Ice Buckets For Autism

The Reason I Run

The Reason I Run

Yesterday, I spoke about the aspects of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge that bother me. At the same time, I acknowledged that this campaign has been wildly successful in raising funds and awareness for ALS. Although I have been nominated, I have declined to participate – not only because of the reasons stated yesterday, but because there is another cause that is nearer and dearer to my heart. I am not in any way diminishing the ALS cause, I am just saying that with my limited funds and more limited energy, I have to focus my efforts on a cause that directly impacts my family.

Every year, I participate in the Charity Challenge of the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront half-marathon to raise funds for autism services, and this year is no different. The money I raise goes to the Geneva Centre for Autism, a wonderful organization that has provided endless support not only to my autism boy, but also to his younger brother, my husband and myself. I can say without reservation that my son’s life – all of our lives – would be very different if it weren’t for the Geneva Centre.

The thing is, though, that fundraising is hard, and it gets more difficult every year. People struggle. They have difficulty paying their bills on time and providing for their families. Life in this day and age is not easy. And the people who do have funds to donate are increasingly selective about where that money goes, and rightfully so. There have been so many stories about donated funds lining the pockets of people who are already rich.

I can give my personal assurance that money donated to the Geneva Centre for Autism does not go towards ridiculously high salaries or swanky events. It is used for things like art supplies and musical instruments for kids with autism, job skills training for those leaving school, iPads for those in need of communication assistance, and summer camps for children and youth who need help with social skills development. This is money that is used to help real children and their families. It is money that genuinely makes a difference and can change the course of a young person’s life for the better.

This year, for those who do have a few dollars to donate, I am adding an element of fun to my fundraising efforts. It is a variation of the ALS campaign, and I am calling it “Ice Buckets For Autism”. The premise is simple: for every $100 that I can raise for autism, I will dump a bucket of ice water on my head. In keeping with my concerns about using water wisely, I will dump it in such a way that it can later be used for something else.

There are no nominations and there is no stipulation as to how much each person should donate. People can simply donate if and how much they choose, and every time the hundreds digit of my fundraising total changes, I will drench myself and provide photographic and video evidence of the act.

I am hoping to be drenched many, many times.

This is an original post by Kirsten Doyle. Photo credit to the author.


Teen Series Part 3: Don’t Make Empty Promises

Last week I introduced you to Vicky Rinfreschi, a South African teenager with wise words. She has a close and open relationship with her parents, and her love and respect from them can be clearly seen in her words. Last week she gave advice that can help parents attain that kind of relationship with their teenage kids, and today she is back with more. Without further ado, here are the rest of Vicky’s words, uncut and unedited.

DON’T MAKE EMPTY PROMISES! This is just as bad as lying. My parents aren’t perfect but they are pretty close. Even so this was an area when we used to butt heads quite a lot. Now that I’m older I do understand – but at the time it caused me hours of misery. You have to be aware that a child’s memory is loads better than that of an older person. They remember EVERYTHING! You will say a mindless comment like, “Not now honey just a bit later and I PROMISE I will play that game with you.” Or “Next weekend I PROMISE we will go to that shop and find it”. Everyone has said something along those lines just so you could get a moments rest. But then did you do it? My parents had a track record of 6 out of 10 when it came to doing that thing later (if it wasn’t a priority – such as a board game etc.). I understand that to an adult your child’s little requests aren’t such a high priority, like Kirsten said, worrying about feeding your kids is higher on the list than going to the beach; but to your child , even your teenager (though you might find it hard to believe), nothing could be more important. It’s a cry for quality time. It may even be (as it was for me) that your child wants to distract YOU from your worries and make you smile for a period of time no matter how small. So before you make that statement make sure you can back it up with action and before you blow off that action think about how nice it would be to connect with your child before you’re no longer the centre of their life. That period of time when your child idolises you won’t last long. Enjoy it now and maybe, just maybe they will never stop idolising you. I haven’t. Everyday I strive to be as wise and loving as my mom and as smart, strong and as caring as my dad. Be the parent you wished your parents were, and trust me you won’t go wrong.

Another big issue is MONEY. Be honest about your finances. I remember when I was little I had no concept about money; I just knew what I wanted, when I wanted it and that was often right then and there. Most parents make the mistake of saying no to their kids without giving them a reason – leading that child to believe that “my mommy/daddy don’t love me because they wouldn’t get me that toy/chocolate.”  Don’t make that mistake. My family have been through ups and downs when it comes to finances. Some years money was abundant and birthdays, weekends and Christmases were filled with all sorts of goodies. But some years money was tight (really tight) and we couldn’t afford the little goodies that make children feel loved, but my parents where HONEST about it. Yes I would be disappointed for about 5 seconds but I got over it because IT WASN’T THAT MAY PARENTS DIDN’T LOVE ME – they would have bought me the earth if I so desired it. Don’t think that just because we are young we won’t understand. We perceive a lot more than most adults. Show your kids that they don’t need little gifts for you to prove your love – good old fashioned quality time at home with a soccer ball or board game does the trick ten times over. So give up a little television or facebook time and play a game with your child. Trust me. That’s a foundation that you should nurture from the beginning.

The biggest thing and maybe the main reason why I consider my mother one of my best friends and my father my advisor, is because they never let me forget, not for 1 second, how much they loved and supported me. IN EVERYTHING, NO MATTER WHAT! It may seem frivolous; but to randomly go up to your child and tell them that you love them and that you are proud of them actually makes a huge difference. Especially (even though most won’t admit it) to a teenager. He/she might have had a typical downer teenager day at school and you, with no hidden agendas, telling them how much you love and them, could turn the dark cloud they have been nurturing with self-loathing thoughts, into a fluffy pink one filled with love and confidence. You don’t need a reason to express your love for them. And make sure they know that no action could change how you feel;  yes you might get mad or be disappointed for a bit but that’s because your love runs so deep and so strong that you wish you could take away all the problems and hurt. Let them know that you are a safe place for secrets and advice. DON’T BREAK THAT CONFIDENCE EVER!!!!

In short; treat your children as you would want to be treated, because they will do as you do and not what you say. Trust your kids and they will trust you as long as you show them that they can. And most importantly earn their respect by showing them respect and your relationship will evolve into a beautiful friendship that will last for the rest of your lives.

(Photo credit: Vagawi. This picture has a creative commons attribution license.)


Do I Really Need A New Dress?

This coming Saturday, Gerard and I are going to pretend we have a life and go out for the evening, sans children.  Said children will be home with their grandmother, no doubt driving her insane with their boundless energy that never runs out. They’re like the Energizer Bunny, those children.  They just keep going and going and going.

Gerard and I will be heading downtown, to some fancy hotel, to attend the Christmas gala dinner being put on by my employers.  There will be prizes, good food that neither of us had to cook ourselves (and that no-one will have to clean up after), dancing, and out-and-out fun.  I am looking forward to it.  Gerard is looking forward to it.  My mother-in-law is looking forward to an evening alone with the kids – at least, that’s the story she’s bravely putting forth.

And yet I find myself with a dilemma.  This is a dilemma that men can never seem to quite grasp the severity of, but that women all over the world can identify with.

What Do I Wear?

I posed this question on Facebook, and it sparked a fairly lively debate.  Most of the people who responded – all women – were of the opinion that I should buy myself a new dress.  The general consensus was that I work hard, I’m always taking care of other people and not enough care of myself, and that I deserve to pamper myself a little and buy something nice.  There was one lone dissenter – a man.  To protect his privacy, I will not state Kane’s real name (whoops, did I just say that out loud?), but I will say that I am impressed with his bravery.  How many men would jump so fearlessly into a discussion that women are genetically programmed to feel strongly about?

I love Kane.  He is a good and dear friend, and I give him credit for the fact that I actually survived the intense loneliness and off-the-boat neediness that I experienced when I first came to Canada.  Unlike many people, he actually does possess common sense, and he has the integrity to be honest instead of just saying what he thinks people want to hear.  I value Kane’s opinions a great deal.  when he expresses an idea that is contrary to what other people are saying, he’s not trying to be difficult.  He’s trying to help.

And that is why, when Kane posted a reply asking if I really need to spend money on a new dress just for one party, I actually did stop and think.  After all, he has a valid point.  There are other things that I could be doing with my money.  I have kids to buy Christmas presents for, a wedding to plan, groceries to buy, telephone bills to pay.  A new dress should not be high on my laundry list of priorities.  And besides, I have a closet at home that I can barely get into because it’s so chock-full of clothes.  There must be something in there that I can wear.


But, but, but, but, but…

Even as the logical, rational part of me (and yes, despite what many people think, there actually is a logical, rational part of me) was making a strong case for saving money and digging something out of the scary depths of my wardrobe, there was another part of me that was pitifully saying, “But I want a new dress”.  Talk about conflict.  Talk about indecision.  For a couple of days I was flip-flopping between “Have to have a new dress” and “Cannot afford a new dress”.  How I wish I could just win the lottery and not have this problem.

By the time I got home from work yesterday, I had come to some kind of compromise with myself.  You see, I have this skirt.  A really nice long black skirt that is perfect for occasions like this.  What I would do, I decided, was buy a nice top with bling to go with the skirt.  That way, I still get to wear something new, but without forking over the money for an entire dress.

Ten minutes after I got home, that plan went right out the window.  What happened was this: I opened the mail.  And found a cheque from the Government of Ontario. For $335.  I will say this in words, because it somehow adds more weight.  Three. Hundred. And Thirty Five. Dollars.  The Ontario Premier has been sending out these “sorry I screwed you over with the sales tax” cheques, and I got enough to be able to say, “Screw this, I’m getting a new dress!”

So at lunchtime today, I wandered over to my favourite clothing store in the shopping mall, and emerged with a lovely new dress that I got on sale. The way I see it, everyone wins.  I get to go to the party in a new dress.  And I still have an extra $200 in my bank account that I didn’t have before, which means I can splurge a bit on Christmas presents for the ones I love.

And I’ve contributed to the economy by doing a bit of spending.  Just doing my civic duty.