2015 Clean Up: Week 1 is All Done!

As promised, I’m back to give an update on how the first week of my three week intensive cleanse went. I guess the first point is that I survived! Yay, me! Apart from 5 cherry tomatoes, I was 100% perfect! Not too shabby, if I do say so myself.

So, what did I notice in this first week…

1. My worst sugar cravings happened on the first day

The kind of crazy you feel when you are craving sugar, HARDCORE!

The kind of crazy you feel when you are craving sugar, HARDCORE!

Yes, I had them all week. Cravings for sugar, fried foods, dairy and pastries. I persevered with only minimal amounts of whining, but that first evening was the hardest part of all. Suddenly at around 8 p.m. it’s like my body woke up and was like, “Hey, uh, I didn’t get any sugar today…hello? HELLO!!!!! FEED ME SUGAR NOW!!!” Or, maybe it was my brain saying it, I’m not sure but I definitely knew it was being said! I even had dreams of gorging myself on cakes and cookies that night, the whole time racked with guilt over what I was eating.

2. Water, water and more water

I drink a lot of water, but after a few days it was like my body was reset from always hungry to always thirsty. I’ve often read that we get our signals crossed on this and I feel like this particular cleanse is uncrossing those wires because I can’t get enough water, my body is constantly telling me to drink more. Not too long ago I could go hours without a sip, now I need that water bottle next to me at all times and I regret when I go somewhere without one.

3. The first week is EXPENSIVE!

Yes, in the long run I will be saving loads of money because I won’t be going out to eat…at all, but I had to purchase many ingredients that aren’t a normal part of my pantry in order to have healthy options for the length of the cleanse. If anyone is thinking of doing the Alejandro Junger “Clean” cleanse and use his cookbook “Clean Eats”, I would say make sure that you have an extra $150 budgeted for that first shop, because you are going to need it! Of course, after that it is much less expensive and will cost you your usual budget, plus a wee bit more if you aren’t accustomed to buying organic.

4. Yawn!!!

I was pretty tired the first couple of days, but I’m gradually finding that I wake up more easily in the morning, provided I got a good night’s sleep. For a long time, I’ve been one of those people who can get that solid 8 hours of sleep and still wake up tired. This week, when I got a solid night’s sleep of 7 hours or more, I woke up more refreshed than usual. I won’t say I sprung out of bed like a bad Viagra commercial, but there was more alertness and dare I say…more pep, than I would usually have.

Those have been my biggest observations so far, though definitely not the changes I’m feeling. My moods have been fluctuating, as well as my bathroom habits, but we’ll get to those.

What are some of the biggest changes you’ve noticed in yourself the first week of a major dietary shift? Did they disappear after some time or did they stay with you the whole time ?

Spring Cleaning Your Most Important Home, Your Body!

It’s been a long time since I’ve sat down to write a blog. Big changes in my life, mostly having to do with my work situation and living situation. No apologies though, I did what I had to do and unfortunately that included skipping out on blogs for some time. But I’m baaaaaaaack! You may commence with the applause! 😉

We’re a few days in to May and a lot of people have been, or will soon be doing some spring cleaning of their homes. The sad truth however, is that most people won’t be taking care of the most important home of all…their bodies! I know I’ve been neglecting mine lately, allowing stress to overpower me and I’ve created a toxic state for myself. Well, no more! Today is the first day of an intense three week cleanse program for me. It also happens to be the first time in my life that I’ve been looking forward to a cleanse!

Lately, I’ve been feeling sluggish and although it’s spring and I want to be outside, I’ve been so tired I haven’t been out  nearly as much as I should be. Knowing what I know about the importance of vitamin D, it’s a vicious circle! Part of this also has to do with some liver pain I’ve been experiencing. When you don’t have liver’s sidekick Cap-i-tan Gall Bladder, it’s easy for this organ to get overwhelmed. So, I’ve dusted off a book that I’ve had for some time in order to help me. “Clean” by Alejandro Junger

I’ve tried to do this cleanse before, which consists of clean eating, removal of many common allergen foods, juicing morning and evening, with a solid lunch…but I wasn’t motivated, or prepared. This time, I am so ready! Using recipes from Junger’s cookbook “Clean Eats” and a few of my old standbys, I’ve created a 10 day meal plan, right down to the snacks. “But I thought you said it was a 3 week cleanse?” I hear some of you say…I know, I know, I just wanted to test a few new recipes first and then I will create the last 11 days of the meal plans.

Now, I’m not suggesting that you have to do a cleanse as intense as the “Clean” cleanse, but committing to something as simple as eating clean for 7, 14 or 21 days can really help your body out. Not to mention prepare you for bathing suit season! Wink!

So, if that appeals to you but you don’t want to go out and buy a book to read to do it, here are a few tips to spring clean your body.

1. Drink Water…a TON of it!

Water is so important to your body for so many reasons. If you aren’t drinking enough you are making your body work harder than it has to. Part of my initial Year of the Detox was increased water consumption and I haven’t looked back! Unless you have a medical condition, drinking too much water will not be a problem.

2. Eat Clean

What does that mean, eat clean? Basically removal of any processed foods from your diet and anything that you already know your body has trouble digesting. My mom knows she can’t handle cheese, but she sometimes indulges and has rigorous, porcelain consequences. Just don’t do it. You can resist it for a few weeks. Also, try to eat organic as much as your budget allows.

To give you a short list, you’ll want to avoid:

– sugar

– gluten/wheat

– dairy

– red meat

– alcohol

– soy

This list is very, verrrrrry basic. If you look at any cleanse book in your local bookstore or library, you’ll see that often the list is much more extensive.

3. Make a Plan

As I said, I made a plan and I’m sure that making a plan contributes to better completion rates of a cleanse. When you have your meals planned and your grocery lists written, you’re more likely to succeed and less likely to cheat!

4. Get Moving!

You might feel a little off at the beginning of a cleanse, maybe even flu-like or weak, but as soon as you feel able, get moving! Exercise is a very important part of health, even during a cleanse.

5. Recruit Your Health Team

Who is going to help you through this cleanse? Who will keep you accountable? I’ll show you who is on my team, and you may want to consider speaking to a naturopathic or family doctor before you embark on your cleanse, especially if you have a pre-existing condition.

My Team

My husband – Chef Extraordinaire, Partner and Accountability Watch Dog

Adele Stratton – Nutritional Advisor and Integrational Manual Therapist at Phoenix Rising Healing Centre

Andrea Portillo – Personal Trainer and Kick-Ass Motivator at Visualize Fitness

Freyja – Walk Companion, Wiggle Expert and Actual Puppy Dog…there’s nothing more motivating to go outdoors than those sad, sweet eyes staring at you until you cave!

6. Take Some Supplements

With the help of your nutritional advisor, whoever that may be, make a list of supplements to help your body through the cleanse and cover anything lacking in your diet during the cleanse. I, for example, will have to up my B12 intake as I am removing red meats. You might also want to consider taking fibre and a good probiotic. If you’re interested in a more intense cleanse, look at taking an herbal cleansing kit, but talk to your doctor first.

So, with all that in mind, take a few days to plan your cleanse. Come back, let me know which cleanse you are choosing to do, if any. Do you have any great clean eating recipes you’d like to share? I’m all ears!

My Yummy meal for day one! I LOVE fiddleheads!

My Yummy meal for day one! I LOVE fiddleheads!

Changing Labels and Your Health

Although I made some headway with my detoxing in 2012 and limiting my wheat intake in 2013, I have still gained weight. Sigh. I am currently at the heaviest I’ve ever been. I’m not only heavy, I’m also what I would consider ‘dangerously’ out of shape. No, I don’t have trouble walking up stairs or anything, but man, if the zombie apocalypse hit tomorrow I would not be running for long!

I also have trouble with my knees, lower back, feet and movement in general. ‘Try Yoga’, I hear those yogis calling. Yes, I’ve tried that. ‘Try walking’, I hear others in perfect chorus. Yes, I’ve tried that as well. The truth of the matter is, I need help. In the past few months, I’ve come to realize this and I’ve sought it out.

Firstly, I knew that even when I was at my healthiest, I still subscribed to certain labels of myself that have not changed. These labels still haunt me to this day. With the help of an alternative practitioner, on my blog I affectionately call, ‘My Adele’, I have delved into some of these labels. She has been trained in hypnotherapy and we used this to look at the more prominent labels I have put on myself. The exercise was to take these labels, erase them and replace them with a more positive one.

The first label was ‘SELFISH’. When I told my husband this, he was flabbergasted. To him, I am one of the most selfless people he knows, but that doesn’t matter…this is about the way I see myself. I’m not sure why I’ve taken on this label. I can be as simple as something I was told as a child and internalized it. I took this label, erased it and replaced it with the word  ‘SELFLESS’.

The second label I came upon was ‘UNDESERVING’. This one I already knew about. I often feel like I don’t deserve the happiness and love in my life. I had been working on this for the past year, so when I read the label during my session it was no surprise. This label I changed to ‘DESERVING’.

The third label I read was ‘GUILTY’. This is the second one I already knew about. In the past, I’ve felt guilty about everything. My husband gives me a hard time because I apologize all the time. Sometimes it got so bad I would apologize and he would say, “For what?”. Often, I would not have a good answer. I took that label and replaced it with ‘FREE’. My thinking was that in affirmation writing, you don’t want to write the negative word within your affirmation.

The last label I was able to change was a triple-threat. Three words were attached to the same ‘bottle’. The three were ‘FAT’, ‘SICK’ and ‘UNHEALTHY’. I had been trying to detox, get healthy, lose weight and all while carrying these labels internally. Talking about pushing a boulder up a hill! I changed that one to ‘HEALTHY’.

Now that I have my labels changed, I am ready to start a new journey. I have also retained help from a personal trainer named Andrea Portillo of Visualize Fitness. Andrea specializes in dealing with people who have injuries or physical issues that make it difficult for them to get fit on their own. I have been avoiding the gym lately because a big part of me is terrified hurting myself. With Andrea’s help I am going to rebuild my strength and regain my fitness. Wish me luck!

What labels do you have that you should change? What would you replace them with?

my new labels!

my new labels!

MRKH and the vagina stigma

I came across this story today and it blew my mind. A girl in the UK, name Jacqui Beck,  spent 17 years of her life believing she was normal, only to find out that she didn’t have a vagina. If you’d like to read the original story, follow this link to the Daily Mail – online. The girl suffers from a fairly rare condition called MRKH or Mayer-Rokitansky-Küster-Hauser syndrome. The syndrome is characteristic of a woman who is missing her womb, cervix and vaginal opening. Although it is classified as rare, according to the Daily Mail, a case presents once in approximately 5,000 women.

MRKH diagram via neovaginasurgeons.com

MRKH diagram via neovaginasurgeons.com

So, you may be wondering why this story blew my mind. Although it has been said that it is hard to diagnose, which I agree can cause issues, I find it upsetting that she didn’t find out until she was seventeen. The typical age of diagnosis is 15-18 years old, and often these women find out for the first time when they try to have intercourse. The only reason Jacqui found out about her condition was a statement to her doctor in passing that she hadn’t started her period yet. I wonder if there was more educational material available to girls, if they would be more aware of their bodies? I know that while I was embarrassed to sit in sex ed class, hearing about my body, I also craved more information. Perhaps if more time was spent educating girls about their bodies, it would encourage exploration without judgement. This exploration could have led to an earlier diagnosis. Also, I ponder if there may be a higher incidence of this syndrome than reported. The 1 in 5,000 women statistic is based on diagnosis in newborns.

I was very pleased, to stumble across a Facebook page in support of women who suffer from this condition. Although surgery is an option to remedy this problem in most women, the psychological scarring must still remain. Especially for those girls who find out while trying to have intercourse for the first time. In a society where we strive for normalcy, the last thing these women want to feel is different. I also want to commend the young girl on who the story was written for coming out in public about her issue. I hope that it will inspire other girls to learn more about their bodies.

I really, truly believe that we as a society are failing to educate girls about their bodies. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, there are aspects of my female functions that I did not fully understand until I was thirty. Those functions are normal functions and they were not presented to me, so I can imagine how hard it would have been for Jacqui to even remotely think something was off having such a rare condition. If I am blessed to have a girl, I want her to understand how marvelous her body is. When she is old enough to understand, I want her to be taught about her cycles and the inner workings of her reproductive organs. Now, I’m not so deluded as to think I will be the teacher for all these things, but I will be open with her. I will answer any questions she has without judgement and if I don’t know the answers, I will find them out. When she is ready, I will book a visit with a gynecologist so that if there is something she is too embarrassed to ask her mom, she can ask them.

In closing, I’d like to relay a story posted in my personal feed on Facebook. Someone I know has a daughter in kindergarten. While doing some arts and crafts, her and her friends were putting string in their laps and laughing. During this play, her daughter used the word vagina in front of her peers. The teacher was there to hear her daughter utter the word and called dear mommy to discuss it. Now, it’s not like she used the word out of context, or a slang like va-jay-jay, pussy or my personal favourite, bajingo. Her daughter used the word in context and without a derogatory nature. Why such a big reaction to the correct use of the word? Because it was ‘vagina’. How crazy is it that there was such drama! I can see perhaps, from the teacher’s perspective, that the other children going home to households that sugar-coat female body parts may have repeated it and upset their parents. I still think it is ridiculous. Let’s try and remove this stigma about female genitalia and its function. Let’s start by using the proper words with our children, right from the beginning.

Women’s Health: Am I normal down there ?

I’ve talked a lot about overall health, in how it relates to systems that both sexes have. Now, I’d like to take some time and talk about us…the girls! It seems such a taboo subject to discuss, which I suppose makes it all the more important to get out there. I’d like to become more familiar with my body and its female bits. Over the next few posts, I’m hoping to educate myself and anyone who is interested in learning more about their bodies.

Why, at the age of thirty, do I suddenly have the need to know more about me and my bits? I recently got a bit of a shock. I thought I knew a lot about my body. While I may know slightly more than the average person, I do not know as much as I thought I did. Although my husband and I won’t be trying for a family for a little while, many of my friends and acquaintances are producing offspring like it’s going out of style. There are babies EVERYWHERE! This reproduction bonanza got me wondering about my own capabilities. At the suggestion of a friend, I bought the book “Taking Charge of Your Fertility” by Toni Weschler, MPH. Well…was I in for a surprise.

Turns out, I’m NORMAL.

You may laugh, but I actually cried. All these years, I thought there might be something a bit off. Why? Two words my female friends: cervical fluid. Ick, I know…ick. But so important to understand. I thought there was something off. You know, those days when you are extra slippery…or extra dry. It was always changing and I didn’t know why, or that it was completely normal.

So, what is cervical fluid?

Cervical fluid is the fluid that comes out of you are certain times in your cycle and can change consistency, as well as colour. I’m not referring to ‘discharge’, which sounds more like your vagina has a cold and hence those times you need a doctor to look you over. I’m speaking of the fluid that tells you that you are fertile. Basically, what seminal fluid is to men, cervical fluid is to women. Men are always fertile and ready to go, so their seminal fluid is always present. If you remember back to that awkward highschool, sex ed seminar, women go through cycles of fertility. Therefore, our fluid is present when we are at our most fertile.

Here is a chart that gives you an idea of a menstrual cycle, but involving your cervical fluid:

borrowed from plannedparenthood.org

borrowed from plannedparenthood.org

Cervical fluid can range from sticky, to creamy or slippery, which is also often described as eggwhite. A lot of women are self-diagnosing themselves when they get to this point in their cycle with a yeast infection or something of the like. Before you rush out to buy a Monistat kit, read on. When you have slippery cervical fluid present, that is often when you are at your most fertile. So if you are avoiding producing a mini-me and you aren’t on the pill, it is very important to either abstain or to use protection during this time. You see, we produce our cervical fluid to make the passage for the sperm easier. It serves to coat the way and make the pH more tolerable. If you have unprotected sex during this time in your cycle, it’s like giving the sperm the FastPass at Disney World so they can get to the end of the line faster. Unless you are planning for an addition to the family, watch out. It doesn’t guarantee your pregnancy, but it certainly ups the odds for it.


I hope that all the women who read this, already knew all about their fantastically normal cervical fluid…however, I do doubt that. My secondary hope then, is that you’ve just learned about it and realized, ‘Hey, I’m NORMAL!!’ I highly recommend that you continue your education about your ‘nether region’ by reading “Taking Charge of Your Fertility”. Whether you are like me, on a quest for knowledge, avoiding the baby bump for now, or actively trying to start a family. It is incredibly full of knowledge that really, should have been taught to us while we were in highschool. We might have been totally grossed out, but we would have at least been grossed out and informed.

Just to get an idea, I’d love it if you could participate in a poll on the subject. All anonymous of course 🙂

Don’t be a douchebag, you have the power to do something

Last week was a really crazy week for me. On top of it being wedding season, I had an audition in Montreal, a wedding, a wedding show and apparently the universe thinks I’m an animal rescue agent. On Thursday morning, before my audition, I was taking Freyja (my dog) for a walk. On the way down to the park, I heard some noise coming from someone’s yard. I took a quick look and decided that it was probably just a cat in the yard. On the way back, past the house, something told me I needed to take note. Then, I heard some noises again. I walked over to the green bin ( compost bin provided to residents in the City of Ottawa), lifted the lid and was shocked by what I found.  A poor, little baby raccoon was trapped inside the green bin. It had not been closed properly and he had managed to get in. However, that was not the most shocking part. The little guy was covered, head to tail with rotting filth and maggots. It was quite obvious that the owners of the bin hadn’t cleaned it in quite some time. I tied my dog up a little ways away from the bin and began knocking on doors. Would you believe it was the first time I left the house on a walk without my cell phone?

I knocked on the door of the green bin owner first, no answer. Two neighbours down on each side of the street, no answers. Finally, an older couple driving by saw me and I waived them down. They had a cell phone and we attempted to call City of Ottawa. We were on the phone for over 1o minutes and could not get through. Eventually, they had to leave and I was left to continue to try and help this poor guy. I was on a tight schedule, having to leave for Montreal soon, but I was determined to get him some help.

I ran home, dropped Freyja off and grabbed my phone. It was a hot day on Thursday and it was getting hotter by the minute. Finally after forty-five minutes worth of calls to City of Ottawa, emergency services and the Ottawa Humane Society, I was transferred to someone who could help. Once the agent assured me someone was on their way, I felt a bit of relief. As I hung up, a man in his twenties emerged from the house. He was smiling in a goofy sort of way as he walked towards me.

“Do you know you have a baby raccoon in your green bin?” I asked.two of the rescues

“Oh, ya. My mom found it this morning. She gets up early and saw him in there.”

My heart sank. The house owners/tenants KNEW he was there. They knew for hours! I came to find out that at least two people knew this poor baby was in their green bin and did NOTHING to help him. When I asked why they had done nothing, he said he was scared of it and didn’t really know who to call.  I was completely disgusted. The man stayed with me until the rescue truck came, making lame attempts to comfort me like offering to spray the bin with Febreeze…I nearly punched him. Once the raccoon was on his way to the rescue centre, I rushed my way to Montreal, arriving in the nick of time for my audition.

On Saturday, on my way to shoot a wedding, I came upon a seagull in the middle of the road. If you live in Ottawa, you know how busy Carling Avenue can be. I stopped my car, turned on my four way flashers and scooped the obviously injured seagull up in a blanket. I could not bring him to the rescue centre, so I put him under some bushes on the side of the road. Onlookers in the retirement residence just stared…people continued to drive and walk by. As I drove to meet my bride, I frantically called around getting information. They wouldn’t come pick the bird up, so I called upon a friend to go and rescue him. Luckily, he was able to find him and bring him safely to the bird rescue centre.

Then, on Sunday after a long day in Cornwall at a bridal show, my husband and I took Freyja out to run her in our parking lot. It was dark and had been raining, so we didn’t want to take her far but it was obvious she needed to run a bit before bed. Outside, Frey took off after a pigeon. It struck us both as odd when the pigeon didn’t fly away. Freyja, not expecting to catch up to the bird, didn’t know what to make of it either. He flapped his wings, but almost looked too tired and dazed to take off. So, we got him into our cat carrier, kept him overnight and I brought him to the bird rescue centre the next day when they opened.

I am incredibly upset to say that the raccoon and the seagull both did not make it. The pigeon is still being treated, but the prognosis is not good. I’m sending him healing thoughts.

What astounds me is the complete lack of action taken by the people involved. The first and worst of the three is the raccoon’s case. Upon retelling the events, I’ve heard a lot of people call the man and his mother stupid, but I don’t think that is accurate. Intelligence had nothing to do with it, it was a lack of compassion. They didn’t care what happened to the raccoon. Even a child, upon finding a creature in need, can do something to help it. They obviously didn’t want to take responsibility for their disgusting green bin and the damage it had caused this living being. If their green bin had been in a better state, I could have just tipped it over and set him free. Because of the filth and maggots, the rescue center said they could not save him.

As for the seagull, it took a while of lane changing and slowed traffic before I came upon him. I can only guess that at least fifteen to twenty cars drove by him before I stopped. The seagull was obviously in agony and no one did anything to help. Not to mention the myriads of retirees and workers at the retirement home who just watched the scene play out. It took me literally forty five seconds to get the seagull off the road and out of harm’s way. My friend and new hero, drove twenty minutes to come and find the bird afterwards. I can understand in the case of the pigeon, his problem was a little more masked, but the seagull was in obvious distress.

This is my plea to readers. If you see an animal or person in distress, DO SOMETHING to help. Even if you’re not sure what to do. Call someone, anyone, even if it’s 911. (Though as Marcia rightly states below, 911 should be reserved for human emergencies below). They might get mad at you, but at least you’ve done something to try and help. If you’re not sure whether or not the person or animal needs help, investigate. It takes thirty seconds of your life and could save theirs.

You’re too busy? Not an excuse. NEVER an excuse.

You’re nervous or scared to do so? Take precautions, ask for help from someone else, it’s still not an excuse. You can always call someone better equipped to deal with the situation.

You’re not sure what to do? Not an excuse. Again, call someone. I flagged down an old couple I didn’t even know.

My plea to residents of Ottawa and other areas that use green bins. Keep them clean! That raccoon would be alive today if they had only kept their green bin clean. Keep it securely locked. If you find wildlife trapped inside, don’t be a douchebag, DO SOMETHING.

I’d like to extend my thanks to the older couple who stopped to help me and my friend Peter Whittaker who heard of a creature in need and took action. Also, I send thanks to the people of both the Ottawa Humane Society and the Wild Bird Care Center for the caring and compassion that they demonstrate every day. You can donate to either of these fine places, see details on their websites.

Phone numbers to remember for Ottawa: Ottawa Humane Society – 613.725.3166   Wild Bird Care Center – 613.828.2849

The family you choose

A little over a week ago, I lost my uncle. Some may ask the question which side of the family he was from and that is where the question gets interesting. He was technically from neither side, he was just my dad’s best friend. I’ve purposely taken the ‘just’ out of the previous sentence, because it is inaccurate. The word ‘just’ implies that he was only my dad’s best friend, but that is not true, he was so much more. My dad and Jeff had been friends since they were little boys, growing up in the same town, getting into the same trouble. Eventually, they grew into men and traveled across the US in a car for weeks, having only one tiff over a parking spot. As most men do, they each started their families, marrying women that they were head-over-heels for. As it would turn out, my dad had two daughters but my Uncle Jeff and Aunt Heather could not have any children of their own. That didn’t stop them from loving me, my sister and our three cousins like blood. My dad and Jeff were closer than some brothers ever get. They kept each other’s secrets and over forty years of at least weekly breakfasts in adulthood, they never ran out of things to talk about. There are marriages that don’t fair nearly as well, or last nearly as long.

My dad and his best friend, Jeff (right).

My dad and his best friend, Jeff (right).

Just because someone isn’t your family by blood, or a legal document that can be revoked as easily as it was made, does not make them any less your family. Your family is who you choose to share your life with. I feel so blessed to have a husband that understands the very meaning of this. His best friend is more of a brother to him than his own flesh and blood brother. They talk more often and share more love than a lot of brothers do. I’m also lucky to have a sister that I consider one of my best friends. That doesn’t happen very often. I would stay in touch with her even if we weren’t bonded by blood and family. We understand each other and I would do anything for her.

Although Jeff didn’t have any children of his own, I know of five girls that will miss him for the rest of their lives and mourn him like he was family.

I had a dream the other night where Jeff spoke to me and told me, “It will be ok, shorty.” He used to call me that as my six foot frame towered over his much shorter stature. When I told him I loved him, he said “I know, kid, I know.” The last thing he said to me before I awoke sobbing into my husband’s arms was , “Tell Dougie I love him.” Dougie is what my uncle used to call my dad. Whether it was my brain trying to reconcile what had happened, or something far more powerful, I felt I obliged to tell my dad about the dream. The message really touched him. For truly, my dad has lost a soulmate. Someone he had known and loved forever. I can’t imagine what that must feel like.

So, I put forth to you, everyone who reads this blog, to tell someone today that you love them. Whether it is your chosen family or blood family, tell them how you feel. Our time is so fleeting here and you don’t know if you’ll ever get the chance to say it again.

As I finish up writing this, I’ve just received news that my husband’s mother has been rushed to the hospital. We don’t know what is wrong but thinking back, I can’t really remember that last time I saw her. Was it Christmas? Was it that long ago? Luckily, an errand brought my husband to her house only two days ago. He said she was so full of life and excitement. I’ve lit a candle for her and I will be sending loving thoughts to her side.

If you think you have all the time in the world, you may be right, but you also may be wrong. So why take a chance? Even if it’s a text, a quick phone call, a little note you drop in the mail…don’t be embarrassed and don’t let time be an excuse.

To the memory of my uncle Jeff, rest in peace and I’ll miss you.


UPDATE: My husband’s mother is alright. She fainted after her blood pressure dropped. The doctors think it was due to stress but say she should be fine. What a relief.

7 things I learned in Nepal

If you regularly check in to YOTD, you may have noticed a long hiatus has just occurred. No, I’m not ignoring you! I promise! I just happened to have been on a life changing trip to Nepal. I left for three weeks, two of which I spent volunteering to build a school. I’d been fundraising for over a year and when it finally came time to go, I’ll admit I was nervous. I’d never been to a developing country before in any of my travels. I was bracing myself for some intense culture shock and while some did occur, I ended up spending most of my time just feeling so grateful to be there. I also made a conscious decision to gather lessons from my interactions and observations of the wonderful Nepalese people. Not everyone gets a chance to go to Nepal, so I thought I would share these experiences with you.

1. Be happy and greet people with a smile

If your first instinct as to why this is my first lesson is that I’m a North American saying we should be happy for who we are and where we live, you’re only half right. We are so blessed to live in countries with modern amenities and civil rights movements, that while many would argue are not perfect, EXIST. However, that is not why the lesson of happiness came to me. It came to me because every day, in every circumstance while in Nepal, I saw smiles. I saw warmth. I saw a willingness to help others with no other motivation than the deed itself. Greeted by smiles in a village that has not seen many white people. People of all ages holding their hands infront of them in the Namaste position and welcoming us everywhere we went. I saw fairly large families living all together in small, clay huts that projected nothing but a happiness to be together and to be sharing the day with us. While they don’t have everything, they are happy and grateful for what they do have. Isn’t that the key to happiness?

Upon my return to Canada, I watched a documentary called “Happy” which was narrated by an author I enjoy, Marci Shimoff. Research has found that the people of Kolkata, India are just as happy, if not more happy than many North Americans. I’ve seen it.  It amazes me that people who we would consider destitute have a level of happiness that some North Americans never achieve.

Smiling Nepali women

Smiling Nepali women

2. Always ask for more

Walking the streets of Thamel, the more touristy district of Kathmandu, you will know exactly what I am talking about. The vendors here are AWESOME at this concept. They always ask for more than what they are willing to take for a product. Who knows, maybe they will get more than what they will accept! This is a great thing to do in life, in general. Ask for more than you want, you never know, you just may get it.

3. Walk and bike everywhere

While walking down from the hilly home of the Kopan monastery, my friend Adele and I came across this young, local boy. He was fifteen years old and we asked him for directions to the Boudha Stupa. Instead of just pointing a vague direction, he actually walked with us over an hour to get us there. Not only that, he walked us right into the Stupa compound and began to tell us everything he knew about it. He was our own personal tourguide delivered to us by Karma! Everywhere you turn in Nepal, there are people walking or biking to their next destination. When you ask someone from Nepal how far something is, you need to specify if you mean by foot, bike or car. No wonder you’d be hard pressed to find obesity in this country!

This is Sanam, our Karmic tourguide!

This is Sanam, our Karmic tourguide!

4. Accidents happen, don’t take it personally

We live in a society so ready to place blame. We need insurance to mitigate every little accident that occurs. I’m not suggesting we abolish insurance, but since we have it, why do people get so bent out of shape over the little dings we get in life? While we were traveling in  Nepal, one of our drivers happened to be following a rickshaw a little too closely and when it stopped suddenly, the driver bumped it. Turned out the rickshaw had a little piece of metal sticking out further than most do, on its back. So what happened? The rickshaw driver got out, looked at it while a small crowd of Nepali men gathered around. He told the driver to back up and helped to navigate him around his rickshaw. No major damage was done, so the attitude was, “I’m alright, you’re alright, let’s move on with our day.” There was no yelling and screaming, no dramatic arm waving. Obviously the driver didn’t mean to hit his rickshaw and there was minimal damage so why get bent out of shape over it? I doubt this occurrence would have gone over so smoothly in Canada, where we are supposed to be polite beyond all reason. So the next time something is done by accident to you and you aren’t actually hurt, take a breath and deal with it calmly.

5. Take a nap

In the Dang province, where we spent most of our time volunteering, most of the people there lead simpler lives. They live in smallish houses with their families and many of them tend fields or animals to feed themselves. Often, they get up very early to get work done before the heat of the sun comes into play. While we were there, one thing I noticed was the amazing ability of Nepali people to sleep almost anywhere. Then there was me, who got all of three hours of sleep on a thirty hour flight path! According to research done in the past few years, the Nepali have it right! If you want to know more, visit information on napping and productivity via Inc.com. Sometimes, we could all use a nap.

Can you see my napping friend under the tree?

Can you see my napping friend under the tree?

6. Carpool, there’s always room for one more!

While I’m sure many would agree that the motor vehicle safety practices with regard to passenger numbers in Nepal can be less than desirable, they have the right idea. Nepali people will give everyone they know a ride if they can. Cars, trucks, rickshaws are all stuffed to capacity as they go from destination to destination. If you drive to work, is there someone that you could share a ride with? If you are going on a trip, is there someone headed that way that you could give a lift to? Friendly bit of advice though, Canadian police will definitely stop you if you have some friends hanging off the back of your vehicle. Please, don’t tell him that I put you up to it!

7. Give your children responsibilities and don’t hold on so tight

I have my masters degree in childhood education, I babysat for years and I know a lot of people with kids. Though I won’t generalize to everyone, many North Americans are a little over-protective of their children. They coddle them and some spoil them to within an inch of their lives. More and more, educators are seeing children coming through the system being so incredibly self-entitled that they are almost impossible to discipline. The blame gets passed around from teachers, to schools, to television, to diagnoses of disorders that must explain why the children are behaving the way they are. I saw many children in Nepal. They had chores to do, they were driving cattle, they were taking care of younger siblings. Things that the majority of our population would never dream of letting our children do. Children walking around by themselves with no adult supervision in sight. Sure, there aren’t a lot of gangs and guns running around rural Nepal (now that the civil war is over)…but there are rhinos and wild boar! While I think that we are privileged enough in our culture to have more of the notion of ‘childhood’ available to us, I also think that many of our children are over-coddled. I may be stepping on the toes of parents everywhere, and my sister-in-law’s favourite expression “You don’t know what it’s like to have children.” is ringing in my ears, but I’ve seen it! I’ve seen children with more responsibility to themselves and their families. They still find time to play, they still smile and have fun. So while I don’t expect even myself to make my children work nearly as hard the children of Nepal do in every day life, I will remind myself over and over of what I saw there. I will try to remember that my children are capable, little, human beings and hopefully, I won’t hold on so tight when it is my turn.

Myself and some very happy Tharu children!

Myself and some very happy Tharu children!

Wheat is totally inGRAINed in my life

Chicken Noodle Soup

Chicken Noodle Soup (Photo credit: Kevin H.)

Imagine if you were from an Asian cultural background and you had to remove rice from your diet. Sounds nearly impossible, right? That’s what I’m feeling right now. I had been doing very well removing wheat from my diet until I got sick last Friday night. I’ve been battling a combination of bronchial and sinus infections ever since. I have noticed that since I’ve adopted a more hydrated attitude, I do get sick less often and when I do, it is over more quickly. Thank the detox for that! However, when I’m not feeling well, I really notice how I waiver back on to wheat.

On Saturday, I didn’t feel hungry at all. I was coughing, sneezing, boucing from warm to cold and food was the last thing on my mind. Until my husband asked me what I wanted to eat for dinner. The only thing I could think of stomaching was Lipton chicken noodle soup and some saltine crackers. Once I started to eat, I felt so comforted I was able to carry on a conversation with my husband’s best friend and even watch a little tv with them. Before that, I had been lying in bed, hoping to pass out.

Our comfort foods are usually chicken noodle soup when you’re sick and saltine crackers when you are nauseous. When we’re depressed, we turn to cakes and cookies. Hard to avoid wheat in all these things. My ‘detoxed’ brain was saying that I should be drinking some nice, fresh juices to load myself up with nutrients and fight off this sickness. I still think, ‘Why didn’t I do that?’ But even the thought of having them instead of my soup made me queasy. Wheat is so ingrained in our lives, it is hard not to fall back on old habits, especially when in crisis.

I’m not going to beat myself up over this. The little germies that waged war on me all week have done a good enough job already. Craving something comforting when you feel vulnerable to the extreme is only natural. It just made me stop and wonder about how heavily wheat has factored in my life. How emotionally attached I am too it on some levels. It is like the culinary equivalent of a hug from your mother when you aren’t feeling well.

What did your mom give you when you were a kid with a cold?

I wonder what mothers feed their sick children in Asian countries…maybe I should try somma that!

Tanning beds, vitamin D and Quebec

English: Woman uses a tanning bed.

English: Woman uses a tanning bed. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

About a year ago, I was driving in Montreal and I heard an ad on the radio. It was someone from a tanning salon, enumerating the virtues of using a tanning bed. They said something to the effect of, “Look great! Feel great! Help up your vitamin D during the winter months!” I couldn’t believe it! They were actually touting the ‘health’ benefits of using tanning beds.

The reason that I bring this up today is because I heard on the radio this morning that Quebec has legislated an age limit on the use of tanning beds within the province. I think that is fantastic. If I were less informed about the risks of using tanning beds in regards to cancer risks, I would have thought it was a great idea to get some extra vitamin D. While there is evidence that specific types of tanning beds can help us Canadians up our vitamin D levels, it is my opinion that the risks far outweigh the benefits. If you do decide to use tanning beds to get some vitamin D, make sure you do your research.

Make sure the tanning salon bed puts out UVB. That’s done with medium-pressure lamps. High-pressure lamps only put out UVA, which will not make any vitamin D. With UVB rays, you won’t get a burn, you won’t even get much of a tan, but you’ll get lots of vitamin D.” – Dr. Holick, (cbc.ca)

Considering that the tanning salon that was advertising on the radio was also talking about the wonderous glow you would have after the sessions, I doubt they were using UVB rays in their beds. It’s a tough time to be a consumer out there, reading between the lines when the lines are so skewed.

Quebec is putting a ban on use of the beds for anyone under the age of eighteen. This follows suit with many other provinces and countries who have already initiated similar age bans. Ontario (yay us!) and British Columbia are planning to do so as well. Studies have shown that the risk of getting skin cancer is significantly increased when people below the age of 25 use tanning beds, so we may be able to decrease the risks in many teens.

“…people who used tanning beds were 67% more likely to develop squamous cell carcinoma and 29% more likely to develop basal cell carcinoma than people who never used them. This risk was highest among people who started to tan before their 25th birthday.” (Webmd.com)

The good ole Nova Scotians are doing even better, their age ban starts at 19 years of age. Unfortunately, there is still the fact that most people have no idea that tanning beds can be bad for them, so many people will flock to the salons as soon as they are of age.

It is unfortunate for us Canadians, and many residents in the United States, that we suffer from a big loss of vitamin D in the winter time. Some people might think that going outside in the winter time with their faces exposed will help them produce some vitamin D. The amount of D your face produces is minute and a recent study shows that even if you were completely uncovered, it wouldn’t matter.

Above Atlanta Georgia [in latitude], you can’t make vitamin D in your skin in the winter time. We did a study involving Edmonton residents. For six months of the year, they were unable to make vitamin D in their skin. Stand naked outside from the time the sun rises until it sets, freeze every appendage on your body and you will not make vitamin D.” – Dr. Holick, (Cbc.ca)

Thank goodness we’ve disproved another health reason for winter nudists! Hee hee. My vitamin d source of choice is just to use a good supplement. For more information about how much you should be taking in oral form, see my Vitamin D blog entry.

Do you use tanning beds? Have you ever asked about UVA versus UVB bulbs on one of your visits?