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.

The Door Way

From the desk of Teresa Jordan, Executive Director – A colleague of mine a few years back was describing the importance of client input, and he relayed how his wife was part of the Canadian Opera Company.  So first, that is not something you hear every day and must be one of the top five coolest jobs in the world. 

So my colleague talked about how, when the theatre was being renovated, the planners took the time to talk to the chorus and regular singers. As a result of this consultation, the doorways between the dressing rooms and the stage are all 8 feet wide. Imagine a door as wide as that, I am sure no engineer or planner has ever imagined such a thing!

The actual performers and users of the doors understand well, though. An opera often includes elaborate costumes, especially for the women, including gigantic, hooped skirts. After years of twisting and bunching and snagging on their way to the stage, the performers knew what they wanted… 8-foot-wide doorways!   

I love this story because it reinforces two things. Firstly and most importantly, is the idea that lived expertise, person-centred planning and a deep understanding of what is needed does not come from the professional planner or designer – it comes from the person at the heart of the venture. The person who knows what they like, what they need, what they want to try is the one at the heart of a plan for them. 

A student knows best where they want to head after high school and to what they want to dedicate their lives. Members of a neighborhood know best what a new recreation feature should look like. And only a full-time member of the opera chorus knows that a wider door makes all the transitions smoother. 

Secondly, this story highlights to me that someone actually does make a living dressing up and singing in the opera chorus full time, reminding us all that we can dream a lot bigger than we usually do. We may have a certain job now, but there can be dreams that we can still work on, interests that we can still explore, doors that we can still walk through – especially if they’re 8 feet wide.

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Say Uncle

From the desk of Teresa Jordan, Executive Director – My bachelor uncle has been a big part of my whole long life; he’s an entrepreneur, auctioneer, family historian and all-around interesting community figure.

This uncle regularly visits, and one of those visits a few weeks ago was on Robbie Burns Day. For the occasion, he declared, we must have Scotch.  The weird part of the story is that I had a good bottle of Scotch at the back of the cabinet, a forgotten Christmas gift from over a year ago. I had stashed it to the back because I don’t drink Scotch; dusting off was required.

And so we whiled away the evening sipping in front of the burning wood stove, one bottle of expensive Scotch and two glasses. We talked about family history, his childhood memories, memories of my dad in his youth. It was a delightful evening that I will cherish. Not to say that such a delightful evening could not have happened without Scotch, but the beverage added to the magic and the memory. 

What other things do we have tucked away, ideas, plans, goals, trips, and other quiet longings that are pushed to the back in the busy day to day where we just stay focused on the known, and comfortable experiences?  Did someone offer something new and different, an idea or dream, and we stuffed it to the back, now forgotten?

There is absolutely nothing wrong with a familiar and cheerful, comfortable day’s activity. But let’s make sure that when we can we are double checking where we put that expensive bottle of Scotch, who we could maybe share it with, and what magic memories we could make in the moments that weave together to form the magical lives o’ mice and men.

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The Seeds of Wisdom

From the desk of Teresa Jordan, Executive Director – I recently attended a meeting with Chris from the Haliburton library, and he talked about a seed library that is coming soon to the area. What a cool idea, but the part of his presentation that resonated with me was that in his years of experience with the seed library he has learned a crucial piece of seed care wisdom. That lesson is, do not leave the seeds in the sun as they tend to grow. Without soil, water, compost or the odd plant karaoke, these little dry seeds tend to sprout in the sunshine. 

Imagine what we are capable of with a little sunshine! Give us a little encouragement, a little positivity, appreciation and warmth, and we tend to grow too. The seed library is all about encouraging people to learn and try growing their own food with ready access to the seeds. 

Fair warning to all of us really, if we are engaged in something joyful or engaging in something that we love so much the time flies by… we may sprout, we may grow, we may not be the same person in the same place we were when we started.

And what if we set out to shine a little sunshine on others, where would it end?  Sprouts all over the place, people setting new goals, finding confidence, walking a little taller and reaching just a little further.

Walk on the sunny side of the street whenever possible, both physically and if the conversation you find yourself in seems to be headed to the dark side. Look for the sun.  When left in the sun, we tend to grow. Seek out the sunshine wherever you can find it, your potential growth has no limit.

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Hope Floats

From the desk of Teresa Jordan, Executive Director – I walked into my office this week and found a bottle of wine. More delightful, there was no note attached, so while I want to be able to thank the person, I love the mystery and wonder of not knowing who decided to brighten my day.

I looked more closely and the label on the bottle of wine says, “Hopetown.” There is a story about Harrow, Ontario, which used to be called Hopetown. In Hopetown the glass was always half full.

Close to Lake Eerie, this settlement surveyed in 1824 was named Hopetown, in honour of new beginnings, an enduring pursuit for happiness and a bright future, super optimistic musings for settlers battling the harshness of early Canada.

In Hopetown a house was built on the side of a hill. From the roof workers could hear the cannons of the battle of Lake Eerie and, unruffled, they continued to build. That home still stands today.

I took all of this as a sign – that there is hope, that we are almost through these dark times and that just like the workers on the roof, there may be cannons, but we are carrying on. 

I looked up Hopetown wine in researching this blog and found the LCBO site, where predictably the first review I read said, “The most terrible red wine I have ever tasted.” The second said, “This is everything that I ever imagined in a good red wine. ”

Hope tastes different to each of us at different times.  When we are scared and overwhelmed and someone tries to show us that there is still a reason to build our house despite the rumble of cannon fire, sometimes we are just not into that kind of optimism. Other times it is the just what we need to carry on to eventually find all that we ever imagined.  Thank you to whomever gave me the gift of wine – and hope!

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A Blanket Statement

From the desk of Teresa Jordan, Executive Director – I go camping in the autumn, and this past fall I bought an electric throw blanket to add a bit of extra warmth to my bunk on what can be cold October nights.  In fact, Thanksgiving 2021 was over 20 degrees so I did not end up needing my new acquisition; I instead placed it in the TV room thinking that on winter nights I might curl up under it. And there the blanket sat for months. 

Then a few days ago I was cold and so decided to fire it up. Just like when someone innocently gives you Godiva chocolate and the chocolate from the department store now tastes like wax, a heated throw ups the comfort game. I find myself now in a new category of television watching comfort. It’s not hot, it’s just the right amount of subtle warmth that I tuck it under my chin and do not want to move. 

I think this happens all the time – a new relationship in which you are so well treated you cannot imagine tolerating less; an illness that you had to face that makes it so you never take another minute for granted; the loss of a beloved that reminds you about what it is to truly be human. These are heated throw moments – moments in which you realize, hey, I am worth just a little bit more, I am capable of more, I expect more, I can do more.  What would happen if we all started to seek them out, fire them up and upped our game? Probably too much to lay on my little green striped throw, but makes me think, once we truly know our worth and accept nothing less, how far we can go with no looking back.

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Rethinking Silos, part 2

From the desk of Teresa Jordan, Executive Director – More thoughts on my silo expert colleagues at that recent meeting. (To read the first blog post on this topic see Rethinking Silos.) 

Brent, from Big Brothers Big Sisters Peterborough, added to our conversation about how the analogy of silos as negative is even more flawed. Brent told us that in the farming community only the farmers who put the crop in the silo know exactly what is in there. Only they know the moisture content of the crop or whether it was at its peak. The farmers knows what the crop was intended for, what the nutrient mix in it is and what should be added to make it perfect.

It is only in the silo, separate from all the other things, that the delicate mix can be fully understood. All crops needed for all livestock in one massive bunker would be a feed disaster. There is room for specialty and a need for separateness to know where to go for the level of expertise required.

So why the bad reputation we all wonder? That happens when the silos never get opened and great feed wasted. Silos of departments doing exactly what they know how to do need to have focus and be specialized. But, in opening and being part of a bigger agency, they can make big things happen where specialties overlap. 

Equally separate agencies can focus on their own excellence and strengths, create a structure that is the perfect balance for their mission. Partnering for causes where missions overlap or community is shared is the place where the great level of expertise blend and then all crop nutrient content rises.

Okay, so sometimes the analogy of, and my passion for, agriculture goes a little too far… but you understand… be expert, be open to help and lend your strengths.

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Rethinking Silos

From the desk of Teresa Jordan, Executive Director – I had an amazing conversation spontaneously erupt at a recent partner meeting; suddenly very eloquent analogies were being honed in real time about silos.

Kim, from YWCA, began by expressing that silos often have a negative connotation in our fields of work, as a paradigm that lacks collaboration and problem-solving together.  We constantly hear that these silos must be broken down for good things to happen, but that is in fact not how silos work; magic happens in the spaces of collaboration between silos. 

On the farm a silo needs to stay packed and airtight, keeping its nutrient rich feed contained so that chemistry can take over and age the feed to its peak value.  The silo concept, when we throw it around in the workplace jargon, is one of concentrated expertise; just like the carefully filled mixes on farms all over this country, it means that an area is working in isolation – and that is seen as negative. 

Everyone has an expertise and a role, an area in which they know exactly what is going on and how it fits into the larger scheme of things. Each department, each team, each role has a delicate balance of forming that is best done within the system of itself. 

This idea of breaking down silos does not work. A well-formed team, or department needs to be built up, supported to keep its good work going, encouraged to find its expertise and stride.  Only when the siloed team is robust can it then be relied on to contribute to a greater project or the greater whole in the agency or area. The magic is not in the leveling of the silo itself, rather in the coming together of the expertise and focus of each silo to a focal point where the areas of expertise and experience overlap and are equally needed to address the project or concern in front of them. The synergy is not in blasting apart well-made structures and chemistry and expertise, but in leaning on the solid walls of that level of knowledge in order to find a way forward.  

Silos are great prominent structures that dot our landscape, but eventually season after season the well structured silage inside nourishes the herd and the next crop is planned, grown and harvested. No silo just sits full of super great knowledge that goes nowhere. The silo is a magic place where good things are stored, equally in our workplace a resilient and strong team is an enchanting place for innovation and ideas. And when teams need to come together, there is good food for thought all around.

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