Technical Difficulties

For some unknown reason Blog.com is having technical difficulties with my website and therefore, I cannot post anything. It’s been a long time, so needless to say, I’m looking into other options. I can’t really say, that I’ll be able to keep you posted, because I probably can’t!

Frustrated beyond a million migraines!

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Regarding My Disappearing Act

So, I must apologize for the disappearing act I have pulled for the past few months… I’ve been in the witness protection program… living underground and posing as various everyday people, such as a Cook, Maid, Super-Busy Hockey Mom, Gym Rat, Taxi Driver, Fashion Designer, Mover, Book Reader, Movie Watcher, Ultimate Procrastinator and Civil Engineering Designer (which is the only job I actually get paid to do). Aaaahhhhh, I was feeling a little exhausted and overwhelmed with everything. I fell into a hole full of burning debris and have now climbed out smelling a little smoky, but kind of refreshed.

My problem: Time Management.

Yep, I suck at dividing up my time properly. If only I didn’t have to sleep.

Time Management skills would help me with all the things I want to tackle before I die. I know, it sounds kind of morbid, thinking about when you’re going to die… almost like a bucket list, but that’s not what it is. I sometimes like to take a few minutes to think about my life overall. I know it’s not earth-shattering news, but eventually, I’m going to die… don’t be so shocked… YOU are going to die too. After talking to numerous doctors over the past few months, they have scared me enough to start getting prepared for such a thing to happen earlier than I originally expected. If that’s the case, I better stop living life from moment to moment and come up with a tich of a plan. Not a huge depressing plan, but a somewhat, be happy almost every moment kind of plan.

It starts with the question of, “Do I actually have time to write a personal blog?” Does anyone? You don’t get paid. It’s a task or a chore in which most people don’t appreciate.

In fact, most people find time to criticize you for talking about subjects like BOOKS (which, GASP, is not important to them) or SPORTS (which every lazy person in the universe hates) or KIDS (which they either don’t have any or if they do, they don’t really want them). It’s hard to please everyone. I mean, I could concentrate on only writing about writing… or only writing book reviews, but seriously, that would bore me to tears… and you too. Yes, I would have more followers who are only interested in the one subject I’m always talking about, but I wouldn’t get to write about cool things like:

  • Litter Bug Chasing
  • Pre-Meditated Shop-Lifting
  • Crazy People Magnet
  • National Pink Day
  • Inspirational Writing Marathons

So, I’ll tell you right now, I’m back to writing as often as possible, and you may not like what I have to say, but the best part about a blog, is that it is a tiny footprint of me, being left behind when I depart this wonderful life. I will leave you with this…

7 Awesome Tips for Time Management Happiness:

  1. Wear a watch. Monitor how much time you spend surfing the internet for songs, games, news articles and stupid cat pictures. Write down how much time you spend on Facebook reading about other people’s lives or how much time you spend watching soap operas or sports on television. I’m pretty sure you would be embarrassed to tell someone the amount of time you spend over the course of the day.
  2. For 1 hour a day, do something you LOVE!Write, read, cook, play in the garden, play Scrabble with the kids, go to the gym, hide in the attic and sleep… whatever it is, take time to do it.
  3. Limit Volunteer Time. It’s okay to say “NO”. I have a hard time with this one. I love to help people and I have a hard time shaking my head from side to side. Pick a few organizations that need your help and say no to the rest… for now. Then you can switch it up in a year’s time.
  4. Be Active. Whether you like it or not, being fit and active will lengthen your life. If you end up getting sick or need surgery, the best advice from the doctors “Get as physically well as possible. It shortens your recovery time and gives you a better percentage of survival.” Yes, it takes a long time to lose 10 pounds, but it is soooo worth it in the end.
  5. Be Anal and Make a Schedule. Seriously, you may not keep to your schedule all the time, but at least it is a start at trying to fit a little bit of everything into your day.
  6. Be positive. Mentally, spiritually, physically and emotionally… being positive instead of negative makes all the difference. More smiles will be given and received.
  7. Smell The Outdoors & Absorb the Sunshine. Enjoying ten minutes of fresh air has been proven to change your frown into a smile. Take the dog for a walk… if you don’t have one, borrow one. Take a bike ride. A jog. A walk. Crawl if you have to…crawl to the nearest lawn chair. Sit, listen to the birds singing and just BREATHE! It will make all the difference. I promise you.
Life is way too short… so, BE HAPPY!
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Heartbreaking Read

Still Alice

by Lisa Genova

Published by Simon & Schuster

I hated this book, but I loved this book.
I didn’t want to read this book, but I needed to read this book.
It was boring, nothing really happened, but so much changed in one year’s time. Unbelieveable.
It made me depressed and sick to my stomach, but sometimes, happy smiles emerged through the tears.

If you are a woman and over the age of 30, you should take time to read this book. There are no car chases, no explosions, no kidnapping, nothing exciting… just plain emotions flowing like a toddler’s tears when they lose sight of their mommy. Heart breaking.

This book was so scary and real for me, it will most likely haunt me for many years to come.

Lisa Genova did an excellent job of describing Alice and her journey. :)

About Lisa Genova:

Lisa Genova studied Neuroscience at Harvard University… just like fictitious Alice. ”Still Alice” was her debut novel and the winner of the 2008 Bronte Prize. It was also nominated for 2010 Indies Choice Debut Book of the Year by the American Booksellers Association, and winner of the 2011 Bexley Book of the Year Award. It was officially released on January 6, 2009, debuting at #5 on the New York Times Bestseller List. I believe it spent well over 40 weeks on this list and it has been translated into 25 languages. If you can believe it, this book was originally self-published, and Lisa spent a year selling her book out of the trunk of her car before it was bought at an auction by Simon & Schuster.

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Teeth is a bit Complicated

Teeth

by Hannah Moskowitz

Published by Simon Pulse (A division of Simon & Schuster)

Wow… this is a book that makes you think. It’s a book that makes you second-guess what is real and what is fantasy. It also points out many “what-if” questions… what if there was a cure for your sick little brother? What if you had to make hard choices about saving your family or saving someone else? Would you kill to protect the ones you love? Would you kill out of spite and revenge?

“Teeth” is definitely a heart-breaking novel about people dealing with their inner struggles of right and wrong, discovering their weakness and strengths, but most of all, it talks about the feeling of loneliness and the discovery of love.

Two of my favourite quotes from “Teeth”:

“Let’s be honest, Rudy, books are pornography for brains. All that subtext and bullshit and hidden imagery. This is real life. It isn’t like that. Isn’t that what you just said?” ~ by Diana.

She grins. Her cheeks are getting all flushed. She gets more turned on when we talk about books than when we kiss. I shouldn’t be okay with that. I’m beginning to think I’m using this girl as some kind of symbol and that’s really not okay with me. I wish I were a different person. I kiss her like that will fix me. ~ by Rudy.

This is one of those books that had me feeling both happy and sad as I turned the last few pages. I kept thinking about how all the problems were going to be solved with only a few pages left in the book. I was impressed by all the metaphors scattered throughout and I think I could spend hours trying to figure out what the author was trying to tell me. It is a very interesting read… BUT, only for the reader who has an open mind. If you are expecting a straight forward Young Adult Contemporary Romance, you are in for a great disappointment. This is more Contemporary Romance intertwined with Fantasy and Fairy Tale.

I will forever smile at the mention of “magic gay fish”. :)

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People Wish For Weird Things

Sometimes, if you wait long enough, your wish does come true!

Wishing for Presents

This Christmas, I received an awesome a present… something I had been waiting almost five or six years for. To some people, his won’t be a big deal, but to me, this is HUGE!

What was it?

It was a doctor I could call my own! My original doctor of almost twenty years, whom I loved like my own grandfather, disappeared one day with no notice. I had no idea what happened. I asked around town and people gave the raised eyebrow look and shrugged their shoulders. No one wanted to talk about it. So strange.

But, it’s okay, I no longer have to wait at home until I’m almost dying before I crawl into an Emergency Room at the hospital to see a doctor… nor, do I have to wait in the freezing negative temperatures outside of a walk-in clinic for 90 minutes (with smelly smokers) to see if I can get an appointment to see a doctor that day.

I finally found two doctors who have a practice in Southampton, Ontario who are now taking on new patients… which means if you need a family doctor and you live around the Owen Sound/Saugeen Shores area, then you better take down this information:

Doctor Chad Burkhart, MD, CCFP                             
60 Albert Street,
Southampton, Ontario N0H 2L0
Tel: 519-483-6000
                                                       
Doctor Diane Egles, MD, CCFP
60 Albert Street,                              
Southampton, Ontario N0H 2L0
Tel: 519-483-6000
 

The good news/bad news, depending on how you want to look at it, is that the doctor did find a problem and something that needed to be dealt with immediately. Basically, she scared the crap out of me. It turns out that I’m extremely anemic. It’s something that can be treated though, as long as I can remember to take medication at certain times of the day and not to take it with other medications that could throw my body completely out of whack. Sounds easy… but I’m kind of forgetful.

The really good news… the rest of my tests show, that I’m as healthy as a superhero with full power. My cholesterol and sugar levels are fantastic! I’m living in the body of a twenty-year-old (with a little extra inner tube sitting around my middle).

For the record: It’s really nice to know that you are not dying YET! I have plans… there are soooo many books I want to read and a few to finish writing before I drop into a hole in the ground and live with the worms.

Whew! Time for celebration cake! :)

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Our Memorable Moments of 2012

Year in Review @ CCC

2012 Memorable Moments in the Twining-Mezenberg household

Our family had quite a few memorable moments this year at CCC (Cotton Candy Corners)… so many, it’s hard to imagine this much is going on in our lives on a regular daily basis. Now, you can understand, why we don’t visit you very often. ;P

January

Hubby removing a chunk of deck, so we can fix drainage problem below and install a new patio door to the walk-out basement.

This particular moment is what they phrase as “on-going”. From January 2012 to December 2012, we have been renovating one thing or another. Depending on the weather, we can be found making noise inside and out. When you have an older fixer-upper house, there are no idle days… thank goodness, I’m married to Mike Holmes Junior! He is amazing with his hands… wink-wink. I’ll leave it at that. :)

February

The Chess Master enjoying his "Chess Award Cake" (made by Momma)

In February, Foxton, our baby became the “Ultimate Chess Master” earning two gold medals at the South-Western-Ontario Chess Championships: Top Senior Player & Top Senior Team, but “Shhhhhh” don’t tell anyone, he fears his friends will call him a geek instead of an athlete.

March

Lori Twining & Helen Jones ~ Red Rocket Teammates

March 4th – This was the last early Sunday morning hockey game! Sad, really. It was a FUN year overall… I made lots of new friends this year, who love to laugh ’til they wet themselves… but I quickly turned my thoughts to summer soccer, and more new friends that love to laugh & wet themselves! Do you see a pattern here? Yes, I’m becoming middle age or hitting old age, depending who you ask… and everyone I know, now wets themselves. Ha! The joy of getting old. :)

Cuba Trip 2012 ~ The Gang from Owen Sound

Due to the constant renovation going on at our house, we thought we needed a little “Rest Vacation”, so we headed to Cuba for a nice warm week full of sun and fun with our friends… left the kids at home though (sorry, kids).

Nika's Mission Trip to Hogar del Nino, Sans Salvador, El Salvador

Although, while we were in Cuba, our Nika decided to take her first International Mission Trip to El Salvador. They stayed two weeks helping out at an orphanage, painting, building things, hanging out with the kids. It was an amazing experience for everyone involved in the project.

April

Surprise Birthday present ~ Trip to see Lawrie & the boys!

Surprise Birthday present for me from Ed & the kids… trip to see my “Men in White” (aka The Toronto Blue Jays)

Road Trip to Michigan for last-minute Prom dress shopping.

Also in April, we drove five hours to do some major last-minute dress-shopping in Michigan, because we definitely couldn’t have the same Prom dress as anyone else in this town! Pfffft! I guess it was well worth the drive… awesome prices and a unique dress… oh, and CHEAP gas too!

May

Just some of the beautiful girls showing off their unique prom dresses at Cobble Beach Golf Course

Of course, one of the main event’s of 2012 was St. Mary’s High School Prom. Everyone looked AWESOME! I was “allowed” to attend the pre-party photograph session and take a million photographs. So much fun!

Ontario Writers' Conference 2012 (photo credit goes to OWC's web site)

The Ontario Writers’ Conference in Ajax was memorable for me and hundreds of other writers in 2012. So many great workshops, speakers and other writers to chat with. It was a great weekend to meet and greet other people with the same interests … I even met a couple of agents who were interested in my work… so, maybe 2013 will be my year?

June

Notre Dame Catholic School ~ Confirmation 2012

Foxton’s Confirmation at the St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Owen Sound. One of those rare events where my son actually smiled in every photograph I took. Seriously, I couldn’t believe it. He usually loves to give me a hard time about taking photos with his family and friends. I guess, it’s an embarrassment factor. He’s growing up so fast! :(

Notre Dame Catholic School - Graduation Class of 2012

Foxton, my baby, the Chess Master & Athlete graduated from Grade 8 and celebrated the moment of leaving elementary school behind him. Good-bye, Notre Dame… Hello, St. Mary’s! :)

Relay For Life ~ Owen Sound

Nika and her friends, plus her whole soccer team, raised money for Cancer at the Relay For Life event held at the new Regional Recreation Centre in Owen Sound.

My Ontario Scholar & her friends at Graduation

We added another Ontario Scholar to our family… Nika graduated from St. Mary’s High School with Honours and is now attending Sir Wilfred Laurier University in Waterloo.

July

Hospital twins with matching bracelets. (Nika mezenberg & Lori Twining)

July started out with many sleepovers at the Grey-Bruce Regional Health Centre… first I broke my foot in an agressive game of soccer and then the same day, Nika has an appendix attack, which led to an emergency appendectomy! Sleeping in a chair for a week, with a broken foot is not my idea of fun!

Writers gather for weekend at Muskoka Novel Marathon 2012

 My favourite time of year… Muskoka Novel Marathon time! 32 writers gathered together to raise money for Literacy. It’s my favourite fund-raising event of the year… “Writers Helping Readers”! If you have never heard of this event, and you are a writer, then please take a moment to do a “Google Search” on it… OR, creep my blog! I have written many posts regarding this event. Truly, I will say, it is an event that will change your life forever… if you’re a writer, you NEED to join us!

Joe Tomato's Soccer Team 2012

It’s tough playing soccer when your foot is in a cast… although, I’m wondering if my Joe Tomato’s team liked it better when I was on the bench, instead of being out on the field, scoring on our own goalie? Just a hunch.

August

Bridget Schrempf, Madison Arthur & Ona Mezenberg ~ Bayshore Half Marathon Race

We are very proud of our oldest daughter, Ona and two of her friends… Madison Arthur and Bridget Schrempf. They participated in Owen Sound’s Bayshore Half Marathon Race, with all proceeds going to The Owen Sound Regional Hospital to help purchase a new ultrasound machine! It was Ona’s first half-marathon race! She aced it!

The girls at The Labatt's Training Centre in Toronto

Bus Trip to Toronto to visit The Labatt’s Training Centre and a Blue Jays game with friends. The boys were too busy “training” to get their picture taken. Beer tastes great ~ must be all in the way it is poured? Great day to see Lawrie and the boys again! Love my Jays!

On August 8th, I reached my goal on GoodReads to read 52 books in 2012!

I reached my goal for the 2012 GoodReads Challenge early… on August 8th, I had my 52 books read and I continued to read more. I just signed up today for the 2013 Reading Challenge. If you love to read, join GoodReads for FREE!

Our family on the annual Booth Rock hike, overlooking Rock Lake in Algonquin Park

We managed to gather all three kids to enjoy another family camping vacation in Algonquin Park in August. It’s tough, now that two of them have jobs and are away at University and the third kid plays every sport known to man… but, once a year, we canoe, kayak, hike, swim, sing and sleep out with the bears and wolves. The smiles on the kids faces are priceless. Hopefully, they will eventually bring their kids here too… starting a whole new family tradition. :)

September

Baby #2 leaves home with HUGE smiles... no tears!

Baby #2 moves out of the house to go off to Sir Wilfred Laurier University in Waterloo. It was easy-peasy for us, now that we had already experienced that two years ago with our oldest daughter, Ona. Nika was ready to study party with lots of new friends and couldn’t wait for the amazing experience to begin!

Muskoka Novel Marathon Awards ~ 2012

Muskoka Novel Marathon Wrap-up Party… or better known as my Favourite Family reunion! Awards were handed out to some amazing writers. I was lucky enough to win the BIC Award and I had a Judges Honourable Mention for my manuscript “Pushing Skinny”. Happy, happy. We all had supper together and kept talking about the next time we would be together… ahhhhhh, it feels so good to be loved… and to hear about all the success in the group. :)

October

Owen Sound Bantam Champions - October 2012

Besides a huge Thanksgiving feast, our baby, Foxton and his hockey team won the Owen Sound Bantam Rep Hockey Tournament this year! Everyone played extremely well. Nice start to their hockey season.

November

Some of The Monday Morning Moustachios nearing the end of Movember

November brings MOVEMBER, which in turn brings facial hair to my Mo-Hubby for 30 days! I support him 100% in raising money for Prostate Cancer and Mental Health Awareness… but, I must say, I don’t like the itchy, scratchy, stubbly feeling of hugs and kisses. Yep, December 1st is usually a very happy day, full of “closeness”. :P

Lori Twining in the Owen Sound Santa Claus Parade (Photo credit: Anna Marie Henderson)

This year, I volunteered to be a clown in the Owen Sound Santa Claus Parade, which is supposed to bring happy smiles to all the children when I give them candy… I had no idea there were so many people that suffer from Coulrophobia (the fear of being near a clown). Sorry, now you know why I pelted you with candy… I didn’t want to get too close and scare you.

December

7 Ugly Christmas Sweaters in a row (made by Momma)

Rounded out my year by spending 47 days making 7 Ugly Christmas Sweaters for my family. As you may have heard me complaining about the holes in my fingertips… no worries, the pain was all worth it, when six people plastered smiles across their faces for days, not wanting to remove their sweaters. Next year, maybe, 7 pairs of ugly Christmas slippers?

So, that was our year in a blur… how was yours? Hopefully, it was fantastic too!

We wish you a Happy New Year and all the best in 2013!

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Christmas Pouting and Celebration

I’m sure you’ve heard the old saying, “When life hands you a bowl of lemons, you should make lemonade”?

That particular advice is tough to follow, when you would rather pick up the lemons and throw them (agressively) at someone’s head. Good thing anger only last for a few minutes hours days. Grin. No throwing was required though… I went back to figuring out how to make lemonade with all my sour lemons.

First lemon arrived when my ex-husband informed me that he was taking our three kids to Cuba for their entire Christmas Holidays with his girlfriend’s family, what was I going to say? No? Of course not!

Yes, I am their mother and I have 50% of the say when it comes down to it… and my husband and I would’ve loved to have spent our holidays with the kids, playing games around the Christmas tree, taking walks in the fresh fallen snow (a possible snowball fight or two) and sipping hot chocolate by the fireplace. Sigh. Catching up on missed conversations from the past four months (two are away at University) would have been wonderful, not to mention, enjoying a night or two without having to rush off and spend hours at the ice rink would’ve been fantastic… but no, they were going to Cuba with their father.

Ed and Lori Twining whooping it up at the Annual Christmas Tree Trimming Party ~ December 2012

I guess, I was a little jealous… okay, it was more like a-helluva-lot jealous. A trip to Cuba is definitely more than our usual small budget allowed for Christmas gifts… shit, one ticket is worth more than we spend in total for the whole Christmas season. We try to emphasize having fun together instead of oogling materialistic objects (that they do not need). Although, a free trip to Cuba is not materialistic; it’s more like a chance of a lifetime. How could I be selfish and say no? So instead, I embraced the idea and sulked (but not in front of anyone that could report back and make me look like a giant whining bitch of an ex-wife).

I’m used to juggling days during the holidays, so that everyone is happy about the arrangements. We usually split time between the two houses, so that each parent isn’t sulking behind the tree… alone, with no kids. Let’s face it, Christmas is all about the kids! There are so many considerations besides the mother and the father’s celebrations… like boyfriend/girlfriend’s family dinners, visiting grandparents (almost a 4-hour drive), visiting extended family celebrations, attending church, hockey games scheduled throughout the holidays, and of course, hanging out with their friends that they haven’t seen since September (or yesterday). Extremely stressful. I can’t believe I don’t drink and smoke my face off during these two weeks of cheeriness? Ha! For the people who don’t really know me well, this would be a sarcastic comment… I don’t usually partake in either one… although, maybe I’m just not stressed enough YET?

So, we scheduled our annual family Tree-Trimming Party for the Thursday before the kids left for Cuba (the first day I could get all the kids together for a meal at the same time). We invited the boyfriends and the grandparents. We rented the arena, so we could all enjoy some skating and showing off our hockey skills to one another. My youngest child tried showing me how to lift the puck off the ice during my slap-shot practice for 27 minutes ~ but no go. By a small fluke, I lifted it once into the top right-hand corner of the net… the rest were sliding across the surface where anyone (over the age of two) could’ve stopped them.

We ate before our trip to the rink and after… until our bellies were about to explode… then we ate some more! Nothing says “Merry Christmas” like rolling on the living room floor, rubbing your belly because you’ve inhaled 7 suppers in one sitting! It’s not like I twisted their arm, I just had all their favourite foods in one room at the same time… they couldn’t help themselves.

They each received one present that night (yes, even the two boyfriends)… something they had asked me for… something they were actually excited about… a present that I made with my own two hands. It only took me a month and a half to make 7 ugly Christmas sweaters. That’s right… SEVEN! My fingertips have more holes than a spaghetti strainer, but the good news… they all had HUGE smiles and put the ugly sweaters on immediately. They each thanked me at least twenty-seven times. You couldn’t wipe the smile off my face… forty-seven days of sewing turned out to be well worth it!

7 Ugly Christmas Sweaters made by Momma - Christmas 2012

We also scheduled a Pre-Christmas morning for early Saturday, December 22nd, before the hockey bus pulled out of Owen Sound for an away game in Elmira. It was a bit weird having Christmas morning come early, but everyone was happy. A few tiny gifts to acknowledge the season of giving and that’s it. We decided to try and teach the kids that the more money you spend, doesn’t equal how much you are loved… not that I’m taking anything away from their father’s amazing gift. In my opinion, a trip to Cuba is an amazing, jaw-dropping gift that you can’t say no to… hell, I asked if maybe he’d want to take me too? There was a very quick “No”! Grin. Can’t blame him… who wants their ex-wife tagging along on a beach vacation with your hot girlfriend and her family? I thought it was worth asking though. Grin. I’ve heard a day will come when Hell will indeed freeze over… you just never know when that will be.

So, in the end, everything turned out AWESOME! Here’s a fun picture with ten happy smiles from our crazy family to yours… HAPPY HOLIDAYS and all the best in 2013!

Happy Holidays from our crazy family to yours... all the best in 2013!

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Moustachios Take Over

It’s never too late to mention amazing efforts by random people to make this world a better place.

Last month, as everybody knows, was Movember… meaning moustaches were plentiful everywhere you went. My house was no exception to that. My husband decided to rise to the challenge of organizing a group of men to raise money for Movember. He asked his Monday Pick-up Hockey Team to help him do it. At least half of the men said yes, which was nice. The other half either used their wives as a sorry excuse as to why they couldn’t participate… or they had another lame excuse to cover the fact that they just weren’t hairy men and they could not grow a moustache even if someone paid them a million dollars to do so.

Apparently, picture taking is also something men aren’t into, but a couple of them volunteered to take one photo at hockey on the last Monday of the month.  Check it out:

A few boys from the Monday Hockey Moustachios participating in Movember. Left to right: Brad Gibbons, Ed Twining (my Mo-Hubby), John Carscadden and Andy Negus.

My Mo-Hubby also asked around his workplace, and gathered a few of the boys there, who decided to help raise more money for the Movember cause. Here are a few of the Gamsby and Mannerow men sporting their staches:

Gamsby and Mannerow Men participating in Movember. Left to Right: Al Bringleson, Ed Twining (my Mo-Hubby), Ian Eriksen and Jeff Lerch.

If you are not familiar with Movember, please let me point out a few statistics for you. These stats were taken from the Movember web site:

  • The funds raised in Canada support men’s health issues, specifically prostate cancer and male mental health initiatives.
  • The average life expectancy for men is 4 to 5 years less than women.
  • 1 in 4 Canadians are expected to die from cancer.
  • 1 in 7 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in their lifetime.
  • In 2012, 26,500 new cases of prostate cancer will be diagnosed in men and 4,000 will lose their battle.
  • 1 in 4 cancer patients experience clinical depression
  • Testicular cancer is the most common cancer in Canadian males between the ages of 15 and 29.
  • Tobacco is the single most preventable cause of cancer in Canada, responsible for over 37,000 death annually.
  • 1 in every 11 men will develop lung cancer.
  • Men get breast cancer too. About 200 new cases of breast cancer will be diagnosed among men and about 25% of these men will die from the disease.
  • More than 75,000 cases of non-melanoma skin cancer are diagnosed each year in Canada.
  • An estimated 6.6% of the population over the age of 20 has diabetes in Canada.
  • Approximately 6 million Canadian adults have high blood pressure, representing 19% of the adult population; 17% are unaware of their `health condition. Even 30 year olds can have high blood pressure!
  • 1 in 5 of Canadians will personally experience a mental illness each year
  • 4 times as many men commit suicide compared with women

The good news is that participating in the fund-raising efforts, not only raise money for the cause, but they raise awareness that men need to take care of their health. Here`s a few things you can do to keep healthy:

  • Have an annual physical
  • Stop smoking
  • Limit alcohol consumption
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Get active
  • Know your family health history
  • Get enough sleep
  • Maintain a healthy diet
  • Manage your stress level
  • Know your body & get checked out if something is not quite right with you
  • Keep a regular schedule & routine
  • Keep up with your immunizations: flu shots, tetanus shots, etc.

Let`s face it, men hate visits to the doctors… and let`s not even mention the possible hospital visits, so be aware, get healthy and stay active… you`ll live a healthier, happier and longer life!

Three cheers for my Mo-Hubby, Ed Twining and his efforts with Movember. Check out his progress here on his Movember page: Ed`s Movember Page .

Below, pictures from Day 1, Day 15 and Day 30. Cute little fellow, isn`t he? Grin.

     

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A Visit to Hell and Back: 17 Tips to Help with Email Hacking and Hijacking

You think I’m joking, well, I’m not. I believe my stress levels were at an all-time high this month. I had hoped to be participating in NaNoWriMo, which is National Novel Writing Month, meaning, I should’ve created a wonderful masterpiece in 30 days… but nope, that didn’t happen.

Why?

I was hacked… and not just a little bit hacked, I’m talking about a whole-lot-of-hacked!

Some of us spend quite a bit of time on our computers, and, of course, visit the internet three to one hundred thousand times a day… I admit I visit about five times a day on average. That’s not much, but it’s still enough time to have your world turn upside down in a matter of minutes.

Imagine this:

  • Someone invades your space… your personal space.
  • They hijack your primary and secondary email accounts.
  • They read your private messages.
  • They change your passwords.
  • They change your security questions.
  • They send out mass emails to all your friends, coworkers and important clients that you are trying to look professional with.
  • They say you are in trouble.
  • They say you need money.

This sounds like a bad joke, doesn’t it? But, here’s the thing… what happens when your friends and family think this is really you asking for help? They believe it! Especially, when the hijacker sends a follow up email to anyone who responded to the initial email, saying that “No, really, it’s Lori and I need your help. I wouldn’t normally ask you for help, but I’m in a freaking heap of trouble and I think they may have the ability to make me disappear.”

That message even sounded a bit like me… I almost believed it… almost. If I received that message from a friend or family member, I would definitely be calling or texting my friend to see what was going on. Thank goodness, most people did that. Usually hackers can’t spell. Not that I’m judging here, but they make grammatical errors, use wrong words (probably because English isn’t their first language), so you sometimes would know that it is SPAM. But, when there is only one error or maybe two, then you start wondering if it’s true. One of my friend’s, bless her little heart, had already gathered cash and was bringing it to me at our coffee meeting the next day. Obviously she didn’t read the entire letter that said I was stuck in the United Kingdom with no money… makes it kind of hard to meet at The Frog Ponds for coffee in Owen Sound the next day? Ha! (I can laugh now, but it sure wasn’t funny when it all was going down).

So, after spending two full weeks of trying to make sure the Hijacker was blocked out of my computer, I am recovering slowly. Truthfully, I am like a scared rabbit, trusting “NO ONE”! Funny thing (well, only funny to me, maybe) is that I haven’t felt this violated since people broke into our house and stole everything valuable that we owned. I’m still getting over that little situation, and it’s been five and a half years since that happened. My mind will never be the same. Believe me when I say, this is a very traumatic event that you do not wish on your worst enemy… not even your ex-husband (although, he may deserve it from time to time).

Here are 17 suggestions for you, to keep your computer safe… and this may not save you, but it will at least deter the BASTARD from attacking you and instead, will target someone else. If I can help even one or two to avoid this kind of situation, it will make me smile again. Oh, and I just want to point out that I’m not Grandma Walton who doesn’t have a clue
about computers. I’m pretty knowledgeable about internet security and the horrors of “clicking” on random videos… hell, I even purchased the expensive Premium version of Norton Antivirus and they still got me. If it could happen to me, it could happen to you!

Avoid getting hacked by doing these things:

  1. Different passwords: Make sure you are not using the same password for all your accounts. This is HUGE! Every single account you have should have a different user name and password. (i.e. If the hackers figure out one password for Facebook, they will try it with all your linked email accounts, banking information, etc.)
  2. Change passwords frequently: If you have had the same password since you were introduced to the internet, then it’s time to change it. Suggested time: 90 days. Always change passwords from a secure computer… if you have been hacked or hijacked, don’t use that computer to change the passwords. They may have installed something like “Keylogger” that records your every keystroke and therefore, there will be no point in changing your password, because they already have it!
  3. Secure passwords: Your password should not be as easy as ABC123. It should not have your name in it anywhere. Use a different variation of upper and lower case letters, include numbers and punctuation. Perfect Example: $28Giraffes12Eating99Gretzkys! Or don’t use words at all, mix it up: %yUg$45ffT (Harder to remember though. You have to admit Giraffes Eating Gretzkys is easier with random numbers and symbols thrown in is the way to go, so you don’t have to refer to your inner wrist where everything is wrote down). Never check off the “Remember Password” box for any reason!
  4. Passwords should be secrets: Never share your passwords with anyone, especially bank account passwords (or pin numbers too). You don’t know what they will do with the information, even if it’s your sister. Somehow, the password gets leaked and presto, you are posting status’s that didn’t come from you. Some people think they are funny by saying nasty things that appear they came from you. Basically, your reputation is at stake here. Don’t do it.
  5. Complex user names: Don’t keep the easy “admin” as your user name. Make it something that even your brother couldn’t guess. Many blogs are set up with “admin” as your password when you start, so that gives your hacker a 50% head start on hacking your blog… and then either deleting everything in sight or posting porn or letters from an African Princess who wants to give your readers her money, but she just needs your bank account information first… you get the picture.
  6. Contact list: This is a suggestion that I wish I would have done BEFORE I was hacked. Keep a list of your contact list somewhere other than your email account. Remember the old-fashioned address books people used when they wrote letters or sent Christmas cards? Get one of those and put people’s email addresses and contact info in there. Keep it up to date and store it on your book shelf in your office. When the hijacker took control over my email accounts, he deleted my entire contact list, and forwarded everything to a third party email address. I had no way of contacting or notifying any of my family, friends and clients. This was horrible. Who remembers email addresses? You don’t have to, because you just have to type the first letter of their name and it gives you everyone in your contact list with that letter, so why try and remember? (on a side note, this goes for your cell phone list too… occasionally, the Blackberry or Smart Phone decides to wipe your contact list out. It’s always good to keep a list somewhere of everyone’s phone numbers… again, I couldn’t even tell you my daughter’s cell number because it’s programmed in and I don’t have to remember).
  7. Clear your history: If you are a routine person and use the internet the same way every day, visiting the same web sites, etc. then they will send fake emails to your account that look exactly like your gmail or yahoo account with fake logos etc., trying to get you to click on their link, which activates all kinds of horror that we don’t have time to talk about right now.
  8. Update your Anti-Virus & Malware security software: Your computer should be like Fort Knox. You should be updating every time you turn your computer on in the morning and running a quick scan every couple of days, and a long scan every weekend. There are free ones, such as AVG and AVAST that work great as long as you update them often.
  9. Update your browser version: Make sure you have the latest Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome or Safari  versions. Don’t ignore the update request they give you.
  10. Facebook security: Are you using the right security options on Facebook? Log in to Facebook, go to Settings and check to see what URL you are using. Does it say “http://” or “https://”? If it doesn’t show an s after the p, then you’re not using a secure session. Always make sure you are using https:// and whenever you log into any other web sites make sure you type the “s” if you are logging in.
  11. Monitor your computer log in location: In Facebook or your Gmail account, you will see a little line of text that says “Last account activity”. This shows you where your account has been accessed from so if you suspect something is not right you should keep an eye on this and record unfamiliar IP addresses and locations. When I was hacked through Yahoo email, it last showed a log in from South Africa… so obviously, me not being a jet-setter, I knew my ass hadn’t left Owen Sound in weeks, so it wasn’t me that logged in from there.
  12. Password list storage: Never email yourself your password list. Never keep a word document on your computer of your password list. If you must write your passwords down, which I think is a good idea, keep it somewhere where only you know where it is. Nowadays, people have multiple accounts for everything, so there are many passwords needed… unless you are an elephant, you WILL forget. So write it down, just not somewhere that a hacker/hijacker can find it.
  13. Computer backup: Speaking from personal experience when it comes to this… always back-up your material somewhere else… on CD’s, Thumb-drives or external hard drive located away from your computer. When I say material, I mean all your pictures, your documents, your novels that you stressed over for the past ten years and everything else important to you! When our house was burglarized , they stole my two laptops with two years of pictures on it that I hadn’t backed up yet. Heart-breaking, really. My kids growing up lost two years of great pictures, because I was always procrastinating, going to do that next Sunday, when I had more time… and gone. If you emailed it to yourself as a file, too bad, because the hacker already wiped everything clean… you still have nothing!
  14. Make security questions tough to answer: The typical security questions like “What is your father’s middle name?” You should be answering with something off-the-wall, like “Horsehair”. You should not answer the question with the truth, but something you will remember… remembering is the key. If you do get hacked, and let’s hope that is never, then you will need this information to re-gain access to the account. Not that I want to scare you, but if they have access to your email already they will change the security questions to be questions and answers that only they will know and then you will be blocked from gaining access again.
  15. Don’t use FREE Public Wi-Fi: It is very easy for people to steal your Facebook and email passwords by using a simple Firefox plug-in. Unbelievable, that this is available to the average person, but it is. It probably is to help people who put passwords on some of their documents and then forget what they put for a password… so it’s like Password Recovery Software.  Google it, if you don’t believe me. To avoid this, just don’t use Free Public Wi-Fi anymore, specifically at busy locations such as, airports, malls and some cities, like Owen Sound provide it in their downtown core.
  16. Don’t click links in emails: The Royal Bank has informed me that they NEVER send emails with links, or any account numbers, etc., only notifications that your statement is ready. As a general rule, most banks and financial institutions would never send links either. Call if you are worried, which is what I did when I realized the hijackers had my emails and were blocking me out. So, don’t ever click on any links to verify your accounts. This includes Yahoo and Gmail verifications, or any other links… especially Facebook invitations or funny videos. Always delete them without clicking! Some emails are designed to get you to enter your password into a fake site. (i.e. the email     may look like it came from Yahoo! and ask you to log into the site and verify your password. In actuality, you enter your password into a site that only looks like Yahoo! Hackers now have your password. If you get a suspicious email like this, instead of clicking through to the link, enter the site directly into your address bar or hover over the email address that sent you the email if it looks suspicious, just delete it.)
  17. Research: Take the time to research the latest information on internet security. Check into the best secure browser versions. Look into your social networks like Facebook and Twitter and tweak your security settings. Follow blogs or newsfeeds that specifically are dedicated to security that will keep you up to date.

So, like I mentioned, this may not stop them, but at least you are more secure than you were five minutes ago. I may have missed something, because let’s face it there are many things to say about this topic. If I did miss something, please leave a comment and let me know about your experience or give me another suggestion to add to my list. I’d love to hear about your hacking stories, mainly, just so we can commiserate together. :)

Thanks for letting me vent about this. Being educated on computer security is a step in the right direction… especially if you are trying to avoid the PANIC MODE right before Christmas.

Posted in Computers, Networking, Random, Social Media | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Behind The Eyes of an Artist

Have you ever met a talented artist before?

Artist Spotlight Interview with Jo-Anne Page-Côté

Now’s your chance… visit the Richelieu-Vanier Community Centre in Ottawa tomorrow, Sunday, September 30, 2012 from 10am – 4pm. There will be over 60 local artists (painters, sculptors, photographers and authors) who will be showcasing and selling their work at Canvas in Colours – Arts in the Park. There will also be musicians performing throughout the heritage forest and you can also pick up some special sweet treats from the Sugar Shack!

To celebrate this wonderful event, I called upon one of the artists to interview and she graciously said yes! Please meet Jo-Anne Page-Côté, my first Artist Spotlight Interview.

Jo-Anne, first let me say thank you, for letting me ask you a few personal questions about your work. Art is a difficult subject matter to describe. Every person has a different opinion on what they think art should be. In my opinion, art is anything that captures the expression or emotion of someone’s inner heart… basically, they either like it or they don’t.

Lori Twining: So, Jo-Anne, what was it like for you growing up with a creative mind and a need to express yourself artistically?

Jo-Anne Page-Côté: Well, I suppose that while I was growing up I hadn’t realized I had an artistic mind. I do know that I would sometimes get lost in detail and contrast of colours, when looking at the world around me. I was in awe with any type of architecture, sculpture and painting. It was a place to escape to, that was peaceful and quiet.

LT: Did your parents encourage you to be an artist?

JPC: This is a hard question. I wouldn’t exactly say there was any encouragement per say, I would say, that it was not really discussed. Like any child that has drawn a picture or made something from mud or whatever medium was available at the time, I would run to my father and mother for approval and praise. I was never discouraged by them.

LT:When did you decide that you wanted to be an artist?

JPC: Does someone really decide to be an artist? I think the talent has always been there for me, but to actually try to make money from it, I guess, it was probably about 20 years ago. I would enter craft shows selling “Tole” painted works. That went well, so I opened my own shop and taught and sold “Tole and Decorative ” painting for about 10 yrs. During that time, I competed in the county fair for 3 years in a row coming out each year with lots of first prize ribbons and judges choice awards. After that, I sponsored for the prizes given at the fair instead because I didn’t think it very fair to be competing against people I had taught. I found pleasure in painting pieces of furniture, like an old saw, gas can lamps boxes, milk jugs, or anything someone would throw in the garbage. I take special pride in making a piece of art from something someone else threw away. Just before a Christmas show I participated in, a friend of mine asked if I wanted this old 1970′s electric fireplace. It looked like a big inverted V. I took it and refurbished it with some black Rust-Oleum and put some lovely gold Filigree along the sides and top. I thought it would give a nice atmosphere for my booth, never intending to sell it. Well, when I had an offer of $250.00, I just couldn’t resist!

My trip to Ireland really woke up the desire to capture the natural beauty. I can honestly say, I have been enchanted by everything I saw there and I felt compelled to capture it on canvas. I was in total awe about the history and the ruins that were left behind by earlier cultures, and they are truly a key to the motor of imagination.

I originally went to Ireland to meet my cousin Tony Hennessy in Newtown, Annestown, County Waterford. We had connected on a genealogy website called Curious Fox. Tony has been doing his family tree for many years and has actually taken over from his father’s work in it. After seeing my post on Curious Fox, he contacted me and affirmed my Grandmother, Anastatia Hurley was his great aunt. We corresponded for about 1 1/2 years and then I went to meet him and the rest of my cousins there. I also met cousins in Wexford and Sligo. I spent 2 weeks touring, which was certainly not enough time. I plan another trip in 2013, hopefully my first as an Irish Citizen. I am still in the process of getting my citizenship and hope to obtain it soon.

LT: How fascinating. What’s your earliest and favourite memory of painting?

JPC:My earliest memory of painting, I don’t remember how old I was, I’m thinking around 5 or 6 years old. My father was working in his workshop in our garage, when I found some fancy hinges and asked if I could have them. I found some model paints and painted the hinges to look, what I thought, looked like butterflies. My dad kept them for a very long time hanging in his workshop. Until you asked this question I hadn’t thought of it. I guess that was his way of complimenting me on my work. I remember the huge smile he gave me, that lit up his grey eyes as he hung them there.

Artist Jo-Anne Page-Côté at work in her studio.

LT: What was the worse piece of advice that you were given in terms of painting, submissions for contests or marketing your work?

JPC: I think the worst piece of advice I have been given was, “Just because you can copy something from a picture, doesn’t mean you’re an artist!”

LT: Wow, that is mean and spiteful, but probably very inspirational to keep going and prove them wrong. What was your best piece of advice?

JPC: The best piece of advice I was given was, “Great love and great achievements involve great risks”. It’s hard to get started when you paint your soul on a canvas and have to expose it to the world in order to be acknowledged as an artist. I have heard that if I paint at home and don’t show the world, it’s a hobby; but once I have exposed my work to the masses, it becomes art! Pfft!

LT: You are very brave. Being a writer, is very similar, in the way we open up our heart and wear it in words on a piece of paper or in a novel… it apparently gives people the right to challenge us and criticize what we say. We then have to put a shield around our heart, so we don’t fall apart with their hurtful comments. Sometimes people don’t hide their envy and jealous vibes very well. Did you ever have a moment that you thought you should give up on painting? If yes, what was it that made you change your mind and keep going?

JPC: I have had many moments when I want to give up on painting. I may walk away for a couple of days or a week, perhaps it’s because of something someone has said or because of disappointment in no sales or just lack of inspiration. But, my heart keeps telling me, “Selling paintings doesn’t make you an artist, it just gives you money to buy your supplies”, so I pick myself up out of my puddle of self-pity and get back at it.

Artist Jo-Anne Page-Côté at an Art Show in Eagle, Ontario

LT: Good for you. Do you have a favourite phrase that you live by, such as, “Life is too short, so live life to the fullest every day” or “Never give up on your dreams”?

JPC:  My favorite phrase is “Leap and the net shall appear!” and my next one that pretty well goes hand in hand with the first phrase is, “Don’t give up ten minutes before the miracle.”

LT: Oh, I love that second one. Hope is a very powerful tool. What do you do to prepare for a new painting?
 
JPC: Believe it or not, any time I’m about to start a new piece of art, I dream about it. I will have found the subject I want to paint and the night before I will dream exactly how I will construct it, brushstroke by brushstroke. Then, in the morning, when I prep my canvas I ask my higher power to guide my hand. I’m not a very religious person, but I am very spiritual, superstitious and sentimental.
 

LT: How long of a process is it to create a masterpiece from the first thought to the last brush stroke?

JPC: Depending on the subject of the painting and how much detail is involved it can take me anywhere from 3 to 40 hours to finish a piece. I have never painted anything that has taken me more than a week unless it was something I really didn’t want to paint in the first place.

LT: Do you paint directly from life or do you reach into your imagination for new subject matter?

JPC: I paint directly from life, but I also paint from imagination. My “Through a Child’s Eyes” collection, as well as the “other” paintings you find on my web site, are mostly from my imagination. I think there is actually only one there that isn’t. “You Can’t Catch Me” is a painting of my little cousin, Sadhbh (pronounced Sive) from County Sligo Ireland, It’s not for sale for that reason. You will find a couple of other paintings of people in “The Lure of Ireland” collection, like “Dingle Fair” that I didn’t take the original picture of, I obtained permission from the photographer before I used it. “Night at the Pub”, is one of my photos, that I sent my picture to the pub, asking if the band would have objections to my selling their face. They answered with, “As long as we can print it off and hang it in the pub the musicians say no problem!” Another painting in the series is “Repairs His Net”. That particular photo was taken with my “new” cell phone. Never having or needing a cell phone before I went to Ireland, I had to use trial and error for some of the apps. I went for an early morning stroll down the strand (as the beach and docks are called there) and came upon this fisherman fixing his net. I asked if he would mind if I took his picture, to which he agreed. Holding my phone up with the smaller window facing my eye, well you guessed it I have a lovely picture of my eye for future reference after I’m dead and very famous! With the obvious corrections made, I took another. I wonder if the smirk on his lips was because he was kind enough not to mention my stupidity. LOL

LT: That is funny. Where do you paint? Inside? Outside? On location?

JPC: For the most part, I paint in my studio at home. I received a portable easel for my birthday this year, so I can use it for travelling and outside work. I’m looking forward to painting on-site. There are some lovely spots around our area within walking distance. I will soon be doing a series of old tractors and barns as we have the International Plowing Match coming to our town in 2015.

Artist Jo-Anne Page-Côté

LT: Oh, how exciting. That will be great exposure for your work. I noticed that you have set some of your paintings in different cities around the world, Ireland, England, etc. How do you choose your destinations and why?

JPC: I think the destinations are just a by-product. First and foremost is that the subject has to have a distinct pulling of my soul. Then, if it is a picture or a place I have not been myself to take a photo, I try and contact the photographer to get permission to paint his photo.

LT: How long have you been painting and do you have a personal favourite piece that you can’t even think about selling?

JPC: I’ve been painting approximately 30 years. There have been many favorite paintings over the years, however, I don’t know if I’m that attached to any one piece. I do have an oil painting from my early years, that I probably would never sell, only because I gave it to my husband, André as a gift many years ago.

LT: Sounds very romantic. Are you involved in a creative networking circle? If so, how important do you feel it is to be part of a group like that?

JPC: I have joined Branch Out on Facebook for exposure and finding new connections. I’m a member of Ottawa Art Association, Canadian Artists, Council for the Arts in Ottawa, and Cornwall Focus Art Association. It’s very important to be involved in the artists community, because it helps to be recognised, and the networking and cooperation between artists is amazing. The art world is actually a very giving and sharing community in itself. Most artists are quick to help get you a deal or inform you of shows or even share their connections and tips on how to get certain effects.

LT: Do you have any art shows coming up soon, besides tomorrow?

JPC: I was invited by one of the County Councellors to help organize a showcase of the local artists sometime in early November of this year at one of our new community buildings. So, that will keep me out of trouble just contacting and inviting, we have a great number of fantastic artists in the area.

My next solo art show will be taking place from November 15th to December 15th at the North Stor Dun Lodge in Cornwall.

Of course, I visit various art shows across South-Western Ontario, but the one I am most excited about is that I have been unofficially invited to have a show in an art gallery in Waterford, Ireland next year. They are celebrating “The Gathering”, where they are asking all people with Irish heritage and those Irish citizens who now live in another part of the world to come back to Ireland and celebrate their “Irishness”. I’m awaiting the official invite for that one.

This piece named S No Surprise by Artist Jo-Anne Page-Côté hangs in my kitchen (its a picture of my deck during the first snow storm during Winter 2011

LT: Wow, I’d be excited too! Having an art show in Ireland would be fantastic! Where can someone see samples of your art in Ontario and contact you for more information?
 

JPC: My art can be found in several venues: visit my web site at www.myinspiredbrush.com, myinspiredbrush on Gallerish, Ottawa Little Theater in Ottawa, Brushstrokes Gallery in Carleton Place and locally at the Finch Pizzeria. If you would like to view some pieces that are not for sale, you can visit Lion’s Gate Estate Bed and Breakfast in Rodney, Ontario; St. Barnard’s Catholic Church in Finch, Ontario and at Finch Variety, Pronto in Finch.

LT: Well, thank you so much for your time, Jo-Anne and I wish you a wonderful sunny day full of many visitors to your booth for tomorrow’s festival. I also hope your visitors have handfuls of cash and they’re willing to part with it, so they can own a piece of your art. Not to brag, but I already own a piece of Jo-Anne’s art that hangs in my kitchen. I look at it every day. It’s beautiful. Thanks again and best wishes for a prosperous future.
 

JPC: Your very welcome. I appreciate you taking the time to interview me, it was fun! Hope to see some people out at Canvas in Colours – Arts in the Park tomorrow!

 

 

Posted in Community Involvement, Networking | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment