Family Lines

stories for you

Tag: company history (page 8 of 17)

Shark bait

lake.

Lumsden Dam: inviting or scary?

Family Lines is my second business. My first business was teaching swimming lessons one summer. That was in 1992 and I had a tough time finding a student job. So I made my own.

I lived near a lake, Lumsden Dam, and I was already a lifeguard and a swim instructor. All I needed were swimmers. Nowadays one would put an ad on Kijiji but I didn’t have that option. Off to the family computer I went. (We only had one in those days.) I found some clipart of a man diving in to a puddle and added some wording around him about lesson costs and who to contact: me.

Next I had to print off the posters and pin them up somewhere. But where? I lived in the country and my clients were going to be from this area. There were no shops or cafes or even a gas station nearby. That’s when my mom told me I had to hand-deliver my marketing message. These weren’t posters, they were brochures.

That’s my worst nightmare. Knock on peoples’ doors and try to sell them stuff? Only weird people do that. Me? I’m not doing that. No way. Nooooooooo way.

“Yes way.”

With my mother behind the wheel of the SUV, we drove all around the neighbourhood, which was about an 8km radius. At every house where we knew there were kids, mom would park and watch me as I knocked on doors and handed out brochures. Where she couldn’t see me, I didn’t knock on the doors. I just left my pamphlet in the mailbox.

No matter how not-so-hard I worked on my grassroots marketing, I did end up with customers. The month of July, I spent at the beach instructing kids how to float and do the front crawl and the back crawl too. It was all going swimmingly except for one guy. Seth was probably around 12 and wouldn’t venture too far out into the lake. Why? He was afraid of the sharks.

Seth was a voracious reader and of course had a read a fact book about some sharks being able to live in fresh water. It made him wary of every shadow and flicker in the deeper water. It kept him close to shore.

Seth could already swim but I needed to evaluate a particular stroke, which meant he had to go further into the lake than his knees. Even though his three buddies weren’t being attacked in the open water, a few metres away, it didn’t matter. He was staying put.

Great White shark.

Great White Shark. New Zealand. Photo credit: Sorozatgyilkos fehér cápa / http://bit.ly/1IlVun1

Then a couple days later, I was watching a show on sharks. One of the experts on the documentary made a fascinating point: He said more people in Canada and the U.S. are killed each year by pigs – six times more than by sharks worldwide. (I just googled this old piece of trivia and it’s true. Click here for the Shark Foundation.) This was perfect timing. With this information, I could get Seth to start swimming in the lake.

At Seth’s next swim lesson, I told him the good news: pigs bite more than sharks.

“Oh great,” he said. “Now I have to watch out for floating pigs too.”

Welcome to the work world

Scarf.

This isn’t a Gap outfit but I am wearing a scarf. This photo was taken in New York City.

Every time I walk into a Gap, I have the urge to tuck tags into shirts and fold sweaters that have been messily discarded by shoppers. The Gap was once a major part of my life in a time when I was falling apart at the seams. (Insert joke here.) Now the retailer is closing a quarter of its stores, maybe even the one I worked in.

It was the late nineties, spring, and I had just graduated from journalism school. This was degree #2. Confident I would get a reporting job in Toronto, where I had been living for two years and where my boyfriend was, I stayed in the big city. That’s where all the opportunities would be anyway. Right?

There was a recession during that time and it slowed down the job market. No one was hiring a green journalist right out of school. No matter how much I made my resume stand out. (I had seen job seeker experts who told me to do something different with my CV. So I put a photo of me rock climbing.) The eye-catching picture along with the aspirational headline about no challenge being too tough, did not net me any work.

In early September, I was finding life a little more difficult than I thought it would be. My boyfriend broke up with me and I hadn’t realized my dream of becoming a globetrotting journo. I also only had $4 to my name and I couldn’t even take it out of the bank machine because withdrawals had to be at least $5. There was no way I was asking my parents for money. I’m an adult now, I thought. Independent. Independent adults look for any way to make a buck. Not just in their fields.

After a week of terrible one-day jobs like shilling bulk tickets to a comedy show, I was wilting. Who knew being grown-up was so hard? A friend saw my distress and helped me. His sister worked at a temp agency and she hooked me up with work. My first placement was on Bay Street with a well-known investment firm.

The night before work, a woman from the firm called me and told me to dress appropriately. I was to wear nice trousers and a nice blouse and nice shoes.

“Oh, and don’t forget to accessorise. Wear a scarf,” she suggested.

That wouldn’t be a problem. I always got compliments on my fashion sense. I’m sure that I’ll blend in with the rest of the corporate employees. In the morning, I left feeling fine and dandy and ready to work. Here I come working world!

My day on Bay Street revolved around putting mail in people’s inboxes. That’s the extent I remember. It wasn’t the best job but it wasn’t the worst. I was getting paid.

Gap store.

I once worked at a Gap. And spent many an hour folding.

I went home that evening and my roommate and I celebrated my new job by getting lost walking around Toronto trying to find a Dairy Queen. Later that night, around 10 p.m., the investors woman called me and asked what I had worn to my new job that almost-done-day. I told her and emphasized I had even put on a scarf. This didn’t impress her.

“They told me you looked like you worked at the Gap,” is what she said to me. “Don’t come back.”

My Bay Street days were over. Now what was I going to do? Even though the investment company woman was incredibly rude and kind of hurt my feelings, she gave me an idea. I was going to apply to work at the Gap: and I did.

I was a “sales associate” at a shop on Queen Street West. It wasn’t a great job but it paid me and I got a clothing discount. Besides that, I leaned some valuable customer service lessons that I use to this day. The Gap was a weird anchor for me in a time that was frustrating and sad. While it was a time I don’t want to re-live, it was a time that gave me lots of perspective and now, funny stories.

Campfires and pirates

Campfire.Stuart McLean was telling stories about singing songs yesterday. The Vinyl Cafe was all about using your voice to carry a tune and carry a tale. Something many of my friends can do. Not me.

I like music. I was in band in school. I was in choir too and I also took piano lessons for many years. Now a days I listen to songs on the internet or through my mobile. I almost never hum along. I don’t like singing. Except, I just remembered, around a campfire.

I was a Brownie and a Girl Guide and a Pathfinder and a Ranger. Camping is a big part of the Guiding movement and I went every summer to live outdoors for a week. After sun soaked days of hiking or sailing or jumping off the dock into the lake, we sat in a circle singing campfire songs. Songs written years before we were born. Songs that wove stories of tragedy like the Titanic into melodies. We sung the words without sadness. Because we were young and the worst thing to happen that day was a wasp sting.

My favourite song to sing around the flames is Barges. It’s a simple composition with lyrics about ocean-going vessels bringing treasures from one part of the world to the other. There are even pirates fighting in the midst of the score. Barges is a song that harmonizes music with a good story. Any voice can carry this tune and every imagination can take to the seas when singing this story under a starry night.

Listen to Barges: http://bit.ly/1LaqVCt

Make memories today

bike rider.

Technobility

blackboard.How do I use technology for my business’ advantage?

Find out here: http://bit.ly/1F9WR2E.

Stand by your (NHL) man

Maple Leaf Gardens

Maple Leaf Gardens in 2009.

Don’t laugh at me but I like the Leafs. Yes, the Toronto Maple Leafs. My team hasn’t done well all year and definitely aren’t in the running for the Stanley Cup so I’m rooting for my next favourite team, the Calgary Flames. (Update: they lost last night.) My husband is a diehard Montreal Canadians fan and I’m not going there.

I went to Ryerson University in downtown Toronto. My second year, I lived in Cabbagetown, east of Yonge Street and about a 10 minute walk from class. Going to and fro I passed Maple Leaf Gardens, the large brick building that was the home of the Maple Leafs.

I didn’t favour one hockey team over another back then. The Maritimes don’t have an NHL team, so I never felt an affinity for one squad or another. But being in Toronto and having Maple Leaf Gardens nearby made me a Leafs fan. I used the see the players walking in and out from a game or practice. On cold winter nights that turned the outdoor light blue, joyous crowds would cram through the Gardens’ doors and hit the streets. I weaved my way through their happy (most of the time) braying and would hear their dissections of the winning goal.

Sometimes I saw players from the visiting team standing outside, like Wayne Gretzky and

Leaf jersey.

Go Leafs! (Next year.)

Marty McSorley when they played for the L.A. Kings. They were getting ready to hop on the bus parked on Carlton Street. Headed home. Like me.

Those moments created a member of Leafs Nation. It wasn’t any specific hockey stat, player, or game. I actually haven’t seen them play other than on TV. But it doesn’t matter. I will never Leaf them. Although I’m crossing my fingers (and toes) they pick up their game next season.

Mum’s not just a mum

mum, dad and baby.

My parents and I.

I don’t have a first memory of my mother. She’s always been there: picking me up, carrying me, holding my hand and teaching me about life. For the past few months, I’ve been collecting my mother’s stories. Now I’m learning about her life.

You’d think that I’d already know a lot about my mother. Of course I do. She told my sisters and I many stories about growing up in northwestern Ontario on a farm. Her anecdotes are rich with detail and humour and tie her family stories to us, the next generation. My niece and nephew have even created heritage projects in school using their grandmother’s (my mother’s) memoirs about her dad, a Second World War veteran. But it’s different hearing family stories when you’re young compared to when you’re 40.

 

At the age I am now, I have different questions. They lead to different insights. I see the sadness behind some of the funny stories. I understand the context. I hear the love in her voice when she talks about her parents, remembering them through the lens of maturity.

My mother’s memoirs are not close to being being done. I’ve interviewed her up to when she met my father, a quirkier story than I realized. My mother’s story isn’t done either because she has so much more life to live. She continues to be there for my sisters and I. We’ll always be her babies, she always tells us, and there’s nothing she wouldn’t do for us.

Happy Mother’s Day to my mother and every other mother too.

Have a treasured memory of your mom to share – but don’t have the time to write it down?Mother's Day logo.

Talk to me.

Tell me your tale in half an hour, I’ll turn it into a story she’ll keep forever.

$50 (Payment required via Interac e-transfer.)

For more information, contact LeaStorry@ourfamilylines.ca or 403-700-5435.

Springshine

Woman and dogs walking.

Photo by Lewis Benedict.

 

Come out to the festival

Me at the podium.

At the podium for Friends and Mentors: Sharing Experiences. A behind-the-scenes look at TMC.

Yesterday I was at the Calgary library talking about my experiences teaching memoir writing workshops to participants from the Drop-In Centre, Alpha House and Women’s Centre. My presentation was one of five and part of the This Is My City Festival 2015.

I’m a volunteer with This is My City (TMC). TMC matches artists with people living at the margins of society and together we write, dance, sing and create art. I run memoir writing sessions and get to hear many different anecdotes from the homeless and those at risk of homelessness.

The festival is free and there are many things to see and hear and do this upcoming week. From art exhibits to found poetry to a photo walk, you’re invited to join us: http://bit.ly/1FN3j1R. It’s a great way to see, hear, read and listen about the people most of us have forgotten.

Found poetry,.

TMC: Found Poetry.

Whip it real good

caramel caffè macchiato.

A Starbucks caramel caffè macchiato.

We’ve all had those days or weeks or months or years. When things are tough. When things aren’t going smoothly. When everything you do ends up on the proverbial floor. Today though, I’m finding humour in the unfunny. Turning the tables on the rough stuff and looking through the gloominess and into the sunshine.

During a particularly bad week, I went to Starbucks. At least here I get exactly what I want: a non-fat, half-sweet chai latte with a tart and tasty slice of lemon loaf on the side. The barista who took my order was an acquaintance. I don’t know anything about her except her name and she’s a student. We made some small talk as I hand over my loaded gift card to be swiped.

“It says zero,” she says.

Oh… My face heats up like the milk being steamed for my drink. I madly check all my pockets looking for change, for a piece of plastic, anything. Nope. Nothing. I took the wrong gift card. And I didn’t have any money or a debit or credit card on me.

Crap.

“This is embarrassing,” I say to the barista as I step towards the door. “I’ll have to skip the drink today.”

“It’s already made so don’t worry about it.”

Isn’t that nice.

“Thank you!”

I grab my drink and go to put a lid on it. When I look down at the hot beverage it’s not what I ordered. It’s a caramel caffè macchiato..and I don’t drink coffee. However, I really can’t send a free latte back. Oh well. There’s whip cream on top…and I like that.

 

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