Monday, December 21, 2009
Every couple of years we do a family ski trip and enjoy some time together in the fresh air. The 3 oldest kids (spouses and their kids) usually get a condo for the entire time, and the parents and grandparents split their time so we get to enjoy both sides of the family. No matter where the family is celebrating they have some great traditions for young and old. The kids usually have a bit of a show - singing or dancing for us. Oma usually does her felt puppet "Christmas story" and of course we have lots of songs and hymns.
You can image buying gifts for that large of a crew would be a lot of work. So they like to focus the holidays on the togetherness, the occassion, the food and photos (we have more than our fair share of shutterbugs) - not the gifts. We all get gifts for the kids, of course. But then we draw names and each person buys a gift for only one other adult on each side of the family. This lets us focus on our time together and not spending a lot of money or time on gifts (although my husband usually still buys lots of fun German treats - he says he isn't technically cheating as they are meant for everyone's stocking).
Charitable giving also has an important part of their Holidays. A few year's ago we gave a goat in Opa's name to a family in South America. As 2009 has been a tough year for many the family decided that there would be no adult gifts at all. The family drew names and donated to a charity in that person's name.
So hubbie and I decided to do the same with my family this year. We have told everyone over 13 to expect small fun holiday gifts and then we were giving the rest of our Holiday budget to charity. Since Vancouver has the highest child poverty numbers in the country we decided to make our donations to:
In spirit of full disclosure we did do a special gift for Daniel's Omi who flew us out to Calgary as a surprise for the family this year. She gave us the gift of time with our family, so we put together a nice little memory of her Great Grandson. But as it technically won't arrive until January we didn't really cheat. Since she doesn't read my blog this should be a nice surprise when it arrives.
Friday, December 11, 2009
This week I thought people might be looking for practical organizational advice - unless you are one of those people who finished your Christmas preparations in August. My friend Christa Wagner is a professional organizer, and a fantasticly upbeat outgoing lady. Her most recent blog is about Holiday Organizing for Practical User - particularly relevant to those of us who have left most everything to the last minute.
Christa is a busy lady, who blogs almost daily with practical tips & advice for us busy people trying to organize our homes, lives and meals. And if you need more than just advice check out her Savvy Solutions website.
Wednesday, December 9, 2009
Surprises are always somewhat complicated - what is the cover story/what are the real details/who knows/who can't be told for any reason????? But for us the surprise was further complicated by social media, forgetfulness and the weather.
Who was in on it? Omi, me, hubbie and his father (as this was a celebration with the mom's side of the family we felt he would be a good reliable conspirator)
#1 - Social Media Silence
Why social media? While my hubbie's family couldn't be told, his friends could. But hubbie didn't think he needed to tell his friends it was a surprise, as they don't talk to his family. He forgot about that big melting pot of friends and family... facebook. So I kept getting facebook wall questions about our trip. Thankfully they all got removed before they were seen.
Then there is my affection for twitter. After I tweeted about waiting on the phone for West Jet for 2 hours, it occured to me I would have to go into "twitter radio silence" about our trip. Now my brother and sister-in-law aren't super active on twitter, but they might notice if I was tweeting about a trip to Calgary. And since I tweet about almost everything it was hard to keep my big mouth shut for 2 weeks.
#2 - The car seat
Got to the airport and as we were checking in we realized we had left the car seat in the car... which had by now left and was driving home. PANIC!!! Now my sister-in-law (SIL) in Calgary usually has an extra seat... but we can't call her or we'd give up the surprise.
So my father-in-law had to stop and buy us a new car seat on his way to airport to pick us up. Now we really didn't need a new car seat, as we already have 2 at home. But he didn't have time to rent one and couldn't figure out a viable lie to get the one from SIL.
So with our brand new car seat we were driven to Red Deer, met by Omi and then drove out to her place at the lake. Got settled into the house... realized how dreadful the dial-up internet was and waited for people to start to show up the next day. But they didn't!!!
#3 - The Storm
A huge snow storm hit Southern Alberta on the Friday and highways were closed or labelled critical.
Now what do you do when you are stuck inside in a snow storm? Go online is likely a common answer. Besides it being painfully slow, I also couldn't bitch about the weather or the family will figure something out. So what do I do? I gloat about the Vancouver weather of course! Hey I had to do something... Mommy boredom mixed with a toddler going stir crazy is a bad mix. Something had to be done.
#4 - The Dinner
The big dinner was planned for Sunday and the fingers were all crossed that the weather would clear. It did. But then the family started to talk about car pooling... well that would 'kill' our ride back to Calgary. Again we couldn't ask anyone to leave space in their car for the 3 of us and our luggage. Thankfully Omi talked them out of that without giving anything away (that woman really does lie well on the fly... kind of scary reall).
#5 - The Surprise
Hubbie's mom arrive at the house a few hours before the dinner. Omi told her she was babysitting a neighbours kid and we let the little guy run into the room. She stared at him and said "Boy does that little kid ever look like T". Then I stuck my head out and my MIL's jaw dropped to her knees. The best part of a surprise is when it is a real surprise. Same went with her husband as he arrived from the car a few moments later.
The rest of the family was met at the restaurant with similar surprise and excitement. I can't believe that Omi had done such an excellent job at lying that there were even gifts for us there (she had told everyone she was coming out to vancouver on Dec 26th for the holidays and to bring our gifts with them.... she really really is a good liar).
Dinner was fantastic. Seeing everyone was fantastic. Omi was so happy with everything. Plus because of the storm she got to spend a very intimate weekend with her great grand son.
As for us. Thankfully we were able to squeeze our stuff (split between 3 cars) and ourselves back to Calgary, where we had a little after party at my SIL's house. It really was a lovely Christmas family celebration.
And then we realized bear and bunny got left behind at Omi's house.... but that is another story.
Tuesday, December 1, 2009
Please indicate in the comments below if you are interesting in coming, the time that works best for you, the number of adults/kids over 2 and if you are interested in purchasing advance tickets as a group or will arrange your own.
- Date - December 18th (alternate date Wed December 16th)
- Time - Meet at 4:00 and get tickets for the (a) 5-5:30pm slot or (b) 5:30 - 6pm slot. We can visit the children's farm and other attractions until our time comes up. And those that are working can still meet up with us before the train time slot.
- Cost: $8 adults (+1.6 convenience fee) and $5 kids 2-18 and seniors (+1 convenience fee)
Update Dec 7th - So I left the advance ticket purchase too late. It was looking fine before I left for the weekend trip to rural aka 'dial-up hell' Alberta. But yesterday 5 and 5:30 were gone. Going to try through ticketmast phone line one last time today, but likely I'll be purchasing tickets at noon on the 18th at the box office (they keep a good chunk of tickets for same day sale).
Monday, November 30, 2009
Today’s speakers were Moms behind the Headlines: Andrea Vance, Publisher of WestCoast Families; and Tamara Taggart, CTV Weathercaster.
Andrea talked about her path to becoming an entrepreneur and publisher. Tamara talked more about how she makes it work today.
It was interesting to hear Andrea talk about her late days and nights working at EA. How that lead to a late night life discussion over Rum and Cokes, with her now husband. And how that led to her quitting her high paying job with nothing to go to and no plan.
- Learning to work from home. How to get out of bed and out of your PJs everyday. She realized she had to think about it as ‘work’ and to prepare herself for each day, as she was going to the office. And some days that might mean staying in her sweats for the day.
- Thought she could plan her transition to being a parent. She had 9 months to get organized. She isn’t a big planner, but feels that her work plan went well. The home plan did not go to plan, and the anticipated labour distribution plan had to be adjusted after the baby was born.
It was interesting listening to Tamara and really relating to a number of the things she said about her life. She works in the ‘soul sucking business of TV’ (I used to work in the soul sucking business of advertising). And she waited until she was older to have kids, only because she didn’t meet the right person until she was older (same story for me). She is a worry wart and had challenges realizing that when you have kids you have to give up some of the control (amen sister).
She addressed why she went back to work after 4 months after both children - “because they needed the money”. It is the most expensive time of your life and you only qualify for EI. So she went back to work. I appreciated that while not everyone in the room would agree with her, she was unapologetic. It was her choice for her family. She doesn’t judge others decisions and she doesn’t expect anyone should judge hers. (note to those who want to express their opinion to her in the grocery store – make sure she isn’t holding a jug of milk).
- She has a team. Her mom, a part time nanny and of course her husband.
- Being home for bedtime is mandatory. Most nights both parents are home for bedtime, but there is always at least one of them there.
- Prioritizing her time – cause frankly she’d rather shop for the kids than herself these days.
- Nothing comes before her family. And work knows this. "It is what it is". Although she does have to remind herself of that every so often.
Both Tamara and Andrea seem, like most parents, to take it day by day and try to make the best decisions for their families and themselves. Doing something you are patient about is key no matter what you do.
Sunday, November 29, 2009
I've seen Blue Rodeo about six times in my life, and they never fail to please. My first time was during University and I don't remember too much about it except that I loved loved loved Greg Keeler's voice (Diamond Mine is still my favourite song).
Then there was the time we saw them in Malkin Bowl at Stanley Park. We were in the 6th or 7th row and we arrived just as Blue Rodeo was taking stage. I watched Jim and Greg eye my 9 month pregnant belly as I sidled into my seat. Luckily for everyone there wasn't an unexpected and unticketed guest delivered that night. He waited another week to arrive. But boy did he ever dance around in my stomach that night.
And then one year later, we celebrated one of our first night's out without the little man with another Blue Rodeo concert.
This time we saw them at The Centre. It is a lovely venue, but in my opinion too stiff for Blue Rodeo. I want to DANCE when I see Blue Rodeo live. And there is no dancing at the Centre - unless you have tickets in the rafters. You can dance at Malkin Bowl, but only on the sides. I want to stand at my seat and dance (well except the time I was 9 months pregnant and then I was happy everyone in front of me was sitting until the encore).
Jim Cuddy doesn't age. The only thing that seems to change is that little bit of extra grey at his temples. And in case you didn't notice how attractive he is, he wears the skinny jeans to ensure you notice. Then there is Greg Keeler, who has that really charming I don't give a f@*ck attitude. Funny thing is that given the chance I'd rather pinch Greg's butt. But this night Greg didn't seem quite himself. He tripped over an amp in the first song, was chewing gum, and looked grumpier than usual through much of the night. His voice still sounded great, and he seemed to warm up a bit by the end. Still LOVE LOVE LOVE him though. We all have nights when we leave our sense of humour at home.
The surprise was the new harmony guy Wayne Petti (from Cuff the Duke). He is "all over the new album" to quote Jim. I really loved how his voice mixed with the rest of them. And he was a really nice piece of eye candy on stage (and I know I wasn't the only one who noticed). But he seemed uncomfortable of his place on stage. He stood on the side until it was time to sing, then he slid into place. He had a few laughs with Bob Egan, but generally seemed like the
'new' guy who wanted to fit in, but didn't want to disturb the status quo. Then he put on his guitar and it was like night and day.
Quick note about the opening act. The Skydiggers is one of those Canadian bands I used to love, and had completely forgotten about. What a charming, funny and entertaining opening act. Still think the lead singer is doing an Austin Power impression when he dances, but that just added to his charm.
Saturday, November 28, 2009
More photos of how full hubbie stuffed our vehicle with Lego.
Friday, November 27, 2009
Raspberrykids.com Run by Sue Sinclair this blog provides helpful tips, news about interesting products and the odd update on Sue's crazy life as Chief Executive Mom of Raspberrykids.com. Sue is one of the few people I have met who really gets customer service. She is all about building relationships. To many it may seem she spends a lot of effort of 'non-sales' oriented relationships. But this is what she gets that other don't. She is building loyal relationships and that always translates into a stronger business in the long run. Plus, she is just so darn nice. @raspberrykids
The Yummy Mummy Club. This blog was founded by Erica Ehmn of Much Music fame. Erica and her group of real life mommy bloggers provide a wealth of topics and blogs that all mommy's can relate to. We are all moms, but we are also women, wives, girlfriends, daughters, party goers/givers, runners, dancers, wine appreciators, readers, etc. Join the club and follow all the ladies on twitter @yummymummyclub, @ymcbuzz, @sharondv, @earnestgirl , @ymcbookalicious (the book club) and many more. If you are a member of the yummy mummy team add a comment with your twitter handle.
Notes from the Cookie Jar. Another west coast mom. Scattered mom is a mom to a teenage boy, and I look to her and see my future. Her stories make me laugh and I see there is hope for those teenage years. She also posts the best recipes (of course mine never turn out looking like her fantastic pictures). @Scatteredmom.
Thursday, November 26, 2009
I'm happy she is home. Can't wait for the long picture slide show to come - really truly because the FB pictures from her phone were so fantastic I can't wait to see what her camera captured.
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
Thanks also to Mary Murphy for giving props to Frankie Manning.
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
Sunday, November 22, 2009
Today I'm just running. Last minute pieces to organize for any media attending tonight's Women in Leadership gala and none of the technology seems to be cooperating. Thankfully FedEx Kinko's is open on Saturdays.
Off to iron dress, hair, make-up, dress and then run downtown.
Tomorrow I'll hopefully have some fun pics and highlights of the evening.
Couldn't figure out how to get the flickr album to show up inside the blog, so just click below to find the album. Flickr Shoe Set
Friday, November 20, 2009
Plus you have to LOVE any sight that has herbadmother.com as a contributor. I will follow that bloggess to the ends of the earth. She gives her take on motherhood and life with her usual biting humour intact. Be warned this one is not for the faint of heart. She always lays it out there with honesty and if it too hard for you to read... well that would be your problem. @herbadmother on twitter.
Thursday, November 19, 2009
Gala is now in 2 days. So my choices are:
- Hand sew it myself (my sewing machine is broken).
- Find something else to wear. And yes, I do have other dresses, but I've worn them lots of times and really wanted to wear my new dress.
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
Monday, November 16, 2009
We finished off our evening by watching 2 parts of the original original (pilot episodes) Doctor Who. It always amazes me to see how far the series has come. And I don't just mean the improved sets.
Sunday, November 15, 2009
So yeah, it was a bit busy. Mostly with parents (and a large percentage of Dads) getting out of the house with the kids. First stop was the kids area for the family time at 10:30 - and stroller parking.
The stroller seemed like a good decision when I was racing through the wet rainy parking lot. It helped us keep up a decent pace. I didn't have to chase him everywhere and he could sit and snack between attractions. But I had to lift him in and out of the stroller a lot of times. Plus it was crowded and waiting for elevators is annoying. There were a lot of other young kids running/walking/being carried around without a stroller. And I wondered if perhaps that would have been a smarter choice.
We aren't stroller dependent folks. And our little guy likes to walk. What do you think? With a 2 year old. Do you take the stroller or go free at the aquarium?
Saturday, November 14, 2009
- Begging for a treat and then not eating it - he carries it around like a little treasure. Which is okay if the treat is an organic oatmeal cranberry mini cookie, but not when it is one of the few Halloween treats he has been given.
- He is careful to avoid any misunderstanding saying 'in his mouth' and pointing to it at the same time when he asks for a treat.
- His favourite thing to read while sitting on the toilet is the lego holiday catalogue.
- He LOVES his books. He loves to take them all off the bookshelf and then sit and read... he is sometimes happy to sit and read his books to himself for 15 minutes. 15 wonderful, quiet and blissful minutes. (he also likes to rip all the adult books off the shelf in the hallways. His favs are harry potter and anne rice - for some reason the tolkien doesn't appeal to him. )
- Loves to sing... he knows enough words and melody for us to know when he is singing twinkle, twinkle.... old mcdonald and zoom zoom zoom
- Whenever he counts to 3 he ends it with 'blast off' and a jump in the air.
- He cries like the world is ending when he gets a booger.
- He wanted to walk my Dad's dog when we were in Victoria last weekend. So cute the little white Bijon Frise pulling the 2yo along.
Friday, November 13, 2009
That Running Guy: Races to Finish Optimistic observations and commentaries on life from my interconnected worlds of running, driving, working, cooking and giving.
Chris is also a very astute marketer. Check out his observations on the marketing world at Morales & Associates. His specialty is building brand value by creating breakthroughs for his clients.
You can also follow Chris on twitter @Chris_Morales.
Thursday, November 12, 2009
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
What is left to do? Everything it seems. Media pitches for pre-event interviews. Media invitations to attend the event. Design and assemble media kits. Finalize signage. Finalize program. Confirm guest blogger (done @lovesocial is confirmed). Tweet. Twitter contest. Facebook updates...... Thankfully I have two passionate and energetic volunteers who take direction well and work well on their own.
The last few weeks is always a rush of adrenaline.... then event night... then the post event let down.
The event is shaping up to be a really fun night of washed hair, adult shoes, a pretty dress, inspirational speaker (Andrea Holmes of the 2010 paralympic alpine team), celebration of SuperWoman of the year award winner, fashion show, drinks, dinner... and oh yeah celebrating the SuperWoman in each of us!!!
Get together some girlfriends and buy some tickets. 4 or more tickets are $145. Okay so I switched from blog to sell mode. Sue me - I have a lot to do. http://www.womeninleadership.ca/.
Monday, November 9, 2009
The trip didn't start out well when I bought tickets for the wrong ferry. Thankfully Dad had walked us to the ferry and could watch the little man. Meanwhile I SPRINTED back to the ticket desk to get them fixed before the 10 minute cut off. I don't sprint often and certainly not that distance, so I was pretty out of breath. But I got there in time. I guess the run must have dried my throat out because as we were standing in the cafeteria line up I started to cough... just that gotta get that tickle out of my throat kind of cough. Which of course only goes away when you either get out a really good cough. Or you get water. So the people around us in line gave us lots of space, leary that I was going to give them some plague or something.
For both ferry rides we rode one of the new ferries. It certainly was fresh and shiny new. Not sure that I love the layout. But I may just need to get used to it.
Some pluses on the new ferries:
- 2 separate play areas
- seats within the play around and just outside so those of us with smaller kids can stay close
- parents room - was nice to have a larger space washroom to take the little guy when he said he had to go (of course once there he was much more interested in the shiny new bathroom. And then the flush scared the crap out of him - I had to laugh as he jumped).
- Sun deck was fun, although windy.
- You have to walk outside a pretty long way when you enter/depart the boat. Not a big deal normally, but when you have a 2yo dying to touch everything and everything blowing in the wind it was a pain in the butt.
- Seemed like I had to walk a lot of stairs.
The big lesson is that a 3rd or 4th arm is really helpful when dealing with a toddler and travelling.
Sunday, November 8, 2009
So thought would be fun to post a picture from the very wet park near my Dad's place in Victoria. How the little guy kept his socks dry I'll never know.
Saturday, November 7, 2009
So we fill our November with activities to keep us extra busy. And we try to enjoy the nice periods when they come. All we have to do is make it to that first Holiday party or activity and we are usually golden.
Thursday, November 5, 2009
I thought I'd take the twitter idea of Follow Friday into my blog world and recommend a couple of bloggers to follow each Friday.
The first is a regular blogger - I don't know how she does it while chasing 2 young kids around - but she blogs almost everyday. She stirs the inner hippie in my urban girlie girl and she is just so darn smart. And real. The tagline for her blog is "keeping it real in the suburbs". http://www.strocel.com/
The second blogs infrequently, but when she does it is so worth it. She is a writer by trade, having just finished her first novel (to be published in 2010), so she has that working for her. But if can you read her recent blog about her library escapade without peeing your pants you are a better woman than me. http://savingtheworldinsensibleshoes.blogspot.com/
Finally, my favourite daddy blog. Often short in delivery. But always a great slice of Daddy life offered straight up - no mixer or ice required. http://jasperchronicles.blogspot.com/
And I thought I would be remiss if I didn't include my fellow brave NaBloPoMo bloggers.
- @Nicole013 at http://resolvingtimelineissues.wordpress.com/.
- @miss_Scarlett99 at http://rogoclan.blogspot.com/
Then I began to wonder when this city girlie-girl got so hooked on sci-fi. Sure sci-fi isn’t new to me, I was a dedicated Buck Rogers, Star Trek and Battlestar Gallatica fan in the 70’s. But I never considered myself a sci-fi fan because I never read a lot of sci-fi, I was more likely to be pouring over a Nancy Drew or Hardy Boys book.
But when I look at my favorite tv shows today it runs like a long list of sci-fi and fantasy (with a little vampire thrown in for fun).
Those that know my husband well will likely blame him. One of my favorite memories is him walking down the aisle at our wedding doubled over laughing, because I played the Doctor Who theme for his procession (and yes it was at that moment that his family knew he had married the right woman). While he may have introduced me to the Doctor - he didn’t force me to watch close to 30 years of episodes.
So when did I become such a fan? I’m the one who follows the Doctor Who fan groups and surfs online to find out the next bit of news or future air dates. I’m the one who reports updates on new companions. I’m the one who reminds hubbie to download the latest Sarah Jane Adventures. I'm the one emailing my MIL dalek cake pictures for little guy's next birthday. I’m even the one who suggested if we had a girl we’d call her Teagan, after my favourite companion. I even looked for a Doctor Who related boy name (never found one we liked). I can name my favourite Doctor (Jon Pertwee, followed closely by David Tennant), my favourite villain (The Master), my favourite cheesy effect (the actors jumping around the set whenever the tardis crashed).
My sci-fi geekiness has gotten so bad I have a Red Dwarf quote on my facebook profile (and I know I own my geekiness because I’ve watched every episode of Red Dwarf – many of them twice).
Wednesday, November 4, 2009
I had been volunteering at a variety of different events for different organizations, trying to find an organization where I wanted to dedicate my volunteer time. So when WIL asked me to take a role on their advisory board and help with their marketing & communications I said yes.
Why did I agree to give up some of my valuable time to volunteer? I had both personal and professional reasons.
Personally I have always had a strong affinity to supporting and mentoring women. WIL is a young dynamic organization that does not ‘preach’ down to its members. Its mission is to advance women’s leadership. They have a positive, collaborative approach which allows every person involved to inspire, support and empower each other. I sum up the essence of their brand as “inspiring each other”.
Professionally this gave me an opportunity to exercise and grow my marketing muscle, which grown a bit sluggish while at home on maternity leave. I’m passionate about marketing and this gave me opportunities to do what I love. In addition to developing WIL’s brand strategy, I built and grew a volunteer team of 10 young, passionate, smart women. I am inspired by each of them every day.
I have also been able to grow my communications skills with more PR focused projects and social media. The social media in particular allows me to combine my planning skills with my new passion for writing. All new skill sets for my resume. But more importantly, as I see our success growing our following through twitter / facebook / linkedin and building a blog content plan, I’m excited about the future of WIL and women’s leadership in Canada.
Volunteering is also a great way to network. I’ve never been a fan of traditional networking events. And getting involved with such a diverse organization provides me with the opportunity to meet all sorts of like minded women in Vancouver and across the country. This, I believe, will provide me with the foundation I need for a long and interesting career. We are here to support each other. And I know I get back what I give in so many different ways.
For more information on Women in Leadership Foundation visit their website. Or follow us on twitter (@WIL_Fdn).
Tuesday, November 3, 2009
Monday, November 2, 2009
Monday my son goes to Montessori. He spends the whole day with his friends playing, learning, listening, sharing, laughing – generally growing into an independent little person. He LOVES it!
And so do I! It give me time to get some things done –job searching, networking, blogging, volunteer work and yeah sometimes even housework.
Yes I miss him. But I know that he gains a lot being there.
- He is around other kids and is learning key social skills early in life. I am also an only child and I know he is already better at sharing than I ever will be.
- His teacher is better at some things than I am. She is consistent. She sets a structured set of boundaries. The kids know what is coming next and what is expected of them. I know it is because of her that he is such a good listener. He understands that certain behavior is unacceptable and he is much easier to manage at home.
- She works with us on behavior issues. When we came home from a recent trip he had picked up a few things from his cousins/friends. We alerted her and she helped us stop them before they become a regular occurrence.
- He learns positive behavior from the older kids. They listen, they help, and they share. He wants to please his teacher and the older kids. This includes learning to be polite. We laughed with pride yesterday when he said ‘sorry thomas’ after he bumped into his Thomas lego on the floor.
- He is growing his creative side through singing, crafts, dancing, colouring, books, etc. He is comfortable in his environment and feels safe to imagine what he will. Yes – we do much of this at home. But I don’t seem to have the same patience and creativity to keep him interested and challenged each day.
- Most importantly he knows he is loved whether at home or at school.
My job in all this!! Not to mess up his teacher’s work during the rest of the week. I try to focus on staying consistent, providing a structured loving environment and giving him opportunities to grow his creative interests.
So I LOVE Mondays! Because both of us win!
The idea of writing a blog everyday scares the crap out of me. My little inner voice asked…. How would I find the time? How would I come up with ideas? Who would want to read me for 30 days straight?
But then I asked myself why I write. Writing everyday would help me develop my muscle. Plus, if one of my goals is to write books someone might actually publish for people to buy and read – then I MUST write regularly.
Plus if it scares me the crap out or me. So it MUST be worth doing!!! So here I am. Already 1 day behind.
Tuesday, October 6, 2009
Monday, September 28, 2009
So the story begins the evening I met with various other Moms from the Yummy Mummy club. The occasion was the founder of the Yummy Mummy Club Erica Ehm was in town. We had a lovely dinner, mostly with women who I had met on twitter but never met in person before. Dinner, like the yummy mummy club, had interesting and varied conversation. We were empathetic, supportive and cheerleaders for each other. We were women, who happened to be Moms, having nice adult conversation.
The night got me thinking though (stewing for several weeks actually). I consider myself a feminist that respects and supports the decisions of other women. I spent volunteer time supporting and mentoring young women and an organization committed to promoting women in leadership (Women in Leadership Foundation). But when I think back to the time when Erica was breaking ground at Much Music I certainly wasn’t supportive - nor were many other young women I knew. My teenage friends and I gave Erica a pretty hard time (not directly of course). Instead of realizing how great it was to have a girl playing with the boys at Much Music. We gossiped about everything she wore, said, did or didn’t do. I don’t know how I would have held up under such tough scrutiny when I was in my early 20s. But Erica excelled and grew in her career. She paved the way for other women to follow their dreams. Today she continues to support other women through her Yummy Mummy Club. (and NO I didn’t have the balls to admit this to Erica or ask her about those early days in her career)
Of course it is easy to look back and say that was over 20 years ago and times have changed. But have they?
Think about when Katie Couric took over the anchor desk at CBS Evening News. The news and media were skeptical. She was scrutinized for everything she wore, said, dated, did and didn’t do. I’ve never seen such a critical analysis of a male anchor before. But Katie must be doing something right because another major network has decided to take the “risk” on a woman at the anchor desk. Diane Sawyer, one of the most respected women in journalism, has finally been offered the ABC anchor desk. That is now 2/3 of nightly network news anchored by women.
And look at Hilary Clinton in the news this summer about her trip to Africa. She is the US Secretary of State and was asked what her husband thought about a specific policy. The media focused on that one incident for weeks. The reason behind for the trip lost while they raked her over the coals – she was even accused of having a bad hair day.
I guess the short note is that women continue to break ground, paving the way for the future. And while we have come a long way, we have a long way yet to go. And we need to start with ourselves. Do we support the women in our lives? Do we support the ones breaking ground in your community? Society? Country? We need to stop judging each other. And like the yummy mummy club start listening, supporting and cheerleading each others dreams and choices. It is that sort of positive support that will only make it easier for us to realize our individual dreams. And lay an even stronger foundation for ourselves and the next generation of women.
Tuesday, September 8, 2009
I worked a few retail jobs during my youth from local grocery store, to a toy store, to fashion boutiques. All of them were small businesses with an interesting assortment of hands-on owners. So I understand how difficult and boring these jobs can be. But the owners of this type of business need to understand both their customer and their staff.
As a marketer I have a new perspective of these jobs and their role in marketing a brand. The people that are in your stores are not just sales people or cashiers. They are the living breathing version of your brand. Every single time a customer comes into contact with your brand they leave with a perception of that brand – whether they buy something at your store or NOT.
This is particularly important in a slow economy. Customers have a choice and those that treat their customers and staff well should weather things long term. Pushy, gossiping, upselling, policy pushing, corporate robots can do a lot of harm for your business. Training and managing staff is hard work, but it is a core part of your marketing plan. They need to understand your brand and your priorities. And it shouldn’t just be SELL more product.
This seems like Sales 101, but a few things I’ve learnt…
- Not all customers WILL buy from you.
I had a boss that was convinced that you could sell something to every single person who came into her store. She was a very fashionable boutique situated in a trendy ‘lets hang out and wander around on a Sunday’ part of town. These people were NOT actually shopping. They might buy something on impulse, but generally they were not going to drop $400 on a dress. These people did not react kindly to the high pressure sales tactics we were told to use. So as an employee I was constantly getting cranky customers telling me they were ‘just looking’ as soon as they came into the store. The owner was well known for her tactics and locals knew to enter the store with their guard up and ‘no thank you’ at the ready. I wasn’t pushy enough as a sales person so I didn’t last long, but then again neither did her business.
You need to know who your customer is and adjust your sales pitch accordingly. Not all customers are the same. Most would like to be greeted warmly and then allowed to look around. Staff should be approachable and helpful. While they may not buy this time, if you leave them with a poor taste in their mouth they certainly WON’T be back to buy next time.
- The upsell is more than just annoying.
I personally hate shopping at stores where you instantly know the staff has been trained in the ‘upsell’. I’m shopping for jeans and they say “have you checked out our accessories which are half off today?” Sure once in a while it works when you have found a dress you love and the staff suggest an interesting piece that matches it. But most staff doesn’t know when to use the upsell to make it relevant to their customers.
The problem here might be that most staff doesn’t have time to actually service these days. And it annoying to essentially have no service until you get to the cash and then a (unseen until now) staff person starts making suggestions. This makes me think of “would you like fries with that?” And I can imagine you don’t like your store being compared to fast food.
As a business you are meeting a need – this is sales 101. If your staff is well trained they need to get to know your customer a bit, so they can make suggestions that meet that need. Then when an opportunity exists they can recommend a little something extra to a customer. The customer will appreciate this added value. And your brand will benefit in the long run.
- Your store isn’t a water cooler.
We have all experienced the store where the staff are gossiping with each other or are on their cell phone chatting with a friend. I know it can get boring working in retail. But if a customer is in the store they really don’t need to hear your latest gossip. By all means don’t do the reverse and stalk the customer around the store. But understand that you are reflecting on the business and its brand reputation.
To be honest owners are often the worst. They are trying to get business done while working in the store. And I’ve heard some pretty heated discussions between owners and staff or suppliers. To me this reflects very badly on your brand. If you treat your employees and partners with that much disrespect in front of your customers - I can only assume what you say or do when we aren’t there. Have an office for your work phone calls and bring in some staff to support your time in the office. The extra hard cost will be worth the potential damage to your business.
- Are your staff properly trained in corporate policy as well as common sense?
How many bad PR stories have we seen recently where poorly trained staff used ‘corporate policy’ to support a bad decision. H&M in Vancouver had such an incident where a staff person tried to get a nursing mom to move to a quiet room to nurse. The corporate policy was to have a room available in case a mother wanted privacy. But that poorly trained person told the mother she had to move it was ‘policy’. H&M got national press and a ‘nurse in’ the next week (although I was impressed how H&M head office handled the poor press). To be honest I’m not surprised that someone at H&M got it wrong. All my experiences there lately have made me wonder if some of their staff members have any brains at all.
All staff needs to be well trained in corporate policy. But you also need to hire people with enough common sense to think through a situation and adjust accordingly. Each and every sales staff member is a potential spokesperson for your company. They can’t just look good. They need to think too!
- Your staff needs to care.
I know how much customers can get ridiculed by staff. And a customer can tell when a corporate environment considers this appropriate behavior. You can tell when the staff just doesn’t give a crap. Think about an episode of The Office. They don’t really care about their customers. They are just sales to them. This speaks volumes about your brand. Treat people like individuals and valued customers. And they will likely become repeat and valued customers.
Wednesday, September 2, 2009
My real life BFF lives across the country. And finding that true new Mom BFF is harder than getting a dance in the 7th grade. So what to do?????? I decided to accept applications.
New Friend Application Form
Just like any good yet useless magazine survey, please answer the following questions as truthfully as possible. See the answer guide to see if you might fit the profile of a new friend for me. If yes, then please apply in the comments below.
1 – Are you a perfect parent?
If you answered yes please proceed directly to the bonus question as I can’t be the only imperfect one in a friendship.
2 – Which best describes you?
a) Stay at home mom
b) Work at home mom
c) Mom Entrepreneur
d) Work outside the home
e) Not a parent
There is no correct answer here. Just gives me an idea if you will be available for play dates during the week or weekends. Or if it is best to reach you on twitter around midnight?
3 – How would you describe your sense of humour?
a) Give me a glass a wine and I’ll laugh at anything
b) Sarcasm is my friend
c) Life is funny
d) An episode of “I Love Lucy”
e) Black comedy
f) Left my sense of humour in the maternity ward
If you picked (f) I’m not sure how you got this far into this ‘tongue & cheek’ application.
4 – Please indicate your favourite obsession?
f) Do I have to pick just one?
g) None of the above
If you picked ‘none of the above’ thank you for completing this application, but the position has been filled by a more qualified candidate.
5 – A friend’s child does something embarrassing in public. You?
b) Share your friends horror/shame/embarrassment
c) Check to make sure kid is okay - then laugh with your friend when the kid isn’t looking
d) RT the story on Twitter later
e) Tell a story about how your child did the same thing when….
f) Buy her a book in child behaviour
My first reaction is usually to laugh – sometimes I check that the kid is okay first. But happy to entertain new friends who answered all but (f) and (g).
6 – Do you do any of the following?
a) Cloth diaper
c) No sugar diet for kids
d) Let kids watch TV
e) Attachment parent
g) Home school
If you are like me this answer doesn’t matter. You parent the way you feel is right for you and we will share our stories and experiences as we both learn along the way.
7 – Do you use any of the following?
All answers are considered okay, but if you answered only (a) or (G) you might be a bit hard to understand when I share my latest escapades in parenting with a RT to a blog with a flickr photo album.
8 - Do you play cards or board games?
Not a deal breaker for me. But my hubbie would LOVE if I had more friends that like a good night of canasta, euchre or poker.
9 – Who is your favourite Doctor?
Any woman who answers any of the 10 Doctors to date (can’t count the 11th yet as his episodes haven’t aired yet) IS a friend of mine. And if you didn’t know this was a Doctor Who question I can forgive you, as this was just a bonus question.
If you feel you fit the bill to be my new Mum BFF, please apply in the comment section below. If you feel I have gone too far with this application process you are free to opt out.
Please note that only those selected for a wine/chocolate/shopping filled interview will be contacted.
Tuesday, August 25, 2009
I read a great blog by Fiona Walsh this week talking about Sending your Business to Your Competition. She makes a great point… “There is no point in spending a ton of money on marketing unless you make sure you deliver on what you promise. If you don’t meet customer expectations, they will tell others and they will move over to the competition.”
I believe in 360 degree marketing and that at every touch point you can disappoint a customer’s expectations of your brand. And everyday I see a problem that goes deeper than just meeting minimum customer expectations. After 2 years of navigating a stroller through all sorts of stores I wonder how so many businesses miss it. Can your customers actually get into and around your business?
It seems an easy question to me. Unfortunately for a lot of Vancouver area business’ the answer is no. So many are worried about cramming as much merchandise and displays into their business that they forget about the actual customers. They forget that not all their customers walk into their stores. They forget the customer experience isn’t just whether the store looks pretty and the staff is friendly. If I can’t easily navigate around your store chances are I WON’T shop there anymore.
This issue applies to a wide range of the Canadian population including: families with strollers; people with disabilities who use wheelchairs or need guide dogs; and the elderly population who may need a cane or walker. And in some cases I wonder how able bodied people walk through some of these stores.
Some questions to ask yourself?
- Are your aisles big enough for 2 of your store carts to pass each other without incident?
- So you have an automatic door button that allows people with disabilities to enter your store. But can they navigate a walker or a wheelchair around your ‘wonderful’ aisle displays?
- Do you have stock sitting in your aisles waiting to go onto your shelves? \
- Your business is focused on appealing to families. Can a stroller fit through your aisles? In fact, can it get past the stairs entering your business.
- Do your staff look annoyed when someone is trying to navigate a stroller around your aisles?
- Does your store need an elevator? Where is it? And does is big enough for a stroller and a parent? Better yet does it fit a double stroller AND a parent?
This isn’t just a small business problem. It applies to the big and small guys. London Drugs is notorious for those great in-aisle displays. My local dollar store aisle’s barely fit one of their own carts and then they leave boxes of merchandise in the aisles – I only go there as a last resort. Superstore has one way only traffic in their chips/soda aisle because of the large pop displays. And a local kid’s store has a step up to its front door. Sure I can lift my single stroller up that one step – but should I have to?? Or the Bay who puts some of their clothing racks so close together not even a child can walk between them.
There are those that get it right. A small local kid’s consignment store has the aisles organized to fit a side by side double stroller. A busy Granville Island store full of funky art, jewelry and household items approached me as I entered with my stroller and said to let her know if I had any problems navigating the crowds. She’d be happy to help. And a neighbourhood café has a spot set aside for strollers and lots of room to navigate it between the tables. There are always families at their café. And we walk the extra block to get visit them – right past their competition.
If you are wondering why customers in your store always seem grumpy and your traffic numbers are down. Take a closer look at your aisles and ask yourself a few questions.