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March 2014

CELEBRATING WOMEN a publication of family transition place

Lesley Page Finding the Courage to Soar

Designing the Future

Anne-Marie Pollowy Toliver

A world beyond critical mass Norah Kennedy

ordinary women: extraordinary capabilities Janeen Halliwell

A life forever changed Kelley Potter


CELEBRATING WOMEN a publication of family transition place

4 Letter from the Editor 6 A World Beyond

Critical Mass

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Ordinary Women are Capable of Extraordinary Things

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The Year My Life Changed Forever

12 Small Town Girl; Big Impact

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Change: Designing Your Future

16

My Corner of the World is Donkeys

Our warmest thanks to artist Priya Anand Pariyani – a woman who lives in India – for contributing this beautiful piece to Celebrating Women. We are honoured to include it here.

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Finding the Courage to Soar

20 Just Say Yes! 22 Empowering Girls

in an Internet World

28 Life Changer 34 All Kinds of Change, Mostly Good

EDITOR IN CHIEF: Stacey Tarrant ART DIRECTOR: Liesje Doldersum CONSULTING EDITOR: Bethany Lee

CONTRIBUTORS: Norah Kennedy, Janeen Halliwell, Kelley Potter,

Tabitha Wells, Anne-Marie Pollowy-Toliver, Katharin Harkins, Lesley Page, Bethany Lee, Sheralyn Roman, Tara Cassidy, Liesje Doldersum PHOTOGRAPHY: embracephotography.ca & stock

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Celebrating Women


Letter from the Editor

“Accept what you can’t change – Change what you can’t accept.” •••Inspiring Change is the 2014 theme declared by internationalwomensday.com; a global hub that encourages advocacy for women’s advancement everywhere in every way. This theme resonates with me on so many levels that I decided to make it the underlying theme of Celebrating Women 2014. Although women have come a long way since 1929, when we were declared ‘persons’, I can still become discouraged; just today, I read the headlines of another woman murdered at the hands of her partner, and the new Afghanistan law to silence victims of violence against women. Really? How is this still happening? I can’t accept this; therefore I will do everything I can to inspire change. Change for a better world for all, but especially a better world for women and girls. As a self-described optimist and believer in hope, I think it’s events like International Women’s Day and community collaborations such as this magazine that help encourage like-minded individuals to join together to make a difference. This magazine is living proof of that, as 100% of the proceeds from this publication will help women transition to a life free from abuse. Hallelujah! This is the kind of change makes me happy and re-fuels my inspiration to continue the journey. I am thrilled that the International Women’s Day committee members, the contributing authors, copy editor, and all the advertisers have banded together to produce this fresh inspiring and informative magazine – a reflection of a community coming together to support an agency that is dedicated to change – Family Transition Place. Special thanks to Liesje Doldersum from Sprout Advertising and Design for assembling all the pieces and packaging it into something that breathes inspiration and beauty. What do you want to change in your world? Perhaps it is something a little more personal. Whatever it is, I hope that you find inspiration within these pages to make a difference in yours {or someone else’s} future.

Stacey Tarrant Editor-in-Chief Manager of Development & Community Relations Family Transition Place 519.942.4122 ext. 240 | stacey@familytransitionplace.ca

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Celebrating Women

International Women’s Day has been observed since the early 1900’s, a time of great expansion and turbulence in the industrialized world that saw booming population growth and the rise of radical ideologies. Since 1984, Family Transition Place (FTP) has been providing critical services to women and their children who have experienced abuse and unhealthy relationships. Inside FTP’s doors, women find a warm and welcoming place where their safety and well-being is the most important thing in the world. Whether they need a safe place to live, or the services of a professional, skilled counsellor to assist them on their journey, FTP is there to help. Family Transition Places is also a leading provider of Youth Education programming – an initiative committed to eliminating violence and building healthy relationships in our community.


UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka at UN Headquarters in New York City in September 2013.

A world beyond critical mass The theme for the magazine this year is ‘change.’ When I sat down to write this article, I thought a good place to start would be to look at what had changed for women in our recent past. I went back eighteen years and read the Beijing Declaration from the Fourth World Conference on Women. The document is a template for change. It reads like a song. The language is sparse but precise; the content, sublime. It describes a world of peace and trust, a world free from poverty, inequality, and discrimination, and a world where the individual is valued and respected. 6

Celebrating Women

by Norah Kennedy

It gives us uplifting words: “We are determined to ensure the full enjoyment by women and the girl child of all human rights and fundamental freedoms.” It is the sort of thing you’d like to read to your children at bedtime, or recite as a litany to begin each day. There are 38 points comprising the document, and it closes with a declaration of commitment that might just break your heart. Well, the heartbreak is real and it comes from the slow rate of change. Almost twenty years have passed and the Declaration is still little more than a song. While it has been long recognized that 30% is the critical mass for women in positions of leadership and decision-making, we still fall far too short of this mark in many sectors of society. In Canada, women hold only 24% of the seats in the House of Commons and these portfolios have often been limited to social, family and cultural affairs. World-wide, women make up less than 10% of world leaders, and of the 28 countries that meet the 30% critical mass, 23

of those achieved those numbers by implementing quotas for women representatives. Women are still less likely to run for parliament because of the disproportionate sharing of household and family responsibilities. Women are still struggling with the socialized view that politics is not a suitable vocation, and even when their qualifications and experience are on par with male counterparts, they often feel less-qualified. The male-dominated political template is discouraging to women: discriminatory practices, inflexibility around family, and the combative nature of a malemajority workplace all contribute to creating an adverse environment. It is hard to fathom what the problem is. Women have always worked, they have always had babies, and they account for half the population – why are they still so difficult to accommodate? The UN Commission on the Status of Women and other organizations have stressed the need to implement ways for parliaments to accommodate women. This type of


What would that look like? It just might interests of both men and women in its enabling environment is key if women look like the world described in the Beijing structures, operations, methods and in its are to succeed and equality is truly to be Declaration, a world of collaboration and work. Gender-sensitive parliaments remove realized. The Beijing Conference on Women co-operation, a world of equality. I believe the barriers to women’s full participation recognized that there were major obstacles the journey to 50% would look like a and offer a positive example or model to for women in the struggle for equality – strong women’s movement. Women’s movesociety at large.” When I’m feeling parobstacles that have “serious consequences ments have always been about improving ticularly fanciful, I like to imagine that: a for the well-being of all people.” The situations and known for their ability to hit gender-sensitive society. But if we are ever document is not vague as to what these the ground running. There is an consequences are: poverty, immediacy to women’s moveconflict, and disease top the list. “We need strong women’s movements everywhere. ments that is much needed now; Around the time this documany women’s grassroots movement was signed, a member of Collective action remains the best means of amplifying ments have affected tremendous Canadian parliament missed a women’s voices and leverage in public decision-making.” change without the benefit of vote because she was trying to institutional or political support, find a women’s washroom. The Anne Marie Goetz, INIFEM chief advisor or financial aid. Imagine what incident reads like a joke. It has for Governance, Peace and Security could be achieved with political been twenty years, and Parliaand societal support. to adopt a system where these principles ment Hill has undoubtedly undergone Women have voices, but it is the colare the model we must move the focus from bathroom renovations, but the story still lective female voice that will be the agent policy to practice. resonates. For me it is a reminder of the of change. We should not continue to be The 30% critical mass has been most many unnecessary obstacles women face content with the ponderously slow process successfully reached in Africa – in sevwhen trying to access leadership positions. our governments have outlined for change. eral countries it has even been exceeded. In 1995 the Beijing Declaration identiIt is time for women to become political Rwanda was the first country ever to have fied the situation of women as critical, one partners, not just the beneficiaries of policy. more women than men elected to parliathat “requires urgent action in the spirit Legislators claim to be up to the chalment. But these increases were not the of determination, hope, co-operation, and lenge of applying the principles of genderresult of gradual implementation of policy solidarity, now and to carry us forward into sensitivity, yet women continue to be – they were achieved through more radical the next century.” We signed this. Represenunder-represented in federal politics, acachange to parliamentary process. Urgency, tatives from 189 countries signed this. Since demia, and corporate leadership. It is time you might call it. Many countries have that time, the focus of governments has for women to deliver the challenge as a coladopted a quota system that states that 30% been on developing legal frameworks and lective. Together women can play a central of elected seats must be filled by women. implementing policy around gender equalrole in bringing about political change. It is Several Nordic countries have also sucity. There has been progress, but it has been time for women to join together on behalf cessfully boosted their numbers of female slow. Urgency? Solidarity? Not so much. of women who have had to go it alone thus elected representatives. The thinking is that In 2011, the Inter-parliamentary Union far, women whose needs were never accomonce critical mass is achieved there will defined a gender-sensitive parliament as “a modated, women whose votes were lost for surely be noticeable change. Yet 30% is the parliament that responds to the needs and lack of a women’s bathroom. It is time to minimum, the bring on the urgency, the spirit of detercritical number mination. It is time for change. The next – not the ideal. century is already underway. It is now. Critical mass is defined as an amount sufficient to have a significant effect. Let’s achieve critical mass, by all means, but let’s aim for efficient – not just sufficient. I like the sound of 50%.

Norah Kennedy has been Family Transition Place’s Executive Director for the past seven years. She has worked in social services for nearly two decades. Her passion for the work FTP does is exceeded only by her pride in the agency and the people it employs and serves.

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Celebrating Women


ordinary women are capable of extraordinary things We move forward > There are milestones that we, as women, share. We can collectively roll our eyes, laugh or cry at the memory of buying our first bra, going on a first date, getting married (or not), deciding whether to have kids (or not), and being a mom, a single mom, or stepmom (or not). We’ve all faced decisions about whether to further our education, work our way up the ladder, step out and start our own business or to take a different route altogether. 8

Celebrating Women

By mid-life many of us will have experienced similar health scares, and as we age, all of us will become attuned to the power of time and its effects on our physical being. Eventually we will all go from daughter to caregiver, supporting our ageing parents and eventually letting go once they are gone. As each of these milestones is reached, we are faced with the question – “Where to next?” I believe the answer lies in taking stock of your ‘You Are Here’ location on your life journey. This involves acknowledging your accomplishments, reflecting on lessons learned, being clear on what you want more of and what brings you joy, and being mindful and intentional about moving forward in a direction that serves you. With every ending there is a new beginning > At 49, I’ve done my share of moving forward. I’ve held the titles of student, wife, divorcée, wife again, and multiple professional positions, including MOM (Manager of Monitoring). I’ve owned businesses, completed a graduate degree, worked on four continents, travelled to 33 countries and sailed 9,000 sea miles. I’ve worked hard and truly lived. But even with all those experiences under my belt, I was not prepared for how difficult it would be to move forward when I lost my father to pancreatic cancer. The grieving stopped me in my tracks. In May 2010 I put my consulting work on hold and moved in with my parents to ‘be there’ and assist them through the last few months of my father’s life. It’s surreal, the experience of being with someone daily, sharing memories, touching them physically and emotionally, providing support, and comforting them through to their last breath… and then it all ends. It’s over, and they are gone – forever.

As the months passed, my father’s death became more real, as my feelings of sadness and loss sat steeping and grew stronger during this time of grief. I delved back into my work full force and welcomed this distraction from the pain. My mother headed south to Isla Mujeres, the Island of Women, Mexico, to recover in the warmth of the sun. ‘Isla,’ as it is referred to by locals, is home to the sacred ground and temple of the Mayan Goddess Ix Chel, the Goddess of Women, Healing and Abundance. Many people travel to Isla to heal, as it is known for its magical qualities that mend the mind, body and soul. I visited my mother there in March 2011. Both of us were still immersed in the heavy fog that accompanies grieving, but it suddenly began to clear one morning while I was out for my morning walk. It was March 8, International Women’s Day, and knowing this guided my thoughts toward the idea of hosting an International Women’s Day conference and celebration on the Island of Women! It seemed timely to take on a project that would ignite my spirit, one that had an element of risk, as risk-taking is something I espouse through my work. The conference needed a name and I would call it We Move Forward, as the three days would be about women steering their lives in the direction of their passion and purpose. Believe and create > By the time I returned from my walk I was eager to share my vision with my mother. I ran the idea by her, and her eyes lit up for the first time since my father’s death. She said, “I think you should do it.” It was settled, I would create We Move Forward. I began by identifying four core values that would guide my actions and business practices – Goodness, Diversity, Positive


Change, and Giving Back. Goodness is something I work on daily, and involves being clear and conscious about my intentions and actions. Through We Move Forward, I intended to create a community of like-minded and hearted women that is supportive of one another. I also believe that diversity spurs on compassion, understanding and enlightenment, so I included some strategies to attract a blend of women. Importantly, I would design an experience that had women shifting inspiration into action – yes, there would be daily motivational talks, but there would also be interactive discussions and activities that would have women creating positive change. Giving back would be threaded throughout We Move Forward in ways that benefit local women and the community of Isla Mujeres. I would sponsor one local woman for every 10 registrants and showcase local charities. I had a snazzy website developed, booked a conference space, signed up speakers and approached potential sponsors. I got on a bus in Mexico and visited international women’s clubs in Cancun and Merida, encouraging women to join me on Isla in March 2012. I made my voice heard on television, radio and social media. I had never taken on something so big and so full of promises – promises of speakers, promises to pay these speakers, and promises of an experience of a lifetime to registrants – that is, the few who were registering.

You see, registrations didn’t take off as I had hoped. They trickled in. Consequently, some of the people who were eager at the beginning of the project began to lose interest. Many dropped off. I crawled forward. Go all-in > In January 2012, I sat down with my registration sheet that contained 21 names, my project plan and calculator. I needed 63 registrants to pay for my promises. If 45 women registered I would lose money, but still be able to run the conference. But at 21, I was deep in the hole. Do I quit or do I move forward, I asked myself? I assessed my reality and adjusted my definition of success. I decided to go all-in. And, on March 8, 2012, 81 women gathered on Isla Mujeres to celebrate International Women’s Day – this number includes the speakers, facilitators and helpers – but let’s just say, the room was full of wonderful women. The three-day conference surpassed everyone’s expectations with women calling it “crazy-amazing”, “life-changing”, and “a MUST for all women.” I am thrilled to say that We Move Forward is heading into its third year. The WMF community continues to grow, with many women returning again and again. The WMF experience continues to propel women in one direction – forward.

From March 7 - 9, 2014, women will celebrate their accomplishments and how they have moved up, over and around life’s challenges, in the company of women just like them – ordinary women that are capable of extraordinary things.

Janeen Halliwell is the Founder & Director of We Move Forward and Executive Director of FOCUS Accreditation, and Principal, Consultant & Trainer, People Minded Business Inc. She firmly believes that “We are all ordinary women that are capable of extraordinary things. Taking time out to get clear on your desired future brings you closer to experiencing it. You’ll never feel more alive or present than when you’ve taken a risk, stretched your boundaries, and are a bit scared. Believe in yourself and pay attention to those who believe in you too.” www.wemovefoward.com facebook.com/WeMoveForward Twitter: @janeenhalliwell

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The year my life changed forever.

Or, discovering the meaning of my life by Kelley Potter

The year 2009 marked some of the greatest changes in my life. On April 18, I lost my mother to lung cancer ten short weeks after she was diagnosed. Ten days after that, my father passed away after having been ill with a neurological disease for three years; two exact opposite scenarios, one having endured a long, cruel condition, the other barely enough time for us to understand all that had transpired. I can’t say for sure which, if either, was kinder. But I can say for sure that my life was never the same. What I really see at this time, looking back is that while I was a wife and a mom, I still felt like a small vulnerable child in that moment. Someone said to me, ‘Wow, you are an orphan now,’ and that was exactly how I felt. I think because for so many years I had been busy with all the things that life brings your way, I forgot what it was like to be a child. When you think about your life, there are very few people in it who will love you unconditionally, who will love you completely, even when you may not be acting as kindly as you could be, or behaving as well as you should be. My mother would phone me every day, often more than one time, and I used to roll my eyes as the call display would once again show that it was her calling. I will never forget coming back to my house not long after she had passed away and standing by the phone, wishing, 10

Celebrating Women

longing, for her to call me one more time. About a year later, I realized there were some very big life lessons rolled into that time for me. While I feel my parents died too young, the truth of it is that it was inevitable; it was going to happen at some point in my life. I was able to look around at people I knew who had lost their parents many years earlier, and could be grateful for having mine with me as long as I did. The biggest change for me came when I suddenly realized, in a big way, that life was finite. I urgently felt the need for more meaning in my life. While I couldn’t necessarily quit my job and travel the world, or move to another country to help others in much greater need than myself, I recognized there were many things I could be doing in my own community and life that would help me feel a greater connection to the world and to the spiritual side of myself. I opened myself up to volunteering and through that I met some incredible people. I met people who helped organizations and others without a care for any kind of recognition. I also saw people going above and beyond their everyday responsibilities because they understood that there was a bigger calling. The gifts that have been visited upon me from this experience have helped me in my journey immeasurably. The loss of a parent is the kind of thing that you only understand after having gone through it and so

you truly understand what others are going through when you see it happening to them. Loss makes us value presence, albeit too late; but an important thing to understand that hopefully carries over into the rest of our relationships. While the mundane tasks of everyday life are certainly ever present, I am now able to look around, take a breath and truly value the people and experiences in my life, more than the ‘things’. And while I view my life in a kind of BPD (Before Parents’ Deaths) and APD (After Parents’ Deaths) kind of way, I love my life and I appreciate so much more now. The thing about change is that it often arrives unannounced and your life can turn in a moment. What I think it’s really all about is what happens after, when the smoke clears and you are forced to start anew. Kelley Potter has lived in the Caledon community for the past 40 years. For almost 20 of those years she has worked with youth, as Youth Services manager for Caledon Public Library. She is a professional speaker, life coach, writer and interior decorator. She was named volunteer of the year by Caledon Chamber of Commerce in 2012 and is passionate about the issues affecting women and youth. Kelley wants to help people bring greater happiness, success and wellbeing into their lives.


small town girl; big impact by Tabitha Wells

There is nothing more inspiring than seeing a young person take a stand to make a positive impact on the world. To be the change and to show people that there is more to our youth than laziness and disrespect, and that people can be proud of who they are. Mollie HydeWhipp, a student from Westside Secondary School and the host of Rogers TV show, In Town, strives to make a difference through the guests she interviews. After deciding she wanted to pursue a career in journalism, Mollie started a co-op with the local branch of Rogers TV to gain some

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insight and experience in the field. When she arrived, they told her she would be hosting and producing her own show and asked her to develop the idea for it. “I had kind of an inner freak-out!” she said about accepting the challenge.” I decided to profile people who are making a difference in this town who I believe need to be recognized, because I want to help make a difference through my work.” Mollie says that meeting so many people helps her learn about the issues – both positive and negative – that are affecting people. It also

helps her to gain insight into these issues. “I’m quite fortunate, in a sense, with the amount of people I interview,” she said. “I can interview someone who just lost everything, but I can also interview people who have gained everything, or other people who are trying to make a change in the world also. It’s all different ends of the spectrum.” One of the topics that weighs heavily on Mollie’s heart is the way young girls view themselves. With media portraying girls as catty and judgemental, and the increased attitude of girls needing to look a certain way,


their self-esteem and attitudes towards one another seem to be getting worse. “I’m really sick of girls and people in general being so harsh on themselves and not believing they’re not good enough,” she said. “Especially with teenagers. And, being a teenager I’ve gone through that. I’ve had days where I didn’t feel good enough, or pretty enough, to the point where I felt like I didn’t even deserve to get up that day, and I don’t want people to keep feeling like that.” She believes it’s that attitude that really needs to be addressed – that these girls, and even adults, don’t believe they’re good enough. They often feel it’s not okay to be who they are or that they can’t do what they want to do because they aren’t well-suited enough to do it. “It’s okay to be weird, it’s okay to be funny and it’s okay to be stupid sometimes,” Mollie added. “You have to accept who you are because that’s what you have. I just want people to be okay with themselves, and I know that sounds kind of silly, but I hate going on Facebook and seeing girls saying how they

look so gross that day or talking about how they hate their bodies or how they need to be skinnier.” Through her show, she has had the opportunity to share many stories, from cancer survivors to local community event organizers, community outreach program leaders and more. She’s also heard from viewers and people around town who have seen the show and become inspired by her pursuit for a positive influence in the world. “I’ve had some people tell me I’m an inspiration, which is quite humbling, and I’ve been able to encourage others who have decided that they want to make a difference now too,” said Mollie. “I like to tell people that you can do whatever you set your mind to. There will always be people who tell you that you can’t and there will always be people who tell you that you can’t go anywhere in the world, but you just have to ignore them. As people say, ‘Forget the haters’.” While Mollie does feel the future is impossible to predict, she hopes that wherever

she ends up, whether it’s journalism or elsewhere, she wants to have the ability to help change people. She added that she would love to inspire young girls to want to do what she is doing, to change the world because she can. “I’m just a small town girl trying to make a difference in the world,” she said. “I don’t know what the future has in store for me, but even if journalism doesn’t work out, I would like to do something where I help people. I like helping people; I love it.”

Tabitha Wells is a reporter and amateur photographer from Orangeville, Ontario. After graduating Humber College’s Advanced Journalism Program in 2008, she has worked multiple freelance jobs, as well as focused on becoming an avid blogger about life, mental health and her faith. She hopes to one day become involved in ministry to young women and teens and an advocate for mental health.

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Change: Designing Your Future

By Anne-Marie Pollowy Toliver

Would you go on a road trip without a map – or a GPS? How would you get from Toronto to Vancouver? You could take random roads going West, stopping when you are tired or hungry, maybe driving part of the way, taking the bus for another while, walking, riding a bicycle… Or, you could use a map, decide the direction you want to go, where you want to stop (maybe you are a foodie and want to hit great places to eat), how long the trip should take, how much you should spend, when you should go…and so on. A small commute, a visit to a nearby city or a vacation is planned. You look at a number of options before making your final decisions, and before taking action. Yet when it comes to our personal lives, many of us tend to go relatively complacently from crisis to crisis, always hoping to avoid the next one. Mostly inactive, we are willing to let wellenough alone … until the panic of the next crisis. These people are called inactivists or satisficers. They eventually have to deal with crisis management, where they can only react to events. I despise crisis management; our emotions are in turmoil, we are unable to look at all our options, and we usually make poor decisions. We just want the crisis to go away. My alternative is to be preactive: predict and prepare. I want to have a well-prepared map for my road trip, not tightly regimented, but organized well enough to allow me to relax most of the time and be better equipped to make the right decisions when the inevitable crisis comes along. As much as possible, I like to design my own future. Yes, you can design your future! Start by working through the exercises in this article. Take your time; the process is more important than the result. And remember, you can always change your mind.

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PHASE ONE

Set your long-term goals

Dream, fantasize, visualize – what would you love (really love) to be doing five years from now? Where do you live? How do you live? What do you do? How about in 10 years? In 15 years? Be as specific as possible. Let your imagination roam. Everything is possible, there is no right or wrong. Write it all down. Now look at your 10-year goal; will your five-year goal help you reach it? Your five-year goal should help you achieve your 10-year goal…and your 10-year goal should help you achieve your 15-year goal. It is very much like our road trip: if you want to find the most efficient way of going from point A to point C, you would probably to choose to go through point B. This is what is called a means-end relationship and it is a very important concept in designing the future.

PHASE TWO Change Problems to Objectives We are mired in problems; make a list of them. They can be social, financial, job related…whatever you want. Again, be as specific as possible. Rewrite the problems so that you have a single problem on each line. For example, “I need more money for a larger apartment,” is basically two separate problems: “I need more money” and “I need a larger apartment.” Get even more specific: for example if you wrote “I need more money,” break this down: “I need $25


a week more for groceries,” or “I need $200 more a month for a larger apartment.” Now turn each problem into an objective. This is a simple change of syntax. Start with the word to followed by an action word (verb). Let’s look at a few:

PROBLEM STATEMENT

OBJECTIVE STATEMENT

I need $25 more per week for groceries I need $200 more per month for a larger apartment

To have $25 more per week for groceries To have $200 more per month for a larger apartment

develop plans for each one. You start with if….if this happens, I can do such and such; if that happens, I can do such and such. It’s the same process as described above – on steroids. I always try to do a worst case scenario; from there everything else seems easier. But that’s just me. Dr. Anne-Marie Pollowy Toliver is a retired University professor who worked with individuals, professionals groups and communities to help them create the future they wanted.

PHASE THREE Organize Your Objectives Decide which objectives are the most important. Which ones would be nice to have but not critical? The easiest way is to compare objectives is two by two. Compare one objective to the others. Place the more important ones in one pile, the less important ones in another pile. You will have hard decisions to make (can be changed later!)…what if you need $200 a month for a larger apartment and you also need $200 a month for an education program? Which is more important? Eventually (this is a long process) you will identify your most important objectives(s). Try not to have more than three.

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Once again, you will look for means-end relationships. By now you have a good sense of the importance of your objectives and how they could relate to each other. You want your objectives to be organized as stepping stones, so that accomplishing a lower level objective contributes to eventually accomplishing a more important one. Not all of your objectives will fit, and you will have to identify other objectives as stepping stones.

The whole process can be fun and it helps you begin to design your future, make the decisions that will help you reach your most important objectives, and, eventually your five, 10, and 15 year goals. Of course things will not always work out. There is no way of predicting what life will throw at you. And that’s why, eventually, we go into the slightly more complex area of contingency planning. This is where we look at possible scenarios and

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Celebrating Women


my corner of the world is donkeys by Katharin Harkins

photo by Kim Hayes

The painted wood sign over my desk at work shows a sweet-faced grey donkey with the words: My Therapist Eats Hay. My office is the original master bedroom of a 100-year-old stone farmhouse, complete with wide pine board floors, a coal fireplace, and windowsills in which a child could comfortably curl up and read a book. 16

Celebrating Women

Outside are trees, a pond, hay fields, two barns – and 75 donkeys, mules and hinnies. Accompanying the quiet melodies of country life are big, loud, boisterous, joyful brays – the best ‘muzak’ in the world. I am the Executive Director of The Donkey Sanctuary of Canada. Two years ago, at age 59, life did one of its unexpected twists and I found myself with a choice to make. This part of my journey began a few years earlier. I was working in a downtown Toronto office tower, a communications executive in a global financial services company. Busy, stressed-out, good money. I hadn’t planned on a corporate career, having started working life in not-for-profit organizations, wanting to make the world a just and better place. Later, as a single parent, I took what I saw as a stable – and temporary job – writing for company publications. A year became 20 and honestly, I was grateful. I met some of my best friends for life there, enjoyed new and interesting challenges, and raised my daughter. An acquaintance told me about the wonderful time she’d had at a sanctuary for donkeys near Guelph, Ontario. We have donkeys in Canada? So many they need rescue? Yes and yes. Animals have always been a core part of my life and I had to go see for myself a place whose mission I learned was to provide a forever home to unwanted, abused or abandoned donkeys, mules and hinnies. They had done so since 1992. I was intrigued. And so it began – new step, new journey.


A few weeks later, when I drove up the Sanctuary Farm lane, I knew immediately I was in a special place. There were donkeys grazing and playing in the fields, mules poking their heads over fences for ear scratches, people sitting on benches basking in sun spots with donkeys resting their large heads on their shoulders. People were so Zenned out I felt like I’d stumbled into a Yoga retreat. I was enchanted then. I still am. The first donkey I met was Chiclet, a small white donkey with ears that had been frostbitten off. He was rescued from a field when he was six months old, brought to the Sanctuary in pain, hungry, and frightened. Now he spent his days happily romping with his good friend Paco, inseparable friends. I heard many such sad stories – and mostly happy endings. I ‘sponsored’ Chiclet through a donation, bought some cards and a t-shirt at the tiny Long Ears Boutique, and returned to city life. I became a donor, visited as often as I could, sponsored more donkeys, bought more t-shirts, and told everyone I knew about donkeys. For many reasons, the time came when I needed to make rather large personal changes – I left the corporate world, my marriage, and the city. These had not been bad places for me – quite the contrary. But I no longer fit there and began to seek something else. I moved back to Waterloo Region, close to old friends, family – and the Sanctuary. I was fortunate to find a wonderful communications role at an area University, hung donkey pictures all over my wall, and was introduced to a colleague, now friend, who was a long-time donkey supporter, too. I joked to him and others that while this was a great job, if anything ever came up at the Donkey Sanctuary, I was gone. And then it did. Sandra Pady, our remarkable, compassionate Founder and the only Executive Director in the DSC’s history, had decided to retire after 20 years. I wore my ‘I believe in donkeys’ t-shirt to the interview (under a nice suit jacket). A day later, they asked and I said yes. I felt like I won the lottery of life. Right place at right time – in life, especially. Lucky. Grateful. I am aware of – and thankful for – the privilege of choice. My job is now to secure the future for these animals who shouldn’t really be here in the first place. Donkeys are originally from the deserts of North Africa, and are not suited for our climate and vegetation. As the world’s original beasts of burden, domesticated for centuries, they have been brought to nearly every country in the world – to work, to serve. Today they are still the backbone of many poor, agrarian economies making life possible for people with very little.

In Canada, they toiled in the mines, hauled gear as the railroad was built, and now are acquired for petting zoos, to guard herds from predators, or to be ridden in amusement parks. They live a long time (up to 40 years or more in captivity) and are discarded frequently, too often after a life of mistreatment or neglect. We have a waiting list. Donkeys are also the most misunderstood of animals, the punch line in bad jokes, misjudged as stupid and stubborn, a low status beast of burden, not regal or exotic like their horse and zebra cousins. We at the Sanctuary are so lucky to know the truth about donkeys and to work around their calm gentle spirits every day. They are stoic and steadfast and loyal, and can remember donkeys and people for 25 years or more. They are curious and social, forming deep and lasting bonds with each other – and with people. We are able to have Open Days twice a week for part of the year and welcome children, seniors, and all members of the public *because* donkeys are so laid back, non-aggressive and easygoing. What, me worry? I have been incredibly moved to see so many people find solace and joy with these loving, accepting creatures: a teenage boy with Tourette’s who, for the first time in his life, spent two hours without a symptom nuzzling and brushing patient Summer, our 43-year-old Dowager Duchess of the Barnyard; an anxious, unhappy older woman with Down’s syndrome who calmed immediately and said ‘Hi donkey’, her first words in a year, when sweet Tibet nuzzled her. The stories could fill volumes. There’s just something about donkeys. Everyone wants to change the world for the better. My corner of the world is donkeys. They make me better every day. Katharin Harkins is the Executive Director of The Donkey Sanctuary of Canada (thedonkeysanctuary.ca). Their mission: to provide a lifelong home to donkeys, mules and hinnies that are unwanted, neglected or abused and to promote the responsible stewardship of all animals through humane education.

photo by Kathy Gerry

It’s never too late..or too early to get started Talk to me today about Money for Life – Sun Life Financial’s customized approach to your financial and retirement planning.1 Yvonne Arkwright, CLU®, CHS Tel: 519-941-5812 yvonne.arkwright@sunlife.com www.sunlife.ca/yvonne.arkwright 1 Only advisors who hold CFP (Certified Financial Planner), CH.F.C (Chartered Financial Consultant), F.Pl. (Financial Planner in Quebec), or equivalent designations are certified as financial planners. Mutual funds offered by Sun Life Financial Investment Services (Canada) Inc. Sun Life Assurance Company of Canada is a member of the Sun Life Financial group of companies. © Sun Life Assurance Company of Canada, 2013.

Life’s brighter under the sun


Finding the courage to soar. While many of life’s changes are positive, such as getting married or buying a first home, many are not, such as losing a loved one or having financial difficulties. Whether the change is welcome or not, two things are inevitable – obstacles and fear. The bigger the change, the larger the obstacles and the greater the fear. Thirty years ago, I faced a very unwelcome change. At 27 years old, I was a happilymarried, stay-at-home mom with a three-year-old and a baby boy. Then, unexpectedly, before the baby’s first birthday, my husband left us. I instantly became a frightened, broke, single mother. The obstacles were seemingly insurmountable.

One of the biggest obstacles was my financial situation. The solution required two huge changes – getting a job and selling my house. Going to work meant I needed daycare for my boys and transportation to get to the daycare and the job – more changes. Selling my house required finding a place to live – a place I could afford on my small income. All these changes threatened to overwhelm me, especially when combined with managing on my own, emotionally and physically. I was terrified of being alone and destitute. To avoid that likelihood, I took action, using the following strategies: Make a plan and take it one step at a time. I immediately sold my house and got a job, but I did not need to find a place to live right away, as my sister kindly took us into her home for several months. Focus on what you have, not what you have lost. I lost my husband and my house, but I still had my two

Lesley@CourageToSoar.com • www.CourageToSoar.com

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beautiful boys, my parents and sister, friends, my health, a place to live and a good job. Take advantage of all available resources. I developed a support network, including family and friends, community and legal resources. Keep busy and work hard. I applied myself both at work and on the home front. With hard work, perseverance and determination, I did very well at work, and I advanced. Socialize and network. Determined to be not isolated, I accepted all invitations, no matter how tired I was. I joined a moms and tots group to make new friends for myself and the boys. I also started dating again. By overcoming the obstacles, I became financially self-sufficient and I was surrounded by loved ones, rather than being alone and destitute. I used similar strategies, decades later, when I quit my job to get my pilot’s license. While this change was of my own choosing, there were still obstacles to overcome. For example, I used perseverance, research and networking to master the art of landing the airplane and I used

planning and hard work to obtain the skills and the knowledge to pass all the tests. There was also fear to conquer. For example, I was afraid of experiencing an emergency situation while flying. I conquered that fear by using a tool that I had used in my corporate life to analyze difficult situations: Assess the likelihood of the threat coming true. I did some research and learned that the likelihood is extremely low. Most pilots fly for their entire careers and never have an emergency. Assess the severity of the impact, were the emergency to happen. Of course, it depends on the emergency. For example, there would be no impact if it occurred close enough to an airport to glide to the runway. But it could be quite dangerous if it occurred over the middle of Lake Ontario at low altitudes during the winter. Develop and implement practical methods to reduce the likelihood and the impact. I reduced the likelihood of an emergency through frequent and rigorous maintenance.

by Lesley Page

Airplanes and their engines are far better maintained than cars, and they are inspected more rigorously and more often. In your car, you can just pull over to the side of the road if something goes wrong, but you can’t do that while you’re flying. I reduced the impact of an emergency through training and route planning. Training. As a student pilot I was trained to handle emergencies. During the in-air flight test, I had to demonstrate to the Transport Canada Flight Examiner that I could successfully handle a simulated emergency. Route planning. When I have a choice, I prefer to fly over farmer’s fields, rather than over places that don’t offer as many options for landing, such as metropolitan areas and forests. If I don’t have a choice, then I fly at a higher altitude, as that will give me a lot more time to find an appropriate landing spot. Also, like many pilots of single engine aircraft, I never fly out over the Great Lakes during the fall, winter, or spring. By reducing the likelihood of encountering a problem and by obtaining the training to deal with one, I was no longer afraid of an emergency. With courage to soar, I was able to concentrate on my flight training and I achieved my dream of becoming a pilot! These proven strategies to overcome obstacles and conquer fear can be applied in many aspects of life and are particularly useful when facing large life changes. The sky is the limit!

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by Bethany Lee

just say

Several years ago, something happened during an email exchange with two of my best friends that would change my life. An invitation had arrived for an employee event and one of the girls shared it with us…because she didn’t want to go. “I want to say ‘no’, but feel obligated to join in. It sounds like a weird event, and I barely know my coworkers,” she said. “Please say ‘yes’ and join me. Help!” We chimed in that we would join her. Then, a larger conversation unfolded after Tracy’s initial request. Why were we always pre-judging invitations, hiding behind our routines and saying ‘No’ with a scoff? Was there a big risk in going to these events? Not really. We made a pact to say ‘Yes’ for a full year, to all invitations that came our way, and we would support each other through the year by attending anything we were invited to. The initial event that Tracy invited us to was a tour of a fruit vineyard on the northeast side of Toronto. Who knew there were vineyards in that direction? Well, there may be reason why…the wine was absolutely terrible! The tour of the vineyard however was very interesting, the apple varieties delicious, and the tour was followed by a meal cooked by the farm women. It was an authentic and

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wonderful spread, and the fruit pies that followed should have been the headliners. We tried each flavour. We each took home pies for the freezer. Tracy got to know a few co-workers a little better. Just weeks later, Renee received an invite to see a taping of “So You Think You Can Dance?” through her daughter’s dance school. It was meant for the kids, but we said ‘yes’ and requested three tickets for us instead. Soon we were leaving the kids with the dads, dolled up and lined up to join the screaming audience as Leah Miller took to the stage to host the show. We had the chance to see some of Canada’s up-and-coming dancers from just feet from the stage! We loved the costumes and marveled at how the tiny announcer’s dress was so small that it had to be taped with duct tape up the back to hold her all together. We booed and hissed at the judges; we screamed with delight! It was a great night out, and something we probably would have rolled our eyes at a month earlier. Somehow that led to another taping, this time of The Steven and Chris show. What fun! The hosts were just as sparkly as you imagine, and Chris’ hair even bigger. Next, Tracy received an invitation to see Dr. Marla Shapiro speak. Dr. Marla

is a personal hero and I couldn’t wait to hear her speak…but she was a headliner at a plastic surgery event! Not up my alley, and I scrunched up my unaltered brow as I declared ‘No’. Tracy had seen a surgeon for some acne scarring treatment, made it onto the mailing list, and voilà…our invitation arrived and…she convinced us and we stuck to our pact and said ‘Yes’. The event was at a private Golf Club in Toronto; storied walls covered in plaques and trophies greeted us, with champagne and canapés served by gracious waiters. We dined on a delicious meal, and listened to Dr. Marla speak about her breast cancer journey, and women’s health in general. She did not disappoint. I did feel a bit odd in the room; we met some clients who were ‘regulars’, shall we say, pulled tight and apparently ‘surprised’ to be there judging by their expressions. Part of the evening included a free consultation by a top Toronto surgeon. I received a map of my face with the locations and number of injections required…would I like to book now? The answer this time really was a ‘No’, and my girlfriends let it pass. Over the year, we had a lot of fun, got together on a more regular basis, and in


Talk yourself into saying ‘Yes’ Here are some reasons to say ‘Yes’ in the days and weeks to come: What you’re thinking: This is a waste of my time! What if the opposite were true? What if you learned something useful? What if that served as inspiration in another part of your life? What if you met an old friend or a new friend? What you’re thinking: But I hate meeting new people! You don’t need to meet them all. You could meet one person, or none. Just experiencing a situation is okay, you don’t need to be the chattiest or most social person in the room. What you’re thinking: I’m really nervous to try something new! It’s okay to be a bit nervous. It means that your body and brain are ready to pay attention. Take a friend and share your nervousness. Say it out loud, “I never do things like this!” Nervousness often melts away once you are through the door. What you’re thinking: I am so busy, I don’t have time to say Yes to this recital/

unusual locations to say the least. What I took away was bigger than I expected. In the years to come, I changed into someone who said ‘Yes’ more often, out there on my own without my girlfriends. I believe that I became a stronger ‘Yes’ person due to the confidence gained from those first silly outings. I said ‘Yes’ to learning to ski finally after 20 years of avoiding it, getting over my fear of heights (well, almost) and now I am able to join my son on the slopes. I said ‘Yes’ to a fantastic opportunity to travel to the Northwest Territories to undertake some media work. I experienced 24 hours of daylight, ate freshly caught char, and met His Royal Highness Prince Andrew, The Duke of York while on assignment. And when the work was all done, and the Prince was sitting down to afternoon tea, he asked if anyone would like to join him… A few people seemed too nervous to answer. Guess what I said? A very proper ‘Yes’! My habit of saying ‘Yes’ continues today, a decade later. I recently said ‘Yes’ to an unexpected New Year’s invite; while a small outing, it meant so much to be with my close friend and share the passage of time, instead of just sitting on the couch. I recently said ‘Yes’ to a project at work that has me reporting on some of the training that firefighters undertake.

I’ve been outfitted for full bunker gear, and soon I will join the training schedule and film my experiences. I said ‘Yes’ to volunteer editing this magazine two years in a row now and have met some wonderful supporters of human rights, comedians, politicians and everyday fabulous women. Start by saying ‘Yes’ to the small opportunities in life; it opens you up to saying it more often. If you can say ‘Yes’ to something new or unexpected this year, I want you to. Who knows what invitation is just around the corner for you? Your friends, family and colleagues will see you as someone who is open to new experiences, and will extend invitations more often. By saying ‘Yes’, you will support others as they make their efforts to say ‘Yes’. Will join me? I hope you’ll say ‘Yes’! Bethany Lee is a communications strategist proud to be working in municipal government. She is a passionate storyteller and finds herself saying ‘yes’ to several publications a year when they ask her to share her stories. She’s been a journalist, an entrepreneur, a designer and a mom-about-town. Bethany can be reached at bethany@focusonmedia.com or follow her on Twitter @bethanyanyalee

show/party/seminar/trip. We all have 24 hours in the day. You don’t have to say ‘Yes’ to everything; just pick one or two

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new things to try. One-off events often don’t take much time at all, just a few hours. Clearing your schedule of clutter can be a good habit to get into as well… you will be surprised the time that you have to say ‘Yes’ to something new.

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What you’re thinking: This invitation doesn’t feel right and I’m really uncomfortable. Remember, it is okay to say ‘No’. Know your limits, and hold onto your values while being open to new experiences. Trust your gut. There are still times when we need to say ‘No’.

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Empowering girls in an internet world.

In the book “Lean In”, author Sheryl Sandberg advocates women “leaning in…adding more female voices at the highest levels”, fostering equity and importantly, an atmosphere where women actually help empower other women. While this should be the norm for adult women, I suggest female empowerment must start even younger. From birth, our daughters must be taught to use their voice, to stand up both for themselves and others and to “lean in”. Today, in a world where wi-fi and unmonitored access to the internet is everywhere, our daughters face a pressure to conform that is unrelenting. They have become an easy target for boys who think little of sexting or encouraging girls to post inappropriate ‘selfies’. Compliant girls often turn on one another, re-posting these messages with long-term consequences. Far from reading books about female empowerment, our daughters are becoming increasingly powerless against the internet tide. As parents, navigating through a world we are unfamiliar with, how do we encourage girls to be strong, independent and internet savvy? Our current online and social media world sees girls as young as 10 creating accounts, posting online and instant messaging. According to the Peel District School Board, 72 per cent of children under five spend, on average, half an hour online every day, and the average teen owns 3.5 gadgets. Scarier still, one in three teenagers have a computer in their bedroom and are likely to use Facebook every day. Mediasmarts.ca suggests more than half do so with “little or no supervision”. Such data suggests there is no right age to start talking about the wrong things to do on our devices. During a seminar on Bullying Prevention hosted by the Dufferin

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By Sheralyn Roman

Peel Catholic District School Board, police used this example to drive home the importance of teaching internet safety and monitoring internet activity: Leaving kids alone in their room with any electronic gadget is the equivalent of driving them to a park at night and dropping them off with the advice “go have fun, make some new friends.” This may sound extreme but do you really know all the “friends” your daughter has online? Better to avoid this scenario altogether, police say, by putting computers in a central location and removing all devices from the bedroom, especially at night. Further research states what should be obvious, but often is not. We must maintain fluid lines of communication, talking to our girls openly about online risky behaviours and posts. In the article, “Taking Charge of your Online Reputation” we learn that ”on the internet you create an image of yourself through the information you share in blogs, comments, tweets, snapshots….Others add their own opinion (good or bad) and contribute to your reputation.” In this way, you are no longer in control of your own image and reputation. Police confirm that once these pictures/video are sent, there’s no way to regain full control of them and they become a permanent part of the internet. To avoid the pitfalls of inappropriate posts and their consequences, we should teach children to think of their posts as a story. Do the pictures and words they are creating accurately reflect the reputation they desire? Kids are impulsive and often don’t appreciate consequences, so encourage teens to take a time-out before hitting “send”. Suggest that your daughter ask herself, “Is this really a picture or


a post I want on the internet forever?” Help her to understand the permanency of her posts, even in terms of her future education or employment opportunities. Many parents say they want to respect their children’s privacy but monitoring and privacy are not mutually exclusive. If your daughter had a boy in the house you likely wouldn’t leave them unsupervised… so why not supervise her online too? Get to know her ‘friends’ – both online and off. If you pay the phone bill, you should have the password to her cell. Create your own Facebook/Twitter accounts and check your daughter’s “status”. These aren’t invasions of her privacy – they’re examples of responsible parenting. Speak to kids in language they understand. Text them. For a while, every text I sent my child included the words “and don’t do drugs!” It was a lighthearted reminder of behaviours and expectations that had been discussed more seriously at home. Make your message empowering. End every text with “You’re awesome” or “Be strong” – small, positive reminders that just might sink into the psyche and become an indelible part of your teen. Self-esteem takes work and requires a strong foundation. Play an integral role in the construction process. Books, even in this digital age, can play a role in female empowerment. Even if you’re vehemently “anti-princess” as I was, there are some books for younger girls, which encourage hope. “The Paperbag Princess” (Robert Munsch) shows Princess Elizabeth as strong, smart and completely self-reliant. “The Princess Knight” by Cornelia Funke affirms a girl’s ability to make her own decisions in life. Encourage reading throughout your daughter’s youth and into her teen years. Many Young Adult novels support, encourage and enhance the image of girls taking control of their own destiny. (Think Katniss, of “The Hunger Games” series.) Encourage more offline reading and less screen time. “Lean In” would be a great gift as your daughter heads off to university. Make the ongoing use of books an integral part of your empowerment toolbox. It’s not all bad. The internet can be a tool for positive change and some advertisers are getting it right. Companies like Dove

Forward or Delete?

and General Mills are working at helping women and young girls change their perceptions of beauty. Jessica Hopper, in “The Dove Campaign: Conforming or Transforming?” states Dove launched their Campaign for Real Beauty after research into “women’s attitudes towards themselves and beauty...[showed] only two percent of women considered themselves beautiful.” That means 98 per cent of women question their own sense of beauty. Ninety-eight per cent! Sounds like it’s not just our daughters’ attitudes we need to change. Cheerios has partnered with Big Brothers Big Sisters to back the “GoGirls!” Mentoring Program, featuring positive messages like “weight scales can’t measure selfconfidence”. Advertisers like these are taking an important step towards shifting perceptions, by stressing the importance of being proud of what the whole girl offers to the world – not just the sum of what her body parts, posted online. We all play a role in encouraging girls to let their voice be heard. Let your daughter know it’s okay to be strong, brave and independent. That it’s okay to be smart and encourage working together with her peers, not sabotaging them. Support your daughter as she learns to “lean in”, standing together against any form of assault, harassment or bullying both on and offline. Teach your sons to treat girls with respect and your daughters to respect themselves. Help her to be the author of her own story, of which you can both be proud.

After challenging careers in both Human Resources and as an Educator, Sheralyn Roman began writing freelance and is now a member of the Editorial staff at SNAPd Newspaper Group. Owner and Principal partner at “Writing Right For You” she is also a mother of two children now entering the “terrible and terrific teens.” She spends her free time volunteering for several nonprofit organizations.

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life changer by Tara Cassidy

The Happy Soul Project was started after my daughter Pip was diagnosed with Down syndrome to inspire others to look at life a bit differently. Happy Soul Project has been awarded first place in the Top 25 Circle of Moms Canadian Blogs, featured on Children’s Hospital Of Eastern Ontario {CHEO}, International Down Syndrome Coalition, Dandelion Moms and other Down syndrome blogs and websites. Its purpose is to not only bring a smile and provide a real and honest look into our journey, but to bring awareness to Down syndrome.

I wanted to find a way to celebrate and show my daughter how beautiful and special she was. The first step I took was to ask family and friends to write a letter anytime they were inspired by her. What happened next will always amaze me. Letters poured in, literally from all over the world. Without a moment’s hesitation, my family loved and embraced my daughter for who she was, despite what some would deem a negative health diagnosis at birth. Friends were inspired by the strength my daughter endured surgery after surgery, and were amazed by all that she had overcome.

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Strangers, who somehow stumbled upon her story, were encouraged and uplifted in a unique way by her contagious smile and happy little soul. The letters I have received and shared through the Happy Soul Project are something I believe my daughter will one day cherish. Although they are just words on a piece of paper, they are powerful and have in a way helped heal my once broken heart. These letters have changed lives and not just mine. My daughter Pip you see, is only one year old – she can’t talk, she can’t walk, she can’t do much, but she is a life changer... One letter from a young mom, her words just simple and sweet, brought me to my knees. Her words had me shaking in utter amazement that somehow, some way, my daughter had saved a life. The young mom wrote that because of Pip, because of the awareness she has brought and the light she shines, she decided not to abort her little baby boy when she found out he had Down syndrome. Letters like this one healed whatever brokenness I once felt when I found out

about Pip. Hearing that Pip helped show the importance of life for someone with Down syndrome is powerful. The letters have been healing and have forever changed me. It wasn’t always this way. I once was that scared mom totally unsure of what life would be like as I held my baby for the first time. Within days of Pip’s birth, we were told shockingly she not only had Down syndrome but that she would need serious eye and heart surgeries in the first few months of her life. Those were some very dark days for me. I felt completely gutted, scared and had to grieve what I thought my daughter and our family were supposed to be. Those moments now feel very far away. That dark and doubt seem a lifetime ago compared to the joy and hope I feel now. But I have to remember those moments. They are important in their own way to this journey I have been on with Pip. The dark moments formed how as a little family we grieved, then grew and blossomed. They are the reason I hold Pip a bit tighter, why I live in a constant state of gratefulness and they even brought with them strength knowing there is hope in each new day.


Those dark days are a part of why our days now are so very bright. In a way I wish the mum, person, and woman I am today could have held the scared mum, devastated person and unintentionally ignorant woman I was when Pip was first born. Yes, it’s important to grieve what you thought your baby would be, but I wish I could have foreseen my life, my baby girl now and all the beauty she’s brought me since. The beautiful thing about life is that you picture it a certain way and then when it somehow turns out different you can’t even remember how you pictured it to begin with. I pictured my daughter being healthy. I pictured her loud and demanding like her big brother. I pictured her fitting into this “typical” little family of four. But as life has it, she is none of those things. She was born with a hole in her heart and cataracts in her eyes. She is sweet, joyful and oh so content. She also is rocking my perceptions of what “typical” or “normal” even is. She is shattering what I pictured her and our lives to be into something so much more. Something so damn beautiful and unique that I now can’t picture it any other way. Because of Pip I started Happy Soul Project, to show others that although our life is a wee bit different, it is brilliant just the same. Although Pip can’t talk or walk or “do” much, it doesn’t matter because she’s touching people’s lives. She’s making them smile, think outside of the box, bust stigmas, bring awareness, and shine hope to others on the same path.

So, while this might not be the life I pictured and Pip might not be the daughter I imagined having, I am happy Fate/God/Karma or whoever thought to paint our lives outside the lines. And I for one can’t wait to see how brightly Pip shines. Tara is a quirky wanna-be Writer/Blogger, adoring/annoyed wife, minivan mum to two hooligans, one who just happens to have Down syndrome and most importantly a Happy Soul. She is the founder of Happy Soul Project {www.happysoulproject.com} and is currently working on her first book. You can reach Tara at t@happysoulproject.com

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All kinds of change, mostly good.

It may be hard for an egg to turn into a bird: it would be a jolly sight harder for it to learn to fly while remaining an egg. We are like eggs at present. And you cannot go on indefinitely being just an ordinary, decent egg. We must be hatched or go bad. ~ C.S. Lewis

C.S. Lewis wrote The Chronicles of Narnia (among other things), and, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe – the second book in the Narnia series – was, without question, one of my favourite books when I was a child. He also said a wonderfully strange and marvelous thing (see left) about change; which got me thinking. I’m not sure if I am an egg or a hatchling, just yet, but I do have some thoughts about change – the theme for this year’s magazine. Sometimes change happens and we love it, and sometimes change happens that just is and we accept it, and sometimes change happens and we hate it but have to suck it up anyway. And while that last sort of change can be bewildering at the time, it can also, as it happens, be a catalyst. The last few years have brought all of the above sorts of changes to my life. My dad died in February 2009. This was, obviously, the sort of change I hated and had to come to terms with (or, ‘suck up’). And, as the hugest life change I’d so far experienced, my father’s death was one that led to many other changes. I ended my marriage late that same year, which was change I sought – so, both good and difficult change. Change from a not-so-great situation to a life that I made fulfilling and happy-making; at the same time filled with challenges and uncertainty and a new home, in town, rather than out in the hills of Mulmur. As I was finding my way, in that new house and through new challenges, there was the best big change of my life – finding a partner who made and makes me ever so happy and understood and loved and all those good things we seek in life and hope to find but don’t always – except I did, thankfully. I could go on, but then that would 34

Celebrating Women

by Liesje Doldersum

be very sappy and you might not want to finish reading this article. That new partner mentioned last paragraph brought with him two wonderful children – so, there’s an enormous change; I became, suddenly, a parent figure, if not precisely a parent, in part responsible for guiding a pair of youngsters through this exciting wander-in-thewildness we call life. This is good change but also scary change, one I am navigating with joy and hope and care and the occasional glass of red wine. In the smaller change department, I discovered that years of intense exercise and one bad fall while trail running had caused me to develop bursitis in my hip joints – which, when inflamed, is remarkably painful, and aggravated particularly by sitting at a desk, which is what I must do to earn a living – what with being a writer and designer and all. So this was small-but-big change, really – I had to learn to change my exercise behaviour or be chronically injured (limping around the grocery store gets old fast) which was tough. But I learned, and I changed. Now I know I can only run so far – then I walk. Now I know also that yoga is my friend, and my body loves it more than ripping down a trail at fastest possible speeds on a mountain bike. And now I appreciate a stroll about town sometimes more than anything, especially when it leads to a place that sells ice cream. I suppose this all really qualifies as ‘big’ change – learning how to slow down. Because I also learned how to play classical guitar and how to knit – both things which require relative stillness and calmness; both things which bring great rewards (making music and making knitwear – life is good). And indeed, both are things about which I’m sure I’ll never stop learning – so much depth to each, in their respectively different ways. When I was younger I thought solely that I loved change. Now I realize I do indeed love change, but I also respect change for both the difficulty and possibility that comes with it. So perhaps I’ll be fully hatched one day, but for now – I’m going to go knit; then play some guitar after. Liesje Doldersum is the owner of Sprout Advertising and Design, and has been writing for years, knitting for months, and will be learning guitar happily forever.


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Celebrating Women 2014  

Celebrating Women is a magazine published by Family Transition Place in Orangeville, Ontario, Canada. 100% of the advertising proceeds fr...

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