Tag Archives: storytelling

Getting to the truth of the matter

I create in the digital workplace and so I use a lot of social platforms, yada yada, and I’ve noticed there seems to be this race to get the newest, the most viral, the most influential tool possible so ‘I can have a lot of friends and have a great Klout score and show all of this off to everyone in the whole wide world!’ Indeed, there has crept into everyday conversation a sort of sick measurement stick that I am not at all down with.

In fact, I’m writing a Transmedia Code of Ethics for myself and those I collaborate with because as I begin to work on larger Transmedia projects, I am realizing how idealist I really am. I keep wanting my experience with people to be like it was when I worked in the theatre, where we all sat around a table, read a script, and began to craft and shape the vision of the playwright. We would move from the table to the stage, incessantly talking to one another, from lighting to props, sound designer to actor, director to stage manager, and then, finally,  all of us collectively to the audience. Then people clapped and gave us money.


What I love best about the theatre was our absolute dependency on each other. If I did not put a certain prop at the right time in the right actor’s hand, and the lighting cue was missed, the show would fall apart. At every moment, the show depended upon, was entirely reliant upon, all of us as a moving entity, working seamlessly in the dark with watchful eyes.

What came after opening night was an euphoria that only this kind of intense collaboration can bring. The pranks offstage to mess with the actors (I was never guilty of this of course), shenanigans’ of the actors purposely missing lines, booze smuggled backstage, last-minute frenzy of costume changes, and then the moment when the lights come on and you realize you made it through! Followed by the stern reality of the Director’s ‘notes’. But woven into the experience was always this sense of family, because we needed one another in order to get to the vision of the storyworld we’d created.

This is what I’m trying to create and this is what I’m up against: people talking about themselves versus the art, people preening about their ‘followers’, people eyeing your client list like hyenas, people wanting to use you to line their own back pockets. It’s disheartening. Actually, its total bullshit.

I think this is the ugly side of digital. This incessant desire to blow up personal brands like great ego-driven helium balloons that hover and vie for attention, crowding out the notion of creativity and collaboration and shared vision. I wonder, is it possible to get back to that table of theatre, where I can sit around with a group of talented people, and feel like family? Trusting implicitly that it is the art, not the commerce, not our personal brands, not our number of followers or likes, not our goddamn personal agendas, but rather, the exhilaration and devotion to the craft that is at stake? That together we are only able to create this art and must depend on trust to reach that place.

Is it too utopian? Too naive? Perhaps. Perhaps.

But I believe, as John Keats famously wrote that ‘Beauty is truth, truth beauty’. I won’t settle for less.


Filed under Non-fiction

“Live out of your imagination, not your history.” -Stephen Covey

I normally think of my own creative titles because, well, I suspect that is my job on here but this quote was just was so perfect so here’s a shout out to Stephen–thanks for pinch-hitting tonight dude.

I’ve had a lot of memories surface this past weekend and have had a chance to revisit some things I didn’t plan on ever revisiting but that is life, non? Just when you think you have everything sewn up in a tight little organized plan, along comes the change angel to ensure you don’t get too cocky about all that control you’re swaggering around with.

I’ve been thinking about when I was in my mid-twenties and newly pregnant, living in San Diego, and how I must have, for a short time, been seriously misguided in of some of the choices I made. In the last few days I’ve had the opportunity to find compassion for my then younger self and not label her as ‘misguided’, but rather, just lost.

I am pretty thankful that I had a strong, older sister who loaded me into her little plane and charted a course back to Canada. The one caveat was that I not throw up on the way. I don’t remember why, whether it was the  weather up north or what, but we ended up flying for hours across the desert which, if you are newly pregnant, is akin to medieval torture. Slam! Slam! Slam! as you hit air pockets and the plane drops 10 feet abruptly. Over and over and over again. On things that pregnant women shouldn’t take there should be small italics that also include: flying over a hot desert in a small plane.

“Don’t you dare throw up”, Monica warned me (as if I needed a reminder, it was all I was focused on).  My brow was beaded in sweat, my hands sliding over the leather seats, my cheek periodically finding comfort in leaning ever so briefly against the cooler window surface.

My entire life was shoved into the back of her little Bonanza. It wasn’t much, given I was a theatre artist and used to moving from one job to another, but what I did take back with me was the real thing, and it was all pushing up against the back of my seat. I remember listening to some conversation between pilots and my sister’s calm ‘Charlie Bravo 4’ or something along those lines when suddenly I saw some dark clouds ahead and a flash of light.


That’s never good thing to hear your pilot utter out loud. I’d been in some bad storms in both my sister’s Cessna and her Bonanza but we–she–always managed to maneuver ourselves out towards the edge of the storm, with the plane being tossed around like chopsticks at a New Year’s party and everyone going kind of quiet but never anything I seriously worried about.

I was worried now.

Our panel went black. I just assumed Monica would make it turn on it again. Then she said, calmly, ‘Get the CB Radio out of the back’.

Oh god. CB Radio? Isn’t that something featured in black and white films about World War II in a trench when people are dying? 

Of course the radio was behind all my crap–why did I take this stuff with me? who the fuck cares about this crap?–was all I could think as I dove into the boxes and ripped at them frantically to get to the back of the plane and pull the CB Radio case out.

My sister made the Mayday call to the Reno tower. Twice. Nothing is as real as someone quietly saying ‘Mayday’ into a CB Radio. The Reno tower calmly called back, instructing us to do a diamond formation–I know I”m going to get all the technical stuff wrong here–which is a signal to the big boys that this tiny, tiny little plane cannot communicate with anyone and is doing an emergency landing. As in right now. So ripping fast giant jets full of future drunk gamblers please don’t plough into this tiny, tiny plane, I thought, staring out at the dark sky all around us.

I began to think that God could give me a more subtle signal that I wasn’t meant to be a mother. I mean, really? Do you have to be so dramatic about it?

There is something about my sister that prevents me from having complete meltdowns. There are a lot of people in my life I have exposed a loss of control to, with regretful sorry’s to follow, but my sister was so controlled and calm I just thought, man, I have to kind of act like I can deal.

Inside my 17 week old baby swam blissfully unperturbed from one side of my uterus to the other.

We landed perfectly (I personally trust small plane pilots over large ones and this is one example why) to a waiting caravan of emergency vehicles. The rest is kind of a blur because I guess I was in shock a little. I just remember how cool my sister was, how controlled, but when we got to our hotel in Reno she said, I’m going out for a bit ok? I was more than happy to go throw up in peace. I knew she was going to go give her nerves a strong scotch. Or two.

When we landed in Canada, there was some hassle about my passport and I sat in the Boundary Bay airport, boiling hot in the wee airplane I was not allowed to leave, while Customs officials figured out whether I was allowed into Canada or not. I had some difficult moments there in that little cockpit, talking to my baby, saying, look, we just about died, this is a cake-walk. We’re in Canada, they can’t turn us back now.

And they didn’t. As we finished the last leg of the trip to the Sunshine Coast, flying over the blue, blue mountains and ocean and sky I cried my eyes out as we neared my home and my family. I still get teary when I sing ‘O Canada’ because I made a huge life decision to come back to my country with my child and I’ve never regretted it for one moment.

It’s been 17 years and both my son and I are living out of our imaginations. And it is pretty beautiful to see.

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Filed under Memoir

What are you worth?

As ever, I always get all hepped up when I read anything by Danielle LaPorte and this morning, sitting on a deck, sun streaming on me, surrounded by flowers, and doves cooing, I am thinking about what I am worth because of her great blog post The Declaration of Deserving. It’s like getting hit in the gut but in a good way. In a wake-the-fuck-up way. As in, this could be your last day of living, so, what is it, what are you, your life, your self, your time, worth exactly?

A lot.

That wasn’t always my answer. I gave over my power to a lot of people who asked for it without earning it. I devalued my own stock by selling it to people who had no care for it, no investment in it, and I certainly never made any money that way I can assure you.

This year really allowed me to see the world in a different way. And I completely altered the course of my life. It is going to appear only to myself, however, on the inside, because the course I have charted is for me alone and in mapping my singular vision, I have found a richness and power I haven’t known before. It was in my own heart, and had lived there all along, waiting for me.

I found my worth on a plane in the middle of the night as I looked out through a tear-stained world at 30,000 feet and said to the person in control of my life, excuse me, I’m taking over. It was like some other part of me just appeared, that had been there all along, waiting to be realized. Like an adult self with super powers. What an immense, powerful feeling and it has never left me nor will it ever. I am deeply grateful for that moment.

This week I had lunch with Ruth Schiller and Gerry Bruck. Now, Ruth and Gerry have the greatest love story ever. They loved each other at a distance for 24 years then at age 78 Ruth went and picked 88 year old Gerry up in Montreal and drove him to her little orchard in Osoyoos where they have now lived together blissfully happy for nearly 10 years.

Ruth knows a lot about self worth. She just oozes it. She has drawers full of incredible jewelry from all over the world that Gerry has given her with a love story and exotic place attached to every single piece. They have a lovely home. They entertain constantly. She’s sharp as a whip; he could be Woody Allen’s dad and clearly is the you-know-what-of-the-walk as five of us women swooned around a 96 year old man.

Ruth is so evolved as a woman that you just kind of think of her like a Jedi knight of feminine power. She admits it too: ‘I am such a powerful woman that the men who have loved me just want me, all the time,  they don’t want anyone else’. Isn’t that adorable? Coming from an 86 year old woman, it just sails through the air like a lovely missive to stand up straight and own your power, as in right now.

The morale of the story? No one has to know your stock price is incredibly high. But you do.

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Filed under Memoir

The Importance of Heroes

Best Friends

I was named after my mom’s best friend, Margaret Mahoney. I did not, however, inherit her great height. Margaret was a second mother to my entire family and came to all of our birthdays, Christmas and Easter dinners, and any other family celebration, which, given we were Irish, must have kept her dance card quite full. She was the younger sister of my mom’s best friend growing up and it just evolved into a bit of an odd-ball friendship, with my mom at 5 foot maybe 4 inches and Margaret towering near 6 feet tall, and opposites in every imaginable way. My mom had 11 children, Margaret chose not to marry or have children; Margaret was a career woman with her own income, my mom was dependent on my dad’s earnings entirely; Margaret didn’t smoke, my mom smoked like a dock worker; nevertheless, they were two peas in a pod for over 65 years.

Growing up, I mostly played in the dirt. Literally. With cars. Climbing trees higher than the boys could. Building forts. Biking over jumps. Losing at Kick the Can. Running topless like a jungle child barefoot down dusty back lanes. I had no Barbie, or dollhouse, or girlie pillows, shoes, bows or barrettes. But every few months, my mom sent me for a sleepover at her best friend’s house and I had to bathe and dress nicely before going.

I will never forget the first time I slept over at Margaret Mahoney’s Kitsilano penthouse suite. I must have been about 4 years old.

In those days, they didn’t have elevators for these places along Kits beach, and as I went up the stairs carrying a plastic Woodward’s bag with my things, I thought I had entered the most glamorous world possible. I touched the rounded, wrought-iron banister, and felt the soft, cushioned carpet below me in a rich red that seemed to go on forever. When Margaret opened the door, I was momentarily blinded, the sun streaming in through a wall of windows, the cream coloured carpet, the white pillows, the teal blue couch, white walls, all so…clean…it felt like I had entered an alternate universe.

Margaret smiled broadly and invited me out onto her rooftop garden and patio. On a hill, blocks up from Kits Beach, the view took in all that was fabulous about Vancouver in the early 70’s. The expanse of mountains, the twinkling blue English Bay, the spattering of buildings downtown, and the roiling, bustling beach below. Margaret mixed a few drinks and brought them out. I don’t know what it was that I drank, some fancy Shirley Temple ‘mocktail’, but I will never forget it touching my taste buds, the sun on my shoulders, the perfection of her garden, the buzzing of cars below along Point Grey Road, the way the planters lined up, like behaved little deities of taste, waiting for Margaret to faithfully water them at dusk.

We ate outside, at her little table, and then had dessert, while on the couch! I’d never in my life seen such a thing, but it felt so grown up, and the way things should be, our cloth napkins draped elegantly over our laps, the sun setting, shadows in long streaks across the apartment, as I scooped up rich chocolate and decadent whipped cream out of a delicate china bowl. Please God never let this moment end, was all I could think of in my four-year old besotted mind.

In her bathroom, there were tiny perfume bottles all lined up on a silver tray and I picked each one up, lifted it to the round lightbulbs that ran across the top of the bathroom like an actress’ dressing room, and memorized the names. Nina Ricci. Dior. Yves St. Laurent. Chanel. I was given my own room to sleep in, by myself, and the couch that served as my bed was ten times more soft than my bed at home and the covers felt like kittens fur and the pillows took my head and kissed it all around.

“Now, here is the clicker dear, you can watch television for as long as you like, just turn it off when you feel ready for bed.”

“I can change the channels from the couch?” I asked incredulously.

“Yes dear, of course you can! That is what you can do here when you stay with me–change the channels from your bed.” Margaret smiled lovingly and kissed me on the top of my head and left the control in my tiny hands.

That night, with the sound of the alley outside my open window, I pressed on the buttons that went cathunk and can still recall that the sound of the channel changing was the most magical thing I’d ever heard, miraculously opening to worlds I had only dreamt of. I can’t remember turning the television off that night on my first sleepover at Margaret’s, only the feeling of having arrived at nirvana, the portal to a world that resembled nothing of where I’d come from but everything of where I wanted to go.

Margaret Mahoney was my hero.


Filed under Memoir