My car & I

Kelly Snow

I have to preface my blog with a backstory. I will try to make it quick.

In 2011, I was hired at the Howard Johnson Hotel by the Falls by a gentleman named Fernando Morales, who was my manager. This was one of my first summer jobs, where I worked throughout university. Fernando became more than just a boss to me – he was a mentor, a leader, and a dear friend. Even after we both left the hotel for other positions, we remained connected and worked together on other projects.

In 2014, I was looking for jobs after college, and I happened to score an interview with the Ontario Minister of Labour’s Chief of Staff. As a Labour student, this was my dream job. She called me on the Friday of that week and asked me to come in to meet the Minister himself on Monday. I had called Fernando in a brief panic and asked for advice on interviewing – he had done hundreds of interviews during his career – and his powers of persuasion were second to none. He suggested we get together and he generously took the evening off work for me, paid for our meals, and at the end, he thanked me for coming to him for help. He told me that it meant a lot to him that I came to him for this first. If I learned anything from my time as one of Fernando’s lucky staff, I learned to work hard (although, that was a lesson I learned first from my own father), and to be generous with my time and my resources – and my blessings. I learned to treat anyone who came to me for help the same way I’d want my own family to be treated.

In November of last year, Fernando was in a car accident on his way to work. He was airlifted to Sunnybrook hospital where he passed away. Not a week later, I was also in a car accident after being clocked by another driver. I was fine, if a little shaken up, but my car was written off. Fernando’s funeral was on a Saturday, and I spent the latter part of that same weekend car-shopping.  I bought a bright blue 2016 Prius C and it was special because it was the first car I bought brand new. It was the first time I could afford to do so –  a steady job allowed me to be a bit pickier than I had been in the past. I’d like to think that it was partially on account of Fern – he had provided me with the tools necessary to obtain my first professional role out of college, which eventually lead to my current position. And I’d like to think that partaking in No Fixed Address is my way of paying forward and honouring the generosity and kindness he always showed to me.

 

Kelly Snow is on the YWCA Niagara Region’s Board of Directors and apart of the YW BOD NFA team.

Fresh Start

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

 

Sources

 

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

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

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

New BEE-ginnings

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

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

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

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

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

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

As we go on

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Blogger Talk

Donna

As students prepare for graduation, growing to a new phase in their lives, what advice would you give them that may help with this process?

Be fearless, keep your options open, and always choose in favour of your passions.  I believe you can do anything.

June has us celebrating Fathers, what sage advice or words of wisdom, has your Dad given you, that you want to share?

A man of few words, my Dad taught me that you never have to raise your voice to be heard.  Always be humble and kind.

What is/was your relationship with your Father like?  If you could change one thing, what would it be? 

My relationship with my Dad was one of ease, love and humour.  The only thing I would change is, he’d still be with us.

The month of June always brings such promise of renewal, what is your spring/summer renewal ritual?  Do you have one?

As soon as the sun warm the earth, you will find me wandering the Garden Centres.  Inhaling deeply to fill my soul, and buying way too many plants for the small gardening space I have.

Share with us something new that you have tried, are doing or embarking on this spring/summer.

Tried Edamame, and now I am hooked!  So delicious.

Valerie

As students prepare for graduation, growing to a new phase in their lives, what advice would you give them that may help with this process?

The best advice I can give to students getting ready to graduate is, explore. Explore your community, country, yourself or the world. Know that this is your life and you do not have to conform to societal expectations. One of the best parts of graduating is knowing you can take some time to discover yourself. Set goals, make a plan and do things for you. It is through self care and exploration that you will discover your place in the world. Never underestimate the value of exploring your own community, understanding where you are can help lead you to where you want to go.

Do you believe students graduating today in any field of study have been prepared for the future, for a career in their field?

Continue reading

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.

“If your mom was a super hero, what would her super power be?”

This year our bloggers wanted to know what their children’s responses would be to “If your mom was a super hero, what would her super power be?” Here are some of the responses:

Crystal

So, asking your kid “if I was a super hero, what would my super powers be?” opens up a dialogue I think every parent should have with their kid(s). My 9 year old son’s answers were both, by turns, eyebrow raising, laughter-inducing, and tear-jerking when I realized how impressed he is by the simple things I do every day. I think we both came away from our chat with an even bigger appreciation for each other.

Also, as a note, should people think this was easy, it took my kid 3 days to bother thinking about the question, and then the threat being unable to continue his video game should he not throw me a bone. So no, he isn’t quite as perfect as these answers are going to make him sound.

My super powers were:

1) Super strength-because when he comes home every day he lauches himself at me and I can still catch him with one arm.

2) Super human computer abilites-because I “know how to do everything on a laptop”

3) The ability to fix ANYTHING- I put a memory card in his smart watch and was sewing something at the time.

And my favourite:

4) The ability to stare down a villain until they tell the truth. Oh God that one made me laugh. Pretty self explanatory that one.

Laura

My daughter says: “Teleportation, because she’s never late.”

My son says: “The super power of infinite hugs.”

Holly

My four year old said that my super power would be, “Moana”. I don’t even know what that means… Lol!

Roxy

3 1/2 year-old Kayla says, “Elsa. You need to be Elsa!!! Elsa got powers. Blue powers that froze Anna’s heart.”

Brande

“My moms super power is knowing what I’ve done, from the things I don’t say.”

Autumn

My 9 year-old son Jesse says “To give people lots more health and to have more health for you too. To give health whenever you touch somebody.” My 6 yr old Savannah says ” To stick on the wall and lazer eyes and other thing too..let me fink…electrocute hands and one more thing o.k…o.k…ummm Speedy.” lololol I am sure going to be busy as a super hero!! I better go get some sleep! hahahaa

Happy Mother’s Day

Volunteer Spotlight: Katie

We met Katie Ritchie for the first time when we were planning our first Coldest Night of the Year fundraiser. That year, it was mostly speaking to her on the phone and having a chance to get to know her a bit when she and her children participated in the walk.

Katie and Laura at CNOY 2017

This year, when Phelps Homes made a three-year commitment to be our Presenting Sponsor (a first for Coldest Night of the Year community), Katie enthusiastically joined our Organizing Committee. With her help, we were able to arrange a couple more community launch events and garner more community support throughout West Niagara.

For the second year in a row, Katie also captained the Phelps Homes team, which raised nearly $5,000 toward our $60,000 goal.

Katie and the Phelps Team

 Volunteers like Katie make our work so much easier. Thank you, Katie, for all you’ve done to help grow Coldest Night of the Year – West Niagara toward continued success.

World YWCA Day

Today is World YWCA Day. The theme for World YWCA Day is Rise Up! Support and Invest in Young Women’s Rights. It’s one day where we can celebrate our accomplishments. It’s also National Volunteer Week. Immediately, we thought of our Board President Jennifer Bonato. She is the perfect example of rising up.

Jennifer speaking at our Annual General Meeting

Jennifer is a life-long Niagara resident who is passionate about social justice-based advocacy – which is why the YWCA has been a great fit for her. With an academic history grounded in women’s and gender studies and feminist theory, Jennifer actively promotes the use of one’s sociological imagination in the every day.

Jennifer completed a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology in 2013, and a Graduate Certificate in Public Relations in 2014. In 2016, Jennifer received her Master of Arts in Critical Sociology. Jennifer’s Graduate research explores the social and political aspects of biotechnology in agriculture, and was presented at the International Rural Sociology Association’s 2016 World Congress.

She’s taking on more of a role this year as well becoming Co-Committee Chair of the Niagara Leadership Summit for Women. What does this mean? Along with Julie Rorison another board member and influential female within the community who rises up constantly, they will ensure that this Niagara Leadership Summit for Women will be the best one yet.

Her impact doesn’t stop there. Jennifer wanted to create more awareness in high schools about the growing problem of homelessness in Niagara. But she wanted to do something that would be fun for the students to participate in to ensure that they students actually came out. This is how our Hockey Helping Homes event began.

We are extremely grateful and lucky that Jennifer chooses to dedicate her time to our organization, furthering our mission of empowering women.

Thank you Jennifer for all you do!

You can follow Jennifer on Twitter @jenniferbonato

Spotlight: Teresa

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

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

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

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

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

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

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