Life in Balance

Through this online art blog/gallery we can encourage, inspire and share hope with one another…We invite who you to share your “NAPS” (News, Art ,Poetry, Songs) or inspirations. Email if you would like to share inspirations. Please note we can not post advice with regards to nutrition and exercise.

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Barrie firefighter blazes new trail to inspire girls in sports

From: Barrie Advance

By Laurie Watt

The strongest female firefighter in the world, Amber Bowman, is blazing a new trail to inspire and help girls go for their dreams.

Bowman has captured 15 world titles, including the 2014 Fire Combat World Championship. She brought home a series of medals from the Fire Fighter Combat Challenge in Phoenix last year, where she set new personal and world records for the races and relays she did while in full protective gear.

But between shifts with the Central York Fire Services, which serves Newmarket and Aurora, the Barrie resident carved out time to train on more specialized, challenging courses in Brampton and Hamilton.

But nothing has been more challenging that battling the stereotypes and limits others impose on her.

It prompted her to create a business, Fit by Fire.

“What I want to do is help other local female athletes achieve the goals and dream they set out,” she said, adding she enjoys talking to children about chasing their dreams.

Just about to turn 30, she particularly focuses on girls.

She said she was raised in a chauvinistic family, bit added that made her more determined to achieve.

Unlike the men she competed against at national and international events, she had to fight for every sponsorship dollar, she recalled.

Breaking that barrier is the challenge she has now set for herself, as she seeks to raise funds to create a fund for female athletes.

“I was really restricted to getting to these big world events. That’s my ultimate goal and dream — to give back to other females in their sport.”

Barrie Mayor Jeff Lehman acknowledged Bowman’s string of victories at council Monday.

“Amber is a young woman who has won Canadian and world championship medals. It’s a series of tests of strength, endurance and technique, and you’re doing it in full gear. Her athleticism and determination have been inspiring,” he said.

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Stouffville residents can get help with eating disorders

Riverwalk screening of its film Self Destructing to Survive

Published in the Stouffville Sun-Tribune January 29, 2015 

Eating disorders are “insidious” and a negative coping strategy that not only affects the person with the illness, but those around them, according to Janice Morgante, executive director of Eating Disorders of York Region’s Riverwalk Eating Disorders and Wellness Centres.

Riverwalk is hosting a screening of its film Self Destructing to Survive at the Whitchurch-Stouffville Leisure Centre Feb. 3 as part of Eating Disorder Awareness Week, which runs Feb. 1 to 7.

There will also be a discussion regarding eating disorder support and recovery.

EDOYR is an Aurora-based not for profit founded by families with eating disorder experiences.

Eating disorders, such as anorexia and bulimia, have long thought to be a women’s-only issue.

However, studies show as many as one in four of those who have an eating disorder are male, according to Morgante.

“Unfortunately, it’s become more and more equal. It’s not a woman’s issue,” she said.

Among the triggers for men, like women, is the portrayal of the perfect body on TV and in movies and advertisements.

For women, it’s being thin. For men, it’s about having six-pack abs.

What is an eating disorder? They’re extremes in eating behaviour, such as restricting food intake to the point of starvation (anorexia) or eating too much and then purging (bulimia).

“Having an eating disorder is not a choice, but a severe and debilitating mental illness,” reads the Eating Disorder Foundation of Canada’s website.

A 2002 Government of Canada study revealed 1.5 per cent of Canadian women between the ages of 15 and 24 had an eating disorder. Twenty-eight per cent of girls in Grade 9 and 29 per cent of Grade 10 girls engaged in weight-loss behaviour, according to the National Eating Disorder Information Centre (NEDIC) website.

“It does make perfect sense. A child or youth will turn to a coping strategy that is around them” such as food, Morgante said.

Anorexia has the highest mortality rate of any psychiatric illness, according to the NEDIC website.

The organization estimated that 10 per cent of people with anorexia die within 10 years of the disorder’s onset.

What is anorexia? It’s an obsession with controlling one’s eating. Anorexics believe that by controlling their bodies they can control their lives.

Symptoms include unexplained significant weight loss; severe reduction in eating while claiming they are not hungry; thinning or loss of hair; fine, white hair on the body; yellow palms/soles of the feet and/or dry and pasty skin.

Bulimia is a cycle of binging and purging.  After a person eats a large amount of food, he/she may then vomit or take laxatives to rid their body of the food.

“The person (with an eating disorder) does not identify themselves as having an eating disorder,” according to Morgante.

Friends and family members can provide help, she said, by simply telling them they are there for them and not be judgmental. Riverwalk, through community resources, helps families create a “circle of care”.

If the root cause of the disorder is not uncovered, it can lead to other destructive behaviours such as cutting or drug use, according to Morgante.

Along with psychotherapy support groups, Riverwalk provides art and yoga programs, because some people, according to Morgante, do not want a verbal approach to treatment.

“You’re not your illness. You’re yourself, including all your strengths and creativity,” she said.

To register for the film screening and discussion, go to or call 905-886-6632.

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Breast Cancer Survivor Follows Dream Through Photography

Robin Macmillan conquers cancer, follows photography dream

Newmarket Era

By Chris Simon

Robin Macmillan followed her dream because of breast cancer.

The Newmarket resident was diagnosed with the disease at the age of 39 more than five years ago.

Until then, she had worked as a film prop buyer and commercial producer and only dabbled in photography, mostly practicing the art form as a hobby. But the diagnosis, which came only a few days after her daughter’s first birthday, forced Macmillan to realize how short and precious life can be.

“She was just a baby; I was shocked,” Macmillan said Monday. “I wasn’t sure if I was going to see her second birthday. It’s a pretty barbaric thing you have to go through; it was a tough time.”

So, Macmillan decided to pursue her desire to become a professional shutterbug. After eight months of treatment, Macmillan recovered, is now cancer free and has dedicated her life to interpreting the world through a camera lens.

“After my diagnosis, I realized I needed to become more creative in photography,” she said.

“That’s when everything changed. Life is short and no one knows how long they have. You don’t get that until you’re faced with it. Everyone lives in this ignorant bliss of invincibility. I needed to be more creative because that’s what I was good at.”

Macmillan appeared in the 2010 Faces of Courage calendar — which raised money for radiation equipment at Southlake Regional Health Centre — worked on the Marlene’s Meal Makeovers cookbook and was recently profiled on The Weekly Flickr.

“She is truly a talented and inspirational person,” said Julie Achtermeier, a friend who worked on the calendar with Macmillan. “(She has) an amazing story of courage, survival and passion.”

Macmillan relies on her instincts and heart while shooting. For her, great photography isn’t about appealing to the masses.

“I feel grateful to watch a Christmas concert or to watch (my daughter) go to a guitar lesson,” she said. “It changed my confidence level. All of a sudden, it doesn’t matter what other people think of your work. It’s about what I love to do and what makes me happy. It was a really easy transition. I didn’t set out with the purpose of inspiring people; there’s so many stories like me. But I was given the platform.”

She’s gaining international recognition as a fine art photographer and specializes in underwater scenes and portraits. Macmillan’s also working on the ongoing Footprints series, which focuses on environmental issues such as deforestation and pollution.

“I’m trying to do what I can to clean up the environment,” she said, noting cancer has forced her to live healthier. “It’s the body of work I’m most proud of.”

Her art appeared on the Vogue Italia website and several music CDs and in Fluster and Below magazines and the International Photography Awards. And prints have been shown in New York City as part of the digital show The Story of the Creative and at a solo exhibition in Toronto.

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The Toronto Star: Wordsmiths encouraged to enter annual challenge

First prize is $5,000 and tuition for writing course

By Sidney Cohen
Source: Toronto Star, A2, Saturday, January 3, 2015

“The contest is a wonderful way to discover new voices and share them with Toronto readers.”

“All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know.”

Such was the advice of Ernest Hemingway, famed author (and former Star reporter), on how to begin a story. “I would write one true sentence, and then go on from there.”

In this noble spirit, the Star, in collaboration with the Toronto Public Library, invites Ontario writers to submit their own short stories to its 37th annual Short Story Contest.

“The Star holds this contest every year to help encourage aspiring authors in Ontario to see their work published for all to read,” said Bob Hepburn, director of community relations and communications for the contest.

The first-place writer will be awarded a $5,000 prize — the largest of its kind for short-story contests in Canada — and tuition for a 30-week creative-writing correspondence program at Humber College’s School for Writers. Second place comes with a $2,000 award and the third-place author gets $1,000.

The winning authors will get to see their stories in ink on the pages of this, Canada’s largest, newspaper.

Stories on any topic and in any style will be accepted, but must be original, unpublished and no longer than 2,500 words.

“The contest is a wonderful way to discover new voices and share them with Toronto readers,” said city librarian Vickery Bowles in a statement about the contest.

According to Hepburn, it is getting more difficult for judges to choose the three winners “because of the overall quality of all the entries.”

Around 2,000 stories a year are submitted. The School for Writers panel will read all entries and shortlist 25 to 30 stories.

Bowles, along with critically acclaimed Toronto author Heather Birrell, Star book editor Deborah Dundas and Star theatre critic and author Richard Ouzounian will choose the winning stories.

The contest is open to all those living in Ontario and over the age of 16.

Stories must be received by 5 p.m. on Feb. 27. Winners will be announced in April. With files from Katherine DeClerq

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Writing contest returns for fifth instalment

Aurora Banner

By Chris Traber

Eighteenth century author and poet Henry David Thoreau once said, “Not that the story need be long, but it will take a long while to make it short.”

He was reinforcing the fact that the soul of well-written prose is brevity.

Now, if you’re a local resident, aged 22 or younger, with a penchant for writing, you are invited to enter the fifth annual Canadian Federation of University Women short story writing contest.

And, while literary innovator Henry Miller remarked, “Writing is its own reward,” this competition could net you a $400, $300 or $200 prize, some fame and the opportunity to read your work at the awards reception.

Organized by the federation’s Aurora-Newmarket chapter, in partnership with York Region Media Group, the competition’s goal is promoting literacy and encouraging young writers, federation contest committee co-chairperson Susan Lennard said.

The contest is open to youth who reside in York Region, Bradford and West Gwillimbury. The popular event launches today  and the deadline for entries is Feb. 16, 2015.

This year’s topic is a short story beginning with the sentence,

“What was that sound?”

The maximum length for stories is 750 words and each entry needs to be accompanied by a $5 fee in the form a cheque. Winners will be announced next April. The first, second and third place stories will be published on the federation and newspaper websites.

The winning authors and finalist writers will be honoured at a reception in the Magna Room of the Aurora Public Library April 22, 7 to 8:30 p.m. The budding scribes will have the chance to read their creations to invited guests, including local dignitaries, family, friends and media, Lennard said.

“It’s a real and affirming feeling when young writers are recognized,” she said. “It’s very heart warming.”

Contest details have been sent to the heads of all York Region public and Catholic school English departments.

“We hope the educators will encourage their students to enter this contest for the opportunity of having their writing read and recognized beyond the classroom,” Lennard said.

For more information, writing contest rules, criteria and entry forms can be found at
Canadian Federation of University Women Aurora-Newmarket is part of a national organization. One of its mandates is education. The club directs most of the money it raises toward scholarships and bursaries. It presents awards of $6,000 annually to students in York Region.

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Contributing to Community

The following two Toronto Star articles are about individuals who are helping communities, out of the goodness of their heart!

Giving shelter, one room at a time

By: Joe Fiorito Columnist, Published on Tue Jan 13 2015

David Brown owns a series of old Victorian houses on Dundas St. E. He is turning them into emergency housing, at his own expense.

There has been a lot of talk about homelessness as a result of the recent deaths of two men on the street; much of the talk has been about shelter capacity, cold alerts, the usefulness of the various policies, and the shortcomings of the shelter system; some of the talk has even been about the need for housing.

Talk’s cheap.

David Brown is one of the few who is actually doing something. He owns a series of old Victorians on Dundas near Sherbourne. He has, at his own expense, developed the first of these houses as a supportive short-term residence for young native people.

He is a madman, or a saint.

Read the rest of the story here:

Toronto-based Nigerian millionaire uses oil wealth to help Danzig

When Akanimo Udofia donated $150,000 to help Danzig residents, people were asking: Who is he?

Akanimo Udofia, 43, a Nigerian-born CEO and Harvard University grad who lives in Yorkville, seemingly popped out of nowhere when he appeared at City Hall a few weeks ago for an event announcing his donation.

Dressed in a chic dark suit and polished shoes, the tall man with the deep voice told the meeting, which included several local city councillors and the CEO of Toronto Community Housing, that he was moved to give the money after being “heartbroken” by images and news he saw of this summer’s shooting on Danzig St.

“We are all parents … we cannot continue to just fold our hands and watch this happen,’’ he later said, referring to the slayings at the barbecue in Scarborough that killed Shyanne Charles and Joshua Yasay and wounded 23 others July 16.

Udofia’s money, which is being allotted over three years, is slated to be used for “resident-development’’ initiatives at Toronto Community Housing’s Danzig St. development, such as new computers and Internet access, after-school programs for young people, and scholarships.

Read the full article:

Read about Danzig: