A Little Black Dress And Black Tie Affair – London, Ontarios’ Hidden Gem

Current Events
A Little Black Dress And Black Tie Affair original Promo Poster

A Little Black Dress And Black Tie Affair original Promo Poster

I have lived in the City of London, Ontario for 17 years. I met my spouse here, we had all our children here and this city is their home, however, I have had a difficult time calling it my Canadian home for many reasons. Coming from the Maritimes, I initially found this city a little less inviting; and with some of the hardships I have experienced in integrating in the city as a young woman of colour, I thought London was a little less caring. Recently through my work as a writer and blogger, my volunteer ventures, and some new connections, I have come to realize just how wrong I was! London’s hidden gem is a group of business savvy, passionate, caring and innovative women like Jennifer Slay & Alanna Riley.

When women collaborate, anything can happen! These women imagined a glamorous night out with a cause and are bringing it to fruition. I am so happy to partner with them and cover the behind the scenes aspect of the Little Black Dress & Black Tie Affair.

Me With Jen Slay from Pink Ink and Alanna Riley

Me With Jen Slay from Pink Ink and Alanna Riley

Here’s a little more about the event:

In support of Easter Seals Ontario, A Little Black Dress & Black Tie Affair is aiming to raise $50 000 through donations, corporate and personal sponsorships, event revenue and ticket sales.

Easter Seals Ontario is an organization supporting children and youth with disabilities for over 90 years. The organization has a unique history with deep roots right here in Southwestern Ontario. From financial assistance to camp experiences, and parent resources, Easter Seals Ontario does amazing work letting kids be kids regardless of their physical and/or intellectual barriers.

I interviewed Nicole Rombouts, Senior Development Officer with Easter Seals Ontario, Ontario West Region and asked about Easter Seals and the event. Nicole has a passion for children and says that working with the organization has helped her “put privilege into perspective.” She expressed feeling so inspired daily by meeting children with so many challenges, yet they find a way to remain positive.

Nicole Rombouts, Sr Development Officer, Easter Seals Ontario

Nicole Rombouts, Sr Development Officer, Easter Seals Ontario

I was invited to get a tour of one of the amazing Easter Seals Ontario camps, Camp Woodeden. The camp was huge with a picturesque landscape, and sounded like loads of fun for the children and youth attending. From basic life skills to rock climbing and a fully accessible high ropes course, the camp was truly magical!


During the Event Launch I had the chance to meet the amazing people behind this event and was immediately excited about being a part of it and their media team!


My spouse and I would love to go out more in our city, but often conclude that there isn’t anywhere to go. This event is exactly what a couple in their 30’s wants to be doing! We’re excited to get dressed up and look forward to a classy night of entertainment. If you’re considering going, here’s what you might expect to happen that night:

  • A high-end fashion show featuring local designers and models! Who said fashion week couldn’t be kicked off in London, ON?!
  • Comedian Jeff Leeson for some knee slapping laughter
  • Live Jazz Artist Denise Pelley (who opened for Aretha Franklin in London, ON, I might add)
  • An interactive magic show
  • Silent Auction with over $10 000 of auction items already donated! And SO much more!

Local businesses have stepped up by not only sponsoring the event, but donating goods and services for the silent auction and the prizes for the night.

One local business owner and artist, Alexandra Kane of AK Arts Academy, spoke highly of the event and of Easter Seals Ontario. Alexandra is a local artist (not specifically the “drawing kind”) and teaches various performing arts to children of all ages right out of her own arts academy, which she proudly calls her “glorious child”.

Photo Credit: Steve Carty

Alexandra Kane, Owner: AK Arts Academy     Photo Credit: Steve Carty

AK Arts Academy has been in business for two years, Alexandra is an experienced artist who sees the value in well-rounded performing arts education. As Owner/Operator of AK Arts Academy, Alexandra is also passionate about giving back to the community and this time around she is doing so through donating services for the silent auction at the A Little Black Dress and Black Tie Affair event for Easter Seals Ontario. In the package from AK Arts Academy, Alexandra has included:

  • 1 hour of dance/week for a month
  • 1 hour of music/week for a month
  • 1 hour of drama/week for a month
  • Musical Theatre
  • Voice Lessons for 30 min/week for a month
  • A recorded Professional Demo Reel
  • … Approximate value for this donation is $500

I took a tour of the great studio conveniently located across a coffee shop in a shopping plaza. The studio was vibrant and quirky!

AK Arts Academy

AK Arts Academy

Spending time with Alexandra Kane made me realize three things:

  1. I don’t have nearly enough artsy friends! People who are into the arts are generally very interesting, eccentric, and intuitive. Alexandra is all of these, not to mention, funny and passionate as well!
  2. My children need more art in their lives! So I am hoping to pay another visit to AK Arts Academy to explore the possibility of this and seeing how we can fit this type of education and training into our family schedule.
  3. Local business owners like Alexandra Kane are what London is all about!

If you are business and would like to donate any goods/services to the silent auction at the A Little Black Dress and Black Tie Affair, contact the event organizers here!

I can’t wait for the event! I will be doing a combination of live broadcasting with recorded back stage coverage of the event, not to mention, documenting the excitement of the overall event for a cause! Follow Women In Colour on Twitter and Periscope for live updates – @womenincolour!

If you haven’t picked up your ticket yet, you still have time! Join us for this extravagant event! Hope to see you there!

ALBDBTF PicSponsors

4 Questions For Chris Alexander, Minister of Citizenship & Immigration Re: Canadian Treatment of Refugees

Syrian Refugees Photo Credits: American University Washington College of Law Human Rights Newsletter

Syrian Refugees Photo Credits: American University Washington College of Law Human Rights Newsletter

Like so many others, when I saw the photo of Aylan Kurdi, I was heart-broken. Immediately a lump formed in my throat and before I realized it, tears were streaming down my face. The image was triggering.

Only a couple of weeks earlier, I had posted a photo of my youngest son, Baby A, on my Blog facebook page. He was belly down, bum in the air, sleeping soundly; a stark difference than the image of Aylan Kurdi as he washed ashore in the same position. I couldn’t help to not only relate to his parents’ pain, who lost him, but I also to his pain as a small child amidst so much trauma and uncertainty. I thought about how I could have been Aylan. I thought about how so many more children had ended up just like him, all the children that nobody photographed.

Born in Iran during the 20th century’s longest conventional war, my formative years were framed by uncertainty and violence. My family went back and forth between Iran and Turkey several times and finally left Iran via Syria when I was only 3 years old.

Between the ages of 3 and 7, I passed through and lived in 6 different countries, often without a fixed address. Before arriving in Halifax, Nova Scotia in the late 1980’s, I spent a near 2 years in a refugee camp in Poland. I have very few memories of this time, let alone happy ones. I’ve been told, after recovering from a serious case of pneumonia, my experience was rather a privileged one: we had regular meals and other children to play with. We even adopted a stray dog, named her, and would often save little bits of our rationed meals to feed her.

My siblings & I (I'm in the middle) Poland 1987-88

My siblings & I (I’m in the middle) Poland 1987-88

My family of five arrived in Canada as Landed Immigrants in winter of 1988 and became Canadian citizens 4 years later, but we were by no means a story of how well Canada treats newcomers. Our status was granted to us based on a points system that our immigration system follows. This system favours wealthy and well-educated immigrants and alienates many struggling with little resources.

When granting these well-educated immigrants permanent status, Canada, perhaps deliberately, perpetuates the “brain drain” in many nations, yet under utilizes the skills, expertise, and education held by the newcomers (but that is another story altogether). My point is that Canada’s ill-treatment of refugees extends to newcomers, who are often locked into cycles of poverty once here, due to a combination of systemic racism and xenophobia.

When my family arrived here, we were lucky that we were alive. We were lucky that we were granted landed status and not detained in the notorious immigration detention centres that are only recently being talked about. We were among the minority of “minorities” with that privilege.

My familys’ struggles here in Canada are like many other stories, and as uncertain, painful, and inhumane as these stories are, I can’t help but feel infuriated that Aylan Kurdi did not even make it here alive. His lifeless body washed up ashore in Turkey while his family hoped for stability in Canada.

When Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, Chris Alexander said that Canada is a “model of humanitarian action” with regards to treatment of refugees, I came up with some questions for him and the Canadian government to help me understand this baffling statement.

1) If we are the “model of humanitarian action, why did Canada begin a sweep of changes to the Interim Federal Health (IFH) Program which impacts refugees? The IFH provided refugees with health care benefits similar to provincial health plans.

As Canada prides itself on providing universal health care to all, the government decided that right should be taken away from those without permanent status, except for those who entered into Canada as government sponsored refugees. The changes to the IFH program had huge implications on refugees in Canada to the extent that the medical community took action to raise awareness and continues to fight to reverse the changes.

2) After years of talking about the crisis around displaced people struggling to obtain status and security in countries all around the world as refugees, why has Canada drastically reduced the acceptance of government sponsored refugees? The Conservative government made extensive changes to the way Canada “prioritizes” refugees based on criteria deemed discriminatory. Canada fell from the 5th highest nation receiving refugees to the bottom of the top 15 in global ranking since the Conservative government has been in power. How is that the “model of humanitarian action?”

3) Why isn’t there discussion around what happens when one is actually able to arrive on Canadian soil alive as refugees? Why has the Canadian government made it so difficult to transition to permanent status for refugees?

Let’s remember the Walji family living in London, Ontario. They were the Tanzanian family denied of permanent status, fearing deportation after living, working, and volunteering here in Canada for 15 years. The Walji family came to Canada, desperate for a better life for their daughter Qyzra who had severe cerebral palsy. Qyzra was smart, kind, and witty, but was unable to speak and was confined to a wheelchair. Her parents knew she would not be safe, nor would she have access to the resources she needed for her day-to-day existence if she were to go back to Tanzania.

The Walji family made it on Canadian soil alive, but we still mourned their deaths through a murder-suicide; a tragedy far from what exemplifies a “model for humanitarian action”.

4) Why isn’t the Canadian government addressing the gross human rights violations that occur in immigration detention centres? Furthermore why has the Canadian government detained 87 317 people, including hundreds of children, without charge?

If the story is that the cost of allowing people to enter Canada is high, has anyone assessed the cost of these detention centres? If that is all that we care about, the least we can do is assess the comparative cost of allowing people dignity and a life free of abuse, to the cost of running these super prisons that have been detaining people without charge for extended periods of time.

Canada’s Immigration Detention system breaches human rights and this is a direct extension of our ill-treatment of refugees, which is certainly NOT the “model for humanitarian action”.

Seeing Aylan Kurdi’s little body washed up ashore was triggering for many Canadians, regardless of having ever experienced the plight of a refugee seeking a better life. For me, the photo brought me back to the questions that I have about my own story, spending my formative years across 3 continents.

As sobering as the photo was, Canadians must keep in perspective the lives that were washed up ashore that weren’t photographed. Canadians must keep in perspective the stories of the refugees who are now in Canada, still plagued by uncertainty. But most of all, Canadians should hold our government accountable to at least not tell such grand lies as the one told by Chris Alexander, claiming that our track record in treatment of refugees is a “model for humanitarian action”.

Twin 1st Birthday Nautical Theme Party

Birthday Party, Family, kid approved, Mama-logue


First Birthdays are kinda a big deal in my house! As we were planning for our Baby A & Miss E to turn ONE, we had in mind to have some family and friends over to help us celebrate. After all,  my spouse and I made it through our first year as #twin parents and parents of 4 amazing children!

I wanted a theme party, but wanted it to be simple. With a little quality time with Pinterest, here’s what I came up with. I also included some of my favourite shots from the day!

So… How did I do?

Our Future Today: 3 Reasons Canadian Labour Needs Young Workers

Current Events, Labour, Politics

Our Future Today

Organized labour has made many gains for Canadians. Among the more obvious victories are eradicating child labour, steering the movement behind universal health care, fighting for the 40 hour work week, pushing for regulations around working conditions including health & safety, not to mention, the right to collectively bargain for overall fairness at work. As encouraging as it may be to highlight victories, it is also important to reflect on the shortcomings of a movement that has the potential to change the social, political, and economic order of these difficult times we face. A critical analysis with respect to the labour movement creating safe spaces for inclusive dialogue, participation and action, would point to how crucial it is for more work to be done. Among other equity seeking groups, young workers face immense barriers in representation in unions and it is taking a toll on the movement as a whole.

Young workers, with little voice and vote on convention floors, are not being heard because they are highly underrepresented in leadership. Instead, their issues are shoved to the margins and into committees, disheartened by the little follow through in the grand resolutions passed. This is not to say that factions of the movement are not making great strides to have young workers heard, it means that the sentiment of these small progressive factions have not spread to the movement at large.

Even with the discouragement, the youth of today manage to orchestrate mass movements globally. From the students in Quebec to the youth in Palestine, and the overall Arab Spring of 2011, they shook the world! The labour movement has so much more to gain from the mentality, energy, and vicissitude of the approach of the youth. Here are three reasons labour needs to listen to young workers:

1. Young workers are pragmatic about movement building. When something isn’t working, young workers want to make the changes necessary and they wanted to make the changes yesterday. Practicality is at the core of actions taken by youth in the movement as they have little to no sentimental attachment to any tradition or practice of the past – especially if it isn’t working today. If something isn’t working, young workers do not want another study, poll, or paper released. They believe that there is sufficient proof of what the issues are and even why the issues exist; they are ready to move forward. What comes in the way of this momentum is the “old guard” and their inability to adapt to new ways of dealing with old problems.

Daniel Quinn, in Beyond Civilization, a short read that will inevitably change your way of thinking, describes it best by illustrating the collide between old and new minds:

                   Old minds think:                              New minds think:                                      How do we stop these bad things          How do we make things the way                       from happening?                             we want them to be?


              Old minds think:                                      New minds think:                                  If it didn’t work last year, let’s do            If it didn’t work last year, let’s do                     MORE of it this year.                               something ELSE this year.

Daniel Quinn was not referring to “old minds” as meaning the way the aging population thinks as a whole, rather he illustrates the impact of evolution on thought, theory, and practice; Quinn exposes the implications of stagnating. This is not to say that the aging do not have “new minds”. Many do. They are simply in the minority of those with power. Many in power within the labour movement are holding onto the pillars of the old mentality and their power with dear life.

Not only are young workers detached from the sentimental connections to the traditions and practices of labours’ past, they are also not foaming at the mouth for power. This isn’t saying they lack leadership because the two are quite different. Leadership involves motion towards an ultimate goal. Power is keeping the seat warm. Young workers aren’t hungry for power, they want renewal and change. They are, in fact, emaciated by the ways of the world today.

2.Young workers are not just hungry; they’re hangry for change. Imagine you’re sitting through a meeting that goes into overtime and your stomach starts to rumble. You pat it, re-position yourself and know that the meeting will conclude at some point and you can go on about your day. For young workers, life is like a perpetually long meeting that runs into overtime.

Young workers have been hungry through school. Their tummies were rumbling through their practicum and papers; through the financial aid line ups and juggling school with menial work just to make ends meet. They could barely silence the rumbles through graduation, relocation, job applications, and interviews. Some starved themselves through another round of schooling in the form of post-graduate studies or specialized certification only to end up in the same dead-end. Postpone a satisfying meal long enough and see that the result could only be hanger.

The young workers of today are more educated, have higher financial burdens and debts as a result of schooling, yet highly represent the underemployment that plagues the labour market in this country. With the immense barriers young workers face in entering the work force, they are often underrepresented in policies and collective agreements once actually on the job.

The plight of young workers isn’t just narrowly related to age and experience, however. Like all forms of oppression, there are intersections between race, class and gender. A report released by the Ontario Federation of Labour in 2012 states that almost one in five Canadians between the ages of 18-34 were not born in Canada and are people of colour. Having spent all, if any, money saved and holding heavy debt loads, young workers are hovering slightly above, or living below the unrealistic “Low Income Cut Off”.

The same report highlights the further economic disadvantage young women of colour face as 21% of their annual income is absorbed by tuition fees, taking them longer to obtain their degrees and diplomas. Another sobering statistic points to the near 20 000 Aboriginal youth in Ontario who are awaiting funding to continue their studies: their futures in the hands of government bureaucracy that is racist at the root.

These delays, barriers, exploitation and oppression would only transform hunger into hanger as it has for our youth; it results in extreme desperation.

3.The youth have an innovative approach to social change. The untapped resources of youth in the labour movement is in abundance! Young workers are creative. They take risks. The are connected. These traits, along with many others, are assets.

DePape- Senate Page Protest

Rogue Page Brigette DePape Throne Speech 2011 Photo Courtesy of thestar.com

In 2011, the Senate Page, Brigette DePape, staged a silent protest in the Senate Chamber during the Throne Speech. She held up a “Stop Harper” sign and was trending on Twitter shortly after. Depape did lose her job and was arrested, but since has been successfully organizing for the left. Today, DePape is organizing the youth vote across Canada for the upcoming federal election. Understanding that the outcome would have been different if she were not a white young woman, it does not take away from the bold act of putting her job and livelihood on the line for change. In a way, DePape’s silent protest was a cry for help from youth across Canada.

Black Lives Matter TO

#BlackLivesMatterTO Photo Credits from their FB fanpage

On the ground, the #BlackLivesMatter movement is steered and geared by youth! Taking social media by storm, locally the Black Lives Matter – Toronto Coalition is joined by hundreds of thousands of people of colour globally who are not just advocating for the end of police brutality and racial profiling, the movement has morphed into activism around all forms of oppression and injustice. Black Lives Matter now challenges stigma around mental health, provides a race analysis around the growing income gap, worker issues, electoral process, rape culture, and media representation of people of colour. Black Lives Matter inspired another grassroots campaign around the Canadian Federal Elections, and through Black Votes Matter (in partnership with several organizations and activist/advocacy groups, including the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists), black Canadians and other people of colour are discussing issues that are often left out of the debates, mobilizing communities from coast-to-coast-to-coast to get out and vote. Young workers are behind this.

Young workers have the mentality, energy, experience, and skills to speak on issues, organize the masses, and mobilize communities. They also have a vested interest in organized labour. They are loud – hear them. They have skills – make room for them. They are not just the future, they are here today – let them lead!

Make Rich & Creamy Fudge in Under 10 Minutes!

In the Kitchen

Rich & Creamy Fudge

If you’re a lover of chocolate, you will absolute adore this rich, creamy, and easy to make chocolate fudge. No bake, no fuss! I bring this yummy treat for my family and friends and always have them asking for the recipe or hinting that I should bring more for next time! And the good news? This chocolate fudge is kid approved!

Main Ingredients

What you’ll need:

2 cups milk chocolate chips

1 cup semi sweet chocolate chips

1 can (300 ml) condensed milk

1 tblsp margerine

1 tsp salt

1 tsp vanila extract

Optional (but so necessary): 1 cup Rice Krispies & 1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut

Prep time: 10 mins, Ready in 45 mins

There’s nothing to heat up on the stove, nothing to bake. Follow these easy steps for a delicious treat:

Line a pan with wax paper.  I like to use a 9 x 11 size pan for a nice thickness.

Chocolate Chips    Condensed milk

In a large microwavable bowl, mix your milk chocolate and semi-sweet chocolate chips together. Poor the can of condensed milk on top and add margerine. Heat in microwave for 45 seconds.

Add your vanilla and salt and mix with a large spatula.

Ready to Fold in the Crunch

Fold in your Rice Krispies and shredded coconut. These two optional ingredients give the fudge great flavour and texture. Drop your thick mixture in your pan and spread evenly. Let fudge set and cool in the freezer for 30 mins.

Almost done!  Spread

Trim edges for perfectly square treats and serve!

Ready to Serve!

Store remainder in the fridge. Enjoy!

Share this with your friends… They will thank you for it!

My Own Kind of Beautiful: An Afternoon With Pink Ink


My Own Kind of Beautiful: Pink Ink

I did something completely out of my comfort zone last month and participated in a photo shoot hosted by Pink Ink, a unique personal styling and imaging company for women, by women. Inspired while writing my piece on  self-care, I had the momentum to try something new, learn a thing or two about cosmetics and maybe incorporate some glam in my routine. Pink Ink was a great start for this new venture of mine because it was created by fabulous, smart and talented women who are motivated by the inner beauty of women and want to bring that beauty to the surface. The event was fun, inclusive, and certainly added just the right amount of glam for a gal like me.

I met one of the founding women of Pink Ink, Jennifer, at a professional conference a couple of years ago and connected with her on social media shortly after. Immediately I noticed that she exudes a certain kind of positive energy that is contagious. She is confident, and bold, not to mention, fabulous!

Pink Ink Co-Founder: Jennifer

Pink Ink Co-Founder: Jennifer

Jennifer, as one of the original founding women of Pink Ink, is not only dedicated to helping other women look and feel amazing, she has many other wonderful attributes. Jennifer is a Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal recipient for her community work, and was one of the very few women featured in Chatelaine in 2014. She is a true Femtor!

Pink Ink's Founders

Pink Ink’s Founders

Jen partners with another amazing woman, Rita, who co-founded Pink Ink. Rita is a stylist who has made it her life mission to empower women to find their voice and confidently present their unique traits.

Pink Co-Founder: Rita

Pink Co-Founder: Rita

Samantha, full of energy, talented, and smart, is behind expanding the makeup service portion of Pink Ink in the Toronto area. Samantha was one of the artists that made every women she came across feel amazing as they left the day of the photo shoot!

Pink Ink: Samantha

Pink Ink: Samantha

Pink Ink offers an array of services to women of all ages, shapes, sizes, colours and backgrounds, including celebrities and public figures. Recently, Pink Ink provided services to Miss Universe Canada Delegate.

                                          Maddison Fysh Pink Ink Maddison Photoshoot

Pink Ink also hosts a variety of events from nights for just women to get together and have a good time, to events raising awareness/funds for important causes. In truth, Pink Ink is about so much more than styling and cosmetics: It is about bringing out the best in women both inside and out!

When Pink Ink announced a call out to have a group of women model gorgeous local handmade jewellery and get make up done by their stylists, I knew I wanted to try it out. I have mentioned my monotonous ‘beauty’ regiment before, and knew that some quality time with experts would do wonders for my new challenge to step up my game with my personal “brand” so-to-speak.

Jen hosted the photo shoot in her home so when I arrived, her kitchen and living room was full of women laughing and carrying on. The Pink Ink team were professional, but somehow managed to make the afternoon feel like it was all about girl friends getting together to unwind. I really loved that aspect of it!

The make up used came right out of Pink Ink’s very own Catalogue. All products are hypoallergenic, allergy tested, and non-comedogenic. What I truly love most about Pink Ink’s brand is that the creativity stems from local talent and the products are manufactured in Canada.

Samantha making sure the eyes POP

Samantha making sure the eyes POP


Contouring by Jen

The gorgeous jewellery came from Susan Dinner Custom Art Jewellery. This local talent creates versatile jewellery made from sterling silver, 14-carat gold, semi-precious gems, Swarovski crystals and other high-quality materials. There are items in stock, but what is great about Susan is that she will customize her creations, reflecting her clients’ needs and preferences.

Susan displayed her jewellery for us to pick from and right away I was drawn to an intricate silver necklace and silver cuff bracelet.

Photo Credits: Yvonne Heeg-Ljunggren

Photo Credits: Yvonne Heeg-Ljunggren

Another local talent, Terry Woods, hand knit beautiful shawls for women who wanted to model them.  I love the colour of this one particularly, modeled by Terry Woods herself:


Photo Credit: Yvonne Heeg-Ljunggren

The afternoon was spent in good company with local women: my kind of afternoon! I have to say, Pink Ink knows how to throw a girl date together! These women have a way of bringing women out at their best!

Check out the gallery of some of the amazing women who joined in on the fun!

I will continue to follow the work of Pink Ink. Women In Colour has been commissioned to cover an amazing event coming up this September called A Little Black Dress And Black Tie Affair that Pink Ink will be co-hosting! The event is for a great cause and is reflective of the true spirit of Pink Ink. This event will be raising funds for the Easter Seals Ontario. Stay tuned to hear more about this event!

My experience with Pink Ink not only made me break out of my comfort zone through make up, jewellery and a photoshoot, the experience challenged me to feel more at ease with the focus and attention being on me and only me. Being a mama of four is wonderful, but it comes with its’ challenges. Being a spouse to someone I love and someone who sees the ‘me’ nobody else does yet still loves me back, is a blessing, but it is hard to maintain a sense of self after over 16 years as a “couple.” Being an activist and someone who is deeply connected to injustice in the world and to challenging those who impose it, comes with phases of burning out and having to find balance again. The afternoon with Pink Ink inspired me to reframe my thoughts about who I am. I can be many things: Mother, caretaker, partner, activist.  But who says I can’t be my own unique kind of beautiful too?

Thank you, Pink Ink!

Learn more about Pink Ink here.

Like them on Facebook.

You can find out more about Susan Dinner Custom Art Jewellery here.

A special thanks to Yvonne Heeg-Ljunggren for capturing the afternoon with your talent in Photography!

Last but not least, Like Women In Colour on Facebook and follow A Little Black Dress and Black Tie Affair coverage this Fall!

Tune Out & Check In: An 8 Step Guide to Self- Care

wellness, women


When I first became a mother, I was aware that my journey in parenthood would be sometimes overwhelming, many times exhausting, all the while, being very rewarding and full of love. I was also under the impression that it absolutely had to be all-encompassing, absorbing all of my being. Mostly, this impression was set by some peers and family members who already had preconceived notions about me as a parent. I was young, but mature and dedicated to raising my son, yet felt as though I had so much to prove. I was an overachieving parent and was very hard on myself.

Soon, I realized that everybody and their mother had an opinion about how I should parent and judgements on how I was parenting my son. The pressure also mainly came from other women, and even worse, women close to me. It became something that soon consumed my every action and put a lot of fear in me. I feared I was not doing the right thing for my son even though he was healthy, sweet, smart, and compassionate.

On top of perpetual fear came its ugly step sister: guilt. I felt guilty about e-ve-ry-thang. This guilt then leaked into my day-to-day life (even outside of my parenting role) and hindered the natural process of learning who I was as a woman, and as a woman who is also a mother.

Slowly, but surely I felt a sense of loss in who I was and couldn’t even wrap my head around who I wanted to be as an individual. By the time my first son, D was 3, I began doing things differently and embarked on a joint journey of finding myself and being a mother to a beautiful boy who truly blessed my life. Still, finding balance was difficult.

For nearly ten years, I would feel the push and pull of the perpetual guilt of looking after me as I had my second born son, M and my twins, Baby A and Miss E.  After four children and a near 13 years in parenting, I feel I am making better choices each day in how I care for myself as an individual while balancing the needs of my family. Here are 8 tips for you to do the same:

  1. Tune out the noise. There’s good noise with caring, nurturing support, constructive criticism and sound advice. Then there’s the negative, judgemental and hurtful noise we can all live without. Differentiate between the two, take note of where the noise is coming from, and slowly begin to ignore the negativity through distraction. Oh, so it’s being said that you’re disorganized because you are frequently late? Well, honey, with no help at all you made an appearance with all your children in tow. Applause. Although it is much easier said than done, weeding out the noise you can live without will involve you being extra nice to yourself.
  2. Check your self-talk. This piece comes hand in hand with weeding out the negative noise around you. Be cautious about what you say to yourself. If you’re nice to yourself, you set the bar where you deserve it to be with respect to how others should be treating you.
  3. Say NO when necessary. The key to finding the balance you need to truly practice self-care is identifying your priorities and sticking to them. I struggle with putting myself at the top of my priority list. Guilt gets in the way of this all the time, but sometimes I win and remind myself that without a happy and healthy me, I won’t be giving anything and/or anybody else my all and that’s the truth! I am still learning that I can’t be there for everybody all the time. Sometimes saying no is crucial and starting with baby steps will make this transition easier if you are also prone to guilt like I am. Asking to be met half-way on things, when possible and appropriate, was the way I eased my way into lightening my load. Eventually, I began to gauge the time I need vs the time I would give of myself, and I am honestly getting better at saying “no” when I should be.
  4. Indulge. It’s not selfish. Find something that makes you feel good and make time for it regularly. I was once in a place that I couldn’t identify what felt good anymore so I had to break out of my routine and try new things. For many in my circle it has been fitness, or a spa day. For me, it was T.V. The kids and I don’t watch T.V. often. If the T.V. was on, it would be a cartoon or a sports game, as dictated by my two oldest boys. Since having my twins and nursing them
    for a near 9 months, I was limited in what I could do, when I could do it and for how long. Frankly, between homework help, my community work and always being ‘ON’ for two brand new babies – indulging in a mindless activity at home like watching a couple of episodes of House of Cards, was bliss. Thank God for Netflix!
  5. De-clutter regularly. I’m not talking about traditional cleaning up here as in finding storage solutions for your space. De-clutter your life by de-cluttering your social circle. It has been said before, but it is a timeless phrase that can be applied to many facets of life: it’s not quantity, but quality that matters. Remember tracking where the noise you can live without was coming from? Start from there. People in your circle should add value to your quality of life and acknowledge the value you add to their lives. If you find certain relationships draining, let them go – that move will free you! I began this process of de-cluttering my social circle nearly four years ago and it has been one of the most valuable lessons in my adult life.
  6. Build your circle. As you de-clutter, be careful not to isolate yourself. When you need self-care the most, some may fall into a trap of isolation naturally, and weeding out the negative energy in your circle isn’t the happiest of times, although it surely does get better. While this is all happening connect with like-minded individuals who aim to build you up. Connect with people who can provide the support you need and deserve and see your strengths as something that would add substance to their lives.
  7. Check in. We all ask one another “how are you?” but we are often not prepared for the real answer. I once answered a colleague with honesty after having a particularly difficult and emotionally draining week and even though it was me who was opening up, getting emotional and sharing a personal story, our encounters going forward were uncomfortable. There is something about vulnerability that makes some people uncomfortable. Don’t leave it up to someone else to ask you how you are doing, and mean it. Check in with yourself. How are you feeling? How have you been eating? Sleeping? How are you emotionally? What can you do to be a better, healthier, happier you? I ask myself these questions regularly. I had to coach myself into not being uncomfortable with my own vulnerability.
  8. Repeat. Self-care is a life-long adventure in maintaining balance, health, and happiness. The 7 steps mentioned work best when repeated.

When I first became a mother, I gained the world but I lost myself. Today, I feel I am a much better mother, happier person, and healthier woman for prioritizing ME.

The “Talk” is Different for Parents of Colour: Privilege, Parenting, and The Other “Talk”

Mama-logue, Parenting

TheTalk Several weeks ago, my spouse and I read Desomond Cole’s moving and emotional piece called The Skin I’m In: I’ve Been Interrogated By Police More Than 50 Times- All Because I’m Black. Together we sat silently for what felt like an eternity. Admittedly, in our minds we were recalling the number of times we were approached by police as a couple. With an intense gaze at one another and a mutual nod of agreement, we knew it was time to sit our first-born son down for the “talk”.

For many parents, when awaiting the birth of an unborn child, particularly the first child, there are a mix of emotions.  There’s excitement and anxiety. There’s joy and fear. The mixed emotion is unique to every parent, but one thing that all parents of colour share is worry. As parents of colour, this worry shaped the way my spouse and I approached parenting from the moment we saw that + on my test for the first time.

When my spouse and I were anticipating the birth of our first-born son nearly 13 years ago, we knew we were faced with intense struggles in helping our son obtain and maintain dignity in his identity.  Our son was born in post 9/11 Canada to first generation immigrant parents from the Caribbean and the Middle East. Only a few months old, I held my son close, blinking tears of sorrow and guilt as simultaneous and widespread hate was aimed at black and Middle Eastern people. What have we done? I thought. We brought an innocent child into the world in the midst of such turmoil. It was a painful and constant guilt I felt for the first few years of my parenting experience.

Our innocent conversations around who our son would look like most, ended with an afterthought of which scenario would be less painful for him, quickly replacing our smiles with uncomfortable laughter. We may have laughed, but deep down, we were worried. Our hopes for a bright and successful and fulfilling life for our child would often be clouded by the hatred we knew he will face.

We live in a city where today, only 16% of the population are people of colour (or as the fact sheets put it, are “racial minorities”).  We also live in a city where a self-proclaimed white supremacist ran for Mayor in 2010, which resulted in 234 eligible voters going to the polls to vote for him. It is also the same city that a banana peel was thrown at a professional black athlete on ice.

Although our son’s classrooms are becoming increasingly more diverse by the year, we know that he will face racial profiling on many levels in the years to come. In fact, he already has in several circumstances. We have come to terms with the fact that it doesn’t matter how many people of colour are in any given place because as long as the societal norms are constructed around, and embedded in language like “racial minorities;”  As long as systemic barriers which automatically deem our son “minimal” before he is able to prove his merit, we are all in the same place regardless of who is standing with us. Until the system itself is dismantled, the 16% and in fact, all the numbers are irrelevant.

As our son earns and gains independence, I wish “the talk” I am referring to meant that we were going to sit our son down and talk about relationships and boundaries, about sex, his body, and the changes he is facing and about consent and the layers of communication around the concept.

The “Talk” I’m referring to traps parents of colour in an excruciating dichotomy between the want to protect our children from this broken world and the need to give them the right dose of reality in order for them to survive.

I wish we were going to sit him down and continue our dialogue about drugs, alcohol, focusing on school, and being the best student he knows how to be. I wish that was it. I am not minimizing these very important, relevant, and necessary talks. I am saying that for parents of colour, the “talk” is different. When raising children of colour, the extra weight and burden of the other “talk” that could quite possibly be the one that keeps our child alive, is heavy. The “talk” I’m referring to traps parents of colour in an excruciating dichotomy between the want to protect our children from this broken world, and the need to give them the right dose of reality in order for them to survive.

If only my spouse and I had the privilege of letting our son remain a young boy, and not fear for what people may fear in him. If only we had the privilege of the guarantee that as long as we raise our son in a way that he becomes a responsible citizen, that he will be judged only by his character, his abilities, his strengths, and have his weaknesses fairly considered. If only we had that guarantee that by staying out of trouble, our son will not be in trouble, but we know all too well that this is not the case as it was not the case with our “encounters” and it certainly was not with Desmond Cole’s.

When I think about privilege, I cannot escape the mixed emotions of anger, frustration, pain, envy, and even sometimes resentment I feel when I connect that privilege to parenting because that privilege leaves me powerless with respect to my sons’ safety.

When I think about privilege, I think of how I cannot dare to tell my son that he must stand up for himself, that he has the right to refuse to comply with orders by law enforcement to reveal his identity unless he is being charged with something.  I think of how I cannot even mention getting a badge number or demanding his right to know why he is being questioned/interrogated/stopped/accused. When I think of privilege, I think of how I cannot tell my son that he has civil rights and liberties that no authority can take away, because the truth is that those civil liberties were not intended to be for all.

D Today, our son, barely a teen, is tall, handsome with skin like caramel. He is looking more and more like a man with impeccable posture, strong hands and large feet. To many, he looks very mature and older than he actually is. I see his innocent and kind eyes framed by beautiful eyelashes, and I see his bright smile that has lit up every room since he was a baby. I wish that is what everybody would see in him. My son is sweet, kind, smart, and witty. He is caring, thoughtful, yet honest and questions whatever he can.

Over the last year or so, my son has naturally become more connected with his race and mixed culture. He has recently began developing a sense of pride in his skin, in his hair, in the spices in his food, in the accents of his relatives, and in the fact that he has a unique family and extended family who have rich cultures that span across 3 continents. For parents of colour, there is a constant push and pull between that pride and self-love and staying safe.

The talk that we had with our son was painful. We had to tell our son that when approached by law enforcement and/or security of any kind, he is to humble himself. Stay calm. Comply. Be still and always communicate his movements before he carries them out. We had to tell our near teenage son that he is always to make is hands visible. This talk had to happen in such a way that despite the nature of our racist society, my son would not lose hope in his mixed race, in his identity, in his future, and ultimately, in himself.

Parents of colour must master the craft of creatively and powerfully delivering the message “you are worthy” balanced with concepts of privilege and the nature of racism.

In all honesty, this talk didn’t happen suddenly. It began during our sons’ first few weeks of public school- it began with his first encounters with any level of authority, including his first teacher and his school administration. In fact, all of the teachable moments with our son consisted of a race/class/gender intersectional analysis and approach. Parents of colour must master the craft of creatively and powerfully delivering the message “you are worthy” balanced with concepts of privilege and the nature of racism.

In truth, as I write about privilege, I must admit that we certainly have more of it than some of our friends whose children are of darker skin, have a language barrier, have deeper economic barriers, and/or have mental health challenges. This is also something we must help our son realize in a healthy, yet realistic way. Again, the weight of this “talk” is heavy, complicated, yet critical in the way that we parent.

This “talk” doesn’t ensure that our son would not be stopped by law enforcement or formal security. In truth, this “talk” serves to better prepare our son for these inevitable encounters. We acknowledge that these “encounters” are woven into every boy of colour’s coming of age story in Canada and North America.Then, it transforms into the every day experiences of young men of colour- even bright, educated, well read, and passionate men like Desmond Cole.

Photo Credits: Nurturing Births Doula

In Her Own Words: One Doula Takes on Corporate Media About the Hyper-Medicalization of Childbirth

News, Politics, Women's Issues
Photo Credits: Nurturing Births Doula

Photo Credits: Nurturing Births Doula

The process of childbirth was once a natural one where women assisted women.  Although technology and modern medicine have certainly decreased complications and fatalities in the process of birthing, some may argue that we have reached the point of hyper-medicalization of both women’s bodies and the process of childbirth.  Here is one woman, a doula by trade, and her response to a CBC article about Ontario’s high c-section rates.

Note: If you have had a c-section, this response is not intended to question the legitimacy of your procedure or your birthing experience, it is rather highlighting key points that were left out of the story.

To view the original news clip and article, click here.

Dear CBC News,

My name is Samantha Alphonso and I am a CBC news viewer/reader. I’m writing to you because I was concerned by your news story about the rate of caesarean section births in Canada, titled “Ontario Hospitals Strive to Cut C-Section Rates: C-section delivery rates under the microscope” which was posted online on April 20th, 2015. First of all, I would like to commend you for posting a story on this topic because I believe this topic is very important for Canadians to learn more about. However, I believe this topic could have been covered in a less biased and misogynistic manner and that is what has motivated me to write to you.

Surgical births increase the risk of the following complications: infection, paralyzed bowel, pulmonary embolism, blood clots in mother’s legs, hemorrhage, injury to bladder/uterus/blood vessels…

This news story did not address the most important reason why the very high rate of caesarean birth ought to be of concern to Canadian birthing families. The health costs to women and babies who are undergoing unnecessary surgical births at a historically unprecedented rate were not covered. Surgical births increase the risk of the following complications: infection, paralyzed bowel, pulmonary embolism, blood clots in mother’s legs, hemorrhage, injury to bladder/uterus/blood vessels, hysterectomy, maternal death, complications in subsequent pregnancies, the baby being cut, lower APGAR scores for baby, admittance of baby to intensive care, and persistent pulmonary hypertension in the baby. Instead, this news story focussed primarily on the financial costs of the currently high caesarean birth rate. In choosing to portray the increase financial costs of surgical births as the main reason why we as Canadians (and CBC viewers) should be concerned about the c-section rate, you have hidden the pain, suffering and increased risk of death of the Canadian women and their babies who undergo this major abdominal surgery. While financial issues are also important to consider to me and other Canadian taxpayers, I believe the health, lives and experiences of birthing women and newborn babies are more important than money. This side of the story is what deserves to be told and heard above all else.

This news story was medically biased. You selected two prominent obstetricians as “experts” to interview. Why would you assume that obstetricians, the people who are performing too many caesareans, are the people who know the most about why there are too many surgical births and how to reduce the rate of caesarean births? This is like asking Al Capone how to make Prohibition laws more effective. He may know, but why would he tell you?

The World Health Organization recommends a c-section rate of no more than 15%.

Furthermore, you interviewed Dr. George Arnold, as an example of a doctor who is attempting to reduce the rate of caesarean birth. Yes, he has brought the rate of surgery down from 29% to 23% in his hospital, but that still means that 23% of women are receiving caesareans in the hospital where he works. The fact that he is not a person who is motivated to institute major change, which will ultimately benefit the health and well-being of the birthing women and newborns who are cared for at Markham Stouffville Hospital, is demonstrated by your summary of his statement: “Until the budget crunch, Arnold said caregivers had no reason to question C-section rates since they were providing excellent care with good outcomes for mothers and infants.” This statement reveals that he does not even think that a 29% c-section rate is problematic. If the care was so great, why were at least 14% of birthing women receiving unnecessary surgery at Markham Stouffville Hospital? The World Health Organization recommends a c-section rate of no more than 15%. The fact that his efforts have reduced the caesarean rate, but have been ineffective at reducing the c-section rate to below the standards set by WHO, demonstrates the problem with the way that Canadian obstetricians and hospitals manage childbirth.

The medical approach to birth, while it is the hegemonic model, is not the only approach.

The medical approach to birth, while it is the hegemonic model, is not the only approach. Why were there no midwives interviewed in this news story? They often have c-section rates for their clients which are much lower than those of obstetricians. Midwives are ideally suited to comment on the causes of high caesarean section rates because they are not performing c-sections themselves, do not profit from an increased c-section rate and are, in fact, working to prevent c-sections and succeeding at it.

Lastly, I wanted to point out the ways in which the language used in this story was deeply misogynistic and offensive to me. Throughout the entire news clip and most of the article, the bodies and choices of birthing mothers are implicated as being responsible for the increase in the rate of surgical births. The following quotations from the news clip demonstrate my argument very well: “Women who have had multiple c-sections are mostly responsible for the high [c-section] rate.” And “C-section rates are on the rise for a variety of reasons, including women having children later in life.” In fact, women are not responsible for the rise in c-section rates, nor are their “old” bodies to blame for it. The average age of Canadian mothers giving birth to their first babies in 2010 was 29.6 years old. In 1997, the average age of a first-time mother was 28.5 years old. To put this in perspective, in 1944, the average first-time mother was 29.3 years old and the lowest post-World War II average maternal age for first time mother was achieved in 1975 (26.7 years old). It is quite ignorant to say that maternal age is a major contributor to the rise in rates of surgical births! That is saying that because Canadian women are giving birth an average of one year later, it warrants an 8.5% in the c-section rate. No, the most important factor in determining how many surgeries are being performed on Canadian women is how many surgeons (in this case obstetricians) there are per capita. This is, yet another reason, why obstetricians implementing new hospital / obstetric policies should not be portrayed as the solution to the problem of there being too many c-sections being performed in Canada.

Thank you for taking the time to read and consider my concerns. It is my hope that you will consider what I have said and more thoroughly as well as sensitively explore issues relating to maternal health and caesarean births in any future news stories you choose to share with your audience.


Samantha Alphonso


Samantha Alphonso is Southwestern Ontario birth doula.  Find out about the services she offers at: http://nurturingbirthsdoula.com

Like her page on Facebook