In Memory of my husband Don

Donald James Wilson (June 19, 1943 – August 15, 2017)

Top Photos + bottom left photo: Lisa King

The beginning, the middle and the end.

I believe in the laws of attraction.  I believe that people, places and things come into your life when you need or manifest them, or to teach you a lesson.  I’m not sure about the ending.  That’s a big question mark that I’ll never understand.  But my husband, like my dog, just showed up at my door one day and changed my life forever and for better.

 When I first met Don he was wearing a pale yellow shirt with a front button missing and carrying a paperback novel. His demeanor was the exact opposite of the crazy whirlwind relationship I ended months prior with an extroverted, creative, complicated guy with a gambling problem from NYC. At first glance Don was more down to earth, reserved, relaxed but solid. I was immediately attracted.  Of course he turned out to be a lot more than that.  A disciplined hard working, well-traveled, intelligent, caring, kind and philosophical man with utmost integrity. A man of his word as well as someone you could trust.  On the down side, quite stubborn, but I was always happy when I could change his mind about something he was very set on not changing.

At the time we met, before Don started his own company as a consultant engineer for telecommunications, he was managing an office in Toronto.  He kept a condo in Vancouver, always with the intention of moving back here.  A mutual friend from Toronto asked him to deliver photos from another friend’s wedding we had just attended in San Francisco instead of putting them in the mail. I forgot to bring my camera to San Francisco and I often wonder what my life would have been like had I taken it. So he brought them to me, and right after he left I called my mom and said this “I just met someone who showed up at my door and don’t know why but I’m pretty sure this is the man I’m going to spend my life with.”  Crazy, right?

But true.  That was 27 short years ago and we were married for 25 of them.

In between we created a life well lived.

The Road Well Traveled.  Photo Credit: Lisa King

A life filled with travel, adventure, a few rocky patches but overall, more good times than bad, up until the very end. He was my advisor and my best friend. That’s why I decided to do whatever in my power to try to make him well when he got sick with kidney cancer.  He was re-diagnosed a little over two years ago and it was starting to spread.

Even during that time filled with uncertainty he managed to surprise me with his strong will several times. We were able to make a few memorable trips even though his health was not good.  He would not give up easily. The past several months were the hardest.  The last two were the worst.  I borrowed a hospital bed from the Red Cross with the most comfortable inflatable mattress cover for Don so he could be downstairs at home on one level because it would be easier.  But it was not.  I was his nurse until I had to get weekly, then daily help. My life was not my own.  He gave me the biggest compliment by saying that there was nothing a nurse could do that I could not do.  But I don’t believe that.  I was just trying to cope as well as make nutritious meals before deciding to just make whatever he craved be it macaroni & cheese to ceviche. And believe me, it was all over the map. He was craving food from his childhood to when he worked in the desert in Saudi. A meal from a can to Sablefish.  Never a dull moment or at least, meal.

Then I found out about Vancouver Hospice Society with their incredible staff and volunteers.  A place in a reconverted house in Shaugnessey with only 8 beds and a wait list.  I went there, and after meeting the director and looking around at the home like atmosphere, decided it would be the best place for care and to free up quality time for me to spend with Don. Luckily a bed became available within a few days.  The private room was lovely overlooking an outdoor patio with plants, a flat screen TV and a pull-out  sofa bed which my dog and I slept on every night.     Don was only there for 10 days.

The night before he went into Vancouver Hospice he told me he wanted to give me something personal.  I won’t say what it was but it was meaningful and very moving.  At that stage I knew that he knew he was dying.  Before that, he was always optimistic and full of hope. Nobody mentioned the actual dying part, so it was extremely sad and I could not stop crying.  He then said “there is a beginning, a middle and an end to everything.  My end is coming and now you can have a new beginning.”  He was very thankful to me for all I had done to try and help him.  He said all this in a matter of fact way and I could feel that he now wanted the humility and discomfort to finally come to a finish.  His mind was good right up until the very end.

I will forever be grateful for having Don in my life.  No other person has done so much for me in so many areas.  I am a much better person for having known him. He was also a true friend to my sister and they had become very close.  He was a mentor to many people.  Well respected and trusted.  It was important for my brother to spend a few minutes explaining how he felt near the end.  He shared something special and I have to say that since my mom passed away, I have never seen my brother cry so hard. He was close to his brother George who lives in Toronto, and who gave him a much needed surprise visit in July.  I had no idea the influence Don had on so many, although I’m not surprised.

I was by his side holding his left hand when he took his very last breath. Lisa (my sister) was holding his right hand.  He looked peaceful. Lisa didn’t leave my side for three days following.  My dear friend Margeaux left her business and drove eight hours to spend the next four days/nights with me.  I’m forever grateful.

A light has gone out.  A new future begins.

 

Life + Culture: Curtains (a book about life)

The peculiar circle of lifeTake a clue from an interesting read called “Curtains.” Why leave your life up to chance?  Choreograph it, script it…like the film you always thought you were starring in anyway.  Lives just don’t happen! They are projects.  This is what gives them meaning. You are responsible for the contents. You must fill up your dash. The dash being the short time in between the day you were born until the very end (1989  ????) And there are books to help you do it.  Books like 1,000 things to do before you die.  Which in reality only makes you feel like you haven’t accomplished anything. Although it’s a start for those who don’t know where to begin.  It’s all about living with purpose.  It’s important to live each day as if it’s your last because one day you will be right.

A friend of mine lent me a book to read entitled “Curtains”.  A book that I have to preface by saying I would never have chosen to read if I knew what it was about.  Because it has a lot to do with death and I didn’t want to go there. So this is somewhat of a book review and an overview of the meaning of life taken from what I read and my thoughts.

Why this book?

As it so happens the person who lent it to me used to be a professional curtain maker.  He made beautiful curtains for a living and so the title jumped out at him at the library.  I know; who goes to libraries anymore? Anyway it makes sense; he thought it was about curtains and was curious.

At the time he lent it to me I was just starting a book called Tango, a Love Story that another friend gave me because she knows that I love tango, the dance.  A light feel-good true story that was very timely. Let me tell you; Curtains is the furthest away from tango…maybe closer to Last Tango (in Paris or elsewhere).  But it is about the dance of life.

My friend assured me that he had not intended to read Curtains when he figured out what it was about but once he started he could not put it down and everyone he lent it to… same story.  I was intrigued and said I’d give it a go.  At least one chapter. So I put my beautiful tango book on hold to read a book about life coming around full circle to ultimately…death.  In a nutshell I found it morbidly fascinating, well written, extremely tongue in cheek, lots of wit but not without the gorey details.

Curtains was written by Tom Jokinen, a veteran radio producer (Morningside, Definitely Not the Opera + more) and a video-journalist at the CBC. He set his career aside in 2006 to be an apprentice undertaker at a small third generation family-run funeral home and crematorium in Winnipeg, Manitoba.  This drastic vocational change at the age of 44 resulted with him writing this book.  Why? Mostly he did it because he wanted to find out first-hand what goes in that gap between death and burial at a time when our relationship with the dead is radically changing.  What he found is from the mundane to the macabre, to the completely comic to the totally heartfelt. It delves into religion, different beliefs, customs and beyond.  It is a fascinating read. It’s about humanity and an exploration of our culture’s relationship with the dead, dying and those left behind. It prompts a question: Why do we each spend up to $10,000 – for most, the third-biggest cash outlay in our lives after a house and a car, according to Jessica Mitford, who wrote The American Way of Death – on funerals?

It may have been the prelude to the widely popular Netflix series 6 ft. under (which I hear was really well done but have never watched). What it basically comes down to is we don’t want to know; we do want to know; we’re confused; we’re better off not knowing, but we’re curious, sorry to know; not sorry; a little sorry! I’m not sure but I read the whole book anyway.  Too late! But it’s something we will all ultimately be dealing with whether we like it or not. From the book:

A modern take is that a man is now defined not by his faith but by his hobbies and quirks. Did he golf?  Was she an avid gardener?  Everyone is an avid something: an avid bowler, drinker, sailor or snake charmer.  Avidity is the key to unlocking your story.

Having faith doesn’t mean you have to be religious but religious faith, when it comes to death, is a fairy tale that soothes.  It doesn’t deny there’s a monster in the closet or a wolf in the woods but it tames them.  A study at Yale, published in the International Journal of Psychiatry in Medicine, found that “bereaved individuals who relied on religion to cope generally used outpatient services less frequently compared to non-believers.

Epicurus said that there’s no need to fear the oblivion after we’re gone if we never cared about the oblivion that came before we were born.

“Curtains is deft, funny, surprising and above all thought-provoking.  Benjamin Franklin said that to know a society you only had to visit its cemeteries.  Jokinen has taken him up on that, and added in our funeral parlours and crematoria.  What emerges is a sharply focused picture of twenty-first-century North America – we’re uncertain about our values, distracted by inessentials but yearning, like every culture, to understand the meaning of death and the dead body, which is just another way of understanding life and humanity.” – Katherine Ashenburg, author of The Mourner’s Dance.

Food for Thought

Would this book pique your interest?

Community: close neighbours

How important are neighbours?neighbours1

“Love thy neighbour” is a term that’s become almost clichéd over the years. In a time when neighbours, at least in North America, are people we rarely see (thanks to garage door openers and busy lives), or are thought of as nuisances with barking dogs guilty and noisy children, how can we possibly love our neighbours?

Well you know; you don’t have to actually love them, but it’s best if you genuinely like them.

But how close is too close?  I’m talking about people you might see on a day to day basis, sometimes only in passing.  How do you feel towards them? Them towards you? How important is it to maintain a good relationship with your neighbour? I guess it depends on how much you have in common, how close in proximity you are…but at the very least isn’t it in your best interest to be friendly?

I’ve always had good luck with my neighbours (next door, back door, upstairs + down).  In the sense that we seem to genuinely like each other to the point of naturally developing over time a genuine friendship. From the very first time I moved away from home to a place of my own, I’ve been lucky to have had great neighbours. Many have become lifelong friends. One even gave me the best gift of my life, her dog whom I fell in love with from the get-go.  She realized we’d be happier together than apart.

Unfortunately last year I lost one of my favourite ones, a woman I rented part of a house from shortly after moving to Vancouver from Montreal.  She became like a second mother and we shared a family like relationship over the years.  I remember she used to leave homemade food and baked goods outside my door and we used to celebrate holidays together.

Now I have a next door neighbor in Palm Springs who leaves homemade cookies and banana cake on my doorstep.   I certainly don’t think that I look like I need to be fed! However, when I think back to past and present neighbors, food is always involved.  One used to leave homemade pies, another pyrogies.  Just can’t seem to break the mold and that’s okay.  Sharing is a nice trait and food is a pleasant ice breaker that brings people together.  It means you have to confront the giver to say “thank you.”

I think it’s important to be on friendly terms at the very least. More often than not I’ve stayed in touch over the years with past/present neighbours and we get together from time to time.

Good neighbours can make or break your peaceful enjoyment. It’s just really nice when it turns out you legitimately want to spend time with them or be in their company even temporarily.  It makes for better neighbourhoods and people tend to look out for one another (neighbourhood watch or watch out!).  I had a neighbour from across the street call to tell me I left my door open one time when traveling and another called the police to report unusual activity.  Turns out the unusual activity was me just getting home from a trip.  It was nighttime and she didn’t recognize that it was me.  So they can be helpful. They also come in handy for watering your plants while away…if they don’t kill them instead by mistake of course not mentioning any names.

And it’s a bonus if they love your music!  How do you feel towards yours?

We’re all ANIMALS

In Chinese Astrology I’m an Earth Dog.

Earth Dog Jia Jia on a hike –  March 9, 2017.  Image: d. king

Not a Pig; as formerly thought.  I had an expert look into it for me (because I’m born on the cusp it was confusing and if I put my actual birthdate it always came up “pig”) and since my boy Jia Jia was born in China, it makes perfect sense because the stars are aligned – we’re both extremely loyal and commited. We relate to each other perfectly! I always suspected I was a dog – after all, Jia Jia thinks I’m a perfect bitch!

The Dog comes in five types: metal, wood, food, fire & earth each with a specific personality description. Sharing Earth Dog similarities were Winston Churchill, Voltaire, Lady Godiva, Brigitte Bardot, Cher, Mother Teresa, Jacques Cousteau, Elvis Presley, George Gershwin, Judy Garland & Shirley Maclaine.  I must say, not a bad lineup.

But enough about me……

Predicting the future by observing the stars and planets was an ancient art long before Europeans discovered/invented the mathematics necessary to make these same predictions. However, the yearly Animal signs bear the much same relationship to Chinese Astrology as Sun Signs have to Western Astrology – a cursory overview, and over simplification. As with Western Sun Signs, the twelve Animals of the Chinese zodiac do represent archetypes useful to writers.

Find Your (or Your Character’s) Animal Sign

Follow your Heart

February 14th is not only Valentine’s Day20170207_103704

It’s also Jia Jia’s birthday. Today he turns 14 years young!20170119_212932park3

He offers sound advice for those who ask how come he’s doing so well for his age.  His answer: “live in the moment, eat well, sleep well, find time to play, be selective with who you kiss, go for lots of walks, hang around with younger dogs, look like you’re smiling even if you’re not, go with the flow of the waves whenever possible, when someone throws you a bone just eat it,  but most of all make sure you are with someone who loves you for YOU!”

You can always learn something from an older dog

Make no mistake – you can always learn new tricks from an older dog

He’s in touch with his feminine side

Although he did not want the Barkin bag or the Manolo Barknik. It was between the Chewy Vuitton & Sniffany & Co.

Choices, choices….although he did not go for the Barkin bag or the Manolo Barknik. He was torn between the Chewy Vuitton & Sniffany & Co.  We settled on a sock monkey.

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If you follow your heart you might make a few wrong turns but you’ll never get lost

Happy Birthday my Love on the most LOVELY day of the year!

Very recent photos: d. king

in my core…

Quoting President Obama – “I think everything is going to be okay”feelgoodfriday1

Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.

If you’re walking down the right path and you’re willing to keep walking, eventually you’ll make progress. – quotes by Barack Obama

Let’s stay positive that it will ALL WORK OUT!

She's way too tall for me!

My date at Tropicale was way too tall for me!

 

 

Stay·ca·tion – a somewhat indulgent local getaway

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Sometimes it’s just nice to get away even if it’s somewhere familiar, like the very city you live in.bayshore2So I suggested we go away somewhere exotic for Christmas.  A hotel overlooking the harbour and Stanley Park in Vancouver.  A place where we could be quiet but party if we wanted to, and a welcome leisurely holistay.bayshore4The weather was perfect for a couple of days.  We walked a lot, we lounged and we ate.  The dogs loved it.bayshore19And it was very relaxing.bayshore26And we had a few visitors.  This one we were not expecting.staycation1I hate when good things come to an end!

Photos: d. kingchristmas201711christmas20178

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Inspiring Cooks

Last night I was in a room full of intriguing people to celebrate a season of sharing, hope and inspiration at *Inspire Health’s inaugural gala. Everyone was there to support those living with Cancer.
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The perfect evening marked an important milestone with the launch of a gorgeous cookbook entitled “Inspired Cooking” featuring 21 of Canada’s finest chefs.  Four of the featured chefs were on hand to take everyone on an amazing culinary experience, as we sipped on some of the best wines BC has to offer from the Oliver Osoyoos Wine Association.inspiregala2

While guests perused the desirable silent auction items during reception, servers  were floating around the room with the most delicious canapés from local Meinhardt (one of the sponsors).

There was live entertainment along with some moving testimonies of patients who have contributed their stories to the book, with the hopes that it will inspire change for others.

Each of the four courses were excellent in taste and presentation but my two standouts were:
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Entrée: Slow Cooked salmon, ginger scented sweet potato, black garlic, tomato and shitake dashi Chef Warren Barr, The Pointe Restaurant at the Wickaninnish Inn Tofino Paired with Church and State – Coyote Bowl Syrahinspiregala3

Dessert: (picture did not serve it justice) Frozen lemon, turmeric pudding with coconut cream and chia seeds *As featured in Inspired Cooking Baker Jackie Kai Ellis, Beaucoup Bakery & Café, Vancouver.  Paired with Gehringer Brothers Estate Winery – Dry Rock Vineyard Unoaked Chardonnay

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Some of the live auction items were amazing.  Here’s a sample of something I wanted to bid on but unfortunately someone else beat me to it.

A weekend to Tofino in 5-star luxury Flights for two to spectacular Tofino compliments of Orca Air, with two nights at the Wickaninnish Inn in a deluxe suite, with fireplace, soaker tub and balcony offering a forested beach view looking out at the ocean. Then enjoy a 3-course dinner at the Point Restaurant, home of refined west coast cuisine, where Chef Warren Bar and his culinary team offer to you their most innovative creations.
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*Inspire Health was founded by two medical doctors in 1997 with the intention of providing person-centred care to support health and well-being for people living with cancer and their families.  They provide patients with knowledge, tools and services to support their overall health, during and after standard cancer treatments, including chemotherapy, radiation, surgery and medications.  All of their recommendations and programs are safely integrated with a person’s standard treatments.

They’re an amazing group of people. Each year they support a minimum of 3,000 new patients, conduct 2,000 classes and provide over 25,000 clinical visits.

The support of the evening will allow Inspire Health to continue to offer evidence-based, patient centered supportive cancer care.

They certainly inspire me to do better.  Plus I cannot wait to attempt some of the recipes (including nearly 60 whole food ones) found in the book.

Cooking is an art and patience a virtue... Careful shopping, fresh ingredients and an unhurried approach are nearly all you need. There is one more thing – love. Love for food and love for those you invite to your table. With a combination of these things you can be an artist – not perhaps in the representational style of a Dutch master, but rather more like Gauguin, the naïve, or Van Gogh, the impressionist. Plates or pictures of sunshine taste of happiness and love. – Keith Floyd, ‘A Feast of Floyd’

Photos: d. king

It’s Friday – What a Week!

A WEEK TO REMEMBER
remember14But lest we forget:

REMEMBRANCE DAY. Freedom is never Free

Today is REMEMBRANCE DAY. Freedom is never Free

Also a time to Remember & Reflect on arguably, one of the most enigmatic poets & songwriters of his generation:

Getty Image

Getty Image

Mr. Leonard Cohen

 While many of the themes in his work hinted at depression, he always felt that he was just a keen observer of the realities of life.  “Seriousness, rather than depression is, I think, the characteristic of my work,” he once told an interviewer. ” I like a good laugh, but I think there’s enjoyment that comes through seriousness. We all know when we close the door and come into your room and you’re left with your heart and your emotions, it isn’t all that funny.”

No; it isn’t all that funny and it’s not just a game unless you’re Donald Trump who said:

“Money was never a big motivation for me, except as a way to keep score.  The real excitement is playing the game.”  And that he did very well to everyone’s amazement; maybe even his own.

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Lifestyle/Film – from FRANCA to FREIGHTENED

The Vancouver Film Festival is almost over. For the past two weeks I’ve seen my share of GLOOM to GLAMOUR through cinema and ended up going home with either a smile on my face or more often than not, with a heavy heart.franca1Being a film critic is not as simple as it seems. Did I say film critic? Well you know what I mean..my version.  It’s kind of like speed dating (not that I’ve ever done that) – you have to weed through many movies before you come across a great film.  But that great one will stick with you and may even change your life forever.

I even have a film buddy now.  Someone I met in the pass holder lineup from the very beginning of the festival and we kept bumping into each other, sitting together, crying at times and finally comparing films and such and sharing real life moments in time (while waiting for each film to start).  We promised to keep in touch and meet up every so often to see a new movie because we seem to have the same taste in film.  And let me tell you that finding the perfect film buddy is a lot harder to come across than the other more popular kind of  “F” buddy.

So I have only a few more reviews to share, a very small amount compared to all that was offered at the festival.  I’m sending them into the VIFF press office and hopefully they’ll decide to invite me back again next year. This has not only been a real pleasure and a privilege but a great opportunity to share with you some very engaging films and a chance to expand my audience.

These two documentaries will make you question everything you buy.

Franca: Chaos and Creation

The high price of fashion…

I was looking very forward to this documentary about legendary editor-in-chief, Franca Sozzani of Vogue Italia, considered the world’s most important fashion magazine.  It’s the magazine for fashion insiders to visit the territory where fashion, art and provocation meet. Her astonishing but often controversial magazine covers have not only broken the rules but also set the bar high for fashion, art and commerce over the past 25 years.

Sozzani remains deeply committed to exploring subject matters off limits to most and occasionally redefining the concept of beauty in the process.

The film features interviews with Karl Lagerfeld, Bruce Weber, Baz Luhrmann, Courtney Love and many others.  A film for style buffs.

*Trailer for Franca:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KvD8l12X9pA

Freightened: The Real Price of Shipping
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The higher price of fashion.  There’s always a cost.  How much are we willing to pay?

This is in stark contrast to Franca and something to give serious thought to.

“There are three kinds of people in the world.  The living, the dead and those that are at sea” – a line from the movie.

This film sheds real light on where a huge portion of our clothing really comes from.  It will make you question your choices (hopefully) the next time you shop for that next great deal.  Maybe we should read clothing labels like we are now paying more attention to our labels on food.  Because there’s a story behind them and it’s not a pretty one. Those $20 jeans weren’t just shipped here from Bangladesh: the constituent parts traveled thousands of miles before they met in the factory.  But it’s not just about clothing, it’s about everything we consume in our crazy world of WANT.  And 90% of everything we consume arrives via ship so this is essential to know about. Because many of us are unaware of the consequences of industrial container shipping as it is today and has been for many, many years. And it’s drastic impact on the environment….which affects everyone and the future of the planet.  But it’s not too late to make some changes…if only they will listen (but we don’t know who they really are because the owners are hard to track down).

Denis Delestrac is opening our eyes to the incredibly important implications of things we take for granted. And you won’t believe your eyes.

From the VIFF website:

Freightened is indeed a scarifying look at our oceans and harbours, and what the behemoths and leviathans that ply our seas are doing to them. It’s all because of what we buy!  The unit travel costs of huge industrial container shipments are astonishingly small, but the environmental costs are ridiculously large. Why bother to learn more? Why think global and buy local? The open seas are shockingly free of oversight and regulation. Dirty fuels, chemical leakage and animal-killing noise abound in a regime of tax avoidance and maintenance neglect, and we know so little about it. What are the plans for our Port of Vancouver?

Food for Thought?  

*Trailer for Freightened: