Success is Different For Everyone

November 3, 2015 § 2 Comments

Success is no accident. It is hard work, perseverance, learning, studying, sacrifice and most of all, love of what you are doing or learning to do.” – Soccer star Pelé.

We took in the 36th GoodLife Victoria Marathon while vacationing in B.C.’s capital over the Canadian Thanksgiving Weekend.

Although I’ve never been a runner, I was captivated by the many storylines associated with the event.

Some were entered to train for higher levels of competition such as the 2016 Summer Olympics. Others were preparing for this year’s Boston Marathon. Others were first timers just hoping to complete the course.

There were 9,081 runners entered in total. Of those, 1,569 were competing in the Marathon, 3,855 were participating in the half marathon, 2,570 signed up for the 8 km course and 1,087 were in the Thrifty Foods Kids Run.

The star athletes stood out like in any sport. You could tell by their routines and the way they carried themselves.

As someone who played slo-pitch and ball hockey for a few years, I felt more connected with the participants struggling to make it across the finish line.

I do walk our dog daily but my strongest association with sports now is jumping out of my chair cheering passionately for the Montreal Canadiens and Toronto Blue Jays.

I’ve yet to set and fulfil fitness goals, having abandoned going to the gym on two occasions.

Therefore, setting a target to enter such a gruelling competition, regardless of whether it is a full-length marathon or a shorter distance and then reaching it is quite an achievement in my eyes.

Few reach Olympic glory. Some will enter competitions like this repeatedly to set better times and establish new fitness levels.

For a young friend, Jordan Skidnuk, it was a finish that would see him within two minutes of his personal best. But being one year removed from a broken leg, he was happy with the result.

Jordan has entered in marathons for several years, including being the youngest Canadian in the 2012 Boston Marathon.

His late father, Darrell, was a veteran marathoner.

Jordan’s girlfriend, Casey, eclipsed her previous best time in the half marathon by three minutes.

I’ve been thinking about writing these observations and how success will look different for each of us since returning from vacation.

This past Friday, I was inspired to push ahead.

I’d been invited, along with a couple of other colleagues, to share a talent at a teambuilding session with another department at work.

The department manager had heard I do readings of my writing.

Actually, it was the first time I’d had the opportunity to have a live audience for any of my creative work. I chose to read the story A Day in the life of Jasper, which I wrote for the Grande Prairie Public Library writing competition in 2010.

Since then, I have tinkered with turning the story into a book but have never made it past a second edit.

Another workmate, Arlene Karbashewski, read from her first book, The Treasure Kings.

I purchased a copy of the book and Arlene autographed it with the message, “May this inspire you to continue writing.”

This blog certainly hasn’t had the amount of entries from me over the last couple of years that I had hoped.

I learned that Arlene had only begun writing at age 40.

Sometimes people pick up talents later in life and, for others, it takes time for success to arrive.

Blue Jays fans were treated to the hitting exploits of outfielder/first baseman Chris Colabello this past season.

At age 32, he finally found his place in baseball after languishing in the minor leagues for several years.

Thankfully for the Blue Jays, he chose to sign on with Toronto and not take an offer to play in Korea this year.

Since turning that Jasper story into a book is a bucket list item, it was great timing to receive encouragement from another writer, a colleague who I discovered only recently is a published author.

It was also very cool to receive applause for a beloved story.

I couldn’t ask for better motivation. 

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Giving The Gift of Music

July 27, 2015 § 1 Comment

“Just take those old records off the shelf
I’ll sit and listen to ’em by myself
Today’s music ain’t got the same soul
I like that old time rock ‘n’ roll
Don’t try to take me to a disco
You’ll never even get me out on the floor
In ten minutes I’ll be late for the door
I like that old time rock ‘n’ roll …” – Bob Seger, in his hit Old Time Rock and Roll

The Detroit rocker is one of my favourite performers of all time and I’ve seen him in concert twice. In a recent visit to our son, Peter, in Kelowna, I did something better than enjoying music on my own.  I delivered some iconic records from my own collection as Peter has a fondness for playing vinyl recordings.

The Ties That Bind is a tune from Bruce Springsteen, another treasured artist. Music is one thing that connects Peter and me the most.

While our son has expanded his tastes well beyond what I encouraged him to listen to, sharing a variety of music was something I made a priority early on.

Over the years, Peter accompanied us to concerts ranging from B.B. King and George Thorogood to the Rolling Stones, Jonny Long, ZZ Top, Seger, and the Boss himself.

Fostering an appreciation of music is important. From the earliest days of mankind, it’s been considered a vital art form.

Philosopher Plato said, “Music is a moral law. It gives soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and charm and gaiety to life and to everything.”

Just as we teach our young to talk, read and write, music is another way to express ourselves. It can reflect our moods or get a message across in ways simple words cannot. It can buoy us when we are cheerful or soothe us if we’re down.

Five years ago, I wrote a blog in this space about what music means to me: https://themuseandviews.wordpress.com/?s=music

I’ve been to a few more concerts since then, including shows by Elton John, Steve Miller and John Fogerty.

The latter performer, as part of his band Credence Clearwater Revival, has long been part of my musical history and brings back childhood memories.

I recall Proud Mary belting out of my older brother Bob’s bedroom along with Smoke on the Water by Deep Purple, Mother in Law by Herman’s Hermits and We are Very Sorry Uncle Albert by Paul and Linda McCartney.

I grew up in Dawson Creek, B.C. where the country music fare was the order of the day on CJDC.

Although not a favourite musical genre, I do appreciate that Johnny Cash, Marty Robbins, Hank Williams, Sr., Tammy Wynette, Loretta Lynn, Dolly Parton, George Jones, and Willie Nelson were giants in the industry.

My own musical tastes range from rock and roll to blues, folk and jazz and I’ve been influenced by friends and colleagues over the years.

I’m glad Peter chose to explore music well beyond what I shared with him. But it was a proud moment when he asked to have some of my records.

These included albums by Elvis Costello, the Beatles, Credence Clearwater Revival, the Rolling Stones, Simon and Garfunkel, and ELO.

Here’s Peter’s take on the passing of the musical torch:

When you take a look at my most recently purchased records, the influence of my parents on my musical taste is hardly evident.

Last week I picked up Run the Jewels’ second LP Run the Jewels II, and a few weeks before that, my haul from the local independent record store included The Roots’ …And Then You Shoot Your Cousin, Canadian punk-rock outfit, Pup’s first self-titled full length, and Modest Mouse’s Building Nothing Out of Something.

That said, others in my collection represent a heavy influence from the music that was directly passed down to me (the guys from Gaslight Anthem might as well be Bruce Springsteen’s kids) via the stereo on the Saturday and Sunday mornings of my adolescence.

Nostalgia plays a big factor in some of the music that I like. I still think of those aforementioned Saturday and Sunday mornings whenever I hear a CCR song and a lot of the bands that I like pull influence from a genre I like to call “Dad-Rock.” But that doesn’t account for my love of Hardcore-Punk, my appreciation for Hip-Hop, my proclivity for Death Metal.

This is because the significance of what you pass on is inconsequential; it’s teaching how to like music that is focal to a shared generational appreciation for music. Sure, my dad instilled in me a love of Springsteen, Warren Zevon, and Thorogood, but it was far more crucial that he nurtured in me a penchant for the eclectic.

I have been to hundreds of concerts ranging from Pop-Rock acts like Bedouin Soundclash to Black Metal ones like Behemoth, from the Punk Rock of SNFU to the folky strumming of Dave Hause.

Some of my fondest memories are of concerts, punk shows, and festivals and I can’t say that a love for live music, no matter the genre, would have been sparked had it not been for my parents bringing me along to concerts when they could have just as easily hired a babysitter.

I look forward to the days when I can pass on a wide-ranging love of music to my future child or children as it is one of the most powerful things you can do as a parent.

While I enjoy sharing my taste in music with Peter, my own musical horizons have been broadened through him.  Some of my collection includes artists Peter recommendations such as the Black Keys, Mumford and Sons and Seasick Steve.

Peter’s desire to carry on our tradition is music to my ears.

Being the Dad of a Grad

June 22, 2015 § 2 Comments

Okanagan College BannerThirty-three years ago, I received my Diploma in Communications and Certificate in Journalism from what is now Kwantlen Polytechnic University in Richmond, B.C. Earlier this month, it was my turn to watch our son graduate from Okanagan College in Kelowna.

While it’s a milestone in our family to watch our only child take those next steps toward launching a career, thousands of other parents go through the same experience every year.

Countless other dads get to show their sons how to do a Windsor knot in a tie this year.

However, what I found remarkable was that all the speakers stepped to the podium combining to deliver essentially the same message I’ve already been sharing with young people – that youth today have more opportunities than ever before.

When I graduated to pursue work in journalism, you could find employment in print, television and radio.

I determined that I had a face for radio but not the voice and that sports writing was what I really wanted to do when I began my career.

In today’s world, you can specialize in social media and there are other numerous other niches such as green marketing. You can author copy in Canada about events in another country without stepping foot in that nation.

The range of other communications jobs that have emerged since my own graduation includes web content production and creating podcasts.

Even blogs were not yet a thing when I entered the workforce. Yes, there was life before the Internet.

And as graduates were reminded, jobs have been invented even since they began their college careers.

Pursuing a Writing and Publishing diploma wasn’t Peter’s first post-secondary choice. After trying a couple of terms at college, he decided to work in retail and construction before determining what he really wanted to pursue.

While Peter will be working in communications, something I can relate to, it’s much more important to me that he’s passionate about whatever he does.

I’m fond of the Confucius quote, “Find a job that you love and you’ll never work another day in your life.”

If I’ve inspired Peter and other young people about anything, it’s to find enjoyment in their employment and to think of what they do as more than a job.

That doesn’t mean being a workaholic – I’ve been called that – it’s more about considering what you’re doing fitting into the bigger picture, either for your current workplace or future opportunities.

I cringe when I hear people say they are bored or stuck in a rut at work. Even in a less predictable economy, we should still be masters of our own destiny.

That’s why the words of Okanagan College president Jim Hamilton, in particular, resonated with me. His key messages were:

Be present in all that you do. Take the time to engage with those around you – the best ideas are born of collaboration.

Be intentional about how you spend your time and about the work you choose to do. Follow your instincts and find a career and a life that aligns with your values – engage in work that is personally meaningful to you.

Give back. Use the skills you have acquired to transform yourself and your community.
Okanagan College graduates were told that most people will work in several careers in their working years.

A continuum of jobs has contributed to one career for me.

I began in journalism, moved on to corporate writing and editing, operated my own communications business, then returned to the public sector, first as a communications officer and now as a manager.

Okanagan College graduates would be wise to follow Mr. Hamilton’s advice.
Some sage words they might also heed come from the late Peter Drucker, management consultant, educator and author.

He once said, “The best way to predict the future is to create it.”

Son Peter will go as far as his ambition takes him. I wish him and all graduates much success in the next chapters of their lives.

A Trip Down Memory Lane

June 1, 2015 § 3 Comments

Desk 1I’ve been thinking about this topic for a few weeks, but the timing is best now.

Tuesday would have been my father’s 93rd birthday. He’s been gone for 26 years but a surprise reminder occurred when my older brother, Bob Jr., delivered our dad’s rolltop desk from Canmore, Alberta, recently.

The old piece of furniture has endured a tough life. When I first grew up, it remained at the old farmhouse where my father was raised in North Rolla, B.C. It was moved into Dawson Creek, thankfully, before vandals burned down all the buildings at the farm.

Once at our house, the desk, probably more than 100 years old, proved to be a landing spot for my father’s paperwork. I think I inherited my lack of filing prowess from him.

My father willed the desk to Bob and I snapped up the opportunity to take it when my brother began downsizing.

I remember always being fascinated with the desk – its many cubby holes, the deep drawers, the handiwork behind the rolltop, and the solid oak structure.

The arrival of the desk was an opportunity to connect with Bob, my sister-in-law, Louise, and their son, Logan. I hadn’t seen my nephew in a few years and memories of my dad rushed back into my head.

I’ve been without my father almost as long as I had him – I was 28 when he passed away.

The desk is a reminder of my father, beyond its physical presence. It is strong. It has character. Its dark stain makes it appear stoic. My father had an enduring quality, though he passed away much too young at age 66.

Although it needs some tender loving care, the desk is reminiscent of my dad’s relentless drive to excel as a highways foreman, a position in which he rarely missed a day’s work, even when seriously ill.

Dad might have been called a workaholic though that term wasn’t used widely in his generation.

I believe we share a lot of the same qualities – caring, compassion, generosity, a sense of fairness and justice, and a wry sense of humour. He was shy until he got to know people. I am the same, though my career choice has found me coming to grips with public speaking and schmoozing upon occasion.

He preferred talking one-on-one to people, often workmates about a project. Through practice, I have learned to be comfortable in crowds, though I like smaller groups, talking about shared interests like sports or music.

I gained my work ethic from Dad but also learned the value of playing hard, something he was just figuring out how to do when he passed away.

Ironically, he died on the way home after watching his first NHL hockey game in person. I have been to many professional sporting events live along with going to numerous concerts, another love of mine.

Dad’s idea of going on vacation was to get from points A to B as fast as possible. I enjoy compiling hordes of information and then plotting out a general plan, with room to be spontaneous.

I’m thrilled the arrival of the desk provided a new opportunity to think about my father.

Happy Birthday, Dad. We’ll take good care of your desk and continue thinking of you often.

How I Learned To Let Go

March 16, 2015 § 3 Comments

Flickr Photo Credit: Randy Heinitz

Flickr Photo Credit: Randy Heinitz

I’ve been back in Canada for nearly two months after my year long adventure through 14 countries on 5 continents. I’m having a hard time grasping that year, it’s almost as though it didn’t really happen, like I kidnapped myself from my surroundings for just a brief second and then inserted myself back into my life–but with one difference.

All that baggage I held on to for so long, a lot of it isn’t there anymore.

I’ve come home and Calgary feels different. As I lay in bed this morning pondering what it’s become, it occurred to me that it might not be the city that has changed so much, the Wendy who left for Bangladesh in January, 2014 is not the one who returned from Costa Rica in January, 2015.

Somebody (me) messed with my insides last year, or rather, cleaned them all up!

The woman who has returned is a sharper version of myself, and one who’s developed a knack for standing up for herself and not putting up with my bullshit.

The biggest piece of me that’s missing (not to say that I miss it), is the guilt of being the sibling who lived after the accident that killed my brother. I grappled with that for many months, in fact I still have a lot of emotion tied into moving forward, but that’s more sadness and remorse for my former self, that I let her suffer with that guilt for as long as she did.

I know I’ve made a change in the way I take on guilt because I’m not switching one guilt only to shoulder another. I allow myself to feel emotion and find ways to move through it, sometimes that’s journalling, sometimes it’s giving myself a pj and junk food day, other days it’s treating myself to exercise and as many vitamin-packed foods as I can handle.

It also took me some time to figure out my process of letting go. Moving past the guilt involved feeling it first, and I mean bringing it right up close to me and embracing every ounce of it. Those are not my favourite moments, I can assure you. What drove me at first to stick it out was just being fed up with the way I had set up my life, the lack of support I nurtured for myself and trying to make up for a life that held so much promise, but that wasn’t even my own. I didn’t know if where I was headed was any better, but I knew it would be different. That was enough.

I spent time watching what happens when I physically let go of something. I’d hang on to a pen from my bag and let it drop onto the table or the bed, just to give my mind a visual of what letting go looks like. It’s quite literally a decision to relax and open up.

“Forgiveness is the fragrance that the violet sheds on the heel that has crushed it.”

– Mark Twain

Letting go in an emotional sense for me involves forgiveness, and has a lot to do with the tattoo I got in Bali last year. When I visited my step-sister, Laura, in Costa Rica, she shared a mantra that’s helped me take this further. She strives to simply meet people where they’re at, and wherever that is is just dandy.

Laura also shared a video interview of Wayne Dyer with me. The interview is about EFT tapping and has a lot of great points, but I found a different message in the video as Nick Ortner and Wayne Dyer talk about what emotion they’re beginning to release as they complete the EFT tapping:

Wayne Dyer: “I was thinking about someone else who has done some things that I’ve felt upset about…”
Nick Ortner: “You mean you still get upset at people?”
Wayne Dyer: “Absolutely.”
Nick Ortner: “I thought you had reached enlightenment.”
Wayne Dyer: “I have! Enlightenment is part of it.”

Woah, Wayne Dyer still gets annoyed with people? I drew a new conclusion and direction to my healing–and it’s made all the difference. Eradication of the emotion or the issue is not the way through. I will always have experiences that bring me happiness, sadness, guilt, pleasure and a plethora of feelings. But they’re just that, experiences to be lived through with as much of myself as I can muster and when they’ve ended, it’s time to let them go and to make room for more life to move through me.

Furkids And Our Family

February 23, 2015 § 3 Comments

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The end of February is a favourite time of year.  Winter is coming to a close and it’s a tradition in our family to watch the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show.

Even Mica, our seven-month-old puppy, joined us this year, frequently gawking up at the TV with curiosity at the furkids running into our living room.

This year’s viewing was bittersweet. It’s a year ago later this week that we suddenly lost our beloved Jasper.

If there was ever an example of how much a pooch becomes part of the family, it was Jasper. I’ve written a few times about how Jasper thought he was a human.

My eyes welled up often as I watch the Dog Show as they described the role canines play in watching out for their families while providing amusements for adults and children.

It’s a cliché, but dogs really are humans’ best friends. They are loyal and don’t hold grudges. They’re always ready to make our day. They make you smile, even when you don’t feel like it. They provide comfort and are the best listeners, whether we have tales of woe or happy stories to share.

Shortly after we brought Mica into our home in September, a work colleague, Karry, shared the verse below by author Erica Jong. It perfectly describes what dogs mean to us:

Dogs come into our lives to teach us about love,
they depart to teach us about loss.
A new dog never replaces an old dog;
It merely expands the heart. If you have loved
many dogs your heart is very big.

Joyce and I have been married nearly 29 years and we’ve had a dog almost 27 of those.

First, there was Sammi. She was always nervous and traumatized from shoddy treatment prior to joining our family. She was smart-as-a-whip, the most patient big sister when Peter was a toddler, gnawing on her legs, and the most loyal dog ever.

Then there was Jasper, a golden lab/shepherd/mutt cross.  He was once described diplomatically as rambunctious by a neighbour but he wanted to be everyone’s friend. His belief that he was a person was defined by taking up his full third share of our bed.

Mica, a Bouvier-Golden Retriever cross, is still forming her personality, which, much like her fur, is still trying to figure itself out – she was born completely black but now tufts of white are showing through.

Anyone who thinks dogs are just animals has never come home from a stressful day to a happy-faced puppy, wagging its tail, bounding up to greet you.

Here’s to the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show for reminding us of all the various breeds of these fine companions. And here’s to all the joy they bring my family and all the other furparents out there.

Inspiring And Being Inspired

February 2, 2015 § 4 Comments

Photo credit: Lauren Nelson

Photo credit: Lauren Nelson

Co-author Wendy and I started this blog more than five years ago to create content for a motivational/inspirational book(s). While we’re devoted to encouraging others, our thoughts are naturally shaped by events, people, situations, and the moving words of others.

I’ve reflected on some people who’ve inspired me in the past and even in recent days.

I was reminded of the first individual on Jan. 24 when alerted on Linkedin to Ian Nielsen-Jones’ birthday.

Ian was the president of the Ontario Lottery Corporation when I signed on in 1992.

The message he conveyed during new employee orientation sticks with me to this day and has been a strong influence on how I do my job.

Ian told new staff that if someone saw them in a store wearing a company jacket and had a lottery-related question, they should either be able to answer the enquiry or know how to direct the customer.

Now a senior competition expert at the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, Ian encouraged us to consider ourselves as ambassadors. I have adapted that thinking to every job since, particularly when dealing with the public.

Inspiring Global Leaders

At the City of Grande Prairie, I strive to engage residents in recognizing their voices count.

Who better than Nelson Mandela to illustrate how an individual can make a difference? In December, we marked a year since the death of the former South African president.

Mandela could have easily given up after 27 years in prison. Instead, he would see to the end of apartheid.

He once stated, “There is no passion to be found playing small – in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.”

Teachers Guiding The Way

I have a soft spot for teachers, having worked in the education sector for many years.

The work of two friends inspired me to tell their stories.

Natalie Richer, a Grade 5 teacher in Ottawa, is a leader in the Be the Game leadership and mentorship program. It’s an initiative to end the cycle of bullying while building strong character in elementary and secondary students.

“I see the effects of bullying and, more particularly, cyber-bullying in my class every single day,” she says.

“In January 2013, I was looking for a solution when CTV Morning Live Ottawa tweeted they would have Joe Drexler on their show to talk about his program. I quickly searched more about it to see if it was something I could implement in my classroom.”

The program is geared towards acts of kindness. By shifting the mindset of students towards the positive, bullying can be decreased.

Always an optimist, Natalie wrote Drexler for details, including whether the program was available in French.

“While it wasn’t, yet, we started to exchange emails about my views on his program, as a teacher. I learned more and tried a version of the program by myself in the classroom. The 21 Day Challenge is simple, yet effective.

“I got more and more involved and offered my input and ideas. The program evolved, the partners are growing and we are touching more and more students. I had the chance to see Joe in action with different age groups and while the messaging differs, appropriately, he manages to impact so many students with his inspirational presentation.

“Especially with high school students, he has an extremely touching story of a young girl that took her life after months of cyber-bullying. It touches them in ways we never thought possible and pushes them to make real, long-lasting change. We believe that talking about the real issues and effects is what makes this program worthwhile.

“The kids want to be better and sometimes don’t realize how powerful their words are. Because they’re so good at manipulating electronic devices, doesn’t mean they know the possible effects of spreading online hate. They want to talk about it and to learn more. I truly believe that our programs make a difference and that every school should get it. With the help of today’s youth, I truly believe that, together, we can create change and make a difference!

Julianna Oligny is a teacher to be. She’s also destined to be a great educator.

“What got me into special education was my work at the summer camp where I helped autistic and children with Down syndrome. I simply fell in love with them and their joy of life, so I can say that my biggest inspiration is them,” she says.

“I love to make people happy and I try my best to help anyone who needs it. Pay it forward is my way of thinking.”

Julianna actually began studying to be a graphic designer but after the first summer camp, she knew what her future was meant to be.

“I finished my studies in that domain and I knew that that’s not what I wanted to do with my life. I wanted to do something better, to help the world.

She’s now in her third year of her bachelor in Special Education at the University of Montreal.

“My goals are to be someone that kids look up to, to inspire them to never give up no matter how hard it can be. I want to be that person who won’t give up on them like so many did before.”

Promoting Mental Health

#BellLetsTalk was an overwhelming success for raising funds to address mental health needs and creating meaningful conversations. It encouraged people to reach out to those requiring help and for those in need to get assistance.

I made many new connections through promoting the campaign in late January, including Natasha Bustos, a student, who lives in Ontario. I was impressed with her as a #BellLetsTalk warrior on twitter.

“I have been very passionate about the importance of mental health for as long as I can remember,” she says. “I’ve always cared about making sure that my friends and family are doing well, and helping them in any way that I could if they weren’t.”

Natasha found dealing with her own personal strife over the past year has given her a greater understanding of mental health issues.

“What makes me so passionate about mental health though, is that it doesn’t receive as much attention as physical health. I truly believe that our mental health is just as important as our physical health which is why I am trying to bring awareness to it and want to help people in any way that I can.”

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