Product Review

So I try to be positive when I review a product. Particularly when I received it through BzzAgent. But I also must be honest. The shampoo’s bottle design was well-made, the scent of it was delicious and it had a nice consistency. After about three days of washing, my dandruff was mostly gone. And yes, my dandruff was pretty gross, so this is something that I happy with.

However, it left my face feeling as though it was on fire.

Now obviously I did not directly apply Head & Shoulders directly onto my skin. That would be silly. However by using it on my hair, the diluted product got onto my skin. Then despite washing it off, rubbing it off and making sure it was off, I still burned.

The first time I figured it was a coincidence. The second time I figured it was the shampoo, but I figured I would try it a third time to make sure I was correct. It has been 20 minutes and even after applying a large amount of moisturizer and lip balm, all my face still hurts.

So yes, this product does what it says it will do, but then leaves you feeling as though you’ve been rubbed raw. Luckily, it does not leave any rashes or redness.

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Feminism remains an important issue for everyone

I’m a feminist.

For me, that admission is as simple as saying that I enjoy breathing regularly or that I like being a human. For others, admitting to being a feminist is almost like squeaking out a confession as they try desperately not to get any attention. For some, they will fight tooth and nail not to get affixed with that title, denying to their very last breath that they are a feminist and demanding to be called egalitarians or humanitarians instead.

Yet, one thing they all have in common is that they believe that women are people and as people they should have the same rights and freedoms as anybody else.

In Canada, it is almost a non-issue.

Sure, Statistic Canada has said that for every dollar the average male makes, his female counterpart will make 74 cents. And sure, one out of every four Canadian woman will be sexually assaulted within her lifetime. And sure, we only have a 25 per cent female representation in Parliament. And sure, we tend to ignore any and all violence against aboriginal women. However, compared to other countries, we are doing pretty well. Heck, I can wander around Petawawa and Pembroke after 9 p.m. and not worry about getting acid thrown in my face because I’m “not respectable” for being out so late.

Some women aren’t so lucky.

Recently, a BBC documentary called India’s Daughter went in depth on the issue of rape culture as it highlighted the brutal gang rape and murder of the 23-year-old physiotherapy student Jyoti Singh in December 2012. The movie was banned from India and the filmmaker barely escaped without being arrested. It was that groundbreaking and I highly recommend everybody watch it.

The movie uncovered the toxic underbelly of systematic disrespect towards women that allows such violent crimes not only to exist, but to thrive. It proved that it wasn’t just a few bad apples that spoiled the bunch, but rather an orchard that was poisoned.

One of the interviewed rapists even blamed his victim, calling her indecent for being out after dark with a male friend, who was beaten during her attack.

“When being raped, she shouldn’t fight back,” he said. “She should just be silent and allow the rape. Then they’d have dropped her off after doing her and only hit the boy.”

He was echoed by his lawyer, an educated man. When a whole culture blames a victim for being a victim, something is terribly wrong.

That doesn’t mean that all hope is lost. Many women, and men, are standing up for women’s rights in India. They are marching down the streets, braving paperspray and water cannons and the angry batons of brutish policemen to demand that their voices be heard and their rights respected. Traction for equality has been gained there and elsewhere.

In Afghanistan, there are three million girls attending school when just ten years ago there were none. In Cameroon, widows are no longer stripped of their inheritance and trapped in bonded labour. In Saudi Arabia, women are defying the law and driving.

These brave women have overcome gender-based challenges that we as Canadians can barely comprehend.

This is why feminism is still important today and it’s why Women’s International Day is celebrated across the world. It is why Women’s International Day needs to be celebrated across the world on March 8.

It gives the chance for people in countries where negative attitude towards women are prevalent to take a step back and to think of solutions to prevent violence against women. In countries where women’s rights are firmly established, it gives people the chance to be grateful for all that has been accomplished.

I’m lucky that in my job I get to meet some very strong, very powerful and determined women. Women that change the world. One thing that has been a common rhetoric among them is not to see men as enemies, but rather as allies and friends. They see men and women as equal people who may have different biology, but they are basically the same in their needs and desires.

These strong feminists know that when we all get together and fight for equal rights, the world can just become a better place for everybody.

What to do when sick

Now I’m not saying I have whooping cough. It is a pretty terrible illness and should be taken seriously. I’m just saying that I wouldn’t be surprised if I did.

For the past two weeks, more if I’m being honest, I’ve basically been coughing so violently and to the point of being unable to catch my breath.

It has gotten so bad that my coworkers have established a quarantine around me. One of them actually took a bottle of Lysol and sprayed me with it. Some of it got in my mouth and I can tell you it does not, in fact, taste like morning spring.

Yet I went to work.

The blood vessels in my eye burst into a muted red blossom from my coughing. My ribs strained and my throat turned raw. I temporarily lost the ability to speak in a human sounding voice, managing only to hurl low growls. I actually turned down chocolate cake because the thought made me nauseous.

Yet I still went to work.

I didn’t go to work because of some Herculean inner strength or some martyr desire to be seen as the ultimate worker. No, it was much more insidious than that. I felt guilty.

The thought of leaving my coworkers in the lurch actually filled me with an anxiety that burned me up inside, much like the fever I was experiencing. So against all rational, I dragged my aching carcass out of bed, strapped on my shoes and stuck as many throat lozenges in my pocket as I could. I’d need them later. I felt like I had to go to work even while sick.

I’m also not the only one.

According to statistics, about 93 per cent of people still show up to the office when they are sick. Now this number does take in account people with minor ailments such as itchy feet, a very painful blister or a monster hangover.

The point is that number is staggering, but worst yet, it isn’t surprising.

Canadians pride themselves on their work ethic, particularly in Renfrew County. We are the strongest, most resilient of all workers. It takes a lot to keep one down from doing a good hard days work of labour.

I once knew a man who prided himself on his busted knees. A prize for years spent working in construction without proper safety gear. He could barely hobble without grimacing in pain, but gosh darn it, at least he worked hard for those scars. He only missed a day here or there for the birth of his children. He allegedly worked through mono.

Don’t get me wrong, hard work is a good thing and should be celebrated.

But this cult of working ourselves to the bone is a sickness. It is taking this whole working ethics to a dark side where we can’t take a day off to heal, mend or just rest. It is a badge of honour to sleep as little as possible and to take as little time as possible for ourselves. We place ourselves on the alter of job martyrdom because it is what is expected of us.

This is something that is exploited by corporations and businesses.

In Ontario, the legal maximum of protected unpaid sick leave is 10 days a year. This covers illnesses, accidents, family emergencies or other urgent matter. Take anymore and you could face repercussions.

Trust me when I tell you that your boss will remind you.

It was, and still is, baffling to me when I was told that there was no such things as paid sick leave in my job. In fact, there is no paid sick leave in many jobs.

You want to prevent infecting your coworkers and customers by staying home? Too bad, so sad. You don’t come in and you don’t get paid.

Maybe it is my pro-union roots showing, but in what world is that fair? You shouldn’t have to fear for your livelihood because you were unlucky enough to fall prey to an accident or germ.

Going to work while sick shouldn’t be a test of resilience, nor should it be something praiseworthy.

I’ll admit that despite going to work, I didn’t actually do anything. I sat before the screen, trying to remember a time where it didn’t feel like I was dying and waited for the days to end. All the while infecting my coworkers.

I wouldn’t be surprised if the whole office starts echoing with coughs next week. The statistics do say that 81 per cent of people have admitted catching something from a coworker. Those odds are probably even higher after I accidentally released a load of airborne phlegm at a coworker who was standing right behind me.

So if nothing productive is going on, what is the point of physically being at the office? It’s ridiculous.

Personally I’ve come to a decision. I refuse to feel guilty about being sick. I’m, hopefully, at the tail end of my illness, but I think next time I catch something, I’ll just stay at home for a while. It’s not like I’ll be working, even while I’m at work.




Thanksgiving … a little late

This Thanksgiving I’m grateful for many things.

I’m grateful to have my health, my family and my friends. I’m grateful for not setting the house on fire after hosting my first thanksgiving in Petawawa. I’m also grateful nobody got food poisoning, at least to my knowledge.

But mostly I’m grateful we aren’t going through a zombie apocalypse.

It may be because Halloween is coming up, with its earthy smell of decomposing leaves and darkening nights. Or it may be the season premiere of the Walking Dead, but I can’t help but think of zombies this time of year.

I’ve dedicated more time than I should admit thinking about them, trying to figure out my precarious survival.

Now, I’ll be honest that the possibility of such an event happening is nigh on impossible.

The dead stay dead for a various of reasons. Namely that the body is just too damaged after a certain point to ever function normally.

According to the Mayo Clinic, after just a few minutes without oxygen brain cell begin to die and after 15 minutes the chance of returning from that point are very slim.

Without those neurons firing, walking and munching on brains would prove to be a tad difficult. Not to mention how severely degraded muscles, sinews and other pink parts are after being buried underground for several months, years or even centuries.

Add on a heavy coffin, a sealed rim and about six feet of compacted soil and the worry about the dead crawling up from their graves can be put to rest.

But flesh-eating, mindless monsters don’t necessarily have to be dead to be terrifying.

What if it is a virus or a parasite that is to blame for an outbreak of zombie-like cannibalism? Could that be even possible?

The answer is maybe.

There is already a parasite named toxoplasmosa gondii that can literally alter its hosts personality and the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety estimate that about one third of Canadians are infected.

In men, it can causes them to forgo rules, become more paranoid, dogmatic and jealous. In women, personality can be altered to become more warm, outgoing, persistent and promiscuous. In both cases, it correlated with a higher risk of mental illness such as schizophrenia and a greater likelihood to end up in a car crash.

How do you get this parasite?

Though there are several sources. It mostly comes from Mr. Mittens, your pet cat, and his delightful droppings.

That doesn’t seem that bad, particularly when considering there are parasites in the animal kingdom that can, and do, hijack its host’s nervous system and effectively turn them into zombie slaves. Like the Costa Rican wasp lava which infects spiders and forces them, from within, to build a home for it when it finally hatches.

With parasites constantly evolving, growing and looking at new ways to infect, it wouldn’t be completely farfetched to imagine such a pest tailoring itself to change human behaviour.

Though there are no current viruses that can cause zombie-like symptoms, there may one day be one. Whether it is created naturally or in a lab somewhere, a virus may evolve traits that involve mindless hunger for human flesh.

With a little tinkering, the combination of the violence and mindlessness of the rabies virus, the bloody contagion of the Ebola virus and the slow-burn of the common cold would bring about an apocalyptic situation.

Just read “The Hot Zone” by Richard Preston to read just how devastating and deadly a viral infection can be. Unchecked, a zombie virus would gorge upon dense population centres the same way my boyfriend and his army buddies gorged upon my thanksgiving turkey.

It is chilling stuff.

It’s also not probably not going to happen. All over the world, we have people far more brilliant than you and I actively protecting us from such a calamity.

Still it’s fun to pretend, to let ourselves get swept up in the idea, built up scenarios in our minds. The idea of zombies has gotten deeply ingrained in our society and it looks like they are here to stay.

These ravenous flesh eaters have even been given a charitable twist with the upcoming Zombie Thrill Run in Pembroke on Oct. 27. Participants will be able to run, walk or shamble away from the living dead while raising funds for fight breast cancer, a monster far more insidious than any ghoul.



New year, new you

I just don’t get New Year’s resolutions.

Around the world people look at the clock, count down the seconds until another year has officially passed and make a resolution. They promise themselves that this year will be different. This year they will lose that extra ten pounds, they will buckle down and get a promotion and they will find love.

Usually they fail. More resolutions are broken within the first week that are kept.

Empty gyms and messy closets in February are a testament to that. Don’t even try to lie to yourself about that extra, yet tiny, little slice of cake that you just had to eat and didn’t count against your diet.

It counted.

According to the Statistic Brain website, only 8 per cent of people succeed in their New Year’s resolutions. It’s not surprising. We spend years forming habits, indulging in the dark side of cake and enjoying spending that last dollar on something shiny. That behaviour doesn’t just stop due to wishful thinking made while tipsy.

Once a bad habit becomes ingrained, it is a lot harder to stop.

Of those that succeed in keeping their resolution, 39 per cent are in their twenties. This is versus the 14 per cent who are over 50 years old. Now, that doesn’t mean that youngsters have more willpower or are better in some way. It’s merely because they didn’t have as long to get addicted to nicotine or establish a bad sleeping pattern.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not trying to discourage you from keeping to your resolutions. It’s already been a few days and you probably know if you are on the way to fail or succeed.

I just don’t like that all or nothing that comes with New Year’s promises.

Failing a resolution can be devastating to your self-worth. For many, the smallest setback will lead to scrapping it all, returning to square one and waiting for next year to change. Tying yourself to a specific date will not only lead you to overindulge before the time line, but it doesn’t allow you any leeway with any drawbacks you may encounter.

Sharing your resolution with others can also trick your brain into believing you’ve already accomplished everything you need to do. Studies have shown that blabbing about your resolution is enough to make your brain say, “Cool. All the hard work is done. Now back to television.” It is also poor motivation if they don’t respond favourably to your efforts.

There is also the large chance that you made your resolution late at night, after quite a few drinks, and may just not remember what you wanted.

So New Year’s Resolution tend to fail.

The thing is that improving yourself is always something to strive for. Working to become a healthier, calmer, happier you is a good way to live, but it is work. It doesn’t happen overnight. There are hurdles to jump and everybody trips over a few. Luckily there are tricks and tips to help.

First, you need a plan. You cannot just decide to lose weight and have it magically happen. (If it does, I want your secret.) Write down your goal and the concrete steps that you need to take. Keep it realistic. You aren’t going to be a size two within a week.

Once your plan is established, figure out your triggers. Do you only smoke around certain times? Do certain people make you so angry you cannot sit still? Are you always making excuses after a large meal? Avoid those triggers.

Without going into details about your plan, you can ask friends and family for help to keep you away from these triggers. If you ask them to use a spray bottle on you, I guarantee they will be more than happy to get on board.

Remember to be kind to yourself and take time to give yourself appropriate rewards. You lose a pound? Go to the movies. You saved money by quitting smoking? Buy yourself a new t-shirt.

Most importantly, if you slip and fall back into a bad habit, remember that not all is lost. Just brush yourself off and keep going.

Even if you’ve given up this year, know that you don’t need a special day to start your resolution. Instead of waiting for next year’s countdown to make some positive changes, do it now. If you fail, accept it, sulk a little then get back on that proverbial horse. You’ll be better for it.


Staying at home doesn’t have to be a drag

I caught the travel bug before I could talk.

I would visit my father at the library where he worked in the reference section and instead of trekking down a floor down to the children’s section, he’d pull out the great big atlases for me to look at.

I was fascinated by the vibrant colours, the glossy texture of the paper, the letters that didn’t even make sense in the English language.

As I grew older, I started associating the strange words with the beautiful pictures and absorbed the information like a little sponge.

I can still sometimes recite random facts about countries most people have never heard about.

Did you know the capital city of Kiribati is Tarawa? Or that Myanmar and Burma is the same country? Or that there is actually a country called Togo in Africa and it should definitely not be confused with pogo, the delightful hotdog on a stick?

My father saw this love and helped foster it. He brought the family to foreign restaurants in Ottawa, encouraging us to try as many unpronounceable things as possible.

Some, like Vietnamese pho, were tasty while others like, Korean Gopchang jeongol (spicy intestine stew) wasn’t.

While visiting family in Nova Scotia, he would purposefully get us lost so that we could explore small towns along the highway and he never missed a weekend road trip to nowhere.

He even willingly paid for my high school trip to France despite critically tight funds because in his very french way of seeing the world,“le voyage fais l’éducation.” This loosely translates into education is created by travelling.

In college all the money I made from my part-time job fell into three categories: food, school and travel. I’d slave all winter just to make sure I had enough for a week or three abroad during summer break.

I thought I could keep that up forever, but now that I’m officially an adult I’ve realized I have bills to pay. Things that cost money like rent and gas and car insurance and premium cat food.

Even if I had the money to take a vacation there would be no time.

I haven’t taken a vacation in two years, but this is nothing compared to thousands, if not millions of Canadians who haven’t taken a vacation in decades.

Unlike our European cousins in France who have a minimum five weeks off every year, most Canadians only get 10 paid vacation days.

This may be kilometres better than in the United States where they have no legally mandated vacation time, but there are still only half of us who even take our whole allotment.

That’s not even the worst part.

According to the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, 22 per cent of Canadians have cancelled their plans because of work and 14 per cent of them feel guilty about going away.

This could be because 49 per cent of employers expect you to check in at work while you are off.

Let’s be honest, there is also always that twinge of guilt when you realize you’ve left your coworkers, knowing that your mailbox is filling itself up.

So what’s the point of taking a vacation, going somewhere fabulous and relaxing when you are just going to have to work twice as hard when you come back?

If you leave work, everything will fall apart, your coworkers will break down, you’ll prove that you aren’t a team player or that you aren’t dedicated enough.

Frankly that is ridiculous.

There are only a few people in this world that are so indispensable that they cannot take 10 days out of 365 to just enjoy being away from the daily grind.

Several studies have also shown that taking a few days to relax not only recharges your mental and physical batteries, but it helps you be an overall healthier person.

It also allows your brain to unlock as your thoughts become freer and not as bugged down by routine and a cascade of information. With some distance, you will solve those dead-end problems at work.

Even just planning a leisurely vacation has been found to increase the serotonin, happy chemicals, in the brain.

So maybe you can’t go afford to abroad to some faraway paradise, but you can still pretend from your own backyard.


My secret fears or living with anxiety

I’m terrified of social human interaction.
There. I’ve said it. It’s finally out there in print for everybody to see.
I’m fine with work, I’m fine with close friends, but strangers make me dizzy.
When I have to accompany my boyfriend to parties, my palms start to sweat, my stomach does strange acrobatics and I start thinking of ways to accurately fake a seizure or when I have to meet my friend’s new boytoy for lunch, I rehearse funny conversations in my head, hoping desperately they don’t realize how awkward I’m feeling.
You couldn’t tell it by looking at me or by talking to me, and I doubt I smell socially phobic, but I am.
It’s been a secret of mine for several years. It is something that utterly baffles people when I admit it because I’m so gregarious, friendly and, honestly, pretty awesome in conversations.
It’s because like a man with a small penis and a large truck, I overcompensate. I figure that the more I talk the less time they have to realize that I’m somewhat lacking.
I actually once sat in the bathroom at a friends birthday party frantically writing down funny stories, unable to leave the bathroom and face the world without a game plan in place.
I’m not the only one with anxiety.
About 18 per cent of people have some type of anxiety, whether it is phobias, OCD, PTSD, Panic Disorder or Generalized Anxiety Disorder.
For some, it rules their life. They cannot sleep, they cannot eat or rest or enjoy themselves unless things are right. Just one thing out of place will send them into a spiral a panic.
Me? I have a vague sense of fear, nagging and eating away, rearing its head as if to remind me that I can never be safe.
But you know what?
I hate being afraid. I do my best to ignore it and do what I want.
Despite a thousand warning bells screaming at me, I went to China. I backpacked alone through the UK and Ireland. I’ve bungee jumped and I’m getting my scuba diving certification in a few weeks. I’ve hitchhiked, gone to seedy places and gone swimming in the dark. I once ate chicken feet and intestines and brains. I’ve confronted violent folk and gave an old woman CPR. I’ve talked to ambassadors as well as hookers.
Yet still, talking to people in a purely social situation scares me.
This is no longer acceptable to me. With a little bit of research, I’ve found a few tricks to deal with the issue that may also help others dealing with it.
First, realize that most people don’t care as much as you think they do. I don’t mean that they don’t care about your well being, but rather all that annoying minutia that seems so important just really isn’t.
So stop worrying about what is going on in their head. I guarantee it’s not even a fraction as bad as what is in yours.
Secondly, turn the focus on the other person. Pretend you are Barbara Walters in a modern suit and “interview” the other person. Actually pay attention to what they are saying. Delve into their stories, probe as far as they are willing to go and get them to open up. Not only does it take the pressure off you, but you get to learn so much interesting stuff.
Thirdly, set yourself small goals. You don’t have to be the life of the party, but you may want to attend one with a friend.
Make a list of situations that you’d liked to be in and pick the one that scares you the less. Once you manage to do that, do the next on your list. By the time you are done, you’ll be flirting with Brad Pitt in no time.
The last step is the hardest for people to admit to themselves. Therapy and medication do work and may be the best option. Medical professionals do just want to help and won’t judge you.
Though, yoga and vodka could be a pretty good temporary solution. It helps take the edge off and it is a good conversation starter.