Human Touch


I met a friend for dinner this evening.  We met after work down at Kits Beach at The Boathouse Restaurant.  Jayne and I always have great discussions.

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I mentioned that I’d been downtown shopping a couple of weeks ago and I had seen the ‘Free Hug’ people in front of the London Drugs at Granville & Georgia St.  I told her how I stood waiting for the light to change, my spirit feeling  considerably  lighter at the idea of a stranger willing  to put their arms around me and share a moment.  I told her that I simply opened my arms and was hugged first by the woman and then by the man.  hug 2

I was surprised she’d never heard of this.  It has been in Vancouver for quite some time now.

Just an act of kindness and a moment shared through human touch.

There is something so intrinsically beautiful and simple in this act. As we parted ways and I made my way home through the streets of Vancouver to the North Shore where my daughter lives, I got to thinking about the people that touch our lives on a daily basis.

I thought of the friends I have, the jobs I’ve held and those who have entered my life and left leaving lasting impressions.

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I thought of people from my past that I’d tried to please who seemingly caused me to bleed the energy from my soul and wondered why I had given this so freely?

Truth is I wanted, craved, desired, needed the basic interaction of human touch.  To feel genuine caring and to feel loved.

I think we all do.  And every once in a while getting that ‘Free Hug’ reminds me that I’m not alone and that I do belong to the collective known as the human race.

Namaste.

I Wish…


 

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We talk of the killings occurring  that are seemingly on a daily basis, and we don’t even live in the U.S.A.

The world at large seems to be in this state of extreme turmoil and stress.

This may sound simple.   It may sound half baked.

Why not try it though…just for good measure?

Let’s lay down our guns.  Remember what it is to really love unconditionally, then hold each other and say, “I’m sorry.”

Let’s tell each other we love each other, even if we don’t mean it.  Just try it. I dare you.

Maybe, just maybe, one life will be saved.

Maybe, just maybe, one person will learn to love again.

And maybe, just maybe, hope will creep gently back into our souls.

We have choices.  I choose love and forgiveness.

I hope you’ll join me.

Moving On…A New Chapter Somewhere in the Middle


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I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has followed me over the years. This is my fifth year of blogging.  I began this venture to develop better writing skills.  For the first four years I pretty much powered through posting  as many as 3 to 4 per week.

I began posting on this site the day after having a heart procedure.  I’ve since run several 10 KM races, a few 14 KM ones and a 1/2 marathon. I was part of Rick Hansen’s Man in Motion  25th Anniversary Relay.  Upon believing that I’d in fact truly found myself I somehow managed to scatter myself to the four winds and am once again gathering the pieces of my person.

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Time to forge ahead.  I muscled through the cancer thing and am now grappling with the results from the car accident last year.

I moved last week.  I sold my condo to pay down a large portion of my debt that had accrued.  Last year was a tough one.  The accident combined with the building needing an emergency re-piping proved to be a costly year for me.

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I have found a new place, however, possession won’t happen until August 1, 2016…so….I’m bunking over at my daughter’s place in North Vancouver for the interim.

Friday was Canada Day.  At 8:00 pm I walked over to the Quay which is a few blocks away.  They have a night market on Friday evenings during the summer months.  That it was also Canada Day made it that much better.  Food trucks and kiosks were set up everywhere.

I opted for the Cabbage Roll & Pergoies.  Very tasty.  Wandering through the market place I stopped to admire many of the items on sale.  When I accidently popped a maple leaf balloon I purchased a little flag and bandana displaying our colours to make up for it.

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A band was playing music from the 1970’s so I wandered over to get my groove on.  As the sun began its imminent decent I made my way over to the pier to watch the fireworks happening across the pond.

They were awesome! The display went on for over 20 minutes.  It was closing in on 11:00 pm as the masses, myself included, took our leave.  At the end of the pier a small group of four began to sing ‘O Canada’.

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The result was that everyone joined in!  There we were , hundreds of us, singing our national anthem in unison.  Upon finishing we all broke out in applause.

Walking back to my daughter’s I ruminated on the events as of late. I need to get my health back on track and there is such a strong desire to find my focus and balance once more.

And I will.

Thanks again to all of you!

 

Guns, Guns & More Guns?


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I’ve voiced my opinion on the whole luv-a-affair Americans have with their guns a few times..

And I just don’t get it.

You claim to value life, yet mass shootings have become commonplace in your country.   After the Orlando shootings the reports that came out were poorly researched and  somewhat sensationalized as a ‘terrorist’ attack.

And despite the fact to the contrary it is still being sold as a terrorist attack.

The individual responsible was in fact an American.  Born and raised in New York with a license to carry a concealed weapon as he had been working as an armed security officer for some time.  Apparently a background check was done back in 2013.  I’m not sure what that entails but from what we have come to know he was an abusive individual with severe emotional issues.  Because he was of middle-eastern descent, it was assumed he was a ‘terrorist’.

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The tragedy that occurred has once again brought up the all too familiar issues surrounding gun control.

They cannot even get a bill struck down that will allow them to study gun violence!

‘Former Rep. Jay Dickey of Arkansas authored an amendment that restricted funding for research into gun violence and its effects on public health. Dickey tells Steve Inskeep he now has deep regrets.’

For the entire interview the link is below.

http://www.npr.org/2015/10/09/447098666/ex-rep-dickey-regrets-restrictive-law-on-gun-violence-research

Four days after the Orlando tragedy, they tried to again just have this clause removed.  They just want increased funding to study it!!!  It would seem the NRA has a stronghold, however, and it was shot down in a heartbeat.

Pun intended!

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Shops in New Westminster, BC  Canada step up to show their support during Pride, photo by N. Pilling

I just watched an interview with Chris W. Cox who is at the top of management in the NRA’s organization.  According to Mr. Cox, guns are not the problem. It is the ‘radical Islamic terrorists’ that are the problem.  It is the government that is the problem.  Americans have a God given right to defend themselves.   This phrase caught my attention.

Let me ask Mr. Cox this.  Should all of us not have the right to protect ourselves under the eyes of God?

Are we not, according to any number of religions around the world,  of one God?  Yes, the prerogatives of ‘God’ seems to have been lost in translation as well.

Chris Cox states that restricting the type of weapons Americans can purchase has been tried.  I find it really difficult to listen to this kind of rhetoric.

I live in Canada where we do have gun control.  I’d like to see it toughened up even more though.  I completely understand those that live in the rural regions of our country may very well require shot guns and some high powered rifles.  They come into contact with animals in the wild far more frequently, and if they have livestock then they need to be able to protect.

I get that totally.

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Timesquare, New York, NY  Sept 2011, photo by N. Pilling

What I don’t understand, will never understand is why any person living in an apparent civilized society needs to be in possession of military grade weapons that can mow down a room full of people in a few minutes.

When the 2nd Amendment was enshrined in your constitution back in the 1790’s, just six guns made worldwide in the 1700’s.

1717 – Charleville Musket/ Muzzle loading Musket – France
1720 – Blunderbus/ short ranged musket – Netherlands
1722 – Land Pattern Musket (Brown Bess) – Britain
1730 – Kentucky Rifle/ Muzzle loading Musket – U.S.
1750 – Sea Service Pistol (Flintlock Pistol) – Britain
1795 – Harpers Ferry / Springfield Model Musket – U.S

The other popular weapon of the day was the cross-bow, and while they were effective, guns provided a higher degree of accuracy.

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Taken in New Westminster, BC, Canada in support of Pride, photo by N. Pilling

‘The Second Amendment was based partially on the right to keep and bear arms in English common law and was influenced by the English Bill of Rights of 1689. Sir William Blackstone described this right as an auxiliary right, supporting the natural rights of self-defense, resistance to oppression, and the civic duty to act in concert in defense of the state.[8]

Well, it is safe to say that guns have evolved.  I have to wonder if the forefathers of America would have put this in place had they known the impact it has had on their country.

What I would like to know is why my American neighbors feel their rights are being infringed upon by being restricted from purchasing guns of this magnitude?   The ones of military grad.

If they want a gun, why can they not be content with a hand gun or a rifle?  Regular rounds…whatever that may be. Six or something like that?

It almost smacks of paranoia that Americans are falling over each other to add to their arsenal.

I feel a sadness for my neighbors as I don’t know what it is like to live in fear that I will be attacked or hurt at any given time on a daily basis.

Once again to the families and friends who lost there loved ones in this senseless act I offer my prayers and condolences.

Peace.

 

 

 

The Taxman Cometh…


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T-T-T-T-Taxes!

It is that time of year.  The taxman cometh and taketh away this year.  He still wants close to $2,500 from me for my personal taxes!!!

Ouch!!!

Last year was a tough one and it is still biting at my heels.  I am supposed to pay by the 1st of June 2016.  I’m going to see if I can get a ‘deferral’ for a month or two.

Seems to be the thing to do these days.

There is a loop hole in our system with regard to property tax.  Not too sure if it is just for Vancouver residents or not.

If you own a place in Vancouver for example and you are over the age of 55 years of age and your taxes are up to date, you can defer paying your property taxes…indefinitely?

The Province will apparently pay on your behalf and then when your property is sold they will take their cut.  You must have at least 25% equity in your home as well.

I was made aware of this by a fellow I’ve worked with for years.  He and his wife have clear title on their home on West 23rd Ave. in Vancouver.  The assessment on their home was just under $3 million this year.  The taxes were in the $6,500.00 range.

That is a lot.  They’ve lived in their home for around twenty years.  They both have professional designations and work full-time.

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They’ve been deferring their taxes for a couple of years now since they lost the home owners grant as the property has been assessed as too high to claim it.

Were they to pay on a monthly basis to pay off their taxes it would be $542.00 approximately per month.

The City would no doubt charge interest.  Still for two people still working this is affordable considering they have clear title it is not a hardship at all.

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Vancouver approves plan for 12 new bike lanes

(Burrard Street Bridge will no longer appear as above)

I then decided to research this.

(The following is an excerpt for Vancity Buzz)

‘A property tax deferral program is the latest way Vancouver homeowners are taking advantage of their high-value homes to make a small fortune.

The B.C. program allows residents aged 55 and older, widows, and people with disabilities to defer paying their property taxes until the sale of their home, while only paying a 0.85% interest rate. When implemented in the 1970s, it suited both the common retiring age and the stagnant real estate market at the time, but is now being taken advantage of by wealthy homeowners.

The purpose of the program is a sound one, says NDP MLA David Eby, a critic of the B.C. Liberal’s affordable housing legislation. It is supposed to ensure that seniors and others on fixed incomes aren’t forced out of their homes due to property tax increases when their home value grows. But, the program was designed in the 1970s for the realities of the 1970s real estate market, which is very different than it is now in 2016, adds Eby.

There are over $130 million in deferred property taxes each year, income for the various districts and municipalities that could be used to build roads, fund school boards, maintain parks, and pay local police and fire authorities. While many use the program responsibly – half of B.C. seniors live on $24,000 per year or less and more than 50,000 seniors are living on $20,000 or less, according to Seniors Advocate B.C. – changes in the common age of retirement means many over 55 are still making generous incomes.

According to the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Commission, adults aged 55 to 64 made the highest average personal income of all age categories in 2011. More than half of this group own their homes mortgage-free, and there’s no shortage of them in Canada: what are called “pre-seniors” make up 13.1% of the country’s total population.

With the aging population – the number of people over age 55 by 2038 are projected to equal the populations of Ontario, Alberta, and Saskatchewan combined – the amount of money lost each year due to the property tax deferral program will only continue to grow.

While Eby says there are flaws with the program itself, most notably that it is not at all based on proven financial need, he blames the province’s inaction toward affordable housing as the reason why the program is being taken advantage of.

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I now live in New Westminster which is approximately a 10 to 15 minute drive away and I’m fine with this.  I’ve come to love New Westminster.

Currently, however, there are nineteen schools on the chopping block in the Vancouver area, mainly on the East side.  Yes.  They want to shut down schools!

Education issues have been a problem for a long time in Vancouver.  Part of the problem arose back in 1996-1997.  There used to be boundaries set up.  You live within an area and these are the schools you could attend.

The first wave of Chinese immigrants came through and were not happy with the choices they were offered. The west side of Vancouver, which has always been more affluent, had better schools.

So the boundaries were lifted.

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It did not take long for the waiting lists to fill up at the schools located on the west side.

The demographics were changing rapidly.  Housing was being built at breakneck speeds and still is.  Back then, however, they were ripping down the quaint and beautiful homes from the 1950’s to the 1970’s and replacing them with boxes.  They all looked the same after a time.  Very little in the way of a yard with a pinkish hue painted over a flyash concrete base.  The homes were slapped together fast.  Concrete base, wood framing, insulation, plywood then a layer of flyash concrete.

Then the condo towers began to go up.  The downtown core of Vancouver was dotted with cranes at any given time.  And the buildings were becoming higher.  Where we once had a height restriction because of the mountain view the rule was relaxed and once that happened the views soon began to disappear.

The wave of immigrants soon became a tsunami.  Foreign investment continued pushing house prices up.  And those investing found every loop hole when it came to not having to pay taxes necessary to keep our infrastructure intact for things such as health care (hospitals, etc.), education, parks & recreation, and ongoing maintenance and updates on roads, bridges, sewers, etc.

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Let’s not forget the funding for all the sweet pensions handed out way back in the day as well.

Without a steady tax base coming in we began to feel the effects on the lack of available services.

Yet no one in government would admit or consider the road they had pushed us toward.  They denied that the rise in housing costs was due to foreign investment.

Just recently they are finally admitting that something needs to be done.

This shouldn’t be an issue.  Running a government body should be based on two things.  Accountability and acting in the best interests of the electorate.

This is what we take in.  This is how it is spent.

These are the short terms goals and these are the long term necessities.  And this is how we will set up the budget to:

  1. Maintain our current infrastructure
  2. To upgrade or replace our current infrastructure
  3. To provide decent and affordable housing to city residents/citizens.
  4. To maintain all levels of education and ensuring it accessible.
  5. To ensure health care is available.
  6. To ensure that transit and utilities are available at a reasonable cost.

Everything has increased.  Its nuts.  Crazy!

So many things have been privatized over the years.  Government has sold us out on so many things and continues to do so.

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Public transit, BC Hydro, BC Ferries, just to name a few.  And now they want to demolish and sell off the property for several schools.  They want to demolish the Georgia Viaduct and put in more bike lanes and sell off the property to Concord.

This saddens me to no end.

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Meanwhile I’ll call Canada Revenue Services and see if they will give me an extension on paying my tax bill.

We wait in anticipation for the proverbial bubble to burst.  Somehow when that happens, it will be those of us who live here that will pay the price.

And for those who have deferred their taxes, will they still have a home to cover the cost of what they owe the government?

I hope so.

Letting Go…Just a Thought


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Vancouver from the top of Grouse Mountain

I have spent a lifetime learning from my mistakes and continue to do so.  Technically I should be a genius at this point as I’ve puzzled my way through the same dilemmas time after time after….

How is it that I continue to make the same the mistakes, yet I try to reason through them in variations that are if nothing else, inventive?

What is it then that brings me back to issues that cloud my judgement?

What is it that causes the fine mass between my ears to suddenly go on autopilot and slip into ‘auto-destruct’ mode.  It is these recriminations that I invite back into my life seemingly unaware.

(This message will self-destruct in 10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1).

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I find the solution with seconds to spare only to wonder how I found myself in that particular situation….again!

Trying to isolate the brain patterns responsible and re-wire the cognitive functions around how I act and re-act to the infinite possibilities this life offers is an ongoing mission.

For the moment, I’m going to try and just let go.  Identify a negative pattern then release it from my being.

Funny, I don’t even know if that is possible.  But hey, why not give it a whirl?

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In A Nutshell….


 

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May the 9th as evolved as rather significant date in my life reaping various challenges upon me.

I’d been successful in selling my condo and was now on the hunt for new digs.

The last few years have been tough in many ways physically, emotionally and its been hard financially as well.

Seven years ago on May 9, 2010 I ran the Sun Run which is a 10 km race in Vancouver. Crossing the finish line had a profound effect on me.  I had also just purchased my first home!

Sun Run 2014

My focus became my health and well being.  I decided it was time to tackle all the issues that had plagued me for a lifetime.  I got back into running in a big way and decided it was time to dive into my passions and bring them to the forefront.  I pursued writing and photography with a rabid hunger.

For the first time in my life I was really letting myself search my potential and even more so I was building upon it.

A book was in the works, I had joined writing groups, I’d taken a photography class and had found some shutterbugs to roam the streets with.  And I was working on some emotionally deep issues as well.

Emotionally I was sideways for a time.  Dealing with repressed issues was a strange balance between how I was and how I am now and putting them together to become the person I wanted to be.

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People came into my life offering direction and guidance.  And I was actually asking for help, in a round about way.

The introvert was becoming an extrovert.  Still I was pretty rough around the edges.  The emotional aspects were hard to express as I was living through it and not certain about any of it.

As the emotional storm began to settle health issues began to arise.  The first was the heart issue.  I had a stent put in and carried on. I was encouraged to keep running, to keep hitting the gym which I did.  After being on blood thinners for a year and getting the all clear on my health  I decided to treat myself to the BMO 1/2 Marathon.

Halfway through training I began to falter, however, I ran the 1/2 Marathon on May 5, 2013.

Four days later on May 9, 2013 I discovered I had uterine cancer.  So came surgery and treatment.  I worked through all of it, however, my performance at work was impacted as chemo can do a number on you.  Six months after treatment was complete I was terminated and given 5 weeks notice after 5 1/2 years on the job.

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A personality conflict with one of the partners was sited.  The partner in question was a rude, cold individual who commented continually on my shortcomings during cancer treatment. In layman’s terms .  An asshole.

I found another job within 3 weeks.  Better pay and full benefits!

Some things, however, are not as they seem.  While I initially thought this was the job I’d been looking for, it became anything but that.

Working with an antiquated computer system, and this was new industry for me, I walked into the worst mess I’ve seen.  There had been no accountant in the position for 4 months prior.  This had not been disclosed.

The promise of a new computer system that would be implemented within three months of my start date never happened and has still not occurred.

I’m either a fool or a trooper, perhaps a bit of both, but I dove into it, despite the fact that chemo still had me a little foggy.  Perhaps that’s why I jumped in the way I did.

I worked hard.  Really hard.  Too hard.  Rebuilding a company that was in serious relapse with its clients and vendors, restoring the relations necessary to do business in a manner that is balanced and productive.  I worked along side two women who were exceptional and assisted in my efforts in every way.

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In the New Year I headed to Vegas to visit a friend.  A vehicle accident occurred.  My car was totaled.

I thought I’d be fine.  I wasn’t.  As the months passed my neck and back were like a vise.

If my ability to remain focused had been a little challenged before now it was painfully so.  Still I toughed it out.  Didn’t take any time off as felt I could not.  With dogged determination I muscled through.  Working with a DOS based program requires you to think about applications differently as well.

Yet I did.

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I was so close to having the whole thing brought up to date, so close to having all the checks and balances back in place, so close to completing what had at first seemed impossible when I was unceremoniously released from my employment contract.

This I didn’t see coming.

The other major issue for 2015 was the re-piping of my condo building.  Twelve of the forty-seven units lost their hot water for three months.  Mine was one of the units.  The cost escalated to a ridiculous rate.  I cleaned out my RSP and savings to pay for it.

2015 was a year where I felt that I was running up hill the entire year but not really moving.

In 2014 I’d started my own publishing company in early 2015 I’d released my book, however, with the chaos occurring in my life from the accident and the building repairs I thought it might be best to focus on marketing it later.

I’m nothing if not resourceful.  Unable to run or hit the gym…and spending far too much time at physio I thought it may be prudent to build on my public speaking skills.

In effect I had none.  So I joined my local Toastmasters to work on that aspect of self.  2015 was a tough year.  Depression reared its ugly head and as the year closed out I found myself unemployed and feeling desperate.

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I had worked so hard and now it felt like everything was starting to slip away.  I had made some poor decisions.  Shopping sprees that were ongoing for a time.  Purchases of $300 in perfume that kind of thing.  This is simply a reaction, an echo.  It is not who I am.

Still, I found a job.  And I like this one.  I really like it.  The fit is good.

I assessed my situation.  The building was completed, I had my place painted and put it on the market.

And as stated I was successful with the sale and on May 9th, 2016 I found a new place!

A little rough around the edges, like me.  I would make the space a beautiful one.  I would make it a home.

In January I had renewed my mortgage and discussed the plan to sell with my mortgage specialist, who is fabulous.  He set the mortgage up to be  portable.  All was good.

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So when the call came that Canadian Housing Mortgage Corp. had pulled out, that I could not get financing…I spent last Wednesday evening in a very dark place.

What had I done wrong here?   Was I going to lose everything again?

I had never missed a payment.  Never defaulted on anything.  Still I no longer had the safety net of my RSP and my savings had been depleted.

The point of all of this was to regain control of a situation that could well get out of control.

The following day I was resigned to the fact that it would be back to renting. My boss asked how I was doing with everything and I told him it looked liked I would be renting once more.  His response would goad me back into action.  “So…you’re just going to give up?”

Calls were made, bank managers were contacted.  My mortgage guy went back to it and put it on the table.  My realtor got an extension on the subjects being removed.  Again it came as ‘No’ on Friday morning.

Well, that’s it then.  I felt defeated, deflated, abandoned.

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I wanted an explanation.  Not the debt ratio where I was three percent out of what CMHC considered acceptable.  I was not going to go out quietly.

Someone was deciding my fate without knowing how hard I’d worked to get here.  Someone was looking at numbers, nothing more.  Someone who didn’t know the hardships I’ve overcome to get to this point.

I picked up the phone.  Then they at least had to know who they were saying ‘No’ to I decided.

The first fellow tried in vain to curtail my attempts to take this further.

Not once did I swear or raise my voice, though at times the emotions caused me to have a higher pitch. I insisted that I need to speak to a manager and was put on hold, a few times.

Ideas

Finally he put me through to Joanne who had been dealing with my file from the get go.  She did not want to talk to me.

I was not about to drag it out, I just wanted her to know what a tough year I’d had and that I was doing the right thing by taking the actions I had.  She spouted privacy laws, she could only speak with the lender, not the person whose life her decision was affecting.

The debt ratio came up.  She had laws to abide by.  Had I broken a law here?  No.  Why was her organization pulling the plug when they had renewed my mortgage for 5 years just a few short months ago?  The debt had been there then as well.  It had been made portable for the very reason we were here today.

And damn!  I’m so proud of how I relayed my message on Friday.  With calm determination I wanted her to know that I was not a number.  I’d made mistakes, yes.  I’d had a tough year, but I’d paid for everything.  I was taking care of everything in a responsible way.  Why was I being cut short here?  You are telling me that a three percentage point is going to alter my life?

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Joanne would tell me nothing due to ‘privacy’ laws.  I requested then that she contact my lender and provide an answer to my inquiries.  I didn’t want to hear about debt ratio.

With the money laundering that is currently going in the real estate market…well, I won’t go there.

I think Kenny cringed a bit when he received the message from Joanne.  She wasn’t happy.  Still this had been an action I’d taken on my own.  Kenny called me.  He was going to try one more thing.

Collectively we held our breathes.

I was so very grateful to my boss and his father for encouraging me not to give up.  I was so thankful that I had the  mortgage and realtor guys that I do in my corner.

At 7:30 pm I got the call.

I was approved.

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I’ve learned a great deal through this experience.  I made many assumptions prior to beginning this exercise of buying and selling.  This time I got my happy ending.

Now begins a new chapter. This time out I am whole, complete.  This time I will reach for the stars and I’ll get there.

Just watch me.

Namaste.