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Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Discovering Swap-bot

My snail mail enabler Sheba told me about another great site called  Swap-bot.  She would prefer to be referred to as my muse but my current addiction would dictate otherwise. 

Swap-bot is a wonderful online community where snail mailers like me can go to find out about swaps and participate in sending and receiving mail from strangers around the world. There is usually some sort of creative/arts and crafts/design aspect to each swap.

I joined a swap called "Mail Me a Decorated Envie."  It was a little tricky to figure out how everything works on the site, but I finally figured it out.  This is an international swap where you decorate an envelope for a stranger with a short letter enclosed.  I was lucky enough to be able to send my first swap item to sunshinesuperman in Kansas. 

Here's the front of my decorated envie. 

And here's the back.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Another Snail Mail Tale - Cornelius Post Office

(2010 Vancouver Olympic stamps)

Sheba, another lover of snail mail, told me about this great project taking place at the Cornelius Post Office in Oregon.  She came across this post by Kerry Jeffrey in a Postcrossing forum:

       The Art of the Postcard - I just wanted to invite all Postcrossers to contribute a postcard to an upcoming event: Celebrating the Art of the Postcard.  Help the Cornelius Post Office celebrate the joy of small works of art and personal communication. Cornelius is a small town in Western Oregon, known for hazelnuts, blueberries and vineyards. Here at the local post office we noticed that for visitors there was no way of sending a local postcard to share the cool things about this unique little town. We’re working on that! Share your postcard with us and get one of the ones we are producing!  
Exhibition: Begins January 11, 2010 in the lobby of the Cornelius, OR Post Office. Make sure to include your return address to receive one of our postcards in return and to be included in the list of participants.  Send your postcards to:
1639 Baseline Street
Cornelius, OR 97113

If you love snail mail like I do and want to get some back, consider taking part in this great project!  Below are some custom made postcards that I sent the Cornelius folks. What a great initiative in encouraging communication across the globe through a simple postcard. Your postcard may be featured on their blog as well.

I love the quote below.   Sometimes something as small as flexing a few muscles into a smile can make all the difference.
This Gandhi quote reminds me of my parents.  They put loving their family and serving their community above all else.
This is a postcard I designed for all my Postcrossing adventures.  Did you ever imagine that a postcard could be all of these things?  
One of my favorite quotes.  Something I see happening every day in my job working with volunteers.
I first read this quote on my niece Rehaana's Facebook page a couple of years ago.  She loves people and the earth.  It's inspiring that someone as young as her understands what is truly important in life.
I'm lucky to be able to make a living while making a life in the work that I do.
Also got some great pictures in the mail from Karim, Minaz and Kahzmir.  How can you not SMILE?  Another example of why I love snail mail!

Friday, December 25, 2009

Snail Mail Tale - All is Full of Love

I love snail mail!

I love sending letters, postcards and trinkets.  Anything at all.  It is so much fun to think about the journey a piece of mail takes from one place to another.  My family and friends are spread out all over the world.  Of course we already keep in touch over email, Facebook, BBM, texts and the phone, but it is much more fun to put pen, gel pens, highlighters, markers, crayons (whatever really) to paper, decorate an envelope and leave the rest up to the postman.

I fell in love with snail mail when my cousin Tasneem and her family moved to Calgary.  We grew up together in Toronto, wore matching jelly shoes and bubble dresses and were best buddies who saw each other every weekend.  She taught me how to defy gravity and hairspray my bangs so that they reached sky high!  When her family moved to Cowtown, I distinctly remember not going out to the driveway to say good bye to her as they prepared to drive across Canada to their new home.  (She never lets me forget it either.)  I got over it quickly and that same week wrote my first letter to Tasneem.  We used to write lengthy letters back and forth filled with colourful drawings, stickers and juicy stories filled with pre-teen and later teenage tales.  Oh, the drama!
Tasneem and I before she left the 416 for the 403.  
I am pretty sure we have matching white clips in our hair in the shape of butterflies.

My brothers are also lovers of the snail mail!  Aneez, Karim and I are all avid Postcrossers.  We send postcards to strangers all over the world and get many back in return.  Aneez and Vanessa love to travel and never ever forget to send us postcards from wherever they are.

I recently got a treat in the mail from Aneez.  He loves treasure diving in British charity shops.  Lucky for me, he found a Bjork CD with 9 of his favorite songs. He told me to pay special attention to Track 6 - All is Full of Love.   I'm officially adding it to my list of favorite songs.

Here are the lyrics.
All is Full of Love - Bjork
(Written by Bjork)

You'll be given love
You'll be taken care of
You'll be given love
You have to trust it

Maybe not from the sources
You have poured yours
Maybe not from the directions
You are staring at

Trust your head around
It's all around you
All is full of love
All around you

All is full of love
You just ain't receiving
All is full of love
Your phone is off the hook
All is full of love
Your doors are all shut
All is full of love!

All is full of love
All is full of love
All is full of love
All is full of love
All is full of love

Seasons Greetings to you and yours.
May your day be full of love - today and always.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

A Few of My Favorite Things

Yesterday was a perfect day filled with many of my favorite things...

1.  Started off the day puttering in my pjs puttering while catching up with my friends in Genoa City.  Yes, I love The Young and the Restless.  I can admit it.  Proudly.  Been watching it for 20 years.  Yes, it's a ridiculous show, I'm aware.  Long live Victor Newman!

2.  Also finished off Season One of Being Erica thanks to the great people at
Suzie got me hooked on this show when I visited her this fall in Stuttgart.  Erica Strange is a 30-something Torontonian who time travels back in time to revisit old regrets and make things right where she can.  The music on this show conjures up all kinds of memories for me and I love seeing all the shots of Toronto.

3. Played two online Scrabble games with Munira.  She kicked my butt in both games!

4. Finally turned the TV off and put the computer away to venture outside and have dinner with Suzie and Timo at one of Toronto's best Thai restaurants Salad King.  Had the Thai Islamic Noodle (3 chillies) - yum!

5.  Walked off our delicious dinner at the BMV on Edward Street.  BMV is one of my favorite independent bookstores in Toronto.  The one in the Annex has an amazing children and young adult section.  Remember Sweet Valley High and Babysitters Club?  Suzie and I both came away winners!  Check out our loot:
BMV finds!  (Note to Naaz:  I know what you are thinking.  
Don't say it...Just feel free to borrow any of these books!)

6.  Capped off this perfect day back in front of the TV with Tez.  Everyone's been telling/harassing me to watch Glee.  I finally understand why.  What a wonderful show!  Tez and I made quite the dent into Christmas Eve morning watching the first three episodes of Glee.  I sense a few Glee marathons in the future.

Oh and did I mention I also got a workout and 5 loads of laundry done too!  A perfect, perfect day!

I hope that this holiday season you get to have your perfect day.  I wish you laughter, joy, love and most of all gratitude.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

You Got the Love

This post is my love letter to three incredible women who have overwhelmed me with love, kindness, respect and kinship in 2009.  Munira, Sheba and Suzie - I love you.

Munira and I - Back in the day when our friendship was blossoming.

The Ramnarine Family - Emil, Indio and Sheba. Lucky me got to take this gorgeous picture!

Suzie Cohen and her smile - We've officially been friends for half our lives!

I'm not one to get down too often.  My glass is always half full.  That being said, sometimes even I need a pick me up, a cheering squad and a high five.  Whether it be an early morning or late night phone call, a text message, a chat on BBM, a game of Scrabble, a late night Dollarama run, a string of emails, looking over our shoulders for Phil Booth, chats over kappa maki or snail mail surprises - I have felt the power of tremendous friendship through countless expressions, actions and words from this trio.

Earlier this year, I visited my brother Aneez in Basingstoke, England.  On our way to Stonehenge he introduced me to the song "You Got the Love" by Florence and the Machine.  When I hear it, it's a love letter set to music and I feel the energy that love can produce.

Munira, Sheba and Suzie - I could never express in words what it is like to be on the receiving end of your love - all I know is that I am grateful for it and I am better because of it.  I'll let this song attempt to express it for me.  Listen to it if you can. (It's the first song you hear on their website.)

You Got the Love - Florence and the Machine
(Written by TrueLove/Stevens/Harris)

Sometimes I feel like throwing my hands up in the air
I know I can count on you
Sometimes I feel like saying, "Lord, I just don't care."
But you've got the love I need to see me through

Sometimes it seems that the going is just too rough
And things go wrong no matter what I do
Now and then it seems that life is just too much
But you've got the love I need to see me through

When food is gone, you are my daily meal
When friend's are gone - I know my saviour's love is real
Your love is real

You got the love
You got the love
You got the love
You got the love
You got the love
You got the love

Time after time I think "Oh Lord, what's the use?"
Time after time I think, it's just no good
Sooner or later in life, the things you love you lose
But you've got the love I need to see me through

You got the love
You got the love
You got the love
You got the love
You got the love
You got the love

Sometimes I feel like throwing my hands up in the air
I know I can count on you
Sometimes I feel like saying, "Lord, I just don't care."
But you've got the love I need to see me through

You got the love
You got the love
You got the love
You got the love
You got the love
You got the love

Thank you. Thank you.  Thank you.

Friday, December 11, 2009

The Second by Marcia Cummings

I read the poem below last week at The City of Toronto's International Day of People with Disabilities.  It stuck with me and that night, I read it to my friend Sheba.

I love my independence.  Maybe too much?  I don't know, but it is a part of who I am. 

I pride myself on wanting to help others.  It is such a formative part of my identity and guides many of my motivations in life.  I've even made a career based on it.

This poem was a humbling reminder that even with the best of intentions of helping someone, you can be infringing on their independence and second guessing their abilities. I've read and re-read it so many times.

Take a read and let me know what you think. 

The Second by Marcia Cummings

Please, give me back the second!

The second it takes to hear the traffic move at the beginning of a cycle -
why should I trust you more than the traffic patterns?

The second it takes to hear where the nearest subway door is -
yes, I can hear them open and would rather make my own choice!

The second it takes to verify the direction of an escalator -
there is a convenient way to do this - it's not rocket science!

The second it takes to find the beginning of a staricase -
that's what my white cane is for!

The second it takes to turn around after passing that landmark -
then again, maybe I was enjoying the walk!

The second it takes to find the door -
it's often easier if I open my own doors - then I know where the door actually is!

The second it takes to avoid your groping hands -
I often wisdh I could return the favour and grope you, too!

The second it takes to avoid probing questions  -
just why do you need to know where I am going?

The second it takes to be independent -
unless that's too much to ask?

Friday, December 4, 2009

Variety Village - The happiest place in Toronto!

Yesterday the City of Toronto declared December 3, 2009 to be International Day of People with Disabilities.  There was a terrific celebration at Variety Village in Toronto's East end.  If you've ever been there, I dare you to say that it isn't ONE OF THE HAPPIEST PLACES ON EARTH.  Sorry Disney, these folks have you beat without the aid of castles, Magic Kingdoms, princesses, theme parks etc.

As soon as you walk through the doors there is a feeling of positivity. My entire posture changed in response to the wonderful energy.  I was uplifted!  I was so thankful for that moment in my heart and throughout my body.  I encourage you read up on Variety - The Children's Chairty, they do some amazing work for people with disabilities. 

Months ago, I nominated one of my volunteers at Surrey Place Centre for an Unsung Hero Award as part of the International Day of People with Disabilities celebrations.  Rachel Gallone, a woman who inspires me every time we interact, received one of six Unsung Hero Awards yesterday.  Here's what her nomination said:

Rachel’s Story
When Rachel was growing up, she was extremely frustrated most of the time. She found it difficult to accept that a virus she had contracted at a young age - Meningitis Encephalitis - had caused her development to become delayed.

Through the support of family and a wide network of counselors, Rachel’s journey led her to Surrey Place Centre. Her direct involvement with the Centre has provided Rachel the opportunity to learn new coping skills that have enabled her to effectively deal with life’s challenges.

Rachel is a part of the Self-Advocacy Council at Surrey Place Centre. The Surrey Place Centre Self-Advocacy Council was established to ensure that clients have representation with regards to the services the Centre provides. Council members are individuals who have or are receiving the services of Surrey Place Centre and who have a developmental disability. They provide recommendations and feedback on behalf of clients of the Centre and advice on issues, concerns, direct policy and procedures that affect people with developmental disabilities. As a Self-advocate, she has travelled across Ontario delivering the message that people with disabilities have a voice and want to be heard.

Rachel has made new friends and expanded her network of support and participates in a number of Surrey Place Centre fundraising events, including getinline.

Rachel was the Honourary Spokesperson for getinline 2008. When asked what it means to share this responsibility with Andrew this year, she says, “I’m thrilled to be part of this event again and happy to be able to share the responsibilities with my friend Andrew.”

As an active fundraiser for Surrey Place Centre, Rachel wants to help out because of how much she’s been helped.

She says that her fundraising efforts, which include an annual Penny Drive, give her a “sense of accomplishment, because the money raised doesn’t only help one person, it helps lots of people in many ways.”

Basically, Rachel rocks!  Congrats to her and to everyone else who was part of yesterday's fesitivities.  What an inspiring day!

Here's Rachel with The Right Honourable David C. Onley, Lieutenant Governor of Ontario just after the awards ceremony.

Where is the happiest place in Toronto for you?