Witness a strong team in action

Empire Life co-chairs Ian Alexander and Karen Swain reveal the thermometer surpassing our goal

There’s a saying in sports. There’s no “I” in the word team.

Watching a team come together and work magic is…well, in a word, magical.

This past week, our Empire Life United Way committee and team wrapped up its annual United Way campaign. Our goal was $240,000 and we blew it out of the water, raising more than $260,000. The money is still coming in.

Those of us who have been involved in our United Way campaign for many years have been asking ourselves, what did we do right? What was the magic formula and how do we replicate it next year?

While I think there were many things that made this year’s campaign a success, having a strong team in place was key.

It’s always interesting working with teams and volunteers. Some people prefer to work diligently behind the scenes on a specific task; others are happy to pitch in where needed, while others are more comfortable taking a leadership role.

When teams start working together, there’s always that initial adjustment period when people are trying to figure out the plan, who’s taking the lead, who will do what and the personalities of the players.

And then a magical moment happens when the team just clicks. The plan is in place. Everyone knows what they need to do and they do it.

That’s what happened with our team this year, and they did a magnificent job.

A big kudos to our campaign co-chairs this year Karen Swain and Ian Alexander who built a strong team and whose positive support and leadership guided them to their goal.

And a big shout out to Jessica Schonewille on my team who is one of the hardest working volunteers and supporters of the campaign I know, and who came in every day this week despite having bronchitis to do her part. You’re the best. 

Final notes

  • To learn more about the important work United Way does in your community to change lives locally, visit your local United Way website. If you haven’t given to this year’s campaign yet, give now.
Aaron Lutz is one of our behind the scenes workers
My friend Aaron Lutz is one of those guys who works hard behind the scenes but prefers not to be in the spotlight, so this time Aaron I’m putting you in the spotlight!
Jessica Schonewille
Jessica Schonewille came in every day this past week despite having bronchitis–that’s how dedicated this team was
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Get out and vote local

All candidates meeting
My neighbour and councillor incumbent Bruno Albano speaking at our all candidates meeting in Verona

This past week, pop star Taylor Swift urged Americans on her Instagram account and the American Music Awards to get out and vote.

A testament to her power and influence, nearly 65,000 Americans ages 18 to 29 registered to vote within 24 hours, and those numbers are continuing to grow in the US every day.

I’ve never understood why anyone in the United States or Canada wouldn’t exercise their right to vote. It is the single most important freedom and right we have.

Here in Canada, we will go to the polls once again this month to elect municipal officials. I recently attended the all candidates meeting for my district, and one of the incumbents said while municipal elections have traditionally seen some of the lowest voter turnouts, it is actually the most important vote because it is your opportunity to influence and shape what happens in your own community.

I was extremely impressed with the three men running for mayor, and the five men running for the two councillor positions in my area. Every single incumbent was well versed on the issues, passionate about the beautiful area we live in, and had a vision for how to attract young families, business and look after our growing senior population. It’s reassuring to know that after all the votes are tallied, no matter what happens here in South Frontenac, we will be well represented.

I was also extremely impressed with the dedication and commitment of all the candidates to serve. At least four or five of the people running had full-time jobs, young families and served on committees, volunteer organizations and more. Dave and I know three for four of the guys personally, and they are all stand up people. I applaud all of them and their families for running for council. My only wish was to see more women and diversity represented.

This week’s #HappyAct is to get out and vote locally. Most municipalities have online voting so there’s no excuse not to vote!

On a lighter note: If you read last week’s post, A Country Mile, you’ll appreciate this. I’ve seen many of our local candidates this week out and about. Mayor candidate Mark Schjerning waved to me three different mornings this week on my commute into Kingston—he was standing at the side of the road in Sydenham and Harrowsmith waving to cars. My neighbour Bruno Albano, who is running for councillor was putting up signs on highway 38 yesterday. We honked our horn in support, making him jump. Only in the country!

More posts on voting

If I were Prime Minister for the Day

A country mile

country fieldOne of the many things I’m thankful for is living in the country. While I grew up in the suburbs of Toronto, I’m forever grateful we made the decision more than 20 years ago to get out of the city and move to rural roads where the air is fresh, the mosaic fields of fall spread before you like a harvest feast, and you can walk or drive for a country mile without seeing another car or person.

What I didn’t count on was how much the simplistic charm of the little hamlets and crossroads, and the people who inhabit them would grow on me.

For instance, I was driving to Tamworth the other night for a 4H meeting. The sign at the church in Croyden said, “Rhonda. Sunday. 6:30.”

It made me wonder who was Rhonda and what was she doing at the Croyden church on Sunday at 6:30? Was she getting married? Or was it an unhappy occasion—a memorial service for Rhonda? Was she young or old?

I did wonder if perhaps my friend Rhonda Nontell who has a cottage nearby was giving a gospel performance at 6:30 in Croyden, but then the sign would say “Rhonda. Sunday. 6:30. $5.” I mean most of us would pay at least $5 to see that performance.

These are the things that keep me up at night.

And then there is the country wave. When I first moved to this area 20 years ago, my best friend’s Mom Audrey educated me on the country wave. The country wave is different if you’re walking or driving.

When walking, the proper way to wave to people is a slight nod of the head or raise of the hand for a half-wave. No full-out wave, or Queen wave, just an acknowledgement you saw them driving by.

If driving, there are two approved country waves. There’s the two finger wave, where you just raise two fingers off the steering wheel or the four finger wave with your four index fingers extended. A slight nod of the head is acceptable.

Over the years, I’ve experienced everything from discovering a newborn fawn at the end of my driveway, to eating my breakfast cereal with an escaped cow staring at me through the kitchen window, to chickens on our hot tub. Yes, country living is definitely better by a country mile.

This week’s #HappyAct is to give thanks for where you live. Here are some pictures I took on my drive and walk on the country roads near Tamworth the other night.

horses

country sign
This is the first sign I’ve seen for turtles and snakes

barn silosunset over a field

A puppy at heart

Girl with dog

Ever since I can remember, there has been a dog in our house.

I’ve never paid more than $10 for a dog. My Mom always said mutts make the best pets.

Nine years ago on Canada Day, we brought home a little German shepherd, golden retriever puppy named Murphy. Our house has been filled with love ever since.

Murphy was free until he ate a pair of the kids’ underwear which required surgery. Our free dog ended up costing us $780.

Murphy has been one of the most lovable affectionate dogs I’ve ever owned. He’ll actually get up on the couch or approach you when you’re sitting down and nuzzle his head into your shoulder and lap and just snuggle with you. I call him my gentle giant.

I fear Murphy’s days are numbered. He has that disease that affects a dog’s spine where their back legs start giving out.

For the past two weeks, each morning he struggles to his feet, then stumbles towards the front door and down our porch steps, walking sideways and looking back at us with mournful eyes.

We decided to stop taking him on our nightly walks. Yet each night when he sees us grab the leashes, he totters to his feet and approaches the door with a little wag of the tail. This picture was from yesterday when Clare and I took him for a walk on the K&P Trail. Even though we struggled to get him into the car, he was game.

He is still a puppy at heart.

I remember Dave’s dad telling me once that even though he was in his 80’s, in his mind he was still a teenager.

This week’s #HappyAct is to always be a puppy at heart. We love you, Murph.

More posts for dog lovers

The art of observation

Girl at Kitty Hawk statue
Grace at the statue of John Daniels at Kitty Hawk

Some of the most iconic photos in the world have been taken by amateur photographers.

Take for instance, the photo of first flight. When the Wright brothers decided they were going to take to the air in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina in 1903, they needed someone to document their feat. They turned to John Daniels, who worked at the life-saving station in the coastal town.

Orville Wright set up the Gundlach Korona camera on his tripod and showed Daniels how to trigger the camera’s shutter by squeezing the release bulb. Daniels took the picture of the brothers ascending into the air, but it wasn’t until much later until they knew it had been captured on film.

Since those early days of photography, we have been intrigued with capturing moments in time through the glass of a 35 mm lens. Today, thanks to smart phones and digital technology, we all have the ability to share our view and observations of the world around us.

Elliott Erwitt once said, “Photography is an art of observation. It’s about finding something interesting in an ordinary place… it has little to do with the things you see and everything to do with the way you see them.”

This week’s #HappyAct is to take a photo of something that intrigues or inspires you, then share it.

This blog post was inspired by the award winning photographs of my two daughters who entered their photography into the Kingston Fall Fair. Grace won two firsts and a third, and Clare won one first, second and third, with her winning photo being chosen Reserve Champion (second best of all photos submitted in all categories) for the junior category. Here are some of their award winning photos.

Photo of flowers

 

Photo of dog on couchPhoto of chickensPhoto of flower

Two journeys in one

Grace and me at the top of Rock Dunder

One of my favourite seasons of the year to hike is fall.

Yesterday, my Ryerson Alumni Group hiked one of the most beautiful treks in Eastern Ontario, Rock Dunder, just south of Morton. This 230-acre property is owned by the Rideau Waterway Land Trust and rises 275 feet to a summit for a stunning view of the Rideau Canal and surrounding area. It was a former boy scout camp and has three log cabins on the trail.

We arrived just before 11 and started on the Summit Loop. The alumni magazine sent a professional photographer named Sarah Palmer to join us. A Ryerson grad, Sarah is a photo assignment editor for Macleans two weeks a month and freelances on the side. It was great getting to know her and hearing about her adventures and travels.

People at the trail summit

Even though it was unseasonably warm, the bottom part of the loop was wonderfully cool as we walked through the soft green canopy of the woods and explored the two worn log cabins used by the boy scout camp in the 80’s. Halfway to the top, we stopped for a swim and cliff jumping (well, Grace and my friend Mike cliff jumped—I chose to cheer them on from the cool water below).

The summit was spectacular—Rock Dunder definitely lives up to its reputation of being the best hike in Eastern Ontario.

At the top, we debated about taking the same trail back, or finishing the loop. We decided to complete the loop. My daughter Clare once said it’s always better to choose the path you haven’t been on before because it’s like taking two journeys in one.

For more inspiration to get you out on the trails this fall, see my blog post, Stand on a Rocky Outcrop.

Ed. note: Are you a Ryerson alumni living in the Kingston region? Join our group and follow us on Facebook to learn about all the fun activities we plan year-round.

Woman on trail
My friend Brenda at the top of the summit

Hiking group

Hang out with happy people

Song album cover for Save yourself

Two weeks ago, I shared a post called Seven Habits of Highly Unhappy People.

As much as it’s important to avoid unhappy habits, it’s just as important to avoid hanging out with people who are pessimistic, focus too much on themselves and see themselves as victims in this world.

As Ed Sheeran in his beautiful song Save Yourself says, “human beings are destined to radiate or drain.”

This week’s #HappyAct is to surround yourself with people who are positive, bring out the best in you and who radiate. Avoid those who drain.