Thursday, March 31, 2011

Give a Little

Courtesy of CAI
It's Thursday and that means it's time to give a little to a cause that will help make a difference by promoting sustainability. Last year I sat with a few hundred other people at the city’s central library and was completely captivated by a giant of a gentle soul named Greg Mortenson. He is best known as the author of Three Cups of Tea. I was so smitten that I blogged about it, of course. With a backdrop of blazing images of smiling Afghan children and wizened elders, Greg lured us into his world to cultivate peace by helping to bring education and self sustainability to remote regions of Pakistan, Afghanistan, Mongolia and Kyrgyzstan. He snagged us hook, line and sinker.

This week I will donate to Central Asia Institute (CAI). As co-founder of CAI, Greg Mortenson has learned that sustainable and successful development can only occur when projects are entirely initiated, implemented and managed by local communities. I like that CAI works to empower the local people through their own initiative, and supports their will. CAI has established over 170 schools in Pakistan and Afghanistan, providing education to over 68,000 students, with an emphasis on girls’ education. It hasn't been easy but Greg refuses to be defeated by the impossible terrain and geographical and cultural challenges. He has dedicated his life to making education accessible, bringing possibilities to people who would otherwise not have any.
$20 educates an Afghan student for a year; I usually give these donations as gifts. Today I am pledging $10 ... just a little. I know the return on investment will be anything but.

BONUS: This week my friend over at WhippetSnippets gave me the kind of birthday present that keeps on giving. She gave me a $20 gift card to Global Giving. I donated to Heal Africa to help survivors of rape and gender violence in the Congo.
My Give a Little Challenge 
I emerge from my haze of of procrastination, clear, inspired, and ready to act. Give a Little has inspired me to do just that ... give a little, every week. Every Thursday I will seek out an organization or cause that strives to make a lasting impact or sustainable change and donate $5.00. I will be counting on my blogger community for suggestions! You can read about the other projects that have inspired me to give a little.

Other Give a Little posts.

I have to give ongoing props to Wendy Smith for her inspiring book, Give a Little. Give it a read.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Birthday Bliss

I quietly slipped into 51,
a new age,
gently wrapping it around me,
trying it on for size.

It feels comfortable
and even familiar.
I think I am coming
home to myself.

Each and every year takes me
closer to my
authentic being;
the best version
of myself.

Could it be that this
is what they call

It's a wrap - for another year.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Uninviting Invitation

You know how it goes in the days leading up to your birthday ... lots of fun dinners with friends, cards in the mail, early treats from well organized keeners.  So needless to say, I've been enjoying the birthday season, forging  fearlessly into the murky waters, yonder past 50 with barely a sideways glimpse into the mirror (ignorance is bliss at this stage).

You can imagine my heightened anticipation at the tidy stack of mail waiting for me when I got home. In amongst the letter from the phone company making a last ditch plea to get me back (I switched our phone to cable) and the fundraising mailer for West Africa was a plain, simple envelope addressed to me. It was an invitation ... to get screened for colorectal cancer. An invite for a colonoscopy to celebrate becoming 51. They know how to put a crinkle in an aging gal's cupcake. Cold water on the face wake up call. Priorities shift from parties to polyps; from calling on friends to colonoscopies; from head on to a$$ backwards.

So now all I have to do is RSVP! This is definitely one I'd love to take a pass on ...   

Saturday, March 26, 2011

There's a Hush That Comes

It's Earth Hour tonight. An excuse to turn them off, light 'em up and just be.

You could snuggle by the light of the silvery moon, or do some dancing in the dark. Just remember -- you can't fight the moonlight. But star lights -  they shine bright!

So tonight at 8:30 pm, kill the lights, light some candles or just gaze at the stars. Take a walk in your neighbourhood and you'll feel there's a kind've hush all over the world tonight ...

Happy Earth Hour world.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Give a Little

It's Thursday and that means it's time to give a little to a cause that will help make a difference by promoting sustainability. My pledge to “give a little” every week has me paying close attention to the news, reading those solicitation emails from charitable organizations and seeking out worthy causes.

This week I donated $10 (totally forgot about the $5 weekly amount) to the David Suzuki Foundation, an environmental organization based in Vancouver, British Columbia. It was only fitting, not only because David Suzuki is one of our greatest Canadians, or that he is a hero of mine, but because today is his 75th birthday. What better way to celebrate.

His foundation works to conserve our environment and act as a catalyst for social change. He champions a broad a noble array of causes: to protect our climate and make sure that Canada is doing its fair share to avoid dangerous climate change; protect nature and the diversity and health of Canada's lakes and seas, and terrestrial creatures and ecosystems, and build community by showing Canadians how to live healthier, more fulfilled and just lives by using smart energy and efficient transportation, and being mindful of the products, food and water we use.

So this week, it's Mother Earth's turn. It all starts with our beloved planet and when she is happy - we all have a fighting chance for a good life. Right now she needs all the help she can get, and the David Suzuki Foundation is dedicated to her care and long term health and sustainability.

Happy Birthday David Suzuki. You make me want to try harder, do more and stand up for what we know to be right and true. Thank you for caring about Mother Earth and all of humankind and trying to show us the path to long term sustainability, in a world that all life can thrive.

I have to give ongoing props to Wendy Smith for her inspiring book, 
Give a Little. Give it a read.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Boomerang Winter

 Yikes. Just when we thought winter had graciously made her exit, she's back. She is overstaying her welcome! I needed a day at home to write (for work) so I called in at 5:30 am to let my boss know that I would be working from home today. I work about half an hour away and I knew that some nasty weather was forecasted and didn't want to waste time stuck in traffic on my commute. I couldn't understand why I wasn't receiving work emails so at 8 o'clock I called in again, only to find out that my office was closed due to inclimate weather. Snow Day! But not for me. I am paying penance for my tardiness and needed the day to finish my project.

I took a little break to try to clear a path in the snow for hubby when he gets home. My hand weight training is paying off! I was like Super Mama out there with my shovel, heaving scoops of the white stuff high into the air, forming snow banks on both sides of the driveway. Well maybe it was more like me leaning on the shovel, pushing it, ploughing it through the heavy, icy blanket of snow. I did heave it over the snow banks though without so much as a grunt or scream. OK - that's a lie -- the grunting part. But it matters not ... there wasn't a soul around!

Some pics of the wintry, third day of spring. I swear, Winter is just a little jealous of all the attention the arrival of Spring got.  So we'll humour our unwelcome guest for another day or two and then we'll just pray that she won't make like a boomerang and come back!

Down my street
Up my street
Surprise for hubby ... snow plow please don't come now ...

Out of storage

Winter boots are packed away. Rain boots had to do.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

It's Clear

I take a glass from my cupboard and fill it with fresh, cold water from the dispenser on our fridge. It's that easy - water on demand. I think of my Kenyan sisters for whom it is anything but easy. They spend hours a day hauling unclean water from a river or stream that is shared with wild and grazing animals. Backbreaking work for water that can make them and their families seriously ill.

I look at water differently now. I live in a country that has more fresh water than most and we squander it. With one flush of our low flush toilet we use more water than the average African uses in a day. The UN says that each person needs about 20-50 litres of safe freshwater a day to ensure their basic needs for drinking, cooking and cleaning. The shocking reality: only 1 in 6 people on the planet have access to safe freshwater.

 So today on World Water Day, I am renewing my commitment to stop the squander. It's clear. We have to stop the drain. I am going to start with trying as many as these tips as possible.

Happy World Water Day!

Just in case you're interested ...

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Cupcake Follies

I can cook, but I am not what you would call a baker. I have flirted with with flour, butter and eggs but my expertise is somewhat limited; case in point, my birthday cakes have been coined "avalanche cakes" [definition: cake that breaks upon spontaneously, with little or no coaxing]. But I thought the upcoming bridal tea I am throwing my sis-in-law was the perfect opportunity for me to get reacquainted with my muffin tins.

My enthusiasm was unbridled as I darted about the kitchen pulling eggs, milk and butter out of the fridge, scooping flour and greasing pans. I was on a mission to  make a few dozen mini cupcakes that I could freeze for now and then frost in a few weeks for the tea. I had never made mini cupcakes and I wish I'd have read the recipe with my cheaters. I ended up with a huge bowl of batter and you would think that the worst was over ... but really, the challenge had just begun. How to get the batter into those itty bitty mini cups? I tried several techniques: little spoon with little spoon to catch the drips; big spoon with little spoon to catch; and batter dripped from the measuring cup with my fingers to stop the slop. What a mess! Brought new meaning to "finger licking good". I was concerned that after I had filled the 24 mini cups with batter I still had a lots left (despite that which was spent on the counter, the spatula, the spoon collection, my fingers, and nose). I went back over each little cup and filled it up to the brim, even though the recipe called for two thirds full. What other choice did I have? I could only lick so much batter ...

My daughter pointed out that the recipe called for 24 regular sized cupcakes. My unaided eyes saw "petite" and just assumed that it had said 24 mini cakes. Cr@p! Let's just say once it baked, there was "spillage". All in all, I think I salvaged enough of the chocolatey treasures for the tea and I am standing by my mantra that "frosting can cure all". I have licked enough baking implements to last a lifetime and I had a bit of a clean up on my hands but I had alot of fun. This first "date" was just to get acquainted and the next time around, I just know I won't be as intimidated. There's no way 24 mini, petite, itty bitty cupcakes are going to defeat me -- now excuse me -- there are defects to eat!

Friday, March 18, 2011

Easing into the Weekend

Love LOVE love Fridays - with a full weekend of notta-structure rolled out before me. I walk through the door after singing my way home, dump my gym bag and over sized tote in the front hall, greet and kiss the furbag and head upstairs to put my play clothes on. Dinner is picking time ... a couple of pieces of leftover pizza, some cheese and crackers or anything else my heart desires and the last few drops of wine from the bag ... it's the end for the wine too.
Kidlet came home unexpectedly for the night - with her laundry. 

It's a lazy start to the weekend, just the way I like it. Have a good one.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Give a Little More

The events of the last week have been eye opening and heart breaking. Humankind is being tested on all fronts, stretched taut across a world with growing NEED. Many in the world are suffering, mourning, and fighting to survive. Today there are more than yesterday. I, along with the others who are safe, well and have, are being challenged to help, share and rescue. It is a test indeed and I know that if we can accept it and exert our collective will, we can help heal that which is broken in our human family.

My pledge to “give a little” every week has shifted my focus. In seeking out “giving” opportunities, I feel as though I am participating more fully in the world around me; the projects I am learning about are inspiring me and I feel hopeful. It’s all good.

This week I donated through Global Giving to the Nyaka AIDS Orphans Project. I have been following Jackson, the org's Founder & Exec Director on Twitter (@twejaka) for months now, learning about their priorities and their passions. It hits my hot spots -- education, Africa, sustainability, children. With over 2.2 million children in Uganda orphaned by the AIDS pandemic, this organization takes a holistic and sustainable approach by providing free education and vital services to orphans and vulnerable children in rural Uganda. It runs 2 free primary schools for 359 children that provide meals, clothes, medical care, vocational training, community potable water, and a HIV/AIDS prevention program. They also support 48 students through secondary school. Nyaka fights poverty by empowering these kids, especially girls, through free, quality education, health care, and basic needs. By educating the most vulnerable and needy they hope to reduce systemic poverty in their families by creating community-focused businesses, jobs, and social institutions.

I went online to Global Giving to donate. The minimum amount was $10 so I gave a little more than planned. but I can see how this philanthropy works ... the more you learn, the more you want to give. And the funny thing is, you don't miss a thing.

I have to give ongoing props to Wendy Smith for her inspiring book, Give a Little. Give it a read.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Morning Pause

I wonder how today will unfold... what mysteries it holds. I left for work before sunrise, in the early morning mist and fog. The air was heavy but fresh, concealing all that was more than a few metres away. A blanket of hush and momentary peace; the calm before the storm as they say... perhaps a cue to pause for a moment and send thoughts of love and empathy to our brothers and sisters across the pond who are living through a disaster of mammoth proportion.

A prayer of gratitude sent under the cover of the morning moon. May you enjoy this precious treasure of one more day of life.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Reflections of a Day Off

It was my scheduled day off. And that means:

I slept 
in an extra hour (rage against Daylight Saving Time), and then caught the CNN updates of the devastation in Japan from the comfort of my down duvet

I wore
flannel pj's for half the day, then dressed up in my Levis and flannel shirt for the second half

I drank
way too much coffee - but it was fair trade so I was just doing my part to support the cause

I did
dust, put my new washer to the test (just to hear it chime) and proofread Kidlet's paper

I got
an oil change -- not me personally, but Benzie did

I captured
pictures of women's shoes - so high that I am certain they should come with warning labels; and if they were required foot ware, they would be considered instruments of torture

I read
the April issue of my Science of Mind mag (I know, I skipped ahead a month - but this is a person who reads the last page of the book first)

I learned
about the Global Sisters Organization

I "followed"
on Twitter, @SudanSentinel that monitors the crisis in Sudan via satellite imagery AND
@TheElders, a group of eminent global leaders, convened by Nelson Mandela, to address the great global challenges of our time

I tweeted and retweeted
Do the kinds of things that come from the won't be dissatisfied,you'll be overwhelmed with what comes back.

Every day 25K+ girls <18 are married & face huge risks: death or injury due to early sex & childbearing. @TheElders

Mourn for sisters of Cote d’Ivoire killings; our mourning “must be tears of courage, tears of indignant” @Wipsenafrica

Good to know! RT @GlobalGiving #science alert: RT @palafo How a Reactor Shuts Down; What Happens in a Meltdown

I blogged
this post

I reflected
on the unthinkable struggles unfolding around the globe ... massacre of the peaceful women protesters in Cote d'Ivorie; the violence and political struggles in Libya; the ongoing struggles in Haiti; and of course the recent earthquakes, tsunami, and now nuclear crisis in Japan. Prayers and affirmations.

I wish
I hadn't eaten all the cashews yesterday ...

I am
contented, pensive, and grateful -- and sleepy.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Good Place to Be

If I was into astrology, I would probably say that the stars are aligning and the universe is shifting, with bounty, clarity and opportunity sliding my way. There are interesting, exciting times. I have nurtured this egg of possibility and purpose for years now, self educating along the way, with expectation of who knows what building.

I am immersed in "inspiration" - learning about seemingly endless numbers of creative projects being undertaken by incredible human beings. People are taking matters into their own hands, using their skills and talents to solve problems in their communities and around the globe. Change makers.

I love this feeling, this place I find myself in. The more I learn, the more my optimism is fueled. I am finding my voice and have set sail -- destination to be determined. But the ship has left the dock ... an hour ahead!

Happy Daylight Saving Time. Spring can't be far behind.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Shake Up

I can't post today without mention of the catastrophic earthquake in Japan and the tsunamis that followed. The images were surreal; ships, cars, and burning houses riding a wave of mud and debris that raced across the landscape carving a wake of devastation.

Today the earth shook, shifted and rumbled roared its discontent - and continued to do so for the remainder of the day. Mother Earth is ticked and she let us know it.  Thousands have perished and countless more are homeless, injured and traumatized. Today the worlds of countless souls also shifted and are forever changed.

I don't try to make sense of that which is beyond reason, over that which I have no control. But I seek the lessons; the gifts. Horrific as they are, we need these events of monumental magnitude. We need these opportunities to assist and give, to discover the highest good in humankind, to be grateful and to be reminded that citizenship on the planet is a privilege.

I can only imagine what the people of Japan and other nations touched by this tragedy are going through ... and my heart, love and prayers go out to them. For now, I responded in the only way I can; I donated to the Red Cross.

Give a Little

A while back I read a book that stamped a lasting imprint on my heart. Give a Little by Wendy Smith describes how the cumulative power of small donations made by everyday citizens can change the world. Like most, I get asked pretty much every day to donate, support, sponsor, give ... and most times if I felt that I don't have alot  to contribute, I have said no. The book argues that some is better than none, and that when you pool the pennies, it can add up and really make a difference.

So after months, I emerge from my haze of of procrastination, clear, inspired, and ready to act.  Give a Little has inspired me to do just that ... give a little, every week. Every Thursday I will seek out an organization or cause that strives to make a lasting impact or sustainable change and donate $5.00. I will be counting on my blogger community for suggestions!

To kick off my own personal give a little, I donated to wefeedback, This website is an initiative of the World Food Programme and provides a tool that  lets you enter the value of your favourite foods to calculate how many hungry kids could be fed with that donation. The $9.95 value of the butter chicken I ate last night can feed 39 children! With the scent of curry still faint on my skin, it wasn't hard to make that donation. Actually, it was kind of fun. I think I am going to like this new venture, and at the very least, I'm going to get an education.

It's easier to give it than live it.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Women Powerful

One woman can change anything. Many women can change everything.
- Christine Karumba
 It would seem that I have always been in touch with my girl power. I was eleven when I tore off, babysitting money in hand to buy the 45 rpm record (yes, r e c o r d ) of  "I  am woman". I had my anthem and I am pretty sure my family got sick of hearing me roar. I expected equality and expounded on the injustices ad nauseam every chance I got. My grade 8 teacher commented in my report card that he knew I would succeed in any career I chose, even against men. Methinks I was a bit of an opinionated big mouth.

With today being International Women's Day, I reflect on the rights and equalities that women have fought so hard for, and the issues that I have faced and witnessed in my own life. And it occurred to me that regardless of any obstacles I encountered, I had been raised in a loving family in a safe, secure home with clean running water. I was free to go to school and make choices to create the life I wanted. I had the freedom to fall in love and marry who I chose. When I was pregnant I had access to excellent medical care despite earning a salary barely above minimum wage. I was paid benefits while I took a maternity leave and my job was waiting for me when I returned. My children received health care and were raised with all of the  necessities of life and more ... and had opportunities to pursue their hearts' desires.

I reflect on my sisters who are not so fortunate - on the thousand girls and women who die every single day giving birth. I think about the women who are systematically raped and murdered as victims of war; who are denied education; who spend much of their energy and time each day lugging water that could infect them and their families with life threatening diseases. The more I think about the plight of my sisters around the globe I realize that even though we still have more ground to gain on this side of the pond, the real fight has to be for our sisters in developing, oppressed and conflict ridden countries. There are undeniable ties that bind us together; this sisterhood. When one of hurts, we all hurt. We need to channel the excruciating pain into empathy and action. It's been  said that healing the woes of the women heals the community, and ultimately the world.

Let's not go quietly into the night. Let's use our collective voices to rage against the injustices, brutality and oppression of girls and women everywhere.
Empowering women and girls is essential in the global drive to eliminate poverty, achieve social justice and stabilize the world’s population.

-- United Nations Foundation

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Summoning My Inner Domestic Goddess

It's been a while since my last post; I just haven't been in the groove lately. I can't decide if I have been just tired, or uninspired. But there's nothing to kick start the creative juices like an afternoon puttering around doing household chores and hanging in the kitchen chopping, mixing, stirring and making delicious food.

A few weeks ago I started on a laundry room make over to go along with our new appliances. I painted, hubby put a new floor in, we refinished a re-purposed cabinet and reworked the closet space. We still have to deal with the grungy, paint splattered laundry sink and add storage and a counter top but with the changes we've already made, the room has already taken on a fresh feeling. Laundry is a pleasure!

After a trip to the grocery store I came home and called on my inner domestic goddess. The split pea soup I was making for my daughter was a first for me. From the first moment I pulled out the fresh cilantro and assembled the fresh vegetables for the soup I could feel my mood lighten. Therapeutic scrubbing and chopping and culinary aromatherapy was just what the day ordered. I substituted peal meal bacon for the ham called for in the recipe, and I forgot to remove it from the pot before I pureed the soup. The idea is to partially puree the soup and then add the meat back in for body. The result is tasty but looks more like "cream" split pea soup. Oh well ... I can't muster even a shred of disappointment. 

I still get a faint wisp of cilantro every time my hair moves and the residue of onion and garlic remains on my hands despite the numerous hand washings ... souvenirs of my earthy day in the kitchen. It was good to see my inner domestic goddess again. It's been a while. 

It's been a good day; a peaceful one. I am ready and eager to face my week head on. And for that, I am truly grateful. Is that my washer chiming?

Tuesday, March 1, 2011


I had a dream; a vision; but hopefully not one of the premonition kind. Last night I dreamed that I was HUGE.
I rolled over to the scale and when the numbers stopped jumping about, I was a clear fifteen pounds heavier. I was assaulted by a barrage of emotions – utter disbelief; what the f@#%! ; this is gonna look great in a bathing suit; I shouldn’t have had the bleeping carrot cake; why me Lord?.

I survived the assault and transitioned into remorse – not for eating the carrot cake – but for not appreciating the weight that I had been. Cause after a ten pound growth spurt, my former fighting weight didn’t seem nearly as bad as I generally feel about it.
Suffice to say when I awoke in a cold sweat after this HD wide screen technicolour, vivid dream, I was delighted to look down and see my feet. Eureka! My body seemed lighter and I practically floated over to the weigh scales.

Like numbers on a slot machine they rolled, scrolled and tumbled. ahhhhhhh. Familiar numbers; not as prime as I would like, but comforting just the same. So of course the moral of the nightmare story  is to be happy with myself cause it can always be worse! Of course it can be better too, so I will continue to "lunch" at my gym and keep "healthy" in my sight lines.

Note to self: Skip the nachos before bedtime!