Lessons From My Father

Today marks 4 years since the legend aka my dad said goodbye at a tender age of 92.  His tombstone unveiling ceremony was completed end of October 2016.  His tombstone reads “Our Beloved Father, Our Hero, A Husband, A Legend, An Avid reader, A Bible Scholar, A Story Teller, A Linguist”.  Even though he is not with us in flesh, he is very much present in spirit.  For this anniversary, I have chosen to share “some” of the lessons I learned from him.

The very first lesson that anyone who knew him can attest to is that of UNCONDITIONAL LOVE.  My Dad was a lover of mankind.  He was one of those people who knew no stranger, didn’t hold on to grudges and welcomed everyone into his heart.  He instilled this love in his 7 daughters and granddaughters.  We are so tight and we genuinely love each other.  When I think of our family, I feel Joy.  Of cause our Queen and Mom Matilda plays a big role as well.

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They say that “Power is gained by SHARING not hoarding it”.  This is so true of my Dad.  He was a life student, always curious and eager to learn more.  When he learned something, he couldn’t wait to share.  Some grand kids didn’t fancy this quality as they often were on the receiving end of his lectures.  One of his favorite books was “The 7Habits of Highly Effective People”.  He always shared sections of the book with anyone who would listen.  My sister Kanu remembers having long discussions with Dad.  One of the quotes that really stuck with her was “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.  Use empathetic listening to genuinely understand a person which compels them to reciprocate the listening and take an open mind to being influenced by you.”  Thanks for sharing your favorite moment Kanu.  It’s no wonder you went on to be a Therapist.  You were a good student.

Always give 100%.  I learned early on that the worst report I could get from school was can do better.  In grade 3, I came in 2nd in a class of 40 students and I couldn’t wait for Dad to get home so I could share my report card.  He didn’t care that I was number 2, the teacher had written that I could do better in Math as I had earned 92%.  Dad spent the next 20 minutes explaining why I had come short.  The teacher believed I could have done better so I had to explain how I would give 100% going forward.  It had nothing to do with the score.  I apply this lesson to all aspects of my life and I teach my daughter the same.  My tennis partners know that after the match, I always say did we give it our all?  If yes then we can hold our heads up high.

 It’s the little things that matter.  I vividly remember Dad sending me to deliver food or some change to a neighbor who was going through a hard time.  I also remember asking him why we had to do so when they never reciprocated.  His answer was always the same.  True giving is when you give without expecting anything back.  He used to bet on horse racing:  when he won, he would make many people happy no matter how small the win was.

Reading is fundamental – Most of Dad’s knowledge was self learned through reading.  He read the newspaper daily, Time magazine whenever he could put his hands on it, Shakespeare, other world newspapers.  It’s no wonder he was a student of the English Language.

Believe in yourself.  One of the grand kids Amanda who is in Australia remembers Grandpa telling her “You will be Lovely no matter what”.  Amanda is now a wife, a mom and going through nursing school and she still remembers this lesson.  Growing up in a culture that valued boys more than girls, this lesson was very important as it made us be the confident women that we are today.

Some people live their lives in pursuit of happiness, more often than not, they never find that happy place.  Searching for happiness leads to searching for things that give you a temporary rush.  True happiness comes from finding your life purpose.  or my Dad, it was being a teacher to all.  The lessons he taught us made us who we are today.

Maya Angelou said it best when she said “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside of you”.  Thank you for letting me share my Lovely Dad’s story.

 

Understanding Mental Illness

Today is Mental Illness Awareness Day.  I got the inclination to write this Blog because I have my Zimbabwean community in mind.  I speak of the Zimbabwean community because my heart bleeds when I see and hear the stigma that is still associated with mental illness in Zimbabwe.  This stigma knows no borders and its all over the world.  Allow me to re-state, I am writing this blog to my world community.

Growing up in the church, I heard pastors preach that going to a psychiatrist was not an option, it meant that one had lost control and had turned away from Jesus.  Mental illness was a tool of Satan.  Because of the stigma surrounding this illness, many ended up roaming the streets.  Culturally people believed that these people had wronged their dead parents so they were now paying for their sin – “kutanda botso”  .   Taking Antidepressants was not even an option, but wait!  You gotta see a psychiatrist to get the prescription first right?

The Christian community in Zimbabwe is the worst, especially the charismatic community.  If you share openly that you are feeling depressed or feeling suicidal, the whole church will put their hand on you and pray for the demon to come out of you.  I once heard Joanne Goodwin, a pastor’s wife, inspirational speaker who lives with bipolar disease say:  “I shared with one of our church members that I had been diagnosed with depression and was taking anti-depressants, she looked at me and said, you should just throw the medication down the toilet and trust in Jesus”.  Joanne said what ruined the advise from this individual was that she was wearing prescription glasses herself so Joanne responded, “why don’t you throw your glasses down the toilet and we will do it together”.

While the Christians say have faith and pray for what you are feeling to go away, others say those with mental illness should control their thoughts, and actions?  One of the side effects of mental illness is the inability to focus, how can one FOCUS or control their thoughts when they are inundated with racing thoughts, unwanted thoughts, negative thoughts, voices, anguishing over someone else’s soul etc. It’s like telling a kid with autism, just tell yourself to stop screaming or someone with Alzheimer’s, focus, you know who I am:  It doesn’t work that way.

Some even go further by labeling people with mental illness, in Zimbabwe, people use words like “Sascam”, “Benzi” etc.  In North America, the list is long.  The labeling needs to stop!  Labeling increases the stigma against people with mental illness and it becomes a major barrier to those seeking help especially young people.  I am alarmed by the number of young Zimbabweans in US and Canada committing suicide, especially young men.  It’s very difficult for them to admit that they need help let alone when the help needed is mental illness related.

I had the privilege of taking the mental health first aid course a few years back while working for Family Services of Greater Vancouver.  If I had my way, I would have this as a class in all high schools and I would encourage all adults to take it.  I walked away with a better understating and respect for those with mental illness.

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With almost 16 million people, Zimbabwe has a critical shortage of psychiatrist.   They have 12 for the whole country.  That is shocking but not shocking.  Its because they do not see mental illness as a huge problem.  In a May 7, 2016 Chronicle article, Dr Timothy Stamps, health adviser for Zimbabwe cabinet said “mental problems that are caused by among other factors poverty, unemployment and stress pose a great challenge for the country.”  Indeed, mental illness is caused by a combination of things from genetics, biological, psychological, and environmental factors.  Focusing on the poverty. Unemployment and stress would imply that if these issues are resolved, the illness will be cured, that is far from the truth.

Zimbabwe people are crying for help, many turn to the church as that’s the only option they have.  Even the prophets are now making money from desperate mental health patients and their families.  I wish I could stand on top of the mountain and share the message to stop blaming witchcraft and putting neighbors against neighbors, family members against each other in an attempt to find why your child, mother, father, brother or sister is suffering from mental illness.

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My dream, is that of having a telehealth type of system around the world whereby people from around the world can call to get help.  Just knowing that they are not alone, that there is help, that there is someone willing to listen to them with NO JUDGEMENT, could save some lives.

Tell those you know around you who suffer from mental illness that they are not alone.  Better yet, encourage someone who has the symptoms but has not sought out help to do so.

Trish Mandewo is Wife, Mom, Savvy Business woman, Speaker, Mentor, Facilitator, Vissionary and a Blogger.

Welfare Food Challenge 2016

A few weeks ago I met with Councillor Chris Wilson for coffee.  At this meeting, he mentioned that he was getting ready to start the Welfare Challenge.  I had seen his post on Facebook but I didn’t pay much attention to it, it didn’t affect me so why read right?  After learning what it was all about, I was inspired to join him in the challenge.

A little background information about this challenge; it is sponsored by Raise the Rates, a coalition that wants government to raise the welfare rates from the current $610 per person per month to $1500.00. Welfare rates in BC have not been raised since 2007, consequently,  BC has the highest poverty rate in all of Canada.  With the housing and rental rates soaring as they have been, how can one survive on $610.

People on welfare have approximately $18.00 per person to spend on food per week. The average Canadian family spends $56.00 per person per week. To start the challenge, On Sunday October 16, I set out to go shopping with my $18.  IMG_2131.JPGI went to Walmart, Dollar store and a local Mexican Tortilla factory to get corn tortillas that were on clearance for $1.  After all was said and done, I had $2.50 left over so I used it to buy coffee and milk from my husband.  I felt like I was cheating but someone said to me, those on welfare can go into places that give free coffee and tea and enjoy it.  I was therefore okay paying my husband for my 7 cups of coffee.

On the 1st day, I used my 3 cans of beans, 1 can of corn, half of the tomato paste and half an onion to prepared a big pot of chili.  I then used the remaining tomato paste and onion to make spaghetti sauce.  I was all set for the week.  My meal plans were:

Breakfast:  Oatmeal and coffee. Lunch:  Tostadas – 2 or 3 corn tortillas with beans and lettuce or beans and cabbage (not the best combination but it was good for variety.              Dinner:  Penne with sauce, a side of beans and cabbage.  Some days I had tostadas with eggs, beans and lettuce. Snacks  Boiled eggs

By far, the tostadas were my favorite.  They were flavorful and filling.  I also made a discovery that I like burnt cabbage.  My husband called it roasted cabbage.  I left it in the pan for too long, since I couldn’t afford to throw it away, I ate it.  To my surprise it was delicious.  I encourage you to try seasoned roasted cabbage it next time.

                                       Pot of Chili                                                  Oatmeal

 

Tostadas – 2 ways [Beans + Lettuce and Eggs + Roasted Cabbage]

 

Penne with Spicy Sauce

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By day 4, delicious as my food was, I was tired of the monotony.  I was constantly thinking of food.  My dinners were at 5pm which is early for me.  One of the reasons why I was eating early was because I was starving, another reason was that I just wanted the “chore” of eating to be done with…. YES! eating had become just a chore!

The early dinners were followed by intense hunger around 11pm, my response to this was to go bed and sleep tummy down that way I wouldn’t feel hungry.  Come 5am, I would wake up starving again.  My energy level was very low at night and in the morning.  My gym class being at 7am on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, I was not able to eat before so after one hour of intense workout, I would be super deprived and weak.  After the Thursday workout, I sat in my car for 20 minutes for no reason at all, weird!!

The hardest thing was sitting through all the meetings I had that had meals.  On Tuesday  at the Chamber business showcase, it was appys all night long.  On Wednesday I visited the Autism parents support group in New West and there was food.  Thursday morning was coffee with the MLA’s and the doughnuts were looking at me.  I don’t even like doughnuts but they looked good.  Friday was the absolute hardest – 12 noon was Valley Women Network luncheon at the Vancouver Golf club,  6pm was an open house for a friend’s online radio channel, with a nice spread of food and drinks.  7pm was the senior games Chair and Director appreciation banquet.  Tons of food, unlimited drinks, everyone was having a great time.  After being tortured all day, I left early to get home and have my beans for dinner.  I had a dinner and a movie date with my daughter so on my way, I picked up her Thai food and we enjoyed our respective dinners while watching The Boss.

The temptations were plentiful.  wfIt got me thinking of how often we are faced with food away from home.  I honestly thought I don’t eat out a lot but I need to look at how much food is offered at meetings etc.

There were several highlights from this challenge.  I shared with a lot of people and got quite a few to sign the petition, mission accomplished.  Another joy was that I lost 7 pounds in the one week, Yay!!!    A few people were quite concerned about the fact that many people abuse the welfare system.  They are even more concerned that raising the rates with make the problem escalate.  While raising the rates in a priority, our government should also prioritize streamlining the system to ensure that it does not get abused.  We cannot punish those that need the help because of a broken system.

The number one victims are always the kids.  Please sign the petition and lets join hands  and call on our government to #RaiseTheRates.  Thank you Chris Wilson for challenging me to participate.  Gill McCulloch, thanks for accepting my challenge.

You can find my halfway food challenge video and other related posts on my Facebook Page

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The “C” Word

Last weeCancerk I had to drop my husband at the Westcoast Express Train Station.  I am not a morning person so I wasn’t very chatty as I was still sleepy.  We listened to Mike & Mike – ESPN commentators.  Normally, they talk about sports, but on this day, the topic was about the “C” word – Cancer.  They were fundraising for The Jimmy V Cancer Foundation.

Different people were invited to the studio to share their cancer stories.  One gentleman shared how his daughter at twelve was diagnosed of brain cancer.  She went through intense surgeries, radiation and chemo and managed to leave a normal life.  At 28, she had another complication that put her in the hospital for a month.  She is still recovering today.  He went on to share that his son-in-law who was their daughter’s support system and was by her side every minute was diagnosed of colon cancer himself.  What touched me the most was when the Dad said he would sit at the Treatment center and watch all the cars driving by on the highway and say to himself, “I hope all these people appreciate their lives and their families because being in this cancer center is tough for me, my daughter, my son-in-law and the rest of my family”.   After fighting for a short while, the son-in-law’s colon cancer quickly spread and he passed away.

I got home from the train station and decided to park the car in my driveway and continue to listen.  Mike & Mike decided to play a taped speech by James Thomas Anthony Valvano, aka Jimmy V, a basketball coach who also died from Cancer.  In his speech, Jimmy saidx4xwLn1468971611 we all should do three things every day:  LAUGH, THINK AND EXPRESS OUR EMOTIONS.  He mentioned that in his family hugs and laughs are a daily routine and he encouraged everyone to incorporate hugs and laughs in their lives and to be supportive to those around them battling cancer.  At the end Jimmy said “Cancer can take away my physical abilities, but it cannot touch my heart, my spirit nor my soul.” By this time, tears were just rolling down my cheeks.

Jimmy’s speech was funny, especially when he shared how he messed up the introduction at his very first speech to the players at Rutgers University.  I laughed so hard.  When the speech was done, I turned off the radio and went into my thinking mode.

My lovely sister who is three years older than me is battling colon cancer that has now spread to the liver.  While in Zimbabwe in May, I spent time with her at the Harare Cancer Center while she underwent her chemo treatment.  She sat in the chair from 9am to 4pm with constant IV’s of different chemo drugs.  Just before returning to Canada, we went for her halfway scan.  The lesions had shrunk by almost 50%.  The chemotherapy was working.  We were all delighted to hear this.

Since June, my sister has not been able to have the remaining chemotherapy treatments because of the financial turmoil in Zimbabwe.  Changes in import laws have negatively affected flow of goods (medicine included) into Zimbabwe.

Can you imagine battling cancer, going through chemotherapy, knowing its working and halfway through having to stop because of shortage of drugs?  It’s difficult enough knowing you are living with cancer.  Wondering when your next treatment is going to be multiplies the burden a million fold.

To further complicate the situation, when she completes chemotherapy, she is supposed to go to India for radio frequency abrasion.  The whole country of Zimbabwe does not have the radio frequency generator needed to do this treatment.  Neighboring South Africa has the treatment but the cost is outrageous, more expensive that trip fees plus treatment in India.  I have approached Rotary Clubs to see if any hospitals in British Columbia have a used Radio Frequency Generator that is sitting in a basement somewhere.  If you are reading my blog and you know someone that can help and save lives, please contact me.

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future”. (Jeremiah 29:11). Many a time, that hope and future is made possible by strangers or by someone whose purpose is to bring laughter, thinking and emotion into someone else’s life.

Take some time to LAUGH, THINK, CRY and HUG your loved ones.

Thank you for reading my blog.

Tourist in my own city

staycation is a period in which an individual or family stays home and participates in leisure activities within driving distance, sleeping in their own beds at night.  This past winter we embarked on our version of a staycation, booking a hotel in the heart of downtown, and staying there for one week.

When I go to downtown Vancouver, I always drive.  Parking is expensive but I like the comfort that comes with using GPS and avoiding getting lost.  I have attempted to use transit before but I always get lost.  My worst transit experience was when I took the King George line from downtown and didn’t know that I had to switch in New Westminster.  I got off at Scott road and and went back to Columbia station.  I did this  several times before realizing that I needed to go to a different platform to catch the VCC line.  It took me 3 hours to get home, arriving home after midnight.  My cell phone was dead and I didn’t have a charger so I couldn’t call Hubby.  I was too proud or shall I say silly enough to not ask for help.

In an effort to explore and not be a stranger in my own city, my family and I booked a suite for one week at the Rosedale on Robson Hotel.  We left the cars at home and embarked on discovering our beautiful city on foot.  It was exciting to know I was going on vacation and I didn’t have to worry about catching flights or having long layovers.

Our hotel had beautiful views.  We could see Grouse mountain from our 19th floor suite.

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We explored Gastown, Granville Island, Chinatown, Yaletown, Waterfront, and Stanley Park.  We walked 3-4 hours a day sightseeing, window shopping and enjoying the rich history.  I was amazed at how many sculptures there are all over downtown.  We spent time at the Chapters bookstore by Robson Square (which unfortunately is closing down).  We took the sea bus to North Vancouver (1st time on the sea bus for me), toured the convention center and Pan Pacific Hotel.  We didn’t choose restaurants ahead of time.  Instead, we would go for a walk and stop at the one that was appealing to our palates at that time.  We didn’t want the big restaurant chains but chose to discover the little restaurants gems that are all over downtown.  We had Thai food, sushi, Italian, burgers, Japadogs and the list goes on.

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We were so lucky that the weather was beautiful all week.  From our Yaletown base, we hiked to Spanish beach, Stanley Park, Waterfront via Gastown and Granville Island.  The most interesting was the day we went around Stanley Park.  The day started off with rain so we decided to relax and let the rain ease off.  We embarked on our hike at around 3:30pm, reaching the entrance of Stanley Park at about 4pm.  At this time, everyone else was leaving the park as it was already getting dark.  We were enjoying ourselves and taking photos along the way.  After passing Lions Gate Bridge, the trail became lonely, people were nowhere to be seen.  The temperatures dropped, the North side of the park seemed to have its on micro climate. There were high cliffs that were covered in ice.  Lexi and I were a bit scared.  This was uncharted territory and there was an uneasiness around it.  There was a lot of slash on the ground.  We were certainly not dressed for this.  We slowed down and we were zig-zagging trying to find a path with more slush and less icy water when suddenly a big sheet of ice fell right in front of us..  This terrified us, our daughter was holding on to her dad for dear life, her eyes were dilated.  My mind was racing and my heart was beating 100 miles an hour.  We had no choice but to quickly move away from the area.  After a few minutes, we had passed the mini avalanche area.  With every turn around the park we were hoping to see the 2nd beach or Spanish beach lights but there was no sign of life.  All we could see were the lights from the cargo ships in the ocean and the North / West Vancouver lights across the water.  You can imagine how we felt.  When going on a trail  that you have never been on, I recommend that you do some homework and avoid hiking at night.  Here are some of the views from this hike.

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That last part of the hike was excruciating.  We were cold, wet, hungry, tired, scared (although Alex said he wasn’t scared). When we finally could see 2nd beach, we were all relieved.  We met a couple of joggers.  The sign of human life was long overdue.  We stopped at the first warm place we found which was Fatburger.  I don’t really like burgers but that burger was the best burger ever.  We sat there and laughed at the experience we had just had.  We stopped at Starbucks for coffee and hot chocolate on our stroll back to the hotel via Robson Street.

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On our last night, my husband and daughter had had enough, they opted to return home.  I stayed at the hotel and had some alone time.  I had time unwind, relax and reflect on the week and year that had just passed.  I read and finished “Women, Food and God” by Geneen Roth which I totally enjoyed.  I caught up with some episodes of House of Cards, hung out at the pool and hot tub.

Though we were busy each and every day, there was a lot we could have done.  I am looking forward to part two of discovering our city.  We will focus on the art and culture next time around.

We live in a beautiful city! People come from all over the world to enjoy our beautiful city, food, art, culture and of course the people.  What’s not to like?  I challenge you to be a tourist in your own city no matter where you are.  You will be surprised at how much you will discover.

Life is too short, live each day as if it was your last.

Feel free to share your own staycation experiences below.  Cheers for now.

Be Nice to yourself, Get Moving!

Do you ever have those days were you are super exhausted and you wish you had an elevator in your house?  I am referring to those long days when you convince yourself that you had such a rough and busy day so you deserve to relax, watch your favorite show and have a refreshing drink of your choice?  Forget exercise!  I have had my fair share, especially since I think I am a super woman and I often over schedule myself.

In an effort to break this habit, I recently decided to invest in a new gadget, a Polar 400M activity watch with a heart rate monitor.  This watch keeps me honest, it reminds me to get moving when I get caught up in my day to day business life.  Below is an example of a day that I thought I was very busy and active all day.  I did all I could while I was running around i.e parking away from entrances, taking the stairs and walking as much as I could in between appointments.  When I looked at the end of day summary, I was shocked, I only had 4475 steps.

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Since obtaining my new toy, I now hold myself accountable and keep track of my activities all day long.  If I sit on my desk for an hour, the watch beeps and tells me “Its Time to Move”.  I love it.  In my quest to get moving, I joined my friends @Body Exchange Tricities on an 8km hike around Buntzen lake this past weekend, I even played tennis afterwards.

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Our lifestyles these days are putting us in extreme Dis-ease.  We have mental, physical and chemical stress.  It’s no wonder we try to find quick fixes and become serial dieters.  The simple answer is to make healthy meal choices and get moving.  If you have an office job or if you spend the day driving around like I often do, choose an outdoor activity.  I absolutely love my Boot Camp at www.BodyExchangeTricities.com, the instructor, Rachel and the ladies are super supportive.  My favorite part is the magical relaxation after the workout when we get down on our yoga mats to cool down.  I love to stare at the clear blue sky, watch the clouds move to or from the North Mountains or simply close my eyes and just be!

I challenge you to STAY ACTIVE, it does not matter how slow you start as long as you won’t stop.  Please share how you are staying active below.  For me, at the moment it’s Boot Camp, Tennis, Walking/hiking and I am adding cycling.

I would like to dedicate this little write up to my friend Fouzie Zubhada Moola who had a massive heart attack and died 2 months ago.  Rest in peace my friend©