A New Year, A New Start

Happy New Year everyone!!! Hope your 2018 is off to a wonderful start. Have you set any new year’s resolutions? Here is my list of ten resolutions for the year:

  1. Visit 10 hot spots in Ottawa with my friend Hetal
  2. Be more like my Mom (this may take many years!)
  3. Get a job I love, pay down debt, be financially savvy
  4. Complete my Creative Writing Certificate at U of T (it’s my final year!)
  5. Turn 39 (LOL I have to make sure I achieve at least one of these)
  6. Travel to a place I haven’t been before
  7. Take part in Walk In Her Shoes in Ottawa (perhaps Sophie Gregoire will be there again this year?!)
  8. Read lots of good books
  9. Dance, smile, and laugh a lot… and learn to let go
  10. Visit my friends in T.O. as often as possible

Also here are a few foundational things that are important to do on an ongoing basis, that set the stage for accomplishing any goal, and ensuring that I live healthily and happily.

Tools/Ongoing Practice:

  1. Eating healthy and cooking lots
  2. Regular yoga practice
  3. Spending lots of time in nature
  4. Facetiming my grandparents
  5. Lots of laughter!

I’d love to hear your resolutions if you have any!! It’s always easier to get things done with the support of others, and especially knowing that the universe has your back. And finally, even if nothing gets done… there is always rebellion. ;-)

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HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Home Is Wherever I’m With You

Wow I can’t believe I’m finally getting around to posting this – it feels like it’s been forever since I’ve been on this site!! I wrote this on Dec.3, but then my computer died before I got a chance to post it

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Sitting at the Starbucks at the MARS Centre, listening to Christmas tunes, beside two young women who are discussing careers and gossiping and talking about job opportunities at UHN. Earlier today I learned the dance sequence to Beyoncé’s formation video:

Okay, okay, ladies, now let’s get in formation, cause I slay
Okay, ladies, now let’s get in formation, cause I slay
Prove to me you got some coordination, cause I slay
Slay trick, or you get eliminated

It was a fun class, and I was exhausted and didn’t think my body could take it but somehow I survived it and even had a bit of fun. Like a lot of things these days, things seem to register as fun well after the fact. :-) There was a girl next to me who I would turn to every time I didn’t catch what the instructor had just shown us. Too bad she ended up leaving early! I wish I could post the video we took but it is forbidden for liability reasons. :p I hate that I have to abide by all these rules… I wish I could just write whatever I want, but I guess censorship is part of writing, or at least thinking about others feelings. I don’t know how Malala did it.. makes me admire her even more. Writing anonymously from her little house in the village, knowing that every word could get her in trouble. And yet still managing to keep a smile on her face!

It’s been a rough little past while, as you can probably tell since I haven’t been writing my blog posts which is very unlike me. However I have been walking the 10 KM at least once I week so I will write them all eventually.

Week 45!! It was a memorable one. I woke up early since I had promised Arvin that I would join him for a session at landmark forum. He asked me to be his guest since he is working on a documentary about mental health and addiction – his documentary profiles three people on the streets who deal wih addiction, and shows how they became addicted, their childhood, where they grew up, relationships, etc. I’m meeting with him next week with a few other folks to brainstorm further [Update: this didn’t end up happening – they met all the way up in Etobicoke!]. I walked from the Distillery where I’d been staying for most of November (at Samir and Shannon’s place while they got married in India), past some beautiful churches, up Jarvis, and to the hotel boardroom where the event was being held.

At first I was skeptical – I had heard both good and bad things about Landmark – some of my friends swear by it, and some people say it’s like a cult and they are really aggressive in getting you to sign up. So I went in skeptical, and emerged inspired. It was the stories that did it for me. One girl spoke about how she and her mother were separated for so many years because she held onto grudges and hadn’t fully forgiven her, and then during a Landmark session, she decided to call her and surprisingly, her mother was at a Landmark course just across the street from her! At that moment she realized that her mother had never actually abandoned her, she was always there. Hmmm… as I’m writing this it’s making me realize that I’m not alone either, and even though I don’t see my loved ones all the time, they are always with me. It’s hard to remember these things when you are feeling a little lost and hopeless (or a lot lost and hopeless).

Following Landmark, I walked out to the Allan Garden conservatory which was closed but I love that area so I sat on a bench there and FaceTimed my sister (or maybe she FaceTimed me, I can’t remember). We were both still upset by the Trump win… in fact I think I still am. I can’t believe how hard it hit me!! I had a great time at Sheldon’s election party, and then as I fell asleep, I was hoping that when I woke up, I would hear that Clinton had won, but instead I read that it was Trump. And my body locked up, and I felt SO much anger. Roshni and I talked about how she had been debating with Dad over a few things, but I could’ve told her that there is definitely no winning those debates!! Lol. Chris also felt really upset about the Trump win, because he resonated a lot with Clinton and what she stood for. I’ve noticed that all the leaders have been very positive in terms of making statements about working in harmony (like Clinton, Obama, Sadhguru, my Mom)… but I don’t know if I buy it. Usually I’m so positive but lately I’ve been a negative nancy to say the least. Where has my sense of humour gone?! There are moments it surfaces, usually around people. I miss the kids I was tutoring, I miss my old life, I miss my creative writing classes, I miss my old self. Not that I’m not grateful for my job and where things are heading, it’s just hard letting go of the things you love.

The next part of my day was pretty wild, insane, magical, unreal. In the middle of our FaceTime call, my phone died, which was pretty odd since it had 42% battery, and it normally works even if it’s 1%. I had an immediate urge to go home, charge my phone, make plans, absolutely anything to get escape this anxiety of being in the unknown – but instead I took it as a sign to explore and I wandered into a church at the corner. As I read my book, The Bandit Queen, about Phoolan Devi, my mind started to spiral into depression and I didn’t think I could continue. The words started to blur and not make sense and my mood got so low. And just then a woman came up to me – she had short black hair, was of African descent, very thin, and exuded kindness and warmth. She asked if I was staying for the event that evening, and I said what event, and she said that they were having an International Fair where there would be foods from all different cultures and music and dancing. I asked what time it was at and she said that it started at 5 PM. I glanced at my watch and it was only 3, so in my head I thought I probably wouldn’t stay that long – she caught my look and said vehemently, “You must come” so I agreed, still not entirely convinced.

I tried to read my book again, and that’s when a short man approached me – he had long white hair and a long white beard (he kind of looked like Santa Claus, or a character from Lord of the Rings), and he also asked me if I would like to join the festivities that evening. Now I could hear the universe loud and clear – I was going! In case there was any doubt, he handed me a long paper ticket and said that this would get me in (the cost of the event was $20, all proceeds going to children’s programs at the church). Just as I was thinking, now what am I going to do for the next two hours, he asked if I was hungry and of course I was, so he led me down to the basement and suddenly I felt like I was in another world. It was like I was in one of those black churches from the sixties, back during Martin Luther King days, where everyone was wearing those amazing hats and long dresses. There were people from other backgrounds too, there was an Indian family who had just left, and I would say white was in the minority. The man brought me a plate of yummy vegetarian food, and I heard from the guy sitting next to me whose name I now forget, that that is one of the values of the 7-Day Adventist church – they believe that a vegetarian diet is best for the mind, body, and soul. Similar to Hinduism in that way.

As I ate, I asked this guy so many questions about their beliefs and his own life story. He said that he was the only one in his family that was religious, the others weren’t into it and didn’t really understand his connection with the church. It’s hard going against the grain and doing something that your family doesn’t approve of. It reminds me of this movie I want to watch called Moonlight, about a boy who black and gay and growing up in a poor Miami neighbourhood. So excited to see it with Rhonelle after the holidays!

I told this guy (let’s just call him Evan because I’m going to keep talking about him) that I had stayed at Chris’s parents place the week before and stayed up all night reading The Book of Job, one of my favourite bible stories. Poor Job didn’t stand a chance… yet eventually his faith in God was restored and he was blessed with fortunes far beyond his wildest imagination (probably because like me he figured out that your imagination doesn’t exactly function in times of despair). Let’s hope my story follows a similar path to the other side! Evan’s eyes widened as I continued to share my insights on Job, and he pulled out a booklet from his bag that was a summary/study of guess what – yep The Book of Job! He said that every week in his church they study a different part of the bible and this week it was Job. What a crazy coincidence.

Then Evan started to excuse himself – he said that he had to set up for a workshop about anxiety and depression. That’s when my eyes grew wide. Oh wait, I forgot to tell you about the other amazing person that I met at the table – her name was Candace and she and I instantly connected. She had been through an abusive relationship and suffered from low self-esteem and didn’t have much money to live on. I told her about things I’d been going through too. It is amazing how we were able to be so open with one another. She and I were welcomed by Evan to join the workshop (he could probably tell we needed it!!). We listened to videos by an expert on mental health and addiction, and then did activities around goals and ways to overcome obstacles. Finally it was time to forget our woes and just play and have fun. We went into the adjoining gym for the International Fair, the event that had enticed me at the start to enter this magical place. Candace and I sampled food from all over the world in that little gym – India, Guyana, Kenya, Jamaica, and many more. We danced and let loose. We had ice cream and authentic home-cooked treats, and watched the kids having so much fun running around and being free.

After the event, we took some pics in the abandoned church (picture above). I was wearing my favourite t-shirt that says “Home Is Wherever I’m With You”. I love that T-shirt so much! Then we got to the bus stop and met this cool homeless guy who was sitting there drinking, and who ended up asking me out! He was actually really sweet; he said that sometimes, a person just needs to talk. How right he is.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Love Is The Answer

Week 44! It was Halloween. I stayed late at work that night to write my blog post from the week before (So True) and it felt good to remember and be more present than usual. I was the last one to leave. I walked home along Queen and decided to walk North on Crawford. It took a few ghosts and ghouls passing by me to realize that it was in fact Halloween. I passed by a pumpkin carved into the face of Donald Trump, cleverly called a “Trumpkin”. It scared me, not just because it was scary, but because I was reminded that Trump could actually be the next president of the United States (what?!!). I will be watching the election on Tuesday night at my friend Sheldon’s election party (he is renting out his office space at Infusion to host 100 of us!!)… biting my nails along with the rest of you. It will be a historic night indeed.

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“Trumpkin”, Crawford Street on Halloween

I passed by some cool graffiti on the way home – someone had written “Love Is The Answer” along the side of a building on Queen (feature image). I sent it to Home Base (chat group with the girls), and then continued on home to Raju’s. Tomorrow I’m heading to Samir and Shannon’s place in the Distillery… they are leaving for India to get married and are letting me stay there for the next few weeks! K better get some sleep… I have to work tomorrow!

 

 

 

 

 

So True

Week 43!! Yesterday was a beautiful day. For many reasons… because it was Diwali, because I got to have a nice dinner with my brother, because it was Gosia’s birthday, because I facetimed my grandparents, and because I got to explore the city and discover new sights and sounds and meet new people. It was also the day after Halloween, and I’d had a great night at Marah’s annual Halloween bash. I dressed up as Frida Kahlo and Jasmine was Audrey Hepburn, and I have to say we made quite the duo!! I slept in as expected, lazily got ready, and left the house around Noon. Raju was still sleeping so I left him this:

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Diwali message for Raju

I was aiming to get to Gosia’s for 1 PM but it had been awhile since I’d just explored and walked around on my own, so I grabbed a latte from Jimmy’s and walked up University towards Yorkville. The plan was to get to Yorkville and buy my iron supplements and also pick up something for Gosia (I had bought her some creams last week but I forgot them at work! And today my hands were dry so I ended up using them LOL :p). Along the way I stopped at Victoria College and took in the beauty of the scenery, standing in awe with another woman who gazed in wonder and proclaimed, “I don’t want to miss this moment!”

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Fall colours, Victoria College

I had wanted to send out a heartfelt message on Facebook about Diwali, like I had in previous years, something about the inner light within or how it represents the triumph of good over evil or the return of Ram and Sita after 14 years in exile. But I didn’t do it, and so I’m reflecting on it now. I didn’t know that Diwali also celebrates the return of the Pandavas from vanvas (aka exile) after they were sent to the forest when they lost a bet. (what is up with these forest sentences?!) Oh and how can I forget the most important meaning – the worship of Goddess Lakshmi, the Goddess of wealth and prosperity. The I AM mantra that I do regularly invokes her name. Isn’t she beautiful?! I could stare at her forever.

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Lakshmi Devi, Goddess of Wealth, Abundance, and Prosperity

As I walked up Avenue, just past Bloor, I noticed that the doors to the church at the corner were open. I’d walked by there a million times and read the quotes posted outside but never considered going in. At first I debated whether to enter since I had my coffee with me, but then I saw a girl walk in with her Starbucks cup so I went ahead. It was stunning inside. Being inside a church always brings me peace. The last one I went to was with my cousin Hiten in Ipswich, and I had a similar feeling. Funny enough, I came across a picture that looked like a “Rangoli”, which is an art form that is done during Diwali… how interesting that I would find one on Diwali and in a church of all places. Of course it probably wasn’t intended as a rangoli, but nonetheless it brought the spirit of Diwali into that space… and into my heart. Check out the pics!!

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I spoke to a man near the snack table (he recommended the lemon cookie which actually turned out to be a ginger snap), and he said that the sermons happen every Sunday at 11 AM and they also have programs in the evening. I think I might go back… I really liked it there and everyone was so welcoming.

I got to Whole Foods and it brought back lots of memories as usual…. I think I’ve tried pretty much every supplement in the whole store! I met with a woman who made her own natural skin care products and she gave me a bunch of free samples, including a deodorant cream and face mask and this odd grey powder that reminded me of Vibhuti (sacred ash that Sai Baba used to materialize, and also many devotees spread three lines of it across their forehead in homage to Lord Shiva). I picked up some flowers for Gosia and then headed to her place on the Danforth.

As usual, it was a magical experience. She had designed her own puppet show stage and her, Terrence, and her mother put on a hilarious show. It was great to see the kids enjoying themselves, even out in the freezing cold, and interacting with the show and helping out (like when Terrence, aka “the big bad wolf” couldn’t get through the door to see grandmother). Afterwards, we went inside and I had tea and caught up with Daniela and her love life. I filled her in on mine… well it’s always hard to talk about my feelings in that area, because I honestly don’t know how I feel about him… hmmm as I say this I’m drawn to “Sita’s Ramayana”, the book sitting on my desk that I brought to work, the woman who cried a million tears yet she was resolute in her love of life and ability to go on.

After Gosia’s I went to the So True event happening at Black Swan Tavern on the Danforth. The theme was Disguise. The event was started many years ago by Beth Kaplan, my writing teacher for Life Stories I. Next year will be the 10-year anniversary. This event celebrates the craft of writing and between 8-10 individuals share their best stories; they are selected beforehand by Beth. I hope to read a story at one of these events one day!! Each story was a work of art. One woman spoke of her daughter who had died suddenly in Costa Rica, and how she had a beautiful encounter at a hairdresser’s when she faced the reality of the situation and talked about her daughter with the hairdresser (the woman had also been her daughter’s hairdresser). I ran into my friend Kathryn while I was there, and she thanked me for referring her to Ranjini George’s class, Meditation and Writing, that she had taken this past summer. I got goosebumps hearing about it because Ranjini is one of my favourite people, and I just LOVED that course. It was where I wrote the story “The Perfect Wife” and was first introduced to the combination of Buddism and writing. Ranjini has studied with Thich Nhat Hanh (a well known Buddist monk) and she is an incredibly compassionate, wise person that always gives you her full attention and love.

In the evening I had dinner with Raju – we ordered in from Aroma and he played the most amazing Indian classical music playlist. It made me nostalgic, brought me to another time… not a physical time.. but a place in my soul that has been cut off lately. It was beautiful.

K I’m officially the only one left at work, but I’m glad I got this post done… now off to head home and have some leftover Indian food!

 

 

 

 

The Best Kind of Superheroes

I’m at the lovely Movenpick café at Wellington and Yonge, sipping a caramel macchiato and excited to get this blog post done before I head to Emilia’s for dinner. I saw her the other day at Yarina’s for a girls night, and it was so great seeing her after so long. We walked home that night – Emilia, Vicky, and I – through St. James Cathedral and Park, stopping to take a picture at Sculpture Garden.

Last Monday’s walk was week 42! Holy crap I only have 10 weeks left! I wonder what I’ll do next year for Walk In Her Shoes. I don’t think I’ll be doing this walk once a week anymore, but will definitely do the group walk and continue with the message of “I AM POWERFUL”. Next year CARE Canada is hosting the walk again Canada-wide so it will be great to join forces with other fellow activists. I also want to get back to the original intent of the blog, and write about lots of other topics – more book reviews, reporting on events, and travel especially.

Last Monday was an important day because it was my first day of work at CAMH!! I woke up at 6am feeling excited and a little scared, hopeful and trepidatious. It has been over four years since I’ve worked in the field, so it’s a big thing to be back at it. I sifted through my closet (Raju has given me the hall closet for my stuff) and decided on a violet/blue dress that Sharon gave me. I had peanut butter and toast and tea for breakfast, and even made a sandwich for lunch!!!

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First day of work outfit

I walked West on Gerrard, and down University Avenue (Lol I can’t seem to get away from that place). As I walked by the Global News cameras, the camera guy turned and checked me out and the journalist said in an exasperated voice to him: “Keep your eyes on the prize!” (meaning her not to me). It made me laugh out loud.

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Global News AM, University Avenue

I walked past Osgoode Hall and then caught the streetcar at Queen and University. I got to work and met with my manager, and then the rest of the day was a whirlwind! I was thrown right into things and attended four or five meetings. I walked a lot throughout the day – so somehow the day ended up being 10,000 steps. :-)  I’m excited to work in the project management office – they are doing great work across the organization and the project that I’ll be working on will advance their clinical information system to the highest level of integration (only one another organization in Ontario has achieved this level).

On the way home I passed by a beautiful café – isn’t this picture hauntingly beautiful? I love the way the sunlight is filtering in.

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Café on Queen West

I continued to walk home to Raju’s place – through Kensington Market where I went into this cool bookstore run by a friendly guy with dreadlocks and a toothy grin. I went in and sifted through a few books, looking for one to buy for Yarina – I was thinking I would bring a book instead of a bottle of wine to her dinner. (I ended up lending her Milk & Honey by Rupi Kaur that I dug up from my box of books).

I finally finished reading If Nuns Run The World! I will definitely miss this book and being immersed in the experiences of such an amazing group of women. Nicholas Kristof, the author of Half the Sky and a journalist that covers women’s rights issues, had this to say about it:

In an age of villainy, war and inequality, it makes sense that we need superheroes. And after trying Superman, Batman and Spider-Man, we may have found the best superheroes yet: Nuns.
– Nicholas Kristof

Couldn’t agree more.