While half of the world is seemingly losing its mind over Syrian refugees, Canadians are scratching their heads wondering what the big deal is. A year ago, we elected a Prime Minister who promised not to control the influx of refugees, but to bring even more into the country. We rejoiced when he actually kept this promise.
For many people, refugees are a bit of an abstract concept. They’ve never met them, so they assume that they are somehow “different”. For residents of the neighbourhood I live in, there is nothing abstract about refugees. There is nothing scary about them either. They are not would-be terrorists who are trying to impose Shariah Law while they freeload off the government. They are real human beings who are trying to rebuild their lives after fleeing from war zones.
The corner of Toronto that I call home has a large transient population. Refugees come here to live while they are trying to find their feet in Canada. They are housed at one of the motels in the neighbourhood, and their children attend school with my son. When they have found a place to live and a job, they move out of my neighbourhood and into their new lives.
I have come to know a number of refugee families through my involvement with my son’s school. I don’t know all of their stories, but they have a look in their eyes that speaks volumes. It is a look unique to people who are trying to wrap their minds around the fact that for the first time ever, they don’t have to live their lives in fear. They can move beyond “survival mode” and actually start to find enjoyment in life. They can board a city bus without wondering if it will blow up. They have access to parks where they can go for walks and have picnics. Instead of running away from danger, they can just run.
Some of the refugee kids at my son’s school have discovered the joy of running through Kilometre Club, which happens every school morning during the spring, summer and fall. Kilometre Club is very simple in how it works: kids show up before school and run laps around the school yard. For every lap they complete, they receive a Popsicle stick. Five minutes before the morning bell is due to ring, we send out a kid for the last lap holding a fake scarecrow on a stick. When the scarecrow completes the lap, Kilometre Club is over for the day. The Popsicle sticks are collected and tallied, and the class that has the most Popsicle sticks at the end of the season wins a pizza lunch.
Kilometre Club has become a well-loved institution at the school because it is so inclusive. There is no sign-up and no expectation to go at a particular pace. Kids who want to run can run. Kids who want to walk can walk. For the refugee kids, it is a discovery that you can run without having to run away from something. You can run without being triggered by the “fight or flight” response. For these kids, it is a new world in which you can run just to feel free and alive.
I’m the one who hands out the Popsicle sticks and decides who will be the scarecrow for the day. In this role, I have gotten to know most of the kids at the school. I get to see the Canadian kids weaving the refugee kids into the fabric of their lives, welcoming and including them as if it’s the most natural thing in the world. I get to see the refugee kids slowly, slowly dropping their cloaks of fear as their lives mesh with the lives of those around them.
It is a beautiful thing, and one of the reasons I love being a Canadian.
Does your community welcome refugees? How do you encourage your kids to embrace diversity and acceptance?
This is an original post to World Moms Network by Kirsten Doyle of Canada. Photo credit: Ani Bashar. This picture has a creative commons attribution license.
Think your intellectual and creative juices take a dive when you become a stay-at-home parent? Think again.
A couple of years ago, I wrote a post for World Moms Blog about my decision to become a stay-at-home parent. Prior to staying at home, I was a U.S. diplomat for nearly ten years. Resigning to stay at home was not part of my plans. I planned for a career in the Foreign Service and never really considered doing anything else. When my son was born, that all changed. I wasn’t ready to leave him, so I decided to stay at home. Fortunately, we were at a place financially where I could choose to do this.
While I was happy that I could stay at home with my son, there were times when I mourned the loss of my professional life. With the decision to stay at home, I thought that it was downhill professionally from that point; that I wasn’t really qualified to do anything else other than be a diplomat, and thus I would likely move on to lackluster opportunities when the kids started school (I have remained a stay-at-home mom after the birth of my two daughters, as well).
But here is the good news: I was wrong. Completely wrong. Leaving a career that I knew I could not easily go back to opened up a whole new set of opportunities for me. Ones that I was not previously able to explore because I had boxed myself in to a specific career path.
Ones that allowed me to stay at home with my children and continue to work at my own speed, on my own time, and discover new things about myself and my talents.
Shortly after I became a stay-at-home parent, I took up writing and started my own blog to preserve some of my sanity amidst the at-home chaos. The writing not only allowed me to let our family back home know what we were up to (we lived in Thailand at the time), but allowed me to continue to do something I loved. While I often wrote about adventures in parenting and travel, writing time was my time; my chance to unplug from parenthood, reflect, and continue to challenge myself creatively and intellectually. I began to write with a purpose to help families new to Thailand learn where to go and what to do. I learned that I could be a valuable resource to others while getting my “me” time. This was fulfilling and exciting, but became even more exciting when I got a call from Travel & Leisure Southeast Asia to write for their family travel issue. The thought of being a freelance writer had never occurred to me. I had resigned to be a stay-at-home mom, so you can imagine my surprise when I received a job offer for something for which I had never applied. I was up for the challenge, but also nervous about trying something completely new.
Luckily, my article was well-received and I began to write for T&L on a regular basis during our time in Thailand. The opportunity also encouraged me to test my talent. I reached out to other major online and print publications and, within the year, had written for the New York Times, CNN Travel, and others. Developing and pitching stories, writing for large audiences, and working with different editors was both challenging and exciting.
Each day I could give my undivided attention to my children, and each evening I learned something new about myself and abilities.
In addition to the freelancing work, reading to my children a good hour or two a day inspired me to delve into the world of children’s literature and pen my own draft of a children’s book. I joined the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators and learned how to write for a young audience (note: writing for little ones is not as easy as it seems). I joined peer review groups, learned to give and take editorial criticism, and began the process of contacting publishing houses and sending my manuscript out for review. It was nerve-wracking to try something so new and unfamiliar, sure; but it was thrilling. Would I have ever done this had I not become a stay-at-home parent? Not a chance.
I began to challenge myself physically, as well. In addition to writing, running is another source of “me” time; one I use to recharge my batteries and reflect on my parenting, my relationships, and our transient lifestyle. After the birth of my third child in 2014, I trained for and ran two half-marathons. When arriving in Krakow this year, I formed a women’s running group. As soon as the kids start school full time, you can bet I’ll be training for my first full marathon.
All of these things – the freelancing, the children’s book, the running – they grew out of my decision to stay at home with my family. My assumption that becoming a full-time mom would inhibit me from succeeding professionally was false. On the contrary, letting go of my career and becoming a stay-at-home parent opened up new opportunities for me that I surely would not have explored otherwise.
Have you thought about what other talents and abilities you might possess? How does spending time with your children inspire you creatively and intellectually?
This is an original post to World Moms Blog from our mom to three and writer in Poland, Loren Braunohler.
The images used in this post are attributed to the author.
I was mentally sabotaging my morning run before the day even started. I laid in bed the night before thinking about how I was getting to sleep too late after eating too much junk when I knew I was coming down with a cold. I had not set myself up for success and felt guilty. I tried to tell myself if I was that beat tomorrow, I would skip it. I woke up in the middle of the night twice for other reasons but couldn’t help but think of how I tired I would feel come morning.
As I prepped the kids for school and got through breakfast with way too much coffee, I told myself how I was not well-hydrated and would be dragging. Should I even go? I kept moving but my inner voice whispered that I could just walk today if I felt overwhelmed. That voice said, “Listen to your body. If you don’t feel up to it, don’t do it.” Then a competing inner voice mocked, “But it’s your own fault for not feeling up to it, so go suffer through it.” I carried on.
When I got to the trail, I saw flashing lights up ahead. I almost stopped, thinking I should not run that way. However, I pushed on telling myself to see what the lights were about before bailing. They were just for a parked maintenance vehicle being unloaded, so I jogged on.
I was sluggish the whole time. I felt slow, heavy and bummed about not taking better care of myself. Still, I kept going. I told myself I would cut it short if it felt like too much, but then I knew the negative self-talk would grow. My knee was a little achy, and my spirits were low. Nonetheless, I kept putting one foot in front of the other and tried to lose myself in some music.
Then I spotted a young woman I often see on the trail. She is gorgeous with long hair, bright eyes, and slim body. She usually takes long walks, and we exchange waves and smiles as I go past. Today as we crossed paths, she was jogging. She stopped and told me in a panting voice that I had inspired her to stop walking and start running the trail. I congratulated her on her efforts, and we both went on our ways. All of a sudden, I was lighter. I ran without issue. I didn’t think of my knee, my weight or my tiredness. I just ran and finished up the run on a high note.
Her simple compliment made such a difference on my perspective. This beautiful woman told me I had kicked her butt into gear. I had fallen into the trap of cutting myself down mentally while assuming this other gal had it all together. How could she not?
But we all have stuff. We all have the stories we tell ourselves.
I’m an upbeat person who usually focuses on the good, but like everybody, I have days (like today) when I focus on the bad. The fact that this gal stepped out of her comfort zone both to run and to tell me, a stranger, that I had inspired her to do so snapped my head back on straight. Her gesture reminded me of a few things that I know to be true:
1) Just getting out and taking each step counts, even if it’s not your best performance. Looking back, I placed so many obstacles in my own path for this run, but I pushed past each one. Not my best run, but I still did it. That is worth something.
2) There is always going to be someone achieving in an area that you are not. Someone will always be smarter, thinner, happier, healthier, wealthier, etc. It’s okay to admire or be inspired by that someone, but do not judge yourself harshly by that someone. Measure yourself against yourself.
3) Everybody has challenges and doubts going on. Everybody. We’re human. We’re not perfect.
4) It never hurts to tell someone, even a passerby, something nice. You may just change their whole day. You may just change their whole life. Kind words are that powerful.
My trail acquaintance probably has no idea how much her words impacted my day. When I see her next time, I’ll tell her. Plus, I feel prompted to tell someone else how they inspired me. I have been meaning for some time to tell a certain person how they unknowingly helped me to make a life change for the better. I haven’t done so yet, despite ample opportunity, because I don’t want to seem too familiar to an acquaintance. However, today has taught me that hearing you changed someone for the better is never too familiar.
Have you received an unexpected compliment that changed your day? Is there someone who has unknowingly inspired you to try something new, and have you told them?
This is an original post to World Moms Blog by Tara B. of Washington (State), USA.
Photo credit to the author.
When my legs felt like lead, I thought of them. When rain and snow pelted my face, I thought of them. When I closed my eyes and wished it was over, I thought of them. 13 charities. 13 reasons to keep on moving.
In September of 2012, still battling the war against the baby weight I had gained in pregnancy and losing (my own “baby” now three and a half), I decided that running seemed like a good idea. Except that in September, I had never successfully run a mile in my life, not even once. I needed a goal to keep me on track, a motivational tool to push me out the door before the sun rose on cold fall days in Paris. Armed with the idea that a half marathon was “completely possible,” I set out to find the most interesting, and difficult, half marathon I could find. A race at the Great Wall of China was first to leap out on the page, but as I scrolled down further, there it was: the 2013 Kilimanjaro Marathon in Tanzania.
Later that evening, I said to my husband, “I’m going to run the half portion of the Kili Marathon in March,” and my husband, slowly raising his eyebrow said, “That’s great, but shouldn’t you run a 5K first?” (more…)
Sunrise during one of my early-morning runs
Like most moms who work outside the home, my days tend to be very full, very busy, and fraught with the kind of anxiety that comes with wondering just how I will get everything done before I collapse into bed at night.
A while ago, when I was trying to figure out just why I never seem to have enough time for everything, I wrote down a timeline of my typical day.
It goes something like this:
6:00 Wake up; stumble semi-conscious to the coffee-machine which is programmed to have my coffee ready for me.
6:05 Check emails, see if anything exciting is happening on Facebook, wash up and put on makeup so I can pretend to be pretty.
6:30 Wake up my younger son, get him washed up and dressed, get myself dressed, pour coffee into my travel mug.
7:00 Take my son to his before-school program, then commute to the city centre by bus and subway.
8:30 Arrive at work. (more…)