A Goodbye Letter, A Love Letter & A Project #3ThingsThursday

For this week’s #3ThingsThursday, hosted by Pink Chai, The Write Balance and Love Laugh Mirch, my mood is a little sombre. I’m going to keep it short and, hopefully, sweet. #3ThingsThursday is when bloggers share some things from their world that have come up for them in the past week. If you’d like to join in, please visit any of the hosts’ websites and add your link. Even if you don’t want to add your link, have a visit anyway. It’s always neat to see what everyone’s up to.

 

1. I just wrote a goodbye/thank you letter to a friend who is receiving palliative care and may only be with us a few weeks. Her wishes are that visitors be limited, but a mutual friend told me a letter would be ok when I asked. I don’t know if you’ve ever had to do that before. It’s not something you ever look forward to doing, but at the same time, it’s an opportunity to say the things you may never have thought to say. It’s an opportunity to let someone know that you still hold in your heart all the seemingly insignificant moments you shared. It’s a chance to say thank you for crossing your path and leaving little bits and pieces of themselves with you, when you didn’t even realize they were doing that. I don’t wish this situation on anyone – having to say goodbye – but we have all been there at some point, or will in the future. But may I suggest not waiting till the end to say these things?

2. Right before I wrote that letter, I wrote another one which will be read in my daughter’s class today. My daughter is the ‘person of the week’ which means that she has had the opportunity to share with her class all the things that make her unique. Today, as her parents, her dad and I get to do the same – but from our point of view. It’s hard to sum up in a letter that will be read to 7 and 8 year olds all the things I feel about my first born child. She is my greatest teacher, my biggest cheerleader, my mirror, and the catalyst for some of the most amazing changes in my life. I kept it short, sweet and not too sappy (which was a challenge for me!).

3. Letters to my children – this was a project I started a long time ago and wish I had kept up, but I will have to get back to it because it’s quite possibly one of the loveliest ideas I have ever had. I have a file on my computer called Letters to Empathy which contains some notes to my older daughter (whose name means Empathy), and another file of notes called Letters to a Respectable Man (yes, my son’s name means respectable man – I don’t choose my kids’ names lightly!). I have yet to start a file called Letters to the Wind for my little Alyzeh, but I will. This project means a lot to me and I need to carve out the time to keep it up as regularly as I can. Some things are better not saving for last.

Do you have a letter to write? 

 

Giving With Dignity

I’ve told you before what I don’t like about charity. Knowing how I feel about handouts, you understand that hearing the phrase, ‘give to the less fortunate’ all holiday season long, irks me. There is so much packed into that expression that feels condescending and stagnant. It implies that there is one group of people that ‘needs’ things, and another group of people that ‘has’ things. Judging one’s fortune isn’t productive at all; it only leads to guilt and shame.

Every single one of us has needs and every single one of us has gifts. Our gifts are our talents, passions, skills, money or time. Needs include all the physical necessities of being safe and cared for. But there is one need that is just as great as those – and that is dignity.

So, if we all have needs and we all have gifts, then instead of a linear division between the ‘haves’ and have-not’s, we are in a circular relationship where everything each of us does and thinks and feels affects the rest of the community. With that in mind, when we have something to give, we can do it knowing that the person on the receiving end is a valuable, contributing member of society who may very well one day be serving us through their gifts. There’s humility in that, and hope, and most importantly, there’s dignity.

Imagine if every time we look at a fellow human being we see his or her potential, ability…amazingness – no matter where or how they live. Imagine if we were in the business of ensuring that everyone has the opportunity to develop their gifts and talents.

There is an organization I know whose mandate is just that: Boys and Girls Club of South Coast of B.C. (BGC). Their job description is to be the champion of kids, knowing and believing that every kid is amazing. The end products of their business are human beings who have the opportunity to shine like the great kids they are.

That paradigm that governs their organization allows room for growth, for both the families who are involved with BGC, and for our community at large. These children who are really being seen and heard for the unique individuals they are, aren’t the recipients of a handout – they are the future leaders we choose to invest in. Our return is a healthier, safer, stronger community. That makes sense logically, but also feels like a sigh of relief. That paradigm obliterates the negative by-products of a linear relationship.

I’m not saying we should think of charitable giving as a simple business transaction, devoid of feeling. That would be impossible and unacceptable since we are talking about human outcomes. But let’s replace guilt, shame, and pity with hopefulness, compassion and pride. Everybody in this circular relationship should feel these things when a ‘transaction’ is made.

For example, when a Christmas hamper is delivered to a BGC family with extraordinary needs, it is delivered by the staff member who already has an established relationship of trust with the family. It’s that touch of humanity that takes an act of giving and makes it an act of giving with dignity. For those of us who don’t have a direct relationship with the people involved in this organization, or any other non-profit, we can still give with dignity by doing it with the knowledge that we are just one part of the equation, doing what we can to make space for others to contribute to society as well.

We are all in this business of human outcomes. We are all participating in this circle of giving and receiving, each of us with our unique needs and gifts. Looking at it this way, we add ‘dignity’ into the mix: a need we all share.

For more information on Boys and Girls Club of South Coast of B.C., please visit their website at www.bgcbc.ca

 

 

P.S. Don’t miss out on your chance to win $80 to donate to your favourite Canadian charity before Fri Dec. 19 at midnight PST- enter HERE! 

Disclosure: This is a sponsored post. However, the opinions expressed within are entirely my own.

The First Birthday Of Our Last Baby

Today my third baby, Alyzeh Nasim, turns 1. A whole year has gone by since the midwife placed her, wet and warm, on my chest. A whole year has gone by since my family was finally made complete. And I am still not sure how this miracle happened when I had told myself I was giving up on it.

Ever since I was a little girl, I “knew” I was going to have 3 kids. Girl, boy, girl. When my husband and I got married, I think we both knew 3 was our magic number.

So, in the summer of 2012 when I got pregnant for the third time I took it for granted that this was just ‘going to happen’ and we’d have the family we’d always imagined. Until that dream was shaken by the loss of our baby at 11 weeks gestation. We were devastated, not just from the loss of a baby we would never hold, but because it felt like the end of our dream. My pregnancies are awful, at best. And the miscarriage left me with some physical challenges. There was no reason why we couldn’t try again, we were told. But I had a reason. I didn’t think I had it in me anymore.

We considered adoption and even talked to a couple people we know who have grown their families this way. But the conversations left me aching for my baby even more, and my husband and I decided that was enough baby talk. By this point, it was February of 2013. The pain of knowing my baby would have been born the next month coupled with the blocked feeling I got when we talked about adoption was too much for me, and I spent a 3 day period in a complete mess. I cried day in and day out. At the kids’ schools, at the gym…the tears just would not stop. I’d cry myself to sleep at night, too. After  3 days, I laid down in bed for what I thought was going to be another sleepless night. What happened next can only be described as being enveloped in a quiet and peace I had not experienced in a long time. It was as though every thought in my head was stilled. Every ping pong that had been bouncing around in my brain was put to rest. And I heard a voice from deep within me say, “I want to try again for my own baby.”

That voice calmed me and I trusted it with absolute certainty…

…until the next morning, when I woke up to regular old life and all the reminders of the pain I had been feeling. And the fear. There was no way I wanted to try again, I told myself.

A couple months later, I started dreaming about babies. In one dream, I was holding a newborn. The details were so vivid, right down to the baby acne, I was almost surprised, when I woke up, that it had been a dream. In another dream, my friend was holding two babies, one slightly smaller than the other, and looking very tired. Her two other children were jumping up and down with joy beside her. When I woke up, I texted her, “Are you pregnant?” Her reply, “How did you know??” sent chills down my spine. I probably gave her the same feeling when I texted back, “I think you might be having twins!”

The next day, a good friend of mine who happens to be psychic said to me, “So, baby number 3 is on the way.”

“What?” I asked. “Whose baby?”

“Yours.” she replied calmly. “And I don’t know what this means, but I’m seeing a Christmas tree.”

Mine? Couldn’t be. We were certainly avoiding the whole thing. But a week later, while I was sitting in a blogger conference, I felt the familiar tingling under the arms that I felt at the beginning of my three other pregnancies. My eyes practically popped out of my head and I turned to my blogger friend beside me, as though to ask, Did you feel that twinge? I mentally did the math. I should have been menstruating by that day. Whoa.

Later at home, a pregnancy test screamed two hot pink lines at me in my shocked state. In one moment, everything made sense: the heightened intuition (my friend was not having twins – one of the babies was mine!), the cramping I had had a few nights prior when I thought I ate something bad, waking up hungry at 3 am a couple nights in a row…

Was this really happening?

That was a question I asked myself for probably the first 30 weeks of my pregnancy with Alyzeh. Was this really happening? Was I really going to have this baby?

And, praise God, I did. She came to me, my baby girl, and I still can’t believe it sometimes. Today, she is a crawling, laughing, two-toothed little monkey who plays games, looks deep into my eyes, feels bad at the slightest ‘No’, and completes our family in a magical way.

Her first name, Alyzeh, is a Persian word for a type of wind. Her middle name, Nasim, was my mom’s name which means morning breeze. So, both names imply that she was brought into our lives by a force that we can’t see, but totally believe in.

And that’s the story of how Alyzeh came into our lives.

Happy birthday, baby girl!

 

 

Recipe: Toblerone Fudge

Fudge. Oh, you glorious fudge. How easy you are to make and yet how divine you taste.

This is a staple in any Christmas tin – just be sure to put it on the top layer with some parchment paper separating the goodies below! And you’ll be surprised at how much this one batch makes. How quickly it goes may also surprise you!

Here’s what you need:

1 400 gram bar of Toblerone (Swiss milk chocolate)

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup butter

3/4 cup evaporated milk

Here’s what you do:

1. Line an 8″ square tin with parchment paper, leaving enough paper hanging over the edges to form handles.

2. In a medium sized saucepan, mix together butter, sugar and milk until combined and mixture gets bubbly.

3. Remove from heat. Add in pieces of Toblerone and mix until completely melted.

4. Pour into prepared pan and then refrigerate for at least 3 hours, or until set.

5. Cut into squares and serve!

 

Win $80 From Chimp To Give To Your Favourite Canadian Charity! @wearechimp

You know that feeling that’s best described as being like a kid in a candy store?

That’s how I felt when Chimp, a charitable account system I talked about here, asked if they could give Let ME Out!! $160 to donate to any Canadian charity! Giving to a charity you love feels pretty awesome. Doing it with someone else’s money – how do you beat that?

Photo Credit: winnond/freedigitalphotos.net

Photo Credit: winnond/freedigitalphotos.net

This was a great opportunity to test drive their system, and it is as easy as they say. It took me just a few quick clicks to set up my free Chimp account from which I could directly donate to any of the listed charities. Clicking around on their super user-friendly site, I understood why people love Chimp so much they’ve used it to donate more than $32 million to over 3590 charities in this first year of its existence!!

Huge thanks to sponsor Hootsuite; during December, they are absorbing the already-minimal 1% service charge that accompanies a normal transaction. (This is the lowest rate you will find in Canada – elsewhere it’s between 4-7%).

It didn’t take me long to locate my favourite charity, Pandora’s Collective Outreach Society, via Chimp’s Find A Charity link. One click later, Pandora’s Collective ended up with $80 toward their programs, and I ended up with a happy heart!

Oh, but I said they gave me $160, right? Guess who gets the other $80? ONE OF YOU!

Chimp would love to have you try out their system and donate $80 to any Canadian cause that you wish!

To enter to win is almost as quick as using Chimp! The rafflecopter below closes on Friday December 19 at 12 AM (midnight) PST at which time it will randomly draw a lucky winner!

**Please make sure to click I Visited/I Followed/I Commented after completing each task or your entries won’t go in the pot! 

If it’s your name, you will have 24 hours from the time I contact you to claim your prize, or another winner will be drawn.

When you claim your prize, all I have to do is click once more from my Chimp account and the money will be transferred to you by email. So easy. So awesome.

Good luck!

 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Three Things I Thought About At 4 A.M. #3ThingsThursday

The baby still wakes up twice a night. I’m sure she doesn’t need a feed, she just loves me so much she can’t do without me for an entire night.

At 4 am I went in for the second time, and for some reason I could hear my thoughts as if I was another person listening in. Some people may call this a spiritual experience. I call it sleep deprivation: when your body is so tired, it can’t always house your sanity. So, your sanity steps out for a bit, has a little look’n listen to what your body’s doing, then (hopefully) merges again with your physical form. That’s just my take on it ;)

Anyway, in the spirit of #3ThingsThursday hosted by Pink Chai, The Write Balance and Love Laugh Mirch, here are 3 things that I caught floating around in my head, just a couple hours ago! After you’re done reading these really strange thoughts, head over to the lovely ladies I just mentioned, who I am sure having something a little more coherent to say!

1As I picked her up from her crib…

Oh, she’s flipped over on to her back again. Did she wake up because she flipped over? Or did she flip over because she woke up? Wouldn’t it be cool to have like a nanny cam in here so I can see what happened first? That’s kind of like, what came first…the chicken or the egg? I think it was the chicken. God just plopped a chicken onto Earth and then…no, wait, it was probably the egg. *sanity started creeping in* WHY AM I THINKING ABOUT THIS?!

2. As we settled into the nursing chair…

Her side feels kind of damp. Did she pee through her diaper? Or is she just sweaty? It’s kind of warm in here. But it could be pee. *caressing her left side as though my hand would be able to differentiate sweat from pee…as though it wasn’t totally disgusting that if it was pee, I was now rubbing it all over my palm* Is it wet enough to warrant a change? *Note: I did not bother answering myself*

3. As I nursed her…

What day is it tomorrow? Today. What day is it today? Is it hot lunch day? Shoot, that was yesterday. What should I make today? I could make macaroni and cheese, but Aariz ate that yesterday. So what’s happening today…there’s something…oh yeah, Christmas thingy after school. I ordered the extra large pizza. Oh, if there’s leftovers I can send them to school on Friday. Is there school on Friday? *sanity started creeping in again* WHY WOULDN’T THERE BE SCHOOL ON FRIDAY? GO BACK TO SLEEP!

As I walked back to my room, in a moment of sheer brilliance, I heard this voice say, “There you go, you have your #3ThingsThursday post.”

Some may call it a spiritual experience. You know what I say…

 

 

Why I Feel Sorry For My Kids And What I’m Doing About It

Last week, I read a post by Jamie Dunlop Khau called My Three Gifts To My Daughters This Christmas that stopped me in my tracks. Her first gift – the gift of presence – made me think, it made me cry and in the end, it inspired something that I really hope will change the way things go down around here.

You see, I’ve felt sorry for my kids for some time. I think the first time I felt a tug at my conscience was when my 3 year old daughter heard my cell phone beep and, like a robot, jumped up, walked over to where it was, and brought it to me. “Your phone, Mommy!” she exclaimed, no doubt pleased with herself at having done this very grown up thing. Ugh. Is that what grown ups do?

Yup. Look around you. If you are in a public space, how many people do you see with their heads in their phones? Probably a lot. And unfortunately, the ones who compete with these handheld devices are the ones who deserve a heck of a lot more than that. How many times have my husband or I been ‘yanked’ from an email or text message by a child needing our attention – a child who has repeated our name 3 times before getting a ‘Hmmmm…just a sec….’? And how many times does this happen without our even being aware of the disappointed looks on their faces?

I’ve justified my attachment to my smartphone by telling myself I’m a stay-at-home mom who’s simultaneously raising children while growing a freelance writing business. Much of my work is online and I don’t have huge chunks of time where I can be in front of a computer, getting everything done at once. So, instead, I grab minutes here and there to respond to an email or read an article or look up the submission guidelines for a publication. Unfortunately, those minutes sometimes coincide with a story my daughter wants to share about her day, or time parked in the car with my son before his preschool opens. I’m thinking about how much nicer it would probably feel to them to have my attention first rather than have to ask for those moments. What if each shared moment is like a coin in their piggy bank that they can store up and take with them into adulthood? What if we are only taking 75% of the opportunities to add to their bank when we could be giving more?

The day after I read Jamie’s post, my husband and I had a really exciting conversation about some of the changes we would make to re-align ourselves with our values of family first and being present. We had lots to talk about because I had also just read Christella Morris’ post called The Gift of Not Giving A Thing. In a nutshell, she has asked her friends and family to give her children gifts of experience rather than more toys, clothing and stuff that they just don’t need. Take them out for a movie, or to the park, or hang out at home…and really hang out with them. No phones, I might add. Just complete engagement.

My husband and I would much rather the important figures in our kids’ lives give the immeasurable gift of time and attention…presence not presents. As Christella mentions in her post, what if, one awful day, something happens and we can no longer be with our kids? They will be placed in the care of people we have chosen for them. But how can we ensure they have the easiest transition possible? By making sure they have a strong and real bond with our family and close friends. I’ve always believed it takes a village to raise a child.

So, for the last few days we have been practicing presence which is so much easier to do with our phones out of sight; they’re not even around when the kids are. We’ve essentially removed the thing that, even at rest, poses a threat to our family connection – because you never know when it will beep and detract from an experience, a conversation or simply just the pleasure of being together.

Without stealing these moments to put toward my business, I have to work more efficiently before the kids wake up, when baby naps and once they are tucked into bed (like now), but it’s worth it. And soon, it will be time to leave my baby for a few hours a week in the care of a trusted babysitter like I did with my son when he was a toddler at home with me, so I can work during normal hours and not turn into a zombie. In the end, we just have to do what works for us as a family.

And we’re hoping our friends and family will embrace the opportunities to spend quality time with our kids who are growing at lightning speed. Let’s pack ‘em full of good memories, loving embraces, eye-to-eye conversations and the very best we have to give them – the fuel they will need to forge their own paths as adults.

Recipe: Chocolate Earth Balls (A Delicious, Healthier Take On Peanut Butter Cups!)

This recipe is adapted from The Whole Foods Market Cookbook. They are our go-to chocolate treat around here. The kids love them because they can be very hands-on with making them. I love them because they are the perfect substitute for my hankering for peanut butter cups. Translated, that means that once I have eaten all the children’s peanut butter cups from their Hallowe’en stash, I need to make a batch of these!

Ingredients:

1 cup sunbutter (original recipe calls for peanut butter, but this substitution makes it school-safe)

1/3 cup honey

2 teaspoons cocoa powder

1/2 cup raisins

3/4 cup unsweetened shredded coconut, divided

1/2 cup chocolate chips (I use the Enjoy Life allergy-free ones – they are the perfect itty bitty size)

1/4 cup sesame seeds

There are other ingredient options you can use according to the original recipe, but this is exactly what I use and they are perfect!

Directions:

Mix the sunbutter, honey and cocoa powder until well combined. Add the raisins and 1/8 cup of the coconut. Mix these in then add the chocolate chips. Keep in the refrigerator for about 2 hours.

Place the sesame seeds in one bowl, and the remaining coconut in another bowl. Using a tablespoon, scoop small heaps of the mixture from the bowl and roll into a ball. Roll each ball in the coconut and sesame seeds. Refrigerate again for another 30 minutes before serving.

The kids help by stirring, but their favourite part is rolling the balls in the coconut and sesame seeds. They are never perfect balls – but they taste awesome!

Let me know if you try these!

GIVEAWAY: Need Help Staying Hydrated This Winter?

Do you drink enough water? I know I don’t. It’s not that I don’t know the importance of it – yet hours will go by before my next sip. I get too wrapped up in whatever I am doing to stop and refill my glass. And I’m such a hypocrite, too, because I will call out to my kids, engrossed in their play, when I notice they haven’t gulped down water in awhile, “You guys! Stop and have some water – your body needs it!” I bypass the sign my daughter and I painted a couple years ago that is tacked above the water filter on the fridge:

Then I wonder why my skin feels dry and my system feels sluggish.

So, when Brita® asked me if I’d try out their water pitcher and share my experience with you, I realized that a pitcher was exactly what I needed for my studio. Right now, I have a glass of water on a coaster to the left of my laptop. It’s got about a sip left in it. Normally, I’d finish off that sip and then the glass would remain empty for the remainder of my work time. That’s precious time that I could have maintained some level of hydration! But with a pitcher perched right beside me…well, what do YOU think? Think it will work?

I’m going to try it out and see if it makes a difference – stay posted for updates here and on Facebook and Twitter.

Now, let’s talk about YOU! Would clean, filtered water perched on your work desk help you stay hydrated? Do you know someone who could use some inspiration to carry out their health goals in 2015? How about someone who has recently had a baby and needs the boosted hydration while nursing? Brita® water pitchers and bottles can be a unique gift idea!

brita2

Also good to note: one Brita® water filter replaces 300 plastic bottles. So, if you’re a plastic bottle guzzler, let’s make the switch!

Brita® and I would like to offer one lucky reader their very own filtered water bottle to kick off this holiday season and take you into a much more hydrated and healthy new year!

Just leave a comment below saying why you want to win this! If you follow @BritaCA on Twitter, let me know that in your comment, too, and you will get an extra entry. Then on Wed. Dec. 10 at 12 pm PST, this contest will close, and I will draw a winner! This lucky person will have 24 hours to respond to my contact or another winner will be chosen.

Good luck – and bottoms up!

 

From Murder To Forgiveness To Hope – The Incredible Story Behind @TKF_SanDiego

I’m about to tell you a story that somehow was thrust in my path nearly 20 years ago and has never left me. The details of how I came across this story are foggy but that isn’t what matters. What matters is that I know it was no accident that I came to know it, and it has floated to the surface of my consciousness countless times in the past two decades. Lately, I have not been able to let it go; I’m sharing it here because I think you may need to hear it.

In 1995, 20 year old college student, Tariq Khamisa, was doing his job, delivering pizzas in San Diego, CA. What happened at one delivery changed the lives of many. When Tariq went to one particular address it became clear that nobody had the intention of paying for the pizza. Tariq turned around and got back in his car. That’s when an 18 year old gang member put a loaded gun in the hands of 14 year old Tony Hicks and told him to shoot. Tony did. In an instant, Tariq lost his life and Tony became the first child to be tried as an adult in the state of California. Tony pleaded guilty and asked Tariq’s dad, Azim, for forgiveness. He received 25 years in prison.

When I first heard this story, I was 18 years old. Now, as a parent, I replay the scenario in my mind with another layer of emotion, and when I imagine the mountain Azim had to climb every day just to get out of bed, my heart grows in admiration for him.

Now here’s the part of the story that I really want you to hear, because it may add to your life as it has mine.

Azim realized that Tariq was not the only victim of this shooting. There were “victims at both ends of the gun” – Tony Hicks was now going to be raised behind bars.

This moment of clarity led to Azim reaching out to Tony’s grandfather, Ples Flex, which initiated something beautiful: The Tariq Khamisa Foundation (TKF).

TKF’s goal is to stop youth violence through education, mentorship and community service programs. Since 1995, they have reached millions of kids internationally and have made significant differences in school attendance and behaviour at school.

I ended up writing to Azim Khamisa in 1996 and in response he sent a personalized letter and a package of newspaper articles, brochures and other information. It also turns out that my dad and he were classmates for a short time in Kenya and when Azim was visiting a nearby city the following year, we went to meet him.

Leading up to the time I heard about TKF, I journaled a lot about injustice in the world. There was so much heartache and despair; I so desperately wanted to make a change. “I don’t want to leave this world without making a difference,” I wrote on October 20, 1996. Two months later, I was holding a package from TKF, a real-life example of where that kind of thinking can lead.

In the 18 years that have passed (almost exactly to the day that I received that package from him) a lot has happened in my own life. I have had to forgive people, I have had to say goodbye to people. As a mother, I have had to evaluate my path and learn to follow my dreams. In recent years, I have remembered more clearly the type of person I am, the things I want to say and do and be in this world. TKF has always been like a beacon of hope, a lesson in forgiveness and a prayer for our next generations. It has been a reminder that from what we perceive as injustice there is always an opportunity to rise above and make a difference.

 

And that’s the story I wanted to share with you this Saturday morning, as the sun rose outside my studio window.