Tag Archives: Donna

New BEE-ginnings

This past Spring I had the pleasure of witnessing, in action my daughter Emilee’s leap of faith into a new “out of the box” career in of all things BEEKEEPING. A far-cry from her post-secondary schooling in graphic design. Her new bee-ginning, like Emilee herself, happened in unique layers…… of research, coincidence, serendipity, a chance meeting and an interview that sealed the deal….her indomitable spirit and all those moments added up to her now working for the largest apiary in Niagara.

Beekeeping on such a large scale, is not easy to say the least, holding her own in a male dominated field, she comes home physically exhausted as beekeeping involves a lot of heavy lifting, sweaty as the suit covers you from head to toe, smelling of smoke which is used when opening up the hives, on rare occasions with a bee sting and …………. the happiest I have ever seen her!

As Spring brings graduations and the promise of new beginnings for graduates, let Emilee’s story demonstrate that your dream career and future take time to materialize, just be patient. Sometimes, it turns out that what you have gone to school for you don’t see yourself doing for the rest of your life, and that is okay. Emilee had to find the strength within herself to find her passion, redefine herself and have the confidence to pursue the career she wanted. She had to face set backs, and trust me there were a few, and continue to pursue her dream of working with bees and making an impact on the future of our environment.

My hope was to raise a socially conscience, independent young woman, and watching her through this process, I realized I had. A part of that for me was letting go, knowing she would be okay.
As a parent, it was sometimes difficult to watch her experience this process, and not try to make it “all right”. I was her sounding board, cheerleader and realized the best support I could give her through it all, was to let her figure it out on her own. She did.

Through her process, I have come to not only truly appreciate the Honeybee, but I am now a wealth of random facts about them. Honeybees are important pollinators for flowers, fruits, and vegetables, and unfortunately they are disappearing from hives due to colony collapse disorder, Which is why it is so important to build up the Honeybee population. My personal favourite: They do a little bee dance, which is their way of communicating to the other bees where the food source is – the dance is a map on how to get there!

This past spring I had the pleasure of witnessing an incredible leap of faith, and our bee population is better for it.

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

An Unlikely Feminist

feminism definition:  the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes. … : the belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities.

My parents raised four feminists.  My youngest sister Debi, older sister Darcy, and my older brother Gord…all feminists.  I’ve always thought of my Mom as a trailblazer, but looking at the definition, I now realize so was my Dad.  Reserved and quiet, he was my mom’s greatest supporter.

I am grateful for all the women that came before me and fought so hard for the equalities I don’t think twice of not ever having today.  Not to take anything away from them, I would also like to acknowledge the men that have also believed in equality, and to those that live it every day.

So I want to thank my parents for raising not three feminists (my sisters and I) – but raising four.  As my brother in turn is doing the same with his sons, and so the feminist movement grows, not just with our daughters, but with our sons.

Feminism is a great gift parents can mentor – for our daughters, and our sons.

I am Totally WORTH It, and so are YOU

Self-Care.  What a timely topic, as this year I have declared, to no one but myself – that this is MY year of Self-Love.

I am committed to taking care of ME, my mind, my body, and my spirituality – trust me this was a long time coming, actually 52 years in the making.  I have been and continue to be a lot of things for a lot of people – and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

The difference this year – is everything I give to others, I am now giving to Myself.  I can attest, that with this dramatic shift in my thought process – I actually have more energy to give to others.

So you ask, how is that possible – is that not defeating your commitment of Self-Care?  Nope.  Why?, because giving to others now makes me feel great, because I feel fulfilled myself.  Now taking care of others has become a choice, not a duty.  Let me also say – the people you love and are doing so much for, notice the difference.

As a caution, My idea of Self-Love will more than likely be dramatically different from anyone else’s – you have to find out what you really need to feel….well to feel your best Self.  I will share a few things I have learned in my new journey – and it is only February!

Embrace the Law of Attraction – what you put out into the universe comes back – make sure what you are thinking, and feeling is what you want surrounding yourself.  A dear friend gave me this gift of Self-Love Thinking.  I now practice gratitude everyday, and thanks to Pinterest, have a jar on my dresser that I write a kindness or event that I am grateful for each week – so at the end of the year – I see all the good in 2017.  What a great way to start 2018.

Stress Less – How?, Breath.  I enrolled in a beginner’s Yoga Class when I found myself at work one day, gasping for a breath at my desk….I truly forgot to breath – wake-up call.  Now thanks to a wonderful yogi Amanda Tripp, at Yoga By Sarah, I am mindful of my body and what it is telling me, I feel the effects of the yoga postures and I have the breathing techniques to calm myself in times of stress.  She has taught us that yoga extends beyond the classroom, so I continue to grow through the practice of yoga.

Enjoy Food Again – I was not eating for optimal health, and in fact was feeling the effects mentally and physically.  So in January, I joined Weight Watchers and can now say, I am enjoying food again.  Eating healthy provides me with the fuel to do all the things I want.  With this program I eat what I want, and it truly helps me look at myself…Beyond the Scale.  Fitting in so nicely with my year of Self-Love – our group leader Sue Smiley is awesome!

Move It, Move It – Literally, and figuratively I had to move more!  Yoga helps, now I am walking which I find helps clear my mind as well – there are so many great nature trails in Niagara – I want to explore them all over this next year!  I have signed up for the 150 Participation in celebration of Canada’s 150th year and look forward to checking off a few new activities.

Something Old / Something New – As I look to expand my activities, I have tried an introduction to Ariel Yoga, Suspension Training – learning I don’t like hanging upside down, and I am not ready for training of any kind.  I  also learned to knit, thanks to my very patient Mom.  I have returned to embracing my curly hair (thanks Barb and Kaitlyn) – it is after all who I am.  I look forward to experimenting with cooking food that is edible and putting paint brush and canvas again, something I haven’t done since high school.

Spend Time with Family & Friends – Lastly, but most importantly, I plan to take all the energy I get from loving and taking care of myself and share it, by spending time with my family and my friends.  All of whom have always felt I was worth investing time in taking care of myself – the difference is this year I feel it too!  Here’s to a year of family game nights, movies, hikes, girl’s nights and quiet evenings at home with the fur-baby!

If you take anything from my journey – I would hope it is that YOU need to practice Self-Love everyday – in the ways that are unique to you and that will help you feel fulfilled.  YOU are WORTH It.  And then I hope that feeling of love goes beyond yourself – to your family, friends, community, and beyond!  I think we can all use a focus on LOVE this year, Namaste.

Namaste

 

 

 

Giving Thanks, this Thanksgiving

On a good day, it is easy to express thanks, share that feeling of contentment and be grateful for all you have.

Let’s look at gratitude on a bad day…week….month,  or year.  It’s hard yes, but not impossible.

The Thanksgiving holiday, from an emergency shelter perspective, is something I wish everyone could experience.  Not to be homeless, I do not wish that on anyone.  I am talking about the incredible sense of community that happens at our King Street shelter in October.  The generous spirit of the Niagara community never fails to amaze me.

Local businesses, service clubs and individuals donate food and funds, enabling our top-notch team in the kitchen the ability to prepare the most delicious turkey dinners.  Included are all the trimmings, and a few extras that we consider luxuries in the non-profit world.  All in an effort to make the day one of a celebration of family, community and thankfulness.

People that have never met share what they have – with those in difficult circumstances.

I am honoured to see firsthand how this gesture from the community in their donations, and volunteering of their time, their caring …….fills the women and families at the shelter with gratitude.  You can see it in their faces and feel it in their hearts.  Someone cares, even when things look…well, bad.

To everyone that finds it in their hearts to give of themselves this Thanksgiving – THANK YOU, I am truly grateful  for the hope you provide for the women and families we serve.  Experiencing this every year, I am given the ability to draw on this feeling of connectedness when I am having a bad day.  It also makes me reach out, beyond myself to help raise my community up – and for the ability to that…..I am also grateful.

 

 

 

#Reality Cheque/My Number – and a little more

I invite everyone to join the campaign – #RealityCheque – how many missed  pay cheques until I am homeless, to share their number.

Here  I will share a little more than my number – lived experience.

Last year at this time, I must confess I did not participate in No Fixed Address by sleeping in my car – the first time since it’s inception.  Why, well at that time in my life, it was a little too close to the reality I actually found myself living.

After 17 years in a relationship, I found myself leaving – yes it was my choice – and yes I had a good job at the YW and very supportive family – but my reality was at that time, I did not have a place to live anymore – I had No Fixed Address.

I Had No Fixed Address

Moms are great, and mine took me in while I sorted out my next steps.Wyatt2016…her dog’s reaction could be it’s own blog post, let’s just say I eventually wore him down to actually liking me during my stay – which took six long months.

During that time, I shared this information with very few people.  Work was my only remaining “normal” and I didn’t want to change that – especially, since everything else had changed so drastically.   There were days I clung to that small piece of normal.  So I went to work every day, attended meetings, composed reports and minutes,  going about my daily duties.  After work I would return to my Mom’s small one bedroom apartment, sleeping on an air mattress in her living room each night.  Waking up to the dog…..with that you still here look in his eyes – or was it me thinking that, projecting my feelings of self-judgement onto him.  Pretty sure it was a little of both.

My apartment search, which took four months,  in all honesty was depressing.  I viewed apartments that when I left, I felt sorry for the people living in them – the places were derelict and shockingly expensive.  Worse was the process of applying – I had no rental history, I had lived in a house!  Even with a twenty year work history at the YW, I wasn’t considered a good candidate at a few places.

Trying to remain the same person on the “outside” took its toll emotionally and physically – when I was in fact a very different person on the “inside”.

Add to the apartment search the fact that I was living out of a suitcase during this time, I was really aware that my wardrobe consisted of only a few pieces – would people notice?  Saving for first and last month’s rent took a bit of time too, so there were a few work lunches and social events I passed on – telling people I was busy.  Trying to remain the same person on the “outside” took its toll emotionally and physically – when I was in fact a very different person on the “inside”.  It was hard to believe that I would ever find a new “normal” – or a place to call home.

The Judgement

I understood firsthand when the women staying at our shelter would state in exasperation – “I just want my own place”.  I could relate to their feelings of defeat, at yet another unsuccessful apartment viewing.  Like them, my self-esteem began to suffer as I saw the beginning of yet another month start and still no apartment to call my own – no matter what the circumstances, you still feel there is something wrong with you while in a situation like this.   As shallow as it may sound – I missed my favourite coffee mug, fuzzy slippers and a place to land at the end of the day – that was mine.  Most ironic moment came when I was leaving work one night and a client told me to have a good night, and to her friend I heard her say “at least she has a home to go to”.  Judged, yet again.

The judgement was my own – I learned being homeless is a LOT more than not having a place to live.

During this time, I also learned I am resourceful, my family loves and supports me, that I can leave a relationship and still remain friends, and that when I did share what I was going through with a few people at work I was offered unconditional support and absolutely no judgement.  The judgement was my own – I learned being homeless is a LOT more than not having a place to live.

Today,  I have a lovely apartment, my independence, stronger family ties, and a deeper appreciation of my fellow workers.  Most importantly, I understand intimately the thought process and feelings of being homeless and a deeper understanding of the work we do here at the YWCA in supporting women and their families addressing their homelessness.

This August I will be participating in No Fixed Address – I hope to see you there.  I may even bring my Mom’s dog along, I am pretty sure he misses me!

 

 

 

Getting to Know You Questions – Father’s Day

After a great month of reflecting on motherhood, we are asking in June on the blog:

What’s Dad got to do with it?

We are starting off the month with our Getting To Know You questions – see what your bloggers shared about their dads!

They were given the following questions to choose from:

  1. What lesson(s) from your Father, stuck with you?
  2. What is your strongest childhood memory about your relationship with your Father?
  3. Tell us one thing you want everyone to know about your Father?
  4. What is the one thing about your Father, that you wouldn’t change?
  5. You knew it was to follow that first question, What is the one thing about your Father, that you would love to change?
  6. Your own Father aside, who embodies your ideal of a Father – your Superman?  And Why?
  7. Your Father – disciplinarian or marshmellow?  Share which one.
  8. Got a picture of you and your Father that you would like to share – post it with your answers.

Donna

A tip-of-the-hat to my dear Dad, whom we lost in 2009, I am happy to share a few answers:

What lesson(s) from your Father, stuck with you?

BE SAFE.  I always lock my car doors (even when I am in it), close my windows and lock my doors when leaving home, unplug appliances that are not in use,  don’t run with scissors and I would never put real candles on a Christmas Tree.  He’d be proud, others be thinking she’s a strange one I’m sure.

What is your strongest childhood memory about your relationship with your Father?

I could always be myself with my Dad, and treasured the time I got to spend with him, he worked a lot while I was growing up, so when he was home it was nice to just be around him.  He made time to be with us.  I loved to make him laugh.

Tell us one thing you want everyone to know about your Father?

Although my Mom has a great sense of humour….I credit my oddly wicked sense of humour to dear old Dad.  Credit or blame…fine line, depends who you ask.

What is the one thing about your Father, that you wouldn’t change?

His constant sense of calm.  Chaos could surround him, and often times with my family it did more than not, but he was always the calm one.  I loved that about him, for some reason it is reassuring when you have one person in your life that never gets rattled.

You knew it was to follow that first question, What is the one thing about your Father, that you would love to change?

Although eternally in our hearts, I wish he were still with us, so much has happened over the last few years, happy and sad, it would have been nice to have his presence during it all.

Your own Father aside, who embodies your ideal of a Father – your Superman?  And Why?

Any man who shows up, steps up, stands tall and lives and breathes Fatherhood in all its glory and misery – elbow to elbow with Moms – you are my Supermen.  If your children feel well-loved, and protected you are tops in my books.  Tall order, but Superman can do anything!

Your Father – disciplinarian or marshmellow?  Share which one.

My Dad was a total Marshmellow, but never a push-over, and I am eternally grateful for that.  We always knew when he was mad, he would point his finger at you as he was talking sternly (seriously, he only talked sternly).  I didn’t know it then, but realize now, especially working at the YW, how very lucky I was.  We usually got the “point”, and quite frankly I never got into much trouble growing up either, so I think he had it easy too.

Allison

What lesson(s) from your Father, stuck with you?

The lessons I’ve learned from my father did not come from direct teachings he passed on to me, but rather from being an onlooker of his life. I could easily look at the things he did and tell you what I’ve learned not to do: don’t cope with pain by drinking, definitely don’t drink and drive, don’t isolate yourself from the world, don’t hide the truth from those who care about you. Yet I’ve come to take those things and view them in a more positive light to guide what I actually do, rather than what I don’t. He taught me to take care of myself so that I can cope with adversity, to make myself vulnerable, and to be an active member in my community.

What is the one thing about your Father, that you wouldn’t change?

His independent streak and his love for cats – those were two traits of his that I’m very thankful to have inherited (I know the question asked for one thing, but I can’t help being rebellious sometimes).

You knew it was to follow that first question, What is the one thing about your Father, that you would love to change?

I could say that I wish he had been honest about what was going on in his life so that he wouldn’t have to hide the truth from other people. However, what I would actually want to change is the society we live in that discourages men from expressing their emotions and asking people for help.

Marilyn

  1. My father taught me how to be strong and to stand up for myself. Also, through his mistakes, I learned to question everything and to always search for the truth.

 

  1. My strongest childhood memory about my relationship with my father is about him teaching me to ride a bicycle when I was 5 years old. He worked hard as a welder all day, rising with the early sun. But, for 3 weeks straight he came home and spent hours encouraging me to keep trying and to not let my fear hold me back. Faithfully, he ran alongside my brand new shiny blue 2-wheeler with no training wheels. He gladly held onto my seat (mostly with just 2 fingers) laughing; soothing my fears and anxiety with praises of support. He always told me that I could do anything if I tried really hard. I felt safe, protected and loved.

 

  1. I’d like everyone to know that my father was a very fragile person who didn’t know how to deal with his emotions. He was a tortured soul who was self-destructive and ultimately hurt himself more than anyone else. He made choices in his life that destroyed the very special bond we once shared. However, he also gave me many happy memories that I will cherish forever.marilyn and dad

 

  1.  The one thing I would never change about my father was his love of music. His idol was Elvis Presley. He played Elvis’ music on his guitar and listened to his favourite songs over and over again on the record player. He imitated Elvis’ movements and gestures and he was quite good at playing his guitar. He was always happiest when he was playing on his guitar or listening to Elvis Presley music.

 

  1.  The one thing I wish I could have changed about my father would be that he could have gotten the help he needed before it was too late. I wish he had reached out to me before he died.

 

  1.  My hero is my husband Michael. He never lets me down. He is reliable, dependable, and loyal. My kids accepted him immediately and I trusted their judgement. He always goes out of his way to make everyone feel comfortable and welcome. He is my partner and friend. We work well as a team and life just seems so much easier with him. He is a good listener and is very empathetic. He has always been my biggest supporter. He gives me the strength and courage needed to chase my dreams. He is the strongest man I have ever known. He is my safety net.

 

  1.  My father was very strict and overprotective. I believe he thought he was doing the right thing by being this way but it was difficult to grow up in such a sheltered atmosphere.

Getting to Know You Questions – Mother’s Day

In May, our blog is all about Motherhood. Our bloggers were sent a number of questions about the topic – get to know your gals and find out what their thoughts are around motherhood!

Kaitlyn

  1. What lesson(s) from your Mother, stuck with you?
    Be Good. Be Kind. Do your best. Never give up. Do what makes you happiest. (In all fairness, I may have only realized many of these recently.)
  2. Tell us the one thing you want everyone to know about your Mother?
    She is one of the strongest women I know. She can probably do anything. She’s the reason I believe I can do anything. She has never let me doubt myself. (Also, she has the best hair.)
  3. Sometimes we have not-so perfect Mothering moments – what is one piece of advice you can give to help each other through those moments?
    The cliché, “nobody’s perfect,” applies. If you love your kids and you try your best, your kids will love you no matter what. Just don’t ever abandon the ship. Hard times always pass.

Kaitlyn_Mom

Donna

  1. What lesson(s) from your Mother, stuck with you?
    There is always a Plan B, Plan C, Plan D.  Never give up!
  2. What is your strongest childhood memory about your relationship with your Mother?  Comedic Sick-Kick, to this day we continue to have crazy adventures just going to the super market!
  3. Tell us the one thing you want everyone to know about your Mother?  She overcame an abusive childhood, and raised us four kids with love, humour, Donna-2understanding and compassion.  She broke the cycle of abuse, through her I know it can be done.  It helps me at work, to know there is hope for the families we serve.
  4. As a Mother, Step-Mother or Motherly Influence, what is your biggest worry? That my children, my nieces and nephews won’t take opportunities that will enable them to reach their full potential.  They all have so much to offer, I worry they will not recognize that within themselves.
  5. What would you love for your Mother to know about you?  I understand her more now that I am a mother of young women, and appreciate she was an unconventional mom when I was growing up.
  6. Sometimes we have not-so perfect Mothering moments – what is one piece of advice you can give to help each other through those moments?  ____ happens, say you’re sorry, and move on.
  7. Your own Mother aside, who embodies your ideal of a Mother – your Wonder Woman?  And why?  Any woman that gives up her dessert to her kids!  I’ll share, but the entire dessert….can’t do it.
  8. What song best describes your Mother? And why?  Landslide by Stevie Nicks.  Speaks to the changes she has gone through, more as a woman than my Mom.

Marilyn

  1.  What lesson(s) from your Mother, stuck with you? I will always be pleased that my mother taught me how to cook at an early age. She taught me the importance of serving a delicious home-cooked sit-down meal to family. I learned that this time could be used to catch up with one another and discuss family issues.
  2. MarilynYour own Mother aside, who embodies your ideal of a Mother – your Wonder Woman?  And why? My cousin Vicki is the most dedicated, devoted and loving mother I have ever known. Her love is truly unconditional and she approaches each situation with genuine warmth, patience and unrelenting kindness. She makes every occasion special with her flair for making everyone feel important.

A Tribute to…the Voluntold

There is a running joke not only around the YWCA (my workplace), but also my household that any upcoming special event, function or large project that needs all hands on deck means that all our family members will volunteer to help too, which really means all family members will be voluntold they’re helping.

This blog post is my professional and personal salute to all of them – the unsung heroes of the non-profit sector and my life – the Voluntold!  Thank YOU! Continue reading

Working Mom vs Stay at Home Mom

Stay at Home Mom vs Working Mom. This topic has been around since… well, since women with children first decided to work outside of the home!

working-mom-vs-stay-at-home-momWhat continues to surprise me the most is how unsupportive we are of each other; no matter what the choice is.  Unfortunately, what I thought was an old-fashioned way of thinking, that had gone by the way of the dinosaur, still faces young women today. The only change is that now it is done through social media.  WOW, I was shocked.

I chose to work outside my home, and I made this decision first out of necessity, and second for my own peace of mind.  If I am honest, even if I could have afforded to stay home, I would have chosen not to.  I have a lot of respect for women that choose to stay home and raise their children.  It is hard work, and so is working outside of the home.

go-somewhere-and-judge-people-Ladies, we are in this TOGETHER!  I ask, why does one choice have to be better than the other?   Does this harsh judgement of each other come from our own insecurities around the choice we made ourselves?  In fact, it is not uncommon for working mothers and stay at home mothers to bestow judgement on each other as well!  We don’t seem to be able to provide support when we are supposedly on the same team?  Why is this I ask?

Ladies we are in this TOGETHER!   Isn’t one collective voice stronger, wouldn’t a united stand by all women for equality in the workplace for women, for universal childcare, for a guaranteed income so that a choice doesn’t need to be made out of necessity provide more attention to the issues that really matter?

I believe as long as we continue to attack each other, the real issues will remain clouded and go unresolved.  Let us together work towards a supportive, collective voice that will demand attention and action.  Let us celebrate and support Stay at Home and Working Moms everywhere.  As long as you are true to yourself and love what you do…how can that choice be questioned?

2013-06-10-CTWorkingMoms13HRE4595Help me Stop the judgement – let’s work towards a future where the conversation is about how great we feel about the choice we make – whether to stay home or work outside the home – knowing as women, we have the support of each other.

No judgement – we all have work to do!