Wobbly Wisdom

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From the desk of Teresa Jordan, Executive Director – I recently read an important piece in the Globe and Mail called, “Put down the self-help books.”  It was the catchy title of the article that drew me in, as I have been known to advocate for finding your own treasure inside yourself and all that.

This was a compelling article in which Michael Unger argued that resiliency is not an inside job but rather a matter of resources. The author speaks of the study of many young people at risk and reported that a key determining factor for them is not how many services are involved in their “cases,” but whether they have a family, a network, a congregation or a community of support around them. The statistics, again and again, Unger argued, support that even the most dysfunctional of family ties are more important than world class therapy when it comes to weathering the storm.

I have been know to talk about three legs to the stool, that if our work life is one and family a second, we need a third to keep us from wobbling – be it, model boat club, church, under water basket weavers society – whatever.  Another connection is essential so that we have a balance of support for our seat.

I still think that self-help books are important, to our attitude and in our willingness to ask for help.  Unger though, does seem to prove to me that true help comes both from within and from all around as we travel this life.

Thanks for all that you do each day, helping each other and others.

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Lunchtime Learning

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From the desk of Teresa Jordan, Executive Director – I recently sat in a lunch room with someone who does not like cheese or eggs. Actually, that is a bit inaccurate – she hates them. While this fact may not sound earth shattering to you, I was stunned to think that someone could be happy in a dark, flavourless world where melted cheese in copious amounts on top of just about anything did not instantly solve the problems of a day – or where the deliciousness of an egg cooked in about a dozen different ways did not instantly brighten one’s morning, or any time of day.

Here it is – a person who I like, respect and learn from I now know from this conversation, is completely bonkers. Isn’t this how it seems when we meet someone who is completely different from us in some way – who has a different world view, different priorities, different motivators, different joys, different likes, different fears – and if too different, it just feels strange?

This experience was the beginning for me in understanding that timeless truth – we do not see the world as it is, we see it as we are. What is wondrous and comfortable for me can be easily seen as bonkers to someone else with their different lens.

So, no, my acquaintance who hates eggs and cheese is not really bonkers. We are all the sum of all our experiences, lessons, attitudes and genes, and our food preferences are part of the beautiful unique package. There is so much to gain when we are open to learning and seeing all these other perspectives. There is a trove of untold wonder in looking at things a little differently and a little less cheesy. Here’s to the different, you are ‘eggsactly’ what we need.

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Prop And Progress

Beach Path
So last week Lee Iacocca died, and, in his honour, I reread his autobiography. Lee was a hard-working son of Italian immigrants that moved to the US to buy into the American dream and he has been a little over the top about America’s greatness over the years. He grew up in the depression and got publicly humiliated and fired from his job as President of Ford in the late 70’s before literally inventing the mini van and creaming Ford in the marketplace for a decade at Chrysler. All that aside, I love parts of his leadership style- famous to me for two things that I try to remember: first- hire people smarter than you and get out of their way, and leadership is just motivating people to do better every day. I also love that he had a disdain for people that could not take vacation, so upper brass at Ford, then Chrysler would say to him: “I have not taken a day of in three years” and he would respond- “why do I want you working for my company if you cannot even take responsibility for managing to balance your own life and stay connected with your family?” So, here is to Lee who worked hard, got rich, and left a legacy in leadership. So that is the thing to think about yes, a job can take over and demand attention, carve out some time. Thank you for all you do each day making summer dreams a reality.

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Crop Report

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From the desk of Teresa Jordan, Executive Director – I will always take an interest in farm life around me, those hard-working men and women who feed and always clothe me at the mercy of the weather and other hazards. This is a bad year – fall wheat did not thrive, it has been too wet to plant other crops on time and no hay is coming off in good shape with all of the rain.

It is bad. A field of fall wheat near my house had a huge patch of yellowed, sparse plants in it. I noticed this week that the farm operators have cut their losses on that part of their land and have over-seeded it with another crop. Doing this must be a tough decision, to abandon one crop’s future and start over.

How often do we have to do this? Best laid plans, partners, jobs, health – all, under the wrong conditions, do not thrive and somehow we then have to decide – do we let it be and see whether things will turn around, or do we turn that soil over and start with something new. Tough decision to make because presumably that whole rest of the field is healthy, or that is our favourite crop or that is what we really, really want to grow.  I guess it is just one of those leaps of faith that life is full of that we must make… soy beans are good too.

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The Real Riches

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From the desk of Teresa Jordan, Executive Director – Here is a story that I recently heard about a monk travelling in the wilderness when he happens upon a remote cave. Inside of the cave he finds the most beautiful, magnificent and huge ruby. He delights in its beauty, places it in his satchel and carries on his journeys.

A while later, the monk meets another traveller and they talk about the cave and the wonderful discovery. The traveller remarks on the beauty of the ruby and asks how to get to the cave so that he, perhaps, could find his own. The monk simply tells him that there is no need to find the cave because he will gladly give the ruby to the traveller. The traveller is ecstatic and goes away, dreaming of the riches that can be leveraged by the valuable gem.

A few weeks later the traveller happens upon the same monk and asks if the monk could give him something else. The monk is a little disappointed that this man’s passion for possessions was so huge, but smiles and asks what is being sought from him today.

The traveller quietly explains, “I want whatever it is you have that allowed you to so freely give away that priceless ruby without a thought of what riches you could have had.”

What does it mean to live life where material possessions have no power? How does life shift when not saving up for a nice new couch or car or pair of shoes? What a difference it could make if, when seeing someone else’s car, couch or shoes, I am simply happy that they have them and do not compare them to my shabby car, couch and shoes.

We are probably not going to find a million dollar gem in a cave to test whether we could give it away or not, but maybe we could try just enjoying what we do have, revelling in the joy of others having things they love and not keeping track of what there is yet to acquire. Maybe that would make a beautiful, magnificent and huge difference in how we feel and how much joy we collect … and that would be priceless.

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Turtle Teachings

turtles.jpgFrom the desk of Teresa Jordan – I have had a week with a theme, and that theme has been turtles.

I had an appointment and was driving with a staff member when we passed a snapping turtle laying eggs; we both remarked that it was our first turtle sighting of the year.

Later that day the same staff member found a fatally injured turtle and took time off to get it to the trauma centre for care.

The following day I spotted a painted turtle crossing the road and before I could turn around another car stopped to help it safely off the road.

What do all of these turtles mean?  I guess and I hope that a society that helps turtles helps one other. That a slow-moving turtle can slow down a fast-moving car means that we are still taking time to notice and to care.

Perhaps the turtles are the ones helping us across the divide to busy, distracted and speedy days by stopping us to help another creature that truly can never reciprocate.  Turtles, so much to slowly teach, so much to slowly win in the race of a day, so many reasons to cross the road.

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Read the Small Print

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From the desk of Teresa Jordan, Executive Director – I often wonder how it is that I can get so accustomed to a change so fast. Last night I started a novel that I had picked up at a yard sale a few weeks ago, written by one of my favourite authors. This is an author I know and love, and the book does not seem, so far, to be one I have read. Yes, I am that person who sometimes finds the story familiar a few chapters in.

Here’s the thing … it was printed some years back and it is in what we would now call “the old smaller format.” I read novels of this size for decades before the norm became a larger book. And yet, last night, I felt almost confined and I strained to hold the smaller version and to focus my reading in the tiny space. I have grown accustomed to the new feel, size, font of the larger novel and it is hard to go back.

I think this is human nature. We are constantly forming and reforming habits and it is hard to change. It stresses, for me, the importance of trying to lay good foundations for change and for setting things in place that will lead to a great change in habit. They say that it takes a long time to form a new habit and that almost any of us can become a real expert in anything after 10,000 hours of practice.

I am reminded that, with each of the hours I practice both good and bad habits, I am setting myself up to get ingrained in a way of doing, seeing or thinking about things. So, I guess it’s up to all of us to choose the kinds of hours of practice that make things better, more joyful and happier. In the book, so far, I do not recognize the plot and I plan to soldier on, in my confined space, in order to enjoy a great read … and some good practice at sidelining my ingrained habits.

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A Shining Example

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From the desk of Teresa Jordan, Executive Director – This past week my son went to prom with a long-time friend. Partly, because it was a “friend date”, said “friend” convinced my son to give three of her friends a ride to the prom in the back seat. This was my car being used, and two days before prom it was detailed by my son beyond anything it has ever seen before in preparation for the big night. In fact, I was not allowed to drive it myself until after prom.

The Sunday after, my husband and I went out to supper and as we entered the restaurant, he exclaimed, “What is all over your pants?” It was sparkles … tiny little shiny bits of prom dress that had been all over the passenger seat. Upon closer inspection, the entire back seat was equally shining like a Twilight vampire in the sun.

The sparkling made me smile and think for a moment that this is really the case with all of us … wherever we go, we leave a bit of our sparkle, our shine, our selves behind. In an instant, there is a bit of us that rubs off on everyone, even the stranger in passing.

Sparkle, shine and spread your own joy all over the place!

 

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Nursing Passion

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From the desk of Teresa Jordan, Executive Director – This week I had the happy opportunity to attend the convocation service of the 2019 graduates of the Bachelor of Science Nursing Degree at McMaster University. Graduation season is a wondrous time with all of these bright new hopes and beginnings.

A part of one of the convocation speeches spoke out loudly to me. The speaker, a seasoned nurse and educator, implored the members of the graduating class to rail against the systems of ingrained culture, to break rules and, at all times, to be kind. Nursing, she said, was the holistic human touch of medicine and its foundation is empathy, kindness and listening.

I think that we all have our wonderful stories and our horrible stories about nursing
experiences or, in fact, care experiences in general. This graduation reminded
me that most care professionals go into the field with the tools, passion and idealism of a best-care-kind-and-difference-making practice, but are then crushed at times under the weight of pressures, crises, demands, reporting and doing overtime. Somewhere in the early years, some can get quickly hardened.

So with this in mind, I loved that this professor called it all out – that she identified that their ideals will come up against hard and entrenched cultures that will work to squeeze out their youthful enthusiasm … ‘rail against the systems,’ that is what she said.

Throughout the very long ceremony the word ‘kindness’ was mentioned in no less than 10 different ways, and all of the grads were challenged to maintain the art of care and the empathy intrinsic to being human. This reminder rings true for all of us … rail against a system that made us harden, and get connected with that young graduate inside you that was, at one time, ready to make the world a better place … because we can.

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The Seven Degrees of Social Capital

20190511_170212.jpgFrom the desk of Teresa Jordan, Executive Director – I heard a great speaker last week talking about social capital. The name of his session was, “I know a guy.” I loved the premise of the session, which was the idea that everyone’s network is built on gifts and interests. So, if I declare to the world that I am a big fan of pie, I can seek out other pie lovers so that I can explore and discuss the thing that I love.

Now this sort of connection happens naturally for many of us as we navigate around our neighbourhoods. A big part of that naturalness happens through conversation. It starts with a chat with someone you know and that person mentions a budding new interest in
geocaching … and then it happens, the inevitable response: “I know a guy who loves geocaching! In fact, he plans his vacations around geocaching hot spots … he can tell you all of the great destinations. I will get him to connect with you.”

That’s the magic – an instant connection and, at the very least, a sharing of knowledge and interest and – at the best – a new friendship that leads to more friendships and the strong network that some people call “social capital.”

I love the simplicity and the magnificent multiplying effect of, “I know a guy.” I think that sometimes we fear asking a favour, but that is not this, because this is fueled by passion and shared interests … this is the kind of thing people love to share. We are social creatures, made for relying on one another, to face the sabre-toothed tiger to live another day. Let’s connect, even without the threat of large fangs, and get social … “I know a guy.”