Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Let's Skate!

I love this time of year, especially when we have days like today that are beautiful, crisp and clear (and after yesterday's torrential downpour and last night's storm, it is a very welcome change). Not sure I am into starting the Christmas festivities as early as Nov. 1 (as it seems our malls and retail outlets would like us to be doing) but I have to say I'm getting excited about winter in general.

The local mountains have opened early this year and I have just learned that the Robson Square outdoor public skating rink will be opening on Nov. 24! You can read all the details at http://bit.ly/3LeTzt.

What's more festive than outdoor skating with Christmas lights everywhere and holiday music to get you in the mood?! Warming up afterwards with an eggnog or gingerbread latte and some roasted chestnuts (disgusting, by the way, but God do they smell good). It's a Hallmark commercial waiting to happen.

I'm a terrible skater, having failed an early level back in my wee years for not being able to skate backwards fast enough...or was it that I was so embarrassed I couldn't get my feet to do what I wanted that I didn't even finish a circle of the rink? Ah well...six of one, half dozen of the other. It clearly wasn't my calling but I love it anyhow.

See you at the rink,


Sunday, November 8, 2009

Remembrance Day

November 11th always sparks my historical curiosity. As if to honour the memorial, I read only historical fiction this time of year related to WWI and WWII. I am particularly drawn to the stories of the Holocaust. I have never fully understood why but I read everything I can get my hands on, watching every documentary I come across, about how an unfathomable number of Jewish men, women and children were rounded up and sent to their deaths.

Being a student of psychology my whole life...always asking 'why', much to the limits of my parents patience growing up...I am utterly fascinated with how it could have happened. It was not that long ago. How people could turn off their humanity to such a degree has always been beyond my limited...and, yes, privileged...understanding.

I strive to learn all I can as a way of understanding. It's my nature. Not to agree or disagree with choices made long ago...choices that cannot be undone...but to find a way to wrap my brain around it; to learn how to keep humanity from repeating its mistakes...through my actions, since that is all I have control over.

Sadly, it is but one example of many genocides around the world throughout history. It is, however, the one I am most drawn to and it is the one I continue to read about every year at this time. Perhaps because there are still survivors alive today from WWII and so it has a strong foothold in our collective consciousness. Perhaps it is due to the simple reason that I am still seeking to understand and have not yet been able to answer my own questions. Whatever the reason, I find myself reading another story about WWII and asking the same questions.

This year especially, I wish my grandparents were still alive to share their stories with me. I have been reading The Wayfinders by Wade Davis and am troubled by the alarming number of cultures that are dying out, and with them, their stories, their languages, and their wisdom. The implications his thesis holds for when the last of the WWII veterans and survivors have passed on is equally disturbing. Is it possible that their stories and the teachings of their experiences will die with them?


Here are some of the books with content related to the World Wars that have left a lasting impression on me:

Three Day Road by Joseph Boyden

Sarah's Key by Tatiana de Rosnay

Night by Elie Wiesel (non-fiction)

Man's Search for Meaning by Victor Frankl (non-fiction)

Suite Francaise by Irene Nemirovsky

The Diary of Anne Frank (non-fiction)

The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne

Fugivite Pieces by Anne Michaels

Band of Brothers: E-Company, 506th Regiment, 101st Airborne... by Stephen E. Ambrose

Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks

The Wars by Timothy Findley

Beach Music by Pat Conroy

For those with other book recommendations related to WWI or WWII, I welcome you to post them here.

Lest we forget.


Friday, November 6, 2009

Room to Read

I love to read. Ever since my grade 5 teacher read Roald Dahl's, The BFG, to our class, I've been hooked. I'm not even sure what is was about that particular story that captured my imagination, or why I hadn't inherited my parents love of reading before that, but The BFG was something special and sparked my (since then) life long passion for reading (and a compulsion for collecting books, I'm afraid).

I read every Roald Dahl book I could get my hands on after that and, when there were no more to devour, I turned my attention to the Choose Your Own Adventure books. Classics! I found it hard to believe they ever went out of vogue but, thankfully, I hear they are making a comeback.

I cannot imagine what my early years would have been like without all those fantastical stories. I am very fortunate that I never had to worry about it. They were, quite simply, always available to me. So no surprise that I am drawn to organizations and initiatives that are working to promote literacy and a love of reading to those who are not as fortunate.

Speaking of which, I recently became involved with the local chapter of Room to Read (http://www.roomtoread.org/), an incredible nonprofit organization committed to promoting and enabling global education. If you are not already familiar with this non-profit, allow me to enlighten you. Founded on the belief that education and literacy is critical to breaking the cycle of poverty in the developing world, Room to Read has established more than 700 schools, over 7,000 bilingual libraries with 5 million books, has supported over 3 million children by providing increased access to higher-quality educational opportunities and continues to support the education of nearly 7,000 girls who would have otherwise gone without.

I first learned about Room to Read through reading John Wood’s book, Leaving Microsoft to Change the World. He left his life as a corporate executive behind and co-founded the program with an equally inspiring individual, Erin Ganju, who will be speaking in Vancouver on Nov. 17th.

If you are interested in the event, or, better yet, would like to register, please click on the link: https://www.roomtoread.org/SSLPage.aspx?pid=526

I assure you, it will not disappoint.