Wow! Now There’s a Choir I Might Actually Join…

…assuming they would have me (or by some miracle I wasn’t cut during an audition)!

When I was a kid, my Mom made my brother and me join our church’s Jr. Choir.   Mrs. Craig, the Choir director, probably gained her sainthood while trying to make something out of us elementary boys.  As a child, I really had no appreciation for singing.  Sure, I liked music, but I didn’t have the pipes or the know-how to make my kind of music (or at least the kind  I wanted to listen to).   In those days, my churched peers and I spent many Sunday afternoons practicing and learning songs that we would eventually sing to congregation members of our church.  Practices seemed like torture by boredom intermixed with prolonged lessons about self-control (specifically how to least annoy our beloved Choir director).

Was I talented?  Nope.  Have I acquired more vocal talent since then?  Not even close.  I know I can sing better than some folks, but I’m realistic… meaning I have no delusions of ever getting a recording contract.  Even so, I love music.  I listen to plenty of it, sing it in the shower (or in the car), google to contemplate lyrics, read about it in books, and enjoy finding out useless trivia behind the tunes (usually from artists, songwriters, musicians, producers, or managers).   BTW, does anyone  know what happened to Pop-Up Video anyway?  I used to love that show.

So when I happened upon a video of Choir!Choir!Choir! I thought, “This is a choir I so want to join.”  Watching the video, these people look like they’re having fun, singing their hearts out to some of my favorite songs (Isn’t this the coolest Sloan cover?).  And they’re enjoying beer while doing it… that’s my kind of choir!  It’s too bad I don’t enjoy beer… but I do like the occasional glass of wine.  Enjoying wine while singing old pop songs? Even better!

A couple of my co-workers have mentioned how easily they get sucked into the show Glee.  If you know me, you know I seldom have time for TV (mostly because of my dedication to the Purple Prison), but I have seen parts of Glee episodes to know their appeal.  Popular songs as old as my generation, arranged with a fresh harmonies, and performed by vibrant youth pretty much equals ear candy.  What’s not to like?

Unfortunately, I won’t be auditioning for Choir!Choir!Choir! because they meet in Toronto (which is only a stone’s through from Calgary, if you happen to be Superman.  All 3235 km).  From what I can tell, you pretty much pester the leader on facebook, bring $5 each week, and show up ready to sing.  A singing hack like me might even get in, eventually.  I like how this article indicates this choir has ” solidified a reputation as the best damn no-commitment choir in the city.”

One of their two facebook sites says “Choir! Choir! Choir! is a singing group based in Toronto. Since February of 2011, they have been throwing down and saving lives.”  I’m not exactly sure how they’re saving lives.  From what I know, Jesus Saves.  Conversely, I suspect Choir!Cubed (my nickname, not theirs) might save people from boredom on a weeknight, or from going crazy when lacking an outlet for expression, but these folks don’t seem to be teaching CPR, First Aid, or Lifeguarding.

All the same, I think that the Choir!Cubed brings its members, audience, and random listeners into community.  And couldn’t we all use a little more community–spending time together, friends and strangers, sharing each others company, singing (or listening) together to songs that bring smiles to our faces?  I think it’s why that Cheers intro always tugs on our hearts… “Where everybody knows your name…”

While I was writing this post, it reminded me of an old favorite song that pretty much sums it up.  Sing for the Melody by Sweet Comfort Band “Everybody sing for the Melody, Everybody sing it in Harmony…”

Learn more about Choir!Choir!Choir! here…

blogTO – An informative article about the Choir!Choir!Choir!
http://soundcloud.com/choir-choir-choir – listen to songs recorded by Choir!Choir!Choir!
http://www.choirchoirchoir.com/ – not much here… make sure to scroll left.  Way left.

Deserting and Dissolving

I work in IT.  That is, that I attempt to solve people’s technical challenges.   Presentation audio/visual work (AV) is my least favorite part of IT.  Anything technical involving a presentation in front of people, more specifically clients,  has a huge potential for screw up.  Projector bulbs can (and will) burn out,  USB memory sticks can (and will) lose their drive partition, and public address sound systems can (and will) give ear-piercing feedback.  About the only thing worse than doing AV in your own office is doing it offsite instead.

A few weeks ago my employer was hosting their annual charity golf tournament.  I’d been at the same golf course one year before, in its club house banquet room, fighting with its sound system, irked to discover it was insufficient to drive sound for the charity’s multimedia presentation.  Fast forward one year later…  and I’m going to the same club house, but this time trying to improve options for multimedia sound.

For a few weeks, I tinker with computer speakers around the office.  It occurs to me that we could rent some AV equipment, but the point of the tournament is charity.  The more money spent means less money for charity, Calgary’s Homeless Foundation.  To make matters worse, I hear that this year the golf course has been nickel and diming for all the extras.  This just strengthens my resolve to find a no-cost option.

At home, I happen across my wife’s old JVC KaBoom Box.  When Karen taught aerobics in Ottawa, she used to haul it along to community centres and gymnasiums.  It’s gun-grey ugly, but if memory serves me right, the sound output is awesome!  I test the AUX port and its 52 watt speakers don’t disappoint!  But wait, what’s this black gunk on my hand?  The rubber guards on the speaker ends are sticky?  I can’t for the life of me figure out what happened to it.

After a bit of research on the net, I discover that other JVC owners have encountered something similar sticky situations.  Chemically, the rubber ends on the stereo became unstable during the last decade .  I end up taking the stereo apart and scrubbing the rubber goo from the speaker guards for a good couple hours.  Thank goodness for Sunlight soap and scouring pads.  Now the boombox isn’t just ugly, now it looks vintage ugly with a distressed finish.  More importantly, using the JVC the presentation at the golf tournament goes off without a hitch.  The president of the charity even thanks me for making the presentation run so smoothly.

Dissolving.

I’ve been trying to put my finger on the word for some time now.   I couldn’t figure out what was happening between a couple beloved friends and co-workers at my not-so-loved Purple Prison.  Like the JVC’s rubber speakers, my friendship with these co-workers has been changing.  What was once solid now seems to have broken down and disappeared.

I’ve heard it once said that some friendships only last for a season.  School friends fill my mind when I think of seasonal friendships.  A while back, I’d written an entry about being stuck on a Deserted Island.  In the article, I’d named two co-workers who I held in high regard. and even indicated that we had really gelled.  It seems that was also for a season because somewhere along the way, the gel was dissolved.  I still think well of both people, but am a bit lost to know or understand entirely what happened.

Previously, I had written seven reasons why I wanted them there on that desert island with me; Sense of humor, transparency, sensitivity, empathy, common interests, diversity, and trust.  From my list of seven, almost anything could be removed without huge implications, except for the last.  When trust erodes between friends, the rest become difficult, strained, contrived, and too often impossible.

And maybe there’s the lesson.  At this point, not blame nor cause really matter any more.  When trust dissolves, the friendship, the closeness of the friendship, pretty much ends.  It was a great for a season, but saddly, even the best of seasons come to a close.

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

Deserted Island

Before I started writing this piece, I thought I was going to write about being stuck on a desert island.  As I began my writing process, it occurred that I might have chosen the wrong word.  Did I actually mean a deserted island?  It wouldn’t be the first time I had chosen a wrong words–nor will it be my last.

I also didn’t want to leave an impression on my wife that I would rather be stuck in a tropical paradise with other people, not including her.  The island I was trying to portray was something more… LOST-like, but without all the crazy stuff (only what I’d heard since I only ever watched the first episode).

Upon Google defining both desert and deserted island, my friends at Wikipedia indicate that both are indeed   “A desert island or uninhabited island is an island that has yet to be (or is not currently) populated by humans.”  This was exactly what I was attempting to describe…  basically stuck in the ocean (kind of like Tom Hanks in Cast Away).  This desert island post stems from a discussion with two great coworkers at my beloved Purple Prison, GaoRong and Coralie.

(In my own experience) Friends seldom become coworkers, and friends that do, typically don’t remain friends after laboring together.  Most coworkers remain coworkers–fused into a “professional” relation by place, position, and situation.  Other coworkers end up as adversaries–too bad for them because life is too short for that kind of conflict.  Occasionally, a few select coworkers gel together and actually become friends in the workplace.  This last group is the ones that often make work enjoyable (and more bearable).

Gel-ing coworkers can often  have goofy conversation about work, popular culture, personal experience, and life in general.  These friendships are typified by a genuine interest in each others’ lives.  Really great friends at work can even discuss politics, religion, and another forbidden topic that I can’t seem to recall (I think it was sex, but since I haven’t anything too interesting to mention about that, we’ll it’s never been an issue).

While wondering about those three forbidden topics, I ended up Googling this article from money.usnews.com:  40 Topics You Can’t Discuss At Work  Wow!  Take away all 40 of these topics and some people might have nothing much to discuss… My own new favorites from their list include…

  • (10)  The progress, or lack thereof, of your therapy   (if I could afford therapy, I think that I would want to talk about it.)
  • (11)   Your blog URL  (this seems obvious, considering my topic today)
  • (29)   The state of your undergarments (never even crossed my mind, that’s a good one.  What about ripping the crouch of my pants at work?  Does that count?  Because “that” actually happened last week!  Breezy!  Too much said?)

The fact someone actually took the time to articulate these 40 things makes me worried about the average worker’s ability to use their discretion *sigh*

I know amongst my friends at work, sometimes the conversation turns to kidding.  Occasionally this kidding involves silly ways we tease each other, and sometimes the teasing can get into cutting or sarcasm.  Sometimes this goes too far, so much so, that  when a person, like me, is trying to give a real compliment, it doesn’t get taken seriously.

In one such conversations, to get my point across and demonstrate I was being genuine,  I suggested that if I had to pick only ten co-workers to be stuck on a deserted island with, both of these coworkers would be in my list of ten.  My point of this statement was to indicate that each coworker was the type of person that I would want with me in that hypothetical circumstance.

And truthfully, both GaoRong and Coralie are the type of co-workers that would make my list of top ten islanders to be stuck with on my imaginary island.  This isn’t to say they’d be perfect island-mates, or that we never experienced a personal spat before, but rather that despite the good and the bad, they are stand-up people, the kind I would prefer to have with me in a rough patch.

So thinking about my hypothetical deserted island, what would you say about your own coworkers?  And what would your coworkers say about you?  What defines the kind of person that each of us would want with us in just such a situation?

Thinking about GaoRong and Coralie …  Why would I want them there with me?

  • Sense of humor (and the ability to laugh at oneself).
  • Transparency (the ability to really be yourself, and to not worry about people seeing the “real you”).
  • Sensitivity (good friends are attune to what’s going on).
  • Empathy (Maybe the grind of our Purple Prison has naturally brought us together).
  • Common Interests (music, popular culture, personal experience).
  • Diversity (different life experience, an interest to learn from each other).
  • Trust (not worrying that anyone will be getting “thrown under the bus”, and heaven forbid it happens, knowing there’s forgiveness afterwards).

Last Friday was a good reminder about why I picked GaoRong and Coralie to be my island mates:  Thanks to both of them for staying late to help me with all 28 international packages despite being finished (and permitted to go home)… you two are the best!

So in the scheme of things, where you work, would your coworkers be stuck on a deserted island with, or without you?  Why do you think that is?

Day Dreaming of Simpler Times

Do you recall simpler times?

While working late on Friday night at the Purple Prison, another self-imposed craziness, an old Payola$ song started playing on Jack FM.  It was the end-of-shift and I was wrapping things up by myself.  Usually, I’m very focused on the job at hand, but amidst the music I found myself daydreaming.

Listen Here – You’re The Only One – by the Payola$

My mind was transported back in time to simpler days–Summertime, hanging out with friends around a picnic table in the heat of August sunshine.  Imagine those blue skies, laced with fluffy white clouds, being surrounded by trees, and feeling gravel crunch under foot.

There we were, finishing lunch (likely KFC), listening to songs on the radio, and not a care in the world.  Later, playing games in the park, drinking up the sunshine, and running with boundless energy–where did all that energy go?

In those carefree hours, how could my friends and I know ever the little taste of heaven we had?  Unbeknownst to us, we lived so simply–no bills, no dependents, no worries, and no looming concerns to preoccupy our thoughts or dreams.

Even relationships, and the whole matter of love, seemed simpler in those sun drenched days of summer.  Love was new, allusive, and mysterious.  Much later in life, experience slowly revealed love’s complexity and its full ranges of emotion.

Like the lyrics in the song say,

I’ve finally found what I meant to
Now my face is filled with laughter
Soon I’ll be gone
then I’ll be dreaming about you

Sure enough, much later in life, triggered by an old song on the radio, I find myself dreaming about [then].