Telemiracle: Changing the world, one miracle at a time

There are many ways we mark March in Saskatchewan. Hauling our kids to and from the rink for the last few hockey games of the season. Enjoying a final round of beer and chicken wings at the local curling club or getting one last ice fishing trip in before the snow melts away. In all cases, layering a bunnyhug under your winter coat because the weather will change from being ‘not half bad’ in the afternoon to ‘still freakin’ cold outside’ at night.

But nothing is more quintessentially Saskatchewan in March than answering the call to “ring those phones” during the province’s annual telethon — Telemiracle. The 21-hour variety show shines a spotlight on the diverse talent within the province, intermixed with performances by a celebrity cast. But more than that, it proves once again that small groups of people working together — coming together — to help others can have a powerful impact on our world.

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How to talk about mental health

People everywhere are jumping on board the Bell Let’s Talk Day by sharing messages of support via social media and in person, and for very good reason. Mental health affects all of us, in so many ways.

When you look at the statistics, the numbers are staggering. According to the Canadian Mental Health Association:

  • One in five Canadians will personally experience a mental illness in their lifetime.
  • Suicide accounts for nearly a quarter of all deaths among 15- to 24-year-olds. It’s one of the leading causes, second only to accidents. Canada’s youth suicide rate is the third highest in the industrialized world.
  • About half of the people who feel they’ve suffered from depression or anxiety have never seen a doctor about it.
  • Only one in five Canadian children who need mental health services receive them.

When you break these numbers down to the individuals behind them, the stories will break your heart. Ten-year-old girls committing suicide. First responders struggling to deal with post-traumatic stress disorder. New mothers taken by post-partum depression. Sometimes these stories make the news and are momentarily spotlighted. Too often they are ignored.

This is why we need the Bell Let’s Talk Day. We all have a responsibility to participate in the conversation. We all have a story to tell. Some big. Some small. Here’s mine.

Continue reading How to talk about mental health

Four tips for managing holiday stress

This time of year brings out the best in people … and sometimes the worst. Maybe it’s the cold weather. Maybe it’s the grating holiday music. Or the molasses-like crowds.

Or the pressure of choosing the right gift.

Or the never-ending to-do list.

Or your Elf on the Shelf.

Or the financial and emotional stress.

Whatever the reason, you’re sure to come across someone who has just blown their last nerve and is hovering on the edge of their sanity.

Maybe that person is you.

At some point, I know, it’s probably going to be me.

So here are a few tips to help you keep your cool, at least until 2017.

Continue reading Four tips for managing holiday stress

How to survive your Elf on the Shelf

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I love everything about the Christmas season — the decorations and lights, the cheesy movies, the food (and drinks), the good deeds, and the get-togethers with family and friends. The list goes on. But there is one thing about this time of year that I really hate.

Elf on the Shelf.

I remember back in 2005, when this phenomenon first hit the stores. “Did you get an Elf on the Shelf yet,” my sister asked.

“No, and I’m not going to,” I replied. Because I thought the idea of having a weird-looking doll spy on us in our home was a little too Chucky-esque.

But by the next year, my then four-year-old had noticed these elves popping up in other people’s houses. “When are we going to get our elf,” she asked, over and over.

And soon her younger brother joined forces. “Can we get an Elf on the Shelf mom?” they pleaded, every time we went anywhere for anything. “When are we getting our elf?”

Continue reading How to survive your Elf on the Shelf

How to stay current with technology

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You may have seen the video of the adorable elderly couple trying to take a picture on their computer. Or the episode of Modern Family where Jay couldn’t understand the difference between clicking twice and double clicking.

I’ve heard stories from my call centre friends about customers who’ve washed their computer monitor in the dishwasher or tried to use their mouse as a foot pedal.

Old people and technology. I used to laugh at these stories.

And now I’m one of them.

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How to change your kid’s behaviour

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One of the things that I looked forward to most about my maternity leave was the opportunity to spend more time with my older kids. To have some downtime with them between school and activities and the bazillion ‘to dos’ we fill our lives with. To connect with them, and get to know them better now that they were becoming their own little people with their own big personalities.

I had grand ideas of what life as a stay-at-home parent would be like: slow mornings and well-rested kids; pulling perfectly-timed cookies from the oven as they walk through the door after school; having actual discussions about their days, instead of the blunt Q&A of our current work-school routine.

“How was your day?”

“Fine.”

“What did you do?”

“Nothing”

But staying at home was not exactly as I’d expected. Instead of a calm, happy household, I found myself in a daily battle with two kids who wouldn’t listen to me and fought with each other all the time. Give it time, I told myself. We’d just brought a new baby into our house. We were all adjusting.

But time only seemed to make things worse, particularly with my son, who started struggling with his behaviour at school too. We started receiving notes from his Kindergarten teacher informing us when he had had a bad day, when he was being a distraction in class. What can I do to support him? she asked. But we didn’t know. If we could just make it to the end of the school year,  I thought, things will get better over the summer.

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They got worse. Sure, we had a great family vacation. We did a lot of fun things. But there were also a lot of days where it felt like every good moment was book-ended by bad ones. If I asked my son to do something, he ignored me. If I gave him a consequence, he ran away screaming and crying and saying “I hate you.” He harassed his sister. He mocked us. And no matter how angry we got, no matter how much we escalated the consequences, he rarely backed down.

When school started again, so did the notes from his new teacher. He wasn’t a mean kid, but he struggled with listening. Fortunately, we have had two great teachers who were committed to helping him focus and supporting his success at school. His new teacher started giving us daily updates on how he was doing. “Green” was a good day, “yellow” meant he’d struggled a bit and “red” was, well, not great. Please let him be green, I’d think as he walked in the door after school. Nope. Red again.

I didn’t want him to be “that kid.” I wanted him to feel good about school. I wanted him to be good at home. I didn’t know what to do to fix his behaviour. So one night, after a particularly bad day, I Googled, “Why is my kid acting like an asshole?” And this is the answer I got: Continue reading How to change your kid’s behaviour

How to save thousands on your family vacation

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Ten years ago, within the span of a couple of months, my now husband and I moved to a new city, bought our first home, started new jobs and got married. Tackling four major life events in under 60 days was very exciting, but it was also incredibly expensive, leaving us with little money to fund a honeymoon.

But we were young and in love and in need of a break. So instead of completely forgoing a vacation, we bought a tent, packed up our Toyota Matrix and embarked on a 2,000 kilometre road trip to the West Coast.

This summer, to celebrate our 10-year anniversary, we decided to take a similar vacation — only this time, we’d be travelling with three little passengers in tow. We wanted our kids to share some of the experiences we’d had. We wanted to hear their breath catch in their throats as we travelled through the heart of the rocky mountains and see the excitement on their faces as they sidestepped crabs and jellyfish in the Pacific Ocean.

With a little planning, we were able to do all this and more, and keep our costs in check in the process. Here’s how. Continue reading How to save thousands on your family vacation