Have you ever seen your life flash before your eyes? No? Me neither.
But I have had the closest thing to it. I used to jokingly call these situations "brushes with death". But it's funnier than it sounds.
It all started with the sound of a summer tire bouncing onto the driveway.
Do you remember the first word you ever said?
I don’t even remember the first words my kids said. Maybe Momma? Dada?
But I DO remember the first word that Melanie ever said.
Melanie was the young daughter of a photographer I worked for in my early twenties. Some days I worked in the darkroom at his photo studio, some days I was sorting negatives. And some days I looked after little Mel if her Mom got called in to work.
Those were the fun days.
I don’t think my Dad ever drove by a wide open parking lot after a fresh snowfall without pulling in to do a few donuts. In the station wagon. With us kids in the back seat, loving it.
This same fun-loving guy sang inappropriate university drinking songs - with modified lyrics - when we were kids. Sometimes while making us breakfast, or getting us ready for school...“She’s got freckles on her BUT she is nice”.
38 years ago today, I joined my buddy June and her brand new husband (Danny) on their honeymoon trip.
Yes, I just revealed that I have friends that are way, WAY older than me.
The wedding took place in our home town, Brockville, and after the festivities subsided I needed to get back to Ottawa.
The newlyweds were heading through Ottawa to a honeymoon destination in Quebec that Sunday and they very generously offered me a ride.
It seemed like a good idea at the time.
You know when you are going shopping for clothes so you dress in an outfit and shoes that are super easy to take off and put back on?
You feel pajamas and slippers are the best option but because you are going out in public, you have to take it up a notch? Yep.
So on a grey day in September, four years ago, when we were living on the upper west side of NYC, I decided I needed some new clothes.
I was living out of a suitcase at the time and was craving some new threads to replace the well-worn collection I'd been wearing for several months, on rotation.
Last week, we packed up our sweet cape cod house, cleaned it from top to bottom and recycled a ton of stuff.
But we were still left with a mountain of garbage, including three old, crappy garbage cans.
What was the hardest part of leaving the house we've been in for 17 years? Was it leaving all the memories behind? Deep cleaning it from top to bottom? Packing a kazillion boxes?
Remember that pivotal day when you KNEW you would start your own business? I remember that day well.
I was downsized from a cool start-up company (along with 60 of my colleagues) and I decided to strike out on my own. No more "job" job.
I was going to be Kim.Inc, put out my own shingle, and start my own company.
Since installing the see-through bird feeder on the window directly in front of my desk, productivity has plummeted at The Houlahan Group.
As soon as I figured out the right seed to use (the little birds like the small stuff), I started getting the regulars to the feeder all day. (We'll talk more about distraction another time!)
There's Walter, the neat and tidy sparrow who carefully steps inside and takes just what he needs.
He's quiet, a little selfish and stealth.
Why was my foot suddenly in excruciating pain while I was hitchhiking from Brindisi to Pescara on that sweltering June afternoon back in 1981?
I was stumped.
We were having a great day up 'til then. Spending more time in cars than on the side of the road. No pain at all.
When I removed my well-worn sandal and looked between my big toe and the next one (you know, the piggy that stayed home), something a little familiar was sticking out.
I didn't know how much I wanted to ride my bike through Times Square in NYC until I realized it might be impossible!
For our two-month stay in Manhattan I was going to rent a bike but when I saw the crazy rental prices at the hole-in-the-wall bike rental shop in Tribeca, I decided to buy one of those cool turquoise city bikes instead.
That bike was my favourite way to get around NYC.
I was a newbie at Banfield-Seguin Advertising & Design in Ottawa back in the late 80’s when I met Bill.
I had heard so many epic stories about Bill and his antics before I got to know him.
Working with him every day was a hoot. I have never met anyone with more spirit and sense of adventure. He could figure anything out. He had an idea for every prank - no matter how complicated - and a costume for every event. Bill was legendary.
My favourite Bill story took place in 1988.
A few weeks ago, on my quiet residential street, I saw Alexander’s cool, kinda vintage, burgundy car go by my window on the bed of a tow truck.
Was this out of the usual? Yep. My typical entertainment through that window consists of commuters (some wave to me, hi!), random deer jaywalking, joggers jogging and dog walkers. Normally, I don't pay much attention to the comings and goings while I’m working.
Then Alexander’s car went by.
Having a pet snake made us the most popular family in the neighbourhood - let me rephrase that - the most popular among the KIDS in the neighbourhood.
Our oldest son, Joey, not only loved all creatures but he could actually seek out, find (and capture) just about any living thing in the great outdoors.
It was like living with the Canadian version of the Croc Hunter!
I found out I was pregnant (with Joey, my first born) on my very first day of work at Shoreline Graphics. It was March, 1990.
Despite the inconvenient timing and the thought of the dreaded conversation I needed to have with my brand new boss, I was pretty excited.
I had left a sample at the corner drug store (because that's what we did back then) and on my way home for lunch (it was walking distance from home, a great perk of the new job) I stopped by to get the test results.
Shoreline Graphics was a small, progressive design agency made up of four young, creative, go-getting guys when they hired me.
I was young, keen and had no idea what I was getting into. (I'm saving my stories about being the only girl in an all boy agency for another day.)
I think the small office was about 800 square feet total and I shared a small portion of that space with Jimm, one of the co-owners.
The sun had just come up when I noticed that a particularly impish bird landed on the ledge of our deck. The same ledge where I have all my beach finds on display.
We are living and working in Costa Rica right now and because I had a full suitcase when I arrived (I mean packed-to-the-hilt-stuffed suitcase) there is no room for any shells, cool rocks or beach glass for the trip home. Well, maybe some beach glass will fit.
So why even collect these treasures? To enjoy them while I'm here, of course. So there they all are, on the ledge, on display, being enjoyed.
I saw the Titanic movie. I know how it's supposed to feel when you wave good-bye to people heading out to sea on a big ship. It's fun. It's romantic. It's heartwarming. It's a special event.
That's why I thought it would be a great idea to see off a group of family members as they headed out to Bermuda on a ginormous cruise ship, from a port in New York City, not far from where I'm living at the moment.
It happened in a split second.
Do you ever have that thought, that sinking feeling, that you want to go back in time, just one or two seconds. If you could just get time to back up a smidge, so you could re-think a decision, or undo a really dumb move.
As I stood in total disbelief, with mounds (and mounds) of shattered glass everywhere, I'm pretty sure I said a bad word (the air was blue), then I actually put my head in my hand, and shook it a little.
It was a fixture on Beechwood Avenue until Saturday night. Yes, our beloved New Edinburgh Pub closed its doors for the last time. I happened to be in Ottawa on the weekend of the closure and it took me by surprise.
I know restaurants come and go. But I was pretty sad and nostalgic about the loss of this well worn corner pub. It was the go-to place for many of our family gatherings - we celebrated birthdays, anniversaries and sometimes, nothing at all.
The booth by the window was the perfect perch to people watch and gab. And they'd happily pull a bunch of tables together to feed our big clan.
It's been a very busy couple of weeks since I joined a welcome team for a Syrian refugee family that just arrived in Canada.
The experience has been really great - for me, anyway - I'm not sure if our new Syrian friends have figured out these crazy, super friendly Canadians are only trying to help! (Can you be too welcoming? Not in Canada!)
The welcome team model is unique to Saint John and from what I hear, it's a model that more towns and cities should consider in their own effort to welcome new Canadians.
The Small Business Guide
Kim Houlahan is a marketing consultant who loves helping small business owners improve their marketing.
Small Business Guide ~ Archives
When the Rubber hits the Road
How is your Business like a Marriage?
The Right Place at the Right Time
Just Get Out There.
How Hard Can it Be to Describe What you Do?
What's Your Best Productivity Hack?
To Share or Not to Share
Relatively Small Efforts for - wait for it - Great Results
The Truth about Working from Home
What's YOUR Superpower?
6 Things You Can Do Now
Perspective is (Almost) Everything
Are You Sensitive to Customer Needs?
Got a Process for That?
Don't Get Attached!
Aim DIRECTLY at your audience
Know When to Ask for Help
3 Things you Should Never Assume
Avoid the Wild Goose Chase
Where do you Draw the Line?
Give'em a Memorable Experience