We’ll Get There Together

From the desk of Teresa Jordan, Executive Director – It seems otherworldly to remember last March when most of us thought that the ideas of lock down and pandemic would last maybe a month or so. Now here we are in a fresh new year and we are staring down another lock down, rising numbers and what seemed like a sprint has turned into a marathon with no visible finish line.

Just like a marathon, I think most of us are running out of carbohydrates and water, we are weakening, and we are struggling to keep on going. Now, I do not run marathons, but I have been a spectator and I know that there are people offering water, people with garden hoses offering a cooling shower, and there is cheering, so much cheering. People I know that do these events say that there is power in knowing that there are people at the sidelines cheering, sending good vibes, willing to help, and just standing close urging them on.

I think that lots of parts of this pandemic feel lonely, exhausted and makes for sore feet. And while no one is going to spray anyone with a garden hose as you drive to work, I know there are friends, neighbours, families, volunteers and communities that are thinking, sending love, standing by, ready to support all essential work.

This is a difficult time, and there is no reprieve as it affects every corner of our lives. Maybe a first step is just to admit that there has been a race going on for some time now and it is starting to drag a bit. Reach out for help, offer help, stand close, do whatever is needed to recharge yourself and others, be kind and remember the power of cheering, lets cheer each other on to the finish, lets cheer everyone we know to the finish.

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Don’t Be Mislead

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From the desk of Teresa Jordan, Executive Director – I read one of those meandering pieces on Facebook recently about a mom and a sled. It  resonated with me especially as I have done hard time as a big sister and then a mom, pulling sleds through the snow that are weighted down by children. 

In the piece a mom is talking about how, when they first embarked on their wintry adventure, both of her kids were adamant that they did not need to be pulled on the sled – they would walk. Then, throughout their journey, the children took frequent little rests, riding on the sled for a while here and there. In Facebook fashion, the point was that this is, “what mom’s do.” 

After reading this story, I got to thinking that really, this is what we all do. There have been very difficult challenges over the past few weeks. I know from walking alongside that there have been many people resolute to hike on their own, others hunkering down to pull the biggest toboggan ever created, and still others who desperately needed to ride for awhile. 

The magic is that we can be any one of these people. There are a lot of times when things are going well, or at least predictably, when we can march along independently and get things done.  Equally, with that same strength, there are times when we have more to give, when we are feeling especially strong and realize that there are others around us who need our strength. 

We pile them onto our emotional sled, and we pull them along for a while, letting them regroup, recover, re-energize and lean on us. 

If you have ever pulled a heavy sled you will have the same visceral reaction I do to that dragging weight behind you, the frayed rope digging into your hands and the sometimes-demanding squeals for a bit more speed. All this to say that while you can offer this support to others, you can’t sustain it for a huge amount of time.  Then it is time for another independent jaunt, or for you to just lean on someone else for awhile and ride that sled. 

Taking that ride doesn’t mean that you are not strong or the ultimate conqueror.  It just means that in this big snow hill of challenges, sometimes we are strong, sometimes we are extra strong, and sometimes we need to rest.

Best of all, sometimes we can just ride the sled unencumbered down the hill in total joy and exhilaration – this is just what we humans do. 

Hidden Treasure

From the desk of Teresa Jordan, Executive Director – Happy New Year! The end of Christmas holidays and the turning of the new year always makes me want to clean up and clean out. So as part of this preoccupation, I cleaned out my jewellery boxes and then took some jewellery to the repair shop for various reasons.

One item that I took to the repair shop was a pair of earrings that I have had since my twelfth birthday. I
spent that birthday in Holland, and the second wife of my great grandfather gave me the earrings as a gift.
The earrings clearly were not new – and were probably a pair that she no longer wanted – but I liked them. I
am not sure whether someone told me that they were valuable – or whether I just concluded that they must
be – but for all these years I have been keeping them with my other “real” jewellery and have considered
them to be gold earrings with rubies.

I took these earrings and some other things in to be cleaned and polished. The man at the counter laid out
my precious “real jewellery” on a pad and began looking over each piece. He glanced at my precious ruby
earrings and pushed them to the corner saying, “metal and glass.”

What?? It has been a long time since I turned twelve and over all those years, moves and incarnations, I have considered these earrings to be valuable and important. If I had cleaned them at home, I would still believe that they were gold and rubies.

Do the facts alter the facts? Does the label from the jeweller change my earrings? Does his assessment make my earrings less precious? I can’t decide, but I know that the question makes for good musings. How does a label change things? How does classifying, assessing and tabulating skills change worth? Does it have to?

If I’m being honest, all I know for sure is that the earrings from Holland – now all cleaned – are shinier to me
than the other gold earrings with rubies that proved to be “real” when they came home from the shop.

Treasure what’s real to you.

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Keep on Truckin’

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From the desk of Teresa Jordan, Executive Director – Well, in few days we will be ushering in a new year. For many or most of us, we are hoping the new year is better than the old as we tackle a totally different kind of Christmas season.

Any time that I go to Lindsay for work I make a left at the corner of highways 35 and 7. There is an advanced green light there, but sometimes I do have to stop in the turning lane.

One day I stopped a little late and a big 18-wheeler was making a left hand turn at the intersection. The driver
glared down at me and I felt like a totally incompetent driver as I sheepishly backed up to allow room for him to turn.

After this experience I have tried to remember to stop well back in case another big truck is making a left. I was so proud last week as I anticipated the amber changing to red and stopped well back, as I could see a B- train truck waiting with its double trailer to make the left.

I was super glad that I had paid attention.

The driver, seeing me well back … glared down at me as if to say, “You think I can’t drive or something?”

So it would seem there is a lesson here right? Drive like you ought to in this life, make the
decisions that feel right, follow your own true north because either way you are probably going
to get glared at.

Drive well and stay safe. May the year 2021 bring you peace, hope and health … and may it be glare-free.

The Thrill of Hope

The ‘thrill of hope,’ what a turn of phrase from that much loved, often-sung-out-of-key hymn at Christmastime.

I know that the news swirls with all kinds of bad – numbers, projections and waves of a virus that none of us saw coming this time last year. With a vaccine, continued education and experience, there is a thrill of hope for a world that could get back to rejoicing together in all the ways that we used to rejoice.

What is hope after all – confident expectation, a desire for something to happen, trust that a certain thing will come to pass. And so, what can we absolutely say that we hope for … a return to a time where we can hug our friends and family, when we can gather with our grandparents and others without danger, when we can dine in our favourite restaurants with no extra measures, when we can sing loudly for all to hear and dance like a toddler who does not even need the music in large halls full of our favourite people?

I love Victor Frankl and his writing about his experience of the Holocaust. He says that our human freedom is to choose our attitude in any circumstance and design our way. That even in a night as dark as this pandemic and all its restrictions have been, we can look to a brighter future, be thrilled by the hope of a new year that will at some point bring a new time, that we can look confidently to a place, after the weary part is done, when we can again rejoice together at a distance closer than six feet.

The thrill of hope is that we can focus on what is getting us down, or we can take as many moments as we need to picture this future that we can all share in together on the other side of our current challenge.

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Storm Warning

From the desk of Teresa Jordan, Executive Director – Last week I had a great opportunity to take part in a leadership conference. Two days at six hours per day on Zoom, it was a different kind of conference experience, however, there were many good conversations and much learning. 

Each day started with a mindfulness practice led by Michele Milan founder of The Centre for Mindful Leadership. And unbeknownst to Michele she was one of the first teachers in mindfulness I had back in 2015; I still hear her calm, reassuring and centring voice in my head each time I try to be mindful. Mindfulness is really just about cutting through the noise for a few moments to bring yourself back to a still centre.

I loved the practices that Michele offered both days. The first involved several minutes of breathing. Then Michele asked us to put out hands on our heart and feel it beating, feel our breath going in and out and think what it means to simply be – and what we can offer the world in this being. 

The second day’s offering was similar, as most practices are, with breathing and centring, but this time the visual was a hurricane. Not very relaxing right? Michele urged us to think of the eye of the hurricane – that in the middle of all that swirling, noisy, raging storm there is a middle point where all is still and, if you look up, you can see the sky.  She told us that in the storms, the noise, the haste, the stress, the sometimes chaos of life, we can for a few moments connect with our breath and heart and find the centre. Let the swirl keep whirling and just be still in the sunshine within. 

Both days Michele said a similar thing to us as a group, “… and remember this is always available to you.”  Since she did not immediately give us her cell phone number I have to reflect what she meant; I could pause, breathe and be still as often as I needed to be. 

The eye experience is available to us at all times, in almost any crisis there is a way to pause and centre, to take a moment to let the problem move around and away us, while we just take two or three breaths – long enough to be still and look at the problem through a calm eye which is more able to see a path to solution or at least the next steps. 

When I described my new hurricane mindfulness practice a friend quickly pointed out that there was no way out but to head back through the cyclone, that the eye of the hurricane is completely ensconced by the storm.  I think that is part of the beauty of the analogy – get quiet, get in the middle, get centred and then put on my Xena warrior princess pants and confidently head right back into the wall of the storm. The quiet centre is always available, we just have to step back into it as many times as we need.

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Got Game?

From the desk of Teresa Jordan, Executive Director – There is a natural rhythm to the seasons and, despite a world in chaos, that rhythm remains.

We are entering the season of darkness and quiet – the sun setting early, no insects singing us to sleep, very little bird song, the snow muffling almost everything else. This is a time to take things a little slower, to maybe cuddle up with a book, start a new indoor hobby, spend some time in the stillness to listen to your own small voice. In my house this is the season of board games. And for this week the game of choice has been crokinole.

My dad was a huge fan and competent competitor, so I have a long history with crokinole, but have not played in a while. So, this past weekend when my kids dusted off the board, I quickly realized that the game takes practice. I think that I would be pretty good at it if there were no challenging obstacles in the pegs around the centre, and no rule that you have to hit an opponent when there is one on the board. I think I could make smooth, clear shots to the centre with ease and stack up 25 pointers in no time flat.

But then I must reflect. Is it still a fun game, a challenge, a fitting competition with no obstacles, irritations or struggle to make it to the high points areas? And somewhere between having a laugh at my rusty misses and flipping the board over in frustration, I reflect that the fun and the appeal really does rest in the tough parts.

The year 2020 has a lot of pegs in the board, but I was reminded by several people this week – have lived through it will make the return to all those precious things we miss all the more wonderful. And next year, high points will be that much sweeter.

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Team Cool

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From the desk of Teresa Jordan, Executive Director – Like most people, I have a pretty standard morning routine, with different preparations done at different times in order for me to leave the house for work at a set time. 

One morning this week, all was going just as planned when right in the middle of this well-choreographed dance party, the power went out. As I live in the country a power outage is a double challenge as the water supply is also affected. 

Now we do not have power outages that often – maybe four times per year. However, from the reaction on this particular morning, one would think that we live off the grid most of the time. There was no panic, no exclamations, no real bother. Knowing that I was now in the complete darkness brushing my teeth in the bathroom my partner brought me two lanterns. My son strolled out to the pond to get some “toilet flushing water” while my partner lit our gas stove with a match and started boiling water for my travel tea mug. 

The power outage changed everything, but the dance continued almost uninterrupted by the sudden new challenge. And that was that, I finished getting ready by lantern in the bathroom, got dressed, packed up my lunch, made my tea, waltzed off to work. 

What made the transition so smooth? Why was no panic or frantic wondering about what to do next or how to adjust to make the morning routine happen inside the added challenge? I think there were two things going on. First-off, we had experience with the power outage scenario – not that often, but they had happened before. Secondly, we had each other. As a team we just worked it out, did what needed to be done, stayed focused on the tasks we needed to do and helped one another. 

There was definitely magic happening on both counts. Experience with different challenges sets us up to be able to face them, or something similar, again with calm resolve.  And having a team of people around you to stare down and overcome the problem is so much more buoying than facing it alone. 

Challenges, setbacks, misunderstandings and lights out moments are the stuff of life and all we can take real control over our own responses to that stuff.  There is a choice in every challenge – rail against the darkness of it, stay alone in a dark bathroom, and complain about the injustice of a challenge when you did not want it.  Or seek out a light, lean on the team for problem-solving and calmly carry on with the now-new circumstances.   

Somewhere between flushing the toilet with pond water and putting on lipstick by battery-operated lantern, the challenge can be wrestled to the ground. And working with a team’s collective experience and knowledge, the light on the other side will return.

The Gentle Lessons of Life

From the desk of Teresa Jordan, Executive Director – This past weekend I spent quite a bit of time beside a lake, staying in a cabin on Lake Bernard.

In the evenings I saw the sunset in the long stretches across the water. In the mornings, I watched the mist of the sunrise sweeping across the lake. During the day, I savoured the sparkling sunshine dancing on the waves. In the early mornings, I watched birds hunting for fish and people fishing in boats, plying their trade in hope of a fresh breakfast. 

The most wondrous thing throughout the weekend, however, was listening to the lake. With the exceptional weather I was able to leave the windows open and I could hear the waves, the sea gulls, the wind sweeping across the massive body of water.

Here is what I loved… at the side of this ancient lake, in the glory of this wonderful, unexpected fall weather, there was no pandemic, there were no closures, no statistics, no fear of the unknown.  The water was there full of fish and other wildlife, just as it has always been over hundreds of years. The waves were gently lapping against the rocky shore and, little by little, wearing the rocks down with a quiet, steady rhythm – as they always have.

Robert Frost is quoted as saying that the three words he knows for sure about life are: “It goes on.”We are facing extreme times, piled on top of the usual array of challenges in life, and it is easy to get overwhelmed and anxious. Find your Lake Bernard – find a spot where you can reconnect, listen to nature, listen to your own heartbeat, be still and quiet for even a few moments. In those moments of stillness, you can find a strength that will see you through to the next challenge.

Think of those gentle waves as they roll into shore, just lapping against the rocks of the Canadian shield and, without a cutting torch or chisel or anything powerful is cutting deep grooves, little by little over time. We do not need to search for a next big thing or heroic epic effort that will become legend. Like those quiet waves on the gentle lake, we can make a difference just in our steady efforts, in our careful decisions, in our gentle moves to look out for one another. 

There was nothing loud or spectacular at Lake Bernard, but in its quiet, steady,  beauty it left its lasting mark on me and set me up to face the “right now” challenges of the world again. They go on, all of the days and months and years, and the gentle quiet efforts of all us, they leave their mark.

Life is going on, in this harder time as in better times, and sparkles are dancing in quiet corners. We just need to be looking in their direction.

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Hear What I’m Not Saying

From the desk of Teresa Jordan, Executive Director – Had some excellent training this past week about relationship building and I was surprised that so much of the content was about good communication. I reflected on how, ultimately, the bedrock of relationship is communication, understanding, holding space, being clear and really seeking to understand another person.

I am always surprised to see the breakdown of communication – actual words said being only 7% of a conversation, paraverbal (messages that we transmit through the tone, pitch and pacing of our voices) at 55% and body language at 38%. This means that all those friends with whom I largely only text have no idea what I am saying most of the time. And in this time where conversation is mostly constrained to virtual communications, we have to work harder to understand what is being said. This is challenging in a time when it also feels like we are working just a little harder to do everything that we do.

Luckily, the pay off to good communication is a huge one. If we are really focused – not on what to say next, not on the TV show in the background, not on thoughts of what might be for supper – really focused on what is
being said and how – everyone rises. We can understand not only
the message, but the person, a little better.

I think we all know how it feels to be really heard, really seen, understood and valued. This is a gift we can offer over and over, to all. It takes practice to quiet all of the other noise, to seek clarification, and to pay close attention.

Listening creates opportunity to see a person freshly, to learn something new and to create a new link. If the words are only 7%, let’s get curious about all that we are missing with each other – what we are really saying and who we really are.

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