Everything In Its Time

December 4, 2017 § Leave a comment

Dandelion seeds in the morning sunlightAt 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.”

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Let The Real You Shine Through

October 16, 2017 § 1 Comment

“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.

A Post On Planning

July 28, 2017 § Leave a comment

planning-web

“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)?

Adapting, Advancing, Accelerating

January 9, 2017 § 1 Comment

“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.

  1. Face Reality – Take responsibility for your results and those of your team.
  1. Relinquish what is in your way.
  1. Rely on the process – stay positive and avoid the ‘crabs in the barrel’.
  1. 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.

2017… Thank You Now And Every Day

December 31, 2016 § Leave a comment

Sometimes, we won’t appreciate what we have until it’s gone. However, for me on the other side of loss, it’s a different story.

I’ve loved and I’ve lost. I’ve hurt. I’ve numbed. I’ve retreated into isolation. I’ve fled. I’ve explored. I’ve come home.

Somewhere along the line, the numbness receded. I went from unfeeling to living again.

Throughout 2014-2015, I accomplished a life journey through 18 countries and across 5 continents that I hadn’t dreamed possible until well into my retirement.

Much of my 2016 was spent wondering, “What now? Why am I here?”

Many of my travels were done solo. As I explored, I grew. I learned so much about who I was and the woman I wanted to become.

I typically spend my time between Christmas Day and New Year’s Day reflecting on the previous year and planning for the year to come. This year, I’m focused on the people in my life today and how to share more moments together.

My co-author on The Muse and Views, David, once posted a great post about friends for a season, a reason or a lifetime.

We all have important people in our lives, friends, family and spouses who think the world of us and who continue to support our dreams and our journeys.

In 2015, three different people, one of whom I had just met, a close family member and a family friend all had the same comment… almost word for word, they each said to me: “You’re surrounded by people all of the time… and yet you’re alone.”

They saw the results of my isolation, my being numb.

I’m hopeful in 2017 we’ll see the efforts I’ve made to open my home and my heart this year.

Consciously choosing to open myself up again is how I appreciate the people – friends, family and otherwise – that are in front of me today, while they’re here.

Friends, family and otherwise… I love you. Thank you for everything you bring to me now and every day.

Happy New Year.

 

The Music Never Dies

August 29, 2016 § 3 Comments

I’ve written in this space previously about what music means to me. Lately, I’ve also observed how it impacts friends and other people in Canada and around the globe.

Music can get muted on a sound system and performers head to the stage and studios of the afterlife. However, it can never be snuffed out.

In his 1971 song American Pie, Don McLean is said to be drawing reference to hearing of the untimely deaths of Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and J.P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson with the words … the Day the Music Died.

However, even 57 years after their deaths, people who enjoy early rock and roll music continue to play their tunes.

The power of music on a nation was evident on Saturday, Aug. 20. It will go down as a day I will always remember where I was and what I was doing.

Joyce and I were part of the 11.7 million viewers – about one-third of Canadians – who watched what is said to be the final concert of the iconic Canadian band, The Tragically Hip. It was telecast commercial free on CBC, our public broadcaster for those reading from outside our country.

Although there are talented Canadian performers who have achieved greater acclaim outside this country, I can’t think of another band the CBC would interrupt Summer Olympic coverage to present their concert live.

While the band will stop performing now with the announcement frontman Gord Downie has terminal brain cancer, the music of this venerable band will not die. If anything, a new generation of listeners will be created by the outpouring of love and appreciation for the group.

Andrew Jones, Owner of Checkered Owl, media manager for Tasman Jude, Caleb Hart and Black Indie agrees: “There is something eternal about GREAT music. Something that resonates with us for years after it was written. It’s that feeling you get when you turn on an old Ella Fitzgerald record, a Nirvana track, stream some Run-D.M.C., dust off your record where Dylan went electric and something captures our heart. The best music, the music of a band like The Tragically Hip, never dies, its honesty reverberates throughout the culture, it influences the next generation and ensures their music will be at work for a very long time.”

How important was this concert to me? Well, typically when a concert or music special that I want to watch is on TV and the Toronto Blue Jays or Montreal Canadiens are playing, I PVR it for later viewing. I’m also not one to forego a chance for a campfire with friends but I took a raincheck on an invitation.

This time, it was music that had to take precedence. I knew the concert wouldn’t be just the final appearance of The Tragically Hip. It would be a celebration of a band that told the story of Canada and Canadians over the years, References to communities and storylines from across the country are peppered through its albums.

When Prime Minister Justin Trudeau learned of Gord Downie’s diagnosis in May, he tweeted: “Gord Downie is a true original who has been writing Canada’s soundtrack for more than 30 years.”

Those words sum up my feeling for the band. Although I have a greater collection of music by several other artists, this band is really the one group that has always spoke the fabric of this country.

I told Jessica Allossery, a singer/songwriter friend in London, Ontario, that I was writing this blog. She was eager to share her feelings about music and the impact of the band.

“The Tragically Hip’s final show brought Canadians together as one. As we paid our respects in gratitude and awe, the band put on their bravest faces, to perform their incredible final show. What a night we will all remember! This is a band that will forever go down in history, as it united Canada with our love of music, story and soul.”

Music evolves. It heals, tells stories, cheers us or helps us understand a situation. It creates conversation.

I used the phrase, “turn the page” with a work colleague the other day and he exclaimed, “Metallica!” I reminded him the song was originally produced by Bob Seger. The workmate told me I was showing my age. I responded that I was simply showing my taste in good music.

How many songs of the Beatles have been remade over the years? Bruce Springsteen devoted a complete album to the music of folk artist Pete Seeger.

Gord Downie himself once said: “Music is the ultimate medium for expressions of love, and those expressions find a beautiful backdrop in the environment. Music is also a popular rallying point — at its central core, it’s a way for people to get in touch with the best parts of themselves and to voice the love in their hearts. And the environment is one of the great loves of our lives — when we think of the best parts of ourselves, the environment is always there, informing us, as a backdrop.”

Earlier in August, we attended the first-ever Bear Creek Music Festival in Grande Prairie. This three-day event brought musical acts from around the world and attracted thousands of music lovers from near and far.

The event was a success on several levels. First of all, we were treated to a first class event. I was introduced to acts that I’d not previously heard of and as much as fiddle music is not my favourite, I couldn’t help but tap my toes and join in on a standing ovation when a set featuring a collection of artists came to an end.

That’s the thing about music. Just like millions of Canadians were moved to join together for a televised concert, it has the power and energy to get us to do things we might not normally do.

The Beatles penned a song titled While My Guitar Gently Weeps. This final concert of The Tragically Hip had many Canadians doing just that.

Thank you, Gord and bandmates for all you have done to entertain and move us.

 

Remembering Montina Rose Moffett

November 30, 2015 § 2 Comments

10007467_227876624064741_2126647087_nDuring the first month of my travels in 2014, I spent close to 2 weeks in Bali on a tour with a group of women from across North America – many of whom I had never met before. Nearly two years later, we are almost all still connected. We check in on one another, sometimes manage a visit if we’re in another’s part of the continent… and over this last weekend, I’m sure all of our thoughts have been with a member of our group in particular.

Before I landed in Bali, I had no idea who Montina Rose Moffett was. But after two short weeks with her, she is someone I will never forget.

When I met Montina, she had already been undergoing treatment for cancer. She had accepted it and was living every moment more fully than I’ve experienced any one else do. I admire how up front and open she was  about what she was going through – this is something I continue to struggle with on my best day with the people closest to me.

I have many fond memories of Montina, but there are two in particular that stand out:

The first was while we were staying in Kuta. We split up to visit different areas of Poppies Lane. We had all been talking about some of the spas that we saw with the little fish in them that would eat dead flesh off your hands or feet if you put them in the water (your hands or feet, not the fish. They, obviously, remained in the water). As I walked down the lane with a couple of the other women, we spied Montina and two other tour group members sitting outside of one of the shops with big smiles on their faces, their legs and feet dangling into a pool of the little fish! Laughing, because the nibbling tickled more than anything.

The second memory is of our visit to Tirta Empul in Ubud. Tirta Empul is a Hindu Balinese water temple famous for its holy spring water. We waded through its waist deep pools from fountain to fountain participating in a purification ceremony. Each of us had a different feeling coming away from the cleansing waters, but watching Montina go through each fountain was beautiful. She soaked it all in on a level of profoundness I’m not sure many of us could fully appreciate.

Less than a year after she returned from Bali, Montina passed away. The anniversary of her passing was over the weekend.

Montina, I only knew you for a short time, and there’s so much more I would have loved to know about you. Wherever you are, I trust you’ve found peace. Thank you for being such a shining example of having the courage to live every single one of yours days to its fullest. I think of you often and your spirit and energy continue to shine through as guides on my own journey.

Sending you my love and light.

xoxoxoxox

Wendy

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