Sunday, 11 February 2018

Try A Little Kindness

Why don't people do more with their lives and time here on earth? Why is it enough to sit at home after work, or school or however you spend the bulk of your day, and do nothing. Maybe watch some TV, play on Facebook or Pinterest or online shopping. I am shocked at how many people feel it is ok to just exist and not do anything to contribute to the larger community.

We don't write letters anymore, heck we don't even talk on the phone much. We text and we think that makes us feel connected. I used to spend hours on the phone with my family out in Alberta and our long distance bills were crazy. Which caused a lot of stress in my marriage at the time.

Now most phone plans include free long distance anytime, anywhere in Canada. But we use the phone less. I try to use my driving time in the car to call family and just catch up. I love to hear their voices and talk about sometimes very minor stuff, but we also talk about big stuff and I can hear the expression in their voices. The joy, the sadness, the anger, the hope. Quite often the first couple of words and I know how they are feeling. You can't do that with a text.

Where did all that social capital go? 

I am a very busy person, most people say too busy. I sit on several boards, I took up learning the Harp after I turned 50 and recently auditioned for a local play in our little theatre. I also work full time at a very engaging position that I enjoy immensely. I always try to make community building as part of my volunteer time or down time. It is really important to me to connect with people. I need to know that I make a difference in the world. I even play with the idea of entering politics, but I know in my heart that I am not strong enough to handle the crap that people say and the abuse that is heaped on some good people who just want to make a difference. I think most people enter politics with good intentions, then get damaged by the system along the way.

We need more good in the world. We need more celebrations in our days. We need more loving kindness in our lives - everyday.  

The undercurrent in my life, the background noise is always a little bit of despair. There are so many things we hear about that make me feel so worried for the future of our world. We are pretty isolated from it in our rural Canadian communities. Sure we have access to world news instantly, and we feel angry, we feel scared, but does it really impact us in a deeper way? We sign online petitions - that often are just a way to get us on a mailing list. What happens after you sign the petition? Do you ever really see any results? Sometimes maybe. But signing a petition is not enough. Commenting on facebook posts is not enough. And wow...those trolls. Don't read the comments or you go down the rabbit hole. How can people say some of the things they do? Why would anyone wish that our Prime Minister had died in a recent motorcade accident? That is practically treason, but somehow the internet makes it ok for people to feel safe to say garbage like that. It hurts my heart to read it every time. I feel so sad that people have that much anger in them, that much hate.

I keep telling my kids, in fact anyone who will listen, to get involved in the community. GO to the food bank, and volunteer, don't just give food on occasion. You might actually meet the people who need your help and understand the need is deeper than food. Which might lead you to support them in a different more meaningful way. Go to the OSPCA and walk the dogs or pet the cats. GO to the seniors home and play a game or two. Join a board and learn about the work being done to make YOUR community a better place. You live here, you have a responsibility to make it a better place. A safer place. A more connected place. There is something for everyone to do. I believe with every fibre of my being that if people participated more in life, visited more, talked more, showed a little more kindness that the world would be a better, safer place. If we were less negative even, don't say it if it won't make the conversation better, or if it will hurt someone. Just don't say it. If you can't put good and positive stuff out there, at least don't put the negative, hurtful, hateful stuff out. It just feeds the hate.  Think before you talk or act. I need to remind myself sometimes that I don't always have to win a point. Just walk away.

This post is a bit 'ranty' ( new word?) but I was feeling a bit overwhelmed today with small minded comments, and the awareness of so much negative press. Now I will go and enjoy my safe and warm home here in snowy Ontario. I will spend time with friends making beautiful music this afternoon and enjoy quiet loving hours with my partner and my constant companion Jazzy the Doodle. I found balance in my weekend by enjoying time with my son and grandson, times I treasure.  I am so blessed with my life, I know that. Perhaps that is why I feel so compelled to invest in my community. I can't change the world, but I can be a part of my local world and space, and I can make a difference here. I hope you feel the same about your community. Try a little kindness.

Thursday, 21 March 2013

Do you write letters anymore...the old fashioned way?

Recently I read somewhere that letter writing improves your brain function, in particular cursive writing. However most schools no longer teach cursive writing goodbye cursive writing in spite of the fact students that use it do better on most tests.

For me it is all about the personalization of writing, and that means mostly on a personal level. Letters, short notes to friends, thank you notes, these are all places we can use our cursive writing skills. Even at work I love the opportunity to hand write a note to express my thanks for a job well done, or a donation someone made because they cared. I figure if they care enough to do a job well, or to make a contribution to something, they deserve a note from me. It takes but a moment or two from your day. I was noticing however that my writing skills were deteriorating, and sometimes even I had trouble reading what I wrote. Even though I use a moleskine (I love quality) to write down notes at meetings and track events, my handwriting is getting worse.

So I made a pledge to myself. To write at least one letter a week. The first week was pretty easy and I managed to get short notes off to a couple of old friends, sent a newspaper clipping to my son and a birthday card to another son. It is also a good excuse to use up all the note cards I have been saving for some 'special occasion'. I even went out and bought some special paper and envelopes to make it feel more festive for me. Sort of like setting the kitchen table for an everyday meal, because every meal should be a celebration.

Of course writing the letter is not the end of the process, you have look up the address. I found this bit intrigued me, even though I can drive to your house, I can visualize your house, I didn't know the address. We have become dependent on technology like GPS in our iPhones or TomTom devices. We often don't even refer to maps any longer as a navigation device, which really puts my partner in a tizzy as he loves to navigate the 'old fashioned way'. And I must admit it is far more reliable than some devices. So I got out my trusty iPhone and looked for addresses, and the ones I didn't have I used the internet for. A real combination of new technology and tradition.

We must not forget the stamp, and although the price has increased considerably the technology is the same, well almost, no more licking required. I do love the self adhesive stamps. This will require a trip to the post office or a retailer that carries said stamps, and finally to the box which swallows up your letter and upon some miracle delivers it to the final destination. Hopefully in a reasonable space of time. I realized it takes time, commitment and resources to mail a letter, and so it is not surprising that it is becoming a thing of the past.

Letter writing is only one way to practise cursive writing. Many people still write daily journals, and I must admit I romanticize that I would be a good journal writer, but I lack the discipline to stay at it. I think I must have several journals that I started but never stayed with. I suppose if you put them all together there might be something interesting there. I think I will leave that for when I die, the kids might find some juicy tidbit that makes them say, " wow, Mom did that?" Shake them up a little bit.

Recently a good friend got her note and dropped me an email saying how it had arrived at just the right time. She has been going through a difficult period in her life and the note made her feel valued and loved. Just as it was intended to do.  I will continue to write my letters and mail them. There is something very satisfying about the clunk that box makes when I drop my letter in it. Everyone loves to get unexpected mail, especially when it is not a bill or junk mail ( make sure you check your junk mail if you know might be hiding a letter inside). Hopefully you can read my writing.

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

What is 'rape culture'?

Today my daughter posted a link on Facebook and the title intrigued me - ' So you're tired of hearing about 'rape culture'. It is an excellent blog that I thought is was worth re-posting. It is a very thought provoking blog that brings together many examples of what the writer feels defines rape culture and the resulting comments are almost as interesting as the article. One person commented that:

"in the case where athletes are involved, you usually see a concerted effort to defend the rapist, blame the victim, and cover up the crime. This is where I feel the “culture” part comes in. Like when OJ was found not guilty. People cheered, even though the evidence was against him, because he was a cherished, former athlete. Or when church abuse victims are threatened and ostracized for coming forward and tarnishing the reputation of a priest."

This actually speaks to the 'culture' or societal norms that are being tolerated or even embraced by groups and individuals. What is happening in a community that speaks up and defends such behaviour? More important is the question: what can we do to change it? Sometimes these issues seem so overwhelmingly large or impossible to change by yourself, that we just don't try.

Each of us can make a difference and contribute to a healthier culture, and it starts with your own thinking and your own language and what you are willing to stand by and allow to happen. I gave birth to five pretty amazing children, three girls and two boys. My first priority with them was to always teach them to be kind and to give to your community and support and defend others when needed. To be fearless when the time came to stand up and say ' STOP - this is wrong". I hope I got it right, because for me they are one more step towards positive change. They are a way to break the cycle. I believe that they ARE kind, and I believe they would make that stand. I would, and they know it, I have shown them how to do it.

So....lead by example. Don't just read about these events and think how awful they are. Make a conscious decision about how to act, talk and think in your relationships; with your children, siblings, parents, co-workers, partners, teammates. Be thoughtful. Be kind. Be THE difference.

Sunday, 6 January 2013

Looking back, not always forward can be rewarding too

The New Year is here and many people have bid farewell to 2012, with statements like 'don't let the door hit your ass on the way out'! Personally I have felt that way about most years, however this year I have decided that making time for reflection and not resolutions for a new and better me, or a new and better year is the way forward for me. I was out walking Jazz in the snowy rain this morning and just letting my mind wander, I guess this is a type of meditation for me, my body is moving and my mind is just free flying with no particular purpose except to walk the dog and get some fresh air. I started thinking about the past year and all the new things I have done or at least attempted, and it was so surprising to me that I decided I should list them. And it became a very rewarding and fulfilling activity. I think everyone who is feeling negative about the past year, should make a list of all the good things that happened, the achievements made, no matter the size or significance and not allow any of the bad or negative intrude. I believe we can surprise ourselves. So for the record in no particular order here is my list for 2012:

1. moved in with the great love of my life after 12 years of dating
2. went tidal bore rafting on the Bay of Fundy with my niece
3. went to Nova Scotia and discovered that while my family were Cap' Bretoners they came via Newfoundland, so I am actually part newfie!
4. started writing a book
5. started studying the harp
6. attended more of my grandsons hockey games than ever before
7. made the perfect creme brûlée
8. saw my last child move out of the house and make the awesome decision to go to college
9. visited my great grandad's grave, and then toured the coal mines and heard the story that would have shaped his life, a very hard life it must have been
10. went foraging for mushrooms with Wayne and experienced the beautiful, serene landscape that is unique to our part of the world
11. had my favourite Aunt and Uncle come to the lake for a wonderful visit
12. found out I was going to be a great grandmother
13. facetime with my grandson Logie!
14. hosting 21 guests in the month of July alone, just because they love us and miss us
15. hearing that my son finally was able to realize his dream of beginning the journey of plumber apprenticeship
16. seeing my daughter and her guy pass the magical year of one successful year of operating a restaurant in Toronto
17. seeing another daughter get accepted into her chosen program at university
18. watching a partner family settle into their new home through Habitat for Humanity Stratford Perth
19. proudly watching one daughter do the 'right thing' even though it was risky for her to do it
20. found out on Christmas Day I am going to be a grandmother again!
21. planted and harvested my first vegetable garden in many, many years
22. converted the attic so we can have the whole family and friends over for good times
23. Jazzy got fit from all the hiking, and we improved too
24. watched the class of 2012 graduate from the Stratford Chefs School, knowing I participated in their dreams
25. decorated my new home for Christmas, for our family to enjoy
26. participating in Maple Tree Community Housing as a board member, providing safe, affordable housing for 12 families
27. spending quality time with good friends on many different occasions
28. cooking with Wayne
29. supported a local business by purchasing a CSA
30. went whale watching
31. visited Peggy's Cove
32. watched my grandson run for a block in his squeaky shoes -so much fun
33. attended the Rocky Horror Show at the Livery
34. watched our town continue to recover from the tornado, with hundreds of tree plantings, transforming the downtown, new houses built, people regain a sense of optimism
35. smiled ALOT more

I know there are plenty of others I could add to the list, but this is a good start. I would encourage you to create your own list. And if I was going to make a resolution for the new would be to consciously or intentionally do something nice for someone every day. In fact doing it for someone you love and know and not just strangers can be more challenging. I know from my days in sales that often we treat relative strangers better then we do our own family. Make an effort to get it right this year. I plan to.

Friday, 16 March 2012

Hiring Etiquette - ' you didn't get the job' via email

This has been an interesting and difficult time for some people I know and care about. Individuals who have spent a great deal of time preparing for and participating in the interview and hiring process. Perhaps I am an old dog in the field of hiring (and yes firing) people, but I believe it takes care and a very thoughtful process when selecting the proper candidate. Applying for a job is a difficult and emotional process. It doesn't have be more difficult than it is, but people continue to make terrific mistakes that affect people deeply. It also reflects poorly on the business or organization that is conducting the hiring process when bad planning and poor follow through happens.

Although they are not known to each other, and they applied to completely different organzations each person was treated similarily in the notification process. That is why I felt prompted to write about their experiences.

Invitations to apply for the positions were extended and they were encouraged to 'throw their hat in', so to speak, by someone on the hiring committee. Presumably because they had something of value to offer the position. Each candidate researched the position and the organization as thoroughly as possible, and even went as far as researching the individuals who were conducting the interview if they were privy to that information. One person gave up much of their Christmas season to focus on the upcoming interview process as it was an exciting opportunity as well as much needed income. In each case the candidate invested themselves in the process - already an indication of someone who would be willing to invest themselves in the position should they be successful. This is where it begins to break down.

Why would a business or an organization go to great lengths to create a position, market and advertise it - invest time and resources in it and then drop the ball at the final moment?

These candidates did the work, participated in a competitive interview process, made it to the final interview, and then were notified via email >>>> EMAIL!!! that they were not the successful candidate. Sure there were nice accolades, 'you were great', you did your research', you knew more than we did' etc. but the notification process was poorly done. When someone goes to such efforts, is rewarded with an interview process and is told via email, it is a terrible blow. It clearly says - ' I am a coward, I can't face you' and ' I don't respect you enough to tell you personally'.

Sadly there is usually no malice intended, just poorly prepared or inexperienced people doing the best they can. However it gives not- for- profits a bad name and reflects poorly on the organization. I am not sure I would want to work for an organization that would disrespect someone in this fashion.

If you are in the position of being fortunate enough to hire someone, get some training, and do it right. Be professional, but be kind, one is not exclusive of the other.