Feel the Burn

Aqua Velva

“Aftershave!” Lars exclaimed, revealing her renowned gift for grandsons. “I was nearly out!”

“Aftershave? No wonder it burns so badly! I mistook it for mouthwash.”

Giggles erupted.

Grandma’s eyes loathed my false confession.

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This confessional moment is brought to you courtesy of this weekend’s prompt at Trifextra, the nice folks still making Aqua Velva, and my dearly departed Grandma D.

The Prompt: a thirty-three word confession.

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I Can’t Really Take the Credit…

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Today, I was recognized. I didn’t even stop to bask in my momentary success and recognition. My mind was immediately fixed upon writing an appropriate un-awkward reply (thanks for the thanks?  I think it ended up awkward).  Pondering it all, it occurs to me that I didn’t even tell my wife (sorry my love… it slipped my mind… and you weren’t home for supper. Next time I’ll send an email right away, hopefully, maybe? Who am I kidding?).

So tonight I was articulating ideas that I’ve been itching to type. Initially it didn’t even occur that I should Press my momentary success from today. My natural tendency is to shrug off the glory, but even the smallest victories should be celebrated (if only for a few brief sentences). So in the spirit of Ecclesiastes chapter 3 “…a time to tear down and a time to build, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance…” this is my moment to shine (but really to reflect more than shine).

Here’s the note with my own [amendments] to protect the innocent.

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Perhaps the most satisfying part of getting recognized by this particular fellow was knowing that he had driven an outsourcing of my job (and others like mine) only two years before. Just like life, things change, companies change, and leaders’ minds do too.  So for me, despite a couple years of mourning, tearing down, and weeping (really more disappointment than all-out weeping), and swapping relative certainty for the unfamiliar, today I feel a wee bit built up, with reasons to laugh, and even reason to dance a little jig (if only to myself, and with a few friends reading along–thanks for being here too).

All this to say, I can’t really take any credit. It’s all about shining and reflection. I might show up to work each day, but it’s Christ in me that brings out the best in me. If there’s goodness to be found in me, it’s not me, but rather a reflection of Him. And if I’m honest with myself, anything I do above and beyond the call of duty, I do for my Love of Him.  In my weakness, He remains strong.  So today, I really owe my thanks to Christ working in me, and how He makes me look good.  Thanks be to Him!

Slaves [and IT guys too], obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to curry their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord. Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. ~ Colossians 3:22-24 NIV

And it just occurs to me… at the end of my acceptance spiel, just like every other major celebrity at an award show, I end this off by offering thanks to God.  Go figure.  That wasn’t planned.  Really.

Farewell Note of Encouragement to Guylaine

Guylaine,

Sometimes thank you cards just don’t provide enough space to fully express a person’s gratitude, or in my case, not near enough space to contain my long-windedness.

You might recall me mentioning one of my first recollections of working with you… In door four I found myself cross docking a trailer of packages destined to Edmonton.  While sending the freight up the line, I had suggested you might help by going to tower one to send the packages down to door seven.  Leary of my suggestion, you casually wondered aloud if I might be looking for a way to embarrass you, the new manager, in front of P____y, your trainer.  I was dumb founded.  The thought never crossed my mind,  but afterwards, I wished I had thought of something similar and sooner.

My other earliest recollections of working with you include frantic moments where you rushed here, there, and everywhere.  Half the time, you muttered under your breathe in the lovely language of French; the other half you swore,  but again, in French.

Months and months later, your rag-tag Shift found its rhythm, the team gelled, and you, Boss, well you relaxed (just a wee bit).  Magically, the Sort’s targets no longer seemed so very far away, package handlers worked together (almost team-like), and work became fun.  The Purple Prison, my name for the Station, and the word fun seldom, if ever, had been mentioned together, at least as long as I’d worked there.

Fast-forward ahead a few more months: Your team not only had rhythm, but ran nearly like a well-oiled machine.   Your once little lost group of misfits now seemed almost efficient; once considered an oxymoron for the Station’s night Shift.  More time passed, and gradually, you won the hearts of your peers, specifically the Vampire (a.k.a. N__k) and Av_t_r.   Your hands-on inclusive management style earned you new-found respect.

One of my own personal goals in life is to learn from all my experiences (work and otherwise).  Often, this means I try to observe and learn from others, which often motivates me to revisit (and sometimes challenge) my own assumptions and opinions.  There are many things that I learned while working with you.  Please permit me to share a few…

People deserve a second chance.  Apparently some people deserve a second, then third, and for very select cases, even a fourth (lethargic D_r_k comes to mind).  I saw  you work, and work diligently with co-workers, many of whom I had simply written-off.  I was uncertain if you exhibited more patience or more persistence, but anyone who worked alongside you certainly had a very fair chance at success.  Sadly, most of those fellows never appreciated, nor even realized, the investment you made in them.

Good managers, like good friends, find room for empathy.  In my work life, I’ve experienced managers that definitely could learn a lot from you.  You always demonstrated empathy when working through decisions with employees–you always factored in an employee’s situation, their needs, and their goals while you sought to balance the Station’s objectives.  Sometimes you got burned, but more often than not, you gained loyalty and appreciation from your employees.

Hands-on managers greatly improve their chances of success.  A couple of years ago, if someone mentioned that our Sort might take first place in anything for the corporation, I would have erupted in laughter.  Much to my delight, you lead our team to number one in scanning compliance for Canada.  What seemed once impossible became possible.  I figured this happened because you coached everyone everyday, and you invested yourself with your hands-on approach.

Balance is a life-long pursuit.  For me, balance in life and in work has always been a challenge.  In my mind, I just figured that one day I would discover the secret.  Working with you, it became apparent that balance is (and remains) a life-long pursuit; more a journey than a destination.  On many days, I wondered why you stayed on our Sort.  Fridays seemed like hell.  Other entire weeks seemed like hell. Eventually it became apparent that immediate hardship would eventually lead to something, somewhere better.  It’s a good reminder… the little unpleasantness today doesn’t mean a lifetime of unhappiness.

So, what else is there to say?  I could go on some more, but I won’t.  Instead, I want to express my gratitude for your generous spirit, both inside and outside of work.  You’re amougst the most giving people I know, and a sharp contrast to the selfish attitude too often exhibited within our culture.  You were never cheap to share treats, to lend an ear, to offer kudos, or to learn a bit about each person that worked alongside you.

The time we spent working together was never without rough spots, but those were definitely the exception.  And even when there disagreement, it helped me to appreciate all the good days because, by far, the good outnumber the bad.  Somehow, we always worked things out in the end.

The Station was very different before we met.  Now that you’re gone, things are very different again.  Rest assured, I certainly enjoy the time we did work together and often look back to those pleasant memories.  My co-workers and I are a bit weary in spirit, wondering how the next manager will be different, and how he won’t be like “our” Guylaine.  For certain, you leaving is our Station’s loss and Kelowna’s gain.  Without a doubt,  I’m confident you’ll be great, and do even greater things for the company and that location.

One last thing… It has been a pleasure and honor to work with you.  I’ve heard it said, “Some people come in and out of our lives, but a select few leave fingerprints.”  I’m grateful to have your fingerprints on this part of my life.  Thanks for being a great manager and friend.  All the best to you and your future endeavor!

With Kindest Regards,

Lane

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Yesterday, I sent out a message to forty something friends on facebook letting them know that our friend and colleague, Chadd Milke, had been taken home to be with the Lord. In the last twelve hours, my mind has flooded my thoughts with memories of my dear departed friend…

Chadd and I go back a long time–even before facebook. We first met working for Blessings (BCM) back in the late 90s when, newly hired, he came to visit me at the Saskatoon store. At the time, Chadd was going to assist in managing the newly opened Winnipeg store. Right from our first meeting, I could tell that Chadd wasn’t cut from the same cloth as me, but I liked him immediately. Most people found Chadd to be a very like-able fellow.

A couple years later both Chadd and I would move to Edmonton, him from Winnipeg, me from Saskatoon, so we could both work at BCM’s new Support Centre offices. There Chadd’s friendship blossomed with his co-workers (Chris, Joy, Trisha, Janet, Christine, the Bobst girl whose name I can’t recall, Felix, Jim, Ruth, Sharon, Erin, Annie, Paul, Sheri, Sarah, Larry, Janice, Mark, and others I’ve forgotten–my apologies to you).

In those days, work felt like family. We had our good days, we had our fights, and we had challenges, but Chadd was one of those people who made going to work fun! He had a great sense of humor, and for those of us who invested our friendship in Chadd, we got to know one of God’s especially created personalities.

To say Chadd was a “music guy” would be an erroneous understatement. That fellow always amazed me with his passion for music. Many people have commented to me about my diverse and eclectic tastes in recorded music–Chadd’s interest, knowledge, collection, and appreciation makes me look like an amateur. And he knew artists and artists knew him too! I consider it a privilege to have introduced Chadd to at least one musician, Jesse Cook, considering that he introduced me to hundreds (if not thousands).

But Chadd wasn’t just into music; he loved reading books, and meeting and interacting with their authors. I recall he even was friends with Brock and Bodde Thoene, and Gilbert Morris (I think that was the fellow). Chadd was the most well read “music guy” in our business. Chadd also loved going to popular media and cinema–I recall going to Midnight Movie Premiers, like Lord of the Rings, with him and other friends from work.

In my work life, to amuse myself and try and lighten the mood, I dream up “camp’ names for my coworkers… If you’re lucky (or some might say, unlucky) I’ll share them with you. My camp names for Chadd included… Chadd the Milkman, “who always delivers”, Cha-Cha, Chadd-man-of-mystery, Mr. Rhondo, Chaddzilla, and Chad Solo ( I’m pretty sure he hated the last one the most since it was in reference to Han Solo from StarWars… Chadd would have nothing to do with StarWars; He was a Trekkie through and through).

There is no doubt that I got on Chadd’s nerves from time to time, but he was always very gracious and kind–truly a brother who modelled the fruit of the spirit. Chadd was also one of the most dedicated employees I’ve ever had the privilege of working with. His work ethic rivaled that of my mother, and she’s one of the hardest working people I know. A significant part of BCM’s success in those heyday years were built with Chadd’s sweat and tears. One warm summer afternoon, Chadd received one of the only Support Site award I ever recall being given–he won (and indeed deserved) to be The Support Site Employee of the Year.

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Eventually BCM sold, and the Support Site family was fractured with those who would move to Chilliwack, and those that move on to other things. For those of us who moved to Chilliwack, Chadd included, what we arrived to seemed like a TV Big Brother experiment gone wrong. The entire support staff was packed into two offices and a lobby, while the new headquarters underwent a complete renovation. Working in such tight quarters was challenging for all of us, but my Mom would later share with me that it was especially difficult for Chadd. The fact that all of us made it through with our sanity in-tact was only by God’s grace.

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In Chilliwack, I gained a new appreciation for Chadd. My kids were growing up, and Chadd was growing up in his own way. One of my favorite memories with Chadd was him going trick-or-treating with my kids, Mr. Woodward, and me. Jana and Justin, loved hanging out with him–he might as well have been their Uncle Chadd. When things wound down for me at Blessings, and my family moved back to Calgary, there was Chadd to say good bye.

Over the past few years, Chadd and I have connected by email and facebook, and I always appreciated how he’d bring new music to my attention. Even though we wouldn’t see each other face to face again, with Chadd, it always felt like he wasn’t that far away.

I think that Chadd was like that for many of us in that he had a unique friendship with each person. I’m sure my experience was different that yours, but it makes me appreciate how God uniquely created each and every one of us.

Chadd, rest assured my friend that you will be greatly missed, and that you made a bigger mark on lives than you might have imagined!  It was a pleasure spending time with you here on Earth, but I look forward to meeting you again in Heaven, and hearing about what great music awaits me there. While you’ve gone on ahead, I’ll be praying for your family and friends who will be missing you greatly.

Your friend,

Lane

Missing Chadd

Thanks God for windy days… and those things we cannot see

Much of my free time as a boy was spent riding my bike all over the neighborhood.  There was a few neighbors who thought my brother and I were hooligans on our bicycles.  Some of them were bold enough to say so.

Being hooligans, rain or shine, summer or snow, my brother and I would ride our bikes in nearly every type of weather.  Pretty much anytime, day or night,  we would pedal those thangs all over the place.

Riding into a strong head wind was about the only condition where I actually hated bike riding.  A tail wind was great fun as it seemed like we could coast forever, but inevitably, we’d always have to ride back against the wind to get home.  For some reason, riding into a wind just sucked the joy out of bike riding.  So much effort expended seemed to take us almost no where.  After riding in the wind for a while, our hands and faces would be freezing–this would just add frustration to an already burdensome experience.

Growing up, I can only remember flying a kite once or twice, and it was in early elementary school.  I don’t even recall owning a kite, so when I did fly one, it probably belonged to a friend.  On a windy day, a kite could be an interesting thing.  Anything less, like a breeze, made kite flying into more of a running type of experience.  That was annoying because while a person is running they can’t even get a good view of the kite he’s trying to fly.

This last Christmas was far from the beautiful white Christmas many might sing about.  Calgary gets occasional warm winds, Chinooks, that blow through town and usually melt away the snow.  Since my family was hosting Christmas at our place, and our usual tobogan hill was missing all traces of snow, my daughter and I headed off to the hobby store to get some kites (just incase the adults has “just about enough” of the kids and sent them outside to play).  I figured if the opportunity presented itself, then the kids and I might try flying some kites.  Drat, the kids were too well behaved–we didn’t get exiled outside, and we didn’t end up needing those kites.

So a few weeks later my son, Justin, and I ended up trying out one of the kites.  He’d never flown one before, and it had been decades since I’d done it.  So off we went to the local soccer park to give it a go.

The day was perfect–nice and windy (the kind of day you might avoid riding a bike).  After working at flying and steering (if one actually steers a kite), it wasn’t log before we had the kite fully extended on all the string from the spool.  Both of us seemed to have a good time doing something unusual (or at least different from playing video games).  At times, we seemed to be in control, and other times the wind took the kite in ways we certainly didn’t expect.  Sure, the kite crashed a few times, but in my mind, it was a successful venture!

While we were flying the kite, I was reminded about wind being like faith.  Someone once said that faith is believing in things unseen,  and in Hebrews 11, faith is described as evidence of things unseen.   And recalling a Billy Graham audio clip speaking about how he could not see the wind, but we could see the effects of the wind.  So it also seems with God, although I cannot certainly don’t see Him (at least in the way we see others), I certainly see evidence of His work in my life, and how He effects me (and the world around me).