Welcome, New Year.

It’s a new year, in case you’ve been sleeping or, say, time travelling these past few days.

The whole New Year thing has lost its magic for me in recent years. Nobody is ever transformed instantly with the stroke of 12 and the dawn of a new day, but as you grow up, you wait for that click-over and think “now things will be DIFFERENT”. They never are, and as you grow older, you begin to come to terms with that. So we have stopped with the hoopla of New Years Eve and just get on with it.

That’s not to say we don’t do anything to mark the beginning of a new year. It’s just that we’re no longer about dressing up and going out and drinking and partying and all that. We prefer to spend our New Year’s Eve/Day much more quietly. Some years we watch a movie and eat tasty noms. Some years we go to bed early but make a big meal for New Year’s Day. This year, we spent a very relaxed evening with Janna and Andrew, with way more food than should be allowed by law. And that was nice. So much so, we’re already all WE SHOULD DO THIS AGAIN NEXT YEAR.

I’m also finding, as I grow older, that I no longer feel compelled to make New Year’s Resolutions. Mostly this is because they almost always set you up to fail. Like I said, nobody can change overnight, and I think people make these grand resolutions in the hazy light of a dying year with the hope that some magic will make things different come the dawn. And it never works that way.

Instead, I find myself using the new year as a first step on a road to making some changes in my life, but changes that usually take much more planning or much more deliberately slow progress than a grand pronouncement will allow. I set myself off on the path to making something different. Usually, the path has a number of steps. The change is incremental.  And I find that makes it much, much easier to succeed.

That’s the thing about goals: they need to measurable and achievable.

When I was a teacher, I learned to set people up to succeed, even if it was simply in small ways to begin with. People like to succeed, and it’s good for your progress if you do every now and again. So I try now to build that “need to succeed” into these goals for myself. I try to set myself smaller goals, sometimes as a way to make larger goals happen, but sometimes not. Sometimes the smaller goals are enough. I set myself some challenges, usually incremental things that I can do maybe weekly or monthly, so that each increment competed is a success.

So, what am I going to do this year to make some changes in my life, or in the lives of others, or both?

  • Photos: In 2010, I did a Project 365, taking a photo each day for a year. That was a really challenging one, and I kind of failed at it. I probably managed a photo on, say, 325 days of the 365. More than A photo, more like 10 or 50 or 100 photos each day I managed to get a camera out. So while I failed at the 365 challenge, where I succeeded was to have an enormous treasure trove of photos of the year and, more specifically, photos of Stinkerbelle. And this past year, 2011, I really noticed the lack of photos to mark her growth and change. So this year, I’m kind of modifying my challenge to myself. I’m going to aim for taking a picture for as many days as I can, but my actual goal is to make sure I have photos for each week. 52 storage folders on our hard drive, each one filled with as many photos as I can manage that week.
  • Exercise: This one is hard. Lifestyle change goals are almost impossible to meet unless you make them realistic. I know I need more exercise in my life, but I also know that whatever I do, it has to be adaptable. A couple of years ago, BDH and I used to do 100-Day Exercise Challenges and the like, to push each other to exercise on a regular basis. And we’re competitive, so there was someone to push you to get ‘er done. But with a Stinkerbelle and our busy lives, something that long and hard is not always that easy, nor are we always able to do things at the same time. So I am going to set myself monthly challenges of things to do, and re-evaluate every month how it’s going. Maybe I will try to do yoga every day one month. Maybe I’ll get up early each workday and ride the recumbent bike in another month. Maybe I’ll get out and walk every day once the weather is fine. But in small, interesting, motivating blocks of time, I can fit in exercise AND make it a change that is easy to continue with.
  • 12 knitting projects in 2012: Last year I did an “11 in 2011” knitting challenge in my online knitting community, and had to get 11 projects done over the course of the year. And I did it, which was a great feeling of accomplishment. I’m doing another one this year, but this time it’s “12 in 2012”. Dog help me. But I learned that not all projects have to be OMG GIANT PROJECTS  like blankets and such, and that it was good to push myself to get some things done. I got two blankets, a scarf, and a bunch of little things done, as well as some charity squares and things that didn’t even go into the challenge. This year, I have a blanket for Stinkerbelle to finish, some charity squares I want to get done and sent, as well as some small household projects, and some new things I’d like to try. There’s no shortage of things to knit, certainly.
  • 12 knitted hats in 2012: This one is similar to the knitting challenge above. Signing up for the challenge keeps me on track and accountable, and after finding a 12 in 12 challenge specific to hats, I knew exactly what I would do. After reading on her blog about herd boys in Lesotho and the deplorable conditions that they live in, I promised Melissa that I would make 15 hats for her to take when she travels to contribute to improving the lots of these boys.

We’ve also got some Very Important Life Stuff to get done, and some other little changes we’d like to make around here, so we need to set out some goals and plans and get them done.

OMG YOU KNOW WHAT THIS MEANS??? MORE LISTS! ::happy clap!::

I am sure there are other things to try to do, things I have forgotten. But that’s a good start. A good start and a good plan for what I hope will be a good year.

No Day But Today

Today is World AIDS Day. I am honoured to share my birthday with a day that raises awareness of a disease that’s been around AT LEAST 30 years (and probably longer, under different identities). A disease that has caused such suffering and division. A disease that has caused love and lives and families and communities to be torn asunder. A hateful bastard of a disease that has brought out the fear and the hateful bastards in politicians, religious leaders, organizations and everyday folk.

BUT.

It is also a disease that people have worked tirelessly to raise awareness of. A disease that people have fought tirelessly to beat back and pound into submission. A disease that has united people in a common cause. A disease that has built powerful organizations and communities and families.

It’s not done yet. More has to be done, and more equitably and positively for HIV sufferers worldwide. The fight has to continue. It has to be won.

And so, today, I look with joy upon the changes that have happened because people decided in the last thirty years to act up and fight HIV/AIDS. I look with optimism to the future as we continue the battle. I look with love towards friends and family in my global community that are fighting and winning, and fighting for and holding on to those who cannot fight and are not able to win without help.

I am dancing and singing and remembering in their honour.

Act Up. Fight AIDS. No day but today.

(OMG SO NOT SAFE FOR WORK, but still awesome:)

 

And, because no dancing on World AIDS Day would be complete without him:

 

And now, something to think about:

 

Inspiration and Donation

Some days I get all inspired.

Usually it’s around charitable donation. I don’t have a lot of money. I don’t have the skills to organize and inspire and lead people to get things done. I don’t have vision. But I can knit.

Charity knitting. I see projects, or yarn, or organizations, and I am gripped with a fever to KNIT ALL THE THINGS!! But then, sometimes, I get going on a project and I find another organization that needs this, and another group that needs that, and all of a sudden I hit the wall. There’s just so much need, and not enough me. Or, as Dan says earlier in the episode above, “A couple of months ago I wrote a check to someone. Now I’m in the middle of Dickensian London.”

(Ooh, Dan. Yum. How perfect is HE? But I digress.)

What I need? Is a LIST.

(No, I kid. You THOUGHT I was going to say “list”, didn’t you?)

What I ACTUALLY need? Is a PLAN. Which is LIKE a list, only with more levels of organization.

(Okay. So you weren’t so far off. Yes, you’re very smart. Shut up.)

A plan would help me, I think. What’s bad is that, while I am an Olympic-calibre project starter, my follow through is for crap. I have a bazillion knitted things around the house, for this group and that organization. What I need is to get my arse in gear and get them packaged and sent. And that’s where I seem to get stuck.

I know there are so many people and animals that would benefit if I could just get a plan together. This is my challenge, of late. It’s the holiday season, and it’s winter, and so I am seeing more and more people and animals in need. I’m finding pet projects I want to support. But until I can begin to think about these things, I need a plan.

I have the will. I have the desire. I have the stash. What I lack are the listmaker’s favourite things: Lists. Lists of people and addresses and websites.Lists of needs. Lists of deadlines. And a plan to pull all these things together, to help me get my stash on the needles, my knitting completed, and my projects out the door.

Well, that, and a dash of reality. I also need to be realistic in what I can do, while also getting the personal projects I commit to completed in a timely fashion, within the confines of my free time. Because, as much as I want to donate to ALL THE THINGS, realistically I have to draw some lines somewhere.

You get bogged down, looking at all the charities that need help, here in the middle of Dickensian London. They are all deserving. But you just can’t do everything for everyone.

That may be a big part of my projects dying before they get out the door: I want to do so much, and when I finish something, it seems to be so little.

So more perspective is needed. Because really, every little bit you can do helps, because it’s that much more than the recipients of your efforts had before. A couple of squares here, some hats there… it all adds up. If I am doing a little bit, it’s added to someone else’s little bit, and it all comes together to be so much more. The trick, as they say, is to get in the game.

So, a plan. I need one. So since BDH got us our fabulous list-making software, the first step is to make use of it to accumulate all the charities and websites and needs and contact information I need. That will be the first step in the plan. Then I need to set some realistic goals, and deadlines. And then, make another plan for follow-through at the end.

I have to see my inspiration through the perspiration to get to donation. Because, when all those pieces fall into place, even if just one person in need gets a blanket or a hat…  just look at what we can do.

Twenty-Five Years Ago

July 13, 1985.

Twenty-five years ago today, my life changed forever.

My eyes were opened.

My ears listened.

My experience was broadened.

My world opened up.

My mind was made up.

My soul was stirred.

My heart was stolen.

So many things in my life changed forever on that day.

It played such a big part in making me who I am today.

Thank you Bob and Midge. Thank you Michael and Mohamed. You changed the world. You changed me.

World AIDS Day

Today is World AIDS Day. It is a day I always remember, and AIDS research and assistance charities are very close to my heart, even moreso now that we have a daughter that comes from a country that has been very hard-hit by this disease.

I am not going to ask you what you are going to do on this day. Charity, if one engages in it, is a very personal thing, and AIDS charities and work are not everyone’s first choice — to say it can be a somewhat politicized cause is probably a fair statement, even in this day and age.

I am, however, going to tell you what I am doing today, and all this month, actually.

I am knitting red squares for the Knit-a-Square project.

Knit-a-Square is a charity project in which people all over the world knit or crochet 8-inch squares. Those squares are then packed up and sent to South Africa, where they are sorted and sewn into blankets to give to children who have been orphaned by AIDS. Sometimes, they are also sewn into sweaters for kids to give them something to wear when the weather gets cold. But the end result is to give comfort and warmth to kids who have been devastated, and continue to be, by the loss of their parents to a really opportunistic, nasty disease.

Have a look at the site. Some of those kids could break your heart. But seeing them wrapped in blankets, THEIR blankets, sometimes one of their only possessions in this world — well, that’s what got me knitting.

Squares are easy. And quick. Two things I love in a knitting project.

The charity knitting group I belong to on Ravelry has chosen to use World AIDS Day as the stepping stone for this month’s knitting challenge — to knit red squares for the entire month of December. Not only is it the colour of the AIDS campaign, but it is also a colour of the Christmas season. However, because of the stigma attached to AIDS in many countries, the only caveat is to avoid the red ribbon motif, and instead make “plain jane” simple squares. Well, I am not good at patterns anyway, so that works fine for me.

Every time I look at my daughter, or at some of the other kids adopted from Ethiopia, it is hard not to remember the phrase “there but for the grace of God go I”. And having met a birth mom who was dying from AIDS and who had lost a husband to AIDS, whose daughter was being adopted by a Canadian family, while we were in Ethiopia… well, how could I pass up this challenge? This woman had such grace, such dignity, such beauty in the face of such a devastating situation — and her only goal was to make sure that her daughter had a family to love her and care for her for the rest of her life. As a mom now, I completely understand. I get it. And it makes me marvel at her strength and her selflessness.

I cannot think of her without wondering how she is. I cannot think of her without sending up a silent wish for her to live her remaining days in peace, and hoping her death is one without too much sadness and suffering. I cannot think of her without tears.

Every square I knit this month will be in her honour. She touched me greatly.

And while she had the strength and the resources to make an adoption plan for her beautiful girl, many cannot. And so I will knit, this month and always, to ensure that those moms’ and dads’ beloved children have something to keep them warm, some small consolation in a devastating time.

I cannot change the world. But I can do something. This is what I choose to do, and why.

And if you knit or crochet, and you feel you want to do something, have a look through the Knit-a-Square site. And get your sticks and hooks moving for a good cause.

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Looking for some good reading to put on your Xmas list? Well, since we’re on the topic, I have two recommendations.

  • And the Band Played On by Randy Shilts — This book outlines the beginnings of HIV/AIDS, and the early days of research, fear, politics and ignorance. It is a long but brilliant read from someone deeply affected by the disease in his community, who later succumbed to it. More than once, I wanted to heave the book across the room in anger and frustration at the issues surrounding AIDS and HIV in the West.
  • 28: Stories of AIDS in Africa by Stephanie Nolen — This powerful, compelling book outlines 28 stories of people living and dying with AIDS in present-day Africa from someone on the ground talking to and getting to know the people involved. Some of the stories will absolutely break your heart. And some will inspire. And I defy anyone connected with adoption in Ethiopia to read the story of the little girl caring for her brother, both orphaned by AIDS in Addis, and not feel the urge to hug their children that much tighter.

Eddie Iz Done!

Eddie Izzard, one of our favourite people in the entire world, has just finished running 43 MARATHONS IN 51 DAYS to raise funds for Sport Relief (which is a branch of Comic Relief, one of our favourite charities in the entire world).

I’ve been following his journey on Twitter and it has been remarkable. He literally ran AROUND the UK… and rescued a kitten en route! The man now truly OWNS the title “action transvestite”!

Way to go Eddie! Hell of a feat. Not to mention, hell on the feet.

A Day With Donkeys

Donkey Day at the Donkey Sanctuary of Canada was yesterday… and it was awesome! Despite the extreme heat and humidity, we had a marvelous afternoon. So many sweet donkeys, so little time to pet them all!

It was so lovely to see these gentle creatures, many abused and mistreated in their lives, so eager for some love. They’re so happy and contented in their new lives, with big paddocks to roam in and people to care for them. And on visitors’ days, there are lots of people to pet and brush them! They just come over to the fence, and stand there as happy as can be, basking in Teh Love of their adoring public!

I could have spent all day, just snuggling up to all these donkeys, brushing them and giving them pets… But it was a billion degrees out, and BDH was suffering some severe sunburn from a morning of soccer, so we kept it to a couple of hours. Still, it was great to get our donkey fix!

I can’t wait to go visit again. Perhaps on a cooler day. I would love to volunteer. And now that I have been to the Sanctuary and visited with some of the donkeys, I hope we can find a little money sometime in the future to contribute to their care. It’s a worthy cause — I definitely saw that for myself. The people that work there really love each of the donkeys and take wonderful care of them.

And now, the donkeys… Well, some of them. We just took so many pictures! You can also check out the “Our Donkeys” page at the Donkey Sanctuary to read each donkey’s story and see more pictures of the donkeys.

Hover over each picture for a description, and click on each to see a larger picture:

Basking in the sun Anyone got any carrots? Chiclet

Contentment A lovely day for a dirt bath Another dirt bath

My buddy Donkeschoen Donkey day More donkey day

Pals Pretty girl Braying to friends

Beautiful old Summer Sweet little face Miss Dusty Rose

Donkey Day!

We’re going to Donkey Day this weekend, at the Donkey Sanctuary of Canada!

This is something we’ve wanted to do for many years now, and we’ve always missed it. But not this year! We are going to go and visit the donkeys, and see how the sanctuary works, and take lots and lots of pictures. If we have fun, we can make it an annual outing… and introduce Mystery Baby Girl to the donkeys!

We’re great animal lovers around here, as I am sure you have guessed. And donkeys are right up there near the top of our list. We used to see donkeys as we’d drive to work, usually supervising a herd of cows. Actually, somebody told me that donkeys make great security guards for herds of cattle against predators. I guess they kick up a fuss and scare off the predators or something, I don’t know. But, as we saw these donkeys in their fields, we began to have a great deal of affection for donkeys.

And then we learned that there was a Donkey Sanctuary, right near where we live. Our car dealership sponsors a donkey, which I admit is one of the reasons why we continue to frequent them. And Donkey Day is an annual event, where people can come and meet the donkeys, and it raises some money for the running of the sanctuary.

Well, we definitely want to meet some donkeys. We don’t have any free cash right now, but if we did, this would be one of the first charities on our list. The price of admission is all we can spare at the moment, but they can have it gladly. And if there were a way we could volunteer, we might do that too.

Donkeys! (And mules too. Mustn’t forget the mules. We love them too.)

ED: No, Mom, they don’t SELL any donkeys here. We won’t be coming home with any donkeys anytime soon.

My 40 Days

Last week I told you about Rana’s post inviting people to embark on 40 Days of Change, and I said that I was going to start on it, too. So, yesterday was my day to start, and although I didn’t post about it (hey, it was a long weekend!) I DID manage to start.

It took a lot of consideration over the weekend, to decide what my 40 Days would be about. There are a lot of things I want to change, but like the original idea states, I wanted something small and achievable. And I came up with quite a few ideas.

So, I’m actually setting out 2 intentions for myself. One is practical, and the other is more spiritual in nature.

My first goal is to help a bit with my procrastinator nature. I do procrastinate — A LOT — and one of the things that I have been procrastinating about is the adoption. Both BDH and I have just gotten so blah about the whole thing, because nothing has happened recently, and it does not feel like anything will happen. And because it is so nebulous a prospect, it’s really hard to get motivated to do anything to get ready. So to help with this, my first intention is to do one thing each day to prepare for the adoption. Just one thing per day, but something. Anything. I have a lot of things that we still have to get done, and this way, it’s not like motivating yourself to do a big job you don’t want to do. It’s small, incremental, and easy, but it all adds up.

My second goal is more about my spiritual wellness. I have been plagued with poor self image all my life. I have done battle with the mirror my whole life, hating how I look or how much I weigh or criticizing one aspect or another of my physical appearance. So my other goal is about mending that poor self image a little bit, and being nicer to myself. I intend to say something nice about myself in the mirror each day. I am just going to find something good about how I look and say it, out loud, to the woman looking back at me. I’m going to do a little bit to repair all the damage done over all these years by trying a little bit of kindness.

So there you go. Those are my intentions. Small, measurable, and achievable. But I think they are a good step on the road to changing something bigger.

I’ll try to update from time to time on how I am doing, at least on the adoption tasks. And if you’re doing a personal 40 Days, feel free to comment about yours, too. And head over to Rana’s blog each day — she’s been posting some inspirational thoughts as she goes through her journey, and it might help you with yours as well.

40 Days of Change

The totally awesome Rana — whose blog I always enjoy reading because she’s so positive (and I encourage you to read it too) and is one of THE most together people I can think of — is starting on a project called 40 Days of Change. And I think I might do it, too.

It’s sort of a commitment to change, to grow, to improve your life, but in a small, measurable, achievable way. It’s to help you find more positive in your life by focusing your energy a bit. It comes from her yoga instructor (and, as you know, I am a big fan of Teh Yoga, and do a class every day in which — in BDH’s words — “Chaz kicks your ass”) and it seems to be a great little plan for me right now, at this place in my life.

I encourage you to read Rana’s whole post on the 40 Days of Change to get all the background, but I’ll borrow a bit of it to give you an idea what it’s all about:

“Your intention is yours. YOU decide what you will commit to each day. It may be about swimming, or Tai Chi or gardening for you. It may be about being kind to the beings in your life, cultivating gratitude or growing your meditation practice.

Please let this sink in….I am not going to tell you what to do, nor is your 40 days going to look like everyone else’s. Intentions come in all shapes and sizes :).

So…set an intention for the next 40 days that is SIMPLE and DO-ABLE. SIMPLE….SIMPLE….SIMPLE. [i.e. I will roll out my mat and do 1 asana/pose every day; I will smile more often; I will walk more; I will eat something green every day].

Setting an intention is a way to align and connect with what is important to you RIGHT NOW. It is a personal agreement that puts an energetic focus on your vision of your life. It is also about action, since it actively directs your attention.

My suggestion for setting your intention:

Grab a journal, a pen and a quiet moment. Light a candle. Celebrate in your heart your willingness to participate. Ask yourself the following 4 questions:

1. What is it I wish to enhance?
2. Is there anything I want to let go of?
3. Is there something I yearn to discover…uncover?
4. What is it I’d like to manifest?

Once you’ve set your intention, acknowledge it and let it go. Drop it into your unconscious and go about living. Relax and be receptive to the magic…create space for the new to enter…accept and celebrate who you already are, creatively stepping into your vision.

One last suggestion: Choose a buddy you can share your intention with, then keep it close and seek your own inner counsel first. Be aware of your intention, but don’t try to “WORK” on it!

Trust yourself, trust your intention….trust the process.

Seems simple enough, right? And it’s a nice, positive process for making change. So I thought, for me, this fits in well with my mindset these days, of working to make some changes in my life. And it also meshes with the stuff I am learning in yoga. So I thought I’d try it. I have no idea what I’ll do yet — I need to think about it a little. And I’m going to set Monday as my start date because I like the idea of the 40 days being a goal, too.

I’ll post my intention and keep you updated, as Rana plans to do. And as she has said, if you want to do your own 40 Days, go for it. And if you do and you want to share, then feel free. Or keep it to yourself — it’s all good.

So, here’s to 40 Days to making a positive change in one’s life.

28

Click here to view the interview with Stephanie Nolen on The Hour this past week.

Stephanie Nolen is the Globe and Mail‘s Africa bureau chief. She’s well versed in all matters African and sociopolitical, but recently she’s come into prominence for her book 28: Stories of AIDS in Africa.

28 is the number of millions of people in Africa living with HIV. And so, she has chronicled the struggles of 28 individuals living with the AIDS virus, each one representing one million Africans with HIV. From the excerpts I have read in the Globe and Mail, and from the reviews of Bono, Stephen Lewis and others, it’s a brilliant read.

Check out some of the reviews of the book by clicking on the link I provided above. I guarantee you that you’ll be hard pressed to resist buying the book, just based on the reviews. The woman tells some compelling stories here. They are just 28 of 28 million, and that number is growing.

Watch the video. Buy the book. Learn about the issue. Help change the world.

Urban Outfitters Is The New Pariah

Check this out: Adopting Is The New Black

Apparently Urban Outfitters thinks it’s all cool and edgy and funny to infer that anyone who is adopting is doing so to be trendy. Like this is a decision that was as easy to make as buying a trashy poor-quality new T shirt, let’s say. Like it requires no more thought and effort and soul-searching and emotional and financial investment than clicking on a crappy website and buying a tacky T shirt.

Well, I am here to tell you, Urban Bastard Outfitters, that you are sorely mistaken. Adoption is not a fashion statement. It’s a challenging, exciting, expensive, difficult, and ultimately rewarding process that unites parents who would like a family with children who need a family. It requires months and years of effort, and emotional ups and downs, and soul searching, and financial struggle, and love, and faith to make it happen. No one – NOT ONE PERSON — involved in adoption takes the decision lightly. No one — NOT ONE PERSON — involved in adoption does so because they think it will be cool or hip or fashionable.

And now I am here to ask everyone to boycott Urban Outfitters until they lose that insulting, incredibly offensive T shirt from all their stores and their website. I call on every one of you to write to them and tell them you will not support a business that demeans adoptive parents, children, birth parents, and adoptive families worldwide. Or you can write to their President, Richard Hayne (richard.hayne@urbanout.com). Or both, if you like.

And I call on Urban Outfitters to pull that offensive T shirt from all their stores and make a public apology to adoptive families everywhere. Man up, Urban Outfitters. Do the right thing.

Spread The Net

This is the 3rd post in my “Get In The Game — Make a Difference” series, and one that is refreshingly Canadian in nature.

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I’m a fan of Rick Mercer, since the early days of This Hour Has 22 Minutes. I love his rants, which I find hilarious, spot-on, and — yes, I’ll admit it — kind of sexy. I think the ways he gets access to the highest political leaders and show them in a more “regular Joe” kind of light is wonderful. (His trip to Harvey’s with Chretien was inspired.) I find his “talking with Americans” segments funny and subversive in a Michael Moore kind of way, only gentler and without the venom. So, I linked to his blog, and have been reading periodically.

One of his recent blogs, about a cause dear to his heart, caught my interest. He posted a long-ish blog on the Spread the Net campaign, which I found to be a fascinating read (Go read it. You can come back here after. I won’t be upset.) I also think the cause is a worthy one.

Spread the Net is a campaign to ship bednets to some of the poorest regions of Africa, where mosquito-borne malaria kills over 3,000 children a day. This campaign will bring down the transmission of malaria in African kids, and therefore the number of deaths from malaria, by protecting them as they sleep with bednets. All it takes is ten dollars (Canadian! A bargain!) to buy a insecticide-treated bed net to protect what will probably be a bed full of kids (usually more than one child sleeps in a bed in these poorest regions). The bednet provides FIVE YEARS of protection from mosquitoes. FIVE YEARS. For TEN DOLLARS. How easy is that? How many kids could be saved by such a simple measure? It’s a brilliant idea.

The campaign is a UNICEF-sponsored campaign, spearheaded here in Canada by Mercer and MP Belinda Stronach. (Yes. THAT Belinda Stronach. She of the rumoured propensity for dalliances with married men. Just put your thoughts about her behaviour aside for a moment, okay? Keep your eyes on the prize here, people.) It was an idea that was the brainchild of Dr. Jeffrey Sachs, Director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University. Simple, elegant, and effective. That’s what you need to make a difference on a grand scale. And this campaign has it in spades.

So if you’re looking for a place to make your difference this week, check out Spread the Net. Spend 10 bucks. And know that for five years, some children may be protected, and maybe live long enough to make a difference in their world.

Get In The Game — Make A Difference, Part 2

We got a call from my mother-in-law last night, who is on vacation in Florida. (Hi Mom! 🙂 *waves*) She faithfully logs on every day to read my blog from the library on the resort, looking for the latest updates, on the occupancy of my uterus, and how we are doing in general. And so, I will tell her right up front, so she may get on with her relaxing and golf games… we’re fine, I am drinking all my water (almost), and we’re still waiting. And so, go relax already! You’re on vacation!

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This week in the UK, it is National Adoption Week. It is a week where the country is educated about adoption, and people are encouraged to look into the possibility of adopting some of the many children who need families. What a wonderful idea this is! Why don’t other countries do this? (Or, perhaps they do, and I just don’t know about it. That is always a possibility.)

I have always been interested in adoption. I knew, from an early age, that I wanted to adopt. When I was younger, two news stories grabbed me and forever made adoption a hot button issue for me. First was Live Aid and Bob Geldof’s work in the African famine of the mid-80s. I became aware of the terrible imbalance of wealth in the world because of Bob Geldof and Midge Ure. So many starving people, so many orphans in such terrible conditions. How could so many people be in such dire need, while I watched on television? I suddenly became aware that there were children suffering so terribly, and being orphaned by starvation and disease. And seeing those faces of children in such need, I decided as a teenager that one day, I would adopt. I just knew.

The second news story that made adoption real for me was a story, I think possibly from Time or another major news magazine, about babies in the U.S. with AIDS being abandoned in hospitals. (This was in the early days of AIDS, when Reagan refused to do anything about it, and people were still terrified of this scary unknown “gay disease”.) Infants, diagnosed with AIDS, were just being abandoned in maternity wards. And they were being left in corners in their cribs to die. People were so afraid of AIDS at the time, nobody, not even health professionals, would touch these children. It was barbaric, like back in the day when children with disabilities were left in the corner with a “Do Not Feed” sign on their cribs to slowly starve and die. And then, as word spread, a group of inner-city grandmothers, predominantly black women, said “Screw THIS” and started going into hospitals and cuddling these children. They were not afraid. They held them, and fed them, and sang to them. They LOVED these children. And these children began to thrive. And as I sat, reading this news story and bawling my eyes out, I vowed to do SOMETHING. I was in my early twenties, just out of university at the time, in my first job, but I began scrambling for addresses where I could send money, checking to see if I had the income to afford to adopt one of these infants. (I did not.) But it reaffirmed that I needed to adopt, one day, because there were children in my own backyard who needed a home and love.

And so, years on, I find myself in a position where adoption is a real possibility. In fact, it may be the only way that my husband and I ever have children. The world has not changed — there are still many, many children in need of families, homes, love, internationally and domestically. So it warms my heart to see that the UK has a National Adoption Week. The UK is a notoriously difficult place in which to adopt, but slowly and surely, they are working to make this a very real and very viable possibility for couples and families who wish to do so. And they are making people who never really considered it actually consider the possibilities — professional couples over 45 who had just reconciled themselves to lives without kids, single women and men, gay couples — all of them now are being educated and welcomed to pursue adoption for the many children in need in their country.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if all countries with the resources had a National Adoption Week? It would demystify the process, make it less scary, and make it more “okay” and acceptable to adopt. It would do such good for yearning childless parents, for families that are not yet complete, for children who live each day without a family’s love. It would guide people through the paperwork and pitfalls along the way to adoption. But I think, most importantly, it would raise awareness of the appallingly high cost and, possibly, start enough activism and programs to lessen the financial burden and make adoption more of a real option for families who want to. Right now, I think cost and time are the two biggest issues against adoption for most couples. (Another question for another day is: why are governments not making it financially as easy as possible to adopt? But this is another bee in another bonnet entirely.)

So BRAVO to the UK for their National Adoption Week! Bravo from those of us who believe in adoption, who want to adopt. Bravo for helping making the dreams of people like myself a reality. And Bravo for supporting a cause that I have held dear in my heart for almost 25 years now, and will likely continue to hold dear for my entire life.

Get In The Game — Make A Difference, Part 1

Natalie:(nods head, turns back to Dan, excited) Two guys have ascended five miles into the sky! They walked up a wall of ice, and are preparing to knock on the door of heaven itself! There’s really no end to what we can do! You know what the trick is?
Dan: What?
Natalie: Get in the game.

Sports Night, “The Quality of Mercy at 29K”

This week has been a week of awareness. I’ve noticed many, many news stories about organizations and campaigns that give people the opportunity to get involved in something that can make a difference in the world we live in, and in the world our kids and grandkids will live in. Often times, it doesn’t take much, it’s fun, and even though your part is a small part, together, as a whole, we can be huge instruments for change.

So I am writing about some of these things here in my little corner of the internet. Maybe something will twig with you. Maybe something will have some resonance in your life. Maybe something will inspire you to get in the game.

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On Saturday, here in Canada, it is Remembrance Day. A day for us to remember all the men and women who served in wars to help the people of the world preserve their ways of life, their safety, and their homelands. They didn’t have to. They could have left the people who were overrun by invading forces and evil dictatorships to deal with it themselves. They could have abandoned them to their fates.

They did not. They got in the game.

Some of them were still in their teens. My uncle, Tom Barnett, at the age of 16, took his older brother’s ID and signed up for duty in WWII. He was then known as Alfred Barnett, he was officially 19, and he was shipped off to Italy. He did not think twice about his decision. He knew there was a job to be done. Sure, there was some sort of romance in going off to war then; the world was younger and more innocent. We didn’t see the horrors of war on television, as entertainment, live and in colour like we do now. And there, in some battle in Italy, the 17-year-old Tom was killed and was buried under another man’s name.

So many kids died in those wars. So many families were torn apart. So many soldiers continue to die, some in causes that are questionable at best. But all of them are giving their lives for a sense of duty, for a need to stand up and do something. We have peacekeepers the world over, doing a dirty job in sometimes ungrateful lands. Remembrance Day is one day, ONE DAY in the year, when we can show these people we ARE grateful, that we DO remember the selfless service they have done and continue to do.

I come from a straggly, often reluctant line of military men and women. Something about Remembrance Day gets to me. I cry every year when I see the old veterans, in uniform, chests puffed out and full of medals, so proud. I think of how young, how scared they must have been. I think of so many young kids, dying alone in some god-forsaken foreign place, wanting only to see their loved ones one last time. I think how different the world would have been, had these women and men not decided to do something, to take action for a cause.

And so yesterday, when I saw this article in the Toronto Star newspaper about poppies, I realized that it did not take much at all to get involved, to show your support for something worthwhile. Buying a red poppy for Remembrance Day is one of the easiest things you can do to show support for one of the most valuable causes that has been around for a long time. Yes, you’re going to get poked by the pins. And yes, the poppies always fall off. So, if that happens, you grab another dollar, and you buy another one. A couple of dollars is a small price to pay to thank someone for being prepared and willing to give the ultimate sacrifice.

So, on Saturday, take two minutes at 11 am to remember. Be thankful for what you have. Be thankful that you never had war on your doorstep. Be thankful for those who have been willing to keep the world safe, to protect what they love and hold dear. Remember those who died on some battlefield somewhere, and those who have returned to tell the tales. Shake a veteran’s hand. Thank them. Mean it.

And wear a red poppy.