Tea Time!

Atlas is sleeping a little bit longer than usual this morning so I am taking advantage of the quiet by listening to the new Chick Corea album and reflecting over some tea.

I try to make a conscious effort to stay in the moment and appreciate all the little things because it’s the “little things” that make my day. The smiles on my children’s faces, watching Atlas try to stand up on his own, listening to Archer correct people on his name (“my name is not “little man” it’s Archer, say it right”), the sun on my skin, this tea in my hand, the music in my ears…

So I thought I would share a little about some of the teas I like – because I drink a lot of tea, and because as a parent, or anyone who has a busy-non-stop kind of life tea can be especially lovely.

Before I get started on my list of current favourites a few things:

My husband and I have tea together every single night before we go to bed and I’d have to recommend it. It’s such a lovely way to end the day.

Also, I was (we were!) disappointed to discover that a lot of those big brand “specialty” tea shops (like David’s Tea and Teavana) add an ingredient called “flavour” to their teas, some loose leaf and boxed teas (like Tazo Teas) do too! – I am not quite sure what that’s all about but it weirds me out so I stay away. I have far too many culinary guilty pleasures to add tea-with-who-knows-what-in-it to the list so I will always check the list of ingredients before purchasing tea.

Now, without further ado, my favourites:

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Coffee substitutes (with caffeine):

My favourite morning tea is Earl Grey – specifically Clipper “a bag of our Earl Grey tea” and Twinings “English Breakfast” (when I can’t find Clipper). They are smooth and delicious and I enjoy them black or with a splash of whole milk.

Coffee substitute (without caffeine):

Dandelion tea is incredible – specifically Traditional Medicinals “Organic Roasted Dandelion Root” it’s the next best thing to coffee, even though it is caffeine free! – it’s that good – so if you haven’t tried it, give it a go!

For the girls (or for anyone dealing with hormone cycles and period cramps):

I like having a few floral teas on hand, they are especially lovely in the spring – currently I’m into Pukka’s “Three Tulsi” (bright and uplifting) and Traditional Medicinals “Organic Chamomile with Lavender” (calming and relaxing).

My husbands favourites:

My husband really likes Green Tea so I’ve got Traditional Medicinals “organic Green Tea Lemongrass”, we also like Yogi’s “Green Tea Kombucha”, in addition to caffeine (a requirement on most days haha) it has a lot of other health benefits. I also have Twinings “Pure Peppermint” because it’s his favourite and because it happens to be a great digestive.

For special occasions:

We drink a lot of echinacea tea when we catch a cold so I’ve got Yogi’s “Echinacea Special Formula” on hand. And for those nights when settling down seems impossible, we like Traditional Medicinals “Nighty Night” or Yogi’s “Bedtime”.

Let me know what you think – I’d love to hear any other suggestions you have of things I should try next!

 

 

It’s been a while

It’s been a while since I have sat down to type. And I say it like that that because I do a lot of writing. I have a journal for just about everything. I have a journal for my children’s progress, one for daily/seasonal activities that’s a bit like a calendar but also like a to-do list, I have a gardening journal, and a food journal, and I could go on, but it’s all just to say that I like to write and record. I have been trying to find a way to carve out some time to get back into the swing of blog writing – I so enjoy the knowledge share that comes along with this community – but I haven’t been spending much computer time as of late.

My husband suggests it’s because I tend to write more when I am working things out and less so once I get into the swing of things. Perhaps there is some truth to this, though I would never admit to ever being in a state where I am not “working things out”. There is something to be said about getting into the groove of keeping up with life where time and space to stop and reflect becomes scarce. I’d like it not to be, so I am going to make a better effort to write more.

Atlas is now at the age where he wants to interact with everything that is not a toy, is too young for me to set up with “activities”, and too old for me to place on a playmat. Archer is now at the age where he is learning so much so fast and wants to go out, explore new things, and show me everything he is accomplishing. and by the time their bedtime comes along I’m often lose the ability to articulate complete sentences. Needless to say it’s been difficult to sit and write.

In order to help make this time for myself I’m giving myself more lax “rules”. And isn’t that what becoming a mom is all about? Making things work minus the perfectionism. It’s not easy for me to lower my expectations but it’s also a great thing for me to be working on. So, my new rules: One: from now on, I will write and publish pieces in one sitting – as much as I’d love to sleep on it, I haven’t been able to make the time to come back to it in time. and Two: If I don’t have a great photo – I will use a good photo, or no photo at all!

I really hope, these new allowances will enable me to make this work. I am optimistic – I am not sure who said it first but the quote: “if you want to get something done, get a busy person to do it” comes to mind. So stay tuned for more! (…hopefully).

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Document Your Days

Most of us document our days – at least little bits of them. We have Facebook to document our social engagements, Instagram for snapshots of that which is most aesthetically appealing in our lives, Twitter to record snippets of our thoughts and Snapchat to record snippets of our actions.

I set out to keep this blog “like a journal” and I think part of that ought to be sharing regular days – not just the major breakthroughs, holiday adventures, and pivotal discoveries.

So here is the story of last weekend:

Thursday August 18 2016

Our weekend started on Thursday because Archer stayed over at my parents house for the night and going from two babies and a dog to one baby and a dog feels more liberating than a day off work.

I had an 1.5-hour massage at home in the morning – something I would highly recommend any postpartum recovering mama who is juggling kids and breast feeding on the regular. Make them come to you – it’s totally worth it.

The afternoon was a combination of productive work and mental health breaks.

I made a 7pm dinner reservation at The Good Son, on Queen Street – close to our house. This is something we could not do with Archer 1. because he wouldn’t be able to handle himself, in his current toddler state, at that particular restaurant and 2. because it would cut too close to his bedtime. So we excitedly headed out with Atlas in tow and had a most delicious experience. Their spicy brussel sprouts were super yummy as was sweet tea inspired “Kentucky Cobbler”.

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We got home around 9:30pm, put on some music, had another drink, and cleaned our house from top to bottom. Now this might sound somewhat mundane to you but in our world these are sans Archer luxuries – and we reveled in them.

Friday August 19 2016

I did some work at home before heading out to my parents house to pick up Archer.

I stopped by our local flower market and picked up a bouquet of flowers for my mom.

The drive to my parents house takes about an hour and Atlas was having an unusually tough time with it. I had to pull over four times to feed, burp, change, and comfort him. He was just not having it. He cried a lot, I cried a little, and the 1-hour drive took twice as long as it usually does. Before merging onto the 407 from the 400 I actually pulled over on the side of the highway because Atlas was just completely loosing his sh*t and I knew it would be my last opportunity to help him. It was not a fun ride. I didn’t even turn the radio on.

Once at my parents house things improved. I sat on a lounge chair by the pool with a rye and coke. Atlas was sprawled out naked in the shade next to me. Archer, Jasper, and my parents dog Bonnie, buzzed around the backyard. I dipped my toes in the water, we ate dinner outside, my dad tried to sell me on Sturgill Segal, Archer danced like a maniac to the Ramones, my mom bathed Archer, I nursed Atlas, and we spent a good half an hour wrangling my two kids and dog into the car to head home.

That night Archer woke up at 2am with what I am guessing was a nightmare. Jacob and I took turns rocking him back to sleep. As painful as these nights can be I know I will look back on them fondly.

Saturday August 20 2016

Saturday morning was an early start for us. Jacob had a 9am call time at the CBC to be on air for their special on The Tragically Hip.

With the help of my father-in-law, I got myself and the boys ready and headed up to the Annet Public Library. The Waldorf Home Educators course I am taking started at 10am. I was late, as usual, but I made it. Atlas (along with Jacob and our nanny Chrystal) made the odd appearance in the class so I could nurse Atlas and Archer walked over to play at High Park with his Opa.

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By the time we broke for lunch it seemed our whole family had assembled on Dundas, including my in-laws. The weather was so beautiful that the walk up to the restaurant was an especially welcome break from the basement level classroom and general chaos of the morning. We ate at The Beet – think: super healthy, brightly coloured dishes that are so yummy even your toddler will love them.

I nursed Atlas at the table. I don’t particularly enjoy nursing my babies in public, or while I am eating, or with so many distractions around but the day felt so warm and full and rushed and chaotic that I didn’t care.

When I got home with Atlas Jacob was ready to head out to do another televised interview, this time with CTV, so it was just me and my boys. Since we were all a little tired we took it easy and just kinda hung out. I nursed Atlas while Archer had a snack, we read books, watched a bit of Peppa Pig, built a fort out of blankets, I had some wine and ordered Thai food for dinner, and Archer raided Atlas’ wardrobe and insisted I help him put four of Atlas’ pants on him at the same time.

After dinner Archer insisted we go outside so we all walked to the park just up the street and Archer kicked and screamed the whole way home.

My husband was the kid in The Tragically Hip’s “Ahead by a Century” music video and, like most Canadians, The Hip have always felt like an intrinsic part of our heritage. We streamed what will likely be their last concert and watched, with tears in our eyes, as we held Atlas and felt so many big feeling best left to share in another blog post.

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We also watched the UFC fight.

Sunday August 21 2016

I was supposed to go grocery shopping but I bailed on account of needing a day “off” even though days off don’t exist for me because I’m a mom – not having to make myself publicly presentable and go anywhere was a relief.

Sundays often feel like a call to prepare for the week ahead and after such a busy weekend I really felt the urge to get back into our regular rhythm. Sometimes this can cause me some stress – because I feel this sense of urgency to hurry up and get all of the things in all of our lives set up in time for Monday – so this day was a strange mix of trying not to take on too much and doing all the things.

Jacob and Archer spent the morning in the park while I stayed home with Atlas, accommodating his need to cluster-feed, making lunch for the family and doing some productive work around the house.

Being back in the swing of things largely means accommodating Archer’s schedule. So I put Archer down for his nap around 1pm…made a roast chicken dinner and sat down with the family to eat around 6pm, nursed Atlas while Archer had his bath and then put Archer down to sleep for the night around 8:30pm.

 

Aunt Nel’s String Bean Salad

A tasty, healthy, kid friendly, make-in-a-large-batch-and-keep-in-the-fridge vegetable recipe is one of the most valuable items a new mom can have.

When free time (or free hands) for cooking are hard to come by it’s all too easy to reach for (not so great for you) convenience items to get through the day. Often times when I can’t find something easy and healthy I will resort to living off of coffee, which is not any better – at all, so having a large batch of something fresh and green and ready to eat improves my whole day.

I should mention that this isn’t really my Aunt Nel’s recipe, in that she didn’t invent it herself. It comes from The Armenian Cookbook by Rachel Hogrogian (1971) and is actually called “Fassoulia Salata”. But Nel found it and has been making it for our family gatherings for years and walked me through my first attempt at it so in my mind it is hers.

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The following is our version of this recipe:

1 lb string beans: washed, with both ends cut off, cut into 2-inch long pieces

1 sweet onion: sliced very thin

2 larger tomatoes from the vine: either halved and sliced very thin or cut into tiny cubes

1/2 cup fresh parsley: finely chopped

1/4 cup fresh dill: finely chopped

2 tbsp white vinegar (or more to taste)

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

Salt

1. Steam beans until they are just tender. If you don’t have a steamer you can boil them but be careful not to overcook them – you want them to be hold their form well and have a slight crisp to them. Set them aside to cool.

2. In a mixing bowl, combine a tbsp of salt with the sliced onions and stamp the onions with the heel of your hand – this helps to release the strong juices. Once limp, rinse the onions under cold water to remove the salt and expressed juices. Strain completely.

3. In a mixing bowl, combine the onion, tomato, parsley, dill, cooled beans, vinegar, olive oil, and salt to taste. Cover, and place in the fridge or serve.

I like to let the dish sit for at least an hour before serving as it allows time for all the flavours to combine. I find it is best during the first 3-days but it can last in the fridge for up to 1-week.

Farmers market season is still upon us and this recipe is the perfect use for your farm fresh finds. My toddler loves it because it’s bright and colourful and he can eat it with his hands and I think you will really enjoy it too. 🙂

Our Dog

We got our dog back last week. He had been staying with my in-laws since Atlas’ birth.

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Thankfully, as is the nature of dogs, they don’t hold grudges and Jasper didn’t seem the least bit upset with me for leaving him for so long.

I am extremely attached to my dog. He has been with me though all the major changes in my life – he was there when I moved away to do my Master’s, got married, bought a house, and had my babies. He’s been there for me though more than I can even remember; and in many ways, is my best friend.

Actually, Jasper knew I was pregnant with Atlas before I did. It was because he had started acting ‘weird’, the way he did when I was pregnant with Archer, that made me decide to take a pregnancy test.

But Jasper likes to be very much involved in everything and has no real concept of personal space and I knew I wouldn’t be able to give him the care and attention he needed after I gave birth.

I needed time to recover from my c-section and wrap myself and our routine around my newest baby.

Archer likes to eat his snack sitting on the floor, and I needed to be able to leave him to do so without it getting swiped by Jasper. I needed to be able to forget to push in the dining room chairs while there was still food on the table or leave the garbage by the front door without worrying if Jasper would get into it. I knew I wouldn’t be able to bend over to put his leash on or take him out on walks with two babies while recovering from surgery.

Plus, getting two kids down for a nap is hard enough without a dog barking at the squirrels out the window or the delivery man at the front door.

 

So I sent him to my in-laws the morning I went into the hospital.

 

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But last week we got him back and now our family is complete again and everything feels right in our little world.

He seemed to know Atlas as soon as he met him. He acts concerned about the boys, like he knows they are important. He is patient when Archer insists on holding his leash and pulls him around the neighborhood. He is constantly helping me watch over the babies and sits up with me at night while I nurse Atlas. And his happy face brightens up everything.

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But he’s also a lot of work so we’ve had to develop some strategies to accommodate him.

We use baby gates (thanks to the babies we have MANY) – that way he always has visibility (which seems to be important to him) but not the ability to get in the way.

We picked up some massive smoked pork bones from our butcher for a major distraction that we use when there is a particularly tempting floor activity going on.

We keep dog treats at the ready to reward him for good behaviour – anything we want him to do all the time. So if he gets off whatever I tell him to get off of, he gets a treat; if he stops barking when I ask him to, he gets a treat; if he sits and stays out of the way while Archer dumps all of his food onto the floor, he gets a big treat.

We make sure he’s been fed, walked, and has water. This one seems obvious enough but it’s easy for me to forget to fill up his water, or to let him out to pee, when my hands are perpetually full and I’m juggling many things at all times. We stick to a strict routine to help us stay on top of everything and are careful not to chastise the dog if he acts out because his basic needs aren’t met.

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As much as it was ‘easier’ with him at my in-laws I wouldn’t trade in the extra work for his absence and we couldn’t be happier to have him back.

Also, the look on Archer’s face when Jasper came through the front door for the first time in so long was priceless. Dogs and kids are made for each other.

 

Homecoming

When I started writing this blog I promised myself it would read like a journal. I LOVE me some mom blogs but I didn’t want to get stressed over not having sponsored posts or sage advice about how to have the perfect house while raising angel babies.

My house is not perfect and my babies, despite appearances, are not angels.

But the day I brought Atlas home from the hospital was perfect.

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The day we came home from the hospital

My parents had brought Archer to the hospital to visit us the day before we arrived home so he had already met his brother. Their first encounter with each other was, to date, the greatest thing I have ever witnessed.

Archer, then 17-months old, came walking into my hospital room carrying a teddy bear for his brother without knowing what a “brother” even was. I was trapped in bed recovering from the c-section I had had less than 24-hours before with smarties at my ready in case things went south – but they didn’t.

Archer embraced me and then spotted his brother on the other side of the room and locked onto him like he knew he was special and important and his. We brought Atlas over to join us in the bed and Archer gave him a kiss and insisted on holding him and I gave him his brother and I cried.

Perhaps I should share that Archer, while extremely affectionate, doesn’t take well to strangers and is much more into observing other people/babies/creatures than actually touching or interacting with them.

So this was big.

And the next day, when I came home from the hospital after spending two nights away from Archer (the longest I had ever been away from him) their getting to know each other continued.

Archer had this look in his eyes, like he was on an edge that I really didn’t want to push him over and I was ready to pass Atlas to his Daddy and spend some one-on-one time with him if things got too much. But he embraced his brother whole heartedly once again.

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Archer was not about to let him go

He was intent on holding his brother, giving him kisses, checking out his tiny toes. He was gentle and loving and concerned and really, honestly: angelic.

Then Atlas cried, as babies do and for the first time ever I saw concern spread across Archer’s face and be bawled along with his brother – for no other reason than that he was sad that Atlas was sad; he was worried about him.

and for the first 3-days Archer cried every time Atlas cried.

Those were fun days let me tell you.

I remember teasing Atlas when Archer wasn’t around telling him “okay, your brother’s gone: you can go on and cry all you want now” – because sheesh.

But Archer loved his brother right from the start.

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Archer holding Atlas made everything better

On some innate level Archer knew Atlas was his brother and felt for him in such a real and loving way my heart could hardly handle it. To this day Archer has never shown any animosity or frustration or even disinterest in his brother. I can’t count the number of kisses Archer has insisted upon Atlas, or the number of times he has tried to care for him in his own way.

Their love is one of the greatest blessings I have ever received.

Life isn’t without hick-ups, I want to write about real life and I won’t sugar coat things or ignore the parts that are tough or uncomfortable – but that day was perfect. I can’t say a single bad thing about that day.

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The day Archer met Atlas in the hospital

 

TV Parenting

I like to think my children have a rich childhood.

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I am extremely engaged in my children’s lives – we spend hours outside everyday: exploring different parks and pools and beaches and libraries and shops and city streets and play groups, I include them in (almost) everything I do and bring them (almost) everywhere.

And even when we are at home I make sure they experience a breadth of stimulation. We read books and play instruments and dance and clean up our messes and practice self care daily. We paint and play “soccer” and “basketball” and build forts together. We play with our dog and in our backyard and in our garden. We work on relevant developmental milestones and nurture their emotional selves.

We also watch TV.

And people can be so extremely critical and judgy about kids having any screen time at all, honestly, I’ve heard it all and I really want nothing to do with those opinions. I just don’t see what the big deal is.

Now don’t get me wrong, my toddler turns into a total zombie kid when I turn on one of his favourite shows (Sara and Duck, Peppa Pig, Bubble Guppies) he is ‘gone’ for all intensive purposes but, given the appropriate time and place, this can be a good thing – and not just for me and the people around us 😉 but for my kids too!

With two kids under the age of two I do a lot of juggling between kids – I constantly feel like a ping pong ball going from toddler to baby to toddler to baby non-stop, all the time, and sometimes even that’s not enough. Sometimes they both want my attention at the same time and sometimes important, time sensitive things need to happen, and in those moments TV is my good friend and ally.

When I’m nursing my newborn and my toddler wants to get in on the snuggle session but I don’t have extra hands to hold a book or engage in an activity – the iPad comes out.

When my toddler is feeling over stimulated after a long day and is having a hard time playing on his own and I need to make dinner while wearing his brother – the TV goes on.

When we are at a restaurant and we are only half way through our meal but our toddler is all the way ready to go and is starting to throw food/use utensils as drum sticks/get very loud/explore – the cellphone makes an appearance.

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Ideally I would be able to ask my son to “be patient” or “entertain himself” but he’s 18-months old and those are not things yet. Rather than put my newborn down and insist that he wait to be fed/held/cared for, and rather than letting my toddler loose his sh*t – I let media help me parent. Media is just enough of a distraction to allow me to be there for both of my children and get important things done all at the same time.

Ironically enough, I could use the kids ‘TV time’ to get a lot more stuff done – and at a speed faster than that which a toddler and a newborn allow (and sometimes I have to and thank God for TV in those moments) – but I don’t. More often than not, once they are settled and stop moving around and needing things, I find myself just staring at them thinking “Wow – I made these little creatures and they are beautiful and I LOVE them”.

So I give television a big thumbs up. And when my kids are older I will be sure to embrace the added benefits of video games and other technological devices and interactive and social media too – because I don’t know if I could do this without them and I think they are the bomb diggity.

Wives Tales

Wives tales are total bullshit.

My second pregnancy was very different than my first despite being pregnant each time with a boy. And as much as I knew that ‘wives tales’ are nothing more than ‘wives tales’ the fact that my pregnancy symptoms were SO different the second time around made me think that maybe I was pregnant with a baby of the opposite sex. But no. ‘Wives tales’ are ‘wives tales’ and the gender of my baby played no role in my pregnancy experience. 

My pregnancy symptoms for each of my sons were very different:

-My first son was low throughout my pregnancy (I had to pee ALL THE TIME), while my second baby sat high (I could hardly breath!).

-I broke out like I was 13-years old again during my first pregnancy but my skin has never been clearer throughout my second.

-All I wanted to eat was pie and fatty cuts of meat for my first, while it was fruit and vegetables the second time around.

-I gained weight immediately upon conception the first time around (maybe due to my massive pie consumption 😉 ) but lost weight for the first 3-weeks of my pregnancy with my second.

-My second pregnancy was markedly easier physically and way more tumultuous emotionally than my first.

With the exception of the stretch marks both my boys gave me, and an intense craving for beer (that I never liked before getting pregnant) each pregnancy was unique. And while my overwhelming desire to know my children encourages my thoughts to draw conclusions about what my different pregnancy symptoms say about the two different people I created (like: “oh I bet this means that my first will LOVE meat and my second will LOVE fruit and that both of them will LOVE beer”) I am totally convinced that any opinion about what your pregnancy symptoms say about the gender of your baby are total bullshit.

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8-Months pregnant with Atlas

#BLM

As a white person, and a stay-at-home mother, I have not experienced much discrimination or social injustice first hand.

Certainly I have experienced issues of women’s inequality and misogyny, but those interactions pale in comparison to the oppression and prejudice that others are faced with on a daily basis.

While I have felt incredible outrage and sadness over the racial discrimination events that have been happening (forever) and publicized as of late, my experience with them is through what I read on the Internet, it’s not personal, and that makes me incredibly privileged.

I can try to put myself in the shoes of others and I can try to understand the pain and/or anger and/or fear that other people, in other situations might feel. But I don’t.

It can be easy to do and say nothing. But what’s happening right now is not a ‘blacks’ issue, it’s an everyone issue. So I find myself thinking: “what can I do?”.

I can stay informed so I am not ignorant to what’s happening around me. I can listen to the voices of the people personally affected by oppression and elevate them when possible. I can speak up for others if I ever witness an injustice. I can go through the world compassionate of others and set a good example for my sons. Small things, sure, but things I can do none the less.

As the mother of very young boys I have yet to broach any serious topics with my children. We are still working on forming single syllable words not to mention stringing multiple words together or understanding complex social issues. But it will happen, and sooner than later too. My boys will start to ask questions, and I will need to help guide them through their understanding of the world, and their reactions to it.

I need to be ready to talk to them about how we are all different, and how we are all the same. I need to help them understand why skin colour matters and how differences should be embraced because they make the world better. I need to show them how to act out of kindness and to put out into the world the type of interaction they would like to receive. And I need to give them the courage to not remain passive but to stand up for injustices around them because:

“If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality” – Desmond Tutu

#BLM is a modern movement that addresses a longstanding problem. Regardless of how personal it is to you, it demands attention from all of us. It’s a call to action to improve ourselves and to demand change. Today and for the generations to come.

When there is injustice in the world we all suffer. When you put goodness into the world we all benefit.