Guest Post – Pursuit of Passion

Toni’s friend from college and fellow marketing grad, Krista joins us today for her first blog post with the Sisterhood!

So I have been laid off from work for over five months now. Yeah…still hard to say it.

Your work becomes part of your identity. People meet you and they say “so, what do you do?” or “where do you work?”. For some reason having to say you have been laid off can feel like a failure. I got down on myself, spent a number of days having a Netflix binge and seeing 5 pm roll around feeling so unproductive. Another failure.

I wasn’t fully happy at my old job. I wasn’t used to my full potential and felt where I did excel, they didn’t need me. Don’t get me wrong, having a job is great. You get to talk to people, finish something, work on projects, have that team atmosphere, get paid…all that good stuff. But what I have failed to realize is how important passion is. Passion drives all of us and unfortunately I had put mine in the back seat.

Slowly, I have been trying to work at discovering what I am passionate about. Finding tasks, projects, or events (or parts of them) that really light that fire inside of me. Get that inspiration going that makes you feel on top of the world. So I started keeping tabs on what makes me feel that way:

I know I love helping and doing random acts of kindness

To me I find helping people so selfish. I get this high from doing it that I have never experienced anywhere else. I have always been like that. Whether it be sending gifts at Christmas to families that can’t afford toys for their kids, buying coffee for strangers and having a conversation with them, always being there for my friends (any time, any place), complimenting people, holding doors, waiting for CAA to arrive to help a stranger who locked their keys. I never expect anything in return and it is shocking how many people are surprised. What I do know is that one act of kindness has a ripple effect. Not just for the other person but for myself too. I knew I needed to volunteer more to experience this more often. I am organizing the kids area at this year’s Waterloo Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation walk. This is a whole new world for me, but I have already met some amazing people and couldn’t be more excited to see how it all turns out. I also volunteer with Victim Services of Waterloo Region as a Crisis Responder. I offered to come into the office to help to get some extra hours in on top of the shifts I take every month. Both these organizations I am passionate about. I am a Type-1 Juvenile Diabetic and have been a victim of robbery at gunpoint. I know why both these organization exist and it gives me so much satisfaction being able to help in areas that I am really passionate about.

I know I love being creative

I have always been that person, trying new art projects, taking classes or just randomly grabbing a paint brush and hitting the canvas. I started being more creative. I got out my old jewelry making supplies and made some necklaces, I painted a few pictures, I started colouring, and taking photos. I realized that I love creating something that has no guidelines. Something purely personal that probably only I will ever see. I know I could never make a living with it but I know now that I need to keep the creativity in my life. It is something that lights that fire of passion inside me.

creative

Garden creativity at its best!

I know I love connecting with myself

I took a yoga class. Yoga is an activity that gets me back to the present. It keeps me focused on the here and now. Not what was or what could be. I realized in my funk of being laid off that I was focusing too much on the past and the future. What good is that going to do me? I guess it was something to think about while zoning out on another One Tree Hill episode. That cycle had to stop. I know that wherever life leads me that I need something to keep me grounded and focused in the present. I could spent a lot of wasted energy in the past or the future while my present becomes the past….something I can’t change.

I know I love animals

Spending so much time with our dog Wallabee has been AMAZING – do I ever love that guy! When they say petting a dog reduces stress, they were not kidding. There is something about that wet nose on your lap and that wagging tail that makes me so happy. Wallabee and I were close before but being home all day with him as made our bond so much closer. He got sick the other night and when he came back to bed he wanted to cuddle up right next to me (and not my boyfriend which I think made him mildly jealous lol). Melted my heart. I need animals in my life – it lights that fire, plain and simple. That unconditional love you receive is like nothing else.

Wallabeeeeeeeee ♥

Wallabeeeeeeeee ♥

I know I love baking

I started making pies, cookies, cupcakes, and cakes. There is something therapeutic to me about mixing things together and out come these delicious treats. That not only taste good, but you can make them look good. I get to be creative and make treats! The fact that I get so excited about it leads me to believe I have some serious passion for it. It makes me so happy to see how much people love my baking. I sent some cookies off to my boyfriend’s work and someone asked for the recipe. I was so proud and then realized that I really improvised the recipe….now to try and recall what I did…uh-oh. But I knew that feeling of passion is inside when I have the oven on and the house smells delicious.

Yeah, I did that :)

Yeah, I did this 🙂

Finding a life full of passion is more than a job. I am looking at this lay off as an opportunity to figure out what I need in my life to feel fulfilled on all levels. It is unlikely I will find a job that incorporates all of the above. What I do know is that it has to have passion. I need to keep checking in on myself and ask “what do I need?”. I need to ensure that no matter what job I end up at that I remember what is important and it is not the pay cheque. I am truly lucky to have a really supportive and loving boyfriend who wants me to get the right job, not just any job (did I mention I am passionate about him? I totally am). When I have days full of all the things I am passionate about I notice an immense difference of what comes my way. The positivity from people is almost overwhelming. I want that feeling every day of my life.

I am a 29 year old woman on the pursuit of passion and I wouldn’t have had this chance if I wasn’t laid off.

~ Krista

 If you’d like to write a guest post and join in the Weather Vane Sisterhood fun, email us at weathervanesisterhood at gmail dot com. We’d love to have you!

I have a dream

It’s a silly thing. A frivolous thing. A thing that’s for no one else but me.

A dream that is selfish, self-indulgent, navel-gazey, and nonsensical at the best of times.

A dream that I’ve said out loud so many times, but don’t really believe, don’t really believe in.

A dream that looks darn right ridiculous next to the poop, the demands, the finances, the stay-at-home-momness, the small life I live, the dishes, the piles of laundry to be folded, the minivan I drive.

A dream bigger than myself, yet one that I just can’t shake.

The dream of being a novelist.

Sure, sure.

Sure, sure.

I have been dreaming this dream since grade 4. And I know it’s been since grade 4, because that was the year I got to go to an enrichment course away from regular school and write stories.

I didn’t even know people did that.

I mean, I read books (lots and lots and lots and lots and lots of books…too many, according to our Dad), but the idea of the person writing the books, the man (or woman) behind the curtain, if you will, was brand new.

I wrote this really sweet (read: juvenile) story about flowers that could talk. They lived in a garden and each flower had her own personality. I’m pretty sure the rose was the most popular, most beautiful, most snobby flower. Poor, Rose.

Writing, after that three-day enrichment experience, became part of my life.

It became the thing that made sense, the thing my brain just naturally put together, the thing that I feel the most comfortable doing.

Ask me to add up a bunch of numbers, complete mathematical problems, figure out complicated equations and my stomach knots and I get nervous and have zero confidence. I can do it, but I’d really rather not.

This sounds about right. Trouble with math? Wait until your father gets home, kids.

This sounds about right. Having trouble with math? Wait until your father gets home, kids.

Ask me to complete the last line of a poem that has cadence and rhyme, ask me to spell something, ask me to come up with a slogan, ask me to sell a portable coffee mug (this actually happened in an interview), ask me to proofread something, ask me to dream up a story…I CAN DO IT. My brain whirs nicely, the words flow easily, and there are very few knots. Some nerves (I hate disappointing people), but generally, this is where I shine.

The novelist dream, though? Really? Who the heck am I to think I can do what this incredible woman does, or this talented fella, or this hero of mine?

A dreamer. A dreamer who is not afraid of hard work.

So, I’m working on it.

When I was pregnant with Lillian, I took a six-month writing course with Miriam Toews, the brilliant writer behind A Complicated Kindness, and more recently the Giller-short-listed novel, All My Puny Sorrows, which was just a thought, a question, a need she had to fulfill during the course, and now it’s a bestselling, award-nominated book.

Read it. LOVED it. Aspire to something that won't entirely wilt in its presence.

Read it. LOVED it. Aspiring to something that won’t entirely wilt in its presence.

During that course I started the novel that has been bouncing around in my head for YEARS. A book about people who are connected in a seemingly inconsequential way. The book will be made up of 4-5 stories of 4-5 people. I’m on story number 3, and I can’t believe that I’ve written so many pages and so many words and that this idea, this simple idea, has bloomed into characters that have been living in my head for 4 years now. Seriously. It’s a little wild.

Me reading an excerpt from my BOOK on my due date with Lillian...she was kind enough to wait another week and day so I could finish the course.

Me reading an excerpt from my BOOK on my due date with Lillian…she was kind enough to wait another week and a day so I could finish the course. Ben was my devoted chauffeur. Something about not wanting me to go into labour in Toronto alone. Weirdo. (Handsome, knight-in-shining-armour weirdo.)

That course gave me a huge confidence boost towards my lofty, lofty dream.

First, I had to be accepted into the course, which was advertised in the Globe and Mail, tweeted about by Margaret Atwood…

…and applied to by dozens. There were 15 spots. Eleven were filled. I was one of them. Seriously.

Second, during that course I got actual feedback on my writing, including a comparison to Alice Munro, winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature last year.

And third, I know of two giant successes of those 10 classmates that I spent 6 months with, every Wednesday night, and one Saturday a month.

Meet Shawn Syms:

Me and Shawn Syms, PUBLISHED author

Me, the belly, and Shawn Syms, PUBLISHED author

He just got his first collection of short stories published, Nothing Looks Familiar, in September, although he has been published widely in his 25 years of writing.

Nothing Looks Familiar

 

I’ve just finished reading the collection. It’s amazing. It’s incredible. It’s…inspiring. Seriously. I knew him when.

Meet Pam Smith:

Me, Pam (WONDER WOMAN), and Shelley (OTHER WONDER WOMAN)

Me, Pam (WONDER WOMAN), and Shelley (OTHER WONDER WOMAN)

Mother of FOUR with a full-time job outside the home, Pam is now hobnobbing with the likes of Sarah Selecky, Giller-nominated short story genius of This Cake Is for the Party, writing teacher, and writing prompt guru. Pam has since launched her own writing business on the SIDE of her life, and when I’m done my book, I’m definitely going to try to get her eyes on it.

justwrite-pam

Dear Pam, I want to be you when I grow up. Love, Me

So, this is THE dream. And it’s huge, yet not impossible. And it’s what sits in my head, pushing buttons and demanding attention all. day. long. but at this point in my life, in this season of mothering littles, it’s not something that I can give a lot of consistent time and energy to. But I am working towards it.

I’m going to enter an excerpt of my book as a short story in this competition, all the while dreaming of the prize, which not only includes money, but a 10-day stay in The Banff Centre, “the largest art and creativity incubator on the planet,” as it shyly admits on its web page. SERIOUSLY?! Ten days away in Banff to do nothing but WRITE? Sign me up. Please. Now.

And I’m going to keep sneaking in writing whenever I can (currently, I have a dog-eared print out of the bare bones of the competition piece that tags along with me, my tiny laptop that I use to write on while getting slept on, and the “Writing” folder on our BlackBerry for any thoughts that pop into my head wherever I am). One day, when more babies are in school and more babies are sleeping through the night, I’ll add writing to my daily schedule, but today, in this time, the hodge podge method is what I can handle.

And this dream? This unwieldy, giant, larger-than-my-life dream?

Well, as my good friend J.R.R. Tolkien says, “A single dream is more powerful than a thousand realities.”

Who can argue with that?

~ Julia

PS. Buy Shawn’s book here or here!

Another warrior woman

Right now I do not have internet, so part of my weeks are spent with one of my boyfriend’s aunts to use her internet to update my posts. One day I was updating and uploading a post I wasn’t really happy with. I often find myself not being able to come up with any good ideas to write, and a few days before I was talking to Joe’s Aunt Linda about everything she survived and thrived through in her entire life, and about the many kids she took care of, including Joe. She took care of him from grade 6 on through high school. So I decided to interview her for this blog, as she is a large part of my life in my new town.

She is a warrior. She has survived Hodgkin’s lymphoma, abusive husbands, a brain injury, retinitis pigmentosa (she is going more and more blind, but will never be fully blind), thyroidism, having her gall bladder removed, stage 3 kidney disease, colitis, diabetes, and is a widow twice over.

She is a very modest woman, so getting an actual interview with her was a bit of a challenge. She felt like she just doesn’t have that much to teach others, but I disagree.

I have trouble with staying positive – I feel often like hope is not for me because it gets ripped from me so often – but here is a woman sitting before me in her cozy living room, who has been through so much and survived, and she is the most positive person I have met for a very long time. Finally, she agreed to the interview saying, “Well, it may not turn out, but it never hurts to try!”

I interviewed her for this blog because she is an amazing woman. She is strong and so happy 99% of the time, the other 1% she said “They [my family] call me the greatest bitch in the world.” She has been through hell and back, and she is proud of her title. “I can’t not do what I think is right.”

She is proud that she is a grandma, a mom, and an aunt. “I love all my kids. No matter what!”

I asked her just a few questions, and I loved the responses she gave me. They were exactly like this woman who everyone calls Aunt Linda. She is family to anyone who needs her, and I love hanging out with her when I can.

~~~

Me: What is your greatest memory?

Aunt Linda: Having my baby, Allan, and taking care of my other babies, Pam, Mike, Joe and Daiman.

Me: What would you say was your most life-altering moment?

Aunt Linda: Cancer. I had the best doctors at Princess Margaret [Hospital]. And hopefully, this May, I will be officially cancer-free.

Me: How did you keep your strength through all of that?

Aunt Linda: God, my sister Brenda, Dad, all my family. It was a very long road. I had to go through chemo, and I lost all my hair! I loved being bald though. I had a brownish blonde wig, and a red wig, and I noticed people always treat you differently. People were nice when I had the brown one, and ignored me with the red wig! You notice things like that.

Me: How do you still stay positive?

Aunt Linda: You have to! I could be a real mess if I remembered all the bad things, like the bad things with my first husband. I keep love instead. God helps me make the right decisions. I use my gut on some things, but mostly it’s God.

Me: What is your favourite memory with Joe?

Aunt Linda: His birth! I was there! I had my face right down there! Also getting married. He was crawling and running around everywhere! Around my dress, under it, he was just everywhere!

Me: If you could do anything over, what would it be?

Aunt Linda: Nothing. I have a fortune. I have a fortune of family. I don’t care about money.

Me: What do you want more of in your life?

Aunt Linda: Family sticking together. I know it sounds like a book, but that’s what’s really important.

Me: Do you have any advice? Or words of wisdom?

Aunt Linda: If you love each other, you don’t hurt each other. Enjoy even the small moments, even if it is just fleeting. Cancer could have taken me, so that is what I do.

~~~

I wanted to share this little bit of this woman with you because we have all had so many different kinds of life experiences, and I am talking about all of the people who read this blog, or who even stumble upon it accidentally. We all come from such different life experiences and different walks of life. All our purposes and drives are so vastly different and uniquely weird. We are all going through life at different speeds, and will have so many different adventures. When I asked my last question about why she thinks it all happened, she simply said “God put me on this earth to learn something, and I will figure that out one day.”

Thank you for reading about this fantastic woman! She has been through so much, and given so much of herself so others can be happy. She cares about her family, and she is definitely a hero. I think I’m collecting them!

~ Andreah