Days of Bathroom Letters are Over

I admit I can sometimes be a little hard on Howard on the blog. Though he knows that I jest in love I feel that on Valentine’s Day he deserves some credit where credit is due. I woke up this morning to a wonderful little box – containing beautiful pearl earrings. Which is awesome, considering I’ve already lost one pearl/diamond earring he gave me as a present on our wedding day (see my propensity to lose things here). But the man has certainly stepped up his game in recent years. I mean, this gift was almost as good as last year’s gift, when he got me the full collection of Harry Potter movies.

When I think about things like this it takes me back to the Howie I knew five to ten years ago when we were a young and clueless couple. Howie went from buying me a rose on our first date, to an unfortunate slump around years 4 and 5. I don’t know if it was the extreme sense of comfort and “easy-goingness” of our relationship, but there was a period of time that can best be characterized as the Toilet Love Letter years. And oh, how I am so glad those days are gone.

One particular anniversary (maybe our fifth) I presented Howie with a nice little card and present – probably a DVD or CD of some kind. To my dismay, Howie had to break the news that he unfortunately had not had time to go out and get me something – but not to worry, he’d have something tomorrow. Tomorrow came and went, then the next day, and pretty soon a week had passed by with no anniversary present. As if my scowl wasn’t enough, Howie asked what was wrong.

Cheryl: “I don’t know what to say anymore Howie! Do I have to BEG for an anniversary gift from you?! You promise and promise and still nothing!

Howie: Baaaaaaabe….stop…..

Cheryl: Well it means nothing now! I don’t even want a gift! All I wanted was to feel a little bit of appreciation from you – you could have at least written me a letter or something!!

Howie: Well I did write you a letter!

Cheryl: You did?

Howie: Y…yeah… Let me go get it.

(Howie walks out of room. I hear some rummaging and papers. Then I hear the bathroom door lock. Ten minutes pass by, he emerged from the bathroom. Love letter in hand.)

Howie: Here you go!

Cheryl: Did you just write this on the toilet?

Howie: No.

Cheryl: Seriously Howie?! You just wrote me a hap-hazard letter on the TOILET?!

Howie: I don’t see what the problem is, it’s a nice letter!

From there the conversation digressed into an emotional rant in which I was convinced Howie didn’t have a romantic bone in his body. Let’s just say that was the last time Howie wrote me a love letter in the washroom… and the last time we ever celebrated “dating anniversaries”.

Regardless, Howie and I have grown up a lot in the 10+ years of our relationship. He’s like a fine wine that gets better with age. I feel so blessed to be married to my best friend and appreciate the fact that we can look back on the Toilet Love Letter incident and laugh.

Howie, Happy Valentines Day. I love you more than chocolate.

A Lovable Little Mom-preneur!

I used to think that my millennial wife life was busy. Then, I interviewed Laura Nunn of Lovable Little Tree Huggers and realized that adding two little boys to the mix makes my “busy” pale in comparison to hers! (Apparently children are much more work than mini schnauzers). Laura is wife to youth pastor Andrew and in addition to having a toddler (Ethan) and infant (Seth) sons, she keeps busy mentoring other people’s teens at Acton Beth-el Christian Reformed Church.

But if that wasn’t enough, Laura’s name can be added to the growing list of “MOM-preneurs,” a newly coined term in recent years that describes moms who establish businesses at home while also acting as the full time parent of their children. But Laura would blush if she heard me calling her an entrepreneur. In her mind, she’s just a mom who cares about the products she uses on her family, but I’ll let you decide! Either way, you have to agree that she’s a stellar example of someone who turned a passion into a thriving business!

Laura, please describe your business in a nutshell for people who are new to Lovable Little Tree Huggers!

Gladly! Lovable Little Tree Huggers is an online natural baby product store that primarily carries cloth diapers, organic bath products and “babywearing” products.

Where did the idea to start your own “green” baby product store come from?

Well, I was always a person who was conscious about the types of products that I used on my body and within my home. I am the kind of person that separated recyclables even when I was camping! When I had Ethan and became a parent for the first time, that “environmental” part of me naturally extended to parenting. In fact, I would say I thought about the types of products we used even more once a baby was added to the mix. As Ethan grew up and we entered the world of “green parenting,” I noticed that there were so many different products and options and available (especially with cloth diapers), and we naturally discovered some that worked best for our family on a trial and error basis. Eventually, I found myself sharing that knowledge with friends and fellow parents, so the idea for a store was born out of a desire to pass along the knowledge we gained from testing the products ourselves.

How bad do you want to squish his cheeks and say “SMOOTCHIE FACE!” right now?

What’s it like being a small business owner?

First, I never expected to be a small business owner. The idea actually scared me because I did not consider myself a business owner at all. If it wasn’t for my husband Andrew who kept pushing me to go for it, I’m not sure I would have taken that leap! But now that I’m doing it, I have to say that I love it because I’m so passionate about what I’m doing. When I first set up the business it was overwhelming. I had to figure out all of tax, registry and website stuff. Luckily I have friends that were able to help me out with those things. Overall it’s a learning process! I’ve also participated in some mompreneur networking things like “TweetUps” and belong to a Mums and Chums organization which connected me with some great peers.

How do you promote your business?

Word-of-mouth is the main way that I attract new customers. Customers who have had a good experience with me often tell their friends and it’s through forming new relationships with people wanting to learn about cloth diapering or natural parenting that I get new customers. The gift registry is a very popular thing on my website and cloth diapering supplies are the most popular of the products. It can be a investment up front so it’s a great thing to be a gift registry. Andrew is also one of my biggest promoters – especially with the “dad” crowd. He promotes my products even more than I do, and it’s great because he can relate to the other men who are hesitant to start cloth diapering. Besides word of mouth, I also do some consumer shows. This allows people to touch and feel my products before they order.

What are some of the challenges?

The biggest challenge is always time. There is always something to do, something I could improve on the website, new products I could look into, different marketing things I could think of. But for me, being a stay-at-home mom is my primary responsibility and focus. I’ve tried setting aside certain days or evening where I can focus solely on the business but sometimes that’s not only possible. Thankfully, my husband Andrew has been a huge supporter from day one so if I need to do some work on the business he’s always there to help me I started this business because of a passion to help others, not with the intention (at least right now) to grow this into a huge operation. Running a business is a challenge and a blessing – it allows me to contribute to our household and to focus on my family.

The other challenge I find I face is balancing my desire to provide natural product as affordable as possible with my desire to still make a decent profit. Many times I find myself hesitant to charge what I really need to!

What is your definition of success for Lovable Little Tree Huggers?

A lot of people ask why I’m not doing more things to push my business. But to me, success is meeting couples and then watching them convert to “green-parenting.” I find it awesome! If I was able to make the world of cloth diapering and natural parenting accessible and attainable to people, that feels like success! The fact that I get to make a little extra money while doing so is like the icing on the cake. Being an educator, influencing people in my circle, providing talks at the Early Years centre, and helping people who don’t know where to start is success in my mind. It is less about millions of customers and more about building a base of happy, satisfied people.

What is your plan for your business in the next five to ten years?

That’s a good question. Well, I don’t want it to be huge. I want to stay home with my kids. If it grows when they are in school that’s good, but I don’t envision growth in a bricks and mortar type of store, I always want to be able to run this from my home and stick to my core products. I’ve actually declined inquiries for franchising because I want to keep this at a manageable size that I can control from my home in my available time.

And of course, converting more people to natural parenting is a goal!

What advice do you have for other millennial women who are thinking of starting a business?

First, you absolutely must have a passion for what you are selling. I’ve seen friends do things like bakeware and scrapbooking reps, but they end up hating their job because they weren’t overly passionate about it. The other thing I would say to young women who are thinking about starting a business is to just go for it! There is so much information and resources and friends that are willing to help you out with the things you don’t know, and as long as you have a passion and see a need it’s worth trying out!

– – –

I asked Laura if there were any plans to carry natural dog shampoos in the future and she said she would have to think about it. But regardless, I was so impressed with her passion and products that I’ve decided future Howard IV will most definitely sport cloth diapers!

Let me know your thoughts about Laura and Lovable Little Tree Huggers! Would you ever consider “green parenting?”

– – –

Email: laura@lovablelittletreehuggers.com
Website: www.lovablelittletreehuggers.com
Twitter: @MamaTreeHugger

– – –

Disclaimer: Just because I mentioned “future Howard IV” does not entail I agree to, or am making any promises to name any offspring “Howard.” The reference in this post was strictly intended for humorous purposes.

 

First year of Marriage: check!

I can no longer describe our marriage length in terms in months, for we have officially passed our first-year anniversary! Baby, we did it! They say the first year can be one of the most difficult a couple can go through, so if minor arguments over movies, cell phones, and pants were the “tough” parts, we are doing ok!

Apparently for us, it’s year two that’s proving to be more difficult, as we discovered about 4.5 hours into the first day of our second year. Oh the stories I could tell you about our “romantic” weekend at Granny’s cottage… I would require more than a simple blog post. But for now, I will settle on sharing just a few details about our anniversary weekend; dog vomit, fish hooks, and all.

Things you need to know before reading further:

  1. Our wedding anniversary fell on a long weekend which we decided to spend with Howie’s entire extended family at his Granny’s cottage
  2. Our dog Monica has an extremely sensitive stomach
  3. Howie’s cousin Dean owns a old, long-nailed, scabby-legged Jack Russel with a severe non-stop shaking issue, his name is Whisky

We were blissfully asleep in Granny’s guest room, when all of a sudden at 4am, we awoke to a sharp, irritating yelp going off about every five seconds. Was Granny having a nightmare? No, Dean had gotten fed up with Whisky’s barking and moved him from the bunkie into the main cottage, for all to hear.

Granny: “Dean! Dean! Get that dog out of here!”

Whisky: ARP! ARP! ARP!

Granny: “Whisky shut up! Be quiet!”

Whisky: ARP! ARP! ARP!

Granny: “Dean I mean it! Get that dog out of here!”

Dean: “Geez Granny I can’t take him anymore!”

Granny: “Well don’t bring him in here! Get out!”

(Silence)

Finally, we could go back to sleep. But wait, what’s that? Oh yes. Monica just vomited all over Granny’s bedspread.

Cheryl: “Howie! Howie! Monica’s puking! No! She’s ruined Granny’s sheets!”

Howie: “Monica noooooo!”

Cheryl: “Get her off of here Howie! This is why I tell you not to let her sleep up here!”

Howie was in the process of putting on his shoes and taking her outside, when…

Cheryl: “No!! She’s got diarrhoea all over Granny’s carpet!”

Howie: “Monica! Let’s go outside!”

Howie took Monica outside while I tried as swiftly as possible to clean up the sheets and the carpet. Then Granny woke up. Long story short, she provided a lot of advice on how to clean up everything. From using copious amounts of Sunlight dish detergent to using two feet instead of my one foot to blot out the stain. I felt terrible.

By the time the messes were taken care of it was almost 6am so I joined Howie outside and we went on a little de-stressing walk. By the time we came back the sun was fully up and we weren’t inclined to go back outside. I decided to read my book in the lawn chair  while Howie went fishing.

Howie: “Darn! I don’t think there is the right kind of attachment in here…”

Cheryl: “What do you mean?”

Howie: “I’m just worried that this lure could fall off, I don’t have the right kind of clip to make it stay on.”

Cheryl: “Well then don’t use it.”

Howie: “But I really like this one.”

(Pause)

Howie: “I’m sure it will be fine. I won’t lose it.”

Cheryl: “Howie, don’t use it if you could lose it.”

Howie: “It will be fine.”

Cheryl: “Ok, but I’ve warned you.”

I go back to reading my book. In what seems like two minutes later…

Howie: “Cher! I’ve lost the lure!”

Cheryl: “I told you not to use it.”

Howie: “I’m going in.”

Cheryl: “You’re what?! Going in?! Howie why?!”

Howie: “I lost it right near the dock, people could step on it if they go swimming!”

Cheryl: “Oh Howie…”

Howie proceeded to strip down to his boxers, then started creeping up to the four-foot deep water area where he dropped the lure.

Howie (crying out in little girl-like yelps): “Ah! Ah! Cold! Cold!”

The water crept up even higher over his thighs.

Howie: “AH! COLD! WORST PART! AH!”

Cheryl (uncontrollably laughing): “Oh… this is awesome.”

Howie was holding up the sides of his boxers, in a futile attempt to avoid getting them wet.

Cheryl: “Howie! Why are you holding your boxers up? Just take them off!”

Howie: “What if Granny sees my wiener?!”

Cheryl: “Oh Howie, it’s 6am, no one is looking.”

Howie: “I can’t risk it!”

Howie got to the spot of the lure. At this point I think it’s finally sinking in (no pun intended) that he’s got to submerge his upper half in order to retrieve the lure.

Howie: “Cher! Can you bring me my t-shirt?”

Cheryl: “What for?”

Howie: “I’m going to use it like a glove so I don’t prick my fingers on the lure!”

Cheryl: “Augh Howie! Then your shirt will get all gross and lake-y!”

Howie: “Just pass it to me please!”

I passed Howie his t-shirt. Like a heroic duck, Howie bobbed under the water and came up with the lure in his t-shirt wrapped hand.

Howie: “YES! Got it!”

Cheryl: “Good work babe.”

Howie: “Ha ha! How is that for impressive eh?”

Cheryl: “Very impressive babe.”

Howie: “My eyes sting.”

Cheryl: “Why would you open your eyes in that water?”

Howie: “I don’t know.”

And thus began year two of our marriage. Let’s hope the following 364 days are not as eventful, or early…. or involve so much vomit.

How did other newlyweds celebrate their first year of marriage? Please tell me it was as romantic as ours!

Goodbye Old Friend

Rookie, August 30, 1996 – August 15, 2012

I need to take a break from my usual humorous overtones to pause and reflect on the passing of one of my best friends, and probably the best dog a family could ask for; Rookie. I didn’t expect to feel so emotional over his death. I realize he was a 16 year old dog, but there’s something about Rookie and what he meant to us that deserves such a reflection, an obituary of sorts. So please help me in remembering a faithful old friend, a gentle, loyal soul, who’s breath was so bad you preferred his flatulence, but we loved him anyway.

We were driving home from a family camping trip when my parents turned back and asked if we wanted to get a puppy. What?! A puppy?! Were they serious?! After years and years of pestering them for a dog was this their idea of a sick joke? What kind of parents would toy with their children’s emotions like this? Alas, they weren’t joking, this was real. We were going to get a puppy! I was ten, my brother eight, and my sisters six and three.

What followed over the next month was an arduous selection process whereby we had to choose what type of dog we were going to get. My dad was gunning for a giant, masculine, Man’s-Dog: the bullmastiff. My mom was promoting a smaller, allergy-friendly type: the miniature schnauzer. We visited breeders of both types and had so much fun playing with the adorable eight mini schnauzer puppies. Their mother and the other adult schnauzers were exceptionally friendly dogs too! I wish I could say the visit with the bullmastiffs went as well, but unfortunately it resulted in four children deathly afraid to get out of a minivan. When it came down to the vote, despite my dad hijacking my youngest sister’s ballot, the miniature schnauzer was overwhelmingly preferred.

Meeting Rookie and his siblings, 1996

Choosing a name for our new family pet wasn’t quite as difficult. One day when we were visiting my grandparents my Grandpa suggested “Rookie” as he was watching the Toronto Jays game. Rookie, eh? That’s sounded about right. After all, he was going to be our very first dog. Taking Rookie home plays back in my mind like some sort of 90s family movie. Sunshine, laughter, and frolicking around the yard. Rookie fit into our family like a glove. He slept in his little crate at night, not making a peep, had a few little accidents in the house, but was otherwise very much housetrained.

As the years went by Rookie’s presence just became a fixture in our house. He grew up with us, loved us, and we loved him. I remember the way my little sister forced him to be the Toto to her Dorothy, that time he grossed us all out by eating a dirty diaper,  how whenever we started tearing down our campsites to go home he jumped right into the van, as if he was afraid we would leave without him (silly dog). When I started dating my future husband, Rookie would jump between us whenever Howie got a little too close to me on the couch. I always wondered if Dad trained him to do that…

When he was about twelve my family added a second mini schnauzer as a Christmas gift to my sister Laura. Andy was a cute little rascal with curly black hair, Rookie was like an older, wiser grandfather. We were so amused by the way Rookie patiently allowed Andy to tug away at his grey beard, never getting angry, just issuing the occasional warning snap when Andy went too far.

Soon, Rookie’s age began to show. His fur became whiter, his eyes started developing cataracts, and his hearing pretty much disappeared. We made adjustments to suit our elderly friend because, well, that’s what he needed. We bought him sweaters to keep him warm, gave him food tailored to suit his aging body, continued to cuddle him even when his breath made you want to die, and carried him home when his feet got cold in the snow.

In the last few years Rookie spent most of his time snoozing on “his” chair, broken by an occasional burst of energy, usually in the mornings. Despite his declining energy, he was a special part of the family, we became quite accustomed to the quirks of having an old dog. When his back half started weakening, Rookie developed an amusing little walk whereby he had to trot three times with his front legs for every long, slow, back leg step. To help him out, we created a little stool so he could still boost himself up onto that beloved armchair.

Miniature schnauzer, old pets, dying pets

By the end, Rookie’s back half got weaker and weaker. The usual things like loss of bowel control, unbalance, and general agitation afflicted him. It was hard to know if it was the “right time” to put him down. My mom tried googling “how to know when to put your pet down” but the truth is, there isn’t a clear cut answer. Somewhere between loving your pet and never wanting to say goodbye is usually where you find it.

We all drove up on Monday evening to say our final goodbyes, hoping that somehow he understood we loved him, and didn’t want to have to say goodbye. On Wednesday night my parents brought him to the vet. They pet him, fed him lots of treats, and then held him as he fell into that permanent state of sleep. Then, Rookie was gone.

I think one of the hardest things about saying goodbye to a beloved pet is that in saying goodbye to him, you are closing a chapter of your own life. From school-aged children to adults that got married and moved out, Rookie watched us grow up, and he was always there at the door to greet us when we came home. Logically, we all know he lived a good, long, life. We know that 16 years is more than what most people get to enjoy their dogs, but it still sucks to have to say goodbye.

Rookie, you were the best kind of dog our family could have ever had. You loved us, made us laugh, provided so much joy, and asked for so little in return. You were loyal, affectionate, and could pull off a sweater like no other dog. We love you little buddy, may you forever rest in peace.

“Dog’s lives are too short. Their only fault really.”

– Agnes Sligh Turnbull

Better than the Alternative


As people across Canada and the US celebrate their nation’s respective “birthdays” this week, my family celebrated a more personal one this weekend, my mom’s. We invited friends and family over to our parents’ backyard for a traditional barbecue full of sunshine, grilled meat, and cold drinks. At one point I asked my mom if she was feeling blue about getting older (as most women do) and her response was priceless; “I’ve got good friends, a great husband, and beautiful kids. My life is pretty good, and getting older is much better than the alternative. So I’m happy.”

“Getting older is much better than the alternative…”

The alternative she speaks of is death of course, and this got me thinking. How many of us truly appreciate aging? My guess is very few. Aging and getting older are treated like the black plague in Western society. We fear it, we try to avoid it, and we become very sad when the first few signs of it appear.

Consider this:

  • The global anti-aging market is expected to reach $291.9 billion by 2015, a growth fuelled as the affluent baby-boomer generation all reach their mid-fifties and sixties
  • The anti-aging market is completely resilient to economic cycles because of consumers’ unchanging desire to be young and healthy
  • North Americans spend $115.5 billion annually on anti-aging skin care products
  • Botox was injected into Americans 5.6 million times in 2011, the average treatment costing between a few hundred to one thousand dollars
  • Since 2000, the amount of people getting botox treatments rose 584%

I will admit I am no saint when it comes to this. I’m in my mid-twenties and I’m already fussing about some wrinkle lines appearing on my forehead. I bought expensive cream this fall and started rubbing it into my head every night trying to force the wrinkles away. Did the wrinkles go away? No. Do I still apply the cream? Yes. While I do not think there is anything wrong with taking care of your body and health, I think us North Americans may have gone a wee bit overboard on the anti-aging front.

I think the money we spend on avoiding age points to a deeper issue in our society. We are so preoccupied with maintaining youthful appearances that we’ve forgotten what a blessing growing old really is. In some cultures, elderly members of communities wear their wrinkles as a badge of honour because it is truly an accomplishment to have lived past forty-five. In communities where infant mortality rates are high, clean water is a novelty, and health care systems are under-developed, growing old is a feat, a rarity, and something to be cherished. If you never get older, it is because you are dead. Moving forward, we should all try to think of birthdays a bit more like my mom does. Birthdays are a blessing, it means we are here, we are alive, and we’ve lived through yet another year.


Imagine what we could do if that $115.5 billion a year we spend on avoiding age was put towards helping others grow old?

SITS Day is Here!

I am thrilled to wake up and see my SITS Day has come!

SITS Day, feature blogger, Cheryl Duivesteyn

What is SITS Day you ask? It’s the very awesome privilege of being the Featured Blogger on the Women Get Social blogging network website. Essentially, SITS Girls is a 40,000+ bloggers strong network which promotes the idea of women supporting other women through commenting and following each others blogs.

It’s a great opportunity to garner support for your blog and also find a lot of other awesome online friends! I’ve been trying to convince SITS to bring one of their infamous “Bloggy Boot Camps” up to Canada…. we’ll see if the day comes!

Thanks to all the SITS Girls for stopping by!

Mexican Daredevil

Howie and I got back from a relaxing and fun vacation in the Mayan Riveria last week and I have to say, I’ve come home with a new and intriguing perspective of my husband. I don’t know if it was the warm weather, the fact we were vacationing with friends, (or more probably the tequila) but something came over my usually hesitant Howie and turned him into a connoisseur of trying new things.

Playa del Carmen

It started with the food. For years, I’ve tried to convince Howie he might actually like certain seafoods besides beer-battered haddock. In the heat of the dinner moments he started trying shrimp, sushi and even mussels. His face would scrunch up as he anticipated a disgusting bite, then, his face relaxed, eyebrows raised, and he exclaimed, “Actually, that isn’t so bad!”

Then he participated in the resort pool competitions, losing only by a hair in the kayaking beer-chugging contest. Next, on an excursion we descended into a cenote (underground cave filled with pristine rain-water) and Howie was the first one to jump off the rock into the water (a feat that even I, was too scared to do). To top it off he was mildly attacked by a parrot on his shoulder.

The most thrilling feat of all, however, was when our excursion took us to the edge of a jungle cliff and told us we were all going to rappel down. His cautious instincts kicked in full force at that point:

Howie: Cheryl, this is crazy. Are they seriously making us all do this?!

Cheryl: Yah. This is kinda nuts. I’m not sure about this.

(We walk over to the ledge and look down)

Cheryl: Ummm… I’m not so sure I’m going to do this

Friends: What? You’re not going to go down?

Cheryl: I don’t know….

Howie: It’s ok! It’s ok everyone! I will escort Cheryl down on the trail!

Instructor: No no! You will be fine! Everybody does this!

Howie: Babe, you don’t have to do this. Don’t worry I will walk you down the side

Cheryl: Actually I think I’m going to do it Howie.

Howie: (Eyes bulging) What?! No, no, don’t be silly. There’s no shame. Don’t do anything you don’t want to do

Cheryl: No I think it’s fine Howie. They said 80 year old ladies did it. I’m going to do it.

Howie: (High-pitched groan) Are you sure?

Our friend Denise rappelling down!

Our friend Denise rappelling down!

(We start putting on our gear and get in the line, Howie repeatedly tells me it’s ok if I want to turn around and walk down because he will escort me. Soon, a lady in front of us starts freaking out)

Freaked Out Lady: No! No! I’m not going to do this. Unhook me! I can’t do this!

Instructor: Yes you can! Look at my face! Look in my eyes! You are fine! You can do this!

Freaked Out Lady: No no I can’t! I can’t do this! Let me out!

Everyone else: Come on! You can do it! It’s ok!

Howie: It’s ok! No need to do it if you don’t want! I will assist you and walk you down!

Instructor: Everybody stop talking! Listen lady, trust me! I do this all the time. You can do it!

Howie: It’s ok if you can’t do it! No shame in it! I will help you walk down the side!

(Freaked Out Lady decides she can’t do it right away. She goes to the back of the line. I assume the next position to go down)

Cheryl: Don’t worry Howie, I will go first. Just watch me!

Instructor: Ok mister give your wife a last kiss goodbye!

Howie: (Groans)

Cheryl: She’s kidding babe!

(I cautiously start to repel down the side, it’s not so bad at all. I stand with the other people at the bottom and wait for Howie)

Howie: (Muttering about craziness and dying from up there)

Cheryl: Come on babe you can do it!

(Howie starts slowing descending down)

Friends: Look around you Howie! Look down! It’s beautiful!

Howie: NOT LOOKING DOWN! NOT LOOKING ANYWHERE!

(Howie takes a peak and looks down)

Howie: Oh sh*t!

Cheryl: You’re almost there! Keep going!

(Howie makes it to the bottom)

Howie: WOOOOO!

Friends: See? Wasn’t that fun?

Howie: NO!

Despite saying he did not have fun, I knew he couldn’t admit to it after making a big deal about it. I was truly impressed with Howie. His adventuresome seems to come out when we go on hoildays. I supposed we will need to go on a lot more of these…..

Do you find you’re more likely to try things out of your comfort zone when you go on vacation?

Why You Need a Yoda

One of the repetitive tips a business student receives from guest speakers, motivators and profs is to “find yourself a mentor.” It sounds great, they mean well, but how many of us actively pursued finding a mentor? Few. Very few.

Finding a mentor to me brought visions of intimidating power-suited, stiletto-clicking, smart-talking, out-of-my-league accomplishing women who would look at someone like me and say, “Oh dah-ling, by your age I had already become VP of Fabulously Enviable International Ventures and managed a staff of for-tay.”

Meryl Streep as scary, intimidating, stiletto-clicking, power-suited successful woman in Devil wears Prada

The sheer fear of having to approach an older, wiser, more accomplished adult was almost overwhelming. So many of us try to seek advice and support in more passive avenues. We attend networking events, we might chat with profs during office hours, and if we are feeling slightly brave, might go up to the guest speaker after the presentation and personally ask a few questions. All of these are great things to do, but when it comes to personal support, these other avenues don’t even hold a candle to the kind of empowerment that comes with having a mentor.

Hundreds of articles have been written about the benefits of mentors which most often include networks, accountability and refining skills. While all these benefits are true, I want to share what I believe to be most compelling, at-the-heart-of-the-matter benefits of having a mentor.

1. Confidence

Confidence to pursue goals and believe in my ability to accomplish things has by far been the most rewarding aspect of having a mentor. When I say confidence I don’t mean arrogance, I mean that inner conviction that you have what it takes, you trust in your abilities, and your ideas are worth hearing. Having a mentor who not only models confidence, but teaches me how to be confident has been indispensable. Every time I come home after dinner with my mentor I am on such a high that I fly into our condo and announce just how excited I am to take on the world. Poor Howie doesn’t understand sometimes, “Babe! I’ve been telling you for weeks that you can do it! I think you’re the smartest person in the world! How come you believe her when she says it and not me?!” Well Howie, you kind of have to think I’m amazing, my mentor doesn’t. So as unfair as it is to Howie, encouragement from a super cool non-family member looking in on your life can sometimes be the missing key to finally having the confidence to go for it. Confidence turns ideas and goals into action and reality.

2. Wisdom

Sometimes our generation is in such a rush to have it all and have it fast that we like to downplay our weaknesses. We fear showing a chink in our armour lest we be judged as incompetent and incapable. My mentor created a space where I didn’t have to be “on” all the time. By being comfortable I could be honest about myself, my career, and we were able to have genuine, authentic conversations. She imparted years of wisdom on a number of issues that had secretly worried and stressed me out for years. One being that for my entire life I’ve felt all over the place with my roles, my interests, and stressed about the fact I wasn’t honing in and focusing on developing one specific expert ability (like they tell us all to do in business school). She looked at me and said, “Cheryl, the person who told us we all need to spend thousands of hours becoming an expert was a man who probably couldn’t multi-task. It isn’t true. It’s the people who have depth and breadth that are the visionaries and leaders. They understand how things relate from a top-level perspective. They are the people that manage the experts.” I can’t explain how liberating that was to hear.

3. A Plan

If you find a good mentor, he or she will invest time in you for life. You may not meet so frequently all the time, but the relationship will always be there. A mentor genuinely cares about your future and will want to help you articulate your goals and the steps you need to take now to reach your goals. How often do we set time aside for ourselves to map out what we want to do in five years? Ten years? Twenty? Probably not often. And with a mentor this is exactly what you do. Plus, they open a lot of doors to help you get there.

4. A Sounding Board

Mentors provide an outsider’s perspective on the issues you face. They aren’t your boss, they aren’t your spouse, they aren’t your parents. They are unbiased, they have been there, and they get it. Mentors are the ultimate people you want to tell your most out-there, crazy ideas to because they will tell you the truth. They will tell you if there’s an element about your idea you should go for, and they help you consider ideas from perspectives you would have never thought. From how to implement a new marketing strategy, to managing people, to managing work-life balance, and initiating uncomfortable conversations, your mentor is the Mickey* in your corner.

Ultimately the decision to pursue a mentor-relationship is entirely up to you. For some people, they will not see the need or will not be able to get over the fear of approaching a potential mentor. But for those of you who are serious about carving out an exceptionally successful life and/or career, mentorship is absolutely key.

The most magical mentor-mentee relationship

Think about it… where would Luke be without Yoda? Bieber without Usher? Harry without Dumbledore? Zuckerberg without Andreessen? Jagr without Lemieux? Neo without Morpheus? Almost every great leader (fiction and non-fiction) had a mentor. Mentorship is so worthwhile. It’s worth your time to make it happen.

Thoughts on mentorship? Am I overestimating its value?

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* Mickey: Are you serious? You’ve never watched Rocky?! Go and educate yourself immediately by watching this.

Next post, look forward to some tips on how to find a good mentor!

Like this post? Then you might also like my tips for Climbing the Corporate Ladder

“Too Poor to Have Kids”

I came across this article in the Huffington Post, but if you don’t have time to read the article in its entirety here is the Modern Wife recap:

  • The article asserts that “young Americans are just too poor to have kids”
  • Population growth is at its all-time slowest growth rate since the Great Depression, and the birth rate has been falling since the housing bubble burst in 2007
  • Average wage of college-educated 23 to 29 year olds plunged 9% in the last decade
  • Three in 10 of these young adults are choosing to move back in with their parents rather than beginning their own households and families
  • For the first time in U.S. history, unmarried households outnumber married couples
  • Economic growth is expected to continue to be sluggish because the labor force is growing at a slower rate. Population growth is the key driver for consumer spending, housing demand, and household formation

Bottom line is, according to this article: poor economy is propelling many of us millennials to delay or opt out of having our own families.

So what exactly is going on here fellow Generation Y’ers? Are we really too poor, too down and out, too financially strapped to venture out and begin our own households? The more I considered this article the more convinced I became that the economy is just a small little piece of the “millennials aren’t reproducing” pie. We need a generational attitude shift.

I’m going to take you back to early1960 when a young couple decided to get married. Having emigrated to Canada with their respective families as children in 1950, they left behind a war-ravaged European country that had no jobs, little food, and scarce opportunities. With little more than the clothes on their backs and a few pieces of luggage, their families made the long passage across an ocean landing  on the east coast at Halifax. From there, a long train ride took them into southern Ontario. These large double-digit families rented small farmhouses built for six and worked on other Canadian farmers’ fields to make a living. Everyone, fathers, mothers, teenagers and young children pitched in.

The Dutch farming community of southern Ontario was fairly close-knit and that’s how this young couple met and fell in love. Barely past their teenage years, they got married and started their own household in much the same manner their parents did: renting and working on other people’s farms. Up until the day they got married, that young man gave his paycheque to his parents. The couple soon welcomed their first child and were thrown into parenthood in living conditions that involved outdoor bathroom facilities.

Year by year and four children later, they worked their tails off and gradually carved out a nice living for themselves. He went to night school and became a technician at a booming car plant and she became a self-employed cleaner when she wasn’t raising children. Fifty-two years later, they are retired and live in the third home they’ve owned, spend their winters in Florida, and play golf in the summer. These people were my grandparents, and they kick butt.

Considering their story, and thousands of other stories from grandparents just like them, the “we are too poor to have children” dilemma just doesn’t add up in this millennial’s mind. Are we actually too poor to have children? No. We think we are. And there’s a lot of other self-interests we want to pursue before we have them. The economy is a just handy excuse to use when you need to keep a grandchild-craving in-law at bay.

We were raised in a culture that promotes the pursuit of personal ambition. We were raised thinking things like televisions, video-games, cell phones, and iPods ranked right up there with water, food, and shelter on the list of life’s essentials. Have a family before you own your home? Shocking! Move out of mom and dad’s place before you have your own high def TV? Oh the humanity! Get married before I’m a senior manager and have a pension set? Stop! You’re killing me! These thoughts cause heart palpitations to millennials.

How can a generation who was raised with everything, be motivated to start out with less than their parents? Though our grandparents and parents had every best intention at heart in wanting to give us more than they had as children, something has become lost on us. Something to do with hard work, sweat, tears, patience, making something out of nothing, and a willingness to roll up our sleeves has become lost on the millennial generation. We want success, we want wealth, and we want it now. Children, families, and “settling down” have to take a backseat until we feel we have it all together.

Of course I am generalizing, of course there are exceptions. But take a good hard look at the 20-somethings in your life and I think you will find some truth to what I’m saying. Is it wrong to pursue a career? Is it wrong to want it all together before we start our own households and have children? Maybe not. But let’s call it for what it is.

No, we are not too poor to have children. My grandparents were too poor to have children, my parents didn’t “have it all” to have children, but they had children anyway.

Thoughts welcomed. Was I too harsh on my generation? Are we too poor to have kids?

Hockey Wives

For the record, I was never a puck bunny.* The fact that Howie and I started dating in his first year of the OHL was merely a coincidence. I did not hang around arenas scoping out hockey players, never once attended a team party and certainly never attended an ice hockey game wearing a mini-skirt. Yes, I like how Howie looks in shoulder pads, but that does not make me a puck bunny. Despite these truths, friends endearingly like to tease me with this name.

Though it’s been a while since I’ve watched Howie play competitive hockey, I was really looking forward to watching him compete in a for-charity ball hockey tournament with some friends a few weekends ago. The fact that he was playing with the new husband of my friend (and former basketball teammate) Melissa meant I had a cheering buddy. And when you get two competitive former basketball players cheering together, things can get pretty serious. When you add in a Loud Mouth who purposefully hooks* our men in the nuts, things get ugly.

The fun-loving charitable atmosphere took a turn for the worst when our men had to compete against a rather brutish oaf who clearly talked smack because he enjoyed getting a rise out of his opponents. After a few initial dirty plays and smart-aleck remarks, we soon had the entire crowd cheering for our team to spite this ridiculous Loud Mouth. At first our boys tried to maintain the higher ground, play on and ignore the fool. It wasn’t as easy for us Hockey Wives to do the same. And so the game digressed….

Here is my account of the Tale of Two Hockey Wives and the Loud Mouth

Loud Mouth cross-checks Howie across the back, Howie shoves him in the chest (so hot)

Loud Mouth: “You wanna go man?!”

Howie (who is twice his size): “Are you serious?”

Loud Mouth backs away shouting: “Ooo big tough guy eh?”

Melissa: “What is your problem?! Play the game!!”

Cheryl: “I hope you realize this is a recreational ball hockey tournament!!”

Loud Mouth: “Why are you guys even talking?! You’re not even playing!”

Melissa: “Neither are you!”

Cheryl giggles: “Shhh.. careful Melissa… he’s an idiot. We should just ignore him”

Melissa: “It’s impossible to ignore those kind of people. I can’t stand them!”

Cheryl: “I know… he’s just trying to cause trouble.”

Loud Mouth becomes excessively aggressive with Howie’s younger brother Bret, and causes a scene in which both he (Loud Mouth) and Bret end up with penalties.

Loud Mouth to Bret: “Hahaha! What a joke! You think you’re good eh? You’re the worst!”

Bret: “Wow dude. You have issues. Have you ever even got laid?”

Cheryl: “BRET! Don’t say things like that!”

Melissa: “Don’t stoop to his level Bret! He’s not worth it!”

Loud Mouth: “Hahah! I’m not worth it? Ok. Why are you still talking?”

Melissa: “Get over yourself and just play the game!”

Cheryl: (Giggles) “Nice one.”

Loud Mouth continues to do idiotic things, gets a few penalties and eventually gets kicked out of the game.

Loud Mouth: “Hahaha what a joke! They think they’re so good! They suck!”

Melissa: “Ya. Just walk off and sit down.”

Loud Mouth: “Oh really? You think you’re funny?”

Melissa: “Your FACE is funny.”

And there it was. The best line ever. When all else fails, just remember the lines from grade school playgrounds. I was laughing so hard at that point. Loud Mouth didn’t have a reply to that. Take THAT Loud Mouth!

Our boys went on to win their division championship. Howie told me I’m not supposed to reveal there was only three teams in the division how truly difficult and hard-fought the victory was. In the end, we Hockey Wives were very proud of our men and their glorious accomplishment. We stand ready to challenge anyone that would say otherwise!

* Puck bunny: Female fan of hockey players (emphasis on the player, not the game of hockey) who frequent arenas and hockey team parties for the sole purpose of hooking up with players. They severely underdress for a sport known to be played on ice.