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.

Dale Jr Retires

The plan was to write a witty blog about the weather in Vancouver and how annoying I am with my Pollyanna attitude.

But like most agendas that involve our skies around the Lower Mainland, my idea got blown away with yesterday’s devastating news.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. announced his retirement from NASCAR car racing.

Most people reading this will say, “Dale who?”

I freely admit I’m one of the few NASCAR fans in Vancouver. I watch the races alone. My friends mock me for my obsession. Many Sunday afternoons I can be found at home screaming at my TV, “Go, Dale go!” For over 30 years I’ve been a huge fan of Dale Earnhardt and now Dale Jr. I’m a part of Jr. Nation.

I love the whole sport. You get to have your favourite drivers but it’s just as much fun having the ones you like to hate. Hours of good entertainment and, contrary to popular belief, it’s not just a bunch of cars going in circles.

When Jr’s news broke on Twitter it was a shock, but we fans had been secretly dreading the day. Dale was injured last year and to even have him come back to race in 2017 has been a blessing. But we knew… we just knew.

Dale has been voted the most popular driver in the NASCAR series for the last 14 years. He’s a winner and someone you would want to hang out with. A very good man.

I’ve always loved NASCAR for how they treat the public. There’s a tremendous connection between the drivers and fans. They are reachable… you can go to a race track and actually meet your idol.

Sure, it’s a professional sport, but I think everyone involved, from the drivers to the team owners and the sponsors, know they have built something that works.

It’s a sporting event that still starts each race with a local pastor giving a prayer for God to keep the drivers safe. You might think that troubles me, but it doesn’t. Let’s never be so politically correct that we can’t pray for something good.

Yesterday morning I took comfort that a local news person, Ria Renouf at CKNW, tweeted out the news. I was not alone here in Vancouver.

Luckily Dale Jr. will race till the end of this season. I have laps and laps to still cheer him on.

And as for yesterday and that planned blog about the weather. I was only going to upset you all by saying I really didn’t think the last 3 months had been so bad. Then I’d ask why people complain about something they can’t do anything about? Maybe the message is to just accept and embrace what you can’t change.

To make my point, last night I put on my baseball cap and penguin scarf (yes it was #World Penguin Day) and went for a walk in the drizzle.

I tried to take a selfie but looked too sad. Nothing was going to make April 25, 2017 a happy day.

Dale’s drives car #88

 

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.

 

 

 

A gut feeling about Rona Ambrose

I walked across Library Square and a dark skinned man called out to me, “Jesus loves you!” I smiled and replied, “Thanks… Buddha loves you.”  He waved and hollered, “Cool!!!”

How simple it would be if life were always like that.

Two people with different religions just spreading a little love. No agenda. No criteria.

These days it’s rarely safe to state your religious and/or political preferences if you are “out of the norm.”

I know because I’m usually “out of the norm.”

My religion is easy because once you share your side with the Dalai Lama you’re usually OK. Sure, a few weeks ago I ran into a problem but those are very rare. Practicing Tibetan Buddhism usually gives me a pass.

On politics I get no pass. But in my defense, I take great care with choosing the people I support and have a mandate to have a conversation with them before I vote. This can be tough at times and a little time consuming. During the last federal election I spoke with each of the candidates in my riding.

That’s when I met Blair Lockhart.

You see, I believe you get a “gut feeling” about someone when you meet them.

My gut told me Blair was a woman with substance and great values. (OK, my research into her background also helped confirm my “feeling”; I’m not oblivious to facts.)

Many might think it’s a crazy way to decide something so important… I think not.

A little side note. When I met John Furlong I immediately liked him. When the accusations against him surfaced I was lucky to know people I could talk with about their dealings with John. They concurred that John was a good man. Again, I went with my gut but not blindly.

There have been others. Good and bad. My gut sometimes tells me to run away.

I’ve been blessed to meet many incredible and inspiring people in the political world. I’m always stunned that they put themselves forward to serve. Brave souls.

Last week I got to meet Rona Ambrose. It was a small, intimate gathering and there was time to talk.

I’m a bit of a political junkie and have watched Rona rise to be the interim leader for the Conservatives. I’ve liked how she handles herself.

Now that I’ve met her I’m even more impressed.

Articulate, smart, funny. Self-effacing and poised.

And guess what?  When we met there was seemingly no agenda or criteria.

Just two people spreading a little love.

How simple it would be if life were always like that.

 

Talking About Rebus

When I finished Ian Rankin’s latest Rebus novel, Rather Be The Devil, all I wanted to do was chat with my Dad.  The book ends with a twist I know he would have loved.

Funny how our minds work…  I had completely forgotten about the endless lunches Dad and I spent talking about our mutual friend, John Rebus. We both loved Ian’s books. It gave us a connection and the shared reminiscing was a gift.

Dad would have loved this one!

Then I got to thinking about how books can do that. How stories can bring people together. How they can be the basis for your tribe.

There’s nothing like being with people that enjoy the same books you love!

I met with many members of the Outlander fan club at the Surrey International Writers’ Conference this past October. Now there’s a tribe that has fun! (Maybe that has something to do with the book’s central character being a handsome Scotsman in a kilt!) It was a great reminder how books can be the focus for a gathering.

Reading is usually a solitary act. It’s almost meditative. Your mind can be transformed to a one-pointed focus. A great story can take over your whole world. For that stretch of time you are transfixed.

To finish a book and be able to share the journey with someone else is magical.

Just look around at how many people belong to book clubs.

A shared love of a book can be a touchstone.

When Dad died I went back and re-read all the Rebus books. I was reminded of the genius of Ian Rankin and how he’s created a man Dad and I both loved so dearly. It was a way to connect with Dad even though he was gone. It was a way to mourn the loss and rejoice in our time together.

What a gift Ian gave us.

As I read the last page of this latest book I would have given anything to know what Dad would have thought.

Thank you Ian.

 

 

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

 

 

Watching People Watching

I love to walk. And as I write this blog I realize I probably got it from my Dad. He walked.

Anyone that has the habit of going for long walks knows it’s more than just moving your feet. It’s time to think, and for me, the space to contemplate almost anything.

My greatest walk was my trek the length of Scotland. That’s where I found out who I was. It cemented my love of walking.

I like to wear reflective sunglasses while I walk so I can watch people. This makes it much easier to spy on them. I’m ridiculously curious about what others are thinking. This is heightened when I see people out on the same paths I tread. What secrets are you mulling over? What mundane facts fill your head while you stride along? Everyone is thinking about something. Is it a lie? Is it an untold truth? Or maybe it’s just a boring fact.

I always wonder.

Then I took the first picture of someone I didn’t know while they were looking at a horizon. It was my window into their mind. If I could see what they were seeing maybe I could get a glimpse of what they were thinking.

The method never worked. I am still left to wonder what fills people’s soul.

But the picture idea survived.

So I started taking photos of people watching things. Then I started giving them away. At first I was a little nervous with the approach. Then it became my norm.

“Excuse me, I just took this picture of you… can I email it to you?”

Very few say no and last year 67 people said yes.

When asked why I do it I’ve said it’s just a little gift of happiness that’s easy to give.

And it gives me joy.

I have a pile of email replies about how much my images are loved. I get to hear how they have been turned into Christmas cards, used on Facebook headers and shared with friends.

I’ve discovered these pictures serve as reminders of a time and place.

So I may not know what these people are thinking when they crossed my path, but I see what they are looking at and that is close enough.