Sunday, November 29, 2009

Be the change that you want to see in this world!

Thanks Gautam! An excellent 2 minute video on collaboration and the "yes we can" attitude as evidenced by a little boy.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

In Need of a Wife: Part Two



Sometimes I think the women in my family aren't very wifely. We are opiniated, independent, career women, uncompromising, do-it-yourselfers. And of course, by "we" I mean me!


That being said I wrote the post above "In Need of a Wife" a year and a half ago. Being a special education teacher and a single parent (due to my unwifely nature) has been a balancing act with certain tasks falling by the wayside as a result of a tight schedule of working long hours and being in constant demand as a chauffeur to my daughter's wide-ranging activities which included early morning and after school choir practices and a highland dance career that took us all over the country.


It has been a rewarding journey although I feel I fell short in a number of areas. Housekeeping and cooking and laundry received a minimal amount of my precious downtime. I much prefer to pick up a book, rent a movie, do something artistic or even balance my budget than to vacuum, clean or cook meals.


Hence the desire for me to have a "housewife" of my own!


Well, the good Lord answered my prayers but in His own unique and humorous way! He sent me a lovely Jamaican man who LOVES LOVES LOVES to do all of those things that I hate doing. And as he works mainly from home he has the time to cook up large pots of soup and stews, curries and sweet potato fries, fried plantain and stirfrys, even dumplings!


He washes every dish as soon as it lands on the counter, he vacuums and rearranges the furniture, he organizes the cupboards and the pantry, does the laundry and hangs up the delicates, he shops for groceries carefully selecting the best peppers and avocados even if it means handling every single one in the bins.


He makes our granola from scratch and gets up early in the morning to cook our oatmeal.


Besides all of that he drives me to work and picks me up everyday, drives my daughter to university and to her two jobs and all the while keeps up on his own work. Oh, and did I say he is a life coach? Yes, all of my baggage from previous relationships is being opened up to the light in a positive and gentle way.


I must have done something right in my life to have my wish for a "wife" answered with such abundance and joy. Sounds like there's a song in there somewhere!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

In Need of a Wife: Part One


Many times over the long years of single parenting I have often felt things would be a whole lot easier "if I only had a wife" (why do I suddenly feel like dancing down a yellow brick road?) However, as a woman of heterosexual persuasion I haven't yet figured out a way to make that work.


I suppose one answer would be to hire a cleaning service like Molly Maid, but really I don't feel my house is presentable enough to let someone come in and clean it! (if ya know what I mean and I know that you do!)


Do I really want a stranger shaking her head in disgust as she tries to scrub red wine drips out of my carpet? Again? Besides, if I had a wife she would do it for free. Right? And if I had a wife she would bring me my 3rd glass of red wine so I wouldn't have to stumble around with it myself thereby eliminating the need for rug scrubbing altogether.


And while I was sitting feet up in my Lazyboy recliner after a hard day of teaching, sipping my well-deserved wine and lingering over the daily newspaper, I could try to guess what succulent delights were on the supper menu based on the aromas of home cooking coming from the general direction of the kitchen, wherever that might be because I wouldn't have to know seeing as I had a wife. Beulah, peel me a grape! No, bring me the bottle!


Sigh....however, as no one has yet responded to my personal ads looking for a wife, I guess I'll have to survive on Costco's BBQ'd chicken wings and pick up a few more area rugs to cover the wine stains.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Active Giving - Jambalaya

Here's my partner - Michael - and our good friend Kevin - owner and chef at Jambalaya Restaurant at the moment of "settling accounts". Kevin and his wife - Denise - generously offered their restaurant and incredible food as a venue to raise money for Hand to Hand Global Leadership's non profit efforts in Jamaica. Between the meal and the silent auction we raised around $1500.00. It was an amazing night spent with friends and supporters eating Caribbean food - jerk chicken, rice and peas, blackened steak, bread pudding and rum sauce, pina colada cheesecake etc - all for a great cause.



In other news I am really excited to report that one of the loans I made on http://www.kiva.org/ is already being paid back (19% so far) after little more than a month. Most loans take 6 to 8 months before they start being paid back so I was thrilled to see that the group of women I supported is making its own profitable way in the world already!


I have been researching ways to get donated goods to Jamaica and have come up with a couple of ideas. Mustard Seed Communities are always looking for donations from a long list of needed items that they ship to Jamaica from Atlanta. That might be cheaper than packaging and shipping by air. My class has offered to use the money raised by our anual Advent project to pay shipping costs as well as donating toys and books to send. Its amazing how much people want to help out when you approach them with specific ideas. Most people want to help out, they just don't know what to do.


This week also marked my attainment of over 2,000 points for my cause (World Food Programme) on Social Vibe. Every 100 points that I earn equates into a donation of one week's worth of micronutrients for a hungry child. So far I've earned enought points to contribute 21 weeks worth of micronutrients. Check out my side bar for the Social Vibe's button and you can help me with my cause. It costs nothing but a few moments of your time. Social Vibe is also on Facebook.


I am happy to report that I haven't shopped this week except for groceries. The only other money I spent was to buy gas for the car and one meal out (at Jambalaya of course) plus $10 for a CD to support our friend Charmaine Bailey who is embarking on a Caribbean tour this January.


Savings is on track and so is my debt reduction. The car I bought in June will be totally paid off in 12 more months. Not bad! I've paid off my trip to Jamaica and started an emergency fund which now has over $400 in it. When I get the bill for the furnace repair it will come out of that. Any money I have left over at the end of the month also goes into the emergency account so within another week it will grow some more. Yay! Hopefully nothing major will happen to steer me off course. Like Christmas! I will definitely be on a budget this year but I don't have much to buy as I have been donating $$ instead.


Life is good.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Jambalaya Fundraiser & Back to Work

Well it wasn't too painful going back to work this morning after being off for 12 days due to my surgery. The tough part was trying to sleep last night after the fundraiser we held at the Jambalaya restaurant. It was a great time, great food and the silent auction went well raising more $ than we anticipated. We didn't eat our meal until 9:30 or so as we were hosting the event and then there was cleanup and packing up the car etc etc. We were still buzzing when we got home and I woke up off and on all night. I always get paranoid that my alarm won't go off and I'll be late getting up for work so I woke up at 4am and 5am and 5:30am and then my trusty alarm did finally go off at 5:45am. Man, I was exhausted by then!



But I was Ok once I got to school and had a chai tea and got my things organized. My desk was surprisingly clear after having had 2 supply teachers cover for my absence and I got a good block of time later in the morning and completed my report cards plus a report for a meeting tomorrow so that was a great load off my mind. I had visions of being at school til 6pm in order to get caught up. But I was able to leave by 3pm which meant I had time for grocery shopping before picking up my daughter at the university for a dentist's appointment. The bus drivers are on strike so that means extra driving duty until it's over.



But the day is finally done and now I can relax and finish my book, a Dean Koontz thriller that has kept me going for over 700 pages.



We accomplished at lot - raised money for kids in Jamaica and got caught up at work - I deserve a break by God and I'm going to take it! NOW!!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Journey of a Biscuit

An incredible journey - a partnership of major players to deliver food to hard-to-reach areas.

Charity Choices



Deciding which charity or charities to give to is quite the undertaking.
How do you decide? No matter how wide-ranging the charity you choose
you'll be leaving out large segments of the population.


Every week another request for funds comes in the mail: Red Cross,
Easter Seals, War Amps, World Vision, FH Canada etc etc.
Every week at school fundraising is going on: Jesse's Journey,
The Humane Society, Run for the Cure - there's just no end to it.


The choices I made about which charities I want to support have come out of my
trip to Jamaica. I started
with giving toys to a new daycare called "Happy Feet Daycare".
While in Jamaica I met with a government official whose portfolio covered
both education and Aids. I felt my heart strings being tugged the hardest by
those children who were HIV+ through no fault of their own and
for whom there was no place to go. No one wants them - there is still huge


fear and stigmatism in Jamaica for those known to be HIV+ and most end up on the
street. In Jamaica testing for aids in mothers-to-be is not mandatory
as it is here in Canada. Thus an infected mother passes the virus
on to her baby through the process of giving birth or by
breastfeeding. I also found out that there is a strong
correlation between domestic violence and women contracting HIV.


Women are unable to say "no" to their sexual partner because
of the fear of being beaten up and the fear of losing the person who supports
them financially. Culturally it is
expected that they
will submit.


So my choices became clear. I want to direct my support
to women and children who are: hungry, poor and living with
the HIV virus or living in fear of contracting it.
I want to help women get on their feet financially so that
they don't have to be dependent on someone who may beat them. I
want to help them get the medical care and preventative information
that could save their lives. I want to help children get an education.
And I want to feed them because
the need for food for over 1 billion chronically hungry
people is immediate and desperate.
(making micro loans to women to start up a business)
(feeding the most vulnerable/aids)
(campaign for female education/aids)
(United Nations programme on HIV/Aids)

Friday, November 13, 2009

What Can I Give Today?

True confessions time.....gulp!

I like to shop. There....I said it. Show me a woman who doesn't like to shop ....c'mon..... you can't do it can you? But I've hit upon a new strategy that seems to fulfill my urge to spend spend spend!

In my defense I am not a spendthrift. I have done a really good job over the last year or two of only shopping when I need something, and I don't really need very much. Oh, I can always talk myself into believing I need a new pair of shoes (my weakness) and I did recently buy some boots, but I bought them at Talize and they were only $12.00 and I actually DID need boots. Afterall, I live in Canada, nuff said!

So.... my strategy?? When I feel the overpowering urge to spend (like today at 4:23pm) I make a donation to charity instead. I ask myself.."self, do you really need any more clothes? Do you really need to put more food into your already overflowing pantry? Do you really need that 23rd shade of lipstick? Do you really need to spend $40 on iTunes in one shot? (oops! - hey, I'm not perfect!) Do you really need to buy more books? (NO, definitely NOT MORE BOOKS!)"

If I still haven't persuaded myself NOT to shop I think about this statistic: over 1 billion people are now chronically hungry - they weren't just hungry when they woke up this morning, they were hungry yesterday and they will be hungry tomorrow and the day after that and the day after that and..... The World Food Programme is working hard to get food to those who need it but there are so many people and never enough food. Distribution is so difficult in the wake of Hurricane Ida in El Salvador, typhoons in the Philippines, drought in the Horn of Africa and areas ravaged by war, like Sudan and the cost of food is rising.

So you know those wonder hormones - endorphins - that make you feel so good, that give you a high (temporarily) when you shop - you can also experience their amazing effects when you GIVE! It's true - and because they are guilt-free (unlike shopping) they last longer and come time and time again when you remember the good you did for someone today when you gave.

So.... go ahead....use my strategy and see how it makes you feel. It's addictive, I'm telling you!

Doing What We Can

Portmore Youth Information Centre

Meet Kayden. I was very impressed with this young man and not just by his lofty views! I met Kayden at a Youth Information Centre in the municipality of Portmore, Jamaica.

He volunteers daily at the centre keeping the statistics around the use of the dozen or so computers contained in the converted ship container that serves as the Youth Centre. Due to the high crime rate overall in Jamaica the centre is surrounded by fencing and barbwire as are most homes and businesses.

Kayden has completed Part One of a computer technician's course and is a pro at keeping the centre's computers up and running. I asked him if he had a computer at home and embarassed he said yes but that he needed some parts to make it work. Unfortunately he isn't working and cannot afford to take the second part of the training he needs in order to gain employment in the field he loves. So everyday he comes to the centre and volunteers his time. He is obviously a very bright young man who in spite of high unemployment rates and a lack of resources has resisted the pull into a life of crime that gobbles up the majority of young men between the ages of 15 and 24.

But he is stuck.

Kayden is not alone. Opportunities are limited for young men in Jamaica. That is why only a very few remain in school past the age of 16. The rest drop out, join gangs, fight turf wars, deal in drugs and become victim to the 3rd highest murder rate in the world.


That is why my partner is heading up an initiative in Jamaica, bringing much needed leadership training to young men and women hoping to inspire them to make changes in their lives and to make a difference in their communities. I'll keep you posted on their progress.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Nim Doma Sherpa, Mount Everest Summiteer

From beneficiary to summiteer! Thanks WFP!

PHOTO OF THE WEEK

A friend on Facebook said this photo reminded her of Sleepy Hollow or some other ficticious spooky place. Well, I guess my backyard was kinda scary yesterday until it got all raked and cleaned up for winter:)



On the other hand it is kind of spooky that this is a picture of the SUN in the middle of the afternoon on November 9th- it looks more like the full moon at night!



I was exceedingly grateful, however, to be able to sit outside on a lawnchair with a book while my partner did all the cleaning up. No coat, just a sweater as the temperature got up to 18c. Even with the weak sun filtering through a leaden grey sky.



My opinion of November as a bleak and windy, sleet-filled and totally miserable month is being revised - NOVEMBER ROCKS! A month ago there was heavy frost on the pumpkins, now I have flowers blooming again. Yes, it is confusing, but I say lets enjoy it while it lasts which will hopefully be til next April!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Septoplasty....Nasty?..... or Nice?



Ok, here's the before. What's that weird bumpy thing halfway up my nose? And since when did my nose in profile have more ups and downs than the stock market? Huh? (We'll discuss double chins some other time!) No wonder air was having difficulty traversing the corners, hills and valleys in my schnozzola. Step aside Jimmy Durante!


Here's my nose at about 3pm today. The deviation in my septum has been repaired and although I still can't breathe it does look straighter. I am really really really hoping that short-term pain will translate into long-term gain because, man, my brain needs more oxygen!


On a side note, it was absolutely delightful to sit outside today in what for November was balmy 18c weather. You know something is wacko with the world's weather when November has better weather than October. I am actually hoping for a green Christmas!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Endoscopic Nasal Septoplasty

This is what I went through yesterday in the hopes of breathing better eventually. Nose is swollen and very stuffed up today but I have high hopes!

Will keep you posted.

Monday, November 2, 2009

PHOTO OF THE WEEK


Cranberry Almond Stuffed Squash

Cranberry Almond Stuffed Squash

Today is Meatless Monday! YES! Back by popular demand is my link to the great recipes offered at the Meatless Monday website.

I just bought squash so am going to try this mouth-watering recipe tout de suite! It's a year and a half, actually a bit more than that, since I've eaten any hamburger, weiners, sausages, bacon or processed meat of any kind. I will confess to the occasional steak seared on the BBQ and pork loin roast (it's the OTHER white meat)!

Since watching "Fast Food Nation" which made me more than a little queasy with documented evidence of fecal matter getting into the hamburger AND the Maple Leaf listeriosis fiasco in Canada wherein 22 people died from eating tainted lunch meat AND trying to reduce my carbon footprint by eating less meat I have turned to a more vegetarian diet with the occasional inclusion of chicken, turkey and fish.

The Meatless Monday website is a goldmine of delicious meatless meals and snacks (like the Apple Walnut Corn Muffins mmmmmmmmmmm!!!) that will make you wonder why you ever ate meat in the first place! They certainly make it easier to give meat up at least once a week.

Try it - you'll find its not such a hardship after all.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Kiva.org Promo

So far I have made two loans on kiva.org - I hope to make many more. The sum of $25.00 represents a few trips to Starbucks for me but for entrepeneurs in developing countries it can make the difference from being a beggar to being a provider.

WWW.KIVA.ORG

Two weeks ago I accidentally came across the website http://www.kiva.org/. I was researching various charity websites where you can "click" on a button to make a donation. I found several of those and also found "kiva".



Kiva.org is even better than the "clickable" websites (several clickable buttons on my sidepanel) because you get to choose who you are loaning your money to and can watch their progress in paying it back. Before you dismiss Kiva.org as some sort of scam they have been written up in many major newspapers and magazines and interviewed on various television shows and have an amazing success rate. Repayment of loans is in the high 90% range. Very, very few loans go unpaid and usually the only money loss is due to rates of inflation diminishing 3rd world countries' currency values.



I have chosen to loan to women who are attempting to support themselves and their families and have made two loans so far. My intent is to make one new loan to a woman or group of women each month and you can follow the progress of the loans in the sidepanel of my blog. The loan amount can be as low as $25.00 and you will eventually get it back. It's much better than just a donation to charity because you're helping someone become independent. I have loaned money to a group of women who sell clothing and cosmetics in Uganda and to a woman in Nigeria who manufactures and sells blocks of ice.



Consider this option for yourself if you would like to make a positive difference in the world. Check out their website at http://www.kiva.org/ and consider joining a group and making a loan. It's a very exciting way to help someone get onto their feet and become a contributing member of their community. Gift certificates are also available and what an excellent Christmas gift for that person who has everything.

Be Kind to Yourself

The last sunset photos I took in Bayfield in October were the best of a long season of sunsets. I look at them and am in awe, not of my skill ha ha, but of their beauty, and am so profoundly happy that I get to witness those few fleeting moments.



I can also look at these photos and recognize how huge and limitless the sky is as I try to imagine the infinity of galaxies and solar systems that exist beyond what I can see. When I try to wrap my mind around infinity I can put my own puny little problems into perspective: in the grand scheme of things I am a mere speck, a dust mote floating around in the atmosphere subject to forces of nature beyond my control. I need to let go and let God.



Sometimes I beat myself up over the stupid things that I do and then my partner (who is a life coach among other things) reminds me of my humanness. Part of being human is making mistakes and hopefully learning from them. I have much to learn. Only God is perfect.



So today I am going to be kind to myself. I have made my apologies and have accepted that I made a mistake. Now it is time to move on and make a fresh start.