Not every act of kindness will affect the entire world but that doesn't mean those good deeds should go unnoticed. Touching just one person's heart is something to be celebrated.
CanadianLiving.com welcomed readers to share stories and experiences that have touched their lives and the lives of those around them. Celebrate the simple and everyday acts of kindness, generosity and love that make our world a better place to live.
Here are just some of the submissions:
Forum friendships I have recently regained my health after months of undiagnosed, agonizing pain. I belong to an online chat forum, and when I went back into the hospital this past January, one of the forum members put together a "get well" book for me -- posts of love and support that the forum members wanted to share with me.
Reading those messages was so heart-warming. To know that women I've never met in person cared so much about what was happening to me was amazing. I'll never forget their kindness. --Pamela Jessen
Gestures of kindness Four years ago, I was admitted to the hospital, for a bone infection called ostiomylitis. During the time that I stayed there, a total of five weeks, my boyfriend came to visit me every single day. This was an act of unselfish love, as the hospital was a good half hour away.
He came when the sun was out, and he came when it rained. Parking was no fun either. He brought joy to my often exhausting and painful days. Every time he came into the room, at any time of the day, he would bring me a little something to cheer me up: a box of chocolates, lotion for my dry skin, a funny card, and even a big, pink, stuffed teddy bear. I looked forward to these surprise visits.
This act of kindness touched my heart and I just want to say thank you for being who you are and for making my stay in the hospital more bearable. --Adele Poupart
A lifetime of love Sometimes it is hard to put words to someone's kind act or something that touched your heart so intensely. Still, I thought I can share my thoughts about one of the greatest inspirations in life. It is none other than my life partner Gurpreet Singh, who chose me as his better half seven years ago.
I was so alone as I lost my parents when I was too young and being a self-made person, I was studying in a good college and trying to collect the broken pieces of my life. All I wanted was love and love. It was something I yearned for.
He came into my life, made me a better person, taught me life's real meaning. He is the one who brought out my cooking talent and encouraged me to pursue it. Nowadays after his job, he helps me to get to my job as a chef, helps me with the dishes, grocery shopping...I can go on and on but, in nutshell, I can never thank God enough for blessing me with the joy of my life. I am none without my Gurpreet. Thanks Gurpreet for being mine in this lifetime. --Jasjit K. Singh
Completing dreams I want to write to you, to tell you about my mother, Arlene Dodding, who has been committed to helping adults complete their high school diplomas. People who never believed they could do it were able to make their dreams come true, thanks to Mom's persistant encouragement. Mom is retiring this summer and I hope that this note might reach someone who needs prompting to dream big. --Lynn Teefel
Cutting for a cause I just found out about your living for "Me to We" campaign and I am sorry that I missed the entry for nominations. However, I did want to pass on this story of hope for our future generation of "Me to We" children. I own a dance school in Hamilton, Ontario and a year ago I decided that I would grow my hair for Cancer and then cut it off to donate to make wigs for children with cancer. I told my students what I was doing and asked if any of them wanted to join me in growing and then cutting off their hair that would be wonderful.
I was hoping that maybe I could convince 10 children to join me in my cause. To my suprise and extreme amazement 45 students decided to join me. So on Sunday October 2, 2005 we will all be cutting off our hair for cancer. The children have also raised money through sponsors to donate to a local cancer charity that helps people living with cancer right in our community. I just think that it is amazing that these children are so unselfish and courageous to do such a good thing for someone else at such a young age. They are truly an inspiration to me and I am sure to many others. So I just think that collectively they are an amazing "Me to We" story and I feel so proud to know them all and I think that they show great promise for our future generations. -- Christena Hampson-Covello
UK (by way of Iceland) trainer Svava Sigbertsdottir, founder of the butt-kicking Viking Workout, talks about her workout philosophy and shares simple, equipment-free exercises that you can do at home.
Working out with Svava Sigbertsdottir should be intimidating—the Icelandic-born, UK-based "fitness maniac" (her words) has seemingly endless energy and is totally buff, of course. But her workout philosophy is so down-to-earth, it’s easy for even the most fitness disinclined to feel inspired.
For example, the trainer, who was in Toronto with Marshalls, doesn’t believe in that personal trainer stand-by, the before and after photo shoot. Instead, she asks clients to do before and after performances.
“The first day of the month, you do a challenge and write down your reps in your online profile. Then you train like a Viking for a month and on the last day, you repeat the challenge. Every month you do a new one,” she explains. “To do these performances and then see how much more you can do is amazing. It gives such a feeling of accomplishment. You realize you can do so much more than you thought you were capable of.”
Not that seeing results doesn’t have its place. “Don’t get me wrong; of course we all want to look our best! When you look good, you feel good, right? It can be motivating,” Svava says. “But the looks are just a by-product, not the focus. We train for our power, strength, agility, resilience, optimum energy, confidence and inner contentment.”
Interested in feeling—and seeing—those results? Here are seven simple moves you can try at home.
1. Squat with a backward lunge:
Start in a squat with your weight on your heels. Keep your chest up and lower back straight. Lunge backward deeply—your back knee should almost touch the floor. Then return to squatting position and switch legs. Troubleshooting: Never lengthen your legs fully to ensure you’ll bounce from the squat to the lunge. “When you are in the lunge, there should be a straight line down from the knee to the ankle of your forward leg,” says Svava.
2. Walking plank
Start standing up. Kneel down and walk your arms forward until you’re in high plank position. Then walk your arms back until you’re in a standing forward bend. Slowly straighten up, until you’re standing with your shoulders back. Troubleshooting: When you’re in the plank, engage your core. Don’t arch your back and keep your arms straight and shoulders down.
3. Towel runs
Place two hand towels on floor in front of you. Place a hand on each towel and get into a sprinter’s start position (bum up and heels off the ground). Run forwards as fast as you can, then turn and run back. Troubleshooting: Make sure that you drive your power from your legs and not your arms. Always keep your shoulders down.
4. Backwards squat jumps
Start in a deep squat with your shoulders and bum far back, placing all your weight on your heels. Jump backwards, ending in a deep squat. Troubleshooting: “Keep your chest up and your shoulders back as you move between each squat. Your torso should not be moving forward as you land in the squat,” says Svava.
5. Kneeling high kick
Kneel on your right knee, with your left knee forward in a 90-degree bend. Press into the left heel to raise your body slightly, lengthening the left leg and, at the same time, kicking the right leg as high as you can. Slowly return to your starting position, then switch legs. Troubleshooting: “Do not use the leg you’re kicking with to lift yourself up—only the one you’re kneeling on. Engage your core and use your power to kick that leg!” says Svava.
6. Plank forward reaches
Get into low plank position. Keep your hips still and slowly reach one arm forward without shifting your body weight. Bring your arm to starting position, then switch sides. “This is a slow exercise, so if you speed it up, you will start shifting your weight and swinging your body, ultimately losing your core,” she says. “Keep that core engaged! And do not arch your lower back.” Troubleshooting: You can tell whether you’re shifting your hips too much by paying close attention to your feet as you reach forward—if you feel more weight on the toes of one foot than the other, you need to engage your core more.
Squat with your bum sticking out and your heels firm on the ground. Place your hands on the ground in between your legs and jump your legs back. (You’ll end up in press up position.) Hold that pose, engaging your core so you don’t drop your middle. Then jump back to the squat, do a squat jump, and land in a squat. That is one burpee. Troubleshooting: “When you’re squatting, your shoulders, back and chest should be straight, so that you aren’t hunched over,” Svava says. “And this is crucial: when you’re doing the squat jump, make sure you’re landing back in a squat with both heels on the ground—rather than landing with your legs straight and then squatting.”
Empty shopping bags, broken chairs, stacks and stacks of magazines—when writer Christina Gonzales realized her mom might be a hoarder, she went to the experts to find out how she could help, and repaired their relationship in the process.
At my mother's apartment, there are a lot of unspoken rules. "Don't open the kitchen cabinets" is one of them. I've only ever used one cupboard, which is right above the sink and houses the sieve, a few large ceramic bowls and the few packs of ramen noodles that haven't yet gone bad. I try not to ask my mom what's in the rest of those cupboards, or why our pots and pans are piled beside the stove and our dishes never leave the drying rack. I brought up the subject once in aggravation when I moved back home two years ago to save money. "You're too much, Christina," she responded angrily. It instantly brought me back to my childhood.
When it all began
As a kid, I was close with my mother, despite her inability to let anything go. From the outside, our family looked normal, but when you opened the front door of our two-bedroom apartment, it was obvious something was different. There were rooms filled to the ceiling with souvenirs of our past: my first mattress from a twin-size bed I had outgrown years before, reusable shopping bags, pillows, suitcases, books, a lime-green swivel chair. My mom's dresser overflowed with so many accessories, half-used bottles of body lotion, old blush compacts and loose coins that you couldn't even see the wooden surface. A layer of dust covered everything, which meant she didn't use—or even touch—the stuff. I was humiliated that our home was so disorderly.
The clutter really began to accumulate when I was about 11 years old. My mom stopped inviting people to our home, and I stopped, too. My best friends in high school asked me why we'd never hang out at my place, and I did my best to dodge their questions. My frustration stemmed from jealousy (why couldn't my mom entertain the way other moms did?) and a fundamental difference in what we thought "home" should mean (I longed to live in a house filled with family and friends; she thought home should be a private retreat). I would cry, yell and plead with her to throw things away, until my teen years, when I started to distance myself emotionally from her. I knew that no matter what I said or did, I couldn't control my mother's hoarding, and it was easier to avoid her—and the subject of home—altogether.
When I moved back home at 28—I'd quit my day job to pursue a full-time freelance writing career, and my mom offered up my childhood bedroom as a way to save money—it didn't take long before we had our confrontation about the kitchen cupboards. But this time, I realized I didn't want the cycle to continue; the bitterness I'd carried with me for years had to cease in order for us to have a healthy relationship.
Understanding the problem
What I'd always found most challenging was that she couldn't see where I was coming from—she truly doesn't realize her belongings are piling up around her. Yet, she's unlike the people I've seen on the TLC show Hoarding: Buried Alive; she's physically healthy, she's about to retire from a successful career and she has an active social life. She's also been a giving, supportive and loving mother. So what's the deal? I approached several specialists to help give me insight into my mother's hoarding issue.
Dr. Peggy Richter, a psychiatrist and the director of the Frederick W. Thompson Anxiety Disorders Centre's Clinic for OCD and Related Disorders at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre in Toronto, says that, while their houses might not look like the ones on TV, an estimated two to five percent of Canadians suffer from compulsive hoarding disorder. Dr. Richter explains that hoarding is more than the inability to throw things out. "Rather, to be considered a clinical condition, it results in a significant accumulation that impacts the ability to use the space the way you would like or the way most people would," she says. "And people may try to minimize the impact. For example, maybe their kitchen is quite cluttered; they can still make breakfast, but they have piles in front of the oven, so they never use it anymore, though they claim they never did. Similarly, someone whose bed is too cluttered may claim that she prefers, and is more comfortable, sleeping on the couch."
Elaine Birchall, a social worker and hoarding behaviour and intervention specialist with clients in Ottawa and Toronto, says hoarders tend to save things for one of three main reasons: sentimental (this item represents my life and is part of me), intrinsic (this item is amazing and offers so many possibilities) or instrumental (I might need this someday). I think my mom is a sentimental hoarder. She once mentioned that her own mother discarded her childhood trophies and awards and that she wished she still had those things to help her reminisce. There's a certain glee she gets from pulling out an item that someone else would've thrown away long ago, like the cheerleading catalogue my now-40-year-old cousin was featured in when she was in high school in the '90s. "It's so nice. Maria was so pretty," she'd say.
Dr. Sheila Woody, a professor of psychology and psychology researcher at the University of British Columbia's Centre for Collaborative Research on Hoarding in Vancouver, shed some light on how to approach my mom's hoarding disorder respectfully and without judgment. "Making your mom's apartment a place you want to live is not an appropriate goal," says Dr. Woody, noting that people with hoarding disorders don't realize the impact of their mountains of possessions. I first needed to accept that this apartment would never become what I'd always perceived as the ideal home. There was one thing that I could change, though, and that was the usability of the space. "If you're trying to make it so that [your mom isn't] at risk of falling over when she's trying to reach something, or not at risk of setting the house on fire when she turns the stove on, that's a very reasonable goal," says Dr. Woody, who adds that it's also important for there to be adequate room to get out of the apartment in case of an emergency.
Finding common ground
To ensure that my mom's apartment was no longer a hazardous zone, I began to help her discard what Birchall calls the "easy wins": For some, these are nostalgia-free items (such as old toothbrushes and grimy shoes) and those that are unsanitary (like expired food); for others, they're items the person feels no extreme need to save. Birchall recommended I calmly ask my mom if we could relocate old things to make room for new items we'd actually use. I did it for the first time a few months ago, when I called her from the grocery store to ask if we had soy sauce. When my mom went and retrieved it, she told me that it was expired. "OK, I'll buy a new bottle, and you can ditch the old one," I responded. When I arrived home, it was sitting on the kitchen counter ready for disposal.
In my childhood, I would've taken the bottle down to the garbage chute that instant, a nonverbal signal that there was absolutely no reason to keep expired condiments. Now, I understand that getting rid of things causes her real distress. Instead of feeling exasperated and ashamed, all I felt this time was guilt. I realized that I'd been acting like a punishing drill sergeant, pushing my agenda onto my mother by barking at her to see things my way. And, according to Birchall, that's exactly the wrong approach. "Even when my patients want to hold on to genuine garbage, unless it's contaminated, I have to do my level best to make them see the reality of this," she says. "And even then, I don't just try to get someone to agree to let go of something; I try to understand what the importance of that item is to them."
So I didn't ask my mom when she planned on discarding the soy sauce; I knew it wasn't a sentimental item and that she was practical enough to understand it wasn't safe to consume. There was no fight, no power struggle, no "I'm right, and you're wrong." Rather, I gave her the space to decide when it was the right time—if there was a right time—to throw out the bottle. I tried my best to be patient, to have a stress-free conversation and to respect the value of my mom's belongings while holding firm to my boundaries within our shared space. It's a slow process, but it's effective. Showing compassion for my mom's feelings about her stuff makes it easier for her to let things go. When I push too much, we backtrack on any progress we've made. The day after our conversation, I walked into the kitchen and that old bottle of soy sauce was gone. It was a small step, but for me—and my mom—it was a breakthrough.
Social worker and hoarding specialist Elaine Birchall gives her best advice for helping a hoarder.
1. Complete a safety audit. Find the heat sources, such as electrical panels, fireplaces, hot water tanks, furnaces and stoves, and make sure there is a clearance of at least four feet around them, if space allows. The paths to those heat sources must also be free and clear in case of fire and should be at least 33 inches wide.
2. Create boundaries and limits, especially if you live in the same home as the hoarder. Build a positive co-tenant dynamic by defining who "owns" each room and what is allowed in each space. Common areas must be clear so that all tenants can use the space and have a social life.
3. Decide on permanent spaces. A permanent place is a storage area that makes sense for an item. For example, you'd never store canned goods under the bed—you'd put them in a kitchen cupboard or pantry. When choosing a permanent place, hold the item and close your eyes. Ask yourself, "Where is the first place I'd look for this?" That is where it should be.
4. Do your research. Rather than insisting that you know why the hoarder should part with an item, find an appropriate expert source. For example, if a hoarder wants to keep expired foods, go to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency; the organization's website will explain why it's unsafe to keep around.
5. Show respect. Don't apply pressure. Work at the hoarder's pace and don't diminish his or her feelings. Try to put yourself in that person's shoes by doing a mental tally of 20 possessions you love and imagining how you might feel if a family member made you throw them away.
Ginger may not be the first spice you think of to incorporate in your snacks, salads and dinners but it's one of the healthiest on the planet! Here's why:
1. It's healthy for your heart.
Research has shown that ginger may lower cholesterol and help prevent blood clotting, which could, in turn, help prevent blood vessel blockages that can lead to heart attacks or strokes.
A recent study out of Pennsylvania State University found that a meal made with a spice blend that included ginger (along with garlic, rosemary, oregano, cinnamon, cloves, paprika, turmeric and black pepper) reduced levels of triglycerides by 30 percent when compared to an identical non-spiced meal.
2. It helps your tummy!
Ginger has long been associated with relieving nausea and morning sickness, motion sickness, and even menstrual pain, as it's original use was for pain relief. A 2012 study shored up that wisdom, showing that ginger can reduce nausea after chemotherapy when taken as a supplement.
3. It can help you breathe easy. Ginger tea is a classic remedy purported to ease cough and cold symptoms. And it turns out, there’s some science to its soothing powers when you’re sick. In 2013, research out of Columbia University found that ginger might help asthma patients breathe more easily.
4. It has anti-inflammatory effects.
Osteoarthritis causes joint pain and stiffness, but the anti-inflammatory effects of ginger can help that. In a trial done by the National Centre for Biotechnology Information, participants who took ginger extract had less pain and needed less pain medication than those who didn't.
*Although rare, too much ginger can cause heartburn, diarrhea and irritation of the mouth, according to the University of Maryland. There can also be interactions with medications, such as acetylsalicylic acid.
With the growing trend of love blending with technology, there are a variety of online dating sites with mobile apps that are helping connect more people. Whether you're looking for a casual encounter or something more serious, there’s a dating app to suit almost every need. Here are seven top dating apps for you to consider.
1. OkCupid (free for both iPhone and Android devices) This popular online dating site also has a location-based mobile app that allows you to take your experience on the go. Users can sign in via Facebook or directly through the app to find local singles. The app allows you to watch the activity stream for potential matches, "favourite" a profile and rate your potential matches through the Quick Match feature. With over five million registered users since 2010, you never know whom you might find.
2. Match (available on iPhone, Android and Blackberry devices) Match.com, a pioneer dating website that launched in 1995, has users based in 24 countries around the world. People can sign up through Match.com and then download the app on their mobile devices. The app allows members to view profiles, upload up to 24 images, add users to their "Favourites" and rate their "Daily Matches." Subscriptions range anywhere from a month to a year. Pick one that suits you best.
3. eHarmony (available for iPhone and Android devices) This popular online dating site launched in 2000. Its claim to fame? Over one million people who used eHarmony went on to find lifelong partnerships. Users can sign up via the app, complete a relationship questionnaire, upload photos from their mobile phones or from Facebook, and receive daily matches—all free of charge. Paid subscribers get access to email and can also see who has viewed their profiles. It's the perfect app for those of all ages who are looking for long-term commitments. 4. Badoo (free for both iPhone and Android devices) With a community of more than 208 million users, Badoo is perfect for those looking to socialize and meet new people. The free basic service allows users to chat with and message other members, and upload photos and videos. Members can sign in with a Badoo or Facebook account via the mobile app or website to connect with locals who share common interests. The app also features a fun game called Encounters, which allows users to view potential matches and then tap "yes" or "no" to indicate whether or not they would like to meet. If you're not looking to date, Badoo is also a great app for social networking and friendship.
5. Plenty of Fish (free for both iPhone and Android devices) Plenty of Fish (POF) allows users to find potential dates and perhaps even their soul mates for free! It does have paid services as well, but users don't really need to upgrade; most of the best features such as Meet Me, which allows members to flirt with locals in their areas, are free of charge. This app allows users to search for singles using filters such as education, height, religious affiliations and body type. Another cool feature is Date Night, which tells other singles in your area that you're available for a date.
6. Zoosk (free for both iPhone and Android devices) Zoosk is one of the top mobile dating apps for iPhone users and is one of the Top 10 grossing social networking apps in the iTunes store. This app is available for free and also has a paid subscription option that allows you to access more features. If you’d rather not pay, you can still browse millions of singles, create a profile, upload photos, see who has viewed your profile, and scan and show interest in another member by using the Carousel feature.
7. Tinder (free for both iPhone and Android devices) Tinder has quickly become the go-to dating app for young adults. And the best part? The app is completely free and works on the premise of anonymity. Users, who need a Facebook account to create a profile, can upload up to six profile photos and scroll through recommended matches from your area. If you don't like what you see, you can anonymously "like" or "pass" on the person. But it isn't just for the younger demographic: Tinder reports that 31 percent of its users are aged between 25 and 34, making it a great app for anyone looking to casually date or form potentially long-term relationships.