Nov

18

Dear America,

I want to take a minute to talk to you about another horrific healthcare experience I’ve had within your bountiful borders. IT SHOULDN’T BE THIS WAY! I’m going to preface this with that I LOVE you because of the drive and zest this nation has for creation, innovation and success – but you really need to come together and apply this energy to broken systems like healthcare, education, gun control, and immigration.

So here’s the deal – I need a really simple surgery. (Please don’t be concerned, it’s seriously super minor and trivial). When I went to schedule the appointment, I asked the office what my copay costs would be. They weren’t sure, and directed me to contact the surgical outpatient facility. So I call the facility. My facility copay is $100. I ask if that’s everything – the lady grumpily responds that NO, this is only the facility cost. I ask what other costs there might be. She says that there will be anesthesiologist costs and surgeon costs, and that my surgeon’s office would know. So I call the surgeon’s office. They tell me they aren’t sure – that they think the anesthesiologist cost is $400 per hour, and $100 for every hour after, and that my procedure should be 1.5 hours barring no complications. But if I need to be under longer…that dollar clock ticks! And no control have I over it. The office then indicates they aren’t sure of the surgeon copay and will get back to me. THEN, I’m told I need to get a medical clearance procedure from my primary care physician. I ask what that entails. A full medical run down…ECG scan, tests, the whole lot. And of course they have no idea what my copay is for that. And to top it off, the clearance only lasts for one month, so I need to time it very closely to my surgery procedure, which I still have no idea when that will be…or if it somehow gets delayed, I might need to get another clearance.

So…right now the cost is estimated somewhere between $550 and $Who-Knows-What. For something super simple that I NEED to be healthy as a human and enjoy a base quality of life. I’m so thankful I have good healthcare and a good job just to be able to take care of something that is truly a base level need. And I’m really grateful that I’m a competent human who can navigate these complex systems to find the information I need and cover the bases that need to be covered.

Experiences like this are why people rack up huge unexpected medical bills with emergency procedures and end up in debt for the rest of their lives. This is why people don’t go to the doctor to keep themselves healthy, or call an ambulance when they are hurt. This is why Walter White started making meth to pay his medical bills.

America – Please. Get it together. I love you…but your people are going to fall apart if you keep this up….and I don’t think we can grow old and gray together under these circumstances. In fact, many of us may not even grow old because we can’t afford to. Do you really want that for the people you love and who come together to make you so great?

Please.

With Love,
Kenna

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Jul

9

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about this concept of “the path less traveled” in one’s life. I get a lot of comments about how I’m living a less traditional existence….about how I’m living a crazy life…about how people are jealous of the existence I’ve chosen for myself….blah blah blah.

And I know it all looks wonderful and glamorous from the outside. And it kind of is – I’m not going to lie. But with anything in this world, it comes at the cost of something. It’s hard. Really really hard. It’s truly not easy. When you decide to step off that path that everyone else is on…that simple trajectory of school –> job –> corporate ladder –> house –> baby –> ETC – things get muddled. They are muddled because you are essentially bushwhacking on a tight rope. There’s no clear path, and walking that fine line is really freaking scary, because it’s easy to fall, and there’s no safety net.

Now, this is not to say that it’s not worth it. For me, it totally is. But the point I’m trying to make is that there’s a lot more to it than meets the eye. There are days when you are on that tightrope and you make some amazing progress and feel like you’re on top of the world…and there are other days where you don’t move at all and feel incredibly defeated. And then there are other days where you fall right off and have to pick yourself back up and climb back onto the tightrope. Somedays, I just want to get off the tightrope all together and get back on the freaking path with everyone else. And maybe one day I will, and maybe that’s OK – but for now I’m walking this damned thing.

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Jun

7

When you look back on the grand scheme of things, of all the places you’ve gone and tasks you’ve accomplished, it can often be really difficult to pinpoint exact moments that have impacted or changed you in some way. Barring the big ones like meeting your partner, getting married, having your first, second or third child – can you think of smaller moments that have truly changed your life?

On a recent backpacking trip to Catalina Island with Scott, while essentially stranded on a remote beach with absolutely nothing to do, technology to entertain us, or external stimulation to consume ourselves, we spent a lot of time talking. Now, if you know Scott, you’ll know he’s not the most deeply emotional person – he spends his days operating in 0s and 1s and building “cool technology stuff.” He’s deeply analytical, and so it’s rare for him to open up about something emotional or self-reflective.

As we were sitting on one of the most beautiful beaches I’ve ever seen, we got to talking about the things we’ve done together and our passions. I think the conversation started about how I half-forced him into scuba diving (it was one of the things I was absolutely determined to do in my life) and how it’s one of our most favourite things to do in the world. We got to talking about our advanced certification process and how as part of our requirements we had to do a “diver appreciation course” – basically, we had to go find a square foot section of coral and just sit and watch it for 30 minutes straight. At the time, it sounded like one of the most boring things possible – most people want to see sharks or turtles or clown fish….so we weren’t really stoked for it. As Scott and I were sitting and talking about this, Scott blurts out “you know, that dive actually changed my life. I always thought scuba diving, and life really, was about covering as much ground as you could and seeing as many big ticket items as possible; but that experience taught me that often there is so much more value in slowing down, stopping even, and taking the time to appreciate the small things.” And while up to this moment we had never talked about it, I got chills and said “ME TOO!”

Sitting and watching a piece of coral for 30 minutes was truly one of the most amazing things I’ve ever experienced. When you first stop at a piece of coral, it looks pretty bland. Not much is going on. But when you hunker down and let the environment get used to your presence, things start to shift – flora starts to open, small creatures start to come out of the cracks and magical things happen. On that one piece of coral, we saw some of the tiniest and most interesting creatures we have ever seen diving – minute fish, little crabs, oysters opening a bit further to show glimpses of their pearls inside….truly beautiful and amazing things.

That experience was a life-changing moment to the old adage “take the time to stop and smell the roses.” Take a rest from the race, from trying to see all the big sights and highlights and take a moment to slow down and let your surroundings open up to you – and you’ll probably be amazed at what you find.


1 comment so far

Apr

12

One interesting thing about being a Canadian in America is that pretty much as soon as someone finds out you are Canadian, they want to talk to you about it.

After asking you to say “about” over and over again – the first things people want to talk about are either healthcare, or the economy, and how Canada has fared so well with both.

I am going to start posting these conversations on my blog, because I find them so utterly hilarious. While I love living in America and the opportunities this country is affording me here, I struggle sometimes with the value and belief system of many Americans. Yes, I meet many many intelligent and amazing Americans every day, but this is usually in my professional context, or somehow related to it – the minute I am dealing with the general public, things start to “get real.”

My most recent such interaction was with my dental hygienist. While the dentist smartly asked me about hockey (nice neutral topic) when he found out I was Canadian, the hygienist started off on this hilarious monologue that actually ended up being somewhat tortuous (keep in mind, I’ve got stuff in my mouth and can really only mutter and grunt back at her): “Oh, you are from Canada? You guys have fared so much better through the recession than us. Why do you think that is? (pause – I grunt) I met this Canadian couple when I was traveling Italy last summer and I was talking to them about this, and they said it’s because the government raised taxes when things started to take a downward turn. (pause – I grunt) You guys really seem to know what you are doing up there. This couple that I met – they really had their lives together. Highly educated, newly married, around 30 and DEBT-FREE, my goodness, imagine that – it’s so RARE. (I’m thinking, not really lady, most of my friends sound just like this couple, they’re actually probably people I know….)

At this point she removes all of my apparati from my mouth so I can say something, so I chime in: “Yes, having a sustainable tax rate is very important, and so is lowering the interest rate to stimulate the economy. You know, I really don’t understand how so many states can get away being completely tax free here in the US. I mean, how do they pay for their infrastructure?”

She puts all the stuff back into my mouth and goes back to work and onto another monologue: “Well, those states have no people living in them. Vermont has like, 6 people. So they don’t need to pay for infrastructure or any type of social support. They don’t even need roads in those states! That’s how they do it. (pause – I grunt in horror) You know, I really wish I lived in one of those tax free states, I think I should move to one…I am just being taken to the cleaners here in California. And for what. For nothing! And there’s so many people here – it’s so crowded! I’m paying taxes to support all the people in this state who can’t get it together!”

At that point, the conversation got so ridiculous that I tried to close my eyes to get her to stop because my little heart was beating so fast. Was this woman serious? She completely identified the problem in her first statement, and when I thought we were on the same page…WHAM. Some weird belief system about taxes and what they go towards comes out! She then proceeded to tell me how the tax-free states are importing Mongolians and that she doesn’t even need to go to Mongolia, she can just go to Wisconsin to eat Mongolian food and experience that culture, and how this country is going downhill due to loose immigration policies and is just becoming one big cultural mess and tax catastrophe because you need to pay to socially support these newly immigrated populations…..

This woman’s essential monologue provided so much insight into what I often see with the value system of many individuals I have random conversations with: hardcore capitalism is so deeply ingrained in this society. I hear it over and over again “I work hard for my money, every penny should be mine to spend as I see fit – not to support my environment and the infrastructure that surrounds me.”

Ok, I get it….who needs roads, right? Or schools? Or policemen?….I know I plan on being so rich that I will live in my own compound, teach my children myself and hire my own bodyguards to protect me. But not until I’m much older than 30 and dig myself out of all this debt that every newly married young person has….

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Apr

8

Today was this unusually windy and gusty day. When you live in a place where the weather is a pretty constant, temperate, “mild and sunny” twenty degrees year-round, you really take notice of things like this. On my way home on my bike this evening, I decided to take the scenic route down by the beach. I was literally taken away by the beauty tonight – the tempestuous wind had created the most beautiful rivets in the sand and the slightest marine layer had wandered it’s way inland, creating this eerie and ethereal haze, through which the sun was setting.

I had to stop and admire it. Now, this is something really rare for me - I’m normally so on the go, so caught up in my tasks and demands and requirements, that it’s rare that I a) leave work before it’s pitch black out (even in the summer) and b) take a moment to be present in my surroundings. I got off my bike, found a spot on the sand, and just sat.

And I sat and admired. I just breathed and appreciated. I slowed down, for once.

I was somehow moved to write S+K in a heart in the sand. And not 10 minutes later, the gushing wind had almost washed my creation of love away.

And I got to thinking - this was a message of something; for me, it was a message that love takes work. You can write your intention the sand, but it will disappear if you don’t re-trace it. It will disappear faster when the elements are more difficult - rain and wind will wipe it away faster than the mildness of a quiet, calm, sunny day. It was a sign for me that love isn’t easy and it doesn’t just stick - you need to work to re-define it more deeply and more frequently when things are tough....because that’s when it will disappear the quickest.

So today I want to thank the wind. I want to thank it for shouting so loud that I needed to stop and listen to the important things and for making me breathe and take it all in.

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Mar

6

This Friday, I do something that most people generally loathe – I turn 30.

I’ve been thinking a lot about why humanity is usually at unease with this milestone and I think I’ve boiled it down to a few things: the end of one’s wasted youth…the impending doom of real adulthood and responsibility…the brink of middle age, complete with hair loss, belly expansion and gray hair….

But I’m going to say something that generally shocks people – prepare for your jaw to drop – I’m actually excited to turn 30. In fact, I’ve been telling random people I meet that I’m 30 for the past few months now.

My friend Anna thinks that it is because I have an “old soul age” – that my soul is actually like 45, so it becomes more content as I age. Notttttttttttt sure I buy it (sorry Anna), but I like to think it’s probably because my 20s were a really good run. Like, reallllyyyyyy good. If I look back at all I’ve accomplished in the last decade, I’m a little impressed (I promise, I’m really not an egotistical maniac. Really.). I completed a university degree, travelled the world (school in Europe, eastern Canada and quit my job at 26 to travel Southeast Asia), dated around, met my best friend & married him, built the beginning of what I hope will be a successful career, presented at conferences, published in a peer reviewed journal and other publications, moved to a new country and industry, made, kept and continue to build meaningful relationships…

But most importantly of all, I’ve fallen in love with myself, and with life. I’ve gained confidence, I’ve come to terms with my body, with my personality, and what I contribute to the situations I find myself in. I’m actually excited for more – for this journey to continue into my 30s. I’m excited to learn new things, taste new food, meet new people, and discover new places and things…and I’m excited at the prospect of the opportunities and challenges I will face and what I will come up against.

Yeah, I have some gray hairs now, and yeah, I have a few wrinkles under my eyes, but I feel as  vibrant and alive as I did at the ripe old age of 20; the world still feels as exciting and new as it did to me back then.

I really do hope I never lose this outlook. Maybe I have rose-colored glasses, but the world looks so much better with them. I hope I feel just as excited about turning 40 and 50 and 60 – because life is fun like that and things change and you move into different phases…and while I’m leaving some pretty cool stuff behind, I know that some really amazing stuff is waiting for me ahead too.

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Nov

24

Somewhere along the years of my adult life, November has become by personal New Year’s. I’m not entirely sure why; for some reason that I cannot name, the shorter, darker, cooler days of new fall that begin around September always throw me off a bit. Call it what you will, but I seem to take this time to slow down a bit from life….reflect on my situation, and generally speaking, I make some sort of grand decision to change things around mid-November. A new job, quitting my job to travel the world, quitting my beloved job to try out LA, moving houses….it always seems to come around this time (November 24th, in particular, holds a few anniversaries for me), and I’m left closing a chapter of my life and feeling kind of out of sorts about it. While there is always a glimmer of excitement and hope for the new door that stands in front of me, it’s that moment where I turn around and look around the room I’m leaving: the photos, the trinkets, the memories…. and I take a big breath to let it all wash over me. That’s where I’m at right now.

I moved to LA one year ago. Aside from the time I quit my job and got rid of most of my stuff to travel for 6 ½ months, this is for sure the scariest and biggest undertaking I’ve ever done. It might even have been scarier than the travelling. This past year in LA has been this really intense journey for me. I’ve had to prove myself to a lot of people, in a lot of facets, and while I think I’ve done well, I’ve had to fight a lot of demons, explore sides of myself I didn’t really like very much and work really really hard to reinvent myself.

I don’t know if it was fate or some kind of message from my higher self, but on my exact one year anniversary of being in this huge wild city, I found a store while wandering aimlessly with two new friends called “Kiki and Kenna” that sells the most gorgeous handmade jewelry. It was sort of like a sign – that maybe I belong here after all and that I’ve done OK. So I bought a locket, something I could keep that would remind me of my time in LA, the serendipitous moment of finding a store named after my very unique name, and how things always seem to work themselves out.

And so, here we go again. Last year I moved to LA. I moved two a new country with a few key belongings, bought new stuff, established a new credit rating, started a new career, got a promotion, got married, made new friends, explored new areas, and here I am. As I write this, I sit amongst a few boxes of a few key things ready to move to Marina Del Rey (a new city, a new zip code), sign a new one-year lease and see where this crazy city takes me this year. And in a way, it’s almost scarier – last year I kind of knew what I was up for and what lay ahead; this year, it’s all a bit of a mystery. I can’t really imagine where I will be next November 24 – but that’s the fun of life.

So, here’s to that door handle and what lays ahead – I think I’m just about ready to open you.

1 comment so far

Sep

8

Usually I try to reserve my blog for insightful posts about life, epiphanies, art, the more cultured side of things…but I just got back from Burning Man and thought I should share some of my learnings. Because you know what? I did have lots of epiphanies at Burning Man and it was definitely an artful and cultured experience, in its own way. So what did I learn at Burning Man? Would I go back? I’ve narrowed it down to four big things that I took away from being in the Nevada desert for a week at one of the most intense “experiences” of my life.

1. The World is all About Balance.
I already really knew this one, but Burning Man really crystallized this for me – for every up, there is a down…for every beautiful moment, there is an equally ugly one. For every bright, loving and giving person, there is also someone who is dark and who will take what they want, when they want it. Burning Man was the land of dichotomies for me; a place of brilliant beautiful moments where I felt so light I could touch the sky, but this didn’t come without moments that were so low and heavy for me that I nearly lost hope. Everything at Burning Man is so extreme: the environment, the dust, the artwork, the people, the outfits, the activities…so it’s not really surprising that I experienced so many extreme moments that never ceased to balance each other out – like a pendulum on a neverending swing.

2. Embrace your Creative Side.
I’m a really, really, REALLY analytical, organized and put together person – so it was really hard for me in the beginning to go with the burning man flow and get in touch my creative side. When I first got there, I kept thinking “why are people spending all this time and money on trivial things like sculptures, art cars and music? wouldn’t humanity be better served putting all this energy towards giving to those in need? to helping the less fortunate?” But once I let go a little bit and put the logical side of myself aside, I started to GET it…to get the beauty of all the creativity of my surroundings. That Black Rock City was there to open my mind, to hear the music, see the art, and that I would come away from it invigorated to contribute to a greater good….to something truly bigger than myself. I was filled with ideas, thoughts and inspiration for projects upon my arrival back to “the default world.”

3. Lean into the Discomfort.
I was sooo uncomfortable when I first arrived at Black Rock City – the dust, the noise, folks in strange outfits and people in varying states of substance abuse. It didn’t help that I had ventured out on my own, without a close friend or partner for comfort, and I was really freaking uncomfortable with everything. The playa was vast and scary – I couldn’t believe people were riding around out there. I wandered around by myself but the camps were too intimidating to go into. But, slowly and surely, I started to become OK with the discomfort. To get on my bike and ride around in a dust storm. To visit the trash fence at sunrise. To do things I wasn’t sure I really wanted to do, try things I wasn’t sure I wanted to try. I leaned into the discomfort a la Brene Brown, and it really ended up being OK….I actually started to LIKE the discomfort. Because it meant I was alive and feeling and THERE.

4. Have an Open Mind.
Stop questioning your reality. Respect what is going on around you and let it flow. Let it feed you and fill you, because you’ll come back with a new appreciation for SOMETHING. When your cup is empty, you never know what kind of interesting drink someone will fill it with! I couldn’t figure out why everyone was so excited to burn a man…I felt regret and sadness – that guy in the middle of BRC – he had guided my way for the past 6 nights. But then, in one fell stroke, I got it….it wasn’t A man, it was THE man. For me, Burning Man signified living a life out of the ordinary, doing what inspires and moves you, and getting outside of the box – there’s so much more out there if you open your eyes and mind and take it in.

So, there you have it. My four big learnings from Burning Man. So, would I go back? You know, I would. I had a lot of really crappy moments: someone stealing the seat on my bike and replacing it with a scratchy one that made my legs bleed…being left all by myself…a strange old man motorboating my boobs….people saying hurtful things to me to assuage their insecurities…but I also had some truly amazing ones. Riding around with a superhero purple-haired unicorn and fuzzy bear, making new friends by firelight and witnessing surreal dance-offs, listening to amazing music and watching beautiful lights, exploring art for the sake of art, and deepening relationships with old friends – kind, gentle, loving spirits. I would go back again because nothing worth doing in life is easy, and I think it’s a good reminder and exercise for balance, creativity, discomfort and open mindedness. And that….. is pretty awesome.

4 comments so far (is that a lot?)

Jul

16

Never before in the history of human interactions has it literally been so easy to keep tabs on your entire social network. With literally a few clicks and a name search, you can find almost anyone from your past or present and “friend” them on facebook…and immediately feel more a part of their lives by seeing status updates, photos and events go by.

The flip side to all of this is the fact that, literally, at the click of a button, you can “unfriend” someone – something that we’ve never really been able to do before. Most of the time we don’t go around and say to someone’s face “you know what, I don’t want to be friends with you anymore.” Previous disintegrations of relationships generally involved a fading out or a losing touch – nothing blatantly obvious that someone didn’t want you to be a part of their lives anymore.

But now, you can. Most of the time, it doesn’t bother me if someone “unfriends” me – it’s usually some far-reaching person who I haven’t spoken to in years and who I didn’t really care to keep in touch with anyway; it usually followed the same trajectory of “fading” that real life relationships followed anyway. And most of the time, I would hardly notice…it would usually take a while until a mutual friend posted a photo or something that would clue me in that that person had deleted me off their list…and I would generally give a little chuckle and move on with things.

Recently, I experienced a somewhat devastated unfriending…someone who I actually talk to somewhat frequently, who played a very large part for a very substantial period of my life and who meant a lot to me. Someone, who, when we first found each other on facebook actually told me that they were grateful for facebook, in that it allowed us to reconnect and to “not be lost to each other forever.”

So it really came as a slap in the face to me when, I went to go send said person a message and they were gone from my list and un-searchable through my page. But the thing that really surprises me is that this person has TWENTY-ONE mutual friends, one of which I see on a DAILY basis and another who is one of my bestest friends in the world that I speak to often.

I’ve really racked my brain on the possible reasoning of this drastic move to completely remove me from this person’s life, and while I have many theories, I’ll truly never know. And for someone like me, who places such a high value on transparency, honesty and open communications with my fellow humans, I find it really really frustrating that a person could just wipe me out of their life so easily and effectively.

I’m pretty sure that because of all of our interconnections and network webs (and that I actually do have their cell phone number and email), I will come face-to-face with this person one day and ask them why they chose to blatantly remove me from their online social life, but until then I am choosing to move past it without calling them out on it.

So there you have it – my thoughts on the dreaded facebook unfriend. What about you? Has someone important in your life tried to wipe you out of their digital life? And have you ever called someone out on it?

UPDATE: So literally a few days after I wrote this post, the person heard through our network of friends of this facebook deletion and re-added me and sent me a note. They said that I had “mysteriously” disappeared from their friends list — that this has happened to them with other friends too. Something smells a bit fishy to me on this one…would LOVE to hear the peanut gallery chime in with theories/thoughts/opinions on this one!!

3 comments so far (is that a lot?)

May

26

You’ve paid the fees. You’ve got the outfit and the equipment. The Operator is waiting. You just need to jump. But getting off that ledge is really freaking hard. You know you want to do this – you have made all the plans, weighed all the options, but when it comes time to make the leap, your brain is screaming at you that this is not logical – NOT safe! – and every time you take a few steps and peer down, convinced that you are ready, your body protests and your feet stay planted right on the ground….until finally, you tell your brain to shut up and jump.

Sound familiar? I’ve felt this way twice in my life…the first time bungee jumping, the second time getting married. Seriously.

Now, I know that in putting this out there, I’m subjecting myself to a lot of critique…like, “wow, this girl probably shouldn’t have been getting married if she was feeling this way” or, “what kind of a woman seriously questions getting married?” But I’m doing it because I think it’s more common than most of us care to admit. That it is actually NORMAL to reflect and consider something that is really scary and that calls into question who you are and how you define yourself. And I’m hoping that, like I hope with all of my posts, I connect with people and make them think and even help to make them feel like maybe they are not so crazy after all for having similar ideas or emotions, but are too afraid to admit them for fear of being dismissed as different or abnormal.

Getting married made me realize the importance of actually having a wedding, with all the funny traditions and rituals which I thought were so ridiculous until I went through it myself…I mean, seriously – it is so silly to get dressed up in a big white dress, prance around, dance, be the center of attention…but I think we do it to help ourselves jump off that ledge – it’s like we NEED the investment, the love and support of our friends and family, the elaborate plans – to help encourage us to take the plunge. To do something that really scares us, to commit to one sole person, to put our hearts in someone else’s hands and be completely vulnerable to someone and trust them for the rest of our lives. All of that emotion and support from our loved ones is our harness and rope – the things that allow us to jump and know that we will be OK and that we will bounce back up into the air after an incredibly thrilling ride.

Almost everyone has asked me if I feel different now that I’m married, if things have changed between Scott and I. And nothing really has – but I feel like our bond is stronger and deeper…like we went through this really crazy and thrilling experience together and that we are closer for it – that no one else but us were there to see it and feel it and live it. Like most of what we have done that has brought us closer and has shaped who we are together, it was the shared experience…the basking in the love and celebration and excitement – the wild ride – that has solidified us. We have another adventure to add to the notches on the belt, and it kinda felt like we bungeed holding hands…and I’ll never forget how it felt to jump or to be lifted back into the air even higher than where we jumped from. I will forever cherish it, and my partner in crime who held my hand just as tightly as I held his while we soared through the air together.

Yep, similar feelings. The bungee jump and the marriage jump – for me, anyway. :)

1 comment so far

Feb

27

I have had an amazing, real, raw and emotional past few days….which have consisted of four sequential completely honest and open conversations.

The first, I was really frightened to have with someone I find wholly intimidating, and had been putting it off for weeks. But once I had it, my heart lifted, and I was free of a lot of the burdens I had been carrying around. The second was completely surprising with a new friend – it shocked me how open this new friend was being with me, and it made me nod and go, yeah, her and I – we’re meant to be friends. We belong together. The third was with one of those people that you HAVE to be honest with – the kind that you cannot hide anything from, so unbelievably perceptive and intuitive, it’s like they read your mind..and it probably didn’t hurt I was completely naked at a spa in LA’s K-town at the time (an experience that warrants a whole new blog post on its own!). Standing in front of someone, completely stripped of literally everything, it’s almost like the honesty has nowhere to go – no collar fold to sneak into, no pocket to hide in. And the fourth. Wow, the fourth. With a dear, longtime friend, experiencing some of the same things I’m going through right now with love and marriage and all of that “adult adolescence” stuff. I wish we had been more honest with each other before….before I had moved away and put a country between us. But maybe that’s why the honesty flew out and over the state lines and provinces that separate us.

So if being honest feels so good, why is it so tough for most of us to look someone in the eye and tell them the complete and utter truth? Why do we avoid it? Why is honesty so bloody rare? Why do we sugar coat things, say things we don’t really mean and tell half truths to “appease” the other person when they’d probably be more satisfied hearing the whole truth?

I received this beautiful compliment between the second and third conversations from the wholly intimidating one that my honesty is “quite possibly, my most admirable quality.” Thank you for that, Sir – I needed to hear it. And although it was delivered in a fleeting moment, it has stuck and resonated with me.

These experiences over the past few days have solidified my beliefs that I need to be honest and open and vulnerable – I will be happier, those around me will be happier, and the world – MY world – will be a better place.

So here’s to honesty and putting ourselves out there – I feel pretty sure we’ll all be the better for it.

2 comments so far (is that a lot?)

Feb

17

I’d like to think I’m unique in that I’m the first person to ever “realize” that sometimes getting lost is the best way to find your way, but I’m pretty sure I’m not. A quick google search, in fact, did confirm this to me, but I can’t seem to be able to attribute the saying to anyone in particular.

The thought first occurred to me when I strapped on my shoes to go for a run in my new city, and I realized that I really didn’t know where I was or where to go or how to get back. And it caught me a bit off guard…and I almost took my running shoes off at the realization. But then I thought, “Hey wait. Often the best way to figure out the lay of the land and how to get around is to get a bit lost.” So I went out…and ran one way down the street…and then another way…and then another…until I had systematically created a quadrant to figure out where I was.

Two and a half months into the big move, I have to admit, I still feel kinda lost. And this feeling of losing myself has completely rocked me to the core. As someone who is generally very confident in herself, makes decisions extremely easily and always has a plan of where to go and how to get there, I still feel like I never really know what street I’m walking down or where I want to end up. And the feeling is definitely disconcerting. Right now I’m drawing solace from having faith in the fact that getting lost really is the best way to find your way and that it will come. Once I’ve wandered out a bit more…made a few turns, sketched out my quadrant, and maybe even after a few really wrong turns that lead me to ugly places, I might have a better sense of where I am.

I know I’ll get there. But man, the journey without a map is really a bit scary. I know it’s an adventure and I’ll come out of it knowing exactly where I am, how I got here, and where I belong…but the process of finding the way is definitely not easy.

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Feb

7

It’s been ages since a song has come along and makes me feel such strong emotions and speaks to me so deeply. So long, in fact, that I think the last time I was 16 and sat in my bedroom with Sarah McLaughlin’s “Fumbling Towards Ecstasy” playing on repeat…the message fairly obvious: I won’t fear love. Kind of not surprising for a teenager dealing with a lot of strange emotions, energies that I couldn’t identify, and numerous heartbreaks, right?

So it came as a bit of a surprise for me when Florence and the Machine’s “Shake it Out” completely hooked and enthralled me at age 28. Am I not over those gross emotions that I’m not sure where to place or how to deal? Apparently not.

It led to a very interesting conversation with one of my dearest friends about the concept of adult adolescence. As women in our late 20s and early 30s, with pressures of career, marriage, family, is it normal that we feel a bit lost and confused amongst all of the unidentified emotions and pressures bubbling within us?

I think of my own circumstances…where I’ve pretty much given up everything that I had been up to this point: living in Edmonton, working for a large organization, and being part of a pretty strong community of people. This big fish in a small pond decided to swim south – to the mouth of the ocean, surrounded by a hell of a lot of giant fish…to reinvent herself as something completely different. And it’s left me feeling lost, confused and unsure in the process; similar to how I felt about the concept of love and heartbreak at 16. But this time I’m a little more stronger…a little wiser…and instead of defining myself as what I do (as above), I’m trying to define myself as who I am – which really shouldn’t have changed during the swim.

Like Florence says, I’m having a darn hard time leaving my past behind. It’s time to stop dragging this stupid horse around and bury him…time to cut out my graceless heart. And for peat’s sake, it’s really frigging hard to dance with a Devil on your back – that bugger is heavy. But the shaking thing? That’s kind of hard…I’m still working on that one. :) I think I have a lot of shaking ahead of me…

Adult adolescence, I’ll be happy when you are gone – I’m kind of sick of the roller coaster you’ve put me on. But at least I’ve been on this sucker before, and I know I’ll step off of it mostly OK – aside from maybe a bit of messy hair and dizziness :)

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Dec

14

I just made this really crazy move. Like, we’re not talking just to a new city…or even across the country. I made a 3,000 km move from northern ALBERTA → waaaaaay to the south of CALIFORNIA to Los Angeles. And as exciting and amazing and wonderful as this sounds, it’s been hard. Really really hard and challenging and even a bit ugly. I completely underestimated the uprooting process and how it would affect me.

I keep explaining the experience to people like taking a tree – a mid-sized one, not yet fully formed with medium-sized roots – and carefully extracting it from the ground. Then putting it in a tiny little transportation pot, setting it up inside a truck and driving it really far – all the while the little tree is jiggling around and shaking as the truck travels the bumpy road. Once you get it to the destination, you put it in storage for a week or so…and the poor little tree doesn’t really know what you’ve done with it. You go out, find a nice sunny place for it, and then carefully transpose the tree from the pot into the earth. The tree then spends a few weeks not sure if it’s happy, if it has the right food, the right conditions for living…and when the fog lifts and it takes a big look around, it notices that it is a little fir tree surrounded by palm trees. Will the palm trees accept the little fir tree? That takes a bit more time to figure out, and at this point, the little fir tree just doesn’t know.

I went to my new yoga studio last night for the second time – Bhatki Shala in Santa Monica. It’s this really awesome one-room studio that is donation-based, and they really do create a spiritual experience for you. The instructor last night was an astrologist, and was talking about how Mercury was coming in, which means there is lots of change and shake up going on in the universe. Couldn’t be truer about my universe.

But then it got kind of creepy. Because of all this astrological shifting taking place, the instructor wanted to focus the yoga practice on grounding ourselves. Considering I feel completely ungrounded at the moment, I was pretty excited. But the really creepy part was when she started talking about chakras – and told us to place our hands on our belly, at our “root chakra.” Now, I’ve been experiencing killer stomach aches lately, and I wasn’t sure why…but now it all started to come together for me. My root chakra is in total chaos from the uprooting process I’m going through! I pretty much don’t have a root right now! She started coaxing us through some exercises to release our root chakra…but mine was pretty knotted up. She then asked us to sit up and feel ourselves ground to mother earth, saying she liked to imagine herself as a big oak tree. I started imagine my poor little fir tree…having just made an international uprooting journey…and no wonder I feel like a disoriented, discombobulated soul!

Needless to say I found the practice very challenging…I was wobbling all over the place throughout the entire balancing series. But now, thanks to my experience, I know that I need to focus on grounding myself. One day at a time.

Our practice ended with a chant to the lines “I am grounded; grounded in love.” Tingles came over me, because I haven’t been feeling grounded in any love lately; the move has been particularly stressful on Scott and our relationship together. I also haven’t been loving myself or offering patience for my poor little roots to gain hold in the soil again. A good reminder to focus on love to help with the grounding process.

So the most revolutionary part of this whole experience for me? The universe giving me exactly what I needed to gain perspective and re-root myself. Thank you, again, Universe – I am grateful for your infinite wisdom.

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Nov

9

So, I’m currently in the process of moving and uprooting my life, and came across one of the things I’ve been lugging around for years that I keep forgetting about. A sort of diary. And while most of it is insecure dribble about body image and boys, there’s some pretty powerful poetry and writing in there.

One that I found incredibly insightful and profound for my then 15 year old brain:

(dated February 20, 1998):
Define Beautiful.
Is it the beauty
inside our mortal bodies,
or the outside?
We judge people
from simply seeing them
in our cruel closed minds
and we laugh at ugliness.
Yet, who is that person?
What is their life like?
We are all people
with equal beauty
some just in different places.
People who judge
just have less inner beauty.

Yep, not purging this one. I wonder what I will think of my 15-year old self another 13 years from now?

3 comments so far (is that a lot?)

Oct

28

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about inspiration…how I am inspired, how I inspire other people, and just about the concept in general. Mainly this came up because I was told on three separate occasions, by three different people, and about three different things I’ve done/am doing that I have somehow inspired someone – and the feeling of hearing that is pretty powerful.

The first was after the “Meet Plan GO!” conference in Seattle that we were invited to speak at – the theme of our presentation was “Embrace the Fear” (something I try to do every day), and we had two people come up to us afterwards and tell us that some of the things we said really resonated with them and inspired them to take the plunge. The second was a friend telling me that quitting my current job (which I love) and moving to California from Edmonton to try something new and take an opportunity that was pretty hard to pass up, is inspirational. And the third was a more subtle one…for something that was probably one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, but for which I will never be openly recognized, and for which I can’t really speak about in the public arena of my blog.

Breaking it down a little further, I realized that people are being affected by my actions because I’ve taken a harder route – I’ve deliberately stepped off the easy path in the hopes of finding something more fulfilling, or for taking a risk and challenging myself, or for doing something that is ethically right. And although the path-forging is hard, it’s so worth it – so unbelievably worth it for me inside, for those I touch, and for my own story, as I continue along life’s path.

One of my favourite speeches of all time is JFK’s “We will go to the moon” speech – I always seem to take inspiration from this, and find myself often repeating the mantra “I do it not because it is easy, but because it is hard.” I get shivers every time I watch it.

So, I’m curious. What inspires you? How do you try to inspire others?

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Oct

19

A few weekends ago, I went to a yoga retreat. I signed up to go with my most favourite teacher in the whole world, who is a super physical, vanyasa flow type teacher. I was super stoked to get buff and strong all weekend….but ended up getting something I hadn’t really signed up for.

The other teacher facilitating the retreat was of the softer, more spiritual side of yoga…and man, were her and my teacher a great combo. But at first, I was pretty skeptical of the whole experience. I am a pretty logical, analytical, factual and grounded person. My first “sharing circle” (note: I had never been a part of one of these before) was about talking about your inner flower, and if it is open or not. My inner flower? Seriously? Once I got past that part, I imagined that it was big and wide and open….so I really had a hard time when one of the ladies in the circle admitted that her flower was closed, and she started crying about it. I kept thinking to myself – is this really happening to me? Am I really sitting here talking and crying about inner flowers?

But when the other teacher taught her first class, I found it HARD. I was wrestling some pretty intense internal demons as I was going through the flow and evidently they were putting up quite a fight. I left that first day feeling exhausted.

Fortunately, the last day was all about “processing” and it really all came together. They made us work through some pretty powerful exercises – sitting back-to-back with a virtual stranger and just talking…staring that stranger in the eyes….lots of those types of exercises. And the eerie part? It kind of worked. I had let go. I had let go of my expectations…my preconceived notions of the weekend and of yoga…I had let go of my barriers, my inhibitions and everything else that holds me together as a pretty “together” person.

And you know what? It felt good.

It’s probably not a coincidence that I came away, having made a pretty important life decision (one of those “fork in the road” types) and feeling pretty peaceful.

The best part though, was when I asked Scott a few days after coming home if I seemed different. And he said “yeah, you do.” And I said “how?” and he said “its like you know yourself better. And I like you.”

So somewhere during that weekend I had let go of a not-so-positive part of me and came away being more whole. And I think that’s pretty powerful. So I challenge the rest of you out there: to let go. Of something…big or small – just take a big breath and blow it away.

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Sep

21

It’s been a long time since I’ve written anything here, and for that, my loyal followers (!!), I do apologize! But I do have good reasons….or, at least I think I do. It’s been a whirlwind summer. Summers usually are when you live somewhere like Edmonton, where the season is so short you feel like you are “wasting” a beautiful day if you do anything indoors or chore-like (seriously, my house went un-cleaned from May to September).

Part of me thinks I didn’t get much done this summer, which is why I am feeling the need to provide some thoughtful reflection on it right now. Scott calls this “seeing the forest through the trees” – I’ve been so busy looking at and climbing each tree, that I didn’t notice the scope or breadth of the forest within which I have been playing. So, here we go – a careful examination to better see my forest this summer.

May
1. Visit from one of my best friends, along with attending her stagette;
2. First triathlon of the season (and let’s not forget all the training!) – Coronation. 1000 m swim, 24 km bike and 8 km run;
3. Wedding dress shopping (time consuming!).

June
1. MS bike tour – 180 km ride over two days (I raised nearly $1500 this year, so let’s not forget the fundraising efforts…plus the training!);
2. 16-day trip to Germany which included a wedding, cycling 200 km along the Romantic Road and many other amazing experiences.

July
1. Great White North – half ironman. 2 km swim (my first in open water), 90 km bike and 21 km run. Biggest athletic accomplishment of my life – I was on the course for 7 hours! And again, let’s not forget the training!
2. Planning and Execution of another best friend’s stagette in Calgary – planned from conception to implementation and traveled to Calgary for an entire weekend to execute!
3. 3-day trip to LA – to visit one of the companies Scott has been working with;
4. Engagement photo session.

August
1. 11-day trip to California which was exhausting and included:
a. Again visiting the company in LA Scott has been working with;
b. My best friend’s wedding, including all the bridesmaid duties that go along with it (and let’s not forget preparing the speech!);
c. Driving along the coast, seeing Santa Barbara, Monterey, Santa Cruz and then stopping in San Jose (well, Campbell to be exact) to visit the other company Scott has been working with…and then a final landing in San Francisco before heading home!

And I suppose that’s it! It doesn’t look like much when it is down on paper. But I suppose I should include the fact that I was working full-time amidst all of this, working on one of the most high-profile projects our city has ever seen, and dealing with some fairly traumatizing work drama.

So, I’m curious – what do you think of my forest? Full and vibrant like the Muir Woods near San Francisco, or is it more like a tree-lined boulevard in one of Edmonton’s newer neighbourhoods? Share your thoughts and what you did this summer!

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Jun

4

I’ve always wondered about the saying “biting off more than you can chew.” I mean, I get it – when you bite off more of your sandwich that fits in your mouth, what do you do? Spit some out? Chew for a really long time? Choke?

Last fall, I signed up for a really crazy endeavour that, at the time, I thought would be super fun: a half-ironman. I had just volunteered in Penticton for the full Ironman, and it was really inspiring watching people cross the finish line…so I thought “why not start to work my way there?”

In exactly one month from today, I will attempt my half-ironman – a 2 km swim, a 90 km bike ride and a 21 km run. I am completely terrified to do this. The thought of this race has now consumed my brain for approximately 4 months. I don’t feel ready. I can make all the excuses I want, but I don’t feel like I’ve trained enough. A bad winter, a bad bout of strep throat, a bad bout of Noro Virus…all have taken away from valuable training time. Every time I go for a run or a ride (which are supposed to be fun) I can’t help but think “Ok, can I double/triple/quadruple that and add a run/bike?” Most of the time the answer is no.

So I keep wondering about this chewing thing. This event should make me grow as an athlete, but chewing bigger things doesn’t make your mouth bigger. Will I spit some of the race out? Will I just chew it for a really long time and be the last person on the course? Will I choke and not finish?

Who knows. I’m just trying to tell myself that I need to “work with the body I bring to race day” (modified from my amazing yoga teacher Eileen Chan) and whatever happens, I need to have unconditional love for myself. Even if I choke, I still bit off something really big – and that’s worth something, right?

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Mar

24

I just finished reading Love in the Time of Cholera. And, despite having a love/hate relationship with it (and the fact that I maxed out my number of renewals at the library – which seriously motivated me to finish it…), I think in the end it touched me;  it reminded me of my own story, and made me think and reflect a lot on the concept of love.

When I finished the novel (and I’ll try not to spoil it here), I was left wondering what the moral of the story was. Was it simply an epic love tale? Was its purpose to demonstrate the development of love through writing, and that writing is nothing without physical consummation, on some level? Can love exist in the trials and tribulations that everyday life throws at a marriage? Or better yet, do we marry for stability in the face of happiness? Or is it – simply put – to live life, wholly and fully, without regret?

I know we all have at least one epic love tale. You know, the one you will always wonder about…the one that got away…all that clichéd jazz. So, on that level, I will agree that Love was a tale of epic proportions.

As for the concept of love through writing…let me explore that one further. I have two stories of my own that I was reminded of as I read the story. The first is related to my own epic love tale which spanned (at least) a solid decade of my life. Many of it was spent tragically writing letters…as a move from Calgary to Edmonton in the prime of my teenaged years was the general cause for the end of that tormented relationship. But on and on we scribbled away…writing all of our lusts and desires on paper…proclaiming our love for each other. But, to some degree like Fermina and Florentino, when we would be reunited in person, everything was awkward. The freedom with which we exposed the very inches of our deepest thoughts on paper was blocked – floundering and suppressed behind thoughts of “will we kiss” or “will he hold my hand.” I still have all those letters – preciously tied with a red ribbon in my night stand table. So, to the story of Fermina Daza and Florentino Ariza – I can relate. This happened to me too. But was it all “just an illusion?” I like to think that in my case, no…and for theirs, I hope not.

My second story of love through writing is a funny one. In math class in grade 11, we all had assigned seating, determined by alphabetical order. I really despised math in high school, and at one point, absent-mindedly wrote “kenna” on my desk with my pencil, not even thinking. The next day, I returned to the message “does THE kenna sit here?” Since I was blessed with a (fairly) unique name, I replied, in pencil, “yes.” The next day, I returned to the desk with a note that said, “look in the mike and ike box in the desk” – so I did – and there was a note hidden for me. That marked the beginning of a very long penpal exchange between a secret admirer and myself. He refused to reveal his identify for many weeks (months, even?), while pouring out the most intimate depths of his heart to me. When he finally did reveal himself, I was disappointed that it was a very uncomfortable and somewhat “nerdy” boy who had been writing this whole time; and although I tried to be nice, my 16-year-old ego-centric self couldn’t hide my disappointment. In that case, the connection truly was just an illusion.

But back to the question at hand – both points make me wonder – why are we so keen to risk everything in writing on a simple piece of paper, but cannot have the same honest and true conversations face-to-face? Is this why email/facebook/texting have become the preferred methods of contact? What if Fermina and Florentino had fallen in love in modern times by tweeting their feelings for each other? Would they have ended up together?

What about the thought of love ceasing to exist in the trials and tribulations of every day marriage. This is probably a whole entire post (or novel, or dissertation), but don’t we sort of sign ourselves up for a life lacking in passion if it is to be shared 100% with another person? Isn’t it challenging to feel red-hot burning desire for someone with whom you brush your teeth, share a toilet and see at their not-so-finest? In that vein, isn’t it easy to always wonder if you would be happier with someone else when you haven’t seen all the same sides as your spouse? Or do we end up choosing the person with whom we don’t have the greatest passion, but who offers us stability and comfort. Was Dr. Juvenal Urbino right? Is the important thing in marriage not happiness but stability?

But really, when it comes down to it, I really do think the simplest (Occam’s razor, right?) message to take away from the novel is that of living life without regrets. I’ve seen the shadow of regret on people’s faces all too often. “Oh,” an uncle will exclaim to me, “you have grown up to be so beautiful and so smart,” with the distinct sentiment in his eyes that he is sad he wasn’t around for its progression. Or the longing at a place or space or picture – thinking how amazing it was, or what could have been – if only. I think at the end of the day, for me at least, that’s the takeaway message: never wonder how things could have been – live them as they are. Love without fear. Travel often. Do what moves you.

The rest will work out…and you will be exactly where (and with whom) you are supposed to be.

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Mar

3

I have a scar. It’s right between my eyes and reminds me every day when I look in the mirror that life is precious and that I overcame something scary when I was very small. (For those wondering, I had a benign tumor when I was six months old).

My opinions toward my scar weren’t always positive. As a child, I used to get really tired of people asking me what my scar was about. One day, frustrated, (and only about 10 years old), I told one girl that I tried to staple my Halloween mask to my face when I was younger. The poor girl actually believed me.

Another time in high school, while riding the yellow cheese wagon, one boy looked at me (we had never spoken before) and with big bug eyes exclaimed “you have a scar just like Rob Zombie!” I was pretty mortified. It wasn’t really the look I was going for at 16, nor the reaction I was seeking from teenaged boys.

It got to the point that I went to a plastic surgeon to ask about having the scar removed. It would be a pretty invasive and expensive procedure – they would basically re-cut me in a zigzag pattern (it would apparently “blend in” to my face better) and then use many laser treatments to “fade” the scar. I said no way Jose, and went on with life.

When I was younger, I also didn’t understand the point of a tattoo. When I was about 18, and in one of my first long-term relationships, my boyfriend came home with a tattoo. It was giant, ugly and colourful…but most of all, it was shocking. He had never once spoken about wanting a tattoo, and here he was – with a giant PHOENIX BIRD image on his bulging bicep, complete with fire blazing from the creature’s beak. I asked him, with tears in my eyes, “what does it signify for you?” He shrugged and said “I thought it was cool.” I think that was the beginning of the end for us…I couldn’t understand why someone would emblazon on them, something so permanent and meaningless, on such an exposed part of their body. About a year later, he decided that he didn’t really like the tattoo anymore and got a snake put around it and turned the phoenix bird into a black “rock.” A ROCK. That was about the middle of the end of it for us.

It took me a really long time to decide that I wanted a tattoo, and wasn’t even sure of it when I got it. But I had really good reasons for it – I was nearing the end of this amazing, life-changing, self-exploratory trip and I felt like I needed to respect it and honor it somehow. At the time, I really felt like I had connected with myself and who I was – I almost felt “enlightened.” So, I went off and commissioned my personal artwork and had it placed in a private spot on my canvas. Whenever I see it, just like my real scar, it reminds me that life is precious and that I am Kenna and that I truly know myself and who I am.

Somewhat surprisingly, I had all of these revelations before I read The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo; so I especially connected with the story when the protagonist, Lisbeth, got a new tattoo after a fairly traumatizing incident and stated that “[her new tattoo] is a reminder.” It really resonated in me that tattoos are truly the scars we choose (just like friends are the family we choose, [Edna Buchanan]) and that sometimes we simply need a way to document important realizations from our life to remind us of the hardships, joys and enlightenments of our own personal journey.

So, it is with pride I announce that I have a scar. And I have a tattoo. And they are marks of my story on this twisting, twerving and amazing path I’m on called life.

2 comments so far (is that a lot?)

Feb

3

I’ve recently been reflecting the whole on male vs. female thing, largely in part because I’ve been reading and watching a lot about it.

I just finished Kathleen Winter’s novel “Annabel” – a brilliantly written story about a hermaphrodite in Labrador, Canada. The writing itself was stunning – I couldn’t put the book down. Acclamations aside, the book is about the struggles of someone caught between two worlds: of being neither male nor female. Often the book referenced the character’s fascination with symmetry and bridges, and in particular the Ponte Vecchio in Italy – a bridge that people actually LIVE on. I thought it was such a beautiful way to represent Wayne/Annabel as a character, as s/he is truly living on the bridge between “maleness” and “femaleness.”

Another notable (if you can really call it that) event in my life is that I just finished watching the entire four seasons of Mad Men. I have been completely and utterly enamored with this show since starting from the beginning just a few months ago. The depiction of life in Manhattan – the most interesting city in the world – in the 60s – the most interesting era of our history – had me eating out of the palm of its hand. But what really got me was the distinction between men and women and how men treated women. I really started to reflect on how my gender has shaped my career and began asking myself – has it really mattered that I am a woman?

There is one scene from season two (aptly named “Who Am I”) where Joan says to Peggy: “You’re in their country now. Learn to speak their language.” Here we are with this whole “us” vs. “them” scenario. Although I like to think that in the year 2011, we’ve progressed past this, but have we really? Are women traveling to the country? Are they even making their passport application? The idealistic side of me says yes, and this is shaped by the many inspiring and strong women I meet all the time….but I’m still wondering – maybe women have simply colonized their own country now?

But on the flip side, can a woman be too strong? I was talking with some fellow colleagues (women) the other day, and was introduced to the “Queen Bee” concept – where a woman will destroy all other women around her and surround herself with men. I was pretty horrified at the thought of this – isn’t it about people? Does gender really matter? What about Brokeback Mountain – wasn’t the point of the movie that love is blind to gender and it’s just “all about humanity, MAN?” (to quote one of my most favorite and colorful colleagues).

I must say, I don’t really know the answer to any of this – I’m bound and blinded by society’s view of gender and my place, as a woman, within it.

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Jan

26

I read this letter in the Edmonton Journal the other day, and wanted to share a bit of “plain language” statistics with folks since I deal with this type of work day in and day out. I’m really passionate about the field of market research and how it can shed light on so many issues, so I thought I’d take a moment and use my blog as an outlet.

Downtown should reflect Edmontonians, not image Katz wants

Publication: Edmonton Journal

Date: Wed Jan 19 2011

Page: A12

Section: Opinion

Byline: Joan Swain

Source: Edmonton Journal

A phone poll of 800 people is taken as indicating overwhelming support for the arena facility, while a written petition of 78,000 Edmontonians protesting the closure of the City Centre Airport was ignored by council.

There was a fourth question that was not offered on that poll which, no doubt, would have changed the results considerably.

That would be: “Daryl Katz wants a new arena, and wants to keep all the revenue it generates for himself, so should he build and pay for it on his own?”

Asking 800 people loaded questions is not representative of the thoughts of many citizens and should not be taken as such.

Joan Swain, Edmonton

I’ve heard this argument a few times in the media (the whole legitimacy of the phone poll vs. petition) and I’d like to shed a little light on the issue behind this.

A random sample of 800 Edmontonians has a margin of error of +/- 3.46 percentage points, 19 times out of 20. But what does that mean, exactly?

To put it simply, it means that if you were to replicate the study again – that is, ask the same questions of another, DIFFERENT 800 people in Edmonton, you would get roughly the same findings – either 3.46% less or 3.46% more than the result you received the first time.

To illustrate: the telephone survey found that 59% of Edmontonians support building an arena. If we asked another randomly selected 800 citizens the same question, we would expect to find that between 55.5% and 62.5% also agree. Thus, we can very confidently say that “the majority” of Edmontonians (more than half) support building an arena.

The airport petition, however, does not stand to the same level of scrutiny. Although it appears that many more people feel a certain way about the issue (in this case, the closure of the City Centre Airport), we don’t know whether these 78,000 folks (about 10% of the population) consist of EVERYONE who may feel this way or not. The “sample” was not random. Because people could seek out the petition and sign it if they were passionate about the issue, this 10% of the population could actually consist of every single person out there who believes the airport should stay open – which means that potentially, only 10% of Edmontonians are opposed to it closing. In other words, 90% may actually want to see it closed. Without a random sample, we don’t know how many people this 78,000 actually represents.

I also would like to address the comment about “loaded questions” – a loaded question is a question that uses words that can be interpreted in many ways (either positively or negatively). Having not seen the actual questions on the survey, I can’t comment on this; but I would like to note that the author’s proposed question: “Daryl Katz wants a new arena, and wants to keep all the revenue it generates for himself, so should he build and pay for it on his own” is actually a double-barreled (I’d even argue quadruple-barreled) question. It explores several issues lumped into one (wanting an arena, keeping the revenue for the arena, building an arena and paying for an arena).

Hopefully this helps everyone understand a little bit of basic research methodology and why organizations lean heavily on using random samples to help inform decision-making.

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Jan

5

And here I was again: I’d been here before – standing at the top, my heart beating, palms sweating and knees buckling before me. How was I going to do it? How was I going to make it down the hill?

Downhill skiing is one of the only things in life that repeatedly frightens me, over and over, and to which I keep going back to. As the anxiety builds higher as I ride the chairlift up the mountain, I wonder to myself, who ever thought that going down a mountain strapped to two planks is fun? And why do we keep doing it?

The answer: a challenge. It’s not often I find myself truly scared in life. After taking off on the most grand adventure of my existence thus far, it seems that nothing could scare me: jumping out of planes over mountain ranges, jumping off cliffs over swirling rivers while strapped into a bungee cord, scuba diving alone at night with sharks, or holding not fewer than three live scorpions whilst in the Malaysian jungle – you would think that skiing would be a piece of cake for me, right? Wrong.

The challenge of skiing keeps drawing me back, time and time again, even though I continually have panic attacks on the mountain. But the funny thing is, after going this last time (my thirteenth time in my adult life – I don’t count the times spent as a child crying on the hill and refusing to move as “real” experiences. Actually, who am I kidding. I have spent a lot, if not most, of my adult experiences crying on the hill and sliding down on my butt) I actually noticed a change. And the funny part is that I didn’t, at first, perceive the change to be within me: I truly believed that the MOUNTAIN had changed.

Okay, so rational thought and the laws of physics tell me that this can’t actually be possible. I get it. I’ve skied Sunshine a grand total of three times, so I’ve done all the chairs and most of the runs and have a good sense of what to expect. But this time, I could have sworn to you the runs were less steep. Surely there was an earthquake recently that stretched the mountain? C’mon Kenna.

It was until I actually considered it that I realized my perception had changed. Somewhere along the lines of the past five years, I’ve actually gotten better. And the changes have been so tiny and intangible, that I didn’t even know they were happening. I had grown ever so slowly but surely, that my entire perspective on the steepness of the mountain had changed.

That got me to thinking: this happens to us, every day, in everything that we do, but often we don’t have the opportunity to reflect upon it and measure ourselves in the exact same situation, especially as adults. The mountain is always there. It’s always the same. The only variable is us.

Do you ever go back to childhood places and think, man, I remember this place as being so much bigger/better/more beautiful? It’s rare that you get to capture this same feeling with only a year or two bridging the first experience with the next experience. But I did with Sunshine.

This simple, yet profound reflection on my life has made me realize the importance of pursuing challenge in everything I do – it’s the only way I’ll grow. In my career, my relationships, my volunteerism, my hobbies – I need to keep pushing the envelope and make myself do things that scare me. Or I won’t grow. And my perspective won’t change. And I’ll be forever skiing the same terrifying, monstrous and anxiety-inducing slope for the rest of my life.

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