365 Days

Victory fingers Dec 2 14Today is a high-five, way to go, milestone day in my life. I"™m not looking for accolades, congratulations or any such thing from you, my readers.

This blog post is my thank you to me.

It"™s been 365 days, or 8,760 hours, or 525,600 minutes since I last smoked a cigarette.

Frankly, I don"™t know how I achieved this milestone as I resisted even contemplating quitting for 40+ years. I expended a lot of energy in fighting for my right to smoke and honed my argumentative skills by furiously debating with those who urged me to quit. (more…)

The Road to Entrepreneurialism is Paved With… Vegetables?

The Old Farmhouse Barn Aug 27 12 adjI know. Strange title for a blog post but after you read the remainder of the story, you"™ll know why I"™ve chosen this  as the introductory line.

I suspect if you were to take a poll of 100 business owners, all of them can pinpoint the main reason why they took the plunge into entrepreneurialism. I also know that being their own "˜boss"™ would most likely rank in the top 5 answers to that question. For me, my entrepreneur ideas took root when I was 8 years old, literally and figuratively.

I was born and raised in an 18 room farmhouse situated on 200 acres (more or less) of relatively fertile ground, located in a fairly remote rural area of New Brunswick, alongside the coastline of the Northumberland Strait. My father was a self-employed business man, who held down 2 demanding jobs: that of being an owner of his own front-end loader/backhoe during the day, and in all the hours before 8:00 am and after 5:00 pm, he toiled at his true love, that of farming.

As most of the people in the area did, we too, grew our own vegetables and harvested them for winter. The trouble was my Dad thought that a ½ acre of garden simply wasn"™t enough to feed our huge family (including myself, there were only 4 of us children), so therefore a second ½ acre or more was ploughed, seeded and tended which grew only potatoes, turnip and cabbage. For those of you who"™ve never tended gardens of that size, let me assure you that it takes a LOT of hoeing, weeding, tilling etc. to maintain something of that size.

Over the years, people from nearby towns constructed cottages along the beautiful coastline and my older brother had started what we called the "˜vegetable route"™ supplying the "˜cottagers"™ with fresh vegetables once they came into season.

The summer I turned 8, my brother decided he was too old to be doing this piddly work and passed the baton down to me. My father sat me down at the end of June and said, "œI"™ll make you a deal. If you take over the cottage route, I"™ll split the money we make with you at the end of August." Well, to an 8 year old girl, in 1965, the promise of actual dollar bills seemed like a tremendous idea, so we shook hands and a deal was struck. All the monies collected were to be deposited in an old tobacco can which sat at the back of the sideboard in the kitchen and divided just before school started in September.

I still didn"™t have a bicycle yet (although I should add I"™d started nagging my parents 2 years prior for one!), so twice a week I"™d either walk the 2 mile route, knock on the cottager"™s doors, smile and ask, "œDo you need any vegetables this week?" and proceed to rattle off what offerings were available, or on the odd occasion my Mum would drive me in our family car. I"™d write down their orders in a tiny coil-bound flip-top book, move on to the next cottage and repeat the process. When the last cottage was duly asked for an order, I"™d walk back home and then my mother and I would tally up how many bunches of carrots, beets, radishes, pounds of peas, beans, or potatoes etc. we"™d need to pick, wash, and pack to deliver later that day.

I should also mention here that a "˜bunch"™ of carrots consisted of 12 firm, bright orange beauties, all nicely washed and tied with a piece of left-over baler twine, which sold for the princely sum of $.25/per bunch. (Yes, I"™m that old!)

The hazy days of summer quickly passed and the garden once again yielded a wonderful crop. I cannot tell you how many trips I made down the cottager"™s route; the tons of weeds I pulled from those rows of vegetables; the mosquito bites I received from pushing through the thorny raspberry bushes in search of the bigger, more tastier morsels, or how happy I was to hand a brown paper bag full of produce to the respective buyers and say, "œThat comes to $ 1.85 please" and run home to stash the cash into the tobacco can.

Cooler days rolled in and September 1st arrived. Dad decided that the Saturday night before Labour Day was to be the big reveal and division of funds. I could hardly wait.

With both of us sitting at the sturdy weathered farmhouse kitchen table, he dumped the contents of the tobacco can and started counting. After 20 minutes or so, we had the grand sum of"¦ $ 60.00 (give or take a few pennies). Woo hoo! I would get $ 30.00 for working the entire summer!

And that"™s when I learned my first lesson in entrepreneurship from my Dad.

He looked at me and said: "œBefore we split this money, the first $20.00 is mine because I paid for the seeds, fertilizer, and gas for the tractor and tiller." "œWhat do you mean, Dad? You"™re taking more money than me!", I defiantly said.  He smiled and replied, "œRemember, little girl. Being in business costs money, and you can"™t make money if you don"™t spend money."

Hmpf!

In the end I took my precious $20.00 or so and stashed it away in my empty Cherry Blossom candy bar box that served as my piggy bank from whence I carefully doled out a dime here or a quarter then which was spent on trips to the general store to buy penny candy on Saturday nights.

I continued to do the summer cottage vegetable route until I was 15 and got my first "˜real"™ job washing dishes and peeling produce at a new restaurant/gas bar that had opened the summer of 1972 about a mile from my home. I then passed the vegetable route on to my youngest brother who was around 8 at the time"¦ and HE had a bike! (Lucky kid!)

That meager paying, labor intensive summer job lit a spark deep inside me and I knew that at some point in my life I would become an entrepreneur. In April of 2006 I finally opened my existing wordsmith business.

No, I don"™t keep my money in an empty candy bar box today, but I do pay my bills on time and try and put aside a smidgen for "˜rainy days."™

And I still tend to a teeny vegetable garden just because:-)

Fresh tomatoes from my garden Sept. 2012

9 Words

I"™ve read a lot of self-help/motivational books over the years and have taken bits and pieces from each of them to build the life I lead today. Some of the "˜experts"™ claim that the most important statements one can make to another human being are "œI love you" or "œI am sorry." While both of these phrases certainly belong in everyone"™s vocabulary, (and should be used frequently in my opinion), I recently heard 9 words that should be shared with the people in your life, especially with those you are fortunate to be around in their early childhood. 

Last Sunday afternoon, my hubby and I went to an afternoon matinee at our local theatre. I got to choose the movie we"™d see, and since I"™d heard rave reviews of the film, The Help, based on the book by Kathryn Stockett, that was my pick. 

It turned out to be best $10.00 I"™ve spent in years. 

This amazing movie chronicles the behind the scenes feelings of colored domestic maids in the early 1960"™s in Jackson, MS. While I suspect that some of the incidents and situations in the movie were indeed true, I"™m choosing not to comment on the politics of the film, but rather the words that from the moment I heard them, I knew them to be some of the most profound I"™ve heard in my lifetime. 

The main character, Aibileen Clark, portrayed brilliantly by actress Viola Davis, tells her story of raising white children during this era. In one of the early scenes in the movie, Aibileen reaches into a crib, picks up the little white girl she is looking after, sits down with her in a rocking chair near the bed, and says"¦Â 

"œYou is kind; you is smart; you is important."Â 

9 words. 

Aibileen makes the little girl repeat these words after she says them to her as if repeating them will somehow make the child realize her own worth.

I"™ve been wondering all week long what would happen if all of us said these 9 words to the children in our life. Better yet, what if we, as adults, switched them around a bit and daily told ourselves, "˜I am kind; I am smart; I am important."

They say it takes 28 days to either break or form a new habit. I"™m issuing a challenge to everyone who reads this post. For the next 28 days, before you get out of your bed each morning, silently say these words: "œI am kind; I am smart; I am important." Better yet, if you happen to have children or grandchildren, or even young nieces and nephews, at least once a day tell THEM these same words. 

9 simple words. 

I wish I"™d heard them sooner.

2011: The Year of Being Me

Here I sit, perched excitedly on the cusp of the beginning of brand spanking New Year with mere hours to go. I ask you "“ how invigorating is it to know that come January 1st we all get a fresh clean slate to start writing on? I feel like I"™m eight and it"™s the commencement of a new school year. I"™ve got a shiny backpack, unmarked notebooks and sharpened pencils, plus a fresh package of new crayons with which to color my world any hue of the rainbow I desire.

That"™s what January 1st means to me: it"™s a "˜do over"™ start if you will, and I know exactly where I"™m going to begin"¦ with me.

2010 was a year of learning for me, and with some of those lessons came smidgens of sadness and dabs of disappointment. I won"™t lie and say that all those lessons were great because they weren"™t. At times I felt a bit lost, as if I were oar less in a leaky rowboat, somewhere out on a seemingly endless sea.

Thankfully by November, I had found a life-line, pulled my battered boat to shore, and on shaky legs finally stood up on solid ground once more. And here"™s what I"™m taking with me from the journey of 2010 into this nice, sparkly New Year:

1. It"™s okay to not always know where you"™re going. Why? Because if you travel the same path over and over and over again, without taking side trips and an occasional detour here and there, you"™ll never get to see any of the wonders that await you off the beaten tried and true path.

2. Learn to trust your intuition because your "˜gut"™ never lies. There"™s a reason why they call it "˜gut"™ instinct "“ that little voice inside us that sends out clear messages like, "œDon"™t touch that burner "“ it"™s hot and you"™ll get burned!" That wise person inside each of us also tells us what is the right (and wrong!) thing to do when faced with making decisions. We just have to learn to be patient "“ to wait for directions, and be still enough to hear them when they arrive.

3. We are our own worst critics but can also be our best supporters. Believe that you matter. You are a "˜somebody"™ in your own life "“ a hero to yourself. When you are living a life that makes you smile, brings peacefulness and joy into your heart and others, then YOU have become the champion of YOU.

4. Keep the fire of adventure and imagination burning brightly in your heart and mind. Never lose your sense of wonderment. I grant you that some days the only wonder you may experience is trying to figure out how they get the caramel into the Caramilk bar, but never stop dreaming. At least once a day ask yourself, "œI wonder if"¦" and fill in the blank. Even if it"™s something totally silly it will keep those creative juices flowing in your mind and may cause you to smile.

5. And last, but certainly not the least by far, laugh. Out loud. At anything, at least once every day. A true, straight from the belly, snorting, guffaw until tears leak out from your eyes type of laugh. This was the life-line I regained back in November and I am going to do my utmost to hang on to it for the duration of 2011.

I’d like to leave you with this wonderful prayer I found many years ago which has been my unofficial mantra for the past year.

“To Be Prayer”

O Lord, I ain’t what I ought to be,

And I ain’t what I want to be,

And I ain’t what I’m going to be,

But O Lord, I thank You,

That I ain’t what I used to be.”

I know I love this new me and have a great feeling I’m going to like this New Year. Happy 2011 to all!

Sometimes a Flower Isn’t Just a Flower

firstsignofspring2010 adj1I woke up this morning to bright, beautiful sunshine flooding my bedroom through the slats of my window blind. This is the second day in a row where I experienced this wonderful phenomenon after a week that brought more snow, (blech!) and cold temperatures to my little corner of the east coast of Canada. At this point, any warmth or semblance thereof brings me comfort as I am not a winter person by any stretch of the imagination. 

After breakfast, my hubby and I decided to go run a few errands. Even though the temperature still was in the minus Celsius range, we could feel the warmth of that wonderful sunshine beaming through the windshield. Both of us commented on how great it was to be alive on such a glorious morning. And the day just got better and better. 

Upon arriving back at the house, we took our little Westie, Angel, outside to do her "˜business"™ and I ventured around to the front of the house to marvel at how the snow was gently melting around the basement footing. 

And that"™s when I saw it – a tiny sprig of greenery popping through the thawing ground, yet still surrounded by snow banks. Whether it was a tulip or hyacinth daring to show its face to the world, I couldn"™t be sure, but it was the first sign that spring is on its way to my region. Then this amazing thought popped into my head: sometimes a flower isn"™t just a flower!

Somewhere this past winter, especially after seeing only grey-filled skies and snow-laden clouds for so many months, I had lost the wonderment of life, and of how precious even a smidgen of warmth can warm the soul and lift the spirit. 

I found my "˜joy"™ again this morning. The struggles of repurposing my business after suffering disappointment after disillusionment this past January melted away, just as the snow surrounding the little budding flower was slowly receding. 

So, if that amazing budding greenery can dare to show its tenacity and bravery to show up well before spring is even official in these parts, then I too, can persevere and emerge victorious through my really minor trials and tribulations. 

Sometimes a flower isn"™t just a flower "“ it"™s a sign that beauty and joy can be a part of your life"¦ if you"™ll just stick around long enough to see them.

Look out world. I’m back!

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