The Mindful Merchant

Shop – Eat – Live – Mindfully

Respect July 7, 2010

Filed under: children,education,family,hate,parenting,racisim,respect,special events — MindfulMerchant @ 11:40 pm


This year was a challenging year for our kids at school. More independence, less coddling by teachers, homework and school yard dynamics. Oy!  Some of it we anticipated as part of attending a full day in the primary grades. There were issues with inclusion, speaking up,  hurt feelings and even and a bullying incidence. (which has resolved – fingers crossed)


Some of it, my husband and I were unprepared for.  Like the time our youngest had her pals over for a play date. Sitting around the kitchen table having a snack they sang a new rhyme they learned at recess. It was a derogatory song making fun of a specific ethnic group. Whoa! I cut them off mid song and we talked about the words and their meaning. They were unaware that the rhyme was so awful and felt badly afterward.


One of the biggest shocks my husband and I were not prepared for were questions about unfamiliar words they heard in the playground. “What does “gay” mean, Mommy?”  – “What does “retarded” mean?” Seriously?! Grade 1 and 2 children are running around calling one another these unacceptable words?   Yes.  Unfortunately, some adults are still use them too. 


Perhaps people are unaware that the words are full of hate and hurt.  Many of us grew up hearing the terms and think nothing of using them.  Recently, I asked someone not to use the word “retarded” with me and they argued there was nothing wrong with it – because it was a ‘legitimate clinical word’ and they didn’t say it in a mean way. Ooooh, that was an interesting conversation… 


One of the blogs I follow is Dave Hinsburger’s blog – Rolling Around in My Head. He has worked for over 30 years in the field of disability, is an author and travels the world as a lecturer. His writing makes me think and reflect, sometimes cry, and delivers a powerful message.   


Dave recently wrote about marching in the Toronto Gay Pride Parade with his organization Vita Community Living Services. He wrote, “We had determined we wouldn’t just ‘be’ in the parade, we wanted to ‘work’ the parade. As the parade is, in part, a celebration of diversity”. He had cards printed and with the help of co-workers and other groups marching that day, handed them out to the crowds. I thought they were so powerful I asked Dave if I could share them…he said yes.







After the parade and the crowds dispersed, Dave noticed coming back up Yonge Street no cards were thrown on the ground. An encouraging sign!  I hope Dave’s cards will inspire sharing this message with family, friends and community.   At the very least,  invite discussion, which is always the beginning of change.





An Eco-Adventure with my Peeps April 4, 2010

Filed under: eco-friendly,education,holidays,Ontario — MindfulMerchant @ 7:41 pm

sc-green-main-photo This past year marked a BIG birthday for me and my pals.  Friends for 30+ years, adds up to a heck of a lot of birthday celebrations.  We wanted to do something special and different.   Suggestions started flying around.   Spa?  Fancy restaurant?   Nah.  I sent them a link for an Eco-Adventure Tour, zip lining and cave exploration…as a joke. One by one, my friends emailed back – everyone was keen to try.  Crap. That attempt at humour totally backfired.  After a self pep talk, I decided to participate.  How scary could it be?  So we booked the tour and all the rooms at The Willow Trace Bed & Breakfast* found on the Canadian B & B website.


The Eco-Adventure Tour is a 3 hour guided adventure starting with a walk 60ft in a 200-year-old tree canopy on top of Blue Mountain in Collingwood, Ontario.  The website says, “Become one with the birds”, a zip line experience and cave exploration enjoying moss and rare ferns.  The tour is ‘eco’ for a many reasons.   Every aspect of the adventure strives for minimal negative impact on the environment.  The tourism takes place in an undisturbed natural setting and incorporates both natural and cultural heritage.


We left Toronto early Saturday morning, had a quick lunch in downtown Collingwood and hopped in the car ready for our adventure.  We turned in the driveway and parked under a giant cable that runs down the mountain.   “Wait a minute…isn’t it supposed to be a 300ft zip line?” I stuttered.  “Oh, you must have missed the BIG zip line video straight down the mountain,” they informed me. I kicked myself for skimming the website.

We signed our life away with waivers and legal forms, were weighed (that was fun) and outfitted with hard hats, harnesses and cables.  We gathered in a circle, met our energetic guides and introduced ourselves to the group. What an interesting bunch…there were 6 women celebrating 50th birthdays, a few men and a grandmother spending a special day with her 16-year-old granddaughter.


Once we met Grandma, I relaxed a bit.  If a 68-year-old woman could do it, surely I could too.P1010075[2]_(2) We began with a short hike over a 410ft suspension bridge. The view of Georgian Bay was stunning.  Next, we boarded a tractor and drove up and into the forest chatting with the other participants.  After picking a ‘buddy’, we had a lesson and test on how to hook/unhook ourselves safely from one cable to another. As we stared up the 40 ft ladder that lead to a tiny platform in the trees, Del and Niki said they did not remember the tree top part being so high off the ground.  Seems I was not the only one that skimmed through the website.  


The treetop walk is a series of 10 suspension bridges of 10-inch wide planks.  We tied on to overhead cables and held steel wire on each side to stabilize.  The weight and movement of others made the planks swing and bounce.  It was hard to balance.  After about the fifth bridge I started to unclench and enjoy the incredible view. 


If you are wondering about safety, Niki grilled our guide about every possible safety concern she could think of.  No one has ever died or been injured on the tour.  The guides train for all potential problems and yes, they constantly inspect the planks and wires for strength. The staff were fun, patient and knowledgeable about the history, geology and ecology of the area. 


What a great feeling after crossing the last suspension bridge.  High fives all around.  How do we get down?  Well, we clip onto another line, walk down a small ladder hanging 80 ft off the ground and jump.  300 ft in seconds.  Oddly enough, Del and Niki who found the treetop walk challenging, had no problem with the zip lines.   I was a nervous Nellie for pretty much all of it. Karen and Carm, the two fearless wonders breezed through every activity. 


P1010093[2]_(2) Next, we hiked down into the caves.  They were mossy, cold, slippery and beautiful.  Their history is spiritual but also dark.  The native people who migrated to the area, the Petun, called the caves the Village of the Souls and The Sacred Rock.   When the Iroquois attacked Huron and Petun tribe in 1648-49 villagers lured their enemies into the caves, easily barricaded the narrow entrance/exit and then killed with arrows from above.  It was easy to imagine how it took place once down in the narrow cavern.


mail[8][1] A short walk to the zip line meant the tour was almost over.  Almost.  1000ft down the mountain in 20 seconds.  We gathered on the platform and the staff locked the chain link door behind – for safety. (gulp) The view of the valley was spectacular.   A crowd of tourists gathered on the other side of the fence to watch us take the plunge.  We received two final pieces of advice. (1) The more frightened you are the sooner you should go and (2) For an extra thrill, you can tilt back and flip upside down to the bottom.   “O.k…Who would like to go first?”  I felt the fence press into my back.

Grandma was one of the first to volunteer. She re-enacted the “Nestea” commercial.  Walked down the ladder hanging over the gorge, turned around to face us, put her arms up fell backward into the air.  It was brilliant. Her granddaughter chose to flip upside down.  Clearly, she inherited her Grandma’s daredevil gene.  With every keener’s turn, my fear kicked into a higher gear.  I asked to go next.  I walked down the ladder shaking like crazy, said a few choice words and jumped.  My friends cheered.  Once unhooked at the bottom I found a comfortable deck chair and watched my brave friends fly down the mountain – so amazing.   It was an unbelievable day.

The rest of the weekend was spent recovering, laughing, eating, drinking and recounting different parts of our adventure.   We were all thrilled with our Eco-adventure Tour and ourselves.  It was a perfect weekend celebrating our friendship and life. All five of us would recommend it to anyone looking for a challenge, a beautiful nature experience and a story you can brag about for years to come. 


Now we are discussing our next big birthday.  Someone suggested bungee jumping but they were totally kidding…I think.




*The Willow Trace B & B was an excellent place to stay.  Clean, quiet, good location and luxurious.  The owners were gracious and excellent cooks!   We would visit again.


An Oldie But A Green Goodie March 1, 2010

Filed under: children,education,environment,environmentally friendly,green books,parenting — MindfulMerchant @ 11:45 pm


200px-The_Lorax Sometimes it is hard to buy gifts for children. I cannot keep up with what are “in” toys… dolls that look like their owners or cars that change into robots. Throw in concerns about toxic plastics/paint, choking hazards, excess packaging, product recalls and it is enough to suck all the fun out of gift giving. I like to buy our family’s  favourite books as presents.  Our eldest daughter thinks that books are “boooring gifts”. <said with the eye roll>  How can you go wrong with a great story?

I rely on books to help with parenting challenges too.  Afraid of the toilet flushing? What is wrong with Grampa?  Off to the library I go to find a book. Thank goodness for stories that explain a challenge in an uncomplicated, encouraging way.

There is a lack of good children’s books about earth friendly action.  Environmental issues are not always cheerful, but a story for young people told with graphic photos of oil slick coated birds and clear-cut forests is frightening. (The book I describe I found in the early reader section ages 3+)   It is difficult to find a positive message without a preachy/scary tone. 

We are experiencing a Dr. Seuss revival in our house.  Our youngest daughter is enjoying reading his books all on her own. I dug out my childhood collection and made a surprising discovery. I forgot about The Lorax by Dr. Seuss!  It is a whimsical story about conserving the earth’s resources and it is wonderful.  Forty years later the message continues to resonate. It is about losing Brown Bar-ba-loots,  Truffula Trees and Swomee-Swans and the forests they inhabit. It is rhyming fun with colourful illustrations and catchy “Seuss-isms”.



Here is an excerpt


“But now,” says the Once-ler,

“Now that you’re here,

The word of the Lorax seems perfectly clear.

UNLESS someone like you

Cares a whole awful lot,

Nothing is going to get better.

It’s not.


“SO…Catch!” calls the Once-ler.

He lets something fall.

“It’s a Truffula Seed.

It’s the last one of all!

You’re in charge of the last of the Truffula Seeds.

And Truffula Trees are what everyone needs.

Plant a new Truffula. Treat it with care.

Give it clean water. And feed it fresh air.

Grow a forest. Protect it from axes that hack.

Then the Lorax

And all of his friends

May come back.”



Warning: The Dr. uses the word “stupid” and “shut-up” in the story.  (Gasp!)  


New publications of The Lorax print on recycled paper.  Random House, Conservation International and Dr. Seuss Enterprises launched an initiative on Earth Day 2008. It is an effort to raise awareness of environmental issues and inspire earthy friendly action worldwide. There is an interactive website too with games and information for kids of all ages.

If you are looking for a good green story for the little reader in your life…I recommend this book.  Do you have a favourite?  Please share  :) 





I know more about computers than my 8 year old…maybe. November 14, 2009


6e62514e9aa0e1c6[1] I remember being so impressed there were computers in my daughter’s junior kindergarten class. It did not take long before she was comfortable navigating her way around a computer. Now I learn useful tips and shortcuts from my eight year old. That is humbling.

The other day I casually made one of those stupid “When I was little” comments when a few of our children’s friends came over to play. Never say anything that begins with “When I was little” unless you really want to feel prehistoric. The kids were chatting about their favourite computer games while sitting down for a snack. I piped in with “When I was little, there were no computers at school or at home…we used typewriters”. The room fell silent. Everyone turned to look at me in amazement. No computers? What is a typewriter? Followed by the inevitable “Wow, you are OLD!” comments. That night before bed, I dug out a neglected jar of wrinkle cream and tried to target certain areas.

The girl’s school does a great job educating children about environmental issues. They come home with new earth friendly ideas, (see my post on candlelit dinners) pressure us to make more green changes…and be consistent.

Now that the children are a little older, they are starting to learn about pollution, endangered animals and the effects of climate change. My husband and I do not always know how to answer their questions. While searching for information I discovered a few educational web sites that I like to explore with the kids. They talk about environmental conservation, concerns, wildlife protection and making a difference in the community. The best part is they deliver the information in an interactive, and  fun way. These websites are not just for children or teachers – I learn something every time we play a game or take a quiz.

First, I must give my cyber safety shpeel. Just a reminder to make sure your children’s computer time is a safe experience. Sit down with them, read instructions together and pay attention to their activities on line. Sometimes being in the same room while they are working on the computer is not enough supervision. Be careful and cautious.

Here are three educational websites that I think are worth checking out.


National Geographic Kids.

Our kids like the People & Places section (See and read about the 7 wonders of the world or tour Greece)

Space and Science section (Find out if Pluto is no longer a planet)

Just Joking (Me, I am not so crazy about the jokes after a few weeks – but our kids love it and it gives them a good reason to call the Grandparents)

Recipes from around the world (like Kwanzaa Creole Bread Pudding)


Eco Kids Canada

What a good site for quizzes! We love quizzes.

This is a great resource for information under Homework Help – Climate change, renewable energy, First Nations & Inuit, Earth Day, Waste and Wildlife.

Very good print outs for colouring. A fun craft for young children.


EEK ! – Environmental Education for Kids

This is my favourite site.

We like Critter Corner to read about all the critters of the world. It shines a light on endangered species.

Our Earth discusses our environment and environmental issues in an easy and direct way.

Natures Notes taught us about Phenology. (Nope. I am not telling you what that means) It encourages observation, something all children do so well.

They even discuss environmental jobs…like a Hydrogeologist. How cool is that?


Children learn from modeling. They follow our lead in life and when it comes to environmental issues, we should try to discuss, be enthusiastic, and act. If you are curious or interested in eco-friendly websites for children these are my suggestions to start. Have fun!