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I forgot an important date yesterday!

April 6, 2021

I forgot an important date yesterday! Four years ago on April 5, 2017, my position was eliminated with the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador. As I remember every part of that day so clearly, I am surprised I forgot the anniversary of that event yesterday.

The day began five weeks before. In February I learned I would have to compete for my job against my current colleagues. For five weeks I went to work every day knowing that there was no good outcome for me. If successful, my position would move to St. John’s. Alternatively, the other outcome was not being successful and therefore not having a job.

During those weeks I had many visitors to my office. My clients were incredibly supportive and encouraging. Many were friends and they constantly checked in on me to make sure I was okay. Many brought gifts to brighten my day.

No photo description available.
A cheerful bouquet from a client and dear friend.

That day started like most; however, we quickly found out that it was going to be “the day”. The day when I found out if I still had a job. I received a phone call to set my appointment time. According to my colleagues I was the fourth meeting. My department was keeping only three positions. As a result, I knew my fate. I started a list of things to remember in the 15 minutes that I knew I would have to clean out my office. It included remembering to take my jam out of the fridge. I packed my toaster oven and other personal items that I had not yet brought home.

At my appointed time, I received the expected and unwelcome news I was no longer required in my position. Clients surrounded me as I was escorted out of the building. As it was near lunch time, and people saw me packing my car, there was an impromptu gathering of well-wishers, hugs, tears, and yes, laughs in the parking lot.

The support of so many of those clients has led to my success today. I remember thinking in the first year after that day that I must have done something right in my time at the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador. I still have strong connections to people from my time there. They are still checking in on me to see if I am okay. I must be okay if I forgot the anniversary of that day yesterday. ~ Carole

Becoming a Mentor

April 1, 2021

Becoming a mentor in the Atlantic Study & Stay NL program has given me unexpected rewards. After two years of saying no, I agreed to join the mentorship program for International students studying in Newfoundland and Labrador. The program encourages students to stay primarily in NL or Atlantic Canada once they have completed their studies.

When first asked, I was hesitant as a small business owner. I was not sure I could commit the time. I also truly wondered, What could I offer an International student? My business is not large enough to offer an internship, or a job. I have not been in business a long time so I really did not think I was a match for this program. I agreed to become a mentor when asked again as I saw it as a way to give back to my community; something which is important to me.

My mentee is a graduate student studying at Grenfell Campus, Memorial University, in Corner Brook, NL. I immediately asked my daughter who is also a graduate student at this campus, if she knew my mentee. She did not.

At our first virtual meeting, we discovered that my mentee was a student in the Environmental Assessment course I attended as a guest lecturer a couple of years ago discussing project management and team-building. That helped make a connection and seemed to put him at ease. We chatted about his journey to Grenfell and his hopes and aspirations. I suggested a few things to work on and we agreed to meet again in a month’s time.

At our last meeting, something unexpected happened. I found myself caring about him as an individual, not just a monthly commitment. His lack of a social network, the impact of isolation due to COVID-19, and the weariness he is experiencing as he tries to complete his thesis is concerning to me. I felt like I was talking to my daughter who is also in the last stages of her thesis writing and is finding it tiring. I feel like I shifted in to “mom” mode rather than “mentor” mode. We talked about self-care, expanding his social network, and finding that motivational spark he needs to complete his degree.

Becoming a mentor has touched me in ways that I did not expect. I have discovered that it is not a “role” I have to play; it is simply being myself. Sharing my experience, providing a new perspective has allowed me to discover unexpected gifts within myself. Connecting with a young man who made a journey from his country to ours, looking to make a difference, has been heartwarming. I am looking forward to our next call in a couple of weeks. ~ Carole

One year ago our lives changed

March 1, 2021

One year ago this month our lives drastically changed. On March 16, 2020, our province went in to its first lockdown. Join me as I take a moment to check in on the past year.

It is hard to believe that one year ago I was returning home from facilitating polar bear discussions in Montreal. There were some signs that change was coming. A few people in the airports were wearing masks. There were some reports of illness in other parts of the world; however, here in our province it was essentially unheard of. An unknown woman, Dr. Janice Fitzgerald was making a few comments to the press and we were living a normal life.

Old Montreal, 2020

Jump ahead a couple of weeks and I attended a family birthday gathering. Two of my uncles, and an aunt all have birthdays in March and each year we gather for a family blind potluck. It is a blind potluck because no one tells each other what we are bringing. It is always fascinating that we have very few duplicate dishes! This year, there will be no family gathering to celebrate. A gathering of 35+ family and friends is unthinkable!

Two days after our celebration, our province went in to its first lockdown due to COVID-19 being in our communities. We were scared, nervous, anxious, frustrated, and determined to do what we were being told so that we and our loved ones could be safe. During the first lockdown we had no idea how long it would last. We prepared to stay home in isolation as long as it took.

At first, it was fun! A chance to stay in pajamas all day, snack when we wanted, spend time with loved ones in our home, no commute to work. This is not so bad, right?

Fortunately, the most secure lockdown lasted only a few months. We slowly began to see restrictions ease and we got to bubble up with another bubble and expand our interactions with one another. Then the past couple of weeks came the dreaded news. We are in another full lockdown province-wide.

Third Quarter Phenomenon

When developing some curriculum last spring I came across an article on third quarter phenomenon (TQP). It is well documented about what happens to people in long periods of isolation. Studies have been done with astronauts in space, folks working in the far North in isolation, and people working on submarines. The novelty of isolation begins to wear off and the uncertainty sets in.

TQP is characterized by the following:

  • Agitation – Agitation refers to a state of nervous “excitement” or anxiety. When agitated, we feel keyed up and on edge, possibly hyper-vigilant, looking for reasons to be worried or fixes for our anxiety.
  • Irritability – When we feel irritable, we feel as though we have lost a sense of insulation between ourselves and others and our experiences and responses to them. Everything feels close to the surface and we are highly reactive. Research links intolerance, grouchiness, frustration, psychological tension, and touchiness to irritability.
  • Depression/Fluctuation in Mood It is normal to feel “blue” when faced with a completely disorienting reality. Owning, normalizing, and working through these feelings can keep them from turning into full-blown depression. If you are experiencing prolonged low mood with excessive guilt, loss of pleasure, sleep/eating changes, and hopelessness for more than two weeks, it’s crucial that you reach out to a mental health professional.
  • Decreased Morale Morale is defined as “the confidence, enthusiasm, and discipline of a person or group at a particular time.” As we have seen, the manifestation of community morale as expressed by staying home, wearing masks, washing hands, physical distancing, and applauding our front-line workers each evening has flattened the curve as well as raised our spirits. Morale is an important energetic force that helps people make choices for the good of the group. When morale is high, we are more likely to be dedicated to communal goals.

I don’t know about you; however, I am certainly feeling one or more of these things at any given time. I try to do a check in once in awhile of myself and how I am feeling at that moment to see if I need to take any actions to pull myself out of a funk. I check in on my husband, daughters, parents and other family and friends to see how they are doing. As always, if anyone is feeling like they are struggling and need help, reach out to the resources that are available.

I do remain optimistic. A week ago, my 96-year old grandfather received his first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. Our collective efforts seem to be flattening the curve on the latest outbreak in our province. The Atlantic provinces are doing well and I am hopeful that our Atlantic bubble will return and we can see our daughter in person again soon. Across Canada, numbers are heading in the right direction.

Pop receiving his first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine

In the words of the now well-known Dr. Fitzgerald, hold fast. We are going to be okay. Our lives changed a year ago. I wonder how much they will change again in the year to come. ~ Carole

Three Years Ago I Went Swimming

February 19, 2021

Three years ago I went swimming on this day. Now, you may wonder, how does she remember that? Well, it was also the day I started Spicer Facilitation & Learning. I remember that Monday morning so clearly. I launched my Facebook page, ordered my business number with CRA and then hopped in the car to go swimming with two of my aunts.

We attended a public swim at 9:30 am. The only folks swimming at that time of day are parents with young children and seniors. So, when I arrived, I was promptly sold a seniors pass! I quickly learned that swimming at that time of day is really just a social float; a time for people to catch up on local news, who is sick, who has travelled, who has returned home. As a result, I was fresh news! As I came up during my front crawl, I heard, Niece. Job. Government. Yup, I was the talk of the pool.

Three years ago I had no idea what my business would look like today. I had an idea, a business plan, and projections of where I thought I would be at this point in time. To say I exceeded my expectations is an understatement.

Three years by the numbers

Today I am too busy to go swimming which is a good thing! I am so grateful for the support I have received. Starting with my husband who endures me being home way more than expected, especially with a pandemic! Our daughters who encourage me and listen to my endless stories. My parents and extended family who are always eager to know what my latest adventures are. My 96-year old grandfather who keeps asking me, “Is there a dollar to be made at what you do?” Yes, Pop, I am making a dollar and then a few more. I could not do this without them.

Finally, I could not be where I am today without the clients who have put their trust and faith in me, my processes, and my desire to see them succeed. To everyone who has recommended me to someone else, has hired me, has attended one of my events, who has shared my social media posts, Thank You! I look forward to the next three years and then a few more! ~ Carole

We Are All Connected

February 11, 2021

I was reminded today how small the community in Newfoundland and Labrador really is and the fact that truly we are all connected.

This year I am a mentor in the Atlantic Canada Study and Stay Program. My mentee attends Grenfell Campus, Memorial University in Corner Brook. Today, we met online for our first session.

A few minutes in to our conversation he asked, “Did you attend the Environmental Impact Assessment course at Grenfell a couple of years ago?” Yes! It turns out, he was in the class that day. My friend, former colleague and client, Christine Doucet asked me to speak to her class on project management concepts and team-building. This was the first time I did and it was in-person (see photo). Since then, I have spoken to Christine’s class each semester. You can read about this year’s experience on another post.

Group of University students in a classroom
Grenfell Campus, Memorial University, October 2019

Our first session today was about getting to know one another. This young man moved to Corner Brook to attend Grenfell to complete his Masters of Arts in Environmental Policy. He is working on a project to determine if waste from the pulp and paper mill in Corner Brook can run greenhouses.

He is from a small community in Azerbaijan, 20 minutes from the capital city. His small community is not like ours in NL, however. It has over 300,000 people and the nearby capital has over 2 million! We discussed networking today and how to make connections in Newfoundland and Labrador. The fact that we met a couple of years ago, and again today, shows the power of how we are all connected in this province! I am looking forward to our next session. I hope I can help provide guidance to this young man and that he chooses to stay in Newfoundland and Labrador.

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