Letter to My Departed Parents and Sister on My Wedding Day

By: Giselle General

Terms and Definitions: Mama is how I refer to my mother, Papa is how I refer to my father and Ate (ah-teh) is how I refer to my older sister.

Dear Mama, Papa and Ate,

Guess what? I just got married!

It’s safe to say that a part of me wished that you all were there. Frankly though, since it has been twenty years since you three passed away, I have a bit of trouble imagining how that feels like. Would I like the feeling of being “walked down the aisle”? The wedding was in a public park, so there was no ‘walking down the aisle’ involved. All the attendees, the nine people, just gathered around. Would I have liked having a sister to brainstorm the wedding details with? Ate, you had a boyish personality when we were kids, but Mama did an amazing job planning our outfits as kids, during Sunday mass or special occasions. I wonder what the two of you would have commented about my choice of a wedding dress. In some ways, I know very well I’m too independent for my own good. So, sorting out many details in solitude, while delegating or brainstorming with him, feels natural to me. No wedding consultants, no bridesmaids, no entourage, none of that.

Throughout the planning and ceremony, we did try to incorporate our family’s story and memories. Instead of a ‘scripture reading’ about marriage, I wrote a page-long speech retelling the love story that made our family, and a moment of silence to acknowledge your meaning in our lives to this day. I also spent part of the morning of the wedding day replicating a photo I saw in Mama and Papa‘s wedding photo album. It’s a photo of the wedding outfits laid down on the bed. The only thing is, sharp patterns of our bedsheet made the wedding attires not stand out as I had intended. I took the photo anyways, since it would be a nice keepsake either way. It’s clear I am not an expert photographer, haha!

I wonder how you would feel about the fact that it was I, the woman, who proposed to Corey. He took it well, and he even said that he was relieved that I was the one who proposed first. He said that his would be slightly less…eloquent. That made me laugh since it’s true. Between the two of us, I am the creative one, the writer.

Another kicker is this, I’m not taking his last name! Now more than ever, I really appreciate how things work in the Philippines, where kids get their mother’s maiden name as their middle name, and their father’s last name as the family name. So that’s me: Giselle Quezon General, where in all of my identification documents I get to keep a piece of both parents. Thank goodness, my lovely husband is pretty understanding and respectful about this. So, for the rest of my married life, I have a wedding ring to wear, will declare in my forms that I’m married, and will still be referred as Miss Giselle Quezon General.

A group of four people photographed together, mother, father, groom, and bride

The wedding planning was a bit abrupt, but it felt it was the right move. The wedding took place just within two months after we got engaged. I feel a bit choked up about my mother in law’s medical situation; we found out about the diagnosis this spring. Having a serious illness that can be brutal and unpredictable really sucks. This is why Corey requested that instead of having the wedding on our 10th dating anniversary in 2020, he wanted to have a ceremony ASAP. The only set of parents we have is his, and I’m more than happy to do everything in my power to ensure their active presence and participation in this special day.

If you were wondering why the other relatives were not on this ceremony, I took the inspiration from our very own family, having an initial small ceremony and then a bigger one later on. I remembered when I had to get a copy of the marriage certificates for my immigration paperwork, I needed to remember which wedding date to put on the forms. Civil wedding was in March and church wedding was in June of the same year. So I’d like to celebrate with a bigger event with everyone else when Corey and I hit our 10 year anniversary as a couple in 2020. For someone who is not yet 30 years old, a 10-year anniversary of a relationship is huge! I hope that the extended family will be inclined to come and celebrate next year, and share their wisdom about their own married lives.

Greg ended up being my ring-bearer, and he did an excellent job. I figured, all those times when he did the same task as a little boy will ensure he’ll pull this off with no issues. He did share a few stories from his perspective as a child, being bored with having to be stiff and quiet the entire time during the hour-long wedding ceremony. He said, a trick is to play a bit with the fancy beads on the pillow to kill the time. I laughed quite a bit upon hearing this. And I promised him, the ceremony would be so much shorter.

A few things I take as an exciting challenge are any opportunities that let my artistry shine, saving money, and recycling. My dress was lovely, comfortable, second hand and a great price! Everyone was willing to transport us around, so we didn’t need to rent a limo, we can get hammered with drinks and not worry about driving. Our officiant is the pastor from our neighbourhood, who was gracious enough to accommodate our short-notice date, but to offer a very eloquent, beautiful ceremony that is also non-religious. A good friend of his offered to take professional-grade photographs as a wedding gift. The location was something I crafted, an outdoor mural from a few years back, and I managed to replicate a hand-painted smaller version onto our cake topper. I made my veil and with the same fabric, I made a pocket square for his suit. The restaurant offered lots of choice in the food and we didn’t have to worry about the expense of having a ‘set menu’ and upsetting anyone who has different food preferences. I’m pretty darn proud with how the wedding turned out because of all of these.

My mother-in-law, and everyone else, had a lovely time at our small, intimate, relaxed wedding ceremony. For me, the best part, is that the she still remembered the next day, and a few days after that. I genuinely cannot plan a wedding for 200, 100 or even 50 people on such short notice, both in terms of time, energy and money. Will other people be understanding and compassionate? During your time, did people get upset that they weren’t invited to your wedding? Based on the photos it seemed like you had a roughly 200-people guest list. I heard of other brides having the same dilemma, stressing so much over the guest list. Because ours is so short notice, once we decided “Immediate Family Only Plus Their Spouses” for this one, it gave us a huge sense of clarity.

Mama and Papa, a part of me wants to believe that this incident was a blessing, a positive sign. You see, Greg had brought over to Canada the jewelry box that was used for your wedding in 1989, and inside, is the ‘golden wedding cord’ that is used in Filipino Catholic weddings. Yours is special because your names and the wedding date is engraved on the golden heart that holds the cord together into an infinity loop. We were planning to use this to hold our rings during the ceremony. About three weeks before the wedding, my roommate and I discovered that not only is it a fancy box, it’s a music box! A music box that still works after 30 years! The melody is lovely and both my roommate and I burst into tears when we first heard it. I took a video of the music and asked around what song it was. Turns out it is “Memories” by Barbara Streisand, or from the musical CATS. Our officiant, and my older co-workers confirmed the song. Now, I want to learn how to sing the whole thing, since it’s now very special for many reasons. We’re keeping the music box of course, in case Greg want to use it for other reasons in the future.

I hope that I get to find my own special and fitting definition of being committed to someone for the long term, being each other’s motivations, upholding our right and responsibility to care for ourselves, and nurturing a positive life together. Wherever you may be, I hope that these words and sentiments would reach you somehow.

With all my heart,

Giselle

Sexual Assault Survivor Gets a Boudoir Photoshoot

By: Giselle General

CONTENT WARNING: Sexual Violence, Sexual Assault

Back view of woman sitting on the edge of a bed.

One’s bedroom should be a place of rest, escape, peace and comfort, after a long day of exhaustion, activities and responsibilities. The darkness of the night should be an opportunity of calm solitude, an end of a long day, a pathway to a new morning with the hope that the new day will bring about new adventures and experiences. One’s womanhood and the journey to become one can be uncertain and confusing, but should be one that is filled with discovery, curiosity, and optimism, as one transforms physically into adulthood.

Sexual assault, rape, abuse, molestation, however you want to call it, regardless of how it happened, not only defiles one’s outlook in their life and their bodies, but also taints one’s soul with an indescribable amount of fear and pain.

There were roadblocks to be had, that dragged on and weighed me down for months and years, and clouded the vision of myself, my body, my behaviours, and motivations. From having difficulty articulating how I’m feeling physically, emotionally, and sexually in my romantic life, to feeling uninformed and afraid to learn about reproductive health. From nightmares about being raped with scenarios more gruesome than what I have experienced, to daydreaming while taking transit on what I would do if I get assaulted again, but this time in public.

The journey to healing started online, thanks to the increased discussions about sexual assault. Simultaneously, my current relationship played a huge role, from being believed after I shared my story, to having a voice and being heard when talking about issues related to sexual health and sexual activities. And then a few years ago, the healing became more professional-based, when I finally went to therapy to address the mental and emotional entanglements caused by this particular traumatic event, as well as others.

But there was one thing I mulled about for a very long time, and that is addressing how I view my physical body. The conventional assumption of “she must have looked or dressed a certain way which is why she got assaulted” is one of the key messages I wanted to debunk in my mind and heart. Mind you, during the assaults, typically I was wearing pajamas and clothes of my deceased parents as my sleepwear back then. This is the biggest reason why this assumption enrages me.

Finally, after some time hemming and hawing, browsing through several photographer’s websites, and convincing myself that my budgeting skills are on track, I finally booked the appointment. I chose for the photoshoot to be done on a rented studio, with a wide variety of backdrops for various effects. Many of the backdrops depicted typical parts of a house, just more glamorous looking: the bedroom with pristine sheets, a fancy bathroom with a clawfoot tub, elegant couches and plush chairs, and brick and pastel painted walls. I purchased a few outfits to help me have a theme in the photos, I had my hair done by a hairstylist but chose to not have makeup on. Finally, I told the photograher I’m okay with being a bit of a daredevil with some surprise poses.

It was hard to articulate how enjoyable and empowering it is to feel calm while practically semi-nude in front of a stranger. It is particularly freeing given that my sense of trust was broken by someone who is definitely not a stranger. I felt a bit awkward when I was asked to do certain movements, because part of the approach is not holding still for a certain pose, but instead, to do things such as move your arms and hips in a sexy way while standing, or play with your hair while imagining that you’re feeling like a superstar on the bed right now. But soon enough, the awkwardness transformed into playfulness.

The biggest surprise of all for me, is how I looked like in the photos she captured. When I was doing a ‘movement pose’ such as walking into the door ready to ‘have some fun’, she was pressing the shutter button non-stop while saying ‘oh wow! yes that’s good!’. Fierce, confident, alluring, vixen, all womanly, and not even needing to act like a skinny model while doing so.

When I picked up the printed photobook that was part of my package, I had a bit of a chat with the photographer. I was amazed at how many of the clients the photographer had, were indeed, survivors of sexual violence. Our conversations touched on perception of women in general, the “male gaze” and how it impacts our own perception of ourselves.

In the very visual way we live our lives these days, I figured, using that to my advantage is worth it. It was pretty neat to turn something used to objectify women, professionally photographs, into an opportunity to challenge unhealthy views about one’s self. I feel inclined to do this again, perhaps in five to ten years, to celebrate any transformations in my body, while celebrating my personhood and womanhood. This is something I definitely would encourage other people to consider, particularly if their trauma affects their outlook of their physical bodies and their vision of themselves.

Habits Osmosis – Couples Absorb Each Other’s Behaviours

By: Giselle General

Eight years in a relationship which consisted of five years of cohabitating, and three months of intense travel beforehand is a good chunk of time to learn about your significant other. At least that is what I would argue in my case. It’s safe to say that because of our drastically different upbringing and life experiences before we started dating, that there are some differences in our personalities and habits.

We do share a lot of common values, the ones that matter most to both of us, otherwise we would not still be together. Both parties are very diligent with communicating well, expressing our love can care for each other, and working together to maintain our home and relationship. There are some aspects of our relationship that are less contentious compared to other couples. Religion and race are not sticking points between us which is a huge relief. In contrast, we are born-and-raised in different environments, with him growing up in Edmonton, Canada with a middle-class family where the father worked and the mother stayed at home. On the other hand, I grew up in a small mining village in Benguet, Philippines, being orphaned at the age of eight are raised ‘by the village’, then immigrated to Canada as a teenager and adjusted to life here.

There are certainly traits, that in the beginning of the relationship, was clearly evident on one person only. It’s normal to describe the other as the “clumsy one” or the “chatty one”, and it can be with any other traits as well. That being said, direct and indirect influences can make an impact in one’s habits and behaviours.

His Creativity – Painting Miniatures and Trying Artistic Ideas

For our first year anniversary I crafted a shadow box with sticker lettering, printed photos of us, and colourful strips of paper with very adorably cheezy romantic statements. It wasn’t until when I moved in with him that he said he loved my arts and crafts work and would like me to do more.

For several years since then, most of the artistic projects are done by me alone. There were a few times when he would provide input whenever I feel stuck in a rut, but the hands on work is completed by me most of the time. In fact, he had a kit of unpainted miniatures and supplies he left untouched for a while, until I started painting some of these models.

But things have changed over the recent months and years. He has pursued his own ways of being creative. Speaking of those unpainted miniatures, he painted almost a hundred of them over six months, while watching Star Trek episodes on the TV. Our dining room table has a direct line of sight to the living room, so with all the art supplies splayed out on the table, he would be half-listening to the TV while choosing the paint colors for a magician’s robe, or the skin colour of the imps, or how much additional red spotches of paint he wanted to add on a zombie.

And then lately, he joined a running group that encouraged him to decorate his own shirt. He bought a plain cotton shirt, and used the fabric paints I have to decorate it, including a funny pun that apparently half of his group understood.

My Organization Skills with Personal Finance

He told me when we first started dating, that us getting together is what prompted him to purchase his first home. And when he purchased his first home, he purchased a budgeting software called MoneyDance and he’s used it ever since.

My first attempt at using this software didn’t go very well, I was a bit too impatient and overwhelmed with the features and the reality of those numbers staring at me. But last year, I finally took the leap and gave it another go. After a few months, my bank eliminated the online budgeting feature on their website, so the switch to using our own software was pretty timely.

Now, since we use the same software, we are more in-tune with our language when it comes to organizing our money. While I’m not as particular with tinkering with the charts and graphs feature, I appreciate the reliable way to organize my financial information. Now that it has been a year and a half since I started using the software, I have the ability to compare what happened at the exact same date a year ago. This has become a really useful tool for making plans, and setting healthy boundaries without feeling guilty.

For better or for worse, we have been considering ourselves as a unit, and taking on each other’s traits is an inevitable part of that. There are more positive traits that I do hope I gain from him, both through a combination of modeling (just by seeing someone do it on a regular basis) and finding my own version of implementing it.

My Contribution to Sexual Violence Awareness Month

By: Giselle General

May is Sexual Violence Awareness Month. It seems like every week, month, or day is dedicated towards something that it can be hard to keep track, this is something I’m not complaining about at all. Sometimes it can be something fun and casual like National Puppy Day, or something deeply important like Black History Month. I feel fortunate that in Canada, Alberta, Edmonton and other places worldwide, there were opportunities to talk about this important (and terrible) issue, give support to those affected, and have conversation on how to be aware and put an end to this.

The issue is a bit personal to me, since I myself have been a victim/ survivor of sexual assault. I purposefully used both words because these horrific act definitely have harmed me, and that should not be discounted one bit. At the same time, similar to the other life hardships that life threw at me, it is something I have survived from and changed who I am, hopefully for the better. The month had provided me with tangible opportunities to meaningfully participate.

Attending a Fundraising Gala

It seems like fundraising galas are everywhere, and attending them is actually pretty cool. I attended the fundraising gala for the Sexual Assault Centre of Edmonton at the Edmonton Convention Centre. While giving a hefty donation or a regular monthly donation is not within my budget at the moment, I figured that doing a one-time activity and donation is still something.

When it comes to food, I’m not picky anyways, and simply welcome the opportunity to have something different from my regular routine. This gala was a bit special as well, as I managed to join a table with other people who are actively involved in Edmonton. Some people at the table were familiar faces and names, which is thrilling! The keynote speaker, a gentleman who is a lawyer, was wonderful! What I appreciate most about the keynote speaker is that he addressed head on some of the misconceptions that surround sexual assault, from the act, to how survivors behave, and to how a perpetrator can look like. As someone who is part of the legal community, I also appreciate how he humanizes the flaws of the legal system. ‘These are human institutions with people who care‘ he said. I think that when we don’t get the results we are seeking, this is something that we forget in the midst of our anger, pain and discouragement.

Attending an event with a host who is also an auctioneer was a first for me, and seeing how the on-stage sign language interpreters keep up with the host was entertaining! I was blown away by the generosity and disposable income that some people have. Hearing the thousands of dollars being announced during the live auction bids made me gawk, and the tables of items available at the auction tables made me hope that lots of funds are indeed going to support the organization. After this, I definitely feel more inclined to make time and attend more fundraisers like this.

Educating Myself and Learning More Stories

There are lots of ways to make this convenient, specifically through social media. Simply following a few pages that talk about feminism, social issues, storytelling/artistic ones like Humans of New York, give a steady stream on my social media feed about stories and insights that people have. It can be heartbreaking, empowering, informative or hopeful depending on the story or the article. What I know for sure is that it is a reminder of how these experiences are common and universal. My goal is to spread awareness, reduce stigma and victim blaming, and seek out comfort for myself and others.

Evaluating What I Learned from Therapy

It has been almost two years since I went to therapy, and the effort to diligently apply what I have learned is going well. Other positive and healthy habits are being integrated in my life day by day, which also feels very promising. One thing I know is that it will take the rest of my life to remind myself to not be so outcomes-focused in my approach in life, and that is okay.

Also, as it turns out there are times when these calming or self-regulating techniques do not work and I’m not panicking about it. That really is the bigger victory. The calm that comes from accepting that I am a person that grows, changes and that have some weird quirks is liberating. I’m as messed up as anybody else, and this is not a crippling idea anymore.

The dictionary definition of internalize is “to incorporate (the cultural values, mores, motives, etc., of another or of a group), as through learning, socialization, or identification.” This is the biggest victory of my therapy experience, to internalize that it was okay to feel angry and sad and hurt about being treated poorly, to internalize that is is okay to set aside time to acknowledge these feelings, to internalize that there is a way and I deserve to process these feeling and release them, to internalize that I deserve all those good things I life that I didn’t have for a while.

I encourage anyone to find a cause you care about that has a date/ week/ month dedicated to spread awareness, and take it as an opportunity to spread awareness, provide support, and improve ourselves.

Rise and Root Cafe Review

By: Giselle General

This is a review of a local cafe I visited a few weeks ago, the Rise and Root Cafe. It is located in what I would describe as a developing area, with open lots recently divided and ready for construction, and the retail plaza that is clearly recently constructed with room the grow, 20020 Lessard Rd NW.

I was assigned to decide on a meeting location with my mentor for our March meeting, and I was inspired by what she did in our meeting prior to, which is to identify a local restaurant or cafe to meet and chat. Since I cook most of my food at home and pack lunches to the office, going out to eat is actually a treat. I was excited to see what good food and atmosphere this place would have, that would hopefully complement the good purpose of my meeting with my mentor.

The aesthetic of the cafe did not disappoint, it is homey and eclectic and cozy and it’s just wonderful. The cafe had mismatched upcycled furniture for its patrons, including an old TV converted into a fish tank. The theme of upcycling continued on its walls. The three paintings in the photo above are made of previously used materials, such as wine corks, bottle caps, and tree branches. There are lots of other art pieces as well using glass bottles, and even pots and pans! The upcycling artist in me was just thrilled, I felt that the cafe was made just for people like me. The combination of seating arrangements in my opinion was well planned, from the booth by the window, the couch/ bench combination along one wall, and various tables that seat between two to eight people.

The food and service is wonderful as well. There was a lineup of people ordering food to go, which gives me an impression that this is a well-known and well-loved establishment in this emerging neighbourhood. I ordered my blueberry scone and egg salad, served in dishes that I’m sure are second-hand and I love it even more as a result.

The Edmonton Transit bus 117 passes through the area which is nice, but once the area is more populated, I am hoping that there will be a more frequent transit service here one day to make it easy for non-residents of the neighbourhood to visit. This lovely cafe is definitely something I would make a trip to go to, for various meetings or even a date.

If you are on the west end, or just wanted to find a place to grab a bite that is not a touristy part of the city, I highly recommend this place.

The Quest And New Options for “Belonging”

By: Giselle General

With all the conversation about social isolation, mental health, and disconnectedness these days, I have been thinking more about the concept of belonging.

My explorations range from simply thinking things trough, mulling through my head various things I read or hear about and reading books on the matter. I read a few books by Brene Brown on vulnerability, shame, and the idea of ‘daring greatly’ and ‘braving the wilderness’ which on the surface sounds really isolating.

As someone who immigrated to a different country, the concept of belonging gets a bit more muddled. One challenge is the labels we use to identify ourselves can mean not belonging to other groups. Or that more effort or clarification is needed to make the broad connection.

Perhaps it is just a sign of getting older, that I am faced with more paradoxes in life, it’s making my head spin. Assertiveness and collaboration, boundaries and openness, vulnerability and courage, sharing and preserving.

It wasn’t until a few years in university that I discovered a term that resonated with me: introvert. It is a part of who I am that I have learned to embrace and even let shine. I laugh whenever my colleagues and volunteers claim that they don’t believe me since I seem to be so social and cheerful when I interact with them at work. But most of my work is done well within the confines of my closed office door. And that at the end of the day I crave isolation while writing a blog, reading a book, or browsing online. I have attended a ‘Paint Nite’ event with a friend, where we were in a bar following instructions from an instructor on how to make a certain painting. That is fine and neat, but I felt greater satisfaction and artistic expression by doing arts and crafts in isolation, making a mess in our dining table all by myself.

There are times when I feel unease – not as intensely as guilt though – over the fact that I have not really spent time socializing with my relatives. I feel conflicted on who, when and how should we really hang out. Should I ask first? Should I wait for them to reach out? I feel that those gatherings are not as fun as they used to, or was that because I haven’t seen them for a long time? Is the fact that we are related by blood, enough reason to find time to meet up, despite differences in schedule, preferences and values?

Then there is technology. There are now plenty of online communities to connect with like-minded people, even over just that one thing you may have in common. In my opinion, these types of connections are still under-valued. The great benefit of these online forums is how specific they can be, and that specificity of common interest is what makes it difficult to find in real life sometimes. Currently, I am a member of online groups for bullet journaling (essentially a DIY planner/ diary/ scrapbook/ notebook hybrid), sex education and positivity, and being childfree by choice.

One thing I am trying to remind myself is that there is no such thing as feeling like you belong 100% in every single location or setting. And that IS okay! It seems like the excessive pressure to hang out with people is the very reason why social interactions can be unpleasant or not satisfying. Being present, and mindful, and curious are a few things I’m trying to integrate in my life. On in other words, rolling with the punches.

The last thing I am trying to remind myself in the quest of belonging, is that its imperfections and impermanence is not something to be afraid of. It is okay to have a childhood friend for a decade, be disconnected during the adult years, and perhaps, rediscover the kinship upon retirement age. It is okay to take a break or unflollow online groups if it seems like the right thing to do. It is okay to formally break a friendship or let it fade away by not corresponding. It is okay to mumble and be awkward and focus on your group’s activity, taking extra time before disclosing personal details.

The two statements I heard not too long ago that resonated with me is “I feel complete in an empty room” and “You are amazing, just the way you are”. I think that convincing myself of the first statement, and viewing other using the second statement, will be valuable guides in navigating the colourful, unpredictable, messy, journey of connecting with fellow humans.

Can’t Pour From an Empty Cup – My Challenge with Giving Donations

By: Giselle General

Whether it is from being more connected through social media, or with just being more connected in the community where I live now, I feel that I have been receiving so many more requests for help, specifically financial help. And all of these calls for financial help are for a good cause, from shelters for refugees in a land with no infrastructure, to programming to help with Indigenous awareness and culture preservation, to keeping abused animals safe, to keeping abuse children safe. Some programs are meant to help in an immediate, tangible matter such as meals or clothing, some are for advocacy work to help change policy which impacts people on a massive scale. There’s just so much.

With all of these requests, I frequently feel compelled to give and help. Unfortunately, I have the very human condition of having limitations and uncertainties. Here are some of the challenges I face and my ongoing attempts to deal with them.

For social enterprises or fundraisers, it can conflict with my minimalist/ anticonsumerist perspective I am trying to adapt. I am not a big spender to begin with when it comes to the day-to-day items I need. So I struggle when there is a social enterprise with a sales model where you buy one item, you give the same item to someone in need. This can be shoes, bags, dolls, socks, etc. Same thing with food fundraisers. My grocery habits are quite fixed, so buying extra meat, veggies, cookies, soaps for fundraisers will cause waste in my home. At this rate, I generally avoid participating for this very reason. I try to find other means to help.

Setting a limit – as in financially – is so essential and so hard. Thanks to my significant other, I have found a system where I budget for every type of expense I incur, and track them in a convenient and systematic way. So yes, I am aware of how much I have been spending towards charitable donations. Not all of them even qualify for a tax receipt, particularly if it is directly assisting a person through the MyYEGStrong Twitter Account or initiatives through GoFundMe. I’m not simply after tax benefits, not at all, but I need to be mindful of the total monthly and annual costs

Unfortunately, I have the very human condition of having limitations and uncertainties.

I’m trying to master the delicate art of gracefully saying no, without shame. For people who feel compelled to give, there is a heavy feeling of guilt that can arise from being unable to give what is being asked. When I have to say no, I try to provide an explanation, saying that perhaps I can help in the future, and wishing them well in their fundraising endeavours. One thing that I avoid doing is “ghosting”, or essentially ignoring the message completely. I’m not perfect at it, but I know that having an answer is better than none at all.

A few sayings are starting to become more popular these days, such as “you can’t pour from an empty cup” and “you need to put your own oxygen mask first before assisting others“. Another idea that I’m starting to internalize is “everyone is trying to do the best they can with what they have“. This is what has helped me with both being kind with my limitations, and being proud of what I am able to do.

Giving in non-material or non-financial ways are plentiful, and I’m realizing that they are very much appreciated as well. There are other ways to help out such as time, organizational skills, knowledge and feedback, and spreading awareness. I had a friend tell me that she ended up volunteering for a youth-related initiative because of a social media post that I shared. I wasn’t able to donate or attend that event, but it looks like it inspired someone else to do so. I have started volunteering for casinos for charitable organizations, which is a huge thing around these parts. Filling out government surveys or sending a thoughtful response to a government official about a certain topic can help cause a positive change in the law. There are a lot of options, great ones, that will always be available when one is ready and able to give again.

Managing Winter Without Driving Yourself Nuts

By: Giselle General

Living in Canada comes with a huge adjustment coming from one thing: winter! Even those who lived in colder regions like the Cordilleras or Tagaytay in the Philippines, are not spared from the shock, the pain, and the hassle from having to deal with temperatures that rival our refrigerators and freezers. This list is a small collection of different techniques on managing the season, especially in a place like Edmonton where winter can get cold and long.

Have a person who appreciates your city. My spouse is a born-and-raised Edmontonian so I am lucky in that regard. This has helped us do activities (both winter related and not winter related) to keep us from feeling too trapped in the house all the time. If there isn’t one, be that person!

Have a positive, or at least neutral, emotional reaction to winter-related household chores. The complaining will likely only compound the sting of frigid weather as you shovel the sidewalks, brush off the snow of the car windows, or sprinkle gravel when it is zero degrees and everything starts to get icy. Procrastinating on winter clearing tasks can actually make them more difficult or more expensive. Snow that is already packed in or stepped on is heavier and more difficult to scrape off. Ignoring the draft on a window or door that is not sealed can increase one’s heating bill. Denying that patch of ice on the sidewalk or stairs can cause an accident.

Learn about and appreciate what your government does when it comes to snow clearing. Snow clearing is the responsibility of the municipal government for roads and public places. Follow the law on what happens right after a large snowfall such as the parking ban, which means not parking your car along a road so the machinery can clear snow effectively. Another important task – and it is the law – is clearing the snow in front of your home, business or any other building you own. It may be a drag, but perhaps thinking of this as following the principle of “tapat ko, linis ko” can be a motivation. That saying translates to something like “It’s my ongoing duty to clean and maintain the space in front of me”. And if something that is supposed to be cleared by government staff was not done properly, it’s okay to send a report – they are not going to kill you! Any resident can call, email or use the 311 app to mention what needs to be fixed and its location.

Walking safely in winter. A mantra I have started to deliberately embrace is “better late than injured”. It took me three years to eventually hear about the “penguin walking technique” to minimize the likelihood of slipping when the pathways are tricky. I have yet to learn how to land safely when I inevitably slip, though I kept on hearing that it’s better to fall backwards on your butt than falling forwards on your face.

Try at least one winter activity and it doesn’t have to be an expensive one. The simplest is going for walks in our River Valley Trails. They are beautiful at all times of the year and it’s such a sight in the winter! Community leagues and churches in your neightbourhood will likely host at least one winter-related activity and our city has lots of winter festivals! Candy Cane Lane is a must-visit at least once. Our city even has a website specified for this, called Winter City Edmonton, where you can learn more information about different activities, both outdoor and indoor that you can try during the season. And if you are the charitable type, there are different fun walks/ fundraisers you can participate in that not only helps those who are most affected by winter and homelessness, but shares a valuable perspective about living during winter. There are lots of them, but two examples are the Coldest Night of The Year and Cold Hands Warm Heart.

Proper winter gear is a form of essential self care. To the Filipinos out there: during typhoon season we would want to be well equipped with an umbrella and raincoat right? It’s the same thing with winter. Find the pair of gloves that work with you and get an extra pair. There are anti-slip ice cleats that you can put on your shoes to make your walk less slippery. There are even rechargeable heated insoles for your shoes to keep your feet from freezing. There are attachments to help handling the snow shovel more easily so you won’t hurt your back. These items are worth it. Caring for your health and protecting your body is worth it.

Small talk about weather is fine, but don’t stop at the complaining. I think it’s a Canadian norm here, that at the lunch table or as a casual conversation topic in an event, the first topic is about the weather. That in itself is OK, but if it’s winter, it usually focused on complaining about how cold it is. I think this perpetuates that winter is nothing but awful, when it’s just how it is. I encourage anyone to insert something to make the conversation more positive or more interesting, perhaps talking about any topic related to the tips above. A volunteer lawyer at work was the first one who talked to me about the anti-slip ice cleats, so our conversation ended with a vibe of gratitude. A colleague during lunch talked about the Coldest Night of the Year fundraiser, and I left that conversation amazed at the community initiative. Another colleague lives in an acreage and tells all these adorable stories about the wildlife that roam around during winter.

There is beauty and adventure and excitement that can only be had during this season, and the not-so-fun stuff is actually just as manageable as mowing the lawn in the summer. I hope that some of these tips are helpful and that you can find other ones that keep you warm, safe and happy during winter!