A Blanket of Calmness & Clarity

This past weekend marked the first big snow fall of the season back at home on the farm and across much of Ontario. Who knew Ontario could (still) be host to this much snow early in December and -20 degree temperatures?! I thought this type of winter was something only my in-laws experienced in 'Winter-peg" Manitoba in December.

There is nothing better than being in the countryside to take in the first snowfall to unofficially mark the start of winter. Blake is in awe. You can see through his eyes, the newfound magic of seeing snow for the first time. The sounds he makes as he screams (in joy I hope?! ha) watching the white stuff fall has been one of the coolest things to experience with him. I am beginning to understand why parents say they get to relive everything over again when you watch and experience everything for the first time through your children's eyes.

There is something about the first snowfall of winter that I SO welcome. It is so calming; looking out of the window and seeing the snow settled on the ground, like a warm blanket comforting the earth.

Its reason #93746284758 to love living in Canada because I really do love the change in seasons. Each season provides just enough time for us to enjoy its welcomed differences from the last season, before we get bored with it and then all of a sudden, a new season is upon us. I love how different each season is; how each season renews us; and how each season allows us to do something completely different. Hard to believe only four months ago you could have found me on the water in a bathing suit on a dock and now we're zipped up in parkas in freezing cold temps.

I think that is the whole point of each new season - each season ushers in a different feeling for us.

For me, spring brings a fresh awareness of everything new around us; summer makes me want to relax; fall provides perspective and winter is for hibernation and much needed silence, calmness and reflection after a busy year.

Each year seems to get busier and busier, so winter and its calmness and clarity (and chance to catch up on sleep!) really are welcomed. Similar to the animal kingdom, it really is a time to hibernate by getting in our comfy clothes, watching more netflix, reading more books (that we've put off reading all year), eating all the treats our heart desires and spending time with our favourite people.

After the craziness of becoming a first time mom earlier this year, for some reason more than any other year, I am SO ready for this winter season. How about you?!

Taking a {Moment} to Pause

This fall has been one of a kind. Fall in the agriculture world (my daily profession) is always a busy time of year. Harvest, Fall fairs, Ontario Agriculture Week, AGM's and trade shows. Add a baby, some speaking gigs and travel (not to mention life!) into the mix and a whole new meaning to busy comes to mind.

I was on the road earlier this fall travelling here and there to attend events where I had the opportunity to speak and see industry colleagues, friends and even blog readers (hi Mary!).  This is something I have valued so much since becoming a mother - the opportunity to get out of the house and talk with others about things beyond motherhood. Don't get me wrong, I love being a new mom but there is nothing like keeping the brain stimulated beyond the baby talk of goo goo gagas and talking current events, agriculture or anything for that matter.

One thing I've also come to value and be more conscious of this fall is my use of social media.

Because social media is what I do for a living and the means to which I consume most of my news and keep in touch with people, I've wanted to ensure I'm using it with the best of intention. I don't want to find myself aimlessly scrolling through social channels *just because* especially now that Blake is here.

Having a child has also made me question everything I post on social media for fear of the unknown - could/if photos of your baby appear somewhere you (or they) never expected one day? Because we're writing the social media books as we speak (and they're ever-evolving!), its hard to know where pictures of your kids and content could surface. I'll be blogging more about this in coming weeks.

When smartphones were becoming a *thing* only a few short years ago, nothing bothered me more than watching someone at a public event have their face buried in their phone scrolling through their Facebook or Instagram channel. I didn't want to be that person. Heck, I entered the workforce at a time when the etiquette was to not even bring your phone(s) into meetings. That definitely dates me... and that wasn't even a decade ago (face palm)!

I've made two simple changes this fall that have really helped me disconnect when needed and feel like I'm in control of my social media and phone, not the other way around:

  1. I have disconnected my email account from my phone. Every time I want to check my emails now, I have to go to safari and log in to my account which makes it more time consuming to do, hence limiting how many times a day I check my emails. Also, not waking up every morning to that red bubble telling me the number of emails I have waiting for me before the day has even begun has felt transformational.
  2. I downloaded the Moment app to track my screen time usage. I have been able to see how much I use my phone and know which apps are the most time consuming. I have been able to set daily limits on how much I use my phone and it then sends me reminders before it locks me out of my phone if I've went beyond the limits I've set. Wild stat: the average person spends 4 hours a day on their smartphone! I know, crazy right?!

Having the independence away from my phone has been a mind game changer. Social media is an incredible tool if you use it to your advantage, not let it be all consuming.

[Tweet "Social media is an incredible tool if you use it to your advantage, not let it be all consuming."]

As a communications professional, you have to stay on top of the social media game in terms of what's new/trending and actively use platforms to engage. But you can do it in a strategic, manageable, less mind-numbing way. And, your smartphone data bill will thank you, I know mine sure has. Not to mention, a more healthy personal lifestyle will surely follow if your making memories and not documenting *every* personal detail of what you ate, wore, did while showcasing your selfie game for the millionth time. Unless of course, if that's how you making a living or its what you love doing, then social media it up!

Airplanes: A Destination for Silence

There aren't many places where you can now fully disconnect. Places where you can't access wifi and be hooked to the internet and your smartphone. Places where you can totally be #offline.

Thinking back to my first trip to Europe in 2009, I couldn't call home on my cellphone, let alone get a wifi signal to use my cell (notice I called it a cellphone not a smartphone, that dates me already!) That was less than a decade ago. Oh how technology has advanced in such a short period of time!

While in Europe, I had to go to Internet cafes or use pay phones with calling cards to call home to let my parents know I was safe and sound. I remember taking photos with my camera here and there at the most memorable tourist attractions but I couldn't be bothered with documenting my entire trip through the lens of my camera. I wanted to experience it all in person. And let's be serious, even if I wanted to document it all through the best filters and apps, my flip phone didn't even have the capabilities to take photos. God, I really am dating myself. 

Fast forward almost a decade later, and you can now connect almost anywhere in the world at any time of the day. They even now offer wifi on some planes which seemed like the last place we'd ever see access to internet introduced. I always thought it interfered with the airplane signals?! #GuessIwasWrong

On most flights where they now offer wifi, they at least have put a price tag to access wifi. Its a hefty price tag, but I am glad they put the price high so it discourages me to pay for internet. 

Here's why....

Airplanes are one of the last places where we can put boundaries or restrictions on using our smartphones and accessing social media. Its one of the last remaining places where we are guaranteed silence. Where we expect to be left alone. Its one of the last places where we are forced to sit alone with our thoughts... scary I know.

Its where you can read a book quietly or watch a movie... with no dings, no alerts, no vibrations.

On airplanes, I get some of my best ideas. Its where my creative juices get a flowin'. Its where I pull out pen and paper and write down blog post ideas, work on my editorial calendar, brainstorm content for upcoming presentations, process ideas and thoughts and let my mind wander. 

Its one of the best feelings.

I've come away from my recent trip visiting my in-laws in Manitoba with many blog posts written and random thoughts documented. Some samples from my most recent two hour personal brainstorm session plane ride?

  • Agriculture faces a re-branding challenge. I tweeted about this idea this week. Its one of the biggest challenges I believe we face in the industry I grew up in and love to work in. I'll be elaborating on this thought later this week when I serve on a Co-operators ag panel.
  • On the topic of agriculture, it just recently dawned on me that for the better part of my political career, I have been the minority. Working in agriculture in downtown Toronto, surrounded by consumers who don't know much about agriculture and farming is where I've realized I'm not the majority. When I was a kid growing up, I just naturally assumed everyone knew about farming because hey, that's what everyone did right?! Do those who work in agriculture sometimes forget, including me, that we aren't the majority anymore in the circles we need to be selling our industry too?! And are we comfortable being the minority?
  • Social media is changing the operational functions of customer service departments for companies and businesses. Both good and bad. I talked about this at a presentation I gave earlier this week from a customer service experience I witnessed on Twitter recently. Blog post written on this = check.
  • A 'Someday File' - we all have one. Places we'd like to travel too; things we want to buy; books we want to read; things we want to learn. What holds us back from doing any of it?! After reading more of Mark Manson's 'The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck' it got my mind racing on so many topics he writes about and my own 'someday file' and why I keep making lists but don't DO alot of them.

So many thoughts I know for a two hour flight :P So much writing, so little time. Also, here is to our first successful trip and plane ride with Blake. Thankfully it was a smooth ride and experience. Thanks little man for making this mom feel like she hit the baby jackpot #MotherWin 

Sunday's are for Thanks

Sunday’s for me are a day of reflection and for gratitude. I realize everyday we must be grateful but Sunday’s in particular allows us peace, calmness and clarity to see through the busyness of life to realize how fortunate we are. I think we all struggle with gratefulness in some form or another – especially in the social media age of keeping up with everyone's perfected instagrammed lives, it can be hard to keep our brains focused on what it is in our lives that is good.

For the first time in a while, we weren’t road warriors this weekend with Blake. We stayed put and enjoyed the things that we love about the city we live in. It made me appreciate the small things we did that had such a big impact on why our weekend was so awesome. Here is just a sample of our weekend that has me full of gratitude....

  • The best news from friends
  • Catch ups with friends by a fire outdoors, reminding us of the last few summer weekends we have
  • Free tomatoes from a stranger/neighbour down the road whose garden was too plentiful... something I think many gardeners experienced this year with their tomato crops
  • Trying this alternative version of a 7-layer dip from Alberta Milk that was super quick to make (still haven't tried it, its chilling in the fridge!) and a new chocoloate zucchini bread recipe (baking in the oven as we speak!)
  • Sunflowers to brighten the kitchen table
  • Watching your newborn discover new sights and sounds in the most simplest things
  • Prepping for an upcoming social media presentation this week and loving every minute of it!
  • Working on an exciting social media project that captures the social media usage of Ontario agriculture stakeholders.. its in its early stages but the results are going to be interesting to say the least (have I mentioned how much I love figures and stats when it comes to social media?!)
  • Reading Magnolia Journal on a Sunday morning with a coffee in hand and a sleeping baby in my arms
  • A bike ride on the most gorgeous Sunday evening... this weather couldn't be more perfect!
  • Fulfilling my promise at the beginning of the week of blogging every day this week which I am happy to report I did.. 7 for 7! And the best part?! More ideas are a brewin' so watch for more to come!

I’m trying my hardest this year to practice gratitude, its why I'm proud to have kept up with my commitment and one of my goals for this year of writing down one thing each day I'm grateful for. Let's just say that my #365DaysofGratitude jar is overflowing. I can't wait to read them all at the end of the year.

A line from the latest Magnolia Journal said it best, "Gratitude turns what you have into enough." Amen to that. Happy Sunday!

[Tweet ""Gratitude turns what you have into enough.""]

Chill, 2017

August happenings - 1. I never take for granted the feeling I get experiencing the views from our dock on the Trent / 2. Setting up the sweet corn stand on the farm brought out that entrepreneurial spirit in me similar to the lemonade stand / 3. Opening our doors to the public and our agricultural community to celebrate our new robotic dairy barn was such an awesome experience / 4. The #Canada150 (free!) National Park initiative prompted us to visit Point Peelee National Park, Canada's most southernmost point while we were visiting southwestern Ontario.

When September rolls around, I feel like the new year is sneaking around the corner, ready to make its appearance sooner than we'd like. This year is no different. Where is 2017 going.. I feel like it just started?!

As I've blogged about before, September also feels like a second chance to (finally) get around to accomplishing your new years goals because it feels like another fresh start to the year. And because there is a looming deadline fast approaching. September is like New Years 2.0.

Summer is typically a quieter time for me professionally. Fall is when things amp up since harvest time is a staple in the agricultural calendar, the industry I work in. But this year, it appears that due to side business hustles, lots of life happenings... and oh, a little thing called motherhood, this summer has ushered in a new sense of busyness that I've never experienced before.

Thanks to this busyness, I've learned to be OK with slacking on my #blog452 commitment in the month of August. But, to make up for this, I'm doing something I've never done before on the blog... I'm going to blog everyday this week!

Look forward to reading about my whereabouts lately, some goings on and the latest on my #passionatevoice adventures.

Check back on the blog this week, lots of good stuff coming at ya!