The "Whiz-ard" That Is Dr. Oz

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The Bravery Bell

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“Promise me you’ll remember, you’re braver than you believe, stronger than you seem and smarter than you think.” – A. A. Milne, Christopher Robin.

In many hospitals that have chemotherapy wards, you’ll find a Bravery Bell.  The idea is that any cancer patient that finishes their last chemo session gets to ring it, much like the bells that end a round of boxing.  I’ve had the opportunity on several occasions to hear the bell ring, and each time, it brings a smile to my face and wish that I could join the systemic care team in applauding the latest patient that completed their treatment.  The last time that I heard it ring though, it also made me think about so many things.

Many patients with cancer face a different type of battle – their chemo never ends.  Are they any less brave than the ones who get to complete their treatment?  Shouldn’t they get to ring the bell too?  Others are treated with radiation – when their treatments end, they don’t have a bell to ring.  How about the family members that accompany the patients to their treatments, trying not to show any outward signs of fear, even though inside they are terrified of what their loved one will go through.  Trying every day to lift their spirits, trying to feel hope even when there may not be any.  Aren’t they brave too?

How about the wonderful nurses that provide such diligent care to each and every patient in the Chemotherapy Centres.  The nurses that quietly make sure that each and every patient is comfortable and warm and that their families are clear on what will happen.  The nurses who care about patients when they are at their sickest and most vulnerable.  If I could, I’d ring the Bravery Bell for them.  How about the doctors, no matter what the discipline, that contact patients and family members to reassure them and answer each and every one of their questions.  They too should get to ring that bell.

Cancer is the great equalizer.  Whether you are rich or poor, black or white, straight or gay, male, female or transgender, it doesn’t discriminate – anyone can get it.  It is unique in that the cure or the life prolonger often makes you sicker than the disease.  It makes patients, families, health care providers and care givers braver than they ever thought possible.

To learn more about the Bravery Bell and the nurse who brought it to Princess Margaret Hospital, click here https://www.thestar.com/life/health_wellness/2015/09/19/for-donna-the-bravery-bell-tolls.html


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The Serenity of Unemployment

Serenity

Image courtesy of me and a trip to Norway

Last May, I had a conversation with a now former colleague that I’ve known for many years.  She put a bug in my ear about how much I would love a contract job, or just some needed time off.  We talked about it for quite awhile, and she made me think of the excitement of possibility.  I know that not having a job isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, and it wasn’t something that I was sure about either, but as time went on, I became more emboldened and couldn’t get the idea out of my little head.  I’m not alone, but I worked very hard for so many years, the thought of taking some time away really sounded like a dream.  Some health issues with someone that I’m very close to also helped me see things  very differently.

You are not going to get any employer bashing here.  If you are reading this in your twenties or even early thirties, please take some very valuable advice from me,  every job has it’s ups and downs, but you should never be open about the downs or reveal anything confidential about the ups in social media or the blogosphere.  It’s not professional and it’s really not ethical unless you are a female Fox employee or work for United Airlines. For a very long time, I got to work with an amazing bunch of people, and for that, I will always be grateful.   There just comes a time in your life when you need a massive change and this is my time.  I need to find my next decade job, meaning that it will be long term in a company that I can grow with.  I’ve reached a place where I need to be a student rather than a teacher.  Learning is growing, and that can only come when you shake yourself out of your comfort zone.

In the last 6 weeks, I haven’t had a single moment of boredom.  Granted, I’ve been busy helping with a sick family member, which has taken up quite a bit of time, but I also made a conscious decision to say yes to everything, even if I wasn’t sure about it and to do things to better myself.  I’ve signed up for a digital marketing course to brush up on my skill set, agreed to volunteer for a marketing association and signed up for unlimited belly dance lessons and dance workshops so that I could get back to where I was eight years ago when I was part of a professional dance company.  I agreed to give a talk on social media and blogging at a local college’s marketing class.  I’ve met up with former colleagues and friends that I haven’t had the chance to spend anytime with over the past year.  I’ve said yes to every invitation that has come my way – there really is no excuse now for me to say no.  I’ve done some jobs around the house that I’ve been putting off – who really wants to clean venetian blinds slat by slat?  I’ve done stupid things that people have suggested so if you need someone to do that Flight Simulator or Edgewalk with, I’m your girl.  I’ve come up with theme days that I want to do once a week while I’m off that include but aren’t limited to:

  • Gift Card Day –  what better way to go on a shopping spree than to use up all of the gift cards that I haven’t touched!  My Master Card has points for a department store gift card in Canada, so I’ll cash those points in too.
  • Free Day – look up fun things to do that cost absolutely nothing.
  • TV Day –  a day to binge watch one show.
  • Magazine Day – you guessed it – read a bunch of magazines, all in one day.
  • Book Day – I signed up for a fifty book pledge this year, so I need to finish one book in a day.
  • Decluttering Day(s)- do I really need to explain this?
  • Kijiji Day – a day to photograph and post some of the things that I want to see if I can sell on Kijiji and other similar sites.
  • Neighbourhood Day(s) – every week, pick a neighbourhood in my city, either on my own or with friends and fall in love with Toronto all over again.
  • Culture Days – I’ll fall asleep if I go to multiple museums in one day, so I’ll spread this one out.  I went to see Strictly Ballroom this weekend with my sister and some friends – I’m counting that.  I’m going to see if I can convince someone to go to an art exhibit that’s in Toronto too.
  • Movie Day – I’ve never been to a movie by myself before, and I think it will be a good experience.  Once I’ve gone, I’ll come back and binge watch movies on Netflix or TMN.
  • Bad Job Day – doing all the ugly jobs and tedious errands that I need to do.
  • Spa Day – to recover from all of these brainiac ideas.

Over the last few weeks, I’ve felt more like myself than I have in a very long time.  I’ve started paying attention to my surroundings because I no longer have to have my face buried in my cell phone while I’m walking so that I can get one more email off of my plate.  I actually listen to the people that I’m with when I’m out instead of doing a mental to do list.  I’ve talked to strangers, got to pat some cute dogs on the subway and don’t fret while waiting in line, because I know that my turn will come.

I know that soon, I’ll have a new job  because that’s the way that life goes, but retirement practice has been fulfilling.  People may not be in the same headspace about this as me, and I totally respect that, but if you find yourself unemployed, whether it’s your choice or not, try to make the most out of the time.

 


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When A Goose Attacks

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Image courtesy of Buzzfeed

“I was attacked by a Canada Goose” said a text from my middle sister.  “The coat or the animal?” I quickly wrote, eager to find out if my sister was strong-armed by a sales person trying to pawn one of the  jackets before the season ended.  Most people can’t even afford the “down” payment on those coats.  “The animal” she replied with tears in her eyes (I’m guessing).  I proceeded to laugh for at least ten minutes, somewhat hysterically, before picking up the phone and pleading with her, in between giggle fits, to give me the complete honk by honk, oops, I mean blow by blow.  The more she spoke, the more I howled with laughter.  Cheer up Eeyore, it was bound to happen to one of us.

Now before you have a “bird” on me, I did make sure that she was alright in between my laughing fits.  When I spoke to her this morning, she told me to have a “gander” at videos of goose attacks.  The attack happened to her when she was innocently trying to use an ATM in downtown Oakville.  That’s what you get for “nesting” in the suburbs.  She turned her back, and her “goose was cooked”.  The bird bit her back with it’s toothless beak, twisting, but causing no damage.  It attacked again, flapping it’s wings at her head, causing a migraine, but luckily no “goose egg” on her noggin.  Surprisingly, even though it was a Canada Goose, it wasn’t polite enough to give her a sorry.  I wonder if the “Portugeese” are the nicer ones?

I’m not sure if there was a gosling close by, but my sister is an animal lover, even feeling sorry enough for the birds to eschew down products.  Now, it’s a different story – she thinks that those “birdbrains” belong in a coat, pillow or duvet.  The attack really came out of nowhere.  The only advice that I could give her for next time was to “duck” or blow her nose at the bird.  I always did say that it sounded like a mating call for a goose when she blows her nose.  If you are chased by a goose, you can always “wing it” depending on the direction of the attack “beak-cause” it can be difficult to judge what’s going to make them “fly off the handle”.  Maybe just tell it to “flock off”?

My sister really isn’t a “chicken” and so maybe I should give it a nest, I mean rest already. I apologize to you all, my faithful readers, if you found this post a little “fowl”.  Maybe I’ll get my sister a little gift for letting me write about her ordeal – nah, I’m too “cheep”.  I’m off for some bedtime reading, “Mother Goose” anyone?

 

 


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My Day In Court

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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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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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Shake it ‘Til You Make It

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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.

 

 

 


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London Belongs to Me – The Final Chapter

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I admire writers…I always have.  Being an avid reader, it constantly amazes me that people can sit at a computer and create story arcs and dialogue and characters.  To know someone that has actually done this, is nothing short of inspirational.  I know that I write this little blog, but creating a book out of thin air and taking the time and the discipline to see the story through to the end is not within my skill set.  Luckily, I know Jacquelyn Middleton (JM), author of “London Belongs to Me” and even though I will never write a novel, I wanted to share her advice with you, my lovely readers, in case any of you were thinking about where to start.  Since she also writes magazine articles, I’m keeping that advice in too!

Q: How long did it take you to write the book and what was your process?

JM: Just over a year start to finish.  I came up with the characters and idea before I wrote the actual book.  I made bibles on each character.  I read books that related to my writing experience.  I needed to learn structure, character development, story arcs, scenes,  and acts.  I knew nothing and had no formal training!  I used highlighters and sticky notes to keep organized.  I always wanted to be a writer and I built the story from the ground up.

Q: How did you know when you were done?

JM: You just have to stop.  I could still  be writing and editing the book because it’s never perfect.  I read and edited it so many times.  I did have a great support system thanks to my family and friends.  My husband even read the book backwards to help with the editing.  I just knew that I wanted to create a book that I’d want to read.

Q:  What does writing success mean for you?

JM: With “London Belongs to Me” it was just getting it done and having it in my hands.  When I received the first proof, I knew that even if no one reads it, that’s a feeling that no one can take away from me.  It’s so special.

Q: How did you go about getting your book published?

JM: It’s self-published under Kirkwall Books.  There are many self-publishing companies out there.

Q:  What’s the difference in the process for writing a book versus a magazine?

JM: It’s very different.  Magazines are fact based and fact checked, where books can be fictional.  Each is telling a different type of story.  Magazine articles are based on different types of interests like health, fitness, travel, pets and sometimes interviews and again, based on fact.

Q:  If you were to give your 20 year old self advice on your future career, what would it be?

JM: You can do it, don’t be scared – just try.  I didn’t think that I could finish a book before, I was afraid of failure.  I tried writing in other ways like the Leaf’s Newsletter (a hockey newsletter) and was the editor of my high school newspaper.  Now, I’ve got “London Belongs to Me”.

Q: What would you say to people who want to write a book or magazines articles and don’t know where to start?

JM: Just do it!  Remember though, that the magazine industry is shrinking and writing for web is the new reality.

Q: Last question – what are your favourite books?

JM: “Charlotte’s Web” is my favourite childhood book.  Karen Swan’s “Christmas at Tiffany’s” is a favourite.  “You Had Me at Hello” by Mhairi McFarlane is great Women’s Fiction.  I just love reading a book because you get to see how the characters are cast in your head as you visualize who you think they are.

Get London Belongs to Me on October 14th when it goes on sale.  You can also pre-order it now from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iTunes, Waterstones, Foyles, Indigo, and Chapters!  Just a couple of more days until you get to read this amazing first novel.  Thanks again Jackie for being such an inspiration and for answering all of my questions.