High School Predictions…

Ambition. What did I want to be when I grew up? You wouldn’t think that would be a terribly tough question to answer, yet I can’t quite put my finger on the answer. Never have been able to. I can tell you things I like. I can tell you things I don’t like. But do I have a dream of something specific? Not so sure.

Here’s what I do know. I’m not comfortable with not having some measure of financial security in life. So that means I need some way to pay the bills. 

I do not have the desire to conquer the world, to rise to the absolute top of any organization. I simply have no interest in the time commitment that would take. I accept that I like having time to do things just for pleasure – play a sport, attend my kids’ activities, garden, laze on a beach, travel. 

I also know that I like change, or a dynamic environment that is people based. I wouldn’t do well doing the same thing day in and day out. 

I know I like to talk, to tell stories. I often say I’d talk to the side of the wall if it would listen. I guess that’s partly what this blog is for me. A place for me to tell stories. And then I remembered my high school yearbook. We had to answer the questions of ambition, probable fate, pet saying, and pet peeve. Here’s mine, and a friend’s:

I wonder if I can get her to follow my blog?!!

My TSN Turning Point…

I’ve added two more of my articles, “The Burden of Command”, and “The Truth May Hurt, But Lack of Honesty is More Harmful.” Both of these articles were very personal to me as they represent the TSN turning point in my career.

Dan’s death rocked my professional world. As a Second-in-Command (2IC), you rarely have to quite literally take over, even though that is the primary reason why we have 2ICs. I had only really just come to terms with accepting that where the military saw me going, and what I had as a goal, were not going to align. And then suddenly, I was commanding the unit they told me I didn’t have the potential to command, and in pretty shitty circumstances.

After the dust settled, I felt more adrift in the military than I had ever felt. The positive to come from this period of time was that though I might not have come any closer to knowing what I wanted enough in my life/career that I would deal with the bullshit to get it, it did reveal what I no longer wanted enough that I was willing to put up with the bullshit, pain and frustration to get – promotion and title.

I suppose if I had bothered to put any amount of real honest reflection into myself prior to this point, or had taken positive control over my professional satisfaction, I might not have ended up in the circumstances that I did. But I didn’t. I was complacent. Plenty about my career kept me happy and satisfied, and so I carried on. I stayed on the path that I was on, and didn’t really question whether it was the right path or not, and I was happy to chase the dream that the military told me I was supposed to chase.

Despite this, and in hindsight, I still say that I had a good career. I loved a lot about what I did. Yet it still baffles me that I never questioned myself or was willing to take a little more risk to explore other options. I hope it’s not too late, or it perhaps makes the ultimate goal of this blog a little pointless for me.

Please take a read of the articles. Feel free to share, or comment. I do truly appreciate you taking the time to read my writings.

Impressive ladies!!!

24 years later, three of us have transitioned to part time service, one still serving full time.

I couldn’t be more proud of these impressive ladies, and thankful that I was able to be with two them in Halifax for each of their respective last day in the Regular Force. They are each power houses and highly respected officers, and rightfully so. I’m immensely proud of their achievements, and even more proud to call them friends. 

Center is Lieutenant Colonel Eleanor Taylor, a proud Infantry Officer of the Royal Canadian Regiment. She commanded a rifle company in Afghanistan, and has recently been announced as an Officer of the Order of Military Merit. Her accomplishments are so impressive. She’s also my third cousin 🙂

On the right is Commander Nancy Setchell, a stellar Naval Warfare Officer. She just finished a successful command of HMSC Charlottetown, and she did so in a way that only Nancy could do. The navy is a foreign element to me, but to see how loved and respected she is by superiors, peers and subordinates alike speaks to her incredible leadership and competency.

It’s unfortunate that Lieutenant Colonel Ellie Haevens could not have been with us to really complete the package, so I did a very terrible job of photoshopping her in! We were a foursome at the Royal Military College way back when, meeting each other in 1995. Ellie is a logistics officer and is currently posted to the Netherlands so couldn’t make it back. Yet another impressive lady who has had some significant success in her career. And just for shits and giggles, here are the four of us clowning around way back when!

1st Year, Royal Military College of Canada, 1995-96

So for all the naysayers out there, who may still question the value of women in the military, these three ladies show you just how wrong you are. They are competence personified, have earned their ranks and positions, and have commanded and served in an honorable manner that is beyond question. I am grateful to have them in my life, and pretty damn proud of them!

Love of Sport

I don’t think I’ve mentioned yet that I’m a soccer player. I have loved and played that sport since I was U6. Started as a goalie, channeling my grandfather Mike Wall’s, aka Pussyfoot, cat-like movements…or so I thought 😂. At U12 I didn’t like how hard the ball was coming at me from the boys and transitioned out to center mid. I played through university, and was fortunate enough to be part of the CISM (Conseil International du Sport Militaires) team for many years. It is essentially a military national team that competes with other military national teams.

I’m not sure why I’m the only Canadian in a sea of Americans in this picture. Where were my teammates?!?

Sport in general has been a huge part of my life and in my mind it is one of the greatest things the military can offer. I have represented my base in regional and national competitions in volleyball, soccer, hockey and golf, and internationally in soccer. On the civilian side of things I never would have been able to do that. But it’s part of military culture to be fit, to compete, and to be part of a team. I’ve gone to England, the Netherlands, Germany, and the USA for soccer alone. I had the honour of carrying the Canadian flag for the opening ceremonies in Germany at the Military World Soccer Championships in 2012. This is the kind of opportunity the military can offer. I see kids pouring themselves into hockey so they can get a scholarship to go play in the states and get their education. Join the military instead! They’ll cover your education, and your sporting career isn’t limited to university.

Seriously, I am so grateful to the military for what it offered in this regard. It allowed me to establish a sport as a lifetime habit. And sport teaches things. A lot of very meaningful things. I wrote about it here. Please check it out.

Will I find inspiration??

This was my Facebook post from almost two weeks ago, at the tail end of a work trip to Germany that was life changing in some ways. I finished this book on the plane ride home and it resulted in this blog. I applied his advice of “do something.”

Next up? Will I find equal inspiration? I can only hope!!

Facebook Official!

I finally took the leap and posted on Facebook about my writings and this blog. It’s daunting. I feel a little exposed and vulnerable, but I’m pushing on regardless. I’ve added an another article from my early days. It explains a little more about why I started writing, and gives you another glimpse of who I am I suppose. Hope you enjoy it!

You do not speak for me!

It is articles such as this, “I was the first female cadet at Royal Military College. Decades later I realized I was never ‘one of the guys,’” that get me writing, often angrily typing on the keyboard.

I have no objection to people writing about their experiences, and far be it for me to deny their experiences. But at the same time, they do not speak for me and I therefore feel compelled to offer my views such that uninformed people can see multiple perspectives.

That said, I take exception to extrapolating from experiences in the 80’s and saying it is still the case now. Armstrong says that women are called on to sacrifice too much to fit in, even to this day. Really? Who’s calling on them to sacrifice??? Did they forget my number?

And what about her metarule? She says “So at RMC, we were developing a generation of leadership with the entrenched bias that it is culturally unnecessary to treat women as equals. That’s just as true today.” Really? Not my lived experience. I suppose it could be, because I’m not at RMC right now to offer a true assessment. But I am still serving, and see a lot of young officers who are recent graduates, and based on that, I’m inclined to disagree with her. Not to mention it’s a pretty bold statement to make on an institution that you have not been a part of in recent years.

So I guess this means I’m going to have to read this book. Not only that, I’m going to have to try to put aside my bias, and give it a fair shake. Consider it research for my next piece.

Why I Volunteer

I was lamenting to a colleague and friend recently about the tribulations that I’ve been dealing with in my capacity as president of our minor hockey association. They said to me, “I don’t know why you do it to be honest. It’s not worth the hassle.” There are days I find myself muttering the same thing, but in the end, I keep forging ahead. But I do at times wonder why. What makes some people volunteer? What do they get out of it? Why is it always the same people who volunteer? After a particularly rough couple of months, I’ve been thinking a lot about it. Being a volunteer, especially in a small community, can be a thankless job, one that is more challenging in terms of personal interactions, communication and making decisions than any paying job I have had.

My parents were active in my community, involved as a volunteer in many different organizations. That had a massive influence on me in that volunteering was programmed as a default setting on my being. It was natural. It wasn’t a question of whether or not I should volunteer, but rather, in what capacity would I volunteer. There are times I curse the fact that I am programmed that way, but then I remember how I benefited for so many years from the efforts of volunteers. I wouldn’t have had nearly the same kind of childhood and upbringing without the involvement of so many within our community. Is that the reason why I do it? Is it really that simple?

I recently subscribed to www.markmanson.net and have been plowing through his articles. In his article “The Most Important Question of Your Life,” he essentially says the most important question to ask yourself is what do you want enough, that you are prepared to suffer to get? What is it that you want enough that you are prepared to deal with the work, the headache, the crap?

Reading his article has allowed me some clarity on this question. Being a volunteer and dealing with the day to day bullshit doesn’t bring me joy. Coming home from work on a Wednesday evening and getting the house tidied up so that I can host an executive meeting isn’t my idea of fun. I would personally rather be golfing on a Tuesday or Thursday, over coaching a bunch of U15 boys on the soccer field. Yet I do it, and it’s worth it. I don’t always see the worth in the moment, but it is most definitely worth it.

Volunteering is an investment in the community in which you live. It enriches your environment. I see kids learning life skills, and getting the opportunity to be part of something that extends beyond them, to the team. I see kids gain confidence. I see the growth, development, and change that sport or other youth organizations have had a hand in fostering. I see friendships formed through sport. I see kids who won’t be afraid to join a club when they find themselves in a new town years from now, and maybe that’s how they meet new friends, or maybe their future spouse.

It takes a village to raise a child. I was blessed to come from a village that epitomized that philosophy, and it is perhaps why my two brothers and I have enjoyed the successes that we have had in life.

To quote Whitney Houston:

“I believe the children are our future
Teach them well and let them lead the way
Show them all the beauty they possess inside
Give them a sense of pride to make it easier
Let the children’s laughter remind us how we used to be”

That’s why I volunteer. It is that simple I guess. The headaches and the crap are worth it. My kids deserve it, and so do others. Teach them well.

How my writing journey started…

The last few years of my Regular Force were not my best ones. I had left my Regiment and was undertaking the Joint Command and Staff Programme, a professional masters essentially, via distributed learning. I was very much at a cross roads in my career, under-fulfilled. This happened to coincide with the time frame whereby the Canadian Armed Forces was coming under scrutiny for sexual misconduct and sexual harassment. That did not help my mental framework with regards to the military. I had always felt part of the military, accepted, integrated, and felt like I had been one of the women leading the way. When the Deschampes Report, the external review on sexual misconduct and harassment was released, the discussions throughout and after the investigation, had me feeling many conflicting feelings at a moment where I was very much at a turning point in my career. I felt like my voice wasn’t reflected. I wasn’t being heard, and that bothered me.

I eventually transitioned to the Reserve Force, and in the process of doing so had joined LinkedIn. I happened to stumble across an article by Mr Bernard Letendre, “Did you just say what I think you said???” and subsequently read several of his articles. Out of character for me, I decided to reach out. This is what I had to say:

We’ve never met, I only happened to stumble upon an article you wrote through a friend of mine. I appreciate you are a busy man, but I did want to take a moment to say thank you. Your articles spoke to me. There were several things that resonated. First, be true to yourself, yet embrace others’ individuality and cultures as we can grow from learning about others and opening up to differing perspectives. Second was that one can foster understanding and tolerance through measured, calm reactions to perceived or real slights; understanding that ignorance is often the underlying cause, and the greatest way to overcome ignorance is with communication. Your position would typically elevate you above the masses, but your articles were not about your position in your company, they were about people, and interacting with people. People skills – knowing people, learning from others, teaching others, and communicating with others – are perhaps the most critical traits for any great leader to have as it makes you relatable to the masses. The above may seem a little over the top from a random stranger, but it has inspired me to finally put some of my own thoughts on paper and share them publicly. It is perhaps more due to the timing of when your articles caught my eye in that I have been engaging in discussions as of late with members of the Defence Woman’s Advisory Group, within the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF). I continue to serve part time, but had served for 22 years as a combat arms officer in the Regular Force. I believe in gender equality, and I know society has many ways that they can improve. I had a successful career, and I have encountered the odd problem here and there, but nothing I couldn’t address. But at the same time, the more I read about gender integration, systemic barriers, and the more I debate the topic, I cannot shake the sense that the manner in which we attempt to address the issues can also inadvertently perpetuate issues. Reading your articles reinforced many of the thoughts that I have, and they have made me want to explore this “sense” I mention above, and share my experiences and perspective. Just like you said, I want to use writing to clarify my own views, and if anybody happens to read what I write, then perhaps the added bonus will be that I have influenced their thinking.

This started me on the path of writing, and in fact several of Bernard’s articles provided jumping off points for me. I invite you to read some of my first articles from a couple of years ago. I’ve shared three of them in my articles section. As always, I welcome your feedback.

The Journey Begins

I guess this is it, I now have a website! Please be patient while I figure this out as it is indeed a work in progress. Check out my About Me section, and stay tuned while I add more of my prior content, and start putting more of my thoughts out there in some semblance of a coherent manner. Thanks for joining me!

Good company in a journey makes the way seem shorter. — Izaak Walton