Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The Takeover

I was super-organized for this Christmas. By the time the office closed on December 20, the gifts had been bought and wrapped; the food purchased and stocked in the fridge and freezer and the tree stood erect and decorated all ready for the best of the season.

Just as well. Talk about the best laid plans…. From the time we closed the office, I was sick, coming down with some dreaded flu bug, and forced to retreat to my bed where I could be heard barking and coughing all day.

Now I am not someone who usually capitulates to a sniffle or two. Being of strong Scottish blood, I have been trained to carry on regardless but I tell you, I was beat with this one. Not only did I miss several local parties, but my kids had to rally round and cook Christmas dinner.

And I have to say, I was totally impressed with how they took charge. They assigned the tasks, divided up the chores and wouldn’t let me darken the doors of the kitchen. And while I was proud of them, you could tell they were pretty pleased with themselves too because the meal was great and Christmas was saved.

It was also pretty nice to just sit and have the meal prepared and cleared away by someone else. I could get used to this but they’ve already told me it was a one-off. Normal service is to resume next year.

Too bad.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Saving grace

“I don’t do vulnerable”  I confessed to my friend.  But years ago when I was going through chemo and my kids were little, I did just that.  I had to.  I needed friends to drive me to and from my treatments, to pick up the girls and help prepare meals. And I will always be grateful to the team of friends who rallied round to support us.

I think of this as I receive help once again.  This time it is business-related.  I am usually the one offering assistance – be it to friends or women starting out in their business.  So it feels strange to be on the receiving end and I am trying to accept the generosity with grace.

Company of Women’s magazine Company, has been my pride and joy for the last four years.  But as anyone in the publishing/printing business will tell you – this industry is hurting, big time.  Up until now, I have been using my own money to bale it out as advertising sales dropped and continued to drop, but a month ago I had to admit to myself that I couldn’t keep doing that.

Enter Michele Bailey of blazing the Agency.  Michele has a successful marketing agency, complete with design studio and over coffee, she generously offered to have her studio design the upcoming issue of Company, which ironically is about partnerships and collaboration.  This is HUGE and enables me to use the advertising dollars I collected to cover the costs of printing. 

I can’t begin to tell you how grateful I am to Michele.  Not just for having the work done, but for her faith that our small, but mighty publication deserved to be saved.  I have always talked about women helping women, but now I have lived it.

So Company is off life support and breathing on its own for now. 

Thanks Michele.

PS Watch for your copy coming out in late January, 2012

Friday, December 16, 2011


Christmas is a hard time for many people, especially for those who have just lost a family member or friend. 

To commit suicide always seems such a desperate and selfish act to me, as family members are left to pick up the pieces, always questioning what they could have done to avert this tragic action; what cues they missed and what they could have done differently.

So to commit suicide a week before Christmas seems the ultimate selfish act to me. Why? It sounds almost flip to ask this, but couldn’t you have waited? Now every Christmas your family is left with the haunting memory of your death.

It does make you wonder what drives people to take such drastic steps. And I am not immune to this. I have a cousin who tragically took her own life on the birthday of her son, who she had to give up for adoption, at a time when it was not socially acceptable to keep your child as a young, single mother. I often think of Eileen and reflect how differently it could have been if she’d just lived a decade later when her life choice would have been more acceptable.

But what a waste. And how hurtful for the surviving family.

None of us knows what happens behind closed doors or closed minds. It speaks to the power of depression and mental health challenges which are insidious but eat away at a person’s ability to logically combat and fight against all the negative feelings that they hold close inside. It tells you how for some the force of negativity and feelings of hopelessness are too strong and outweigh the ability to see options beyond the current situation.

So I find the sudden and tragic death of a young man we knew, who has a young family, just beyond my comprehension. I just keep thinking why? What could have been so bad that it warranted such drastic action? Why? And why now?

My heart goes out to the widow and her two young daughters. I hope they find the strength and peace to accept what has happened.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Lost in the Woods

The one badge I never passed when I was in the Brownies, was map reading.  A skill, my husband would attest, I have still not acquired.  So often when the kids were little and we escaped for a romantic interlude, we’d barely be speaking by the time we had reached our destination. My navigation skills left a lot to be desired, and of course, he wouldn’t dream of asking for directions.

Well, the other night I got lost again.  This time I was with a girlfriend and we’d been to visit a new friend in her home.  We got there OK, but coming home was another story.

One of the challenges of living in the country is at night, it is dark and one tree looks like another.  The road signs are hard to see, if there at all.  So we literally drove around in circles and whenever we reached a junction, I’d suggest turning one way and my friend another.

Eventually at one point I joked that I knew what my friend needed for Christmas – a GPS.  “Oh I have one “ she replied. “It’s under the seat.”  I laughed out loud and questioned why we hadn’t been using it.

Well we dug it out and sure enough it got us home.  We were miles away and definitely off the beaten track.

It made me think of when we start a business.  We don’t know what we don’t know, so eager to learn we listen to all the advise people are quick to give us. And like deciding    which way to turn, it is often conflicting.  Who do you listen to?  Someone, or something like the GPS, that has more expertise, who knows how to help you get there, preferably on the shortest route possible and with no tolls.

My advice? If you are a newbie to business, turn to experts like accountants, lawyers, marketing gurus for advice.  Filter the other suggestions and listen to your gut. Consider getting a business coach.  Otherwise you too could be going around in circles, lost in the woods.

Sunday, December 04, 2011

That Final Event

I have reached the age of maturity when much of my time lately has been spent going to the funerals of friends, my peers.

I know this trend will only continue as we all get older but it really doesn’t make it any easier to take. And of course it makes me face my own mortality.

I often come back with a few more notes for my funeral file on what I want and don’t want when I finally check out.  My daughters think I am joking – I do have a black sense of humour – but more and more, it makes sense to think ahead. Plus as someone who has made a career out of putting on events, of course I want a say in that final one.

1.   I don’t want any fancy coffin – rent one if you like.
2.   No, I repeat, no open casket. As the fashionista I prefer to be in control of how I look and likely someone will put on the wrong jewelry that doesn’t match with the entire ensemble.

3.   I want to select the photos now.  Years ago my daughter held a surprise birthday party for me, with a gallery of photos chosen based on the criteria, I believe, that I looked dreadful in the photo. None of that.

4.   Talking of photos, the family better start clicking now because there are no recent ones of me.           

5.   Have some stirring; lively hymns that are upbeat and everyone can burst forth into song.

6.   Have a private family service early on and a Celebration a few weeks later, when family and friends feel less raw and ready to party
7.   No dreary speeches – make people laugh, that’s always been my motto and hey I have provided enough material for you to share some funny stories about me.  In fact, with some advance notice, I could even write a few.
8.   Have a party – celebrate each other – some good food, wine and company. (Will just be sorry to miss it.)

But I plan to stick around for a while yet – I mean there’s a lot to organize.

There’s a quote from Tuesday’s with Morrie that I have always found comforting –
 “Death is the end of a life, not a relationship.”

So even when I am not here, I am.