Category Archives: Blogger Question Series

Blogger Talk: Christmas Edition

Can you share a favourite holiday memory?

Dana

Is it weird to say that I have so many horrible holiday memories? My sister was kind of a brat growing up and she would always freak out on Christmas morning over presents. All because of PRESENTS! That’s why I am so scared of gift giving. One of my positive memories is the first Christmas my boyfriend and I spent together. I honestly had no idea what to get him because I had only known him for a month and a half; so I got him a really big fuzzy brown blanket for his house. He didn’t have any blankets at all, which I thought was weird, so really it was like a gift for me too. I had NO idea what he was going to get me either, I was honestly hoping for candy. When I opened my gift, it was a really big fuzzy brown blanket! We each got each other the same thing! It was so funny; we loved our brown blankets. We still have them to this day (4 years later)– they are slightly less fuzzy but still just as warm and cuddly.

Valerie

I have so many favourite holiday memories. I literally think that every holiday season is my favourite. The older I get the more memories I make and the more friends I have to share these times with. Any moment spent with family or friends throughout the season laughing, creating memories and eating good food are my favourite.

What was your most memorable gift? Why?

Dana

I’m one of those people where gifts have little to no meaning to me; I’m a horrible gift giver myself and would rather just skip gifts all together and instead spend the money on a cheese platter to talk and hang out over. But one year my parents paid for a new set of tires for my car, and they told me that would be my only gift and not to be upset on Christmas morning when I didn’t have any presents. I told them I wouldn’t be upset; but as Christmas approached I was wondering if I would feel a little left out as my sister and parents opened up gifts. Christmas morning came around, and I felt really happy. I didn’t feel left out at all, it was awesome watching other people open their gifts! I also felt extremely thankful every time I drove my car and didn’t slip on snow or ice because of my spiffy new tires. Thanks mom and dad!

Valerie

The most memorable gift I have ever received was a toaster. When I was a kid we had an awful toaster. It didn’t matter what setting I used, my toast was always burnt. I relentlessly bugged my parents about getting a new toaster for months and they never caved. Christmas rolls around and nine year old me knows there is something fantastic in that large box with my name on it. I had no idea what was in it. I imagined it was a Barbie car or dollhouse and I could hardly wait to see what treasure was beneath the wrapping paper. To my dismay, it was a new toaster. I knew we needed one and that I had repeatedly asked for one but surely this wasn’t one of my presents. I was a dramatic child and was quite taken aback and disappointed that my imagination had lead me astray. As time went on I grew to appreciate and love the toaster, for it made perfect toast every time.

 Not in a festive mood, what are some coping strategies that have worked for you?

Dana

I am the definition of NOT festive. All my friend and coworkers are absolutely obsessed with Christmas. Then they find out I am kind of anti-Christmas. I blame my years of working in retail witnessing the worst of humanity and the constant blaring of Christmas music. I put up our tree maybe 10 days before Christmas; 2 years ago we realized we accidentally threw out our Christmas lights, so we went out to get more. IMPOSSIBLE! We went to every store that sold lights in the Niagara region, and because it was so close to Christmas, no one had lights (okay, they had the colourful lights but I only wanted white). So, I simply told my boyfriend we were not decorating for Christmas this year. He said okay. We didn’t decorate and it was awesome. Honestly the only thing I really like about Christmas is all of the food and it being more acceptable to drink Bailey’s in your coffee every day.

What is the one tradition from your childhood that you continue to do each holiday season?

Dana

My parents, sister and I always read “The Night Before Christmas” book before we go to bed on Christmas Eve. I typically don’t see my parents on Christmas Eve anymore because they live an hour away. I think they brought the book to our house on Christmas day and made my boyfriend and I read it out loud with them. We all take turns reading a page, and randomly my dad talks in a weird accent during his turn. Now I also read it out loud in a weird accent.

Valerie

I watch the original Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer every single year without fail. I remember having to look it up in the TV guide when I was a kid. My mom, dad and I would watch it together with delicious cookies and treats. I now get to do the same thing with my son and husband and it is one of my favourite parts of the holiday season.

How to Stay Motivated During the Cold Months

What do you do to prepare for the cold, daylight savings? How do you stay motivated during this transitional month?

Dana

I live in straight up denial in early fall that winter is coming.

via GIPHY

I absolutely hate winter, hate, the darkness, and hate the lazy bum it turns me into. Honestly, if it wasn’t for my dog I would probably never leave the house.

Now that we have less daylight, it’s harder to get everything you want to get done accomplished before it’s dark. Come home, let the dog out, make dinner, tidy up – and bam the sun is starting to set! My boyfriend and I have been “night hiking”, just hiking in the dark with flashlights with our dog. We haven’t ventured into any serious hiking trails (I’m scared of coyotes…), but we spend an hour or so near these trails by our house that are close enough to civilization that if we screamed someone would hear us.

We also are attempting to make up a nightly schedule for weeknights:

  • Come home, play with the dog for a few minutes
  • Work out in the garage for 30 minutes at least
  • Make dinner/take the dog out (interchangeable)
  • Clean up dinner mess
  • THEN relax and watch TV

That being said, we had this idea since September and we have yet to do it. But I know if we don’t stick to a schedule we will spend the majority of the night cuddled on the couch with a blanket and really unhealthy food. Last year we decided to try out a meal prep service because we found ourselves eating pasta and other carby foods a lot. It actually went really well and we enjoyed the service! They send you recipes and all the ingredients, local and fresh food. I ended up trying a lot of new things and eating way healthier than the year before. I think we are going to do it again this winter because it kept us busy (we ate out way less) and it was easy!

I don’t want to talk about my dog again (although I am dog obsessed) but honestly, having a dog gets your butt off the couch. Our dog in particular has endless amounts of energy

Cooper

in the cooler months so we have to spend a lot of time outside trying to tire him out. I usually get quite sad and mopey during the months of darkness (the dark times as I like to call them), but ever since getting Cooper (dog) I haven’t felt that way. Maybe it’s because every morning I am outside for at least 45 minutes with him (and I think the sun is up by then) and I can get that time in the light that every human needs. I also have an office that is an entire wall of windows to outside so that makes the workday less depressing. There’s nothing worse than leaving for work in the dark and coming home and it’s already dark. Luckily I don’t have to do that anymore! I used to work in an office with no windows, but my coworker and I would go for a walk at lunch everyday just to see some sunlight. I think that’s important to do if you can!

All in all, I would suggest just trying to get out there and do as much as possible. It’s harder said than done but maybe picking an activity to do over fall and winter can help people get out there and socialize and not hibernate. Try and make a schedule and stick to it! If you want to stay inside, fix little things around the house or try out new and exciting meals! And when all else fails, just have a big cup of hot chocolate!

Blogger Talk

Donna

As students prepare for graduation, growing to a new phase in their lives, what advice would you give them that may help with this process?

Be fearless, keep your options open, and always choose in favour of your passions.  I believe you can do anything.

June has us celebrating Fathers, what sage advice or words of wisdom, has your Dad given you, that you want to share?

A man of few words, my Dad taught me that you never have to raise your voice to be heard.  Always be humble and kind.

What is/was your relationship with your Father like?  If you could change one thing, what would it be? 

My relationship with my Dad was one of ease, love and humour.  The only thing I would change is, he’d still be with us.

The month of June always brings such promise of renewal, what is your spring/summer renewal ritual?  Do you have one?

As soon as the sun warm the earth, you will find me wandering the Garden Centres.  Inhaling deeply to fill my soul, and buying way too many plants for the small gardening space I have.

Share with us something new that you have tried, are doing or embarking on this spring/summer.

Tried Edamame, and now I am hooked!  So delicious.

Valerie

As students prepare for graduation, growing to a new phase in their lives, what advice would you give them that may help with this process?

The best advice I can give to students getting ready to graduate is, explore. Explore your community, country, yourself or the world. Know that this is your life and you do not have to conform to societal expectations. One of the best parts of graduating is knowing you can take some time to discover yourself. Set goals, make a plan and do things for you. It is through self care and exploration that you will discover your place in the world. Never underestimate the value of exploring your own community, understanding where you are can help lead you to where you want to go.

Do you believe students graduating today in any field of study have been prepared for the future, for a career in their field?

Continue reading

IWD Q & A

I am very lucky to have so many strong, amazing and empowering female friends. We have had many discussions about how we don’t really feel affected by gender inequality because we grew up feeling equal to men and we have always been very independent. I have one amazing friend, Kelsey, who ended up becoming a tool and die maker, and is one of the only women not in an administrative role at the company she works for. She’s been featured in newspapers and magazines about her success in the field, and is a role model for other women to start a career in the trades. Our friend group always jokes about her success and badassness (that’s a word), and her ability to do, well, anything. She had graduated 2 different programs with honours and awards by the time most of us had graduated university. When we were talking about International Women’s Day/Month at the last Blogger’s Meeting, I immediately knew I wanted to interview her about her journey in the tool and dye field.
Amazingly, she had been asked to instantly fly down to South Carolina to do some work at another factory. She was working non-stop down there and still found the time to answer these questions for me, so thank you!

D: So what the heck do you do for a living?

K: I am a red seal certified tool and die maker, I work for a company that builds the dies for many different companies such as Ford, GM, BMW, Mercedes etc. I work as a lead hand delegating jobs, fixing issues with the dies, making sure we meet the customers’ timelines, and provide a die that will make a dimensionally and cosmetically correct car part. My company often builds dies that produce more complicated parts and the ones consumers actually see, such as the body side, tailgate, and doors. Tool and die is a hard trade to describe to people, but there’s my attempt explaining it in one sentence.

Abandoned Conveyor Belt by darkday

 

D: Well you did a pretty good job at explaining it, in my opinion. Did you always want to be a tool and die maker, or what did you want to be when you grew up, as a child?

K: I remember as a child saying I wanted to be a veterinarian, often a popular choice with kids who like cats and dogs but I never obsessed over a certain career.

D: So what did you do after high school?

K: In high school I used the co-op placement to work at a bakery, and that experience helped me decide to go to George Brown College for Baking and Pastries Arts. I remember in grade 11, really having no idea what I wanted to do but knowing university wasn’t right for me, so I picked baking as a career path.

D: [Sidenote: Kelsey then became the friend we would force to make cakes for us when we had a party or holiday coming up.] So what made you want to change careers?

K: I found the culinary trade relies heavily on your passion for the work, and often the desire to open your own business. I enjoyed baking but you work long days, often really early mornings, and you have to work holidays. I never really got a chance to enjoy my time off, or get time off to begin with. I knew I would never open my own bakery and I felt the job would never allow me to be financially independent. All the job postings I was seeing for bakers were often lower paying with no benefits. I knew that wasn’t what I wanted.

D: Okay, so you decided you wanted to do something different. What made you think of a tool and die worker?

K: I decided I didn’t want a career as a pastry chef, but I also didn’t know what I should do instead. My father works in the trades as an insulator and said he thought I would make a good millwright. That made me start looking into millwrights and possible schooling options. I discovered the Centre for Skilled Trades and Development in Burlington. They offered a Millwright/Tool and Die Pre-Apprenticeship Program affiliated with a company that would hire you depending on how the training goes. The program was also only 6 months, which was great because I wouldn’t have to take a long break from working full time. Based on the schooling, I decided I would become a tool and die maker (not a millwright) and was hired as an apprentice. I continued my training for 3 more years by going to Sheridan College one day a week while continuing to work. It was great because I wasn’t racking up any student debt (my tuition was only $400 a year) and received government grants from companies supporting the skilled trades.

D: What was your very first day on the job like?

K: The first day was extremely over whelming! No amount of classroom training can prepare you for, what looks like, such a chaotic environment. A production plant is fast paced with many moving elements. I could feel that eyes were on me. To make things worse, I didn’t have a proper work uniform yet so I felt really self-conscious walking around in my jeans since they are more form fitting than regular uniform pants.

D: Were you scared at all to work in a mostly male-dominated industry?

K: I feel like scared is the wrong term. I think I was just as nervous as anyone would be starting a new job, regardless of gender. I had no idea if and how I would be accepted. I honestly believe the men I worked with were just as nervous and worried that they might say something wrong or inappropriate to me. For the first couple months, I don’t think I had a genuine conversation or joked around with any of my coworkers. The conversation was often super formal or just filler talk about the job. It definitely became easier to bond with my coworkers when I got a new job at a different company that had more employees closer to my age.

It sometimes feels like high school, except I somehow ended up in the boys’ locker room.

D: What are you most proud of during your time in the tool and die industry?

K: My current role as a lead hand has come with a lot of responsibility, stress, and a strong feeling of pride. I am one of very few female tool and die makers and it’s even rarer for one to take on a supervisor type position. It is the most stressful and challenging job I have ever had, and that just proves to me what a smart decision I made with this career path.

D: What are some funny or crazy stories that you can share with us?

K: I have been in a fair share of strange, awkward, and funny situations at work; most times it becomes a good story to tell my friends and sometimes it’s something that really pisses me off. I can share that the men’s washroom is covered with graffiti and inappropriate writing on the walls. When a co-worker told me about that I was so confused because they were all working adults, I just didn’t get it. There was also a time when a mystery person was drawing penises all over the factory, and it got so bad that management had to get involved and start checking security cameras. It was so embarrassingly unprofessional and they never figured out who it was.

I remember at the first place I worked, there was this one line worker that wouldn’t stop asking me out. The first time he asked me, I politely said “no sorry, I have a boyfriend.” But he would still always ask to take me out to dinner! I would walk a different way around the shop to avoid him because it was always such an uncomfortable conversation. Eventually he quit or was fired, so I didn’t have to worry about that anymore. Now, if anyone asks me out I just immediately shut it down. I have worked at my current company for so long everyone knows me and that I’m married and it’s not a situation I face anymore.

Boys Locker Room by Mari Gildea

Other than that type of thing, every now and then at the lunch table someone will be looking at their phone and they start laughing and pass the phone around to the other guys at the table. Then they stop and realize I am also at the table and they don’t know if they should pass the phone to me or not. I guess they don’t want to take the chance of potentially offending me. It sometimes feels like high school, except I somehow ended up in the boys’ locker room.

More recently, I found myself working down in the States fixing issues an assembly plant had with the dies we built them. The plant manager would go and talk to one of the guys who was down there working with me and asked him for timelines and the progress of the job. My co-worker paused and proceeded to point at me and say “I don’t know, go ask my boss.” Honestly, I find nothing really phases me any more. I really enjoy my job and the work environment. The job is awesome; not just the work and the financial benefits, but all the entertaining stories I get to tell my friends.

D: Tell me about one of your biggest accomplishments, or something you are most proud of.

K: I have had a lot of success in my career, (considering I have only been working in this industry for 6 years) and I am already a lead hand at my company. But, I am the proudest of the fact that I am able to inspire other woman to work in the trades, and breakdown the preconceived beliefs about women working in this industry. Volunteering with Skills Ontario and talking to high school girls about the many career options out there brings me great pride. I have had a couple different women tell me that my career story gave them motivation to pursue a future in the trades.

D: What does your husband think about your profession?

When we were first dating and I told him I was quitting the bakery to go back to school for a tool and die maker, he was confused. Mostly because he had no idea what a tool and die maker was, and secondly because he didn’t want me to stop making delicious cookies. Now that he gets what I do every day, he is really impressed and proud of what I have been able to accomplish. However, sometimes he can get frustrated with the amount of hours I work. There are times when I will work 10-12 hour days, 7 days a week and get home and immediately pass out on the couch. We have talked about balancing work and life, and how there will be times when I have to work those long days, or randomly go to the States for three weeks for a job. He knows how important my job is to me, and he’s the person I confide in when I had a bad day, when nothing goes right, and when I’m questioning my abilities. My career has also been beneficial to him: he doesn’t have to be the sole breadwinner in our household, and was able to take a lower paying position with better options for advancement because I could support us.

D: Thank you, Kelsey! You can add this blog post to your wall of newspaper and magazine articles about how amazing you are!

K: [Eye roll and laughs]

Blogger Talk – Self-Care

Candice

Who do you know that has “Self-Care” down to a fine art?  Please give them a shout out and share why you admire this skill.

I believe that self-care is a journey, and with this I believe it will always be a working progress and commitment as it looks different with each activity or life event that happens for everyone.  There may be some who have mastered self-care in the moments or at this time, but I believe it is never truly mastered.  So instead of giving a shout out to one person, I would like to give a shout out to everyone who has embarked on a journey of self-care and what that truly means to them, to those who are currently working through what that looks like, and those who have mastered it in the moments.

Who do you know that has “Self-Care” down to a fine art?  Please give them a shout out and share why you admire this skill.

I believe that self-care is a journey, and with this I believe it will always be a working progress and commitment as it looks different with each activity or life event that happens for everyone.  There may be some who have mastered self-care in the moments or at this time, but I believe it is never truly mastered.  So instead of giving a shout out to one person, I would like to give a shout out to everyone who has embarked on a journey of self-care and what that truly means to them, to those who are currently working through what that looks like, and those who have mastered it in the moments.

Flipside to question 2, who would you give the gift of the ability to provide “Self-Care” to themselves?  What would you like to see them do for themselves?

I can’t think of one particular person, if that makes sense.  If I could I would give the gift of the ability to provide “Self-Care” to everyone.  I would encourage and challenge everyone to take on the journey of self-care and really give themselves permission to see what that looks like and means for themselves.  I would do this with everyone because it is needed with everyone, it is impossible to give to anyone else unless we are first giving to ourselves or to be present in the moments of life without being present within ourselves.

Is there a difference between “Self-Care” and Self-Love”?  If yes or no, please explain further.

I believe that self-care and self-love are directly related and that you can’t have one without the other.  Self-love is loving yourself enough to take care of yourself and giving yourself permission to ensure that you have self-care in whatever way needed.  Without self-love you wouldn’t be able to explore the true meaning of self-care and what that means for you.

Good at “Self-Care”?  Have you always been?  If not, what changed?  Please share.

For years when I thought about self-care I thought about my self-care looking like spending time with my kids, or my husband or my family, or even having a hot bubble bath.  Recently, I have been given a different outlook on self-care and what that means to me.  This all started with a time where I was struggling emotionally and having difficulty balancing, when talking to one of my space holders about my concerns and where I was at my space holder looked at me and said those magic words “what do you do for you when things get tough?” I automatically started talking about these above things, mostly around my kids, spouse and family, she then asked me the same question again… I didn’t get it at first until she explained to me that self-care is about filling my own cup up, and though these pieces are strategies used for self-care it is so much more than that.  For me in that moment I realized that for years I was trying to fill my own cup up through others without looking at what I really needed in those moments in order to care for myself in mind, body and spirit.  Since then I have dedicated myself to figuring out what my self-care needs to look like, and though I don’t think this will ever be mastered it is a working progress.  Since this time I have been able to realize that there are moments where I absolutely need to fill myself back up through the happiness of others however, there are also moments where I need to allow myself the freedom to do the opposite.  I need to give myself permission to leave the house without having the expectation of being a mom, wife, daughter, sister, Social Worker and just walk, just walk to clear my head without any interruptions.  I need to give myself permission to rest when my body says it needs to rest, and to have all emotions needed in those moments without guilt and shame.  I have realized that on overly tough days my self-care does look like a quiet bubble bath, but with that I also realized the importance in giving myself permission to have a good cry if it’s needed.  So in closing, I believe that self-care comes in so many forms and what I have learned for myself is that it depends on where the need for self-care is, but regardless of the need the important thing that I learned and continue to practice is to give myself permission to do the things I need to do for me to care for myself so that I can care for others.

Please share your tried and true “Self-Care” strategy that anyone reading this blog post could also do.

As stated above my tried and true self-care strategy is continuously in the works.  But with that it is loving myself enough to give myself permission to fill my own cup up whenever and however it’s needed without guilt and shame.

Donna

Finish this sentence:  The one thing for myself I would love to do but can’t seem to do it is ____Travel

Reflexology as my own business.  I see it in my future and I am taking baby steps to get there.

 

Please share your tried and true “Self-Care” strategy that anyone reading this blog post could also do.

Positive thoughts, in relation to the law of attraction.  I create positive energy around myself, and that is what comes back to me.  Try it, it really, really works.

What is your most luxurious “Self-Care” indulgence that you couldn’t possible do without?  Please share.

It is a combination, through trial and error that I have established to feed my soul: My monthly massage, practicing yoga, long bubble baths complete with scented candles, journaling and family game nights.  These are my must-have.  

Question of the Month: How do you embrace a new way of thinking?

Carli

It’s been a tough year. That seems to be universally agreed upon if my Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram feed can be relied upon.

Clearly, we can point to so many specific things worldwide that made 2016 tough, but for me personally it was a bit more intangible than that. I could never quite place my finger on what was wrong, I just couldn’t find a way to feel right. And believe me, I tried. I signed up for the gym classes and faithfully went for awhile. I ate right, faithfully for awhile. I took me time, set goals for myself, worked hard and played hard. But mentally, I don’t think my head was ever in the game.

So, leading up to 2017 I found myself taking profound sighs of relief that the year was almost over and a new start could begin. I had this belief that my mindset would magically change and I would be so much better equipped to follow through with my plans and goals. And then I read a novel that made me shake my head. And immediately after I read two quotes on Pinterest that made me shake it again.

Why do we put so much pressure on ourselves to change? To be something better, lose weight, figure our shit out… immediately. Here’s my advice:

I’ve been tasked to answer the question ‘How do you embrace a new way of thinking?’ and to me that seems to be the best answer. Let it go. Let go of the immense pressure you put on yourself, your year and your future. Let go of the guilt, the weight, the disappointment. Let go of the idea that everything must be just so.

Because it will, eventually. It just may not be the way you originally thought. Expect change. Expect that things won’t go the way you planned. Expect that you will still find a reason to live, laugh, love and embrace life- even with it’s imperfections. Expect yourself to be, and allow yourself to be- who you want to be in that moment. I’ll leave you with this thought as it’s had a profound impact on me when I believe I needed it most this New Year.

Blogger Talk – Inclusiveness

Donna

What is your response to those in positions of power not leading with inclusion? 

Donna-2

In my opinion, exclusion is fear, so my response to those in positions of power is… Stop being fearful, get yourself curious and educated.  A difference of opinion,  lifestyle, physical ability or religious belief isn’t something that you have to fear, or control to align with your own values or ability.  Everyone has something of value to bring to the table…..and it is the leaders responsibility to have all voices heard, to really listen and to lead without fear of including all voices.

Can ensuring “inclusiveness” be taught, or is it a character trait? 

Both, as long as a person remains curious, they will seek out or take advantage of the opportunity to learn more….and therefore it becomes easy to include everyone.  Perfect example – when a parent takes the time to demonstrate to their child that a person with a visible disability isn’t someone to be feared, children are quick to engage in conversation and inter-action too.  If you choose to believe that your way is the only way to think, feel or live….then that is the legacy you leave your children, unless they are curious themselves.

One small change you are committed to making or have made to live more “inclusively”. 

I admit, I sometimes struggle overcoming my past experiences so that I don’t paint everyone with the same brush, but I am committed to being curious and to educate myself.  With this commitment I have experienced such richness of friendships, adventures and fun.  I am also committed to sharing my values and beliefs in hopes that I can help someone else be less afraid, and more inclusive.

Ellen

What does the word “inclusiveness” mean to you?

I think I approach it from how it is applied or what it looks like. For example, I have two nephews who are on the autism spectrum. If they had been born, say 50 or 60 years ago, the severity of their disabilities might have meant they spent their lives in a regional centre, for the most part, cut off from the community. As children, they instead grew up in “inclusive” environments, going to the local school and attending classes with the help of EAs. They were sent to school daily until they were legally no longer eligible. In other words, as a society, we made some attempt to meet their needs in a somewhat inclusive manner for about 21 years (although, going to a public school doesn’t mean they were entirely “included”). Now, as young men, they rely on their parents, a patchwork of temporary caregivers, day centres, and camps, to give their lives pattern and focus. I wouldn’t exactly call their daily existence socially inclusive, and the impermanence of their situation makes it less so. Some day, their parents will no longer be able to care for them and unfortunately, there aren’t many readily available options for the kind of inclusivity that gives their lives heart and meaning. As a society, we determined 20-or-so years ago that large institutions were cruel, expensive, and too “jail-like”. So we closed them. But we haven’t offered much (in scale particularly) to replace them. Group homes are difficult to access, and truly inclusive L’Arche-like communities are few and far between.

But this is just part of my difficulty with what we call “inclusiveness” (and really addresses just one aspect, or area). People mouth the words all of the time. They say things like “we are all equal” but forget that in many cases, we can’t have equality without equity and inclusiveness.

“A child with a disability (or anybody for that manner) cannot be equal unless we give equal access to resources.”

Within my family, among other things, equity means making the immediate environment comfortable for my nephews at family gatherings (allowing them private space, ensuring that the sensory experience isn’t too overwhelming, providing food that they can eat and enjoy, being aware of our possible impact on their comfort, etc.)

I have a friend who has a child with a spectrum disorder. When she hosts family get-togethers, she asks that people come early in the day so that her child is well rested and at their behavioural best to enjoy company. Despite this repeated request, for many years, various members of her family arrived when it suited them—hours late. This made it impossible for her child to be focused when they visited. In other words, despite claiming to be accepting of the child’s disability, her family would not make any accommodations to their own lives and behaviours so that there could be equity—so the child could function well and be proud of their behaviour. And that’s kind of what inclusivity is: including people who are otherwise excluded or marginalized, allowing them to be themselves and not creating situations where they are so challenged that their “differences” become obvious “difficulties” that others have to “overlook”. If you can’t budge an inch on your own agenda, you aren’t being inclusive and equitable.

Have you ever experienced exclusion based on gender, race, or for another reason? Please share

Most women would be lying, oblivious, or choosing to overlook things if they said they have never experienced exclusion based on gender. Now, people may argue what constitutes gender exclusion, because sometimes it isn’t so blatant. But I have felt excluded based on gender and I certainly have felt the exclusion from specific economic opportunities and rewards based on my gender. I also feel class exclusion is something we avoid looking at in Canada. People (and politicians in their rhetoric) venerate “the middle class” and seek to preserve its sensibilities and ideals (if not always its income). We seem to lose our sense of what is “working class” with this emphasis on middle class nationhood. It is seen as something shameful or inferior (including intellectually inferior). Yet we know that many incomes and expectations are going down, not up. I think this encourages more class exclusion as people cling to their beliefs that “class” is natural, not created, and somehow reflects abilities and effort instead of luck and pre-existing privilege.

Can ensuring “inclusiveness” be taught, or is it a character trait?

I would say “character traits” are largely taught or learned. If they weren’t, then we would all be self-absorbed jerks “by nature”. Inclusiveness, and what it means, must be reinforced. It isn’t just one thing, it’s many things. For one thing, we need to recognize our biases and continually question and check them, and this includes our behaviours and language.

 

Blogger Talk – Gratitude and Leadership

Each month, we give you the opportunity to get to know your bloggers a little bit better. During this month of Thanksgiving and of celebrating women in leadership here at the YW, our bloggers Crystal and Allison share some of the things and people they are grateful for in their lives.

Crystal Crystal Carswell

What female in a leadership role inspires you, and why?

Elisabeth Zimmermann, the Executive Director of the YWCA Niagara Region. I see inspiration in Elisabeth because too often, for women, taking a leadership role means having to put up a wall to be respected. It can mean setting aside the characteristics that make you fun, or likable, because we’re afraid they’ll be perceived as weaknesses.  Elisabeth demands respect through her passion, knowledge, and ability to do her job, but remains wholly herself.

With the Thanksgiving holiday being celebrated this month – share with us someone in your life that you are truly grateful for.

I am incredibly grateful for my mother; while my entire world may revolve around my son, my mom is the one who has ensured it keeps turning. She is the maker of dinner, the sitter of kid, and the cleaner of houses when I can’t be. She allows me to raise my child without intervention, but provides gentle reminders not to take anything for granted and to enjoy every moment of the life we’re living.

How do you find gratitude?  Or do you?

I find gratitude through volunteering. I have only really volunteered the last couple of years, but what a difference it has made in my perspective.  I used to turn away from people who had so little because it was uncomfortable for me. For ME! I shake my head now at my own ridiculousness, and gratefully go home to my own house every day.

Allison

allisonDo you think people are less or more grateful today than in the past?

I’m saddened to say that on a whole, I do find that people tend to be less grateful for what they have in their lives, although I can’t say I can accurately compare to gratitude levels in the past! What I notice is that people generally speak of their privileges as problems, difficulties, or sources of stress – and while I don’t mean to invalidate people’s feelings, I find that many people seem to be losing sight of the privileges and opportunities they have, and tend to colour those things as burdens. It is immensely frustrating to hear, but I do my best to recognize that everyone is different, and that people must go through experiences that will teach them how to cultivate gratitude, since I certainly did not learn how to do so until I was faced with many personal challenges in my own life. In a way, this helps me be grateful for being aware of the importance of gratitude!

If you could share three things you are grateful for – what would they be?

I am grateful for having a pet that greets me when I come home at the end of the day to give their unconditional love and comfort that always puts a smile on my face (or, you know, just wants food), the amazing sunset that serves to remind me that the day is coming to an end and I’ve made it through it, and for the people I have met throughout this past year who understand and support me in my goals!

How do you find gratitude?  Or do you?

I find gratitude by pushing myself out of my comfort zone to cultivate new experiences in my life – even if they scare me! – or to push myself to do things that I may not feel like doing at the time, since I find that doing so always leads me to discovering something new, whether it be about myself or the world around me. I also find gratitude by reflecting on each day and recalling the moments in which I found joy, whether it be through a brief interaction with an acquaintance I haven’t seen in a while or the way the sky looks at sunset.

Meet The Bloggers – Poverty and Health

Canada takes  a lot of pride in its publicly funded health care – as we should! To remind ourselves how good we have it in Canada when it comes to health care, all we need to do is take a look at the other side of the border. However, we are also well aware that the system is not perfect, especially for those of us, who don’t fall under a certain social status and income bracket. We asked our bloggers about their experiences with health care and the affordability of it:

Ellen

Have you, or someone you know been faced with an illness that impacted your/their financial security?  Can you share?

Labour Day weekend marks the 4th anniversary of my partner’s lymphoma diagnosis. It took me awhile to connect that the fear and sadness I feel at the steamy end of summer is a remnant of that personal trauma. My partner is alive and thriving today, but there is emotional scar tissue. A life-threatening illness gives rise to many distressful thoughts, and one of them is the very real fear of financial ruin. My work for the past eight years has been a chaotic and precarious jumble of freelance and contract gigs, with times of frenetic gain and times of anxious sand scratching. Luckily (and it is very much luck, no matter the skill, intelligence, or effort of the employed), my partner has a good job—a union protected job—that has, thankfully, a disability package. He was off sick for two years. Two years. Like everyone faced with crisis, we cut our spending and lived in stasis. I work from a home office, so this allowed me to simultaneously act as his caregiver. His benefits allowed him to recover fully before returning to work. And, I should mention this, upon diagnosis, when things seemed so dark and dire and he didn’t have the strength to walk stairs or perform most of the functions of daily life, his colleagues at work collected cash from their own pockets and gave it to us. His union matched the funds. I cannot tell you how much that helped pay for all the out of pocket incidentals of illness: the groceries, the liquid food replacements he needed to survive, gasoline, and parking…endless expensive hospital parking. He also has a good drug benefit plan, but despite this, one of his drugs cost a whopping $1,600—far beyond what his benefits covered. Luckily (there’s that word again), a caring hospital pharmacist found a charity that paid for what wasn’t covered. I know my partner is alive today because of modern science and our health care system. I also know that without socialized health care, and the good benefits of a good job, we would be homeless—likely living with family. doctor-840127_1920There is no way most people can save for two years of illness or emerge financially unscathed thereafter. So, I am very grateful that my worst fears (one of them being the death of my partner) were not realized. I am also aware that many—too many—Canadians are not so lucky. I know many people who work, exhausted and in pain, while receiving treatment (or, work as long as they can before their bodies just can’t do it anymore). I know those who return to work before they have fully recovered. And I know those who, already living marginally, have their spirits and meagre finances further crushed by the illnesses of poverty. My mother-in-law’s gravestone (if she had one) might well say: “She died of poverty”. Again, this is even with our much vaunted medicare. My sister, who lives in Australia, emerged $10,000 in debt after surgery for ovarian cancer in that country. And that is with healthy private insurance! I know what happened in the past in our country to people who had no means to pay for treatment. I am the daughter of parents who each lost a parent early to sickness and disease and I know how this materially changed their lives. We have a solid enough health system, but our methods of materially caring for the sick and dying and their dependents, fall short.

Have you experienced a health care issue, that was impacted by whether you had, or did not have the means to afford treatment?  Can you share?

Dental care is definitely one of those things you don’t pay for if you don’t have the money. Early in my career, I worked for several companies that did not offer benefits packages. The pay was also shamefully low, so things like regular dental care and eyeglass replacements were out of the question (also…paying for OHIP premiums in the “old days” was very difficult on a low salary and I often took my chances not paying). One of my early goals was to get a job with benefits. It seems so trivial to some, but it meant so much to me. I cracked a tooth (molar) once and waited until I had  secured a job with dental benefits to get it looked at. My dentist sent me to a specialist who told me I would have to pay $500 upfront for the required work. I went home on the verge of tears thinking I couldn’t afford that tooth; I couldn’t afford teeth! I managed to find another dentist who would do the work to my defined benefits schedule and would allow me to pay in installments. The thing is, even with benefits, you often have to pay for services up front. If you can’t afford $130, or can’t fit it on your already maxed-out credit (as is the reality for many who live hand-to-mouth), you will do without, which just adds to your physical (and mental) health debt.

In your opinion, what needs to change so that quality health care is available and affordable to everyone no matter what their income?

I think we have come a long way in the past 50 years. We have universal health care which we all pay for; we have quality basic health care. I’ve had surgery (and at the old, dismal, filthy St. Catharines General, with its Crimean war hospital theatre-like atmosphere) and the surgical skill (and some, if not all of the aftercare) was excellent. And I didn’t get a bill! I’ve spent a lot of time at Ontario hospitals in the last six years, and I’ve accessed (for loved ones) and witnessed excellent home health care provided through local Community Care Access Centres. I can’t say enough about the skill and caring of these service providers. We are also fortunate to have excellent community health centres in Niagara such as Quest, Bridges, etc. (a big shout out) that provide good primary care and a whole lot more, as well as advocacy on health equity issues and programs. I think that is where a lot of the change and innovation in health care originates — from direct service providers who believe in improving health by changing the system, tearing down barriers, or mitigating social inequality. They, along with poverty action groups, have the “broader view” that includes pressing for a living wage, since good health has everything to do with good, or even adequate income. Of course, within the existing systems, services such as health navigators at hospitals and clinics, can make a huge difference in terms of accessing the required and appropriate care. Knowing where to go for services (particularly no or low cost ones) and how to advocate for your health (mental and physical) or the health of someone else, can change outcomes.

Marilyn

Have you, or someone you know been faced with an illness that impacted your/their financial security?  Can you share?

I had major surgery almost 10 years ago that almost killed me. There were severe complications that have a direct link to the health problems that continue to this day. I had to learn to accept my limitations and work within them in order to stay healthy. I haven’t been able to work full-time since I had that surgery. My whole world as I knew it came crashing down and I was forced to re-evaluate my priorities.

Aside from the physical-side of the impact of poverty on health – in your opinion what psychological impact do you feel there is?

It chips away at your self-confidence. Chronic pain & illness can lead to isolation which can develop into clinical depression. It messes with your self-image. It’s very scary to be financially dependent on someone else. Society is very judgmental and places a value on people based on their income or ability to work.Marilyn

Have you experienced a health care issue, that was impacted by whether you had, or did not have the means to afford treatment?  Can you share?

I feel very fortunate to have additional medical insurance through my husband’s employee benefits. There are many treatments and medications that I otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford. This would have a negative effect on the quality of life I would have.

With prevention top of mind, what preventative health tip would you like to share?

Stay active. Engage in low-impact activities like gardening, walking and aquatic exercise at least 30 minutes a day. Regular exercise improves sleep, controls weight, has a positive affect on mood and stimulates creativity.

In your opinion, what needs to change so that quality health care is available and affordable to everyone no matter what their income?

I honestly don’t know the solution to this very serious problem but I do know that it needs to be addressed by the government. If people don’t have access to proper healthcare now the government ends up paying anyway through things like hospitalization, Long Term Care facilities, disability, welfare, etc. There needs to be a more pro-active approach to caring for people to prevent the rapid decline of health and quality of life before it happens.

Allison

Have you, or someone you know been faced with an illness that impacted your/their financial security?  Can you share?

My father went on sick leave from work numerous times due to arthritis that left him unable to perform not only his work duties, but also other basic tasks around the home. In 2012 he suffered a stroke that extended his leave to over two years, and by the time he returned to work he experienced a culture shock from not only having to keep up with new developments, but from being treated differently by his peers. His sick leaves from work impacted his finances greatly since the money he received from work while on leave was not sufficient to cover the bills, and so he resorted to using a line of credit to support us. When he went on another sick leave, his inability to leave the house left him unable to get a doctor’s note his work required in order for him to remain employed. He was then fired by his employer of over 20 years. The last conversation I had with him was terrifying, as he had essentially lost all hope to get better, and would avoid answering my questions about whether or not this meant he was going to go on ODSP or OW. When he passed away two weeks after that, we learned that he was in severe overdraft and debt. Seeing what can happen to someone when they experience chronic health problems is something I will never forget, and exposed me to the many problems that exist both socially and systemically. There is simply not enough support for people experiencing chronic illness and other health problems.

Do you know of a program or agency that helps eliminate a barrier to health care for those living in poverty?  Give them a shout out.

I have heard many wonderful things about Quest Community Health Centre in St. Catharines. Their questpriority populations include people experiencing homelessness, mental health and addiction issues, and many others who are in need of a supportive, nonjudgmental environment.

Irene

Do you know of a program or agency that helps eliminate a barrier to health care for those living in poverty?  Give them a shout out.

In the last five years I have lost  my own family doctor of 25 yrs. I have been in extremely good health all of my life. I saw my doctor for physical check ups only. Through having to find a clinic to replace my family doctor, I found Quest Community Health Centre 145 Queenston St., Suite 100, St. Catharines, ON  L2R 2Z9.

This is a centre that provided health care professionals and programs that were inclusive to everyone. There have been no barriers. I was treated as an individual. Poverty was not a barrier to receive health care. The staff treat every person with compassion and empathy, no matter what their circumstances in life are or have been.

The Dental Program provides dental care for clients who cannot afford to see see a dentist because of cost. This program provides dental care and cleaning on a regular basis by professionals who donate their time. Their programs such as Road 2 Empowerment, a program to better and more efficiently advocate was immensely beneficial.

Living in Poverty means consistently advocating for our rights.

Aside from the physical-side of the impact of poverty on health – in your opinion what psychological impact do you feel there is?

LIrene2iving in Poverty creates health issues that I have never had  due to poor nutrition and the constant worry of not having food creates a fear that you may go hungry.  There is also the underlying fear that being homeless can happen to you again. Every ordinary situation becomes a crisis. This leads to stress and anxiety.

Even though I had the assurance that I had access to food despite that it had no nutritional value most of the time I was faced with the reality that if I did not have the means to get there, I would go hungry.

This fear is constant. It impacts decisions you make, relationships you have and too many times we isolate because the reality of poverty hits us so hard, we become immobile.

The mental strain on every aspect of our lives becomes exhausting. Although I am in a better situation, Poverty has taken a toll on my mental well being. There are still days, sometimes weeks that my entire system shuts down, mentally and physically. Poverty has left a scar that will remain with me.

 

Getting To Know You Questions – #RealityCheque

Get to know your bloggers! This month, learn what their experience has been with poverty and homelessness. We asked them to pick some of the following questions to answer:

  1. What is one misconception you had on poverty, that you now feel differently about?
  2. The statement “I’m homeless” brings what emotion out in you?
  3. One of the messages that is shared through No Fixed Address is that homelessness doesn’t only happen to others, have you ever found yourself homeless?  Please share that experience if you have.
  4. For someone experiencing homelessness, staying in one of our shelters – what would be something you want them to know?
  5. As part of our hashtag campaign #RealityCheque – Can you share, how many missed pay cheques until I am homeless?
  6. Sometimes it isn’t missed pay cheques, have you or someone you know had a life changing experience that has impacted their housing?  Please share.
  7. If faced with being homeless next month – would you access an emergency shelter?  Whether yes, or no, please share more.
  8. How will you be participating in the YW’s No Fixed Address event this year?

 

Crystal

What is one misconception you had on poverty that you now feel differently about?

I thought that nothing I could do would help anyway, so why bother. I’ve seen how far a little money can go. The YW can stretch a dollar like you wouldn’t believe, and help people looking for the Crystal Carswellmost basic human needs that we take for granted.

The statement “I’m homeless” brings what emotion out in you?

Sadness. I’ve met some incredibly interesting women through the YW, and heard stories from women from all walks of life. It’s heartbreaking when they find themselves at that door.

If faced with being homeless next month – would you access an emergency shelter?  Whether yes, or no, please share more.

I am very lucky in that I have friends I can live with in desperation, or an ex who would no doubt move us up to Brampton in extreme circumstances. Not everyone is lucky enough to have this kind of support system.

How will you be participating in the YWCA No Fixed Address event this year?

Team Cap (my son and myself) will be toughing it out in our little sedan over night! Can’t wait to see you all there!

 

Marilyn

The statement “I’m homeless” brings what emotion out in you?

When I hear the word “homeless” it makes me feel fearful and vulnerable. Being homeless is one of my worst nightmares.

One of the messages that is shared through No Fixed Address is that homelessness doesn’t only happen to others. Have you ever found Marilynyourself homeless?  Please share that experience if you have.

I left home when I was 16 because of an abusive male in the household and signed myself into a youth home in Welland. From there I moved to Toronto where I lived in boardinghouses and shelters. I am grateful for the security and provisions I was given while I was there. I will never forget the life skills and guidance I was given in order to be able to take care of myself and survive.

For someone experiencing homelessness, staying in one of our shelters – what would be something you want them to know?

Nothing lasts forever! — This doesn’t have to define you or who you are. Take advantage of the guidance and assistance offered at the shelter. Immerse yourself in the many  different skill-based courses provided by staff who truly care about others.

How will you be participating in the YW’s No Fixed Address event this year?

I will be spending the night in my car to raise money and awareness to the plight of poverty and how ultimately, it affects us all. Ignoring a problem never makes it disappear.

 

Dana

The statement “I’m homeless” brings what emotion out in you?
It brings out sadness. A home is so much more than a shelter that protects you from the elements; it’s everything. It’s your safe place, a place that provides food, shelter, love and nourishment for you and others. It gives you a sense of pride and safety, and without a home a lot of those things can be taken away. Your safety, your comfort, your confidence, and your ease of mind. It brings out worry, anxiety, and fear. I know that my home has always been a constant in my life, a safe place to go that is full of love. I know when I walk through my front door everything gets a bit better. For someone not to have that reassuring feeling is sad, and scary, and no one deserves to have that taken away from them.

One of the messages that is shared through No Fixed Address is that homelessness doesn’t only happen to others. Have you ever found yourself homeless?  Please share that experience if you have.
I am lucky enough to have never experienced homelessness – then again I am only 27 years old and there’s a lot more life to live. I have a fantastic family who has supported me my entire life, and even during my most “irresponsible spending” years and a brief time where I was unemployed, they supported me and I never had to worry. I also have a wonderful boyfriend who has supported me through my time of unemployment and was able to pay for our rent and living expenses. I was very scared during that time, even though I had no immediate threat of homelessness, so I can only imagine how scary it must be when you are in that situation.dana

For someone experiencing homelessness, staying in one of our shelters – what would be something you want them to know?
I would want them to know that aside from the physical roof over their head and food in their bellies, there is a support system there that can help them through the roughest times. There is a support system, a team of caring, loving, and helpful people working and volunteering at the shelter who are there solely to help people who need it. They are there to help you get through this rough time, and build a better life. They are there for you.

As part of our hashtag campaign #RealityCheque – Can you share, how many missed pay cheques until you are homeless?
I am lucky enough to be sharing my expenses with a partner, and because of that, I could last a bit longer without my pay cheques. If my partner and I both missed more than two, then we wouldn’t be able to stay in our house.

If faced with being homeless next month – would you access an emergency shelter?  Whether yes, or no, please share more.
I am very blessed to have two families who would let me stay with them if I became homeless. I am also very fortunate to have a number of close friends who live nearby who would also let me stay with them without question. If I were in a situation where I did not have such a fantastic support system, then yes, I would access an emergency shelter.

How will you be participating in the YWCA No Fixed Address event this year?
I plan on volunteering!

 

Irene

The statement “I’m homeless” brings what emotion out in you?

Heart stopping fear.

One of the messages that is shared through No Fixed Address is that homelessness doesn’t only happen to others, have you ever found yourself homeless?  Please share that experience if you have.Irene2

Tragedy has no boundaries . It comes knocking on your door without warning , or discernment. It can strike anyone from all walks of life, male or female and at any age. Everything that was once  your home where your children and grandchildren laughed and had family dinners is gone in a storage unit, unrecognizable .

Your entire life becomes disjointed like a puzzle someone threw on the floor in anger. You are not able to find the pieces to put it all together again.

Imagine a 4′ by 4′ square. The space within not even enough room for your body to lie full length. Within that space you hold your precious belongings. No room to move , no room to sit, standing all alone and afraid to leave that one spot for fear of losing that as well. You become frozen with fear. Even breathing is hard . Standing perfectly still is the only way you will keep from losing that small ground completely . You  almost become invisible to the world.

For someone experiencing homelessness, staying in one of our shelters – what would be something you want them to know?

To reach out to someone they trust.  To never lose Hope.  Get up every day and do one thing that brings joy to your heart.

 

Allison

Sometimes it isn’t missed pay cheques, have you or someone you know had a life changing experience that has impacted their housing?  Please share. 

I have had two relatives lose the place they called home due to very similar circumstances – the death of a parent. As a result, they both experienced hidden homelessness, and were living out of their cars, motels, and with other relatives. These are situations that were difficult for me to emphasize with at first, because I knew very well that these people had the financial resources to secure a place to live. After getting involved in volunteering with the YW I came to recognize other factors that were involved in them becoming homeless, and that while it may seem to others that they actively chose that path for themselves, there are many factors in our society that have contributed to their situations, such as mental health issues, a lack of available support services, and stigma.

If faced with being homeless next month – would you access an emergency shelter?  Whether yes, or no, please share more. 

I’m very fortunate during this current period of my life in that I have a strong enough support network that I would feel confident in finding someone to stay with temporarily. Prior to this year however, I felt that I would have to uproot my entire life to live with distant relatives in a different city if this were to happen to me. Since then, many things have changed. I started volunteering for the YW, which has given me awareness of the resources I could use, but more importantly, I became employed. Although I make minimum wage, being employed has opened up many doors for me both financially and socially. I have coworkers that I know I could turn to for help should I need it, and for that I am immensely grateful. Also, I have enough money saved so that I could rent another place should I need to. Right now I have a lot of agency in my life that I did not feel that I had up until this year, and I am so thankful that I would not have to leave what I have to access a shelter, as many people must do in order to survive.

How will you be participating in the YWCA No Fixed Address event this year? 

This will be my second year helping out with the event, and I have been looking forward to it for months! This year, I have been involved in the Volunteer Recruitment Subcommittee in which I have been assisting with getting people involved in helping both with the Cardboard House display as well as No Fixed Address, often by promoting them at community events throughout the summer. On the day of the event, I will be there to help ensure that we have volunteers where we need them to be, and if my work schedule will allow it, I hope to be participating by staying overnight in my friend’s car. Regardless of what my involvement looks like, No Fixed Address holds a special place in my heart and I consider being involved with it a great privilege!