Christmas in Beijing

Hello there my fellow blog lovers and supporters!

It is I, Dina, writing you once again from a far away land called Beijing.  I hope that my little ramblings find you all well and full steam ahead into your personal and professional goals for 2018!

As I had mentioned in my last blog, Beijing, she is one crazy town – Full of culture, traditions, beauty and sometimes just sheer wackiness!  Like anything in life, you gotta take the good with the bad and find your balance, and in this case, a little piece of home while living so far away – As it would turn out, that little piece of home came to me in the form of Christmas.

Yes, you read that right, I celebrated Christmas in Beijing and it was wonderful!

Allow me explain…

You would be correct in thinking that Christmas is not really a widely celebrated tradition here in Beijing, hell China for that matter, as the largest part of the population here are practicing Buddhists.  But, you are beginning to see more and more shop keepers put up decorations, trees and lights in their establishments.  It is a welcoming sight to be able to see and revel in the awe of all the traditions that I grew up with in Canada – Minus of course cooking a turkey dinner with all the trimmings, as many do not have ovens in their homes or have ever even seen or eaten a turkey here, true story but I digress…

I was delighted to see that the school I am teaching at was actually participating in their own Christmas of sorts – A Christmas Club for all of their beautiful and eager students and parents.  In preparation for this event, I did have the foresight to bring my own ugly Christmas sweater to beat all other ugly Christmas sweaters – Full of tassels, reindeer, and blinking lights – No really, my sweater lit up ya’ll! 😛

When the day came for us to bring a little of the West to the far East, I was pumped and ready to be a Canadian Ambassador to this little cultural exchange.  We designed a day filled with awe and wonder just as the tradition of Christmas should be. Parents and their eager children were greeted with gingerbread house building stations, Christmas card decorating stations, pictures with Santa, singers, dancers and even Tae Kwon Doe demonstrations.  The looks on their faces when they saw the twinkling lights on my sweater or the awe of being able to build a house out of cookies, candy and frosting was just a marvel to witness.

This day was a wonderful reminder that children no matter where they are from, are truly the gift we get to open everyday by being spellbound along with them as they begin their journey of firsts – First time they walk, they say their first word, tie their shoe or see Santa Clause for the first time.  All of these experiences allow each and everyone of us to tap into our gratitude and awe of what life can truly be if we just learn to trust and believe not only in others, but more importantly in ourselves.  Life is wonderful, you just have to open your mind, and your hearts to experience it…

Thank you all once again for coming along on this blog writing journey with me, your support and you taking the time out of your busy schedules to read my shenanigans each and every week, that never goes unnoticed or unappreciated.  But, before you go, let me ask you this – When was the last time you allowed yourself the unbridled joy of having a ‘first time’ experience? What was it?

I can not wait to hear your answers!

Until we meet again,

Love & Light I send to you always,

Dina xxoo

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Beijing Or Bust

Hello my fellow blog lovers and supporters – I’m back bitches!

Happy New Year, and boy what a year it is going to be!

As many of you already know I have embarked on a journey to the Far East, Beijing China to be exact, for a year long adventure in  this new land, with new cultures, new traditions and a new job – I am teaching English as a Second Language to 3 – 12 yr old children in the Fengtai District of Beijing.

You maybe wondering, ‘Dina, why in the hell would you choose to leave the safety, security and comfort of your home, family and friends, traipse off to a foreign country where you don’t even speak the language for over a year long stay – why?’

Well, allow me to explain…

Did I ever think that at the ripe old age of 45 yrs old, I would pack my bags, and my entire life actually and move half way around the world to start over in a new job and a new life? Fuck no!

But, what I have learned these over these last 45 trips around the sun, is that sometimes you just gotta ‘FUCK IT’ and go after those opportunities that present themselves.  You may not understand why they are appearing to you, but you need to trust in the process and not ask why, but instead just have faith and take that big ass leap outside of your comfort zone and just trust that your wings will appear.

So out of an unorthodox situation – My ex boyfriend (the one I had mentioned in an earlier blog) presented me with this opportunity to come teach here in Beijing.  YES, you read that right, my ex offered me a job and I took it.  Did I mention that he is technically my boss?  Yeah that’s a whole other blog on its own for another day. 😛

Since my contract was ending with President’s Choice Financial in Toronto – I thought ‘You know what, I don’t have any other job prospects on the horizon and I have felt like I have been in a rut the past while – Why not shake things up a bit and just go for it. And I did!

Beginning the process back in October of 2017, I begin the tedious and arduous task of applying for my work visa in China, which seriously may just be a blog all on its own – No seriously its a freaking process yo!

Once I went through the process of getting my criminal record check, copy of my Bachelors Degree, TESOL (Teaching English Second Language) certificate and my CV all copied, notarized and authenticated by both Canada and the Chinese Consulate – YES by both! I was finally able to apply for my Foreign Expert Certificate and my actual Visa.  3 trips to the China Visa Office in Toronto and like 2 days before I was scheduled to fly to Beijing I finally had my visa in my hot little hands! PHEW!

I had my last hurrah with my lovely family and friends, who all understand why I was leaving, but were also very sad to see me go.  Magically, I was able to figure out how to pack my entire life into 3 suitcases and 1 carry on – Real life example of human Tetris folks!

The morning came for me to leave and Murphy’s freaking law, we get a freak snowstorm (which by the looks of the winter you have all had, that was just a foreshadow of what was to come for you all – Sorry about that :P)  My car service apparently came to our door twice to come and pick me up, but I wasn’t able to hear them.  Being 2 hours early for a 4:30am pick up will tend to do that 😛 Needless to say I was sleeping, when they arrived the first 2 times. 😛

Thankfully I called and got another driver to circle around so that I could begin my relocation to Beijing.  Did I mention that the roads were covered in snow and ice, my driver was driving like a maniac and I literally white knuckled it all the way to the airport in Toronto.  Yeah that happened.  Little did I know, that this was my foreshadow for what was to come driving in Beijing – More on that to come 😛

Thankfully, got there in one piece and proceeded to show my hulking muscles by being the only one that could adequately lift my large suitcases – Me strong like bull!

Checked in and waited for my flight to be called.  Due to the weather, we were a few minutes late to take off.  Those few minutes turned into a couple of hours 😦  We were waiting for other flight crew to arrive so they could fly to Calgary with us – Come on Westjet!  Because of this, I missed my connecting flight to Beijing.  Gotta say, that made me lose some points with you.

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However, when we finally took off after having to de-ice the plane TWICE, they had all of my hotel and new flight arrangements all figured out by the time I landed.  OK, you won those and few more points back Westjet!

I got an night out in Calgary folks – the hotel was lovely, clean, modern and brand new.  The restaurant downstairs was exquisite.  The food and service was exceptional.  You know the saying ‘everything happens for a reason’?  Well, I think me missing my connecting flight to Beijing allowed me to de-stress, have a wonderful meal and get a good night’s sleep before I continued my journey to first my ole stomping grounds of Vancouver and then off to China the following day.

 

After landing in Vancouver and treating myself to a Eggnog Latte (SO GOOD), I quickly boarded my flight and arrived in Beijing 13 hrs later.

Navigating the Beijing airport is a little bit confusing, but not impossible as most things are written in English and Chinese or you can easily find an attendant that can speak some English to assist you.  Here you go through customs for the FIRST time, without your luggage.  Next you take a subway transit like system to go and retrieve your luggage.  Side Note:  These are not uncommon overseas as I had to do just the same when I flew into Heathrow Airport 5 years ago so I wasn’t unfamiliar with the experience.  Once you pick up your luggage you then must go through another security check point WITH your luggage.  Finally, if you then decide you would like to take the attached subway system or public transit to reach your destination, you then go through ANOTHER security check point as well.  Yes you get padded down and wanded 3 times before you leave the airport.  Come to think of it, I had a date like that once 😛

 

Very different to what we are used to here in Canada, but then again I ain’t in Kansas anymore peeps!  My recruiter Nina met me, and we embarked on my 1.5 hrs drive in a taxi to my new home in Fengtai.  What is my home like?  Well, let’s save that for another blog 🙂

Stay tuned, lots more to come!

Thank you all once again for coming along on this crazy blog writing journey with me and supporting me every time you take the time out of your busy schedule to read my ramblings.  That never goes unnoticed or unappreciated!  But, before we go let me ask you this – Have you ever just trusted your instincts and just jumped right out of your comfort zone and into a brand new life and experience not knowing how you will navigate it but, just knew you would figure it out along the way?

Can not wait to hear your experiences!

Till next time,

I send you all love & light.

Dina xxoo

Hot Mess Mondays

Hello My Fellow Blog Lovers & Supporters out there!

We are coming close to the end of October and about to dance into November and I don’t know about you, but I have been a bit like a hot mess these past few weeks – Not as focused or productive as I would like to be and not getting to those goals that I so eloquently have put forth for myself.  For some of you this sounds normal and for others not so much.

So in my effort to come up with a blog topic for you this week, being in the ‘hot mess’ state that I was feeling, I couldn’t come up with anything.  Nope, it would seem that that creativity or inspiration tank was empty and I was perplexed.  So instead of beating myself up for it or fighting what I was feeling, I decided to go with it and think outside the box and write you a reenactment of how I was feeling – thinking that many of you can relate, I decided to create it around a short story, a ‘hot mess’ scenario if you will.  Rules are meant to be broken right? So here I am breaking my own rules for blogging – Here is my short story – My Hot Mess Monday…

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The blaring alarm clock pierces Charlotte’s eardrums, jarring her from her much needed slumber. She reluctantly rolls over and smacks the snooze button with all the strength she can muster. “Dear God, it is too early” she mutters into her deflated pillow. Charlotte takes one last sigh and rolls over, throws the duvet off of her pajama clothed body and gets herself out of bed, takes a stretch and a yawn and shuffles herself off to the bathroom.

Charlotte takes a look at herself in the mirror, her hair is disheveled, her mouth tastes like the bottom of a birdcage, and she has smeared and partially worn off make-up with a small bit of some unknown crusty goop in the corner of her eye. In the upper right hand corner of the mirror there is a little post it note with the quote “40 is Fabulous!” hand scrawled across its beaming yellow hue. Charlotte while rubbing her eye reads the inspirational post it and takes another look in the bathroom mirror, blinks a couple of times at the image reflecting back at her and begins to chuckle and mutter, “Yup I’m fucking fabulous alright.” She shakes her head, opens up the medicine cabinet, pulls out her toothbrush and tooth paste and begins to brush her teeth. Charlotte gets ready for her day.

Charlotte runs down the stairs trying to button up the last of the buttons on her dress shirt. She rushes into the kitchen and pours herself a cup of much needed coffee. She takes a look at the clock on the microwave, “Crap I’m late!” Charlotte puts the lid on her travel mug, grabs her coat, purse and keys and runs out the door.

Charlotte is speed walking her way to the bus stop. “Man I really need to work out more” Charlotte thinks as her wobbling thighs and buttocks burn. Behind her she can hear the rapidly approaching familiar chugging and whirring sounds of the Number 9 bus. “Aw man not again” Charlotte breaks into her signature flailing chicken run of terror. Loud grinding and whirring sounds hunt, overtake and leave Charlotte in the dust or more literally in the drink; a cold splash of muddy puddle water leaves her drenched. “Are you effing kidding me!” Charlotte screams as she reaches the bus stop out of breath and clearly irritated. The Number 9 bus is still loading its passengers. Charlotte dripping wet and pissed off steps onto the bus and glares at the bus driver. “Oops, sorry about that sweetie” The bus driver says with a bit of a chuckle. Charlotte beyond irritated, “First off, I ain’t your freakin sweetie, second off George, you’re a dick, get over yourself, you’re a effing bus driver not a brain surgeon!” “Excuse me I am NOT a bus driver I am a Transport Technician” Charlotte wipes her face with her soggy sleeve, puts her fare in the fare box and leans into George and says, “Oh that is right I forgot a Transportation Technician, translated means, I have a small dick so I must overcompensate by driving the biggest piece of crap machinery known to man.” Charlotte drops the last of the coins in the fare box and takes her ticket. George shakes his head and mutters “Bitch” Charlotte mutters “Dick” and walks back to her seat.  Charlotte plops down next to an unsuspecting middle aged male passenger quietly reading his newspaper. As Charlotte sits almost in defeat the man looks up from his paper, Charlotte is still dripping wet and still panting from running. The man looks at Charlotte in puzzlement. Charlotte casually looks over at the man, wipes water dripping down her face with her sleeve and gives the man a cordial half smile and says “Hey, whatcha reading, anything worthwhile in there?” The man still puzzled at her very wet and distressed attire, stares at Charlotte and blinks a couple of times before replying, “Oh you know, same old, same old, death, destruction, falling economy, who is Lindsay Lohan screwing.” Charlotte replies, “Cool” They both awkwardly turn way from each other.

The bus ride is bumpy and filled with smells that should only be manufactured during wartime in a top secret facility and not coming from within the human body. Finally, Charlotte sees her stop and rings the bell. She gets up and begins to walk to the front of the bus, suddenly out of nowhere George slams on the brakes and Charlotte goes flying and lands in the sturdy lap of an attractive, dark haired, dark eyed well-dressed man. The man is texting; Charlotte is now sitting on said phone. “You gotta watch that first step she is a doozy” Charlotte sheepishly says with an awkward laugh. The man just blankly stares at her. Just then, the phone wedged underneath Charlotte’s butt and the man’s lap rings. Charlotte casually reaches underneath her posterior and yanks out the damp cell phone and hands it to the man, “Gives new meaning to butt dialing huh” Charlotte says with a nervous laugh. The man gives Charlotte an awkward smile. “Can you get off of me now, I have to take this” Charlotte grabs the pole and rolls herself off of the man, pulls down her skirt and staggers her way to the front of the bus. George is laughing. Charlotte glares and mutters “Dick” George continues to laugh, “Watch that first step now, it can be a doozy” and continues to laugh. Charlotte mocks George with a fake laugh and exits the bus. She looks down at her watch, “Shit I am so late!” Charlotte proceeds into her flailing chicken run.

The blaring and piercing ring of the alarm clock awakens Charlotte from her much needed slumber. Charlotte looks at the clock and decides to throw it across the room. Charlotte rolls over onto her stomach and mutters into her deflated pillow, “Dear God, it is too fucking early!” Monday’s always come too fucking early.

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Thank you all once again for coming along on this blog writing journey with me and for taking the time to read my ramblings each week – That does not go unnoticed or unappreciated.  But, before we go let me ask you this – Have you just felt like you were just a ‘hot mess’ in your life?  How did you deal with it – What are you own tips and tricks to help us fellow hot messes out?

I seriously CAN NOT wait for your answers!

Until next time,

I send you Love & Light Always,

Dina xxoo

Sadly, #MeToo

Hello, my fellow blog lovers and supporters, this week’s blog, we go deep, raw and have the much needed conversation that sadly we still need to be having – The topic of sexual assault.

OK take a deep breath and here we go…

If you don’t know who Harvey Weinstein is or what controversy he is embroiled in currently, then you really have been living under a rock.  He is the Hollywood Executive that has been accused of countless sexual assaults and rapes that span decades.  Sexual assault in Hollywood, is sadly not a new phenomenon.  Hollywood like many industries is indeed ‘male dominated’.  Trying to earn a spot or a name for yourself is an uphill battle to say the least.  “Only 7% of all film directors in the top 250 films of 2016 were women.” – Hollywood Reporter

So trying to work in a sea of men within this industry, who by their very nature are driven by power, greed and entitlement, it really isn’t shocking that countless women were subjected to the misogynist and criminal behavior of such a man as Harvey Weinstein.

For me – the more enlightening fall out of this scandal is how pervasive this ‘rape culture’ is not only in Hollywood but in society in general.  This point could not be more clear than with the hundreds of thousands of #MeToo hashtags that popped up on social media globally, showcasing all of the women who have been subjected to this behavior in their past, present and hopefully not their future.

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I too am included in this far reaching group of brave women, who tragically have been conditioned to accept that this is “just how things are” or “do you really want to open yourself up to scrutiny if you report this?” or as in the case of Hollywood, fear of reprisal or being blacklisted to never work again, ending their careers before they start.

When we have a section of society with such pervasive power over another – Abuse of power will always evolve and rear its ugly head.

When I look back on the COUNTLESS and I mean COUNTLESS times that I have been subjected to this behavior, I am appalled and heart broken.

  • From the young age of 9, being fondled by a 65 yr old family friend.
  • From being told at the tender age of 12 that “I would make a good wife one day, cause I had a nice set of baby hips on me.” (he was in his 50’s).
  • To the son of a boss I had in a local restaurant I worked at, feeling it was his right to grind up against me while I washed dishes, (I was 15).
  • To being a first year university student, being humiliated and reminded what my place was as a woman by a male professor and male student all because I tried to stand up for myself in class.
  • To the countless catcalls (the latest one was last week) or being called ‘Bitch’, ‘Cunt’, ‘Fat Ass’, ‘Slut’ because I didn’t react how they wanted to their advances.
  • Being told I could just be so much prettier if I learned to smile more.
  • To have a car full of 20 something yr old boys continuously circling and passing by me as I walked home, screaming obscenities, threatening to jump out and ‘take me for a ‘special’ ride”.

Finally the countless times I had a drink ‘accidentally’ spilled on me so the gracious suitor could ‘help’ me clean myself up – groping, smacking, hissing, intimidating me all done because they all believed they were entitled too.

So when I say I am saddened but not shocked you can probably understand why.

This incessant behavior groomed me to:

  • Watch what I am wearing
  • Be sure to not go out by myself late at night
  • Don’t get drunk when I go out
  • Never leave my drink alone
  • Never jog with headphones in
  • Never park in parking garages
  • Always walk in well-lit areas
  • Don’t make eye-contact
  • Never make eye-contact

And so on and so on…

All so as I don’t appear to be ‘asking for it’.

Staying silent and accepting that this is just how things are, condones and allows this despicable behavior to continue, fester and spread – Mutating into the epidemic that it clearly has become – Cut to the countless #MeToo stories we are bearing witness too today.

Staying silent and not telling my story until now means that I helped to perpetuate this disease and for that I am truly sorry. I will own that. I will own my complacency.

However, once you have truly been awoken – You can’t simply go back to sleep.

Today, I say No MORE!

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No more sitting idly by and not saying something when I witness off colour jokes, misogynist comments, intimidation, humiliation, bullying, catcalling, unwanted touching, groping, raping, assaulting.

NO FUCKING MORE!

As a woman, please know it is not your fault, it has NEVER been your fault when you were victimized, harassed or assaulted.  To the men who have or think they want to participate in this unspeakable misogynist and entitled behavior – This shit is gonna end.  We’re fed up.  You’ve been warned and you will be held accountable.

On the flip side, to all the men who have been loving, supportive and respectful to women – We salute and encourage you to continue to be the beacons of what REAL men are and pray that you will choose to speak up when you bear witness and choose to raise your sons to be compassionate, good hearted and respectful members of the human race.

I know we have a long way to go, but, having this conversation and bringing it out of the darkness of denial and into the light, is such an important first step. And I for one am ready to leap, are you?

Thank you all once again for coming along on this blog writing journey with me.  Your support and taking the time to read my perspectives each week does not go unnoticed or unappreciated.  But, before we go, let me ask you this – How will YOU join the movement to say ‘NO MORE’ to sexual assault/harassment in your communities?

Please leave your comments in the space provided below, so we can continue to have this much needed conversation.

Until next time,

Love & Light I send to each and every one of you especially my #MeToo sistahs,

Dina xxoo

 

 

 

Be The Hero(ine) In Your Own Story…

Hello my fellow blog lovers and supporters!

What a crazy week weather wise we have been having huh?  Blazing hot and now I literally saw my breath walking to the Go-Train the other morning and now back to hot again – Nuts!

What has also been crazy has been the SENSELESS killing, terror and hurting of innocent people around the globe this past weekend – I don’t know about you, but this has left me shaken and lost.  This sense of loss and purpose really got me to look within and discover what can I do when thoughts and prayers really are not enough.

Allow me to explain…

Now this blog, is not going to be the typical – ‘Us Vs Them’, ‘Lone Gunman Vs Terrorist’ portrayal in the media or the ABSOLUTE need for stricter gun control in the United States.  These are all relevant topics and quite frankly these are already rampant on social media and in the media itself, so my 2 cents really won’t make a ripple in the tidal wave of ‘after the fact’ responses that we are all being inundated with at the moment and for days to come – No, I choose to take a different approach – An approach that ALL of us can take and can truly make a difference in this world for the better.  Simply put – Be the change you wish to see in this world.

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I know this quote has been thrown around over the years, looks lovely on a carefully crafted Meme or sounds profound when discussing current events and you want to give your own 2 cents on how we need to change the world, but what does it actually mean?

Many of us see and feel overwhelmed by the events happening around us every day – homelessness, war, destruction, death, shootings, hatred, you name it – And many, if not all of us think – Well I’m just one person, what the hell can I do to change this or have a positive impact with something so large and so pervasive in society?

Turns out, we have been looking at this all wrong – It’s not what can we do to tackle these huge problems, it’s what can we do living our day to day lives to cause a ripple effect for possible global change. That is the answer in my opinion.

Believe it or not – You, yes YOU ‘Joe blow’, ‘Debbie nobody’ have the capacity to impact lives!

How you choose to live your life, directly or indirectly impacts those around you.  Let me say it again – How YOU choose to live your life, impacts those around you!

Let me tell you a story –  A few years ago, when I was still in my belly dancing troupe phase of my life – Yes this did happen 😛 I remember this one time before a performance we were putting on locally, myself and some fellow dancers decided to drop into a Starbucks that was close to where we were getting ready. We entered and went to the counter all decked out in our glittery gear and make up.  I was the last of us to get to the counter to order.  When I got to the counter the lovely girl behind the counter took one look at me and her jaw dropped and she blurted out “it’s, you” “it’s really you” Now I was confused and bewildered at her reaction, and I responded with, “Um yeah it’s me” “You don’t remember me do you?” Sadly, no I did not.  “You work at White Spot right?” “No I haven’t worked there in like 3 years” I said “I remember you were working there.  We were both on the bus and we had a conversation.  I really needed to talk to someone that day, I was feeling really down and there you were. You really helped me that day and I knew that if I ever got to meet you again I wanted to say thank you.”  Well I was completely taken aback and moved.  How could my benign small talk with a complete stranger on public transit over 3 years previously have affected someone so greatly?

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Whatever the reason, it did, and from that point forward I have never taken for granted how a kind word, a kind gesture or kind act can positively affect someone.  All of US hold that power and it is up to each of us to dispel it in our day to day lives in how we choose to live and interact with others daily.

THIS we can control.  So instead of thinking of the big issues that would paralyze anyone with their sheer magnitude and complexity, instead try thinking small, and how you can be the catalyst to start that domino effect of more positivity and healing in a world that quite frankly needs a shit ton of it.  For as I clearly found out, you just never know who you might be affecting in the process, and that includes yourself.

Thank you all once again for coming along on this blogging journey with me, you taking the time to read my ramblings each week does not go unnoticed or unappreciated.  But, before we go let me ask you this, has a stranger’s kind act ever impacted you unknowingly or have you impacted someone unknowingly with a kind act yourself?

I really can’t wait to hear all of your stories!

Until we meet again,

Love & Light Especially Now,

I send to you always,

Dina xxoo

This Adulting Thing Is Not What It’s Cracked Up To Be!

Hello My Fellow Blog Lovers & Supporters!

Welcome to Fall folks or maybe an extended Summer given the hot ass weather we have been experiencing these past few days!  I’m OK with holding onto summer just that little bit longer, but maybe not on ‘Broil” if you know what I mean. 😛

I don’t know about you, but Fall always makes me feel a bit reminiscent or nostalgic of what I still want to achieve in the current calendar year and how I need to refocus and renew my commitment to me and the steps I need to take in order to achieve said remaining goals.  As the colourful leaves are falling, I am reminded that if you are committed to positive change and being in the present, time will slip away, and before you know it, the beauty that was always around you will slip away right before your eyes.

Safety and security is something we all strive for in life, but is it the right choice?

Allow me to explain…

When I was younger, I was very shy, awkward and so unsure of myself and my abilities.  I always felt like an outsider in my own life, like I was looking from the outside inwards and was witnessing someone else – Not the true essence of who I was inside, buried way down deep underneath all the low self-esteem, clumsiness and self-loathing.  As you can gather, I wasn’t a popular kid, generally stayed in the shadows where it was safe and secure.  But, inside there was a bit of a wild child in some ways, aching and fighting to break free and come to the surface.  She was regularly told to ‘shut it’ and ‘pipe down’ and keep her crazy notions to herself. She wasn’t really allowed to speak and take the stage until I was well into my teens – I finally got to the point where I said ‘Fuck this’ “I’m going to be what I want to be and if that ruffles some feathers then so be it!”  That is when my true ‘artistic and creative’ freedom for expression came to the surface and it was glorious!

 

I was in theatre, band (I played alto saxophone and no we never went to band camp..lol.. – look out Kenny G :P), outdoor club, environmental committee, broadcasting club, soccer and basketball – You name it I was probably a member of it in high school.  There was such a feeling of freedom and liberation when you dictate how you want your life to go without worrying if you ‘fit in’ or not.

Then inevitably comes adulthood and all that liberation seems to go to the wayside because of responsibilities and the prescribed need for safety and security.   But what if that is NOT the life you want to live?

The problem with living a ‘safe’ life for me can be described in a few ways.  But before I go any further, allow me to say that being ‘safe’ is just fine and I am not nullifying or condemning anyone for choosing this way of life.  Not at all, if this is your conscience choice, kudos to you for choosing how you want to live!

I’ve been testing out those waters of safety and security for quite some time now and I do have to admit it hasn’t been all bad – I do find some solace in feeling safe and secure, don’t get me wrong.  But, there is this other side of me, that rebel who wore Doc Martins with EVERYTHING and I mean everything, piercings, tattoos, black lipstick and my own version of a female flock of seagulls hair cut – Just ask my Mom and the countless times she would pretend she didn’t know me out in public because of my crazy get ups – Tee hee sorry Mom 😛

Well that rebel, wild child has been knocking, nay she had been kicking trying to knock down the door and be heard.  Not just in a whisper, but in a blood curdling scream for quite some time now.  I keep telling her to shhh and be quiet – The ‘adults’ are talking.   She pouts, and goes back into her corner, stomping and crossing her arms in front of her body all the while giving me the old stink eye.  As we know full well, most petulant teens will not remain quiet for long, nor if they truly believe in something will not back down until they are heard.

 

I think taking the plunge by coming to Toronto on a spur of the moment 3-month contract has stirred up thoughts and emotions in me that have been dormant or maybe I just haven’t been paying attention to them for a very long time.  What I do know is, ‘Someday’ is NEVER going to come.  If you are like me who has been telling yourself that ‘someday’ when I have this amount of money, ‘someday’ when I reach this weight or ‘someday’ when I get my dream job – you eventually realize that someday is NOW and its time to take that leap! Life can and will just keep on chugging along with or without your ‘someday’ and it’s up to you to take those moments and make them your own.

I deserve to make ‘someday’ today.  It is time to go all in on me.  I believe that I am worth that, what about you?

It’s time to dust off those old Doc Martins, that Sex Pistols T-shirt and see what colour purple my next hairstyle just might be.  What other crazy stunts will I be up to?  Who knows, you will have to stay tuned to find out…

Thank you all once again for coming on this blog writing journey with me.  Your support and you taking the time to read my ramblings each week, does not go unnoticed or unappreciated.  But before we go let me ask you this, if YOUR someday was today what would you choose to achieve?

I am so looking forward to your answers!

Until we meet again,

Love & Light I send to you always,

Dina xxoo

Zucchini Lasagna – The Healthy Alternative

Hello my fellow blog lovers and supporters!

Another week has come and gone and we are inching closer and closer to Autumn – cooler temps, jacket and boots, the GORGEOUS colourful landscape of the changing fall colours all over this wonderful Niagara region and even more importantly in my books, the launch of the all to important indulgence of my all-time favorite thing – COMFORT FOOD!

I don’t know about you, but when I think about comfort food, I think decadence, ooey gooey goodness and all over yummy taste.

Unfortunately, the downside of indulging in these delicacies is the all too familiar increase in the waistline and tighter fitting clothes.  So, to avoid this but still include the all too important flavour component, but possibly make it a bit more figure friendly, I thought that I would give a go to a more ‘healthier’ version of my all-time favourite comfort food indulgence – Lasagna, ooey gooey and downright delicious.

So I got my thinking cap on and came up with this – A Zucchini Lasagna.  Yup you heard me right, zucchini lasagna with all the taste.  Like with any of my recipes I post here, please feel free to add and or subtract for your own taste buds and preferences.  Just as a reminder, all of my measurements are by feel (don’t like it, blame my Mom, that is how she taught me to cook :P)  By all means, adjust accordingly.  Annnnd here we go…

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Zucchini Lasagna

Ingredients

  • 2 – medium sized green and or yellow zucchinis
  • 1 – small eggplant (Optional)
  • 1 – package of lean ground turkey (Omit if want to make it vegetarian)
  • 1 – jar tomato sauce (I was lucky that my Mom had just made a batch of her homemade sauce so that is what I used, but by all means store bought works just fine)
  • 1 – Medium tub of ricotta cheese
  • 2 – eggs
  • ¼ cup of parmesan cheese
  • 1 tbsp of dried parsley
  • 2 cups of shredded mozzarella cheese
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

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Directions

Slice zucchini and or eggplant into ¼ of an inch slices lengthwise.  Set to the side.  Sautee the lean ground turkey in a fry pan with some olive oil.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Tip: if you would like to add more veggies this is a perfect time to add some sliced mushrooms, diced onion and or diced bell peppers into the mix here.  Saute till soft and golden brown.  Add the jar of tomato sauce. Leave a ¼ cup of the sauce to the side to be used as the first layer to coat the bottom of the baking dish.  Continue sauteing until bubbling.  Set to the side.  Add Olive Oil to a hot fry pan and place salt and peppered zucchini and eggplant strips in the pan on medium high.  Continue to fry until all of the strips are golden brown on both sides. Set to the side.  In a medium mixing bowl, add the container of ricotta cheese, the 2 eggs, parmesan and parsley and mix together until well incorporated.  Time to build.

Put that tomato sauce you put to the side, coating the bottom of a 9 X 9 baking dish.  Add a single layer of the sauteed zucchini.  Add the tomato sauce/ground turkey mixture on top. Add a layer of shredded mozzarella cheese.  Add another layer of zucchini/eggplant.  Add the ricotta mixture on top.  Continue layering in this order until you reach the top of the dish.  Top it with a layer of the tomato sauce mixture and a good layer of shredded mozzarella cheese.  Add as much or as little of the cheese as you like.  Obviously, cheese has a high fat count so if you want to make this even healthier use it sparingly.  If fat count be dammed (gotta admit you are my kind of people) then slather as much as you want. 😛

Place in a 375-degree oven and bake until the top is golden brown and bubbling with goodness.  Let cool for around 5 minutes before you slice into nice size serving wedges.  This would go well with a nice side salad or even just on its own with a nice glass of wine.  I had a nice crisp glass of local Riesling and it made a lovely combo of flavours.  Gotta admit, this has to be one of the easiest ways to get your kids to get some vegetables, hide it under the tomato sauce and cheese!

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I cannot wait to hear how this recipe goes for all of you.  But, before we go, let me ask you this – What is YOUR favourite comfort food and how have you made it a bit more ‘waist friendly’, but tasty for your family?

Looking forward to hearing all of your answers!

Thank you all once again for coming along on this blogging journey with me and for taking the time to read my ramblings each and every week.  It does not go unnoticed or unappreciated.

Until next time,

Love and Light Always,

Dina xxoo

 

My ‘Submergence’ Into The Toronto Film Festival

Hello My Fellow Blog Lovers & Supporters!

It has been far too long, I’ve missed all of your ‘virtual’ shiny, happy faces.  Thank you all for being so patient with me in my absence.  As many of you know, I accepted a new position which required me to relocate temporarily to Toronto for 3 months.  With the move, the full time work hours, along with my own client’s needs, life, family etc.etc. Finding time to think, never mind write, has been a losing battle to say the least.  Now that I have been at this for over a month now, things are starting to settle into a routine, so I have decided to get back on the writing horse, so to speak, I present to you this week’s blog – My adventure to my first ever Toronto International Film Festival film screening.

As you all know, I have decided to take a stab back into my creative roots, and try to get back into screenwriting once again, (currently on my second draft of my latest film short script, I will have you know.) 😛 But, what better way to get inspired than going to where all the greats in film are, right here in Toronto (coincidentally where I am as well for the first time) for the Toronto Film Fest.  It is like it was meant to be – That’s my story and I’m sticking to it! 😉

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Luckily for me, I was up right when the tickets for TIFF went on sale at 7am on Sept 5th. (purely because I am up for work, getting ready anyways)  There I was at 7:03am on the TIFF site to purchase tickets for Submergence, the latest Wim Wenders film, starring my latest crush and Scottish import, James McAvoy and Oscar winner Alicia Vikander.  As luck would have it, they were also confirmed to be there at the premiere on Sept 10th as well – SCORE!

As a treat for myself, I decided to meet a friend for drinks and appies beforehand. Walking up to the restaurant, I ended up walking by The Elgin Theatre, the very theatre where my screening was going to take place later that evening. Hundreds of film lovers were already lining up to be the first in line (might I add, nearly 2.5 hours ahead of the screening time), to catch a glimpse of Hollywood celebrity or two, possibly a selfie.  I mean let’s be real, selfies have become the new autograph in my opinion.

Always lovely to meet with friends, break bread, drink and laugh,  I never forget the value or gratitude of these moments. 🙂

Amy, graciously walked me back to the theatre so that I could get in line for the sold out screening.  We are coming up to the theatre and I ask the attendant “is this the line for the 6:15pm screening of Submergence?” She replies “Yes, but you need to get to the back.” Of course we do, I know that, I’m no line cutter.  So we proceed to walk back and I mean wayyyyyyyyyyyyy back of the line – Like a zig zag of 5 city blocks end of the line kinda back – Almost, like a weird film goers scavenger hunt of sorts.  Did, I mention I was 45 minutes early for the screening??? Over 1000 of us, scattered throughout the city waiting to watch a film, now that is commitment to art me thinks or maybe a commitment of seeing a smiling, blue eyed famous Scotsman possibly 😛

Once the line got moving, it actually moved rather quickly.  We approach the outside of the theatre and you can almost feel the energy of the many film goers and lovers who I found out later, waited to catch a glimpse of James arriving.  I find out that he graciously walked out into the crowd of screaming fans, happily signing autographs and taking the coveted prize selfie.  Just a side note – It always makes me giggle when I see a celebrity taking a selfie with a fan and the fan is fumbling with the phone, and the celeb just takes the phone out of their hand as if to say “Gimme that, I am a freaking pro at this.” Because honestly that would be me, not because I am nervous, just clumsy – #ButterFingers

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We enter into the theatre and my word it is BREATHTAKING – So ornate and regal!  I do apologize for no pics of the lobby as we were hurriedly rushed into the theatre as they were running a half an hour behind schedule.  I found a seat in the back and awaited the show with anticipation. And boy, they did not disappoint!

Wenders, McAvoy and 2 supporting actors took the stage to introduce tonight’s feature performance.  The lights went down and the two hour ‘cinematic water’ adventure began.

I have to say, it was visually stunning – A love story based around the elements of water, obstacles, love, passion, life and the possibility of death.  I know I am a bit biased, but I think James knocked it out of the park with his performance, which was both masculine mixed with fragility and vulnerability.  The onscreen chemistry between the two protagonists of Dani and James was electric, almost palpable in its intensity.  The one drawback I will say is that the plot progression lagged and stalled almost mid way through.  I believe they could easily cut about 20 minutes from this film to pick up the progression of the plot, adding the much needed element of urgency to this story line.  Overall, I really would recommend you all to go and see it if you get the chance.

(Clip of James explaining what drew him to the character of James More.  Sorry it’s blurred I was in the back row)

After the screening, all the actors and the director came back on the stage to answer questions from the audience. This is standard fare in film fests – Honestly, one of the reasons I LOVE going to them, getting to hear from the source all about their creative process, character and plot development.  I know that is not everyone’s cup of tea, but this really appeals to me and my inner film geek 🙂  James and Wim, were both personable, witty, sincere, funny and forthcoming – Nothing I wouldn’t expect from two respected professionals in their respected fields.

Overall, I had a lovely time and one day, one day maybe it will be MY film people will be lining up the block to see.  Just putting that out there universe…

Thank you all once again for coming along on this blogging journey with me.  Your support and taking the time to read my ramblings each week does not go unnoticed or unappreciated.  But, before I go, let me ask you all this – What is YOUR favourite film of all time is and what made it your fav? I look forward to your answers!

Until we meet again,

Love & Light I wish to you always,

Dina xxoo

 

What Happened To Critical Thinking Anyways?

Hello My fellow Blog Lovers and Supporters!

We are almost at the end of July! Summer is flying by and I hope that you are taking advantage of all of the wonderful sights and events going on in our beautiful region here in Niagara!  So I was talking to my friends the other day as we do and the topic of sensational stories came up, stories that seem to just take over the news outlet.  What really struck us is the way we as a society just take it for granted that if it is in the news it MUST be real, right!?  Well, I am gonna say, not necessarily and here is why.

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Omar Khadr, by now all of you know or have heard of this man and his 10.5 million dollar settlement from the Canadian government due to his mistreatment in Guantanamo Bay on suspected murder charges that have legally never been proven and the subsequent backlash and outcry from the Canadian public against this situation. Now before you jump on the for or against bandwagon let me make it clear this is not what this blog is about.

Like many of you I too had the infamous knee jerk reaction to this situation, questioning how our government could be handing over millions of dollars to a suspected terrorist. The upsurge in popularity of this story, did make me ask myself, besides this news coverage what do most if not all of us really know what is actually going on concerning this story and the background of this young man? Have any of us done any research so that we maybe better informed to make an informed decision to participate in spreading awareness concerning an individual we virtually don’t know anything about. The answer was no, we hadn’t.

Is Omar Khadr a bad person, with conflicting reports out there, I am not entirely sure. What I do know, is that we the Canadian public have not been given the whole story, only bits and pieces to support a journalistic slant or increase reader circulation.  The issues of who he is, who he became after being taken back to Afghanistan as a small boy by his father and why we are getting involved in a case of abuse, unlawful confinement and alleged torture that occurred in Guantanamo Bay by the United States government is very complex to say the least. At the heart of this matter is the status of his citizenship being Canadian and we not doing anything to help him, knowing that no legal case was ever brought against him and he was held in captivity for almost 15 years by our neighbours to the South and how he did win a court case. How do I know this, I did some research.

According to an article from The National Observer,

“For all the fury boiling up over news of his settlement, there’s precious little insight or knowledge about the facts. As a former prosecutor, something has always troubled me about this case, and my deep unease hasn’t abated with time.  Any experienced trial lawyer would be troubled to open this file. With the exception of Khadr’s “confession,” wrung from a traumatized and severely wounded teenager under an abusive interrogation, the evidence against him was remarkably thin.”

So if the evidence against him was incredibly thin, how was he held for 15 years and we the Canadian public were not made aware of it? That was the first glaring question that came to rise for me.

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The landscape of journalism and media has forever been altered due to the onslaught of the Internet and the subsequent ever reaching popularity of social media. We no longer rely on newspapers or news stations to get our world news, no we log onto Facebook and Twitter to do that. This has become a double edged sword. The instantaneousness of information is amazing and plentiful. However, how much is too much? We are constantly being bombarded with information and images that our attention spans have dwindled to almost nothing, if you don’t get my attention in a few seconds, I’m moving on. It is almost like we have become numb, we actively try to filter out only the information that we assume pertains to us and ignore those that do not. Secondly, many if not almost all of us casually press send/share to videos and links and photos that are posted on social media outlets, without actively viewing them in their entirety, innocently believing them to be true without any verification to its authenticity. Where has our critical thinking gone? Many of us just accept things at face value as truth, after all if it’s on the Internet it must be true right?

Consequently, you and I are now becoming the “journalists” of society, yet we are not held to the same level of ethical standards as actual journalists are. So I beg the question, should we be held to same journalistic standards and if we break these should we be held accountable just as a journalist would? It is an interesting quandary. We live in a society where there in essence are no safety nets shielding and sifting through the garbage to reveal to us to what the actual “truth’ is. Are we equipped as individuals to do that job on our own? I think we are, ONLY if we are prepared to do the work, ie research to find it. It clearly seems we are living in a Brave New World, and I for one want to be better armed with knowledge and insight and not assumption and hear say.

Thank you once again for coming along on this blogging journey with me.  Your support and taking the time to read my ramblings each week does not go unnoticed or unappreciated.  But before we go, let me ask you this, have you ever seen something on social media or the internet that just made you question its authenticity and you just had to do your own investigating to find out for yourself? What was it?  I would love to hear!

Until we meet again,

Love & Light I send to you always,

Dina xxo

Girl Power!

Hello My Fellow Blog Lovers and Supporters!

We are already well into July – Where is the time going!?

It has been a hot one here, not too much complaints from me, not a huge fan of humidity, but I will suck it up if the sun is shining that is for sure. As I have been getting back into the world of script writing, I am struck on the new wave of strong female leads and or action stars that have been hitting the big screen, with Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman doing extremely well at the box office and now with the new release of Atomic Blonde starring Charlize Theron (total girl crush for me) as a 1980’s super spy with MI6 who totally kicks ass – literally.  I am fraught with the notion – Why has it taken Hollywood so freaking long to realize this untouched demographic?  We want to see these stories and characters on the big screen and cheer them on or be intrigued or horrified by them for that matter, but yet ‘Hollyweird’ is still resisting this notion?

As you can expect I have thoughts on this and well here they are…

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Hollywood is and always has been run by middle aged white men – There I said it! So logically they will want to see stories that are by and for them, who they mistakenly think is a general rule for all of society.  For the most part, we as a society have just put up with it and have tried ways around it by creating specialty networks like The Women’s Network or BET.  But, in my opinion it is not enough.  Women and minorities are still sadly under represented in both above and below the line jobs in film and TV and even less as Directors or Directors of Photography!  It still is by and large an ‘old boys club’ and basically they have closed ranks for any and all who try to break those stereotypical glass ceilings  More importantly, we need to note the huge impact downloading movies online has had on the industry at large.  Where we used to make and produce 100’s of films per year, we are lucky to see 10 to 15 from big studios now.

I am going to go a bit against the grain here and say, part of this is their own fault – More importantly their egos is what has gotten them into this hot water.  Instead of getting ahead of it – The onslaught of illegal downloads and the rise of Android boxes going mainstream, and finding a way to use it or invert it for their own benefit, they instead did nothing, believing that no one would ever challenge or topple the great studio system. I mean come on did they not learn anything from the music industry and the whole Napster debacle!? Apparently not…

As a result, because of the rapid decline of ticket sales and green lighting projects, many studio execs are feeling the pressure to be ‘safe’ in the projects they do make – Projects that follow a tried and true formula or in the form of a sequel trying to ensure a sure fire WIN at the box office.  This has made film and art in this vein much more vanilla or boring – Lacking risk and that spark to push boundaries and ultimately start a conversation, which in my opinion is what art is supposed to do in the first place.

So when we see those rare projects like Wonder Woman who use that system (comic book character) but subvert it by using a female lead, harolded by a female filmmaker, like Patty Jenkins of ‘Monster’ fame, audiences pay attention and do so by spending their hard earned money at the box office!  People want to be entertained, but challenged with their own unique human story in all of its beautiful, horrific, depressing and or joyous journeys.  They want to see themselves in the characters on screen and we can only do that if we tell ALL stories, not just the middle aged male whitewashed versions.

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So for me, I hope that I can be a part of that solution and not just another cog in the already existing wheel.  I too want to tell unique stories of the underdogs.  Portray women in a more realistic but empowering role – Yes they can be superheroes who kick ass but they also can bleed, get hurt and get defeated sometimes in the process.  Which is why I am so excited to see Atomic Blonde’s character of Lorraine Broughton played by the very talented Charlize Theron kick ass and take names while she takes care of who is killing her fellow agents during 1980’s Berlin.  Not a femme fatale per say, just an action star who takes no prisoners.  What I am finding so appealing is the obvious part of a female action star who really does kick ass (fast forward to a 10 minute fight scene done by Charlize herself all in one take no edits) but, also showcases the sheer brutality of it with bruises, blood and broken bones – which in most cases is non existent in most male centered action movies.

Action with a touch of realism is a great genre in my opinion!  I hope that this new wave of women centered films continues to gain steam and garner possible spin offs of more minority or gay/lesbian or transgender projects getting green lighted as well.  We all have a story to tell and it is about time Hollywood took notice and gave everyone, someone and something to aspire to!

Thank you all once again for your continued support and for coming along on this blog writing journey with me each week – noted and appreciated that I can assure you!

But before we go, let me ask you this – what changes in stories or types of films would you like to see more of in Hollywood?  I can not wait to see your answers!

Until we meet again,

Love and Light Always,

Dina xxoo