Tag Archives: Safety

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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IWD Q & A

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

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

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

Abandoned Conveyor Belt by darkday

 

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

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

D: So what did you do after high school?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Boys Locker Room by Mari Gildea

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

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

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

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

D: What does your husband think about your profession?

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

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

K: [Eye roll and laughs]

Question of the Month

Question: Who is the most influential feminist?

Ellen

Now there’s a question that isn’t posed everyday. Where to begin? It’s like being asked who is the most influential politician, scientist, musician, painter, or author. If I said (and this is just off the top of my head) Winston Churchill, Einstein, J.S. Bach, Leonardo Da Vinci, and Shakespeare, my picks wouldn’t raise a brown. Even if they were highly subjective and indicative of geography and culture, as well as race, age, sexuality, ability, and class. I mean, they are all male, all white, and all European for starters. Why not Angela Merkel, Rosalind Franklin, Asha Bhosle, Frida Kahlo, and Toni Morrison?

So, who do I think is the “most influential” feminist? I can’t give just one answer or perhaps an answer to that question at all. I can say that any list I came up with would reflect my particular feminist politics and my knowledge as well as my ignorance. I can also say the thousands of women who pushed boundaries, risked their lives, and braved (and still brave, as the struggle continues) ridicule and persecution while pressing for political and social equality, are the “influential feminists”. I know many who have influenced me, but perhaps just as important are the many who are largely unsung, who by their words and actions—the way they have lived and are living their lives—have changed the culture and made my life with its rights and freedoms possible. Some of them are women I know or have known and who have helped raise me up and shape me: my familial forebears and contemporaries, and my friends, co-workers and bosses. All that said, I’m partial to the writing of bell hooks, and authors Marguerite Duras, Margaret Atwood, and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, among others.

I owe a debt to many protofeminists who had the courage to live their lives the way they wanted to, as well as the leaders and worker bees of various feminist movements. I’m impressed by the the new feminist thought leaders such as Pussy Riot, the women who organized Idle No More, and all the women who took part in the Women’s March on Jan 21. Who do I think is the most influential feminist? How about all of them?

Slavica   

As a Women’s and Gender Studies student, I have come to realize that feminism is a very broad movement and to define an influential feminist as being more influential than others is by no means an easy task. As we are in the third, going into the fourth wave – i.e. the various stages of feminism – we are starting to look at intersectionality, where an individual’s various identities affect their experiences.

When we think of an influential feminist, we look at woman like Betty Friedan, bell hooks (her name is purposely not capitalized), or Kim Anderson. However, each one focuses on something different in their activism and literature because their lived experiences are all different. The experiences of a white, black, or indigenous women can’t be generalized as being the same regardless of the fact that they’re all woman because race, class, sexuality, ethnicity, ability, etc. all play a role in their individual lives and how they look and experience the world.

However, to understand where feminists first appeared, who in my opinion have always existed, just feminism itself became a more mainstream movement, would be when women wanted the right to vote. In Canada, white women were allowed to vote in 1918, but this was only those whose husbands served in the war and it wasn’t until 1960 that Indigenous women were allowed to vote. THAT’S 42 YEARS LATER! Now it’s been 57 years since all women in Canada have been allowed to vote. That isn’t a long time when you look at the grand scheme of things.

The start to this RIGHT as we know it now as a Canadian citizen, started with only upper-middle class white women, who had a lot of time on their hands. They were known as the suffragettes and they were the “First Wavers” but to say they were the most influential feminists would be wrong. To identify a singular individual as being more influential in the movement in my opinion is a bad way to look at feminism because it assumes that one person is the face of all that is feminism but they are not.

To look at feminism is not to look at one individual or one particular group, because there isn’t one type of woman or one type of feminism. The suffragettes or the women in the Women’s Liberation Group, were all influential because without them fighting tooth and nail, women would not have the rights that they do today. I, in all honesty, can’t really give you an influential feminist because feminism itself is a growing process and no one person helped to make the movement what it is.

Blogger Talk – Self-Care

Candice

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Donna

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

Let’s Do Something, Not Nothing

101 Men: An Innovative Approach to Ending Gender Violence

By Inspectable Todd Gilmore

November 18th, 2016, St Catharines, Ontario.

Let’s Do Something, Not Nothing.

If this event was called Men 101 it might be a training event for women to better understand why some men exhibit harmful behaviour towards women. We learned during the training that women have always taken a leadership role in ending gender violence so that’s an event that’s probably already occurred many times over. Women’s leadership on this issue was easy to see at the event itself. Behind almost all the display tables of community organizations that work to end gender violence, stood a woman. As we also found out during the training, if this event was called Men 101 it could realistically be a training program that explains why not enough is being done by men to end gender violence even after men participate in this training.

I believe the group of men I was with at 101 Men Event in St Catharines, Ontario will show courage and do something, not nothing.

I’ll start with this article.

Let’s be clear the main problem when it comes to gender violence is men abusing women.  This abuse can take a number of forms including verbal, emotional, physical, and sexual. To end gender violence we learned this has to be a “men’s issue” and men in positions of power and influence, like the men with me at the 101 Men Event, need to step up. And punch up, not down, if required.

We learned that the best place to influence or intervene is by attacking language, attitudes, beliefs, and aspects of our culture that support abusive behaviour towards women or make it seem acceptable. By the time the gender violence occurs it’s too late and we’ve missed a ton of opportunities to address the root causes of gender violence that are so pervasive around us. It can be as simple as using active instead of passive language. Passive language says “how many women were raped?” while active language says “how many men raped women?”. You can easily see that using passive language takes men out of the equation when the opposite should occur and the men involved should be held accountable.

“Passive language takes men out of the equation.”

General Marsden of the Australian military said it best when he made a statement of action while dealing with inappropriate men’s behaviour in his own organization.  He said “the standard you walk past is the standard you accept.”

On Friday November 18th, 2016 I spent 8 hours with 101 Men, community leaders from across Niagara and the surrounding regions who were there because they want to take action. I saw an outstanding group of men who were there to make a change, to not walk past, to take ownership of a men’s issue and to create higher standards in their sphere of influence in order counter gender violence.

Join me in doing something, not nothing.

(Insp Todd Gilmore, OIC RCMP HNRD)

What Goes On Behind Closed Doors

Everyone knows someone who has been, or is being abused. It may even be yourself. The problem is that nobody likes to talk about such a horrible subject. Everyone wants to believe that it will never happen to them. But the truth is if you were to look around at the people you know, there’s at least one person who is suffering in silence.

Abuse comes in many forms and may be difficult to spot at first glance. The person who is being subjected to abuse will often lie or cover up what is happening to them because they are ashamed or embarrassed.  They often live in fear and believe that they are helpless to do anything to stop the abuse. Sometimes they have been beaten down so badly that they can’t see a way out.

I know a few women who are in unhealthy relationships, but one stands out more clearly than the others.  She is someone I love very much and it kills me to watch her being treated so horribly. To the outsider it seems like she lives a privileged life. She has been married over 30 years to a successful businessman who earns a six-figure income.  They have a beautiful large home on the outskirts of town with a swimming pool and hot tub. They both drive new cars and go on vacation to the Caribbean every winter.  It looks like she’s living the dream.  But, appearances can be deceiving!  She is married to a man who controls every aspect of her life, from the way she cooks to the correct way she’s expected to stack things in the fridge and cupboards.  He decides when and where she can drive her car.  He has driven away every single one of her friends with his rude comments and obnoxious behaviour.  He has worn her down to a shell of her former self.  He undermines her confidence and tells her she isn’t capable of doing anything without his input and permission. He barks orders at her and monitors her every movement.  He talks down to her and degrades her publicly.  He beat her dog every time it did anything he perceived as being disobedient. He has had multiple affairs and she finds evidence of the gifts he buys for other women.  He hides money from her and closed their joint bank account.  He comes and goes as he pleases and never offers an explanation for his whereabouts.   He talks to her like she’s a child and treats her like an object that he owns.

We were both married in the same year to the same kind of man. Except that I left after 10 years of abuse and heartache. I left with nothing but my children and my sanity. It wasn’t always easy but I have never regretted leaving. I’ve put myself through school multiple times, I’ve travelled and experienced so many opportunities that life has to offer.  I wasn’t able to live in a big fancy house but at the end of the day I could come home with my children and lock the door behind me knowing that there was no one there to ridicule and belittle me.  I was free to make choices and learn through my mistakes without someone degrading me.  I didn’t know what life held for me when I left but I knew anything was better than living with someone who enjoyed suffocating the life out of me.

I’ve spent the last 20 years trying to get my friend to understand that she has so much more power than she’s aware of. I’ve tried to explain to her that she holds the cards to her future and that she has more power than she realizes.  She would never be destitute because he would have to give her a very generous settlement, in spite of his underhanded ways.  And yet, she still feels trapped in her golden cage.  It should be illegal for someone to abuse their spouse but until she’s ready to make a move, all I can do is offer her unconditional love and support.

If the day ever comes that she finds the strength to detach herself from this selfish, arrogant, abusive sociopath I will be there to help her pick up the pieces of her life.

Self-Defense and Personal Safety

I don’t know about you, but I have some issues about people being in my personal space. Like for instance, if someone I don’t know stands too close or hovers around me trying to read over my shoulder I feel uncomfortable. If I get on an elevator alone and a man gets on I am instantly on guard. When I walk down the street I make direct eye contact with everyone I pass to discourage any would-be attacker. I feel like I need to put an invisible protection shield on before I leave my house  as a barrier between me and any potential danger. I think this hyper-vigilance on my part all stems from years of people not respecting boundaries and breaking my trust. As a child I felt like I didn’t have a voice and had to tolerate things that made me very uncomfortable. As a single mother I felt responsible for my safety as well as that of my children.  As a PSW I was trained to assess every situation and client I came into contact with. As a woman in the workplace I have been sexually harassed by clients, coworkers, and men who were in positions of power.  As a result of many life experiences, I recognize red flags very quickly and deal with problematic people in a diligent and direct manner.   I don’t like those who don’t have respect for other peoples’ boundaries. I have a right to privacy and I’m no longer afraid to stand up for myself.

Years ago, as a young, divorced mother I took a self-defense course to learn how to defend myself if I ever needed to.  I felt vulnerable and I was terrified of being attacked and not being able to protect myself. I was tired of feeling helpless and hopeless and I didn’t want to be ruled by fear anymore. So I decided to do something constructive about it.  I’m the type of person who believes that there is a solution to every problem and I won’t give up until I find out what that is. Learning how to protect and defend myself gave me a newfound sense of confidence and pride. I learned how to protect and defend me and my children. I also learned how to spot the dangers around your home and car. It was a wonderful feeling to know that if I used certain techniques I could effectively defend myself; in spite of my size and gender. I learned what areas are very vulnerable on an attacker and the best way to strike them. It was very reassuring to learn what precautions I needed to take in order to make our home a safer place to live. I put deadbolts on the doors and bars on the bedroom windows to prevent intruders from breaking into our ground floor apartment. I was taught to be aware of my surroundings at all times.

As females, we are taught from an early age to be nice and act like a lady, while boys are encouraged to be aggressive and assertive in protecting themselves and their loved ones. Well, that might sound ok in theory, but in reality it creates a learned helplessness in females. We are taught that nice girls don’t yell or use physical violence. That’s great if you have a personal bodyguard to protect you around the clock, but for most of us that’s just not reality. Most of us are alone at different times in our daily lives. Unless you intend to become a hermit, I highly recommend taking a self-defense course. It was one of the best things I have ever done for myself. I learned how to protect myself against a variety of scenarios. I learned to be assertive and walk with confidence so that I don’t look like an easy target. It gave me the ability to look for ways to safeguard myself and my property. I became educated in ways of improving safety for myself and my loved ones.

I am a very private person and my home is my sanctuary. No matter where I have lived, as long as it was safe, clean and comfortable I could relax and enjoy my life. I’ve always made sure that I took the necessary precautions to protect myself and my children.  I put deadbolts on my doors, I never let strangers into our apartment building and I never park next to a van. I am always aware of my surroundings and observe anyone in my vicinity. I look for any possible ways that could lead to a breach in home security or personal safety. I look for ways to prevent any possible intruders from getting into my home and car.  I don’t take risks or chances when it comes to my safety because I never want to end up on Cold Case Files.  I can’t help it, I’ve learned the hard way that what you see and what you get doesn’t always coincide. I’m also pursuing a degree in Criminal Psychology and Behaviour so my eyes have been opened up to some many new things. My mind is trained to observe and study people and if something sends up a red flag for me I pay close attention. Listening to your gut instinct is one of the smartest things you can do for yourself.

But what do you do when you live next to people who are annoying and nosy? What happens when your new neighbours are intrusive and don’t respect your right to privacy? How do you balance being civil while maintaining boundaries with these new strangers in your life? Why is it that some people think you should jump right into friendship with them just because you live on the same street or work at the same place? For me, trust is something that is earned. It is not something that I just hand over to anyone who comes into my life. I don`t care who the person is or what image they present to the public. It takes me a while to get to know and trust people. People who come on too strong or are overly friendly make my spidey senses tingle. People who invade my personal space without permission put me on high alert. People who have no respect for boundaries make me angry and suspicious. People who don`t use common sense and courtesy irritate me.

How would you feel if your neighbours went snooping through your garage on the day that you moved in to your new house? How would you react? What would you do?  How about the neighbour who stands outside your dining room window looking in while talking on the phone loudly? Would it make you angry if you had to keep the windows closed all the time to keep the cigarette smoke out? How would you feel if you had to keep your curtains closed all the time because your neighbour stares into your window while she smokes her cigarettes? How would you handle a neighbour who is insistent that if you let them into your yard he could clean up the branches to put in his wood chipper? Would you be happy or suspicious because he also wants to use his rototiller in your yard to make you a garden? How would you feel about someone who doesn`t listen when you tell them repeatedly that you don`t need any help. How many times do you have to refuse someone`s offers before they get the hint that they are being overbearing. What would you do if he or she was overly friendly and made a big fuss about wanting to get to know your dog that you adopted for protection and peace of mind? How would you feel if your last house had been broken into by a neighbour and now your new neighbours are trying to get familiar with your dog in spite of your continual protests of refusal? What if your neighbour started calling out to your new grandbaby by name, but they`d never been introduced. How would you like to live next to someone who is loud, drinks a lot and calls out compliments to your husband over the fence while he`s doing yard work. How would you feel about your neighbours calling out your name every single time you walked out the front door or into your back yard? How would you feel about your neighbour asking your guests nosy questions?  What would you do if you caught the flyer guy looking through your front door window and deliberately antagonizing your dog? What if his behaviour was so odd that you started watching him and soon realized that he was intentionally irritating all the dogs on the street? What would you do if you saw him looking through everyone`s windows and mailboxes. How would you react to him throwing garbage on your property? Would you tell the neighbours on the street about the things you have seen him doing week after week. Would you consider him harmless and dismiss him as a threat based on the fact that `he`s just an old man`. What if you noticed that sometimes he doesn`t even use his cane and that he can walk really fast when he thinks no one is watching him. Would you call his place of employment and report him or would you just ignore him. Would you call the police?

 

Be it ever so humble, there`s no place like home. Home sweet home! I love those sayings. That`s how I feel about every place I`ve lived in, whether it was the apartments or townhouses I have rented over the years or the house we currently own. I have always thought of my home as my sanctuary. I have lived in my current home for almost 9 years. However, we have had to constantly set and reinforce boundaries with some people since day one. I assumed that because our neighbours were older we would have no problems with them.  Wrong! Bad neighbours come in all ages and genders. I didn`t realize just how much of an impact others can have on our lives until certain people became more than just a bit of a nuisance. The results of negative behaviour by others quickly became quite obvious. I couldn`t help but notice how very dark and depressing my dining room started to feel because I had to always keep the windows and curtains closed for privacy. I spend large quantities of time in my dining room. That is where I do all of my writing and schoolwork from, on my laptop. At first it felt like my whole world was closing in on me. Then one day we decided to take back our lives by making some changes. First, we took out the dining room windows and built a solid wall in their place. We made a new entrance off of the back of the house by installing some new patio doors.  My husband then built a very tall privacy screen outside of our new patio doors off of the dining room. It is very tall and blocks their view into our house. It prevents them from standing in their driveway and looking in at us as we go about our daily lives. I also planted a hedge down the side of our front yard because I don’t appreciate the way they occasionally stand on my front lawn smoking cigarettes and talking loudly while I try to live my life inside. We had an alarm system installed and my husband has mounted motion detector lights all around the house that are very sensitive to any movement and are very bright. We’ve put a lock on the back gate and when next spring comes we are putting in new fences and more cedar trees to ensure our privacy.

It might seem like we have taken extreme measures to some people. Some people might even think we are overreacting or being paranoid. But to some people this will all make perfectly good sense. After all, what do any of us really know about the people who live around us? And what’s wrong with having a private sanctuary? When I am at home I don’t want nosy or bored neighbours dropping in for a cup of coffee or to waste time by being a gossip. I don’t want to feel obligated to drop whatever I am doing every time the neighbour comes over. If I’m reading a book on my front porch that’s not an open invitation to waltz over and just invade my space. If I`m in the middle of a project I don`t want to be interrupted by someone who is bored. Whether I`m upset about something, or grieving the recent loss of my aunt I don`t feel the need to explain to the neighbours why I am crying. If I can`t let my guard down at home and relax it`s going to lead to other problems. We don’t need or want their opinions or approval on anything we are working on in our yard. I don’t care to listen to their rambling stories that go on forever and don’t have any meaning in my life. I don’t want strangers calling out to my grandchildren and confusing them. If I don’t introduce you to someone in my life, it’s because I don’t know you well enough to trust you. Just because we are neighbours doesn`t make us friends. I don’t like people who try to slither their way into my life. I don’t trust people who rub me the wrong way. And I’ve learned to listen to my gut instincts with people. I’ve learned it’s better to err on the side of caution. Safety first! Always!
It’s crazy how much things can change when you get new neighbours. There have been other people in the one house and we never had any problems with anything or anyone before. There have been a couple of times that the one house has been sold and in 8 years we never had a problem with privacy or boundary issues with any previous neighbours that lived there. We rarely saw or heard the previous owners, but when we did we were civil. We waved hello and minded our own business. We never felt uncomfortable here before. We never felt like we were living under a microscope or that we were being stalked by the paparazzi; until they moved in. We’ve never had people openly watch us while we worked around the yard and call out to us over the fence with comments about our progress or efforts. The previous neighbours never tried to treat us like employees that came with the purchase of their home.  After a year of dealing with extremely rude and intrusive people we came to the conclusion that we had 2 choices. We could give up our space and hibernate or push back and reinforce our boundaries. We decided to take back our lives by making changes and not backing down. We are no longer friendly or civil with these people. We don’t speak to them and if they try to engage us in any way, we simply ignore them.

My home is my sanctuary and my family is my life. I refuse to compromise my principles or allow anyone to push me around and make me feel uncomfortable. I’ve worked too hard for everything I have to let someone else spoil it. We will continue to reinforce those boundaries for as long as it takes. Like I said earlier, there’s a solution to every problem and I will do whatever it takes to enjoy my life and home. I will never understand pushy people who think they can just run all over you. I will never understand people who don’t respect other people’s right to privacy, but I guess I don’t have to. I just have to do what I think is right to enjoy my life and take the steps needed to protect my family and safeguard my home. If that means my neighbours think I’m a bitch I can live with that! At least I`ll be able to sleep at night and enjoy my private sanctuary again.

Social Media & Online Safety

We welcome our new blogger Sam to the team – check out her blog on online safety!

Social Media Safety

Society’s ever growing demand of social media presence drives us to post everything we do from what we eat, where we hang out and our vacations; all leading up to the fact that our social media profiles allow us to share our entire life with strangers.

The tried and true saying, “Stranger Danger” is valid when talking about online safety. Accepting strangers increases not only the risk of your personal information being leaked but also identify theft. The biggest tip moving forward would be to never accept friend requests from anyone you don’t know.  It’s also time to purge your friend list, remove anyone that you’ve never met in real life or who you haven’t talked to in the last two years.

Lock Down – Secure Passwords

We all know to never share our passwords but here are some tips for creating passwords that are the muscle man bouncer to your online existence:

  • Make at least 8 characters long
  • Don’t use complete words
  • Must contain UPPERCASE, lowercase, numbers and symbols (%&@)
  • Create a phrase you’ll remember but then switch out the letters for numbers or symbols

Example Phrase – Superman Flys

Example Password – $uP3Rm@N^S

I Don’t Give A Damn About my Reputation . . . Oh Wait! Yes, I do!

            Anyone who uses social media has an online reputation but do we even know what our reputation is saying? Try searching yourself on Google; use your name, nicknames, abbreviations, and anything else you can think of. Search other sites that you visit such as blogs, social networking sites, and photo sharing sites. Once you’ve discovered the cold hard truth about your online self, evaluate it. Ask yourself:

  1. Is this the reputation I want to have?
    1. What is missing?
  2. Is the information accurate?
    1. If not can you delete it?
  3. What are your privacy settings at?
    1. Do you want to make them more private or public?
  4. What would your Grandma say about the posts?
    1. Remove anything that you wouldn’t want to show to Grandma.

Now, we know about our online rep but how does one maintain it? It’s simple! Just think before you post, stay positive in your post and comments, and like our teachers said, “Treat others as you would want to be treated!

Finally, if you can only remember one thing from this blog post, remember this – once posted, always posted.

A Girl’s Guide to Safety

After our last blogger’s meeting, I realized that I didn’t really know much about personal safety (especially being a woman) other than lock my doors and carry a cell phone. Most of us on the committee had never been taught any specific “personal safety” precautions,
and what we did know what mostly based on old episodes of Oprah, from horror stories, or from the internet. So I thought I would take on the challenge of summarizing the basics of “being safe”, specifically for women and girls, so that we all might be a little more educated.

I wanted to start out with 3 basics that I found everywhere in my research online, and through my research of talking to other women. Before I get into specific tips and things to remember, I want to talk about these basics, because I feel they are the most important and all other safety measures stem from them. So, here they are (and sorry if they are completely obvious to you!)

  1. BE AWARE

This was the general theme of our conversation regarding safety at the bloggers’ meeting, and we realized that most people (women and men) are not aware of their safety and the possible dangers that are out there. Now, I’m not saying you have to be paranoid and always looking over your shoulder, but you should always try and take a minute to take in your situation, your surroundings, and ask yourself if you’re okay. It’s nice to be carefree and just roll with the punches, but when you are vulnerable (and let’s face it ladies, most of the time we are vulnerable just because we are ladies) it pays to be aware and have a general understanding of what’s going on around you. Plan out your route, your errand, know where you are, where you are going, and keep your eyes open and your ears listening.

  1. BE CONFIDENT

Or at least, pretend to be. This is something I remember seeing on Oprah back in the day, that your body language and the vibe you give off is really important. I am not the most confident person, and I definitely don’t walk around or live my daily life with extreme confidence and strong body language. I will admit that I slouch and I used to always look at the ground when I would walk past someone on the street. DON’T DO THAT! If there’s one time to fake uber confidence, it’s when you are by yourself – maybe walking alone, biking alone, or out with a small group. Stand up straight, walk tall, keep your eyes and head up and be on alert. Act as confident as possible, and act strong. The confidence you give off might just change an attacker’s mind when they see you strolling down the street. Don’t make yourself an easy target.

  1. ALWAYS TELL SOMEONE WHERE YOU ARE GOING

Now, this should be a no brainer and very easy! Everybody should do this. If you are going somewhere alone, always tell someone where and when you are going. Text your mom or dad when you are going out with friends, text your partner when you are picking up snacks at the convenience store late at night, tell your friend when you are walking to the library at night. Just tell somebody! Then you are accounted for, and if something were to happen to you, someone will know where you were going and at what time. Keep your cell phone with you – that’s what it’s for!

(Does anyone else whip out their phone when they are walking alone at night and call someone to talk? I always do that because then if someone were to come up to me, the person on the other line would be able to hear it all go down)

Okay, so the basics are out of the way. Now I’ve just got some general tips for you to up your personal safety on the regular. Props to you if you already do this, and if you don’t, maybe you don’t need to, but maybe you can add it to your routine and take a little more precaution. I don’t want anyone to be paranoid, freak out or start living their life scared all the time – so don’t! Just remember these little things and feel a little bit more secure. Hopefully knowing these things will make those solo walks a little better.

Car

  • Make sure your doors are locked, duh! If you are driving a newer car, your doors will lock once you start driving. If you are driver an oldie, make sure you lock them once you get inside (and if you are going to sit and text in your new car,
    make sure you hit the lock button before you start driving). I remember a story someone told me about a woman in her car who was stopped at a red light late at night, and a man jumped inside her car and attacked her because her doors were unlocked. Keep ‘em locked, ladies!
  • Have an emergency kit in your car. This is just a smart move for everyone! Have a blanket, some snacks, some water along with a kit you can buy at Canadian Tire. You never know when you might be stranded and without cell service.
  • Be safe in parking lots, especially at night. If you are working late or leaving a party and the walk to your car is more than 30 seconds away, ask someone to walk you to your car. Or walk to your car with a friend.
  • Communication! Something my friends and I always do when leaving each other’s houses is text each other once we get home. We did it when we all lived in the same neighbourhood (and that was the same for walking home) and we do it now that we live scattered across Ontario.
  • Something I read online that I never thought about is not parking near vans, or sketchy vehicles. Now I know we are all picturing the same stereotypical sketchy white van right now.
    I don’t know if there is any actual evidence that backs up this claim, but maybe just park in a different spot if you think your car neighbours are #sketchy.
  • Don’t stop to help someone on the side of the road! I know this sounds mean, but you don’t know who you are stopping for. If you are feeling really bad, keep your doors locked and talk to them through your window (only down a little bit) to see if they are okay or offer to call for help from inside your locked car.

Home

  • This is pretty obvious but lock your doors! Lock them when you leave, when you get home, just lock ‘em. What’s the harm? You never know when a weirdo might come through your door (one time a stranger came into my parents’ house at 2 in the afternoon because she was lost, but the back door was unlocked so she just came in).
  • Have lights! Motion sensor lights are always good, and they might help in scaring away a burglar or a peeping person. Keep your lights on when you are home alone, make it obvious that someone is home.
  • Lock the windows! I always forget that I have left a window open. It’s pretty easy to sneak in a window and cut through a screen. Depending on what type of window you have, someone might not be able to get in. Just make sure you know what’s open and what’s locked.
  • Keep some type of “defense tool” around the house, maybe at the front door, maybe beside your bed. Don’t rely on the boyfriend/husband/dog/dad etc. to protect you! I’ve heard of a screw driver, a baseball bat, a frying pan, and a field hockey stick. Find something you are comfortable with and know how to use it!
  • Be cautious when answering the door. Something I like to do is look through my peep hole before I answer. If you don’t have a peep hole, try locking the screen door after you come in and then taking a peak behind your wooden
    door before answering it all the way. That way someone can’t push the door in and come into your house. I remember there was a team of 2 men and one woman, and the woman would go knock on peoples’ doors and ask to use their telephone because her car broke down. The two men were waiting on the sides of the doors, and once someone opened they were push the door in and rob them. That being said, don’t let anyone come inside your house if you don’t know them.

Internet

I won’t go too deeply into this because there will be a blog post dedicated solely to this topic later in the month. Let me just say one thing:

If you put something out there on the internet, it’s out there for everyone to see. Be safe and smart.

Worst Case Scenarios

Now we are getting into the worst case scenario type of situations. I think another blog post will cover self-defense tips and how to defend yourself, so I won’t go into much detail either. I’ve listed my top 3 tips if you happened to get attacked:

  1. RESIST: Don’t go along with your attacker, make noise, fight back, and run if you are able to. Don’t ever give up.
  2. GO FOR THE EYES: I’m sure you have heard this before, the eyes are the most vulnerable part of the body. If you can, try and poke your attacker’s eyes HARD. This may give you the chance to escape.
  3. IT’S ALL ABOUT THE ELBOWS: Your elbows are the sharpest point on your body, so if you can use it, use it. I’m sure we’ve all been accidentally elbowed by someone and it does hurt. If you are grabbed and are close enough to elbow your attack, give it all you’ve got.

Stay tuned for more helpful safety tips this coming month on the blog! I hope you learned something from my tips, I know I did. I think the number 1 thing to take away from this is to be aware of your surroundings. I know some people are good in a crisis, and others are not, but the best thing you can do is to stay calm and focused and try to come up with a plan if something bad happens. Be safe out there, everyone!