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The personal is political; the political is personal 

 

I started working on this blog post a couple of weeks ago and was glad I didn’t complete it before getting the news that Bill C-71 had been passed by the Senate, without amendment, and was now the law in the land!

This was the good news that I and many others, including the group Canadian Doctors for Protection from Guns (CDPG) had been waiting for. It was political news that had become very personal.

It became so with the shootings at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand. We heard the news at around 11 p.m. on March 14. It was already the afternoon of March 15, and the only news was that all of the schools in Christchurch were on “lock down.”  Our first thoughts:  Was our son Jeremy, who teaches in Christchurch, ok? What about his wife, Jieun? Was she at home or in the community? We contacted them through our family Facebook page and learned that they were safe as was everyone they knew, many of whom are also teachers. Huge relief.

Yes, Facebook faced a lot of criticism, especially after it aired the video taken by the gunman in Christchurch, but we were thankful for the speed at which we could get good news through the platform.

Over the next few days we all learned the extent of this massacre. Fifty people, men, women, and children, had been killed in two mosques where they’d gathered for Friday prayers. Many more were injured. Within one day New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern made the announcement that her country’s gun laws would change. Those changes, which took the gun laws from lax to much tougher, were finalized within a few weeks. What about Canada’s gun laws? What could be done to make them tighter? Canada has had its share of gun-related tragedies, including mass shootings. I wanted to know what could be done to toughen Canada’s gun laws.

After some research, I learned that while our gun laws are tougher than New Zealand’s were, there was pending legislation that would make them tougher. I also learned about the group Canadian Doctors for Protection from Guns (CDPG). Dr. Najma Ahmed, a trauma surgeon at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto treated the victims of the gun violence when 13 people were shot in a peaceful evening in the city in July 2018. She and many doctors across the country became increasingly upset by all of gun violence they were treating and formed CDPG in February 2019. The group organized a Day of Action on April 3, with letter-writing campaigns and rallies in 13 cities across Canada. Joining the rally in Kingston, ON was my opportunity to take action of my own.

That Day of Action was the tipping point. Several major newspapers, including the Globe and Mail, and The Winnipeg Free Press published editorials hailing the actions of CDPG and urging the government to act swiftly to change our laws.

With C-71 now having been passed, CDPG and its supporters, including me, can be joyful, but we cannot rest on our laurels. There is more to do: working towards a complete ban on handguns and assault weapons and it’s not an easy fight. (When are fights ever easy?)

There has been a lot of push-back from gun lobbyists who believe that our gun laws are already strict enough and C-71 will further erode their rights. There was further protest from the gun lobbyists following the Day of Action, using a well-worn phrase from gun lobbyists in the US telling the doctors to “stay in their own lane”. Dr. Ahmed had a perfect response to this:

“From our lane we will treat the victims of gun violence and quite literally sew back together the shattered organs, vessels and lives torn apart by bullets fired by guns.”

The gun lobbyists also petitioned the Ontario College of Physician and Surgeons complaining about Dr. Ahmed but those complaints have been dismissed. No doubt there will be continued protests to any further changes to Canada’s gun laws. That will make the work of the CDPG even more important. It will continue, as will mine. Before and since Bill C-71 was passed, I was able to have some good conversations with my MP, Mike Bossio. He took the time to call me, and send an email saying that while Bill C-71 isn’t perfect, it will make our communities safer while protecting the rights of legitimate gun owners,  including himself. I think he’s right.

Mass shootings are unfortunately all too common but none hit as close to home as the Christchurch shooting. The personal is political. The political is personal.

 

 

 

 

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When it rains…

Of course you know the saying, “When it rains, it pours.” That certainly has applied to Spring 2019 in eastern Ontario, and in this case, it applies to this blog. It’s been a long time since I posted anything and now I’ve got two posts in two days. What can I say? “The muse has awoken.”

My last post, “Thankful for a little push” included a guest blog post from my colleague Lori Straus. I’d sent an essay to Lori for her blog, and I am posting it here.

My focus in the past few months has been working on my certification as an Essentrics® instructor, which has kept me from doing a lot of writing. However that program does help my writing business too. It’s not always an even balance, but it is a good balance, and an important one for me.

Here’s the post I sent to Lori. I’m back on the writing/fitness journey. Thanks for coming along.

How does Essentrics® help my writing business?

Your first question might be, “What is Essentrics®?” The answer: a fitness program designed to re-balance the body through simultaneous stretching and strengthening all of the muscles and rebalancing the joints. Now, your second question: “How does this fitness program fit your writing business?”

Essentrics® not only rebalances my body; it rebalances my work, and by extension, my life.

It gets me out in the world

Writing is a solitary occupation. Most freelance writers work alone either at home or in an office they’ve set up. Some might do some writing in a café or library so they’re around other people but still working, writing, alone. Being in a group fitness class ends that isolation. It balances the need for solitude and quiet with the need for social interaction and some noise. Writing is also a sedentary activity.  So the passive activity has to be balanced with something more active. Some writers run; others bike; some go to a gym for a workout. I do Essentrics®. I do it at home on my own; I lead three or four classes a week and I try to take a class once a week. If you want to try it, look on the Essentrics® website to find a class near you, or check out the videos on the site to try the exercises at home. So what is it about Essentrics® that I love so much?

It keeps me moving

Although I try to get up and move around, taking regular breaks while I’m working, the truth is that I can wind up sitting for waaaaayyyy too long. Sound familiar? My problem is that I have fibromyalgia, a syndrome of muscular fatigue and pain that is often centred in my lower back and hips. It is occasionally in my neck, shoulders and upper arms. Sitting for too long is not good for any of this. In fact pain can set in fairly quickly. Doing the Essentrics® exercises, even if it’s only for 10 or 15 minutes, goes a long way to stretch and strengthen those muscles and reduce the pain. My classes are 30-60 minutes in length, so that really gets things moving. Many days are actually pain-free, but only if I do the exercises. Some of the women in my classes also have fibromyalgia or sciatica and they tell me that that the exercises help. Getting together with others to exercise is important to me. It’s hard to motivate yourself to exercise alone. That’s why I teach: I have to show up. No excuses. Anything done with friends is always better and many of my students have become friends.

I feel better

Once I have done my class and enjoyed some social time I am in a better mood emotionally and I feel better physically. I’m ready to get down to work. I can concentrate better and my writing comes more easily.

When you balance physical exercise with the mental exercise of writing, it is all positive. Check out Essentrics® for yourself and see if this program works for you. You can check out my website to see some videos and testimonials. Whatever you do, keep moving so that you can re-balance your work, and your life.

Thankful for a little push

My Eccentric (Essentrics®) journey has had a few bumps in the road. My freelance writing has been stalled. Sometimes you need a nudge to get you going again. I’m lucky to have friends and colleagues in both areas who have given me that little push.

One of my colleagues in the Professional Writers Association of Canada (PWAC), Lori Straus, is a copywriter, editor, and German to English translator who somehow still finds time to write fiction under her family name,  Lori Wolf-Heffner.

Recently Lori asked if  anyone in our group would like to do some cross-posting on our blogs. I jumped at the chance, especially as I’d been, to say the least, lax at keeping up with this blog.

We decided to write about how our other passions, dance for her, Essentrics for me, help us with life lessons, including our writing. I am posting Lori’s essay here. I’ll post my essay in a separate post.

I thank Lori very much for getting me back to writing. Once you’ve read our pieces here, hop over to her websites and check out her other writing.

I’ll have more posted here starting next week, so thanks for hanging in there and please do check back.

Here’s Lori’s essay, “Life Lessons From Dance: Learning to Laugh”

“Sunrise, sunset…sunrise, sunset…swiftly go the days…” That’s what I recall singing near the end of a community production of Fiddler on the Roof in 1994. The chorus stood around the family, who was forced to flee their home. Every member in the chorus, including me, held a real, lit tea light as they sang. It was magical. I even got to stand downstage (i.e., “at the front”), where the whole audience could see me. The scene probably acted as a beautiful life lesson for how an entire team of people, many strangers at the outset, could create such a somber, sad, but hopeful moment in such a moving musical.

Except for me.

Life Lessons Aren’t Always about Teamwork

That song will never remain a solemn song in my head: While I was singing it on stage in a 2,000-seat theatre, my breath blew out my candle. I tried to sing while my chest wanted to convulse in laughter. Whoever stood next to me—was it my sister?—saw the snuffed-out candle and also had to suppress her laughter. I believe the guy I was dating saw it, too. It was the fight of a lifetime to hold on to the somber façade we had created with the other cast members. Once we got offstage, I probably snorted as my laughter burst out of me.

I succeeded in the audition for Fiddler on the Roof in part because I had become a decent dancer after studying the art for over ten years. Dancing teaches you a lot of skills: how to take feedback, compete, practice, look after your body, deal with disappointment…and how to keep going through the mistakes and laugh about them afterwards.

Keep Smiling, Even When You’re Down to Your Last Failsafe

When you look at the bottom of a tap shoe, you’ll see that each tap is held on by screws: four on the heel tap and three on the toe tap. When I was 12 or so, I performed a tap dance at competition. I no longer remember if it was a trio or a group, but others danced with me.

During the routine, two of the three screws on one of my toe taps came out, leaving my tap spinning. For up to three minutes, I kept smiling as I repeatedly swung the tap back under my shoe. Unfortunately, this was before smartphones, so this feat of feet was never caught on camera.

It had to have brought my group’s mark down: unsecured costume pieces do that. But I also couldn’t help it. After the dance, we all laughed about it. We even wondered how that could have happened: I had started out with three screws in my tap!

Whether you’re presenting on an important topic, having a serious talk with a family member, or working on your New Years’ goal of taking better care of yourself, keep smiling. Smile on the inside if showing it will give the wrong impression, but smile because it will relax and centre you and ultimately help you move forward.

The Last Count

I’ve performed hundreds of times on stage, and I always knew I would never manage a long streak of performances without any errors. Shakespeare said life is but a stage. However, if dance has taught me anything, it’s that the stage is life. And I hope that whenever life becomes too serious for me, that someone else will accidentally blow out the candle and make me laugh.

Thanks, Lori. My essay, “How Essentrics® Fits with my Writing Business” will be my next blog post. Please keep checking back for more posts: most from me, but I hope to have other guest bloggers too.

 

 

Understanding the invisibly wounded soldier

On November 11 we observe Remembrance Day in Canada. In other countries it is known as Armistice Day. It commemorates the signing of the agreement that ended the First World War at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918. That was supposed to be the “war to end all wars” and of course we know it wasn’t. Sadly there has been another World War and there have been many other conflicts in Korea, Eastern Europe, Afghanistan, the Middle East, and many other parts of the world. Too many young men and women have died; many more have been injured physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. They are still suffering with those invisible wounds, the ones that have gone by different names and most recently known as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Too many have taken their own lives because they couldn’t bear the pain any longer.

Just before Remembrance Day in 2017 I had the honour to speak with a former member of Canada’s military Andrew Godin about his PTSD.  He told me that although things are getting better, there is still a long way to go to get soldiers the help they need. 

 From my conversation with Andrew I wrote an article for The Napanee Guide that I hope will help people to better understand the invisibly wounded soldier. Here is that article:

The Invisible Soldier: Many veterans living with the invisible wound, PTSD.

Published November 9, 2017: Napanee Guide, Postmedia Network

Napanee resident Andrew Godin was officially released from the Canadian military in 2006 but he lived with his invisible wounds from his years of service starting in 2003, and he still lives with those wounds. Godin, like many veterans, lives with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and by telling his story, he hopes he helps others living with it too.

“We are getting better at getting over the hurdle of talking about PTSD, and treatments are getting better too, but there is a lot of work to do, and some men and women will still not talk about it, because they don’t want to jeopardize their careers,” Godin said.

After his diagnosis, he said that he was offered a very different job than the one he’d had as the Office Production Manager and Warrant Officer with the Mapping and Charting division—a new job that he felt he could not do. So he opted to leave the military, and still holds some resentment against those who were not willing to help him continue with the job he loved.

“I was dead to them, and after 20 years of service, it was a difficult decision to leave, but I was being ‘retired’ to this other job very fast, and I couldn’t do it.”

Godin said that he thinks there is still a lack of education and understanding about PTSD and how it affects people. He added that things are a lot better now, but there are things to work on: one of them being a better level of health services and consistency of services.

“There have been some services available in the past that are no longer available, because many thought, or think, the problem is over, that we’ve dealt with it, so it’s time to move on,” Godin said. “Changes to the Veterans Charter [where vets get a lump sum payment rather than a monthly pension] does not work for people with PTSD.”

Godin explained that some choose to self-medicate the symptoms of PTSD—sleeplessness, anxiety, depression, mood swings, etc. with alcohol or drugs, and they become addicts. They need something to kill the pain. When they have access to a lot of money, they are not capable of making rational judgement as to the wise use of those funds, and soon burn through them. Some sufferers with PTSD get to the point where they cannot cope anymore, or they can’t wait for treatment, and they commit suicide.

“It’s not the PTSD that gets you—it’s the other stuff related to it. I know more people who’ve died by their own hands than were killed in rotation. They were just tired of fighting every day. I know families that have been devastated by PTSD, and its effects,” Godin said.

“There is still a real lack of help for family members dealing with a spouse or family member with PTSD.

They unfortunately bear the brunt of the disease and become the front line support for these people and they neither have the support, resources or expertise in which to do so. I’m lucky to have the support of my wife, but I’m also not going to let this [PTSD] get me, so I’m still fighting every day.”

Godin said he doesn’t know how we have the conversation to talk about this invisible wound that no one really wants to talk about, or deal with. Veterans groups have started their own support groups, and being able to get together with friends at the Legion branch helps.

“It’s hard because everyone is off on their own agenda, and there are not enough resources—money or people—to help,” he said. “This isn’t limited to the military; it’s widespread that mental illnesses are not as well serviced as some physical ones, but we [the military] have to keep our eye on the target: doing a better job of helping our men and women who are dealing with this.”

Some programs that are helping offer veterans the opportunity to play golf, go horseback riding, or enjoy other sports. Their teammates are all veterans, so they have some shared experiences.  Some of these programs are privately funded; others funded through Legion branches. Currently there aren’t any of these programs in this area, but that could change. The Invictus Games that were held in Toronto had many participants who are living with PTSD, as well as those who’ve been physically injured. Godin said this recognition of the physical and mental illnesses that soldiers deal with helped bring the PTSD to the forefront. He added that he hopes that when people are thinking of veterans on Remembrance Day, they will not only honour the war dead, but honour the living too—especially those living with the invisible wound of PTSD.

“Something like the Invictus Games is great because it gave people a new purpose; a new focus, and it brought attention to the strength that soldiers have—the physical and mental toughness. So that’s a positive change for the future. We’ve come a long way, but there’s still a long way to go.”

 

 

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My Eccentric Journey

Depending on how you pronounce it, the word “eccentric” has two meanings. I’ll let  you look it up, but you are either talking about a weird or off-beat character or characteristic, or you are talking about a type of movement. While either definition may be applicable to me, the  latter definitely is.  I am starting on a journey to become certified to teach Essentrics®. This is a fitness program designed to rebalance every part of the body through simultaneous stretching and strengthening of all 650 muscles. I’ll bet you didn’t know that you had that many muscles!  The program name uses the “soft c” pronunciation, with a different spelling: Essentrics®–tweaked by using part of the creator’s name: Miranda Esmonde White. Miranda is a former member of the National Ballet of Canada, and since developing this program, she has become a TV personality, author, much-sought after speaker, and of course, she is still teaching.

Miranda Esmonde White    

I’ve been following Miranda’s PBS program “Classical Stretch” for many years, and in the past five years, I’ve seen it change and become more popular. The PBS program seems to be geared more to Baby Boomers, but younger generations wanted this type of strength and stretch program, but maybe with a different name.  Miranda has written two books, and she and her team of instructors, which includes her daughter Sahra, have produced a number of DVDs and mini-videos, which are all available through the website.

Here is Sahra in an Introduction to Essentrics video:

I’ve introduced this program to friends, and now I’ve decided I will become a Level 1 Certified Essentrics® Instructor.  For now, I am an Apprentice Instructor. That’s where the “weird” or “offbeat” part of “eccentric” comes in.  If you’ve been following this blog, you know I have an eccentric form of humour. Telling myself that I could become a fitness instructor at age 65 might be the funniest joke yet. Yet, here’s the thing: I already have the support of family, friends,  a great group of Essentrics® instructors, and the Essentrics® training team, so I will do this. No joke.

This blog will become, in part, a record of this journey, which is just beginning. As with any journey, there will be bumps along the way, and there have already been some detours and delays. There is a lot of material for me to learn, and I have to [gasp] be filmed while teaching a class as part of my certification exam.

So why do this, and why now?

I love doing the exercises as they are a perfect antidote for my chronic pain and fatigue from fibromyalgia.  But who likes to work out alone? By becoming an instructor, I hope I will be able to help friends, family, and others improve their health by improving their posture, reduce or eliminate any pain they may have, tone their muscles, perhaps lose weight, and add an overall enjoyment to their life.  There are so many benefits to this program, which I hope they’ll appreciate and  understand from my teaching. At the very least, I’ll have company for my workouts! With the “milestone” birthday, I thought a new challenge was in order. I also want to, as Miranda and many others are  clearly doing, “age backwards.” (I think she’s 67, and I know there are many people,  including other instructors, who are doing this program well into their 70s and 80s, and beyond.)

Please join me on this eccentric/Essentrics® journey. I know it won’t be easy, but there will be some fun along the way. Who knows? Once I get my certification, you might like me to teach you!  So stay tuned.

Don’t miss the 10th Annual Downtown Shopping Party!

While some may have it all done, the Annual Downtown Napanee Shopping Party is what others wait for to get their Christmas shopping in full gear–and get it done! The 10th Annual party is all set for this Friday, December 15, from 6 to 9 p.m. Spearheaded by Cat Monster at Starlet Boutique, this event has more than 30 businesses participating this year, and many will have special treats, discounts, displays and activities.

Downtown shopping party

Along with giving residents and visitors a chance to have some fun and get some shopping done, this is also a time when the merchants give back to the community as a thank you for the support shown to them all year. Non-perishable food and cash donations will be gathered at the various shops for several charities including MorningStar Mission, the Salvation Army, Interval House, and the Sandy Pines Wildlife Centre.

“That’s the main drive behind the Shopping Party,” Cat said. “We want the community to help us help these charities that help so many, especially at this time of year.”

The Big Bright Light Show will light the way as you make your way from store to store checking out all of the activities. Here are just a few highlights to entice you:

Santa will be at Chill: Lifestyle for Kids ready to have photos taken. One or two of his reindeer will be visiting from the Sherwood Reindeer Farm, where they spend a lot of time.

Santa Chilling Out

Music will be in the air and in the cafes. Carollers from Trinity United Church may be going from store to store singing traditional favourites, and there will be music to listen to while you relax in our cafes and restaurants. Check out the Loaf ‘N’ Ale and Waterfront River Pub & Terrace for live bands once the stores have closed.

Wagon rides will be available so you can see the lights and enjoy the wonderful holiday atmosphere.  When you need a break, stop by one of the cafes.

Coffee Cravings will be open serving specialty holiday drinks and its famous coffees and teas. Artist Bill VanWart will be “hanging out” showing his art work, and every donation brought in for the MorningStar Mission nets a ballot to win either a painting by Mr. V or a coffee treat basket.  This is an example of Bill’s work:

Bill Van Wart painting

Ellena’s Cafe will have featured guests, including artist Peggy Collins, who will be offering her “I’ll draw anything Round 2.” Peggy will spend five or ten minutes making a special drawing for you for $10, and part of the proceeds will be given to charity.  Here’s an example of Peggy’s drawing [from her Facebook page]:

peggy collins, 2

 

Musicians Stephen Bruce Medd, Barry Lovegrove, and Steve Tanner will be providing entertainment while you enjoy  Ellena’s delicious treats. My favourite is the chocolate haystack. I hope she’ll have some on Friday night!  Stephen Medd (seen in a photo from an Open Mic night at the Loaf ‘N’ Ale) is a regular performer around town, and loves to share his songs about Napanee.  Barry and Steve are also well-known and often play at Ellena’s when the local “Humstrummers” gather, and at many other events.

Steve Medd

The entire downtown core will be buzzing with activities. At Seasons Fine Foods, Dufflet Cakes will have truffles, macarons and Euro Tarts. Fine food, indeed! Check out Chef Pat’s posts on her Facebook page to see some photos!

Many  other stores, too numerous to mention here, will have specials , so be sure to allow plenty of time to visit them. You’ll also need time to visit with friends and family who also will be enjoying the party.

“It’s incredible how much this has grown,” Cat said. “I still remember the first year when we had a terrible blizzard, but people still came out. So, no matter what the weather is, we know it will be a great party, Buddy the Elf and Jovvie will be there, and we hope that everyone will remember their donations for the charities we are all supporting.”

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You Say You Want a Resolution?

Years ago, John Lennon sang “You say you want a revolution?” Well, as I’m prone to do, I’m playing with those words making this  “You say want a resolution”—referring of course to New Year’s Resolutions. Some people will say, “oh I don’t make New Year’s Resolutions,” but I think they’re lying. How can you not think about looking ahead to the new year with a resolve to make it better than the one just ended? Even if 2009 was a great year for you, there’s always room for improvement isn’t there?

Since everyone’s doing their “Best of…” or “Top…” lists, I thought I might as well join in the fun. Here are some thoughts on three of the most popular resolutions:

Popular Resolution #1: Lose weight. How many of us have, or have had this as one of our top New Year’s Resolutions? I don’t anymore, but did for many years. Obviously, if I had to repeat it, I didn’t do very well at keeping it. So, while I don’t resolve to lose a specific amount of weight, I do want to keep improving my health, and that’s bound to lead to some weight loss. The trick will be to have it happen while I’m not thinking about it. By choosing foods that are better for my body, and having a daily regimen of some kind of exercise, I am bound to be healthier, and perhaps get back into those skinny black jeans hanging in my closet.

I still follow some of the practices I learned when I was working with a  Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) practitioner in 2009 and 2010. I have a chart on my office wall called  “A Guide To The Energetics Of Food” that divides foods into categories such as meats, grains, vegetables, herbs, nuts and seeds, fish, fruit, etc., and then charts what effects these will have on your body.  There are also notes on qi (pronounced chee), blood, yin and yang, tonifying and regulating foods.Copies of the chart, and other related books are available from the Redwing Book Company. I will be referring to the chart more often as I try to get, or keep, my life in better balance.

Chocolate isn’t on the chart, but hey, as I hope you’ve realized, and as my friend Doreen Pendgracs, author of Chocolatour: A Quest for the World’s Best Chocolate, always says: a day without chocolate is like a day without sunshine. I think we need plenty of both, especially during Canadian winters. So, ok, I do more exercise. (see below), and I am pretty careful with my diet, but as my dad used to say, “Everything in moderation, including moderation.”

Diet is only one part of a healthier lifestyle. Exercise, which to me is essential for losing weight, is also a key factor, which is why it is a popular resolution.

Popular Resolution #2:  Get More Exercise This is one I plan to keep, not only for this year, but every year. I picked up my walking two years ago, and now have a Nordic Pole Walking Group that I meet with every week–twice a week in the nice weather. Using Nordic Poles makes a walk into a workout as you are using 90 percent of your muscles. The poles also help with stability and balance. I find they take pressure off of my joints, which makes the walk more enjoyable too. Here’s a link to an article  I wrote for a website called Parks Blogger Ontario about Nordic Walking, and one of my favourite places to walk: the Dunes Trail at Sandbanks Provincial Park, near Picton, Ontario.

Here’s a photo of some of our group at Sandbanks in November 2015:

nordic-walking-at-sandbanks-dunes-trail-200x150

In addition to the walking I also do something I call “Dynamic Stretching.” The exercises are based on a program called Essentrics, which was developed my Miranda Esmond-White. She has been teaching this program for many years and has a popular PBS program called Classical Stretch. I have some of Miranda’s DVDs, and one featuring her daughter Sahra. I regularly follow the website, where she posts mini-workouts. Those are great to do while I’m at my desk. As I often stand at my desk, I already have a nice pad to stand on for the exercises. I have Miranda’s first book, Aging Backwards, which features all of her Essentrics exercises, and I am looking forward to getting her newest book, Forever Painless. 

These exercises are gentle, and yet when you do them for 20 or 30 minutes, you know you have worked all of your muscles. My goal is to do at least that much every day, but I won’t call it a resolution.

Popular Resolution#3 : Quit Smoking. I smoked for a very short time when I was 16 years old, but it never became a habit. I really didn’t like the smell or taste, and more importantly to me, I had better things to do with my money.  Both of my parents smoked, and most of my relatives smoked too.  Some of them still do, in spite of the fact that heart disease and stroke, two illnesses that have been linked to smoking, have caused many premature deaths in our family. My mother died in 2000 [at the age of 68] of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), directly linked to her smoking. She’d had two strokes and many mini-strokes in the three years before she died. Her doctor advised that she quit smoking while she still had a chance to beat the COPD—advice she didn’t take. I think her philosophy was that she was here for a good time, not a long time (as the song goes). I’d like to be here for a long time, and have a good time.

It saddens me how much of our lives and her grandchildren’s lives, including their graduations, weddings, and now their children, that my mother has missed.  I’m happy to say that my Dad quit smoking when he was 60 and I believe that added years to his life. I am so happy that he was in our life for another 25 years. He died in May 2016 from congestive heart failure and kidney disease related to his long-term diabetes. His doctors were amazed how long he’d live with the illness, and how well he’d managed it. He said he never regretted quitting smoking.

So it is possible, but I know it’s hard to do.  More information and help is available from your local health unit or the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada . The tobacco companies have continuously made their product more addictive, so this is likely the hardest thing you’ll do, but your friends and family, especially your children and grandchildren, will thank you.

Of course, there are other resolutions that people make, but these are the ones that seem to top the list, and it’s no surprise they are all related to health. I figured out a long time ago that if you don’t have your health, it really doesn’t matter what else you have, or want, because you can’t enjoy it, or do it well.

I’m making plans for, and hope that I will be more productive with work, make more money doing what I love to do—write and teach—and do more travelling. All of those things will add up to a pretty terrific year. But I’ll settle for just being healthier. The rest will follow.

I wish you all a happy, healthy, and prosperous New Year, and I’d love to hear about your resolutions, and whether you make them now or not.

Updated from December 31, 2009