Tag Archives: Carli

Question of the Month: How do you embrace a new way of thinking?


It’s been a tough year. That seems to be universally agreed upon if my Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram feed can be relied upon.

Clearly, we can point to so many specific things worldwide that made 2016 tough, but for me personally it was a bit more intangible than that. I could never quite place my finger on what was wrong, I just couldn’t find a way to feel right. And believe me, I tried. I signed up for the gym classes and faithfully went for awhile. I ate right, faithfully for awhile. I took me time, set goals for myself, worked hard and played hard. But mentally, I don’t think my head was ever in the game.

So, leading up to 2017 I found myself taking profound sighs of relief that the year was almost over and a new start could begin. I had this belief that my mindset would magically change and I would be so much better equipped to follow through with my plans and goals. And then I read a novel that made me shake my head. And immediately after I read two quotes on Pinterest that made me shake it again.

Why do we put so much pressure on ourselves to change? To be something better, lose weight, figure our shit out… immediately. Here’s my advice:

I’ve been tasked to answer the question ‘How do you embrace a new way of thinking?’ and to me that seems to be the best answer. Let it go. Let go of the immense pressure you put on yourself, your year and your future. Let go of the guilt, the weight, the disappointment. Let go of the idea that everything must be just so.

Because it will, eventually. It just may not be the way you originally thought. Expect change. Expect that things won’t go the way you planned. Expect that you will still find a reason to live, laugh, love and embrace life- even with it’s imperfections. Expect yourself to be, and allow yourself to be- who you want to be in that moment. I’ll leave you with this thought as it’s had a profound impact on me when I believe I needed it most this New Year.

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.

Confessions of an Imperfect Woman

I have a confession to make….
I am not super woman.
Surprised me too!
I am a busy, working woman and mother. Sometimes a stressed out, tired out, angry woman. But it’s often that I bring it on myself. I have this insane idea that I can do it all, or at least, should attempt to on a daily basis. (Maybe it’s all the elaborate, beautiful fun idea’s to do with your kids that you see on Pinterest….maybe it’s the other mom friends of mine who constantly post about what they are up to with their families….seriously, I get exhausted reading it!) I just know I struggle daily with a nagging guilt to do more, to be more in control of my home (I’m not a nice person when it’s not up to my standards) to be a better parent and to be a carefree, “who cares if the house looks like a tornado hit it” kinda wife.
Women….hear me roar!! Is there anyone else that feels like banging their head on the counter watching your husband or kids empty the dishwasher? Anyone else standing there biting their tongue because they are putting everything in all the wrong places, or not in the neat, lined up way that you do it?
Super woman to the rescue….I’ll just do it myself, thanks.
Do I really wonder why I’m tired, cranky and bordering on setting the house on fire some days? Don’t get me wrong, my soon to be husband typically does the cooking, which is a huge help and much appreciated by all, but I think I’ve now trained him not to help around the house because my annoyed little expressions scare him off.
So by the time I get home from work, clean up what I can, get some laundry done etc. I’m exhausted and really just want to sit down with a glass of wine and zone out. That’s usually about the time my son asks to play a card game, or have me watch him play some video game.
NO. NO …no…. please!!!!
I’m writing this because I’ve recently come to a realization. Again.
Years ago, I wrote my son a poem apologizing to him for not doing enough, for him. I get so caught up in the day to day grind, my incessant need to have a perfectly clean house and my own desire to shut down, that this poor kid usually ends up being the last on my to-do list.
I need to realize that when it comes down to it, I won’t look back regretting that my dishes weren’t done on Monday, June 1, 2013. I won’t look back wishing I had cleaned the garage out on that particular weekend. I won’t regret leaving the cups and glasses the way they were stacked. But I will regret not spending the quality time with my family that they deserve. I will regret not taking an hour out of my evening to ensure my son feels wanted, secure…loved.
I need to learn to relax. I need to learn that it’s okay that I’m not super woman.
I’d like to share the poem I wrote my son years ago, and though he’s grown, and his interests have changed, I realized that his needs haven’t. He still needs me. My attention. My love. The dishes- can wait.
Hope you enjoy, and this inspires you to play today:
You say to me,
Mommy, let’s play’
And I say baby,
not today.
Mommy’s tired, mommy’s busy,
I have so many things to….

And then that little voice,
Your little voice
Reminds me that I could be,
So much more…
For you.

I need your reminders,
That your just..so little.
And that you need me.
My imagination, my strength,
My willingness,
To be your everything.
I want to be that.
I want to join you,
In mad scientist adventures,
And lego buildoffs,
In blanket forts, and coloring creations.

I miss your energy,
that I was once instilled with.
And I cry.

Because I fear you deserve,
so much better,
than I have given.

You, The master of your universe,
And the center of my world..
Who has somehow been put on the plateau
of things to do today.

You are joyous and amazing,
Loving and generous
And I pray
I don’t somehow bury those parts of you
with my selfishness and lack of trying.

And so I promise myself,
to give to you,
My laughter and smiles,
My silliness and Hope
My love for today and every tomorrow.

I had a feeling…

I’m getting married. This makes me smile. It’s a smile filled with contentment, excitement and questions about our future and where it will lead us. I smile, because I’m marrying the one and only person I should be.

Unlike most of my friends or women I know, I never daydreamed about having a wedding. Sure, I forced my Barbie’s to wear a big elaborate wedding gown and awkwardly kiss her groom in front of my other dolls, but that was her life…not mine.

It surprised people. Honestly shocked everyone that I didn’t have some big ‘vision’ for my big day….and in fact was fighting against even having a wedding. (I had perfectly good visions of hitting up the local JOP, and popping a bottle of champagne on a beach later that night.) I literally had to be talked into it by my fiancé, mother and best friend. My fiancé felt it was important to share this day with family and friends- not to mention that it was ‘Our Turn’. My mother- well… I’m an only daughter-Nuff said. My best friend….she wanted to be my Maid of Honor damn it!
Here’s where I’ll get honest and admit to the main reason I didn’t want to have a big wedding.
It’s because I knewmyself too well.
I cannot do something half assed. I plan, plan, plan, obsess, obsess, obsess. I have plans for my plans. I have lists, boards, mockups and itineraries. I have control issues, passive-aggressive issues, and a never ending need on top of this to still try to please everyone. I’m also incredibly sensitive.
All in all this makes for a disaster in the making. Oh the wedding would be amazing….however there would be some downed soldiers along the way. This I knew.
So, I fought having the big wedding. I gave my long list of rebuttals and arguments. But… there was also that part of me that wanted it too! I wanted to share my excitement with everyone. I wanted to see my groom’s face at the end of the aisle. I wanted to have my son walk me down that isle.
So….I’m having a wedding.
I’ll be honest, once I started allowing myself to have a vision, things just fell into place. Some things have been surprisingly easy, some not so much.
Everyone tells me that it’ll all be worth it, and that on the day of I will be so wrapped up in everything that is going on I won’t even notice all those anal details I’ve been obsessing about. (Snort….we’ll see about that!)  Everyone also keeps telling me to relax and enjoy this process.  I’ll get back to you when I finally start to allow that to happen.
P.S. I’m going to toast that moment with a bottle of champagne.

Photo Credit: “Real Wedding Album: Barbie & Ken

The Opening of My Eyes

I never really knew what working in a non-profit organization would be like until several months after I started working for the YWCA. I never really knew or thought about what it would be like to be homeless and desperate, nor did I think about whether working with the homeless and desperate was something I could handle. You see, the entire idea had just simply never crossed my mind. In fact, I’d never even heard of the YWCA until after my mother had begun her journey with them, and even then, I didn’t understand what they were truly about until my first few shifts at the front desk as a volunteer. 
My oh my that was quite the eye opener in so many ways.
I think I was a little shell shocked my first couple of shifts. There is so much being thrown at you: learning to answer the phones and transfer calls, trying to get staff names straight, figuring out the massive photocopier and hanging file system, and figuring out who to go to with each new issue that arose.
There was the dawning understanding that it is O.K. to look our clients in the eye, and that in fact, they need that. The realization that it was my role to make them feel as welcomed as if they were coming to stay in a grand resort — that they had come to a safe place.
It didn’t take me too long to get into the swing of things and I was lucky enough to be offered a position as the receptionist for the front desk within a few months of volunteering. I soon began taking on several different roles and responsibilities, but I think that no matter what I was doing, no matter whether I was working up in our communications department, working with our volunteers, working in administration,  I’ve always known that I’m actually working for HER. That we, as an organization are FIGHTING for THEM.
I’ve learned many things over the years. While I’ve personally experienced the shame and pain of feeling judged and looked down upon, I’ve realized that it hurts me more seeing it happen to those around me. It hurts to see massive funding cuts that hinder these women and families even more, and to see the tears as a woman cries over the frustration of a landlord who sneakily refuses to rent to her because she is on O.W. 
Our clients come from all walks of life. Some of them are angry. Some of them have given up and tried again so many times that it is stunning. Some of them are here for a stopgap, some of them think of us as family. Some of them are so incredibly grateful and humble that it’s painful to see. Seeing a woman ask only for some new underwear and socks for Christmas, is painful. Is that all she really feels she can ask for?
I’ve often been asked why I work where I do, or how I can handle working where I do. The answer is not simple. We are short-staffed, and most staff members here have found themselves working in different areas, many at the same time. Sometimes, you find yourself so emotionally drained you scare yourself. Sometimes you find yourself angry with not just the system, but even some of those clients that you so desperately want to see doing well.
There’s the frustration of having the same conversation over and over.  For example: having to explain to one of our high school co-op student placements (who was incredibly offended by the fact that one of our clients could “afford” a cell phone and had just gotten her nails done) that not everyone was raised in a stable family, and therefore stability to her was not an apartment (because she more than likely had never experienced that kind of stability).  Stability to her, was in the things that made her feel safe and good about herself, however small they were. I explained that it is our role to teach her about finding another kind of stability.  That conversation was frustrating.
Speaking of stability, I’ve also learned what it is like to work for a non-profit. There is little true stability to speak of. It is a constant battle to ensure our doors are open. Sometimes it feels like you win one battle, only to realize you have another much larger one looming ahead. These kind of organizations are basically on a see-saw — tipping one way and then the other often so quickly you’re not sure if you’re going to stay safely seated.
But in all honesty, it’s the little things that negate all of those issues. It’s knowing that I work for an organization that would FIGHT for me, and that understands that everyone has problems at some point or another. It’s seeing the look of gratitude someone gives when receiving some new socks and underwear. It’s hearing the WHOOOOPPP!! through our hallways when one of our clients has received good news. It’s unscheduled tea and tete-a tete breaks to unwind, decompress, and find a moment to laugh. It’s the familiarity, the family, and the sense of home that you can feel within these walls. It’s the encouragement given and received, the hugs given and received, and the solidarity of a group of people hoping and working hard to see a future that doesn’t involve women showing up at our doors in tears because they have nowhere else to go.
Yes, I could make more money elsewhere. Yes, I could have a clearer mind when I get home. But, I wouldn’t have a sense of doing something worthwhile. I wouldn’t have a chance to give back. I wouldn’t have let go of my shame and embarrassment from my earlier years, because through this job, I have learned that there is nothing to be shamed or embarrassed about when you are asking for a little help. 

Photo credit: helgabj / Foter.com / CC BY

Journalism Ethics – How Have We Not Learned?

In light of the most recent shooting tragedy in Colorado, I just have to ask…How have we not learned?

I love writing. I have for as long as I can remember. I loved it so much, that when it came time to choose where I saw myself career wise, I decided on Journalism. My program was challenging, frustrating and yet rewarding…. it was until the Columbine High School Massacre in April of 1999.

I was horrified at the injustice and insanity of such actions, but I became increasingly more appalled with the aftermath of this event. I was disgusted and shocked by the over sensationalism and almost gleeful scrambling of the reporters and news writers to get the next big story.  In class we were reading hundreds of articles on the event.  I finally drew the line after reading an article by a journalist who had gone undercover and detailed how easy it was for her to buy a gun. I could not understand why she felt the need to do so, and then publish this article in a newspaper that could be bought by a three year old. What are we teaching our children?

I refused to read any more. When my professor challenged me on this, and made it clear that if I ever wanted a career in journalism I could expect to be told what to write and when to write it- regardless of whether I felt it was wrong to report on, I realized that I personally could not be a part of it. I dropped out, but I’ll never forget telling my teacher to mark my words…that these shootings and massacres would only ever get worse because of the media frenzies and their need to fill their papers and broadcasts.

So why are we still so shocked each and every time this happens? Believe me, I understand the need to report on what has happened, and to share the stories of those lost and affected, but doing a news broadcast shadowing some guy in a gun store to prove how easy it is to buy any type of gun you feel like is just total carelessness and disregard for the safety of a community. We are only teaching and provoking someone to do bigger and better the next time.

You can’t tell me there isn’t other news happening. There are so many stories that can be heard. Stories that can inspire, that can raise awareness… that can bring a community together in causes other than grief. Need a story? Do a daily interview with people living on the street, the woman purchasing her groceries with food stamps or at the local community care. Highlight the organizations, like the YWCA Niagara Region, that need donations, or could use the benefit of having their information known so those that need help know where to go. Inform the community that there are good people out there who are hard on their luck. Inspire the community to come together to do something about the poverty and homelessness issues that are not just affecting their community, but those all across our own country and others. Shed light on the issues we can change….enough with the highlights, nitty gritty details and sensationalizing of events that clearly is what these maniacs crave.


What Does a Homeless Person Look Like?

When I was around seven, I thought I knew what being homeless looked like. I knew it was the very smelly and very dirty “bum” I saw almost daily, poking through the garbage by my corner store, looking for discarded food. He frightened me a little, but on the days I stayed at school for lunch, I would often leave the sandwich my parents had packed me right on top of the garbage bin for him to find because I thought it was gross to eat someone’s half eaten food.

I knew what poor people looked like too. I used to beg my mom to adopt one of the babies I saw on the World Vision commercials while watching my Saturday morning cartoons. I would cry over these babies who had no water, wore dirty clothing, and had flies swarming all over them. If their mommies  couldn’t  take care of them better, my mom could!

How little I knew…

A few weeks ago, my ten-year-old son was preparing for his grade five class speech. He chose to write his on “Poverty in the Niagara Region”, and I, (who was busily cracking my knuckles preparing to hunker down with him and share my “expertise”) was very surprised when he handed me his finished copy. I was  proud of his insightfulness and resourcefulness in finding statistics that he could use. The only problem was that his idea of homelessness and poverty were exactly what I described above. It took me until I was close to 30 to understand that there are so many faces to these issues, so now, how do I explain them to a ten-year-old?

He is your classmate whose parents always send him to school with a fantastic lunch, but sometimes…he doesn’t get dinner because the family grocery budget doesn’t stretch that far. She is the 40-year old woman who has worked hard all her life, but lost her job, then lost her car, and lost her home. He is the new immigrant fleeing his country. She is the young girl who ran away from home to escape unimaginable things—but is the prettiest, bubbliest teenager you’d ever meet. She is your own mom dear son….who raised YOU in poverty.

Yes that’s right.

I’ll never forget the day I was told I was considered “living in poverty”. It was the first year I had been with the YWCA Niagara Region and I was attending my first annual general meeting.  Commissioner Brian Hutchings had been invited to speak, and he chose to speak on something that was very important and personal to him. The report, A Legacy of Poverty? Addressing Cycles of Poverty and the Impact on Child Health in Niagara Region had just been prepared for the Region and Brian was speaking not only about those statistics, but about his personal upbringing in poverty.  I was shocked as he read through this report, and described the struggles his mother went through. I was shocked and quickly beginning to feel like I had a spotlight on me in that room. I could feel my cheeks going bright red as it dawned on me that he was describing my own situation to a “T”. He was describing the way I was raising my son.

Weird… I didn’t feel poor. Sure I struggled at times…  I knew I dreamed of going into the grocery store and just getting whatever the hell I wanted with no regard to the total. I knew that instead of getting in the car on freezing cold blizzard-like days, JJ and I trudged to the bus stop and I spent the next hour trying to get him to school and me to work. I knew that school “pizza days” rarely happened for JJ, and that my shoe nut status had been downgraded quite considerably. But I wasn’t poor! My child wasn’t starving in Africa, and I sure as hell wasn’t eating out of the garbage can!

Well folks, in the eyes of this Region, I was. I was considered “the working poor”. Catchy little title isn’t it?

This made me really begin to reconsider my ideas of poor and homeless I began to realize just how many people are but a few steps from being considered working poor, or finding themselves standing in line at the local food bank, or even worse…homeless. Sometimes I still struggle with some of the faces I see in our shelter. She’s homeless? Guaranteed not a soul or stranger would know or guess that!

The point is, she is your neighbor, your co-worker, your mother, your daughter. He is the man in line at the Timmies. He is the man shopping for toys for his children at Community Care. She is the woman struggling with addictions, the teenager abandoned by her family, or the child wishing he could save part of his lunch for dinner.

There is no “face” to homelessness and poverty. There is just the need to open our eyes.