Know Someone Who Suffers From Migraines? Read This

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Why Migraines & Headaches are Big Deal

If I were a superhero, say, Spiderman (migraine spidey senses being my superpower), then migraine headaches would be my supervillain – the Green Goblin, whose sole purpose is to torment me by threatening to sabotage my world and take me out! (insert maniacal laughter).

Sadly, I’m no superhero but, having to regularly suffer from migraine headaches can feel like an epic battle for over 2.7 million Canadians and mostly for women. Chances are you know someone who suffers from migraine headaches.

June is National Migraine and Headache Awareness Month and I want to some facts about migraines. My hope is that this information will deepen your understanding of migraines and what your family members, friends or co-workers might be experiencing so the conversations you have will come from a place of compassion and empathy and informed awareness.

Migraine Headaches: Facts & Triggers 

Visual of a quote about migraines to convey the seriousness of migraines on individuals.

Before I found a course of pain management treatment that worked for me, my migraines lasted for over 14 hours. I couldn’t work, couldn’t talk to anyone I couldn’t do anything but try to be present with the pain. I would be in tears, curled up in fetal position on the bathroom floor (the darkest place in my apartment), cellphone in hand and wondering if I should call 911 for help. These episodes were, in a word, brutal. 

Migraines are more than a typical headache. They are debilitating in intensity, severity and duration. Episodic migraines happen less than 15 days each month but, sometimes they can last for three days. Chronic migraines, on the other hand, involve 15 or more days of headaches per month or eight or more headaches with migraine features each month for three or more months.

Migraine Common Symptoms & Triggers

Some common migraine symptoms experienced by migraine sufferers include nausea, vomiting, hypersensitivity to light, smells and sounds.

Common triggers include:

  • Hormonal changes (periods, birth control pills, ageing)
  • Certain foods (e.g., chocolate, cheese, caffeine, alcohol)
  • Weather (changes in temperature/humidity)
  • Strong odours (e.g., perfumes, cigarette)  
  • Physical factors (e.g., poor sleep, high-intensity workouts)
  • Family history/genes 
  • Stress 

Migraines Affect Us Differently

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Suffering from migraines just straight up sucks 100% for the individual and their loved ones. Having to miss the championship game for your kid’s basketball team, a piano recital or awards ceremony because of a migraine can be painful for the parent and the child.

People who suffer from chronic and episodic migraines have experiences that are unique to them. 

Probably the one thing we may have in common is that migraines are debilitating and severely impact the quality of life for migraine sufferers, including missing school, work and events and affecting productivity and time with family and friends. 

There’s also a great deal of emotional and psychological stress that these constant life interruptions can cause. Imagine for a minute having to worry constantly about making plans for fear that you’ll only end up cancelling “again” because of a migraine or worse, attending a wedding and having to leave early because of the migraine. Seriously, how can you live your best life if you’re always in fear of having a migraine attack? It’s frustrating.

There Is No Cure for Migraines

There is no cure for migraines but there are several migraine treatment options available. 

Since one size does not fit all when it comes to preventative treatments, we have to find the pain management treatments that meet our individual needs. There are preventative measures, like migraine-specific prescription medications.

There are also alternative options such as acupuncture, massage therapy or chiropractic treatments. There are also therapeutic options like BOTOX for chronic migraines (a Health Canada approved migraine preventative treatment).

Knowledge is Power

Pain management through a course of prescription medication, working with healthcare providers, and self-care practices allow me to take less time off work, get to spend more time with friends and family and don’t stress out as much about going on vacation. All this means less mental stress.

Don’t get me wrong I still experience debilitating days that can last for three days but not as frequently as before. I’m so grateful now for the pain-free days.

If you think your headaches might be migraines, speak to a healthcare provider to determine if that’s the case and what options are available to manage the pain.

Whether you are a migraine sufferer or know a loved one with migraines, go check out and share www.mychronicmigraine.ca It’s a helpful resource to learn more about chronic migraines and provides a simple quiz to determine whether you might be a chronic migraine sufferer and other useful information. Knowledge is power!

Cheers,

Cassandra McD.

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Do These 3 Things Before Decluttering Your Beauty Products

Sleek, clean and modern bathroom with natural wood and white and plants.

As COVID-19 self-isolation draws on and we’re entering four months of self-isolation, I’ve been finding ways to keep productive on weekends when I know the weekend brunch plans are non-existent as are visits to coffeeshops, the shops or even a few hours spent the museum or art gallery.

It’s not surprising that home decorating or home organizing are trending now since many of us are finding that we have the time to take a hard look at our living environment and maybe tackle some of the projects that we’ve never really had time for before – or made the time for.

One of the things on my quarantine to-do list is decluttering the bathroom cabinets. It’s not a big space but I’ve noticed it’s a crowded one. I’m talking about pore strips, exfoliating scrubs, serums, eye creams and hydrating masks. Then you have bottles of nail polish, cuticle creams, lipsticks and lip balms. I honestly believe I use one third of the products on a regular basis yet my cabinet shelves are lined and some is the small area around my sink

My goal for this weekend project was simple, eliminate the excess and bring more simplicity/spacious into my lifestyle (and probably on subconscious level, it’s really about mentally and physically preparing myself for all the anti-aging products I’ll need because I don’t plan on aging gracefully, I’m putting up a fight of the knock-down-drag-out variety).

What makes this a great weekend project?

  • It’s a small space so it will not be overwhelming and the time commitment should not be all-consuming and can be done in a couple of hours (minimal sweat equity involved in this project)
  • you’re likely to experience as big sense of accomplishment once you’re done (check-off that box on your to-do list!)
  • you’ll quickly create a spaciousness you didn’t realize you had in your bathroom and that is a pretty good feeling.

#1: Do ask yourself this one question

Overhead shot/ flatlay of a variety of makeup products - eyeshadow palettes, nail polish, creams in small jars and an assortment of makeup brushes

Do I really need ‘all” of this stuff?

Chances are, your answer will be “no” if you’re keeping it real with yo’self. I know, we love our beauty and skincare products. They look beautiful and smell divine plus they promise to give me that JLo glow and keep my skin flawless like Bey, and ageless like Naomi Campbell. But that doesn’t necessarily mean you need every lotion, potion and serum currently lining your bathroom shelves.

Yet, if you think about it, you can be selective and happier if you keep the limited real estate of your shelves reserved for nothing but the ‘All Stars’, those core products that are your gold standard and make you feel really good when you use them.

If you feel you need ‘all’ of it, then you can still read on. You never know, even doing the next two activities might provide you with a different perspective and allow you to let go of a few things.

#2: Do sort the products

The Keepers

These are the gold standard products – the keepers. You know, the products that you replace the minute you notice it’s running low. These are the products you swear by and tell your girlfriends about.

These can also include sample products that you’ve been meaning to try but haven’t yet gotten around to, well, because, life. You still are curious about these products and you feel a little excitement about finally making the time to use them while in self-isolation.

The ‘Say Goodbye’ Crew

Makeup brushes and beauty products in clear organizer container on a bathroom counter

Seriously, when was the last time you used that bottle of serum you just found at the back of the cabinet hidden behind the tube of rash cream. You know the items that you thought you’d really liked but used it a couple times only to get distracted by something newer and shiner, that came highly recommended by one of your fave YouTubers and forgot about. We all have them.

Before you toss them out, can any of them find a new home? My niece has given me shampoo and conditioner she had when she recently decluttered her cabinets- she has a lot of hair and tries hair products constantly so she found herself with several bottles and realized that she hadn’t used many of them but a few times. I was a happy recipient because I typically go to the salon but COVID-19 put a temporary halt to that experience and I’ve had to do my hair at home.

To be clear, I’m not talking about giving used make-up products or any products that you could have contaminated with your hands to anyone. That’s just unsanitary even before Corona but even now, we need to be even more careful about what we are sharing and how we share it (for example, bottles of perfumes, shampoos or lotions might be worth considering).

# 3: Do check the expiry date

It will surprise you at how many products have expired without you realizing it. So even with the “Keepers” check the expiry date because beauty products expire and go bad – those natural products can expire faster than other products.

Also, using long expired beauty products is gross and cause skin irritation that you probably want to avoid like acne/break-outs or infections. Gross.

Now that you’ve gone through those steps you can go head and begin the process of making your bathroom shelves things of aligned, colour-code, beauty. Celebrate you freshly decluttered space by treating yourself to that lipstick you’ve had your eye on forever. Kidding! maybe enjoy the space for a bit longer before you bring in any new products always being mindful of creating more clutter.

African American woman blowing a kiss to a bathroom mirror

Cheers,

Cassandra

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Book List: 7 Awesome Fiction Books by Black Authors You Should Read This Summer

Almost everyday for the past few weeks, I’ve woken up with a sense of dread wonder, what, if any, events unfolded overnight related to the global Black Lives Matter movement and calls for justice, equality and an end to systemic racism in all its forms. Did something happen that would create yet another dramatic shift but this time in a horrible way, causing things to slip so far backwards in time that it will be hell to put the pieces back together again and move forward? Or, will there be some awesome news that will leave me filled with hope? or will things be relatively quiet but still moving steadily forward? I just didn’t know and this was stressful.

To be expected, I’ve found myself, like many of you guys, having to work that much harder to cope and to find moments of optimism and lightness throughout out days. Seeking out little moments of gratitude and joy while still leaving the space to just feel all the feelings.

Little things like seeing all the wonderful booklist of Black authors that’s being shared all over social media along with an encouragement to buy these books from Black-owned bookshops and independent bookstores. This makes me happy and super excited about my reading list!

And since sharing is caring, I’m sharing with you guys seven fiction books that I’ve read and enjoyed, if you’re looking for fiction reads this summer. A few are newer while others are classics. 

One caveat, although reading is my fave pastime and I can easily lose hours caught up in a good book, I don’t pretend to be a book critic, reviewer or bibliophile. I read for the pleasure it brings me. I love the way a well told story can make me feel, whether it stirs my soul by being so beautifully written that I’m left in awe (read anything by Toni Morrison!), or the characters are so vivid they jump off the page and are unforgettable. I simply love a book that makes me feel something long after I put it down – no dissecting or deep analysis needed. But if you fancy that kind of thang, then, yes, all of the books listed below, in my opinion – and Oprah’s – are book club, deep discussion, second read worthy novels.

With that, here are my picks for 7 awesome books by Black author that you should add to your reading list!

1. Girl, Woman Other by Bernardine Evaristo (2019)

Bernardine Evaristo’s Girl, Woman, Other, about the interconnected lives of 12 black characters in the UK over several decades, shared the Booker Prize win in 2019 with Margaret Atwood’s Testaments. Evaristo also became the first Black British woman to by number one on the UK paperback fiction chart. She speaks about this here

2. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas (2017)

Angie Thomas’s The Hate U Give is a young adult fiction novel that was adapted into a movie in 2018. I haven’t seen the movie yet but enjoyed this book a lot – appreciated the old R&B music references! The issues raised in the book are also very relevant now as in 2017 when the novel was published in terms of Black Lives Matter movement and the hard and necessary conversations about the black experience and racism that we are having today.

3. The Water Dancer by Ta-Nehisi Coates (2019)

Ta-Nehisi Coates’ debut novel The Water Dancer was one of Oprah’s Book Club reads. The Water Dancer is set in the time of slavery (deep South and freedom in the North) but with a twist, the protagonist possess mysterious powers he must seek to understand and draw upon to fight for freedom not only for himself but for others.

At the time of writing this, Ta-Nehisi Coates’ non-fiction work Between the World and Me is currently topping the New York Times best seller list.

4. Half Blood Blues by Esi Edugyan (2011) (Canadian)

Esi Edugyan’s Half-Blood Blues is a Giller Prize winner set in pre-war Berlin and Paris and follows two aging jazz musicians in pre-war Berlin who return to Paris in search of their friend and trumpeter who was arrested during the Nazi occupation of France. 

This novel was her debut and won or was nominated for every literary prize in Canada and celebrated internationally when it debuted in 2011 even Oprah called it one of the best books of the year and it was praised by the New York Times. 

5. The Bluest Eyes by Toni Morrison (1970)

I absolutely love Toni Morrison, well who doesn’t? She’s just, wow! She’s also both a Pulitzer and Nobel Prize winner.

The Bluest Eye, Toni Morrison’s debut novel turned 50 this year. It’s about a young, black girl praying for blue eyes so she could be beautiful when her life is anything but. I hesitate in listing this one because it’s a tough one to get through – in terms of gut- wrenching sadness. But it’s a classic that’s still powerful and relevant 50 years on.

6. Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston (1937)

Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God is a classic and set in Harlem Renaissance of the1920s.

7. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou (1969)

Now I know this is not fiction but a memoir but I felt to compelled to include it. I know Why the Caged Bird Sings was Dr. Maya Angelou’s debut novel and was published in 1969. It’s the first of a series of seven books and has become a classic. 

If you’re really want to get to goods on book recommendations, visit Well Read Black Girl because she knows what she’s talking about! 

If you’re support Black authors, also try to support small, independent bookstores, like A Different Booklist in Toronto, if you can. It will make a difference.

Happy Reading!

Cassandra

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5 Simple Tips To Help Get Your Closet Organized (so you can get you back to Netflix and chips sooner)

Rolling rack of stylish, minimalist wardrobe pieces and a trendy pale purple broad-rimmed felt had

Self-isolation Day 5,046 and I finally got off the sofa, dusted the potato chip crumbs off my wrinkled t-shirt and decided I’d tackle organizing my wardrobe. Plus, I wanted to strike while the motivation was hot and the migraines were not.  

I did a big purge a couple years ago so, this was one of my biannual decluttering tasks and not a massive undertaking. Thank goodness for that!

I thought I’d share the simple tips I use for keeping my closet “somewhat” organized. I say, “somewhat” because I’m not really the Kondo method spark joy type, don’t have that kinda mindset or patience. If you want that level of organization, then check her book and YouTube for some inspiration. I personally just need things to be kinda, sorta neat-ish and I’m good to go…back to binge watching some Netflix.

Metal rolling rack of black and white minimalist clothing hanging neatly on wooden hangers

Here are 5 tips to get your closet looking neat:

  1. Seasonal Switch Up! Use the seasons as your reminder to give your closet a once-over. The beginning of spring when you’re transitioning from winter sweaters and boots to cute dresses and sandals is a perfect time.
  1. Drop it low, to the flo’! Go ahead and pump up the jams. Sing to your fave chart toppers, the ones you think you know all the lyrics too but you really don’t and sing them out loud like you know them anyways? Get hype and get going!
  1. Divide and Conquor! If you’re like me you might find the idea of removing everything from your closet and dumping it into piles to be sort, a bit overwhelming. Start with one section of your closet at a time. For example, I start with pants – they are easier to sort and I can get a quick win. Then I move on to dresses and work your way through in a way that’s most comfortable and that I know I can manage without the overwhelm.
A small selection of white clothing hanging on wooden hangers
  1. When in doubt, try it on! It can comes as a shock to discover that those jeans from 1992 don’t fit anymore – how can this be? I know, I’ve been there. But it’s ok, it really is gonna be alright. Let it go and plan to buy a new pair that makes your booty look real good in 2020. 
  1. Hanger consistency is key. Seriously, using one style of hangers does wonders for making your closet look organized even if things aren’t aligned and colour co-ordinated to perfection. It’s the little things that can make a big difference.

Bonus tip: #PaceYourself – I took my time, no pressure at all, and did my organizing in sections over a weekend. So, no need to feel any pressure to get it done, right now, all in one go. Pace yourself, take a break, have a snack, and get back to it. But, if you’re in the groove and hit a stride, by all means, keep at it. Sometimes you’ve gotta grab hold of that momentum and ride the wave while you can. Netflix will be there when you’re done.

It felt good when I was done, so good in fact that I was guilt-free when I went back to the sofa with my bag of chips.  

Cheers,

Cassandra McD.

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25 DAYS WORKING FROM HOME: TIPS FOR COPING

white minimalist workspace, white chair and simple white desk with laptop, plant, coffee cup and papers
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WFH ROOKIE

The last time I worked from home (WFH) was for a few days in 2018 when I strained the tendon in my right foot and couldn’t walk for days.

I’ve always preferred to go into the office than work from home I think it’s partly because I like to keep those two aspects of my life separate, there’s no proper workspace at home (no standup desk or ergonomic chair), and partly, my commute is fairly short and I enjoy that (I don’t have to contend with hours on a crowded train and traffic).

When the world began to grapple with Covid-19 (Coronavirus) and everyone who could, was told to WFH and #StayHome and self isolation began trending, well, I, like many people, I became a WFH rookie. I had no choice but to figure out this new normal and to come to terms with the fact that this would likely go on for several months.

I wasn’t sure how well I do on the coping scale, 10 being awesome, one being image needs medication. What with my previous struggle with burnout and anxiety, and dealing with the winter blues well, I was thinking maybe I’d end up scoring a four (extra points for resilience).

Woman sitting on a bed working on a laptop

The first few days were a bit disorienting, it felt like every day could have been Monday…or Saturday. But now 25 days in, I’ve got a much better handle on this WFH thing and can share with you guys a few things that made the transition from office to home, less uncomfortable.

Firstly, being an introvert definitely came in handy! The quiet and so much time without people hasn’t been much an adjustment (I do miss social interactions and my morning chats with the baristas such a normal way to start my day). I get this point clearly isn’t helpful if you’re more extroverted but keep reading, I’ll share more practical WFH strategies.

It’s also finally spring and the sun is out and the weather is warmer. Since I swear I suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), having this kind of weather and all this sunshine has been pretty awesome! My mood and attitude are better for it.

5 SIMPLE TIPS FOR WORKING FROM HOME

My introvert personality type and sunshine mood booster remedies asides, here are 5 practical tips that I’ve found helpful for adjusting to WFH if you’re new at it:

1. Stick to your morning routine – I try to stick to my mellow morning routine (with the major adjustment of not heading out to start my day, but staying in). I wake up at the same time each morning as if I were going in to the office, do a 10- minute meditation, and then 20-minute yoga using a free fitness app (mostly stretches for my lower back because sitting all day hurts), then shower and get dressed (in comfy clothes) and finally have breakfast before I log-on and start my workday. I treat it like any other workday and this routine helps me find and keep my daily rhythm.

2. Designate a specific area to work – I spent one day working from my sofa and realized that was a horrible idea (avoid working on your bed, unless you’re doing a photoshoot for Instagram, it’s really not practical).

I have a plain $30 Ikea desk at home that was being used as a dumping ground for magazines and papers but now serves as designated workspace with a chair from my dining table.

3. Take a real lunch ‘break’ – This is very important. It’s the perfect time to cultivate a new habit if you’re the type to work through lunch. Please step away from your workstation and take regular breaks. Eat lunch away from your desk, go for a 15-minute walk (social distancing of course) and feel the sun on your face, and simply enjoy the break to the fullest. It’s good for your health.

4. Move your body- I have chronic lower back issues and I don’t have an ergonomic set up at home so it’s important for me to avoid sitting for hours on end. Even without the chronic pain, it’s still important to stay active. Get a workout in, where you can. Think you don’t have time? Apparently, there are 7-minute workout that can get you sweating, your heart rate up and feeling good in no time.

5. Stay connected – Keep in touch with the coworkers and have a virtual coffee break, a laugh and enjoy that time of staying connected and virtual social interaction.

Numbered List of five tips for working from home set against a pink background

Theses simple and practical steps have helped me to have a smoother transition to WFH than I expected.

I know I said I didn’t much care for WFH but I’m so grateful for the ability to do so when so many people around the world don’t have that opportunity. I think having a sense of gratitude is the biggest impact on my mental wellness in a time of self-isolation.

Hope these tips have been helpful!

Cassandra

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My Experience with Fibroids & 7 Things I Learned as a Black Woman

photos of african-american woman sitting on bed with up of coffee. Caption reads, 7 Facts About Fibroids and Black Women

I decided to write this post because this topic has come up in conversation lately. It caused me to reflect on my own experience with uterine fibroids and wondered what, if anything was different about the experience about this particular health issue as a black woman.

Growing up, I vaguely recall other black women in my family, and in the community, sisters of friends, who had this thing called “fibroids” but that was it. It wasn’t discussed, no details were shared. I didn’t know what it really was and no one explained it to me. I just knew that some women had it and then you had to have surgery that would leave you unable to have children. This of course wasn’t exactly true, but that’s what I believed. Until I was diagnosed with fibroids in my mid-thirties.

What is Fibroids, anyway?

Aside from my struggle with migraines, I was pretty healthy and fibroids was never on my radar as something I needed to worry about.

So, what is fibroids? Fibroids are growth(s) in the uterus that are noncancerous, are different sizes, and often happens to women in their 30s – 40s. Fibroids affects about 80% of women before the age of 50. Alarming stats.

There isn’t a known cause but it’s likely linked to genetics, hormones (estrogen and progesterone) and pregnancy. I would later learn that family members also had this issue.

Are There Fibroids Symptoms?

I got annual check-ups and made sure I underwent the dreaded PAP tests (Argh). I was given the all clear in terms of my health. Then, one month I noticed that my period was messed up – flow was very heavy and lasting longer than usual. I knew something was wrong. I also had a bit of an enlarged abdomen but honestly thought it was just weight gain that happens with age.

Typically women don’t have any symptoms but if there are symptoms they really look like they can be related to anything or nothing. These include:  

  • heavy flow or last longer than a week or very painful.
  • pelvic pressure or pain
  • need to pee a lot more often or you have trouble peeing
  • lower back pain 
  • swelling of, or larger, abdomen

When I realized that my period was abnormal, I immediately went to see my family doctor who sent me to get an Transvaginal Ultrasound (I still shudder thinking about it and yes, it’s as invasive and uncomfortable as it sounds) and then to see a Gynecologist for another pelvic examination, another transvaginal ultrasound (double shudder) and finally a diagnosis. I had fibroids and needed to consider my options.

woman sitting on bed, with a cup of coffee, and looking at her mobile phone

What Really Scared Me About Fibroids

When I found out that I had fibroids, I was initially freaked out. I mistaking believed that my only option was to have a hysterectomy. I didn’t know if I was going to have children but I wanted that choice to be mine.

According to research, no what women with fibroids worry about? Women who are dealing with fibroids tend to worry about the same things that I was worried about, what negative affect this would have on our future health and our bodies – would it cause cancer? how would it impact our relationships with our partners?

Black women and Fibroids

photo of a black woman in a graphic tee shirt of a black woman with an afro. The text includes Fibroid and black women and lists seven factors.

What also surprised me to learn from doctor, and later reading some research on the topic, was that fibroids tends to happen more in black women.

I’ve since learned that there are also some differences where it comes to how black women experience fibroids.  

According to the Mayo Clinic and Journal of Women’s Health’s national survey, there are a number of facts that affect African-American women when it comes to fibroids than white women:

7 surprising facts about fibroids affecting black women:

  1. Are at a higher risk of having fibroids than women of other racial groups. 
  2. We have fibroids at a younger age 
  3. We tend to have larger fibroids
  4. We tend to have more severe symptoms
  5. We are more likely to report a fear of future fibroid growth
  6. We worried a lot more about fibroids impacting our ability to have a successful and healthy pregnancy
  7. It would lead to depression

Looking back, a lot of these facts make sense to me now. In fact, I didn’t realize how many of black women I knew had experienced fibroids until I spoke openly to family and friends about what I was going through.

I spoke with the doctor about my options. A hysterectomy is one option but not the only one. It’s always good to have options and to think about what is best for you given the circumstances and sound medical advice. But, this can only happen if you pay closer attention to your bodies and go get checked out in the first place.

Finding Gratitude and Raising Awareness

The crappy part of this experience for me was finding out that the fibroids might grow back at some point. This was disheartening news but also totally out of my control.

I’ve decided to focus on the positive. The fact that this was a common, treatable health issue and noncancerous. As a Canadian, I also have access to good health care to address the issue if it comes again. For that I am grateful.

I know that we all experience our health issues differently but given that this is a common occurrence among women, and particular for women of colour, you would think there would be more information made available to us, especially if black women are known to more likely wait for years before getting a diagnosis than their white counterparts.

There was an article I read recently that talked about cancer being a taboo subject in the black community (and the impact of lack of health data on Black Canadians) to the point where families don’t talk about it to the detriment of their relatives who later are diagnosed with cancer, not knowing there was a family history.

Although the research study mentioned in the article looked at breast cancer and cervical cancer among Black Canadian Women, I could relate to the taboo surrounding the issue and lack of available data on black women’s health. This is one of the reasons, I decided to write this post. I hope by openly talking about my fibroids experience and sharing the little I know is even a tiny bit helpful in raising awareness on the issue.

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How to Create an All-Star LinkedIn Profile in 5 Easy Steps

If you’re an entrepreneur, looking for a new job, a second career, wanting to become a recognized thought leader, but aren’t sure you’re profile is the best it can be, then read on!

I recently completed the Learning Linkedin online course through LinkedIn. Then used what I learned to help others update their LinkedIn profiles (even using my photography skills to take a few head shots!). I want to share some of what I’ve learned with you on what you need to do to have a complete and kickass profile.

Do you have an incomplete LinkedIn profile?

I hate to break it to you but quickly throwing up any old photo and doing the bare minimum in terms of completing your profile is not good enough.

If you want to have an amazing LinkedIn profile, first things first, take the time to complete it correctly.  If you’re going to put yourself out there, then it’s probably a good idea to make time to put a solid professional foot forward.  Make sure you’re the image and information you publish is how you want to be seen by others professionally.

(there are over 600 million registered members on LinkedIn btw, and a majority of recruiters use LinkedIn)

Just as important, LinkedIn operates as a search engine. The more complete your profile is, using relevant keywords and phrases targeted to your industry, the more you’ll increase your chances of being discovered by others.

Before we get started on some LinkedIn basics to get your profile looking profesh quickly, you’ll need to TURN OFF NOTIFICATIONS so that your connections won’t get updated on changes you make! Trust me, this can be pretty embarrassing.

Alright, now that you’ve done that, here are some simple steps you can take to get your profile looking polished and ready to get noticed.

STEP 1: All eyes will be on the top 1/3 of your profile.  Make sure this section is on point, so people want to learn more about you.

(a) Profile Photo: Make sure your headshot is a sharp, clear and professional-looking image. Notice I said “professional-looking” and not professional.

In my opinion, you don’t have to hire a professional photographer unless you want to (or use that as your excuse for using a photo that does not allow your beautiful personality to shine).

(b) Header: Change out that standard LinkedIn blue background header. You can use customize the header with your own image that aligns with your personal brand and will help your uniqueness shine.

Tip: You can use an app like Canva to find backgrounds that you can also customize to really get something that reflects your style and personal brand.

(c) Headline/ Tagline: You have 120 characters (each section has maximum word counts). Use the header to add relevant keywords or a tagline that tells the viewer something unique about you or the expertise you possess and not just your job title.

STEP 2: Take some time to write a kick-ass Summary

Complete the About section. The first two sentences should be attention-grabbing. You want to see the viewer on why they should want to keep reading. Here’s a summary of word counts for each section.

This section is a “Summary” so try to keep it concise.

The best part of the summary is that this offers the chance to use relevant keywords and phrases that prospective employers or recruiters are searching for.

What relevant keywords should you use? Look at the job postings for positions you are interested in, and you will be able to identify the appropriate keywords and skills that you should be highlighting. Keep in mind that you should highlight skills that you actually have and can prove examples of your work successes (accomplishment statements).

Another strategy for including additional keywords is to add a “Areas of Expertise” section following your summary. You can then list the relevant skills you possess that the prospective employer would be interested in.

STEP 3: Showcase some of the noteworthy accomplishments of your Work Experience.

Don’t just list your job title and move on. This section should line up with the information on your resume.

This provides yet another opportunity to provide searchable keywords and phrases while highlighting significant accomplishments or the relevant skills an employer would be interested in.

Include your previous work experience as far back as you think is sufficient.

STEP 4: Skills section

Be strategic in how you use this section. Make sure that if you are putting an “Areas of Expertise” in your Summary section then those skills should also be in this section.

STEP 5: Make sure you complete the other sections

To finish your profile, you’ll need to complete the rest of these sections. LinkedIn will reward you with an All-star status!

  • Education section
  • Languages
  • Volunteer work
  • Certifications, Training, courses or workshops that would be relevant to the type of role you are targeted
  • Add the Alumni page of your university
  • Follow companies you are interested in (you can follow up to 50 companies)

TIP: It’s important to keep your profile updated and make sure your resume and profile information remain consistent as you make changes.

If you’ve followed these steps, you should have a nicely completed profile that you can be proud of.

I hope you find this information on LinkedIn helpful to get you started on how to set up your profile so that you put your best professional foot forward.

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3 Things I’ve Learned from doing 10 Minutes of Daily Meditation

Woman sitting cross-legged on sofa with eyes closed in meditation

Finding Meditation to Deal with Burn-Out

Yoga and meditation, two practices that I thought were reserved for seniors, hipster moms and hippies. But then again, when I was in my 20s and 30s I thought 40 was really old. Ha! The joke’s on me.

Now, as a woman over 40, I don’t consider myself old and I wish I had been more open-minded of both these mind and body practices years ago.

Meditation, well, this came to me rather recently and out of a need to take of my mental health and wellness. I wanted to find a way to help me cope during my burn-out.

Flatlay of Selfcare magazine and candle

3 Things Meditation Has Taught Me

Lesson #1: Making “me” a priority doesn’t have to be complicated or time consuming

For 10 minutes every morning I sit and meditate (or try to meditate as it doesn’t come easy most days). I’ve been doing this for over 200 days straight at the time of writing this post – a personal record!

I used to wake up each morning thinking about all the things that needed to get done that day. I’d be so caught up in the swirl of thoughts and stress that I barely ever noticed when I showered or left the apartment. One minute I was just getting out of bed, next I was at my desk in the office. What happened in between was a blur.

With meditation I’ve made the decision to carve out that time to intentionally slow down. Time to sit, be still and seek to find some sense of calm, clarity, and focus.

This small mindfulness meditation practice has become my morning routine. It’s a self-care practice that I never thought I’d embrace let alone come to rely on as a way to start my day off in a much better way no matter how I’m feeling and particularly when I’m not feeling so great.

Because it’s only a 10 minute meditation practice the time commitment is minimal. It’s way easier than my attempts at committing to regular workouts at the gym (and I never have to worry about sweat ruining my blowout!)

Woman sitting on bed, legs crossed in meditation pose

Lesson #2: Meditation doesn’t have to cost a lot unless you want it

Meditation doesn’t have to be an expensive practice.

When I signed up to join a 5k Running clinic with a friend a few years ago, I went all out and bought new outfits! I’m talking a running jacket – water resistant and with a hood, running tights, new sports bras, pretty tank tops (bright colours were a must), socks and of course new running shoes – I ‘needed’ proper running shoes if I was gonna be a runner.

I convinced myself (didn’t need much convincing) that I needed all that stuff. I simply had to look like a runner even though I knew I hated distance running and had zero desire to enter a race once the clinic was over. My personal best would be to actually stick around long enough to finish the clinic! Yet there I was, looking cute in my running outfit, hating every minute of it, and suffering in silence because I had painful shin splints every single time my feet hit the pavement. Let me also mention the hot mess that was my hair from all that sweating! Black women, you know what I’m talking about. Cha-Ching, more money at the hair salon to deal with the aftermath.

Have you ever decided to sign up for a new activity and then gone all out and splurged in new gear – clothes, tech or even fancy smoothies and energy bars cuz that’s part of the experience? I can’t possibly be the only one who does that?!

Meditation can be no cost or low cost

In my head, this is what my ideal meditation might involve. Fancy candles, a really pretty cushion to sit on, all plush and soft to the touch, never mind that my hips would be screaming bloody murder if I even attempted to sit cross-legged for more than a minute (or long enough to take a photo!).

The thought of setting up a nice little meditation corner in my space sounds exciting, plus the photos in the magazine make it look super chic and very zen. Y’all this is really where my headspace would have been before learning my life lessons from meditation.

All style first and foremost and then the substance after.

Learning to meditate for me so far has cost very little. I took the free trial of two apps first and then decided on the subscription to the Headspace app which I’ve used regularly for well over a year and a half now. I could have probably watched some free YouTube videos as well but I really like Headspace.

With my 10 minute morning meditation routine, I don’t need any fancy props our outfits. It’s just me, myself and I, sitting on a chair in my pjs. I’m only required to bring an open mind, curiosity, patience and a real desire to learn from the practice of mediation.

This no-spend or minimal spend approach to my extracurricular activity was a first for me and I love that I don’t have to think about cool gadgets or stylish workout gear.

This isn’t to say that I won’t spend money on a meditation class in future. I do want to participate in a group learning environment and meet new people but I know I can plan to do the and set aside a budget for it and not fall prey to getting this season’s hot new print for yoga pants.

Lesson #3: Meditation is a Judgement-free zone and being kind to yourself is required

Meditation teaches us to have a non-judgemental attitude starting with how we relate to ourselves. Surprisingly, this has been one of the biggest and hardest lesson for me to learn so far.

With mediation I’m leaning to have more compassion for myself by being more aware of the negative self-talk that happens say, when my mind wanders during the mediation or if I have self-doubt about whether I’m doing it right, or if I’m simply not in the mood that day to meditate. It’s about being kind to myself, saying “it’s ok” if it’s not working out today. I can try again tomorrow. I’m trying and that’s a good thing.

Self-love and self-compassion sounds simple and a no-brainer but it doesn’t come easy for a lot of people, myself included. It’s a work in progress but it is one of my favourite lessons from the practice that I go back to regularly when things get hard.

Final Words

I’ve only provided three lessons here but I find with each daily meditation session I learn something new, even with sessions I repeat. I now appreciate why mediation is a life long journey and why it’s still remains such a powerful self-care practice that’s good for the mind, body and spirit.

Peace out!

P.s. I did finish the 5km running clinic and exceeded my personal best by running in the pouring rain during one class …I will never do that again.

Posted in Health and Wellness, lifestyle, selfcare | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Where We Ate in Montreal (Plus Montreal Restaurant Recommendations)

 Eating Out on a Montreal Weekend Getaway 

You’ll probably not get any argument that Montreal’s food scene is amazing and that it really is a foodie’s paradise. Italian, French and Mexican, Pub grub and cafe style! There are great restaurants aplenty in the city and if you failed to make a proper plan like we did on our recent weekend getaway to Montreal, you’ll not be at a loss for find a place to have a good meal.

In case you want some ideas of where to eat, I’m sharing the Montreal restaurants where we ate along with a list of suggestions of where to eat that was shared with us by a friend.

Where We Ate:

On a recent weekend getaway to Montreal, Quebec we didn’t do much planning, the food choices were rather random and based on proximity to where we were at the time. I must say I wasn’t disappointed. But before I get into that, I want to share a couple of tips with you:

Tip 1: Make reservations if you can, even if there are only two of you. I was surprised to see how busy many restaurants were in Old Montreal (the patios for packed)

Tip 2: If there’s only two of you, try to be flexible in where you are seated – at the bar or by some bar stools by window might be available and you may get seated even if you didn’t have a reservation- this happened to us twice and we were seated right away.

Le Warehouse (pub food chain in downtown Montreal)

Wall Art is a rabbit in a suit at Warehouse Restaurant in Montreal

We chose the Warehouse because it was a short walk from the Montreal Museum of Fine Art, our first stop of the morning and was one the only places along a row of restaurants and pubs that was open at the time we were looking to grab a quick bite.

Maison Christian Faure

For the French pastry / any kind of pastry lover in you! We stopped by Maison Christian Faure for some afternoon tea while we were walking around Old Montreal. It’s a chic little cafe with desserts that will make your eyes a big as saucers and may cause you to drool. Talk about a sugar rush! Also, it was just all very pretty to look at.

They also serve lunch as well and from what I spied on the tables beside me, the lunchtime dishes looked as yummy as the desserts.

Inside pastries

We had pastries from the selection on the pastry tray and tea from a variety of teas. Sorry, I cannot recall the names of what we had but seriously, does it matter? Look at the selection! 

We did have to wait for about 10-15 minutes for a seat. It was around the afternoon rush hour so seating was limited and the place was busy. 

The service was efficient and friendly. They also had a takeaway counter – I noticed people coming in to get macaroons and cakes to-go.

Pizzeria Mangiafoco – Mozzarella Bar

(Located in Old Montreal)  Great vibe and fast service. There was a live DJ but the music was just right (not too loud), the place was busy and pizza really good.

Escondite

Tasty Mexican food in a lively atmosphere (also has a small side-walk patio). We arrived at 6:30 pm on a Sunday and without reservations. We were met with a small lineup and the place was already fully booked…almost. We lucked out and since we were a party of 2, they checked and found one table available for 1.5 hour so we jumped on it! We weren’t planning on a late night so it was perfect.

The service was excellent and fast. The food – we opted for tapas – was great! The vibe was lively and casual atmosphere, great spot to have drinks with a small group of friends (with reservations made well ahead of time). 

Olive + Gourmando 

For the brunch lovers out there and the pastries! We enjoyed breakfast very much and regretted not getting a brioche or croissant to go.

Tip for getting a seat at Olive + Gourmando:  The restaurant is not that big and it looks like they also provide to-go service as well so the small entrance way can be lined up with people.

We arrived for breakfast super early on a Sunday morning (they open at 8). We were glad we got there at 8:30 because it quickly started filling by 9:00 and people were still coming. I was told the brioche comes out at 9:30 or so – if you wanted brioche for breakfast you’ll have to wait.

BONUS: MONTREAL RESTAURANT RECOMMENDATIONS

I know, I know, I’m awesome! Here is an additional list of restaurants in Montreal that was recommended to us for our recent trip. Ok, so I cannot take any credit for the actual list. We also didn’t get a chance to check out the restaurants on the list either.

I’m sharing the list of restaurants in Montreal because I have the list and it’d be shame not to share it with you guys and also I wish I had access to the list like this whenever I travel – recommendations from friends of friends who’ve actually eaten at some of these places. It would be a nice starting point for my own research. I hope you find this useful as well.

Brunch | Lunch

O’Thym

Crew Collective & Cafe

Olive + Gourmando

Dinner

Garde Manger

Bocata – Restaurant and Wine Bar

Au Pied de Cochon

Patios | Terraces

Montreal Poutine

Pub BreWskey

Terrasse Sur L’Auberge

Again, I’d suggest you call head and make reservations if possible, especially if you are a party of more than one and it’s a popular spot. Alternatively, go early or prepare to wait. In any event, I’m sure you’ll find great food to enjoy as much as we did.

Bon appétit!

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6 Things You Can Do On Your First Montreal Weekend Getaway

Woman standing in front of a giant Ferris Wheel in Old Port Montreal
Old Port, Montreal

Taking A 2 Day City Break in Montreal

It was Victoria Day long weekend for us. It signals that Summer is Coming! It’s a time when families are headed to the cottage, others take the kids to Canada’s Wonderland, and if the weather is decent we all expect sunshine and some serious fireworks to celebrate the holiday.

This year we took advantage of the 3-day weekend went to do a city break in Montreal, Quebec (in Quebec it is National Patriotes Day on May 20th).

There was rain in the forecast for the weekend and we had our fingers crossed they got it wrong! Whether rain or sunshine a few days in Montreal provides opportunities to have a great time. It’s Montreal after all. It’s a great city, lots of art, culture, interesting architecture, shopping and great food (ahhh, the pastries!).

Keeping Montreal Weekend Trip Planning Simple

This was not really a planned trip. It was planned in that we bought tickets a couple weeks before we left and only because we decided to see the Thierry Mugler exhibit at The Montreal Museum of Fine Art (Musée des Beaux-Artes).

We weren’t too committed to ‘doing’ much and content with taking a slow, relaxed unplanned approach to the two days we had in the city.

I checked out a few sites for tips and put together a simple itinerary that included more museums because of the weather. We also asked friends for a list of recommendations for places to eat and decided not to make this a ‘shopping’ trip – we’d save that for another time.

We also decided to stick to downtown Montreal and keep it simple. The last time we visited we checkout a few neighbourhoods and that was great but since this was a last minute trip and we weren’t interested in having a jam-packed exhausting time of it, we were keeping the planning simple.

Where We Stayed in Downtown Montreal

Interior lobby seating area of Hotel Bonaventure in Montreal
Hotel Bonaventure, Montreal

We decided to stay at the Hotel Bonaventure

  • It’s about 15-20 minutes drive from the airport (with no traffic),
  • It’s downtown across from the Via Rail train station (if you’re taking the train into the city)
  • Close to a number of metro stations
  • Greenery and pond with ducks
  • Heated outdoor swimming pool

There was a lot of places to sit in the stylish lobby, which was great because I sat out there for hours reading and people watching before dinner.

The hotel staff was friendly, check in was easy and the Concierge we met was so knowledgeable and friendly.

We would definitely stay there again.

6 Things to Do in Montreal in Two Days

#1 : Fashion, Art and History

Two large red heart statutes in front of the Museum of Fine Arts
Museum of Fine Arts, Montreal

We started the morning at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts to see the Thierry Mugler exhibit.

Tip: We got there around 10:00 am, well before the lineups. It’s was perfect as it gave us ample time to take in the exhibit with just a few other early birds and you can then spend some time explore the rest of the museum.

The exhibit was fantastic, btw. It was a large collection of his designs and images. We kept moving from room to room to room. I wasn’t expecting to see so many items on display and each room having a different theme and experience. I’d highly recommend it.

Image of one of Thierry Muglers designs
Thierry Mugler

#2. Do A Walking Tour

Since we did not have “must see” items on our list except for the Mugler exhibit, we opted to do a walking tour of Old Montreal to get some history, get a little more familiar with the area and basically kill a late afternoon with something to do before dinner.

We were lucky to get the last spots in the last tour of the day (thanks to the Concierge at the hotel – another reason why I like hotel stays). The tour was 1.5 hours well spent.

Interior of the Notre Dame Basilica- Montreal
<a href="http://&lt;!– wp:heading {"level":6} –> <h6></h6> <!– /wp:heading –> <!– wp:paragraph –> <p>https://www.basiliquenotredame.ca/fr/</p&gt; Notre Dame Basilica of Montreal

#3. Walking around Old Montreal and Old Port (Vieux-Port) on your own (Free)

Woman standing in front of Notre Dame Of Bonsecours Chapel

This is a tourist hotspot and restaurant hub. You can easily spend half a day there, taking a slow stroll on foot or in a horse drawn carriage if that’s your thing, check out some of the historical buildings, buy souvenirs, watch the artists and street performers at work or get ice cream or a drink on a patio at one of the many restaurants. There is something for everyone.

Marché Bonsecours (Free) – in addition to the attractive shiny dome and 100+ year heritage building, Bonsecours Market boasts a number of boutiques for shopping. I may or may not have purchased a watch (shhh!).

#4. Eat, Eat and Eat

Photo of breakfast dish

Montreal is not only known for it’s fashion but also it’s food. There are loads of restaurant options to choose from and at every price point. We saw some skipped the pricey joints and anything requiring we get dressed up (typically on vacay, I like to be out all day walking and exploring, so no wardrobe changes for me once I leave my hotel).

I’ll be sharing another post about where we ate in Montreal so be sure to check that out but here is the quick rundown of the not-so-fancy, but casual dining, and reasonably priced places where we ate:

  • Warehouse
  • Olive & Gourmando
  • Maison Christian Faure
  • Pizzeria Mangiafoco
  • Escondite

#5. Check out the Wax Museum

It was raining pretty hard so decided to check out a few museums. We discovered the Grevin Museum – Wax Museum of Montreal, a museum tucked away on the 5th of The Montreal Eaton Centre shopping mall which made it a little tricky to find. Also like most of Montreal at the time of writing this, parts of the Eaton Centre was being renovated.

This was a fun museum that was not busy so we didn’t have to worry about line-ups or buying tickets in advance. If you’re looking for things to do in Montreal when it’s raining, this isn’t a bad idea. It’s located inside of a mall so you can hang out with celebs and royalty at the museum and then do some shopping.

We also wanted to check out the Musée d’Art Contemporain de Montréal but it was closed until June 2019 so we’ll have to save that for our next visit.

#6. Old Montreal – Vieux-Montréal

We spent an afternoon in Old Montreal (Vieux-Montréal) walking around cobblestone streets and watching horse-drawn carriages with tourists pass by. We lucked out on the weather so this was an ideal way to spend time exploring this part of city at a leisurely pace.

There are lots of restaurants, patios, shops in Old Montreal. It’s also near Old Port (where you’ll also find the Ferris Wheel, zip-lining and other amusement park type attractions). You can easily spend the day here.

Horse and carriage rider in Old Montréal

It’s been 10 years since my last visit to Montreal. I was reminded of how much I love Montreal and should make it a regular summer travel destination, especially if I’m travelling solo or on a limited travel budget and larger scale travel isn’t doable (….or really if I want to do some shopping!).

For us forty-something women who want to travel solo, this is a great city to do so in that it’s walk-able and the metro (subway) system is easy to navigate – I suck at using maps so that’s important to me. I also like that’s just a cool city for art, food, culture and the pace is just right. I can’t wait to go back.

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