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Dad’s Birthday

Dad would be turning 90 today, so it seemed like a good time to get back to writing my blog.

We would have had lunch together. I would tell him all about my running in the civic election and he would be proud.

Dad had a strong sense of right and wrong and wasn’t afraid to voice his opinion. He also had a deep appreciation for the obligation to “give back.” He would have loved that I am stepping up for Vancouver. I can almost hear him say that it will be time well spent no matter what the outcome.

Dad and I would go for walks around his old neighbourhood in the shadow of Queen Elizabeth Park. He loved it there and it pleased him that I lived close by. He had moved to the North Shore but enjoyed coming to visit. I will always remember him crossing his arms behind his back as we strolled along the paths in the park. To this day I mimic the same posture and feel like he’s here with me.

I miss him.

I still carry around this picture taken during one of our lunches. I’ve re-taped it onto the front page of my day-timer for the last ten years. I see it every day.

 

Dad liked that my work focused on seniors and people in need. He encouraged me to help older adults and when required, to be their voice. He had always stepped up for his elderly patients and taught me to do the same. Sometimes the task was difficult and his response to me was to “suck it up and do your job.” I can still hear his voice.

I think he would have loved this political chapter of my life.

I wish he was here.

Happy Birthday Dad!

 

 

VanCityPenguin

They laughed. And not just a little giggle, but a full belly laugh. Then others laughed. I don’t think I’ve ever done something so simple to make so many people laugh.

How could I not do it again and again?

And just like that @VanCityPenguin was born.

It started as a little joke to do on one of my morning walks. Along with all the other pictures I took, I added in a few penguin shots. The technique took a little while to master. I must have looked pretty ridiculous down on the ground attempting to get a good angle to frame his funny little body.

Soon I got better at taking his picture. It was during a sunset at False Creek that I took some photos and showed a few people that were passing by. They immediately looked out to the water to see where the penguin was. When I revealed the little guy, now hidden away in my pocket, they laughed. Too many wanted copies. I discovered the hilarious power of VanCityPenguin. The next day my penguin friend had a Twitter and Instagram account.

Going public meant he could make even more people laugh. And we could do it together on my walks all over Vancouver. A much needed incentive to get me out the door to search for some of the city’s best locations.

The concept seemed perfect.

Since I’ve already proclaimed 2018 the Year of the Penguin this seems like the next logical step.

So far he’s seen some pretty interesting places, met some new friends and attracted some impressive followers.

Who knows where it will lead? As long as people keep laughing, I will keep taking his picture.

at the Olympic torch lighting

snow in Vancouver

watching the sunset

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.

 

 

2018 – The Year of the Penguin

We all thought 2016 was a bad year. We were a little delusional that 2017 would be better.

As this year winds down I believe it’s time for a helpful reboot. Just thinking positive thoughts and counting blessings hasn’t been enough.

With this in mind, I am proclaiming 2018 will be the “Year of the Penguin”.

Chinese astrology is calling it an Earth Dog Year… maybe they’re wrong. Or maybe we just need something happier. How about a Space Penguin Lunar year? Now didn’t that thought just make you smile?

Everyone knows I love these little guys. But really, does anyone not like penguins?

Penguins are so cool they had Morgan Freeman narrate a movie about them, March of the Penguins.

Penguins have some sort of super power to make us laugh. They’re cute but ridiculous at the same time. They can’t fly… and have you seen them walk? Maybe if we humans all just walked like a penguin for a couple of minutes every day things would lighten up. At least it would make us giggle.

Look how many movies have been made about penguins, Happy Feet, The Penguins of Madagascar and so many more. We named a hockey team after them… people write book series about them…

Penguins are loved. They make us happy.

I counted my blessings last New Year’s Eve and tried to explore some ways to look forward with a smile.  https://triciabarker.com/glass-half-full/. Clearly that didn’t have a lasting effect. But maybe nothing could have curtailed the challenges we all seemed to encounter in 2017. Life seemed to come crashing down on us.

That’s why I think we need a more drastic measure to turn this world around.

Yes, it is convenient for me to opt for 2018 to be the “Year of The Penguin”.

I have all the props and this Christmas I was surrounded…

my desk

I even have the sweaters.

I am ready.

Now if only I could have gotten Morgan Freeman to narrate this blog…

Friends

This past week I read a Facebook post by someone I used to consider a dear friend. We don’t see each other anymore. He’s moved on.

I find that often happens when a friend starts to date someone or even more dramatically, when they move in or get married to the love of their life.

It can be a little melancholy.

It got me thinking about what makes friendships last. And even more basic, why do we become friends with someone in the first place? What glue keeps us together? What tears us apart?

We humans are funny.

This week I also talked to a friend about the importance of speaking up and telling your truth. We talked about how that’s important in building relationships; real relationships and not just casual acquaintances.

It all leads to thinking that a good friend would listen to what you have to say and believe you. In a world where we need people to “have our back” I think it should start with a simple trust.

I’m blabbering a bit here… but stay with me.

We need our friends. Real friends. People that know us and love us. The people that you can call at 3am and they will come running. No questions asked.

These are best friends.

Yes, some friends will be around for a while and then slip away. I think that’s natural. It says something about what the relationship was built on and the fact that we are all changing all of the time. Life changes us in ways we could never expect.

I’ve been lucky to have a few really great friends. I understand how rare and precious they are. I would not be here if they weren’t in my life. You would be surprised to know who they are.

I’m also lucky to have many of the other kinds of friends and blessed to be surrounded by some outstanding people. If for some reason we part I will know my life is better for the time we shared.

My Buddhist teacher, Lama Tara, gave the best antidote to heal the pain when I lost that cherished friend that moved on. She explained that I had stopped the story in the wrong place. Instead of continuing the narrative to the sorrow of not spending time together, in my mind, I should end that chapter of our friendship when our time together was filled with laughter and comradery. Stop the story there. It will allow you to move forward and look back with affection and gratitude.

It’s a good plan and has served me well.

Lama Tara also reminds me that nothing lasts forever.

But just maybe a best friend makes you believe they will be around for a very long time.

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?

 

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.

 

 

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.

 

 

 

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.

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