Sitting in a Starbucks in downtown Halifax listening to Tamara Franz-Odendaal talk, all I could think was I wish my daughter could be here to hear this! Like me, Tamara is the mother of a nine year old daughter, and she is passionate about raising girls to be strong, self sufficient, and financially independant.
I flew to Halifax to meet Tamara, one of the deserving winners of Dove Unstoppable Moms for Unstoppable Girls contest, to get to know her a little better. Her winning submission was short and to the point—she creates workshops to mentor girls to guide them into science-based careers, to ultimately make them unstoppable.
Tamara walks the talk. Her day job is Biology Professor and Researcher at Mount St. Vincent University where she sees substantially fewer girls in her classes than boys. So she decided to do something about it. She connected with the National Science and Engineering Council in Canada and become the Atlantic Canada representative. With their help, Tamara organizes full day interactive workshops filled with hands on activities for girls in grades 7 - 9 to dispell the stodgy image of the modern day scientist.
Here's a video of Tamara explaining firsthand what she "does."
She explains how girls are drawn to careers that are interactive, nurturing, and helpful. The stereotype of antiseptic white lab coats and solitary working cubicles associated with science are a turn off for girls. For Tamara, a career in the sciences is anything but isolated and staid. It's incredibly collaborative and is based on one's ability to problem solve—skills most girls can rock!
"I love my job," she tells me. "I can't imagine not knowing about science. It's so important to develop those critical thinking skills. How do you interpret information and find the relevant facts? Show me the evidence."
Tamara's strategy was to design workshops filled with hands on, collaborative activities to highlight careers like engineering, research, and technology—careers girls tend to shy away from. Getting girls to engineer a building with spaghetti and marshmallows, or a bridge-building exercise using newspaper, are some of the activities which gets the kids excited. When she sees girls getting into it, she explains the connection of how what they are doing is synthesis of science, technology, and the arts.
The next part of the day-long workshop works much like speed dating, where the girls get ten minutes face time with female scientists from a variety of fields, so they can see firsthand that the button-down white lab coat stereotype is a thing of the past.
Tamara is proud of the effect she's having on teen girls—parents often contact her six months post-workshop to let her know their daughters are still talking about what they learned that day. But the mentoring needs to continue after the workshop. The high school curriculum needs to change according the Tamara, making science-based classes less academic and more hands-on to reflect the skill-sets and exciting opportunities available in the fields of medicine, architecture, and technology.
Winning the Dove Unstoppable Moms for Unstoppable Girls contest comes with a cash prize of $2,500 for Tamara. She plans to take her daughter to visit her cousins in the US, who all happen to work in the sciences (Environmental, Civil and Chemical Engineering). "What a great environment for her to be surrounded in," she says with a smile.
The other part of the prize is a $2,500 endowment for a charity of Tamara's choice. The lucky recipient is the National Eating Disorder Information Center (NEDIC)—which Tamara chose because it empowers girls and helps them recognize the stereotypes of beauty perpetuated by the media.
Like me, Tamara is ultimately concerned about teaching girls to be empowered and financially independant. "I don't want girls to be dependant on their husbands' income. No one can take your education away from you."
Halifax girls are lucky to have Tamara and her workshops. And I'm lucky to have met her. I just wish she could come to Toronto to put on her workshops. I'd send my daughter for sure.
Raising kids is expensive. The bigger they grow, the more they eat! Ka-ching! My weekly supermarket bills are slowly getting higher thanks to my two tweenagers. My strategy is to play it smart and do whatever I can to get my bills lower. This doesn't mean I buy lower quality products or highly processed foods. I still shop well, but I am strategic with my AIR MILES Collector Card and my American Express AIR MILES Card which is also the fastest way for me to earn AIR MILES reward miles.
I've been shopping at my local Metro store for close to 15 years, long enough that the store manager Tom and I are on a first name basis. Long enough to have earned AIR MILES Gold status. Here's how I shop to save money and reap the rewards. Trust me. This system works!
If you insert your AIR MILES number into the Metro app, you will receive extra personalized coupons. Once you know what products are on sale each week with bonus reward miles, plan your shopping list accordingly.
Resist temptation and stick to your list. Put the extra box of cookies DOWN.
Products you use often that have bonus reward miles connected to them are often on sale.
Even if perishable items have reward miles attached to them, don't overstock. They'll probably expire and you'll have wasted your dollars.
I've already bought all my Halloween candy and I got the benefit of scoring the reward miles associated with those dollars spent.
After a few weeks of strategic shopping, I actually get cash taken directly off my bill when I check out at Metro through the AIR MILES Cash program. Depending on how many reward miles I've racked up over the past few weeks, I usually get between $10 to $30 off my weekly bill by redeeming my reward miles when I check out. That's a 20% savings!
I always pay my grocery bill with my American Express AIR MILES Credit Card so that I can earn reward miles twice when shopping at participating AIR MILES Sponsors...which you can then redeem in the coming weeks. Win/win, right?
I have to admit, when the person checking out in front of me tells the cashier they don't have an AIR MILES card, I want to grab them and say, "Are you crazy? Get a Collector Card, use your American Express AIR MILES Card with it and double dip my friend. It's freeeee!" I actually have fantasies of asking these strangers if they would use my AIR MILES Collector Card so I can score their points. I've held myself back so far.
If you haven't noticed, I'm slightly obsessed with AIR MILES reward miles. You can imagine the happy dance I did when I had to go to the LCBO and buy cases of wine for my son's recent Bar Mitzvah. AIR MILES Collector Card in one hand, AIR MILES American Express Credit Card in the other, I had visions of lots of reward miles dancing in my head.
If you didn't know, there is no cost to sign-up for an AIR MILES Collector card, and there are a variety of options for American Express AIR MILES Credit Cards, some of which don't have an annual fee.
So those are my secrets. Shop smart. Double dip. Reap the rewards. You're welcome.
There is really one rule in my house. My daughter is never, ever, EVER allowed to leave the house without wearing her EpiPen.
I'm not exaggerating. She was diagnosed with severe food allergies when she was eighteen months old after blowing up like a blowfish after eating tilapia. Life for us changed when we learned she is severely allergic to ALL fish, ALL seafood, ALL nuts, and sunflower seeds. It took a while to comprehend that even if anything comes into contact with said allergen, not just food, my daughter's throat can swell, her blood pressure can drop, and she can die. Just writing this makes me well up.
Which is why my daughter is never, ever, EVER allowed to leave the house without wearing her EpiPen.
The EpiPen doesn't prevent her from having an allergic reaction. That's our responsibility. When she was very young we monitored every single thing she ate. Now, at almost 10 years old, Jessie has also learned to question everything before consuming. She knows not to eat anything she hasn't seen the package from. She's savvy enough to be able to help out parents with what she can and can't eat when she has a playdate. In some ways, she's had to grow up and be more responsible than the average kid. But, to me that's a positive side effect of being burdened with allergies.
The reality is, allergies are unpredictable. As careful as we all are, God forbid there is some crazy cross-contamination and BOOM! Suddenly Jessie can't breathe, she breaks out in a rash, feels an impending sense of doom or any other symptoms indicating anaphylaxis. Administering the EpiPen gives us a short window to deal with the reaction with epinephrine and rush her to the hospital because the symptoms can return or worsen. Terrifying, isn't it?
Life is unpredictable. Which is why my daughter is never, ever, EVER allowed to leave the house without wearing her EpiPen.
Around five years ago, my daughter was four years old at the time, we were rushing out the door to meet our best friends for a family bbq. We were late. Halfway there I realized we'd forgotten to bring an EpiPen. Considering these people were very close to us and knew about Jessie's allergies, I decided to "risk it" and go without. An hour later we were sitting in their kitchen snacking on potato chips while the kids were running around outside playing. When the chip bowl was empty, our lovely host grabbed the bag to refill it. And with horror, I happened to notice the chips were made WITH PEANUT OIL!!! I freaked out, shrieking at my girlfriend. She looked shocked, apologizing profusely. "I'm so sorry! I didn't notice!!"
All I could think was "THANK GOD THE KIDS WERE OUTSIDE PLAYING AND DIDN'T HAVE ANY CHIPS AND WE DIDN'T HAVE OUR EPIPEN!!!!!!!!!" I was deeply shaken and close to tears.
Which is why my daughter never, ever, EVER leaves the house without wearing her EpiPen.
If we're late and can't find one of the many we have in the house before we leave, we won't leave until we find it. (Now my daughter has insisted we hang hers on the inside of the front door every night). If for some chance we realize that we forgot it because of some confusion, we go right back to get it — no matter how far we are from our home. When travelling, we take THREE EpiPen Auto-Injectors with us. Just in case.
At a recent "mom and daughter" event in a restaurant, I noticed one of my friends' daughters sitting at the kids table with mine. I knew she also had severe nut allergies but didn't see her wearing an EpiPen. I asked the mom if she had one in her purse. She looked embarrassed and said something to the effect of, "Ya, I know I should have one, but I just didn't think of it. I know I have one somewhere." Listen, I'm not judging her. But I almost fainted when she told me. I was thinking "WHAT IF?!!! WHAT IF THE RESTAURANT SCREWS UP AND YOUR DAUGHTER HAS A SEVERE REACTION?"
After years of reminding my daughter to always wear an EpiPen just in case, now she feels naked without it. Every year we buy a new "stylish" holder from Kozyepi so Jessie can wear her EpiPen around her waist. Recently Jessie said to me, "I feel naked without it now, like I'm missing a limb." This makes me happy. Wise words from an amazing kid.
Which is why my daughter chooses to never, ever, EVER leave the house without wearing her EpiPen.
Better safe than sorry. The alternative is too horrible to consider.
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EpiPen® and EpiPen® Jr Auto-Injectors are designed as emergency supportive therapy only. They are not a replacement for subsequent medical or hospital care. After administration, patients should seek medical attention immediately or go to the emergency room. For the next 48 hours, patients must stay within close proximity to a healthcare facility or where they can call 911. To ensure this product is right for you, always read and follow the label. Please consult the Consumer Information leaflet in your product package for complete dosage and administration instructions.
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