Friday, July 30, 2010

"...but when defining Canada don't forget to mention that we have set sparks..."

The first time I heard Shane Koyczan I was rendered speechless...and that is hard to do.

I know that I am more than a little bit behind in writing about Shane Koyczan, one of the greatest Canadian talents of our time. Shane performed an extremely moving, funny and telling tribute to our country at the Opening Ceremonies of the 2010 Vancouver Games. His poem, "we are more" is a great inspiration to anyone who has ever worked abroad and had to defend their country to ignorant foreigners.

Thanks to a dear friend at work, my eyes were opened to this incredible artist, speaker, writer and poet and the voice of not only our nation, but also the voice of my generation. He speaks with truth, humour and bravery in a way that can move you to tears, to laughter or to action.

Please enjoy the text from "We Are More" below but I urge you to watch Shane recite his poetry via youtube or itunes to understand the full experience.

We Are More
by Shane Koyczan

When defining Canada
you might list some statistics
you might mention our tallest building
or biggest lake
you might shake a tree in the fall
and call a red leaf Canada
you might rattle off some celebrities
might mention Buffy Sainte-Marie
might even mention the fact that we've got a few
Barenaked Ladies
or that we made these crazy things
like zippers
electric cars
and washing machines
when defining Canada
it seems the world's anthem has been
"been there done that"
and maybe that's where we used to be at
it's true
we've done and we've been
we've seen
all the great themes get swallowed up by the machine
and turned into theme parks
but when defining Canada
don't forget to mention that we have set sparks
we are not just fishing stories
about the one that got away
we do more than sit around and say "eh?"
and yes
we are the home of the Rocket and the Great One
who inspired little number nines
and little number ninety-nines
but we're more than just hockey and fishing lines
off of the rocky coast of the Maritimes
and some say what defines us
is something as simple as please and thank you
and as for you're welcome
well we say that too
but we are more
than genteel or civilized
we are an idea in the process
of being realized
we are young
we are cultures strung together
then woven into a tapestry
and the design
is what makes us more
than the sum total of our history
we are an experiment going right for a change
with influences that range from a to zed
and yes we say zed instead of zee
we are the colours of Chinatown and the coffee of Little Italy
we dream so big that there are those
who would call our ambition an industry
because we are more than sticky maple syrup and clean snow
we do more than grow wheat and brew beer
we are vineyards of good year after good year
we reforest what we clear
because we believe in generations beyond our own
knowing now that so many of us
have grown past what used to be
we can stand here today
filled with all the hope people have
when they say things like "someday"
someday we'll be great
someday we'll be this
or that
someday we'll be at a point
when someday was yesterday
and all of our aspirations will pay the way
for those who on that day
look towards tomorrow
and still they say someday
we will reach the goals we set
and we will get interest on our inspiration
because we are more than a nation of whale watchers and lumberjacks
more than backpacks and hiking trails
we are hammers and nails building bridges
towards those who are willing to walk across
we are the lost-and-found for all those who might find themselves at a loss
we are not the see-through gloss or glamour
of those who clamour for the failings of others
we are fathers brothers sisters and mothers
uncles and nephews aunts and nieces
we are cousins
we are found missing puzzle pieces
we are families with room at the table for newcomers
we are more than summers and winters
more than on and off seasons
we are the reasons people have for wanting to stay
because we are more than what we say or do
we live to get past what we go through
and learn who we are
we are students
students who study the studiousness of studying
so we know what as well as why
we don't have all the answers
but we try
and the effort is what makes us more
we don't all know what it is in life we're looking for
so keep exploring
go far and wide
or go inside but go deep
go deep
as if James Cameron was filming a sequel to The Abyss
and suddenly there was this location scout
trying to figure some way out
to get inside you
because you've been through hell and high water
and you went deep
keep exploring
because we are more
than a laundry list of things to do and places to see
we are more than hills to ski
or countryside ponds to skate
we are the abandoned hesitation of all those who can't wait
we are first-rate greasy-spoon diners and healthy-living cafes
a country that is all the ways you choose to live
a land that can give you variety
because we are choices
we are millions upon millions of voices shouting
"keep exploring... we are more"
we are the surprise the world has in store for you
it's true
Canada is the "what" in "what's new?"
so don't say "been there done that"
unless you've sat on the sidewalk
while chalk artists draw still lifes
on the concrete of a kid in the street
beatboxing to Neil Young for fun
don't say you've been there done that
unless you've been here doing it
let this country be your first-aid kit
for all the times you get sick of the same old same old
let us be the story told to your friends
and when that story ends
leave chapters for the next time you'll come back
next time pack for all the things
you didn't pack for the first time
but don't let your luggage define your travels
each life unravels differently
and experiences are what make up
the colours of our tapestry
we are the true north
strong and free
and what's more
is that we didn't just say it
we made it be.

"Of all mindfulness meditations, that on death is supreme."

The next time you have to do an unpleasant task, consider the option of not being able to do it because you are no longer living. Taking out the garbage. Doing your taxes. Walking the dog. I suppose this way of thinking could be beneficial for a while but eventually would it lose its impact? Would you become complacent with the concept of death? I think that the consideration of death is an important, although admittedly morbid, practice. I wouldn't say that it is something that I think about often but every now and then a thought pops into my head...."someday I will cease to be..."

People have very different ways of dealing with the death while trying to live their lives - some people become obsessed while others ignore the inevitable completely. In "The Happiness Project" (I know, I know - enough with that book already!) the author examines her mortality by reading "memoirs of a catastrophe"; books based on the pain and suffering that others have survived. By doing so, the author found herself with a heightened appreciation for her "ordinary existence" as well as a "new and intense appreciation for her obedient body."
I find a similar type of peace in hearing stories of others lucky am I to be a free, healthy, intelligent woman living in this era, this country, this city? As I said, I am not one to dwell on the negative or obsess over death, but I do think it is important to put ourselves in situations that remind us of how lucky we are to be alive.

"Remember, friends, as you pass by,
As you are now so once was I.
As I am now, so you must be.
Prepare yourself to follow me."

Friday, July 23, 2010

"Waste no more time arguing about what a good man should be. Be one.”

I have always worried that the contributions that I make to the world may not be enough.
I didn't donate enough money...
enough thought...
enough effort...
enough time...

Is the job that I am doing making a positive contribution to the universe? How am I helping the victims of an earthquake halfway around the world by planning parties in Canada?

What is the legacy that I am leaving?
When I was in therapy I would voice these concerns to my therapist, her response was that I was comparing apples to is impossible fix all of the problems of the world. You can only do what you can do. Last night I found a similar message in "The Happiness Project".

"We expect heroic virtue to look flashy -- moving to Uganda to work with Aids victims, perhaps, or documenting the plight of the homeless people in Detroit. (Saint) Therese's examples shows that ordinary life, too, is full of opportunities for worth, if inconspicuous, virtue."

Never underestimate the contribution that you are making to the universe. And don't let anyone else devalue your contribution. Whether you are doing something small like helping to plan a fundraiser, donating $10 to a charity or volunteering or something big like dedicating your life to a not-for-profit organization or working in a research lab on the cure for cancer...every little bit helps.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

"It is more fitting for a man to laugh at life than to lament over it."

So, I guess Toronto isn't as cold and heartless as everyone thought.
No, Toronto has feelings and they can be hurt just like any other cities feelings can be hurt.
Wait a second...can a cities feelings be hurt? That doesn't seem right...

The Niagara Parks commission recently launched an ad campaign that was ever so slightly disparaging to Toronto and the Torontonian way of life.

How dare anyone insult Toronto with it's diverse neighbourhoods, cultural festivals, delicious restaurants, burning police cards, stunning smog-filled vistas and insane traffic jams.

Oh...wait...some of those weren't good, were they?

Now before you jump down my throat I want to make something VERY clear...I LOVE Toronto. My best friend lives just off the Danforth and I have another close friend lives who lives off Queen West. Toronto is amazing. There is great shopping, fabulous concerts, inspiring theatre, great restaurants, stunning museums and delightful neighbourhoods. However, I think it is quite narrow minded and humourless of Torontonians to be so offended by an ad campaign which pokes fun at some of the less glamours aspects of city life.

An article by John Semley of the Torontoist claims that the campaign "prove(s) that Niagara can’t sell itself without digging on some cartoonish idea of Toronto. " Really? You can't just look at yourself and see a tiny bit of truth in these advertisements? Sure, not ever alleyway in Toronto is filled graffiti and vandalism but not every street you take in Niagara leads to a winery...only, like, 75% of them do.

Semley also states that "there’s more to Niagara than sipping wine amidst a bunch of trees, riding rented mountain bikes through largely unexciting trails, and trying to snap a family photo in front of the Falls while being hassled by a human being in an anthropomorphized Hershey’s Kiss costume", pretending as if Tourism Toronto does not do the exact same thing in their advertising campaigns by capitalizing on recognizable attractions such as the CN Tower, the Rogers Center and the Toronto Harbourfront. Of course the NIAGARA PARKS COMMISSION is focusing on specific, iconic locations....THOSE ARE THE LOCATIONS THAT THEY REPRESENT!

However, having said that, I do not appreciate being painted with the same brush as Niagara Falls. I work in stunning winery in Niagara on the Lake which is committed to premium wine making, responsible stewardship of the land and innovative design-not comparable with Clifton Hill. Much of our clientele (be it tours, licensees, corporate events or wine sales) originate in Toronto so why would it benefit us to "hurt the feelings" of those that are fans of our wines?

However, it's not all bad news, Marcus Gee of the Globe and Mail wrote "it would be nice if we could grow out of all that adolescent angst. Confident cities don’t throw a fit when some regional tourism group dares to imply they are less than perfect. Confident cities know in their bones that the strains of city life are more than outweighed by the rich variety of experience that big cities offer. As one Web commentator put it, “get over yourself,” Toronto."

Well said, sir.

I just think that the Torontonians offended by this campaign need to sit back and relax.
Maybe they're stressed by all the crime and graffiti...come to Niagara and have a glass of wine.
It's on us.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

"Times fun when you're having flies.” -Kermit the Frog

Speaking of embracing our childishness...

“Being happy doesn't mean that everything is perfect. It means that you've decided to look beyond the imperfections.”

So, right now I am reading a fabulous book called "The Happiness Project". The book is based on the journey of a woman who spent a year "test-driving the wisdom of the ages, the current scientific studies, and the lessons from popular culture about how to be happy--from Aristotle to Martin Seligman to Thoreau to Oprah."

Basically, the author gave herself large goals each month for instance, one month was "Aim Higher" which was her goal related to her improving her career. Within that goal, she then breaks it down into more specific, measurable actions, i.e. launch a blog. (

Currently I am about half way through the book so I can't give you a full review however, last night, in the chapter dedicated to "being serious about play" I came across an inspirational quote and concept that THRILLED ME!
In the chapter that discussed "being serious about play" the authors tasks included "finding more fun, taking time to be silly, going off the path and starting a collection." Within the "finding more fun" task the author very seriously considered the question "What is fun?" What is fun for me is not necessarily fun for my partner, family or friends, right? After some intense soul-searching, the author decided that what she most enjoyed, what made her happiest and what she considered to be 'fun' was reading "KidLit". Therefore, in a stroke of absolute brilliance the author decided to start a "KidLit" book club.

I am often embarrassed by my love of more childish things (i.e. Harry Potter, Disney etc.) and I spend a lot of time justifying my appreciation for them. When the author started her "KidLit" book club, she sent out an e-mail containing this quote;

"When I was ten, I read fairy tales in secret and would have been ashamed
if I had been found doing so. Now that I am fifty, I read them openly.
When I became a man I put away childish things, including the fear of
childishness and the desire to be very grown up."

-C.S. Lewis


Many people spend their childhood wanting to be a "grown up", wanting freedom and respect.
I was never one of those children.
I never hid my love for "play" and my "passion for the pretend" why start now?

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

“Why is it that hate comes out so easily, It gets trapped inside.”

I think I may use the word "hate" too often.
It's convienent, the word has all the power of an expletive without all the drama.
I suppose I don't really understand the power behind the sentiment.
I use it to express frustration, anger, hurt and disappointment.
"I hate you."
"I hate her."
"I hate him."
"I hate this."
"Hate: the emotion of intense dislike; a feeling of dislike so strong that it demands action."
When I use the word I certainly do not intend for it to be taken in the true meaning.
For instance:
I hate that my office doesn't have air conditioning.
I hate that my car uses so much gas.
I hate that my internet is so slow.
I hate that I don't have cable.
I hate Miley Cirus.
I hate traffic.
I hate...
Tonight when I used the word "hate" in reference to a person I really don't care for.
In response,the person I was speaking with said "I don't hate anyone..."
I was shocked.
"You don't hate anyone? What about Hitler?"
His extremely insightful (albeit, out of character) response was:
"Hate is what made Hitler who he was."
I wish I could say something warm and fuzzy here like:
"let's take all of the hate in the world and replace it with love"
but that's extremely unrealistic.
However, perhaps the first step is restricting the use of the word "hate" in our vocabulary.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

“Memory is a way of holding on to the things you love, the things you are, the things you never want to lose.”

Today was a difficult day.
Not for myself but for someone close to me.
Therefore, in order to restore my good mood, I have decided to pay tribute to Miss Gala Darling (my inspiration for starting a blog), by writing a "TILT" blog or "Things I love Tuesday".

Things I Loved this Tuesday, July 13th include:

  • Wearing my big girl shoes all day with relatively no pain. Yeah for me!
  • Being complimented on my ensemble numerous times in one day. (I was told that I looked "put together".)
  • Afternoon ice cream breaks.
  • Delightful and loving text messages from my best friend while she is en route to Nova Scotia.
  • Feeling more confident about my dating life. (One down, hundreds to go!)
  • Finding the perfect (Walt Disney) quote for a card.
  • People that are SO EXCITED about figuring out that they know my one of parents from high school.
  • Making a covert trip to the garbage chute in order to dispose of something that I know does not belong in the garbage chute (cue the "Mission Impossible" theme music).
  • Having a cute boy hold the door for me as I enter my apartment.
  • My apartment...just in general.
  • Turning on my digital frame and seeing my loved ones (past and present) smile up at me.
  • The woman at the grocery store who fawned over my reusable bag. She LOVED it!
  • Watching my bunny eat bananas. You will never see an animal enjoy something as much as he enjoys bananas.
  • This line from "National Treasure" "Do you know what the preservation room is for?" "Delicious jams and jellies?"
  • Waking up to this text message from my friend Tyler "Pretty sure Michael Eisner is waiting for the same plane as me." Uh, what? AMAZING!
  • My dear Norweigan friend who translated the words to "O Canada" into Norweigan and posted it on my Facebook wall. He also once told me that I was "a cupcake with pink icing and sprinkles."

What made you happy today?

Thursday, July 8, 2010

"Friendship must never be buried under the weight of misunderstanding."

When I was in high school I got to see my best friend every single day. It was great. We knew every single nuance of the days, weeks, months ahead.

When I lived in Florida I got to see my best friend everyday. It was great. I knew where she was and who she was with morning, noon and night.

Now I live on my own and I don't get to see my best friend(s) everyday. It sucks. I don't know what they're thinking, what they're doing or who they're with.

Friendship is hard sometimes.
Now, effort has to be made....when it comes to this you have two options.

1) Assume the best, give them the benefit of the doubt, look at the history of your friendship and see that you were and are friends for a reason. Trust.
2) Assume the worst, project your insecurities onto their response, ignore the history of your friendship and close yourself off. Mistrust.

If you follow Option 1, your friendship may not always be perfect but any misunderstandings or disappointments will be dealt with from a place of love, acceptance and honesty.

If you follow Option 2, your friendship will definitely not be perfect, things will be blown out of proportion and mountains will be made out of mole hills.

In this day and age contact is often diluted or misinterpreted by Facebook, text messages, e-mails, MSN and BBM. You get a message that says one thing and you believe another. Why? put a spin on it based on your feelings, your memories and your preconceived notions. I am at fault for this as much as anyone. I am aware.

But the important question do you stop it? The internet was designed as a tool for sharing information...but how can the nuances of genuine emotion be communicated by a machine? I suppose it really depends on you...not only do you need to be extra clear in the message you are sending but you also need to be open to receiving a message without bias or pre-judgement. Once again, I am at fault for this as much as anyone. I am aware.

I feel as if I'm missing the mark. I have so many ideas, concepts, theories and feelings swirling around in my brain and I cannot grab them quickly enough and force them out the tips of my fingers.
In the end...what I really want to say is...
I am extremely grateful for the very few friends that I have whom can trust completely.
I trust them not to hurt me (intentionally).
I trust them to give me the benefit of the doubt.
I trust them to stick up for me.
I trust them to consider the history of our friendship before throwing me under the bus.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

“I feel that there is nothing more truly artistic than to love people”

I know, I've been gone for quite a long time.

However, the other day my "boss" (I use quotation marks because she is much more than just a "boss") forwarded me a quote that has been on my mind ever since and has inspired me to write once again.
Hooray for the 10 people who periodically read my blog!
"There are two ways of being creative.
One can sing and dance.
Or one can create an environment in which singers and dancers flourish."

For someone who has spent the past seven years of their life going to school and trying to figure out where they fit into this big, scary world...clarification like this is priceless.
Clarification of my purpose.
Clarification of my career path.
Clarification of my place in the world.
And not just clarification...but inspiration.
A motto to live by.

As a person who identifies strongly with both the left and right side of the brain, my challenge has always been how to find something-a job, a calling, a profession, a career, a goal-to do that contributes to the greater good. How do I find a job that I enjoy, a job that challenges me and a job that makes a difference and leaves a legacy?

I started my educational journey thinking I would be a teacher, specifically a drama teacher. I would sculpt the minds of young children and inspire them to be better, kinder human beings. However, things didn't turn out that way...but I still wish to inspire people and now I know that I can do that in a number of ways, both in my personal and professional life.

I am extremely happy in my new job. It is the perfect balance of frivolity and conscientiousness. I may only stay with the company for a year...I may stay with them for 10 years, but at least I will know that I started my career in a place that is making a contribution to the coming generations.

Go forth, friends.
Learn. Inspire. Conquer.