Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Que Sara Sara: Whatever Will Be, Make it Happen!

Sara and Sam; Living the Good Life!
A few years ago, I met a somewhat reserved but personable young lady.  I would discover this woman has dabbled in diverse community support experiences, and it would not be long before I put her quiet enthusiasm to work helping me in a variety of ways.  For this blog entry, I chose the title of Que Sara Sara, in reflection of Sara's name and as a twist on the Doris Day song of a similar (but not exact) title, being Que Sera, Sera.  But in this case, instead of it simply being interpreted as Whatever Will Be, Will Be, I thought it prudent to remind people that you can decide to 'embrace and pursue' the unique opportunities made available to each of you in your daily life experiences, as Sara has chosen to do. "Whatever Will Be, Make it Happen!"

Sara is my neighbour.  But she is much more than that in reality.  She often helps out with community initiatives when time allows.  She absolutely loves animals as well as taking photos, and some of her most vivid snapshots integrate these dual passions.  Both her winged and furry friends are routinely showcased in a variety of natural settings. And yes, she loves nature.   

Upon my request, she endured first a rainy day, then a scorching hot day, to collect some memorable images from two Car Free Sunday events held in 2011 and 2012.  Her photographs depicted some health, wellness and recreational activities happening in the middle of Dundas Street, as well as tracking a historical walking tour of the area.  Sara also helped with the 2011 provincial election campaign in which I was involved as a candidate.  She captured some nice shots of the skate park grand opening, as well as an assortment of other picturesque memories of the four week election period.  She was an awesome sidekick, pitching in not only with public relations but with some of those mind-numbing administrative tasks which truthfully, I would rather slough onto someone else anyway!  Just keeping it REAL!

Woodstock Public Library - Kaleidoscope of Colour!

Perhaps most fun of all was when we were on the receiving end of photos taken by others.  Sara and I concocted a mid-winter contest in 2013 whereby people from within and beyond Oxford County had the opportunity to take photos of their own, while demonstrating their bravery of the cold and their love of the fluffy white stuff that adorns our Canadian winter landscape.  

The only catch was that there had to be a ‘hint of green’ in each photo submission and it had to be taken in the contest time-frame.  Some folks took our rules quite literally, others rather loosely!  Luckily Sara is great at checking out 'photo sources' and much to my surprise, let's just say a few were a little antiquated.  Sara became the administrator behind the scenes for this month long contest, setting up the Facebook event page and contest email, while also continually monitoring event page and email communications and of course, serving as a tag-team judge! 

Wings A Flutter at Board Silly Game Night
She also helped, through countless hours, with videotaping some rather off-key singing (on my part) in an effort to support a LeadNow Cooperate for Canada effort!  I am not entirely certain, even to this day, if that experience did not cause irreparable damage to poor Sara's eardrums.  But she was a trooper.  And diplomatic.  And able to keep a straight face ... supremely helpful qualities, especially in some jobs these days!  The results of our ‘just for fun’ efforts were uploaded to YouTube for an unsuspecting cyber-audience to hear and see.  There is not much you can do when working out of a garage with poor acoustics and a blue tarp slapped up as a backdrop, but heck, it sounded pretty good considering what she had to work with!  

Sara has also helped me 'mass assemble' creative little workshop prizes and props for my business.  She is much better handling a hot glue gun than me, I think!  The luxurious aroma of fragrance and essential oils wafting through the main floor as we scented pounds of epsom salts I hope was payment enough.  Now mind you, I did send some home with her!  And Sara was helpful in setting up, (and tidying up!) for my Board Silly Game Night.  The plan?  To leave electronics at home and savour the beauty of natural surroundings and of course, board games!  At this particular evening event, Scrabble ruled! 

Isn't it lovely when we have opportunity to express our talents in a free-wheeling and spur of the moment fashion by embracing the many moments made available to us each and every day?  That said, also recognize that budding talents can be developed and offered in a much more conscious and strategic manner, which is an added bonus that helps not only our communities, but in our own personal and career development! You can 'Make it Happen'!

In closing ...  Let's face it, sometimes, 'Whatever will be, will be' while fun, is not always the 'SMART 'est way to approach some aspects of our lives!  SMART in this case is a play on words (and an acronym) and refers to conscious and strategic goal setting:  S-Specific; M-Measurable; A-Attainable; R-Relevant; T-Timely.  Learn more about SMART goal setting by checking it out online!  It can help you make things happen.

p.s.  When Sara is not behind a camera or a counter at work, you will quite possibly find her with her nose in a book reading yet another fascinating story.  And did I mention she loves to write?  After all, creativity and talent is not one-dimensional!  You go, girl!

Catherine Stewart-Mott
Forward Momentum Services

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

The 'REST' of the Story!

Cream Puff, Proof She is Alive and Well!
I absolutely love a good deal. Especially a good deal that directly or indirectly supports a community building or wellness initiative. So given my kitchen countertop had seen better days and given I happened to see one that coincidentally fit the space, I was a happy camper.  The double sink was already cut out as well.  And 30.00 for a countertop?  A grin from ear to ear. 

So if you have never checked them out, look up a ‘Habitat for Humanity’ Restore in your area!  You will not only find good deals, you will be helping local families with the build and purchase of an affordable home!  A win win!   You could even offer to help out with the building projects.  Both a volunteer and skill-building experience!  Plus a neat way to meet people.

Of course, a countertop installation often costs money and to cut down on expenses, I will sometimes try the ‘trade and barter’ approach.  (Or the Cathy’s Pity Party approach, but I will save THAT story for another day!)  So I called upon my son who happens to be staying with me temporarily due to a restructuring at RIM.  And my brother who is somewhat savvy at using ‘loud’ objects to cut things.  The word LOUD will be important to this story, I might add.  Now let me tell you THE REST OF THE STORY!

A putty purchase and a few nails later, they thought they were ready to go.  I was at work but gave them to go-ahead to 'operate' out of the front room.  I was sure a ‘little carpentry dust would not be that hard to clean up.  (Not recommended!  Ha ha!  But not intolerable either.)  Countertop laid out, they fired up the saw ... not noticing a complacent pretty kitty nearby, soaking up the scene and nearby sun.  Kitty was so startled that apparently she became electrified, bolting from the room in sheer terror.  My son could her hear banging around in a bedroom and since her eyesight is not that great, he assumed she hit a wall or two.  But he also thought she was now in a 'safe place'.

Hours later,  came home to a nice looking countertop and an absent kitty.  Still hiding under a bed and having had no interest in food all day!   That should have struck me as strange!  It would not be until late evening that finally I figured “enough is enough” and gently pulled Cream Puff from under the bed.  That is when I noticed a bloodied and hanging claw.  And no purring.  Kitty is a non-stop purr machine.  And no appetite.  I knew a vet was in order so off I went.  Between a vet visit and an antibiotic shot, (about $57.00 combined), the cost of the countertop (I added kitty costs to the calculator), I was looking at a revised balance just shy of 100.00. 

The Hot Plate is not Near the Stove, but WHATEVER!
Still a great deal in my mind cost wise, but a lesson learned to ‘plan out’ a project.  Maybe next time, the carport would have been a better option. Not so much because of the dust, but for the sake of poor creatures who depend on the safety and familiarity of their ‘small world sanctuaries’. 

I do workshops on the ‘Power of Processing Thinking’.  Maybe I should do one of the ‘Cost Savings of Power Thinking’ too!  As you can see from the countertop photo (freshly installed), Cream Puff survived the experience.  And she started purring two days later.  All is well in her world aka sanctuary, which is again much quieter.

And I like my countertop; even though SOME people think it is old fashioned and ugly!

Creative with Coffee. An ENFP's Experiment

Getting Some Morning Protein!
Envision a guest at your home, and you offer them the proverbial coffee or tea.  Standard would be the addition of milk, cream, sugar, or a sweetener alternative.  And maybe some form of additional flavouring.  I am usually a live life simply kind of gal.

But I do have a good dose of curiosity in my personality as well.  So when wandering a grocery store a few days ago, my ears were drawn to a conversation in which three words stood out …  coffee, egg, and thread. 

My mind immediately thought, “What on earth do those three words have in common?” 
Someone being a stranger never stopped me from abating my curiosity so in the blink of an eye, I was in a conversation with them.  I would learn that this couple, Werner and Marianne, embraced a long term tradition where individuals whip an egg until frothy, put it in the bottom of a cup, and very slowly pour ('thread' of liquid) fresh hot coffee into the mug while stirring constantly.  I would also hear that other ingredients are optional ... such as cream!  Sounded good to me. 
I would also discover that the Kaulbachs own a renovations business (HAWK Renovations).   I may be using the word loosely, but this couple definitely ‘renovated’ the way I think about coffee.  I was offered a business card and could easily envision turning our little interaction into a blog entry.  

I want to share how my sense of adventure (sometimes referred to as not knowing enough to leave well enough alone!) played out upon my return home.  I was not inside my abode for five minutes  when out came the coffee and eggs.   I followed the directions precisely, which resulted in a nice smooth cup of coffee.   

Werner and Marianne were right.  It really doesn’t taste like there is egg in it.  But the texture and taste is slightly ‘richer’, like a latte!  Especially when adorned with cream. And for me, a wee bit of stevia and vanilla. Oh so subtle was the effect with an added egg, which also helped create a nice frothy sheen atop. Plus I get protein to boot!  I then spent at least an hour on websites looking up more about this concoction, as well as all the other things people toss into coffee, or toss coffee into. 

Day two starts the ‘can’t leave well enough along’ phase.  It had been made VERY CLEAR to me by Werner and Marianne that there is a precise method to creating the ideal drink. But I thought ... “Betcha it will still work if I reverse the order.”  So just because I could and because I was curious, I embarked on my mini adventure.  The result?  Not a show stopper. Lots of little lumps, in fact.  I tried to whisk them in.  Tried being the optimal word. 
I am a poster child for my MBTI personality type.  I am an ENFP.  The E stands for Extrovert. So no surprise that I walked up to strangers engaged in a conversation.  A classic 'very clear' Extrovert move. I am an N, meaning Intuitive.  So no surprise that I felt I should experiment with the tried and true process of milk ‘into egg’.  For an intuitive, established procedures are just leap boards. I am a F (Feeler), so it is also not a surprise that I wanted to assure I ‘helped’ an Oxford County business owner by referencing their business on my blog.  And I am a P (Perceiving), so it is also not a surprise that my plans to grab an extension cord swiftly morphed into writing this blog instead. 

If you are interested in learning more about your MBTI type (or eggs in coffee!), give me an email shout.  I would love to help you on your life’s journey, even if it is one small step at a time!  And for that matter, Werner and Marianne would love to hear from you too!  But likely about renovations, not coffee!  LOL

Catherine Stewart-Mott:
HAWK Renovations (Rec Rooms, Decks, Alternations and General Repairs!) @ 519-469-4873

Saturday, February 15, 2014

The Potholes of Life Await You!

Life's Journey; Step by Step! Potholes and All!
I recently challenged someone named Bernie to create and tackle writing a blog (find a link below!), as she loves putting pen to paper, or should I say in today's world, fingers to keyboard.  Although I know she has written many times, her debut blog entry (or at least the one that I saw), was about potholes.  Love it.  Simple.  Raises one's curiosity. 

For Bernie's first blog, she went retro.  Back to her childhood, in fact.  As I enjoyed track and field events, I was immediately drawn to the focus of the particular 'life event' she featured.  To practice and compete in long jump required more than putting one foot in front of the other, as Bernie would learn.  It required that you cast yourself forth into the air at the final moment, somewhat like a projectile, trying to cover as much 'air space' as you could before your feet hit the ground. 

And admittedly, it requires an awareness of your surroundings, timing, etc.  Right, Bernie?  Usually, I would try so hard to have my feet hit the ground as far in front of me as humanly possible that I would lose my balance and land on my butt.  Not exactly a graceful or acceptable landing.  For other reasons, Bernie also found that long jump could at times be challenging.  With time I would migrate to distance running, in which I would eventually excel. 

But first, I almost had to give myself permission to step beyond my self-declared boundaries (or potholes).  As Bernie suggested, we often plunk obstacles in front of ourselves and there they stay.  This can be conscious or unconscious.  For me it must have been somewhat unconscious, as it took some gentle persuasion from others for me to recognize I actually had some potential other than to run at the pace of a relaxing Sunday jog.

At first, goals were set for me.  And it was nice being able to achieve them to make someone else happy.  After a while, I started setting my own goals and the person I was challenging and living up to was myself.  That was also a good feeling.  Oddly, when I first joined a competitive sport, I did it essentially because it was awkward saying "No".  I had simply accompanied someone else who wanted to sign up for cross country running, and voila, I was on a sports team for the first time in my life.  But after that less than assertive beginning, I would evolve into someone who set a few records by the time I graduated from high school. So I hold no grudges!

I guess I learned to cover a lot of' air space' each time my feet hit the pavement from grade nine to graduation.  Not only in terms of sports but in terms of self-confidence and perseverance.  It wasn't too often I encountered literal potholes during my running years, but I certainly have had to overcome a few figurative ones along my life journey.  Perhaps ones I occasionally created in my own mind! 

So everyone, set those goals and stick with them; don't let life's potholes swallow you up. Simply consider them as a little 'twist' in your life's journey.  We will all encounter potholes of varying sizes throughout life.  And sometimes, they can teach us a thing or two about life!

And don't forget to check out Bernie's blog!

p.s. Bernie.  Let the challenge begin!

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Living SMART in your Golden Years!

Car Free Sunday:
Embracing Individual and Community Health
Are you entering your ‘golden years’?  If so, you are not alone!  A review of age-related demographic studies will reinforce that our population here in Canada is aging.  Simply meaning that overall, there is a higher ratio of individuals in the elder age brackets than within the generations born later.  Considerably so.

Those babies born just prior to, during and in the wake of World War 2 are now sporting wrinkles, and for some, physical wear and tear. Often times, we give up on our health as we age. That is not only a shame, but it has significant consequences.

Whether or not your senior years can be described as 'golden' may be relative. ‘Investing’ is often thought of as a financial concept, but it can also refer to how we approach our overall lifestyles and fitness regimes leading up to and during our senior years. Some of us may have been somewhat more proactive, some may have been 'hit and miss', and others quite simply may not have given it a second thought.  There is a price to be paid for inaction.

Certainly, from an individual point of view, it makes sense to maintain optimal health. We are generally not only healthier, but happier. There is also a real concern that the higher number of seniors proportionally will be associated with an increased burden upon our health care and economic systems.  So from both a personal wellness but also a socio-economic perspective, it is prudent to recognize and acknowledge this reality and respond proactively with forward thinking and strategic action.

VON - 'SMART' Fitness Programs
The Victorian Order of Nurses is one agency that recognizes the importance of ‘investing’ in health and wellness.  As such, they are promoting and offering a group fitness program known as SMART (Seniors Maintaining Active Roles Together).  Age appropriate and targeted fitness programs such as SMART can help manage or prevent issues such as strength, muscle and bone mass deterioration, health issues which put us at greater risk for falls and other mobility limiting or life-threatening injuries. 

As we age, embracing fitness helps with everything from strength building to maintaining flexibility, mobility and continued independence.  When fitness programs are offered in a group setting, it also allows for social interaction. Older or frail seniors often become primarily home-bound other than for occasional outings or emergencies. The SMART program can be integrated into the elder community or retirement home setting, thereby eliminating some of the barriers faced by seniors while recognizing that fitness programs must adapt to serve a clientele.

Biking from Paris to Cambridge and Back!

As a 50+ individual myself, I can admittedly acknowledge that I at times feel those ‘aches and pains’ typically associated with aging, especially upon waking in the morning or during wonky weather!  But once I get moving, those niggling pains usually subside and do not rule my daily activities. And I respect that everything from flexibility, strength to cardio-vascular fitness will be supported by a healthy lifestyle, regardless of our age.  As you see to the left, I may currently enjoy biking, but I have had to modify my biking practises somewhat to reduce the risk of injury.  So, a few less rocks, roots and steep inclines may be in store during the years to come!

No matter what decade you were born in, live SMART! 

Catherine Stewart-Mott

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Co-operative Education Students: Preparing for 'Just in Time' Delivery

Presenting: A Daunting Three Days … for students, teachers, and a ‘facilitator’, meaning me!

Help me! Help Me!

The performance stage?  Helping  two classes of students prepare for their diverse co-operative education placements; some placements which were in the bag, some which were still in the works.  The topics covered over three days?  Multiple! 

Resumes, cover letters, thank you letters, references, applications … and the often dreaded interview.

All this theory and group interaction was intermixed with hands-on time tapping away at keyboards in a concerted effort to prepare and perfect their self-marketing materials.  Documents which would first fall under the scrutinizing eye of two co-operative education program teachers with whom I was assigned to work. 

It was definitely a team project where everyone’s attention to detail, commitment, and personal contributions were vital components to the overall success of the 'work project'.  All done at a ‘peak service period’ work pace to accommodate a ‘just in time’ delivery deadline!  If comparing to a workplace, we had supervisors aka teachers, employees aka students, and a sub-contractor aka guest facilitator.

The retrospective picture I see in my mind?  Admittedly?  Students looking more than occasionally concerned that my gaze would migrate towards them in the expectation that he or she contribute to the ‘topic of the moment’ discussion … or if put within the context of employee related terms, expecting them to take the initiative and maintain a steady work pace when directed to assume tasks.  Being put on the spot is not an easy thing for some students, to be sure. Especially if you are shy and feeling a wee bit awkward as it is!  And especially when surrounded by your peers and a stranger!

Most people know that starting a new job can be rather intimidating, but equally challenging can be the learning process associated with finding a job.  As the saying goes, looking for a job is a job in itself.  It really does require a conscious effort and let's not forget considerable planning and strategy!  Like any job, the more skills and knowledge you acquire, the more likely you are to gain confidence … and a co-operative education placement, of course!  The qualities and experiences used during this particular learning process will ultimately serve students equally well in their upcoming job placements, as they are highly 'transferable'. 

That said, I also have to say ... poor students!  It reminds me of my time preparing for a co-operative education placement a trillion years ago.  I too kept my head down and my mouth shut, similar to many of my modern day youthful counterparts.  But more than a few life experiences after the fact made me belatedly appreciate the value of some of what I hard learned.  When wandering the Glendale library decades later where the recent sessions were held, I occasionally looked down to see if any feet were awaiting an opportunity to ‘accidentally’ trip me.  I am of course kidding, but  seriously, who could blame a student for at least ‘having the vision’?

After all, here I was … a virtual stranger ... prompting each and every one of them to pretty much think and act in ‘mock employee mode’ while sitting in what they THOUGHT would be the relative comfort of a classroom setting.  And so much terminology to take in: situation, action, result (SAR); field, company and job targeted materials; key words; the importance of prioritizing; formatting consistency; powering up your resume with action words, and so on! (And so on, and so on, and so on!)
Seriously though, if I was the boss and they were my employees, I ultimately believe many of their completed ‘duties’ (meaning resumes, cover letters, thank you letters, reference sheets and mock interviews) will in fact demonstrate the hard work that they invested into their assignments, in order to meet their particular employer's aka teacher's expectations. 

So kudos to each of you, students!  The learning curve you either embraced or endured may have been a little tough to climb, but each of you worked hard to reach your personal peak performance!  I had the opportunity to watch your self-marketing tools develop, and I could see how important it was for you to create the best ‘products’ you could at this time in your life. Maintaining a similar conscientious work ethic will bode well for you when you begin your placements in the very near future! 

  • A little of life's lessons.  Rome was not built in a day!  So simply plan to give 100% to your upcoming placement efforts and for each of you, that will involve different talents, skills, achievements and challenges!  Your placement might be in direct alignment with the career you eventually pursue, or it may simply be a side road you travel for a while.  If the latter, remember ... those side roads can offer some great memories and valuable learning experiences.
p.s. If you want to glean additional application materials tips, check out the blog entry about a previous co-operative education experience.  It is chock full of tips about resumes and cover letters!

Catherine Stewart-Mott
Forward Momentum Services