The "Whiz-ard" That Is Dr. Oz

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Shark Beach

 

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The brave diver!

Every once in awhile, someone that I know does something so incredible, inspiring and interesting (all of the i’s) that I am compelled to write about it.  Such is my friend, Laura.  Laura is an avid diver, having been on 350 dives since her certification in 1999.  The underwater adventure that you are about to read about is for very experienced  divers only – please note the number of dives that Laura has been on and the years of that she has been doing this.  Most reputable operations require you to have a certain amount of experience anyway.  In other words, don’t be a dummy – if you have never even put a pair of flippers on before, this isn’t for you.  This post has been double checked by Laura for accuracy.

I’ve known Laura for a number of years, starting off as colleagues, then graduating into friends.   Laura is one of the smartest, most positive people that you will come across.  If you are lucky enough to know her, you already understand the extent of her kindness, good will and zest for life.  She is also a very talented seamstress. Everyday, during the time that I worked with her, I’d have to ask if she made the outfit that she was wearing, that’s how good her frocks are! Seriously, she missed her calling – she could have been the Dolce to Gabbana, the Y to YSL, the Coco to Chanel, the Alice to Alice + Olivia –  I think you get the picture.  She gives her all to everything, including her passion for diving.  Being an avid snorkeler, who one day would like to take the plunge (pun intended) and get my SCUBA diving certificate, I always sit in silent rapture whenever Laura tells stories about one of her around this world diving trips.  I’m also fascinated by, and feel protective towards sharks.  Many species, including the giant hammerhead, are slowly going extinct thanks to people over-hunting them for their fins, for sport or to show what a manly man you are.  When people are attacked by a shark, while it’s very sad, it’s a risk that you accept if you want to swim in the ocean.  We are unwelcome visitors in their home.  If you had someone in your home who was unwelcome and that you perceived as a threat, if you attacked them, you can claim self-defense.  A shark doesn’t have that luxury and are often hunted when someone is attacked.  These aren’t malevolent creatures actively hunting humans, they are important predators in the food chain.

Heading into the water

Heading in!

Back to Laura’s fascinating journey.  This particular trip was in the Bahamas, but was a little more of a once (or twice) in a lifetime experience.  I asked Laura all about it, but was so enraptured that I didn’t take notes.  My first question was the rather juvenile – so could you see the sharks when you were diving into the water????  Her response was an of course.  And she still went in!  She also mentioned that during one ascent, a diver had a curious tiger shark nibbling on his flipper.  The likely, calm, but slightly fearful diver pointed this out to the dive master who shrugged his shoulders, not because he didn’t care, but because there is little that he could do, the shark wasn’t hunting humans and he had likely been through it himself a number of times.  Laura was patient and answered all of my questions starting with:

How did you get into diving?  I met my husband in March 1999.  He told me the most amazing stories about his diving experiences, all over the world.  He offered to take me to Palau in February 2000, on the condition that I get certified here, first.  So, I was certified in September 1999.  I still remember my “check-out dive” – where you basically show the instructor that you understand how to put your gear together, can stay underwater without panicking, and remove your mask underwater, and put it back on while underwater (I had the hardest time with this, but in the end, it all went well).  This was in Parry Sound in late September – it was FREEZING.  I thought if this was diving – I’m not so sure…. Not to mention, the wet suit technology was not like today.  I was wearing a 7mm farmer john (2 pieces – thick neoprene painter pants and a second equally thick top with hood – honestly, out of the water, you could barely move – I was convinced this is what an Italian sausage felt like). Wet suits today are SO much more comfortable – thank goodness.

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Under the sea

What can you tell me about this particular dive?  Can you share the location and tell us a bit about the trip and what you saw?                                                                     Here is a map  http://www.aggressor.com/bahamasTB-divesites.php – you can see the dive sites (diver flag – red with a diagonal white stripe).  The trip is called Tiger Beach – but honestly, we were told there aren’t always a lot of tigers around tiger beach… We were very lucky to have landed in an area where there were MANY tiger sharks, and lemon sharks, so we stayed there for a bit.  Although the dive site info refers to tiger sharks that were 7 feet long – the ones we encountered were well over 10 ft…we think they were around 15 ft long.  Of particular note, there was a pregnant female – which was so interesting, because there was a distinct thickness around her middle.   We (the divers) simply stayed on the sandy bottom of the dive site, not moving around much, and sharks came closer and closer and started to swim all around us.  Even the most seasoned divers were is awe.  They really are beautiful animals.

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Were you, or any of the other divers at all scared or was there a freak out moment?  No – these were all seasoned divers who had been around sharks before.  Everyone was very calm and just in awe and respectful of the sharks.  Jill note: Interestingly, although tiger sharks are more feared, and are thought to be more aggressive, it was actually the lemon sharks that Laura was more wary of.  She and her husband did a short swim away from the group and returned when they were pursued by two lemon sharks.  Nothing happened, but remember, sharks are wild animals and their behavior cannot be predicted.

Shark!

Unreal

How many days did you dive and did you get used to being in the water with these particular sharks? 5 – after awhile, you were so used to seeing them, it almost became routine.  Oh, another tiger shark!

Sharks

Did they give you anything to protect yourself with?  No – the bubbles coming from your tank are actually a small deterrent – the sharks don’t seem to like them.  A pole, used incorrectly, could just anger the shark.  Really, it comes down to staying calm, and that comes with experience as a diver and other encounters with sharks.  If the shark is angry, and wants to attack, there isn’t a lot you can do, but again, it’s very rare and staying calm comes with experience.

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So close!

If someone ever wants to consider diving with tiger sharks, what should they know?  They are amazing, graceful creatures and just enjoy every minute of the dive.
If you have any questions for Laura about this experience, or any of her other dives, just let me know and I can do a follow up piece.


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Plop – Revisiting My Take on Goop

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The people who know me best know how much Gwyneth Paltrow and I have in common.       I’ve written about my respect for her several times before, indeed citing some of our greatest similarities, minus the size of my wallet of course.  Check these out if you know not of what I speak – https://jillschnei.wordpress.com/2014/03/29/plop/https://jillschnei.wordpress.com/2014/03/31/plop-part-deux-dos-due-zwei-twee/  Gwynnie does have it tough, don’t get me wrong.  Just recently, Goop was called out by NASA for spreading misinformation about using NASA technology in healing stickers sold on her site.  She also enraged GOOPIES (get it, like Groupies, only snobbier) at a recent Summit for the brand in NYC.  Not only did many get upset and leave the meeting of the fabulous minds due to lack of Gwynnie time and ill treatment if they only spent $500 on their ticket, there were ridiculous line ups for treatments promised when they booked their day of grace with the chosen Hollywood Health Nut.  Lastly, some of her adoring public is thinking about consciously uncoupling with Gwyneth when she admitted on Jimmy Kimmel’s show that she really has no idea about what is being sold on her site.

I would never abandon my Gwynnie though, and decided to take some of her advice (even if she doesn’t take it herself) and live the Goop-ie life for one week.  Here are some of the things that I tried…

  • Earthing – Gwynnie said she didn’t know what this was really, maybe some electromagnetic energy force field that’s only available in the ground.  I knew she was just kidding, after all, she was on Jimmy Kimmel and we all know what a joke-ster she is, so I decided to try Earthing for myself.  I pondered the name first, that’s just how deep I am, and thought, well, this is something that I can only do on Earth – not Venus, Mars or Jupiter, just Earth – coolio.  Immediately, I felt a connection to the land.  It can also cure a multitude of maladies like insomnia, arthritis, inflammation and depression.  According to Clint Ober, simply put, “Earthing therapy rests on the intuitive assumption that connecting to the energy of the planet is healthy for our souls and bodies.”  I decided to walk bare-foot through the park, or tip-toe through the tulips, if you will.  I kicked off my Naot sandals (not on Goop’s list of must have, I must invest in one of their choices) and plunged forward into the grass.  Immediately, I jumped back after stepping into a big pile of doggie doo – GROSS!!!! I found a bird bath and joined my fine feathered friends for a quick rinse before I tried again.  I got squeamish thinking I saw a worm and a deer tick.  Earthing isn’t for the faint of heart, so I gave up, running like a girl back to the safety of the pavement and my sandals.  Verdict – caused more stress then it cured.
  • Jade Egg Practice – wanting a deeper sense of connection to myself and all of the other side benefits of the Jade Egg suggested on Goop including some kegel help, I decided to try it.  When I saw the $66 price tag, I immediately thought, I can’t spend that much money on my hoo-hah why not try a regular hen’s egg?  Same shape – right?  Except every time I did it, the egg kept cracking – what a mess!  People on the subway also looked at me strangely because every time I tried to shove my way into the doors, another egg yolk appeared at my feet.  Verdict – don’t use regular eggs, and skip this whole thing. 
  • IV Drip  (available at the Goop Wellness Summit) – I wasn’t able to charter a private jet to fly down to LA to partake in a weekend of wellness and GP disciples, so I thought about just getting an IV drip which they promise will rehydrate you!  Then I thought about it and went with nature’s hydration, scientifically proven to help you bring more water to your little cells – good old water.  Verdict – OH PLEASE!
  • Meaningful small talk – My Gwynnie has meaning behind all of her conversations, so delving deeper into Goop, I found an article on how to have meaningful small talk.  All 8 steps would be overwhelming for a mere mortal like me, so I decided to start with one small tip – ask for advice, because it makes people feel good about themselves.  I’ve started at a new work place, so I thought this would be a great way to get to know people.  I went to the Executive VP’s office and asked him if he knew the best place to find a gun-metal coloured purse would be.  I’ve been looking everywhere for one!  Instead of feeling like an expert, he ordered me to leave his office.  I then walked into the Sales VP’s office and asked him if he thought I should go with Mac Lipglass for a tried and true colour (my fave is Love Child) or go with Charlotte Tilbury?  He never heard of either but I’m sure it made him feel important to be included in such a riveting conversation.  Verdict – mixed.
  • Spirituality (Understanding How to Move and Manipulate Energy) – GP is a spiritual goddess, really!  It pours out of her pores.  The first thing that I think of when I see her, aside from the awful hunchback she will have later in life if she keeps slouching, is how she is a child of the Earth – so in touch with herself.  I read this article and felt overwhelmed by the ten steps, so I focused on one for more energy: “Make a list of different feelings. Free associate with each feeling. What is your relationship to that feeling? What are your beliefs or images about those feelings? Where do you tend to feel those feelings, if at all, in your body?”  When I wrote down my feelings, particularly about Goop, the first was bored.  I saw myself yawn as I was thinking about my feelings.  I felt my arms stretch back and my mouth open wide enough to catch flies.  My relationship with boredom – too boring to think about.  My beliefs are???? Not sure, can’t answer that one.  I think it’s find something less boring to do.  Verdict – MEH!

So, after basking in Goopie brilliance for one week, I learned several valuable lessons – never go to someone who is not a health care practitioner for advice or someone who has no clue what she is talking about for that matter for mental advice.  Stars like Gwynnie and Cameron Diaz, will never be my go to girls when I need treatment for something.  Remember Goop isn’t a lifestyle, it’s a business.


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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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Don’t Be a Boob, Get a Mammogram…and an Ultra Sound…

Mammogram

Image courtesy of http://www.torontosun.com & the Ontario Health Ministry

Some years ago, just about three to be somewhat exact, I had and wrote about my very first mammogram https://jillschnei.wordpress.com/2014/01/31/dont-be-a-boob-get-a-mammogram-if-your-doctor-tells-you/ I was a newbie back then to the process and didn’t really go back for my annual imaging like I was supposed to.  After a recent physical and scolding from my family doctor, I’m not only doing annual mammograms, I’m also getting an ultrasound to go along with it.  She is extra cautious, not a bad thing at all, but this isn’t necessary for everyone.   Just a reminder, in case you don’t want to re-read my older post, I have a very strong history of breast cancer in my family, including a primary relative.  I’m also at a high risk because I’m an Ashkenazi Jewess – just a fancy way of saying that I’m Jewish and of Eastern European descent.  Lucky me!

Just in case there are any people avoiding mammograms due to the unknown, I’m going to give you the D.L. (that down-low to all of you people who aren’t as cool as me).  After I changed into my elegant (she says with a sneer) smock, I had to sit braless in a waiting room filled with men.  Yup, my lucky day.  When they called my name, I tried not to jump up – I didn’t want to get two black eyes and was paranoid that my robe would pop open.  I forgot and put my Secret on in the morning.  My friends thanked me, but the technician didn’t.  I had to clean my armpits with cold water and icky hand soap and to make matters worse, I had to dry off with those industrial paper towel which crumbled into little pieces.  Note to self, don’t use deodorant on mammogram day.

I heaved one side of my bosoms onto a small ledge and looked at the “tray” that presses down on girl #1.  I swear, it really does look like an in-tray, except they don’t put any papers in it.  Remember, when they do the imaging, they do two per boob, breast, bosom or whatever you feel comfortable calling the girls.  She helped me position myself (AKA I totally got felt up, but I already complained about not even getting dinner first in my previous post, so I won’t use that joke again).  She was actually really great about everything and made me feel as comfortable as I could standing there topless in front of a complete stranger.  The press down didn’t hurt one little bit, not even any discomfort.  An ad came out in Canada using a panini press to remind women that even if they are pressed for time, there is always room to schedule a mammogram.  A lot of people found it tasteless, but it sort of does represent that downward press that I was talking about.  I made the mistake of looking down during the press and it really looked like one of those white Chinese buns that you can get with Dim Sum.  Just being observational.

The side squish was definitely the more uncomfortable of the two, but it also doesn’t really hurt.  If you are a guy reading this, skip over this part….don’t peak….Ladies, if you are going for a mammogram, schedule it after PMS time (if you aren’t menopausal) I guarantee you will thank me for this bit of advice.  The whole process took under 5 minutes and that included washing my deodorant off.

Next up – I was called by a very unfriendly former Eastern Bloch honey to get my ultrasounds.  She wasn’t a people person.  All she said to me was move closer to the edge and put your arm up over your head.  She kept making me move to the edge of the table.  I had to stop myself from reminding her that it wasn’t a king size bed.  It was actually more uncomfortable holding that position on each side than getting the mammogram – seriously.  They do warm up the gel, so it’s not freezing, which was my biggest worry.  It takes about 5 minutes per side.  I had to bite my tongue and not ask her “is it a boy or girl?” when I saw the image come up on the screen.  I could tell she would not have been amused.  I just took myself to my happy place – Nordstrom’s – and it was all over in ten minutes.  It’s quite a sticky mess after (no comments please) and I kind of wished that I could shower, but it was a small price to pay for piece of mind.

Breast cancer isn’t a joke, but if I can make this less scary for even one of you by communicating my experience, that’s all I really want to do.  Remember, a doctor doesn’t want you to have unnecessary tests, but early detection with breast cancer is key, so like the title says, don’t be a boob and put it off.

 

 


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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.

 

 

 


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London Belongs to Me – The Author

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I’ve wanted to interview Jacquelyn Middleton for my blog for awhile.  Originally, it was as part of my “inspiring” people series – I was inspired by her successful move from broadcast production and programming into award winning magazine writer.  Anyone that can make such a scary change inspires me.  Things got busy and often, it’s hard to find the time to interview people, but when she announced “London Belongs to Me” was coming out, that was a whole other cool factor and I had to reach out to find out more.  It gave me the opportunity to catch up with Jackie (JM), which was great, and find out more about her book and her writing process.

Q: How did you start writing?

JM: I started contributing to the Slice website (where she formerly worked).  I always wanted to do more writing and freelance writing seemed to be a good fit.

Q: But why the complete career change?

JM: I got laid off in 2008 from a job I loved in broadcast, but was writing for a website.  This gave me a portfolio of work that I had done.  There were family issues that I needed to be around for and free-lance writing provided me with the flexibility that I needed.

Q: So you always wanted to write?

JM: YES!  My Mum would tell me that I needed to write a book, but that was scary because I thought what if I can’t do it?  What if I don’t have the goods to deliver the thing that I most want to do?  I was inspired by Stephen Beresford (he is an English actor and writer for stage and TV).  He wrote Pride, my favourite movie for many reasons.  Pride was at TIFF (Toronto International Film Festival) and I wanted to talk to him, but he was chatting with someone else so I didn’t get to tell him how much he inspired me at that moment.  As a freelance magazine writer, though, I got to interview him!  In magazines, if you have a great idea, you can make it happen.  I pitched an idea to Script Lab after he was nominated for a BAFTA for Pride.  I interviewed him in London (twice including last September).  He was wonderful – he delivered in the interview, was funny, and I just adored him.  He inspired me because nothing he ever wrote for TV ever went through, but he wrote a play and the National Theatre picked it up.  Remember, this was his first play and it was picked up by the biggest theatre in the world.  Then, Pride was picked up and he just made it happen.  He didn’t sit around and procrastinate.  Seeing him do this was a huge inspiration.  After the first interview with him, I knew that I needed to write a book.  I needed to try, even if it didn’t get published.  The book is a tribute to my Mum.

Q: How autobiographical is “London Belongs to Me”?  How close is the heroine, Alex Sinclair to you?

JM: Alex isn’t very similar to me at all.  I never moved to London, but I got to live vicariously through Alex.  I didn’t have a tumultuous relationship with my Mum.  My own Mum was my everything.  I had to visualize Alex’s relationship by removing my mother from my life and imagining what Alex went through.  Alex’s love of London is similar to my own and her drive to pursue the career that she wants is very much like me.   There are traits of Alex that I share and people who know me will pick up on them. Parts of me are in every character of the book.  It’s fun writing a book.  There are little tributes to people that only you or a select few would pick up on.

Q: Do you tell people that you know who the various characters are based on?

JM: No, I’ve stopped.  I can’t tell people in case they are wrong because that is how they are reading the story.  It’s personal and you should be able to read the story with who you pick or think the characters are.  I like it when people guess though.

Q: The book has a lot of fan girl moments.  What are your ultimate fan girl moments?

JM:  Meeting Simon LeBon from Duran Duran (Jill here – did I mention that Jackie has great taste in bands?) for the first time.  He never disappoints.  I have so many though!  Just a note, Jackie goes to Fan Expos and has met a lot of really cool people including one of my celebrity loves, Benedict Cumberbatch!

Q:  What books inspired you to write “London Belongs to Me”?

JM: Charlotte’s Web (She really has great taste in books, that’s my fave too!), 84 Charring Cross Road (true story and gorgeous movie), The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street and My Love Affair with England (Jackie read it in 1993 before she went to England for the first time) all inspired me.

I’ll reveal more of the process behind writing a book in my next entry.  Remember that London can belong to you too if you order it!  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!

Jackie – thank you for being so patient with all of my questions!