52 REAL WOMEN IN 52 WEEKS

Gwen Stefani cover cameron diaz cover

Recently I was reading a celebrity profile in a women’s magazine.The article talked about her fears, guilty pleasures, body image issues, relationships, etc. 

Social media and shows like Entertainment Tonight have created a society that wants to know everything about the rich and famous. I don’t much care about their favourite colours or designers. But I’ll admit I’m interested in what successful, creative women think about world issues as well as every-day issues that all women face. (Oprah, Hillary Clinton, Margaret Atwood and Annie Lennox come to mind.)

But as I was reading, I realized that I don’t know what the beautiful, intelligent women in my life think about some of these things. So I sat down and made a list of 52 women I know – but that I want to get to know better.

In the next year, I’ll talk to each one to get to know her views, likes, fears, etc. better. Then I’ll pick an important story in our history, add photos and introduce one great lady each week through this blog. Maybe you’ll know some of them too. Or maybe there’s someone in your life just like one or more of these fabulous women

I’ll also touch on other subjects dear to my heart: writing, family, special moments and hope to find kindred spirits along the way.

 

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Week 9: Isabelle – Gorgeous ‘n Goofy

IsabelleI haven’t known Isabelle for very long because we started working together less than a year ago. But she’s definitely on my list of 52 women I want to know better for a lot of reasons.

Isabelle is mostly quiet but she has a big laugh that will surprise you when you first hear it.  She’s slim, elegant and serious-looking so, until you get to know her, you might think she’s a bit of an ice queen. But nothing could be further from the truth. One of the best things about Isabelle is she can be goofy and doesn’t take herself too seriously.

Isabelle goofy compressed

Not long after she started working with us, she went to a lunch meeting with our boss and a supplier. On her way back to the table after visiting the ladies’ room, she slipped on the ceramic-tile floor of the restaurant. I wasn’t there, but apparently, with arms and legs flailing, she executed a spectacular save and managed to stay on her feet. Everyone in the restaurant was staring, but that didn’t phase her.

Molly Shannon in Superstar

Instead of scurrying away in embarrassment, she smiled, curtsied and said, “Ladies & gentlemen, I’m pleased to have brought you your lunch-time entertainment. I hope you enjoyed it.”  Ever since she told me about it I call her “Superstar”, in honour of Molly Shannon’s klutzy character in the movie of the same name.

Another time at a corporate fundraiser that we planned (we work for a non-profit fundraising group), the event photographer took a traditional team photo. Then Isabelle said, “Wait, let’s take a fun one too. On the count of three, everybody make a face!”

Team serious

Traditional team photo

 

Team kooky

Team “fun” photo

Our event photos are posted on our Web site and sent out to all event guests. And there we are, seven professional women, looking like kids hamming it up for the camera and having the best time doing it.

Isabelle’s young enough to be my daughter, but we have a lot in common. We’re the introverts on our team of 7 women – the ones who need to process and evaluate ideas before endorsing or rejecting them. In Isabelle’s case, it means she listens intently when people are speaking. She also looks you in the eye. She’s not fiddling with her cell phone nor does she have that distant look people get when you know their mind is elsewhere. You feel that you have her full attention.

She’s a great co-worker – a team player who’s well-organized and works hard.  She knows how to set boundaries, when to say no and when to take one for the team. But mostly, she lives by a philosophy that she sums up this way:  Determination. Risk. Strength. Failure. Positivity. Self Awareness. Respect. If you can manage all of this, you will do great things. We are all a work in progress.

  ABOUT ISABELLE

Cause that’s close to her heart:
Community Development and luckily enough, I am able to work at an organization that supports our community.

Biggest Fear:
Not having enough time to do and see everything I want to.

Guilty Pleasure:
A cup of tea, warm socks and an episode of corrie (secret’s out)

What makes her laugh:
A story that is so absurd and/or over the top that I can visualize it so much I feel like I’m there….even better when it’s a story that makes me laugh so hard I cry.

Pet Peeve:
People that make excuses and don’t try- Yes, we all do this sometimes, but I mean all the time. I don’t have patience for this…

 

 

WEEK 8 – MANON: “THE TWO OF US”

Manon and Mike

Manon and Mike

If there was a soundtrack to my friendship with Manon, it would be The Beatles Let It Be album. When it came out, we spent hours listening to it in my parent’s basement – over and over again. We beatlesletknew all the songs by heart and we’d sing along. She’d do Paul’s part in “I’ve Got a Feeling” and I’d do John’s. We’d both shout at Jojo and Loretta to get back where they belonged.

Manon lives in Ottawa now (it’s only about 2.5 hours from Montreal, but it’s not like living a few blocks apart). Work, raising families and the business of life in general mean that we don’t see each other or even speak on a regular basis. But it doesn’t matter. We’re still somehow “connected”.  While writing this blog post, I got an e-mail from her that starts like this:

I’ve been thinking about you lately, had a dream about us hanging and singing in your parents basement.

I laughed out loud when I read it. But if I had to pick the song that really reflects our friendship from the Let It Be album , it would be The Two of Us.

You and me Sunday driving
Not arriving
On our way back home
We’re on our way home

 “WE’RE ON OUR WAY HOME”
I’d be rich if I had a nickel for every time Manon and I made our way back home together. It began in grade school when we’d walk home after school. We’d part ways at my street and she’d travel the last few blocks home by herself or with her little sister. Our high school was in the opposite direction, so we’d do the reverse. I’d get off the bus a stop early to walk with her to her house and then continue on my way. Rock concerts, parties, school dances and basketball games – we looked out for each other and made sure we came home together.

“YOU AND I HAVE MEMORIES LONGER THAN THE ROAD THAT STRETCHES OUT AHEAD”
I guess we were about 11 the first time I actually went inside her house. My family had absolutely no artistic tendencies, so my eyes popped out of my head when we walked through the back door into the kitchen. Beautiful, big, colorful flowers were hand-painted on the white kitchen cupboard doors. The table and ladder-back chairs were stained a dark blue; everyone else I knew (including us) had garish arborite or ordinary, dark-brown walnut tables. The décor was her Mom’s doing but today Manon is just as creative, with a style and warmth all her own. She draws, paints and makes it look effortless to create a beautiful, inviting home.

At 13, we became part of a group of friends who fluidly and naturally gravitated toward each other to form our own little community. (We’re all still close friends today.) And that’s when Manon first met and fell in love with Mike.

At the time, they made an unlikely couple. Three years older than her, he was tall and lanky and Manon was just a little thing. He was a brooder, the second-youngest of seven and a little complex. (She’s long since brought him into the light and he’s warm, witty and friendly). She was easygoing, a firstborn who rolled with life’s punches.

Mike could be aloof at times and attentive at others. As Forest Gump might say, “He was like a box of chocolates. You never knew what you were gonna get.” But Manon knew one thing for sure. She knew he was the one and she waited patiently for him to come to M&M honeymoon croppedthe same conclusion. He did, and more than 30 years and three kids later, they’re still a perfect match.

In some ways, Mike and I are alike and I guess that’s why we need Manon in our lives. We can be cynical if the occasion calls for it  (and sometimes even if it doesn’t). Not Manon. She’s sweet through and through but with boundaries that make it clear she’s not a pushover. She’s an interesting blend of things that don’t usually go together: creative and practical; sensitive but not sentimental.

When we were invited to a high school reunion recently, she didn’t come. She said, “I haven’t seen most of those people in years. I wouldn’t know what to say to them.” It wasn’t in any way mean-spirited, just sensible.

But when it comes to family and close friends, we know she has our backs and we have her heart. In her own words:

“I consider myself to be extremely blessed.  I have a loving husband, three beautiful children and family. To add to that, I have a group of friends I have known for approximately 45 years and consider them more like brothers and sisters.  What more can a person want.”

ABOUT MANON:

Cause that’s close to your heart:
The Barrhaven Food Cupboard (neighbourhood food bank)  Most of us think that only homeless people are in need of food banks.  One would never assume that the person living next door to you often can’t make it from one pay to the next or lost their job and struggles to feed his or her family.  Working in a school I see children who arrive not having breakfast or very little for lunch.  We often provide food for them.  It breaks my heart.

 Biggest Fear:   To be alone

Guilty Pleasure:
Doing nothing!  I was brought up to always have something to do.  Sleeping in wasn’t an option in my parent’s house, even as a teenager!  There were chores to be done or projects on the go.  Now that I’m older, the children have grown, I try to take time for myself and my husband, of course.   I’m still working on it.

 What makes you laugh:
The innocence of children.  Working in an elementary school I have the pleasure of seeing life through their eyes and it can be quite entertaining.  Over the years I have met some pretty interesting kids whose views on life had me in stitches.

 Pet Peeve:
People who never have anything good to say……and people who walk in the middle of the parking lot with their grocery carts.  They may be the same people, I don’t know, but both are quite frustrating.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Sweetest Sound in the World

geese in flight

They’re back. It’s been a long, brutally cold winter and spring is playing hard to get here in Quebec. But this week, finally, I heard the sweetest sound in the world: the sound of geese calling to each other as they migrate back to our area.

In six months, that same sound will become the saddest one in the world as they head south again. But I won’t think about that. For now, I’ll enjoy watching and listening to these beautiful creatures.