Food for the soul: Water, water everywhere … nor any drop to drink

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My husband and I finally got swept up in the slightly-crazed (but it’s for a good cause!) ALS Ice Bucket Challenge tonight. He was challenged by a good friend, and of course, there was no hesitation about donating monetarily to the charity. For those that have yet to make their donation to this cause, you can go to their link here:

http://www.alsa.org/donate/

Surprisingly, my husband had only recently heard about this challenge (no, he hasn’t been cut off from society lately, so I have no idea how he wasn’t aware that Jennifer Aniston has just made “THE most ADORABLE challenge video EVER” or that Charlie Sheen was one of the coolest celebs to pour money instead of ice water on his head.) After explaining the whole concept of the challenge to him in a bit more detail, our dilemma was about (1) dumping perfectly good water on each other’s heads (we’re with you on that one, Charlie), (2) filming each other (why bother if we weren’t going to dump water on each other’s heads?) and (3) coming up with an alternative to dumping water on each other’s heads that wouldn’t make it seem like we were just being slackers to the cause, choosing instead to buy our way out of all the “fun” everyone else was seemingly having.

To be honest, it really didn’t take long to come up with an alternate plan of action. For the most part, we’ve followed the challenge as others have – my husband challenged 3 other people (one being me), and I then followed suit. We chose not to film ourselves carrying out the challenge, though, because we decided to go back to the origins of the challenge, and unless you really want to see us writing out the cheques …

After a little bit of research, it appears the whole ice bucket challenge was initially meant to be carried out in the following way: someone is challenged to dump ice water on themselves, or jump in a frigid lake, or something to that effect. If they fail to carry out the challenge (or decline to do so) they are then required to donate to a charity. Somehow things have morphed into the present day version of the ALS challenge, whereby people are being doused and donating … if that’s your choice, good on you.

This is where my husband and I decided we would return to the origins of the challenge. Skip the dumping of the water – not necessarily because it’s a huge waste of water, but, well, actually it is a waste. Enough people have done it, and Jennifer has already cornered the market on most adorable video EVER, so … no one needs to see more footage of 2 more middle-aged adults squealing like children or stoically having fun as their partner soaks them, all for a great cause! We’ll leave that for the millennials …

Having dealt with dilemmas (1) and (2), only number (3) remained, and a quick search of the internet solved that one. We found a great charity that ties in with our desire not to waste water: The Water Project. You can read more about this organization by clicking on their link here:

http://thewaterproject.org

Their mission is to bring relief to communities around the world who suffer needlessly from a lack of access to clean water and proper sanitation. By saving a little bit of clean water here at home by not dumping ice water on each other, and by bringing clean water to those that so desperately need it across the world through a donation to this charity, my husband and I found a way to meet the overall challenge that was issued to us that resonated with our principles. We were able to not only offer up a gift that meets the needs of the recipients, but is also reflective of our characters as givers, and that, in my opinion, makes these donations truly from the heart.

Please consider making your own donation to either, or both, of these charities, or to a charity that is meaningful to you.

Food for the Soul: Don’t stop believing …

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image      It’s hard to believe so much time has passed since I last posted anything here … there have been bad days, and I continue to work in an “industry” filled with “mean people”, but overall, I’d have to say the balance has definitely been in favour of good days, kind people, and of course, lots of loveable experiences with dogs – my precious pooches and  the ones I’ve been fortunate enough to spend a bit of time with while vacationing in Cabo San Lucas.

Here’s a snapshot of one of those sweet memories from Cabo …

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Look for my next post … I’ll be writing more about the amazing efforts of the Los Cabos Humane Society –    the volunteers that give of their time, money, and most importantly, their love – as they strive to save lives and change attitudes towards the helpless animals that rely on us to be their voice.

To more good days ahead …

Food for the Mind: Listening to Colour

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At some point in our lives I’m sure most of us have imagined what life would be like if we could not see. I’ve had to wear glasses since grade 3, so I’ve been acutely aware of how precious sight is for nearly all my life. Now, as we race headlong into middle-age, it’s quite interesting to see my peers, who were always blessed with 20/20 vision, struggling with the need for some form of corrective lenses.

Along with myopia and astigmatism and my new favourite, presbyopia, there are a number of other visual impairments. I gained firsthand knowledge of colour blindness years ago. A boyfriend in University discovered his partial colour blindness while we were out shopping one day. He repeatedly picked out the same shirt (the wrong one, I might add) because he could not distinguish between beige and mauve. Now, any young man might have trouble if you asked him to find a mauve shirt … purple, yes; mauve, not so much. Once we established that mauve really was a colour I sent him off to look through the piles of shirts for the right size in the right colour. Frustratingly, he kept choosing the same shirt over and over again no matter how many times I told him the shirt he was bringing me was beige, not mauve. Finally, when I found the mauve I was looking for, and held it beside the beige one to show him the difference, he honestly could not tell them apart. For the first time, at age 21, he learned that his “perfect” vision was not so perfect after all. It was a bit of a blow to his ego, but the degree to which it affected his life was negligible. Unlike red/green colour blindness, which could make some everyday tasks like driving and cooking more difficult, his partial colour blindness might just result in an oddly matched shirt and tie or mismatched socks someday – hardly the stuff to lose sleep over.

I recently learned of a further impairment – monochromacy – which is total colour blindness. The following visual is an example of what someone with total colour blindness would see:

Artist Neil Harbisson, who was born with the inability to see colour, has teamed up with cyberneticist Adam Montandon and Peter Kese to develop a prosthetic device he calls an “eyeborg”. This lightweight eyepiece, worn on his forehead, transposes the light frequencies of color hues into sound frequencies.

You’ll be amazed when you watch this video from the TEDtalks series. In it Neil Harbisson demonstrates how he can “hear” colours. His artwork is described as “blurring the boundaries between sight and sound”, and you will see the evidence of that as you immerse yourself in his world for these next few minutes …

Neil Harbisson: I listen to color

After watching this video I was left with a new appreciation for all the colours visible in my day-to-day life … the turning of the leaves on the trees from green to golden to rust … the angry gray clouds tumbling across the steel-blue sky, warning of impending rain … the bright reds of the tomatoes and oranges of the peppers and deep greens of the kale as they lay piled up in the produce aisle of the grocery store, waiting to be added to someone’s shopping basket.

I thought about why I chose to wear a soft, buttery yellow sweatshirt today, on a day when the temperatures are starting to fall but I wasn’t quite ready to let go of summer.

Coming home, I thought about the process we went through when carefully choosing all the colours for each room of our home. Why did we choose the rich dark woods for the floors? The pale soft blues for the walls of some rooms, and warm sandy peaches for others? Colour is so important in our lives. It affects our thoughts and emotions, which in turn affects our behaviour. Yet we all too often fail to appreciate the degree to which our actions are being influenced by the colours that surround us.

Take some time to look around you … think about the colour choices you make, and notice how you feel. And for just a moment, think about those who do not have the gift of sight … it’s remarkable how even the grayest day looks brilliantly coloured after that.

(Many thanks to blogger http://nerdyromantic.com/ for introducing me to Neil Harbisson’s TEDtalks video!)

Food for the Soul: Hey Bus Driver …

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On a morning when the cold winds of winter were whispering around the corner, letting the citizens of Winnipeg  know that our beautiful summer had finally made her departure, the warmth of human-kindness was present on a city transit bus.

At the heart of downtown, near the famous intersection of Portage and Main, which also happens to be one of the windiest corners, the male transit driver suddenly pulled the bus over. To the surprise of the passengers, he disembarked and went over to a man walking on the sidewalk. Although the man initially appeared to be dressed appropriately for the temperature, which was between 5 and 7 C that morning, the passengers soon realized he was barefoot on the cold sidewalk.

At this point the transit driver did something that shocked the passengers – he took off his shoes and gave them to the barefoot man. When he re-boarded the bus, the driver explained to the passengers that he just couldn’t bear to see someone walking barefoot in such chilling temperatures.

The driver has been lauded for his generosity by the executive director of a local mission that caters to the homeless, as well as by the director of Winnipeg Transit. Public opinion has been overwhelmingly in favour of the driver’s selfless gesture.

Thanksgiving is only a few weeks away … a time to pause and reflect upon the blessings we have in our lives. Perhaps before we reach that day we each can make one small gesture of kindness that will brighten the life of a stranger, just as this Good Samaritan in a Transit Driver’s uniform did. How many expressions of gratitude would there be this Thanksgiving if we did?

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/manitoba/story/2012/09/18/mb-winnipeg-transit-driver-shoes.html

Food for the Mind: Man’s Search for Meaning

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Viktor E. Frankl was Professor of Neurology and Psychiatry at the University of Vienna Medical School. He is the author of Man’s Search for Meaning. Many of his key ideas were developed during the three years he spent in concentration camps during World War II. One of these theories, logotherapy, is founded upon the belief that rather than power or pleasure, it is the striving to find a meaning in one’s life that is the primary, most powerful motivating and driving force in humans.

In this video from TEDtalks, this rare clip from 1972 shows Viktor Frankl giving a lecture on the idea that we must be idealistic about man’s potential if we want to see realistic results.

“If we take man as he is we make him worse; if we take man as he should be, we make him capable of becoming what he can be.”

In other words, by being idealistic, by looking for even some small spark of possibility in every man, we encourage him to achieve his potential, and he will strive for accomplishment. Otherwise, he will experience frustration, a lack of desire to find purpose in his life, and he will end up worse than he started.

For those of us working in the justice field, especially in terms of rehabilitation, we are indeed basing our efforts on these principles. Many find it difficult to understand how we can work with the men and women who have already proven to society how harmful they can be. If, as Viktor Frankl stated, we take them as they are – destructive, damaged, dangerous – and treat them as that and no more, then what are we likely to end up with once we are done with them? Can we say anything close to rehabilitation has occurred? Is this the man or woman you want walking the streets again after their sentence is over?

Instead, if we search for that flicker of hope within each of them, that glimmer of desire to move forward, to climb out of the depths of despair and work towards even the smallest of achievements, we can help them to be better than they were. Maybe even become who they should have been all along if they had not detoured down the path of destruction first.

And I, for one, will sleep more soundly at night because I have made an effort to help lift someone up to see their potential.

But I still lock my doors … because despite my idealism, I am, after all, a realist.

http://www.ted.com/talks/viktor_frankl_youth_in_search_of_meaning.html

 

Food for the Body: Mmmmm … cheesecake!

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This recipe is a true Winnipeg tradition. I’m not sure when it was first published, but I do know it was printed on the side of a milk carton, of all things! It’s pretty much the only cheesecake recipe ever used in our family … a few others have been tried here and there, but none have stood the test of time like this one. My Baba was making this for her children, then my Mom made it for our family, and now it’s time for me to give it a go …

I never even bother ordering cheesecake at the best restaurants because I know they can’t compare to this version. I love the lighter texture of the cream cheese, and the lightly toasted graham wafer crumbs on top have just the right amount of sweetness. We’ve only ever used the cherries for the fruit … why mess with tradition?

I hope you love this as much as our family does … and remember to serve this well-chilled (if you ever see my Uncle Walter, ask him why!)

Be sure to let me know if this becomes your new favourite cheesecake recipe!

Delicious CO-OP Cheese Cake Recipe

Ingredients:

450 g (1 lb) CO-OP cream cheese

125 ml (1/2 c) sugar

5 ml (1 tsp) vanilla

1 ml (1/4 tsp) salt

3 eggs

80 ml (1/3 c) glazed cherries or crushed pineapple (well-drained)

30 graham wafers

125 g (1/4 lb) CO-OP butter

Recipe:

Cream cheese with sugar and blend well.

Add salt, beaten egg yolks, vanilla, and chopped cherries (or pineapple).

Mix all together, then fold in beaten egg whites.

Roll graham wafers fine and mix with melted butter.

Place 2/3 of the graham wafers into a buttered 20 cm x 20 cm (8×8 inch) pan.

Spread filling over and top with remaining crumbs.

Bake in 175 C (350 F) oven approximately 40 minutes.

Chill and cut into squares to serve.

Notes:

Let cream cheese soften to room temperature before using for easier blending.

30 graham wafers equals about 430 ml (1 and 3/4 cups) of crumbs.

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Food for the Soul: Life goes on …

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One of my favourite quotes … “In three words I can sum up everything I’ve learned about life: it goes on.” Robert Frost 

And so it goes … life, that is … while one family is still marvelling over the news that the miracle drug for leukemia really has healed their loved one, another family is praying that their toddler will survive his recent cancer diagnosis … although tens of thousands of people are still living without power in sweltering conditions because of the recent hurricane, they are at least in their own homes, unlike the thousands who were forced to evacuate to shelters because of the flooding from the same hurricane …

It is usually easy for us to recognize that not everything in life is of such epic importance. It helps to use these major events as benchmarks when we need to gain some perspective on the smaller issues in our lives, those nagging concerns that we just can’t seem to shake. Compared to a 2-year old with a brain tumour, problems with my annoying co-worker or your stubborn ex-husband or the rising price of groceries all seem to pale in comparison, don’t they?

But let’s not be so quick to dismiss our worries and frustrations just because there is so much tragedy in the world. If anything, we need to be as compassionate towards ourselves as we are to others. I believe the purpose of putting things in perspective is not to dismiss or belittle the issues in our lives, to say they don’t matter because they aren’t nearly as life-changing as what someone else is experiencing, but instead it is to recognize that in comparison to another’s life event, these issues are perhaps more manageable. By using less of our emotional energy we can use more of our intellectual energy to actually do something about the problem. In that way we become active participants in our lives instead of merely sitting on the sidelines, worrying and waiting as life passes us by.

It’s inevitable … life does indeed go on … the cost of groceries will continue to rise … my football team will likely not make it to the playoffs this year … but I have wonderful co-workers, and a job I love (on most days of the week), and I live in one of the best countries in the world, and I have an amazing family, and two of the funniest puppies, and loyal friends who would do anything for me, and the most loveable husband in the world, and a mother who will be around for many more years thanks to a miracle-drug …

And I, along with a whole community who cares, am praying for the little boy who deserves to see many, many more years of life … but ultimately we all know and understand that no matter what we do … life goes on …

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Food for the Soul: Blue Moon

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photo credit Lisa Green

It was a perfect summer evening for stargazing, highlighted by the magical Blue Moon … this rare celestial  event reminded me to give thanks for all the dreams that have come true in my life, and to plant the seeds for future creations. I’m looking forward to seeing what will manifest by the time the next blue moon arrives on July 31, 2015 … what about you?

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