Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Purging & packing

Have I mentioned how much I HATE PACKING!?

Don't get me wrong, I'm really excited about moving into my own little house but bloody hell... Just when I think I've finally whittled my belongings down to a sleek, manageable amount I look at the growing pile of boxes and struggle to understand how 10 of those are just books! And, I've weeded my collection TWICE this past year! [sigh]

I consider the pile of boxes that I've packed so far and wonder how I would feel if all of them suddenly disappeared or exploded or were mysteriously lost during the move... Aside from photo albums and some really lovely, unique things that I've bought over the years or that I inherited from my mom & dad, I honestly think it might be a refreshing (albeit drastic) way to strip my possessions down to basics. Very Zen. Very William Morris.

Back to reality: the purging and packing continues. Anyone who knows me knows that I hate clutter and the mindless consumerism that drives our lust for pretty, new toys (even when I like said pretty, new toys - hey I'm not made of sackcloth & ashes!). I've actually managed to throw out very little in recent years. I donate clothing and housewares to organizations such as Goodwill, Value Village, and other local "resale" organizations - many of which are run by charitable organizations. (Besides, vintage/retro clothing and home decor have become so trendy in recent years it's almost ridiculous!)

Most of my donated books that aren't passed along to friends, go to the local public library where they are added to the collection or sold at the hugely popular annual fund-raising book sale. Now that I'm moving I've been selling some furniture via a "digital yard sale" (i.e. an e-mail to everyone I know in the local area code!) as well as on kijiji. Other sites such as Craig's List and FreeCycle offer similar services.

When I move into my house and maybe decide to do a bit of renovating/re-decorating, I'll probably donate salvageable materials to Habitat for Humanity's ReStore outlet. It keeps perfectly good materials out of landfill, reduces the demand for natural resources, and provides employment and funds for that organization's valuable international work.

Don't just recycle - re-think, refuse, reduce, reuse, repair, and then recycle what ever's left over. (OK, time to get off my little soapbox and get back to packing!)

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Goodnight Tigger

Many of you may have heard about Randy Pausch, a professor at Carnegie Mellon University who became famous for his "Last Lecture" entitled Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams.

Pausch was diagnosed in September 2007 with terminal pancreatic cancer. Shortly thereafter, he was invited to give a "Last Lecture" at Carnegie Mellon. The school has a long tradition of such lectures where professors are invited to give a theoretical last lecture about the BIG ISSUES that are most important to them, the wisdom they would like to impart, the lessons they would like to leave their students and colleagues. Pausch's lecture really was his last and it was funny, touching, and deeply personal and it soon became a monster hit thanks to YouTube. Ultimately, the lecture was a love letter to his children but we can all learn something from his words.

How Randy Pausch chose to live his life after his diagnosis is inspirational... not in a big flashy way - although he did get to do some really cool stuff - but in many, many small memorable ways. He resigned his teaching position and, despite the growing number of requests for interviews and TV appearances, he and his wife Jai focussed their energies on living each and every day thereafter to its absolute fullest. He spent much of his time with her and their three young children. They may have been creating memories but I bet that they were really just soaking up the minutiae of each day - knowing how few of them might remain. They seized the day.

Professor Pausch enjoyed many academic and professional achievements and inspired many of his students and colleagues to find the joyful creativity in their lives. His "Last Lecture" may not be ground-breaking academic theory but in many ways it's even more important because of its simplicity: live life fully, find joy and passion, remember the wonderful evocative smell of crayons, figure out how to climb over the brick walls in your life, choose Tigger instead of Eyore (watch the video - it'll all make sense).

Randy Pausch died at home, aged 47, on July 25 in the loving company of his wife Jai and their three children.


Wednesday, July 2, 2008

365 days

365 days... how can they have passed so quickly?
how can they have passed so slowly?


Trying to Get Through
By Hothouse Flowers

Spend a long time on my own last night
I think I spent a little bit over the top
It's just something in a bottle
Made me feel right
And I think that's why I couldn't stop

The man beside me
Had the warmest look of understanding in his eyes
As I went on about the laws the barriers and things
That came upon me and my kind
I'm just trying to get through

We have words but sometimes words say too much
But they don't say enough
The boy meets the girl
Sometimes they sail smoothly
And sometimes it's rough

I remember like a little child
Kicking against a stone wall
That I built myself
I won't give in now
I won't feel guilty
I'll just rise up
I'll have to be myself
I'm just trying to get through
I'm just trying to get through

So help me
I'm trying to get through
Can't you see I'm trying to get through
Help me through

So listen people what I tell you now
Life is hard but it's worth keeping on
Listen people what I can tell you straight
It's not too late to try and get through
I'm just trying to get through...

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Every day can be Canada Day

Today is a very special day for Canadians around the world. It's Canada Day (Dominion Day for the traditionalists in the crowd) a day when we celebrate and recognize our beautiful land, our colourful history, our vibrant cultural crazy quilt of immigrants and native peoples.

Our maple leaf flag flies proudly from every balcony, car window, and flagpole this week like it rarely does any other time of year. Bright red maple leaves will be tattooed, painted, sprayed, sewn, and carved in every imaginable material from cakes to sidewalks to cheeks (and other body parts!).

On Parliament Hill in Ottawa and all across the country, families and friends will gather in backyards and outdoor parks to listen to music, watch parades, and - of course - oooh and aaah over tonight's fireworks.

Chris and I were both proud Canadians - we sang along to the national anthem; we loved all those hackneyed Canadian symbols like mounties on horseback, rugged mountain vistas, maple syrup, and the McKenzie brothers. We were proud of what we knew Canada could be at its best: its public healthcare system, its vast and beautiful environment, its openness to diversity, its peaceful social democracy.

Despite many challenges and difficulties, the fragile promise held in shining moments throughout our shared memory reveals a lot about who we can be: Terry Fox and his Marathon of Hope, Expo '67 in our Centennial Year, the federal government's recent apology to the Aboriginal peoples of Canada. There are many, many moments - both small and large - that speak to who we are as a people and what kind of land and country we can to leave to our children. It's up to us to become the change we want to see.

So go out and celebrate Canada Day every day: eat delicious Indian food, visit a mosque, care for a Japanese bonsai, learn to speak Spanish, play the bagpipes, give up your seat for an elderly war vet, knit an Icelandic sweater, teach English to a new immigrant, see a blind woman, offer a hand up to a teen down on their luck, donate blood, learn to canoe, teach your children to say "excuse me" and "thank you", join an African drumming circle, shovel your neighbour's walk, speak up against prejudice and intolerance, and oooh and aaah over the fireworks in your life - whenever and wherever they occur.