Family Lines

stories for you

Month: January 2013

Happy birthday to me

Me and my parents.

Me and my parents.

It’s coming… and it’s big and it’s scary and it’s…my birthday.

I don’t usually shy away from turning another year older. But this is the year I turn (whisper please) 40. Yep. That means I’ve been on this earth for four decades. Wow. I just never thought I would get here.

Not that I thought I was never going to make it to 40. That I was going to die young. I just never contemplated this age. While my husband and friends get older, I don’t think I do. Of course I mark my passing year with a celebration, but in my mind I’m 12.

I remember attending a Pathfinders camp (part of the Girl Guide movement) when I was around 14. We were doing some introspection work and one of the questions was: “What will you still be doing when you are 70?”

The leader probably wanted us to ponder what it’s like being a senior.  How our lives will change. How we’ll have to learn to adapt our bodies to a slower pace. How we should cherish every minute of our youthful lives.

“When I’m 70 I’ll be doing the same things as I do now,” is how I answered the question.

I had no problem believing that when I was that age I wouldn’t have changed a bit – body or mind. However, now that I have a lot more life experience, I can see into the future a bit better. While I still believe in that answer, I believe that life changed me and has lessened my youthful arrogance. Things have happened to me along the way to 40 that I wasn’t expecting as a teenager. Good things and bad things. Happy things and sad things. But for me, no matter what happens to my body and mind throughout my years – it’s my soul that keeps me young.

This doesn’t just mean “staying young at heart,” because getting older has its own merits. It means not letting hard life lessons tarnish my soul forever and weigh me down. It means considering my place in the human race and giving back. Allowing my soul at every age to grow from wonderful and harsh life tests.

At almost 40 I can see this now. The Pathfinder exercise went a lot further than the people who made it up ever considered. At almost 40 I’m contemplating it still. Now excuse me, I’m going to have a 40th birthday party and enjoy myself.

A business owners’ journey: A year in reflection

Family Lines logo.

Family Lines logo.

Starting your own business is daunting especially when you have no idea how to begin. But in September 2011 I entered a self-employment program put on by MNP Calgary. It offered practical training in business planning, marketing, cash flow and other key areas of small business management.

I launched my corporate and personal legacy writing company in 2012 with the basics learned from MNP. After being in business for a whole year MNP asked graduates to write a success story for the January 2013 entrepreneurial newsletter. Here is my narrative.

Crawling to Success

When I first entered the MNP self-employment program in the fall of 2011 I wanted success immediately. Right now! But the instructors said I had to learn how to crawl before I ran. They told me to have patience. So I used their building blocks to found the base of my company.

It’s been a year since I’ve launched my corporate and personal legacy writing business, Family Lines. And it’s been a hard year. A year of networking and cold calling and an empty bank account. A year of few ups and mostly downs. A year of learning and not to be one of success. Or so I thought.

In the beginning of December I signed two contracts. Small ones but to me they mean everything. To me they mean my business is still alive in 2013. The patience to crawl finally paid off.

A site to see in the midst of winter

A cabin along the ski trail.

The cabin along the ski trail. My father still cross-country skis up to it.

In the skiing world, alpine gets all the glory. I love downhill skiing – it’s exciting and thrilling to send yourself down a steep slope while balancing on two planks. I learned in Grade 6 that downhill is awesome and got my own skis for Christmas when I was 16. The downside of downhill? It costs a lot.

Cross-country skiing is cheaper, especially when you strap on your skis right at your driveway and then glide away — like I did growing up.

As I’ve written before, as a youngster I lived in the Nova Scotia countryside. There was hardly anyone around and the snow fell for days – creating perfect cross-country ski conditions.

My sisters and I got our first nordic skis when I was around eight. The skis were little red plastic things that we learned on. Later we upgraded to wooden skis made in Germany — East Germany, that is. The Berlin Wall was still standing back then.

My whole family used to put on our skis at the driveway and head down the snowy road to an old logging trail cut deep into the woods. Usually we had to make our own trail but sometimes a snow machine had been through before us and packed down the path. Entering the forest we first had to climb a steep hill. It would eventually level off and become a beautiful straight stretch that went for about a kilometre.

Being in the forest was enchanting. The trees formed an arch over us and it felt like any minute we would come upon a castle or some fairyland creature. Instead, a cabin in the woods would have to do.

The stable on the ski trail.

The stable on the ski trail in the midst of winter.

The cottage was halfway up the trail. It was an ancient woodcutter’s cabin and across from it was a small stable, still filled with hay. The one-room cabin had space for a wood stove, a table and two benches. It was pretty sturdy after many years of neglect and the windows still had glass panes. The stable could hold two horses and the outside was covered in black tar paper. I always hoped to open the door of the barn and see a deer or bobcat bedded down on the straw.

We visited the hut a lot during the winters. It’s where we’d always stop for a break and mum would dig out the hot chocolate and peanut butter sandwiches from her backpack. There were actually some condiments in the hut, probably left by hunters, but we never helped ourselves.

When I was older my friends and I would ski up to the site. In the summer, we would hike in and even camped there once, in the small clearing near the cottage amidst the stars.

The cabin and stable haven’t fared well over the past 15 years. More and more people know about the ski trail and when there isn’t snow it’s used for cross-country cycling. The inside of the storybook cottage has been pulled apart. The stove is no longer there and the glass in the windows is missing. It’s only a matter of time before the forest reaches around the cottage and pulls it down. But it’ll always be built in my memory.

 

 

Emotional words

Family_Lines_emotionsI’ve been teaching a Life Writing workshop. For Class Two we talked about emotional writing and how to convey sentiments without using words like angry or happy. Those words are abstract concepts that can leave a reader feeling detached. The best way to express feelings in writing is to cut these words out and actually describe what the emotions bring to a character’s face or body language or voice.

Next we did a writing exercise where we took an emotion word and wrote about it without using the word. We wrote for 10 minutes, then shared our stories and guessed which emotion we wrote about. Can you guess mine?

Oo lala! Baby, baby, Shake those hips. Give me all that you got.

I like those blue, blue eyes. I like how you use them to stare at me. Stare at me hard. Like you want me. Now.

Let me take your hand. Let me take you by the hand and lead you upstairs. Upstairs to my bedroom.

It’s dark in there. The shade is drawn. Blocking out the streetlight. Blocking out the moonlight. Blocking out the starlight.

It’ll only be you and me in there baby. We’ll leave our husband and wife behind. Just for tonight.

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