Dig Deep

From the desk of Teresa Jordan, Executive Director – My husband is a storyteller, largely because he has had so many different roles, adventures, and experiences in his lifetime. In 1968, at the age of 15, he found himself on the north shore of Lake Superior in a construction camp; he likes to brag that this was the day after he quit school for good. 

Just the other day he was telling me stories of that time, and said that a man took a taxi for over 100 miles to get to the camp to apply for a job. The foreman asked what he could do, and the long-travelled applicant very confidently replied: “I can run the best machine you have.”  To which the weathered foreman replied that the man had better get back in his taxi because what they needed was someone able to drive the worst machinery they had.

First, in the labour shortage that is currently around us I found this an incredulous story, but times were clearly different. What I can appreciate is the idea that it is not the best equipment that needs the extra skill, it’s the quirky, old, held-together-with-duct-tape, difficult equipment that requires patience, talent, and skill.

When the day goes smoothly or all the technology works, we still need to be great at what we do. But when the copier keeps jamming, the day is derailed by a van breakdown, illness or crisis, this is when our “worst machinery driving” skills must kick in. We suddenly must adjust, make different decisions in the moment, resist the urge to kick the copier. We have to dig deep for the skills that we need when the day or project is breaking down, belching smoke and leaking diesel. This is where we can confidently say – I can do this, I got this.

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Travelling Together

From the desk of Teresa Jordan, Executive Director – I love the ice breakers that we take part in for meetings. It is fascinating to me to hear some of the quirky and interesting facts that people share through these activities. I am now aware that someone that works at CLTH considers themselves addicted to sushi they love it so much, someone skated with Stars on Ice, and someone else is passionate about the Royal Family. 

It is so interesting to start to understand what makes other people who they are, the places they have been and experiences that they have had along the way. Especially in this humongous workplace, I am often overwhelmed by how much we as a group face all at once, the passing of a loved one, the birth of new baby, challenges with home repairs after a storm, sudden illness of loved ones or ourselves,  losses, gains, weddings, divorces, and even more interesting stuff. 

I love that no two people are on the same path with the same luggage, and that for a time here together in this work – and in all kinds of other ways – we get to just travel together for a time. 

When my husband was facing the terminal cancer diagnosis of his first wife he was devastated, but somewhere in the despair he remembers distinctly going from “why me” to “why not me” in reflecting that everyone faces challenges big and small all the time, and this was their challenge, their particular path to face together at that time.

We are all facing the ups and downs and adding or taking away from a cup of joy that we all carry, offering a little top up when we can and accepting some joy boosts in our “why not me” moments. Let’s keep walking together, and supporting, leaning on, sharing the load and keeping the sushi problems in check with one another as we can, when and where we are able.

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1,000 Pieces

From the desk of Teresa Jordan – I spent some time with people from another agency, and we got to chatting about Christmas and Santa. Now here’s the thing, my ultimate Christmas gift ever was my Barbie motor home, given to my sister and I in 1980.  We loved it!

Years later my dad told us the Barbie motor home’s full story. It came in a box roughly the exact dimensions of the motor home, and so my dad stowed it away until Christmas Eve. Then, when all of us kids were in bed, he went to take the motor home out of the box. Only, it was not a motor home. It was over 1000 plastic pieces and decals; my parents were up until 4:30 a.m. assembling it. 

So last week I said that that motor home of 1000 pieces was my favourite, and another person my age says that she got one too and it was her favourite as well. I was about to tell my cute daddy tale, but before I could she was telling it herself. Her parents had made the same assumption and were up all night, elbow deep in plastic and Barbie stickers.

Two families, one in Janetville, one in Ottawa, cursing Mattel through the joy-filled hours (?) of Christmas Eve night. I didn’t need to tell my story; it was told and it was appreciated. Love this, it reminds me that there is so much that we have in common when we take the time to get to know one another. There is so much aligned in our human experience and when you look, you will find your Barbie motor home, enjoying good storytelling people who get your stories, share your passions and make you feel a part of something.  

Mind your Minutes

From the desk of Teresa Jordan – I read the greatest tip about how slow down a busy brain in an Eckhart tolle book. He urges that you say to yourself, “I wonder what my next thought is going to be?” So simple a question but also so instant in causing a pause, a slowdown, a quiet in that constantly thinking brain to create a little space. 

Of course, another thought, or fleet of thoughts will arrive. But the asking of the question and the slow pause that follows it, stops the next thought from so rapidly filling the void.

I think sometimes we get overwhelmed in the idea that perhaps when we have a lovely meditation pillow or a schedule that feels less overwhelming or the kitchen renovation is done… that will be the time that we start thinking about meditation or mindfulness or even taking a pause. I have often read, though, that there is so much to gain in just taking a few seconds to pause, to check in with how you are feeling, to listen to what your body is trying to say. 

These moments that we steal away, while we are busy in all kinds of other ways, will add up to some helpful space and calm – space and calm to just be.  And after those few seconds of thinking of our thoughts, emotions and breaths, we can jump back into whatever arena of challenge we find ourselves in… just in a way that is a little more ready and resilient.

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Excuse Me…

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From the desk of Teresa Jordan – I read a quote recently from Jen Sincero that said: “An excuse is nothing but a challenge that you’ve given your power to.” And then a deep pause while I let that sink in.

Challenges lurk at every corner, and if the pandemic has taught me one thing its that the most horrendous are not planned for and are ever-changing, requiring constant shifts in response and action.

There are a lot of challenges in the day-to-day as we navigate these tricky waters of emerging from intense restrictions while continuing to be wary of an ever-present threat in variant after variant attacking our disinfected defenses. Excuses though, feel like a whole different thing, like my high school crush who always had to rush to be somewhere else when I tried to phone him or the reason I have never run a marathon… my running shoes are not good enough.

Excuses feel like those glib statements we make when we are annoyed or do not want to face a pestering schoolgirl’s ninth call this week. When does a great challenge become an excuse, I guess when we are facing something that scares us, or that will be very hard, like moving to a different home, starting a new relationship or travelling to a long-dreamed of destination.

Then the passport hassles, the great costs, the mounting unknowns become the excuses for why we stay stuck. Taking our power back is challenging, and I am not sure I can fit it in between my phone calls to said crush, Phil.

Shine bright!

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From the desk of Teresa Jordan – I had a great conversation this week about the different generations and, believe it or not, we were not speaking disparagingly about millennials. Rather, we were discussing the different motivations of each group that we could name. Interesting to me is the idea that generation Z, or zennials, are driven to do a good job and prove their skills; but this is not necessarily to please others, but just to prove it to themselves.

I love the quote, Deeds are no less valiant if unpraised,” by JRR Tolkien – and it would seem that generation Z has figured this out. What would it mean for me or others to be not-s-driven by what others think our worth is, to be free of the need to measure up. On Facebook, the source of all wisdom, there are often quotes to remind us that any critique of our worth by others is a statement about the critique maker, not the subject of their scorn.

How easy to make a cute meme on Facebook and write a blog, how difficult to actually internalize that our strengths are ours and are not dependent on the notice of others, that we do not need to prove or please anyone. We just need to maximize what we know to be our strengths and know where we can have an impact. And let’s also celebrate that great bunch of youth in their early twenties seem to be driven to just brighten the corner where they are and are not worrying themselves about how others perceive their wattage – a bright idea indeed.

Weathered Wisdom

From the desk of Teresa Jordan – I have yard with a tremendous number of robins. Having spent a lot of time in the yard over Easter weekend, I came to know where many of the robin nests are, and could observe the busy parents taking care of their eggs. 

Then the worst happened, it snowed a couple of inches on Monday night. I was worried about the nests that I knew were exposed to the elements – not every robin is a real estate tycoon and understands location, location, location. Some nests I knew were on top of arbours and exposed to the elements. I worried about the tiny little bird mamas, shivering, covered in snow, flashbacks of Nestor the long-eared donkey went through my head. But there was nothing I could do.

In the morning the snow had accumulated and was everywhere. I walked out in my pyjamas and rubber boots to check, all was fine. Here’s the thing – robins know what they are doing. All my worry was not helpful or productive, and this experience was a good reminder about worry and its worth.

When something is of concern, bothering or overwhelming, we can worry and wander around in the snow in a nightgown and wellingtons. Or we can just take one step at a time, even one minute at a time when you need, and work through the problem or issue. Take the next step, let others that know that they are doing what they do best, and hunker down to wait out the storm.

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Parallel Universe

From the desk of Teresa Jordan – I have lived just close to Lindsay for almost all my life, and today for a few seconds I did not know where I was. I came to the end of Orchard Park Road at Angeline; this is supposed to be a hard stop with a field and creek on the other side. I clearly have not been there for a while because the street no longer ends at Angeline – it continues west with dozens of homes lining the street. 

So, as I approached, and saw an intersection where I was expecting a stop sign, I had a few seconds of panic that I had slipped into a parallel universe.  I had not been to that side of Lindsay in many months, and it was not that I was confused – it was that the entire area had changed while I was away. 

Will it be like this in parts of our lives as we emerge from the pandemic? I saw a friend today for the first time in about a year and she had lost 60 pounds and called her husband, “my ex”. Another parallel universe moment. 

There will be many such moments, I think; some things have changed a lot while we were disinfecting, and some maybe will be waiting for us like we were never isolated or away. As we face off with this wave, and continue to emerge, be gentle as you reconnect … lots has changed, new streets have emerged everywhere, and we are all a little different.  Explore gently into the new places, confusing changes and the well-worn paths and places that have been awaiting our return.

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Princess Diaries

When I first became interested in genealogy, I signed up to a website family tree group and started building mine.  This new adventure was so exciting – all new and so interesting as I traced branches back and back and back. 

At that time, as a beginner in genealogy, I trusted every hint; I trusted that everyone on the site was accurate and that what I was building was a perfect tree. In no time at all I had traced one line back to some guy listed as James V… turns out he was James the fifth, king of Scotland! I was dong this in about 2005, and I must say that for about six months I walked around secure in the knowledge that I was, in fact, a Scottish princess. 

Then, as my adventure continued and I learned more, I realized that there are many mistakes and misleading hints when so many people are contributing. The Arbuckle tree, which led me back to my royal ancestor, was misdirected with the wrong parents for my great grandmother. All of my royal identity was stripped away with a closer look. 

Now, I’m sure nobody on that that genealogy site sets out to direct beginners to false princess identities. Like me they also were not experienced enough to check documents and sources, to double-check dates and locations. I guess that is how it is almost all of the time – we need to check the sources, seek the truth for us, double back on what does not seem right, start again – before donning the tiara.

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Greener Pastures

Two of my brothers work as electricians, occupations for which they must undergo regular testing to ensure that the radiation in their systems is still in a healthy range. And I have another electrician brother who says in jest that he must be checked for fibre content – he works at Quaker. 

How lucky are we to have a factory in Peterborough that makes the entire city smell like rice cakes on a regular basis? In fact, how lucky are we to have so many of the things that we do in the three communities we work? We have Fleming College, Trent University, tourist attractions, the Trent System waterway, the Whetung gallery, museums and a free zoo! 

Sometimes we look across at another job and think how much better that job is, or look to another area of the province – more urban, less urban, fuller of industry, or with more attractions – and we can start to feel like we are missing out, that we are behind in some arbitrary timeline or that we somehow have less. 

I once read an inspiring quote by Aristotle, or Plato maybe, the message of which was that the grass being greener on the other side of the fence is usually due to a septic bed issue. There is a tendency to want what we don’t have, and I think we are all hard wired for this as primal survival gift. We are supposed to be scanning our environment for ideas to grow on, to improve our lives with and to stretch up to.  However, this tendency often leads to a feeling that we are somehow not measuring up or that anywhere is better than where we are. 

A good friend likes to remind me to stay in my own lane and work on my own strokes.  There is no way to know the full picture of difficulty and or challenge faced by people who seem to have it all; celebrate what they have, strive to improve your own strokes from the learning and then celebrate that. 

And then take a moment to remember, when you feel like there is a better place to live with better jobs and greener grass, none of those places smell like popcorn the way Peterborough does – ever.