All posts by futureaccess

Don’t Forget the Cause

As Christmas approached, I was bombarded by requests to give to various charities. When I went to the mall I heard the ringing bells of the Salvation Army kettles. I received requests in the mail from Covenant House and the Christmas Wish Foundation, looking for a donation. There were many pleas from the Food Bank to help stock their shelves.

Now that Christmas is over and a New Year has begun it’s got me thinking about the plight of the less fortunate. Will they still get their basic needs met? Do people get back to their daily routine and forget about the needy when there’s nobody constantly reminding them?

As we move into the new year, let’s not forget that poverty doesn’t take a break. Let’s not forget that there are children and adults going to bed hungry in this country. There are people who have to choose between paying their bills and putting food on the table. There are people living in shelters who rely on others to help them make it through this difficult time in their life.

We need to work together year round to bring awareness to the plight of those who call the shelter their home. We need to remember that others depend on the kindness and generosity of strangers to help them meet their basic needs.

As we head towards Valentine’s Day let us find it in our hearts to remember to donate what we can to our community to better the lives of others. May we all continue to show our giving spirit throughout the year.

Let’s not forget the cause now that Christmas is over. The families that rely on the shelter are depending on all us.

Written by our community blogger, Marilyn. 

Now or Never


I started my ‘New Year’s Resolutions’ on September 12 last year. It was the day before my 33 birthday. But before I go on, I have to admit something.
I hate New Year’s Resolutions.
I just all around find them….painful. I don’t know about you, but I put more than enough pressure on myself and spend more than enough time sifting through recriminations, guilt, frustration and the eventual shrugging of my shoulders throughout the year for the ‘New Year, New You’ regimen. I like ‘Me’ just fine thank you. Well…most of the time. Ok…there is some room for improvement…
You see: I am a smoker. Nasty, I know and I will spare you the details.
It came down to this: I woke up on September 12 and decided that for my next birthday, I wanted to be able to say that I was smoke free. I was tired of smoking, really and truly tired of it.
Today is January 8, 2014 and I have not had one cigarette since that day. To say I am proud of myself is an understatement. I understand though, that this will never be easy. What I’ve realized in the last few months is that by deciding I no longer wanted to smoke, I was choosing to be healthier. Hmmmm….what other ways could I choose to be healthier? 
And… cue the ‘I hate New Year’s Resolutions.’ 
You see, for some reason as soon as I had that thought, I immediately put it off. I somehow immediately put it into my head that I was going to wait until the New Year to start actively pursuing this new and healthier ‘me’. I mean, I had just quit smoking for crying out loud, what more could I expect from myself?? It could wait until the ‘New Year’! It was almost comical how quickly my brain started teasing me with whispers of ‘ya right.’ and ‘how long will that last’ and ‘one thing at a time silly’. I started laughing at myself long before I even started.
I was asking of myself two extra little things. One was to eat healthier and steadier, the other to get more exercise. (They are NOT lying when they say you ‘may’ gain weight when you stop smoking. Not lying at all.)
SO HA! I had picked only the two top things people resolve to do on New Year’s Day. But…wait a minute…this was only the beginning of October. What was stopping me from starting now? Right this very minute? I have an elliptical machine in the basement. My family recently joined the Y. I had groceries in the fridge to make a ‘healthy meal’ out of. What was stopping me?
Nothing. Just little ‘ole me telling myself I had to be ‘ready’. You know…so that I wouldn’t give up. So I sat there on my couch and rolled my eyes in defeat and found myself scrolling through the humor section on Pinterest to distract myself. And then I reached the end of the page and realized I had already seen more than half of the pictures I had just scrolled through. So, being bored, I went to the main page and there before me is a picture of the most incredible looking recipe I have ever seen. I quickly pinned it and then found myself scrolling through the food and drink section happily pinning away all of these delicious and mostly healthy looking recipes. And…cue that teasing whisper. You know the one. This time it was quietly laughing at me. Reminding me that I have pinned a thousand crafts, recipes, decorating ideas etc. and have only ever accomplished three of them. So I stopped.
I got up and went and got a pad of paper and a pen. I brought everything over to the 
table and sat down. I then went into my ‘Favorite Recipes’ board and scrolled all the way to the bottom. I had pinned over 200 recipes and the only thing I had ever made was peanut butter cookies made to look like reindeer the Christmas before. Well that was that. Now I had lit a fire under my behind. I picked three recipes and made myself a grocery list. I got up, got my keys and went to the grocery store. Two hundred dollars later I arrived home exhausted, excited and wondering what I had gotten myself into. You see, for a girl who loves to cook, I had spent the last year being incredible lazy and downright cranky about having to make dinner. It had fallen to my husband (who to be honest, didn’t mind the chore) or to take out/dining out. I do have ready excuses for my bowing out of my kitchen- I was working full time, planning a wedding…ok I’ll stop. Excuses. So, there I stood surrounded by grocery bags when my husband came into the kitchen and stood there in shock at how much stuff I had bought. When he asked what all the food was for I took a breath and made myself accountable for those purchases. I would NOT let this food go to waste. I explained about the recipes I had picked, and that he and JJ could expect three fantastic meals this week. I don’t know that he believed me. I don’t know that I necessarily believed myself. I only know that I was kind of really looking forward to it.


I have to date made almost 25 things off of my Pinterest page. All of them vying for ‘that was my favorite’ from the three of us. I’m not saying I have cooked every single night. I’m not saying we haven’t gone out to eat. I’m not saying I didn’t have to give myself an intervention of sorts because I was suddenly spending excessive amounts of money at the grocery store for one meal. I’m saying I’ve been learning to enjoy making healthy, delicious home-made meals again. Meals that stretch into healthy lunches for my boys and myself (saving me some precious moments in the morning).
While all this non-smoking, and healthy (extra) eating was fantastic I still want (and now really) need to be a little bit more faithful to exercise. This has been the really tricky part for me. Working 9-5 doesn’t leave a whole lot of time to make a healthy dinner and go to the gym. My proudest moment was the day I managed to do 5k on the elliptical. This was a HUGE accomplishment for me. Sadly, I haven’t been back since as the Christmas Holidays hit and you know…excuses, excuses. But….I have the rest of my life to figure out that balance. I truly do.
It’s not one day. It’s not one year. It’s not one decision. It’s not one fallback.
It’s all YOU baby. It’s your day, your years, your decision. It’s your forgiveness and allowance to give yourself a break. It’s your willingness to stop judging yourself and just allow yourself to take things one day at a time. Stop being so willing to give up because you let yourself down in a moment of need. Understand that every single thing you decide to do for yourself as a ‘resolution’…takes time.  You have time. All the rest of your life darlin.
It’s not one day. It’s not one year. It’s not one decision. It’s not one fallback. So here are my ‘resolutions’ for my life as it is today.
I resolve to be me. Whatever that means.
Wishing You…the best year yet.
P.s. if you are interested in learning about how I have stopped smoking…just ask. If you would like a recipe for the world’s best salmon dinner…or the best ‘winter’ roasted jalapeno soup (guaranteed to warm those insides) just ask and we can post the recipes.)


Introducing the Who Gives a Fork Artisans!

As you may have heard on our Facebook and Twitter pages, we are very excited for our fifth Who Gives a Fork event, in partnership with the St. Catharines Downtown Association coming up on December 13th. We have changed things up a bit and have moved the event to the evening over the dinner-hour, added some wine, Santa Claus, live music, a movie night AND brought on board a full Christmas craft sale! We are very excited for these new additions and thought it’s high time we introduce you to our fabulous artisans! Each one offers handmade goods that make perfect gifts just in time for the holiday season.

Jody Edwards Art

Jody Edwards Art is beautiful water colour originals and prints. From feathers and birds’ nests to foxes and more, her artwork is a unique study of the finer things in nature. Her pieces can be found in private collections around the globe, and have been featured on the set of CSI and many must have gift lists in magazines! She says on her Etsy site that the artist Sylvia Hahn once told her to “paint what you know, paint what you love.”
and now uses her advice as a mantra in her artistic life.



Harwin Pottery

Michael, the academic, has earned several university degrees preparing him for his first career as a teacher. Now retired, the artistic Michael has long been searching for creative self expression using media. Until recently his endeavours have been short lived. Papermaking, photography, painting, while satisfying a creative urge, have not been the perfect answer to this expressive need. Pottery has filled that place, deep within, allowing for creativity with purpose. Dubbing himself, “the accidental potter”, Michael strives to end each pottery session with a creative vessel or clay piece. The gratification of completing a project or creating a treasure keeps his spirits lifted and powers his enthusiasm for the craft. Michael, experiments with glazes, clay types, and textures. His unique pieces and brilliant glazes have pleased many a pottery


Suite 906

Suite 906 is vintage inspired accessories with a modern touch. Unique, often unexpected elements combine with classic elegance to create the perfect accent for everyday wear. Founded by two friends with a passion for jewellery, fashion and Saturday night crafting sessions, Rachael and Jacinta hope to create pieces that balance both natural elements and modern shapes. This YWCA event is their first show!


Batavia by Sil

Vintage, left-over scraps of fabric find new homes in Batavia’s One-of-a-Kind totes, mittens, headbands and more! Owls, trees, octopus and all sorts of interesting motifs appear throughout her lines. Batavia bags are sold from BC to Ontario at Handmade shows across the country! In fact, in 2011 she was the 3rd place Winner of Tooled To Perfection Competition at the Spring One Of A Kind Show in Toronto!

Vixen & Reynard

Karrie Bannerman is the creator behind this line of holistic skin care from the lush greenbelt of the Niagara Region. Guided by intuition and nature,  Vixen & Reynard develops Earth loving, organic, bath, beauty, and home products. Backed by 20 years of knowledge and experience in the prestige beauty industry, these small hand crafted batches are produced while prioritizing health and happiness. Live Green. Look Foxy.

Karrie has worked as a make up artist for top cosmetic & skincare brands in The USA & Canada. She has even trained skin care consultants in the craft and been hired to speak to professional organizations on the topic of  cosmetics and personal appearance in the workplace.  She loves helping women feel confident and beautiful. 


Infusion Tea

Infusion Tea offers a wide variety of natural, organic loose leaf tea, hand blended by Courtney and Tim. Whether you’re in the mood for a cup of soothing green tea or Immui-tea tea to help you through cold season, Infusion Tea is sure to have a blend for you. 

Please join us at St. Catharines Market Square on Friday, December 13th, from 4:30-9 p.m. for a fabulous evening of food, carols, music, art and fun! Don’t miss out!

86th AGM

Wednesday night, marked our 86th Annual General Meeting and one of our staff/bloggers, Donna, wrote this wonderful recap to our staff. We thought we would share our celebrations.

“Last night the YWCA hosted the community at our 86th Annual General Meeting – we had great attendance and the evening went wonderfully as Carolyn Fish, President, and Elisabeth Zimmermann, our ED, passionately spoke of our strategic planning and upcoming future initiatives. 

We are seen as a valuable asset in the community for the women, children and families we serve and it showed by the attendance last night.  With her tireless efforts in promoting the issues, Elisabeth has not only helped to raise the credibility and importance of our organization – but educated the community on the impact of poverty and homelessness – thank you.
We welcomed a new Board of Directors – 13 of the most incredible, dynamic and caring women you would ever want to meet – and they are as passionate about the issues we address as the staff! Carolyn Fish; President, Cindi LoForti; Vice President, Anita Scholman; Treasurer, Jacqueline Strecansky; Secretary, Jessica Potts, Joanna Romano, Josefina Perez, Sabrina Fruci, Linda Haday, Lori Kleinsmith, Misette Critelli, Christie Cassidy and Liz Isaak.
A big thank you to those staff that made it all possible – Nicki and Suzanne our dynamic Fund Development/Community Relations department, have once again produced an Annual Report that not only speaks to our stats, but provides the reader with a client story that touches their heart, nicely done.  The Awards and Presentations honoured the support of Meridian Credit Union, as our Corporate Citizen;  Matt Harris received the much appreciated YW Champion Award; Pen Centre Administration and Mountainview Homes received the Community Partnership Awards; and we honoured Crystal D’Cunha of Mountainview Homes with our Community Supporter Special Recognition Awards for her outstanding contribution as the Chair of No Fixed Address this year.  We also learned of some very interesting events coming up in December and the new year – please, please help with these.
Meridian Credit Union- Corporate Citizenship Award
Matt Harris- YW Champion Award

Pen Centre & Mountainview Homes- Community Partnership Award
Crystal- Community Supporter Special Recognition

Closer to our hearts, Madelene, volunteering in the YW kitchen since the tender age of 7, received our Program Volunteer Award, along with Jane Coleman, who has volunteered on the front desk and assisted with registration during No Fixed Address – we value their contributions and are grateful for their ongoing support of the YW.

Thank you to all the staff that attended, and volunteered their time last night – Adrianna C., Jackie, and a new volunteer Robin, who we will be seeing more of on front desk.  It is wonderful how everyone comes together when you need them – thank you!
A huge THANK YOU, to our Maria, for not only arranging the fabulous food from St. Catharine’s Collegiate Culinary Program, those cream puffs reminded me of my Mom’s …. absolutely fabulous! (can we get some for Christmas??)  But for also, securing the coffee donation by Coffee Culture – they are such a great supporter of the YW.  A big, big, big THANKS to Carli, not only did she coordinate the event with me – she celebrated 5 years of service, and I couldn’t have said it better than Elisabeth did last evening…Carli it seems longer

, you have become a part of the YW family so seamlessly, your willingness to take on any new challenge or initiative (that I say we can do), Well, I can only say what an honour it is to work with you each day – and look forward to many, many (I said many) more years to come. THANK YOU.

So, if you haven’t seen the annual report – please take a read, and join me in celebrating this past year’s accomplishments – EACH and every staff person contributes to the success of the YWCA Niagara Region on a daily basis, every day you touch the lives of so many women, children and families in a positive, healing way, and at a most vulnerable time in their lives. 
For all you do – THANK YOU, this past year’s accomplishments are your success.It was a great AGM.  Thank You.”

“Those People”

This is a re-post from the blog “Scary Mommy” by Jennifer Ball.

“There’s a food drive happening at the school where I work. Several bins have been set up throughout the hallways, with cute kid-decorated signs that implore us to SCARE HUNGER and donate non-perishables for the local food shelf.

As I am wont to do, I look at the food as I walk by. Why? Because I like food. It’s like porn to me. I wish I was lying. So I walk by, several times a day, and gaze at the donations.

Dang. We have some swanky grocery shoppers at our school…the bins are filled with “fancy” foodstuff, lots of organic offerings, and some deviations from the standard mac and cheese/boxes of spaghetti. There’s rice pasta, artichoke hearts packed in seasoned oil, gluten-free crackers, olive tapenade….and quinoa. I look at those bins like Sylvester looked at Tweety Bird.

Like I was doing earlier this week. Walking by, checking out the bins. One of the women who helped organize the drive was in the hallway, and I called out to her “Wow! Look at all this awesomeness!” or something similarly enlightening. She beamed and said, “I know! The parents at this school are amazing.”

As she was saying this, another woman happened by. She smiled at us, like people who see each other several times a day in passing do, and then she said this:

“Too bad they won’t know what to do with most of it.”

It was one of those moments in life, when your ears hear something but your brain can’t quite process it. I was fairly certain I’d just heard her say what I thought I’d heard her say…but it didn’t really sink in. It floated there, like a film of rainbow-hued oil over a puddle in the street.

I spoke up, while she was still within earshot. “What do you mean?”. I wanted to know. I wanted to verify what she said, make sure I hadn’t misunderstood.

The woman stopped. She turned towards me, one hand holding a couple of manila folders, the other resting lightly on her hip. She was still smiling.

“Those people won’t know what most of that is. I mean, really, quinoa?”

Yep. I’d heard her correctly. 

Those people.

The last time I got groceries at our local food shelf was this past February. Eight months ago. The long-overdue child support from my ex kicked in later that month, and although it wasn’t much, it made the difference between being able to buy groceries and having to get them from a food shelf. For that, I’m grateful.

Those people.

I can still remember the first time I visited the food shelf. I had driven by, so many times, trying to work up the courage to pull into the parking lot. I’d whisper to myself, “Dammit. I can’t” and I’d keep driving, home to the barren fridge and the Old-Mother-Hubbard cupboards. Until the desperation overshadowed my pride.

Those people. Once you get past the hardest part, which is walking through the door, being at the food shelf isn’t so bad. I mean, it’s not something that inspires one to burst into song and run around high-fiving people, but as far as life experiences go, not so bad. Sure, there’s the heat on your cheeks as you fill out the paperwork, giving these strangers your life history. Telling them how you got into this pickle. This predicament. Telling them what you do for money, how much you get and how you spend it. But you get used to having hot cheeks. You become accustomed to averting your gaze so as not to make too much eye contact. You eventually become, dare I say, comfortable at the food shelf.
Those people. I quickly found out that food shelves are a lot like TJ Maxx…it’s hit or miss. Some days the shelves are full, and full of really good things. Annie’s Mac and Cheese. Organic marinara sauce. Fresh vegetables. Whole chickens in the freezer. Brie from Trader Joe’s that’s only 2 days past the expiration date. Other days, you have to scramble to even get near the required weight of food in your cart (yeah…you get a certain number of pounds of food, depending on the size of your family). Dented cans of creamed corn. Spoiled produce that even the most resourceful, broke chef couldn’t salvage. Individual sleeves of saltine crackers. But beggars can’t be choosers, right?

Those people.

I visited the food shelf a total of 5 times in about 11 months. I only told one friend. I told my kids, and when I did, I expected them to laugh, or get angry, or embarrassed. They didn’t do any of those things. They helped me put the groceries away, and they did so quietly, not saying much other than the occasional exclamation of “Yum!” or “Gross!”. I can recall for you, on command, most of the meals I made with food shelf goodies. Oven roasted chicken with quartered rosemary potatoes. Turkey chili. French toast. More mac and cheese than I care to admit. One of my favorites was an organic risotto, flavored with mushrooms and olive oil.

Those people.


I wanted to say that, but I didn’t. Instead, all I could muster was,

“I like quinoa.”

To which she replied, “Well yes, of course. You’re not one of those people.”

If only she knew.”

It is the goal of the YW to break down the wall between “those people” and “us.” The women who come through the doors of the YW are our mothers, sisters, daughters, friends. During the holiday season, we ask that you remember us and help provide hope. Please visit our Christmas wishlist to help bridge the gap.

Now and Then

Today I drive a BMW.
Today I live in a 4 bedroom house of my own. 
Today I wear diamonds and jewels and dine in 4 star restaurants.
But it wasn’t always this way.

When I was 14 my mother ran away with my father’s best friend. He wanted my mother, not us 3 kids. So, for the next 2 years he made my life unbearable. He constantly accused me of being up to no good and told me I was worthless. When I turned 15, I got a social worker through my guidance counselor at school and made plans to leave my dysfunctional family.

The week after I turned 16, I committed myself to the Niagara Youth Centre in Welland. Everyone there were runaways, abandoned, or there by court order. I had never see anything like that before. So many damaged children. Most of them through no fault of their own. Most of the girls had been molested as young children and wore their scars like a badge of honour. It was the first time I was ever asked to use Kwellada to delouse. It was a degrading, humiliating experience; one I will never forget. I can still feel the sting in my nostrils and the burn on my skin.

I lived there for 3 weeks before I ran away with a girl named Mary to Toronto. The first night in Toronto we slept in a cemetery. We had $11.00 between us. The next day we went to the Salvation Army who referred us to a Womans Shelter. Again, I had to do the delousing procedure. I slept in a room with 3 other beds. My room and board was $4.00/day and I had rotating chores to do. I got a temporary job at the Schneiders factory and was able to take care of my rent and my basic needs.

Life in a shelter is not guaranteed and every 30 days you had to look for new housing. There was one night I couldn’t find a shelter so I sat in the lobby of the police station all night. I was told I had to leave at 7 in the morning. I then found my way to the Native Womens Centre in Hamilton and was humbled by how kind these women were to me.

When my time was up I called my father, collect-call from a bus station in Hamilton and begged him to let me and my friend come stay with him in his 2 bedroom apartment. He said I would have to return to his church. I told him I didn’t believe in his religious ideas. He hung up on me. It was February and storming outside. We slept in the bus terminal that night. The next morning we hitchhiked to Toronto and found a new co-ed youth shelter to reside in. I was so grateful the workers in the shelter. They brought me in, washed my clothes and provided a hot shower, followed by a hot meal. They empowered me to believe in myself. They gave me the tools to become independent.

I went back to school and got a job. I eventually got my own apartment and continued to upgrade my education.

Today I am a Certified Personal Support Worker, Dietary Aide, and a Medical Office Assistant.

I believe in giving back and I have always given donations over the years to various shelters. I want people to know that there is hope for everyone. I want women to believe in themselves and know that no matter how desperate times can be, things can always improve. I had to learn to believe in myself and treat myself with respect and dignity in order for others to do the same. I have also learned that not all men are evil and to trust myself before anyone else.

I will never forget the compassion and empathy showed to me during my darkest hours. I will spend the rest of my life giving back to my community in any way I can.

Written by a YW volunteer. 

Remembrance Day: Women War Machines

Everyone loves a man in uniform. Even married, you won’t see me turning down the chance at a double-take when a Canadian soldier walks down the street or comes across the screen of the TV. Besides the obvious yummy and salacious reasons, I drool because the uniform represents a set of appealing principals including courage and self-sacrifice that should be gawked at and revered no matter the campaign that soldier fights for.

The stereotypical man in uniform is changing. More and more, those uniforms are worn on empowered shoulders of women fighting for our country in the same combat fatigues, toting the same gun and focused stare as the men beside them, but this was not always the way. Like in many other facets of life, women have been fighting for years for the chance to prove they can stay strong in the trenches with the “big boys” and lead on in victory regardless of their sex but only recently was this become a more common image in times of war.

Supporting roles are immeasurable when considering the alternative without them. Before World War 1, women were told their place was in the home with an affixed apron and dishpan hands. When times changed and men were drafted to the front lines, the loss of man power granted the preconceived “fairer sex” the opportunity to prove their capabilities surpassed universal gender roles.
Without the man of the house, how did the farming get done? Who worked the line of munitions factories? Women did. They were the conducting war machines behind the scenes making battle on the front lines possible. And not only did they lace up steel toes to forge ammunition shells for $9 a week, they donated their pots and pans and household items, including their hair curlers, to the factories to be recycled into scrap metal to create guns and military vehicles and made due with the bare necessities like rolled tissue to keep their hair perfectly curled while doing it.

On top of factory work, Nursing Sisters (women from religious organizations) and other women trained with the Voluntary Aid Detachment, Red Cross and St. John’s Ambulance to become nurses, some travelling overseas, 200 of them receiving medals for bravery as they risked their lives in field hospitals.

In times where men were gone, politics never stopped and with suffragist movements made by women like Margaret Gordon of Ontario in 1917, the fight for equal rights led to extreme measures of protest across train tracks and hunger strikes, all leading to the Wartime Election Act giving mothers, sisters, wives and wartime nurses the right to vote, paving the way for women in parliament by 1920.

All possible because women saw opportunity and refused to stand down when ordered.

When conflict brought Canada into World War 2, British Columbia started a Women’s Service Corp trained in auxiliary roles doing first aid, clerical and administrative duties as well as motor mechanics in factories. Ontario and other provinces created much of the same called The Women’s Volunteer Reserve Corps as well as an Auxiliary Territorial Service. Across Canada these women were purely volunteer and on their own time learned Morse code, signalling and map reading, infantry drill, arms drill and physical conditioning.

Joan Kennedy from BC was the driving force against Ottawa to include women when considering war needs and in 1941 the creation of the Canadian Women’s Army Corps had thousands of women in supportive roles like many had during WW1. Displaying their uniforms and insignia with the helmeted visage of Athena, the Goddess of War, they were brimming with pride yet still jilted their ranks never equalled that of men’s, they only received 2/3 the wages ($0.90 to men’s $1.30/day), and were not permitted to conduct guard duty or other roles deemed too hazardous for women.

After the army, the snowball effect took over and air force created the ‘Royal Canadian Air Force – Women’s Division’ where 17,000 women were not permitted to fly though served on flight decks with the slogan “We serve the men that fly”, and the Navy created the ‘Women’s Royal Canadian Naval Services’ where 7,000 women completed clerical tasks, were radar and coding techs on ships excluding submarine work and worked as cooks as well as nurses.

Women’s Institutes across the country created cookbooks outlining recipes that could be created with the limited rations each family were afforded, city women were encouraged to help out with the harvest of local farms, canning clubs canned fruits and vegetables to keep up with the demand, everyone pitching in to serve community even if serving with a gun at the heads of their enemy was impossible.

On the flipside, not everyone was overjoyed with the evolution of the face of war including female features and a drop in enrollment occurred when word went round that only “loose women” joined the forces. As much as the army advertised otherwise with famous colourful ads still circulated today, these judgements were not merely from men, but from traditionalist women as well who prevented their daughters from joining for fear of public scrutiny. Family or not, enough pushed on and refused to abide by standards that kept them tied down and away from fighting for their country and found a sense of belonging and solidarity.

When WW2 ended, approximately 570,000 women in industry and clerical positions from all women’s divisions of the Army, Air Force and Navy were disbanded. After all their hard work and sacrifice, once the nations need for their female driving force ended, women were returned to the home as day care units were no longer operated, even though many wanted to stay on when the war horse was put to rest.

Never ones to quit while ahead, women continued the fight and in the early 1980’s were allowed enrollment in military colleges and then won the battle when a law was passed that it was discriminatory to refuse women be in active duty. Over a period of 10 years, women were integrated into all facets of the military, it taking until 2003 when Master Seaman Colleen Beattie was the first women to serve in a submarine.

In classrooms of today the wars in Afghanistan are highlighted and for the first time in history within that campaign 310 women fought in combat roles such as Infantry, Field Artillery, Combat Engineers and Pilots, while 1350 held supportive combat roles. Some were even held as invaluable when entering countries exhibiting female oppression such as the Congo, Afghanistan and Iraq, so women of those regions can see the options given in free countries.

In the same breath, I feel it’s important to mention 26 year old, Captain Nichola Goddard (picture on left), a Forward Artillery Observer and the first female to die in front line military combat in a firefight in the Panjwaii district in Afghanistan. War is not pretty. No matter how you spin it, or the face that represents it, it’s bloody and negative and has plagued the human race for thousands of years, but war effects all people within those warring countries, not only the select burly men movies make big bucks on.

The whole point is choice. Not every girl grows up wanting to wear army boots and fatigues but for the ones who do, this dream would be impossible without the trailblazing of stubborn women refusing to be told they don’t have a choice due to flimsy arguments about inferior upper body strength, possible pregnancy, morale of predominately male units, and the mental rigors on the fragile female mind during the horrors of long standing battle.

This Remembrance Day when you donate change for a poppy, wear it proudly and remember all the people who sacrificed their lives for their country and safety of their families and the struggle of women who had to fight a war before they even stepped foot on the battlefield.

I invite you to please share with us the brave women in your lives who have in the past or are currently making those sacrifices in any role, in their family homes, community or deployed across the world and we will be sure to remember them as well.

On the YWCA’s behalf, please thank them for all they have done and all they are doing to continue the war for equality while servicing our country.

(Sources:,,,, wwww.,

What are Our Options for Halloween Costumes?

Happy Halloween! Halloween is a very exciting day for many of us as it’s a chance to dress up, be creative and do something different! At the YW Office, we are having a mini Halloween United Way fundraiser, where instead of asking for a donation to dress up, we are collecting donations from those who don’t dress up. We’ll post some pictures on our Facebook page and our Twitter feed to show you some of the fun we’re having.

But in looking up costume ideas, it’s hard to find costume ideas that do not demand us as women to become hyper-sexual objects and have excessive cleavage. When you look at the marketing of Halloween costumes for women, it perpetuates the idea that women, even when they can be anything they dream of for a day, want to be young, thin, hyper-sexual objects complicit with the misrepresentation of women in today’s culture. Unless you are super crafty or creative, your options in the market place are limited.

This year, we challenge you to be different and find a costume that speaks to who you really want to be for a day and challenge the status-quo. Shake it up a bit and take a stand with your costume this year.

We found a couple links and a video that we thought we would share to help spark some new costume ideas, with a little more of a feminist flare. Happy Halloween!

20 Feminist Halloween Costume Ideas

Feminist Halloween Guide

How Many Ways Can You Say Tired?

Can you hear that thumping? Oh, that’s just the sound of my butt dragging.

It is without fail, every year around this time that I start to fall apart. When my ‘Get up and Go’ Gets up and Leaves.

I’m Tired. Knackered. Haggard. Stale. Sleepy. Cream-Crackered. Ok, you get it. Oh wait! I’m also cranky, grumpy, irritable and irrational and finding myself jealous of babies and cats because they can nap whenever they want. And I’ve started to beg my husband to let me be a stay at home house-wife. Yeah. Me. The feminist.

Yep- it’s that time of year again! When you are cursing the stupid Daylight Savings Time insanity! (Seriously?? Is it just me, or are they stretching the ‘Fall Back’ further and further? I have been counting down the days since September!!!) And you find yourself looking up your symptoms of exhaustion desperately hoping it’s the weather and not some un-planned pregnancy or that you are developing animal instincts to hibernate.

I knew that the changes in weather can affect you and your moods but I had never bothered to look up whether there is an explanation or a definition of it, as it’s never been this bad for me before. But they do have a definition. It’s called ‘Seasonal Affective Disorder’. This means for some people, they are vulnerable to a type of depression that can last from Autumn until Spring.

That’s right- the definition of how I’ve been feeling is literally-SAD.

SAD that I have to get out of bed-EVER. SAD that I can’t sleep at night even though I’m KNACKERED, SAD that when I wake up at 7 a.m. it looks like three in the morning. SAD that the bags under my eyes have carry-ons and that I’m pretty sure I have carpet burn from dragging my behind all the time.

But don’t worry folks! Apparently we are not alone! Research in Ontario suggests that between 2% and 3% of the general population may be affected by SAD. Another 15% have a less severe experience described as the “winter blues.” Typically they say that while this causes some ‘discomfort’ it should not be incapacitating. (Seriously though—keep an eye on these symptoms as this can become a debilitating condition that can seriously affect your everyday life and prevent you from functioning normally. It can also on a rarer occasion strike during the summer months too. O-o)

So you ask…what are the symptoms of SAD? From what I understand they can be: Difficulty waking up in the morning, the tendency to oversleep or over eat (great- I get the dreaded weight gain too), morning sickness, lack of energy, difficultly concentrating, withdrawal from family or friends and a decreased sex drive. (Still judging my fear of this being an un-planned pregnancy??!!- and seriously decreased sex drive to boot?!)

So you ask…what can be done??

Well- they have a whole bunch of suggestions on the internet for winter-based SAD- things like light therapy, medication, taking melatonin or vitamin D. I also read some simple things such as raising your blinds to let whatever sunlight this winter shares in, to go outside for at least half an hour a day (does this include my drive into work with the heater on? Cause you know- it’s COLD outside!), exercise- change up your routine, connect with ‘sunny’ people, look at the color orange (orange is cheering- in fact the smell of an orange is cheering for me)

These are all great suggestions. But I ALSO found a whole bunch of ones that seem like they would be pretty entertaining. What better way to perk up a bit than with a big or little belly laugh?? After all- ever notice how when you’re over tired everything seems funnier? Here’s just some that I ‘borrowed’ and may or may not try:

1. Go through a drive-through and ask for your food ‘to go’.
2. Say someone wrote ‘Gullible’ on the ceiling and see who looks up.
3. Eat a baby corn like a full sized corn.
4. Do what the voices in your wife’s/husbands head tell you too.
5. Go through the humor section on Pinterest. Good luck getting ANYTHING done from here on in.
6. When a telemarketer calls you, try to sell them something.
7. Draw faces on all the eggs in your fridge- make them look scared!
8. With a serious face, order a diet water every time you go out to eat.

I could go on, but honestly— I’m too tired. So I’m off to bed. And this time, instead of counting sheep- maybe I’ll count my blessings instead.

The Connections We Make

Shifts pass when your feet hardly touch the ground, you’re busy prioritizing 10 plates of needs and wants, in a Cirque Du Soleil worthy juggle above your head and you’re craving the moment your office chair creaks beneath the weight of your exhausted bones.

Among the program posters, inspirational quotes, fact sheets, filing cabinets and client files, you can find tokens of appreciation left behind in the Advocate’s office as reminders of the reason why we return for the next shift to resume the juggling act.
A new intake comes in with set expectations that are – in a perfect workday – met and exceeded. The impact of their stay can be a drop in a pool or a cannonball in a puddle but when a woman moves on from the YW’s services, sometimes she leaves behind more than a success story and an earned pat on the back.

As proverbial House Mom’s we get all kinds of crafty goodies and sentimental cards in lieu of thanks. Whether they are personal gifts, as in a Pug-nosed card for a certain Pug-nose lover (Adore their squishy faces!) or something for everyone to utilize, like the nifty hand-painted rock that will not only prop open our office door but aid in ushering in the next wave of women in need with motivational script and crafty colours, we keep them around for years and reflect.

These tokens stick around on billboards, hang from tacks in the wall and prop our door open as reminders of the connections we have made to the women and families we serve. Housing may be their primary reason for being beneath our roof, but once they come under the umbrella of the YW’s services they find that much more happens beyond the doors then housing searches.
Since frontline staff don’t always get the pleasure of following-up with our ladies and their families once they have procured housing and moved on from the cameo spent with us in their lives, every so often, it’s nice to remember that the door-stopper rock, hand-written cards and beaded dream catchers were crafted with intentions that convey much more than “I was here”.