The third piece

LogoIn last week’s post, I mentioned wearing my new denim shirt as a third piece. Today I thought we’d talk a bit more about that. In the fashion industry, there’s what is referred to as the “third piece rule” but I tend to cringe at the word rule when it comes to fashion.

No rules

Essentially, a third piece is anything, with the exception of shoes, that goes above and beyond the basic pants and top or skirt and top look. On the old TV show, What Not to Wear, Stacy London and Clinton Kelly referred to it as the “completer piece” because it really helps to complete an outfit. Though some consider scarves, hats, or even statement jewelry as third pieces, the term is more often used to refer to an extra layer such as a jacket, a cardigan, or a vest.

Fashion retailers such as Nordstrom, Madewell, and Banana Republic know the power of the third piece. Their associates are encouraged to wear three piece outfits because the third piece helps them look pulled together and more knowledgeable about fashion.

For those of us who live in cooler climates, adding that third piece might seem like a no-brainer except in the height of summer. I was certainly dressing this way long before I knew there was a rule.

So, let’s take a look at some third pieces from my closet. There’s nothing here, except maybe the necklace, that hasn’t appeared on the blog before. I’m wearing the same striped t-shirt and jeans in every photo to show how easy it is to dress a basic pants and top up or down with a third piece.

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Third piece: Uniqlo ultra light down vest

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Third piece: 3/4 sleeve shirt

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Third piece: Deco Cardigan from cabi Fall 2019 Collection

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Third piece: basic jean jacket

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Third piece: grey blazer left over from my teaching days

Whether we want to call it a rule or not, it’s easy to see how the third piece provides us with an easy formula for getting dressed and looking put together. Pants, top, third piece, then add a bit of fun with shoes and accessories and we’re ready to go!

The last ten

When I sat down to write this evening, my initial plan had been to start working on this Friday’s fashion post, but something else has been weighing on my mind and I decided to go in that direction instead. I’ve written about the Christian and social media before, but tonight that’s where I found myself going again.

I’ve been using Facebook since December 2007. We were about to leave for a year-long teaching assignment in Japan and our daughter insisted that I had to have Facebook as a way of staying in touch. In fact, she actually created my account and chose my first password and profile picture! She was right. In those days, Facebook was a great way to connect with friends and family. We enjoyed exchanging news and posting photos of our families and our daily lives. I even reconnected with a few people that I had completely lost touch with over the years.

Over time, however, Facebook has morphed into something very different than it was in those early days. I don’t mind the proliferation of ads on my Newsfeed because I realize that very little in life is free and someone has to pay for this platform. No, it’s not the ads that bother me, it’s the negativity, the anger, and the misinformation. Gone are the days when people annoyed one another or flirted with one another by “poking” each other on Facebook. Now, many use social media to lash out at one another or to hurl insults at those who disagree with them. Instead of sharing our lives, we try to prove each other wrong.

So, what does the Christian do? Can we be salt and light on social media or would we be better to avoid it altogether? These were the questions that I was wrestling with in late January when I learned of a free 10-day challenge called Instagram for Jesus. Offered by an online women’s ministry called Well-Watered Women, the challenge is simply a series of 10 short emails designed to help users of Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or TikTok examine their motives for using social media and the potential that it holds, as well as set life-giving boundaries. If this sounds like something that might be of interest to you, check it out and sign up here.

If I had to choose the one thing that impacted me most from the 10 short messages, it was this recommendation from Day 8, “Scroll through your last ten posts, and ask yourself what a follower would know about you through those images and words. Consider opportunities to shift that understanding to a clearer image of what it means to walk as a sinner saved by grace.” Even if you’re not a Christ-follower, that first sentence is worth considering. What do your last ten posts tell the world about you? Is that the image you want to portray? If you are a believer, is this how you’re called to represent Christ to the world? If not, what are you going to do about it? For me, the simple practice of looking at my last ten posts, which I’ve been doing from time to time since completing the challenge in February, has been an excellent way to ensure that I’m being the kind of online presence that I want to be. 

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What was in the bag?

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In last week’s post, I promised to share my purchases with you at a later date. There were actually three items in my bag, all from Uniqlo. One of them, an active wear bra with crossover straps that I purchased specifically for kayaking, won’t be appearing on the blog. Today’s post will feature one of the other two pieces, a basic denim shirt. 

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I had a similar Levi’s shirt several years ago that I wore until it was practically a rag. I’m really not sure why it took me so long to replace it as it was such a workhorse in my wardrobe. The 100% cotton denim in this one is so soft that it already feels like an old friend. 

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This particular shirt was on a sales rack and doesn’t appear on the Uniqlo website any longer, but similar shirts are available this spring in a variety of places including Gap, Eddie Bauer, and Old Navy

I’m wearing a medium in a slim fit. I might have been able to wear a small, but for a comfy, casual shirt like this one, I like a slightly oversized ‘boyfriend’ feel. In the first two photos, I’m wearing it with a pair of earrings that I bought at our local thrift shop for 25 cents! 

Although the shirt works just fine on it’s own, I especially love to wear it as a third piece. While it would look great over a plain t-shirt, I’ve elevated the look just a bit here by wearing it over a sleeveless cabi blouse from several seasons ago. 

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I can see this quickly becoming a go to piece in my wardrobe, one that I’ll be able to wear year round. It fits especially well into the comfy, casual wear-around-home life that we’re restricted to these days.

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Hubby and I had our first Covid vaccines this week, but with case numbers rising drastically in our province, I don’t see that coming to an end anytime soon. 

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Dressing for the in-between season

What do you wear for a day away from home in this in-between season when the weather is so unpredictable? That’s what I had to decide on Wednesday. On Monday, we had a blizzard with howling winds gusting to 90km/h (56mph), but on Wednesday the forecast was calling for sunny skies and a high of 10ºC (50ºF).

Hubby had two medical appointments in the city several hours apart. I’d be spending quite a bit of time sitting in waiting rooms, but I also planned to do some shopping. Yes, shopping! For the first time in several months, I’d be walking the malls. I wanted to be warm, but not too hot. As always, I wanted what I wore to say classy, confident, and comfortable. I wanted to be able to try things on easily, and comfortable walking shoes were definitely a must. Here’s what I decided to wear. If you’ve been following the blog for very long, you’ve seen all the pieces before.

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I’m a little self-conscious about having my photo taken in public places with people around, but hubby is always willing to act as my photographer and we snapped this one just outside the mall. My Checkmate Jacket from cabi’s Fall 2019 Collection feels like a cozy sweater, but it’s a bit dressier looking. I wore it over a plain black t-shirt from Uniqlo and a pair of dark wash jeans from Old Navy. A necklace would have dressed the look up a bit more, but it would have been in the way while trying on clothes, so I went without one. The white sneakers that insisted on being mine have turned out to be an excellent purchase. They’re so comfortable that I’d be able to walk for hours in them and they added a casual vibe to the outfit. Apparently stylish French women are wearing white sneakers with everything from jeans and blazers to dresses or suits, so I guess I’m in good company! 

The temperature was hovering around 0ºC (32ºF) when we left home in the morning, so I added a lightweight anorak over my outfit. I left it in the vehicle once we reached the city where the temperature climbed to a balmy 14ºC (57ºF) by mid-afternoon. 

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When we spotted this giant flower-covered shoe in the mall, we had to stop for another photo! I slipped my mandatory mask off for a moment and hubby snapped a quick one. I’ll share the contents of the bag with you in a future post! 

A new job!

My father, who died a year ago at almost 97 years old, always said of retirement that there is no end of things that you can do as long as you don’t need to be paid for them. I’m blessed to be able to follow in his footsteps. While we aren’t wealthy by any means, we are comfortable enough financially not to need to work. In the first few years of retirement, we did take paying jobs teaching English in Japan for a year and then China for several months. Since then, we’ve kept busy as volunteers in several capacities. In fact, at 68, I have just finished training for a brand new volunteer position that I’m very excited about!

I’ve often mentioned Kiva on the blog before. Kiva is a non-profit organization that allows a person to lend as little as $25 to a specific low-income entrepreneur in one of 77 countries around the world. When a loan is repaid, the money can be withdrawn or used to fund a new loan. Since making my first loan 11 years ago, I’ve been able to make 60 more by simply recycling the same money over and over again. When I learned that there was a need for volunteer editors, I realized that this might be an opportunity to put my skills into action and help in another way.

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An average of about 16,000 loan profiles are posted on the Kiva website every month. Each one needs to be carefully edited to ensure that it complies with Kiva policies, that the borrower’s privacy is maintained, that details are consistent, and that the language is understandable to lenders while retaining, as much as possible, the voice of the original text. Kiva relies on over 400 volunteers, each editing approximately 40 loan descriptions a month, to complete this enormous task. That’s my new job! I’ve joined Kiva’s Review and Translation Program as a volunteer editor! 

It was back in July of last year that I first expressed an interest in volunteering. My name was added to a wait list and I was told that I would hear from Kiva staff when they were ready to bring on new volunteer editors, probably much later in the year. In late November, I was asked to submit my resumé and complete an official application that included a brief loan review exercise. In early December, I was invited to take an editing test. Kiva works with a barebones staff and, like everyone else, they’ve been somewhat hindered by Covid slowdowns, so the wheels ground slowly, but at the beginning of February I was notified that my application was approved. At the beginning of March I started training and now I’m finally an active Kiva editor! I edited my first loan yesterday. The borrower was a farmer in Uganda who requested a loan to buy more cattle to fatten and resell.

Volunteer editors are split into teams each led by a volunteer team leader. I was assigned to a group called The Write Stuff which I find very fitting as writing has always been my passion! Kiva asks for a commitment of a minimum of 2 hours a week for at least 6 months, but I foresee being able to do this for a much longer period.

If you’re interested in making a loan, just click on the banner to the right.

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More about flats

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What a strange language English is! Take the word flat, for example. In Britain, a flat is what we in North America would call an apartment. Flat can mean smooth and even, without bumps and indentations. It can be a musical note or a piece of stage scenery. We can be flat broke, lie flat on our backs, or turn someone down flat. Today is Fashion Friday, however, so once again we’re talking about shoes, ballet flats in particular. 

LogoThe ballet flat, a timeless, polished, and quietly chic style of footwear, was inspired by the dance slippers worn by ballerinas in France in the mid-18th century. It was French film actress, Brigitte Bardot, who would ultimately transform the ballet slipper into it’s present day form. Once trained as a ballet dancer, Bardot asked French footwear designer, Rose Repetto, to design a pair of flats for her that were as flexible as ballet slippers, but softer and more comfortable. Bardot wore the now-iconic style in her 1956 film, And God Created Woman. 

Fashion trends come and go, but the ballet flat has remained a wardrobe staple for women for nearly 70 years. Other famous fans of the tried-and-true style have included Audrey Hepburn, Rita Hayworth, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, Princess Diana, Michelle Obama, and Meghan Markle. 

As I mentioned in last week’s post, with spring comes lighter footwear including the ubiquitous ballet flat. Though these lightweight, flexible, and comfortable shoes are traditionally rounded at the toe, square-toed and pointy pairs can also be found. Apart from highly formal, black tie events, ballet flats are suited to almost any occasion from the office to a party. They are, of course, perfect as part of an everyday casual outfit. I would not, however, suggest wearing them when you plan to do a lot of walking as they don’t provide adequate support for that.

And now for a few styling tips: 

  • Avoid tights and socks. Ballet flats look best over bare feet. 
  • Show some skin. Ballet flats look most flattering when your ankles or lower legs are showing. They look great with dresses, skirts (especially loose, flowy styles), and cropped pants. 
  • Simple ballet flats also look great with skinny jeans or leggings. 
  • If you want to create the illusion of longer legs, choose a simple nude pair. 

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Wearing my blue suede shoes!

Why wear flats?

LogoWell known Christian speaker, author, and Bible teacher extraordinaire, Beth Moore, recently cut ties with the Southern Baptist Convention saying that she no longer feels at home in the denomination that once saved her life. Moore, who has long endured criticism in conservative evangelical circles because of their belief that only men should be allowed to preach, felt that she could no longer identify with or be part of what she saw as a toxic mix of misogyny, nationalism, and partisan politics in the denomination. That, however, is a topic for another day.

On the topic of fashion, I was absolutely incensed when I read that within the Southern Baptist Convention, Beth Moore was expected to show deference to male leaders by wearing flats instead of heels when she served alongside a man who was shorter than she was! What? What century are we living in? How insecure must a man be to feel that his manhood is threatened by a woman who is taller than he is?

At 5’8″, I’m more than two inches taller than my husband. When we lived in Japan, where I towered over most of the women and many of the men, we were introduced to nomi no fufu, a phrase used to describe a couple like us. Nomi no fufu literally means ‘flea couple’ and is used because of the scientific fact that female fleas are bigger than males!

My husband couldn’t care less if I wear heels. He’s not even slightly intimidated by my height, nor should he be. Why, then, do I choose to wear flats most of the time? Why were they already my shoe of choice long before I met my “little flea”? I can answer that in one simple word!

Comfort!

There are actually many good reasons to choose flats over heels. Studies have shown that by limiting the natural motion of the foot during walking, high heels can cause increased stress on the knees and may even contribute to osteoarthritis later in life. Similarly, if high heels are worn constantly, the spine’s ability to absorb shock can result in continued back pain. The vertebrae of the lower back may be compressed and back muscles over stressed. Wearing high heels too frequently can also cause the calf muscle to stiffen and the Achilles tendon to shorten which can actually make wearing flatter shoes uncomfortable. By putting a great deal of pressure on the ball of the foot and forcing the toes into a small toe box, high heels can cause or worsen many foot problems including corns, hammertoe, bunions, Morton’s neuroma and plantar fasciitis. This graphic from the Florida Hospital Medical Group Spine Health Institute helps explain. 

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Does this mean that women should never wear high heels? Not at all! Worn in moderation, not everyday, they’re unlikely to cause any long-term physical health problems.

Now that spring seems to be here and the snow is almost entirely gone, I’m excited to be able to start wearing my sneakers and ballet flats again! That’s because they’re comfortable, not because I might intimidate some wussy man by standing next to him in heels!

My choice of shoes is most definitely not a religious or spiritual matter!

Rocky Mountain getaway

After being cooped up at home and going almost nowhere except to medical appointments for several months, we desperately needed a change of scenery. First thing Wednesday morning, we packed the vehicle and drove almost five hours to Banff National Park where we enjoyed a couple of days surrounded by the beautiful Rocky Mountains. One of the things we most wanted to do was some snowshoeing. We’d hardly done any this winter as we’ve had much less snow than usual this year.

Snowshoeing on Lake Louise

We woke to an absolutely perfect day on Thursday. The cloudless sky was a brilliant blue and there wasn’t a breath of wind. After several days of thawing and freezing, the snow around Banff itself was very crusty, but we found powder at Lake Louise. Strapping on our snowshoes, we set off across the surface of the lake toward the majestic Victoria Glacier at the other end.

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We made it most of the way to the far end of the lake before turning around, realizing how far we’d come, and deciding that it was time to head back toward the iconic Chateau Lake Louise in the distance.

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The Chateau has a special place in our hearts as we were treated like royalty when we stayed there on our honeymoon over 44 years ago.

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Marble Canyon Hike

After eating a picnic lunch in front of the Chateau and watching the skaters on a cleared section of the lake, we headed off on another adventure. This time, we crossed the BC border into Kootenay National Park to hike the short, but impressive Marble Canyon trail. Multiple bridges span the narrow gorge and the views were spectacular. My photos don’t really do them justice. 

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To celebrate Canada’s 150th anniversary in 2017, Parks Canada placed pairs of bright red Adirondack chairs in select National Parks and Historic Sites across the country. “Connect with nature in the country’s most unique and treasured places. Whether it’s a place to rest after a leisurely stroll or to cheer your successful completion of a strenuous hike, our red chairs offer a place to slow down, to relax and to truly discover the best that Parks Canada has to offer,” reads a statement on their website. It’s always a delight to come across these chairs in unexpected places. This set were half buried in snow, but I couldn’t resist sitting in one anyway!

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After a wonderful day in the great outdoors, we welcomed a soak in the outdoor hot tub back at the Banff Rocky Mountain Resort where we were staying! Due to Covid restrictions, we were able to book 25 minutes each evening and have the 16 person tub all to ourselves! There are definitely a few perks to travel during Covid. Banff, which is usually overrun with tourists, was fairly quiet during the week and affordable accommodations could be booked just a few days in advance. We had a cozy little one bedroom condo with a full kitchen and a living room with a wood burning fireplace for approximately $115/night, much less than it would normally cost. 

Hoodoos Trail Hike

Yesterday morning we enjoyed a second hike. This time we accessed the Hoodoos Trail just across the road from the Tunnel Mountain campground. According to the map, it’s a short 10 to 12 minute walk from there to the end of the trail overlooking the pinnacles of weathered sandstone known as hoodoos. 

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We soon discovered, however, that the trail continued much further along the ridge overlooking the Bow River below. We followed the trail to it’s very end. Out and back took us over an hour.

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Again, we were surrounded by beauty in every direction!

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And again, we found red chairs!

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On the way home today, we stopped in Calgary to help this little cowboy, our youngest grandson, Simon, celebrate a Covid compliant front porch birthday complete with an amazing Minecraft cake from Crumbs Artisinal Bakeshop.

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When is a bargain not a bargain?

LogoIn anticipation of spring (I saw my first robin earlier this week!) I’ve been looking through my winter closet and thinking about which items to keep for another season and which to get rid of. In the process, I’ve stopped to ponder a few pieces that I’ve rarely ever worn. Why did I buy them in the first place, I’ve asked myself, and why don’t I wear them? That led to the topic for today’s post. When is a bargain not a bargain?

As a frugal fashionista, I’m always drawn to the sales racks and I love thrift store shopping. Much of my wardrobe was purchased at a fraction of it’s original price. I’ve learned, however, that a bargain isn’t a bargain unless it’s something you’re actually going to wear!

When considering whether a bargain is actually a bargain, here are a few questions to ask yourself:

Does it fit properly? Shop for the body you have right now, not the one you wish you had or the one you hope to have someday in the future. If you can’t wear it today, put it back on the rack unless you intend to have it altered. If you do, unless you have the ability to do it yourself, you also need to factor in the cost of tailoring.

Does it fit your lifestyle? Do you actually have somewhere to wear it?

Does the colour flatter your complexion? This is especially important to consider if it’s something that will be worn close to your face.

Does it work with your existing wardrobe?  Know what’s already in your closet and where the gaps are. If you have to buy several other items to make something work, it’s no longer a bargain.

Does it say what you want it to say? Choose 3 to 5 adjectives that describe what you want your wardrobe to say about you and keep them in mind when you’re shopping. When I look in the mirror I want my outfit to say classy, confident, and comfortable. I also look for pieces that might add a bit of creative flair.

Do you love it? My shopping mantra has become “If you don’t love it, don’t buy it!”

When deciding whether or not something will be a bargain, another factor to consider is cost per wear. Let’s look at a couple of examples from my closet. One of the first pieces of cabi that I bought was the Shirttail Cardigan from the Fall 2016 Collection. I still love it and I wear it frequently during the winter months. The original price was $149 CAD, but as a party hostess, I was able to purchase it at 50% off. I have no idea how often I’ve worn it, but I’m guessing maybe 100 times. If we do the math ($74.50 ÷ 100) that works out to 75¢ per wear. The following year, I bought the cabi Silk Blouse, also at 50% off. It originally sold for $159 CAD, but I paid $79.50. I’ve probably worn it half a dozen times. That works out to $13.25 per wear! It’s easy to see which of these items was a bargain and which wasn’t! That doesn’t mean that the blouse wouldn’t have been a bargain for someone else, just not for me.

I’m sure I’ll still make some shopping mistakes, but I’m hoping that there will be less of them in the future!

International Women’s Day 2021

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Today is International Women’s Day. It saddens me that we should even need to set aside a day to focus on women’s rights, to remind the world that women deserve equality. It was never meant to be this way. 

I’ve been focusing a lot on what the Bible has to say about womanhood in recent weeks as I’ve started leading a ladies Bible study on women of the Bible. The very first statement about women in the Bible comes in the first chapter of Genesis. Verses 27-31 say: 

So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.” Then God said, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds in the sky and all the creatures that move along the ground—everything that has the breath of life in it—I give every green plant for food.” And it was so. God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. 

Do you see what I see? First of all, we’re told that God created men and women in His own image! Both were meant to be His image bearers. Second, He gave both of them dominion over and responsibility for His creation. It was a joint assignment. God did not give men dominion over women! That was never His intention. And finally, God saw all that He had made, and it was very good. His plan was equality for men and women and it was very good

In chapter 2 of Genesis we’re given a more detailed creation story. Verse 18 says, “The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.” The King James Version of the Bible uses the words help meet to describe the woman’s role. “Meet” is an archaic adjective meaning suitable or proper, so the phrase simply means a suitable helper. Perhaps this is where the idea that men should dominate came from, but that was never God’s intent. In the original language, the word translated as helper or help meet was ezer. Ezer is a word that appears 21 times in the Old Testament; twice in Genesis for the woman, 3 times for nations to whom Israel appealed for military aid, and 16 times to refer to God as Israel’s helper, their shield and defence. It was used consistently in a military context. That hardly brings to mind a meek or subservient helper! Perhaps strong helper would be a better translation. 

Sadly, God’s plan for a partnership between men and women didn’t play out in human history. It didn’t take long for the relationship to deteriorate to the point where women were simply possessions of their fathers or husbands, barely a step above their livestock. Their primary role was to serve the men in their lives and to produce sons to carry on their husband’s family line. 

These may be radical thoughts for a woman who attends a patriarchal church, but I’ve always been a bit of a rebel and women’s issues have been a passion of mine for a very long time. The reality is that we need to do much more than set aside one day a year to draw attention to the plight of women worldwide. It is something that needs to be addressed 365 days of the year! 

As long as there are places on this planet where parents sell their daughters because they can’t afford to feed them, where girls walk an average of 6 kilometres a day to collect clean water for their households, where they are denied education, where they are forced to undergo female genital mutilation and/or forced into child marriage, we must do more than celebrate the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women on International Women’s Day. It’s easy to turn a blind eye to the atrocities inflicted on women in foreign lands when they aren’t happening in our own backyard, but there are women living in abject poverty in Canada, the United States, and other developed countries. Objectifying and exploiting women is still alive and well in our culture. Violence against women is still prevalent. Human trafficking happens in our own neighbourhoods.  

Though the situation may have improved over the years, women have yet to achieve equality in the workplace. As a current example, women are at the forefront of the battle against Covid-19 as front-line and health sector workers, scientists, doctors and caregivers, yet according to a UN report, they get paid 11 percent less globally than their male counterparts!  

What, then, can we do to press for progress for women? First of all, we need to educate ourselves, to look beyond our comfortable lives and become aware of what the issues are and which reputable organizations are working to change them. If you’re serious about wanting to have an impact on the lives of women around the world, I would suggest that you begin by reading Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide, by Pulitzer Prize winning journalists Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn. This book was a life changer for me. Kristof and WuDunn are upfront and clear; they hope to recruit their readers to get involved, to become a part of a movement to emancipate and empower women by helping provide the economic resources that can help transform their lives.  Half the Sky not only inspires the reader to get involved, it gives many suggestions how.

It was after reading Half the Sky that I began making micro loans to women in third world countries through Kiva, the world’s first online micro-lending platform. It’s one small step, but it’s something I can do. Kiva is a non-profit organization that allows a person to lend as little as $25 to a specific low-income entrepreneur in one of 77 countries around the world. When a loan is repaid, the money can be withdrawn or used to fund a new loan. I choose to lend to women with children at home. All too often, money in the hands of men goes to alcohol and prostitution but in the hands of women, it nurtures children, feeds families and promotes education.

It’s International Women’s Day. What will you do? 

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