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.”
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.
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?
June 4, 2012 § Leave a comment
“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”
This favourite quote by author, humourist and lecturer Mark Twain came to mind when I read blogmate Wendy’s recent post about turning 30 and how she’s determined to go for it all.
Wendy once paid me a great compliment by acknowledging that we’re very much alike, particularly in terms of our outlook, though I’m nearly 22 years older.
She will live a dynamic life and flourish at whatever she sets out to do. But then Wendy’s no slouch now, whether it’s the enthusiasm for her job at Yelp Calgary, her passion for ultimate Frisbee or the emotion her writing exudes.
I can predict this with certainty because the one advantage I have over my younger friend is experience.
I’ve seen how attitude drives altitude in life and I thrive on being connected with driven, ambitious people.
Now it’s true that I’m not a millionaire yet. While a paid off mortgage would definitely be great, I’m rich in many other intangible and important ways.
For example, I take great comfort in knowing the phrase “I’m bored” has never crossed my lips and never will.
It’s also exciting to realize I’ve yet to reach my own potential, Far from it, though I have no regrets. In fact, I know I’ve mentored and inspired others to reach greater heights. That is a powerful feeling.
There is always something more to accomplish, whether in relationships, hobbies, careers or self-improvement, in general.
The key is to continually stoke the fires of passion in all aspects of life – whether that’s examining new employment prospects, taking on volunteer opportunities or finding activities that broaden your friend and interest bases.
I draw energy from people like Wendy who strive to live life to the fullest. That’s easier said than done at times. On the other hand, have you ever noticed how much life is sucked out of you by people who are constantly negative or miserable?
Any sustainable life success is bound to occur by surrounding yourself by like-minded people.
Sometimes you can’t control these factors, particularly in the workplace. It’s certainly a rush when you provide someone with an opportunity to work on a project and they react with excitement.
As legendary football coach Lou Holtz once said, “Ability is what you’re capable of doing. Motivation determines what you do. Attitude determines how well you do it.”
I recently received a random jolt of inspiration when I spoke to Vanessa Besharah, a summer student at the Grande Prairie Regional Tourism Association office, for the first time.
She’d turned down a previously held job to take on this one because of her passion for it.
Her words resonated with me. Not too many others speak about their employment in that way.
I’ll share some other comments. They were a breath of fresh air.
“My outlook in life is that people need to stop, breathe and realize there are so many things in the world that are more important than their career and money,” she says.
Vanessa completed her business studies at Grande Prairie Regional College this spring. She believes a job should be taken because it provides happiness and enjoyment.
“To me, family and my relationship are more important than work and I would drop anything to help them because they’re the ones that are going to be there when you need them.”
Finding balance is quite simple, but it takes effort, she says.
“A lot of people stay in their comfort zone and do not take chances,” she says. “There are so many places to see in this world; people just have to jump in their car and start to drive. We need to get away from work and try to find that balance in life. On a day off, just jump in your car and explore. I was surprised how many people have not even been to many places that are only two hours away and they’ve lived in Grande Prairie their whole life.
“What inspires me so much is when you realize that it’s the small things in life you do for other people that makes them so happy and thankful.”
Vanessa leads a running group in Grande Prairie and helped members reach their goal of achieving a 10 km distance.
“I never knew it meant a lot to people, just the small things and time spent helping people. So next time just say ‘hi’ to someone or lend a helping hand or just hear someone out. It means a lot to people in ways you will never know.”
Vanessa plans to take some time to travel this fall and discover more about herself before pursuing Alberta Fitness Leadership Certification Association training.
“This will allow me to teach fitness and get paid for what I enjoy doing.”
She also plans to take human resources courses online.
“My life isn’t mapped out but I have come to term with that. I think that it’s fine not knowing what’s going to happen so you are more likely to take chances and experience what life throws at you.”
I’m certain Vanessa will go as far as her ambition takes her.
Music is often a topic when Wendy and I speak, so I can’t think of a better way to end this blog than with lyrics from Fleetwood Mac’s song Don’t Stop Thinking About Tomorrow:
Don’t stop, thinking about tomorrow
Don’t stop, it’ll soon be here
It’ll be, better than before
Yesterday’s gone, yesterday’s gone
Don’t you look back, don’t you look back.
February 27, 2012 § 4 Comments
Over the past few weeks, with St. Valentine’s Day being celebrated in February, people around the world have focused on love and how to express it.
For me, after being married for almost 26 years, I’ve come to know that love in a relationship is something that is nurtured by both people involved. It continues to evolve and you see it illustrated in different ways, physically, through gestures or words.
Does love extend beyond individuals to larger groups of people, to communities? Do people have a relationship with the place they live?
I think so. It gives me goose bumps every time I hear of someone performing a random act of kindness. It brings tears to my eyes when I see someone recognizing they can make a difference to those around them.
Jody Kettyle is someone who realized she could do her own part to make Grande Prairie a better place by focusing on the good news – which there is plenty of – that doesn’t make headlines.
She started the Kinder Gentle Side of Grande Prairie Facebook page:
It has 360 members as I write. I’ve included some of the entries below. But first, I thought I would share a bit of Jody’s story.
Like me, Jody has lived in Grande Prairie twice. My job as Manager of Marketing and Communications with the City involves promoting the municipality and the community. In her job as a delivery driver, she sees and hears of negative things that can and do happen anywhere. She wanted to create a forum for people to celebrate what’s good here.
“There are a lot of wonderful things that happen in this city, but unfortunately happy, good things don’t sell papers,” she told me. “I came home on my birthday and saw the wonderful greetings people had put on my Facebook wall, and I was feeling the love. I wanted to share that feeling with as many people as I could so I started the group on January 5th. Someone told me once to be the change I wanted to see. I have wanted to do something like this for a very long time. I am so happy to live in this city and even more so now that I feel the emphasis is definitely shifting to the more loving, caring side of humanity.”
Jody wishes there could be a good news channel staffed with reporters who circulate through the community looking for the wonderful things people are doing.
“I guess I am a bit of a dork and a dreamer but it won’t stop me from believing we should celebrate the good things,” she says.
Here are some recent posts I wanted to share:
Ruth Hamm (Post 1): I am amazed by the huge hearts of the people of Grande Prairie. Three of us from Grande Prairie leave for Uganda in 3 days to do some relief work in a village as well as work with street children in Kampala where 50% of the children live on the street.
Individuals that I do not even know have come through with huge hearts and generosity. Thank-you hardly seems adequate for how this project has been blessed by you. May you feel blessed in return.
Ruth Hamm (Post 2): Today as I was busy trying to settle my clients prior to leaving for Uganda for a few weeks, one of them called and asked me to come by his home for a bit. As I was preparing to leave after our chat he handed me 2 balls with the Canadian flag on them. He had gone to the Dollar Store to purchase them for the street kids I am going to work with in Kampala!! I just wanted to cry as I accepted them…this from a man who himself was homeless up until a few weeks ago.
Michelle Wurtz Dana Wall: A wonderful story. I went to the Co-op with my daughter and grabbed a few things. When I was standing in line, I realized I’d left my purse in the car. I asked the lady if I could leave my stuff there and she could ring in the next guy… no prob…When I got back with my purse the lady in front of me paid for my groceries for me!!! Wow!! All she said was “pay it forward”.
Jen Simons: I would just like to thank everyone who stepped up over the last couple of days to help out those affected by the cold snap. So many people have given up their own time to be out in the cold rescuing others with boosts and rides, not because they were obligated to, but out of the goodness of their hearts; I hope they know how appreciated they are.
Tracey Matchett Silliker: I go to Sun Capsule fitness and I went for a tan and left my gold necklace hanging in the tanning bed. I did not realize I had left it there until the next morning. The necklace means a lot to me as my hubby bought it for me for our 12th anniversary. I called them first thing and the lady said she didn’t see anything. So after dropping my son at school I went to the gym…. And after looking, it was in the desk taped to a paper with my name on it. Someone could have easily taken it but thankfully someone kind found it and did the right thing. I was almost in tears when they found it 🙂
Darlene M. Astle: I just want to shout out a big ‘Thank You’ to a fellow GP resident who came to my house yesterday to drop off a chopping block for firewood. My husband was out at the bank to get some cash to pay the guy but wasn’t back in time, so the nice guy gave it to me free of charge! It’s refreshing to know that there are still kind people around to help when you need it! :).
Patricia Colosimo-Andreeff: I have had a very rough 2011. Out of the blue, a yoga-instructor friend of mine invited me to her classes for free. Her friend offered me the same gift. OMG! Totally unexpected and right what I needed.
Janice Kretzer-Prysunka: Two nights ago my crazy golden retriever found an open gate and took off … The coldest night and he’s off by himself. We looked and looked, posted on Facebook and called the radio stations. Very kind people in my neighborhood recognized him and noticed he was loose. They watched as he found a dryer vent across from their house to warm up under and then they called him over (he came of course, he’s a retriever!) I was so relieved to get their call and thankful that someone noticed a serious situation and took action!
Vicki Vienneau: I would like to give props to DeAnne Conway-Podolchyk!! DeAnne offered to purchase a bed for a lady with cancer who is sleeping on an air mattress!!! We definitely need many more people like her in the world 🙂 She totally made someone’s day and is going to make a huge difference in that person’s life :).
Angie Kipke: A huge THANK YOU to my neighbour for snow plowing my driveway yesterday. I so appreciate it!
Meanwhile, this past Sunday evening, a gathering of 40 residents assembled for the first gpsoup event, an initiative that emanated from the City of Grande Prairie’s Love for Cities workshop. After a meal of soup and bread, participants voted on ideas for projects that were brought forward at the meeting.
The $10 collected from attendees at the inaugural event will go toward a bird house building project with kindergarten students (A total of $402.60).
The gpsoup (check out www.gpsoup.com, #gpsoup on twitter or http://www.facebook.com/groups/334373066581266/#!/gpsoup) concept is intended to be an ongoing initiative.
Congratulations to Heather Renner and Lloyd Piehl for taking the leadership to spearhead its development.
Perhaps they have adapted the famous John F. Kennedy quote for local purposes – they are doing for their community without asking what will be done for them.
November 15, 2010 § 1 Comment
I grew up in a dysfunctional family where I was disconnected with many uncles, aunts, cousins and second cousins. That was, in addition, to the internal strife.
Since becoming an adult, I’ve always found that my better friends became closer than family. I never really made an effort to reconnect with any relatives, located mostly in B.C. and Alberta and the Western United States.
However, about five years ago, I made an exception to my rule. I followed my curiosity and, this summer, brought my sleuthing on an impromptu family search to a happy conclusion. No sweat for a former newspaper reporter. Ironically, it is Joyce who is the genealogist in the family.
It all started when I Googled myself. I do this every once in a while to see how articles or information containing my name appear on the World Wide Web since I am routinely quoted in the media. Also, there is a David Olinger at the Denver Post. I have never connected with him, but since he’s a journalist, I like to follow the trail of the scribe with the same name.
As I was scrolling down through the entries on this one occasion, I came across the name Kelley Olinger in Victoria, B.C. I was intrigued by this name since there are many Olingers in Southern B.C., particularly the Okanagan. However I couldn’t remember seeing the name Kelley.
So, I dug a little deeper and discovered that Kelley is a real estate agent in Victoria. I sent a note via email just to see if she could be part of my extended clan, particularly in Kelowna.
Sure enough, she is Peter Olinger’s daughter.
Kelley and I emailed back and forth several times and later connected via Facebook. Then when Joyce, Peter (our son) and I moved to Grande Prairie in 2007, there was always a greater chance we would get to the West Coast in the not-too-distant future. Kelley long ago suggested that if we ever got over to the Island, we should look her up.
So, when we knew would be going to Vancouver Island in August, we followed up on that invitation. We met for a lovely lunch in Victoria.
It was during that encounter that Kelley reminded me that she had located her father’s birth mother through Facebook a couple of years ago.
As a result, Kelley facilitated a reunion in Edmonton and the families continue to correspond. It also closed chapters for both mother and son. As well, Kelley now has more family background for medical purposes.
It was a terrific story that would never have been possible without technology. In fact, my connection with Kelley would likely not have occurred without Google and my curiosity about my own name.
I have no idea what prompted me to reach out and enquire specifically as to Kelley’s connection with me. God knows, there are closer relatives than a second cousin I could have tracked down. Family dysfunction does that to you. Someone has to make the first move.
It just seemed right at the time. I am glad I did. Kelley is, too. After our visit, she offered to be our tour guide if we returned to Vancouver via Victoria. With balmy conditions in Parksville, however, we stayed extra time there and returned to the mainland via Nanaimo.
Next time, Second Cuz!
Making connections with long-lost family is a tricky business. Certainly, it was a lot more challenging for Kelley to connect her father with his birth mother. There is always the fear that they don’t care to be reunited. In my case, Kelley had never heard of me until consulting with her parents when I first contacted her. I could have been some wacko.
Having gone through the experience and hearing the story of Kelley’s family, I would certainly encourage anyone with the urge to reconnect to long-lost relatives to do so. Sure, you might get turned away. But looking at the cup half-full, you are more likely to be opening up a whole new world to yourself.
Go ahead, hop on the phone or get typing!