Thursday, 18 April 2019

Vintage 1979 - Deena

Let me tell you a story about a girl named Deena. 

I first got to know this fashionista in the French classroom. The autumn day I walked nervously into Holy Cross High School as a student teacher, I began to shadow experienced women. 

First, I watched an English teacher absolutely engage an entire classroom with her personality. She was powerful and passionate and I was entranced by her presence... but also intimidated. Her teaching style was formidable and her students were incredibly fortunate to learn with her, but there wasn't a palpable sense of comfort and safety... more of striving and attention.

Then I went into Madame Simair's French classroom.

 The difference was marked. Deena was funky and fun, both in her appearance and in her manner. Her students were eager to chat with her and each other. There was a sense of mutual respect and a sense of belonging that she fostered with calm confidence. There was a feeling of being in it together. She was organized but never rigid. She kept things moving but it never felt rushed. She was confident but not loud. 

Photo by Lovely Roots Photography

She allowed me to try out teaching in a real way. She was always there to fill in the gaps and help with suggestions without ever undermining my feeble teaching efforts. I learned so much from her and developed a strong idea of the kind of teacher I wanted to be... and then off I went, back to the college of Education for more classes before having the opportunity to spend my internship with another incredible strong and supportive female mentor. 

I didn't realize back then what a gift my time in Deena's classroom was. I don't know if it really sunk in until I began learning and growing in my own classroom, two years later. I remember Deena emailing me to see if I would want her to put in a word for me when she went on maternity leave with a beautiful little girl, her second child and thanking her for thinking of me as I was starting out on my career path, just down the road at Walter Murray Collegiate.

She kept in touch and I began to follow her blog about her life with her family and kids. I loved her voice and sporadically checked in. A few years passed and by then, we had a little girl of our own, Emily Grace. I'd posted a few things on the internet, mainly to update our friends and family of what we were up to and then Deena and I intersected again. She encouraged me to start blogging and introduced me to a style challenge she was a part of online. It looked so much fun and I was at home on maternity leave and I decided to join in. I met a few amazing women through that little group like Sarah...

California with Sarah!!

and Shaunacey... 

Frolicking with Shaunacey in South Carolina

and Lana...
Hey! There's Lana. We met in real life in Seattle but we met online first through Deena.

... but I wasn't too ready to really put things out into the world in a written or visual form outside of private Facebook groups.

Later, Deena invited me to participate in her 30 something series. She'd asked a variety of women to reflect on what life was like in their 30s and shared their recollections on her blog. It was the first time I experienced connecting with other women in an online forum and I loved it. I was hooked. Deena's encouragement and continual invitation to participate and to try something new in a non-threatening way somehow opened the gate for me to start exploring the world of blogging... and just like Deena, she would never take credit for that. She gently encourages when she sees passion or gifts, sets up a safe framework to assist in any way possible and then cheers the loudest when the people around her succeed.

Over the last six years, I've watched Deena orchestrate friendships and community through The Blended Blog with women of different ages, nationalities and interests.

 I've watched her develop and grow her community in real life when she opens up her home and invites everyone in. 

Photo by Lovely Roots Photography
Because of her, I have strong real friendships with women I would never have met outside of her behind-the-scenes tireless effort and work. Because of her example, sound board and encouragement, I've put myself out into the world in a different way. 

I've watched her parent with no nonsense standards and incredible grace and humour. I've watched her kill it in the gym and kill it with kindness.
Photo by Lovely Roots Photography
And right now, as this blog post goes live, I'm sitting in France with Deena and two friends I've gotten to know because Deena brought us together... because that's what she does.

If you think it's crazy to grab three friends who aren't all super close and head to a foreign country, it kind of is... but Deena has amazing instincts. She seeks out people, experiences and learning opportunities in life and then somehow she figures out how to connect them or accomplish them and then she shares it with everyone around her. 

I'm pretty proud to call Deena one of my closest friends and my business partner. 

Not getting away anytime soon.

I get to work with her brilliant (and organized) mind and I get to see all the quiet ways that she exudes creativity, humour and style, while balancing motherhood, family and life. 

It's really fun. It's also slightly terrifying because behind that quiet facade is a powerhouse of ideas, creativity and drive.

 Deena, I can't wait to see what lists of goals you smash this decade. Your fierce and fiery fabulousness shines and while I can't even fathom what your forties will hold, I am so thankful to have you in my life and I can't wait to be along for the ride.

... And this time, I think it's our turn to cheer you on. Bonne fête, mon amie. Joyeux joyeux anniversaire. 

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