Monday, March 29, 2010

Winds of Change

"Your worst day can be your best day....if it changes you" - Richard Robbins

Richard Robbins is very well known in my industry. He is a renowned motivational speaker, a sales expert and an achievement coach. Even though he doesn't realize it (as we have never actually met), he is also partly responsible for my new, re-energized career path and goals. This was Richard's Facebook status one day last week. (I really hope he doesn't mind me borrowing it).

As often happens with Richard's quotes, this one really stuck with me. It brought to mind that so many of us often let the negative events in our lives form excuses for our failures , both personal and professional, instead of our motivation for success. I, myself, have been guilty of this very thing in the past.

How many times have we allowed a failed relationship to confirm, in our minds, that there is no true soul mate out there for us? How often have we failed to win a race, only to give up the sport entirely? Why does a less than successful business negotiation or project often convince us that we have made the wrong career choice? It seems that it is our nature to allow negative events to govern our life choices, and not in a positive way.

Truly successful people are able to take these negative experiences, find the life lesson and to allow that lesson to change them in a positive way. That negative experience is used, not as an excuse for self-pity and despair, but as a motivator for success. How many times have we seen an Olympic athlete, smiling on the podium with a medal around their neck, only to hear the story of their disappointing attempt, or even injury, at the previous games? If they had allowed that negative event to defeat them, surely they would not be standing proudly on the world stage today.

Of course, in my own life there have been several failures, both personal and professional. My tendency has always been to allow less than ideal outcomes to defeat me. Perhaps not for long, but I can easily say that I have not always been able to find the "lesson" and allow it to change me.

This past summer, our family experienced what I would consider to be its worst day. My husband was laid off from his job of 17 years. While this was particularly devastating for him, it really turned our entire family upside down. For the past 6 years or so, Marc was our primary breadwinner. I worked a little here and there, but I was really relying on him to keep the family going. Whatever money I made was basically "fun money".

I remember the teary-eyed conversation that I had with my Broker about how I was going to need to get a "real job" with a steady paycheck. Surely, I couldn't be the one to support my family in a career as unpredictable as real estate? Without pulling any punches, Nelson told me that Marc losing his job could very well be the best thing that has ever happened to me. He told me that I could allow this experience to knock me down for the count, or I could discover the very valuable lesson within and allow it to change me for the better. He told me "The world is telling you that you should no longer be a passenger in your own life! Now get out there and do something about it!"

Very wise words from a very wonderful leader. He knew that I was capable of so much more than I was achieving, but it took a real kick in the teeth for me to realize it. More than 6 months later, things are going better than I could have dreamed possible. Sure, it hasn't been smooth sailing, but with my new found perspective on things, I am always looking for the lesson in each of life's "road bumps".

I am sure that almost everyone can relate. Just think of how much better our lives would be if we allowed our worst day to become our best day, simply by learning something and allowing it to change us for the better.

J :)

Monday, March 22, 2010

Innocence Lost

Well, well, well. A new blog entry two days in a ROW! Who knows, maybe someday I will write that novel.

This post was inspired by the Facebook status update of a friend with two teenage daughters. My friend was simply wondering what has happened to the young ladies of today. When did it become acceptable for them to dress, talk and act like women? When did the skirts get so short, the necklines get so low and the heels get so high? How does a parent of today try to guide their daughter in the direction of dressing and acting more appropriately for their age without becoming public enemy number one?

Although I, myself, do not yet have teen aged children, I can easily admit that this same thought has crossed my mind on many occasions. When I drive by the Catholic High School that is located just a couple of blocks from our house and I see the uniform skirts the girls are wearing that barely cover their behinds, I can't help but hope that baggy track suits and bulky sweaters are all the rage when my girls enter high school. And sadly, as much as everyone would like to point the finger at mom and dad, there is often not a lot that parents can do once their daughter is out of the house and on her way to school. When we were in high school there were rules about how short your skirts could be, and girls that didn't follow the rule were sent home to change.

I am quite certain that somewhere in the handbook of all schools, both public and separate, there is a dress code. What happened to the school boards of old that actually enforced these dress codes? Parents can't follow their kids to school every day, but if the school administration could pick up where parents left off, there might be a lot less pressure for young girls to dress in such a way. Let's face it, the reason they are dressing this way in the first place is because "everyone else is doing it". If no one was allowed to do it, at least not at school, then that would be a small step in the right direction towards helping these girls regain their lost innocence.

The truly scary thing is, that I am noticing this style of dressing is appealing to younger and younger girls. Thankfully, my 10 year old is still blissfully unaware of this sort of thing, but I am noticing that some of her other classmates are already looking, dressing and acting a little "old" for their age. Even the stores that cater to pre-teen and teen girls often carry clothing that belongs in a dance club, not a classroom.

Of course, we're also dealing with the media, TV, movies, Internet and music. These days, you are pretty hard pressed to find photos of celebrity ladies with all of their assets covered. Even the younger starlets who were often the picture of innocence, can now be seen in music videos dancing on the hood of their car in daisy duke shorts and heels. Heck, even the dolls that young girls play with are dressed in outfits that you wouldn't let your child wear on Halloween.

Of course, as kids get older, they want to assert their independence and develop their own style. As parents, we want to try to encourage this growth in a healthy and appropriate way. Simply barking out orders like a Drill Sargent may be what we would like to do, but will often have the end result of the child rebelling and heading full speed down the very path you wanted them to avoid. What to do, what to do?

At the end of the day, I guess that all we, as parents, can do is to try to lead by example. Showing our young girls that dressing and looking beautiful does not equal showing as much skin as possible. Praising celebrities and public figures that dress in an appropriate fashion. Steering kids towards wholesome activities, groups and clubs that stress positive body image and modesty. All of these things will hopefully have the desired effect of increasing our daughters' self-confidence, leading them to make choices that make them feel comfortable, rather than those that are made to simply keep up with the crowd.

I know that within a few short years, I will likely be dealing with these issues myself. It will make me long for the days when the biggest problem my girls had was a boy at school telling them they had the cooties! SIGH.

J :)

Sunday, March 21, 2010

March Break - My @$$!

They may call the middle week of March a "break", but for most of us that are juggling work and a family, this week is usually the furthest thing from a break. Unless you forked out the big March Break dollars to head south for a family holiday, of course.

Actually, this might be the first year ever that I am very thankful we didn't do exactly that. What a week it was! The kids, playing outside without coats. Me, heading to the mall for a shopping trip in flip flops and capri pants. Driving around all week with the windows rolled down. When was the last time THAT happened in March?

All in all, it was a pretty good week. A little on the crazy side, but good nonetheless. On Monday we kicked the week off with a trip to the Reptile Show at Erin Mills Town Centre. My kids are big animal lovers, but Erin in particular is a fan of all things cold blooded. I don't think there is a reptile or amphibian on the planet that she can't identify at first sight. Marc is a big fan of the BBC "Earth" DVDs. We own every single boxed set and he and Erin watch them over and over. All that viewing has paid off because she really is a walking, talking nature encyclopedia. The kids got to hold a ball python, a giant tortoise, a Cayman (crocodile cousin, with its jaws safely taped shut) and various other little critters. Of course, I forgot my camera for this little adventure, but thankfully a friend snapped some shots with her trusty iPhone. We also got to visit with some friends in the afternoon that we hadn't seen in a while.

Tuesday we had booked tickets to see "The Stars of Pop" at the Stage West theatre along with 2 friends and their kids. Oddly, after not going to Stage West during the entire 25 years I have lived in Mississauga, this marked my second visit in 4 days. This show was definitely better than the "adult" show I had seen on Saturday evening, in spite of a few laughable moments throughout. The show featured tributes to Miley Cyrus, Hannah Montana, Lady Gaga, Taylor Swift (my personal fave) and The Jonas Brothers (the source of the above mentioned laughable moments). The performers really tried hard and the kids enjoyed it, so I guess that is all that matters.

Wednesday, Erin had a friend over for the day and we headed to Jack Darling Park to enjoy the phenomenal weather. (Yes, it hit 20 degrees today!) Then a little shopping trip to pick up some leggings for my impossibly high maintenance child that is now refusing to wear pants. Yes, Erin, I am talking about you! What child has a total emotional breakdown at the thought of wearing jeans???? Sigh. I shudder to think about what I will have to deal with when she hits her teenage years.

Thursday was a total "work" day for me, much to the kids dismay. "What do you MEAN we aren't doing ANYTHING today Mom?????". That's right, kiddos, mom has to work! Amazingly, they tagged along with me for most of the day without too much complaint. A March Break Miracle! Makenna and I did make cookies in the evening, and I think they might be the best cookies I (we) have ever made. Makenna says it is because of her perfect cookie rolling (amazingly, each cookie was perfectly round and exactly the same size!), but really, it is just a great recipe. Milk Chocolate, skor bits and oats. How can you go wrong?

Friday was my personal favourite. After a working morning, we picked up a friend of Makenna's and headed to Roller Palace for some good old fashioned roller skating. Man does THAT bring back memories! The place hasn't changed in 25 years - I think the DJ is even the same guy from when I was a kid. It's a bit of a costly outing, in my opinion, but it's 4 hours of roller heaven. Makenna, while not the most co-ordinated child on the planet, did pretty well with her skating this time. I think with a little more practice she may be able to relax and have more fun. Erin, on the other hand, is a natural born skater. I was quite shocked to discover this the first time we had her on ice skates, and roller skating was no different. By the time we left, she was zooming around the rink passing kids twice her size. She fell quite a bit, but she's pretty close to the ground to start out with, so it didn't seem to faze her much. She said that she would like to be on the Canadian Roller Skating Team in the Olympics, and I didn't have the heart to tell her that there wasn't such a thing. Who knows, maybe it will be introduced at the 2020 summer games, just in time for her to win the first gold medal in the sport! haha

Saturday morning, we hit the theatres bright and early for the 10:30 am showing of "Diary of a Wimpy Kid". Did you know that all movies that start at AMC Theatre before noon are only $6? SCORE! (Sadly, it cost us more for popcorn and drinks than for admission...). The movie, while not as funny as I had expected, was actually pretty good. Some really good messages in there for adults and kids alike. I wouldn't say you should rush out and see it, but if you do find yourself accompanying your kids to the theatre, I think you will find it enjoyable.

After a hectic working afternoon, we had some friends over for dinner. A really great couple that we met while on vacation in Cuba last year. They have 2 kids around our kids' age and it doesn't matter how much time passes in between visits, these kids pick up exactly where they left off, as if they just saw each other yesterday. I think we adults can learn a lot from kids. Marc made the most fabulous chicken parm, completely from scratch, even pleasing the 4 toughest critics in the house. When was the last time you made dinner for 4 kids and all FOUR of them licked their plates clean? (Kraft dinner and hot dogs doesn't count!) It has never happened in our house before last night, that's for sure.

All in all, between the kids activities, work appointments and deadlines, the week didn't feel like much of a break. A break on the BANK ACCOUNT or my NERVES, maybe, but not overly relaxing. Sure, it was great not to have to get up with the kids every morning and rush them out the door, but there was definitely a lot of rushing around going on. I am really thankful that we had some great weather this week so the kids got a chance to remember what sunshine actually felt like. It is truly amazing what a little sun can do for your mood and energy levels. I think I might have gotten more accomplished this week than any other week in history. I also think that if the weather had been gloomy and cold, I might have been more inclined to sit around the house all week with rented movies and video games as our only source of entertainment.

So, while the week may have been a little hectic, it was probably the best March Break that I can remember. I'm glad that I got to spend some time having fun with the kids, but I'm equally glad that as of tomorrow at 9AM, my job as "Entertainment Co-ordinator" is over. At least until Summer Vacation, but let's not even THINK about that yet!

J :)