Feedback is not just for Hi-Fi Systems

Wanna tell me what you think? Email me at and I may just devote an entire entry to your comment.

Why Tuesday?

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

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Dear Mr. Prime Minister....

Dear Mr. Harper,

Let’s be clear- I did not vote for you. You seem like a decent fellow- no, that’s not true- I lie. I don’t like you or your politics. It really is nothing personal. Okay- that’s a lie too. Let’s face it a person’s politics can’t help but be personal. Furthermore, I was raised as an NDP lefty in North End Winnipeg by hard working teachers who taught me that a sense of social conscience really is the only way to go. If I did indeed like you, Mr. Harper, it would be against everything I was brought up to believe to be true.  Have always prided myself on a being a girl who remembers first and foremost where she came from- so guess what, sir? You are not coming to my house for Thanksgiving any time soon.

As it stands, I have grown a bit cynical in my old age. I already know that the tooth fairy is bullshit- but I really do still believe that a connection to the human condition can heal this world. I cling firmly to the notion that we can indeed start a revolution through a sense of concern for a hard day’s work, some concrete social programs and healthy sense of the value of culture and education in society. I value the concept that as a nation Canadians do have an innate concern for their sense of community and of others.

I’m a fan of socialized medicine, Mr. Harper. Sure the system is not perfect, but it’s people (and doctors) like me who think that health and access to good care is a right and not a paid-for privilege. I do not mind paying a chunk of my income for the ability to break my leg and not my bank account. I welcome the chance to spend my hard earn tax dollars on museums and culture and television and radio (big love to my sisters at the CBC for that matter). I think we as a nation SHOULD fund social programs and yes I will say it plain- as a society we will be judged by how we treat our less fortunate.

But here’s where I draw the taxation line, Mr., Harper. Hell, Can I call you Steven? After all- I do pay your salary so technically your are on my staff- I have a strict first name basis with my employees… so Steven it is. Steven, Steve perhaps? Why the fuck can I not get a tax break on my bike.

Sorry for the profanity Steve- yes, you are correct- no need to let our emotions take over our manners, I agree. Let me rephrase? It is tax season Steve and my lovely accountant has informed me that had I owned a car I could indeed write part of it off as a business expense for travel. You see Steve- I have a personal corporation- but hey, that is beyond the point. Imagine my surprise when I explained that I do not own a car but in fact use my bicycle to commute to work.

Heads up, Steven- (I’ll use your full name- as to emphasize my disappointment- are you getting it?) I CAN NOT under the current tax laws write said bike off as it is thought to be a “recreational item”. Yes, Bella, Stella and Celia (my bikes have names, Steve- it’s my thing- go with it) are truly enjoyable but in fact without them- I just don’t get the job done.

How naïve of me Steve, I know. To think that a bike- a safe and energy friendly, does the body good mode of transportation would not be encouraged by my government as a means of every day transport.

Steve, I ask you, does this government have such extra funds, what with the cuts to cultural and social programs that it can afford to NOT encourage a healthier way of life.

You see, I was looking at it from the whole point that my bike is very earth friendly and also encourages people like me to be leaner and greener.

Stanford University School of Medicine researchers asked 275 sedentary insomnia sufferers to cycle for 20-30 minutes every other day. After 2 months the researchers did the math. The result?  The amount of time the insomniacs took to fall asleep was reduced by half, and the time they spent asleep increased by almost an hour a night.

The theory behind this is not only the benefits of exercise- but also the benefits of exercising outside. According to the researchers, exercising outside exposes people to more daylight and as a result it helps to regulate their circadian rhythms.

In fact, Steve, as you know, data from King’s college compared 2400 identical twins and found that those who did the equivalent of three 45-minute rides per week were “biological younger” by 9 years than those who sis not. This data adjusted for all other risk factors. Furthermore, studies from Purdue University from our sisters to the south have shown that regular cycling – even as little as 20 miles a week – can cut your risk of heart disease by up to 50 percent.

If health isn’t your thing, Steven (and by what you’ve done to the healthcare system these days, I can only suspect you are not much of a fan), then perhaps we can look at the money issue?

According to the organization Cycling England upping cycling levels by 20 percent in the 10 years up to 2021 could save 107 million British pounds in reducing premature deaths, 52 million pounds in healthcare costs to the National Health System and 87 millions pounds of savings in fewer sick days.  
So you can imagine my dismay Steve with all the planetary concerns, the oil fields debacle and the fact that God can put his fist through the ozone- I thought you might want a healthier population base and a true north strong and free.

I know, Steve, it’s been a whirlwind here- with all the facts and figures and the big words you never learnt in post secondary education (damn that Canadian University system! Don’t get me started on those bastard and their tuition fees, right Steve?)

Your head is swimming, what with taking tax payers jets to hockey games and drinking wine at state dinners- you need some time to digest the subtleties of my letter and get back to me.

So take your time, Steven- tax season is coming- you have some time to reconsider. Feel free to do just that Steven, reconsider- the fact that my bike is not a “recreational vehicle” but a worthwhile transportation asset with many hidden benefits.

Think it over Steven and get back to me. Although it will undoubtedly not change my political beliefs, you may change my mind just a little bit about what a short sighted leader I really think you are…. Sorry Steve- I know we said we’d play nice, but I let my anger take hold once more.

Perhaps I need to clear my head as well. I’m off for a lovely bike ride- you go squander my hard earned money on the Senate. We’ll talk more later…. you likely have my number, Mr. Prime Minister? No worries, Steven, I certainly have yours.

Yours Sincerely,
A Canadian Girlfriend

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

A Little Bit Fit

As I write this, I’m wearing a Fitbit. This is not a product endorsement of any kind. In fact I’ve been wearing this Fitbit for almost a month. I should tell you that I began this month of Fitbit wearing as a (excuse the pun) bit of a skeptic.

What’s a Fitbit you ask? It’s a device you wear on your wrist or belt that monitors your physical activity. It tracks your steps and calories burned and if you are so inclined you can even have it tell you how you slept.

Sounds a bit (again with the puns) too much, no? Yes, I do agree.

My Fitbit was a gift. It was a lovely gesture from a colleague who knows that I am rather “hard-core” when it comes to my exercise.

When I first received said lovely gesture I’ll admit to thinking I would not have much use for it. I have a running watch and a GPS for my bike. I am pretty much “dialed in” when it comes to knowing how far I’ve gone in life and in fitness. What would I need with a bracelet that tells me about my steps?

My Fitbit bracelet is a slate blue. It’s minimal in its design and does not go with what I am wearing.

I should preface this rather shallow statement by saying that I do not enjoy wearing things on my wrists. I will of course make an exception for a John Hardy sterling silver cuff that makes me look like a warrior. I do not even wear a watch. If I’m going to have something on my wrist it should serve no purpose other than to sit there and look, well, fabulous.

I believe jewelry should serve no function. If I want to know the time, I will check my phone or ask someone. I don’t believe in those rubber bands in support of one cause or another (think yellow LIVESTRONG). This has nothing to do with the whole Lance Armstrong scandal; I am just not someone who likes to wear rubber on my wrists.

I want to live in a world where people care about causes and work tirelessly to support a passion where others’ lives are made better. Pick a cause and stake your claim… just don’t expect me to wear it in rubber on my wrist. A carefully thought ribbon or pin on my left label is fabulous…. In fact I wear a diabetes pin on my coat year round. But rubber on the wrist? Well, that’s where I draw the line.

So imagine my hesitancy when I now had to put this plastic on my left wrist and have it sync to my computer in order to tell me how active I was being.

Indeed I was hesitant, skeptic even. But I reasoned that many of my patients might indeed be using such a device and so I had best see what all the fuss was about.

I won’t go into the details of the Fitbit features. Recall this is not a product endorsement. In fact in an attempt to demonstrate my lack of bias, I have named my Fitbit, Gerry. Why Gerry, you ask? No idea. Just needed a name so as not to appear to be pushing some sort of commercial envelope.

Gerry sits on my left wrist. He buzzes when I hit 10,000 steps and he is linked up to my phone via Bluetooth. Gerry has a dashboard setup on my computer that tells me what I have done in a day. I can log in what time I get into bed and what time I leave bed and Gerry will tell me how many times I woke up in the night.

Gerry also let’s me know what level of intensity my exercise was at. Gerry is a pretty cool little toy. Gerry also sends me emails when his battery is running low. Every week I get a summary email letting me know how active I was the week before and indeed I can earn “badges” for new levels of activity.

Gerry has its benefits. He is indeed quite a little motivational tool. Last week, in my crazy pursuit towards 30,000 steps in a day I took my dogs for a third walk at 9:00pm. I have been known to get out of bed at 9pm at night and walk the halls of my apartment in pursuit of a 20,000 steps badge.

Make no mistake, Gerry is less than perfect. I know Gerry is not fully accurate. 

According to a study published out of UC Berkley- Gerry has variability in his accuracy to predict how many calories I am burning. This variability is anywhere between 15 and 25%.

In other words, when Gerry tells me that my recent 30,000 steps in a day (Yeh, I’m bragging) burned 3,750 calories, he may be off by anywhere 700 and 1000 calories.

Make no mistake; I’m not using Gerry as my license to indulge. I will max out a credit card but I chose to spend calories very wisely.

What I have learned from Gerry my little Bit of Fit is as sense of motivation. For those of you who know me, I’m not sure I needed it but I kind of like having a little check in once in a while to see how much walking I’m really doing in a day.

Will Gerry and me be together for a while? Where will this relationship go, you ask? I am indeed unsure. I will say that last week I ordered three new colours of carry bands for the Fitbit device so that I could change my bracelet colours to match my outfit.

I may be in it for the long haul once my Fitbit goes with what I’m wearing. And from then on my sisters, it’s safe to say that the fitness, like fashion, knows no bounds.  

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Hero Worship

When I was a little girl, I thought Wonder Woman was pretty fabulous. In terms of superheroes, she really was blessed. Aside form the obvious; lasso of truth, fabulous headband, bracelets that had power, glass car and perfect body she just had that enviable trait kids of a certain age wish for…. She had charisma.

I could not imagine Wonder Woman ever having a bad day. You see in her wonder world- things seemed to just work themselves out. Actually that’s not entirely true. I’m sure there were times when a building burned down and she could not get to it in time and then there was the whole Superman funeral thing, but in the mind and imagination of my 8 year old self- Wonder Woman had it made.  Even her superhero name was perfect. She was a woman of wonder, a WONDER WOMAN and I wanted to be her.

Some kids wanted Barbie’s life. They envied her outfit changes and her flexible career choices. They wanted the life where you could be a doctor or a veterinarian or a hairdresser or a flight attendant and still drive a Malibu convertible and have a Malibu camper…. In pink. Not me. I always thought Barbie lacked depth. I understood the transparency of Barbie. Barbie was whoever you wanted her to be. She was a shell you filled with your own imagination.

But not my girl Wonder. The Woman had substance. She held her own in a sea of superheroes and she was who she was… not who you wanted her to be.

And so I spent the day thinking about the differences between Wonder Woman and Barbie and essentially how each would measure up in a fantasy football draft pick. In other words… who would win it all in a imaginary old school beauty pageant? I realize old school beauty pageants are frighteningly anti-feminist. Don’t’ give me that speech about how they are “scholarship programs”- I’m not getting into it with you. But let’s just say WW and Barbie had to compete in a Miss Universe- imagination edition- who would win?

Evening Wear?
Hand down Barbie wins. Bitch has serious outfit selection advantage. This was easy.

Bathing Suit?
I have to give it to my woman, Wonder. Sure Barbie probably has dozens of bikinis to chose from but WW has the experience of working a lifetime in a bathing suit. Between that a sporting a gold bottom she has to take it home.

Lasso of truth. No contest. Yes Barbie is a concert violinist but Superman’s girlfriend has to have some serious talent.

Final Question?
Sure Barbie could answer the whole save the world and help starving children but Wonder woman would actually already have that on her resume.

So there you have, sweet sisters of fortune. A head to head and heart to heart. Many of us want to be Barbie- who wouldn’t? The bitch had everything. But when it comes to real aspirations in life I can’t help but think that my eight-year-old self was a bit of a prophet. Sure enough I picked a winner…..

I realize this little imagination rant is out of left field today but I’ve been doing a bit of thinking about the heroes we have in our lives.

I realize now, as an adult fast approaching the “other half of life” that my heroes have not fundamentally changed since I was little. I still look for someone who inspires me to be better. I need a hero who does not reflect back to me the person I am but who instills in me a desire for the person I should be.

My heroes teach me to step outside who I am and be who I ought to be. I suppose that heroes really are the ultimate mentors in life. Most of us never get to meet our heroes and if we do, we certainly hope they don’t disappoint.

Now as I move through my life, I have realized that my heroes are my role models for an ideal code of conduct. I will likely never meet them (many are dead). In contrast I have acquired a new kind of hero…. A MENTOR. These are indeed real, live men and women whom I know and share some connection with. Mentors are more of a “hands on hero”. My mentors are people I will thank in person for shaping my life into what it ought to be.

SO this brings me to my point, and I do have one, why are not more of us mentors? I wonder if as a “Generation of ME” we forgot to actively shape, teach, and influence others along the way?

Wouldn’t it be great if every time you started something new in life you automatically got a mentor? New job? Here’s your new mentor. New kid? Well it comes with a mentor (and instructions for sleeping). Imagine the possibilities…. Wouldn’t it be fabulous?

Furthermore after you were mentored there would be some sort of “pay it back” program where you got to be a role model for someone else….

Maybe part of our problem as a society is that we forgot to share the wealth so to speak. Can we possibly be acting too much in our self-interest as to get lost along the way?

Hey, I don’t mean to be cynical here. It really is not my style. I don’t mean that we are all selfish territorial wanderers going forth into a world only on the take. But I do wonder if we might as a sisterhood put forward some safety nets these days in order to ensure that we do indeed pay it forward to the next generation.

I ‘m not suggesting I have a lot to teach some 10-year-old young woman. Who am I kidding; I have a shit load to teach her. My niece is 10 and she thinks I AM Wonder Woman. SO maybe that’s the trick, dear sisters (and my brothers too).

No science today, but instead take a moment and be a role model for someone else out there. Who knows? You might just get your own Lasso of truth someday soon. 

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Daft Punk

I am sitting on a plane. In truth most good creative thoughts come to me on a plane. I am confined to a close space for a few hours and forced to either relax or be productive. Never a fan of relaxation forced, or otherwise I chose the latter.

An airplane is indeed a fascinating place. People behave too honestly on a plane. They have purchased their seat and claim its ownership. It is a precarious tin can where many feel a sense of anonymity from the world around them. Safe at 35000 feet the world below is not watching…. Let the manners fade, let the idiosyncrasies reign… let the freak flag fly.

And so it begins. A woman to my right has turned on her phone and has begun a “face time” conversation with her son in Los Angeles. I know this because I am NOT eavesdropping. She is speaking on her speakerphone. She holds the phone in front of her and his face appears. I look over. Her son’s name is George (she loves him ”tons”) and he wears glasses. They discuss whether he should get new furniture in his room. She chews her gum loudly. He picks at his teeth. I can see his braces from the safety of my chair.

For a brief moment I revel in the fact that indeed I live in the future. Here I sit on a flying machine in Toronto ready to take off to the other side of the country. In 5 or so hours I will be in Vancouver, my home sweet home, my city of joy. Next to me sits a woman who can see her sons face 3000km away. They are having a conversation as if they both sat at a kitchen table somewhere.

For an instant I soften. It’s sweet. If the plane goes down somewhere over the prairies she’ll have seen George’s face. He will undoubtedly post this thought on Facebook as he mourns his mother’s passing. It will save him years of therapy- he got to see her and talk to her before the fateful event.

But my soft (and twisted) sentiments quickly fade as I watch this woman chew her gum like a farm animal. She is smacking it and cracking it for God and country and now her voice rises to a new height. The entire section of the plane we are sitting in can hear how George really should clean his room and finish his homework before she gets home. He shows her a pile of clothes in the corner of his domain and they discuss proper folding.

She pauses for moments in the conversation to play with the television on the back of the seat in front of her. She discusses with George what movie to watch on the plane. She reads the list out to him and they banter back and forth about what he would watch.

The conversation continues for at least another 10 minutes. This is not a quick chat.  

I have now formed an unreasonable opinion of this woman as I diagnose her with some variation of Attention Deficit. She suffers from what I like to call GUD- Generalized Unlikable Disorder. I do not like her.  I dislike her complete disregard for space and time. She is “one of those” where nothing has a place and time…. Everything is free game. She likely texts in her car, talks in movies and answers telephone calls at the dinner table regardless of their importance. She sparingly uses words like “please”, “thank you” and “Excuse me”.

The world has grown accustomed and accommodating of people like this gum chewing face timer. We have blurred the lines of privacy so far in today’s world that the lines indeed no longer exist.

When cell phones first came out- calls were taken in discrete corners away from prying ears. Now we have grown comfortable with the world listening in so as to be oblivious of any necessary distance needed between one life and another.

What I really mean to say is when did privacy die? DO I really need to see George in L. A. air his dirty laundry (it really was laundry) while I’m waiting for my plane ride home? I know it’s the future but must we go back to 1950 in order to have certain standard rules of conduct?

Make no mistake I do love many of the advantages of the future but I suppose I’m just greedy. I want it all, my way and I want it wrapped up with manners.

If we must speed forward into an uncertain tomorrow should we not have some codes of conduct to guide our way?

Wouldn’t it be great if every time a new technology came out there was one book of instructions how to operate it and one book of  “proper operations”; a book of manners; on how to really use the thing?

The New iPhone? How about a few key points from “Zentner’s rules of technology conduct”

1.     Texting “How are you?” to a friend you have not seen in over a month is just bad form.
2.     Texting should be reserved for quick check ins, instructions, directions and telling your beloved to bring home Pellegrino from the grocery store.
3.     Don’t even think of looking at the phone in a movie theatre, Broadway theatre, theatre of any kind.
4.     Vibrate- it’s a movement many people should really get on board.
5.     When you do speak in public know that I am listening. You better have something important to say.
6.     Under no circumstances do you continue a phone call while engaging in any other interaction. If you are paying for groceries on a call? PUT THE PHONE DOWN.

Oh. Ladies and gentlemen I do think we are on to something here. Manners for the Millennium? A Do’s and Don’t for Digital?

Let’s see if we can make it happen.

And as we move forward into this brave new world, this 2014 on the calendar of life, know that I’m here for you my sweet soldiers of fortune…. And be safe out there… life’s a tricky one. 

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

A new Year and.... a nap

Happy new year sweet sisters. I am indeed taking a week off to reflect and refuel. Sorry to disappoint but check back next week for a brand new post that will start the new year off just right..... Soldier on my girlfriends and play safe out there.