Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Open Letter to People Who Think Fat=Undisciplined

So because I've been off living my life (aka, playing with my kids, keeping up with kids at placement and writing papers non-stop) this little thing passed me by

What's Your Excuse Mom via Jezebel

So basically, mom goes on a tirade as to why we don't all look like her after three kids and that people who are overweight are undisciplined. Now she's been banned from Facebook. I don't necessarily agree with the banning, let her say what she wants (however wrong) and let the chips lie where they fall.

But I'm sick to death of this tired old belief that fat people are lazy and undisciplined. I can wholeheartedly say that this is so patently untrue that is boggles my mind. Which right now is pretty exhausted after spending the day catching up on my neglected housework before doing a shift at a group home with 8 kids, 5 of them severely autistic and consequently getting good whack by one of them.

Darling, let me tell you something, I am not lazy. I am hard working and determined. However where my priorities lie are way different than yours. I'm sure you are a loving mother, so that much we have in common. And as a mother of three boys as well, I don't need to tell you the hard work I do. I have also had to negotiate a divorce and accommodate for the extra needs that has generated for my children. It basically means, giving them my all for the majority of time I have them. I took for granted the luxury of being on autopilot once in a while when I had them full time. That said, I'm sure we're both great moms.

Where we differ though, is that you put a lot of energy into your body looking a certain way. You can say it's because you're interested in being healthy, but I gotta say, I'm plenty healthy. I have made it so far through almost half the school year without so much as a sniffle. And let me tell you, working in a group home and staying healthy means I have the immune system of James Logan...aka Wolverine.

I'm a size 14-16. I'm healthy. I won't provide actual hardcore proof (lab reports and confidential stuff), so you'll have to take my word on that.

You see, outside of our commonality of family, I put a lot of energy into my education, my placement and of course my friends, whom I consider family. I have a 4.0 GPA. I'm very proud of that. It isn't easy to come home at night, play with your kids, cook dinner, do your chores and then write a paper. The other night I was up til midnight getting everything done, only to be up at 5:30 the next morning to get to school to do a group project related to fundraising.

My house while messy isn't a total disaster. I have help thank goodness, I don't know where I'd be without my angel helpers, but I do a lot of it too.

I have a placement, which means I spend a lot of time working with some seriously high needs kids. When coming home to a house of three young boys sounds like a relaxing vacation, you can get an idea of how much work this is. Not only am I dealing with complex neurological issues, I am also caring for these kids, showing them that I have a vested interest in them, When I'm not dealing with them, I'm working with kids who have had pretty rough lives and now live in a home with workers coming in and out. I am on, I am focused, I'm present and I am determined to show them that there are adults out there who care. This takes not only a lot of empathy and patience, but applied knowledge and skills and it's non-stop brain running action. I finally got to sit down 15 minutes before my shift ended to do paperwork.

I had a peer evaluation recently, in fact I've had several over the past few months and you know what? They were all great. The latest one I was near tears because my classmates had said such wonderfully kind things about me. And outside of the fact that my three little guys are awesome, this is something I am most proud about. I try to live my life so that people will remember how I made them feel, and for the most part, I want them to feel like I treated them well, that I'm caring, funny, supportive, respectful and hell, even nurturing (most of my class is 25 and under). Hearing that feedback really let me know I was on the right track. I can safely say that having gone through the weight loss, the plastic surgery, the high of reaching that target weight, none of that even begins to compare how good I feel when people tell me that I have treated them well. When you prejudge people based on how they look, you miss that boat, and for that, I do feel bad for you.

See and the crazy thing about that is that that takes discipline too. I get angry, I get annoyed, I want to tell people to stick their head where the sun doesn't shine VERY frequently. I can judge and write off people just as easily as the next person. I can look at a behaviour they are presenting and not take the time to look under that behaviour. But that's the easy route. Looking at someone who may come off as a grumpy, standoffish, arrogant and trying to see beyond that takes a lot of freaking work and discipline. Working as a co-parent takes a lot of freaking work and discipline. Getting a 4.0 takes a lot of freaking work and discipline. Are you getting the picture now?

We all have different lives, different goals, different experiences. While I love my flashy hair, my purses and increasingly eccentric style, forcing my body to be shaped the way you'd like it isn't a high priority for me.

It's not that fat people don't have discipline, its that many of us apply it differently. Yep, there are some fat people who abuse their bodies by putting junky food into it, just like there are some thin people who abuse their bodies by starving it, but just as I take the time and effort and DISCIPLINE to not judge a whole group of people based on their BMI, I would love it if others who claim I don't have any discipline to exercise theirs.

Many thanks!



Thursday, November 7, 2013

Why I'm glad I'm divorced

I had a moment today. I was sitting in my placement with my supervisor there and my college supervisor. They discussed key items about my placement and what I need to accomplish, then came the time my placement supervisor reviewed comments from the staff about my performance. I have been at this place two days a week since September. It's exhausting, dirty, and sometimes dangerous work. However its also challenging, dynamic and very fulfilling work as well. The reviews came in and they were glowing. My buttons were bursting as the old saying goes. 3, 4, 5 years ago, they would not have been because I was a different person.

2.5 years ago my husband left me. I had a 6 month old baby, two small children and just getting over some post partum depression. It was a huge shock and a deep blow. I had no clue how I'd survive, how my children would fare, how I'd ever trust someone with my heart or be happy again. I was pretty devastated, I didn't eat for a week, I dropped 10 pounds the first three weeks, 70 more that year. My family and my friends were very very worried about me. The first two months were more autopilot than anything, but slowly, I came out of the fog and started to rebuild.

As much as this was an accomplishment on my part, it would not have been possible without my friends and family. They pushed and prodded, they dragged me out of the house for silly nights, they supported and held me when I cried. They say the happiest people are grateful people, and for me, this is true. While I got to see a lot of negatives with people in this time, the love and generosity in people I experienced, changed my outlook forever and restored my faith.

Dragged out for a good time 2011

Move forward to today and I'm a different person than I was in my marriage. I'm outgoing, bubbly, positive, someone who will take risks and most importantly confident in a way I haven't been in a very long time. I feel like I've reconnected with the girl I was and am back on the path I was supposed to be on had I not gotten married.

I surrendered myself in the marriage, it ultimately might have contributed to its end, I can accept this. My confidence was my husband's, my decisions his, he was my saviour and his opinion of me meant worlds. I would never be the person who would travel to Cuba with just a couple of girlfriends or drive across a province on my own. I would have not gone back to school or chosen a career that consistently requires me to put myself out there. I would not be doing well in a group home with very high needs adolescent clients.

cuba 2013
Shortly following that fog lifting, I started to try new things. I took a few courses, traveled, exercised, dated. I was constantly surrounded and encouraged by a huge loving community all determined to see me succeed and thrived. I learned to have patience that I never before had, I learned to accept things I couldn't control and worked on myself instead.

Newfoundland 2011

I got a whole new relationship with my children. A deep and loving one. As much as I was picking myself up from the blow, they too were doing so and I witnessed first hand the resiliency among children and I learned how to support them in this. So far, so good, they seem happy, healthy and relatively normal, as normal as little boys get.
Somewhat normal 2013

I sat there today in that office and realized I have a wonderful life. I have love, hope, drive and fun. My needs are simple, my demands are simple. I have confidence in myself beyond what I ever had in my marriage. The reason being is because I survived divorce and lived to tell the tale. I've not only survived, but I've come out of it a better person, a happier person. When I go into a challenging situation, I know I can do it, and if I don't, I can rise from that failure, dust myself off and try again.

Right now a lot of my friends are going through separations, divorces and breakups. I'm not going to tell you its easy, its hell, for a good amount of time there will be plenty of significant challenges thrown at you. You will feel empty, lonely, hurt, sad, bitter, angry and spent. But every challenge you conquer you will gain insight about yourself, and what's more, you will gain power. Yes, you have another even bigger hill to climb, but this time your tank is a little fuller, you're more prepared and have a little more belief in yourself that you will get over it. My friends, you are all beautiful women, strong, stronger than you believe, and if that mousy little thing that used to be me got through this, you too will get through this and chances are, you'll be a far more powerful, sassy and strong version of you.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

FAQ Scarborough

So I wasn't planning on writing a blog post today, but as usual, I read something and it pisses me off, prompting a blog post.

Today's candidate is Michael Bolen and his piece in the Huffington Post about my 'burb, Scarborough. Super generalization about Scarborough

Now I grew up in downtown Toronto for most of my life. I spent my preschool years in Scarborough, and then moved downtown, and moved back when I was in my 20s. I admit, it took some time to grow on me, and I being of small downtown mind just assumed that every white person on my street was a horrible bigot who would just as soon spit on me and that there were no people of colour, or same sex couples, or young people.

Holy wow, I was wrong big time. In the past 15 years I have lived and worked here, I have been humbled from my downtown assumptions and haughtiness by the mixed and wonderful and sometimes quirky community that makes up this great, but underrepresented region of Toronto.

So let me tell y'all a thing or two about Scarborough.

It is not a wasteland. There are people who live here, nice people, raising their nice families, working hard at their jobs (not always nice). Their kids go to school, they watch hockey (yes, us minorities), they visit friends and family and all in all try to make a good life for themselves. Yeah, I know, Scarberia. It's huge, we often get snow when downtown doesn't get any, there are huge tracts of forests in the middle of communities, but there are people here, lots of us!

There is culture. I loathe it when people say there is no culture in Scarborough, that it's just a bunch of big box stores. If you define culture by boutiques where you can buy a necklace hand crafted by some hermit who lives in a cave in Jordan, or a coffee shop that only sells coffee made by llama babies culture, then yes, that's pretty hard to find. What's easy to find is millions of stores, restaurants, events from a myriad of cultures. See, culture is not just a eurocentric thing, it doesn't look a certain way and it doesn't show up in only certain spaces. If you're willing to walk into a plaza and check out the stores, you'd be surprised.

I'm not dodging bullets. Very few of us are. Look at any crime map and you'll see the rates of crime are pretty similar to other areas of the city. Like Toronto, North York, Etobicoke etc. we have our areas which see more crime than their fair share, I grew up in such an area downtown and can go into a big explanation about socio-economics and crime, but that's best saved for a paper which I'll receive a grade for. Seriously, the biggest uproar my community has had in the past five years is some neighbour ratting everyone out for minute bylaw infractions. Not criminal, annoying yes, but not criminal.

We're not all right wing. My riding showed the most support for Rob Ford in the city. Want to know who our city councilor is? Glenn De Baermaker. Not exactly someone you'd call right wing. Again, why the juxtaposition? Because Glenn routinely listens to, and delivers and people thought Ford would do the same. The big issue? Yep, you guessed it, subways.

Don't get all huffy, this isn't the first time a mayor candidate zeroed in on a single issue and ran with it. Many campaigns rely on finding that hot button issue, picking a side, and hoping it resonates with the city. Why? Because voters aren't thinking about huge complex issues and problems and political allegiances. They think about their lives, their frustrations and what has or hasn't worked for them in the future. Now I didn't vote for Ford, however I can see and feel and understand the issue of not feeling heard by a lot of rich white people downtown, many of them purporting to be left wing. "Oh, I've ridden the subway a few times from Scarborough and back, it was fine" they say. Okay, try it every day, on top of a 40 minute bus ride to actually get to the subway. See how many delays there are. In my class, which is downtown, there is a definite trend every day, which end of the city will be late because of a train delay. Those who live in Etobicoke, or those in Scarborough.

These people trek into the city day in and out, frustrated and voicing their concerns, and they're dismissed by downtown city councilors and the mayor of the time. Rob Ford, the opportunistic guy he is, sees that, and boom! He has himself a campaign. People finally feeling like they're being heard, and to a degree they are, even if he's helping people with one hand and robbing them with the other. I'm not trying to portray suburbanites as stupid either. I'm just saying that voters across the board everywhere, don't usually look at the whole picture.

We're not all conservative. I mean in more of a social sense. My church was affirming, there are plenty of young female leaders here, and people are generally accepting, or they just don't really care about things like that, only if you're a nice person and good neighbour. Yes, there are people here who aren't as supportive of things like rights for LGBT communities, or who believe that only one religion is awesome, or that women have their place. Bolen blames this on immigrants and minorities. Newsflash, people like that are EVERYWHERE. I don't have too go far in my mom's downtown community to find a white guy who has no problems dropping the n-bomb everywhere. How many people in Rosedale or Cabbagetown are interested in having a homeless shelter in their vicinity? I grew up in Regent Park, it's surrounded by rich, mainly white communities. Trust me, there's plenty of bigotry to be had downtown. I'm writing this bloody post because of bigotry, and really, as I see it, a lot of it stemming from classism.

We're not all old. There is a good senior population who have lived here since the beginning of Scarborough (pretty much) but there is a tonne of young families. There is a tonne of youth. I know this because I work with children and youth.

We're not all white. Seriously I have to explain this? Have you even been to Scarborough in the past 20 years? Scarborough is one of the most diverse areas of the city. I know this surprises some people, but really, if you come and spend some meaningful time here (not just to try and win a seat in a by-election *cough* Giambrone *cough*) you would know that.

We're not all rich, nor are we all poor. There is a huge collection of incomes in Scarborough. We have our rich neighbourhoods, our poor ones, and a hell of a lot of mixed ones. I know movers and shakers who live here, I know awesome car mechanics who live here, in my neighbourhood. It's an eclectic mix, but that's a healthy sign.

We do have cars. I love my car, I love to drive. Most Scarberians love cars. Wanna know why? Because it's hell to get around here via TTC. I'm sure Etobicoke feels very much the same way. My youngest goes to a preschool which is about 10 minutes away via car. Via TTC, it would be an hour away, assuming no construction, no traffic snarls, no TTC issue. See why I love my car? People say we're crazy drivers, nope, I'm throwing Etobicoke under the bus for that prize...sorry, you're awesome in many other ways.

There also seems to be this pervasive belief that we don't have communities. We just tend to our lawns and go inside our homes and don't talk to our neighbours. This is bull. We have community gatherings, we talk to people in our neighbourhood, we watch kids grow up, and often move back when they are able to. I can't tell you how many people have moved back to my neighbourhood. Honestly, I feel a difference in people when I come back to Scarborough, maybe it's related to a lot of the cultures that live here, but things seem to go a little slower, a little more chill. On a nice summer day, it can take me an hour to walk around the block because you have to stop and talk to your neighbours.

We have good schools. They may not be RICH schools, but they are good. The things I consider a good school, is a good culture among the staff, a good culture respecting people and students, work is being accomplished and mainly, people are happy. I want teachers who are happy to be there, who love education. I want CYWs in my kids school who jump at any problem ready to go. I want a principal whom I can run into in the ICU and we can support each other through very difficult times (true story!). School should be a big part of the community. I brag about my kids school, shamelessly. My son's grade 3 teacher has already done some mind blowing stuff academically, but is also a CYW's dream in his classroom culture.

There's no good food. What??? What???! Anyone from Scarborough who knows their way around would just stare at you, or have you medically examined. Scarberians love to debate where's the best place to get a patty, oxtail, dim sum, doubles, coffee, cannolis, fish and chips. If you know how to find it, the food here is damn good, and the best thing is, they are little treasures that we keep to ourselves, unless you ask nicely, then we'll tell.We have farmers markets, we can drive for 20-30 minutes and just go to the farm ourselves.

There's nothing to do. Admittedly, if you're looking for a lot of nightlife, galas, clubs, things going on, downtown hubs, it's a tough sell. A lot of time, activities include going to the park, playground, talking with your neighbours, going on a hike, going fishing, going to the beach (yes, we have them too! And the sand is much softer.) Getting ice cream, going to the community centre etc. It's not a terribly flashy place to live. People mistake this for a lack of culture.

So there is modern day Scarborough in a nutshell. It's a long post, but it's a big place. I wouldn't have much to write if I were in a homogenous community. I'm not saying you have to love it, but I am saying to not lump us all in preconceptions because chances are, you're way off.