Tag Archives: YWCA Niagara Region

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.

What is your boardroom used for?

Is it a multipurpose room set as a meeting space during the day and a bedroom to multiple people at night? A child’s safe place with their mom? Is it someone’s temporary home?

Here at the YWCA Niagara Region, ours is regularly just that.

I will never forget that one Friday morning I came into work at the YWCA Niagara Region. It was a little earlier than usual. I was on my way to the Fund Development office, walking past the boardroom when I noticed the lights were on. That was rare for that early in the morning. So, naturally, I glanced into the room.

What did I see?

Not one, not two, but three beds. In our boardroom! Unbelievable. The purpose of a boardroom is for meetings, not for someone to sleep at night. The fact that there were three was even more alarming. That meant three people were crammed into a room with all of the tables and chairs for a meeting along with the three beds. Three people!

The YWCA Niagara Region St. Catharines Emergency shelter already holds at least twenty women and their children every night. To think that more people needing a safe place to lay their heads are being put on pull out couches and cots was extremely upsetting. I then found out that there were two more cots in our Kate Leonard Room (another boardroom across the hall). Five people in total were sleeping in what was intended to be a meeting room. This was in decent weather. Can you imagine what the demand is like during terrible weather? I teared up a bit as my heart went out to these women and children.

How would I feel if I were tossed into a boardroom with two other people or with my little kids? How would you feel? Vulnerable, to say the least. Grateful, of course and happy to be safe; but sad, scared, and uncomfortable. I can’t grasp exactly how they must feel. Unless you’re in the position, how could you? The thought of small children and their mothers curling up in a room that I personally use to plan events and gain community support is upsetting. One that’s used to make decisions to help clients, not house them. It’s not a bedroom, there is no closet to put away clients’ belongings.

After taking a minute to let it sink in that this was a daily reality, I stepped outside with my hand to my lips in utter shock. The advocate on duty apologized that she hadn’t had time to clean up the beds. Well no kidding, there were at least 25 women and their children who most likely needed her attention in the morning. So, no, she didn’t have time to clean up all of the meeting rooms. This is what we have to do to ensure that Niagara women and children have somewhere they can safely sleep, have a warm meal, and the comfort of a shower, even if they have to be placed in a boardroom with others. At least they have a safe place and a semi-comfortable cot.

            “I was shocked and heartbroken, tearing up. I mean, who wants to sleep in a boardroom? My heart went out to these women and children living in this type of situation!”

The unfortunate thing is the YW as well as all of the other shelters across the region and country have been running overcapacity for quite some time. They’ve been struggling to find the room for women and children in need. In 2017, the YW operated at 110% capacity. Hotels are thrilled when they reach 60% capacity. That’s how high the demand for just a bed is. Not to mention the fact that the demand for meals went up 42% in the last year at the YW, which had us serve a total of 94,691 meals.

I can’t explain my heartbreak. We are trying our best, but the demand is still rising and we are running out of room.

This is why I’m participating in No Fixed Address and supporting the YWCA Niagara Region, and this is why I am passionate about my job.

Because there are women and children, as well as men (in the men’s shelter) who live in impossible situations and deserve better. Who would I be if I didn’t try to make a difference? I certainly would hope for help if I was in the situation, and the hard reality is it can happen to any one of us.

So, what is your boardroom used for?

Help me make a difference and participate in the YW’s No Fixed Address event on June 8th-9th, where we can help end homelessness.

#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.

via GIPHY

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

It’s Okay to be a Single Pringle in this Artificial Holiday We Call Valentine’s Day

Slavica Mijakovac

The holidays, in particular Valentine’s Day, makes it really easy for people to experience depression because we are constantly filtered with images of who we should be spending it with and what we should be doing. Whether it’s with family, friends or a significant other, the deal is, if you’re alone during the holidays, any holiday, then something is clearly wrong with you. Which, let’s be real, is totally stupid because being single doesn’t somehow mean you have a lonely existence.

I say that as a proud single person of many years, relationships don’t equate to happiness regardless of what season of the year it is. The same can be said for when you have family, that doesn’t mean you’re close to them. The people I am closest too aren’t those related to me by genetics, they’re the people I met in my life who gave me their time, love and support, not because of blood ties and obligations but because they care about me.

“Family not only need to consist of merely those whom we share blood,  but also, for whom we’d give blood”

~ Charles Dickens

This February 14th, I will be busy with school, so no real time for all that fancy romance but one holiday doesn’t designate when I show the people in my life that I love them. For example, one of my friends has had a really stressful year and had been experiencing severe anxiety and depressive symptoms so I made her a card, telling her about what she means to me and that I’m always here for her if she needs me. That made her feel so much better about herself and knowing that I could make her day a little better, made me feel happier too.

In other words, it’s okay not to have a commercialized Hollywood reenactment of Valentine’s Day. Being single and alone on this overly commercialized holiday is fine because unlike the other poor suckers who are stressing out about where to eat, who to ask out, or what kind of chocolates to get, you could be taking a nice bath, reading a good book, snuggling up with your furry friends, and just enjoying the peacefulness of singleness because sometimes you need to spend time appreciating yourself instead.

 

 

 

A Love Song – or is it much more than that?

Oh, the month of February, it’s bitterly cold, snowy and even though the days are getting a little longer, the sun isn’t warm on our faces (the only part exposed as temperatures dip).
Why wouldn’t we welcome the loving month of February, celebrating  Valentine’s Day, Family Day – surely these tender feelings of love will help keep winter’s icy grip at bay – this month of all the months must warm our hearts.
You would think, but think again.  Love, is it over-rated, commercialized beyond recognition, twisted to sell any product, service or celebrity?
This said, we bloggers have been tasked this month of February to deconstruct a love song – open it up, examine it fully and reveal it’s truth.  insert disclaimer right here: This is my interpretation of it’s truth, and not those of the organization.
Here goes mine, and after careful consideration, and strange looks from my daughter as I listened to several love songs consecutively one evening – I chose Love Song, by Sara Bareilles.
I really enjoyed the honesty of the opening stanza ….Head under water, And they tell me to breathe easy for a while.  The breathing gets harder, even I know that.  You made room for me but it’s too soon to see If I’m happy in your hands, I’m, unusually hard to hold on to…
Nice, how she doesn’t go all gooey because someone wants her in their life, this girl is giving herself time to sort through her feelings – good life lesson.
Continuing in the chorus ……I’m not gonna write you a love song ’cause you need one, you see I’m not gonna write you a love song ’cause you tell me it’s make or breaking this, If you’re on your way, I’m not gonna write you to stay, If all you have is leaving I’m gonna need a better reason to write you a love song today….
Okay, standing up to a little pressure here.
She’s a song writer, you’d think it be easy to pop one out, all sappy, but NO.  She is definitely NOT writing a love song if without one, this person would leave!  Really, like no love song…fine, then I’m leaving.  Even if you could pop one out, I wouldn’t either.
Gets a little deeper and interesting now….You are not what I thought you were, Hello to high and dry, Convince me to please you, Made me think that I need this too, I’m trying to let you hear me as I am…..
 I am sensing angst here, clearly the person wants a love song – would that prove to them she loves them?  Flip-side, sure she writes songs, but that isn’t all she is, words aren’t the only thing that defines her, and she wants this person to hear and see who she really is – as a whole human being.
Now my favourite part….promise me that you’ll leave the light on, To help me see with daylight, my guide gone ’cause I believe there’s a way you can love me because I say, I won’t write you a love song….. 

 Who doesn’t want to be understood so well, that you can disagree, in fact, insist a little too much, that you are NOT writing a love song even if asked and still be loved.
Wrapping it up, she then states…..Babe I’ll walk the seven seas when I believe that there’s a reason to Write you a love song today…
The capacity is there, clearly when the relationship gets beyond the damn insistence of her writing that love song.  When the love is unconditional and reciprocated.
Makes you wonder, shouldn’t we all concentrate less on the mechanics of the love “song” and take the time to invest in a deeper connection, feelings that would compel someone to write a song about their love – with no prompting or forceful requests.  That is my take on this one.
May this February find you warm with the love of family, friends and enjoying some good tunes, who’s song writers, have touched you soul through their human expression of perhaps, just maybe a love song.

9 Holidays Celebrated Throughout December and January

Canada is a country that is proud of and thrives on diversity. To celebrate and highlight this I have put together a list of holidays that happen throughout December and the beginning of January.

Saint Nicholas Day

Date: December 6th

The legendary figure of St. Nicholas is derived from Nicholas of Myra who officiated as a bishop in 4th century Greece. During his lifetime he developed a reputation for gift-giving by putting coins in other people’s shoes, which accounts for many of today’s Christmas traditions that involve leaving gifts in shoes or boots.”

Read more here.

 Fiesta of Our Lady of Guadalupe

Date: December 12th

 It is believed that a man named Juan Diego encountered the Virgin Mary twice in Mexico City, on December 9 and December 12 in 1531. According to legend, Mary told Juan to ask the bishop to build a church on Tepeyac Hill. However, the bishop needed proof of Juan’s encounter and asked for a miracle. Juan returned to the hill to see roses in a spot where there were previously cacti. When Juan Diego returned, he showed the roses to the archbishop and also revealed an image on his cloak of the Lady of Guadalupe. The bishop was convinced of the miracle and built a church in honor of the event.”

 Read more here.

Saint Lucia’s Day

Date: December 13th

A festival of lights is held in honour of St.Lucia, one of the earliest Christian martyrs who was killed by the Romans in 304CE because of her religious beliefs.

 “In Scandinavian countries each town elects its own St. Lucia. The festival begins with a procession led by the St. Lucia designee, who is followed by young girls dressed in white and wearing lighted wreaths on their heads and boys dressed in white pajama-like costume singing traditional songs. The festival marks the beginning of the Christmas season in Scandinavia, and it is meant to bring hope and light during the darkest time of the year.”

Read more here.

 Hanukkah

Date: December 12th to 20th

“Hanukkah, also known as Chanukah, is the Jewish Festival Of Lights. The date it’s celebrated changes each year, depending on the Western calendar, but it usually falls in November or December. The celebration dates back to two centuries before Christianity began, and lasts for eight days. The word ‘Hanukkah’ means dedication, and honours one of the greatest miracles in Jewish history.”

 Read more here.

Yule

Date: December 21st to January 1st

“The Pagan holiday called Yule takes place on the day of the winter solstice, around December 21 in the northern hemisphere (below the equator, the winter solstice falls around June 21). On that day (or close to it), an amazing thing happens in the sky. The earth’s axis tilts away from the sun in the Northern Hemisphere, and the sun reaches its greatest distance from the equatorial plane.“

 Read more here.

Christmas Day

Date: December 25th

“The name ‘Christmas’ comes from the Mass of Christ (or Jesus). A Mass service (which is sometimes called Communion or Eucharist) is where Christians remember that Jesus died for us and then came back to life. The ‘Christ-Mass’ service was the only one that was allowed to take place after sunset (and before sunrise the next day). Thus, we get the name Christ-Mass shortened to Christmas. Christmas is now celebrated by people around the world. It is a time when family and friends come together and remember good things they have. People and especially children also like Christmas as it’s a time you give and receive presents.”

 Read more here.

Kwanzaa

Date: December 26th to January 1st

“The name Kwanzaa is derived from the phrase “matunda ya kwanza” which means “first fruits” in Swahili. Each family celebrates Kwanzaa in its own way, but celebrations often include songs and dances, African drums, storytelling, poetry reading, and a large traditional meal. On each of the seven nights, the family gathers and a child lights one of the candles on the Kinara (candleholder), then one of the seven principles is discussed. The principles, called the Nguzo Saba (seven principles in Swahili) are values of African culture which contribute to building and reinforcing community among African-Americans. Kwanzaa also has seven basic symbols which represent values and concepts reflective of African culture. An African feast, called a Karamu, is held on December 31.”

 Read more here.

Omisoka

Date: December 31st

“Omisoka is the last day of the year(New Year’s eve) in Japanese. Its origin is Misoka which is the last of the month, Omisoka consist Misoka and “O” which means big. There are many customs for Omisoka in Japan, Toshikoshi-soba, Osouji, Toshinoyu and more.”

 Read more here.

Three Kings Day/Epiphany

Date: January 6th

“Also known as Epiphany or Theophany, Three Kings Day is a Christian feast day that celebrates the revelation of God in his Son as human in Jesus Christ. The observance had its origins in the eastern Christian churches and was a general celebration of the manifestation of the incarnation of Jesus Christ. It included the commemoration of his birth; the visit of the Magi, all of Jesus’ childhood events, his baptism in the Jordan by John the Baptist, and even the miracle at the wedding at Cana in Galilee.”

 Read more here. 

This list, I’m sure barely scrapes the surface of the multitude of national and international holidays celebrated throughout December. We live in a community, province and country that has people from all over the world. This holiday season ask your friends or co-workers what they celebrate this time of year and what their traditions are.

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 Address

Member of the St.Catharines Culture Plan Sub Committee

Sources:
http://www.educationworld.com/a_lesson/lesson/lesson246.shtml

http://metro.co.uk/2016/12/23/what-is-hanukkah-and-why-is-it-celebrated-6341546/

Blogger Talk: Christmas Edition

Can you share a favourite holiday memory?

Dana

Is it weird to say that I have so many horrible holiday memories? My sister was kind of a brat growing up and she would always freak out on Christmas morning over presents. All because of PRESENTS! That’s why I am so scared of gift giving. One of my positive memories is the first Christmas my boyfriend and I spent together. I honestly had no idea what to get him because I had only known him for a month and a half; so I got him a really big fuzzy brown blanket for his house. He didn’t have any blankets at all, which I thought was weird, so really it was like a gift for me too. I had NO idea what he was going to get me either, I was honestly hoping for candy. When I opened my gift, it was a really big fuzzy brown blanket! We each got each other the same thing! It was so funny; we loved our brown blankets. We still have them to this day (4 years later)– they are slightly less fuzzy but still just as warm and cuddly.

Valerie

I have so many favourite holiday memories. I literally think that every holiday season is my favourite. The older I get the more memories I make and the more friends I have to share these times with. Any moment spent with family or friends throughout the season laughing, creating memories and eating good food are my favourite.

What was your most memorable gift? Why?

Dana

I’m one of those people where gifts have little to no meaning to me; I’m a horrible gift giver myself and would rather just skip gifts all together and instead spend the money on a cheese platter to talk and hang out over. But one year my parents paid for a new set of tires for my car, and they told me that would be my only gift and not to be upset on Christmas morning when I didn’t have any presents. I told them I wouldn’t be upset; but as Christmas approached I was wondering if I would feel a little left out as my sister and parents opened up gifts. Christmas morning came around, and I felt really happy. I didn’t feel left out at all, it was awesome watching other people open their gifts! I also felt extremely thankful every time I drove my car and didn’t slip on snow or ice because of my spiffy new tires. Thanks mom and dad!

Valerie

The most memorable gift I have ever received was a toaster. When I was a kid we had an awful toaster. It didn’t matter what setting I used, my toast was always burnt. I relentlessly bugged my parents about getting a new toaster for months and they never caved. Christmas rolls around and nine year old me knows there is something fantastic in that large box with my name on it. I had no idea what was in it. I imagined it was a Barbie car or dollhouse and I could hardly wait to see what treasure was beneath the wrapping paper. To my dismay, it was a new toaster. I knew we needed one and that I had repeatedly asked for one but surely this wasn’t one of my presents. I was a dramatic child and was quite taken aback and disappointed that my imagination had lead me astray. As time went on I grew to appreciate and love the toaster, for it made perfect toast every time.

 Not in a festive mood, what are some coping strategies that have worked for you?

Dana

I am the definition of NOT festive. All my friend and coworkers are absolutely obsessed with Christmas. Then they find out I am kind of anti-Christmas. I blame my years of working in retail witnessing the worst of humanity and the constant blaring of Christmas music. I put up our tree maybe 10 days before Christmas; 2 years ago we realized we accidentally threw out our Christmas lights, so we went out to get more. IMPOSSIBLE! We went to every store that sold lights in the Niagara region, and because it was so close to Christmas, no one had lights (okay, they had the colourful lights but I only wanted white). So, I simply told my boyfriend we were not decorating for Christmas this year. He said okay. We didn’t decorate and it was awesome. Honestly the only thing I really like about Christmas is all of the food and it being more acceptable to drink Bailey’s in your coffee every day.

What is the one tradition from your childhood that you continue to do each holiday season?

Dana

My parents, sister and I always read “The Night Before Christmas” book before we go to bed on Christmas Eve. I typically don’t see my parents on Christmas Eve anymore because they live an hour away. I think they brought the book to our house on Christmas day and made my boyfriend and I read it out loud with them. We all take turns reading a page, and randomly my dad talks in a weird accent during his turn. Now I also read it out loud in a weird accent.

Valerie

I watch the original Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer every single year without fail. I remember having to look it up in the TV guide when I was a kid. My mom, dad and I would watch it together with delicious cookies and treats. I now get to do the same thing with my son and husband and it is one of my favourite parts of the holiday season.

The Perfect Gift

We are bombarded by advertisements, displays, salespeople, and online ads of ‘the perfect gift.’

It’s all a bit much, isn’t it?

Or do you love the hustle and bustle of the season? Worrying what to get and how you’re going to find the time to even get it?

Do you love the sleepless nights filled with dreams of recipes that fail, presents that are returned, and family that doesn’t make it home for the holiday?

Do we lose something, in this commercialized version of Christmas, or do we gain what we wait for all year, to be with our families, months of planning, all over in hours of endless preparations and a few minute meal.

Is this, what Christmas was meant to be? Is this, what Christmas felt like when you were a child? Is it filled with excitement and wonder and magic and awe of the beauty that surrounds you in the lights and the giant trees, and the bigger than life presents that Santa brought for you? Is this, what Christmas still feels like to you, today?

Or can we agree, maybe, that as we’ve grown older, our families bigger, and our hearts maybe a tiny bit smaller, (I mean, how often do you really see the neighbors anyway, they don’t need a gift from you)…can we agree that maybe, as the old saying goes, “Maybe Christmas,” he thought, “doesn’t come from a store. Maybe Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more.”

Perhaps, the Grinch was on to something.

I’ve always been in awe of the true meaning of Christmas. Whatever your belief may be, Christmas is filled with hope and majestic wonder. Just look into the eyes of a child, or a loved one. I dare you not to smile.

Joy. Laughter. Love. Excitement. Extravagance. Tradition. Closeness. Giving.

Just a few of the words that describe Christmas for me.

But if I’m honest, I’ve lost some of the magic, too.

It’s easy to do. I think that in our fast paced, need it now, have to get the best of the best, world, we forget that the true meaning of Christmas is love. That the true spirit of Christmas is in giving, but not just giving because we have to for the many reasons that we’ve been lead to believe, but giving because it comes from our heart. Giving that means something to us, from deep within us, because it gives us joy.

Stressing over what to get everyone and spending more money than we have does not bring us joy, let’s be real here.

Joy is in the little moments of putting up the tree with our family, baking with the kids, getting that gift off the top of our niece’s or nephew’s Christmas list because we can afford it, and we know how happy they will be playing with that toy, with us. It is in the moments of, regardless of a Christmas tree with presents under it, or food on the table, we are surrounded by people who love us, exactly as we are.

Christmas is a time of togetherness.

This looks different for everyone. This could look like family and friends or neighbors and community. It could look like many presents and a table full of food or no presents and an empty belly. Or any combination of these.

There is one ingredient that can’t be taken away, despite our outside circumstances, and that ingredient is love.

We all have it, and we can all give it. We all want it and we can certainly all use it.

It might take a little humility and vulnerability, I know. It might take biting your tongue, and loving them anyway, despite what they’ve done. It might take a phone call that you’ve not made in a long time or a visit you’ve been dreading all year.

But if we can try to remember, even if just for a moment, that the perfect gift is love. That the reason for the season is hope. For a better tomorrow, for a better me, and a better you. For a better world, one that remembers love.

If we can try to all be gracious givers this holiday season. To only give what we have, with love and joy. To be peaceful and patient, with kindness that comes from a heart filled with love.

Love doesn’t look like what we bring, it looks like showing up for someone. Our families, friends, and perfect strangers.

The things just simply don’t matter when you are surrounded by people you love, or at least like, somewhat. Try to like them a little more this year.

May the true joy of Christmas surround you this holiday season ❤️

There is something that has challenged me these past couple of years. I like to give, to family and friends, but sometimes I look around and I see that my family and friends are quite blessed. So, I look for ways to give outside of the usual presents, sometimes at the expense of gifts for friends and family, and sometimes extra, depending on my own financial circumstance.

I’ve challenged myself, and I’d like to challenge you, as well.

There are many organizations in our region. The YWCA is of course one of them. These organizations need items on an ongoing basis. I know this can look like a lot of work and maybe even complicated, I know it did for me at first. Even overwhelming. But over time I’ve learned a thing or two.

Poverty has many faces in our region. Causes are no longer just national organizations that we click a button on the webpage and donate our annual allotment of donation money, though this is of course a great way to give back. When we look around our cities, we see the faces of people that have come upon hard times. I know that you see them.

But if you’re like me, you might like to know that you’re truly making a difference, and may have no idea who to give to.

Can I challenge you to make it meaningful? To you, and maybe even your family?

We can give to an organization or organizations that mean something to us, whether past or present.

For example, though I’ve never used the services of the YWCA, it has meaning to me because there are many times that I have been in a place where I’ve thought of an emergency shelter as an option. To give back one year, I learned that they have a list of needs on their website and I donated formula and diapers. I had no idea this was an item that was needed. I didn’t think about it simply because I don’t have children.

I was challenged once to put one thing that I didn’t need in a box each day for 30 days. I can’t even tell you how much joy it gave me to bring a box of items that I loved, but really didn’t need, to a local thrift shop. Thrift shops give back in big and meaningful ways to the community, and the world. They even gave me a gift in return, a punch card with a discount for the next time I shopped there. I craft, thrift stores are gold mines for items to craft with.

When I was in high school, our grade 9 French class decided to give a family Christmas. This meant buying all the gifts and food for the family’s Christmas. There are a few organizations that do this. I will never forget this experience.

There are many people in need of winter items, hats, scarves, mittens, that you can buy at the dollar store, or donate from home, as well as gently used coats and boots. This is a great way to teach kids to give.

I have been blessed to be a part of a motel ministry that provides food, clothing, and support to those living in the many residential motels in our region. I had no idea that many of our motels are no longer for tourists. The people who live there need everything. Stop by, take a look.

Books can be donated to many organizations, if you happen to like to read, and wanted to pick up a few extra for someone else.

And of course, there are the beautiful red kettles, of an organization that works tirelessly to combat many things, but hunger certainly being an important one of them.

The more I learn about what the organizations in our region do on a daily basis, the more inspired I am to give, based on what has direct meaning to me, or what might be an immediate need in our region right now, such as shelter and a warm meal during the cold months.

If you can’t give money, give time, and vice versa. Be creative. There is something that you have that someone else needs, whether it is time, talent, or treasure.

There are people in need all around us.

Have a wonderfully blessed holiday season.

How to Stay Motivated During the Cold Months

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

Dana

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

via GIPHY

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cooper

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

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

Finding My Way Through Transitions

By: Allison

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

via GIPHY

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

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

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


1. Look to the past to find perspective.

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

2. Open new doors while allowing others to close.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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