Tag Archives: Mental Health

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.

How to Stay Motivated During the Cold Months

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

Dana

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

via GIPHY

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cooper

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

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

Finding My Way Through Transitions

By: Allison

When the topic of transition came up as a theme for this month’s blog, I realized that not only is that the perfect word to describe this month, but my entire year. For me, transition comes hand in hand with uncertainty. 2017 has been marked by many changes as I moved from my home of five years to a new place with a partner, took on caring for two more pets, worked my first contract job, entered my final year of my diploma program, and started a new field placement. This month, I was expecting to be coasting along as I settled into a sense of rhythm after the great waves of change calmed down.

via GIPHY

I certainly did not expect this month to have started out feeling like I lost control of managing my life when the college faculty went on strike last month. Uncertainty was pervasive as many students felt left in the dark about whether or not their investment in a college education was worth the cost, and as college faculty fought for change to be made to improve working conditions. Now that the strike has been put to an end and students return to classrooms this week, there will certainly be many transitions to experience as we adjust to the semester being reworked.

Even before the strike started, life was throwing curve balls at me that were stretching me to my limits (like supporting my partner through a bout of pneumonia and being the target of fraud, to name a few), so by the time it was clear that the school year was not at all going to pan out as anyone thought, I felt like it was just another unexpected bump in the road to wait out. However, I did end up feeling like I had no sense of direction without the structure of school, and struggled to use my free time in a productive way.

Despite these feelings, in reflecting on this tension-filled month of uncertainty, I’ve realized that I’ve come a long way in how I manage times of transition. There have been many difficult ones in my past, and many new ones just this year alone. I have to ask myself – am I desensitized, or have I just built resiliency? I’m really hoping it’s the latter. So with that being said, I’m here to share the 3 things I strive to do in my life while weathering through transitions:


1. Look to the past to find perspective.

History has shown that it is easy for me to get intimidated by things I can’t control, so much that it’s easy to forget how much my life has changed for the better in recent years. During transitional and uncertain times, I look back to my old journals and never fail to find some wisdom that helps me realize that things used to be far more daunting and more uncertain, and yet I managed to find joy in the unexpected. At this point, it is only my school schedule that seems uncertain, and I am very lucky that my means of survival are currently not. This knowledge helps me appreciate my life for what it is and prepare to face the future.

2. Open new doors while allowing others to close.

This is largely in reference to the transitions taking place in my social life. Now more than ever, I am seeing that people are always coming and going, and although some goodbyes have happened recently, there have been many hellos. This is also true in terms of opportunities, in that some undertakings of mine don’t always work out in the way I had hoped – but there is always something new to pursue that I never would have anticipated. I’m seeing that it’s okay for some things to come to an end (or a standstill), whether it be a relationship or a project, because there are always new beginnings coming right around the corner.

3. Challenge myself to go out of my comfort zone.

Case in point: this blog post. I decided to challenge myself to write this and feel the rush of vulnerability I’m going to feel when it goes online. I’ve also taken on new leadership roles in the community that have been intimidating, but necessary for my growth. Going out of my comfort zone and trying new pursuits helps me grow even more comfortable with the discomfort that comes with transitions and uncertainty. Instead of having to respond to events taking place beyond my control, I get to make a choice to step into the unknown, which is a pretty empowering feeling.

Ultimately, I’m realizing the truth in that the uncertainty that comes with transitions is a natural part of life, and although I may still be uncomfortable with the idea of uncertainty, I’ve made leaps in how I respond to it. Everyone has had their own way of reacting to the unexpected, and while the circumstances in my life may be changing, my approaches to dealing with them have always been reliable

There’s a quote I’ve seen displayed at my placement agency that speaks to me. It reads:

“Find the courage to let go of what you can’t change.”

In accepting what I can’t control in my life and taking charge of the things I can, I’m hopeful that I can be courageous enough to make friends with uncertainty, and not only welcome times of transition as they arise in my life, but embrace them with optimism.

Celebrate Men

International Men's Day (IMD) was on November 19th this year. "Objectives of International Men's Day include a focus on men's and boy's health, improving gender relations, promoting gender equality, and highlighting positive male role models. It is an occasion for men to celebrate their achievements and contributions, in particular their contributions to community, family, marriage, and child care while highlighting the discrimination against them." IMD recognizes the importance of men's mental health, addressing the suicide rate of men, and speaking to the crucial discussion of men's homelessness and poverty. The YW operates a 15-bed Men's Emergency Shelter for men and their children. We think it is important to celebrate them and their successes as well.

By: April

What if the very things that we dislike about men, are the very things that make them men?

Men fix things, or try to, even when we don’t ask.

Men step up and are good at things like being a dad when we ask, though often we don’t have to.

Men are logical sometimes before they are emotional, which makes them good at solving immediate problems, turning off their emotion for a time and having emotion later. Whether this is good or bad, right or wrong, they do it and they are good at it.

Sometimes they suffer for it. Sometimes they lose their life over it. Sometimes they become heroes because of it.

This month we look at Movember, which brings awareness to health issues specific to men. We look at International Men’s Day, the theme being Celebrate Men.

I have thought a lot about what to write. I even asked Facebook.

I had different ideas, thoughts about many things, but one thing stuck.

Men are beautiful.

Men are beautiful, and this is the absolute last thing they want to hear.

They are a kind of beauty that we forget about.

They are strong, but when they are weak and vulnerable, it brings tears to our eyes.

They are told their whole lives. Be strong. Toughen up. Get it done. Well.

As women, we expect men to be strong, because who doesn’t want a man with muscle that can make us feel protected, but then we want men to be loving and caring, at the very same time that we call their emotions, weakness.

If there was one thing that we could do this month, I think it would be this.

To the beautiful men of this world, you don’t have to be strong. Be weak, we understand.

Tell us your logical reasons and your illogical emotions, maybe we have some insight.

You don’t have to be afraid of how you feel, or what the outcome of your emotions might be, we love emotions.

We are sorry that we forget that you are human, not superhuman. But you’re still allowed to be our Superman, sometimes.

We love you, just as you are, beautiful and strong, all at once.

You are just as necessary to everything in this world; love, family..and we are sorry that we make you feel that everything you’ve been taught from the beginning, that you must provide for your family, is the very thing we shame you for the minute you come home.

In honor of men this month and every month, may we look to you for your knowledge, wisdom, strength; and may we recognize that love and care looks different to men than women.

May we seek to understand the things that the men in our lives do for us each day instead of wondering why they don’t do it the way we want them to.

May we recognize their heart, that their kindness often looks like doing things for us, when all we want is a hug. Or someone to listen.

May we honor their effort, may we acknowledge that maybe sometimes they need us to do things for them to.

May we recognize their emotions not as weakness but as beautiful strength.

May we be gentle in telling them what we need from them, knowing what we know now.

May we thank them for everything that they are, today, tomorrow, and always.

May we recognize that it takes both men and women, exactly as they are, growing each day, to make the world better.

 

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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Fresh Start

As Spring transitions into Summer it’s easy to forget that Winter even exists. The sun shine stays longer, you can see flowers, trees and other plants coming to life and everything just feels a little bit more relaxed. New Years is the traditional time to set goals or start a new positive, healthy habit. As we all know, the running joke for New Year’s Resolutions is that the majority of people abandon them by February or March. If we know the season’s have the ability to affect our moods, productivity and motivation, then maybe we should aim to set our goals for a little later in the year.

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that’s related to changes in seasons. Traditionally it begins and ends about the same time every year. The Mayo Clinic states, “Most people with SAD’s symptoms start in the fall and continue into the winter months, sapping your energy and making you feel moody.” The Canadian Mental Health Association has research that suggests between 2 and 3 per cent of the general population may have Seasonal Affective Disorder, another 15 per cent will have a less severe experience called the “winter blues.” Lowered energy and being moody aren’t exactly a recipe for success when you’re trying to achieve your goals. A few tips for easing your SAD or winter blues include: spending more time outside during the day, keeping your curtains open during the day, sitting near or in natural light and building physical activity into your life before your symptoms start. If you think you are affected by SAD, talk to your doctor. You can find out more information here.

Our physical surroundings and environment have a direct link to your mood, productivity and energy levels. In the winter the sun rises later and sets earlier not leaving much, if any, opportunity for natural Vitamin D. The Dana Foundation has found, “Adequate Vitamin D levels will elevate your mood, improve your memory and increase other cognitive abilities.” The aforementioned positive effects of Vitamin D are what start to happen and continue throughout spring and summer, which is why it is the perfect time to set and complete your goals. With an elevated mood you are more resilient if you have a set-back throughout your process. An improved memory and increase of other cognitive abilities can aid you in and make you more receptive to change. Fresh air and being in nature also increases your energy levels, research has found that being surrounded by nature, in fresh air, increases energy in 90% percent of people. The smells that bein

 

g in nature provides have also be proven to release stress and increase happiness. A few examples being roses which promote relaxation, jasmine and lavender can increase your mood and lower anxiety, pine trees increases relaxation and decreases stress. The less anxiety you have, the less you will second guess yourself, the more you will reach for your goals!

 

In addition to Vitamin D, fresh air and the natural scents that energize and increase our mood, in the spring, you can physically see new plants or trees growing or flowers blossoming. In the summer is when we get to enjoy fresh fruits and vegetables. Around us we can see new beginnings and we are nourishing ourselves with fresh, replenishing, immune and energy boosting produce that are good for our bodies and minds. In the spring and summer, with more flora and fauna, you feel more apart of something. More people are outside, everything feels alive. It is almost hard to not be productive when you can see everything moving, changing and growing around you. Whether your goal, new habit or beginning is small or large, personal motivation, energy and positivity are all important factors when it comes achieving your goals. Feeling apart of something, having the opportunity to be outdoors, getting fresh air, naturally boosting your mood and energy can make your goals feel attainable.

Spring and summer are a fantastic time for a fresh start. You are physically and emotionally set-up for success. Take advantage of natural motivators this month, exceed your expectations. “Everything good, everything magical happens between the months of June and August.” —Jenny Han, The Summer I Turned Pretty

Written by Valerie Chalmers
www.valeriechalmers.com
Co Chair of Promotions & Marketing Committee, Niagara Leadership Summit for Women
Co Host of The Empowered Millennials Podcast
Member of Promotions & Marketing Committee, No Fixed Addresshttp://nfaniagara.com
Member of the St. Catharines Culture Plan Sub Committee

 

 

Sources

 

ScienceDirect – http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0272494409000838

NCBI, PubMed – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19370942

Huffington Post – http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/03/25/spring-scents_n_5021358.html , http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/12/20/winter-scent-health-benefits_n_4473935.html

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.

As we go on

I thought I would hop on the graduation theme this month, as I am surrounded by graduates right now because I work at Niagara College. As I am writing this, convocation is taking place right now down the hall (congratulations, graduates!).


I myself remember graduating university and then college, mostly because they both were on my birthday so it was extra special! I also remember being extremely sweaty because graduations never seem to have air conditioning. Add to that wearing a heavy gown and having a thousand people squished into a room, it gets pretty sticky. I also remember being so full of hope for my future when I first graduated university: thinking, “Man! I am so excited to get an awesome job in the real world and make money and move out and show everyone that I have a university degree!” Then I remember shortly after the actual graduation writing up my resume and literally having nothing to put on it besides that I completed a university degree. Now, that was clearly my fault for not getting involved enough, being proactive and doing more, but honestly I had no real world experience to throw in there. Luckily I didn’t worry too much because I had decided to go college for my post-grad, another year of not having to worry about adulating! A year later, when I graduated college, I knew that I still had a long road ahead of me to find a job in my chosen industry. I didn’t have any high expectations of getting my dream job, making a lot of money, or even having weekends off. I knew that I was going to graduate again and still work at my retail job for minimum wage. I knew that in my free time I would search for jobs like a mad woman, constantly update and work on my cover letter and resume, and be extremely poor while living with my parents (no shame, people!).

DON’T WORRY THOUGH, it all worked out. Six months later I did get a job in the field I went to school for and made decent money and eventually moved out. I was a real independent lady, but still extremely poor (thanks student loans!). I totally didn’t expect my life to turn out the way it did. Things change a lot after your graduate. I think most of the people I know went through a similar experience; and we are always willing to tell the younger generation that they are screwed when it comes to life after graduation. So I decided to ask a few friends of mine these questions:
“What do you know now that you wish you knew when you were graduating college/university?”
“What’s the most important piece of advice you would give to a new grad”

Here are some answers:
“I wish I knew about all of the services that were offered to me while I was in school and as an alumni, and almost all of them were FREE to me as a student. I really needed help get you career ready – having someone edit my resume, cover letter and help me with interview prep! I wish I knew about the Graduate Alumni Peer mentoring program to get me connected with someone working in my field of study. I would tell new grads to stay in touch with their college/university and connect with your peers. It’s very interesting to see where everyone ends up and how you can leverage your relationships. Network network network – it’s important to always be expanding your professional network. And, always carry business cards on you!”

“Don’t give up! Not everyone gets their dream job right out of school but keep trying. Continue to gain experience however you can whether it be through volunteering or working part-time in the field you want to be in. Sometimes you have to start at the bottom and work your butt off to get to the top but it’ll all be worth it in the end. Good luck!”

“Life doesn’t happen quickly, you can’t immediately get whatever you want just because you graduated. While you are in school you are always trying to pass the course to move on to the next one, or to finish the year so you can graduate, and it’s always go go go. Take your time in the workforce to try to learn as much as you possibly can because education never stops.”

“Man… that a university degree isn’t the golden ticket to getting your dream job. It’s a huge financial and personal commitment, so make sure you look at all your options and the consequences for your choice. Take the time to really look into your program/degree: What you can do with it? What opportunities are there in this field for me after I graduate? What post-graduate programs are available to me for career growth and success?”
“Life is way tougher than I thought! I would have went back to school instead of starting a job right away after my first graduation. Now I’m used to the money and a certain way of life, and it seems impossible for me to go back to being a full-time student. Everything is very competitive, and for every job there are hundreds of applicants; so the more you have that makes you stand out, the better. Another thing I wish I knew was to stand up for myself! In the work place and in life. Don’t get in the habit of thinking it’s a one time thing, because it usually never is. People get used to treating you a certain way, and everyone deserves to be treated with respect.”
“If you can’t find employment in your field volunteer wherever you can to gain more experience and make connections. You are still figuring out your life, live it, don’t let the pressure of what you think you “should” be at this point in your life stress you out. You are going to stress about plenty in your life don’t add to it, know your goal and keep going but also remember it is ok to change your goal as go.”

“Learn how to make a budget. Visit a financial advisor, and be smart with your money. Once you graduate, pay off as much of your students loans as you can. Paying that off should be your first priority.”

I hope that some of you are graduating or coming close to graduating, and are reading this right now. It’s easy to be naïve, young and get caught up in the moment when you are in post-secondary. The decisions you make during this time have consequences, and I think it’s easy to say that most of the answers I have collected have a common theme: life isn’t easy. Dream jobs don’t fall in your lap. You have to work hard, go above and beyond and keep fighting to have the things you want. Don’t wait until it’s too late to get your post-grad life in order, you need to start planning. Take the advice of those who have been through it; do as much as you can to make yourself stand on in this ever so competitive job market. Volunteer, get involved and make a difference. Be smart with your money, and your time. Research and ask questions.

I promise we aren’t all cynical and poor graduates. Best of luck to you all!

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.

Love Others As We Love Ourselves

This is really quite hard.

For example, an analogy was spoken to me earlier today. If I have a nice comfortable bed to sleep on, but I know someone who doesn’t, then the ultimate “love others as yourself” would be that I buy them a nice comfortable bed to sleep on.

Out of my abundance, my love pours onto others. This love can look like money, possessions, a kind word, a smile, a hug, or simply, love. Just a thought that I love the person standing in front of me.

But when I’m not able to love someone as myself, when I’m not in an abundance, or a place to be generous, what happens?

When I decide to take care of myself, what does this mean, for myself, and for others?

Self-care for me personally, looks like quiet time. It is me, in my room, with the door closed, listening to music, reading, thinking, pondering, wondering, processing. This can look very different to each of us.

You can go to a spa, to the movies, for a manicure. Treat yourself. You can close your door, turn off your phone, close your eyes. Still yourself. You can take a nap, go for a walk, sit in nature. Calm yourself. You can run, lift weights, eat. Power yourself.

How you take care of yourself can be very different to how someone else might take care of themselves.

There is one thing, though, that I believe is certain about self-care. It is short lived, and it is needed more often, the more we keep neglecting our needs.

As a person who gives an extensive amount of time and other resources, I often find I run on empty. I need to refuel, refill, and re-energize, daily. Often more than once a day.

The demands that are placed on us are far too often more than the resources we have to give. But our relationships are far too valuable.

So where is the balance between self-care and caring for others?

We each have a rhythm. My rhythm is a lot of quiet time, a lot of time reflecting and learning, a lot of time growing. When these things fill me up, when I’ve read enough, sang enough, thought, pondered, and wondered enough, I get to be joyful, peaceful, patient, kind, loving, good, gentle, faithful to my friends and family and most importantly, in control.

I’m not tired, worn out, too busy, overwhelmed, bombarded, needing someone to take care of me first.

I’m full. The rhythm of my heart is just as it should be. I have an abundance of all things good and that love, and everything else that goes along with it, can pour out all over others. My needs are taken care of. First.

I am no good in taking care of another, until my needs are met, first. This can take some time, trial and error to learn. But it is worth the struggle. Once you find your pace, your life will change.

Your relationships will be more fulfilling. The amount of people you take care of will be greater and but the work will be lighter. You will be filled with so much love that you can share it all around you, all of the time.

You are loved. You are worthy. You are a beautiful woman that gives so much. Take care of what you need so that those who need you, can be taken care of, all around you.