I am white, first generation Polish Canadian. I identify as a cisgender hetero-normative female, in a long-term monogamous relationship approved by church and state. I am able-bodied.
I am a birth-mother of three children.
I am a lover of people and nature. I am a spiritual seeker and student.
I am a writer, a musician, a compassionate presence.
In my life I have had a number of pivotal experiences, which have come together to guide my understanding of the world, and in particular my vocation and responsibilities.
As a social worker and a family therapist, I am first and foremost committed to being a listener, an encourager, a compassionate presence, and a co-creator of hope.
STORY OF ORIGINS
I am a first generation immigrant. My parents and all our ancestors were born and lived in the lands that are currently called Poland. We come from the Eastern European people called the Slavs. I was raised with stories of World War I and II, stories of poverty, hunger, oppression, and fear, as well as stories of incredible strength and endurance.
In the late 1980's my parents chose to emigrate from Poland to leave behind the oppressive Communist regime that was controlling the country, and to escape the civil unrest and turbulence that was sweeping the country at that time. I was 12 when we left, my mom and two baby sisters travelling by bus, and my dad and I travelling by train to avoid suspicion from authorities. I lost much in that experience. I cannot speak of the loss even today without feeling sadness and hurt - the loss of my beloved grandparents and great grandparents, my extended family, all beloved and familiar places and things, the history and language, traditions and customs.
I am a Settler on this Land.
As a Settler, I am deeply grateful that I am able to live here and be blessed by the beauty and bounty, even though I am simultaneously fully aware that the Indigenous Peoples of this Land are suffering due to marginalization, institutionalized racism and segregation as part of Colonization. And so I gratefully and humbly acknowledge the traditional territories of the Blackfoot Confederacy and the People of the Treaty 7 Region in Southern Alberta, which include the Siksika, the Piikuni, the Kainai, the Tsuut’ina, and the Stoney Nakoda First Nations.
Though it was not my personal choice to come to this Land, I am deeply committed to living well here, with gratitude and respect. This Land is where my children were born and where I will likely die. This Land is where the idea of Canada has been enacted for the past 150 years, and I am continually and willingly participating in all the actions and ideas that make up Canada.
My particular experience of emigrating, being a refugee as a young preteen, becoming an immigrant as a teenager, and eventually a citizen of Canada, all inform my identity as a person and as a social worker today. I believe all these elements contribute to my sense of justice, commitment to ethics, and desire to participate in hope-building as a social worker.
LIFE INFLUENCES AND VALUES
I am a mother of three children. I grew up as the eldest of three girls in our immediate family, and the eldest of multiple cousins on my mother's side. Leaving all the extended family behind in Poland left me with a profound sense of disconnection and isolation as an immigrant. Upon having my own children I struggled to know how to be a mother with so few people close to me here in Canada. I was diagnosed with severe postpartum depression in the first three months of my eldest daughter's life. This experience has deeply affected my understanding of what many new mothers' experience, who often suffer in secret and in isolation. (I wrote the story of my depression, The Most Beautiful Sorrow for a number of support communities.)
During my MSW program, I took the opportunity to explore and deepen my understanding of how postpartum depression can be revisioned through a lens of social justice and Just Therapy approach to family therapy my paper.
Finding ways to re-envision new motherhood - with all of its challenges, including potential physical and emotional health struggles - as a construct that can be talked about differently, is one way of engaging in active hope.
I was raised Roman Catholic and the beauty and mystery of the Catholic rituals occupied much of our daily lives when I was a child. While I have since left behind the commitment I used to have to the many beliefs and teachings of the Catholic Church, I continue to nourish the spiritual grounding of my childhood faith through the Catholic Mystical tradition and other spiritual traditions.
Spiritual practice and teachings continually lead me towards wonderment about the mystery of human existence, curiosity about intangible values and virtues that humans can pursue, a sense of awe about life in general and the humility to know that nothing I know is certain.
Over the years, I have found the spiritual teachings of Yasodhara Yoga to be particularly important. More recently, I have also become engaged in learning and practicing the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatian of Layola.
Alcoholism and other addictions are an important part of my life and family. Over the past few years, I have found healing and much personal growth and development within the rooms of the 12 Step program of Al-Anon. It is a humbling and life-altering experience to re-orient one's understanding of addiction from conviction and control to powerlessness and detachment. As with all communities that are based around spiritual principles, there is much to consider and discern. I have been deeply influenced by the people willing to authentically admit their suffering, struggles, and hope for better lives. These experiences profoundly influence my understanding of social work practice in the area of addiction.
COMPASSION AND SERVICE
I became involved in volunteering and learning about hospice and vigilling (attending the bedsides of the dying) about four years ago. In November of 2014, a small group of women gathered at my invitation, to learn about a practice of singing soothing music to people who are in the process of suffering and dying.
Our small local community of singers offers gentle spiritual music to anyone who is suffering, hurting, dying. We sing by invitation, for people in hospitals, hospices, and homes. We spend time in nourishing and cultivating gentle presence and acceptances of life's suffering an endings within our small community and the world around us.
The Calgary chapter is a member of the International Threshold Choir, made up for over 150 chapters of bedside singers.