Daniela Ginta, The Mindful Writer

Freelance Writer and Photographer, Author of the Mindfulness Blog

Tag: family Page 1 of 3

Weekly Column: In defense of home cooking and family meals

Originally published as a column on CFJC Today Kamloops and Armchair Mayor News on Monday April 21, 2019.

We had to add a few seats around the table for dinner last night. The kitchen was a bustling place, as it is when we have family and friends over. There were stories and laughter and dinner became tea time which went on for a while longer.

I am one of those people who believes that having people gathered together for a meal is a magical thing. Even with the simplest, rushed meal at times, because life is like that sometimes, the four of us sit down and share that time and the food.

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Weekly Column: Stories of Heartbreak and Horror – Why Domestic Violence Is An Urgent Issue

To the outside world, Elana Fric and Mohammed Shamji were a couple in love, married for over a decade, children and all, each with a great career. But the truth of their relationship was marred by darkness, the kind that makes people shudder when they look closely. Unfortunately, few could, given that their carefully curated (by Shamji) social media profiles displaying a happy-go-lucky family and couple life.

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Weekly Column: The Antidote to Internet Challenges Is Presence (The Real Kind)

Like all parents with school-age children, I received the district heads-up letter about the Momo challenge. By now most have are familiar with the strange, creepy face of the Momo character and the internet storm it has created. My eldest had heard about it, while my youngest had not. I passed on the heads-up. They shrugged. There are just so many wacky things out there, my eldest said.

True. The many things that lurk in the virtual darkness of the internet are not reduced to Momo or another challenge. It’s an ongoing thing. There are controversial videos and memes that are inappropriate for kids but they access anyway because they are there; there is pornography (see Katie Neustaeder’s column from last week); there are violent or troublesome-imagery games parents sometimes approve as OK because ‘so many people are doing it so it must be fine’ – which only confuses things.

We can all agree that whoever created Momo has a sick, twisted mind, but then again, that is the category we can (almost) place so many of today’s online happenings, including the addicting features of apps and games. As we know, children respond scarily well to that and get hooked easily.

The reality is, the internet murkiness and disturbing at times content will not go away. I say this with profound sadness. I grew up without the internet and loved it, and I love it even more now, retrospectively. It had all the magic in it a kid could want.

One of the reasons for it was nature: I was outside a lot. Aside from time spent reading, doing homework, or helping my parents with various chores around the house and garden, time was spent outside, rain or shine, with or without other kids, but to be fair, lots of it with kids because that’s what was considered the norm for children.

The challenges of those days had to do with climbing trees, riding bikes up crazy hills, being delegated to do dares as we were all sitting around a fire on a given late summer evening (when you live near a cemetery and the theme of the night is ghosts, you have to conjure a decent amount of courage to overcome the ‘no way I am doing this.’)

Now mind you, we weren’t instructed by my parents on every aspect of safety but given the occasional advice on what is safe and what not, and why. Nor did they have to sign a waiver if we were at somebody’s house climbing trees and building forts (with real tools, by ourselves) because it was part of the picture: kids did real things, and they did a lot of problem solving through various activities. Running into mischief added its own educational quotient.

What made it so darn good? For one, when you are around your significant adults and do various things alongside them, you learn as you go. They’ll stop you from doing this or that, until you learned the safe way to do it, but they would let you try things that were not deadly so you could make mistakes too. Hence the ongoing challenge of learning things. The best two things about that was that you really strived to learn how to do it right, and then it felt pretty good when you could put your skills to work when the situation called for it.

We went up on the hills near my house and we went to the local swimming pool in the summer. Being out and about and learning so many of those ‘invisible’ like skills by osmosis really, was the best and most valuable gift that I was given.

The times have changed and there was nothing any of us could do to stop the evolution. With the good (and the internet has brought a lot of that, everyone agrees,) came the bad, and this, again, no amount of vigilance from parents or responsible adults can stop.

The one thing we can do, and no one can change that, save for our own decision to not do it, is to spend enough time with our kids and teach about balance and healthy challenges, not by preaching to them but by exposing them to situations where they can experience that. Indoors and out.

If adults take time away from the internet and screens in general and instead dedicate it to spending it together with our kids, there is a chance they will get to experience some of that magic that the ‘no internet’ kids once experienced.

Any time spent together inside or outside, be it hard work that brings in both frustration and a sense of accomplishment, or fun times spent having adventures of all kinds, such as camping, hiking, and exploring any given corner or nature – there is a wealth of goodness and magic there waiting to grow. We have the means to challenge our children in a way that helps them grow confident and able to discern. It’s no perfect solution, but it’s something that no one loses anything by trying; on the contrary.

It’s been said many times: you cannot change the world around you but you can change how you react to it.

Now that’s a challenge worth taking.

She’s All That And More

It’s 7.02 and my alarm did not go off. How do I know this? Because of the coldish wet nose that is gently pushing down on the mattress near my own nose. Perhaps a molecule or two are exchanged in the process, that’s how fine her touch is. She knows that my weekdays start at 7am. On weekends we sleep in; she knows that too.

Make that magical feature number 1.

She seeks my gaze when I start dressing or even just reaching for a pair of socks. She looks into my soul and my soul warms up. ‘Can I come along?’ She almost always does. If the adventure is but grocery shopping, it’s togetherness she’s after. So am I. We listen to Nina Simone and Stan Rogers in the car and our eyes meet in the rear-view mirror every now and then. To never feel lonely; infinitive.

Magical feature number 2.

The other day we got ambushed by a coyote on the trails. Twice. The first time she barked her big dog bark, charged the coyote only so far, and then came to stand by me as we both scanned the hills. The second time around she chased it further but came back unharmed. She looked at me: we’re going home now. I listen every time. I learned that in the woods where it’s just the two of us (and the plethora of wild creatures stalking us!) and her nose and instincts always prevail. I am safe because of her; I never question her instinct.

That’s magical feature number 3. (Number 3 applies to people too. She sniffs out the strange ones and blocks their access to me. Go figure. I shrug and say hello but from a distance. As per my dog’s suggestion.)

She sleeps by my side of the bed and when I can’t fall asleep, I let my hand rest on her. Research says… everything calms down and I feel my thoughts tuck each other into imaginary beds… All’s peaceful again. Closeness. Gratefulness.

That’s magical feature number 4.  

I signal our hiking trajectory wordlessly; I wave my hand and she gets it. I teach her the words for the things we meet on our hikes: snake, stick, cone, person, bird, puppy, plane (nope, we don’t fly but planes do and she looks up wondering what they are. Planes. So there.) I ask her if she is hungry on the way home and she licks her snout looking up at me. She knows people’s names. Her dog friends’ too. While I solemnly promise to never refer to her as ‘fur baby’, she knows me as Mama. Because the boys call me that. To be fair, we are raising each other, her and I. But yes, on paper I am the dog owner and the dog’s name is Poppy.

Today is her birthday. She turns 3! A pallid midday sun catches us playing soccer with a cone on a frozen beach. I kick the cone we found buried in sand, she runs to catch it and creates a mini sandstorm. Repeat. Repeat. Until. What? Already time to go? OK, once more.

We stop by the side of the frozen river. It’s quiet but for the hum of the city in the distance. I crouch down and she nestles into me. I kiss the side of her head and she closes her eyes gently. She sighs. I sigh. I’d change nothing; not her relentless bicycle chasing or occasional stubbornness. The car will be full of sand again. So what. Repeat. Forever.

Gratefulness

Happy birthday, Poppy girl. May our snuggles and adventures never end.

Weekly Column: Let’s Always Remember

Originally published as a column on CFJC Today Kamloops and Armchair Mayor News on November 5, 2018. 

My grandfather was a WWII veteran. He died when I was nine, and so did the stories that he might have been inclined to share. I have old photos of him in uniform, and I know a few of the jolly stories – including how he courted my grandmother – family folklore that made us kids giggle. But I do not know the anguish, the pain, the horror he experienced as a WWII soldier.

Hence the silence that was draped all over my thoughts when, as a kid, I was passing by the cemetery. There were many rows of graves of WWI and WWII soldiers; the tombstones that said ‘unknown soldier’ were far more numerous than the ones with a name. Back then, as a child, I shuddered thinking what it must be like to lose my mom or dad that way.

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Weekly Column: Staying Connected Can Help Us Turn The Tide

Originally published as a column on CFJC Today Kamloops and Armchair Mayor News on Monday, September 24, 2018. 

I had been at the Old Courthouse for many art exhibits and for a wedding once too. There is an air of sobriety that attaches itself to you as soon as you step inside, no matter the event: the dark wood panels and large windows, the old staircase that creaks softly as you make your way up, the echoes of people’s voices.

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Make Safety Part Of Your Outdoor Adventures

To say that winter cannot make up its mind this year would be an understatement. It’s been a weather seesaw of sorts since it first snowed in early November. Cold, snowy, warm, cold, snowy; repeat, or not.

There’s lots of shoveling to be done, but beauty to delight in too. If you drive out of town for snowshoeing, skiing, or hiking, the rewards are more than worth the effort, more so on a sunny day when snow-clad trees push against a sky so blue it takes your breath away.

Every year in winter, our family aims for at least one overnight hike, where we each carry our sleeping bags and sleeping pads, and use a sled for all the other supplies. It’s a good workout plodding through snow, but most of all, it is yet another opportunity to learn about nature and why playing it safe always make fun better.

From deciding on the time we start on the trail to the estimated time of arrival (ideally before dark, so we have time to set up and get everyone warm,) to deciding how much stuff we take and whether we have what we need in case we get stuck somewhere, to letting people know that we’re heading into the wilderness, and assessing weather but knowing that it can change without notice, it’s all there.

When we go to one of the now frozen lakes around Kamloops, the questions revolve around that: could we fall in? How long till you get hypothermia? Then, there is the conversation about avalanches, which has been on the news lately, as it is every year.

There is a low likelihood of avalanches where we take the boys, but not knowing the way very well or hiking too late in the day could still get one in serious trouble. These conversations are never about inducing fear of exploring. On the contrary. Healthy fear encourages learning more and preparing better, and knowing when to hold back when necessary.

We live in a time when the access to information about backcountry is but a click away, and there are countless stores in town and online selling equipment. Unfortunately, that is not enough. Somehow, more people find themselves in dire straits in the great outdoors.

The stats from all the search and rescue organizations in British Columbia show a worrying trend. The number of calls has increased over the years, and most organizations had a record number of rescue missions. In 2017, the Kamloops Search and Rescue (KSAR) volunteers were called on 49 searches (a 32 percent increase from 2016) with over 3,500 hours they put in (more than double compared to previous year.)

Particularly worrisome is that this trend is seen all across the province. The increase from last year seems to hover at 30 to 40 percent. To note: the searches are all conducted by volunteers and the organizations rely on donations, but without soliciting by phone. That’s a lot of heart right there, and willingness to help, considering that sometimes the volunteers’ lives are at risk. Especially commendable is not losing faith after discovering yet again that some people carry very few or no items that can increase their chances of survival, such as extra clothing, matches, water or food.

While the admiration for the search and volunteers is boundless, the question remains: How come that more people, and not just in one area, but throughout BC (possibly other parts of Canada) are in need of assistance, at a time when there is enough knowledge to make one’s journey as safe as possible through supply, route, risk assessment and overall trip planning?

It is always sad to turn on the radio or read the news only to find out that someone was yet again caught in an avalanche while snowmobiling (which sometimes they caused,) or got lost during a hike, or went out of bounds while skiing, snowboarding. Sadder yet is to hear they lost their lives.

Can we possibly hope that in 2018, the news, warnings, and word-of-mouth will lower the numbers of people who access the backcountry unprepared, no matter the season? Or that people will think twice before putting at risk not just their own lives but also those of the search and rescue volunteers? I would like to believe so.

As for the boundless admiration for all the search and rescue volunteers… Feelings are great, always, but not nearly enough. Everyone should consider helping by donating to the local SAR team (https://www.ksar.ca/donate-help-us-out/) – more so because they do not even entertain the thought of charging people, thinking that some would avoid calling for help.

Another way to help is volunteering, if possible (https://www.ksar.ca/join/). It is on my list of potential volunteering options once the boys are all grown-up. Until then, my husband and I will keep safety as part of the must-haves when our family heads out for adventures in the great outdoors.

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