Tag Archives: Grateful

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.

Women in the Canadian Armed Forces

By: Valerie Chalmers

Throughout Canadian history women have actively participated in war from the home front to the front lines. The percentage of women in the Canadian Armed Forces (Regular Force and Primary Reserve combined), the Royal Canadian Air Force, and the Canadian Army range between 12.4% and 18.4%. Women enrollment in the CAF sits below 20% for a variety of reasons. The CAF have implemented a variety of initiatives for employment equity and earlier this year the Canadian Armed Forces launched a program to give women the opportunity to learn about military life before they decide to join.

“War has impacted Canadian women’s lives in different ways, depending on their geographical location, and their racial and economic status. Pre-20th-century conflicts had great impact on women in Canada — Aboriginal women in particular — whose communities could be dispossessed and devastated by colonial militaries. Women were interned in Canada during wartime — that is, detained and confined — because their background could be traced to enemy states.” – The Canadian Encyclopedia

Canadian women have had a consistent presence throughout the various wars our country has been involved in. During both the First and Second World Wars women organized home defence, trained in rifle shooting and military drill. In 1941, 50,000 women enlisted in the air force, army and navy. Throughout different divisions they were trained for clerical, administrative and support roles as well as cooks, nurses and seamstresses. Women’s involvement expanded when they began to work as parachute riggers, laboratory assistants, drivers and within the electrical and mechanical trades. Women also worked to maintain our home economy by volunteering inside and outside of the country, producing and conserving food, raising funds for hospitals, ambulances, hostels and aircrafts. Women have made considerable contributions to Canada’s military efforts, despite this it wasn’t until 1989 where all military positions were opened to women.

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Spotlight: Teresa

This week for Volunteer Appreciation Month, the YWCA would like to spotlight Teresa Butson. Teresa has joined the YWCA in October of 2016 after have moving to St. Catharines following her retirement. While looking for more opportunities to help the community, Teresa explained that the YWCA seemed to jump up at her.  Why did she choose the YWCA you ask? 

“I wanted to find a place to volunteer somewhere that allowed me to help others but also helped me grow as a person and as part of the community. It is important to me that I feel like I am contributing every day, even just a little. Because I am able to accomplish all of these things at the YWCA, it is truly gratifying.”

When asked what her favourite volunteer experience has been with the YWCA, Teresa revealed that she could not pick just one experience. “The YWCA provides a very warm, welcoming, and family-like environment,” Teresa explains, “it’s nice to see the friendliness between staff, volunteers, you can tell everyone that is here, wants to be. For this reason I can’t pick just one experience to call my favourite, every day here is a good day.”

Volunteerism promotes lots of excellent values. The most valuable takeaway Teresa has learned through volunteering has been that; “You must be willing to give and take in order for your experience to be mutually rewarding.” Teresa wishes to continue to learn about the YWCA, how it supports the community and what more she can do in order to support them.

Although Teresa has said she does not feel as though she needs anything special or formal in regards to feeling appreciated, she delights in watching the process of women and families becoming independent and “learning to stand on their own two feet”. When speaking of new potential volunteers, Teresa believes it is important to have an open mind in terms of learning about others, how they live, and their stories. She also mentions that it is okay to ask questions as we should not assume that we will always have the answer. Lastly, we asked Teresa how she feels women should be empowering one another. With a warm smile, said

“I believe that it is all of our responsibility to share knowledge with each other.Even more so at my age, in having experience in different areas of my life, I believe I have a duty to share my stories and help support those who need it. By doing this, I, along with others can help to build a happy and healthy community.”

Thanks Teresa for all you do, every week! ~ YW Staff

Question of the Month: How has someone appreciated you that has made it memorable?

How has someone appreciated you that has made it memorable?

Dana

I was helping a wonderful group of people organize a third-party event to raise money for a cause that was very special to them. I worked at the organization, so of course helping them was part of my job. They were extremely proactive, organized, and optimistic about the event, they basically had everything planned and ready to go. I was just needed for a few small things, and to help promote the event.

The event came and went, and it was a great success. I was so happy to have had the chance to meet the organizers and help them achieve their goal. About a week after the event, I got a card in the mail from the organizers. It was just a sweet and simple thank you card with some sweet messages. It made me so happy; I think I usually expect an informal thank you e-mail or nothing at all (and there’s definitely nothing wrong with that!), but to get an actual card with some heartfelt messages was very special. It was extremely special because I didn’t do a whole lot, but I was there for them if they needed anything. It was nice to know they were thinking about me and wanted to appreciate me.

I could tell how proud they were of themselves for successfully organizing such an amazing fundraiser. I was happy to be included in their success and I still have the thank you card a year later. It makes me smile every time I look at it on my bulletin board. It’s funny actually, because I have never been a big fan of cards (holiday, greeting, thank you, etc.) for some reason. I usually make my own cards and write my own special message to my friend or family member. But, I actually have a box of cards that other people have given or sent me over the years, and I keep them because of the special message that is in them. I also have kept some love notes that my boyfriend gave me when we were first dating. They are on scrap pieces of paper, only a few words or sentences, but I keep them in my wallet and always look at them for a cheer me up.

That actually made me think about the way I show appreciation to others (maybe I shouldn’t be so against greeting cards!). Maybe I should take some time to make my “thank yous” to others a little more memorable. I had a friend help me with my taxes; I felt like I was messaging her non-stop with questions and help. She never once acted annoyed and always stopped what she was doing to help me. I knew she was a Starbucks lover, so I sent her an e-gift card early in the morning so she could use it on her way to work. She was so very happy that I sent her a little gift with a nice message in it. I felt good about making her feel good!

IWD Reflection

I had the privilege and pleasure of attending multiple International Women’s Day Events throughout the region. I wish I could have attended them all. I can’t even describe the empowerment I felt while being surrounded by incredible, strong, brave, bold, and passionate women.

One of the events I was able to go to was the Greater Niagara Chamber of Commerce’s Women In Niagara Council’s International Women’s Day event on March 3rd. Club Roma was filled with brilliant minds. Everywhere I looked, there was an outstanding woman that I wanted to know.

The keynote speaker was Teresa Cascioli. I was thrilled to be able to hear her speak. I was torn between typing out all of the impactful things she was saying so I could tweet them, or just soaking up the moment and letting her words really resonate with me. I did a mixture and I’m still not sure which one would have been the best option.

Teresa said, “Prior to selling my business no one listened.” It was as though Teresa’s voice didn’t matter because she had yet to have a great accomplishment. She then asked the important questions and you could hear the room nod in agreement: “Why do women have to say it more often? Why do we have to say it louder? Why do we have to prove ourselves?”

One of the most important and reoccurring messages throughout the event was you have to be impatient for results.

The WIN council also presented Rosemary Hale with the International Women’s Day Award. I was so excited to hear her speech, I couldn’t even consider recording any notes. I watched as Rosemary accepted the award with grace and honour. She inspired us all with talk about her past being the first female dean at Brock University. She is now retired and loving it as she has time to be a strong advocate for arts, volunteer at Hospice Niagara, and continuing to write. When she brought into focus her mentor Nora who said, “Life is drama. Every minute of our lives is drama…a slice of drama.” The idea that drama can be a good thing and not just with an arts background. Taking to the Be Bold For Change theme, Rosemary emphasized just how important it is to start demanding results, and start demanding change. To really do something about what you are passionate about in order to make a difference. “It’s about loving your bold, showing your bold.”

Broadband’s 25th Anniversary Performance of Women in Music Benefit Concert for the YWCA Niagara Region happened this past Sunday. The event is to celebrate International Women’s day focusing on Women in Music.
It was amazing! Listening to the inspirational songs including one about Nellie McClung. If you’re interested in catching a little taste of what the music was like, check it out 
here. The positive and empowering vibes from the band and the attendees was refreshing. Hearing reflections of the past made me want to do more research and spend time thinking about women in our history who really have made a difference for us.

Thursday was actually International Women’s Day. I attended the Be Bold For Change event which happened at Gwen’s Teas. Although I showed up late and missed networking with some other attendees, I really enjoyed the event. It was nice to see people have an outlet to write down how they would be bold for change and why they identify as feminists. Everyone brought their own thoughts, opinions, and reasons for being there. The discussion around politics was insightful. It just clarified all the more how important it is to involve women in politics. These discussions are exactly why we need more events, more meetings, more conversation around what women really can do.

All of these events opened my eyes to so many things. They made me really think. “It’s about showing your bold,” ran through my mind for days. That’s when I realize, being bold isn’t just about what is outlined on the International Women’s Day website (although those are great pledges), it’s about finding what works for you. I did make the pledge to celebrate women’s achievements because I think successes need to be acknowledged. I still stand by that pledge. Earlier this year, I also made a promise to have my voice heard in a blog post for the Practical Feminist after the Women’s March in January. But now, after all of these events, I pledge to find my bold and use it to help women.

 

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Recommendations for a Very Good Bath: Finding Your Chill Zone

Jennifer

I’ve gained a reputation (in my house) as someone-who-takes-baths-very-seriously. I wasn’t always a serious bather; I showered almost exclusively from the ages of 12 –25, but the bath has recently become the most important part of my self-care routine. I’m on a one-bath-per-week minimum these days, and it’s an actual ceremony. It’s ~a dance~

Bath GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

 

I flip the laundry basket upside down and drape a towel over the hard plastic so that you can’t see the hard plastic (ambiance is Very Important). I strategically place my computer on top so it’s at the right height to watch in the tub, from where I’ve watched all of the classics: Gilmore Girls, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, the Grinch (in season). I have a book too, or instead, probably something with feminist undertones, really. If I’m reading, the 8tracks playlist hastags like ‘Chill’ ‘Jazz’ ‘Winter’ ‘Relax’ or ‘Piano’.

 

I have a Very Big mason jar full of icy lemon-water or green tea, set in the front-left corner of the towel that’s draped over the laundry basket. I pull out one or two essential oils – maybe rosemary, then lemongrass, or maybe lavender, then bergamot – and I put them on the edge of the tub where they wait for me until I’m ready.

I flick the lighter and light the end of a Balsom Fir incense stick from a box that I was gifted by a friend at Christmas two years ago. I take a second to reflect on the almost-empty box. I know I’m going to miss the smell. It’s woodsy and it makes me feel like I’m outside. I light a candle or two, too.  I drop in the special combination of essential oils (the rosemary and lemongrass or the lavender and bergamot) at a rate of 10 drops per oil, and I hop in. For the next hour I inhabit a territory that I like to call a “chill zone”.

 

Chill•ŸZone noun The mental and/or physical space or state in which you are most comfortable, relaxed, zen, clear-minded, and peaceful.

 

Ideally, an act of self-care will allow you to spend time in your “chill zone”. I’ve bestowed this name upon a room before, but it isn’t always a physical space. It could be sitting on a bench taking deep inhales and exhales of fresh air. It could be drinking black coffee and starting a new book. It could be drawing in your journal while sitting beside a Vanilla scented candle. It could be watching a movie with your cat. Maybe it involves using something that a loved one gave you as a gift. Maybe it’s eating a big bowl of spaghetti bolognese with lots of Parmesan shaved on top while you listen to Amy Winehouse. Your “chill zone” is your own space and it’s up to you to find it and spend time there. For me, it’s a Very Good Bath, and I suggest that you give it a try.

 

 

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.

 

 

 

Closer to the Heart

And the men who hold high places,  Must be the ones who start
To mold a new reality,  Closer to the heart”…

Closer to the Heart; Writer(s): Geddy Lee, Peter Talbot, Neil Peart, Neval Abou Nadar, Alex Lifeson, Richard Ziegler
Copyright: Unichappell Music Inc., Core Music Publishing

Poverty and I have met.

Professionally, I have a history with the YWCA Niagara Region, providing administration support, I am the Executive Assistant, and as a member of the management team I work within our King Street emergency shelter program building.  The YWCA is the largest provider of Emergency shelter in the Niagara Region and a recognized expert among funders and community partners on the issues of poverty and homelessness.  I see poverty’s impact on women and their families every day.

Personally, a long time ago, my marriage broke down and I was faced with raising two children, on my own and at the time unemployed.  You do not know how much courage it takes a person to make that call to apply for social assistance, until you have to do it yourself.

Like some of the women and families that come to the YWCA, in poverty, I was not alone.  I was fortunate enough to have a strong supportive network of family, friends and a terrific caseworker – I know this is not always the case.  I was lucky, and leaned on them a lot during this time.

Call it fate, 18 years ago I found my way to a YWCA pre-employment program that offered co-op placements and I found myself working in the office of a local para-legal – what I thought was my new career dream job.  While there I was mentored in all things administratively by Sandy, she shared everything she knew with me and I was grateful for her taking me under her wing.   I hoped one day, I could do the same for someone.

My personal moment of truth came, when a mother with two young children came into the office – late on rent, with legal action pending to talk to my boss….I can still see the two children eating the mints set out on the little reception table like it was the first time the ate in days.  (insert sound of screeching brakes) STOP.  This is not my future line of work. 

Fate intervened when I extended a letter of congratulation to the new Executive Director of the YWCA, and my
past Employment Coach – we met for lunch and after talking, I was offered the position of front receptionist in 1995.

I remember debating on what to do, take the new job with the YW or stay in the para-legal field, until Arlee, my oldest child put it simply, do what will make you happy Mom.  If she only knew then, the power of those words.  Follow your passion, things will fall into place.

Through those first years at the YWCA, it was difficult financially.  I was still on social assistance and working a fulltime job.  I am thankful to my parents who babysat for me when the girls got home from school so I could work – I would have never been able to afford the costs of childcare for two children for after school care.

There was a moment in time back then, that when I remember feels like yesterday.  Emilee my youngest was gathering some of her favourite toys and stuffed animals and putting them in a box – so curious I asked her why – she wanted to give them to the poor children she’d heard about that stay at the YWCA – because they need toys.  I remember thinking, you are the poor children – I was grateful she didn’t realize this.  She probably still thinks I hate the idea of whales in captivity (which I do) – and not that I couldn’t swing the expense of $50.00 to send two children on a school trip to Marineland too.  So while their friends spent a day at Marineland, I bought them each a small toy and we spent the day together.

Working in a women’s organization had it’s benefits – enter a new mentor, a woman that taught me what it was like to lead quietly, through example, that you could discuss anything if it came from the heart and that as women we need to support and raise each other up – she stepped in during a difficult time in the history of the organization and she is one person that professionally I work hard to emulate – Kitty Francis.

Not only did the organization come through the difficulty stronger, so did I.  No longer on social assistance, the YWCA provided me a very modest income for which I didn’t qualify for assistance any longer – but I unfortunately lost the benefits coverage that had been provided – and my employment didn’t.  Sometimes a simple prescriptions could set you back a bit.  Two steps forward, one step back.

Again, I was lucky working for the YWCA, during a time that we ran the summer camps, which enabled me to send my children to camp at minimal to no cost at all – an experience I could never have given my children not to mention afford otherwise.  Family was important to then Executive Director, Milica Kovacevich.  She not only taught me that it was important to keep a sense of family within the organization – but was instrumental in the direction of the organization into providing emergency shelter services.

Things change quickly in the non-profit sector, and again the organization experienced financial instability – to the point of near closure, except for the efforts of a passionate board of directors and supportive community members.  Enter two ladies that stand out for me, professionally as they worked tirelessly to bring the organization back to life and in so doing helped me transition into the Executive Assistant I am today.  Nancy Iannizzi and Diane Marino taught me kind words, especially in times of trouble or self-doubt are invaluable.  I know for a fact I would not be at the YWCA, when everyone else was polishing their resumes, I stayed committed to the organization and to them – they were powerful leaders.  I knew then that I would try very hard to provide that voice of comfort and support – when I believe in someone, as they did for me.  it is important for everyone to have a calm influence within the storm – I try to emulate their example every day, sometimes successfully.  Always remember to breathe.

Over time, not only did things change quickly at work, but unexpectedly on the home front too, when I met Steve, and we became a family.  Truth be told, he supported us financially through the girls growing years – merging our incomes.  For the first time I was financially secure.

Today, I am ever so aware of even the simplest of expenses that many people take for granted are still unattainable for some – too many.  Having lived this reality, I, to this day, weigh the value of my purchases, rarely pay full price for anything, and still need to be encouraged to purchase something for myself.  I also realize that the problem of poverty and homelessness will not be solved with just money – it is so much more complex – that is why I chose to highlight the emotional support of my family, frThreegirlsA2iends and the women who were an important part of my earlier journey.  They gave me something that money alone at that time wouldn’t have – Hope.

Here at the YWCA, under the leadership of Elisabeth Zimmermann, I have learned that it is important to keep that human aspect while looking at tackling the complex issues around poverty and homelessness.  We have a team of dedicated, caring women – in all departments that in some way I am sure have been personally touched or inspired to help the women and families in our community that need – Hope.

May we all continue to work together …. to mold a new reality, closer to the heart.

 

 

Happy New… Changes!

2015; New Year, New Changes!

Our Bloggers have been hard at work behind the scenes to come up with new stories, new content and now, new features! This month we’re excited to launch three new regular posts to our Y’s Women Blog:
Monday’s Creative Corner where you can come to find recipe, DIY, or any quote or poem that inspires us to be CREATIVE!
Friday’s Friday Finds posts will be something one of our Bloggers would like to recommend; a new restaurant, a book, movie, or product we love!
Lastly, we want you to know that we’re real women, with real opinions and stories, so we’re introducing our monthly Getting to Know You feature. We’ll pick 3 of 5 questions to answer that relate to our theme of the month. We would love if you weighed in and answered them too.
To kick us off, here are January’s Getting to Know You questions about Happiness!

Donna

If you could choose one word to describe yourself, (and only one) what would it be?

HOPEFUL (printed in all capital letters, and in the brightest of colours found in the crayon box)

List five things you couldn’t possibly live happily without.MyGarden2

In Order: My Family, My Closest Friends, the Sunshine, My Garden, and A Sense of Humour.  Everything else, I consider a bonus!

Finish this thought, Happiness is…?

A heart filled with gratitude.

 

 

Ellen

Which of the four seasons makes you the most happy? And why?

Summer, because the days are long and warm and everything from getting dressed to travelling (with the exception of gardening) requires less effort and forethought. Summer passes quickly, so I appreciate the long sunny days (even when they are humid), fresh produce, sounds of crickets and cicadas, and everything else the season brings. There’s also spectacular thunderstorms to watch over the lake, and fireflies in the backyard (or sometimes, magically, millions of them in the Niagara Glen). 

What do you do to change a bad day around?

It depends on what constitutes a bad day. Sometimes its a negative or fear-filled interpretation of reality and that’s something that I can work on (as opposed to getting devastating news, which oddly I don’t think about when I think “boy, this is a bad day”). So, If I don’t think about it as “I am having a bad day” and reframe it as a rough morning, or something like that, I can work on making it better. Often, I go for a walk or a hike. I may start out feeling anxious or frustrated about something but an hour of walking in my neighbourhood can make me wonder why I was all worked up (or sad or disconsolate) in the first place.

Finish this thought, Happiness is..?

So many things. But not always easy.

Carli

Carli

If you could choose one word to describe yourself, (and only one) what would it be?

Optimistic. While I freely admit that I am one who can easily become stressed out and bogged down, I’m also one who tends to look on the brighter side of things and can usually find some optimism for most situations.

List five things you couldn’t possibly live happily without.

My family and close friends

My memories

Personal photographs/mementos

Moments of peace and quiet

Hope

Finish this thought, Happiness is…?

Sitting down at the end of a long day in a clean and organized home relaxing with my husband and son—glass of wine in hand! 🙂

 

 

Franziska

n608437755_584356_6494List five things you couldn’t possibly live happily without.

  1. Family
  2. Beer
  3. Music
  4. Faith
  5. Sunshine

What do you do to change a bad day around? 

Vent. Cry. Laugh. Eat chocolate cake. Or chocolate cookies. Or both. Turn up TNT by ACDC and turn into dynamite in the living room. Do my dance routine to the “YMCA” tune in the living room (although in my version, it’s YWCA of course).

Finish this thought, Happiness is…?

…feeling loved.

…a hot, moist double chocolate chip cookie.

…a cold beer on a hot day.

Evelyn

Which of the four seasons makes you the most happy? And why?

YWCA picture

SUMMER! It’s almost always sunny and I can go outside whenever I want without worrying about wearing a jacket, scarf, gloves, etc. I also don’t have to worry about temperatures dropping later in the day and getting sick from it if I don’t have warm enough clothes on. I also love that everything is in full bloom; trees and flowers line the gardens in the neighbourhood, birds are singing, and people just seem happier in general and that makes me happy! Towards the end of the season, if it gets cold enough, the leaves start to change colours which is beautiful too.  

What do you do to change a bad day around? 

On a bad day, I look up really great movies to watch! It doesn’t even matter what genre the movies are, as long as they’re really good. It gives me a chance to live somebody else’s problems and struggles as well as their happier moments; movies really put my own issues into perspective! 

Finish this thought, Happiness is…?

My reason to live!

Rachael

rachaelList five things you couldn’t possibly live happily without.

My family, a hot cup of tea, Jane Austen’s novels, naps and peanut butter.

Finish this thought, Happiness is…?

Winding down at the end of the day by beading (making jewllery) on the couch!

What do you do to change a bad day around? 

1. Call my Mother. 2. Chase a little black ball around a squash court (and sometimes hit it a little extra hard!)

 

 Marilyn

marIf you could choose one word to describe yourself, (and only one) what would it be?

The one word that I would use to best describe myself is SURVIVOR! In spite of everything I have lived through, I still get up every day and keep moving forward. I continue to better myself through education and commitment.

List five things you couldn’t possibly live happily without.

The 5 things I couldn’t possibly live happily without are: my family and husband, reading and collecting books, regular visits to the beach, my writing and music.

Which of the four seasons makes you the most happy? And why?

Summer is my favourite season because I feel and look better. The sunshine tints my skin and reflects my Italian heritage. I don’t look pale and pasty, like a plant that wilts and loses colour when they don’t get enough sunshine. My arthritis and fibromyalgia isn’t as painful in the warm weather so I am more active. I have more energy in the summer and participate in more activities when the weather is warm. I am happier all around in the summer months. I truly believe I would thrive in a warmer climate like California, but I still make the most of my life year round regardless of the weather.

What do you do to change a bad day around? 

Sometimes I have a difficult time turning a bad day around, but I do have some coping mechanisms I use. I listen to music and sing my heart out to relieve stress. I love dancing to my favourite songs. I love to take a long ride in my sporty little car, singing along to one of my favourite CD. I meditate to alleviate any anxiety I am suffering from. Sometimes cooking a really tasty meal for my husband gives me great satisfaction. I use writing as means to express myself and release pent up emotions. I also like to work on creative projects like starting a new quilt for myself that reflects my true personality.

Finish this thought, Happiness is…?

Happiness is being content with the life you have created!

 

Joan

If you could choose one word to describe yourself, (and only one) what would it be?

Quirky

List five things you couldn’t possibly live happily without.

Starbucks, phone, Macbook, scented candles, Twitter.

Finish this thought, Happiness is…?

Happiness is coffee. 

 

Sami Jo

SAMIWhich of the four seasons makes you the most happy? And why?

My favourite season is Fall, always has been. The moment summer tapers off, leaves start to turn, and I can pull on my leather jacket, is the moment I can take a clean breath of fresh air and cozy in. Give me a book or my computer, a snugly blanket, and cool drink and I’m in my own personal heaven.

What do you do to change a bad day around? 

To turn around a bad day I drop my stuff at home and escape into either my writing, a book, or a hot bath with Epsom salts. Sometimes taking even 30 minutes to myself to recalibrate is all I need.

Finish this thought, Happiness is…?

Happiness is…Home. I don’t care if I’m doing anything important or half-way interesting, if I’m at home, I’m a happy girl. Boring? Never, I’ve got everything I need under one roof.

 

Michelle

Which of the four seasons makes you the most happy? And why?

Fall, because of sweater weather and my birthday 🙂

What do you do to change a bad day around? 

Do some yoga and getting in touch with my inner chi

Finish this thought, Happiness is…?

 Happiness is Ben Affleck.