Monday, January 31, 2011

Guest Blog! - The 5 pound gift

Last week I read with extreme interest, the following article written by fellow Daily News columnist Margo Hannah. I was surprised that I had never heard of the organization "Pack for a Purpose" and was really excited to share her information with my readers.

Thank you to Margo for allowing me to post the article!

In this article Margo writes about an easy way to share when traveling to poorer communities for your winter getaway!

One of my sisters used to live in a tourist destination country where the majority of the population is very poor. Schools are poorly supplied with items like paper, reading material, and pencils. I know children can learn to read and write if someone takes a stick and draws on sand, but getting other materials opens the world to children and helps encourage them to seek further education.

Sis took a suitcase of books with her on one occasion. They were all good quality used books, but the cost of transporting them was so much that she only did it once. However, the recipients of the books acted like she had brought them the greatest treasure on earth, which in a way is true. Literacy is hard to provide when you don’t have materials like books for students. Particularly in countries where people are poor, books are hard to come by and many times libraries don’t exist.

I ran across an interesting site the other day called Pack For A Purpose is designed to aid travelers to take a few items with them in their luggage to deliver them to a safe location, from which the items may be distributed.

Judging from the horror stories people tell of luggage searches and delays at the airports, I thought the idea of taking small items in your luggage to donate is an idea that rates more attention. Taking an entire suitcase of books these days might get you set aside for further investigation by some paranoid airport employee. Taking an extra bit of stuff in your luggage won’t get so much attention and it won’t eat into your budget either.

Pack For A Purpose states in their brochure that if 500 individuals pack five pounds (2.27 kgs.) each they can provide 1.25 tons of supplies. That may not sound like much, but wise choices can make a real difference. The reason Pack For A Purpose works it seems is that it’s set up so that travelers can participate without making a huge effort. They simply check the area to which they are travelling to see if any of the companies providing accommodations in the area are registered with Pack For A Purpose. If there is someone registered, they will also have listed supplies needed by projects in their area.

The reason this works is that five pounds of supplies is not a big problem for most travelers. Pack For A Purpose lists in their brochure that “five deflated soccer balls with an inflation device or 400 pencils or a stethoscope, a blood pressure cuff, and 500 bandaids” are some of the items that can be taken along on travels to needy destinations. Once the traveler arrives they can hand over the supplies, which means they can donate at their travel destination with very little trouble on their part. This small contribution adds up to big changes for the recipients.

I went and checked some of the accommodations’ listings for recipients in their areas. For example, The Hacienda Chichen Resort at Chichen Itza, Mexico has listed four projects in their local area to which travelers may donate five pounds of supplies. Along with an explanation of the project, the resort lists the items requested by each project. It’s surprising how many things we take for granted that would be seen as an incredible gift by some of the projects.

Most of the items on the list are very inexpensive and easy to obtain and transport in one’s luggage. A children’s nutrition clinic listed their needs and I was surprised to see vitamins on the top of the list. I would have assumed that a nutrition clinic would have easy access to vitamins, but apparently not, and so it seems that five pounds may make a life saving difference as well.

Pack For A Purpose even provides tips for getting the most of your donation. For example, they recommend that items with extensive packaging be taken out of the original packaging and placed in light plastic bags. It appears the organizers gave a lot of thought in making it easier for travelers to share some of their good fortune with other less fortunate than they.

Margo is a regular columnist for the Daily News with a column titled Folkmarks. Since arrival to Dawson Creek in 1960, Margo Hannah plants, paints and ponders, utilizing thrift and sloth to accomplish all.

Monday, January 24, 2011

In a Nutshell....

A couple of years ago I was doing a radio interview to promote an upcoming event and I felt it went really well. I recall mentioning the event time and date, the sponsors, and some of the exciting speakers in the lineup. I was pretty pleased. In fact, I asked the program director to email me the radio clip so I could listen to it again.

When I returned to my office I was excited to see the morning radio clip waiting for me in my email inbox.

So I listened to it. And I listened to it again. Then I began to laugh. I laughed a lot. You see, I had used the phrase, “In a nutshell” about 14 times throughout the radio interview. It was hilarious and I discovered that not only did I love to say, “In a nutshell”, but that “awesome” is also a word that I enjoy………a lot!

So I set out on a journey of self discovery and “discovered” that I have a love for idioms. I use them all the time. “In a nutshell” was just a drop in the bucket of my repertoire of idioms. Without a doubt and make no bones about it…I hit the nail on the head with this one.

But, you know there is no use crying over spilled milk and I needed to find a way to improve my use of the English language. It wouldn’t be a piece of cake, but practice makes perfect and if I hit the books, I just might get better.

Do any of you suffer from “idiom” overuse? Did I hit the nail on the head with this blog post? Let me know how you kicked the habit!

Fly Away with Me!

Some of you will have just returned from a Christmas vacation and many of you will soon be taking a winter vacation to somewhere tropical. For those just returning, I wish I had written this earlier. For those of you just getting ready to leave, this short article might be helpful.

Travel is stressful. Airline travel can be really stressful. Early departures, tight connections and all the preparation that is required to go on vacation can create tension and stress when it should be enjoyable. You ARE going on vacation…right? We just returned from Las Vegas. We had a really fun time….once we arrived. The travel portion was stressful. I am a worrier. I worry about everything, consequently, I am constantly asking my traveling party (all grown adults), “Do you have your passport?” (I was carrying mine in a pouch on a string around my neck like a seven year old unaccompanied minor).

From visits to some of the airline websites, I have compiled some information that may help alleviate some of that travel stress.

Booking your ticket – I generally book my travel through a local agency. Sue makes sure that if I have a connection, that I have enough time to make said connection. There is nothing worse than running through the airport screaming like the IKEA commercial lady, “Stop the Plane! Stop the Plane!”. Make sure you have enough time to make connections.

Weights & Measures - Go online and find out exactly what the airline allows for bag weights. If you go over the weight, expect to pay a fee. When you are online, also find out what is allowed for carry-on, or sky check and then pack accordingly. Weigh your bag on your home scale to see how heavy it is and adjust accordingly.

Using a measuring tape, give your carry-on bag a quick measure to ensure that it will fit in the overhead bin. I have a small rolling bag that doesn’t fit in the overhead bin because of the wheels. If I had measured it, I might have avoided the five minutes I spent trying to jam it in the overhead bin. I am sure that the Flight Attendant was thinking, “there is one on every flight…sigh”.

Be Early – Check in as early as possible giving yourself ample time to clear customs (international flight), go through security and find your gate. For example, the Air Canada website ( states that for domestic travel on their airline (within Canada), the recommended check in time is 1 hour prior to departure; the check-in/baggage drop off deadline is 30 minutes prior to departure; the boarding gate deadline is 20 minutes prior to departure. For international travel, you need to check in even earlier. These times vary with individual airlines….check their website!

Some additional travel etiquette tips that I have learned in my travels….

Su seatback, Es Mi seatback – Just because the seatback reclines a long way, doesn’t mean that you should recline it all the way. If I can see your hair plugs or hear the music coming out of your ipod ear buds because YOU HAVE RECLINED ONTO MY LAP – then perhaps it is a bit too far (see recent trip to Las Vegas).

Bag Ladies – Many of us carry large purses and we like to carry them over our shoulders. Unfortunately, when we board the plane with them over our shoulders, we tend to hit all the seated passengers on the head as we move down the aisle to our seat. Carry your bag in front of you.

We will eventually ALL get off the aircraft – The plane has reached the gate, but the door hasn’t opened yet. If you are in seat 37B, you don’t really need to get up and start retrieving your large carry on from the overhead bin. There is plenty of time and we will ALL eventually get off the aircraft.

They are not your enemy – Going through security doesn’t have to be a nightmare. Read the signs and follow directions. If you are unsure about something, check out the CATSA website before you travel (

Personal hygiene – I am impressed that you are committed to oral hygiene, but flossing your teeth while sitting next to me kinda grosses me out (really happened), likewise for clipping your toenails (didn’t happen to me, but would be equally gross).

SMILE – Everyone responds to a friendly smile and smiling is said to release endorphins, lower blood pressure and lower stress. Smiling is contagious!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Blood on the Streets

The bad part of driving through a snowstorm is that it can be dangerous and, of course, it takes a lot longer to arrive at your destination. The good part is that I was able to listen to the whole January 7, 2011 episode of “The Bottom Line” hosted by Canada’s very own David Suzuki. This past week, the show was titled, ‘Eco’nomics and it followed David and former Minister, Jim Prentice, as they went camping in Haida Gwaii. It was really very interesting and David was extremely effective as he questioned the Minister about climate change and world economics.

At the tail end of the program, David interviewed the former chief economist of the World Bank about climate change. They admitted that there seemed to be a lack of urgency, that we needed a “wake-up call” that would force us to act on climate change. David stated that unless there was “blood on the streets” meaning that unless we could actually see the affect of climate change, that it would remain an abstract thing for most people, unless of course you live in the South Pacific or the Arctic or an African desert where the affect of climate change is evident.

I found the statement really compelling and so very true. We fail to act on so many things in our lives because there isn’t “blood on the street”. For example, we don’t quit smoking til someone close to us is diagnosed with cancer or we are diagnosed; we don’t tackle weight loss until we develop diabetes or a heart condition; we don’t tackle our addictions until we have lost everything. The list goes on and on.

Maybe what the world needs is a good old fashioned INTERVENTION

You can download the January 7th podcast through itunes here