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Showing posts from 2012

A Time for Reflection

Resolutions aren’t my thing. Having said that though, I can’t deny the end of the year as a great time for reflection…that is, reflection on what the last year has brought, and with that, hopes and goals for the future.
Looking back on 2012 and ahead to the New Year, I have many thoughts.Here is a short list, in no order of priority, of just a few personal promises this time inspires. In 2013 I am looking forward to:

From me to you

All the best for a very Merry Christmas!

Looking Back to Look Forward

So I started this blogging thing a year ago today. It had been a while coming and now that it’s more than 100 blog posts later, I can’t believe how quickly the time has passed and that I've had so much to say.

What a Twit: Part III

If you've been reading my blog for a while you know that I am a Twitter user. This is the third instalment of my latest favourite tweets from the past few months...a bit of humour, cycling, photography and inspiration for good measure...
Daniel ‏‪@ThatFeelsNICE There is one word which may serve as a rule of practice for all one's life - reciprocity. ~Confucius
blogTO ‏‪@blogTO 10 Toronto graffiti writers worth knowing about (with lots of pics of their work). ‪http://bit.ly/Nel2rg 

Might as well Try Salsa

As I sit with a fresh cup of coffee enjoying the newspaper, I reflect on the small stuff we look forward to and enjoy in any given day or week. For some this may be a yoga class, for others drinks with friends, a poker game, a movie...and so much more.

10 Things I Miss about Childhood

Recently when shopping at the grocery store, I came across Dad’s old- fashioned oatmeal cookies. Seeing these immediately took me back to my childhood and I happily bought them hoping to relive some of the good memories I associate with these tasty treats. This got me thinking about some of the other things I miss about my childhood. 
Here are some of them:

My Favourite Causes

The other day I wrote about how to choose a charitable cause to support. If you’re looking for inspiration, or a new cause, I'd like to share some of my favourites, understanding that poverty and health are what I feel most passionately about. And though I’ve written about some of these organizations here before, it seems a good time for a round up of options you can consider.

Choosing your Cause

At this time of year, people swarm malls, battling each other and frantically buying presents for all those on their list. Regardless of how stressful it may be and how little those on the list may need what they’re being gifted, the cycle continues year in and year out. This year, I ask you to consider an alternative. There are many ways you can still acknowledge those you care for, while making a difference to those in real need.

Guest Corner: It's the Little Things

“The little things mean a lot,” a wise man once said.
So true is this adage when we consider the complexities of our lives. Now more than ever is a time when people are stressed, rushed and generally frazzled. The 24-hour digital age translates, accordingly, to a 24-hour “on call” role for many of us regarding work, as the ability to turn off and tune out is virtually impossible (pun intended). The expectation of work, work, work, coupled with our family commitments is a lot for many of us who would just like to go back to the simpler days of times past. No cell phones, no Internet, no email to check. We seemed to be a lot more tuned in to our world and our lives in the absence of these modern distractions.

Everybody Loves Raymond

The holidays will be upon us shortly and I can't think of a time of year that brings out more polarized feelings...on the one hand feelings of cheer and excitement, on the other, feelings of dread and loneliness.  Some, myself included, dislike the commercialism that is tied to the season.
Christmas carols in November are just wrong. Holiday decorations on the heels of Halloween, also wrong. Forcing your crying child to have a photo taken with Santa...well you know where I am going with this.

Tread Lightly

"Responsible travel" has become more and more top of mind among travellers. People are increasingly making an effort to respect the environment, local cultures and laws, and all that this entails. Depending on the country in question, one sensitivity could be around taking photographs. Anyone who knows me, is well aware of my love of photography. In fact, I buy nothing in the way of souvenirs when I travel as my photos are the greatest take away I could ever have. I would even go so far as to say that I look forward to making photos in the places I visit just as much as I look forward to the trip itself. The two go hand-in-hand.

It's Sensitive

Visiting faraway places is a reminder of just how much of what we do every day can be influenced by our environment. As an example, as a North American, would you ever think twice about pointing the bottom of your feet toward someone? Of course not.
But in Egypt this is a sign of disrespect and hugely offensive.

Spotlight On: Holiday Helpers

With the holiday season shortly upon us, you may be considering ways of giving back, perhaps making donations or giving time to a cause you believe in. Holiday Helpers (HH) is a volunteer run charity dedicated to giving a Christmas to underprivileged families in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA). I spoke with co-founder Sarah Rutka about her vision for the organization and what she thinks about mindful living.

Life is Nothing without Love

"Where there is love there is life." ― Mahatma Gandhi Love, like nothing else is the common denominator among all cultures, races, creeds and religions. We all seek love as the essence of our existence. Where we find it and how we share it can differ, no doubt. But the quest for and fulfillment from this emotion is universal.

I'm baaack

I just lived a childhood dream, and that is to visit Egypt.
Right up until my day of departure I couldn’t even believe I was actually going. Life is funny that way sometimes. The longer you’ve anticipated something, the harder it is to absorb that it’s finally a reality.

The long awaited adventure not only met my expectations but exceeded them. Landing in Cairo, a city of 27 million people, is an assault on the senses. I had never been to a city that big and it was full on, all the time. Bustling streets, smoggy air, beeping horns, and street vendors are the city’s life blood. But this was only a small part of the experience.

Guest Corner: Giving a Hand

Recently my friend invited me to volunteer.Sometimes I feel it’s a bit of an imposition to ask me for my time. Don't I appear busy enough?What makes others think I might have time to spare for strangers?I have lots of people of my own to take care of, don’t I?
But all that aside, I said yes because I like my friend.And I was curious.Maybe I would discover something new about myself in the process.

Born Lucky

Throughout my travels over the years, I have often reflected about how much of our life is impacted by something over which we have no control – that is, where we are born.
You need only read or listen to the news to be overwhelmed by the unrest affecting so many countries and people around the world. Poverty, violence, disease, natural disasters a reality many face just trying to get by. These circumstances are a daily reminder of the great fortune we can be endowed with or denied by virtue of our birthplace.

The Choices we Make

"Every person, all the events of your life are there because you have drawn them there. What you choose to do with them is up to you." - Richard Bach
I have no regrets but I do sometimes wonder what my life would be like if I had made different decisions along the way. Life is funny like that. Sometimes those pivotal moments smack you in the face with a neon sign that reads “crossroads”. You know that your life will forever take a different course thereafter.

Grocery Store Reflections

The other day I was at the supermarket and joined one of the few lines for check out that were open. Heading into a long weekend you can imagine the line was long, so that when a new cashier opened, people frantically scurried over in hopes of saving time. One such person was the 20-something year-old who, in his haste, took the opportunity to (unsubtly) bud in front of me.

Spotlight On: Intrepid Travel

As both an intrepid traveller and an Intrepid traveller, I was keen to learn about this responsible travel company and its role in giving back. I spoke with the co-Founder of Intrepid Travel, Geoff Manchester, about the future and mission of his company as well as his ideas around mindful living. This is what he had to say:

Aging Gracefully

"Aging is not lost youth but a new stage of opportunity and strength." - Betty Friedan (1921-2006)
Regular readers of my blog may remember that I volunteered for an organization called Second Mile, where I was a “friendly visitor” to an elderly fellow named Aldo. The other day I attended a dinner held in honour of volunteers as their way of saying thanks.

Giving Thanks

Today is Canadian Thanksgiving…and a bit of an experiment. The content of this post will be populated by you. I invite you all to leave one thing in the comments section for which you are thankful. I’ll start… I am thankful to be able to share this occasion with loved ones over a home-cooked meal. You?

This is your Life

Routines serve a purpose in our lives, but they should not become the purpose to our lives. - Unknown
There is no question that routines help us to be more efficient and productive.  They help the people around us know what to expect from us and what is expected of them. On a broad level, routine adds to our life.

But we need to be weary of getting stuck by our routine…becoming so entrenched that we come to live on autopilot. Wake up, breakfast, commute, work, home, dinner, TV – then do it all over again, again and again. Or some variation thereof.

Guest Corner: The Power of Choice

“There are two primary choices in life: to accept conditions as they exist, or accept the responsibility for changing them.” – Denis Waitley
Getting and staying physically fit is a choice.You can make it. Today.
Trust me, I should know.
I chose to spend the first 25 years of life ignoring health and physical fitness. I allowed unhealthy lifestyles that I witnessed growing up to impact my own choices once I left the roost.To put it plainly, I accepted the conditions as they existed.

A Drop of Fear

Many years ago, I went for a routine physical and passed out after giving blood. The last thing I remember was drinking at the water fountain, and then waking up lying on the floor in the doctor’s hallway to the site of my (then) boyfriend trying to revive me.
Since then, taking blood has always been a bit of an ordeal. I’ll never forget the time when a nurse couldn’t find my vein and kept poking around. On the sixth attempt I told her where to go, got up and left. Naturally then, when my colleague invited me to join her in giving blood, I had mixed feelings.

Where There's a Will

We are all guilty of feeling down at times, but feeling sorry for ourselves to the detriment of not appreciating all that we DO have equates to wasted time. I was reminded of how much of life is in our approach on a cycling trip recently.
My friend Emma and I took to the roads of the Kawarthas for three days of road cycling one long weekend this summer. Joining a group of fellow cyclists, we had the benefit of exploring the area without the hassle of mapping out trips. The weather was glorious and the routes were varied, making for perfect cycling conditions.

Selfless

Have you ever given thought to those who make it their mission to protect your life? Consider the countless people who put their own life on the line every day in order to ensure that you are safe and protected.
Police officers, firefighters, army and navy members, doctors, paramedics, nurses…and the list goes on. The recent tragedy of a police officer in Alberta, brutally beaten and killed in the line of duty investigating a noise disturbance, highlights the supreme sacrifice these selfless individuals make.

Spotlight On: World Bicycle Relief

"A bicycle is an industrial revolution in an individual's life." - F.K. Day President, Co-Founder, World Bicycle Relief
World Bicycle Relief (WBR) is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to providing "access to independence and livelihood" through the provision of bicycles to those who cannot afford them. Co-founded by F.K. Day in 2005, the organization has distributed more than 110,000 bikes to date, primarily in Angola, Kenya, Mozambique, South Africa, South Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe. 
I recently spoke with FK to learn more about the vision and future of World  Bicycle Relief and his views on living a mindful life.

Gratitude List

An important part of living a mindful life is making time for reflection. This most often means time spent alone without distraction or work, focused instead on thoughtful appreciation.

We are so used to distracting ourselves with technology, or too busy to smell the roses, that meaningful moments pass us by unnoticed. I believe that moments of solitude are fundamental to appreciating what we have in this life. And I think that gratitude is the most direct roadmap to happiness, if only we’re aware enough to recognize it.

Living a Dream

Some kids dream of being firefighters. Some dream of getting married. Others still dream of saving the world.
One of my childhood dreams was to travel the world and more specifically, to visit Egypt. It was apparent from an early age that faraway people and places were fascinating to me. I would anxiously await the latest edition of National Geographic in the mail and remember pouring over the images, dreaming about what life would be like in any one of the many distant lands always featured. My mother would often say that it seemed so fitting that Christopher Columbus and I share a birthday.

Getting to know Yourself

Some time ago I lost my job.  Faced with what felt like limited opportunity, I thought 'you can’t wait for the job to come to you, so make the job'.

Friends and family were proud when I tried to start my own business, and not-so-secretly envious saying that they had long wished to do the same. Anyone who has lost their job knows what a trying time it is, but I can also attest to what an enormous learning experience it is too.

Guest Corner: Calling an End to Captivity

Given my profession, I’m mindful of how technology helps businesses of all types become more efficient. One industry helped by technology is the "animal captivity" business of amusement parks and attractions. It is a huge industry, employing thousands, generating billions of dollars in revenue, and it is greatly assisted by advancements in breeding, diet, behavioral enrichment, and habitat replication.

The Adventure of Learning

They say that one of the things that keeps you young is ongoing learning. I found this great video by Rick Mereki which is testament to some of the many skills we can learn from different people, in different places.



But learning need not take a formal lesson in guitar, crafts or any other tangible activity. As we know, there is important learning in the every day if we are open to seeing it or finding it. What did you learn today?

Being Vulnerable

Vulnerability is something I’ve never been comfortable with. But let’s face it; we are all vulnerable to circumstances and people in life, so what I really mean is showing vulnerability. Much of who I am or perhaps who I imagine myself to be is someone in control, strong and unfailing. It has been in the context of relationships and friendships where I’ve encountered the misgivings of this approach.

Attitude is Everything

If you have a positive attitude and constantly strive to give your best effort, eventually you will overcome your immediate problems and find you are ready for greater challenges. - Pat Riley

I recently wrote a blog post about limits – specifically about the importance of acknowledging and accepting them. I was conflicted when writing it as I feel that accepting limits could imply giving up or selling out.

The Fine Art of Thank You

Canadians have the reputation of being excessively polite. We apologize when someone bumps into us. We ask people for permission to sit in empty chairs. We wait patiently behind people who aren’t even in line. While this may seem extremely polite, I believe we have simultaneously lost the fine art of the well placed Thank You. Like anything else, said too much and too often it loses meaning. And what about the Thank You note? Does anyone take pen to paper anymore for this thoughtful gesture?

What I Learned

Recently I learned of a 48-year-old father of three who passed away after a long battle with a rare cancer. The same week, I learned of a 35-year-old man who had his third heart attack. If that weren’t bad enough, he was on his honeymoon at the time and the extent of the damage he’s sustained is still unknown.

When we know someone facing a life threatening situation or someone who has lost their battle, we immediately take stock of our good fortune. We vow to take better care of ourselves, and immediately tell those around us how much we care.
We are reminded of what really matters in life.

Ode to Bicycles

Anyone who knows me or who's read this blog, knows that I'm an avid cyclist. For me, physical activity is part of a mindful life - cycling is one way I celebrate my life and my good fortune. But for many, it's a means of survival.


This ode by Pablo Neruda not only is praise of the bike, but acknowledgement of those very individuals.

Unforgettable

Some people keep journals as a way of practicing gratitude. Though I don’t do this, the idea got me thinking about fleeting experiences in my life for which I am thankful and have never forgotten. I thought I would share just a few here.

Many years ago I visited Malaysia. I was travelling on my own and largely playing it by ear. Memory escapes me as to whether it was on someone’s suggestion along the way or because of something I'd read –  the only thing that matters is that I visited Long Beach on Perhentian Kecil. This is by far one of the most magical places I've ever been. One night in particular there was a full moon that was so close you felt that if you reached out far enough you could actually touch it. I had never seen a moon that could illuminate an entire beach. Eating freshly caught fish, while sitting on the sand and being serenaded with Bob Marley songs, was an incredible way to enjoy it.

What a Twit: Part II

I've done this before and I think it could make a nice quarterly feature on this blog. This is when I take my latest favourite tweets (in no particular order) and share them with you. I hope you find them inspirational, interesting, funny and/or entertaining. If you are on Twitter too, you may consider following some of these great tweeps!

Limits are not Bad

Everyone has limits. You just have to learn what your own limits are and deal with them accordingly. –Nolan Ryan

A few years ago I was working out regularly with a personal trainer. Before that I’d been working out forever on my own and hadn’t seen any noticeable results in some time. With that, I thought that a trainer was the way to go. I won’t bore you with the details, but fast forward to the moment when I had the first signs of back pain…apparently the result of bad form and exercises I shouldn’t be doing. Money well spent, eh?

Bring It

Love it or hate it, it's in these moments we grow the most.

Life Changing Moments

It’s funny. You don’t know when or where they’re going to happen but they do.  And life is full of them. Moments that change us forever. For better or for worse.

One life changing moment happened 16 years ago when I was travelling in Indonesia. I was in a small village called Ubud in Bali and travelling on my own. All the events of the day escape me, except for one. It was nighttime and I was walking in the village full of dirty stray dogs of all shapes and sizes.
In the distance I noticed a dog sitting by the roadside which, in and of itself, would not have been strange. But there was something different about this dog that my eyes couldn’t quite make out. I squinted and stared as I got closer. It appeared as though it was wearing a knit cap, which of course made no sense.

Walking on the Edge

Sky diving? Check. Camel riding? Check. White-water rafting? Check. Scuba diving? Check. Rock climbing? Check. Mountain biking? Check. Mine exploration? Check. Caving? Check. Ziplining? Check. Mountain climbing? Check. Hot-air ballooning? Check. Check. Check.

Some people have called me a thrill seeker. I prefer to think of myself as an adventure lover. Present me with the opportunity to try something new that involves the outdoors, speed or even a little danger, and I am happy.

Spotlight On: A Canadian Hero

I don’t recall seeing him on television and I was only a child when he passed away.

People sometimes imagine whom they’d like to meet if they could go back in time, live in a different era, perhaps in a different place. My answer to this question would be Terry Fox.
For anyone who knows Terry's story, he represents hope, determination, and perseverance like few others. When I see videos of him on the road, I wonder what it would have been like to follow his progress…to have caught a glimpse of him…cheered him on.

The Price of Busyness

Notice that when you ask people how they are, among the two most common answers are 1. “fine” and 2. “busy”. The former is a polite way of signalling disinterest in continued conversation, the latter is stated as a badge of worth.

I recently read with interest an opinion piece in the New York Times about “busyness”.  The author, Tim Krieder believes we are driven to a frenzied state of busy out of “dread of what we might have to face in its absence”. I find it fascinating that we may simultaneously lament the frenetic pace of our lives while actively constructing our day to day to ensure avoiding…ourselves.

Enjoy the Silence?

Last week there was a major power outage that affected more than 6,000 people in the Toronto downtown core. I was one of them.

My boyfriend suggested I “enjoy the silence”. Those words resonated instantly and I knew it would be the subject of a blog post. We often complain about our inability to slow life down but the darkness was permission, if not an invitation to do so.

Suffering from FOMO?

I recently read an article about the phenomenon known as FOMO. Know what that is? “Fear of missing out”.
What has happened to society when we are so consumed with our online personas that we actually end up missing out on “real life” living? Is the consequence of FOMO ironic to me alone?

How many times have I seen couples sitting at a restaurant, so consumed with their phones that they don’t even speak to one another? Or witnessed a gathering of friends who are constantly taking photos and updating their FB status to convince their online followers how much fun they’re having.

Seems a recipe for digital burnout to me.

Never too Old to Play

We become so serious when we “grow up”.

The curiosity and excitement of a child is something we can really learn from. Sure, I know when it’s your kid peppering you with questions or shrieking uncontrollably you may feel something other than inspired…but I'm talking about that wonderful playfulness that comes with simply being a kid that we lose somewhere along the way.
There is such freedom and joy in that play and life doesn’t need to be so serious. Besides, if we were more playful adults, there would certainly be less road rage.

Tough Mudders

“A person can succeed at almost anything for which they have unlimited enthusiasm.” – Charles M. Schwab


Many people are addicted to easy. The easy way to weight loss, the easy way to be healthy, the easy way to make money…easy, easy, easy. It’s a weird and wonderful planet when among those who’ve made couch surfing a sport, there are those dedicated to extreme challenges. Opposite ends of the spectrum no doubt, and for that reason so fascinating. What makes someone disdain physical activity, even the most modest, while others can’t live without it?

No "I" in Team

Throughout high school, I can remember that group work was often taken on begrudgingly by most students. And by the time I got to university, not much had changed – there were the hard workers and the slackers, and not much in between.

But, despite some of the obvious challenges, these group assignments taught me an important lesson. That is, that the product that resulted from the team was most often stronger than what any one individual would have created on their own.

The "L" Word

No matter what your age or life stage, I ask you to reflect on your life for a moment or two. What are the thoughts and memories that come to mind first? I'll go out on a limb and say that they probably involve love…love for a child, a partner, a sibling, a parent, a friend…And though we've all experienced its richness, we sometimes struggle to understand it.

The Greatest Invention

Think on the inventions that have transformed the way we live our lives. One of the first that come to mind for me is technology. No doubt the effects of the personal computer and ubiquity of the Internet have changed our lives profoundly and forever.

But think of an invention that hasn’t changed much since its original form, has steadfastly endured the test of time and is globally relevant. I would argue that using that as criteria for evaluation, the bicycle is the greatest invention of all time. Sure I’m biased, but indulge me for a second.

Speechless

I have always thought the actions of men the best interpreters of their thoughts.  ~John Locke