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Speak up parents and stop being passive-aggressive!

One of the more difficult aspects of having school-age children is making friends with other parents. If you are the right age, with the right job and the right haircut, perhaps it is fairly easy, but if you live by the beat of your own drum, it can be difficult to mesh with other ‘more traditional’ and occasionally passive-aggressive parents.

There is nothing like bonding with other parents or watching as your children make friends and attend play dates. The test is what happens when your children’s relationships go sideways. For example, how do parents react when one child gets into a fight with another? What if you have a different parenting style?

As a mom, I’ve noticed that instead of confronting parents directly, they opt to avoid speaking with one another and try to avoid the awkwardness of confrontation. This ultimately leads to a lot of confusion and frustration.

I don’t think that mothers are aggressively protective over their children, and therefore will be prone to violent behaviour if another parent brings an issue to their attention. And yet, what I am seeing first-hand is parents shying away from confrontation all together and opting for a more passive-aggressive approach. Have you ever tried to plan a playdate and the other parent is suddenly ‘too busy’? Or the other child is sick all the time out of the blue? Don’t kid yourself, you and your child are being ditched. It appears we haven’t left high school after all.

As mature adults, it is no longer heart-breaking to learn someone doesn’t want to be your friend. Over the years, we all learn to accept that some people like us and some don’t. The issue with the passive-aggressive approach in dealing with other parents is what it is teaching our kids. In school, children are traditionally taught to confront their issues and solve problems in a fair and respectful manner. When parents don’t treat each other the same way, this causes confusion for children and can even extend to bullying on the playground between the two children whose parents don’t get along.

Canadians are known for being polite almost to a fault. We simply don’t thrive off unnecessary confrontation and will go lengths to avoid it. There are certain times though, when a discussion is absolutely necessary and avoiding confrontation is more disrespectful than dealing with a problem. When it comes to our kids, we need to speak up in a courteous and controlled way and teach kids to manage their issues instead of avoiding them.

Another potential factor for avoiding issues between parents could be the pressure of trying to be a part of a community in a large city. It is difficult to connect with others when living in a large metropolis and thriving in a school community becomes a lifeline for many parents. That’s where they find family friends. Perhaps there is a ‘cool’ factor to not being confrontational, but the reality is avoiding issues altogether will have more long-term damaging effects on kids and parents in tight-knit urban communities.

It is time to SPEAK UP PARENTS! By breaking through the false glass ceiling of fake compliments and passive-aggressive avoidance, perhaps issues will actually be solved and children will really learn how to treat one another. Being polite only goes so far, and telling the truth is almost always better than the alternative. As parents, we need to practice what we preach and treat each other as kids are expected to be with each other.

It is time to be truthful and ditch being ditched. As a mom I’m ready for this change, are you?

Co-operative housing may be the way of the future in Toronto

Have you ever dreamed of buying a house, but didn’t have enough money?

It turns out with ‘C-Harmony: Creating Co-operative Connections’, it may be possible to still buy a home by joining with other prospective buyers. The concept comes from owner, Lesli Gaynor, who launched GoCo., an enterprise that helps facilitate co-ownership and runs the C-Harmony events. The first pilot event held last week brought together prospective buyers to meet in a speed-dating styled experience to see if they are compatible to purchase real estate together.

Gaynor came up with the idea when she co-purchased a home with a friend several years ago and shares her experience with others looking to do the same. GoCo facilitates events and support services to help with financing, the legalities of co-ownership, risk mitigation, finding partners and property, and establishing an agreement. Though the idea of co-owning seems unorthodox, the more you look into GoCo, and the steps to take to make it happen, it becomes a sensible way to buy in an expensive city such as Toronto.

Begin by calculating what your current rental payments are and average that amount to equal what you would pay in mortgage and expenses. This lays the groundwork for how much you can afford and what you could provide financially in a co-operative ownership. There are other issues to consider once you decide to proceed with co-owning such as discovering what your living needs are. Do you want two bedrooms? A backyard space? How many bathrooms? Once all this criteria is laid out, the idea is to find an owning partner who has the same needs, equitable finance and a compatible personality. Then you can set out on finding a property together.

Other key considerations include deciding how the property will be divided. There are many different ways according to GoCo. on how to proceed with co-sharing including living in the home together, or one party living in the house while the other invests money into it. Both parties would need to decide what works best for them and divide financial responsibilities and bills in advance to avoid any issues.

Though co-owning a home is a difficult decision to make, it is a progressive concept for community building in an expensive real estate market such as Toronto. GoCo. is giving a forum for people to join together and compete in the housing market, which will allow more families and individuals access to good homes. It will be interesting to see how this new speed-dating concept of co-owning proceeds in Toronto and if it grows in popularity.

Valentine’s Day should be about celebrating women

Valentine’s Day is often about separating into couples or honouring your own self-love and independence, but this year I challenge every woman to try something a little different. Instead of giving power to the things that separate women from one another, whether it be by being with our partners or on our own, let’s use the holiday of love to begin building a community of women helping women. Let’s build a community of love, if you will.

January has been a painful month with a megalomaniac fool running the show down south (do I even need to mention his name?) and a relatively silent leader up north, who isn’t saying much to the big bully downstairs. It is a tough time to be a woman, a minority, a member of the media, or anything else other than an old white man. To add salt to the wound, the sun is rarely out and everyone is sick with the cold or the flu. Honestly, what is a girl to do?

In times of great trial, it is necessary to resist spiralling into a great depression by being positive. In an effort to be optimistic, women should use Valentine’s Day as an act of solidarity! Whether it be hanging out with a few friends, or getting your grandmother, mother, and sister to all go out for dinner with you, celebrate the collective community of femininity.

This is not the year for Valentine’s Day to be a comparison between those who have a boyfriend and those who don’t. Doesn’t that seem like such a blasé past-tense way to celebrate a holiday created precisely to celebrate love? By separating women into those two camps, it limits our potential to collectively unite and feel empowered and loved with each other. Let’s continue the momentum from the Women’s Marches around the world and foster a true sense of community and love. There are simply too many women who are not finding valuable connections with other women and are instead desperately lonely and wanting of men on holidays such as Valentine’s Day, which traditionally focus on monogamy.  Instead, use Valentine’s Day as yet another reason to enjoy the beautiful women in your life. Our women communities matter too and deserve as much time and space when it comes to celebrating love.

I will be celebrating Valentine’s Day this year by looking at my beautiful daughter and revering in her exquisite and effeminate existence. I will be celebrating my mother’s strength and sage wisdom, and thanking her for teaching me how a woman with integrity acts. I will be surrounded by various women influences who have stood by over years of tears and doubts, celebrations and all the mess in between.

Celebrate women on Valentine’s Day. I mean after all, who will be beside you laughing and reminiscing when you are old and bony in the nursing home?

Would you hang a Canadian flag in front of your mosque?

What does the Canadian flag mean to you? For Jawad Rathore, it represents all things Canadiana — and he thinks it should be flown in front every mosque in Toronto.

“We see Muslims right now being subjected to harassment. Hate crimes are up, [and] rhetoric publicly and privately is up. There are terrible things happening around the world in the name of Islam,” Rathore said in an interview. “[Putting up Canadian flags is] a wonderful way to remind our neighbours that we are Canadian. There is nothing to fear.”

Rathore, who is also president and CEO of Fortress Real Development, presented the idea to the Canadian Muslim Vote last week and received an overwhelmingly positive response. Rathore says he has already received funding from the community for over 50 flags and he has received messages from mosques across Canada asking to participate.

The Canadian Muslim Vote is a non-partisan organization whose objective is to promote greater community engagement among the Muslim-Canadian population. It was founded last year as a response to low voter turnout with a goal to increase attendance and engagement during the 2015 federal elections. And they did the job. According to Rathore, turnout was close to 79 per cent.

JR
Jawad Rathore

Now, the organization is focusing on integrating communities through a “very simple” campaign. At its core, the campaign is about unity and pride during a time in which people are being marginalized. Hate speech is rampant, even in Canada, a country whose foundation is based on religious freedom. As Rathore says, there is a lot of fear among those who don’t understand the Islam faith and putting up a Canadian flag symbolizes unity in a time of uncertainty.

“It’s a way to let our community know we are their neighbours,” he said.

Rathore may be spearheading this campaign through Canadian Muslim Vote, but he says every corporation and community member should be giving back.

“Give what you can afford — give a little, give often, give once a year,” he said. “Many of us in the corporate world are incredibly blessed and if we turn our minds over to the community. Whether initiative like this or any other benefits – the world would be a better place.”

Rathore is confirming a list of mosques that are willing to participate in the campaign and is working out the physical details for installation. He has also committed to do the first 10 flags himself.

The first flag should be installed by the end of September and, if the campaign goes well, Rathore hopes to be able to install flagpoles in front of mosques across Canada.

If you are interested in contributing to the campaign, email canadaflag@canadianmuslimvote.ca.

Toronto is redefining local free trade through Bunz

Free trade is taking on a whole new meaning in Toronto, with new community groups popping up like the ever-popular Bunz and the Toronto Tool Library. Trading and lending items without an exchange of dollars is growing in popularity in a city where everything costs money. Why are these groups coming out of the proverbial woodwork of online social forums such as Facebook and new trading apps? Why now?

Frankly, the millennial generation is pissed off. They are entering the job market after spending thousands on university degrees with no prospect of employment in sight. If you want to forward yourself in a career, you need to live in proximity to the few jobs there are. These locations typically have inflated rents and low availability. Either that, or you are living with your parents far past the ripe age of 18 and making an excruciatingly long commute downtown because there is no other option.

Enter Bunz. This trading group was originally launched by millennial Emily Bitze in 2013 when she couldn’t afford ingredients for pasta and appealed to her Facebook community, sparking the idea for the online forum. It began as a secret society of like-minded folk who would trade items without using money, commonly using TTC tokens and tall cans of beer as collateral. Quickly though, Bunz grew into a massive online community of people living in Toronto looking to save money by participating in trades. Bunz now has an online Facebook presence of 46,000 people and a private app was launched just last year.

Bunz is much more than a business. It is a cultural symbol of change. The online trading forum of people in search of (ISO) needed items in exchange for others represents the need to stop buying and start sharing. The consumerist approach to wealth is shrivelling up as people move away from the post-World-War-Two desire to own items. Instead, it is time to begin understanding the true source of power and wealth in any given city; shared community.

In a way, having no money brings the truest sense of wealth in the Bunz community. When you participate in a trade, you will often come out with a new item you needed and a friendship resulting from sharing goods. People often use the Bunz page to post about having a bad day, or if they have lost their keys. The result is the group banning together to help those people in need — and keys are found almost every time. That feeling of being cared for by complete strangers simply because you had the guts to reach out in a healthy way is worth more than 10 unaffordable coach bags.

Toronto is a bustling city centre and people are constantly moving into “the Big Smoke” with little more on them other than their bags and big city dreams. It can be quite lonely and expensive to move into Toronto when you don’t know anyone. Bunz provides a forum to make friends and obtain much needed-items for settling in. It gives new arrivals a sense of community and immediately rejects the notion that Toronto is “a big cold city”.

Lending libraries have popped up too, including the Toronto Tool Library and the Toronto Seed Library. You can borrow tools without having to purchase them and you can also participate in workshops. The Toronto Seed Library allows people to borrow seeds and return them after the season ends, which promotes local growing on a budget. Lending libraries are truly sustainable entities, helping balance the bank account and save the planet in one go.

So, what if we could take this movement and make Toronto the trade capital in North America? There have been whispers of the possibility of a mall completely dedicated to lending libraries and trade zones. It is a magnificent notion — to go to the mall and not drop hundreds on pointless items. Instead, you can walk out with exactly what you need in that moment.

Bunz and lending libraries are the beginning of a great movement into a hopeful future of consumerism. As a millennial, I’m proud to be a part of it. Are you?

The best farmer’s markets in Toronto

There’s nothing like a good farmers market. The smell of fresh produce, the friendliness of all the vendors, and the general atmosphere a farmers market creates is just something that can’t be replaced by a grocery store. Farmers markets are also important in fostering a sense of community through the buying and selling of local products.

If you are looking for a market to visit in Toronto, here are our picks:

The Junction Market (2960 Dundas St. W) is a farmer’s market on the Junction Train Platform that is open 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. every Saturday. It opens on May 28 and closes on Nov. 5. This market showcases some delicious produce, but it also has extra perks that make it worth a visit. There is a kids area at the market with ukulele lessons and face painting. There are also local musicians. The Junction Night Market is held on July 16 from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. with beer, wine, and cider for five dollars.

John market
Photo by Micki M.

If you want a weekday market for some fresh food after work, the John Street Market (197 John St.) is right downtown. This market is held on Wednesdays from 3:30 to 7pm, starting on June 5 and running until Oct. 30. It is located at St. George-the-Matyr Anglican Church, which is between Queen and Dundas St. close to the AGO at Grange Park. This market facilitates the delicious Big Wheel Coffee, which is yummy to sip on while shopping for local downtown products.

 

Sorauren Farmer’s Market (50 Wasbash Ave.) at the Sorauren Park Fieldhouse and is located near Roncesvalles. It is run by the West-end Food Co-op, which is a community-run grocery store in Parkdale that only sells local products and produce. I personally shop at West-end Food Co-op and am a huge fan of the farmer’s market as well. The market is run year-round and alternates products weekly on Mondays. Last week, the vendors included Earth & City, a vegan dessert company and De la Terre, which makes amazing sour dough bread.

Trinity Bellwoods becomes a happening place in the summertime with families and friends dotting the inner-city park. Trinity Bellwoods Farmer’s Market (790 Queen St. W) is a large outdoor market that is very popular with hot downtown vendors. The market runs on Tuesday from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m, from May 3 to Nov. 1. The farmer’s market becomes a place for celebration with music and kids as well as delicious local food.

1280px-St_Lawrence_Market_Toronto_2010If ever there was a king of markets, St. Lawrence Market North (92 Front St. E) would have the reigning title. It opened in 1803 and is widely considered the best in the city. This market is permanent and is open every day of the week except Sunday. The best day to go is on a Saturday morning and it is open from 5 a.m. to 2 p.m. St. Lawrence has several artisans, great local produce, and amazing bagels (with vegan cream cheese). The North Market Redevelopment, the original location of the market, is in its second phase of construction and still has several steps until its completion. But never fear, they opened up a replacement dome to keep everyone in business.

What is your favourite farmer’s market in Toronto? Let us know in the comments below.

LGBTQ2S homeless youth shelter announces its arrival

The Sprott House is catering to a specific need — to provide a safe shelter for young people within the LGBTQ community. Unfortunately, there are not many shelters that offer these type of safe spaces, which is why Kate Miller, director of the YMCA Sprott House, was pleased to announce the new homeless youth shelter Thursday.

“Having a staff that has that experience with the LGBTQ community and having a place where help can accessed is essential,” she said.

The facility will provide 25 beds for Lesbian Gay Bi-sexual Transgender Queer Two-Spirit (LGBTQ2S) youth aged 16 to 25 who are in need of shelter and resources. Each individual will be granted housing for up to a year and will have access to counselling, health centre referrals, and education planning, in addition to a personal room and washroom.

“For the residents who live here, they have access to a full-time outreach counsellor as well as doing outreach with organizations that they want to be able to work with outside of the shelter,” said Miller.

Alex Abramovich is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) and is specifically studying homelessness among LGBTQ2S youth in Toronto. He has been a great motivator for realizing that homeless LGBTQ2S youth require specialized resources and staff with particular training. Abramovich’s research was presented to city council in 2012 and resulted in the 2013 Street Needs Assessment, which analyzed the homeless demographics within the city.

The 2013 Street Needs assessment revealed that approximately 21 per cent of the street youth in Toronto identify as LGBTQ2S in Toronto, and that a significant part of the homeless demographic is aboriginal and two-spirited, a population that has been often ignored in past discourses and research.

Abramovich is a passionate advocate for homeless LGBTQ youth and the Sprott House. According to his research, homeless youth that identify as LGBTQ2S experience transphobia and homophobia within many youth shelters. This is exemplified when a transgendered person is called a liar because of the gender on their identification.

As well, young transgendered individuals require certain medications for hormones and gender therapy treatment and can resort to unapproved street hormones that cause devastating health effects.  According to Abramovich’s study “No Safe Place to Go”, “the lack of specialized health care services for transgender youth often results in youth turning to unmonitored street suppliers for transition-related treatment (e.g. hormones, silicone injections), which can have severe health complications”.

This YMCA Sprott House also advocates on behalf of the aboriginal two-spirit (2S) community, which is often ignored in youth shelters.

“I’m part of the group advising different types of programs and the intake process,”Abramovich said. “It is absolutely critical that we include two-spirit youth as well. Two-spirited youth have been forgotten for so long. They are absolutely included in the program.”

The YMCA Sprott House will also provide avenues for further homeless LGBTQ2S research. Abramovich explained that he looks forward to working with the Sprott House to create a research study that assessed the suicidality and depression of the youth upon entering and exiting the shelter program. “This will allow provinces across the country to replicate the research model if it is successful,” Abramovich said.

Overwhelming support on behalf of the community and Toronto has been demonstrated for the LGBTQ2S youth housing project. Mayor John Tory was present at the announcement and said, “The neighbours came forward to say they wanted to help to make this happen, they wanted to make friends, they wanted to make partners and be real neighbours. That is the true spirit of Toronto. That is the true example of the values that motivate us in the city and what makes this city so great.”

The YMCA Sprott House is a leading example of the importance for more LGBTQ2S-focused housing projects across Canada. Currently, the LGBTQ RainCity Housing in Vancouver has 900 beds for homeless youth, but has dedicated a section of the shelter to the LGBTQ community. Aura Host Homes foster parent program in Calgary also has a program that matches LGBTQ kids to specific parents that are LGBTQ friendly. Hopefully, more programs will open as a result of the success of these new initiatives in Canadian urban centres.

“The YMCA Sprott House is absolutely critical to meet this population’s needs and to provide inclusive, affirming and safe spaces,” Abamovich said. “It sets an example for Canada. It makes it very clear that LGBTQ2S youth belong and are cared for and that they can be their full authentic selves. I have never felt more proud of our city than this morning.”