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January 30, 2013 / tanialittle

Thoughts on vulnerability

vul·ner·a·ble  (vlnr--bl)

adj.

1.

    a. Susceptible to physical or emotional injury.

    b. Susceptible to attack: “We are vulnerable both by water and land, without either fleet or army” (Alexander    Hamilton).

    c. Open to censure or criticism; assailable.

This theme is reoccurring in my life these days…..so I’m leaning into the discomfort.

Recently, three people have brought this to a place of importance in my consciousness:

1. My coach, ‘R’ and I are beginning to explore what it means in both a personal and professional context

2. My  close and yet distantly located  friend Andrea is the living, breathing, inspiring person I see as most comfortable in her wisdom and vulnerability

3. and now it seems my new yoga instructor (who also happens to be a trained psychotherapist) is also exploring this theme in her practice and on her blog.

A truth that I hold very dear is that people enter your life so that you may both learn and teach each other. Our ability to in fact teach and learn is directly attributed to our readiness for those actions. I also believe that if we do not learn what we are meant to learn that those people will either continue to enter and leave your life until you each have gained what you need to or until another person can help you grasp what you need to grasp so that you can move forward in your evolution.

So, I’m hearing that I need to be exploring ‘vulnerability’ and how I feel about it and how I let it affect how I see myself.

1. My coach ‘R’ asked me to go and spend some time watching Dr. Brene Brown’s TED (+ TEDx) talks. WOW – that women gets vulnerability at a whole new level. (read: enormous discomfort on my part)

After listening to this talk:

These were the big things I heard:

We need to have the courage to be imperfect (intellectually I get this, that doesn’t mean I’m not my own worst critic and hold myself to unreasonable standards)

We need to have the compassion to be kind to ourselves and then then we can be to others. (easier said than done)

Connection is a result of authenticity. We need to let go of who we think we should be in order to be who we are in order to have real connection. That means we need to fully embrace vulnerability. (see this is the run screaming part – who wants to this by choice)

What I’m learning is that I am very uncomfortable with true vulnerability.  I am one of those ‘open book’ people (much to other people’s discomfort) and I am often left wondering why traditional friendships just don’t work and why meaningful relationships are just so damn hard to develop with people. Intensity can be my greatest downfall.

2. Next comes along Andrea. Now Andrea is this kind, warm, gracious soul – that literally from the first moment I saw her I was drawn to her. Andrea is a stunningly beautiful person that radiate kindness and wisdom from her deepest internal self – and she draws people to her. We came into each others lives in a light almost ethereal way – floating in and out as though no time passed.

I think I was on facebook, on Jan 17 making a comment about having 3 days off and what should I do and and out of the blue there was Andrea. Next thing I knew we were making plans to get together after not seeing each other in over two years. We got together, had lunch, shared stories and caught up. Andrea also shared some wisdom with me about letting go, about intentionally letting our children go (in fact even pushing them out a little) so that they can learn to become stable on their own and how being vulnerable has affected her life, her parenting, her relationship with her parents and partner. It was an altogether insightful lunch that left me with what I thought was peaceful, but it in fact stirred up a lot of feeling for me as a parent and as a person about how I relate to people.

pause

A week ago I had something quite unexpected and pretty devastating happen in my life – I lost my job. For anyone who knows me well – they know that beyond my family…I am all about my professional self. I’ve allowed myself to wrap up a lot of my self worth into what I do professionally and because of this, this change in employment was fairly traumatic for me.

I’m that type A person you know who is always ‘so busy’ (by choice) and running at 100% all of the time. It’s funny that when you’re forced to stop, slow down and reflect a little you realize that perhaps you’re eyes haven’t been open to everything you needed to be aware of.

3. Slowing down is not an easy thing for me to do…so by force is sometimes the only way that its going to happen. I decided to help with managing this big change in my life that I would enrol in yoga/pilates/meditation classes at Moksha Yoga. Besides being a little sore after each class (read: out of shape), I am finding them calming, centring and a wonderful coping mechanism. I felt especially fortunately this week to take a Vinyasa class at Moksha Yoga Uptown and have the warmest, friendliest, calmest, kindest soul for a teacher (named Chantal) teach it. The class was so therapeutic for me that I left both calmer and at a place of peace than I expected too. So I sent our a tweet into the universe to thank Chantal for being such a great yoga teacher.

Screen shot 2013-01-30 at 5.47.41 PM

As good yoga people (and smart social media folks) , Moksha Yoga Uptown re-tweeted the post with Chantal’s handle so that I could follow her. I then went onto her website and took a look at her blog. Of course her latest post was on….you guessed it….vulnerability. Now if that isn’t the world screaming at me to stop, learn and reflect on this topic, I’m not sure what else it would take.

So, now I’m spending some time slowing down and being reflective about how vulnerability looks and feels in my life. (I hear you universe) I am wondering if other people reflect on this topic and what they’ve learned. I’m reading Dr. Brene Brown’s Book Daring Greatly and thinking a lot. So I welcome thoughts on this from others….in fact I welcome wholly your learnings as I suspect it will take me into deeper reflection.

Next week, I will start to look seriously for a new opportunity that I can direct my passionate, hard working self into working along side a phenomenal team of people with a shared vision, but for now I’m going to spend some time learning and listening to what the universe is obviously trying to tell me.

September 2, 2012 / tanialittle

Saying goodbye…never an easy thing.

My wonderful mother-in-law Hanne Krieger at her 93rd Birthday, November 2011.

Many years ago, when I met my partner (and now fiancée) David, I learned quickly what a close and devoted relationship he had with his mother. Thinking back to some earlier point in my life, I could recall my grandmother telling me that how a man treated his mother would be a strong indication on how he would treat me….so all in all, I thought I’d struck the jackpot.

David is the kind of son, who spoke to his mother daily via phone and visited a few times each week. In fact he even went so far as to build a custom home just around the corner from her (well before I came into the picture) so that he could be close by if anything happened. I think some women could be jealous of this type of relationship, but frankly I admired him and was very curious what kind of woman could instil this close bond with her then 40 something year old son.

When I met Hanne, she was warm, vivacious, funny, a consummate home maker, incredible cook, baker….it was hard not to be a little intimidated by  all of her skill; but then again to meet Hanne – you couldn’t be intimidated…because her absolute caring and warmth shone through in every action she took. She welcomed me – into her fold quite quickly – I think because she saw how happy I made her baby (youngest son) and for Hanne – her children’s happiness was always paramount to anything else.

Over the past ten years Hanne’s shared her family, her recipes, her stories, her cat chaos, her cottage…well you get the gist. In 2005 Hanne unexpectedly had a stroke and this stroke hit all of us quite hard.

At 87 Hanne was a vibrant women, still baking every week her kids and grandkids favourites, regularly cooking Shabbat dinner and was preparing to take her drivers test on Feb 16,….but that didn’t happen and the result was that she became paralyzed on her right side entirely. Initially she lost the ability to do many of her favourite things. But with the support of her kids and grandkids she regained her speech entirely and learned how to participate in some of the things that gave her profound joy – like poker at the casino and gardening. This was a hugs transition for the entire family, but Hanne managed the whole process with profound grace. Once she got her bearings, she made the most of what life had dealt her. Funny enough she asked me – her convert daughter-in-law to host the family gatherings that happened with regularity through the Jewish calendar.

This was a daunting task as Hanne was so gifted in the kitchen. I had been witness to her skill and also witness to the love for cooking that she gave her daughters Yvonne (the baker), Helen (the cook) and Miriam (the innovator) as well as her grandsons Jason, Jonathan and Alexander who all love to be in the kitchen. Luckily for me, I was also raised with strong, passionate women who loved to cook and as such I took the gauntlet more than willingly. I was fortunate that Hanne had slowly been passing me down recipes and teaching me what the family enjoyed.

For the past 7 years, David and I have welcomed the entire Krieger clan (26 people) into our home usually 5-7 times a year to mark and observe all of the Jewish holidays and I have always felt blessed that she handed this responsibility to me. I think she knew I would take the same loving care that she had always done with her family. She even bestowed to me a set of her grandmothers dishes from Germany that I always felt were so special to be taken out and used for celebrations. Don’t think Hanne let me off easily either – I can recall twice she scolded me for not having the silver Shabbat candles sticks shining enough….and she did let me know when something was off. That just made me work harder to please her – it meant a lot to me that I could do this for her.

Hanne changed a lot over the last 7 years as you would expect and although I felt as though she was so remarkable to live and fight through everything she had – it was evident it was taking its toll on her. She would always get sad during the winter and the entire family would pray that she could just make it through to the spring, because then she would begin the countdown to go to the cottage.

Every year since 1955, Hanne has spent the entire summer at the cottage (that David’s father Solly built), and it gave her true joy to spend time up there with her kids and grandkids. I didn’t grow up with that type of existence…but the entire Krieger clan only speaks fondly of their summers at the cottage, their lifelong neighbour friends, the food, the crafts and of course Hanne’s laughter. I never grew to be exceptionally fond of the cottage, but I always felt like I was just outside of all of those incredible memories and it made me just a little sad. For Hanne, the build up to Canada Day and a summer at the cottage always reinvigorated her as she looked forward to watching her garden grow, regular weekly visits to the casino, the big family BBQ, watching the water and of course eating her favourite foods.

Last November, Hanne had another stroke and this time at 93 she didn’t recovery as quickly. Unfortunate, for us all, Hanne’s take-away from this stroke was aphasia – a complete loss of her ability to speak.  Despite being trapped in a  wheelchair and losing so much of her regular functions and to a certain extent her dignity after the first stroke, this time the aphasia took one of the last remaining pieces of Hanne that we all loved…her ability to speak. Aphasia is a horrific curse and traps the person inside of their head knowing what they want to say, but rendering them unable to connect the thoughts in their head with their verbal skills. We noticed this winter than Hanne’s frustration levels went up, she smiled less and she made it clear she didn’t want to live anymore, which saddened us all. Hanne was fortunate to her have all five of her kids regularly spend time with her and speak with her everyday, especially Miriam and Yvonne who were her primary caregivers for the past 7 years. They all live close to her and took great joy in staying connected and hearing her hello and ya and goodbye and as often as possible dropping in to bring her flowers or baked good as she really appreciated sweets.

Three weeks ago today, Hanne went to Solders Memorial Hospital because she was having some health issues. David drove to Orillia everyday to spend time with her, often driving up with his brother and meeting up with his sisters who practically lived at the hospital, along side Hanne’s caregiver Joy. Hanne’s five children (ranging from 55-71 ) all adore their mother and all felt concern about Hanne’s well-being. It became evident after a few days that Hanne’s health was declining quickly and Hanne met with her Doctor team and then her children to make  clear what her final wishes were. Friday David drove up to spend the day at the hospital with Hanne and when he arrived home late Friday night we knew it was time. On Saturday morning we awoke and drove together to the hospital; three of our five children came up as well. When we arrived and went in to see Hanne she looked comfortable, but not like the vibrant, vivacious women I had felt blessed to know for the past ten years. Once all of her five children were there, her 3 kids-in-law and a number of grandchildren were in the room together Hanne gracefully and peacefully went to sleep. Having been witness to a number of people’s passing, I knew this was a gentle passing. Hanne brought us all together to be together, to comfort each other and then went to be reunited with our maker.

In the two days that followed, in preparing for the funeral, attending the funeral, listening to the eulogy and sitting Shiva,  I was reminded through every story that was told about Hanne’s laughter, her amazing cooking skill, her way of making each child feel valued and loved, the way she brought us all together, her upbringing in Germany, the stories of her youth. We were so fortunate that so many people came to share with us, sit with us, laugh with us and mourn with us….they helped to make what was a very difficult goodbye just a little easier and I know we were all grateful for their love and support.

David commented during the eulogy that Hanne was very blessed and in many ways she was, she was raised in a loving family, had two siblings that she was very close to, had the honour of caring for her mother (Omi) when it was her time to pass, she had 5 beautiful children (who all lived close by) 14 grandchildren (who all lived close by) and 5 great grand-children who she saw with regularity. Hanne was the matriarch of a beautiful family, who are close, loving and supportive of each other.

I loved being a daughter in law to this incredible woman and learning an immense amount from her patience, her kindness, her joie-de-vivre, her love of laughter, her inclusion and gentleness. I loved being able to call her mom and will miss her is more ways than I thought possible. Rest in peace Mom.

March 16, 2012 / tanialittle

Quote of the day…on failure

I LOVE this! We need to live by this saying more every day.

(Via @ John Haydon on Pinterest)

March 14, 2012 / tanialittle

Quote of the day….this is a life mantra of mine.

And I believe in the good in people. (via @Lindsey Rosenthal on Pinterest)

And I believe in the good in people.

(Via @ Lindsey Rosenthal on Pinterest)

February 20, 2012 / tanialittle

Pink Ribbons Inc. + the ethics of cause-washing

Pink Ribbon Inc. the movie.

I felt fortunate to have been sent an invitation by my colleague Ken Wyman to attend the National Film Board’s private screening of Pink Ribbons Inc. I had heard rumblings about this movie before I saw it….and can admit that I was insanely curious. I went to see the movie with a colleague from the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation and we were both braced for what we expected to be a hard take down of the charitable sector…it certainly wasn’t going to be pretty.

As it turns out, the movie wasn’t as hard hitting as I was expecting. I knew it was going to cause a stir and was anticipating many sleepless nights with dreams filled with media articles from people who don’t really ‘get’ the charitable sector…but at the end of the day it just made me think.

I’ve started and re-started this blog and stopped and paused and reflected, especially as I read so many other colleagues brilliant thoughts, observations, reflections, angry rants and beyond.

For me it boiled down to these simple 3 points: values, ethics and choices.

At the end of the day, these 3 simple points left me thinking and wondering. Had I had the hard conversation within the my own organization? With my own fundraising team?  Had I brought this conversation to my board to discuss…after all this is a philosophical discussion?

The answer was no to all of these questions.

I had not sat down with my own fundraising and communications team/my executive director/board and talked about cause-washing and if we were making wise choices with our own corporate partnerships. I had not asked my organization to live our values.

I had not asked our organization to put a stake in the ground and take a position. That the only kinds of partnerships that we were interested in were ones that are win’s for us as a charity, our corporate partner and most importantly our donors. Ones that would allow us to know that were were not just taking money without thinking through the ramifications of the partnerships we’d tied our credibility and brand to. I had not asked my organization to define its ethics and live up to its brand promise to its donors and to the community that we are a part of.

This reflection left me in a place that I determined that all that was left was choice. I had a choice to continue to not live by my values and to not allow my ethics to drive the conversation or I could make my voice heard and help my organization create a long-term plan to reduce our dependence on these ‘less-than-optimal’ types of partnerships and move towards truly beneficial 360 degree relationships. One’s that allowed us to go to sleep each day with a clear conscious, knowing that we are not contributing to cause-washing….tarnishing our own brand or our community.

I don’t think this conversation is an easy one, as its hard to think about moving away from partnerships that (ask us to compromise our values and ethics but) help us fulfill our mission but, I know its going to be the right one and at the end of the day our organization will be better for it and we can hold our heads high to every donor who will chose to support us.

For me Pink Ribbons Inc., did just what I think it intended to – which was make me think and make those of us who are fortunate enough to lead within the charitable sector to reflect and take action to ensure our values and ethics are being brought to the table and that the choices our organizations make are the right ones.

February 16, 2012 / tanialittle

Gratitude: #LunchMoneyDay 2012

Sharing a post from my facebook page to sum up today…and people ask me why I am so blessed to be a fundraiser.

Lunch Money Day 2012

Having survived my first Second Harvest #LunchMoneyDay, I’m feeling grateful.

#Grateful for an awesome philanthropy team who rocked everything they did, with heart, hard-work, enthusiasm and commitment;

#Grateful for amazing board members who rallied, showed up, and encouraged their team, companies and friends to get-involved;

#Grateful for the most incredible volunteers who shouted, cheered and celebrated every donation they received; shook their cans ’til their arms hurt and helped Torontonians understand what it means to help feed the hungry;

#Grateful to my incredible fiancee David and two of my boys Taylor and Alex for getting up, putting on a smile and supporting Second Harvest at a 6:30 am subway campaign;

#Grateful to the amazing sponsors and participants for Lunch Money Day and our Yonge & Dundas Square event which helps us increase awareness of who we are and what we do and gives people a reason to care, get involved and share what we do to everyone they know;

#Grateful to all of the awesome Torontonians, who volunteered, came out for an awesome lunch at Yonge & Dundas Square, ran a company or school campaign, bought a raffle ticket, blogged, tweeted, talked to their friends about us, or who generously gave at one of Toronto’s subways today.

I am elated and exhausted, but mostly I am thankful. I am thankful because all of this effort will mean that Second Harvest can do what it does best….recover food and feed Torontonians. We will do it with a joyful heart, because so many people helped us along the way.

Thank you.

February 14, 2012 / tanialittle

Valentines Day: simple wish

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Grateful to be David’s. Happy Valentine’s Day my love. xo

February 13, 2012 / tanialittle

Ode to Adele: Thank you for being such a strong role model for women

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Quite Simply: Adele blows my mind.

I remember seeing her first in very early 2010 while staying in a hotel  in Washington DC at an AFP meeting and hearing her melodic tone for Chasing Pavements.

At that time, I had no clue who she was, just that I stopped blow drying my hair, and went to stare at the television. I was enthralled with this fun, different video as much as I was the incredible stunning voice I was listening too. When I got home, I began searching for this woman…having no clue who she was and then I found her…..again. Happily I purchased her CD and played it constantly. My kids will tell you that when I get hooked to a song…..watch out – I play it repeatedly…and in this case, well I played that CD, until every word was imprinted on my brain. I laughed. I cried. I felt so connected to every lyric. It was a special bond. That was 19.

Then came 21, two years later…and well I shared that love affair with millions of people. It was long awaited and for those of us who felt that Adele had a connection to our souls…to speak words that we had never uttered out loud to anyone or even knew how to do…well this album did it. I cried and cried and cried…it took me to places that were both cathartic and cleansing and finally healing.

So last night, when Adele had her many beautiful moments on the Grammy’s,  I shouted our yeah! many times in her honour and felt that they had finally recognized her genius. I truly believe she is the greatest voice of this generation. (and despite wanting to turn the Grammy’s off many times for their lack of taste and respect for women with featuring a scumbag woman beater, I celebrated as long as I could with Adele – cheering her on)

21 has so many special songs….and I know many of you will hate me for declaring that this one is my favourite, but the lyrics for Someone like you speak to my heart and helped it heal from a place once was… and made me feel blessed and joyful for what is in my life….and I consider that pretty special.


January 30, 2012 / tanialittle

Music: the art of my soul…

I love music.

I mean, I really❤ music….all kinds of music including the occasional bit of ‘scremo’/’techno’/ and ‘rap’ that my kinds introduce me to regularly. My speed of music is perhaps a little different than theirs, but I love hearing what they’re connected to and why it moves them.

I like to have music playing all of the time – it elevates my soul, makes me smile, lets me sing loudly as if no one else can hear….and feel pure joy.

Like many people, I draw on many sources to lighten my load when I’m feeling off…and I enjoy listening to music and reading quotations from people who were able to get their stuff together in a way I haven’t quite mastered yet.

Sunday night, not long after I posted my inaugural blog post, the CTV news featued on both the local and national news the musical stylings of ‘Walk off the Earth” and their cover of “Somebody that I used to to  know”, originally by Gotye. I was really moved by the enchanting version of this song – especially because it demonstrated what true collaborations looks like (especially after 26 takes).

 

This song/video/art resonated with me across the two critical areas of areas of my life.

  • In my personal life, as a mother and partner within my family unit, I struggle with finding balance just like these musicians. With patience, good communication and with give and take there is greater harmony. (Although it can take A LOT of patience and consideration) and
  • In my professional life I strive to be the best that I can be in everything I do and in fundraising terms that  means practice, test, measure, learn and repeat. (It did after all take these incredible musicians 26 takes to get this right, but with practice makes perfection, and harmony and well incredible music that makes me marvel each time I watch it.)

I hope you enjoy this piece of art as much as I did and that it makes you smile, joyful and be grateful.

Wishing you a day filled with intentional goodness + random acts of kindness,

January 29, 2012 / tanialittle

Good + tzedakah = tikkun olam: my life’s calling

Let me start by saying, that I am not a writer.

I have never been a great writer, but I am hoping that this blog will help me hone my writing skills…so be gentle with me…please.

 

 

My Hebrew name is Tova.

I didn’t come by this name by my parents choosing. I took this name upon myself when I chose to become Jewish. Tova simply means ‘good’. I wrestled with taking this name on – could I possibly live up to all of the possible meanings of the word good?

If I paraphrase my very wise Rabbi, he’s told me (in many different sermons and discussions) that being Jewish is: trying daily to be better and closer to G-d, to spread kindness openly and without expectation, to not spread lashan hara (gossip), to be aware of my actions and choices, to live righteously and lawfully, to give tzedakah freely and regularly, to care for those around me, to teach and to learn and well so much more.

Giving and receiving

For me being ‘good’ is wrapped up in many of those ideals and I strive to live them daily, which is why when I took the name Tova, I knew that it would be a gentle reminder to me to stay focused and aware to both give and receive.

The notion of tzedakah has been a thread through my entire life.  Tzedakah literally means ‘righteousness’, and is an integral part of living a Jewish life and is in fact required of all Jews. Tzedakah is seen as a religious obligation, which must be performed regardless of financial standing, and must even be performed by poor people.

It’s fascinating to me that tzedakah is required within my faith; that we all have an obligation to care for each other and that our society is only as strong as our weakest member…because to look around in the world today – one might wonder where people’s consciouses are…after all, many who live all around us need our help.

In the wise words of Albert Einstein “The value of a man person resides in what (s)he gives and not in what (s)he is capable of receiving.”

Everyday I wake, and I am reminded that my name means good and that I have an obligation to dedicate myself to elevating others…to give and receive. More often through my giving I receive much more than I could ever hope to get in return …and while this might sound a little cheesy, anyone who is a fundraiser by profession knows that philanthropy is both enlightening and uplifting and that we do it by choice so that we can tikkun olam (make the world a better place).

I feel fortunate to have my life’s calling centred around the making the world a little brighter and I look forward to sharing my observations with you as I go along this journey.

Wishing you a day filled with intentional goodness + random acts of kindness,