Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Dishwashing Crew @ OOTC

This is a photo of Michael and I by the dishwasher at the Out of the Cold program at Knox Presbyterian Church. We volunteer here every Tuesday night from the beginning of November to the end of April. Our program caters to disadvantaged young people under the age of 25. We provide them with a hot meal and food to take home from our food bank. After dinner they can join Darlene's sewing group, shoot hoops with their buddies, play our antiquated video game system or use the 5-pin bowling alley when we choose to open it.

We open shop at 6:30 p.m. The first volunteers come much earlier to prepare the meal. The only regular I know from that time is Pat. He's a really cool guy. There's another fellow who's always there too, but I don't know his name. I'm sort of embarrassed about that because he's been helping out for many years. Other people have come and gone over the five years that I've been here, but those two have always been there.

Since I can't cook I arrive between 6:30 and 7:00. Just in time to meet the rush of dirty dishes. Normally we get 80-120 guests plus 10-20 volunteers. That's a lot of food and a lot of dirty dishes, cutlery and pots and pans. Normally Michael and I will switch between running the dishwasher and scrubbing the pots and pans in the sink beside it. Various people will sort and put away the clean dishes for us. Usually it's Harim, Micheal's fiancée Nicole or John. If Trevor is around washing dishes I'll help put the clean ones away. At the height of the dishwashing frenzy it can be a madhouse in our area. Stay out of the way or you might get bowled over by one of us rushing in with a trolley full of dirty dishes or rushing out with the clean ones.

Our system has evolved over the months. Now the end is all but upon us. We had a good year. Hopefully I'll see some familiar faces helping out next winter. I won't be surprised if I don't though. There is a bit of turn around understandably.

Take care my friends. Have a great summer. To view a few more photos click here.

Monday, April 26, 2010

My Toronto - Skating at Nathan Phillips Square

This is a photo of the skating rink at Nathan Phillips Square looking east. I took it in the middle of December, 2006. In the background (behind the arches) is Old City Hall. Beyond that is a shiny, glass office tower by the Eaton Centre.

This is one of the larger outdoor rinks open to the public in downtown Toronto. The other one is by the Harbourfront. It's quite nice down there because of the view overlooking Lake Ontario. Though that can also be a problem because it can be windier and colder there. So there's a trade off that's for sure.

I have to say, skating outdoors is much more enjoyable than skating indoors. Who wants to look at grey, concrete walls when you can look at endless, blue skies and enjoy the wind in your face? You have to make sure to bundle up though. Mittens, a scarf and hat are a must. And though it's forbidden, you can always bring your hockey stick and pass the puck around with whoever else has theirs after the ice has "officially closed" for the evening.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Dinnertime for Madison

The twins at just under 12-months-old

I went over to my friends' place to help them move some furniture this past Saturday. They had some stuff they were no longer using that wanted to bring over to one of their parents' place. We rented a van and moved a bed, a mattress and box spring, dresser and other assorted items. After a couple of hours we returned to their place for dinner.

Before we ate I had the chance to help feed one of their two 18-month old, baby girls, Madison, her food. I'm not sure what it was. It just looked like puréed mush. Perhaps that's why it was so hard to feed her. Granted it was my first time ever feeding a baby. I'll tell you one thing... if there's anything you need it's patience. The last thing babies want to do while sitting in their high chairs is eat blended vegetables. You have to beg and plead for them to open their tiny mouths and stuff as much food in while you have the chance. Given the fact their spoons are so small it's no easy task. I was so happy when we finished the first bowl of food. I thought we were done and it was my turn to eat. I wasn't so lucky. We had two more bowls of mush to go. One bowl of corn mush and another of assorted fruit mush. Then, finally... the adults got to eat.

Monday, April 19, 2010

My Toronto - Kensington Market

Kensington Market is located close to Chinatown in the heart of Toronto. It's just west of Spadina Avenue in between College Street to the north and Dundas Street West to the south.

There's an eclectic mix of used/vintage clothing shops, cafés, ethnic restaurants and cheese, meat and small grocery stores here. If you want to experience something a little out of the ordinary you can't miss it.

View the video here.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

My Friend's Wedding

My friend from church, Michelle, got married this past Saturday. She asked me to take photos for her. It's funny, but I had no idea she was even seeing anybody. I suppose we're not actually that close. I first met her through my former roommate, Youhong. She used to visit him at my condo on a fairly regular basis before he moved to England to study. She started coming to our church at about that time.

It was a small gathering for the wedding. Just a few friends and family from both her side and her now husband, Keith's. I believe most of her family and friends are living in China. So it wasn't a large affair. It was quick and simple. All weddings should be like that.

You can check out my photos here.

Monday, April 12, 2010

My Toronto - CN Tower

This is a shot looking east from the Skypod of the CN Tower. I took it back in October 9th, 2007. It was the second year of Nuit Blanche an all night "Art Thing" sponsored by Scotia Bank. Various venues were open from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m around downtown Toronto. You could see artwork, musicians and other performers. It's quite a popular event.

This was the second and last year they opened up the CN Tower to visitors. You had to sign up in advance. You could book a free one-hour time slot to go as high up as the Skypod (which usually costs extra on top of the regular fee). The view up there was really cool. The streets glowed bright orange from the streetlights illuminating them. One annoying thing about trying to take photos from up there was the lights they had lighting up the Tower. They would shine brightly upwards once every 10 seconds or so. So if you had your camera set for a long exposure it would mess it up. You had to shoot in between as the lights flashed on and off.

There were also coloured lights that illuminated the Tower. They were neat in a way. They would light up your shots in various hues which made them look pretty cool. You can check out the rest of my shots from this evening here.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Wheel Trans Update

Not my photo

A couple of weeks ago I wrote that I attended a Wheel Trans information session because I was looking for a job there as a driver. I mentioned they gave us a brief overview of that the job entails and that we had a 40-minute written "City Knowledge Test". As I thought, I did well enough on it to get a call back only a couple business days later (the information session was on a Thursday and I got a phone call Monday morning). It was a lot sooner than I expected. I spoke with the gentleman on the phone for about 5-10 minutes. Perhaps that was another stage of the interview process. He booked me for a face-to-face interview on April 9th.

The interview took place at the TTC employment office on Bathurst north of Dupont. It was conducted by a lady who was in her mid-40's and a fellow who was, perhaps, in his mid-30's. I have to say I found it rather odd. There was no friendly small talk to give us time to warm up to one another as I'd expect at the beginning. The lady was rather rigid and business-like reading a list of questions they ask all interviewees I suspect. I don't even think they had a copy of my résumé on hand. I was asked to bring two copies with me which I gave to them. So, neither of them had any prior knowledge to any of my work or volunteer experience. They pretty much read through it after the interview or thereabouts. As well, neither of them asked what I'd considered the first question anyone would ask - Why do you want to work for us? or Why do you feel you'd be right for the job? I never got to answer any of the questions I had prepared for. Instead they wanted very specific instances of certain things that I either did at work or while volunteering.

I had to admit I was thrown off at the beginning. I began to relax more after the gentleman started asking questions. At the end they were much more cordial and we chatted a little about the sudden cold snap and nonsense like that. I was discussing the interview with another friend of mine and she surmised that it could have been a test to see how I'd react under stress. That idea did cross my mind as I was walking home. Because this job does have the potential to be stressful at times. I'm glad I'm not the only person to think of the possibility of this happening.

Anyway, I'll find out the results in 2 or 3 weeks. Either by phone or mail. Wish me luck.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Trip to the AGO

I went to the Art Gallery of Ontario again last week. My parents had picked up a free pass to go there from the public library. I went a few times last year when my friend forwarded me a free pass by text on my cell phone.

There were a few changes. Some good, some not so good. Most of the exhibits were the same. Of course you can't expect them to chance their permanent collection so much. One new exhibit they had is called This You Call Civilization? by Wangechi Mutu. It featured intricate, collage-based works by the African-born, New York-based artist. This is her first major museum exhibition in North America. It was alright.

As well, the new King Tut exhibition is on. It cost quite a bit more to see that. I didn't go. It would have bugged me not to be able to take photos of it anyway. They closed part of the stairway to the third floor where the exhibit was being held. That limited me to some photo ops of the stairway which is really unique. Though I have to say on my previous trips there I took a ton of shots of the public spaces (which you're allowed to do). So, it wouldn't have been anything new.

I always enjoy going through the Group of Seven and Tom Thompson collections. They're some of my favorite Canadian artists. I like the style they paint in. The colours in their nature scenes are always quite brilliant. I've always liked their portrayals of the Canadian wilderness. Other works I can take a pass on. The top two floors (4th and 5th) are airy and open. They show modern art. It's a nice place to start and work your way down. The 1st and 2nd floor are quite large and a bit maze-like if you're not used to them. By the time you finally finish going through the gallery I'm sure you'll be a bit worn. It's entirely doable in the period of a day or less, unlike the Met or American Museum of Natural History in New York City. They're quite a bit larger. I like the fact you can take pictures throughout those museums/galleries too.

Monday, April 5, 2010

My Toronto - Harbourfront

I just finished my Flavor of the Week series and was trying to think of something else to replace it. A few ideas popped into my head. Usually when I travel I like to take a lot of photos of whichever place I'm visiting. Also, from time to time, I'll take my camera and go out around Toronto and take a few shots. That's what I decided to base my next series upon. I'm calling it - My Toronto.

This photo was taken last June at the Harbourfront along Queens Quay, west of York St.. At one point I started taking photos at these crazy angles. I can't remember exactly when I first started. I like the look, though I believe I tend to overuse it. I'm also a big fan of evening shots. I like taking photos just before the sun completely disappears from the sky. You get a superb, dark blue background that fades to black. I think it looks great.

Friday, April 2, 2010

The 5 Love Languages

I just read through a book my friend suggested to me called The 5 Love Languages. It's an advice book written by Dr. Gary Chapman a pastor, speaker and author on topics such as marriage, family and relationships. In this book he doesn't tell you how to meet people. Rather he advises people on how to maintain or even enhance existing relationships.

Many relationships start off on a high note. That's the "In Love" phase. It usually lasts about 2-years according to psychologist, Dr. Dorothy Tennov, who has done long range studies on the phenomenon. After that, she effectively says, we descend from the clouds and see our partners for exactly who they are, warts and all.

After dealing with the initial disappointment we can chose to pursue "Real Love" with our spouse. It's a love that is emotional in nature, but not obsessional. One that unites both reason and emotion. Dr. Chapman states that our most basic emotional need is not to fall in love, but to be genuinely loved by another.

The "Love Tank"

How do we meet each other's deep, emotional need to feel loved? Dr. Chapman speaks about each of us having a Love Tank that needs to be filled. As we know people will do all manner of seemingly irrational acts when they are in love. We'll climb the highest peaks, swim the deepest seas and endure untold hardship all in it's name.

The need to feel loved starts when we are young. Without that nourishment a child can grow to be emotionally and socially retarded. In fact much of the misbehavior that comes from children stems from the fact they are yearning for the love and attention they feel is lacking. Acting up is the only way they feel they can get that attention.

Dr. Chapman recalls a story about a girl of thirteen named "Ashley". She had recently been treated for an STD. Her parents were very upset at the fact she had had sex at such a young age. Ashley explained to Dr. Chapman that her parents had gotten divorced when she was six. She thought her father had left because he didn't love her. Her mother had remarried when Ashley was ten. She found someone to love her, but Ashley felt she still didn't have anyone to love her. At school she met an older boy who was kind to her and who she really thought loved her. She didn't want to have sex, she said, but she really wanted to be loved and was willing to do anything to keep that feeling.

Ashley's Love Tank had been empty for years. Her mother and step-father had provided for her physical needs, but failed to realize the emotional struggles that raged deep inside her. They certainly loved their daughter and thought she knew this. It wasn't until it was too late did the realize they weren't speaking Ashley's primary Love Language.

The 5 Love Languages

Like French, English or Spanish everyone speaks different love languages. To facilitate a healthy relationship with our partner we have to keep their Love Tank filled. In order to do that we must speak his or her primary Love Language. It's a way of letting them know that we care for them and love them. But, if we can't communicate it properly they won't know.

1. Words of Affirmation

Bill and Betty Jo had been married for 12 years. They live in a lovely home in Arkansas and have two beautiful children together. Unfortunately for them things were falling apart at the seams. Bill was a hard worker. He spent a lot of time out earning money to put towards their home and to buy the other necessities of life. Betty Jo had a part time job, but was mainly a homemaker who took care of the house and their kids. She admitted part of the reason she took her job was to get out of the house just so they could put some distance between themselves so their problems wouldn't seem so large.

Dr. Chapman spent an hour with each of them listening to their stories. He found, despite the emptiness in their marriage they still appreciated certain things about one another. Bill stated that Betty Jo was a good housekeeper and cook, but he no longer felt any affection coming from her. Betty Jo said that Bill was a good provider, but rarely helped around the house and never had time to do anything with her.

After contemplating what they had told him Dr. Chapman suggested they both write a list of the things they both liked about each other. After that they were to select something from their list and twice a week express verbal appreciation to one another. Two months later they were to report back to him on what had happened.

As it turned out, Bill, was quite happy. Betty Jo had expressed her appreciation for all his hard work and provision for their family. He was pleased to have her finally acknowledge all the effort he put into taking care of them. Betty Jo, on the other hand wasn't so thrilled. The compliments were nice, she said, but she still missed doing things together with him. He was away so much doing things for work that they rarely had time to spend with one another. That's when the light turned on in Dr. Chapman's head. He realized that Bill's primary love language was Words of Affirmation, but Betty Jo's was the topic of our next chapter.

2. Quality Time

Betty Jo needed Quality Time. That's what filled her Love Tank. While verbal affirmation from Bill was appreciated, it didn't really do it for her. What she desperately wanted was to do things together with him like they did before they were married. She said they used to go out to dinner or travel to places. But, ever since they got married he would always be too tired to do things after he returned from work. To make her happy he would have to remedy that.

Dr. Chapman got Bill to write up a list of all the things that his wife mentioned she would like to do with him over the years they were together. Then once a week, for two months, he was to take her out and do something on that list then report back to him. Guess what? It worked. Betty Jo was ecstatic. She was thrilled that Bill was spending more time with her and giving her his undivided attention. And Bill was equally happy. His love tank was full because Betty Jo kept complimenting him on his contributions to the household. All this because they learned to speak one another's love languages.

3. Receiving Gifts

Gifts are visual symbols of love. You may receive a flower from your child that he has picked. It may not be a flower that you particularly like, but you cherish it nonetheless because you know he picked it for you out of love. It's the meaning behind the gift that's most important.

Jim and Janice live in Chicago. They have three children and have been married for fifteen years. Three years ago they had attended a marriage seminar hosted by Dr. Chapman and they said it saved their marriage.

Janice said that their marriage had been empty a long time and that she was desperate. She no longer felt loved by Jim and was seriously considering leaving him. She said she tried to be a good wife by cooking and cleaning and taking care of the kids, but she felt used and unappreciated. Jim countered by saying that he didn't understand why she was so unhappy. He would remind Janice that the bills were always paid on time and that they had a nice house and new car. He said that she was free to work inside or outside of the home if she wished and that she should be happy instead of complaining.

It was only after attending the seminar together that things began to change. One day Jim brought home a single rose he had bought from a street vendor to give to her. Another day he brought home a few boxes of Cracker Jacks for the kids and a potted plant for her. He told her he thought it would last longer than cut flowers. It carried on from a card expressing his love for her to dinners out to buying cookies from her favorite store. Janice thought she was hallucinating. She was so happy, but she couldn't understand the sudden change.

Jim explained that after attending Dr. Chapman's marriage seminar that he finally realized what Janice's love language was - Receiving Gifts. Before they were married he used to buy her gifts on a regular basis which she really loved. But, afterwards he thought they were a waste of money. He said he'd give her a card and later she would throw it out. So he stopped. But, now he realized that this was the way she felt his love and appreciation. He didn't necessarily have to go out and buy something expensive. It was the thought behind the gift that counted. That's what Janice cared most about.

4. Acts of Service

Mark and Mary are a young couple. They only been married for two years, but things were starting to deteriorate already. It seems like they could never agree on anything. Mary didn't like it when Mark went out hunting and fishing all the time. She said that he wanted her to stay home all the time and cook and clean up and that he didn't like it when she went out to visit her mother. Mark replied that he didn't mind her visiting her mother, but that he'd appreciate it if the house was cleaned up when he came home and dinner was ready. He said that he works hard and that half the time she hadn't even started cooking by the time he got back.

Dr. Chapman delved deeper into their problem. He asked them what things were like when they were dating. He found that Mary didn't mind so much when Mark went out to hunt and fish. And that Mark used to help out more around the house. Mary said she felt loved when he contributed in that way. He explained that after they married he thought he didn't have to do that sort of thing any longer because that's the way it was in his family when he grew up. His father went out to work and his mother stayed home and took care of the kids and house. That's what he was used to.

As it turns out, in this particular case, Acts of Service was the primary love language of both Mark and Mary. Dr. Chapman had them both write out a list of four things they'd like to see each other do around the house. They were to do them for each other for next two months. After that they could add one request per month to each other's list. "That makes sense." said Mary. "I think you have really helped us." added Mark as they walked off happily hand in hand.

5. Physical Touch

This particular love language is pretty self-explanatory as far as I'm concerned. Though it doesn't just mean having sex, but other forms of intimate touching like holding hands, kissing and embracing as well. Dr. Chapman says, a tender hug communicates love to any child, but it shouts love to the child whose primary love language is physical touch. The same is true of adults.

Your partner knows what he or she likes best when it comes to appreciating a loving touch. Some people take great pleasure in sexual intercourse. Others like snuggling on the couch while watching TV. While even others like passing touches like a hand caressing her shoulder as you pass by in the kitchen or a kiss goodnight or when you leave the house in the morning. If your partner's primary love language is Physical Touch, you'd better figure these things out.

Physical Touch and Crises - I just thought I'd touch upon this one subject. If your partner's love language is Physical Touch a hug in times of crises is the most powerful way to convey your love. And failure to do so in such times can be something that will never be forgiven or forgotten. We will all encounter difficult times in our lives. The death of loved ones is one example. When our partners are grieving it's so important for us to show our love and support by holding them when they're disconsolate. Your words may mean little, but your physical touch shows you care.

I hope this summary of the book has been helpful to you. To figure out your own Love Language you can take the test here. The following were my results - Acts of Service was my main Love Language, followed in a close second by Physical Touch. Quality Time and Words of Affirmation were tied for third with Receiving Gifts pulling up the rear.