Finding our Place

I remember, once, I walked home from a shift at the restaurant I worked in Toronto. It was around 10pm and, as I walked along, I took notice of my surroundings. I always take notice of my surroundings, but on this particular night, I really ‘felt’ my surroundings. I was keenly aware of where I was, my place in the world, in Toronto, amongst these city lights, in this moment; entirely present.

I noticed the Mount Pleasant Cemetery – it’s history. I noticed the endlessness of the city lights. I noticed the business of the traffic – the coming and goings of so many, going from here to there, all being a part of something, but also being a part of me and my life. I noticed the stationary store, closed for the night, but inviting me to visit all the same. I noticed the way the sidewalk gave way to the root of the tree that broke it in two and would break it further in years to come. This small town girl was in Toronto. Living. A small piece of something larger.

I think, sometimes, it’s hard to appreciate where we are. After moving from Toronto, back to BC, my day-to-day life became so busy and full. It only got more challenging as I gained more responsibility: having kids, moving forward in my career, taking care of our loved ones. Life carried me along, willingly or unwillingly. I had no choice but to move along.

Not too long ago, I was given an opportunity to go to a conference in Las Vegas. The moment I was offered this opportunity, I decided I would make the trek to see the Grand Canyon – in a day. Many questioned my sanity – it’s a 4.5 hour drive in one direction. By the time I would arrive, it would be time to turn around and head back. And yet, I needed to do this. Because life gets too busy. Because I needed to see something larger than myself. Because I needed to have a moment where I was present. Because I needed to feel my place and I needed to be put in my place. I needed to be reminded of my smallness in the world. And so I went.

The drive was long. I was happy. Then tired. Then excited. Then I realized I had to drive back and was exhausted at the thought of it. I kept going.

When I arrived, I saw some vehicles pulled over to my left. I could sense an empty space just waiting to be viewed. I refused to look. I pulled my car over. Keeping my eyes to the ground, I walked to the ledge. Once there, I looked. My breath caught. You can see the Grand Canyon online. You can see the Grand Canyon in a postcard. But you can’t ‘see’ the Grand Canyon until you’re standing there ‘feeling’ it at the same time. Feeling your place. Feeling your smallness. Feeling present. Feeling happy that I took the time to feel so small in this vastness.

What did I take away from this? Life is bigger than what we know it to be. We make the choices we make, but we have to remind ourselves of those choices rather than get caught up in the day to day. We have to remember that life is a gift and that we have a choice to treat it as such. We need to appreciate what we have been given. We have to step back and breath and look at the big picture to appreciate what happens in the smaller pictures within. We need to be grateful and thankful. I stood there and I felt this. I felt both vulnerable and invincible. I felt like everything was possible

I recognize life is hard. We make choices to move away from our families, from our friends, from our communities, with the promise of a new life. It’s hard. We don’t realize how hard it is until we have life thrown at us and we crave what we had – our supports, our community, our physical landscapes. We can try to go back, but it will never be the same. So, we make our new communities. We start with what we have.

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As silly as it sounds, we have our libraries. These little buildings are our communities. We share some ideals with each of the folks who walk through these doors. We sit on these couches and put our feet up with our favourite read. We peruse the shelves for the literature that is home to us. We go to the storytimes, the workshops, and the information sessions and we become a part of something that we have helped create. Our place in the world; a place in the world for our children.

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Happy Lunar New Year!

Happy Lunar New Year! February 19th marks the Year of the Sheep for Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese and Japanese families throughout the world. It is a time for families to be together. Wherever people are in the world, they come home to celebrate this festival with their families.

You may have observed some visual references as the Lunar New Year approaches. Lucky decorations have adorned streets, buildings and houses, such as red lanterns hanging in streets and businesses and red colour paper-cuts and couplets with common themes of ‘good fortune’ or ‘happiness,’ ‘wealth’ and ‘longevity.

Vancouver’s Chinatown holds a fantastic Chinese New Year Parade. Two years ago, I took my girls for the first time. They loved it. I loved it. I loved the splendor of the costumes, the music, and I loved the dragons. I learned that businesses invite the dragons to come to their storefronts to bring their business luck for the year to come. This parade allowed my children and I to participate and learn by watching.

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There are other activities throughout the lower mainland to get you knowing more about this:

Tourism Surrey’s Chinese New Year Celebration.

The Vancouver Public Library Hilcrest Branch: Lunar New Year Celebration at Hillcrest

The Vancouver Public Library Central Branch: Gung Hay Fat Choy! Happy Lunar New Year! Stories of Food and Family

Richmond BC’s Aberdeen Centre’s Golden Dragon and Lion Dance and Aberdeen Centre’s Chines New Year Weekend Celebrations

The West Vancouver Memorial Library is hosting a Lunar New Year Concert

North Vancouver City Library offers a Chinese New Year Celebration

Burnaby heights is hosting Lunar New Year

Burnaby Public Library is hosting Lunar New Year Storytime and Craft

Have a happy Lunar New Year. Wishing you a year of prosperity, happiness and good fortune.

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Family Day 2015

Family Day – a day to connect with your family and do something a little out of the ordinary, or just hunker down and take a day to catch your breath. Whatever it is you decide, you will want to know:

Libraries that are OPEN for family fun:

The North Vancouver City Library is OPEN! Yes, you read that right! They’ve booked Kristal from faceaballoonza to make fabulous balloon art creations for the young ones, they have a button designing station ready for the Children’s Department, and they’ve invited the entire family to participate in puzzles and games.

Family DAy

The North Vancouver District Public Library (Lynne Valley Branch) will also be open from 12 noon to 5 pm (I’m sensing a North Shore theme…). They will have activity stations, a scavenger hunt, lego and more fun for the whole family to enjoy!

The Vancouver Public Library and the Squamish Public Library will be open. Wahoo!

Other fun activities for the family:

Harrison Hot Springs is having a family day carnival with two indoor venues: Ramada Hotel will have juggling, storytelling, puppeteering, button making, face painting and a scavenger hunt. St. Alice Hall will have a 40-foot inflatable obstacle course, a mini golf course and a bouncy castle!

Langley Willowbrook Shopping Centre is hosting a World Play Day featuring fun multicultural activities, demonstrations and exhibits. The Entertainment Zone will have dance, music, and sports demonstrations from cultures across the world. They will also have an Arts & Crafts Zone, Lego Zone and exhibitors featuring cultures and flavours of the world.

The Fraser River Discover Centre invites you to come for free activities for families to enjoy on Family Day.

The Richmond Children’s Arts Festival, located at the Richmond Cultural Centre, has Arts Mashups, Cartooning, Clay Family Trees, Dynamic Poster Prints, Musical Theatre, Puppet Making I & II, Storytelling & Song, and more!

The Robson Square Ice Rink is still open! If you have your own skates, this is FREE! Skates can be rented for a nominal fee.

If you’re aware of a Family Day Activity that has not been listed here, please leave a comment below.

Enjoy your Family Day!!

 

 

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Family Literacy Day: January 27th

Family LiteracyIt’s Family Literacy Day next week. January 27th is recognized as a day to celebrate and take part in a literary activity with yourself, your children and your families. A number of events are planned throughout the BC Public Libraries, inviting you to participate and understand the importance of instilling literacy in your child’s life.

Literacy is not just reading and writing; it is understanding symbols, numbers, street signs, signs in the outdoors, your outdoor environment, culture and complex contexts. We encourage literacy through reading to our children, reviewing recipes in a cook-book, measuring ingredients, reading signs, understanding signs, asking questions, generating dialogue and evaluating situations (and more!).

Reading to your children increases literacy skills through improved phonetic understanding of words; it improves listening skills, better prepares kids for kindergarten and improves overall academic performance. I read to my children each night before we turn out the lights – we spend time being quiet, winding down, following the chapters through our books and getting lost in another world. Usually, by the time I’m finished reading, it takes the kids just a minute to fall completely asleep. This is a routine I treasure.

If you wish to participate, you will find many libraries and service providers involved in this project.

Will you be participating? I’d love to hear how your day of literacy went for you!

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Staying on Track With Your 2015 Goals

Are you staying on track of your New Years Resolutions? Often, the issue with the goal that we set is the loftiness of it. We ‘dream big’ and ‘shoot for the stars’ without knowing how to properly aim the arrow to the target we shoot for. Without an understanding of how to properly aim, we often miss our target. So, how do we properly aim to keep on track.

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We’ve all, by now, heard the SMART rule when setting goals: Specific, Measureable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely.

For example:

S: I want to lose 15 pounds in 2015
M: I want to lose 5 pounds by March, 5 more by May, 5 more by August.
A: I will eat healthy foods. I will commit to 30 minutes of exercise per day.
R: I think so
T: I will check my progress each week to see how I’m doing.

That being said, if you want a goal to stick, you have to keep it in the front of your mind. We often get caught up in the day to day of our lives and our goals end up being pushed to the back of our minds and get lost. To ensure that this information is staying in the forefront of your mind:

  • Try scheduling calendar notifications (through a google calendar alert, for example). This simple solution simply requires you to schedule a reminder to yourself to push your goal back to the front of your mind. Make sure to split your goals down into small, achievable milestones. This changes your goal from large and unobtainable, to small and manageable steps.
  • Change your passwords to include positive affirmations.  managed to achieve his life-goals by turning his computer passwords into positive affirmations every 30 days.
  • Share your goals with others. You’ll be more accountable to your actions.

If you would like some tips on specific apps that will help you with your goal setting, the Port Moody Library is offering an Android Tablets & Phones workshop on January 20th. You can find out what apps to download to help you commit to your goals. You can also check out the book “The Power of More: How Small Steps Can Help You Achieve Big Goals” by Marnie McBean. She illustrates how you can take a big goal and break it down into manageable steps.

Good luck. 2015 is your year.

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New Year, New Career

Happy New Year! Is this the year that you figure it all out and get that dream job? How, exactly will you be approaching this? One thing I have noticed is that, while there are many resources out there to help us find that dream job, there’s only one person who’s responsible, and that’s you.

Dream Job

There are many services and organizations available to help you; guide you. They are a check in point for which you can refer to, however, they should be used as this only. Many people become passive in their process to finding employment; they use the services available as a way to hand over the responsibility to someone else. Don’t let that be you.

When most people think about looking for work, the first thing they do is work on their resume and their cover letter. They think about the content that should be included: work history, qualifications, accomplishments, and then they start looking for work. It should be the other way around.

First, you should do your research. What type of job would make you satisfied? Will it pay you enough? Is there enough market demand for it? Taking the time to do the research will ensure that you’re not repeating the process again anytime soon. Once you’ve figured out the answer to this question, you should then go and tailor the content of your resume and cover letter to suit. Rather than applying for hundreds of jobs, apply for a few (up to ten) and see if you get a response. If you get a few responses, you know you’re headed in the right direction and you should continue to follow suit. If it is not getting a response, you need to change your tactics.

Stop and ask yourself: “Is this working?” If not, you should do more research. What, exactly, is the job description asking for? Do your skills add up to the requirements of the position? Does your resume say what it needs to say? Are you using the right language? What makes you stand out from all of the other applicants who are using the same sites, the same recruiters and applying for the same positions? Do you need to improve your cover letter? Each job you apply for should have a resume and cover letter tailored to each job, and each organization.

If this is your year, don’t just apply for jobs. Research what it is you want to do. Once you find it, once you know that this is it, go for it. If you’re not getting the results you want, even after trying the above, find a service provider who can help you. Let’s get started. I’ve listed starting points for you below.

Happy 2015!


 

Research:
Career Cruising – available at your Coquitlam Public Library (and others!)
WorkFutures
Other Employment Resources

Service Organizations:
Your local library – many libraries offer specific workshops to assist you with your job search (such as this Social Media for Job Search for Newcomers at the Coquitlam Public Library)
Other Service Organizations

 

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Christmas Traditions

My father had romantic notions around holidays and how we should take part. He would try so hard to get his children to participate in them willingly, which rarely happened.

One Christmas Eve, he insisted that we go caroling to get into the spirit of the night. We lived in a town of 350-ish people, we knew everyone and we were all in our teens. The last thing on earth we wanted was to have our friends answer the door and listen to our family of six sing to theirs. We made it to one house. Four blushing teens mumbling through song to our old Ukrainian neighbours with our parents overcompensating for our lack of enthusiasm. Our neighbours quickly invited us in for cookies and tea. I remember being so relieved; humiliation averted.

My sister and I snuck away back to our own house when it was polite to do so. Our lights were out save the lights on the tree. The ceiling was illuminated with a variety of colours and the shadows of the pine tree. It was beautiful. We agreed that we should leave the lights out. We then lay on our backs at the bottom of the tree.

There was something about that night. In the quiet of a house of six, my sister and I laying on the floor, looking up at the display on our ceiling. It was a rare moment of uninterrupted quiet. Better known for bickering and arguing, my sister and I took a reprieve from the ordinary and talked to each other, like friends. The moment was over quickly, but something had changed.

We continued this tradition for a few years; laying under the tree, in the dark, talking as Christmas came near. Random thoughts, wishes for the season, whatever made its way into our thoughts would exit quickly out of our mouths. I looked forward to it each year.

To this day, I think of that night when Christmas is near.

The other day, my girls were admiring the tree. The lights were out save the lights on the tree. They noticed the pattern and the way it played across the ceiling. They lay under the tree and looked up. My breath caught in my throat and I was transported back to that moment once again.

Christmas has a different meaning for everyone. If you’re gathering with your family and friends, for any holiday, celebrate with this in mind: Moments are fleeing. Make them count. I wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

(And for your viewing pleasure: Christmas picture from the 80s from my family to yours)

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