While I was on stage, I noticed Pamela Martin in the crowd. And because I have been a longtime admirer of her work in broadcasting and subsequently in politics, I was sort of giddy at the thought of having the chance to meet her. Not like an obsessed fan, but more as a woman in awe of another woman for her work-ethic and her contribution. I live in an area of Vancouver called the North Shore – and within the North Shore, more specifically a tiny little seaside village called Deep Cove, and previous to our Dress for Success encounter, I was sure I had seen Pamela Martin around my neighbourhood. Turns out, her granddaughter and JouJou are in the same class at the same Montessori Pre-school. So, in the days since I pounced on her at the Dress for Success event, I have connected with her a number of times at school events. I’ve always said that there is nothing better than meeting someone who you hope and think will be awesome, and they end up being exactly that. Similarly, there’s nothing worse than meeting someone who you hope and think will be awesome, and they end up being exactly the opposite. Pamela is the former. She is a delight, she is an inspiration, and she knows the secret of success. It comes down to two words: “Hard work.” And even she admits that she’s sorry that’s what the secret is – but alas, that is what it is.
Pamela was the first female reporter and on-air personality in her early days at top-rated stations and channels. And it was a role – to be the first woman – she took very seriously. To say that she has been a pioneer for women in broadcasting, would be an undeniable understatement. This is a person who talked about issues like breast cancer when it was actually not even permissible to say the word “breast” on-air, because it wasn’t considered good manners. ("Breast! Breast! Breast!")
Ultimately, she would over the years, end up in the coveted seat of News at 6 anchor, alongside the esteemed Bill Good, on Canada’s CTV network’s west coast affiliate, where she would remain for the last near-decade of her broadcasting career – scooping up her fair share of awards and accolades along the way.
For nearly 40 years, the name Pamela Martin was synonymous with respect and integrity and likability in the field of communications, and perhaps at no time was she more front and centre than during the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympic Games when she was not only a carrier of the torch, an interesting metaphor for someone who has been carrying a torch for decades – but she was the trusted face of the games, here in the host city.
And while she most assuredly could have chilled for a while after a career as illustrious as her own, in 2011, after her retirement from the media, she announced the next chapter of her career -- in politics, alongside now BC Premier, Christy Clark and the Liberal Government, where, in true Pamela form, she would go on to be a force yet again.
And after all this trailblazing, while many of us would seek the serenity and ease of the all-inclusive holiday, where the only decision we have to make is whether or not we want a mini-umbrella in our drink, Pamela recently took off to Africa for the better part of a month, where she would roll up her sleeves with the good people of Create Change – an organization dedicated to educating girls so that they are better equipped to rise out of poverty. Even in Africa, she was leaving a trail for girls and women, in the classes she taught while there. I love this woman and it is my goal to be her when I grow up. Or at least my own version of her.
This is a woman who, when she decides what it is that she wants, does what it takes to go and get it. And really, couldn’t we all commit to a little more of that in our lives?
However, thanks to artistic visionaries and thought leaders like Wendy Williams-Watt who sees opportunity for beauty and self-expression all around her, the quantity of love shown and received and felt is growing exponentially around the world. Love for oneself, love for community, love for country, love for the planet. In fact, her most talked about project to date Big Love Ball now has a home on every continent globally. If you’re not familiar with Big Love Ball, it is the incarnation of the glue that holds societies, countries, and families together – the most powerful single-word in any language, love – written in simple type across the width of a ginormous 5-foot in diameter to be exact, inflatable ball. It’s been called inflatable sculpture; an enormous beach ball that says the one thing we most want to say and hear and feel. Love.
Wendy Williams-Watt is a neat person, and the reason this conversation is so important is two-fold. One, we talk about love. Why we’re so afraid to show it. What it feels like when we’re missing it. What it feels like when we’re in it. But, we also talk about what it means to not just have ideas – which, when you’re as creative a person as Wendy is, is kind of like breathing – but actually doing something about them. I say it all the time: “The world needs dreamers and the world needs doers, but most of all, the world needs dreamers who do.” Wendy is a dreamer who does, and this episode is an invitation to you too, to be a dreamer who does. Small admin note: I typically credit that quote as having come from Eleanor Roosevelt, but alas, I went to verify it the other day and I learned it was Sarah Ban Breathnach, writer of Simple Abundance.
For years, Wendy was respected in the city of Vancouver for her role concepting and operating the go-to lifestyle destination shop called Liberty – it was a place to go and just lose yourself in the awe of the finely curated pieces. The energy in that space for me, nearly 20 years ago, as a junior copywriter just starting out and living across the street from it, was the feeling of “one day…” It was like walking into a dream. When Wendy transitioned from being the décor expert, the entrepreneur with the thriving enterprise, she experienced an epiphany one day when the battery of her mouse died and she saw the words: “connection lost” across her screen. Her daughter had just moved out, a relationship had come to an end, and Wendy realized she had too much stuff and not enough love and people. She let herself walk through the pain and the loneliness and when she came out on the other side, a whole new articulation of love waited for her on the other side. If you have not seen Big Love Ball, and Wendy’s other love-enhancing, love-expressing projects like Pink Ring and Writing on Ribs, please – no, really, please – check out MJDionne.com and check out the podcaster tab. You need to see this work.
I hate to say it, but I’m going to anyway. There is perhaps an underlying feeling that to talk about love is a "female" thing to do. That it’s somehow not cool for guys to engage in dialogue this potentially vulnerable in nature. Which is why, I invite you all to tune in – love is as universal as it gets. And this is a talk for us all. In this time of a particular president talking about walls, and travel bans, and pulling out of the Paris Climate Change Agreement, and we have fear in London in light of last week’s London Bridge attack, and in Manchester after the Ariana Grande concert terror attack, what the world needs now, is love sweet love. Wendy talks about what it was like touring the Fire Halls around ground zero on the anniversary of 9/11 last year, and the reaction of these big, burly men – as soon as they saw Big Love Ball, it became an invitation to talk and connect and share. When they brought Big Love Ball to ground zero and invited people to pen a loving note on the ball itself, Wendy describes this feeling of eutopia – love doesn’t see religion, gender, nationality.
She was back in New York this week, with her latest project, Big Love Button as seen on Good Morning America – congrats to you on that, sister.
JouJou very recently has taken to riding her bike up and down the carpeted hallways of our condo building in BC's wine country, and since this is the first year that Birdie can actually walk, she sort of giddily squeals and chases behind her big sister in her distinctly diaper-clad waddle. However, the other day, JouJou went out into the hallway and left our condo door open, for Birdie to come out when she was ready. I watched as Birdie made the realization that JouJou had in fact left the suite on her bike, and I watched as she processed that she too wanted to leave the unit, and be in the vicinity of the big kid who was out in the hallway. She headed over to the door, which was wide open, and then she quickly stopped. She did not proceed, despite the fact that nothing was, at first glance, physically stopping her.
However, the door mat that sits at our entrance is made of sort of this grassy, sisal texture, and Birdie was in bare feet -- so to cross over it would mean a bit of short-term discomfort.
I watched her process this: I watched as the realization hit her that what she wanted was on the other side of the discomfort. And, in the moment, the symbolism was just too much for me – and is the reason I share this observation with you now.
How many times in our own lives, has the door been wide open – a standing invitation for us to simply walk through and embrace a new experience, to play at a bigger level -- but the thought of moving toward and through that little bit of discomfort ultimately stops us? The grassy sisal mat, can take many forms. Yet, most of the time, as soon as we approach it and tackle it, it vanishes. It’s no longer an issue. And in it’s place is a whole new reality – we have made it out of the condo and into the carpeted hallway where the big kids get to ride their bikes.
JouJou has a book that my cousin Dave bought her when she was just a little thing. It’s called “We’re going on a bear hunt”. In it, the writer, Michael Rosen, identifies a number of challenges that our protagonist faces along the way, throughout the duration of the epic journey. Deep mud, raging rivers, high grass. And in every instance, the refrain is the same: “We can’t go over it, we can’t go under it, oh no -- we have to go through it.” And such it is with the life we live above and beyond children’s literature, when it comes to life’s discomforts: We can’t go over it, we can’t go under it – oh no, we have to go through it.
I am recording this solocast on the eve of an important and exciting trip to Necker Island, Sir Richard Branson’s private estate in the British Virgin Islands, where I will spend the next week with 20 other social entrepreneurs – the Change Makers and Rule Breakers -- in an environment of positivity, leadership, and growth. To me, it’s my hallway, the place where the big kids get to ride their bikes. However, before I get there, I first must embrace the fear of the unknown. Because for as silly as it may seem – and let’s face it, so often our own versions of the grassy, sisal mats are indeed very silly when we acknowledge them – the unknown, the complete mystery of what the next seven days will have in store for me, has me in a state of mild frenzy. And yet, a week from now, I know I will look back with gratitude and a wealth of new memories and new friends, and I will laugh at the ludicrousness of it all.
So, tomorrow, I’ll be boarding a plane to Atlanta, and from there, one to San Juan, and from there one to Tortola, and from there, a small boat will zip me through the Caribbean Sea to Sir Richard Branson’s home island, where for one week, I will be surrounded by big kids on their bikes -- those people who know that when you want to get to the other side of life’s open doorways, you can’t go over it, you can’t go under it, oh no -- you’ve got to go through it.
As for Birdie, ultimately, as her mommy, I carried her over the grassy, sisal mat, and popped her out onto the other side. Which, when you’re only two years old, is in and of itself its own life lesson – which is… that sometimes we get by with a little help from our friends. But that’s a topic for another day.