The "Whiz-ard" That Is Dr. Oz

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An Evening at Look Good Feel Better

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Photo courtesy of GK! Thanks to PY for the special background.

In October, my sister Michele was diagnosed with breast cancer.  This was particularly difficult for my family, as my mother was fighting her own battle with the disease.  In the first few months, while my sister was adjusting to her busy appointment schedule, her chemo side effects and just the need to be available to be with our mother on days that she was feeling up to it, I didn’t want to broach going to a workshop with her.  She was handling everything like a champ, but if you knew how many appointments that she had you would be overwhelmed.

After some time passed, and we were clear on what side effects she would have from her treatment, I brought it up.  I thought it would be nice for us to go together and for my sister to have something to look forward to.  Just to be candid, Michele LOVES makeup.  She’s been wearing it since her teens and has a good idea of what looks good on her and she certainly isn’t afraid of colour.  Weirdly, no matter what she thinks, I’m always shocked at how good she looks, even without makeup.  This was surprising to me – I wasn’t sure what to expect.  She has been unbelievably accepting of losing her hair, and has a GREAT wig.  She still has some of her eyebrows too.  Anyway – she agreed to go to the workshop, so being Type A, I signed her up online and made sure that I could attend.  Each person attending can bring one guest – they won’t receive the goodies, but they are able to be there for moral support.

We went to Princess Margaret Lodge on February 27.  It’s set up in a conference room, and each attendee going through chemo or other cancer related treatment walks out with a bag full of cosmetics and skin care.  It’s laid out for the women since they use the products during the workshop. It was a pretty full class, and the volunteers take you through a presentation about Look Good Feel Better, and some of the challenges that patients have in dealing with the appearance based side effects of the disease.  Some of the patients were happy to be there and get tips on how to “Look Good”.  One person actually wasn’t emotionally ready for the workshop and left.

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After they did the initial presentation, they wanted someone from the group to volunteer to be the makeup model.  No one volunteered so I said, in my loudest voice, “Michele?”  My sister was pretty excited to model, so she happily took her place at the front of the class, and even though I couldn’t be the centre of attention, I got to live vicariously through her.  She was already wearing makeup, so after taking a chisel, oops makeup wipe, she was ready to be made pretty all over again, while the rest of the class followed the step by step instructions from the makeup artist.  To finish things off, my sister tried on a whole bunch of wigs – some of them looked really cute on her, one made her look a little like Morticia Addams, but hey, you don’t get to pick everything.  The women got to shout out which ones they wanted her to try.

I would highly recommend Look Good Feel Better to any woman who is going through cancer treatment.  You may think that you already know a lot about how to apply make up and skincare, but things change when you are going through treatment.  You have to learn tips for complexions that may be drier and more sallow, how to pencil in eyebrows and how to fake the look of having lashes.  It’s a really nice evening or daytime workshop and gives you the chance to think about yourself.  I think my sister was more excited by the free stuff, but then again, she’s always loved a freebie – trust me it’s part of her charm.  Seriously though, cancer takes so much from patients, a little pick me up and a way to feel better about yourself is well worth the time.  The volunteers are knowledgeable, kind and compassionate and the cosmetic companies should be commended for the donations to the program.

One recommendation that I would make to any woman going through a treatment where you will lose your hair – make getting a wig a priority.  Do this before your treatment, that way you are prepared when the time comes and you are feeling well enough to try them on.  You have to make an appointment with a wig shop – you can’t just walk in and try them on.  If you have benefits, many companies cover off between $300-$500 as long as you have a doctor’s note.  We also found out that you shouldn’t shave your head – it can lead to nicks that can get infected – a big nono for someone whose immune system is going to be compromised.  Michele bought her wig in advance, and our cousin Gail went with her.  She sent me a photo and it was perfect!  They both played a joke on me telling me that Michele wasn’t going to buy the wig that day. Hardy-har har.  They were just teasing to see what kind of reaction they would get out of me.  Sigh.  I think that my sister was glad to get the wig, and it is one less thing to worry about when there is so much going on already.

For more information or to register for a workshop go to https://lgfb.ca/en/ 

If you’ve attended the workshop, and have feedback, I’d love to hear about it!

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Brock McGillis – First but not Last

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Photo courtesy of Brock McGillis

Brock McGillis isn’t just a former OHL and professional hockey playing, having played in both the USA and Europe; he is also the first, and so far only, pro hockey player to openly come out as gay.  In addition to providing on and off-ice training with elite level hockey players in the City of Greater Sudbury, Brock also serves as a mentor and a motivational speaker.

With a mission to create equality regardless of sexuality, gender or race, and a focus of helping LGBTQ+ youth on loving themselves, he has an important message.  He also wants to help all youth shift their language, treat others with respect and become the support system that LGBTQ+ kids need.  I was deeply touched by his message.  I’m straight, or what’s considered an ally, but I have many people in my life from this community.  It absolutely breaks my heart to think of them being hated just for being who they are.  Anyone who knows me knows that I’m not a hockey fan.  The only sport I love watching is figure skating, but when you hear a story that is so humane, I needed to know more.  Brock was kind enough to call me and answer some questions.  To illustrate the kind of person that he is, this is someone who made the time to chat with me, even though he’s been interviewed by the likes of CBC’s The National, Yahoo and other bigger and better newspapers and blogs and for that I’m thankful.  Here are just some of the questions that I asked:

Children, including those that are part of the LGBTQ+ community have pressures on them that even you may not have experienced growing up.  For example, with social media, there is no escape from bullying, you can’t even get away from it at home.  What tips or tools do you recommend to help cope with these additional pressures?

First off, tell someone.  It’s hard to engage with a bully and I don’t encourage kids to do this.  You may not be in a place to confront the bully.  If I’m reactive to a bully, there will be a barrier.  If you are going to speak to them, personalize it.  For example, I ask them if they know that 95% of people know someone who is LGBTQ+.  It could be a family member or a friend.  Ask if they would want a person in their life to be hurt or if they would intentionally hurt them.  If there is an ally there, they should know that laughter hurts more than words.  Don’t laugh.  But the kid being bullied needs to stay strong and not react.

You have openly admitted that there was a time when you thought about taking your life.  If someone that you knew or was mentoring felt the same way, what is your advice to them?

Mental illness is becoming an epidemic.  There are resources available and help that is available so that you can find a support system.  Don’t hide your illness – people are there for you and want to help.  How can they not want to? Part of the issue is that mental health isn’t visible so people can’t always see your struggle.  You have to be open, then people can support you.

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Image courtesy of Brock McGillis

Many kids do not grow up in a household where they will be accepted if they are LGBTQ+.  How can they get help when they don’t have at-home support?  How can you get the courage to come out if you don’t know how people will react?

Pick your spot when  you come out.  You know your surroundings and what you are dealing with.  Come out when it’s feasible for you to move on, when you can be independent, not when there is the danger of you getting kicked out of the house.  You will feel better when you accept yourself.  You have to love yourself.  I love being a gay man.  I want people to be clear and hear that.  Once you love yourself, you can withstand hate.  But some people just need time.  We expect people to be OK with everything the minute that we come out.  We’ve had years to think about this, they haven’t  Some people just need time.

I read a quote of yours that was heartbreaking.  It was something to the effect of “…how badly I wanted approval in a world that did not approve of me.”  What do you say to someone who feels exactly the same way?

You don’t need approval, you have to approve of yourself.  It’s all internal.  When I starting approving of myself, it empowered me.  I stopped caring about what others thought.  You have to accept yourself.  Seeking acceptance from others implies a hierarchy.  No one is above or below anyone else.  We don’t need to accept others, and others don’t need to accept us.

What is the toughest question that any young person has asked you and how did you answer it?

It was actually at the second school that I spoke at – I was fresh into this, there were about 1,000 students.  There was a kid that had this arrogance about him, and his question out of everything that I was saying about my experience of coming out was “What about in the showers.  Isn’t it awkward for you and your teammates?”  I wasn’t reactionary, but I wanted to send a message.  I asked him if had siblings and a sister, and he said yes.  I asked if he played hockey, he said yes.  We are taught in hockey that we are all a family, all brothers, right?  Again the answer was yes.  Finally, I asked him if finds his sister hot and he turned beet red.  The whole school cheered.  I used the moment to inform and educate him while taking him down a peg.  I’m still in touch with him today and have mentored him in hockey.

How can we help as allies?

You can help in a number of ways.  You can start by being a shoulder for someone and showing that you care.  Voice your support for either a person being bullied or the LGBTQ+ community.  Some people show their support by going to Pride an marching or by going to a rally.

Other ways are more simple.  Treat everyone as an equal and help encourage openness by not being judgmental.  I like to say that normal doesn’t exist, we are all weirdos in our own way.  Having a discourse with someone that is struggling is always helpful.  It can also be a grassroots initiative by an individual to help create awareness.  Allies need to stand up, engage and educate.

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Image courtesy of Brock McGillis

Do you ever see hockey truly being integrated with makes and females playing on the same professional team?

It’s a difficult equation in professional hockey.  Men and women are built differently and it would be hard for a woman that is 5’1 to withstand hits from a man that is 6’7.  Goal tenders aren’t required to get involved in that level of fighting, so that may work.  I want the best players regardless of gender or sexuality. I just think physiologically it may be more difficult for women. It really is about the best players though – period.

My Take – I was curious about how a pro hockey player would answer this question.  Before all you women out there get all up in arms, think about it for a minute.  I’m not an expert, but from what I understand, women’s hockey doesn’t allow checking – it would add another dimension to their game.  If you think about it objectively, and you compare just on size alone, Brock has a very good point.  Maybe one day there will be women players in the NHL, then again, but maybe there won’t.   Either way, women can still play and participate.

Finally, as time is passing, we can’t forget about the children who have been touched by Humboldt tragedy.  What message do you have for them?

One of the survivors said, ” I haven’t cried and I won’t cry.  I’m a tough Canadian guy.”  Man, you need to cry, you need to grieve.  No one will judge you and if they do, to hell with them.  It’s so sad, and people will be mourning for a long time.  It won’t change overnight.  Hockey is Canadian culture and Canada is hugging you right now, holding you up.  We are all your support system and that won’t go away.

My last thoughts:  In September, 1995, Hillary Clinton stated the following “…let it be that human rights are women’s rights and women’s rights are human rights, once and for all,”.  We are at a point where we have to recognize that LGBTQ+ rights are human rights and LGBTQ+ rights are human rights.  We are living in a world right now where hate is, once again, becoming permissible.  In Russia, it’s OK to discriminate openly against gay men and women.  In the Middle East, gay men are marched off of roof tops to their deaths.  Gay men and lesbian women are forced into unwanted sex changes in Iran in order to be with the person that they love.   In North America, LGBTQ+ kids continue to be bullied on a regular basis and that frustration sometimes can lead to suicide.  It was an honour to speak with someone who is so passionate about helping kids in this community and is actively seeking to mentor them.

 

 


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The First Birthday Without You

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“Was Zaydie as good of a person as you remember him to be?” I asked my mother about my grandfather one day.  Everyone just thought he was a wonderful, kind gentleman, and my mother was the original Daddy’s Girl, but I was still curious.  “Oh no, Jill, he wasn’t.  He was better.”  Even though it’s only been 6 weeks, I can already tell you the same thing about my mother, she was better than I remember.   We had our first holiday without her two weeks ago.  Now, it’s her birthday and we are trying to figure out what to do.  I did a little self-torture, looking at birthday cards that I wouldn’t be able to give her.  That was the day that I got a little sign from her.  Last night, I read cards and poems online that people wrote to their dead mothers just to make sure that I could cry, although, there hasn’t been a shortness of tears on my part.  She really was special.

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Nobody loved a birthday more than my mother, especially the cake.  Every year, we had buy her the same cake – the repulsive store bought chocolate cake with the GIGANTIC pink roses.  She loved it, and every year for my birthday, when I was growing up, I got that very cake even though I hated it.  She’d always say “Tough luck.  I love it, and that’s what your getting.”  That was my mother – every inch a brat.  But before you write her off, that was only one part of my mother, she was so much more than that.  I could gush about how brave she was, but here is a quote from my cousin, a very religious and learned Rabbi, when I ask him for a quote for a treasured book in our family:

Judith Schneiderman returned her heroic,courageous and dearly beloved soul to her Maker on March 3, 2018. May She find comfort forever in the everlasting world. Rest peacefully. Never to be forgotten.

You see, my mother was heroic, not because she had cancer, but because of who she was.  You don’t become a hero because of a disease or because you die, you become one because of how you live you life and my mother lived her life with honour.  She was honest and giving and made decisions that were right, even when they weren’t right for her.

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I was told by many people how special my mother was to them.  One of her pottery teachers wrote this to me “I often told her that when I “grow up” I want to be just like her. “  Me too.  My mother loved life.  Even when she was at her sickest, she still lived it.  She managed her pain from cancer with nothing more than Tylenol until 6 days before her death when she couldn’t handle it anymore.  Even though she was bed-ridden the last year of her life, we still laughed, and she still loved having visitors.  She was still herself.  She was curious about everything and she never felt sorry for herself, not even once.  I wish that I could be as brave as she was.

To be a Motherless Daughter is a very sad thing.  My sister wrote these beautiful words:

“The end is the beginning

Bright lights…I cover my eyes

A slap, a cry, the journey of life begins

Daughter to wife, wife to mother

Motherless daughter, child no more

Full circle, light in my eyes and I cry.”

When my mother died, my sisters and I lost our last parent (and really, our only one).  My aunt lost her sister and became the last of the first generation of N’s (we all refer to ourselves as N’s, D’s or M’s in our family meaning the Zelikovitz brother that we belonged to, Nathan, David or Max) – a very difficult place to be.  My cousins lost their aunt and beloved cousin.  Her friends lost the joy of having my mother around.  It’s so hard on everyone.  Her friends and family called me today, thinking about her, and crying too.

“You can never count your mother out – she’s hard to predict because she’s so tough.”

“If you had told me a year ago, I’d still be standing here talking to you about your mother, I would have told you that we were both crazy.”

“Your mother was an absolutely lovely woman…She had a wonderful outlook/attitude that I admired deeply.”

Those are all direct quotes from her doctors.  Even they recognized the type of person that she was.  The week before she died, her palliative doctor told me that though she wasn’t conscious, she could still hear.  She said that it was important to keep talking to her.  With at least a dozen people in and out all day, every day, we never had to worry about her not having something to listen to.  Even then, everyone wanted to be around her.  My sisters and I talked to her all day, every day, no matter how hard it was on us, we told her that if she needed to go, that it was ok.  The doctor gave me one last piece of advice, because my mother was so strong, she had to know that she wasn’t dying because she wasn’t fighting hard enough, it was just that she was too sick from all of her illnesses to go on.  Everyday, I told her that she fought so hard, but she could stop fighting and rest.  And eventually, she did, in her own time, in her own way.

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I’m often told by people what a wonderful relationship that I had with my mother, and some even said that they wished that they could have had the same kind of bond with theirs.  My favourite photo is the black and white picture above you – even though it’s not perfect, it perfectly illustrates us.  No one ever has made me laugh harder than she did, and no one ever had a better mother.  I spent a lot of time with her the last year, and many times, before I’d leave she’d say thank you to me for something that I did for her.  I’d always tell her that you never have to thank me, I wish I could do more.  I should have said, “No Mummy, thank you.  Just thank you.”  Wherever she is, I hope that she knows that on her birthday, and every single day, how much she is loved and missed.

 

 

 


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A Sign From Above

Mom Blog

Sorry for the language!!!!!!!

When you lose someone that you love, you wait for a sign that they are still somehow connected to you.  On the day of my mother’s funeral, March 5th, it was beautiful and  sunny with just a little coolness in the air.  When we got to the cemetery, early in the afternoon and they lowered her into the ground, all of a sudden, it got so warm and the sun started shining even more brightly.  You can think I’m crazy if you want, but I knew that it was a sign from our mother that she was at peace and happy with her roadside spot in her final resting place.  Seriously, I couldn’t have picked a better spot for her – she was always a nosy parker, and now, she can watch the world go by, see who will join her next at Mount Sinai Memorial Park and even have a clear view of the planes flying overhead (she always had to point out whenever a plane flew past her condo or over her car, or just anytime she saw one.  I called her “the air-traffic controller”).

The second sign came once shiva (7 days of mourning in Judaism) was over.  We had lit a candle that was supposed to last for 7 days.  No, we didn’t get a lame miracle where it lasted for 14 days.  The interesting thing was that one the seventh day, it went out when my oldest sister left the room, and I was alone.  Why is this interesting you ask?  When my mother died, my oldest sister left the room, I was holding my mother’s hand, and within 30 seconds of her leaving the room, my mother passed away.  I don’t think that this was a sign that I was her favourite, really her actions demonstrated this, or at least I like to think so.   It was, I believe,  because she did not want my sister, who is also suffering from breast cancer, to be more upset than she needed to be.  I think that she knew that I needed to be there at that moment, but she also knew that it wasn’t the best thing for either of my sisters.  When the shiva candle went out when I was alone in the room, I think it was just reinforcing the message.

After that, there was really nothing.  I was really upset and giving up hope that I’d ever hear from my mother again.  Day after day would pass, and nothing.  As much as I miss her, I thought maybe I’d have to live with those two tiny messages.  Then today, something amazing happened.  I called my oldest sister crying because it’s our Mom’s birthday on April 15, and now is the time that I’d start looking for cards for her.  It made no sense, but it really bothered me today. My sister told me that I could still get her a card, but that only made me cry harder because I couldn’t give it to her.  I mean, where am I supposed to send it?  Judy Schneiderman, C/O Heaven, #1 Divine Drive, Cloud 13, 90210?

Anyway, I decided to torture myself and look at birthday cards for her.  Maybe I would buy one, just for old time’s sake, and leave it at the cemetery for her.  As I was leaving the store, Papyrus to be exact, I spotted a table of gift books.  They had some cute ones, Advice from Coco Chanel, The Newlywed Cookbook, among others.  Then, I spotted the very book that you see up there in the photo, “You Drive Like An A$$h&le”.  Why is this so special?  My mother used to have the worst road rage, and that was one of her rants!  She would scream something to this effect, shake her tiny fist at the offending driver, then flip them the bird.  She said other things, but I’m a lady, and would never type them here.  I would then make fun of her, and she’d smile her million dollar smile, after telling me that she wasn’t wrong. This was the sign that I was looking for.  What are the odds that I would walk into a card store looking for a birthday greeting for my deceased road-raged mother, and spot this book, which I’ve never seen before?  I think it was my mother’s way of giving me a little reminder of her, and making me laugh, when all I wanted to do was cry.

You can think I’m making things up, or reading into things.  You may have your own tale of seeing a butterfly, a dragonfly, a ladybug, a mysterious phone call or even feel someone flick your hair.  That’s great for you, as for me, I’ll take this sign from my little Mommy any day of the week.

 


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A Eulogy And More

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One day, I was rolling my eyes at my mother as she said something completely inappropriate.  I told her that just because she is older doesn’t mean that she can say everything that she thinks.  She corrected me immediately, and said, “Oh Jill, that’s where you are wrong.  I don’t just say everything I think, I say everything that I feel, and I feel a lot.”  At the time, I laughed, because in true Mummy fashion, it was a pretty funny statement, and she had a little evil gleam in her eye – the one that she got when she thought that she was getting away with something.  Well, Mummy, I feel a lot too.  I feel happy that you were my mother, but so sad that you aren’t here with me right now.  Not quite two weeks ago, on March 3, my mother died.  I’m lucky to have so many memories, but as some of you know, losing a loved one is hard.  Over the next little bit, you are going to be hearing more about her, and the process of putting it all back together again. I thought I’d start with my Eulogy for her:

Karl Geurs and Carter Crocker once wrote: “If ever there is tomorrow when we’re not together…there is something you must always remember. You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think. But the most important thing is, even if we’re apart…I’ll always be with you.” That tomorrow came sooner than we all hoped but this quote described to me everything that I’ve ever needed to know about our wonderful mother, sister, grandmother, aunt, cousin and friend, Judy.

Mummy – you are the bravest person in the world.  Forgive me, I can’t use the past tense just yet.  It’s too soon to think of a world without you.  You re-started your life, moving to Toronto, making an entirely new network of friends through bridge and pottery.  You tried new things, you were open to living a new life and you kept your old friends in the process.  You did things on your own and never complained.  You faced the deaths of so many people that you loved, including your parents, our beloved grandparents, Nathan and Sara Zelikovitz, your aunts and uncles and cousins that you were so close to.  You continued to fight throughout your illnesses surprising even the doctors with your determination and moxie.  You constantly surprised everyone else, including me with your chutzpah and hilarity.  You are the only person that I know that could be bribed by fudge and jelly beans.

At under 5 feet tall, you never looked like you could take on the world, but you are definitely the strongest person that I’ve ever met.  You suffered more than you ever should have with the pain and fatigue from cancer – especially near the end.  You bounced back after not just one, but two heart attacks.  Your other issues could fill a medical journal, yet you so rarely complained.  We used to joke around with each other about your illnesses – either calling you a disease of the week movie or telling you that I never knew which charity walk to do for you, Heart and Stroke, Breast Cancer, Diabetes or Gout.  You would always say – do the walk for gout – no one ever does that one because it hurts so damn much that no one can walk.    You are such a survivor that I called you a cockroach, saying that you, and only you could survive a nuclear war.  I asked you once “Mummy, how do you do it?” and you said “How do I do what?” and I said “Survive” and I’ll never forget your answer.  “Because, I want to live”.  And live you did.

You lived a big life.  You had many friends; a close family and so many of us loved and admired you.  You had a curious nature, a wicked sense of humour, a bratty disposition, but you were the most caring person.  You worried about everyone when the weather was poor.  A drop of rain on the ground was the only thing, aside from mice that you ever seemed to fear.  Not for yourself, but for your children.  I always got a frantic call from you warning me of the rain or snow.  I had to reassure you that I had a coat and umbrella with me but unless I was at home, you were still fearful that sweet little me would melt.  You were modern in thought and always told us that women could do anything that men could do (except maybe open a jar and kill a spider).   You cared for and sacrificed for us and we won’t forget that.

I hope that we can all be as brave as you are Mummy.  When you lose your mother, you feel so alone in the world.  That person, the only person in some cases, that knows your history is lost to you forever.  I know that you’d want us to go on, and live and stay strong, and we will, but it’s going to be so hard without your love and guidance which brings me to the fact that you are smarter than you think.  You are brilliant Mummy – although you have the worst sense of direction.  You were forever lost, turning the wrong way; never understanding east, west north and south.  You always wanted us to tell you right and left, and then you’d just turn in whatever direction you felt like going, which was always the wrong one.  You were gifted in every other way though.

You weren’t just quick-witted; you were smart in a way that many of us just are not.  You read people and situations.  You predicted outcomes.  You were world-wise, but not world-weary. You were an artist – yes I admit it.  Your pottery wasn’t flawed, maybe just a little tilted in some cases, but it really is art.  You made jewelry, needlepointed and were an amazing cook.  You weren’t just a giver of advice (whether I wanted it or not), you were my financial advisor, my doctor, my home economics teacher, my lawyer and my everything.  We all don’t know what we are going to do without your wisdom.  I’m guessing that we’ll pick up the phone to ask you a question and realize that thanks to you, we may already know the answer after our heart breaks a little knowing that you won’t be at the other end of the call.

Mummy – you will be missed by all of us more than you will ever know.  I hope that you knew how much you are loved, admired and respected.  You are without a doubt, the person that I look up to the most in the world.  We were all so lucky to have you in our lives.  Your doctors once said to you that the goal for you was to live the best life that you can, for as long as you can, and that you did.  I’d like to say that cancer didn’t beat you – you beat cancer.  Cancer never robbed you of who you are as a person.  You were always, thankfully still your brave, strong, smart self.  You were the brat that made us all laugh and the loving person that is making all of your friends and family cry right now.

To close, a quote by AA Milne that perfectly sums up how I’m feeling today – “How lucky am I to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.”  How lucky indeed, Mummy.  I love you, good-bye for now.

XOXO


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London, Can You Wait? A Peak into An Author’s Life And Writing

London Can You Wait

Image courtesy of Jacquelyn Middleton

Award winning self-published author, Jacquelyn Middleton recently published her second book, “London, Can You Wait?”.  It’s a sequel to her hit contemporary romance, “London Belongs to Me.”  As much as Middleton may be a fan girl with certain movie and TV stars, that’s how this avid reader feels about authors.  Even though I know Jackie, I still fan-girled a little when I got to speak with her about her latest release and what it was like to be a self-published author.  I think that if you are someone who has written, published and promoted a book on your own, that too is a love story all of it’s own.  It’s so much work, and there is so much of yourself invested in the process.  Middleton is proof that if you want something badly enough, you can make it happen.

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Image Courtesy of Jacquelyn Middleton

1) Why write a sequel?

I really missed the characters and selfishly, wanted hang out with them a little bit more. I also received so many requests from readers wanting to know what happens next, so I thought, why not? London, Can You Wait? is technically a sequel, but it can be read as a standalone.

2) Will this be a series?

As of right now, London Belongs to Me and London, Can You Wait? will remain a duology. I’m currently writing my third book and while it’s not a sequel to my London books, it does follow the same time line and takes place in the same world, so characters from the other books may be known by the new characters and may appear. Which ones? I’m not saying! It also takes place in New York City, so it’s fun to explore one of my other favourite cities in a literary sense. I did toy with writing a third London Belongs book because I was so sad when I finished writing London, Can You Wait?—it was like losing a bunch of friends—but I didn’t want to ruin a book thing. Sometimes, no matter how much fun you had, it’s time to leave the party.

3) What was the process like writing your second book versus your first?

 I feel like London, Can You Wait? is a more complex book than London Belongs to Me.  There are more layers, there are flashbacks, which I’ve never written before and I must admit it challenged me, but I ended up loving it! The flashbacks were easy to write and I think that’s down to knowing the characters so well.
The research process was basically the same. I like to make my settings as real as possible so I visited the places I featured in the books. It definitely helps that I love London and these places were settings I’d be visiting anyway! But there were a few new places I found while doing online research and then I followed up with an in-person visit before the book went to the editor just to make sure I had all the details right.  With my first book, I spent a ton of time at the National Theatre which is a major setting. There are lots of little corners, stairwells, cafes, great areas for scenes. I sat in Alex’s writing spot to understand what she would see and hear. I also had been to all the theatres mentioned, spent weekends out at London Fields, and literally walked (or drove) following the paths of my characters. When I’m trying to figure out where a character will live, I check real estate listings—that’s how I learned about an amazing apartment near Tower Bridge, Lucy’s flat, and all the other locales.
As for writing, I tend to do rewrites of previous chapters in the morning and then in the afternoon, right ahead into the story. I know that goes against what many writers do. Many get their first draft down and then go back and edit, but I don’t work that way. I have trouble moving ahead if I haven’t cleaned up issues that are nagging at me earlier on. Writing both books became easier the further I went in the process. I think you learn more about the characters as you go and it makes it easier to know how they’ll react, what they’ll say. It’s fun.

4) What was it like to market the first book on your own?

It was a lot of work, but it was also nice to have control over everything!  Between my husband Darren and I, we updated the website, sent out books and bookmarks, and worked with bloggers, BookTubers, and Instagram’s “Bookstagram” community to get the word out.  I love giveaways and do a lot of them as a way to reach out to readers and give something back. All our hard work was worth it. Within its first year, London Belongs to Me sold several thousand copies, which is huge for an independent author’s debut.  People from all over the world—Japan, Puerto Rico, Columbia, Germany, Italy, Saudi Arabia, Mexico—have read London Belongs to Me and it’s still selling, which makes me very happy, and most of those readers are continuing Alex and Mark’s journey with London, Can You Wait?—it’s so wonderful to see.

5) What do you attribute the success of your books to?

I think the covers pull people in. People love them and so do I. They’re stunning. That’s one of the great things about being an indie, you can create your own covers (traditionally published authors don’t have much, if any, say in their covers). Darren and I worked together on both covers. I found photos I loved and he did all the magic with licencing and photoshop, and the work paid off—there have been over 300 photos posted on Instagram and that number keeps growing weekly. Once people bought the books and went beyond the covers, I think they loved Alex’s story. Who doesn’t like a fish out of water story about an underdog and her friends—with a swoony, angsty romance? With London, Can You Wait? you also learn much more about Mark and his family as well as Lucy, Freddie and the gang. People who love the books really love them and their word of mouth and wonderful reviews have been so helpful. I also received rave reviews from Kirkus Reviews and RT Book Reviews which gave the industry’s thumbs up which is always amazing to have.

6) Which book release was more nerve-wracking?

London, Can You Wait? for sure.  With the first book, it was a personal challenge—write a book and publish it, see if I could do it. The process was fun and there really wasn’t any pressure. No readers knew me, I didn’t have people to please. With my second book, I had new personal pressure to make London, Can You Wait? even better than London Belongs to Me. I learned so much writing London Belongs to Me—what worked, what didn’t, what to change for next time—I think my second book was all the better for it. Plus, with my second book, I had readers waiting and there was pressure (from myself) to give them something they would enjoy.

7) I know that you are writing a third book.  Do you feel more confident as a writer now?

Yes and no.  I write for myself first.  If I’m happy with what I’m writing, I hope that someone else will enjoy it too.  None of my books are perfect, but I know that I’m evolving in the right direction.  A good review, like one I received on Kirkus, is wonderful validation, but ultimately, I have to be happy with the book first or I’m not going to put it out there.  I do think that London, Can You Wait? is better written than London Belongs to Me, but I love them both so much.

8) How much attention do you pay to negative reviews?

I have learned that if I read a bad review, it ruins me for writing that day, so I don’t read them anymore. My books have received more positive reviews than negative ones, but you can see tons of good reviews and you’ll still focus on the bad one. It’s human nature.  I have spoken to really successful authors for my Authors Celebrating Authors feature on my website and they have told me the same thing. They avoid reading reviews too, or have someone else look at them and then report back!

9) How much editing was involved in “London, Can You Wait?”

I had more beta readers for London, Can You Wait? and I hired a professional editor who polished it all up. I only did one or two rounds of edits. It didn’t take too long at all.

10) Back to the book… You received a lot of positive feedback on your heroine, Alex Sinclair’s anxiety and making it such an important part of the plot.  As an author, how does it feel to make such a big impact on people?

I like that my books are making it easier for people to talk about anxiety and panic attacks. I have had readers email me and say that my books helped them realize they weren’t alone and it’s okay to have anxiety, that they shouldn’t be ashamed. As an anxiety sufferer myself, that’s been the best thing about publishing Alex’s story. In many ways, parts of Alex’s story are my story especially with the anxiety arc. When I started writing, I really wanted to put a spotlight on anxiety and panic attacks, and try in a small way to break down the stigma that they have. Too often, people think anyone with a mental illness is weak, and that’s just not the case. Alex is actually a very strong, brave gal. She’s not weak because she has anxiety—her strength actually stems from it and all she has had to go through, and I hope her journey will help more people realize it’s okay to be open about mental health. We need to talk about it, share our experiences, and inform people who are ignorant about mental health. I’m so proud of Alex and who she has become. If she were real, I’d give her a huge hug.

11) How do you think that the characters grew in book two versus where they were in book one, or did their flaws continue to be an issue?

Characters must change or the book will be a bore, and my characters change a lot in London, Can You Wait?.  It kicks off a year after London Belongs to Me, so the characters have already changed somewhat before you even start the first page. When I think back to my early twenties, there was so much growth and change at that age. All the characters have grown up a bit. They still love their fandoms but they also have jobs, relationships, and are trying to find their independence. I think their romantic attachments are more grown up too (this is my way of saving London, Can You Wait? is racier than London Belongs to Me!).

12) What does success look like for you for this book?
I hope more people fall in love with Alex and Mark. To me, that’s success, to reach more readers and have them enjoy my books. I also want to continue the anxiety, panic attack, mental health dialogue and London, Can You Wait? has been celebrated for that arc, so in that way, the book has already been successful. It’s getting that message out and I couldn’t be happier.

13) Give my readers your top picks for British snacks and candy?

  1. Cadbury Chocolate Buttons
  2. Cheese and Onion Crisps
  3. Jaffa Cakes
  4. Percy Pigs
  5. Pickled Onion Monster Munch

14) Cast the movie of this book!

I know who I would cast, but I never share that info! I want readers to cast the books themselves and I would hate to interfere with who they envision as the characters.

You can buy Jacquelyn Middleton’s book in-store (Indigo) or online at:Amazon.ca and Amazon.co.uk, Barnesandnoble.com, chapters.indigo.ca, kobo.com, itunes.apple.com

 


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Happy New Year & Looking Back

Snuggie

I wish some days, that I could hide out in my Snuggie

Every year, I used to diligently write out my New Year’s Resolutions.  Some years, the list was long, and other years, I decided to take it easy on myself and just put one or two items.  One thing is always the same, on December 31, I take a look at what I wrote the year before to see how close I came to whatever my goals were.  I took a look today, and interestingly, I only wrote 3 things last year and only one could truly be considered a resolution: 1) 2017 will be a year of change, 2) Change jobs (that’s all I wrote for that) and 3) Year of Yes.

The last sentence simply meant that I had to say yes to everything.  Every time someone asked me to do something, I had to say yes, unless there was an excellent reason not to.  I love trying new things and sometimes, it’s just about saying yes to an opportunity.  That’s something that will be a lifelong goal for me – no is only permitted for things that are unhealthy, plain gross or criminal (no using crack, eating boogers or jumping out of a plane without a parachute), no meat (except chicken or fish – I can’t bear to) or no if there is a more urgent manner.  Other than that, nothing is off the table.

The second statement, or the only resolution in the small list, change jobs, did happen.  Along with that came a sense of work/life balance that I’ve never had.  I now have the time to do things, be places, run errands and see my friends and family.  Things that were once ignored are now seen.  When I walk down the street, my head isn’t in my iPhone so that I can just answer one more email.  I see things that were always there that I have never noticed before.  Gone are the deep, dark circles that had a permanent residence under my eyes.  I’m more present when I’m with people, and can actually pay attention to them without constantly checking my emails.  I never have that harried, pressured feeling that I used to have, and that’s good for my health too.  Unemployment was short – ten weeks – but, thoroughly enjoyable.  It was busy in a way that I wasn’t expecting, but I did have time to take a course, meet up with friends and catch up on some life things that I had been putting off.  I’ve always had the need to experience things and unemployment, weirdly, was something that I wanted to try out.

Last, but not least, the white elephant in the room – 2017 will be a year of change.  I weirdly felt this last New Year’s Eve.  Other than just the job, there have been sweeping changes that have mostly been out of my control and that some days felt like they may break my heart.  When illness falls on people you love, in many ways, it hurts more deeply and profoundly than when it happens to you.  When you are the patient, in many ways, you are steering your ship.  What you do can help or hurt you.  You know exactly how you feel and what you wish people would do for you.

When you are the observer and sometime care giver, it’s a different case.  You have to learn everything without a manual.  You become adept at things that you probably never wanted to learn.  You have to accept things for what they are, and give yourself time to get to the point of acceptance.  Like the patient, your life changes in ways that you never wanted, but unlike the patient, you have to step aside and realize that you aren’t the important person in the equation – you are a support system that needs to learn how to take care of yourself while putting yourself second.  You have to be optimistic enough to know that there will be days that are good, and prepared to know that there will be some days that will be very, very bad where you feel helpless or even worse, hopeless, only to bounce back again. Sometimes knowing that you will feel happy again, you will laugh again and you will get through the worst days does help.  So does knowing that you have people that care and support you.

The most important lesson that I’ve learned this year and that I will carry with me forever, is that people don’t always know how important that they are to you.  I’ve never been the best at telling people how much they mean to me.  I force myself at times, but in general, I don’t do it often enough.  It’s so cliche, but you never know what can happen in life and how important of a message this is for someone to hear.  I’m going to be kind to myself this year and not bog myself down with too many resolutions, but one thing that I will try to be better at is letting people know what they mean to me and be there for them if they need a shoulder to cry on.  Some days, the support that I received was beyond what I was expecting, and I’m very grateful.

Whether I know you or you just drop by to read my little blog, I’m wishing you and your loved ones a happy, healthy 2018!