Being My Beautiful Self

This post is part of the and Dove #YMCBeautifulYou program. I received compensation as a thank you for my participation. This post reflects my personal opinion about the information provided by the sponsors. 

Trio of girls

My youngest daughter stood in front of her sister's full length mirror on her first day of kindergarten and said to her reflection,

Oh my goodness, I feel so beautiful. 

She felt beautiful because she was proud, happy, and excited. 

Beauty for her is a feeling you give yourself, not one that you wait for others to give. 

I hope my girls always think of beauty in that way. 

Mom and noelle dove
When I was younger, I let other people tell me what my beauty should be and how I should feel about it.

And so many times, I didn't feel good enough.

It took me too long to figure out where to find my beauty, because I was looking in the wrong places.

It was there, in my successes and friendships and relationships. 

It still is.

And I'm doing my best to show my daughters the secret to finding theirs.

I want them to know without doubt that beauty is found in their minds and hearts and in the way they treat people and the world around them. 

I want them to know that nothing and no one can take it from them. 

Mom and paige dove

According to a Dove Global Study (2010), 72% of girls today feel pressured to be beautiful and over 60% of girls avoid certain activities because they feel bad about their looks. These numbers weigh heavily on my mind, because I was one of those stats. I don't want my daughters to be. 

I know it won't be easy. I know they will face outside pressures and inside voices telling them what beauty looks like. I know it has to begin with me. 

Now at 40, I am facing a new wave of outside pressures and inside voices telling me what beautiful should be, and I have to show my daughters that I can live in my skin with confidence. 

We know that 27% of women believe you have to be young to be beautiful. My girls see beauty when they look at me, and I have to assure them that I see it in myself, too. 

I am thrilled to be participating in a series of Self-Esteem Workshops that Dove is hosting in the month of October across Canada. The workshops are geared towards mothers and daughters, to help start a conversation about confidence and beauty.

Moms will leave with tools and resources to help foster self-esteem in their daughters. And girls will feel valued and empowered with knowledge to help them embrace their own unique beauty and face day to day challenges with confidence. 

To start the conversation with my girls, I asked them to tell me why they think I'm beautiful.

It's not an easy question to ask anyone, and asking my daughters made me especially nervous. Hearing what they see, when they look at me, would help me understand how they see themselves. And I wanted to hear they saw a beauty that went beyond my appearance. 


When they look at me, they see my intelligence, my kindness, my gestures of love. 

They see pieces of themselves in me, and they are proud to have them.

Start the conversation with your daughters. Ask them why they think you're beautiful. Talk to them about how it made you feel. And then tell them where you see their beauty when you look at them.

Because they need to hear it, and they need to hear it from you. 


Did you know YMC is hosting 25 free Dove Mom and Daughter

Self-Esteem Workshops across Canada?

Join us to start the conversation with your daughter about the real meaning of beauty.

Then visit the ‘How To Find Your Own Unique Beauty’ page for inspirational stories

and resources to help young girls learn about true beauty.

We need you to be a part of the Dove mission to improve the self-esteem of over 15 million girls

by 2015.








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It may have started with a restlessness. 

Or a need to drift away from the busyness.

Something pulled Grand Experiences owner, Jamie Kent, away from his corporate job towards the river almost two decades ago, and it was a call worth answering. 


Anyone who climbs into one of Jamie's boats will feel his gratitude for the water and benefit from his immense knowledge about the beauty that surrounds the Grand River.

We jumped at the chance to be pulled from our own rapids and placed gently into the heart of Canada's only Carolinian forest, where we would end up having a rejuvenating weekend with the Grand Experience's crew and their generous partners.


Grand Experiences is located in the beautiful Ontario town of Paris, which is one-hour west of Toronto and easily accessible by major highways. It has a quaint and wonderful small-town vibe with unique cobblestone architecture and a bakery, bookstore and chocolatier lining its main street. It also boasts the historic, beautifully renovated and recently re-opened Arlington Hotel, which will now be available as part of the weekend canoeing package. 


The Voyage Into Paradise package had us paddling in a guided canoe for two days over approximately 15 of a possible 300 kilometres and included a two-night hotel stay, fine-dining dinner experience and two gourmet lunches.

We felt the sun on our faces and along the backs of arms as we dipped our paddles in and out of the water and listened to the soundtrack of the river, while taking in the sight of the wildlife and forest that surround it. The stress melted away with each kilometre that we travelled. 


It's funny how many times JB and I bumped elbows and caught each other on the chin with our paddles, as we tried to find our rhythm. It was a reminder of how easily (and unknowingly) we can fall out of sync with one another during the blurry days of raising a young family. To move the canoe forward we had to focus on arriving at the same destination. It's the perfect challenge for any relationship. 

What makes a river so restful to people

is that it doesn't have any doubt—

it is sure to get where it is going

and it doesn't want to go anywhere else ~

Hal Boyle


The water in the Grand River is shallow and warm and at times quite rocky (creating something of a fun obstacle course). The rapids were very gentle on this stretch of the river, making them friendly for first-timers. We could hear the flow of natural springs along the bank and glided over 80 species of fish (it's catch and release fishing only). There were countless species of birds, including the majestic Bald Eagle. And we were treated to the sight of several Turkey Vultures and Great Blue Herons as they soared across the bright, blue sky. When the river is clear, you can often see them diving for fish. 

To put your hands in a river

is to feel the chords that bind the earth together ~

Barry Lopez

After paddling through the morning, we pulled up to Brant Conservation where we were met by an Aboriginal-inspired lunch prepared by Deliciously Different Catering. Each dish was thoughtfully planned (bison, mushroom ragoût, wild rice, salmon and asparagus) and we could not have enjoyed it more (we were also starving from all the paddling). 


After lunch we paddled on to Turtle Island, where we were met by a First Nations Storyteller. It happened to be National Aboriginal Day, as well as the summer solstice. There was a lot to celebrate, as we listened to the telling of First Nations myths and legends. We also heard the tranditional cedar flute and a beautiful welcoming song. The stories about how we are all connected—both with Mother Earth and with one another—were so fitting, as we sat with our fellow canoers around the welcoming campfire. 


We returned to our hotel to clean up and slap on some aloe vera (pack the sunscreen, you're going to need it out on the water) before heading out for a delicious meal at the Water Street Cooker, which sits above Lake Ontario in Burlington. It was the perfect venue to take in the sunset and refuel for another round of paddling in the morning. 


In the morning, we were shuttled over to Coote's Paradise at the Royal Botantical Gardens, which is currently undergoing an extensive recovery process in an attempt to return the water to its natural marsh state. It was another gorgeous morning to be out in the canoe, and we were treated to turtles, birds, swans, geese, ducks and several deer sightings, as we paddled through the quiet water. Learning about the multitude of efforts by dedicated scientists, botanists, naturalists and volunteers to restore this beautiful area was very humbling (and inspiring). 


Once we pulled back onto the shore, it was time to think about food again and we found ourselves at Laking Garden under a gazebo nestled on the edge of the newly designed iris garden. Again, the food and its pairing with the view of Coote's Paradise was spectacular and appreciated after another morning of paddling. 


The weekend came to a close with a personalized tour through the newly designed Laking Garden with the RBG staff. It is so much more than a beautiful place to wander. This one-of-a-kind and world-renowned garden has dedicated staff and volunteers working tirelessly to maintain the bio-diversity of plant life not only in Canada, but worldwide.  

This trip helped me and JB find our rhythm, during a time of year that's chaotic and messy. And although we had to return to the busyness, we did so with a new energy. We recommend this trip (and any of the many other excursions available at Grand Experiences) to anyone who wants to get re-connected—both to the people they take the trip with and with the beautiful scenery that will be encountered along the way.


Much gratitude to The Hamilton Halton Brant Regional Tourism Association for making this trip possible.

Deepest thanks to Jamie and his team at Grand Experiences for an incredible journey, including guides: Sarah, Mark, Megan, Dan and Cory. 

Thank you Cindy at Deliciously Different Catering.

Thank you, Russ, for the tour of beautiful Paris, ON. We can't wait to return for a festival.

Thank you to the Water Street Cooker restaurant and the Waterfront Hotel in Burlington, ON for a warm welcome.

Thank you Kristen, Alex and Jean for their time and expertise at the Royal Botanical Gardens.

And last, but definitely not least, thank you to my parents, Tom and Doris, for taking care of our children and giving us this time together. 




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In Their Shoes

We had three kids, when my husband joined the staff at SickKids Hospital in Toronto. As a new graduate, the idea of being part of such a high-calibre team was daunting. But—with the guidance and support of amazing mentors and staff—he quickly rose to occasion.

There are many challenges when it comes to caring for and about children and families with specialized needs. And looking back, it’s clear he had two choices about how to approach the time he spent there.

He could provide clinical care to his patients, while doing his best not to get emotionally involved. Or he could let all the ups and downs of caring for these amazing families, become part of who he is and how he practises.

Luckily, he chose the latter.  And judging from the letters and cards and heartfelt gratitude he has received over the years, our family is not the only one to benefit from his approach.




We are parents to four kids now, and like many families, we’ve experienced our share of bumps and bruises. We’ve sat through emergency room waits and we’ve dealt with everything from spider bites to broken limbs.

Some of those experiences have brought us to SickKids. When our son broke his leg as a toddler and needed a brace to support his leg after the cast came off—to give him extra support while he learned to walk and run again—we went through the orthotics department at SickKids. They made him a racecar themed brace that he loved to wear.

Not only did they give him the physical support he needed to heal, they gave me the emotional support I needed to let him go back to being a kid. And I did need it. Watching him go through that experience was hard on me and it definitely impacted the way I parented. 


{Our youngest daughter at SickKids’ Orthopaedic Clinic}

When our youngest daughter, was born with a “clicky hip” several years later, we found ourselves at SickKids again. Whether it was the memories of the experience I had with our son, or just that I felt overwhelmed, I turned to my husband one night and said, ”Other families are so lucky not to have to go through this….”

He went quiet for a moment and then said something I’ll never forget.

“I know you’re upset and worried. But I don’t want to hear you say that again. Look around you when you’re there, and never forget how lucky you are.”

He was right. When we returned for our next follow-up appointment, I struck up a conversation with a family in the waiting room. And I was deeply moved by the challenges they had overcome and the resolve they had for the ones that still waited ahead.

The clinic we were visiting is separate from the heart of the hospital and it was very easy to come in and leave again without crossing paths with a lot of the other families that spend time in the hospital.

After my daughter’s last appointment (when she had been given an all-clear), I pushed her stroller out to the lobby and we watched the heart of the hospital as it beat around us.

My eyes filled with tears and it struck me how many times I had seen my husband’s eyes fill with tears at the end of one of his days there. And it was never because he felt saddened at another family’s “luck”, but always because he felt honoured to be sharing their child’s journey with them.

My husband has been changed as a parent, because of his time at SickKids, and I can see it in the way he raises our kids. And because of him, I’ve been changed, too.

I want our children to follow their dad’s lead, like I have. I want them to know how lucky we are to have access to a hospital so dedicated to children and their families.



This September 27th, we plan to lace up our shoes and joining thousands of other walkers for the The Canaccord Genuity Great Camp Adventure Walk to benefit SickKids. We will walk beside other families, through the streets of Toronto, united in a common goal to support SickKids—and its incredible doctors, nurses, staff and patients—and help improve children’s health.

Your family can enjoy a full day of adventure, and challenge themselves to a 5, 10, 15 or 20km walk with fun-filled stops at campsites along the route. Each campsite has a theme and games and activities to keep the walk challenging and fun.

If teaching your children the value of philanthropy and gratitude is important to you, please consider this worthwhile event. We would love to see you there.


This post was brought to you by The SickKids Foundation, however the story and images are my own. If you would like more information on The Canaccord Genuity Great Camp Adventure Walk to benefit Sick Kids, please visit:





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