Five hundred and forty-two

Gratitude

Recently I’ve been thinking a lot about gratitude.  As I get older, grow and change, I realize more and more the importance of being thankful for things that I have.  At the end of my yoga class today (I’m still doing yoga, left over from vegan month) I listed in my head some of the things I am grateful for: my family; friends; the fact that I have a job when so many others don’t; that I live in Canada where I can speak my mind and have many social services if I need to use them; my health; my brain; my ability to write; my working body (I had just finished yoga, so my body was on my mind).  I have been accused of being a hippy from time to time, and doing yoga while thinking of the things I’m thankful for is probably one of the reasons why.  I don’t think you have to be a hippy to feel gratitude, though.  Gratitude is a huge part of many religions and belief systems.  Thinking about those things that we are happy about make it easier to deal with the things we aren’t happy about and accept the things we can’t change.  I watched a video today by actress Amy Poehler answering a question about how to deal when we feel down about our bodies.  She gives some of the best advice I’ve ever heard, saying to be grateful for the things you love about your body and concentrate on those.  Here’s the video:

As I said earlier, there are many big things I’m grateful for, but there are also lots of little things.  I know many people have written books about the little things, but I thought for today’s weekly post I would share a few of the little things I’m thankful for.  I don’t think there can ever be too much gratitude in the world!

The few of the little things I’m thankful for:

  • When a friend calls me up out of the blue at the exact time when I really needed a friend
  • The ray of sunshine that comes in through my bedroom window in the mornings
  • A cuddle from my always warm boyfriend when I’m always cold
  • The moment when, although I will always be their “little girl”, I knew my parents thought of me as an adult
  • The smell of fresh air when I leave the city
  • A deep and unexpected conversation with a stranger that opens my mind to different possibilities
  • The feeling when I know I am in the exact right place I should be
  • Farmers’ markets
  • Riding my bike in the warm rain
  • The firemen who came to check up on a water leak on an electrical panel and flood at my work (this really did happen on Monday night)
  • The feeling of getting to the end of a book, not wanting it to be over, then finding out it is part of a trilogy
  • The opportunity to follow my dreams
  • My new age and creative friends who won’t let my logical brain completely take over and make decisions
  • My logical brain for not letting the creative side take over either
  • My brother for calling me yesterday when he was at the grocery to see if I needed anything, then buying me grapes just when I had a craving for them
  • The ability to get lost in a city, explore, then find my way again
  • The taste of a perfectly ripe tomato
  • Dark chocolate right before a certain time of the month (I’m sure this is on most women’s lists) – actually any time
  • Sitting on a patio, enjoying the last of the summer (And this is where I’m off to now.  I hope everyone has a fabulous day!)
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Three hundred and thirty five

I was flipping through the Toronto Life January 2012 edition, in their “Where to get good stuff cheap” section when I came across this sentence: “On sale for $495, it’s as cheap as it is versatile”.  And they are writing about a DRESS!  A cotton, plaid, shirt-dress – nothing fancy.  The more I look through the section, the more I see why Torontonians are constantly lured into spending money.  Nothing in the “good stuff cheap” section is all that cheap.  I guess they’re trying to go for how to get expensive items at a discount.  But I’m not sure “cheap” is the right word for a $495 cotton dress!

Prices stand out to me since living on $4 a day.  I never really noticed how expensive things are.  It’s hard to buy milk and cereal for under $4 (or almond milk, as I’m still on the no dairy thing from vegan month).  And I’m definitely not buying any new clothes or anything that isn’t completely mandatory.  It’s interesting how not having those “rewards” (like buying a new sweater, or treating yourself to a chocolate bar) makes you change your reward system and value different things.

Parkdale

We (as in you, the readers, and I) were talking about really understanding what it’s like to live in poverty in Canada, and how I need to hit the streets to see what life at the poverty line is really like.  I only need to walk outside my door to see this.  I live in Parkdale – a mix of low-income housing, lots of new immigrants, artists, and gentrified areas.  It is a diverse section of Toronto with lots of character.  There are “hipster” bars beside run-down cafes and food banks.  Walking up Jameson Avenue, lined with tall, low-rent apartment buildings, you run into all sorts of different people.  There are hard-working newly immigrated families.  Students goof around, old men mumble to themselves, and drug addicts get high or come down.  Teenage girls giggle and their mothers or fathers push carts of groceries home from the discount store.  There are people of all colours.  This is a working class neighbourhood, with some poorer than others.

In the Parkdale 2011 Report Card on Health, Housing and Food Security (which Parkdale failed most categories),  The Parkdale Community Health Centre explains: “57% of our clients report income under $20,000 and more than 30% of our clients live with mental health issues.”  I love Parkdale, but I watch some of the people here struggle – sometimes dealing with mental illness, sometimes dealing with money at the bank, sometimes just dealing with life at the coffee shop.  I wonder what they are thinking as they stare out of the window over their coffee for hours.

Here are some residents of Parkdale who explain what poverty is to them (from The Toronto Star):

Three hundred and thirty-four

Motivation

There have been times this year when I’ve really not wanted to write.  When I’d rather just relax and do something completely mindless.  When I procrastinate writing until 10pm, even though I have had the blank page in front of me all evening since I arrived home from work.  When the energy just doesn’t seem to exist to do something productive.  When a glass of wine and sleep seem like the only course of action.

These times are intensified when I don’t have plans that need to be accomplished that day.  I always get more done when I have more to do.  It’s motivation and deadline-driven.  When I have to be out of the house at a certain time, I will get everything I want to get done accomplished before I leave.

But what happens when I feel overwhelmed because I have no money to spend, no place to be and stressed because the “to be paid” stack of bills is getting bigger and bigger?  Combine that with a lack of exercise, and bad processed fast food common in low-income households, it can create a downward spiral difficult to get out of.

Today is a “I don’t want to write” day for me.  Although I do not live in extreme poverty, I can see the beginnings of the downward spiral.  My “I don’t want to do anything” days are becoming more frequent, and that scares me.  All caused by stress and money.

A little motivation is sometimes what I need to kick start my life and pull me out of my funk.  So here’s a video from One.org of how anti-poverty activists are really making a difference:

And check out their Living Proof website where they show the good news about what is happening with extreme poverty around the world.  Here’s an inspiring video of a woman who is now growing her own crops to provide for herself:

It’s always great to hear some good news.  And it’s definitely helping my mood, putting things into perspective, and motivating me to keep going.

Two hundred and ninety-one

Some fun with Friends…

After all these heavy, emotional posts the last few days, it’s time for something a little light and fluffy.  Here is Joey and Phoebe from Friends arguing over whether there is such thing as a selfless good deed:

And a throw back to ‘date month’:

I read today on the Globe and Mail site, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines is introducing “Meet & Seat,” a service that lets passengers pick their seatmates in advance based on shared interests stated on their Facebook and LinkedIn profiles.  Other airlines are expressing interest in this type of seat matching as well.  When I’m traveling, I’d personally rather keep to myself, sleep, read, watch movies and listen to music.  And I’m probably wearing my sweat pants.  There is no way I want to have someone sitting beside me trying to pick me up, or talk to me the whole time!  For short flights this could be ok, but can you imagine being ‘matched’ with someone you are incompatible with and stuck beside them for ten hours?  My nightmare!  It’s like a never-ending bad date.

My good deed for the day

I know I just wrote yesterday about not making this whole month about giving money, but today it’s going to be.  I worked all day until 8 pm tonight and I am ready-for-bed exhausted.  This is an extremely good cause that I wanted to donate to, as well.

It is getting damn cold out there in Southern Ontario.  Riding my bike home from work tonight made me shiver and it isn’t even snowing yet!  As our winters get colder, it is harder and harder for those people who don’t have a home or somewhere warm to stay to survive.  I get cold in my heated apartment in the dead of winter, so I can’t imagine what it’s like out on the streets.  Project Winter Survival puts together and distributes winter survival kits to front line agencies such as the Salvation Army, Red Cross, local shelters and drop-in centres across the GTA.  The kits provide warmth and essential supplies to those in need.  You can either donate supplies to them, or money to help buy those supplies they can’t get donated.

Two hundred and eighty

How far a dollar can go…

I loved this video.  It made me cry.  A little sentimental, but such a beautiful idea.  One dollar can go so far.

I’ve decided that every day this month, starting today, I’m going to donate at least one dollar to a charity or a person in need.  I am comfortable and make enough money to be able to afford to live in a nice place in Toronto, eat healthy food, treat myself to a meal out or a play or movie.  I am grateful to have a job and be able to afford the necessities in life.  Not everyone can.  I want to share what I have.  I am inspired by all the stories I’ve been reading about good deeds and by this video.  Even a few dollars counts.

I started today by both signing the petition on the Habitat for Humanity website in support of affordable housing in Canada, and donating $25.  Just by signing, MCAP Canada (a mortgage company) will donate $5 to Habitat for Humanity Canada, and they will match whatever more you donate.  So my $25 will double to $50 (plus the $5) going to build affordable housing for Canadians.  With 1.3 million families in Canada – 4 million Canadians –  not having a safe, decent and affordable place to live, it is in need.  And I know it’s not much, but every dollar counts.