Out of this World

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From the desk of Teresa Jordan, Executive Director – I love to read, and I often seek out different kinds of material so that I am not stuck in one echo chamber of interests and ideas. To that end, my son offered me a book about Elon Musk and SpaceX’s beginnings.

While my son is an engineering student who loves this stuff, I must admit I was a little lost in all the specifics of how the Falcon 1 was developed, designed, and launched. What did stand out to me was that the first three attempts to launch the Falcon were absolute disasters; the sum of thousands of hours, more than a dozen employees and millions of dollars seemed to lead to a total flop, times three .

The book’s author stressed that the SpaceX philosophy for development was not linear but iterative in its design – meaning that instead of adjusting over and over again trying to formulate the perfect plan, designers were encouraged to come up with an idea and try it.

This philosophy resulted not only in the three big failures to launch but also in literally hundreds more washouts in the warehouse, workshops and launch pad area. So rather than trying to figure out where things might not work, the engineers here got to see firsthand their flaws in the mistakes that piled up. With each fail they then went back, adjusted, used the learning. The rest of the SpaceX story is clear- they achieved their goal of orbit.

The takeaway? While not always possible, sometimes you just need to get the first pancake out there, see how that process worked, what that connection achieved, how that project turned out and then adjust the recipe, and start again – only this time with more knowledge and one step closer to perfection.

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Remembrance Day

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From the desk of Teresa Jordan, Executive Director – Remembrance Day is a powerful reminder of the human spirit in times when our country was at war on a global level. Young men and women volunteered to serve with almost no idea what they would be truly up against.

A few years ago, I got to spend time with a group of War Brides. What they told me about their experiences in England during the war was so real and vivid that it left a lasting impression.

One war bride, well into her eighties, told me that she was walking with her baby in a pram and the German fighter plane came so low and close that she made eye contact with the pilot before diving with her child into the grassy ditch beside the lane.

The group talked of bomb shelters and lost brothers, of the constant fear and the great shortages of food and other comforts.

On the other hand, these were all war brides, so clearly each had found love in the same time. Some, in an amazingly short time, had decided that they would spend their life with a soldier, and faced moving to a completely different country in the midst of the chaos of war and disaster.

“So, I love you because the entire universe conspired to help me find you.”

Paulo Coelho, The alchemist

Each of us has faced great challenges of our own – happily not usually the threat of bombs and warfare here in Canada – but we’ve faced disasters of different kinds.

I think what these spunky ladies taught me, over 75 years after the war and their great migration, is that there can be joy in the midst of great sorrow, there can be a sense of adventure when all seems lost, and that Canadian soldiers are clearly irresistible. 🙂

It is important to remember, and to reflect on great sacrifice, youthful exuberance and the idea that there can still be joy… even during the worst circumstances.

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Believing is Seeing

From the desk of Teresa Jordan, Executive Director – I spent my Halloween night with a bunch of kids, and in chatting with the six and under crowd about the night my niece Mary shared her thoughts: “This was the best night ever!” 

The best night ever? When is the last time any of us declared that? When was the last time you even thought about perhaps ranking your day in the top 25 of good days so far?

The thing is Mary did not overthink it. She did not analyse that perhaps it was a little dark, cold, perhaps she felt a little tired or that her cousin was bugging her. She just noticed the candy, the company, the decorations, all of the fun and decided best night ever.

Here is my challenge to you: have a best night ever, figure out how to go on a rampage for joy and do it, then do not try to analyze whether it was completely what you had hoped. Have a good time and then declare loudly – best time ever.

There is plenty of research out there that suggests that we find exactly that for which we are looking. If we are looking for awesome we will find it; if we decide that we are going to have the best night ever and hold that thought, chances are, we will have a good time.

All that we can control in our days and nights is our thoughts about them. I am not saying that we don’t have challenging, hard days. I think, though, that even those are a little easier when we stay on the lookout and at the ready to jubilantly embrace and announce the best time ever!

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From the desk of Teresa Jordan – I recently did some training that began with a mindfulness exercise; the exercise is called the just like me practice, which is well known and comes up countless times in an internet search. The exercise was impactful because it began with holding in my mind someone that I did not particularly like, and then had me work through dozens of statements like, “This person has been disappointed in life, just like me.” 

I know that mindfulness is not for everyone, a little bit of imagination, deep breathing, noticing and discipline to go deep sometimes. But the just like me exercise really did make me think. I held the face of the person in my mind’s eye and then I really did realize that, just like me, they had been sad, felt inadequate, been frightened, longed for friendship, were still learning about life, wished to be free from pain, wished to be happy… and will die. 

Several times at conferences or meetings I have had to talk or work with a new colleague and inevitably we find common ground, shared interests, shared passions. As humans we are all unique and have our own gifts to share, but in many ways, we are so very much the same. We are born, we live, we try the best with the tools we have, and we finish our time on the earth. 

Brene Brown says, “ I know my life is better when I work from the assumption that everyone is doing the best they can.”  Everyone we meet is trying to live a good life, turn away from pain and trauma, find a little joy. Everyone we meet has faced great challenge and great triumph. It’s not that I think we will all instantly love all other humans after we do this meditation exercise; however, the journey may be a little easier when we are hurt, angry, annoyed, or bothered to remember that we are all trying to make the best of it.  Everyone is seeking some answers, trying to figure it out, trying to be well and do good, just like me and you.

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The Truth will out

From the desk of Teresa Jordan – I love Harry Potter, the books especially. There is a line in The Order of the Phoenix – Mr. Weasley tells Harry – “As the muggles say, truth will out.”

This is a quote that has guided my sojourn countless times, even back when it was just from Shakespeare. To me it means that I have to walk in my truth and, while I might fall or misrepresent myself, I cannot own the bad opinion or judgement of another.  I can look that judgement over, decide whether I want to use any new material to improve myself, and then I must set it down. 

I know that I want to defend myself, talk it all out, force what I know to be true about myself to be considered. However, we sometimes get caught in situations where we said or did something that triggered a nasty response in someone, an aggressive hand gesture on the highway, a snarling reproach from a stranger at the store or, perhaps most horrible, a cruel attack by someone to whom we are close. The truth will out. When there can be no further conversation, no dialogue or mediation, when you must carry on without opportunity to defend or clarify or state intent that somehow got misinterpreted or was misdelivered, there is no amount of worry, anger, venting or practicing what you could have said that will heal the wound. 

You know who you are, what you were feeling, how you think, how you usually drive, or that you usually the follow arrows on the floor. The whole rest of your life will bear out the real you; the truth will out.  Sometimes we just need to set down, send out positive vibes and continue the journey that will keep on bearing out the real you, your truth.

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To Be or not To Be

From the desk of Teresa Jordan, Executive Director – I had the privilege of taking some time out for training this past week.  Nouman Ashraf, a professor and outrageous-in-all-the-right-ways human being, led a session that hinged on translating identity into capacity each and every day. 

Getting to know where you have been – your own story and your own blind spots – and then translating all of that into the contribution only you can make was Ashraf’s focus. 

The professor challenged that we all need to meet people exactly where we find them in our daily interactions; however, our aim is not to leave them there. Bring about a moment of inspiration, a moment to hold a cause, a space in time where the interaction is the only pressing matter. 

We all have some form of a to do list that we reference to keep us on track for our millions of tasks. Ashraf suggests a daily “to be” list. A “to be” list is how we show up, how we decide to navigate the world with intention. Today I choose to have impact, today I will be more empathetic, today I will be present, today I will actively listen or maybe even single task for a period of time. 

Ashraf turns the steps in the river chestnut on its head; we cannot step into the same river twice because the river is always changing and moving. However, we are also always changing, so we are different people as well every time that we step into the water. 

Everyone loses if we do not intentionally show up exactly as we are, one interaction at a time, bringing our unique brand of outrageous to each interaction, deciding how to be and aspiring to leave people in a place different, and better, than where we found them. Outrageous.

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A Sign of the Times

From the desk of Teresa Jordan – It gets dark pretty early, the tell-tale sign that it is fall. With all of the pandemic alterations to life, it seems I do not drive at night very much anymore. So, coming home after 9 from Haliburton recently I was a little out of practice in the art of relying on the headlights to lead me home.

This realization made me think about how, when driving in the dark, you can only see a dozen metres in front of you, and you must trust your knowledge of the road, the other drivers, and signs and markers to get where you are going.  In fact, it wasn’t until I drove from Sault Ste. Marie to Wawa in the dark once that I realized there is a sign posted to warn of every bend in the road.  I was not familiar with the road, and it had a million bends. I leaned on those warning signs for guidance.

I guess that is how things feel right now – we do not know what our destination looks like, what the long-game after COVID might involve, how things will get resolved or how long all of that will take.  We just have to do the next right thing, watch the signs, look for guidance, trust the other drivers and keep focused on that part of the future is illuminated.  We need to deal with the next right thing, and then the next right thing after that, and sometimes we will need to double back because a sign changed or we learned a new route. Little by little, though, we carry on and without ever seeing the sweeping vistas of the Lake Superior landscape we will reach our destination together.

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The Lure of the Island

From the desk of Teresa Jordan, Executive Director – Where I grew up used to be called The Island, which is sort of bizarre, but it is a piece of land that has the Scugog river on one side and two different creeks that wrap around. The few hundred acres in the middle was called The Island and the local log church of the late 1800’s was … you guessed it, the Island Church. 

My parent’s farm is smack dab in the middle of the parcel, and it is called Island Green Farms.  Consequently, I grew up with ready access to water and fishing. The two bridges near my childhood home are famously popular fishing holes and each has a rather unique feature – hydro lines near the bridge that are littered with bobbers and lures of every description. 

Every now and then, workers from Hydro One come by and pull the bobbers and lures all down, but it only takes a few months for the festive garland of dashed casts to reassemble itself.  I have thought about these individual casts and the person flinging the line that gets tangled on the wire. There would be the inevitably a period during which they’d struggle to try from their position on the dock to pull or untangle the line; then, there must be a eventual decision to cut the line and leave the bobber, lure and/ or hook hanging amid the company of other abandoned tackle that is swinging in the breeze.

I guess that is the way life is sometimes – we want to fix, mend, untangle, make right, smooth over or ultimately control the mistake or mishap or broken relationship. And sometimes we can fix it; we can use our superpowers of empathy, communication, listening and problem-solving to untangle the mess. In those instances, we are stronger, the situation is usually clearer and we are ready for another cast that is a little better informed for having experienced the hazard.

However, and this is the hard part, sometimes there is just nothing that can be done, and we must cut ties. Oh, how icky that feels when we have invested time and energy, when we were really enjoying the friendship, when we thought the job or friend or marriage was forever.  

I guess each fisherperson must be clear when they have done all that they can, and in order to move on, they must cut that line. After all, in all my time living near these bridges I have not seen people camped out for days and days trying to get their favourite lure free; people eventually need to get home, eat, go to work and change out of their favourite fishing hat .   

All we can do is our best, make sure we have done the best with the tackle we have, done our best to understand what got us all tangled in the first place and then if nothing is changing, no amount of holding tight to the line is going to get us back to happily fishing with this particular bobber.

In all cases, there are good memories of the great fishing trips, there are lessons about fishing that were learned and there is always the knowledge that the karmic forces, much like Hydro One, will eventually cleanup the mess. This you learn when you grow up on an island.

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A Moment’s Clarity

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From the desk of Teresa Jordan, Executive Director – With my vehicle needing an oil change I drove my husband’s car to work.  While it is a great car, it just doesn’t have the comfortable familiarity of my own.

One fancy feature of my husbands’ car is that you do not choose the speed of the wipers – you just turn them on and through the magic of sensors the vehicle’s computer chooses the speed that is needed.

Here’s the thing – I never agreed with the speed. I guess we all have habits, especially in driving, and I am very sparing with the windshield wipers. I spend a lot of time adjusting the intermittent wipers in my car to just the right speed to clear the shield but not annoy me.  With my husband’s car choosing its own speed, I was just a little perturbed at wipers whipping back and forth far more frequently that I like. 

This car caper was a small annoyance to me, and just one of hundreds that can cross one’s path on any given day. I had to choose my reaction; I knew that I was unsettled, but I had to face that there was nothing that I could do to alter the situation.  So choosing my reaction was the choice that I had. 

Sometimes we do have a choice about our next move when things are causing strain, and then there is action to take. More often, as with my husband’s fancy wipers, we need to adjust. In both big and small things, we can say to ourselves: “I am setting this down, I will focus on what I can control, or I will focus on what I know to be true, what I am grateful for, the beauty that is in this moment.”

Choose to look through a clear windshield.  


Thanks Giving

From the desk of Teresa Jordan, Executive Director – The gratitude challenge is around the corner, and I am a believer in the magic of present thanks.

Just like the meditation guru who said, “Try to meditate for twenty minutes per day unless you are very busy, then do it for an hour,” I think the same principle applies with gratitude. There are some days when everything seems to go wrong, and there is just no moment in the day when gratitude feels right.

On those days, write down a few extra items on your gratitude list: fresh coffee, comfy bed, favourite breakfast cereal, hearing a child’s laughter.

On the busy, grumpy, and or sad days take a deep breath – yes whatever is wrong does not disappear, but the pause offers a little free reset where you can visualize the fresh air rejuvenating the weight of whatever – then in the pause think about even just one thing that makes you happy, that you love, that you are thankful was part of your day.

I can have busy days with challenging issues, like all of us, but I always say that I am thankful for my family, fresh coffee and the invention of chocolate. Connect for a moment to the joys, and then dive back in knowing that that still moment of fresh air and gratitude is available to you for free, any time that you need it again.

While this approach is not a magic wand to somehow remove the mountain of laundry, the bills, the meeting schedule or the current crisis, it is a moment that is all yours in the quiet.

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