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.

Shine bright!

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From the desk of Teresa Jordan – I had a great conversation this week about the different generations and, believe it or not, we were not speaking disparagingly about millennials. Rather, we were discussing the different motivations of each group that we could name. Interesting to me is the idea that generation Z, or zennials, are driven to do a good job and prove their skills; but this is not necessarily to please others, but just to prove it to themselves.

I love the quote, Deeds are no less valiant if unpraised,” by JRR Tolkien – and it would seem that generation Z has figured this out. What would it mean for me or others to be not-s-driven by what others think our worth is, to be free of the need to measure up. On Facebook, the source of all wisdom, there are often quotes to remind us that any critique of our worth by others is a statement about the critique maker, not the subject of their scorn.

How easy to make a cute meme on Facebook and write a blog, how difficult to actually internalize that our strengths are ours and are not dependent on the notice of others, that we do not need to prove or please anyone. We just need to maximize what we know to be our strengths and know where we can have an impact. And let’s also celebrate that great bunch of youth in their early twenties seem to be driven to just brighten the corner where they are and are not worrying themselves about how others perceive their wattage – a bright idea indeed.

Weathered Wisdom

From the desk of Teresa Jordan – I have yard with a tremendous number of robins. Having spent a lot of time in the yard over Easter weekend, I came to know where many of the robin nests are, and could observe the busy parents taking care of their eggs. 

Then the worst happened, it snowed a couple of inches on Monday night. I was worried about the nests that I knew were exposed to the elements – not every robin is a real estate tycoon and understands location, location, location. Some nests I knew were on top of arbours and exposed to the elements. I worried about the tiny little bird mamas, shivering, covered in snow, flashbacks of Nestor the long-eared donkey went through my head. But there was nothing I could do.

In the morning the snow had accumulated and was everywhere. I walked out in my pyjamas and rubber boots to check, all was fine. Here’s the thing – robins know what they are doing. All my worry was not helpful or productive, and this experience was a good reminder about worry and its worth.

When something is of concern, bothering or overwhelming, we can worry and wander around in the snow in a nightgown and wellingtons. Or we can just take one step at a time, even one minute at a time when you need, and work through the problem or issue. Take the next step, let others that know that they are doing what they do best, and hunker down to wait out the storm.

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Parallel Universe

From the desk of Teresa Jordan – I have lived just close to Lindsay for almost all my life, and today for a few seconds I did not know where I was. I came to the end of Orchard Park Road at Angeline; this is supposed to be a hard stop with a field and creek on the other side. I clearly have not been there for a while because the street no longer ends at Angeline – it continues west with dozens of homes lining the street. 

So, as I approached, and saw an intersection where I was expecting a stop sign, I had a few seconds of panic that I had slipped into a parallel universe.  I had not been to that side of Lindsay in many months, and it was not that I was confused – it was that the entire area had changed while I was away. 

Will it be like this in parts of our lives as we emerge from the pandemic? I saw a friend today for the first time in about a year and she had lost 60 pounds and called her husband, “my ex”. Another parallel universe moment. 

There will be many such moments, I think; some things have changed a lot while we were disinfecting, and some maybe will be waiting for us like we were never isolated or away. As we face off with this wave, and continue to emerge, be gentle as you reconnect … lots has changed, new streets have emerged everywhere, and we are all a little different.  Explore gently into the new places, confusing changes and the well-worn paths and places that have been awaiting our return.

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Princess Diaries

When I first became interested in genealogy, I signed up to a website family tree group and started building mine.  This new adventure was so exciting – all new and so interesting as I traced branches back and back and back. 

At that time, as a beginner in genealogy, I trusted every hint; I trusted that everyone on the site was accurate and that what I was building was a perfect tree. In no time at all I had traced one line back to some guy listed as James V… turns out he was James the fifth, king of Scotland! I was dong this in about 2005, and I must say that for about six months I walked around secure in the knowledge that I was, in fact, a Scottish princess. 

Then, as my adventure continued and I learned more, I realized that there are many mistakes and misleading hints when so many people are contributing. The Arbuckle tree, which led me back to my royal ancestor, was misdirected with the wrong parents for my great grandmother. All of my royal identity was stripped away with a closer look. 

Now, I’m sure nobody on that that genealogy site sets out to direct beginners to false princess identities. Like me they also were not experienced enough to check documents and sources, to double-check dates and locations. I guess that is how it is almost all of the time – we need to check the sources, seek the truth for us, double back on what does not seem right, start again – before donning the tiara.

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Greener Pastures

Two of my brothers work as electricians, occupations for which they must undergo regular testing to ensure that the radiation in their systems is still in a healthy range. And I have another electrician brother who says in jest that he must be checked for fibre content – he works at Quaker. 

How lucky are we to have a factory in Peterborough that makes the entire city smell like rice cakes on a regular basis? In fact, how lucky are we to have so many of the things that we do in the three communities we work? We have Fleming College, Trent University, tourist attractions, the Trent System waterway, the Whetung gallery, museums and a free zoo! 

Sometimes we look across at another job and think how much better that job is, or look to another area of the province – more urban, less urban, fuller of industry, or with more attractions – and we can start to feel like we are missing out, that we are behind in some arbitrary timeline or that we somehow have less. 

I once read an inspiring quote by Aristotle, or Plato maybe, the message of which was that the grass being greener on the other side of the fence is usually due to a septic bed issue. There is a tendency to want what we don’t have, and I think we are all hard wired for this as primal survival gift. We are supposed to be scanning our environment for ideas to grow on, to improve our lives with and to stretch up to.  However, this tendency often leads to a feeling that we are somehow not measuring up or that anywhere is better than where we are. 

A good friend likes to remind me to stay in my own lane and work on my own strokes.  There is no way to know the full picture of difficulty and or challenge faced by people who seem to have it all; celebrate what they have, strive to improve your own strokes from the learning and then celebrate that. 

And then take a moment to remember, when you feel like there is a better place to live with better jobs and greener grass, none of those places smell like popcorn the way Peterborough does – ever.

Post Pandemic Playlist

On March 6, 2020, I went to a musical event as a fundraiser for United Way, an incredibly fun night. The evening is forever etched in my memory because it was held on the eve of COVID becoming a life changing pandemic; we were aware, but it was not making any changes. My group still sat shoulder-to- shoulder at Showplace, at the restaurant before my chair bumped the back of the chair behind me in the crowded restaurant. I think we may have even shared desserts at our table. All of these things were completely normal until they were completely not.

As fate would have it, I went to a musical event as a fundraiser for United Way this past Sunday.  I wore my mask, the Showplace Hall was half full, groups sat apart from one another, all of this normal for March 2022.  The music was the same, the energy of amateur singers entertaining me, and friends was the same, the laughs at tables downstairs felt the same. 

It was like live music has simply been waiting for me to return. Like life has awaited our return, we are changed, feeling radically different about a sneeze in public, about touching shoulders with strangers in a theatre, and about sharing desserts.

But still we gather in the new way, share in the new way, and know that this is only a taste of what is still to come.  More of the things that have been waiting for us all this time will return. A night out with friends, sharing in live music and laughs remains, I could say that we are all a little different than we were March 2020, but just like the brand-new wider chairs in the Showplace theatre, change can be the catalyst to get us to the next good thing – and it probably sings.

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Weathering Heights

From the desk of Teresa Jordan, Executive Director – It is just amazing to me how much difference a warm, sunny day makes to everyone’s mood.  This week spring will arrive on Sunday, but today the sun and warmth arrived and everything felt like spring. Snow melting, sunshine, mud, warmth, hot cars and no need for jackets. 

I heard a comment wondering how long it would take us Canadians to start complaining about the heat.  Its true discussing the weather is a national pastime. Discussing the forecast, possible challenges, the cold, the heat, the humidity, the dampness. It is a safe zone with people we don’t know well, it is a universal interest, and it affects everyone. 

When did we learn that? In infancy? It is just one of those rites of passage to know that one should never say, “Wow, how old are you?” but it is almost always safe to say – “How about this weather?” 

So much of what we know to be acceptable and how we interact we just picked up from others as we moved along in life. Lately I have been wondering about what I have picked up along the path that I could probably put down – the things that are part of how I grew up that cause me to be judgmental about differences, or short-sighted about the challenges of others, or not as empathetic as I could be when I don’t understand because I never faced that kind of weather. 

And I suppose people have the same challenge with me, not knowing what to say – they usually start with something like – “did you see the forecast?” We watch, we learn, we try our best and sometimes when storms loom, we need to just check in and see what lessons we can set aside for now because the weather is changing for us. 

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Dinner Dilemma?

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From the desk of Teresa Jordan, Executive Director – For probably over 10 years now, whenever I ask my son what he would like for supper he answers in his best French accent, “Filet Mignon.”  He answers this way not because Filet Mignon is something that we have on a regular basis, but because he thinks he is hilarious asking for a fancy dish on a Tuesday that he knows we don’t have, and that we will just make one of the 10 or 12 things we always have, and that I will think he is so cute and not ever realize that in all these years he has never offered any help in figuring out the daily quandary of what in the world are we going to have for dinner.

In fact, we have never had Filet Mignon until this week; it was his 21st birthday dinner and I surprised him. 

First, I asked, “What you would like for supper,” expecting the age-old French accent to ensue… and he said, “I would love your world-famous lasagna.” So that was not quite to plan, but it was a great surprise and a nice birthday supper.

Here’s the thing, he was not overly impressed. He liked the fancy meal but in the end said that my lasagna would have been better.

Sometimes I guess that is the way it is – the highlight reel of someone else’s life on social media fills our head with Filet Mignon dreams, which is great… but sometimes when we actually achieve or acquire those dreams, we realize that the lasagna reality show we are living is pretty nice too. Not quite to plan sometimes is the plan.