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The Girlfriend's Guide to Health will be updated every Tuesday.... Stay tuned dear readers and let me rock your world.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Driving Miss Crazy...

I am a terrible driver. This may be because I no longer drive on a regular basis. This may be because I was never a fan of cars even before I returned mine for a bicycle. Or, this may be because I really like to do more than one thing at a time even when I am behind the wheel.

I do believe my husband first fell in love with me when we were first dating and I would drive him to University in my 1992 Dodge Colt. I drove with my knees while putting on a full face of makeup using the rear view mirror as easily as a one of those fancy bathroom magnifying mirrors. I drank my morning coffee, smoked my morning cigarette (heaven forbid the driving should be the only way I would risk my life) and still got us to class on time.

I have no doubt he was petrified and perhaps this has easily contributed to his new found love for walking everywhere. They say that often love spawns out of situations where one is fearful for one’s life…. In fact there is evidence that the brain secretes the same hormones during life threatening experiences as it does when one is in love. Neurohormones such as oxyytocin and Dopamine are at their peak during times of extreme stress and interestingly also at their peak during times of extreme pleasure…

You’ve all heard the stories; the urban love legends, so to speak. The couple met on a plane during turbulence and a hurricane and bad weather made them fasten their seatbelts and commit their lives to one another all while securing their own oxygen masks before helping to assist another.

This is perhaps why they always make contestants on shows like The Bachelor, bungee jump off a bridge or a cliff strapped to each other.

And yes, this is partially why my husband fell in love with me. I drove him to University each morning of our courtship and proceeded to apply a full face of make up (complete with mascara and eyelash curling) while operating the steering wheel with my knees and hoping for the best.

Oh admit it dear girlfriends… you’ve all done it. In fact according to an article published in the London Telegraph on October 2, 2009, 27% of women surveyed in the United Kingdom confessed to putting on makeup while driving. In fact 3% of all accidents in the UK are caused by this, one such resulting in death and a 2 year prison sentence for the offending driver/Max Factor wanna be.

Remember this translates to more than 1 in 5 women. Now let’s do some “Girl Math”. Consider that when it comes to areas of blame, guilt, calories and alcohol, all women lie. We lie about our weight, whether we our angry and if something is indeed our fault (Honey- if you are reading this- please stop immediately). So the 27% of women who indeed ADMITTED to putting on makeup is more likely to be 97%. Furthermore, add another 20% for the women who do not consider lipstick to be “make-up” and you have a whopping total of 117% of women using their rear view mirror for “true applications” so to speak…

And so I no longer drive. I do however take taxis from time to time and there in the back seat I create my very own SEPHORA counter on the way to my destination. The roads are inevitably a safer place and after 16 years… my husband safely (now an avid walker) still is madly in love with his wife.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

When the Rubber Hits the Road

Permit me my sisters and brothers to begin this Tuesday with a recap of my recent exploits. Yes, normally this blog is an ode to the science behind what we take for granted everyday.

But if I may, something magical happened to me 10 days ago and I thought I might share it with cyberspace.

I participated in the INTREPID cycling stage ride through the Okanagan, BC. This is a 3-day stage race through west coast wine country. It spans 450km and over 6500 metres of climbing. In short it’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done and yes, after 72 hours I indeed worried that I had lost my mind.

But with all things lost comes something gained and sure enough the experience of it all was so much more than the numbers.

For over three days in lovely September, in “Peach Country”, Canada I became the athlete I always wanted to be.

I’ve been thinking a lot these days, my sisters about what it means to be an athlete.

I think in many respects we characterize this idea in too static a term. The media, pop culture, mainstream have all tried to define the term “athlete” in a specific context.

An athlete is someone who is seriously fit, who devotes their life to sport and who is usually a part of a team of some kind.

Webster’s dictionary defines athlete as:

“a person who is trained or skilled in exercises, sports, or games requiring physical strength, agility, or stamina”

I can’t help but wonder if this definition limits the real meaning of what it means to be a true sportsman or sportswoman.

Here’s the deal….

When I was a kid I hated sports. Sure, I watched football on television with my grandmother but on a personal note- I could not get into playing it. I WAS the last kid picked for dodgeball in school. I was forced to play little league at the age of 6 but was often stuck in centre field by the coach more as a place to put me than a real position on the team.

Hint- what 6 year old girl can hit a ball to centre field? I pretty much sat in centre field (yes, sat, on the grass) and bit my nails. In fact if I’m being really honest- I usually would intentionally pee my pants in centre field in order to be able to go home, have a bath and end the madness of it all.

My mother felt terrible for me and would often treat me to an ice cream. It was manipulation at its best and really a 6-year old stroke of genius.

Fitness was something that I came to rather later in life. It was a slow progression but now it really is a part of who I am. I AM a runner…. Fast or slow. I AM a cyclist; more slow than fast- I am someone who loves to train and who competes regularly- but only against myself.

And if I’m being really honest- I don’t even do that. When I run a race or finish a triathlon I’m really only there for 2 things…. To finish and to have fun.

Sure the hours are grueling and the pain is there but there a re moments amidst it all- these glimpses when I pause almost in suspended animation and smile at the fact that this chubby kid – this little league drop out is sharing the road with the best of the best… and I love it.

Now, I’m someone who is very active. I easily do a minimum 2 hours of exercise every day between training and commuting to work. But I never really saw myself as an ATHLETE until last weekend.

You see, I’m rather slow on the field. Yes, I train but I would argue that being fast does involve having some genetic gifts. I was blessed with s decent brain and great hair. Good muscle tone? Not so much. My genes lean more towards the cerebral than the visceral. Make no mistake anyone can learn a skill- but in order to be a star I would argue that you might need to be born with a decent machine in order to make the best practice prosper.

But, I digress.

Back to my Intrepid experience.

Here’s the thing with about a bike… A bike really is about that kid inside of all of us. Cycling, at any age is the one sport that connects us to that primordial moment in all of us. A bike was your first set of wheels. A bike was your ticket to freedom. Your bike was your pass beyond your neighbourhood and into the big brave world.

Someone who loved you very much not only bought you your first bike but also taught you how to ride it. You remember learning to ride that bike- practicing every night after dinner until that moment when you could take the training wheels off and it was official- you had arrived.

Even if your bike was a “hand me down” from an older sibling or second hand from the kid down the street- your bike became your first real piece of property. You made sure you locked it up at night and you made it your own. Maybe it was a banana seat with sparkles or streamers from the handle bars- even a bell or a sticker on the back- you put your own flare on YOUR bike with pride.

And so I remembered all of this as I rode the hills and valleys of the Okanagan last weekend.

The day began with me- decked out in a fabulous cycling kit surrounded by 66 riders all Type A cycling beasts and all with less than 1% body fat. I knew it was gonna be lonely. I would not be able to keep up to these machines (the people- not the bikes) and so, I had downloaded a few books on tape and a great playlist to keep me company on the long road ahead.

The first day was a ride up Silverstar mountain. I am not a good climber but I do get it done. After 1600 metres and 22 km of an 8% grade up to the top of the ski hill I had found new swear words I did not know existed and I still had 120km to go.

Needless to say the day ate my soul. Most of the riders rode in packs or “pelotons”- pace lines that allow the cyclists at the back to benefit from drafting.

I ride alone. I have a single ear bud playing a book on tape or music to keep me company. If there is a head wind- I get it. On the down side- there is no drafting. On the upside there is no one to hear your profanity and judge you harshly.

And so it was for Day 1. After the climb and descent came a fever of rolling madness through the wilderness. I developed “Athletic Tourette’s” sometime after lunch when there was a further 500 metres of climbing before I reached the finish line.

I saw eagles, hawks, a pack of mountain sheep and the depths of my soul before I headed to the finish line where I was greeted by a black bear 200 metres in front of me. Did I turn around a pedal the other way for fear of being mauled by Mother Nature’s minion? Hell no. Bitch had had enough fun for one day- I pedaled past that black ball of fury yelling at it the whole way along.

Day one took me over 9 and a half hours to complete. And there I was ready to do it all over again tomorrow and the next day.

At the awards ceremony that night- Chad the race organizer announced the winners for the day.

In the solo women’s category I was in third place. 


Yes, there were only three women in the solo women’s category and even though I was last in the pack…. If I finished this race- I’d be on the podium.

Yes, this is ridiculous. But somehow this kept me going.

Onward through Day 2, 157 km of rolling hills through Wine Country, BC. I should say it plain- I’m not a big wine drinker. Sure there are lots of reasons- the fact that I don’t like the taste of wine- being the biggest- long and short? My liver is not my best feature.

Having spent three days riding a bike through vineyards I now have less of an affinity to wine…. You see grapes are grown on hills. If you want to ride through a vineyard- you have to expect that you are going to do some climbing. And so the divide between the grape and me grew even stronger this weekend.

Day 3 saw the dawn of a new set of hills- a climb up Apex mountain and a new fabulous outfit. I did not make the cut off to climb Apex mountain. I’d like to say that I was disappointed but I’d be lying like a dog in the street.

Did I need to climb another 12% grade for 10km to prove I was a cyclist. Hell no. I was riding by myself out in the hills for the last 100km listening to a book on tape on the biography of cancer.

The book was 18 hours in and we still had not found a cure. I had endured more physical and psychic pain in the last three days than I thought possible. And yes, I was still smiling. So screw Apex- I’m still a rider- I told myself. I will finish this race with pride and I will accept my podium place.  

And so there it was…. amidst the hills and the hell something magical happened. Somewhere over those three days with my body pushed to exhaustion and my will ever more willing I learned that indeed I am an athlete.

You see- I crossed the finish line 3 days later in 27 plus hours- a full 13 hours after Jay- the guy who won the whole race. But, at the post race banquet he and a group of the fastest men came up to me to express their admiration.

“Ali- you sure have heart” he said with a hug.

True to form- I was third on the podium. Yes, this may be an insult to third place finishers every where- but screw 'em. I’ve got the heart of a bronze medalist and that is really all that matters.

And sure enough- I did win an award….

I won the INTREPID award for rider who overcame the most obstacles to finish the race with the best attitude.

Let’s be clear- my whole life I was the kid with brains and not with brawn. I’m certainly never the fastest rider or runner in a group but when the rubber meets the road- I get the job done and I try as hard as I can to do it with a smile on my face (and a swear under my breath).

But I think my sisters that THAT is what it means to be an athlete. An athlete is indeed not the best in the field but the best they can be on the field.

I had got it wrong all those years- an athlete is so much so the most personal of definitions. And it is in those moments when we connect to that athlete inside of us all that we learn how great we truly can be.

Because my cyclists- life’s not about racing to count your victories- it’s about being victorious at the end of it all.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Mary Tyler No-More

Today marks the one month anniversary since we cancelled our cable. I should preface this by saying that I have never been one to “stand on ceremony”. I am not usually one to “celebrate THE day”, “; opting instead to “celebrate the days”.  But this month was a special one.

You see, sweet sisters- I was a television addict. Sure, I usually watched TV from the comfort of a spin bike or a treadmill, no matter- I still took in a  fair bit of media.

Hours were spent “binge watching” a series I had taped on my PVR, I had been known to squeeze in a viewing or two before falling asleep to the TV. I was non-discriminating in my television viewing.

Judge not, my girlfriends, but I can recognize most “Bachelor” contestants and can easily tell you who has won survivor for the last decade. HBO, BBC, Netflix…. I show no favouritism….  I am an equal opportunity viewer.

Or rather…. I was. Now, I have no cable.

No, we did not forget to pay the bill and yes it was voluntary (somewhat).

I remember meeting people who professed to having “NO CABLE” and thinking they were truly flawed.

My first encounter with a NO-CABLE individual was 3 years ago at a party.

There we were at some cocktail something and I was searching for small talk in a  big room. It was a bit of television crowd and so the natural topic of conversation would have been TV. I had just finished reading a book called “The Revolution was Televised”, about the evolution of TV’s antihero. Incidentally, this is a great book if I may and I thought a good conversation starter. There I was poised to talk about THE WIRE to a colleague and friend and they opened with “I Don’t have cable”.

And the conversation took a turn.

“Really?” I said fascinated, “how do you cope?”
“Seriously, Ali?” was the answer.
There it was…. I was shamed.  

Firstly I should say that this individual said “I don’t’ have Cable” like one would say “I don’t have Herpes”… it was an elitist statement made more to separate herself from “the rest of us” as opposed to a statement of fact.

I have met many “non-Cablers” since and have found similar attitude among them.  They insist on inserting some form of “Cable-shaming” into the conversation.

I do believe such a  phenomenon is growing as I have been “Cable Shamed” at a number of social events over the years.

People without cable insist on setting themselves apart from the heard as though their brains are too big for the world from reading poetry and listening to CBC radio 1….

I felt alienated by this “non-cable” tribe. They were a clean crisp white blouse, freshly pressed and smelling of lavender. My cable- watching self was a coffee stained T-shirt with a hole at the hem and through which you could see my bra.

And then one day, last month…. I joined the tribe.

Just like that. No elitist motive. Born out of the fact that my beloved suggested we try it for a month…. We had been watching less television anyway over the summer and thought, hey… why not. Save a few bucks and a few brain cells.

Truth be told, he sold this concept to me by insisting that I could easily buy two pairs of shoes with all the money we would save on cable. I love my syndicated television…. But I love my Manolos more.

And so it is a month later.

What differences do I notice?

Observation #1:

I do watch less television but I still have access to it. Netflix is an option as is i-Tunes but overall I have gone from daily watching to maybe 3 hours a week. Needless to say, there have been more outdoor bike rides.

Observation #2:

Not only do I watch less TV, but I notice I am much mreo discerning in my taste. When you have to go hunting for a show- you make sure it is worth your time.

Observation #3:
I am not a quiet woman but I can have my moments. These have come more often. And when I say, quiet I mean that I am quiet inside and out. The house has less noise. There sued to be the blare of a television for background at all times and now there is the sound of the street.

My head is quieter too…. For some reason I notice a greater calm without the blare of a set in the background and with great surprise I welcome it.

A volume of studies has shown that television viewing negatively impacts kids risk of obesity and diabetes. Most recently a study published in the archives of Pediatric Medicine in 2008 showed that reducing a child’s viewing time by 50% reduced their BMI (body mass index). This effect had more to do with reducing their intake of calories than with increasing their physical activity.

According to this study and others TV not only makes you sit (in my case not so much) but it also make you eat. It ignites in us a pattern of behaviour- never mind the food cues that television displays both in shows and in commercials….. TV primes our brains to be food minded.

Make no mistake, my girlfriends, I did not cancel my cable to lose weight and be healthier… Although health is always a priority- truth be told the cable cancelling was my beloved’s idea and I went along. But it is an added benefit knowing that indeed I’ll likely watch less TV and in the long run, perhaps gain more healthy living.

If nothing else, the next time I find myself at a party in the middle of a television conversation, I can join the elite tribe and utter the words everyone is so fond of hearing….

“I’m sorry, I don’t have cable”.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Give me another day my sisters.... I'll get back to you tomorrow. 

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Half Assed Iron Man

Promises made and promises lost my sisters. On this day of all Tuesdays, I’ve been thinking a lot about the paths we take in life and how one moment indeed can define us as much as a thousand of them.

Last week I was scheduled to race the Penticton Challenge. Physically I was strong and (somewhat) ready. I had trained for months with my fabulous coach (shout out K.B.) whose arms are indeed as perfect as her soul.

But as the race day drew near, I just “did not have it”. Something in me could not get into the idea that this triathlon would be mine. Sure, I could just go and do the race- but really? You can’t “phone in” a Half Iron man distance triathlon. After swimming for 1.9km, you cycle 90km and then run 21.1km.

This would be the second time I totally lost my mind in an endeavour of this nature. Last year I did my first Half Iron Man triathlon and finished in last place. Make no mistake- it was awesome. If you don’t believe me…. Read this.

But this year something had shifted. I was ready for the race’s physical challenge but mentally my mind was elsewhere. Perhaps it was because this year’s race calendar had been full? Perhaps I had been working a bit too hard?  Perhaps I just did not have “it”…. You know, the Mojo, the charm, the spell that usually takes over a few weeks before a race and BAM you are hooked and good to go.

I am not sure what it was last week that made me change my triathlon mind, but I did. And so I decided a week before my race to just NOT do it.

I should preface this by saying this behaviour is not in my character. I am not a person who backs down easily from any challenge. In life there are those of us who run into the burning building and those of us who run out. I would count myself the former.

Be it work or play, sport or shoe sale- I am someone who definitely shows up.

And so it was a bit out of character for me to BACK DOWN on this, the Penticton challenge.

Mentally how would I cope with the idea that for the first time in my relatively young racing life, I had walked away from a challenge?

On a practical note, what would I do this weekend? Here I was locked and loaded with endurance to spare and nowhere to put it?

The practical solution came easy.

Vancouver has many a race every weekend. Could I compensate for my Half assed Iron man with a three-day event that would make up the distance?

Certainly. Could I “mix and match” a series of races and come up with the 70.3 miles of swim, bike run without ever leaving the Vancouver lower mainland?


This past weekend Vancouver was hosting the Lululemon Sewheeze half marathon.  I bought an entry bib (or shall I say and entry bracelet?) from some lovely girlfriend on Facebook and spent 4 hours in line on Friday morning at the Seawheeze pop up store in search of the perfect racing outfit.

Do not judge my sisters… I was grieving the loss of my triathlon and trying to shop my was through my decision. Retail therapy is genius.

And so on Saturday morning, I suited up with 10,000 other sisters… believe me there were maybe 100 men in this race- Seawheeze is an estrogen fest to run for glory.

The race was a glorious one and I must admit- indeed it erased any doubt in my mind regarding my triathlon misgivings.

I had a good run (not a great one) and my medal matches my outfit. This cannot be wrong in any universe.

ON Sunday, legs a bit weary, I strapped on my cycling shoes and Bella (my bike) and I raced the demons away in Coquitlam at the Mountain Equipment Co-Op Century ride. Nothing chases away the devil like a 100km ride through the rolling hills of the Lower Mainland.

That is until 4 hours into the ride you find yourself walking up said hills with your bike because the 20% grade is meant for someone with greater stuff than I. By greater stuff I mean a motorbike or a drug doping scandal.

For some reason, the race organizers thought that a few very steep hills would add to the challenge. Make no mistake- I can bike a hill. Just last week, I cycled up Cypress Mountain.  I am not adverse to hills- I don’t; speed up them but I can do them (with a bit of Bitching and moaning to power me through). But a 17% grade hill followed by a 20% grade hill in the middle of the race is really the devils work.

There I was, in the middle of nowhere pushing my bike up a hill in bike cleats- this was the equivalent of walking in heels… to Whistler.

No fingers pointed- I signed up for this course….

I should say that as I write this, the memory of pushing my bike up a hill with bike shoes on is quickly fading. .

The scenery was epic.

My first half of the ride was glorious. My legs were stiff but I was ready. But 30km in- I lost touch with a pack and wound up riding the remaining race alone. “No, matter,” I told myself- “I ride alone all the time”.

The problem with riding alone on the country roads of Coquitlam was that MEC in their infinite wisdom had failed to mark the course clearly. Getting lost on a back road in British Columbia indeed tests the soul as much as it tests the legs. 

And so I spent 20km wandering through Coquitlam looking for race markers wondering whether a cab would drive out this far to get me.

It was indeed somewhere around the 70km mark that I faced my own HEART OF DARKNESS.

You see, I backed out of the Half Iron Man because I did not have the mental will for such a race. There I was with a half marathon run on my legs and 70km of bike riding behind me lost in Coquitlam with no cell phone coverage and somehow I found my way home.

I called my fabulous coach (who had likely finished the race an hour or so before) and asked for directions. Graciously- she let me rant and then talked me home. With new directions in tow- I made it safely across the finish line 90 minutes later- 120km on my bike’s odometer. This was a century PLUS ride and I had found my way.

I awoke Monday morning with a plan to swim 1.9km in order to complete my own personal triathlon. There was no need.

For some reason I had banished the doubt. I had washed away the urge to perform and had risen to my own occasion.

No evidence this week- but I learned a lot, my sisters about what it really means to be an athlete. As someone who always is a little slower than the pack- I often wonder if I am making the same mark as the others in the race.

But this weekend with a half marathon race and a century ride- I learned that in life- sometimes we do readjust our expectations and the world indeed accommodates. Sometimes a moment on a country rode is more significant than 8 hours of racing for glory.

Because in life as in any sport- it’s not how you start…. It’s not even how you finish…. It’s WHO YOU ARE along the way that makes the rubber hit the road.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Show and Tell...

I have spent the last few months watching more than a few You-Tube videos. No, get your heads out of the gutter- not the dirty kind. Just the generic “stupid human tricks” that seem to be posted quite a bit on the site.

In fact I would maintain that You Tube is our species version of “Grown-Up SHOW AND TELL”.

Do you remember the real SHOW AND TELL? We all had one experience or another. Typically it was in kindergarten or Grade 1. We were five or six years old. We stood in front of classrooms all over this great nation with a rock from a camping trip or a caterpillar gripping to life (and leaf) in a jam jar. We proudly announced to the class the origin of the unusual sea pebble or the lifecycle of a butterfly as we knew it.

But years gone by and we’ve passed the age when you can stand before a group of your peers and “show em what you’ve got”. This is where the internet comes in….

Yes my dear girlfriends, well over a year of blogging later and I now fully realize that the internet is our species SHOW AND TELL.

Want to share with friends about your latest meal? Why not Twitter that you “ate duck two ways at a great restaurant just last night”. Want friends and family to know what little Jessica looked like after eating her first bite of peas? Just video tape it and blast her little green face into cyber space for all to see and enjoy.

Isn’t FACEBOOK, the very defintion of grown up SHOW AND TELL gone wild? I know more about the people I went to highschool with NOW than I did when we were in Highschool!

Make no mistake, I am a huge fan of the whole SHOW AND TELL thing we’ve got going on as a culture. I think it is a true revelation. Hell this is entertainment at its finest. I loved SHOW AND TELL back as a six year old and I sure as hell love it even more now that we’ve moved beyond the flora and the fauna….

But I can’t help but notice that the internet has become quite feline these days. What I mean by this is that there are a hell of a lot of cats out in cybersapce lately. Haven’t you noticed my dear girlfriends? We seem to be pushing the whole “CAT AGENDA” quite a bit. Whether it’s the Freaky cat videos on You Tube (where the little kitten is being filmed making a rather human gesture) or the cat versus larger animal videos (cat v. alligator, cat v. polar bear) that have gone viral.

In fact I would argue that cat video emails have replaced Viagra emails as the new number one topic of cyber spam.

So what is it with cat owners and their exhibitionist needs?

According to a study presented this past year at the International Stroke Conference in New Orleans owning a cat could reduce your risk of a heart attack by nearly one third.

The finding was the main result of a 10 year study of more than 4,000 Americans by researchers at the University of Minnesota's Stroke Institute in Minneapolis.

The study was based on data extracted from people aged 30 to 75, from the second National Health and Nutrition Examination Study. Participants were recruited from 1976-1980 and followed over a 10 year period. Of the 4,435 Americans in the study, 2,435 of the participants were current or former cat owners, while the remaining 2,000 had never had a cat.

Using the main outcome as death from all causes, including stroke and heart events, the researchers found that over a 10 year follow up period, cat owners showed a 30 per cent lower risk of death from heart attack compared to non cat owners.

I’m not suggesting we all go out and buy a kitten… I am personally allergic and have always been more of a dog person. In fact, I have never been particularly fond of cats.

Apart from the fact that every cat I meet prompts me to have an Asthma attack, I am not what you would call, a “CAT PERSON”.

I find them too “stand offish”. After a long day at work, I want a pet that greet me at the door and is so excited to see me that, hell, it could easily pee on the floor given the chance.

A cat does not do that. A cat is the kind of animal that can be left alone with enough food and water for days on end and still survive. While I admire that kind of independence, it is not something I am looking for in a household pet.

But we can’t ignore the science once again. Cat people live longer than those who are feline free. The science of why there are so many cats on the internet? Simply put…because their owners have nine lives….

Monday, August 18, 2014

The Naked Truth

Truth be told, I did not grow up in a naked house. Make no mistake there was a healthy regard for one's physical self... the standard self esteem was "dished out" over one's physical form. We walked around in pajamas or underwear just as much as the next family, but there was a standard uniform of undergarments used at any given time. Ever a fan of outfits, you can imagine that this "bare clothing minimum" suited (no pun intended) me fine. In fact I assumed the rest of the world followed similar "Behind Clothes Doors Policy" That was until I met the "Naked Girl".

My latest locker room experience is so common place that it is merely a prototype, if you will. It stands as an example of all previous and future encounters. It is not fiction. It happens to me all the time and I am not alone.

There I was at the Aquatic Centre in Vancouver. I had just finished a fabulous 1500 metre swim and walked into the women's changing room to shower, change and do what any normal woman does after a swim... You know... lather, rinse, repeat. There are two change rooms for women at the Aquatic Centre. There is the "common" change room which is like any public pool changing room. Then there is the "Adults Only" change room which is for women who do not want to change in front of 4 year old boys staring in fascination at their girlie bits. I, ever a fan of elitism, always chose the latter. The "Adults Only" change room, as it happens was closed for cleaning. The "Adults Only" change room has separate private showers, each with a curtain. Such is not the case in the "common" change rooms.

In my experience women fall into one of three categories of naked locker room behaviour. You have the "Naked Girl" who really is the subject of this article. On the other end of the spectrum you have the "Under the Towel Girl" who essentially uses her towel as a shield from the outside world unless she is changing in a bathroom stall with the door closed (no judgement here- just an observation). And then you have everything in between. As far as locker room nudity goes, I would classify myself as a middle of the road naked person. I shower, change and leave. Should you find yourself in a locker room next to me, you may see parts of me naked, however, you WILL NOT be able to draw me nude from memory.

I can not say the same for some of my locker room sisters. For there in the "common" shower room was what I could only describe as a cross between a shampoo advertisement and a burlesque show. I recently read that a women's fitness establishment in the US banned nudity in its locker rooms in order to provide women with body image issues with a nonthreatening atmosphere. I must admit, I thought (and still do think) this was ridiculous. I'm all for women having nonthreatening atmospheres but to ask our fellow sisters to change with the "over the bra, under the towel" trick from the safety of a locker room is yet another example of how common sense is the greatest example of literary irony in existence today.

As for the scene in the public shower of the "common" locker room, there she was in all of her splendor, lathering up like a peep show professional, the latest and greatest "Naked Girl". I will spare you the details, but it is safe to say that I am not being a prude when I say that a woman does not need to scrub herself that thoroughly unless she has just been to a nuclear reactor spill. This was a chlorinated pool, not Chernobyl. Having spent a full five minutes in a perverted after school special in the showers, I ventured into the changing rooms only to discover three women standing (I kid you not) full frontal on the benches and putting on lotion. These were three separate women, not three friends. The weather called for naked and I was in the middle of a vagina hailstorm.

I will end it there. As it stands, I blame the the "common" change rooms but in retrospect this was not my first encounter with the inevitable "Naked Girl" who parades around the locker room either chatting on her cell phone or doing her taxes in all her natural glory. We have all seen her. She comes in various shapes and sizes and inevitably her locker is always the one next to ours. "Naked Girl" always engages in conversation, always posing the challenge of where to look when you talk to her and ONLY uses her towel to dry her feet. She makes the even most self assured woman feel a little shy.

I have searched the medical literature to secure some scientific basis for my claim that this woman really should put some clothes on, but I have come up empty. There is little data on the lack of sanitation of the situation.

I did come upon some interesting articles about STD transmission in male locker rooms but this was as a result of sexual activities in said locker rooms. Incidentally, gyms in New York are required by law to enforce the state sanitary code against sex on their premises, often post signs notifying exercisers that "inappropriate behavior" is not permitted.

As for the Girls Gone Wild- locker room edition which we have all encountered, there is little to find, scientifically. However, I believe it was Charles Darwin who said "where science ends, faith begins".

And so, my cyber sisters, let us evolve as Darwin intended us to- save the sexy scrub show for the privacy of your own bathroom or the Red Light District in Amsterdam. Ever a fan of self expression- it really is something that one should do in the comfort of one's own home or peep show window. In the spirit of sisterhood and in the name of all locker rooms everywhere, ladies, I pray that we may strive to find a tiled public changing room where naked women everywhere can co-exist. Where we shall be judged not by the size of our waist to hip ratio but by the name on our gym bag; not by the quality of our breast augmentation, but by the quality of our $75 Bumble and Bumble conditioner. And let us say, Amen.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

So sorry sweet sisters for the day of silence. Am on holidays this week and well, I just can't get my shit together. Promise to post later in the week.... stay tuned. 

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

So sorry sweet sisters for the day of silence. Am on holidays this week and well, I just can't get my shit together. Promise to post later in the week.... stay tuned. 

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Heaven on Wheels

Heads up sweet sisters- I will state the obvious. I am indeed in love with my bike. This has been a great love for some time but I feel it needs to be restated here and now.

The burst of emotion comes from the fact that last week I had a bike fit that changed my life (god bless you dear Matt) and now, riding my bike feels like sitting on a couch.
I should say that for the previous month or so I was not so happy with my dear Bella. Yes, every bike should have a name- and mine is Bella…. If you fell this is nutty- please hold your tongue. Silence is golden and shine on immediately.

But Bella and I worked out our issues as I spent almost 3 hours at a physiotherapist/bike fitter 10 days ago. Now Bella is perfection.

My love for Bella also stems from the fact that as I write this- I am watching the final stages of the ultimate bike race…. The Tour de France.

Yes, my girlfriends, I have spent the last 21 days watching men with 1% body fat ride through France and England for glory and greatness and the pursuit of a yellow jersey. The Tour de France ended on Sunday and there I was in my living room watching the “boys on the bikes” ride around Paris on the last leg of the race. Sweat streamed down their faces as tears flowed across mine.

Yes, I was crying. I should say that watching certain sporting events of an International scale makes me get a little “wellie”. I am dry eyed during any commercial football, hockey or baseball match. Put me in front of any Olympic event and I lose my emotional shit, so to speak. Yes, I am fine at the world series but I am reduced to sobs at Olympic curling. It makes no sense.

So there I was sobbing with joy as the boys from Astana Cycling drank champagne on their bikes going 45km/h riding into Paris on the last leg of the 3000 km stage race.

And it dawned on me that in those moments I identified with these men on wheels. You see I too am a cyclist. No, I can not hit speeds of 50km/h while riding up the side of a mountain and yes I would pass any drug test you gave me- but somehow- these boys on the bikes and I were one in those moments as my television tuned to the Australian broadcast of the Tour and my heart tuned to the spinning of the wheels.

I should say that I’ve been watching the Tour for about the last 4 years now. At first I was in it for “The Bike Porn”. I saw the Tour de France as a giant high speed shopping experience where I could check out the latest bikes, outfits and accessories and see how everything looked. I really did not know any of the key players, nor did I understand the rules of the game, so to speak. I was a “commercial observer”; looking at bikes, their paint jobs and seeing which cycling kit was indeed the most stylish.

But about 3 years ago, I learned about the history of this grand bike race. I learned that there is a point system within the race and that there are indeed “mini races” within the race itself. There are prizes for best young rider, best climber and most aggressive rider. I learned that the Tour has a rich history that goes beyond a set of fabulous gears and a good paint job. I learned about the role of each member of a cycling team- the sprinters, the climbers and the “work horses”.

And then, I fell in love with the Tour.

And so for the last 3 weeks I’ve spent most evenings watching the previous day’s race (thank you PVR). I would come home from my own day on my bicycle and turn on the Tour, make dinner, do paperwork, laundry, dishes…. All with the whir of the wheels and the Australian commentator’s voice in the background. 

It was quit meditative, relaxing if you will.

Here I was a girl in Canada cheering for a bunch of International men in Europe
And then it hit me- cycling really is a sport that ignites a primordial connection in us all.

As anyone knows- cycling has seen its fair share of controversy. The sport has been tainted with doping scandals that have questioned the legitimacy of the riders’ abilities.

I have mixed feelings about all of it. Yes, doping IS cheating. But as a scientist- I know full well that even with the best drugs on board riding through the French Alps at 50 km/h is no small feat. Make no mistake- I’m not a fan of doping but I don’t think it cancels out all of the hard work and training that goes in to making a world class rider.

I do believe despite the controversy in cycling that there is a purity of the sport. A bike brings out the best in all of us.

The health benefits of cycling are pretty impressive. As someone who commutes to work every day- the ride indeed takes less time than the drive. A recent study out of Stanford University took almost 100 sedentary insomniacs and asked them to ride a bicycle for 20-30 minutes every other day. The result was that their time to fall asleep was reduced by half and their time asleep increased by an hour. This could be because riding outside exposes you to sunlight- which may prime your circadian rhythms further.

Let’s not ignore the fact that exercise of any kind improves memory, cardiovascular fitness and reduces the risk of heart disease, diabetes and cancer.

King’s College London compared over 2,400 identical twins and found those who did the equivalent of just three 45-minute rides a week were nine years ‘biologically younger’ even after discounting other influences, such as body mass index (BMI) and smoking.

And then there is that primordial connection that riding a bike brings.

A bike was our first real gift. As a kid all you wanted for your birthday or for Christmas was a bike. The person who bought you your first bike was one of the most important people in your lives. And once you had your bike- it was your first real sense of freedom.

You pain stakingly learned to ride a bike under the watchful guidance of someone who loved you. Learning to ride a bike takes patience an perseverance; two skills that would serve you well for the rest of your life.

Your bike was your ticket to the world beyond your neighbourhood. Your bike was your first real item that you owned. You locked your bike up at night to protect YOUR property. Your bike belonged to you. My sweaters were once my sisters- my baseball glove was once hers as well.

But my perfect pink Schwinn with the banana seat and handle bar streamers was MINE. ALL MINE. Every bike I have owned since must measure up to that frame of reference.

And when I learned to ride her without the training wheels and without my father’s supervising eye- I knew I had arrived.

And so here I sit many years later with 3 (yes, I have a cycling abuse problem) bicycles parked safely downstairs in our bike room. Back from a ride and a visit to my youth, to my sense of freedom- to my happy place.

I am watching the boys on the bikes make their last laps through the cobblestone streets of Paris and a part of me knows that they too feel the connection to the little boy with training wheels and that first sense of freedom.

And as the tears stream down my face I am reminded that some of the best things in the life- health and otherwise can happen on the seat of a bike.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Good Clothes Open All Doors

Happy Tuesday dear sisters. As I write this blog I am sitting in my latest new outfit. Yes, my sisters- may I say that I have made a rather fabulous fashion purchase.

No this was not a perfect pair of strappy sandals and no I did not invest in a new summer fabulous of any kind. Instead I  found my self in my ultimate new power suit….. my new wetsuit.

Oh sweet sisters- have you been in a wetsuit? If not… allow me to talk you through this fashion experience.

A wetsuit is basically a suit made of neoprene coated in rubber. It’s basically a body condom lined in scuba material. On the good side? It is the ultimate set of spanx. A wetsuit sucks “everything in” in all the right places. My wetsuit makes me feel like a superhero. In my wetsuit- I AM Wonderwoman. In my wetsuit I am a size 6 supermodel and I piss awesome.

This is of coarse all possible ONCE I am IN my wetsuit. Getting into my wetsuit is indeed the down side of it all.

Have you ever tried on a wetsuit? In short… it’s a bitch to get on. You know that scene where you are putting on a pair of control top pantyhose that are easily a size too small? You struggle and you suck it in and you bounce around on one leg and before you know it- you manage to put all of your wiggly bits into the right place.

Let me paint the scene. There I am in my fabulous new bathing suit that I will wear to my triathlon as I hold my wetsuit in front of me. It is a black rubber full length suit with just the right amount  of blue accents on the arms and legs. My wetsuit is beautiful black and laying there it looks like it might be the promise of perfection for my race this weekend.

And then I try and put this rubber suit on. And that is where the beauty ends.

Putting on my wetsuit is indeed a work out in itself. I stick my feet intro the rubber holes that are the legs of this suit. I then spend the next 5 minutes wrestling with this rubber suit as it fight its way onto my thighs. I feel as though I am wrestling a very large animal wrapped in rubber bungee cords. And the large rubber animal is my lower torso. I am sweating now. I muster a grunt- more for effect than anything. After much effort I have managed to put this rubber suit over my hips and thighs. And now I pull the suit up over my chest and torso and slide my arms into it.

By this time my body temperature is easily three degrees higher. I am now sweating but I am zipped in. I turn to look at my reflection in the mirror and yes…. Despite the sweat over my face and the fact that I look like I’ve just ran a few kilometers- I am in this suit and I am ready for my magical moment.

This morning I engaged in this very ritual at the beach at Kitsilano. My goal was to swim 2km in Kits pool in my wetsuit and then to take a turn in the ocean.

My plan was to get my “ocean legs” wet- to play in the ocean until I was really and truly comfortable there. You see my girlfriends- I have a 2km ocean swim ahead of me on Sunday and I am…well… a bit unsettled by the idea of an ocean swim.

 It’s the whole idea of putting your face in the water and seeing nothing but green. IN a pool you can see the bottom. In the ocean the view looks like pea soup. It can be a bit unsettling. If I am truly being honest- the first time I did it.... it scared the shit out of me.

It's like staring into space and having an existential crisis all at the same time. I think it's about feeling alone in the world.... that primordial sense of isolation that human beings find so alienating. Yes, I am being philosophical. To bring it down a notch? It feels like you are 6 years old and afraid of the dark. Instead "the dark" is the ocean and you are by yourself in it. You put your face in and can't see a thing. If you do see something it might be a shark..... okay, I'm being dramatic and a chicken shit. But hey, go with it.

And so I needed to rid myself of this irrational fear. My plan was to put a song in my head and may face in the water and not come up until the fear had washed away.

There I was on a beautiful day off frolicking in the Pacific in my new wetsuit. I put my underwater MP3 on and listened to Vampire Weekend as I pretended I was one part Wonderwoman- one part mermaid. Thirty minutes later- it worked. There I was jumping and swimming and diving up and under to some fabulous tunes on a fabulous day in a fabulous new wetsuit. And I was anything but afraid.

Swimming in a wetsuit is indeed an interesting experience. There you are encased in rubber and I must say that breathing is a bit more laboured than in a regular bathing suit. It feels a bit “compressed” if you will.  This, however, gets better with experience. Ten minutes into my wetsuit swim and I was much better at the breathing/rubber combination.

With all of these adjustments, one must ask a sister- why even put on the wetsuit?

Turns out- there is an advantage to swimming in a rubber suit when swimming in the ocean.

Firstly there is the warmth factor.

When a swimmer is submerged in water- the water flows into the suit settling between the rubber and the body. The swimmers own body temperature will warm the water and therefore warm the swimmer. As you swim- the body warms up and warms the water further. Again this warms the body further. And so a wetsuit is the perfect way to keep you warm when you are in the Pacific Ocean in the pursuit of a dream.

Then there is the concept that a wetsuit improves your buoyancy and therefore improves you speed. Think of it like a boat driving on the water. The more you are able to stay on the surface- the faster it will be.

According to a study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine in 1991, wetsuits indeed improve performance in both short and long distance swims. The study looked at 16 elite athletes swimming both in and out of wetsuits at 400m and 1500m distances.

While wearing a wetsuits the swimmers were able to reduce their speeds by 14 seconds on average for the 400metres and 35 seconds for the 1500 metres.

The interesting thing was that the effect was most pronounced for the thinner swimmers. The theory was that heavier swimmers were already more buoyant and had an added advantage.

And so this Sunday, my girlfriends I will frolic in the Pacific and swim for glory in my fabulous rubber suit. I will be warm thanks to the mechanic of it all and I may even pee shamelessly in the suit if I want to. Who knows if my time will be better with the suit than without…. As with most things, my girlfriends- I’m in it for the fashion statement more than anything else. 

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

In Case of Emergency

Last week I took my dogs to the vet. Yes, I am ONE OF THOSE people. I will not defend my love for my furry monsters; only to say that yes, I know they are dogs and no I would not give them chemo if they were diagnosed with cancer. I love my puppies. They are fuzzy and cute but I am well aware that they are DOGS.

That being said, I somehow find it completely acceptable to spend 45 dollars to have their nails clipped. In my defense, sweet sisters… my older dog Lola has black nails. Have you ever cut a dog’s nails that are black? This poses a problem because the anatomy of a dog’s nail is such that there is what is called a “quick” that is essentially a tube of flesh that run inside the nail that houses the blood vessels and nerves. If you cut the nail too short you will cut the quick.

If your dog has white nails- the quick is easy to see. Black nails? It’s totally a guessing game. In fact I would argue that of all the advancements we’ve made in science and technology today- you’d think there would be some way to cut a black dog’s nails without fear and the threat of a massacre. Cutting a black dog’s nails is still pretty much a crapshoot. If indeed you cut the quick of an adorable black long hair Chihuahua who only wants to lick your face and you are indeed a monster.

And so, I leave this to my vet’s technician. I pay 45 dollars for a professional to take one for the team and my dog Lola, still loves me shamelessly. As for the technician? Lola fucking hates her. 

But I digress. There I was in the vet’s office when I saw the most unusual advertisement. There are THUNDER JACKETS for dogs. In general many animals are petrified of thunder. We’ve all heard the stories of dogs hiding under meds and owners during thunderstorms. My dogs are completely oblivious. I don’t know why but I do know that most dogs are petrified of thunder.

According to a study published in the Journal of the American Animal Hospital Association in 2001 a survey of 69 cases of “Thunderstorm Phobia” shows that it is indeed most prevalent in herding dogs (41 of the 69 cases). More than 25% exhibited features before one year of age. Methods to control such phobia include giving the dogs a mild sedative or wrapping them in a tight fitting jacket, blanket or shirt.

And thus the THUNDERJACKET was born. Apparently this jacket makes the dog feel safe. And don’t we all just want to feel safe?

It turns out you can buy said jacket online (or at my vet’s office) and sure enough the dog gets the fashion equivalent of an Ativan.

I left the office thinking about this concept as I made my way home with freshly manicured pups in tow.

A piece of clothing that you put on and sure enough…. It provides you with a sense of safety.

We all have said fashion items in some for or another, don’t we? Sure there is the obvious:

Safety goggles
Sun Glasses
Bike Helmets
Rain boots
Winter Boots

There’s the obvious protective gear out here for any occasion.

But what about the items we wear to protect the most important parts of our beings?

Bill Cunningham the famous fashion photographer once said,


Too true MR. Cunningham, too true.

I got home from my vets office and gave Lola and Ruby a treat for their effort. (Yes, I reward my dogs with food- I am a terrible parent. But rest assured I reward myself with shoes)

I went upstairs to my closet and looked around. There hanging were numerous “Thunder jackets” of my own; pieces of clothing, outfits I had bought over the years with no real occasion to wear them other than that in a pinch- they made me feel safe.

Just last week I bought a ball gown on sale (80% off sweet sisters- it practically bought me) that is perfection. It is a serious ball gown- silk taffeta with muticoloured bats on it. I have absolutely nowhere to wear this thing. But I brought it home, put it on and immediately started doing my paperwork in it.

Three weeks ago after a grueling workday, I cycled home, changed out of my bike gear and put on a cocktail dress to do laundry.

I watch the Oscars every year in full evening attire. I wash a bad day away not with a glass of wine but by putting on a perfect pair of strappy sandals. Right now I am wearing Charlotte Olympia’s Lobster shoes and my pajamas.

These are my metaphorical THUNDER JACKETS…. My armour against the world, my fashionable port in a world full of storms.

Isn’t that what a girl needs sometimes? Some sort of place in her every day life where she feels safe? When we were kids it was a safety blanket…. Now it’s Manolo Blahnik?

I suspect this sounds ridiculous to some but indeed these iconic pieces in my closet soothe the soul. Each has a story and a purpose. Some are art and just pretty to look at- others remind of the place and the time and the feeling that I had when I wore them.

Perhaps I’m shallow, perhaps I’m superficial or maybe I’m a fashion prophet. Maybe I am on to something? Maybe like those herding dogs a percentage of us need a “Thunder jacket” of some kind to get us through the day.

Judge as you will my sisters…. But before you do, might I suggest you get yourself just one perfect ball gown- one perfect piece of clothing with no rhyme or reason. Something pretty and impractical- frivolous but fabulous. Maybe you already have? Buy it or get it out of storage and put it on after a perfectly shitty day….

And go do the laundry.

Fashion is indeed the armour we wear against the world my sisters…. And it’s often a war out there. So thunder jacket or not, you had best, dress accordingly.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

A Canadian Virtue?

As I write this- Today is Canada day. As your read this it will not be Canada day. No sweet sisters- I could not get my shit together in time to post on a Tuesday, despite the fact that it was a 4-day weekend. Yes, I am training for a dreaded Half Iron Man and yes I am using this as an excuse to shirk certain responsibilities.

The importance of a CANADA DAY post rests in the point that Canadians indeed posses certain iconic traits that I must discuss here.


Canadians are a patient people. We are a country that waits our turn. Walk down a street in any major city in Canada during rush hour and you will see people lining up at bus stops. There they are- a row of orderly Canadians waiting their turn to board the bus. 

I am a very proud Canuck. I love my country fiercely. Like any great relationship I am easy to point out its flaws as a nation and easy to forgive some of them. As someone who loves here country I relish in the fact that I bear a good deal of Canadian traits.

I apologize profusely. I am sorry for most of my existence. I voice my apologies easily and often. Last week I bumped into our living room furniture and found myself asking for forgiveness from an ottoman.

I am polite. Please and Thank you are a part of my everyday vernacular. Canadians are known for their polite way of going about their day. We are especially polite in a foreign country…. Our mothers would be furious with any other behaviour.

Not only do I pride myself on spelling COLOUR,  BEHAVIOUR and HONOUR, I love the metric system and easily can convert celicius to Fahrenheit without a calculator.

And although my religion is not Hockey, I am a fan of socialized medicine. When the maple leaf hits the flag, this is my country though and through. Saints or sinners, Good or bad, I’ll stand on guard – not blindly but with an ever cautious questioning eye in the true spirit of a country born of polite conflict.

Yes, I am Canadian though and through. Born on the prairies, I’ve lived east (if you consider Ontario really east) and west.

But, I am not a patient woman. This is not a new revelation but I have noticed lately with 40 long passed that I’m willing to admit certain things about myself with more pride than shame.

This dawns on me as I write this- the day after Canada day. Just this morning I stood in line behind a woman who took 4 minutes to order her coffee. Yes she was a tourist fresh off a cruise ship but who has the time to wait 240 seconds for someone to decide between a “grande latte” and a “regular cappuccino”. Isn’t the difference just FOAM?

I shared this helpful information with her only to realize that my input was not speeding the process along but indeed impairing her ability to make a decision.

“Is the coffee good here?” she asked.

Ever the Canadian my polite side kicked in.

“My favourite”, (notice the spelling?) I said.

“What should I get?” she asked eyes, like a baby deer, pleading with me for some certainty? Her accent was British of some sort- and I felt compelled given our Commonwealth and all to help her out…

“Get a grande latte and be done with it. Tomorrow you can try the cappuccino.”

And there you have it. She ordered the latte and the day moved on. I should tell you that I was pleased with my act of coffee compassion. But I was not. When it comes to Java, I lack patience. I believe that my coffee place should have one line up reserved especially for me. I am this way with driving a car as well. This is perhaps why I do not own a car.

Until the city installs a new road just for me to drive on… I’m holding out on the whole automobile purchase. Perhaps this is why I ride my bike? Indeed I see the bike lane as my OWN?

Patience has never been my virtue. As a child I ate dessert first, as an adult I open birthday gifts in July and I was born in February.

Ironically in my work I am a very patient woman. But at home…. There is no delaying the 8 year old in my brain who wants it all right now.

According to Susan Cain, author of QUIET, I am less patient because I am an extrovert (shocker).

Patience can be taught. The art of slow contemplation of tasks and ideas can be innate or a learned skill.

There is a class at Harvard University, which teaches this very principle. The answer lies in teaching methods that stress patience, critical thinking, and a delayed response based on deep and meaningful contemplation.

Jennifer Roberts a humanities professor at Harvard teaches her students to contemplate and shift the pace and tempo of learning to wards work that requires you to slow down in order to pick up the knowledge.

In medicine and study I am patient. In life I am not. Could it be that there is a concept called situational patience? Could it be that in matters of the head I am slow and contemplative but when it comes to daily tasks, the world best move the hell out of the way so as to allow me to GET ‘ER DONE?

Who knows?

I am happy to resolve the issue by saying I have situational patience. This does not make me less of a patriot. I still apologize the furniture and am polite to a fault even when it means my coffee must wait.

But as for waiting in line at a bus stop? Screw it… I’d rather take my bike.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

To the Class of 2014

This year would have been my 25th high school reunion. No sweet sisters- there was no repeat of a prom or a party in honour of the two and half decades sine my spiral perm days. Instead I passed the time and it simply passed.

I’ve thought a lot about what has happened since my own graduation. This is in part spurred on by my nephew’s recent graduation from high school. I’ve thought about what I have learned since those days of youth and what I have become.

Last week I walked by a group of graduates dressed to the nines in front of the Vancouver Art gallery. There they were full of youth and promise in prom dresses that spoke more of a Miss Universe era than a high school grad. But no matter, for I have learned that when an 18-year-old girl has a fashion vision for her you just smile and get out of the way. Nothing will stop her from making her style dreams a reality.

And so as I walked passed them I could not help but comment,
“Ladies, You look beautiful”.
They looked up from their smart phones and smiled. “Thanks”, said a brunette in orange chiffon with a bodice made entirely of rhinestones. Sister had it going on and she needed someone to let her know that although orange chiffon and rhinestones might have been a bit too mature for an 18 year old, she was still getting an “A” from me for effort.

My high school grad dress was indeed a recycled garment. I had worn it the previous August for my sisters wedding. It was royal blue taffeta with rouching for days. It had a puffy skirt and puffy sleeves with rhinestones. It was a seamstress’s tribute to the 1980’s if ever there was. I was madly in love with that dress as I was with the 3 pounds of rhinestones I wore dangling from my ears. My hair, of course was a spiral perm.

I took my friends Ian to my prom. My boyfriend at the time was living in Montreal and could not come in for the event. Ian was a lovely substitute, save for the fact that he got bored half way through the dinner and went to the hotel bar to drink. I did not care. I was with my girlfriends and when you are 18 in 1989 in Winnipeg and in love with a boy in Montreal, rhinestones are indeed a girl’s best friend.

I smile when I look back at my 18-year-old self. What would I say to her if we met in some weird parallel universe of today? Do any of us know what lessons we’d impart on the younger versions of ourselves? Please. Here I go my sisters….. Waxing philosophical. This is what happens when perimenopause hits…. You reminisce a dream sequence and get lost in the theoretical.

Well… if I must…..

I blame it on the girls in the orange chiffon and the fact that every time I open a paper or the interweb, I am faced with another commencement address from everyone from Condelesa Rice to Louis CK letting the future generation know who to be and how.

If I’m honest? I’m kinda worried for this next generation. They are indeed raised by a generation pretty close to my own and hell… we were pretty fucked up. So to fully face my fears and for the sake of some random teenager on the street in Vancouver bold enough to mix orange chiffon with crystals and bling, I thought I take a moment to write my own commencement address to the class of 2014.

Dear Class of 2014, do I say Yo? What is the greeting these days? You see apparently I am old but when you don’t have children around you- you tend to lose your sense of relative age and somehow you think you are indeed still 22. That is until you find yourself looking in a People magazine and you don’t recognize half the celebrities any longer…. But I digress… Ahem

My dear class of 2014.

I know I should give you some serious life lessons…. The kind I would have liked to have been given when I was your age… but here’s the thing- When I was 18 I really did not want too much advice from someone older than me. It was not until I hit 30 that I realized I could have benefitted from some serious advanced warnings.

So my first piece of advice for you oh generation to come is to listen up. It’s not that you don’t know everything and its not that you are less intelligent than a generation before you it’s just that most of you have not screwed up enough to learn anything of meaning.

And let’s be clear- it’s our mistakes that teach us everything. So here’ my next piece of advice to you oh class of 2014- fell free to screw up…. Just don’t do it to badly and never more than once at the same thing. What I mean by this is that success tends to blind us. We pat ourselves on the back- post our pleasures on Facebook and move on. We relish in our victories so much so that we forget to have a lesson- we forget to debrief.

Make no mistake- failure is a bitch. Believe me- I’ve done it a few times…. This week, let alone this lifetime- and it stings like a blister in a new pair of sandals on a hot summer day.

But failure is where you find out who you really are. When you have fallen down with the world above and the only decision that remains is to get up and go home or to just get up…. You find out what you are made of- you see the potential in your own self.

Oh Class of 2014- makes some mistakes. You likely are doing this very thing right now- but instead of just making a mistake- forgive yourself for the mistake, learn from it and move on.

Remember when “being wrong” threw into a tantrum of sorts? Maybe you were eight years old or maybe it was last week- but remember how a mistake would drop you into a shame spiral and self loathing? You’d call yourself names or emotionally beat yourself up just because of the error at hand?

No? Well, aren’t you special.

Most of us make mistakes and it takes us on an emotional down spiral. We chastise ourselves, we bate, and we go over the mistake in our head and let it weaken our sense of self. But what if we took the mistake as a valuable lesson and mentally “debriefed”- wouldn’t we learn more?

According to my medical hero, Dr. Atul Gawande, there are indeed two kinds of mistakes.

Mistakes of ignorance are where we lack the knowledge to make the right decision and to do the right thing.

Mistakes of ineptitude are where we indeed have the knowledge but fail to apply it properly.

Indeed both kinds of mistakes have much to teach us. One teaches us the information itself, the other a lesson in application.

Do we curse the heavens each time we fail? No.

Make a mistake. Don’t do it often and don’t be careless, but ask yourself was it because I did not know or was it because I failed to apply what I know to a situation.

In my mind- that’s how you grow as a person.

There you have it my class of 2014. Go forth into the world and make it a better place. But don’t be afraid to screw things up on your road to redemption- you might wind up smarter than the sweet sisters before you.