Sunday, November 28, 2010

Dear Santa...

I'm having trouble this year deciding what it is that I would ask for to receive at Christmas if I were to make such a "wish list." Thing is I really have everything I need and am quite happy with what I have. I'd truly be happy just to enjoy the holidays with my family, see the happiness on their faces and to maybe steal some snuggle time with kids who will one day (too very soon) be too old for hugs or even just away from home at school or elsewhere in their lives. Honestly, this is possibly the last at home Christmas we all have together as next year my son will be off at university already (likely in in another province). Life marches onwards.

Because there isn't really anything I need, the Mom part of me would be happy just to use any extra resources we have to make this a great holiday for the whole family. However, as unselfish as this might at first seem, the truth is that it is not helpful to my family, who would like to get me something for Christmas and keep asking me for input or other direct suggestions to that end. I'm not sure what to say even though I am aware that I need to find something to say.

I'm a Mom so I really do mean it when I say things like "I'd love it if you made me something" or "Whatever you think to get me would be a treasure to me" but this is mostly met with mild disdain and the rolling of eyes (yes, both from my teenagers and my husband). My husband has gone so far as to threaten if I do not come up with something for my Christmas wish list than he will be getting me some sort of trinket with "Homer" engraved on the side of it (for dramatic affect, I'm sure).

So as I lay here in my bed and contemplate this dilemma I find I am pushing the boundaries of my comfort zone. I already have a house full of possessions I may or may not use on a regular basis. I know that there are many places in the world where a small amount of money spent on me for a gift (that I might not need) could save the life of a child or improve the quality of life for an entire community. I do tire of the seemingly competitive nature of our throw away consumer economy and culture at times and yet I do realize (as I feel the same about giving presents) that my family desires to express love and attentiveness through the purchasing of a gift for me with their hard earned money. This is what our culture teaches us is expected, for better or worse. This dilemma is definitely a first world problem and in ways I am ashamed of my part in it. But I recognize too my helpless participation in it is required for many reasons. I am also relieved that this is the biggest issue facing me at this time. Life could be worse.

So, what can I tell you? There are items I suppose that I would be happy to receive, that in a perfect world full of infinite possibilities, I could see myself asking for. For example I would love to use an iPhone 4 with it's snazzy new camera, or have a video camera to make home videos for youtube or even a new camera body as mine has aged significantly. But all those cost enough money that it seems silly to ask for when I already own devices that perform similar tasks. I wouldn't cry if I opened an iPad on Christmas morning, but as I already have both an iPhone and a laptop why would I ask for that? I did want AppleTV but now with Netflix and Playstation Network the addition of AppleTV is merely superfluous. Indeed, isn't it all? That can't be the point, can it?

A scanner would help me get all my old family pictures into the digital realm (where I find I am spending most of my free time), my turtle would love to have a bigger domain to call his own (as would my goldfish), and (even though I have a gym membership) I'd love to have a treadmill at home so I can exercise everyday. I love having my hair and nails done and a tattoo would be cool. I love books (a better gift would be time to read I suspect, but that's not realistic) and I love to travel (I'd love to be going to see the last launch of the Space Shuttle in February). I don't have any winter clothes or a winter jacket (although I'm ok wearing Wes's jacket from last year). So I guess there are many ideas to choose from. I just don't want to ask for those things.

If I had my way I would ask for the gift of time. Personal time with each of my kids to get to know them as the people they are becoming and date time with my hubby, as well as family time together - a game night once a month, movie nights, day or weekend trips and time just to sit around and chat about our days. It seems as we all get busier and busier time for opportunities like this get farther and farther in between.  But these are the things that I crave, need and desire. I have a strong awareness that when I die these times will be all that matter to me, not what items I have possessed or consumed in my life, but the memories of the times I was held in love by those who love me in return. And if I am lucky enough that, when I die I am once again surrounded by family and friends and held by those who love me, then I will have had, all my life, everything that I've always wanted or needed.

So, Dearest Santa, please, if you can, show my wonderful and loving family that I will happily take everything and anything that they want to offer me and that it really is the thought that counts. I promise to cherish it (and them) forever.


Saturday, November 27, 2010

Santa's Anonymous

We had a blast volunteering at the 630CHED Santa's Anonymous Warehouse for the Wrapping Tweetup on Friday evening.

We were "bagging" (there is also shopping/wrapping roles) so the process for us was to pick a tag for a family that shows just the ages and sex of each child in it. Then you go through the bins to select the wrapped gift packages for each child listed on the tag (the gifts are separated by age group and gender), creating a package for the family and putting it all together in a big black plastic bag. I tried to pick packages that were basically the same size so there won't be much room for jealousy on Christmas morning between siblings. This year we decided to create packages for the families that were in our area of Edmonton.

As a parent my favourite part of Christmas is Christmas morning - watching my children coming down the stairs with wide eyed wonder at the surprises that have appeared under the Christmas tree. We always have one of the kids call out the names on each gift and deliver it to each person and then we take turns opening so everyone can watch and enjoy. This ritual has always been enjoyable and wonderful for all, regardless of the amount of gifts present from year to year. I can't imagine Christmas morning without at least something under the tree for the kids so I'm very happy to support and volunteer for Santa's Anonymous. Every kid should have something to unwrap under the tree.

If you'd like to spend a couple of hours doing the same thing the warehouse could always use volunteers. Drop in days are Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays from 9am - 9pm. You can read more about it HERE.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Edmonton Transit Disappoints

Dear Councillor Leibovici;

This morning, on the coldest day Edmonton has seen in 2010, the school special express bus my children take to school left seven minutes early. It left a bunch of students behind.

When I dropped my kids off 5 minutes before the time their bus was supposed to leave I expected that they would be getting on their bus shortly. I always wait to get a text confirmation that they're on the bus, just in case something happens, so when I didn't hear from them I called to see what was going on. The response was that the bus wasn't there yet but a bunch of kids were waiting. Then one of the kids received a text from a friend on the bus who confirmed the bus had indeed left already - seven minutes early. As I could only transport four students in my vehicle the remaining children were left abandoned at the WEM transit centre.

The school my children attend is a K-12 school in the inner city and as such all ages use the school special bus route provided by Edmonton Transit for the school (Bus 717). It's a difficult destination to get to using other bus routes and that would be if you understood how to do it in the first place. A child would have to get downtown and change buses or walk through the downtown core into the inner city to get to the school.

It's very important to the students and families that depend on this bus route that the bus not leave early, especially when the weather is so cold. We trust that the bus will leave on schedule and that everyone will get to school safely and on time. I drop my children off on my way to work in the morning but most arrive via transfer from other buses and can't get there any earlier.

I contacted 311 this morning and gave the customer service agent all of the information regarding the incident and asked that someone from Edmonton Transit call me back. She was very polite and assured me that the message would be passed on but I did not receive a call from anyone, not even to acknowledge my call. This is not the first time that I have contacted Edmonton Transit with a concern and never heard back.

I need to know that Edmonton Transit will impress upon the drivers of this bus route the importance of keeping to the schedule and to remind them that there is a negative impact to many people, mainly children, when something like this happens. I'd like to hear from an appropriate person at Edmonton Transit to know that this matter will be taken seriously and treated accordingly.

Thank you for your time.   

EDIT: I was contacted by a very helpful ETS Inspector today (Nov 23) who will be handling the investigation resulting from my concerns. I need to say I was VERY impressed and appreciated that he did call me and relieved to know that ETS is taking this seriously. I was also comforted to discover that the regular bus driver is away on holiday so this is likely an isolated incident/mistake. Thank you ETS! Thank you Councillor Leibovici!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Thinking about Christmas

While walking around West Edmonton Mall today. I'd better get seriously organized...  it's not really that far away!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

ETS Stuff A Bus Campaign

Starting on Monday November 22 to Saturday November 27 Save-On-Foods and Edmonton Transit team up to raise food donations for the Edmonton's Food Bank through the annual ETS Stuff a Bus campaign. You can donate items (food, toiletries, baby supplies, pet  food) at the following locations through out Edmonton:

November 21, 11am to 6pm – WEM (Waterpark entrance)
November 22, 5am to 7pm – Londonderry
November 23, 930am to 7pm – Mayfield Common
November 24, 5am to 7pm – Calgary Trail
November 25, 930am to 7pm – Namao
November 26, 12pm to 7pm – Stadium
November 27, 830am to 430pm – ALL Edmonton Save-On-Foods

Edmonton’s Food Bank serves more than 15,000 people per month through their hamper program and helps Edmonton agencies provide 300,000 meals and snacks each month, including festive dinners.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Got Library Fines?

On Saturday, November 27, 2010 the Edmonton Public Library will be hosting an event called Food4Fines where they will waive up to $25 in fines in exchange for a food donation to the Edmonton Food Bank.

All you have to do in order to take advantage of this is bring in a non-perishable food item to the customer service desk at any EPL branch on Nov 27th and in return you can have up to a maximum of $25 excused from your library account late/lost fines.

All that is required is one single food item but the library encourages their customers to bring in multiple food items for the Food4Fines Food Drive. Customers without fines can bring in a donation as well.

If you have any other questions about the Food4Fines day you can check out their FAQ page HERE.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Edmonton's Santas Anonymous

If you are looking for a really cool (and fulfilling) volunteer experience this Christmas season in the Edmonton area then I would like to point you in the direction of one of my favourites - Santa's Anonymous, a local organization that makes it possible for all Edmonton kids to receive something on Christmas morning.

The warehouse is open 9am to 9pm for volunteers (to wrap gifts or receive toy donations) and you don't even need to schedule an actual time as you can drop in on any Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday or Sunday that you have some free time. 

The volunteer roles at the warehouse are restricted to people 16 years of age and older (due to liability issues). However all ages are able to volunteer on the days that the presents are delivered, which is often touted as a "great event for families to volunteer together" and is "often the most rewarding and eye opening experience for children to be involved in."

If you haven't heard it yet you should LISTEN to Jerry Forbes' "And a Creature was Stirring."  

You can check out the various volunteer roles available HERE to find something that appeals to you. Contact the crew at Santas Anonymous with any questions and download the forms needed to volunteer HERE. Additionally, you can support Santas Anonymous by donating toys for Edmonton area children - a simple act that makes all this possible.

If you would like to apply to receive toys for your children this year you can do so through the Christmas Bureau of Edmonton.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Starting to Look a Lot Like Christmas

On Saturday Edmonton officially launched the 2010 Christmas season by lighting a giant Christmas Tree (dressed in green and gold, of course) in Churchill Square at City Hall. There was also tents with local food and crafts, carols and some fireworks. You can see some of my pictures of the evening HERE.

Friday, November 12, 2010

We Remember

We attended the Remembrance Day service at the Cenotaph at Edmonton's City Hall. This is where Wesley's unit, The Loyal Edmonton Regiment, parades for Remembrance Day. You can see my other pictures from the ceremony HERE.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Canada at War

From WWI to Present Day Afghanistan - this video is a tribute to all Canadian soldiers for Remembrance Day 2010 (via Jonathan Wagner)

Canada Remembers

Veterans Week 2010 official vignette

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

What is the Poppy Fund?

We wear our red poppies for two weeks each year and we do it as a sign of respect, as an act of remembrance and as a way of saying thank you to people who gave (and give) of themselves to safeguard our way of life here in Canada. But not everyone knows what their donation given for that poppy does or how important it is.

Money donated for poppies goes to the Poppy Fund, raising the funding necessary for the Legion to operate the Service Bureau, which act as advocates for veterans, ex-service people and their dependants seeking compensation from the government for service incurred disabilities. In addition, approximatly one million dollars (money collected as a result of the annual Poppy Campaign) is also used for direct assistance for ex-service people and their dependants in financial distress - examples include payments for food, accommodation, utilities, clothing, educational assistance, furniture, medical, dental and optical services and hospital comforts.

However, beneficiaries of the Poppy Fund are not limited to veterans and ex-servicemen. It is also used to support charities and helps provide aging or disabled people with medical assistance and equipment, meals on wheels, transportation, shelter, clothing and disaster relief as required. The Legion helps non-members and members alike, wherever the need arises.

So when you're pinning on your poppy today you can reflect upon how one little flower can have so much meaning for so many people - and how your contribution is helping Canadians every day of the year - and not just on November 11th.

Monday, November 08, 2010

The National War Memorial

The National War Memorial is found in Confederation Square in Ottawa, close to the Parliament Buildings. The memorial consists of an arch of granite that stands 21 metres high and is surmounted by emblematic bronze figures of Peace and Freedom. Shown advancing through the archway are 22 bronze figures symbolic of the "Great Response" of the hundreds of thousands of Canadians who answered the call to serve. Represented by these figures are all branches of the service engaged in the war and also includes the men and women of the support services (nursing sisters, a stretcher bearer and a lumberman with his cant hook). 

There is also a kilted infantry soldier (in the right front position just to the left of the sailor - he is carrying the barrel of a Vickers Machine Gun over his left shoulder). There were 28 Scottish regiments in the war, eight of them in the fighting brigades. One Highland Battalion, the 16th (Canadian Scottish Regiment), won four Victoria Crosses, including one awarded to a young Piper Richardson who died at the Somme, in France, in 1916.

A memorial in Canada for Canadians

The Canadian Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is located at the National War Memorial in Confederation Square, Ottawa.

In the year 2000 a Canadian Forces contingent flew to France to bring the Unknown Soldier home to Canada. The unidentified Canadian soldier was selected from a cemetery in the vicinity of Vimy Ridge. Once back in Canada the Unknown Soldier laid in state in the Hall of Honour in the Centre Block of the Parliament Buildings, allowing Canadians to view the casket and pay their respects. After three days the Unknown Soldier was moved to the National War Memorial on a horse drawn gun carriage presented by the RCMP. The Unknown Soldier was laid to rest directly in front of the National War Memorial in a specially designed sarcophagus.  The National Remembrance Day ceremony is held here every year.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Tower of Victory and Peace

 The Peace Tower

 The Memorial Chamber

 The Books of Remembrance

Apart from being a Canadian landmark, icon and the flagpole of our nation, the Peace Tower on Parliament Hill serves as Canada's WWI memorial.  The Tower houses the Memorial Chamber that contains the Books of Remembrance, within which are recorded the names of more than 66,000 Canadians who died in the service of Canada. The site of the future Tower was dedicated on Canada Day in 1917 with the words "the tower will be a memorial to the debt of our forefathers and to the valour of those Canadians who, in the Great War, fought for the liberties of Canada, of the Empire, and of humanity."

Saturday, November 06, 2010

In Flanders Fields

Display at the Canadian War Museum

The WWI poem "In Flanders Fields" was penned by Canadian Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrae the day after he witnessed the death of his friend, Lieutenant Alexis Helmer (who was only 22 years old). Legend has it that McCrae threw away the poem after it's writing and that it was retrieved by Francis Scrimger who subsequently sent it for consideration to the London based Punch Magazine who published it on December 8th 1915.

The poppies referred to in McCrae's poem grow quickly and profusely in northern Europe but especially in newly disturbed earth, like that found in the battlefield cemeteries in Flanders. Wikipedia notes that this phenomenon was reported around the graves of the war dead even during the Napoleonic times. It's this tendency of red poppies to grow on the fresh graves of soldiers that lead to the poppy becoming a symbol of Remembrance. And now, the poem:

In Flanders fields the poppies blow

      Between the crosses, row on row,
   That mark our place; and in the sky
   The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
   Loved and were loved, and now we lie,
         In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
   The torch; be yours to hold it high.
   If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
         In Flanders fields.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Are You Wearing Your Poppy?

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

(e)ALLIE joins the Century Club!

I've been exploring Empire Avenue now since March and I've enjoyed every stage that I've traveled through as an influencer there. I really do like the gaming elements of the site, especially the achievements you can earn as you build your portfolio and connect your social media sites. However I have come to realize that what I really love about Empire Avenue is the people there. Connections I have made - both locally and globally, communities I've become a part of and the friendships forged is what actually brings me back to the Avenue every day. The success of (e)ALLIE today is not just my own success; it is the fruit of the community I have found there. I could not have come this far without the support of my shareholders and other supporters on Empire Avenue... and neither would I have wanted to. Thank you all!

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

We Must Fight

Do you have your (e)ALLIE yet?

(e)ALLIE is on the way up! Come on along for the ride!

Monday, November 01, 2010

Don't forget your Poppy!

 National War Memorial, Ottawa
Poppies became available at most places in Edmonton on Friday. I've heard a rumour there may be a shortage of Poppies in Edmonton this year so the best thing to do would be to get some as soon as you can.

The Royal Canadian Legion suggests wearing the poppy on the left lapel or positioned on the left side of your chest, near your heart but you can wear it anywhere that shows your respect for the symbolism behind it. Even if you can't remember war, or don't know anyone involved in serving, think of the peace you enjoy and wear your Poppy.