What I gleaned from Harry Potter this weekend

I finished reading Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire this weekend, as I spent much of my time not feeling up to doing anything except reading and resting. As always, there is lots to be learned from a book, and this one was no exception. We do tend, however, to pull parallels to our own lives when things are lurking in our subconscious that are bothering us.

This blog post will be intentionally vague, because I don’t wish to come under the same scrutiny as I have over the last couple of weeks. Needless to say, it’s been an enlightening and disappointing experience.

As I was reading the last 100 pages or so of the book, and the characters began to unravel and speak more truthfully, the one villain states, “Decent people are so easy to manipulate, Potter.”

Isn’t that the truth?

When you know someone who operates truthfully, with integrity and stands by their own thoughts and emotions, you know what makes them tick. Inherently decent people always do the right thing, defend the weak or young, always tell the truth, believe in fairness, and give trust willingly (at first).

I had hopes and good intentions with all that I put out into the world. The honesty and naivety with which I put this information out for all to see, learn from and understand made it quite easy to manipulate its intention. For it is easy to manipulate decent people. They are easy to read, easy to fool and easy to misjudge by people with less-than-stellar morals.

To again tie back to the story I was reading, one particular character, known for his integrity, honestly and true belief in good went on the say the following to another, “You are blinded by the love of the office you hold, Cornelius!” and further went on to decree that, “If your determination to shut your eyes will carry you as far as this, we have reached a parting of the ways.”

It was of course Dumbledore stating his displeasure with an elected official choosing the easy path over the correct path; the popular path over the difficult-to-explain path. Those who are truly decent are often the minority. To always do the right thing with the right intentions means you will face adversity from the hundreds of sheep in your path. People in general are not always decent, in fact, I would say that most are not, because they do what they think will get them furthest up the ladder, make them look better over another, or win them admiration by other folk. And the easiest path to this end is to knock down other people, rather than build themselves up.

Decent people do what is right for them. They do what is right always. They live by what is true and good and pure. And often they are not liked for it.

Take what you will from my review of a favourite book series of mine. Not perfect are the parallels, but the intention behind the lessons is the same.

While many may not agree, I will continue on the path that might be long and rough and difficult, so long as it is the one to do what is truthful and right.

Today was the saddest day of my life

It is with a completely shattered heart that I write this blog post tonight. I feel like I’m missing a limb, and that nothing can fill the void in my chest. I don’t know what to do with myself, and so I thought, maybe writing about it will help.

My little Max’a’million puppy passed away this afternoon after the bravest battle I’ve ever seen. He contended with diabetes, a rare blood disorder, liver disease, pancreatitis and a tumour. To say he was running on borrowed time would be the understatement of the year, but in Max’s world, love trumped all. We were the lucky ones to have rescued Max two years ago, and have him show us what this love business is really all about.

“What you got now, world?” he’d ask, “Because whatever you throw at me, I will love harder, and come out on top.”

And he did.

Every single time.

He fought for us, his loving family.

Except for this last week when his body began to betray his monstrous heart. His heart was never the problem. He knew his true north – and that was Adam and I. Even when he wasn’t doing well these last couple of days, his little nose would point towards me as he lay on the floor.

All he ever wanted was to be loved and to give as much love as possible.

And treats, treats were always welcome.

I feel like being sad is being selfish, because he is now no longer suffering. He had fought long enough, and it was time. It is only us humans that remain that are suffering. That little shih tzu taught me more about myself in the last two years than I could have imagined. I learned what unconditional love really was. I learned that I can love even more fiercely than I thought possible. I learned that sometimes family is canine. I learned that I decide what my priorities are – whether human or canine family – it is what matters to me that matters. I learned to stand up for that.

He was my whole entire world.

I based everything I did around him.

I feel so absolutely lost right now. As if in shock.

His morning snuggles were my favourite. He’d sneak up from the foot of the bed, and come lie on my pillow, curled around my head, just waiting for me to wake up.

He’d be waiting at the front door as soon as I came home from work, wagging his little tail, excited to see me.

He would try his best at “helping me” during my yoga sessions.

He always enjoyed when I made salad and he got to sneak a few of his favourite treats – cucumbers.

He will never leave my heart. His impact so great I am a better person.

I will never forget you, my beautiful boy.

Goodbye, my love.

My yoga puppy.

My little sweet pea.

My Max’a’million.

Mommy and Daddy love you so much.

What I learned from 50 years of F1 history

This morning Adam and I went to Canadian Tire Motorsport Park for the Varac Vintage Grand Prix, specifically because we both found out yesterday afternoon (thank you @ctmpofficial on Instagram) that the historic Formula 1 cars would be running.

It was the 50th anniversary of the first Canadian Grand Prix, which was actually held at the same track, all those years ago.

The differences I noted between the epitome of racing 50 years ago and today were staggering. And I’m not just talking about the technology. It highlighted for me the changes in society from then to now, and it was supremely enlightening.

Granted, I am a car girl and have been one since learning to walk at corner two of this same track (then called Mosport) while my father raced in the Porsche Turbo cup about 30 years ago. So for me, nuances in cars and racing are easy to pick up on, analyze and apply to daily life. Just trust me on this one…

I went into motorsport engineering and aerodynamics because I loved racing and I am fascinated by fluid dynamics. Today, we are lucky enough to have a cornucopia of test and simulation techniques at our fingertips, and you know what we do? We analyze the crap out of EVERYTHING, almost to the point that we forget to use our own god-given talents of logic and common sense. We know to the single count (with is 0.001 in coefficient-speak) what a change will do on a car. We know what that translates to in lap time before even giving the driver the chance to test it out himself or herself. Through all our innovation we have removed the human element of racing. We have sterilized the sport, made it all about the technology, and limited access to the public (you can’t get within 20 feet of a real car at a Grand Prix today).

While watching the race this morning, the older gentleman beside me was taking a video of it on his iPhone, and after turned to his son behind him to ask, “Does my phone record sound?” It made me chuckle inwardly, but it also made me take notice. I looked around and realized that the median age of the crowd around us was about 65 years old. These are people who would remember these exact cars, perhaps even being in this exact spot 50 years ago, watching a Formula 1 race in person. I heard stories from many of them all claiming that the same goosebumps they got back then, they still had today from the sound of those cars passing within feet of where they stood.

Here’s what I can glean from the stories overheard, the atmosphere today at the track, and a review of the cars I saw. Racing 50 years ago was accessible – you could walk up to the pits, see the cars within feet of you, and maybe even see the drivers outside of their cars. It was personal, pedestrian even. It was about the driver and the competition, and how much true grit they could pour into their craft. Racing was raw, real, dirty, flawed and freaking HUMAN. It was not perfect, it was not graceful. It was not efficient, nor optimized. It was taking risks, going for broke, putting your money where you mouth was and attacking with all your might.

Racing today is technical, calculated, precise and careful.

Racing back then was personal, risky, unpredictable and dangerous.

There are a lot of people my age and younger that are afraid to take risks.

We are paralyzed by over-analyzing every choice we make, rather than tapping into our intuition and listening to our gut instincts.

We are so driven by data that we forget we are human and do not always fall within the standard distribution of the general public’s opinion.

We would do well to feel the goosebumps ourselves, and learn to love the thrill, the risks we take and the inherent excitement of life as a daring adventure.

We can all learn from the time travel I experienced this morning, and take a little bit of that risk-taking, follow-your-gut, go after it full bore mentality of a 1967 Formula 1 driver, and bring that into 2017.

We might just find that it’s ok to be a little less perfect and a little more human.

On the promise of higher education

I fell for the North American Ivy League dream…

I ate that shit up, hook, line and sinker.

So desperate to please my parents and attain their love that I’d do anything they said was certain to land success. I should explain that success in my household growing up was money, prestige, cars and well, just keeping up with the Joneses.

I was an incredible student. I figured out how to study hard, work even harder, dedicate myself wholeheartedly to my homework, and come out on top. I was an academic machine. And there were two reasons for that:

  1. I do truly love to read, write and learn
  2. Good grades got me love and attention

The lie I was sold was: if you are the best student, you can get into the best university, get the best grades there, graduate, find the best job possible, make tons of money, live in a giant house with many cars. Happily. Ever. After.

I’m super pissed at Past Kattie for believing this bullshit.

But boy, did she ever believe it. All that education, all that critical thinking throughout one undergrad and two masters degrees, and she couldn’t see the possibility that education isn’t always the answer?

Nope – too focused on believing the propaganda.

So much so that Past Kattie played it all out, in the hopes that the pot of gold would be at the end of the rainbow.

Guess what?

There ain’t no pot of gold.

I think the reason that all of this irks me so much is that I really wish there was a better system in place that explained to students going into a particular degree what EXACTLY their income expectations should be. And beyond that, there should be some education in what it generally costs to live in the GTA, such that students know how to budget monthly, know how much salary to shoot for, and plan better financially, depending on their individual goals.

Our education system is epically flawed in this regard. Many “professional” degrees do not result in a salary any higher than that of a general labourer. And that would not be an issue, if students knew that going in. I sure didn’t. I learned everything the hard way, through the school of LIFE, on my own after graduating and figuring out how to dig myself out of a hole I created trying to live off an engineer’s salary with the lifestyle I so blindly thought would accompany it.

I wish people would talk more openly and honestly about money. I also wish I knew how to help fix the education system. Or maybe just help people better educate their own children on the realities of what an education can do for you and what it can’t.

And maybe, the school of life is really the primary form of education.

Applying that to a university degree to make the wisest choice for the individual is the only way to go. Higher education isn’t for everyone. And for some of us, we get a taste and believe that even more of it will increase our chances of success. But it alone, will not.

Present Kattie is often frustrated with Past Kattie.

But she’s trying really hard to love that little misguided academic monster for what she was – misguided. My intentions were always good. I’m just finally realizing that course correction is required, an adjustment of expectations is required, and post haste.

I do want the house and the cars and the lifestyle, but engineering alone isn’t going to provide that. And rather than be upset with my own materialistic expectations, I’m learning to accept them. I am who I am. I’d really like to stop beating up on myself for all my flaws and misguided decisions.

Time to ease up on the judgement anchor, and adjust the sails.

Giving more weight to DNA

“Say what you mean, mean what you say”

Thanks Yogi Tea, for providing the inspiration for tonight’s blog.

This weekend I visited one of my newest and closest friends down in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania – a state I’ve actually never been to before! It was beautiful there, the land blanketed by trees and subdivided by rivers. The downtown, right by the water was full of energy, music and well, half-naked people… My friend tells me this is uncommon, yet this is not the first instance, according to her…

I kid… It was a lovely city, beautiful at night, as we rode the mountain train up to view the cityscape. The company and hospitality from my friends made the trip one I will always remember. What better kind of friend is there than one who will go to the most intense workout ever with you, then take you to dinner and sightseeing, hosting an amazing weekend of fun, food and relaxation? 

I reflected on why Kaitlin and I are such great friends today, and it’s exactly as that quote above mentions – we tell the truth, we are direct, and we are genuine. We both struggle with why people feel the need to put on a front, lie, or simply just embellish the truth. 

  • We both say what we mean, and mean what we say.
  • We are both extremely analytical and intelligent.
  • We are both able to read emotions quite well.
  • We both have an inbuilt bullshit meter.
  • We both swear.
  • We both do only that which is right and feels genuine. 

We spent our time together solving the world’s problems, and thinking about how we could use our skills to make the world a better place. We also talked about how both of us had entrepreneurship in our bloodline. It begs the question of whether that is a taught skill or something you are born with. 

I hadn’t given much thought to the bloodline aspect of things until we were chatting this weekend. My father always was self-employed, and his father before that was the same – an immigrant from Germany after the war, who started a very successful business from literally nothing, repairing small motors in Toronto. They learned to speak a new language, while raising five children and working hard to build a new life in Canada. 

Now though, I am employed (not self-employed). And this coaching thing has sparked something inside of me. Maybe something from that one side of the family, that one segment of DNA, that always believed in themselves and their ability to make something from nothing. Maybe it was just the stubborn, bull-headedness of those German roots, which convinced them of the fact that they could not take orders from anyone else….

But regardless, in order to continue to mean what I say, say what I mean, and live my life as genuinely and authentically as possible, perhaps I need to begin to give more weight to that piece of DNA that began the spark, which is now eagerly waiting to burst into a flames. 

On the future of the car…

I know to anyone reading these blog posts that I appear to have some form of ADD, or an insatiable thirst for any and all knowledge on hugely varied topics. And in that spirit, let’s shift gears (no pun intended) from work-health balance to the future of the car…

I’m in automotive engineering, and my days revolve around specifically the aerodynamics of race and road vehicles. But I am a mechanical engineer first, and I’m surrounded by brilliant automotive engineers in my office. So, naturally, today we were discussing cars.

Today was different though. And to be honest, I’m sure that they were all joking about this one topic. But on my drive home, I started thinking very very seriously about the same supposedly ludicrous ideas.

The joke was about a particularly stylish and suave colleague who would benefit from a mobile dressing station on his way to the next party / function / event. My other friend commented that it’s a CAR, not a CLOSET! But then I wondered, what it if kinda was a closet?

There were jokes on how it’d be nice to be able to shower on the way from soccer practice to his fancy dinner downtown, so you’d need some running water too… You know, a little mobile hotel room / dressing room of sorts.

Now THAT got me thinking. What is the purpose of the autonomous car?

Is it just for safer and more efficient transportation?

OR…

Is it to extend the workday, allowing for more time that people can be focused on their laptops or phones?

Is it to allow people to rest and relax as they get from point A to point B?

Could it be a mobile hotel room? In the sense that you can sleep, watch tv, change for dinner, and otherwise chill out?

Is it really a mobile extension of your home?

Would we even need homes if we have big moving mobile ones?

The possibilities are endless…

And maybe I’m 20 – 50 years out here, but Ford announced that they will be selling their first autonomous vehicles in 2021, and that’s not too far from now. So, while there may be driverless cars in four years, I wonder what they will be in 10 years or 20, for that matter.

I am excited and bewildered at the limitless possibilities…

And that’s coming from someone that really LOVES to drive. Hence the image of my drive from this weekend.

But things are changing quickly, and we can either be romantic about the past and dwell on the good ol’ days, or we can get passionate about the future, and embrace it whole-heartedly.

My wind tunnel model reminded me to follow my heart

I recently cleaned up the bookshelves in my office so that when I’m doing my daily vlog videos it’s neat and tidy. During that process I put my little wind tunnel model back up on display, and I was reminded, quietly, of my desire to be involved in more physical testing and specifically, wind tunnel testing.

I was asked this week by a colleague to help him sort out an issue he was having with pressure drops in a pipe flow, and it brought me back to my undergrad textbooks, and understanding the fundamentals of fluid flow again.

I get so wrapped up in the project that I’m working on, or the job title that I have, that I forget what it was about fluid dynamics and aerodynamics that I loved in the first place. It was the information that is contained in those undergrad textbooks that sparked my interest in the subject. I loved learning about the artful nature of fluid flow, about the physical structures within that cause it to behave in a weird and complex and beautiful way.

I loved the black magic aspect of it all. I loved that it didn’t always make sense. I loved that there was still so much to be learned, understood and applied. I loved the potential and the possibility. I loved going into a lab session or wind tunnel test, not knowing what the outcome was, but excited to learn something new.

I mentioned in an earlier blog post that I was never intending to go into simulation full time, and the funny thing is that all those years ago I knew that a full time desk job would not suit me. But I took what I could get when I got home from the UK, and I am lucky that a small part of my job does still utilize wind tunnel testing. But it is a very small part.

I wanted to explore this a little more in a blog, because I think it might be the physical aspect of a test, versus a simulation, that I prefer. I think it might be the same reason why I love exercise, and learning about nutrition, and cooking / baking new things on the weekend. It’s experimentation, it’s the real world, it’s moving and shaking, not just the virtual world.

There’s also an aspect of art within the science that always has me intrigued. I study exercise science and effectiveness, but I love the ebb and flow of yoga. I research recipes, but I love the act of creating a new dish. I analyze trends and data, but I love the non-linear and organic nature of fluid flow.

I’m a walking dichotomy.

I need to find ways to incorporate both the analytical, academic side of myself, and the creative, sensitive, artistic side. That’s a tall order, and one that will require some further thought this weekend. But for now I’ll display my wind tunnel model proudly as a reminder to listen to my heart.

Weekend Thoughts on Opportunity versus Security

It is absolutely beautiful outside today – sunny and 20 degrees. It’s Sunday afternoon, and while I spent much of yesterday cooking, cleaning, meal planning, and getting groceries, I also spent a good chunk of it sleeping. I felt like I could just sleep all day long. Same thing today – I don’t think I got out of bed until close to 10am, which when you’ve gone to bed at 11pm is A LOT of sleep…

So instead of being outside and helping Adam with all the yard work, I’m barely summoning enough energy to get my laundry done and finish my meal prep for the week. It has me thinking – Am I getting sick, or is this part of a bigger picture to do with not feeling well-rested enough after the weekends?

It feels like I spend my weekends just preparing for the week. It starts with getting my food prepped so that I can actually eat well through the week without having the time to cook a well-rounded meal each night. Then it goes to making sure all my laundry and ironing is done so I don’t have to worry about spending too much time on that through the week either. Then it goes to getting all my *fun* out of the way so that if I’m working too much during the week, it won’t be affected – things like my coaching, fitness training, writing, reading, blogs, etc.

So, the million-dollar question is:

What of all these things do I wish I could do more of on my weekends, or perhaps even during the week?

The honest answer is: All of them (coaching, fitness, nutrition, meal planning, blogging, writing, learning, reading).

The answer that people keep telling me is: Figure out what you want to FOCUS ON, i.e. pick something and go after that alone.

Maybe part of me is scared that by choosing something and going all-in, I’ll miss out on the “what-if” of another thing. Or maybe I’m just very eclectic by nature. Maybe I need many different varied things to keep me feeling well-balanced and fulfilled. Maybe it’s just a disguised version ADD for all things to bettering one’s life – fitness, nutrition, health, wellness, happiness, coaching, mental brain training, motivation, writing, expressing one’s self and always, always learning.

Should I try all these things in succession and see which are worthy of further investment? Perhaps allocating a single weekend to each of these things and see where my head and heart meet on whether the subject suits my goals and dreams?

While all of this reeks of opportunity and new beginnings, I must admit, it is very hard to change, and I am as terrified of what I will discover to be my true passions, as I am excited for the chance to live my dreams.

On Movement and Meditation

I’ve loved racing since I got my first taste at eleven years old at a run down indoor kart track. I was TERRIBLE, but it didn’t matter, and that was part of the reason I was hooked! The challenge of learning something new, improving and becoming a better competitor.

But there was one thing about racing that I loved above all else – the singular focus on what was directly in front of you, what was precisely under your control.

My karting mantras:

  • Look up, look up, look up.
  • Look where you want to go.
  • Focus.

It was my version of meditation.

It was a way to block out all other stresses and worries in my life.

They all would literally fall away, my brain too consumed with the task at hand to worry about anything not pertaining to that very moment, that apex, that correction, that feeling.

When it all went away during university, I found it difficult to de-stress, and I went so all-in on my schoolwork that I made myself sick from the pressure I put on myself. My outlet then morphed into exercise and that was how I let off some steam, but it wasn’t until much later that I found another meditative practice that has helped me almost as much as racing.

Can you guess what it is?

Yoga, of course!

I have a really hard time sitting and meditating on a regular basis. I force myself to practice and I do it every morning, but in yoga while moving and breathing I find my zen much more effortlessly. I get to that singular focus again and I’m reminded of what a calm and focused mind can feel like.

I am calm while I am moving.

My focus is tied to my mobility.

Maybe the transition from racing to yoga is not such a stretch (no pun intended).

I suppose, no matter the vehicle, I have always found value in getting out of my head and into my body, if only for 30 minutes a day. But how interesting to discover the link between movement and meditation! For a racer chick like me, it makes perfect sense!

What I learned this weekend as I got back to my roots

This weekend was the first race for the NASCAR Pinty’s Series here in Canada. We kicked off the season at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park, which happens to be our home track, and interestingly, where I grew up and learned to walk. My fiancé, Adam, and I both spent numerous weekends as kids at this track, while our fathers raced and crewed on the weekends. Our paths never crossed until 20 years laters, at the very same track.

You could say that motor racing is in our blood. We don’t know much else when it comes to sport, technology or competition. And we wouldn’t have it any other way.

Adam grew up working on and building his dad’s stock cars.

I grew up kart racing, and learning the mechanics on a much smaller scale.

We are both still involved in racing in some form or another, because it’s something we both love. Adam and his dad work weekends to get the NASCAR ready, even when he’s exhausted from his 9-5 job as a mechanic. I’m the crew chief on their team, as a way to alleviate some of the organizational burden from them during the race weekend.

Up until last year, Adam and I were karting as well. In his usual selfless manner, he’d prep my kart and take me racing on the weekends. It was our time together – our little way to spend time together toward a common goal.

I purposely found a way to combine my engineering education and my love of cars in order to craft a career in something I love – motor racing.

I swore when I was in grad school that I’d never sit behind a desk all day.

I swore I’d never be an analyst.

I swore I could never just do CFD (computational fluid dynamics).

Guess what I do now?

CFD, at a desk, all day, every day.

It took this weekend, physically at a race track, in pit lane, around the cars and the tech to realize what I did want to do, all those years ago. That was to be a race engineer, but also an aerodynamicist who would be overseeing / running wind tunnel tests, track tests and working within both mechanical and aerodynamic realms, not just boring CFD….

Now, don’t get me wrong, I see the value of CFD and I believe in it 100%, but boy, this is not where I thought I would be at this point in my career.

I miss the excitement of being in the thick of it. I felt so welcome and part of the team this weekend that I was reminded of my love for this industry in its purest form. Sometimes it’s not all about the technology, and the simulations. Sometimes it’s about the spirit, the competition and the uncertainty of anything being possible when the green flag drops.

The best laid plans don’t always lead where you think they will, whether it’s your career, your life or your hobby.

But there is always another race, a fresh start, a new career, and the excitement of not knowing the outcome when we get the green flag to start again.