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 When a loan is repaid, the money can be withdrawn or used to fund a new loan.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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Dressing for a fantasy pub night

LogoOver the past year, while Covid has left most of us missing the opportunity to socialize safely, Sue Burpee, writer of the blog High Heels in the Wilderness, has hosted four fantasy get-togethers for her readers. The first, in early April, was an afternoon tea party at the Chateau Laurier in Ottawa. In mid July, Sue invited us to her home overlooking Ontario’s Rideau River for a backyard book party and in early December, we spent a weekend in Paris! Then, most recently, we crossed a magical bridge in the falling snow and gathered for a fantasy pub night in the small village of Ashton, Ontario. 

A retired high school English teacher, Sue is a fashion, lifestyle, and travel blogger, but she’s also a delightful storyteller! A couple of weeks before each fantasy event, without giving away too many details, Sue issues an invitation on her blog. She tells us the basics of what we’ll be doing or where we’ll be going and gives us some suggestions about what might be appropriate attire for the occasion. Then she asks us to send her photographs of what we would wear. By the time we’ve read the resulting blog post and enjoyed the photos, we feel like we’ve been on a wonderful adventure and enjoyed the company of a group of likeminded women! 

Sue’s invitation to the recent pub night suggested that we choose an outfit that would be “dressy enough to make you feel good, and casual enough to wear to a pub.” The pub would probably be a bit drafty, she advised, so we should try to come up with some winter layering ideas. Here in Alberta, we were in the midst of an extreme cold snap at that time, so I was dressed warmly even in the house. In fact, I looked at what I had on that morning and realized that I was almost ready to go! I was wearing dark wash jeans, a favourite animal print t-shirt, a cozy sweater jacket that feels like I’m wrapped in a blanket on a chilly day, and a pair of silver earrings. 

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All I needed to add was a pair of black ankle boots and a bright blue pashmina scarf for a pop of colour. I purchased the pashmina in a market in Cambodia several years ago. If I got too warm, I could easily remove the sweater and drape the pashmina over my shoulders.

How’s that for a good reason to get dressed in the middle of a pandemic shutdown instead of spending the day in your pjs? You never know when you might be invited to a fantasy pub night! 

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