Family Lines

stories for you

Tag: memories (page 7 of 15)

Giving back

detail-pen-photography-Favim.com-5198291Capital Ideas Calgary asked businesses: “How does your business give back to the community?”

Here’s my answer published in the Calgary Herald on July 23, 2015: http://bit.ly/1MaJcig

How does your business give back to the community?

Everyone has a story but not everyone has the chance to share his or her stories. This especially true of people living on the streets or dealing with addictions. As the owner of a writing business, I’ve been giving back to the community by teaching memoir writing workshops at homeless shelters and detox centres.

I’ve been volunteering through a Calgary organization called This is My City (TMC) for a few years. TMC brings art and people together no matter what their social status. In my workshop, Write YOUR Story, participants learn to tell their tales in their own words. They can write happy stories or sad stories or scary stories or inspirational stories. Positive or negative, these anecdotes give a voice to people whose words might never be heard.

Have a very scary holiday

Family_Lines_Leapbks_frightheader1Looking for some Christmas fear? Yes, it’s still July and many of us aren’t thinking about Christmas but I have announcement. One of my fiction stories was picked up and is being published in the Fright Before Christmas anthology. I’m being paid for it too. Always a happy event for an author.

FRIGHT is a collection of 13 tales, from 13 different authors and will knock the stockings off your fireplace this Christmas season. Earlier this April, I read that the publisher, Leap Books, was looking for submissions for the anthology. That’s when I scraped together an idea and wrote about a stenchy monster that takes instead of gives on December 24.

Many of you probably think of Christmas as a time of good cheer and tinsel and hohoho. But my festive memories always have a bit of a scary side. That’s because my father used to bring home horror movies to watch as a family over the holidays.

This was pre-VHS machines and definitely before watching movies online. He rented out a large LaserDisc player and then stocked up on creepy films. I saw such Christmas gems as Alien, Aliens and Invasion of the Body Snatchers. The Body Snatcher scene where the dog has a human head and his owner has his dog head really made an impact on me. I couldn’t sleep alone for weeks and would drag a blanket into one of my (younger) sisters’ rooms and curl up on the floor for the night.

It this kind of Christmas magic that I’m familiar with so I don’t have any problem writing a scary story for a happy holiday. FRIGHT is set to launch in November of this year and is for children in Grade 6 to 9. My other kids’ book is already out. The Raven named Flight and How She Learned to Fly is about a raven from Fort Smith, NWT. I wrote the story and had the illustrations done by Helen Monwuba. I published the book myself this past December 2014.

kids; book about a raven.

The Raven named Flight and How She Learned to Fly

Print book

Blurb: http://blur.by/1zZpZdi / $32.99 CAD without shipping

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1320278310 / $28.58 US without shipping

Ebooks:

Blurb: http://store.blurb.ca/ebooks/p43a9f931da2cda4398e5 / $4.99 CAD

Apple iBookstore: http://itunes.apple.com/ca/book/id950045042

Take a funky interlude

Sea King.

A Canadian CH-124 Sea King performs deck landing. qualifications on board dock landing ship USS Pearl Harbor (LSD 52) during PANAMAX 2007. PANAMAX 2007 is a joint and multinational training exercise tailored to the defense of the Panama Canal, involving civil and military forces from the region. U.S. Navy photo by Lt. j.g. Brett Dawson (RELEASED)

If you lived in the Maritimes in the 90s, you might remember TV interludes. Every now and then a video put to music popped up on the screen instead of a commercial. Why there were interludes, I’m not sure, but it was a nice break from ads.

ATV (CTV in the Maritimes) broadcast the interludes and I have often wondered if the musical breaks were just a Maritime thing. Or if across the country, we were all glued to the 90s version of Vine. Whatever the reason, take a funky little respite with these three interludes.

Sea King over Halifax interlude

ATV downhill skiing interlude

Christmas interlude

Who are you?

Painting of a soldier.

Do you know who this soldier is?

A few summers ago I bought a painting at a yard sale in Vernon, B.C. It’s acrylic on velvet; almost like one of those velvet Elvis pictures you see hanging in someone’s creepy wood-panelled basement. Except it’s not Elvis staring back at me, it’s a soldier. This soldier is nameless and nationless but his story may have been revealed by a click of a mouse.

The painting appealed to me: the colours, the texture of the “canvas,” the subject, and I brought the piece of art home for four dollars. The unknown soldier has travelled with me around Western Canada and now lives in Calgary. Even though we’ve been living together for about seven years, I don’t know anything about him.

One friend who met the soldier thought he was a Gurkha, a fearsome soldier from Nepal. Their famous motto is, “Better to die than be a coward.” Gurkhas still carry their traditional weapon called a kukri, an 18-inch long curved knife. An interesting speculation but I don’t think this guy one of these warriors.

The other day I was wasting time online when I clicked on a BBC News link: Why the Indian soldiers of WW1 were forgotten. The article’s main photo was in black and white but I immediately recognized the uniforms: my soldier’s kit. Was he an Indian solider in the First World War?

I don’t know. But through the article by I learned that the feats and the losses and the stories of these soldiers are missing from most of our history books. Some people, including me, have no idea of the contribution of the Indian units. It also makes me think about the time when I lived in The Gambia, West Africa. My roommate and I walked past the Fajara War Cemetery a couple of times and I wondered why we don’t hear about Gambian veterans. Where are their stories?

There’s no signature on my soldier’s likeness. No markings to tell me where he is from or where he belongs. Nothing to identify him. However, his silence spoke to me and opened a new portal into the past and introduced me to some forgotten sacrifices.

Corporate histories: stories worth telling

Family_Lines_chamber_blogThis past week I was a guest blogger for the Calgary Chamber of Commerce. I wrote about company histories being stories worth telling. The post was sent out in the June 30th issue of eConnecting, the chamber’s digital newsletter. Unfortunately, the link under my introduction doesn’t work so I’ve posted the piece below.

Corporate histories: investing in your future

Businesses look to the future. Why? Because the future is what companies, big or small, invest time, money and other resources in. The future is where the payoffs come and rewards are

reaped. We’re fixated on what’s ahead and we forget to look behind us. However, our company pasts are just as important to our future successes. Corporate histories give us an understanding of the past and they’re a powerful tool for the future in both business and relationships.

Stories are the means to tell people – prospective clients, customers and shareholders – about a company’s culture: how it was created and built and what is expected. It’s a history to be proud of as well as a powerful communication tool. The Calgary Stampede is a great example of an organization successfully blending the past and today. The Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth has been part of our city for over one hundred years: a legacy thanks to Guy Weadick and the “Big Four.” The anecdote of how they got the Stampede up and racing more than a century ago is told over and over again. It’s part of Calgary’s history, our story, and draws thousands of Albertans and tourists to our city.

Soft forms of capital

Besides increasing business, corporate stories are also an investment in your future when you factor in soft forms of capital such as reputation, trust, goodwill, image and relationships. Tell a strong company narrative that includes being open, honest and transparent along with demonstrating a good financial performance, reliable products and services. Randy McCord, business director and founding member of the National Best Financial Network, said an authentic story speaks volumes about, and for, a company.

“It lets employees and the community read between the lines. It’s not all about business: it’s also about successes, challenges, problems and most of all — people. These make for compelling stories.”

Compelling stories

Interesting stories aren’t only about achievements but obstacles too. Don’t ignore valuable lessons learned from big and small mistakes that helped your company get to where it is today. This kind of narrative thread also gives people insight into your business culture and leadership over the years, as well as how the company has persevered.

Anniversaries and milestones are celebrated because of the hard work you and your staff do to reach landmark occasions. Sharing everyone’s story, from management to the shop floor, helps strengthen your brand as well as deepen employees’ beliefs and trust in their roles within the company. Bottom line: it makes people feel good and they’ll tell others. Besides company/employee benefits, a corporate history also breathes new life into old product lines, reinforces corporate culture and enhances recruiting efforts.

Corporate narratives can be a strategy for onboarding as well as a strategy in the succession planning process. Use the experiences of your past and present staff to fill in the blanks for new hires. Instead of only using directives and manuals, pass on company knowledge, skills and insight by way of a documented story from executives and other employees.

Social media

Now that you have a company history, don’t let it sit on a dusty shelf: put it to work. Expand and engage your audience by connecting through different social media platforms. Tweet out old photos of your company’s first office. Compare it to where you are now. Post a quote on Facebook from a founding member and ask people if the saying still rings true. Use excerpts of your story as blog posts or in advertising.

Your business is a rich source of material that’s probably not being used to its full potential. Corporate histories are unique stories that also illustrate leadership, business strategies and dovetail with marketing and social media campaigns. Experience counts in the corporate world and should be shared. What will you share?

 

 

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.

Beginning, middle and end

Toronto.

Toronto skyline.

I instruct writing workshops and one thing I teach is a story has to have a beginning, middle and end. An easy way to accomplish this in a piece is to remember to use the three o’s: objective, obstacle and outcome.

To get the point across I split a class into groups of three. Then I have everyone write an objective (beginning) and pass their paper on to the next person. That person then has to add the tale and write the obstacle (middle) of the first person’s story. After he or she is finished, they pass the story on to the next person, who concludes the story with the outcome.

The end result is usually a pretty cool story: even though it’s been written by three people. But the point is not to write a masterpiece but to show how easy it is to craft a story when there’s structure. Some amazing tales have come out of this exercise. Here is one:

Oct. 23 2013

It was supposed to be a nice day and he hoped the sun would keep shining. He had a ring in his pocket and a proposal on his mind. He loved his girl and it was time to make her his wife.

The only problem was she lived in Toronto and he lived in Calgary. Neither of them had enough money to visit each other in person, even though we were able to converse over e-mail. The man had heard that sometimes web dating didn’t work out because a lovely woman could turn out to be a burly guy. But in his heart, he knew his situation was different.

“That’s it!” he said to himself. “I have to get to Toronto. Nothing will stand in my way.”

He took the ring and pawned it. With the money from the trade he bought a ticket to Toronto. If she loves him as much as he loves her, she won’t care that he don’t have the bling.

Technobility

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

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

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