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Kate.

Past

My past life was what you might call ‘typically corporate’. I lived in downtown Toronto, worked a full-time brand management job, which I spent two hours commuting to every day. I worked hard, long hours, brought my dog to work with me, skated on a synchronized skating team in my spare time and was dating my husband.

My days were long, but I enjoyed the challenge. I felt like I was putting my education to good use and was succeeding. My identity and my formula for success were very much tied to my job. And I was okay with that!

I was fully invested in climbing the corporate ladder, loved the challenge, and felt that my career was a really great fit.

Until it wasn’t.

Present

Four years ago, I had my son. I left on my maternity leave, super pregnant, and feeling like I would enjoy the year off and come back to the job I enjoyed. Like I always planned. 

But then I actually had my son. I lived through the long days and nights with a small child and felt how deeply needed I was at home. My husband and I talked, A LOT, about what our new normal looked like, and how that would look when I went back to work. Long days, split schedules, daycare hand-offs or nanny schedules… it could all work. We’d seen it work before.

But I couldn’t shake the feeling that it wasn’t right for us. 

That what was best for our family was for me to stay at home. 

I had tough conversations. I battled intense feelings of guilt. I was worried that I was letting people down. That somehow by saying ‘this isn’t right for me right now’ I was saying no forever. That I was closing doors for good. 

But here’s what I know: Putting your family first is never wrong.

I knew that I could live with the consequences, if walking away from my traditional, corporate job meant that I’d never be able to go back. But I couldn’t live with the consequences for my family, if I lost time with them that I couldn’t get back. And once I understood that, my decision was clear.

And you know what? That decision changed me. I now feel like I’m rooted in my own values. I feel like I let my talents, goals and values dictate the work that I do. And that work? It’s more creative and flexible than I could have imagined.

I didn’t know what ‘work’ would look like for me when I left my full-time job. But I followed my instincts and pushed ahead with things that I enjoyed and that felt important. I started a blog that connected me with other moms at a time when I felt we needed connection. And then a couple years later, I started a small non-profit focused on serving children – again something that felt important for me, and our family. 

I won’t sugar coat things. My decision absolutely had a financial impact, and we’ve made sacrifices to make it work. Luxurious family vacations are on hold at the moment, and we spend wisely.

But I feel stronger, more capable, and more myself in motherhood and in the life I’m living. 

I feel like my children see me living a life that I believe in and that fits our family. And that’s a gift.

Future

In all honesty, I have no idea what my life will look like in five years. And I’m comfortably uncomfortable with that.

But the beauty of what I’m doing right now is that it can move and change and evolve right alongside my life.

As the demands on my time evolve, so too can the time I devote to my work. As my interests change. My work does too. 

It means that we’ll grow together. My work and me.

I anticipate as my kids transition into school full time, my workday will shift with them, and I’ll say ‘yes’ to opportunities that might not be the right fit right now. And that feels magical.

So, what advice would I give to you if you’re not sure where you’re headed in life? Or maybe you’re sure where you’re headed, but just not sure that’s where you want to end up?

I’d say, spend 30 days. Make a list of everything that makes you smile. Brings you joy. Or stirs up passion. And then in a month, look back at that list. Is what you’re doing now aligned to those passions and that joy? And if not, what is?

I promise, you’ll never feel ready. You’ll never feel 100% prepared. But you can do tough things. And you owe it to yourself to try.

xo
Kate

You can follow Kate and her adorable little ones on Instagram @emmettsabcs


Women’s Stories is going to be an ongoing project that shares true stories written by women who are questioning who they are and the lives they want to live. You can follow along on Instagram @thesearchfor_self

past. present. future.


inspired by the format of interviews in Flow magazine (past, present, future with photo collages), I wanted to try creating one my own.

5 years ago, I would have written a very different story. But after lots of revisiting of the past and reflection, I’m in a very different place. a hopeful one.

Shannon.

How are you?” friends would ask and I’d inevitably answer “busy.” Sorry I’m so late getting back to you, sorry we haven’t made plans for coffee yet. Things are hectic. Ugh, I forgot about whatever theme day it is at school. Yikes, I’m late again! Busy is the new normal right?

This is a story about how I dove headfirst into the perfect storm and in the process saved myself from drowning. It’s a story about how life taught me (and I finally learned) what it means to take care of myself first. I didn’t gracefully fall into self-awareness. I had a big, fat fall into failure (gulp, yup, I said it) and I have slowly put back the pieces to find a stronger version of me.

As a spouse of a soldier, when I learned we were moving from New Brunswick (NB) to Toronto after having only been there for two years, I focussed on how I could continue to achieve my goals despite the upheaval. I’d worked in university student services for the better part of fifteen years, had somehow found myself in my dream job while in NB and I wasn’t ready to let moving derail my career. I applied for a masters. Oh and was pregnant with our second son. 

My husband had been offered a spot on a 10-month course that would set him up to be selected to a significant leadership role a few years down the line. This was his dream and what he was working towards. But ten months in one city meant another move at the end of that. And then yet another when and if he was given a command position.

I consider myself a feminist and appreciate all that women have done before me to make it possible for women to experience equality in a number of realms including in work and pursuit of their goals. One of the most difficult parts of being a military spouse is feeling I have very little control over my own life. And in reality, coming second to my partner’s career. As a woman, I find that especially difficult to reconcile with my belief that we should be equals in partnership. How can we be equals if I play second fiddle to the wishes of the Canadian Forces and their plans for my husband?

I’ve always been competitive and driven. Defying the odds to work hard to achieve goals. I love being part of a team and want that team to be the best it can be. I like to make an impact. And by gosh, I wasn’t going to let the Canadian Forces or my husband’s job or five moves in six years get in the way of my goals! I started the masters, I had our beautiful second baby, our then three-year old stopped napping that same day (or at least it felt like it…sleep deprivation, am I right?), and we moved again ten months later. This time to my hometown – Ottawa.

I’d always dreamed of moving home, settling down, reconnecting with my friends and life before being married. Maybe what I was longing for was the hope that I’d reconnect with myself once I got back to my home. We bought a fixer-upper in a neighbourhood we loved and imagined ourselves growing into our “forever house”. I started a big job at one of the Universities (a job I never imagined would be open when we moved back) and continued to work away at my masters, while balancing shuttling two kids to school/daycare and trying to find time to have fun, play, carve out time for relationships with my spouse, friends and family.

Yup. Hindsight being what it is, I think if I had to do it all over again I would do things differently. My baby was just nine months old when I went back to work. My oldest little guy was heading off to kindergarten. And my hubby, bless his soul, took a three month leave as we all settled in (and while we frantically searched for daycare).

Fast forward a year later, I found myself crying most days on my way to work. I wasn’t sure I liked my job. I wasn’t sure I was actually very good at my job. I felt like I was failing the people who mattered to me. And did I mention I was crying every day? I cried listening to a panel discussion on leadership in higher education. Yes, kind of a dark scenario these days, but not worthy of tears!

I was out west presenting my masters research and took the chance to connect with some women mentors. Both mothers and both with great careers. Both of them told me that you never get time with your kids back. Both told me no job is more important than health and family. Both told me of their own search for meaning and balance when they were at a similar stage in life. I felt less alone and I had decided.

While pursuing my goals was one thing, for me, family was the reason I’m here and I needed to play the long game when it came to thinking about career. My mental health was suffering and if I didn’t choose me now when I needed me most, would I ever choose me? Had I ever really chosen me or had I just chosen things I thought I should do?

I chose me (well, actually a doctor told me I had to take time off work, so effectively I was forced to choose me). But I did. And as I unwound from the complex web I had spun myself I began to find joy again. In tiny things. Like being outside at 10:00am, watching the bees gathering pollen from the flowers I’d planted, planting more flowers so I could watch more bees, cooking healthy food, resting, watching my kids play in the park, singing. And making time for those friends and family I’d been too busy to see before.

It was scary (is scary) to decide that I couldn’t go back to that work, that pace of life, without there being sacrifices for our family. But the greatest sacrifice in this pattern of unhealthy striving was to myself. Choosing me meant finding me, remembering how to laugh, play, be silly, practice gratitude, read books, put my phone down, be in community, and realizing I love to watch bees. 

We live in Edmonton now. My husband got his command position and we are here for two years. I’m home with my now three-year old (that wee babe from earlier in the story is now three) and my curious and clever six-year old. I’ve been present as we helped them navigate saying goodbye to friends and the fear that comes along with moving and being the new kid.

We have explored new trails and seen animals and birds we have never seen before. We are nestling into long winter nights in a more northern place. I make meals and eat with my kids (for what seems like a lifetime at the table…three year olds, am I right?!), do school drop-offs and pick-ups, go sledding and skating or play board games and referee brother squabbles. I get to do groceries when there are no line-ups. No one needs to navigate who stays home when a kid is sick. And I make and keep plans to reconnect with friends we knew when we lived here before.

I might not be “doing” anything right now and I’m certainly still searching for how this new Shannon can share her gifts with the world. But when someone asks me how I am, I can now happily say that I’m good. And I mean it.



You can follow Shannon on her journey @love_this_minute on Instagram.


Women’s Stories is going to be an ongoing project that shares true stories written by women who are questioning who they are and the lives they want to live. You can follow along on Instagram @thesearchfor_self

becoming a parent.

Parenting unlocks something in you.

I don’t think you could anticipate it
or prepare for it.
It’s a feeling of wanting to give
your absolute personal best
to someone
and you don’t know how.

It’s thinking about their life.

The impact that you want to have.
How you hope for them to be in the world
and then realizing
the role you play in that.

How much learning and unlearning
you will need to do
in order to make it happen.

Being open to looking at
your own flaws
your own challenges
your own tendencies
your past.

Because you know
that they will become a part
of your child’s story.
And you want better for them.

So you have to figure out your shit.
You have to be the person
you want your child to see every day.

Because sure, you made life,
but now you have the huge responsibility
of possibly shaping it –
for the better or
for the worst.
And there’s no pressure like it.

my 2019 Christmas Wish List.

yep, I’m a starting early.

where some might think it’s too materialistic to list things you’d like for Christmas, to me it’s just fun.

With a mom and grandma who did everything possible to make Christmas a magical time of year, it’s no surprise why I’m still making wishes at 39 years old.

so without further ado, here’s the beginning of my 2019 Christmas Wish List. I’ll keep coming in to add to it at different times 🙂

  1. Bath Bombs from Lush.
  2. a paper cutter. it could be anything like this. (update! a sweet friend surprised me with a Christmas present in October ❤️ after seeing this list – it was a paper cutter!)
  3. My Perfectly Imperfect Life. cute little book from FLOW.
  4. small little rose gold ball stud earrings. something like this.
  5. $ towards being able to work at The Workaround
  6. new moccasins. like these or these.
  7. a new planner to help me stay organized and set goals. have been looking at this one for a few years now: The Get To Work Workbook.

To my son, the day before Senior Kindergarten.

Hi honey,

You haven’t been yourself the last week.  You seem angry and upset.  The other day I finally picked you up and brought you upstairs so we could be alone.  We cuddled in bed and as I hugged you close, I said that we needed to talk.  I would ask you questions and you could answer just by shaking your head either yes or no.  You haven’t been talking lately so this was my attempt to get you communicating with me.

Are you upset about not being up at the cabin anymore? Head nods no.
Are you upset about going back to school soon? Head nods no.
Are you upset about not seeing mom as much when you go back to school? Head nods yes.

You began to tear up, and rubbed your eyes discretely as though you didn’t want me to see.  Your back was facing me so you couldn’t see me cry either.

I asked if you’d like to have lunch at home some days (my way of spending more time with you during the week). You seemed happy about that and I felt relieved. Relieved because you let me into that little head of yours just enough to understand how you’re feeling right now.

Tate Tate, I love you so much.  There are days where I think you should be home with us. And I know the first week, I will keep looking in the back seat for you – as we drive to the beach or out to run an errand. I will miss you. I will miss your questions and our chats.

And I know that you learn so much at school. You are now able to write your first and last name so legibly. You even want to include your middle name now. You can add things in your head and your drawings are becoming quite detailed. You are very observant.

You have a great little mind. You’re the first to ask why the cement truck driving in front of us has a hook on the chute and the one at the window watching the house across the street get their metal roofing installed. You also tried to convince me the other day that we could turn the bunk bed into a three person bed by suspending a bed for your sister in between you and your brother. You had a whole plan worked out for how to secure it to the underside of your mattress. I love how you think.

And I’m worried about you going to school. I remember what it was like last September – watching your bottom lip quiver while you stood in line with your classmates. You wouldn’t take your eyes off of me. You were trying so hard to hold it together and not cry. And the day you burst into a loud sob and held desperately onto my legs (so not your usual behaviour) – it took everything for me to not cry along with you. I waited until you went into the school and we rounded the corner of the building on our way home. I could have worn sunglasses the first month of school to hide my red and watery eyes.

I’m also worried about how the Henry’s will treat you (Henry B pinches you and Henry K says unkind things to you).  I hope that I will teach you to communicate with them and with your teacher.  I want you to love school and to stay curious.  School should be a place you are excited to go.

So tonight we will pack your bag and talk about the morning. We will take your first day of school photo and I will do my best to smile and encourage you. And I’ll probably still be teary as I leave the schoolyard without you. Maybe we’ll have lunch together tomorrow.

I love you so much, Tate. I’ll miss you.

Mama


Last year’s letter to Tate: First Day of JK.

the Lainie List.

after three weeks at the cabin, we all are adjusting to life back in the city.
  1. fees associated with running an Etsy shop.
  2. be a part of 5 Postcards, 5 Days! (I made some really cute postcards…)
  3. read this book and loved it. borrowed it from the library.
  4. an online email course I just signed up for – In Cahoots.
  5. IKEA Ideas: online design inspiration
  6. bought this t-shirt. “Making it Up as I Go” – perfect fit for me 😉
  7. About to read this. audience is retirees… I think it’s applicable to anyone making changes in their lives.

I hope you have a chance to check out the cute postcards I made. If you are a paper lover and appreciate postcards, I think you might like them…

Hope you’ve been enjoying your summer!!

The Lainie List

This week Tate learned to ride a two-wheel bike on his own for the very first time.
  1. just ordered this t-shirt for myself.
  2. this looks like a really fun water park / splash pad in Scarborough.
  3. my printmaking on fabric online course is 30% off right now (until August 2nd)
  4. Toronto Stationary Show in August. I wanna go.
  5. Modern Loss
  6. The Quiet Ego
  7. The Ultimate Toronto Neighbourhood Rankings – 2019.
  8. What people talk about before they die.
  9. how trauma seeps across generations. fascinating read.
  10. enjoying midsummer the Finnish way.
  11. origami bag tutorial
  12. Steve Jobs demonstrated the perfect way to respond to an insult.
  13. love this interview with Maurice Sendak.
  14. don’t forget to have fun.
  15. reusable snack bags.
  16. a must read for parents. an article filled with summer tips from a drown investigator and mother.
  17. the letter every parent should write. try reading this one with a dry eye.
  18. 5 lessons most people learn way to late in life.
  19. 8 talks on cultivating self love.

My last Lainie List for a bit! Getting ready to go to the cabin soon!

the Lainie List.

Last day of school photo.
Summer has officially started for The Holmes’
  1. Chocolate fudge brownies. this recipe was delicious. instead of chocolate chips (we didn’t have any), I swapped in small Lindor chocolates.
  2. LOVED this interview with Elizabeth Gilbert about her new book, City of Girls.
  3. cute outdoors sweatshirt.
  4. An interesting story about Agatha Christie and how she disappeared…
  5. to all the great dads out there (a great piece from Todays Parent)
  6. feel like getting crafty this summer? try my new Printmaking on Fabric online class! it’s lots of fun and easy to do.
  7. there are only 4 times you should agree to work for free.
  8. free is not appreciated. an interesting read.
  9. where to find free online photos online.
  10. the death of the family secret. implications of 23andme and ancestry.com. (Huffington Post)
  11. I want to go to this conference someday. Creative at Heart.
  12. LOVE the personality test from 16personalities.com (it’s creepy accurate)
  13. STORY. another conference I’d love to go to.
  14. 8 talks on cultivating self love.
  15. My Top Picks for an Entrepreneur Summer Reading List – Jenna Kutcher
  16. Crowns for the People. Fun fabric crowns for grown ups (who are kids at heart).
  17. Old-Fashioned Strawberry-Rhubarb Crisp Recipe – Rollie Wesen | Food & Wine
  18. Great places to go hiking this summer (without a vehicle to get there) | CBC

Can you tell I haven’t written a list lately!? this is a long one 🙂 Hope you find something interesting in here for you.

I also want to share that I’ve been thinking about no longer writing my Lainie Lists. will let you know before I wrap them up.

hope you’re enjoying your summer!

Lainie

planning for the ultimate adventure.

it’s time.

I’m about to go somewhere
I need to go
but I’ve been avoiding.

I’m great at finding
random projects
to keep me busy
and away from the place
that’s been calling me.

What is it?

A place with scary shit.

A place with
anger,
sadness,
fear,
and hurt.

A place I try to move beyond
but end up back where I started.
I’m lost
and going in endless
circles.

But I know
it’s on the way
to this amazing place
I want to go.

A place that is bright
and beautiful,
full of inspiration
and pure joy.

A place where I feel
at ease,
playful,
and grounded.

I’m going to pack my bags.

What will I need?

Hiking shoes,
my turquoise ones.
The ones I wore in Iceland.
A bright splash of colour on my feet
as I trudge through this rough terrain.

I’ll bring my notebook and pen.
I will record and observe
what I see and feel.
I don’t want to forget these things,
they will be important.

I’ll pack a camera.
I want to document everything.
I want to remember what I came across
so I can write about it later.

I will pack layers of clothing.
A light coat.
My bright pink fleece.
Depending on how I’m feeling,
I can either shed some heaviness
or add a layer for warmth.
I’ll see what I need
as I go.

And I want to go alone.

I don’t want to be distracted.
I don’t want to worry about others
and their experience.

Are they okay?
What do they need?
Would they like to do something different?

I need to focus
and take it all in.

I need to see
that I can do this
on my own.

What’s Ahead?

I might come across
things that scare me.
I’m going to be unsure at times,
but I’m going to trust
my gut.

I will want to push myself
to go
as far as I can
in a day.

Instead,
I will tell myself
to soak it up.
I’m only going through this
once.
I need to make the most of it.

And in the end,
I’ll come out the other side
with the most unbelievable story
and a sense of accomplishment.

I did it.
I’m better for it.

I’m ready to get started.


I wrote this over a year ago.

It has definitely been an adventure – the last 12+ months. Through writing and making, I continue to work my way through the scary shit and I’m starting to see the beginning glimpses of that amazing place where I want to be.

So I’m ready to begin my next adventure.

In the fall of 2019, I will begin writing a book for our kids. The kind of book that every mom should write for their children – the story of their life. I’ve decided to create a space where others can join me as I tell my story. My hope is that others might feel inspired to write for their kids or for themselves. coming soon!

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