Micro Connections

I’m a bit of a runner and on weekends I enjoy a longer run.  This summer my runs have been along an abandoned railway trail that runs through farmer’s fields, bush and forest between Manotick and Osgoode.  My runs are what runner’s call “out and backs”.  That’s code for you run to a point and return along the same way – as opposed to a circuit.  It’s a beautiful trail.  That path gets used by dog walkers, bikers and runners.  Some are out for a leisurely walk; others are pedaling hard enjoying a vigorous workout.  But I always enjoy seeing another runner on the trail.  Often, because it’s an out and back, I will pass someone twice doing the same thing.

Photo by Jenny Hill, Unsplash.com

It’s my goal that I say hi to everyone that is traveling towards me and who I pass.  My greeting is sometimes a clear “good morning” and other times it’s a weary wave with one hand.   The other thing is that I don’t wear my glasses, so who or what is approaching me in not always immediately clear.  

Last Sunday on my long run I passed a young man who was running at a significant pace.  He looked like he was in shape with big strong legs.  He was running faster than me for sure.  I gave him a wave and I got a wave in return.  I wondered, was he out for a long run?  If he can keep up that pace that’s impressive.  Maybe it was just a short quick run – not so impressive, but better than me.  Thoughts running through my mind.

On the return portion of my run, I was thinking about the young spry lad.  Would I see him again on his return or was he home by now?  Well, it was quite a while into my return that I decided he was home and I wouldn’t be seeing him again today.  When out of my blurry vision the young lad appears, still with a very good pace.  I was pushing myself by now, heart rate up, breathing laboured, so I didn’t trust my voice, but I wanted to give him some encouragement and so I clapped my hands as he was approaching.  Just as we pass, he says clearly “good running!”.

All of a sudden, like a shot of friendly adrenalin, energy runs into my legs and my whole body. It’s similar to the sensation when your hair stands on end.  I’m shocked at how my body responded to his encouragement.  I straightened up and my legs felt light again.  As I ran on, I wondered if he experienced something similar to my cheer? 

As I think about this, I can clearly remember who and when someone gave me a word of encouragement while running these trails.  These short little connections I’ve had with people I don’t know.  They put gas in my tank.  Amazing.

Julianne Holt-Lunstad (Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience, Brigham Young University) has done some research around what factors in our lives contribute to longer life expectancy.  Here is some of what she found:

Light predictors:  clean air, hypertension treated, lean and not overweight, exercise

Moderate predictors:  cardiac rehab, taking the flu vaccine, quit smoking or boozing.

High predictors:  close relationships, (this was the highest) was social interactions.

Social interactions are defined as the quick interactions we have with people we know and don’t know all throughout our day.  Do you say “hi” to the coffee barista taking a quick interest in their life?  The person who checks your groceries, the people you pass as you walk in your neighbourhood?  Those who have these types of social interactions are people who tend to live longer.

We have such an advantage with our Christian faith.  Built into and throughout it is this encouragement to connect.  We are exhorted and empowered to love people – even our enemies.  I know it’s more of a challenge during the COVID season, but it seems all the more relevant.  Let’s look for those opportunities for little, quick interactions.

And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.  Hebrews 10:24-25

2019 Annual Family Letter

Happy 2020! 

Just our annual letter about what life looks like for us these days. 

Celebrating after our annual Dim Sum lunch.

Stephen – wonderful to have Stephen home over the holidays.  He is still working in China for a crypto-currency company called Saito.  We do try to keep check-in regularly (WeChat) and we are thankful for technology that can bridge the miles so easily.  With the 12 hour time difference, it can be a bit challenging to line up our time.  One time, after a couple of failed attempts to talk, we asked what’s new. His reply was – “oh I’m in Thailand.  Sorry I should have mentioned that.  We’ll be here for a few weeks”.  We did request that although he is an adult – could he at least let us know when he travels to different countries.  It has been a great adventure and although it can have its unique challenges, he has enjoyed it. The above picture includes his lovely girlfriend MacKenzie.

Benjamin – living in Ottawa and enjoys living closer to downtown transit and much better internet.  He’s working part-time for Auctria (same software company as Tracy) which he’s enjoying. He has varied interests and we love when he comes homes to visit- and we draw on his culinary skills to help with meals. 

Meg – graduated grade 12 from Carleton Place High School and we are thankful that it was a good high school for her.  She finished off her H.S. sports career by playing Rugby!  A bit of a Peterkins’ tradition here.   It was as rough and tackling as we were expecting.  She headed off to Queen’s university for Kinesiology.  She is really enjoying the school and her program.

Tracy – So, our kids moved out and we’ve become  “empty nesters”.   Based on advice from our friends Shawn & Andria, Mark and I took a trip out to Cape Breton after Meg went off to school to ‘adjust’ to not having children at home.  It was a great trip and we highly recommend it!  The landscapes are incredible and travelling without a schedule was very fun. I was especially thankful that I could do some hikes on Cape Breton trails.  I hadn’t been able to hike for a few years after tearing my rotator cuff (and other injuries) and it has been slow for me to regain my core strength.  I have this age thing where I just seem to have regular aches and pains too.  

Skyline Trail – Cabot Trail – Cape Breton

I still split my work time between One Way Ministries and Auctria (a great charity auction software company).   I love the challenges, diversity and flexibility of both jobs.  

Mark – some of my highlights (aside of being away with Tracy of course) includes an annual golf get away with my siblings, Sandra, John and Thanos. This year we stayed and played near The Thousand Islands on the St. Laurence. In past years we chose some pretty dumpy courses and well, this was a definite step up for us. We were treated with wonderful weather. What a great time!

My family continues to gather together at different times of the year, Greek Easter, Cottage Weekend and Christmas time – which we thoroughly enjoy. This Christmas had all the nieces and nephews together, not as easy with kids living in so many different cities. We get to see Tracy’s family too – with dropping in at Mary Ann’s, Lisa & Colin moving to “the Nap”, and Vince lives downtown.

I’m enjoying playing ice hockey, golf, squash and running. I’ve struggled with arthritis over the years which at times has really limited my mobility. I’m deeply grateful for some of the newer meds (called biologics) which really have changed my life.

I continue to work with One Way Ministries. I love our team and the work we have the privilege of engaging in as we support our leadership community in Ottawa.

We haven’t moved yet. Last year we wrote that we were planning to move and that has been put on hold for now. However, a highlight is we put in a furnace, thank you Dan R., and enjoying the luxury of propane heat. After years of burning wood as our primary heat source, it’s not lost on our kids that we installed this shortly after they all left. 🙂

Another highlight is that we’ve had opportunities to re-connect with some family and friends that we haven’t seen in a long time. Mark got together with some University friends that he hadn’t seen in over 25 years – celebrating Murray & Bernice’s engagement. Dan & Nancy Germo visited Ottawa with ACCI and Tracy & Nancy had a great time walking around Ottawa and catching up. They hadn’t seen each other since 1996. Mark spent a week with some old and new trusted friends on the Sunshine Coast, BC where they shared life’s highs and lows and help each other discern God’s work in their lives. We love time at our family cottage and the celebrations over the summer – Labour Day and the Kevin Saunders Memorial baseball tournament for MD which has been going on for 25 years (congrats to Terry Fleming and his nieces/nephew – Jenna, Shauna, Nick & Farron Smith)! A get together of Tracy’s 1st (female) cousins on the Kelly side – it had been years since we’d all been on the Rideau together. Cottage weekend with Mark’s family with some memorable moments that still make us smile.

We have a lot to celebrate and be thankful for. We know that for many of us, 2019 had some tough, hard & sad things too but we’ll save that for another time. Hopefully we’ll see and hear from many of you in 2020 which is always a highlight!

From our family to yours, may 2020 be full of joy and deepening relationships around you. God Bless.


Trader Joe’s

Ok let me tell you a little story.

As a family, we are always curious about new businesses and entrepreneurial activity. I’m also a podcast listener and recently we were listening to one of my favorite shows called Freakonomics Radio. It was all about a grocery store chain called Trader Joe’s.  I’m sure many of you have heard of them. We’ve never been in one. 

Here’s how the podcast started.

STEPHEN DUBNER (the host of the show): Shark Tank, if you don’t know, is the TV show where people pitch business ideas to famous investors.

ROBERTO: You might be Mark Cuban or Mr. Wonderful. You’re trying to decide, would you invest?

STEPHEN DUBNER:And that is Michael Roberto. He’s a business professor at Bryant University, formerly of the Harvard Business School. There’s one lecture he likes to start by giving his students this fictional Shark Tank pitch.

ROBERTO: “I’d like to open a new kind of grocery store. We’re not going to have any branded items. It’s all going to be private label. We’re going to have no television advertising and no social media whatsoever. We’re never going to have anything on sale. We’re not going to accept coupons. We’ll have no loyalty card. We won’t have a circular that appears in the Sunday newspaper. We’ll have no self-checkout. We won’t have wide aisles or big parking lots. Would you invest in my company?”

STEPHEN DUBNER:And of course you’re supposed to think, “There is no way I’d invest in that company. That sounds like the stupidest company ever.”

ROBERTO: And, of course, you get a lot of consternation.

STEPHEN DUBNER:That’s when Roberto reveals that not only does such a grocery store already exist, but they’re crushing the competition.

And of course, they are talking about Trader Joe’s. Here’s the link to the whole podcast if you’d like to listen to it.  

We were recently in South Carolina after March break heading home, when we decided we wanted to find a Trader Joe’s to explore, and find out if they are really as good as all this hype. They weren’t very many choices, but there was one just outside of Richmond, Virginia, and so we decided to head for it. The store was just slightly out of the way our way home. We made it there within half an hour of closing.

Once we were inside and started walking around I stopped to talk to one of the gentleman stocking shelves (Adam) and mentioned to him that this was the first time we’ve been to Trader Joe’s; that we actually live in Canada and that we drove out of our way just to drop in at the store.  Did Adam have any recommendations for us?

Well, Adam said, “just give me one second,” and got rid of the stuff that he was stocking and disappeared around the aisle. He was soon back with three really nice reusable grocery bags that he said were a gift to us. Wow!! Now he was prepared to show us around; and show us around he did for about the next 15 to 20 minutes. We walked all around the store picking up this and that from their fairly small, limited item store while Adam shared passionately what he liked or knew others really liked. The vast majority of the items were branded under the Trader Joe’s brand.

It was so much fun and we were obviously rookies. The other shoppers gave us little knowing smiles as moved back and forth.

One of the things I heard from the podcast was that the store intentionally stocks the shelves during the day because they want their staff to interact with customers. When I asked Adam about this he confirmed it, and indicated his primary job was talking to us and secondary was stocking shelves. I asked him how long he had worked for Trader Joe’s and he replied 8 years. He gushed about how well he had been treated and how he loved being part of the team there.

When we figured we were done, Adam put one last item into our basket and said, “this one’s on me” and crossed out the barcode so that it wouldn’t scan. It was a gift from him to us. What kind of business it this?? There was another lady employee there who wanted us to taste one of her favourite spices, and so she crossed out the barcode on it. This too was a gift. I’m thinking, they give their stock staff allowances to give away items!

It was just so much fun. By the time we checked out with $140 USD worth of items, we were fans and we had yet to taste a single thing. 

We have since started trying their products, and are enjoying them too. 

Trader Joe’s is a great example of what can happen when we buck the trends, and get personal. We’ll be back.

2018 Annual Family Letter

Hello Everyone,

Happy New Year! We love receiving our family & friends Christmas letters so we wanted to touch base with our annual Christmas/New Year/mid-January update too.

For us (Mark and Tracy) we love opportunities to visit family and friends. In March we visited with our friends John and Amy in Charlotte and we added a visit to Charleston – which is so, so pretty. Meghan joined in as it was March break. An added bonus was dropping in at Mark’s family – John and Vicki’s – in Philly along the way. We had the pleasure of hosting a weekend gathering for John and Amy’s friends around generosity called a JOG (Journey of Generosity). On our trip to Charleston, we had a chance to grab a coffee (and quick visit to an Art Gallery) with Matt Hedrick and his dad Tony. It really was great fun.

JOG Experience
Compassion Trip

Another highlight trip was travelling to Guatemala. Along with five other friends and couples from Ottawa, we travelled to Guatemala City with a child sponsorship organization called Compassion International. We came away highly impressed with the work that Compassion does. A nice bonus for us was that we were able to travel with Luke and Lee-Anne, pastors from church.

Dan Germo, Ken Roth and Lauren Roth – ACCI Meetings

This year we had the opportunity to reconnect with some old friends we had not seen in a while. Dan and Nancy Germo were friends from our Bethany days. Dan recently joined the board of ACCI. This allowed Mark and Dan to reconnect and catch up during our meetings in September.

This summer Tracy’s Uncle Bob and Aunt Rosemary’s celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary at the cottage. Bob & Rosemary’s children/grandchildren hosted a great party for them. Tracy’s sisters and cousins dressing up with 60 years of trends!

Mark’s family celebrated Greek Easter again at Thanos and Josie’s in north Toronto for a complete lamb on a spit, a long-lasting tradition. Other connects included our August long weekend in Ottawa on the Rideau and Mark, Thanos and John and our golf getaway in northern New York. We play a round of golf on pretty much the worst golf courses around – but we love it. This year we discovered a local bar that had a great jukebox and pool table. John and Thanos love their music and were in 7th heaven as they were able to play all sorts of old tunes while we all played pool very badly.

Christmas get-together with Mark’s family in Toronto. Wonderful to have everyone there – something we don’t take for granted as kids travel in from different cities!

Ben moved into his own apartment in late summer and has been enjoying his studies at Algonquin College in the area of App Development. Mom and Dad love having Ben closer to home and connecting with him on a regular basis.

Meghan is finishing off her high school as she completes Grade 12 this year. She’s been her usual busy self with school sports (basketball, volleyball, badminton and new this year rugby!!). She continues to work at McDonalds and enjoys some great friendships at Echo Lake Camp.

Stephen graduated from university earlier in the year and quickly ended up taking a summer internship with a company working in China in the area of blockchain development and cryptocurrency. He’s now on a one year contract trying to help a small company get launched. That’s about as much as we understand and can tell you. Stephen and his girlfriend Mackenzie are navigating a very long distance relationship well it seems.

Later this year we plan to put our home on the market and move back a bit closer to the city. We’ve lived in our county home now for about 18 years and have loved a lot of it. But now with kids not living at home, a country property is a bit too much to handle. So we’ve spent quite a bit of time and energy in this last year preparing the home for sale. Mark has done some great renos (with the great coaching of Roy) and we are enjoying the updates while we continue to prepare.

Mark and Tracy continue to work together at One Way Ministries which is great (says both of us). Tracy works there half-time. We are just about to host one of our most significant conferences – called Capitalyze. Tracy is also working part-time for a great local company – auctria.com – which provides software that helps organize charity auctions.

We are so thankful for family and friends and hope to see many of you over the next year. For those who live farther away – hopefully we can visit together sometime soon. All the best for 2019!