All posts by Marilyn White

Hang In There, Baby

Hang In There, Baby

I remember hearing this saying for the first time in the 70s. I also remember all the hype about the Women’s Lib movement in the news and other media.  It gave me my first awareness that all was not peaches & cream in the land of females. I quickly learned that women were tired of being pushed around and treated like second-class citizens. They were very vocal about the rights of women being overlooked or ignored. Women everywhere were tired of the status quo. They wanted more out of their lives than the generation before them had experienced. They were not content with subscribing to the roles played out on TV shows like I Love Lucy, The Dick Van Dyke Show or The Honeymooners. Women wanted to get out into the workforce and have careers of their own. They wanted to carve out their own identity and make their mark on this world. They wanted equal rights, equal opportunity and equal pay that many men just take for granted. They wanted to be protected from sexual harassment and discrimination. They wanted the chance to pursue and fulfill their dreams and career ambitions. They wanted to be leaders not only in the home, but also in the world at large.

What actually happened was that women worked harder than ever each and every day of their lives. Most women are still expected to shoulder the majority of housework and child-rearing while juggling their own career or other personal goals. They are expected to keep a tidy house, cook meals, and raise kids; all while putting in a full day in the workplace. In addition to the previous mentioned responsibilities women have; many are also taking care of elderly relatives in some form or another. And I know I’m not the only one who values the relationships we have with our loved ones. We know how important it is to cultivate and maintain healthy, positive relationships that will produce happy, well-adjusted people for generations to come.

I have been taking Criminal Psychology & Behaviour courses for the last 4 years in order to pursue a new career.  Due to some injuries and health problems I am no longer able to do the physical tasks required in many of the fields I’ve worked in. It took me many years to accept my limitations and believe that I could still find meaningful employment. But what really shocked me was other peoples’ perceptions of what my days are like. Unfortunately, I’ve had to correct and educate friends and family about the importance of my time. This isn’t the 50s and I’m not your average housewife. I don’t watch soap operas or game shows. In fact, I don’t even turn the TV on during the day. I don’t lounge around the house with my hair in curlers waiting for my man to come home so I can wait on him hand and foot. My courses are intense and require lots of uninterrupted time and attention. My average grade is 94%. I don’t say that to brag; although I’m surprisingly pleased.

The point I’m trying to make is that I study and work very hard on every assignment I’m given. I take my studies very seriously and hope that one day I will be able to help others with the knowledge I’ve learned. Between my life experiences and lifelong interest in human psychology & behaviour, I believe I have finally found myself on the right path to the next part of my life journey. So when people assume I’m not doing anything all day long because I don’t punch a time clock, I am insulted and offended by their presumptions. I am annoyed when someone calls and expects me to give an accounting of my days to justify my reasons for declining to do them a favour. I find it astonishing that anyone could actually think that because I currently work from home that I’m not doing anything or that I should just drop whatever I’m doing and do their bidding. Nobody would ever call my husband and expect him to account for his time. Nobody would ever assume that he wasn’t busy or that he should be out doing everything for everyone else on his days off. Nobody would ever call him at the end of his work day and expect him to run errands for them. Instead, he is respected for his dedication to his career. He is admired and rewarded for his achievements.  And I am very happy for him and proud of his accomplishments.  We are partners and we support each other through the many changes life continues to bring us.

I still take great pride in creating a warm loving sanctuary for me and my family. I love preparing and cooking nutritious, delicious meals. I thoroughly enjoy my painting & decorating projects. I love the smell of a fresh clean house. I start every day by doing a load of laundry. I plan our social events and family gatherings. I work hard maintaining the gardens that surround our house and I love the serenity I get from doing so. I babysit my grand babies and help care for my elderly uncle. I enjoy my volunteer work with the YW.  But, all of these things require a lot of my time and attention. There is no magic wand I can wave and poof…all of my dreams and wishes come true. Instead, it all requires hard work and dedication.  My time is the most precious gift I can offer anyone. It is spread so thinly sometimes that I don’t think I’ll accomplish my goals. So when I choose to do something for someone I expect them to respect my time and not make assumptions about what they perceive my life to be. I am never bored or lacking in things to do. Sacrificing my precious time to help someone out is time that could be used to further help me achieve my personal goals. When I find myself being pulled in too many different directions I feel the need to step back and re-evaluate things. If I feel that my time is being taken for granted I become resentful and less willing to help others who are being selfish or demanding.  I definitely don’t respond well to “guilt trips” from people who try to manipulate me. Especially from people who say they love me.

When I look back over my life and review the expectations weighing heavily on most women who work and have a family I  can’t help but feel that women usually get the short end of the stick. What I’m trying to say is that women are still being overworked and underpaid. When we enter the workforce our workloads double. In addition to the pressures and stresses at work, most of us still carry the majority of the workload at home. We are expected to be everything to everyone. We are expected to have perfect homes while bringing home the bacon. We are encouraged to pursue a career as long as it doesn’t interfere with our family duties. Women have fought hard to advance the women’s movement and yet things haven’t changed enough. We are still expected to put others and their needs ahead of ourselves. It’s ok to return to school in order to better ourselves as long as we are still available to everyone. That is the message I hear when women are criticized or judged for the choices they make that make them less available to everyone. We are still judged by how clean our house is, regardless of how many hours we put into our careers or education.  The Women’s Liberation movement was started because so many women were tired of living the mundane life of a stereotypical housewife. It was supposed to free us up to be able to pursue our dreams and goals. Mostly though, it just added to our already-heavy workload. In the workplace we are expected to be multi-tasking robots that don’t dare call in sick or leave early to care for an ill child or elderly relative. The movement was created with the most noble of intentions.  However, that was over 45 years ago and I’m sad to say that we really haven’t come all that far in our quest to achieve those goals. We are still trying to achieve a healthy balance in our work/home lives but most women I know are still exhausted at the end of the day.  I’ve never worn a poodle skirt, I’m not sedated from valium and I’ll never be Mrs. Cleaver. This isn’t the 50s anymore and I’m never crawling into that box that just doesn’t fit me.

 

Behind The Smoke And Mirrors

I have a cousin who lives in the Ottawa Valley who thinks that Niagara Falls would be the greatest place to live. She sees the glitzy commercials and buys into the hype that Niagara Falls is a spectacular place to thrive in. She comes to visit at least once a year and takes in all of the sights and sounds that are offered to the millions of tourists who visit. Since I was born and raised here, I have a totally different outlook on this place in the land of plenty.

My great-grandfather

My great-grandfather, Antonio Salvatore Potenza came here from Potenza, Italy with almost nothing but was able to acquire much property through hard work and dedication. He owned most of the street he lived on and was able to build a house with his own two hands to raise his family in. Later on, he built houses for my great-aunt Mary and my maternal grandmother Elena on the same street. He also ran a bootlegging business out of the back of his house to make extra money for the finer things in life.crate-895939_1920 He was known as a shrewd businessman with a notorious reputation for being tough and someone you didn’t want to mess with. His wife and children feared him. He worked hard in construction and had certain standards he expected his family to live by. He had no problem with evicting his oldest daughter out of the house he bought for her when she refused to stop supporting her unemployed live-in boyfriend who played in a band; even though he was the father of her youngest children. My great-grandfather had no tolerance for what he perceived as laziness and he refused to support someone he considered to be a “good time Charlie”. There was even an article with pictures in the newspaper showing my aunt and her children evicted with their belongings on the side of the road. He ruled with an iron fist and didn’t back down to anyone.

The rich and the poor

I’ve watched Niagara Falls grow from a small town to a major destination in my lifetime. strawberries-1350482_1920I’ve also watched the chasm grow even bigger between the rich and the poor. When I was growing up, the Niagara Region was known as The Fruit Belt. The land was populated with farms that produced delicious, nutritious fruit for jams and juices. There were big-name canning companies like Bright’s that manufactured peaches, cherries, strawberries and apples. Years later, I watched in horror as farmers let their fruit trees shrivel up and die because they said there was no money to be made in the fruit business any longer. The canning companies closed up and moved away, unemployment rates increased.

Eating is not a luxury, it is a necessity.

I live not too far away from the upscale tourist industry that brings billions of dollars into the city every year. I also live down the road from one of the local food banks that is always asking for donations for those less fortunate in this town. I see people forced to ask for assistance because they just don’t make enough money to be able to pay their rent and eat too. Eating is not a luxury, it is a necessity. But most of the jobs in this city are seasonal and/or minimum wage and it’s just not possible to survive on such meager wages. We have breakfast clubs in some of the schools that are in less affluent neighbourhoods. I’ve also worked in the hotel industry and it’s been my experience that if you’re lucky enough to get in with the right crowd, the quality of your life changes drastically. There is definitely still a class system in this modern world.hotel-1330850_1920 If you are lucky enough to be one of the chosen few, things are handed to you on a silver platter. The more money I made, the less I paid for things. I was given perks and signing privileges. I was sent on wine tours and tourist destinations to evaluate them and give feedback to my employers so that they could continue to improve on the “tourist experience”. I stayed in high-end hotels in Canada and the U.S at minimal cost with all kinds of benefits at no charge. At the same time, I watched other employees, who worked in other departments, that weren’t considered to be as prestigious, trying to eke out a living. They worked twice as hard with few benefits. They were looked down on and treated like second-class citizens. This always boggled my mind, because in my opinion without cleaners and servers the whole industry would fall apart. I believe the first line of success is achieved through cleanliness. Can you imagine the horror of a guest finding a dirty toilet in their hotel room? I’ve seen rooms comped for much less because you never want a visitor leaving and spreading the word that things weren’t perfect. Word of mouth can make or break a business.

There is definitely a double standard in this city.

Sure it’s beautiful, clean and luxurious in the heart of the 5-star 4-diamond hotels and restaurants of Niagara Falls, but it’s a far cry from the reality of the life most of the citizens that populate it year round. There is definitely a double standard in this city. The most recent example I can give you is the recent ban on fireworks because of the dry heat and lack of rain we’re currently experiencing. The locals were forbidden to shoot off fireworks yet Niagara Falls and Niagara-on-the-Lake didn’t dare disappoint their many visitors. Instead, the show must go on…and indeed it did. They even had firetrucks at the scene to monitor the situation and jump into action to save the day. I hope nobody’s house caught fire those nights. The people who live in big fancy houses in the north end and drive high-end cars are all connected and live the high life. They have no idea what it’s like to go hungry or wonder how they will pay their monthly bills on minimum wage. No, they don’t! They take care of one another. They watch out for one another while overlooking those they consider to be unworthy. If you have connections you will always be taken care of and are almost guaranteed a shot at the good life. It’s very true that you have a better chance at succeeding by “who you know”… not just “what you know”.

The two faces of Niagara

It breaks my heart to see children go hungry so I donate food and I volunteer. But I am only one person and unfortunately I see an elitist attitude pervading my hometown. My great-grandfather was raided many times for his illegal activities in the days of prohibition. He took it in stride and did what he had to do to succeed in this country. I’ve often wondered what he would think about the fact that we now live in “wine country”, where billions of dollars are to be made from the same industry he was vilified for. Not to mention the billions of marketing dollars promoting “Wine Country” with huge winery estates lining the Niagara Parkway. Now that the “right” people are the driving force behind the wine industry it’s now accepted and promoted. Famous people like Dan Ackroyd and Wayne Gretzky have set up shop in the Niagara Region doing the same thing my great-grandfather was harassed for and discriminated against. It seems to me that the more things change, the more they stay the same!

The glitzy commercials and flashy lights aren’t accurate depictions of everyday life of living in the Niagara Region.

So…when my cousin Vicki gets stars in her eyes when she talks about how she wishes she grew up and lived here, I feel compelled to show her what’s behind the smoke and mirrors. The Niagara Region is a beautiful place with many points of interest and excitement. But, it is not without its faults and downfalls. The glitzy commercials and flashy lights aren’t accurate depictions of everyday life of living in the Niagara Region; if you don’t have the right connections to the movers and shakers that rule over the majority. I’ve worked very hard my whole life and I’ve had some amazing experiences with some really great people who worked in positions of power who truly do care and do give back to this city. But, there’s still a lot of work to do. Nepotism is rampant in this city and it definitely affects the quality of life most people with no real power have in this area.

A Tribute to My Father

He was the first man I ever loved. He was wild and dangerous. He was exciting but scary. He had a disarming smile that barely disguised the vile temper that dwelled beneath it. He was a contrast of moods and temperament. He could be the most fun you ever had or your worst nightmare. He was a hard worker who partied even harder. He hung out with hard-core bikers but he also had a strong belief in God. He was either your best friend or your nastiest enemy.

There was never any middle ground with my father.

He was a combination of many personalities. He was a lot like Billy Bob Thornton in Bad Santa but with a twist of Elvis Presley thrown in. He was also very much like Ray Donovan with his secret life and violent streak. There was never any warning when someone was about to feel the sting of his wrath. He wasn’t a big talker so when he snapped and lashed out at someone they were usually astonished. Most times they didn’t even know what they had done to make him angry. It could be as simple and innocent as a look he perceived you were giving him to something someone said that he found disrespectful or distasteful. But then, there was also a side to him that was very much like Dominic Cooper in the new series on TV called Preacher. He tried really hard to walk the line of good and truth. But, then he would get bored or he would meet up with someone from the past and his wild streak would take over.

My mother left us when I was 14 and he took it really bad. They had been fighting for years and she decided she had enough. The problem was that she had left with his best friend. He was outraged by the betrayal and stayed out late at night trying to drink his feelings away. Within a few months we went to live with our mother and her new man. It was awkward and uncomfortable but we didn’t have any other choices. For the next couple of years my father went through women and booze like there was no tomorrow.

Then suddenly, he hooked up with a woman who belonged to the same cult that my parents had joined when I was 5 years old. When they got married a couple of years later, he dropped out of our lives. I tried to reconnect with him over the years but eventually I gave up when I saw how uncomfortable he was because of the way his new wife acted around us. She alternated between ignoring us and being outright rude.

Years went by without hearing anything from him. His family continued to tell him to contact his children and make amends before it was too late. But by then he felt too much time had passed and he was afraid we would reject him. He didn’t handle rejection well.me with jimmy and parents

The call that I had been awaiting for years came on a freezing cold day in February of 2008. We had been out riding on our Harley Davidson when we came home to a voicemail from my uncle and his wife asking me to call back right away. I told my husband that my father was dead. He said it could be a hundred different reasons why they were calling. But I knew! I knew in my heart that he was gone, I could just feel it. But, I made the call and sure enough she said he had died the day sometime during the night. I asked her if he committed suicide. She was horrified and could barely get out the words, “the Jimmy I know would never do that…”. I calmly responded with, “well, the Jimmy that I know, would!”. She gave me the name of the funeral home and quickly got off the phone. I was numb but I wasn’t shocked. I had been there the times he had tried to end his life. He would call me on the telephone and I would go to him, sitting beside him all night, making sure he didn’t die on me. He didn’t reach out to me in the end. I guess he thought it was too late. He must have thought that too much damage had been done for me to forgive him. He was wrong. If he had made that call I would have gone to him. I would have helped him get the help he needed. I would have tried one more time. I would have given him one more chance.

Later, I would find out that he died alone in a room he was renting from a couple who lived in a big house in the same city as me. He had overdosed on the painkillers and psychiatric drugs he was self-medicating with. He had been going to different doctors getting multiple prescriptions and then filling them at different pharmacies.

He was wrapped in a bunch of blankets but he was very cold to the touch. His beautiful face was bloated and distorted.

There was no funeral, no burial, no closure. I went to the funeral home to see him even though his ex-wife (the executrix of the will) said that he didn’t want anyone to see him. The funeral director tried to talk me out of seeing his unprepared body because he said it would traumatize me. I bluntly told him that after years of working in palliative care nothing would shock or scare me. I was taken to a back room (with my loving husband at my side) and he was there in a body bag on a stretcher. He was wrapped in a bunch of blankets but he was very cold to the touch. His beautiful face was bloated and distorted. I talked to him for a couple of minutes and then kissed him goodbye on the forehead.

He is at peace now. He isn’t suffering anymore. But I’m left with more questions than answers. We weren’t included in the reading of the will or given any details about his life leading up to his death. He was cremated and the ashes were given to my grandmother. He is going to be buried with her when she dies. Last year I contacted the Coroner’s office and I was told that I was legally entitled to know everything that was discovered during the death scene investigation. I received the package from the Coroner’s office and found a few surprises. I learned that he had 2 tattoos, which shocked me. He had always been adamant that tattoos were trashy and getting one was equal to defiling your body. Also, he had been under the care of a psychiatrist. Perhaps he had finally tried to slay the demons in his head. Lastly, he died before morning, as he sat on the side of his bed. The last phone call he made had been to his ex-wife. She told the investigators that she knew he was taking lots of different pills and had been depressed, but she denied knowing that he was suicidal. I also found out that he had been excommunicated from the dangerous, mind-control cult he had committed himself to years ago. He was also divorced from the woman who treated us like we were nothing and didn’t matter.  If I had known those  pieces of information sooner I would have absolutely reached out to him one more time. My biggest fear since I was 16 was that he would die before we could make amends. My worst nightmare became a reality on  February 2, 2008.

The only things I have to remember my father by are his cane, an old unopened Elvis Presley calendar and pictures from the past. His ex-wife gave away his belongings to her children even though my brother specifically asked her for his guitar that he carried with him since 1961. His family was outraged by the way we were discarded but were helpless to do anything about it. If he were alive to see all of the changes in the world and all of the corruption and scandals that are finally being exposed, I think he would have had an easier time adjusting to life outside a controlling cult that commanded and demanded that he choose them over his own flesh and blood.

My father’s death forced me to face all of the bad things I had suppressed and repressed for so many years. But, it also showed me who truly cared about me and my family. My father, James or Jim,  would be extremely happy to know how much closer my ties with his biological family have become.

Today, my life has come full circle.

I grew up feeling like an orphan from the time my parents joined a “doomsday” cult when I was 3 and they cut off all family ties to anyone who wasn’t open to joining too. Today, my life has come full circle. I was recently given pictures from my childhood that I have never seen before. It’s been very healing for me to have visual proof that I had lots of people who cared about and loved me when I was a little girl.  It’s great to have the images in my head match the pictures I’ve been given by a thoughtful relative who remembers when we disappeared from their lives.

Sometimes I feel my father’s presence and it comforts me. I don’t know if it’s wishful thinking or if there’s an afterlife but I’m keeping my options open…just in case I get one more chance to see him again and tell him everything I know.

 

HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY! OR IS IT?

For most people Mother’s Day is a happy time to celebrate their mother.  The woman of many titles: mommy, mum, mother, friend. It’s a day to honour the woman who brought you into this world and raised you. It’s one day a year that’s set aside to show appreciation for the woman who willingly makes sacrifices for their family. It’s a day for mothers to relax and be spoiled by the people who love them the most. Children make cute cards and homemade crafts at school. Adult children form new traditions with their own family, while still paying homage to their beloved mother. There’s luncheons or dinners at restaurants with special gifts and sometimes even some delicious cake.

What if her love isn’t unconditional?

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But what if your mother isn’t the warm and fuzzy type? What if her love isn’t unconditional? What if you’ve tried your whole life to gain her acceptance and approval?  What if she hasn’t been there for you when you’ve needed her the most?  What happens when you are banished from her queendom any time you disagree with her? What if she gets angry because you don’t do things the way she does them? What if you can no longer tolerate or accept her hurtful comments and  negative behaviour? What if she isn’t like the mothers described in those sugary, flowery Hallmark cards? What if you can no longer bring yourself to try to please someone who refuses to be happy? What if the whole thing leaves you stressed out and overwhelmed? What happens when you can’t be a dancing monkey anymore? How long do you keep trying before you eventually give up?

For years I made a huge deal out of Mother’s Day because I truly love my mother and I wanted to make her happy. I would spend weeks shopping to find the perfect gift for her. I would plan a menu filled with her favourites. I would clean my house spotless and spend hours prepping and cooking food. I always bought an expensive, fancy cake to serve for dessert. I would spend the entire day focused on indulging and spoiling my mother and her husband. I would wait on her, seeing to her every need before she even expressed it.  When they eventually left I stayed up late, cleaning. My wonderful husband always helped me with the cleanup, but the whole thing left me feeling drained. After years of this routine, I started to feel resentful. Why did I think it was my job to provide the perfect day for my mother while essentially forfeiting my own Mother’s Day celebration? Why was I hardwired to believe that I was to always put my mother’s feelings and happiness ahead of my own?

I don’t need a card or a gift to validate their love for me.

Picking out an appropriate card for my mother is no easy task. Most cards are filled with positive sentiments about mom always being there for her children. The saccharine poetry is almost sickeningly sweet. I’m sure it’s because most mothers willingly make sacrifices for their family and deserve the accolades bestowed upon them. Most mothers would march through the gates of hell to protect them from anything bad. Most mothers give unconditional love to their children, even into their eventual adulthood. I am a mother and I can honestly say that there is nothing in this world that could ever come between me and my children. Even when we disagree or they’ve done something that upsets me, I know that we will work things out. I have raised my children to believe that they are fabulous, unique individuals who should chase their dreams and live their lives to the fullest. I have never made unreasonable demands of their time. I don’t expect them to check in with me everyday and give an in-depth accounting of the way they spend their time. I encourage them to pursue their interests and explore everything that life has to offer. I don’t expect them to shower me with lavish gifts or make a big production out of Mother’s Day. I don’t even expect them to buy me a card. I don’t need a card or a gift to validate their love for me. I simply try to enjoy every minute we get to spend together.

marilyn familyFrom left to right: my son Mark Anthony James, me, my amazing husband and best friend Mike, and my beautiful daughter Candice Lee.

I cherish the times we spend on the phone, laughing and catching up. I know that their time is valuable and they are busy adults trying to get through this thing called life. I know without a doubt that they love me and they know that I would lay down my life for them. I don’t expect them to compete with one another to impress me. I never want them to feel obligated to roll out the red carpet and make a big production for any reason. I am secure in knowing that I did the best job I could as a mother by listening to them and making myself available to them. I am content in knowing that our relationship is based on mutual respect, acceptance, and kindness. I never want them to feel bad about themselves by expecting them to live up to some pre-conceived notion of what I think they should be or do with their life. I want them to feel free to pursue everything their heart desires. I want them to know that as long as I am alive I will always be a listening ear and that they can unburden themselves without fear of consequence. I will never judge them harshly or view them with black-and-white thinking. I accept our differences and enjoy being included in their adventures. I am open to seeing things through their eyes and trying new things. I never want to impose my opinions or ways of doing things onto them. I never want them to question my love, affection and admiration for them. I will never pigeon-hole them by inflicting my ideas on them. I will never ask them to give up their identity to be what I would like them to be. I will never burden them with expectations of conformity or tradition. I respect their right to live their life however they see fit. I don’t want them to exist to merely be extensions of me. I want them to thrive in their own individuality and be confident enough to try new things. I never want them to define their lives by my standards or ideas. I just want them to be happy!

I will not be part of an imaginary competition between me and my siblings in a bid to win my mother’s love and acceptance.

So, this year I have decided to celebrate Mother’s Day on my own terms. I won’t be buying cards that don’t honestly reflect a very damaged and unhealthy relationship that has permeated my whole life. I won’t dismiss my own accomplishments and put my own needs at the bottom of the list any longer. I refuse to continue to engage in self-deprecating actions in the hopes that this year will be different. I will not be part of an imaginary competition between me and my siblings in a bid to win my mother’s love and acceptance. Instead, I will continue to commit myself to positive healthy relationships with people who also value the concepts of individualism and respect. I will continue to dedicate my life to being a better person and helping others. I will work even harder to be the best mother I can be to my children. I will willingly help my children and grandchildren in every way that I can to make their journey through life a little easier. I will be a shoulder to cry on and a listening ear without harsh judgments and unreasonable demands.

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Why I volunteer for the YW

It all started 5 years ago with a sequence of events that avalanched into a domino effect of darkness, depression, and anxiety.

I was still reeling from the aftermath of my daughter’s near-death experience after the birth of her second child; a beautiful baby boy with big blue eyes and a huge grin.  I was
still dealing with the sudden, tragic death of my father 8 years earlier. I had reconnected with my paternal uncle now that he was living in Ontario again. He has a lot of health problems so I cook meals  for him and check on him everyday. To top everything off, I was living with “empty nest syndrome” because my son (the baby) moved to Alberta 2 years ago.  For the first time ever my world came to a screeching halt. It felt like I’d just been unexpectedly spun off the  musical carousel that had been my life for so many years. I found myself unemployed, in a terrible economy with bleak prospects. I wasn’t getting any younger and I couldn’t ignore my health issues any longer. I had to admit that I wasn’t invincible. I had to learn new ways of doing things instead of the habitual method I had utilized all my life to reach my goals and be successful. I could no longer just plow ahead and push harder. I had to learn how to stop putting myself at the bottom of the list everyday. I had to learn how to stop beating myself up for not being perfect every minute, everyday.  I had to learn new habits and find new methods to achieve my goals. I had to stop comparing myself to the younger, healthier me. I had to learn who I was as a person now that my whole world was completely different. I had to figure out how to maneuver through this new landscape while I felt so raw and fragile. I had to deal with myself without all of the distractions that life as a working wife and mother brings. To say I was stressed out would be an understatement!

That’s where the YWCA Niagara Region comes in! After many sleepless nights flip-flopping in bed I went downstairs to use my laptop in the dining room. I didn’t even know what I was looking for. I just knew that something had to give and I refused to be a slave to my insomnia. I needed to invest time into myself to find out where this new chapter of my life was taking me. I needed to learn how to live my life now that I was starting to get some of my life back. I had to believe that things were only going to get better. I needed to believe that things were going to get better.  I needed to confront and destroy my anxiety demons. I was faced with a fresh clean slate and no idea what to do click on volunteeringwith it. I had been in crisis mode for so long that even my breathing had changed. I found myself paralyzed with fear of the next  disaster certain to be around every corner.  I was wound up tighter than the proverbial top. My shoulders were always tensed up around my ears.  I had to learn to accept that I had some chronic health problems and physical limitations that couldn’t be ignored. I had to learn how to pace myself  after many years of working and raising a family. I had to stop beating myself up and/or living in denial. I had to accept the fact that it had been a wild bumpy ride filled with incredible highs and devastating lows. It had felt like a magical dance party with many people dancing in a frenzied motion with the music getting faster and louder. Spinning faster and faster and faster until I was dizzy and couldn’t catch my breath. Without warning, my life as I’d known it came to a crashing halt and stopped abruptly. The ringing in my ears was deafening. The music stopped and I was out of breath and sweating profusely. I was dazed and confused. I’d spent the last few years assaulted by one tragedy after another; with no time to time to recover before the next  disaster hit.  I was trying to figure out what to with myself now that everything I had ever known was completely different. So, I sent a message to the YWCA via the link provided on the Information Niagara page.

I met with Carli a few days later at the YWCA  location in Niagara Falls. I was extremely nervous and my self-confidence had long ago disappeared. I had lived with extreme anxiety the last few years and it had clouded my view of the future. I was no longer sure of myself. But, from the moment I sat down with Carli and she started to speak in a calm, encouraging manner I started to  feel that I had made the right choice.  We talked about the positive impact that the YWCA has on people from all walks of life and the community in general. I expressed my desire to help others because I know all too well how important it is to have a safety net when you fall.    Finally, after years of chaos and heartbreak I could see light at the end of the tunnel. I had found a place that would help me gain a sense of perspective while I gave back to the community at the same time. I would be able to slowly regain structure and motivation. In exchange for my time and skills I was given the chance to pick myself up again and find my way on the next part of my life journey.
I was surrounded by such supportive and encouraging woman. I felt like I was in a safe place where I could learn new things and acclimate myself to the work world again. I felt empowered by the encouragement of everyone I met at the YWCA and appreciated for my time.  Slowly I learned to trust my instincts again and allowed myself to get excited about this new journey I was on. I’ve learned so much more about myself and our community because of my involvement with the YWCA. I’m proud to help with such a worthy cause. I’m eternally grateful for the opportunities  and knowledge I’ve gained. I’m honoured to learn new things from such a diverse, open-minded group of intelligent human beings. I honestly feel like I’ve gotten so much more out of my involvement with the YWCA than I ever expected. By reaching out to help others; I inadvertently ended up helping myself as well. It’s a win-win situation! Oh, and I sleep much better at night.

Where Do I Go From Here?

I’ve had to move boxes recently. You know the boxes I mean. The ones you have to check off every time you fill out a questionnaire form. The boxes are often grouped as follows; 18-24, 25-30, 30-34, 35-40, 41-45, 46-49, 50-65, or 65+.

My husband planned an amazing trip to California for me to celebrate my birthday last October. So I was pretty excited to go back to my favourite place in the world.  It was even better than I remembered. He booked a room at The Georgian Hotel in Santa Monica. It’s a historical landmark hotel from the 1930s that  used to be a favourite getaway spot for movie stars and mobsters. People like Clark Gable and Carole Lombard would hide out there to get some privacy from prying eyes. It was surrounded by thick wooded areas and offered sanctuary to those looking for a discreet place to kick back and relax. Infamous men like Bugsy Siegel and Fatty Arbuckle took advantage of the speakeasy located just below the lobby. The Georgian Hotel opened (in 1933) as one of LA’s first speakeasy’s where they provided discretion, martinis and jazz. It’s really quite beautiful to see. It has lots of character, the view is incredible and it really does feel like an escape into another time. It proudly showcases an Old Hollywood glamour.  It’s located two blocks away from the intoxicating lure of the Santa Monica Pier. Continue reading

Memories of Christmas in Palliative Care

As I write this, I look around and see that the Christmas season is in full swing. Christmas has exploded everywhere. Everywhere you look Christmas decorations are on display and all of the shops are competing for your Christmas dollars. The media is working overtime trying to convince you of all the things that you just can’t live without this year.The perfect gift for the perfect Christmas is achievable, according to all the retail outlets. That’s the message that bombards us from everywhere for so many weeks. It’s no wonder that Christmas can be so overwhelming and stressful. Continue reading

Self-Defense and Personal Safety

I don’t know about you, but I have some issues about people being in my personal space. Like for instance, if someone I don’t know stands too close or hovers around me trying to read over my shoulder I feel uncomfortable. If I get on an elevator alone and a man gets on I am instantly on guard. When I walk down the street I make direct eye contact with everyone I pass to discourage any would-be attacker. I feel like I need to put an invisible protection shield on before I leave my house  as a barrier between me and any potential danger. I think this hyper-vigilance on my part all stems from years of people not respecting boundaries and breaking my trust. As a child I felt like I didn’t have a voice and had to tolerate things that made me very uncomfortable. As a single mother I felt responsible for my safety as well as that of my children.  As a PSW I was trained to assess every situation and client I came into contact with. As a woman in the workplace I have been sexually harassed by clients, coworkers, and men who were in positions of power.  As a result of many life experiences, I recognize red flags very quickly and deal with problematic people in a diligent and direct manner.   I don’t like those who don’t have respect for other peoples’ boundaries. I have a right to privacy and I’m no longer afraid to stand up for myself.

Years ago, as a young, divorced mother I took a self-defense course to learn how to defend myself if I ever needed to.  I felt vulnerable and I was terrified of being attacked and not being able to protect myself. I was tired of feeling helpless and hopeless and I didn’t want to be ruled by fear anymore. So I decided to do something constructive about it.  I’m the type of person who believes that there is a solution to every problem and I won’t give up until I find out what that is. Learning how to protect and defend myself gave me a newfound sense of confidence and pride. I learned how to protect and defend me and my children. I also learned how to spot the dangers around your home and car. It was a wonderful feeling to know that if I used certain techniques I could effectively defend myself; in spite of my size and gender. I learned what areas are very vulnerable on an attacker and the best way to strike them. It was very reassuring to learn what precautions I needed to take in order to make our home a safer place to live. I put deadbolts on the doors and bars on the bedroom windows to prevent intruders from breaking into our ground floor apartment. I was taught to be aware of my surroundings at all times.

As females, we are taught from an early age to be nice and act like a lady, while boys are encouraged to be aggressive and assertive in protecting themselves and their loved ones. Well, that might sound ok in theory, but in reality it creates a learned helplessness in females. We are taught that nice girls don’t yell or use physical violence. That’s great if you have a personal bodyguard to protect you around the clock, but for most of us that’s just not reality. Most of us are alone at different times in our daily lives. Unless you intend to become a hermit, I highly recommend taking a self-defense course. It was one of the best things I have ever done for myself. I learned how to protect myself against a variety of scenarios. I learned to be assertive and walk with confidence so that I don’t look like an easy target. It gave me the ability to look for ways to safeguard myself and my property. I became educated in ways of improving safety for myself and my loved ones.

I am a very private person and my home is my sanctuary. No matter where I have lived, as long as it was safe, clean and comfortable I could relax and enjoy my life. I’ve always made sure that I took the necessary precautions to protect myself and my children.  I put deadbolts on my doors, I never let strangers into our apartment building and I never park next to a van. I am always aware of my surroundings and observe anyone in my vicinity. I look for any possible ways that could lead to a breach in home security or personal safety. I look for ways to prevent any possible intruders from getting into my home and car.  I don’t take risks or chances when it comes to my safety because I never want to end up on Cold Case Files.  I can’t help it, I’ve learned the hard way that what you see and what you get doesn’t always coincide. I’m also pursuing a degree in Criminal Psychology and Behaviour so my eyes have been opened up to some many new things. My mind is trained to observe and study people and if something sends up a red flag for me I pay close attention. Listening to your gut instinct is one of the smartest things you can do for yourself.

But what do you do when you live next to people who are annoying and nosy? What happens when your new neighbours are intrusive and don’t respect your right to privacy? How do you balance being civil while maintaining boundaries with these new strangers in your life? Why is it that some people think you should jump right into friendship with them just because you live on the same street or work at the same place? For me, trust is something that is earned. It is not something that I just hand over to anyone who comes into my life. I don`t care who the person is or what image they present to the public. It takes me a while to get to know and trust people. People who come on too strong or are overly friendly make my spidey senses tingle. People who invade my personal space without permission put me on high alert. People who have no respect for boundaries make me angry and suspicious. People who don`t use common sense and courtesy irritate me.

How would you feel if your neighbours went snooping through your garage on the day that you moved in to your new house? How would you react? What would you do?  How about the neighbour who stands outside your dining room window looking in while talking on the phone loudly? Would it make you angry if you had to keep the windows closed all the time to keep the cigarette smoke out? How would you feel if you had to keep your curtains closed all the time because your neighbour stares into your window while she smokes her cigarettes? How would you handle a neighbour who is insistent that if you let them into your yard he could clean up the branches to put in his wood chipper? Would you be happy or suspicious because he also wants to use his rototiller in your yard to make you a garden? How would you feel about someone who doesn`t listen when you tell them repeatedly that you don`t need any help. How many times do you have to refuse someone`s offers before they get the hint that they are being overbearing. What would you do if he or she was overly friendly and made a big fuss about wanting to get to know your dog that you adopted for protection and peace of mind? How would you feel if your last house had been broken into by a neighbour and now your new neighbours are trying to get familiar with your dog in spite of your continual protests of refusal? What if your neighbour started calling out to your new grandbaby by name, but they`d never been introduced. How would you like to live next to someone who is loud, drinks a lot and calls out compliments to your husband over the fence while he`s doing yard work. How would you feel about your neighbours calling out your name every single time you walked out the front door or into your back yard? How would you feel about your neighbour asking your guests nosy questions?  What would you do if you caught the flyer guy looking through your front door window and deliberately antagonizing your dog? What if his behaviour was so odd that you started watching him and soon realized that he was intentionally irritating all the dogs on the street? What would you do if you saw him looking through everyone`s windows and mailboxes. How would you react to him throwing garbage on your property? Would you tell the neighbours on the street about the things you have seen him doing week after week. Would you consider him harmless and dismiss him as a threat based on the fact that `he`s just an old man`. What if you noticed that sometimes he doesn`t even use his cane and that he can walk really fast when he thinks no one is watching him. Would you call his place of employment and report him or would you just ignore him. Would you call the police?

 

Be it ever so humble, there`s no place like home. Home sweet home! I love those sayings. That`s how I feel about every place I`ve lived in, whether it was the apartments or townhouses I have rented over the years or the house we currently own. I have always thought of my home as my sanctuary. I have lived in my current home for almost 9 years. However, we have had to constantly set and reinforce boundaries with some people since day one. I assumed that because our neighbours were older we would have no problems with them.  Wrong! Bad neighbours come in all ages and genders. I didn`t realize just how much of an impact others can have on our lives until certain people became more than just a bit of a nuisance. The results of negative behaviour by others quickly became quite obvious. I couldn`t help but notice how very dark and depressing my dining room started to feel because I had to always keep the windows and curtains closed for privacy. I spend large quantities of time in my dining room. That is where I do all of my writing and schoolwork from, on my laptop. At first it felt like my whole world was closing in on me. Then one day we decided to take back our lives by making some changes. First, we took out the dining room windows and built a solid wall in their place. We made a new entrance off of the back of the house by installing some new patio doors.  My husband then built a very tall privacy screen outside of our new patio doors off of the dining room. It is very tall and blocks their view into our house. It prevents them from standing in their driveway and looking in at us as we go about our daily lives. I also planted a hedge down the side of our front yard because I don’t appreciate the way they occasionally stand on my front lawn smoking cigarettes and talking loudly while I try to live my life inside. We had an alarm system installed and my husband has mounted motion detector lights all around the house that are very sensitive to any movement and are very bright. We’ve put a lock on the back gate and when next spring comes we are putting in new fences and more cedar trees to ensure our privacy.

It might seem like we have taken extreme measures to some people. Some people might even think we are overreacting or being paranoid. But to some people this will all make perfectly good sense. After all, what do any of us really know about the people who live around us? And what’s wrong with having a private sanctuary? When I am at home I don’t want nosy or bored neighbours dropping in for a cup of coffee or to waste time by being a gossip. I don’t want to feel obligated to drop whatever I am doing every time the neighbour comes over. If I’m reading a book on my front porch that’s not an open invitation to waltz over and just invade my space. If I`m in the middle of a project I don`t want to be interrupted by someone who is bored. Whether I`m upset about something, or grieving the recent loss of my aunt I don`t feel the need to explain to the neighbours why I am crying. If I can`t let my guard down at home and relax it`s going to lead to other problems. We don’t need or want their opinions or approval on anything we are working on in our yard. I don’t care to listen to their rambling stories that go on forever and don’t have any meaning in my life. I don’t want strangers calling out to my grandchildren and confusing them. If I don’t introduce you to someone in my life, it’s because I don’t know you well enough to trust you. Just because we are neighbours doesn`t make us friends. I don’t like people who try to slither their way into my life. I don’t trust people who rub me the wrong way. And I’ve learned to listen to my gut instincts with people. I’ve learned it’s better to err on the side of caution. Safety first! Always!
It’s crazy how much things can change when you get new neighbours. There have been other people in the one house and we never had any problems with anything or anyone before. There have been a couple of times that the one house has been sold and in 8 years we never had a problem with privacy or boundary issues with any previous neighbours that lived there. We rarely saw or heard the previous owners, but when we did we were civil. We waved hello and minded our own business. We never felt uncomfortable here before. We never felt like we were living under a microscope or that we were being stalked by the paparazzi; until they moved in. We’ve never had people openly watch us while we worked around the yard and call out to us over the fence with comments about our progress or efforts. The previous neighbours never tried to treat us like employees that came with the purchase of their home.  After a year of dealing with extremely rude and intrusive people we came to the conclusion that we had 2 choices. We could give up our space and hibernate or push back and reinforce our boundaries. We decided to take back our lives by making changes and not backing down. We are no longer friendly or civil with these people. We don’t speak to them and if they try to engage us in any way, we simply ignore them.

My home is my sanctuary and my family is my life. I refuse to compromise my principles or allow anyone to push me around and make me feel uncomfortable. I’ve worked too hard for everything I have to let someone else spoil it. We will continue to reinforce those boundaries for as long as it takes. Like I said earlier, there’s a solution to every problem and I will do whatever it takes to enjoy my life and home. I will never understand pushy people who think they can just run all over you. I will never understand people who don’t respect other people’s right to privacy, but I guess I don’t have to. I just have to do what I think is right to enjoy my life and take the steps needed to protect my family and safeguard my home. If that means my neighbours think I’m a bitch I can live with that! At least I`ll be able to sleep at night and enjoy my private sanctuary again.

Women and the Workplace: How far have we really come?

Women and the Workplace: How far have we really come?

Over 20 years ago, I decided to go back to school full-time to become a Certified Personal Support Worker. I had been working in the health care field as a Homemaker for Comcare Health Services and realized that I could make more money and become a more desirable employee if I upgraded my skills and education. I had read an ad in the local newspaper stating that the provincial government was offering a PSW course at St. Ann Adult Learning Centre here in Niagara Falls. There was a huge demand for healthcare workers in the area due to the large volume of ailing senior citizens who either wanted to stay in their homes or that needed to be placed into long-term care facilities. New nursing homes and retirement places were being built all over the province. The government was slashing Registered Nurses positions in favour of saving money by training personal support workers to perform a lot of the duties that a RN had previously been paid for. Under the direction and guidance of a registered nurse, a PSW could complete a lot of services at a fraction of the cost. A PSW could never replace all of the skills and knowledge that a RN had acquired, but they can do a lot of the care at a much lower wage. A lot of nurses resented losing their jobs, and many were forced to take jobs in the United States. There were many nurses who treated the influx of PSW’s with disdain and condescension. It made for a very stressful work environment for the first few batches of  PSWs that graduated and entered the workforce.

So, for a full school year, I dropped my kids off at school and then drove myself to St. Ann’s Adult Learning Centre to upgrade my education in order to provide a better life for my children and myself. After a full day at school I would pick my children up from school and then go to work in people’s homes until almost midnight. When I first signed up for the PSW course, there were no tuition fees so that was a huge incentive for me to make the sacrifices I would have to make in order to get my certificate and PSW pin. It was one of the hardest years of my life. It was a constant struggle to juggle all of my work, school and home duties, not to mention the time I missed out on with my children. But it was the light at the end of the tunnel that kept me going. I kept reminding myself that it was only a temporary situation and that when I was done I would earn a key that gave me the means to financially support my children.

I worked really hard to achieve my goals. Going back to school and improving myself gave me such confidence and pride in my skills. I took my studies very seriously! I’d finally been given the opportunity to improve myself and achieve some measure of security, knowing that I would be able to provide for my children. I would be able to give them the “little extras” in life that are so important to children. I would be able to buy them the latest fashions and send them off to school with pride. It gave me great satisfaction to know that I could afford to provide my daughter with dance lessons, and my son played soccer and baseball. As a single mother I was hyper-sensitive to the accepted stereotype of the label “single mother” and all the negative connotations it conjured up. I refused to accept that that was my lot in life. I refused to believe that just because I didn’t live with a man, somehow my value had decreased and I was destined for poverty and a life of slovenliness. I didn’t feel like I should into a party animal because I was now single again. It was very important to keep a routine and continuity in the lives of my children. I knew how painful and confusing divorce was when I was a child. I felt that it was paramount to spare them from as much anxiety and disruption as possible. I somehow instinctively knew that my actions would have a direct effect on my children and that I had the responsibility to be the best role model I could be. Now, I’m not tooting my horn…..I know I wasn’t the perfect parent. I know now of the mistakes I have made and wish I could have a do-over. But, I know that life doesn’t work that way so I try to make amends for my transgressions. I try to teach my children how to navigate through this ever changing world without losing hope.

I have always tried to set a good example for my children to follow. They watched me work really hard when I was a young mom in my twenties. Before I became a PSW, I wore many different hats in order to provide a happy childhood for my kids. I worked as an assistant superintendent at a low-income apartment and townhouse complex. I painted apartments on the third floor of buildings in July. The temperature would be in the nineties because the apartments are not air conditioned. I rode a lawn mower all day in the heat and sun, ripping my arms and legs on hedges. I helped my mother with the care of my elderly grandmother 3 times a week for eight years. My children were with me and watched their great grandmother deteriorate into someone they feared because of dementia. I learned a lot about end of life care by taking care of my maternal grandmother. Although, I wish I had been a PSW when I took care of her, because I would have known so much more and would have been able to give her better care. Again, I made my fair share of mistakes but my heart was in the right place and I truly did my best at the time with the knowledge and education I had.

So……when I decided to return to school to get my PSW certification, I knew that it wasn’t going to be an easy ride. I knew that it was going to take me out of my comfort zone. I knew it was going to be a big adjustment to my regularly scheduled routine. I knew my children would eventually start to complain about my absence, and I would feel guilty. I often cried on my way to work, having to pull myself together before I could carry out my duties. I ate meals in my car and dropped into bed at night physically exhausted and emotionally drained. Some nights I had school work to do before I would try to grab a few hours of sleep, just to do it all over again the next day. Five days a week, for 10 months. On the weekends I had a part-time job as a chambermaid at one of the local hotels on Clifton Hill. I was stretched to the limit, yet I did it because of my firm belief that once I completed my course I would be able to cut everything back to just one job. I would be making more money so I would be able to give up all the other jobs I had. However, life doesn’t always go the way you plan it. Sometimes reality and ideals are worlds apart.

In the beginning, my life as a PSW was everything I had hoped it would be. Because I was working through an agency doing home care for a wide variety of clientele, I was able to choose my availability. The flip side to having flexible hours meant that the pay was less. So because my children were still young and I wanted to be as involved in their life as I could be, I stayed in home care for many years. I knew that the PSWs who worked in nursing homes were making more money than those of us who worked in retirement homes or home care agencies. And when I first started working for an agency there was no medical benefits coverage. Still, I was thrilled that I could create my own schedule that would allow me to be with my children as much as possible. I knew that they would only be young once and I didn’t want to miss out on it. I wanted to go on school trips with them and spend as many holidays as I could with them. I wanted to give them the childhood I never had.

Many years passed, I went back to school and took classes to get certification in Palliative Care. I loved my job and I met some incredibly interesting people throughout the years. It was always sad to say goodbye to those that I had the honour of caring for, but I knew that it came with the territory so I learned to develop a professional attitude in order to protect myself from the inevitable heartache. The thing that I hadn’t prepared myself for was the eventual burnout and earnings that never increased. Getting a raise in pay didn’t happen often, and I never did find employment that provided medical benefits. In fact, I always found it quite ironic that the very field that I worked in didn’t guarantee a stable or secure job. Working in healthcare meant working your way up the ranks in many cases. Finding a full-time position in healthcare is like winning the lottery. You often had to start off trying to get a foot in the door by accepting a casual position. This meant that you were guaranteed zero hours, but had to accept any shift that came available at the last minute in order to establish a reputation of someone who really proved their worth and dependability to the agency. Word spreads quickly when you are a good worker, which means it doesn’t take too long to move up into regularly scheduled shifts. I eventually found a couple of these much sought after jobs. There was the time I worked private duty, one-on-one at Hotel Dieu Hospital through an agency. I thought I had hit the jackpot. My main duties consisted of observing and charting a psychiatric patient because they were either flight risks or high-maintenance. Hospital staff were always extremely busy and did not have the time to complete their regularly scheduled tasks and deal with a difficult or non-compliant patient. If the patient did become aggressive I had the option to ring for security or ask the Charge Nurse if they chemically restrain them for everyone’s protection. The other kind of patient I cared for was someone who was in isolation to prevent the spread of certain illnesses that were fatal for some people. The less amount of people you have going into isolation rooms greatly reduces the spread among staff and other patients. When caring for these patients, I had to wear a gown, mask, gloves and shoe covers. I had to wear this protective gear for most of my 12 hour shift. The only time I removed these items was to leave the room for my breaks, to go to the washroom, or to report something to the charge nurse. It was hot, sweaty and a bit claustrophobic. But, they were 12 hour shifts. If I worked 3 shifts a week I earned a really nice living for me and my kids. There were also the patients that I escorted to the Nephrology Department for their dialysis treatments. It was a fascinating, rewarding career for me. I loved every single minute of it, even the tense moments. I learned so much and felt so proud of my accomplishments. I even went to Burlington for more training and was promoted to a position in the office, as an Office -Assistant and Scheduler.  But then, one day the agency announced that they were closing their office in St. Catharines. They offered me a full-time position in the Burlington office but I found the commute too stressful and time-consuming, cutting deeply into my time with my children.

One of my last jobs working in healthcare was in a long-term care facility as a Nurse Unit Clerk. The stress and tension in that position was beginning to effect my health in a very dire way. I started out part-time, under the direction of a very experienced, knowledgeable, strong woman who took a liking to me and took me under her wing. She knew the union book inside and out. She knew the rules and regulations backwards and forwards. She guided me through the office politics and situations that some employees created. Unfortunately, after being with the company for over 5 years she decided to terminate her employment. I was devastated, but prepared to just keep on doing my job to the best of my ability. At this point I had only been employed for a few months, so when they offered me a full-time position, I accepted with trepidation. Once word spread that my boss had resigned it became a free-for-all, with employees calling in sick at the last minute in large numbers. We were short-staffed all the time and I was getting the brunt of everyone’s frustrations. I understood how bad the working conditions had become but I was powerless to make changes. I certainly couldn’t force staff to come into work. I resented the implication that I was somehow responsible for the lack of staff on the floors. I went to management and reported what was going on now that my boss had left. I was told that I had to be more firm with the staff. However, the staff was protected by a union that filed grievances on a constant basis. So I felt like I was stuck in the middle with no one looking out for my best interests. I hated to quit because that would make me feel like a failure, but my health is more important to me than a paycheque. The older I get the more I realize I can’t take my health for granted anymore. And I was learning the hard way that stress can have dire effects on our health.

Fast forward a few years. My daughter now works in healthcare, she is a PSW and a Dietary Aide, just like her mom. But things have changed a lot in the field now. Retirement homes are now accepting heavy-care patients, but wages have stayed really low. Sometimes as low as minimum wage. Really? Please tell me where the incentive is to go to college, pay tuition fees and perhaps come out of school with a debt that needs to be repaid, only to make minimum wage? My daughter gets paid the same hourly wage that I was earning when I left the field 5 years ago. I made the same wage for the last 5 years I was working in healthcare. How is this acceptable in the year 2015? Why are women still making much lower wages than men? Why do you think the nursing field mostly comprises of women? Do you think men would accept such harsh working conditions at such low rates? The main alternatives for women in the workplace in the Niagara Region seems to be in Tourism, Housekeeping, or Retail. And we all know that those are not prestigious jobs that someone could comfortably raise a family on. When will hard-working women get the respect and compensation that they truly deserve? I’ve been listening and observing the women’s movement since the seventies. In my opinion, based on my own career experiences, things still haven’t changed enough to improve the lives of women and their children. The majority of the available occupations are filled by single mothers who struggle just to make ends meet.

I’ve also noticed that working conditions for women in healthcare have declined greatly in the last 10 years. The workload keeps getting heavier, while staff cuts are still happening and wages are frozen and the corporations who run health care facilities are making huge profits. The ones who spend their days caring for our sick or elderly family members are not regarded with much admiration or appreciation. Instead, I’ve seen the decline slide down to the level of regarding a PSW to be as lowly as a domestic help was considered as back in the day. I wonder what kind of toll this must take on a person after a certain amount of time passes and nothing seems to improve. Perhaps this is the reason for such a high turnover in the healthcare field. Or maybe it’s the never-ending search for the promise of a better job, only to be disappointed  time and time again. If my daughter is making the same hourly rate I was making 10 years ago, does that mean her daughter faces the same bleak future? I must say, that’s a very depressing thought to contemplate.

The glass ceiling still exists. I know because I’ve bumped it on many occasions in my career life. So how do we make things better for women in the workplace now and in the future? Who is going to make this a priority in our government? Who will speak out on behalf of women and their lives in the workplace, and the huge contribution that they make to society? I don’t know the answers to these questions, but I believe if we talk about it more and bring it to the attention of our community and political leaders, hopefully someone will listen before it becomes a bigger problem than it already is.   Women need to be recognized and compensated justly for their immense commitment to the needs of others. Women need to be able to take pride in their chosen careers that impact the lives of so many.

I’d like to end this by saying that if women didn’t go to work tomorrow, the world around here would come to a standstill. Women are the fabric that unite our community and look out for one another. Without women in the workplace, everything would come to a halt. I dare you to find men to fill all the positions currently being done by women. It’ll never happen. Not at the current rate of pay and substandard working conditions. I can almost guarantee it.

Written by Marilyn White

Motherhood

Mother’s Day has got me thinking about being a mother and the meaning of motherhood. What it means to me to be a mother. What it means to me.

My daughter, my firstborn, just celebrated her 30th birthday. Thirty years? Thirty YEARS! Wow, how can that be? One minute I was 15 and now I’m almost 50. One minute I was a 5 year old kid and now I’m a grandmother! What? That can’t be true, I’ve only just begun! Sometimes it feels like I’ve just completed a 30 year tour with the military. That’s not to minimize the importance and sacrifices of the military in any way; it’s just that sometimes I feel like I’ve just crawled out of the trenches after 30 years to find myself broken and beat up. I have the scars of raising children on my own. My heart has been broken, and my body is battered from years of working really hard. But, I wouldn’t trade those years for anything. The life experience I gained from raising two human beings is incomparable to anything else I’ve done.
Motherhood taught me way more than any career I’ve ever worked at. Being a mother taught me to be patient, kind and loving. I learned how to negotiate issues into a peaceful resolve. I learned to multi-task before it became a catchphrase for employers to overwork their employees. I learned to prioritize my time to achieve optimal results. I learned how to be flexible and change my plans without getting too upset. I was amazed to watch these little people with their own unique personalities learn about the world around them. They showed me how to take delight in the simple things in life. I quickly realized the greatest gift I could give my children was my time. As much as they loved presents and being surprised, our best times were spent at the beach or watching movies together. We share an unbreakable bond because I invested the time needed to help them realize their potential and encouraged them to do magical things with their lives. I hope that I have given them the right tools to deal with life when it gets complicated. I hope I have shown them how to weather the inevitable storms that come their way. I hope they remember their childhood fondly and forgive me for mistakes I’ve made along the way. I hope one day they will look back at all the events I took them to and realize that I tried to expose them to many different cultures in order to expand their minds.

My heart goes out to all the people who don’t have their mother with them anymore. My favourite aunt died in March. I spent the last few weeks of her life at her bedside. She was like a mother to me, and the loss I feel is deep. She was my confidante, I could tell her anything and she always listened with understanding and compassion. She never judged me or ever said a harsh word. Instead, she would listen intently to what I said, never interrupting, always focusing on what I was trying to tell her. Only after I was completely finished would she offer her opinion and advice. She never came down on me or made me feel bad about myself. We would talk it through and I would leave with a hug and a feeling of peace in my heart. She was the type of person who made you feel better about yourself and gave you hope for the future. I wish I could call her and talk about how great this weather is. I wish she was here to enjoy the warmth and sunshine.

I am so thankful that I have two wonderful adult kids who call me on a regular basis. I’m thankful that I gave as much time to my kids as I did when they were younger. They are still an integral part of my life. This weekend I have been invited to a brunch by my son-in-law. It feels wonderful to be appreciated for the things I do. My grandbabies give my life new meaning and my house comes to life when it is filled with their laughter and innocence.mother-daughter-dancing-voice-of-finland-background I am able to release my inner child when my grandbabies come over for a visit. We go upstairs and put a CD on and dance and sing along to the music. They are especially fond of Fleetwood Mac and Stevie Nicks music. We dress up in costumes, get out our tambourines and rock out together. I hope I leave them with fond memories of our time spent together.

Lastly, I’d like to wish my own mother a very Happy Mother’s Day. We have always had a complicated relationship and we don’t always agree on everything, but she is still my mother and I only want her to be happy in life. I hope she realizes before it’s too late that it’s okay that we disagree on many things. It’s taken me a long time and years of therapy to realize that it’s okay that we are different from each other. It doesn’t make me a bad person because we have different beliefs. It doesn’t mean I love her any less. It just means that we are all unique individuals and should accept each other. I will always be thankful for the time and energy she put into raising us. I will always cherish my memories of the good times spent together. I will forever be grateful that my mother kept a clean house, and took great pride in our appearance. I’m thankful that she taught me how to read at an early age and always had music playing in the house. I’m happy she taught me how to cook and clean and be independent. I’m glad she was a good grandmother to my children and has always been generous with them. Things might not be perfect, but they are okay. Life is beautiful!