An Emotional Journey – The Road of Recovering

I recently went to my first therapy appointment for my leg.   I had a tumour removed in April, 2012 but because I didn’t have a job or benefits at the time, I wasn’t able to go for the needed therapy to help with the mobility and swelling.   I bought my own benefits plan when I could afford it so that I could get the much needed treatment for my leg.   It was a great first session and I could already feel a difference in my leg after the first hour.

While I had been eagerly anticipating the therapy for quite some time, I was very surprised by my emotional response during the session.  It was something that I hadn’t expected.   I cried uncontrollably  for at least half the session.   I was shocked and embarrassed by my reaction.   After all, why was I crying?  I have been wanting this therapy for a long time, was excited to finally be going, and yet here I was, extremely emotional and openly unable to stop sobbing.

I tried, at first to hide my tears.   I felt embarrassed and didn’t want the therapist to see my steady flow.   But finally, no longer able to hide the emotional outpouring, I asked my therapist, Lisa, if others cried during their appointment.

“Yes”, she replied without hesitation or thought.   According to Lisa, most people, on their first visit would show anger at first, and then eventually, tears.

“It’s a very emotional process that most people don’t understand”, Lisa informed me.    Suddenly, with the force of a volcanic eruption,  I  blurted out: “I want my leg back!”    The outburst both shocked and liberated me all at once.   I never realized just how much of a toll the entire pre operation, operation and post operation journey had taken on me until this moment.

When Lisa asked what I missed not doing, the answer was easy:  bike riding with my son.   We used to bike ride every day before my surgery but haven’t been able to go for the past two summers.   That’s been very difficult for me.  Walking with ease, bending down, crouching.  I missed  just being able to  go out and do something physical without limits or thought.  Even something like stair climbing was challenging.  I missed the freedom of having 2 healthy legs that we often take far too for granted.

I have to say, I’ve never, at any time, felt anger during this journey.  Even when they first found the tumour and believed it was cancer, anger was just not an emotion that I had.   “It is what it is” I would say.    I actually felt like one of the lucky ones.   I knew right from the beginning that the tumour was not terminal and that my life was never in danger.

Once the tumour was removed and they were able to clearly determine that it was benign, I felt grateful.   It should have been, for all intents and purposes, malignantly.   The fact the it wasn’t has been a medical miracle.

But the recovery has been longer and more difficult than I could have ever expected.   I thought, because the surgery went so unexpectedly well, that I would be back to my normal self within a couple of months.   That hasn’t been the case.  The healing has taken a long time and my mobility and usage of my leg has been very limited.   I am no longer able to move the way I used to or for as long as I used to.   My leg fatigues and gets sore very easy and while I push myself, that too, can have significant consequences.   I never realized just how much this would affect me emotionally until recently.  But here I was, a year and a half later, crying uncontrollable over the loss of use in my leg as a result of the removal of the tumour.   I have learned first hand, just how traumatizing certain events in our lives can really be.

Since that first visit, I have felt so much better, not just physically, but emotionally as well.   It felt wonderful letting these emotions out.   As I anticipate the upcoming appointments and treatments, I know that there will be more moments where my emotions overcome me.   But I’m looking forward to releasing them.   This therapy is not only allowing me to heal physically, but emotionally and spiritually as well.   And both, are long overdue!

To All The Olympic Athletes, I Salute You!

Olympic 2014


I admit, Canada has been a very loud country these past few days, and rightfully so.  Between the fantastic curling matches and the hockey, we have been glued to any media device that can show the Olympic games.  Our cheers have been so loud, I’m surprised they haven’t heard us in Sochi.   We have been loudly cheering since the first day when Mark McMorris won our first medal.  Yes, we Canadians are extremely proud of our athletes and we’re not afraid to show it.

But on the eve of the final day of the 2014 Winter Olympic Games, only a mere few hours away from the final gold medal match in Men’s hockey (yes, I will be up watching and cheering for our boys),  I feel that it is only right to take this moment to acknowledge every athlete  from every nation who have participated in the Olympic games.

Every athlete in Sochi is there to represent their country.   They have spent hours, days, weeks, years to hone their skills for this moment.   They have, through their dedication, diligence, passion and discipline, accomplished more in their athletic ability, than most people on this planet will ever dream of doing:  they have honed their skills in their desired sport to qualify them as a competent contender for the most prestigious athletic competition, the Olympics Games.   That in itself is a truly remarkable feat that has taken years to achieve.

While we focus on the medals, just making it to the Olympics to represent your country is a success.   That means that each athlete has proven to be the best their country has to offer.   They have entered the Olympics proudly waving their country’s flag and wearing the colours that represent their nation.  They have gone into their competitions prepared to give it their all.   All the loss of sleep, sweat, sacrifice and work has come down to this moment.   That really is an achievement that each and every athlete should be proud of.  They have earned their spot in the Olympic Games and the adoration of their country.    So to each and every athlete from all around the world, who has participated in the Sochi Winter Olympic Games, I salute you!     You are top class.

For my Canadian athletes, I want to say how extremely proud we are of you.    You have worked so hard for so long to be where you are.   We have seen you grow and develop as truly remarkable athletes.

You have shown the true spirit of Olympic Sportsmanship on and off the competitive snow and ice.  You have shown class, grace, pride and true athletic spirit.    We, as a nation, can only stand proudly in awe  as you have given your all.    Congratulations to everyone of you.   We Canadians as a nation are so very proud and honoured to have such fine athletes represent this beautiful country that we call home.

Now go get ’em boys!   We’ll be watching and rooting tomorrow!

Aspartame: Friend, Foe, Or Something In Between?


Aspartame, a sugar substitute commonly found in  thousands of products around the world.   Just as common as Aspartame is in food and other products, so too are the articles and reports saying how bad Aspartame is for us.  Among some of the dangers, Aspartame is said to cause cancer, severe allergies, neurological and developmental disorders in infants and children, migraines, nerve damage and MS like symptoms.

Like many people, I have always just assumed that the articles about Aspartame were true.   After all, it was a man made chemical, why would it be safe?  But  last December 10th, while surfing the web for my next blog article, I spotted a caption that instantly caught my attention.   The BBC published an article with the headline:  “Aspartame is Safe”.

With all the negative articles out there, an article that says something positive about Aspartame is going to get attention.   Just the title alone is enough to stop a reader in their tracks.   My immediate thoughts were that this must be some sort of a hoax, a scam, propaganda.  How could Aspartame be considered safe?  But the headline easily piqued my curiosity and I couldn’t move on until I had at least read the article.

According to BBC’s article, the European Food and Safety Authority (EFSA)  made public their review of Aspartame.   In their review, the EFSA  has stated that Aspartame is safe and does not damage our health.

The information in the article piqued my interest enough, that I had to take to the internet in search of other articles on Aspartame.      I wanted to see what other reports were out there and, more importantly, if there were other articles written that had positive information about Aspartame.

Through several articles, I learned that Aspartame was first discovered in 1965 by chemist James M Schlatter.   He was developing Aspartame as a potential treatment for ulcers.   James discovered the sweet taste of Aspartame when he licked his fingers to pick up a piece of paper.

Aspartame, also known as NutraSweet, Equal or E951.  It is 200 times sweeter than other artificial sweeteners and is the only one that can be completely broken down and ingested by the body.

Aspartame is composed primarily 2 amino acids: aspartic acid and phenylalanine.  Amino acids are naturally found in many foods and are the building blocks of proteins.   Because of the amino acid, phenylalanine, used to create Aspartame, people with the genetic condition Phenylketonuria (PKU) should not consume Aspartame because they have to adhere to a strict low phenylalanine diet.

Since its discovery, Aspartame has been the most extensive and rigorously studied  food additive.  It has been  reviewed by numerous agencies around the world.   Aspartame has been approved in more than 90 countries and by more than 100 food and health regulatory organizations including, but not limited to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Joint Expert Committee of Food Additives (JECFA), the World Health Organization (WHO), the Food and Agriculture Organization, Health Canada and the Europeans Commission’s Scientific Committee on Food to name a few.

Every study that has been conducted to date, have not been able to show that Aspartame is responsible for any of the disorders and diseases that are commonly associated with it.  According to most articles that I read, there is no scientific evidence to link Aspartame with any disease or neurological disorder.

This blog is by no means intended to promote Aspartame.   However, as a result of the BBC article, I was encouraged to look at the other side of the coin, do my own research and not just assume that what is put on the internet is automatically correct.    There is a lot of information about food and health put on the internet daily.   It is up to us, as consumers, to do our own research on what is good for us and what is not.   We should never assume that just because it is written, it is automatically true.

After reading the many articles- positive and negative – that I found  about Aspartame, I now question, is Aspartame a friend, foe, or something in between?


The information in this article can also be found in the following links:


Learning To Be Neighbourly With The UNneighbourly Neighbour


Whenever I teach a first aid class, and I talk about the law and first aid, I usually give an example of how, if we saw “that kind of neighbour” fall off a ladder, we would want to laugh rather than help.   While this comment is meant to be somewhat humourous while, at the same time, making a clear point about how the law works, I often get at least a few people in my classes nodding in agreement.   Many people have stories about their neighbours from hell that they are more than happy to share.   It’s not a rare occurrence.  In fact, as the populations continue to grow, and more and people are moving from place to place, these situations are becoming increasingly common.  There have even been articles, news reports and TV shows about unneighbourly neighbours.

For the past 8 plus years that I have been living in my house, I have had just one such neighbour.   She is actually known in the neighbourhood as being the most miserable person on the block.   Many other neighbours try to avoid her as much as possible.   She’s just a constant crank.   But, lucky me, is the unfortunate one that lives beside her.   As a result of our close proximity, I am the one that has had to deal with the brunt of her miserableness for many years.

It didn’t start out that way.   In fact, when I first bought my house, I tried to be really nice and neighbourly to her.   I had her about her before I moved in.   A coworkers sister happened to liveright across the street from the house I bought and  warned me about the crotchety neighbour that nobody liked.   Still, warning aside, I believed that a smile and a friendly word can go a long way – sometimes.

It didn’t take long to realize that no matter how nice I was, she just wasn’t.  And soon, the complaints from her, started.  With my shoveling, with my son and I playing in our yard, with the city’s snow clearing, with my not using my garage, with my yard work, with my trees, with my dog when  I got one.   Oh, she was just a delight.   She had something miserable to say about everything I did or didn’t do.      She and I clashed a few times or various issues.  As much as possible, I’ve spent the last 8 years just trying to avoid her.   Some fights are just not worth it, and some people are just not worth talking to.  Ignoring someone can sometimes make life easier.

This winter started out like any other winter.   Same misery, same issues, same headaches.   But, somewhere down the frozen path, something changed.   I walked out the door to shovel one afternoon and she actually started talking to me.   Not complaining, not miserable, not angry, but friendly banter.   Was she possessed?  Was her body taken over by some hidden life form?   Did she want something?   Was this a trick?  No.  She was just being friendly.   And she did it again the next time I saw her, and again after that, and again after that.  She even surprised my son with her friendliness.  He didn’t know what to make of it when he saw her talking to me. Maybe the 3 ghosts of the past, present and future came to visit her during Christmas.   Maybe, like the Grinch, her heart grew 3 times in size in one day.  Whatever caused this sudden friendliness, I may never know.   But now we’re talking, and being neighbourly and even offering to help each other.

This turn is surprising, to say the least, but welcoming at the same time.   Like most people, I really don’t like having a neighbour that I can’t get along with.   It just doesn’t make the home life pleasant when you have someone unneighbourly living beside you.

I have no idea why she is chronically miserable.   Maybe she hasn’t lived the life she wanted to live, maybe she has regrets, maybe she’s lonely.   Who knows.   But whatever the reason for the misery, somewhere, somehow, things have started to change.   I guess if the Grinch’s heart can grow 3 times the size, anyone is capable of change.   And the effort has come from both of us to when it comes to being neighbourly.   The foundation has now been laid.   I hope it lasts as I continue to learn how to be neighbourly with the unneighbourly neighbour.

Past, Present and Future, We Know Fruits And Vegetables Are Good For Us Don’t We? Part 2



When I  first decided to write about this topic, there were a lot of ideas that went through my head.   I wasn’t quite sure exactly how I wanted to approach it, or blog about it.   There are so many areas to cover, I could have easily made this a 3, 4 or 5 part series.  But,  worried that I may over write about a topic and bore my readers, I decided to write about the one area that always seems to stand out for me.  That is how the media continuously influences what we eat and our thoughts and values towards food.   This seems to be especially true when it comes to fruits and vegetables.

Several years ago, the acai berry was promoted by media and experts as the new super food.  For those of us in North America who had never heard of this berry, that was fascinating information.    The information, like the acai berry, was everywhere, and products of all types were promoted by every store possible.

Then came Green Tea, another relatively unheard of product that quickly got our attention.   Again, because of the influence of  media reports and articles, Green Tea was everywhere within a very short period of time.

The following year, blueberries became the big food item.  Super healthy, loaded with antioxidants.   Media reports and articles quickly made them the go to food.   Everything contained blueberries.   Products were flying off the shelves at almost every  store.  And that’s I stopped going with the flow and started to say “What?”. 

Having grown up eating blueberries all my life,  I already knew they were good for me.   My son was already eating them regularly when they were in season.   I didn’t need the media and these so called “experts”  to tell me what I already knew.

The following year, raspberries became the go to food.  According to the reports, they were loaded with key tones.   I saw so many people run around buying raspberry key tones, I would scratch my head in wonder and disbelief.  How did we not know this?  They’re a fruit, after all.  Of course they’re good for us.

Then it was yams, and coconuts, and dates, and, and, and………  Every year, like anything else, there seems to be a new super food that is trending.    We buy up as much as we can (if not more) and make some people very rich and very happy.

I’m starting to find it a little humourous when someone tells me that a certain vegetable is good for you.   For instance, last spring a friend told me about an article his mom had read about how  peppers were good for you.   The friend stated that he was going to start buying and cooking with more peppers because, according to this article, the were loaded with vitamins and minerals and were really good for our bodies.   What?   An article actually had to tell him that?  Did the fact that peppers were a vegetable not be pretty self explanatory?

A coworker recently mentioned that, according to reports, broccoli was the new super food.  According to articles she had recently read, broccoli was loaded with vitamins and minerals and antioxidants that were really good for our bodies.   Broccoli has been a known super food for a long time.    But new reports are resurrecting the love of broccoli again and people are eager to read about it.

When it comes to fruits and vegetables, once upon a time, we didn’t need the media to tell us that they were good for us, we knew that.   Our parents and grandparents and great grandparents knew that.    Now, common knowledge of what is healthy and what isn’t seems to be getting somewhat lost in the shuffle.

Why?   Are we so over inundated with information, that we don’t know what is fact and what is fiction anymore?   Are we so complacent that we need to be told what to eat in order to eat healthy?   Are we looking for that super pill miracle food that will cure all the health and wellness issues we face?  Is it something else?  Is it all of the above and more?

The bottom line, fruits and vegetables have always, and will always be good for us.   Some are more nutritious than others.  Some we will like, while others we don’t.   Some are more water based while others have more starch.  But they are all healthy and natural.   We don’t need media reports and articles from experts to tell us this.

Fruits and vegetables are an important part of our diet and impact every part of our body.    Without them, our bodies become malnourished and vulnerable to many degenerative diseases.  Our parents, grandparents, great grandparents, etc. knew this, we should too.




When You Live In A City That’s Colder Than Mars, The Only Thing You Can Do Is Blog About It


When you live in a place like I do, where our warmest daily temperature has officially been colder than the North Pole or Mars, I can’t help but write a blog about it.  After all, that’s bragging rights! Not too many people on this planet can say that they are living in conditions worse than those found on another planet.   Not too many people can say that they have experienced the kind of mind blowing, holy hell are you kidding me?,  Hell, if you freeze over, you still have nothing on us, kind of cold that we have been experiencing here in Winnipeg.  Fondly, and accurately also known as Winter-peg, I can assure you, we are living up to our name in a frozen blaze of glory.

So, for those readers who have never lived in a place that has such cold winter temperatures, you may be wondering:  “What is it like to live in a place that is colder than Mars?”     The answer:   It’s freaking cold!!!   It’s frigidly, freezing cold!!!  It’s  a million razor sharp needles stabbing any exposed skin a zillion times per second kind of cold.

Gone are the days of just running out to the store to grab something.  When it’s this cold, you sit there and and try to decide how much you really need to go to the store and how much you really need to buy that product or service.

I admit, when it comes to us Winnipegger’s, even I still haven’t been able to figure out the difference between resilient or crazy at times.   I will say that, without a doubt, we Winnipegger’s are a hardy bunch.  We don’t let a little cold stop us.  Life does continue to go on.   We still have to go to work.  Our kids still have to go to school.   Food still needs to be bought and cars still need to be fueled.  Businesses still need to operate and people still need to get from Point A to Point B.  The world keeps revolving and events keep happening.   And we still want to get out and enjoy life.  We  go out skating, playing hockey, tobogganing, ice fishing, snowmobiling, jogging, cycling and walking.  You name it, we do it. But I have to be honest, when I see a neighbour out at 7:30 in the morning jogging, walking or cycling when, with the windchill, the temperature is -51 Celsius or colder, I can’t decide if that person is being resilient or crazy.   The line, at times, is very blurred by the exhaust fog and frozen breath.

Yes, it is brutally cold here.   It’s a cold that you have to experience to fully appreciate.   Living in a Canadian prairie city, it is expected that our winters are going to be cold.   We accept that, live with it, and yes, when it get’s this mind numbingly cold, take the opportunity to not only celebrate it, but brag about it as well.

So Mother Nature, my dear Mother Nature, as you have seen, we Winnipegger’s will always rise to your challenge and face them head on.   Nothing will stop us.    We will complain as bitterly as the cold you dish us, but we will face the weather snowflake to shovel, windchill to parkas, cold temperatures to  toques.  We will stand tall amidst the frosty breath and exhaust fog, we will layer up and we will move forth (frigidly so) and prosper…………… while silently hoping for an early Spring and Summer.


Excuses Aside, Kids Of Yesterday, Today And Tomorrow Need Their Fruits And Veggies – Part 1


Fruits and vegetables.   One of the cheapest food groups, most essential food groups and yet, the food group that many children  eat the least.   It is estimated that on average, less than 1 in 3 children do not eat their daily servings of fruits and vegetables.   Depending on which website you are reviewing, children should eat at least  5-9 servings of fruits and veggies everyday.    According to the Canada Food Guide, children between the ages of 2 to 13 years should eat at least 4-6 servings per day.   Yet sadly, most do not.

I’ve had many conversations with parents from all walks of life about this  topic.  Many great conversations have come from the students in my First Aid courses while others have come from friends, family and coworkers.

The most common excuse that people tend to use for not  feeding them to their children is because of fussy eating.  It’s surprising how often I hear people say “well I buy it but my children don’t like it and won’t eat it”.  I think this comment has peaked my interest primarily because as a very fussy eater myself, my mom still managed to get fruits and vegetables in my daily diet when I was a kid.     In fact, to this day, I’m still very fussy.

Throughout my adult life, whenever I’ve had conversations about eating habits with other adults, if I mention that I’m a fussy eater,  more often than not, the response is usually “oh you’re not fussier than me…….”.

Bottom line, many people are fussy eaters and many children don’t want to eat their fruits and vegetables.  Children of today are really not that different than the children of yesterday when it comes to fussy eating habits.  Yet, growing up, we ( my siblings and I) always had fruits and vegetables that we had to eat.  My friends and family and their friends and family ate fruits and vegetables daily.  Our parents grew up eating fruits and vegetables.  It was just part of our daily meals.   My son eats fruits and vegetables every day.  For me, it’s a mandatory part of his diet  as well.

Rather than writing about how I get my son to eat fruits and veggies every day,  I wanted to ask other parents young and old about this topic and get their input.  After all, everyone has different beliefs, values and approaches and I wanted to hear what other people had to say about this.   Also, some kids are much more fussier than others and this can pose some real challenges for parents of these children.  I wanted to hear if and how parents of yesterday and today fed their children fruits and vegetables daily.     So I asked many parents.   Some with young children, some with adult children, some with grandchildren.    I asked parents of all ages from all walks of life.

For some parents, it was all they had so their children either ate the fruits and veggies or they went hungry.  There was no alternative to choose from.  There wasn’t as much variety as there is now was another explanation.   There wasn’t the crackers or rollups and granola bars or fruit cups that fill our store aisles today.

Others told me that they fought with their children everyday but would make sure, regardless of the battle, that their children had  veggies in every meal.  They used the 2 tablespoon rule:  eat just 2 tablespoons.   Or, “just try it”, other parents said.  Hiding the veggies in meals or masquerading them was another tip.   My grandma used to mash cauliflower in with mashed potatoes and serve it to my mom and uncles when they were kids.

Another common tip was finding out what the child did like and build on that.   Being creative when it came to cooking, blending or chopping veggies into tiny bits and adding them to other foods were other suggestions that parents gave.

For others, the children were not given the choice of “if you don’t want veggies, I’ll give you a granola bar instead……..”,  the choice was “either this fruit or that fruit, this vegetable or that vegetable”.   One of my former coworkers told me that she would make a veggie platter with 4 or 5 different types of veggies cut up, put a little bowl of low fat dip in the middle and put the platter in front of her children for a snack.   She never asked them what they wanted, she just made the veggie platter and put it in front of them.   Her kids ate it.

Another coworker told me that when he was growing up, a friend’s brother was a very fussy eater.  This boy would only eat one food type a month.   One month it was creamed corn and only creamed corn.   The next it was canned peas and only canned peas.   His parents struggled to get this boy to eat any type of  food.

Some parents make smoothies.  There are a lot of great recipes for making smoothies found all over the internet.   For those who don’t like smoothies, home made juice is a great way to get the daily servings in.

I have definitely had many great conversations with parents about this topic.   There have been many struggles and many creative attempts to get their children to eat their fruits and vegetables.   But the one common theme I noticed in my conversations with the parents who did manage to feed their kids fruits and vegetables everyday, was the mindset and beliefs those parents held.   Those whose children ate fruits and vegetables regularly,  believed that it was a necessary part of your daily diet.  There were no if, ands or buts.  There was no swaying from this belief.   It was part of your meal plan, period.   The way these parents looked at food intake and meal preparation gave them  the strength and determination to face every challenge to get their children to eat healthy.

Children from all generations are fussy.  Some more, some less.  They always have been, they always will be.   But we cannot use that as an excuse to eliminate this essential food group from their diet.    There are many great ways to get the daily servings in a fussy eaters diet, but it takes persistence, creativity and talking to other parents.

Aside from being the cheapest food group with plentiful variety and selection, it is one of the most important food groups.   Fruits and vegetables contain many vitamins and minerals as well as natural antioxidants that are essential for the development and healthy maintenance of every cell and every organ in our bodies.   Vitamins and minerals help our bodies fight infection and promote wound healing.   The natural  antioxidants found in fruits and vegetables  help repair cellular damage.  Antioxidants along with the high amounts of vitamins and minerals naturally found in fruits and vegetables are are important in  helping our bodies  fight many diseases such as heart disease, stroke, atherosclerosis, high blood pressure, kidney stones, bone loss, some cancers, Diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, , and Alzheimer’s to name a few.

Fruits and vegetables are a natural source of fiber which is needed for an optimal, healthy digestive system.  Most fruits and vegetables are very low in calories and contain no fats or cholesterol.

They are predominantly water based which our bodies need and are alkaline, helping our bodies balance our pH levels.   When we don’t balance out our pH levels, our bodies become very acidic.  This can result in the development of  osteoarthritis and osteoporosis.   Poor pH levels can also result in the development of arthritis,  acid reflux, Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue.

When we don’t eat fruits and vegetables everyday, our bodies cannot develop properly or healthy.   Without our daily servings of fruit and vegetables, our bodies become deficient in many essential vitamins and mineral.  Signs of malnourishment can include forgetfulness, inability of focus or concentrate, low energy or hyperactivity, poor vision, skin conditions, asthma, allergies, stomach cramps and constipation.

Bottom line,we need to eat fruits and vegetables everyday in order to develop and maintain good health.    Many degenerative diseases start in childhood.   In order for our children to grow to be healthy adults, they need to eat healthy when they are growing up.   Our children need to eat a minimum of 4-6 servings per day in order to develop healthy bodies.   While some children can be fussy and  create challenges for parents, it is not impossible as parents from other generations have shown.   What is important is our thinking about the importance of this essential food group in our diet.   Making fruits and vegetables a priority in our diet is the first step in successfully including them as part of our daily meals for ourselves and our children.

In Part 2 of this topic, I will discuss in more depth, creative and inexpensive ways to add fruits and vegetables to your children’s meals.