Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Best of the Best 2014

It's time for my annual post of my best moments from the past year. It's actually hard to sit back and remember what happened over the entire year so I wouldn't be surprised if I read this list later and realize I missed something.

Best Volunteer Moment:

This is always a tough one but I think I'd have to say wrapping daffodils for the Canadian Cancer Society. What I loved about this event is that we were able to have 6 kids come and help out with the wrapping and they all loved it!

My Two Goofballs

Best Mr. Cole (AKA Ham) Moment:

Hands down it was when he decided to participate in the Hair MassaCure  and raise funds for children with life-threatening illnesses.  We had to dye his hair probably 3 times over that month but he gladly sat through it each time and wore his hair with pride. I almost cried when they shaved his head just because I was so proud of my little man!

He looked so little in that chair! 

Best Miss. Jocelyn (AKA Turkey) Moment:

This little girl had many moments where she made me proud but most of them were in the way she handled herself so there's no photos of those moments! Instead I'll add two photos of her proud sports moments when she obtained her Green level in swimming and came 24th out of 200 kids in her track race.

Best Moment Spent With Hubs: 

This year I think it was when went to New York and went to a Yankees game. It was my first time at a Major League Baseball game and it was a perfect day for it; super hot with a cold beer and pretzel in hand. Great way to spend some time together! Second best moment was on the same trip when we took a 4th of July cruise to watch the fireworks. It was our first time experiencing 4th of July in the States and what a memorable way to do it.


Top 10 Books I Read (in no particular order):

1. Man - Kim Thuy
2. The Opposite of Loneliness - Marina Keegan
3. The Rosie Project/The Rosie Effect - Graeme Simsion
4. An Astronaut's Guide to Life on Earth - Chris Hadfield
5. The Giver - Lois Lowry
6. Dead Lions - Mich Herron
7. Stardust - Neil Gaiman
8. The Queen of Tearling - Erika Johansen
9. Come Barbarians - Todd Babiak
10. Little Women - Louisa May Alcott

Best Trip I Took:

I think the trip I enjoyed the most was going to Jasper with Kari, my friend of 33 years. It was such a great chance to catch up, hit the spa, and enjoy some wine in front of the giant fireplace. The best family trip was to Pickerel Lake in Ontario where Hub's family has a cabin. It was wonderful to spend some time with our extended family and for the kids to experience the joys of the lake (tubing, kayaking, and fireworks on the beach).

Perfect spot for a picture!

Best Nerdy Moment:

Too hard to pick. At Calgary Expo we got to meet Sigourney Weaver (she's beautiful!), some hobbits and dwarves, and Tiggy and Bobby from Sons of Anarchy. All were super memorable and may have led to a little squealing. I'll add the photo of the 3 that made me laugh the most though...the dwarves!

They made my sides hurt from laughing!

Best Concert I Saw:

Looking at the concert schedule early in the year I would have guessed that it would be Arcade Fire but surprisingly it wasn't! I had a lot of fun dressing up for the concert and they put on an amazing show. I finally got to check them off my MUST SEE list but they didn't steal the show for me like Jack White did. I was so blown away by his concert I'm not sure I could put it into words. Closest I can come is to say that I felt like I was in the presence of a rock God. 

Loved his all-blue set!

Best New Restaurant I Tried:

I'm going to have to go with Woodwork on this. Any restaurant that came make me drool over brussel sprouts has to be a winner. Pretty small place so you need reservations but check them out, everything we had that night was delicious. 

Best Time I Spent With Friends:

Has to be my birthday! I had so much fun eating at Phoenicia (soooo sad it has since shut down) and when the DJ came on we had the entire dance floor, and basically restaurant, to ourselves. Everyone took a turn dancing with the belly dancer and cutting a rug on the dance floor. It was such a fun night. *Don't worry friends, I won't post the pictures of everyone belly dancing!*

Best Personal Moment:

I think my favourite moment for myself was being a part of the last FIERCE Awards. Mainly it was the actual meeting of the nominees that reminded me of how many people are out there doing great things that we would never have known about if it wasn't for Tamara pulling this event together. Many of their stories touched me and gave me a little kick in the pants to keep going with my own work.

That's about it for 2014. Looking forward to a great 2015, spent with family, friends, and my favourite non-profits! 

Monday, December 1, 2014

Kids Kindness Advent Calendar

Several years ago I purchased this wooden Advent Calendar we use to count down the days until Christmas. Each year I fill it with small pieces of candy, cool rocks, or small toys.The kids love opening the doors to find out what little treasure is inside that day and I like that I can customize it to what their interest currently are.

This year I decided to things a little differently. Today when they opened door #1 they found a treat along with an Act of Kindness challenge to complete. 

For the next 24 days I've selected several easy, and a few more difficult ways for the kids to celebrate Christmas through acts of giving and kindness.

I've given the kids challenges such as: Tell two people what makes them special, make a card/craft and give it to the shy kid in your classroom, pick up garbage you see around your school, pick 10 books you don't read anymore and donate them to charity, and call a relative you haven't spoken to in a while. 

At the end of Christmas I'll post a note letting you know how it goes. By the end of the 24 days I'm hoping the kids will want to continue on with these actions as they do not need to end when Christmas arrives, instead they can be practiced daily as a way of life. 

Happy Holidays! 

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

It Hurt

Yes, I saw that eye roll. Yes, it hurt.

We were standing on the field watching the other parents refuse to step up and help when the coach wasn't able to make it to the game. It hurt to have to say no, it hurt even more to see your eye roll when I gave the reason why.

Many people think osteoarthritis is just a few aches. That eye roll told me you are one of them.

It's not just a few aches, it's really not. If you knew me and knew how athletic I am, or I guess how athletic I used to be, you'd understand how much it kills me to have to say no. It breaks my heart to stand on the sidelines. Even as an adult I played basketball, ultimate frisbee, soccer (indoor and outdoor), and flag football. Even after having kids I ran, I took zumba classes, went to bootcamp, and took yoga. All of those things are no more and it hurts.

My osteoarthritis is in my ankles and my neck. Two very uncommon locations and it's happening in my 30's which is also very uncommon. I struck out twice.

The eye roll you gave me is because you don't understand that every single step I take hurts. Not just a little, it hurts like two bones grinding together with all my weight on top of it, because that's exactly what's happening. My right hurts more than my left, it hurts even when I'm not standing on it. It's my right ankle that gets 'stuck' and makes me walk like I have a cast on. I have lost so much mobility in it that I can't rotate it, balance on it, or sit cross legged. I can no longer wear any of the heels I have in my closet because trying to put my ankle in the position needed to stand in a heel makes me feel like I'm standing on a broken ankle. About twice a year I will attempt to wear a heel for a special occasion. Every moment is torture and I'm usually full of prescription drugs to get through it.

Your eye roll also tells me you have no idea how the osteoarthritis in my neck affects my health more than my ankles do. I have 10 appointments a month with various health practitioners, all of which are trying to help solely with my neck issues. My osteoarthritis in my neck causes disc problems and leads to headaches. Sometimes they are dull throbbing headaches and sometimes they make me want to throw up, or lay down and pass out. I can't function. I'll take 6-12 extra strength Tylenol plus 2-3 anti-inflammatories to get through the day. These days depress me more than I can say. It's one thing to have to say no to running up and down a for an hour, it's another when you're unsure if you can drive to pick your kids up from school because holding your head upright makes you want to cry and vomit at the same time.

All my life I was known as a feisty tomboy, aggressive in sports, athletic, and as someone who would push through the pain. That is no longer the case. I can't push through the pain because now it leads to more pain, more complications and more depression. I have an 'old person' disease that started about 6 years ago and I ignored because it didn't fit my lifestyle. It's a mental struggle and your eye roll (or the one person that called me a princess) does nothing to help my mental state.

I'm sorry. I really am sorry that I can't run up and down a lumpy, grassy field. I would give pretty much anything to be able to do that, and to be that person again. Maybe next time you can just seek to learn why before you judge because it hurt, it really hurt.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Start Them Young

One year we were getting ready to hand out birthday invitations and someone asked what my son would like for his birthday. I had to stop and really think about it. Christmas had just been over a month away and I had already purchased him the 2 or 3 things he had wanted for his birthday. In all honesty, he didn't really NEED anything. It was a stretch coming up with ideas for his aunts, uncles, grandparents and other extended family members.

We're lucky. Not everyone has such a large family who want to help celebrate these special occasions. It also means they get royally spoiled!

It got me thinking about the 10 kids we were about to invite over for his party and I realized he just didn't need another 10 gifts on top of all the gifts he would get from his family. So we sat down and talked to both kids about how fortunate they were to have such a large loving family and to already have a pretty full toybox. We decided to pick 2 charities and see which one spoke to the kids more. That year they both picked the Humane Society and the Food Bank as the charities they would like to support.

Don't get me wrong, it wasn't an easy conversation. There were a few tears at first because they didn't understand why they give gifts at parties and didn't get any back. Understandable, they were very young. It took many assurances that they would still have new toys and clothes, just not as much.

Since then we have asked parents to make a donation, or bring a donation in lieu of birthday presents. In the 3 years we've been doing this we have supported the Humane Society, Santas Anonymous, The Food Bank and Ronald McDonald House.  Each place we have supported has made my children feel incredibly special for their donations.

This year when we dropped off the donations to the Ronald McDonald House Northern Alberta we were given a tour of the facilities. My son was quite shy and I wasn't sure how much of it he was taking all in. But later when we picked up his sister from school I had tears in my eyes when I heard him recount his experience to her. He told her all about how the kids get to pick a blankie (actually a handmade quilt) when they arrive at the house. He told her about how if the kids are really sick and having a bad day, or if they are leaving the house after treatment they get to take a special gift out of the magic room. He was also quite excited to tell her about the playroom that you can be really loud in and how many kitchens they have in the house.

It stuck! He actually got at least a part of what we were doing and why.

Someone once told me that the earlier you can start a child in volunteering and charitable acts the more it will become a second nature for them.

There are many ways you can teach your child to give back. You can get them to help you shovel the walk of an elderly neighbour, you can collect spare change for a local charity, or they can pack up old games and books to donate.  Most important is to just start them young so they can carry on making a difference as they grow and hopefully they will do the same with their own children one day.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Just a Few Hours

Just a few hours. Really, it's a drop in the bucket of time. Just 2 hours of your life and yet they are 2 hours you will not forget anytime soon.

I regularly try to encourage people to give up just 2 hours of their life to come and volunteer with me. In the span of a year, which holds approximately 8,760 hours, does 2 seem like that much? Nope. It's almost nothing.

Yet each and every time people give up 2 hours to join me I am elated. It's hard to describe what it means to me but I sincerely appreciate your 2 hours (or 4, or 6, or however many you end up giving). Time is precious. We all know that but sometimes I just want to remind people that I acknowledge you gave up this precious commodity to make a difference in someone's life.

In December I took a group of folks to the Ronald McDonald House Northern Alberta and I was so happy to see both returning faces as well as several new volunteers. In just 2 short hours we were able to make hundreds and hundreds of Christmas cookies for the guests at the House. And for those that had not been there before they were able to take a tour of the House and see all the amazing work they do there.

Yep. In 2 hours our volunteers made a different to dozens of people staying at the House. You helped make their temporary home a little more comforting. Even better you came and learned. What better way to see what is being done to help others, that to be there and do it yourself.

To everyone who has joined me at the Food Bank, Mustard Seed, Basically Babies, Ronald McDonald House, Kids Kottage, etc, etc, etc, I want to thank you for your time. In just those few hours you made a difference in my life, to those we helped, and hopefully to your own life as well.