The "Whiz-ard" That Is Dr. Oz

And Other Stories


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My Day In Court

court

Image courtesy of humbernews.ca

Anyone who knows me well knows that if something is going to happen, it’s going to happen to me.  It’s definitely not always a bad thing, I’ve had plenty of great experiences thanks to this weird type of luck.  I’ve also been a little inconvenienced over the years.  That’s exactly the way I felt when I was summoned for jury duty in November.  Hoping work would give me a way out, I was told by my boss that it was my civic duty.  All that I could think of was 5 days of missing work, meant coming in on weekends and at night since it is the busiest time of year (or one of them).  Many people told me that I likely would just sit in a room all day waiting for my name to be drawn.  I was instructed to say that I was a racist (which I couldn’t in good conscience since it isn’t true), believed in the death penalty (which I don’t) or just answer the question by speaking in tongues (not familiar with the lingo).

I really thought that it would be just long days of reading my book and answering emails.  Of course, the justice system had a different plan.  My group was told that after we registered, we’d have until ten to get a drink, eat, do nature duty, etc. before we went up to court.  Still in denial over what was happening, I absent-mindedly posted humorous (at least I thought they were) observations about my fellow jurors not realizing what was about to transpire.  I simply thought that going to court meant that I would be placed in a different holding room, while I waited to potentially be called in for a burglary or fraud case.  Well, that’s not what happened.

About 300 people (estimate) were shuffled upstairs and told that we were entering the largest courtroom in Canada, that the judge was a representative of the Queen and that this was a very serious matter.  Once we were seated, things changed dramatically.  The defendant was in the courtroom.  The judge, a kindly looking older gentleman was at the front of the room, and the lawyers were wearing the official robes and collars that they have to wear in Canada, which are pretty cute, at least in my humble opinion.  I knew what His Honour would say though, before he even spoke – this was going to be a first degree murder trial.  Before you get cozy thinking that you are going to get some juicy details about the case, I made a decision not to give any details about the defendant or the victim. No names, no pictures, no who did it theories or details.  Before I even wrote about this, I looked at several blogs and they provided every salacious detail.  Everyone is entitled to write what they want from their own experience.  My feeling is, that there are so many people impacted by this, most importantly, the victim and her family and that it would be disrespectful of me to dramatize or comment on anything related to her death.  The defendant is also someone’s child or brother and is quite young – this case is tragic all the way around.  What I will tell you about is the experience.

The judge explained what the case was about (first degree murder with some brief details including the name of the victim, defendant and the general vicinity of where it happened), and the defendant gave his plea – Not Guilty.  His Honour then went on to explain that this was a case where the accused was going to defend himself. The lawyers were introduced, then the judge proceeded to ask the jury panel if any of us knew of the case, the victim, the defendant or the attorneys.  A few people put their hands up and one by one were escorted to the microphone where they were questioned politely by the judge.  Some prospective jurors were excused.  The witness list was read and once again, we were asked if anyone was familiar with people on this list.  Another small trickle of people went up to the microphone, some were excused, the remainder had to take their seats.

Before we went upstairs to the courtroom, we had to fill out a questionnaire with 11 questions including whether we clearly understood English, had any disabilities that may interfere with being a juror, any health concerns, etc.  At this point, the judge informed us, in a very respectful way, that he’s seen trials that were short and long, and that this would be a lengthy one – at least 2-3 months.  A gasp came over the courtroom.  Everyone looked at each other in shock.  He then proceeded to ask if anyone’s life would be substantially impacted by a lengthy trial and about 2/3 of the jury panel raised their hands.  The judge chuckled expecting this, and he told us that we had to really search our conscience and think about whether this was a case where we truly would SUBSTANTIALLY be impacted or if it was more of an inconvenience.  We were then told to line up, but they had to do it in sections, so I was seated until later in the afternoon.  Each person gave their form to the judge and he asked them a series of questions.  He was incredibly respectful, asking if he could reveal certain information or even ask questions related to their rationale.

Some people had very valid reasons – caring for an ill relative or they were owners of their own small business or English wasn’t their first language and they weren’t confidant that they would understand everything.  All of these people were excused with the judge’s respect and best wishes.  People with vacations booked were told that the court could accommodate their schedules.  People that  worked for large companies were told to speak to their HR Departments since many places paid employees for jury duty.  The judge only lost his cool once or twice and that was due to the responses he was getting, not bad temperament.  We were all referred to by number, not name, and he was always careful not to reveal anything personal without asking permission first.  His only frustration was the large line up of people.  He reminded us that jury duty could be very rewarding, and by the end of the day, I really wanted to change my answer to please this judge.  He was someone that I truly respected.  Unfortunately, circumstance prevents me from being too far from my phone in case of emergency.  My reasons for not being able to do jury duty this time, are private, but if it was just a matter of a heavy workload, this judge convinced me that it was my duty to serve and that wasn’t a factor.  He read my form and saw the pleading look on my face and unlike many people who went up to the microphone, he didn’t ask me a single question.  He smiled at me gently, and just said “After reading this juror’s response, I have no hesitation that being a member of the jury in this case would cause her undue hardship and for that reason, you are excused.  I wish you all of the best of luck in your circumstances.”  I thanked him and left.

This judge gave me hope in our justice system.  He made me believe that it truly was our civic duty to be on a jury and I hope to have another opportunity in the future.  This experience made me realize that this isn’t just an inconvenience forced upon us, but part of what we should be honoured to do.  What’s at stake is huge – justice for a victim and changing the course of the defendant’s life.  As hard as it may be for us to do, imagine how hard it is for the people that are truly impacted by this case.  Whatever you go through as a juror, at night you can go back home to your life and family.  The victim can’t.  The defendant can’t and their families will never escape from their nightmare, no matter what the outcome.

 

 


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No Judgments – The Bucket List

Oz

I’ve used this pic before, but it fit the theme!

Everyone talks about it, but no one actually ever provides a complete list of what’s on theirs.  They’ll give you a few choice morsels, but they back off when it comes to giving you the full meal deal.  If you haven’t guessed, I’m talking about a bucket list.  If you don’t know what a bucket list is (insert eye roll here) – it’s all of the incredible things that people want to do before they depart the earth and move on to their next life or go to heaven, or hang out in the warm place that we shall call Satan’s tea parlour.  I’m breaking free and revealing what’s on my list, what’s off and what never will be on it.

Now for your reading pleasure….

What’s On

  • See the Little Mermaid Statue in Denmark – Hello!  It’s one of the best fairy tales out there (Cinderella is the best) and Copenhagen was the home of one of my favourite kiddy authors – Hans Christian Anderson.
  • See a Puffin – I’m not a bird lover, but hello, Puffins are adorable!
  • See an Orca in the wild – as nature intended them to be.  Sea World and Marine Land – I’m talking to you
  • Go in a Shark Cage and see a Great White (and come out of the cage with all of my fingers and toes and not covered in bloody fish guck)
  • Go to South America  – maybe not the sucky countries
  • Go back to Sydney, Nova Scotia, where I grew up, one last time
  • Walk the Capilano Suspension Bridge in British Columbia
  • Go to all ten provinces (I’ve been to 8 – Saskatchewan and Newfoundland, here I come) and 3 Territories (none so far)
  • See all 50 States in the USA (even the questionable ones).  So far, in no particular order, I’ve been to: 1) Hawaii, 2)Alaska, 3)California, 4) Nevada, 5) Arizona, 6) Texas, 7) Arkansas, 8) Tennessee, 9) Georgia, 10) Florida, 11) North Carolina, 12) Minnesota, 12) Ohio, 14) Louisiana, 15) Virginia, 16) Illinois, 17) Pennsylvania, 18) New Jersey, 19) New York and 20) Massachusetts.  Just 30 more to go!
  • See almost every country in Europe – some at least thrice – except some of the sucky ones!  For some fun, I’m only going to tell you the countries that I have yet to see: 1) Sweden (I’ve seen Girl with the Dragon Tattoo – I know that there is weirdness there, but I’m going), 2) Finland (best name ever), 3) Denmark (see bullet point 1), 4) Poland, 5) Bulgaria, 6) Romania, 7) Estonia, 8) Belgium, 9) Croatia (dying to go here), 10) Cyprus (but I’ve been to Greece – does that cover it off?), 11) Monaco, 12) Luxembourg, 13) Serbia, 14) Slovenia (home to Melania Trump – maybe I’ll skip it?) 15) Lithuania (home to my lovely grandfather and favourite great uncles), 16) Belarus, 17) Ukraine (maybe I’ll skip this country or just not dress up as a Ukranian if I visit Russia – I wouldn’t want them to invade me), 18) Russia (most of my other relatives are from here, and who doesn’t want to see St. Petersberg?)
  • Go to Bora Bora in Tahiti Tahiti  – it looks amazing, plus, I like a place that’s so nice that they named it twice
  • See the Northern Lights
  • See all of the Disney Theme Parks around the world – Paris, Tokyo and Hong Kong, I’m coming for you!  And don’t judge me – it’s the happiest place on earth
  • Speaking of Tokyo – I also want to go to Japan
  • …and New Zealand
  • ..and Singapore – who doesn’t love a clean destination
  • …and Thailand
  • See Bill Clinton speak live – I saw Hillary and she was pretty fab, plus I have to have a few non-travel related items on the list
  • Have the best day ever and know that it’s the best day ever

Completed Items:

  • Go to an NFL game in the USA.  I went to a Steelers game.  I discovered that football is just as boring in person as it is on TV AND they took away my purse because it was too big to pass security regulations
  • Own a YSL Muse bag – thanks to Woodbury Common, I have this in my purse wardrobe for less than half the price AND it’s the original Muse with the Y (if you are a guy reading this, it’s like you finding one of your collectible dolls, sorry action figures or a really great Laz-E-Boy chair on sale)
  • Teach an important life lesson to someone that they’ll value
  • Make 10 people cry tears of happiness
  • Have dinner once with my whole immediate family
  • Write a blog for one year (ahem, my blog celebrated it’s third anniversary)

Off the List:

  • See George Michael in concert  – sad to say, I’ve never seen this musical genius

Never on the List and Never Will Be and Don’t Tell Me Never Say Never ‘Cause it’s NEVER:

  • Skydiving
  • Bungee Jumping
  • Hand Gliding or any aerial trick
  • Space Travel

I don’t have a death wish and I get motion sick so they are all out for me.  So, now that you know what’s on my, tell me what’s on yours?  I need some inspiration and some non-travel related bucket list items so I want to plagiarize yours!


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Happy New Year and Admitting Failure

CharlotteWeb

Yup, I’m a failure.  I failed at my year of challenges by not really doing any, and I failed in my reading challenge by only reading 22 of 35 books.  I can actually tell you why I didn’t finish this – it comes down to three books 1) Outlander – it was long (almost 1000 pages) and it took me 500 pages to get into it, 2) All the Light You Cannot See or as I like to call it All the Books I Didn’t Get to Read Because I Had to Finish This Dud.  I know a lot of pretentious people who are going to judge me for not liking this one, that’s OK, I don’t mind. 3) Wicked or as I call it Wickedly Boring – too long and only about 50 pages were at all enjoyable.  Here is where I netted out:

A book about an animal – Emory’s Gift (a lovely book)
A book based on a fairytale, myth or folklore – Wicked (ugh – see above)
A book based on people from a religious text
A book based on true events
A book considered a ‘classic’ – Oscar Wilde’s Plays
A book considered a ‘modern classic’ – A Thousand Splendid Suns (a truly splendid book)
A book from a series – Top Secret 21 (I read all of the Stephanie Plum books – hilarious and fun)
A book from one of the “Must Read” lists – When Breath Becomes Air (Unforgettable and deeply touching)
A book from Oprah’s book club
A book involving religion
A book involving royalty – a king, queen, prince, princess etc.
A book picked for you by someone else
A book published this year – London Belongs to Me (Memorable, fun and written by a fantastic person – please read this)
A book someone gave you – After You (Well written chick lit but not as good as Me Before You)
A book that a relative or friend loves
A book that everyone is talking about
A book that you can read in a day – Complete – If I Stay
A book that’s less than 300 pages long – Complete – Where She Went
A book with a cover that drew you in – Fear Dat (A must read if you are going to New Orleans)
A book with a creative title – Year of Yes (LOVE – check out my 2017 blog coming up tomorrow or Monday for more details)
A book with a short title – E2 (HOOEY)
A book with a title that describes your life – Rude Bitches Make Me Tired (they really do)
A book with a title that has more than five words – All the Light You Cannot See (See above)
A book written by a politician – Crippled America (in my defence, it was a gift and I was too embarrassed to return it to the bookstore)
A book you borrowed – Harry Potter and the Cursed Child (Amazing)
A book you could use as a doorstop (ie. 700+ pages) – Outlander (see above)
A book you own but haven’t read
A book you would normally read on holiday – Lucy Sullivan is Getting Married (not bad, but completely forgettable – I don’t remember anything from it)
A book you’re embarrassed to read in public – Coreygraphy (It’s Corey Feldman’s biography – need I say more?)
A book you’re excited about – The Rainbow Comes and Goes (Anderson Cooper – need I say more?????????)
A book you’ve always wanted to read but haven’t
A book you’ve been putting off reading
A classic children’s book – I Love You Forever (if you can read this without crying, you are dead inside)
A humorous book – Why Not Me? (Mindy Kaling is my spirit animal and home girl and this is a fantastic book)
A play by Shakespeare

The Type A in me says that I have to try for 35 books again, so I will.  I’m going to switch some of the categories up since I found some too similar.  Plus, I really want to get rid of more books!  I’ll update you on the challenge for 2017 when I figure out which categories to swap out.

2016 wasn’t all about failure, I did get to travel a lot which you’ll hear more about, I enjoyed my city a bit more and I did get a few things off of my bucket list.  It also had it’s challenges, and no, it’s not about Princess Leia, Prince and George Michael dying, although that’s very sad.  The one ability that I have is to know when to pull up my big girl pants and make a decision, even if it’s a tough one.  I think that sometimes knowing what path that you need to take is half the battle.  I was told that 2017 was going to be a year of change for me, and I welcome it!  I hope that you all have a Happy New Year’s Eve and challenge yourself in 2017.


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I (Will) Love T.O.

loveto2

Somehow, I always seem to end up with the world’s chattiest taxi drivers, Uber drivers, seat mates on the subway, seat mates on an airplane, seat mates on the train…you get the picture.  Often a bit of a weirdo magnet or just a sympathetic ear, I’ve heard a little bit of everyone’s story over the years…usually not by choice.  One lesson that I have learned though, is that everyone has a story, and you may be surprised, so take the time to listen whether you feel like it or not.

Today, as always, I ended up having a deep, meaningful conversation with a cabbie.  I knew the second that I opened the door, that this man was going to talk my ear off.  I got in, shut the door, sighed once in my inside voice, once in my outside voice and settled in to hear all about his likes and dislikes.  Proving that you can be inspired by just about anything, this blog all started with a simple statement/question from my fair driver…”I LOVE Toronto…Miss, do you love Toronto?”  Being nauseatingly politically correct, I automatically answered yes, very much.  I knew that I gave the right answer from the huge smile on his face, after which I got to hear about every one of the other things that he loves.  He did, get me thinking, do I really love Toronto, or am I just waiting for something better to come along?  Everyone takes the city that they live in for granted, but I started to think about all of the things that I’ve experienced in this very city, this very year and all of the little accidental things that I’ve stumbled across.  For instance:

  • Theatre – Toronto has a great theatre scene.  It rivals any major city in the world.  We have fancy, schmancy theatres like the Ed Mirvish Theatre, and some that need a little love, but have a ton of character like the Lower Ossington.  This year, I’ve seen some really great musicals including Mary Poppins (for the first time – I’ve never even seen the movie), Matilda (loved), and best of all, Thank You for Being A Friend – a must see for Golden Girl Fans.  If you don’t love The Golden Girls, please find another blog to read because that’s sacrilege in my book
  • Events – I went to the Gourmet Food and Wine Expo.  Pretty fun, but the same thing always happens when I taste wine – I try something that’s not from New Zealand, make a face, says it’s too sweet or too oak-y, toss it into the garbage, pout a little, and try a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc and proclaim it the best wine ever.  I also sit through a boring cooking demo, try what they make, lie to them and say it’s the best thing ever, and then complain to whoever I’m with that so and so can make it better. Aw tradition!  I also got to enjoy the King Street Festival for TIFF – my friend and I strolled along, and it was nice to see people just enjoying the city.  Oh, and I got to meet Michael Fassbender earlier in the day – bonus!
  • Live (and inspiring events) – Seeing Deepak Chopra, yes, my guru was a highlight, but meeting him?  Priceless.  My friend got us tickets to see him live at Roy Thomson Hall and we were number 2 and 3 in the line up to meet him.  An even bigger, if it’s possible moment, was lining up at Indigo at Bay and Bloor to meet ANDERSON COOPER THE SILVER FOX!!!!!!  Yes, I had to be there at 7:30 in the morning and wait for 4 hours, but it was fun, and worth it.  If you don’t want to buy books (shudders) or pay for ticketed events, you can always go to Indigo and hear your favourite authors speak.  If you don’t read, maybe you should make 2017 the year that you crack open a book?
  • Museums – I always seem to forget that we have museums in TO.  This year, I noticed that the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) was doing a Mystical Landscapes exhibit and it looked like it had real art!  Like stuff that I’d recognize.  Seriously!  I always poke fun of the AGO because although it has Monets, Manets, Van Goghs, etc., they are always the sad, sloppy seconds that no other gallery would touch – you know, the ones nobody has ever heard of.  This exhibit was great though.  I dragged my trusty friend and off we went to get ourselves cultured up.  They had a symphony first, so after walking an exhausting block, we plunked ourselves down for a half hour rest and listened.  I’ll be honest, about 50 seconds in, I got bored and tried not to fall asleep.  I love classical music, but spoken word…PLEASE…and opera?  EWWWWW.  I understand torture when I listen to opera, mostly because my ears feel tortured.  The art though was perfect.  They had the best of the best of the best and I discovered Wenzel Hablik – a really different kind of artist who I really loved.  I’m not going to go out and buy one of his paintings, mostly because I can’t afford to, but they were different from anything that I’ve ever seen before
  • World Class Shopping – I could write a book on how much I love the Eaton Centre.  It has a Nordstrom, need I say more?  Plus they went back to having a HUGE (using my Donald Trump voice) Christmas Tree that’s beautiful
  • The CN Tower – Yes, it’s tacky to admit, but I love the CN Tower.  You couldn’t pay me to go there, unless I had visitors in town, but just to see it’s alien looking frame or see it lit up, makes me know that I’m home
  • Unexpected beauty – the Manulife Building on Bloor Street somehow always looks perfect, no matter what time of year.  They also celebrate holidays better than any other place in the city.  Don’t believe me, check out the photo from Remembrance Day in the collage below – it’s small, but it’s in the right hand corner.  The little things that look like confetti were row after row of Canadian flags

Love TO1.jpg

I guess I have my answer, maybe, just maybe I’m falling back in love with Toronto.  My challenge to myself for 2017?  Keep looking for things to admire about my fair city and see what all of those people on our Hop On, Hop Off tours are oohing and ahhhing about.  I’ll keep you posted on my progress.


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Well, I Declare! Do You?

Getting back to travel, I’m just wondering how many of you shop ’til you drop when you vacay?  I bet many of you are taken in by useless tchotchkes, shoes that you just have to walk away with, jewelry that matches the sparkle in your eye and clothes that will reside on your elliptical for years to come.  I eschew touristy souvenirs, I have absolutely no use for them.  I do have a weakness for clothing and accessories though.  Plus, I’m a generous hearted Leo who likes to buy useless, yet thoughtful gifts, for family and friends that make the cut.  This translates into sometimes going over our paltry $800 limit (remember I’m Canadian).

It used to be even worse, and cross border shopping meant pulling tags off, donning about 6 layers of clothes, throwing out old shoes so I could wear new ones and looking like the Michelin Man as I got questioned by Canadian Customs.  Not being a natural liar, I usually stuttered through the answers or mumbled into one of the 5 sweaters that I was wearing (in the heat of the summer) that I spent about $50.  LIAR LIAR pants (3 pairs to be exact) on fire, I knew that Officer Bob was thinking to himself as he sighed and let us pass through.

There were times that I couldn’t lie or layer my clothes in such an overt way because I made the mistake of going to the US with someone that had been black listed.  Declaring pained me, so I’d sneak a sweater or blouse into my over-sized purse and hope that my friend didn’t discover my little peccadillo.  Then, I started going with one of my dearest friends who could lose her job if she was caught lying at the border and a condition of cross border travel meant…shudders…being completely honest.  At first, I resented it, but as more time went by, and I was waved through without paying duty, even when I overspent, I started appreciating the weird freedom that honesty brought.  I no longer was tongue tied  when I spoke to Customs.  I also looked better – 3 pairs of pants and 5 sweaters is just FUGLY.

The last two trips that I took, I was declared positively everything to the dime, and guess what?  I got brownie points.  One nice Agents of the Shield gave me a discount because I was honest so I paid a measly $30 – think of it – you lie to save $30?  Not worth it in my humble opinion.  Last night, when I got back from New Orleans, I was over by $50 – but declared it anyway – I have to be honest because I have Nexxus Card.  Once again, I was rewarded for being a do-gooder and paid absolutely zip.

So what does this all add up to?  Do you really want to stammer haltingly through a border crossing or sweat through your new clothes to avoid a few dollars at the border?  I no longer do, and I do declare, it’s freeing.  Enjoy your travels.


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Why This Canadian Is Still With Her

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Photo courtesy of Time/Twitter

I’ve been a fan of Hillary Rodham Clinton since Bill Clinton’s Presidential campaign in 1992.  Her line –  “I suppose I could have stayed home and baked cookies and had teas, but what I decided to do was to fulfill my profession which I entered before my husband was in public life.” told me that this was a different kind of candidate.  Obsessed with US politics, I’ve watched every political convention and election since Ronald Reagan beat Jimmy Carter.  I never watch Canadian elections or debates, but for some reason, I can’t get enough of what’s happening in the US of A.  Maybe it’s the pomp and pageantry, the true power of our neighbours to the south.  I can’t answer that, but I can say that in 1992, I knew that Hillary wouldn’t be a traditional First Lady, and she wasn’t.  She was as accomplished and brilliant in her own right as her husband.

I’m not going to recite her resume for you, we all know that, but I can tell you that it was beyond exciting to see a woman on the ballot for President.  I, like many, were convinced that Hillary was going all the way to the White House.  I had my Hillary shirt on last night, and have a Madam President magnet on my refrigerator.  All the way through the election, Hillary was criticized for being too scripted, too studied, disingenuous, over-prepared, and a host of other sins that any Type A would find annoying.  She never lost her cool or said that I’m running for President, not Prom Queen – bless her heart.  I had the honour of seeing her speak several years ago, and yes, I’m sure she was paid for the event, but I don’t care.  She was warm, funny, brilliant and didn’t look at a single note.  I wish people could have seen the Hillary that I saw.  It was in that moment, that I realized that I was in the presence of greatness.  I’m not exaggerating.

“Flori-duh”, “Dump Trump”, “Lock Him Up” – these were some of the things going through my mind last night.  I had hope that she would pull out a victory, but at a certain point, it wasn’t meant to be, and my heart broke a little bit.  The glass ceiling was not going to be shattered, Bill wasn’t going to be First Gentleman and the Pant Suit Brigade was going to have to go for a new look.   It was a bitter pill to swallow.

Today, I found more reason to admire HRC as she gave her concession speech, tears in her eyes, in a rare display of emotion.  She showed grace and dignity in the face of abject disappointment.  Her speech, one of the most inspiring of her run, brought me to tears.  I learned valuable lessons from Hillary – love Trumps hate, showing graciousness in defeat says a lot about a person, a life devoted to service is a life well spent and never believe polls.  I know I’ve been broken-hearted, but I also learned from Hillary that you have to keep moving forward, so in my head, I’ve already committed to stop commenting on this election, it’s not my election, nor my country and it is what it is.  I want to leave you with the quotes that touched me the most from her speech today:

“To the young people, in particular, I hope you will hear this.

I have, as Tim said, spent my entire adult life fighting for what I believe in. I’ve had successes, and I’ve had setbacks… sometimes really painful ones. Many of you are at the beginning of your professional, public and political careers. You will have successes and setbacks too.

This loss hurts. But please, never stop believing that fighting for what’s right is worth it.”

“To all the little girls watching…never doubt that you are valuable and powerful and deserving of every chance and opportunity in the world.”

Thank you Hillary Clinton for inspiring me and for teaching a generation of little girls that nothing is impossible and to keep moving forward, even in the face of defeat.


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Shake it ‘Til You Make It

belly-dance

Our Troupe

A long time ago, in a hair colour far, far away, I began what is likely one of my life’s great passions – belly dance.  I started this hobby, like everything in my life…by accident.  My friend and I wanted to take Latin Dance and I called around, and ended up on the phone with my beloved dance teacher Samia.  She explained that all Latin dances come from Belly Dance and I should come and check out a beginner class.  My friend agreed and off we went.

I didn’t love it right away.  I had an instructor that was a little bit of a snooze for me, but we got to watch the advanced classes.  These ladies were amazing and turned me into a little wannabe.  One day, we were told that we were going to be in a recital, and I thought FAT CHANCE, NO WAY JOSE, NOT HAPPENING, so yup, you guessed, it, I got suckered into buying my first skirt and belt and practiced my little heart out.  As we practiced, Samia came into the room, with her French/Lebanese accent, and her watchful eye, she made me soooo nervous.  She always had a couple of corrections, then did a quick sweep around the room, and then left as quickly as she came in.  I was hooked, and hoped that one day, I’d learn from this master and literally, right after the recital, I joined her Wednesday class.

Samia was an amazing teacher.  When she taught us new choreography, she would dance a section for us, and when you watched her, it was magic.  Something swept over her  – it was like she was performing on a stage in some distant land, not in our little dance studio.    She was tough, don’t get me wrong, but once you got to know her, she became your dance mother.  She wanted to know about your life, and she learned so much about you.  There were no secrets with her, she just knew us so well, that it was impossible to not spill your guts.

Once you started performing, she would select a dance name for you.  I wondered what exotic name awaited me, as my fellow students walked away with  monikers like Najwa (meaning secret conversation), Aisha (alive) or some other names that implied strength.  I walked in and Samia smiled at me, and told me that my name would be Shams.  Ugh, I thought in my inside voice, it’s doesn’t end in a cute sounding vowel.  When I asked her what it meant, she told me, it means “The Sun”.  She then humiliated me, unintentionally, by telling me that it was because my cheeks are so cute when I smile, it charmed her so much that it reminded her of the sun.  Yup, tough girl, that’s me.  Eventually, it grew on me.

One day, Samia asked me to join her troupe as a performer.  The goal was to create shows, not recitals and that we would all pitch in with the hope of earning money just for doing what we all loved to do.  It was fun, but a lot of hard work practicing 3 days a week.  There was nothing better though, than performing with the troupe and seeing what choreography Samia would dream up.  Everything was amazing, until one day, our beloved teacher told us all some devastating news – she had to retire because of issues with her feet.  It’s hard to explain what it was like to hear that news.  She was a safety net for all of us, and we all fell apart that day.  I tried to stick with the school that she had built, but after less than a year, I gave up.  It just wasn’t the same.  I tried other places, but some people are irreplaceable, so after ten years, I put my costumes away and moved on.  Then, life happened and I got completely distracted by other things.

Late in August, over dinner, someone who knew that I used to dance asked very briefly why I didn’t do it anymore and my answer was lame.  I don’t even remember what it was, but I started thinking and thinking and thinking some more about it.  Within a few days, I was Googling belly dance schools all over Toronto trying to figure out which could be “the one”.  I had my first class tonight, deciding on a beginner course since it’s been so long.  It was GREAT.  The second song the instructor played was one of my old solos, so I knew that this was the right place.  It wasn’t easy at first, but once I started moving again, it just felt right.  It may not be the same as it was, but that’s OK, it doesn’t need to be.