6 Things To Know About Kwanzaa

by Lindsay Shapka in ,

Screen Shot of the first US Stamp to Celebrate Kwanzaa

1. Maulana Karenga created Kwanzaa in 1966 as the first African-American holiday. It is observed throughout the USA, Canada and in parts of Brazil. 

2. It is a week long celebration that runs from December 26 – January 1.

3. Kwanzaa does not replace other seasonal holidays, and many celebrate it alongside Christmas and New Years.

4. The point of the holiday is to celebrate African history, culture and unity which is done through lighting candles, decorating the home with traditional art, wearing traditional clothing, performance, and feasting with family and friends.

5. There are 7 Principles of African Heritage that are meditated on during the week. They include; unity, self-determination, collective work & responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity, and faith.

6. People commonly greet each other with "Joyous Kwanzaa!"

Book List: Crush It! Why NOW Is the Time to Cash In on Your Passion

by Lindsay Shapka in , ,

Do you stay awake at night, your brain swimming with ideas and dreams? Are you willing to do whatever it takes for the chance to live entirely on your own terms?
— from Crush It! Why NOW Is the Time to Cash In on Your Passion

Though written almost four years ago (in 2009) this bestselling book on how to 'cash in on your passion' by Gary Vaynerchuk is still relevant, inspiring and bound to get you started on creating opportunities for yourself rather than waiting for them to come along! (It worked for me!)

If you have ever toyed with the idea of starting your own blog, business, or social media strategy — or been told that in order to be successful in your field you need a personal 'brand' or platform —  Vaynerchuck shows you how to use the Internet to turn your real interests into real opportunities. 

What makes him such an expert you ask? He did it himself! See his success store here

Why do I recommend this book over all other 'social media how-to manuals'? It is a basic, easy, step-by-step guide that gives even the most technologically inept a chance to create something that is all their own.

What are you waiting for? Get out there and CRUSH IT!

The Difference Between Complete and Finished

by Lindsay Shapka in ,

No dictionary has been able to adequately explain the difference between the words complete and finished. However, at a linguistic conference attended by some of the best linguists in the world, a single man changed that.

The director of the conference issued this challenge: "Some say there is no difference between the words complete and finished. Please explain the difference between complete and finished in a way that is easy to understand."

This was the man's astute answer: "When you marry the right woman, you are COMPLETE. But, when you marry the wrong woman, you are FINISHED. And when the right one catches you with the wrong one, you are COMPLETELY FINISHED!"

His answer was received with a standing ovation lasting over five minutes!

This story — taken from an e-mail that I received from a colleague — makes a very important point: Sometimes language can not be defined, explained or translated in a way that makes academic sense. Sometimes you understand the meaning only by the context of a word or the way that it is said.

Some of the most beautiful poems lose their beauty when translated, and texts translated from a different tongue to English lose their meaning.

Language transmits culture as much as a dance, music, or art does. And like these other mediums, trying to define, or understand often causes meaning to be lost. Or, the general public has moved on to a new word, painting, or instrument leaving what scholars were trying to define obsolete.

6 Things To Know About Life In Frozen Climates

by Lindsay Shapka in , ,

1. You will have to plug your car in... like a toaster. Yup, it’s true! It gets SO cold that if you do not plug your block heater into an electrical source so that it keeps your anti-freeze warm, your engine will not start. Don't worry though; many outdoor parking lots have electrical outlets. 

2. People who live in cities that are located far to the north (or south depending on the time of year) get SAD. Seasonal Affective Disorder is a medically diagnosed condition for the 'winter blues' that many people get because of how short the days become. The lack of exposure to sunlight can result in a deep depression. Don't worry though! There are solar lights that you can buy to sit under that are sure to cheer you up! 

3. You will need to learn how to layer! Just because it’s cold doesn't mean that people stay inside. It just means that you will have to wear long underwear, sweaters, snowpants, a neck-warmer, toque, mittens, wool socks, a jacket, winter boots... you get the idea.

4. If you are going to be walking around outside, leave your expensive, stylish, or trendy shoes at home. Because of ice, the sidewalks get covered in sand and salt so that pedestrians don't slip. This can seriously damage leather or suede shoes. Need another reason? It's freaking cold! You need socks and good grip to keep safe and warm! 

5. Wind-chill plays a HUGE part in how cold it feels like outside. It may be –25 degrees Celsius (–13 degrees Fahrenheit), but with the wind-chill it could feel like –40 (–40 degrees Fahrenheit). When the temperature is forecasted, meteorologists will usually tell you how long it will take for exposed skin to get frostbitten so you know how covered you need to be to walk safely outside. TIP: If you are doing any sport or activities in this chilly weather, cover exposed skin — like cheeks or your forehead — with Vaseline to keep a protective barrier between it and the wind. 

6. Nobody lives in an igloo! Though ice is celebrated through ice sculpture competitions and festivals, nobody actually makes an igloo their permanent home anymore. Houses are extremely well insulated however, and have to be built a certain way to ensure that any pipe with water running through it will not freeze, burst and cause flooding. 

Book List: Black Berry, Sweet Juice

by Lindsay Shapka in , ,


As travel amongst young adults becomes more popular and accessible, border crossing relationships are becoming the norm. It is not strange to see a Brazilian with an African, or a Korean with a Canadian. 

The product of these relationships are children who are a combination of two VERY different worlds, and that—as award-winning author Lawrence Hill (The Book of Negros)  so aptly points out in this book—is where the identity crisis begins.  

Hill begins the book with his own family stories about how his white mother and black father met, and what it was like for him to grow up in an almost entirely white suburb of Toronto, Canada. His struggle with which part of his heritage to identify with, and how outsiders boxed him into EITHER black or white led him to search out other Canadians with similar parentage. 

The result is this eye-opening, sensitive and courageous book that—I guarantee—will challenge the way that you view ethnicity and ethnic identity.

If you enjoy this read, be sure to check out some of Hill's other publications.

6 Things To Know About The Amish

by Lindsay Shapka in ,

. There are about 8 subgroups of Amish who are themselves a subgroup of the Mennonite Christian faith.

2. The most traditional descendants speak Pennsylvania German (also known as Pennsylvania Dutch).

3. They live by a strict set of rules that include limiting the use of electricity and telephones, not driving automobiles, wearing plain (homemade) clothing, and never accepting help from government programs like Social Security.

4. Children only attend school until grade eight.

5. Rumspringa, or “running around” (recently made into an overdramatized TLC series called Breaking Amish) begins around the ages of 14-16, and is a time when young adults can break all of the rules and see what life outside their communities is like. During this time, those on rumspringa can wear “English” – aka modern – clothing, drink, use technology, and live in urban cities with NO penalty. This gives these young adults a chance to make an informed decision about whether or not they want to commit themselves to the church or not.

6. Baptism does not occur until around the ages of 16 and 25 (after rumspringa) which joins the individual with the church and community for life. Marriage can not occur until baptism does, and the Amish may ONLY marry individuals that are a part of their congregation. 

Reads For The Road: Starbucked by Taylor Clark

by Lindsay Shapka in , ,

Written by Taylor Clark — a guy who has NOTHING to do with the company itself — Starbucked tells the tale of how Starbucks began.

If you are a supporter of the mom-and-pop, unique cafe around the corner, and make it your life’s goal to avoid the seven Starbucks store that exist in one city block, you might be surprised that Starbucks was started by a few guys who were doing the same thing.

These guys were living in an era before major coffee chains, and when “American Coffee” would have taken paint off the wall. Not only that, the idea of the “cafe” where you could read, study, or visit with friends didn’t even exist. 

Fascinated by a specialty coffee shop that popped up where they were living, they started asking questions, doing some research and developing (what was at the time) a very ambitious business.

Combining his own investigations with witty observation, Clark tells the story of how the coffeehouse culture changed everyday life in North America and — as much as we hate to admit it — Starbucks led the way.

Give it a read, you might look at the green mermaid a bit differently if you do!