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Review: “The Heaviness of Things that Float”

Aboriginal culture is a large part of Canadian heritage and has been a heavily discussed issue in current politics. Canadian aboriginals are often misunderstood, and the true ties to their culture can feel remote and forgotten.

The Heaviness of Things that Float by Jennifer Manuel is a narrative set in coastal B.C that discusses each of these issues in a delicate manner through the eyes of main character, Bernadette Perkal. Bernadette is a nurse stationed for 40 years at a fictional remote native reserve, Tawakin. The novel begins with the disappearance of Chase Charlie, an aboriginal man that Bernadette helped raise when he was a young boy. The community creates a search party and the reader is introduced to the small community of 100 people that live at the reserve.

Heaviness of things that float

As the story progresses, we learn of Bernadette’s love affair with local resident, Frank, and its tragic ending. The reader quickly discovers that Bernadette is retiring and leaving the reserve to live out her remaining days in Duncan, B.C. It also becomes clear that Bernadette feels like she is an outsider and worries that her 40 year commitment to the clan does not matter.

When the new nurse, Wren Weatherstone arrives for training, the separation between the people of reserve and the nurses becomes more pronounced. Bernadette begins to understand the meaning of her privileged upbringing and the historical ties leading up to the distinct separation between different Canadian cultures. Wren also introduces more politicized themes into the novel, mentioning her attendance at a protest in Vancouver for the Idle No More movement.

The Heaviness of Things that Float carefully discusses the assumptions that many Canadians attach to aboriginal culture. Manuel displays a compassionate account of the need to detach aboriginal culture from others to protect it, and emphasizes that coastal aboriginals are not looking for a saviour, but respect. The importance and power of stories is intricately woven into the story and the coastal landscape plays a powerful role in the climax of the novel.

Jennifer Manuel has spent many years invested in coastal Aboriginal culture and gives a very truthful account of her own experiences. She was a treaty archivist and then a teacher for the Ktunaxa, Tahltan and Nuuchah-nulth peoples. Manuel talks about her own novel in the introduction, emphasizing the themes of privilege, and “the nature of belonging, the limits of knowing one another and the stories of arrival that tangle with the stories of contact.”

Though Tawakin is a fictional place, Manuel creates a very realistic story for readers and does not give in to a traditional happy ending. The novel becomes heavier as the plot progresses, but the story retains a spiritual acceptance of fate and its consequences. This novel is a great read for any lover of the ocean and coastal aboriginal culture, and it will transport you to a peaceful place where hidden realities lie waiting.

 

#UnfairandLovely Campaign embraces dark-skinned women

Being Bengali, I grew up seeing a large spectrum of skin colours and features across the country my parents grew up in, including that of my family. Whether it’s frizzy hair, a round nose, or having no curves (or too much curves), there is always something to criticize when it comes to women and their genetics. I was always told how lucky I was to have fair skin. It was ‘a sign of beauty which not everyone is blessed with.’

However, living in Canada quickly showed me how untrue that was. Dark-skinned girls are beautiful! I stare in awe whenever my darker friends post on Instagram — many of whom are featured below — taking in their sharp features, not to mention they can contour their face without looking dirty. They can rock the colour orange, pop in yellow, and look amazing in teal. So, when the Unfair and Lovely campaign took off, it was of no surprise to me. Of course unfair girls are lovely. It’s just surprising society tells them they’re not.

The movement was first started a few weeks ago by Pax Jones and a couple of friends.

“My own lived experiences as a black woman inspired me to develop this photo series. Mirusha, who modelled alongside her sister Yanusha, later came up with the title Unfair & Lovely for the series. The series was purely a creative project that I developed to combat under-representation of dark skinned people of colour in media.” stated Jones, in an interview with Women’s Post.

Since then, the movement has blown up. Despite tanning salons and sun bathing being so popular for women in North America, others are putting lightening creams on their face and scrolling through Pinterest, looking for ways to become fair-skinned. From a young age, girls are told to stay out of the sun, taught how to use face masks with lightening properties, and instructed to avoid drinking tea because “it makes your skin darker.” Therefore, when a group women come forward to tell you you’re ‘unfair and lovely’, it’s actually a rare compliment.

The campaign is a grassroots movement that has been fuelled by the leadership and activism of young women all over social media, and it is definitely important that their voices be centered in this conversation.

kavi“I am an Indian woman, I am dark skinned and I am proud. The #UnfairAndLovely campaign to me is a well overdue step forward in certain communities that are mentally 10 decades behind than the people of today’s generation. I have been blessed to have grown up in a family of amazing beings that have taught me to love what’s underneath the skin and to ‘never judge a book by its cover’. It has allowed me to feel comfortable in my own skin and to support this movement whole heartedly in hope for a change that urge both men and women to put down fairness creams and take up the debate for a responsible media that doesn’t attribute success and beauty to skin colour,” said Kavi Anand, currently attending the University of Waterloo.

This isn’t the first campaign to embrace and empower women of colour. Reclaim the Bindi, which is collaborating with Unfair and Lovely, looks to combat cultural appropriation surrounding the bindi, the dot worn on the centre of the forehead of many South Asian women. Young women who grew up being ridiculed for their cultural practices are now being empowered to embrace them, posting powerful selfies of themselves wearing a bindi, which has both cultural and religious significance for South Asian women.

Jones shared her thoughts on working hand in hand with a more diverse range of Women of Colour (WoC) to elevate the platform of the initiative in which she mentioned:

”I’m happy it’s blown up and that many are using it to heal from abuse they’ve faced due to their skin colour. I think the invitation to collaborate with #reclaimthebindi for Reclaim The Bindi Week definitely helped. It’s also devastating how quickly the hashtag picked up steam, because it highlights how desperately our communities needed a space that represents dark-skinned people of colour.”

With thousands of online followers, Reclaim the Bindi has allowed young women to celebrate their skin colour, and the culture that comes with being said skin colour. Women’s Post spoke to founder of Reclaim the Bindi on the phone. While wishing to stay anonymous to avoid taking the spotlight away from the movement, she expressed her appreciation of being able to initiate this movement online, as it allows people to really educate themselves on the subject.

heera”It’s a great initiative.” says Heera Sri, a supporter of Reclaim the Bindi and a student at York University with a large Instagram following herself. ”It’s making a lot of women feel more comfortable and come into their own skin. It’s all about loving yourself. Personally, I went through my own journey of embracing my dark skin and love that there’s women looking to provide a back bone for those who don’t have one yet. We live in a progressive country and there’s so much diversity, so I don’t see why being dark skinned should restrict you from anything. ”

South Asian women often indulge in Bollywood movies, hoping to find their very own prince charming at the GO Station one day. However, even in an industry that can easily embrace darker-skinned women, there is a surge in lightening cream endorsements and ‘dusky’ girls who gradually become less dusky as they excel in their acting careers. The Tamil movie industry, Heera mentions, borrows actresses from Northern Sri Lanka and India to play Tamil characters. In a time when we crave colour on TV screens and movie theatres, most recently with #OscarsSoWhite, how come we’re not asking for the same back at home?

12834876_10153579087697637_1199498983_nOn the topic of cultural norms and harmful beauty standards, Ramisa Tasfia, a student at the University of Toronto Scarborough, says, “Treatments like skin bleaching or products like Fair & Lovely definitely perpetuate shadeism by promoting the idea that lighter is better. I feel that colorism is a result of systemic racism within our own cultures; partly believing that whiter people hold more power and beauty. I’ve never known dark skin to be ugly, or unappealing than light skin—but as I grew older I became more exposed to the obvious signs that lighter skin is favoured over darker skin.”

Jones created the #UnfairandLovely hashtag to encourage all women, with an emphasis on South Asian women, to embrace their natural colour and revel in their own beauty. But,  Jones wants people to know the campaign is for everyone: “Some outlets have falsely reported that #unfairandlovely is only for dark-skinned South Asian women, but this is false. It’s for dark-skinned people of colour who are women, genderqueer, non-binary, etc.”

Amina Mohammed, former editor in chief of The Muslim Voice, shared her take 10734038_10152905141136458_2294525185944902355_non the movement through her perspective as a Somali-Canadian, Muslim woman. ”I’ve watched many of my South Asian friends struggle to come to terms with the dangers of colourism. I’ve seen them turn to whitening cream, lemon and potato peel facial masks, and extra sunscreen; all in an effort to appear fair (and lovely). I’ve also found the majority of anti-blackness from the South Asian community stems from this initial, internal adherence to a colourist social stratification. The Unfair and Lovely movement encourages probing dialogue, self-love, positivity and a re-definition of loveliness. I am all for this campaign, I think it’s great,” she added.

The movement comes in lieu of Reclaim the Bindi Week, which took place from March 8-14. As media got in on the story, we saw the impact that young women have of creating a voice for those who don’t. While movements like Unfair and Lovely are definitely steps towards ending discrimination, there will need to be a complete overhaul of the collective mindset of society to bring about an end to the prejudice that is shown against dark skinned people — not to mention the the superiority factor that is associated with fairness.

How has the Unfair and Lovely campaign affected you? Let us know in the comments below!

Blaze up! Six business looks for the winter

Are you going to a job interview? An important meeting with a client? Maybe even a work party? In this uncertain weather, it’s hard to commit to heels and a pencil skirt. Instead, try a blazer with a patterned or brightly coloured shirt.

But, blazers are a bit boring and dull, aren’t they? Wrong! The blazer is the perfect accessory — it can be incredibly professional, powerful, sexy, and it can have as much personality as the person who wears it. Here are some options for those of you who think the only way you can wear a blazer is with a pencil skirt or a well-tailored power suit.

The free falling blazer: This type of blazer has a classic notch collar and boyfriend styling, making it the perfect accessory for both a business meeting and a night out. It is perfect for women that are petite or who have curves, because there is no need to button it up. Let your blazer hang loosely, and professionally.

Le Chateau, $89.95
Le Chateau, $89.95

The academic: Nerdy is in! Try your hand at some tweed, corduroy, or a blazer with some coloured elbow patches. This look is clean, professional, and adds just a bit of cheek into your wardrobe. Your colleagues will see you as smart, clean, with a little bit of edge.

Zara, $89.90
Zara, $89.90

The vest: Some may say the vest is “out of fashion”, but I say otherwise! Pair it with a blouse or a funky longer shirt. Wear it open for a more relaxed, artsy look, or button it up with a skinny tie for a chic business look. For women with a bit of shape, a blazer can be daunting — the sleeves are either too small, and then if they fit your arms, the shoulders look like they swallowed you whole. The vest is the perfect compromise.

Convey, $258.00
Convey, $258.00

The crop: Not all blazers have to look…well, like blazers. This cropped and zippered jacket works in a business setting or an afternoon with friends. It will make you look chic, elegant, and put together. The best part about these neutral coloured blazers is that you can pair it with a high patterned legging or pant and heels for a more polished look.

Additionelle , $120
Additionelle , $120

The pattern: Luckily, there are a lot of options for those who may not like the traditional blue, black, or brown suit jacket. This type of blazer is a lot more feminine, and features a strong collar and a zipper instead of the typical round buttons. This type of blazer would look amazing with a pair of dark jeans and converse shoes, or a pair of fitted black dress pants and heels.

Judith and Charles, $237,50
Judith and Charles, $237,50

The wild: Need a little more colour in your life? Try one of these multi-coloured blazers. I don’t suggest wearing them with a patterned shirt, but they are the perfect compromise for those with a bit of a wild and fun side. It looks professional, but doesn’t scream “I live in a cubical.”

Aritzia, $90
Aritzia, $90

Do you have a favourite blazer in your closet? Describe it or send in a picture using the comments below!

Lest we Forget: remembering and thinking about the future

Cosmo DeClerq, my grandfather, Canada-Belgian SAS
Cosmo DeClerq, my grandfather, Canada-Belgian SAS

My grandfather was a paratrooper during the Second World War. He never spoke to us about his experiences—and, frankly, we never asked. I was too young to understand what he had gone through. I never really knew he was in the military until he passed away and I met some of his colleagues at the funeral.

That’s why it was refreshing to see so many young faces at this year’s Remembrance Day ceremony.

Queen’s Park was crowded with young students and families with their children. Most were wearing black overcoats and the bright red of their poppy pins could be seen despite the drizzling rain. There were no whispers among this crowd; no snickers or horseplay. It was the most silent and respectful crowd I’ve seen in a while. The exception was the young girl behind me, who was quietly explaining what was happening for three international University of Toronto students who decided to attend the ceremony. Why? They wanted to learn more about Canadian culture and heritage.

These ceremonies are meant to give us time to remember the past—the men and women who served our country both at home and abroad, who died to protect our freedom and our way of life. But, maybe it can do more. Maybe, it can help us look into the future.

I spent a few minutes after the ceremony speaking with groups of students, most of whom weren’t native to this country. They were all fascinated by the ceremony, and all could relate to this idea of “remembrance.” Some came from war-torn countries, others from Europe, South America, or Asia. One young man was from Japan, and he spoke of the atomic bomb. He felt compelled to come to Queen’s Park and listen to the words spoken by our politicians and military leaders.

And really, what better place to learn about what it means to be Canadian? Our military forces—at least our current military forces—are so diverse. There were men, women, and people of various ethnic and religious values, all marching together as one unit. That’s Canada.

When I decided to write a piece about Remembrance Day for Women’s Post, I automatically thought of the women in service. I think Brigadier-General Lowell Thomson, Commander 4th Canadian Division, said it best when he gave homage to his military upbringing. He said his father was a long-time soldier, but then went on to say that he was the son of a woman who had served “during a time when her service wasn’t recognized.” That’s when I noticed there were very few women in uniform sitting in the crowds. About 600 WWII veterans die a day around the world, so this isn’t surprising. Perhaps most of them ventured to Ottawa to partake in their larger ceremony by the War Memorial. I have to admit, I was a little disappointed. As Managing Editor of Women’s Post, I was hoping to speak with them and share their stories.

2015-11-10 16.55.35Instead, looking around the crowds, I noticed the number of young women taking part in the ceremony, specifically a young girl who was leading the cadets through the parade. She was independent, kind, commanding and strong. “If you feel cold, wiggle your toes and fingers. If you feel sick, let me know,” she said slowly while her fellow cadets looked at her nervously. Throughout the ceremony, she addressed her group, told them to stand tall, proud, and smiled when appropriate. She was the prime example of the type of woman younger girls could look up to.

I didn’t understand what Remembrance Day meant until I was a teenager. And even then, I feel like it was my circumstance—the death of a loved one—that suddenly gave me the desire to remember all of those who gave their lives in service. These young people, the cadets, students (international or Canadian native), and children who attended today’s ceremony, are all ahead of the game. I can only hope they truly take away the meaning of remembrance.  Just because the WWII veterans are fading, doesn’t mean their memories should be lost. There will always be war or conflict—it’s the nature of human beings and the sad reality of living in a world where people don’t always agree. But, if we forget where it all began, if we ignore our own history and heritage, there is no way to understand how OUR Canada was shaped. And that understanding is crucial to the future of not only this country, but the world.

And that’s worth a minute of silence, don’t you think?

2015-11-10 18.22.10

 

The Code Mobile: teaching girls across Canada to be computer wizards

Technology is the future—and women should be a part of it.

That was the message driven into my brain by Melissa Sariffodeen, 27, the co-executive director of Ladies Learning Code, when we spoke on the phone one Wednesday morning. She had just returned from a 20-hour road trip with the soon-to-be-famous code mobile, a truck whose purpose will eventually be to travel across Canada teaching young kids how to use HTML, CSS, JavaScript, and much more.

Ladies Learning Code is a not-for-profit organization whose mission is to provide women and youth with the resources they need to learn programming and technological skills. Their ultimate goal is to teach 200,000 Canadian women and youth to code by 2020. They do this through a series of workshops tailored to women, young girls, and kids between the ages of eight and 13. The organization itself was founded by in 2011 by four women who wanted to teach themselves to code. Sariffodeen was one of these four women.

“The organization was started largely in self-interest in this problem that we had and this idea that we wanted to learn to code,” she said. “I never thought it would catch on so much, but I think that’s so telling of the need. When we started out, we wanted to do it. We just didn’t realize there were thousands of other people who wanted to as well.”

Now, four years later, the organization operates in 23 cities across Canada. Their latest campaign includes a truck, or a mobile computer lab, that will be driven across the country. We asked Sariffodeen about this newest initiative and why it’s so important to teach young kids, in particular young girls, how to code.

 

Q: Why a truck?

I went on a road trip a couple of years ago and I drove to Montana from Toronto and back. I thought ‘Wow, wouldn’t it be so cool if ladies learning code did this?’ I think I tweeted about that idea and started speaking with partners and sponsors and spent two years trying to make this happen. Finally, the stars aligned.

One of the big barriers to a lot of the things we do for youth is that not everyone has access to technology, there aren’t readily available computer labs or a laptop that’s easy to access. So, how can we make it easier for them? By having a truck—it’s a travelling computer lab. It would be easy for us to bring our technology and our program to communities across the country.

The Code Mobile. Photo provided by Ladies Learning Code.
The Code Mobile. Photo provided by Ladies Learning Code.

How would it work?

We are running this crowd-funding campaign right now and as part of that you can make donations to guarantee that we come visit you, and then the trip will be planned in a couple ways. So, one of them will just be the surrounding areas of the community we are in. We will go to Montreal and we will visit communities within a 200 km radius. We will pick the major cities we are in as base camps and then visit the surrounding areas. Then, we will combine that with requests for visits. So people have been requesting visits already, whether its through our Indiegogo campaign, or if its just through the form in general, we will bring that information together and that’s how we will plan our route.

Have you gotten many requests?

I would say we have 40 to 50 requests so far. It’s going to be challenging to pick where we can do, because we can only do so many stops during the summer. But, that’s the idea. Request the truck to come to your community, and maybe we won’t come specifically to your summer camp but maybe we will pop up in your local parking lot and you can come and visit us that way.

What’s inside the truck?

The idea is that inside the truck there may be room for a couple of people to learn to code, but it will mostly be storage of our pop-up lab. We want to make sure we can teach a lot of kids, or at least a reasonable amount of kids, at a time. The truck actually pops out with a massive tent with tables, chairs, and laptops. We have the capacity to teach about 40 kids at a time out of the truck.

You have 12 days left in the campaign at the time of this interview. Do you think you will reach your funding goal?

I hope so! I think we have a few big pushes left, and I think as we start to get closer the community will rally to support us. They have been so generous so far, and I think we can pick up some momentum even in the last couple of days. Fingers crossed.

Why is it important to get out there and teach young people—young girls in particular—to do stuff like code and use HTML?

Technology isn’t going anywhere, and we think it’s really important that we equip kids with the skills they need to thrive in the future. It’s the same way we teach math or social sciences. It’s not so we have a bunch of mathematicians or social scientists. It’s because we want kids to have a basic understanding of how the world works. And since technology is such a critical part of the world, it just makes sense that they know a little bit about how this stuff works.

And the reason why we want more girls specifically, is that right now the technology we use is largely built by men. If we can start to have more women create it, the idea is that you have this more diverse perspective in technology. A lot of problems that are more unique to women could be solved by women. Technology could speak more to the population using it if it’s built by a population that is representative.

What has been the response from the young girls you have taught so far?

We have lots of stories about people who have gone on to take computer science in high school. We had one girl specifically who scored the highest score in her advanced placement on her computer science exam and is now going to university. We have another story about a young girl who started a company at 11 after being inspired at one of our programs. The response so far has been very positive in the demographic we are teaching—8-13 year old girls—but they are still young and they are just starting to enter high school or graduate high school so, that’s an exciting thing. We will start to see over the next couple of years the impact that our programming is having and that shift that will hopefully happen—I’m optimistic—in technology.

IMG_9712
Photo provided by Ladies Learning Code.

What are some of the things you are teaching these young girls?

We teach so much stuff, from basic HTML and CSS, web languages which are our most popular languages because, I think, they are the most accessible. They are written in pretty standard English. But for youth and adults we also teach other languages like Ruby and Python and Javascript. We have app creating programs for youth coming up. And then we also do technical skills. So, how do you edit photos? How do you create digital art? (The basics of) 3d printing and robotics.

Once the crowd-funding campaign is done, what’s next for Ladies Learning Code?

Figuring out this trip I guess! The code mobile was a really big initiative for next year, but we also want to layer in a set of resources we can leave in these communities. So, taking the programs we’ve run over the last few years and packaging them in a nice and compelling way. That way, when we go to this nice rural community in BC, we can make sure we leave them with enough that they can keep learning this stuff on their own, at their schools, or in their community centres.

To request a visit by the code mobile, click here.

To contribute to their campaign, visit their Indiegogo site.

*This interview has been condensed for publication.

Summer Must Have: Jumpsuits

Sometimes it can take hours trying to find the perfect shirt to go with your pants. But don’t worry, the fashion world is here to save you. The jumpsuit, which became popular a few years ago, has come back for another season. Immerse yourself in style and comfort and embrace the onesie-like feel. Because it’s trendy and we like it!

Now you just need a pair of shoes to match.

Lace sleeveless jumper

Romper with Lace Detail / Combishort avec Dentelle

It’s got lace detail, so it’s girly, but it’s polyester, so it’s comfy. Perfect for lazy days when you still want to look pretty.

Available at Jacob.

 

Jumpsuit

This interesting printed number will look great with a pair of bright strappy sandals or wedges. Grab a wide brimmed hat and step out for some fun in the sun- boho style.

Available at H&M.

Zigzag print long jumpsuit

Zigzag print long jumpsuit | MANGO

This is a great summer work outfit. Classy yet cool. Pair with a blazer for a more polished look.

Available at Mango.

 

Crochet playsuit

Okay, the name sounds like a mix of an old lady and a toddler, but the outfit is kicking fun. It would look great at a summer party.

Available at Topshop.

LOVE & SEX: This guy made a documentary to find out if size really does matter

One thing is clear, Patrick Moote doesn’t have a lot of embarrassment left. After proposing to his girlfriend on a jumbotron at a sporting event and being turned down, being the subject of a documentary about small penises wouldn’t seem all that mortifying. The trailer for the film, Unhung Hero, follows protagonist Moote as he speaks to women, experts, and medical professionals about penis size.

His girlfriend turned him down apparently because he was lacking in the pants. While this is an awful reason to break up with someone, it has gotten under his skin to the point where he and film maker Brian Spitz traveled the world to find out the answer to the age old question: does size really matter?

 

 

Follow Women’s Post on Twitter at @WomensPost.

A year later

Tomorrow is our anniversary and I can’t help my desire to scream, “We made it!” at the top of my lungs. This is my first anniversary since the Big Ex in 2009 and the differences between then and now are staggering: four years ago I was afraid to tell the Big Ex that I loved him, four years ago on our anniversary the Big Ex was on a date with another woman and four years ago I couldn’t have told you that I was happy even if I thought I might have been.

Tomorrow Boyfriend and I are going for dinner and a movie, we’ll exchange gifts and we’ll fall asleep in what I can only assume will be a sweaty tangled mess. But the biggest difference of all is that I’m not afraid; I’m not afraid that making a big deal out of an anniversary will scare him off, I’m not afraid to tell him how much I love him and I’m not afraid to enjoy myself on a day that is meant to be enjoyed.

We’ve been through a lot this year: my mum’s illness, my work issues, the loss of his grandfather and six months of trying to figure out why I can barely keep food down. At this point we’ve been through some of the worst parts of life together and we’ve managed to come out smiling. I have never known the kind of support that I get from Boyfriend. As an adult child of divorce I’ve barely seen this kind of support outside of movies and TV shows; to be honest I didn’t even know that this kind of love was real, I just assumed that writers and directors were just really talented at creating loving worlds on paper and screen.

But after a year of experiencing love first hand I’ve come to realize that it isn’t all a fantasy, it takes a lot of work, a lot of practice and a lot of honesty. You have to be ready to share yourself fully, your fears, hopes, dreams and even (especially) the things you hate about yourself. Relationships aren’t easy, that was the part the writers got wrong, a big gesture won’t fix everything, there is no quick fix when things go wrong and you’ve got to really love yourself before anyone can love you. Some days I think it would be easier to walk through the world alone, as it’s a lot easier to lie to myself when the days get tough than it is to lie to Boyfriend.

But in the end finding someone who loves and appreciates you because of, not in spite of, your weird little quirks is the best feeling in the world. So what if I never wear matching socks or if I set my alarm clock in intervals of three or if I insist on calling penguins “pengins”? It’s all part of who I am and he loves me.

I couldn’t ask for a better partner in life and I hope that this is just the first of many more anniversaries.

Keep fit and travel fit

It’s easy to let your resolve to stay fit fall by the wayside when you’re on vacation or travelling. If you don’t have access to a gym you might say to yourself, “Why bother?” But it’s not all that hard to at the very least maintain your level of fitness with only a couple of pieces of portable equipment, even in a small space. I’d like to share with you what I do while travelling. (And as a matter of fact, I’m writing this from India, where I’m spending four weeks.)

First, I pack a skipping rope and resistance band. Both of these pieces are light and can be stuffed into just about any part of my bag. They add versatility to the workouts I create, allowing me to include many exercises that are not limited to ones using my own body weight.

Second, I choose six to eight exercises. To give a few examples: planks, crunches, squats, leg lifts, biceps curls, shoulder presses, rows and push-ups are among my favourites. I move quickly between exercises and after each cycle I do one to three minutes of skipping to get my heart rate up (or if there are stairs or steps nearby, I’ll run up and down them as an option).

Third, I challenge myself to be as precise and controlled as possible. This really cranks up the intensity in a big way. I always go slowly and if I’m not fatigued by the end of the set, I’ll hold a position and focus on contracting my muscles until I am.

I’ve used these strategies to work out in spaces barely sizeable enough to swing a skipping rope. My workouts while travelling are short (20 to 25 minutes typically) but effective. I try to do something like what I’ve described two to three times per week, as well as walk a lot. I look at it as a period of time when I don’t have to work out like a maniac, I just have to maintain. After all, I’m on vacation.

Marathon runner beats the odds to survive car crash and run again

In the blink of an eye Leaha MacDonald’s running days were over. Instead of training for her next marathon she was lying in a hospital bed fighting for her life.

On September 16, 20ll, MacDonald was walking her bike across the street and was struck by an SUV. What came next for MacDonald was an incredible journey to not only beat the odds in surviving the collision, which threw her 50 feet, but to walk and, amazingly, run again.

On August 25 the Calgary resident will be lacing up her shoes with two friends to run the Edmonton marathon – just two years after that fateful day.  MacDonald started running again four months ago and is looking forward to participating in the marathon on Sunday. Her goal is to run it in seven hours – to complete the distance. Her best time is 4:11.

In a recent phone interview from her family home in Ontario, MacDonald and her mother, Mariann, shared with me details of her miraculous recovery and her passion for running. “I was on my way home after a work event – a team building session, and it was 4:30 pm. I was walking my bike across the street. If I didn’t wear a helmet I would have been dead. The helmet saved me,” MacDonald, with a positive, confident delivery, says. “Also, the doctors said I was in good shape, which helped.”

MacDonald was in a coma for two months. She sustained a severe brain injury and hip fractures. After three weeks in a coma doctors informed her family there was little hope of recovery and were recommending palliative care. MacDonald says: “They told my family there was only a two per cent chance of recovery and they thought I would live in a (care) home the rest of my life.”

Her mother adds, “She still has a long, long way to go yet, she is struggling with memory and problems with balance. She was paralyzed in the right leg and right arm and only started running recently. She is seeing a speech therapist and a physiotherapist. The doctors are surprised of her recovery.”

MacDonald explains, “I had to learn to breathe, eat, swallow, talk and sit again.” She spent three months in hospital in Calgary and then went home to Toronto to spend six weeks in rehab for brain injuries, which followed another six weeks at the brain injury rehab clinic. She then began to learn to walk.

She says, “Oh my God, as soon as I walked I told my physiotherapist I wanted to run.”

With six marathons and three half irons under her belt, this marathoner was determined to run again. She says, “I am a hugely stubborn person and almost two years after the accident, here I am running in my first official full marathon.”

In yesterday’s Edmonton Marathon MacDonald completed the distance in eight hours. She says via e-mail, “I thought I’d let you know that I finished today! I was super slow, 8 hours and I am very tired. But I did it!!”

Leaha MacDonald learned again to breathe, swallow, walk and will now run.  She is a symbol of perseverance and in my opinion is a true Canadian hero.