Category Archives: Inspiring Sisters

Walking the talk…

The Walkathon I’ve been working on is happening this weekend, on Saturday, June 9, 2012.  I want to thank everyone who has helped me toward my goal so far.  I haven’t looked to check to see where I’m at yet, whether I made my modest goal of $250, I wanted to make one more plea from the heart. So here goes…I’ll tell you why this particular agency pulls at me to pull at you….

When my marriage broke up, I was a very fortunate woman, sort of.  Despite all the bad stuff that was going on I had the support of family and friends to help me through the trauma of the breakup.  And it was traumatic, to have my family broken apart and my life changed, yet again, but this time so drastically as I downsized and moved into my parents basement.

Now, returning home to live with your parents has become the trend of the moment, so I guess I could take pride that I led the way over 20 years ago.  But it didn’t feel like that at the time.  I had a job and it was important to be able to continue with work without having to worry about my children.  There was lots to consider as I looked forward to my different life.  I was nowhere near where I needed to be to find a suitable apartment and the means to furnish it.  The support of my parents, in letting me stay in a safe, secure and affordable space, while accepting my situation with love, compassion and understanding, was what allowed me the opportunity to get my life back on track.  That’s a lot like what the women get who come to Phoenix Place.

They get security for themselves and their kids.  They get help to deal with the things they need help with.  When they leave, they move into a permanent home complete with everything they need to furnish a new household and with resources to help them cope with their lives.

The number of women who apply for vacancies is greater than the available space.  Their circumstances are more desperate than those I found myself in.  And they have nowhere else to go, no one else to help them.  The impact of your donation will ripple through the organization and affect all the residents who benefit from space, programming and the services that Phoenix Place provides to women in our community.  And they have a fantastic success rate, 97% of the women served have successfully rebuilt their lives and continue to live in peace and security.

I know that the economy’s bad, that times are tough for everyone, everywhere.  But know that no donation is too small and when added to others, the amount will be a lifesaver.  You can donate online here:  http://www.phoenixplace.dojiggy.com/.  If you feel uncomfortable donating online, contact me privately and I can tell you where you can forward your donation.

Thanks for taking the time to read my appeal.

Take care and enjoy the day,

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And I Heard the Door Open From Below….

This is part 2 of the blog post:  “Staying Alive and Following Your Dreams”

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The other day I posted about Janice Butler and her “It’s a success” strategy for, you guessed it, success.  Today, I’ll recount the rest of the afternoon….

Location:  The Lakeview, Hamilton, Ontario

Purpose:  Professional development day.

Just before we broke for lunch we had a visit from Dr. Cooper who works in the Centre for Student Development.  He’s a psychologist specializing in addiction and gambling.  He’s your typical college psychologist, Birkenstocks, cords, untucked shirt, long hair, funny.  He took us through a relaxation exercise that I just wasn’t into.  He was really good at it; I peeped through my eyes and looked around the room, everyone seemed right relaxed.  I was, at first, for about 10 minutes, then I started getting antsy and fidgety in my seat.  He was going just too slow.  I needed to be relaxed faster.  When I heard the door open downstairs and footfalls echoing up through the stairway I thought, that must be her, and then for sure the session was over for me.  But I sat there and waited before I jumped up and went over to introduce and impress myself in her future only to get her name wrong in the process.  Can you imagine, I called her Mona Raynard?  Of course that would happen to me, the opportunity to be memorable for the tarnish rather than the polish.

She sat with us at our table during lunch.  And good thing there were other people or I would have totally monopolized her time with questions, questions, questions.  Mostly about writing, getting published, women’s issues and, of course, the perks of editing a women’s lifestyle magazine.  But my mother taught me to share and I refrained from taking over the talk.  It was more an opportunity to talk a bit about us, who we are and what we do.

After lunch Rona stepped up to the front of room to talk.  Slim and petite, she used an ipad for her presentation so she could free herself from the podium.  She was dressed in black pants with a black, white and grey flecked wool jacket, cropped at the waist. (Sorry, couldn’t resist.  But I was interested in what she was wearing.  Are you kidding?).  I was going to ask her the label and engage her in fashion talk, but that’s another blog.

She  stated right off the top that self-care is not selfish.  That’s a message that the women in the room know well and that we tell to those around us, but we often fail to take our own good advice.  It was good to be reminded.

As I listened to her recount her life and work  experiences, questions formed in my mind.  How do you adjust after life in the fast lane to not driving at all?  How do we relax enough to allow renewal when we’re so busy running from one aspect of our lives to another?  We are so caught up in our professional identities that provide us with real-world value in terms of jobs and occupations and life and death decision-making, that when we no longer are in those positions, we have no idea who we are or what makes us happy.  Couple that with the reality that retirement in the traditional sense is now considered a career transition as we prepare for longer periods in the workforce than our parents did.

It’s a brave new world for women in the workforce, with retirement plans contingent on lifetime earnings which run 60% of what men make. Older single women, living in poverty, longer and with more morbid health conditions than men, or serving as their partners caregiver, the future for the elderly woman can be a bleak one.  Best to keep opportunities, techniques and tactics that encourage renewal, of mind, soul and body.

Using her personal experience with change and depression, Rona mapped out the highs awarded by career success as well as the lows of being away from it that swung her into a debilitating depression and her subsequent success at the helm of Chatelaine.

Her description of the Chatelaine work-world was captivating. The excitement, the challenges, the problems to solve, the importance to experience.  When she spoke about the connection she made to the women who wrote in to comment about stories in the magazine, especially her appeasement of Mrs. Outrage, I felt a similar connection.  I can do that.  But I think I can do anything.  Don’t you know I’m Wonder Woman?  The truth is, I can barely maintain my blog empire never mind create a national women’s magazine every month.

I took notes.

As I said, Rona’s talk focused on renewal, how does it happen, why is it necessary, how do we benefit from it, where to find it.  She noted that for her, as for many of us, “the ultimate act of renewal is to move on”, from a job, a relationship, a friendship etc.  I know a few women who are in that process right now.  Scary, but exhilarating at the same time.  It’s in those times of renewal that we surprise ourselves by discovering new interests, new skills, new people, new ways of being.

Rona’s advice on managing renewal:

  • Stay fit
  • Remember to be grateful
  • Stay inspired

In response to a question about how to support someone who is depressed and suicidal, she offered the following words of wisdom:

  • be there
  • ask how they are
  • bring food
  • help with the kids
  • understand at work
  • listen
  • do unto others

I particularly like the last one.

After she left Chatelaine, Rona wrote a book, a memoir about her relationship with her mother, Fredelle Maynard, a Radcliffe-trained academic.

A quotation from the book’s dust jacket sums up nicely the significance of mothers:

A woman’s identity is forged in her relationship with her mother, whether close and tender or fraught with conflict.

I’d say I agree with that, speaking from my experience with my own mother, who taught me the important life lessons like sharing, the value of relationships, trust, and reciprocity, love, understanding and acceptance.

Her mother, Fredelle Maynard, authored the book Raisins and Almonds, which I was first introduced to in grad school studying immigration history.  Her book is a collection of finely crafted stories drawn from her experiences growing up on the Canadian prairies, the daughter of a devoted father, a Jewish girl in a land of often unkind gentiles, a 20th-century, educated, modern woman.  I checked it out of the library on the way home from work yesterday.  I’m looking forward to reading it again, as a prelude to reading Rona’s memoir of her relationship with her mother.

Rona gives workshops on memoir writing.  She brought copies of her book, one of which I walked away with.  I paid for it first, of course.  That’s 2 books in one week, directly from the hands of the authors (dedicated and signed!).

Do I sound like a groupie?

Staying Alive and Following Dreams

This is part one of a two-part post.  It was getting too long so I cut it in half.  Part two will come tomorrow.

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I work at the best place.

The director of our department hosted a professional development day earlier this week.  Our director believes that it’s important to provide opportunities for staff to gather outside of the workplace, to engage their minds in thinking of the many possibilities in life rather than of the restrictions that often guide us in our daily dealings.  Our director rocks, to be truthful.  She’s got a reputation of pure gold all across the organization and it’s richly deserved and worn well.  This year the event was held at The Lakeview on the shores of beautiful Lake Ontario in Hamilton.

I was excited because I found out a couple of days earlier that Rona Maynard, ex-editor at Chatelaine magazine would be our afternoon speaker.  She left the masthead of the magazine back in 2004 when, as she said to us, she lost the desire for the problems at Chatelaine.  Now, as an aspiring writer and a avid reader of Chatelaine – I even wrote a paper on the magazine for one of my university courses – I looked up to Rona Maynard.  She sat in the top job in Canada for women’s magazines, a job I used to dream of having when I had those dreams.  Her departure left the magazine in a turmoil in terms of editorial leadership.

Chatelaine sent me my first rejection letter from a woman’s magazine and I’ve never been published there.  I went for the best when I pitched:  The Atlantic, Walrus, New Yorker, Chatelaine.  Only the best rejection letters for me.  I met once with their health editor when I worked at a women’s health resource office years and years ago.  I was all eager and looking for a mentor; she was looking for story ideas.   I gave her one and we never talked again.  She didn’t seem too interested in it at the time but I later found evidence she pursued it.  I think my take would have been a bit different, but I’m glad she picked it up. Welcome to the sisterhood.

Nevertheless, needless to say, I was excited about the day.

We began at 9:00 with a short warm-up activity, to get us energized.  It was a game of “who’s got …. in her purse”.  Now, we number almost 100 and the men are in the <5% range and I don’t think any of them brought their purse, but they did have backpacks and briefcases so no one was left out.  I carry almost nothing with me but the barest I need: wallet, notebook, change purse, electronics (phone, ipod, Livescribe, camera, ear buds, memory stick) and keys.  Oh – and lipstick (Deep Violet).  Brand new.  Bought it the other day.  The only thing I could get my hands on quick was my memory stick – which to me seemed too common to call out so I was content to watch the others.  Until I heard the words “memory stick” and my hand shot straight up into the air “ME” I yelled out while my other hand furiously sought it out of the pocket in the bag.  Woo hoo, I won – second comer – but I won. Lipgloss. I guess that’s my measure of this week’s luck gone – best save the lottery money for next week.

The morning speaker was Janice Butler, who runs Creative Breeze Training in New Brunswick.  She was perfect for the morning, a bundle of energy dancing to the music and spreading positive messages:  we are born to be alive, the importance of dreams and the necessity to act on them.

She asked us to think back to a time when we were kids and what it was that we spent hours doing, when time flew by we were so engaged in the moment.  For me it was making newspapers, cutting up other pictures, creating headlines.  I only wrote the front page, but I remember it so vividly.  That and reading.  The reading was constant, unstoppable, like breathing.  Still is.  She said to reconnect with it, somehow find a way to incorporate it into your life; you will be surprised at how it can carry you to new, dream-realizing experiences.

Janice uses a visual board to keep her dreams before her eyes and suggested that we do too.  A visual board is a large poster board containing images of aspects of your dream and you in them.  She used her example of her dream to go on the Ellen Degeneres show and she showed us a picture she used of Ellen interviewing a guest only Janice put her head on the guest’s body.  Keeping your dream at the forefront of your mind will inspire you to act on it in many tiny ways and it will inform your thinking about future opportunities.  Well, Janice hasn’t yet made it to the Ellen Degeneres Show, but she was invited as a guest on a local New Brunswick talk show similar to Ellen’s.  One step closer every day.

Janice also shared with us the example of her sister and brother-in-law who had a dream to visit Tuscany.  Teamwork brought them to a Quebec television show that offered people the chance to win their dreams if they satisfactorily met the challenge presented.  Their challenge was to correctly identify, by tune, the 104 symphonies of Hayden.  None of them were familiar with Hayden, never mind his symphonies.  But positive messaging (It’s a success!) and teamwork served them well.  They attacked the problem together and when the challenge came, and Janice had to answer for her team, don’t you know she won!

Isn’t that amazing, how something they thought was impossible became possible through teamwork and positive thinking.

I’ll leave it here and relate my meeting with Rona tomorrow.

Until then – remember:  it’s a success – whatever it is….