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.

Close

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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I (Will) Love T.O.

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

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

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

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


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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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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!

 

 


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What I Learned This Month – a Mini Post

You are never too old to learn something new, and in true blondish fashion, I learned things in August that perhaps I should have know before such as:

  • What “Wainscoting” is.  I did a survey of approximately 30 people (friends, co-workers and family) and 29/30 people knew what is was.  I was the 30th.  Just so you don’t have to feel like a dummy, its the inner wooden covering of a wall.  Thank you Shai for spelling it for me 3 times, and explaining, very slowly, what it is.  To my other friends, at least one of you could have lied to make me feel better – thanks a lot
  • What Tu B’Av is.  It’s a minor Jewish holiday that celebrate’s love.  It’s also known as the Jewish Valentine’s Day.  Here is a longer, more detailed explanation in case you are interested http://www.haaretz.com/jewish/features/.premium-1.609805.  Unlike Wainscoting, 4 out of 4 people asked had no clue what it was. Thank you Phil for teaching me something new.
  • Last, but not least, I learned that I could sit outside, in the country for an entire afternoon with an incredible group of women and only mildly freak out about the bugs.  Thank you to the hostess with the mostess – you know who you are.