October 8, 2018 § Leave a comment
Many people shy away from community involvement because they don’t see how one person can make a difference. Sexsmith, Alberta, said goodbye Saturday to someone who will leave a powerfully lasting impression on many, including me.
I admired Mayor Claude Lagace greatly.
Claude was not an imposing figure. Nor was he renowned as an orator. He was a man of few words. His actions spoke much louder than talk. But when he did speak up, people listened.
His humility was such that he didn’t want a funeral yet his passion and dedication were so strong that few knew he was battling cancer for the last eight years.
I certainly had no idea when I last saw him in June at a regional municipalities’ event I hosted on behalf of the City of Grande Prairie. Even as his health was waning, Claude was there to lead a delegation from the Town.
I’m glad Claude’s family and Council colleagues over-ruled him about having a service. He worked tirelessly for his residents and represented his own municipality fiercely. At the same time, Claude recognized the importance of initiatives that would benefit residents across the region.
His contributions deserved to be recognized.
He was beloved by colleagues on Council, even those who he waged heated discussions with. Councillor Jonathan Siggelkow told those attending Saturday’s service that, “This is Claude’s town.”
He told me at the reception following the service that it wouldn’t be the same without Claude. “He kept us all together.”
Municipal employees shared that the Mayor treated them as an extension of his family – to the point he’d pull pranks on them – and Chief Administrative Officer Rachel Wueschner said she sees him as a father figure because of the care and example of service he provided to staff.
In her remarks at the service, Rachel noted the Mayor wouldn’t mince words when he wanted to make a point. An “I don’t give a shit” would be followed by a long list of to do’s and he’d be sure to take charge as needed.
“I sometimes would bite my tongue if I felt the town had been slighted because I knew Claude would go on the warpath, even if that meant going to a Minister,” she said.
I’ve worked with elected officials throughout my career as a journalist, employment in school board and municipal communications roles, work in an intergovernmental affairs position, and as a communications consultant. His class, integrity, character, and respectfulness were second to none.
Claude came across as a humble yet strong leader – one who welcomed you to his community as if beckoning you to his home.
He had a gleam in his eye and a wry sense of humour, credited for helping him stickhandle through arguments with his wife, Noreen.
Rod Masterson, who emceed the service, eloquently explained leadership via scripture.
“The greatest among you will be your servant.” – Matthew 23:11
Daughters Michelle and Laurie found a meaningful verse and dedicated it to their Father in the memorial card for the service.
A snippet could be equally applied to Claude’s commitment to his community:
“He never looked for praises
He was never one to boast
He just went on quietly working
For the ones he loved the most …”
Claude was Mayor of Sexsmith for the last 11 years and also served nine years on Council.
He was first on the scene during emergencies, whether these be fires, flooding or train derailments and was often the last to leave, even if that meant staying late into the night. He would drive around the community to ensure everything was operating smoothly and took great pride in his role with Citizens on Patrol to help ensure resident safety.
Claude was instrumental in the development of many projects in Sexsmith including the medical clinic, spray park, fire hall and, most recently the Lakeview Seniors Home in Clairmont among countless others. In 2012, he was the recipient of the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal, for his dedicated service to his community.
Claude was involved in all aspects of the community, big and small. How appropriate that he built the flag stand at the Sexsmith Civic Centre.
As much energy as Claude invested in his community, his family was the recipient of even more devotion.
Twelve-year-old grandson Becker Olson spoke of the influence Claude has had on him: “I always think, “What would Grandpa do?”
I told Councillor Siggelkow that although Claude would no longer be at the Council table, Councillors could be sure their ears would be burning as he influences them from above.
It was only fitting that the video tribute at Mayor Lagace’s service featured the Frank Sinatra song, My Way.
You certainly did do it Your Way, Mayor Lagace and we’re all better for it.
January 29, 2018 § 2 Comments
“It’s the circle of life,” Simba.
That line from the 1994 movie The Lion King comes to mind whenever I think of how our son, Peter, was born just a few weeks after my father passed away on Jan. 28, 1989.
I thought of this Sunday, the 29th anniversary of Bob Olinger Sr.’s death (photo left). Even after all this time, I still consider how my life has been shaped by my father, either in our likeness or how I chose to be different from life lessons, intended on his part or just from observation.
The entry on my On This Day for Sunday on Facebook six years ago reads: “So, it was 23 years ago about this time of night that we received a call from my older brother that my dad had died just after watching his first NHL game (live), a match between the Calgary Flames and Chicago Blackhawks. I vowed that I would work just as hard as he did, but to enjoy life a whole lot more. I’ve been to my share of professional hockey, baseball and basketball games and a lot of concerts. I’ve worked hard and played hard. When I think of him, I am reminded of the Alice Morse Earle quote, ‘Yesterday is history. Tomorrow is a mystery. Today is a gift. That is why they call it the present.’”
Now, Peter is the age I was when Dad passed away and I reflect on what impact I have made on my son. He loves sports and music as much as I do and think he’s learned more about balancing work and life through seeing me putting in longer hours, particularly in the years I operated my business. He’s also kind-hearted and peace-loving. Like his father, he enjoys a good debate and is likely to side with the underdog.
I’m proud of the person Peter become and that he’s forging his own way in the world.
For Fathers’ Day 2012, which fell just after what would have been my father’s 90th birthday, I wrote this blog, a special note to my Dad: https://themuseandviews.wordpress.com/?s=Father
I was inspired to write this blog after a conversation on Twitter with another avid Blue Jays fan, Jenn Smith, who posted a photo of herself and her dad from 1978. He died suddenly four years ago on Saturday.
“It seems so long ago and, yet, like no time has passed at all. I miss him,” she wrote.
When I shared that I continue to reminisce about my Dad, she added, “It still stuns me sometimes how much of an imprint his passing has left on me.”
Steve West, a communications colleague from Winnipeg chimed in: “17 years this month for me. Always remembered, and honoured. Thoughts are with you both.”
Steve and I would go on to compare notes about our fathers and how the song The Living Years by Mike + The Mechanics brings us to tears every time we hear it as it reminds us so much of aspects in our relationships with our dads.
“The song also reminds us about the importance of saying things to each other “(in) the living years” as we don’t get the chance after someone dies,” says Steve. “So powerful!”
I also noted to Steve and Jenn that while our fathers made great impressions on us, other important people in our lives can have everlasting impacts.
The late Darrell Skidnuk, who passed away in April 2004, was the best man at our wedding. I always admired Darrell for his character, which never wavered, even when battling cancer or facing tough issues on the job. He was a devoted father, loving husband, and community builder.
When faced with dilemmas, I often wonder what Darrell would do, just as I used to think of turning to my father for advice. Sometimes I would go to do so after his passing and then realize he was gone.
Darrell and my Dad are just two salt-of-the-earth people I consider to be great role models.
Here’s to Jenn, Steve and all of you who’ve lost that important go-to individual(s) in your lives. May you always cherish the memories and make those people proud in return.
And here’s to you Dad for continuing to be there in spirit.
December 26, 2017 § Leave a comment
Nova Scotia. Check
Prince Edward Island. Check.
In September, our family vacation brought us two steps closer to my bucket list entry of visiting every part of Canada. In the waning days of 2017, Canada’s sesquicentennial, I’ve been thinking of what a magical holiday this was.
Having been to many areas of the country, I’m well aware of the vastness of our great land. The fact that people march to a different pace on the east and west coasts is well documented. There are distinct accents from east to west.
What made this trip particularly special was the realization of just how connected we are.
The Airbnb we stayed at Ingonish Ferry on Cape Breton Island was recommended to us by a contact here in Grande Prairie who stayed there as a child. Her family is friend with the owner.
Seafoam Lavender Farm in Nova Scotia was suggested to us by a friend from that province who is now a neighbour.
We stopped at a cidery in the Malagash area. The owner’s mom is a friend here in Grande Prairie.
A colleague at work from Prince Edward Island had asked me to find rhubarb wine when we were at the Jost Vineyards in Nova Scotia. They didn’t stock that flavour but through the ability to text, it was determined blueberry wine would be a suitable alternative.
We made a random stop at gas station in Bethune, Saskatchewan and the attendant was from an area of Ontario we’d just driven through so we enjoyed comparing notes for a few minutes.
Even where there are differences, we can figure out how to connect, especially when there’s a mutual interest.
We stopped at a fromagerie in Quebec. The clerk did not speak English. My limited French was last practised in the mid-1990s when I took some college classes to keep up with our son who was enrolled in French immersion. Well, I’m also a lifelong, diehard Montreal Canadiens fan so picking up some of Canada’s official second language is bound to occur (not all the words I’ve picked up can be printed here).
Joyce had sent me on a mission to get curds and I’ve yet to meet a piece of cheese I don’t like so after I stocked up, the lady behind the counter and I figured out how to complete my transaction effectively and I was on my way.
Spending a few days in Sault Ste. Marie, visiting friends and former colleagues we hadn’t seen in a few years was another highlight. We’ve been back to the Sault once since returning to Grande Prairie in 2007 after living there for 20 years.
You always know your true-blue friends when you can be apart for several years and when you reconnect, it’s like time had not stopped.
We took furkid Mica along on this cross-country venture. It was truly special to stop at Pancake Bay Provincial Park, just north of the Sault. This campground remains one of our favourite spots and it was a pure joy to see her frolicking along the spectacular beach and splashing in Lake Superior, much like our son had done as a child.
Northern Ontario features some of the most breath-taking scenery in the country. There are also vast distances between communities and large expanses where there is no cell phone service, something most urban dwellers take for granted.
A fatal accident just east of Ignace, Ontario closed the highway for several hours on our way east. We had the choice of staying overnight or taking a long, circuitous route to next targeted stop of Thunder Bay.
We opted to stay the night at a lodging by picturesque Lake Agimac. This was a reminder not long into our vacation to slow down, live one day at a time and enjoy the moment.
It truly was a year of Canadian travel when I add in our trip to Victoria in March to connect with family making a stopover on their way to New Zealand. We got to share some of our favourite spots in B.C.’s capital with them as well as a few locations up Island. On the May long weekend, we had a mini-vacation to the Okanagan.
Canada 150 was an excellent time to celebrate our country by travelling to the west and east coasts. It was wonderful to appreciate even more what Canada offers its citizens and visitors.
Now, I just have to complete the rest of that bucket list by visiting areas yet to be checked off – Newfoundland, the Yukon and Nunavut. Still so much to see and do!
So much more to look forward to!
December 4, 2017 § 1 Comment
At the end of October, I authored a blog that had taken months to complete, and even then, the eventual inspiration came from wanting to pay tribute to a former supervisor. While it was a struggle to finish off, I wasn’t frustrated or discouraged. I knew the piece came together the way it should. It had its time and place.
I was immediately re-energized to start work on another blog that had also been in the back of my mind for some time – and this turn of events was most fitting. I wanted to express how there isn’t necessarily a right time for things to happen in life, whether it’s doing something you’re passionate about like writing, checking off a bucket list item, a career achievement, or a life decision, like when to get married.
Perhaps that spark came from highlighting my memories of Bill Scott, former editor of the Grande Prairie Daily Herald-Tribune, who’d passed away earlier in the month.
It may have also been our mutual joy of writing that reminded me not to focus on how many blogs I write but rather on the fulfillment I get as well as the reason Wendy and I started The Muse and Views eight years ago.
Our goal is to build content from our musings and reader comments for a motivational/inspirational book(s). There’s no doubt we have more than enough writing to fill a couple of books – themes have developed on topics ranging from goal setting to meaningful people to our love of music.
Wendy and I need to meet up again soon to sort through all of our work and go from there.
It will happen in its time. The finished product may not be the traditional book we originally contemplated. It may be an online publication and some podcasts or a combination of mediums. There are no limits to the possibilities. The fact we both continue to write in this space, albeit intermittently, will give rise to more food for thought and means that goal remains very much alive.
Ultimately, we need to decide what success looks like.
American businesswoman Anne Sweeney helps to put things in perspective with this quote: “Define success on your own terms, achieve it by your own rules, and build a life you’re proud to live.”
Writing a book isn’t the only item on my bucket list (I also continue to tinker with the short story on my late dog Jasper who had a penchant for demonstrating he thought he was human). Among other things is my desire to have a flat tummy.
Though that goal is health related, it’s another thing where I have taken steps in the right direction, but admittedly haven’t made a full commitment. I work out twice a week with a personal trainer who even comes by my house to capitalize on the workout equipment in our basement.
Often I finish Thursday’s workout thinking I am going to exercise at least three times by the following Tuesday and typically it turns out to be once or none.
So, to really accomplish that bucket list item, and achieve even higher levels of fitness in the process, I need to work out at least twice more per week.
Again, I could get down on myself for not doing more, but then I ask myself if I was working out a year ago. The answer is no. Were my blood sugars higher? Yes.
So, there is always more we can do toward a goal, but I think of it as success if we continue to move towards that target, whether the steps are large or small.
As Nido Qubein, motivational speaker and president of High Point University said, “Your present circumstances don’t determine where you can go; they merely determine where you start.”
I met Edmonton colleague and friend Elizabeth Severson several years ago at an economic development conference in Yellowknife. She’s documented on Facebook her challenges of staying on course with a healthy regimen.
Here’s a post from Oct. 30 that shows how progress is often an ebb and flow affair: “When I started my weight loss journey a few months ago, I weighed the heaviest I had ever been … I finally said enough is enough and started making some drastic changes to my lifestyle…less junk food, less eating out. More portion control, meal prep, healthier choices and going to the gym. The result of these changes: more energy (for the most part lol), less headaches, less body aches, and not needing as much medication around cold/flu season. I sleep better too!
“The biggest change however is that I am down 16 lbs!! And while I have another 50 lbs to go, I know I can do it! Yes, it’s tough, I have my ups and downs, over-indulge at times, but I am human am trying not to beat myself up over it. I am grateful for the supports I have in my life (my husband, my family and friends) and look forward to being the healthiest version of me.”
Since this post, Elizabeth has shared news of how she’s faring. Sometimes, there have been setbacks but then I encourage her to look at other good things that have happened in the meantime, like her husband getting partial custody of his daughter.
Our success towards goals also have to be put into perspective with what else is happening in life.
For Jackie Dawson, another Edmonton friend, getting married wasn’t something to do just because her friends were getting hitched. If that meant waiting until age 36 to say yes, so be it.
“I could have been married in my 20s, I was proposed to, but I knew I wasn’t ready. I had lots I wanted to do still and I was still trying to figure out who I was,” she says.
But I waited…then I figured it would never happen because I hadn’t met the right guy. Then when I met my fiancé I knew right away that I’d marry him.
I’m glad I waited and didn’t settle. When you know, you know. Some people are lucky enough to find that person early on but I was never 100% on seeing myself with any guy I dated for the rest of my life.”
Jackie and I are both huge sports fans, so I thought it fitting to sum up with this quote by former NBA coach John Wooden who once said, “There’s a choice in everything you do, but in the end, the choice you make, makes you.”
October 16, 2017 § 2 Comments
“The only person you are destined to become is the person you decide to be.”
This quote by author Ralph Waldo Emerson struck a chord recently when I mentioned my last blog to friend Alysha Samec. I had written about adapting to change and growing as a professional and told her I was now considering how my personal side has evolved.
I actually began thinking about this topic in the summer when the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation reunion was held in in Sault Ste. Marie, Ont. I didn’t actually attend because of my work schedule.
However, it was almost exactly 20 years since I left the OLG to start my communications business so I felt a little sentimental.
I also reminisced a lot as a result of getting reconnected with many former colleagues through Facebook at the time and thought about who I was still in contact with and what kept us connected.
In August, we travelled through the Sault on our summer vacation so I had the opportunity to visit a few friends I’d made in my newspaper, lottery and school board days and while operating my communications firm.
As I visited with these people, I considered whether my personal brand had changed over time. If so, would these connections remain just as strong?
Great friendships and business associations endure the test of time – you pick up where you left off as if time hadn’t stopped when you’ve been apart for some time.
I’ve been friends with some people in the Sault for up to 27 years. We stayed connected invariably over shared beliefs and interests.
Alysha asked me if I could define a time when I knew who I am. That’s tough to put a finger on but I think the basic David was formed in my early 20s.
On one hand, I’m much more confident than the guy who it took three weeks to ask out the lady who would become my wife. Now it would take me three seconds.
At the same time, I have always pursued what is really important to me so I had to put my shyness aside to be a news reporter.
I have always known there is something more. Even in high school, I transferred out of a class where I wasn’t being productive to the one that produced the school newspaper, which would lead to my pursuit of journalism – and that newspaper interview that would have me meeting the above-mentioned wife-to-be.
I’m proud of the professional me and happy with David, the person.
Would I do some things differently? Most assuredly so. Do I live with regrets? Never.
A quote from actress Jennifer Aniston sums up my feelings ever so powerfully: “If I could tell my younger self anything, it would be to stop trying to please everyone. You can’t please everyone. All you can do is be yourself and whoever likes you, likes you and whoever doesn’t like you, doesn’t.
“Live your life to the fullest and take chances. Don’t let bullies get to you. Be strong. Just stay true to who you are.”
The late technology legend Steve Jobs had some further great counsel: “Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”
These thoughts on personal brand tie back to my professional life. I recently met up with Ryan Townend, CEO and owner of William Joseph Communications, headquartered in Calgary with offices in Saskatoon and Red Deer. He was doing marketing presentations in Grande Prairie where William Joseph has now expanded.
Ryan related he’d gotten contracts on a couple of occasions, in particular, because of his personal/professional brand. In one instance, he worked his butt off over a long weekend to make a presentation and his competitors didn’t respond to a quote request for several days.
I already had a strong affinity for Ryan’s style as it reflects my own work ethic and practices. This just added to my enjoyment of his business philosophy.
In another instance, Ryan received work because he’d personally responded to every person who commented on a social media campaign that went sideways. His demonstrated willingness to handle a sticky situation up front and honestly impressed a client to be.
Ryan’s outlook is simple: “We only have one life to live. Let’s make it a good one!”
All of this tells me that when you’re authentic, either personally or in business, you’ll get connected to the people you really want to be around.
As a side note … I’ve struggled getting fingers to keyboard on this blog for several weeks but wanted to complete it as a tribute to former Daily Herald-Tribune editor Bill Scott who I worked with for 3.5 years in the mid-1980s. He passed away Oct. 3 and his celebration of life was last week.
Bill authored the column Potpourri for more than 45 years. As much as he was an excellent writer and editor, Bill exemplified how you can work hard and play hard. He enjoyed inviting staff to his home and sharing his love for cooking and music. He organized car rallies for employees and always got the hockey pools going. And then, of course, he would hold court on Fridays after work at Dar’s, a popular watering hole back in the day.
Bill also walked the talk when it came to volunteering. That connected with me at the time and I’ve given back to the community in some form or another almost continuously since.
RIP Bill. You were certainly true to yourself. Journalism and Grande Prairie will never be the same.
July 28, 2017 § 1 Comment
“The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry.”
This saying is adapted from a line in a poem entitled: “To a Mouse,” written in 1785 by Robert Burns. It is said that Burns was ploughing his fields and accidentally destroyed a mouse’s nest, leaving the mouse without adequate shelter to survive the winter.
It’s meaning – it doesn’t matter how carefully something is planned, there’s always the possibility that something will go wrong with it.
Over the last several months, I have been stuck in planning paralysis. Everything I looked at, I would envision down the last detail, spending days, if not weeks, coming up with action plans and detailed descriptions and dreams for everything from wall decor ideas for my home to events I thought would be fun to full-blown business and marketing plans.
I kept coming back to wanting an instruction manual as to how I was going to proceed in the coming months, my blueprints to success. The problem was, as much as I was spending time in the dreaming and “planning” of what I wanted, I wasn’t executing on any of it. Six month later, I had moved a couple of rocks, but for the most part I was in exactly the same place as before… minus a few more dollars.
My coach said to me:
“Wendy, you’re such a prairie girl when it comes to your dreams. It’s like you can see the details for miles. Come spent some time in the twists and turns of the mountains and you can’t see around the next bend until you get there.”
I’ve since stopped “planning”. That is, I’ve stopped writing down action steps I’m probably not going to take.
There are some people for which having their instructions written down before they begin their journey works very well for them. They’ve studied their maps, made their routes and know their milestones and points of interest.
What I’ve learned is that I’m not one of those people. But I have also had to learn how to harness my dreaming and scheming and move between the imaginary and the reality of what I’m trying to build.
When I think about how I approached my 18 months of travels, I knew the big broad picture – I was going on an adventure – but I filled in the details as I went. I booked flights a couple of months in advance for when I wanted to switch continents, I booked my accommodations a few days out from my arrival and I decided what to do with my day to day often the day of. The best part – I liked it like that and I still travel that way. Ebbing and flowing in a general direction while I twist and wind my way through interesting stopovers.
Could there be a clearly instruction manual for me on how to proceed than that?
In my experience, my best laid plans often do go awry – or more like they don’t go at all.
What about you? What have you found is your preferred approach to life and planning (or not)?
January 9, 2017 § 2 Comments
“Life is what happens to you while you are busy making other plans.” – John Lennon
The above quote is one of my favourites, wisdom I’ve shared with others many times.
I’ve recently found myself practising what I preach with a new job at the City of Grande Prairie. I became the Manager of Intergovernmental Affairs on Oct. 17, through a small restructuring. This new position involves focusing on advocacy, strategic planning and, as the title would indicate, relationships with other municipalities and levels of government.
Up until then, my entire 34-year career had been concentrated entirely on communications, from newspaper reporting to corporate writing and editing, operating a consultancy, along with communications co-ordinator and manager roles.
There’s certainly a significant learning curve that goes with this position, relatively new in Alberta municipalities. Some duties are tasks that I would have done off the side of my desk in the past are now essential elements of my new position. Others involve skill building and opportunities for training.
My focus is more on City Council-related activities and priorities and our Corporate Leadership Team’s strategic directions. I now report to the City Manager rather than being part of a service area. I move from managing a team to having functional leadership responsibilities.
I was asked to take on this new role in a Sept. 8 meeting. Ironically, this discussion occurred immediately after a City of Grande Prairie Leadership Network Meeting where Leadership Coach Alan Goff presented on the 4 Rs to Remarkable Results.
He underlined that … “What got you HERE, won’t get you THERE.”
This is a reminder that we can’t stop learning, making changes, adapting to the evolving environment around us and being visionaries who will foresee changing circumstances.
Moving to a newly developed position within your organization has its challenges. It’s not like picking up and leaving to a job at another employer. There is personal transition and an extended period of passing the torch.
I’ve always considered myself somewhat of a mercenary – doing whatever is asked of me to complete a project, often with competing priorities. That was certainly the case when I operated my own business. I was routinely working around the needs and expectations of up to four clients daily to make things happen.
Reminding myself of this experience and that I had also pioneered the first communications officer position at the Huron-Superior Catholic District School Board certainly helped me to adapt. So did this quote from Ekaterina Walter, a recognized business and marketing thought leader.
“In the midst of change we often discover wings we never knew we had.”
Here are some highlights of Goff’s 4 Rs to Remarkable Results.
- Face Reality – Take responsibility for your results and those of your team.
- Relinquish what is in your way.
- Rely on the process – stay positive and avoid the ‘crabs in the barrel’.
- Reform to a better way – Change small, but often.
I follow the work of Tony Robbins and am fond of using his quip, “If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always gotten.”
I just discovered another piece of wisdom from this American businessman, author, and philanthropist: “Change is automatic. Progress is not. Progress is the result of conscious thought, decision, and action.”
These lessons are great advice as we embrace new challenges and changes in 2017.