A Welcome; and a Disclaimer

**The name for this blog might sound pretentious, but that really isn't my intention. Rather, the inspiration for the title came from my realization that, although far from perfect, I strive always to be a better person and to influence those around me in positive ways. While I may not be as influential as Mother Theresa or Gandhi, I do believe that my actions have a ripple effect on the people, things, and environment surrounding me. Please join me as I process this exciting journey!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

I'm Moving!

Yes, that's right -- I'm moving!

Not geographically; at least, not yet. Rather, at the risk of losing those of you who follow me here, I have decided to begin a sort of sequel to this blog in hopes of creating something which truly reflects who I am.

Please follow me at http://afternoonsncoffeespoons.wordpress.com as I continue my blogging journey! It is a pleasure to have you along!

Monday, March 28, 2011

Preliminary Thesis

I'll just brush past the apologies for my extended absence and move right into a brief post that I can justify writing on the grounds that it relates to the essay I have been working on for the past couple weeks.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I have been taking a course, called Aboriginal Canada, via correspondence this semester from the University of Saskatchewan. It has been significantly eye-opening as it has explored everything from initial contact between Canada's First Nations and European explorers in the 16th century to the present struggle for self-governance and matters of education and basic human rights. Some of the course material was familiar to me, as I originally studied to major in Canadian and World History; other information was shocking, encouraging, appalling, and/or downright dumbfounding. Certainly, it has made for an interesting and intriguing course, and I appreciate the way in which it has generated in me endless questions and a desire to learn more.

The present essay has to do with the issues of Aboriginal resistance and self-determination, two very pressing and continuous topics in Canadian current affairs. As it stands right now, my essay's thesis (loosely stated) is the following: that Canada's First Nations are continuously employing a variety of actions and strategies to ensure that their rights are both granted and respected, and that they be recognized in their modern identity as fully-contributing members of Canadian society who participate in meaningful and important ways unique to their traditions, cultural values, and historical (both past and present) context.

Admittedly my thesis needs a little polishing, but I've posted it here as a means of virtual accountability -- so feel free to pry and ask how my magnum opus is coming along. Hmmm...perhaps "magnum opus" is a bit misleading; I suppose I ought to refer to it simply as "work" or "struggle," or even "mediocre paper" -- because if a topic so broad and intricately complex is downright stupefying. My only salvation will be to focus on the hope offered by the forward-movement of Aboriginal groups throughout Canada, and the ways in which they are paving the road to a more balanced future.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Eat, Pray, Love

Yes, as you may already have figured out, this brief post is about Elizabeth Gilbert's widely-read autobiographical book (since made into the movie) Eat, Pray, Love.

I'm not usually the type of person who dives into reading the "popular" books that seem to fit into a fad-type craze; I've got everything lining my shelves from Julio Cortázar's short stories, Hermann Melville's Moby Dick, and other authors including Anne Lamott, Miguel de Cervantes, Sandra Cisneros, Brian McLaren, Bill Richardson, and Gabriel García Márquez. However, as one who enjoys reading a variety of genres, I recognize that some bestsellers certainly have earned that distinction. This book, in my opinion, is deserving of the recognition it has achieved.

I was first turned on to Eat, Pray, Love by my friend Heather, a delightfully exuberant, intelligent, and passionate woman who is presently working and living overseas. We entered into an engaging and lively discussion about the book on Facebook, where she had posted an interview with the author herself. While some might view Elizabeth Gilbert as narcissistic and others as paving the way to a kind of personal enlightenment, I am of the opinion that she brings a bit of each extreme to her writing. She is undeniably vulnerable and up-front in her writing, extrapolating (to varying degrees) upon everything from depression and divorce to meditation and Italian cuisine. And her writing is absolutely compelling!

It is my suspicion that we all have something of a narcissist in us, and I believe that, if we allow ourselves an open mind and a string of hope, this same narcissism can take us from absorption with ourselves to recognition of what is "working" in our lives and what isn't, and then to the reality of improving upon who we are and how we live -- thereby assisting in a transformative work in us which, I must clarify, I believe is never done as long as we live. And isn't that beautiful? To think that nobody has "arrived"; nobody is complete or perfect or has it all figured out. We all move along throughout this life, sometimes more aligned with love and peace, and sometimes less . . . but all with the same potential for self-discovery and ability to make a positive impact on the world and the community in which we live. Because if self-discovery stops at self, I believe it is an exercise in futility. For how can a lone narcissist bring any love or light to the world without selfless interaction with it?

Those are just some of my thoughts on the subject. And, as someone who once swore off the whole idea of getting married because of varying experiences in my own life (and in part just to break with the whole idea of conformity and conventionalism), I, too, have had to work through the question of what marriage means in my own life, and what are the roles I play and why. (Let me just take the opportunity to state here how thrilled I am to be eating crow for my premature proclamation that I would never marry!) And, in light of all this, I look forward to reading Gilbert's other autobiographical account in her book Committed: A Skeptic Makes Peace With Marriage.

For an interview between Ann Patchett (another brilliant author) and Elizabeth Gilbert, concerning marriage and its role in society today, click here.

As a bit of an afterthought, all this talk of "To marry or not to marry" has reminded me of how it was that Ramón and I got engaged. Hmmm. Methinks that story begs a whole post of its own!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Cue the Arrival of Cupid

Is it just me, or does it seem crazy to think that the year 2011 is already well underway -- soon to be proven by another Valentine's Day!?!

To be perfectly honest, I'm more than a little excited because this will be the first ever opportunity for my husband and I to enjoy a romantic Valentine's evening together! Let me explain: Valentine's Day 2009 was the first (and only!) one when we were still dating, but I was studying in Guatemala that semester -- which translated into a cherished phone conversation, but no special evening together. Boo.

Then, in 2010, we were honoured to be hosting my Mom and Terry here on a week-long visit to Panama -- and so we got sidetracked with sightseeing and introducing them to Ramón's family for the first time, which we loved -- and again, Valentine's Day got overlooked with all the excitement of playing host and hostess.
But this year -- finally -- we're looking forward to a nice Valentines-y evening together. We talked about the idea of going out for a romantic dinner, but what with the craziness of restaurants, not to mention the insane traffic in Panama City on even a "normal" day, we both decided that a quiet, special dinner for two at home would be more our style.
And so, I've been doing some brainstorming -- yes, once again via Martha Stewart's website -- to come up with the perfect elements for an exquisite, memorable meal as well as the other components that combine to create the perfect "first" Valentine's Day evening for us! And, since I love the realm of cooking and entertaining, I am excited to pull out all the stops!

Below are just a few of the ideas that have made it to the top of my list. To get the recipes, simply click on the links included:

Of course, there are also other elements that come into play, such as:

  • flowers
  • candles
  • a good romantic playlist -- including, among others, Michael Bublé, Diana Krall, and some possible Harry Connick Jr.
  • romantic card
  • a gift -- something practical yet unique; simple but elegant
  • taking photos of the evening as it unfolds

What are your other Valentine's Day ideas? Do you have traditions, or special memories of Valentines past?

Photos included in this post found here, here and here.

My Veranera

Hello dear friends!

After a little more than a year living in the tropical country of Panama, I finally have a plant! And, as you can tell, I am absolutely thrilled! She's my very own beautiful veranera, better known among English-speakers as a bougainvillea, and she's absolutely LOVELY:

Okay . . . so that photo above isn't of my plant -- but that's what she'll look like someday. For now, she's a little more Charlie Brown-esque, as you can see:

But that's just temporary. I think. In any case, I still do love her just the same!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Painting Inspiration 101

I have just spent the past several hours exploring several home design websites, specifically with the goal in mind of getting a more concrete idea of how we want to breathe some life into our living room / dining room area, and what an exciting afternoon it has been! Among the most exciting websites was one by Porter Paints, a brand with which I am unfamiliar but which has a neat colorsensegame which you can access by clicking here. It's a fun take on one's appreciation of colour, texture, moods and styles, and it gives some interesting feedback on how to create an ideal living space tailored to your own personality! It's a creative take on incorporating all the diverse elements into one's decorating -- however, if you ask me, there's also some room for improvement as far as the range of colour schemes that are offered in each of the results. In any case, give it a try -- just for the fun of it!

Ramón and I also took a trip to our neighbourhood Do It Center where we found some inspiringly colourful paint chips -- and also happened to come home with an elliptical machine for a steal of a deal: $89.00! So, all in all, it's already been a fantabulous day!

One of the most exciting projects of the day was being able to turn this . . .

. . . into this!

Okay, so it was done using Sherwin-Williams' Colour Visualizer (found here) -- but hey, at least it gives us a pretty tangible idea of what we'd like our front room to look like! We originally considered going with this look...

...but at the moment we're definitely feeling partial to the green. Besides, the subtle change from the beige walls we have throughout our house at present to a soft yellow hue just doesn't seem to have the panache to complement our funky orange and brown couches. Which colour gets your vote?

Friday, February 4, 2011

A Trip Down Memory Lane

For the first time in my life, last week I wrote a letter to my uncle.

Technically, it was an email, but had I lived in a country with reliable postal service, it would have been the old fashioned kind of letter -- you know, the kind that's hand-written with your own distinctive cursive and favourite fountain pen on luxurious stationary, then neatly folded into a matching envelope, addressed in impeccable calligraphy, fitted with postage and then graced with an original seal . . . or am I the only one who gets a wee bit giddy about giving my attention to all those details? Seriously, I get all giggly inside (and outside!) on the rare occasions when I find just such a masterpiece delivered to me; sadly, none will be forthcoming even if sent while I continue to live in this particular corner of the world in a city with less-than-Vatican-calibre postal service.

But back to the email: do you have a family member or two with whom you've kind of gradually just fallen out of touch? That's the sort of scenario we're talking about here. Honestly, I have nothing but fond memories of my dear uncle -- so it's not that there was an ugly feud or anything that caused us decisively to go our separate ways; but somehow I can't recall a real conversation between he and I in well over a decade.

And so, one day while on the phone with my grandmother, I was asking her about the family. When she got to telling me about my uncle (he's the only one from that family, so there's no risk of playing favourites!), I confessed to her how long it has been since I remember actually spending some time with him. I then went on to tell her of two very specific wonderful memories I have from when I was very young -- memories in which my uncle was the key actor. Grandma, in her very matter-of-fact-yet-loving way, up and told me that I should just contact him.

And so I did! I send him a long, detailed email, first telling him about our recent news and life in Panama, and then leading up to thanking him for those two specific memories I have of him -- memories that come to mind immediately every time I think about him. And now I'll share them with you:

I was barely seven years old; my mother spent much of the afternoon getting my four-year-old sister and I ready for a date with our uncle. She styled our hair and dressed us in our prettiest dresses, and we were ready and waiting when our uncle arrived in his shiny black car and dressed in a suit, carrying two long-stem roses -- a pink one for my sister and a yellow one for me -- and took us to the city to see The Nutcracker Ballet. I felt like the luckiest girl in all the world!

The second memory comes from around the same time period, but it was a sort of ongoing thing: somewhere, in some little booklet of jokes for kids, my sister came across one that said:

Q: Why did the banana kiss the cucumber?
A: Because it had a peel (appeal)!

Neither she nor I understood it, but when we told it to our uncle he laughed as though it were the most clever joke around -- and from then on we told it to him every time we saw him for years to come!

Those memories, one-time events though they may be, have encouraged me repeatedly over the years. To me they are tangible reminders of love from my family -- specifically from my dear uncle.