Friday, April 29, 2011

Give a Thread of Hope

This week for my Thursday give a little, I donated to Threads of Life, an organization dedicated to providing support to families affected by workplace fatalities, life-altering injuries and occupational disease. No one expects to go to work and not make it home, yet it happens. When it does, Threads of Life is the soft place to fall for the families affected. So this week, I pay homage to the mothers, fathers, children and siblings who have lost someone they love - to the job.

Read about my Thursday's Give a Little Challenge. I have to give ongoing props to Wendy Smith for her inspiring book, Give a Little. Give it a read.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Travelling Pants ... But Not if I Don't Find Them

I just managed to devour every jelly bean in the candy dish -- almost. The bottom of the dish is covered with the cast off black beans. I'm hardly in the mood for the strong taste of licorice. I have organizing and packing to do, bills to pay and passports to find. Our flight to the Mayan Riviera leaves in eleven hours.

Hubby and I are off to my sister in law's destination wedding. It will be a welcomed change and will help usher in summer. Rummaging through orphaned summer clothes to decide what to throw in the suitcase; searching for the bottom half of my bathing suit that is MIA; and writing my final post - all in preparation for our vacay.

One sideways glimpse of my legs show they are still a whiter shade of pale despite my daily methodical application of Dove self tanner and I have to give myself a DIY pedicure to somehow disguise the hobbit feet and to top it off, I am about to spend 5 days showing off bits and parts that oughta be kept under wraps. Where are those full coverage bathing suits when you need them? Hubby says they are called wet suits!

Enough whining and complaining  ... it's all good! At the very least I will be more buoyant! Have to get to it so I can get a few hours sleep before we depart. Smyles and chuckles to you all.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Give a Little Late

Kiva - loans that change lives

With all my business travel last week and family stuff I missed making my Thursday "give a little" donation. I finally did it yesterday by making my 24th Kiva loan of $25. Kiva makes small loans to people all over the world to help them lift themselves out of poverty and fulfill their dreams. In all the years I have been involved with Kiva, I have never had a loan default, even though many of the loans were made to people in high risk, volatile regions such as the Sudan, Congo and Afghanistan.

Kiva is one of the most fulfilling experiences in giving I have had. It really isn't giving at all ... it is investing in human potential. Better late than never!

Read about my Thursday's Give a Little Challenge. I have to give ongoing props to Wendy Smith for her inspiring book, Give a Little. Give it a read.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Easter Feaster

It was an unexpected surprise to have my Dad and T at our Easter feast, the silver lining to their early return from Florida.  We were missing Doris, our grand silver headed elder; she stayed home to recover from her flight and the medical issues that have been plaguing her.
My girls are all of adult age and the youngest nephew is fourteen, but there is nothing like an Easter egg hunt to release the inner schoolyard ...

Hubby lovingly basted the best of out of our 25 pound turkey and it was consumed equally lovingly by the hungry family. Dad won the liver lottery (no one else would touch it let alone eat it).
Wouldn't be Easter dinner without the sweets and treats.
But the absolute best part bar none is the sight of the family gathered in the living room, every seat taken, kids curled up on the floor - some draped on the arms of the chairs, all engaged in spirited chatter. It can be deafening and to the untrained ear, the cross conversations can sound like clatter. It makes my heart sing (and it isn't anything a little Motrin can't cure). We toasted our missing members of the clan and enjoyed the company of those who weren't. Our table was full and our family all safe and sound. And for that, I am truly grateful.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Blurry, Busy But Bountiful

The last few days have been a blur ...
trips to to the airport arrivals, phone calls and reconnections, grocery shopping, clothes shopping, treats shopping, and haircuts.

Kidlet moved home from university, I flew back from Vancouver and Harmony came home for the weekend. The house looks like it barfed up clothes. Unpacking and packing. What a mess! Laundry awaits --- and awaits.

Hubby got outfitted for our upcoming family wedding in a tropical location and packing is underway. Packing for the trip and I haven't unpacked from the other yet.

My step-mom flew home with our beloved Doris and my dad drove back from Florida by himself. Doris had another detour -- this time she tested our Canadian health care. They told us she looks OK -- and that she doesn't look 93. She smiled sweetly and my step-mom exhaled -- finally.

Everyone is back home safe and sound and the nest overfloweth. The turkey is taking a soak in the kitchen sink for the final thaw; the cupcakes are iced (I think I am in sugar shock) and the house is a big mess.

And tomorrow is Easter Sunday. For our family it means a gathering of the clan; the first that will include our beloved snowbirds since Christmas. The house is vibrating gently with the energy of my three girls, the dog is snoring somewhat quietly and hubby is upstairs. It's been a blur but now, in this quiet hour, in the calm, all is well with the world. Wishing you all a happy Easter or Passover - and if you don't celebrate either of those --- enjoy the rest of the weekend.

NOTE: I haven't forgotten about my Thursday Give a Little -- I just wasn't available to blog about it so it will be deferred somewhat. 

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Reason to Believe

Notice "peaceful retreat - someday" in the middle of the list
I have always felt that the things I write about in my blog, come from the deepest part of myself. My posts are like notes to myself … what I love; what I think; what I need; how I feel; and what I wish. I was reading through some older posts served up by the widget at the bottom of the page, and I found it – proof positive of the adage “you think and it shall be”.

I have had a dream rolling around in the back alleys of my mind for as long as I can remember. I articulated it in a post from Aug 12, 2008:
These days I feel a strong compulsion to live on a rural piece of land, living a sustainable life in a green home, growing our own food, raising chickens for eggs and goats for milk -- never mind the cute factor! I want to create the kind of home that cultivates an airy peaceful existence.
I found a post in which I included an old wrinkled "wish" list, (see above) with the peaceful retreat listed. That list was from the 90's.

I wrote in March 20, 2010:
I find myself fantasizing about life amongst tall pines with a lullaby of waves hitting the shoreline. I plan how I will spend my imaginary win fall - the land I would buy; the sustainable abode I would build; the goats I would nurture.
And even though I have no reason to expect that I would have money to fund such dreams, my faith and confidence is unshakable. I know that if I internalize this dream, think creatively, and set sail in the general direction, the dream will materialize into reality. I just don't know when -- but I can't wait!
It’s true what I wrote – I had no extra money and no reason to believe that this dream could come true. That being said, I continued to “look” at lakefront property listings and fully internalize the vision. Then the perfect rustic cottage on the lake that hubby spent his childhood on popped into my IN BOX. I wrote this post in May 25, 2011:
Dreaming ... there is something magical and exciting about wanting something so much you can taste it, and being in hot pursuit. That's hubby and I right now. The planets are aligning - we are of one heart and mind - and it is taking us where we want to go. We used to flirt with the idea of having a peaceful retreat ... I say flirt because it didn't seem practical or doable at the time. But experience has taught me that if you paint a clear picture, plant that seed of a dream deep in the belly of desire, hold faith in your heart, all things are possible - in their own time.
Some people caution me to not get my hopes up, or get too excited just in case things don't work out. But I beg to differ. If the journey is the destination, then I  e n j o y  every leg of the journey ... the outcome is the icing on the cake.
And in June 4, 2010
NOTHING comes close; it's the absolute best, living your dream. And if you are lucky INTENT, the life you have created is your dream.
That's me now. Living in the present. Living large with big dreams. Casting off baggage of fear and limitation, with only an INFINITE horizon of possibility in my sights.
And finally on June 23,2010:
Hubby and I signed off at the lawyers and take possession Friday. I can say with all honesty that I have never had a dream unfulfilled ... and by the time I return from Kenya in July, I will have the list fully checked off. Of course I will start a new one, but hey, for a few minutes, I'll bask in utter contentment and gratitude. Lucky me; lucky us. So today, the earth moved under my feet - in so many ways....
So my wish for you is that you dream with wild abandon; without pragmatic editing, and that you articulate and share those dreams with people you care about. Be fearless. Be bold. Enjoy the "what ifs", the anticipation and the journey.  It works.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Early Morning Walkabout

Despite the fact that I stayed up until 10:30 PM local time (1:30 AM my time), I was wide awake and bushy tailed (what the heck does that even mean??) at 5:30 AM. I opened the drapes in my room and watched the sky over the water slowly turn to murky blue gray spiked with rods of fuchsia. I watched the sea planes take off in orderly succession and the birds that mimicked them.

After 45 minutes, I was done with killing time. The hair was bundled into a knot on top of my head, the face was washed clean (freaking scary -- but excellent safety insurance) and I was out the door, camera in hand.

This city is exploding with all things "spring" and naturally beautiful. The magnolias and cherry blossoms hang in full bloom and the air is sweetened with their fragrance. I followed the sea wall, stopping often, breathing deeply enjoying just being. Was is it about boats that lures me in?

Here are some shots from my early morning walkabout.

Jet Lag

I am perched in a hotel room with corner windows to majestic mountain views and to the yachts lining the seawall. The clock says it is just after 9 pm but my body knows differently and begs for slumber. I am out on the coast for work, but for now, it is a time to regroup and rest.

I squeezed in an hour's walk when I arrived this evening to get my blood pumping after the 5 hour flight. The city was vibrating - a bustling collage of smokey spice, neon signs and colour. I've never seen such a variety of cuisines - Indian, Thai, Japanese, French, Italian and even Mongolian BBQ - within a four block radius. Still full from my souvlaki lunch, I opted for a steaming cup of tea as a take along for the rest of my walk. The sun settled low in the sky quickly so I made my way back to the hotel post haste and ordered up some tasty wireless Internet.

A hot shower awaits and then some much needed sleep in the heavenly bed. There are two so I think I will alternate each night -- just because I can.

Night, night -- sleep tight!

Friday, April 15, 2011

Weekly Wrap

Friday Night
Ties up loose ends of the week with
Momentary relief and respite from the frenetics.
The laundry in waiting, cup half full of cold tea
And a steady stream of phone calls
Connecting the family dots.

Time to watch back episodes of Oprah
"I thought I had a bottle of wine"
A cooler will have to do
Friday Night
Means no demands
For now. Off to bed.

It's a wrap!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Give a Little Shelter

I am a huge believer in giving a hand up as opposed to a handout. But there are times when people need their basic needs met to enable them to pursue an independent life and the dreams they have for themselves, or even to survive. We've all seen them - stretched out, sleeping beside buildings swaddled in whatever clothing they own; walking aimlessly as they push a cart laden with their life's belongings; people with no where to call home but the streets.

This week I donated to Everyone Deserves A Roof (EDAR), an organization that provides mobile shelters to homeless men, women and children. The unit looks like and serves as a cart during the day and converts to a tent-like structure for sleeping. Ingenious! Doesn't everyone deserve shelter and some basic privacy?
Thanks Harmony for the suggestion. Share your favourite causes with me and I'll consider donating.

Read about my Thursday's Give a Little Challenge. I have to give ongoing props to Wendy Smith for her inspiring book, Give a Little. Give it a read.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Medical Detour

I am thinking about a lively, sweet 93 year old who is testing the American healthcare system tonight and sampling the hospitality and service of the facilities. Oddly enough, she can probably count the number of days on her hand that she has spent in a hospital.

I am hoping that she feels secure and unafraid and that she slumbers soundly; that she won't be poked or prodded and disturbed by lights and nocturnal checks. I am hoping they will soon present her with a  meal (from the hospital galley) that is befitting a queen. Even more importantly, I hope she could keep it down!

This remarkable woman has spent most of her life completely healthy and she is unacquainted with disease and medical discomfort. To one of my routine "how are you doing" greetings she replied, "Oh not too good. My knee is really bothering me". I smiled; 93 and she is bewildered that her knee was giving her trouble. Heck, I  think my knees give me more trouble ...

So I am sending her pink healing light and wishes for a speedy recovery. I know she will be wanting to get home to a good cup of King Cole tea, and maybe even a date square or two.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Don't Take Your Organs to Heaven

Don't take your organs to heaven. Heaven knows we need them here.
I remember this slogan from a button my Mom wore on her jacket. Those were trying times; anxiety ruled as we waited for the beeper to sound like a trumpet of hope. My mom was waiting for new lungs that would offer her breath of life. She was a petite woman with lungs to match. We were warned that it may be a lengthy wait to find organs small enough for a proper fit.

Organ donation is the ultimate gift of hope. To this day nothing has rivaled the sheer euphoria of that phone call telling us that they had lungs and to get Mom to the hospital pronto. In an instant that little ember we had kept alive burst into a blaze of hope; everything seemed possible. "We're on!" was her response when I asked her if she was scared. She was out to the car barely before I hung up the phone. It was all I could do to whisper silent "thank you's" as profound gratitude washed over me.

As part of the lung transplant program, Mom and I met 17 other families who were in the holding pattern of regular therapy and exercise as they waited for their miracle. It made organ donation personal for me. The drawn, exhausted faces of the people whose lives hung in balance were emblazoned in my brain, and when they disappeared after waiting too long, we were collectively devastated.

My Mom received the ultimate gift of life and enjoyed one year of perfect health and a second year of life in which she battled rejection. I asked her if she would do all over again, knowing what she knew and she said, without hesitation, "Of course! I lived didn't I? It was better than the alternative."

Years after her passing, my mom's younger brother died suddenly from a brain aneurysm. He had signed his donor card and as result, at least five people had second chances at life.

There are many different perspectives on organ donation, but to me, it is simply "paying it forward". To you who have signed your card, bless you. To those of you who intend on donating, please share your wishes with your loved ones.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Sunshine, Spring and Smiles

The kitchen is blazing with sunshine. I'm inspired. These first few sprinkles of springtime are the most delectable, with promises of glory to come. I only got as far as the flowers on my kitchen table so far this morning, and I am heading out for a daughter day in the city so there will be more. Until then, thought I'd share a little sunlight with you - sure to make you smile - and wish you a great weekend.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Give a Little

It's been five weeks now, this weekly giving. And when I started out to give $5 a week I was a little concerned that it was going to be tricky to keep the commitment. Funny thing is, the $5 turned into $10 and I haven't felt anything but satisfaction. In fact, it's been completely painless.
This week I am donating to the foundation of one of my heroes -- Stephen Lewis. This former UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa has dedicated his life to fighting for victims of HIV and AIDS in Africa. I booked him as a speaker a few years back and he had his buttoned down, conservative, business audience in tears and jumping to their feet with his eloquent delivery and impassioned plea to help in the fight of the AIDS Pandemic.

His outrage at the world's (and the UN's) lack of response to the pandemic has recently expanded to outrage against rape as a weapon of war. He is using his voice to cry out - to demand that we stop the systemic use of rape and violence against girls and women across the globe.

He is a living example of someone who is committed to improving the human condition and that, combined with the inspiration he instills makes him a hero in my book.

The Stephen Lewis Foundation works to ease the suffering associated with HIV/Aids in Africa by funding grassroots projects. The foundation supports community-based organizations working to turn the tide of HIV/AIDS in Africa, providing care to women who are ill and struggling to survive; assisting orphans and other AIDS affected children; reaching heroic grandmothers who almost single-handedly care for their orphan grandchildren; and sustaining associations of people living with HIV and AIDS.
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 $10.00. 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, April 5, 2011

Tonight's the Night

I just couldn't resist showing off the pics I took at the Stevie Nicks and Rod Stewart concert Saturday night. Aside from the woman sitting/standing/floating/jerking/dancing in the "seat" in front of me (who hubby was sure was having a seizure) and the lady behind me who decided that the middle of Stevie Nick's Landslide tender ballad was the perfect time to phone her daughter to urge her (loudly over the music) "listen -- can you hear it??? It's Landslide - my favourite song", the concert was simply fantastic. Of course I looked back at that lady wishfully -- thinking that it was one of my favourite songs too, and I would LOVE to hear it!

Stevie still has the goods. She is beautiful, ethereal and has an intimate way of engaging the audience. The stadium shrinks and she is front and centre, her husky, distinctive voice luring you in as she twirls and swirls around the stage. I loved her final number -- a new cut called Love is ... and if seizure girl in front had stopped gabbing with her girlfriend for but a moment, I may have heard the whole song. Why do people go to a concert if they have no intention of listening to the music?

The curtain dropped and when it went up, it was a whole new world. Tonight's the Night hit the speakers and out he pranced -- in a canary yellow jacket -- belting out his hit as the audience endeavored to drown him out. It was hit after hit and Rod Stewart seemed to be genuinely enjoying the crowd as they sang along. For me it was a flash back in time as the music of my teen-aged years triggered memory after memory. Funny how music can do that ... put you right back to the scene of the crime. The concert was hubby's birthday gift to me and it was a magical night. I sang my heart out, shed a tear or two and at the end of it all, I left feeling completely satisfied and contented and humming, "you're in my heart, you're in my soul ...".
Thanks Hubby.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Edible Hug

I was still slicing crusts off the bread when the first guests arrived for our bridal tea on Sunday, but in my infinite wisdom I had at least dressed between the cucumber and turkey sandwiches - so I was somewhat ready. The flowers delivered springtime to the dining room and the afternoon sun streamed in lighting the sparkles on the crystal.

My eldest daughter happily loaded up the platters with the copious mountains of  cupcakes, fruit tarts, coffee cake, brownies, scones, chocolates, and fruit while I frantically spread, sprinkled and chopped crusts off the tea sandwiches. She just smiled as I micro-managed her tasks from across the kitchen, refusing her offers of "why don't you let me finish what you're doing so you can do the platter your way".

My adrenaline was pumping when my sis-in-law and MIH arrived right on time to greet the guests. It was my SIL's first ever bridal shower and I wanted everything to be special (if not perfect).

It was a family shower, a chance for all of the aunts and cousins who can't make it to the destination wedding to share in the joy of the occasion. We pinned on the orchid corsage and SIL took her seat of honour. Her glowing, smiling face belied any nervousness she may have had being plunked into the middle of the guests as the focal point and centrepiece of the event. MIH's could barely contain her enthusiasm and pride... perfect mother of the bride.

For the next few hours the table of delectables was enjoyed, family memories were exchanged and the room vibrated with the laughter and joy that comes with celebrating and sharing these precious milestones.

As I stood back, snapping shots, I lowered my camera and took it all in. It occurred to me that these rituals, as stressful as they can be (they were for me when I was a bride), are a rite of passage. And there is something empowering about sharing it with the women in your family -- a show of feminine family strength, and knowing that you belong to this exclusive sisterhood.

I set out to give a special gift to my sis-in-law -- the gift of effort and time. The gift of cupcakes and flowers! The gift of a special memory. I think she got it ... my big, authentic, delectable, edible hug.

Guests left their good wishes in stone.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Ramping Up for Tea

It's just after 10 am and I am putting my day off to good use. I am throwing a bridal tea on Sunday for my sis-in-law and there are miles to go between then and now. I can stroke the following off the TO DO list:

Laundry done and folded in the basket, awaiting delivery.
Coffee cake and brownies baked. Tried to lift the coffee cake out of the pan too early, needless to say I will be serving it pre-sliced!
Kitchen cleaned. Not a chance, but I licked my fingers clean.
Dishwasher running. Thank goodness for electrical appliances.
Baking bowls and pans soaking in the sink.

Platters pulled out, centrepieces made, now just TO DO:

  • shower
  • buy flowers and corsage
  • go to bakers for thinly sliced bread for tea sandwiches
  • clean the house - hide the clutter : )
  • buy and wrap the prize gifts
  • wrap the shower gift
  • bake the tart shells
  • count the shells (for the guessing game)
  • ice the cupcakes
  • boil the eggs and make the sandwiches (this will have to wait until Sunday morn)
  • and just a few other things. 
I love entertaining although I haven't done a shower in a while. For myself (my own wedding/pregnancies), it is a well broadcasted fact that I hate them am not a fan. But as hypocritical as it is, I love throwing and attending them and enjoy celebrating happy events. I do not enjoy sitting in a circle, tea cup in lap and pencil in hand filling out "quizzes" etc for games. I am far too impatient for that. I think I project my own dislike onto these events because lately when I have expressed  my utter disdain for these frolics, I have been met with wistful eyes and quiet well, I like them's. I am just weird, what can I say. So I have come up with some simple little ways to give prizes - thus the seashells. 

The theme is high tea with a beachy cottage feel. Rustic versus refined. I have to do what I know best. Not to worry though, there will be cutlery and napkins and lots of tasty goodies.They may not look polished but they will be yummy and definitely homemade! You may even spot a finger print or two. (If the icing goes badly -- there's a bakery up the street).

Now the first thing I have to do is -- get off this computer. Time is a wasting.