All posts by futureaccess


Susan is part of our off-site transitional housing program. The way this program works is that the client pays the rent to the YW, and we pay the landlord. It’s a program that comes with the support of a worker, who is there to help the clients with setting and reaching their goals. Landlords on the other hand don’t have to worry about possibly not getting their rent payments etc., which is a win-win for everyone involved. Once clients complete the program, they have the option of taking over the lease.

Thank you for sharing your story with our donors and supporters, Susan!

When I entered this program, I wasn’t entirely sure what I thought would come from it, nor did I think I would gain anything substantial from being part of it. It was a means to an end; get out of my situation at the shelter, to have a real home that I could call my own. What truly helped, was being honest upon intake, about what I needed from the program, if possible. For myself, the biggest thing was accountability. I have a chronic illness, called narcolepsy. Because of this, keeping my place clean, and even sticking to self-imposed goals, were difficult tasks. The hardest part was getting into the habit of it all – setting weekly cleaning chores, making a visual list on a white board of short and long term goals, and using another white board for daily tasks that needed to be done. It took a few months, of course, but I slowly picked up the habits, and they just became routine.

This time last year, I was in a women’s shelter because of unforeseen circumstances, completely lost and hopeless.

This time last year, I was in a women’s shelter because of unforeseen circumstances, completely lost and hopeless. But now, I’m in the process of signing over a new lease with the landlord, on my own. I have an incredible apartment, lovely neighbors, a great location, and habits this program helped me create. Habits that have formed a healthier state of mind. I can see myself living here for years to come, which isn’t a place I saw myself a year ago. Coming into the program, I was dismissive about the help it could offer, but even so, I was quick to realize how wrong I had been; grateful I was wrong.

This program has given me life forming habits and mind sets; and a home.

For the first time in my life, I have my own place, and feel more than capable of leaving the program with the knowledge and habits I’ve learned, from being fortunate enough to have been part of it. Perhaps it’s just me, but there’s nothing more satisfying as an adult, than having your own place – and finally being able to look at paint swatches and aesthetic ideas, to make a place truly your own. This program has given me life forming habits and mind sets; and a home.


Daisy’s journey began when she entered the Court Street Transitional Housing Program, after what she describes as a long walk of feeling alone and faced with many hardships. She felt completely supported from the day she moved into the YW’s supported housing. “I finally was where I needed to be,” explains Daisy. Having her Transitional Housing Worker just down the stairs from her to access when she needed support, was a relief and gave her a feeling she had not felt in a long time -that of safety.

Skills Development

While Daisy stayed with us at our Court Street building, she loved participating in our Skills Development workshops. At a time of her life when she thought of herself as someone who had lost all of her skills, it meant the world to be in a group that was all about celebrating your own strengths and beauty and all that you have overcome.

Moving on to Off-Site

Daisy successfully completed the Court Street Transitional Housing program, and then transitioned into the Off-Site Transitional Housing Program. During her time in the Off-Site program, she felt empowered by her Support Worker, who never judged, and felt she was met where she was at. Her Support Worker was able to focus on her needs and help her reach her goals. This month, Daisy completed the transitional housing program and has moved on to a place that she can now call her home.


Our support does not end there. One of the things that often make all of the difference for the women and families we serve, is that we are still there for them even when they have left our programs. For Daisy, knowing that the support is still there for her if and when she needs it, gives her the strength and the trust she needs to continue on on her path.

Daisy’s message for you?

“I’m just one of many individuals in the Niagara Region who are in need of this type of Transitional Housing opportunity and supports. Please keep in mind when you pass someone in public that you just never know their story. The YWCA is an organization that goes above and beyond for the individuals they support, and I would like to encourage the community to take the time to get involved or to learn more about what the YWCA has to offer the community.” For Daisy, the YW is the place where she felt empowered and supported every step of the way.

Trina’s Journey – Part 2

Our client Trina found West Niagara Affordable Housing in 2016 and had the courage to initially share her story at our Coldest Night of the Year (CNOY) event, back in 2017. She was kind enough to return to the event this year to share how her journey has continued.
Telling her story is her way of thanking the team at West Niagara Affordable Housing, but it is also her way of thanking all of you, who supported CNOY, whether it was as a walker, volunteer, donor or sponsor.

I would like to continue to share my story of hope. Hope that helped fuel purpose when I learned about West Niagara Affordable Housing (WNAH). Hope that has assisted in pushing me forward. I remember how sometimes that light gets dim and there seems to be no light at the end of the tunnel. As I shared last year, I was at my most dim when I first approached WNAH.

I had some very unrealistic goals set for myself initially, not realizing just how many changes would occur, how little resources I had locally (no family) and how challenging it would be to break through the metal blocks I had been forced to create to survive. To help myself refocus, I then I began looking at nature, at the four seasons and how each season has a purpose. How without the full season the ground suffers, and it can affect everything that is grown. Or the farmer who is just starting off has high hopes his first year of having a bountiful crop. But in his or her excitement missed tilling the soil, or adding the right nutrients to help boost the soil to provide the bounty at the end of the season. Bounty to nourish families, give back to communities and enable them to be self sufficient. They can either choose to give up or learn and press through for the next year.

Both resonate with me as we all need time, and if we are breaking down and repairing the walls that had kept us “safe”. We also need to replenish, rebuild and renew ourselves to be able to move forward and take those next steps to being whole again. I choose to move forward, dig deeper and hold on. Which has enabled me to be one step closer to my goals of being an Holistic Nutritionist and being able to give back and continue to serve others.

We also need to replenish, rebuild and renew ourselves to be able to move forward and take those next steps to being whole again.

This program has enabled me to start again, while providing a stable and secure environment for my children. It has been a blessing and an answer to my prayer.

I would like to thank Cheryl and Keisha from the WNAH program for providing a service that has helped me and my children start again. I would like to thank the Grimsby Benevolent Fund for their kindness and support in times when unexpected things happen. For anyone looking for an organization to help, I strongly suggest you looking at WNAH. Their services change lives, I am just one of many. Getting back on your feet literally is one step at a time. Once again from the bottom of my heart – Thank You!!!

We are still accepting donations for our Coldest Night of the Year event until the end of March. Your money stays here in West Niagara and supports community members such as Trina here in Beamsville, Grimsby, Lincoln and West Lincoln.

Please consider making a donation at

Trina’s Journey – Part 1

Our client Trina had the courage to share her story at our Coldest Night of the Year event in 2017. Telling her story is her way of thanking the team at the YW, but it is also her way of thanking all of you, who support our work.

I would like to speak about hope today. Hope that I found when I learned about the YWCA Niagara Region.

When you are struggling in a bad situation, the one thing you hold onto is hope. However, sometimes that light gets dim.

I was at my most dim when I trusted a friend with what I was going through. She was very kind and took the time to listen. She suggested I contact Cheryl at the YW for help to see if they could assist me.

I was not aware of this program and I was so unsure, but finally reached out. It was through talking with Cheryl that I stopped being afraid and that I dared to take a chance. I am a firm believer in prayer, and God is someone I lean on daily. However, sometimes prayer requires action. After contacting the YW, I could begin acting. Cheryl helped me find housing and connected me with other service providers, counselling suggestions, financial support suggestions. WNAH sat down with me and helped me fill out the necessary forms to become part of their program. I was so overwhelmed and felt totally lost. They were there to reassure me. They took the time to listen, encourage and provide reassurance which was very much needed.

This program has enabled me to start again, continue with my schooling, which will enable me to get back on my feet and continue to provide for my children.

Since I’ve been in the program, they have not only helped me find housing for me and my children, but they also provided access to programs to assist in rebuilding life skills. They take the time to meet with you, assist you with goals, support you with court if needed, and assist you in any way they can. This program has provided so much to so many. This program has enabled me to start again, continue with my schooling, which will enable me to get back on my feet and continue to provide for my children. It has enabled me to rebuild myself in a safe environment, removed some stress, and I just can’t say enough good things about them.

If there is anyone here who needs help, or who knows someone who does, I encourage you to reach out to WNAH. Both Cheryl and Keisha are wonderful to work with and they will help you in any way they can.

I would like to thank Cheryl and Keisha from WNAH for renewing my hope and for providing a service that has helped me and my children start again. For anyone looking for an organization to help, I strongly suggest you look at WNAH. Their services change lives, I am just one of many. From the bottom of my heart – Thank You!!!

We are still accepting donations for our Coldest Night of the Year event until the end of March. Your money stays here in West Niagara and supports community members such as Trina here in Beamsville, Grimsby, Lincoln and West Lincoln.

Please consider making a donation at


To The Women Of Tomorrow

Dear Women of Tomorrow,

As I write this to you on International Women’s Day, two words keep running through my head, “don’t settle.” Don’t settle for inequality, racism, sexism, bigotry or intolerance. Don’t settle for less than equality. Your opinion and experiences are valid and valued. You are a change-maker. You are our future and I believe in you.
You are strong, brave and capable of anything. You can be the change you want to see in the world. It’s going to be hard but you are resilient. With every one of life’s challenges that has (or has yet to) come your way you grow. You will learn your strengths, to embrace your weaknesses and beauty of seeing new perspectives. You are unique, with each fresh perspective that is seen and voice that is heard society will continue to evolve. Discomfort inspires change. Be intersectional, be inclusive.
You are our future leaders, entrepreneurs, creators, artists, activists and more. You can can create societal and political change for the women who come after you. Know and understand what has happened in humanity’s past and strive to be better. Be better than us and those that came before us. I support you, I believe in you.

“I stand on the sacrifices of a million women before me thinking: what can I do to make this mountain taller so the women after me can see farther?”
Rupi Kaur

Written by Valerie Chalmers

Activist, Creator & Influencer

Co-Chair of Promotions & Marketing Committee, Niagara Leadership Summit for Women

Podcast Host, Guest & Recording Engineer

Member of Promotions & Marketing Committee, NoFixed Address

Member of St.Catharines Culture Plan Subcommittee

Love is in the air… or is it?

It’s time for our Blogger Talk! We asked bloggers Slavica, Kaitlyn and Franziska about love, Valentine’s Day and more…


  1. What is your favourite love song – and why?

“So Sick” by Ne-Yo is actually more of a break up song dealing with the heartache of loving someone still while trying to move on with your life. To me it represents the lingering feelings we all have in our hearts even after relationships end.

  1. If you could select anyone – who would be your Valentine this year and why?

It would probably be with all my single friends because Valentine’s day always made me feel especially lonesome for some reason but with my girlfriends, I know It wouldn’t bother me at all because we would have each other.

  1. Romantic gestures aside, what is one of your favourite memories of an expression of love?

Knowing my significant other was always there for me when I needed them. It made me feel a little less alone in this world.

  1. Share with us an important lesson you have learned or experienced about love.

I discovered the hard way that it’s okay to ask for a break in a relationship. When I was in the 11th grade, I was having some personal problems and being very withdrawn from my partner which greatly affect our relationship.

We decided to first take some space apart but I ended up ending the relationship instead because I didn’t know how long it was going to take for me to deal with things and I didn’t want to keep him waiting but after two months of singleness I realized that I still really loved him and wanted to try again.

It took taking the pressure away from being in a relationship to really help me understand that I still wanted a relationship. And, thankfully he still wanted to be together with me too though a year and a half later we would eventually break up but that’s okay. To this day he is still someone important to me so regardless of what happened, I don’t regret either breakup because sometimes you need some perspective to know what you want and sometimes what two people want may be two different things so it’s okay to let go.

  1. Should children give Valentine’s at school? Yes, or No, please explain.

I always enjoyed Valentine’s day cards, I still have a collection from my elementary school days so I don’t have a problem with the cards because they are for everyone so no one is ever really left out. My problems were always the candygrams because you never know if someone was going to buy you one. I remember being really disappointed when I didn’t get one, like people didn’t like me or something. It always felt like a popularity contest to me.

  1. Love gone wrong……..what was your worst Valentine’s Day ever? What did you learn from it?

Probably when I was in grade 11 because me and my ex had been broken up for 2 months and it was the first Valentine’s day in two years where I was by myself and I realized how much I really wanted to have spent it with him which I did, along with my other friends, but not as a couple. A week later we ended up back together. It took the day of love to help me realize how badly I still wanted to be with him so I guess you could say that this was both my worst and best Valentine’s day.

  1. The big Valentine’s debate…….which is better, receiving heart shaped chocolates or flowers? Why?

This one is hard because I’m not that particular on flowers, I genuinely like all flowers and as much as I love chocolate, if someone buys me a chocolate from a brand I don’t like, I’m not really going to eat it. I think they’re both great…so if I got a chocolate shaped rose then I would be satisfied. One of my friends gave me one last year and I loved it. Chocolate shaped flowers are the best of both worlds.


If you could select anyone – who would be your Valentine this year and why?

I select my partner. It’s cheesy. It’s vomit-inducingly cliché. However, this is the second Valentines’ day I’ve celebrated (in the ‘traditional’ sense) in my 27.5 years. I have never been bitter about Valentines’ Day. I am not against it. It doesn’t spark a particular chord of excitement in me. But this year and last, I have had the pleasure of celebrating with a man who walks beside me in all life’s endeavours. Shares his support, encouragement and love. And receives mine humbly in return. That, to me, is worth celebrating on Valentines’ Day. And that is why I select no one else but my partner as my Valentine.

What should REALLY be celebrated and highlighted is Galentines’ Day! And I select ALL my best friends, family, and amazing women in my life who consistently inspire me!

The big Valentine’s debate…….which is better, receiving heart shaped chocolates or flowers? Why?

This debate (like many) has gone terribly wrong! It’s way too BINARY! Haven’t we learned there should be more than two options by now? 😉
We cannot assume that others want to be treated as we do – we must ask how they would like to be treated. How they would like to be shown love. Have you heard of Love Languages? There are 5. So the question becomes not “Which gift is better to receive?” but rather “Does my partner even LIKE receiving gifts as a show of affection?” Maybe they’d rather Acts of Service, Words of Affection, Physical Touch, or simply (my favourite) Quality Time. Skip the flowers and chocolate, unless we can both enjoy them together.

(That being said…I got both this year. The answer is definitely both.)

How do you plan to spend this year’s Valentine’s Day – February 14th?
I spent a week and a half leading up to Valentines’ Day alone in my apartment in a new town feeling quite isolated. (Okay – I DID leave my apartment to go to work and get groceries and do laundry…) While it was quite lonely, it gave me time to plan a scavenger hunt. So my plan is to see how good my partner is at solving riddles…


If you could select anyone – who would be your Valentine this year and why?

Hawaii Five-O’s Commander Steve McGarrett because he is HOT! 

My amazing husband because he is my one and only Valentine 🙂

Share with us an important lesson you have learned or experienced about love.

The big Valentine’s debate…….which is better, receiving heart shaped chocolates or flowers? Why?

If it is not both, he clearly does not love you.

A New Year And A Not So New Society

By: Slavica Mijakovac

I find it interesting how when we talk about the New Year we speak as if we as people have somehow been reborn into something else, that somehow things aren`t the same anymore. That just because it`s January 1st someone’s able to change their whole behavior, routines and life instantly.

If that were true I wouldn’t be cringing after I read every #MeToo post on the internet or seeing articles upon articles of women and girls being the denied the justice they deserve because they somehow aren’t victim enough or their abuser has the power to shut them down like Harvey Weinstein did for 20 years.

When my parents moved to this country, they envisioned a better life for me than theirs. A life where I could get a post-secondary education, get a well-paying job, live in a house, get married, have some kids and live happily ever after with no worries. Unrealistic in so many ways but that’s all any parent wishes for their child.

When you immigrate to a new country, the dream of a better life is all you care about. I don’t know if my parents are disappointed with how things ended up turning but seeing how my dad thinks just me getting an undergrad will mean a high paying job means he clearly still believes in the dream. Makes me laugh because when my dad was growing up, that’s all he really needed. Now we need connections, experience, volunteer hours, we need anything that makes us unique, special.

Older generation think we spend too much time online and that’s true but what we’re doing is selling our brand, an image of ourselves to the rest of the world. This will help companies and organizations have an understanding of who we are as people, to see if we are the type of person they want to represent them and their organization, really what we’re building are connections but not everyone is an Internet celebrity, most people have practical jobs.

That’s why I find people’s displeasure with Canada’s raised minimum wage ridiculous because it truly means nothing when companies end up raising prices on items while cutting back hours. $14 nowadays is worthless because the cost of living keeps increasing. The time when a quarter meant you were a king is no more. Now it just means that you’re below the poverty line.

Being a woman makes things harder because as much as our former Prime Minister Stephen Harper liked to pretend that equality of the genders had been reached here in Canada, that’s not the case. The reality is when I enter the work force the likelihood that I will be paid the same as my male co-workers is slim to none, the probability of me being sexually harassed or even assaulted is high. Me being a woman, run by a world dominated by men makes anyone who doesn’t fit this pinnacle of idealness; rich, white, heterosexual, cisgender, able bodied, etc., an “Other”. This means that there are obstacles in my way created by our institutions that will make my progress of “success” much harder because I don’t fit the ideal society wants.

What I’m trying to say is that I may have citizenship status now but that will never erase the fact that my parents had to immigrate to Canada. They had to leave their lives in a place they knew to a brand-new country while having to learn not only a new language, but a new culture and history just to prove their “Canadian” enough to live here. It’s not easy. I am not a new me somehow because I’m Canadian. I will forever be both an immigrant and a citizen and that’s okay but as a woman living in this current political climate I wonder how a first world society can still be so backwards in how it views women and people of different races even after 150 years of existence. Clearly, society still has a long way to go before equality is truly achieved, let alone equity.


Dealing with trauma

“I don’t want to keep retelling my story.”

“I’m tired of being bounced from service to service.”

“How am I supposed to trust helping professionals if they never give me the support I need?”

I regularly hear these comments from the people I serve; and having worked for a number of organizations in Niagara over the past 20 years, hearing them still breaks my heart, even after all this time. Presently, I work with individuals living with the impact of sexual violence and intimate partner violence. I consider it an incredible privilege to support others in negotiating the daily impact of the harm they have endured, and it has been some of the most rewarding work I have ever engaged in. I also believe that working with survivors of sexual and intimate partner violence has fostered a new appreciation of why the above comments are significant and deserve further consideration.

Victim Blaming

Sexual violence and intimate partner violence are significant and widespread; the outcomes of both are far reaching. Although a number of statistics exist indicating who is most at risk and/or who is primarily affected by these concerns, I have learned in the course of my work that sexual violence and intimate partner violence do not discriminate. And for multiple reasons, many people do not report their experiences or reach out for assistance. Individuals who have endured such pain are often reluctant and anxious about telling their story for fear of what others might say or do. They are regularly told to “get over it” or “move on”. They are shamed into feeling they did something to bring the violence upon themselves, or end up being criticized and judged about how they chose to respond. These reactions from loved ones, friends, and helping professionals cement for me the notion that abuse tends to exist in a shroud of secrecy and fear. Is it any wonder when people continue to be silenced and blamed for circumstances beyond their control?

Dealing with trauma

The impact of sexual/partner violence extends beyond one’s mind or body; one’s very spirit has been violated as well. When someone is wounded in these ways, their ability to feel safe and trust others becomes compromised. They struggle with a number of crippling physical, emotional, cognitive, and behavioural reactions that are often confusing, frightening, and exhausting. A person’s experience of the world becomes forever altered, and the harm that has been perpetrated insidiously seeps into every crevice of their life. It shows up in the most unexpected ways, and causes significant damage to the relationship with oneself and others; because at its very core, trauma is relational.

I’ve come to appreciate the complexity of trauma whether it’s childhood sexual abuse, recent sexual assault/rape, or intimate partner violence because the brave souls I encounter in the course of my work somehow find the courage to reach out for support. It is incredibly difficult to cope with the aftermath of these forms of trauma. The impact to one’s mental health is significant and people often engage in coping strategies that are labelled “unhealthy”. I struggle with framing coping in this manner because if people were able to manage their pain in another way, I’m convinced they would. People don’t intentionally try to make their situation worse. They do what they need to do to survive. And it’s is easy for us (i.e., external others) to judge how they manage the outcomes of their harm, particularly when we haven’t walked in their shoes. No one has the right to judge or shame; these responses cause as much, if not more damage, than the original violation.

Systemic Challenges

It is equally important to recognize that the complexity of an individual’s circumstances is often compounded by the way in which various systems support them. The pitfalls that individuals encounter within systems they access are numerous, oppressive, and cause considerable harm to someone who is already struggling and incredibly vulnerable. Although these systems are in place to support individuals in addressing the outcomes of their trauma in a meaningful way, more often than not, I have found these systems to be inadequate and ineffective. As a result of my work, I have come to believe that systems, not the people they support, are the problem.
I encounter few people who sing the praises of the systems that address various aspects of trauma. And I don’t blame them for this one bit. It’s not that people are ungrateful for the support they receive. If anything, I would argue they have come to believe that substandard support is what they are entitled to because they encounter it so often when attempting to engage in services that are supposed to help. But the people I serve deserve better. They deserve more. They deserve care that is accessible, timely, compassionate, and integrated. This means the systems people utilize in their efforts to get back on track need to work together to streamline support and put their clientele at the center of care. Trauma’s goal is to disconnect and fracture, and it does this incredibly well. We cannot expect to assist people in healing from the harm they have endured if we ask them to accept support that is fractured and disconnected. If we do, we run the risk of perpetuating the same harms that we are tasked with standing up against. Instead, connection and collaboration is required across systems and in conjunction with the people we are responsible for serving.
I have deep affection and admiration for the people I serve. And I respect the guts it takes to reach out from the darkness when it would be much easier to hide in the shadows. Every single day, the people I work with teach me about what it means to negotiate interpersonal harm; I am surrounded by the courage it takes to share one’s story and I am blessed with multiple opportunities to witness the endless possibilities that exist for healing. I am regularly reminded about the resilience of the human spirit and feel incredibly honoured to walk with people through some of their toughest moments. It is with gratitude that I engage in supporting others who are struggling because I am acutely aware that how I choose to engage matters. Because the way in which we respond and connect to others, without question, makes all the difference.

An Open Letter to the Women of The View

Dear Women of The View,

In a recent Hot Topics segment, following the Miss USA pageant, something happened on your show that needs to be addressed. Something that, as women, should not be tolerated in our society. All of you, including your guest host Michelle Collins, mocked the courageous talent that Miss Colorado presented to her panel of judges, a large audience, and almost 1 million television viewers.

I realize that Miss USA pageants, as a whole, have often been mocked for their anti-feminist categories – “who looks better in a bikini?” – and the famous answer of “encouraging world peace”, but don’t you think it is about time we start celebrating our gender rather than continuing to put US down? As the talent category began, Miss Colorado presented her talent – nursing – delivering a monologue based upon interactions she had with an Alzheimer patient, about how much of a positive impact she had on his life and the impact he had on hers.

Different? Yes. Inspirational? Absolutely.

The following day, your guest Michelle and longtime co-host Joy Behar engaged in a conversation of mockery surrounding her choice of talent. You said what she presented was NOT a talent. That as a nurse she didn’t deserve the same respect that, perhaps, a doctor should receive. In a world where women are shamed, often publicly, for their thoughts and actions it would seem only natural that four strong, independent women – such as yourselves – would applaud this woman for her talent. Applaud her for going against the grain of society’s expectations when it comes to female talent in beauty pageants. Shame on you for not recognizing this as a pivotal moment to encourage positivity towards women amongst your millions of viewers.

The dictionary defines talent as “a natural aptitude or skill”, something that one individual can typically do better than another individual. Myself, along with many other people around the world, know someone suffering from Alzheimer’s and dementia. To me – to us – the nurses, personal support workers, and doctors that take care of our loved ones are angels. They care for, protect, and nurture our loved ones when we are not able to be with them. Being a nurse is not a talent that everyone possesses, especially when you are caring for those who are unable to care for themselves. You are often met with unpleasant situations, emotional patients and family members, and death – every single day! These nurses, female or male, deserve to be applauded every day – not mocked.

As women we need to take the opportunity, when presented to us, to build up our fellow women. When we make negative or crude comments towards our own gender, we make it okay for others to do the same. We give them permission to mock us, make jokes about us, and bring us down.

I hope that you are able to see the error in your ways and in the comments you made during that Hot Topics segment. I hope that you begin using positive speech when discussing women in today’s society. I hope that you recognize your high position in popular culture and use it to create change, much like your fellow female television host Ellen DeGeneres.


A Former Viewer of The View

The 5 W’s of International Women’s Day


International Women’s Day celebrates women from all over the world. The logo is purple and white, and features the symbol of Venus. Venus is a symbol itself for female.

WHAT ?IWD-Poster-2013-Artwork

International Women’s Day is a global celebration that focuses on the economic, political and social achievements of women past, present and future. Various women, political, community, and business leaders, as well as leading educators, inventors, entrepreneurs, and celebrities, are usually invited to speak at various events on this day. Events may include seminars, conferences, luncheons, dinners or banquets.


Events are held worldwide.

In some countries Women’s Day is a national holiday:

Aintwdfghanistan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Belarus, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Cambodia, China (for women only), Cuba, Eritrea, Georgia, Guinea-Bissau, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Madagascar (for women only), Moldova, Mongolia, Montenegro, Nepal (for women only), Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uganda, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Vietnam, Zambia


March 8th. However International Women’s Day has been recognized since the early 1900’s.


2nd_feminism_quoteWe celebrate this day because it is a time to keep past women’s achievements alive, recognize challenges, and focus attention on women’s rights and gender equality to inspire all people to join in, and do their part.

If we all think globally and act locally we can make a difference. It is important to do your bit to ensure a equal, safe and enriching future for women and girls.

21st Century Relationships

For the better part of the 23 years that I’ve been on the planet, most of my relationships have been maintained through computers and different social media sites.  Gone are the days of meeting friends at the nearby park and playing tag or on the jungle gym until the street lights come on.  Now – and by “now”, I’m referring to 2015 and the last decade – kids, teenagers, and adults seem to rely on building and maintaining relationships through social media sites, video games, and cellular devices.

I jumped into the modern relationship machine when I was in the seventh grade and I created my first MSN Messenger account.  Remember those?  Where how much you liked someone depended on how many smiley emoticons you sent?

Screen Shot 2015-02-23 at 2.04.24 PM

It was on MSN Messenger that many of my relationships – both romantic and friendly – were put publicly on display for others to see.  The trend of putting your boy/girlfriend’s name in your “status” blew up and was seen in almost every single conversation when you scrolled down the page.

 😀 ~*~*~* I <3 YOU M@++ ~*~*~ 😀

Disclaimer: I don’t actually love Matt – I don’t even know a Matt.  Little did I know – way back in 2003 – that  the initiation of my MSN account would forever change the way I, and everyone else in the modern world, built and managed relationships.

Let’s just get this modern day relationship building site out of the way – online dating.  Ew, there . . . I said it.  I know, I know – don’t knock it ’til you try it.  theholidayWell, I have tried it and it proved to be a horrible way at finding a semi-decent relationship and it never worked.  Online dating, for me, wasn’t good for anything except the occasional conversation with someone until they moved onto the next “Plenty of Fish.”  In general, this machine we call “dating” is a site where women and men can judge one another based on a simple photo and a small description of who they are and what they like to do.  How can someone truly value you and a relationship based on a description of who you are?  I personally think that every single person is worth more and is more amazing than any 140 character blurb could ever describe.  Yet, online dating sites seem to be the number one way for singles to find “meaningful” relationships – and hey, sometimes it works!  But if I’ve learned one thing in my life, it’s not to judge a book by it’s cover – in this case, a person by their profile picture – yet that seems to be the motto of all dating sites.  How can you build any relationship off of something like that?

One of the only social media sites that I have continued to use over the last decade (crazy…) is Facebook.  As someone who studied media communications in university and has had the chance to work with Facebook both personally and professionally, despite the odd privacy flaw, it hfacebookas stood the test of time as the most popular relationship building sites in the world.  While the purpose of my Facebook account has changed over the years – there was a time where I posted a new status every few minutes – I mostly use my account to remain in contact with the friends and family members I don’t have the chance to see throughout the year.  Yes, it is disappointing that sometimes at Christmas, the conversations with my cousins will begin with “So, I saw on Facebook that you . . . “, I can’t deny that Facebook has allowed me to still be a part of my family members lives digitally since I can’t be there physically.  Don’t you agree?

Despite all of the benefits that Facebook has in aiding us to be in two, three, four places at once with our friends and family members, the disappointing fact is that we live in world where relationships no longer rely on and grow in face-to-face situations.  Before we even meet a person, we can look them up on Facebook and “prepare” ourselves with a quick overview of who they are – or at least what we think they are based on their online selves.  How are we ever going to have genuine conversations with our family members or friends? There are no surprises in life anymore.  Every important life event is posted on Facebook – engagements, weddings, babies – that we no longer wait for the “Oh my gosh, I’m engaged!” phone call.  Do we truly get to know a person when we meet or see them?  Do we think that we already know everything there is to know about them – their likes, dislikes, past, present, future dreams – based on their Facebook?

I take back what I said about Facebook’s only flaw being their security issues – Facebook has a lot of flaws.  For a site that was created to connect us all, despite time zones and distance, it has certainly disconnected us in many more ways.  Recently, I’ve  made a conscious effort to stop “Liking” so many of my friends posts on Facebook.  Why?  I want to make sure that I can genuinely talk to them about exciting things that happen in their lives when we see one another face-to-face.  I want them to tell me, not Facebook.  Some of my friends were shocked (which is weird…) by my choice and have a hard time understanding why I have Facebook if I don’t “Like” things.  I like to think that my likes and dislikes on Facebook and other social media sites don’t determine how much I like or dislike my friends – or anyone else for that matter.  Life isn’t MSN Messenger, anymore.



Love Songs Deconstructed: Take 1

Not So Lovely Love Songs – “Hello” Lionel Richie

I recently had a hilarious, and slightly uncomfortable, conversation with a good friend of mine about the fact that most of the catchy songs on the radio are actually pretty inappropriate when you take an honest look at the lyrics.  Even now when I hear a song from the 90s (my childhood….), I can’t believe some of the things I was allowed to listen to and sing out loud!  Yeah, Christina Aguilera’s “Genie in a Bottle” . . . it ain’t about a Genie . . . or a bottle . . .

This got me to thinking.  What other songs have I obnoxiously sang, around others, without consciously thinking of the innuendo?  Now, I’m a sucker for a good love song.  Even better if it’s catchy . . . and from the 80s.  There’s a popular little ditty by a lesser known singer named Lionel Richie called “Hello” – a sweet song about a man asking a woman to see him and his heart, right?  Yeeeaaaah, no.  It wasn’t until I watched the music video, for this blog post, that I realized there is a much deeper, creepier meaning behind the lyrics of this song.  Take a look for yourself:

If by chance you missed the creepiness unfolding, here is the premiss:  Lionel Ritchie – let’s call him Mr. Richie for fun – becomes infatuated with his female student.  Early on in the video, we find out that she is blind which makes his following her around campus all the more weird and uncomfortable.  Sure, sure – we could argue that there is some symbolism behind her blindness implying “her blindness to his love for her” (I blame my university film courses for making me even notice that symbolism). . . but for the sake of this post, let’s just call a spade a spade.

I’ve been alone with you (creepy)
Inside my mind
And in my dreams I’ve kissed your lips
A thousand times 
I sometimes see you
Pass outside my door (like.. to hand in a class assignment or something..?)

Hello! (Hi Mr. Richie)
Is it me you’re looking for? (Well yeah… class starts in 5 minutes)
I can see it in your eyes
I can see it in your smile (What smile? Its 8 o’clock in the morning – that’s what I would say, anyways…) 
You’re all I’ve ever wanted (Whoa…)
And my arms are open wide
’cause you know just what to say
And you know just what to do
And I want to tell you so much
I love you (Ok…. that escalated quickly)

I long to see the sunlight in your hair
And tell you time and time again
How much I care
Sometimes I feel my heart will overflow
I’ve just got to let you know
’cause I wonder where you are (I’m heading to make a complaint about you following me around campus)
And I wonder what you do
Are you somewhere feeling lonely?
Or is someone loving you?
Tell me how to win your heart (………….)
For I haven’t got a clue (Uh… not being my teacher for starters)
But let me start by saying I love you (Nope…. that won’t do it)

Now that I’ve ruined the loveliness of this love song for all of you, I would like to wish you all a Happy Valentine’s Day!

From a Photo on a Mantle to a Cemetery in France

Guest Blogger Richard Lombardi shares his journey to discover his family’s history.

Growing up I often heard stories about my Grandfather’s brother who died during World War II. All I knew was that he – Uncle Toofy, as he was called – had been in the Air Force, and that his bomber had been shot down. According to the story, he had volunteered for his fateful mission to replace a man that was unwell. There is a photo of my Uncle Toofy at our family memorial in Victoria Lawn Cemetery. I naturally assumed that he was buried there, and for many years I never gave it much thought.

Scan 1From 2003 to 2006 I taught elementary school in England. However on a summer trip home in 2005 I came across a photo at my Grandmother’s house. It was a photo of my Uncle Toofy. He was dressed in his Royal Canadian Air Force uniform. You can tell from his big, beaming smile that he took great pride in it. I began to ask my Grandmother about him and learned that my great uncle was not – as I had thought – buried in St. Catharines, but somewhere in France, and no one was quite sure where. I quickly went online and found my way to the Canadian Veterans Affairs website. Within minutes not only had I discovered the exact location of his grave, but I was actually staring at a photo of his tombstone. I was in complete disbelief at what was on the screen. No one in our family had ever seen his gravestone before and here it was. I quickly shared this information with the rest of our family, and told them all that I would be making a trip over the next year to visit the grave site.

Scan 5I now wanted to know so much more about my Uncle Toofy’s military service. Luckily, I was heading to Ottawa so I contacted the National Archives and was informed that I could request my Great Uncle’s military records. I made the request, and upon visiting the archives I was handed a box and shown to a table. I was unprepared for what I was about to discover. I figured if I was lucky there might be few documents about his service record. But I couldn’t have been more wrong. I opened the box, and slowly turned over the file folder cover. Transcripts of interviews, medical records, test scores, telegrams, his original military application… it was all right there. I began to write down as much information as I could. Then I came upon a page I will never forget. It was a telegram dated June 14, 1944, addressed to my Great Grandfather. It read as follows, “Regret to advise that your son R one five six nine four six warrant officer second class Adolphe Joseph Ricci is reported missing after air operations overseas June thirteenth. It was surreal to be reading the exact telegram my great grandparents had read to learn about their son’s disappearance. I can’t imagine the pain and anguish they must have been immediately plunged into. I investigated further, and learned everything from the time, and location of the Halifax bomber’s departure, to the farmer’s field 6 km from Rouen, France that the plane had crashed into. There were seven of them onboard, and my great uncle was the only Canadian, the rest were from the Royal Air Force. This makes it possible that the story of him volunteering for the mission could indeed be true. According to the records it was his first and only mission as a navigator on a Halifax bomber.

If the telegram wasn’t emotional enough I then came upon my Great Uncle’s hand written will which was dated April 15, 1944. To see his hand writing was incredible; I was touching the same paper he once touched and instantly felt a connection to him. What could he have been thinking as he wrote those words? Was he afraid to die?

france-beauvais.-nice-colored-old-city-map-plan.-1909-wdjb--130651-pIt wasn’t until March of 1945 that the military declared him to be deceased. My poor Great Grandparents spent nearly a year wondering if he was alive. During this time, I learned through letters that were kept in the file that my Great Grandfather requested the names and addresses of the other servicemen on board, but he was denied his request. A grieving father looking to share with those that could relate to his pain, and to learn if they had any information that he wasn’t being told. After the crash the Germans buried them in a communal grave, and somehow in the aftermath of the war their grave was discovered, and they were repatriated to a cemetery in Beauvais, France.   A patch was found in the initial grave that had “RICCI” on it. Our family photo of the handsome young man in his uniform now had a story to accompany it. There was only thing left to do, I had to go to his grave site. But I would have to wait eight months before I was able to make the pilgrimage.

In early May of 2006 I had an opportunity to set out for the cemetery in Beauvais. As I took the ferry across the channel, I can remember feeling very emotional as I represented our entire family on this trip. Nearly sixty-two years had passed since he died and I felt honoured to be the first person to visit his final resting place. I picked up my rental car and headed for Beauvais. The drive gave me even more time to think about my Great Uncle and Great Grandparents who suffered so much. My Grandmother told me how my Great Grandfather was never the quite the same after his son’s death. He passed away “with a broken heart” in his fifties.

I knew the cemetery was somewhere in Beauvais but I didn’t have the exact location, or a great map! I drove into town and stopped in to pick up some flowers at a local shop. I don’t speak any French so asking directions to the war cemetery was quite the struggle. The man behind the counter gave me a small map and circled the cemetery for me. It was quite a way out of the city and when I finally got there I quickly realized it was a German soldier cemetery. It was strange, and I was a bit disappointed because I wanted the man at the flower shop to know I was a Canadian coming to pay my respects to one of our fallen heroes. I regrouped, grabbed the map and headed to the next cemetery – no soldier graves. By now the butterflies in my stomach were getting stronger and stronger. One more cemetery to try. As I approached the small iron gate I saw some Commonwealth Scan 3tombstones, and my stomach dropped; I was finally in the right place. It was a small cemetery, as war cemeteries go, and there were a mix of Commonwealth and French graves. It was difficult not knowing where his grave was, it was emotional to walk each row looking for the distinctive RCAF emblem that adorns the top of all Canadian Air Force war graves in Commonwealth cemeteries. About half way through the cemetery were seven graves that sat side by each. At that moment I knew that my journey was about to come to an end. I scanned across the top of each grave and there it was, the RCAF mark. I looked down and read the name, A.J. Ricci. I gently approached the stone, knelt down on one knee and pressed my hand against it. I had made it. There I was, representing my Great Grandparents, Grandparents, Aunts, Uncles, Mother, siblings, and cousins. Finally, after nearly 62 years a member of the Ricci family was reunited with our war hero.


Scan 7

Niagara Leadership Summit for Women

The first ever Niagara Women’s Leadership Summit took place on Saturday, October 18th – Person’s Day, in fact! In case you missed it, our post today is a re-cap through pictures:


Julie Jill

Co-Chairs of the Planning Committee and two leaders in their own right, Julie Rorison and Jill Van Osch. Last year, Julie attended the Hamilton Leadership Summit for Women, and was so inspired that she brought it to St. Catharines.

Thank you Julie, we’re so glad you did!


Early morning registrants were treated to a relaxing start to the day with a yoga session by Rachel Crane of The Soul Workshop.

Here’s a shot of Rachel leading the way:



IMG_7465                 IMG_7464

Registration was a breeze thanks to our wonderful volunteers!


Jackie Labonte of the Fort Erie Native Friendship Centre started off the Summit with a traditional opening ceremony.


Our first key note speaker of the day, Kim Katrin Milan spoke about the value of women, and women’s leadership in particular. She left us with a powerful message:

“Share Everything you Learn”



Nicki Inch, Kim Katrin Milan, and Julie Rorison.


Our incredible group of volunteers – a sea of Green!


After a quick break for coffee we re-grouped for a panel discussion led by Carol Stewart-Kirkby. Our thoughtful panelists tackled some tough questions: What is leadership? But more importantly, What is Women’s Leadership?


Thank you to our panelists (from left to right): Betty Ann Baker, Josephina Perez, Wendy Sturgeon, Carol Stewart-Kirby (moderator), Rachel Crane, Christine Hall, Nadine Wallace


You can’t lead without a healthy lunch!


The afternoon was workshop time! Delegates selected two of eight diverse workshops. Here, a group discusses Building Resilience in Women Leaders, led by Sherry Campbell.


Sarah Pennisi and Frances Hallworth spoke about Networking for Social Impact.

Male Dom

Have you worked in a male dominated field? These women have!

From left to right: Elizabeth Zimmerman (moderator), Cheri Burch of the Welland Fire Department, Stephanie Thompson of General Motors Powertrain, Christine Hall of Christine’s Dirtworx and Andrea Bone of Just Junk



Over 200 delegates anxiously await the closing key note speaker, Wendy Southall – to this day, the longest-running Niagara Chief of Police.


No words could do this woman justice. From her eloquence to her powerful story of resilience, she is the epitome of a woman leader. Thank you!

Twitter was set ablaze by the wonderful reactions of our speakers, volunteers, and most importantly, the over 200 delegates who attended the summit. Search the #NiagaraLSW hashtag for more pictures, quotes, and reactions from the day!

We hope to see you next year!

Thank you to Breanne Burke for taking these fantastic photos!

Thanksgiving Traditions

Thanksgiving is one of those holidays that lends itself well to traditions. Maybe you get together with Friends for a touch football game, or cram in four meals in one day, or maybe you choose to dine on a Ping-Pong table – Okay, you caught me – those all all from TV. If you’re really lucky, maybe you’ve got some hilarious traditions like our Bloggers, Donna and Carli. Just please, no Tofurkey.


Traditions Old and New

-Donna Shelton

October is my favourite month of the year.  Not only is it my birthday month, but it is Thanksgiving

After a busy summer – where I see next to nothing of my children, family and friends for all the social calendars filled with work and summer events taking everyone’s time –  Fall and Thanksgiving slow things down a bit and allow for some serious “face-time” with those I hold near and dear.

A few years back the time honoured tradition of hosting Thanksgiving was passed down from my mother-in-law Joy, to me.  This was a huge leap of faith on her part, and I love her for that.  Through trial and error, and trial and error again, I now think I have held a few family traditions and created a few new ones of our own along the way.

Not surprisingly,thanksgiving new traditions emerged once I took over. Joy and Emilee (my daughter) bring the desserts – this I believe was set as precedence the year I decided to go “healthy” and serve only fruit for dessert on Thanksgiving.  These two fabulous bakers ensure this never happens again.  Arlee, my eldest daughter, brings the veggie tray and wine, which now ensures that should the turkey cooking time run longer than humanly possible to wait, there are treats to sustain everyone a little longer.  I now double and triple check the weight of the turkey and the cooking time it will take.  FYI, there is a turkey brand that you can cook from frozen now!

As you can tell, I am no cook. Thus explains Joy’s leap of faith in passing this down to me.  However, I can prep and put a turkey into the oven – secret is…turkeys really cook themselves.  Once the turkey (which we name each year, don’t ask where that tradition came from!) is in the oven, Steve – my better half – ensures everything else is ready: homemade potatoes, stuffing, gravy from scratch, dinner rolls and two types of veggies for when everyone is ready to sit down to eat.

canOld traditions I have brought from my childhood; I always have cranberry jelly (and yes it must still hold the shape from the can), dinnerware from generations past, and when stacking the plates for pumpkin pie, I add an extra one for those no longer at our table.  I am always thankful when we can slow down, share a meal together and catch up on each others lives after a busy summer.

And so I share with everyone MY no fail recipe for the perfect Thanksgiving dinner:

An open, grateful heart, close family, great friends, excellent food, fine wine and always, always, always dessert!

Happy Thanksgiving!


Keep On Carrying On…A Tribute to Rosalie

– Carli Taylor

I think it’s safe to say that it wouldn’t be very difficult to imagine the look on my face as I sat at my Dad’s dining room table on Thanksgiving day a few years ago as he finally, finally…finally brought the turkey to the table. He was swearing, the turkey’s legs were incinerated and still smoking, there was oil all over the platter and I’m pretty sure it was the most god awful looking turkey I had ever seen…carli1

It’s funny how we don’t often recognize a tradition as a tradition until we’ve somehow moved beyond it. Maybe we’ve outgrown it, or found ourselves looking back on it, wishing to share it just one more time. In the spirit of Thanksgiving this is going to be a blog about traditions, but it is also about being thankful.

thanksgiving grandmaMy Dad’s side of the family is very small, and had only a few traditions that as far back as I can remember were never, ever broken. When we gathered, we gathered at Grandma’s. Maybe it’s because she didn’t ask for much. She didn’t insist on us wearing ugly Christmas sweaters, having each child wait their turn to open presents or find their Easter treats, sing carols, or list the things we were thankful for… She just wanted to see all of us gathered around her table for Easter, Christmas and especially for Thanksgiving dinner.  Grandma Lee was a wonderful cook—as I’m positive most reader would agree their Grandmothers are. Her turkey was always cooked to perfection and her wet stuffing turned out to actually be delicious – which I discovered once I finally agreed to try it in my 20’s!  She also made sure to include a favorite dish for everyone at the table. Mine was corn, my sister’s was cranberry sauce. (For far too many years these were often the only things we would eat—but that was okay with her because after all, Grandma’s allow those kind of shenanigans!)

I think the hardest part about thinking through this blog, was realizing that I never appreciated those gatherings enough. Maybe there is a part of all of us that just expects these moments…traditions… to always be, or that you can somehow pick up and carry on with—or without them. Maybe I expected that the glue that sealed those traditions together would always hold…

spoonI remember looking around the table, trying to gauge the reactions on everyone else’s face when that horrifying turkey was practically thrown at the table. From horror, shock and annoyance to a twinkle behind their eyes, then the telltale look of control starting to slip and the pressing of lips together until finally, finally someone’s giggle slipped out. And then came the laughter…and for some of us, the tears.

You see, a beloved Mother, Wife and Grandmother had recently passed away, and we were trying to honor her love of Thanksgiving. Our first sign that we maybe hadn’t quite got it right? Location, location, location. I don’t think any of us thought twice about holding it at my dad’s place. To be honest…there was more room and I guess we weren’t quite ready to face her domain. We started to question the error of our ways when my dad’s brand new oven just stopped working. Stopped cold. But it was okay! My Uncle lives just down the road…another oven to the rescue!!

A few hours later, in stomps my dad, raw turkey in hand, and smoke coming out of his ears. Tell me…What are the odds that two ovens (that had previously worked in perfect condition) would be completely useless and mock us by producing a raw turkey? Apparently the chances were pretty high that day!

But it was okay!!fire Because my Father and Uncle had recently watched some crazy fools some really lucky people on Youtube cook their turkey in oil. Voila! A new tradition is born! Light the barbecue.

Holy smokes don’t ever cook a turkey in oil on the barbecue, okay!?

The laughter was needed. The tears were needed. Grandma…well apparently she really needed us to remember who held the best Thanksgiving dinners. And we do. And what any one of us wouldn’t give to be able to tell her that and to thank her for being our glue and giving us so many memories. I think enough time has passed now that it’s time to start some new traditions—maybe I’ll offer to host this year—after all, she did teach me how to make a mean turkey and so far my oven has worked in perfect condition. Plus, maybe it’s time to pass down her ‘special’ cranberry sauce that my sister still adores…for best results, I recommend cranberry free:


Do you have a Thanksgiving Tradition? Share it with us in the Comments section!

Images courtesy of Google