Ponder This

How to Get a Front-Row Seat to an Alpaca Rodeo

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The 3 girls
The 3 girls
We love our alpacas! We have four of them — 3 females and 1 male. I thought I’d take a minute to tell you about the latest alpaca rodeo. It’s not like we plan to have one — except when we have an appointment to get them sheared! Usually the rodeo is kind of unexpected.
A couple of days ago, the rodeo was to help our brown beauty, Marley. She had been limping a little and it had gotten much worse in 24 hrs. So, it was time to have a look at that foot and see what was going on. I figured if Darren held her, I would look at her foot. I mixed up a batch of warm water with epsom salts in it. If this were a movie, we’d go to a flashback now, for how I learned that epsom salts are so good!
In addition to alpacas, we have a healthy population of barn cats. It started when we got Felicity to replace Stella. A while ago, something happened to one of Felicity’s paws. I don’t know how she injured it, but the top was getting infected and she was licking it incessantly. I decided I had to do something, because she was licking it raw and it was getting very puffy. So, I knitted a small sock, and with Darren’s help — what would I do without him?! — we put some polysporin (a cream that’s supposed to fight infections. It doesn’t.) on her paw, a piece of gauze from the first aid kit, and then the sock. We taped the sock securely on, in the same manner one tapes on hockey socks, taping the tape to itself, not to her fur. With the sock applied, we figured she’d be great in no time. To make a long story short, let’s just say for over a week, we applied cream, replaced the sock after she pulled it off, and whatnot. She wore a cone for a lot of that time, too, poor kitty. The infection got marginally better, but barely.
Then my friend Noreen suggested warm water with epsom salts in it. I was instructed to run the water over her paw as much as she would let me and then leave it to dry (with Felicity wearing a cone). In two treatments, the infection was almost completely gone! Love that stuff.
I love these summer pictures!
Marley, always smiling
So, zooming back to the present, we are faced with one very limpy alpaca and a bucket of warm epsom salt water. I caught Marley when she wasn’t expecting it and handed her off to Darren. Then, the rodeo started! Our alpacas seem tame enough, until you try to grab and hold them. In that instance, some instinctual effects kick in and they start to buck around like wild broncos! She jumped around a bit, lunging and ducking, trying to get away, for five seconds or so, and then settled down a little ways away.
I knelt down by her bad foot and managed to lift it up and look at it. There was no obvious injury that I could see, but it sure was puffy! The natural crack between her toes was nearly gone, it was so swollen. So, I brought the pail of water over and put her foot in. She didn’t protest at all — it probably felt quite nice — so I gently scooped water up to cover her ankle a bit. I was able to hold her foot in the water for 10-15 seconds before Darren shifted or she just got tired of being touched. A short rodeo began again, but I told Darren to let her go. I had planned to dry her foot off after wetting it, but decided that she was pretty riled up. So we let her be.
The next morning, she was limping much less, and by the next evening (24 hrs after applying the salt water), she was not limping at all! I could not believe it! This time, I had planned to put a bucket of epson salt water out and see if she put her foot in on her own. She’s so smart, I bet she would have!
Fozzie scratching an itch
Fozzie scratching an itch
Other alpaca rodeos are a given when you try to separate one alpaca from the others. We were trying to load Fozzie on shearing day, and he decided to go into the horse trailer first. I told Darren to keep him in, but he did not want to do that! He ran right through Darren’s arm, jamming it into the side of the trailer, and he thought Fozzie had broken it! It was just a bad bruise. I attempted to catch Fozzie a week ago to take a piece of baler twine off him — he must have gotten it off a bale but how he got it around his neck, like a necklace, I’ll never know! Because it was like a necklace, I wasn’t too worried about him getting strangled. He let me cut it, so it was no longer a loop, but he did not let me do much else. I chased and lunged and held onto him briefly, but I was just grabbing his fibre (wool) and then I realized I was sort of pulling on his hair so I let go. How rude of me!
So, I think I’d like to learn how to handle them a bit better. I can move them around really well without touching them, but when grabbing them is necessary, it’s rodeo time and that’s just not ideal. Our mamma alpaca’s bangs are getting quite long and I’d like to trim them, but I’d like to be able to do it with a minimum of drama. So, we’ll just have to google it — or ask the nearby alpaca farm! ๐Ÿ™‚

Radical Way to Deal with Someone Having an Angry Outburst

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I heard a very interesting thing the other day. I was listening to an inspirational speaker, and what she had to say bent my brain and I’ll never forget it. Let me try and encapsulate it here.

Most of us would stop and help someone who was bleeding in the street. If there was a car accident, we’d stop what we’re doing and offer whatever help we could — first aid, call 9-1-1, wrap the person in a blanket, keep traffic away from them, whatever. But when someone is angry, we don’t want anything to do with him or we feel angry right back, and we’ll even say things that add fuel to his fire. We don’t offer help, and we are not sympathetic. But that angry person is bleeding just as much as the injured one — he is emotionally gushing blood everywhere.

Why don’t we think of helping? There are lots of reasons. Firstly, we don’t see it as a first-aid situation. It doesn’t even occur to us to offer help to the angry person. We just want him to go away (usually). We want him to stop upsetting our mood, our day.

If the person is upset with us, we are too busy reacting to his anger to think of anything else. We are throwing foul words his way as fast as we can think of them. We might be unleashing all the pissed-off things we’ve thought but never said. Or we might be turning inward, just wishing the angry tirade would stop. We might be clamming up and bottling our feelings, but whether we are lashing out or collapsing in, we never think of helping.

If the anger is not about us, then we usually just want to get rid of the person. They are ruining our day! We’ll think, “this isn’t about me — go tell someone who cares.”

But what if we treated that upset person as though they were in need of first aid? I see “no tolerance” signs posted in doctor’s offices. The first one I ever saw was in huge, red letters, in all-caps, and it was NOT messing around. Police would be called. You would not see the doctor. Don’t even think about raising your voice.

But, people who just lost it are in serious trouble. They can’t contain their emotions — it’s rushing out, uncontrolled. Could we offer some sort of first aid to them? Could it be there is a serious mental health issue going on? What if most of the time it’s more than just a lack of self control?

I’ve taken a LOT of first aid over the last 7 years or so, since joining the volunteer fire department. The first step is always to make sure your own safety will not be compromised if you help. We are not taught to rush into burning buildings willy-nilly. If it can’t be done safely, we don’t do it, period. So, personal safety first.

I think the same would apply to anger first aid. If the person is so angry he/she is going to start hurting people, then leave it to the professionals (someone in riot gear)! But if he/she is strictly verbal, and there really is no danger, then what?

The second step in first aid is always to call for more help — dial 9-1-1 or have someone else do it. Same goes in anger — get some back-up if you think you’ll need it. But I would say, don’t just grab the closest person — find someone who is calm enough, or conscious of his/her own state, to help. This could be tough, because a lot of people around may not be calm at all — they might also be angry or afraid. So yes, at times, you might have to call 9-1-1.

talking-on-a-ledgeAfter that, the actual first aid takes place. You assess their breathing. You check for gushing blood. In anger first aid, I suppose it would be to try to show the person you relate. Say the obvious thing to diffuse them. “I’m sure she didn’t mean to rear-end you. It was an accident.” At other times, “I’m sorry. I was wrong. My mistake.” I know that can be hard to say, but if you think of it as something to you need to say to talk the person off a ledge (as in suicide intervention), then just say it.

Anything beyond basic anger diffusing is going to take more thought and be more specific to the situation — which makes it difficult to summarize here. If you can keep your cool, you can probably think of something else thoughtful or helpful to say. Perhaps I’ll do another blog post to expand on things to say/do for specific types of anger. If you ever have a chance to take Mental Health First Aid, do it — I learned a lot when I took it. I think the basic anger diffusing and realizing the person needs help, not police, might go a long ways towards improving the situation. It could, in fact, change the way our whole society operates.

It’s so simple. See someone having an emotional outbreak as needing our help, not our judgment or condemnation. It could change the world.

Mental Health First Aid – Canada

Mental Health First Aid – USA

 

Carpentry Projects

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Note: I originally wrote this 3 weeks ago, but had to dig up photos to go with the text! Enjoy!

I have ghost knee pads right now. Have you ever worn something so much that you feel like you’re still wearing it? I have been wearing my knee pads (the foamy kind that strap on for construction work, like these) quite a lot for the last week, and now I feel like they’re still on! It’s so weird. Any why have I been wearing them so much?
I’ve been madly trying to finish a second doghouse for our new dog! We got her yesterday, and I finished her dog house today. She’s a mostly-black border collie named Jenny, from In the Woods Animal Shelter in Nampa, AB. If you live in Northern Alberta, I recommend checking them out. We needed a farm dog to keep Gunner company — he’s a brown dynamo (mostly chocolate lab) and he was pretty bored and lonely. He chased the cats a lot. Now, he’s tired from playing with Jenny! Success!
So anyway, I realized I have actually done quite a bit of building since we moved here 2 years ago. I was going to make a full-on tutorial of the first dog house, but for now I’ll just post some photos of my projects.

Gunner’s Dog House

Made entirely from wood we had lying around, this is my first masterpiece! ๐Ÿ™‚ I realize not everyone has rough-cut planks for siding lying around, but if you can get some, they are a nice look. Notice the kitty portal for access to the attic — Lucy likes to sleep up there! I installed the shingles once it was in position near the house, because I knew it would be heavy enough without them. And it is; it was really hard to move from the shop to the house — but I managed to get it onto a plastic sled and push it through the snow.
Dog house

Deck Railings

Our insurance agent said we needed railings for our deck — who knew!? ๐Ÿ™‚ This project took me a while. We had been given the cedar 4X4″ boards but I bought the 2X2’s for the verticals and used 2×4’s that I found in the shop. I also had to buy long, beefy crews (called lug bolts) to attach the 4X4’s to the deck. Fun, fun!
deck-railing

Mobile Chicken Coop

Our chickens were in a small building all winter, but in spring, I felt bad for them. They needed more fresh air! Whenever we threw grass/weeds/kitchen scraps in there, they devoured them. So, I made them a floor-less chicken coop, or chicken tractor as they are sometimes called. I tried to build it a light as possible, so it would be easy to move, but it’s still a heavy bugger! The chickens love it, although only 1 of the 3 chickens could make the leap up to the nests. So, I kind of felt bad about that. When I moved them back into their winter coop, I quickly nailed together a chicken ladder, so they can all 3 roost together again! ๐Ÿ™‚
Mobile chicken coop

Jenny’s Dog House

My latest, and fastest, creation! I built this in a little over 8 hrs, at a guess. It’s easier when you’ve done it once, and it saved a lot of time to use store-bought insulation. Don’t ask how much it cost — this doghouse should have gold leaf on it! Anyways, it’s quicker to install recycled denim insulation than fluff up raw wool and stuff it into the walls (the method for Gunner’s dog house). I also made this a simple slanted roof, instead of a fancy peaked roof.

90% complete!
90% complete!

Don’t ever let them say you can’t do it because you’re a girl or woman! I run powertools like a boss. Well, in my workshop, I am the boss! ๐Ÿ™‚ I have also found ways to work alone — I used clamps to hold things, or prop things up, so that I can work without help. I am an independent kind of gal, what can I say?

Our New Dog, Jenny

Let me say a little more about Jenny! She’s very smart and energetic, and loves to sniff things! She started smelling the ground as soon as she was out of the vehicle, and then she met Gunner and there was a great deal of sniffing! It was probably 10 minutes before she gave the people any attention! Gunner wanted to play with her SO bad when they met (but she had to do sniffing first). They did play, though — for about 25 minutes straight! Running and running! It was awesome. Later, in the workshop, she gave us more attention, leaning on us and loving the pets. She had a snow bath, rolling back and forth on her back in the snow — and then I realized that’s where the alpacas poop sometimes! Yup, she was poopy-smelling! But I think she liked it. What a girl!
Today, I took her for a walk around the perimeter of all our land, to sort of show her where her new yard is. She nearly pulled my arm off! For most of the walk! But she started to walk better by the end. I also tried to show her the end of the driveway and not to go onto the road. I hope that it worked — when I started the perimeter-walk, she had been in the ditch and on the road briefly. Man. I hope she got the message today!
So, we’re pretty excited to have her around! Gunner finally has a playmate. Next up, 2 more alpacas. Gotta get a shelter converted from a calf shelter to an alpaca shelter. I’m already half done, so it shouldn’t take long.

An Impressionable Young Man

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Have you heard the expression, “he is an impressionable young man?” I always took that to mean that the boy was likely to take a passing comment to heart too much, or that if you mentioned something to him, it might have such an impression on him that he forms a whole way-of-being based on it. For example, if you said, “I really like Bob’s hair cut,” he might go get the same haircut and wear his hair that way for years. Or if he saw a successful man in a nice suit, he’d realize who had the power and then spend years of his life trying to be that guy.

Do you know any hypochondriacs? Whatever the new disease, they’ve got it? Those pharmaceutical commercials on TV must be a killer on them — always needing to run to their doctor to find out if XYZ drug is right for them! Can you imagine? Another example of “an impressionable” person — believing that if someone else can get this-or-that illness, then they are vulnerable to it, too.

In so many ways, we can all be impressionable or hypochondriacs, don’t you think? Except we do it with ideas. We take other people’s ideas about how the world is, and we make them our own. If it applies to them, it must apply to me, too. Maybe it’s the abuse of scientific thinking — if Bob found it to be true, it must be true for everyone, like physics or chemistry. But that just isn’t the case! What can be absolutely true for one person can be completely false for another. And (to really bend your brain), this can even apply to physics and chemistry.

I’m having a hard time thinking of examples. Here’s one that might work: Darren and I were driving home from a Christmas party. He commented, in a worried tone, that this section of road seems to be ice. I thought, “why on earth is he saying that? Why is he worried about that?” If I had been driving, I might have noticed a certain sheen to the road, but we have good winter tires, and as long as you’re going a reasonable speed — which he was — then there is nothing to worry about! I said something along these lines, and Darren seemed kind of offended, because I wouldn’t join him in his worry. But why? There is nothing to worry about! He pointed out the sliding marks where someone before us had slid on the road. I said, “so what? Some people have banana peels for tires!” But, there was clearly a huge rift between how I was feeling — happy from time spent with friends, great music, and yummy food — and how he was feeling. Of course, feelings come from thoughts, and he had been thinking worried, unhappy thoughts before that.

So, what could I do in that situation? I absolutely believe that it does not help anyone to join them in their worry. Definitely. But, to be cheerful in the presence of someone having a worry-party just doesn’t work. If I’ve tried to cheer them up and they just won’t, I have to leave them be. I guess if they have been through some sort of trauma, I would sit and just be with them, but in the case of last night, I just couldn’t get on board. Which I guess is me judging the situation and not feeling that it warranted all the concern Darren was intent on giving it. Yet, we can all be hypochondriacs and overly-impressionable, so I definitely could have been more compassionate.

That’s growth. That’s living in relationship. That’s life! ๐Ÿ™‚ I think all we can do for ourselves is to try and be aware of what areas of life we are impressionable in, and what we are exposing ourselves to. Perhaps focusing on health would help us not to get sick (because we can be hypochondriacs), or spending time with people or watching TV that exposes us to “sick” thoughts. What if you paid attention to how certain shows on TV make you feel? If you feel unhappy about yourself, or unsatisfied with your home/clothes/hair/job/whatever, then that show is planting ideas in you (because we can all be impressionable at times). Are they ideas you want to grow? If not, you have to weed them out! And that is so much harder than not exposing yourself to that seed in the first place.

As always, just my thoughts on things!

P.S. I passed my final evaluation! ๐Ÿ™‚ (Read the post here.)

There is no Try — Life Application of Yoda’s Teachings

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“Do or do not. There is no try.” – Yoda

So many times in life, we are presented with opportunities to improve our lives, whether it be through a job or in a business. So we decide to give it a try. I have been doing this over the last few months at Nav Canada. I was offered a job there at the Flight Information Centre, having left the company 6 years ago. It is such an excellent opportunity! I’ve been training to give pilot weather briefings (customized weather forecasts just for pilots) since the end of January — that’s why I haven’t been blogging at all! It’s been taking up all my time!

They’ve been teaching us a ton of weather theory, all about high and low pressure systems, what causes them to form, develop and dissipate. We’ve learned everything there is to know about warm and cold fronts, how to see when they begin and pick them out on upper air charts. Precipitation, cloud types, tornadoes and hurricanes. Freezing rain, vorticity, and a whole chapter on fog. It’s ridiculous how much I know about the jet stream now! And I can interpret satellite imagery, radar signals, and read a GFA like a boss.

As you might have guessed, I did pretty well at the theory and classwork. We wrote 7 tests and I think my lowest mark was 89%. In the process, I have completely drained the ink out of 2 pens (I’m working on the 3rd), filled two 3″ binders with hand-written notes, and have an impressive stack of cue cards with key points on them.

The practical part has been much more of a challenge. We have a lab with all the computers and graphic feeds that we need to give these customized weather forecasts. We go back and forth between 3 different screens to look at all the satellite views, actual weather reports and aviation forecasts. It’s a challenge to correlate all the info and the theory and then know how much to actually SAY to the pilot. What does he/she need to know? How much is too much info? How do I describe what I’m seeing over the phone so that it makes sense? It was very difficult to put the info into a logical order and string it together so that is sounds good.

And I’m a talker! I don’t usually have any sort of trouble communicating! One day, it all clicked and I was able to describe things well and get it all out. Then my instructors all started saying I need to say less. “Too much detail. You’ll confuse the pilot.” So, I’d say less. Sometimes, there were great pauses, as I tried to conjure the best, most concise way to say what I needed to say. Then, during a pause, they’d prompt me, “talk about the radar.” “Jesus H Christ, that’s what I’m about to do!” I would think, but I never said it. All of us trainees were awkward and making lots of mistakes, and our instructors would interrupt us. They were trying to help, or stop us from making mistakes, but it was so frustrating. Many times, I felt like saying, “just let me do it. Let me make the mistakes, notice them and fix them. Yes, typos will happen. Just never mind them!” But I didn’t say anything, and soon I started having nightmares about not being heard, yelling and no one listening. It was bad. I found out that my fellow students were having similar experiences, and one of them kinda blew up one day; after that, there was less interrupting.

After one lab run with the worst interrupting instructor, I finally had the clarity to tell him this: “When you interrupt or try to help, I feel like you don’t think I can do it. And that makes it really hard to actually do it.” I think he understood that, and that was the core of the problem. I was frustrated because I felt like he was just sitting there, feeling I was hopeless, wishing he was home (or anywhere else!) because I was so bad. But after I said that, he stopped almost all his interrupting and he was more encouraging.

So now we are in evals (evaluations). The mid-term eval was one 8-hour day, and in the 2 lab runs leading up to it, I was very stressed. All I could do was joke that I was getting all my nerves out ahead of time so that I’d do better on the eval. I have only been that nervous a few times in my life, and it was so hard on me. I decided that mistakes be damned, I just HAD to lighten up about it or it was going to kill me. I just can’t live with that level of stress for days on end.

And I passed! So the course continued and we learned more in-depth theory, like why the worst turbulence is on the left side of the jet stream. And it was all good! But now it’s time for the final eval.

It is three days long! Three 8-hour days of giving weather briefings, taking flight plans, processing NOTAMS, and generally having every word I say written down and scrutinized. I’ve done 2 of those days and have 1 more to go and I am just bursting to write about my experience.

On Monday, we had a practice run. As before, I was pretty nervous and didn’t do very well. Tuesday went quite a bit better, and I was feeling pretty confident on Wednesday, day 1 of the eval. As it went along, I was able to keep my nerves in check, and tried my absolute best to do my job diligently, carefully and not make mistakes. Tried very hard. As I went, once in a while I would realize I had made a small mistake, and I think I even knew I had made one bigger one, but at the end I was feeling pretty good. My instructor came over and gave me a quick overview of how I’d done — and I couldn’t believe how many mistakes I had made. All kinds of dumb ones! That I hadn’t even realized I had made! Lots. Too many. Way too many. I still passed overall, but barely.

Well, shit. All that careful work. I thought I had done so well! I was really rattled. It took me a while to process that on Wednesday night so that I could eventually get to sleep.

Yesterday came and I told myself, “it’s a new day! I won’t make those mistakes again.” I went in early, as I always do, and reviewed all the charts and weather info. I got it pretty solidly in my head and felt very ready, again! Almost too ready. I was there an hour and a half early, so by the time we started, I was pumped. And so I rushed in on the first one without considering all the info and made a really big mistake on the very first call! And I realized it a few minutes later! Crap. And then the strangest thing happened.

I instantly took on a “f*ck it” attitude. “Screw it. If I’m ridiculously careful, I make mistakes I don’t even know I’m making. If I act more confident, I screw that up too! F*ck f*ck f*ck.”

It was very strange. A part of me was still detached enough to see what was going on and that the f*ck it train of thought was too far on the other side of the pendulum and would prove self-destructive. Somehow, I don’t even really know how, I was able to talk myself down and get back into a more balanced headspace in order to do the job. And I did pretty well at the end of the day. I still made some mistakes, but other than that really big one at the beginning, I did better than on Wednesday.

And today is Friday, day 3. I’ve been struggling with getting in the right headspace for the practical side of the job for weeks. But I think I’ve got it. I’ve had 2 big realizations:

– I have to channel the inner weather briefer in me! I have the training! I know how to do it.
– So just do it. Stop trying and just do it.

That’s it. That’s my deep wisdom. Do or do not. There is no try. Trying just makes for a dualistic mindset/vibe. It introduces the possibility of not being successful. Learn, practice, do. That’s it! (Hey, I could write a book, like Liz Gilbert’s “Eat Pray Love” and call it “Learn Practice Do.” ๐Ÿ™‚

As a side note, I started this blog to report on my training progress with Nav Canada the first time! Some of those old posts are fun reading! ๐Ÿ™‚

What’s in a Job?

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My father-in-law was a travel agent for many years and had traveled around the world. He had developed an affinity for Persian rugs, and owned a couple in his home. When Expedia got popular, along with other book-it-yourself sites on the internet, he got out of the travel-agent business and retired. However, he felt like he was a little too young for full retirement, so he got a job at Home Depot. What department did they put him in? Flooring.

Sheesh, he knew rugs — fancy Persian rugs. He didn’t have any interest in laminate or hardwood, but that’s where he worked.

Work is something that a lot of people agonize over. They want/need to make enough money (however they define enough), but are also concerned with their appearance — how will they feel telling others where they work? What will their status in society be? If we never talked about where we work, it would take the pressure off in many ways, but that’s not how our society works. Sometimes, we want to work in our field or “in our passion” so much, that it blinds us to opportunities right in front of us.

I have worked all over the place. I had a very hard time getting my first job. It was July 1992 and I had just moved away from home. I wanted to live in Edmonton for a couple of months before University started, to get my feet under me. But the summer jobs were all taken already, especially those that a high school student might get. I had minimal work experience except for what I did for my dad at the farm, and that doesn’t go very far in the city! I looked all over, and when I asked at a gas station, they referred me to “Gordon, across the street,” who had mentioned he needed some help. Gordon ran a hobby supply business on the side, and he had been so busy with orders, he was falling behind. I think he hired me because I was a farm girl, and I was less likely to be grossed out by all the mouse poop in his storage room! So, I spent the summer, and off-and-on for a couple more years, unpacking and organizing parts that came in, and filling orders to be shipped. Not very glamourous!

I wonder if that early experience shaped the way I think about work. I have never been overly concerned with the “status” associated with a job, although I’ve had some pretty good ones! I worked at the Edmonton Space and Science Centre (before they changed their name 3 times!). I was Staff Scientist at Science North, where I had plenty of opportunities to travel, including watching the space shuttle launch from as close as they’ll let you! That was pretty cool. I met almost all of Canada’s astronauts throughout my seven years working there. Then I went on to Nav Canada. I had always wondered if I had the aptitude to do air traffic services, and it turns out I do! I got very high scores by aptitude, but I still had to work my butt off and complete the course, get certified, and thrive as a Flight Service Specialist. Again, not anywhere as glamourous as an Air Traffic Controller, but very good work, which I loved and was good at.

Isn’t that all we want in a job? To do something we enjoy and are good at? With just enough variety or challenge to keep us interested? Ah, I guess not. Some are bent on impressing their friends, or earning the respect of their folks or in-laws. Or following their dream! It’s ironic that I’ve never been ambitious, yet I’ve done well! Having the love of my family helps; there is no need to impress and no fear of letting them down. They just love me! I’m so lucky.

After coming back from Fort Simpson and Wrigley, I worked for a summer at Ferguson’s Market, owned by good friends. I worked ridiculous hours and really wore myself down, to the point where my own health suffered and I think I aged 2 years that summer. Sometimes I wonder why I did that. Do I have an unhealthy attitude of dedication to work? Or do I tend toward denying my own needs to the extreme? I’m not sure. After we moved back to the farm, I had a chance to catch up on my sleep and “be unemployed” for a little while — something I have NEVER been in my whole life. I was still getting paid overtime from Ferguson’s, so I wasn’t actually unemployed, but my life felt like it. It was fun! So, I’m probably not a work-a-holic.

When I went back to work, it was for my mom’s friend Alice, and again, it was not glamourous. I worked at an auto glass shop, Crackmasters. Yes, I answered the phone that way every day without laughing! At least, not out loud! My main job was detailing vehicles, which was such hard work, my back, arms and hands ached every night. We also did U-Haul rentals and sold adult tricycles — three-wheeled recumbent bikes, I don’t know what YOU were thinking! The word “adult” just makes everything dirty, eh? ๐Ÿ™‚ It WAS dirty in the shop but at least there was no mouse poop! I worked hard, and helped Alice with anything she needed. It was uncanny that after she hired me to do detailing, she found out she had breast cancer. So, she taught me how to do everything else and I covered for her while she recovered from surgery. I felt good knowing I was needed — I think that’s another part of my personality that factors into my relationship with work.

Then I saw the job posted at Signature Flight Support. I’m pretty sure when they checked my references, Alice told them that I always tried to be as helpful and friendly as possible to every customer. So I got the job! It was a big jump up, and I got to work at the airport (which I love). I had to learn how their systems worked, and how to deal with the VIPs that fly in and out of our facility. That was new — I had never dealt with the upper crust of society before. When I was new, I decided my main strategy would be to treat everyone as though they were very important, and it is a good one! You never know who you are talking to — could be the owner of the company you work for! (When you’re new, you don’t know who everyone is!) Now, I do it everywhere, and I like it. I respect people more, as well as just being polite or friendly.

Every job is an opportunity to learn something. It’s not about the money for me. In fact, in my last few jobs I’ve developed the attitude that I get to go help someone out, and then they pay me — how cool is that?!? I think most people think about trading your skills or your time for money, or a combination of both. If I don’t think about the money, and almost pretend I’m volunteering, just to help out and because I said I’d be there, and I do my job to the absolute best of my ability, then the pay cheque at the end of the month is a huge bonus! “Wow, they paid me to do what I would have done anyway!”

I don’t want to make it sound like I always love going to work. Sometimes, I wish I could stay home like anyone else! When I have been working 6-7 days/week, I pine for days at home! But, I go because I agreed to go or because they need me, not because I have to, or because I feel stuck. I know it’s a subtle difference, but it matters. I value reliability, so I am reliable. Working is best when one’s job is in line with one’s values. A vegan should not work as a chef at a steak house, for example. But sometimes, having really high standards for a job can only hold you back; often, taking a good job ahead of you leads to the exact job you’d like in the future. For example, I worked part-time at the Edm Space and Science Centre which led to the full-time job at Science North — an excellent job! — and being friendly with people at Crackmasters led to giving first-rate customer service at Signature.

So, while happily dividing my time between Signature and the Centre for Spiritual Living (doing special projects), quite out of the blue, I got a job offer to go back to Nav Canada. They are short-staffed, and you know I can’t turn down someone who needs me! And where I know I’ll enjoy the work and have the perfect balance of challenge and variety, and make good money! I feel so blessed! I am the blessed and the blesser. I’ll be working in the Flight Information Centre, doing weather briefings (pilots call for weather before flying if the weather is icky), handling flight plans and a variety of other aviation stuff. I’m excited! I get to work in Edmonton, close to home. It’s so great!

I wonder what I’ll learn at this job… So far, in my working life I’ve learned:
– It’s okay for a job not to be glamourous. (the hobby wholesaler)
– You don’t have to talk about where you work, or ask people where they work! It doesn’t really matter! (in general)
– Be ready to work when you get there. Don’t eat breakfast at work! (Edm Space and Science Centre; I had a coworker who did this and it was so rude!)
– It’s good to be friends with your coworkers! (Science North)
– Working in one’s aptitude is very rewarding. (Nav Canada, the first time)
– Doing something outside your normal range is a huge growth opportunity! (in general)
– Don’t ever let yourself get sleep deprived, for any reason. Sleep is too important to go without! (Ferguson’s Market)
– Treat everyone as though they are important. (Signature)
– Teamwork is fabulous; knowing what others are doing, and how your role interweaves with theirs, and then providing customer service that absolutely blows people’s minds is really, really fun! (Signature)
– My happiness is absolutely independent of anyone else; if anyone around me is grumpy, it doesn’t matter. I can still be happy! (I’ve learned this one a few times!)

I should add that my father-in-law didn’t sell flooring for very long! It was alright while it lasted, but he went back into the travel business. He is now using his unique skill and knowledge of the middle east to offer tours and cruise packages to “the holy land,” Israel. ๐Ÿ™‚

Ridiculous Ways to Help Missionaries in Africa

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We recycle and reuse items whenever possible, and it’s considered the socially and environmentally-conscious thing to do. Well, here’s the ultimate in re-using: apparently, in the 1960’s, people would send used tea bags to missionaries in Africa! Doesn’t this sound crazy?!? It says a lot about how people thought back then.

used tea bags-1There isn’t much value in a used tea bag, beyond adding it to a compost pile. But perhaps to the people collecting them, saving tea bags and donating them was worthwhile. Perhaps giving a tea bag to someone else when you would have used it one or two more times was even a hardship. Certainly going to Africa to be a missionary was a hardship — perhaps tea bag donations were meant to ease the pain, to provide something from home that one couldn’t get in Africa. But were the missionaries actually happy to receive their shipment of used tea bags? It’s hard to imagine! I think I would be borderline offended! I mean, all the caffeine from the tea has been washed out, and there wouldn’t be much flavour left eitherโ€ฆ but maybe if you combine several bags together, you can enjoy a decent cup of tea. Not by our standards, but in Africa in the 60’s or 70’sโ€ฆ? But why not just send NEW tea bags?

tea drinkingI wonder if the people saving their bags felt they were doing something good, something helpful. If so, maybe the missionaries appreciated the gesture, if not the flavour. I suppose the tea-drinkers thought themselves to be helping the cause, to be contributing to “the Lord’s work,” somehow. It seems quite ridiculous to us, though, doesn’t it?

I wonder if 30 or 40 years from now, we will look back at our society and giggle or cringe at things we do now, feeling like we’re helping the cause or doing what’s socially or environmentally conscious. I suspect we might cringe over burning fossil fuels, when there is so much clean, free energy in the sun, wind, and waves. All coastal cities will have low-profile wave-generators for their electricity. Maybe we’ll even be using DC voltage exclusively, and have mini-power stations for individual houses or neighbourhoods everywhere.

I wonder if we’ll twitch over time spent on Facebook or playing games. Will we pine over the lost time, when we were able-bodied, that we spent sitting still? Will we think that cheering for sport teams is silly, and rioting, ridiculous? I cringe when I see people burning wood piles (waste wood). Why not chip it and spread it? Compost it? I recently learned of hugelkultur — gardening on top of a pile of wood! How cool is that?

Anyways, if you are hardcore into environmental causes, I encourage you to save your tea bags and, uh, well, don’t send them to anyone! Sheesh. Compost ’em, and if you want to help a missionary in Africa, send money!

(Actually, my mom is part of a group that sews simple sun-dresses for girls in hot, poor countries, so they can have something nice and airy to wear. I like that!)