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Remembering Mom: The Smell of her Lipstick

Last week as I looked forward to spending Mother’s Day with my boys, I thought about those who no longer have their moms.  What is Mother’s Day like for them?

I reached out to three friends who lost their mothers as young women and asked if they’d be interested in writing about their moms on my blog.

I’d love to!  She has been on my mind lately.

I would love to share about my mum…will be emotional but wonderful at the same time.

I’d be honoured!

So after a teary editing session, here is the first of three stories to be shared this week.

 

Cynthia Darby Maxwell

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I chose this photo because it shows three generations of my family, and my Mom during one of the happiest times of her life.

 

I remember the smell of her lipstick and perfume, the way her scarf was soft and warm on my face.  

My mom used to kiss me goodbye every time I left the house. She would hold my face in her hands and kiss me quickly as I squirmed to get free… saying, “I love you, see you soon.”

She was a single parent to my brother and I.  We were definitely not the easiest of children. My brother had special needs and my mom had to work hard to support him through his education. She had taken thalidomide during her pregnancy and was determined that Andrew would never be at a disadvantage because of it. She wasn’t a feisty advocate.  She was supportive, persistent and involved.

My mom always said that we could do anything we wanted, anything we set our minds to. She valued education and went back to university when I was ten to finish her degree in Geography. Unfortunately, the year she graduated there were no jobs in education.  For every trial and tribulation, my mom would persevere. She’d just pick herself up and move on, never looking back.

My mom fought a 20 year battle with cancer. She was incredible, never losing faith that things would work out. She believed in the people taking care of her and never said why me. When we first found out, she was strong and invincible, and I fell apart. She held me up.  

She had such dignity. Nurses and doctors were always commenting on how lovely she was.  She was kind and polite, even when she was feeling poorly. She would never let someone else feel her pain.

I watched her strength dwindle and wane.  She leaned harder on me. I was so proud to be her daughter, to look on as she fought hard to stay with us.  She waited so long to see us safely into the world without her. I had to tell her it was okay to go, that I would take care of Andrew, that I would be okay. That was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do… but my mom would have done it for me.

She was my everything.  I miss her every day.

 

Each night, my mom would gather me into my bed, read me a book, tell me stories and sing to me. The day would just drift away.  She’d brush my hair oh so gently off my forehead and kiss me saying, “Goodnight and God Bless” as she turned off the light and slipped down the hall.

 

Writer’s Note: This piece was written by Cynthia’s daughter, Aynsley.  Aynsley and I met each other through work about six years ago.  In those six years, it’s hard to think of a conversation with Ayns that hasn’t included a special anecdote or memory of her Mom.  It’s been 15 years since she lost her Mom and she is still very much a part of her life.  

Ayns, I know this wasn’t easy to write.  Thank you.

 

Welcome to Red Rocket Coffee

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Baristas, Kirstin and Kayla, pose for me with their ‘tough look’.  They’re too friendly to pull it off.

 

Sorry, Starbucks.  I won’t be coming to hang out anymore.  It’s not you, it’s me.  I’ve found someplace new that’s a better fit for me.  Red Rocket Coffee.

 

Scones baked fresh every morning.  Cranberry lemon, strawberry coconut, white chocolate orange…  The best I’ve had.  Favourites are usually sold out by afternoon.  Specialty drinks like Dirt n’ Worms Hot Chocolate, apple cider (caramel or apple pie), and the best tea lattes.

 

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There are little corners to hide away.  A long bench stretches along the back, dotted with small tables.  There’s a spot I like near the corner, next to the little side table with a lamp.

 

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There’s also a great spot that backs against the fireplace and faces the street.  I love the openness of seeing the street and still feeling like I’m tucked away in my own little space.  

 

It’s here where I sneak away for a little time for myself – to write to my boys in the journals I keep for them, to work on my latest online course, or to write in my notebook.

 

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This week I’m going to share with you my new favourite coffee shop.  This place has a small community feel, complete with its own cast of characters.

 

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First, there’s Mrs. Tate.

 

A sweet, older lady who I ‘met’ one Saturday morning.  She came into the shop with flowers.  She had remembered it was one of the barista’s birthdays.  Her gift was met with “aaawwws, thank you’s, and you’re so sweet.”  

I assumed that Mrs. Tate owned a flower shop as she told the girls that on Easter weekend, it had been the busiest it had been in 30+ years.  “I feel so supported by the community.  Everyone came out.”  They were yelling out goodbye’s to Mrs. Tate as she walked out the door.

I am loving this neighbourhood more and more.

 

Then there’s the eclectic graphic designer who roams around, striking up a conversation with anyone – staff, complete strangers, and people he seems to know.  He hasn’t approached me yet but I bet it would make for a great story afterwards.

I found him so entertaining that one morning I flipped between my online course and an open Google doc so I could jot down the things he was saying.  People must have thought I looked strange.  Sitting there quietly with a smile on my face. I found him hilarious. Interesting. Smart.  A total character.  

 

——-

 

He approaches a young family with a little girl.  He tries to talk to her but she’s shy and unsure of him.

Good to be suspicious of old men.  We’re up to no good.  

I like kids and dogs.  They are the only things that get along with me.  I’m just the guy at the end of the street.

Drinks are ready.  Names are being called out.  Not forced or fake feeling.  They actually know people’s names.

The designer begins talking about his niece and nephew, and when they play music together.  The jazz trio of crazy.  

She’s only shooting at people who are mean to her.  Marlow – shotgun apocalypse.  My Ted Kennedy impression.  

At this point I have no idea what he’s talking about.  Apparently his niece has a great imagination that’s fuelled by her uncle.

Hey Kayla…

He’s in mid conversation with someone and is now yelling out across the room to strike up a conversation with one of the baristas.

He joins a father and his young son playing battleship.  They’re sitting in the comfy couch area near the fireplace.

Do you have a strategy for where you put your guys?  The fog of war.  I’ve studied the art of war. Sun Tzu.  I’d be trembling in some trench somewhere.  I don’t think I could kill anyone.  I don’t think I’d like the threat of being killed.  I’m sure I’d find God somewhere along the way.  Bahaha.  

Ciao, Dominique!  


He’s now yelling at a man leaving the coffee shop.  The man smiles as he leaves, throwing his arm up in the air to wave goodbye.

The young boy gets up to leave the battleship game for a moment.

Your dad’s not so dumb.  He’s going to cheat while you’re gone.  I’m a provocateur.  That’s what they say in Francais.  I play both sides.  I’d be a spy.  I’m too flamboyant to be a spy.  

He continues to roam around the small shop for another hour or so, before leaving.

———

On a different day, I ran in for a tea.   A lady came in after me to order a drink and something to eat.  She told Kayla that she hadn’t been feeling well and was going home instead of into work.  Kayla’s response, “Coffee is on Robin and I.”  

 

I love this place.  The people, the small community feel, and the constant hum of life.

 

I’m glad my hubby had me venture away from my usual tea at Starbucks. I haven’t been back in months.

It’s nice to support a local business where you begin to recognize familiar faces from the neighbourhood.  A place where knowing your name isn’t a corporate attempt at creating a false human connection.    

 

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Maybe you have a great little place near your home too.

 

 

 

5 Signs You Have a Toddler in the House

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You open the fridge to find saws with your condiments.

 

 
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You can find your shoe in the kitty litter on a daily basis.

 

 

 

IMG_3387.jpgYour laptop becomes a place where animals hang out.

 

 

 

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You have to look inside your boots before putting them on.

 

 

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The cat food is out of reach because someone likes to snack on it.  

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.

 

Grandparents: I had a Soft Spot for Grandpa

“How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.”  ~A.A. Milne

The love between a grandparent and a grandchild is something special.  It’s something quite different from that of a parent and child.  Grandparents often hear our secrets, spoil us rotten, and understand us in ways that few others do. We believe we can do anything and it’s because they told us so.

I recently reached out to three people I know to share what they loved most about their grandparents.

This week, I’ll share their heartwarming stories in three separate posts.

Get your kleenex ready.

 

 

Alec Whitfield
Stories shared by his granddaughter, Emma

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A favourite picture of the two of us.  This photo reminds me of how consistent my Grandpa was in my life.

 

 

Grandpa was the kindest, gentlest, loving man I have ever met.  
It’s not something that I can easily explain, but there was an extra special bond between my Grandpa and myself and it was just “fact”–and I think we both liked it that way.

I had a soft spot for Grandpa and he had a soft spot for me.  

He was quick with his humour, often rolling out pun after pun with a quiet giggle to follow. He was always searching out a new joke to share at Rotary, usually so full of low brow humour that the groans were as loud as the laughter.

One thing that I especially loved about my Grandpa was that he was always playful.  He was known on one occasion (and with some help of my Grandma), to show up as the 4th player at a ladies’ bridge lunch in a dress and bonnet.

For weeks I would get a call here and there…”We found another one, you rascal!” followed by giggles of laughter.

On many occasions as we were leaving London to head back to our home in Toronto, I would take it upon myself to run around the basement hiding pictures of my sister and I (taken from the photo boxes) in drawers, on the laundry line, under cans of soup–wherever Grandpa might find them.


When my Grandparents came to Toronto–I was moved into my sister’s room so that they could use my bedroom.  And once they left, I returned to my room, only to find a picture of Grandma and Grandpa tucked under my pillow, left by Grandpa.

 

My Grandpa wrote my sister and I letters from about the time we were 8 and 9 years old.

 

We received these letters on our birthdays and while we attended summer camp. The letters were like mini history lessons. My Grandpa had pretty much a photographic memory (which actually kept him from being enlisted in the war because the company he worked for, Emco, was being used for ammunitions and he was the only person who knew all the parts codes from memory!)


He knew how to work hard.
He was one of 13 children, in a family raised in South-Western Ontario, mostly in London, where he was responsible for peeling potatoes at a young age and walking the railway tracks to look for coal or wood that had fallen off the trains so that he could take them back to help heat the family home.

 

I will say that the person who reminds me most of my Grandpa is my husband.

 

They only met once for a short afternoon in the winter before he passed away, but my husband and Grandpa share so many similarities when it comes to humour and disposition that I swear in another life they must have crossed paths!

Grandma and Grandpa both died in 2013. Grandpa passed away on April 1st (perhaps fitting that it was April Fool’s for a man who loved a good laugh) and my Grandma the following August.  I take great comfort in knowing they are together, hand in hand, exactly how they’d like to be.

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After he passed away, and before my wedding day, I got a tattoo of his signature on my wrist.  A reminder of the imprint his words and his stories and his wisdom have had on my life.

It is rarely a day that goes by that I am not reminded of something he did or said.  I take those moments as his way of letting me know he’s always with me.

 

Writer’s Note: This story was shared by Alec’s granddaughter, Emma.  I met Emma when I was in university at Brock.  We were both in the education program.  We haven’t seen each other in 15 years and only connect by seeing each other’s lives through Facebook posts.  

But I remember when Emma’s grandpa passed away.

She wrote the most beautiful post, sharing all of the things she loved about him.  How he was the first person to teach her how to write a cheque, how they played competitive games of scrabble together…her words were simple and honest.  I could tell how much he meant to her.

So when I decided to put together this blog post, I immediately thought of her.  A quick message through Facebook and it was as though 15 years hadn’t passed.  Within the day, Emma sent me her story about her grandpa.  I hope you enjoyed reading it.  

Where Writers Write

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Scraps of paper from a purse during a morning commute, napkins from a little coffee shop, paper menus from a diner late at night – the beginnings of some of our favourite books.   Likely scribbled in haste to capture the thought before it was gone.

Yet it’s funny that we have a romantic view of where writers write.

We might picture a beautiful mahogany desk.  From the window, light spills across papers and there are books stacked on every flat surface.  There’s soft music playing in the background as they punch away at their computer, or even better, a typewriter.  Or maybe they slide a beautiful pen across paper.  

Not in my world.

This is just a little post to share where I do my writing…

 

Being “Innovative” is Easier than you Think
On my iPhone 6, it’s 3 a.m., and I’m writing in my Notes app.   Our son, who’s a month and a half old, is lying in my lap.  I’m just waiting for him to fall asleep so I can put him into his space pod (what we lovingly call the 4 Mom’s swing – the only thing he will sleep in).  It’s been two hours of waiting so far.  Every move I make triggers a flailing of his arms and legs.  I keep writing.


The Best Job Posting I’ve Ever Read
Standing near the stove in the kitchen.  Our youngest is in the Baby Bjorn and the fan above the stove is on high.  The rumble puts him to sleep and I write.  Our oldest is running around the house playing like a madman.


I Still Find Her Letters
Standing near the stove again.  God I love this fan.  Our little one is sleeping and our oldest is snoozing comfortably upstairs in his crib.  Good thing.  He’d be wondering what’s wrong with Mom?  Why is she crying?


Coffee Drinking, Bacon Inhaling Ninjas
Hello fan, we meet again.  Yes, my writing time includes a stove top, 14 pounds strapped to the front of me and a napping toddler.  But I’ll take it.    


Reckless, Stupid, and Irresponsible: The Pursuit of Dream Jobs
Paw Patrol.  He LOVES it.  One is sleeping on my chest and the other teething, grumpy, and in need of a little down time.  He has his blanket and the only cartoon he’ll watch.  


Where Writers Write.  

Anomaly.  One in the crib and the other sleeping in a swing.  I have no child attached to me.  This feels strange.  I sit on the floor, computer on coffee table. I might actually have a cup of hot tea.  


Don’t get me wrong, I love being a Mom.  Toothy smiles, belly laughs over the silliest of things, and days filled with play and trips to the park.  

I also love when they sleep.  When the house is unusually quiet and I can sneak a little bit of time for myself.  It’s then that I write.


The title of this blog was inspired by an article I recently read:  Where Writers Write: Discover the weird and wonderful writing sanctuaries of some of your favourite authors.  It’s a great read and I think you might like it.  

Some set up camp in a bathtub to do their writing or in a shed outdoors.  Although a bit unusual, they were able to find quiet places to think and get away from it all.

Maybe my stove top is more romantic than it seems.

 

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.

Coffee Drinking, Bacon Inhaling Ninjas

Friendly twitter ninja. Coffee scholar. Bacon junkie. Thinker. Music aficionado.

Subtly charming coffee expert. Friendly thinker. Total music ninja.
Wannabe pop culture specialist.


 

Our online bios are all starting to sound the same.  Future anthropologists will think that we only consumed bacon, drank coffee, and were actually a generation of ninja warriors.

It’s a shame.  A world full of interesting people, each with their own “thing,” are being whittled down to a generic one liner.

But how do you write something that truly captures who you are?  It’s not easy.

I’ve been struggling to write a bio that is truly me.  I recently turned to the web to find inspiration.  I found it.

Smart, simple, playful, effective, and fun.  Charlene D’Aoust decided to take the humble bios of her colleagues and rewrite them in a blog post, titled: “10 Reasons Why I Love Working at 88 Creative.”  She showcased their unique skills and shared what she admired about each person.  She did an incredible job.

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10 Reasons I Love Working at 88 Creative (to read full post)

 

These bios give a sense of each person – their strengths professionally and what people love about them personally.  They also show that quality writing can breathe life into something that’s usually mundane.

Thank you, @charlene_daoust!  My notebook now includes snippets of your post.  Lines I love, notes about tone and how you structured each bio.  More inspiration as I work to craft my own.

 

This week, take a look at your bio.

Does it reflect who you are as a person?  If it does, that’s great! They aren’t easy to write. If your bio doesn’t,  maybe it’s time to rework it a bit.

Find three bios you love.  Search organizations that share the same values or interests as you.   Look up people who inspire you.  Whatever you do, don’t Google, “How to Write a Good Bio.”  You won’t find yourself there.

Yes, you’ll be lurking a bit but those three bios will say a lot about you.  You’ll likely be drawn to a writing style that matches your personality.  Maybe you’re a laid back kind of guy and will like bios that are short, humble, and easygoing.  Or you might come across a bio that describes your values and skill set in an artful way.

It’s hard to write about yourself.  But it’s easy to see yourself in someone else’s writing. Learn from them and make it your own.

Once you’ve reworked your bio, read it to a friend, family member, or colleague.  You’ll know you’ve hit the mark when they say, “that’s so you.”   If they don’t, ask them to choose one word to describe you.  Figure out a way to have it come through in your writing.

You may be thinking that what I’m suggesting is too personal and unnecessary.  It leaves us in a vulnerable place.  Why does someone need to know that I like chick flicks?  Why? Because someone else will say, “so do I!!”  Relating to each other is what humans do.

Without a little vulnerability, we’re just a bunch of coffee drinking, bacon inhaling ninjas.

 

 

 

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.