We like to think of Lesley as our unicorn Blondie customer — she's been cheering us on for years! ! She is a wonderful wife, mother, psychologist, and small-business supporter. We're always excited to receive a DM from the lovely Lesley.
WHAT'S YOUR ELEVATOR PITCH? Hi! I'm Lesley. I am married to my end-of-high-school sweetheart and have three amazing kids — a 12-year-old daughter and two sons, aged 9 and 7. I think they are the most amazing humans, and I can't wait to see how their lives unfold as they get older! My husband works as an Outdoor Education Specialist for the Toronto District School Board, and we love spending time in nature. We don't shy away from snow and, in the summer, we enjoy exploring provincial parks with our tent trailer. As a family, we look for ways to show love to others and make people feel special and cared for. One of the things I most value in myself and others is a good sense of humour... although my Grade 1 teacher apparently wrote in my report card that I didn't have one because I was so quiet ;)
WHO WAS LESLEY BEFORE STEPS PSYCHOLOGY? (See below!) Lesley was on track to be a primary school teacher! She did everything she needed to do from the time she was young to position herself for that... until a twist of fate had her switch careers before she even started teaching. Through grad school, she had placements in hospitals, children's mental health centres, school boards, and private clinics. After becoming a registered psychologist in Ontario (a process that takes a year beyond grad school), she decided to split her time between working for the school board (currently the TDSB) and in private practice through Steps Psychology, which she built from the ground up. Through all this time, however, her most prized role is that of mom! Working for the school board and in private practice allows her the flexibility to prioritize her kids and family.
TELL US ABOUT 17-YEAR-OLD LESLEY? 17-year-old Lesley knew what she wanted for her life but struggled with shyness and maybe even some low self-esteem. At the same time, she had the courage to do things she wanted to do, even if they meant getting out of her comfort zone. She was passionate and, her parents would say, emotional, and she used logic to make her points. She had a solid group of friends and felt that she had a 'balanced' life. She worked hard and did well at school, maintained a social life, volunteered, was part of an active church youth group, and had mapped out what she needed to do to achieve what she thought at the time was her dream job!
TELL US ABOUT 70-YEAR-OLD LESLEY? 70-year-old Lesley will enjoy the time and space she has at that stage in her life to be able to enjoy the people she loves. She will be active in her kids' lives (and grandkids?!) and will do her best to remember what it was like to be at their stage of life so she can support them in practical ways. She will still be adventuring with her husband, and she will be continuing to pursue the hobbies she loves. She will also be using her voice and her privilege to advocate for things that are important to her.
WHAT'S YOUR DAILY ROUTINE? Every day looks a little different and I love that about my life! Weekdays begin with a hectic first hour or so of getting three kids up and out the door to school; my husband leaves for work early so that falls to me! On school board days, my time is spent either working in one of the four schools I am responsible for or doing paperwork and report writing (which I am fortunate to be able to do from home). When I'm working in schools, the bulk of my time is spent assessing students who are experiencing challenges with their learning, behaviour, attention, or social-emotional well-being. I also consult with teachers and parents and work as part of a multidisciplinary team to support students. My private practice work is split between conducting assessments and doing therapy with children and teens. Therapy is often after school, so I give up two evenings a week to accommodate that. Although the move to virtual sessions at the start of the pandemic was challenging at first, I love that I can now finish work in the evening, then walk upstairs and join my family for dinner. After dinner, it is the juggle of homework, prep for the next day, some family fun, and then bedtime routines. I usually end my day watching a show with my husband (and trying not to fall asleep!) or having a bubble bath — an important part of my self-care!
WHAT WOMEN DO YOU LOOK UP TO IN YOUR LIFE? I look up to my mom, who is a quiet example of patience, love, and humility. She is a faithful supporter of so many people, and she does it through simple acts of thoughtfulness. She also has a silly side that she especially loves showing to her grandchildren.
I look up to my sisters... my more reserved older sister who, from high school, has known what she wanted for herself and her life and has set out with determination to make it happen... and my younger sister who has carved out her own path despite having two older sisters and is an incredible wife and mother (to four!!) and is naturally hospitable.
I look up to many passionate and hardworking female friends and colleagues, many of whom juggle the demands of being working mothers and who shoulder the 'invisible load' that often comes with that.
I love Lady Gaga as an example of a strong female celebrity who seeks to empower other women.
And I look up to my daughter... a 12-year-old with feist, an amazing sense of humour, a strong sense of social justice, and the courage to be true to herself.
WHY IS IT IMPORTANT FOR YOU TO SUPPORT CANADIAN BUSINESSES? I love living in Canada and want to support homegrown businesses before directing my money outside of our amazing country. I want our economy to thrive, and I want Canadian businesses to be recognized on a more global scale.
WHY DO YOU LOVE BLONDIE APPAREL? Oh there are so many reasons why I love Blondie! I will get to Michelle and Brodie... but first, I love that their sizing tag inside each piece says "and absolutely perfect" below the size. I'm sure the majority of women have struggled with body image issues to some extent, so I love that Blondie chooses to address this with such a beautiful and simple message.
That aside, the fit and comfort of their clothing is amazing and I don't have to worry that styles won't fit me or look good on me because of my body type. The fabrics are exceptional and I know, from following Blondie online, how much thought and care goes into choosing colours and fabrics. I love that their pieces can be dressed up or down, too.
As for the people behind Blondie, they are genuine and fun, and they are unapologetically themselves online! They make you want to be their friends! From their giggly Instagram lives to their use of themselves and their families in photos, they are about being real, not about being pretentious or perfectly polished in order to sell. I feel like they just love their product so much and stand behind it so firmly that they 'need' to put themselves out there to sell it... yet they are not entirely comfortable in front of the camera which is quite endearing :). It's so nice to get little glimpses of their lives and to see what goes into their decision-making.
Related to who they are as people... I first met Michelle at the One Of a Kind sale. Her mom was helping and had accidentally underpriced something... big time! They were very apologetic and I bought it anyway, and we have joked ever since about that sneaky sales tactic. I quickly became an online Blondie shopper and it was just a couple of months after that first meeting that I heard about their sale in Ottawa. I suggested to my hubby that it would make a great birthday getaway weekend for me, so we headed up to one of our favourite cities for a little family getaway. I got up super early the morning of the sale and, because I didn't know what to expect and wanted to have a good shot at some deals (and also didn't know where I was going!), I ended up driving in a blizzard and arriving suuuuuuper early as they were still setting up. Although it was almost embarrassing, they welcomed me in, set up a little seating area for me within the sales area, gave me a BIRTHDAY PRESENT!!!, and let me watch them as they got ready... all while a line was forming outside the door. I knew then and there the kind of people I was buying from, and it has been my pleasure to support them and interact with them online ever since!!
WHEN CHOOSING A BRAND TO SUPPORT, WHAT DO YOU LOOK FOR? I look for integrity and environmental responsibility in the brands I support. I was raised to shop by price and it has taken me a long time to let go of that. My husband's family, who had less money to go around, always saved to buy quality items so that their purchases would last. It has been quite a culture shift for me but I see the value of that philosophy. I want to support a brand that cares for its workers (at each stage of production and sales), shows integrity and transparency in doing business, and values sustainability. Companies that truly value their responsibility to our planet will earn my loyalty. I think of Blondie's small switch in offering the option of less packaging or moving to compostable mailers. Those things matter, especially when I have three kids who seem to have more environmental consciousness and awareness than I do! On a grander scale, our very outdoorsy family supports Patagonia because of their care for our planet and their transparency in the materials they use. And in any brand, I'm looking for comfortable clothing that I can wear any time... to work... to dinner... and out to play!
WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR FAVOURITE SMALL BUSINESSES AND WHY? Blondie is the first small business I really got behind, and it was because of the personal connection I had with Michelle (and her mom!) at the One of a Kind Craft Show in Toronto a few years ago. It was cool to meet the maker and to actually see who my purchase was supporting. I have expanded my loyalty by purchasing from Jackson Rowe, another Canadian clothing business, and, more recently, Hillberg & Berk, a Canadian jewelry brand. Locally, I have discovered Collected Joy, a Toronto Blondie stockist, which just happens to be down the street from my favourite local spa, Healthwinds!
WHAT MADE YOU DECIDE TO BECOME A PSYCHOLOGIST? From the time I was little, I had actually planned to be a teacher. I did everything I could to set myself up to be able to do that... and in my final year of undergrad, just as it was time to apply for teaching jobs, a classmate came up to me sort of randomly and showed me information on a Masters degree in 'School and Clinical Child Psychology.' I had fallen in love with psychology in undergrad and, to me, this seemed like the perfect combination of my interests in education and psychology. I put all of my eggs in one basket, applied to that one program, and (fortunately) was accepted! I was a newlywed at the time and told my husband it was "just two years" and then I'd join the world of teaching. Well, two years turned into six, which enabled me to get a Ph.D. and become registered as a psychologist. I will always credit that classmate for changing the course of my life... and I know it was meant to be! I absolutely love what I do.
WHAT ARE SOME THINGS WE CAN DO TO TAKE BETTER CARE OF OUR MENTAL HEALTH? Develop a menu of 'pleasurable activities' you can go to when you feel down; think of things that cost money and things that don't, things that take time and things that don't, things that involve going out and things that don't, things that require others and things that don't, etc. Be intentional about building these things into your week, especially if you feel your mood starting to slip. I treat myself to my favourite Starbucks drink after long workdays... or a new magazine... or a bubble bath. Know who your people are and go to them for support when needed; social support is a HUGE protective factor when it comes to mental health. Get enough sleep! Don't be like me and stay up way too late because it's the only time I get to myself in the day! Learn to say 'no' when needed and get to understand 'good enough.' Ditch the 'shoulds!'
WHAT BOOK/SHOW DO YOU RECOMMEND THAT EVERYONE READ/WATCH? One of the most powerful movies I have ever watched is Dead Man Walking. It has challenging moments and would be triggering for some, but it is the most beautiful story of love, compassion, and forgiveness. For parents, I think The Collapse of Parenting by Leonard Sax is a must-read! It has a lot to say about the current culture of child-rearing. I have just started Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking by Susan Cain and I am rediscovering the value of my own quiet strength. On a lighter note, I think The Office is a show everyone should watch... unless you don't have a sense of humour ;).
IF YOU COULD DO ANYTHING ELSE WHAT WOULD IT BE? I recently joked that if I could find an investor who would pay me a salary so that I could do random acts of kindness for people every day, that would be my dream job!! I love finding ways to support the people around me... friends, neighbours, the staff at my kids' schools, colleagues, etc. Until that day comes, I love baking and use the goodies I make to brighten people's days and, in Covid times, to boost morale. If I had to do anything besides psychology, I would bake!
WHAT'S YOUR FAVOURITE BLONDIE PIECE? I can't!! I can't pick! OK, if I have to, I'd probably pick the poncho. I have so many of them, in all different colours and weights. It's an amazing accessory piece and can do a lot for the simplest of outfits. I am also loving the Classic East End sweater that I just got in the January sale. The cotton terry fabric and rib sleeves are amazing! Such a comfortable piece. Can I pick one more?! I will always be partial to my black Cross Front sweater... it was the first piece I ever purchased and carries fond memories of the day I discovered Blondie!