Try new things. Take a risk. Overcome a fear. Accomplish a task. Reading about other's big news in the daily paper, you think to yourself: If only I had the time. If you make the effort to make the time, to turn off the television and get out there, this year could be the year you do all the things you've always wanted to.
Forget huge easy-to-break New Year's resolutions and think about small steps toward a more well-rounded you. Some will take some planning, others will only take a few hours out of your day, but at the end of the year, when you look back at all you've accomplished, it will be worth it. Make a list of the things you would really like to do and promise yourself to get started on one task each week.
Here is a year's worth of suggestions to get you started:
1. Have your portrait painted. 2. Learn to ski. If you already know how, teach someone who doesn't. 3. Go on a drive in an area near you that you don't know well. Explore. Throw the map out the window. 4. Learn to say "I love you" in a foreign language. Practice on everyone. 5. Volunteer for an afternoon at a soup kitchen. 6. Take a guided tour of the town or city where you live. 7. Sleep under the stars. (Bonus points if the stars don't have to compete with street lights.) 8. Ask a senior citizen, either one you know, or someone you haven't met yet, to tell you about what it was like when they were young. 9. Jump into the ocean. 10. Go tobogganing. 11. Learn how to make a dinner you would be proud to serve, and then invite your friends or family over to enjoy it. 12. Make an emergency kit for your car. Include all the essentials: flares, bandages, chocolate. 13. Send Valentine's cards to all your friends. 14. Make a scrapbook of a memorable occasion -- a friend's wedding, your mother's surprise birthday party or just an evening out. 15. Tell a stranger to have a nice day. Page 1 of 3 -- Take time to re-read your favourite childhood book, or write a personal thank you note to your loved ones. Find 20 more great ideas for the new year on page 2
16. Take a sick day from work, lock yourself in the house and watch daytime television while giving yourself spa treatments. 17. Go fishing. 18. Make candles -- so easy -- and give them as gifts. 19. Re-read your favorite childhood book. (Bonus points for reading it aloud to a child.) 20. Write a thank-you letter to your mother. 21.Grow a garden -- flower, vegetable, whatever. If you live in an apartment, grow some herbs or even grass on the windowsill. 22. Adopt an endangered animal. 23. Learn how to create an online photo album so you can share your digital pictures with friends and family around the world. 24. Spend a whole day at the beach building an elaborate sand castle; moats and turrets are essential. 25. Grab a last-minute seat sale to a place you've always wanted to go. 26. Learn sign language. 27.Clean out your closet, donate everything you haven't worn in the past year to charity. 28. Take a teenager out for ice cream. Listen to his or her problems and take them as seriously as you would your own. 29.Keep a diary of all your thoughts and feelings. Write every time you feel like it. 30. Learn how to change a tire. 31. Throw a party and invite everyone you really want to be there. Don't worry about how they'll all mingle. 32. Donate blood. 33. Take a vacation from the world for a day. Turn your cellphone off. 34. Forgive someone. 35. Get over your fear of heights -- skydive or hang out on a balcony or roof-top, whatever you need to overcome your fear. Page 2 of 3 -- With the help of family and friends, get involved in a local charity or fundraiser. Find more great ideas to make this year your best ever on page 3
36. Buy a piece from a struggling artist. It could be worth a lot someday. 37. Have your friends over to play board games. 38. Become a mentor to someone younger than you. 39. Go bowling. 40.Fundraise for a local charity. 41. Become more informed about your local political parties. 42. Vote. 43. Look up a childhood friend and find out what she's doing now. 44. Shovel the walkway of an elderly neighbour. 45. Take a scuba-diving course. 46. Get over your fear of public speaking. If you have something to say, say it. 47. Put down the book you are supposed to be reading and pick up the one you want to be reading. 48. Apologize if you behave badly. 49. Get reacquainted with a family member you haven't seen in a while. 50. Get an online service to remind you of birthdays and always send a card. 51. Take an art class. 52. Make a list of everything that you've done and take yourself out to dinner to celebrate your accomplishments.
These are just a few ideas to get you thinking about what you'd like to do in the new year. You may have to let go, give in, try harder -- but don't give up. It's your life, and it's your list, so make it as big and as daring as you want it to be. And have fun.
Historian Cheryl Foggo brings the stories of important African-Canadians to life with her books, films and plays
How much do Canadians know about our country’s black history? How many people would admit to knowing little about Viola Desmond before the campaign to choose a woman to appear on the new banknote? Most of us might say our knowledge stops at the Underground Railroad or Nova Scotia’s Black Loyalists. But this country is rich with stories of African-Canadian experiences on the east coast, west coast and everywhere between. While classrooms play catch-up in diversifying history curriculums, learning the names and stories of African-Canadian men and women is a conscious effort that should no longer be set aside.
Cheryl Foggo is a playwright, historian and author who’s committed to making the names and tales of African-Canadian settlers known. Based in Calgary, Foggo actively combs archives and documents recounting the lives of Alberta’s black settlers. One of her projects is a documentary film about the legendary black cowboy John Ware, who was considered a hero in Alberta’s ranching frontier.
We spoke with Foggo about her latest projects, Alberta’s lesser-known African-Canadians and why celebrating Canada’s black history is important not just in February, but year-round.
When did you first become interested in Canada’s black history?
From a young age I was interested in the stories I heard my mother’s family tell when we visited my grandparent’s home in Winnipeg. Although I wouldn’t have defined it as history at that time—it was just my Mom and her siblings and their parents talking about their lives—I found these stories interesting. As I got older, I gradually became aware of a disconnect between the history I was learning in school and what I was hearing from my family. I began to wonder why our stories were absent from the historical record.
Why do you think Canadians don’t know much about our country’s black history?
I think it’s up to Canadians to ask ourselves this question. Even what Canadians do know about the Black Loyalists and the Underground Railroad is limited to a “happy ending” narrative and skewed away from the realities of the struggles black Canadians faced historically.
Western Canada’s black history isn’t widely known or taught. Share the story of one lesser-known African-Canadian and her contribution?
It’s tough to choose, but I’ll pick a woman from Alberta. Violet King, the first black female lawyer in Canada. She was a trailblazer throughout her life and an accomplished classical pianist. She was also the only woman in her graduating class from the faculty of law at the University of Alberta in 1953, the same class as former Alberta Premier Peter Lougheed.
King went on to work for Citizenship and Immigration Canada before becoming the first woman named to a senior management position with the American National YMCA. She also happened to be among the best friends of my mother, Pauline, and her twin sister, Pearl, and a bridesmaid for both.
In your opinion why is knowing more about Canada’s diverse history so important?
A history that is incomplete is damaging. A history that is purposely incomplete is sinister. How can Canadians move into a sustainable future if we can’t acknowledge our past? And how can we acknowledge and reckon with our past if our canonical history is missing pages?
What are you currently working on?
I’m working on a documentary film about the legendary black cowboy John Ware and a collection of articles and essays that will anthologize my writings about Alberta’s black history.
Can you recommend some resources for Canadians who want to learn more about Canada’s black history?
There are many ways to gain more knowledge about this subject. Here are a few places to start:
> The Black Lives Canada Syllabus
Conquer your closet with clever tips that will allow you to add to your shoe collection without losing your mind.
1. Sliding drawers
Multiple open-face pull-out drawers help compartmentalize items based on season and style, making it easier to keep folded items in check without them spilling over.
2. Custom order
Install an adjustable closet system that allows for modifications (hanging height, shelving and drawer space) and includes a shoe system.
3. Group therapy
To give your closet an orderly appearance, use one style of hangers. Also, group clothing by category, like colour or style.
4. Reach for the top
Rotate wardrobe staples seasonally and designate top-shelf storage for rarely used or offseason pieces. Use up-to-the-ceiling shelves to maximize space and discourage boxes from pooling on the ground.
Want an in-demand job with a healthy future? Look no further than the skilled trades in Canada. "There is an incredible amount of opportunity in the trades industry in Canada right now," says Peter Harris, editor-in-chief of Workopolis, who reports on trends and changes in the Canadian job market.
"Trades workers need not be subject to the boom-and-bust cycles of provincial economies, because trades jobs are evergreen and also come with a great deal of freedom of mobility," he says. For example, in every city across the country, homeowners are always looking for reliable, affordable work on their homes: renovation, plumbing, electrical, roofing and more, says Harris.
Positions in the skilled trades offer another bonus: These roles are far more insulated from being sent offshore and to automation, says Harris. "[These are] the two biggest threats to many career paths," he says. Furthermore, Canada faces a shortage of one million tradespeople by 2020, as many people in that field will be retiring, he says. "The average age of welders is 57, and large numbers of trades workers across the board are also into their 50s."
Defining the "best" trade is highly subjective; it depends on where you live and what you consider most valuable: lots of demand, high pay, flexibility to set your own hours or whatever you feel is vital to a good job. That said, based on the job opportunities being posted online in the skilled trades, Harris says the most sought-after employees are in these five vocations.
1. Construction workers Whether it be working on new home construction, infrastructure (like roads) or commercial enterprises, construction workers are in high demand in Canada. Construction is considered a cornerstone of Canadian industry and it represents about seven percent of the Canadian workforce, according to the Canadian Construction Association. While positions may be plentiful, construction work is often seasonal and contract-based.
2. Vehicle repair In the past year, the number of job postings for the mechanic trades has spiked 94 percent over June 2013, says Harris. As anyone who has ever owned a car knows, auto mechanics tend to be perennially busy. According to Human Resources Skills Development Canada, this job is also called automotive service technician, helpful keywords if you're searching for post-secondary education programs, which tend to use this title instead of "car mechanics."
3. Maintenance worker Although maintenance work comprises a very broad array of specialties, these jobs are in high demand across the country, says Harris. Not just hands-on repair (although it can include these skills), maintenance work encompasses operations, planning and information management skills as well. These jobs are posted under a variety of names, such as maintenance technician, maintenance mechanic, maintenance specialist and, of course, maintenance worker.
4. Electricians Electricity is vital to life as we know it in Canada. Licensed electricians lay out, assemble, install, test, troubleshoot and repair electrical wiring, fixtures, control devices and related equipment in buildings and other structures, according to Human Resources and Skills Development Canada. Electricians are highly sought-after in commercial, industrial and residential spheres. There are many positions open with electrical contractors, maintenance companies and industries, and there are also ample self-employment opportunities.
5. Heavy machinery operators (such as a backhoe, bulldozer) Wherever there's a freshly paved road or newly built construction, a heavy machinery operator isn't far behind. Operators work backhoes, bulldozers, graders and other heavy-duty construction vehicles. Another term that describes this trade is heavy equipment operator, which is the terminology post-secondary schools and colleges use to designate program offerings. Like construction work, these roles can be plentiful across the nation, but also tend to be seasonal.
Read on for expert advice on maximizing your enjoyment, staying safe and feeling empowered at every age.
NOT FEELING IT? Many women mistake a low sex drive for a clinical case of sexual dysfunction— but chances are, the cause is more than medical.
You aren't exactly sure what's up, but even though you love your partner, you just haven't felt like sex lately. You duck his touch, opting to watch Netflix instead. Maybe it's been months, and you're starting to wonder: Is there something wrong?
You can carry on with binge-watching The Crown, because, for most women, there's nothing medically amiss between the sheets. And, if it's any comfort, you're not the only one who's concerned about the possibility of sexual dysfunction. Teesha Morgan, a Vancouver sex therapist, says it's the question patients ask most. But, "almost 100 percent of the time, what they're experiencing is normal," she says. "There are so many things that can affect sexual desire: if you have little kids; if you're on antidepressants; if you take the birth control pill; if you're perimenopausal, postmenopausal or going through menopause...."
Dr. Natalie Rosen, a clinical psychologist and sex therapist in Halifax, says true sexual dysfunction persists for at least six months and is "associated with significant distress for the individual or couple, as judged by a clinician." So, while it may seem as though all of your friends are in the same sexless boat, just 12 to 20 percent of women and 11 percent of men have sexual dysfunction.
But if it's not a medical problem, what's behind your lack of drive? As Morgan says, there are tons of reasons. However, one major cause might be a truism we were hoping to write off: In women, sex drive tends to dip over time. According to a study published in Psychological Medicine last year, which looked at sexual function (desire, satisfaction, ability to achieve orgasm) in more than 2,000 women, those in long-term relationships tended to see a drop in desire. But that doesn't mean you should buy into the clichés about women hating sex; instead, take the opportunity to be more realistic about your expectations—it's OK to have less sex! And take heart: The study also found that the long-partnered women had an easier time achieving orgasm.
So, if you want to have sex like a champion, don't be afraid to try new things: Get it on anywhere but the bedroom or use a sex toy—and make your personal preferences clear. Dr. Laurie Betito, a clinical psychologist in Montreal, suggests that you "liken having sex to going to the gym." Put it in your calendar if you have to! Because, just as with exercise, the more you go, the easier it will be to keep your commitment.
TECHNICAL DIFFICULTIES How your smartphone could be messing with your sex life.
No one can be present in the moment if they're waiting to jump on that next ping, so, for God's sake, put down your phone. Experts recommend charging your devices as far from the bedroom as possible. If you really can't let go, at least turn down the volume. And consider trying "mindful intimacy." The wellness buzzword can easily be applied to sexual health; mindfulness is about focusing on the present, and mindful intimacy means being aware of what you are experiencing while you're with your partner. The idea is that couples who practise it can overcome the barriers they've built up and feel more connected to each other and their own individual sexuality. So sign up for a meditation class or use a mindfulness app like Headspace. (Ironic, we know—but apps really are easy and accessible ways to try mindfulness!)
LIBIDO BOOSTERS A look at how the newest sexual aids stack up.
Elvie: Remember those squeezing exercises you had to do after giving birth? Pelvic-floor muscles can make all the difference between a meh or mighty sex life, which is why Kegels are a must. But how do you know they're working? This pelvic-floor exerciser monitors your motion in real time thanks to a Bluetooth-enabled smartphone app.
Aphrodisiac marijuana: California-based medical marijuana purveyor Paradigm Cannabis Group markets a strain of weed called Sexxpot that promises to boost mood and libido. Researchers haven't been able to definitively establish a link between weed and libido, but there's anecdotal evidence that some people do benefit from partaking before sex. Trial run?
"Viagara for her": Big Pharma has been trying for years tcome up with a love pill for women, with little success. The most recent, Addyi, hit shelves in the U.S. in 2015, with a resounding thunk. A prescription pill aimed at premenopausal women, it delivers an average of just one-half of an extra satisfying sexual event per month—at a cost of US$900!
BACK IN THE SADDLE When you've been ill, sex is often the last item on your to-do list—but that doesn't mean it can't move up a notch or two.
Let's be honest: Sex isn't top of mind after you've been sick. Even sneezing and coughing from a cold or flu can drag you down, so it's no wonder something more serious can affect your sex life. But a thriving connection after a medical condition is possible.
First, though, it's important to know it's OK if you're not exactly feeling frisky. "There's psychology related to illness and sexuality," says Dr. Christine Palmay, a family physician in Toronto. "Depression from an illness, sideeffects from medication and body-image concerns can all lead to a lack of interest in sex."
So don't feel pressured to immediately return to your pre-illness state of affairs. Maybe you've had a mastectomy—that can be a huge blow to your femininity. Or you've had a heart attack and are nervous that strenuous sexual activity will cause another one. You can still be intimate. Trade cuddling for intimate touching—get as naked as you both feel comfortable with, then engage in sex talk or remind each other of favourite moves. It will do more for your relationship than sitting side by side watching TV in parallel play.
And you don't have to worry about a subsequent heart attack after all. A study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology in 2015 says sex doesn't trigger a heart attack or increase your risk of a repeat. In fact, researchers found it's actually considered "moderate physical activity…and is comparable to climbing two staircases or taking a brisk walk." So putting a little hanky-panky back into your repertoire can't hurt—and it might even help your recovery.
It's also worth noting that lots of women struggle after illness. "Energy levels post chemotherapy tend not to improve for several years. In some cases, women never return to their previous level of functioning," says Dr. Palmay. "So be gentle and patient with yourself." And when you do eventually feel ready, "experiment, be adventurous," she says. "Maybe sex will play a different role in your new life, and that's OK."
YES MEANS YES Consent isn't just a concept that affects carefree young people. "It's still a consideration in relationships, whether of a casual, short- or longterm nature," says Mary-Jean Malyszka, a registered provisional psychologist and clinical sex therapist in Calgary. But it can be sticky to address. Here are some tips for striking up the conversation.
With your partner: Consent is an ongoing conversation. "If you would like to change the type or degree of sexual activity, check in by asking, 'Is this OK?' or 'How would you feel about…?' " says Malyszka. Or remind your partner to check in with you. And, if you're planning to try something new, consider choosing a code word or action that means "stop immediately," she advises.
With your teens: Explain what consent is, keeping it simple but clear: You are allowed to stop at any point if it doesn't feel right, even if the other person really wants to continue. "You don't need to go into a big explanation. It's all about what you want and don't want for your body, and your partner has to respect that," Malyszka says.
With your parents: This can be an awkward conversation, but, considering the possibility of cognitive decline, an important one. Explain the importance of informed affirmative consent, which means each partner understands exactly what is going to happen and is enthusiastic about trying it.
SAFETY FIRST Sexually transmitted infections are on the rise among older adults. Here's what you need to know.
Remember having "the talk" with your kids about sexually transmitted infections (STIs)? It's time to revisit that conversation— with yourself.
The Public Health Agency of Canada says the national rate of STI infection has been rising steadily since the late '90s, including among older adults. According to the Sexual Health at Midlife Study, a joint project by Trojan and the Sex Information and Education Council of Canada (SIECCAN), the rates of chlamydia, for instance, among Canadians aged 40 to 59 increased by 153 percent between 2003 and 2012.
Dr. Betito has noticed an increasing need to educate even elderly adults. "Seniors' residences are like college dorms. There's often one man for several women, and they don't use condoms because there's no risk of pregnancy," she says. Dr. Palmay has also seen more STIs in her perimenopausal, menopausal and postmenopausal patients. "My senior patients go to Myrtle Beach, have fun in the sun and come back with syphilis, and they're nonchalant about it," she says.
Postmenopausal women are actually more vulnerable to STIs—the lining of the vagina becomes drier with age, which makes it "more likely to tear and become irritated during sex," says Dr. Palmay. "These tears could lead to more susceptibility to STIs."
Blame lack of condom use for the increased health risk—of the 77 percent of respondents in the Trojan/SIECCAN study who had intercourse in their last sexual encounter, only about 28 percent of women said their partner used a condom (see What's Behind the Rise, below, for more info).
"Youth today are taught 'no glove, no love,' but older women didn't grow up with that concept," says Dr. Betito, adding that people who are widowed or recently divorced "don't know how to negotiate condom use with a new partner." She advises women to take charge by carrying condoms and telling their partners they expect safe sex.
WHAT'S BEHIND THE RISE? Experts say the increasing incidence of STIs among the 40- to 59-year-old cohort can be traced back to three things.
Hookup-specific apps such as Tinder and Bumble: People looking for casual hookups use these apps to find potential sex partners with the swipe of a screen—no sexual history required.
Birth control use over condom use: For the 40-year-olds, birth control may help prevent pregnancy, but the pill doesn't ward off STIs. Condoms are close to 100 percent effective (though you can still contract HPV and herpes through oral sex).
Screening confusion: Not all STIs are diagnosed through blood or urine tests, and not all STIs are part of standard screening. For example, herpes and HPV require their own tests.
RUBBER CHECK If you thought we'd reached the apex of what a condom could be, think again. This is what rubbers could look like in the near future.
The number-one protector against STIs, HIV and, yes, babies, the latex condom has held steady for years. But once you've got thinner condoms, flavoured condoms and condoms bearing Sailor Moon designs, where do you go? To science, that's where. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is backing projects searching for a biodegradable condom that works just as well as the traditional sort, and a model that can also act as a drug-delivery system forSTI prevention. And, if those two aren't enough, behold the Rapidom. It's an applicator that will help a guy get the rubber out of the package and onto his penis in one swift move. Handy (and more likely to prevent user error)!