I Think I’m Covered

From the desk of Teresa Jordan, Executive Director – It’s cold right now so in my house that means one thing- wool blanket weather. And not just any blanket – my threadbare, weird orange colour, sort of flowery woolen blanket. 

So far, every person I have lived with in my adult life has told me that it is the ugliest blanket in North America, and it just occurred to me given it origin that it could be over 100 years old. Needless to say, it is proudly displayed on my bed right now.

In 1951 my great grandparents and their two young adult children immigrated to Canada. They brought with them almost nothing except hopes for a better future for following generations, a fearless attitude that they would succeed, a willingness to work hard and a trunk of belongings that included a certain orange flowery wool blanket.

I know that my great grandparents would have been ruthless in deciding which few possessions would get put in the trunk, so I know that this blanket was special. I am comforted and inspired to think that part of their decision to leave everything behind had me in mind. While they had not met or even dreamed of me exactly, they were thinking about their children’s children’s children when they left the world they knew behind and loaded up that steamer trunk. 

So yes, the blanket is not pretty, but it keeps me warm and reminds me when I am challenged or overwhelmed that not so long ago people disembarked to a new world where no one spoke their language, bringing along with them a dream of a better life for me and a wool blanket. I think I can meet my challenge today, and I am warm.

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Boxed Set

From the desk of Teresa Jordan, Executive Director – I have been listening to the same radio station for over twenty years. And because many of the hosts have been there for a long time, their voices are now part of my psyche. In fact, I sometimes catch myself when I am reading a book, and realize that all of the voices in my head for the characters in the book are in fact the voices I hear on the radio each day. 

I have been listening at work through the internet since the pandemic keeps me alone in my office quite a bit more than used to be the norm. So, the other day I was actually looking at the website and caught a glimpse of one of the hosts whose voice I know so well. And I realized, he does not look anything like the person I had formed in my mind over these last decades.  And why should he? How in the world did I come to create a picture in my head of what Bill Anderson should look like? 

This experience reminded me that our brains are doing this kind of thing all the time – categorizing, pattern seeking, looking to put everything in a predictable chart. And I think this is a well-designed system, keeping us from getting overloaded with new data and images all the time. And like my radio host, who epicly failed to fit into my creative imaging, I think there are a lot of things that we can just sleepily slot over and over again into our boxes without a closer look – the drive to work with its predictable roadside, the work relationship that grates on your nerves and never seems to get better, the wild opinions and theories that we hold tight to because everything we see seems to reinforce our position.

Years ago, I took training in Outward Mindset and there was an exercise called the Collusion Box. It was powerful as it showed that we quickly adopt a certain way of responding to people based on judgments, and we get trapped in this collusion box and never really see the relationship from another angle. 

So just like the new-to-me face of Bill my favourite radio host, when you can, look with different eyes, crush the boxes of your catalogue system, take a fresh look at everything.  You will see things new, all over the place.

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Staying Power

From the desk of Teresa Jordan – Last week on a tired Thursday I stopped for groceries. When I came out of the store and walked to my car, three people were waiting for me.

It was a bit nerve-wracking being mobbed by strangers in a parking lot. All had the same concern – a truck with a plow had hit my car and left, and they wanted to offer their aid. The damage was extensive, and I would be lying if I said, after everyone left, I didn’t cry.

But the story here is in the people who stayed. They took time out of their tired and busy lives to make sure that the note left for me had contact information (it did not), that I understood how it happened, that I had the license plate number and that I had their contact info if I needed it.

I was overwhelmed and a little confused; they told me what to do next, made sure that I was all right and wished me well.

I love that in a time when we are distanced and a little sad there are still glimpses of people caring about each other, caring for a stranger who just happens to now have a long gouge down the side of her car big enough to hide a couple submarine sandwiches in.

They stayed and they put aside their worries, and I have no real way to thank them, except to send this message to everyone who has taken a few minutes to help a stranger. You are the people who make the world a better place, you make a lasting difference, and that your kind of magic is the glue that holds us all together in good times and in grocery parking lot demolition derbies.

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Setting the Record Straight

From the desk of Teresa Jordan – “Like attracts like” is a quote by Richard Bach, and he adds to it, with glorious sentiment, that all we need to do is shine brightly exactly the way we are to attract like people. There are some challenges to this idea, however. 

Brene Brown uses a technique to get through tough times, during which she pauses and reflects by asking herself, “What is the story that I am telling myself?

I have been mulling over the collisions that would probably ensue when we tell ourselves a story based on our past experience, or go to automatic pathways of guilt, blame or superiority – and then those stories or actions attract people to us who have similar stories. 

Which is all completely super-fantabulous except how do we ever move the needle over on the record to stop it from skipping? This self-reinforcing feedback loop is incredibly easy to embrance in current times, as the internet processes my stories through what I read and search, and then makes sure that I see more of the same. 

After all, what is more satisfying than having a huge circle of friends who are like-minded, supportive and keep you safely where your thoughts have thus far led you?  

This past week a friend, in response to what I thought was a simple teasing remark about ex-spouses, backed me into a corner in which I was challenged to face my deep groove of thinking about my current situation with my ex-husband. Step one, remove all said friend’s contact information from my devices. Step two, ask myself – what are all of these stories, both true and embellished, that I tell myself? And are these serving well me anymore? 

This interaction and the ensuing reflection were uncomfortable but offered me new insights – as well as a few moments to unload some baggage that I no longer need on my journey.

So here’s the thing – if we don’t seek out different types of books, counter arguments to some of our favourite perspectives, and welcome dissenting points of view, we are arguably comfier, but we are also stuck. In any point in time there are a lot of great things to be stuck into – who doesn’t like their comfort zone? – but there are inevitable problem areas and discomforts. In order to change those up we need someone or something to challenge the trajectory of our thoughts, even just a little to help us see the B side of whatever is holding us back, or moving us forward in the wrong direction. 

After that, maybe we will stay in the track we are on, but at least we took a few moments to make sure we know how we got there and what we are attracting. Seek out the friends who challenge, seek out the experiences that offer a new view, go to a completely different area of the record store and peruse. 

I suppose step three is to enter that friend’s contact information back, for now…

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We’ll Get There Together

From the desk of Teresa Jordan, Executive Director – It seems otherworldly to remember last March when most of us thought that the ideas of lock down and pandemic would last maybe a month or so. Now here we are in a fresh new year and we are staring down another lock down, rising numbers and what seemed like a sprint has turned into a marathon with no visible finish line.

Just like a marathon, I think most of us are running out of carbohydrates and water, we are weakening, and we are struggling to keep on going. Now, I do not run marathons, but I have been a spectator and I know that there are people offering water, people with garden hoses offering a cooling shower, and there is cheering, so much cheering. People I know that do these events say that there is power in knowing that there are people at the sidelines cheering, sending good vibes, willing to help, and just standing close urging them on.

I think that lots of parts of this pandemic feel lonely, exhausted and makes for sore feet. And while no one is going to spray anyone with a garden hose as you drive to work, I know there are friends, neighbours, families, volunteers and communities that are thinking, sending love, standing by, ready to support all essential work.

This is a difficult time, and there is no reprieve as it affects every corner of our lives. Maybe a first step is just to admit that there has been a race going on for some time now and it is starting to drag a bit. Reach out for help, offer help, stand close, do whatever is needed to recharge yourself and others, be kind and remember the power of cheering, lets cheer each other on to the finish, lets cheer everyone we know to the finish.

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Don’t Be Mislead

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From the desk of Teresa Jordan, Executive Director – I read one of those meandering pieces on Facebook recently about a mom and a sled. It  resonated with me especially as I have done hard time as a big sister and then a mom, pulling sleds through the snow that are weighted down by children. 

In the piece a mom is talking about how, when they first embarked on their wintry adventure, both of her kids were adamant that they did not need to be pulled on the sled – they would walk. Then, throughout their journey, the children took frequent little rests, riding on the sled for a while here and there. In Facebook fashion, the point was that this is, “what mom’s do.” 

After reading this story, I got to thinking that really, this is what we all do. There have been very difficult challenges over the past few weeks. I know from walking alongside that there have been many people resolute to hike on their own, others hunkering down to pull the biggest toboggan ever created, and still others who desperately needed to ride for awhile. 

The magic is that we can be any one of these people. There are a lot of times when things are going well, or at least predictably, when we can march along independently and get things done.  Equally, with that same strength, there are times when we have more to give, when we are feeling especially strong and realize that there are others around us who need our strength. 

We pile them onto our emotional sled, and we pull them along for a while, letting them regroup, recover, re-energize and lean on us. 

If you have ever pulled a heavy sled you will have the same visceral reaction I do to that dragging weight behind you, the frayed rope digging into your hands and the sometimes-demanding squeals for a bit more speed. All this to say that while you can offer this support to others, you can’t sustain it for a huge amount of time.  Then it is time for another independent jaunt, or for you to just lean on someone else for awhile and ride that sled. 

Taking that ride doesn’t mean that you are not strong or the ultimate conqueror.  It just means that in this big snow hill of challenges, sometimes we are strong, sometimes we are extra strong, and sometimes we need to rest.

Best of all, sometimes we can just ride the sled unencumbered down the hill in total joy and exhilaration – this is just what we humans do. 

Hidden Treasure

From the desk of Teresa Jordan, Executive Director – Happy New Year! The end of Christmas holidays and the turning of the new year always makes me want to clean up and clean out. So as part of this preoccupation, I cleaned out my jewellery boxes and then took some jewellery to the repair shop for various reasons.

One item that I took to the repair shop was a pair of earrings that I have had since my twelfth birthday. I
spent that birthday in Holland, and the second wife of my great grandfather gave me the earrings as a gift.
The earrings clearly were not new – and were probably a pair that she no longer wanted – but I liked them. I
am not sure whether someone told me that they were valuable – or whether I just concluded that they must
be – but for all these years I have been keeping them with my other “real” jewellery and have considered
them to be gold earrings with rubies.

I took these earrings and some other things in to be cleaned and polished. The man at the counter laid out
my precious “real jewellery” on a pad and began looking over each piece. He glanced at my precious ruby
earrings and pushed them to the corner saying, “metal and glass.”

What?? It has been a long time since I turned twelve and over all those years, moves and incarnations, I have considered these earrings to be valuable and important. If I had cleaned them at home, I would still believe that they were gold and rubies.

Do the facts alter the facts? Does the label from the jeweller change my earrings? Does his assessment make my earrings less precious? I can’t decide, but I know that the question makes for good musings. How does a label change things? How does classifying, assessing and tabulating skills change worth? Does it have to?

If I’m being honest, all I know for sure is that the earrings from Holland – now all cleaned – are shinier to me
than the other gold earrings with rubies that proved to be “real” when they came home from the shop.

Treasure what’s real to you.

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Keep on Truckin’

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From the desk of Teresa Jordan, Executive Director – Well, in few days we will be ushering in a new year. For many or most of us, we are hoping the new year is better than the old as we tackle a totally different kind of Christmas season.

Any time that I go to Lindsay for work I make a left at the corner of highways 35 and 7. There is an advanced green light there, but sometimes I do have to stop in the turning lane.

One day I stopped a little late and a big 18-wheeler was making a left hand turn at the intersection. The driver
glared down at me and I felt like a totally incompetent driver as I sheepishly backed up to allow room for him to turn.

After this experience I have tried to remember to stop well back in case another big truck is making a left. I was so proud last week as I anticipated the amber changing to red and stopped well back, as I could see a B- train truck waiting with its double trailer to make the left.

I was super glad that I had paid attention.

The driver, seeing me well back … glared down at me as if to say, “You think I can’t drive or something?”

So it would seem there is a lesson here right? Drive like you ought to in this life, make the
decisions that feel right, follow your own true north because either way you are probably going
to get glared at.

Drive well and stay safe. May the year 2021 bring you peace, hope and health … and may it be glare-free.

The Thrill of Hope

The ‘thrill of hope,’ what a turn of phrase from that much loved, often-sung-out-of-key hymn at Christmastime.

I know that the news swirls with all kinds of bad – numbers, projections and waves of a virus that none of us saw coming this time last year. With a vaccine, continued education and experience, there is a thrill of hope for a world that could get back to rejoicing together in all the ways that we used to rejoice.

What is hope after all – confident expectation, a desire for something to happen, trust that a certain thing will come to pass. And so, what can we absolutely say that we hope for … a return to a time where we can hug our friends and family, when we can gather with our grandparents and others without danger, when we can dine in our favourite restaurants with no extra measures, when we can sing loudly for all to hear and dance like a toddler who does not even need the music in large halls full of our favourite people?

I love Victor Frankl and his writing about his experience of the Holocaust. He says that our human freedom is to choose our attitude in any circumstance and design our way. That even in a night as dark as this pandemic and all its restrictions have been, we can look to a brighter future, be thrilled by the hope of a new year that will at some point bring a new time, that we can look confidently to a place, after the weary part is done, when we can again rejoice together at a distance closer than six feet.

The thrill of hope is that we can focus on what is getting us down, or we can take as many moments as we need to picture this future that we can all share in together on the other side of our current challenge.

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Storm Warning

From the desk of Teresa Jordan, Executive Director – Last week I had a great opportunity to take part in a leadership conference. Two days at six hours per day on Zoom, it was a different kind of conference experience, however, there were many good conversations and much learning. 

Each day started with a mindfulness practice led by Michele Milan founder of The Centre for Mindful Leadership. And unbeknownst to Michele she was one of the first teachers in mindfulness I had back in 2015; I still hear her calm, reassuring and centring voice in my head each time I try to be mindful. Mindfulness is really just about cutting through the noise for a few moments to bring yourself back to a still centre.

I loved the practices that Michele offered both days. The first involved several minutes of breathing. Then Michele asked us to put out hands on our heart and feel it beating, feel our breath going in and out and think what it means to simply be – and what we can offer the world in this being. 

The second day’s offering was similar, as most practices are, with breathing and centring, but this time the visual was a hurricane. Not very relaxing right? Michele urged us to think of the eye of the hurricane – that in the middle of all that swirling, noisy, raging storm there is a middle point where all is still and, if you look up, you can see the sky.  She told us that in the storms, the noise, the haste, the stress, the sometimes chaos of life, we can for a few moments connect with our breath and heart and find the centre. Let the swirl keep whirling and just be still in the sunshine within. 

Both days Michele said a similar thing to us as a group, “… and remember this is always available to you.”  Since she did not immediately give us her cell phone number I have to reflect what she meant; I could pause, breathe and be still as often as I needed to be. 

The eye experience is available to us at all times, in almost any crisis there is a way to pause and centre, to take a moment to let the problem move around and away us, while we just take two or three breaths – long enough to be still and look at the problem through a calm eye which is more able to see a path to solution or at least the next steps. 

When I described my new hurricane mindfulness practice a friend quickly pointed out that there was no way out but to head back through the cyclone, that the eye of the hurricane is completely ensconced by the storm.  I think that is part of the beauty of the analogy – get quiet, get in the middle, get centred and then put on my Xena warrior princess pants and confidently head right back into the wall of the storm. The quiet centre is always available, we just have to step back into it as many times as we need.

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