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Marathon running? Ever heard of Philippides?

The inspiration for the marathon was a man named Philippides.  According to Greek myth, Philippides ran from the battlefield at Marathon all the way to Athens to announce Greece’s victory over Persia. He ran roughly 26 miles as fast as his legs could carry him – an amazing athletic achievement.

No one seems to remember though what happened next to Philippides: he collapsed and died on the spot.

Training for a marathon is an increasingly popular activity these days. For a lot of folks the marathon represents the absolute pinnacle of fitness. “If I can run a marathon,” the thinking goes, “then I’ll really be in shape.” Chances are you’ll wind up in some shape, it just might not be good shape.

I think that the volume that training for a marathon requires is far too much for the majority of us and leads to unnecessary wear and tear on the joints. There’s a certain point at which the exercise that we do ceases to be beneficial and actually becomes harmful. Sometimes it’s difficult to recognize this point because exercise is promoted as being good for us; so logically more of it must be better. Not so. Exercising too much can raise levels of stress hormones causing our bodies to break down muscle and store fat. Just take a look at a marathoner. Most don’t look at all like pictures of health; they look like they’re wasting away to me.

Don’t get me wrong: I think that running can be great for fitness. But there’s a sweet spot where we can get most of the benefit while avoiding much of the harm. (It varies from individual to individual.) Perhaps running briskly for 20 minutes doesn’t gives us the same bragging rights that running a marathon does, but it might do us better at the end of the day.

Moments of Beauty

I can hear the wind rustling the palm trees above me. The frogs whistle to each other and for a brief moment I understand the language of the palm trees and the frogs. The outline of the palm trees are dark in contrast to the moonlit sky. I feel as if everything is suddenly connected and right, and I understand the language of the wind. The world is perfectly in line – with what, I don’t know – and then the moment ends, vanishing as quickly as it came. I try to remember what the wind in the trees and frogs were saying, but their conversation is lost to me once more.

Is this what meditation is all about? I’ve had these sorts of moments before, but not often. Some people describe them as religious experiences, but to me they seem to come when I get outside myself, away from my thoughts, my reason, and let my instincts connect with the natural world around me. 

I feel lucky to have had a few of these beautiful moments in my life, and I realize that it takes a little bit of luck and my own determination to let go, be still, listen, and soak in everything.

I remember my first meeting with beauty. I was quite young, and skating with my family at night on an ice rink we had made earlier that day. A sudden drop in temperature over the evening had frozen the rink quickly, making it perfectly smooth, and the cold seemed to cast a stillness over the fields around us.

The night sky was filled with stars and I could hear a farm dog barking far off in the distance. I glided over the surface and for a brief moment I felt as if there was nothing below me, and I was suspended with the stars, held in the beauty of the moment. I was overwhelmed by a universal understanding, and then it was gone. No matter how many times I skated around and around that rink I couldn’t get back to that beautiful spot.

Beauty touched me again in my early 20s, just after seeing a concert. I had spent an hour or so listening to a string quartet play while watching the afternoon sun filter through the trees outside the stained-glass window of the concert hall, making patterns on the floor that seemed to dance to the music.

As I walked home on that warm fall afternoon, I could hear leaves rustling in the breeze, and honking geese flying far overhead. Suddenly the world aligned. It all made sense – the music spoke the same language as the geese and the wind rustling the leaves. My mind knew everything for one brief moment. But when I tried to hold on, it slipped through my fingers like water.

The moon leaves long shadows across the landscape. A dog bark echos over Speightstown another in the distance answers him.

I’ll lie here a little longer but my mind is already filling with other things – the meeting next week, the emails I need to write. The moment of beauty floats further out of reach. Like an old friend I hope it will visit again.

Sarah Thomson can be reached at publisher@womenspost.ca.

Ode to the shower

For blessings, large and small, I love Canada.  A favourite aspect of my life in the great white north is beginning each workday with a shower; an invigorating, experiential blend of solitude, hot water, and optimism.  I’m grateful every time I stand under the cascade of warm, restorative water, preparing for the day.

The first moments of my shower are spent getting wet, spinning, warming up, and soaking in the sensation of hot water on cold flesh.  Humans groom and the shower is a prime place for preening, primping, and preparing.  Soap and shampoo are obvious accessories, but, to justify extra shower-time, there’s more, which can be done, under the blissful cascade.  

After swishing mouthwash over teeth and gums, I treat myself to flossing, brushing, and a final rinse.  My mouth feels clean, fresh, and ready for close encounters, of any kind.  (I don’t like being afraid of my breath.)  

A shower is made for shaving.  Warm water and steam soften whiskers, so slicing them off is easier, while showering.  A touch up, in the mirror is, usually, required, but, sometimes, the task has been accomplished, perfectly.  I shave my entire face, including nose and forehead, for the same reasons I exfoliate.

Exfoliating is good for your skin.  Exfoliating is good for your soul.  With age, the process of cell regeneration slows down, and dead skin cells can clog pores, cause spots, and leave your epidermis showing dry and rough.  Manually scrubbing away old and dead cells can help you look and feel fresher.

Along with exfoliating, cascading water increases blood-flow to the skin’s surface, so circulation, which is critical to good health, is improved, by a shower.  As well, if you’re congested, phlegm can accumulate in the lungs, overnight.  Hot water and steam work, more, magic.  Phlegm is loosened, coughed up, spat out, and washed down the drain with dead skin cells.  Sayonara.

The mental component of a shower should not be overlooked.  Being alone and unplugged does wonders for well being.  My stream of consciousness flows, like the warm water, so ideas come, plans are made, problems solved, forgiveness given, and delightful reminiscences surface, in the shower.  

Showers have been part of human existence, since cavepeople stood under waterfalls for a rinse and rejuvenation.  There is evidence of showering facilities in early Egyptian and Mesopotamian households, wherein servants would pour water over upper class citizens.   

Many people are mindful of waste and indulgence, but the average shower, of 8 – 9 minutes, uses less water than a bath, and is faster.  Good hygiene is critical to good health, so a shower is a necessary luxury.  As well, if you want to get into Heaven, you have to shower.  In 1778, English cleric, John Wesley aptly recorded, “Cleanliness is, indeed, next to Godliness.” 

More critically, if you want to get a second date, before the first one, shower, for God’s sake.  

All things, good or bad, must come to an end.  A thorough rinse, thoughts of thanks, and my shower is over.  I grab a rough towel and go to it.  Spirited towel drying, from head to toes, is exfoliating and exercise, at once.  Drying thoroughly is critical; moisture leads to aggravating conditions, like athlete’s foot and crotch rot.  

It is difficult to work, play, parent, study, relate… if I am out of sorts.  Looking after myself allows me to be a better person.  Sequestered in a shower stall; cleaning, improving, conversing with thoughts, feeling comfortable and safe, is an ideal way to begin my day.  When I consider the simplicity, facility, rapidity, luxury, and benefits, nothing compares to my morning shower. 

Wash up.

TRAVEL: The Darien Gap is no man’s land

By Tania LaCaria

With his backpack strapped on tightly, he traipsed through the humid, overgrown jungle greenery. Careful not to slip on algae-covered boulders, he watched his right foot move in front of his left, never taking his eyes off the ground. Suddenly he felt a jarring shock to his system; he’s thrown to the ground from behind. They pulled his backpack off his arms, tied his wrists, shoved their hands into his pockets and pushed his face into the wet earth. He knew the Darién Gap was a dangerous place, but he was certain he could cross without injury.

Men shouted at him in local tongue, pushing barrels of their machine guns into the back of his head. They wanted his money, his cell phone, and his shoes, but they were careful not to take the GPS he was using – it could lead authorities back to them. As he lay there in his sweat-soaked shorts and soiled t-shirt, he knew he had made a mistake attempting to cross the infamous Darién Gap.

The Darién Gap is not accessible by any road, bus, train or plane for a reason. It is a dangerous place where many curious travelers are left to perish under the thick tropical tree coverage – most of whom end up victims of violent guerilla crimes.

A 48,000 kilometre-long stretch of paved road called the Pan-American Highway will take you all the way through North, Central and South America; except, of course, once you hit the Darién Gap – 321 kilometres of highly dangerous land between south-eastern Panama and north-western Columbia.

The Darién Gap has gained notoriety as a kind of “no-man’s land”. The lack of accessibility should come as a warning to travelers; sure, the Pan-Am highway drops off before the Gap on either end in order to preserve the natural environment, respect the indigenous tribes that live in the Gap and to prevent trafficking of drugs from Columbiainto Panama. The more important reason, however, is that it simply isn’t safe to travel through.

The FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Columbia) guerilla group has been present in the Darién Gap for years, and now, they are virtually unbeatable. The horror stories of muggings, kidnappings and murders almost always trace back to the FARC – this dangerous group now seems to “run” the entire Darién Gap on a platform of fear.

Being a traveler that prefers to err on the side of caution, the thought of crossing the Gap has never entered my mind. But that doesn’t mean I cannot empathize with the curiosity travelers share. What does it look like? How much fear-mongering is the media responsible for? How do the villagers live? I suppose these questions will remain unanswered (for myself) for quite some time.

In the meantime, I will re-direct my quest for first-hand worldly knowledge and curiosity elsewhere — preferably to a destination that will not leave my loved ones muttering, “Curiosity killed the cat.”

 

 

Follow Women’s Post on Twitter at @WomensPost.

My family: Betrayal and addiction

While most people have loving and stable family lives, mine was not. The fact is that both my parents are alcoholics. My father is the worst, drinking anything that contains alcohol. Then there are his bouts of exhibitionism. However, unlike my siblings I did not grow up with them. There are four children in my family, including me, but I actually grew up with my grandparents on Vancouver Island, B.C. When I did eventually come to Toronto I was thrown into a lifestyle and culture shock that was devastating to me. I was just a young girl from the country, I had never seen this kind of addiction. It became a nightmare. My parents are what you would call “binge drinkers.” They maintained their lives for months at a time, going to work and acting like they were just like everyone else, sometimes better. Then something would affect one of them and the drinking would begin. This would go on for weeks at a time. My younger sister was also in the home. However, she grew up in this madness so it was all she knew. It was impossible for us to live like normal teenagers. We were kept up all night long with their drinking and sickness, so we could not attend school. There were many fights between them involving my sister and me. Finally, I had enough and decided to leave home. My sister never forgave me for leaving her, which still pulls at my heartstrings to this day. However, I didn’t know where I was going, so I couldn’t drag her along. Eventually, I carved out a life for myself and vowed never to be like my parents. However, alcohol addiction, like other addictions, is powerful. It usually runs in families. I had a period where I fought those addictions myself. I kept in touch with my parents off and on through the years, but always hated my father. In the last few months my brother and I saved my mother’s life. My brother and I found her on the floor in her apartment with my father still drinking. My brother, sister and I tended to her for months at the hospital. My sister took her in when she was released and awaiting a home. Shortly after, she was put into a beautiful care facility where all her needs would be met. In the back of our minds we knew the addiction would win, but didn’t want to admit she would betray us. Eventually, she left the home, her family and everything she had to return to her addiction.

Women of the week: Pauline Fleming

Pauline Fleming is truly unique. A professional life, business and leadership master certified coach who is also a certified speaking professional, Pauline is one of only three people in the world who hold these accreditations. Coaching clients through both personal and professional matters gives both Pauline and her clients a comprehensive coaching experience. “I’m not strictly a life coach… I cover all three: life, leadership and business coaching. Where those [aspects] intersect on a venn diagram is the sweet spot for the individual’s success. Those successes or learning opportunities are transferable,” Pauline explains, “We… go deeper, and [clients are] able to leverage what’s already in them.” By focusing on all aspects of her client’s lives, Pauline can pinpoint what’s missing and help them apply a solution to both their professional and personal lives.

Pauline first began coaching after moving across the country from British Columbia to Ottawa in 2001, finding herself in a new city shocked, and with no family nearby. Looking for guidance, Pauline hired a coach for herself to help with the effects of moving thousands of kilometres. Through being coached, she realized that coaching would be a great fit for her professionally. “I realized through the coaching that that’s what I had been doing as a teacher that I loved,” she says. Eager to begin coaching and helping others, Pauline organized a Ladies’ Retreat for the Heart and Soul at her home. “I knew about 50 women so I invited them over for [the Retreat]. It turned into a retreat for women on a quarterly basis. The first was in August of 2002 and 20 of the women couldn’t make it… but the other 30 showed up and asked ‘when’s the next one?’” Pauline reminisces.

The retreats eventually turned into pro-bono coaching for stay-at-home moms, but quickly evolved into a larger scale operation, with Pauline coaching Fortune 500 business leaders and business owners looking to improve and expand their company.

“I found a groove in working with service providers, people who care so much [it’s] to their own detriment… they’re people pleasers. They’re leaders who care, and I love working with people who put people first,” Pauline says. “Now I focus on both of those sizes, whether it’s a small business with a leader that has no employees but knows they need them or [a larger company.]”

Enthusiasm, Pauline says, is one of the most important aspects of coaching. While she is passionate about coaching and helping her clients, Pauline’s goal is to impassion her clients and help them realize their potential. “They’re not just there for a pay cheque; it’s not meaningful, it’s not giving them purpose. Whether they have a salary job or they’re running a business and they’re not sure if they’ll be able to pay their mortgage. Whatever it is, they all want to make a difference,” she says. “I’m an optimist, I’m not a Pollyanna. I’m a realist. I choose to look at the positive and strengths [in my clients].”

The passion and enthusiasm that Pauline exudes in both her personal and professional life are one of her strengths, but the qualities have tragic origins. “My dad passed away from heart disease at the age of 42. I was only 18,” she says. “So I learned at a young age that you shouldn’t wait until retirement to have a trip of a lifetime, or to do the things that we love. We have to do that sooner and stop wasting our lives.” Pauline’s unique philosophy combines Carpe Diem with analogies of chocolate. “We have a lot of things in our day that we have to do, but the things we love to do are our ‘chocolate’ for the day. In your life, what’s your ‘chocolate?’ What do you love to do?”

A self-proclaimed “recovering over-achiever,” Pauline Fleming has overcome personal difficulties and combined her unique set of skills to become a successful coach whose goal is, simply, to help and inspire.  Working with clients from different businesses all over the world, she works to help everyone and anyone find the “chocolate” in their professional and personal lives.

Pay it forward

Pay It Forward, originally published in 1999, is a terrific book.  In 2000, it was made into a feature film.  A young adult version of Pay It Forward was released in 2014, and became a bestseller.  Despite all the commercial and popular success, the greatest feat of Pay It Forward has been encouraging people, all over the world, to be kind.

The concept of the book is simple; rather than payback acts of benevolence, pay it forward; do something good for another.  Ideally, the recipients of your kindness pay it forward, as well, and goodwill spreads, indefinitely, like ripples in a pond.    

Kindness, and all it encompasses, is a critical human quality, integral to well being.  Kindness, fortunately, is everywhere.  Without the kindness of strangers, I’d be dead.

On a cold, cold night, in rural France, 30 years ago, a young mother, with her two children, in the car, picked me up, hitch hiking.  I spent the night at their house and, the next day, her, equally, kind husband took me to a train station.  

I don’t see many hitchhikers, anymore.  When I do, I pick them up, sketchy or otherwise.

On another occasion, a fellow gave me a fistfull of Francs and told me to have a good time, in Paris.  I was getting out of the his car, thanking him for the ride, at the time.  He knew we’d never meet, again, but he gave me money and drove off.  

Since, I haven’t been able to walk past a homeless person, without trying to help.  Years ago, we were running to a church, late for our daughter’s baptism, when I yelled, “Stop.”  I handed off the child, turned around, went back, and gave money to the fellow, sitting on the sidewalk, cap in hand.

My wife said, “I knew you’d do that.”

I said, “Good.”  We walked into the ostentatious, palatial house of God and I forgave them.

The author of Pay It Forward, Catherine Ryan Hyde, explains the genesis for her book.  In the early 1970s, she was a young woman living in LA, with little money and an old car.  One evening, stopped at red light, in a bad part of town, her engine caught fire.  A bad situation, no doubt, Ryan Hyde’s fortunes quickly turned when two strangers, came running to her aid and put the fire out with blankets and bare hands.  

The fire department and police showed up, naturally.  Ryan Hyde spoke to them, and in the confusion and drama, the men, who had put the fire out, left, without a word.  She never saw them, again.  didn’t learned their names, or anything about them. As she explains, had she been able to say, “Thank you,” that would have been the end of  a nice story, not the start of global movement.

However, by fleeing the scene, the two men left Ryan Hyde unable to express her gratitude or pay them back.  With a determination to make things right and return the kindness, Ryan Hyde went about looking for people in need.  She returned their kindness by paying it forward.  Ryan Hyde was startled strangers could be so selflessly kind.

I know where she is coming from.  It was a different time and a generation, but I was told to be leery of strangers; lock your doors, disparage hitchhikers; hoard your money…

When I was young and dumb and hitchhiking, I couldn’t believe how nice people were.  

At first, I experienced an extreme sense of incredulity, when strangers were nice, “You did that for me?  I don’t know you.  I don’t owe you.” It was love at first experience and I’ve been trying to pay it forward, since.  

The book, Pay It Forward, is the story of Trevor McKinney, a twelve year old boy, from a small town in California, who comes from a broken, dysfunctional home.  At school, Trevor’s Social Studies teacher gives the class an assignment: think of something which will change the world.  

Accepting the challenge, Trevor decides to do a good deed for three people.  Rather than  have the recipients return the kindness to him, Trevor asks them to pay it forward to three others.  He hopes kindness will spread.  There are ups and downs, challenges, and frustrations, naturally, but Trevor perseveres and, unbeknownst to himself, makes the world better.  

Like the men, who put out the car fire, Trevor isn’t aware of the butterfly effect his kindness has had, but he carries on, regardless.  An expectation of payback or compensation cheapens a gesture.  Kindness provides its own rewards.

Science and research, often, affirm what is, intrinsically, known: an act of kindness benefits both parties.  The recipient of goodwill, obviously, is better off, after a nice gesture.  However, the doer of a good deed feels better, too.  

Kindness causes the body to release positive chemicals, such as serotonin, oxytocin, and endorphins, which benefit mental, physical, and spiritual health.  Similar to petting a dog, acts of goodwill make you feel better.  People who volunteer, for example, are inevitably happier than those who don’t. Kind, thoughtful people have happier marriages and better relationships.  

In an effort to make narcissists more palatable and compatible, they are coached to be kind.  This does nothing for the reptilian heart of an egomaniac.  However, teaching a narcissist that kindness will increase their status and popularity motivates them to behave nicely and nice people finish first, (ideally).

Kindness takes courage.  Like all interpersonal skills, I get better with practise.  Kindness, as with charity, begins at home.  More than anyone, I try to be generous, respectful, forgiving, and kind to my girls.

I ask them to pay it forward and the world is better off.

Here’s a fifty-word poem about kindness, called Kindness.  

Kindness




Being kind is easy 

Being kind is free 

Kindly is how we are meant to be




Kindness makes you happy

Kindness makes you smile

Kindness is hip

Kindness has style




Kindness brings joy

Kindness is bliss

Life is a plot

Here is the twist

Kindness is the reason we exist

 

Last Year, This Year, Next Year

We have a calendar, in our kitchen, tacked to the cork-board.  It records special dates, travel schedules, reminders, etc.  A new year, of course, demands a new calendar and the timing is perfect.  The old year, and its calendar, are scrawled upon, dirty, and falling apart; good riddance, to both.

 

The new year, like the new calendar, is a fresh-off-the-press blank slate; glistening with optimism and opportunity.  With a sense of rebirth, the unblemished, pristine calendar gets pinned to the cork-board.  There is no past, so the old calendar goes in the blue bin and last year, if it happened, is dismissed as practise.

 

This year will be better.  Next year, I’ll be perfect.

 

As the new calendar is put up, it’s traditional to make resolutions, which I do.  I don’t know why; I don’t stick to them.  By making resolutions, however, I acknowledge a need, which is a start, and that is good enough.  I should resolve to stop being so generous with myself, but that’s a tall order, so I, usually, resolve to stay the way God made me.

 

Last year, I started intermittent fasting and resolve to stick to it, this year.  It would be embarrassing to quit, because it’s all I talk about.  I hope I’m still at it, next year.

 

Having a garden, even a small one, is a joy.  Last year, we had a good crop of tomatoes and peppers.  The habeneroes were, insanely, hot.  I hope to expand our garden, this year.  I want to try growing corn.  There’s something majestic about tall, impossibly reedy, perfectly erect corn stalks.  Like everything, it is important for a garden to have an appeasing, soothing aesthetic quality.  Food tastes better, when the garden is pretty.

 

Beauty reigns, last year, this year, next year… forever.

 

Last year, rather than green bins and brown bags, at the curb, I turned all leaves into the garden soil, which will help, this year.

 

Last year, I turned 54.  For a long time, I was sold on the premise of “Freedom 55;” the age at which I could retire and enjoy financial security, until death.  Perhaps, I could start enjoying Freedom 55, this year, if I liquidated, disowned my children, and moved into a fridge box, under a bridge.

Sometimes, that sounds worse than working, so I resolve not to quit, this year.

Last year, in September, like every other year, I shaved my head on Terry Fox Day, to honour the great man.  I’m growing my hair and beard for a full year and will have a special friend shave it all off at the Terry Fox event, this year.  It’s months away, but I already look forward to being rid of the motley mess.  No beard, next year.

My favourite sporting event is The World Juniour Hockey Tournament.  It’s great because it runs annually, starting Boxing Day, and it spans from last year into this one.  Canada always has a great team, the players get better, and the competition steeper, every year.  It’s remarkable how skilled and athletic young people are.

Canada lost to an excellent Finnish team, in the quarter final, and were eliminated, early, this year.  The Canadians played hard and deserved a better fate.  Better luck, next year.

Unfortunately, the Canadian team and its captain, especially, were subjected to sickening abuse on anti-social media.  I’d wager this year’s wages and next’s, none of the tweeters would insult Max Comtois, who is 6’ 2”, 210, and has a black belt in Karate, to his face.

The coach of Switzerland, Christian Wohlwend, is the most delightful person in sports, by light years.  Last year, he was raving his club had no chance, against Canada.  This year, he told his team and the world, “When you give, give give love, you always get it back.  That’s a fact.”

Toward the end of last year, Sarah Thomson, the editor and publisher of The Women’s Post, asked me to write an article per week, which I have resolved to do.  It won’t be easy.  In a hockey vernacular, I’m a grinder.

Quality Writing

Think, write, edit, think, write, edit, write, think, edit…

Every word, mark, and symbol is vetted, sweated, and fretted

It is to hard work that a writer is indebted

Talent, I’d say, gets far too much credit

The only way to get better at anything is practise.   I’ve always had great respect for newspaper and magazine writers, who write, well, often; Rex Murphy, for example.  Thanks to the external pressure, I’ve resolved to write every day, this year.   This time, next year, I hope to have 52 articles and a children’s musical comedy under my belt, on the Internet, in the cloud, out in the world…

Our youngest wants to travel, get out in the world, this year.  Yikes.  There were sad stories of young women travelling, at the end of last year, but I try not to think about that.

I read, a lot, but it is mostly the Internet.  I resolve to read more books; real books, this year.  I resolve to consume less garbage, disguised and sold as food, fashion, entertainment, and news.

I Resolve

Another year has roared and died

And my soft spots are more amplified

2019 is, of course, right here

So, it’s time for Resolutions

And their promise of solutions

While bringing in the year

 

I resolve my resolutions won’t be, again, insincere

I resolve things will be different this year

 

I resolve to drop a pound or ten

I’ve resolved this before and will, likely, again

 

I resolve to eat better and exercise

I resolve to order salad instead of fries…

Wait

I take that back

I resolve to tell fewer outrageous lies

 

I resolve to cut back on drinking…

I take that back, too

What was I thinking?

 

I would resolve to be a better husband, but I don’t think I can

She’s a lucky lady and, as Homer Simpson said, “I’m a wonderful man”

 

I had resolved to be a better dad, but now I needn’t bother

Rather, I bought the t-shirt: World’s Greatest Father

 

I resolve to spend more time of the couch, with flicker in my hand

Flicking through the channels

The world at my command

 

With God as my witness

I resolve to put The Trumps out of business

I resolve to make America great

I resolve to titillate




I resolve to slay the beast and bring peace to the middle east

 

I resolve I’ll lower gasoline prices

I resolve to fix the migrant crisis

I resolve I’ll slow Canada’s traffic:

Highways and death traps, where carnage is graphic

 

I resolve to win the lottery

Financial freedom sounds good to me

Especially, when it comes so easily

 

I resolve I will no longer dream

Instead, I resolve to plot, hatch, fantasize, and scheme

 

I resolve to be short and sweet

I resolve to be fast and neat

I resolve to be discrete

 

That is a long list of resolutions and I can’t disavow

There’s much, much more to resolve, somehow

Yet, I’ve resolved to write The End soon

It’s another problem I’ll solve

I resolve

The End. Happy 2019.

 

What’s the true cost of birth control in Ontario?

Women are forced to pay for birth control, feminine hygiene products and take responsibility for their fertility in a way that men are not. As a country that purports democracy and equality, steps need to be taken to ensure women aren’t forced to pay for much-needed products.

Birth control in Canada is expensive and cuts deep into the pockets of young women already trying to make ends meet. Without insurance, birth control has an added cost and women are expected to fork out the cash. One third of women in North America have reported struggling to pay for birth control at one point in their lives.By providing it for a cost in Canada, it questions whether protecting yourself is actually a right of women or is it instead a cash cow for greedy pharmaceutical companies who are actively taking advantage of women.

Birth control is universally covered in Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and China, among other countries. Canada does not offer birth control for free or subsidized without insurance coverage, and this limits accessibility for women looking for different options.

After comparing prices at three different pharmacies in Toronto, the average prices for the five main types of birth control are astronomical. Mirena, a hormonal IUD offered by Bayer who is one of the largest pharmaceutical companies in Canada, has an average cost of $416. Though it lasts for five years, finding this type of money as a young woman is unrealistic and often prevents women from accessing this option.  The Nuva ring is the second most expensive option because it must be bought monthly. It is approximately $31 per month and this cost adds up quickly throughout the year to $328. Though oral birth control appears affordable month to month at $20, it adds up to $240 per year making it the third most costly option.

Women who are low-income have alternative options to seek cost-free birth control, but the availability is certainly limited. There are 14 sexual health clinics in Toronto, most with extremely limited drop-in hours. These clinics will help provide low-to-no cost birth control to women who need it, but these clinics have long waitlists and are drop-in only. Oftentimes, these clinics are so busy that there will be over 20 people waiting at the door prior to its opening.

Other options include Family Planning, which offers certain birth control options free and charges a discounted price for others. The IUD is discounted, but still has a price tag on it. If you are looking for an IUD as well, you must phone at the beginning of the month to schedule an appointment that will be at least three weeks later. The other option is the Bay Street Centre for Birth Control, but book quickly. The waitlist to book an appointment at the centre was three months long.

It is clear that Canada has is an issue when it comes to birth control. The act of charging women to protect themselves from getting pregnant is arguably discrimination.  Canada needs to join the other countries that have moved to universally cover the costs of birth control, and grant access for women of all incomes to different types of protection. Only then will I say that Canada is a country that truly supports the rights of women.

 

RELATIONSHIPS: Reconnecting with your childhood crush

How much changes after 35 years — and how much stays the same?

I never forgot my childhood crush.  Over the years through dead-end relationships and dating disasters, I would go back to that comforting place in grade four and wonder about the cute boy who captured my attention and still held a special place in my memory.

The fantasy of reconnecting years later often presented itself in my mind. What was he doing now? Would he remember me?

Truthfully, I wasn’t even sure that we wouldn’t pass each other on the street and feel a twinge of familiarity but just keep walking.  After all, grade four kids are only nine years old. How much connecting could we really do at that age, I thought.

But suddenly, there was a chance encounter at Tim Horton’s with my grade four teacher. There she was, timeless and preserved as if it were still 1977. As I said hello, the memories came flooding back to me and I immediately went home to fish out the class photo that was carefully protected behind a plastic sheet in an ancient photo album. My crush was as cute as ever, as he stood posing with the group.  It was perfect for a Facebook post.

Although we weren’t children of technology, many of us born in the late 60s have adopted the habit of sitting behind a computer or phone to connect with our past. Many of my classmates from elementary school who were on my friend list flooded the photo with comments. Then suddenly, there he was. On someone else’s friend list.

I sent the friend request. Would he remember? Butterflies in my stomach. I attached a little note to ask.

The response was immediate. Are you kidding, he said. Of course I remember you! I always thought about you over the years.

It turned out that he lived in New York City and pictures indicated a lovely family of his own.  He was doing well.

We exchanged the usual promises to meet up one day for a coffee. But we were hundreds of miles apart and we hadn’t talked for 35 years. They were nice thoughts and I filed them away.

One year later, a trip to New York City presented itself. So I contacted my grade four crush. The coffee meeting was possible.  Was he up for it?

Yes indeed. An exchange of cell phone numbers and a promise to touch base was made. Truthfully, I still wasn’t sure it would happen.  But from my hotel room in New York, I sent the text, proposing a time. A response suggested a place – Times Square.  It was confirmed.

I walked through the busy streets of New York City on a cool spring day and suddenly, in the middle of Times Square, there he was – my grade four crush. We stood there for a minute among the hustle of the city and looked at each other and smiled.

Over Starbucks, we talked as if three decades hadn’t passed by. We reminisced about our grade four teacher and classmates, and we discussed his move to another school all too suddenly. He cried, he confessed. He was sad that he would not see me again.

I stared. You did? I asked.

He continued to reveal details of our friendship –details that I didn’t remember. We used to lay stomach down on the carpet side by side and read stories to one another, he recalled. He used to tell his mom about me.

I tried to recall those memories but my own told me that he was the cutest boy in the class and I had a crush on him, as did many of the other girls. 35 years later, I learn that I was the one he was most fond of.  More importantly, I find out that nine year olds can make connections that last a lifetime.

We chatted for the afternoon and he walked me to a street that would take me to my hotel again. We promised to keep in touch and parted ways.

That was over a year ago and we continue to connect on Facebook.  His emails make me smile and he checks up to see how I’m doing from time to time, with offers to talk when life throws a curve ball.

I’m happy that he’s found a love that keeps his heart full. He’s no longer my crush, but a bond that began in elementary school, lasted through decades of distance and came back, familiar and comforting as if we had shared stories on that carpet, in the second floor of that old school building, just a few weeks ago.

 

 

 

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