Me, on the far right, squeezing in some fun while at Queen's University (circa 1989)
Both of my kids put a lot of pressure on themselves to do well at school. They inherently got their smarts from their father with a little coaching in self-determination from me.
My advice to them was to always focus on doing well at school. The irony is that I was not the best student.
The comments on my report cards regularly read, "Janet needs to talk less in class" or "Janet needs to try harder".
I would agree with all of that - I could have tried harder and been less chatty. Instead my mind was on weekend plans, talking on the phone for hours, and planning my outfits for the next day.
Things worked out for me in the end. I went to university and eventually built a career. Despite all of the partying and slacking-off, I stressed at school - just not too much.
My daughter and I were recently catching-up over the phone. She's in her third year of undergrad at university and has a big load this term. She's majoring in Biology while also employed as a TA.
While she ran through how her day went, she mentioned that she has a lot coming up that she's anxious about like exams and assignments over the next few weeks.
She also said that there was a party that she'd really like to go to, but didn't think she'd have time. I could tell that this was upsetting her.
I wasn't the kid who debated whether there was time for a party or not. I just went.
But much like my husband used to be, my daughter is a bit of a workaholic. I cautioned her about the downside of only putting work first and setting this up for your way of life.
I said, "go to the party and you'll figure out how to get your work done later. You need to blow off some steam." I wasn't sure if she would go.
There's a lot to be said about making time for fun, especially when things are stressful. Going out to dinner, the gym, to a movie or skipping out to a party. The time around other people, a change of scenery and laughing at something/anything can make us feel really good.
To maintain a healthy mind, you need to do things other than work.
And coming from this midlife mama, "you're only young once and have a lifetime of work ahead of you", so use your time wisely.
It turns out that she went to the party and still got her work done. This mom was very happy to hear it.
November 29, 2019
November 13, 2019
Today marks World Kindness Day and what a terrific opportunity to recognize the nice things that people do for one another.
How are you celebrating? Could it be by making a donation to a favourite charity? Bringing-in an elderly neighbour's garbage bins or by just telling someone how much you appreciate having them in your life.
Today I registered to become a RAKtivist. It's an online community developed by the website Random Acts of Kindness. Each month a special kindness challenge is sent out to members that benefits a worthy cause.
Doing the monthly challenges will be fun and seeing how others tackle them globally will be so interesting. Let me know if you're joining too.
I've been so lucky to have so many people be kind to my family. Let me share a recent example.
Yesterday I got a special surprise in my mailbox.
My dear friend Carie who lives in London, England sent me a package. In it was a little note with a gorgeous colourful glass trinket dish wrapped in bubble-wrap.
Carie's message was to let me know that she's thinking of us while our family is going through a difficult time in our lives.
She wrote, "I got you this glass tray to remind you to always look for and find the colour and light - even in the darkest days."
Even as I type this I'm holding back tears. Carie, you have ALWAYS had a way with words. Thank you my friend for that long-distance hug.
Practicing kindness has many benefits too. According to Psychology Today, "Science has now shown that devoting resources to others, rather than having more and more for yourself, bring about lasting well-being."
Hooray! It's good for our health to be kind.
Start by being aware of someone's needs and acting on it. For example, if you are approaching a homeless person today, think about buying them a sandwich and hot drink for lunch.
Or do what I did today for my dog, Ella. The morning temperature in Toronto was -13 degrees Celsius. Rather than taking her on a brutally cold dog walk, I took her to a popular indoor facility called Doggie Playland, so she could frolic with her friends without freezing her paws.
Maybe this last idea was being kind to me too. Wink wink.
So today enjoy being kind to someone and the good feels that come along with it.
"Everyone dies and that is okay".
Before you start hating on me for being a downer, hear me out.
Today my elderly neighbour Kay passed away. She was a lovely lady, full of spunk and an avid knitter.
She and I had a few nice chats over the years. Nothing deep or allowed either of us to really get to know the other but she said something to me once that I'll never forget.
Three years ago she called me over to ask me how I was doing. It was the first time that I saw her after my husband's brain cancer diagnosis.
I said, "Oh, you know, okay." Her facial expression turned from sympathy to disapproval and she snapped back with, "Janet, don't say that! It's F****** SH**! So say so."
Thank God for Kay. She changed me from that day forward. To become a person who is not afraid of honesty, the truth and opening up to others.
Thank you Kay and God bless you. See you on the other side.
So it is okay that everyone dies but hopefully when it happens to someone you know, the happy memories and lessons that they taught you will endure beyond the sadness.
November 4, 2019
photo courtesy: Maggie Knaus
I recently ran into an old acquaintance who learned of the return of my husband's cancer.
It took them by surprise that while I was sharing his symptoms, the 10 days of radiation that followed and aggressive intravenous infusion that he was now taking bi-weekly that I laughed about it.
It wasn't the kind that I would let out at a comedy club or while watching Seinfeld, nor was it a nervous one, but one that takes over when I'm hearing or talking about something totally absurd.
Their reply to my reaction was, "Well, it seems like you're doing alright."
I consider my sense of humour a part of my coping skills and something that gets me through many tough situations.
According to an article I read in Mental Floss, counsellor Kelley Hopkins-Alvarez says, “Sometimes people laugh when something is sad because they are trying to deflect going deeper into their emotions."
I don't consider my laughter as a means to protect myself.
Living with someone who is battling a terminal disease is all-consuming and even my emotions need a rest from it.
So when I'm speaking with someone who wants to know more about how I'm coping, the tell-tale signs of glioblastoma, or if they should avoid using a cell phone in fear of developing a brain tumour, I will sometimes let out a giggle.
Why? Because I've been talking about it everyday for over 3 years and sometimes my laughter helps to break the monotony of how painful this experience really is.
At my 50th birthday party, I was getting to know a friend of a friend. In between dancing and sips of champagne, she decided to sidle up to me to say that she too once had a brain tumour. I thought, "Um, no offence but my party is not where I want to hear about this." So I politely smiled, said that I was sorry to hear it, and excused myself while quietly laughing as I walked away.
(Note to everyone reading this post - try and refrain from telling a sad story at someone's birthday party).
Being resilient takes having the right coping skills. So if it means having a belly laugh over a crazy comment or giggling at a discussion that you're not willing to have, let it out. It's more important that you be okay with it than worry about what others may think of you.
Media Advisory - RESILIENT PEOPLE website proves life's challenges can be opportunities to inspire others
RESILIENT PEOPLE website proves that life’s challenges can be opportunities to inspire others
TORONTO, ON., October 22, 2019 -- Toronto resident Janet Fanaki created the website RESILIENT PEOPLE, out of her own story of resilience.
The site profiles EXTRAordinary people worldwide who are admired for overcoming a major challenge, bouncing back and creating something to help others be resilient too.
“I launched the website after my husband was diagnosed with glioblastoma, an aggressive form of brain cancer,” says the former PR specialist. “This time of our lives was incredibly challenging for him, me and our entire family.”
Launching RESILIENT PEOPLE was a cathartic process for Janet as she was searching for others who also bounced back from major challenges. Started just over a year ago, the site has become a sense of community and inspiration for people everywhere.
“Every person I profile has taken a problem and made an opportunity to help themselves and others. This is why they are RESILIENT PEOPLE.”
I would appreciate the opportunity to chat with you about:
I can be reached at (416) 271-7887, firstname.lastname@example.org and www.resilientpeople.ca
By Jane Kristoffy, Founder of Right Track Educational Services
As the school year unfolds, is the stress level rising at your house? Does your teen feel a ton of pressure, or are they managing their growing workload with ease as they work towards academic goals?
We are now weeks into another school year and getting used to our routines. Students have a “groove” in their courses, and grasp their teachers’ expectations. Many students have their eye on specific, measurable goals for academic progress (and other activities), and they’re working hard towards them.
Now is the time students begin to see whether or not their goals are within reach. Their progress so far shows whether or not they’re on track.
Even though there are many months left in the school year, some kids may feel overwhelmed, fearing failure. They may panic if they have a minor setback at this time.
Recently I’ve had a few phone calls from parents about their stressed-out teenagers. One Mom asked, “Do students ever get totally stuck, this early, in Grade 11?”
The answer is YES, all the time! (The same goes for students in grades 9, 10, and 12, but grade 11 can be particularly overwhelming since students know their marks can impact post-secondary admissions.)
Many students are tired and stressed at mid-term. Their teachers may not know them yet, or “get” them. A test result could be far from their hopes. Maybe they’re riding the bench on the basketball team, instead of leading the starting line; or for those students eager to head-up clubs, perhaps they haven’t filled the role they’d imagined.
As I wrote about in a previous article in RESILIENT PEOPLE, I urge parents to use moments of teen stress and insecurity to help them build their resilience and perseverance muscles. Struggles and setbacks are part of life, and these are perfect times to encourage kids to push through them. These situations will make our kids stronger.
I challenge parents to not only help kids work through specific difficult situations, but also to create an environment in which their children are set-up to build resilience every day.
Here are some key ways to set the stage for building resilience throughout the school year:
1. Make physical health a priority. The right amount of sleep and exercise, as well as proper nutrition, makes a huge impact on one’s ability to persevere during a setback. Imagine the energy needed to study for a test, or run a cross-country race. We need to be physically healthy to do these things well.
2. Build a circle of trust. An adult “outside” the immediate family can provide support to your child/teen. Acknowledge the encouragement that coaches, instructors, extended family members, and teachers can offer. Use their support and rely on it. Sometimes kids want to talk to someone other than Mom or Dad. It takes a village.
3. Practice positive parenting. Role model perseverance and resilience in your day-to-day life. Demonstrate grit when the going gets tough. Talk about what you learn from daily struggles and your failures. Encourage kids and teens to never fear failure and to get rid of stigmas associated with it.
4. Belong to something. Kids and teens can be themselves and take risks when removed from their school social groups. Belonging to a social community outside of school can lay the foundation for growth. If kids know they have more than one social outlet, it’s safer to risk failing or looking foolish, and this ultimately will help them build their resilience muscle.
5. Have a sense of control over one’s life. Show your kids they can make their own choices about many aspects of their lives: friends, passions, courses, direction, to name a few.
I always encourage parents to help their kids build resilience and to persevere when they hit a bump in the road, and to create an environment in which being resilient is the norm every day of the school year.
Mid-term progress reports are on the way! Contact Right Track today for information about our Study Skills Bootcamps, High School Blueprint, and other services supporting kids and teens during their academic journey! We would love to chat with you to see if we can help during school transitions and challenges.
Dawne McKay is the founder of The Crash Support Network. She started the group after she survived a horrible car crash in 2012.
Feeling isolated and alone during her recovery she could not find an online support group for survivors of motor vehicle crashes.
“I was looking for others to connect with, who understood what I was going through,” she says. “I took it upon myself to create a group for people who share the same experience as me.”
In April 2016 The Crash Support Network was born and within a few minutes of her first post, Dawne had a follower.
“Jimmy was the survivor of a truck crash,” says Dawne. “For the first time, I didn’t feel alone.”
The day of Dawne’s crash started out as a normal drive to work. She was taking a left turn at an intersection when the car behind her rear-ended her, pushing her car into the path of a transport truck.
“I vaguely remember it,” she says. “I remember parts of the first impact and nothing of the second hit but recall someone holding my hand while we waited for the ambulance to arrive.”
She stayed in a downtown Toronto trauma centre for 3 days suffering from multiple injuries.
“It was a life changing experience where I felt very vulnerable from the moment the crash happened to the hospital stay and the long road to recovery.”
Once time had passed and her support network got back to their regular lives, she felt very alone in dealing with the aftermath including discussions with insurance agencies, lawyers, and medical professionals as well as reeling from her experience.
Dealing with the mental, physical and financial aspects of a crash was a lot and something she didn’t want anyone else to experience on their own.
From the moment she launched The Crash Support Network group, Dawne’s days of feeling alone were over.
When Jimmy wrote her, it was to say that he had been in a terrible truck crash and was worried about his wife and children. Completely understanding him, Dawne replied to say, “I went through a horrific car crash too - I’m here for you.”
Group members will often say they wished they had known about such a support group sooner.
Similar to the online Down Syndrome community that Tara McCallan discussed on The Happy Soul Project for RESILIENT PEOPLE. "I gathered an army to support us. We've been uplifted by people worldwide."
The Crash Support Network Facebook group is private allowing members to have open conversations with one another, creating a space for empathy, support, appreciation and respect.
For Dawne, she gets teary thinking about what the group means to her.
“I remember sitting on my couch feeling all alone in the struggles I was facing. When I created the group my goal was to help just one person and now I’m helping over 650 people.”
Along with the Facebook group, Dawne has designed a website which covers a multitude of topics including a personal blog on her journey to recovery, insurance and legal advice, as well as articles written by survivors. It’s a first-stop destination for crash survivors.
Her resilience comes from desperately needing to find a sense of purpose, seeing the crash for what it was and wanting to help other survivors.
“I have always believed in myself and understood that setbacks are temporary. I decided to focus my energy on creating awareness for survivors of motor vehicle crashes who may be struggling alone, and sharing my personal experience as a crash survivor is rewarding.”
For more information on The Crash Support Network, visit www.crashsupportnetwork.com, the private Facebook group, Twitter and the public Facebook page.
“The kids who need the most love will ask for it in the most unloving of ways.”
Since 1999, Carpe Diem Treatment Foster Homes has provided loving foster care to emotionally distressed children in the Greater Toronto Area.
The agency was founded by a retired school teacher named Jim Lewis. The current Executive Director is Tyler Green who has been with Carpe Diem for a number of years serving different roles.
“Jim saw a need in creating an agency that would help kids who were falling through the cracks,” says Tyler Green. “They don’t have a huge support system, their biological family isn’t able to give them support and a foster home can teach them to be functioning members of society.”
Carpe Diem works closely with Children’s Services offices in Ontario as well as Children’s Aid. From birth to 18 years of age they place over 100 children in 70 foster care homes.
The children receiving assistance from Carpe Diem have faced abuse, neglect, and abandonment while also dealing with issues such as attention deficit disorder, Tourette’s Syndrome, developmental delays, autism, and fetal alcohol spectrum disorder. Many have grown up in the foster system.
Foster care aims to put them on the right path to future success. To achieve this, Tyler says, “There are two main things we look for in a foster parent: tolerance and compassion.”
When foster parents provide the children with daily routines, nurturing talents, love and good friendships, these children grow up with the necessary life skills and believe that they matter.
The goal is to build their resilience to prepare them for life.
The biggest challenge for Carpe Diem is in finding the right match between families and children. Following a preliminary meeting and background check, a rigorous evaluation is done which includes a visit to the potential foster home to examine it for safety and overall appearance.
Once the family and home is approved, the child is moved in a sensitive manner while being evaluated by the agency afterwards to ensure a smooth transition.
The child would be taught all aspects of life skills from making toast to taking the G1 driver's test.
“Foster parenting gives these kids a template of what other families look like,” says Tyler. “They come from chaotic situations, loving mom or dad, but not being able to live with them.”
One example is Danny who came to Carpe Diem in 1999 after being bounced from different foster homes.
He was a skinny child with glasses who got into a lot of trouble at school and moved back and forth from his biological home.
Jim Lewis was immediately drawn to him. Thanks to their strong relationship, Danny is now in his 30s, employed, has a supportive social network and is still closely connected with the agency.
There are times however when the foster home is not a good match for the child and they need to be moved from it. It’s at these times when their resilience is really tested.
“If a child has to move, we explain to them that stuff happens,” says Tyler. “We ask them what they want to do next, where they want to go from here - empowering them by putting the decision making into their hands.”
As Tyler says, “They need to realize that bumps come, but as long as they keep getting up everyday afterwards and moving forward, they can work through it.”
For more information on Carpe Diem Treatment Foster Homes and to inquire about becoming a foster parent, visit www.carpediem.ca, on Facebook and Twitter.
Photos from top to bottom: a bell which greets visitors to the main offices of Carpe Diem Treatment Foster Homes in Brampton, Ontario; Tyler Green, Executive Director; Danny MacDonald, a former foster child and friend to Carpe Diem; a hand-stitched sign celebrating the agency's anniversary (Janet Fanaki)
Hi everybody and welcome to RESILIENT PEOPLE. Today I’m joined by Dana Kyminas from Peabody, Massachusetts.
Dana reached out to me to share the story of her husband George who passed away of congenital heart failure, a condition he had since birth.
George was given a couple of years to live, but defied the odds and continued to defy them until he passed at only 27 years of age.
Dana shared their story, his resilience in living with a heart defect and how she continues to honour his legacy.
RESILIENT PEOPLE: How did you and George meet?
DANA KYMINAS: I was a freshman and George was a junior in high school. I didn’t want to take gym and he couldn’t so we met in the Reserve Officers’ Training Corp program.
George made you smile no matter how bad your day was. You’d never know that he had a heart condition. When he told me about it I didn’t quite understand it. When he was 12 he had 2 valves replaced along with a pacemaker put in. They gave him a 20% chance of survival.
In high school his pacemaker was replaced and he always seemed to be fine. He developed endocarditis which eats away at your valves, as well as pulmonary hypertension where he couldn’t walk long distances but his doctors kept track of his condition to make sure he was okay.
We got married ten years later and I joked that we should have put ‘its about time’ on the invitation. About a year later we decided to try to have a family. We were told by doctors to go ahead because they didn’t feel anything major would happen within the next 5 years.
In November 2013, we found out we were pregnant and the following January his health condition declined rapidly. Till February he was in the hospital for a month. Tests were done to assess the chances of getting a heart transplant but because of all of the scar tissue from previous surgeries he was not put on a list. Instead he went on hospice care.
On April 17, 2014 George peacefully passed away.
Tell me about the award in his honor.
The award is given to fifth graders who write an essay on strength and perseverance. They either need to know someone or have gone through something themselves that is bad and kept a positive attitude. For example, one child wrote about being in foster care and meeting their adoptive family. Or a boy wrote about his twin brother who had a heart condition and how he made it through.
You think that you’re the only one going through a hard time but you’re not alone. Sometimes the happiest people you meet are the ones going through the hardest times.
I’ve always loved the saying, “Life is 10% what’s given to you and 90% what you do with it.” I lost my husband when I was 27 weeks pregnant and my daughter arrived a month early, spending time in special care nursery. Now she’s healthy and we’re doing okay. You can be in any situation and come out of it.
How was the award established?
A friend of his mother’s set it up. She wanted to do something to honour him so we had a plaque designed with a photo of George as a kid and also as an adult. The winner gets their name engraved on it and the top 3 winners get a gift card to the local book store.
The essay is optional because not every kid wants to write it. These are 10 and 11 year olds. Many children will read their essay aloud but many times they want us to read it. It’s hard for us because we need that box of tissues.
Kids will go up to the winner afterwards and say that they went through that same thing too. It’s nice to show them that they’re not the only one having a hard day. It might be about a dog passing away or a brother’s heart surgeries but its understanding what strength and perseverance means.
What does that award do for you?
It doesn’t matter how old you are or what you look like on the outside, everyone can have a hard day or life. It could be the happiest person but you’d never know it. Like George, people were shocked that he even had a condition. It shows that you never know what someone’s going through.
Where does your strength come from?
Most of my strength was trying to make it for my daughter. I did it for her and not me. The hospital sent bereavement information to me and recommended a place close to me for grief counselling. They had a young widow’s meeting group and I got to meet people with shared experiences. I met 3 ladies who I still talk to and see to this day. It’s nice knowing someone who has gone through the same thing.
One woman is the same age as me and her husband died in a freak accident. My daughter is now 5 and said, “I want you to have another baby.” I can ask my friend what she’s told her daughter in that same situation. It’s great to connect with her.
You need those blocks beneath you for stability. Community.
Yes. When George passed away I worked in a hospital’s OR where he had also once worked. They knew him and were almost like family. If they saw me crying they’d give me a hug and understand.
How is life for you and Leila today?
I went back to school and got my associates in accounting. We’re doing good. Emotionally I have my days. I have her 24/7 and don’t have someone to pass her to so that can be a little hard. I’m learning and she’s learning.
Do you have a message for others?
Try and stay happy. If someone’s having a bad day, give them a chance. You never know what the reason is. Give one little smile and you’ve made someone’s day.
Thank you, Dana.
I am not a fan of chaos. I'm also not someone who leaves things to chance. It actually makes me uneasy to even think of doing it.
My 84 year-old father lives an hour's drive away from me. For the last couple of years I've watched his health and mobility worsen.
He lives by himself but could still get out to do errands and have coffee with friends at Tim Hortons. His medical needs were serviced by weekly nursing care for medications and bandaging leg wounds. I didn't see this as a long-term solution, but he was content with the arrangement.
Over the last year I would ask him once in a while if he'd thought of moving to an apartment or retirement/nursing home. To a place where he'd be around more people, social programs, nursing care would be available more readily and assisted living could be an option if his life needed to turn in that direction.
"I'm not interested in going to (insert the name of any local residence here)."
So my come-back would always be, "Dad, I don't want to deal with things when there's a crisis so please figure out your plan."
Guess what? Along came a crisis and there was no plan.
After a number of recent falls and skipped critical medications, he landed himself in an out-of-town hospital indefinitely.
Of course I don't want to say, "I told you so" but if steps were taken way back when to move to a home, this scenario could have been avoided - but here we are.
To make matters worse, his legal papers did not list my brother or me so organizing his medical affairs, bill payments and even forwarding his mail is impossible till our names are listed as such.
For all of the conversations that I've had with my father, I could tell you about the people he worked with at the CBC, his woodworking and favourite eating spots in town. Albeit talking with your adult children about moving out of your house when you're old is not fun, but it's a talk that needs to happen.
My dad's lawyer said the following, "The best is to do it in more controlled and relaxed way." I wish this was the case.
So I'm now dispelling this advice to everyone I know with older parents:
I realize it's a difficult subject to broach but if you don't do it while they're with it, having the conversation when things go sideways will be next to impossible. And getting the legal papers changed may be irreversible.
Doing these things now will prove to be a smart move for both of you. And something that will allow everyone to enjoy the years.