Fashion or function?

I love a stylish pair of sneakers. You’ve seen some of my favourites here before.

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I also love the fact that sneakers are no longer only for wearing to the gym or for running. In fact, a pair like these from Circus by Sam Edelman wouldn’t even be suitable for those pursuits. I have, however, worn them with a dress.

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Then there’s this pair that I bought specifically for walking in Europe last spring.

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Here I’m wearing them overlooking a beautiful stretch of sandy beach in Belgium.

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My husband gave me these metallic blue ones for Christmas just over a year ago. They look especially good with jeans.

But sometimes what a shoe looks like isn’t the most important factor. One of my goals for the new year was to get back into the habit of walking on the treadmill at least three times a week (on the days that I don’t lift weights) and for that I needed a new pair of comfortable, supportive shoes. At the sporting goods store I was confronted with an entire wall of running shoes and trainers and I had no idea where to begin! Of course, my eye was drawn to the cutest and most colourful ones, but I had to remind myself that that wasn’t why I was there. Thankfully, a very knowledgeable sales clerk steered me in the right direction. If I was only going to use the shoes on the treadmill and not for other gym activities, she recommended running shoes as opposed to trainers. That narrowed the search to half the wall! Looking at my feet, she immediately realized that they’re narrow and suggested two brands that I should consider. These are the ones that I settled on.

I’ve only put about 8.5 kilometres (5.3 miles) on them so far, but I think they were a good choice. They’re lightweight but sturdy, and gel technology in the heel and the forefoot provides plenty of cushioning. The fact that I also like what they look like is simply a bonus! I’ve added them to my list of clothing purchases for 2020, but I really think of them as an investment in my health as opposed to a fashion item. Sometimes function takes precedence over fashion!

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And the winner is…

LogoIn the weeks leading up to Christmas, Susan Street, who writes the fashion blog, SusanAfter60.com, offered her readers a number of generous giveaways including a Nordgreen watch bundle. Imagine my delight to learn that I was the winner!

The timing was perfect. Though many depend on their cell phones to tell them what time it is, I’m a bit old school and can’t imagine life without a watch on my wrist. I love the Citizen Eco Drive watch that I received as a retirement gift twelve years ago. It’s powered by light and never needs a new battery, but living in Canada where daylight hours are short at this time of year and the cold weather generally calls for long sleeves, it hasn’t been getting enough light to keep it charged. This didn’t seem to be a problem when it was newer, but this winter I often get up in the morning to find that it stopped overnight and needs to sit under a bright light for awhile to wake up. I had been thinking about putting a new battery into an older watch that I bought shortly before I retired and starting to wear it again, but then I received Susan’s email!

I was able to go online to the Nordgreen website and build my own watch bundle. The first step was choosing which model I wanted. I liked the simplicity of the Native dial.

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Next, I chose the size of the watch case. The choices ranged from 32 to 42 mm. My wrists are not very big, so I chose the smallest. Step three was selecting the case colour; silver, gold, rose gold, or gun metal. My retirement watch is a combination of silver and gold and my older one is gold, so I chose silver. Step four was choosing the colour of the dial; white, black, or navy. I like a dark watch face, my retirement watch is black, and I wear a lot of navy, so I chose navy for my new one. The final step was choosing the straps. Not one, but three! I chose silver mesh, navy leather, and dove grey leather. Vegan leather is also available. A super simple and convenient quick release system makes it easy to change the straps without any tools.

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The package arrived this week all the way from Copenhagen. Nordgreen is a Danish company started by Pascar and Vasilij who are, according to the website, “two lifelong friends, watch enthusiasts, and born-and-bred Danes on a mission to deliver true Scandinavian design and lifestyle to everyone.” The Nordgreen name represents both their Nordic identity and their focus on sustainability. Nordgreen partners with three global NGOs to create tangible change in the fields of health, education, and the environment. As a customer purchasing a watch or a bundle, you would have the opportunity to choose which cause you’d like to support. For me, I think that would be as difficult as choosing from all the watch options! As a retired teacher I’d probably settle on giving one month of education to a child in India. It’s also worthwhile noting that Nordgreen offers free shipping and returns worldwide. 

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I’ll still be wearing my retirement watch some of the time and I might just put a battery in the other one as well, but you’ll definitely see me wearing my new Nordgreen watch on the blog often. Accessories, including watches, add finishing touches to our outfits and this one fits my personal style very well.

Thank you, Susan! 

Nordgreen has generously offered a 15% discount to Following Augustine readers. Use the code ELAINE15 to receive yours.

 

Do the good you can do

Do you ever feel like permanently turning off the news and hiding away from the world? Sometimes it’s overwhelming, isn’t it? A plane is shot down and 176 people die, Australia burns and earthquakes rock Puerto Rico, a volcano erupts in the Philippines and thousands are forced to flee. Violence, murder, and mayhem seem to be the order of the day.

The Bible tells us that such things will happen as end times approach. Mark 13:7-8 says, When you hear of wars and rumours of wars, do not be alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in various places, and famines. These are the beginning of birth pains.” But what are we to do in the meantime? How do we continue to function in a world that seems to be coming apart at the seams?

Do the good you can do.

Can you accomplish world peace, end hunger, prevent climate change, or stop the tectonic plates from shifting? No, of course you can’t, but there is good that you can do.

Do the good you CAN do.

  • make a Kiva loan to help an entrepreneur in a developing country establish a business and provide for their family
  • give a child the gift of education through child sponsorship
  • volunteer at a local homeless shelter or food kitchen
  • donate blood
  • become a mentor or tutor to someone who would benefit from your skills and experience
  • rake leaves or shovel snow for an elderly neighbour
  • make a donation to your local food bank
  • help build a Habitat for Humanity home
  • clean up a local beach or park
  • fill a shoebox for Operation Christmas Child
  • recycle
  • reduce your kitchen waste by composting or making “garbage soup”

The possibilities are endless. Do the good you CAN do.

Make kindness a lifestyle. Whether it’s simply smiling and saying hello or doing a random act of kindness for a stranger, you can make a difference in someone’s day. It won’t save the world, but it will make your small corner of it a better place to be and you might be surprised by how much better it makes you feel.

Do the good you can do.

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Fine, thanks!

It’s been quite awhile since I posted an update about my health. That’s because there really hasn’t been anything new to report. For someone with two kinds of cancer, that’s actually a very good thing, but I know that there are those of you who want to know what’s going on, so here’s the latest.

It’s already been over six months since I had my final PRRT treatment. Other than monthly injections of Sandostatin that are mainly meant to control symptoms, I’m not presently receiving any treatment for my neuroendocrine tumours (NETs). That’s a bit disconcerting, especially when more than one fellow zebra that I’ve come to recognize through a Facebook support group has succumbed to the disease in recent months. It’s really hard when one of those announcements shows up in my news feed.

On the other hand, I’m feeling 100% healthy, so most days it’s easy to ignore the fact that there are things lurking inside me that shouldn’t be there and that could begin to grow or spread at any time. I’m blessed to be able to live a full and productive life. I’m lifting weights again this winter and I’ve recently dusted off the treadmill and started using it again. If anything, I’m feeling better and stronger than I did six months ago.

A week before Christmas, I was in Edmonton for CT scans and blood work to find out if I’m really as healthy as I feel and yesterday we met with the doctor to get the results. Sometimes I suffer from a few days of scanxiety before an appointment like this one, but this time I felt completely at ease. I just kept reminding myself that God promised to take care of me over six years ago when I was first diagnosed and He has been faithfully doing that ever since. There’s no better place for me to be than in His hands.

When we sat down with the doctor yesterday all I really needed to hear was one word. Stable! Nothing has changed. No growth, no spread! Nothing to worry about. So, unless I begin to experience symptoms (which I haven’t since treatment began), we go through the same routine six months from now and hopefully receive the same good news again… and again… and again.

The CT scans reveal very little about my thyroid cancer which is entirely different and unrelated to my NETs. For news about that one I’ll have to wait until early April when I see that doctor again and he uses ultrasound to take a closer look and measure whether or not there’s been any change.

In the meantime, when you see me and ask, “How are you?” if I answer, “Fine, thanks!” that’s because I really am!

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What hydrates your soul?

We all know that drinking water to stay hydrated is important to our physical health. It helps maximize physical performance, promotes cardiovascular health, has a major effect on energy levels and brain function, and may prevent or relieve digestive issues. Conversely, even low levels of dehydration can cause headaches, fatigue, dizziness, lethargy, and constipation.

But what about our souls? What hydrates or nourishes your soul? What brings you joy or a deep sense of satisfaction?

If you’re like me, you might find January a month when your soul begins to feel depleted;  malnourished. Christmas is over and New Years has come and gone. Depending where you live, winter may seem to stretch out endlessly in front of you. It’s easy to start feeling down. The solution may not be as simple as drinking a glass of water, but there are many things we can do to hydrate our souls.

Here, in no particular order, are 12 things that nourish my soul:

  • daily time in prayer and God’s Word
  • spending time with people who make me happy
  • soaking up sunlight
  • doing something unexpected for someone else
  • losing myself in a good book
  • writing
  • spending time in nature
  • traveling
  • organizing and decluttering
  • exercising
  • sipping a cup of tea or a glass of wine
  • relaxing in a hot bath

Your prescription might be entirely different than mine, but if your soul is feeling dehydrated, here are some things you might try:

  • listen to music or make music if you’re so inclined
  • visit a museum or an art gallery
  • watch a movie or a live theatre performance
  • keep a gratitude journal
  • volunteer
  • go for a massage
  • get some sleep
  • do something creative

What hydrates your soul? 

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Look what I found!

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That’s right, it’s the little packet of colour swatches that I was searching for back in August! I practically turned the house inside out looking for it back then and ended up cleaning out all twelve drawers in my bedroom, but it was nowhere to be found. Then, this week, I started cleaning out the basement storage room, a job that badly needed to be done. I’d long given up any hope of finding the colour swatches, but there they were in the very first bin I opened! Interestingly, I was already planning to write about colour this week; the difference that colour can make.

First a little background. As I’ve mentioned before, it all begins with skin tone. Knowing whether your skin has cool or warm undertones can help in choosing the colours that are best for you. When I had my colours ‘done’ back in the 1980s, I learned that my skin has warm undertones and I was given the little packet of fabric swatches in the colours that were deemed to be most flattering for me. While sticking to a specific palette might seem too restrictive, knowing which colours make you come alive and which, especially when they’re worn close to your face, make you look tired or washed out can definitely help you look your best.

Let me show you what I mean. For the purposes of this exercise, I’ve kept everything the same except the cardigans; same plain background, same lighting, same makeup, same wild and crazy hair, same grey striped Breton top and dark wash jeans. (I’m thinking that my high school science teachers would be proud of me!)

Let’s take a closer look.

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Oatmeal, or vanilla as my swatches call it, is one of my recommended colours. It looks a little drab against the plain wall, but it’s less harsh than black and looks better on me. Can you see the difference?

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I promise that I didn’t add any makeup before this picture was taken, but look at the difference in my face! Teal is a universal colour that suits everyone. Long before I had my colours ‘done’ I knew that it looked good on me. You probably can’t tell in the photo, but it even makes my grey eyes look blue!

 

 

 

 

 

If you aren’t sure whether your skin has warm or cool undertones, one easy way to figure this out is to look at the veins on the inside of your wrist. Do they look blue or green? If they appear more blue, you are cool-toned; if they’re more green, you’re warm-toned. The study of colour can be a complex one, but essentially, if you are cool-toned, take your inspiration from the cool end of the spectrum. Bright blues, deep purples, emerald greens, and frosty shades of lavender, ice blue, and pink will look good on you. If you’re warm-toned, look to the warm end of the spectrum for your best colours. Think fiery reds, peach, coral, oranges and rusty tones, creams, camel, and earth tones.

According to the experts, we can all wear virtually any colour – it’s simply a matter of figuring out which shades suit us best. For example, everyone can wear red, but it’s a matter of knowing which shade is most complementary to your complexion. Those, like myself, with warm skin tones should choose orange-tinted reds, while those with cool skin tones look better wearing blue-based reds.

Now that I’ve finally found my swatches, will I stick only to wearing those colours? Probably not, but I am going to go through my closet and take a look at how far I’ve strayed from the colours that are my best. I know that I’ve instinctively made a lot of good choices, but also some, like the black sweater, that are not so good. I’m definitely not planning on doing an entire wardrobe overhaul, but I do intend to do a better job of taking what I know about colour into consideration when I’m making decisions about which items to keep long term and what to buy in the future.

Now I need to get back to cleaning that storage room. Who knows what else I might find!

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The Good Women of China

Do you ever finish reading a book and think that perhaps you should start over and read it again; that there was simply too much to absorb the first time through? The Good Women of China: Hidden Voices was such a book for me, not because it was enjoyable or entertaining, but because it was moving and at the same time very disturbing.

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From 1989 to 1997, the author, Xinran, hosted a radio call-in show, “Words on the Night Breeze” during which she invited Chinese women to speak about their lives. Broadcast every evening, the show became famous throughout the country for its unflinching portrayal of what it meant to be a woman in China. From the hundreds of women who phoned in to share their stories of forced marriages, Communist Party indoctrination, persecution and imprisonment, extreme poverty, shocking cruelty, and incredible endurance, Xinran chose fifteen, including her own, to share in the book which was only written after she left China. “At that time in China, I might have gone to prison for writing a book like this.” she wrote in the closing paragraph.

When we lived in China for a short time a few years ago, I remember how shocked some of my college age students were to learn how old I was. They told me that Chinese women my age looked much older. Knowing that life in China had been hard, I wasn’t completely surprised, but I started looking at the elderly women on the street and in the market more closely. I wondered how much older than me they actually were and what their lives had been like. Until I read The Good Women of China, however, could not have imagined what many them probably endured.

Xinran is six years younger than I am. Many of the women she writes about are my contemporaries. Their stories are powerful, gripping, and anguished accounts of inhumane treatment, sexual exploitation, torture, rape, hunger, and death often at the hands of Chairman Mao’s Red Guards during the Cultural Revolution of 1966 to 1976. All the while, I was going to school, starting my career, getting married, and enjoying a life of freedom completely oblivious to what was going on half a world away.

Later, during the 1990s and early 2000s, I had the privilege of being ESL tutor to an elderly Chinese gentleman. Ling Cong Xin, better known as Sunny Ling to his Canadian friends, came to Canada with his wife in 1987 to live with their daughter and her family. After we had been meeting together for quite some time, I tried to convince him that he ought to record his memories and experiences. At first, he was very reluctant to do so, but eventually he asked if I would help and so began one of the most exciting projects that I have ever had the privilege to be involved in. I recall Sunny speaking with contempt about the soldiers of the Imperial Japanese Army forcing women and girls in occupied territories including China to be their sex slaves or “comfort women” before and during World War II, but he never spoke of Chinese girls being repeatedly raped by their own countrymen during the Cultural Revolution. Sunny was a highly educated man who had at one time been an official in the Nationalist government. During the Cultural Revolution, many of China’s intellectuals were imprisoned or, like Sunny, forced to leave the cities and take menial jobs in the countryside. When we reached this point in his story he began to claim that his memory was failing him and our project came to an end. I believe that reliving the memories simply became more than he could bear. Like Xinran, he also expressed a genuine fear that if some of the things he told me about were ever published, the Chinese government might make life difficult for his relatives who still lived in that country. After reading The Good Women of China, I can’t help wishing that Sunny’s wife had spoken English and that I’d also had the opportunity to hear her story.

“These are stories that must be read. The lives of these anonymous women are so moving that when I finished reading their stories I felt my soul had been altered.”    Amy Tan

“Mao said ‘Women hold up half of heaven.’ Sadly, this remarkable book demonstrates that he was wrong. Women in China actually hold up half of hell. Xinran has written the first realistic portrayal of women in China. Read it, and weep.”   Jan Wong