After we cleaned out my father’s house I became the de facto keeper of papers. Mainly because I have them, and room to store them. I also volunteered to scan all the pictures that we found around the house – hundreds of family pictures, slides. We found, in a bag, the things my father had kept after cleaning out his mother’s house. In that bag was a scrapbook that my Granny (born in 1899) made as a teenager. This scrapbook has photos she took and captions she wrote between 1914 and 1918.
As she grows older and the years change more and more boys in uniform show up in her album, and on one caption she writes the names of the four boys and “all are soldiers now.”
I can’t imagine how many friends she must have lost.
I have more of an idea of how many comrades my grandfather lost – he and his younger brother were the only ones in their regiment to survive World War I. I took my daughter to the War Museum and we saw a wall of lights, with each representing a man lost on Vimy Ridge. My grandfather and his brother both survived that fight, and the war. Against the odds.
My Gramps, one of the grandparents I actually got to grow up knowing, spent World War II on ships.
I went out whale watching in the Atlantic, off Newfoundland once. There was a point at which we could no longer see land, it was just ocean all around us. I cannot imagine spending five years that way. I cannot imagine spending five years that way knowing that your two younger brothers are out there in the fight too.
I took my daughter to the War Museum because I want her to begin to understand. I want her to know what her ancestors did, what Canadian soldiers are still fighting for, as hard as it can be to understand. It’s not easy to explain, it shouldn’t be.
While I find it very difficult to be proud of my own accomplishments, I find it very easy to be proud of others. I also get jealous.
I take no great issue with where I am in my life. I have done a lot of things. A lot. I’m tired just thinking about it. But there is so much that I want to do, and some friends and acquaintances are getting to do those things. There are things I’ve done in the past that I miss doing, and and some friends and acquaintances are doing those things now.
I want to appear successful, even if I don’t really understand what that means, or who I want to think that about me. And, really, I don’t want the kind of success that will take my away from home and my family too often. I wouldn’t ever want to be recognized on the street or forced out of my comfort zone – also known as my house, in pyjamas.
But there is a jealousy when someone has an experience that is interesting to me, something that I am curious about, an opportunity, a job I would consider doing, something I would be curious about. I imagine jobs – how I would handle them, how I would do them, how that would change my life.
I wonder about being a powerful woman making important decisions, a huge salary, a staff.
In reality I’m not sure what I would give away to have those things, or how much I would want them once I got them, but there is a little part of me that wants to prove that I can get them, no matter what I then decide to do with myself.
It’s this curiosity, but I have to live where I am now. I have to step back and experience what I have now and enjoy it, make the most of it, and make decisions when they come. No one else gets to live my life, I don’t get to live anyone else’s.
I have joined the parent council at my kid’s school. This is not something I ever expected myself to do, but then she went to a coop preschool and I got the taste for knowing her teachers and what was going on in her day to day life.
When she started kindergarten we just put her on the bus and sent her off and when we picked her up all we knew about her school day is what she remembered to tell us.
During her JK and SK years I was in school myself and while I thought of going to council meetings, I often had a class or assignments that prevented me from getting there. Last year was hectic in so many other ways. This year I’m working from home, my kid is getting older, and I want to know what’s going on there. I want to know the teachers, I want to be part of the community more than just donating for bake sales.
So when a position came up I went for it, and now I have meetings at the school and more knowledge about other classes, I know more parents and the principal, new to our school last year.
What’s kind of cool about it all – beyond just feeling more involved in my kid’s life – is that the kid is excited about me doing this. She’s
glad that I’m going to her school and working with her principal. I think it makes her feel important too. She know we care, but also likes it when we demonstrate how much.
She still doesn’t get that she’s the most important thing in my universe.
If a happy and healthy kid comes from a good community and a healthy school environment, just tell me where to sign up.
I have taken to listening to podcast that teach me about cultures different than my own.
I’ve loved podcasts for a long time, and they’re a great place to learn. I listen to Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me, which keeps me informed on the news of the week. I used to listen to This American Life, which offered a bit of storytelling. I listen to No Such Thing As A Fish, which teaches me completely useless facts. I’ve listened to a few true crime podcasts, because they’re fascinating, and landed on Casefile as my favourite.
And then somewhere I heard about a podcast called Another Round, hosted by two young black women who talk about race and feminism and intersectional feminism in ways that I know I need to hear. What I love most about Another Round is the interviews they do and the people they’ve introduced me to who I now follow on Twitter (like Joy Ann Reid and Stacy-Marie Ismael) that teach me more.
They also introduced me to a podcast that I have just recently starting listening to – binge-listening in fact. It’s called The Nod, and it is incredibly entertaining. I have already told two people about what I learned in the Whole Hog episode, and shared the Cowboy of the West Village episode on social media because why shouldn’t everyone learn about an awesome woman with a great story who was an LGBTQ activist?
Now that I’m working from home, I don’t get a lot of time to listen to podcasts, but I’m making time for The Nod, and soon I’m going to add UnCivil and See Something, Say Something to my subscription list. Cause if I’m stuck in traffic, I might as well take the opportunity to learn something about people who have a right to be better understood by people who look like me.
I’ve been trying to get this bullet journal thing down.
I love having to-do lists, and when I did a weekly list in university I was usually very successful in getting things done. In theory a bullet journal is just extending my weekly lists into monthly lists. I have also learned a lot about the things I need to do more regularly to keep myself healthy in the past 10 or 12 years.
The list gives me the opportunity to remind myself daily of things I need to do for me, and look back monthly to see where my focus needs to lie.
On my list are exercise, flossing, taking my meds, drinking more water, and writing. Every day. At least 500 words. These are things I now will keep me at my best.
These are things I’ve managed to make into habits before. These are things that will get me where I want to go.
Every great writer has told an audience about the need to write every day. Some of them have page counts, words counts, time limits, but they all talk about forcing themselves to sit down at a blank page (or screen, I guess, these days) and put something down.
I used to write every day. All day. It used to flow out of me. Stories and streams of consciousness and pure ideas that I had to write down before they could escape. And then life.
My writing habits changed drastically when I went to journalism school, and then back into an academic-style of writing (though I was always, always short on the word count). Somewhere the young girl who wrote fiction and poetry fell away.
Sometimes I get a glimpse of her. Right now I can see her. Because I have an idea. I have an idea that’s been fermenting for a few months now, and it is almost time for NaNoWriMo. These two things have come together to give me an excuse to practice my craft. A craft I love dearly.
And the other great thing about writing is that to get really good at it, you also have to read. You have to find books and devour them to learn more about yourself and where you’re going.
This year I have read a lot. I have experienced a lot. (So much, in fact, that I thought something that happened one year ago was two years ago. It’s been a time).
And now I have something percolating and it is my time.
1,667 words a day, 30 days, let’s go.
Working with business coaches, the first thing they’ll ask you is about your why – why do you do what you do and why should people hire you to do that instead of anyone else.
I have struggled with this question. Why do I do what I do? Because I love doing it. I love politics, I’m interested in policy, I’m passionate about creating change and doing good.
I bought that in Washington and it now sits on my desk, reminding me.
The reason that I’m passionate about creating change and doing good? Because I worked for Jack Layton, and Jack Layton taught me that we can create change and we can make the world a better place, and the reason we do that is because we owe it to the next generation.
That’s my daughter. She’s six and she’s full of rainbows and big ideas. I love everything about her, and I want her to know good. I want her to keep having big ideas, and believing in them.
But why should people hire me? That’s harder to answer. Because I want to earn money and help support my family and give that little person up above all of her needs and some of her wants. But that answer doesn’t mean anything to the people who might hire me.
So why hire me?
Because I am good at what I do. Don’t take my word for it, I have lots of colleagues who have been willing to speak up for me. It feels really good asking three people if they’ll act as references and getting back three quick replies of “Absolutely.”
I am good at what I do because I love to work. I love delving into a problem and not stopping until I find a solution. I take criticism and I adjust. I work efficiently and get things done quickly. I lose myself in work.
You should hire me because I will not stop until the job is done. Jack taught me that.
Why do I do what I do? Because I believe in politics, and I think other people should too.
I’m working on a grant application today, putting into action all the things I learned from helping my father finalize many a SSHRC proposal.
Those who work examining such applications are looking for reasons to deny your application right off the bat. If they can deny your application, they they have a smaller pool to work with. If you want to be one of the last ones in the pile you have to make sure you have crossed your ts and dotted your is.
Use their language, answer all their questions with no more and no less information than is required, put all the checkmarks in all the right boxes. Do all the math and then do it again to make sure you did it right, and then do it again just in case.
And this is why there are professionals who earn a living getting these proposals exactly right for clients.
This is not going to be quick work, but it can’t be if you want to get things right. And you won’t get your grant if you don’t get things right.
Right now I’m focussed on taking it step by step, reading the guide to the application as I go, and highlighting sections I have to come back to when I have more information.
Slow and steady.
I had the opportunity to attend the Manning Centre Conference in Ottawa last weekend. A conference like this is a great opportunity to sit back and listen to how others approach certain issues. A bit of opposition research if you will.
The first and possibly most interesting session was a journalist panel that touched on lessons that communications officials could learn from the previous government.
The Harper government tended to see the media as the enemy. They developed an issues management structure where top stories were treated as crises. Mercedes Stephenson, from CTV’s Parliamentary bureau, said that young Conservative staffers would rarely contact the media while other parties were reaching out. She pointed out the importance of the relationships being built by other staffers while Tory staffers only reached out when there were problems.
By not talking to the media when the media needed them, the Conservatives made it much less likely that the media would listen when Tory staffers needed them to.
In fact, the whole panel touched on building relationships and telling positive stories.
Anthony Furey raised another important point – when you want to talk to the media about your issue, you need to have a story to tell. You need to be prepared to explain what you mean and why it’s important.
That, of course, is excellent advice for anyone in any kind of communications trying to get across any kind of message.
It is early to be doing a post about my three words to focus on in the New Year, but the semester is coming quickly to an end and there are things I’ve learned over the last part of this year that I need to transfer to the work I’m planning to move into in the second half of 2016.
The three words that will lead me through my Masters degree and back into my career are: Focus, Clarity and Specificity.
I have noticed, both in myself and in others, this effort to include the most information possible, to expand on things that we say to try and inform or appear informed. I actually had a conversation with one of my professors about a specific assignment that I had done well on, but I had also gotten lost in trying to explain too many aspects of the issue. I lacked focus.
The great thing about this program, and about working in politics is that shorter is better, succinct is desired. People don’t have the time to hear long explanations of the background and process by which you reached your recommendation. They want to know, in bullet points, what they should do and why.
They need clarity. Precision. Specificity. They need the question to be addressed in a document that they can read and make sense of in the car on the way to a meeting. If they need more information they will ask for it, and you should have it readily available. But in the moment they just need to answer what and why, and maybe who and how.
This will be my focus in papers for the rest of my degree and my quest in dealing with clients in the future. I will not waste people’s time.
Through some work I was very lucky to do a few years ago I learned about the power of neuroplasticity – the power of our brains to adapt and learn new things in new ways.
This summer I am using my neuroplasticity to work on some things to help me hit the ground running when I finish my schooling next year. I’m doing an online course in Project Management, I’m going to practice my French skills using Duolingo, and I’m working on my information skills with all the reading that I’m doing.
As Sunni Brown says in The Doodle Revolution:
“The reality is our brains are like giant, muscular vines, and they can wrap themselves around almost any skill we ask them to consider. … People using even rudimentary visual language to understand or express something are stirring the neurological pathways of the mind to see a topic in a new light.”
Reading this book has led to me playing with doodling again and I have discovered that playing with words and font-styles helps me brainstorm.
And, it’s helped me to turn the words of Sheila Watt-Cloutier into a reminder about the work I want to do that I can put on my wall: