Thursday, February 28, 2013

In the Early Morn

There is something mystical about the early hours of morn when the world is hushed in slumber. This morning I awoke to a crystalline snowy winter wonderland, glistening in the fading moonlight. I thought about reaching for my camera, opting instead to capture the image to  memory.  I stole a few moments in the silence, pausing to breathe - to take it all in. Today is going to be a really good day.

Then it was out the door to greet the hectic and the routine of the commute. The snow was wet and heavy -- perfect snowball making conditions. I made a mini snowman and planted it on hubby's car and carved my signature hearts and smiles on his windshield.

The tranquility of the morn was a perfect beginning, not to be repeated for the rest of the day. But no matter; the gift was accepted, and cherished. And for that, I am truly grateful.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Help an Everyday Child Learn, Earn, and Return

Logo courtesy of
In my search for my next weekly "give a little" I stumbled across the Everyday Child initiative. Everyday Child is raising money to build a learning centre for impoverished children in Mombai to give them the opportunity to learn something new, earn something out of it (whether it is monetary, tools, experience, etc.) and then empower them to return the knowledge and skills they acquired by teaching someone else. The hope is that it will foster an everlasting cycle of education.

I love mostly everything and anything to do with education; I donated to help them reach their goal of building their learning centre by 2014. I grew up in the hay day of education -- when schools provided a myriad of activities,arts, music, opportunities, access to equipment, clubs and teams to join - all at no cost to the student. We were taught to play instruments, sew, cook, woodwork, repair, weld, paint, and create. Today's children are not so fortunate, especially those who are impoverished or living in regions with no access to education. If we all give a little, we can achieve alot.

Read about my weekly  Give a Little challenge and other posts. I have to give ongoing props to Wendy Smith for her inspiring book, Give a Little. Consider giving it a read.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Howling Arrival

The wind is howling, slamming the tree branches against the windows, unceremoniously announcing the arrival of yet another winter storm. The weather channel is splashed in red weather warnings adorned in many adjectives, not of which inspire me for my morning commute. Such is life in Canada.   I will leave a little earlier and pay homage to my four wheel drive as I maneuver my way to work. I have safe transportation, and for that, I am truly grateful.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Give a Little to End the Use of Child Soldiers

Photo courtesy of
Romeo Dallaire is one of the most courageous humanitarians of his time, and a personal hero of mine. Aside from the fact that this awesome, inspiring man is a Canadian, he is perhaps best known for being the Force Commander for UNAMIR, where he bore witness to the Rwandan genocide. Now as a retired lieutenant-general and Canadian Senator he is an outspoken advocate for human rights, mental health and war-affected children.

Wanting to transform his hellish experiences into a constructive contribution, he founded the Roméo Dallaire Child Soldiers Initiative, and made it his life's mission to end the use of child soldiers worldwide. He documented his experiences and proposed solutions in two best-selling books: Shake Hands with the Devil and They Fight like Soldiers, Die like Children: The Global Quest to Eradicate the Use of Child Soldiers.

Just imagine more than 250,000 children (estimated 30-40% girls) recruited - often forced - to be soldiers. Many are stolen from their families, maimed, raped, drugged, used as sex slaves or otherwise abused and as child soldiers, are often forced to commit atrocities against friends, families and neighbours. Dallaire says children are used because they are considered expendable, plentiful, cheap to maintain and easily indoctrinated by the adults who recruit them. They are used as a strategic military tool—a weapons system—to advance the interests of persistent human rights violators.

For my weekly Give a Little challenge I donated to the Child Soldiers Initiative which is committed to ending the use and recruitment of child soldiers worldwide, with a focus on prevention, through ground-breaking research, advocacy, and security-sector training.

Because to tell you the truth, if Dallaire can be selfless and brave enough to take on the fight of a lifetime, the least I can do is give a little to support the cause.

His book has been made into a documentary. Watch the trailer.

Read about my weekly Give a Little challenge and other posts. I have to give ongoing props to Wendy Smith for her inspiring book, Give a Little. Consider giving it a read.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Full Steam Ahead

Well things are in full motion and the flurry of emails have begun -- how to prepare and articles to read about Tanzania; suggested Swahili language CDs and books; vaccination requirements; visas and entry paperwork; and the list goes on... Tanzania is taking shape before my very eyes and I can feel that tingling in the pit of my stomach that I get when I anticipate something good is about to happen.

When my friend asked me about Africa and told me she would like to voluntour with me, I was afraid to get my hopes up. I waited for several days for her email with subject line: Trip. Then it arrived with the simple message: "How do we book this thing?"

We finally had a chance to touch base today after having booked the trip last week. We were giddy and full of questions, ideas, and speculations - all expressed in rapid succession, in overlapping sentences. It'll be our first trip together since we were 14 and 16 years old and we both agree that it is OVERDUE!

We have no illusions; although it's called a volunteer trip, the purpose is really a cultural exchange to ultimately build bridges. We will leave with more than we give and if we are lucky, we will leave a little of us behind and take a piece of Tanzania home with us. It has me reflecting alot on our attitudes and intentions toward developing nations. I realize that often our good intentions have far reaching, negative consequences and I have to take more time to research my participation in philanthropic efforts to ensure that they align with sustainability and do no harm.  

 In the meantime we will have months of planning and anticipation to look forward to, and look forward we will!

Time to resuscitate my Africa Calling blog and add a second act. 

Friday, February 15, 2013

Have a Heart: Give a Little Love and Water

Image courtesy of VDay
Valentine’s Day had Twitter abuzz with loving sentiments and wishes for a better world. Valentine’s Day is also the VDay – the One Billion Rising Campaign to end violence against women and girls. The global One Billion Rising movement is based on the estimate from the UN that one in three women will be beaten or raped during their lifetime, meaning one billion worldwide. Powerful images of women (and men) in Canada and from far-away – Afghanistan, India, UK, Philippines, Europe, Australia – marching and dancing in solidarity to demand an end to this violence inspired me to “give a little” to the effort. I am a woman with three daughters and I can’t fathom the thought of any of them – or anyone for that matter - being subjected to harm. It must be globally unacceptable.

In my recently acquired health regiment [lifestyle change] I am been slugging back copious amounts of water, supposedly clean water that comes to me effortlessly by simply turning on a tap.  Last week (I’m a little behind in my reporting) I was inspired to support the initiative that works with local partners to find solutions to provide the one billion on the planet who do not have such ready access to clean water – as well as sanitation to the three billion who are without toilets! Next time you are sitting on the throne with toilet paper at your fingertips, try to imagine what life would be like if there wasn't a toilet to be found …
Infographic courtesy of
Have ideas to help me in my weekly quest? Please share!

Read about my weekly Give a Little challenge and other posts. I have to give ongoing props to Wendy Smith for her inspiring book, Give a Little. Consider giving it a read.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Adventure Calling

On a day basked in red, pink, chocolate and hearts, the spark of a lifetime dream was ignited. My life-long friend and I booked a volunteer trip to Kilimanjaro, Tanzania. After months of wanting, wishing, and wondering, I converted "if" to "when". 

And as with all things that are important to me, the anticipation is as exciting as the adventure. One thing I have learned is that although the trip is cloaked in volunteerism, we will leave a part of ourselves in Africa and come home with more than we went with. We will learn, experience, share, care, cry, laugh, and wonder. And just like my trip to Kenya with Kidlet, I will make this memory with someone I love, and we'll have this treasure to relive again and again for years to come.

What a perfect day! I share my life with a man who still makes my heart skip a beat; my dress zipped up effortlessly (not so a week or two ago); and I am on the way to Tanzania. A reminder to dream, for they do indeed come true. Life is good - and for that, I am supremely grateful.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

All Grown Up

Well she broke the bedtime promise she made so many times to me, so many years ago; she grew up. It was bound to happen, an inevitable truth, and I knew I would never be entirely ready for it.

With Kidlet- my last born - following in her sisters' well trodden path into womanhood, the door on active parenting closes (but doesn't shut). I am not needed as I once was; I am a mom on slow simmer on the back burner, close by and quick to reheat as needed.

It was bittersweet watching her blow out her candles, and not just because of her birthday. It was the sight of my beauty trio of shining feminine intelligence that tugged at my heart. Their lives have not always been easy; they endured my life choices that I inflicted on them and each has emerged resilient and independent.

They say a triangle is the strongest structure and if that is indeed true, my girls will have all the strength they need in one another, and  a bond that can withstand anything. What more could a mother want? Three girls --- that's alot of love, and this weekend I got a hefty dose.

Promise me that you'll never grow up on me, okay?
I promise Mommy. But... I can't stop it!

Friday, February 8, 2013

Snow Day, Slow Day

A snow day --it's a rare guilty pleasure for a working Canadian on a cold winter's day; a get-out-of-jail for free card; a one day suspension from any and all obligations; a precious portion of time to be squandered or spent exactly how I see fit!

So with open hours sprawled out before me, I hunkered under the fluffy down duvet and watched morning television from the comfort of my cosy bed; I drank hot mugs of coffee while I watched the white stuff pile up against the window; and I checked in with my loved ones.

With Kidlet's birthday tomorrow, I had potato leek soup to make and a cake to bake. With country music as the soundtrack, I chopped, sauteed, and pureed, stirred and mixed, and baked and cooked. I resisted the urge to lick the icing from the beaters - or my fingers for that matter. And when I was all done, it looked like a cyclone had blown through the kitchen. But a few Mary Chapin Carpenter songs later and I had it cleaned and order was restored.

It's been a good day... freedom day... hours spent with no plans and nothing to do but follow my heart's desires. Who cares if my hair smells like leek soup or that I wasn't able to get out to buy salad fixings for the lunch tomorrow -- it was a day of peaceful perfection and a wonderful, slow, snow day. And for that I am so very grateful.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

It's That Kind of Day

I am on my second handful of almonds ... I usually eat only one - but it's that kind of day.

I misread the time on my clock radio this morning and dawdled oh-so-leisurely getting ready-  only to find out that I was in fact running twenty minutes late. But I still went through the drive-through for coffee and lo and behold - I wasn't late. It's that kind of day.

And then I made friends with Procastination who convinced me that I could get my business plan in on time even though I was drinking coffee and snacking on almonds. Focus is hiding in the closet or MIA - not sure which. It's that kind of day.

Sometimes you just gotta roll with it - slow it down; take a sip; ease back and breathe; release that which you can't control; and try not to fret. It'll all get done, sooner or later, one way or another. Some days are just like that, and this is that kind of day!

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Small Steps

They say you are what you eat. So these days I am spinach, cabbage, peppers, sweet potatoes, blueberries, Greek yogurt  chicken, strawberries, carrots, celery, mangoes, chick peas, kidney beans, quinoa, brown rice, eggs, pork, cheese, turnips, zucchini, squash, lentils, steak, bananas, grapefruit, apples, cantaloupe, blackberries, walnuts, almonds and watermelon. [Please note that not all of the aforementioned are consumed in a single sitting.]

I am focused on one thing – ensuring that anything that passes my lips must be good for me. I am taking a “make every calorie count” approach but I am not counting calories. I cut processed foods and refined sugar out of my diet: 1) to see what would happen, and 2) because I learned that sugar fuels cancer. I get my share of sweet stuff from all the fruit I eat. And I also cut wheat after experiencing some major bloating – and heaven knows I don’t need yet another belly.

So after three weeks, I am encouraged and I feel great. When I look down I can see my belt buckle and I can twirl the waistband on my skirt. It made me so happy I did it all day long. AND I have closed the gaps in my shirts that used to reveal my oh-so-not stylish support garments! I put my pants on this morning and they were longer than I remembered .... a belt was needed to hold them up -- and the belt actually fit around my hips! Small miracles.

Small changes; small steps; and 10 minutes to my local YWCA. I had a good talk with myself and I decided that if I could give up every pleasure I knew while I was expecting for a baby, I could give up things that don't help me -- for me!

I'll post pictures later... off to have dinner with my lifelong friend Jill, and show her my shrinking rolls. There'll be less of me to love. : )