I’ll be 49 this year, marking 20 years as a landscape designer and the last 5 months recovering from and receiving treatments for ovarian cancer. When I was little our family traveled extensively; living in other countries meant speaking multiple languages and being immersed in many different cultures. Travel taught me how many ways there are to live a life, to be adaptable in work, and as a young adult, I chose to live in Miami, London England, and Nice where I met my husband. Shortly after my marriage 9 years ago, opportunities presented themselves in the city of Hamilton, lucky timing meant we were able to jump into the Hamilton real estate market, that’s been a huge part of our success.
What would you say has been the biggest shift in your life since turning 40?
Stability wasn’t something I looked for and I will never take it for granted but the last 2 years have shown that we may just be doing well enough (through a series of major upheavals) to relax, look around, and really appreciate where we are in life. Volunteering in our community is something I didn’t grow up with or get involved within Toronto but here it’s been tremendously worthwhile and rewarding.
When do you feel you are most powerful?
I love my job when I’m teaching and especially when I’m solving all the issues in a backyard. People think I play with plants all day but it’s actually more about construction and solving a puzzle in 3 dimensions. To bring a client more than they expected from their property, that’s a challenge and I love it because I do it so well.
What are the top three most important things to you right now?
- My husband who continues to be an amazingly supportive life partner and caregiver when needed.
- Health — I’ve always felt tremendously fortunate to be alive and healthy, a little cancer stumble won’t take that away from me and if anything its improved my outlook on life (who even knew that was possible?)
- Nature — I am addicted to birds singing, flowers blooming, bees buzzing, the beauty of a tree, a meadow, and saving all the animals we’re destroying through loss of habitat.
How do you make sure your actions are aligned with what’s most important to you?
I maintain a 3000 square foot public space that’s filled with native plants and support local nature charities in a number of different ways. I teach about natural gardens, plant trees, advocate for greener city infrastructure. Basically, I get stressed out if I don’t feel I’m making a positive contribution to the world as I see it.
What seeds are you planting today for the future?
My purse and pockets are often full of seeds, I literally scatter native plant seeds along alleyways, in parks and abandoned places. In an echo of that action, I’m always looking for new business opportunities to start up or grow with. I’ve started to pay attention to the freedoms associated with managing money well instead of avoiding ‘paperwork’. Taking hold of the wheel with both hands helps me feel I can contribute more and form the life I want as I age and priorities change.
What advice would you give someone who is interested in redesigning midlife?
If you’ve been doing the same thing for years and it isn’t bringing you happiness then something is missing and creating dissatisfaction. Traveling (literally by plane or with a new partner or job) outside your comfort zone to experience a truly different culture is humbling, scary, and the best way I know to hit the reset button on life – to make you look around, pay attention and inspire positive (scary-but-good) change. Finding a great partner, friend, ally or ‘pack’ is also key – we are not built to be solitary creatures.
How can people connect with you and your work?
I’m at @vennigardens on Instagram and Twitter or through VenniGardens.com