Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2013 Swan Song

An entire year of faces, places,
wins and losses
lessons and evolution
neatly woven into my life cloak.

Celebration of what was
Reflection of what could be
No regrets nor resolutions
Only dreams and visions.

2013 almost behind us
Hasty farewells
 affection and gratitude
for another year well lived.

Poised on the cusp of
possibility and opportunity
to become the very best
version of me.

Welcome 2014.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Merry Famjam Express

It was the kind of Christmas that we all dream about -- peaceful, calm, and white. During the night a blanket of light, fluffy snow fell, cloaking the devastation from the ice storm, setting the stage for a magical Christmas. And magical it was - for us - but not for the thousands of people still without power and heat.

It sounds corny to say that the most important part of Christmas for our family is being together, but it truly is. With the girls now grown with lives of their own, and everyone balancing the social demands of their acquired /blended/extended families, it is a rare gift to have our family together under one roof.

The Christmas season for us is a series of "stops" on the famjam express. Christmas Eve is the first stop and the first turkey feast at hubby's parents' house. My MIH is Mrs Claus embodied. She revels in the glitter and glitz and bedazzles Noel like no other and it's the sparkling extravaganza that kicks off our seasonal festivities. But there is no denying that this year, our seven-month old niece was the centre piece and the sole object of our attention and affection. The little cherub gurgled and giggled and charmed us all with her good nature, innocence and inquisitiveness. Christmas really is more fun with kids around.

I waited for the girls and their spouse/spice to clear out so I could make like Santa and get the stockings filled. Now that little girls have grown into little women, we get to sleep in past 6 am and luxuriate with a lazy cup of coffee while stockings get opened and hubby wrestles with a semi-frozen 32 pound bird. We opened our gifts leisurely, each of us taking it all in, each - clearly contented. I didn't take as many pictures as usual; I was preoccupied with being present, imprinting moments for posterity.

In the afternoon my Dad, step-mom, step-grand-gram and sister joined us for the Christmas feast. It was one of the quietest Christmas' in recent memory, and we missed our loved ones who couldn't be with us. But there was a special tranquility in the room; a shared gratitude of knowing how fortunate we are; that for one more year, our family is intact, safe and healthy.

December 28th was another stop at hubby's parents' to celebrate MIH's birthday (with chocolate, of course). And if we hadn't had enough of one another yet, we got one more chance at the big family gathering of aunts, uncles and cousins on the twenty-ninth. I can't get enough of the happy faces and chatter of people who obviously enjoy being together. Good food helps! And it doesn't stop there -- the famjam express has one more stop to make this Sunday when we celebrate my Pop's birthday.

So, in a nutshell, the love of family was the best gift of all this year, and one I wish for all of you. For me and my family, it truly has been a merry Christmas.

And to the hydro workers who forfeited their own holiday and have been working around the clock to restore power, I salute you and dedicate this post to you. We appreciate your sacrifice and dedication. Thank you.

Monday, December 23, 2013

All is Calm

With much of our city still without power, and trees bending, splitting and breaking under the burden of the thick ice that has accumulated, this will surely be a Christmas remembered for years to come. I have friends who have been warming and eating by candlelight for two days and counting. They will most likely spend have an imposed pioneer Christmas.

And the funny part is, even with all of the devastation - streets lined with the piles of tree remnants - and inconveniences and challenges people have been facing, there is a lightness in the air. I was caught in the crush of the last minute Christmas shopping at both the mall and the grocery store, and I couldn't help but notice how pleasant and patient the general mood was. None of the usual scowling faces - but rather there were may smiles and "Merry Christmas" cheers and random acts of kindness abounded.

The ice has created ethereal beauty to behold, and tested our resolve - and Christmas spirit. The landscape is forever changed, as are our notions of the meaning of Christmas. This little natural disaster has been a timely reminder of all that we have, and take for granted.

I am ever grateful for the warmth of my home and the hot meal I ate tonight; and I am grateful that my family is safe and sound. As the spirit of the season descends, I pray for peace and love for my loved ones close in heart as well as for those who are struggling, where every they may be.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Sparkle and Bright

It is just days before Christmas. Fritz is nestled on my feet, our honest to goodness real Christmas tree stands heroically in the corner anchored by the gift stash, and my keyboard is lit by the glow of the lights. It's all rather festive with the exception of the mishmash of shopping bags piles in the corner and the messy remnants of my wrapping efforts that are strewn on the coffee table. There is alot that is done but much left to do. And the funny thing is, I feel rather Zen about it all. Maybe the deep seated calm I feel is left over from from my Tanzanian trip, rooted in the knowledge that (currently) I really don't have any problems or worries - at least nothing worthy of stress.

The triumphant faces of the three directors of Good Hope are lodged in my psyche and in my heart. I have dreamed about Good Hope every night since I've returned. I turn my attention to the life in front of me, however the ladies and memories aren't going away. Nor do I want them to. They are now forever a part of my DNA and I have plans to help them with their website and beyond.

We awoke this morning to a shimmering, glistening frozen world. Trees, laden with heavy ice, bent under the load. Sidewalks were turned into skating rinks and icicles accessorized pretty much everything - eaves-troughs, railings, windows... We had a power failure during the night and lucky for us, it was restored by morning. Not so for much of my town. The main shopping mall was without power and couldn't open. Hubby and I has some last minute shopping items to pick up so we had to pick and slash the ice off my car and head out into the weather.

The are reports that some people will be without power for the next two days -- right up to Christmas. I'm sure there are many who are panicked by the thought and the mandatory shut down. And I wonder if we will see the message and gift that has been delivered; that when all the commerce is stripped away and we stop - we see that which really matters, remains. The quiet of Christmas can descend and truly make it a season of peace. If we let it.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Freedom Fighter

Photo courtesy of New Yorker Magazine
"Democracy and peace for all."

Nelson Mandela - icon of social justice and freedom fighter - proved thatimprisonment is a state of mind. They could lock him up, but they couldn't break him. That which didn't kill him, made him - and his movement for social and racial justice - stronger.

He survived everything that came his way, and defeated apartheid in his country.

My hero Stephen Lewis stated it so very eloquently:

"It’s always said that after 27 years in prison he turned the other cheek: in truth, he emerged from the fires of hell with nothing but wisdom and love, for his people and for the planet. There will never be such another.”

Thank you Nelson Mandela for being a shining light and beacon of hope and inspiration to a generation. You changed the world.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Napkin Notes

Life is a journey - not a destination. It may be corny, but it's so very true. And this napkin on the plane was a handy reminder. If we look carefully, and pay close attention, we can receive the messages the universe is sending us -- the perfect message and the perfect time. I am trying to be a better "listener"!

As I sort through the pictures I took on my trip and answer emails from friends I made along the way, I am reminded how an experience such as Tanzania will be a gift that keeps on giving. My world is a little bigger, my mind - more expanded, and my heart - a little fuller. I have learned that happiness and joy are attitudes and decisions.

I decide to seek the silver lining in every adversity, and to savour each moment of the journey, wherever it takes me. Note to self...

Sunday, December 1, 2013


It's December 1st. I've been home from Tanzania for a week now and I haven't posted a word about the trip. I could say it's because I was immediately plunged into catch up at work as I wrestled with my jet lag - and it wouldn't be a lie - but the truth is, I am still processing the experience. Memories are replaying in my head; my dreams take me back to the shining faces I spent my time with; and I am trying to convince myself the whole adventure wasn't a dream.

The trip exceeded my expectations in every way. It was emotional overload and stimulating on so many levels that I am still sifting through all that I saw and felt, to figure out where to start, how to help, and how to integrate this experience into my life.

And if that wasn't enough, I landed home smack dab in the middle of Christmas. This isn't a problem -- it's my most favourite time of the year. But it does highlight the contrasts and inequities between worlds. It's not fair; it's not just; it just is. Some of us are born into relatively easy lives while others are born into hardship and strife.

One of the cultural activities at my volunteer experience was a stop off at the Msamaria Center for Street Children. We came bearing sacks of rice, maize and beans and fresh vegetables for the children. As we sat on the benches learning more about the predicament of the many young souls that have been rescued, I couldn't help but notice my little friend Adam's shoes. I told him that we had the same shoes and he proudly responded, "TOMS!" Never mind that his shoe was far too large for him or that his toe poked through the end -- he was delighted that we were both wearing Toms.

And that is it - so far - in a nutshell. My head and heart are full to overflowing, and over the next while, as I unpack my experience, I will share with you - at the risk of snagging your heart as Africa has mine.