One word to describe yourself

I had an interview in Geneva recently. I felt it went well with the hiring manager but am skeptical about how it went with the HR person. She asked me those questions that nobody likes to answer, and I wasn’t prepared for them. One of them was: “What one word would you use to describe yourself?”

And you know they are going to judge you on your answer (even if they say there is no wrong answer).

My mind went spinning. One word. One word. One word. I don’t participate in the memes in Facebook when they make their rounds (although at that moment, I wish I had). One word. One word. One word (my thoughts finished that phrase: One word to rule them all ….phasing evil laugh).

My mind went to the one word that ALL my high school teachers used: conscientious. Not a bad word, but I hoped I had grown in 20 years. I was looking for a more encompassing word. One that described my knowledge and experience.

I panicked. I couldn’t think of a word. I finally answered: active. I like to do things. I get things done. I like to be part of what’s going on…even if just as an observer. You learn things. And, in my business, you need to learn things.

Active. I like to be fit. I need to move. I need to do more than one thing.

I blurted: Active.

I saw from the look on her face: Not the right word. (Or that’s how I felt anyways.)

After the interview, I remembered I had written a blog entry once, on being a piece of equipment.

I thought: Damn. Damn. I should have answered: Swiss Army knife. (Not one word, I know, but it is one thing).

So, just to recap my original blog entry on if I were a piece of equipment, what would I be? I would be a Swiss Army knife.

Incredibly useful in any (or almost any) situation.
Low maintenance.
High performance.

I’m not talking about the all-in-one Swiss Army knife. I’m just talking about a regular one. The run-of-the-mill Swiss Army knife. The one you would throw in your backpack for an expedition. That’s me right now.

The Swiss Army version of me would definitely have a corkscrew.

Advice to a younger self

Hi there readers! I haven’t been blogging very much. I guess I have just been busy. Busy with the J-man. Busy with being pregnant…well, that seems like a lame excuse—doesn’t it? However, if I weren’t pregnant, I wouldn’t be tired. If I weren’t tired, I would have all kinds of energy and I wouldn’t have been sick two weeks out of every month since January. And, these hormones actually get in the way sometimes.

I won’t pontificate about being pregnant, I will save that for a post called: “The truth about my pregnancy”. I think the only good thing that comes out of pregnancy is a new baby (DUE AT THE BEGININNING OF AUGUST, BTW). But now I digress from the real topic of this better-late-than-never blog entry: ADVICE TO A YOUNGER SELF.

My niece will be coming to Switzerland for the summer to help me out with these last few months of pregnancy (since I can’t seem to move all that well) and the first month after he is born. I am pretty excited. I hope everything works out.

I began to think of things I will need to tell her. About washing her hands whenever she comes in from outside, about putting huile d’amande on J-man’s butt when she changes his diaper, about making sure the fringe of the diaper is out…especially around his legs…so it reduces the chance of leaking poo…about tips about staying safe while in a foreign country.

I then thought it would be fun to compile a list. A list of things I wish I had known or thought of when I was 18 and leaving for university in Ottawa or even when I was 19 and becoming an au pair in France. Maybe I should start a meme in Facebook…10 things you wish you had known when you were 20.

At the risk of sounding too preachy, here is my list (in no particular order):

1. Statistics show that 80% of infectious diseases are transmitted through touch. Make the first thing you do when you come home is wash your hands. Well, take off your shoes, put them away, and then wash your hands. Also, always wash your hands before you put groceries away and before you turn on the television or the computer. (On a bit of a separate note, also use rubbing alcohol to clean your mobile phone or mobile device at least once a week.) The Center for Disease Control says to wash your hands:

  • Before, during, and after preparing food
  • Before eating food
  • Before and after caring for someone who is sick
  • Before and after treating a cut or wound
  • After you come in from outside *I ADDED THIS ONE…
  • After using the toilet
  • After changing diapers or cleaning up a child who has used the toilet
  • After blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing
  • After touching an animal or animal waste
  • After handling pet food or pet treats
  • After touching garbage

I think that is one of the most important things I would tell a younger self. However, I have always believed in washing my hands. I don’t think I over-wash my hands and I am certainly not OCD about it. But, really, I do wash my hands quite a few times a day—especially when I am sick.

2. Take care of your body and your body parts. It is the only one you get, and it has to last a long time. A LOOOONG TIME…at least five times as long as your life as you currently know it. Go to the dentist at least once a year. Those teeth are the only teeth you will have (at least until you decide to get dentures). Also, a healthy smile does wonders for your self-esteem. And people respond better to you if you smile first–and you are more likely to smile if you feel confident about your teeth. I am sure there are tons of reasons to go to the dentist. But those are the first few that comes to mind.

3. Lead a healthy lifestyle. “What does that mean?” you may ask. I guess that is related to #2.  It means…learn about food. Learn about healthy choices and the correct size of portions for you. Learn how to make different meals. Learn how to shop at a grocery store. I think I was 21 or 22 and I was shopping for groceries after work. I was so tired. I was tired of thinking about what to eat. I was tired about trying to make healthy decisions. I was just tired of the whole process. I guess it showed on my face because the elderly lady behind me in line told me: “Well, you had better figure out how to like it dear. You have to do it for a long time.”

4. Related to #2 and #3, make exercise part of your lifestyle. Do something every day. If you want to lose weight, 1 hour, 4 times a week helps. If you want to maintain weight, 2 or 3 times a week is OK. Maintaining weight is only one reason to have exercise in your lifestyle. Muscle holds your body together longer and more efficiently than fat. You will have less pain and other health issues if you have more muscle mass than fat mass. Also, exercise is the only known and recognized elixir of youth. The longer you are active, the longer (and more pain free) you can live. Exercise is also known for contributing to a level of happiness—something about releasing serotonins and such. I am sure you can find a ton of research in the Google.

When I lived in California, my neighbours took me on a ski trip to Tahoe. I was 32. They were 55 (ish). They have exercised at least one hour a day for most of their lives. They also skied circles around me. I was tired by 2:30 or so. They kept going until the last run (AND not on bunny hills either–double diamonds and moguls I am sure). Regardless, I vowed when I was 55, I wanted to kick some 32-year-old butt. So, I struggle along (especially when I am pregnant). But hopefully, I will struggle less next year.

5. Dress well. Dress appropriately. Lean how to dress (why do you think there are all of those makeover shows out there?. Too many women wearing men’s clothes and thinking it is OK. OR getting stuck in a fashion rut–Should I mention the intervention we had in San Francisco when someone we all know and love wanted to wear a banana clip?).

Learn about fashion. I didn’t really learn about fashion until my mid-thirties. I spent most of my twenties in oversized men’s clothing and t-shirts and sports bras. (On that topic, I highly recommend getting fitted for a proper bra at some specialty store–and always wear matching bra and underwear. If nothing else goes right that day, at least you can rely on the fact that your under things match.) I guess it feels the same as being confident about your smile.

You don’t need to spend a whole lot of money on clothes. However, you have a few pieces that you like and feel good in, you can accessorize with jackets, scarves, belts, and shoes. A classic pair of jeans and a few shirts (ALWAYS A GIRL SHIRTS) go a long way.

On the dress appropriately note, dress appropriately for your job or family function and also dress appropriately for going out. How you dress gives everybody and anybody an impression of how you are as a person (on the inside and out). Dress with confidence. Have confidence. Dress for attention. Get attention. There is a time and a place for everything.  But, really, more often than not, it is better to keep the girls inside and appropriately covered. NONE of your family ever wants to see them. EVER.

6. Learn how to create a great resume, CV, or LinkedIn profile. A resume is a first impression any employer or potential employer has of you.  It is the stepping stone to creating a life for yourself and making a living. Make sure you have a number of people look at it for you so they can comment from their perspective. Make sure it is ABOSOLUTELY and COMPLETELY free of grammar and spelling mistakes. Also, learn the difference between a hobby and a job to earn a living. If, eventually, you can make a living from your hobby, be grateful.

7. Save a percentage of everything you earn. Start as early as possible. Saving $1000 in your twenties is equal to saving $20,000 in your forties. Which will be easier? Learn about retirement savings and the effects of compound interest. Save for special occasions (a trip somewhere, a new car), and save for retirement. Ideally, save the maximum you can each year in a tax-free account (I think it is 13%, of your previous year’s claimed income–but I am not sure). Minimally, save 10% of everything you earn.

8. Credit cards are not money. More specifically, credit cards are not FREE money.  Need I say more? I guess I could say use a credit card or line of credit to build a credit score which will help you buy a house or get a business loan or something more productive than getting caught in a desperate and destitute spiral of credit card debt. That credit score is one of the most important numbers in your life.

On that note, know the difference between good debt and bad debt. Like, borrowing money to get an education (for example) is a good investment. Consumer credit card debt is just bad. Don’t even start down that road.

9. On the education note, make further education and continued improvement part of your lifestyle. Pursuant to #8, if you need to borrow money to go to school, do it. Do not hesitate to do it. Once you are finished post-secondary education, keep up-to-date with yearly conferences or continued improvement learning. Do something every year that improves your life (physically, financially, or however). Plan it and it will happen. Every year, two years, five years, or even once a decade, re-evaluate what you are doing and how you are getting there. Are you making progress?

10. Last, but not least, hand sanitizer is strictly for hands.

What about you Readers? What do you wish you had known when you were young and just starting out?


Happy Father’s Day to My Dad

Here is something I published for my Dad in 2008. I think it is still relevant and I shall cheat a bit and post it again.

Happy Father’s Day Dad. See you next week!!




It’s a little late in coming today, I know. AND I have absolutely no excuse. None what-so-ever (that the blog entry is late). But here it is…a blog entry for my Dad.

Boating down Miles Canyon

And now, I am just going to take this moment to tell the world I love my Dad. We had our ups and downs and for awhile in the late 1990s, and we weren’t talking. But we figured it out. And we are talking now. And we actually have a pretty good relationship. He’s a real person. That’s what I like so much about my Dad. He’s real. He doesn’t pretend to be someone he’s not. He doesn’t apologize for who he is. He just is.

One summer when I was home for my parent’s 40th wedding anniversary, we were talking about what (and maybe who) people believe in. And he stood at the kitchen counter and looked over at me and said: “Jennie. Know what I believe in?”

He motioned outside at Golden Horn Mountain. “I believe in those rocks.”

He motioned out another window, “I believe in those trees.”

He motioned out to the back yard, “I believe in your mother’s garden.”

That’s one of my favourite quotes from my Dad. “I believe in those rocks. I believe in those trees. I believe in your mother’s garden.”

Dad and me

I think his quote means that his beliefs are more tangible than most. He believes in what he knows exists. He knows that the mountain will be there tomorrow. It’s going to be a mountain tomorrow, standing as tall and firm and as steadfast as it’s ever been. He isn’t expecting that the mountain will be anything more than a mountain tomorrow. And the mountain is not expecting him to be anything more than he is today. Can you have a more healthy relationship?

The same with the trees. Respect the trees and they will respect you.

My mother’s garden. Now. I know how much they both work on my mother’s garden–so I don’t just think that the garden just belongs to my Mum. As much as they attend to and nourish that garden, it nourishes and attends to them back. In the brief growing season in the Yukon, they will harvest enough vegetables to get them through the summer and a good part of the winter.

So here’s what my Dad has taught me:

Believe in what you know exists. Believe in yourself. Know where your roots are and what you believe in. Be firm, strong, and steadfast in your beliefs. Don’t pretend to be somebody you’re not and don’t apologize for who you are. Have respect for others but don’t forget to respect yourself. And, give as much as you want to receive.

Oh. And laugh hard along the way.

Laugh hard the way

Click here for all the blog entries about my Dad.

25 random things about me

From the meme thing going on in Facebook. Once you have been tagged, write a note with 25 random things about you. At the end, choose 25 people to be tagged. Tag the person who tagged you. If I tagged you it’s because I want to know more about you. (To do this, go to “Notes” under tabs on your profile page, paste these instructions in the body of the note, type your 25 random things, tag 25 people (in the right hand corner of the app then click publish..)

(FRIEND in Yellowknife, I would tag you in Facebook, but you are not there and prefer to remain known simply as THE FRIEND. You can join another one of my friends (Ludovic in Switzerland) who are members of the secret and private “I-am-not-a-member-of-Facebook” club.) Still, you can write your 25 things and send them along. I’ll publish them here–if you want me to.

With no further adieu: here are 25 random things about me:

  1. I am messy, but absolutely HATE  living in my mess. I get tired of my mess every so often (but not often enough) and clean it up.
  2. I spill things all the time. ALL over the place. I trip going upstairs.
  3. And even though I’m a messy person in the physical world, I’m hyper organized in the virtual world. I  blame GOOGLE for my lack of physical filing habits.
  4. I love I love Indie music and discovering new music to add to my music collection. The airwaves in the States are pretty stagnant. Filled with bubblegum pop and no texture.
  5. I love the This American Life program produced by Ira Glass. I dream of meeting Ira Glass in person one day and having a cup of tea with him in my kitchen (his wife is invited too of course).
  6. I get loud, obnoxious hiccups if I drink pop, but not if I drink carbonated water.
  7. I grew up at Mile 906.8 Alaska Highway, Whitehorse, Yukon. 15 kms from nowhere.
  8. I am passionate about technology and the internet. It sometimes consumes me. And teaching others about how it works consumes me. I am grateful for the entire notion of blogging.
  9. I want to create and produce stories at the same caliber of This America Life, and The Vinyl Cafe.
  10. I have never visited New York City.
  11. I twiddle my hair. I used to have long hair and twiddle incessantly, but I have shorter hair now. I twiddle less. It still drives people crazy.
  12. I would like to stop doing so many things and stand still for awhile.
  13. When I was a kid, we had a dog we’d named Dr. Bear. We called him Bear for short. When we took him for walks in the campground across the highway from our house (Wolf Creek Campground–for those of you who know it), we’d call out Bear! Bear! to get him to come. And the campers would think we were announcing a real bear.
  14. One summer, my sister was crossing a tree across the creek, and she got to the other side and called, “Bear! Bear! Come here Bear!” and there really was a bear rooting around in the undergrowth.  She hightailed it home and found our dog waiting for her.
  15. In the summer of 1994, I almost got eaten by a grizzly bear up in Kluane Park. (ALMOST might be a slight exaggeration, but there was a grizzly announcing to us that we were far too close for his comfort–which is a 200 metre radius BTW). We think we were lucky he had already eaten his dinner.
  16. I have hiked the Chilkoot Trail seven times in my life. The first time when I was 12. The last time when I was 35.
  17. I still have the first book I ever read: Danny and the Dinosaur. I started reading when I was five and fell in love with language. I love words. I keep two or three dictionaries in the house so I can refer to the dictionary when I feel I need to. Now, I have the internet, but I still love my dictionaries. And get lost in them when I open them up. Too bad my spelling sucks. I have to do something about that this year.
  18. I like snowboarding, but since moving to California, I don’t go as often as I could and I suck.  One day on the ski lift up at Heavenly, some young kids looked at my board and exclaimed: “Wow. Hard core boarder, man. Those are original bindings!” Then they looked up at me, and were immediately disappointed. I laughed and said, “Not hard core fellas, just old!”
  19. I have a fire hydrant in my garage. Remanent of former tenants, but it’s too heavy to move. And what do you do with an extra fire hydrant?
  20. I love public radio. I love that on the internet, I can stream all of my favourite shows ANYTIME I want them. From any country. I should probably try to discover what Australian public radio is like.
  21. I like gingersnap cookies the best.
  22. For my Christmas present, I bought a Jack Lalanne juicer. It makes great juice. It also makes a huge mess. Or maybe, pursuant to item 1., I make the mess.
  23. In 2000, I took a sabbatical from Nortel Networks for six months and travelled to Central America and Europe. I spent a total of $10K from my retirement plan. My colleague reprimanded me for taking money from my retirement for what she considered to be a frivolity. By the time I got back from my memorable travels, my colleague’s retirement funds had plummeted more than $50K.
  24. I have approximately 50 GB of music on my hard drives from my music collection. I used to buy CDs. I now have iTunes.
  25. I started rollerblading in 1994. I used an entire paycheque to buy my blades. I still use them here in Healdsburg. Most people look at me oddly. But, I can go forward really fast on them. Really fast. And I love the feeling going forward really fast. I’ve been stopped by the Healdsburg police. They didn’t want me rollerblading near the town plaza. Also, a lady stopped her car once and reprimanded me for rollerblading in the street. I’ll be 37 this February. I think I’m a bit too old to be reprimanded.

If you were a piece of winery equipment, what would you be…

Charlie told me about an interview he once had. He’d been asked this question: If you were a piece of winery equipment, what would you be? He answered that he would be a pumpover device. I had to ask what a pumpover device was. Apparently, it’s the piece of equipment that pumps the wine over the skins in a fermentation tank.

And he had reasons for his answer. But I can’t articulate them, because I didn’t write them down when he told me and because I don’t have the vocabulary of the wine industry. But I thought about that question and wondered if I were a piece of equipment, what piece of equipment would I be?

I don’t feel like I can identify with any piece of office equipment. Especially in telecom. I guess that says something right there.

I sort of felt like I could be a big piece of JCB equipment (excavator maybe)… I feel more comfortable with that. But, in the end, I decided I completely identified with a Swiss Army knife.

If I were a piece of equipment, I think I would be a Swiss Army knife.

Incredibly useful in any (or almost any) situation.
Low maintenance.
High performance.

I’m not talking about the all-in-one Swiss Army knife. I’m just talking about a regular one. The run-of-the-mill Swiss Army knife. The one you would throw in your backpack for an expedition. That’s me right now. At least, that’s what I was thinking on the way home after lunch.

A while ago, I blogged about being Chardonnay. I remember I liked that description. I’m still working on it.

The Swiss Army version of me would definitely have a corkscrew.