6 Lessons Learned #onthecampaigntrail

When people ask what I do/did for work, a lot of people seem surprised when I told them I worked at Queen’s Park in provincial politics. I’m sure a lot of people wonder, “How the heck does someone go about getting into a job like that?” The saying ‘Luck is when preparation meets opportunity” couldn’t be more true than the last four years of my career. I was in the right place at the right time with the right skillset that was needed. And it just happened to be in politics.

I was so honoured to serve in this capacity – serve the public and my agriculture community, using my communications skills to serve a man in politics who I was extremely proud to represent in the agriculture, food and rural affairs portfolio. This pride was evident when I made the decision to move back home to Peterborough this past May/June after my maternity leave, to help in the re-election campaign of the Minister I served, Jeff Leal. And thus began my #ONTHECAMPAIGNTRAIL journey that I shared on social media.

My campaign experience (and really, my time as a political staffer) was once-in-a-lifetime, simply because of the team of people we had. I shared my journey on social media to try and show the fun, quirky side to the campaign but also share the honest hard work, long hours and realities that are faced by volunteers when working a political campaign. And ultimately, to show people a ‘behind the scenes’ of what politics/campaigns really look like so more people know there actually is a real-life ‘West Wing.’

Disclaimer: I’ve never watched the full series of West Wing to know what exactly goes on, I’ve just been told I was the equivalent of C.J. Cregg 

And I speak so positively about the entire experience, despite the outcome on E-day, June 7th. Which was not favourable for us. Simply put, the voters practiced their democratic right and told us what they wanted. And it wasn’t our team. Despite that, I learned so much. I had 50 lessons I shared #onthecampaigntrail but I figured that may be too many to share for one blog post, so I narrowed it down to 6 lessons I wanted to share from the campaign:

  1. Respect means everything – My campaign experience was incredible because the voters were incredible. Full stop. The people of Peterborough were respectful, kind and cordial, even if they told us they weren’t voting for us. I was amazed at how many people knew about the election, knew of the candidates and the work that had been done for their city by Jeff. It was refreshing to see a city so engaged in politics and care so much for the people serving them. And yes, I was proud to not have one door slammed in my face during the campaign #goals. But in all seriousness, the same can be said for my time spent at Queen’s Park. Being respectful to anyone and everyone, regardless of party colour or role, is a simple yet smart tactic to use not only as a staffer, but as a human being.

  2. Nothing will replace face-to-face interactions with people – As much as I love social media, there is nothing more engaging then hearing what voters had to say in person and reading their body language (especially as I approached them with the red shoes I wore door knocking!) The conversations I had with voters were simply the best. I really wish that everyone had the opportunity to door knock on a campaign at least once in their lifetime. There is really no interaction like it – when you’re trying to keep things light while you’re bringing up something that a lot of people dread talking about = politics.

  3. There is no place like home – Rediscovering the city I grew up near, was magic. Walking the streets I’ve drove down so many times growing up; learning the rich history of the city (former Canadian Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson once lived in Peterborough!); seeing the beautiful architecture, details and stories of the homes; and taking in the nature trails, waterfront and landmarks made the long hours of door knocking so enjoyable. Peterborough, you really are a beautiful city and gem to live in.

  4. If you love what you do, you won’t work a day in your life – Moving away from Blake and Andrew for three weeks wasn’t easy at first but doing the work I was doing with the team, made everything so much easier. Having the purpose and mission we had to represent a candidate that was so widely-respected made the long days bearable. I was so thankful for the technology we have so I could connect with Blake every night on FaceTime (and remind him what his mama looked like!). And an additional perk was that this was the longest time I had spent at home on the farm since before University 

  5. Small things make the biggest difference – Brewing coffee with your team in the mornings; picking up a sprinkled donut at the local coffee shop to refuel when you needed the sugar rush; finding a free book that you love, in a library on the front lawn of a voter’s house; seeing your campaign ad in the local newspaper; watching a young person interview your candidate; seeing your Premier knock it out of the park in a TV debate #SorryNotSorry; taking the time to stop to celebrate Blake’s first birthday during the campaign –  small moments like these kept things light-hearted at times when I needed to be reminded most that life will go on regardless of the outcome.

  6. Your dreams are bigger than you – And finally, by far my greatest lesson learned was watching Jeff Leal, our candidate on the campaign trail.  Watching a person of such integrity and commitment work the long hours he did, all for the sole purpose of wanting to make a positive difference in his community, reignited my passion for public service. There is a reason we have people in public office to represent us. To serve us. To uphold our democracy. To try and make our communities better places to live all for our benefit. If our public servants are motivated by the right morals and act from the right place in their heart, you only want to work harder for them. Canvassing and knocking on doors with Jeff opened my eyes to how much of a difference one person can make in the lives of others. He knew everyone – all of the small details, and he genuinely cared for each and every person he visited with. I wanted to work hard for him and succeed because of him. It didn’t seem like work, it felt like an honour. At the end of the day, while he wasn’t re-elected, I am certain that everyone in Peterborough respects him. They respected what he did for the city of Peterborough and are thankful for the time he gave as their MPP for 15 years. Working for a man of integrity & commitment who betters the lives of others made the outcome hard to understand but, I would do it all again. It was an absolute honour, Jeff. Thank you for allowing me to serve on the team.

One of the most common questions I got after the election loss was “Do you at least still have a job?” And sadly, no. All 400 political staffers lost their job as well that day on June 7th. But its something I’ve come to terms with. What’s the saying? “When one door closes, another one opens.”

The lessons I learned not only on the campaign trail, but as a political staffer over the last four years will be lessons I’ll take with me personally and professionally forever. Thank you to the party members, MPP’s, fellow staffers, media, personnel, kitchen staff, ministry staff, #OntAg stakeholders and to the legislature herself. It was a time, QP. This isn’t the end, politics.

One final thought from the campaign trail that couldn’t be more true for the times we’re living in but really, a reminder for life: Lose with dignity & never stop fighting for what you believe in.

Make sure to check back this week as I have some big, exciting news to share! 

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Why #IWD2018 is Different This Year

Empowered. Powerful. Unstoppable. Unique. Confident. Brave. Motivated. Creative. Inspired. Different. Honest. These words on my shirt in the picture above couldn't sum up more perfectly, what today is all about.

This year's International Women's Day feels different for me.

Its probably because since last year when we celebrated #IWD2017, I have since become a mom and am now raising a boy. Some days, the task of motherhood can seem daunting. To know I am raising a child that will go out in the world, makes me want to do more than I know is possible - to help foster a world that when Blake grows up, he is proud of. A positive place that will leave him with endless possibilities and limited barriers.

Why do I talk about Blake on a day like International Women's Day?

Its because today in particular, I am so grateful for being a woman, becoming a mom, and in particular, being a mom to a boy in hopes that one day when he's old enough, he too will empower women.

Today, I am celebrating what we collectively have done as women, including the powerful women before us that blazed the trail. Today, I am celebrating everything we CAN do as women and ARE doing and what the men around us CAN do to help and ARE doing to help. I'm choosing to not look at the obstacles ahead, and instead, today I celebrate why I am able to reach my goals as a woman. And how, through living that reality, it will help to teach Blake the utmost respect and equality for the women in his life.

I have 7 things in particular that I want to acknowledge and be grateful for on a day like today. These things allow me to be able to do this new thing called parenthood while also being a working woman:

  • A strong partner who is firm in who he is, believes in everything I do and is strong in his conviction as seeing us as equal partners and parents. Andrew's commitment in wanting me to be the best version of myself and pursue my dreams is why I continue to push boundaries and do what I love. Thank you Andrew for loving me for who I am #WontheHusbandLottery
  • We never know what type of baby we'll get (after all that planning, come on! ha) but I am so thankful that Blake has allowed me to do what I have done since he arrived 9 months ago (and yes I admit, some days, it has seemed a bit crazy). I'm thankful that Blake travels well, is a happy baby and has allowed me to get back on my feet quickly. He has been there through the 'happy' and also the days of tears as I've learned just what it meant to figure this crazy new 'mom world' out. He thankfully can't judge me (yet!) but he's never cared if I've put on mismatching socks on him, sang off tune way too loud or sounded weird when I talk to him. He just loves me. There is nothing better than that and boy, am I grateful for his affection and warm smiles when I've needed them most.
  • A supportive family has provided me with the love and help when I've needed it or when I've asked for it. They've allowed me to fit into my "new mom shoes" on my own terms and at my own pace. I am so fortunate that these are my 'peeps' who just get me and who have shown Blake, in a short time, just what true family is all about.
  • Something I would have never thought of before a child, but quality, affordable childcare (aka. our babysitter Brooke, thank you Brooke!) has been something I have never taken for granted. Finding that person who just 'gets' your child and is always there when you need them is a true treasure.
  • My friends, colleagues, industry associates, my network, groups, boards, sponsors and mentors who, whether female or male, have engaged in the gender parity conversation and are always looking for solutions. I've never felt like since becoming a mom, I've had to sacrifice who I am because of gender expectations and my new found role with a child. These people have never made me feel bad for a being a mom, they've allowed me to embrace it and love it while I follow my passions. Thank you to these people for helping me continue to be me :)
  • Small things that I may not have appreciated before a baby but now, I treasure. Things like accessible coffee shops and stores for baby strollers (right, Lyns?!), random strangers that stop and ask about the baby or hold open a door, salespeople who offer to hold your baby (yes I know, they're complete strangers!), flexible work schedules, support through social media, or emails and calls from friends - these small gestures have meant the world.
  • And most importantly, self care. Its something over the past year that I've learned to take way more seriously. I realize now, it was definitely something I neglected in the past. I've embraced the oxygen mask analogy of "put your mask on first before you take care of others." There is something so healthy about taking care of yourself first so you can give your BEST self to the world. Coffee dates by yourself, reading a book outside, getting a pedicure or massage, making a tasty homemade smoothie, taking a walk or hitting the gym - self care is truly the best medicine of all.

To say I have a full heart on this International Women's Day is an understatement. I am grateful for the opportunities I've been afforded; the paths I've been able to venture down; what I've been able to say and contribute; and the people I've been profoundly impacted by. I hope I am doing the same for my fellow women (and men).

To my fellow women who are out there pushing boundaries, doing your thing, and just enjoying being yourself (you bada$$ women!!), YOU ROCK. And to all the men out there helping us women #pressforprogress, THANK YOU for being equal partners.

Happy #IWD2018 :)

Motivated by Inspiration #AskHerToRun

I have a new found love relationship with Saturday’s. Saturday’s, for some time, have been my least favourite day of the weekend. I love the feeling that Friday night’s give me of the excitement for the weekend ahead. And if you’re a regular reader, you know I love my Sunday’s, period.

It wasn’t until recently that I’ve tried to learn to re-love my Saturday morning’s – whether it is taking in a quiet morning with Blake and a cup of coffee; walking through the dairy barns back home on the farm; listening to the Top 40 countdown at the cottage; or attending an event that tugs on my inner nerd personal development heart strings - I’m slowly learning to fall back in love with my Saturday’s.

This past weekend, I attended the first-ever #Guelph Women’s Campaign school, aimed at enticing women to learn more about politics, especially municipal politics, with the goal of motivating more women to run in politics. It was my type of Saturday morning– a little early morning action to talk politics surrounded by like-minded women #MyJam.

It was a day full of learning with so many great key messages and take-aways, and such tangible resources were shared for those interested in potentially running in politics and/or those who want to help support more women to run.

To say I left inspired by my profession of politics and motivated to want to do more is an understatement.

When the sold-out room of 50+ women were asked, "who was interested in running in the upcoming Ontario municipal election?", more than 15+ women stood up. The other half of the room stood up when asked if they wanted to help a fellow women run. Throughout the day, we shared ideas on why more women should run in politics, how campaigns work, what the rules are that govern something like a municipal election, and talked communications strategies. It was a brilliant day for those who may know nothing about the political process or for those who needed that little bit of kick ass inspiration to push them to run.

My 4 big key takeaways from the day were:

  • It is healthy to attend events like this, even if you think you know everything about politics. You never truly stop learning about the political process. It is an asset to understand how our political processes work at all levels of government.
  • The proper campaign has purpose – platform – people – and a plan.
  • Find your reason WHY to run – it the basis, foundation and purpose for everything you do in politics (it also reminded me to re-read Simon Sinek’s ‘Start With Why’).
  • Men are assets for women and want to help and support us in being successful, if we ask for their help in the first place. It was why the hashtag #AskHimToHelpHerRun was started the day of our event!

It was one of those Saturday’s that reminded me of why I chose to work in politics - why I am so passionate about wanting to make a difference in public service and the lives of other especially now that I have a son.

It was a Saturday that gave me all the feels – I left motivated to want to do more, thanks to the inspiration that a room full of brilliantly smart and motivated women left me with. A special note of thanks to Ashley, Maureen and Alicia for a super fun Saturday together 😉

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Small Gestures, Big Impact #BellLetsTalk

On a day like today, where we celebrate #BellLetsTalk day, it’s one day of the year where we are reminded to share both the good and bad around mental health.

Today is dedicated to sharing our stories, so we’re not alone in the struggles we almost all face daily in keeping a healthy mental health. If we looked at mental health the way we looked at physical health, our world would certainly be a different place.

I wanted to share a story from last week in hopes that today, we can be reminded of the good.. the good stories, good moments, and good human beings that are out there, who help contribute positively to our mental health and well-being.

Two small moments last week that took place in my local Balzacs coffee shop reminded me of just how powerful small gestures can be in leaving a lasting impact... by complete strangers.

When I entered the coffee shop, I wasn’t surprised to see the place was packed.. buzzing with people meeting, writing, studying, reflecting. A mom in front of me in line had, what appeared to be a newborn baby and a young toddler.. and here, there were no tables or seats available for this busy mom to sit down and enjoy her coffee with her fam.

What happened next was a small yet subtle reminder that good people DO still exist. A man kindly stood up and offered to give up his table for the young mom. Thank god, good people really do exist. As a new mom who finds one baby a lot to handle, I was so appreciative for this man and his kind gesture for the mom who had her two hands full.

The second moment in the coffee shop was personal for me - one of the most random yet most powerful moments. A middle aged woman happened to come over to my table as I typed away (I was probably working on the ol’ blog!) and said how she didn’t want to appear weird but that she had noticed my smile, how infectious it was and how it lit up the room when I walked into the coffee shop.

What?

I didn’t know this lady. Hadn’t noticed her in the coffee shop. Nor had I even realized I was smiling?! Maybe I was smiling while I was writing and I didn’t even realize it?! I'll never know. I kindly thanked the lady and said how wonderful it was of her to come over and share something like that with me, as I blushed.

As she left, a wave of emotion came over me (it could be this new-found emotion that has come over me ever since having a baby, not quite sure?!) but I was reminded of just how amazing moments like that can completely transform your day. Just how amazing human beings can be and are.

How complete strangers can remind you of your most random qualities; how a random stranger can transform your mood in an instant; how a small moment or gesture like this can make you feel so connected to a complete stranger; and how your heart can feel so full over something that seems so trivial and small yet something that can be so powerful.

How a complete stranger can remind you, that despite all the negativity that appears to be going on in the world, good and positivity always prevails.

To the man who gave up his table and the lady whose compliment has etched a mark in my heart forever, thank you. Thank you for helping people you didn’t have too. Whose day you transformed. Whose mental health you helped without realizing.

What I hope to do on a day like today is pay it forward. While discussing mental health today, let's share everything - the good, the bad, the ugly - but let's also try and share the positive. Because that is just one of the many ways we can help contribute to this all so important conversation around mental health.

#BellLetsTalk

If you would like to speak to a professional, you can call Ontario's Mental Health Hotline 24/7 at 1-866-531-2600.

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Get Comfortable with the Uncomfortable

November has been an eventful month. Both unexpected and welcomed news relating to life and work has made being uncomfortable somewhat of a new norm.

Oh and just throw first-time parenthood into the mix.

I think this is something millennials get criticized for often. Perfectionism. Wanting to always do things ‘right’. Not wanting to fail. Not wanting to step outside of our comfort zones to deal with the uncomfortable. Our predecessors think this is unrealistic of us.

I say this is just human nature. We all want to be comfortable.

And the more I’m realizing, regardless of age or gender, people don’t like to be unconformable.

Its why:

  • We don’t leave our jobs, even if we may not like doing them.
  • We may talk about the same thing over and over again, because we are familiar with the content.
  • We like to eat the same thing for breakfast every morning, because it becomes part of our daily routine.
  • Its why we vote the same way every time, even though we may not understand why we really continue to vote for them.
  • Its why we continue to listen to the same music from the generation we grew up in and don’t welcome new music. (Its why I’ve also heard so many people say they don’t like Taylor Swift’s new album because people weren’t ‘expecting’ her new sound. I think its killer).

Its why a lot of people don’t go out on their own to pursue their side hustles full-time.

Becoming your own boss is a perfect example of being uncomfortable. Knowing you are inevitably the reason you fail or succeed is all on YOU. Yes, there are going to be times of being uncomfortable when you’re your own boss. Things like being turned down for opportunities, approaching new clients for work, not making what you had budgeted or ruffling some feathers from a tweet or post.

These are things I’m still learning to get better at accepting everyday. And the more books I read and the more conversations I have with people, the more I realize this is NORMAL.

Being comfortable gets you no where. Being too comfortable leads to complacency. Its why I love being a millennial because I think we’re pushing the boundaries. Some may think in a good way, others may think its too much. We’re talking about the things that previous generations found uncomfortable to talk about. We want to pursue change at a faster speed than most can handle. Remember, no great ideas or actions were done in a place of complacency or being comfortable. Steve Jobs said it perfectly when he said, “The people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do."

[Tweet "“The people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do." - Steve Jobs"]

The most healthy, successful, optimistic people, both in work and life, know to expect the unexpected. They are resilient to what comes their way, both good and bad, expected or unplanned. They've learned to roll with the punches. 

They are comfortable with being unconformable.

And sometimes, when we least expect it and we’re forced to deal with something that makes us more uncomfortable than we could have ever imagined, we surprise ourselves by how we handle it. We become comfortable with it. 

I’m learning to be better at being uncomfortable every. single. day. Try it with me.

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