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People Don’t Write Letters Anymore

You likely have a few letters or cards tucked away at home from someone special in your life.  You might even have an old diary you kept as a kid or the first love letter you got. We just can’t seem to throw these things out, and we shouldn’t.

There’s something personal and intimate about the act of putting pen to paper.  Someone taking the time to sit down and share their thoughts.  They were thinking of you.

I wish we did it more.

But people don’t really write letters anymore.

Text messages on the go.  A quick email update.  It’s like conversations happen and then are lost and forgotten.

But with writing, we have it forever.  Their voice, their words.  It’s them.  We see the curves of their handwriting on paper.  We value it, yet seem to do it less and less.

So after about a year of writing on my blog, I think I’ve decided what I want to write more about.  I think that I’m going to start using my blog as a place to help others write and to share great stories.

I’m really excited and have tons of ideas swirling around…

I’d like to share ideas for how you might write to your children

How you could capture the stories of someone significant in your life

Ways that writing can be used to create thoughtful gifts

And touching stories from friends and family about something written.

I might put together little writing challenges and encourage others to join me – writing something small each week for different people in our lives.

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Scribbled thoughts in my notebook

For some reason, not many of us see ourselves as writers.  That somehow it’s a skill reserved for those who write books or publish in magazines.  But I think we’re all writers and our words have the ability to bring us closer to others.

I hope that you’ll join me…

Birds on the Brain: Spring Activities for Toddlers

I’m not a fan of birds and yet here I am…building nests, watching YouTube videos of eggs hatching, and looking for robins outside.  I’ve become the Martha Stewart of bird crafts and activities.  The things we do for our kids.

Below are a few photos of things we’ve been trying…

Our oldest was SO excited by this YouTube video: Baby Bird Hatching. He was so surprised when the baby broke out of its’ shell. The smile on his face was priceless. This was a win.
I was on my own in my excitement with this one. Mom fail. His little brother is a fan though. He yells out, “Buuuah!” while pointing at the magnets and scrambling over to grab them off the wall. Our oldest now refers to the magnets by their names, “Mama, where cardinal?” “Here, wren!” So it seems like he took something away from it.
We made bird nest cookies. The kids’ idea of ‘baking’ is eating the ingredients while I quickly put everything together. They prefer to be passive observers who continually request “mo-chocolate, peeze mama”.
He was very excited to make a bird feeder. Paper towel roll, peanut butter, and bird seed. “Sprinkle food, mama.” As I carried the feeder towards the front door, he ran back and forth around me yelling out, “Food birdies!!” He stood at our front picture window for the longest time repeating, “eat birdies. Come eat food, birdies.” It’s been hours and we haven’t seen one yet. Here’s to hoping.

I look forward to the little activities and crafts I have planned for them each day. I’m curious to see how they’ll react and whether they’ll find it interesting.

I started planning them as something fun to do with our oldest (while his brother and sister nap in the mornings). I’ve noticed he’s been looking for more attention lately, so it was something special we could do, just the two of us.

Some days he’s really into it. “Craft! Craft!” Other days we’ll be in the middle of watching a YouTube video of birds hatching and he’ll request videos of trucks or trains. Shiny object! Squirrel! I don’t push it. It’s supposed to be fun, not forced.

I have a few more ideas of things that we could do but I think it’s time to try something different. The kid loves puddles. Slapping his hand in the dirtiest of them all, jumping in them, stomping…I think we’ll start doing a few things with puddles. Plus, it’s supposed to rain all week so there will be lots of opportunities to explore.

I’m very lucky to have met some amazing early years educators. Their voices are the reminders I need when the kids don’t seem interested in what we’re doing. It’s not about planning structured, themed activities that children must do despite their interest levels. It’s about seeing children as the naturally curious creatures they are and letting them lead the way.

I need to observe my boys, watch to see what interests them, and then go there. I have much to learn but I’m having a lot of fun.

Writer’s Note: Who Inspired Me and How I Got Started

A few weeks ago, I took my boys to a free story time program at a nearby arts studio. The lady who facilitated it was phenomenal.

She grabbed a picture book and had the children following her around the room like Mother Goose. They skipped, danced, and quickly came in close as she drew them in with the next portion of the book. Then off they’d go again!

She carefully held a wind chime and quietly called each child up by name to touch it and listen to its’ sound. She made a simple wind chime from a dollar store seem like a magical object. I even found myself thinking it was pretty cool (I told you she was phenomenal).

The kids tilted rain sticks, danced around the room pulling coloured scarves through the air, and stomped their feet to mimic thunder. Needless to say, I was not only impressed but inspired. I should be doing things like this for my boys. I started my planning that night.

I opened up a Google doc and began brainstorming some possible themes for spring…

Rain
Puddles
Birds
Flowers
Seeds
Frogs

With each, I listed ideas for different learning experiences, crafts, and activities. Flowers and seeds…I’ll wait until we plant our flower beds and garden. Rain and puddles, I’m sure there will be a lot of that in April. Let’s start with birds because soon we’ll put our bird feeders out.

A few days later, I snuck out of the house at 8 p.m. and left our newborn with my hubby. I went to the library …I am a wild woman these days! I scoured the shelves looking for books that could fit in with any of the themes — snapping photos of ones I might borrow later so I could easily find them. I came home with two great books…

I thought we could read this book and then look at YouTube videos of birds in nests, birds hatching, etc. This book is beautifully illustrated and short and sweet. Our oldest loved it. He’s almost 2 1/2.
“Some birds soar high, while some birds just walk. Some birds waddle, some birds hop…” I thought we could move around and dance like the lady in the storytime program. Although we weren’t as graceful, we had fun stretching our arms and moving around the kitchen like soaring birds. It’s official — I have now reached a whole new level of silly.

I’m so glad that we went to the storytime program that day. Sometimes we need someone to show us what’s possible and to give us the inspiration we need to get started. I hope that maybe this post has done the same for you — given you a little idea that you might want to try with little ones too.

Two Questions You Need to Ask a Stranger

There are two questions that will get total strangers laughing and sharing stories.  I experienced it first hand at a conference a couple years ago.

There were hundreds of us in the room.   Some knew each other and most did not.  The facilitators asked us to divide into groups based on the decade in which we were born. 

If you were born in the 70s, move to the back corner…the 80s, over here at the side…

We were asked to talk about these two questions:

1. What do you remember wearing as a teenager?
2.
Do you remember the first record, 8 track, cassette, CD, or download you bought?

I met a lady who grew up in the Ukraine.  As a teenager, the first cassette she bought was AC/DC.  She even put an AC/DC patch on her bag that she carried around school.  Funny thing was, she had no idea who they were.  Everyone talked about them so she played along.  Secretly, she loved classical music and went on to study it.

It took a while for the facilitators in the room to bring us back together.  Yes!!! I remember that… Oh my god, I did that too…

You might be wondering if it’s a good idea or not to divide people by age.  I found that it was actually a lot of fun because it brought people together around some similar experiences. We also had choice with which group to join.  Depending on your workplace and group dynamics, you’ll know whether it’s an icebreaker to try or not.

I decided to bring this icebreaker into an online course I was teaching.

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Sharing what we wore and laughing about our bad fashion sense brings us together.  It makes us more than a name on the screen, but rather another person who also made mixed tapes from the radio or used wwaaaaaay too much hairspray back in the day.  It creates connections.

It encourages us to open up to strangers and share a little bit of ourselves.  Which in turn, makes it more likely for us to comment on each other’s work, ask questions, or reach out with an email.

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Me rocking  a loon sweatshirt, turtleneck, and bangs (I can’t even explain) – back in the early 90s

So if you also wore a Northern Reflections sweatshirt or loved a good bodysuit (not the ones for swimming folks), share a comment to this blog!  What did you wear as a teen?  What album did you first buy?

We don’t need to be strangers anymore…

Starting a Toddler Book Club

I love the concept behind monthly book subscriptions for kids. My boys love getting mail and would be excited to have new books sent to them each month. I just didn’t want to pay hundreds of dollars for it. There had to be another option besides the pricey subscription services I found online. I decided to start my own.

I sent out a message to a group of moms I know…


Would anyone be interested in a Toddler Book Club? It could be a fun and affordable way for our little ones to have great new board books delivered to their door!

  • each interested parent would buy three new board books (to create a group book collection that would rotate to different homes)

  • we could add the titles we buy/plan to buy to a Google doc (so we don’t end up buying the same books)

  • sometime during the first week of each month, we would drop off the three books to the next family’s mailbox (we live quite close to each other and we can do a mailbox drop off at any hour that’s convenient for us)

  • we’d always drop off to the same family (I could set up a little rotation)

  • if any books are damaged / lost, we would be responsible for replacing it (if our kid was the one who did a number to it)

If you’re interested, let me know! We’d likely want / need at least five people to make it work.


Within a few hours, I heard back from six women who loved the idea and were interested. We’ve decided to start in April, and our kids will now have new books delivered to them for the next six months (for around $25).

I set up a Google doc to help us get organized. Along with sharing the book titles we’ve bought, it’s been a way to share our addresses to figure out who is dropping off books to who. I also posted a few links to blogs and sites with recommended titles for toddlers. I thought it might help us find some great new books.

I’ve never done this before so I’m not sure how it will go. There might be some bumps along the way, but we’ll figure it out. I’ll give an update with a blog post in May!

If you’re interested in starting something similar, here’s a copy of our Google doc in case it’s helpful. Whether you have a toddler, a tween, or a teen, it would be neat to start a book club with a group of friends or within a neighbourhood.

If you decide to give it a go or already do something similar, please share!

Learning Made Better with Design Thinking

Starting a new job can be a humbling experience. There might be a new building to find our way through. We try to understand who’s who and what we’re supposed to do each day. Training or orientation might happen right away or months later, and despite good intentions, only bits and pieces may stick with us.

There has to be a better way.

One telecomm company tried. The Harvard Business Review (HBR) recently shared an interesting story of a company who chose to approach onboarding differently.

Rather than trying to teach new employees everything they need to know all at once, they designed an experience that would span a full year. They used elements of design thinking to create professional learning that was customized for a specific role in their company.

To begin their planning, the company studied the job of a retail sales agent over the first nine months. Brilliant. In the design thinking world, this is starting at the ‘empathy’ stage. Spending time observing and speaking with others to better understand whom we’re designing for…

  • What are their urgent learning needs? What needs to be addressed immediately?
  • What systems need to be learned?
  • What products do they have to understand?
  • What processes will they need to learn over the first year? (e.g., getting to know customers, product experts, fundamentals of sales and customer service)

With this information, the company could get a sense of what learning is imminent and what might be offered over time. And time has been found to be an important facet of effective professional learning…

From the report, Effective Professional Development in an Era of High Stakes Accountability (2013), in order for professional learning to be effective it needs to:

  • Take place over time
  • Provide support at the time of implementation
  • Be active, and not passive

From the article, it sounds like the company’s design thinking approach did just that.

Learning Over Time

Rather than learning everything they needed to know in a few days/weeks with no follow up, there was a planned progression to the learning based on agents’ needs and their work.

From the company’s observations over nine months, they developed a “journey map” that showed what agents needed to know the first day, the first week, the first month, and then over the first few quarters. True, deep learning could take place over time.

Providing Support at the Time of Implementation

To help us truly understand new information and develop our skills, we need multiple opportunities to use it. As the old adage goes, “use it or lose it.”

To support employees implement their learning on the job, the company built an app that looked more like a game than a learning system. They could access videos on demand, add social connections, sign up for coaching sessions, and share their learning with others online. Rather than receive an overwhelming amount of information in an isolated training session (maybe months before they’d use it), they could access exactly what they needed and when they needed it. Just enough, just in time, just for me.

Active, Not Passive

There are lots of different ways we can learn something new. We might watch how-to videos on YouTube, read, listen to podcasts, sign up for online courses, observe others, discuss… we learn in varied and active ways. Sitting passively and being told what we need to know doesn’t work for us all.

Although the HBR article didn’t share the specifics of how each learning session was designed, we can begin to imagine how we might make learning more active for those we design for.

All in all, I loved reading the HBR article, Using Design Thinking to Embed Learning in Our Jobs. It was encouraging to read about a company who was interested in understanding the experience of new employees and were open to taking a new approach to previous practices.

I recognize the article is a snapshot and I don’t know whether the company created an onboarding process that made a difference for employees. I do, however, appreciate how the article inspires us to approach learning and onboarding differently through the lens of design thinking.

We can do things differently.

We can learn more about the people we’re designing learning for. We can think about what learning might look like over time and say goodbye to the archaic practices of orientation days or isolated training sessions. From both our own experiences and findings from research, we know they need to be a part of a much bigger picture.

Design thinking has a role in our organizations, especially when it comes to how we learn. It’s a matter of asking ourselves, how might we get started?

Author’s Note: If you’re interested in learning more about the design thinking process, Stanford has a great overview and a video from 60 Minutes shows the process in action.

Design Thinking Process. Image from: http://dschool.stanford.edu/dgift/

Smart Design, User in Mind

I admire people with clever ideas.  Those who notice what doesn’t work, who come up with a solution to make our lives easier and better, and then make it happen.   I appreciate smart design.

 

Here are five smart designs that I encountered in one week…

 

1. Packaging from LEGO
I ordered additional tracks for our son’s LEGO train set.  When the box arrived, I didn’t think anything of it.  Until I opened it up and saw this message…

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Smart!  I quickly looked on the outside of the box and there was no mention that the parcel was even from LEGO – nothing in the mailing address, on the box… no child or adult would ever know that a fun, colourful gift was inside.  Even when the delivery man handed me the parcel, he spelled out L-E-G-O.  “Never want to ruin a surprise!”  Apparently keeping LEGO a secret is a thing…

2. Online Chat Help

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I was teaching an online course and a candidate was having difficulties using a mind mapping tool.  I was in our son’s room, waiting to see if he’d nap in his crib, when I decided to look on their web page to check out their FAQs.   A customer service chat box appeared.

After typing in one sentence, within seconds I was offered a solution.  Not only is this great customer service, but an example of smart design.  A solution that provides access to support that might be helpful to people with hearing impairments, a Mom in a quiet room, or someone in the middle of a meeting.  It meets the needs of many.

 

3. Poke-A-Dot

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Our son LOVES this book!  From the moment I showed it to him in Chapters, he carried it around all day.  It’s a counting book where each animal has a “bubble” to pop.  As he gets older, it will encourage him to touch objects as he counts and he’ll know which animals he’s already counted.  Smart design.  A fun book that teaches early number concepts.

4. Jamie Bell Adventure Playground

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As soon as I saw this park, I loved it.  It looks and feels magical.  Imagination is the word that comes to mind.  So when I read the sign near the park, it totally made sense.  

This is a very special playground.  Children contributed to the design by drawing their ideas of a dream playground.  Then in the spring of 1998, children worked alongside parents, teachers and volunteers to build the Adventure Playground.  

It was designed by kids!  It also explains why every kid who approached the park that day, did so with screams of excitement.  Kids creating for kids.  Smart design.

5. Booking Appointments Online

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My new favourite.  I’m so glad that more travel clinics, dentist offices, and medical offices are beginning to adopt online booking of appointments.  There’s nothing more frustrating than being on hold for 20 minutes just to book an appointment, when I can sign in, choose my location, date, and time in less than five minutes amongst the chaos in our house. Smart design.

 

What I love about smart design is that it doesn’t need to come from engineers or a research and development department.   It can come from kids, from moms with simple ideas that become million dollar companies, or grandfathers with solutions to everyday problems.  This is probably the reason why I love watching shows like Dragon’s Den.

Smart design is about people who understand the principles of human-centred design. They recognize a challenge / problem.  They come up with a solution in hopes of making things easier or better for others.  They prototype, get feedback from their target audience to help make their product/service better, actually use the feedback and make changes, and in the end have a solution that is tailor made to meet unique needs.  
No degree or training required.  To use or facilitate a human-centred design process,  you just need to observe everyday life, have a desire to do good, and be open to what others have to say.  

 

 

Grandparents: She was my Best Friend

We all have a soft spot – that person who is such an important part of our lives.  This week, three people opened up and shared that person with me, and in turn many others.

Thank you Emma, Betty’s grandson, and Char.   It’s not easy to write about someone you miss.  I hope you enjoyed the process of sharing them, who they were and what you loved about them, with others.

Here’s the the third story…

Joyce Hendry

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I chose this photo because the way I feel about my grandma has never changed.  She meant as much to me when I was three years old as she does today (even though she’s passed on).

 

My grandma was my best friend. I knew that having a best friend that was older was going to be very difficult at some point in my life and the closer I got to her, the harder it would be to let go.

I was right.

She was a strong and independent woman who carried herself with grace and held the family together. She was logical in her reasoning and always knew the right thing to say or do in any situation. Being around my grandma put me at ease knowing that I had someone in my life I could always count on.

She was the feeling of ‘home.’

Even when I was going through something I didn’t think she could relate to, my grandma was always there.  Without judgement and an open mind.

She had a sense of humour. You wouldn’t think of pranking just any grandparent, but with a grandma like mine, it was okay.  Here’s a story…

I was a teenager standing in my grandparents’ kitchen grabbing a glass from the kitchen cupboard. I rinsed out the glass using the sink spray hose and had a eureka moment:

(1) I noticed I had a black hair band around my wrist

(2) the spray hose handle was also black and my hair band would easily blend in

(3) if the hair elastic blended in, someone would eventually need to go to the kitchen and turn on the sink

(4) if someone turned on the tap with the spray head, it would be priceless.

I urged grandma to turn on the tap.  “Drink more water…Wash your hands…”  along with a bunch of other subtle hints but with no success. So I gave up on the idea and just forgot about it.  I left the house and went out to meet up with a few friends.

About four hours later I got back to grandma’s house.   She was standing in the middle of the kitchen. Beside her, on the floor, was a tool box, a disassembled kitchen drain pipe, and a few tools scattered around.

She said with a smirk, “We spent two hours trying to fix the sink.”  

I’m not sure how other grandmothers would respond to such a prank but my grandma just laughed.

We had a similar sense of humour; our sense of humour often got us in trouble.  

When someone would fall down or get mildly hurt (kind of like in America’s Funniest Home Videos), we wouldn’t be able to hold it in.   We would burst out laughing in synchrony and wait for that ‘someone’ in the room to say, It’s not funny you know. It’s not nice to laugh at someone when they’re hurt.

She was my best friend.

My grandma taught me to have faith, to pray when I’m lost and when I’m not, to help others more than myself, not to compete with others but only strive to be better than I was yesterday, to have understanding and empathy for other people, to be patient, to build character, not to be afraid of the future, to always do the right thing especially when no one is looking, not to value money but to know the value of money “because this will you further in life,” to save money for a rainy day, to follow my heart but lead with logic, to have patience, that I should never “sleep with a hardened heart,” to forgive others easily, to be cautious, not to say anything if I don’t have something nice to say, to protect other people’s feelings, to pursue an education, to be strong, and to always have a sense of humour.

I miss her.

I miss her hugs. I miss her advice. I miss baking with her. We used to hum together while we baked. I don’t bake anymore because it makes me sad. I miss sitting beside her in the sunroom just talking. I miss waking up to the smell of freshly brewed coffee in the morning and sitting with her in silence. I miss her scent and I really miss her voice. I just really miss her.

I miss you grandma.
I just wanted to say ‘I love you’ one last time.
But I never got the chance.

 

Author’s Note:  This story was shared by Joyce’s granddaughter, Charlene.  Char was a stranger I met three weeks ago in a coffee shop.  True story.  We talked for two and a half hours about work, travel, and our grandmas.  I knew her grandmother was special to her when she shared that it’s been almost 9 years since she passed and I could see that she had a hard time talking about her.  I could relate.  So when I thought about writing this grandparents series, the first person who came to mind was Char.  I hope you enjoyed her writing.

I’ve really enjoyed the process of sharing others stories.  Learning more about their families, hearing the great little stories, and putting their writing together in a way that will hopefully touch others.  I think I’ll continue to do little series like these as I continue to do my own blogging.

If you have great stories to share, I’m sure you do, send me a message.  I’d love to write with you.

 

Grandparents: She was a Firecracker

This week I’m sharing stories written by three different people each describing what they loved most about their grandparents.  Here’s the second story…

Betty

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This is the first time Grandma met her great-grandchild.  She was so excited to hold him.  “I’ve been waiting for him a long time.”  She was 89.

Grandma was a firecracker. She spoke her mind and mostly spoke the truth. You didn’t know what she’d say next.  Even as a frail lady of 90, her brain just worked faster than yours.


She’s gone now and it sucks.


She loved to sing. She would sing around the house, in the car, outside, it didn’t matter. Sometimes it wasn’t even a song, just words she said to a tune that sounded like a song.

She taught me the words to O Canada.  I have a vivid memory of riding in the backseat of her burgundy Buick sedan. Grandma was humming music. I asked her to teach me the part:  ‘we stand on guard for thee.’  I pictured Medieval knights defending our borders.  I remember being so excited that she had taken the time to teach me.

She was funny. She made up words and said outrageous things for a reaction.  She liked to tell a story about being a kid and getting a bunch of goats drunk by feeding them fermented fruit.  Visits were always spent sharing laughs.

She couldn’t cook although she tried. She preferred berries from the source and tomatoes from the vine. In her younger days, she kept a large garden. It bloomed with fruits and vegetables each spring; gifts that would make their way to the neighbours, especially the seniors who lived nearby. As she grew older and less mobile, so did the garden. Eventually only a rhubarb patch was left.

She was born in an old house and lived her whole life in a little village that grew. And yet her perspective was impressively worldly.  She was smart and knew about politics, investments, and business.  Her sister was her best friend.  Together they travelled to different parts of the world.


We would get up early, or stay up late, to take advantage of inexpensive long distance times so that we could call her to chat or say good night.

She helped raise us. Our family didn’t have a lot of money growing up.  We left our home when my parents’ business failed and she took us in because we had no place to go. We always felt welcome. We lived there for a few years before moving again. But even after we left, most available weekends were spent at her house. Whenever one of us was sick, she was the first call.

She was meant to care for others – she was a registered nurse who was a mother to five children and 18 grandchildren & great grandchildren. She adored kids and loved animals.


She’s gone now and it sucks.

 

Writer’s Note: This story was submitted by Betty’s grandson, who wishes to remain anonymous.  We’ve known each other for eighteen years.  His grandmother was the one who asked about school, about roommates, and if he had a girlfriend.  She always said ‘love yah‘ and never let him out of the room without a kiss.  It hasn’t been a year since she’s passed and she’s greatly missed.

 

Reckless, Stupid and Irresponsible: The Pursuit of Dream Jobs

I recently asked a friend, “What is your Dream Job?”   It’s always fun to hear what people would love to do.  Here’s what he said…

I’m pretty lucky that I’m doing exactly what I love and if I were independently wealthy I likely wouldn’t change much.

Lucky.  We have this belief that somehow there are a few people out there, the lucky few, who get to do work they love.  But I don’t think it’s luck.  

There was a lot of ‘background noise’ from family, etc. who thought someone starting a PhD at 30 was crazy, irresponsible, etc (stupid was the word most often used) but I just let that noise fade into the background.

The funny thing is that once people saw how passionate I was about my area, how much I loved working hard on something I loved, the laughter ended and I think people got a bit jealous that they didn’t have that same passion for their own work.  

-Wyatt Simmons


So why is it reckless to pursue something we love?  

Stupid isn’t a word I’d use to describe someone with a PhD, who has published multiple books and articles, and travels around the world to speak at conferences about his research.  What if he would have listened to them?

This week I asked five people to share their dream jobs and explain what’s holding them back.

 

Dream Jobs

If there was nothing holding you back, what would you love to try?

My plan is to get a used Mini Cooper, paint it, and drive around Canada and the US making street espressos, lattes, and flat whites for some lucky people. My car will be a beacon of rich, creamy caffeine for unsuspecting souls in dire need of a double shot.
– The Espresso Dragon

My dream job would be a travel blog writer (and get paid to do it).  It combines three things I love to do:  travel to new and exciting places, plan, act, reflect, and write, and finally to help people by giving good advice.  -Brooke Daniels

I would still love to do my PhD and over the past few years I’ve been very drawn to entrepreneurship. I’ve gone through a few iterations of what this might look like, ranging from very unique C2C solutions to more straightforward service & product driven businesses. I’m still undecided.   -Sarah

My dream job would be with the FBI on their behavioural analysis unit…yes like Criminal Minds!  I studied some psychology and actually majored in criminology for two years.  -BAUgirl

 

Why Not?

What are some reasons why you wouldn’t give it a go?

By the time this occurs, I hope to be a grandfather and have my espresso-mobile double as a babysitting vehicle.  – The Espresso Dragon

I don’t know who would hire me to do it and I’m not sure I would have enough followers if I started my own blog since I need this to pay the bills for all the travelling I am planning on doing.  – Brooke Daniels

I’m risk adverse by default, and that doesn’t always jive well with entrepreneurship! Perhaps it will be something I explore while I’m also working full time, or maybe I’ll luck out and get fired which would force my hand! – Sarah

I stopped pursuing my dream because of “the” guy. I met a guy with whom I was engaged to and he really did not see himself with that kind of career woman…so, I switched!  Regrets…I have a few….  -BAUgirl

To me, these jobs aren’t out of reach.  They’re not impossible.  Especially when I know this group of people.  

They are intelligent.  Driven.  Always challenging themselves and always learning something new.  I admire each of them for different reasons.  If anyone could make their dream jobs a reality, it’s this bunch.  

And yet, I don’t know if they will.  This may sound harsh and that’s not my intention.


We love how dream jobs sound in theory, myself included, but according to the Huffington Post, only about 30% of us actually do it.  Why is that?

Because there’s a chance that it won’t work out.  We hear stories about people who went bankrupt.  Stress that broke up marriages.  Best friends who were once partners but haven’t spoken in a year.

Our imaginations take over and we picture the worst.  And when those closest to us, family and friends, begin to doubt the possibility of us being successful, it seems downright impossible.

And yet around 30% of us still do it.

I spoke with a few friends who are retired.  I wanted to know what advice they’d give.  What would you say to someone who plans to pursue their dream job in retirement?  Should they wait?  Is retirement all it’s cracked up to be?  

Deep down, I hoped they’d say, Do it now.  You never know what’s going to happen.  Retirement isn’t what people think it is…[insert personal story that would inspire me to take a leap].  

But here’s what they said…

[In retirement] we have more time and security to think about what we want to do.  We can exercise more care and caution when it comes to making personal compromises.  I think this inspires a new kind of energy to whatever becomes the “dream job” because it’s not the job itself, whatever it is, that is the ideal but how it is achieved in the balance of a new, more carefully examined life.   -Cate

I retired, spur of the moment.  I had no plans.  I find that of all my friends who retired, I apparently am the only one not dealing well with it and that’s probably because I loved working.  I find I sit on the couch and watch TV or I am on the computer all day.  I do volunteer twice a week at the Hope Centre but that does not give me the excitement I had when I worked.  It just kills time.

I would say go for it.  The only thing that can happen, is they either make it or they don’t, but at least they tried.  Who knows, if it fails, something different might come out of it and it becomes something better. Time, well, there is nothing but time.   -Connie

Life is unpredictable.  Achieving your dream job at any time of your life is contingent upon what rightly requires your best energy and attention.  Your dream job needs to fit into the vagaries of what makes up your very real life and it’s immediate demands.  This is not terrible.  This is in line with a new kind of personal growth; something that evolves organically and from within rather than being imposed upon you from some external source.  This is life-affirming and personally enriching if it is successful.  – Cate


Life-affirming.  Personally enriching.  

Yes, you need to be smart about the decisions you make and think about the best interests of those around you.

Yes, you are your worst critic.  And you may have others join in to share how “stupid” you’re being and suggest that you think it through.   

And yes, it is scary.  You don’t know how things will turn out.

But I still want to be in that 30%.  

Reckless, stupid, irresponsible, and happy.

I Still Find Her Letters

She’s been on my mind so much lately that it makes sense to write about her.  It’s during
those rare, quiet moments in the day that I find myself missing her.

It’s likely because I’ve been writing.  It was our thing.

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Five years ago, my grandma and I wrote and published a book together.

It was a collection of short stories about her life in Northwestern Ontario.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Where other kids in class had grandmothers who baked cookies and wore aprons, my grandma wore cargo pants, snowshoed through the wilderness, and could shoot a rifle better than most men.

She was a beautiful writer, a skilled pianist, and an avid curler. 

 

 

 

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She would curl in men’s bonspiels just for fun.  She loved a challenge.

She always said there was only one guy she was unable to beat.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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I encouraged her to write short stories about her life.  She’d send them to me in the mail. Stories on loose leaf paper and in various notebooks.   I loved seeing her handwriting mixed in amongst our mail.  

 

 

 

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She shared her adventures as a child.  Going bird hunting with her dog, Buttons.  Building ramps to try her hand at ski jumping.  Avoiding church by going for long nature walks
with her Dad.

She described in such beautiful detail what she loved about flowers, nature, and being outdoors.

 

 

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She wrote about my grandpa. Neighbours called him a “wild one.” He loved to fight at dances but also liked to waltz.  He was misunderstood by many but she knew his kind heart.

She told of their life together living in the wilderness.  The crunch of snow under their snowshoes, the swift rapids they travelled, and the many times they almost died.

 

 

 

 

 

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Writing the book took about a year.  I’d stay up until midnight, sometimes 2 or 3 a.m.  Writing, revising, laying out pages.  I’d grab some sleep and get up early so I could continue writing at a Starbucks near work.  It was still dark when I got there.

My laptop, latest draft covered in scribbles and notes, a tea, and a pen.  I’d write until the coffee shop was filled with morning sun.  I’d lose track of time.  I was happy.

 

 

 

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I learned the process of self-publishing and how to register for an ISBN.  Another published writer helped me over email and answered my many questions about what to do next.

I learned about bleed and trim and felt like a researcher trying to track down old survey maps and information from the Ministry of Natural Resources.

I helped coordinate interviews with my gram and newspaper writers back home, in hopes that an article in the local paper would help promote her book and upcoming book launch.

She sold 1,500 copies.  I was so proud of her.

 

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She was so excited.  I looked forward to her phone calls.   To hear about the compliment she received at the post office the other day or the person at the grocery store
who wanted to take her out for coffee.  

She loved when people told her the book made them cry.
To her, it was a measure of her writing.  She knew she had reached them.

 

 

Each time we spoke, she gave me a count of how many books were left.  As the number dwindled, I think she worried about the day when they were all gone.  That day never came.

 

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When my gram passed away almost two years ago, we found 20 books left in a box in her bedroom.  They were divided amongst our family as keepsakes, which is funny because we all had bought at least 10 copies each.  But for us, it was a little piece of her that still remained.

She left personal items for each member of our family.  For me, she left her writing.

 

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I am so thankful for the experience of writing with her.  Instead of talking to each other once a month, we talked multiple times a day.

Talking about sections to rewrite, debates over grammar, and her putting me in my place because I wanted to include personal stories that she didn’t want to include.

I was lucky to share some very private moments with her and to learn more about the woman I admired.  It made me love and miss her even more.  

 

 

 

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I still find her letters throughout the house.  Tucked inside books here and there.   

 

On those days when I realize how long it’s been since we’ve talked and I miss the sound of her voice, I take out her book or read her letters, just to hear her again.  That’s the power of writing.  I can hear her sarcasm, her sense of humour, her say-it-like-it-is approach to life.  Her.  The book and her letters give me her again for a little moment in time.  

 

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Writing her obituary was the hardest and most important piece I’ve ever written.

I knew what she hated.  She disliked the term “love of her life.”  She found the long list of family members’ names to be impersonal.  Write about the person.

Her voice was in my head.  I knew she’d care about how it was written
and we both had high expectations.  I still think that I could have done a better job.

 

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In true grandma fashion, she left us a letter in her safety deposit box.  She knew we would find it.  She wanted to say goodbye and to tell us how much we meant to her. 

 

 

“Someday you’ll write your own [book].”  Gram told me on the phone one day.
I will.  And it will be dedicated to her.

 

 

 

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This week, take a few moments and write a letter to someone you love.  No email.  Grab a piece of paper and a pen. Tell them what you love about them and why they’re an important part of your life.

It will be a little piece of you that they’ll always have.