Tuesday, February 26, 2008

A ringing phone . . .

There are those who believe that a phone call should always end with the words, "I love you", which is often shortened to "love ya", just as there are those who practice the departing embrace or parting two cheek kiss. Good for them, I say. They have clearly come up with a way of being comfortable with words and body language that evoke affection and express emotion, at least on the surface. I guess my caution would be that these words and/or actions can become a routine, and infact lose some of their sincerity over time. There quietly exists another group of people who are, for one reason or another uncomfortable displaying their emotions or expressing their feelings. To me, those most severely afflicted in this regard are no less handicapped than a person missing a limb, and yet they are more often than not misunderstood and in some cases belittled or resented for their disability. Surely you can think of people (mostly men) who fit into this category. Here's a simple fix that I think is worth trying. Start with phone calls. Just as you now have the ability to pick a ring tone for your cell phone, pick a ring tone for your home phone that represents the emotion or feeling that the person calling would like to express, but is incapable of expressing. So, next time the phone rings, convert the standard ring tone into "I love you, I was thinking about you and that's why I'm calling you; I love you, I was thinking about you and that's why I'm calling you . . ." (I haven't quite figured out what to do when the caller is a telemarketer, and I haven't thought this through to situations where getting a warm embrace or a kiss out of one these people is a desired outcome, but I'll keep working on it. Let me know if you have any suggestions).

Friday, February 15, 2008

From pumping gas to gotta go to Ghana

The picture above is a picture of some anonymous guy pumping gas back in 1958 - the year I was born. I think we actually owned a car with a set of fins on it not unlike the one in the picture. When I came across it on the internet, this photo took me back in time, but it also reminded me of a success story that got its start at a gas station right here in Grafton. Back about 1994 I pulled into the local petrol pusher to purchase some fuel. A young man practically tripped over himself as he literally ran from the station to the pump to the windshield, and back again. As I settled up with him for the fuel, I made a point of complimenting him for his enthusiasm for his somewhat mundane job. A few weeks later he turned up at Ste. Anne's looking for work. It turns out the owner of the gas station was grumpy most of the time, (his nickname was Pickles; apparently he liked to drink), and was paying his staff below minimum wage. At the time, the only job opening we had at Ste. Anne's was in housekeeping, a role that not many young men would feel comfortable in, but this lad jumped right in. He went on to work in various other departments, he got himself fired once, (but then profusely apologized and meekly asked to have his job back), met a girl, got married, became a father to 3 beautiful children and put himself through school all the while working at Ste. Anne's. Today he manages our facilities department, oversees all of our computer systems and coaches a tikes hockey team. A couple of years ago he commented to me that he had really wanted to join a Youth for Christ mission to Africa, but missed the opportunity. When the chance came up again this year, he and his wife (who also works at the spa as an esthetician) joined the Ghana mission. For two and a half weeks they, along with several other members of the Youth for Christ movement are helping to make life better for Ghanaians. The Gotta go to Ghana 2008 team are sharing their thoughts with the world through a blog. Like many young people, this couple's lives could have turned out much differently. I'm proud to count them among my friends. I thought you might find their story to be interesting and inspiring.

Friday, February 8, 2008

An industry icon at a half century

Last night David and I had the pleasure of attending a surprise birthday party for Ray Civello. Ray was surrounded by friends, family and staff at the Empire Restaurant in Yorkville in celebration of his 50th birthday. I was first introduced to Ray in the early 90s by my sister Cindy, who worked as a massage therapist for Ray. It was through the inspiration and foresight of Ray and Cindy that my sister Anne and I combined our Ste. Anne's bed & breakfast offering with with an Aveda inspired spa. Back in those days Ray had one hair salon at Yonge & Davenport, where he lead the industry by introducing spa treatments in a funky/artsy ambiance to his hair clients. Today there are Aveda and Civello salons and stores on just about every street corner. Ray and his siblings also had the good fortune of taking over the Canadian distributorship for Aveda, a tremedously astute and successful business venture. One of my earliest memories of my induction into the spa life is of Ray cutting my hair out under the big maple tree. No need to sweep up the hair cuttings as a gentle breeze takes it away. At 50 Ray has made a name for himself in the high fashion world of hair and the restorative world of spa. I am honoured to be counted amoung his friends. Happy birthday old chum!

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

The Matt Miracle

This story goes back a few years, how many - I'm not quite sure. It started with a call from my sister Anne. Her youngest son Matt, who had always been a bit of a free spirit, had been traveling through South America. Matt would call home or email with enough frequency to ease Anne's mind somewhat, although I can't help but think that having a young son traveling in South America would be a worry for even the most open minded parent. In any case, at some point contact with Matt was lost. Since Matt's last known location was somewhere on the border between Peru and Ecuador, and since David has family living in Ecuador he was asked to see if his family had any connections in the business of finding lost people. After nine weeks of no word from Matt, Anne and her husband Paul got a call late one night from Doctors Without Borders to tell them that Matt had been seen lying in a hut in an impenetrable tribe. Fraught with worry, Anne and Paul decided that they would fly to South America to follow what clues they had to locate their missing son. When they found Matt he was in very poor condition, having stopped eating and having lost most of his body mass. Even after finding him and trying to get him to eat it was uncertain as to whether he would survive. Family members sent prayers and messages of love, hope and inspiration to Matt and his parents though, and something struck a cord with him and he started to eat, breaking his fast with peanut butter on a pen. After regaining his health and returning to his home in the U.S., Matt still had some exploring to do - his travels continued. One day, out of the blue I received a call from Matt saying that he was passing through my town with some friends, and wondering if he could drop by. Not knowing what to expect, I diverted him to my office, located a short distance from Ste. Anne's. His arrival is pictured above. Needless to say, I was a little taken aback and a little skeptical about Matt's choice of traveling companions. None-the-less, I took Matt and his school bus full of friends to Maison Sante where they enjoyed a swim, much needed showers and some naked gymnastics in my back yard, and then off they went to take in the Shelter Valley Folk Festival. Somehow, over the next couple of days, Matt made his way to visit my youngest sister in Belleville. Marijo introduced Matt to the good folks at Maranatha Christian Reformed Church. I'm not really clear on exactly how things progressed from there, but fast forward to today where Matt now lives with his beautiful wife Sara and their newborn baby, Anna Sophia, pictured above I've also included a picture of proud great uncle Jim holding the beautiful Anna Sophia. I know Maranatha takes great pride in Matt's salvation, as they rightly should, and they were quick to claim Anna Sophia as one of their own. For my part, I'd like to think things started to turn around for Matt with a baptism (of sorts), in the form of a deep cleansing shower at Maison Sante through the healing waters of Ste. Anne's Spa! Best to Matt and his family.