Community Equals Connection

Recently our neighbourhood came together for an annual spring event, the Big Park Cleanup (in fact the whole community gets cleaned, as much as we can). Many hands made light work, and Regent Park looked even better when we were done. We had volunteer photographers, like Mark Shapiro, we were well fed by the Regent Park Catering Collective, and community facilitator and animator Barb Brook and volunteer Leonard Swartz organized us in grand fashion, just to mention a few.

Tonight many of us will come together again for our bi-monthly community potluck – the theme this month is gardening. Can’t wait to try all the delicious food! (Hmm…do you sense a theme here?) It’s at the Daniels Spectrum, 6:30pm. See you there!

Get Active! Your Life Depends on It.

Were you an active kid, and years later, not so much? Or maybe you were always more interested in sitting down with a good book, or watching movies on t.v.

Science has shown that we humans are programmed for activity. We need exercise to give our brains oxygen, not only to be fit, but also to be sharp and productive. That’s why it’s important to find ways to fit action into every day. How can you do this?

  1. Take a walk – at the beginning of your day, on your lunch break, or after work to decompress and make a clean break between work time and “me time”.
  2. Play a sport – any game that helps you move is a good game. (While you’re deciding which one, take a quick look at how the Moss Park Hockey League is making our pricey national sport affordable for kids).
  3. Cycle to work – see the route from a new perspective and get your heart started at the same time.

Next time you’re wrestling with a tricky problem at work, try moving around. Take a walk to a colleague’s desk, go down the stairs and up again, or even just stand up and stretch a bit. Every motion counts.

Mind your Mind!

Mindfulness is a popular concept of late – I was at a networking event earlier this week and the speaker was talking about the importance of mindfulness in moving forward, making decisions, reducing stress…a host of positive outcomes. Recently my husband came home from an event of his own, and he had won a Muse TM meditation device for his social media participation. No matter whose method, device, or framework you use, there are definitely advantages to bringing yourself into the present as you go through your day. Three that immediately come to mind (no pun intended), are these:

  1. You’ll enjoy more, if you aren’t distracted by regret, disappointment, or daydreaming.
  2. You’ll be more productive, if you’re focused on the task at hand.
  3. You’ll feel like you have more time, if you are appreciating each moment to the fullest.

So take a little time. Slow down and focus on what’s important. Contribute where you are the best one to do so. Or to leave you with a quote attributed to Paul Sloane, “Only do what only you can do.”

Kids in the City – How Families are Hacking Highrise Living

One of the great things about having “gone condo”, is the wide mix of families that are coexisting in our building. I can remember living in the suburbs when our kids were small, convinced, as many families, that it would be really difficult to raise kids in an urban environment. Experience, and the families that surround us every day, have convinced me otherwise. As we travelreflecting pool Toronto Sign about, we see strollers, wagons, bikes, kids on their own two feet – just as we once did in the suburbs. Densification has made this such a hot topic, the City of Toronto even commissioned a study – called the Growing Up study.

It was really interesting to discover that it’s not just empty-nesters like me who have decided to take advantage of the convenience of condo life. I was especially enthusiastic to read in the report, about the parent who commented that they are able to give more time to their kids because they aren’t weighed down by a bunch of exterior maintenance on their home. There were lots of other interesting insights – if you like finding out how other people organize their lives, you’ll enjoy it also.

As climate change, expensive city homes, and other factors lead many of us to consider taking up only the space we need, rather than the space that advertisers, television shows, or social/peer pressures try to convince us to want, tall and tiny homes are becoming increasingly popular. Far from being a compromise or a sacrifice, we’ve found it to be a very freeing exercise – and our commitment to super-organized, minimalist, needs-not-wants living is the only thing that’s growing, while our footprint is most decidedly shrinking to “just-right”.

 

 

Your Most Valuable Asset

What if someone gave you a fabulous new vehicle, that was capable of doing virtually anything you could imagine? Further, what if they told you that as long as you took good care of it, it would last for the rest of your life, and it would carry you anywhere you wanted to go?

Guess what – you’ve got it! It’s your own body. Take good care of it and it will carry you in style to the end of your days. I know there are exceptions, sometimes bodies let us down, through no fault of our own. Illnesses and conditions can make our physical performance less than optimal, compared to others. That’s the great thing, though. When it comes to your own human health and performance, you don’t need to measure up to anyone but you.

If you’re having trouble fitting fitness into your schedule, try working it in a little at a time. Make sure you make a commitment that you can keep. For me, for example, I know very well that if I plan to work out first thing in the morning, no matter how early, the odds are better that it will happen. If I try and leave it to the end of the day, life seems to have a way of intervening.

Other tips for making sure you give your fabulous vehicle the care and feeding it deserves?

  • Find a workout buddy who will keep you accountable
  • Start small – even parking at the end of the lot and walking to your office is better than no exercise at all
  • Don’t overdo – trying to compete with your younger self isn’t helpful and it may just set you up for an injury
  • Try different activities until you find one you like
  • Don’t invest in a pricey gym membership until you’re sure you’ll go – try as many “taster” classes as you can
  • Check out your local YM/YWCA or Community Centre – they’re great places to sample a wide variety of drop-in classes until you figure out the things that are fun
  • Try something you’ve never tried before, just once – who knows, you might like it!

Have fun, get fit, and here’s to your health. You’ll be grateful when you feel great every day.

Seeds grow more than plants

IMG_5006Learning to grow your own food, whether it’s a single pot of herbs on the kitchen counter, or a bigger enterprise, like this, is an empowering activity. When you grow something you can eat, you appreciate all your food just a little more than you did before. For many of us, gardening is a labour of love, and out of tiny seeds, many lessons grow. Here are just a few:

  1. Attention: some gardeners plop seeds or plants in the ground, water, and walk away. If they don’t see something happening immediately, they stop paying attention. They don’t realize that daily attention will help them learn when to water, whether there are pests or problems, or how to recognize the living things they are producing, at each and every stage.
  2. Patience: plants can be fast-growing, and beans, or other species, are useful for first-timers. They show themselves very early. This is why transplants can be helpful in the first-time gardener’s plot. The beets and carrots, on the other hand, make us wait. And wait. But we learn they are worth it.
  3. Resilience: sometimes things don’t work out as we hoped. Gardens teach us to go with the flow. They demonstrate that sometimes we get something more wonderful than we expected, but that there are also disappointments – yet the garden carries on regardless.
  4. Ingenuity and charity: over-abundant plants, whether they are tomatoes, zucchini, or other super-producers, provide us with an opportunity to research ways of preserving them to eat later. They can nourish us in the winter, when food prices escalate, or they are natural, healthy gifts we can share with our friends and family.

Gardens need not be restricted to giant country or suburban plots. Small spaces produce amazing and wonderful amounts of food. Busy lives mean that parents may never have learned to garden, and so can’t pass this valuable skill on to their kids. Fortunately there are dedicated volunteers like the folks at Green Thumbs, who are making sure the gardening knowledge is passed on to new generations of growers. I urge you to click the link and check out these neighbours of mine!

 

I Went for the Harris, and Discovered Anique J Jordan

Revisiting The WardOne of the fantastic things about living in a large city is an abundance of culture – museums, parks, statues, and the people and places that surround us. We recently visited the Lawren Harris exhibit (“The Idea of North”) at the Art Gallery of Ontario – and it is fascinating to see depictions of our own city and country, that have shaped our sense of what is “Canada”.

A most interesting part is that it is a multi-layered journey for us. At the same time as we are visiting depictions, we can see some of the sites still standing in our neighbourhood, others now-buried under newer construction. reflecting pool Toronto SignMy husband was also reading The Ward: The Life and Loss of Toronto’s First Immigrant Neighbourhood; we live near here now, and there are still many people arriving, struggling, and starting near what was once called “The Ward”. Our own condo is built in a neighbourhood that is experiencing a sort of rebirth or redefinition, and we wrestle daily with what our presence here means to the community.

So back to our visit to the AGO…I called it the Harris exhibit, but Harris is not the only featured artist. We also discovered Anique J Jordan, a woman who is searching, defining, exploring herself, our shared city, its past, and how that can be expressed or depicted, both in visual art, and in words. She has an intriguing blog, here, which I plan to keep reading – I find that in reading Anique’s exploration, I am discovering as well. It has been some time since her last post – I hope she will post again.

How do I Find A…in Regent Park?

Dive In!Regent Park is a neighbourhood in transition – where new residents are meeting and mingling with folks who have lived here for a very long time. So some of us newcomers, like me, are finding our way around to the services, people, and places that surround us.

One of the places to connect is our amazing aquatic centre – with this friendly guy at the entrance. There are lots of other opportunities to connect also; all you have to do is dive in! (Yes, I’ve been known to like a pun or two).

Today, for example, and every Wednesday for the summer, you can get an amazing, tasty meal for only four bucks at Regent Park. Just show up around 6pm, and buy a ticket from the folks in the Community Food Centre booth. Get in line, and be prepared for something delicious (last week it was rice, lentils, curry beef, and salad – tasty!) While you’re there, don’t forget to check out the vendors on site, selling fresh bread, Ethiopian coffee, and lots of other treats.

One more great way to get involved in the RPNA Logoneighbourhood is the Regent Park Neighbourhood Association, or RPNA. You can also find the RPNA on Facebook, or follow what’s happening on Twitter. There are lots of amazing people to meet, with tremendous community spirit, and whether you want to simply find out what’s going on, to communicate with others who live in this fantastic community, or you need to find where to get a…well, you name it, the Neighbourhood Association’s got a place for you.

So come and visit, or if you live here, walk around – there’s so much to see and do. And if you’re so inclined, follow my WalkEatLive blog, or my tweets where I talk about places to walk and sightsee; healthy, fresh-made food; or other stories about the way we live and get the most out of life.