Spending Time With Nature

I’ve not been a regular blogger. In truth, I’m still looking to find my groove in this whole world of blogging. So, please excuse my tardiness.

But I wanted to talk about the 30×30 Nature Challenge. I chanced upon it on my drive into work one morning. They were discussing how spending just 30 minutes outside with nature can do a wealth of good for your overall well-being…that there was now a mountain of research that can prove the connection between nature and your well-being.

In truth, I think it’s kinda crazy that I needed a #lovenature challenge to give me a kick in the butt to get outdoors everyday.

When did getting outside become difficult?

I love being outdoors. I always have. There was a time when I took every opportunity to get outside and spend time in nature. Somehow, over the last little while (‘a little while’ that’s gone on far too long), I’ve allowed nature to slip past me. I’ve allowed work to consume my days and evenings and, in turn, stress and aches to take over.

So, I signed up for the 30×30 challenge – a day late on May 2. But I’ll take it through to Day 30 and beyond.

It’s Day 4 and already I can feel a difference. My body is aching a little less. My stress dial appears to have eased back a notch – and is most evident when I’m outside. It feels like there’s space for my mind to breath. I’ve slept a little better each night over the last four days and I’m getting more done. 🙂 How ironic!

My 30 minutes in the evenings have turned into 60 (or more) and yes, the warming weather is definitely helping.

Here’s my nature photo log so far.

The Darling Buds of May

Day 1: The Darling Buds of May

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Day 2: Nature – The Best Seat in the House

The Sound of Rushing Waters Can Calm the Mind

Day 3: The Sound of Rushing Waters Calms the Mind

Day 4: Taking Time to Renew

Day 4: Taking Time to Renew

It’s Day 5 and the sun’s shining bright today. Looks like a promising day!

If you’ve been stuck in stressful place (whatever its cause may be), join me on this 30×30 challenge and I promise you will start to feel better. Let me know how it goes.

I’ll be instagramming my nature logs for the rest of the month. See you there!

 

 

 

Life Lesson: Conceive. Believe. Achieve.

“Whatever the mind can conceive and believe, it can achieve.”

– My dad to us kids-

O.K., so Napolean Hill was the guy who first said it. But, my dad was the guy who instilled it as a mantra in our lives.

Growing up, I didn’t believe this as easily as I do today. But the power of this statement, or rather, the power of the mind and how we choose to channel our thoughts can literally be life changing.

As a child – a teenager – it was easy for me to be depressed by my reality. When mom served up nothing but plain rice porridge for dinner, or when ballet lessons ended for good mid pirouette, I knew we had no money left that week, or month, and had to make do. But I’d rather not dwell on the tough parts of growing up, or the things we missed out on, because as a child to my parents, I have so much to be grateful for.

Every one of us (we are five) are successful and happy in our own right. And it was no small feat for Mom and Dad to ensure our success. They taught us to set goals, and they championed our dreams every step of the way. So, we each set goals (yes, with my parents in the background nudging, nurturing and guiding us along) and we pushed hard to achieve. And achieve we did.

When I look back on my life, I see distinct points along the way when I stopped and visualized my path and my future. Once I’d mapped it out in my mind, my body instinctively took over and propelled me towards it. I’ve failed, for sure, but when I did, I carved a new plan and moved on.

10 years ago, when Bruce and I got engaged, we began to write down our goals. We made it a ‘couples’ thing to do and we’ve done it every year since. It’s been good for us on many levels. It’s allowed us to focus, to work hard, to overcome obstacles and to bounce right back up when things don’t go to plan. Several times a year now, we pull out our ‘Goal Book’ and look back on what we’ve written. It allows us to recognize what we’ve achieved (everything from getting out of debt and owning a home to getting fit, learning new things and exploring the world). It makes us both feel good. We know that when we reach into the shelves of our lives, they are not empty.

As we celebrate Family Day here in Ontario, I  thank my Mom and Dad for their gifts to us – confidence, self-belief, gumption and love. And, thank you Dad for giving me my life’s mantra: Conceive. Believe. Achieve.

Happy Family Day!

On Canadian Soil in…France

It’s Memorial Day in the US today, so this post is somewhat timely. I was lucky enough to be in Europe on holiday this past week.  Our trip this time  included a visit to Vimy Ridge – the Canadian National Vimy Memorial.

Canadian National Vimy Memorial

Canadian National Vimy Memorial

Today, the landscape around the magnificent Vimy Memorial is peaceful and quiet. Solemn. Sheep graze the grounds just beyond the fence, oblivious to the horrors that took place there once upon a time.

Vimy

Beyond the fence

But as the annals of history tell us, Vimy, just 10 clicks north of Arras in France, was the site of fierce fighting in World War 1. The grounds around the memorial are littered with hummocks and craters – markers of the horrific explosions set off all those years ago. Many, many lives were lost, but the capture of the narrow ridge by the Canadian forces in 1917 marked a significant moment in Canada’s history during the war.

Vimy

Hummock-ed fields

We walked the trenches and the tunnels on a guided tour to stories about the courage, valour and ingenuity of the young men for fought a horrifying battle all those years ago. We also heard stories of humanity between the men who were enemies across the trenches.  These stories are echoed all along the Western Front.

We Remember.

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Canada, Abundantly Nice

Eric Weiner wrote this article – Can Canada teach the rest of us to be nicer?’ for BBC Travel. In it he talks about why he and his family make Canada a destination for their annual American road trip. If you are a Canadian, take a moment to read the article, then stand up and be proud to call yourself Canadian. If you’re not, read the article anyway. 🙂

“Canada is to niceness as Saudi Arabia is to oil,” Eric writes. I couldn’t agree more. I’ve shared some of my thoughts on Canada in previous posts here, here and here.

Over the seven years that I’ve lived here, I’ve been continuously amazed by Canadian niceness. Never mind the ease with which they strike up conversations with strangers, or the way drivers let you into traffic, even during rush hour. There’s a degree of road courtesy only seen in Canada. I’ve met polite, friendly wait staff everywhere I’ve gone and courteous, friendly, often helpful TTC staff. Polite, friendly public transit drivers?, you ask. Yes. This was one of the most difficult things for me to believe as being true in Canada – but it is. TTC drivers wait for you when they see you rushing for the bus.

It’s inherently Canadian to be polite, and over the years, I’ve picked up many of these Canadian habits – hold the door for the person behind you, say ‘thank you’ when the person in front of you holds the door for you. Simple, common courtesy. Stuff that’s not common in many other parts of the world.

For a Canadian, ‘sorry’ isn’t the hardest word. It’s the easiest, and they are often mocked for it. ‘Hello’, is another word that’s easy for a Canadian. Walk down the street and smiles and hellos are exchanged with real ease, whether you were born here, if you chose to make this your new home, or if you’re only passing through.

So, go ahead Canada, teach the world what you know.

I look forward to your thoughts on this Canadian trait.

Note to new drivers in Canada: Learn Canadian road courtesy. Then practice it – it’s good for you.

What’s Your One Word for Canada or Malaysia?

I ran a quick poll recently asking people to describe ‘Canada in 1 word’ and ‘Malaysia in 1 word’. It was purely for fun, to see if I would even get a response. I did, and it was interesting. Here’s what came in. Keep in mind that I was looking to gauge ‘first responses’. I show in brackets which word was associated to which country.

  1. Hot (Malaysia), Cold (Canada). Canada and Malaysia are seen to be on polar opposites by those who responded – weather wise that is. Though it can get really hot in Canada (+40C) and fairly cool in Malaysia – about 25, the first word for Canada was “Cold” and Malaysia, “Hot”.
  2. Local delights, the edible kind (Malaysia): Given the sample pool (my facebook page), it was no surprise I suppose that most thought Malaysia was a great place for good food. Any Malaysian would happily take you on a trail of culinary indulgence. Everything from street side food to high-end restaurants, Malaysian cuisine is nothing short of extraordinary. It’s the blend of cultures and the blend of spices – Malay, Chinese, Indian, Indonesian, Peranakan – to name a few – that make Malaysian food pretty unique. Personally, I am delighted to have found a couple of Malaysian restaurants right here in Toronto – Matahari Bar & Grill on Baldwin Street, downtown, and Lion City Restaurant in Mississauga. Lion City serves up a wider variety of South East Asian food. There are a few more Malaysian restaurants around the city, but these are the two that I’ve checked out so far.
  3. Change (Malaysia): Malaysia is a nation on the cusp of change. It seems that we’ve been on that cusp for a while now, but each year, we make small strides for greater political freedom and deeper social integration. Yet, with each stride, we sometimes suffer setbacks that hurt our progress. The country still has a very long way to go. Words that came up along with this were ‘corruption’ ‘complex’, and ‘religious’ – all of which suggest why change is a pretty big theme in Malaysia, and to a degree, why change is difficult.
  4. Colourful (Malaysia): The cultural heritage, wrapped within each nationality and religious group, is celebrated nationally. It is also a bond that unites Malaysians and this is what makes Malaysia colourful.
  5. Inclusive, Aspiring, Opportunities (Canada): To me these words reflect the fact that Canada has come further in terms of its political freedoms and social integration. It’s what makes Canada a nation of opportunity and inclusion for many.
  6. Beautiful (both): Both nations scored with this one. 🙂 The Canadian Rockies got several mentions, making Canada a dream destination for some.
  7. Home and Family (Malaysia): Words that got the most votes for Malaysia – no surprise, really – again given the poll sample. Malaysians, who live abroad mostly still see Malaysia as home. But, many have moved in search of better opportunities elsewhere. At the end of the day however, home and family is where you decide it is.

What’s your one word for Malaysia or Canada, and why?

Canada eh?…Malaysia lah

I don’t know when the Canadian ‘eh?’ slipped into my speech. I just noticed it one day, when speaking with a colleague – what began as a statement,  turned into a question with the quiet addition of the ‘eh?’.  Maybe the ‘eh?’ was always there in my speech. Regardless, I wonder if it’s this distinctly Canadian speech pattern that makes it so easy to strike up conversations with strangers at a bus stop, or the grocery check-out line. In How to be a Canadian, Ian & Will Ferguson, describe the ‘eh?’ as “good natured…a little bit insecure…an agreement looking to happen.”

To my mind, the ‘eh?’ is an invitation, a warm ‘hello’ without the formality, a friendly self introduction to a stranger, without having to get too personal… “Cold, eh?” Now, would you not respond to that? Especially, if you’re at a bus stop and the temperatures are a frigid -30C?

Ok, so the ‘eh’ is commonplace in many other countries, just not in the same way that it is in Canada. The Canadian ‘eh?’ is not to be compared to American ‘huh?’.  Consider this: “Where you goin eh?” vs. “Where you going huh?” The ‘huh’ is less, way less, elegant. In Malaysia, ‘eh’ is an interjection to get someone’s attention, like, ‘Eh, where you going?”, or “Eh, wat you think, ah?” in classic mangled Malaysian english (aka Manglish). One would never use ‘eh’ in polite company. It’s simply rude.

‘Lah’ is the more endearing  language quirk in Malaysia  – a suffix with roots in Malay, Hokkien, and Tamil. Malaysians add the ‘lah’ frequently in their speech to soften harsh sounds like “no” (nolah), or  “don’t do that” (dun like dat lah). The ‘lah’ is friendly. So. if you wanted to say, “you can do it”, say “canlah, canlah” instead – the repetition is necessary when encouraging someone along).

Like the ‘eh?’, the ‘lah’ has to roll off your tongue naturally at just the right parts of your speech. ‘Lah’ identifies a Malaysian just the way ‘eh?’ identifies a Canadian. But, the ‘lah’ boasts a great deal more flexibility given that it can appear in pretty much the same parts of one’s speech regardless of whether you’re speaking in Malay (tak boleh lah), Hokkien (boh lah), or English (no lah). 

So, what’s your country’s language quirk? If you’re Canadian, what do you think of the ‘eh?’, and, if you’re a Malaysian, share your take on the ‘lah’.

PS: The ‘lah’ also appears in Singapore.