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From Vegas and Beyond With Lindy Hughes

May 16, 2011 4 comments

She endured a midlife crisis and came away from it an author. Lindy Hughes, incredible mother, wife, and ballet teacher turned novelist, is my subject today for Motivational Monday.

Every parent of daughters west of the Rockies has heard of her extraordinary prowess as a ballet teacher. Her South African accent combined with her love for fairies has little girls falling over themselves to get into her class – they are legendary, and each of my three girls were lucky to be her students.

But her rock star status amongst the five year-old set couldn’t insulate her disappointment that so many go through in their forties. She had never planned on getting married and having children, yet had done so and it naturally consumed her life. As Facebook launched and peers around the world caught up with her, she was mystified by her answers to what had become of her: how different they sounded from her grand plans of being a penniless writer.

Completely distraught, she had a very honest conversation with her husband, telling him she wanted to leave, that this life wasn’t intended for her. He asked her what her ideal life would look like.

I would be starving, sleeping on a floor somewhere in Paris, and writing, was her reply.

He pointed out she could do that here, in Vancouver, in their home. Sleep on the floor too if you want, but I’m not going to join you.

She agreed he had a point, there was nothing stopping her from writing except herself.

For the next three months, she wrote a fictional story about a middle-aged South African emigrant mother named Lucy who has an affair with her first love in the midst of a mid-life crisis. The story, she says, literally poured out of her.

Written with self-deprecating humour and just the right amount of poignancy, she self-published her book, It Never Stays in Vegas, through Amazon.

My book club read it, and Lindy gamely attended our meeting. Over wine and dinner, we barraged her with questions about the book, lobbing tougher questions as the wine flowed. She answered all of our questions in a straightforward manner, dealing with criticism as well as compliments. It was our best meeting ever, consumed not only by the book but also grander conversation about life and its challenges.

“Each life is just a story, and we CAN change things. Every day you are writing your own chapter,” she says. Writing her book was cathartic, and put her in a better space. “The world would be a better place if everyone would write their own book.”

She is in the midst of finishing her second book, Tutus, Tiaras and Tassels. This one is non-fiction, and is a collection of essays about lessons learned from the dance studio. Where Lindy is concerned, there is never a dull moment, and I am anxiously awaiting its release. Suffice to say this woman has chutzpah, but I can’t give anything else away.

“We must get over that fear of embarrassing ourselves,” she says, referring to the fact that everyone should live their best life, whatever that means for them. “At the end of the day, it’s just you on your deathbed, so you can’t let anyone else rule your life.”

I salute you Lindy, for making lemonade when life gave you lemons, for your fresh perspectives and your unflinching honesty, but mostly for going after your dream.

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Christine Fletcher: Modesty Is Everything to this Triathlete

May 9, 2011 6 comments

It’s Motivational Monday, and today I want to tell you about a friend of mine who is charming, thoughtful, intelligent and beautiful. She is passionate about life and throws herself hook line and sinker into her family, business, friendships, and her active life. Christine Fletcher also happens to be a professional triathlete, but she doesn’t exactly wear that on her sleeve.

I met her in my book club, a motley mix of incredible women (I look around the room and wonder how I sandbagged my way in), largely of the sporting persuasion. There is often talk of a race experience, training regiment, or an outdoor adventure. But not from Christine, who more often than not has won a race since our last meeting. We need to pry this information out of her, her modesty is legendary.

This is in stark contrast to myself, who wears my finisher medal for days while doing errands.

Her ability to train 3-4 hours a day, and be so accomplished and recognized in her sport, yet rarely mention this tidbit, is a feat unto itself.

Whereas I ponder the incredible act of will required to complete one Ironman triathlon (just to recap, an ironman is a 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike ride, followed by a full marathon, 26.2 miles), and then roll over for my afternoon nap, Christine has completed this distance nineteen times in races. Imagine the thousands of training miles she has logged to prepare herself.

I try, but frankly find it difficult to imagine.

If pressed, she will reveal an encyclopedic-like knowledge of anatomy, nutrition, sports-related injuries, and optimal training practices. Knowing her is like having a coach, sports medicine doctor and nutritionist at your fingertips. She is much more forthcoming and willing to share her knowledge, less so with her victories. In the past few months, her off-season, she won the Vancouver Diva on the Run 8 km race, and the Sigge’s 30 km Skate Ski race in Callaghan.

In the last couple of years she has focused on the Half Ironman distance, and success has been rolling her way, finishing on the podium frequently at major events. Last week she was named to the team representing Canada at the Elite Long Distance Triathlon World Championships that will be held in Nevada this fall.

“This sport is a stimulus for challenge. I believe the human body has a limitless potential if trained properly, and love to see how well I can hone this,” she says, when I ask her about her continual dedication to her sport.

A little story to illustrate her passion: I remember I was training for a race when my knee started hurting. To me, this meant I was injured, and I needed to halt my training until it passed. When I mentioned this to Christine, she asked me what I was doing about it. Confused, I said, well, nothing, I’m injured. I told her my symptoms, she diagnosed them instantly and sent me to a chiropractor. After a few sessions of active release therapy I was back on the road.

To many people, pain is a reason to stop. But for athletes like Christine, pain is simply a puzzle that needs to be solved. She just works harder until it’s fixed, whether the answer is massage, stretching, a nutritional change, physiotherapy, active release or rest.

Whereas I would take hundreds of training miles a week as license to eat freely and with abandon, Christine looks at nutrition as the cornerstone of a successful training program. She focuses on a balance diet of protein, carbohydrates, and fats by eating fruits, vegetables, and lean proteins, with an emphasis on foods rich in antioxidants. She is a big believer in additives like Udo’s Oil for recovery and stamina, and sips on things like Vega shakes between workouts, an optimal combination of carbohydrates and hemp protein.

She is currently being coached by her long time training partner, friend, and hero, Jasper Blake, a Canadian icon in the triathlon world. He has been focusing on speed, intensity and strength, while integrating rest weeks into her program. As a result, she feels energetic and excited about her upcoming season, which kicks off this month and will culminate in the Ironman World Championship 70.3 in September, and now the Long Distance Triathlon World Championships in November. Both events will be held at Lake Las Vegas, Nevada.

On top of everything she does, she somehow makes time to blog about her race experiences. I particularly love this because it is here, in her blog, where I see the dedication and focus she has for her sport, more so than the odd occasion where we meet for lunch or drinks. She writes poetically about this object of her affection, beloved triathlons. It’s hard for readers not to be equally enamored, even from our armchairs.

Here’s to you, Christine, for motivating me to get out for my workout even when it’s raining, and for teaching us all that modesty is a beautiful thing.

When I Grow Up, I Want To Be Just Like My Daughter

May 2, 2011 7 comments

Sometimes the people who motivate me are at a great distance. They are on television or in history books, and I will never meet them.

But other people who motivate me are right under my nose. In fact, today’s case only comes up to my armpit, and I feed her and take care of her everyday. She’s nine. She’s my daughter.

She has a tendency to throw herself into everything she does with gusto, full throttle and heart first.

This daughter of mine has a tenacious grip on what she plans to be when she grows up. Since she was a wee thing, she has wanted to be a writer. And to this end she writes volumes of articles, stories and blogs. Her imaginary play revolves around her role as a reporter, and she walks around the house with a notepad and pen tucked into her shirt. When I clean up, I come across scraps of paper she has written on, and other evidences of her pretend articles.

How can I be a better writer, she would ask me, and I would reply, keep writing. And so she does. Day after day.

I was not as single minded as a child, wanting to be a veterinarian, a teacher, a doctor, a magician, depending on which way the wind blew. I keep expecting her whim to change, but she remains fixated on her goal.

Inevitably, the day came when she asked me, Mommy, weren’t you a writer? And I so eloquently stammered, ah, well, sort of but not really, um, a long time ago. She wouldn’t let me off the hook. Well, why don’t you write?

Why indeed.

I had always thought it would be my job as a parent to cheer my children on in whatever they pursued. It would be my job to instill in them a desire to persevere and work hard to achieve their goals. But quite the opposite has transpired. It is my child who motivates and teaches me.

Watching her diligently go about her work and play, I realized I needed to step it up. I needed to at least try to write. As Lyle Lovett once asked us, “What would you be if you didn’t even try? You have to try.” Taking a good hard look at myself as a role model, there wasn’t much to go on. I didn’t see in myself anything that could inspire her.

So now, everyday, I try hard to be like my daughter. In manageable chunks, I try to emulate her enthusiasm and dedication for writing. Her unfailing cheerfulness, generosity and kindness are other things to strive for, but I will attempt these another day. First things first.

When I grow up, I want to be just like my daughter.

The Mother of all Deals: Danielle Connelly

April 25, 2011 7 comments

Life is like a game of cards. The hand that is dealt you represents determinism; the way you play it is free will.
Jawaharal Nehru

It’s Motivational Monday, and today I’m profiling Danielle Connelly, a wonderful person I have recently met who tries to help other moms find the best deals in town. She has turned this idea into a successful, growing business. I was inspired by her great story, and hope you will be, too.

When her boys were little, Danielle Connelly started a blog designed to do what is chief on many young mothers minds: save money. What began as a small hobby has turned into a fast growing business four years later. Her website, www.motherofadeal.com, is a virtual treasure trove of deals that appeal to parents.

Here is her recipe for success: take a great idea (saving money), add some knowledge and hard work, and be at the right place at the right time.

Shortly after starting her blog, she had gone to a momcafe event – another growing enterprise where mothers spend a morning networking and listening to inspiring speakers. On this morning, a woman spoke about a self employment program at Douglas College. If you had been on maternity leave within the last five years and fit the eligibility requirements, you could actually get paid to attend this program through Service Canada.

The program is offered through many post-secondary institutions across the country, and is a perfect way of launching your own business, while getting support from like-minded and entrepreneurial instructors.

Inspired by the idea of working for herself, Danielle promptly enrolled in this program. It set the wheels in motion, turning her blog into a growing business.

She is undeniably a busy woman, her boys now four and six years old, but they are some of her biggest supporters. They occasionally help out at family trade shows, and her youngest will blurt out to strangers that his mother does Mother of a Deal.

It’s an ongoing exercise trying to be both a great mother and run a successful business from her house, she says. Setting boundaries has been a key element to keeping the occasional resentment her children show at bay. “Are you doing work stuff, mom?” they will ask. But she tries to make Mother of a Deal a shared experience for her family, and one they will hopefully benefit from as they grow.

Like any small business owner, Danielle has faced adversity along the way, but her online community has been overwhelmingly supportive. In 2009, her father passed away, and she decided to give up on her site to focus on her family. When she shared what she was going through with her subscribers, she experienced a huge outpouring of love from mothers, most of whom she had never met. Somehow, her site stayed strong through this tough time and continued to grow. She believes her father had a hand in this – he was so proud of her drive and determination to succeed. He continues to inspire her everyday, she says.

She has big goals for next year, when her boys are both in school full-time. She plans on making some changes to her site to make it a more interactive experience, and is hoping to attract more subscribers.

With the end goal of helping people help themselves, and the phenomenal success of other money saving websites like Groupon, Mother of a Deal seems like a mother of an invention.

Danielle Connelly: Mother/Entrepreneur

A Charitable Force: Ruthie Shugarman

April 18, 2011 5 comments

Ruthie and her husband Danny at last years Ride to Conquer Cancer

It’s my first official Motivational Monday, and fittingly I am profiling someone who has actually been motivating me for a long time: my friend, Ruthie Shugarman.

She’s the kind of person who goes a mile a minute, but has all the time in the world for you. I’m not quite sure how she fits into the day all the things that she does – her efficiency meter works overtime, and I’m suspect that she squeezes thirty hours into each day, somehow.

Ruthie is passionate about a lot of things, among them her family, friends, real estate and charities. And now, thanks to the Ride to Conquer Cancer, she has a new passion and sport in cycling, and one more charity to add to her long list.  I’m not sure how she slots it all in, but like everything else she does in life, she has taken on the Ride to Conquer Cancer with energy and vigor, a force to be reckoned with.

The Ride is a two day cycling event that starts in Vancouver and ends in Seattle. Each participant is responsible for raising $2500 for the cause, with many riders exceeding these expectations. Last year Ruthie was part of Team Dexter, which raised $112 000.

I love Ruthie’s ability to turn negatives into positives. She became a realtor three years ago – after owning her own event planning business for thirteen years – because of her passion for the housing market. But just as she struck out on her own, the housing market took a drastic turn for the worse.

“It was actually a great time to be learning the ropes.” Properties weren’t moving as quickly so she could immerse herself in each transaction. Not only has she stuck with it, she was recently recognized as the third highest producer for individual sales in her company.

When times got tough, Ruthie got creative. During this down market, she had the idea of putting her event planning background to good use. She organized a clothing swap amongst her friends and clients (of which I am a huge fan, since not only is it fun, it seriously augments my wardrobe). Her plan was to host a social event that would benefit women at a time when money was tight, and at the same time introduce herself as a Realtor. Her clothing swaps have turned into a hugely successful biannual event, benefiting not only her clients and friends but also several local charities, such as Avalon Addiction Center, Covenant House, and Dress for Success.

Think about it: busy mother schlepping children to and fro, full time Realtor, decides to take up a new sport and a new cause.

Before joining the Ride, Ruthie didn’t own a bike, so getting suited up was no small endeavor. And then there is the small issue of the shoe clips.

“I was terrified to ride on the road at first,” she says, “ and only began clipping my feet in three weeks before the actual race.” But she was pleasantly surprised about how social the training was, frequently riding to Steveston, Deep Cove or Horseshoe Bay with groups of people. Stopping for coffee was an integral aspect of the rides, which suited her perfectly. Multitasking at its best.

The race itself she found inspirational. Survivors of cancer ride with yellow flags on their bikes, and several other riders have pictures of people they are riding for. “Seeing them is so moving, it doesn’t matter how painful things get out there, you are motivated by the cause.”

Ruthie is busy starting her training for the Ride to Conquer Cancer this June and has kicked off her fundraising campaign. Very appropriately, since April is daffodil month for the Canadian Cancer Society, a time to raise funds and awareness for the disease that impacts so many.

I am forever motivated by Ruthie’s ability to fit into an hour what I fit into an entire day. Her cup is full, yet she always finds room for more. Let’s help warriors like Ruthie in their fight to conquer cancer. Donate generously, and watch out for cyclists on our roads.

To donate to Ruthie’s fundraising efforts, please visit http://www.conquercancer.ca

Who Inspires You?

April 17, 2011 5 comments

I went into journalism thinking it would be a way of meeting and building up already fantastic people, and got out of it because in fact it was more about tearing them down. The things that sold newspapers was not what I wanted to write about, for the most part.

Real people and real stories can inspire me to move mountains. And it has always been thus. Long ago, whenever I happened upon a Shape magazine, I would flip to the success stories. Irregardless of the fact losing weight has never been a big priority, I love to read about these people who overcome personal hurdles and achieve their goal of a svelte silhouette and healthier lifestyle.

Since starting my blog, I have been introduced to interesting, dynamic, energetic people. They are bold in their mandates, incredibly hard-working, often see obstacles as opportunities, and motivate me like nothing else.

I’m planning on profiling one of these people a week. Mothers, fathers, bloggers, entrepreneurs and business people, they have achieved great things in life on the heels of their hard work. Inspired like I am by Twitter, I’m calling it Motivational Monday, my blogging answer to Thankful Thursday and Follow Friday.

Because in social media we like to spread the love and highlight the positive, I’m hoping these people will inspire you as well.

Dearest Cancer: Prepare to be Defeated

March 26, 2011 25 comments

Cancer, you miserable beast, you have sunk your dirty talons into the wrong person. You don’t know who you’re messing with.

You think you are clever by showing up in first his knee, and now his lung and spine, but my brother will outwit you yet, you have not seen the likes of him.

He is smarter than you. Not only book smart, but street smart. He will read you under the table, and find a method of beating you at your own game. He will lull you into submission and have you eating out of the palm of his hand in no time. He will win this battle. Stand down.

He is an endurance athlete, did you know? You have been at him for a while, but he hasn’t even begun to fight back. He hasn’t shown you his A game, it kicks in right about now. He has just been warming up for this battle, playing you. You haven’t seen anything yet.

He is a fierce competitor, if there is a win at stake he will pinch hit, get the overtime goal, dig deep to save the day. He has had lots of practice at this, and I can tell you he is a winner. This is another game he will win, prepare to be defeated.

You are not his worthy opponent.

Were you thinking, here’s a nice guy to pick on? A champion teacher, fantastic father, loving husband, all around hero in his community, I’ll take him down? That was your first mistake, because he’s often mistaken for a nice guy, but what you don’t know is he is a chameleon; a wonderful person but a terrifying rival. He will wear YOU down, and it won’t be pretty.

His resolve will blow you away, but then again he is not a regular person.

My brother has the determination of a gladiator, the strength of a leviathan, the wit of Adam Sandler and Tina Fey combined, and the heart of Sidney Crosby, and also like Sid, a team of enormous depth cheering him on from all corners of the earth. He will play the game, like the sportsman he is, but make no mistake that he will beat you in the end. He will send you home with your tail between your legs.

His spirit will outmatch your cruelty.

We will soon be celebrating his victory