Admission — Chapter 2

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The only thing that still remained unresolved was my application for veterinary medicine. In order to apply to veterinary medicine there were several things that you had to complete. First, you had to fill out the paperwork and sign a release saying that they could access your marks. Then, you had to write an essay explaining why you wanted to be a veterinarian and finally you were interviewed by a panel of professors that would evaluate your suitability as an applicant.

The essay that I had to write was a disaster. I wrote it while I was still working on the dairy farm. I was not given time off or allowed to leave the farm, before I quit the job, so I had to make due with what they had on hand. What they had on hand was an old typewriter that was in need of repair.

When you insert paper into a typewriter, the paper goes down the back of a barrel that is slightly longer than the paper is wide and it is guided to go around this barrel and come up at the front of the machine. The paper is held snug against the barrel as you type. The typing mechanism moves to the right the distance of one letter each time you hit a key stroke. At the end of each line a bell rings to let you know that you have five spaces left before the end. When you reach the end, you use a return paddle to move the paper up one line and move the typing mechanism back to the left so that you can continue.

This particular typewriter had something loose inside. As I typed the page would shift down giving it a droopy appearance. The essay had to be typed, that was stipulated in the application, and I had no other typewriter that I could use so I would type a bit and then try to pull the paper up to where it was supposed to be. It is painful now to think about this.

I likely could have used a typewriter at a local library or hired someone to do the typing for me, but I did not know this at the time. Even though the farmer’s wife was a teacher, she did not offer any insights into how to improve the appearance of the essay. It brings into focus how much of a disadvantage students are at if their parents did not get any higher education. So, my essay was probably a frightful mess.

The interview went OK, but I have learned that unless you know what they are looking for there is no way to tell if you have given them what they want. They asked me some specific questions about the Pre Vet Club. I had been elected to its board, but I had never done any work. I did not know what I was supposed to do and the other people on the board never let me know.

In general, my marks were all good except for two courses. During grade 12, I had made the mistake of taking grade 13 biology. The high school I was attending went on strike the year that I was in grade 12 and we missed several weeks of classes. Many of the people that I was in grade 12 with never did graduate, or did not graduate that year, because the teachers were on strike so long that the students got full time jobs and then it didn’t make sense to go back to school.

The drawback for me was that the instructors for first year Zoology assumed that you had learned the material in grade 13 biology. I had not. I had been given the credit, so it would appear as though I knew the stuff, but I hadn’t even seen most of it before. The course amounted to a huge amount of anatomy of various creatures and it required a lot of memorization. I am explaining this in a great amount of detail because Zoology was my lowest mark, by far.

The other course that I got a poor mark in was an accident. It turns out that this particular professor was the father of a woman that would later become one of my best friends, but I did not know her at the time. There was a mistake in recording my mark. When I calculated how poorly I would have had to have done on the final exam to get my final mark, I would have had to have received less than zero. I knew it was an error. I went in to see the professor and he acknowledged that it must have just been an error and assured me that he would change the mark. He never did.

So, I waitressed for the remainder of the summer and eagerly anticipated a reply to my veterinary application. I knew that I was going back to university regardless of whether or not I got accepted. I did not get accepted.

The letter that came with my rejection said that I could go in to the office of the veterinary college and find out why I did not get in. So, I decided that I would do this. In those days, computer paper was about 20 inches wide and had edges that were separated from the main paper by perforations. These edges had holes in them. The holes fit over the mechanism that moved the paper through the printer. Computer paper was not similar to regular paper in shape or texture. When I went in to see why I had not been accepted, the man explaining it to me pulled out this long piece of computer paper that was probably three or four feet long.

Each line of the paper had a name followed by the overall average that the person had on the test scores. This was followed by the mark given for the essay, the average mark from their course work and the mark that they received for their interview. The most important mark was the overall average and the list had been organized with the highest average at the top and decreasing averages below in order.

Some very talented individual had taken the time to highlight a large block of names in pink. So, when he held the paper up, there were a bunch of names at the top, followed by a huge area of pink and then the vast majority of the names were below the pink area. He explained to me that the people in the pink area all had the same overall average. About one third of the way down the pink area was a bold blue line that had been drawn in to mark the bottom of the list of accepted applicants. I was in the pink, just below the line.

Being that close is a strange feeling. I was just as good as a group of students that were accepted that year (based on the way that they were evaluated). Unfortunately for me, my last name was not ‘Abbot’ or ‘Burns’. Several things could have put me above that pink patch: taking grade 13 biology in grade 13; having the professor actually correct my grade; and having a decent typewriter to do my essay on. Any one of these things could have given me a fraction of a point advantage and I would have been accepted. I did not know if I would ever be accepted. It felt like there were a few fail-safes to make sure that I did not get in that year.

Read the entire book, now available
Read the entire book, now available

Keep Reading: The Great Train Accident

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Happy New Year — September is the real beginning…

IMG_2198This is the first day of school and it is still my New Year. I have started a new cycle each September for as long as I can remember. New Year’s eve may mark the actual change in the calendar, but September changes my life. The days of summer are waning. My focus changes from holidays and relaxation, from sunshine and time away from work to planning for the year ahead.

Every year either I’ve personally gone to school, or one of my children has. This year is no different. My daughter starts a new program and things will once again change for her.

Living in a university town means that the students are coming back and some have already arrived. This changes everything. Grocery stores will be depleted (this week at least!), traffic is snarled because everyone is trying to avoid the roads around the university and don’t even try to buy alcohol; the parking lot is jammed.

I myself feel like I am at a new beginning. I started a simple program. Instead of letting my workday pull me along until I am exhausted, I’ve carved out time in my morning for meditation, reflection and writing. Sitting down each morning and having time set aside to write has had a huge impact on my entire outlook.

When you stand up and say to the world, I am making myself and my interests my priority, it shifts things. After just over a month of doing this, my entire attitude has changed. I am writing prolifically, both blogs and fiction (I’m testing the waters with fiction which is unpublished-even as blogs) and I seem to be drawing opportunity into my life.

My book sales have skyrocketed, my website visits are way up and I am receiving more and more requests for coaching. I have developed a whole new style in what I wear and how I present myself to the world and things simply feel like they are expanding. I will continue to let you know how this plays out, but let me put it this way, “I’ve put myself first and the universe has responded in kind.”

A Little Manifestation

IMG_1004If you ask someone what they want, the answer that you’ll most likely get is, “to win the lottery” or more to the point, money. The truth is that most people (I can’t speak for everyone, because there do seem to be some that believe that whoever has the most money when they die wins!) do not actually want money they want what money can do for them.

Money is seen as the route to freedom, security, nice things, a new pet turtle and possibly a lawn ornament. It is important, from a manifestation point of view that you focus on the lawn ornament, or whatever it is that you actually want, not the method to get it.

Bringing things into your life can be quite easy and straightforward. Some people use visualization, vision boards or requests during meditation. The reason that this type of exercise is used is because of the “vision” aspect. You want to connect with the part of you that actually desires what you want to bring into your life. It is the feeling, the knowing, the craving that you want to feel. Picturing something in your mind or creating it in a vision board goes a long way to helping you connect with this part of yourself.

The process that many people get tangled up in, is using the “logical” or left-brain part of the request. If you have to go through a series of statements to get what you want, it is unlikely that the law of attraction will be as successful. For instance, if I said that I wanted to win the lottery so that I could buy a new pet turtle, that is a series of thoughts. The way to manifest is to picture yourself holding the turtle and dressing it in the outfits that you have designed. Picture the lawn ornament scaring away the neighbour dogs and how much joy it would bring you.

There is a little exercise that you can try. The value of the exercise is that you do not get as invested in attracting the item that you are going to request as you might for some other, more important thing that you want to bring into your life.

Here is what you do:

1. Think of something that you never see in your life. This is something concrete that you want to see. It cannot be chosen in a way that it is “impossible” to see. We are looking for something improbable. Something that if you saw it you would be convinced that you are only seeing it because you tried this little exercise.

2. Accept the fact that you might see it in any context. For instance, you cannot specify that you must see the unicorn standing on your front lawn. If you decide on a pink envelope, you might see it at the store, on your desk, in a movie or a catalogue or anywhere else that you might see an object.

3. Write the object down on a piece of paper. Tell someone that you are trying this exercise and what you wrote down.

4. Determine what time frame would be suitable for your request. I would suggest that it not be too long or it has less meaning.

5. Forget about the request. Put the paper somewhere that you will encounter it in the future.

6. Let me know what happens.

How to make a vision board, based on the book Steering by Starlight. 

Magic on the Camino

IMG_2232Suddenly my feet had no traction and I was beginning to fall. My hiking pole bent nearly ninety degrees and I almost went down when a young man from Turkey grabbed my arm and saved me from landing in the mud. Such is the Camino de Santiago in Spain.

Whether it be the thousands of small acts of kindness or the synchronicities that line up, there is no doubt that there is a ‘flow’ about this place.

Climbing the Pyrennes, in the fog and the rain, wishing I had packed gloves, I thought that I had started to hallucinate when I thought that I could smell coffee. This was highly unlikely on an unpopulated trail almost 1500 metres above sea level.

I had just passed a flock of sheep that hurried over to the side of the trail. They appeared astonished and acutely interested in me as I walked by. I could see a truck with a makeshift enclosure up ahead. Could it be a coffee mirage? Was I experiencing the type of illusion common to people traveling across the desert? Would I lose my way in search of a phantom caffeine fix? I assumed that the vehicle was associated with the sheep in some way, but I was wrong. It was coffee.

Everyone that I have met along the way can tell at least one story about exactly what they needed coming into their possession just when they wanted it. A taxi appears just as the decision is made to call one; a stand selling hats opens right next to your table, right after you’ve lost your hat; or someone simply picks up your hiking poles for you. No small thing when you have a full pack on your back and muscles sore enough to discourage movement of any kind.

Dropping the timetable and deadlines has a way of allowing things to happen that becomes clear when all you can focus on is getting to the next rock large enough to sit on without too much effort.

And on we go down the Camino. Day six and counting…..

100 KM Loop

Meseta

Changing Landscapes of the Camino

Albergue? 

The Camino Walk

Another Night on the Camino

Hiking Poles for the Camino 

Camino de Santiago

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My Father — Chapter 4

While I was pregnant with my second daughter my father had what we all thought was a stroke. He was unable to stand on his own and ended up in the hospital. The tests failed to confirm that it was a stroke and my understanding is that they came to the diagnosis of multiple sclerosis by default. After hearing this, many things fell into place.

During the time that I was getting to know Bob I was working for a professor. He was a shy, gregarious guy, which is a hard combination to imagine, but once he felt comfortable with the people involved, he was great in groups. It was the getting to know you part that could set him off balance. Anyhow, this guy stepped in for a while as my father.

One thing that I know for sure is that whether or not you realize it, if you need something, the universe will give it to you. When I got engaged my father was estranged, more or less, so one became available. It had been quite a while since I had seen my father. My attempt to contact him after I left my mother’s place had been hurtful for me, so I really hadn’t bothered much after that.

I asked the professor if he would walk me down the aisle at my wedding. He was wonderful for this and remembered to ask me if I actually wanted to go through with it. I was certain, of course, that I wanted to get married. He provided a jovial and calming presence during my descent.

When my father arrived in town for my wedding, I made sure that I told him that someone else was walking me down the aisle and he looked surprisingly happy. He got up to dance with me at my wedding, but that was the only time that he got up to dance and we only danced the one song. I did not know at the time that he was probably unable to stand for much longer or walk all the way down the aisle.

My father was a proud man and his wife was a great cook. I suspect that he attributed his inability to walk to being heavier than he had ever been in his life and his total lack of exercise. Coming to this conclusion may have precluded the need to go to the doctor’s and have a checkup, but I am only guessing about this. I also knew that when he took his wife shopping, he would wait in the car for her. So, there is a good chance that he had been feeling the symptoms of this disease for a lot longer than he was letting on.

When I got called about the stroke, I went to the hospital to see him. I knew that I was pregnant with my second daughter at that time. He had been devastated when he had been alone after his separation and I’m sure that he was glad that I had reconciled with Bob.

So, after my second daughter was born, he visited me and we sat on the front porch. He loved the porch. The house was on a fairly busy street and he had fond memories of sitting on his front porch when he was young and how there was so much going on. His mother’s place was the one with the store on the one side, so there would have been people coming just to go to the store, when he was a boy.

He was a little uncomfortable about breast feeding and announced once while I was feeding the baby that he thought it was inappropriate for the family room. To be honest, I don’t think that he knew that I was doing it while we were having the discussion.

When you are having a baby at home, there is no one telling you to get out of the way, or that you can or cannot photograph anything, so we had a very extensive photographic account of the entire process. I had sorted the photos into general; share with everyone photos; those that had some redeeming qualities but were not for general viewing and the final pile that I needed to burn. I had set the burn pile aside so that they would not get passed around when people visited.

During my father’s stay, while we were discussing the birth in very general broad terms, my oldest daughter decided that this was her chance to share the photos with my father. She ran up to my room and grabbed photos and presented them to my dad. My father was a very conservative man that easily got squeamish and certainly did not want to view explicit photos of his daughter. You know which pile was handed to him.

I was sitting with the baby on my lap when my daughter handed him the photos and it took me a moment to realize what pile she likely gave to him. I jumped up and grabbed the pile out of his hands before he was forever traumatized.

My father was never strong enough to visit again. It was nice to have him come and see my place. It was also comforting for me to know that he liked the place and was happy with where I was in life.

The multiple sclerosis would come in waves. Each wave would knock him down and then he would not fully recover the strength and independence that he had before that particular bout. As each successive wave hit he found himself increasingly reliant on his wife to help him do the simplest tasks. Finally, she was unable to give him all of the support that he needed and he had to go into the hospital.

This must have been the ultimate insult to him as a person. My mother had always used her illnesses as a way to get attention and to make herself feel important. I know that my father resented this. He had told me that he hated playing cards with people that could not hold their cards properly or deal quickly. He said that it slowed the game down and made playing unpleasant. It was important to him to be strong and capable and his final days, weeks, months and years were the opposite of that.

Read the entire book, now available
Read the entire book, now available

The Best Defense is a Good Offense

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Spring a Reminder of Change

Today is the quintessential first day of spring. Not the calendar month or the day with the highest temperature, the first day of the season. It is no longer winter. There may yet be snow but the snow that is here is melting. There is a slow rhythm of the drips as winter washes away.

The birds are back. The sky is filled with flight and sound. It is funny how much I’ve missed the beauty of the birds and their song. They sit on branches that show no sign of thickening, that precursor to the actual buds. The trees are bare. There are no spring flowers up yet and no hint of summer green.

I slept late and awoke to this fabulous day. I’ve often wondered if those Canadians that choose to move to warmer climes miss the change of seasons. It is always something new and more appreciated for its absence.

A reminder that time moves on and we are all part of a larger cycle of birth and death and renewal. Change is inevitable. Nothing is permanent. By being present we ensure that we are always appreciative of what we enjoy. To stop and give gratitude for all that we have and the exceptional lives we’re being allowed to lead. Showing this gratitude seems to open a door that lets more good come in. If you don’t think that your life is exceptional perhaps this deserves some attention. Stop to appreciate what you do like, it will bring more good in.

I have a fabulous east facing balcony on the second floor. From there I can see the sunrise in the morning and the constellation Bootes after dark, at least this time of year.

The universe conspired with humour while I enjoyed my balcony today. Three different men with three different dogs all had to clean up poop on the lawn in front of my house. The first guy had to come back, for the package, after he realized that I had watched his dog poop and him walk away.

The third guy had the further indignity of knowing that I was watching him. I came out onto my balcony mid poo and he had heard me. It is a fine example of how our lives happen in the moments in which they occur. We like to tell our stories about how great things will be in the future when we get that or move there or buy the next best thing but the true experience is always now. Simply by paying attention to the moment, my experience became about now. It may not be a grand trip to an exotic place, but it was funny watching these men deal with their dogs. Enjoying the first day of spring. Feeling gratitude for the humour, even if it was potty humour.

From the deck on the west part of my house, think sunsets and the Big Dipper at night, I can see a small pond that is frozen. There are geese walking across it as though to check it out as a future prospect. My pool is frozen as well and I crave its languid embrace. I still find it hard to believe that I have a pool and currently it is just as much a part of a dream as any other part of the future.

We don’t need to be reminded of how quickly our lives can be washed away, possibly before that next new thing even gets here. So perhaps we should appreciate today. Take the arrival of spring as a reminder that all things come to pass and feel gratitude for the things in our lives that bring us joy. How would you spend your day if you knew that everything was taken care of? Isn’t it, just for this moment?