The Butterfly Effect

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From the desk of Teresa Jordan, Executive Director – The butterfly effect has been on my mind lately, the idea that one small change can alter so much through its ripple effect that the end result is a massive difference. It is part of the chaos theory that something as small as the flutter of butterfly wing can create a typhoon across the globe.

It makes me think about all of the changes, big and small, that we have been working through as an agency… how we have try to make alterations and then have to alter again and again and, somehow, in the end, our floor length ball gown looks more like a tube top compared to its former self. However, it’s all a process and much of change management does not get written down – it is an inside job. It is about seeing things differently, or seeing a change and choosing our reaction.

Sometimes, I know that I get stuck and make decisions about something based on my own lens, which is complex and built exclusively by my own experiences through other situations. But if I can, I will try to stop my pattern of thinking or my usual response and look from a completely different angle. Perhaps the tube top was really all that was needed in the first place.

I was once taught a way of thinking through which you purposely look at the absolute worst case scenario and its implications first, then look at the best, then tackle the issue with that stretched mindset. The butterfly effect to me means that one small change – one good morning where you usually tiptoe past, one changed thought, one gesture to support another’s problem solving, one acceptance of that weird quirk that usually sends you around the bend – all of these small changes can lead to a massive change in your team, in your home, in your life.

What kind of typhoons can we get started by just fluttering, however briefly, with one small change? Possibilities are endless.

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I Stop for Turtles

daisyFrom the desk of Teresa Jordan, Executive Director – A car that I followed into work one day last week had drivers who, quite obviously, knew their passion and purpose in life. The car was decorated in daisies – which was my first eye catcher – and then the bumper and back were covered in stickers compelling me, the reader, to love the earth just a little bit more… statements like, “There is no second Earth,” “I brake for turtles,” and “Live without plastic and save the oceans.”

Coming down Sherbrooke, stopping at every light, I had time to really take it all in. What I was really impressed with was the commitment and resolution required to put such clear messaging all over your transportation investment. The servitude to a mission required to make bold belief statements to all commuters around was abundantly apparent.

I worry too much. I make bold statements, but soften them with, “I have come to believe…” Or in times of great disagreement, I will overuse the phrase, ‘sort of’. For example, “It would seem to me that we have sort of reached an impasse and need to explore each other’s ideas a bit more in order to sort of be clear on how we can sort of compromise.”

OK, maybe I ‘sort of’ exaggerated my quote but you ‘sort of’ get the idea of how I handle myself when faced with someone who thinks completely differently and I want them to hear my thoughts and ideas. This car, however, did not say, “Stop for turtles when you can” or “Save the oceans as you see fit.” This driver was clear, impassioned, succinct and sure.

We all have our bumper stickers, sure things that we know to be true for ourselves and that we can, we hope, make others see to be important truths. In sharing, in some way, we may not convert the entire audience but pause-for-thought about a world view or passion will have an impact in ripples all around. I ‘sort of’ know that to be a timeless truth.

Bravo!

Old lady

Image By Olena Yakobchuk

From the desk of Teresa Jordan, Executive Director – I recently had the pleasure of going to a Peterborough Lakers game with my brother.  Now, I had neither attended a lacrosse game prior, nor had I much of an idea of what the game is actually about. I was happily seated beside a senior couple, season ticket holders who talked me through the exciting, complicated and sometimes violent game.

This was all great fun and, in the process, I caught a glimpse of what I want to strive for in my future self.  No, its not as a lacrosse player, or the mascot or even the announcer giving out prizes – although they were all fabulous. It’s as the white haired elderly woman one section over from me. She is a season ticket holder, a dedicated fan and – according to my seat mates has been elderly and white-haired for all of the years that they have been attending – so no guess on her age. She sits in her seat completely unremarkably with friends – no make up or Lakers jersey or any outward sign of her inward passion.

However, when the Lakers score, this lady gets up, walks forward to the railing of her section and waves triumphantly over her head a humongous red lace bra. My neighbours told me to watch for the bra and there it was, the ultimate in whimsical dedication to cheering on a team when you are an octogenarian. It was a great game and the Lakers scored 11 times and, without fail, the brazier was waved 11 times.

There are so many grown up, tough decisions that we are forced to make over and over again each day and week – go to work when you want to nap, pay the bills when you want a new designer purse, forego the afternoon nap yet again. Let’s pause for a moment and picture this diminutive senior citizen deciding at some point that this was how she would honour her favourite team; I can just picture the sparkle in her eye as she purchased the bra that she could never hope to actually wear and hatched her playful plot. Let’s go for that sparkle as often as we can each day.

Thanks for all you do.

Local Design

two man and two woman standing on green grass field
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And now we are in one of my favourite season – one that only comes around every four years – its municipal election time. The lawn signs, the debates, the all-candidates meetings, the newspaper columns, the door knocking and – my favourite – the boon in the number of guests arriving at agency and community events.

I marvel at the candidates. I know that most would say that they are running to make a difference, to be the change they want to see and to promote their corner of community.  How wondrous that thousands across the province put their names forward, offer their insights, and make plans and promises.  More than that, they open their lives and selves for critique, they all work tirelessly to make themselves known and  they go head to head with others knowing that there “can be only one” in the end.

Municipal government is our first line of defence in all of our community initiatives, and often our greatest champions are members of council, investing their time and energy in making the community better. Here’s to our unsung local heroes, all of the candidates and the elected officials once decided this fall. Here’s to them for giving of themselves, of their time and of their vision for a better community.  Thank for believing in community and your own abilities enough to put your picture on the lawn.

Get interested, get to know your candidates and do your part – vote for the one of your choice and help design your community council.

This is the stuff of community magic-making.

Convertible Experience

convertible posterFrom the desk of Teresa Jordan, Executive Director – I have been driving for almost 24 years; in all of that time I thought convertible cars to be very windy, a little pretentious and definitely not for me. On what was I basing this judgment? On old movies I guess – driving long distances with the windows down – and knowing that it just would not be my style.

All of this changed one sunny afternoon in Ottawa a few years ago, which I spent with friends, touring for hours with the top down in a convertible. I loved it. Now, despite all of my preconceived notions and objections, owning a convertible is on my bucket list.

I think this story reminds us that, as planners and support staff, we need to make sure that decisions and goals are informed by experience and knowledge… and we need to work on experience and knowledge to support people to dream big. We may not be able to put all of the needed supports in place right away, but we’ll still have a record that the dream/goal exists and we can continue to make connections that move towards it.

There is always room for creativity, trying new things – and a tour of the tulip festival with hair blowing in the wind – in order to support excellence in planning goals.

Thanks for all that you do.

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The Test of Time

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From the desk of Teresa Jordan – What is it about technology that makes anger well up so quickly and so unashamedly in me? I am generally pretty cool and calm. I work very hard to keep my composure in the face of some pretty nasty confrontations. But one delay in my web browsing, or a loss of connection or print job that I have walked all the way down the hall to pick up not being there – and I am an angry, teeth gnashing, eyebrow furrowing lunatic ready to project the offending equipment through the nearest window.

How did this happen? I never got angry at my Vic-20 for taking nine minutes to load my next game of Clowns. In my childhood, I waited 40 minutes for Mrs. Fisher to finish her call on my party line so that I could call a friend. And I have proven my patience quotient endlessly in trying to set up a driver’s test for my son. I can wait and be patient… except if my email doesn’t open instantly.

I guess this is partly what happens when things keep getting better and faster and more available, but I also think maybe the demands on my time have increased to match the time saved with the updated technology. It is like the classic analogy – the vacuum cleaner was invented so that the process of beating rugs – a task that used to take all day – now takes a few minutes… except that what was once a task done every two months is now one done every day.

Time savers have somehow sped up time and it is up to me – and each one of us – to take a minute to just slow down and take a breath. We are masters of our own destiny and we are responsible for the pause. Just don’t test me anytime soon by taking the batteries out of my wireless keyboard and expecting a Zen-like response – teeth gnashing may still occur but will be more enlightened. Relax into the pause whenever you can – it is summer after all.

Thanks for all you do!

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True Colours

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From the desk of Teresa Jordan, Executive Director – At the beginning of June, a wonderful event was held in Peterborough called Art for Autism. It was a splendid evening at The Mount with great food, live music in each room, artwork everywhere you looked and artists ready to talk and share their insights. The charismatic Ellen Cowie was the organizer of the second annual Art for Autism, and I thank her for her dedication to community and to promoting the talents of everyone.

On that evening, I was completely enchanted by many of the artists, but if found one exhibit in the corner to be especially vibrant, bold colour and great animal themes leaping off the canvasses. I especially liked a picture of two ostriches, looking a little confused, with their heads together. The image was whimsical and full of laughter, instantly bringing a smile to all who paused to look at it. I spoke to the artist Cynthia Fox and marveled at her skill … and then she told me the most incredible fact. She had only been painting for a few years and had no training! Where does that kind of creativity and talent come from?

This all made me think of an article I once read that said if you asked a group of five year olds to put up their hands if they were artists, most would; however, in a room of 25 year olds, very few would. As we get older we redefine our talents and measure them differently – we are less free to confidently pick up a paint brush and boldly begin with one stroke of colour. I guess we start to identify only talents that we think are great in describing ourselves, and shuck off the 5 year old who once thought the future held art, professional sports and a music deal, all at the same time.

Thank goodness that Cynthia Fox found her inner 5 year old artist and brought it out for our community to enjoy. Thank you to Ellen, to our community and to joyful talents explored. Thank you to everyone who takes time to find and share hidden talents with others each and every day.

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Dream Catchers

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From the desk of Teresa Jordan, Executive Director – I love the dreamers, the big schemes, the passion for trying something new – I love that one man had a dream for the World Championship Soap Hockey and Music Fest in Haliburton.

Let’s take a moment to honour the risk takers. Where would we be without them? Nothing tried, nothing gained. None of the big festivals that now perennially pepper our annual community event calendar would have ever been started if someone had not taken the time to try something, make a poster, book a venue, work out a tour – take a chance. And while, yes, by all measures the event in Haliburton did not draw the thousands of people that were hoped for, it was an event, it was a start.

Events are a gamble and I think everyone has a story in which the crowd that was hoped for never arrived or, on the other side, you were slapping together bologna sandwiches in a back room because people were still arriving to wish Grandma happy birthday and the buffet table was getting low.

So here is to John in Haliburton, to Donna for making our scheme work, to everyone who has put together something to celebrate in a gathering, big or small. It’s all about building community, having fun, making connections, interacting with our fellow citizens on this journey and, usually, food.

Keep ’em coming, and pack extra bologna just in case. One can never predict what will be a huge success – maybe they all are.

ReRoute ReDo

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I had the pleasure of driving to Haliburton this week in the glorious sunshine. I live on highway 35 and it is being repaved so, over breakfast, I planned an intricate route to 0avoid the construction. It involved driving through Omemee, Downeyville, Dunsford and to Bobcaygeon. I was so confident that the minutes of extra time slowing down in villages would definitely outweigh the time spent in a flag person’s ‘stop-and-go construction world.’

As most people who live in Canada can guess, there was a great flaw in my plan … there was construction in two other places on my well-planned route! First questionable idea, thinking that I could out plan construction, and second, thinking that I could out plan wait times!

Slow downs, waits, traffic clogs, back logs, collaborations that seem to always fall behind, are so much a part of what we do. There is always a surface that needs redoing in the middle of a project that seemed so simple at the start. Best laid plans to change or reroute often end up right back where they started.

But here is the great part – I made it to Haliburton, basically on time. I had a lovely, sunny drive and all was well.

Change work is hard; day-to-day work is hard; cooperative work is hard … but the destination and the view are worth the effort.

Thank you so much for your work from day to day, for your extra effort to plan and for your course adjustments, both well thought out and spontaneous.

Potluck Pondering

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From the desk of Teresa Jordan, Executive Director – Parenting “learning moment number 143” for this month alone – you cannot will things to happen.

My son was chatting to me as I was leaving Haliburton the other day and mentioned that his English class was having an exam potluck breakfast. First off, is that not just about the coolest thing you have ever heard of? Secondly, I asked him what he was bringing; he said that all the good stuff was signed up for already so he would probably bring nothing.

Problem-solving-hero-mom leapt into action and stopped at Fenelon to purchase watermelon, granola and some little macaroon things. Proudly, I showed my son the bounty and he replied that all that stuff was already being brought to the breakfast. I sat him down and told him the timeless truth passed on by mothers since time immemorial, “You cannot go to a potluck empty handed.”

In the morning, I checked again and asked my son what he was taking to the breakfast. He quietly indicated the granola and put it in his backpack. End of day, I first asked how his exam went and, second, how did your granola go over? “I forgot to bring it out of my bag” was the answer.

You see, the learning here is that you cannot, by the sheer force of an interac card, a last minute shopping trip and timeless lessons of mealtime ritual, force another human being to do something that they are not willing to do. This story is a great reminder that all we do is model, teach, guide and create experiences. The leap to actually pass around the granola is entirely out of our hands.