Category Archives: Women’s Issues

Lessons I Learned From My Toddler

As I was sitting next to my toddler’s bed the other night, waiting for her to decide that she is done playing with my hair and ready to go to sleep, I realized that for someone who is not even two yet, there are a lot of things she has to teach. I am not talking about the obvious ones that children at any age will teach you:

It’s not diamonds, it’s coffee that is a girl’s best friend.

Sleep is overrated.

Your house will never be clean again. Deal with it.

The lessons I am talking about are the kinds of lessons you only start thinking about when you’re trapped in a dark room with nothing to do but wait for your child to go to sleep. I’m talking about the deep stuff.

1. Celebrate Your Successes

“I peed in the potty!!!” Both my husband and I rush up the stairs, opening the champagne bottle on our way, confetti in hand, and there she is, beaming as if the Wiggles had entered the building. “I peed in the potty,” she continues to yell and proudly points to the tiny puddle in her Froggy Potty. We are now jumping up and down in excitement, we yell down to our only semi-interested teenager to share the good news, we exchange high fives and praises. “SHE PEED IN THE POTTY!!!! Good job, sweetie, that’s amazing! Oh my gosh, you are going to help us empty the potty and flush, too? What a good helper!” My daughter will probably still need months until she’s actually housebroken. Until then, we will celebrate each and every day, about three times a day.

Because of this, on occasion, when I came out of the washroom, she waits outside the door for me (creepy, right!) and exclaims to everyone else in the house: “Mommy peed in the potty!!” “Yes I did, baby-girl! High five!”

So my question is: when and why do we stop doing that? What happens from here to there? Even with our teenagers the best I can manage most of the time is something along the lines of: “Oh, so you do know where the dishwasher is, good news!”

This year’s Niagara Leadership Summit for Women was all about owning our strengths. My toddler reminds me every day that we probably started out that way; that most or at least some of us started out with someone cheering us on. We, too, used to stand tall, proud of every accomplishment, no matter how small. If we all stayed a little bit more in that mindset of both, owning our own strengths and celebrating those of the people around us, I am convinced this world would be a better place.

2. No Means No

“Do you want some milk, sweetie?” “No.” It’s 7:30pm, this is what is next in her night routine. At around this time, every day, she has her milk. She loves it. “Mom has some warm milk for you, would you like some?” “No, Mama.” She is just saying ‘no’ because that’s the first thing they learn when they move from the infant to the toddler room, the word NO becomes a tool, a weapon, the ultimate crisis communication plan. Surely, she’s just saying it to be funny. “Here is your milk, sweetheart,” I say, coming at her with her favourite evening beverage. Armageddon is what follows. And I don’t mean the Bruce Willis kind. She flings herself onto the ground, within seconds there is a screaming and kicking mess where there was a peaceful child only moments ago. “NOOOOOO! NO MILK!!!!!” It is dawning on me that she may not have been joking after all. That kid does not want milk.

When I go over those lovely moments in my head at the end of the day, I find myself asking again: When, and more importantly, WHY do we stop doing that? Why don’t I start kicking and screaming when the boss adds something to my already overflowing plate? When do we start making up excuses instead of yelling: “NO! I DON’T WANT TO GO OUT FOR DINNER TONIGHT, I WANT TO EAT ICE CREAM AND BINGE WATCH GREY’S ANATOMY.” What do we as parents, teachers, role models, faith communities, as society do to our children that might make this very same girl think one day that she can’t say no when her soccer coach corners her in the change room?

no means no

Take it from my toddler, no means no. It is not always easy, especially for us as women, but practice it. Get better at it, one NO at a time. No, I cannot attend this meeting today. No, I cannot contribute to the bake sale. No, I don’t want to watch Sharknado tonight. No, not tomorrow either. And please! Don’t make excuses, don’t feel like you have to offer an explanation. The story didn’t go: And then the toddler said “no, mommy, I am still very full from dinner, I would rather skip the milk tonight.” She said NO. Period.

3. Feel The Feels

When our toddler is angry, she gives it her all. When she did not want that milk, she did not try to be polite about it. She didn’t force it down to then complain to her older sister later about the time I forced her to drink the milk. She just unleashed the anger. In the same way, there is no holding her back in her excitement over jumping around in a puddle. When she is sad, she lets herself sob and cry until she can’t catch her breath anymore. When she is happy, she giggles and snorts and laughs without thinking twice about it. She doesn’t need mindfulness training, this is just how she came out. This is a human before a lifetime of being shushed and distracted and shaped into what we have decided is right and proper and appropriate. One of my favourite chapters of  the book Tuesdays With Morrie is the one where he speaks about emotions.

“Turn on the faucet. Wash yourself with the emotion. It won’t hurt you. It will only help. If you let the fear inside, if you pull it on like a familiar shirt, then you can say to yourself, “All right, it’s just fear, I don’t have to let it control me. I see it for what it is”.”

Be scared, be happy, be nervous, be sad… be what you please but be it all the way.

emotions

Franziska Emslie is our Community and Public Relations Coordinator

My Experience as a Woman

Today, we are sharing a post with you that was written by an incredible woman and YW supporter who would rather not share her name.
It’s a post about being a woman, it’s about growing, it’s about believing that you can.

Sometimes women’s greatest strengths are also their greatest weaknesses.

My story is personal; my experience is not universal. I acknowledge my privilege. White. Able-bodied. Cis-gendered. Well-spoken. But perhaps it will still resonate with others.

I was raised to do it all. Not intentionally – but as an oldest child, product of strong mother and abusive father. Divorced parents. Amazing support in childhood from mother, family, and especially female role models. There was no doubt in my mind that the future was female. That women could do anything. It seemed that the head of every household in my family was female. If it wasn’t – if there was a power imbalance not in our favour – it was righted and, once more, women came out on top.

It was never an externally applied expectation, but one ingrained on my heart from so early on.

“You can do anything you put your mind to.”

I have given it all in every arena of my life that has involved others. The term loyal to a fault fell on my shoulders, the phrase only discovered later. What fault is loving another? Providing? Offering friendship, advice, and all-consuming loyalty?

It is a tragic-flaw not to provide those things for yourself first.

“You can’t pour from an empty cup.”

One constant in my life has been the renewable resource of friendship and companionship of like-minded individuals. These have always been strong, brilliant women. Never ones to be intimidated by each other, but the ones that consistently strived to build that community. They built community that was intent on support, communion, love, building bridges, acknowledging strength and, of course, continual encouragement. There were shoulders to cry on, arms to be wrapped in, and the greatest of minds to mingle with.

“Surround yourself with the people that make you want to be the best version of yourself.”

The world is not always like that. Women are not always like that. The greatest lessons I’ve ever learned were from people who taught me what not to do, who not to be. Older women. Misogynistic women. Threatened and tired women. But while those trials felt soul-sucking and brutally difficult, the sharing, communion and strength of my community would always build me up again.

Sometimes it can feel like your only purpose in this world is to serve others. Especially as a woman. Even when you are taught strength, you are taught to give of yourself. And continue to give of yourself. Even when you refill your cup, is it just so you can continue to pour it into another’s?

“Find yourself before you find another.”

I have found life extremely difficult to navigate. Maybe I’m overthinking. I think we do a lot of that now that we don’t grow our own food, nor milk our own cows (mind the dairy allergies), nor build our own homes nor hunt nor gather.

I have felt a failure in my relationships. I swing between complete and utter independence and being utterly needy and withdrawn. I have pushed away when I meant to pull. I have so much anger that is hard not to turn inward. I have moved from providing for my family as a child, to providing in my relationships like my partner was a child. A result of my personal history and experience as a woman.

“Learn from your mistakes.”

I wanted to write a blog post. I wanted to heal myself. I love reading, writing, words. I love meaning. I love this moment in time when I am alive and focused and purposeful.

The great thing about purpose – that most people don’t tell you – is that you get to choose your own. There may be a divine spirit, a plan, mysterious forces at work. But you get to answer that question yourself. You choose your purpose; your purpose doesn’t choose you. You can look for signs. But in the end, it is one thing you decide for yourself and whether or not you will live it.

For the longest time, and still sometimes, it felt like my purpose was to help others. I’ll be in the driver’s seat until they’re ready to take over. Then I’ll move to the passenger seat. Pretty soon, I’m kicked out of the car. Hope you enjoyed the ride! You’re welcome! No thank yous in return. I felt empty. Hollow. Lack of personal purpose of my own.

It’s not the reality. We, as women, must ensure we name our purpose and put ourselves first.  I have so much brilliance and talent, and I love sharing it with others. I used to love the spotlight. Now I love being on a team with a shared cause even more. Women are amazing. Learning is exhilarating. I want to continue to learn and grow and love. Maybe that is my purpose? I still have not named it.

“You have to travel outside of this moment to find a problem.”

People always have a choice. We can be lousy. We can harm the environment. We can get caught up with selfies and self-absorption and the kind of shallow self-love that still seeks external validation. Or we can be purposeful. We can see that all our actions have a reaction that impacts our mental, physical, creative and spiritual health, and the ripple effect of those actions touches living things across the globe.

Don’t bear the weight of the world on your shoulders. You’re not responsible for anyone but yourself. Treating  yourself right, breaking old patterns – or just recognizing them – will bring you a new perspective, and perhaps purpose, that isn’t going to seek you out without your hard work. Be brave. Be bold. Be proud to be a woman. Find a community that helps you navigate the difficulties of this life, for there are so many.

Each year, I met so many amazing women at the Niagara Leadership Summit. I have also met so many amazing women walking the halls of the YWCA shelters. Women with varied stories, challenges, backgrounds. We were all different. And we were all the same.

“Claim. Illustrate. Analyze.”

I always struggled with the “so what” in my essays. This post is no different. I wanted to share a little of my story. I wanted to encourage others to name their purpose. Most of all, I want you to see the strength it takes to be a person in today’s world and encourage you to celebrate that with those women you love. Maybe you know them. Maybe you haven’t met them yet. There is a community waiting for you with open arms.

 

 

Experiencing Discomfort: No Fixed Address 2018

The discomfort hit almost as soon as I lay my head down on my fluffy pillow. In a tent, with a small yoga type mattress, I could still feel every single bump in the ground. The roots digging into my bones made me continually adjust myself into a position that seemed tolerable. Tossing and turning most of the night, hearing sounds in the distance, I couldn’t help but think about the homeless people sleeping on a park bench. How exposed they must feel. How uncomfortable, terrified, and lonely they must feel. Shuffling to try to avoid those thoughts, I fell into a rough sleep. Well into the night, the cold crept upon me. Wrapping myself deeper into my warm comforter, putting my hood up, I fell into a light sleep.

The sun came up quickly and early. Groggy, I woke up so sore. Almost every part of me was aching. I struggled to pull myself together and get out of the tent. My goodness, I was exhausted. It felt like I didn’t even sleep. And yet, there are so many people in our community that sleep on park benches, in cars, on floors night after night. They’re waking up feeling awful, going to work, and going back “home” to any of those positions and doing it all over again. Can you imagine?

The thing that kept me up in the morning was knowing that in a couple of hours, I’d take a long hot shower. Id’ be able to brush my teeth and clean my face in my sink without any inconveniences. That evening I’d be able to crawl into my comfortable queen-sized bed in nice sheets and a clean comforter. The night prior’s discomforts would be all but a distant memory unlike the reality it is for so many people. And let me tell you from my experience that a tent is much more spacious than a car and it allows you to be in a better position. So I really had no reason to even have a slight negative thought about it.

One night was uncomfortable. Being sore for the entire day was awful. Every single person that participated in the 24 hours sleep in your car-a-thon was grateful to go back to the comfort of their home. But so many people in our community don’t have that luxury. They don’t have a home or any comfort.

That’s why we take 24 hours out of our lives each year to help the YW help our homeless. Because what’s one day compared to all of the people who do it for days, weeks, months, and sometimes years.

#PressForProgress

This year the theme for International Women’s Day is #PressforProgress. It’s kind of sad that in 2018, we still have to have this type of theme to try to gain gender parity. But it’s a fact, there just isn’t the same ratio of women to men in decision-making roles, politics, STEM, etc. There just isn’t.

The World Economic Forum’s 2017 Global Gender Gap Report findings tells us that gender parity is over 200 years away (IWD). 200 years! That’s unacceptable and shocking. We can’t wait 200 years for gender parity.

Now is the time to make a difference, to start finding ways to support other women to get into those positions. Women and allies need to do more than have the conversations at this point. Last year I think the #BeBold theme really initiated a lot of conversations and a movement as did a lot of the things happening around the world. This year, let’s rally together, take those conversations to the next level, and make things happen.

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This year is an election year for us, meaning we have the chance to make some changes this year. What better way to do so than to get out, help women campaign, spark the interest in other women, rally with them, and VOTE. There are so many ways women can be leaders in the community other than being in politics but being educated is a great start and voting is even better. If you learned anything from the YW’s Niagara Leadership Summit for Women’s 2017 Breaking Barriers conference, we have the support, the interest, and the ability to help make Niagara stronger, better, and move towards gender parity.

If you go onto the International Women’s Day website, you can see all of the ways you can #PressforProgress and I have to say, it’s worth the read. Here’s the main examples:

International Women’s Day Website

All of these options are doable and meaningful. I believe that International Women’s Day really sets the tone for the year and this year we can make even more progress than the last year, and the year before that. I challenge everyone to pick a way (or multiple ways) that they will #PressforProgress. Let us know which action you choose by tagging us #ywca_niagara. Let’s #PressforProgress together!

Personally this year my action is “Forge positive visibility of Women,” what’s yours?

via GIPHY

A Guy is a Guy

So while the average folks of today only expect to hear a song like this at Shoppers Drug Mart on a Thursday, my partner and I enjoy incorporating wholesome 1950s music into our everyday lives – while we’re cooking, cleaning and subverting traditional gender roles – you know how it is with modern coupledom.

The only problem is, these songs are actually really not that wholesome. And a lot of time incorporate a whole lot of traditional gender norms (which shouldn’t be a thing), subtle sexist commentary, or straight-up overt “WTF” themes.

Most people reading this blog are probably familiar with some of the myths and harmful messaging that YWCA and other feminist organisations tackle:

  • Boys will be boys. (What does that even mean? And how can I get in on that excuse?)
  • Girls should be “good.” (Ew. That’s not how I racked up all those detentions in school.)
  • Women are property owned by a male (parent/sibling/husband). (I’m hoping most people have got this one out of their systems come 2018)

We know these messages are damaging, not only to the feminist movement but truly, in everyday life. They normalise rape culture. They uphold the gender binary. They keep individuals in boxes dictated by the social and cultural norms of the present day and the past. “Let’s put a halt on progress and equality!” they cry.

So it was much to my chagrin to hear this sort-of love song on one of our favourite 8tracks playlists. Despite the conditioning and acceptance of many other songs with similar messages, none managed to so bluntly threaten today’s movement as this one by Doris Day (sorry, Doris!):

“Guy Is A Guy”

I walked down the street like a good girl should
He followed me down the street like I knew he would
Because a guy is a guy wherever he may be
So listen and I’ll tell you what this fella did to me

I walked to my house like a good girl should
He followed me to my house like I knew he would
Because a guy is a guy wherever he may be
So listen while I tell you what this fella did to me

I never saw the boy before
So nothin’ could be sillier
At closer range his face was strange
But his manner was familiar

So I walked up the stairs like a good girl should
He followed me up the stairs like I knew he would
Because a guy is a guy wherever he may be
So listen and I’ll tell you what this fella did to me

I stepped to my door like a good girl should
He stopped at my door like I knew he would
Because a guy is a guy wherever he may be
So listen while I tell you what this fella did to me
He asked me for a good-night kiss
I said, “It’s still good day”
I would have told him more except
His lips got in the way

So I talked to my ma like a good girl should
And Ma talked to Pa like I knew she would
And they all agreed on a married life for me
The guy is my guy wherever he may be

So I walked down the isle like a good girl should
He followed me down the aisle like I knew he would
Because a guy is a guy wherever he may be
And now you’ve heard the story of what someone did to me

And that’s what he did to me

After reading the lyrics (or listening to the song), it may come as no surprise that Doris Day was more known as an Animal Welfare Activist than a Women’s Rights one. I make no digs at Ms. Day, as she was a pretty stellar lady for her time. But it’s clear to see how this “good girl” was fully wrapped up and embraced by the patriarchal forces that still exist today (just not this overtly).

I’m not saying I don’t still listen to our 1950s playlists or get this song stuck in my head. And I’m certainly not trying to corrupt – in the words of Youtuber Gema Ibarra – “a song reflecting a beautiful innocent romance between a young man and woman.” There is certainly enough warring in the comment section – some pointing out the inappropriate stalking/uninvited stranger kiss/overall normalisation of rape culture, while others point out and try and save the wholesome and innocent virtue of the white, straight, cis-gendered romances of the 1950s. I could put my English Degree to use and go on and on about how things happen TO the heroine of the song and that she appears to be lacking any agency of her own. But I’ll save the over-analyzing for those interested in reading the comment sections. I’m way too tired for that.

Today in some ways, the sexism – through media like music – is less in your face (in other ways it’s not). It can be harder to deal with, confront and change when it is hidden. However, I am so glad that the #1 hit today doesn’t use the line, “Like a good girl should” as it did in 1952.

(Or does it? I actually stopped listening to the radio a while ago… Most of the time I think I’m just *hoping* we’re not moving backward. Keep me posted, would you?)

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.

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.

Start Somewhere

Niagara Leadership Summit for Women

Sana Shah (Brock University)

On Saturday October 28th, YWCA Niagara Region hosted the fourth Annual Niagara Leadership Summit for Women. Since October is Women’s History Month, it seemed to be fitting to end the month on such a positive note. It was great to see a few men present in the crowd, who supported women’s rights and ability to lead in a rather male dominated community. I hope to see more men in the future at the summit because gender inequality does not only concern women; it is a larger problem concerning the Canadian community as a whole.

Ashley Callingbull was the keynote speaker for the summit, who became the first First Nations and Canadian woman to win the Mrs. Universe title in 2015. She is devoted to supporting the community. She shared with the audience her struggling childhood, and how she as a First Nations woman has to work extra hard to make achievements. Shining light on this issue, she further explained how she experienced racism from a young age. She brought attention to cases of missing and murdered indigenous women. However, most importantly she reminded the crowd that you can do anything you want to do, and be anything you want to be, and that the only person holding you down is yourself. So let us hold on to that and try to change the gender divide one-step at a time.

Once Ashley wrapped up her address, we had an opportunity to attend a workshop from a choice four, which included; Leadership in parenting, Women in politics, Breaking barriers in mental health, and Business and entrepreneurship.

I attended the Women in politics workshop, which focused greatly on the Niagara region. It was led by Elizabeth Zimmerman, Mishka Balsom, Debbie Zimmerman, Joyce Morroco, Carol Stewart-Kirkby, and Shirley Cordiner. We discussed as a group about Niagara’s democratic deficit in women’s representation in local politics. There is a link between low female voter turnout and low female representation in politics. After the workshop we took a short break and had a choice of attending another workshop from the following options; Aboriginal community justice, Conquering barriers to success, Decolonizing language, Disability leadership, Fair trade, Race and racism, Self-care for caregivers, Success in a male dominated industry, Women in STEM, and Volunteerism

I chose to attend the workshop on Aboriginal Justice, let by Celeste Smith. She spoke about the over-representation of Aboriginal youth as incarcerated individuals, regardless of Aboriginal people making up only 4% of the Canadian population. Smith is the director of Three Fires Community Justice Program, which is a diversion program that provides healing for Aboriginal youth and adults charged with criminal offence. It focuses on the community taking responsibility of the individuals that is at fault. The program begins with the belief that everyone is worth something.

Based on the two workshops I attended, I only wish I could have attended all of them, as they were quite insightful. The summit came to a closing with a discussion panel about women in politics; with a focus on voting, and closing remarks from Elisabeth Zimmerman (Executive Director of YWCA Niagara Region).

This summit was a Call to Action, a call to show up, take action and support one another. In order to make a large impact we need to start small, we need to start somewhere. Even the women’s rights movement started with only a handful of likeminded people who eventually got women the status of being ‘people’ in Canada and the right to vote. It may not be as bad as back then, but we are still far from being on the same playing field and having the same representation. As I end this piece, I encourage, just like most of the presenters at the summit, to save the date OCTOBER 22ND 2018 to go out and vote in the municipal elections. Have your voice heard. We can do anything we want; we just need to start somewhere.

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.

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.