2016: Year in Review

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2016 has been a complicated year for nearly everyone I love. It’s brought a lot of growth to myself, my family and my friends. There’s been some awesome things accomplished and some epic learning experiences that I’m still on the fence about.

I’ve officially graduated from online learning with a degree in communications, and landed the dream job within two weeks only to find out the path that I aspired to work in since 16 was nothing like it was in my head, or previous positions. Coupling a new job with a longer commute, C going to daycare full-time, thanks to my mom driving him; my family was dealing with a cancer diagnosis and treatment that has been successful so far. I didn’t stay at the “dream job” for long, and took a retail position that is five minutes from daycare, because sometimes you don’t know that you don’t want something until you have it. I’m refocusing, interviewing in the New Year knowing that I will always value the time with my son more than the prestige of “the job.” Work-life balance is a lie, and it’s up to you and your support system to hustle to be the best in all areas if it means letting some stuff go.

I called time on  relationships that weren’t right, and am navigating co-parenting with admiration and respect. Navigating the family law system and being one for results immediately, this process is taking a long time when there is in essence nothing to argue about as there is nothing to really change, it’s just putting the plan that’s worked for two years on paper and saying “We’re better separate then we are together.” It’s hard, but it needs to be done. No one has a child thinking their going to be the statistic that doesn’t make it, and I’m remembering why I chose that person, rather than get caught up in the drama and emotion that can happen. By not engaging, we’re able to put our son’s needs at the forefront, and that’s the goal of parenting; respect, selflessness, and mutual understanding.

C has grown so much. He’s funny, creative, smart, stubborn, bossy (leadership skills), empathetic and everything I could ask for in a kid. Even if some days are harder than others, to know that my child is healthy and happy is kind of the best feeling. He runs around the house, jumping off the couch calling himself Batman-Superman-Spiderman-Man. He’s strong, tough and brave but soft enough to stop me for a snuggle and a kiss. He is literally the best thing I’ve ever done in my life. And now that he sings Oasis with the whine, my work here is done… well at least about some of his musical preferences. Can someone please make “Wheels on the Bus” stop? 14457471_10157503240740608_7937567628197837447_n

I’ve reconnected with old friends, which was so not something I had planned, but it’s good. There has been a parallel of lives for the past few years which is funny and odd, but it’s refreshing to FINALLY be carving out some time for conversation that doesn’t always have to do with kids, though most of the time it does. Even if I am just dumb all the time now, tripping over my words and smiling like an idiot. Thank you for that, you stupid face.

My thirty-second birthday is just three days away, and I was told your 30s is where you learn all of your lessons. Your friends are carefully curated down to the best of the best and that’s happening. There are some women I’ve known since highschool and some who were neighbours and mothers who became sisters. It’s a good place to be. 2016 has taught me resilience, strength that is deeper than I had before, and that sometimes it’s okay to say ‘no’ if its not what is best for your circumstances.

Like everyone else I’m ready to say goodbye to 2016 and move into 2017 which I have designated to happiness, and less stress. I have made some goals that I will be working towards, and look forward to new challenges I’ve set up for myself. 2016 is a stormy year that we all seemed to have to weather in order for growth to happen. Therefore although I am feeling a bit apprehensive about 2017 (Thanks, Donald!), personally its time to move forward and embrace happiness.

I hope everyone has a good Holiday season as we reflect on the end of the year, and as we all carry on together.

 

 

 

 

When Jessica’s Get Together… We Can Change the World.

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df6a7f2f78cadf869056ce36bb18c42bWhen former classmates and friends collaborate, excellent things happen. Here’s a link to the awesome creator of my new header photo and a sound ear when we discuss our careers, our work, and our mutual goal of abandoning everything to become allergen free bakers and birthday party planners.

While she is discussing me, I feel like I should return the favour. Jessica Dunning, was an excellent creator, the calm in a whirlwind of a team, and although we were in the same circles, I’m pretty sure we were pretty good at “discussing” dynamics in the hallways between classes. Anytime we had to have potlucks, I’d make sure all my desserts, all of the cupcakes were peanut-free, because everyone needs a cupcake after group projects and presentations.

Now as she breaks the mold of what one should expect in marketing, hustling for contracts and clients in a manner that is aspiration. Please check out her blog and her YouTube for custom made content. We’re supposed to stick together, and in this case, we’re like WowButter and Jam.

(No peanuts, Jess D. is allergic)

http://creative-dunning.blogspot.ca/2016/06/i-get-by-with-little-help-from-my.html

My Online Learning Experience

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IMG_0704As my online learning experience with Athabasca University is winding down, and I have been previously asked by other IMC/AMC graduates how the learning process works and what its like juggling priorities, I figured now was a good time to explain what the past thirteen months have been like for me. This isn’t advice for every student as we all structure and balance our lives differently, as well as have differing learning styles. It’s just my experience, with a little bit of IMC/AMC specific information for all the other St. Lawrence College alum that are considering the option.

So here it goes:

  1. Athabasca University has a great transfer credit policy. With my three year advanced diploma I received 72 credits out of 120. In classes, in which most at Athabasca are 3 credit classes, that means I had to choose 16 classes to take over a timeline that worked for me, in my case 12 months-with a “break” over the month of September due to unforeseen OSAP complications, which we will get to.
  2. Be prepared to read. I have read multiple journals, articles, books, and papers on everything from the Snowden files and video game addiction to the experiences of early Finnish Canadian feminists in the 1920s. This vastness has made me think more critically,distill important information out of long-winded documents and become better at Jeopardy, an essential life skill in my home.
  3. Online learning requires a specific type of student. As much as a brick and mortar school allows for students to come to class, or not; online schools are a different type of beast. This means that other than introductory emails, most tutors will not be chasing you for assignments or to check in with the class on a schedule. Its up to the student to do it, or not. To me, that means there needs to be a self-motivated learner who needs little hand-holding.
  4. Although many initially respond that it must be a lonely experience studying on your own, know that there are excellent tutors that will check in with you, fellow students on Facebook and the AU application that are going through the experience with you. Many of the friends I’ve made have been fellow parents juggling priorities while getting their communication degree. I’ve also had excellent tutors that have made me think, question, and pushed me for my best work. (Thank you James, Jayne, Dan and Karen!)
  5. Have a contingency plan. I’m a list-maker and do better when everything is planned. I set deadlines far ahead of my contract end date, allowing for me to take an entire month of sick toddler days to not lose too much time. That being said, I did take an extension on one of my courses in order to do my best work.

In conclusion, distance education is tough but doable. It’s hard to focus when you are alone working whether at home, the library or Starbucks. I wouldn’t trade it for anything, especially as my depth of knowledge has been pushed and pulled. I’ve filled a bookshelf with books and textbooks, and learned that I am able to something I thought I was incapable of at 18.

 

Next Steps

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It’s officially April, and that means in eight weeks I’ll be finishing final exams and handing in the largest paper I’ve ever written. #jessgetsherdegree will have run its course and then it will be time for Jess Gets A Career. (fingers crossed)

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How I know how much time has passed. He’s a person now.

I’ve been working towards networking and talking to everyone about what I am looking for. This means that there is the potential for big changes for Caleb and I. Moving on. Hello, anxiety!

I have planned and purchased a toddler and mom sized graduation gowns, because doing a photo shoot at home and waiting for my degree to be sent in the mail is way more in our price range than flying to Alberta with a 3 year old will be, as I wouldn’t be walking until June 2017 based on my end date.

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How Little C was at the first graduation

So I am planning a ton of next steps with his needs put first. Toronto is probably out, and we’ll be sticking close to home(ish).

However I really think that there an opportunity that is right for us and we will just have to find it.

 

Chicken Pox and Playing Catch-Up

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Caleb started feeling/looking sick a little over a week ago, and when he woke up Friday and I first saw him, I may have blurted out “Oh my, Gosh.” He was covered in a rash- not just any rash-the POX. Although he’s had the vaccine, apparently 10-30% of kids will still have a mild version of the icky, itchy spots.

So as we took him to his doctor, received confirmation and took 10 days off of daycare, maxing out my sick days for the entire year, we were attempting to cope with a toddler who doesn’t know not to scratch. Luckily, we live in a small town. Like the one’s written about in country songs, where everyone knows everyone.

Barbra Jenkins, who used to babysit me, makes soap. Bab’s Goat Milk Soap if you’re interested in having the best smelling skin. She saw Caleb’s photo on Facebook and dropped off two bars of lavender oatmeal soap for bedtime. It was fantastic! Smooth, smelled wonderful, and within a few baths, the redness of his spots was fading faster than the oatmeal bath, and he wasn’t itching at his chest and face anymore. Literally a miracle, I was even able to take the socks off his hands at night.

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This winter has been hard with sickness and rashes. We’ve cycled through hand, foot, and mouth and Caleb had a cough since Christmas but with all the missed days, it’s finally gone. That being said, I’ve been playing catchup since the beginning of the term. Now that’s he’s crazy busy, it is harder to juggle and he is notorious for needing me as soon as he sees my start typing.

However, with the support system that’s available to us, like getting the soap with a handwritten note is enough to refocus on what’s important and I know the late nights catching up are worth the days I get to spend with Caleb, even if the sight of him does make me itch.

 

 

What Does The “F” Word Mean To Me?

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*This blog post is part of the curriculum of Thinking from Women’s Lives- An introduction to Women’s Studies (WGST 266) that I am currently enrolled in.*

The term feminism is sometimes referred to as the “f” word, because it has a negative connotation for many people. Have you ever heard any negative views or opinions expressed about feminism and feminists? What does feminism mean to you? What does it mean to your family members and friends? Would you call yourself a feminist? Why or why not? Do you think a man could be a feminist?

Feminism has always been a loaded term, as it encompasses the role of women as beyond that of the housewife, martyr and mother that traditionally been presented in culture. However, I believe that feminism is imperative to ensure that there is equality in culture. That is, when feminism is open and available to all people that believe that they are “women” or an ally to women. Any prejudice that is allowed, does not factor in the needs to all people. Feminism to me allows for the equal treatment of women, allowing for the wage gap that doesn’t exist.

I would call myself a feminist. I do not believe that feminism doesn’t need to be a negative term that it presented quite often, with women stating: “I believe in equality for both sexes, but I wouldn’t call myself a feminist.” This tarnishing of the word, and of the status has had a negative impact, in which women are not taking ownership for their own rights.

I do believe that men can be called feminists as well. As stated previously there is the need to have allies in our fathers, brothers, friends and partners. The worth of ourselves needs to be mirrored by these important people in our lives. What is it to say that the championing of women is any less important from the mouths of men, than it is of the mouths of women?

Five Things To Consider Before Returning To School With A Toddler

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So I am one essay away from being finished my first semester as a university student. Although this isn’t my first run at school, it is the first I’ve done as a mother of a toddler. Believe me, that adds a whole new level of both frustration and determination in ensuring that I do well. This first semester has had some hits and misses, and now that I am the final lap for a few weeks I feel as though I can give some insight to juggling priorities.  So here are few of the things I have learned in the past four months that weren’t in the textbook.

  1. Accept help from (nearly) anyone that offers. 

Due to the fact that my school is done through online platforms, which allows for flexibility and odd study hours, which I needed in order to be a good mom and a good student; I was only able to have two days covered by the daycare subsidy in my community. That means that I have 12-14 hours a week to work on six classes without C there. So when family members, his Dad or even the stranger across the road offer to take your kid— you say yes. Sometimes, it’s the only thing saving you from yourself.

2. Expect to fight over your school supplies. 

That highlighter you’re currently using- its now “mine”. The papers that you need to have read by yesterday, they’re colouring sheets for a toddler looking for attention. I now have a hoarding highlighters problem, as they are littered throughout the house, my room, and the glove box in my car.

3. Add about an extra week to everything you have to do. 

Kids get sick, they get hurt and sometimes (all of the time here) they don’t sleep through the night. That means you have to account for “toddler time” in planning assignments, readings and tests. I add about 10 days- I start things earlier than I am supposed to in order to not fall behind.

4. There Will Be Tears (And That’s Normal)

Teething. Finals. Frustration. Exhaustion. Learning New Skills. All of these things are a hard thing to go through. Especially when both the child and the parent are reaching the end of their energy reserves. That’s when the tears start. Reasons there have been tears in the past week in our house.

A) Someone’s Batman toy wouldn’t do what it was supposed to do.

B) Footnotes.

C) The potential of Strep Throat— it has been at the daycare and we missed school to preventatively swap after we had some off nights. (It came back NEGATIVE! Yay! This may have been both parties in tears)

D) A Foo Fighters Song.

E) The cat didn’t want to play with a dump truck.

See, lots and lots of tears.

5.  It’s All Worth The Sacrifice 

C loves his daycare. He gets to play with other kids and learn new things. He’s jumping up a grade in the fall, moving to the Tots room. He’s ready. I’ve become far more critical, I think I have become a better writer, and love what I am taking and the benefits we will both receive due to the hard work I and my support system is putting in. It’s pretty awesome to know that my decisions will offer C so much more.