You can live in a happy city – here’s how

In my home town of Kelowna, British Columbia, the city's waterfront development has made the downtown a destination

In my home town of Kelowna, British Columbia, the city’s waterfront development has made the downtown a destination

Charles Montgomery has turned his research and writing talents to urban design and written a book that is fascinating from cover to cover. Casting his net around the world, he has pulled in examples of some of the most people-friendly places to live. These are places that are paying attention to the needs of walkers and cyclists and are creating community gathering places that transform urban anonymity into city friendliness.

The good news is that retrofitting cities is not the economic drag most people think. It actually leads to economic gain, social equity, and an improvement in overall health. Montgomery makes a strong case for urban design as a means of shaping human behaviour. The cities he describes are places I would want to live.

I nibbled this book one small section at a time. Since I live in the downtown core of my small city, I had the chance to take my usual walks with eyes open to possibilities. Fortunately, our city planners seem to be onside with much of what Montgomery praises in this book, but we have a long way to go before we adopt enough of these ideas to make this a truly pedestrian- and bike-friendly place. I’m lucky to live where I can walk to nearly everything, but most of our city residents are still too far from shopping, services and recreation to lure them out of their cars. The Happy City gives me hope that one day we can all live in cities that enhance our quality of life.



High school student designs pram for moms in wheelchairs

Sharina Jones takes baby for a walk, thanks to the invention of Alden Kane; photo from video below

Sharina Jones takes baby for a walk, thanks to the invention of Alden Kane; photo from video below

The waterfront walk near my home is a favourite spot for running moms. They pop junior in an expensive pram and get their exercise while baby gets fresh air.

Absent on the scene are moms in wheelchairs. Pushing a pram is not in the cards. Or at least it wasn’t. But a Detroit high school student, Alden Kane, designed a stroller that latches onto a wheelchair. Baby is safe. Mom is mobile.

The 16-year-old senior at University of Detroit High School took on the design challenge for his STEM (science / technology / engineering / mathematics) class in spring 2015. He was assigned a mother in a wheelchair and told to create something that would allow her to easily carry her baby. The adaptable stroller was the result.

The prototype is not yet at the sale stage, but the idea is such a good one I have no doubt it is headed for market.

Thanks to my friend Judith for the tip.


The $70,000 minimum wage is working

Dan Price, CEO of Gravity Payments, from the company's Facebook page

Dan Price, CEO of Gravity Payments, from the company’s Facebook page

I confess when I wrote about Dan Price and his shocking minimum wage, I gulped, crossed my fingers and held my breath. The CEO of Gravity Payments had announced that over the next three years he was going to even out the pay scale. Everyone in the company would make the same salary, $70,000.

My equity-driven soul screamed, “YES!” The cautious side of me quietly wondered if the company would crash and burn.

So here is an update. According to, business is soaring, and profits have doubled. When a job opens, thousands of people apply. Employees are ecstatic. Once customers lifted their dropped jaws off the floor, they signed on.

Price had to put up with a lot of ugly skeptics. (Think Fox News.) He did not back down. His announcement went viral. Gravity’s payments-processing system became an industry darling. Employees who liked being top dogs grumbled a bit, but everyone knew they would be making enough to pay their bills and have a decent quality of life.

So hats off to Dan Price. His gamble is paying off. Now I hope he’ll talk to the board of my bank, where the CEO makes an obscenely huge salary but keeps front-line staff hungry. What Gravity is aiming for is “enough”, that point where workers can concentrate on doing a good job for a company they love instead of on clawing their way up a competitive pay scale.

Is everyone happy? We’re talking about human beings, not automatons. Of course some grumbling still swirls around the coffee machine. But however this experiment turns out in the long run, Dan Price deserves praise for making such a bold step toward equity.


Watch this and stay true to your dreams

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For forty years Vijayan and his wife Mohana have sold tea from their tiny shop in Kochi, on the west coast of India. That is not a business with big profits, but that does not slow them down.

The couple has visited every scenic spot in India. They have traveled to 16 different countries. They are not done yet.

If you have ever had your big ideas shot down, you will understand that not everyone thinks Vijayan and Mohana have their heads on straight. What do they have to show for all that money spent gallivanting off to far-flung places?

Travelers and dreamers know what they have to show for it. They have the magic of memory. They have stories. They have dreams fulfilled.

Copybook Films captured their love, joy and wisdom in an enchanting short film, Invisible Wings. Hari M. Mohanan’s fledgling film company may not have a long list of credits, but this sweet, inspiring film makes me think they are poised to soar. And the kinds of things Mohanan posts on his Facebook timeline show a young man with heart.

So spend the next ten minutes watching this film. You might have to stop now and then to wipe away a few tears, but you will be rewarded by witnessing the realization of two powerful dreams: travel and filmmaking.

As Vijayan says in the film, “We have only one lifetime to do everything. You can’t create extra time for it.”


61 years later, they got the wedding photo shoot of the century

Dorothy and Donald Lutz, photo by Cambria Grace Photography, from Lauren Wells’ Facebook page

Dorothy and Donald Lutz, photo by Cambria Grace Photography, from Lauren Wells’ Facebook page

Any loving couple, married 61 years, should have a granddaughter like Lauren Wells. She knew their story about the photographer who stood them up on their wedding day. Before the era of cell phones and digital cameras, no one arrived with a backup plan.

Having only one snapshot of their wedding did not interfere with six decades of love, but Donald and Dorothy Lutz never had a wedding album to show off. Wells and the other grandchildren decided to change that.

They organized an UP-themed photo shoot with the help of Cambria Grace Photography, Pop & Circumstance’s vintage treasures and Wild Folk Studio’s floral designs (with locally grown blooms and deliveries by public transportation – sounds like someone with a strong hope habit).

Check out the sweetly endearing photographs on Style Me Pretty. Your smile muscles will get a good workout. So will your belief in the possibility for enduring love.


Would you buy a $100 donut?

Screen Shot 2015-10-24 at 7.33.23 PMUnless your finances are a lot more secure than mine, you would likely laugh at the thought. But what if you knew that $100 was making someone else’s life a whole lot better?

I’m not kidding about the $100 donut (or doughnut or however you want to spell that tempting treat). Dolicious Donuts recently changed their old-style name from the Vineyard Bakery and Deli to something they hoped would be more trendy. What did not change was their commitment to fresh donuts, even though that means a 3 a.m. start for the bakers.

They added a drive-through lane. Yeah, yeah, I’m getting to the $100 donut. Be patient.

This bakery has redefined donuts. Oh, they do have the standards. After all, why mess with a good thing? But they stretch into the artsy and quirky. Where else can you buy a Frogger or a Banana Split donut?

Now, about that $100 donut. See, one guy wanted to propose to his sweetie at this bakery. Seems a bit weird to me. A donut shop? He must love those oh-so-fresh yum bums. He asked the owners to hide a diamond ring in a Bismark. That set the owners to wondering how they could turn that love-ly idea into a marketing ploy.

The idea they came up with included Pinot Gris wine, edible diamonds and gold flakes, and Balsama Oro. Those pricey ingredients move an ordinary donut into the stratosphere. When I first heard about this on CBC, I grumped my usual leftie grump. What a stupid waste of money for the over endowed.

But I was short sighted. This donut is over-the-top fun, and any profits feed the hungry in West Kelowna. (That’s in British Columbia, Canada, for those not familiar.) Beyond the glitzy donut, Dolicious gathers funds from generous patrons and anyone else willing to dole out extra cash. That money makes life a little easier for people who are struggling.

Most charitable donations rely on making people feel an edge of shame and guilt for being better off than the recipients of the largesse. Dolicious takes a different approach. They make people smile as they gather funds to help folks who are struggling.

I think we could learn something from them. And now I’m drooling at the thought of a Banana Split donut.



Anti-Islam protester silenced with a hug

It’s no wonder this story has gone viral. One lone protester turned up at an anti-Islam demonstration outside an Ohio mosque. She was clearly disappointed her comrades left her in the lurch. But she hesitated to accept offers of coffee and conversation. Then Cynthia DeBoutinkhar walked up and gave her a hug.

That broke the ice. Before long she was inside the mosque, learning that Fox News just might have misled her by implying all Muslims are terrorists.

There are dozens of posts about it on the Web, but these two include all the details:



Transforming Detroit, a bowl of soup at a time

Amy Kaherl of Detroit SOUP

When I think of Detroit, I see images of abandoned houses, derelict neighborhoods, and rampant crime. I see an unloved city, site of America’s largest municipal bankruptcy.

That is, I did see Detroit that way. Thanks to Life Among The Ruins, a new documentary from the good people at Nation Swell, I will carry a new image in my head. I will see dozens of residents gathered around communal tables. They will have paid $5 for soup, salad, bread and a chance to choose the next project to fund. Their money will support a wide range of initiatives, including urban agriculture, art, education, technology, social enterprise and social justice.

That is Detroit SOUP, started by a theology graduate who decided against traditional ministry. Amy Kaherl opted to work for social justice instead. Since 2010 SOUP has been holding dinners that celebrate the creativity and passion of Detroit residents. People with ideas are given four minutes to present them. The audience can ask four questions.

Then it is time for soup and conversations. People consider the pitches and choose a favorite. Then they vote, and the winner takes home the money collected at the door. Three months later, the winner is expected to come to a SOUP dinner and give everyone an update.

It is a simple and innovative way of crowdfunding that does more than fund projects that improve the quality of life in Detroit. It strengthens community. A BBC report in March 2015 said SOUP had raised over $85,000 USD.

Kaherl makes it look simple, but she and the SOUP team are obviously working hard to make it happen. This is an inspiring example of how one woman with a dream can make a huge difference.

Follow Detroit SOUP on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.



Forget the divorce counselor; talk to this child

Little Tiana offers sweet, insightful wisdom to her mother. It is clear she has witnessed the tension between her parents. She knows the score. She is not asking them to get back together. She is just asking them to be gentle with each other.

Despite her young age, this little girl is able to articulate the pain her parents’ arguments cause her and each other. She wants them to smile more, shout less. Her plea is one that will reach into hearts, reminding us all that bridges between us are built by kindness.

See more of this sweet munchkin and her mum on Facebook.


At 102 Inge Rapoport earns doctorate denied by Nazis

1985 photo of Inge Rapoport, from the Bundesarchiv; via Wikimedia Commons

1985 photo of Inge Rapoport, from the Bundesarchiv; via Wikimedia Commons

Inge Syllm-Rapoport is one of the most inspiring examples of feisty aging I have ever come across.

She completed her medical studies in 1937, just in time for Hitler’s anti-Semitic laws (her mother was Jewish) to prevent her from taking the doctoral exam. The following year she emigrated to the U.S., where she achieved her goal of becoming a doctor.

After World War II, the McCarthy era made the U.S. a risky place for people with socialist leanings. So Rapoport and her husband, biochemist Samuel Mitja Rapoport, fled to East Berlin. There she became Europe’s first chair of neonatology and a professor of pediatrics.

Nearly eight decades later, her son Tom, also a medical school professor, visited the University of Hamburg, where his mother had been denied the right to take her oral exams in 1937. The dean tackled bureaucratic obstacles to clear the way for Rapoport to defend the thesis she had written 77 years earlier. She could probably have received an honorary doctorate, as a way of honoring her 100th birthday, but she did not want that.

She threw herself into the task of updating her research in the area diphtheria treatments, then faced a panel of three professors. After grilling her for three quarters of an hour, they awarded her much-delayed doctorate, this time with the honors she deserved decades earlier.

Asked why she had taken on such a monumental task at her advanced age, Rapoport said it was a matter of principle. She was doing it for all of the victims of the Nazi regime.

Listen to Irris Makler’s documentary about this remarkable woman on CBC’s The Current.