Monthly Archives: October 2012

The Learning Lessons as a Teacher by Amy Berger

“Cuál es tu pelicula favorita? “ I ask my kindergarten Spanish class at the local Jewish Community Center. “What is your favorite movie?” Before I have the opportunity to instruct my little protégés on how to form the question, a girl with a Prince Valient haircut and navy and white school uniform blurts out “The Lorax”, Miss Amy! And we saw it on Netflicks!” Netflicks ! I think to myself. How does this kid know about Netflicks already? I knew very little about it, myself, until my husband signed us up for the online movie service last week.

My foreign language students, which range from 2 to 65 years, are the best part of my business. Through a variety of student teacher interactions as well as many off-the-cuff conversations I enjoy getting to know my budding world-explorers.

One Saturday morning, several months ago, I visited one of my classrooms while our lovely Peruvian-born ‘maestra’ was conducting class. She introduced me to each student so I could make eye contact and shake hands. That morning Miss Angela (name changed) was teaching a lesson with hats. “¿Cόmo te llamas?” I asked each kid who had donned a fun head covering, ranging from Statue of Liberty’s crown to a rainbow-Afro clown wig. That morning, the children were also eating the candy they had been awarded for correct responses. How neat to converse in Spanish with giggling, costumed children whose teeth were covered in chocolate!

Of course not all my interactions as a School Director/Instructor are so sweet. There was that challenging morning when I arrived at my French for Preschoolers class, to find fourteen little parlantes huddled in a circle around their teacher, Miss Mary. One student had committed a heinous crime, and Miss Mary was attempting to cull out the accused from a sea of innocent faces. “Who took a bite out of Miss Amy’s apple?” she screamed. “You know Miss Amy specifically instructed you NOT to lick or bite the ‘pomme rouge’—because it is not a real piece of fruit!” No one confessed and not one student could look me in the eye. Quel dommage! I added, after learning about this severe infraction. After delivering a stern lecture about trust, to my mini-francophiles, we continued with class.

Yesterday, one of my 3rd grade Spanish students helped me clean up after class. “Donald, would you please remove the plastic box of chalk from the doorway?”, I asked as I folded

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up charts and wound up chords from boom-box and microphone. “Why do you do that, Miss Amy? Why do you place something in the door to keep it open?” “Because I like to feel the fresh air when I teach.” I explained. “Are you a TEACHER?” he asked with a tone of surprise in his voice. I almost tripped over my black rolling teacher-cart! What did this child think I was doing the past hour? Watering plants?! After some clarification, I determined that Donald only associates people with their own classrooms as ‘teachers’.

And so it goes.

NYC: Meet Dr. Helen Troncoso by Christine Porcaro

A Fabulous Female in New York City: Meet Dr. Helen Troncoso
by Christine Porcaro

Getting to work in both New York City and Philadelphia, I am lucky enough to have the opportunity to meet with many inspirational and fabulous females. All of these meetings allow me to hear and discuss their accomplishments that have not only improved their lives but also numerous lives in their community.


This past week I got to meet Ms. New York America 2012, Dr. Helen Troncoso in New York City. Besides being blown away by how beautiful she is, I also got hear about all her amazing accomplishments. Along with running her own business, Reinventing You, LLC which designs individual and corporate wellness programs, she is the 1st Vice President of Tamika & Friends, a 501©3 nonprofit organization which strives to raise awareness and educate people about cervical cancer and its link to HPV.

Dr. Troncoso is a very busy woman and recognizes that living a healthy lifestyle and keeping stress to a minimum is a constant struggle and effort. Being able to dedicate yourself to change becomes the first step in creating a sustainable, healthier lifestyle. To make sure her clients have a chance at a positive experience, she believes that people have to honestly want to improve their life before she can help them.

Educating women and girls about the effects of cervical cancer and its link to HPV is one of the many hats that she wears. Focusing on the health and wellness of people in her community is a passion and a constant focus of her work.

Reading through the mission statement for Reinventing You, LLC, it is easy to see how important helping others is to Dr. Troncoso:

I am committed to educate, support, and motivate my clients to live their healthiest life ever.
I will support and inspire them, by co-creating realistic, measurable, and meaningful goals.
I will provide my clients with exceptional and personalized health and wellness programs.
I am dedicated in assisting my clients along their journey towards optimal fitness, health and wellness.
My ultimate goal is to equip my clients with the tools and techniques they need to take back charge of their health.
I hope you will all be as inspired as I am by the work of Dr. Troncoso and look within yourself and within your community to see what you can do to help improve your and your community’s health and wellness.
(Photo source)

Questions for you – feel free to share your answers below!
Do you volunteer in your community?
Who is your inspiration when it comes to giving back to the community?
What are your thoughts on Helen Troncoso’s mission statement for Reinventing You, LLC?

My List of Life-Things To Do: Shopaholic Edition by Cassandra Carter

Since earlier this year, I’ve been chipping away at some of My List of Life-Things To Do and would have to say this was one of the hardest ones. And a small confession: the word shopaholic is a bit of an exaggeration. Regardless, this item was my number one priority on My List of Life-Things To Do, since it was becoming a bit of a headache more often than needed.

Cut Back on Splurges and Impulse Buying
For a little while I found myself justifying just about any purchase. It then turned into a “why not” justification and in result, my wallet was getting lighter and lighter. Going into places like H&M, Sephora, Zara and fun little local boutiques full of must-haves can be hard to resist. I would wander the long aisles of H&M and think “Well, this blouse is only $15 on sale and I saved on the mascara I bought earlier, so why not?!” Another situation would be looking for a pair of jeans and knowing there’s a “rough estimated” budget, but still trying on the jeans that are clearly overpriced. I would then justify that rather than get denim that clearly won’t last OR (even worse) splurge on the expensive denim, I could just purchase the pair in between… But let’s face it. I didn’t need ANY jeans. At all. Full stop. I’d tell you about my “beauty product snob” problems, but I think I’ll spare you and myself the embarrassment – maybe i’ll share the tale another day.

My problem was never overspending. It was simply just buying.

Over the Christmas holidays my best friend came to visit from Montreal and we were chatting about the impulse buying many females (and even males) have a tendency to do. I asked her how she managed to keep within budget and she truthfully shared that she didn’t always, but she was learning to go into these situations with either a list or even with JUST cash in hand (by just bringing in your shopping budget in cash only, you really can’t overspend and you think twice before you put the cash on the counter). It gave me an idea for one easy rule to follow:

If it’s not on the list,
You have to resist.
As silly as it sounds, it’s actually worked for me. I started with looking for specifics or I had a list of the things I needed. That step grew into moving my monthly budget around to make sure I could accommodate any “surprise” large purchases that month (the necessities and sometimes even the wants). Finally (and god, at last) it has grown beyond taking tips that I already knew, like don’t buy cheap clothing and always buy stuff that lasts, but apply that basic logic and use a calculator. Simple really. I’m not perfect and I certainly have my moments of weakness, but the difference is that now, I don’t feel nearly as guilty, I try incredibly hard to stick to basics with just a tad of glitz & fun, and it’s usually within reason (that’s not a justification, I promise). Needless to say, I think I can cross this item off my list – I officially know that shopping is NOT a real sport, regardless of how much walking is involved.

Meet Amanda Waye

FFN introduces Advisory Board member, Amanda Waye

Amanda is a passionate person with an insatiable curiosity. Her professional interests lie in uncovering human insights and creating authentic brands.

Amanda has close to 10 years experience in marketing and advertising, on both the client and agency side. She is currently a brand strategist at DDB Canada where she spends her days building integrated campaigns.

Amanda was one of the founders of Vancouver +Acumen. As a Chapter Leader, she spearheads the Salon Conversation Series, which has become a global initiative to exchange ideas on the principles of social enterprise within local communities.

The FFN couldn’t be happier to have such a passionate and determined woman onboard!

Meet Amanda Waye:

My first job: Assistant to the Director of Marketing at a special needs education center in Calgary, where I first fell in love with marketing and work with non-profits.

What do you want to be remembered for: I aspire to have others remember me not for my own achievements, but for the accomplishments I helped others to fulfil for themselves.

Favourite book: The Innovation Killer: How What We Know Limits What We Can Imagine and What Smart Companies Are Doing about It, by Cynthia Barton Rabe

Favourite website: Short and sweet doses of inspiration, insight and motivation, three things of which one can never get enough.

Favourite quote: “It is not the critic who counts, not the man who points out how the strong man stumbled, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena; whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, and spends himself in a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows in the end the triumph of high achievement; and who, at worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.” – Teddy Roosevelt

My favourite woman in business and why: Jacquline Novogratz, founder and CEO of Acumen Fund. For her courage and unwavering dedication to using entrepreneurial approaches to empowering others to create a world beyond poverty.

My best business advice for new entrepreneurs: Give customers what they want, not what they think they want: Listen and understand what will make them impassioned advocates of your brand and you will have a loyal customer for as long as you continue to inspire them.

Taking to the Streets by Christine Porcaro

One of the greatest aspects of living in a city is one’s ability to have access to so many neat stores, activities and events. One of the inconveniences of being in the city is constantly being surrounded by cars. The ability to ride a bike or walk around can sometimes be life-threatening because cars rule the road.

The Globe and Mail reported this week that a city councilor in Toronto, Kristyn Wong-Tam, is looking to help make a change so that more “people-friendly” places exist. After Ms. Wong-Tam’s trip to Guadalajara, Mexico where she saw the city close 60 kilometers of road to vehicular traffic on Sunday mornings she wanted to see a similar practice in Toronto. The area that would be closed would then become a space for outdoor activities such as cycling, running, walking, rollerblading, etc.

While there is a fear that this could cause more traffic for cars in the rest of the city, Ms. Wong-Tam said she wants to find a way where congestion around the rest of the city will not be created.

A city can become that much livelier if people are free to be outside without worrying about cars. This also has a positive effect for businesses as more people will congregate in areas where they are free to roam and walk around. This also can become an area where farmers markets and small festivals take place throughout the year. While a concern for traffic in the rest of the city should remain at the forefront of the discussion, a push towards creating a pedestrian/cyclist friendly area would be a great addition to any city.

Questions for you – share your thoughts below!
How do you feel about big cities?
Do you think your own city could use more people-friendly areas?
What would you place in these people-friendly areas? (i.e. stores, venues, stalls, etc.)

Ffn Beauty & Style Council: Julie Wu

The FFN is so pleased to introduce Julie Wu. Julie is the co-founder of Örling & Wu, who’s passion has lead her an amazing life dedicated to smart designs. Being a hands-on lifestyle retailer, Julie has developed a kind of design sense that allows her to see the big beautiful picture. She has the capability to use European design inspirations to help others discover what their homes can be. The FFN cannot wait to showcase Juile’s incredible talent!

Meet Julie:
My favourite website: Örling & Wu – new website launching on November 1st!

Product I can’t live without: Klippan sponge cloths are perfect for all sorts of cleaning. Each cloth outlasts 17 rolls of paper towels. They come in adorable Scandinavian designs and are anti-bacterial, dishwasher safe also biodegradable! Available at Örling & Wu.

My favourite book: Domino: The Book of Decorating cracks the code to creating a beautiful home, bringing together inspiring rooms, how-to advice and insiders’ secrets from today’s premier tastemakers in an indispensable style manual. This book demystifies the decorating process and provides the tools for making spaces that are personal, functional and fabulous.

My favourite quote: Surround yourself with people who believe in your dream

I would do a makeover on_______ because ________: I would do a makeover on a home that needs to be re-defined because it deserves a makeover.

My best style tips: Design is purely an opinion, not a trend. Go with your gut instinct and have an expert guide you along the way. If you have trouble finding the right fit, we offer design services at Örling & Wu!
(Photo source)

To learn more about our Beauty & Style Council, click here!
Want to meet the rest of the team and learn a bit more about Julie, click here!

Time to Move Out? by Amy Berger

This morning, my husband was delighted to hear that today was Bring Your Pet to Work Day. It began when I noticed our two fluffy boy-cats, Andy and Louie, lurking around the back door looking wistful. I decided I was not in the mood put up with their whining and laziness one more Monday.

Hence, I fabricated this special day and obtained buy-in from my equally silly husband. In fact, he suggested that our other three pets: Adele, a small turquoise fish named after the vocal great, Professor Foo Boo , a beautiful orange and black parrot fish, and Hoover, our stealthy Plecostamus- all go to work with me today. “You are going to work today, aren’t you?” he asked me with a gleam in his eye.

Like most entrepreneurs, I started my two-year old language school here at home. It was fun to hold classes at my spacious dining room table. As enrollment, grew I moved all those enthusiastic mini-linguists to our covered patio. Dancing around the outdoor classroom, Jose Luis Orozco serenading us with “Guantanamera” from the purple metallic boom box in the corner I believed my budding language school was on its way to greatness.

Then, the season changed and we had to move classes back into the house. That meant keeping the kitchen counters clean, having enough plastic glasses and ice to appease squirrely students with ‘agua fresco’ and, of course, preparing our family’s bathroom for public use. Those days of having a sparkly new home-based business are long gone. Between the home-preparation factor and the family invasion factor I fantasize daily about hanging my multicultural language school shingle anywhere but here.

I have the cleanest desk in the family which works great for me. Unfortunately it also works well for my husband, 12-year old daughter and the two aforementioned cats. I’ll admit, I don’t spend hours and hours in my office like some entrepreneurs, because A) After 40 minutes on the computer, the screen gives me a headache and B) I become antsy staying in one room for two long. (A case of adult ADD? Probably.) I do like my office setting tidy, however, whether I am on premises or not.

During the times I am not working at my desk, there might as well be a large neon sign hanging above it, shouting “Desk Free to Use! Mom Not Here!” Nine times out of ten when I swing by to check email or compose a quick lesson plan, I am unable to do so.

The cats have sprawled across my immaculate work-space to take their afternoon naps, the husband has left his eBAY notes, travel itineraries, photo print outs, etc., all over my desk, and/or my daughter is sitting at my computer getting her pre-teen electronic fix.

When I move my business out, and it won’t be long now, I can begin life anew. Dirty dishes in the sink, laundry baskets back on top of the washer (instead of in the hall closet) and cats sleeping on someone else’s desk. My self-created cubicle and I will finally be free.

Vancouver: Tele-Seminar with Heather White

The FFN team was incredibly excited to receive such a wonderful note and invite from Heather White. Heather has recently announced that she will be hosting her first ever Tele-Seminar! Using her enthusiasm and passion towards creating a place for women to design their life to match their authenticity, Heather’s Tele-Seminar will make you feel more grounded and connected to yourself. Please note there are only 20 spots available – learn more about the event here!

Here’s what to expect from the seminar:
– define your you-niqueness and claim authenticity for yourself
– learn practical tools to quickly and easily connect with your inner wisdom
– identify your core values and use them to make decisions about what you really want in your life
– be empowered to tell the truth in every area of your life

What: Tele-seminar – Live Authentically and Love Your Life.
When: Thursday, October 11th at 1PM PST
Where: Through Simulcast via phone or webcast
To register, click here!