Tuesday, March 31, 2009

In bloom

They don't agonize over their calling, asking endless questions like "was I meant to be an iris or a rose? Perhaps I've missed my true destiny and I should have become a lilac bush."

They never worry "does this shade of hot pink make my stem look fat? Does this purple match with this pink? Will it make people stare at me if I mix colours?"

They simply burst forth in bold, raucous colours.

Sometimes I envy the flowers.

Photos taken at the conservatory in Toronto. No, we're not even close to seeing blooms around here yet.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Two for two!

We have another city champ in our house!
At the end of an exciting come-from-behind season, Julie's team emerged victorious! What a week it's been!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Making the best of it

Even though the course is less than stellar, and I will not walk away with great inspirations about being a better leader to a remote team (like I'd hoped), I am still thankful for:
- a lovely conversation over pork chops and steak with a kindred spirit and fairly new friend
- an evening walk in the drizzly rain
- the B&B host who brings me tea while I'm sitting at the computer
- the two people I share breakfast with - the business man with a heart of gold, and the Spanish girl studying English as a second language
- the realization that I am a better leader than I thought because I already know most of the stuff I'm here to learn
- a wander in Kensington Market complete with a bowl of veg curry at the funky Urban Herbivore
- dim sum with one of my oldest (by that I mean "longest") friends in the world
- the a-ha moment when I realized that I could do a better job of facilitating this workshop than the person who's getting paid big bucks to do it
- an hour to waste time in Timbuktu, one of my favourite stores EVER
- an evening with a bottle of wine, two blue wine glasses, Wallace and Gromit, some cheap snacks, and my friend Laurel
- some funky doodle art - the only thing I seem to be accomplishing at the workshop
- thankfulness that I don't have to make decisions like "whether to do off-shore outsourcing", like one section of the workshop is teaching and like so many in the course have to do
- wandering into a Chinese bakery for a pastry and cup of tea, and realizing I've stumbled on the Chinese version of Cheers in the heart of Chinatown
- an hour in a comfy chair in front of a big window on the second floor of a bookstore
- wandering through the conservatory and breathing deeply of the many smells of green
- subways, cable cars, people watching, hustling, bustling downtown urban life
- birds on a wire, and other photo-worthy moments
- time to write, time to zone out in front of a television, time to wander
- watching a great movie all by myself in a cheap theatre
- looking forward to going home to my family

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Living the dream. Sort of.

For as long as I can remember, I've had this little fantasy. I'm on an airplane. I look over and spot someone reading a book or an article I've written. I lean over and ask them how they enjoy it and they wax poetic about the amazing writing before they spot my picture on the back of the book (or next to the article) and realize I wrote it.

It was one of those little stories I used to tell myself when I'd imagine what it would be like to be a REAL writer.

Though it wasn't fully realized, that little dream came very close to coming true today. Several people were reading the Globe on the plane, and though I never spotted anyone reading my piece, I'm just going to let myself believe that they were reading it while I was catching a little shut-eye. Heck, I can even imagine that the guy sitting next to me wasn't listening to the new U2 album on his iPod, but instead had downloaded the podcast so he wouldn't miss one scintillating moment! Smile.

Monday, March 23, 2009

One down, one to go

In a nail-biter that went into double overtime (and caused a few stress ulcers for the parents in the stands), Nikki's team emerged with the city championship!

More excitement

After the excitement of last week's birthday and awards luncheon, we have even more excitement to look forward to this week. After a tense semi-final game on Saturday, Julie's indoor soccer team made it into the finals. Nikki's team had already made it, so this week, both teams will be playing for the city championships! Nikki's game is tonight, and Julie's is on Friday.

At first it looked like I would have to miss Julie's game because of a flight home from Toronto, but I managed to change my flight (and am sacrificing the last few hours of the course I'm taking) just for the privilege of being soccer mom at the biggest game of her life (so far)! After living through Saturday's game, though, I don't know if my heart can take it. (Before becoming a parent, did YOU know just how emotionally involved a parent can get from the sidelines? It's not just me, is it? Sheesh!) It turns out that 2 teams from the same club made it into the U11 finals, so Julie will have the pleasure of playing against her best friend (and several other kids she's played with in the past). I asked her if they'd be on speaking terms all week at school and she didn't seem too concerned.

By the way, I have a little free time in Toronto this week (and a couple of the people I'd wanted to get together with are away), so if anyone is in that area and is dying to hook up with me, let me know!

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Yay! Spring is here!

Normally I like living in a place with 4 distinct seasons, but after living through a long hard winter, my tolerance has definitely been tested. Spring couldn't have come soon enough.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

A big day

It's a big day in our house today.

Maddie had a birthday...

And I got my award...
For those of you who are dying to see what a cheapskate can buy for under $65 (shoes and jewelery included)...
It was a lovely day, all in all. My presentation went smashingly well (despite the HUGE pressure of presenting in front of a room full of professional communicators), there were no technical glitches with the multi-media part of the presentation, and Maddie was happy with her pink cupcakes.
(I think I deserve Supermom of the Year award, too, for pulling off made-from-scratch cupcakes with pink icing AND sparkles for her whole grade 1 class! It's probably a little guilt, though, for being in India over her 6th birthday. Oops - guess I just lost Supermom status.)

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Short thoughts

Everything is easier to take when Spring arrives.

I have to go buy panty hose – the first I’ve bought in years.

I need rubber boots so that I can splash in puddles with Maddie.

Both Nikki’s and Julie’s soccer teams are in the running for city championships.

I’m tired of having a drippy nose.

There are few foods more perfect than the cashew.

Sometimes I have trouble deciding what I believe.

I have failed at my attempt to take a photograph every day.

I'm craving candy.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

In which I have the last laugh

Alternate title: Not only am I communicator of the year, but as of today, I am SHOPPER OF THE YEAR! Oh yeah!

Designer jacket (Nygard!) at thrift store: 7.99
Short sleeved sweater to wear underneath: 3.99 (thrift store)
Designer skirt at Winners: 24.99
Fancy shoes that almost meet my daughter's fashion standards: 6.99 (thrift store!)
Fair trade jewelery from Ten Thousand Villages: $20.00

Joy it gives me to have a whole "new" outfit that looks classy and put together (and makes my husband think I'm hot), AND fits within my "recycled, re-used, and/or fair trade" personal preference, for under $65: PRICELESS!

I actually really TRIED to get something snazzy and new and possibly even expensive for a change, but after 4 stores, I could fine absolutely nothing of interest. A quick stop at a thrift store, and I had almost the whole outfit. I'm still smiling.

And the best part? I didn't even have that oh-I'm-so-depressed-about-clothes-shopping-I-need-cheesecake moment. Today's lovely weather definitely helped the mood.

Note: photos to follow after I get a haircut and my nose is a little less red and raw from this blasted cold.

Friday, March 13, 2009


I’ve been thinking about blessings lately. How do we bless each other? (I like the Wikipedia definition of blessing – “the infusion of something with holiness, divine will, or one's hopes”.) I think by offering words of encouragement, congratulations, comfort and hope, we offer each other our blessings. Sometimes it’s as simple as “have a nice day” or “hope your trip goes well”.

I’ve been lucky enough to receive a lot of blessings lately, and I definitely feel blessed by it all. Some of those blessings are coming from you, my blog friends (and in-person friends who read this blog). More and more people are learning of my upcoming award and so lots of people are calling or sending notes to say “way to go”, “you’ve done well”, or “you deserve it”. I appreciate and cherish each and every one of these little gifts and I am reminded that I need to make sure that I bless other people as often as I am blessed by them.

But sometimes blessings come with a catch. Sometimes there’s a little baggage attached, or a cryptic underhanded dig, and then the blessing can become null and void. Like, for example, “congratulations, kiddo!” Ummm… kiddo? I’m a 42 year old professional and haven’t been a “kiddo” for many, many years. Even though you’re a few years older and you were at one time my superior, doesn’t mean that I forever remain a “kiddo”. Or “I guess you’ve arrived now” said with a hint of bitterness and disdain. No, I haven’t “arrived”, but by saying so are you implying that this distinction has created a divide between you and me?

There’s also the notable silence from the people whose blessing your inner child craves. The people whose standards you’ve tried to live up to and have felt yourself failing again and again. The people who’ve intimidated you or made you feel insecure. Though you try not to let it happen, sometimes their silence speaks louder than the dozens of encouraging words from the other people in your life.

What kind of blessings have been meaningful to you lately? What kind have fallen short? I want to know, so that I make sure to offer the kind of blessings people will cherish.

In the meantime, I'm riding the wave of your blessings as I prepare my acceptance speech for next week.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Growing into leadership (chapter 6 of the "fearless" series)

(This is part of my "fearless" journey. Earlier posts can be found here, here, here, here, and here.)

I’ve been thinking a lot about leadership lately. I had a great (though way too short) conversation with my friend Susan yesterday about what it takes to be an authentic leader. Susan was my boss several years ago and has been my friend ever since. (She told me that the day I walked in for the interview, she knew almost instantly that we would be kindred spirits and that she HAD to hire me.) Now we’re both bosses (in different organizations) and struggling with many of the same issues.

Susan and I have had similar experiences recently where we discovered that sometimes, to be good leaders, we have to take a big risk and allow ourselves to be vulnerable and exposed. Vulnerability is not normally associated with strong leadership. In fact, when we become leaders, we assume that our role is and will always be to be the strong one in the group. After all, a leader shouldn’t let weakness show, should they?

But sometimes, our greatest break-through comes the moment we admit to our team “I don’t have this all figured out” and then ask “can you help me?” After a long and often difficult road with my team in the last few years, that’s what eventually worked for me back in January. I had to be willing to say “look – this isn’t working and I feel like I have failed because I've tried everything and I no longer have any idea how to make it work” before they softened their stances and finally contributed meaningful ideas to an otherwise rather stagnant circle. It was a risk (because admitting my weakness opened the door for them to point out even more weaknesses), but it was worth it in the end.

It’s kind of counter-intuitive, but there’s wisdom to it, and I have to keep learning and re-learning it. Admitting weakness can be the most effective way to open the door to strength. (Rather biblical, isn’t it?)

Monday, March 09, 2009

Let's go back to ME!

I took a sick day today. I think my body is just plain worn out. At first I was just going to sleep a little longer than usual and then go in to work late, but I rolled over in bed (after calling the office) and the next thing I knew, I woke up and it was after 10:00. I don't know when I've ever slept that late, but clearly I needed it. I'm awake now, but still feeling pretty groggy and worn out and a little achey, so I'll just spend the day in rest mode.

There are some fun and exciting things happening these days, and maybe it's taking a toll on my energy level. Today in the Winnipeg Free Press, I was named as a "Manitoba Mover" because of my award. Really? Me? A mover and a shaker? Wow! I'm certainly not feeling much like a "mover" today! And on every other day? Well, mostly I just feel like I'm doing my job the way I'm supposed to be doing it and not a whole lot differently from the way other people in similar positions are doing their jobs. I'm trying to write my speech for the gala luncheon (they want me to talk about some of the unique and successful ways I've communicated), and I'm having trouble figuring out what I do that might be noteworthy.

I'm also preparing to speak at this conference in Toronto in June. I've done lots of speaking engagements in the past, but this is the first time I'll be flown in to be a conference speaker at a North America-wide conference. It feels like I'm "kickin' it up a notch" so to speak.

I'm on a little high of excitement over all of this. Unlike many people who say they fear death less than speaking in public, I actually really, really enjoy public speaking and I've been wanting to do more of it. It gives me really great energy and confidence - at least when I feel like I have something worth sharing. I especially love it when people come up afterward to engage me in conversation because something I said really stuck with them and they just felt the need to explore it more with me.

When I started this year out with "fearlessness" as my theme (which, I realize, should probably be "courage" rather than fearlessness, since it's more about moving through the fear than abolishing it altogether), I tried to be honest with myself about what things I wanted to do more of if I had the courage to ask for the opportunities. Public speaking was one of those things. I admitted it to myself (and to god), and then the opportunities started to show up without me having to look for them.

But there's a down side to all of this, of course. It's the expectations and new "standard of excellence" I'm setting up for myself. How do you top "communicator of the year"? Do I now have to become "communicator of the decade" to feel like I've arrived?

When I sent out the press release about my award, one of the board members said, jokingly, that they'd be expecting even more from me now... and that's what I'm afraid of. What does "more" look like? And what if everything I try this year is a miserable failure? What will people think of me then?

For now, though, I'll try not to worry about all that and instead, bask in the glow of the moment. For starters, I'm going to have a hot bath and listen to some good music...

Friday, March 06, 2009

Okay, enough about me

A few random things that aren’t quite as self-centred as the last few posts have been…

1. I have become a little obsessed with desire to see this film. I was already fascinated with it months ago when I first heard about it, but now have become even more so after hosting a strong and passionate Liberian woman in my home. It costs about $300 to host a community showing of the film. This morning it occurred to me that I could probably rally enough interested women to make it worthwhile ordering a copy and planning an event. Anyone interested in joining me?

2. I want to believe in “innocent until proven guilty”, but if he is indeed guilty, I sincerely hope Rihanna has the sense and strength to walk away from Chris Brown. I don’t normally care much about the “lifestyles of the rich and famous”, but my impressionable daughters care a little too much, and they need to know that it is NOT OKAY for a man to beat a woman and then for a woman to walk back into the situation (unless he gets some good help and is truly reformed).

3. Every fibre of my being is longing for Spring! It is not healthy for me right now to be visiting blogs of people who live in places where grass is starting to grow and buds are bursting out all over. If you post pictures like that, I may have to ignore you for a month or so until it happens here.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Alert the presses!

I've sent out alot of press releases in my career, but this is the first time there's one about me!

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Can somebody dress me please?

I’m not very good at dressing myself. Oh I’m fairly competent at pulling on pants and doing up my bra strap, but when it comes to picking clothes that actually look good on me and make me feel like a well-dressed, confident woman, I fall a little short in the skills department. I know what I like, but what I like and what looks good on my lumpy body are usually two different things. (Ah yes – if your psychoanalysis skills are intact, you’ve zeroed in on the problem – I’m not too fond of my overly-accentuated curves or my hang-to-the-waistline never-wear-button-up-tops boobs. So I avoid stores that remind me of that particular inadequacy. Sigh.)

I tend to dress for the lowest common denominator. 1.) Is it cheap? 2.) Does it fit? 3.) Is it a little less likely to make me look like a lumpy elephant or Dolly Parton’s saggy, less surgically modified twin than the other stuff on the rack? Lately, since we’ve been living with one income for most of the last 6 years (and kids grow out of clothes way too fast), number 1 criteria has trumped the others – it’s gotta be cheap. Approximately 75% of my clothes have come from second-hand stores, a fact that mortifies my fashion-conscious teenage daughter. (But it’s not all bad – I have lots of scarves collected from the various countries I’ve visited, so I almost always throw on a splash of colour to draw the eye away from the worn-out not-very-trendy threads underneath.)

Now I find myself in a dilemma. As you might have guessed, this “communicator of the year” thing is kind of a big deal for me – a career milestone, you might say. They’re going to present me with the award at a schwanky “gala luncheon” in a fancy hotel ballroom. This is the kind of place that will be filled with confident, accomplished business people, mostly dressed in power suits and shiny shoes. I don’t think many of them will show up in the shoes they just bought for $5.99 at Value Village (they’re great shoes, by the way!), or the blazer that has the sleeves rolled up to cover the hole in the cuff.

Since this kind of thing doesn’t happen every day, and I want to make the most of my “moment in the sun”, I want to treat myself to some new threads that make me feel good and look at least a little like what you'd expect the "communicator of the year" to look like. No, I don’t want to dress like them (I’m not a power suit and high heels kinda gal), I just want something that suits me and makes me look smart and feel confident (though still unique and a little bit funky).

So…. HELP! I need a personal shopper! I am SO not good at buying clothes for myself! I don’t even know where to begin. Usually I just rush into a store when I need something, grab whatever fits my lowest-common-denominator criteria, and rush out again (or stop for cheesecake if I find nothing and the shopping experience made me miserable – go ahead and psychoanalyze!) I wandered around at lunch time yesterday, and the racks of clothes just sort of overwhelmed me. I don’t know what colours look good on me (with the exception of turquoise – EVERYBODY always tells me I look good in turquoise), I don’t know what’s a good style for my body type, I don’t know where to shop, and I don’t know how to match tops with bottoms.

Anybody have any advice? Or a free Saturday afternoon to drag me to a store and pick something out for me?

Monday, March 02, 2009

Monday morning gratitude

This morning, I feel the warm glow of gratitude after a comfy and relaxed weekend. Some of the things I am grateful for:
- A fun little Facebook chat with a friend who traveled to Ethiopia with me
- Coming to work on Monday morning knowing that I actually LIKE coming to work
- Hosting a lovely, relaxed evening with some easy, comfortable friends
- Having a basement family room that finally feels complete and livable again (and actually looks good too!)
- Watching my healthy, happy girls play soccer
- Enjoying smoked salmon that was caught by a friend on the west coast
- Hosting another visitor from Africa in our home
- Getting the chance to meet another incredible, strong and wise African woman (who made history by becoming the first woman to run her organization, in the first African country to elect a woman president)
- Watching my daughter’s eyes light up as she runs to get her book to show our African guest the piece she just read about Liberia’s (and Africa's) first woman president
- Going grocery shopping and not having to worry whether I can afford to pay for it
- Going to the gym on Monday morning after a week away (traveling) and realizing that I am not a failure – I didn’t let myself sleep in, even though it would have been easy to
- Listening to Maddie giggle as she gets teased by her uncle
- Munching on Cadbury mini eggs with my kids
- Recognizing the honour it has been to stand on the shoulders of people who have mentored me