A Spike and A Naked Woman

My Sunday morning was going to include a walk along the old railway tracks in search of some history. A souvenir. I wanted a spike. Loose ones were hard to find so I was prepared for a long trek. The land that makes up the Arbutus Corridor had been sold and the railway was being removed.

My quest would start where I’ve walked for years. The short distance between 33rdth and 37th in Kerrisdale. The route follows alongside Quilchena Cresent’s back alley. It’s secluded and offers some amazing views.

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I didn’t expect to find a naked woman sprawled across the tracks and a photographer perched above her. He took a shot then looked my way. I hurried past and told her not to get arrested. She shrugged. Of course I angled my phone to capture a picture as I walked away.

Then just around the bend I spotted a huge yellow excavator. The dismantling had begun.

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History was being unmade.

Kerrisdale is my home and the only reason it exists was the train stop at 41st. In 1905, the Railway manager, R.H. Sterling, asked Mrs. William McKinnon to name the station. She was from Kerrysdale near Gairloch, Scotland and suggested “Kerry’s Dale”, which quickly became Kerrisdale. I love that my home is named after a place in the Scottish Highlands. It makes me smile.

Remnants of the station still remain at the original intersection.

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Years ago, someone hung a bundle of white Christmas lights on top of one of the power poles between the alley and the track. When you’re very young and out for an evening adventure the glow was magical. We always said that fairies played there and the lights were their home. Years later I found out Kerrydale means “little seat of the fairies.”

No wonder I wanted to steal a piece of this place. And I wanted to find a spike close to where the fairies lived. I still believe in the magic.

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The rest of my day was spent watching the rails being pulled off the ties. The contraption underneath the excavator forced the rails up and pried the spikes free. Every few feet massive nuts had to be unscrewed and sometimes even the sledgehammer came into play. The process was much quicker than you would expect.

To stand near the tracks and be so close to the process was exhilarating. The sound. The vibration. The destruction. Here’s a little taste of what would happen…


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A few hours later and they were done.


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I’m not good with change so this morning’s walk along the same route made me sad.

All the ties had been removed and the rail remnants hauled away. The nostalgia was gone. I can already imagine the walkers and bikes and noise.

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Everyone will love this path… but the fairies will not be seen again.

Maybe their spirit will live in this rusty old spike?

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Special thanks to Corey and Curtis for indulging me as they worked.

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And as for that naked woman… did you really have to do this?

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Haggis Hunt

It’s hard to believe I was the person that discovered these mythical little creatures eight years ago. Until then, people didn’t Haggis Hunt at the BC Highland Games. Until then, we didn’t have kids running around Percy Perry Stadium searching for these wild, wee animals. Until then, I didn’t spend my day surrounded by Haggis Wranglers.

Who knows how I conjured up the hunt? Like so many thoughts, you can only feel blessed when your mind comes up with this kind of idea. I was thrilled that Angus MacPherson and his team, approved the concept.

The Haggis Hunt was born!

I was even luckier that a long drawn out search and a trip to Seattle led me to K-Mart. Apparently that’s where most of the Haggis lived back then. (Insert big wink here)

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The Haggis Hunt debuted on June 27, 2009.

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Since then we’ve been making lots of children very, very happy.

We even had a TV star, Brendan Meyer, join the Hunt one year!

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Then last year, Nic Brand of Men In Kilts stepped up to sponsor the Hunt.

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We decided to make searching for Haggis even better and Men In Kilts made that happen!

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Now it’s time to pass the torch.

Yes, all my friends and clients and acquaintances and neighbours and even random people on the street will be happy they won’t hear me endlessly talking about the wee Haggis for the entire month leading up to the Games. Everyone will be happy I won’t beg them to come and volunteer for the day.

And I’ll be happy because the Hunt will continue with the Men In Kilts as the official Haggis Wranglers.

Of course I will still be there every year. How could I not?

The look on those children’s faces when they spot a Haggis, find enough to fill their stamp page, and then receive their official pin is fantastic.

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The joy of knowing the hunt is in good hands and will carry on? Relief.

The joy of awarding the winner a wee Haggis each year? Priceless.

The joy of having one of these little guys forever by my side? Beyond words.

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Behind The Smile

I just got back from the doctor’s office. His last words to me were, “Now you can stop worrying.” Dr. Ho knew I had been going crazy with the stress of “what if…”  Dr. Ho can sometimes read my mind.

I hadn’t shared my health scare with the people around me. Right now it seems that everyone is dealing with some sort of loss, so there was no sense in adding in my little issue.

But this did remind me of a blog I wrote a couple years ago… and since I’m sore from today’s very minor medical procedure, I thought I would just re-post one of my favourite blogs…

Raise Your Hand

The only good thing about a loss is what it might teach you. I hate that we are meant to look for the lesson when things go bad. Fuck that. When things go bad there is nothing good to say. Bad is bad.

While you wallow, it might dawn on you how much crap there is all around us. There is pain behind so many smiles. People go through shit all the time. Sometimes it’s easier to deal with and sometimes the pain will cripple forever.

I watch myself cry each day. And I’ve done that for the last 97 days. No one else knows. The world only sees me carry on. I work, I play, I write, I even laugh. Then when I least expect it there is a flash of what I’ve lost and the tears come. My grief has become a silent pursuit. It’s not that I believe no one cares but I believe no one needs to be a witness. My story has become boring and not worth the counsel or examination people offered three months ago.

I inwardly cringe when asked how I am. There is no need to tell the truth. Lying is the way to cover the grief. On my worst days I feel anger at having to carry on and pretend all is fine. Quit asking me questions and forcing me to lie to you. Please stop. My wave of self-pity can easily turn to thoughts of hate and revenge.

When is the line, “I will never be happy again” not a cry for help but a simple statement?

So what am I learning? I am not alone. At least I’m not alone in what I’m going through. Now when I look at people I try to grasp what devastation is behind their smiling face. I can’t stop taking the extra second to search for a glimmer of truth of what is really going on inside each person I meet. What pain are you hiding? Have you had to cry today? Is your heart so broken you may never be whole? Is your loss stealing every ounce of joy? How are you surviving? And what the hell do you answer when asked “How are you today?”

One day I’ll ask for a show of hands of who is hiding their pain.

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This Day We Write / This Day I Sell

When you receive a rejection letter from an agent you’ve set your heart and hope on, it helps if you’ve been to the Surrey International Writers’ Conference. Not because they taught you all the ins and outs of getting published. Not because they’ve given you the tools to pitch again. Not because they showed you how to write a better book.

It’s because they understand what it is to be a writer and they have your back.

Yes, they have your back.

It was at a conference lunch three years ago when I bared my soul about a rejection I’d received that morning. The rallying embrace was enough to help me carry on. It made me carry on.

I still feel that embrace today.

I’ve met people at SiWC that have become my greatest friends.

During those days I’ve cried and laughed and been scared shitless.

I’ve also been inspired.


So now it’s time to give back.

Once you arrive at the conference you’re given a brochure. It’s a map to everything that will happen. A guide to help you through the overwhelming maze of overwhelming moments.

My first year I don’t think I put it down once. It was my safety net and helped me decide what I should do next. I love looking back at the notes in the margins and stars beside the must attend workshops!

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This year I’ve been asked to assist in getting people to advertise in the 2016 brochure. OK, not the type of job I usually do, but when you think about it, I’m a person who knows how precious the pages are. And as I said, it’s a way for me to thank the SiWC Board for all the brochures that have shepherded me through the conference.

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Let’s be honest… I love to talk about things I love.

You can ignore my musings on penguins and Dairy Queen Blizzards… but if you’re a writer or want to be around writers you shouldn’t ignore my chatter about the Surrey Writers’ conference.

In fact, I bet you’ll be like so many others and thank me.

Just imagine you’re sitting across the table from Diana Gabaldon or Anne Perry or Jack Whyte. They’re about to read something you’ve written….

If you’re not brave enough for that, they always have time for a quiet little chat.

Everyone at SiWC is there to help you be a better writer.

And you will be.

Now I just wish they’d given a course in how to sell advertising in conference brochures?

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Tammy Moyer

She annoyed me at times… she was often a little too perky.

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My clock radio would come on at 5am and there she was. Cheerful and happy and no matter what the weather or circumstance, she would find a bright angle to focus on.

She joked around and made a chatty conversation with everyone that joined her in the morning.

I’ll admit that there were days I hit the “off” button because I was too tired to jump into her positive world. I wanted to close my eyes and fall back. I didn’t want to be pulled into her happy place.

She was part of my every day and now she’s gone.

Tammy Moyer, the morning anchor at radio station News1130, died this past Friday.


When I found out I cried. And that surprised me.

What happened at the radio station in the following days also surprised me.

I’m not a big fan of those overblown public memorials where people bring little candles and teddy bears. It seems rather silly. Yes, people have to grieve, but is that the best way to do it?

There are better ways to let someone know how you feel.

Tammy’s friends and co-workers had to announce on the air what had happened.

And they did it with class and a nod to the professionals that they are.

Tanya Fletcher’s noticeable struggle to get through that first Monday morning broadcast. Jim Bennie’s voice cracking as he introduced the segment on Tammy and saying “Here it goes… I’ll try to get through this…” The few tasteful clips they played included a message from Tammy’s family.  Many of her colleagues commented through Twitter. Ben Wilson’s tweets made me cry again.

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Then guess what… the world continued on and big news stories had to be covered and reported on.  These people put their grief aside and did their jobs.

Tammy would have been proud. And no doubt Tammy already knew how much they loved her.

My policy is to tell people how I feel about them before they die. If I have a favourite singer, store clerk, writer or even politician, I write them a letter or card to let them know how I feel while they are alive.

I never wrote to Tammy. What would I have said?

“I think you are just too happy at 5am.”

Memories Made

From the moment I first met Shirley we both knew she would die soon. That was the reason I was there. Consequently that was also the reason we never had an unimportant conversation. Every word held weight. Yes, there were many laughs, and seemingly benign topics, but each and every moment knew what the outcome would be.

I was there to help Shirley with her bucket list. It was specific and precise. That was Shirley. She had built a very successful world for herself and her family. She would die on her own terms.

Shirley loved to travel and told me of all the places she visited around the world nothing could match Long Beach Lodge at Cox Bay on Vancouver Island. Nothing.

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That’s why after Shirley passed I went to the lodge to hear her voice again.

Sitting here in the Great Room I feel Shirley’s echo in every corner.

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This is where she was happiest and it’s like the essence of her joy is embedded in the wood and rocks and the people.

I look out at the waves and know it is exactly what Shirley would have seen.

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My first visit here was tentative and unsure. Much like my writing back then. Now it all seems like home. And with that a deep comfort.

I still type on the laptop Shirley bought me. The one she gave me as a parting gift. I helped write her memoir and before she died she wanted to help me write mine. I smile as I type this because Shirley spent her life empowering people and I had the good fortune to be her personal trainer and her friend.

I still think of Long Beach Lodge as her discovery. I’m blessed to have followed her path to this place.

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I still drink Blue Buck, the first beer I had in the Great Room. I still stop at the Starbucks in Port Alberni on the drive across the Island. I still order the burger on my last night here. I still take way too many pictures.

I swear the logs on the beach are the same ones I’ve been looking at for the past six years… but the storm and the ridiculous high tide yesterday reminded me that not much of this vista is permanent.

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My writing is based on memories. They have taught me to be open to stepping away from the norm.

People say memories are made and memories are shared. Well memories can also be given.

Shirley gave me the memories I’m making today.

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All the incredible people at the Long Beach Lodge are carrying on with that tradition.


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A Fist To The Face

Long ago I heard a Tibetan Buddhist teaching on what is the best response when someone hits you in the face.

I took my vows 17 years ago and rarely am I able to even consider the teaching when put in such unpleasant circumstances. But then again, I don’t get hit in the face often. OK, I’ve never been hit in the face… or even been hit. But I’m guessing the Lama was giving a demonstrative example and not actually thinking that we Canadians go around punching each other out.

Moving on… let’s assume the teaching was about what you should do if someone does something crappy to you.

And here, as best I can explain, is the premise.

If someone hits you in the face you have two options. You can hit them back (and I would probably hit back even harder), or you can react with something along the lines of, “Oh my goodness, why would you ever hurt me? You must be so upset. What can I do to help? What can I do to make this better?”

See, it’s a simple teaching on karma. If you hit them back you only add to your own negative karma and continue a cycle. If you respond with compassion and kindness you add to your own positive karma.

The best response is clear. Almost impossible to do, but at least something to aspire to.

It felt like someone hit me in the face this week. Every ounce of me wanted to strike back and hurt them. Bring them to their knees.

Luckily I was stuck in traffic. We all know you’re not allowed to text and drive. I had to stew over the hurtful circumstance and words for a long time.

Then I remembered the story about a fist to the face.

When I did respond it was a credit to the Lama that told me the teaching so many years ago.

The final outcome was filled with love and understanding.

This story and what happens next will most likely be a chapter in my new book.

But for now the message is clear, “don’t text and drive.”




No wonder the frenzy has set in. We are three weeks into 2016 and all those resolutions are falling apart. Some might have already crumbled.

If I hear one more media report about our health and fitness I might puke. People go on and on about what we can do and what we can buy to help us achieve our goals.

I just listened to a “fitness expert” talking about the new trend with all the fitness trackers available to people… and how many people got these for Christmas. He spouted about the benefits of step counts and heart rate measures.

He forgot to highlight the most important factor.


Nothing will change and you won’t get better, fitter, healthier or happier unless you get up, move your butt and make a change with what you do each day.

I have a Fitbit and love it. But it doesn’t change the fact that if it’s raining outside and I still have 8,000 steps before I make my daily goal that going outside and putting in the effort is tough. I’m going to get wet. I would much rather watch TV and eat cheese. Cheese can easily trump a Fitbit unless I make the commitment and follow through.

How many people bought gym memberships and only went once? How many people have treadmills that haven’t been turned on in years? How many people are still fat and sick?

I’ve given talks on the subject and they’re short and simple.

Everyone is an individual and what works for some people might not work for you.

If you want to lose weight, eat less.

If you want to get fit, walk or run and lift weights.

If you want to feel better, drink at least a liter of water a day.

If you want to sleep better, go to bed and don’t do things that will keep you awake once you are there.

Consistency, consistency, consistency.

And most important… do something that makes you happy. Not something that just brings you pleasure: we are talking about real happiness.

It’s simple.

And it’s extremely tough to do.

But it’s worth it.

So move.

This is a picture of me wearing a Fitbit. But more important this is a picture of me at the end of a two hour walk.

This is a picture of me wearing a Fitbit. But more important this is a picture of me at the end of a two hour walk.


It’s the reaction that makes me want to do it again and again.

But the first time was just a fluke.

On one of our perfect summer evenings, I was at Lost Lagoon in Stanley Park looking for spot to take a picture of the sunset. The shots I was capturing were OK but this one took my breathe away.

2015-10-21 17.59.47I showed it to the couple and their reaction was much the same. I offered to email the picture to them. Their appreciation gave me more joy than the picture alone ever could.

van dusen blogThe one at the Van Dusen Garden’s Christmas display was a little more contrived. This couple was standing behind me as I snapped away. I asked if they would sit on the bench so I could add some context. And yes, within minutes I had sent them the picture… she was a little giddy at it all. Even from behind they look very much in love.

another for blogI was again struck with how easy it is to make people happy with a simple little gift.

2016-01-09 09.41.22 Too many Facebook posts are quotes from worthy people imploring us to perform acts of kindness. I really have no time for that type of beseeching. Who doesn’t know that we should be kind to each other? We should strive to make each other happy.

On my daily walks I always have an eye out for the perfect picture. There is now the added intent on spreading some joy.

pic for blogWhen I show people the picture I’ve taken of them (which many don’t even know I’m doing as I click away) I watch their faces as they see the photo. That is the image I want to keep.

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Their reaction makes me happy.

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Years ago I shaved my head to support a client going through chemo. The drugs were a poison and wreaking havoc on her body. Luckily the drugs also poisoned her cancer.

Being a bald woman impacted my life in ways I would not have guessed. To this day I can still detect the traces.

On January 1, 2016 I stopped eating sugar for many of the same reasons I shaved my head.

A client was being poisoned and she needed some support.

Such is the life of a personal trainer.

I’m not a health nut or exercise fanatic. I’m just an older woman not in denial.

If you put crap in your mouth then your will pay the price. If you don’t move you will pay the price. If you come up with endless excuses why you need to hold on to your bad habits you will pay the price. It’s pretty basic.

But changing habits are tough. And it’s especially tough if you have an addictive personality.

I have an addictive personality. (If you regularly read my blogs you might have noticed this.)

It’s easy to discover that refined sugar is bad for you. Do a quick google search and the wave of terror starts. Or should I say tsunami? Sugar = Poison.

Except for the other known fact that the so called “experts” don’t seem to understand.

Sugar tastes fantastic. Dairy Queen Blizzards taste fantastic. Milk chocolate covered caramel tastes fantastic. The plethora of yummy flavoured yogurts tastes fantastic. Pumpkin spice lattes taste fantastic. (Am I sharing a little too much personal information right now?)

Sugar makes you happy!

To stop putting sugar in your mouth is hard. If you’re going to do something that will take all your resolve and willpower it is much better to do it with a buddy.

My client and I know someone that did this last year and can see the benefits. She looks great and oddly enough… she seems happy. (We secretly hate her and are jealous.)

On the sixth day of no sugar I physically feel no better. But on the sixth day of supporting a friend I do feel a little happier.

Not as happy as if I was supporting a friend while eating a Caramel Cheesecake Blizzard… but life is not always perfect.

I looked out at the dawn breaking and said no to the butter tart I was offered after the First Light Ceremony. 1/1/16

I looked out at the dawn breaking and said “no thanks” to the Pumpkin Spiced Latte I was offered after the First Light Ceremony. 1/1/16