When I’m Dead – the journey

When Im Dead-Vesta-Final-2pages2 (002) cover art sm 2

March 29, 2018

It’s been a little over a year since I was sick at home with bronchitis and decided I had to write a short film script about something that happened with a late friend and her mother. Fast forward through a year of grieving the loss of my friend and trying to get this project off the ground.

It was a year of applying for a huge grant and in the process meeting a great producer who I hope to work with in the future, discovering how to write a grant application and a budget, casting two amazing people to star in my film, and being devastated and then actually relieved that we didn’t get the grant. The timing wasn’t write and it would have been rushed.

At the time I wondered if we would get to make the film at all. I was at the end of something and I didn’t know what direction to take. I didn’t know where the new beginning started. This was September, 2017. I had no idea how, or if, I would be able to make this 10 minute film that meant so much to me.

Then, on a cool fall day I went for a bike ride to the lookout at Stake Lake. This was where I wanted to shoot part of the film. It’s a place with memories, and a place where I can think. After long rolling hills and a steep uphill, the lookout is on a plateau with short winding tree-lined trails that open up to an expansive view of Lac Le Jeune. The winding trail is flat with tight curves that weave through the trees. As I was riding I heard a loud whooshing noise beside me. I looked, and there was a Great Grey Owl flying at my eye level right next to me. I was astounded. It pulled ahead of me and soared along the path, gracefully tilting as it took the curves. Then, still stunned, I heard another noise behind me and there was a second owl. It followed the path of the first ahead of me and then both rose up to the tree tops and disappeared. Right then I arrived at the lookout and the view hit me. Owls have always been special to me. I don’t see them very often, but when I do I pay attention. To me they always seem to indicate big moments that make me pay attention to where I am. Standing at the lookout I knew I would make this project happen. I had no idea how, but I knew I had to do it.

In October I went to the Vancouver International Film Festival’s Totally Indie Day and heard Jonas Woost, (Executive Producer, Telus Original Content & STORYHIVE), talk about the Storyhive granting program and I suddenly realized I might qualify for a Storyhive grant. They are a lot of work, (making pitch videos, etc.) and the grant amount of $10,000 wouldn’t be enough to completely make the film, but it would go a long way.


Nolan McAllister and Amanda Cowell helping me with the pitch video.

After that I talked to local people who might be interested in helping me make the film. Suddenly I have a talented cast and crew and a huge cheering squad.

So, here we are. Our pitch is in for the Storyhive Digital Shorts edition and voting will be happening between April 3 – 6. Either way we are shooting in early May. We have a small window of opportunity when our dream cast and most of our dream crew are available to shoot for 3 days. We have to make it work. We will need to do some crowdfunding to cover things like equipment rental (if we don’t get the Storyhive grant), and making sure people get paid and fed if we do get it. I’ve decided to document the process here. I’ll keep a bit of a journal about the entire production process. We are shooting in a little over a month and there is so much to do!

Wish us luck!

50 Crazy Things in my 50th Year #15 – Beat the Blerch – Get out of control


This may not seem like a big deal to some, but it is a huge deal to me.

I am always the person who organizes, plans, controls. I don’t always want to be but often that’s the role I fall into and I do it fairly willingly. When something needs to be organized, the people I am with often look to me. I used to resist this, but I often end up with this attitude of, “I’ll do it because nobody else will.” That’s probably not true, but that’s the way it feels.

Lately, having started running with Jody Lenarcic and her wonderful husband, Gerry. I have been given the opportunity to let go of control a bit and it’s been quite liberating. Gerry is also an organizer, and when we run he picks our route and makes sure we don’t get lost on the trails. It felt a bit weird at first, but now it’s a lot easier. We run in the Lac Du Bois Grasslands area just above Bachelor Heights in Kamloops. There is an extensive trail network for runners and mountain bikers and this area is right above where Jody and Gerry live.

It feels a bit alarming but even though I’m pretty famous for memorizing landmarks and trails, I would have a hard time running in that area by myself. In the past year I’ve ceded control to Gerry when it comes to trail choice and making sure I don’t get lost.

We decided to do the Beat the Blerch 10K run in Seattle. The run itself is fantastic – one of the best I’ve ever done. It’s the brainchild of a writer and cartoonist known as The Oatmeal (Matthew Inman). He wrote an essay / book called The terrible and wonderful reasons why I run long distances. In it he describes a creature called the Blerch – that voice in your head that tries to stop you from bothering to reach your goals. The idea is that the Blerch is always chasing you, trying to get you to succumb to laziness and excuses. The goal of any runner on any run is to literally beat the Blerch and not let it catch them. For this race, there are live guys dressed as Blerches chasing you on the course, there is a couch for you to rest on, magical fizzy grape juice and cake at the water station, and lots of people in costume. It was our first time at this event and it was outstanding. We will definitely be doing it again.

The crazy part of this trip, however, was only partially the race itself. It was the fact that I consciously, and deliberately, let go of control and refused to let myself organize anything. We had an entire weekend just outside Seattle and I organized nothing. I felt a bit panicked and out of control… like I was going to forget something, or be surprised by something, the whole time. Well, I was surprised… by a lot of things.

When I think about signing up for any race I always look at past results to see roughly where I would finish. I deliberately don’t do small events where I would likely finish last and they would be waiting for me to finish… memories of high school. I usually choose bigger events where I will likely finish somewhere in the middle.

For this event, I refused to let myself look at past results. Instead, I looked at all the fun we could have. Jody and I don’t run fast but we do like to have fun.

I also gave up all control – hotel, transportation, restaurants, etc… all of it… to Gerry and everyone else. There were 5 of us and I controlled nothing the entire weekend. I thought I was going to have a heart attack but I did it. Gerry picked the hotel and reserved it, I jumped into the backseat of their truck and took on the role of passenger. Diane and Catherine met us at the hotel. Right now I can’t even remember which hotel it was… this is astonishing for me!

I think it’s generally a good thing that I’m usually the organizer, but I think it’s good to not do it every once in a while too. The biggest thing I had to learn was to just let it happen, enjoy the process, and embrace the surprises that came my way when I wasn’t so busy making things happen.

We left on the Saturday and the run was on the Sunday. We were staying on the edge of Kirkland, WA (home of Costco) and all of my travel companions decided we would go down to Lake Washington to find a restaurant for dinner. Catherine had been there before. I was along for the ride and agreed to go anywhere. It turns out the waterfront area of Kirkland is spectacular and we were treated to a good dinner, and a fantastic walk after where we enjoyed one of the most amazing sunsets I’ve ever seen. I took hundreds of pictures. We walked along the dock area looking at all the boats, enjoyed the amazing array of street performers and public sculptures, and just had a wonderful time together. I probably would have looked for a restaurant close to the hotel and I’m so glad for the surprises we enjoyed that evening.



This sculpture of kids playing Red Rover was too tempting – Gerry had to play.


The next day we went to the start area, which was somewhere in the country (??? no idea where) – I didn’t actually memorize the map of the area like I had before.

It was pouring rain and beautiful. Jody and I didn’t have a spectacular run – we hadn’t trained as much as we would have liked and the humidity nearly did me in. We didn’t finish last – I think we were somewhere in the middle. I don’t really know because to this day I haven’t looked at the results. I know I had a great time, and I know my time probably wasn’t great… if that makes sense!

When Amanda and I went to Florida in February I also gave control to her for the Disney World portion of our trip, and with good reason, she’s a Disney freak and possibly even more of an organizer than I am. She was brilliant! If you are thinking of a trip to Disneyland, check out her new blog Call Me Sweetness. I was in charge of our Universal day, however, so I still had some organizational responsibilities. It turns out they didn’t work out so well and we had to improvise… but no matter.

Why was this crazy?

We all have roles in our lives that we are comfortably, or uncomfortably, slotted into. These are the roles we are expected to fall into when we are with our friends, family, coworkers, etc. I am always the responsible one… it’s who I am. Choosing to not be that person, while not being irresponsible, was definitely out of my comfort zone.

Would I do it again?

Oh yeah! Not only does it make me try on and embrace a different role, it was unbelievably liberating. I felt like I was floating, often without direction, and going where the wind, or the people I was with, decided to take me. It’s a good thing to practice. It was definitely uncomfortable, but I just had to trust the people I was with and learning to do that is a very good thing as well.

50 Crazy Things in my 50th Year – Thing #2 – Ride the Rides

Seven Dwarves Mine Train

Amanda and I in the back on the Seven Dwarves Mine Train – Hi Ho!

To accomplish Crazy Thing #2 – I had to ride an insane roller coaster without throwing up on Amanda Cowell.

For those who don’t know me well, you may not know that I have a long and storied history with motion sickness. I have been car sick for my entire life and proudly get to claim the shotgun seat whenever we go geocaching or in any car ride. The back seat is deadly. Sitting backwards on a bus, sometimes even sideways, can also do me in. I have thrown up kayaking in the ocean, on a sailboat, and even in a stunt plane when I was writing a magazine article on Air Combat Canada. For that particular incident there is video evidence – from three different camera vantage points. The plane I was in had just done several loops and corkscrews. Motion sickness stops me from participating in and enjoying parts of my life and I want it to stop. Therefore, it is crazy of me to go to two theme parks (Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando), and ride high speed ridiculous rides that go upside down and corkscrew, and not throw up on my friend Amanda Cowell. When I told her this would be one of my crazy things, she was totally supportive of me – particularly the part about not throwing up on her.

First we tested my stomach at Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom. I already knew from experience that rides like The Seven Dwarves Mine Train and Big Thunder Mountain Railway wouldn’t bother me at all and they were a good way to get me warmed up for what was to come later. I love those rides and I would do them again and again.

Space Mountain –  I was a bit more leery about but I did fine. The guy behind us,

Amanda, Me, and a dead guy

Amanda, Me, and a dead guy

however, looks like the ride actually killed him. I was pretty shocked when we got the pictures back.

Oh, and not a crazy ride but it was freezing cold at night and Amanda convinced me Splash Mountain would be a really good thing to do. Not! She told me they turn the water down when it gets cold… you’re floating in it… how can they ‘turn it down’???? She also told me it was Magical Disney Water and that I wouldn’t get wet… Not! If someone tells you about Magical Disney Water and how you don’t get wet… don’t believe them!!!!! Note in the picture the lack of people on the ride! The guy at the back is probably saying, “Look at me! I’m still dry!”

Me and Amanda - is that Magical Disney Water?

Me and Amanda – is that Magical Disney Water?

Later in our trip, at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, I was surprised by the ride that almost got me. Star Tours, a 3D motion-simulated space flight based on Star Wars, actually made my stomach do a couple of flips and my head was spinning at the end. I don’t have much of a problem in 3D movies so this was a surprise.

Let me just mention here that Amanda planned the Disney portion of our trip and she was amazing. She had pages and pages of trivia facts, all of our reservations and fast passes organized, and all I had to do was follow her and show up. I intentionally didn’t read up on rides so they would be a surprise.


OK, now things are starting to get serious!

After Star Wars, things started to get a bit more serious in the ride department. After I had some serious doubts, I agreed to go on the Rock N’ Rollercoaster – a slightly, actually seriously cheesy ride featuring the music of Aerosmith. I’ve never been a huge Aerosmith fan but the soundtrack actually added to the ride. The super painful-to-watch video ahead of time with the band was agonizing but thankfully doesn’t last long. The idea of the ride is you’re racing in a stretch limo through the streets of Los Angeles, trying to get to an Aerosmith concert…. whatever!

Reading up on the ride afterwards I discovered that in the beginning it launches you from 0-60 mph in 2.8 seconds. I believe this whole heartedly. Most of the ride is in the dark so you don’t know when turns or drops are coming. Apparently Los Angeles has some very steep hills and tight corners on their roads. I also discovered that Aerosmith fans who want to see the video (really?) but are too scared to do the ride will bail out in the “Chicken Exit” right before the boarding platform. Amanda never mentioned a Chicken Exit!!!!! The end result, however, is I survived and was able to walk off the ride without assistance.

Tower of Terror

For the Tower of Terror I used my biceps of steel!

During our day in Disney’s Hollywood Studios, the sound of sporadic screaming filled the air from one particular direction. The screams originated at the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror. I knew exactly what was coming with this ride. I seriously considered not doing it because the sense of falling is one of my all-time worst fears. Therefore I am testing it several times in the course of my 50 Crazy Things. Therefore, the Chicken Exit was not an option.

Essentially this ride takes you into a Twilight Zone episode with a runaway elevator. The elevator randomly climbs, drops random numbers of floors, and opens onto the park or stars, or you never know what is coming. It’s never the same ride twice. Once was enough for me. I sat on the right hand side of the elevator and I was extremely grateful I had spent so much time weightlifting in recent months. I gripped the side hand bar and the bar between Amanda and I and NOTHING was going to lift me out of that seat! After the ride my right arm was almost numb and I could hardly move it. In researching the ride after, I discovered that the elevator falls faster than a freefall because it is motor assisted – lovely! Again, I survived, and contributed a great deal to that screaming noise that falls over the park like a chilling rain. Would I ride it again? Yup!

Expedition Everest

Expedition Everest – Amanda’s grin comes from knowing what comes next…

In Disney’s Animal Kingdom, which was one of my favourite parks, the big thrill ride was definitely Expedition Everest. Again, I considered bailing out when I read the warnings on the signs. But I didn’t fly across the continent to bail out on anything, so on I went. I loved the story of the ride, which is searching for the Yeti in the Himalayas. Amanda had a particularly huge grin on her face when we were in the line-up. Looking back I should have been more suspicious of this. When we got to the front and she specifically asked that we be in the front of the car, I should have been REALLY suspicious. But no, I had this Disney glow that made me trust her completely. So we get on, and it’s a train like Big Thunder Mountain or the Seven Dwarves Mine Train. No big deal, right? NOT! On spots I expected it to go super fast it crept along, barely moving, and then shot ahead when I didn’t expect it. Then, we came to the top of a hill and saw that the track was broken off and twisted. It just ended. We hung there for a moment, and I remember saying to Amanda, “Oh no, I know where this is going!” She just smiled. Then we shot through the whole bloody ride backwards!

If you have a short memory read the first paragraph of this blog post again – the part that talks about how I never ever ride backwards! To make it worse, I watched as the track actually rotated, so the path we took next was not the path we had originally taken! I discovered after that Expedition Everest only reaches the tame speeds of 50 mph – that’s like 1,000 mph when you’re moving backwards! Again, I survived. Would I do it again… absolutely!

This concludes the Disney portion of this blog post. Next up we’ll see if my Crazy Thing is accomplished!

Welcome to Universal Orlando!

When we arrived at Universal, before we even went in the gate we saw a movie sign that advertised 50 Shades of Grey in IMAX 3D – that would have seriously made me ill!

But, I digress. I’d like you to meet my new friend… Bonine! All the blogs I read for coaster riders with weak stomachs recommended Bonine and my friend Sara Campbell was nice enough to pick some up for me on a trip to the US. I didn’t get a chance to do a drug trial ahead of time so I had to just pray, for both my and Amanda’s sakes, that it worked. I considered recommending she have one of those rain ponchos on just in case but I didn’t – no chicken exit here! I planned to do rides like the Hulk, Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit, the Mummy, etc., so they could fulfill my Crazy Thing criteria but I enjoyed the two Harry Potter parks so much I stayed in the world of Hogsmeade and Daigon Alley while Amanda went and rode as a solo rider. Her report on returning was that these rides were more than even she expected. Good instincts Vesta!

Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey

Amanda looks terrified, I look deranged, we both thought it was so awesome we jumped back on and rode again!

It turns out that one of the rides in Hogsmeade more than met my criteria. First off, though, we raced onto Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. After winding our way through Hogwarts (brilliant line distraction!), we got on and thoroughly enjoyed this unique roller coaster / 3D combination ride. It was so awesome we raced off it and ran around and joined the single rider line to do it again. Would I do it again?… duh!

Next we did The Flight of the Hippogriff. This was a great little roller coaster but ridiculously short – and you know it’s short if I noticed it! Would I do it again? Probably, if the line wasn’t too long.

Finally, we did the big one – The Dragon Challenge. I knew if I did this one I didn’t have to do any more and I could happily go have lunch at the Three Broomsticks. Going through the line-up was a bit of a fog for me. I vaguely remembered some of the cool things, like the Tri-Wizard Cup, when I looked at some of the Youtube videos of the ride, but really, my head was spinning before I got to the loading platform.

The deal with this ride is that it’s two dragons – a red Chinese Fireball and a blue Hungarian Horntail. You pick one or the other, and they leave at the same time, almost colliding in places. It’s the first roller coaster I’ve ridden that is suspended from the track instead of riding in a car on the track. It does loops and corkscrews, and it’s freaking scary. I maybe shouldn’t have watched it before we got in line. When we got to the loading platform I was pretty close to vomiting already. Amanda let me pick which one I wanted and I chose the blue Hungarian Horntail – I thought blue might be a bit calmer and it turns out it is! The staff person on the platform saw my “I’m celebrating a birthday” button and let us pick where we wanted to sit. I just said, “Not the front!” I think he was disappointed.

For the rest of the ride, I can honestly say I had an out of body experience. I closed my eyes for the whole thing, and just stayed in a very zen-like, almost meditative state. It was sooo weird! I could hear screaming all around me and at one point I actually had the capacity to think, “I wonder if we’re upside down right now?” Maybe this approach was a version of the Chicken Exit, but I’m still counting it as a win. I was able to get off the ride under my own power. I staggered a bit going down the ramp, and I didn’t throw up on Amanda, or anyone! Win! Unfortunately, neither of us thought to take a survivor selfie. This is one of the few rides where they don’t take your picture, which totally pisses me off! Would I ride it again? Not sure.

My after research tells me that the Chinese Fireball dragon reaches a top speed of 60 mph, and the Hungarian Horntail dragon reaches a top speed of 55 mph. Both rides feature five inversions. I had to actually watch the Youtube videos to see what I went through.

Rip Saw Falls

On Dudley DooRite’s RipSaw Falls – No Magical Disney Water here!

For a little payback I still had a fresh rain poncho in my bag and Amanda and I decided to catch one last ride – Dudley Doo Rite’s Ripsaw Falls – before going out to a nice dinner at Emeril’s. Magical Universal Water? She got much more wet than I did, although my toes were squishy with water.

Crazy Thing #2 Complete!

I have discovered a few things in this quest to limit my stomach from running my life. First is thinking about the ride (ie the Dragon Challenge) is possibly worse than the ride itself. Also, just do it… what’s a little vomit? And finally, if you want to know about any ride ahead of time just google it. There are lots of people riding rides with Go-Pro cameras who are posting excellent videos of the experience. Finally, have fun, and find someone awesome like Amanda to have fun with!

50 Crazy Things – Crazy Thing #1 – Run the Disney Princess Half Marathon

YKA Ready for takeoff!

With Amanda at the Kamloops Airport (YKA) ready to leave on our adventure!

Here it is. My 50 Crazy Things in My 50th year has begun. I, very much a non-Disney Princess, ran the Disney Princess Half Marathon at Disneyworld on February 22, 2014 – just two days before my 49th birthday. When I thought of it, it was the craziest thing I could think of doing. I was in a bit of a funk, annoyed that I was going to turn 50 next year and feeling like I’m not what I imagined 50 to look or feel like. I feel like I’m in my 30’s, in the prime of my life, like I have everything ahead of me. I needed to get out of the rut I was building around myself, the habits that were easy, making my life smaller

Oh yeah, Princess Vesta is real!

Oh yeah, Princess Vesta is real!

and smaller instead of growing bigger. When I told one of my library patrons, who is in her sixties, what I was doing she said I should do 50 Crazy Things in My 50th year to celebrate and hit that number head on instead of cowering from it. So, here I am. I am doing 50 crazy things that will help me get over fears and self-imposed limitations that keep me from living life 100 per cent. Some seem really easy and some are really hard, but all of them are designed to get me back in the game.

 It all started when…

Pinterest - Am I really going to run a marathon?

Amanda surprised me be decorating our window with images from the insane Pinterest board we used to plan the trip. I loved it!

All of this thinking started in the spring of 2014. I was drinking wine and surfing Pinterest, never a good combo, and I started coming across running costumes for races. I started randomly sending the Disney ones to my friend, Amanda, who loves Disney and had never run a step in her adult life. Long story short, she finally started talking to me again and then said, sure, let’s go for it.

We registered, a bit of a miracle there as it sold out in six hours, and then we started making plans that culminated in not only the run, but 5 days away from home, 3 days in Walt Disney World and one in Universal Orlando. I realized I hadn’t been to the United States in probably twenty years, and I hadn’t even been on a plan in six years. This trip was long overdue for me, even if it was to just shake things up a bit.

We had a great time staying at Disney’s Art of Animation Resort, in an Ariel Room as a tribute to the fact that I was running as Ariel from the Little Mermaid. Amanda was running as Rapunzel.

Run wise – it sucked! I’ve felt much better during other half marathons – the time change, humidity, and crowds did me in, and the hip and foot injuries I had didn’t help. Aside from that, though, this was an extraordinary experience for me.

Why was this crazy?

Running out of the castle.

Ariel and Rapunzel coming out of Cinderella’s Castle – who gets to do that????

Although I used to travel when I was younger, I haven’t done anything different for a really long time. I hadn’t been on an airplane in about six years, and I hadn’t been to the states in about twenty years. This was the furthest east (in North America) and the furthest south I’ve ever been. I can’t remember the last time I did something that was just for me. The biggest thing was I said I wanted to do something… and I did it! This is me reclaiming my adventuresome spirit. I know my plans have inspired other people to try new things and step out of their comfort zones.

Huge thanks to Amanda Cowell for taking up the challenge, running her first half marathon, and planning the Disney part of our trip perfectly. I know it was an adventure for her too.

Check out our gallery for more pictures from our Disney adventure.

Oh yeah, we rocked it!

Oh yeah, we rocked it!