Living in the Moment

Despite the fact that I still have a few gifts left to buy, I find myself feeling pretty stress-free this week. It could be that I’m in Florida – my “happy place” as I like to call it. And not much stresses me out in my happy place. I also find myself becoming a little reflective – thinking about all that has transpired this past year and looking ahead to 2016.

This was a year of change and transition for me. In March, we let go of our nanny of six and a half years. I was still working, but the kids had become pretty self-sufficient and I wanted to be more involved in their day-to-day lives. I scaled back my work commitments to facilitate school drop-offs and pick-ups and the multitude of after-school activities. I was expecting the transition to be hard on the kids as they adored our nanny. And while they certainly miss her, I think they were equally ready for me to be more present in their lives.

I left my job in June, a decision that I agonized over for months and months. Some people might see this as an easy move. For me, it was possibly the hardest decision that I have ever made – leaving “work” in a traditional sense. So much of my self-image and self-worth were wrapped up in my job. But it felt like the time had finally come.

This transition hasn’t exactly been seamless… There are days when I desperately miss work. Mostly, I miss the people and the feeling of being challenged on a daily basis. But I have found a new “normal” and have been surprised by how busy and fulfilled I actually feel.

I am embarking on a very different path – embracing my creative side and following a dream. My great ambition is to write a fiction novel. I took a writing course this Fall and learned a ton. Now it is just a matter of putting in the time to get it done (a trivial task, really!!). I am terrified by what this next year will bring and plagued by self-doubt – but also exhilarated by the challenge.

By far and away, the biggest change that I made this year was to start consciously living in the moment. In the past, my attempts to balance work and home often meant that I was just going through the motions. I tried repeatedly to remind myself to soak it all in when I was with the kids – but, truth be told, part of my brain was always focused on my “to do” list. Nowadays, I often catch myself just staring at the kids, marvelling at what incredible little human beings they are becoming.

Life unfolds in the here and now. But so often, we let the present slip away, allowing time to rush by. I know that I, for one, was guilty of squandering my precious time with the kids as I worried about clients and deadlines. I am nervous that I will fall into old habits once I dive headlong into writing. At the same time, I am hopeful that this newfound mindfulness will persist.

I am not big on New Year’s resolutions, but I have a lot that I want to accomplish in 2016. So this might be the year to make some commitments.  In the meantime, I wish you all a very happy holiday. I hope you are able to enjoy some mindful time with family and friends!

May the Force Be With You

My blog posts have been few and far between as of late.  What with the Paris attacks, the Syrian refugee crisis, the California shooting, and Donald Trump’s general hateful antics, I have struggled to find inspiration.  But then it occurred to me that if we give in to the negativity, then the bad guys and the haters win.  And I, for one, am not going to let that happen!

With all of this bad news dominating the news cycle, let me focus on some good (and lighter!) news.  Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know that Star Wars:  Episode VII – The Force Awakens opens this Friday, December 18th.  This has been a much anticipated date at our house.

My husband started watching the Star Wars franchise with my son when he was far too young to be watching such movies.  Each movie took about four hours to watch due to all of the pausing and explaining that had to be done.  I’m not convinced that my son was leading the charge in watching these movies.  Rather, I think my husband was hoping to get him hooked.  And it worked like a charm!  We own all of the movies.  We have various Star Wars characters, ships, and weapons (some of which date back to my husband’s childhood – my saint of a mother-in-law held on to them for decades!) littering the floors in our basement.  And my son has constructed many Star Wars Lego vehicles over the years.

One of the things that I love about the Star Wars franchise is that it brings together different generations.  Episodes IV, V and VI were released between 1977 and 1983 and Episodes I, II and II between 1999 and 2005.  The next three are slated for 2015 through 2019.  That’s more than 40 years of Star Wars movies!  In a day and age when there is so much divisiveness, it is nice to find something that unites us – even if it is a sci-fi movie!

Several years ago, I met George Lucas at a work event.  I was working in executive search at the time, so the connection is not particularly obvious.  Let me explain…  George Lucas is married to Mellody Hobson, who is a prominent board director at Estée Lauder, Starbucks and DreamWorks Animation.  And the event in question was the Black Corporate Directors Conference.  While the event itself was incredibly inspiring and full of the “who’s who” in corporate America, I would be lying if I said that I wasn’t star struck by George Lucas (who, I will add, stuck out like a sore thumb at the Black Corporate Directors Conference – as did I, by the way).  Sadly, of all of the things that I have accomplished in my professional life, this is probably the one and only thing that my son has retained – Mommy met George Lucas!

I’m not going to try to stretch this and say that the Star Wars movies are educational.  They are what they are – entertainment.  But, if you will allow me, there are a few quotes that I think we can all learn from:

  • Your focus determines your reality.
  • Fear is the path to the dark side.
  • There’s always a bigger fish.
  • Do. Or do not. There is no try.
  • You can’t stop change any more than you can stop the suns from setting.
  • If you strike me down, I shall become more powerful than you could possibly imagine.


  • When 900 years old, you reach… Look as good, you will not.

Happy watching!


You’ve Got Mail

There are so many things that I love about this time of year:  decorating the Christmas tree with the kids (minus the inevitable broken ornament); Jack, our Elf on the Shelf, making his first appearance of the season; attending holiday parties (minus the inevitable drunken party-goer); going to school holiday concerts; and, of course, feeling the kids’ general excitement and anticipation for the upcoming holiday.

But perhaps at the top of my list is sending and receiving holiday cards.  In an age where snail mail all too often means bills and flyers, it is such a welcome surprise to receive cards from friends and family.

My love for holiday cards is rooted in visits to my grandparents’ house as a child.  I can remember my mother collecting all of my grandmother’s cards and finding a comfy chair to sit in so that she could pour through them undisturbed.  It wasn’t until I was in university that I personally discovered how much fun this could be.

I remember feeling like a bit of a voyeur as I examined my parents’ cards…  looking at other people’s family photos and reading their personal messages.  It was fun to see pictures and receive news of people that I had known as kids but had long since lost touch with.  Above all else though, I loved reading the sickeningly upbeat holiday letters that were filled with the past years’ accomplishments and highlights.  You know the ones I mean… They typically went something like this:  “It has been a wonderful year for the Jones family.  Mindy graduated at the top of her class at Harvard.  Cindy Lou and her husband Chip made us first-time grandparents.  Amazingly, Cindy Lou ran the New York marathon the day before she gave birth to little MacKayla!  And Biff Jr. made partner at his law firm earlier this year.  We couldn’t be more proud.”  My Mom and I used to joke about how much fun it would be to send out a similar letter, but focused solely on the negative events that had occurred during the year.

I must confess that I wasn’t particularly into the whole holiday card tradition until my husband and I had kids.  The opportunity to take pictures of our babies and send them out to family and friends was just too good to pass up.  In the early years, I personally took hundreds of pictures to land on the one perfect image (meaning that the kids were both looking at the camera – and weren’t fighting!).  We also hand-wrote personal messages on all of our cards.  Over time, this has given way to a picture taken by a professional photographer and a generic message.  Both are signs that our lives have become more hectic as the kids have gotten older!

I absolutely love opening holiday cards – especially the ones from friends that I haven’t seen in a while.  I am most aware of the passage of time when I see how big my friends’ kids have become.

I am hoping to finish addressing all of our cards today and get them into the mailbox by tomorrow.  I can’t wait to see what awaits me in the mail this week!




Have Less. Do More.

I challenge you to count the number of e-mails that you have received from various retailers with offers to “Enjoy 50% Off Select Merchandise” or to “Fill Your Stocking with Great Deals” in the past few days. I bet you can’t keep up! I have been sending these e-mails to the trash as quickly as they come in, and still find that e-mails from friends and family have been buried under the weight of these so-called deals (never mind the fact that I have unsubscribed from many of these e-mails and they keep on coming!). Given everything that is going on in the world right now, I find it particularly hard to stomach the materialism that these e-mails represent.

With all of this said, let me be clear: I am a self-confessed shopper. I come by it naturally. I have memories of sitting with my mother in my grandmother’s favourite store while she tried on the latest fashions of the season. I cherish these memories. It was clear to me from a young age that my grandmother’s clothes and general appearance were a source of joy and pride for her. I share in this love of clothes (and shoes… and purses… and coats…). And there are some early indications that my daughter is following in my (well-heeled) footsteps.

I am fully aware that there is a contradiction in what I’m saying. I tell you that I’m sickened by the barrage of retailer e-mails and then go on to say that I love shopping. And both are true. Let me digress with an anecdote…

I once had the privilege of hearing Daniel Gilbert speak at a small, intimate event on the topic of “happiness” (check out one of his TED Talks here). The basic premise of his presentation was that his mother gave him three main pieces of advice on how to be a happy person: (1) find a nice girl and settle down; (2) find a job that is meaningful and fulfilling; and (3) have kids. He boiled these down to: marriage, money and children.

I won’t go into all three, but will instead focus just on money. Gilbert’s research asserts that money DOES buy happiness. I should pause here to add that Gilbert has a very engaging presentation style and is quite humorous. So, at this point in his presentation, everyone thought he was joking. But he then shared a curve demonstrating the relationship between money and happiness. And it revealed that there is no point at which getting richer makes you sadder – each dollar makes you happier. However, there is an inflection point where the curve flattens out and it is harder to squeeze out more happiness with more money. The point varies with each individual, but is somewhere between $40k and $70k. Gilbert went on to say that there is an enormous difference in happiness when money moves people out of poverty and into the middle class. However, once people are earning enough to be in the middle class, more money doesn’t make them much happier.

There were a couple of other things that Gilbert shared on this topic that I found interesting. He said that the happiness derived from money is largely dependent on how you spend it. People get more happiness buying experiences than material goods. They also derive more joy buying things for other people than they do for themselves.

We live in an era where most people (in the western world, anyway) operate under the premise that more is more. I will admit that I was previously guilty of shopping for the sake of shopping, often with little thought put into whether I needed a particular item – or, worse yet, whether it brought me any joy. I honestly think I was operating under the misguided idea that more “stuff” would bring me more happiness. And – no surprise – it didn’t!

As I mentioned in a previous blog, I recently read “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up”. In the book, author Marie Kondo asks readers to examine their possessions to determine whether they spark joy. If they don’t, she urges readers to get rid of the item. I still have not done a complete sweep of my house, but for those areas that I have managed to tidy, the exercise has indeed been life-changing. I feel lighter. I feel happier about the items that surround me in those spaces because they truly do bring joy. And, as a result, it has set a higher bar for any new items that I bring into our home.

At 7-years old, my twins are starting to notice the things that their friends have and have begun asking for them. And I’m fine with that… to a point. If these items will bring the kids happiness (truly!) then I will do my best to get these things for them. But I refuse to fall into the trap of getting them “stuff” just because so-and-so has it. After spending the summer at the cottage with the kids, I saw first-hand just how little they need to be happy. The lake, the sun, a forest to explore… pretty basic really.

I can’t help but feel that the underlying message behind these retailer e-mails is that happiness is just a purchase away. Yes, it is true that sometimes stuff does bring joy. And I know for this reason that my love of shopping won’t disappear. But I hope that I can set an example for my kids and show them that material possessions should supplement our happiness, not be the foundation for it.

As I am finishing this blog post, an e-mail just came through from a well-respected retailer promising me the “best Sunday ever”.  I can assure you that time spent with my family, and a delicious dinner in the oven will ensure that my Sunday is a good one.  No shopping necessary!

Work Expands to Fill the Time

I haven’t been posting much lately…  I’m not really sure why.  Inspiration has been elusive.  I think it has something to do with recent world events.  It makes so much of what is going on in my life seem trivial by comparison.  But I recognize that daily life must go on.

One of my biggest concerns when I left my job back in June was that it would be difficult to fill my days once the kids were back in school.  I couldn’t have been more wrong!  I actually find myself busier than ever.  Between getting the kids to/from school and their various activities, volunteering at the kids’ schools, working out, attending my writing class, writing blog posts, and meeting friends for coffee or lunch, I have actually found that there is very little time left over.  And to be honest, it has been great!  I feel happier than I have in a long time.  I no longer feel like I’m drowning the way I did when I was working full-time and trying to juggle everything else in my “spare time”.

Despite this, I know that I need to start carving out a significant amount of time for writing.  I am more convinced than ever that I want to write a book.  But I am also very much aware that it is going to take a lot of work.  I feel like the plot is starting to take shape in my mind.  And I have needed the time and space to allow this to happen.  But I am quickly approaching the point where the rubber meets the road.  I need to stop thinking about this book and start taking action.

I am a planner at heart.  I’m not sure where it comes from…  I might have inherited it from my father.  When he gets an idea in his head, he needs to nail down the details ASAP.  My brother and I have fielded many “urgent” calls and emails over the years as a result.  Or maybe it’s my engineering background that taught me to think through things methodically.  What I know for sure is that I am not the kind of person who will just sit down and write when inspiration hits me.  I need a plan of action and a schedule.

Work expands to fill the time.  I know this to be true.  I am someone who operates best with a certain amount of stress.  I have worked on projects with tight deadlines and others with loose, vague timelines.  The result has always been the same.  I do my best work in the days and hours leading up to the deadline.  It is for this reason that I know I must set an ambitious schedule.

I have read a number of books on writing. Just about all of them advise readers to think about writing as they would a job. Some books suggest setting aside regular hours for writing. Others advise writers to set a daily word count goal – for instance, 1,000 words a day. I’m still trying to work out which strategy is best for me. I’ll keep you posted… Because I also know that communicating the goal to others will help hold me accountable.

Pray for Paris…and the World

It has been almost a week since my last post. My daughter has mid-term break, so we took advantage of the time off and travelled south to Florida. I forgot my iPhone back in Toronto and was going to blog about the associated trials and tribulations. But given Friday’s events, it feels ridiculous to talk about something so frivolous.

I was horrified and saddened to learn of the attacks in Paris. I have family and former co-workers in the city and my first thoughts were of their safety. Thankfully, they are all OK. My heart aches for all of the victims who were out enjoying a Friday night and for their loved ones whose lives have been irrevocably altered. The hatred required to perpetrate these kinds of events is incomprehensible to me.

I love Paris. It is one of my favourite cities in the world. I am hoping to travel there with the kids this summer so that they too can experience the magic of this incredible city. It is clear by the outpouring of emotion and sympathy on social media that many others feel similarly about this city and its people.

Without taking away any of the outrage for the horrific attacks in Paris, I was also deeply saddened to learn of other recent incidents that have received far less media coverage:

– attacks at a memorial service and shrine in Baghdad on Friday that killed 26 people and wounded dozens of others; ISIS has claimed responsibility
– bombings in Beirut on Thursday in which 43 people were killed and another 239 were wounded; also at the hands of ISIS.
– the Russian passenger jet that broke apart over Egypt on October 31st killing all 224 people aboard; there is growing confidence that a terrorist bomb is to blame.

And the list goes on and on… For a complete list of terrorist incidents in 2015, check out this link:,_2015.

We don’t hear nearly enough about many of these events. Why is that? Paris is a beloved city, familiar to many. But is that all that is at play here? Simple familiarity? Or is it a question of west vs. east, white vs. brown, us vs. them? I really don’t know the answer.

I believe that we are at a tipping point. Terrorist attacks are becoming far too commonplace. And yet I fear that we fail to see that there is more that unites us than divides us in this fight. Our selective grief and outrage will continue to weaken us. I am not suggesting that we shouldn’t mourn for the victims of terrorism in Paris. But, rather, that we must show solidarity and compassion for the victims of terrorism everywhere.

Happiness is a Decision You Make

Yesterday sucked!  There is no point in sugar-coating it.  It was just one of those days.  I won’t go into why or what happened, because it’s really not the point of this blog.

I slept badly last night.  I couldn’t get my brain to turn off.  I just kept on replaying the day’s events.  When I arose this morning – tired and grumpy – I was reminded of something that I recently read:  happiness is a decision you make every day.  How true!

I don’t normally share things that I come across on Facebook, but this one is just too good to pass up, so I will share it here.


The 92-year-old, petite, well-poised and proud lady, who is fully dressed each morning by eight o’clock, with her hair fashionably coifed and makeup perfectly applied, even though she is legally blind, moved to a nursing home today. Her husband of 70 years recently passed away, making the move necessary. After many hours of waiting patiently in the lobby of the nursing home, she smiled sweetly when told her room was ready.  As she maneuvered her walker to the elevator, I provided a visual description of her tiny room, including the eyelet sheets that had been hung on her window.  “I love it”, she stated with the enthusiasm of an eight-year old having just been presented with a new puppy.

“Mrs. Jones, you haven’t seen the room… just wait.”

“That doesn’t have anything to do with it,” she replied.  “Happiness is something you decide on ahead of time.  Whether I like my room or not doesn’t depend on how the furniture is arranged, it’s how I arrange my mind.  I already decided to love it.  It’s a decision I make every morning when I wake up.  I have a choice; I can spend the day in bed recounting the difficulty I have with the parts of my body that no longer work, or get out of bed and be thankful for the ones that do.  Each day is a gift, and as long as my eyes open I’ll focus on the new day and all the happy memories I’ve stored away, just for this time in my life.”

She went on to explain, “Old age is like a bank account, you withdraw what you’ve put in.  So, my advice to you would be to deposit a lot of happiness in the bank account of memories.  Thank you for your part in filling my memory bank.  I am still depositing.”

And with a smile, she said:  “Remember the five simple rules to be happy:

  1. Free your heart from hatred.
  2. Free your mind from worries.
  3. Live simply.
  4. Give more.
  5. Expect less.


Today, I choose to be happy!

Because It’s 2015

Like many Canadians, I was proud this week when our new prime minister, Justin Trudeau, unveiled his new cabinet. His is the first cabinet in Canadian history with equal numbers of men and women. Amazing!

But then I stopped myself… Why is this newsworthy? When a reporter asked Trudeau: “I understand one of the priorities for you was to have a cabinet that was gender-balanced. Why was that so important to you?”, he replied simply: “Because it’s 2015”. Damn straight!  But then why did it take us so long to get here? I was further dismayed and disheartened to read and hear of all the ensuing discussions on merit.

I think that Justin Trudeau made wonderful choices for his cabinet. I wish, though, that we lived in an era where these choices could be made in the absence of an explicit 50-50 gender quota. And I am saddened as a woman (and as a human being, in general) that, with gender parity, comes a discussion on merit and capability.  Because I know, from experience, that these concepts are not inextricably linked.

As a former executive recruiter, I was often asked by clients to put forward slates of female candidates. I remember the first time I was presented with this request… If I am to be perfectly honest, I was decidedly uncomfortable. It felt to me like I was being asked to compromise the calibre of the candidate pool. But here is what I learned: the finalist candidates were just as strong, if not stronger. Not once did I (or more importantly, my clients) feel that quality had been scarified in the name of diversity. However, new strategies were employed to get us to the finish line.

I’m not going to lie and tell you that it was easy to find an equivalent number of qualified female candidates, because it just wasn’t. I would point to two main reasons for this:

(1) Despite making up 50.4% of the population and 47.3% of the overall workforce, women account for only 18.1% of the executive ranks in Canada. In other words, there is a small pool of women from which to choose.

(2) Women, more than men, tend to underplay their achievements, and give themselves less credit for their accomplishments.

Now let’s put these two together… The sheer number of potentially qualified women is small and, because they are less likely to sell themselves, these women can be harder to find. Clearly an uphill battle.  But one worth fighting!

Purposely increasing diversity often means looking at skills and accomplishments in a new way. It no longer means: you’ve done this exact job for a similar company or organization, so you are therefore qualified to do it here. Instead it can mean delving into other industries and/or functions to find women whose past achievements and skill sets can be extrapolated to determine how they would tackle new or different problems.  These women bring new insight and perspective into their roles.

Some people might suggest that these women didn’t earn their roles through merit alone.  True, additional time and effort were required to unearth these talented women.  But just because the net was cast wider does not mean that these women aren’t every bit as qualified as their male counterparts.  And, that being said, how can you possibly argue with a leadership team that better reflects an organization’s customers or constituents?

Because, after all, it’s 2015!

Here’s To Good Health!

My 7-year old daughter has stayed home from school every day this week.  She woke up in the middle of the night on Sunday complaining of a sore throat and I noticed that she was burning up.  She seemed to rebound during the day on Monday and I found myself doubting the decision to keep her home.  But the fever returned on Monday afternoon and has continued to rear its ugly head at odd hours of the day ever since – topping out at 104.9oF which was a little high for my liking.

I have been alternately giving my daughter Tylenol and Advil all week.  Shortly after the medication gets into her system, she becomes my normal, joyful little girl again – talking a mile a minute and wanting to do crafts.  But whenever I let too much time pass between doses, the fever returns and she becomes lethargic and withdrawn.

Bad mother that I am, I waited until today to take her to the doctor.  I tend to have a “tough it out” mindset which I realize shouldn’t extend to my daughter.   With a sore throat, cough and fever, her symptoms confounded the doctor.  She ended up concluding that the most likely explanation is strep throat and sent us off with a prescription.

Anyway, my point with this blog is not really to tell you about what is, by all accounts, a minor illness.  With antibiotics in hand, I know that my daughter will be back to her old self in a matter of days.  Rather, I write this to remind myself what a gift good health is – especially as it pertains to my children.  I know that it is something that I, all too often, take for granted.  All of my current worries and concerns would fade away if either one of my kids were ever to be seriously ill.

Up to this point, the worst illnesses that my kids have faced include the flu, ear infection and strep throat.  Pretty commonplace, really!  And I am so grateful for that – and for my beautiful, healthy children whose lives are filled with promise.  I will do my very best to remember how incredibly fortunate I am!!

Fake It ‘Til You Make It

A few days ago, I attended the annual alumni event for the management consulting firm where I used to work.  It is a great event and a wonderful chance to catch up with former colleagues.  As has become tradition, a group of the women got together for dinner after the event.

I am reminded every year how fortunate I am to have worked with these strong, successful women.  They served as important early role models.  They changed my perception of what was possible – who I could be, and what I could accomplish.  I cherish these friendships.

Every year, there are a few speeches at these events.  This year, a former colleague reflected on the important lessons that she gleaned from her work as a management consultant.  One of them was the concept of “faking it”.  This struck a chord with me because it is something that I have long believed.

Fake it ‘til you make it.  As management consultants fresh out of school, we were often called upon to make presentations to senior management.  Let me say that many of our clients were often initially skeptical as to the value we could add to their organizations (I can’t say as I blame them… what did I know about the insurance industry??).  For this reason, it was especially critical that we appeared knowledgeable, authoritative and confident during our presentations.

In the early years, I felt anything but confident.  Truth be told, I was downright terrified!  But I learned very quickly that most people can’t differentiate between true confidence and “fake” confidence.  So I faked it!  I figured out a way to calm my nerves and deliver a presentation that inspired (I hope!) confidence in my and my team’s abilities.  And over time, there was no longer any need to fake it because the confidence had become genuine.

I am certainly not suggesting that people misrepresent themselves or mislead others about their expertise.  It’s one thing to stretch how you present yourself and how you interact with others.  And it’s something else entirely to make people believe you are something you’re not by lying to them.

The fake it ‘til you make it concept has served me well over and over again.  As I moved into new roles or took on new projects, I have accepted that there is a period of “faking it” before the confidence appears.

At this early stage in my writing journey, there is really no one to impress.  Writing is a pretty solitary activity.  However, I find that I am having to trick myself into believing that I can do this.  I am crossing my fingers that genuine confidence will follow!