Work Life Balance

The summer of 2015 is half over. At least for my children. They are already sad about what has passed, in regards to what little is left. Time is really flying for them. They have had so much fun and excitement, they are so emotionally charged, you can almost feel it in the air. A whole month away from home, staying with family, but running pretty independent lives. What a wonderful time! And then the parental units arrive on the scene.

While I’ve been visiting my family in Alberta, I’ve been catching up. Running some very familiar patterns. Routines which are well worn over the years. Food preparation in the kitchen, dishes to be washed, recipes to be practiced. Games. Real outside swimming pools. Roasting marshmallows over the campfire. Small children staying up past their bedtime. Card games, both new and old favourites. Sleeping in tents because there were too many people to fit the number of bedrooms. Family.

Then, Sunday morning, I started to worry. I have a big week coming up. Will I get everything done? What do I have to accomplish anyway? What happens if I don’t get finished what I set out to do, according to my standards? What then? That was when I stopped myself. What brand of silly is it when you worry about your work life this much? On vacation? So I rolled over and went back to sleep.

But it haunted me all afternoon. I voiced my concerns about this topic to my Aunt. She disappered for a time. Then she returned with a book for me to read, easily accomplished in an afternoon. Anne Morrow Lindbergh wrote, “Gift from the Sea”. A delight. As the pages started to fall away, I was amazed that something written so long ago was still so relevant. I immediately ordered my own copy. I was also taken by the fact that my Aunt could so easily put her finger on the pulse of my problem. She had answers at the ready. 

It is a gift to be able to help others. Especially when the “others” are me and feeling down or otherwise uninspired. My mini Alberta vacation ended on such a high note, I almost floated home today. I guess the only trick is, how to make this feeling last and apply these kind of lessons when life gets tough and stressful again. 

On the bright side, I am getting closer to finding a way to serve others. If I could harness the power of women around me, the wise women, the brave women and bring it forth for others to share. Help solve the daily mysteries for one person with insights from another. Restore a balance of working and living that makes sense to each and is not a prescribed formula. Fill up our cups with inspiration. Help us continue to serve and help others. 

It sure seems as if what we need to learn most, comes to us at the perfect moment. Just when we are ready to receive, ready to become teachers. At least for me, that is how my Sunday unfolded.

“I shall ask into my shell only those friends with whom I can be completely honest. I find I am shedding hypocrisy in human relationships. What a rest that will be! The most exhausting thing in life, I have discovered, is being insincere. That is why so much of social life is exhausting; one is wearing a mask. I have shed my mask.” 

― Anne Morrow Lindbergh, Gift from the Sea

The girl next door

Last week, there was a discussion at work about consumer profiles and the characteristics for “the girl next door” were being described. I was amazed to learn that I have become HER.

I spent so many years trying on other personas. There were the rocker-chick years. Then my early University days were spent trying to perfect the high-powered, corporate, business, pant-suit type. Then I switched to design school and it all changed again. The bohemian, free-spirit, creative type came into play. There was a constant search to be someone and look a certain part. I was clearly not comfortable in my own skin.

But that is one of the perks of getting older. I am comfortable now. And whilst I never thought I wanted to be, “the girl next door”, there is nothing wrong with her.

As if “the universe was conspiring to help me”, writes Paulo Coelho writes in The Alchemist, I came across a blog post this morning that describes this new age “girl next door”. Sheri Salatin, who writes for Polyface Hen House was describing me to a tee. Somewhere along the line, this is who I have become.

What I find interesting about discovering someone else who is just like me, is a validation of myself. Maybe I have not found many friends that think the same way I do, in my neighbourhood. Now, with the help of the internet, I have easily discovered kindred spirits, in serious numbers. Who knew?

Here are some of the characteristics of the “girl next door”:

homebody - humblebea

Humblebea Gnomes

  • Homebody – this was a real problem for me because everyone thought clubbing was the only way to meet men. But I thought, intellectually anyway, that there was no kind of drunk man I wanted to meet at a club. I met my husband at the beach, probably the only place on earth where you can wear less clothes than a night club. And probably one of the few times I sported a bikini!
  • Family values – probably closely linked to liking home base.
  • Confident – this can be tough for a young woman. Easily misinterpreted as standoffish by other women. Men find this quality off-putting, they prefer a woman who needs them.
  • Nurturing – a great quality that young woman need to grow into to become comfortable with.
  • Low maintenance – I have never understood the hours and hours of make-up, hair and other primping ceremonies so many women go through. If I’m going to spend hours at something, it will be a massage. I think a 3 dressed up as a 9 is a waste of time.
  • Straight forward – no games. I could never be bothered to make-up elaborate stories to make a man feel more confident so that I looked weaker for it. As I get older, my husband does appreciate a little softening here.
  • The buck stops here – this is an adage that I learned early on and really took to heart. I’m not going to pass blame, I’ll do everything I can to fix things and try to create solutions to problems.
  • Likes to have fun – within the context of all the values above. Travel, meeting new people, have great experiences – being at ease with changing circumstances, finding the bright side of things.

Disclaimer – this is not to say that I portray these characteristics all the time. In fact, my husband may argue that the girl next door is more of a latent attitude. In any case, this gives me hope for the woman who I am becoming.

Heart of a kitchen

If the kitchen is the heart of a home, then the main counter is the heart of a kitchen. At least that is the case in my house.

In our tiny kitchen, the counter serves as the main hub of activity.

At the back of the photo, I was working on my goals, including a large sketch book, coloured pens and glue. To the left of that is a cotton knitted basket that I made, holding various iPods being charged. A box of tissues, a CD recording of Jimmy Buffets, “A Salty Piece of Land”, and a cluster of bananas in the next row. A cracker box on top of my iPad, a container of tomatoes and my cookbook run into the snack in various dishes. My husbands computer and papers and my sons blue pencil box pretty much covers it all.

This is a typical situation for our family. Probably pretty chaotic looking for some people and maybe a little tidy for others, (notice nothing has spilled on the electronics!)

What I want to do one day is set up a video camera with time elapse recording. Even a week would be great to show just how much we rely on this one piece of furniture to live our life.

Daggett Farmhouse: Hearth cooking at Greenfield Village open air Museum

I suppose, back in the day, the fireplace was the centre of the kitchen. Women would cook all day over it and sit by the light of it to sew and do chores in the evening. It was where the warmth radiated from and where the vital, life-sustaining food stuffs were prepared.

I often think that I could have done well in that time of history and then I see these kind of photo’s showing what looks to be back-breaking work. I remember clearly what that was like when I cared for my babies. For one thing or another, it seemed like I was stooped over for about 4 years.

For the most part, I remain extremely happy to be living in this time of history. Even if the only reason were for our modern kitchens, which let us produce food for our family in a fraction of the time that it used to only a couple hundred years ago.

3 Heroes

I like it when, at a dinner party usually, someone will ask as we linger over coffee, who are your top 3 heroes and why?

I guess you could say this is my trifecta. But, this is not a horse race. And even if it was, I wouldn’t want to put these 3 in any kind of descending order. My order will be when I became aware of their work.

Louise Arbour 2011 Chatelaine Woman of the Year nominee

Louise Arbour

I have a tattered article pulled from a Chatelaine magazine from 2000, where she was given, “woman of the year”. This was near the end of her tenure as Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda working in The Hague. It was a fantastic article where the interviewer was given a quick glance into the very important work being done at that time. It was also a brief interlude where Ms. Arbour could grant interviews before she went back home to become a justice of the Supreme Court of Canada.

Ms. Arbour is an inspiration to me for a number of reasons. She is direct, means what she says and says what she means. That can rub some people the wrong way, but she seems to ignore those distractions and strongly pursue her work, confident in her purpose. She is very clear about who is right and who is wrong, I guess being a judge will do that. She has had the courage to make tough decisions.

She has since July 2009 served as President and CEO of the International Crisis Group.  http://www.crisisgroup.org/

Christine Lagarde official portrait 2011

Christine Madeleine Odette Lagarde

Truth be told, I only became aware of Ms. Lagarde when she became the managing director of the International Monetary Fund earlier this year. With the high-profile nature of this position, there was a great deal of media attention, so doing additional research was easy.

Ms. Lagarde held various ministerial posts in the French government, including Minister of Economic Affairs, Finances and Industry. Prior to that Minister of Agriculture and Fishing and Minister of Trade in the government of Dominique de Villepin. Lagarde was the first woman ever to become minister of Economic Affairs of a G8 economy, and is the first woman to ever head the IMF.

However, I came to discover that she was far more than her resume. Christine Lagarde believes that women in high places are essential. Men, left to themselves, will usually make a mess of things. The 2008 financial collapse was, at least in part, she says, (in an interview with The Independent in February), driven by the aggressive, greedy, testosterone-fuelled mood of male-dominated, hi-tech trading rooms. I think she speaks about women, not to put down men, but to show differences. A well-managed future world economy will clearly need a better balance in a number of areas, the gender split just being one of them.

Alison Redford

A few weeks ago, I was driving to work listening to “The Current” with Anna Maria Tremonti and her top story was the Premier-designate of Alberta, Canada. I was not really aware of the local politics in my home province, but was completely taken aback by her ideas and proposed changes for Alberta’s future. And to top it all off, her Mother died just a few days before she was to be sworn in. The program played a clip of her Dad congratulating her on behalf of both parents. Being a parent has made me so sappy, I shed a quick tear for her. (http://www.cbc.ca/thecurrent/)

A few points pulled from her website biography at http://www.alisonredford.ca/

  • Throughout the 1990s, Alison worked as a technical advisor on constitutional and legal reform issues in Africa for the European Union, the Commonwealth Secretariat and both the Canadian and Australian governments. Her work in Africa focused on human rights litigation, education programs and policy reform initiatives.
  • In 2005, Alison was appointed by the Secretary-General of the United Nations as one of four International Election Commissioners to administer Afghanistan’s first parliamentary elections. She also served as an advisor to the Privy Council Office on Canada’s future involvement in Afghanistan.
  • Over the course of her career, Alison has also undertaken assignments in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Namibia, Uganda, Zimbabwe, Mozambique and the Philippines. Before seeking elected office in Alberta, she managed a judicial training and legal reform project for the Ministry of Justice and the Supreme People’s Court in Vietnam.

While Ms. Redford represents the most favoured long time political party in Alberta, the last Premier to hold the job didn’t last very long, at least by Alberta standards. Time will tell how kindly Ms. Redford’s ideas will be received and supported, but she claims that Alberta is changing and she represents that shift. If that happens to be the case, I am excited to watch Alberta politics evolve.