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Kaeleigh Phillips

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Cleansing your new home with a sage smudging ritual

A common Cherokee proverb is “Listen with your heart, learn from your experiences, and always be open to new ones”.

Moving into a new house often feels like the beginning of a new chapter. This can be incredibly exciting, but also incredibly scary. Building a house full of love and comfort is no easy task and rituals often help to make me feel more at home. Each time I move, I have a smudging ritual to cleanse my home and begin anew.

Smudging is an indigenous tradition also known as the Sacred Smoke Bowl Blessing. It has been a tradition for thousands of years in many clans across North America, and I was fortunate to be taught about the ritual from a Cree friend in Western Canada when I was a child.

Smudging has become a popular tradition among spiritualists as well. At the risk of it sounding like cultural appropriation, and with permission of my aboriginal friend, I have also used it for many years. The tradition differs depending on the region you live in. For example, in Western Canada, people traditionally use desert sage, sweet grass, pinion and tobacco. In the East, it is more common to use cedar, juniper, pine needles, cypress, sage, tobacco and sweet grass. Using an Abalone Shell, a traditional bowl in First Nations culture, to hold the sage while it burns is recommended because it signifies water in the ritual.

For my new home, I decided to bring desert sage from a small native arts & crafts shop near Calgary, my birthplace. Sage often comes in bundles, but can be burnt as loose leaf as well. I prefer the bundle because there is less chance of the embers spreading in your home. Find a feather for the ritual and then you are set to begin the smudging. By lighting the sage in a bowl, it releases smoke that is said to soak up all of the negative energy and bad thoughts, cleansing your space.

Once the sage is burning (embers only, no open flames needed), take the feather and cleanse yourself by moving the feather from your feet up to your head. Try to think of all the negative thoughts being dispelled in the smoke to rid yourself of negativity. If the sage lights on fire, blow out the flames and leave the embers burning. The smell of sage is earthy and has an incense-like scent. It is not for everyone, but I personally love it because it reminds me of where I’m from.

There are a variety of smudging prayers that you can say or you can complete the ritual in silence while meditating over the negative thoughts leaving your body and home. I prefer to complete this part of the ritual in silence. Be sure to cleanse anyone else taking part in the ritual. Next, I begin cleansing the home of any negative energy. Begin in the eastern corner, which represents air and the fresh breath of the rising sun each day. Move slowly to the south that symbolizes earth, and the creative inner child within. The west represents sun set and the deep introspection of darkness and water. Finally, end the cleansing ritual in the north, which is the direction of fire and knowledge, compassion, and the future of your home. Continue in a full circle ending back in the eastern corner of your home and be sure to fan the smoke in each direction. I also play drum music, which is believed to imitate the sound of the heart and say a prayer while completing the ritual.

The prayer is as follows:

May your hands be cleansed, that they create beautiful things.

May your feet be cleansed, that they might take you where you most need to be.

May your heart be cleansed, that you might hear its messages clearly.

May your throat be cleansed, that you might speak rightly when words are needed.

May your eyes be cleansed, that you might see the signs and wonders of the world.

May this person and space be washed clean by the smoke of these fragrant plants.

And may that same smoke carry our prayers, spiraling, to the heavens.

After the ritual is complete, I make a feast and have friends and family over to celebrate the ritual and my new home. Because the house is cleansed, it is a good time to create positive and loving energy in the home, with the added benefit that the smell of sage cleanses everyone who attends. Another common custom is to burn sweet grass after the smudging ritual to encourage kindness and peace. I have not tried this before, but may try it this time.

The smudging ritual is a custom that causes one to pause and consider what energy we want to bring and sustain in our homes. Oftentimes, people are so busy trying to move their furniture in and continue their lives that we forget to meditate on how to create love and happiness in our new dwelling. Every new beginning is an opportunity to cleanse and recreate the ever-desirable feeling of peace in the midst of urban life. The peace of mind and renewal that comes from the ritual is worthwhile and leaves me refreshed every time.

Disclaimer: You may want to disengage the smoke alarm temporarily, or it may go off. Don’t forget to turn it back on!

Let’s talk getting naked with your partner

Do you find yourself trying to cover up when naked in bed with your partner? Are you racing to put clothes on after the shower? Is being in the nude nearly un-‘bare’-able? You aren’t alone.

Many women dislike being unclothed in front of their partners, and this is ultimately damaging to confidence in a relationship. Women are surrounded by air-brushed lingerie ads of women who are perfect looking, and this leads to damaging self-criticism. This discomfort needs to be destroyed. It is time to throw off the clothes and learn to love that naked body for exactly how beautiful it is. Feeling comfortable being naked in front of your partner will not only strengthen your relationship, it will ultimately make you feel better about yourself.

Embracing the nude isn’t a process that will happen overnight. It takes consistent effort and, if you work at it, slowly but surely it will become completely natural to hang out in the nude with your partner. Start by confronting your fear head-on, the dreaded mirror. After a shower, instead of avoiding your reflection, take a look. Instead of glancing at yourself with critical eyes, try to see what your partner sees. What is beautiful about your sexy body? What makes your feminine self desirable? Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and self-criticism is not helpful. High self-esteem starts with yourself, and meeting that beautiful woman in the mirror for a post-shower ego-boost will adjust you to being naked and increase confidence.

Taking care of your body will promote a healthier relationship with your body. This does not mean develop a punishing regiment for daily exercise, but instead should inspire you to learn how to love your body without being fixated on trying to change it. How about a massage or even treating yourself to a manicure and pedicure? Treating your body as a temple will promote a sense of much-needed self-love. Exercise is important and creates a healthy self-image, so challenge yourself to move your body in ways that feel sexy and fun. Do you like to dance? Put on some music and bust a move! Do you enjoy hula hooping or swimming? Grab a hoop or jump in the pool! Moving the body in a fun way makes exercise enjoyable and will make being naked even more fun.

After some serious self-love exercises, it is time to test the waters and try to get naked with your partner. If you are still feeling nervous, enact a ritual to feel more confident like putting a bit of mascara on or putting coconut lotion on your body. If the lighting feels too bright, use a lamp, candles or softer lighting. It creates sexy mood lighting and will make your partner very excited. Remember, your partner wants to be there with you and your beautiful naked self. Men aren’t critically assessing your stretch marks or blemishes, but are simply excited to be with a naked woman they love. Good men are not looking at the flaws, but instead are looking at the woman beneath them. Try and see yourself through the eyes of desire, you will look pretty dang good.
Being naked with a partner will ultimately forge a more intimate relationship, with the added bonus of shaking up your sex life. Be brave, and love your naked body. Women come in all shapes and sizes, and that is precisely what makes women so beautiful. Embrace the body you were given and make it your temple — if only for your own benefit.

What’s the true cost of birth control in Ontario?

Women are forced to pay for birth control, feminine hygiene products and take responsibility for their fertility in a way that men are not. As a country that purports democracy and equality, steps need to be taken to ensure women aren’t forced to pay for much-needed products.

Birth control in Canada is expensive and cuts deep into the pockets of young women already trying to make ends meet. Without insurance, birth control has an added cost and women are expected to fork out the cash. One third of women in North America have reported struggling to pay for birth control at one point in their lives.By providing it for a cost in Canada, it questions whether protecting yourself is actually a right of women or is it instead a cash cow for greedy pharmaceutical companies who are actively taking advantage of women.

Birth control is universally covered in Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and China, among other countries. Canada does not offer birth control for free or subsidized without insurance coverage, and this limits accessibility for women looking for different options.

After comparing prices at three different pharmacies in Toronto, the average prices for the five main types of birth control are astronomical. Mirena, a hormonal IUD offered by Bayer who is one of the largest pharmaceutical companies in Canada, has an average cost of $416. Though it lasts for five years, finding this type of money as a young woman is unrealistic and often prevents women from accessing this option.  The Nuva ring is the second most expensive option because it must be bought monthly. It is approximately $31 per month and this cost adds up quickly throughout the year to $328. Though oral birth control appears affordable month to month at $20, it adds up to $240 per year making it the third most costly option.

Women who are low-income have alternative options to seek cost-free birth control, but the availability is certainly limited. There are 14 sexual health clinics in Toronto, most with extremely limited drop-in hours. These clinics will help provide low-to-no cost birth control to women who need it, but these clinics have long waitlists and are drop-in only. Oftentimes, these clinics are so busy that there will be over 20 people waiting at the door prior to its opening.

Other options include Family Planning, which offers certain birth control options free and charges a discounted price for others. The IUD is discounted, but still has a price tag on it. If you are looking for an IUD as well, you must phone at the beginning of the month to schedule an appointment that will be at least three weeks later. The other option is the Bay Street Centre for Birth Control, but book quickly. The waitlist to book an appointment at the centre was three months long.

It is clear that Canada has is an issue when it comes to birth control. The act of charging women to protect themselves from getting pregnant is arguably discrimination.  Canada needs to join the other countries that have moved to universally cover the costs of birth control, and grant access for women of all incomes to different types of protection. Only then will I say that Canada is a country that truly supports the rights of women.

 

Festival life reminder of beautiful womanhood

Barefoot in the dirt, dancing around a bonfire with my soul sisters, music, wildflowers, and lichen everywhere. This was FrogFest, the celebration of music and nature, and a true healer of the heart after a long hard year of trucking away in the grind of city life.

Festival life in the summer has become as important as seeing cherry blossoms in May and eating fresh apples in late August. It is an essential part of the Canadian music lover’s life and is a process of revival in the midst of hot and hazy summer days. So, what does it really mean to be a woman immersed in nature and music with her best friends? Why venture out into the forest to not shower for three days and commit yourself to the frenzy of festival life?

Quite simply — to free yourself.

If only for a moment, bills cease to matter and the monotony of the nine-to-five life disappears. Life becomes about the next song, the heartbeat of the vast powerful forest, and picking wildflowers because that is the most important thing you could think to do in that moment.

Millennials are living in a time of low employment opportunities, rising living costs, and an increasingly frightening world. In the wake of the impacts of climate change and a growing sense of disunity on the international stage, young people today are left to face growing challenges. But instead of giving up all hope and turning away from the world, festivals like FrogFest inspire me to believe there is a collective of individuals who want to change the world for the better.

Alongside music, sexy people, and the lush forest landscape, there were many conversations around the importance of barter, trade, and changing society from the capitalist confines that have ravaged our planet. I personally witnessed a young seven-year-old lad trade a drawing for a patch that my friend had sewn. When a young woman tripped and fell during a show, ten people were there to pick her up instead of none. The entire experience was a series of gift giving, from physical objects to spiritual offerings. Festival spaces aren’t only about getting trashed and listening to tunes. It’s about experiencing the freedom to be inspired.

It is also a place to really honour the space and power of womanhood. I was lucky enough to camp with some of my oldest and wisest women friends. To see the ladies who have loved and supported me so happy and complete reflected how much opportunity being outdoors gives us to be our full selves. It was empowering to feel attractive in my natural body, and I saw many people, myself included, who frog-hopped into meeting a special someone who made them feel even more lovely in the brief and beautiful dream world of festival life.

If you haven’t been to an outdoor weekend festival before, it is well worth it. Gather a group of your best girlfriends, bring your most colourful and beautiful possessions to share, and get ready to feel more free than any amount of therapy can offer.

Oh, and don’t forget to find a magical frog in the woods. Ribbit! Welcome home.

Here are some photos from FrogFest

[Best_Wordpress_Gallery id=”8″ gal_title=”FrogFest”]

Women CEOs leading the way in the trades

There are more women than ever starting businesses, especially those involved in trades, which is surprising considering those professions have historically been some of the most male-dominated businesses in the country.

CEO of Freshco, Mandy Rennehan, a very successful retail construction company based out of Oakville, Ont., believes that women leaders are essential to trades businesses. “A woman’s added value really shines through because we are passionate,” Rennehan says. “Women are detail-oriented and fastidious where many men aren’t.”

Millennial women are also catching on to the trend and starting their own trade businesses. CEO of Ash Street Design, Brittany Truppe, is one of those millennials. She started her business of designing and building interior speciality doors last year.  “It is a custom sliding door business. We essentially fabricate high-end interior-based wood doors in all shapes and sizes and I’ve expanded into contemporary styles and all different types of finishes,” Truppe says. “I really like the whole concept of the artisan market style. I don’t want to do cookie cutter stuff. I want it to be unique.”

These two women had to prove their worth in their respective areas time and time again. “Being a woman and being young, there were times where I definitely had to go above and beyond,” Truppe says. “Coming from finishing, there was a lot of time spent doing the tasks to prove my worth. You would get men throwing out terminology and the names of types of equipment to see if I knew what I was talking about. I felt I was being quizzed often.”

Rennehan agrees that women are tested more often to see if they are credible in their job position. “The biggest hardship is the confidence of the woman going into it. They need to make sure they know more than anybody in that space. Credibility is everything for a woman in trades. Make sure you have the passion and you are armed with the knowledge,” Rennehan says. “Many women have an irrepressible sense of accountability and if things happen, they will fix them. Women have a lot of advantages in this space, they just need to believe it.”

As a young female business owner, Truppe is taking a progressive approach to her artisan boutique and wants to keep her business relatively small, instead of aspiring to build a large corporation. She also focuses on the use of local woods and keeps costs low and affordable to give more people the opportunity to purchase one of her unique products. Though she is still in the midst of constructing her business, she also wants to dedicate part of her time towards helping women learn to build. “The biggest thing I want to focus on is having a program geared towards women to make them more comfortable working with tools, because a lot of women don’t. I envision doing it in my own shop,” Truppe says. “You would drop in for an hour or two and the women would build and I would charge for materials. I’ve networked with local artisan shops and furniture shops and they are pretty pro-women. I’ve found I have a lot of support from new-age men as well.”

Rennehan is also an avid philanthropist, highlighting the importance of women CEOs giving back to others after becoming successful in the trades sphere. She started a non-profit program through her other business, a design firm named Rennduprat, that will teach kids between the ages of 10 to 16 how to use millwright machines. The non-profit will then make Christmas ornaments through the project and ship them around the world. Rennehan also founded the Chris Rennehan Scholarship Fund, named after her brother who sadly passed away from a heart attack at age 38. The scholarship fund helps a tradesperson who is in dire financial straits by giving them the funds to go to trade school or obtain work through Freshco.

Women business owners are essential to the future of trades in Canada. Truppe and Rennehan both bring credibility, generosity, and a progressive community approach to their businesses. Though there are challenges to being a woman in the male-dominated trades’ professions, there are more and more women that are coming out as strong leaders in this type of employment.

Six North Atlantic right whales found dead in St. Lawrence

Over the course of June, six North Atlantic right whales were found dead and floating in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, a substantial loss for a species that is already on the endangered species list.

There are only 500 North Atlantic right whales in the wild, and with six dead so suddenly without apparent cause, it accounts for one per cent of the species wiped out in less than a month. If this was compared to humans, it would mean that over 75 million people would be wiped out. Fisheries and Oceans Canada, the Marine Animal Response Society, the Canadian Coast Guard, and other groups are working together to figure out how to get the whales ashore to find out what is happening to the species.

The whales were found in the area between New Brunswick’s Miscou Island, Quebec’s Magdalen Islands and Northern P.E.I. They are currently floating a considerable way from shore and the weather has been too severe to try to get the whales onto land to begin a necropsy, a forensic examination that would discover what happened. There is only a limited time to complete the assessment and the whales are already decomposing. It is paramount that marine biologists decipher what is going on with the species to develop a plan and prevent more of the endangered whales from dying unexpectedly.

There are many threats to whales that habituate close to port such as being struck by ships, contracting toxic infections, water contaminants, high levels of noise, and global warming. The North Atlantic right whales also feed on zooplankton, which are lowering in population due to the effects of climate change.  There are many reasons that the whales could be dying off so suddenly, and it is integral to the survival of the species to find out why. Hopefully, there is a chance of survival for this rare and beautiful species, one of many marine animals living under threat in the ocean today.

Giant red ball in Calgary a giant red blimp

Calgary is joining Canada’s 150th celebrations by welcoming a gigantic red ball into the city.

The Red Ball Project is a travelling art installation created by Kurt Perschke that has traveled to 25 cities across the world. The big red ball was spotted on Monday, June 26 on the Peace Bridge, which is a pedestrian and cycling bridge in Calgary. The gigantic red ball was shoved into the bridge and prevented cyclists and pedestrians from passing through, forcing people to contend with the enormous red play toy.

The big red ball has been rolling into different cities around the world for 15 years. The artist created the over-sized ball sculpture so that people could interact with an object that reminded them of their childhood. It is supposed to bring out joy and artistic interaction in key places around the city, and will make its final appearance at Olympic Plaza on July 1.

The giant red ball was brought to Calgary through the city’s public art program and investment from Canadian Heritage. The city has a history of implementing art projects that have zero value or impact (with large price tags), and the red ball seems to be bouncing in that general direction. The blue ring fiasco of 2013, for example, made Calgary the laughing stock of the country when the gigantic-blue-circle-turned-into-streetlights was debuted as the city’s newest piece of art. To put it plainly, the piece of art was widely claimed to lack any sort of artistic interest and caused a panicked city council to revamp Calgary’s art program — or so people thought.

The giant red ball is another example of moving art that is just a little bit goofy and is more of a nuisance than anything. Calgary needs to learn to invest in worthy pieces of art that really celebrate the 150th anniversary of this great nation as more than a playful squishy ball. There is a rich aboriginal history in the city that could be a worthy example of art — or really just choose anything that won’t cause cyclists to crash or pedestrians to turn away in fear of what appears to be a gigantic pimple on the Peace Bridge.

Another artistic win for Calgary ladies and gentlemen, but at least it isn’t worse than Toronto’s imitation rubber duck, another hilarious example of how this country is choosing to celebrate 150 years.

Would you take your picture with a giant red rubber ball? Let us know in the comments below!

Time to tell male friends they are guilty of ‘Mansplaining’

Have you ever had a man interrupt you to explain something you know more about? Or how about being told how you feel from a guy instead of being asked? Or just felt this uneasy feeling of inferiority when talking to a man who appears to be leering at you and not actually listening at all?

If you have answered yes to any of the above, you have been ‘mansplained’ to, which is an annoying experience to say the least.

‘Mansplaining’ is described as an experience when a man with an undeserved air of authority condescendingly explains something to a woman who generally knows more about the topic at hand. Interestingly, I can recount several occurrences of having experienced ‘mansplaining’ and was too naïve to understand it wasn’t respectful. There have been dozens of times when male friends, partners, and family members have explained what my job as a journalist is and how it impacts me as a person in the suffering media industry. Instead of asking me for my opinion on my career as a journalist, I was informed of how I should feel about it. Thanks guys, much appreciated.

In all honesty, I wish I could go back to my younger self and say “Excuse me? Why don’t you ask instead of tell? How did you get to be such a pompous ass?”, but I quite honestly didn’t have the knowledge that I was being talked down to at the time. I have little doubt that I grew up in a city dominated by men. Hailing from Calgary, known as Canada’s oil tycoon capital, I watched big men in suits in various power positions throughout my entire life, and I never quite realized that many of the women by their side seemed to be standing in the background — never acknowledged, or appreciated, somehow smaller or less important.

It makes me wonder, as an adult woman today equipped with words such as ‘mansplaining’ and ‘bropropriating’ and a strong community of feminists around me, how did these women feel being in the back of that room? How did my own mother feel being ‘mansplained’ to without being able to tell these men to screw off without fear of impunity? Even though there are still miles to travel in terms of true gender equality, every young lady today owes a thank you to their mothers, aunts, grandmothers, and older women colleagues. They have experienced unadulterated ‘mansplaining’ a hell of a lot longer than I know I have.

Sadly, it still happens today. Toronto is chalk full of entitled young men who want to dominate over women in conversation. The sense of authority these men carry seems to be a character trait that hasn’t ‘left the building’ and most aren’t even aware. If you have a male who has an authoritative ‘holier than thou’ attitude and feels the need to tell you how to feel, but you know they are genuinely a good person and just haven’t been taught better — do them a favour and let them know. Be honest, and straightforward because many men aren’t even aware that they are doing it. It is a learned behaviour and women to nip this bad habit in the bud. Be respectful when doing so, as it’s likely your friend will be embarrassed or offended. But your gentle criticisms will permeate and may even convince said male counterpart to ditch the entitled behaviour all together.

The world is slowly moving towards gender equality, and highlighting the ridiculousness of ‘mansplaining’ will help men understand that what they are doing is wrong, relieving hundreds of thousands of women who are just down with being told things they already know.

Stick up for yourselves ladies! It is never too late and you may be surprised by the response you receive. There are a lot of men out there who are ardent feminists and will ditch the bad attitude to embrace a world where women aren’t interrupted anymore.

What do you think about mansplaining? Let us know in the comments below!

‘Everything’ white bean dip

Everything flavoured bagels are delicious, but eating them every day is not healthy. Instead, opt for the healthy and tasty alternative by creating a bean dip. By blending white beans with a variety of delectable spices, it makes a great dip that tastes exactly like an everything bagel.

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups white beans
  • 6 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp sesame oil
  • 1 head of garlic (roasted)
  • 2 tbsp dried onion
  • 2 tbsp toasted sesame seeds
  • 1 tbsp poppy seeds
  • 1 tbsp dried garlic
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • ¼ tsp pepper

Directions:

  1. Combine dried onion, poppy seeds, garlic, sea salt and pepper. Mix together.
  2. Add beans and roasted garlic in a blender and process until pureed. Add olive oil and sesame oil and salt to taste.
  3. Drizzle with extra olive oil and serve with crackers, vegetables, or pita.

Dips are a yummy and filling snack option.  Instead of going for the breads full of carbohydrates, a healthy bean dip is full of protein and will be scooped up in mere minutes. Eat them with vegetables, pitas, or crackers and is a great dip for guests. Enjoy this irresistible treat as a cool summer dish!

Affordable housing for musicians announced in Toronto

Struggling musicians have a tough time surviving in expensive cities like Toronto. Not only is the price of transportation, food, and general expenses quite heavy on those who may not be making a full salary, but they have to live in the urban centre in order to make money. This is increasingly difficult in Toronto’s inflated housing market.

That’s why it’s so great the non-profit Toronto Music is designing a pilot project focusing on affordable housing specifically for musicians. They are using a vacant property at the eastern edge of Regent Park, at the corner of Dundas St. E and Sumach St. The development would include 100 units as well as a performance area, a recording and rehearsal space, and desk space for music professionals. There would also be opportunities for the musicians to host and take part in educational events that would focus on music business management practices.

A report created by the Toronto Music Advisory Council for the City of Toronto in February 2016 includes a focus on affordable housing for musicians in the city’s core. The city wants to help musicians find homes to alleviate the difficulty these artists face regarding gentrification, rising housing costs, and redevelopment of inner-city neighbourhoods. The city is working on partnerships with organizations like Artscape, a local non-profit that creates affordable housing for artists, to promotes local art initiatives. This should help Toronto become a ‘Music City’, something city staff and the mayor, John Tory, sorely want. The city is also considering zoning bylaws that would allow performers to have workspaces at home so that they can rehearse music and promote their careers further.

Toronto is following the footsteps of Nashville and New York. The Ryman Lofts in Nashville successfully launched 60 units dedicated for local musicians while New York recently announced 1500 affordable apartments for musicians with low incomes. Only musicians would qualify for the housing in New York, and it would include 500 work spaces within the affordable housing building. The rising trend of housing for musicians is positive because it encourages more creative and innovative communities, and a culture immersed in the arts.

Affordable housing for musicians is a intrinsic development to the building of a healthy inner-city environment. If there was free performance space for musicians to offer their music to the public, it would promote a beautiful urban culture in Toronto.

What do you think of a musician-only affordable housing unit? Let us know in the comments below!