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.

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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.

Speak Up

I will never fully recover from being sexually abused and that’s OK.

It’s given me empathy.

I’m not bitter or mad, but after November 8th I’m afraid.

Allowing Trump to exist says we are abandoning all those that need our help. Collectively they’ve been thrown under the bus.

It seems America has said they will no longer stand up, step up and speak up for those in need.

So now it comes back to us. You and me.

Here’s why I know this.

When I told my mother that my step-father had been sexually abusing me for three years she said not to worry, she would make sure I was never alone with him again. Unfortunately this is a typical reaction of not confronting the abuser but sidestepping the problem. Other family members viewed my allegations as trumped up lies and innuendo. They bought his deceit and claims of innocence. He lied well. Everyone wanted to believe him. If we could just all get along everything would be OK.

In the end I was abandoned.

The bully won. The sexual abuser won. The con man won.

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my step father

Is this starting to sound familiar?

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the other guy

Now think about some fifteen year old gay kid living in South Dakota. Or the young Muslim from Chicago. Or that disabled child in Indianapolis.

All they’re seeing is that a bully will now be running the show and making up rules that can hurt them. He will have that power and people are following his lead.

The masses believe his lies about being great again. Fear is not great.

So now it’s our turn to step up. It’s our obligation.

You see, my fifteen year old self became convinced I was wrong to tell the truth. I was worthless. The people in charge didn’t care. During those dark days I thought no one cared.

It doesn’t have to be this way… If someone speaks up things can change.

Years later, my 20 year old self was having an after work beer with some office mates. These friends knew my story. Our boss started to tell us what he would do if he ever met my step-father. He was from Glasgow and only someone with that accent could describe a grisly death in such a comical way.

We all laughed and my heart was mended.

Finally someone was saying “I will stand up for you.”

It’s what every child needs.

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Intent

On April 10, 2013 I wrote my first blog. It was all about Intent. I blabbed on about what the word meant to me and the people around me.

I also proclaimed it was my intent to write a blog every Wednesday.

Done.

One hundred and eighty-three blogs later I can safely say I did what I set out to do. I made sure at least once a week I wrote something for the public. Some weeks it was easy… some weeks the ideas wouldn’t come and I scrambled late into Wednesday evening trying to put some words together.

I’ve talked about everything!

And you’ve listened.

That alone is the reason I write. You will never know how grateful I am to you and the time you’ve invested here.

Now it is my intent to revise my book (again). On Monday, The Long Game got an insightful review from one of my favourite people at the Surrey International Writers’ Conference.  The only way forward will be to invest my writing time into the revision.

And since it is my intention to get published I must move in that direction.

Or I could quit. (Which is still an option, but not this week.)

So my new intent will be to post a blog every second Wednesday.

I’m sure that the Wednesdays when I don’t post I’ll be in a corner wondering what to do with the ideas in my head.

This might seem like a holiday to my faithful beta readers that have been with me from the beginning. Gerry and Debbie have been amazing and their critique and cheers have humbled me.  And Jim… well he found my grammar errors and would send a polite email to point out the mistake. He was always right.

It’s a hard decision to give this up. And before you say, “Hey, you’re still going to be blogging!” Yes, I know, but this weekly endeavour has kept me sane through some of my toughest days.

I’m not good with change.

So let’s start again.

It’s my intent to write a blog every second Wednesday.

Done.

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A Funny Moment

It’s the little moments. The time when something makes you smile, or laugh. Jasper Fforde’s workshop at the Surrey International Writers’ Conference was all about humour in writing. Over breakfast the next day, we chatted about how you can write about the most horrific event and still make the audience smile.

Writing humour wasn’t on my mind as I assisted with the Diana Gabaldon book signing later that day. Everyone was already smiling! My job was to help people by taking their picture with Diana. Capture the moment so they could hold it forever. This was fun!

No one was expecting a medical emergency.

As we were wrapping up one of the fans collapsed. Since I was the closest, my emergency/first aid training took over and I stepped in.

There’s no need to tell you the scary and grisly medical details of what happened over the next precious minutes as we waited for the paramedics to arrive. It’s one of the most intimate times you will ever spend with someone. The surrounding world disappears; it’s just you and them.

I start talking. I pray my voice will keep them with us. I pray that what I say and how I sound can focus their thoughts and keep them here.

Last time I was in this position the man later told me he zeroed in on that sound and it made him calm, gave him a beacon to hold on to.

When everything is going wrong calmness can help. A place far away from the fear of what is going on all around you.

I hoped the same would happen on that floor where just minutes before a crowd had been waiting for Diana to sign their books.

As the worst of the symptoms subsided and the wait for medical help dragged on I could see she was starting to become aware of what had happened.

I leaned in a little more and said, “I don’t know about you, but I hope one of the paramedics looks like Jamie.”  Jamie Fraser is the hero of Diana Gabaldon’s books and a stunning Scot.  The smallest smile appeared, just a faint movement of her lip. In the midst of the mayhem she heard my joke and reacted. In that second I knew she would be OK, I knew we would get through this mess.

The paramedics and firemen arrived and to be honest, I can’t tell you what they looked like. My relief that the professionals had swept in to save the day was too overwhelming.

People came to the conference to attend dozens of workshops and hone their craft.

My experience was different but in some respects the same.

We are people connecting with people.

Great writing has the ability to make that happen. Words can perform miracles.

A writer can conjure up a feeling that supersedes everything else.

Diana Gabaldon created Jamie Fraser and he can make someone smile in the most horrendous circumstances.

Jasper Fforde reminded us that during those darkest moments it’s OK to say something funny.

And sometimes that is the best medicine.

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Spending time with the amazing Diana Gabaldon

 

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.

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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.

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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.

Take A Stand

I’ve never been a Miley Cyrus fan. I don’t like the sound of her voice. I’ve always dissed her and her public image. It was fun and became a joke with my friends.

Miley’s news this week made my decision take a serious turn. She appears in Woody Allen’s next film and has said, “Until I know someone and I know their story, I never really judge anyone. That’s kind of how I went into it. From the way I saw him with his family, I never saw him be anything but an incredible person and a really great dad.”

This is where I take my stand and draw the line.

Anyone that appears in a Woody Allen movie is dead to me. I make sure I never do anything that will support their career. End of. They are dead.

I’ve written about this before…  http://triciabarker.com/believe-me/  Woody Allen has been accused of child molestation. His daughter still proclaims he did it, Allen denies it all.

My only question for Miley would be, “If you had a young daughter would you allow her to spend the night alone with Woody Allen?”

If the answer is yes, you’re either lying or a fool.

I was sad when Justin Timberlake also decided to join in, then Kate Winslet. Damn. I like her movies, I like his music. Now they are dead to me.

And I’m pissed that Miley is appearing on one of my favourite shows, The Voice. I fast forward through all her segments and pray she doesn’t come back next season.

Yes, this might sound ridiculous. But it’s the only thing I know how to do.

I accused my step-father of sexually abusing me. I said it because he was sexually abusing me.

At the time no one believed me. That didn’t make him less guilty. It only meant he was able to convince everyone that he was innocent and I was lying.

Since then I’ve vowed to stand by children and take their side.

And before you get upset and talk about false accusations: I will admit that can happen. But I will always opt to believe and protect the child. Always.

Miley and Justin and Kate won’t care about my stand.

I only do it for my twelve year old self that should never have been left alone with a monster.

 

 

 

Leo and the Hole

The US election has made me long for the good old days of the “West Wing.” It’s still my favourite show and once a year I binge watch the first four seasons. Those are the episodes written by Aaron Sorkin.

This week a post on my Facebook feed had the famous Leo quote.

Link to the video

I’ve kept a copy of those words in my wallet for years. They’re with me all the time. Aaron Sorkin is probably the only writer that could make you believe the White House Chief of Staff could be this type of man. Substance, integrity, and honour.

This guy’s walking down the street when he falls in a hole.  The walls are so steep he can’t get out.  A doctor passes by and the guy yells up, “Hey, can you help me out?”  The doctor writes a prescription, throws it down the hole and moves on.  Then a priest comes along and the guy shouts out, “Father, I’m down in this hole, can you help me out?”  The priest writes out a prayer, throws it down in the hole and moves on.  Then a friend walks by.  “Hey Joe, it’s me, can you help me out?” and the friend jumps in the hole.  Our guy says, “Are you stupid, now we’re both down here.”  The friend says, “Yeah, but I’ve been down here before and I know the way out.”

Reading this again got me thinking. But first I’ll give you a little background. Leo is a recovering alcoholic and Josh, the guy he’s talking to, has just discovered he’s suffering. Leo vows to be there for Josh, to help him out. Leo has his back.

You see, I’ve been fat, homeless, sexually abused, fired. My heart has been crushed and now I’ve battled cancer. Bla bla bla… none of that matters.

Honestly.   NONE.  OF.  THAT.  MATTERS.

Well, not unless I gained some empathy and maybe a bit of motivation.

Even better, if you come out the other side of crap, get a hold of yourself, make sure you’re OK, then jump back into that hole to see if you can show someone else the way out.

Don’t be righteous, don’t preach, don’t preen and for god’s sake don’t answer an unasked question.

And if the only way you can help is to support the people that are helping others, that’s a good thing.

Most people have a story that will break your heart.

Don’t we all want to know someone who knows the way out of the hole?

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Seaforth Highlanders

I wanted blog about how the Seaforth Highlanders held a huge celebration this past Saturday to mark their return to the Seaforth Armoury.

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Instead, I spent most of the day mulling over the juxtaposition this held for me. The world is crazy right now.  So many places where guns are causing havoc. And here I am, a Tibetan Buddhist practitioner, celebrating the military.

Life is strange.

But for me, life is all about the people you cross paths with and their intent. What’s in their heart?

The Highlanders have been at the Jericho base for four years waiting for the massive reconstruction of the 80 year old Armoury to be completed.

Saturday was the Homecoming.

I got to attend the event as President of the St. Andrew’s and Caledonian Society. Being part of the Society has made me keenly aware of Vancouver’s history, and to be more precise, Vancouver’s Scottish history. Add in my love of pipe bands and it’s easy to see why I have a special place in my heart for the Seaforth Highlanders.  They were established on November 24, 1910 by a group of Vancouverites of Scottish decent. The Armoury was opened on August 26, 1936.

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For years I lived two blocks away and passed it on my way to work. The building and it’s inhabitants have always been a part of the Kitsilano neighbourhood. I remember hearing the pipes being played there decades before I knew I had Scottish blood in me.

Saturday was a day to marvel at this historical place.

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I loved seeing all the military personnel with their uniforms and rows of medals on their chests. The comradery was everywhere.

Saturday was a day to hear the Chor Leoni Men’s Choir sing with the 15th Field Brass and Reed Band and watch the Shot of Scotch dance! It was a day to see old and new friends.

Saturday was a day to hear some of Vancouver’s best pipe bands play their hearts out. I have a special love for the Vancouver Police Pipe Band!

Before the singing and dancing there was a formal ceremony when the Regiment officially marched past the dignitaries and invited guests.. The command of “face right” had been given. From my seat up front I could look right into these people’s eyes. Each so poised and dignified. I was overwhelmed to think of what some might have seen over their years of service. I feared what might be in store for others. I was filled with respect and admiration.

I hoped as they marched past they could see my tears of gratitude.

As the ceremony continued I slipped away to have a view from a high staircase.

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Many people took brilliant pictures of the day. I highly recommend you check out the Seaforth Highlanders Twitter feed if you want to see some of them.

I’ll leave you with the final march past.

Please take a few moments to look at all these amazing people.

 

 

 

 

 

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.

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

PTSD

PTSD is another silent killer.

You might be suffering from it right now and don’t even know it.

Thank goodness Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is attracting attention and the focus of the latest viral social media campaign. It’s also putting the spotlight on one group that is falling victim to this in horrendous numbers.

I know a guy who’s out there making this point and making a commotion.

This is Mike MacDonald…

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… and he’s doing it all with some very perfect pushups!

The deal is to do 22 pushups for 22 days and each day nominate someone else to start.

Why 22? Well, 22 combat veterans commit suicide every day. PTSD is killing them. And we need to do something about it.

Mike is doing his part and one hell of a good job, but then again, Mike is one hell of a guy.

I asked Mike why he got involved and here’s what he said, “I’m the Vice President of the BC Provincial Command of ANAVETS. I have a friend that was wounded in Afghanistan and was diagnosed with PTSD. So when I was nominated by a fellow officer in Her Majesty’s Canadian Armed Forces, I thought that I could do some good by bringing attention to the cause. If it saves one life, or even improves someone’s situation, then it was a success. If not, at least it opened people’s eyes to the fact that PTSD is a legitimate issue.”

Here’s a recap of what he did.

LINK to Mike’s Facebook page where you will find all his 22 Days!

And here’s a video of my favourite group that took up Mike’s challenge! The Vancouver Police Pipe Band was performing at the Edinburgh Tattoo and they had all the pipers take part!

LINK to VPPB’s Facebook videos where you will find their pushups!

Chris Gailis, of Global News, just took up Mike’s challenge but so far PM Trudeau hasn’t responded. (And here I thought Justin loved doing push-ups…)

I love that Mike always finished the 22 pushups and then did “One for the Queen.”

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder had been a part of my life for years. Thankfully I’ve had the help and support of a great counselor, Denise Grams. Without her I would have been just another tragic statistic.

Luckily I know the signs.

My step-father kept repeating one word while he abused me and for years that word haunted me. It threw me back into the horrors that had been my childhood.

Now I hear the word and can smile. I’m on the other side. Treatment for PTSD saved my life.

It wasn’t easy, it wasn’t quick, but it worked. I only hope that all our combat vets are as lucky.

Reach out and get help before it’s too late.

If watching someone do 22 push-ups raises awareness and starts a discussion then let’s all do a few.

It’s the least we can do.