treasure your friends


My friend turned me down for going for a walk yesterday but promised to get together maybe today or whenever her busy life allows. Although I missed spending time with her and catching up on what’s been happening since our last get-together I will patiently wait for the opportunity to share my time with her.

Friends are like pebbles in the sand, jewels in a crown, oxygen for some. Imagine where you would be without your friends (I am assuming that you have at least one) and you might find yourself in the desert, a bit alone, stuck in the sand. Again I am assuming that all your relations, close and otherwise are excluded and not considered friends although some have told me that their sister or brother or even their cousin is like their best friend.

If you grew up with siblings one of the first bonds you have formed apart from your parents or other nurturing adults may have been with your brother or sister. If you developed a positive relationship when young you forget about the times when you sat in the sandbox crying and hanging onto each end of a toy truck claiming it to be yours, instead you recall times such as celebrating birthdays when your smiling face (sometimes with a few cake crumbs on your chin) is right next to that of your smiling sibling.

If you were brought up to engage in socializing you may have spent good times with siblings, cousins, neighbours and self-selected friends. You may have met your first friend when you were a wee babe as your mom pushed you in the pram, idly chatting to her friend who paraded her own bundle of joy right next to you. Perhaps you even exchanged some baby talk across the carriages that to the untrained ear sounded just like gurgling and one-syllables when in fact it was a coded conversation that could only be heard by other like-minded wee ones. I believe that we all conversed on some level from a very young age and that it has only been recognized as true communication once words that made sense came along. Then again, you (and I) may have talked utter nonsense, real baby goobledygook and yet we managed to make ourselves understood since apart from language luckily we had our extremities that helped along to form words that may have been too tricky to pronounce and may not have been part of our vocabulary.

I love watching people, especially good friends engaged in conversation: if the talk centres around something light-hearted, the whole body seems to be moving along with the words, laughter is interspersed with bold language and the dynamics of the friendship is palpable but the whole picture changes to something like a still-life when the topic covers sadness. The palpability still exists only as a darker shade of colour or heavier cloud of doom. Yet your friends stay with you from light to dark, jolly to serious matters and you know that they can always be relied upon.

Through my work I have met a senior, a woman in her seventies who immigrated from England many years ago.

“I call my friend in England once a week. We talk about everything and have done so for the past sixty years,” Anne told me and I am amazed by the loyalty and happiness expressed in these few words. It takes dedication, bonding and compatibility to stay connected for such a length of time.

Some folks are lucky to have grown up with good friends or at least one and roamed through childhood, adolescence and into adulthood knowing that there is somebody who cares and somebody who can be counted on no matter what the situation.

According to the Oxford dictionary a friend is “a person with whom one enjoys mutual affection and regard (usually exclusive of sexual or family bonds)”and to me that applies to a regular friend who is a bit more than an acquaintance, a trusted person whom I like to spend time with. A really good  friend is a buddy, a kindred spirit, a confidant, somebody who would walk barefoot over broken glass to help you out when you’re in a pickle.

At work meetings we recently discussed the importance of having a BFF (best friend forever) at work and opinions varied on the effectiveness and necessity of such a bond but outside of work, to have a  (bosum) buddy is a blessing. We humans are not meant to be hermits and social interaction is widely encouraged and through this social activity blossom friendships. Some have interconnected friendships meaning that like daisy chains they are part of a circle of like-minded people who stay connected throughout their lives no matter where they live and everybody from that circle makes the effort to stay in touch and communicate regularly. Some folks claim not to need a friend and prefer to be self-reliant and somewhat reclusive but the majority of people has started to form friendships at an early age.

Think about all the friends in your life right now – how did you meet and how are you communicating and bonding? Before the internet, most long-distance friendships happened via the telephone and before that via personal visits but since the dawn of e-mailing, internet friend-sharing sites and hand-held electronic devices that lets everybody and their dog become instant friends how much of the connection with your friends happens in person?

When I look around my neighbourhood there seems to be a lot of clusters of friends walking along the streets, sitting in the coffee shops or being engaged in indoor and outdoor activities. Good friends brighten your days and make you feel good in general. An extremely good friend is a person whose doorbell you can ring at 3 am and he or she lets you inside no questions asked, no judging frown on his/her face. With this kind of friend, giving and taking is equal, there is no place for a hidden agenda and sharing comes straight from each other’s hearts.

“I’m going over to Amanda’s” or “Brittany is coming over soon” are phrases that I hear in my home a lot and I feel good for my daughters’ having good friends (male and female) whom they can rely upon and to whom they can be good and loyal friends.

You might treasure your friends because of the circumstances when you met; perhaps you know somebody who helped to save a friend’s life whether in the trenches during the war or by talking and preventing a friend from inflicting self-harm. My late grandma told me about the special friendships that she nursed with many other widows who lost their husbands (who were killed in action during the war).

If you are someone who is supporting a friend through an illness or recovery you may be experiencing a lot of stress but it might help to recall and concentrate on all the good times that were had with this friend and more good times that hopefully still lie ahead. Treasure the moments you are actively together and find happiness by being connected.

My friend and I managed to catch up today by taking my dog for a walk and we had a chance to talk about a wide spectrum of topics from trivial  to meaningful which left us both refreshed, rejuvenated and joyful and also grateful to have each other as friends.

Uncovering layers


For the last walk of the year I planned to take my dog for a short stroll around the block, fifteen minutes tops so I wouldn’t have to brave the drizzling cold for too long but her nose kept following layers of smells on lawns, bushes and piles of leaves that beckoned to be recognized at that particular moment. Good-bye short walk, hello to more fresh air.The “stop- go” movements gave me a chance to copy her actions without crawling on all fours digging my nose into the ground but rather sniffing around the past, mostly in circles about people, places and events that were memorable to me during the past year. A cycle that draws to a close and in certain parts of the world has already been wrapped up, severed like the umbilical cord of a newborn making way for the new sibling of time to arrive with all the fanfare and lights accustomed to new beginnings.

“Wait” I call out to the layers of grey foggy patches in the East, but the fireworks and cheers drown out my request and like a cat that uses her claws to unravel a ball of wool, I hold onto the string of time and march along to my next destination.

Before I get to the corner near the house with the Las-Vegas-style Christmas decorations I have to use my little flashlight to illuminate what my dog had just deposited, swiftly scoop the droppings into a lavender-scented, environmentally friendly bag that I expertly tie to keep the contents contained. The manufacturer of the bags claims that it only costs “pennies per poop” which is rather reassuring when it comes to my finances. My steps become a little lighter and faster since my dog has turned the corner on the last stretch towards home and I am relieved when thinking about my last meal.

Every New Years Eve I maintain my financial security by eating lentils. I follow a custom that dates back to my youth which was spent in the Black Forest region in Germany. Inhabitants there are referred to as Swabians and known to be quite frugal. Their philosophy is based on the simple truth that “wealth comes from hard work” and people take pride in following that philosophy. Most of my relatives and other folks in the village where I grew up cooked a certain kind of lentil stew on the last day of the old year and legend declared that by eating lentils (which in shape resemble coins) on December 31st, one will be assured of financial stability in the year to come. This legend did not foresee a drastic influx in people’s bank accounts ( or the swelling of a “savings-sock” that many folks kept under their mattress) but it reminded everybody to be frugal. Frugal with their time, frugal with their money and frugal with their sentiments. They would not say things like: ” May you be virtually wrapped in a blanket of abundance that allows your motivation to propel you towards success and generates love from the innermost well of your heart to unquestioningly flow into the universe.” Instead they would say: “embrace your abundance of success and love” because they remove the unnecessary layers of words and prefer to make concise, direct statements.

Removing layers, scooping up things that are no longer needed and embracing a new future has no boundaries. I’m not talking about forgetting and leaving “the old” behind but rather about being selective on what needs to be carried forward.This old year runs like a cartoon character on fast forward as my mind glimpses at events, places and people who shared my path. I hear laughter and music , words and barks that enhance the good feeling of belonging, of being welcomed, of being home.

“Woof, woof, woof”, says my dog as she leads me into our driveway, up the steps and into the yard.

“Good dog,” I reply as I remove her harness, dispose of the poop bag and rub her fur dry with a towel as a typical “wet-dog” smell lifts from her hair. Once inside, the wet-dog smell mingles with the aroma of the lentil stew and I proceed to set the table. I reflect on the words by British author Douglas Adams and agree that: “I may not have gone where I intended to go but I think that I have ended up where I needed to be.”

Lentil stew recipe:  saute a chopped onion in olive oil, add garlic, salt, cumin and optional fresh ginger. Add a few finely cubed carrots and fill the pot half with water. Add your choice of powdered or a cube of vegetable stock or chicken stock and bring to a boil. Add brown lentils, about 400 g or more depending on how thick you like your stew. For a non-vegetarian option you could use a couple of slices of cubed bacon (smoked for extra flavour) to simmer along in the pot. The lentils may take up to 45 minutes to cook to reach the required softness. You may add some chopped up spinach and a couple of spoonfuls of balsamic vinegar. Half a bushel of chopped up fresh cilantro is optional.The lentil stew is usually served over a helping of spaetzle (which is a type of egg noodle from Swabia). Add balsamic vinegar to individual taste. Noodles may be substituted with rice, or just a slice of whole grain bread. Measurements for most ingredients are not provided since I rarely measure when it comes to cooking and prefer to  just chop, add and taste a bit until I know it will be good.

May I be your clutter consultant?


Determination propelled me this week-end to tackle something that I have put off for quite a while and I’m sure that some of you can relate to it, and have been there before: de-cluttering my room. While I sat amongst piles of papers and other paraphernalia I organized things in three groups: definitely discard, re-allocate (either in the same spot or somewhere else in the house) and keep and use (subgroup: keep and hold without actually using). Now you might think that I’m showing signs of a hoarder and it may well be that I am emotionally attached to things that I should have let go off long ago. I’m exaggerating a bit when I use the word ‘hoarder’ since my room (and other rooms in the house) are not really stuffed to the ceiling with hazardous items and if I hold my breath and squeeze my belly and behind, I can easily get around all the furniture, books and clothing and shoes that are strategically placed all around the house. It’s not an obstacle course and  should I be blindfolded I would maneuver with ease without tripping. Same goes for all my family members, some of whom might object and would tell you that certain things quite often get in their way.

Since I’m on this path to learn how to get by with less, I have jumped into this de-clutter mode a few times without actually getting rid of anything. I merely moved items from one place to another creating the illusion of more space in certain areas of the house while cramming things that don’t necessarily belong on let’s say the shelves in the linen closet right in between the towels, sheets and pillows.

“What is that garden gnome with the chipped off paint doing on my favourite towel?” My husband turns to me in our narrow hallway, holding the ceramic creature in front of my face as I cough a little bit until I can think of an appropriate response.

“I washed it yesterday and must have put it on the shelf when I looked for an older towel to dry it with. Thanks so much for finding it. I’ll put it right back out on the front steps.”

“Why would you do that, it’s a piece of junk, just toss it in the garbage.”  My husband hands me the gnome expecting me to take it to the nearest waste receptacle or to our recycling bin. I clutch the little fellow with the red cheeks and hat, mumble something about needing to check on the soup bubbling on the stove and slink off to the kitchen.

How can I explain that I would feel guilty should I throw out that gnome since it travelled with us to all the homes we lived in and that I remember how we bought it together at a local Canadian Tire store when our firstborn showed an interest in helping her dad to dig in the dirt.

My rational mind sides with my husband, telling me that there is no need to be sentimentally attached to objects, that you can always recall an event, place or person without having an object to act as your memory trigger and that the object is only that – an object whereas the memory, the sentimental connection simply needs to be stored in your brain as such and will keep in your heart for as long as you allow it to be. But I love that gnome, or so I tell myself.

I repositioned him behind the bird bath in the backyard for the time being and know he will be safe until my husband decides to plant spring bulbs in that area. I have analyzed this kind of behaviour many times as I’m sure that you have, too if you are wondering what makes us hang onto objects that no longer serve our needs. Perhaps I should engage my editorial mind when it comes to de-cluttering the house. Remove all that is not necessary, has not been used of over a month or has grown white fuzz and emits a biting odour. Out goes the half tomato and cheese sandwich from the lower shelf of the fridge, the old pleated skirt that’s become too tight around the waist and the wicker end table that was a cast off from an old friend who moved to South Africa and could not take all her furniture. I’m not even sure why it came about that I took the end table and matching chair from my friend. There must be some folks in my neighbourhood who would love to be the new owners of this wicker furniture who would actually use it as a table and chair and not just as a dust collector or door stopper.

But right now’s not a good time with Christmas approaching my neighbours have other things on their minds than making space to welcome second-hand furniture into their homes. One part of me wants to be brave enough to just haul these items away, give it to Goodwill, a charity who knows some folks who don’t have any tables or chairs and would really make use of my donated stuff. I will mark my calendar, pick a date in early January 2014 when these items and more will be removed from my home and deposited with a local charity. Or advertise on one of the free list servings- but then strangers would know what I have to give away and where I live and they might come to my home to ask for these freebies. On my front lawn some might get into a scuffle when two or more people come to collect my rejected furniture. I might have to call an ambulance to assist the injured and give a statement to the police about who punched whom and who said what unpleasant word to whom all because of the somehow inherited furniture that I decided to no longer keep. I can’t let that happen. So I best hang onto the table and chair for a wee bit longer. I can pile a whole bunch of books on the table and drape unfashionable, non-fitting clothing over the back of the chair. I’m glad that’s solved.

“Look at all the space in the closet, see how easy the hangers move along the rod again” I’ll drag my husband to the bedroom and in a “voila” armsweeping gesture point to the half-empty closet. He looks impressed and mumbles something about me being on a roll and not letting him prevent me from going at it in all other rooms in the house.

Come springtime you’ll be able to waltz from room to room without stubbing your toe into hindering objects when you come by for a visit. You might leave with a book or a colourful sweater and some advice on how to de-clutter your space. If you can’t wait till then, give me a call and I’ll see you sooner and help you to make some space, get rid of all the things that you no longer need and remove all that no longer serves you.

Food Waste need not go to Landfill


In 2015, food and food waste will be banned from the garbage throughout the Metro
Vancouver region. At a Metro Vancouver’s Sustainability Community Breakfast held at the Eagles Hall in North Vancouver this morning a panel of experts presented this topic and what it means for restaurants and other businesses, even for individual food consumers. The audience which was comprised of about 60 people with interests or connections to the food and waste recycling industry learned  how food businesses are
 managing food waste, and how good things can happen when it’s diverted from the

Todd J., Director, Catering & Conference Services; Chair, Green Committee, Four Seasons Hotel spoke about the Food Waste Management program that his business has implemented and is piloting. He addressed how all of his employees have been trained in preparation of becoming compliant with this impending ban. He explained that food waste is always on the agenda when planning catering events and described how cranberry juice and apple juice is suggested to clients asking for a Continental Breakfast instead of the traditional orange juice. The reason for that is the fact that cranberry and apple juice is available locally, does not have to travel too far to reach their kitchen and does not leave as much waste behind as oranges do. Todd talked about the unused portions of food produced by the Four Seasons Hotel and how it can be re-claimed by groups such as the Greater Vancouver Food Bank Society, especially their Angel Food Runners program.

Erin N., Manager, Community Angel Food Runners, Greater Vancouver Food Bank Society explained in more detail how food that is received by the Food Bank is re-distributed to those in need and mentioned that presently there is no liability when you donate food (as stated in Bill 10 of  the Food Donations Act). She talked about how food recovery lowers greenhouse gas emissions and reminded the audience that food, labour and land does not need to go to waste. Her organization works with government and donors to shift the agenda to empower people to nourish themselves by providing education and support. She advised the audience that revised donor guidelines will be in place for the 2015 disposal ban.

Stuart L., Manager, Feedstock Supply, Enterra Feed Corporation presented a brief video on how the use of larva from the black soldier fly helps to create renewable foods for animals and plants. The corporation which was founded by David Suzuki is using these larvae as nature’s nutrient renewal experts. Within three hours, food waste inside a bio-conversion unit is being consumed by larvae and ready to be transformed into omega-rich feed meal (to feed to animals designated for human consumption) and feed oils that are being used in the cosmetics industry. Their 6000 square foot demo plant is on the forefront of solving two global problems:  food waste diversion and nutrient demand.

Steve H., Founder and President, Earth Renu has a goal of achieving zero waste and related his experience of researching methods of waste disposal in European countries such as Norway and Germany. He talked about the three methods for processing food waste (composting, production of animal feed and anaerobic digestion (biogas as a renewable natural gas). Steve explained how the methane that’s produced by food waste is worse for the environment than CO2 emissions and told the audience how to treat contaminants that arise within the organic waste. He pointed out to always mix twigs and grass into your compost (to allow for nitrogen to form). He invited audience members to visit his plant on Annacis Island to see this source of urban sustainable energy production first hand.

Jaclyn M., Sustainability Consultant, RecycleSmart Solutions talked about saving money by decreasing waste and about the importance of smart recycling. She reminded folks to first check if the food can be donated and if not to recycle responsibly by using clean bins and changing the recycling management process. She advised businesses to identify a champion within their organization who will help to carry the message forward as well as being prepared for the upcoming changes. She urged audience members to make sure that they are able to divert and will put plans in place (allow within their budget) to be ready for the food and food waste ban from the garbage within the Greater Vancouver Region as of 2015. Councilor B. thanked the panel and opened the floor to questions most of them were about the logistics of implementing these new refuse regulations and compliance with managing food waste and reducing (landfill destined) garbage.  Metro Vancouver’s Sustainability Community Breakfast is going to present “A morning of Storytelling not Garbage” on Thursday, December 12 from 7:30 am to 9 am at the BCIT, downtown campus.

You can always do your part in food waste reduction by purchasing only what you need, using already recycled material whenever possible and eliminating food waste in your home with a common sense approach. Perhaps scale down your consumer drive and start to be happy with less. The environment and the planet as a whole will benefit and that means you, too. We owe it to future generations to be prudent with our resources and smart with handling our food waste.

Please note that facts in the article above are stated how I believe them to be true and I hope to have recalled everything correctly.

If you always have plenty of food to eat, please think about helping those in need. Thank you.

Be grateful for the joys in your life


First I would like to thank all the folks who have read my first blog and indicated that they liked it. I feel fortunate that all of you took the time to read my words and ticking the like button. I am still new in navigating around this blogsite and since I am naturally slow  (read: a technological dinosaur) it will take me a while to respond to other people’s blogs and “like” them and comment on what has been said/written. Eventually I will get the hang of it and learn how to move about on this new field of blogging just like riding a bicycle for the first time, clutching onto the handlebars, wobbling on the saddle and pushing the pedals so fast that your knee joints crack. You want to let out a whoop or a yipee, some primeordial sound of joy that keeps the fear of falling off your bike at bay. The wind whips through your hair, you feel the speed that you have created flow along the skin of your legs, arms and torso knocking on your brain and making you break out in a wide smile. A victorious smile that you’ll remember for a long time, maybe your whole life. The first time you create movement using a moveable object to transport you along is so exhilarating that you can’t seem to stop. You are caught in this circle of perpetual movement and you simply keep on going. Fear does not exist and will never be your companion as you push on the pedals to keep your momentum going. You barely hear your mom call out “not so fast” as the knowledge of your new independence makes you grow a bit taller in the saddle. That night before you fall asleep you can still feel the motion pumping through your body as you relive the joy of riding a bike for the first time. You promise your mom that you will only venture to where it is safe and you are grateful for having learned a new skill, for being able to get to places faster and for meeting up with your mobile friends. You all swear not to tell about the races you participate in behind the barns on the old country roads and you won’t breathe a word about the semi-dangerous postures that you practice to imitate, the ones that make you look like the acrobats in their sparkling silver suits that performed at the circus when it came to town. Like with many firsts, you become inseparable from your bike. You ride it everywhere, everyday and when the tires get a little flat, you stop, detach your shiny pump from the bike’s frame, attach the top to the little gadget on the tire and then you pull and push, pull and push and pump in the air to make your tires rideable again. On the fridge at home, your mom posts pictures that you drew depicting you riding your bike and you don’t notice how she swallows just a bit with a mixture of fear and pride because you are taking flight. You keep riding your bike with joy and you’ve learned to wave and smile at your mom when she is watching you from the kitchen window as you take off on a new adventure.

I’m grateful for the joys in my life – I show gratitude with joy.

Believe in yourself as a Writer


Believe in yourself as a Writer

Being ready to write                      by Andrea Winterbottom


When writing and sculpting stories have faith in your ability and develop your passion for your chosen art.

If you’ve dabbled with the idea of becoming a (creative) writer, challenge yourself to actually write and develop a trust and faith about your chances of success. The more you practice your faith, the more you test it and put it through its paces, your belief will manifest and you will cultivate a bond to your passion that strengthens over time and practice. Loads of words of practice.

When starting out, you might tap your keyboard or nibble on the end of your pen, twist thoughts around in your head and still gaze at a blank page. Or your words and sentences pour onto the page like a waterfall, tumbling, splashing, running full stream ahead until your doubtful red pen slashes whole paragraphs. Don’t fret; there are nuggets in every writer’s haystack.

Find your method and tune in: Do you enjoy writing free-flow and go on for pages without stopping and then read, and edit? Either right afterwards or you might wait for a few days, weeks or even months.

Or do you craft your sentences one by one, like a screenplay scene by scene where you’re the producer and director of your letters, words, and sentences calling on your characters to be put into ‘Action’ at your chosen settings along the roads of your plotline?

Create a mantra for yourself that works like: “anybody can write and I’d rather be writing than doing the dishes/laundry (or: insert task of choice) because it gives me an avenue to connect with myself and learn about myself and the world around me through the word connections I create”. I write about any genre that pokes my imagination before I zero in on one that suits me best.

Like a garden, creative writing needs to be nurtured. Once you plant the seeds you will discover that your belief in your writing ability carries you from page to page; when you’re ready, you need to sit back and weed out what to keep and then water and nourish your patch.

Write what you know. Don’t write about building guitars from redwood cedar if you don’t have an interest in music, guitars or woodworking. Finding your writing niche takes practice and a certain belief that you enjoy and like to share with others.  Remember that you are the expert on your own expressions and finding that belief in yourself will help you to ward off any self-criticism and negative feedback that you might receive.

When you are being ready to write it implies that you have allocated time, have gathered all the necessary writing implements and that you are mentally ready to let your creativity flow.

Believe in yourself as a writer can mean that you find joy in the act of writing. You get a kick out of creating characters, stringing sentences together and letting your feelings flow like a mountain spring onto the pages while you don’t worry about the results but rather enjoy, relish the journey.

Don’t be upset if you share your writing with a person who does not show the same enthusiasm as you about your work. Don’t worry if you send your work out to various publishers or if you enter contests and you only receive a formatted rejection letter. Your submission simply wasn’t the right fit at the right time with the right publication. Although the slush pile at an editor’s office is higher than the stack of newspapers in your garage ready for the recycling bin, be persistent in submitting your work if you so desire.

I like to craft sentence by sentence, create little scenarios with my words. Then I edit and my sentences shrink. I write some more, chisel here and there and finally the sculpted sentence emerges.

Find out what you like best about your writing and foster that part of the craft. Perhaps you like to write short stories, articles, essays, opinion pieces or novels; whatever you fancy, keep writing and your belief will take form like the statue of Michelangelo.