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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, May 20, 2014

I Walk the Line

I should say that as a woman without children, I am fascinated by the PARENTHOOD and what it indeed does to a brain. Make no mistake, I love parents. I have a set of my own. Some of my best friends are parents.

But parents do some pretty weird shit in the name of their offspring. What is it about raising a little person that turns a completely rationale person into a bit of a lunatic?

Is it the sleep deprivation? The worry? The guilt? Over the years I have watched perfectly rationale, normal sisters lose their shit to the PARENTHOOD. There they are…. Lovely, strong-minded perfectly kick ass girlfriends who given time will need therapy because they could not rent a bouncy castle in time for their little cherub’s birthday.

In my observation the PARENTHOOD plays havoc on many things in one’s life; but mostly- it’s screws with one’s sense of time. PARENTHOOD is am emotional time warp. I hear it all the time from my breeding friends…

“Where did the time go?”
“There’s just not enough hours in the day?”
“What time is swimming? Hockey? Dance class?”
“I don’t have time for coffee today, I have to plan a princess party”

Time is indeed precious. As a woman without children, I value it as much as the next sister. But I have noticed that when it comes to my “friends with dependents” time is a nasty bitch.

There is never enough time and yet, the PARENTHOOD makes you wait around a lot….

There they are flocks of parents standing on line…. For everything.

People without kids don’t stand on line.

We don’t have a little person with expectations waiting to be disappointed at home- we can come back for whatever we need or just plain go without.

Sure there are those twenty somethings who wait on line for the next I-Phone or the next pair of expensive sneakers. But as a rule- if you see a line up running right around the block somewhere- chances are (unless it’s for concert tickets) it is NOT made up of thirty somethings without kids. Most certainly, said line is indeed composed of geeks, hipsters and parents.

Sure, geeks and hipsters are parents too- let’s not get boggled in semantics- this is a fun blog- not a life-changer.

Allow me to elaborate….

Last weekend I spent some quality girlfriend time in NYC with a fabulous woman (you know who you are). My girlfriend, we will call her “Sara” has two cherubs at home both of whom are fans of the latest Disney movie “Frozen”.

I have not seen this movie. I am waiting to make it through all other movies on Air Canada’s video on demand before resorting to the Disney section. I am told, however that Frozen is about a girl with special powers who freezes things- including (by accident of course) her sister’s brain. Yah, Disney’s version of sibling rivalry rains true.

Anyway- never mind the gripping movie plot…. The point here is that Disney makes dolls and merchandise to advertise their movies (shocking, no?) and they sell them at Disney stores.

“Sara” and I decided that we would swing by the Disney store in Times Square on our way to the “good shops” in order to purchase two “Olaf dolls” for her daughters. Incidentally, Olaf is a snowman in this movie… the mind reels.

So sure enough, dressed in our Saturday best, we hoofed it twenty blocks in pursuit of said stuffed snowman. Two blocks from the store “Sara” let out a small sigh.

“What’s up?” I asked
“Look at the line… we’re not waiting in that.”

Sure enough snaked around the Disney store and half way down the next block was a line of parents and children. There they stood with hope and capitalism in their dead eyes…. Standing on line in the greatest city in the world on a Saturday morning all for the promise of an Olaf doll. The world was their oyster… the city was before them and they would spend easily 8 hours drinking Starbucks and passing time just so Timmy could have a Disney toy that one day would sit neglected in the garage somewhere.

“No,” I said, very unconvincing, “we can wait”…. I’m a good friend, you see?
“Nope. Let’s go to Bergdorf’s”. She announced.

Now do you see why I love “Sara” so much? Bitch has priorities.

And then I had a thought. I walked up to the lady who was at the front of the line…

“Hi. What’s you name?”
“Hi Jen. Can I ask you a favour?”
“Are you buying an Olaf doll today?”
“Great. Can I give you money and you go inside and buy me two Olaf dolls while I wait out here?”

And like any good friend, I threw money at the problem. I handed Jen $100 and moved to the side of the line. How much is an Olaf doll you ask? I have no freaking clue. How much is my time? Priceless.

Sure enough Jen came through and 10 minutes later she emerged with change, a receipt and two fuzzy snowmen. Jen it turns out is from the Midwest… she is honest as Mom and apple pie and a true sister. Indeed in the spirit of it all, I insisted that Jen keep the change and buy herself lunch. She had saved the day and indeed she should be compensated.

The whole experience got me thinking about the time we waste in lines of every shape and size.

I should say that I hate standing on line. I’m the youngest child… perhaps that’s a thing. I’m used to people waiting for me and not the other way around? Sounds shitty? It is. But I’m honest.

In my experience, parents wait on line more than most.

Tales of parents sleeping overnight in line to get their kids into preschool, hockey, and swimming are commonplace.

Make no mistake…. That line around the Disney store was indeed a symbol for the great divide between the PARENTHOOD and the rest of the world….

The average American spends an hour of their day waiting in lines. This totals 2-3 years of their lives. According to research we overestimate the amount of time that we indeed wait on line by as much as 35%.

According to an article in the NY times unoccupied waiting is the worst. When indeed we have “something to do” while we wait, human being are better.

An example cited is the baggage wait at Houston Airport. Years ago, airport architects moved the baggage carousel at Houston a full 10 minute walk away from the gates. People had to walk to get their bags, which took some time to arrive, and sure enough complaint about baggage wait times dropped….

Why do you think there are mirrors around elevators? This principle dates back to post WWII when high rises were indeed on the rise and elevators were not the fastest… stick a mirror by an elevator and someone can check their face while they wait.
Studies show that being distracted while waiting in line makes the line so much more tolerable. Perhaps those on line at Disney were in a better mood because of the “action” in Times Square. Perhaps Disney should hire personal trainers dressed up as princesses to hold boot camp classes for those waiting on line? There’s a thought.

Indeed there are norms around waiting in line. I’m sure I broke a few of them handing my money to Jen. Yes, I was an asshole “cutting the cue” but no one seemed to object.

Do I feel badly that I jumped a cue and put my needs before hundreds of others on that sunny Saturday in NYC in the name of a Disney snowman?

Seriously my sisters… there was Bergdorf’s to be had. I am sorry to all those in line who felt that I put my needs before theirs. If it is any consolation- I worked my guilt out at tone hell of a shoe department 10 blocks uptown.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Sleeping with the Enemy

Have my girlfriends noticed any disturbance in their sleep patterns lately? Yes? No? Enough about you. Let's talk about me. My sleep lately has been... well... how do you say it? It's been shit. This is not for lack of trying my cybersisters for THIS girlfriend does love her bedtime.

I love the whole ritual of it all. You know, the whole getting ready for bed. When the day is done and I can finally go upstairs, into my closet (my happiest place on earth) and change into my pajamas. It's like taking off the armour that I wear against the world and just exhaling for about an hour or so.  I love the removing of the makeup and the washing of the face. It's as if I am rinsing my day's damage down the sink and all will be well in the morning.

When I was a little girl, my mother used to tell me that if I had had a bad day, I should go to bed early. I must admit it has been perfect advice on many a day since. Needless to say over the years there have been some days where I wanted to crawl into bed at about 2:30 in the afternoon but for the most part, Mama's wise words usually insight an 8pm bedtime about three or four times a year.

We’ve all had the days when we struggle to keep our eyes open at about 8:30 or so in the evening, no? There you are lying on a couch watching some America’s Next Top Model (no judgement my girlfriends- we all have our paths in life) and you can barely stay awake to bear witness to Tyra’s lunatic rampage. It does take so much away from the show when you can no keep your eyes open long enough to yell obscenities at the screen.

Why just yesterday I was lying on the couch after a 30km run trying desperately to enjoy the “Say yes to the Dress” marathon I had pre-recorded on my PVR and before I knew it, it was two hours later and I was waking up from a 3 hour “nap” with drool down my cheek and no mouthgard in sight.

And so I did what any self-respecting girlfriend would do…. I went to bed. It was 7:45pm. On a Monday. There you have it my girlfriends- this sister is anything but cool.

Fast forward 8 or so hours and there I was wide-awake at 4 am on a Tuesday. Yes, too much fun. Thanks be to the fashion gods that there is internet shopping. Instead of spending hours staring at the ceiling, I spent 2 hours planning my spring wardrobe. 

How has this happened that now I have developed the sleep patterns of a senior citizen? I am unconscious by 9 pm and wide-awake at the crack of dawn.

Could it be the marathon training that is messing with my sleep patterns or could it just be my 40’s fucking with me?

Turns out its likely a bit of both.

According to a study published in 1982 in the Neurobiology of Aging our sleep is affected by our aging. The study took three groups of people of different ages- one group was aged 20-23, one was 40-45 one was 60-65 and one was 80-85. Each group had formal sleep studies and EEG performed on them. The study showed that as we age our body temperature fluctuates less as we age during our sleep. Furthermore as we age our REM sleep time decreases as does our sleep wake cycle. This was found in both men and women. The authors concluded that although menopause can account for some changes in sleep cycles- the changes continue even after menopause.

Thrilled. So much to look forward to my sisters.

One bright shiny star, however…. Exercise. According to several large-scale trials exercise does indeed improve sleep patterns in both men and women.

My own scientific studies have shown that yes…. Running 50km a week is making me sleepier than usual.

And so, I may not know if it’s my age or my running that is messing with my sleep schedule- only time will tell. My next race is in June 22. Of course by then I will be 6 weeks older. Only time will tell…..

Monday, May 5, 2014

Chew on This

Fun fact sweet sisters…. You cannot buy chewing gum at the Honolulu airport. They do indeed sell Wasabi flavoured Macadamian nuts should you be so inclined but juicy fruit is not on the menu. Feel free to peruse the aisles of Mont Blanc fountain pens, Tom Ford sunglasses and all things Marc Jacobs. A fresh orchid Leigh is yours for the taking as are two whole pineapples packed and ready for transport ($36 gets you the two pineapples and a pineapple cutter) but if you want gum you will go wanting.

There I was on line at HNL with my 1 litre of bottled water and Sunday NY Times ready for take-off shall we say when I hit the till and looked down for the requisite bubble gum to keep my mouth busy and my Eustachian tubes open. Amidst the Mentos and the M&M’s there it wasn’t…. chewing gum.

“ Excuse me,” I asked the salesclerk, “where’s the chewing gum?”
She smiled and responded, “We don’t sell gum at the airport.”
“Why not?” I inquired, immediately wondering if gum fell into a liquid or gel category that I was not aware of. Could gum have crossed over into a new dark side?
“Because maintenance objected- it was too much work.”

My lovely and informed salesclerk went on to tell me that they stopped selling chewing gum at HNL about “10 years ago” after the maintenance crew at the airport found that they were spending too much time and money cleaning gum of the airport’s surfaces.

There I was in the middle of the airport imagining the great chewing gum debacle of 2004.  Picture it- entire airport was riddled with multicoloured hardened gobs of Hubba Bubba and Bazooka left in unforeseen locations all over the airport each still stamped with bite marks of tourists gone by. It was an international rainbow fest of dental dam proportions.

Think about it for a moment…. Maintenance found the scourge of chewing gum such an issue at the Honolulu airport so as to ban together and shut down its sales. How bad could it have gotten? How powerful is maintenance? How much work IS gum?

Are tourists to Hawaii really such savages that they leave their half chewed gum strewn about the airport; hidden under airport benches and behind water fountains like little dental treasures?

These questions swirled through my head along with one more…. I wondered what I would do on a 6-hour flight across the Pacific with nothing to prevent my eardrums from backing up mid flight?

I should say that I’m not a big “gum chewer” to begin with. This is because I tend to swallow it. Yes… I swallow gum. As a child I was warned on many a schoolyard that said gum would indeed stay in my system for 7 years. In fact as I grew older the amount of time said gum would take to pass through my intestines tended to shift… last count I heard was something like 6 months.

Turns out my schoolmates were lying little assholes.

Leave it to science and my medical training to save the day once more. Think about it logically for a moment? I’ve had a couple colonoscopies in my life and I’ve seen over 50 of them. Never once did I spot any gum. That is easily 52 occasions when at least one person must have had a Chicklet in the last 5 years or so…. And so no, gum does not stay in the body longer than any other food.

In fact according to your standard medical textbook gum is partially digested (the sugars in it that is) and the rest of it passes through the digestive system in much the same way any waste does.

Indeed chewing gum has been around for thousands of years. Archeologists in Europe found teeth marks in birch bark tar that date back to the Mesolithic Era of the Stone Age. Native Americans from as early as two thousand years ago chewed balls of plant material called “quids”, according to researchers who’ve studied the Western Basketmakers of the South-Western USA.

Whose idea was it to bring this ancient material to a modern day flying machine?

According the CDC a blocked ear during flight or “airplane ear” is caused by blockages in the Eustachian tube in your inner ear. The Eustachian tube links your middle ear with the back of your throat and the environment outside. This is essentially a tube that allows a communication between the inner air and the outside world- it allows for pressures to equalize between the two.

When we fly, the Eustachian tube can become blocked when pressure in the cabin shifts. This change in pressure places stress on your inner ear, causing the pain you feel during airplane ear. The tube can become blocked for a number of reasons, including inflammation due to allergies like hay fever and additional mucus produced if you have a cold.

Chewing gum can help equalize the pressure, relieving discomfort, although it’s not the gum itself that helps. The actions of chewing and swallowing use muscles around the Eustachian tube, potentially opening its internal exit at the back of your throat. Doing this allows air to move into or out of the Eustachian tube, helping to equalize pressure and easing both the stress on your inner ear and the associated discomfort. The equalizing of pressure causes the “popping” sound you hear when your ears “open up”.

Interestingly, an antihistamine can also prevent Eustachian tube blockage and prevent your ears from “blocking up”.
And so you can either chew gum or take drugs to prevent airplane ear?

Indeed my sisters you can. In life as in fashion its all about the options.

Do they sell Cold and Flu tabs and HNL airport? Yes, the most certainly do. And so, like a true scientist and a visionary I bought Nyquil at the Honolulu airport, took one and woke up in Vancouver with a blog in my head and my ears wide open.