Refuse to be Passive

Archive for June, 2013|Monthly archive page

Set Your Space for Success

In Uncategorized on June 22, 2013 at 8:47 pm

Prepping Your Space for Weight Loss Success


Many people think that their weight loss failures in the past have been due to a lack of determination and will power. Have you ever said to yourself, “I want to lose weight, but I just can’t do it. I’ll never be one of those thin people.” I know that those are words I’ve spoken to myself, and while I could go into a huge post on why those two sentences are total bunk and focus on the wrong things, today, I’m heading in a different direction.

In order to be successful at weight loss, you need to set yourself up for success. You don’t make it to the NHL because you want to. You don’t pen a literary award winner because you think it’s a nice idea. Anyone who has ever had success in any realm of life, has done so by putting down a foundation they can build their success upon. They’ve taken many steps to get to their goals; their first steps of setting themselves up for success, ensure it’s a reality down the road.

In the world of healthy living and weight loss, there are a few areas in which we need to examine our current state of being, and what it should become if we want to shed that weight and live a healthier lifestyle. One of the first, and most important considerations is your space.

Home is a haven, or at least it should be. You come home from a long day at work, and sit down to your favourite relaxation technique, be it reading a book and sipping a cup of tea, like my mother, or jack-hammering out the cement pad behind that house, like my father.  It’s a place of safety and harmony. Temptations and cares of the day go out the window, as you cross that threshold.

Is your home a food haven? Does your kitchen tempt you towards gluttony and indulgence, or does it inspire you towards healthy eating?

Take some time to examine your cupboards, fridge, and freezer. Take a look through and ask, where am I doing well? Where is change needed?

Do some purging this week. If it’s highly processed, downright unhealthy, or some other form of nastiness, chuck it. If you can’t get yourself to garbage food, and it’s still unopened, consider donating it to your local food bank or shelter. Also, watch for your trigger foods. Trigger foods are those foods that set you off on a binge. For some it’s chips, for me, it’s peanut butter and ice cream. The best way to avoid temptation is to simply not have it in the house. Because at the end of a long day, that trigger food will be calling your name and before you know it, you’ll be eating Nutella by the spoonful. And by the time your brain kicks in and realizes what you’re doing, it’ll be too late. Then you’ll just berate yourself until the cows come home, and  liable to say, “Well, I’ve screwed it up anyways. Might as well screw it up some more.” Umm…no. Remember. Tomorrow may be another day, but we all have weak moments, and rather than trashing the whole day, start again as soon as you can. Get yourself in a good space.  Move on. But even better, purge your pantry. Then you can’t binge on that Nutella in the first place.

Be careful of the tricksy foods that make you think they’re healthy, whether because they’re low calorie, or because it sounds like it should be healthy. Examples included the highly processed 100 calorie snack packs, low-sugar yogurts that are sweetened with Splenda or asparatame, pop in general, fruit juice (very high sugar, consume with caution) instant oatmeal, and many forms of granola( which are loaded with sugar and fat). Remember, just because the packaging makes it look healthy, that doesn’t mean it is.

Here’s to a week of healthy eating and good choices!


Love Wins

In Uncategorized on June 16, 2013 at 11:20 am

I just finished watching a movie about a drug dealer turned preacher who winds up rescuing children in war-torn Sudan. After watching this movie, which was so riveting, I wasn’t even tempted to go for snacks, I couldn’t help but take a look at the life that I am living, and realize how blessed I am, how much I take it for granted, and feel guilty over the fact that I can stop by my local coffee shop for a brew anytime I want, while there are children being abducted or killed, sold into slavery, raped, and abused, by the thousands. It may be half a world away, but the world keeps shrinking as technology continues to increase. Half a world is really not so very far.

Granted, even in my own city there is abuse and neglect of children, but to see it on such a vivid and grotesque scale is both shocking and humbling. It makes the challenges I face daily trivial and mundane. For example, last night I was fretting over missing a piece for a cappuccino machine I demonstrate as one of my jobs. There is something incredibly disturbing about that to me right now. I am trying to sell cappuccino machines, these monetary pieces of entitlement, to yuppies who apparently have more money than they know what to do with. Don’t get me wrong, these are lovely machines and well-engineered. And the factories they are made in provide quality working conditions and wages for their employees. In this day and age, that is a miracle enough. So I suppose there is an argument for them there. But at the same time, aren’t there better ways to spend your money than on a cappuccino machine? On the other hand, I suppose in a monetary sense, it’s much cheaper than spending fifteen dollars at Starbucks everyday (I do know some who spend $25-$30 per day, insane).

But it disturbs me to know that the average Canadian donates only $100 dollars a year to charity, and yet, we’re more than happy to spend a few hundred dollars on a coffee or espresso machine. I see something wrong with that picture. It’s easy to forget about all the pain and suffering in this world, when we don’t see it with our own eyes day to day. Nothing is as real when it comes through the television screen. And that which we do see day to day, we become acclimatized to. Just the other day, I had a woman ask me for spare change for the bus. I looked at her, exasperated, and said, “You ask me that all the time, and my answer is the same, no.” Actually, most of the time I don’t carry change so I don’t have to lie to these people who pan-handle and beg for money. But each time I get one of those requests, I mark it down, and make a donation to a local outreach that helps people who are down on their luck. Or at least that’s my intention. Truth be told, I haven’t written a cheque yet. I live in a poor section of town with a large homeless population, and I have to say, that number is going up quickly.  

But the truth is, I don’t just want to throw money at societies problems. It’s like that proverb, “Give a man a fish, and you’ll feed him for a day. Teach a man how to fish and you’ll feed him for a lifetime.” Now I find myself mulling over what I can do that will make a long-term impact, both half a world away, and right here in my own neighbhourhood. Half a world away, will probably be donating money to charities that I’ve researched and know to be doing good work. But in my neighbourhood? What will that look like? And where will I give up something that I feel entitled to, to help make life better for someone else? And this, not just out of guilt, but out of the recognition that in a world so filled with hate, evil, and pain, that love must win out. For if we let the hate, evil, and pain simply wash over us, we will become what we fear. We will become what we loath. We cannot let the hate win. Love wins, and it will do it through us.

Regardless of your belief system, whether you’re a Christ follower, or follow some other view. Do no harm is not an option, because it allows us to check out of reality. As long as we do no harm, our mission is fulfilled. Instead, we must go beyond “do no harm” to “do good, and treat others as you would wish to be treated.” Step up. Refuse to be passive. Love and do good to all, especially those who are tough to love. Oh goodness, I just realized that this last paragraph is the beginning of another post, another topic, tied to, but separate from. More to come!

Frappe please!

In Uncategorized on June 16, 2013 at 10:58 am

Last week I was staring at the lukewarm coffee left at the bottom of my coffee pot, after I’d downed my morning’s caffeine fix. It seemed like a shame to throw it down the drain, but at the same time, what do you do with half a cup or a cup of coffee? You know, that cup that no one takes at a gathering because they don’t want to be rude and finish it off, or because they want to avoid the dregs?

Lately, I’ve been looking at my lifestyle, looking for places to cut the spending, to live more responsibly. Where it comes to my coffee habit, I spend entirely too much money and calories at local coffee houses. Heck, my favourite one knows me by name. Now, I’m all for supporting local, but that stuff gets expensive! Three dollars for an Americano? Really? And then a tip on top of that? You do know that most of your baristas come backed with a B.A. in Philosophy or English and have to pay off their student loans, right? And I know enough about coffee not to be able to stomach the cheap stuff. Drinking Tim Horton’s is like sacrilege. And Starbucks? Why not just burn those beans a little more for me, then it’ll taste even more like char. But I digress.

During the summer, I’m a sucker for those cold iced frappes. And add a bit of chocolate to it? I’m in heaven. But once again, it’s easy to spend five bucks on your drink.

As I started at that last bit of coffee in my coffee pot, inspiration struck. I grabbed out a ice cube tray and poured in the coffee. Then I threw it in the freezer. This morning, I was craving a pre-lunch snack, and was also feeling a little warm. So, I didn’t what any specialty coffee loving person would do. I pulled half a dozen cubes from the freezer, threw them in my food processor with 2 tbsp reduced sugar chocolate milk mix, and added half a cup Silk Coconut Milk. On the whole I find that Silk’s milk alternative run a little too thick for my liking, but in something like a frappe, it works a charm.

After whizzing that together for a minute or so, I had a lovely morning mix, that cost me cents, not dollars. And the best part is, I didn’t have to say, “I’ll have a tall, almond milk, half sweet, skinny, no whip, mocha frappe please.” 

How Did I Get Here AGAIN?

In Uncategorized on June 10, 2013 at 8:51 am

This morning I stood and looked at myself in the mirror. I poked the pudge around my middle. A slight frown appeared on my face, my eyebrows scrunched together in dismay. How did I come to this again? It’s not even like this is the first time around! I’ve tried losing weight for years, and finally a few years back, I lost it and kept it off for two years. Now, as I look in the mirror, all I see is the old pudgy me. And I feel disappointed in myself. I want to be so much more than this. I want to be so much more than someone who is controlled by food.

Here’s the rub. I know what to do and how to do it, but getting from head knowledge to action has been too much of a jump for me to make in the past six months. Now, I am finally starting to get to that point where I say, “Enough is enough. If you want it, do it. If not, quit complaining.” The truth is, I do want it. But do I want it enough?

Last night the downstairs tenant invited me down for tea and rhubarb crisp. It sounded enticing, so despite the fact that I’d already munched my way through my entire day, I went do and had a healthy portion anyways. After one bite, I knew that this crisp was less than memorable, and yet, rather than setting it off to the side, I cleared my small bowl of all food remnants. Why? Because it was there. I wasn’t hungry, it didn’t taste excellent, and yet I still ate the whole thing. Alright. Time for a change.

So here I sit this morning, typing at my computer. I’ve had a healthy breakfast—one of the only meals of the day where I find this simple to do—and now begin to contemplate what I really want out of life.

For many people, they struggle with getting enough exercise, whether it be outside, or getting to the gym. For me, that’s not such a struggle. I sure could use some weight training and a bit of cardio, but I walk at least 5km a day, simply to and from work. Other days its much further. I also enjoy biking. But I’m sick of lugging around all this extra weight  on my frame. It’s absurdly hard on my body—my heart, my joints, my lungs. 

For me, the real change needs to happen in portion control. Most of my food choices are healthy, I simply eat too much. Along with my desire to stop eating so much and get back into a healthy weight while maintaining a healthy state of mind, are a few other things that have also fallen by the wayside.

I used to write. Anyone who has been following this blog for the past few months knows that lately my writing has been sporadic at best, non-existant at worst.

I used to take time to serve others. Now I volunteer only once every other week.

I used to take time in the morning for meditation and reflections. That’s gone the way of the dodo.

So there are a few things that I’m looking at changing in my life. However, before change can come, I need to know what I am working towards. So without further ado, another list. Yes, I love lists, and I make a lot of them. So here she is:


Changes I am Working Towards:


1)      Weight-loss/Healthy Eating while maintaining a Healthy Mindset

  1. Current weight 190.8 (on a 5’11 frame). Goal weight: 160.
  2. First 5% = 1.5 lbs – Did you know that even a five percent weight loss has significant health benefits for your body? And 1.5 lbs? I can do that!
  3. Reduce my fat, sodium, and refined sugar consumption
  4. Keep a food journal, so that I can tell what I’m eating and where the empty calories lie
  5. Make food-free zones in my house—like my bedroom.
  6. Commit to distraction free eating. Eat with intentionality, focus on your food. You’ll leave the table feeling satisfied, rather than wondering where all your food went.
  7. Eat slower. I am a scarfer by nature. My entire family eats quickly. By slowing my food intake, I will give my body time to register when I am full.
  8. Stop eating when I’m full
  9. Don’t eat out of stress or boredom. Stress= drink tea or water. Boredom= find something to do.

2)      Return to Morning Meditation

  1. For me this means a return to doing my devotions and reading my Bible on a regular basis—it takes me out of my head and makes me realize that there is more to this world than just my tiny little sphere, my little mental space. It also inspires me to make a positive influence in this world. Goodness knows it needs more of that.
  2. Relaxation—I am notorious for being unable to just sit and be. But I think it’s a good practice. Let go of the cares of the day, forgive, reflect, clear your mind. Move on.

3)      Write!

  1. Despite the fact that I’ve be remiss from my writing as of late, I really do love to write. Even now, I am looking at the clock and saying, “Where did the time go?” Writing is a great release for me, and a way to connect with those I have never met and may never meet. It is a way to find common ground in a world that seems fractured. It is a way to parse through thoughts and then get feedback. To write or not to write? It’s not really a question.


If you find yourself wanting to start your own journey, I encourage you to first sit down and contemplate what you’re working towards. Then set yourself small goals. Work towards them one by one. It’s much easier to handle tasks that are broken down into pieces. What may seem like climbing a mountain, is really a matter of just being willing to start putting one foot in front of the other. And the view from the top? Astounding. 

Flying by the Seat of my Pants

In Uncategorized on June 8, 2013 at 9:11 pm

“I really admire the life you’re choosing to live. I know I could never do it. You really kinda fly by the seat of your pants. I need stability. But you? You just up and go.”

It wasn’t the first time I’d heard those words, but it was the first time they struck a chord. And really, it’s only now, weeks later, that those words run like a record, over and over in my head. Do I really live life so laisez-faire? I do what I need to to survive, and live the life I feel called to. Does that equal flying by the seat of my pants? And where did that term come from anyways?

I suppose these words seem fitting to mull over at this time. In the past month I’ve started two new jobs, and a third is on the way. Nothing like working three part time jobs to make ends meet. But that’s not really the reason for three part-time jobs. I’ve chosen each specifically to let me develop useful skills for the future, as well as a way to keep some variety in my life. I could be working full-time as a line cook in some kitchen in the city, but how much more fun it is to have a few things on the go. I’m going into cliche mode with this post, but isn’t it said that variety is the spice of life? Hello, spice.

Job one is more of a feel good job than anything else. I work as a dietary aide and prep cook at the local detox centre. The work isn’t glamorous or complicated, but I work under a fantastic chef, and I really like being able to feel like I’m making a positive impact on the community in which I live. It’s an act of service, a labour of love.

Job number two is a book keeping gig. I get to track finances and do data entry for a local microbrewery. While it’s not a dream job, I don’t mind the work, and boning up on my book keeping skills will be invaluable for when I launch my own small business, hopefully later this year. Beyond the skills though, I get to work with some lovely people who are passionate about what they do. The person I work with most is an eternal optimist, and while she’s a bit more of a hippie than I can really understand, she’s a completely lovely person.

Job three hasn’t started yet. Next week I am being flown out to Toronto for training for a couple of days. Job three is demoing kitchen equipment in high-end department stores. I took this job, which will including demoing things like Panini presses, home espresso machines, and high-power blenders, at high-end department stores. I took this job because it just sounds like fun. I enjoy cooking and interacting with the public. I did it for a year as a Pampered Chef consultant, but I’ve also done it as part of parties and presentations at food shows. It’s great fun. It’s a bit of charisma, a bit of sales, a bit of truth and a bit of acting, and a whole lot of fun. Plus, if they want to fly me places to train, well I guess I’m okay with that.

So on the job front, that is where I’m at. And then there is the living aspect. For the past six months I’ve lived in a tiny 250 square foot apartment. I love it except for the fact that the kitchen layout is appalling, and there is no storage or counter space. I hate cooking in my apartment. If I owned a condo with this footprint, I would be happy because I could switch bits around in a way you can’t easily do in a rental. For example, because of plumbing, my kitchen sink is separated from my stove and my fridge by the entryway into my bathroom. The kitchen sink has a counter beside it that is a whopping foot wide, and there is no room to add in additional counter space. The “kitchen” setup also makes it extremely difficult to have a cozy setup for having company over. While it is possible to have a decent space for company in an apartment this small, the layout has to be intentional. The layout in this apartment is haphazard at best. If it was cheapest to go Route A, then Route A it is. Floor plan and usability be damned.

And so now, I move again, the 7th time since I graduated university, 5 years ago. The 14th time since I left home at the age of 19, 9 years ago. I guess I had to make up for a childhood in which we never moved.

My new home with be shared with a flatmate. She owns the place, and over the past six months, I have come to consider her a dear friend. She is quiet, and unassuming, but has her opinions. She’s level-headed and responsible, without being a downer. She’s intelligent and kind. She has a lovely standard poodle, and he’s a very well behaved dog. Normally I would be wary of moving into a situation with a dog, as many are not well trained. Cooper, however, is exceptional. We’ll live in the upstairs flat of a two-story house. With decent square footage including a living room, kitchen, and dining area, I think it will all work out quite nicely. There’s also a rather large garden, a bit rustic and wild, but filled with herbs and produce, that we share with the downstairs flat. The yard has a lovely fire pit with a pergola surrounding it, covered in hops vines. I look forward to many a summers night by the blazing fire.

The couple who live downstairs have two young children. I’ve known them for years an count them as friends. So while I’m sure I will hear the occasional tantrum going down, the sound carrying up the stairs, it’s much easier to be patient with children you already know and love. And as for the couple, they are loving, salt-of-the-earth type people who would give you all they have and more if they thought you needed it. They are incredibly generous. There is much I hope to learn from them about loving others.

So, anyone wanna help me move? Flying by the seat of your pants would be much easier if there wasn’t luggage to drag along with. That being said, I can’t imagine life any other way.

The Abbott

In Uncategorized on June 8, 2013 at 9:03 pm

At the corner of Spencer and Queen is a old brick building, slightly ramshackle, hosting apartments upstairs, and a corner store down. But tucked behind the corner store on that main level, a small coffee shop is hiding. If you didn’t live in Parkdale or know someone who did, you’d never know it was there.  “The Abbot” is scripted across the windows. It leaves you wondering who in the world decided that was a good name for a coffee shop, and what is the story behind the name? And why in the world is it located here? The storefront sits beneath the fire escape on the side of the building.


Your curiosity gets the better of you, and beckons you in. The cheery, rustic interior lifts your mood as you enter. It’s bright, simple, and intimate. The smell of coffee reaches your nostrils. The large, wooden communal table to your right is littered with newspapers, and a couple of gentlemen are sitting, sipping their drinks, and mulling over the morning news.  To the left are a set of small, round, mismatched tables. Ahead of you is a long, white counter of rough-hewn board creating built in bookshelves that displays products and aintiquey knickknacks. Behind the counter, a happy woman smiles, and you feel like you are home.


At times, the line up at the shop is out the door, or so you’ve heard. But now, there is no line, and so you ask the woman with a curly dark hair, “Why the Abbot?” She tells you it’s in honour of the first black doctor in Toronto, Dr. Rufus Abbott. You order yourself an Americano, and because the muffins are beckoning your name, you tack on a blueberry muffin.


After paying for your drink, you take your Americano and muffin to one of the small round tables. It’s bright red. You park yourself on the chair, and gaze around you. You take a sip of the dark liquid in the cup in front of you. Bliss. Bliss with a lovely crema. You think to yourself, “I could get used to this.”


Two weeks ago, I found out that my work was sending me to Toronto to go through training. My first thought after family and friends was The Abbott. Of Rita, with her bouncy curls and bright smile. I couldn’t wait to get back to my old stomping grounds and spend my morning in the coffee shop that had provided me so much joy in the past. It was my homework local while attending school, and it was also my go-to coffee stop on my way to classes when the night before hadn’t provided enough sleep.


As it was, I had only one day in Parkdale, and I had to make it count. Although I’d had grand intentions of also hitting up another favourite coffee stop, I wound up at The Abbott twice—once in the morning, and once in the evening. The second time, I was dragging my suitcase behind me. When I entered the shop, Rita greeted me. I was on a tight schedule so I ordered quickly. As another barista made me my iced Chai (a little too sweet for my taste—remember to order half sweet!), Rita said, “You’re gone already?”

My words were tinged with regret. “Yes, quick trip this time. Next time I’ll try to stay longer.”

“You do that. Have a safe trip!”

I thanked her and headed out the door. Who knows when I will get to step through the door tucked under a fire escape along the side of an old brick building at the corner of Spencer and King. But I know, that whenever it comes again, it’ll be just like the first time I walked through that door. It will feel like home.