In Toronto …
• One out of four children live in poverty
• In some areas, barely one person in 30 lives below Statistics Canada’s poverty line (the Low Income Measure), while in others, two out of every three residents live in poverty
• More than 20 languages comprise the top languages spoken in each Toronto neighbourhood
• There are more seniors than children
• People living alone make up the most common household type
Learn more about these and other trends and issues affecting the quality of life in Toronto in the Toronto Foundation’s Vital Signs Report.
Carry out a random act of kindness, with no expectation of reward, safe in the knowledge that one day someone might do the same for you.” – Princess Diana
It is hard to believe twenty years have passed since the news of Princess Diana’s death. I grew up with Princess Diana from the moment the press found out she was dating Prince Charles. I still remember waking in the wee hours of July 29, 1981 on summer holidays in Sudbury to watch the Royal Wedding and essentially fell in love with everything British and Royal. How incredibly lucky I would be that I was in Ottawa on a school trip when Charles and Diana would make their first trip to Canada in 1983. I waited on a hot and humid June day with a few public school friends and likely a teacher given our young age to just get a glimpse of Princess Diana from her car as it entered the Rideau Hall Gates. It was a dream come true. I followed Princess Diana in the newspapers, magazines and television. I loved her style and elegance but more importantly I was inspired about how she made it her mission to help others, advocate and shed light to causes that were not considered glamorous. Diana had this warmth which was evident in her interactions with others.
In June 1997, my university friend and a fellow Princess Diana fan and I planned a trip to London. The trip was originally planned for around the time of Princess Diana’s death but at some point we decided to moved it up to June. What a different trip it would have been from the one we experienced. I was up north in cottage country when I heard the news of Princess Diana with one fuzzy television channel and a radio. As the days passed, I would watch the coverage from London and once again woke in the wee hours of September 6, 1997 to say goodbye to the People’s Princess.
Since the world lost Princess Diana, I have been lucky to see her dresses twice in Toronto, travel to her resting place Althorp with my mother on her birthday in 2002 and then onto Paris to where she lost her life that fateful day. I hope to travel to London to see the Diana: Her Fashion Story at Kensington Palace before it closes in early 2018.
In a world that celebrates and worships all things celebrity, it is Princess Diana who continues to inspire me. Princess Diana embodied love, kindness, compassion and inclusion. I aim to embrace these values as I go about my own travels on this earth. I love seeing her boys William and Harry along with Catherine carry on her legacy and continue to champion causes that were important to her while also charting their own course of what is important to them. Diana would be so incredibly proud. As a life-long volunteer, they all inspire me to continue to contribute to my own community and helping others.
“I think the biggest disease the world suffers from in this day and age is the disease of people feeling unloved. I know that I can give love for a minute, for half an hour, for a day, for a month, but I can give. I am very happy to do that, I want to do that.” – Princess Diana
Diana – forever remembered and missed. 💗
Happy Birthday Oprah!
Seeing Oprah live was always on my bucket list and thankfully I have been lucky enough to see her twice. Both amazing inspiring experiences after watching her on TV for many years as well as reading her magazine since inception. I always enjoy reading Oprah’s “What I Know For Sure” page ~ the final one in her monthly magazine. On one summer holiday, I rediscovered Oprah’s Top 20 (http://www.oprah.com/spirit/The-Top-20-Things-Oprah-Knows-for-Sure) and that had me pondering what I know for sure so I wrote my own list. I wrote this in September 2010 but it still rings true today. Enjoy!
- That life is not always fair and does not always turn out as you dreamt and imagined but it can still be special.
- Do things for others without the expectation of getting something in return.
- Sometimes people in your life need time to themselves to deal with things on their own and may be out of touch but that does not diminish your friendship and relationship with them. Real connections always just have that special chemistry that picks up just where you last left off no matter how many weeks, months or years go by.
- Cherish those special people in your life because you never know when they might not be with you anymore.
- There is no greater feeling than when one knows who they are, what they value and what their purpose in the world is and are comfortable living their life by their own compass and not the one set by others or society.
- In the modern society we live in, everyone seems to want everything now. It is okay to be someone that takes their time before rushing into things – life, careers, new adventures, relationships or children. You must live your own life by your own timetable. Everyone’s journey is different and for some people that just takes longer.
- Memories are so much more important than material things. I so treasure and cherish all the memories I have and they sustain me when times are challenging.
- A smile, a welcoming gesture, laughter, unexpected telephone call, note or email or a simple hug can help ease the stresses of the day and offer hope to those who need it.
- Spending time with my family and friends, laughter, food, wine and being in nature – these simple things make me happy!
- God never gives you anything you can’t handle.
- Knowledge is power! I am thankful that I love to learn.
- You always need to have something to look forward to. This is where being organized and a planner comes in useful because I am always making plans to enjoy!
- That “me” days are very important – it is okay to want time by yourself or just be a bit lazy – do not feel guilty! When your body needs rest, give it the rest it needs – your health is most important and we all need balance in our lives. When one gives all the time, they need to take care of themselves too – take time to re-store your body and spirit and nourish your soul.
- Listen to your gut, heart and intuition – too many times we try to use our head to rationalize things and I definitely do this. It is hard when one thinks too much but truly if you listen to these three things you will always know the answer.
- That people can be cruel and mean to others but it is really just them trying to cover up their own insecurities. One does not need this negative energy in their lives. Surround yourself with positive people and stop spending time worrying what people think. We should be busy living the life we want because life is short!
- That no matter if you are size 4, 8, 12, 16, 20 ~ your true friends will love you just the way you are.
- Manners, being classy and formal communication never go out of style.
- Being a member of Junior League has inspired, empowered and made me a better person. I know the experiences I have had will enable to me to make an impact throughout my life to my family, friends, my community and anything I choose to involve myself in.
- Emotional intelligence, the ability to build relationships and get along is so important. One can teach a bright person to do anything but attitude and passion come from within.
- On a flight to Vancouver in 1996 just after my great grandmother died, I sat next to an older gentleman and he gave me this insight to life – many people view life as three parts – school, work, retirement where we pursue pleasurable activities. Many go through life like this but to truly enjoy life fully we should have all elements throughout all of our lives. How little did I know at the time that this would prove to be one of the best pieces of advice I ever got. It inspired my blog post New Beginnings ~ https://finnspirit.wordpress.com/2015/09/07/new-beginnings/.
- My dad’s travel rule “If you want to bring it, you had to be able to carry it” made sure I was able to do things for myself and be independent.
- Only YOU determine your attitude, thoughts and actions. I want to live with joie de vivre!
What do you know for sure?
September and back to school has always felt like a time of new beginnings to me. While I am no longer in school, I enjoy the rituals, excitement and the sense of new this time of year brings. September is also a time of reflection.
In September 1996, my great grandmother who was like a second mother to me passed away. While expected, the loss of a loved one is never easy but I decided to move forward with a previously planned holiday to Vancouver to visit a dear university friend. Always one to make friends on my travels, I enjoyed a lovely conversation with my seatmate who was a successful businessman in the latter stages of his career. During our journey, he shared this insight about life with me.
“Many view life as three parts – school, work and retirement – where we finally get to pursue and enjoy pleasurable pursuits. Many go through life like this but to truly enjoy life fully we should incorporate all elements throughout our lives.”
I truly believe people come into our lives for a reason and I was so thankful to receive this message just two years into my professional life and after the loss of my great grandmother. To this day, this is one of the best pieces of advice I have ever received and has helped me weather the ups and downs and challenges that life has brought.
I definitely took this message to heart and continue to put it into practice by always learning, by volunteering and giving back to my community and ensuring that I do things I enjoy. Good health and retirement are not a given. We must not wait to do the things we want to do until later in life. We all need to live fully now.
As we embark on a change of season, are there aspects in your life that feel out of balance? Is there something you always wanted to learn even just for fun? Are you waiting until retirement to travel? Are you dreading going to work every day? Do you want to make an impact in your community? Are you having challenges with your health? Are you consistently missing out on spending time making memories with your family and friends? If you answered yes to any of these questions, I encourage you to reflect on what is important to you and consider implementing this simple yet valuable advice by including something that may be missing into your life now. Many wait until January 1st to make resolutions or changes in their lives or keep putting them off all together. Why wait when you can embark on change today. Remember it is never too late for a new beginning.
Prior to Hurricane Katrina, I always had a fascination with hurricanes. Many evenings would be spent watching the approaching storms on various news outlets. Waiting for Hurricane Katrina was no different but as we know now that storm was different. The unbelievable destruction and loss was unimaginable to me. I had never been to New Orleans nor did I have any ties to the city but always knew it was a place I wanted to visit. I wondered if that would ever happen after Katrina. Little did I know that my visit would come in the form of a volunteer opportunity a year later.
On a summer afternoon in 2006, an email popped into my inbox about the Junior League of New Orleans looking for volunteers for their ReBuilding Together weekend. Almost a soon as I read it, I forwarded it off to a group of friends. Before long we had seven Junior League of Toronto members signed up to travel to New Orleans on our Canadian Thanksgiving weekend to help rebuild. The Junior League of New Orleans made the ask and the call was answered in the form of 600 members from three countries. Truly amazing.
We had no idea what to expect when we arrived in New Orleans but quickly learned the impact of Katrina on a bus tour of the city and it was overwhelming. Street after street had been destroyed. Some yards only had steps left that homeowners once climbed to get into their homes. We saw houses that were no longer habitable, no birds, no bushes, no flowers, dead trees everywhere. The X’s that marked homes searched still remained. Katrina and the flooding were indiscriminate and everyone had a story to tell. I cannot tell you how many times people thanked us for coming to volunteer.
The volunteers were given opportunities of where they might like to help. As a lifelong foodie, I felt a calling to help at Willie Mae’s Scotch House Restaurant located in the Treme area of New Orleans after seeing this short film http://youtu.be/3uVUNpkvAiA. Miss Willie Mae Seaton had been making the best fried chicken in New Orleans for over 50 years and had received a James Beard Award in 2005 for it. Many well known Southern chefs including John Besh and John Currence worked endlessly to get her back up and running. In the sweltering heat, we scraped, sanded and helped paint to get her back into her kitchen cooking her secret recipe where she belonged. I had never been that dusty and dirty in my life but loved every minute of it. I had the amazing opportunity to meet Miss Willie Mae and was touched by her incredibly warm spirit, smile, her stories and that southern charm – “all you pretty, pretty girls”. She shared some of the reasons for her success – be nice to everyone and to always be real. Wise words from a beautiful woman who I was lucky to meet and help. While her great granddaughter Kerry is now at the helm, I was happy to be able to return two years later to see the restaurant completed and got to enjoy the fried chicken and other southern treats. They were worth the wait. Continue reading “Remembering Katrina”