Saturday, December 20, 2014

Winter: Solstice and Harp


First snow 2014

We associate winter possibly with snow and Christmas, though many people throughout the world also celebrate the winter solstice. I certainly have.

What is the solstice you ask? Though commonly referred to as winter solstice, at least in the northern hemisphere, it is known for the shortest day of the year and the longest night; it is opposite in the southern hemisphere where they experience the longest day and the shortest night as they are experiencing summer solstice! (

Did you know that the solstice is actually not the whole day, but actually at a specific point in time? For us here in Vancouver, British Columbia, it was 3:03 pm (or 1503 hrs) when "old man winter" finally arrived.

For the past approximately 15 years, I have participated and volunteered at a community event marking the winter solstice. Jerry DesVoignes, chantmaster leads community gatherings of chants and songs, including those that mark the shortest day of the year and the return of the light.

I actually got hooked (for lack of a better term) when I attend my first such event the same year, 1997, when both Princess Diana and Mother Teresa died: two bright lights snuffed out within a week apart.

It was a fun and also a magical experience due to a ritual - Aarti ( - and rose petals showered upon people, usually their heads. (You can see why I got hooked.) ;)

Unfortunately at this time, I do not have any pictures to show of the beautiful altar that is created with candles, flowers, and symbols. However, you can get a taste of one of Jerry's chants here below at about the 5:25 time mark...you can hear some of his vocal range - I believe he has an eight-octave range - as he starts to tone at the 4:15 time mark:



Do you celebrate the solstice and if so, how?

Backdrop for Part 2 of Winter Harp concert
This past week I attended a concert by Winter Harp, a group of musicians/performers who play various harps. flutes, and other ancient instruments. Here is a video of some of them playing "O Come, O Come Emmanuel."

Or how about this one, where some other members play, "Girl in the Red Skirt" a flamenco tune.



Have you seen any Christmas concerts this year, and if so, which ones or what kinds?

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Ode to Joy/Joyful Joyful


Youtube video

The word that came to me immediately after listening to this video was simply "WOW!"

'Ode to Joy' also known as 'Beethoven's Symphony No. 9', was written by German composer Ludwig Van Beethoven in his later years when he was mostly deaf.

Ode by the way means, "a lyric poem in the form of an address to a particular subject, often elevated in style or manner and written in varied or irregular meter" or "a poem meant to be sung."

In fact, it was originally a poem written by Friedrich Schiller who was a German poet, playwright, and historian, though it was adapted later by Beethoven http://www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ode_to_Joy

Here is a bit of background to this song: http://www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Symphony_No._9_%28Beethoven%29

On the 130th anniversary of the founding of Banco Sabadell, a number of people wanted to pay homage to Sabadell, a city in Spain with a flash mob consisting of 100 people from Vallès Symphony Orchestra, the Lieder, Amics de l'Òpera, and Coral Belles Arts choirs (as shown in the video above).

Here is a version that sticks out in my mind from years ago, from the movie Sister Act 2, with Whoopi Goldberg as one of the main actors:

.
This musical piece is seemingly popular during the Christmas season, though with differing variations of lyrics, one of which is as follows: http://www.lyricsfreak.com/s/soundtracks/ode+to+joy_10220943.html

byoV (short for 'bring your own voice'), the community choir that I sang with sang a somewhat similar version for our recent Christmas concert. It was a lot of fun for us choir members as well as the audience who heard us. How can it not be when you add a little funk, soul, and rap into it? Ok, that's my interpretation anyway! ;)



There is nothing like music bringing people together now is there?

What do you most enjoy about the videos above?

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

December 10: Human Rights Day


Picture from Clipart

STOP! STOP IT! STOP IT ALREADY! ENOUGH is ENOUGH!! I say, and isn't that enough?! Oh I wish it was and it was that simple.

Didn't you - the world - just kidding, but am serious at the same time for you followers/readers of mine - not hear me the first time? Did you not read my post the other day?: 'December 6: National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women' at http://www.xpressyouressence.blogspot.ca/2014/12/december-6-national-day-of-remembrance.html (or you can scroll down to the bottom of this post to 'older posts.')

At the end of that post I say, "When will it STOP?! S-T-O-P! Enough is enough! Enough of this sickening brutality! What can I as an individual, we as individuals - yes, you men too, in particular! - country, society do to end this...once and for all?!?" I'm speaking here of violence against women which denies women the basic right to safety.

And then I read something else a day later, another sickening and disheartening article on sexual assaults and child brides in India - that is criminal! - 'As sex assaults increase, Indian girls get pushed into marriage.' And I see that women might partly be at fault too; however, there are reasons for that, namely tradition and poverty...not a good mix: http://www.msn.com/en-ca/news/world/as-sex-assaults-increase-indian-girls-get-pushed-into-marriage/ar-BBgux6W

I say, stop the atrocities against girls - women too - all females! Where are the girls' rights to be children? Their right to play and learn and have fun? Their right to explore the world with their childlike innocence intact?

Picture from google search

Why do females - women or children - need to feel or be made to feel subservient? And at such a young age? () It just breaks my heart.

I wrote a poem in one of my expressive arts therapy classes a number of years ago on how my heart, my soul aches for women, for females as I am one too. I shed tears copiously - 'rivers of blood' - for us women, metaphorically speaking of course. (When I find this poem and its accompanying artwork, I will be sure to let you all know and will refer to this blog post.)

These females are not only my 'sisters.' They are somebody's wives, girlfriends, daughters, granddaughters, siblings, nieces, cousins, and friends.

When will women be able to roam the streets at night and even during the day in peace? Get an education in peace? Make a living in peace? Raise a family in peace? When can we females feel at peace, experience peace without such worries? When? When, when, WHEN?!

December 10 is considered Human Rights Day and observed around the world - I say 'supposedly' - in recognition of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1948. The theme this year is Human Rights 365, meaning everyone is or rather should be entitled to human rights every day of the year, i.e., daily.

However, it makes you wonder when you hear about the tip of the iceberg on reports of sexual assault - most are unreported - and human trafficking for instance, prolific even in first-world countries such as Canada and the United States!

Please note that though this post primarily focuses on India, I am generally speaking for all women around the world. There are and have been many missing and murdered Indigenous women in British Columbia, a much closer-at-home example.(

Saturday, December 6, 2014

December 6: National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women


Today is the 25th anniversary of the Montreal massacre, the murder of 14 females, most of whom were engineering students at Montreal's university, École Polytechnique: http://www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Day_of_Remembrance_and_Action_on_Violence_Against_Women.

The gunman, Marc Lépine, ended up committing suicide by shooting himself. Feminism" was his claim to the shooting death of these women and the injury of 10 other women.

Every day all around the world there are incidents of brutality against women committed primarily by men. Violence can include:

1. gender-based violence
2. rape, marital rape, and incest
3. murder and assault including dowry-related violence and honour killings
4. forced marriage
5. female genital mutilation
6. human trafficking including cross-border prostitution rings and bride kidnappings
7. war crimes including rape as a weapon of war

Source: http://www.bwss.org/resources/information-on-abuse/numbers-are-people-too/)

Statistics are astounding and may vary depending on the source; however, here are some from the Canadian Women's Foundation: http://www.canadianwomen.org/facts-about-violence. I'm not sure what they are for Stats Canada.

Some recent close-to-home incidents include allegations of sexual assault against Jian Ghomeshi, former CBC broadcaster and Bill Cosby, American comedian and actor.

There are also sexual harrassment incidents by Members of Parliament, and sexual assault and harrassment by members of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, and other such positions as with male firefighters against their female counterpart.

Other cases include the female victims of Robert Pickton, serial killer in BC and also aboriginal females who were killed and/or missing along BC's 'Highway of Tears.'

In countries such as India and Pakistan, there are numerous so-called 'honour' killings. According to Wikipedia,
An honor killing or honour killing (see spelling differences) is the homicide of a member of a family or social group by other members, due to the perpetrators' belief that the victim has brought shame or dishonor upon the family or community, usually for reasons such as refusing to enter an arranged marriage, being in a relationship that is disapproved by their relatives, having sex outside marriage, becoming the victim of rape, dressing in ways which are deemed inappropriate, or engaging in homosexual relations. (http://www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Honor_killing)
Malala Yousafzai, the 14-year-old Pakistani girl who was shot by the Taliban because she promotes 'western thinking and fights for the rights of girls to go to school.

A woman in various parts of the world can be stoned or beaten even if pregnant for alleged adultery, or have acid thrown on her and then shunned as it is believed she deserved it.

I remember cigarette ads from years ago that claimed "You've come a long way baby" but have we, as women? Yes and no! No when it comes to equality in terms of social status for one. We have a long way to go, yet!

And calling us 'baby' doesn't help matters! That sounds rather deragatory, doesn't it? I, for one, do not find that an affectionate endearment. It sounds too disempowering a term, at least to me...same with 'girl.'

Do women call their husbands or boyfriends, 'boy' as in "hey boy..." or "good boy" or the like? No! That sounds like language used to talk to a dog!

Ok, I'm getting off tangent here though I'm trying to make a point here. You get the drift I'm sure.

White awareness ribbon from symbols.com

The list of violence against women goes on and on and on... You hear or read about such reports on a daily basis unfortunately. The following is an indication of such crimes and worse, and also reports the top five countries reputable for such acts of violence against women: http://www.cbc.ca/strombo/news/malala-yousafzai-said-to-be-improving-in-british-hospital-while-a-young-afg.

When will it STOP?! S-T-O-P! Enough is enough! Enough of this sickening brutality! What can I as an individual, we as individuals - yes, you men too, in particular! - country, society do to end this...once and for all?!

(breathe)...Ok, first of all we need to focus on the opposite of violence..what is that again? Oh yeah, peace! ...

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

2nd Time Round: Liebster Award! Woohoo! ;)


Read this previous post about this award for details as to its origins and meaning: http://www.xpressyouressence.blogspot.ca/2014/09/another-award-wow-woohoo.html

Carrie Tripp, from her blog, Daily Musings nominated me for the Liebster Award yesterday, known in the western world as Giving Tuesday. Thank you Carrie! :)

You can read about her and her post yesterday at http://www.dailymusingsbycarrie.blogspot.ca/2014/12/ich-liebe-dich-and-award-too.html?showComment=1417586330904#c4140079930676445635.

There are some rules or guidelines to follow should you accept this award, but from what I have read, they vary:

*Link back to the blog from which you were nominated.
*Answer ten questions about yourself.
*Give ten new questions to your nominees.
*Nominate between five and ten new bloggers (some say 5, some say 10, your choice) [On an aside, 10 seems perhaps a bit too much, maybe get 'out of hand'.]
*Let the nominees know that they have been nominated by notifying them.
*Comment on this post when you are finished, so we can follow the trail.

My answers to Carrie's questions are italicized.

1. What inspired the first blog post you ever posted? Thanks for this question. My first blog post was inspired with the thought that if anyone googled my name, they would find out nothing about me as I was attempting to start an alternative children's/youth choir. A 'Call to Action' was acknowledgement to myself that I needed to take action and blogging in part was that first step as indicated by the picture I used. (Since I was new to blogging, my first two posts in particular were rather lengthy...ahem....oops!) ;)

2. If your life was a reality show, what would the theme song be? I can think of fairytales but no songs come to mind at the moment. Let me ponder this one as I do like this question...

3. Name your blogging hero. Why do they get that position? Though I could name other bloggers whose 'work' (writing) I admire - some whom I nominated the first time I won this award, including Penny McDaniel (whom you chose Carrie Tripp: wise choices!) - and particularly two based on their inspirational life story, I will instead nominate them as my first two nominees at the end.

Amy Bovaird, diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa while still travelling, teaching, and later writing a book is a major inspirational hero in my eyes. And Carol Graham too whom has overcome such major adversities in life - seven (I believe) that would leave most people flat or dead. These women are 'fighters!' ;)

I also feel a bit of a hero, actually more of a survivor perhaps, in that I have been working hard at blogging as of late, especially the three months of daily blogging (in July, September, and November of this year) that I have undertaken thus far. Not only writing, reading/researching for my own posts, but also reading and commenting on other bloggers' posts, and those who comment on mine. It takes dedication AND time! ;)


4. If you could live anywhere other than where you currently reside, where would it be? This is an interesting question 'cause where I live feels most like 'home' for me and reminds me of Europe. I think down the road I would like to move to the interior of BC in Nelson, a town that is known for 'hippies' like myself at heart and art - hey that rhymes! ;) I think that I would feel most at home there. :)

5. What food best describes your personality? Two answers come to mind: pizza 'cause I love it and it's a mix of anything you want to put/throw onto it just like I am: a potpourri of ingredients or qualities... LOL ...and cookies...hard on the outside at times, but soft on the inside ...hmmm..or is that the other way around?! ;)

6. It makes me uncomfortable when __________ reads the articles I post. I'm not sure if my Dad reads them anymore, but I think he did at one time! ;)

7. What was the last news report you read/heard that gave you hope and inspired you about? A young boy who wanted to help the homeless due to something he witnessed, and also two young children - two girls(?) who protested against the potential pipeline on Burnaby Mountain in Burnaby, BC. I love these younger 'evolutionary' children who are being born of late: they are so sweet and generous and kind...wanting to help others whether people, animals, and/or the planet! :)

8. If you could do anything and KNEW you couldn’t fail, what would you do? ONLY one (1) thing?! SO many things come to mind, in no particular order: author, public speaker, choir director, conductor of an orchestra - ok, that last one is pure fantasy! ;)

9. Have you ever been a recipient of “pay it forward” ? Have you ever paid it forward? Which is better? Yes, I believe I have though have to think about the first question - these awards that I have won on my blog where you are encouraged to 'pay it foward' comes to mind. There may be other instances, but I cannot think of any other at the moment! I have paid it forward and I wrote a blog post, actually two, about that in fact: http://xpressyouressence.blogspot.ca/2014/11/from-kindness-of-strangers.html AND http://xpressyouressence.blogspot.ca/2012/02/pay-it-forwardwith-umbrella.html

Though receiving is always a pleasure, it is a great feeling to give as well, when it is sincere and comes from the heart. There is no lesser or better than...read my post today about that! ;) (http://www.xpressyouressence.blogspot.ca/2014/12/december-2nd-givingtuesday-national-day.html)

10. Christmas or Thanksgiving?This is a tough one for me as I sometimes have a challenge with Christmas having no partner and/or children; however, I do see my folks. I think Christmas is for kids and though there are wonderful qualities about Christmas, I do not like the consumerism. Other than that, I would say Christmas for the season of giving and love that is felt in the air generally-speaking...sometimes, I admit I can be a bit of a humbug due to loneliness I think. Though Thanksgiving is a wonderful tradition as well (which I also blogged about in October), in terms of a meal and giving thanks, I so long to donate my time to serve meals to those who are homeless.

10 Questions for My Nominees:
1. What inspired you to write a blog?
2. What inspires you in your writing?
3. Are there bloggers who inspire you or have inspired you? (3 names and/or blog sites)
4. How did these bloggers inspire you?
5. How would you describe your writing style?
6. Who is your ideal audience, i.e., reader of your blog?
7. What are your favourite types of books to read?
8. Do these books (#6) influence your writing/blog and if so, how?
9. Do you write about family/friends/pets? Directly or indrectly or both?
10.Who do you most admire and why?

I would like to nominate the following bloggers for the Liebster Award:

1. Amy Bovaird (for her humourous, poke-fun-at-self anecdotes with her limited vision)
2. Carol Graham (for her warm and compassionate stories based on her inspirational life)
3. Francene Stanley (for her true-to-life posts with such fascinating tidbits of info)
4. Lynn Ward (for her delicious, healthy organic recipes)
5. Amy Young Miller (for her fun amusing stories about farm-living with her two daughters)
6. Aathira Jim (for her wonderful poetic writing)

Nominees, remember to link back to this post in your post. Answer the 10 questions I gave you, nominate 5 to 10 bloggers, give them 10 new questions, and come back and comment on this post when you’re done. Congratulations and have fun!

Please take this as the compliment it is. You aren’t required to complete this process. However, when you do you are gaining readers for your blog and for everyone attached to this one. :)

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

December 2nd: GivingTuesday - a National Day of Giving :)


Picture from Clipart

We just finished with Black Friday where retail businesses make a profit and are thus 'in the black' as opposed to 'being in the red' with a deficit.

According to Wikipedia,
Black Friday is the Friday following Thanksgiving Day in the United States (the fourth Thursday of November). Since the early 2000s, it has been regarded as the beginning of the Christmas shopping season in the US, and most major retailers open very early and offer promotional sales.
(http://www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_Friday_%28shopping%29)

This followed with Cyber Monday for online retailers offering great discounts on items in order to take advantage of pr-Christmas sales (http://www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cyber_Monday).

I discovered today via the media, AKA (also known as) the local newspapers, that today is "Giving Tuesday (or "GivingTuesday"). Was this giving in the form of donating money to charities? Or was it any type of giving? Those were the questions that ran through my mind.

I hadn't heard of this day before or had forgotten so I decided to check it out. This is a link: http://www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Giving_Tuesday.

Was this giving in the form of donating money to charities? Or was it any type of giving? Those were the questions that ran through my mind.

Another site states,
It is a new Canadian movement for giving and volunteering, taking place each year after Cyber Monday. The 'Opening day of the giving season,' it is a day where charities, companies and individuals join together to share commitments, rally for favourite causes and think about others.
(http://www.givingtuesday.ca/about/#.VH5xu8no430)

According to Wikipedia,

Giving Tuesday was started in 2012 by the 92nd Street Y and the United Nations Foundation as a response to commercialization and consumerism in the post-Thanksgiving season (Black Friday and Cyber Monday).
(http:/www./en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Giving_Tuesday)

(Picture from Clipart)

I like this concept. I really like it! We, at least in the western world seem to be plagued by consumerism, like an addiction. And unfortunately, I think other countries who idolize America and the American way may follow suit.

I think it a wonderful idea to be able to think of others and contribute/donate our resources, whether money and/or time. Both are valuable!

Giving is essentially a win-win situation as the charitable organization and/or individual recipient receives as well as the giver. There is a universal law about this you know? ;) Think of it this way, would there be a recipient without a giver or a giver without a recipient?

Deepak Chopra, author, physician, and spiritual guru came up with 'The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success' of which 'The Law of Giving' is one such spiritual law:

The universe operates through dynamic exchange . . . giving and receiving are different aspects of the flow of energy in the universe. And in our willingness to give that which we seek, we keep the abundance of the universe circulating in our lives.
(http://www.chopra.com/the-law-of-giving-receiving)

Deepak also claims that:

...Every relationship is one of give and take. Giving engenders receiving, and receiving engenders giving. What goes up must come down; what goes out must come back. In reality, receiving is the same thing as giving, because giving and receiving are different aspects of the flow of energy in the universe. And if you stop the flow of either, you interfere with nature’s intelligence.
(http://www.purposebalancelife.com/law-of-giving.html)

He expands even further on this principle,

...The more you give, the more you will receive, because you will keep the abundance of the universe circulating in your life. In fact, anything that is of value in life only multiplies when it is given. That which doesn´t multiply through giving is neither worth giving nor worth receiving. If, through the act of giving, you feel you have lost something, then the gift is not truly given and will not cause increase. If you give grudgingly, there is no energy behind that giving.
(http://www.purposebalancelife.com/law-of-giving.html)

When you think of giving, what comes to mind? Are you a generous philanthropist or one-at-heart like 'The Little Drummer Boy'? (http://www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Little_Drummer_Boy) (See around the 1:30 time mark if you are short of time.)



Or maybe a bit like Ebenezer Scrooge (http://www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ebenezer_Scrooge) in A Christmas Carol? (http://www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Christmas_Carol)


HOW did you give today? ;)

I am linking this to #GivingTuesday, Ultra Blog Challenge, and Bloggers United.

Monday, December 1, 2014

AIDS Yesterday, HepC Today


Picture from Wikipedia

This is a very brief posting for now which I may update later due to time and other factors. As some of you may know, today, December 1st is World AIDS Day: http://www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_AIDS_Day

I remember many years ago when I first heard about AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome) as a medical secretary at The Hospital for Sick Children. Staff - all? - were to attend a news announcement in the hospital's auditorium. I recall vaguely that what was discussed was news of AIDS and cautionary measures that the hospital was to take. I imagine this is possibly when gloves wear worn by all nurses dealing with needles and the like.

I read a newspaper headline briefly today along the line of my title (which I made up). According to Dr. Julio Montaner, director for the B.C. Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS, a world-renowned doctor for his efforts in treating patients with AIDS at St. Paul's Hospital in Vancouver, BC, he had closed the AIDS clinic as that was no longer an issue. However, Hepatitis C or Hep C or HCV (Hepatitis C Virus) for short has replaced AIDS in terms of severity - http://www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hepatitis_C.

Some people believe the AIDS epidemic originated in Africa or with monkeys. Others believe that it was a way to wipe out a certain sector of the population. These conspiracy theories may or may not be true - though I'm beginning to think the Ebola virus (http://www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ebola_virus) might fall into this category too - notice that both AIDS and Ebola started there?

What is your take on AIDS, Hepatitis C, and/or the Ebola virus? Just curious! ;)