Tag Archives: children

The Perfect Gift

We are bombarded by advertisements, displays, salespeople, and online ads of ‘the perfect gift.’

It’s all a bit much, isn’t it?

Or do you love the hustle and bustle of the season? Worrying what to get and how you’re going to find the time to even get it?

Do you love the sleepless nights filled with dreams of recipes that fail, presents that are returned, and family that doesn’t make it home for the holiday?

Do we lose something, in this commercialized version of Christmas, or do we gain what we wait for all year, to be with our families, months of planning, all over in hours of endless preparations and a few minute meal.

Is this, what Christmas was meant to be? Is this, what Christmas felt like when you were a child? Is it filled with excitement and wonder and magic and awe of the beauty that surrounds you in the lights and the giant trees, and the bigger than life presents that Santa brought for you? Is this, what Christmas still feels like to you, today?

Or can we agree, maybe, that as we’ve grown older, our families bigger, and our hearts maybe a tiny bit smaller, (I mean, how often do you really see the neighbors anyway, they don’t need a gift from you)…can we agree that maybe, as the old saying goes, “Maybe Christmas,” he thought, “doesn’t come from a store. Maybe Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more.”

Perhaps, the Grinch was on to something.

I’ve always been in awe of the true meaning of Christmas. Whatever your belief may be, Christmas is filled with hope and majestic wonder. Just look into the eyes of a child, or a loved one. I dare you not to smile.

Joy. Laughter. Love. Excitement. Extravagance. Tradition. Closeness. Giving.

Just a few of the words that describe Christmas for me.

But if I’m honest, I’ve lost some of the magic, too.

It’s easy to do. I think that in our fast paced, need it now, have to get the best of the best, world, we forget that the true meaning of Christmas is love. That the true spirit of Christmas is in giving, but not just giving because we have to for the many reasons that we’ve been lead to believe, but giving because it comes from our heart. Giving that means something to us, from deep within us, because it gives us joy.

Stressing over what to get everyone and spending more money than we have does not bring us joy, let’s be real here.

Joy is in the little moments of putting up the tree with our family, baking with the kids, getting that gift off the top of our niece’s or nephew’s Christmas list because we can afford it, and we know how happy they will be playing with that toy, with us. It is in the moments of, regardless of a Christmas tree with presents under it, or food on the table, we are surrounded by people who love us, exactly as we are.

Christmas is a time of togetherness.

This looks different for everyone. This could look like family and friends or neighbors and community. It could look like many presents and a table full of food or no presents and an empty belly. Or any combination of these.

There is one ingredient that can’t be taken away, despite our outside circumstances, and that ingredient is love.

We all have it, and we can all give it. We all want it and we can certainly all use it.

It might take a little humility and vulnerability, I know. It might take biting your tongue, and loving them anyway, despite what they’ve done. It might take a phone call that you’ve not made in a long time or a visit you’ve been dreading all year.

But if we can try to remember, even if just for a moment, that the perfect gift is love. That the reason for the season is hope. For a better tomorrow, for a better me, and a better you. For a better world, one that remembers love.

If we can try to all be gracious givers this holiday season. To only give what we have, with love and joy. To be peaceful and patient, with kindness that comes from a heart filled with love.

Love doesn’t look like what we bring, it looks like showing up for someone. Our families, friends, and perfect strangers.

The things just simply don’t matter when you are surrounded by people you love, or at least like, somewhat. Try to like them a little more this year.

May the true joy of Christmas surround you this holiday season ❤️

There is something that has challenged me these past couple of years. I like to give, to family and friends, but sometimes I look around and I see that my family and friends are quite blessed. So, I look for ways to give outside of the usual presents, sometimes at the expense of gifts for friends and family, and sometimes extra, depending on my own financial circumstance.

I’ve challenged myself, and I’d like to challenge you, as well.

There are many organizations in our region. The YWCA is of course one of them. These organizations need items on an ongoing basis. I know this can look like a lot of work and maybe even complicated, I know it did for me at first. Even overwhelming. But over time I’ve learned a thing or two.

Poverty has many faces in our region. Causes are no longer just national organizations that we click a button on the webpage and donate our annual allotment of donation money, though this is of course a great way to give back. When we look around our cities, we see the faces of people that have come upon hard times. I know that you see them.

But if you’re like me, you might like to know that you’re truly making a difference, and may have no idea who to give to.

Can I challenge you to make it meaningful? To you, and maybe even your family?

We can give to an organization or organizations that mean something to us, whether past or present.

For example, though I’ve never used the services of the YWCA, it has meaning to me because there are many times that I have been in a place where I’ve thought of an emergency shelter as an option. To give back one year, I learned that they have a list of needs on their website and I donated formula and diapers. I had no idea this was an item that was needed. I didn’t think about it simply because I don’t have children.

I was challenged once to put one thing that I didn’t need in a box each day for 30 days. I can’t even tell you how much joy it gave me to bring a box of items that I loved, but really didn’t need, to a local thrift shop. Thrift shops give back in big and meaningful ways to the community, and the world. They even gave me a gift in return, a punch card with a discount for the next time I shopped there. I craft, thrift stores are gold mines for items to craft with.

When I was in high school, our grade 9 French class decided to give a family Christmas. This meant buying all the gifts and food for the family’s Christmas. There are a few organizations that do this. I will never forget this experience.

There are many people in need of winter items, hats, scarves, mittens, that you can buy at the dollar store, or donate from home, as well as gently used coats and boots. This is a great way to teach kids to give.

I have been blessed to be a part of a motel ministry that provides food, clothing, and support to those living in the many residential motels in our region. I had no idea that many of our motels are no longer for tourists. The people who live there need everything. Stop by, take a look.

Books can be donated to many organizations, if you happen to like to read, and wanted to pick up a few extra for someone else.

And of course, there are the beautiful red kettles, of an organization that works tirelessly to combat many things, but hunger certainly being an important one of them.

The more I learn about what the organizations in our region do on a daily basis, the more inspired I am to give, based on what has direct meaning to me, or what might be an immediate need in our region right now, such as shelter and a warm meal during the cold months.

If you can’t give money, give time, and vice versa. Be creative. There is something that you have that someone else needs, whether it is time, talent, or treasure.

There are people in need all around us.

Have a wonderfully blessed holiday season.

Healthy Co-Parenting with your Ex

Crystal

Let’s face it folks, times have changed. The traditional family is no longer that traditional. More and more often couples are finding themselves in a position where they no longer want to ‘couple’ but are, regardless, looking ahead at years of obligatory interaction due to their children.

For the past 6 years my ex and I have been called things like: weird, surreal, amazing, and the ‘poster children’ for divorce. As much as I enjoy praise, (come on, who doesn’t?) it also breaks my heart a little that our situation is so uncommon.

I have questioned what it is that makes our relationship one that, while never perfect, has always been equitable and pleasant. Is it because one or both of us are perfectly rational, emotionally mature individuals who should be therapists in our spare time? Uh…nope (shush Dan, I can hear you from here).

What we have found together, though, is a friendship that has grown roots in today, and plans for tomorrow, rather than lingering in yesterday. Here are the lessons we learned along the way, in the hopes that our style of healthy co-parenting becomes the norm rather than the exception.

1) THE KID COMES FIRST

This is the foundation upon which every decision we make is based. It is non-negotiable. This is, unfortunately, also where so many relationships go wrong. Anger and resentment gets in the way, people want to hit back, or score points. Stop it! This is not about you. It doesn’t matter who did what to get you there, the fact is you’re there. Take responsibility for the child you created, and their well-being. What is in their best interest? What kind of life do you want for them?

2) COMMUNICATE (PLEASANTLY)

Whether you are talking to or about your ex, be civil. Do not bad-mouth each other in front of your child. You once loved this person enough to procreate with them. Point out their positives when you can to your children, so they can recognize them as well. Every child starts being told “oh, you have your dad’s nose” or “you’re so your mother’s son”. Don’t let them have a negative association with that half of themselves.

Communicate regularly when possible. Before my ex was able to move closer, we used to meet up at a coffee place every weekend to exchange our son. We spent an hour or so chatting about our weeks and what was going in our son’s life. While you might not be there, consider what small changes you can work towards to make the situation less adversarial.

3) BE A FAMILY

Yep, you heard me. Do stuff together. No, it’s not going to ‘confuse’ your child. It’s going to help them understand that while there is a new living arrangement, being part of a family doesn’t stop. We do birthdays, Christmas, Mother’s/Father’s Day, even Halloween. Camping and road trips, while not common, have been done. This is something that I give my ex SO much credit for. Over the years he has always gone out of his way to ensure he is present. On my end, I have always ensured he knew he was welcome in anything we do.

This feeling of family extends though. His parents stay with me when they come over from England. They want to spend time with their Grandson, and I love that! My mother and he have a hilarious relationship that involves shameless flirting. We all come as a package, and if a step-parent comes into the picture, they will absolutely be wrapped in that package.

4) BE THE GROWN UP

SO many aspects of healthy co-parenting fall into this category. Often, when parents split, the relationship shifts from parent/child to grown up/buddy. They don’t need you as a friend. They need you as a guide, a rule-setter, a loving pair of arms, and a safe place to land. Don’t try to use them as a sounding board to vent your venom over the injustice of it all. It is NOT their problem, it’s yours. Call a friend, or a hotline. Open a bottle of wine after you’ve finished ‘adulting’ and have a Facebook rant. By trying to force your child into the role you want them to fill, you are denying them their childhood. Be the grown up they need you to be in this difficult time in their lives.

All of the small choices we’ve made through the years have all fallen into one of these categories. It has made our lives so much more positive, and frankly, so much more enjoyable. Kudos to all of you out there right now who are doing your best, and keeping your integrity in difficult circumstances. I wish you smoother seas ahead.

Just remember, when in doubt, go back to #1.

Power of Being a Girl 2017

Power of Being a Girl

YWCA Niagara is hosting it’s 11th Annual Power of Being a Girl conference within the region.
Many events lose interest of the community and participants after that many years, but this conference remains popular. Why? Maybe it has to do with the powerful impact it has on the grade 10 girls from all over the region who participate.

Throughout the years, the event has touched many lives. One of the speakers in previous years explained that at one of the conferences, some of the girls came up to her individually to self-disclose issues they have felt including thoughts of suicide and the difference the day had made to them. 12 girls that day felt empowered enough to find positives in their lives, things to look forward to as well as to speak about it. That’s some of the differences these events can make.

As huge a success as that story is, Power of Being a Girl has also inspired girls to discuss body image issues, negative feelings of loneliness. The discomfort most girls face during the ups and downs of teenage years. Some students have said:

“I felt alone and isolated. I was living in everyone’s shadow,” she said of the difficulties she once had but has since overcome. “Now I want to help others get out of the shadow and let their light shine.”  – St. Catharines Standard

More participants said:

“Your skin is the costume. Your personality is the beauty,” she says.

“If you keep trying to be what society thinks is perfect, you’ll never experience peace.

“You’re always chasing.” – St.Catharines Standard

The conference gives girls a safe place where they can check in with themselves and realize they are not alone in their feelings. They have the chance to ban together and encourage confidence in each other.

“At first, I was really nervous. And then I realized, we’re all girls here,”

“Everyone has flaws. They have to learn to love those flaws. They have to learn to love themselves.”

“Really, really good. Made me proud to be a woman.”

“My favourite part was knowing that I’m worth something and finding strengths I never thought I had.”

This year’s conference speaks to healthy relationships. We have no idea what’s truly in store for these participants in terms of revelations but we sure look forward to exploring them. If it’s anything like the last ten years, it will be a huge success, change the lives of so many.

#POBG2017

Trailblazing Fathers

There is something to be said about a dad doing things outside of the societal ‘norm’. These ‘trailblazing’ daddies who are out there starting hair schools so other dads can learn how to style their daughter’s hair. The ones rising to fame because a photo of himself with his infant strapped to his chest while brushing his daughter’s hair in the bathroom has baffled the world. The daddy bloggers who are fielding questions from other dads and posting about the often hilarious antics of their experiences with their children. The one posting letters to his wife on Facebook about his trials and tribulations with his young ones while she is laid up in the hospital (who subsequently gained thousands upon thousands of followers.) These daddies are showing men around the world that it’s cool to be an involved father.father-682663_1920

There is also something to be said about those same dads not really understanding why their actions are being praised so astoundingly when to them they are just being the best dad they can be.

We’ve recently been seeing a rise in men tossing aside the oppressive ideas that dads can’t be as involved or more in their children’s upbringing. We are seeing them shrug off the need to maintain the macho status as the typical absent father. And it’s so exciting to see how embraced those dads have been. How encouraged they are to ‘keep up the good work’.  “I feel like the kudos have made me a better dad,” he said. “When you hear ‘you are such an awesome dad,’ you start to believe it and let go of the mistakes you make as a parent.”

It’s gratifying to see moms posting blogs in defense of their baby daddy’s like this one about dumbass stuff we need to stop saying to dads and it’s comforting to witness this shift in society’s thinking. Women have been saying for years that we can do anything a man can do. So maybe we shouldn’t act so surprised when it turns out that men can do anything we can do too.

Kudos to you, you trailblazer daddies you!

Two Enormous Resounding Yeses

Yesterday, my coworker and friend, Kaitlyn, wrote a blog entry about her decision to not have children. Now, before I continue with what I hope people read as an entry that complements hers, let me tell you that Kaitlyn is an intelligent, compassionate, principled woman, who doesn’t need my validation.

I agree with what she’s written, and I come at this from a different perspective. Continue reading

A Million Little Yeses

Have you heard of Harambe? If you haven’t, you may be one of the few who has resisted Facebook or internet sensationalism in general this past week. Harambe is the 400lb gorilla at the Cincinnati Zoo who was killed after a child “fell” into his enclosure. What has stirred such controversy is that “the internet” is looking for someone to blame: the zookeepers for being too hasty in their shot? The zoo for not having a proper enclosure? Or the mom of the boy, Michelle Gregg, for not keeping an eye on him. Continue reading

What is a “Fur-Mommy”?

I’m 31 years old, have been with a man for nearly 15 years, and both have relatively well-paying jobs, a baby must be next, right?

No thanks.

Not yet. Maybe not ever.

I find it funny that society believes these factors are the perfect recipe for parenthood without considering if the “parents” want them or not. Why? Because the immediate question I hear when I tell people there’s no baby-bump in the immediate future is, “Why?” (Add in obligatory half-sneer as the inner wheels of their true questions stir) “Is there something medically wrong with myself or my husband stopping us from having children?” “Do we hate children?” “Am I so vain I don’t want to spoil my body?”

I know these questions are swimming around in their grey matter, not because I’m a mind reader, but because not everyone is so couth to keep the questions to themselves.

I’ve given myself until 35 to decide if parenthood is for me, until then me and the Hubster are content with our babies.

Our Fur-Babies.

Bosco   Mortimer

Bosco A.K.A Bossman (8 years old)                         Mortimer A.K.A Monster ( 1 year old)

Fur-babies depend on their parents for everything until they pass, beginning on when they’re tiny bundles of fur. When Bosco became a daddy (Mortimer being one of his pups), it was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. To watch the sightless pups 24/7, who can barely squirm, to make sure the mother didn’t accidently suffocate them trying to get comfortable, unable to walk or even regulate their body temperatures, adding a lot of guess work in the mix while sleep deprived. Many elements out of my control including making sure the mother fed them enough and that she herself was healthy.

Watching them grow and discover new things like their sound of their own bark, or finding their favorite toy, and the fact cheese unfortunately makes them really sick, and watching them go crazy after a bath using the halls as a drag race is as rewarding as it entertaining, which is why us fur-baby lovers liter our social media accounts with pictures of our four-legged friends just as much as other do their children.

The bond is concrete regardless of species.

In some ways being a fur-mommy is more difficult than traditional parenting. NOW HOLD ON! I’m sure I just enraged every person who has ever carried a child and lived through hours of delivery, but hear me out.

Loving anything with an expiry date before your own is devastating, and we choose to do so knowing the heartbreak is 10-15 years down the line, and we do it a few times in our lifespan. If human children only lasted that long, I wonder if people would still have them? Of course the human race would die out, but you get my point.

Bosco and Mortimer will never learn to talk and tell me how much they love me, but they show it better than most humans I know. Love evident in their kisses and snuggles and in the way they seem to anticipate my emotional imprint. Calm and compassionate when my I’m down or goofy and rambunctious when I need a laugh.

Now, I’ll never watch my fur-babies grow up and go to college and fall in love, though they have had their own children, but I also won’t need to pay for college or a wedding either. The decision for parenthood is not monetary driven either but it’s a plus in the childless column. As is, no midnight feedings, enduring awkwardness of the sex-talk, paying a babysitter when you leave the house, or hoping you don’t end up raising a serial killer. (It’s an honest fear more people should consider) Seeing our little buggers grow, seeing their curiosity get them into hilarious hijinks, watching their puppy frenzy morph into that of a seasoned pup, is astonishing.

I can’t say I’ve ever experienced “baby fever” though I do love my nieces and nephews. They’re fun, but handing them back when their diaper needs changing or they throw a tantrum is FANTASTIC. At eleven my youngest brother was born, so babysitting was natural, but since then children haven’t been an element in my life and I never felt the compulsion to make them apart of it regardless if I mothered them or not.

Children are not necessary to feel complete, not for me anyway, and with the world’s overpopulation issues, I’m grateful to be raised in a society where parenthood is a choice, even if not everyone understands it. Most of the people I know who have children never planned them. Their “oopsies” turned into a blessing, but since I have the choice, I’m choosing to hold off until I’m sure.

For now, and maybe forever, I’m content and wholly fulfilled with the love of a little being who has no idea what I saying, has no care of my social standing and what that means for their life, and has no grand needs besides extra treats, freedom to sleep where they want, and forgiveness when they get into the garbage and poop out unidentifiable things me and the Hubster have fun guessing at.

Fur-babies are quick burning fire crackers that fill your life with joy and excitement as equally as despair, leaving us behind too quickly. No matter the fur-babies that come after them, they are never forgotten and your heart is left with a hole that outlasts their lifetime.

VirginiaR.I.P Virgie Bear.

 

My Journey through Motherhood

Twenty-nine years ago I gave birth to a delicate little pixie that had rosebud lips and big blue eyes. She had thick dark hair and was a perfect little porcelain doll.  I was 19 years old ID-10025970and fell in love the moment I laid eyes on her.  Three years later I had my second child, a son.  He was a big boy , weighing 9 pounds 3 ounces, with a dark mohawk and a teardrop indentation above his top lip. Raising children into responsible citizens of society has been the most challenging and rewarding career I’ve ever had.  My children taught me the meaning of unconditional love.  They showed me how to laugh and play and enjoy the simple things in life.  They helped me to understand myself better as I looked at life through the eyes of a child.  They were the one constant thing in my life.  People came and went,  I changed jobs and we moved a lot, but through it all I had the delightful company  of 2 little people who always entertained me.

I loved taking them camping and travelling to new places.  Dinner was always a special time to talk about our day while we had nutritious homemade meals.  We went to the drive-in theatre and for hikes down to the gorge.  We played tourist in the off season and went to the beach all throughout the summer.  We travelled through the United States twice with my mother and stepfather.  We went to Graceland in Tennessee and Grauman’s Chinese Theater in Hollywood.  We visited the Book Depository in  Dallas Texas and stood on the grassy knoll where bystanders watched the assassination of President John Kennedy as he drove by in his motorcade.   We shared many adventures and I’m sure these experiences were far more valuable than anything they could ever read about in a book or on the internet.  They kept journals for their teachers and every day they recounted where they had been and what they had seen.  Their teachers said this form of education was invaluable.

Time passed by so quickly  and before I knew it , they were all grown up.  My daughter got married and had children of her own.  My son moved to Calgary for better employment and is making his own way in this world.  My daughter followed me into healthcare and my son is a Corporal in the Reserves of the Army. My only wish for my children is that they are happy with whatever they do in life.  I’ve tried to give them a better life than I had and the tools to survive in this world.  I’ve tried to teach them how to live an honourable life, through example.

This was the first time in almost 30 years that I won’t be with my children for Mother’s Day.  My daughter and her husband have taken my grandbabies to Cuba for a vacation.  And my son is too far away too drop in for a visit now.  It’s given me a lot of time to think about my life and I can honestly say that being a mother has been the most fulfilling role of my life. I feel like I have completed a very important chapter in my life and I look forward to whatever the future brings.  But nothing will ever be as intense or as gratifying as having the privilege of bringing these precious angels into the world and molding them into good people.  I feel so lucky to have watched them grow and change into independent human beings.

I hope that the memories and love of their children made this past Mother’s Day a happy one for many mothers.   I hope  that those have lost their mother through death are comforted by joyful memories.  I hope that women who are separated from their children will find solace in knowing that a child’s love is unconditional and that there’s always hope for a better future.  I want all mothers to know that as long as we do our best our children have a better chance at a good life.  Life isn’t always easy and there are no guarantees, but taking pride in motherhood makes for a better society as a whole.mother walking with child

Images courtesy manostphoto/Freedigitalphotos.net and Gagilas photos on Foter