From the category archives:

Life, the Universe and Everything

Imagine having the power to light the fire of inspiration in the hearts of 16,000 young people, and then sending them back into their homes and communities thrumming with the idea that they can be a powerful force of change in the world. Imagine the ripple effect of that empowerment and positivity. That’s what happened this past Wednesday at the National We Day event here in Ottawa.

As I mentioned last week, Simon and I were invited to attend We Day by national sponsor TELUS. Tristan also attended, as he earned his way in to We Day by working with his school’s Kids Helping Kids club throughout the school year. If you missed it, We Day is a series of events held across Canada and internationally to inspire youth to create change in their communities and around the world. You don’t buy tickets to attend, though – you earn your way in through acts of local and global good will.

Let me tell you from first-hand experience, it’s not just youth they are inspiring and empowering! I don’t know anyone who comes away from exposure to We Day without being changed by the experience.

We started our day at a pre-show media briefing with Free the Children founder Craig Kielburger and two of the days’ speakers, 11 year old Hannah Alper and the inimitable Spencer West.

My favourite quote was from Craig himself, who said in speaking about how We Day affects and empowers the youth who participate, “I’m confident there’s a future prime minister among our We Day attendees.” Spencer West also spoke about the upcoming launch of his 10-week cross Canada road trip to talk to inspire and motivate Canadian students in the We Create Change Tour.

We Day got underway with a powerful address by Martin Luther King III, son of Dr Martin Luther King Jr. He had all 16,000 participants in the Canadian Tire Centre chanting “Spread the word, have you heard, all across the nation, we will be a great generation!”

Last year’s national We Day focused on the issue of clean water; this year’s theme was education. Through the We Create Change initiative, participants are encouraged to collect coins to raise funds to build 200 schools and improve access to education in developing communities around the globe. $20 buys a brick, 500 bricks builds a school. That’s what I love about all the We Day messages – each grand goal is tied to achievable, empowering small steps. No contribution is too small. Last year through We Create Change, kids collected 140 million pennies. Stacked in a pile, those pennies would reach the International Space Station – SIX TIMES! Those pennies are like the choices we make every single day in our lives. They might seem insignificant on their own, but together they can make a huge difference. Pennies – never underestimate the power of the small.

One of my favourite moments of We Day was watching the boys’ school getting a call out for their actions through the Kids Helping Kids club. Ottawa Senators captain Jason Spezza and players Chris Neil and Chris Phillips presented autographed jerseys to a few of the schools in attendance, and one of Tristan’s best friends went up on stage to accept the jersey on their school’s behalf.

We Day has no shortage of celebrities on the stage from across the celebrity spectrum. From activists like the Kielburger brothers and Martin Luther King III to political figures like Queen Noor of Jordon and the one-day-into-his-job ambassador to the USA to TV and sports stars to rock bands like Simple Plan and Neverest, there are plenty of famous names and faces. However, the stage gives equal exposure to seemingly ordinary people who have made their own lives extraordinary in big and small ways. Spencer West is a great example of this, as is Molly Burke, who spoke last year. Ottawa’s own Fahd Alhattab spoke of growing up poor in our very own city – he’s now one of Canada’s Top 20 under 20.

But I have to say, I was most deeply touched by the simple eloquence of Toronto teen Ashley Murphy, who was born HIV positive and was not expected to live more than a few days. The dynamic young teen, adopted into a family of 10 children (eight of whom are disabled or have special needs), is now vice president of her school’s student council, member of a rock band, and an incredibly talented speaker. She said adversity is not something to be overcome in life, it IS life. She told the rapt audience that you don’t need to be liked by everyone, you just need one good friend and to be able to look yourself in the mirror every morning. But it was this that resonated most with me. She said, and I swear I want to print this out on a card and keep it in my wallet: “These are the facts of my life: I can’t change them, I can only control how I live with them.”

During the lunchtime “red carpet” media interviews, Simon had the chance to take this “selfie” with the eloquent and extremely kind Canadian rap star Jason Harrow, known as Kardinal Offishall. I love this photo because it’s super cute, but also because you can see genuine kindness in the interaction between a 10 year old boy who sees everyone as an equal and a celebrity rapper who obviously does, too.

If you’d like to read more about We Act and We Day or better yet, if you’d like to get your family, school or company engaged in this movement, visit the Free the Children website. You can also download the amazing We365 app, a free mobile app and website that enables young people to track and verify their volunteer activities for school, as well as provide the tools needed to fundraise, take action, and amplify messages for thousands of different charities. Youth who participate in We365 challenges will have the chance to be rewarded with TELUS grants and scholarships. Further, through We365 TELUS will engage with kids via Earn Your Way challenges throughout the year, giving kids a chance to win exclusive opportunities like a hike with Spencer West or a day trip with Craig Kielburger. Challenges could include sharing a photo of one small act of change through the We365 platform. These actions will also be amplified through other social media platforms as We365 activity can also be shared through Facebook and Twitter.

On the drive home from the Canadian Tire Centre, Simon and I were chatting about the day’s events. I asked him, “What did you learn you could do at We Day?” His answer, without hesitation but with a huge smile: “Anything!” And that, my friends, is what We Day is all about.

Thank you so much to National We Day sponsor TELUS for inviting us to be a part of National We Day 2014 and to all the amazing organizers and volunteers who made We Day possible.

Hanging out at We Day with Neverest and the TELUS crew

So what will YOU do to change the world?


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Next Wednesday, 16,000 students and educators from 420 schools throughout Canada will be gathering at the Canadian Tire Centre in Ottawa to mark Canada’s National We Day 2014. For the third year, TELUS is partnering with Free The Children as National Co-Title sponsor of We Day, and they’ve invited Simon and I to attend the celebration again this year. (Well, they invited me and one guest, and I’m thrilled that Tristan has earned his own ticket to We Day through participating in the Kids Helping Kids club at school for the last year!)

You might remember we had the priviledge of attending Canada’s national We Day last year as well. Watching the boys meet and be inspired by Craig Kielburger was truly one of the best moments of my year, and the lessons we learned at We Day last year have inspired our actions ever since.

National We Day in Ottawa - St Leonard shout-out

So what is We Day? It’s a series of events held across Canada and around the world to inspire youth to create change in their communities and around the world. You can’t buy a ticket to get in, though – admission is free of charge to those students who earn their way in through service. Students commit to take action on at least one global and one local initiative of their choice as a part of the year-long educational intiative called We Act. You might remember how proud I was last year when the boys’ school got a shout-out from Craig Kielburger himself for their amazing achievement of raising 170,000 pennies in support of Free the Children through the We Create Change program.

It’s truly wonderful to see the growth of We Day in just one year. Last year, there were 4,000 attendees at Canada’s National We Day and this year will welcome FOUR TIMES that number of participants. Attendees will be inspired by an incredibly diverse array of speakers and performers, from Her Majesty Queen Noor of Jordan to Martin Luther King III to National Chief Shawn Atleo. Craig and Marc Kielburger will be there, of course, and the hugely inspirational Molly Burke and Spencer West will be returning as well. If you read my post last year, you’ll remember that I was particularly inspired by Spencer West and I have been following him on Twitter ever since. I’m delighted to see he’ll be not only speaking again this year but engaging in a epic 10-week cross Canada road trip to talk to inspire and motivate Canadian students in the We Create Change Tour.

National We Day in Ottawa - Spencer West

I’m especially honoured to be invited to We Day this year because I’ve seen the effects of the We Act program in our family and in our school throughout the past year. Tristan joined the Kids Helping Kids club at school and worked throughout the year on projects like raising awareness and making and selling duct tape crafts to raise money for We Create Change. Through We Create Change, children are encouraged to collect coins to fundraise for Free The Children’s Year of Education initiative to build 200 schools and improve access to education in developing communities around the globe. The We Create Change philosophy is simple, and I’ve seen it on kid-made posters hanging in the school: $20 in change = one brick. One brick = the cornerstone of education. Education = change for the world. Over Lent, the whole school is engaging in raising funds by doing extra chores around the house, and I can’t wait to see what the final tally is.

You’d be vastly underestimating the real message of We Day if you thought it was just about fundraising, though. What We Day is really about is education and empowerment. That was my take-away from being blown away by last year’s We Day event. You’ll pardon me if I quote myself from last year:

The definition of “changing the world” has changed for this generation, for the children we are raising today. When I was a child, it meant that you grew up to be an activist or someone in a position of power, or you were one of those extraordinary young people like Craig Kielburger himself, who drew global attention to a cause he was passionate about. What I’m realizing is what our kids seem to know intuitively, and what We Day is promoting: you don’t need a megaphone to make a difference, and you don’t need to be famous or powerful or have a lot of resources behind you. Social justice isn’t about petitioning on Parliament Hill and letter-writing campaigns, it’s about the choices you make and the way you live your life every single day.

Choose organic and local produce. Choose to hold a door for someone rather than let it slam. Choose to donate a bag of used toys to charity rather than dump them in the trash. Choose to spend 20 minutes of your time promoting a cause rather than playing a video game. Choose to turn off the tap while you brush your teeth and turn off the lights when you leave the room. Choose to speak up to defend someone rather than stand mutely by and watch bullying happen. Like the pennies collected by the boys’ school, each small act on it’s own may seem so insignificant as to be worthless. However, when you start stacking them by the thousands and hundreds of thousands, they have unmistakable, undeniable worth and value.

Don’t just take my word for it, though. Look at these results! Since 2007, youth involved in We Act have raised more than $37 million for more than 1,000 global and local causes, have collected more than four million pounds of food, and have volunteered more than 9.6 million hours for global and local causes.

But here’s what’s equally, and perhaps more important: We Day inspires, engages and empowers youth to lead through service, building compassionate communities and transforming participants into active global citizens in the process. Independent third-party research shows that 98 per cent of youth participating believe they can make a difference after attending We Day, and 80 per cent of We Act alumni report volunteering more than 150 hours each year.

National We Day in Ottawa - meeting Craig Kielburger!

If you’d like to read more about We Act and We Day or better yet, if you’d like to get your family, school or company engaged in this movement, visit the Free the Children website. You can also download the amazing We365 app, a free mobile app and website that enables young people to track and verify their volunteer activities for school, as well as provide the tools needed to fundraise, take action, and amplify messages for thousands of different charities. Youth who participate in We365 challenges will have the chance to be rewarded with TELUS grants and scholarships. Further, through We365 TELUS will engage with kids via Earn Your Way challenges throughout the year, giving kids a chance to win exclusive opportunities like a hike with Spencer West or a day trip with Craig Kielburger. Challenges could include sharing a photo of one small act of change through the We365 platform. These actions will also be amplified through other social media platforms as We365 activity can also be shared through Facebook and Twitter.

I’ll be live-tweeting from Canada’s National We Day next Wednesday, April 9. Follow along at #WeDay, and watch the live stream at www.weday.com.


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So this is kind of interesting. Bloggers, photographers, Facebook business page owners and anyone who earns even a couple of dollars from the interwebs, you might want to pay attention to this.

Up-front disclosure – this is not tax advice. Also, as you may know, despite having failed income tax returns in high school (true story), I have a greater-than-average understanding of the peccadilloes of the Canadian tax system. However, this is just my personal observation about a change to a tax form that I have to fill out every year.

Ahem, so as I was saying… this is kind of interesting. I noticed on the CRA’s form T2125 – Statement of Business and Professional Activities that there’s a extra page this year where you are asked “how many Internet webpages and websites does your business earn income from?” (Let’s put aside for a minute the question of your webpages and websites that aren’t on the Intenet, okay? *shrug*)

Did you know that your web earnings are considered taxable income and that you should be declaring them on your income tax return? You don’t have to be incorporated or register for a business number to be considered a business, but you have to fill out one of these forms and include it with your personal income tax return if you’re earning any sort of income online. Here’s some of the ways you could be earning income from the Internet and should therefore be completing this form:

- you sell stuff directly or through an agent, on a site like Etsy or Photoshelter or iStock.
- you book appointments via a contact form or post your phone number to make appointments.
- you buy and sell stuff on an auction site like eBay.
- you earn income through ads, clickthroughs, sponsored posts, affiliate links, etc.
- you receive income or goods or services in exchange for promoting them on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, your website, or any other website.

So what counts as income? These are obvious: sponsored posts, blog ads, affiliate links, pay-per-click links and paid text links. But it also includes all those promotional things you got, from the cans of soup to the free books to family trip to Disneyworld. If you get stuff of any kind in exchange for blogging, tweeting or otherwise promoting that stuff, you technically need to include the fair market value of that stuff in your business income for the year. And stuff includes services, too, like hair cuts or free admissions to local events.

The fair market value is the price you would have had to pay if you weren’t receiving a deal or freebie in exchange for promoting it. So that conference you attended with the free airfare and hotel? You should include in your income the value of the conference pass, the flight and the hotel. That free family trip to the aquarium exhibit? Count what you would have had to pay if the aquarium didn’t comp your admission. That tablet you received in exchange for reviewing it counts, as does the free app codes you received in exchange for tweeting about them.

In practical terms, this means if you are a blogger who has received any sort of income or product or service or sponsorship, or if you are a hair dresser who books appointments through an online interface, or if you are a cupcake baker with a Facebook business page, or if you are a photographer who sells on Deviant Art, or if you have a Pampered Chef or Smelly Candles business that you promote on your blog (even if you don’t have a shopping cart), or if you sell Easter bonnets on Etsy, you should be reporting that income via this form.

The good news is that you can declare expenses that you incurred against that income. You could write off your domain hosting, for example, and the postage you paid to ship a giveaway prize to the winner. You might be able to claim a portion of your home or mobile internet service. And hey, did you know that if you’re running your blog from home (as opposed to, say, from the Starbucks on the corner) you can declare a portion of some of your utilities and other expenses? The Canada Revenue Agency says

You can deduct expenses for the business use of a work space in your home, as long as you meet one of the following conditions:
• it is your principal place of business; or
• you use the space only to earn your business income, and you use it on a regular and ongoing basis to meet your clients, customers, or patients.
You can deduct part of your maintenance costs such as heat, home insurance, electricity, and cleaning materials. You can also deduct part of your property taxes, mortgage interest, and CCA. To calculate the part you can deduct, use a reasonable basis such as the area of the work space divided by the total area of your home.

Please allow me to remind you that I am not an accountant or a tax professional, and this is complicated stuff. If you earn significant income from the web, it would probably be prudent to hire a professional to walk you through the minefield the first time you try to figure out all this stuff. Painful as it may seem, it’s better to get out ahead of this stuff than try to figure it all out after the fact when you’re facing an audit. The good news is, you can claim the cost of the accountant as an expense against your income. Or maybe you could barter blog promotion with a local accountant in exchange for tax help?

Just don’t forget to declare THAT, too! ;)

Additional disclosure just in case you missed the first one:
This is not a sponsored post. It was written from my personal perspective and does not reflect the opinions of my employer, the Government of Canada or any tax professional, nor should it be considered a comprehensive examination of the subject. YMMV.


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My in-laws paid a quick visit to us this past weekend for the holidays, and it was their first opportunity to meet Bella. After watching Bella pounce on a bone and noting the distinctive stance, he said, “Gee, she almost looks like a coyote, doesn’t she?” That set us off on a fun afternoon of speculative research that has us more than half convinced that our Bella may in fact have some coyote mixed in to her lineage. Could Bella be a coydog?

We don’t know much about her parentage. Her mother was a pup herself, a German Shepherd mix who slipped away from her owner and came back pregnant. Bella’s mother’s owner lives on Manitoulin Island, where a Sudbury Star article mentions that as of 2010, “the coyote/brush wolf population is out of control.” (Bella came to Ottawa because the sister of her mother’s owner volunteered to bring some of the pups in the litter to a more populated area to improve their chances of adoption.) So there was plenty of opportunity for a coyote sire to enter the picture.

My father-in-law is an outdoorsman and knows a lot more about coyotes than I do. I did a google image search to refresh my memory about what coyotes look like and when I saw this photo I literally gasped – this pose is pure Bella! She rears up like this all the time before pouncing on a favourite toy. So I started to read about coydogs, and the more I read the more possible it seemed.

Here’s a good comparison. Look at the coydog pup in this link, and then look at this photo of Bella:

IMG_3107

But of course, the similarities could come from the German Shepherd side, right? It’s when I started looking into the characteristics of coyotes and coydogs that I really started to be convinced. We’ve always remarked on Bella’s unusually small feet and her dainty legs – this is a dominant coyote feature. Coyotes also have very large ears in proportion for their heads, and we’ve often joked that even at a year of age, Bella has yet to grow into her Gremlin ears. Bella’s colours are exactly as described on a coyote or coydog – brindle with black tips and cream underfur, with a line of black down the back and a black tipped tail. She’s long and sleek in her body, with a flat forehead and a long, thin muzzle.

coydog?

Some of Bella’s personality quirks align with a possible coyote mix: she loves to dig and then lay in the freshly unearthed soil. She could run to the ends of the earth and back, and she’s FAST. (We haven’t seen her chasing any roadrunners yet, though.) She loves to pounce, as I mentioned. And while she doesn’t howl, she has the most shrill bark – not the deep booming bark of a GSD but an ear-bleeding shrill bark that is not quite a yip but not far from it either. The size is about right, too – a mature coyote ranges from 20 to 50 lbs, and that’s exactly what she is – 50 lbs, very small for a Shepherd mix.

There are other things that don’t necessarily line up with a coydog – she definitely has doggy eyes, for example, and not the piercing eyes of a coyote. But to be totally honest, there’s always been *something* about her eyes that I could never quite put my finger on. Her tail sticks straight out when she runs, neither curling up like a shepherd nor pointing down like a coyote – although it does have the same shape of a coyote tail.

Coydogs in the wild are rare. The breeding cycles of dogs and coyotes don’t naturally align. Dogs can come into heat any time of the year, but if a coyote has a litter mid-winter, the pups are not likely to survive. That’s another little tick in our “maybe she is a coydog” spreadsheet – Bella was nine months when we had her spayed (we had to delay it because she caught a dose of kennel cough when she was six months) and she still hadn’t entered her first heat yet, which the spay clinic said was unusual but not unheard of.

I found a couple of posts and articles about how to tell a dog from a coyote, but she’s so borderline on the measures that I couldn’t make the call one way or the other. This blog post talks about how one distinguishing feature of coyotes versus dogs is the placement of the elbow – in coyotes it is noticeably lower than the line of the sternum. When I look at Bella, her elbow is exactly at the sternum – neither clearly above (in the manner of a dog) nor below (in the manner of a coyote.) What do you think? In this photo, the elbow is clearly well below the line of her chest, but in others it’s more like bang on the same line.

Coydog?

This link talks about the difference in dog tracks and coyote tracks. Apparently in dog feet, the pads are more spread out but in coyote feet the pads are more tightly clustered. Look at the photo of a coyote paw at the bottom of that post and then look at this.

What do you think? Can you see why we’re intrigued?

Conveniently, our vet is also a friend, and when I ran this by her on Twitter she said the photos are definitely compelling. I asked her opinion on those $80 kits that purport to analyze your dog’s breed based on DNA and she opined what I was already suspecting myself – that the results she’d seen so far were inconclusive and that it’s hard to imagine a test like that for that price that doesn’t involve snake oil. Besides, I’m not sure if I am $80 worth of curious.

I’m convinced enough to call it likely, if not a certainty, that she has some coyote blood in there somewhere. Maybe her sire was a coyote or maybe even a coydog himself? We’ll probably never know, but it is fun to speculate.

What do you think?


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I was going to post my top 10 favourite photos from 2013, but I couldn’t get it whittled down to anything close to that. Oy, if there was ever a girl in need of an editor, it’s me! Oh well, it’s my blog and pixels are free, right? Heh, just be glad I didn’t post all 3,479 keepers in my Lightroom catalogue for 2013 – and there are another several hundred on my iPhone!

Some I love for sentimental reasons, some because they represent a special day or moment, some I think are pretty impressive from a technical perspective – and some just because they make me smile. In chronological order, here are my 50 favourite photos from 2013:

Mini-snowman-2

Whatcha doin'?

Feeding the chickadees

Cat's eye view

Ice tree-2

Mill on a frosty day

Driveway hockey

under the bridge redux

Family sledding

Tristan's birthday

IMG_3107

Bella meets Granny and Papa Lou

untitled.jpg

Bella and Willie, not quite a love story

#fromwhereistand - with a dog on my feet!

BFFs

Incoming porch dog!!

Parliament on the Hill

Boys on the stairs

Peace Tower and tulips redux

Bella and the shoe

This is what a perfect Mother's Day looks like (4 of 4)

IMG_3552

Mimi and Pipi's wedding

Pretty in pink family (1 of 2)

Backflip!

Porch portraits for his first birthday!

Nature Museum family portrait

IMG_4059

IMG_4053

post for faves

ice cream with the cousins

Love letters to a sunflower farm

This is totally why I had kids.

Britannia Beach sunset (9 of 10)

Black and white beauties on the beach

Bumper car fun-3

A day at the beach

Imaginext dinos in Manotick!

Toronto the good

Family on the bridge

Lucas in the sunshine

Foggy morning on Parliament Hill

M's baptism

brother and sister

Postcard pretty Ottawa with the Rideau Canal, Parliament Buildings and Chateau Laurier.

Pretty in a pink hat

Weekend with the cousins

snowman redux 2

Playing together

Christmas Tree Quest 2013

It's a good Christmas when you can put your feet up!

Looks like a pretty good year, eh?

I wish you all a very happy new year, and a 2014 filled with beautiful moments of love, laughter and joy. With those, anything and everything is possible, don’t you think?


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This? Is so cool! Rarely am I *this* excited to publish a post!

ff you’ve been around for a while, you might remember I spent some time working with the Canadian Army. When I was there, I was lucky enough to work with Captain Jennifer Stadnyk, and long after I left we stayed in touch over mutual interests in photography and social media. Capt Stadnyk has since moved from Ottawa to Colorado for what I think is an incredibly cool job – she’s the public affairs officer for the North American Aerospace Defence Command, aka NORAD. Peeps, she works with NORAD’s Santa Tracker team! How awesome is that?

I’ve blogged before about how I’ve always loved the NORAD Santa Tracker program. I remember the sense of wonder and anticipation that was torqued by watching NORAD’s Santa Tracker updates on the evening news when I was growing up in the 1970s. Now the kids and I visit the Santa Tracker website frequently on December 24 to track the Big Guy’s progress around the world.

I gotta tell you, when Capt Stadnyk was kind enough to grant me an interview, I kind of froze. Oh the pressure! What should I ask? How to strike the balance between hard-nosed journalist and fawning fangirl? In the end, her answers totally redeemed my questions – and I’ve been giggling like a schoolgirl in my excitement to share them with you.

DaniGirl: I have been watching NORAD’s Santa tracker as long as I can remember. Tell me a little bit about the program?

Capt Stadnyk: NORAD Tracks Santa traces its roots all the way back to 1955, when the local Sears-Roebuck in Colorado Springs took out an advertisement in the local newspaper inviting children to call Santa’s private line on Christmas Eve. The ad that was printed however, had a misprint and the number given was for the Continental Air Defense Command. Colonel Harry Shoup, who was on duty that night, answered the phone to a child’s voice asking if he was Santa. Once he realized what was going on, he played along, giving the child information about where Santa was and instructed his officers to do the same. Thus an annual tradition was born! NORAD continued the tradition when we replaced CONAD in 1958, and still each year, we track Santa around the globe and tell children where he is and when he’ll be at their house!

DaniGirl: You are a soldier in the Canadian Army. How did you end up at NORAD?

Capt Stadnyk: It is funny, most people think that NORAD is solely Air Force, however there are members from all elements of both the Canadian and American militaries. I definitely feel blessed to be down here and be a part of this incredible program during the holiday season!

Army Maj. Gen. Charles Luckey, NORAD and USNORTHCOM Chief of Staff, prepares to do a media interview via satellite from the NORAD Tracks Santa Operations Center Dec. 24, 2012. Dozens of interviews were conducted with NORAD leadership to get the word out on how NORAD tracks Santa every year. (U.S. Navy photo by LCDR. Bill Lewis)

DaniGirl: What kind of technology do you use to track Santa?

Capt Stadnyk: We are definitely well-equipped to track Santa, being the bi-national command responsible for tracking and keeping airspace over North America safe! We use the same satellites, radars and fighter jets that we use year round to track Santa. He knows we’re tracking him and often coordinates some of his plans with us! We also have “Santa Cams” strategically placed around the globe so that kids can catch a glimpse of the jolly old elf!

DaniGirl:: How many people are involved in the operation?

Capt Stadnyk: Well, along with our 55 corporate partners, we have over 1,250 volunteers (Canadian & American military, civilians, and members of the local Colorado Springs community) who donate their time on December 24th to answer calls and emails. Planning starts early in the spring of each year in order to ensure the event is a success.

DaniGirl: Have poor weather or other obstacles ever prevented Santa from getting to any locations?

Capt Stadnyk: There have been a few times over the years where Santa has had to adjust his flight path due to poor weather, but he has always been able to make it to every house! He has been flying for centuries, so little snowstorms have nothing on him!

Marine Staff Sgts. Hugh Wood and Randall Ayers, NORAD and USNORTHCOM, take calls at the NORAD Tracks Santa Operations Center Dec. 24, 2012. Wood and Ayers came to the operations center to collect toys for the Marine Corps' Toys for Tots program and took a break to participate in NORAD Tracks Santa. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Thomas J. Doscher)

DaniGirl: Does Santa need permission to fly over Canadian or American air space?

Capt Stadnyk: Santa travels faster than starlight, so if he wanted to, he could fly over our airspace without letting us know, but we have a close relationship with him, having worked together to keep the Christmas spirit alive all these years. He always coordinates his travels with us, although he may not tell us his exact route. Each year, Canadian fighter pilots are chosen to meet Santa as he enters North American airspace to say “Hello” and escort him across the Great White North. This year, Lieutenant-Colonel Darcy Molstad and Captain Sébastien Gorelov from 3 Wing Bagottville will meet him over Newfoundland and pass off the duties near the Ontario-Manitoba border to Captain Rich Cohen and Captain Brian Kilroy from 4 Wing Cold Lake.

DaniGirl: Now that you’re seeing it in action from the inside, what’s your favourite part of the Santa tracker program?

Capt Stadnyk: It’s incredible to see what a large operation the NORAD Tracks Santa program is. There is so much magic involved in Santa’s journey that I kind of expected tracking him would be a piece of cake. Not so much! Tracking Santa becomes our main effort around this time each year, and we all work together at NORAD to make sure we continue to share the holiday spirit with the young, and young-at-heart around the world!

Awesome, right? I KNOW! Even better than a conversation with the Universe, eh?

Want to track Santa with NORAD this Christmas Eve? He’s multimedia – check it out!

On the web: http://www.noradsanta.org
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/noradsanta
Twitter: @NoradSanta
Phone (starting 4 a.m. MST on Christmas Eve): 877-HI-NORAD
Email: noradtrackssanta@outlook.com

Thank you, Capt Stadnyk, for the exclusive scoop and for making me a cool mom this Christmas in the eyes of three little boys! Warm wishes and thanks to you and and everyone at NORAD for the great work you do with Santa!


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Hunting a Christmas Tree in Twelve Photos

8 December 2013 Happy holidays

We went back to Thomas Tree Farm in North Gower (rapidly becoming our favourite!) to get our Christmas tree this weekend. It was a little bit on the crazy busy side, but we still had a great morning out. I love that the boys are big enough to start taking on some responsibility for the [...]

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Astronaut in Aisle 3

3 December 2013 Ah, me boys

8:50 am Beloved calls me at work. “Did you know Chris Hadfield is being interviewed about two blocks from you right now?” I gasp and instinctively look out the window. He’s not floating outside my fourth-floor window, and I’m kind of relieved by that. “No kidding?” I ask, and hatch a plan to meander casually [...]

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Smart phone tip: Put your contact info on your iPhone’s lock screen

15 November 2013 Life, the Universe and Everything

The phone on my desk at work rang and I could hear the smile in Beloved’s face as we spoke. “Are you missing something?” he asked. I glanced around my cubicle, checking for my purse, my lunch, or anything else I had probably left on the kitchen counter. “Um, no?” I said, with not much [...]

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A perfect weekend roadtrip in 10 photos

11 November 2013 Life, the Universe and Everything

Three tanks of gas, a whackload of leftover halloween candy, five hand-held computing devices, a bag of markers, a sketchbook and enough coffee to drown an ox… that’s what fueled our run down to London, Ontario to visit the cousins for a whirlwind weekend visit. This is what it looked like: A birthday party, an [...]

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