A Brief History of Community Building

I was fiddling around on YouTube just now and rediscovered some videos that I made a few years ago during a Culture Days weekend. That got me thinking…

First, a bit of background. Culture Days was actually one of the catalysts that led me to stay in Kingston for good (the main catalyst was Kelvin). It was 2011 and my burgeoning love for community building inspired me to organize a Culture Days event here in town called KINGSTON THROUGH MY LENS. It was essentially a 10-day, city-wide photo project that aimed to visually share community stories. That year, I also sat on the first Kingston Culture Days planning committee. It was great fun.

Fast forward one year, and I decided to participate in Culture Days once again. I was in the midst of planning our wedding at that time, so I wanted to take on something a little more low-key. Enter: THE HAPPY POST PROJECT. My goal was to collect a whole whack of post-its with things that make people happy written on them, and to then display them at my favourite west end park in Kingston. The day before the installation, I did a full-day bike blitz where I biked around the west end and asked people to write down what made them happy. I filmed a series of videos to document the day. I also live tweeted the whole event using #HappyPostYGK. Reading through those tweets gave me great joy.

This past September, after a few years away from organizing community initiatives, I spearheaded the development of EDCAMP KINGSTON, which is/will be an annual unconference around education in our city.

Kelvin mentioned this morning that I have an “entrepreneurial spirit”. And I’ll be honest, if it weren’t for my parents both being civil servants, I very well may have picked a more entrepreneurial route in life than teaching (though I did say that even within education, there is plenty of room for exploring uncharted territory). I inherited from my father a love for the city, and this has resulted in a tendency for me to develop random community projects.

Recently, I was listening to Episode 21 of THE SIMPLE SHOW, which featured this amazing community movement called NEIGHBOR’S TABLE. I’ve decided that I’m going to do a rendition of this in my own neighbourhood. I’m fairly inept on the cooking and hospitality front, so it’s going to be a much simpler version, but I’m really looking forward to it nonetheless. I’ve shared the idea with some of my neighbours already, and I can’t wait until the warmer weather to get my dinner organized. I have high hopes for this little initiative!

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So Andy has developed a propensity for edges. He loves all edges. Edges of tables, of sofas, of beds, of his change pad. He somehow managed to turn 180 degrees on his change pad the other day, and imagine his delight when he discovered all the things I had moved from the other end of the change pad…

With the slightly cooler weather (in the morning, at least…the afternoons are still ridiculously warm for the start of fall), we’ve been able to get out for walks more regularly. The falling leaves are a wonderful reminder that our favourite season is here. The season where we can layer our clothes and wear boots. I love fall.

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Today after lunch, we went for a walk to our alma mater. It’s our 5-year homecoming reunion this year, and we are really excited to be hosting our friends who are coming into town. We’re all going to the football game and so we needed to get some paraphernalia to show our Queen’s spirit (because all those cheapo t-shirts we got during sidewalk sale have seen too many days at the gym). We looked high and low for something for Andy, and eventually figured we could make him a cape with a Queen’s bandanna. Stay tuned for pictures. I think it’s going to be pretty hilarious :)

So this week I attended our quarterly 100+ Women Who Care meeting. I love being part of this group, because it allows me to learn about and also support some of the amazing charities that exist in our local community. As I was reading the reminder email, I discovered that they just started a brand new branch – 100 Kids Kingston! The idea is the same, but with a pint-sized twist. A commitment of three hours and $30 a year. Plus kiddies can learn to give their time to the community through the 100 minute challenge. Everything about this initiative is just wonderful!

Currently…
Can’t wait for the next instalment in the Limetown podcast.
I want to watch both The Intern and War Room.

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This has been a really busy week! And Andy has become a very busy baby. He has suddenly decided that rolling is his favourite thing (second only to putting anything and everything in his mouth) so I need to watch him pretty much all the time.

Early in the week, we headed to Lake Ontario Park for Mom&Tots with our some ladies from our church. The Queen’s Barefoot Players were there as well doing a rendition of Shakespeare’s As You Like It. Probably over the heads of most of the toddlers we were with, but I thoroughly enjoyed it. So did Andy.

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This Wednesday was Canada Day, and so we continued our annual tradition of going to Fruition Berry Farm for some strawberry picking! The parking lot was muddier than the field, but we were very happy to have our rubber boots on nonetheless. Kelvin was wearing Andy so he had a bit of a harder time with the picking, but we are still enjoying our harvest!IMG_0892 IMG_0897

Andy is also getting much better at sitting up on his own! He lasted in this pose for almost 6 seconds (as opposed to the usual 1.5 seconds)!

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Then on Thursday we went to the Pan Am Torch Relay at Fort Henry! One of my coworkers actually ran a leg yesterday here in Kingston. What an honour!

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Now, remember those berries we picked on Wednesday? I found this recipe for Strawberry Basil ice cream (the only two fresh food things we have an abundance of in our home right now), and used this method to make it without an ice cream maker! I definitely used too much of our ice cream mix so the consistency is weird. Plus I forgot to put the rock salt in with the ice before had everything nestled in, so my ice melted…but still! i am really happy with how it ended up. And now I have an idea of what we can do to make it better. I enjoyed it this morning simultaneous with #nt2t. Andy was still sleeping.

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On a not so happy note, our little guy is starting to teeth. We need to get him more teething toys.

Loving the City

I came to Kingston 9 years ago at the peak of my formative years – an idealistic 17-year old who had known the comforts of suburban Toronto for all of her conscious past. The plan was to spend 5 years here, get myself a superb education at one of the nation’s best universities, and promptly return to the GTA to settle down with a government-employed husband and raise 2 kids.

Clearly, God had other plans.

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That was me. During frosh week. In front of my residence, Chown Hall, which was at the time an all-girls residence (this has since changed, I hear). How do you know I’m a first-year university student? Well, I’m wearing a lanyard for one. And that lanyard isn’t attached to a student card holder in my back pocket; it is around my neck. Also, I clearly have no regard for the fact that my shirt and my shorts look terrible together. Knowing that over 100 other people are wearing a similar uniform probably helped.

I must admit. During the first two years of undergrad, most of my focus was insular. And by insular, I mean within a 1 km radius of Queen’s campus (save for the odd taxi ride to the local mall, since I hadn’t quite figured out how to ride transit that far). Exploring the city meant taking the bus to Loblaws for some groceries. Or doing silly things like walking up Montreal Street late at night to the KFC because we were craving fried chicken, only to realize we probably should have checked the store hours (this KFC is now a Rexall). I would say I had a very small view of the city I would be spending the next four years in.

Slowly but surely, this circle opened up. Volunteering and various practicums brought me into Kingston (and even Amherstview) schools. Curiosity drew me to local establishments and events. I began dating someone (Kelvin…who now happens to be my husband) who was born and raised in Kingston. Needless to say, I came to realize that there is life in Kingston beyond University Avenue. By the end of fourth year, with my degree in hand, I would say that I really liked Kingston.

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Kelvin and me at my BAH convo. Check out his outfit before he requests I take this picture off the internet.

It was at this point that the idea of staying in Kingston long term began to present itself. I opted to do my placements in Kingston during my year at the Faculty of Education, just to keep my options open. I began connecting with amazing people outside the university, and local organizations like the Kingston Arts Council. I wanted to hear and share stories from people who lived in Kingston, so I planned an event called Kingston Through My Lens.

Before I knew it, it was the summer of 2011. I had just graduated from the Faculty and had been accepted onto TDSB’s Eligible-to-Hire List. It was time to move back to Toronto, at least for the time being.

But again, God had other plans, and by the end of August, I found myself back in Kingston for good.

Two weeks ago, Dwayne Cline from Hughson Street Baptist Church in Hamilton came to speak at our church (full audio here). A self-proclaimed rural boy, he never thought that God would call him to minister in the city. And yet, this firecracker of a speaker is living and serving and raising his kids in the inner core of Hamilton. He shared with us some thoughts on this passage in Jeremiah, one of Kelvin’s favourites.

Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease. Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.”
— Jeremiah 29:5-7

Somewhere between buying a home here in Kingston, and standing in the shade of the beautiful Isabel Bader Centre, with an unobstructed view of Lake Ontario, it dawned on me…I love this city. I love how creative this city is. I love that people are so willing to take chances on you and invite you into the city’s conversation. I love the food and the outdoor space and how “rush hour” means waiting 2 lights instead of 1 for a left turn.

But this passage got me thinking: How am I impacting the city that I live in? And how am I living intentionally in the place that God has called me to be?

If you had asked me in 2012 whether I felt I was doing this, I would have been able to say, without a doubt, yes. But since I started working more permanently, I feel like I have disengaged somewhat from Kingston. This was a sharp reminder that we exist, and our churches exist, to really minister to the community that God has placed us in.

I am challenged to demonstrate my love for this city by engaging once again with it and with the people that make it what it is. I want to take the time to really enjoy our local culture, and to listen to the stories of those I meet. But above all, I want to pray for this city, and to seek the peace and prosperity of this place we now call home.

Kelvin and I both have opportunities this year to make a difference in the lives of people who are here in Kingston – those who are here permanently as well as those who are just passing through. It’s about time we take them.

Living on One Dollar

Living in North America, we often forget how fortunate we are to be in our current situations. We have clean, running water. We have food and shelter. We often have stable sources of income, and most of us have a means to make it through each day. But for so many people in the world, that is not a reality.

Kelvin and I have a bad habit of watching Netflix through dinner, and today was no different. It was a very fruitful time, though. Instead of watching Top Gear or Friends or Once Upon a Time, we watched this documentary called Living on One Dollar. The notion of wealth has been at the forefront of our minds lately – our church is going through a sermon series on it, we are reading multiple books around the idea of wealth and living a more radical life, and it just seems to be a pervasive topic of discussion – and so it seemed fitting that this caught our attention.

The documentary really held our attention, and it made us think long and hard about the luxuries that we have, and the means that people have to go to make ends meet. We were introduced to these amazing individuals who, despite making around $2 a day, have such big dreams and big hearts. They love each other and their community, and give so freely of the little that they do have.

I’ll be heading off on maternity leave in 3 weeks, but this is definitely something I want to introduce my future classes to. I want to look at poverty and micro financing and encourage my students to think bigger. Beyond just their own personal experiences and the daily problems they face.

And of course, with all of this comes the question…what can I do to help?

After the Storm

This is what I woke up to this morning – thick snow and blue skies.

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The snow was halfway up the window in the spare room, and I definitely wasn’t looking forward to shovelling my way out. Fortunately, I made it down my driveway no problem even without shovelling. Unfortunately, I did not have as much success going down my unploughed street.

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This evening, I put some clothes in the dryer and the machine made such bad noises it literally frightened me. Thus, I donned my hunters and headed out to clear the vent area.

Unfortunately, even they could not protect me. Snow was up beyond the top of my boots. I sank into the fluffiness, later opting to climb over the deck banister rather than walk around it to get back inside.

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Despite the cold and the wind, there is still beauty in the snow. Kingston remains a lovely place in my eyes.

My First Ever Craft Show

A few weeks ago, the organization that I work for held a staff craft show. I’ve never been in a craft show before, but I figured it would be a nice way to sell some of the cards I’ve made and to share something I love to do. It was a lot of fun (though I was up quite late the night before getting some extra cards finished just in case), and I am so glad I did it! Some of the other crafters there were veterans, and were very smart in their use of levels. I, on the other hand, had a simple yellow tablecloth and used the only container I had as a raised display for two cards. Note the mini business cards that I made myself. They are nothing fancy, but it’s a nice tag to have when I bundle up my card packages together.

I’ve really taken to this one technique of using the erasers on the backs of pencils as stamps, and I have been doing whole collections with this aesthetic.

Something else I really like is using triangles of paper to create this overlapping look. I love the different colours and patterns!

And of course, seeing as how Christmas is not too far away, how could I not do some holiday cards!

If you are in the Kingston area and would like me to make some cards for you, please feel free to send me an email. The price per card ranges from $1.50 for simple stamp-only cards to $2.50 for more crafted cards.

Happy Posting in Kingston

The internet is a source of many wonderful and quirky ideas. In a not too distant post, I talked about this project I had stumbled across called The Happy Post Project. In a nutshell, it is a project slash quasi-experiment to spread happiness around the world through sharing things that make you happy. Their goal is to reach 100,000 post-its, and I am hoping to make a fairly sizable contribution to that goal through this little activity I’ve organized in Kingston for next weekend’s Culture Days. Called Happy Posting in Kingston, it is a joint community effort to collect 1,000 post-its filled with things that make people happy. I am going to get a head start to that by asking for your help! Share what makes you happy by posting a comment below, tweeting to me at @EduScribblings with the hashtag #HappyPostYGK, or even writing it on a post-it and taking a picture of it (you can email it to me, and I will try my best to recreate it with some semblance of your penmanship). Thanks everyone!

For more information, or if you would like to come out and support the activity, check out the Culture Days activity profile.

Amazing Things Around the Web

I love to read blogs. On my iPhone, I have an app called Newsify, and every morning I try to make it through all the posts that have come up. Admittedly, some of them I will gloss over, but there are others that draw me in and move me to action. Here are four posts that I dwelled over for a while – 2 of which I would like to see come true in Kingston, and 2 of which were more for my own personal interest.

The Happy Post Project: Spreading Cheer Via Post-It Note (via GOOD)

Last year, I initiated Kingston Through My Lens. It was an amazing experience, and my plan was originally to run it again this year. However, as circumstance would have it, I need to do something a little less involved for Culture Days this year, and I am leaning towards organizing a Happy Post Project in Kingston. Simply put, people will come and answer the question “what makes you happy?” on a post-it note, and then you display it in some shape or form. Then, you take all the post-its and mail them to The Happy Post Project to help them reach their goal of 100,000 happy posts.  If you live in the Kingston area and want to help me out with this, just send me an email!

Little Free Libraries Around Toronto (via Apartment Therapy)

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As it says in the article, the idea of book swaps is not a new one. I came across Book Crossing a few years ago, and really liked the idea, but I wanted something that kept the books more so in the local community. This idea of little free libraries is great, but the price of purchasing one of their libraries is quite prohibitive, and I really don’t trust my ability to create one from scratch. Most likely, the thing will fall apart, and we will be left with a yard full of books that have been destroyed by Kingston rain (though lately we have been getting no rain…and my lawn is definitely showing evidence of that). That being said, I think Kingston could really benefit from doing something like this – maybe we could use little mailboxes or something like that. According to the little free libraries global map, there is one in Landsdowne, Ontario, on a boat dock…but alas, I do not have a boat. Don’t worry, I will find a way to get this off the ground. Again, I am sending out an open call to people who live in the Kingston area, if you can help in some way (maybe you just happen to have a vast quantity of mailboxes that can be used for this project), please email me!

A $10 Bicycle That Actually Works! (via Apartment Therapy)

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Can you tell I love Apartment Therapy? =P After watching this video, I was amazed not only at the bicycle, but at the man behind it. His process of trial and prototyping, his determination for success amidst the skepticism of others, and the way he used his skill set were inspiring. Though this is not something I would do, I have so much respect for him, and would love to try out the bike!

Monday Giveaway! (via A Cup of Jo)

There are a few personal blogs that I subscribe to, Joanna Goddard’s being one of them. I have this attraction to people who live in NYC and SF, so it seems most of the individuals that I follow are from one of those two cities. Anyways, her giveaway yesterday was this SWEET diaper bag from So Young. I am not yet at that stage of life where I will need a diaper bag, but I forwarded it to Kelvin nonetheless, after which I received a text that said “That is one of the best baby bags I’ve ever seen…How much?”. We then proceeded to scour their website, amazed at all the cool features the diaper bag has, and how it has such a rugged exterior that Kelvin would proudly tote around. In particular, we liked the built in sunglasses case, though Kelvin and I will need to determine whose Raybans will go there. And for those of you who are curious, it is $175, and available at a number of fine retailers as well as online (with free shipping for orders over $50, which this bag definitely is).

Now that I am at the end of this post, I just want to say that I really enjoyed sharing my thoughts. Often times, these thoughts will get sent off to twitter or in emails to Kelvin, my sister, and my parents, but perhaps I should use this outlet more to share cool things I find.