Enjoy the Ride

black and white roller coaster

From the desk of Teresa Jordan, Executive Director – One of our past board presidents   said, “Life is what happens to you when you’re busy making other plans,” so often that I had no idea that it was not her original quote. I accepted this wisdom from Shirley as part of her much-appreciated knowledge, coaching and if am honest, wild-ride kind of life experience.

What Shirley was trying to teach me was that I could mill around in my own mind and create all of the plans, dreams, goals and contingencies that I wanted, but in the end –
stuff happens. So here we are in 2020, the year of epic stuff happening that we were not expecting, and I am reviewing my plans.

I am reflecting on goals that I made last September for the year. I did not include any suggestion that PPEs, infection control, isolation, quarantine, or any other pandemic related action would eclipse all.

This pandemic happened despite my clever, spiral-bound operational plan. And while this virus a huge lifetime event, a lot of things have derailed my otherwise super sweet plans as I have journeyed through life. Some were better, some sadder, some joyfully
unexpected and others just all together different for which I did not plan.

So, I guess what we have to remember is that while we are good planners with our magical brains able to think abstractly about everything that might happen there will always be the unexpected – the mudslides, the worldwide pandemics, the uncharted or mapped experiences.

All of this adds up to Shirley’s kind of “wild ride” memories – the stuff of this radiant and spectacularly surprising life.

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Destination Discourse

austrian-national-library-mQiHukQGPx4-unsplashFrom the desk of Teresa Jordan, Executive Director – I participated in track and field all through high school, and as you can probably guess this was not in the long distance running events. I participated in the throwing events: javelin, discus and shot put.

What I remember most in my training and practice was that no matter the steps that I took in the lead up, when I was ready to throw I needed my feet to be pointed in the direction I meant the object to go. So, if I was spinning with the discus, when I stopped to throw I could not be in a half turn or facing the crowds; I had to have my feet pointed to the open field.

In the same way, I was coached to look not at the javelin or my feet, but instead where I imagined the landing. I was trained to look well into the distance and visualize the end result being exactly where I wanted it.

I have been doing some reflecting about goals and dreams lately when suddenly I remembered this training.  Yes, pandemic and other pressures sort of have me spinning around, but I need to point my feet in the direction that I want to go and look well beyond the circumstances of today and its challenges.  This seems a lot, as the present is very demanding… but what I am trying to keep in focus is where I want things to land in the future.

And that landing for me is not in the crowd, or on the wrong side of the chalk lines or backwards toward the other competitors.  I am trying to set goals both big and small that, when I look to their landing, are lofty, triumphant and exactly right for me. It is difficult to think beyond this challenging present, but I can’t think of a better time to ensure that amid all the noise your feet are planted and heading in the directions of your personal dreams and goals.

Here is the thing – I wasn’t that good. Nobody was ever seriously hurt, but those javelins ended up all over the place.  And I suppose the same could be said for plenty of my goals but that, I think, is just how life is. We all just need to continue seeing into the distance and know where we want the shot put to plunk itself down. And when it doesn’t plunk itself down quite where we wanted, we just try again, keep looking into the distance or in fact change our event all together.

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A Roll of the Dice

person about to catch four dices

From the desk of Teresa Jordan, Executive Director – In second year university I shared a three-bedroom apartment with two roommates. While we did not know each other that well before moving in together and all took different courses of study, we had one major shared interest – Yahtzee! And yes, I am talking about the fast-paced dice game that requires math, luck, and a little strategy. We played it by the hour.

There are things to be learned when you play a game of mostly chance – such as that it’s often a matter of probability, strategy and a keen sense of competitive hunger for the win. Since that time, the problem has been two-fold – firstly, finding anyone who really loves Yahtzee and secondly, finding someone who plays at the same level. There is still fun in playing with people who do not know to load up the top part for the bonus or waste turn after turn trying to create a straight.

The real magic happens when we have a shared interest and level of skill at the game. And I guess that is the way it is with so much – we need to connect, and keep connecting, with people with whom we share an interest with – people who can challenge us to try new things, think from different angles, feel a little overwhelmed and not get complacent in being sure of our next roll.

Getting all the dice to match in Yahtzee is 50 points. However, if you spend too many turns trying for a Yahtzee you waste the chances for so many other ways to get big points. We need to keep an eye for all opportunities.

And what is the main goal here anyway? It is about fun, leisure, connecting with others and, of course, bragging rights for a few minutes until everyone moves on to the next adventure. Roll on.

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Condiment Conviction

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From the desk of Teresa Jordan, Executive Director – I read a book while on vacation because I loved its title – Get Out of Your Own Way. In the book author Dave Hollis talks about the scenarios that we often face in work and in life when we have to deal with people who are vastly different from us.

Hollis uses a great analogy about ketchup. Some people keep ketchup in the cupboard, he began. I have to admit that this was a new fact to me as I was raised in a household that kept ketchup in the fridge and I have never, ever questioned this in my adult household.  I just keep it in the fridge.

Hollis pointed out that if everyone on your team is the same there will be gaps and blind spots in whatever project or plan that team is tackling. And of course his playful illustration was that if the entire team is made up of “ketchup in the fridge” people, there will be no ketchup at all if the group is working in a place where the ketchup is in the cupboard. Ketchup will be available, perhaps even in abundance, as with me, not a single person on the team would consider looking in the cupboard and would therefore miss out on the tomato-y goodness.

This analogy is a great reminder about difference, and how we are perhaps drawn to the like-minded … but in order to stretch, reach further, develop a great plan or just be better today than we were yesterday, we need to lean in to other perspectives.

So, yes, there will always be people who agree with us, get our sense of humour,  work so seamlessly with us that it is like magic – and we gravitate to them when there is heavy lifting to do. This story is just a reminder that there are untold condiments of improvement if we look around and think about what perspective or personality or experience is missing and hunt for it to ensure we have the full picture.

There are different questions that can only be asked if there are different lived experiences and points of view.  There are different angles and ideas that, if we hold space for them, will make our projects and plans better. And, as in the case of the room temperature ketchup, we will come to understand that world around us better and be better able to relate.

Don’t get me wrong, it is way more comfortable to go with the people who quickly understand my way of thinking, always laugh at my jokes, like the same things and keep their ketchup cold… but we need to keep urging ourselves to seek out the different ideas and the folks who can rub us the wrong way.

The grilled cheese sandwich is a wonderful culinary delight, but it is even better when you consider that some outside thinker decided that ketchup would make it even better, whether cold or at room temperature.

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Creature Comfort

moon and stars

From the desk of Teresa Jordan, Executive Director – July is one of my 12 favourite months. It has a special place in my heart because my birthday is in July.

I will just take a moment to talk to all of you born in the summer as we share something. We share the deep-rooted disappointment that at school we never got to wear the birthday crown or hear our names on the announcements or find our locker decorated by friends.

But outside these small heartaches, the joyful season that is summer is a great time to celebrate just about anything. The weather is glorious and the options outside are endless – swimming, boating, campfires, gardening or just enjoying a lack of snow.

One of my favourite summer activities is a quick swim before bed. I float and look up at the stars, get a little exercise and then maximize the efforts of my air conditioner when I go to bed already cooled down.

A few nights ago, I had a terrifying experience. There I was in one of my favourite places, looking up at the starry night, when I realized that I was not alone. Something touched me in the dark. As it turns out, the interloper was a giant black water beetle; I however, determined it to be a Loch Ness relation and I panicked.

Now, giant is not an exaggeration here – the beetle was over two inches long, and I am pretty sure it was wearing swimming trunks … but I cannot be sure because I flung it from the pool. This incident made me a little nervous to take part in my “pool and stars” ritual the next night, but I did, and I remained alone.

From scary beasts in the pool to a sad lack of school birthday pizzazz, I still will not be deterred from loving the summer and all that it has to offer – even when it is doing the back stroke beside me in the pool – we’re cool.

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Poetic Perplexity

man in green top

From the desk of Teresa Jordan – Here is my confession: I feel like I should love poetry. I was an English major, I love all things literary and I like to collect, process and deliberate my thoughts through writing. I love quotes about what is important and/or inspiring, and these quotes are often from poems – but all in all, I am not a fan of poetry. 

I guess I generally want more. I find a great quote or line, but then read the poem and find the added context actually makes the quote more confusing or that the layers of meaning I have been applying to the one line are now lost in the sublime lament of the dozens of other chopped up lines of meaning … of, well, overloaded verbiage. 

For instance, I love the term “mind forged manacles.”  I found it in a business article, cited from a William Blake poem. “Mind forged manacles” is just such a great summation of a concept that I often discuss or mull over… all of those limitations that we apply to ourselves based on our fears, all those limitations imposed because of our deeply-rooted backgrounds, cultures and environment, all of that inner critic dialogue that so often chains us in place when something better is so near.

So, I can totally get behind this idea that our mind has forged in the heated fire of living with these life limiting irons clamped on us and keeping us in one place. The next logical step was to look up the poem.  Hoping for more context, more mind blowing analogies that back up all that I was enchanted with in this one line, if found …  nothing … just a super-rich, steeped-in hidden-meaning, bunch of little phrases that even a day later, I cannot not unravel from their tangled web of simile and imagery.  

So there is my confession, dear William Blake – I love the image that is instantly created in your term “mind forged manacles”; however, I cannot love your poems and would rather read the instructions on my shampoo bottle than the bulk of your poems.

I guess despite the image I would love to create of a erudite poetry-loving academic with a scotch in one hand and a pencil carefully tucked into my pulled back hair,  I am instead, just what I am. I am just trying to figure things out and I  know two things at the end of this musing – I don’t love poetry and my shampoo bottles recommends that I repeat if necessary.

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Gun Shy

ancient antique art black and white

From the desk of Teresa Jordan, Executive Director – There is a Strumbellas song that often gets lodged in my head for days, and it is the particularly violent but poignant song “Spirits.” The catchy ear-worm causing chorus – “I’ve got guns in my head and they won’t go” – is a metaphor for all the ways that we shoot ourselves down with our inner critic rattling away all day long.

I have read in many places the idea that the voice we hear in our head is a culmination of all kinds of criticisms and jabs that we have picked up over the years and then haul out like the good china for any special occasion at which we might be feeling confident or proud.  Like thinking – wow, I think I made a great first impression there – and then hearing the little gun in my head rattle… but they did not laugh at half my jokes so really probably not a good impression at all.

Or of course, the – I am feeling pretty confident walking into this room – and the gun rattles, yes but you probably have spinach stuck in your teeth.

I know that we could all fill in the blanks with a million harsh and critical internal quotes, but as the Strumbellas (an awesome band from my hometown of Lindsay) challenge us – we need to be alive while we are here. So, yes, we all have the guns in our head, a compilation album of all the criticisms we have fielded over time and always locked and loaded to bring us down.

So how do you snap on the silencer?  I guess we start by just acknowledging that this is old junk that is not true, it is a pattern that we can turn around and that in all things we are exactly who and where we are meant to be.

And then go so far as to say – I look good in spinach, always have – instantly all quiet on the front.

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Road Work Ahead

traffic red blue sign

From the desk of Teresa Jordan – This week I got to drive to Haliburton in the sunshine.  On Gelert road I could see that there were signs alerting me to construction. As I drove to where the  flag person was standing, the sign turned to stop. The stop was at a bend in the road and I could not see what was interrupting traffic flow.

I have to admit I was a little nervous sitting there. You see, many years ago I was at the front of the line to go through a long and complicated section of roadwork. I lost my way and ended up where I should not have been, with road workers and heavy equipment operators glaring at me.

So waiting at the front of the line in Haliburton, I was feeling nervous about where to lead this mighty band of vehicles that was lining up behind me, when the pilot vehicle came around the bend and pulled over in front of me.  The pilot vehicle with all its flashing lights would take the lead and I had a worry-free trip through the construction. My relief at this scenario was palpable – that I no longer had to worry about leading the string of cars behind me astray.

How convenient it would be if there were such a thing in other areas of my life? A pilot vehicle that guides me to where I should be focusing my energy? A flashing truck telling me what learning I need next or which course of study would have the most influence on my career path? A vehicle with the clear instructions – “do not pass” – guiding me through the tricky  decisions about relationships and financial  investments?

Pondering these questions got me to thinking about all those times that I was in a worry muddle about something or other and a friend, colleague or even a stranger offered me an insight that showed me the way, that helped me decide. And I wondered have I been that person to someone else?

I think sometimes we hesitate, not wanting to say the wrong thing or being unsure if a person wants help. But really, when the truck arrived and pulled in front of me on Gelert road, I still had the choice – if I wanted to – of driving headlong into the fresh asphalt and paving  machines. I know how relieved I felt, and feel, when I am offered help.

Perhaps this adventure on Gelert Road was a great reminder to me to strap on the flashing lights more often if I think I can help, and to look for the helpers around me     when I need them – they will appear and I shall not pass.

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Learning What We Already Knew

person sky silhouette night

From the desk of Teresa Jordan – There are some quotes that just resonate, profoundly, and I have always found this to be one of them:

“We are all In the gutter, but some of us are looking up at the stars.” Oscar Wilde

I think the standout for me is the basic fact that there is not one single person who is somehow on easy street, somehow outside of all hardship; while there are some people who appear to walk in a world of perpetual sunshine, there is rain for us all.

I think the idea that we are all in this together – while a little overused and abused in marketing and the announcements of social distancing guidelines – still holds true. We are all in this gutter called worldwide pandemic, and this is just overlaid on top of the challenges we had going into this time of social isolation and uncertainty.

So with all of this in mind, can we still catch a glimpse of the stars, of what is possible, of a dream or two? In many ways this strange time of restrictions helps a part of of who I am come into focus a bit better. Like the 25 cent viewer at Niagara Falls, I think things that I took for granted are coming crisply into view as what I need and as crucial to my dreams.

I now know much more vividly what fills my tank. I love dialogue in the same room, I thrive on learning and laughing in conversation, and I know so much more the value of a shared meal with family and friends. We are still in an uncertain place, but where will what we’ve learned about ourselves take us? What is next, what big dream is now in focus?

Let’s look deeply into the view finder  and let what is most important come into focus. Then take that knowledge and keep looking for the star that has our name on it and figure what we can do next in little steps that will get us there.

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A Dandy Dispensation

woman holding flower
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From the desk of Teresa Jordan, Executive Director – Another week of pandemic, another week of discovery of all we miss, want to return to and need to think about.

I had to go to the bank machine this week and while I was doing my banking I was next to a father at the brink of exasperation with his young daughter. I am not ashamed to say that I was listening intently. I was amused, while dad was not, with how well this young lady knew her dad, how well she knew what the real limits were and how ready she was to push her father to the limits.

I could hear all of the best phrases of a dad on the edge: “Get back here, stop bothering people, don’t touch anything… and then the infamous, “I am counting to three and if I get to three you are going straight to your room when we get home.”  Of course, dad started counting and like a well-choreographed waltz sequence the girl did not comply until 3 and ¾’s … at which she snapped to attention and complied with the command to stand beside him.

Next I heard her father say, “Get back here right now” to which his daughter responded that she first wanted to “give this beautiful lady a flower.”  I was concentrating on my banking for some of the time and didn’t even notice the little girl’s approach; then from  below my elbow, a flower was presented to me. The joyful symbol of childhood appreciation – a crumpled dandelion-  was now mine.

First let me say that I was so delighted with the compliment of being a “beautiful lady” and second, for the reminder that a dandelion is a flower first, and a weed and a nuisance only to us adults.

So there I was with my envelopes, purse and dandelion. I thought for moment of putting it in my purse, then I re-juggled everything and held the dandelion in my hand.  Getting in my car to leave I heard this same enchanting little rascal exclaim to her dad, “She is still holding it!”

And yes, I am still holding on to the memory of a gift, a compliment and a little joyful gift of good wishes.  I am sure that the father’s version of this story would not include the amount of wonder and appreciation here in mine… but for me, in the middle of a busy work day, with my little flower in my hand, I was reminded that beauty and wonder is in the eye of the beholder.