Thursday, September 24, 2009

Practising what we already know

Hmmm. Yesterday was a reminder to remain realistic about, as well as trusting of, external influences. While feeling on the right path toward more spiritual connection, and seeing the many options that are presenting themselves with that consciousness, I have to remember that not every channel is the one for me.

The holistic TCM health centre was interesting, though not at all what I expected. It unfortunately was not a welcoming nor informative experience, despite my desire to find a foundation on which to build a health & wellness base. My intuition tells me it's not what I need at this time, though it may simply be that the upcoming yoga classes were what I was meant to find there.

I'm still open to what else the centre might offer, and yet also acknowledge that much of what I'm looking for in a wellness practice I'm already tuned into and simply need to act upon myself. No panaceas. Authentic, balanced living with conscious exploration and action. Time to resume all I've learned over the years - and pay special homage to my wise friend Debrah while I'm at it.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Renewal of spirit

West-coast living taught me some insights into maintaining a balanced life. Like almost everyone I know, I find balance to be an absolute - and yet incredibly fleeting - necessity.

While it has taken a few days of vacation time to start getting into 'letting go' mode, I'm finally achieving that combined state of relaxation and inspiration.

Whether reading or vegging in front of a video or listening to favourite music or napping or reflecting, I'm starting to feel that sense of groundedness again.

I've also been following through on ways to build a more spiritual life here in Toronto - something that's eluded me while getting the more fundamental aspects in place. I'm very excited to have found a holistic health centre that I'll be visiting tomorrow. I have just registered for yoga classes and related lectures there as well. Throughout the fall, I'm planning to attend a host of literary events at the Library, plus concerts and theatre around the city. And despite this ultra-urban setting, I'm determined to connect more deliberately with nature, as it's definitely all around.

With the arrival of Autumn, I'm feeling a renewed sense of connection and gratitude. That's more like it!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Precious time

As we get older, time starts to pass more quickly and the milestones accumulate.

This year has been exceptional in that regard - two uncles turned 80 and one 75, my parents are celebrating their 50th anniversary, my sister and her husband their 25th, and some old friends and I just marked 30 years since we started university.

Not one of us feels as though that many years have gone by. And yet these points in time serve to remind us to appreciate our accomplishments and each other. And more than that, to take the time to celebrate it all.


Saturday, August 22, 2009

Going Public

The Political Spectrum Quiz
Dawn is a left moderate social libertarian. Dawn is also a non-interventionist and culturally liberal.
Dawn's scores (from 0 to 10):
Economic issues:+3.62 left
Social issues:+1.1 libertarian
Foreign policy:+4.79 non-interventionist
Cultural identification:+4.84 liberal
Category:political quizzes

According to the Political Spectrum Quiz on facebook, I'm a left moderate social libertarian as well as being a non-interventionist and culturally liberal. Regardless of the source, this seems pretty accurate to me and when illustrated on a graph, it appears that I couldn't be much closer to dead centre (though left-leaning all the same).

When situated near the centre, rationalizing a stand on various issues can be a bit precarious. Why supportive of government-funded health care, but not of government management of other activities? Why is it ok to publicly administer (un)employment insurance but not provide handouts to failing businesses?

The reasoning for me is that we must differentiate between a universal obligation to look after each other as individuals and the need to let bona fide businesses succeed or fail independently from government interference.

I believe that the mandate of government is to provide strong leadership while competently managing as transparently as possible. Of primary importance is the delivery of universal social services - those areas that would not necessarily deliver a short term monetary return on investment, but are critical to ensuring longer term quality of life for all.

With this lens in place, some recent events have resonated for me:
- this week's dismantling of crown corporation Tourism British Columbia, a highly successful destination marketing organzation, so it can be absorbed into the government of BC. This after 12 years of outstanding achievements on behalf of the tourism industry and many communities throughout the province. It seems counterproductive, as at risk is the marketing discipline and creativity of Tourism BC which has flourished at arms length from government.

- the recent bail outs of big banks and two of three big auto companies in North America. Should our governments be supporting businesses that have failed due to lack of vision and fiscal management? I don't believe they should, although the impact on so many individuals' livelihood, pensions and communities make this one a lot less clear. It seems that creative thinking in government and business, might have come up with wiser, more sustainable solutions.

- the ongoing debate re. universal health care in the US which is dragging other nations' systems into the discussion. This one is of course a no-brainer from my perspective. It's an excellent example of why universal social programs are required because if left only to business and right-leaning ideologues, anyone in need of health care without positions of wealth or power are left to flounder without a social safety net.

NB: As many know, I worked with Tourism British Columbia for six years and have much admiration for the operation, management and staff at the world-renowned and award-winning destination marketing organization.

Saturday, August 8, 2009


Oh the joy of soaking in the scenery during a summertime getaway. Amid the day-to-day hustle bustle, it's rejuvenating to have some time to just be in nature. Last week while staying at a friend's cottage, I opted to remain fixed on the dock, simply watching the weather go by, reading from time to time, and mostly just enjoying regular visits from a variety of duck families.

An idyllic way to unwind and feel grounded once again. Ahhh...

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Birthday Boy

I love watching four-year-olds at their birthday celebrations. For the first time it seems, fully enjoying the idea of a party just for them, able to engage with everyone and coming into themselves as kids.

Here he is hanging out with his 14-year-old cousin - having fun and feeling like a big boy!

As nieces and nephews go, this is number six and it's just such a charming age to see every time.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

A life well-lived

Time is short. Life goes on. There's no time like the present.

Live in the moment. Live each day as though it's your last. Breathe it all in. Take time to smell the roses.

We hear these sentiments on a regular basis and they usually serve, fleetingly, as reminders to live our lives consciously. With purpose, with a focus on what's truly important. Family and friends. Neighbours and community. With faith and love and compassion. Giving to others, contributing to the good of all. With grace and good humour.

Today, I attended the funeral of a colleague who exemplified all of this and then some. Someone who overcame a lot of adversity in life, while always supporting others with strength and a genuine smile. I didn't have the chance to get to know Anna Kwan well, but know that she touched the lives of so many of her friends and colleagues and customers at the Library for more than 20 years. And in hearing of her family and personal life, it was clear that Anna's large spirit and strong will had an even more profound impact.

"It is hard to say goodbye, when goodbye seems too soon" was communicated by Anna's eldest daughter Deborah. Although she and her sister Jennifer will miss their Mom tremendously, they must have been comforted seeing how many came to say goodbye and pay their respect to Anna today.

There is no question that Anna made so many feel loved, supported and welcomed - demonstrating a life that truly has made a difference to those who knew her well and those who benefitted from her dedicated commitment to helping others.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

I've loved you so long

I'd heard about this movie when reviewers were citing the incredible performance by Kristin Scott Thomas. She has always been impressive and I made a mental note to see it. I finally got the chance, and was wowed by the story and peformances of Thomas and the actor playing her sister, Elsa Zylberstein.

'I've loved you so long' (Il y a longtemps que je t'aime) is a beautifully written and directed portrayal of a woman just released from prison after 15 years. Juliette appears as a shell of herself, cautiously re-integrating into society and her own life. Thankfully, Lea, her younger sister has never forgotten nor given up on her, despite her horrible, heart-breaking crime.

The beauty of this story is the enduring love of a sister, the healing impact of this support and the ultimate re-emergence of a woman who'd been dealt a sorrowful choice to make. Thomas and Zylberstein are tremendous as they portray this reconnection after so long.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Marathon weekend with my pals Yasmin & Perry

A few pic's from Ottawa's Marathon weekend - May 23-24. It was spectacular spring weather and over 36,000 runners were there to take part in various runs leading up to the half and full marathons on Sunday.

Perry ran his very first marathon and did really well - very inspiring indeed!! Yasmin and I were the cheering section at both the 20 k and 41.25 k marks - here's Perry blasting past with just 750 m to go!

And here's Yasmin happily cheering him on - what a lot of prep went into this on both their parts!

Hugs to Yasmin & Perry for a wonderful birthday and time away and for allowing me to be part of this very momentous occasion.

Only drawback - I think I committed to running the 5 k with Yasmin next year... hmmm...

Have you heard the news?

It's interesting to be of an age that's in between those who live and breathe online and those who have an aversion to ever going there. Truth be told, many of my contemporaries who are not compelled to be online for work or in order to communicate with their kids, aren't there either.

I've lately found myself discussing the pros and cons of social media with friends and siblings. My sister is resisting the requests of her 12-year-old to have a Facebook account for fear of cyberbullying and security risks. My old university room mate has no interest at all in anything beyond using her work email and Blackberry for her job. Many friends are reluctantly on Facebook to be current, but fear they'll be sucked into an inane loss of time should they embrace Twitter.

And while ubiquitous media reports either celebrate the power and reach of social media or project the demise of Facebook first and now Twitter, the digital landscape continues to evolve in some pretty interesting directions. And the key is the power to provide or access instantaneous links to current and relevant news, articles, video, images etc. from a wealth of sources across the world.

The best ways I've been able to explain why some of it works for me include:

- Personal blogs (mine and those of others) have kept me in touch with friends, especially those back in BC, since I left almost three years ago. Blogging also provides a creative outlet including the ability to aggregate photos, video, web links etc.
- Professional blogs in the areas of news, media, marketing and communications provide indepth, current insight from experts in their fields
- Facebook offers the ability to keep up on daily details in friends' lives, in addition to being aware of, and able to engage in, political, charitable and professional issues, trends and news (
- Twitter has connected me to the voices of people I wouldn't otherwise hear or even know about across the spectrum of news, current affairs, arts, culture, technology etc. as well as providing a quicker and more succinct way to communicate (

Most importantly, these communication channels offer an alternative to the mainstream.

Through tweets from a variety of trusted sources, I was able to monitor the real-time results of a political convention here in Ontario when no news media were providing such coverage. We all know about the role that Twitter has played in communicating from Mumbai during terrorist attacks, from the Hudson River, and in many other circumstances where traditional media weren't there at first.

Of interest this weekend has been the ongoing Twitter coverage of the election results in Iran (see #iranelections). While Twitterers are providing ongoing updates from Tehran and elsewhere including links to some traditional media coverage, a large gap has been noted in CNN's coverage (see #CNNfail) - especially given their publicized race to be first to gain 1 million followers. That said, a lot of the news making its way out of Iran today regarding protests includes the fact that journalists are being detained, cut off from internet services or having their footage confiscated.

All of this is pretty compelling and adds to the debate about the role of social media versus traditional news sources - though in this case, it would seem that both are working together to get the stories out.

PS: Huffington Post is live blogging a comprehensive, chronological list of events in Iran helping to put real time updates into context.

PPS: A friend of a friend now living in Tehran is providing sporadic email updates pretty much confirming the info coming to us via various sources regarding the protests and police crackdowns in the streets. In terms of communications:

"... Most mobile carriers have been cut off, all text messaging has been cut off, our phone at home hasn't worked properly for the last week... I have spent the past 3 days trying to get online every 15 minutes or so and been denied. So I've been watching the news (they haven't bothered cutting off any of the English news, only the BBC Persia and some Arab news networks have been shut down). And while I have not been able to get into my email, I can open other pages, although and etc. are shut down. ..."

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Sunday Morning

Today was CBC Television`s last broadcast of CBC News: Sunday a terrific two-hour start to every Sunday for Canadians for the past 8 years. Hosted by Carole MacNeil and Evan Solomon, it has featured regional, national & international stories - in all areas of interest.

Topics have included the range from moving and inspiring to confounding and anger-provoking. As mentioned today, many have been moved to action after finding out about a situation in Canada or somewhere else in the world.

Pieces of note for me have included seeing an 80+ year old Flora MacDonald travelling to Afghanistan. For several years, her Foundation has supported a village there with funding for power for lighting so the children can attend school rather than spend daylight hours making carpets to support their families. Seeing her still active - and encouraging girls and women to be politically involved - was truly an inspiration.

Or the story of Dr. Mark Nowashinsky, the doctor who gave up his practice to go on the road delivering home-based care for Toronto`s seniors while advocating for improvements to senior health care in Ontario.

Or the story of Palestinian and Jewish youth participating in a filmmaking camp in Canada - learning to become friends and look at life from different perspectives before returning back to their lives in Israel.

Every Sunday morning brought a combination of views on news, politics, spirituality, sports, music, film, culture and other areas of focus - all from intelligent and very Canadian points of view.

Like the hundreds watching the show live in Toronto this morning, I`m sad to see CBC News: Sunday cancelled - a victim of the recent CBC budget cuts. This high quality program has been a unique contribution to Canada and will surely be missed.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Hitting the road

Vacation's finally here!
Just about to head off to spend time with family, then for a road trip to Muskoka, followed by a visit to Ottawa.

So far, the sun's shining, music's ready, suitcase is almost packed, and very soon, I'll disconnect from e-communications. It'll be a true test of my resolve to take a break, be in the moment and deny my online habit.

Wish me luck and have a great week!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

A personal view of a woman's life in Afghanistan

A Thousand Splendid Suns is one of the most powerful novels I've ever read. Given all that's taking place in Afghanistan today, especially regarding the lives and rights of women, I highly recommend this beautifully-written, emotionally-driven story.

Featuring two women who find support, love and strength amid the heartbreak and brutality of their daily lives, it personalized for me the political situation that has existed there for decades. While many are torn about participating in the war, this perspective gave me a different view of why some feel we should continue to fight for the rights and freedoms of all Afghans.

It's hard not to ask why so many civilians and foreign soldiers should be sacrificed in the name of this most current conflict. That said, how can we walk away considering the efforts and recent deaths of real Afghan women who have taken on leadership roles, working to improve their country's future? Or the women, and men, who have seen so many of their civil rights taken away?

It seems that despite the setbacks, it's going to take a concerted effort dependent on force first, but also featuring development and diplomacy. I hope a time will come when armies are no longer visible, nor needed.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Trying Twitter

Being in communications, I know how important (and sometimes daunting) it is to keep up on the trends. Of course, everyone is now well aware of the micro-blogging phenome, Twitter, which has been the talk of all media channels for the past number of months. While I joined Twitter a year ago, I didn't really get it until earlier this year. 

It's a powerful communications form that blends many aspects of life in one place. Used well (I'm definitely still learning), it's a dynamic and convenient way to monitor volumes and volumes of news, updates and opinions while sharing the same. 

That said, Twitter also feeds the already problematic online addiction begun with blogging, facebook, the blackberry et al. Time consuming it is to make and manage all the connections that comprise our social networks. A good example: I need to drag myself away from this laptop right now - grocery shopping is still waiting!

It'll be interesting to see how all of this nets out, but for now, I plan to keep exploring - both from a personal and professional perspective. 

For his hilarious take, check out Stephen Colbert's chat with Biz Stone, Twitter co-founder. And then make sure you follow both!

Saturday, March 28, 2009


A friend and I were chatting about an interesting observation. 
Why is it that people who generally behave badly are accepted as such and people who are generally respectful and empathetic toward others are judged if they have a so-called 'emotional' moment of weakness and react out of character? 

It seems quite unfair and hypocritical and yet a fairly common thing. It's no reason to become a narcissist, but sometimes it seems that life would be easier as one.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Inspiring medical care

Toronto is fortunate to count Dr. Mark Nowashinsky among its dedicated citizens. See this CBC piece on his efforts to care for senior patients in the city with house calls, as well as his advocacy for improved home-based health care services. Compelling, inspiring and another wake up to the need for more realistic and effective health care reform in Ontario and Canada. Especially as the ranks of older adults will continue to swell in the coming decades. 

This doctor with a camera is a true visionary. 

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Celebrating reading

The Toronto Public Library's annual Keep Toronto Reading kicks off April 1. There's been much behind-the-scenes work to organize this month-long literary celebration. This year it connects with Lit City - part of Toronto's 175th Anniversary, and highlights a number of notable authors, speakers and partners. 

Events feature Cynthia Dale, Shyam Selvadari, Katherine Govier, Anthony De Sa, Nino Ricci, Bonnie Stern, Kenneth Whyte, Joy Fielding, David Chariandy, Dan Hill, David Gilmour, Glen Downie and many more. Also included are well-known TPL'ers Ken Setterington and Tina Srebotnjak. It's definitely worth checking out if you're in the neighbourhood. 

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Happy International Women's Day

Thanks to Sandra for sharing - have always loved this tribute to women by Peter Gabriel and Youssou N'Dour.

Literacy, learning and the love of reading

Working at a library continues to provide many new insights for me. A major one is the role of literacy in all of our lives.

Admittedly, I have taken my own literacy for granted. Having been raised in a family and society that nurtured learning, I was lucky to have all the opportunities required to build a life based on choice. 

My affinity for books and reading has been a lifelong affair - one that I continue to encourage in my nieces and nephews on every occasion with books as gifts. I've always had a somewhat romantic dream of owning a book store and spending my days learning and sharing the inspiration that comes along with reading. 

Since beginning work at TPL, I've begun to see first hand just what a role we play in the lives of thousands of people. Our services beyond simply lending books are tremendous, ranging from early learning resources to adult literacy to ESL to computer training to youth volunteering groups to literary programs and beyond. From providing access to the basics to instilling the love of reading, libraries everywhere provide such an amazing foundation for society.

What has especially struck me are two things: 
  1. There are so many stats regarding how critical literacy is to pre-school age children as it will impact their success throughout school and into their adult lives
  2. There are so many inspirational stories of how literacy programs have changed peoples' lives - whether as children, adults and even as seniors
We recently featured several of these 'success' stories in a Foundation campaign including that of a woman who at age 60 went through our literacy program after putting her four children through university. Originally from Jamaica, she was then able to complete her Canadian citizenship exam and now feels liberated by her new found abilities and sense of pride.

Another young woman was part of our leading to reading program when in grade 2 and went on to volunteer at the library in high school before becoming a high school teacher herself.

Lawrence Hill, award-winning author of The Book of Negroes, was interviewed on CBC today and he mentioned that one of the reasons for the salvation of his main character was the early literacy instilled by her father. Stolen from her African village she endures slavery in the American south, amid other challenges, and is sustained by her sense of hope and her desire to read and understand and eventually return home. This struck me as he felt it important to convey this early-learned knowledge stayed with her and contributed to her resilience throughout her life. 

Librarians, staff and volunteers working with individuals every day are nurturing the need for knowledge and personal growth. The spirit of public service that exists throughout our system of 99 branches is quite stunning. While I've worked in other public organizations, I'm still learning about just how deep that passion runs here. As well as the level of the public's trust in this role we play providing free, democratic access to a wealth of information within safe and welcoming public spaces.

And then there's simply the joy of reading that is encouraged through book clubs, author readings and a host of programs that connect readers to books, writers and each other. Pretty inspiring stuff.

Photo: Daily Mail, UK

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Reflections on a friend

For the past few weeks, thoughts and memories of Debrah have been flooding through my consciousness. It's been a year since she passed away so prematurely. 

While I miss her, I'm still so inspired by all that I learned and experienced in the time I knew her. Thinking of you my friend.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Thanking Paul Martin

I was fortunate to attend the Toronto Public Library Foundation's Book Lover's Ball on February 12, which was great fun and a memorable occasion. The Ball is an annual event for library supporters including many of Toronto's philanthropic and political leaders as well as 56 of Canada's outstanding authors. Writers attending included Margaret Atwood, Alissa York, Joy Fielding, M.G. Vassanji, Paul Quarrington, Russell Smith, Vincent Lam, Wayson Choy, Debbie Travis, Ian Brown, Dan Hill, Jan Wong and Christie Blatchford, among many more.

My highlight, however, was realizing that former Prime Minister Paul Martin was there (having recently released his memoir Hell or High Water). I noticed him upon arriving at Toronto's renowned Royal York Hotel as he mingled with guests. 

At that moment I knew I must meet him. While dinner and speeches ensued, it was in the back of my mind that I would make my way to his table to say hello. 

That amid the flurry of mingling and events onstage - including a live auction and fashion show as well as a video tribute by Rick Mercer and wonderful MC duties performed by CBC's Diana Swain. It was all very exciting - especially to see so many celebrities as well as my TPL colleagues all dressed up for the black tie affair. (And yes I found myself in a 'gown' for the Ball which was a surprise - to me most of all! Sorry though no pics to be found... :)

Suddenly, Mr. Martin was approaching me. Even if I'd wanted to, I couldn't have avoided meeting him. What an opportunity! 

I realized he was saying his goodbyes and so I waited patiently for him to arrive at my spot. At which time I said hello and shook his hand. Then I said that I just wanted to thank him for all he's done for Canada. He said thanks very much and that I was "very kind." To which I added "I also want to thank you for coming tonight as we at the library really appreciate it." He smiled and held onto my hand a few seconds longer and then we said goodnight. 

It happened very quickly and then it was over. And yet it was such a meaningful encounter for me. I believe he's a man of integrity and grace and we would have been in a much better place if he was our PM now. At any rate, I also believe events happen for a reason and he has gone on to do some important work both in Canada and internationally. 

Funny enough I just saw an interview with him on TVO's The Agenda this evening which reminded me to tell you about this meeting. 

Oh yes and I also bumped into (literally) Stuart Mclean as I arrived, and had a quick and friendly exchange with Giller recipient Joseph Boyden - both which were almost as thrilling!

Hats off to the Toronto Public Library Foundation - especially Julie and Heather - for a wonderful and successful event. 

Photo: Toronto Public Library Foundation

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

When things go awry

Sometimes, despite my best efforts, things simply don't go my way. I often feel in these instances that I must be doing something wrong. Communicating without clarity. Being driven by ego or without a solid understanding of the big picture.

Other times, it seems that life is serving up some resistance to provide insight into where I am, from where I've come, and most importantly where I'm heading. To shake things up a bit and ensure I'm paying attention.

And then there are the times when a bumpy ride simply aids in reminding me of all that's to be appreciated in life.

Right now it feels as though all three may be going on at the very same time. Hmm.

Saturday, January 10, 2009


Thank you to everyone for your wonderful words and support. While it is really difficult not have have Maggy here with me, the memory and influence of her spirit remain strong.

Many of you know that Maggy was diagnosed with lung cancer more than a year ago. Thankfully, we enjoyed 14 more months together instead of the prognosis of two. During that time, we were able to get to know our new home, neighbourhood, friends and closer-by family.

Under the care of both a naturopathic veterinarian (Dr. Autumn Drouin) and a traditional chinese medicine vet (Dr. Rona Sherebrin), she did extremely well. She continued to enjoy her favourite activities including running and rolling in the park, long walks in all seasons, meeting friends, and eating - especially the best thing of all, peanut butter. With the aid of homeopathic supplements, home-cooked meals and acupuncture, her health remained good for most of that time.

My theory is that she wasn't influenced by medical terms or human fears. She continued to live each day in Buddhist-like fashion, embracing anything and everything that came her way. She also maintained a strong will to see, do and experience what she loved even when her physical body started to complain.

Mika's theory is that Maggy held on until she knew I was safely settled in Toronto. I believe that is also true. Especially when I remember speaking with Yasmin following Maggy's diagnosis, hoping I could keep her with me for at least one more year. I'm especially grateful that this wish was granted - to both of us.

Photo: Maggy at her favourite Toronto park, Spring 2008