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Monday, October 29, 2012

Meditation for your Monday


"Some people feel the rain.  Others just get wet."  Bob Marley

Listening to my rain songs and hoping Sandy will be kind to my East Coast friends and family. 

Monday, October 22, 2012

Meditation for your Monday

For about three weeks, my family has been grieving the sudden loss of a dynamic, selfless, classy, intelligent, compassionate and loving woman.

I miss you Rozy Mumma.  Thank you most of all for the love, guidance and gentle leadership you gave to my Mom and Dad in their youth and all throughout their lives.  Karim, Aneez and I have reaped the benefits.

"When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight."  Khalil Gibran

Friday, October 5, 2012

Confessions of a Crock Addict

My pals Merriam and Webster told me that the definition of an addict is "to devote or surrender (oneself) to something habitually or obsessively or to cause addiction to a substance in (a person or animal)."  My cousin Jamila uses the term "overlove."  It sounds much more acceptable.  I'll be sure to suggest that to Merriam and Webster.
I'm stalling.  I'm hesitant to confess that I love the crock. That I overlove my crock pot.  That I'm a crock addict. I.am.a.crock.addict.
Lately, the crock has claimed some precious real estate in my mind.  It's gotten so bad that I've brought this addiction to the workplace.  I even purchased a second crock pot so that I have one at home and at work. There's an email distribution list on my computer called "Crockpotters."  Every week I invite these lovely people to join me in the lunch room and try a new recipe that I've found.  It's the perfect break in the work day and a chance to get to know people that I may not see at work otherwise.  It's also the perfect cover up for my addiction!  Ha!
It started innocently enough with an intention to be more mindful of what I eat.  For someone who doesn't like to cook I liked this lazy method of being culinary.  Throw all the ingredients into the crock pot and it does all the work!
My first recipe and one of my faves is a yummy Sante Fe Chicken Chili.

This Cashew Chicken was delish over rice.
Pinned Image

And this Mac and Cheese is amazing. I've made it three times already and plan to make some as a side for our Thanksgiving meal this weekend.
Thankful for my Crockety Crock!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

A Ruby Anniversary

From left to right: Mom, Dad, Karim, Minaz, Maji, Kahzmir, Aneez and me.
Celebrating Canada and all that we have accomplished in the last 40 years!

I’ve been working in the field of volunteer engagement for 12 years.  I can say with full confidence that I am living out my life’s purpose.  This is the only career I’ve ever known and for a member of Generation X, I might be one of those few people who doesn’t change careers multiple times in my life.  Why do I do what I do?  It all began 40 years ago today right here in Canada on October 3, 1972.  I wasn’t even born but this was a day that changed the course of my life forever.
Rewind 40 years and two months ago to August 4, 1972.  My Mom and Dad were both 25 years old and living in Tororo, a town in Eastern Uganda.  They were a young newlywed couple and 6 months pregnant with my oldest brother Karim.  Mom was a nurse and Dad had a blossoming career in hotel management and hospitality.   Their world was forever changed when former Ugandan President Idi Amin issued a decree expelling 60,000 Asians from their birthplace of Uganda.  This act of ethnic cleansing came with a condition of giving Ugandan Asians 90 days to leave the country or else.  Or else what?  I’m not sure really when I hear stories of police brutality, corruption, murder and abuses of the worst kind that took place immediately after the decree.   Luckily, my Mom and Dad had family in England and in Canada, two countries who had opened their borders to those that had been expelled.  My pregnant Mom went to England right away and stayed there to deliver my brother Karim.  Dad had planned to wrap a few things up before following my Mom to England so he could be there for the birth of my brother.  He was victim to his own individual hardships as a result of corruption amongst local authorities.  He’s only ever talked to me twice about a painful day that he experienced that had him escape to England sooner than he planned.  I can’t even imagine what my 25 year old Dad was going through and where he got the strength to envision a future for his family in Canada. 
Dad missed the birth of Karim and arrived on Canada on October 3, 1972 to set about building our family’s life.  Four months later, Mom and Karim joined Dad and for the first 6 years of their life in Canada, my parents grew their family (my brother Aneez came first and then me) and moved from one community to the next trying to figure out where they could work and where they as newcomers could establish security for their young family.
Today our family will celebrate 40 years of building a life and legacy in Canada.   My parents don’t really talk about leaving Uganda and what that was like for them.  Perhaps, at 25 they weren’t able to process all that was happening to them.  Maybe they are trying to protect us from realities they hope are never ours.  What I do know is that they’ve lived in Canada longer than anywhere else in their lives.  Canada is home.  Canada, a country built on immigrants, diversity and global influences is also a place where they learned to belong as newcomers through receiving kindness from volunteers.  Canada has also been a place where they can actively and freely contribute as volunteers.  My sense of belonging comes from witnessing my Mom and Dad in various incarnations as volunteers.  As new Canadians, they were leaders in the Canadian Scouting movement.  My Mom took on various leadership roles in our mosque.  My Dad chaired a provincial Association of Dry Cleaning Professionals and showed me what leadership looked like.  They’ve taken their decades old experience as newcomers and turned it into learning and support for newly arrived Central Asians to Canada.  My Mom spends her weekends promoting heart health in the South Asian community.  Dad visits a senior’s home once a week and has gone back to school to learn how to be a teacher so that he can compete for meaningful volunteer roles as he prepares for retirement. 
I do what I do because my life wouldn’t be the privilege it is today without the generosity and compassion of volunteers who paved the way for my parents.  I do what I do because there is no greater gift that we can give each other than a few moments of our time.  To facilitate that process for others is an honour.  I do what I do because volunteers and volunteerism are transformational on an individual, community and global level. I do what I do because the currency of kindness makes us all wealthier than we can ever imagine.    

My Dad and my Mom! 

Thank you Mom and Dad for giving us the gift of a home that is safe and diverse and full of opportunities.  I love you.

Friday, September 28, 2012

August All Gone!

Today is the fourth day in a row that I am wearing closed toe shoes.  It is with a heavy heart that I must face the cold hard truth that summer in my Toronto is oh-to-the-ver.  Gone are the days of perfect pedicures, patios and popsicles.  Bring on the fleece, staticky hair and runny noses.  Sigh.  Before I give in completely, please allow me to rave about my wonderful August.

 
A boy and his faux hawk.

August was the month of Kahzmir's faux hawk.  It's been cool watching him experiment with his hair by slicking it up, colouring it and forgetting all about it too.  And now he is all grown up in and in first grade and becoming more independent every day.  Love this kid!

The month started off with a bang at the Florence and the Machine concert.  My date was the lovely Munira and a kind stranger gave us his pair of tickets which upgraded our seats.  The night was destined to be great.  One of my favourite moments of the show was seeing Florence run barefoot midway up the amphitheatre through a crowd of her fans and back down to the stage with a huge smile on her face. She has one of the most powerful voices I've heard but is also one of the most graceful performers I've ever seen.

I attempted to read the entire Anne of Green Gables series this summer. I gave up in August midway through book 6, Anne of Ingleside.  Perhaps I'll finish the final three books by the year's end.
 One of my favourite Anne moments.

Bestie et moi.

Dates with my bestie the Leo throughout August were perfection.  Hanging at this munchkin's first birthday in the park was blissful.
Little M is too cute!

Bestie and I both had Summer Fridays. We used one of them to celebrate his 35th birthday by waking up early for a salsa class followed by a yummy brunch where we happened upon this gorgeous mural in progress by Shalak Attack.  Funnily enough, at a wedding a few weeks later, one of the guests was telling us about an amazing mural she had seen and showed us pictures of the completed mural on her phone.


 

I have spent the summer doing a lot of crockpotting.  Somewhere in August, it became an addiction and I don't want to stop.ever.never.  I think about the crock all the time.  And now you are thinking about it too.  My parents and I spent a lazy Saturday together and they enabled me by guinea pigging for a new recipe, Creamy Chicken and Asparagus with Penne.  It was delish!

My friend Bey got married in August to my neighbor Ricardo.  What a small world!  She was a gorgeous bride and her happiness was infectious!

The morning after the wedding, I hosted a reuion/BBQ for the staff I worked with at Camp Marifa during my high school days.   Funny to think that people trusted me with their children for A WHOLE WEEK when I was still a teenager! It was great to catch up with everyone and reaffirm that we did a pretty great job.  Here's a shot from the good old days.
Love this picture.  Am wearing Karim's Harvard t-shirt which he passed down to Aneez who then passed it down to me.  I wore that thing until it was a transparent piece of cloth hanging off of me.  

A cherished staple in Toronto's summer is CanStage's Dream in High Park; a run of some work by Shakespeare in the amphitheatre in High Park.  This year's production of Midsummer Night's Dream was clever and fun and so accessible for Torontonians, many of whom speak English as a second or third language.
Dream in High Park Stage.

And while the 2012 Summer Olympics in London made for inspiring Saturday and Sunday mornings and I got these cute pics of Isaac attending the marathon, my Toronto was host to the Ontario Summer Games.  What a great experience working with over a thousand volunteers to help ensure the games were a success for all of the youth athletes from across the province.


Gold medal spectator Isaac!

And what summer would be complete without mention of my Toronto Blue Jays?  No summer of mine!  Aussie friend Kat visited from England and Pam and I took her to a game where we soaked up some sun and some handsome ball players.  The lovely Kat got into the spirit, tattoos and all!


We also celebrated Eid-ul-Fitr in August.  My mom made us an amazing lunch and I capped off the day watching The Princess Bride in the park under the stars with Munira.

 

There were a lot of dinners out this summer.  Salad King with Pam and Kat, Hot House Cafe and a reunion with Alysha and Kristin, Ho Su with Jennifer and Spring Rolls with Zaheera.  The common thread was sisterhood and girl talk.  Great food was the bonus!

I tried a few new things in August.  Along with first proper facial and body wrap, I donated blood for the very first time.  Canadian Blood Services sent the Life Bus to my work and my colleagues and I jumped on and became donors as part of The Big Save.    Kristin happened to experience this first too.  You can read about her experience here. 

Most important in August was Issac's second birthday!  Happy Birthday Little One!  My nephews have brought so much joy to our family.  Only 78 days until I can eat this little guy up!

So that was August in a (very spacious) nutshell.  It was a month full of moments to be thankful for.  The only downside was not getting to see more-than-just-my-gym-buddy Melanie as often as we both wanted.  We're back on the wagon and I should really get on with September and embrace the fall.  I really don't want it go down as the month that I stayed up until 2am two three times in one week to watch Gangnam Style parodies on YouTube...

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

July? How about JOY-ly!

Why hello August! You certainly came out of nowhere!

I guess that happens when one has as joyful a July as I just did. Practicing daily gratitude is so grounding for me. Taking in a whole month of gratitude at once is the best kind of uplifting! Here we go!

July got off to a great start! What could top a Canada Day shared with my Toronto Blue Jays and 21 friends who accompanied me to a game? 22 friends perhaps? Just kidding! Even though the Jays lost and we all ended up with either heat stroke, sun burns, heat rash and/or sweat in unmentionable places, we had a blast! Follow that up with a BBQ and ice cream cake on my condo's roof top garden with neighbours and soon-to-be-newlyweds Bey and Ricardo and their friends. I'd say we all hit a homerun that day.
Ameera and I melting at the Jays Game on Canada Day.

The first week of July also brought me a great new co worker who has been an absolute pleasure to work alongside! She's already got me signed up to go Tree Top Trekking in September to continue my pursuit of getting high. I had to draw the line today when she invited me to a 5K Zombie Obstacle Course. I am honestly flattered that she would want to share her weekend time with me since we see each other all day but she lost me somewhere around the mention of running and blood.

That same week many of us from the YMCA of Greater Toronto took part in the YMCA Relay for Strong Kids on the Honda Indy track. What a fantastic event!
My volunteer partner Bryan and I at the YMCA Relay for Strong Kids.

I also got to celebrate two special people who turned 40 this month! Melanie, who knows my heart so well, let me take her to dinner even though we were complete prunes from spending way too much time in the whirlpool. Read about her thoughts on turning 40 here.

Naheed also turned 40! He invited everyone over for a party 3 short days after moving into his new home. When I saw the six pack of Fanta in glass bottles, I became giddy! It might as well have been my birthday! Lucky me, on another July night, I got some one-on-one time with the birthday boy. Later that week, he and his boyfriend also treated me to a home cooked brunch with the most delicious pancakes!
Fanta in a glass bottle! A glass bottle!

My Vegas crew reunited this month over yummy poutine at the W Burger Bar. Bestie confessed that he watched Glitter in the theatre...twice. You gotta love him! And I do! So much so that I scored a date with him the next week for sushi!
Bestie - mid confession and drunk on sweet potato beef poutine...

Speaking of poutine, one of the most important days of the year happens in July. That's right! You guessed it! NATIONAL FRENCH FRY DAY! (Way to go US of A for recognizing this day. I dream of a world with an INTERNATIONAL FRENCH FRY DAY...) June 13th marks this celebration of Mother Nature's gift to me in my most favourite of its fried forms. Pity it only comes about once a year.

After a joyful National French Fry Day, I got the opportunity to attend a birthday party for my favourite Canadian living in Lusaka, Zambia. This is not an easy place to win in my heart people...after all I know approximately THREE Canadians who live there.
Here are the other folks who were invited to the party.
Clearly, I was the youngest at heart of the birthday party bunch.

Ethan turned six and invited me to his Build-A-Bear-Workshop party. I even got to build my own friend.
Sungura (Swahili for rabbit) and I. He's no longer parading around nude -
I bought him a Toronto Blue Jays uniform.

A highlight this month was my second annual Soup Sisters experience. Last year, 20 of us kicked off National Volunteer Week with my first Soup Sisters event. After a night of teamwork, great food and doing good, I was hooked. This year, 25 of us pooled our energy and spirit to crank out 96L of delicious soup together in just a few short hours!
My Soup Sisters and Broth Brothers.

Having Fridays off this month, I took a quick trip south of the border with Mom, Minaz, my favourite Canadian living in Lusaka and his Mom. These folks put in motion the words "shop 'til you drop." I worshipped the Archers at Target. As you do when you are Canadian.

Dinner dates with Erin, Munira, Ameera were a treat this month. Funny enough, now that I think about it, all three dates included the devouring of green dragon rolls. DELISH!

My Dad also turned 65 and we celebrated with a fresh and tasty Middle Eastern meal one evening followed by a perfect day by the BBQ. So happy that the Ladaks who were in town from Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania joined us too. Could it be a coincidence that the week after my Dad turned 65 he locked his car keys in the house and his house keys in the car at the same time? How curious.
Dad and Kahzmir and an ice cream cake with a very short shelf life.

This last weekend in July was definitely special. I kicked it off reuniting with my MBSR teachers at Women's College Hospital for a refresher course. Deanna and Thora came by the Harbourfront to play at the urban beach at the HTO Park. Ameera and I followed that up with massages at the Elmwood Spa. She then put up with me crying throughout the Opening Ceremonies of the London 2012 Olympics which we watched on mute while out at dinner. (That right there is a good friend.) Karim, Minaz, Faiza A and I also caught the Cirque de Soleil: Michael Jackson Immortal show and had a blast being reminded of the messages of love for one another and for the Earth that were so prevalent in Michael's music.
Eleven month old Thora and Deanna.

I said good bye to July today with Kimberly, mani/pedis and my favourite bean burrito from Quesada. What an amazing month! Joy-ly, I love you!

Thursday, July 5, 2012

My Blate in Chicago

When I first started blogging, I was really just looking for a place to record my daily gratitude and the moments in my blessed life that make me happy.  I had no idea that blogging would lead me to meeting and making memories with so many terrific people.

I can't remember how I first came across Meghan's blog The Perfect Compilation Tape.  I do recall that she made me laugh out loud under the glow of my laptop, that I think of her whenever any "Housewives" show is on and that I now use the word "amazeballs" after having read it on her blog.

I was in Chicago for a conference last month and was lucky enough to score a blate with Meghan.  We met up the day the conference ended while I was on a high from a trip to Target and trying not to melt in the crazy city heat.  Meghan and her hubby Mike along with new friends of mine Adam and Julie went to the US Cellular Field to catch the Chicago White Sox hosting the Chicago Cubs .  (Disclaimer: I promise that if I've met you through blogging and should we ever have the chance to meet in person, it doesn't have to be at a baseball game even though my track record might indicate otherwise.) Meghan was as hilarious and witty in person as she is on her blog.  Her one liners and quick observations had me in stitches and it was so nice to be able to spend a little bit of time with her in the city she loves so much.

Meghan and I trying to look cute even though it was hawt as heck.

The Cell is beautiful contrast from Rogers Centre in Toronto.  The open air stadiums in the US are perfect for watching the sun go down above the field.

The Cell by day.

The Cell by night.

Meghan, Mike, Adam and Julie also indulged me in a Chicago version of Ground or Mound. Here is our splendid kitty.

It was nice to see the lovely and former Blue Jay Alex Rios in action.  As ever, he was easy on the eyes.  Yum!

But by far the highlight of the game was Carl. This kind man with a knapsack filled with blended strawberry margaritas was so fun and friendly.  

Watch and learn as Carl demonstrates his super cool margarita machine in action.



And when he found out I was visiting from Canada, Carl presented me with a baseball on behalf of all of Chicago.  What a sweetheart!  Of course, I had him sign it for me. After all, he was the only real celebrity at the game.


We spent the last few innings of the game watching this disgruntled Cub's fan express her inebriated self in all her glory.  She was blissfully cursing for the most part but it got kind of ugly near the end of the game.  Thankfully her child was recording it all and putting it on YouTube...for posterity I am sure.

This perfect evening was topped off with some neat fireworks at the end of the game.  It doesn't matter how old I get, I am a sucker for fireworks.

You make a great blate Meghan!
I hope we can do it again soon!

Monday, June 25, 2012

Meditation for your Monday

Happy PRIDE Toronto!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

California, I love you

How did I wait so long to talk about one of the most amazing things to come from blogging yet?  To be honest, words cannot do it justice but I will try.

I did it!  I FINALLY got to meet some of my blog friends.  It feels so weird to call them that.  They really just are...my girls.  Marianne, Micaela, Claire and I put this plan into action back in December.  Marianne was blue that her true-love-man-crush CJ Wilson had been traded from the Rangers to the Angels. I took a quick look at the Angels schedule and saw that they would be playing my Blue Jays in May.  I suggested to  Marianne that we should take a road trip to California and see him in action with his new team.  A minute later she said YES! Micaela and Claire immediately jumped on the idea too and what seemed liked YEARS later we finally met at Claire's place in Oakland in early May!  The bonus was meeting Marianne's sweet Brit-pal Ezgi who came along too and entertained us with her hilarious coveting of young American boys.

I was nervous about meeting everyone in person for the first time.  Marianne and Micaela met in the womb and they had been to visit Claire last year.  I wasn't sure what the dynamic would be between the four of us as I have been lucky to have three unique and special friendships with Claire, Marianne and Micaela separately.  All of that went out the window when Marianne and a barefooted Claire came running onto the street to meet me when I finally made it to Oakland in the wee hours of the morning.  Marianne and I couldn't stop hugging and giggling.   Fast forward a few hours and confessions later and we finally went to bed.

We spent the next day walking along Pier 39 in San Fran and taking in the sites which included the cutest sea lions.  Adorable!  A highlight for me was driving across the Golden Gate Bridge.  Here we are on the other side.


Stopping to worship our favourite legume at the Golden Arches.

Papa Lechuga made us the sweetest domino necklaces which we all wore as we headed on down to Anaheim.

Of course we stopped at Target on our way there.  Thank you kind Target security guard for snapping our first picture together. 
Ezgi, Micaela, Claire, moi and Marianne.

Our drive to Anaheim was hilarious.  No topic was off limits and the conversation was so saucy and steamy that the 7 hour drive went by in a flash.   The highlight of the day was definitely an impromptu stop to meet Carrie from This Free Bird for a delicious dinner at her love's resto The Corner in Huntington Beach.  Three words changed my life that night...mashed potato tacos.  AMAZING.

The following day, to celebrate Cinco de Mayo, we headed to San Diego for a Mexican lunch with Claire's gorgeous friend Elena.  I took my first walk on the shores of the Pacific Ocean and drove a little stretch of the Pacific Coast Highway too. So much natural beauty everywhere!

 Loved the layered natural tones of the sand and stones on the beach.

We headed back to Anaheim for the main event - MARIANNE and CJs FIRST DATE!

GO JAYS GO!

Angel Stadium.

CJ devotee Marianne.

The highlight of this day and the entire trip was Marianne's permasmile.  She was so happy to see CJ pitch an outstanding game.  She put a lot of effort into making this sign for CJ and got her sweet mug on the Jumbtron.  To top it off early the next morning CJ tweeted her to tell her he had seen her AND her sign.    Our girly screams and jumping up and down  with excitement woke Claire up with a start but it was so worth it!  To see how happy Marianne was and to be there with her was such a gift.  I will always remember her twinkling eyes when I think of the word JOY.
 
The things these rally monkies heard on the drive back up to San Francisco make me blush!

I love the connections this bloverse has allowed me to have.  Thank you Claire, Marianne and Micaela for being "my first(s)".  I love you girls!

Read mommy-to-be Micaela's version of our trip here.
Read lady-of-many-man-crushes Marianne's version here.
Read I-rocked-a-busted foot-up-and-down-the-Cali-coast Claire's version here.

And this week...the blogverse keeps on giving!  I am so looking forward to catching a ball game with Meghan in Chicago.