Painting our Canvas

Three Tables Beach

Three Tables Beach

“Today was about chasing sun-rays, beach waves, & sunsets. All things beautiful that give you peace are worth chasing. Everything else isn’t.”
April Mae Monterrosa

Perhaps one of the most beautiful things to behold is a sunset. I have been fortunate enough to find myself in many parts of the world taking a moment to appreciate a sunset. Whether on the Canadian Prairies or on one of the islands of the South Pacific, Australia, Costa Rica or most recently the North Shore on the island of Oahu to name but a few, a sunset like a snowflake or people, no two are exactly the same.

The romance of a walk on the beach, holding the hand of your girl as the sun glistens on the water. Skinny dipping or drinking wine by the pool as the sun disappears from view. A time to reflect on the day of those things we didn’t get a chance to do.

The Rose Petal, James W. Hodddinott

Sunsets are a simple pleasure filling my mind with thoughts and ideas as I reflect on life and the world around me. There was almost an eerie calmness amongst those sitting or standing, as each of us in our own way, breathed-in the sun’s grandeur as it kissed us all good night. I’ve never been one that sees the sun setting as the end but rather as a reminder of nature’s wonder and it’s beauty that is there for us to enjoy. That same wonder and beauty can be found inside each of us if we just give it a chance to come out. Sometimes as April Mae Monterrosa indicates our own beauty like that of a sunset can be hidden by the dark clouds that we can surround ourselves with. Those dark clouds take hold of our brush as we chase after things that can never bring us the happiness we are all so desperately in search of.

Sunset Beach

Sunset Beach

Last night the sunset was more magical, hypnotic than most I have experienced but alas the only camera at my disposal was my mind. The sun provided the men, women and children sitting on Sunset Beach three sunsets in one. The first one painted the sky with bright oranges, and hues of pink colouring the pale blue sky and the waters of the Pacific as it slowing descended behind the clouds that lay far beyond the horizon. If you turned your back or believed sunset had ended as the clouds captured the sun bringing on dusk, you would have missed the sun’s resurrection as it came back to life spreading saffron beams throughout the darkening sky.  Even the once dark clouds, that marred the horizon, became amber and gold as the sun widened its brush colouring the night sky.



Once again as it appeared dusk had erased the sun’s canvas when like the rabbit being pulled from a magician’s hat appeared high in the night sky rose-coloured clouds scattered with hues of yellow and red reminding us that even when the sun is gone, what was, still remains. Like the sun, each of us have the power to paint our canvas and to add colour to the canvas of those around us. Are we chasing after those things that will truly bring us peace?

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Where My Sandals Take Me: Maui

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Getting back to sun, nature, walking everywhere you go helps you find yourself. Living life simply. A coffee in the morning, a walk on an endless sand beach or  a hike along West Maui’s Coastal Trail in Kapalua. If the morning doesn’t bring you peace then sitting on the beach at sunset as the sun kisses the ocean good night certainly will.

With the falling value of our Canadian Dollar it is good that for me most of the best things about a Hawaii life are free. When you add 30% to your bill even what seems like a great deal isn’t. Maui is also not the cheapest of the islands as food costs are high, much higher than home and when you add the exchange even buying the basics is expensive.

Saying all that a visit to a Farmer’s Market for fresh Pineapple, Mango, Papaya and a new favorite Passion Fruit is a special moment. Not all Farmer’s Markets are created equal and we really enjoyed the Market in Honokowai be it small and hard to find parking but staff are very helpful and you have an opportunity to sample many of the products. However to combat the plunging dollar just gave a person another reason to enjoy the beauty of nature.

The Kapalua Coastal Trail by photograph:

The Kapalua Coastal Trail

The Kapalua Coastal Trail

The Hike Begins: Kapalua Golf Villas

The Hike Begins for us from Kapalua Golf Villas

A view of Oneloa Beach

A view of Oneloa Beach


The Rugged Shoreline

The Rugged Shoreline


A beautiful flower along the trail

A beautiful flower along the trail


Looking Back from Honolua Store

Looking Back from Honolua Store

@All photos taken by James W Hoddinott

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Five Things Losing 50 lbs. Taught Me?

Healthy in Hawaii

Healthy in Hawaii

Over the last few months I have gone through some increased understandings about the importance of knowing the DATA as we make important decisions. How often do we ignore what the numbers tell us when it comes to our health? We can get on the scale or have high blood pressure or even elevated cholesterol and seem to think if we keep eating and exercising in the same way somehow things will magically get better.

I had someone tell me the other day that they wanted to lose weight but were not prepared to change their eating habits. Thinking if they just exercised a little more, that late night bag of potato chips would be okay. It is a little bit how I used to think. I didn’t think weighing myself was important or paying attention to those signs my body was telling me that I was not as healthy as I should or could be. I had all these perceptions about a healthy lifestyle that as it turned out wasn’t supported by data or more specifically what my own body was telling me. I needed to learn to be a better listener.

Actually life is the same way. It gives us signals that what we are doing is working or not working. We need to pay attention to the information we are getting and make the changes needed to get the necessary results. When I went for my physical in December I went in thinking that my doctor won’t be happy. I was right, he wasn’t. Going in my perception was that I had gained a little weight and maybe would need to lose 10 pounds to get back to my slightly (my perception) overweight self of a year ago. I never believed a person should weigh themselves. My perception was I had gained weight.  The data I used of needing a bigger pant size as a 36 waist had led to a 38. Shirts were a little snug. So in reality what could a scale and the rest of my data the physical would give me tell me that I didn’t already know.

Well when I hopped on a scale it was a shocker. Never in my wildest dreams would I have thought I would get so heavy. Trouble was although my body was telling me what I needed to know I wasn’t listening. My energy level was down, a little more moody and my knees were sore. I told myself that was more caused by stress of the job, getting older and a busy schedule. As we often do we rationalize things so we don’t need to change our behaviour. The scale, the elevated cholesterol and now for the first time ever high blood pressure. The data told the truth where as my perceptions allowed me to rationalize the truth to make me feel things were out of my control. They were caused by outside sources and out of my control. Thinking like that gave me permission not to change. Just to keep on doing as I was doing.

The scale woke me up to the truth. If I wanted different results I would need to change. I would have to take control. The result was in three months I lost almost 50 lbs and now here I am six months later weighing in at 176 pounds which is exactly 50 pounds less that day I hopped on the scale in the doctor’s office. I didn’t do any crazy fad diet just used data and changing what I did. Here are the five simple tricks….

1) Decided to pay attention to the Data

I used a program called My Fitness Pal to help me collect data and set goalsmyfitness pal. Counted calories, set eating and fitness goals and put a plan in place based on the data. Not all food is created equal. Although some may say My Fitness Pal is time-consuming and doesn’t provide enough detail about the food we eat for me it provided that balance so I could monitor my intake of protein, fat, carbs, sugar, salt and those essential areas like Vitamin A, C, potassium and iron to name but a few.

It also allowed me to set fitness goals and track not only my calories taken in but burned as well. I set manageable weekly weight loss goals that I kept track of a daily basis using the data of calories consumed and energy burned.

This calorie counting gave me the information so I understood the impact of my exercise and food I was eating.

2) Avoided late night or binge eating. Ate what I need not necessarily what I wanted.

It is so easy to have that late night snack. For the first two months I spent breaking that habit. It wasn’t easy as my impulse was to eat something when I was hungry even if it was at eleven at night. At times I did give in but when I did I looked at my calorie intake for the day and calories output. Calories burned versus calories consumed. I then chose a snack based on what my body said I needed rather than what I craved or that late night impulse high fat or sugar food.

3) Made my lunch everyday

Paid attention to what I ate. Foods that kept me fuller and are nutritious. When I didn’t bring a lunch I would either not eat which made me binge at supper or if I went out the choice of healthy alternatives was limited. My prepared lunches and food for the time I was at work made it easier to stick to my fitness goals.

4) Ate more often but in smaller portions

I haven’t eaten off a big plate for six months (other than when going out). Basically controlled portion size. Ate what I needed not what I wanted. Plate size makes a difference. We seem as part of our human nature to want to fill our plates no matter the size of the plate. The smaller plate allowed me to do that but it didn’t take as much food.

I also had a healthy snack in the morning usually a banana in the morning and then some ‘Greek Yogurt’ in the afternoon. Not allowing myself to get to hungry but also not gorging myself. I paid attention not only to what I ate but how much. I then had to record everything I ate into My Fitness Pal so there was accountability to what I was doing. I got to see my results everyday.

5) Worked hard and stuck to the Plan

There is no quick fix. It requires a plan and then to stick with it. It has been hard work and I still have a goal. I am no longer using My Fitness Pal but still use what I learned about food and exercise to maintain that healthy lifestyle. I built-in exercise into my lifestyle. I found how much better I feel going for that walk or in the cold months going on the treadmill was great. Many days I didn’t feel like it but did discover if on those times I chose just to do ten minutes, then I stuck to it. It was getting started that usually stopped me before so I needed to change my mindset. Exercise became part of my schedule, my lifestyle. I am not a jogger, so walking was my choice. When on the treadmill I increased intensity by increasing incline and I do monitor my heart rate when exercising so I use data then as well.

Now that I am where I need to be I continue to weigh myself weekly and will not let my weight get above 180. If it gets close I know I have slipped and must get back on track. I haven’t stopped eating any of the foods I like, actually never did, but do so in moderation and as part of my overall lifestyle. I pay attention to what I put into my body and am aware of the cost of some of the high fat, high calorie foods I may crave. Is it easy? It wasn’t and still isn’t but it is getting easier. My thinking has changed, I am a little smarter about foods and know some of my perceptions on healthy eating and exercise have become more refined.

I just turned 55 and I feel better and healthier than I did 15 years ago. Knees no longer hurt, I can easily walk over 10 miles in a day, without getting tired or sore (good shoes make a difference). I am wearing pants that are size 32 waist and they at times can be loose. Even my neck size has decreased. My blood pressure is great. I have more energy and mood swings are gone.

There are lots of weight/diet plans out there and in the end people will find what works for them. I chose to go with a healthy diet that paid attention to what my body needed as well as made exercise part of my life. I chose to change my lifestyle. I chose to take control of my health. For me it worked.

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Celebrating Inclusive Education

Yes I canOn Thursday, February 19th, 7 pm at the Victoria Inn in Winnipeg  Manitoba Council for Exceptional Children celebrates students, families, educators and community at the Yes I Can!! awards.

The Yes I Can Awards celebrates those individuals who are making a difference in the education of students and children but more importantly recognizes the accomplishments of the students themselves and the incredible differences they have made in their own lives and often in the lives of others.

Manitoba Minister of Education, Peter Bjornson has proclaimed the month of February as ‘Inclusive Education Month.‘ Minister Bjornson has been and continues to be a committed supporter of creating Inclusive classrooms, schools and of celebrating the successes of students at the ‘Yes I Can Awards’.

Yes I Can Awards 2014

Yes I Can Awards 2014

In 2014 over 500 people attended the Yes I Can Awards with many students receiving International Yes I Can Awards nominations.

This year marks the 25th Anniversary of the Yes I Can Awards. The awards ceremony will once again be hosted by the always humourous Glen Cassie. This years ceremony will be opened by a girl’s drumming group from Knowles Centre called ‘Four Direction Singers’.

The 2015 Yes I Can Awards will celebrate the achievement of students and educators from across Manitoba.

The MCEC Yes I Can! Awards are presented to exceptional children and/or youth to recognize their achievements in the following categories:

Academics; Arts; Athletics; School and Community Activities; Self-Advocacy; Technology; and Transition.

The MCEC Yes I Can! Awards also recognize the achievements of those that assist in making Inclusion possible. The areas recognized are:

Teaching, Leadership, Certificate’s of Recognition, Outstanding Achievement, Outstanding Educator, Teacher of the Year and Educator of the Year.

The MCEC Yes I Can! Awards also provides scholarships:

MCEC awards Transition Scholarships to encourage life-long learning of individuals with exceptionalities and Academic Scholarships to encourage and support the future of education for students working with exceptionalities. Scholarships are funded by MCEC from proceeds from the annual conference and through donations to the Winnipeg Foundation. The Winnipeg Foundation manages the Morris and Yale Hirsch Memorial Scholarship fund and the Winn Thompson Fund, both of which assist MCEC in funding these scholarships.

Please mark your calendars and attend the 25th Annual Yes I Can Awards at 7:00 pm at the Victoria Inn in Winnipeg Manitoba. The Yes I Can Awards will be an evening that will touch your heart and provide inspiration that anything is possible if you put your mind to it.




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Jane Jacobs: How not to wreck cities

Interesting Article about cities and ideas how to make them better as well as what doesn’t work

My favourite writer about cities, and a favourite of generations of my students, is Jane Jacobs, a sharp-tongued critic whose polemics were grounded in a strongly positive view of cities. She wrote her best-known book, The death and life of great American cities, when she was a New Yorker, but within a few years she had moved to Toronto, where she spent the rest of her life.

She loved cities and thought that the preservation of their livability and attractiveness was a key to the well-being of society as a whole. It’s central to Jacobs’s concept of cities that they are natural, that they grow organically out of the ways people choose to interact with each other.

As a result, in Death and life, she was scornful of the visions of planners and architects who wanted to create buildings, neighbourhoods, and parks in response to their ideas of…

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Blog: Saturday night in Paris

This gallery contains 9 photos.

Originally posted on Global News:
PARIS — It’s Saturday night in Paris. The city, as always, is elegant. But this weekend the mood is quiet and reflective. The streets are somber and glisten with headlights in the drizzle. For the…

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childrenIn Manitoba as teachers we stand for Inclusion. A place where not only children can be safe, valued and accepted, but everyone. As a teacher that is what we are supposed to stand for when we are at school. We have an obligation as teachers to work towards creating learning environments where every child can be successful. With the diverse needs in our classrooms, in our schools that is certainly a daunting task and standard to be held accountable to. It is however one of the standards a successful school is held to.

Do we stand for the same things 24/7?

Are we role models inside and outside of our classrooms?

Manitoba Teacher’s Society President was quoted recently as saying “Teachers are Teachers 24 Hours a Day.” He went on to talk about how as professionals we are held up to a higher standard when it comes to what we do and say at school as well as after school. Manitoba Teacher’s Society President went on to say that ‘Teaching is not what I do, but who I am.

If we are teachers 24/7 what does that require our societal role to be outside of our classrooms?

I agree with our MTS President that we are teachers 24/7. This means as ‘Teachers’ as well as an effective Manitoba Teacher’s Society we then have an obligation to advocate for the rights of children whose voices are either not heard or ignored. Every day we as teachers work closely with children, families and communities and get to witness first hand their struggles as poverty amongst children and families continues to grow. Child Poverty is having a devastating effect that is impacting children in and outside our classrooms. We also witness first hand children and youth and the negative effects of many aspects of social media from cyber-bullying to the exploitation of children through child pornography. We also recognize that even though the policy of ‘Corporal Punishment’ was banned in Manitoba in 2004; in practice uncommon long before that; we still have a society where too many people believe it is okay, it is their right to use physical means to punish children. This despite all the evidence to the contrary and that it harms rather than helps.


We as teachers need to have a voice that supports children and families 24/7. We as teachers need to promote a society where every person is safe, valued and accepted. We need to advocate for the human rights of all people. We need to help create societies that strive to be inclusive of every individual not only in school, but in our communities.

We shouldn’t be afraid to have our voices heard but rather make sure our words and actions support our belief of building inclusive classrooms, schools and communities. We need to advocate for a society built on human rights as the cornerstone for all government policies. It is one of the reasons I am proud of the fact as teachers as the Manitoba Teacher’s Society we so actively supported the building of the Canadian Human Rights Museum as it put our words into action.

Being a teacher 24/7 can at times seem like a tremendous responsibility and it is. However, there never has been a time in my career as an educator where children and families needed our voices more.


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