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. 

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Gratitude and Thanks

Canadians celebrated Thanksgiving this past Monday and this year has been especially filled with gratitude. I am thankful that a serious medical error was caught in time, which could have resulted in my husband having a stroke or heart attack if it had gone undetected much longer. I am thankful to be have returned to our stomping grounds of Southern Ontario (Barrie) after 20 years away and looking forward to reconnecting with many friends and family I haven't seen in a long time. I'm thankful for the amazing friendships that made each San Francisco and Dallas memorable places to live these past two years. I am thankful to finally feel like I'm home.

I firmly believe that we choose our thoughts. We're 10 months into 2012 and so much has happened this year already. We weren't planning to move again, the third long distance move in 24 months, nor were we planning to cash out my retirement fund and downsize to a small apartment while we figure out our next steps. Strangely enough, it feels right to us. We have enough cash to pay rent for six months, which is more than most folks, and we can ride out this minor storm. We could choose to be miserable and whiny and shake our fists at our lives, but we're choosing to embrace the opportunities that come with starting over.

What I'm excited about, looking into the unknown: we are both pursuing our dreams. My husband, a software engineer in the games industry, has ate, slept and dreamed games since early childhood and now he can wake up and work on his own game. How lucky is he? So many people resign themselves to a life without passion because it's too hard. It is hard, but if you want it bad enough, you'll find a way. Three years ago, he was inspired to remake Ultima 4 in flash, all by himself, and thousands of people played his online version. It was the best time he'd ever had, and every day was filled with passion as the pieces of his vision came together. I'm looking forward to what he creates this go-round!

As for me, I'm thrilled to be back in Canada. Being retired at 33 wasn't all it was cracked up to be, not being able to work in the USA without a work visa. Today, I signed up to Pampered Chef,  to become a sales consultant for a great company that sells kitchen wares and tools. I've been a devotee for the last five years of PC products, and I see myself happy selling it. One of the visions I have for myself is bringing families together back in the kitchen and around the dining room table. We're so disconnected from each other and community can start at home. I've met so many people these past two years that don't feel comfortable in the kitchen and would like to learn how to be better in it. Being a PC consultant means I can teach some great, healthy, cheap simple recipes, meet new people and incorporate my stand up comedy in my cooking demonstrations. I know it is one of the puzzle pieces for me, of where I am going.

I'm excited to jump back into the coaching community in a big way. I'll be assisting at several upcoming CTI courses in Toronto over the winter, meeting enthusiastic new coaches. And I couldn't be happier that I feel like I'm getting my groove back - to want to be writing comedy and my funny little haikus for a future book.

Every night for the past 10 months, hubby and I write 5 things we are thankful for. Some days have been harder than others, but there are always little things that bring us joy. Like a good cup of tea. Or a phone call from a friend. These past three weeks that we've been home, we've been the happiest we've been in years. And I choose to live the space of abundance and gratitude, for the opportunity to start over, healthier, in love and following our passions.

~ with love,

Sunday, August 19, 2012

The Home in your Heart

It would seem that the adage "home is where your heart is" has been around forever. It means different things to each of us: a welcome homecoming to the place where you grew up and have fond memories (and always feels like home, despite how many years you've been away), a feeling of contentment wherever you are in the world as long as you are with the ones you love, or maybe it's that feeling you get when you're sitting in your favourite chair enjoying your solitude.

But what about that moment when you've had that "aha!" moment and things just seem to all make sense - and your heart just feels... perfect... it sighs because it is home. I read an article this week by Claudia Escareño-Clark who wrote about her experience in choosing to pursue her postgraduate studies at Southwestern College in New Mexico. Claudia talks about her struggle and rationalization of tuition, time commitment and then there was... resonance. This past May, a good friend of mine and world renowned psychologist/art therapist/instructor/author in the field of PhotoTherapy, Judy Weiser, gave a talk on PhotoTherapy at the college, and something clicked for Claudia. I understood what I had been waiting for. She says, quite perfectly: I think it’s easy for most of us, at least for me, to assume that because something isn’t right at the time it must not be right at all.

I know that so well. I so desperately wanted the answers to "life" when I completed my undergrad. I applied to 2 grad school programs and was rejected and I took the LSATs because an aptitude test said I'd be a good lawyer. Couldn't someone tell me who I was supposed to be, where I would fit in? It would be four years before I found what felt like home: the first weekend at The Coaches Training Institute's Fundamentals class. I met people who were like me: people who lived to encourage, champion, delight, support, and to challenge people's self-limiting beliefs. I felt like I was truly, for the first time, myself. My heart felt like it was home. I probably wasn't terribly gentle with myself in finding my life's path - I kept trying to force pieces of the puzzle together that just weren't ready. But the moment we are truly honest about our life's passions and are ready to step into receiving it fully, the universe will unfold for us.

Claudia says, Sometimes if we are willing to wait it out just a bit longer all of the pieces come together like some cosmic puzzle. 

Ain't that the truth.

Monday, August 13, 2012

2012 Kia Soul Snafu

Having always lived in cities and successfully navigated our whole adult lives with public transit, hubby and I had little choice but to purchase a car when we moved to Dallas, TX last fall from San Francisco via Vancouver. We bought a 2012 Kia Soul+, having driven it prior as a rental and enjoyed it. Because we are Canadians, our financing options were limited to the remainder left on our work visa (22 months) to pay off the entirety of the $20,500. We were very clear with the dealership and the sales people that we would eventually be returning to Canada and does this meet the requirements for import. They said, sure, because the 2012 Soul was even safer than the previous year's model. But it turns out that isn't the truth... Currently no 2012 Kia of any model is acceptable for import into Canada.   2011s are, provided safety modifications are made. Our dealership also neglected to mention our warranty would not be valid in Canada. 

I've loved my Soul, and have put 11,000 miles on my baby. In preparation for a visit home, I have discovered that Transport Canada does not allow 2012 Kias of any kind manufactured in USA entry into Canada. In fact, if someone attempts to cross the border, the car will be impounded. I've now spoken with Kia's customer service people three separate times and no one seems to have any real answers. They say Transport Canada has to request the paperwork on a case by case basis (which I find unlikely, since every model pre-2012 is on the list for acceptable import). Transport Canada says Kia has to submit their car specifications in order to determine if it meets Canadian Safety Standards. 

So I'm getting the run around. I've made a request for a letter from Kia that I can submit to Transport Canada for the case-by-case appeal, but I would like to take it one step further and EECB their executive to ask why the 2012 and 2013 models are not on the acceptable list (Toyotas, Fords, Mazdas are), and also why did their sales people not inform us that our amazing 10 year warranty would not be valid in Canada or that it was not on the list of cars to import.

I would not have bought a Kia if I knew this would be the headache I'd have to endure. We made it clear to the dealer we were Canadian and planning to take the car back eventually... 

Please help, I'd like to get the email addresses of their Exec so I can "provide valuable feedback" and I promise not to use profanity. I'd like to be able to import my car, when the time comes, and have a valid warranty in Canada. What will it take to make this happen, Kia? Help me, and you'll have a loyal fan for life.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Let it just be

I've rewritten the opening sentence to this blog entry at least five times, and I can commit to myself that this time I will let it just be. A good lesson for life, sometimes, is to let it just be. As with all of our lives, we have complexities that we keep private until the appropriate time to share our successes and failures. In large part, that is the reason why I haven't written a blog entry in a while. 

Instead, I'll focus on what I can write about: the other day my husband gently asked me to put down the mindless game I was playing on Facebook and get back into writing my haikus. I'd set a goal for myself, back in April, to have 100 haikus before the Dallas Forth Worth Writers' conference I attended in late May. I had hoped to have these ready to pitch to an agent and be swooped up and published. Needless to say, I didn't have my 100 haikus for the conference, but I did have 25. That number stayed pretty stagnant until an agent I met at the conference asked how my haiku book was coming (she expressed interest in seeing it), and I got excited again! I've written around 50 haikus now, and I'd like to have another 50 before I send in my formal query letter to her. 

I don't know about you, but sometimes when we establish an idea in our heads as "important" to us but then we lose track of the project or goal, there's value in looking at why it is no longer as important. It was hard for me to be in the space of joy and creativity to write these funny little poems when I was feeling overwhelmed and unsure about life. There was too much chaos to write the zen of the haiku. I needed quiet, direction and some inner peace.

I've found a lot more inner contentment in the past two weeks, and it has freed me up to get passionate again. In fact, in a moment of synchronicity, as I sat in the Starbucks with my haiku prep notes splayed out and furiously writing, a coach friend called and we ended up talking about what our life's purpose is. I believe that my life's purpose, and the thing that makes me so happy is to bring people joy, and to see joy in others.

In my profession as a coach, I can magically see and hear the potential in people's souls and I am grateful I am an instrument to magnify the joy in their lives. As a stand up comedian, to make people laugh is truly a gift. Maybe someone has had a bad day or is going through a difficult time in their lives, but for a few minutes, they are accessing the joy within. Or maybe it is as simple as a slice of my homemade strawberry rhubarb pie that brings them joy, a memory of their childhood and grandmas long since passed.

In this moment, I am content and letting life be whatever it will be. And making sure that my life's purpose, to bring joy to everyone, is the path I am setting out for myself.

What is your life's purpose? How are you living it today?

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

trip down memory lane - seesaw shes

i bookmarked this older piece of my writing, written on a now defunct blog, written on July 30, 2004. funny how some things change and some things stay the same.

seesaw shes.

she is cold and unfeeling. her smile is forced and not much can break across her face. emotion is void here. her laughter is lost in echoes of nothingness. i cannot stand to be in the company of her and soon i will be bidding her adieu.

the other she is like a she puppy, nipping at your feet, constantly wanting to jump into your lap and be loved. she will do and say anything to ensure that she is loved but i see right through her. she plays favourites and i am not a chew toy to be gummed. i cannot stand to be in the company of her and soon i will be bidding her adieu.

the other other she is on her life journey, asking for directions all the time, even to take small steps to her cornerstore. she is afraid of getting lost, even though she has several maps in her hand. they all have the same roads marked on them, but oh which to choose? that is a decision for her and she does not do well with decisions. she needs a navigator but i am tired of driving. i cannot stand to be in the company of her and soon i will be bidding her adieu.

she who visits brings me laughter and love as we sit on our swing, sipping expresso in the dawn of morning light. she brings me safety and comfort in our exchange of dialogue, of love and love lost and love to come. she travels the world and brings it to me, in snips and snaps of her mind and eyes. her friendship is enduring, and when i am down she lifts me up. i help her as we see-saw our lives. mostly, she tells me what i need to hear. i can stand her company and she stands beside me. i will not be bidding her adieu.

another she is good for me but sometimes even she wears down my head. she prods me incessantly, as if i am one of those sheep, doe-eyed and smacked silly. i have a memory and it retains many things including simple directions to make mac and cheese. surely i can remember to do small things suggested by her. mostly, she tells me what i need to hear. i can stand her company and she stands beside me. i will not be bidding her adieu.

spiritual she lifts me when i am down. distanced only by the hum of techology, of thousands of kilometres of wire apart, we convene weekly meetings to discuss how close we are. she helps me reclaim my heart and head, and this will go on for years. sometimes i shake my head at her, but mostly i nod in agreement. mostly, she tells me what i need to hear. i can stand her company and she stands beside me. i will not be bidding her adieu.

i am fortunate to be in the company of many a good she. even the shes that i must bid adieu to have taught me much about myself. to laugh and be merry, to love sincerely and to be firm and confident in my life decisions. a balance of shes in my life. soon there will be a void of the shes that i bid adieu but that is part of the seesaw.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

In defense of failure (Finding the Beauty in Failure)

Sometimes I feel like I'm failing at life. Yes, me, a professional life coach who is passionate about seeing other people reach their dreams and destinies. Fellow coaches would jump all over that statement of "failing at life" and tell me that is my saboteur or inner critic at work. They may be right. But as I come up on 35 in two days time, I can't help but look around at my friends and acquaintances and see if I'm meeting the benchmark.

There are:
  • friends younger than me who own a home and have a great network of friends and family nearby
  • friends who seem to have mastered the corporate ladder more successfully
  • friends who are well regarded in their field
  • friends who have real vacations at least once a year (my last real holiday was in 2006!)
  • friends that seem to have mastered the balance of hobbies, work and relationships
  • friends who have thousands of twitter followers 
  • fellow coaches who have clients paying them gobs of money
We're a society of comparison and perfection. It would be so easy to look at someone's life at face value and make all sorts of assumptions that everything is peachy keen in someone else's life. That's just the surface story. Maybe the truth is you're a homeowner and overwhelmed with renovations that never seem to end or you were promoted to a higher position with added responsibilities you don't want but you don't want to turn down the pay increase. Maybe you have thousands of online admirers but are a total neurotic wreck in real life and you live in constant fear of being found out. Maybe you're hiding your credit card statements from your partner because you're racking up huge bills paying for escapist tendencies. What I'm trying to say is, the only person that can really measure your success is you, and comparing yourself to someone else is like comparing apples to doorknobs. 

The latin word,comparationem, ends up translating into "make equal with, liken, bring together for a contest." There are people who live their lives competing against one another. This happens among siblings, coworkers, friends. I'm not interested in competition and I never have been (unless you get me playing Settlers of Catan or any other awesome board game).

I've done some pretty extraordinary things for my 35 years. I've run a half marathon and never gave up on myself. I've faced cynical audiences as a stand up comedian and made them laugh. I'm navigating my identity as a child of deaf adults and what that means to me in the bigger picture of my life. I've invested in my ongoing education, to continually expand my world view and challenge myself. I've packed up on short notice and moved to a new country. Twice (because, let's be real, Texas is kind of like its own country). I left a job with great pay, benefits and great coworkers to go on an adventure and trust that the universe will sort it all out. I've stuck by my husband for sixteen years through thick and thin, for richer or poorer, and in sickness and health.

So yes, there are things I don't have and experiences I have yet to have, and maybe in someone else's eyes (and mine, occasionally) that makes me a failure. Sometimes not having all of that drives me, motivates me, to be better... but then I look at who I am. I look wholeheartedly at myself in the mirror and I know that I am defined by who I am. Where I have come from. Where I am going. If I can stay in that place, of fully, truly appreciating all that I am, standing in full integrity of myself, I know I cannot be anything else but truly successful.

I don't feel "better" having written this (I'm still a little bit sad), but I do know it is the truth. And when I can express my truth, the sadness will lift. And there will be many days of joy that follow. Days of appreciation and gratitude. Likely, the sad days will return here and there. But I, and you also, can choose to stand in the integrity of who we are. And no one can take that away from you.

My planned failures for this summer include: failing to make the New York Times best seller list; failing to make 200 people laugh; failing at making homemade pasta and ice cream; failing to perfect a new website for my coaching, writing and comedy; failing to have more paying clients. I'm gonna go full steam ahead and flail my arms failing. If there's anything my friends know about me, is when I get knocked down, I get up again. Never gonna keep me down.

P.S. Found this amazing TedTalk on Vulnerability and Shame, thanks to the anonymous comment left below. I feel like I found home today.  

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Addicted to your story

I really enjoy watching Oprah's Lifeclass on the OWN network. I love that there is a forum for sharing and promoting the value of personal growth. Her guest/co-host was a woman named Iyanla Vanzant, a woman she has had on previous shows. In this Lifeclass Tour episode, a man named Steve shares his story of his 20+ year drug and alcohol dependency and difficult childhood. Iyanla notes that not once does Steve celebrate his intermittent sobriety, and he focuses on the despair and darkness of his past. She said to him, Who would you be without that story? She pointed out that his new addiction is his story, telling it, reinforcing the darkness, worthlessness, misery and pain. That place of pain is where he is comfortable in. When you live each day telling yourself a story that continues to feed your dark beast, how can you ever see the light?

If I were to be honest, I would write about what it was like to be the only person growing in my house that could hear. My mom, dad and sister are deaf. I was born an outsider, and despite being hard of hearing, that wasn't deaf enough for me to ever feel accepted by my father or sister. At the age of 34, I'm still an outsider who doesn't belong, and for many years I believed that, because why would my family lie to me? I avoided the deaf community from age 19-32, because I felt rejected by my family. It took me a long time to accept that two deaf people aren't all deaf people. There are still some very raw feelings around this which get rehashed every time there is a family conflict, but I am a work in progress. We are all works in progress. 

I've worked very hard to create a life that is abundant with joy and fun and compassion. But there is darkness, masquerading as sadness, lurking in my heart. It is hurtful when you are pushed away from the people who are supposed to love you. But I don't want this to be my story. I don't want to be that person who, when sitting down to meet strangers over lunch, spills out my miseries. I'd like to set that story on fire and let the ashes scatter in the wind. It doesn't really serve me, it doesn't help me move forward into greatness, happiness and true success. When I tell that story, people look at me and pity me. That isn't what I want. So I am committed to making a conscious effort to focus on a new story, one that revolves around me and how awesome I am, and how much I love being a coach and a comedian and how thankful and full of joy I am to have the people in my life that I do. 

Are you addicted to a story that weighs you down? What would happen if you told another story for a while, one that moves you forward in your journey? How can you tell your story that invigorates you? Lifts you up?


Monday, March 19, 2012

Articles of interest

I'll update this as I find interesting articles.

Coaching related articles
"Making the most out of coaching", Globe and Mail, November 27, 2011
"Seven Reasons Why Most Coaching Programs May Not Work For You",
"Revive your New Year's Resolutions", Parade
"15 Things to Give Up In Order To Be Happy",

"Navigating Work's Little Speed Bumps" Costco Connection, see bottom of page
"A love note to the workaholic", Washington Post, February 18, 2012

"When Helping Hurts: A Lesson on Enabling",

Lives that inspire me
"Shelah was here", Toronto Star, March 17, 2012
"The light has gone out of my life", Facebook post about Theodore Roosevelt

Blogs I enjoy
Gail Vaz-Oxlade, host of several shows on Slice Network in Canada

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Slow cooker baked potatoes are awesome!

I tried something new in my slow cooker yesterday (I've had a passionate relationship with mine for over 15 years) and blew my mind.

My challenge is to have dinner on the table within 15 minutes of arriving home when I have to fetcheth the hubsandeth from worketh (the round trip drive is about an hour). The slow cooker is great for this. I have made many soups, stews and other dishes in it. Yesterday was the first time I'd ever made baked potatoes in it - and I'm in love, all over again.

Scrub potatoes. Pierce with fork. Drizzle with olive oil. Salt. Wrap in tin foil. Cook on low 8-10 hours or high 4-5 hours. The consistency of the red potatoes were similar to a Greek potato - not baked, but not boiled, just right. For added flavour, I'm going to try some smashed garlic and spices in the pouch, and squirt some lemon on it when it's ready to serve.

Why have I never done this before? Consider me converted to the baked potato in the slow cooker now! :)

Friday, March 9, 2012

Early Warning System: Lessons from our body

The body has its own sense of humour, if you haven't already noticed. Ever have a persistent ailment like a sore foot, an achey neck or a sore throat? Yesterday my throat started to swell up a bit, and unfortunately when I woke up this morning it was still constricted and it hurts to swallow. So I'm taking extra good care of myself today. So far, only liquids have graced my lips in an effort to be gentle.

But what is it my body is trying to tell me? That I picked up a virus while shopping? That germs linger on shopping carts and door handles? I think it goes deeper than that - I think that my sore throat is indicative of my not fully speaking my truth. There are a few areas in my life for which I have not really dealt with. One of which is the challenging relationship I have with two family members. Another area is this "being in limbo" place of living in the US, not being allowed to "affect the flow of commerce" and wanting to settle in and make permanent roots somewhere, and maybe, just maybe, open my tea room. Not being able to speak to that has, in effect, rendered me unable to use my voice at this very moment.

I don't know about you, but my body is pretty sensitive. When we are disconnected from who we are supposed to be (the person living their life with passion and joy), we become ill. During my most stressful year, I experienced anxiety attacks and cried under my desk or in the bathroom, seemingly inconsolable and hysterical. I had migraines every day. That was my body saying there is another way to be, you have to follow who you really are. When I have spoken to people who have undertaken a complete shift away from their previous profession, they often tell me about how ill they were for months and years up to the shift. Their bodies were their early warning systems that something was very wrong.

A friend of mine recently had a neck spasm torqued facing forward and was in quite a bit of pain. So I asked her, what is the universe wanting you to see that is right in front of you, right this moment? Have you heard the joke about the man waiting on his roof during a flood for a sign from God? A man in a canoe comes by to rescue him. He passes. A man in a motor boat comes by to rescue him. He passes. A man in a helicopter comes by and again, he passes. He finally drowns and when he gets to Heaven, he asks God, why didn't you send me a sign? God says, I sent a canoe, motor boat and a helicopter for you.

What is your body saying to you right now? Is that sore neck or shoulder mean you are carrying the weight of your world on your back? Is that itchy ear mean you need to listen more carefully? What is so obvious in your life that you've looked past it a hundred times? I'm curious to know if you see something a little differently. Maybe it means that you are so wrapped up in caring for other people, that your own physical health is taking the brunt and your body is saying, take better care of me and slow the heck down.

For me, my sore throat means I need to stop talking, listen more and move in the direction of having my big voice be heard. So, today I am thankful for germs for reminding me that I need to listen to my body and my heart.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

The human experience

I love those days where you wake up before the alarm goes off, and despite having gone to bed late, you're ready to take on the day. Where you have clarity and purpose simultaneously. Today is one of those days. I have been reflecting on how I am doing so far this year in honouring my values and goals. I have really been enjoying taking a few minutes each evening to write in my gratitude journal the day's experiences I am thankful for. Some days gratitude comes easier than other days. The best days are those when I feel truly supported by my friends, family and coach. I feel part of a community, a network of people who wish nothing but the best for my life.

One of my personal values is community - building, nurturing and including others in an environment that supports them in being their greatest self. That's how I've tried to live my life for many years, and that is one of the reasons that coaching and I are such a great fit. I firmly believe that it takes a village to raise a child and it takes a village to create joy and happiness in our lives. Sometimes I feel like we are wandering away from the village, like lost children. I feel like "community" is being eroded, being defiled by culturally encouraged narcissism. It's every person for themselves, it seems. 

The age of narcissism has been slowly encroaching on us. In my English Literature studies, we noted the prevalence of the biography as a genre of literature. And with social media sites like Twitter and Facebook and blogging sites, we're all the stars of our own show. It wouldn't surprise me if there was a new diagnosis for people who are obsessed with the idea of fame and popularity beyond the idea of high school. Me. Me. Me. 

Of the seven billion people on this planet, someone somewhere is feeling the feeling you are right this minute. Their circumstances may not be the same, but there is someone struggling with loss, addiction, depression, relationships imploding, confusion, sadness, being overwhelmed. There is someone out there who is celebrating joy, births, marriage, a first kiss. That is what connects us. Our human experience. It is our humanity that connects us at the deepest level. And if we're to believe media messaging and cultural persuasion, we are fully sufficient human beings as individuals. You're weak if you need help. You're weak if you're imperfect. 

I veto this idea. 

From our hunter-gatherer roots, we have shared our meals, our villages, our children, our accomplishments and our losses. For such an evolved tribe, we've certainly turned into a bunch of pill-popping, drink swilling, excess shopping zombies. People don't talk to each other anymore unless it is on a computer. We're more connected (thanks to the internet) than we have ever been, but we're more disconnected, too. Discontented, too. I've had to work very hard to tap into new communities with my two recent moves from Vancouver to San Francisco to Dallas. I need to connect, face to face, to other human beings. To be part of the human experience.

I don't believe in perfection - we all have our flaws and they shape who we are. What I have found by just being vulnerable and open about who and where I am in the moment, whether it be a good day or not, there is a connection with the other human being sitting across from me. By letting my guard down, I give them permission to do the same. In that moment, I am offering compassion, support and love. We are all capable of this. We've just forgotten how. 

What I ask of you is this: if you have a friend who is in need of love and support, don't wait for the "right time" to give them support. Ask them today how they're doing, and let them know what they mean to you and that they have your support, compassion and love. Sometimes hearing that someone cares is enough to help lift them from that dark place.

And if you're in need of support, reach out. Please. You don't have to go it alone. 

We have such great capacity for love in each of us. Choose love today. 

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Power of place

I am writing this post from a very cozy leather chair at a Starbucks near hubby's work. Sometimes, instead of turning around and driving back home, a 25 minute drive, I like to hang out in Dallas and have some thinking time. That thinking time occasionally looks like window shopping, reading a book or working on a blog entry or comedy material. I enjoy my time away from my home, and I find myself most productive when I am surrounded by strangers and noisy coffee machines. This has a lot to do with the current state of chaos of my office/guestroom/zen room - after 4 months, it still isn't unpacked/settled. It isn't a space I want to be in right now. And that is all about to change. 

I had a breakthrough during a call last week. My coach and I talked about my bigger vision in life, which has always related to creating a space to nurture and help people heal. In previous incarnations, that looked like a rustic retreat center that offered workshops, seminars, and all sorts of activities. I envisioned myself as a Big Momma figure, feeding people good food and feeding their souls good lovin'. That vision has changed somewhat in the past few months. Looking for a way to create my big vision now (one that isn't hampered by finances and time and space), I am very drawn to the idea of starting a tea room. 

Tea. Tea has always been an important part of my life. I love the ritual of tea, the attention paid by proper tea connoisseurs to the temperature of the water, the type of teapot, the amount of steeping of the leaves, all of that. It is the penultimate of mindfulness. And then you have it, a soothing cuppa tea that calms your soul, that connects you to spirit, that grounds you. If you're lucky, you get to share that experience with someone special. I also enjoy high tea, the dainty treats and the slow lingering enjoyment of cucumber sandwiches and scones with jam and Devonshire cream. Imagine taking an hour to enjoy such niceties and connecting with your tea companions in a meaningful way. A time out from the harried world. Tea is about you. 

I'm a firm believer that when you are ready, truly ready, and you declare this to the universe, doors will open. People will come into your life to help you create your dreams. Just 2 days after I created the intention of a tearoom in my apartment, the universe sat me next to a woman at a lunch gathering who is interested in trading coaching services for her expertise as an interior designer. She is going to help me create my tearoom space. I have a very good feeling about this room - it is my intent to create a harmonious, calming and connecting space. Maybe, just maybe, I will no longer feel as though I need a Starbucks coffee house as a space to write. 

Who knows what the tea leaves will say, at the bottom of my next cup. 

Monday, February 20, 2012

Walking a mile in someone else's shoes

What does it truly mean to walk a mile in someone else's shoes? It's a cliche we hear often enough. Are we to visualize someone's life experience, their past, present and future, and imagine what it must be like living life as them? Can we truly ever understand what it means to be someone else, even if just for a moment? What if their shoes looked really uncomfortable?

I recently met and was inspired by a woman who shared her ongoing journey of self discovery. Like me, she was a self-professed tomboy for most of her life, shying away from overtly pink and girly things. (I recall my first Christmas in my husband's family where, when asked what I'd like as a gift, I asked for a Swiss Army Knife, a coffee thermos and a robe that was any colour but pink.) She didn't want to be pigeonholed or defined by her gender. Not all girls want to play Barbie, cook or be wives or mothers. Some of them want to play Dungeons & Dragons or touch football. Even though she had steered clear of the "girly" inside for many years, she was curious about that aspect of her own life. A few years ago, she made a focused effort to embrace the feminine. In the process, she found herself empowered.

The journey to femininity meant wearing makeup, spending time on her hair, wearing more professional and feminine clothing to work and she learned how to stop worrying and to love the stiletto. At first it was a kitten heel, a short heel, to start. Once she had mastered that, the height of her heels began to grow. Prior to all of this, she never quite understood stiletto fetishists who insisted the skinnier and taller the heel, the better. Having embraced platform stilettos and mastering the walk, she understands. It is about empowerment. The owning of one's sensuality.

I admit, I prejudged her. Before sitting down and having our conversation, I felt she was trying to be someone she wasn't. I was trying to fully understand her efforts to be what I perceive as ultra feminine. As though somehow it was all about me needing to understand why she was who she was. Which, admittedly, is a very narcissistic perspective. I will also admit that I have snickered when I've seen women teetering on stilettos while walking down the streets of Vancouver. I think that makes me a bit of a jerk. Maybe my prejudice comes from a place of envy or insecurity. I am very uncomfortable in heels (and would teeter in my own right). I have felt judged on occasion for wearing my comfortable and ugly orthotic shoes by women who have more stylish footwear. And the unfortunate part is, when we're judging someone based on their shoes or clothes or hair, we're overlooking an opportunity to know who they are as people, to know what their story is.

So here I was, humbled by this woman who decided one day to fully embrace the feminine side of herself. She said something along the lines of, I knew it would be hard and that I would be uncomfortable sometimes, but it was something I needed to do to fully discover and embrace myself. She inspired me. It takes courage to push yourself out of your comfort zone and into an unknown place. Maybe for you, it means committing to writing a book this year, or challenging yourself to get onstage and share your life wih others. Maybe it means buying those sexy Manolos you've been looking at through the window and committing to strutting your stuff.

You may have blisters. Your feet may ache. But after you've walked a mile in someone else's shoes, you're a mile farther ahead than you were when you started.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The little things in life

How is it possible that it is mid-February already? This is my first entry for the month - where has all the time gone? I haven't been feeling that great, and as a result some days are more of a challenge than others to just get "life stuff" done, let alone goals and passion stuff done. My inner jerk has been on high alert lately, but the awesome part is I know when the jerk is present and I'm getting better at seeing through the negative messages.

For example, I baked some tea cakes this week. I didn't make them from scratch - I used a Betty Crocker white cake mix and added a teaspoon of rose essence. I made them in a special cupcake pan which makes the tops look like flowers. I made a lemon icing from scratch. But at each turn, I was super critical. "Really, Betty Crocker?" "The icing isn't sitting right, it isn't pretty enough." Yeah, my jerk is totally mean. Do you think the 12 recipients of those teacakes cared about my need for perfection? Nope. In fact, some were downright thrilled to get a Valentine's Day treat from little ol' me. Was I being particularly neurotic because one of the recipients has formal training in baking and pastry? Most likely. Comparing ourselves to others will only drive us to insanity. Comparison can sometimes inspire us to do better, but when you hear your inner jerk sabotaging your efforts, be alert. 

Breathe. Slow down. We are so unkind to ourselves. What can you do to be more kind?

For me, today is a day of being kind and showing myself some love. It was pretty miserable this morning, with dark, wet skies. After dropping Blair off at work, I went for a massage by the one person I knew in Dallas before we moved, a pen pal of 10 years, and he gave me one of the best massages of my life. Self care is important, especially when you suffer from chronic pain like I do (boo migraines). When I came out afterwards, it was gorgeous and sunny! We went for a lovely lunch, a mini tour of Dallas. I stopped by a couple of interesting stores, and now I'm enjoying some time to myself at Starbucks before I pick up hubby for dinner and a movie. This is probably one of the best Jean days I have had for a while. :)  

While I haven't blogged for the past 2 weeks, I am honouring some of the things I stated as important: I have  been social with a friend at least once a week, I'm working on my comedy, I'm discovering parts of Dallas I didn't know. I am reaching out to the deaf community where I live. I think there will be a few stickers on my calendar by the end of the week. In fact, tomorrow I weigh in for the first time at my new Weight Watchers' program. It provides structure and accountability for me, and that's something I know I need in order to be successful. It seems to be going very well so far. Yay! 

Is today's post particularly "profound"? My purpose in writing was to say that there may be some days or weeks where you aren't power-focused on your goals, but that if you continue to live in harmony with your values and intention, you'll be moving closer to those goals, sometimes without even realizing it. 

Today's little joy? There were many. And I am thankful for the little things that make me smile. 

Monday, February 13, 2012

Still here...

I'm still here - I haven't been feeling too well these past two weeks and there's been a lot of life swirlyness.

I have a blog in my head for later this week, about finding inspiration in every person you meet.

Write soon, I promise. :)

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Putting more smileys in my life

Every day I try for a smiley face... sticker! That's right, I've implemented a rewards system that works well for junior elementary school kids. I'm a sucker for stickers, too!

I bought two packs of multi-coloured stickers, one package has smiley faces (pink, orange, yellow, green and blue!) and the other has WOW! on them (same colours but an extra colour of purple). I've aligned my yearly goals (see my Annual Passion Plan blog) with my stickers.

Pink - When I coach clients, I get a pink smiley. When I give a workshop or talk on coaching, I get a pink WOW!

Orange - Smiley for baking. WOW! for when I bake something spectacular or attend a baking class.

Yellow - Smiley for writing comedy. WOW! for performing comedy!

Green - Smiley for exercising. WOW! (to be determined)

Blue - Smiley for blogging. WOW! for working on my book

Purple WOW! - for when I have fun with Blair! This includes big and little adventures. :)

Since I started a bit late in January, I don't have many stickers on my calendar. I went back and put blue smileys on the days I posted blog entries, and orange smileys for when I baked.

I've used similar techniques with coaching clients - their feedback tells me that there is something awesome and inspiring to see how far they have come. It is also a great daily visual that tells you if you need to balance some areas of your life. Maybe you go a whole month without a yellow smiley... that'll tell you something!

I'm really looking forward to February and seeing how many smileys I have, on the inside and outside. :)

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Goal Setting: The Importance of Resonance

The update on my homework: I didn't do it. No, the dog didn't eat it. I made a statement the other day about how I would make a collage of my inner jerk being trapped so that I could use that as a touchstone/reminder that I am in control of my life, not the inner jerk/critic/gremlin. I did not do said collage. Was it a lack of commitment or enthusiasm around this particular task? Could be. Could be that when I set my hands to anything in the crafting realm, I feel my work could be bested by someone who is between the ages of 6-8 and creatively inclined. That's definitely my inner jerk speaking, but I am somewhat craft challenged and I'm okay with that label. 

I could make excuses or rationalize that I had other things to do - don't we all? - but in reality, I knew that when I wrote it (and denied it internally) that it was more of a wish than an actual driving desire to do this. And that's okay. When you have that realization that something you wish was important to you isn't, that's an opportunity to explore what is important. It isn't about excusing yourself for not doing things, it is about exploring the passion or lack thereof behind the avoidance. 

I can't help but go back to the importance of Resonance and Thrilling in the CTI's model of SMART goals. Specific, Measurable, Accountable, Resonant and Thrilling. Was this homework SMART? Did I have resonance and did it push me outside my box? Is there a way to salvage this homework or is it now somehow unimportant? When my clients report that they haven't "done their homework," we go deeper into their feelings about the homework, the act of "doing" and the essence of "being." Deep stuff, I know. 

I know what works for me are deadlines. Clearly defined dates. It's one thing for me to say I'd like to perform more comedy, but did you notice that in my APP (annual passion plan), I didn't set dates? That's how I am slippery... hehe. But the only person that is really affected is me. Soooooooo, I'm going to set a date, that by the end of March 2012, I will do at least one open mic night in the Dallas area. (That thrills me because now I'm scared witless! and there's major resonance because I miss being that funny girl on stage.) 

Y'all will know whether I did it or not, because I'll post updates on how my comedy writing is going (maybe I could talk about the inner jerk, because we all know that those are funny), and when I do get back onstage, I'll upload the video for all y'all. 

To sum up, don't create a goal for yourself that you don't love or have any energy/resonance around. Be honest with yourself and find something that really speaks to you. Create an accountability system for yourself (be it coloured stickers on a calendar, notations in a diary, updates on Facebook). Acknowledge your feelings before, during and after. Celebrate you!! 

I'm sure glad to get that off my chest. See, I'm a work in progress, too. 


P.S. Here's a great article a friend of mine wrote about the magic of collaboration. You don't have to go it alone. 

Monday, January 23, 2012

Mr. Jerk goes on a holiday

We're our own worst critic. We may not live in the space of self-criticism all the time, but we often fail to recognize and/or celebrate our awesomeness and accomplishments. Sometimes when others celebrate this in us, we shy away and distance ourselves from praise. Do you stand in the glory and bask in praise or achievement? Do you reward yourself for moving towards a goal? If you already do, fabulous! You're one of the awesome few, because most people don't. They shirk positive feedback, thinking that if only people really knew the truth, that they just got lucky.

As a coach, I meet all kinds of critics. They are also known as: gremlins, saboteurs, jerks, whiners, and sometimes a two syllable cuss word. They're that little voice stuck in your head that says you're never gonna amount to anything, your idea is stupid, you're a failure, you're wasting your time, you're not good enough. And to be fully honest, when I get on a coaching call, I'm looking to coach my client, not their inner jerk. A technique that I use is to send the jerk on a holiday. Yup, we envision a tantalizing place for their jerk to go visit - sometimes it's fly fishing, a tropical holiday, a cooking class in Italy. Cya later, jerk! 

We are creating a space to do whatever it is you want to do or say or dream without having that jerk around saying it's impossible. On a call earlier this week, I sensed my client was avoiding saying what it was they really wanted to dream. When I asked my client about this obvious avoidance, they said their idea was stupid. Voila, the coaching transformed into, "I'll be a stupid coach and you can be a stupid client and we'll spend our time being stupid together." Translation: I give you permission to say whatever it is on your mind, free of your own criticism/jerk. It is amazing what transpires as a result. My client was able to brainstorm the possible, instead of living in the "can't," "shouldn't,"  and the nefarious "I suck" place. 

My goal (actually, I spelled gaol first, which is appropriate) is to imprison my jerk. I'm going to create a collage/art piece to trap my inner jerk. And put it in a corner. It will remind me that I've got that *bleep (two syllable cuss word) trapped and cornered. When I've done this, I'm going to create a vision board of the things I want to accomplish and experience in the next five years, mindful that the jerk was not a part of creating this vision, so the sky is the limit. 

If you could banish your jerk, where would you send it? What is possible in your life without the lies and sabotage it manifests in your head? Who could you be, in all your greatness and awesomeness? 

I can't wait to find out! 

Friday, January 20, 2012

Inspiration in the words of others

The Personal Creed of Robert Louis Stevenson

Born in Edinburgh in 1850, Stevenson became one of the great story tellers although he lived only to age 44. After spending most of the 1880s in the United States, including a winter at Saranac Lake, NY, in 1889 he bought an estate in Samoa, on the island of Opolu, where he died in 1894.

  1. Make up your mind to be happy. Learn to find pleasure in simple things. 
  2. Make the best of your circumstances. The trick is to make the laughter outweigh the tears. 
  3. Don't take yourself too seriously. Don't think that somehow you should be protected from misfortunes that befall others. 
  4. You can't please everybody. Don't let criticism bother you. 
  5. Don't let your neighbour set your standards. Be yourself. 
  6. Do the things you enjoy doing but stay out of debt. 
  7. Don't borrow trouble. Imaginary things are harder to bear than the actual ones. 
  8. Since hate poisons the soul, do not cherish grudges. Avoid people who make you unhappy. 
  9. Have many interests. If you can't travel, read about new places. 
  10. Do what you can for those less fortunate than yourself. 
  11. Keep busy at so something. A very busy person never had time to be unhappy.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Hearts and Pants Afire!

Start. Stop. Start. Stop. Ever have this happen with your best laid plans? It’s like me and this “lifestyle” journey I’m on. I started my first actual diet in December, right before Christmas. Started. First two weeks were great. Then came the holidays and shortbread, tea and turkey. Stopped. January 1st, started again. I wasn’t seeing the results I wanted the third or so day, and yes, I had a hissy fit and got distracted and discouraged. Stopped. It took a day of not doing this diet to make me fully understand what was important: it wasn’t the diet that was the point – it is that I feel healthier and happier when I am being mindful of how I treat my body. If it takes longer to see my thighs get smaller, I’m okay with that. It isn’t about the destination... (here comes the cliché), it’s the journey. Who am I Being in this journey?

As a coach, I find myself deeply caring and believing in my clients and their dreams – I honestly and truly believe in the potential of each of my clients to have full and enriching lives, pursuing their biggest possible life. I have seen amazing things happen for my coaching clients. This just one of  them.

There are some clients that come to coaching hoping for a quick fix or to be told what they should do with their lives. Well, there are no quick fixes in coaching. While some potential clients are curious about what a bigger, awesomer life looks like, a lot of people aren’t ready for that kind of commitment to themselves. Coaching isn’t a 2 week fad diet for your life. It is about envisioning what is possible, creating that vision and pursuing it like your pants are on fire. Some clients get coached for months or years, because coaching keeps them on track, excites them and incites them to greatness. I love what I do!

Start. Stop. Start. Stop. Some of you may have already abandoned your New Year’s Resolutions. Some of you may be punishing yourselves for giving up too soon, setting the bar too high, not doing enough, not being good enough. Speaking from past experience, that kind of self-talk is tedious and destructive. It doesn’t serve you and doesn’t get you any closer to who you truly are capable of being. I know for myself, I work hard at creating an environment with reminders of who I want to be, which is a loving, caring person. I have a Chinese proverb painted on a wall hanging in my meditation space: “If you get up one more time than you fall, you will make it through.” There are amazing stories to be told by people who defied the odds because they did this very thing. Steve Jobs fell down. Steve Jobs got up. Lather. Rinse. Repeat. Same goes for Jim Carrey and JK Rowling, to name a few. Do you think Einstein got it right the first time? Or how about Olympic calibre athletes...  they don’t always score gold, but they keep on going. You’ve got to want to get up to have a chance to stay up.

There are going to be stagnant times in life where you feel like nothing worthwhile is happening in your job, your relationships, your fitness routine - there are natural plateaus to all cycles  – but those can be great opportunities to go even deeper and get curious about what is meaningful to you in that moment. If you’ve already abandoned your new year’s resolutions or considering it, ask yourself what your resolutions mean to you. Do you like the person you are being when you are doing these things? Are you excited? Connected? Resonant? If the answer is no, go deeper and find that which sets your heart and pants on fire. I will be the President of your Fan Club and Fan those Flames!

All I ask is that you not abandon yourself.  I’ll be right by your side.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Annual Passion Plan (an APP for a SMART life, not a smart phone)

One of the things I find helpful in organizing my life is having goals and plans. And I mean the kind you write down and/or announce to the world. A few years ago, Blair and I sat down and mapped out how we wanted our year to look like. We categorized our wants, needs, personal and professional goals and mapped them out over the four quarters of the year. Each month we would review how we were doing, whether we were still on target with our plans and assess from there. That was a particularly fruitful year - we had created a vision of how we wanted it to look, and by golly, we made it happen.

We haven't done this for a few years. With the job loss in 2009, with two long distance moves and general upheaval, we got so focused on surviving the everyday. So we took it day by day. And at the end of these three years, while amazing events have happened, we feel less fulfilled because we weren't participating in the driving forward of our destiny as much as we would have liked. So we vowed to not let another year go by for which we weren't mapping out our goals and passions and working really hard to make them happen. Not everything gets ticked off from the list, but it is a great reminder of what is important to us. When we make decisions, we ask "is this bringing us closer to our goals?"

I had the opportunity last week to sit down for a couple of hours and think about how I would like 2012 to look. The categories I used for myself were: educational goals, Dallas goals, personal development, professional development, travel, stuff I would like, things I don't want to forget.

When you create your list, notice what you left off. When I made mine, I noticed that I hadn't written down that I'd like to perform more stand up comedy this year. That was an opportunity for me to get curious about that omission: Am I still enjoying comedy? Do I have other priorities? Is this fun? Does this make my heart sing?

I'm sharing some of my goals with you here. It'd be an amazing year to "git 'er all done" but it isn't about getting your checklist done, it's about living your life with resonance. Does your Annual Passion Plan lead you towards your Life Plan? (As an aside, looks like I created my own APP, LOL. Now if I could just get that on an iPhone.) I find it helpful to write stuff down on sticky notes and arrange them in priority order and then either post them as one big sticky note collage, or write them down in linear form and print out the list.

The most important thing is to be MINDFUL. Whatever that means for YOU. For me, it is posting my goals  in a very visible space so that I see and acknowledge it on a daily basis. This isn't homework or a chore - this is you creating the life you want. If you don't really want to do something, ask yourself why you put it on your list. Get curious.

Do you know what a SMART goal is? In the business world, this traditionally means: Specific Measurable Attainable Realistic and Timely. Blah. That sounds like a to do list with stuff I don't wanna do... CTI's coaching model teaches a new way of looking at SMART.

S = Specific. In order for a goal to be achievable, it needs to be specific.  What is exactly do you want to accomplish?

M = Measurable. How will you know you've accomplished your goals? A goal must be measurable and have a date attached to it.

A = Accountable. In moving toward a goal, it is useful for you to create accountability for achieving it, by having a coach like me, or a friend or family member who helps keep track of your progress.

R = Resonant.  Resonant goals are what move you toward the things that truly bring you fulfillment.  When you think or talk about this goal, can you feel the passion stirring? Is this something you really want for yourself? Will working to achieve it be fully honoring your values?  A good coach can help you find the resonance in your goals, and help you to let go of goals that are not resonant for you.

T = Thrilling.  Goals should be so thrilling — and even scary — that you can’t wait to get started!  Set goals that have you stretch, that will call you forth to new capabilities and power, that push and pull you forward into a bigger life. This can be HUGE but know that you have people in your life who will support you, including me!

That being said, I am now including perform stand up comedy on my list. It must be important to me, because I woke up in the middle of the night last night with a joke and I just had to write it down... which means there is a Jean coming to a comedy stage to Dallas in the very near future...

Educational goals (a place for you to expand your mind)
Fencing class (I bought a Groupon!), intermediate and advanced cake decorating classes, a language class (Spanish or Italian), crafting classes so my crafts look less special than they currently do, a relationships systems theory class (how to coach in groups). 

Delightfully Discover Dallas
We just moved here, and I'd love to know the ins and outs of my new city. I'd like to have a great tour on hand of sights and eats for when we have visitors stay with us! Discover comedy clubs for me to perform in!!

Tuning my Temple (personal development)
Find a fitness class/activity I enjoy and do it 3x a week, meet a friend for coffee 1x weekly, blog 3x a week, bake 1x weekly, keep a gratitude journal and write in it daily, be mindful about food, enjoy the time with my new Little Sister (Big Brothers Big Sisters). Scheduling 1 hr a week for comedy writing!

Kickin' Ass at Coaching (professional development)
Write a book which leads to paid speaking engagements, write workshop outlines for1/2 day, full day and 2-day workshops, connect with the Deaf community in Dallas, create coaching video blogs in sign language for my website, get 2+ workshop gigs in Toronto/Ottawa/Montreal/Vancouver

Travel goals
Visit cities nearby for weekend trips: Austin, Houston
Visit New Orleans 
Go on an Alaskan cruise this September to celebrate a friend's wedding
Go somewhere to celebrate our 10 year wedding anniversary in December

Here's to 2012 being a thrilling and resonant year for all of us! 

Thursday, January 12, 2012

The dangers of autopilot

Have you ever driven to work and, upon arrival, wondered how it is you got from your front door to the office? Where you just zone out from conscious thinking, and just focused mindlessly on staying in between the lines? Perhaps you are somewhat aware as you change lanes and make left and right turns, but for the most part you are not fully present in the moment? I know I have. It happened this morning as I was aimlessly driving, discovering my new city. I was here but not here.

Are you zoned out in your life? You’d think that, as a life coach, my life is somehow more enlightened and focused than the average person’s life. Not so. In fact, the most productive I have ever been was when I had my own coach supporting me and driving me towards my big dreams and passions. When my husband and I picked up our lives in Vancouver, Canada in September 2010 to move to San Francisco, it was a radical change for me. I went from working every day to not working. From being busy to having all the time in the world. The scary part is, I had more time to be mindful and focus on what I wanted from life. 

From the time I graduated university to the time we crossed the border, I had been working away in one office or another as an administrative goddess or office mommy. And I fell into the trap of “what you do is who you are.” When Blair was let go from his job, and I was the sole wage earner, that became all the more important. Society tells us you are valued by what you earn. Well, as a foreigner in the United States on a spousal visa, I’m not allowed to “disrupt the flow of commerce.” I cannot have a job. Sure, I have joked about how nice it has been to be able to bake cookies at my leisure and do nothing for months on end, but here’s the truth. It hasn’t all been fun. The past 16 months have taught me a lot about myself. And here’s a little bit about my journey:

I was physically ill for a year up to the move, and plagued with severe GI issues. On top of that, I have suffered from migraines all my life, which seem exacerbated by stress. About 2 months before the move, I was advised by both my general practitioner and a gastroenterologist that I should take sick leave from my job. Once we moved to San Francisco and got settled into our new place, the level of stress in my life diminished significantly, so much so that I have hardly had any GI issues since September 2010, and my daily migraines only visit me a handful of times a month. In San Francisco, I decided I was entitled to some rest and relaxation, and I did nothing. Absolutely nothing. For weeks and months on end. I would turn on the TV, play facebook games, and be absolutely awed when Blair came in the door. Really? A whole day passed and I didn’t even notice? There were many like this.

What few friends know is that I was decompressing from stress, but also I was dealing with a low grade depression that came out of this “I have all the time in the world, but what now?” situation. I had ideas but I wasn't particularly motivated to work towards them. I kept myself busy (and my 2011 Christmas letter to friends shows how busy I really was), but I felt like I was on autopilot. It took me about 10 months to accept that sometimes you need to tune out from everything and heal on the inside. When I finally gave myself permission for that to happen, I felt the cloud lifting and I felt like I could return to a life of purpose. 

How do we define ourselves without paid employment? I know many people who have been unemployed who have really struggled with this question. The Company Men is a recent film that looks at this very question as its protagonist takes a hard look at his life when he is laid off. In the moment, when someone says, now you can do what you really love, discovering what that thing is can be frightening. And monumental. And it feels like society undervalues parents, most often mothers, who stay home to raise their children and run a household. That is not paid work, and somehow that translates to worthlessness. Raising kids, juggling a home and maintaining relationships is hard work. All the while, mothers are expected to be an emotional rock of stability in the family. I’d love it if we could value people on their being, not on their doing. Are we being the best person we can be? Are we living true to our values and are we living up to our potential? That's what society should measure!

In the past 6 months, I have seen a real shift in my own perspective. First, that my worth isn’t defined by a salary. Sure, we all say that, but to internalize it and accept it is another matter entirely. Second, that I have healed my physical and mental self and am ready for this next stage of my life. Third, I will be Jean, to the fullest, and share my dreams and goals and maybe that will inspire someone else. I am already in kick-ass mode, and I see where I want to go. I am disengaging the autopilot and ready to live a fully conscious life. Yes, there may be moments of autopilot as I pull out of the garage and drive Blair to the office, but I have some big plans for my life and I want to be fully present for it. I don't want to arrive at the end destination and say, how did I get here. I want to enjoy the ride. And all of its bumps, twists and turns. 

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Smoldering passion, big fire!

This post started to be one about gratitude in finding thanks in the small things in life, when the big things have got you down. It transformed itself into a post about how thankful I am for the pain and suffering of the past three years. I know, I'm thankful for suffering? Maybe that is a bit melodramatic, "suffering," but it has been the most challenging three years of my adult life.

At the end of January 2009, my husband lost his job of 8 years, followed by the death of my grandfather, and the completion of my six month coach training. It was a lot to process at once. I was also immensely hurt by a close friend, and the result of these events on me was that I shut myself up in my apartment after work and didn't really socialize. I brooded. My husband Blair was content to brood as well, as he dealt with the emotional aftermath of being laid off. He was working through his feelings of rejection, confusion, frustration and anger. While good hearted friends said better things will come of it, what they needed to remember is that people need their space to process feelings. And that kind words don't allievate fears about how bills are going to get paid. The video game industry in Vancouver was a veritable wasteland - no one seemed to be hiring, and there were a lot of out of work games people who were also on the hunt.

We struggled through, trying to stay optimistic. Sometimes it was more challenging than others. There would be promising interviews that led nowhere, which resulted in another loop-de-loop on the emotional rollercoaster of self-esteem. This seemed to go on for months. Then it seemed things were turning around. Blair had time to recuperate from the psychological impact of losing his job, and focused on creating work he loved. It was inspiring to see this man bound out of bed in the morning and recreate a cherished childhood game. In three months, singlehandedly, Blair recreated Ultima 4 in flash, allowing people from all over the world to play it in their browsers. It was April 2010 by the time the game had launched, and it started to pick up steam. A small group of people were dedicated to playing his recreation, and we received many emails from many people who shared their memories of playing the game back in the mid-1980's.

By happenstance, I was planning to attend a conference in July in San Francisco for Children of Deaf Adults and asked Blair if he'd like to join me. I had originally planned to attend solo. Four days after meeting with an old university chum in the Bay Area and her passing his resume on to a friend of hers, Blair had been interviewed three times and hired by Zynga, the largest game company in social gaming. The Ultima 4 project apparently sealed the deal. The interviewer, who later became a good friend, said he rarely sees the kind of passion Blair has for storytelling.

It was a year and a half of uncertainty and possibly destiny that led Blair to work for Zynga. He has now worked on CityVille and CastleVille, the number 1 and 2 games on Facebook, because his passion showed through. It can be a challenge to follow your dreams when you're slogging through a day job, and it is just as challenging to follow your dreams when you're at home, unemployed and sorting through emotional pathos. What I know to be true is that when you have fire and passion, you owe it to the world to set the place ablaze.

As Blair searches for kindling to rebuild his fire - it has been a very busy 16 months, with an international move to San Francisco from Vancouver and then to Dallas and he's fatigued- I am thankful that I see the spark in him. And when you see a spark in someone, you need to blow gently, to see what will catch fire. I see him pulling out his notes and he's got that twinkle in his eye again...

You will see amazing things from Blair Leggett. And it wouldn't have been possible without the challenges along the way. For that, I am grateful.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Incremental steps lead to monumental journeys

I was chatting with a good friend, James, tonight about mutual friends that are running their first marathon this May. I remember when they first started running and how they insisted they were comfortable in the 5-10k range (hubby and I had done a half marathon by then) and didn't really care to do much beyond that. I am so proud that they have completed a handful of half marathons together now, and they are tackling their first marathon.

It reminded me of my own running journey, of how in my 29th year I set a goal to do something spectacular for my 30th - run a half marathon. It didn't faze me that I had never run before - they have clinics that teach you these things. I was not particularly athletic in school (I quit rugby after I got kicked in the face). But I had a goal, and I went from a "Learn to Run" clinic, to a 5k clinic straight into a half marathon clinic with the help of some great running coaches.

Out of the 120+ runners that showed up each Sunday morning to run the slow and steady distances, I was always the last one back at the clinic. I wasn't as consistent with the Tuesday/Thursday practice runs, which ultimately affected my performance, but I enjoyed the Sunday runs and the satisfaction of knowing that after each run, there would be some tasty pancakes or a breakfast burrito to celebrate. I developed lasting friendships with people who were literally by my side for each step.

One of the clinic leaders, Chris, stayed with me for the entire half marathon training and race day. I was my own pace group because I was so slow... But life isn't about being the first to cross a finish line, and I ran that race with a smile on my face, singing ditties, and I had gusto and energy left to continue after the 13.1 miles. Yes, my feet hurt and were bleeding. Yes, I was waiting for my pancakes. And yes, to this day I still say that I have the endurance of a full marathoner - I ran, albeit slowly, for 3 h 34 minutes or some such number. All I knew is that I was going to finish the race, and I didn't care if I had to run, jog or walk. In my 29th year, I redefined myself as someone who had discipline. Who was athletic. Who was determined. 4 days before I turned 30, I crossed that finish line with a smile!

During our chat, James said this about running and his own experience: "I always thought you had to be some kind of genetic freak. You just have to commit to it. Like anything in life. A great lesson!" James went from being a non-runner to an IronMan triathlete.

What I love about James' comment is that it is so true. We have to envision our goals and fully commit to them. A resolution isn't going to mean much if you don't fully commit, neither will working with a life coach if you talk about your passions but never pursue them.

Are you fully committed to the person you envision yourself being? Are you committed to doing the work it takes to get there? It can be hard work at times, but I've heard that anything worthwhile is worth working for. And maybe you'll sing a ditty or two along the way, or smile as you pass people who are happy sitting on the sidelines of their lives.

It's the incremental steps that lead to the monumental journey. What direction are you headed in?

Monday, January 2, 2012

Taking inventory

Today, hubby and I are spring cleaning. One of my tasks was to take inventory of what supplies we have in the pantry, freezer and fridge. The subsequent goal is to create meal plans based on those items, to rotate stock. I'm feeling a bit geeky about how excited I am about making meal plans. I love having a road map of where I am going. It allows me to see where I started and where my journey will end. As I wrapped up my nifty inventory spreadsheet, I thought about how this task parallels taking stock of our lives.

I wrote yesterday about approaching 2012 with clarity, action and passion for my goals. My annual Christmas letter was a "taking inventory" of sorts. I still need to put aside a few hours tonight and over the course of this week to plot out the map of 2012 and where I want to go, with new goals and celebration milestones for each quarter of the year. For example, tomorrow I'll be purchasing a membership to our local community centre that has water aerobic classes and a rock climbing wall. I'm excited at the prospect of meeting some new people in my new town.

Where do I want to be at the end of 2012? Or rather, who do I want to be? I will be the Jean that has learned to embrace slow, meaningful breathing. Taking the time to savour books. Tea. Friends. Clients. Myself.

For now, I am excited by the challenge of creating a focused meal plan - which also aligns with my values of having a balanced budget.

Topics for future blogs coming soon:
  • Values exploration
  • Incremental to Monumental
  • The Career Myth

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Tabula Rasa

How many times, over how many blogs, have I written about the idea of the blank slate, or tabula rasa? At least a handful, I would wager. This is the time of year that people make their list of resolutions and announce their intentions to the world. I may follow, I may not.

Since moving to San Francisco in September 2010, and now to the Dallas area in October 2011, I have wandered aimlessly with respect to my own goals. Or so it seems that way. When I look back on 2011 and chronicle my adventures for my annual Christmas letter, there was never a dull moment in each month. There were 4 trips to Canada, 2 presentations at a national conference, a long distance move, and probably over 1,000 cookies baked for hubby's coworkers. But when you have goals in life, and a full time job, sometimes it seems easier to accomplish those goals - you may be more driven to accomplish them. When you are living unconsciously, it is easy to forget that you have dreams and that there are things that you are passionate about.

I am passionate about baking. Not so much the eating (I sample and send the goodies away), but the nourishing of others. I also really enjoy the tranquility of the kitchen and the creativity of trying new recipes. I love when my cookies make people smile.

I am passionate about being a good listener and inciting passion. It was only natural for me to take my own passion and channel it into becoming a certified professional coach, and providing friends and clients with attentiveness, support, compassion and excitement. I am really excited by the possibilities available in 2012 as I venture further into coaching and public speaking.

Am I wiping the slate clean? Yes and no. I wouldn't want a completely blank slate - I think it is important to be able to see our past mistakes for what they are, learning opportunities. I also give myself permission to be okay with taking a break from being hyper-focused and driven for the past year and a bit. I have been busy, perhaps not as busy as I could have been, but it all has its purpose. I am physically healthier, as well as more mentally balanced, having shown myself loving kindness this past year.

My approach to 2012 is to create clarity, action and passion for my goals. I am creating short term, mid term and long term goals. In each I ask, am I excited, does this bring me closer to who I wish to be? There are opportunities that surround each of us, and this year I will continue saying YES! to the universe and its opportunities.

What will you write on your slate for 2012? Who are you becoming, with each day?