Tag

featured

Browsing

Pay it forward

Pay It Forward, originally published in 1999, is a terrific book.  In 2000, it was made into a feature film.  A young adult version of Pay It Forward was released in 2014, and became a bestseller.  Despite all the commercial and popular success, the greatest feat of Pay It Forward has been encouraging people, all over the world, to be kind.

The concept of the book is simple; rather than payback acts of benevolence, pay it forward; do something good for another.  Ideally, the recipients of your kindness pay it forward, as well, and goodwill spreads, indefinitely, like ripples in a pond.    

Kindness, and all it encompasses, is a critical human quality, integral to well being.  Kindness, fortunately, is everywhere.  Without the kindness of strangers, I’d be dead.

On a cold, cold night, in rural France, 30 years ago, a young mother, with her two children, in the car, picked me up, hitch hiking.  I spent the night at their house and, the next day, her, equally, kind husband took me to a train station.  

I don’t see many hitchhikers, anymore.  When I do, I pick them up, sketchy or otherwise.

On another occasion, a fellow gave me a fistfull of Francs and told me to have a good time, in Paris.  I was getting out of the his car, thanking him for the ride, at the time.  He knew we’d never meet, again, but he gave me money and drove off.  

Since, I haven’t been able to walk past a homeless person, without trying to help.  Years ago, we were running to a church, late for our daughter’s baptism, when I yelled, “Stop.”  I handed off the child, turned around, went back, and gave money to the fellow, sitting on the sidewalk, cap in hand.

My wife said, “I knew you’d do that.”

I said, “Good.”  We walked into the ostentatious, palatial house of God and I forgave them.

The author of Pay It Forward, Catherine Ryan Hyde, explains the genesis for her book.  In the early 1970s, she was a young woman living in LA, with little money and an old car.  One evening, stopped at red light, in a bad part of town, her engine caught fire.  A bad situation, no doubt, Ryan Hyde’s fortunes quickly turned when two strangers, came running to her aid and put the fire out with blankets and bare hands.  

The fire department and police showed up, naturally.  Ryan Hyde spoke to them, and in the confusion and drama, the men, who had put the fire out, left, without a word.  She never saw them, again.  didn’t learned their names, or anything about them. As she explains, had she been able to say, “Thank you,” that would have been the end of  a nice story, not the start of global movement.

However, by fleeing the scene, the two men left Ryan Hyde unable to express her gratitude or pay them back.  With a determination to make things right and return the kindness, Ryan Hyde went about looking for people in need.  She returned their kindness by paying it forward.  Ryan Hyde was startled strangers could be so selflessly kind.

I know where she is coming from.  It was a different time and a generation, but I was told to be leery of strangers; lock your doors, disparage hitchhikers; hoard your money…

When I was young and dumb and hitchhiking, I couldn’t believe how nice people were.  

At first, I experienced an extreme sense of incredulity, when strangers were nice, “You did that for me?  I don’t know you.  I don’t owe you.” It was love at first experience and I’ve been trying to pay it forward, since.  

The book, Pay It Forward, is the story of Trevor McKinney, a twelve year old boy, from a small town in California, who comes from a broken, dysfunctional home.  At school, Trevor’s Social Studies teacher gives the class an assignment: think of something which will change the world.  

Accepting the challenge, Trevor decides to do a good deed for three people.  Rather than  have the recipients return the kindness to him, Trevor asks them to pay it forward to three others.  He hopes kindness will spread.  There are ups and downs, challenges, and frustrations, naturally, but Trevor perseveres and, unbeknownst to himself, makes the world better.  

Like the men, who put out the car fire, Trevor isn’t aware of the butterfly effect his kindness has had, but he carries on, regardless.  An expectation of payback or compensation cheapens a gesture.  Kindness provides its own rewards.

Science and research, often, affirm what is, intrinsically, known: an act of kindness benefits both parties.  The recipient of goodwill, obviously, is better off, after a nice gesture.  However, the doer of a good deed feels better, too.  

Kindness causes the body to release positive chemicals, such as serotonin, oxytocin, and endorphins, which benefit mental, physical, and spiritual health.  Similar to petting a dog, acts of goodwill make you feel better.  People who volunteer, for example, are inevitably happier than those who don’t. Kind, thoughtful people have happier marriages and better relationships.  

In an effort to make narcissists more palatable and compatible, they are coached to be kind.  This does nothing for the reptilian heart of an egomaniac.  However, teaching a narcissist that kindness will increase their status and popularity motivates them to behave nicely and nice people finish first, (ideally).

Kindness takes courage.  Like all interpersonal skills, I get better with practise.  Kindness, as with charity, begins at home.  More than anyone, I try to be generous, respectful, forgiving, and kind to my girls.

I ask them to pay it forward and the world is better off.

Here’s a fifty-word poem about kindness, called Kindness.  

Kindness




Being kind is easy 

Being kind is free 

Kindly is how we are meant to be




Kindness makes you happy

Kindness makes you smile

Kindness is hip

Kindness has style




Kindness brings joy

Kindness is bliss

Life is a plot

Here is the twist

Kindness is the reason we exist

 

Last Year, This Year, Next Year

We have a calendar, in our kitchen, tacked to the cork-board.  It records special dates, travel schedules, reminders, etc.  A new year, of course, demands a new calendar and the timing is perfect.  The old year, and its calendar, are scrawled upon, dirty, and falling apart; good riddance, to both.

 

The new year, like the new calendar, is a fresh-off-the-press blank slate; glistening with optimism and opportunity.  With a sense of rebirth, the unblemished, pristine calendar gets pinned to the cork-board.  There is no past, so the old calendar goes in the blue bin and last year, if it happened, is dismissed as practise.

 

This year will be better.  Next year, I’ll be perfect.

 

As the new calendar is put up, it’s traditional to make resolutions, which I do.  I don’t know why; I don’t stick to them.  By making resolutions, however, I acknowledge a need, which is a start, and that is good enough.  I should resolve to stop being so generous with myself, but that’s a tall order, so I, usually, resolve to stay the way God made me.

 

Last year, I started intermittent fasting and resolve to stick to it, this year.  It would be embarrassing to quit, because it’s all I talk about.  I hope I’m still at it, next year.

 

Having a garden, even a small one, is a joy.  Last year, we had a good crop of tomatoes and peppers.  The habeneroes were, insanely, hot.  I hope to expand our garden, this year.  I want to try growing corn.  There’s something majestic about tall, impossibly reedy, perfectly erect corn stalks.  Like everything, it is important for a garden to have an appeasing, soothing aesthetic quality.  Food tastes better, when the garden is pretty.

 

Beauty reigns, last year, this year, next year… forever.

 

Last year, rather than green bins and brown bags, at the curb, I turned all leaves into the garden soil, which will help, this year.

 

Last year, I turned 54.  For a long time, I was sold on the premise of “Freedom 55;” the age at which I could retire and enjoy financial security, until death.  Perhaps, I could start enjoying Freedom 55, this year, if I liquidated, disowned my children, and moved into a fridge box, under a bridge.

Sometimes, that sounds worse than working, so I resolve not to quit, this year.

Last year, in September, like every other year, I shaved my head on Terry Fox Day, to honour the great man.  I’m growing my hair and beard for a full year and will have a special friend shave it all off at the Terry Fox event, this year.  It’s months away, but I already look forward to being rid of the motley mess.  No beard, next year.

My favourite sporting event is The World Juniour Hockey Tournament.  It’s great because it runs annually, starting Boxing Day, and it spans from last year into this one.  Canada always has a great team, the players get better, and the competition steeper, every year.  It’s remarkable how skilled and athletic young people are.

Canada lost to an excellent Finnish team, in the quarter final, and were eliminated, early, this year.  The Canadians played hard and deserved a better fate.  Better luck, next year.

Unfortunately, the Canadian team and its captain, especially, were subjected to sickening abuse on anti-social media.  I’d wager this year’s wages and next’s, none of the tweeters would insult Max Comtois, who is 6’ 2”, 210, and has a black belt in Karate, to his face.

The coach of Switzerland, Christian Wohlwend, is the most delightful person in sports, by light years.  Last year, he was raving his club had no chance, against Canada.  This year, he told his team and the world, “When you give, give give love, you always get it back.  That’s a fact.”

Toward the end of last year, Sarah Thomson, the editor and publisher of The Women’s Post, asked me to write an article per week, which I have resolved to do.  It won’t be easy.  In a hockey vernacular, I’m a grinder.

Quality Writing

Think, write, edit, think, write, edit, write, think, edit…

Every word, mark, and symbol is vetted, sweated, and fretted

It is to hard work that a writer is indebted

Talent, I’d say, gets far too much credit

The only way to get better at anything is practise.   I’ve always had great respect for newspaper and magazine writers, who write, well, often; Rex Murphy, for example.  Thanks to the external pressure, I’ve resolved to write every day, this year.   This time, next year, I hope to have 52 articles and a children’s musical comedy under my belt, on the Internet, in the cloud, out in the world…

Our youngest wants to travel, get out in the world, this year.  Yikes.  There were sad stories of young women travelling, at the end of last year, but I try not to think about that.

I read, a lot, but it is mostly the Internet.  I resolve to read more books; real books, this year.  I resolve to consume less garbage, disguised and sold as food, fashion, entertainment, and news.

I Resolve

Another year has roared and died

And my soft spots are more amplified

2019 is, of course, right here

So, it’s time for Resolutions

And their promise of solutions

While bringing in the year

 

I resolve my resolutions won’t be, again, insincere

I resolve things will be different this year

 

I resolve to drop a pound or ten

I’ve resolved this before and will, likely, again

 

I resolve to eat better and exercise

I resolve to order salad instead of fries…

Wait

I take that back

I resolve to tell fewer outrageous lies

 

I resolve to cut back on drinking…

I take that back, too

What was I thinking?

 

I would resolve to be a better husband, but I don’t think I can

She’s a lucky lady and, as Homer Simpson said, “I’m a wonderful man”

 

I had resolved to be a better dad, but now I needn’t bother

Rather, I bought the t-shirt: World’s Greatest Father

 

I resolve to spend more time of the couch, with flicker in my hand

Flicking through the channels

The world at my command

 

With God as my witness

I resolve to put The Trumps out of business

I resolve to make America great

I resolve to titillate




I resolve to slay the beast and bring peace to the middle east

 

I resolve I’ll lower gasoline prices

I resolve to fix the migrant crisis

I resolve I’ll slow Canada’s traffic:

Highways and death traps, where carnage is graphic

 

I resolve to win the lottery

Financial freedom sounds good to me

Especially, when it comes so easily

 

I resolve I will no longer dream

Instead, I resolve to plot, hatch, fantasize, and scheme

 

I resolve to be short and sweet

I resolve to be fast and neat

I resolve to be discrete

 

That is a long list of resolutions and I can’t disavow

There’s much, much more to resolve, somehow

Yet, I’ve resolved to write The End soon

It’s another problem I’ll solve

I resolve

The End. Happy 2019.

 

What’s the true cost of birth control in Ontario?

Women are forced to pay for birth control, feminine hygiene products and take responsibility for their fertility in a way that men are not. As a country that purports democracy and equality, steps need to be taken to ensure women aren’t forced to pay for much-needed products.

Birth control in Canada is expensive and cuts deep into the pockets of young women already trying to make ends meet. Without insurance, birth control has an added cost and women are expected to fork out the cash. One third of women in North America have reported struggling to pay for birth control at one point in their lives.By providing it for a cost in Canada, it questions whether protecting yourself is actually a right of women or is it instead a cash cow for greedy pharmaceutical companies who are actively taking advantage of women.

Birth control is universally covered in Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and China, among other countries. Canada does not offer birth control for free or subsidized without insurance coverage, and this limits accessibility for women looking for different options.

After comparing prices at three different pharmacies in Toronto, the average prices for the five main types of birth control are astronomical. Mirena, a hormonal IUD offered by Bayer who is one of the largest pharmaceutical companies in Canada, has an average cost of $416. Though it lasts for five years, finding this type of money as a young woman is unrealistic and often prevents women from accessing this option.  The Nuva ring is the second most expensive option because it must be bought monthly. It is approximately $31 per month and this cost adds up quickly throughout the year to $328. Though oral birth control appears affordable month to month at $20, it adds up to $240 per year making it the third most costly option.

Women who are low-income have alternative options to seek cost-free birth control, but the availability is certainly limited. There are 14 sexual health clinics in Toronto, most with extremely limited drop-in hours. These clinics will help provide low-to-no cost birth control to women who need it, but these clinics have long waitlists and are drop-in only. Oftentimes, these clinics are so busy that there will be over 20 people waiting at the door prior to its opening.

Other options include Family Planning, which offers certain birth control options free and charges a discounted price for others. The IUD is discounted, but still has a price tag on it. If you are looking for an IUD as well, you must phone at the beginning of the month to schedule an appointment that will be at least three weeks later. The other option is the Bay Street Centre for Birth Control, but book quickly. The waitlist to book an appointment at the centre was three months long.

It is clear that Canada has is an issue when it comes to birth control. The act of charging women to protect themselves from getting pregnant is arguably discrimination.  Canada needs to join the other countries that have moved to universally cover the costs of birth control, and grant access for women of all incomes to different types of protection. Only then will I say that Canada is a country that truly supports the rights of women.

 

RELATIONSHIPS: Reconnecting with your childhood crush

How much changes after 35 years — and how much stays the same?

I never forgot my childhood crush.  Over the years through dead-end relationships and dating disasters, I would go back to that comforting place in grade four and wonder about the cute boy who captured my attention and still held a special place in my memory.

The fantasy of reconnecting years later often presented itself in my mind. What was he doing now? Would he remember me?

Truthfully, I wasn’t even sure that we wouldn’t pass each other on the street and feel a twinge of familiarity but just keep walking.  After all, grade four kids are only nine years old. How much connecting could we really do at that age, I thought.

But suddenly, there was a chance encounter at Tim Horton’s with my grade four teacher. There she was, timeless and preserved as if it were still 1977. As I said hello, the memories came flooding back to me and I immediately went home to fish out the class photo that was carefully protected behind a plastic sheet in an ancient photo album. My crush was as cute as ever, as he stood posing with the group.  It was perfect for a Facebook post.

Although we weren’t children of technology, many of us born in the late 60s have adopted the habit of sitting behind a computer or phone to connect with our past. Many of my classmates from elementary school who were on my friend list flooded the photo with comments. Then suddenly, there he was. On someone else’s friend list.

I sent the friend request. Would he remember? Butterflies in my stomach. I attached a little note to ask.

The response was immediate. Are you kidding, he said. Of course I remember you! I always thought about you over the years.

It turned out that he lived in New York City and pictures indicated a lovely family of his own.  He was doing well.

We exchanged the usual promises to meet up one day for a coffee. But we were hundreds of miles apart and we hadn’t talked for 35 years. They were nice thoughts and I filed them away.

One year later, a trip to New York City presented itself. So I contacted my grade four crush. The coffee meeting was possible.  Was he up for it?

Yes indeed. An exchange of cell phone numbers and a promise to touch base was made. Truthfully, I still wasn’t sure it would happen.  But from my hotel room in New York, I sent the text, proposing a time. A response suggested a place – Times Square.  It was confirmed.

I walked through the busy streets of New York City on a cool spring day and suddenly, in the middle of Times Square, there he was – my grade four crush. We stood there for a minute among the hustle of the city and looked at each other and smiled.

Over Starbucks, we talked as if three decades hadn’t passed by. We reminisced about our grade four teacher and classmates, and we discussed his move to another school all too suddenly. He cried, he confessed. He was sad that he would not see me again.

I stared. You did? I asked.

He continued to reveal details of our friendship –details that I didn’t remember. We used to lay stomach down on the carpet side by side and read stories to one another, he recalled. He used to tell his mom about me.

I tried to recall those memories but my own told me that he was the cutest boy in the class and I had a crush on him, as did many of the other girls. 35 years later, I learn that I was the one he was most fond of.  More importantly, I find out that nine year olds can make connections that last a lifetime.

We chatted for the afternoon and he walked me to a street that would take me to my hotel again. We promised to keep in touch and parted ways.

That was over a year ago and we continue to connect on Facebook.  His emails make me smile and he checks up to see how I’m doing from time to time, with offers to talk when life throws a curve ball.

I’m happy that he’s found a love that keeps his heart full. He’s no longer my crush, but a bond that began in elementary school, lasted through decades of distance and came back, familiar and comforting as if we had shared stories on that carpet, in the second floor of that old school building, just a few weeks ago.

 

 

 

Follow Women’s Post on Twitter at @WomensPost.

All I want for Christmas

Christmas is upon us, so I’m making a list of everything I want.  I want everything I want and I want it, now.  That’s what I want.

I want peace; at home and around the world.  Some people love acrimony.  I want to cure that.  Intermittent Fasting helps.  I want everyone to try it.

There’s nothing like exfoliating.  I want a new luffa brush.  Bill O’Reilly, who’s on a long list of Irish-American / Canadian uber-conservative idiots, told an associate-producer he wanted to watch her scrub herself with a “felafel thing.”

I want Bill’s hero, Donald Trump, arrested and sent to prison, in Mexico.  Trump makes George Bush look a stable genius.  I want to ask our good neighbours, “Why did you vote for that foul, awful thing?”

I want a cure for Histiocytosis, a horrible, rare disease, which has afflicted my niece, Julia.  I want to thank and praise the medical community, in Hamilton, for miracles.  Another beautiful, young girl I know is in a fight at McMaster Children’s Hospital, where Julia was.  I want all children to be healthy and happy.

I like to do home renovations, but am leery of electrical jobs.  I want to take a course.  I like my old house.  I want to die in it, then be buried in the garden.  I want to be compost.

I want my daughter to stop bringing home animals.  I love them, too, but I want a break.  Having said that, I want to walk Doug, our great dog.  I want Doug to be happy, all the time.

There’s window, where I sit to write.  Much of the time, however, I watch squirrels.  If there’s reincarnation, I want to join my rodents.

Action Entertainment

Across a thin wire

Then down a tree

One’s in pursuit

One tries to flee

 

They cut to the left

Then to the right

But the aggressor still follows

The one that’s in flight

 

Back up a tree

Across a long fence

This racing rivalry

Is really intense

 

It’s pure entertainment

A wonderful sight;

There’s nothing quite like

A good squirrel fight

 

I want my car to start.  I want my computer and furnace to work.  I want my heart to keep ticking, my legs to keep kicking, and my heels to keep clicking.  I want to watch TV, because I love channel flicking.  I want to rhyme, a lot of the time.

I want to curb some appetites.

Sometimes, I want to save the world.  Most of the time, I want to lie on the couch, in track pants, comfy clothes, leisure wear, or quitters and save myself.

I Want, I Want, I Want

I want to be famous

I want to be rich

I want to be idle

I want perfect pitch




I want a place in the countryside

I want beachfront 2 miles wide

I want to be handsome and hazel eyed

I want to be purified, glorified, and beatified

 

I want servants at beck and call

I want my very own shopping mall

I want to be thin and I want to be tall

I dare say I want it all




I want I want I want

Write this down in your biggest font

Like a spoiled debutante

I want I want I want      

 

I want the beach house and the shore

I want Candy and her store

I want everything, heretofore

I want it all and then some more




I want to be famous, celebrated, cheered

I want to be loved, admired; completely revered

I think I want to be internationally known

But really, I think I want to be left alone




I want I want I want

Write this down in the biggest font

Like a spoiled, rotten debutante

I want I want I want

 

I Want song lyrics:  I want to know what love is.  I want you to show me.  I want to feel what love is.  I want you to know, I want you to know, right now, you’ve been good to me, baby; better than I’ve been to myself.  The best things in life are free, but you can give them to the birds and bees.  I want money.  That’s what I want.  I want to wish you a Merry Christmas, I want to wish you a Merry Christmas, I want to wish you a Merry Christmas, from the bottom of my heart.  Feliz Navidad. 

Feliz Navidad, indeed.

What more could I want?

The Narcissist Apocalypse

Hollywood has given us numerous scenarios, wherein zombies try to take over the world.  A zombie apocalypse makes for great fiction and comedy.  However, not funny, nor fictional, is the increasing number of people with a narcissistic personality, or who have narcissistic characteristics.

As well as growing in numbers, our culture favours narcissistic qualities, so narcissists are, increasingly, in positions of power.  With an abundance of self-confidence, narcissists make a great first impression and present themselves as capable, obedient workers and natural leaders, ready, willing, and able to run the show.  Donald Trump demonstrates how effectively a self-serving narcissist, even a vile, dumb, unqualified one, slithers up ladders.

Although the Internet is awash with information on the condition, narcissism is not well understood.  There is a lot of misinformation.  I lack professional qualifications, but am a recreational researcher, armchair psychiatrist, amatuer profiler, weekend psychoanalyst, Monday morning quack, and barstool philosopher.  As well, most critically, I’ve had lifelong relationship with a narcissist.

Spotting a zombie is easy: a stumbling gait, stunned, open-mouthed countenance, poor complexion, failing wardrobe, and questionable hygiene make one obvious.  Narcissists are a different entity.  A narcissist looks “normal,” walks, talks, and, to the touch, feels normal.

A narcissist, however, doesn’t feel, like others.  A defining characteristic of a narcissist is a lack of empathy.  Although they have grandiose opinions of themselves, and a need to be recognized, narcissists don’t care about others.

Relationships with a narcissist are, therefore, one-sided and toxic.  Even children are valued, only, for what they can provide the narcissist: respectability, status, cover, bait, income, accessories, props…  Children of narcissists grow up with the challenge of being unloved.

A narcissist can’t be cured or changed, so don’t try.  A relationship with a narcissist doesn’t end well.  There are signs.

If you meet one, run.  You are better off alone.

Contrary to popular belief, narcissists are not putting up fronts to mask insecurities.  Narcissists, truly, believe they’re superior.  An inflated sense of self contributes to a narcissist’s arrogance, dismissiveness, and / or cruelty, as well as their charisma and self-assuredness.  There is never a lack of self-confidence, even in a failing narcissist.

In fact, narcissists are most dangerous when reality doesn’t mesh with their opinion of themselves.  This is termed Narcissistic Injury.  Rather than reflect on their behaviour, a narcissist will blame others and lash out, often, cruelly.  A friend is divorcing a narcissist and his behaviour is dreadfully sadistic.  Despite declaring himself a Christian, he is a cruel (injured) narcissist.

Competitiveness and a drive for recognition push some high achieving narcissists to great work and accomplishments.  However, most narcissists prefer soft targets and gravitate to middle management and public service.

There are different ways to create a narcissist and our society is establishing perfect conditions for their proliferation.  A neglected child can become a cold, reptilian survival-machine, indifferent to anything and anyone, but themselves.  On the other end, children who’re overly-indulged and told, from conception, they are better than everyone, believe it.

Celebrity can trigger, latent, narcissism.

We are all born narcissistic.  As infants, the moment we are uncomfortable, we squawk.  Fortunate babies have their needs catered to, immediately.  Ideally, as time goes by, and we grow up and realize there are others, who have needs and feelings, we become less self-centered and more community minded.

One of the most critical factors in the development of a compassionate, caring citizen is unstructured, unsupervised play.  By playing with others; siblings and friends, children learn to share and care.  A selfish child loses playmates and the joy they bring, quickly.  Throughout history, people have learned to give and take and see things from another’s perspective, by playing.

As family sizes shrink, children have fewer siblings to play with.  Unstructured play, with a group of similarly aged children, is, also, a thing of the past.  Parks, fields, trails, all over Canada, sit empty, while youth stay home and play video games by themselves, for hours.  Even in a group, children play alone.

Media and social media contribute to the narcissism epidemic.  While sitting with friends and family, people stare at their phones.  An obsession with celebrity, likes, and views undermines and overrides a drive to behave well or do good work.

Single occupancy vehicles breed narcissism.  A hyper-competitive culture contributes to unhealthy, self-centered behaviour.  The disintegration of family and community creates individualistic behaviour.  Decades of giving everyone a trophy and declaring losers winners hasn’t helped.  Self-esteem, once earned, is now conferred upon every Tom, Dick, and Narcissist.

Narcissists deserve sympathy.  With insatiable appetites for material goods, recognition, admiration, fame, and prestige, a narcissist can never be content; never be happy.  Their self-centeredness means they will always be alone, even within a relationship.

I worked with a cruel narcissist, who went out of her way to make people miserable.  It seemed her only joy.  When she died, prematurely, I wrote a 50-word poem-obituary.

Karma And The Narcissist

Breaking spirits, cutting throats

Spreading lies, taking notes

Entirely without remorse

Every day, she stayed the course

 

She got her castle and her throne

But sat up there all alone

And when they threw her in the ground

No one came and stood around

To mourn, or cry, or say, Good-bye

 

From climate change and terrorism, to mass migration and poverty, humanity is facing a litany of challenges, many self-made.  The proliferation of narcissists is, to me, another indication our species is driving down a dangerous road, lost.

Eventually, people will have to go back to compact, compassionate communities, or we’ll perish.  As with a zombie apocalypse, flourishing narcissism is inimical to humanity.

 

Intermittent Fasting

Dr. Jason Fung is diabetes and obesity expert from Toronto.  His work is transforming people’s  lives; making them healthier and happier.  Dr. Fung is a proponent of intermittent fasting (IF).  I changed my lifestyle and began intermittent fasting the day I watched this video of Dr. Fung explaining his research.

I knew this was what I had been looking for.

I’m fascinated by intermittent fasting and Google it, regularly.  Weight loss is the most obvious, desirous, and prominent result of IF, but temporary caloric abstinence helps everything; body, mind, and soul.

There is a growing body of research discovering how and why IF performs miracles, such as anti-aging and cancer curing.  CNN asks if fasting is the fountain of youth.

The concept is simple: fast for, at least, 16 hours, each day.  Eat.  Stop eating.  Simple.  While your body is in fast mode, great things happen.  When I started IF, weight loss began, immediately.  It was freaky.  I sleep better, breathe better, feel better, and, most importantly, look better.

Inflammation issues have been resolved, as well.  I recently asked my family, “When was the last time I complained about my arthritic hips?”  No one could remember.  There’s plenty to complain about, but my hips have been cured.

In this podcast, George St Pierre, one of Canada’s finest athletes, explains to Joe Rogan, how meeting Dr. Fung and beginning intermittent fasting has changed his life.

As St. Pierre explains, his diabetes and colitis are better, his muscle density has gone up and his body fat is down.  He feels ¨better, sharper, lighter…¨  Like George, I wish I’d known about intermittent fasting, years ago.

Fasting slows the mind and leads to contentment.  It is not just food consumption, being re-evaluated.  Thanks to IF, I have more time, more energy, I’m more productive, and I spend less money.  I feel empty; less bloated and bogged down.  ¨Oh, God, I´m hungry,¨ is now, ¨Oh, good, I´m hungry.¨

I like fasting because it is free.  Almost, anyone can fast.  Fasting is simple.  There is no need to see an expert, buy supplements, record, count, restrict, exclude, follow a plan…. just stop consuming calories, for 16 hours.  Unlike a diet or weight loss plan, the end of a fast is never far away.  Each day, when I break fast, there is a sense of accomplishment; a sense of pride.

Food tastes better and is more satisfying, after a fast.  For years, everything I ate or drink came with a sliver of guilt.  Now, whatever is consumed feels earned and I enjoy eating and drinking, more than ever.  As well, since I only have one or two meals a day, I prepare them better and eat healthier.

The eight hours of consumption is to each his or her own.   I’ve read you shouldn’t eat before bed, but my feeding window is 4 pm to midnight, because I enjoy social time with friends, in the evening.

My new routine is get up, shower, and go to work.  Not having to prepare and eat breakfast, then make a lunch, streamlines mornings and I leave earlier.  I work or exercise during lunch break.  A little water during the day is all I need.  When I get home, in the evening, I enjoy a meal.

My 21 year old daughter, like many people, fasts from 7pm to 11am the next day.  She doesn’t snack after dinner and skips breakfast.  She feels better, has lost weight, and is, especially, happy her skin has cleared up.

Fasting is gaining in popularity, but it can’t be dismissed as a trend, fad, or craze, because it has been part of many cultures and religions for centuries.  According to the infallible Internet, the Buddha said, ¨I, monks, do not eat a meal in the evening.  Not eating a meal in the evening I, monks, am aware of good health and of being without illness and of buoyancy and strength and living in comfort.  Come, do you too, monks, not eat a meal in the evening.  Not eating a meal in the evening you too, monks, will be aware of good health and….. living in comfort.¨

Fasting is simple and effective, but it is not easy.  A friend, who has been trying to lose weight for years, has started IF several times, but can’t see it through.  By his own admission, he lacks the will power.  Curiously, fasting, for all it offers, can’t cure that.

 

Top 5 most beautiful places

It isn’t easy coming up with a list of the most beautiful places in the world that I’ve personally seen. I live in a city surrounded by concrete and tall buildings, and I often miss what mother nature has to offer. So my top 5 places visited are pretty remote, but well worth seeing.

  1. The first beautiful location I would recommend is Blue Lagoon, in Iceland.
Blue Lagoon, Iceland

It is full of man-made ponds fed by waters rich in minerals, that many believe can cure certain diseases. In the winter, the hot steam coming from the pond is surrounded by snow and ice, creating a tense atmosphere.

2. The next beautiful spot would have to be Haleakala National Park,  on the island of Maui in Hawaii.

Sunrise Haleakala summit

Haleakala attracts 1.5 million visitors every year and with a summit at 10,023 feet attracts “skywatchers” from around the world.  The name Haleakala comes from the Hawaiian language, meaning house of the sun. According to legend, the demi-god of Maui would have kept the sun there to extend the time.

3. I am drawn to warm destinations and the next beautiful location would be St. Lucia in the Caribbean.

The Pitons

The Piton mountains are breathtakingly beautiful with so little built up around them they have a natural majestic  beauty that is well worth seeing.  We rented this beautiful home with a perfect view near Soufrière, Saint Lucia

4. Another beautiful place to visit is the Crater Lake National Park in Oregon, USA.

Native Americans witnessed its formation 7,700 years ago, when a violent eruption triggered the collapse of a tall peak. It has a remarkable purity: fed by rain and snow, and it is the deepest lake in the USA …and perhaps the most pristine on eart

5. Number 5 on my list is Cappadocia, Turkey

Cappadocia is located in Turkey with unique rock formations called “the despair of fairytale chimneys.” Cappadocia is formed by geology and volcanic activity, including weather and erosion, which took place in Islam about 60 million years ago. In 2000, Christians built the first church in one of the unique rocks of the region. And not to be missed is a balloon ride to capture the beautiful views the area offers.

 

 

Barbados Journal Oct 2018

I have spent the past month learning a great deal about Barbados, and myself. This month I discovered that selecting “allow dirt roads” on your GPS is a big mistake in Barbados.

It all came about on a beautiful sunny morning. I was driving the kids to school and a house fire on the main road had traffic backed up for miles. It gave me the perfect opportunity to explore the island and I’d grown fond of discovering new sights around every turn.

On a small island like Barbados one would think it hard to get lost… but the island is filled with roads and cart paths that run over all kinds of terrain. And in the wet season (September to November) they fill with mud and clay. The problem is that the cart paths show up on GPS apps as dirt roads, even when they are little more than tractor paths through banana fields. Combine this with a glorious sunny morning, an open road in front of you, and the kids singing “Country Roads” in the back seat and it’s easy to feel invincible.

As I drove along the heavily pot-holed pavement, the road turned into a dirt cart path, and I didn’t listen to that small voice in my head whispering – ‘STOP!’. The view was amazing; we were driving along the edge of a mountain with a steep cliff edge to our left and the mountain rising up on our right.

It had rained the night before and I began to worry when the car started sliding. The road was narrow and the drop steep. My knuckles turned white as I gripped the wheel. The car rounded a corner and I could see that a few meters ahead the steep cliff turned into a gently sloping hill, but the car starting sliding towards the edge of the cliff just as I rounded the corner, and I nervously gunned it along the path praying we’d make it to the hill. Luckily we got there and I thought about turning around but didn’t want to face that slippery corner again. So I kept going and drove the car straight into almost 3 feet of clay that had filled a dip in the cart path.

I looked down at my silk pants, white top and high heels and realized I might not make it to my morning meeting and the kids would miss school.

My son and I put sticks and branches under the tires and after about an hour of trying we rocked the car out of the big mud pit (with half of it all over us). I found a small promontory to turn the car around and slowly headed back to the main road. Getting out of the mud was satisfying, but I was taking it too slow and became stuck again. This time we were on an upward slope and there was no way that my son and I could rock the car out. Luckily some men had arrived to work in the fields and immediately offered to help. They easily pushed the car out and around the corner to the paved road.

The whole time this fiasco was going on my daughter was sitting in the back seat, taking picture and pointing out how beautiful the view was. When finally arrived back at the main road she commented “Mum you always find a way to make a perfectly ordinary day turn into an adventure.” And that is how I hope they view every stupid thing that I do!

I have noticed that I am beginning to lose some of the terribly selfish driving habits I picked up in Toronto. Here ‘Bajans’ drive slow and easy, if they see a car wanting to cross the highway, they will stop to let them pass. They are kind. It’s unsettling if you’re from Toronto and driving far too quickly behind them, but over time you slow down and start to realize that being kind, and offering that public gesture, is important. I used to think that people are drawn to Barbados because of the slow pace, but I realize there is much more to it. The people here have grace and they cherish it. I hope a little of that grace rubs off on me.

Barbados is a beautiful country but it is the people that make it a terrific place to live.

Spaghetti Squash and Zucchini Parmesan

With the approach of fall, leaning towards cozy sweaters and comfort food is the norm- and nothing says comfort like spaghetti!

If you’re anything like me, you enjoy hot meals and delicious treats! It can be challenging to stay on top of healthy habits once the cooler temperatures set in!

It takes all of this author’s motivation to get up and go to the gym when the cold sets in! I find making meals with healthy bases helps me to stay on track, and not to mind so much when I don’t make it to that spin class!

Here’s a twist on a classic homemade meal that is one of my favorites-you know, the one your grandmother used to force you to eat more than 2 helpings of! This time though, it’s incorporating more plants, healthy fats and tons of good taste! I dare you to try this and not have 3 servings…at a fraction of the calories!

 

Spaghetti Squash and Zucchini Parmesan

When cooked, spaghetti squash separates into strings that can be covered in sauce, much like

pasta – a grain free alternative! It is full of fibre, vitamins and nutrients that help build up those

antibodies -definitely something that’s good to increase with the onset of cold season! The

squash and zucchini hold up well together, while the cheeses create a mouthwatering finish.

This warm fall classic will have you and your loved ones asking for more-make sure to double

your recipe if you like to have leftovers! The portions outlined below makes 4-6 servings.

Ingredients:

  • 1 large spaghetti squash
  • 1 large zucchini, grated
  • 1/3 cup caramelized onions (see below for these instructions)
  • 1 cup tomato sauce
  • 6 ounces mozzarella cheese
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated parimigiano-reggiano cheese
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper

Instructions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 F.
  2. Pierce the spaghetti squash with a fork in several places. Microwave it on high power for 12 minutes, rotating every 3 minutes. Let the squash cool, then cut it in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds with a spoon. Scoop out the flesh into a large bowl. Add the zucchini, onions and tomato sauce. Season with salt and pepper. Spoon the mixture into a shallow baking pan. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes.
  3. Remove the baking pan from the oven and turn the oven to broil. Top the vegetables with the grated cheese and place under the broiler until golden brown, about 5 minutes. Let sit 5 to 10 minutes before serving.

Caramelized Onions

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 3 large onions, thinly sliced

Instructions:

Heat the canola oil in a large nonstick skillet over low heat. Add the onions and cook for 30 minutes, stirring often, until they are soft and brown. Let cool and then store in a lidded container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

These caramelized onions are easy to do and are a great addition for any of your favorite dishes! Add them to meals like salads, sandwiches and more!

Enjoy this plant based meal which is guaranteed to taste better the next day!

That is, if you manage to have any leftovers!