Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Pat Leave: It's Good for Everyone

With changing times means some men are embracing fatherhood in a more unique way. It's easy to simply impregnate a woman and then let her be with your baby while you focus on career and moving up the ladder. However, it's more than your sperm that is needed for fatherhood. Time, dedication, love, and hard work are required as well. I commend Facebook's change in policy to extend parental leave to four months, following Mark Zuckerburg's announcement that he would take two months off after his wife Priscilla Chan gives birth to their daughter. "I am proud to announce today that we are extending our parental leave policy for full time employees to cover four months of paid baby leave for all new parents, no matter their gender or where in the world they live," Lori Matloff Goler, Facebook's head of HR, wrote on the social media site (http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2015/11/30/facebook-parental-leave_n_8683198.html). The policy, which will take affect on Jan. 1, 2016 will also extend to staff who adopted a baby in 2015. "Studies show that when working parents take time to be with their newborns, outcomes are better for the children and families," continued Matloff Goler. "For too long, paid baby leave has been granted only to a mother who is giving birth. We believe that fathers and mothers alike deserve the same level of support when they are starting and growing a family, regardless of how they define family." My cousin Steve went on pat leave for a little while to help his wife out with at least two of their three children. He was happy to take time to support her and spend more time with his young family. Since he was able to get some paid time off to help out, he chose to do so. I would encourage all men to think this over if they have an opportunity to do so. I would also venture to say that by doing so you would be strengthening the bond with your girlfriend or wife. Other tech companies that have extended or introduced maternity and paternity leave policies include Microsoft, Apple, Adobe, Netflix, and Spotify. In Canada, men and women are eligible for 35 weeks of paternity leave for a newborn or newly adopted child (http://www.servicecanada.gc.ca/eng/ei/types/maternity_parental.shtml#long). It surprises and shocks me that the US is one of five countries, which does not provide parents with paid leave following the birth of their child. Companies with 50 employees or more are obligated to give parents 12 weeks of unpaid "protected job leave." The US may be advanced in many areas, but they are extremely backwards in this respect. Tom Stocky shared his experience of staying home for four months with his daughter and said that overall was a very positive experience. On Facebook, he wrote: "It was nice to have her like me so much, to come to me for comfort when she fell, to come and cuddle with me when she got sleepy, to run toward me screaming with excitement after I'd been away for awhile. I realized that's just because I spent so much time with her, but I didn't care, it felt really good. Maybe it was also because I got better at childcare. It feels nice to be good at something, and I got much better at the work I was doing at home" (https://www.facebook.com/tstocky/posts/996111776858). He added: "When I tell people I'm on a 4-month leave, the initial response is typically surprise that my company offers such a generous benefit. Facebook's paternity leave policy is unusual, but I hope it becomes less so. It's good for gender equality in the workplace and it's good for families with fathers." I agree. We need to encourage parents to make more of an equal effort in raising their children and not punish them if they choose to do so. Furthermore, we need to continue challenging and changing the way society views men who choose to take pat leave. They must be applauded for taking their fatherly responsibilities seriously in comparison to some men who simply split when their significant others get pregnant or those who are such workaholics that they rarely see their families.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Pivot 613: Not Your Typical Church

While I don't go to church every Sunday, I did start going to Pivot 613 (www.pivot613.ca) this past summer because of an invitation from my "cousin" Ella here in Ottawa. Pivot is not your typical church. It is free of judgement and guilt. You can go in jeans and no one will hound you if you don't show up for a while or guilt trip you into tithing. That's not what church should be about anyway. As Paulo Mugarura (the pastor) says every Sunday, Pivot is all about "grace, mercy, and love." His emphasis is on Jesus not the shoulds, woulds, and coulds of typical churches. It's not about hell, fire, brim stone, and condemnation. It's not about show but about being real and honest. It's a small congregation, one you don't feel lost in. While the demographic largely consists of fellow Gen Xers, there are also some children, millennials (a big emphasis will be made to attract millennials as they are the most disillusioned with church and religion), and older people as well as the different races and cultures. I appreciate this - not necessarily being the oldest or youngest in the bunch. Paulo (he's from Uganda and has a great accent and awesome dreads!) started the church in Feb. 2014 that used to meet in Kanata. It now meets in Ecclesiax Church in the Glebe on Sundays at 3 p.m. Due to personal struggles and disappointing life experiences (and a lot of disillusionment, anger, disappointment, doubts, and apathy), I haven't paid attention to my spiritual life for years. In fact, I've been royally turned off from it all. It hasn't really been Jesus who I've had an issue with but with Christians and religion. I grew up in the church where I did experience love but also hypocrisy, judgement, guilt, and various degrees of fundamentalism. It was less about being real and more about show. When Ella told me that Pivot (it falls under the Free Methodist umbrella) was laid back and not your typical church, I thought I'd give it a try. Like me, she was disillusioned by the Pentacostal denomination she had been brought up in and how church had become. She was fed up and wanted a change. She needed a change. Today's service was very raw and honest. After the praise and worship time (the song "Risen" has been in my head for a good chunk of the afternoon), Paulo really shared from his heart about his vision for the church and past struggles of faith, doubt, and health issues that have affected him for the past while. He apologized for not being the leader he should be. His humility and honesty really resonated with me. That's what a leader should be. Honest. Humble. Full of integrity, strength, and love. Willing to admit he (or she) may be wrong at times but also determined and driven to move forward and do what needs to be done. There will be big changes at Pivot in the coming months, and Paulo admitted he can't do it on his own. Connectedness and community are two things that are part of his vision. Not once did I feel guilt about what we as a congregation should do. Rather I felt an invitation to be a part of something exciting. Thank Paulo for truly exemplifying who Jesus is. You're real and honest. Approachable. A refreshing change. I enjoy our talks over hot chocolate and tea. I appreciate your prayers, friendship, encouragement, leadership, and love. Pivot may kind of be restoring my faith. It's not about being a Bible thumper but trying to connect more with Jesus and living a life of love. After all, like the great Christian artist Keith Green said, "Going to church doesn't make you any more Christian than going to McDonald's makes you a hamburger." L-R: Ella, Dahlia, Paulo, and Ayesha

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Dying With Dignity: It's Your Right

I applaud the new Liberal government on their endeavor to craft "quick and expedited" legislation on doctor-assisted death (http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/doctor-assisted-dying-court-parliament-1.3338607) and respect the rights of Canadians to choose if they want to die with dignity. On Feb. 6, 2015, the Supreme Court of Canada unanimously voted to strike down the ban on physician-assisted dying because it violated Canadians' charter rights. The federal and provincial governments then had a year to prepare for the decision to come into effect. Swift action is a "top priority" for the Grits as the Feb. 6, 2016 deadline looms, but they have not confirmed yet if they will seek an extension. Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould said it is important for the government to collaborate the provinces, territories, stakeholders, and the public as it deals with the extremely complex social policy. She added that it is both important to "respect the personal beliefs and autonomy of families and individuals and to protect those who could be vulnerable." Always daring to be different, Quebec is moving ahead with its own legislation that is scheduled to take effect Dec. 10th. There is some opposition though: an outstanding request for an injunction from a doctors' group. It is unclear if the feds will try to will make a formal bid to prevent the legislation from coming into effect. I believe it should until all the provinces are prepared to adhere to the same legislation. While I support euthanasia and dying with dignity, I believe Quebec should not be an exception to the rule. They do belong to the country after all and should wait until such legislation is officially passed. Wanda Morris, CEO of Dying with Dignity Canada, believes an extension is unnecessary because regulatory bodies and existing provincial health legislation can guide euthanasia in the interim. She says making people who are in grave suffering wait another six months is too much. I agree. I also believe that doctor-assisted death is as much of a right as a woman's right to have an abortion. No government has the right to dictate and prohibit one's medical rights and decisions pertaining to health and quality of life. Individuals should be able to decide how to live or not live their final days. Furthermore, I think people who suffer from chronic and debilitating depression should be able to decide whether they want a doctor to help ease their pain permanently. They are of much more sound mind than paranoid schizophrenics who would be in no position to make a similar decision. Mental illness is an extremely difficult illness to live with, something not everyone realizes unless they have personally experienced it. Thank goodness Canada is getting on track with giving Canadians back their power to choose.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Vanessa Carlton: A Sweet Voice with a Touch of Piano

Last night I saw Vanessa Carlton perform at Maverick's - an experience that helped me appreciate her voice and piano skills (she is a trained classical pianist). While I've never been a huge fan of the 35-year-old Pennsylvania native's, I must admit that she has talent. Sipping red wine from a mug, she performed songs from her fifth album Liberman (her real name actually) that she released on Oct. 23rd and earlier fan favourites "White Houses" and her biggest hit "A Thousand Miles," which she wrote when she was 16 and released in 2002. She talked a lot about her younger brother Edmund (he was quite scarred by "White Houses" for a period in his life) and a bit about her Dachshund Victor (Stevie Nicks told her that getting a dog is a must have when someone is on tour) who has always accompanied her on tour until now - enter 10-month-old daughter Sidney. Vanessa's show was by far one of the most quietest shows I've ever been to. I actually felt relaxed at the end of the night. It was simply her on keyboards and her violinist (he played a bit of guitar too) in his striped socks. Canadian folk Christian artist Joshua Hyslop opened for her and had a good voice in his own right. All in all, I had a good time. Rock on, Vanessa.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Paris and the Need to Fight Terrorism

Given the horror that occurred in Paris last Friday, it would be foolish to willingly choose to be blind to the reality of Islamic terrorism. It threatens human freedom, rights, and lives. It's easy to think that what happened in Paris can't happen in Canada, but it will. It's just a matter of time. Personally, I don't think Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is the most capable of leaders to deal with such a calamity. While I didn't agree with everything Stephen Harper did, I believe he handled the terror attack on Oct. 22, 2014 well. The incident also reminds us that a larger scale attack is not so unforeseen. We must be vigilant and I don't believe pulling troops from the fight against ISIS is the key. Canada is a player on the world stage and must do its part not cower from its responsibilities. I also agree with Regina woman Kerri Bozsik who was one of 35,000 people to sign the petition named "Stop Resettling 25,000 Syrian Refugees in Canada" out of concern that proper security checks be completed before the refugees be brought over by Dec. 31. It's extremely important to know who is coming into the country and who might have terrorist leanings or ISIS sympathies (https://ca.news.yahoo.com/regina-woman-signs-petition-circulating-221253761.html). It is vital to protect Canadians first above everything else. Trudeau failed to consult Canadians on whether the majority of them are okay with accepting so many refugees. Sure, he may have won a majority government but that doesn't mean voters agreed with everything he promised to do. In fact, one of the terrorists was Ahmad Al Mohammad, a 25-year-old Syrian national (https://ca.news.yahoo.com/regina-woman-signs-petition-circulating-221253761.html). Not to say that all Syrians are terrorists, but again, proper security checks are paramount in determining what kind of people are entering our beautiful "home and native land." This is not about being racist. This is about being smart and safe. May we all say a prayer for the poor people in Paris. Je me souviens.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Online Dating: A Necessary Evil

I hate online dating...as do most of my friends. I swear I could write a book about it. We all have stories to share. The guy who had a nasty divorce and doesn't want to take your relationship to the next level by living with you. The guy who cross dresses and is looking for love free of judgement or who is into BDSM and wants you to be his submissive partner. The guy who's in an open relationship and thinks you'll be okay with sharing him with his wife or girlfriend. The guy who only wants sex. There seem to be a lot of those out there. They expect you to come over when you've never met. Whatever! Or the guy who lives at home and thinks you'll be attracted to that. Um... independence is sexy NOT living with Mommy and Daddy. Oh yes... there's also the guy who sees you like seven times and thinks of you as a friend but doesn't tell you until you get it out of him. Sorry that you had a traumatic experience with your ex, but I think you need therapy more than being on a dating site. And of course, there's the guy who says he wants a relationship but then says he prefers FWBs. Then when you pull away and tell him you're looking for a relationship, he writes back months later and asks where you went and that he misses you and wants a relationship. There's also the smooth talker who wants you to send photos of yourself but won't meet you or give you his cell number because he can "only use it for work." Can someone say "married"?! Alas, online dating is the way people are meeting more and more these days. It does work for some people. I met my ex-boyfriend online, and we were together for 14 mths. One of my brother's best friends met his fiancee online and they're getting married this fall. Also an old high school friend of mine met his wife online, and they've been married for a number of years. It seems to be harder to meet people in person as you get older. There isn't always someone at work. You always go out with the same group of friends and none of them have single guy or girl friends. Things seemed to be easier when you were in school. What gets me is when I see 18 or 20-year-olds online? Seriously, there's no one at school or in any of your clubs or activities? Something that disturbs me is how Tinder has affected dating and the hook up culture. My friend sent me an article from Vanity Fair entitled "Tinder and the Dawn of the Dating Apolocalypse" (http://www.vanityfair.com/culture/2015/08/tinder-hook-up-culture-end-of-dating?mbid=nl_080615_Daily&CNDID=20618312&spMailingID=7965463&spUserID=NTMwMjA5NzEzNjgS1&spJobID=740808588&spReportId=NzQwODA4NTg4S0) that talks about the the doomed state of dating. It says that many people are online merely to find same night hook ups as opposed to long term relationships, and that is scary and unsettling. Some guys interviewed in the article said they had slept with 30 or 40 girls in one year. Yikes! On the flip side, many people online are married and looking for a bit of action because they're bored or dissatisfied in their marriages. Think of the Ashley Madison fiasco and how users are worried about their identities being revealed and their adultery being made known. Seriously, who joins a dating site for cheaters anyway? Isn't the fact that you're cheating on your spouse risky enough? One of my friends met her ex online and was in a tumultuous relationship for a few years. The guy turned out to suffer from bipolar and was emotionally abusive and cheated on her. And she met this guy on a Christian website. You just never know who you'll meet. There are also Craigslist hook ups or Adult Friend Finder where you can find...ahem adult fun. I have a friend who was on Adult Friend Finder for many years before she met her boyfriend and felt that it was a period of life she needed to go through. I also have an acquaintaince who went through a period of crazy hook ups on Craigslist. Of course there are many people like me who are looking for love and long term commitment and feel that online dating is our last resort. Sigh.... It's so frustrating. Plus how many people do we disregard based on their photo? Some people just don't photograph well or might be amazing in person, but we've written them off because of how they look in the few photos they've chosen to post online. I know I've done it and so have many others before and after me. I guess the important thing is to keep looking for that special someone and to be safe. Meet somewhere in public the first few times until you get to know someone better. Don't compromise your values and beliefs. Walk away if you get the vibe that someone is only looking for sex or wants sex right away. Practice safe sex and use a condom. Get regular STI testing. Inform yourself and protect yourself. According to Ottawa Public Health, the percentage of STIs has risen quite a bit since 2010 (http://www.ottawasun.com/2015/06/17/get-tested-stis-on-the-rise-in-nations-capital). In particular, syphilis has risen by 43.8 per cent. Be smart and be hopeful. Love is out there. Sometimes love just takes what seems like forever to find.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Vacations Are Indeed a Necessity!

Hi Everyone! After an extremely stressful move and various changes and adjustments at work, I'm on vacation! FINALLY! I have 10 glorious days off and am spending six of them in Montreal visiting family and friends. So far it's going great, and I feel totally relaxed. Thank God given the amount of stress I've been under for the past few months. Any doctor will tell you that it's important to have time off to recharge your batteries whether you go away or have a staycation. My last big vacation was in Spring 2014 when I went to Poland with my Mom for almost two weeks. That was a trip of a lifetime. This year's vacation, however, is about much needed R & R and spending time with family and friends, some of whom I really don't see that often. Next year one of my best friends and I are planning (and hoping) to go to Las Vegas for three nights to celebrate our 35th birthdays! It'll be my fourth time, and I CAN'T wait! What happens in Vegas, STAYS in Vegas, baby! Going on vacation can also help you put things in perspective. I'm being reminded of what and who are important and being inspired to pursue certain goals once I'm back home in Ottawa. I want to make this year one of exciting change for myself. I'm trying to be hopeful and positive as well as pro-active. Whether you get a few days or few weeks of vacation, remember that it's important to listen to and take care of your body and mind. Take time to recharge and rest and spend time with those you love. Take lots of photos and make lots of memories. Take a nap. Chill. Go swimming. Have a barbecue. It's summer, baby! Dahlia

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Face Coverings are Anti-Woman!

As a feminist, I feel my blood boil that women continue to be oppressed and held back by patriarchy, sexism, and cultural bullshit. The hot debate at the moment is whether wearing a face covering or niqab should be allowed in a citizenship ceremony. I say it should NOT be allowed and agree with Prime Minister Harper that it is "anti-woman" and "rooted in a culture that is anti-woman" and "a symbol of oppression"(https://ca.news.yahoo.com/harper-calls-muslim-face-covering-veil-anti-woman-211847845.html). Whereas I don't agree with Harper on everything, I'm glad that we have a prime minister who calls a spade a spade. We live in Canada and our values say that women are equal to men and have the right to show their faces. To people who don't like it, I suggest you go back to a land that has your values. Canada is about freedom, rights, and equality not oppression. Zunera Ishaq is a Pakistani woman who wants to wear her niqab at her citizenship ceremony. Do we live in the Middle East or Canada? While she says that she chooses to wear the face veil, she admits that other women and girls are forced to wear it by their families (http://news.nationalpost.com/2015/02/17/barbara-kay-zunera-ishaq-does-a-disservice-to-women-forced-to-wear-the-veil/). Can I say contradiction? Why would you willingly choose to partake in a symbol of female oppression? Perhaps because your husband or father put you up to it? Have you no respect for yourself as a woman? If as a woman you want to promote a cause, at least have a cause worthy of promoting. Women have so much potential for great things. Sadly, many parts of the world still hold a woman back. Here in Canada though, you have choices. You are valuable and not the property of anyone. You are allowed to use your own mind. You are allowed to show your face. You are a human after all.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Family Will Always Stay True

Friends may be the family you choose, but family will always stay true. Sure, you may have arguments and even hate each other at times, but most people have at least one family member who is always there for them. It can be a parent, a sibling, an uncle, an aunt, a cousin, or a grandparent. Blood runs thicker than water as they say. I'm fortunate to have four very special people who have my back: My Mom, Dad, brother Dan, and Uncle Johnny. I know my other family members love me, but these people love me in a very special way. A very deep way. It makes me want to cry. I'm currently going through some very difficult times, and it is their love, encouragement, and prayers that are helping me through. I truly don't deserve their love, but I have it. It means so much. I also have some very good friends and sadly, I continue to discover over the years who my true ones are. A friend loves at all times, says the Bible. You really discover how true this is when you go through tough times. Many thanks to my wonderful friends, especially my best friends Sigrid and Christina. I love you both so very much. Mom, Dad, Dan, and Uncle Johnny, thank you, thank you, thank you. Words cannot begin to express just how much I love you and appreciate all you do. I may not always say or show it enough, but I do. Thank God for you all!