someone of his caliber. (Or in my case, the opportunity to request an impromptu meeting.) His encouragement has given me the motivation to keep moving forward with this book. Priceless.

There were so many other moments that cemented my love of SiWC.

One fact still remains the same and the reason I will always return to Surrey each and every year.

Some people I’ve met there have become the best of friends.

And that is almost better than writing a bestseller.

Almost.

 

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.

 

I’m a Personal Trainer

It usually comes back to the basics. No matter how much I learn about the art of personal training the main facts never change.

Get stronger, keep moving, and use your common sense.

I add the philosophy that you should start by helping your client define their own goals. It doesn’t matter what I want, it only matters what is important to them.

Once that is known there is always a way through. We just need to figure it out.

These are the foundations of my practice.

Then once every two years the business side of being a personal trainer needs attention.

I just finished my tenth re-certification to keep my credentials up to date with the International Sport Sciences Association.  I’ve been a trainer for 20 years and for the last 10 I’ve held the “Specialist in Fitness for Older Adults” accreditation.

This time I turned my attention to help people deal with Parkinson’s disease. There are books, courses and tests to complete to become a specialist in this area. As a professional you cannot venture in without the accreditation and as much medical knowledge as you can acquire. Clients need to know you have a solid background.

But in the end, I believe I learn more about the disease from the people that are dealing with it every day.

Each person is different. Listen to what they have to say. Then put all your resources towards making their lives better.

Luckily every certification has to include updating my CPR and First Aid. As some of my previous blogs have noted, that training has come in handy. This time around I was with a small group all attending the class for their first re-certification. I felt just a tiny bit smug when I shared that this was my tenth. I truly appreciate the updated training. This year I was reminded how lucky I am to have taken some of the courses from active firemen. Their practical added input has been invaluable.

Every two years I go through this re-certification process. As someone who hates tests, I’m relieved when it’s over.

I’m happy to get back to work assisting my clients.

In the end that’s all that matters.

 

Charles Hillman

“Charles Hillman was a true gentleman.”

That was the comment most heard at Charles’ memorial service this past weekend.

Saturday would have been his 100th birthday and Charles would have loved the hoopla!

Charles passed away on June 28, 2017 (obituary)

In August of 2013 I wrote a blog about this great man.

Today, as I read it again, I can still hear his laughter.

 

Charles

“I wish Winifred was here listening to this.”

It was the only time during the evening I thought I might cry.

My oldest client will turn 96 next week.  A truly lovely man and an iconic Vancouverite.  Winifred was his beloved wife.  I am his personal trainer.  We met in the elevator in his building. He hired me on the spot. He wanted to keep physically fit. We laughed at our first meeting and have laughed during every workout session since.

During the past year things have become more difficult for Charles.  The aging process is horrendous and cruel. Even music has slipped from his life.  He has not played his ukulele and sang to me for months.

There is a pallor of sadness and resignation filling his room.

“I have a friend staying with me, he’s just moved here from the UK, he’s a musician and actor. I’ll bring him over to sing with you.”

Charles agreed.

So last week I got to sit with Charles as Andrew pulled out his guitar and started to play.  With the first notes Andrew sang I witnessed Charles’ face light up. And I swear I watched the colour return to the room.

At the end of that first song Charles applauded the performance and proclaimed, “He’s marvelous!”

Andrew coxed Charles to join him and before I could have predicted there were both strumming along together. Sheet music appeared and the concert began.  The joy oozed from Charles even though his voice was weak. Andrew was the perfect catalyst to make the songs singable.  They sang together for the next hour.

When Charles said, “I wish Winifred was here”, I knew Andrew had made magic happen.

It’s rare to get the chance to bring someone true happiness.

And I got to witness it all.

I’m Guilty

My year of medical issues had one final hurrah this past week. Why not go out with a bang?

A minor cut became infected and landed me in the ER at Vancouver General. I won’t give you all the gory details but I’ll share that I’m embarrassed that what should have been a minor issue escalated to me screaming with pain when the doctor touched me. This was not my usually stoic self. I was wimpy and pathetic. Yup, I begged for mercy.  Morphine and fentanyl did nothing to ease the situation. Thank goodness the medical team opted to just knock me out.

I woke up out of pain and with a profound love and appreciation for everyone at the hospital. The profound love may have been the drugs still in my system… but I still thought I was damn lucky to have survived.

At 5am I was stable enough to be sent home and told to come back in 24 hours for more meds and most likely more pain. I was given a prized “fast-track” designation so I wouldn’t have to wait in line back at admissions. Lucky me… that’s how you make a patient feel special.

The hospital emergency entrance is a quiet place a 5am

So Saturday morning I showed up at 5am. The staff laughed. I found out no one expected me to actually come in in exactly 24 hours. I had the pass; I didn’t have to be that early. More pain and meds ensued but things had greatly improved. Out of caution they wanted me back again… we laughed because we all knew I would return at 5am.

I liked these people. And part of me noticed just how different we all looked. One nurse was covered with tattoos and had purple hair. She’s the one that gave me the fentanyl and tried to help me stop crying. The first doctor was an older Asian looking man, the second, a very young Caucasian woman. One nurse had dark skin and probably sounded more Canadian than me.

A global community all trying to help me feel better. I am blessed.

Spending any time in the ER is a chance to notice all the other people in desperate need. If you ever want to feel empathy sit in the waiting room. People are in pain, people are afraid. All of us are there hoping these kind doctors and nurses will save us.

So, Sunday morning, same place, same time. The staff laughs at me again. I get my regular chair where they administer the IV. It’s a good spot because you can see everything that’s going on. I like to watch people.

A young man comes in, sits a few chairs away from me and the doctor greets him right away and asks what the problem is. The man explains that he fell two days ago and his hand “Isn’t right.” He can’t do his regular push-ups. The doctor starts to examine the hand and asks if there is any pain. The man says no.

“So no pain at all?”

“No, but I need an x-ray, I can’t do pushups, it might be broken.”

The doctor continues to examine the hand and then explains that if he can do all the manipulations then it’s not broken and will probably just take a week or so to heal. The conversation goes back and forth for a few minutes. The young man gets angry and with a raised voice explains, “I never get mad but I want a different doctor and a lawyer! I want an x-ray. My hand might be broken. Do something.”

The doctor’s voice stays soft but firm. The young man finally stands up and struts out. I hear other raised voices as he makes his way to the exit. The doctor followed, but I’m sure it was just to make sure things didn’t escalate with anyone else. Within minutes the doctor is back at his post looking at someone else’s chart before heading into another examination room.

My point in telling you this story and the reason I will get in trouble for telling you this story…

We humans are all so damn predictable.

The nurse that hooked up my IV that morning was Japanese Canadian. The doctor was a middle aged man and he could not have looked more Jewish if he tried. He sounded BC born and raised.

And the young man upset because he couldn’t do his pushups… well he looked African Canadian but his accent sounded American. He was wearing a full camo emblazoned outfit. He had style.

And me?  I’m a middle aged, Caucasian Scottish Canadian woman that thanked all the staff before I left that morning.

Sometimes we are all so very typical.

And guilty.

A much happier face with all the help from the folks at VGH

Saying Thank You

Saying thank you.

From the amount of cards I have in my arsenal, you can rest assured that I’m always ready to compose a heartfelt message when the need arises.

This week there was a very good reason.

My connection with a local doctor is that I train her mother. The relationship has gone on for years. Every month I email her an invoice with a chatty update. A few days later I receive a cheque in the mail with a small note of thanks.

We have done this for years. The system works.

Five years ago she referred a patient to me. The impact of her passing along my name and endorsing what I do changed my life and the work I do today.

This past week she was filling in for my doctor. We got to meet face to face. Not only did I give her a card and gift… but I got to tell her how grateful I am.

In a world of emails and texts and posts on Facebook, the simple act of giving a card and saying kind words has become a rare occurrence.

What’s not rare are all the reasons why we should.

Who will you thank today?

 

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.

 

 

 

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.

 

 

The Karmapa Effect

The last 12 days have been a blur of joy and frenzy. This is what happens when His Holiness, the 17th Gyalwang Karmapa, Ogyen Trinley Dorje, visits Vancouver.

Just this morning I was at Thrangu Monastery and there was a line of people waiting to receive a blessing from His Holiness. The look of blissful anticipation and some nervousness was overflowing in each of their faces.

None of us can really conceive his reach, his impact or his power. But as one person so perfectly said to me, “He is a king.” And I agree, there is no better way to describe His Holiness.

The media has done a good job on who the Karmapa is and his future role in the Tibetan Buddhist world. I especially like the CBC interview. (Link to interview) It covers so many aspects of who this man is and what he means to my religion.

In short, The 17th Karmapa will most likely be the person taking over when the 14th Dalai Lama leaves us.

Karmapa is the leader of the Karma Kagyu branch of Tibetan Buddhism. This is the lineage I follow and His Holiness has a special place in my heart.

During this visit I have seen him seven times.

I hope you can imagine the shock of waiting for his arrival at the Chan Centre on Thursday night and seeing my image appear on the large screen as they ran a video of the Official Welcoming Ceremony at Thrangu Monastery.

The pageantry was over the top and so appropriate for the arrival in Vancouver.

It was at the teaching at Palpung Phende Kunkyab temple that the opportunity arose to speak with His Holiness in private. It was only for a few moments but he answered a looming question and gave me hope for the future. I had been wrestling with a health issue for five months and never thought I would be able to seek such advice and compassion. It was beyond any sane expectation.

A dear sweet man made the moment happen. The next day I caught up with him and thanked him for the kindness in pushing the meeting forward. He was the reason I got my blessing.

Bob made it happen

I also got the chance to reconnect with Khempo Choephel. He was translating for His Holiness and went above and beyond to make my blessing with Karmapa complete.

Yes, seven times I saw His Holiness and still it’s not enough. Part of me wanted to see him just one more time.  I’m guessing that feeling will never go away.

I wish someone had taken a picture as I spoke with him even though the moment could never be captured as well as it has been imprinted on my heart. I only have to look inside myself to be reminded of Karmapa’s prediction and blessing.

I believe His Holiness would agree.

 

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.