Banana Bread Banter

From the desk of Teresa Jordan, Executive Director – A lot of work has been done here lately about future leaders and succession planning. I am so excited to see the people who have decided to join the process, plan out goals with their managers and be a part of the future leaders gang. It is going to be a delight to see how new skills develop, new connections are made and careers are moved forward. 

Equally, I appreciate and rely on all of those who have chosen to focus on the role they are in now, make it great, put that kind of joyful energy into something else, like family, home renovations or a hobby.  There is an equal delight in knowing ourselves and what truly lights us up. 

I recently read the obituary for an HR director in another agency who sadly passed away. I know that she was a stupendous HR strategist and manager. Her obituary, however, focused on her awesome hugs, banana bread and adventures with her grandchildren.  She was great in her field, and clearly, she worked at it; her stretch goals, though, were focused on making her family and friends feel their value to her acutely, being vibrant in her relationships and apparently in perfecting banana bread. 

Seek out where you want to grow and stretch, and if it is your role at work stupendously, and if it is your role to be an awesome grandparent, both are equally amazing. I think the trick is that we keep on setting goals, growing and rippling out our joy and passion to all around, whatever it may be.

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Ice Patch

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From the desk of Teresa Jordan, Executive Director – At our Aylmer office there used to be a huge pothole at the beginning of the walkway from the parking lot on the north side. It was full of water almost all the time in the warm months unless a severe drought turned it into a dry trip hazard. In winter, it was a either a smooth ice patch or half melted and up broken ice patch, both equally hazardous. The pothole was a regular topic of conversation at the office, as it was dangerous for all. 

And then the pothole was fixed. The horrible portal to centre earth that annoyed and challenged us every day was made smooth and level with glorious new pavement, leaving not a hazard in sight. 

So, why do we not keep talking about the repaired hole? The fix was such a wondrous improvement one would think that we’d be talking on and on about how amazingly safe it is. Lauding the new reality should take up the same air time as alerting each other to the hazard and complaining, no? Well, that would be counter to human nature and really isn’t what could be called interesting adult conversation. 

We do not naturally sit around discussing the great parts of the job, or the wonderful well-working equipment. There is, it seems, a natural gravitational pull to focus our conversation on annoyances, troubles and complaints. 

The new paved patch heading onto the walkway at Aylmer is amazing, thank you to everyone that made it happen – you have made it safer for all of us who use that office year-round. 

Let’s challenge ourselves every day this week to see something amazing and call it out, name it, talk about it. I bet the ripples of joy will spread further than the old Aylmer pothole ever did.

Garden Variety

From the desk of Teresa Jordan, Executive Director – I have worked very hard over the last few weeks to get ready to be part of a garden show. The day after the show, I toured all of the other gardens with other show volunteers.

Every yard that I went to felt just a little tidier and more beautiful than mine; every homestead felt a bit more effortlessly majestic and calm when compared to the frantic horticultural warfare of getting my yard ready.  However, when I really looked the tell-tale signs were there – I saw half-used bags of mulch tucked behind garden sheds, garden tools in a pile and mounds of weeds wilting in a fence row.

One particularly wonderful home, with sweeping field of wildflowers amid charming bee boxes overlooking a wraparound porch with calla lilies in all the corners, also featured a wagon piled with tools and the remains of a massive chalkboard to do list on the drive shed wall. 

I guess its just human nature to sort of think that everyone around is just a wee bit more put together and organized, spending countless afternoons on their chez lounge reading magazines while we toil.  One of my favourite quotes goes something like this … when the grass looks greener in someone else’s yard it is usually a septic issue. There are many beautiful gardens that need not be graded in order of wonderfulness, but just enjoyed for their beauty and the dedication that it took to craft them – just like a lot of things.

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Rooftop Rambles

From the desk of Teresa Jordan, Executive Director – Some time ago, a roof was leaking and the ceiling was falling down. Weeks of repairs and renovation happened, and all was fixed, better insulated and painted. 

In the final report the contractor had to admit that they had never really determined the cause of the leak, but had instead fixed, modified and reinforced a number of possible causes. So the hope was that, with all of the great upgrades, the leak would not happen again. 

As you may have guessed, some months later in a heavy rainstorm the roof leaked again. The difference this time though was that, with the new insulation, fresh paint and other work, the water trail was unmistakable whereas before traces of water damage seemed to be everywhere.  

A few thoughts come to mind here. We often know that something is not quite right, we are not feeling well, there is a difficulty in our family or a wrinkle in our team at work. And sometimes we set about with all of the fixes that come to mind.  Then, there is maybe some change, or at least the joy of finding a pie in the lunchroom trying to lift the mood, but the core problem or leak continues. 

I think that a lot can be said of the roof leak story here though. Sure the new fixes did not in fact hold back the rain, but all of that work was not in vain; the repairs and paint made the core problem easier to address. 

There is usually a root to any great problem, but it is so hard to find or see, sometimes we do have to just start fixing stuff – improving communication, getting some exercise, repairing a relationship. And sure, it may turn out that the core trouble is still there, but with so much other explored and improved the issue will surface a little more clearly and more easily tackled. 

Repairing leaking roofs is hard; they only leak in the rain so during the sunshine you can forget they are there. Tricky problems are also hard to fix; we get busy making plans on our busy days and forget that they are there. In both cases the ceiling tile will drop at some inconvenient time and we will be forced to face the challenge and get to the core of the issue. The effort is worth the work, in both cases.

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A Picnic State of Mind

From the desk of Teresa Jordan, Executive Director – I heard the best quote this past week, “That’s not a picnic, that’s just eating outside.” 

So, what’s the difference? In this case, it was picking up food at a drive through and sitting at a picnic table. And in this person’s opinion, while take-out could be part of a picnic, a picnic is planned – as a destination, maybe a tablecloth or a blanket, along with thought-out activities and food. A picnic is an event that you look forward to, get excited about and remember; having a burger on the closest park bench, on the other hand, is simply eating.

Made me think. This discussion of the nature of picnics offers us a good gauge for just about everything in our lives. Are we showing up to an event each day or just getting through the day as best we can? Are we savouring the time we get to spend with others or just hoping it will be over soon with no fist fights?  Are we using the fine china, fancy towels and cloth napkins or are the napkins just out of the glove box with a last-minute fast-food purchase?

I am not so naïve to think that every day can be a picnic feast on a checkered blanket with perfect weather, although I do sometimes dream about the Jane Austen style picnics on the hillside. I am just thinking that the heart of the matter is the planning and the attitude, and that we can do minute-by-minute with a little practice. Take a few picnic moments today, make a few minutes to enjoy.

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Life needs a few more polka dots and picnics.

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Dig Deep

From the desk of Teresa Jordan, Executive Director – My husband is a storyteller, largely because he has had so many different roles, adventures, and experiences in his lifetime. In 1968, at the age of 15, he found himself on the north shore of Lake Superior in a construction camp; he likes to brag that this was the day after he quit school for good. 

Just the other day he was telling me stories of that time, and said that a man took a taxi for over 100 miles to get to the camp to apply for a job. The foreman asked what he could do, and the long-travelled applicant very confidently replied: “I can run the best machine you have.”  To which the weathered foreman replied that the man had better get back in his taxi because what they needed was someone able to drive the worst machinery they had.

First, in the labour shortage that is currently around us I found this an incredulous story, but times were clearly different. What I can appreciate is the idea that it is not the best equipment that needs the extra skill, it’s the quirky, old, held-together-with-duct-tape, difficult equipment that requires patience, talent, and skill.

When the day goes smoothly or all the technology works, we still need to be great at what we do. But when the copier keeps jamming, the day is derailed by a van breakdown, illness or crisis, this is when our “worst machinery driving” skills must kick in. We suddenly must adjust, make different decisions in the moment, resist the urge to kick the copier. We have to dig deep for the skills that we need when the day or project is breaking down, belching smoke and leaking diesel. This is where we can confidently say – I can do this, I got this.

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Travelling Together

From the desk of Teresa Jordan, Executive Director – I love the ice breakers that we take part in for meetings. It is fascinating to me to hear some of the quirky and interesting facts that people share through these activities. I am now aware that someone that works at CLTH considers themselves addicted to sushi they love it so much, someone skated with Stars on Ice, and someone else is passionate about the Royal Family. 

It is so interesting to start to understand what makes other people who they are, the places they have been and experiences that they have had along the way. Especially in this humongous workplace, I am often overwhelmed by how much we as a group face all at once, the passing of a loved one, the birth of new baby, challenges with home repairs after a storm, sudden illness of loved ones or ourselves,  losses, gains, weddings, divorces, and even more interesting stuff. 

I love that no two people are on the same path with the same luggage, and that for a time here together in this work – and in all kinds of other ways – we get to just travel together for a time. 

When my husband was facing the terminal cancer diagnosis of his first wife he was devastated, but somewhere in the despair he remembers distinctly going from “why me” to “why not me” in reflecting that everyone faces challenges big and small all the time, and this was their challenge, their particular path to face together at that time.

We are all facing the ups and downs and adding or taking away from a cup of joy that we all carry, offering a little top up when we can and accepting some joy boosts in our “why not me” moments. Let’s keep walking together, and supporting, leaning on, sharing the load and keeping the sushi problems in check with one another as we can, when and where we are able.

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1,000 Pieces

From the desk of Teresa Jordan – I spent some time with people from another agency, and we got to chatting about Christmas and Santa. Now here’s the thing, my ultimate Christmas gift ever was my Barbie motor home, given to my sister and I in 1980.  We loved it!

Years later my dad told us the Barbie motor home’s full story. It came in a box roughly the exact dimensions of the motor home, and so my dad stowed it away until Christmas Eve. Then, when all of us kids were in bed, he went to take the motor home out of the box. Only, it was not a motor home. It was over 1000 plastic pieces and decals; my parents were up until 4:30 a.m. assembling it. 

So last week I said that that motor home of 1000 pieces was my favourite, and another person my age says that she got one too and it was her favourite as well. I was about to tell my cute daddy tale, but before I could she was telling it herself. Her parents had made the same assumption and were up all night, elbow deep in plastic and Barbie stickers.

Two families, one in Janetville, one in Ottawa, cursing Mattel through the joy-filled hours (?) of Christmas Eve night. I didn’t need to tell my story; it was told and it was appreciated. Love this, it reminds me that there is so much that we have in common when we take the time to get to know one another. There is so much aligned in our human experience and when you look, you will find your Barbie motor home, enjoying good storytelling people who get your stories, share your passions and make you feel a part of something.  

Mind your Minutes

From the desk of Teresa Jordan – I read the greatest tip about how slow down a busy brain in an Eckhart tolle book. He urges that you say to yourself, “I wonder what my next thought is going to be?” So simple a question but also so instant in causing a pause, a slowdown, a quiet in that constantly thinking brain to create a little space. 

Of course, another thought, or fleet of thoughts will arrive. But the asking of the question and the slow pause that follows it, stops the next thought from so rapidly filling the void.

I think sometimes we get overwhelmed in the idea that perhaps when we have a lovely meditation pillow or a schedule that feels less overwhelming or the kitchen renovation is done… that will be the time that we start thinking about meditation or mindfulness or even taking a pause. I have often read, though, that there is so much to gain in just taking a few seconds to pause, to check in with how you are feeling, to listen to what your body is trying to say. 

These moments that we steal away, while we are busy in all kinds of other ways, will add up to some helpful space and calm – space and calm to just be.  And after those few seconds of thinking of our thoughts, emotions and breaths, we can jump back into whatever arena of challenge we find ourselves in… just in a way that is a little more ready and resilient.

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Excuse Me…

From the desk of Teresa Jordan – I read a quote recently from Jen Sincero that said: “An excuse is nothing but a challenge that you’ve given your power to.” And then a deep pause while I let that sink in.

Challenges lurk at every corner, and if the pandemic has taught me one thing its that the most horrendous are not planned for and are ever-changing, requiring constant shifts in response and action.

There are a lot of challenges in the day-to-day as we navigate these tricky waters of emerging from intense restrictions while continuing to be wary of an ever-present threat in variant after variant attacking our disinfected defenses. Excuses though, feel like a whole different thing, like my high school crush that always had to rush to be somewhere else when I tried to phone him or the reason I have never run a marathon… my running shoes are not good enough.

Excuses feel like those glib statements we make when we are annoyed or do not want to face a pestering schoolgirl’s ninth call this week. When does a great challenge become an excuse, I guess when we are facing something that scares us, or that will be very hard, like moving to a different home, starting a new relationship or travelling to a long-dreamed of destination.

Then the passport hassles, the great costs, the mounting unknowns become the excuses for why we stay stuck. Taking our power back is challenging, and I am not sure I can fit it in between my phone calls to said crush, Phil.