Taking Up the Torch

November 26, 2012 § 5 Comments

“I am obliged to contribute if I care enough.” – Trenton Perrott, 1957-2012, in an excerpt from his personal journal, September-October.

How often have you attended an event and felt inspired by a speaker only to do nothing as a result?

So often we feel momentarily engaged and then return to our routine, not motivated to make a change. The words above are ones I won’t ever forget. They will assuredly make a difference for me and others.

Sadly, I could not receive the message directly from the author.

On Saturday, they were delivered by Trenton’s brother, Dale, as Grande Prairie celebrated the life of a significant community builder, particularly in the arts and culture and business sectors.

Dale went on to say that Trenton, who lost his two-year battle with cancer earlier this month, had it backwards – that he did care a lot about many things – his community, country and family topped the list.

Trenton touched people in many different ways. As a fellow manager in my service area at the City of Grande Prairie, we had regular interaction, particularly since he oversaw the website as well as advocacy initiatives and I’m Manager of Marketing and Communications.

I always appreciated Trenton’s thirst for strategic planning, his passion for history and politics, and his vision for creating change. He was a mentor to colleagues at all levels and got the most out of those around him with his quiet leadership.

Why will the words from Trenton’s journal make a difference to me? He walked the talk. Trenton was a model of courage and class as he dealt with his disease. He lived his final months with a level of dignity I’ve never witnessed.

Even in his waning time with us, Trenton continued to do as much work as he could. He encouraged me and others to do more in the workplace and within the community.

In August, he invited me to attend a Rotary meeting with him. Not just any Rotary meeting. A long-time Rotarian, Trenton was one of the initiators of the new After Five club in Grande Prairie. He was even willing to pay my membership.

We had a good, long chat before the meeting. I always cherished my discussions with Trenton. As I learned on Saturday, I would not be alone in often finding myself in long, drawn-out but rewarding talks with Trenton.

Unfortunately, all my dialogue with Trenton was contained to the workplace so I didn’t get a chance to share any of the wine and scotch for which he is renowned for enjoying.

It would be the last time we spoke at any length. I could tell there wasn’t much time left for Trenton, but that didn’t stop him from sharing even more ideas and demonstrating how much he cared about his workplace and colleagues.

Of course, he didn’t stop there. Trenton arranged for me to speak to the Rotary group in October about the City’s Citizen Engagement Program, activateGP, just a few weeks before the initiative launched on Nov. 5.

I wish he could’ve been there to hear me speak in more than spirit and attend the kick-off event, too.

But he knew how important this initiative is to me as the project leader and the municipality. It ties in with so much he believed in – community involvement, partnerships, connecting people, and making the place you live a better place to be.

And new features on the new website Trenton so much wanted to see introduced last February contribute to involving residents. I’m thrilled he and his team saw that project through to fruition.

I don’t know that I will follow through and join Rotary at this time with two other significant volunteer positions already on my plate. I do know that I will be even more driven to make a difference in the community.

And I think that is all Trenton really expected of me – that I would realize I had more within me.

I was honoured to be asked to assist in the production of the video for Saturday’s tribute. In the process, I had the opportunity to speak for a few minutes with Joanne, Trenton’s wife, another example of class and strength.

She shared with me that Trenton had spoken of how he had unfinished work to do.

I assured her that others would pick up the torch.

I will be one of them. Rest in peace, Trenton. Your legacy will live on.

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Still Searching For Home

November 19, 2012 § Leave a comment

Earlier this year, I entered the 2012 Clem and Muriel Collins Writing Contest through the Grande Prairie Public Library. As we used to say in my days working with the Ontario Lottery Corporation, I was a non-winner.

As competitive as I am, I actually don’t think of the outcomes – yet to place in three tries – as winning and losing. It really is more about how the theme resonates with me.

Firstly, although I’ve been a writer for 30 years, it’s only been the last few years where I have really explored my creative, non-journalistic, corporate side. Second, as with my story on Jasper, my dog, these entries can later be converted into a larger project – I continue to tinker with a book manuscript. Third, because I have this blog, I can always feature my work here, as I have with a couple of earlier submissions.

Lastly, I can take the topic in a different direction which is what I’m doing with this post.

The theme for this year’s competition was Home. Instead of pursuing some initial, more emotional thoughts about that word means to me, I tried my first-ever piece of fiction and wrote a baseball-related piece. I want to go back now and share what Home means to me.

When I first heard the theme, I began thinking of the quotable quotes that use Home, like: “Home is where the heart is” or “Keep the home fires burning” or “There is no place like Home”. It turns out that when I actually read the brochure as I started to compose my entry, all these quotes and others were used as examples of what Home might mean.

While those phrases do have some connection, especially for someone who’s been happily married for 26 years, I struggled to put any strong feeling around them. I was challenged to explain what was really on my mind. It was then my wife suggested I attempt writing something totally fictitious.

Now that I’ve given it some deeper thought, Home is a place of the mind – somewhere I continue to seek. I think this relates to an earlier blog where I wrote that I always think there is something more – new things to learn and higher levels of achievement, professionally and personally.

Who knows whether I’ll ever really reach home from that standpoint? It’s the journey that matters.

As I get more life experience and work toward more of that elusive balance people yearn to achieve, perhaps I’m getting closer to my definition of home. Heck, it was just three years ago that this blog was born and I can truly say there have been many more personal and professional achievements since then.

On the professional side, one of my proudest moments occurred earlier this month with the launch of the City of Grande Prairie’s Citizen Engagement Program, activateGP.

Interestingly, at the kick-off the meaning of Home arose. Some participants think of amenities or particular qualities of a community, like friendliness, that make a place feel like home.

Since Grande Prairie has doubled in size since 1991, many residents are from somewhere else. For quite a number, it is that former country or other part of Canada that is Home. Some are unsure yet whether their current location is home.

To me, home in that sense is where you are situated. I’ve found comfort in the places I’ve lived across the country and re-invested through volunteer activities in every community. I have always said, “Home is where you hang your hat.”

I was talking to my friend Nikki Thompson, the marketing co-ordinator for nine10 Incorporated in Grande Prairie, the other day. Her thoughts tie nicely into this piece.

Here is what she had to say: “In 2009, I was in college and I had the feeling I was constantly missing out on what the world has to offer. I thought, ‘What the heck does Grande Prairie have? Nothing, that’s what!’ I felt unsettled. However, I was heading to New York City with our marketing class at the start of the New Year. NYC would surely have what I was looking for as it’s the hub for everything new and exciting. I’d never miss out on anything. I got there and it was incredible but nothing worth leaving Grande Prairie for. It is hard to explain but my world becoming smaller had cured my need to experience everything first.”

“Home is where you feel settled mentally, where comfort and remaining opportunistic meet to keep one engaged in where they are – a sense of belonging with purpose.”

Where is home to you? Is it a specific place? Are you there?

Once Upon A Time…

November 12, 2012 § 2 Comments

Flickr credit: Pascal

Have you ever listened to the stories you’re telling yourself? Sure you have. They replay in our minds all the time. Stories about the kind of people we are, what our lives are like, where we’ve been and who we are striving to become. We tell ourselves stories about the world around us, what our friends, teammates, coworkers and others are like, or what parts of the world are going through. It’s how we gain perspective, how we make sense of things and how we build a foundation to move forward with.

Stories are such an incredible part of how we build meaning and connection in our lives. And yet, when these stories run unchecked, when we don’t say them out loud and share them with someone, they have the potential to become dangerous truths we embed in our hearts.

Two weeks ago, I wrote a blog post about a skewed story I made up about myself and where I’ve come from in the last decade.  I’m thankful for the support network I’ve built and the skills I’ve been honing to unravel limiting beliefs. They’ve helped me identify the story and come full circle.

After I settled back into the picture of coming from a family that wanted me, I began recalling so many good memories. I remembered when my mom spent hours sewing and making my princess costume just right for Halloween when I was a young girl. I remembered tagging along with my dad and hanging out on a red stool at the Skylark Café in Millet. I was pretty little, but it was one of my favourite things to do with him. And then there were all of the trips my grandparents would make to come out and visit us. I was always tickled pink when they made it down for one of my skating recitals. My parents drove my brother and I to and from our various activities… plenty of hockey games and tournaments for him. Dance lessons, skating competitions and tests, rugby games and piano lessons for me. The hours they invested in nurturing our talents and doing their best to provide as much as they could for us… when did I let myself forget about all of that?

If I had known then what I know now, I would’ve spent a whole lot more time talking about the feelings and thoughts happening beneath my surface. I would’ve installed a few checks and balances to guide me in the right direction and tell me when I’d fallen well of course. The good news is, I’ve got those checks and balances now. A carefully curated group of individuals I can bounce my story off of and see if it rings true from their perspectives. It’s like using my own sonar to create my images, sending out pulses and seeing what bounces back. Often, it’s a much different picture than the one I painted for myself.

Whatever story it is you’re telling yourself, I encourage you to run it by a few people before deciding it’s something you’re going to stick with. Whether it’s in evaluating a situation you think will help you, something that builds you up, or attempting to assess the challenges standing in your path, often an outside perspective can help identify the holes in what you’re weaving. It may take a bit of time to go through the prep, but ultimately, you’ll be able to move forward better equipped to navigate successfully to your next destination.

Where Am I?

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