All posts by Donna Shelton

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.

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.

Blogger Talk


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.


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?

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An Unlikely Feminist

feminism definition:  the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes. … : the belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities.

My parents raised four feminists.  My youngest sister Debi, older sister Darcy, and my older brother Gord…all feminists.  I’ve always thought of my Mom as a trailblazer, but looking at the definition, I now realize so was my Dad.  Reserved and quiet, he was my mom’s greatest supporter.

I am grateful for all the women that came before me and fought so hard for the equalities I don’t think twice of not ever having today.  Not to take anything away from them, I would also like to acknowledge the men that have also believed in equality, and to those that live it every day.

So I want to thank my parents for raising not three feminists (my sisters and I) – but raising four.  As my brother in turn is doing the same with his sons, and so the feminist movement grows, not just with our daughters, but with our sons.

Feminism is a great gift parents can mentor – for our daughters, and our sons.

Blogger Talk – Self-Care


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

I am Totally WORTH It, and so are YOU

Self-Care.  What a timely topic, as this year I have declared, to no one but myself – that this is MY year of Self-Love.

I am committed to taking care of ME, my mind, my body, and my spirituality – trust me this was a long time coming, actually 52 years in the making.  I have been and continue to be a lot of things for a lot of people – and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

The difference this year – is everything I give to others, I am now giving to Myself.  I can attest, that with this dramatic shift in my thought process – I actually have more energy to give to others.

So you ask, how is that possible – is that not defeating your commitment of Self-Care?  Nope.  Why?, because giving to others now makes me feel great, because I feel fulfilled myself.  Now taking care of others has become a choice, not a duty.  Let me also say – the people you love and are doing so much for, notice the difference.

As a caution, My idea of Self-Love will more than likely be dramatically different from anyone else’s – you have to find out what you really need to feel….well to feel your best Self.  I will share a few things I have learned in my new journey – and it is only February!

Embrace the Law of Attraction – what you put out into the universe comes back – make sure what you are thinking, and feeling is what you want surrounding yourself.  A dear friend gave me this gift of Self-Love Thinking.  I now practice gratitude everyday, and thanks to Pinterest, have a jar on my dresser that I write a kindness or event that I am grateful for each week – so at the end of the year – I see all the good in 2017.  What a great way to start 2018.

Stress Less – How?, Breath.  I enrolled in a beginner’s Yoga Class when I found myself at work one day, gasping for a breath at my desk….I truly forgot to breath – wake-up call.  Now thanks to a wonderful yogi Amanda Tripp, at Yoga By Sarah, I am mindful of my body and what it is telling me, I feel the effects of the yoga postures and I have the breathing techniques to calm myself in times of stress.  She has taught us that yoga extends beyond the classroom, so I continue to grow through the practice of yoga.

Enjoy Food Again – I was not eating for optimal health, and in fact was feeling the effects mentally and physically.  So in January, I joined Weight Watchers and can now say, I am enjoying food again.  Eating healthy provides me with the fuel to do all the things I want.  With this program I eat what I want, and it truly helps me look at myself…Beyond the Scale.  Fitting in so nicely with my year of Self-Love – our group leader Sue Smiley is awesome!

Move It, Move It – Literally, and figuratively I had to move more!  Yoga helps, now I am walking which I find helps clear my mind as well – there are so many great nature trails in Niagara – I want to explore them all over this next year!  I have signed up for the 150 Participation in celebration of Canada’s 150th year and look forward to checking off a few new activities.

Something Old / Something New – As I look to expand my activities, I have tried an introduction to Ariel Yoga, Suspension Training – learning I don’t like hanging upside down, and I am not ready for training of any kind.  I  also learned to knit, thanks to my very patient Mom.  I have returned to embracing my curly hair (thanks Barb and Kaitlyn) – it is after all who I am.  I look forward to experimenting with cooking food that is edible and putting paint brush and canvas again, something I haven’t done since high school.

Spend Time with Family & Friends – Lastly, but most importantly, I plan to take all the energy I get from loving and taking care of myself and share it, by spending time with my family and my friends.  All of whom have always felt I was worth investing time in taking care of myself – the difference is this year I feel it too!  Here’s to a year of family game nights, movies, hikes, girl’s nights and quiet evenings at home with the fur-baby!

If you take anything from my journey – I would hope it is that YOU need to practice Self-Love everyday – in the ways that are unique to you and that will help you feel fulfilled.  YOU are WORTH It.  And then I hope that feeling of love goes beyond yourself – to your family, friends, community, and beyond!  I think we can all use a focus on LOVE this year, Namaste.





Blogger Talk – Inclusiveness


What is your response to those in positions of power not leading with inclusion? 


In my opinion, exclusion is fear, so my response to those in positions of power is… Stop being fearful, get yourself curious and educated.  A difference of opinion,  lifestyle, physical ability or religious belief isn’t something that you have to fear, or control to align with your own values or ability.  Everyone has something of value to bring to the table…..and it is the leaders responsibility to have all voices heard, to really listen and to lead without fear of including all voices.

Can ensuring “inclusiveness” be taught, or is it a character trait? 

Both, as long as a person remains curious, they will seek out or take advantage of the opportunity to learn more….and therefore it becomes easy to include everyone.  Perfect example – when a parent takes the time to demonstrate to their child that a person with a visible disability isn’t someone to be feared, children are quick to engage in conversation and inter-action too.  If you choose to believe that your way is the only way to think, feel or live….then that is the legacy you leave your children, unless they are curious themselves.

One small change you are committed to making or have made to live more “inclusively”. 

I admit, I sometimes struggle overcoming my past experiences so that I don’t paint everyone with the same brush, but I am committed to being curious and to educate myself.  With this commitment I have experienced such richness of friendships, adventures and fun.  I am also committed to sharing my values and beliefs in hopes that I can help someone else be less afraid, and more inclusive.


What does the word “inclusiveness” mean to you?

I think I approach it from how it is applied or what it looks like. For example, I have two nephews who are on the autism spectrum. If they had been born, say 50 or 60 years ago, the severity of their disabilities might have meant they spent their lives in a regional centre, for the most part, cut off from the community. As children, they instead grew up in “inclusive” environments, going to the local school and attending classes with the help of EAs. They were sent to school daily until they were legally no longer eligible. In other words, as a society, we made some attempt to meet their needs in a somewhat inclusive manner for about 21 years (although, going to a public school doesn’t mean they were entirely “included”). Now, as young men, they rely on their parents, a patchwork of temporary caregivers, day centres, and camps, to give their lives pattern and focus. I wouldn’t exactly call their daily existence socially inclusive, and the impermanence of their situation makes it less so. Some day, their parents will no longer be able to care for them and unfortunately, there aren’t many readily available options for the kind of inclusivity that gives their lives heart and meaning. As a society, we determined 20-or-so years ago that large institutions were cruel, expensive, and too “jail-like”. So we closed them. But we haven’t offered much (in scale particularly) to replace them. Group homes are difficult to access, and truly inclusive L’Arche-like communities are few and far between.

But this is just part of my difficulty with what we call “inclusiveness” (and really addresses just one aspect, or area). People mouth the words all of the time. They say things like “we are all equal” but forget that in many cases, we can’t have equality without equity and inclusiveness.

“A child with a disability (or anybody for that manner) cannot be equal unless we give equal access to resources.”

Within my family, among other things, equity means making the immediate environment comfortable for my nephews at family gatherings (allowing them private space, ensuring that the sensory experience isn’t too overwhelming, providing food that they can eat and enjoy, being aware of our possible impact on their comfort, etc.)

I have a friend who has a child with a spectrum disorder. When she hosts family get-togethers, she asks that people come early in the day so that her child is well rested and at their behavioural best to enjoy company. Despite this repeated request, for many years, various members of her family arrived when it suited them—hours late. This made it impossible for her child to be focused when they visited. In other words, despite claiming to be accepting of the child’s disability, her family would not make any accommodations to their own lives and behaviours so that there could be equity—so the child could function well and be proud of their behaviour. And that’s kind of what inclusivity is: including people who are otherwise excluded or marginalized, allowing them to be themselves and not creating situations where they are so challenged that their “differences” become obvious “difficulties” that others have to “overlook”. If you can’t budge an inch on your own agenda, you aren’t being inclusive and equitable.

Have you ever experienced exclusion based on gender, race, or for another reason? Please share

Most women would be lying, oblivious, or choosing to overlook things if they said they have never experienced exclusion based on gender. Now, people may argue what constitutes gender exclusion, because sometimes it isn’t so blatant. But I have felt excluded based on gender and I certainly have felt the exclusion from specific economic opportunities and rewards based on my gender. I also feel class exclusion is something we avoid looking at in Canada. People (and politicians in their rhetoric) venerate “the middle class” and seek to preserve its sensibilities and ideals (if not always its income). We seem to lose our sense of what is “working class” with this emphasis on middle class nationhood. It is seen as something shameful or inferior (including intellectually inferior). Yet we know that many incomes and expectations are going down, not up. I think this encourages more class exclusion as people cling to their beliefs that “class” is natural, not created, and somehow reflects abilities and effort instead of luck and pre-existing privilege.

Can ensuring “inclusiveness” be taught, or is it a character trait?

I would say “character traits” are largely taught or learned. If they weren’t, then we would all be self-absorbed jerks “by nature”. Inclusiveness, and what it means, must be reinforced. It isn’t just one thing, it’s many things. For one thing, we need to recognize our biases and continually question and check them, and this includes our behaviours and language.


Blogger Talk – Answers


What are three things you do or have that helps you find peace, that you would love to share with others?

First, just breathe.  In with the good air, out with the bad air.  You would be amazed how calming deep breathing is.  Second, cat snuggles.  My daughter’s cat, Amaya is very skilled at having me think of nothing but her, and  ensuring she is comfortable on my lap and getting the attention she so deserves.  I benefit, by sitting still and enjoying a purrfectly relaxing moment.  Lastly, nature.  I know I need a break from it all when I am longing for the great outdoors.  We have such great nature trails in Niagara, I encourage everyone to get outside….and walk!

Can you ever be balanced?  or does life require more of a give and take approach? 

In my opinion, life is about give and take, not balance.  When approached this way, it takes the pressure off making sure your time is evenly distributed to maintain balance.  Sometimes your energies need to go more to one thing than another,  forget about the balancing act, give it your all, and know, there will come a time when it will shift the other way.  Life has a funny way of working like that.

Is there one song, that when it plays speaks to you and has all your troubles met away?  Please share.

Hands down, What a Wonderful World, sung by no other than Louis Armstrong!  

What is the one song that you turn up really loud, that can make a bad day…well, good. 

Metallica, Enter Sandman.  That band can play, you have to turn it up loud!!

We’ve been there, having a really bad day, nothing going right – How have you turned it around?  Have you ever been able to?  Please share.

Step outside myself.  Paying it Forward, a Random Act of Kindness, call it what you want – but it is one of the best ways I know how to turn a bad day around.  That and taking deep breaths, snuggling a cat and listening to my favourite tunes.



Crystal CarswellWe’ve all been there, having a really bad day, nothing going right – How have you turned it around?  Have you ever been able to?  Please share.

I have to admit. I don’t have a lot of ‘bad” days. I actually go out of my way to ensure most of my days are good. Whether you agreed with my strategy or not, this is what works for me: if it doesn’t bring you joy let it go. Yes…people, jobs, ideas, plans, and things. I have whittled my life down to what I have found exactly makes me the happiest, and it has made all the difference. When I do have a day out of my control… a bath, some chocolate and cuddles with my kid works every time.ollie

 Is there a song, that when it plays speaks to you and has all your troubles melt away?  Please share.

My song is less of a melt and more of an explosion. It’s Fight Song by Rachel Platton. I love the energy and idea behind it. It speaks to the fact that while I might not live a life that impacts the whole world, I can impact MY world.

 Flip side, what is that one song that you turn up really loud, that can’t help but make a bad day…well, good?

OK, so this one changes for me as new songs come out. My current one is Shut Up and Dance by Walk the Moon. It holds great memories for me of my first summer working at the YW and feeling like I had finally found my niche. It played on the radio A LOT which I sat directly beside and sang along with. Pssst…you’re welcome Franziska!

Giving Thanks, this Thanksgiving

On a good day, it is easy to express thanks, share that feeling of contentment and be grateful for all you have.

Let’s look at gratitude on a bad day…week….month,  or year.  It’s hard yes, but not impossible.

The Thanksgiving holiday, from an emergency shelter perspective, is something I wish everyone could experience.  Not to be homeless, I do not wish that on anyone.  I am talking about the incredible sense of community that happens at our King Street shelter in October.  The generous spirit of the Niagara community never fails to amaze me.

Local businesses, service clubs and individuals donate food and funds, enabling our top-notch team in the kitchen the ability to prepare the most delicious turkey dinners.  Included are all the trimmings, and a few extras that we consider luxuries in the non-profit world.  All in an effort to make the day one of a celebration of family, community and thankfulness.

People that have never met share what they have – with those in difficult circumstances.

I am honoured to see firsthand how this gesture from the community in their donations, and volunteering of their time, their caring …….fills the women and families at the shelter with gratitude.  You can see it in their faces and feel it in their hearts.  Someone cares, even when things look…well, bad.

To everyone that finds it in their hearts to give of themselves this Thanksgiving – THANK YOU, I am truly grateful  for the hope you provide for the women and families we serve.  Experiencing this every year, I am given the ability to draw on this feeling of connectedness when I am having a bad day.  It also makes me reach out, beyond myself to help raise my community up – and for the ability to that…..I am also grateful.




#Reality Cheque/My Number – and a little more

I invite everyone to join the campaign – #RealityCheque – how many missed  pay cheques until I am homeless, to share their number.

Here  I will share a little more than my number – lived experience.

Last year at this time, I must confess I did not participate in No Fixed Address by sleeping in my car – the first time since it’s inception.  Why, well at that time in my life, it was a little too close to the reality I actually found myself living.

After 17 years in a relationship, I found myself leaving – yes it was my choice – and yes I had a good job at the YW and very supportive family – but my reality was at that time, I did not have a place to live anymore – I had No Fixed Address.

I Had No Fixed Address

Moms are great, and mine took me in while I sorted out my next steps.Wyatt2016…her dog’s reaction could be it’s own blog post, let’s just say I eventually wore him down to actually liking me during my stay – which took six long months.

During that time, I shared this information with very few people.  Work was my only remaining “normal” and I didn’t want to change that – especially, since everything else had changed so drastically.   There were days I clung to that small piece of normal.  So I went to work every day, attended meetings, composed reports and minutes,  going about my daily duties.  After work I would return to my Mom’s small one bedroom apartment, sleeping on an air mattress in her living room each night.  Waking up to the dog…..with that you still here look in his eyes – or was it me thinking that, projecting my feelings of self-judgement onto him.  Pretty sure it was a little of both.

My apartment search, which took four months,  in all honesty was depressing.  I viewed apartments that when I left, I felt sorry for the people living in them – the places were derelict and shockingly expensive.  Worse was the process of applying – I had no rental history, I had lived in a house!  Even with a twenty year work history at the YW, I wasn’t considered a good candidate at a few places.

Trying to remain the same person on the “outside” took its toll emotionally and physically – when I was in fact a very different person on the “inside”.

Add to the apartment search the fact that I was living out of a suitcase during this time, I was really aware that my wardrobe consisted of only a few pieces – would people notice?  Saving for first and last month’s rent took a bit of time too, so there were a few work lunches and social events I passed on – telling people I was busy.  Trying to remain the same person on the “outside” took its toll emotionally and physically – when I was in fact a very different person on the “inside”.  It was hard to believe that I would ever find a new “normal” – or a place to call home.

The Judgement

I understood firsthand when the women staying at our shelter would state in exasperation – “I just want my own place”.  I could relate to their feelings of defeat, at yet another unsuccessful apartment viewing.  Like them, my self-esteem began to suffer as I saw the beginning of yet another month start and still no apartment to call my own – no matter what the circumstances, you still feel there is something wrong with you while in a situation like this.   As shallow as it may sound – I missed my favourite coffee mug, fuzzy slippers and a place to land at the end of the day – that was mine.  Most ironic moment came when I was leaving work one night and a client told me to have a good night, and to her friend I heard her say “at least she has a home to go to”.  Judged, yet again.

The judgement was my own – I learned being homeless is a LOT more than not having a place to live.

During this time, I also learned I am resourceful, my family loves and supports me, that I can leave a relationship and still remain friends, and that when I did share what I was going through with a few people at work I was offered unconditional support and absolutely no judgement.  The judgement was my own – I learned being homeless is a LOT more than not having a place to live.

Today,  I have a lovely apartment, my independence, stronger family ties, and a deeper appreciation of my fellow workers.  Most importantly, I understand intimately the thought process and feelings of being homeless and a deeper understanding of the work we do here at the YWCA in supporting women and their families addressing their homelessness.

This August I will be participating in No Fixed Address – I hope to see you there.  I may even bring my Mom’s dog along, I am pretty sure he misses me!




Friday Find – Inside The O’Briens

There is a meme where the one friend says to the other: “I just read this book, it ripped my heart apart, had me openly sobbing, I was so engrossed I couldn’t eat or even stop thinking about it……Here….., read it”.

Well, I have read that book …….. Inside the O’Briens, by Lisa Genova, she is well known for Still Alice.  The subject of this book is Huntington’s Disease and follows one family’s journey through this disease – it is both heartbreaking and uplifting……If you don’t read anything else this summer……Read It!!

friday find - lisa genova

Question of the Month – The Two Faces of Niagara

realityCare for a reality check? Then follow our blog this month when we look in the mirror and ask ourselves: how many missed pay cheques would it take for each of us to be in the very same position the women and families at our shelter find themselves in?

Doesn’t take that many when you think about it, does it?

As we gear up for our event No Fixed Address, we start out the month by looking at the two faces of Niagara – our bloggers Franziska and Donna are reflecting on their home region and the two sides that come with the very same coin.

The Two Faces Of Niagara


When I first moved to Niagara, two and a half years ago, I associated many things with the region: wineries, the Falls, crazy Clifton Hill, quaint Niagara-On-The-Lake, beautiful bike paths… the last thing I thought about when I thought of Niagara were issues such as unemployment, poverty, homelessness. When I finally moved here, however, I very quickly learned that this, too, is part of the reality of Niagara.

So when I think about the two faces of Niagara, I am trying to consolidate the image of elaborate parades and fireworks with the faces of the many women, men and children at our shelters here at the YW. I try to wrap my head around the fact that I can walk into cafes and restaurants all over the region at any given time and they are busy while hundreds of Niagara residents access food banks on a daily basis. I cannot help but think that it doesn’t have to be this way. I’d like to believe that Niagara can be the beautiful place it is for all of us and not just for a few.

One of the many ways to make a change is by participating in No Fixed Address – it will be sure to give you a new perspective and it will raise money for the fight against poverty and homelessness here in our backyards. Join us! Because doing nothing, changes nothing.


I live and work in St. Catharines, and love the Niagara Region, it has always felt like home to me and I cannot imagine living anywhere else in the world – anywhere!  Even more endearing is the fact that there are so many great things to do – and everyone should experience it all.

CAN everyone experience it?

I do not want to turn this blog post into a “the have’s” and “the have not’s”.  Experiencing the city or region you live in isn’t only about having money, although it would boost the economy – it is about feeling like you belong to something bigger, that you are a part of a community and your opinions matters.  You care about more than just, well to put it bluntly, you care about more than just Yourself.

So I ask you, CAN everyone experience it?  Are you experiencing it?  if your answer is no, what are you going to do about it?

Join me, get involved, become engaged, speak out, step up and I hope you join me on Friday, August 12th and 13th at No Fixed Addressone of the many great things you can do!

Getting to Know You Questions – Father’s Day

After a great month of reflecting on motherhood, we are asking in June on the blog:

What’s Dad got to do with it?

We are starting off the month with our Getting To Know You questions – see what your bloggers shared about their dads!

They were given the following questions to choose from:

  1. What lesson(s) from your Father, stuck with you?
  2. What is your strongest childhood memory about your relationship with your Father?
  3. Tell us one thing you want everyone to know about your Father?
  4. What is the one thing about your Father, that you wouldn’t change?
  5. You knew it was to follow that first question, What is the one thing about your Father, that you would love to change?
  6. Your own Father aside, who embodies your ideal of a Father – your Superman?  And Why?
  7. Your Father – disciplinarian or marshmellow?  Share which one.
  8. Got a picture of you and your Father that you would like to share – post it with your answers.


A tip-of-the-hat to my dear Dad, whom we lost in 2009, I am happy to share a few answers:

What lesson(s) from your Father, stuck with you?

BE SAFE.  I always lock my car doors (even when I am in it), close my windows and lock my doors when leaving home, unplug appliances that are not in use,  don’t run with scissors and I would never put real candles on a Christmas Tree.  He’d be proud, others be thinking she’s a strange one I’m sure.

What is your strongest childhood memory about your relationship with your Father?

I could always be myself with my Dad, and treasured the time I got to spend with him, he worked a lot while I was growing up, so when he was home it was nice to just be around him.  He made time to be with us.  I loved to make him laugh.

Tell us one thing you want everyone to know about your Father?

Although my Mom has a great sense of humour….I credit my oddly wicked sense of humour to dear old Dad.  Credit or blame…fine line, depends who you ask.

What is the one thing about your Father, that you wouldn’t change?

His constant sense of calm.  Chaos could surround him, and often times with my family it did more than not, but he was always the calm one.  I loved that about him, for some reason it is reassuring when you have one person in your life that never gets rattled.

You knew it was to follow that first question, What is the one thing about your Father, that you would love to change?

Although eternally in our hearts, I wish he were still with us, so much has happened over the last few years, happy and sad, it would have been nice to have his presence during it all.

Your own Father aside, who embodies your ideal of a Father – your Superman?  And Why?

Any man who shows up, steps up, stands tall and lives and breathes Fatherhood in all its glory and misery – elbow to elbow with Moms – you are my Supermen.  If your children feel well-loved, and protected you are tops in my books.  Tall order, but Superman can do anything!

Your Father – disciplinarian or marshmellow?  Share which one.

My Dad was a total Marshmellow, but never a push-over, and I am eternally grateful for that.  We always knew when he was mad, he would point his finger at you as he was talking sternly (seriously, he only talked sternly).  I didn’t know it then, but realize now, especially working at the YW, how very lucky I was.  We usually got the “point”, and quite frankly I never got into much trouble growing up either, so I think he had it easy too.


What lesson(s) from your Father, stuck with you?

The lessons I’ve learned from my father did not come from direct teachings he passed on to me, but rather from being an onlooker of his life. I could easily look at the things he did and tell you what I’ve learned not to do: don’t cope with pain by drinking, definitely don’t drink and drive, don’t isolate yourself from the world, don’t hide the truth from those who care about you. Yet I’ve come to take those things and view them in a more positive light to guide what I actually do, rather than what I don’t. He taught me to take care of myself so that I can cope with adversity, to make myself vulnerable, and to be an active member in my community.

What is the one thing about your Father, that you wouldn’t change?

His independent streak and his love for cats – those were two traits of his that I’m very thankful to have inherited (I know the question asked for one thing, but I can’t help being rebellious sometimes).

You knew it was to follow that first question, What is the one thing about your Father, that you would love to change?

I could say that I wish he had been honest about what was going on in his life so that he wouldn’t have to hide the truth from other people. However, what I would actually want to change is the society we live in that discourages men from expressing their emotions and asking people for help.


  1. My father taught me how to be strong and to stand up for myself. Also, through his mistakes, I learned to question everything and to always search for the truth.


  1. My strongest childhood memory about my relationship with my father is about him teaching me to ride a bicycle when I was 5 years old. He worked hard as a welder all day, rising with the early sun. But, for 3 weeks straight he came home and spent hours encouraging me to keep trying and to not let my fear hold me back. Faithfully, he ran alongside my brand new shiny blue 2-wheeler with no training wheels. He gladly held onto my seat (mostly with just 2 fingers) laughing; soothing my fears and anxiety with praises of support. He always told me that I could do anything if I tried really hard. I felt safe, protected and loved.


  1. I’d like everyone to know that my father was a very fragile person who didn’t know how to deal with his emotions. He was a tortured soul who was self-destructive and ultimately hurt himself more than anyone else. He made choices in his life that destroyed the very special bond we once shared. However, he also gave me many happy memories that I will cherish forever.marilyn and dad


  1.  The one thing I would never change about my father was his love of music. His idol was Elvis Presley. He played Elvis’ music on his guitar and listened to his favourite songs over and over again on the record player. He imitated Elvis’ movements and gestures and he was quite good at playing his guitar. He was always happiest when he was playing on his guitar or listening to Elvis Presley music.


  1.  The one thing I wish I could have changed about my father would be that he could have gotten the help he needed before it was too late. I wish he had reached out to me before he died.


  1.  My hero is my husband Michael. He never lets me down. He is reliable, dependable, and loyal. My kids accepted him immediately and I trusted their judgement. He always goes out of his way to make everyone feel comfortable and welcome. He is my partner and friend. We work well as a team and life just seems so much easier with him. He is a good listener and is very empathetic. He has always been my biggest supporter. He gives me the strength and courage needed to chase my dreams. He is the strongest man I have ever known. He is my safety net.


  1.  My father was very strict and overprotective. I believe he thought he was doing the right thing by being this way but it was difficult to grow up in such a sheltered atmosphere.

Getting to Know You Questions – Mother’s Day

In May, our blog is all about Motherhood. Our bloggers were sent a number of questions about the topic – get to know your gals and find out what their thoughts are around motherhood!


  1. What lesson(s) from your Mother, stuck with you?
    Be Good. Be Kind. Do your best. Never give up. Do what makes you happiest. (In all fairness, I may have only realized many of these recently.)
  2. Tell us the one thing you want everyone to know about your Mother?
    She is one of the strongest women I know. She can probably do anything. She’s the reason I believe I can do anything. She has never let me doubt myself. (Also, she has the best hair.)
  3. Sometimes we have not-so perfect Mothering moments – what is one piece of advice you can give to help each other through those moments?
    The cliché, “nobody’s perfect,” applies. If you love your kids and you try your best, your kids will love you no matter what. Just don’t ever abandon the ship. Hard times always pass.



  1. What lesson(s) from your Mother, stuck with you?
    There is always a Plan B, Plan C, Plan D.  Never give up!
  2. What is your strongest childhood memory about your relationship with your Mother?  Comedic Sick-Kick, to this day we continue to have crazy adventures just going to the super market!
  3. Tell us the one thing you want everyone to know about your Mother?  She overcame an abusive childhood, and raised us four kids with love, humour, Donna-2understanding and compassion.  She broke the cycle of abuse, through her I know it can be done.  It helps me at work, to know there is hope for the families we serve.
  4. As a Mother, Step-Mother or Motherly Influence, what is your biggest worry? That my children, my nieces and nephews won’t take opportunities that will enable them to reach their full potential.  They all have so much to offer, I worry they will not recognize that within themselves.
  5. What would you love for your Mother to know about you?  I understand her more now that I am a mother of young women, and appreciate she was an unconventional mom when I was growing up.
  6. Sometimes we have not-so perfect Mothering moments – what is one piece of advice you can give to help each other through those moments?  ____ happens, say you’re sorry, and move on.
  7. Your own Mother aside, who embodies your ideal of a Mother – your Wonder Woman?  And why?  Any woman that gives up her dessert to her kids!  I’ll share, but the entire dessert….can’t do it.
  8. What song best describes your Mother? And why?  Landslide by Stevie Nicks.  Speaks to the changes she has gone through, more as a woman than my Mom.


  1.  What lesson(s) from your Mother, stuck with you? I will always be pleased that my mother taught me how to cook at an early age. She taught me the importance of serving a delicious home-cooked sit-down meal to family. I learned that this time could be used to catch up with one another and discuss family issues.
  2. MarilynYour own Mother aside, who embodies your ideal of a Mother – your Wonder Woman?  And why? My cousin Vicki is the most dedicated, devoted and loving mother I have ever known. Her love is truly unconditional and she approaches each situation with genuine warmth, patience and unrelenting kindness. She makes every occasion special with her flair for making everyone feel important.

A Tribute to…the Voluntold

There is a running joke not only around the YWCA (my workplace), but also my household that any upcoming special event, function or large project that needs all hands on deck means that all our family members will volunteer to help too, which really means all family members will be voluntold they’re helping.

This blog post is my professional and personal salute to all of them – the unsung heroes of the non-profit sector and my life – the Voluntold!  Thank YOU! Continue reading

What do you think of when you think about “survival” in today’s society?

Survival: the state or fact of continuing to live or exist especially in spite of difficult conditions; something from an earlier period that still exists or is done.

A very long time ago I would say the state of “survival” was very physical, it was basic in form, survival of the fittest.  Danger was an outside entity, hunt or be hunted.

Today, surrounded with all the creature comforts of the first world, I think survival is more mental and sometimes this battle is more difficult than the physical one of long ago and unfortunately, there are no physical scares to prove a battle was ever fought and won.

When I think of “survival” in today’s society.  I think of the complexity of problems both physical and mental that we now face, that we all hope to survive.  With all the advances made in science and technology, when we are threatened, it is the people closest to us that we turn to for strength, to help us…well survive.

It doesn’t matter what is being faced that needs surviving, what does matter is that the person going through it feels they are not alone.  It may be a journey that only they can take, but I will do my best… be present when they need me, to offer support and to help in any way they need me to, to make sure that they “survive”.

That is why, I think the work of the YW is so important.  Each day, our staff help make that journey a little easier, helping our clients to know that they are not alone.  Sometimes looking to “survive” in today’s society, is knowing you don’t have to do it alone.