'Twas The Morning of Departure....

...and all through the house, not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.

The Rolland Family Home (aka The Cascades Guest House) in the early morning.
The Christmas poem came to mind as I waited in the quiet dawn this morning for my ride to the Montreal airport. I was sitting on the steps at the guest house of the Cascades Paper Mill in St. Jerome, Quebec. Oddly enough, I was the first one scheduled to leave, and probably the last one who really wanted to go. When I had booked the flight months ago, I was assuming that I would be anxious to get back to my family after having been gone, and that I wouldn't want to linger, so why not leave early?

What's funny is that this time, I found myself wanting the visit to be longer. And that is truly a first!

You see, while I have attended many mill specification seminars in my 23 years in paper, I have never attended one that has affected me quite like this. I came away with the expected additional knowledge of the mill, the excitement of knowing what promotions and products are to come, and the bonus of getting away from the office for a few days. But what I didn't expect to come away with, was The Paperdolls.

It may make more sense to some of you to know that my job is part of a dying breed, most specification reps have been eliminated from the paper merchant mix. Or their job functions have switched to outside sales. I am one of the fortunate, or maybe unfortunate ones, who have remained a true specification rep over time. But this is a lonely venture. Sometimes I feel like an island. We are few and far between and  it is not possible for specification reps in a geographical area to be able to communicate with one another. To share ideas and strategies. And there really is no one else in my company who does what I do.

It has always been that way---generally anyone close enough to connect with, who does what I do, is a competitor and not someone who I can bounce ideas off of.

I was fortunate enough to have been selected to attend this first ever Specification Seminar at  the Cascades Mill this week. And since it has been a good long while since I have done one of these (or have even been asked), I agreed to go. But what I did not expect from this, was to come away with a family.

I assumed that I would be touring the mill, giving opinions, learning what was to come from the mill people, and all of that did happen, but what I really got was an instant family. One who understands my frustrations, my challenges, my passion, heck, even my job! That in itself, is nothing short of awesome.

But the bonus is that these women are all around my age, and have been doing the same job that I have done for nearly as long as I have. It's been 23 straight years for me, some have been doing this for almost that long, others have taken time of to raise families or to try other things, but they've all ended up back at paper.

The combined experience and expertise of this group is almost beyond my comprehension.  And the common denominator is that we all love paper.

Instant friends. Instant support group. All with different backgrounds, families, interests and yet somehow all the same. Kindred spirits.

I did not expect to meet 6 other women who I instantly loved. While each of us have our differences, we are all of similar personality. All opinionated. All strong. All fantastic women.

Such treasures. Such a blessing for me when I needed their affirmation and support the most.

Thank you Paperdolls for having my back. For making me feel intelligent, important, well spoken, and especially for inspiring me....to be like you. I care about keeping paper in the mix. And you my lovelies, just confirmed for me, that I absolutely do know what I am talking about, that my opinions do matter and that I do have a valid viewpoint.

I wish that we had had more time together. You are good for my soul and I sense that I could learn a lot from you all. Luckily, this is the age of instant communication, and I promise we will stay in touch.

I hope The Paperdolls cross paths again--maybe this time for another passion of mine--karaoke, and wine and the ever loud conversations that seem to happen when we are all in the same room. But if not, the connection has been made. The bond has been cemented. I will never forget you.

For a person who isn't much of a traveler, my international trip to the Cascades Paper Mill was the easiest trip I have taken yet. Paperdolls... with all your beauty of body, mind and spirit, can I just say.....you ROCK!

The 7 Paperdolls (L to R)
 Beth (aka, Paper woman), Tina, Kim, Karla, Kathleen, Mimi and Me