How to Choose Your Own Adventure in 2018

I wrote this for Mabel’s Labels almost exactly a year ago, having no idea how relevant and meaningful it would become just a few days later.

2017 is in the rearview (thank God) and 2018 is well underway, making “resolution” talk a bit stale. But I don’t think there’s ever a bad time to ask…. are you ready to choose your own adventure?

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Remember Choose Your Own Adventure books?

The format is based on the reader being able to make decisions, to choose which path to follow at every crossroad in the story. Once the end is reached, you can go back and start over again, making different choices, until all possibilities have been explored and the book has been read cover to cover.

As a child of the 1980s, I LOVED these books. They got me into reading and helped inspire a lifelong pursuit of travel and adventure. They’re the reason I love mystery novels and why I’ve never given up on my dream of piloting a hot air balloon over western Europe while being chased by mysterious, yet handsome, bad guys.

I recently purchased a set of these books for my daughters and reading the covers and synopses was a total trip. I expected the plot lines to be laughable and out-dated, and I wasn’t disappointed. Lasers, aliens and aliens with lasers were common themes, as were damsels in distress and buried treasure.

It’s been a long time since I thought about Choose Your Own Adventure books, but they’re top of mind now as many of us think about charting our course for 2017 because the truth is, this year can be whatever you want it to be. You too can choose your own adventure. You can even go down one path, decide it’s not for you and switch course. You are the driver, you’re in control.

YOU, my friend, are the alien with a laser.

Will this be the year you

lose 15 pounds?

travel to that bucket list place?

pay off your credit card?

start a new career?

expand your family?

learn a new language?

end a bad relationship?

Or will this be the year you hunker down and keep the status quo? Will your focus be feathering the nest, getting better at your job, or turning a hobby into a career?

Will you start new friendships, end old ones or reconnect with someone who meant a lot to you back in the day?

Or maybe you’ll start changing the way you see the world, consciously or unconsciously.

Even when you choose your own adventure, life can throw you a curveball. And while your plot twist might not be two-headed camels chasing you across the surface of the moon (at least I hope not, for your sake), it might be something that rocks your world, something you didn’t see coming that changes everything for better or for worse. So you’ll keep reading and wait for the chance to regain control, to make the decisions that restore order, at least in part.

If 2016 was a difficult year and you’re hoping for better in 2017, what choices are you making to ensure that happens? Because even when it’s all going to hell and our husbands, bosses, and kids seem hell bent on ruining our lives, we still have choices. We all have the power to choose our own adventures, any day, any time and we don’t need a calendar flip to do it (but a nice glass of merlot can be extremely helpful.)

The point is, only you can write your story. Your kids, your spouse, your parents and your boss might have plans and expectations but YOU are the one who chooses. YOU are the one who gets to decide on a path and follow it either to its conclusion or until it forks and you have to choose again. Even when the universe sends you down a different road, never forget that eventually the time will come when you can take back the wheel.

This is what I want for myself, my girlfriends and all my loved ones in 2017: the ability to recognize that we control our own stories; for each of us to understand that there is power in choice. As we move through life we’ll have many co-pilots. At different times our parents, our friends, our spouses, even our kids, will have huge influence on the choices we make. And while it’s okay to let them guide us, even to nudge or suggest a certain path, no one else can write your story for you.

The decision is yours. Choose wisely.




Throwback ….

Repost from June 2016

I wrote this last spring but the list of still holds true. These books are some of may favourites. Each one captures the joy, trauma and complexity of motherhood in very different ways. Just in case you’re looking for a new  novel to lose yourself in this weekend … Happy reading! J xo

Originally posted on June 16, 2016 for Mabel’s Labels on


Happy Birthday! Pass the Wine.


Yesterday was my birthday and the day before that was Daren’s. And with our 10th wedding anniversary coming up next month I’ve been thinking a lot about how gift-giving and celebrations have changed so drastically since we got together.

Birthday at 32? Lots of wine, sex and presents.

Birthday at 42? It’s all cake, streamers, sprinkles, crumpled gift bags and excited, sugary faces running in circles yelling “do you like it do you like it do you like it?”

Tiffany and Pottery Barn have been replaced by Homesense and homemade necklaces. Dinner at a hot new restaurant is now dinner at “that new place with the chicken fingers Leila likes.” In short, my expectations (like my breasts) are a little lower.

There are a few reasons for this:

1. We’ve been shopping for each other for 15 years and we’re running out of ideas. Clothes, jewelry, furniture, trips, books, booze, experiences, household decor, kitchen appliances, sporting equipment, massages, mani-pedis and fancy dinners have all been tapped. Livestock, gravel driveways and skywriting are all that remain and do you have any idea how expensive goats are? Though by some miracle of science they produce delicious cheese so I’m not ruling them out.

2. Unique gifts are too hard to think about and shop for between working, driving, cooking, shopping, bathing and all the other things normal humans are supposed to do each day. If we get 10 minutes to swing by Canadian Tire and another 3 to pick out a card at Shoppers that is a good year.

3. Gift-giving is no longer solely up to the adult. With the kids involved you inevitably end up getting what THEY want you to have. Harmony is working on her reading and insisted we get daddy a hockey chapter book. So off I went to buy Daren his 91nd book on the evolution of NHL goaltending. You’re welcome honey.

4. Expensive gifts just aren’t in the budget anymore. Discretionary purchases of $100 and up must now meet one of the following criteria: Can we eat it? Does it increase the value of our home? How long will they play with it (preferably in the basement or at a friend’s house)?

What about a quiet dinner out just the two of us? It goes something like this:

“Mommy and daddy are going out.”

“Why? Where?”

“To our favourite restaurant to celebrate our birthday”.

Stoned silence.

“But it’s your birthday”

Yes I know. That’s why I just said we”re going out to …”


“I know and we’ll celebrate as a family later but tonight it’s just daddy and I”.

“I thought birthdays were for families. You said that when I wanted to have all the grade 2s over last year.”

“Well they are and we will celebrate all together tomorrow but right now mommy and daddy are having some mommy and daddy time.”


“Fine? Did you just “fine” me?”

“It’s just that I thought birthdays were for families”.

“Get in the car”.

I don’t begrudge a single one of these changes because they are part and parcel of the lifestyle we embraced with open arms (and wallets) when we became parents. But I do look forward to once again waking up to a little blue box that is NOT the recycling bin.

Really? You shouldn't have!!

Really? You shouldn’t have!!

My Why

The response I usually get when I tell people I’ve left the corporate world to “stay at home” and become a Stella & Dot Stylist is, “Oh. Really.” I understand it can be a difficult concept for people to wrap their heads around, especially since my style was (is?) probably best described “backpack chic”, emphasis on the backpack. But I’m just crazy enough to think that staying home AND making money at something I love are not mutually exclusive.


I started doing this because I want to have more time for the girls. I want to volunteer at the school and have time to pack more than a cheese whiz sandwich and a bag of chips for lunch. I want Daren to be able to focus on his job while I hold down the fort. (And by the way, if you’d told me 10 years ago that I would eventually settle into such a traditional division of marital roles I’d have kicked you right in your Leave It To Beaver. But here we are. It’s working and I love it.)


I also fell deeply in love with the product. I think looking great makes us feel great, and when we feel great we do great things. So when my favourite t-shirt is stained with olive oil and the ass of my yoga pants is smeared with peanut butter, I can still put on a rocking necklace and feel like a million bucks. Or when I have failed at creating a sexy topknot and my hair looks like a cat’s been chewing on it, I’ll throw a great bag over my shoulder and not get arrested for ugly.


This weekend I attended Stella & Dot’s annual conference in Las Vegas. It’s called Hoopla and Hoopla is equal parts conference, training, boondoggle and religious experience. Sitting in the ballroom of Mandalay Bay, watching women and company executives tear up when other Stylists talk about what this opportunity has done for them and their families, visions of sweltering chapels in the deep south and cries of “you are SAVED!” did admittedly cross my mind. But that’s before I was encouraged to really think about “my why.”


Your “why” is why you joined Stella & Dot. Why are you doing this, what is your motivation? For some it’s extra money for a vacation, a home reno or post-secondary education. Some are supporting their families after a husband’s injury or job loss. Many are single moms who need a second income to survive. “I want my kids to see me doing more than laundry”, one woman told me. And another, a 69-year old retired University professor, just wanted to prove to herself she could do something else. And she loves the bags and scarves. Some are making a few hundred extra dollars, many are making six figures annually and a tiny handful are making seven figures. Yup, seven. And by the way, this is what our office parties look like.


CEO Jessica Herrin and VP Training Danielle Redner rock out at the annual Friday night dance party.

CEO Jessica Herrin and VP Training Danielle Redner rock out at the annual Friday night dance party.

When setting my goals, I documented my why like this: “Make enough money to stay home with my kids.” Many women shared that same motivation this weekend but eventually we started peeling back the layers of why – WHY do you want to stay home. And that’s when shit got real. I could tell you dozens of stories I heard about the importance of family, of giving their kids everything they didn’t have, or of being home after school because no one was there for them. It was all very personal and very real.

When I started peeling back the layers of my own why they looked like this.

I want to make enough money to stay home with my kids.


Because I want to have more time with them. Because I missed four years of each of their lives already and I don’t want to miss another minute more than I have to. And because being a working mom is really fucking hard and I’d like a minimum of 60 God Damn minutes per day to read a book or clean myself.


Because I don’t want to have a boss anymore. Because I’m tired of someone else deciding when I work, how I work, how much money I make and when my services are no longer required. Because I felt like barfing every time I had to call and say “kids are sick, I can’t come in” (and because sending them to school or daycare when they’re sick is frowned upon).

-peel –

Because it’s hard when both parents have demanding jobs and there’s no nanny to pick up the slack. And because when I’m home I have the time to do it all and because that’s my contribution to the family, I don’t resent it. When we were both working full time and I still did all the shopping, the planning and the cleaning I walked around the house like a fire-breathing dragon. Did I mention I did all the cleaning? Because my husband is happier when I’m not bitching at him about housework and we argue less.


Because I swear there have been times when I thought my dogs’ legs had atrophied from lack of walking. Because feathering the nest, making sure appointments are made and kept, and ensuring we don’t eat out of a frozen box 5 of 7 nights is important to me. Because having a tidy house and an organized life is important to me.


Because our girls didn’t have that for the first few years of their lives. They came into a world where filth, chaos and neglect were the norm. Because they were born into circumstances where regular Doctors appointments, healthy meals, gymnastics at 5:00 and mommy holding their hand on the school trip were never going to be possible. Because this is what they deserve.

And there it was.

Doesn’t it always come back to the little people who rule our hearts with an iron fist?


My Why


I’ve chosen to share this not because I feel like I have to explain my choices to anyone but because I want people to understand the motivation behind the work I’m doing, my why. So when I post about a Flash Sale or a new bag, you know I’m not trying to sell you something. I’m just sharing what I love because this new adventure is about so much more than great jewelry. It’s about my why.