Tag Archives: Women’s Issues

Closing the Gender Gap

NIAGARA VOICES: Gender gap must close in the workplace

This article, written by Laura Ip first appeared in the St. Catharines Standard on Friday, March 17, 2017.

As a vocal feminist in Niagara, one of the things I hear repeatedly is that women need to do more to help other women; women need to stop saying and doing awful things to each other.

Frankly, whilst I consider this to be one of the less troublesome things in the quest for equality, I do agree that it is a problem. Again, one of the smaller ones, but a problem nevertheless.

When I began my career, I immediately found that women a generation ahead of me were difficult to collaborate with, especially if they were suspicious of my ambition. I have never gone into a job thinking that I would or even could take the job of someone who was my manager or who might otherwise be a mentor to me, but this suspicion persisted. Too often, I heard friends and colleagues say, “She’s threatened by you.”

As I have continued in the career world, even with the turns my own career has taken, I am now hearing women a generation behind me say similar things. They talk about women who are further into their careers or who are in leadership positions not wanting to help them. I know how frustrating this can be and how isolating it can feel, so I have made a commitment to myself and to women around me to take women with me.

I have a colleague who, through her position at YWCA Niagara Region, has just taken her first career-related job. My job and hers overlap quite considerably and she is eager to learn not just about all that we do at the YW, but also about the communications and fundraising roles. I take her to meetings, I encourage her to bounce ideas around with me and I try to introduce her to other community members who might be of assistance to her when her contract with us is up. She likely could do my job, but I don’t see her as a threat.

There is another young woman who I have met through community projects that I work on who has an interest in getting involved in politics. Though I never won an election, I learned a lot during three campaigns, particularly as the only woman running in a ward twice. She and I discuss what she might encounter and how to deal with it, as well as various municipal issues and what she might consider doing once she starts to campaign.

In keeping with the Be Bold for Change theme of International Women’s Day, I will continue to ensure that I do what I can to take other women with me.

What will you do to take other women with you?

And, men, this isn’t just for the women to do. You can help as well. What will you do to ensure that women are being seen and heard and have opportunities to participate the way their male counterparts are participating?

You might consider taking a junior woman to a sales meeting and not tasking her with taking notes. When you see an all-male panel for an event, suggest the organizers add a woman you know has the expertise. If a female colleague is speaking in a meeting and someone interrupts her, say, “I’d really like to hear more about what Sarah was saying.”

These are easy things all of us can do to close the gender gap in our workplaces and the wider community. It’s easy to bring women with us.

IWD Q & A

I am very lucky to have so many strong, amazing and empowering female friends. We have had many discussions about how we don’t really feel affected by gender inequality because we grew up feeling equal to men and we have always been very independent. I have one amazing friend, Kelsey, who ended up becoming a tool and die maker, and is one of the only women not in an administrative role at the company she works for. She’s been featured in newspapers and magazines about her success in the field, and is a role model for other women to start a career in the trades. Our friend group always jokes about her success and badassness (that’s a word), and her ability to do, well, anything. She had graduated 2 different programs with honours and awards by the time most of us had graduated university. When we were talking about International Women’s Day/Month at the last Blogger’s Meeting, I immediately knew I wanted to interview her about her journey in the tool and dye field.
Amazingly, she had been asked to instantly fly down to South Carolina to do some work at another factory. She was working non-stop down there and still found the time to answer these questions for me, so thank you!

D: So what the heck do you do for a living?

K: I am a red seal certified tool and die maker, I work for a company that builds the dies for many different companies such as Ford, GM, BMW, Mercedes etc. I work as a lead hand delegating jobs, fixing issues with the dies, making sure we meet the customers’ timelines, and provide a die that will make a dimensionally and cosmetically correct car part. My company often builds dies that produce more complicated parts and the ones consumers actually see, such as the body side, tailgate, and doors. Tool and die is a hard trade to describe to people, but there’s my attempt explaining it in one sentence.

Abandoned Conveyor Belt by darkday

 

D: Well you did a pretty good job at explaining it, in my opinion. Did you always want to be a tool and die maker, or what did you want to be when you grew up, as a child?

K: I remember as a child saying I wanted to be a veterinarian, often a popular choice with kids who like cats and dogs but I never obsessed over a certain career.

D: So what did you do after high school?

K: In high school I used the co-op placement to work at a bakery, and that experience helped me decide to go to George Brown College for Baking and Pastries Arts. I remember in grade 11, really having no idea what I wanted to do but knowing university wasn’t right for me, so I picked baking as a career path.

D: [Sidenote: Kelsey then became the friend we would force to make cakes for us when we had a party or holiday coming up.] So what made you want to change careers?

K: I found the culinary trade relies heavily on your passion for the work, and often the desire to open your own business. I enjoyed baking but you work long days, often really early mornings, and you have to work holidays. I never really got a chance to enjoy my time off, or get time off to begin with. I knew I would never open my own bakery and I felt the job would never allow me to be financially independent. All the job postings I was seeing for bakers were often lower paying with no benefits. I knew that wasn’t what I wanted.

D: Okay, so you decided you wanted to do something different. What made you think of a tool and die worker?

K: I decided I didn’t want a career as a pastry chef, but I also didn’t know what I should do instead. My father works in the trades as an insulator and said he thought I would make a good millwright. That made me start looking into millwrights and possible schooling options. I discovered the Centre for Skilled Trades and Development in Burlington. They offered a Millwright/Tool and Die Pre-Apprenticeship Program affiliated with a company that would hire you depending on how the training goes. The program was also only 6 months, which was great because I wouldn’t have to take a long break from working full time. Based on the schooling, I decided I would become a tool and die maker (not a millwright) and was hired as an apprentice. I continued my training for 3 more years by going to Sheridan College one day a week while continuing to work. It was great because I wasn’t racking up any student debt (my tuition was only $400 a year) and received government grants from companies supporting the skilled trades.

D: What was your very first day on the job like?

K: The first day was extremely over whelming! No amount of classroom training can prepare you for, what looks like, such a chaotic environment. A production plant is fast paced with many moving elements. I could feel that eyes were on me. To make things worse, I didn’t have a proper work uniform yet so I felt really self-conscious walking around in my jeans since they are more form fitting than regular uniform pants.

D: Were you scared at all to work in a mostly male-dominated industry?

K: I feel like scared is the wrong term. I think I was just as nervous as anyone would be starting a new job, regardless of gender. I had no idea if and how I would be accepted. I honestly believe the men I worked with were just as nervous and worried that they might say something wrong or inappropriate to me. For the first couple months, I don’t think I had a genuine conversation or joked around with any of my coworkers. The conversation was often super formal or just filler talk about the job. It definitely became easier to bond with my coworkers when I got a new job at a different company that had more employees closer to my age.

It sometimes feels like high school, except I somehow ended up in the boys’ locker room.

D: What are you most proud of during your time in the tool and die industry?

K: My current role as a lead hand has come with a lot of responsibility, stress, and a strong feeling of pride. I am one of very few female tool and die makers and it’s even rarer for one to take on a supervisor type position. It is the most stressful and challenging job I have ever had, and that just proves to me what a smart decision I made with this career path.

D: What are some funny or crazy stories that you can share with us?

K: I have been in a fair share of strange, awkward, and funny situations at work; most times it becomes a good story to tell my friends and sometimes it’s something that really pisses me off. I can share that the men’s washroom is covered with graffiti and inappropriate writing on the walls. When a co-worker told me about that I was so confused because they were all working adults, I just didn’t get it. There was also a time when a mystery person was drawing penises all over the factory, and it got so bad that management had to get involved and start checking security cameras. It was so embarrassingly unprofessional and they never figured out who it was.

I remember at the first place I worked, there was this one line worker that wouldn’t stop asking me out. The first time he asked me, I politely said “no sorry, I have a boyfriend.” But he would still always ask to take me out to dinner! I would walk a different way around the shop to avoid him because it was always such an uncomfortable conversation. Eventually he quit or was fired, so I didn’t have to worry about that anymore. Now, if anyone asks me out I just immediately shut it down. I have worked at my current company for so long everyone knows me and that I’m married and it’s not a situation I face anymore.

Boys Locker Room by Mari Gildea

Other than that type of thing, every now and then at the lunch table someone will be looking at their phone and they start laughing and pass the phone around to the other guys at the table. Then they stop and realize I am also at the table and they don’t know if they should pass the phone to me or not. I guess they don’t want to take the chance of potentially offending me. It sometimes feels like high school, except I somehow ended up in the boys’ locker room.

More recently, I found myself working down in the States fixing issues an assembly plant had with the dies we built them. The plant manager would go and talk to one of the guys who was down there working with me and asked him for timelines and the progress of the job. My co-worker paused and proceeded to point at me and say “I don’t know, go ask my boss.” Honestly, I find nothing really phases me any more. I really enjoy my job and the work environment. The job is awesome; not just the work and the financial benefits, but all the entertaining stories I get to tell my friends.

D: Tell me about one of your biggest accomplishments, or something you are most proud of.

K: I have had a lot of success in my career, (considering I have only been working in this industry for 6 years) and I am already a lead hand at my company. But, I am the proudest of the fact that I am able to inspire other woman to work in the trades, and breakdown the preconceived beliefs about women working in this industry. Volunteering with Skills Ontario and talking to high school girls about the many career options out there brings me great pride. I have had a couple different women tell me that my career story gave them motivation to pursue a future in the trades.

D: What does your husband think about your profession?

When we were first dating and I told him I was quitting the bakery to go back to school for a tool and die maker, he was confused. Mostly because he had no idea what a tool and die maker was, and secondly because he didn’t want me to stop making delicious cookies. Now that he gets what I do every day, he is really impressed and proud of what I have been able to accomplish. However, sometimes he can get frustrated with the amount of hours I work. There are times when I will work 10-12 hour days, 7 days a week and get home and immediately pass out on the couch. We have talked about balancing work and life, and how there will be times when I have to work those long days, or randomly go to the States for three weeks for a job. He knows how important my job is to me, and he’s the person I confide in when I had a bad day, when nothing goes right, and when I’m questioning my abilities. My career has also been beneficial to him: he doesn’t have to be the sole breadwinner in our household, and was able to take a lower paying position with better options for advancement because I could support us.

D: Thank you, Kelsey! You can add this blog post to your wall of newspaper and magazine articles about how amazing you are!

K: [Eye roll and laughs]

An Unlikely Feminist

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

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

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

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

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

IWD Reflection

I had the privilege and pleasure of attending multiple International Women’s Day Events throughout the region. I wish I could have attended them all. I can’t even describe the empowerment I felt while being surrounded by incredible, strong, brave, bold, and passionate women.

One of the events I was able to go to was the Greater Niagara Chamber of Commerce’s Women In Niagara Council’s International Women’s Day event on March 3rd. Club Roma was filled with brilliant minds. Everywhere I looked, there was an outstanding woman that I wanted to know.

The keynote speaker was Teresa Cascioli. I was thrilled to be able to hear her speak. I was torn between typing out all of the impactful things she was saying so I could tweet them, or just soaking up the moment and letting her words really resonate with me. I did a mixture and I’m still not sure which one would have been the best option.

Teresa said, “Prior to selling my business no one listened.” It was as though Teresa’s voice didn’t matter because she had yet to have a great accomplishment. She then asked the important questions and you could hear the room nod in agreement: “Why do women have to say it more often? Why do we have to say it louder? Why do we have to prove ourselves?”

One of the most important and reoccurring messages throughout the event was you have to be impatient for results.

The WIN council also presented Rosemary Hale with the International Women’s Day Award. I was so excited to hear her speech, I couldn’t even consider recording any notes. I watched as Rosemary accepted the award with grace and honour. She inspired us all with talk about her past being the first female dean at Brock University. She is now retired and loving it as she has time to be a strong advocate for arts, volunteer at Hospice Niagara, and continuing to write. When she brought into focus her mentor Nora who said, “Life is drama. Every minute of our lives is drama…a slice of drama.” The idea that drama can be a good thing and not just with an arts background. Taking to the Be Bold For Change theme, Rosemary emphasized just how important it is to start demanding results, and start demanding change. To really do something about what you are passionate about in order to make a difference. “It’s about loving your bold, showing your bold.”

Broadband’s 25th Anniversary Performance of Women in Music Benefit Concert for the YWCA Niagara Region happened this past Sunday. The event is to celebrate International Women’s day focusing on Women in Music.
It was amazing! Listening to the inspirational songs including one about Nellie McClung. If you’re interested in catching a little taste of what the music was like, check it out 
here. The positive and empowering vibes from the band and the attendees was refreshing. Hearing reflections of the past made me want to do more research and spend time thinking about women in our history who really have made a difference for us.

Thursday was actually International Women’s Day. I attended the Be Bold For Change event which happened at Gwen’s Teas. Although I showed up late and missed networking with some other attendees, I really enjoyed the event. It was nice to see people have an outlet to write down how they would be bold for change and why they identify as feminists. Everyone brought their own thoughts, opinions, and reasons for being there. The discussion around politics was insightful. It just clarified all the more how important it is to involve women in politics. These discussions are exactly why we need more events, more meetings, more conversation around what women really can do.

All of these events opened my eyes to so many things. They made me really think. “It’s about showing your bold,” ran through my mind for days. That’s when I realize, being bold isn’t just about what is outlined on the International Women’s Day website (although those are great pledges), it’s about finding what works for you. I did make the pledge to celebrate women’s achievements because I think successes need to be acknowledged. I still stand by that pledge. Earlier this year, I also made a promise to have my voice heard in a blog post for the Practical Feminist after the Women’s March in January. But now, after all of these events, I pledge to find my bold and use it to help women.

 

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Why I participated in the Women’s March

Nicki

My daughter asked me to write a blog post on why I participated in the Women’s March organized by the YWCA here in Niagara, which was in tandem with hundreds of marches around the world on January 21st.

While I talked about standing in solidarity with my American sisters, I want her to know I did it for her, I did it for the other women in our family, especially for my granddaughters.

Especially for my granddaughters.

I did it especially for my granddaughters because I don’t want them to experience the blatant discrimination I often experienced while growing up in the 70’s and on through the last forty years. I don’t want them to ever second guess their ability and how it measures up to a man. I want them to grow up feeling 100% equal to any man, period.

You would think that in the forty years since the second, third and fourth waves of feminism have gone past we would have seen real change… and yet we haven’t. There have seen small changes, girls and boys are able to compete against each other in sports, although we still have to make strides for women and men to compete against each other. There are men who take a more nurturing role in parenthood…at least in my circle of friends and family I’ve seen a more equal division of tasks. In Canada, women have choices when it comes to their body and whether she chooses to keep a baby or not, although for many in the United States this choice has been taken away or made much more difficult to access.

These changes are small and aren’t enough. Men still earn more money than women, even if they are doing the same job. Men still are promoted at a much faster rate than women. Men still don’t take on half of the family duties, leaving the majority of the household chores and child rearing duties to their female spouses. Men still feel it’s ok to tell a woman what to do with her body. Men still think women are able to give consent when they are passed out drunk.

The lack of change on these issues are often blamed on women for not standing up for themselves and speaking up about it. There are some women who blame other women for this lack of change instead of all of us looking at the systemic changes that need to happen. And for that, we need men to shut up and listen, and that may take some time.

I marched with millions of women because I want the women in my family, and all young women for that matter, to be able to stand up tall, to not question themselves, to love freely and to be unconventional. I don’t want my granddaughters to define themselves through traditional values, unless of course, they choose to themselves. I want to ensure that women’s equality progresses to the point where we can actually say we are truly equal, and I want to be around long enough to see this happen, for my daughter, my daughter in laws, and especially for my granddaughters. Because it is about time.

“Because it is about time.”

We have talked about equality for a long time. Generations of women and men have talked about it and I am getting a little impatient, especially for my granddaughters. (I used to say for my daughter, but I’ve given up on the notion that it will happen for her.)

I marched because I don’t want to see hard won fights regress. I marched because I wanted to wake up the silent majority, to make sure women’s issues are taken seriously. I march because I don’t want my granddaughters to ever be devalued by experiencing discrimination in any way.

Question of the Month

Question: Who is the most influential feminist?

Ellen

Now there’s a question that isn’t posed everyday. Where to begin? It’s like being asked who is the most influential politician, scientist, musician, painter, or author. If I said (and this is just off the top of my head) Winston Churchill, Einstein, J.S. Bach, Leonardo Da Vinci, and Shakespeare, my picks wouldn’t raise a brown. Even if they were highly subjective and indicative of geography and culture, as well as race, age, sexuality, ability, and class. I mean, they are all male, all white, and all European for starters. Why not Angela Merkel, Rosalind Franklin, Asha Bhosle, Frida Kahlo, and Toni Morrison?

So, who do I think is the “most influential” feminist? I can’t give just one answer or perhaps an answer to that question at all. I can say that any list I came up with would reflect my particular feminist politics and my knowledge as well as my ignorance. I can also say the thousands of women who pushed boundaries, risked their lives, and braved (and still brave, as the struggle continues) ridicule and persecution while pressing for political and social equality, are the “influential feminists”. I know many who have influenced me, but perhaps just as important are the many who are largely unsung, who by their words and actions—the way they have lived and are living their lives—have changed the culture and made my life with its rights and freedoms possible. Some of them are women I know or have known and who have helped raise me up and shape me: my familial forebears and contemporaries, and my friends, co-workers and bosses. All that said, I’m partial to the writing of bell hooks, and authors Marguerite Duras, Margaret Atwood, and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, among others.

I owe a debt to many protofeminists who had the courage to live their lives the way they wanted to, as well as the leaders and worker bees of various feminist movements. I’m impressed by the the new feminist thought leaders such as Pussy Riot, the women who organized Idle No More, and all the women who took part in the Women’s March on Jan 21. Who do I think is the most influential feminist? How about all of them?

Slavica   

As a Women’s and Gender Studies student, I have come to realize that feminism is a very broad movement and to define an influential feminist as being more influential than others is by no means an easy task. As we are in the third, going into the fourth wave – i.e. the various stages of feminism – we are starting to look at intersectionality, where an individual’s various identities affect their experiences.

When we think of an influential feminist, we look at woman like Betty Friedan, bell hooks (her name is purposely not capitalized), or Kim Anderson. However, each one focuses on something different in their activism and literature because their lived experiences are all different. The experiences of a white, black, or indigenous women can’t be generalized as being the same regardless of the fact that they’re all woman because race, class, sexuality, ethnicity, ability, etc. all play a role in their individual lives and how they look and experience the world.

However, to understand where feminists first appeared, who in my opinion have always existed, just feminism itself became a more mainstream movement, would be when women wanted the right to vote. In Canada, white women were allowed to vote in 1918, but this was only those whose husbands served in the war and it wasn’t until 1960 that Indigenous women were allowed to vote. THAT’S 42 YEARS LATER! Now it’s been 57 years since all women in Canada have been allowed to vote. That isn’t a long time when you look at the grand scheme of things.

The start to this RIGHT as we know it now as a Canadian citizen, started with only upper-middle class white women, who had a lot of time on their hands. They were known as the suffragettes and they were the “First Wavers” but to say they were the most influential feminists would be wrong. To identify a singular individual as being more influential in the movement in my opinion is a bad way to look at feminism because it assumes that one person is the face of all that is feminism but they are not.

To look at feminism is not to look at one individual or one particular group, because there isn’t one type of woman or one type of feminism. The suffragettes or the women in the Women’s Liberation Group, were all influential because without them fighting tooth and nail, women would not have the rights that they do today. I, in all honesty, can’t really give you an influential feminist because feminism itself is a growing process and no one person helped to make the movement what it is.

Love Others As We Love Ourselves

This is really quite hard.

For example, an analogy was spoken to me earlier today. If I have a nice comfortable bed to sleep on, but I know someone who doesn’t, then the ultimate “love others as yourself” would be that I buy them a nice comfortable bed to sleep on.

Out of my abundance, my love pours onto others. This love can look like money, possessions, a kind word, a smile, a hug, or simply, love. Just a thought that I love the person standing in front of me.

But when I’m not able to love someone as myself, when I’m not in an abundance, or a place to be generous, what happens?

When I decide to take care of myself, what does this mean, for myself, and for others?

Self-care for me personally, looks like quiet time. It is me, in my room, with the door closed, listening to music, reading, thinking, pondering, wondering, processing. This can look very different to each of us.

You can go to a spa, to the movies, for a manicure. Treat yourself. You can close your door, turn off your phone, close your eyes. Still yourself. You can take a nap, go for a walk, sit in nature. Calm yourself. You can run, lift weights, eat. Power yourself.

How you take care of yourself can be very different to how someone else might take care of themselves.

There is one thing, though, that I believe is certain about self-care. It is short lived, and it is needed more often, the more we keep neglecting our needs.

As a person who gives an extensive amount of time and other resources, I often find I run on empty. I need to refuel, refill, and re-energize, daily. Often more than once a day.

The demands that are placed on us are far too often more than the resources we have to give. But our relationships are far too valuable.

So where is the balance between self-care and caring for others?

We each have a rhythm. My rhythm is a lot of quiet time, a lot of time reflecting and learning, a lot of time growing. When these things fill me up, when I’ve read enough, sang enough, thought, pondered, and wondered enough, I get to be joyful, peaceful, patient, kind, loving, good, gentle, faithful to my friends and family and most importantly, in control.

I’m not tired, worn out, too busy, overwhelmed, bombarded, needing someone to take care of me first.

I’m full. The rhythm of my heart is just as it should be. I have an abundance of all things good and that love, and everything else that goes along with it, can pour out all over others. My needs are taken care of. First.

I am no good in taking care of another, until my needs are met, first. This can take some time, trial and error to learn. But it is worth the struggle. Once you find your pace, your life will change.

Your relationships will be more fulfilling. The amount of people you take care of will be greater and but the work will be lighter. You will be filled with so much love that you can share it all around you, all of the time.

You are loved. You are worthy. You are a beautiful woman that gives so much. Take care of what you need so that those who need you, can be taken care of, all around you.

Blogger Talk – Self-Care

Candice

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Donna

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

Recommendations for a Very Good Bath: Finding Your Chill Zone

Jennifer

I’ve gained a reputation (in my house) as someone-who-takes-baths-very-seriously. I wasn’t always a serious bather; I showered almost exclusively from the ages of 12 –25, but the bath has recently become the most important part of my self-care routine. I’m on a one-bath-per-week minimum these days, and it’s an actual ceremony. It’s ~a dance~

Bath GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

 

I flip the laundry basket upside down and drape a towel over the hard plastic so that you can’t see the hard plastic (ambiance is Very Important). I strategically place my computer on top so it’s at the right height to watch in the tub, from where I’ve watched all of the classics: Gilmore Girls, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, the Grinch (in season). I have a book too, or instead, probably something with feminist undertones, really. If I’m reading, the 8tracks playlist hastags like ‘Chill’ ‘Jazz’ ‘Winter’ ‘Relax’ or ‘Piano’.

 

I have a Very Big mason jar full of icy lemon-water or green tea, set in the front-left corner of the towel that’s draped over the laundry basket. I pull out one or two essential oils – maybe rosemary, then lemongrass, or maybe lavender, then bergamot – and I put them on the edge of the tub where they wait for me until I’m ready.

I flick the lighter and light the end of a Balsom Fir incense stick from a box that I was gifted by a friend at Christmas two years ago. I take a second to reflect on the almost-empty box. I know I’m going to miss the smell. It’s woodsy and it makes me feel like I’m outside. I light a candle or two, too.  I drop in the special combination of essential oils (the rosemary and lemongrass or the lavender and bergamot) at a rate of 10 drops per oil, and I hop in. For the next hour I inhabit a territory that I like to call a “chill zone”.

 

Chill•ŸZone noun The mental and/or physical space or state in which you are most comfortable, relaxed, zen, clear-minded, and peaceful.

 

Ideally, an act of self-care will allow you to spend time in your “chill zone”. I’ve bestowed this name upon a room before, but it isn’t always a physical space. It could be sitting on a bench taking deep inhales and exhales of fresh air. It could be drinking black coffee and starting a new book. It could be drawing in your journal while sitting beside a Vanilla scented candle. It could be watching a movie with your cat. Maybe it involves using something that a loved one gave you as a gift. Maybe it’s eating a big bowl of spaghetti bolognese with lots of Parmesan shaved on top while you listen to Amy Winehouse. Your “chill zone” is your own space and it’s up to you to find it and spend time there. For me, it’s a Very Good Bath, and I suggest that you give it a try.

 

 

I am Totally WORTH It, and so are YOU

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Namaste

 

 

 

Power of Being a Girl 2017

Power of Being a Girl

YWCA Niagara is hosting it’s 11th Annual Power of Being a Girl conference within the region.
Many events lose interest of the community and participants after that many years, but this conference remains popular. Why? Maybe it has to do with the powerful impact it has on the grade 10 girls from all over the region who participate.

Throughout the years, the event has touched many lives. One of the speakers in previous years explained that at one of the conferences, some of the girls came up to her individually to self-disclose issues they have felt including thoughts of suicide and the difference the day had made to them. 12 girls that day felt empowered enough to find positives in their lives, things to look forward to as well as to speak about it. That’s some of the differences these events can make.

As huge a success as that story is, Power of Being a Girl has also inspired girls to discuss body image issues, negative feelings of loneliness. The discomfort most girls face during the ups and downs of teenage years. Some students have said:

“I felt alone and isolated. I was living in everyone’s shadow,” she said of the difficulties she once had but has since overcome. “Now I want to help others get out of the shadow and let their light shine.”  – St. Catharines Standard

More participants said:

“Your skin is the costume. Your personality is the beauty,” she says.

“If you keep trying to be what society thinks is perfect, you’ll never experience peace.

“You’re always chasing.” – St.Catharines Standard

The conference gives girls a safe place where they can check in with themselves and realize they are not alone in their feelings. They have the chance to ban together and encourage confidence in each other.

“At first, I was really nervous. And then I realized, we’re all girls here,”

“Everyone has flaws. They have to learn to love those flaws. They have to learn to love themselves.”

“Really, really good. Made me proud to be a woman.”

“My favourite part was knowing that I’m worth something and finding strengths I never thought I had.”

This year’s conference speaks to healthy relationships. We have no idea what’s truly in store for these participants in terms of revelations but we sure look forward to exploring them. If it’s anything like the last ten years, it will be a huge success, change the lives of so many.

#POBG2017

Question of the Month: Self-Care

The question of the month is: In one of the coldest months of the year, how do you or your loved one’s take care of yourself?

Dana

I have felt extremely lucky the last couple of weeks because the weather hasn’t been too cold, so I have been happy to pretend that winter was on its way out (but as I am writing this, it’s very clear that winter is STILL here!) I always struggle with winter time, there is less sunlight, it’s cold out, and it limits what I can do. In the past I have found it very depressing, and all I want to do is cuddle up and eat carbs while waiting for spring. This year, however, my boyfriend and I adopted a rescue dog in October and it has completely changed our lives! I can say that Cooper (our wonderful dog) has completely brightened up these dark months and he is the reason why we are both taking better care of ourselves. Obviously, owning a dog means we are way more active, and that makes a huge difference in our moods. We are out playing/walking/hiking for at least 2 hours a day, which has led to our clothes fitting much better and our confidence growing! We also have gone to new places, taken on new adventures, and spent more quality time together. We are still huge fans of cuddling up on the couch, but having a dog to take care of has pushed us out into the world to discover new things. We have noticed that we both have more energy and get a lot more accomplished in the day.

Emotionally, having this wonderful addition to our family has made us so much happier and appreciative of what we have. I mean, how can you be down when you have an adorable dog looking at you for love 24/7? Cooper is an absolute joy in our lives, and he is definitely making these cold and dark months fly by. It is a little depressing going for a walk in the dark at 6 pm, but at least we are doing something together. Being outside is great for the soul, and now we make sure to enjoy and make use of every minute of sunlight we have! We are counting down until spring and can’t wait until there is warmer weather and new adventures to go on!

I think the biggest difference for me this year, is not allowing myself to get stuck in the ‘winter rut’ of secluding myself inside.

I am much happier getting out every day with the ones I love most, going on adventures on the weekends and enjoying that extra minute of sunlight we get every day!

McKenzie

During the darker winter months of the year, it can be tough to keep up with a self-care routine. Over the years I’ve learned that I’m a person that requires a lot of self-care in order to stay relaxed and rejuvenated, as well as to keep stress levels down. Everyone’s routine for self-care is different, and can take some exploring before you find what really works for you. Here’s a few things to try out the next time you’re in need of some “me time”!

Bubble Baths:
My #1 go-to self-care routine is definitely having a bath. I don’t skimp when it comes to a luxurious bath! When I’m able to afford it, I’ll take a trip to Bath & Body Works or Lush and stock up on bath bombs, face masks, soaps, and moisturizers to use for all of my self-care bath sessions, that way I’ve always got a stash to pick from when I feel like changing it up. I usually plan my bubble baths around the rest of a spa night, where I’ll do hair treatments or paint my nails as well… I really go all out. Once my face mask is on and the bath is ready, I’ll climb into the tub with a good book and soak for a good hour or so! You can modify your routine for a shower as well – I’ve even made rosemary and eucalyptus hangers that I put over the showerhead, so that when it gets hot and steamy, the beautiful smells start to come out and make for an amazing shower!

 

Pets:
Spending time with my furbabies is also another go-to in my self-care routine. Nothing makes me happier than snuggling with them! I currently own guinea pigs and a kitten, who are all very eager for love and attention. I love coming home after a long day and being able to cuddle them and spend time with them!


Journaling:

This is a great way to keep track of you and your life. I found that writing myself letters or writing about my day or how I’m currently feeling is very cathartic and can help me work through situations or emotions that are stressing me out. I really enjoy it because it feels like a personal therapy session with myself; I’m checking up on me, seeing where I’m at in my life during that particular day and working through it. Some days when I don’t really feel like writing I’ll draw little pictures or doodles too, or maybe add a few stickers if they’re lying around.

Meditation:
It requires some practice and dedication, but it is definitely worth it! Meditation has helped me relax when I’m going through a stressful time, and helps balance my emotions. I usually make my bedroom into a ‘zen room’ with candles and some calming music, set a timer for 10 to 15 minutes to start and sit quietly, being mindful of my breathing and letting thoughts come and go in my mind. Meditation can be tricky to get used to, and there’s even a bunch of free apps to help you get started!

Yoga:
It can also help with stress levels, but I love yoga simply for the fact that it’s easy exercise. I’m generally not the type of person who will go out for a run or go to a gym – I’m very much a homebody, so yoga is a fantastic way for me to still get my exercise without having to go out. I found it much easier to do than meditation at first because of the focus on the movements and stretching of the body. If you’re the type of person that has a tough time with sitting in one place for too long, definitely try it out!

Hopefully some of these ideas could help you start your own routine! All of these, paired with eating well and getting enough sleep each night really had a positive effect on my life and energy levels, and really encouraged me to put myself first and take really good care of my body and mind, especially during the coldest months of the year!

Let’s Do Something, Not Nothing

101 Men: An Innovative Approach to Ending Gender Violence

By Inspectable Todd Gilmore

November 18th, 2016, St Catharines, Ontario.

Let’s Do Something, Not Nothing.

If this event was called Men 101 it might be a training event for women to better understand why some men exhibit harmful behaviour towards women. We learned during the training that women have always taken a leadership role in ending gender violence so that’s an event that’s probably already occurred many times over. Women’s leadership on this issue was easy to see at the event itself. Behind almost all the display tables of community organizations that work to end gender violence, stood a woman. As we also found out during the training, if this event was called Men 101 it could realistically be a training program that explains why not enough is being done by men to end gender violence even after men participate in this training.

I believe the group of men I was with at 101 Men Event in St Catharines, Ontario will show courage and do something, not nothing.

I’ll start with this article.

Let’s be clear the main problem when it comes to gender violence is men abusing women.  This abuse can take a number of forms including verbal, emotional, physical, and sexual. To end gender violence we learned this has to be a “men’s issue” and men in positions of power and influence, like the men with me at the 101 Men Event, need to step up. And punch up, not down, if required.

We learned that the best place to influence or intervene is by attacking language, attitudes, beliefs, and aspects of our culture that support abusive behaviour towards women or make it seem acceptable. By the time the gender violence occurs it’s too late and we’ve missed a ton of opportunities to address the root causes of gender violence that are so pervasive around us. It can be as simple as using active instead of passive language. Passive language says “how many women were raped?” while active language says “how many men raped women?”. You can easily see that using passive language takes men out of the equation when the opposite should occur and the men involved should be held accountable.

“Passive language takes men out of the equation.”

General Marsden of the Australian military said it best when he made a statement of action while dealing with inappropriate men’s behaviour in his own organization.  He said “the standard you walk past is the standard you accept.”

On Friday November 18th, 2016 I spent 8 hours with 101 Men, community leaders from across Niagara and the surrounding regions who were there because they want to take action. I saw an outstanding group of men who were there to make a change, to not walk past, to take ownership of a men’s issue and to create higher standards in their sphere of influence in order counter gender violence.

Join me in doing something, not nothing.

(Insp Todd Gilmore, OIC RCMP HNRD)

What Goes On Behind Closed Doors

Everyone knows someone who has been, or is being abused. It may even be yourself. The problem is that nobody likes to talk about such a horrible subject. Everyone wants to believe that it will never happen to them. But the truth is if you were to look around at the people you know, there’s at least one person who is suffering in silence.

Abuse comes in many forms and may be difficult to spot at first glance. The person who is being subjected to abuse will often lie or cover up what is happening to them because they are ashamed or embarrassed.  They often live in fear and believe that they are helpless to do anything to stop the abuse. Sometimes they have been beaten down so badly that they can’t see a way out.

I know a few women who are in unhealthy relationships, but one stands out more clearly than the others.  She is someone I love very much and it kills me to watch her being treated so horribly. To the outsider it seems like she lives a privileged life. She has been married over 30 years to a successful businessman who earns a six-figure income.  They have a beautiful large home on the outskirts of town with a swimming pool and hot tub. They both drive new cars and go on vacation to the Caribbean every winter.  It looks like she’s living the dream.  But, appearances can be deceiving!  She is married to a man who controls every aspect of her life, from the way she cooks to the correct way she’s expected to stack things in the fridge and cupboards.  He decides when and where she can drive her car.  He has driven away every single one of her friends with his rude comments and obnoxious behaviour.  He has worn her down to a shell of her former self.  He undermines her confidence and tells her she isn’t capable of doing anything without his input and permission. He barks orders at her and monitors her every movement.  He talks down to her and degrades her publicly.  He beat her dog every time it did anything he perceived as being disobedient. He has had multiple affairs and she finds evidence of the gifts he buys for other women.  He hides money from her and closed their joint bank account.  He comes and goes as he pleases and never offers an explanation for his whereabouts.   He talks to her like she’s a child and treats her like an object that he owns.

We were both married in the same year to the same kind of man. Except that I left after 10 years of abuse and heartache. I left with nothing but my children and my sanity. It wasn’t always easy but I have never regretted leaving. I’ve put myself through school multiple times, I’ve travelled and experienced so many opportunities that life has to offer.  I wasn’t able to live in a big fancy house but at the end of the day I could come home with my children and lock the door behind me knowing that there was no one there to ridicule and belittle me.  I was free to make choices and learn through my mistakes without someone degrading me.  I didn’t know what life held for me when I left but I knew anything was better than living with someone who enjoyed suffocating the life out of me.

I’ve spent the last 20 years trying to get my friend to understand that she has so much more power than she’s aware of. I’ve tried to explain to her that she holds the cards to her future and that she has more power than she realizes.  She would never be destitute because he would have to give her a very generous settlement, in spite of his underhanded ways.  And yet, she still feels trapped in her golden cage.  It should be illegal for someone to abuse their spouse but until she’s ready to make a move, all I can do is offer her unconditional love and support.

If the day ever comes that she finds the strength to detach herself from this selfish, arrogant, abusive sociopath I will be there to help her pick up the pieces of her life.

Working Mom vs Stay at Home Mom

Stay at Home Mom vs Working Mom. This topic has been around since… well, since women with children first decided to work outside of the home!

working-mom-vs-stay-at-home-momWhat continues to surprise me the most is how unsupportive we are of each other; no matter what the choice is.  Unfortunately, what I thought was an old-fashioned way of thinking, that had gone by the way of the dinosaur, still faces young women today. The only change is that now it is done through social media.  WOW, I was shocked.

I chose to work outside my home, and I made this decision first out of necessity, and second for my own peace of mind.  If I am honest, even if I could have afforded to stay home, I would have chosen not to.  I have a lot of respect for women that choose to stay home and raise their children.  It is hard work, and so is working outside of the home.

go-somewhere-and-judge-people-Ladies, we are in this TOGETHER!  I ask, why does one choice have to be better than the other?   Does this harsh judgement of each other come from our own insecurities around the choice we made ourselves?  In fact, it is not uncommon for working mothers and stay at home mothers to bestow judgement on each other as well!  We don’t seem to be able to provide support when we are supposedly on the same team?  Why is this I ask?

Ladies we are in this TOGETHER!   Isn’t one collective voice stronger, wouldn’t a united stand by all women for equality in the workplace for women, for universal childcare, for a guaranteed income so that a choice doesn’t need to be made out of necessity provide more attention to the issues that really matter?

I believe as long as we continue to attack each other, the real issues will remain clouded and go unresolved.  Let us together work towards a supportive, collective voice that will demand attention and action.  Let us celebrate and support Stay at Home and Working Moms everywhere.  As long as you are true to yourself and love what you do…how can that choice be questioned?

2013-06-10-CTWorkingMoms13HRE4595Help me Stop the judgement – let’s work towards a future where the conversation is about how great we feel about the choice we make – whether to stay home or work outside the home – knowing as women, we have the support of each other.

No judgement – we all have work to do!

 

 

Friday Find – Friday, February 5th 2015

TED Talk: Jackson Katz, Ph.D

Recommended By: Rachael

There’s been a lot of buzz lately about a shady movie due to come out on Valentine’s Day weekend, and I’m quite frankly fed up with it! Any movie that glamorizes or romanticizes violence against women is dangerous, both for men and for women. So, rather than spend a few hours watching trash, why not spend 20 minutes watching this amazing TED talk by Jackson Katz, Ph. D.

It starts off like this:

“I’m going to share with you a paradigm-shifting perspective on the issues of gender violence –sexual assault, domestic violence, relationship abuse, sexual harassment, sexual abuse of children. That whole range of issues that I’ll refer to in shorthand as “gender violence issues,”they’ve been seen as women’s issues that some good men help out with, but I have a problem with that frame and I don’t accept it. I don’t see these as women’s issues that some good men help out with. In fact, I’m going to argue that these are men’s issues, first and foremost.”bf9c21f8ff16bf5faa421c88c884d687