Humanity at its finest

When the floods hit southern Alberta June 2013, my son sent a text “Sure glad our house is on a hill…and mom, how are we going to help?”  I text back “You work and send money son; I will go to Calgary and help.”

I wanted to help at the Stampede Grounds.  My son makes a living in Rodeo and the Stampede brings around 300 million dollars a year to the Calgary economy.  The saying “the Stampede will go on come hell or high water” took root and people got to work! The Calgary Stampede association hired equipment and people to work and pump water 24/7. They also utilized the volunteers who were already signed up to work at the stampede to lessen the toll on the volunteer pool that was needed to help the residents in need.  Within a few short days they were putting up the giant Ferris wheel!

I found YYC Helps and headed over to the Bowness Community Association Monday afternoon in my rubber boots, windows down in the truck wind blown hair and grubby clothes.  I walked in the office and said “YYC Helps says you have volunteer opportunities for me.”  Christina looks into my eyes and says, “You come back tomorrow morning and answer the phones in this office.” I walked out laughing and text my girlfriend, “Do I have telephones tattooed on my forehead?”  I thought I was grubby enough they’d send me to do some manual labor somewhere!

Michelle Dice, the Executive director had the clean-up running like a well-oiled machine.  As residents called in their requests for help, we dispatched the requested number of volunteers who were willing and able to fulfill the request. The Bowness Community Association complex was full of food, cleaning supplies, paramedics, EMT’s, EMR’s, firemen, City of Calgary flood relief personnel and a host of volunteers.  The police were in and out suggesting we send people in car pools, not each in their own vehicle; the number of vehicles were creating congestion issues and slowing down the movement of essential service personnel like sewer fixers, power fixers and garbage removal trucks.

During my time volunteering, over and over I was reminded of the value of answering the phone.  It adds dignity, elegance, compassion and assurance in the face of a disaster.

I also volunteered at Siksika Nation and in High River. While there I witnessed people working very hard to help others pick up the pieces of their lives and get moving forward again; humanity at its finest!


The Human Touch

In June 2013 the rains came, the rivers rose and kept rising.  Based on my interpretation of what I heard on the news the headwaters of Cougar Creek, the Elbow River, the Sheep River, the Highwood River, and the Kananaskis River which all empty into the Bow River, were in the eye of the storm.  

To view an image of the Bow River Basin click here.

My first job out of NAIT, was in Hydrology, right next to our neighbors River Engineering. We were jointly responsible for flood forecasting in 1974.  We had a “computer” (a funny looking gadget that sat by the facsimile machine) and a word processor.  That summer I was introduced to 100 year floods, a “Model” for prediction of inches of rainfall = runoff = rising rivers. 

I remember having telephones, rain gauges, passion and dedication.  The boys over in River Engineering had a “river engineering model” they used calculate runoff and predict flow rates.  Based on this information they said the river will peak at this time at this elevation.  They needed accurate rainfall measurements.  They had an adjustment for extra snow melt with the rainfall that they had previously built into the model basin acres at each elevation.

One of my jobs was to call the people who had weather stations every hour.  I got updated reports on how many inches of water their rain gauge measure since we had last spoke. I then passed that information along to the engineer utilizing the “Model”. I also took my turn receiving inbound calls and reporting our calculations to Alberta Disaster Services every hour.

The Oldman river system flooded the summer of 1974. I’ll never forget the lady who said “It is rainin’ BUCKETS, I can’t even empty that gauge quick enough - every 15 minutes isn’t quick enough!”  Another lady said “It’s just rainin’ cats and dogs.”  Their voices set off a sense of urgency.  The human touch was alive and well.

I was part of a team that was pretty pleased we had predicted (with accuracy) the time and height of the flood to hit Lethbridge within a couple hours and within a couple inches. I remember the guys telling the engineer who had built the “Model” not to get a swelled head because it was pretty simple to calculate potential runoff when water hit rock.  I was young and naïve back then but I was pretty impressed with our accuracy. 

I think in the 2013 storm, the river levels, the timing of the arrival and quantity of water in Medicine Hat was very accurate.  Sitting back and looking at the differences between 1974 to today, I ask if we’ve automated ourselves out of “urgency”?

I have family that has farmed land in a bend on the Peace River at Carcajou and it is a flood plain.  To get there, there is an ice bridge at Tompkins landing and in my lifetime that flood plain has been under water a few times caused by ice jams.  After every flood, my uncle who loved the river, rebuilt on a little higher ground.  In one way, he benefited from the flood because the silt left after the waters receded brought new nutrients and replenished his soil.  Although there were some years he had no crop, because it took the water so long to go away.  I learned a bit about floods.  When the level of the river drops, the water doesn’t always go away.  Every time it flooded the water got trapped and stayed, requiring a newly engineered drainage system and time.  The water seldom goes away as fast as it comes.  The last time I was home during a flood we moved 20,000 bushels of grain in 3 days.  We had to shovel the bottoms of the bins out by hand.  Every time a truck was full we’d go outside of the bin for a break and see the stick we’d stuck in the edge of the water submerged and the water another foot higher on the flat.  The fast rising waters renewed our resolve to keep on shoveling. Ice jams present a different kind of river engineering challenge.

When the floods hit southern Alberta, June 2013, my son sent a text “Sure glad our house is on a hill…and mom, how are we going to help?”  I text back “You work and send money son; I will go to Calgary and help.”

I Love Myself, I Love My Life…

One day my girlfriend said “You know, I am not changing; I like myself.” 

That was a game changer comment in my world.  I reflected… Could I honestly say that?  Honestly?  I looked in the mirror and asked…”Do I love myself’?“ Well maybe not. So I asked “Do I like myself?”  Yes…kind of. The next question was “What would it take for me to ask the question…Do I love myself? And without hesitation or but; but; but; say “YES.” ”

Skip Downing, in his well-designed personal growth work, On Course, talks about our inner critic: I beat myself up, our inner defender: I beat others up, and our inner guide: I am kind to myself; and about the conversations we have with ourselves in our heads. 

I attended a conference and heard of this tale from the Keynote Speaker:

"Two Wolves" A Cherokee Legend

An old Cherokee is teaching his grandson about life. "A fight is going on inside me," he said to the boy.

"It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil - he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego." He continued, "The other is good - he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside you - and inside every other person, too."

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, "Which wolf will win?"

The old Cherokee simply replied, "The one you feed."

Here is the same story, but it is called "Grandfather Tells" which is also known as "The Wolves Within"

An old Grandfather said to his grandson, who came to him with anger at a friend who had done him an injustice, "Let me tell you a story.

I too, at times, have felt a great hate for those that have taken so much, with no sorrow for what they do.

But hate wears you down, and does not hurt your enemy. It is like taking poison and wishing your enemy would die. I have struggled with these feelings many times." He continued, "It is as if there are two wolves inside me. One is good and does no harm. He lives in harmony with all around him, and does not take offense when no offense was intended. He will only fight when it is right to do so, and in the right way.

But the other wolf, ah! He is full of anger. The littlest thing will set him into a fit of temper. He fights everyone, all the time, for no reason. He cannot think because his anger and hate are so great. It is helpless anger, for his anger will change nothing.

Sometimes, it is hard to live with these two wolves inside me, for both of them try to dominate my spirit."

The boy looked intently into his Grandfather's eyes and asked, "Which one wins, Grandfather?"

The Grandfather smiled and quietly said, "The one I feed.”

Note: this story can also be found at:

My challenge certainly was deciding which voice to listen; to or which wolf to feed.  AND getting to a place of saying “Well, either stop doing that - or stop beating myself up.”  What might I be beating myself up for? Eating too much; not getting up in the morning to exercise; not calling my mother enough; not handling things right at work; or having an extra glass of wine.  I am sure it would be easy for each person to make their own list.

I’ve invested the time in my life to make small course corrections.  Over the last few years I’ve worked continuously and consciously to teach myself to have nicer conversations with myself, about myself in my head. Now I am able to say “I love my life” and mean it! And each and every day I am getting closer to saying, authentically, “I love myself!”

"The Coming Jobs War", a book review

WOW.  There is something about this book that grabbed me and took hold.  I think I’ve bought 20 copies so far and personally handed them to people and said, “ You gotta read this book!”

Having taught the Junior Achievement Company Program (Entrepreneurship) to students in grades 9-12 in Drayton Valley for the past 3 years, this book speaks to me in a very meaningful way.

The point of the book is that creating good jobs; which entrepreneurs do, is the key to Gross National Wellness (GNW), which precedes Gross Domestic Product (GDP).  Simply put, more good jobs = more GDP.  Where are you on the GNW scale?  Is it on your radar?  Are you measuring GNW?  How?  Is GNW improving in your organization?

Some key points from the book:

  • “The Coming War for Jobs” says, “That all the world wants is a good job”.  In fact 7 billion people want a good job.  A good job is at least 30 hours per week.  “A great job - one with growth opportunity, a manager who is interested in your development: that gives you a sense of mission and purpose – you have about the best life you can have at this time in human history.”
  • Canada is ranked # 9 out of the top 25.  Interestingly enough they have not factored total population into the equation.    Only a dollar value stated as GDP.
  • Clifton, the author, says “To compound the problem, too many citizens are hallucinating.  They think the government will come up with the money to save them.  But the government doesn’t have the money.  People and companies have the money.  And if the overwhelming majority of people aren’t working outside of government jobs”, we are in very, very deep trouble.
  • "Countries need critical leadership positions to be held by the fittest people, in every sense, as they will require their constituencies to be fit as well.  Gallup has taken one of its deepest dives into the behavioral economics of healthcare and sickness and has discovered five key elements of wellbeing.  If leaders create behavioral –based strategies and policies to improve these five elements, all good things will follow for their constituencies.
  1. Career Wellbeing:  how you occupy your time or simply liking what you do every day.
  2. Social Wellbeing:  having strong relationships and love in your life.
  3. Financial Wellbeing:  effectively managing your economic life.
  4. Physical Wellbeing:  having good health and enough energy to get things done on a daily basis.
  5. Community Wellbeing:  the sense of engagement you have with the area where you live."


Why I Attend the Annual Alberta Congress Board Conference

Alberta is the land of opportunity and being a county councilor from October 2007 to October 2010 certainly presented me many new opportunities.

One of those was the privilege of attending the 2008 Alberta Congress Board Conference.  At the Jasper Park Lodge!  One conference, and I was hooked. 


  • The location is a piece of heaven.
  • The program is exciting.
  • The speakers are the best in their field.
  • There is a speaker or panel discussion at every meal.
  • The majority of time is spent in small group interactive discussions.
  • I increase my network of contacts each year.
  • The caliber of the solutions created at the conference enabled me to return to my workplaces with the connections and knowledge to make immediate, relevant, productive, positive change.
  • The Alberta Congress Board took the recommendations from the small group to a global group upon completion of the conference…giving participants the knowledge that their work was influencing decisions at a higher level.
  • The conference has a totally new and timely theme every year.


I also attended in 2009. I was fortunate to attend and facilitate in 2010, as well I actively attended, partnered, facilitated and was a speaker in 2011. In 2012 I am a partner again.

The 2012 conference theme “Innovation and our Future Workforce” is timely and relevant as we move to develop strategic workforce plans for 2020 (or sooner).  These strategic plans will position Alberta employers to compete globally for the skilled talented people required to remain competitive in our marketplace.

The 2012 conference is a must for HR professionals who want to continue to lead their organizations in their industries and markets moving toward 2020.  Employers will face challenges we haven’t yet imagined.