Sunday, June 2, 2024

Wisdom: Meeeee

One year older... 365 days wiser? 

Totally debatable. 

When I first thought about this (Women and Wisdom) project, about a year ago, I had no idea what the next 12 months would bring. (Probably that's normal, why would I assume otherwise?) But I guess I was anticipating a slower, gentler year than the one previous, because THAT was a ride. Haha. That was just the pre-game show. 

And while I thought maybe I'd have some wisdom to share, just like my friends (I'm hoping to post at least another dozen entries by the end of the summer...) now that I've typed out my responses I'm not sure any of this could be classified as wisdom. (Insert woman with shoulders shrugged emoji). 

My hope in doing this (sharing my story, as well as my friends' stories) is that maybe someone who needs to be encouraged because their life is a pill at the moment ... will be hopeful about the future. And, despite the challenges and hurts and loneliness, there will be joy and surprising moments. Old age is nothing to fear. 

I've been on an extended, work-related, unpaid medical leave since early January. My doc calls it one thing, my therapist/counsellor calls it another. The books I'm reading refer to it by something else. All I know is I'm a bit of a broken mess these days. 

I'm doing All The Things one is supposed to do but the process is taking too long for my liking, and I'd like to accelerate my journey on this road to restoration. But Time will tick along at 60 seconds per minute no matter how badly I want to speed things up. And Time is what it's going to take to fix the bits that're wonky. 

With that disclaimer in mind, here are my answers to the questions I've been been asking everyone. My responses may change as the old Jane resurfaces through the muck ... (?) (or maybe a totally new Jane 2.0 will immerge?) in which case, I'll update this in a couple months. But for now, for what it's worth, this is real, this is just how smart I am, or amn't. 

What would I say to a younger version of me?

I'd tell 16 year old Jane to find a physical activity that makes her sweat and brings her joy. Reading, doing cross-stitch, making macrame hangers, and going shopping are gonna give her a big butt and squishy gut. (I'm 100% certain that trim/fit teenaged Jane won't heed this advice.)

I'd tell 26-year old Jane to chill out re: babies. She'll have a couple more, and despite her fears,  she'll manage to get them all to adulthood. Their cries don't mean she's terrible at this.

I'd give 38-year-old Jane a long hug and tell her it's gonna be ok. The coming years will be about as challenging as she's expecting, BUT there will be so much joy and relief and peace and love and fun and friendships and travel and surprises... She needs to know that. Her divorce isn't The End.

What makes my life meaningful?

  • Relationships.     
  • Service.
  • Being in that sweet spot. 

My life is meaningful because of the relationships I have. First one being, (and this is the Sunday School answer) my faith/my belief in a God who loves me. THAT is my defining relationship, and everything else comes from that. And immediately after that, kids (obvs), the rest of my fam, my friends, work mates, random people I meet who touch my life ... 

The second thing? Is the opportunity to do something that makes a difference to someone. There's a bit of a feel-good rush that comes after I've done a selfless thing. 

And lastly (for now. This list could get longer as I get older) ... my life feels good when I'm totally present in the now moment and I know I'm exactly where God wants me to be. I'm doing what He created me to do; from working at my desk, to managing projects, or encouraging a team of creatives, or connecting with someone over coffee, dinner, art projects, or, or being with a son under a mind-blowing sky unexpectedly exploding with Northern Lights... All of these things bring meaning and contentment.

My mentors? People who've inspired me? 

  • Judy. She was the owner of Hobby Hut, and my first ever boss. She hired a 16 year old shy, inexperienced girl, encouraged her to try crafty things, believed she was smart enough to do all the retail things, and celebrated all her wins. It was because of my experience at this first job, that I changed my mind about becoming a teacher and decided I wanted to go into marketing management. I wanted to do something with creative people. And ten years later, Billie's Country was born.
  • Brian Friesen, Doug Remple, Mary Peters. They too, gave a quiet teen confidence to use her voice in the church she grew up in. Each one of them gave me opportunities and encouragement to lead in various capacities.
  • My mom and her friends. They were role models in that all of them had careers AND raised families. (In most cases they worked/started their own businesses not out of necessity, but rather a desire to use their talents and gifts in meaningful ways outside of their homes.) I have worked non-stop since my 16th birthday; they normalized this for me. 
  • Steve Brown and Derek Rogusky. Steve is hands down The Definitive Servant Leader. Working with/for him at Arrow was eye opening (life changing), the absolute best experience. I want to be more like Steve when I grow up. And Derek was one of my six bosses at Focus. His leadership style changed me. He led with grace, he invested in my journey, encouraged and believed in me when I had lost confidence. He made me feel like a hero. I lead the way I do because he led the way he did.
  • Melanie, Wendy, Sitawa, Glennda ... women in leadership. I watched and learned. And have been so, so grateful for their influence. 
  • Due to a severe lack of divorced single moms in my life, I limped my way along the parenting journey by watching and learning how married moms were doing it. So thank you, friends (dozens and dozens of you) and family (my dad, Val and Julie, specifically) for coming along side, investing in me and the Obros, and inviting me watch y'all parent with a front row seat. 
What do I like about being this age? 

I've gotten used to my face. 
(Wrinkles are a kinder facial flaw than acne.)
Freedom to do The Things. (Things I want to do, things I'm called to do, things I'm passionate about.)
Having a solid sense of who I am. 
I'm kinder, more patient and extend more grace than I did when I was younger. At this rate I'm gonna be a friggen saint in 20 years. 

What I am looking forward to:
  • Summer. 
  • Heaven

(and watching my boys continue to grow into the men they were created to be.)

Greatest Fear(s)?

My greatest fear is that the people I love will never believe that God loves them unconditionally, created them uniquely, tries to get their attention daily, and wants an eternal relationship with them desperately. 

Also dementia. 

Three Big Highlights?

  1. Becoming a mom; it's my favorite role and my favorite name, "mom". I didn't want babies because I loved babies... I wanted babies because that's how you start/build a family. And families are the bomb. Ever since I was a young girl I looked forward creating a family. I've used the word mom, babies and family way too many times in this paragraph. 
  2. Creationfest summers hold very special memories. The heat, the music, the people, the river ... ALL OF IT, so very very good. 
  3. Farm memories. Growing up on 25 acres in Surrey was The Best, The Funnest, The Healthiest, The Sweetest environment to play on, learn from, mature on. But what makes it even better is that it's a magical place in my kids' memories as well. THEIR childhood is also deeply steeped in that plot of cow-shit soaked land too. 
  4. Yeah, I can't count; math isn't my jam. There will be more than three highlights. Another highlight is the traveling experiences I've unexpectedly been given the opportunity to participate in. Europe, New York, Montreal, London, Vietnam, Cambodia, Japan, Italy, Portugal, Palm Springs, Florida, Colorado, Hawaii ... each trip changed me a teensy bit and I'm grateful to all my travel mates (friends and family) who've put up with my snoring in cities around the world. 
  5. Cabin memories... Since 1994 we've had a place at Cultus Lake. Time spent there is always a highlight for me. From those early years when, on summer weekends, we'd pull into the side yard, swing the gate open and the chain would rattle, signaling our arrival ... and the neighbour kids (our summer friends) would come running over to greet us and hang out. To 2024 when Max and I watched the Northern Lights on the lake shore, and Clint and I sat around the fire for a few hours, watching for shooting stars. These precious moments are highlights. 

So Jane, any challenges? Life changing events? Didja learn anything? 

Life was boring and predictable and lovely up until I turned 38. And then every day after that felt like an extreme sport with non-stop learning experiences. 

Let's start with the big one: Divorce ... (both mine, years ago, and now Drew's)
I learnt that relationships are fragile. That the pain of divorce/death of a marriage lingers a long time and is felt by extended family members too. I learnt that loving someone is a decision. I learnt that I can eat my lunch by myself. (Eagles, "Already Gone".) And I guess the most important lesson, is that God is my strength when I am weak. (Weak, scared, ill-equipped, overwhelmed, unprepared, alone, heartbroken, rejected ...) I learnt that a marriage-minded Mennonite momma CAN have a rich, full, exciting, satisfying life as a single woman.

The other challenge was watching someone I loved spiral and disappear into a life ruled by a drug addiction. The fear was crippling. (Is he going to die?) The prayers were incessant. (Please God; protect and save him.) The self-blame/guilt was crushing. (This is my fault. I'm a horrible mother.) I learnt that God is bigger. And that there is life after addiction. It does not have to define you forever. Those who struggle can and do get better. 

And my last challenge, also a D word, is diagnosis's. My dad's dementia diagnosis was an absolute gut punch that rocked my world in a sad way. My cancer diagnosis was a potential death sentence, (drama queening again) which forced me to think about the fragility of life. And now my brother and brother-in-law's cancer diagnosis's are bringing us to our knees. God is the author of our lives; we will not live one day longer or one hour less than He has determined. 

Thoughts on Beauty?

From my years of photographing people, I've realized you can't take a bad pic of a happy person. 
Do whatever dental work is required so you can smile confidently. 

Being comfortable in your own skin is mega sexy.

Have a hair stylist you trust. Tip her well. 

Aim for 'healthy' as being your perfect size. 

Eyebrows are more important than you might think.

Wear a bra that lifts your girls off your belly. 

Kindness is beautiful.

General Wisdom; any topic:

  • Don't be easily offended. Toughen up. 
  • Have a friendship group that includes women of different backgrounds, different ages, different (or no) faiths ... 
  • Always be open to learning about and learning from the people in your life.
  • Live your best life about 5 days a week. It can be exhausting, so give yourself a break and be a slug some days.
  • Live within your means. Put 10% into an RRSP. Give at least 10% away. 
  • If you're a woman, and you're not married by the time you're 40 - get a good government job that has great benefits and a full pension. You *may still find your Prince Charming, but just in case he's lost on some highway in Kansas, be prepared to look after yourself. 
  • If he's married, do not befriend him. 
  • Make peace with God. 
  • Pray. Or if that's too hard, just talk to Him. 
  • Hire a cleaning lady. She needs the money and you need to spend less time worrying about floors and toilets.
  • One of the greatest gifts you can give your children is an empty garage, cleaned out closets, a spotless basement and an un-used crawl space. Leaving all your treasures for them is not a gift. It's a burden. 
  • No one is going to love your collections (Precious Moments, Hummels, Wooden Dolls, Spoons, Guns, Hot Wheels, Stamps, Coins) as much as you do. These are not financial investments. Be OK with giving it all away at some point. 
  • When's the last time you did something for the first time? Keep trying new things. 
  • Don't take a checked suitcase to Europe. 
  • Get 8 hours of sleep. In a row. 


Flower - Snapdragons and peonies

Snacks - LoveHearts, SweetTarts, Rockets, Warm-from-the-oven cheese biscuits with butter melting on top, Honey Crisp Apples; peeled and quartered, leftovers, frozen milk chocolate, mango slices. 

Favorite Christmas Memory - 2021, I had a treasure hunt for my kids (as per usual) but this year it was in my new condo... from the garage to the mail room to the elevators, to the garbage room. I had just moved in a few weeks earlier and it was fun using the entire building. Usually I make up clues; this time I gave them keys, fobs, and cards.  

Favorite Song - Footloose. (Kenny Loggins) The Chain (Fleetwood Mac) December (Collective Soul) Every song recorded in the '80's. Any and almost all worship songs. How Great Thou Art. Theme song right now is Hallelujah Anyway (Rend Collective).  

Favorite City - I have three; Vancouver. Palm Springs and The Algarve.

Favorite Verse/ Quote - "For such a time as this ..." (Esther 4:14)
Bloom where you're planted.
Psalm 37 is meaningful to me during this season.

Activity that brings joy: being with my boys is #1, but a close second is sitting on a beach, on a sunny day, with a good book and a basket of snacks. Annnnd, I also get joy from sitting around with friends - from dinners, to coffee-talks, to rock-drop walks, to movie nights, to crafting around my table, to reading weekends. Annnnd, I love putting stamps on envelopes/sending cards. Haha. 
(see what I mean? How is this wisdom?)

Surprising Moments
  • Well that third pregnancy was the best surprise ever. 
  • Being invited to join a writing group came right out of left field... and then the whole blogging thing? Totally surprising. 
  • Doing a house swap during the summer of 2010 (and spending a month in England) was so, so unexpected. 
  • Finding myself in the driver's seat of a motorhome, (my own personal Barbie camper) that I'd rented, filled with a dozen teenaged boys, and not near enough food. The part that was surprising was it didn't tip over - which I was sure was going to be the outcome.
  • Painting my first mandela rock was an absolute unexpected joy. 
  • The act of buying a condo, (and for the first time in my life planning on living entirely by myself.) I didn't anticipate the unexpected flood of emotions I had to sort through with that decision. And no is more surprised than me by how much I love living here. 
  • The first phone call I received from my British actor/screen-crush, Jonas, long distance from India to me at the lake. I was thrilled (and paralyzed with frozen-blonde-brain) x 1000. That was a fun surprising moment.
  • Random, but very welcome opportunity to rent my condo to the Hallmark people as the setting for their new movie. THAT was surprising, but so was the hug from the lead actor/producer, and the invitation to stick around and watch the filming. 

Actually, as I think about this, every good thing that's happened since Mark left has been surprising. I don't know why, but seeing I'd had such a good run up until I turned 38, I guess I was prepared for everything to go downhill from there. But it hasn't. One good thing after another, just keep surprising me. 

If your life is falling apart/not turning out as you planned, know that some of your best days are still ahead. Truly. 



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