Correspondence From the Past- Remembering my Father, and the Beauty Behind Letters.

As a mother of a 20- something year old I have to say that I was never the type to hang to too many memento’s of hers. I would keep the random cute drawing, a report card or too, and few baby items that I felt one day she may appreciate. As it stands right now, she has no interest in any of it- so therefore I am obliged to hang on to it until perhaps 10 years from now she still will have no interest in it.

I have moved so many times over the last 15 years that the opportunity to unload and let go of stuff has become customary. I often tell myself as I’m offloading this stuff that if I did not remember I even had it, I probably do not need to hang on to it. So basically I Marie Kondo the F*** out of my house on a monthly basis.

That was until I had my elderly mother move in with us.

When we moved into a much larger home you would think that after having moved her from British Columbia only a year before that she would have very limited belongings.

Wrong.

This woman has kept everything…as in she still has my reward for “Participation” ribbons. Mementos of my mediocre attempts at anything academic or athletics. My mother also loves to hang onto cards from anniversaries, birthdays, thank you’s…she has boxes of these cards. In addition, the family heirlooms and antique furniture that do hold value, however in the context of my own love for more contemporary décor, stick out like a sore thumb. But at the end of the day I tolerate it obligingly- my mom deserves to be surrounded by the familiar things she has grown to love and cherish.

More recently my mom decided to introduce a new desk into her room so that she could house more of her stuff and perhaps alphabetize her cards and categorize the bill statements she has hung onto since 1995. As she was going through her things she had come across some letters from my father when he had taken a job overseas in Tanzania. Read Here about those adventures! Part 1 and Part 2

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Mom and Dad- August 2011

Now if there was anything to ever hang on to this would be it. My father passed away in August of 2016 after a long battle with organ failure complicated by dementia. For about 10 years prior to his death, my father had deteriorated and what was left the man I had remembered had been long gone. So when my mom came across these letters to her, I was able to revisit a time when he was vibrant, humorous and the father that I had grew up with. I had long forgotten this side of him, as the decade prior to his passing was overshadowed by so much stress and worry while we advocated for placement and my mom was left as a caregiver.

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Dad on the Sailboat he built–1990
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University Graduation 2007

Before his health declined my father was a hard worker- in fact a workaholic. He was determined to provide for his family-despite some underlying mental health and addiction issues that I’ll save for another time. My father had served in the Canadian air force, taught college Electronics engineering, was a boat builder, woodworker, and avid fisherman. He worked all over the world, and one of his last jobs brought him to Tanzania as mentioned.

Here are some of the excerpts from his letters that I will hang onto without a doubt. Hope you enjoy!

Mgololo, Tanzania 1991
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Love You Dad- Miss You.

The Office: A Once Prehistoric Place where People Once Worked. My Ode to the Youth Assessment Team.

Last night I worked another extra shift at our Afterhours Unit. It’s the epicenter that is anything Child Intervention for all Southern Alberta. It’s a busy place that houses upwards to 10- 12 social workers at a time with rotating 12 hour shifts. I’m going to avoid getting into what it is that goes on there and go into what used to go on there, more specifically in the little hub that sat below it for many years. Covid- 19 would require our leadership to make the decision that in order to keep this essential epicenter healthy and operational, they would need that little hub downstairs to. That little Hub housed one of the most important Units (in my mind) that has ever graced the city of Calgary- The Youth Assessment Team, also commonly known as YAT. The pandemic would send us home packing, never to return back there as a unit again.

Now I started at YAT about 5 years ago, and I am still with YAT as an Assessor in the child Intervention capacity. I do both investigations under the Child, Youth, and Families Enhancement Act as well as Protection of Sexually Exploited Children’s Act. We are small yet mighty unit consisting of 3 PSECA workers and then my partner in crime, AKA. Work Husband AKA. Thrilla from Manila, AKA someone I call friend. Supervisors come and go as its not an easy unit to manage, and perhaps considered a stepping stone in the leadership world. But thankfully we have had our fearless Youth Practice Specialist hold it down and weather the storm with us no matter what. Which leads me to how extremely special and rare it is to have group of people that genuinely love working with teens in a social work capacity. In a pool of thousands, finding willing social workers to become a part of this unit can be challenging, as it takes a whole other skill set and patience that not many are brave enough to take on. Social Work can already be a thankless and undervalued career choice, so it is no wonder why many opt to not take on the added strain. But this is why YAT is so special, because while we are all so very different, we carry the same passion, love and commitment to our regions youth which serves as the connection necessary to keep us and city’s most vulnerable youth afloat as best we can. And while we are mandated and guided by the Acts in which we serve, it does not deter us or stifle our creativity in finding new authentic ways to make progress to form trusting relationships within the community we serve.

Being back in that unit is strange however as the carefully decorated boards that once held our profile pictures, achievements and birthday calendars are still there, yet the history of our presence has long been disposed of. Outsiders fill our seats, many who are new and unaware of who once occupied this space. They look at me as if I was the new face to these walls. In my mind I’m thinking, “No Honey, these Streets Belong to YAT, and that’s a Fact you Jive Ass Turkey.”

And as my shift carried on I’d reflect on my years here as my vision would walk me through the seemingly hardened memory lane streets.

There sat the big circle meeting table at the back that held 100’s of family meetings whereby tears were cried in joy and sadness. Many potlucks were eaten here too where we would share our appreciation and gratitude for the community partners we worked so closely with. This table would also serve as the starting point for files we would tirelessly work with, sometimes for months on end to either preserve or protect. Many times they would return to this very table; many didn’t make it back for sadder reasons. This would also be the table where the author would experience her first date with death after being exposed to a drug chemical bolus. Only after to find out she over reacted in an altered state and would be okay after a a few hours. This would serve as an example cross regionally why we don’t handle drug paraphernalia.

Your Welcome.

Sometimes our doors would be decorated for us or a new paper craft delighted our small humble offices. It was in this little hub that we’d set up an entire Christmas tree intrusively close to the desk of one of our co-workers who hated Christmas. Sometimes there would be tokens of gratitude left on our desks, giving us that pick me up that we so badly needed. Office doors sometimes needed to be closed so we could have our moment to fall apart and put ourselves back together. Other times they worked to keep the music played from becoming contagious and provoking a whole out dance party. . Other times they would close behind us because we had made a mistake, only to open again so we could give things another shot at doing better. The hallway that our doors opened up to, joined us together, also became a catwalk for us to WERRRRK our new Barrier Kits we had labelled with designer tags when the Opiate Crisis hit.

Summer months we’d all be told to get up from our chairs and take a walk to the community market across the street. We’d all come back with goodies to share and manage for brief moments to not talk about “our kids,” and talk about our lives. Birthdays were always a cause for celebration, and cake would be had most definitely! This is where I’d master the art of taking breaks in my day to catch some air and take in the serenity of the home gardens in the area brought me. This is where we’d stroll into Kensington and enjoy my first Free Stampede Pancake Breakfast.

Friday lunches were also a favorite, yet another time we could all sit around and of course “talk about our kids.” You see, these “kids” became a labor of love to us, and the more fierce, defiant and unruly they were, the more we wanted them to succeed. As a team, we understood this madness- we admired their resilience within the changes they encountered. As the years would march on we too endured change, but also a sense of pride.

So its no surprise the office I used to once complain about where on any given day the elevator broke down with someone in it, or a mouse trap had caught a new victim, that I would take our space back in a heart beat. The “Love Fern” that sits on the desk at the end of the hall; which just so happens to be the only window accessing sunlight- its still there. Last night I cleaned up its dead leaves, gave it a little water, and sent a picture to our team. I was so pleased to sit in that office for the 12 hours I worked, even though I was alone and the familiar smiles and laughs were no longer there. I felt at home for the first time since the pandemic started and hopeful that maybe in another year we’d make a home somewhere else. Its the one thing that “our kids” taught us- That change can nurture resilience, and no matter what environment we are in-there is always the opportunity for important work to be done.

Can I Just Unload For a Minute? That was a Rhetorical Question, Because Here it Comes.

funny sad dog - Dump A Day

I will preface this post with acknowledging that I am doing better than most folks and by no means want to silence the voices or real struggles that people are facing everyday. Most days I start by saying this to myself and finding gratitude in the small things. But today…I’m going to put that aside for a minute and just be real with you all.

Because…..

Wheewwww Chile’! My Mental Health is getting a run for its money honey!

Today was a rough day.

In fact its been a rough 2 weeks.

Where do I start.

It is so hard working in child protection during a pandemic. Outside of the obvious complicating factors, we are short handed, and lacking all of the previous programs and supports we had before to intervene or provide safety. It seems like every time I have a great plan formulated after spending hours, sometimes days making it, Covid-19 happens undoing it all. Today I asked for additional time to work on stuff, but given the governments current financial climate- Overtime is scarce these days. And I understand. I just hate to see families wait, or crisis unfolds while I pluck away through as much as I can in the 7.25 hours I have. After several burn outs, I am not the social worker who will now work for free or sacrifice my time to meet those needs unless absolutely necessary. Being a social worker is about the long run baby…they already caused me to lose most of what is left sane in my membrane. But still it pains me to see people suffer and not devote more time to them when in need. I know I am only one person, and boundaries are a must, but still, that doesn’t make me sleep better at night.

Additionally, we are not getting paid for the hours we have been putting in due to a new payroll system that was released which was inadequate to meet the various positions we all hold. So many have not been paid, me included. See The News Coverage Here.

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We are 2 months into a lockdown- I had hoped to use my extra cash to buy a treadmill to counteract the stress I’m feeling with my workload and address my ailing spirits and overall mental health and wellness. Looks like its not coming. To boot my damn credit card got compromised so I’m sitting here waiting the 7-10 days for it to be replaced. I went to go return some stuff I had impulsively bought at HomeSense and they told me I couldn’t because the credit card I had used was no longer active so I’d have to receive a store credit. Not helpful to a woman who is not getting paid by her government employer. I pulled a Karen and got nowhere. Imagine that.

Who Is Karen and Why Is She So Mad? | HowStuffWorks

Things just don’t’ seem to be getting better. I’ve taken to drinking a lot more (I’m not saying this is problematic), as in I used to only drink the casual 1-2 bottles of wine on the weekend. I’m now averaging 1-2 bottle every second day…and not spread over 2 days, but mainly all in one go-sometimes its shared, sometimes I’m greedy. I know this is not the answer but at this time it just feels like the lubricant I need to unwind from the days that seem to be out of the movie Ground Hog Day. My point is, its sad day when the only joy and reprieve these days is when 4:30 hits and your eyes light up as you watch that sweet elixir hit the decanter. If only I could look like Olivia Pope while engaging in my scheduled cry fest tucked up with my stemless wine glass/AKA Sippy cup.

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Olivia Pope “Scandal”- She makes alcoholism on a Tuesday so Sexy!

Lately I’ve noticed my anxiety is through the roof. I’m becoming unhinged and its impacting my relationships. I worry and fret about stupid stuff and feel an overwhelming need to have total control over everything as if I’m the one that should be at the wheel of anything right now. Especially when I’m two bottles deep!

Then there are lingering effects of Covid on my brain from last July are still here, as I see how it impacts me in times of stress where I become even more forgetful and absent minded. I can’t afford to be this way right now. I’m embarrassed in how it impacts me in front of colleagues. I can’t always think on the fly, or remember important information, sometimes even names and words when I’m presenting to a panel of people. Its fucking with my confidence- and I feel like everyone is looking at me strangely. That in itself is probably the anxiety speaking too.

I feel like all I can do is eat, work and sleep. I cling onto my dog feeling like I need to absorb whatever loving energy she has to give me.

I’m neither depressed, or sad, just feeling rather exhausted with the bullshit that is 2020/2021. I look in the mirror and I don’t recognize the woman I see. Where the hell did she go? It feels like that woman has gone on a perpetual vacation and will return when the world gets its shit together again.

Today is a reminder for me to get it the hell together before depression takes a hold of me and I’m no longer able to recognize these emotions as temporary and reactionary to a shitty day.

Tomorrow will be better.

Never confuse a single defeat with a final defeat.

F. Scott Fitzgerald

Saving Savvy: A Guilt Free Approach to your Online Shopping Addiction

We all have been guilty of trying to hide the evidence of our impulsive online shopping. I’m a heavy subscriber of the Treat Yo’Self Tribe and have been caught a few times. Its usually  a minimal response by the witnesses such as a head shake or an unsolicited opinion on if I really need more shoes. Uhhhh Duh! Yes.

I believe the first thing we need to ask ourselves is what are my shopping habits when it comes to personal style. Are you more likely to buy high end whereby your focus is namely on a feature piece that you style around. Do you stay with the current trends often buying the up to date items then ditching within months to make room for the new ones. Do you get bored easily and seek to wear new stuff on the regular but regrettably left with items in your closet you’ve worn once having moved on to the next best look? I tend to be the last one which requires a more strategic shopping approach.

I’ve compiled a few of my favorite online clothing and beauty stores that have the best loyalty rewards programs that you can optimize your savings but also get free dollars to spend!

Loyalty Rewards + Sales = Free Stuff!

Be prepared to tell those  Shopping Shamer’s “Look what I got for free!” and stop lying about that outfit you’re wearing is old and has been sitting in your closet for awhile. They’re not buying it anymore babes!

1. Shein

I love this website and currently have an ongoing cart with over a 100 items in it. The quality varies but I’ve never gotten one item from here that I wouldn’t wear and didn’t fit. The sizes are accurate, and the clothing is priced perfectly for someone who likes variety and changes their look up often. What I love about this site the most is that they have so many opportunities to earn reward points that wont take forever to build up for free items.

One of my favorite things to do on the Shein App is creating Look Books of outfits you can create with their items. You can submit the looks you create to win and earn points.

This is an example of one I created and was awarded Editors Pick Points:

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2. American Eagle Outfitters

For the longest time I never went in this store because I thought they didn’t have jeans that would fit my Big Ass. Boy was I wrong! They have some of the softest and best fitting denim for the ladies with smaller waists and luscious  goddess curves. At AEO you earn ten points for every dollar spent at American Eagle and Aerie in-store or online, and 2,500 points equal a $10 rewards. Bonus, earn a 15% off birthday coupon, and for every 5 bras or jeans purchased, you get one free! Spend more to level up, and if you spend over $350 a year, you could earn free shipping on every order!

3. Urban Outfitters Rewards

This online store lets you earn rewards by not only purchasing from Urban Outfitters, but you can also earn points by sharing, entering contests, visiting store events, connecting your social media accounts and more! With VIP status, you get a birthday reward and tons of chances to win signed merch from your favourite artists! You can redeem your points to get deeper sale discounts, early access, and tons more.

4. The Bay

The Bay is no longer your moms department store and has an amazing online selection of high end designer items. It’s “Canada’s Iconic Department Store” that has been often underestimated in terms of the clothing lines they carry depending on what store you’ve visited in person. They are notorious for their Bay Days whereby you can find that one item you’ve been holding off for a significant discount.

With the Bay’s HBC Rewards, you can earn a point for every dollar spent at the Bay in-store or online, if you spend up to $399.99 a year. If spending more than $400 a year, you can earn 1.5 points for every dollar spent and 2 points for every dollar spent if you’re spending over $1,200 a year. You can redeem your points for The Bay gift cards, Air Miles rewards, and even donate to charity! HBC Rewards isn’t the fanciest or the best of the rewards programs out there, but you’re probably spending money at The Bay anyway, so might as well sign up!

5. Simons

I love this store for all the essential basics that are  needed to pad your wardrobe. Everyone has a “favorite white t-shirt” that gets worn weekly whereby their quality works in your favor for this exact reason. Simons rewards lets you earn one point for every dollar spent. You earn a $10 rewards card for the first 500 points earned, and $1 for every 50 points following that. It’s not the most lucrative program for earning and spending, but The Simons also lets you earn 2X the points for your birthday month, exclusive online contests, and an extended return period. Keep spending to level up, where you could earn free delivery and free alterations!

Shopping Addict Pro Tip:

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I’ve never loved selling my barely worn clothes on Facebook Marketplace as its time consuming and hit or miss. Consignment stores can also be picky and selective of what they are looking for making a trip out there a waist of time. Below are a couple sites I’ve used to put money in my pocket and keep my wardrobe fresh and exciting with each new season.

ThredUp

Here’s how ThredUp works. You send your high quality clothing that you no longer want to ThredUp. When they receive it, they’ll assess it and give you a credit to ThredUp so you can get clothes for free.

You can also get credits for referring others to use ThredUp – up to $10 per referral. With ThredUp you’ll only find items in excellent condition, so you can be sure you’re getting quality clothing at a great price – especially if you get it for free by using store credits!

Rehash

Rehash allows you to list the clothes you have that you want to swap for something else. When you list, you can give specifics about what you want to trade for. Another option you have is to simply put “anything” in that section and see what kinds of offers come your way.

There aren’t any fees to join Rehash or to list or sell your items, however you may have to work out shipping plans and costs with other swappers.