Saturday, April 6, 2013

Do or do not. There is no try.

As Yoda said, "Do or do not. There is no try." 

I don't know where I got my courage from. Not to say that there aren't moments of fear in my life, but for the most part, I find myself willingly stepping into the unknown and risking failure. And that's one of the things I love about myself.

I think back to key points of my life where I've stepped into the unknown and just trusted that the universe would catch me, that I'd succeed or get the learning that I was supposed to get from whatever failure happened.

My philosophy in university was "take all the classes that look interesting. If you don't like a class, don't take it again." I was fortunate enough that tuition only cost half an arm and a leg, and that I was able to take courses from 16 different disciplines - an academic buffet of knowledge. I dove fearlessly into a few C's, D's and an F. There may even be an N (incomplete) in there for good measure. Because deep down I knew, no matter what my grade was, it didn't determine my worth as a person. I value my diverse education (chemistry, sociology, English, history, economics, philosophy, Japanese, archaeology, religion, etc) - I feel like exposing myself to all of those things have made me a more well-rounded person.

While my stomach drops each time I'm about to go on stage for stand up comedy, whether I'm telling new or old jokes, I get such a high from making people laugh. And there have been times where there were only 8 other people in the audience and they were other comics. They didn't laugh. Thinking back on that night, I chuckle - it isn't as though there is a finite amount of laughter to be had. I've had to go onstage after a 10 year old boy performed his stand up comedy (an uncomfortable routine on puberty and sex ed at school), and perform my "Elmo discovers on Google" bit. I've had less successful nights. But I didn't let it stop me from getting back on stage, because I LOVE being on stage, lighting up people's faces with laughter.

I've picked up and moved to another country on less than three weeks' notice - never once thinking about whether people would like me. Because I like me. And when you like yourself (in a healthy, nurturing way, not an ego-maniacal, narcissistic way), people will like you, too. I've made new friends everywhere we've lived (3 new cities in 30 months!). Not everyone is going to be your best friend for life, but there are adventures and new learnings in every relationship. Think back on who you were a year ago, 5 years ago, 10 years ago? Have your relationships, positive or negative, helped shape who you are today?

And now, I'm stepping into all sorts of new things. For example, I've decided to try out filming cooking videos in sign language - I cook, talk and sign all at the same time. (Don't ask me to juggle, though.) As a coda (child of deaf adults), I sometimes worry about how I'm perceived when I work within the deaf community. When it comes down to it, there will be deaf people who appreciate the work I do - as a coach, speaker, presenter and now as a online chef- and there will be deaf people who don't. It was a revelation - and I have those a lot - for me to understand and accept that you can't make everyone happy so make yourself happy and the others will follow.

I have no idea if 2013 will be a prosperous year - but both hubby and I are stepping into trusting ourselves and giving ourselves the tools we need to succeed as entrepreneurs. I have no idea what awaits me on the other side. I think part of me really likes the unknown - that, "what's next?" moment. It's scary, exciting and delicious.

We all have failures in our life, but those are the people I love - because they actually did something. And those who learn from their failures are stronger for them.

What's a struggle or a failure that you've had that you'd like to celebrate and give thanks for?

Monday, March 25, 2013

Shine on, sparkly friends!

Sometimes we forget that we own ourselves. That we have complete ownership of our decisions, reactions and desires. As a life coach, I'm not immune from being forgetful. Where are the moments in your life where you forget who you are, what your dreams are and who you want to *be* as you experience life?

As I've been navigating self-employment for the first time, and a whole host of transitional experiences with our return to Canada after being away for two years (and being restricted from working for two years), I've been working on cultivating my identity. I know this will be a life long endeavour, to be sure, but for now what is presenting itself so boldly in my face is self ownership.

For those that have known me for many years, know that I have a strong sense of self, that I'm a fairly confident and assertive woman who will take risks and fail and laugh about the failures and continue on. But I am, like many people who are strong, also have my tender moments. And here's what has been showing up for me, in a BIG way, these past few months:

That being a multi-faceted person is more than just okay. There will be people who have one job who don't understand why I identify myself as a coach, speaker, presenter, comedian and Pampered Chef consultant. To some, it may seem like I don't have a clear vision of my life. And I did feel a bit scattered, a bit embarrassed to be all these things. But then I had an AHA moment, a self ownership moment. What all of these things have in common is me - I bring happiness, lightness, laughter and joy to all the things I do in my life. That is my life's purpose. If you shine a light on a prism, you'll see the light sparkle everywhere. And that's really cool!

That knowing your boundaries means revisiting them regularly and maybe even redefining them. How this shows up is in my tri-cultural life. I belong to the hearing world. I belong to the deaf world. I can navigate my way almost effortlessly through both. But I also have a coda world (coda means child of deaf adults) and that's a different world altogether. Recently I decided to have fun (bringing more joy & laughter into the world!) and record videos for YouTube of me cooking in sign language and speaking simultaneously. I titled my videos to indicate that I was using ASL, when technically I am not. I chose to use that title because I want deaf people to be able to find my videos. If you're familiar with deaf culture, you'll know that ASL cannot be spoken. It has its own syntax, structure, etc. Some deaf people will take offense that I have appropriated this, and I've decided that I can't please everyone. I'm going to continue being a coda and do what works for me, which at the moment is signed and spoken videos. There are deaf friends who are enjoying my videos, one even said she felt like she was watching Julia Child for the deaf. That made my day. And my hearing friends are enjoying learning signs like chicken... I didn't know I was having a cultural crisis until I had passed it. My identity in the deaf community has been a challenging one, which maybe I'll write about more in depth another time, but the message that I really understood from the universe this week was, where I am is just fine, just fine indeed.

So if you're maybe beating yourself up for not meeting other people's expectations of being someone, maybe it's time to look at and celebrate how you're your own prism, reflecting a variety of colours. We're all cut differently. We all shine differently.

When I walk into my networking events this week and introduce myself, I'm going to OWN all of me. My coach self, my comic self, my speaker self, my awesome fun Pampered Chef self, my coda self. Because no one else is going to champion me if I don't believe in myself and the same is true for you. While you may have people who are part of your personal fan club, you have to believe in yourself too!

Have an amazing week and shine on!

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

From Ooops to Ooohs

I had the most interesting experience this morning. Once a week, I have a call with my own life coach. It's great for many reasons - she's really fantastic at supporting me, calling me out when I'm playing small or hiding, and my coach keeps me focused on my big Agenda that I have for myself. This morning I realized that I was a bit scattered and asked for permission to put away the beef stew that had cooked overnight in the slow cooker since it'd been out for too long. As a coach, I really prefer that my clients are fully present on the call. Often it is quite distracting when clients are eating their lunch or driving and being coached. I've even had a client do both simultaneously while I coached them. I felt bad for not being fully prepared for my call with this minor distraction.

So I ladled the stew (actually, we call it stoup because it's more like a soup/stew) into the containers. And the question was "what is here for you, right now in the moment?" A great coaching question, always. And for me it was watching this ladle scoop into the stoup and transfer to the pot. A realization that I was so distracted that, for the first time in 17 years, I had forgotten to add the pasta and the vegetables in the last hour of cooking. And then a sip of the broth and moist tender beef crossed my lips. And a smile.

In the moment, my beef stoup oops became my beef stew ooohs. There is learning in all things, you just have to see it. 
  1. I saw the ladle as a metaphor for all the people who are showing up in my life to help me in one form or another. Whether it be my coach, new networking acquaintances, classmates or my wonderful friends.  
  2. You can do something you've done a hundred times before and still make mistakes. But what is there to see, acknowledge, appreciate in the mistakes? What is the lesson that is available to you? 
  3. While I had forgotten to add the noodles and the vegetables to the stew, what I did have was a fantastic foundation for whatever I wanted to make. I could add cooked rice, barley, different veggies, whatever. The metaphor here is: YOU/ME are the foundation of our lives. We are ENOUGH just as we are. Everything else is just an addition to our fantastic selves. 
  4. It is exciting to try something new and unexpected. A happy accident. 
  5. Finally, the biggest AHA moment I had was that I've literally been stewing/contemplating about life and not doing what I need to do. Percolating away with ideas for my coaching, speaking, comedy, and Pampered Chef work is great, but I'm also hungry for more progress, for more action. 
I truly love and feel privileged to be a coach and to also receive coaching. To have someone who is fully present for you, to have you be fully engaged with your mind and body, to hear/see the nuances of your life, and to echo them back. Wow. What I love is the action that comes from greater awareness. I truly love what coaches do for this world. I feel so blessed.

Where in your life have you had an OOPS that turned into an OOH? 

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

The beginning of self-employment

What can we know? We know what we see and what we're told. But what if you haven't seen your friend or family member for a while? What if, instead of sharing their daily experience with you, they chose to retreat or share only the positive side of life? Then the picture is incomplete. Yet we pass judgement based on our limited knowledge. You may not know that your friend or family member is really struggling - with unemployment, their health, their relationship, their children. We only know what we see and what we're told...

I've been following the series, Unemployment News, on Gawker for the last few months. It is, most typically, a bleak series of sadness and frustration. Of people who are struggling to find personal worth in paid employment. Of people who are not lazy but simply find themselves out of a job. There are so many people without work, who also feel without worth. I wonder, am I one of them?

Since our initial move to San Francisco in September 2010, I have not had full time employment. I was really awesome at my previous job, being an executive assistant for five years. For the two years we resided in the US, I was not "allowed to interrupt the flow of commerce." I happily resigned myself to copious amounts of TV watching and game playing for the first four months. That, and unpacking. And recovering from a stress-related illness. I found myself "retired" at 33 and that was strange. I tried offering my services in a volunteer capacity to several organizations, but it didn't work out. I focused my energies on baking and deriving my worth from the 'oohs' and 'ahhhs' from recipients. I maintained a small roster of Canadian coaching clients and loved coaching them. 

When we moved from San Francisco to Dallas, I was tasked with packing and unpacking, yet again. This kept me busy. I still had some Canadian coaching clients and being able to contribute to the goodwill generated in this world was lovely. I focused my efforts on writing a book of snarky haikus. I attended a writers' conference. I was going to make the best of being in Texas. 

And then life happens. A medical oversight. A potentially fatal mistake that nearly cost my husband his life, and most certainly altered his work relationships. So you focus on keeping your head above water. We returned to Canada and hoped that, after sufficient recovery, that the job market would embrace two highly intelligent, articulate and passionate people. 

Even though I haven't worked for a formal employer in over two years, I don't feel unemployed. I feel like I'm a beginner at being self-employed. It isn't easy, and I wish that friends and family were more supportive in concrete terms (if any of them were in my shoes, I wouldn't hesitate to help), but in the end, I haven't lost my optimism. I like to think hubby and I have figured out that a big salary and a big apartment aren't the be all, end all. We're living within our small means, and really trying hard to pursue our dreams. Will there be moments of exasperation and desperation? There already have been. Will there be regrets? Of course but I don't have a time machine. Being an optimist isn't about being a Pollyanna. It's a choice I make about my perspective on life. To take on each challenge from the perspective of, there is growth here and what is it? 

Yes, I live in optimism, but I also live in reality. There are many of us out there who wish we could express our worry, struggle, panic, sadness. And we don't. So here I am, expressing that I have my moments of worry, struggle, panic and sadness. And I know I'm not alone. Quite far from it. It is a scary world out there and meaning is what we make it to be. My optimism tells me that my meaning, my purpose in life, is to continue being me: silly, fun, spontaneous, creative, loving, kind, nurturing, surprising, awesome and that pretty soon, there will be people knocking on my door and emails in my box for people wanting to hire me as their coach, event speaker, workshop facilitator and Pampered Chef consultant. I won't always be a beginner at being self-employed. 

Friday, December 14, 2012

Candle in my window

Tonight, I've lit a candle in my window, to help those who were lost find their way to peace.

I'd like to believe in a loving place that greets us when we are no longer of this Earth. I'm not much for organized religion but I do believe that good people can organize and create positive change outside of any one faith.

I've cried today, thinking of the families that are cratered by senseless violence.  The 26 families made up of of mothers, fathers, aunt, uncles, sisters, brothers, grandparents and cousins and friends of those who were hunted down today in Connecticut. Or the families of the average 87 gun-related deaths that happen each day in the United States. Or the families of the 22 Chinese children that were stabbed today.

I would like to think that the "end of our existence as we know it," the ushering in of a new collective consciousness that is to be heralded by December 21, 2012, can actually take place. Maybe I am an overly optimistic hippy, maybe I'm in the wrong era. But I do believe we can all choose peace and love. The thing is, we have to give it to everyone we meet. I'm not saying I'm perfect, by any stretch, but what I am saying is that if we continue on this path of shaming and hating and destroying other people because they don't conform to our political or religious beliefs, we're not going to get very far.

I'm lighting a candle in my window tonight, and every night for the next week, as my desire for our troubled humanity to find its way to peace. I hope you'll join me. Maybe we can start a dialogue soon about what we're wanting to see from the world and each other. Tonight is for silence and reflection.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Kia America, You Broke My Heart

My husband and I, Canadian citizens, purchased our very first car, a 2012 Kia Soul, on October 31, 2011. We were living in Allen, Texas at the time, as my husband was on a work visa with a software company.

When we purchased our car from Southwest Mesquite Kia (Mesquite TX), we asked both the salesperson, Jerry, and the assistant manager of the dealership Kelsey, if we would be able to import the car into Canada. They assured me that it would be no problem. Since we only had 22 months left on my husband's work visa, the terms of financing were stiff. We were able to put down $10K on the car (which was meant to pay for hotel expenses my husband incurred during his work relocation) and paid $500 a month through a State Farm car loan (3.95% compared to the dealership offering us 16%).

Fast-forward to August 2012. My husband fell ill from medical negligence. We were not feeling welcome nor supported by his company and looking at returning to Canada. I investigated Transport Canada and the Registrar of Imported Vehicles website. As bad luck would have it, out of all the late model cars manufactured in the USA, only the 2012 and 2013 Kia vehicles were not allowed for import into Canada. If I had purchased a Toyota, a Ford, a Hyundai, or even a 2011 Kia Soul, I would have been fine. I'd still have to pay duty and make some small modifications, but I could live with that.

I contacted RIV and asked why the 2012 Kias were not on the list. I was directed to contact Kia America. I was spoken to by one of their higher up customer relations people. He could not tell me what the delay was or even a timeline. Right up until the week we were set to move, the 2012 Kia Soul we purchased was not allowed to be imported into Canada.

We sold our car on September 19, 2012, a car we paid $20,500 for, for $14,000 to CarMax, after less than a year. Kia America was absolutely useless in all of this. In addition to their complete lack of help and consideration, the dealership failed to tell me when I bought my car that even if I was able to import it, that the stellar 10 year warranty was with Kia America and I'd have to make arrangements with Kia Canada at additional costs if I wanted my car to be serviced on Canadian soil. When I asked about the warranty issue after I found out about not being able to import my car, the dealership's assistant manager said he had no idea that their warranty didn't cover Canada as well. A complete lack of communication and training from headquarters down to the dealerships.

Kia America and Southwest Mesquite KIA. You broke my heart. I still cringe when I see a Kia Soul on the car. I want so bad to get another one, but you treated me so poorly. You cost me $6,500. Why should I give you a chance again? It'd be really nice if Kia America or Kia Canada stepped up to the plate, apologized and maybe helped with a discount on a new Soul.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

5 Things I've Learned From Facebook

April 21, 2007. That's the day I relented and joined Facebook. In these last 5 1/2 years, I've seen my friends mature personally and professionally, watched their children grow from ultrasound into tiny adults, celebrated birthdays, engagements, marriages, graduations, and offered support and condolences on the passing of their loved ones. This social network, this entity that binds us as a community, is amazing. I've also learned a lot about myself in the last five years. 

1. We are who we are, magnified

What we post on Facebook doesn't define us in our entirety, but it gives us a glimpse into a person's life and what is important to them. For some, they use Facebook to celebrate their children's milestones or their favourite sports team's accomplishments or to espouse their political ideology. Chances are, what you see on Facebook is what you'd get if you spent some time with these people in person. My posts are littered with what I've been baking and celebrating gratitude in the face of adversity. And yes, if you constantly post cat videos, chances are you really love cats. As someone who values depth in character and relationship, I really enjoy knowing people on that level. I feel like I see YOU and that brings me joy.  

What do your posts say about you?

2. All is not what it seems

Obviously, not everything you see on Facebook is a complete picture of someone's life. There are those who share every intimate detail of their lives on social media, down to the specifics of their pending divorces, bitter custody battles and dating disasters. Self-absorbed narcissists want all the attention all the time - there's a deeper psychological thing going on. For some, Twitter and Facebook is like having their own reality show and they're the star. But most people aren't like that. In fact, most people don't want to share their disappointments or failures with the world. I know I certainly don't advertise when I'm having a pity party in my pajamas - and we all have them. We only see what people want us to see. Frequent sad or whiny posts suggest that there are some deeper issues (and usually result in friends tuning out said statuses). On the flip side, I never quite trust people who use the word "perfect" with alarming frequency. Nothing and no one is perfect all of the time. There's always room for challenges and growth, even in our failures. And when you're feeling vulnerable and share your pains, we'll embrace you for the human that you are, just as we are also. If you are having regular pajama pity parties, invite some friends over for a pillow fight and bonk each other on the head until you're laughing and red in the face. 

Are your statuses creating an illusion or mirroring reality?

3. The definition of friendship

This was a tough one. I'm an optimist: I see everyone I meet as a potential friend and I regularly forget that not everyone is kind, loving and compassionate. I just assume everyone is (I live in a wonderful fantasy world, according to some!). There's a great adage, there are people who come into your life for a reason, season and a lifetime. Before Facebook, friendships naturally waned and we'd lose touch with our reason/season friends. Somehow, there's an artificial idea that adding someone to your Facebook means you have to be their friend forever. Not everyone is deserving of being in your life forever, and that's okay. 

We recently returned to Canada from living in Dallas for a year. Several Dallas "friends" didn't show any signs of concern or support when hubby was on 2 month medical leave- nor did they acknowledge our leaving Dallas despite numerous status updates, party invitations or texts. That was a defining moment, literally and figuratively: for me, a friend is someone who sincerely wishes you health, joy, happiness and success wherever you are. If they can't take a minute or two out of their day to do that, do you really want them in your life? The real gems are the kind that show up to help you move, surprise you on Christmas day, make you soup when you're sick, bake you your favourite treats or fly across the country just to see you off. From this day forward, I am only making room in my life for authentic friends - a high bar to set, but for me, friendship isn't about quantity, it's quality. 

How do you define friendship? 

4. The importance of acknowledgement and setting expectations

Whether you're a regular fixture on Facebook or an occasional voyeur, it means a lot to your friends when you acknowledge them. For me, I make regular use of the "like" button. It says, hey, I saw your post/photo/link and I'm cheering for you/agree with you/thinking of you. If someone regularly comments or "likes" things you post and you don't return that acknowledgement, even on a fractional basis, it can cause some hurt feelings. It's happened to me, as the giver and receiver of acknowledgement. The thing is, we're adults and we can talk about how this is impacting us. Some people place less value on maintaining relationships on Facebook because it is a virtual world, but the feelings involved are real. And friendships do take work to maintain, some less than others. Communicate your needs. And if the other person can't meet them, either accept them or move on. You know what your needs are, and it's more than reasonable to set those expectations. That being said, if Facebook is your only source of validation in life, you may want to get off the computer and make some in-person friends. All things in moderation, folks! 

Are you clear about your expectations in your relationships, online and off?

5. The world is a big and small place, simultaneously 

Moving from Vancouver to San Francisco to Dallas to Barrie, within a span of 25 months, was a whirlwind of packing, boxes, hotel rooms, unpacking and stress. And all the while, Facebook kept me connected to old and new friends near and far. Thanks to Facebook, I felt more connected to my distant friends and family and hooked into social groups in my new cities that made each transition easier. I use Facebook to connect with fellow coaches, writers and baking enthusiasts from around the world. I use it as a tool to enhance and share my joy and gratitude. What do you want more of, out of life? You can probably find it on Facebook - whether it be cat videos, spiritual quotes, silly jokes, or George Takei-inspired witticisms. There are millions of unique, awesome people in this social network. Your world is only as small as you want it to be. 

Where would you like to go from here?

I like to think I'm pretty true to life to my Facebook persona. Mostly upbeat, fairly food-focused, and driven to live a life full of passion and integrity. My life has been enriched by the positive and not-so-positive experiences I've had with friends and not-so-friends on Facebook. For that, I am grateful.