Thursday, June 30, 2011

140 Conference Ontario

Last night, the very first meetup/tweetup regarding the very first 140 Characters Conference to come to Canada was held in Waterloo. Wowzzers, all I can say is that with such a great planning committee, a terrific venue and pretty much the best place to hold it in ALL OF CANADA, this conference is off to a terrific start.

I was fortunate enough to meet a bunch more great people last night, and was completely inspired and in awe of so many of them. If the NORMAL people of Waterloo Region are this awesome, how great are the speakers going to be?!?!?! Boggles my mind.

Unfortunately, I won't be able to go to the actual conference but I do know that on that day, I will be watching the #140confONT hashtag all day to get as much info as I can of what went on.

How awesome is Waterloo Region!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Marriage as Defined by Noodles

I am happily married to my polar opposite. Now, I don't mean we just have different tastes in music or movies, but there is not a single thing we agree on; not fun time activities, not parenting styles and certainly not food preparation techniques.

He's a fast food kinda guy while I'm a fine food kinda gal. While I expertly hand make delicate pastries, his idea of dessert is a box of Jos. Louis. He thinks lemon is disgusting, I think lemon is one of the most underrated pleasures on Earth.

Needless to say, dinnertime at our house has been one giant marriage exam over the years. As I'm toiling over the stove, testing recipes, marrying new flavours, he has been my sometimes unwilling guinea pig. For the first several years, I was sure everything I cooked was awful because his biggest dinnertime compliment was "It's ai-ight". Not exactly the glowing praises I was expecting to hear.

Like any seasoned veteran of a wife, I have learned that I cannot *gasp* change him. Why we gals think we can, I'll never know. So to ease dinnertime struggles and give ourselves a fair chance at a passing grade, these are the changes I've made in myself and my cooking style to suit his more trailer park tastes:

1. Dry it out. Why have moist, succulent chicken breasts when you can have chicken jerky? I pull our meat out when it's almost done, cook his for 15 more minutes at 450 and then pop ours back in for 2. He's happy if he has to take a swig of beer to get every single bite of chicken jerky down.

2. Let it go stale. In an odd moment of "make your man happy" marriage bliss, I once decided to make homemade Jos. Louis. His reaction was something between I'd rather eat foie gras and sidewalk chalk would taste pretty good right now. BUT the last homemade Jos. Louis that sat in the fridge for 5 weeks, well that was the one that made him grin and say "now THIS is what they're supposed to taste like!"

3. Put it on a stick. It may actually be souvlaki, but when you call it "Chicken on a Stick" it pleases the ears so much more, don't you agree?

4. Cook it 'til it's brown. Broccoli is not actually supposed to be green, did ya know that? I'll leave his in the water for a few (or 10) extra minutes until it turns that fabulous grey colour and he praises me that it's "just like my moms".

5. Sog it up. Our biggest clash has always been the noodles, I like them cooked al dente, he likes to make sure that there's no need for chewing. Because I am a good wife, I always make sure I call him for dinner 5 minutes after we start eating so his noodles have have time to decompose within the sauce on the stove.

I must warn you, cooking bad food on purpose is not for the faint of stomach. The wallpaper paste noodles, the cardboard burgers, the burnt on the bottom muffins... they can make you retch in your mouth a little. But if you're a good wife, you can do it. And he'll love you for it.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Tweeting My Way To Sanity

If you'll indulge me, I'd like to travel back in time a bit. We're heading all the way back to February 2010 for this one.

Meet Jane, a girl with a big heart, a small business and lots of plans for life but also saddled with an absolutely crippling social phobia. See this girl wasn't just bad at making friends or awkward in social situations, she was downright terrified when in public.

Going to the grocery store was a frightening experience. Walking among the people, being forced to talk to the cashier... her knees would start to shake before getting out of the car. At work, people thought she was a stuck up snob because she never spoke to anyone; they didn't realize that even the thought of muttering words to another human being she didn't know made her start to tear up.

At home, she was comfortable inviting people into her home, at church she welcomed children into Sunday school without a problem but when she left her comfort zone, the tears would roll, the queasiness would start and irrational fears would overtake the mind of the mind of this incredibly bright girl.

She would sit at home at night and weep over the friends she didn't have, wonder why she was so darn eff-ed up.

On March 13, 2010... Jane died. Emotionally, she was spent. Spiritually, she was struggling. Physically, she was making herself sick daily.

On March 14, 2010... she was re-born. She was the same person inside and out except for one thing, she had a dogged determination that she would no longer let fear rule her life. She decided to transform her outer self to match her inner self. This was going to work. There was no way she would let her plan fail.

I am Jane. My social phobia was so incapacitating, I couldn't even sit at home and THINK about going to the drug store without getting the shakes. The day I decided to let go of my fear and take over my life, I had no idea how I was going to do it. I trusted that God didn't want me to be so unstable and would help me find the opportunities I needed to get out of the hole. I made a steadfast promise to myself and to God that I would not turn down any opportunities out of fear, that I would try at least one new thing every day. I vowed to strike up conversations in the produce section at the grocery store, to invite someone from work out for lunch, to go out and find a way to make friendships and to never turn back, to never, ever let my children see me as the mess I was.

I started out by talking on a social level to the people that are on my leadership team at church. Then I went out after work for apps at a restaurant with some co-workers. I made a batch of cookies and dropped them off at a local fire station. Every single day, I battled the pit in the bottom of my stomach and at least tried to reach out to someone.

Then one night I was home alone and decided, for some unknown reason, to join Twitter. I had no idea what I would tweet about, why anyone would possibly want to read my thoughts but what the heck, I figured, everyone else is doing it.

I think it was day 4 of Twitter that hooked me. I gained 15 followers all in one day and had feedback on 3 different tweets I posted. From that moment on, I started researching Twitter. I was looking at the demographics of the users; why, how and when they were using this form of social media. I started interacting with a number of people every day. I posted about what I knew, my family, my business and food.

Although I'm pretty sure I'm not going to be speaking in front of groups of thousands for some time, Twitter has completely changed how I see myself and how I present myself. BT (before Twitter), I knew that I had some wit, the ability to listen to others and care about what they were saying but I had no one to put this into practice with. AT, I am confident in my ability to relate to others. Since I have conversations with people before ever meeting them, the social anxiety of meeting someone for the first time is erased because we're already friends before we lay eyes on each other. There are some people whom I haven't met yet, and would still give them my shirt if they needed it. IT's that kind of place where there's no bullying, no one laughs at you or makes you feel alienated... it's an open conversation between amazing adults.

To date, I have met 33 people in real life that I first met on Twitter. I'm happy to say that I've made some incredible friends, gained some supporters and seen my business increase by almost 9%... even though I rarely tweet about my business.

I'm sure that helping an awkward baker overcome her social anxiety wasn't part of the plan when Twitter was created, but that's what it's done.

I can now proudly say that the person you meet today, is the person that was trapped inside my screwed up brain for a long time. It's nice to meet you.