From the desk of Teresa Jordan, Executive Director – Recently at an event, I noticed that one of the little ribbons for hanging blouses was showing on a friend’s neck. I said, “Your hanger ribbon is showing” and tucked it in for her at the back. She said something like, “Oh I hate when that happens” and I boldly said, “Oh I know, I always cut mine off. Then it happened … one of those pivotal moments of knowledge exchange. She said, “I do, too, except when needed and this blouse needs them.” In a flash, I pictured the three or four tops that I always find on the floor of my closet and have to re-hang, over and over. These same tops all had hanger ribbons, but I cut them off at the same time as I cut off the purchase tags, as is my way. For some reason, it never occurred to me, even though I know what their designed purpose is, to make sure they were not needed. I am so annoyed about how they fly about and creep out from under my blouse that I always cut
them off and, consequently, pick up clothes from my closet floor.
Makes me wonder what else I am cutting off because I find it a hassle? What else am I automatically doing in habit that actually, if I did the opposite, could offer me great support? What other built-in safeguards am I short circuiting just because I always have?
Makes me wonder if we are not all slicing some ribbons and that, if we took a second look, could be handy helpers in lots of ways and could keep lots of valuable time, talent or issues from crashing to the floor.
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From the desk of Teresa Jordan, Executive Director – Sometimes, when there is not much going on, my husband and I go for drive. This past Sunday, we ended up in Port Hope at the Ganaraska Fishway. The thing about this is that human beings built a dam and then had to build a separate fixture for the spawning fish to make it up stream. So, beside the dam in the Ganaraska River, there is a separate section that has been built to allow for trout and salmon to swim upstream to spawn. As a spectator, you see the fish jumping and swimming up the “ladder,” passing the dam to the next part of the river, working against the current at every swish. What you also see are fish jumping high and smacking the dam as they have not yet discovered the spot created for their access.
So, while the majestic and committed journey of the fish working so hard to obey an instinctual drive to swim up river was breathtaking, my mind was consumed by the ones
smacking into the dam. Water is thundering over the dam and swirling in rapids all around so I cannot speak to the plight of any one fish with accuracy, but how many times did the misguided ones collide with the concrete dam before looking for the other opening? How many did not make it at all, so exhausted and battered from their fruitless jumps?
This all reminded me two things … first, my husband has weird ideas about romantic outings … and second, there are people actively altering the waterways of our journey through life all the time. And sure, there may have been an open stream last year but this year there is a concrete dam that changes everything … a funding change, a policy change, a leadership change, a health matter, a heart matter… all blocking the usual trek. We must not keep bouncing off the dam! We need to look for another way,
an opening that others are using, a place where the water pools differently, an opportunity that maybe we missed when all was well. I think that if we don’t give up,
if we don’t wear ourselves out trying the old way, and we regroup and get creative, we will be swimming upstream in no time and making great things happen.
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From the desk of Teresa Jordan, Executive Director – On my coffee table there sits a book called, “Paddle Your Own Canoe” and, while you might guess that this is a comprehensive self-help manual, it is, in fact, a book about how to paddle solo in a canoe. My son is just finishing building a canoe and wanted the book so that he could take solo voyages. The book is very informative – how to position the body, paddle and gear to maintain the perfect balance. Of course the greatest challenge in paddling by oneself is not going around and around in circles.
Let’s break this down … you need to position yourself at the centre of the canoe and keep a balance between paddling on both sides, or you can shift your weight almost completely to one side of the canoe and paddle in a special kind of motion to maintain forward momentum.
Let’s leave aside the fact that I have summed up a 200 page book in one sentence, and get back to the basics of self-help. We simply cannot paddle our own canoe without careful concentration on balance and momentum. The days are busy, the journey is long, we have to have our paddle in one side of work and career, but on the other side lies joy, family, home, hobbies, friends and play. Either we lean into joy and change our paddle position at work or we keep a balance. It is absolutely crucial or, perhaps without even noticing, we will be circling the lake over and over and wondering why we are no closer to the shore.
The bottom line for me… take a buddy. Grab someone you can lean on, as two paddlers just need to paddle and correct each other’s drifting one way or the other. The shore is closer than you think.
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From the desk of Teresa Jordan, Executive Director – I have been spending some time with my three year old nephew lately and I have learned a few things. Firstly, I have learned that without my notice or really any planning, I have become very fond of quiet time and toy-free floors. More importantly, I have been reminded of timeless behavioural truths. If you want to the change the pace of what you are doing just blurt out two words as you travel, “Let’s race.” If you want to do something with another person who seems reluctant, simply repeat “come on” over and over until they buckle. And as a last resort in all things simply say, “I love visiting you” and after that statement almost any wish will immediately be granted to uphold the status of being a favoured aunt.
Perhaps greatest of all, my nephew teaches me to embrace the moment, to experience the emotion of what is happening and then move on. He has awakened in me a
genuinely new appreciation for the classic getting dirty and experiencing the wonder of nature. I love visiting with him.
It is Easter. Take some time, look around, catch a moment of wonder, be exuberant and playful – come on, come, come on, come on, get in there and enjoy and recharge. Let’s race!
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From the desk of Teresa Jordan, Executive Director – My son has a cleaning job on the weekends. This past weekend he took the extra time to climb a ladder and vacuum dead flies by the thousands from very high windows. Much to his disappointment and surprise no one noticed. I, however, was not surprised as I know that such oversights are a common occurrence.
I had to reflect – how often do I notice the way my office is cleaned? How much more often do I notice if something is missed in the cleaning? This is the tricky thing about cleaning – when you are the one wielding the broom you see the before and after, but if you just walk in to a well-swept hall how clean it is is not immediately eye catching. It is one of those hard facts of life – what is wrong seems to jump out at us, while great things that are going on splendidly but quietly are missed more often than not.
So often our meetings focus on issue alerts, problem solving, incident reports and challenges. This is all important work to lean into as teams to work to solve, but how often do we celebrate what we do smoothly and talk about what is great? Doing so takes a little shift, effort, some practice and a great deal of presence in our busy days. However noticing IS worth it, because the other side of noticing what is strong and going well is the resulting joy, gratitude and peace that come in knowing just for moment you are on the right track.
So, maybe in the busy-ness we did not take note of the four thousand dead flies clouding the window, but in the sunshine of today we should note that the window shines in clean sparkle, making the whole room just a little brighter.
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From the desk of Teresa Jordan, Executive Director – In the recent training with PLAN’s Rebecca Paul the discussion of gifts was paramount. I loved that the definition of gifts was broadened in my thinking thanks to this session. Probably before, I would have defined gifts as skills and abilities that I could offer others – like my ability to impersonate Elvis’s voice, my prowess in pie evaluation and my ability to go to eight meetings in a single day (sometimes even on time for all of them).
Rebecca, however, challenges us to think beyond just what we have to offer in talent; she stretches the definition of gifts to include those things about which we are passionate, in which we find interest, about about which we know a lot. So, by that definition, I could now offer that I have a gift in Robert’s rules of order, or in Ministry budget codes – and I never would have considered these gifts in the past. Equally, my passion for local history and for storytelling are now also potential gifts of mine.
Natural networks and community connections are bound together in gifts; both Rebecca Paul and Cormac Russel would say that everything begins with that that is strong, not with that that is wrong. Seek out gifts, seek out interests, seek out expertise and passion to learn more and find the cross over points. It is in those points that the magic of natural connection and community hides, and it is there for all of us. Imagine how connected I would feel if I could find a group of people who love Elvis and pie, understand parliamentary procedure and spin good yarns of local pioneer heroes – heaven. Find your tribe, share your gifts; this is the stuff of magic; this is connection.
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From the desk of Teresa Jordan, Executive Director – This week I received a text with sad news from a friend. In the few seconds that I was thinking of how to respond, I noticed the usual offerings of my phone itself. I have been noticing, for quite a while now, that the artificial intelligence I call my ‘phone’ often anticipates what I want to say with a degree of accuracy. For example, I often say “yepperooni” by text and, despite the fact that this intellectual response cannot be found in Webster’s dictionary, my phone has made the connection and often offers this option to me as a quick one-touch reply.
This week however, my phone offered, “Awesome news” as a suggestion to this very sad and troubling text. Where did that come from?
This experience reminded me, though, that in a world of one-touch responses, funneled web interests and pattern recognition, there is still a human touch needed – our human capability, our human compassion, our human intuition, our human empathy and thought processes.
DifiIt would seem that Siri and Alexa are capable of just about anything, from turning on the lights and playing my favourite song to remembering all of the phone numbers that I no longer store in my head anywhere. But, when it comes to sadness and the messy bits of life, I know that is not ‘awesome news’ – it is the stuff of life. We all go through the storms that are most certainly not ‘awesome news’ and I’ve got your back.
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From the desk of Teresa Jordan, Executive Director – This week, we had the privilege of having Rebecca Pauls, from ‘Plan’ in BC, join us in Fenelon Falls. This not-for-profit works on creating networks and circles of support with families, and Rebecca shared some of her wisdom on how to mobilize with groups that express interest. She told us that the key jumping-off point to this type of work is overcoming our fears about community. She urged us, as a group, to see the community as a welcoming place that is brimming over with open and positive people just waiting to be invited. She is right.
I think that we sometimes get caught up in this new era of self-sufficiency and isolated World Wide Web living, that we do become a little fearful. What if I smile at the person pumping gas next to me and they call the police because they mistake me for a maniac? What if I strike up a conversation with the cashier and he becomes annoyed that I am slowing him down? What if I ask this employer if he wants to know more about our work and he flatly refuses?
The conversations we had this week about a natural circle had to recognize that natural connections and social circles are beginning to be counter cultural. Gathering in groups to share gifts and interests is not done as often and no one needs to borrow a cup of sugar anymore – there is always a 24 hour mini-mart close enough to stop us from invading someone’s privacy.
What changes if we tell ourselves that the community is waiting for an invitation? Perhaps, we start seeing more of what we are looking for – we see people who are just as lonely and isolated, we see gifts and interests and openness where we may not have before. We charge ahead, get curious, stay open and make connections. While I know that this does not instantly turn around isolation and rejection, maybe, if we are believing in the good, the bad fades more and more into the background.
Humans are social creatures. At our very hearts we do want to connect. I usually have sugar in my pantry and, if asked, I would gladly scoop you a cup. Most of us have things we love or know a lot about, and if asked, I bet most would scoop a cup of that just as readily.
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From the desk to Teresa Jordan, Executive Director – I read the greatest quote today, “Be a good ancestor” ~ Marian Wright Edelman. Let that sink in for a moment. This is heavy … this is long after your sojourn on earth is through. This is the kind of thinking that requires a quiet span of non-interrupted time … and perhaps some candy.
This is not about our improvement or the immediate work of a great thing … it is so much more. It’s about leaving an indelible mark, a legacy that will last through time.
I love family history, and what I have learned is that while most older tomb markers say “Gone, but not forgotten” very often it is in my research that I am reminding my elders of family connections – the connections which they had never known about or simply forgotten.
My introductory quote also makes me think about the word ‘ancestor’. It’s not referring to being a great figure of history or a heroine of mankind … it is more intimate, speaking of a family bond, a moment in the DNA of millions connected by family … and moment to shine, to add something to the earth and to the family.
They say that many First Nations cultures make decisions not on the here and now, but on the impact of seven generations from now. Equally heavy, more candy required.
This all just reminds us that we are here for a brief time. We can make a big difference in small ways and, 200 years from now, people might say, “and that, believe it or not, was my great great great great grandmother.”
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From the desk of Teresa Jordan, Executive Director – I have been having conversations lately about how to make the goals of people and the agency more visible. Ours is a large, complex agency, within a large and even more complex sector… and yet, it is important to me to make sure that we can be visually reminded, often, that the core of what we do is based on hard work and the dream of something always more and better.
So yes, a person has achieved great success in finding paid employment. What’s next? Yes, compliance review teams found great practices and records. How do we get better?
There is great merit in keeping a balanced focus that is not frenzied, but our work is that of constant improvement, stretching and opening more doors to great and connected opportunities.
So yes, while we are a huge corporation, it is our business to be reminded of the goals – big and small – that fuel the day-to-day work that we do in a million ways, all
celebrated across our three communities.
“With each new day comes new strength and new thoughts (Eleanor Roosevelt).” My only caution in our conversations is that we would never want to etch goals in glass or with permanent marker – goals are always changing and not just because they are achieved. Sometimes other factors and realities change us, our work, our plans
in such a way that goals have to shift. Let’s air our dreams and get them out into the open, let’s make new ones and change, let’s get inspired and inspire each other.
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