Archive

May 2018

Browsing

Not taboo – period

That dreaded “time of the month” often means dolling out extra cash to ensure comfort and sanitation. Products needed to manage menstruation and make it less terrible, such as tampons, pads and pain relief capsules, can add up in cost each month. Those who have the means to buy these seemingly accessible items, perhaps don’t think much about what it’s like for those who do not. Periods are terrible enough, even when all those products are available and affordable. But for those without the funds to purchase necessary menstruation products, it can mean health risks, missing out on day-to-day necessities, like work and school, and can result in unnecessary embarrassment.

In Toronto, pads and tampons are made available, but at a cost of $8 to $10 a box, on average. Those from low-income families or living on the streets or in shelters, are often prohibited from having access. The Period Purse, is an organization that provides purses filled with pads, tampons and menstrual wellness items to homeless and impoverished individuals across the nation in need of the items. The founder of the organization, Jana Girdauskas, shares about the reality many women face and the options they are left with.

“The reality is, many people experiencing homelessness are using newspaper or homemade tampons, or they resort to stealing,” she said. “What other choice do they have when menstrual products aren’t even a line item in the budget for our city’s shelters or drop-in centres? Any products that are available have been donated and supply can be sporadic. You might get one or two tampons for your entire cycle.”

Public restrooms make soap and toilet paper available, but there is clearly a need for pads and tampons to be as well. Heavy Flow podcast host Amanda Laird went so far as to point out that the lack of menstrual products made accessible to those who can’t afford the cost in drug stores and grocery stores, indicates who is making the decisions in Toronto and even on a global scale.

“Boys aren’t taught about menstruation in health class and it’s still such a taboo topic. Periods are just not something you’re supposed to talk about,” Laird says. “If you’ve never had a period or you don’t know anything about them you’re not going to think about how a lack of menstrual products might impact your day; about how being caught unprepared when your period starts might affect you.”

The Period Purse is holding a fundraising drive on June 8th to bring awareness to the issue while also collecting items like tampons, large purses and backpacks. Donations can be dropped off at Tokki, at 3124 Dundas St. West in Toronto.

Menstruation has somehow become a taboo topic. But why? It’s a necessary part of a cycle that prepares a woman to give new life. All are alive because of menstruation and all women need to have access to appropriate sanitary products that will allow each to live their lives without worry, fear and embarrassment.

Am I missing the bride gene?

 I’m getting married. It feels strange to be engaged. Don’t get me wrong, I love my fiancé and am over the moon that he put a ring on my finger. I just never thought this time would arrive for me. When growing up friends would share excitedly about what kind of wedding they wanted and the style of dress they liked best — but when asked, I would shrug my shoulders and simply say, “Hadn’t really thought about it.”

What I have always known is that one day I would like to marry my best friend and build a life with him. I thought when the time came, it would be like that wedding planning bug that seemingly every one of my friends had, would come out of its dormant state in me.  It’s not the case.  I’m excited for the day I put on my wedding dress, but I’ve always had the mindset that it’s just ONE day and it’s the adventure that follows which I’m most excited about.  I also hate being the centre of attention, so, of course, I am not one who has ever wanted a massive traditional wedding.

From day 1, Cody and I both admitted we wanted a stress-free, fun, destination wedding with our nearest and dearest. I’m an unconventional girl and despite the expectation to plan a massive wedding at a ornate church and a reception at a lavish ballroom, it’s just not my style. I woke up at 5 am for coverage of the Royal Wedding and loved every moment, but fascinators and Cinderella carriage rides, just aren’t me.

I have to admit it’s enjoyable witnessing my mother’s excitement since I told her Cody and I are engaged. She has waited decades for this time to arrive and as soon as I announced the engagement, she began busily planning as if it is her own wedding on the horizon. She set us up with a destination wedding coordinator, took me to find the perfect dress (which I did. it’s straight off the rack, without a need for alterations. Thank goodness. I hate extra spending on alterations.) and spread the word like wildfire to friends and family, all within 48 hours of the ring being on my finger.

Mom clearly has the wedding planning bug. Why is it missing in me? I can’t pretend to feel it when I don’t. I wear my feelings on my sleeve and my opinions on my face, so feigning excitement is not something I can do. Whenever I worry that my interest in wedding planning isn’t what it should be, I realize that my excitement triples when I think about the future Cody and I have planned after the wedding.  I think all too often we put too much emphasis on the immediate. On the one day , the one dress and the first dance. I understand that maybe I’m a bit different in many ways, but I’m not strange or missing the bride gene. I’m just looking with more excitement at the journey and the future.

GTHA Transit Wants & Woes

A transit strike is looming that may impact the GTHA. Metrolinx shared that the strike involves CP labour unions and may commence as early as Monday. The action by the union may impact GO Transit rail services.

Metrolinx made a statement on the impending transit troubles promising that services will not be disrupted:

“While we are hopeful that an agreement can be reached, we have plans in place to ensure customers can continue to travel safely and as easily as possible if a strike occurs. Our plans have been adjusted since our last communication to customers in April and no train services need to be cancelled. In the event of a CP labour disruption, we are now able to operate trains into Hamilton GO Centre.”

The reason that a CP strike may still impact GO Transit service is that many tracks that are used by Metrolinx for these services, are owned by alternate rail companies, such as CP. A strike means less CP staff available to operate the traffic switches and signals, leading to delays and suspended services.

The unions, which include the Teamsters Canada Rail Conference, and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, have carried on talks with railway management.

A spokesperson for Teamsters Canada stated that the union would likely reject any offer and that they will request immediate resuming of negotiation to reach a deal before a strike ensues.

If the unions decide to strike, members must give 72 hours notice, as CBC indicates.

GTHA Transit efficiency is always a focus, whether good or bad, in this city. Even without a looming strike posing a threat to service, it’s clear that Toronto and GTA transit could be made more efficient. The upcoming election has the big four political parties making promises to do just that. The PC, Liberal and NDP parties are all pro-relief line plan. The line is to be built from the Danforth directly to downtown and relieve overcrowding on the Yonge/University Line. The Green Party is also making transit a focus, but in Scarborough.

Strike or not, Canada’s most densely populated region needs politicians and transit services always looking to the future for betterment of the transit network already in place. Hopefully negotiations and elections lead to reaching this common goal quicker.

The Roseanne reboot cancellation

The sitcom Roseanne was never perfect. The original series ran out of steam and plummeted in the ratings, barely cracking the top 20, and it fizzled out all together after a slightly funny, but mostly confusing and maligned journey of the Connor’s antics after winning the lottery, and ended with a dramatic monologue by Roseanne, the gut punch that Dan Connor had died of a heart attack, and a ponderous TE Lawrence quote.

The Roseanne show always meant a lot to me. Darlene Connor is one of the most authentic and real depictions of a teenager ever. One of the benefits of a sitcom is that the actors play true to their real age, unlike dramas where the “teens” are in their twenties. Darlene explored atheism, her writing, went through a major depression that helped me with my own, and blossomed in her relationship with David. This romance wasn’t something that happened offscreen but was built up in front of the viewer’s eyes from the first kiss to an eventual wedding.

Despite the drama of the whiplash recasting of Becky, and the return and departure again of the original actress, the oldest daughter eloped as a teen after lashing out at Dan for ruining her life by failing to make a go of his beloved bike shop. Seeing Becky run off to get married was one of the most shocking things I’d ever seen on TV.

So being a mega fan, who has a complete box set that survived a DVD purge, it felt like a miracle to have new episodes of the show. But I approached the new season with cautious optimism. Roseanne doesn’t have a good track record. (Does anyone remember her attempt at a talk show? It had a cool set that revolved from a living room set to a kitchen, and even had Oprah as a guest. But it quickly crashed and burned.) I unfollowed her from Twitter because of her over the top support for the 45th POTUS and all his misdeeds.

I was weary when I read that Roseanne Connor would also be a rabid supporter of the president, but I justified this with it made sense that a working-class family from the American heartland would vote for a candidate that promised jobs.

Roseanne Barr persisted on Twitter with her disheartening rhetoric, and got the show canceled, and I’ll never find out what became of the Connors, but my curiosity is not worth Roseanne Barr having a platform for her vile racism.

Roseanne has sunk a promising reboot for the cast, crew, and the fans. While I would like to see the Connors continue on minus Roseanne, I question the people that thought it was a good idea to turn the Roseanne character back into the hands of Roseanne Barr.

Here’s the quote that ended the original series finale, “Those who dream by night, in the dusty recesses of their minds, wake in the day to find that all was vanity; but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dream with open eyes, and make it possible.” What? How does this encapsulate the lives of the Connor family?  It doesn’t.

 

Soup’s on!

Soup’s on in my kitchen no matter what season, and it is easy to make and cheap to make as well.

I love chicken noodle soup as it is my comfort food, served with/without crackers or baguette bread! The soup also stands perfect alone. I find using leftover pre-cooked chicken is the best for flavor and then adding the broth.

It is my mother’s recipe. No matter how hard of a day I have at work, or a hard run, having some chicken soup makes me feel better.  I am told I make a mean soup!

Christine Blanchette’s Homemade Chicken Noodle Soup

Ingredients: 

Chicken pieces.

1 container of Chicken Broth

2 whole carrots

1 small onion

6-8 white mushrooms

Pepper

Pasta – your favorite noodle shape

Directions:

I use left over chicken pieces from a pre-ready cooked chicken.

Take a medium sized pot and cook the whole pre cooked chicken carcass in boiling water

Remove from the water the carcass, and remove the chicken pieces

Add chicken broth

Cut carrots into small pieces

Cut onion into small pieces

Cut mushrooms into small pieces

Add the vegetables to the soup

Add about a handful of pasta or enough to make it thick

Add lots of black ground pepper or to taste

You add whatever other vegetables.

Serves 6 depending on how much you like

Serve and enjoy!

 

 

Woman of the Week: Jennifer Dobbelsteyn

What always astounds me about women I’ve chatted with who have become CEO’s and presidents of notable companies or of ones they founded, is that they all have a sincerity and generosity towards others while also being driven, focused and intelligent. Dr. Jennifer Dobbelsteyn, President of Dobbelsteyn Consulting Group International Inc. is no exception to this.

Jennifer has worked in the healthcare industry as both a nurse and in management but saw there was a gap in the system. Staff, who assist and care for ill patients that are often in devastating condition, often lack support themselves.  She decided to begin her consulting company as a way to improve “healthcare work environments for staff, thereby, improving the caring environment for patients,” after completing her PhD and MBA.

Jennifer shared with me about the importance of the work done by her consulting company:

“This work is timely and extremely important currently because of the changing demographics. The population is aging in Canada at an unprecedented rate, making long-term care the healthcare environment of the today and tomorrow… I work collaboratively with organizations to resolve the problem, involving front-line staff which allows organizational leadership to target their resources strategically.”

Through her firm, Jennifer aims to effect a positive change within organizations by providing necessary education sessions, valuing all staff and encouraging team work. Healthcare workers take on a lot of stress and a safe and supportive environment is key to motivating workers to be at their best for patients.

Despite achieving great success with her business, there are still changes that Jennifer feels are necessary to be made in Canada’s healthcare system. She sees a need for improvement and for a focus of provincial governments to be on working environments in healthcare, including “preventing violence, insuring occupational health and safety, promoting professionalism, managing workload, and stabilizing staffing.”

“I guess I thought that someone needs to do more about these problems facing the healthcare system. My next thought was that the someone can be me and my company,” she added.

Jennifer also sees a need to be a support to women in her workplace by inspiring them to speak up and fostering confidence in the environment. She motivates women in her field to strive for success, persevere and accomplish goals that make a difference.

One woman in history that certainly made a difference is Mother Teresa. Jennifer shares that if she could go back and meet one woman, it would be her, because of the inspirational and amazing work she devoted her life to.

As to what superpower Jennifer wishes she had, the realist shares how everyone has a superpower innately within them.

“We all have a superpower. We just need to discover what that is and use it to make a difference in our own small way,” she said, then added that she would love to have the power to make a workplace that is safe and perfect for all, despite this likely putting her out of work!

She is not a dreamer, but a doer and Jennifer is about getting things done that have positive and long term effects on society, while motivating others to do the same.

 For more about Jennifer and her consultation firm, visit www.dobbelsteyngroup.ca

A Great Algonquin Portage

We arrived at Algonquin just as a dark wall of ominous clouds blanketed the park. “Is this foreshadowing?” I thought to myself.

It was my first time visiting this provincial gem. My boyfriend and friends surprised me with the long weekend getaway for my 23rd birthday and I was relieved to ditch the city for some nature-induced fun. What I didn’t know, was that another surprise awaited me at the entry of the park. We weren’t just camping…we were tackling a great Algonquin portage!

Portaging entails carrying your canoe across the land between lakes until you find a marked campsite that suits your liking. I predicted portaging with my boyfriend, who is an extremely ambitious camper, would entail a weekend of intense physical activity, refined outdoorsmanship and throbbing muscle cramps. Sure it wouldn’t be the weekend of suntanning, swimming and relaxation that I had anticipated, but it was an adventure.

Meeting the gray skies, we quickly unpacked our cars and loaded our waterproof bags into three canoes. In the final moments of sunshine, we paddled around the small lakes searching for the perfect campsite. Note to self #1: Never expect perfection while camping.

After an hour-long search that was decorated with spats of rain, we pulled up to a small, hilly island. We docked our canoes and scoped out the plot. It was spacious enough for three tents and even had a pre-built fire pit. “Guys! Come here!” my friend suddenly shouted. We all rushed over to see an aged memorial plaque for a young girl who died on the island years prior. “Nope!” one of my friends said, completely spooked out. We hopped back into our canoes and begged our biceps to paddle on. As we departed, in some sick joke mastered by the universe, a little red shoe floated between our boats. Note to self #2: Stop watching horror movies.

We passed site after site. That one is too bare…that one is too small…that one isn’t marked…until a loud boom echoed across the lake. Have you ever watched that scene from The Notebook when Rachel McAdams and Ryan Gosling are passionately proclaiming their love for one another while sitting in a rowboat in a torrential downpour? Now imagine that, minus the charming words.

We could barely see each other as we headed for land to escape any potential lightning. When it slightly let up, we caught sight of flames flickering on the shore. An older couple made their way out to the opening. “Are you guys OK?” they shouted. It’s funny how pickiness tends to wear off in moments of desperation. Attempting to seek shelter, even for only a few minutes, my friend shouted back, “Hey, do you guys have room for a couple more people over there?” For a moment, all we could hear were the pellets of rain slamming our tin canoes as the couple stood still on the shore. Finally, the man put his hands up to his mouth and shouted a half-assed, “Ha-ha!” that reverberated across the open water and into my nightmares for the remainder of our stay.

Although miserable, tired and drenched, we eventually found a marked spot that was, ironically, almost perfect for our weekend. After setting up our tents, we spent the remainder of the drier days exploring the island, cooking delicious meals and laughing around the fire. Note to self #3: Never turn down a surprise camping trip.

To this day, my boyfriend tells people, “Yeah, it was raining. But the only thing filling up the canoe was Courtney’s tears.” Which isn’t true, of course, but it is funny. And if the outcome of an adventure is a funny story, then, in my opinion, it was an adventure well-lived.

 

Doug Ford: Stalker or love sick pitt bull?

Yesterday an affidavit came out that was sworn by a former PC candidate – Pina Martino. It was sent to the PC party legal team back in 2016, three days before her nomination race in Etobicoke Centre. In it she named dozens of people who were on the riding member list but admitted that they had never paid for their membership. She worried that Doug Ford had signed up and paid their membership fee for them. A secret tape recording of Mr. Ford telling people they didn’t have to pay was released by the Liberals this week and would seem to verify that indeed Mr. Ford likely  paid for their memberships. This  goes against the PC party bylaws. Martino was concerned because the rules around nominations were being flagrantly ignored, signing up members and paying their dues results in lack of commitment and support for the candidate. It’s a stupid thing to do and undermines the strength of the party. 

 In an email to the party Martino went on to allege  that Doug Ford had followed her not once but twice in an attempt to intimidate her from running for the nomination.

Let’s imagine this woman is your sister, mother, wife, or daughter, who Doug Ford has followed in his big black SUV in an attempt to intimate/scare her from running for the party she’s supported for over a decade. What advice would you give her? Most people would say that Ford’s behaviour crossed the line. That following a women in order to intimidate her is called stalking

Stalking is a crime called criminal harassment.

Today there are many PC party members wondering if Doug Ford rigged his own leadership race. Many more are disgusted that Ford was caught cheating the very system he has pledged to clean up. Yesterday’s release of a voice recording of Ford telling people they “don’t have to pay a thing” while referring to their membership forms demonstrates that he was willing to break the rules in the nomination process and rig the vote to favour his chosen candidate. His claims that the issue was dealt with by the PC party – the same party he admitted was filled with vote rigging and corruption, doesn’t hold much credibility.

But it is Doug Ford’s total disregard for the legitimacy of the nomination process that should send warning bells off witin every sane voter across Ontario.

Once a corrupt politician always a corrupt politician.

Personally I wonder why Mr. Ford risked so much to set Kinga Surma up as the new candidate for Etobicoke Centre. It would seem that he has taken quite a fancy to this young woman whose only experience was as campaign organizer for me in the 2010 mayoral race, and then assistant to George Smitherman in his race to stop Rob Ford. She worked for Liberal Peter Milczyn when he sat as councillor for Etobicoke, but other than that she has little to no political experience.

I know Surma well from her time working on my campaign, and will say that she is very bright, attractive and ambitious. I don’t doubt that she makes a good candidate.  But compared to Pina Martino, she lacked the history of dedication to the local community. Martino has participated on the Etobicoke-Centre riding association since 2006 and she was the candidate for the riding in the 2014 election. She had name recognition and a long-term commitment to the party.

But Doug Ford opted for a young woman with little political experience over a former candidate with name recognition and a history in the riding. This is extremely questionable, especially when combined with news that Mr. Ford was willing to risk his personal reputation and break all the rules just to get Ms. Surma the seat.

As a journalist I don’t understand why he would risk so much for one candidate?  I know that there is more to this than meets the eye.

 

Doug Ford and Kinga Surma controversy

The Ontario provincial campaign is well underway.  It seems there really isn’t a clear leader. Although the Conservatives initially appeared to be leading the pack in the early stages, controversy has shaken Doug Ford’s platform.

Ford was under attack last week after allegations surfaced that Tory candidates may have used stolen customer information obtained as part of a data breach from a toll highway operator.

The Liberals have shared evidence discovered in a recording that implicates Ford  involving membership and nomination of local Etobicoke conservative  candidate Kinga Surma.  Wynne’s party has released a tape of Doug Ford asking people to sign nomination papers for Kinga Surma and telling them that they don’t have to pay for them. This is illegal and something he, himself, has said he’ll put a stop to. He recently blamed  Patrick Brown for PC candidates accessing 407 data, but now it seems more likely that Mr. Ford may have had more involvement.

Ford reportedly paid for memberships of new Tories and indicated that memberships were “free”. This is illegal and goes against the PC party bylaws. The National Post indicates that a former top Conservative official who was at the 2016 vote, has confirmed this.

The Liberals have released a statement about the recording that implicates Doug Ford. The anonymous source  recorded Ford and Kinga Surma at a Tim Horton’s, offering free memberships.

The candidate who lost the Etobicoke nomination, Pina Martino, has since filed a complaint, that consists of  an email to then party lawyer Mike Richmond that Ford used “intimidation” tactics against her that included following her home. the National Post relays. The party allowed Kinga Surma to continue as the Etobicoke candidate, despite the complaint.

Surma began her career in politics in 2010 by working on Sarah Thomson’s Toronto mayoral election. She moved on to help George Smitherman’s race against Rob Ford and was then hired by Peter Milczyn who was a councillor in Etobicoke.

Kinga Surma has refrained from commenting on the latest controversy surrounding her and Doug Ford. The question is, why was membership stacked in favour of Ms. Surma by Doug Ford? Could there possibly be more to the relationship between Ford and Surma than politics?

 

 

Sidewalk Labs launches Toronto Transit Explorer App

Sidewalk Labs continues to impress Torontonians. The company won a bid to develop Toronto’s waterfront from the eastern section of Queen’s Quay, over to Parliament, into a high- tech hub. Many have shared worries about transparency and security, because the New York-based company has promised to collect data to help improve Toronto living. They will focus data collection on aspects like housing costs, and congestion, in addition to others like safety and development.

The Google-affiliated company has now launched  apps and made them “open-source,” which means they are open to the public. The latest app is Sidewalk Labs’ Toronto Transit Explorer, which was first presented at a public roundtable back in March.

The web application is available on desktop and mobile and takes data from a variety of open data sources, then creates an interactive map of transit in Toronto. This allows users to find out how accessible each form of transit is to them, and to compare which mode of transportation is best for reaching their destination by outlining the time it will take using each option.

 The app shows different colours; anything in blue means biking in that area is the most efficient form of transportation, white means that both transit and biking take about the same amount of time and red means public transit is fastest. Software Engineer Samara Trilling developed Toronto Transit Explorer and spoke about the benefit of the application.

This tool “can be really useful if you’re looking for the most accessible new apartment or a new school or if you want to compare if it’s worth it for you to buy a bike-share membership,” said Trilling.

Although there are a number of transportation modes to choose from on the app, Toronto Transit Explorer does not add the car as a mode of transportation because Sidewalk Labs is focusing on how accessible the city is to people, without the use of a car.

The company shared that its engineering team will build in scenarios in the future to see how changes to transit infrastructure might have an impact on city accessibility.

In addition to the Toronto Transit Explorer app, Sidewalk Labs also previously launched Old Toronto, which is an application that shares the history of Toronto by pairing old photography with landmarks in the city on an interactive map. It was developed by Software Engineer Dan Vanderkam.

Despite worries about security and data sharing, it’s clear that Sidewalk Labs is helping to ease these fears by demonstrating how devoted the company is to enhancing life and experience in Toronto through technology.