Archive for April, 2012

An Out of this World Experience in Toronto’s Cosmic Cab


When I called Beck Taxi this morning in hopes of securing a cab, I didn’t expect that I would’ve stepped foot into what would seem like a psychedelic dream. As soon as I opened the back door, I knew this would be a ride to remember.

The back seat area was decked out from top to bottom in a wide array of various action figures, toys, and figurines. Mini chandeliers hung from the ceiling, and a holder housed a variety of current magazines for my reading pleasure.

This was an interesting start of the day.

The cab driver’s name is Akber Batada, a middle-aged man who immigrated here from India years ago.  My fellow passengers and I were greeted happily, and were equally shocked at the interesting interior decoration of the taxi.

Akber offered us gum (we had our choice of flavours with about 6 packed rubber-banded together). He asked what type of music we’d like to listen to. I opted for some Michael Jackson. He popped a DVD in and we were able to see old school music videos on the two LCD screens that were facing the back seat (“Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough”, in case you’re wondering).

I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a cheerful and hospitable cab driver. Akber told us to feel free to take photos inside, explained his passion for the state of his cab, and how happy it makes him to see his passengers happy.

This really made me think about the state that some people are in during the day: frequently we’re stressed out, rushing, and in a foul mood… usually because of work. But it’s important to take some time out of the day and just smile, remembering the joy and simple pleasures in the little things in life.

It’s sheer coincidence that I called up a taxi and struck luck with the Cosmic Cab. Stressed out myself this morning, but by the time I left after the 15 minute cab ride I was totally relaxed, happy and eager to start my day.  Definitely brought a smile to my face.

Thank you, Akber and your Cosmic Cab!

Invisalign Progress – Consultation, Tray 1 and Tray 2


Invisalign Starter Kit

Just as I hinted in my previous post about my wisdom teeth removal, I will start to document my progress using Invisalign. I’ll try my best to do an update at the end of every tray, but some posts may be combined (like this one).

Initial Consultation
I decided to go with my current orthodontist based on great reviews online: he’s a premier provider of Invisalign and a member of the Invisalign Clinical Studies Group, so I’m thinking he knows his stuff when it comes to orthodontic work (plus his wife is my current dentist).

I got a lot of valuable information at the initial consultation, about the typical framing of smiles (I didn’t realize I showed so many bottom teeth when I did), and the personal concerns I had with my own. He told me that I would be a good candidate for Invisalign… on my upper teeth, but I would probably have to get braces for the bottom, since they would need to be moved downwards and back. In my head I was thinking that I really didn’t want to look like the students I taught, but I sucked it up and signed the forms and booked my first appointment for a mold.

Now my teeth are pretty much straight (with the exception of one of my canines), it’s just the gaps that have caused me to be so self-conscious about my smile over the years. The fact that they’re smaller than average, doesn’t help matters any.

Why decide on braces now after all these years? We’ll I finally got partial coverage from my day job. Still costing me an arm and a leg though (looks like that iMac I wanted to purchase is going to have to wait for this year).

Appointment 1
An early-morning appointment, I was looking forward to getting the orthodontic process started. The dental assistant gave me two types of impressions: upper and lower for the Invisalign and braces that I would need on each. It was kind of like putting silly putty in my mouth (not that I ate silly putty before). Initially I was only supposed to have a scan for the uppers, but the machine was getting serviced that morning. I was told to wait about 4 weeks til the Invisalign lab south of the border do their magic and my trays come in.

Tray 1
When I got the call that my trays were in I was so excited! I was on my way to a more beautiful smile. The dental assistant unzipped the Invisalign pouch and took out two aligners. Wait a minute? I thought I was going to get braces on the bottom? Looks like my orthodontist managed to work wonders and I got the upper and lowers I wanted (hopefully they’ll do the job well enough). She showed me how to put them in and pop them out, and told me all the tips I needed to keep in mind when using them:

  • They must be worn at least 22 hours of the day for them to be effective – You can take them out to eat, floss and brush.
  • Brush the aligners with cold water and a toothbrush to keep them clean – Using warm water might warp them eventually.
  • Use an alcohol-free, fluoride mouthwash – Because your teeth are constantly in the aligners, they aren’t exposed to your saliva which contains the minerals that your teeth need to stay strong. In order to prevent decalcification, a rinse with something like Crest Pro-Health Complete  twice a day will help against this.
  • Each aligner is worn for about 2 weeks – switch them out at night so that your teeth can get used to the pressure by morning.
  • No gum – They can be a pain to clean off the aligners.
  • Use the “chewies” – Little pieces of pliable plastic that you chew with your aligners in, in order to get your aligners fitting properly against your teeth for about 5 minutes a day.
  • No sugary or dark drinks with them in – Drinks like coffee or tea can cause staining, and sugar-filled drinks can lead to plaque/cavity formation if you don’t take care to brush/rinse afterwards.
  • I could eat with them in (again, just be sure to brush often)
  • I’d probably talk a bit funny (e.g. with a lisp) for the first few days, until I got used to talking with them in.

Now having been hungry throughout the day, I decided to go and buy a sandwich from Subway. Knowing that I could eat with my aligners, I tested the theory (because I didn’t want to starve, and at least keep them in until later on in the evening. It took me 10 minutes to try to chew a piece of lettuce. Felt like I was chewing with dentures sans Polident adhesive. So I think I’ll be removing them before eating from now on.

The trays go on and snap off easily enough. I didn’t experience any painful discomfort with them, like some patient reviews I’ve read about online (some had said they had to pop an Advil before bed). No pain for me, rather just a tiny bit of pressure/discomfort.

They are pretty invisible. When I wore them to work, no one noticed that I had them in, until I actually told them. 16 months and 34 trays to go…

Invisalign Tooth Movement

Tray 2
Switching to the second tray went well. Felt a difference in fit right away. Again, no real pain putting them in the first night, just that my teeth were getting used to the new fit. About a week into the second tray, I noticed a bit of discomfort in my right canine when I took my trays out to eat… I hope that means that it’s just moving into it’s new place!

I have become extra vigilant in my oral care… I think I’m brushing upwards of 3 times a day (making sure to floss and rinse as well!). I’m getting used to having them in for all those hours of the day. I actually notice more when they’re not in my mouth. Been noticing that without them in, my bite seems to be a bit different… which is a good thing, because it’s proves it’s working!

After seeing my case graphics of how my teeth would look after this Invisalign process, I almost shed a tear of joy, because I was amazed at how the computer and Orthodontists were able to plan out the movements, tray by tray. Obviously the actual results are going to vary, but as long as I get close enough to this, I’ll be satisfied.

Sweet, Sugary Goodness!


Pizazz Fruit Flavoured Slices

I’ve been trying to cut down on my sugar intake over the past year or so to get on the healthy train, but every time I see these tiny morsels in the grocery store, I’m tempted to pick up a package (and as you can tell, I obviously succumbed to the temptation).

This particular brand is called Pizazz. They are “fancy fruit flavoured slices”, that try to trick you into thinking that they contain real fruit by shaping each piece into a tiny orange slice. They even have a photo of real fruit on the bottom of the package! Plus a red and bold “Fat Free” notice is printed on the package (as if to make you feel not-so-guilty downing a whole package). It’s evil, I tell ya.

They taste like an easier-to-chew gummy bear who just rolled itself in honey and ran through a sugar cane field.

With 13 grams of sugar per 3 pieces, that’s over half of the recommended daily intake.

I need to practice my self-control. Fruit slices anyone?

I Made It To The Top! – CN Tower Stair Climb for WWF


Monique's Stair Climb Time of 22:02

This morning I completed my very first CN Tower stair climb challenge! That’s right: I climbed 1,776 steps and lived to tell about it.

My initial plan was to wake up at 5am, so that I could get to the Tower before the rush. Of course that didn’t happen. When I looked over at my alarm clock it was 6:30am (I need to really stop hitting the ‘off’ button when it starts buzzing). It’s a good thing registration for the event was from 6am – 10am, so I had enough time to eat some breakfast for once, because there was no way in Hades that I was walking up the CN Tower on an empty stomach. Had a bowl of oatmeal with strawberries and a glass of grapefruit juice. Took my vitamins, found my workout clothes and I was out the door.

When I got to the Atrium around 8:30 I was able to register, submit my pledges, and check my belongings (the climb is hands-free, no phone, camera, fanny-pack, water bottles, or iPods). They gave me a small, white card with my ID# on it so that my time can be tracked, and that (along with my coat check ticket) was the only thing in my hand as I went up.

Seemed like a lot of people slept in, because the place was pretty busy. There were people of all types there (even saw a pregnant woman with a picture of the earth painted on her belly). Once inside Skywalk I waited about 10-15 minutes, then our portion of the line was escorted around to the front of the CN Tower. There were several security check points: Had to spread ’em at the main entrance while I got scanned with metal detectors, the usual explosion detection system inside the Tower, and a few other volunteers just checking wristbands along the route. So far the organization by both WWF and the CN Tower has been pretty good.

Card in hand, I was directed to a side door on the mezzanine level, and my stair climb journey officially started. I got time-stamped (09:11:35)  and was off! I mentioned in my original post that I actually worked at the CN Tower in my youth for a couple of years. But this is the first time that I actually got to step foot inside the centre staircase. It’s what I expected, nothing to brag about. Just a bunch of metal steps (about 12 between landings) inside a shaft that wasn’t as claustrophobic as I thought. There was even some cute paintings on each landing done my elementary and high school students that spoke words of encouragement and the reason behind the fundraising climb.

Days leading up to the event I was trying to think about the best strategy that would benefit me on this climb. But I was swamped with work stuff this week that I didn’t really get to train as much as I wanted, plus I was going on a limited amount of sleep due to pulling an all-nighter the night before. So I remembered the children’s tale about the tortoise and the hare: Slow and steady wins the race.

I didn’t want to break any records and I was not going to wind up being one of those people getting carted off on a gurney because they overexerted themselves. Thank goodness there was a paramedic on every 12th landing, just in case. I took each single step at a time, and I think at the steady pace I was going it worked out to be a little over a second per 2 steps.

I’m thinking, this isn’t to bad! But by the time I got to the 20th level I was feeling a little burn in my thighs. But I kept my pace! I noticed a few people taking breathers on the landings by the time I got to the 30th level. Other climbers were breathing heavily by the time the 40th came around. But not me! I actually didn’t really break a sweat until the 60th floor. You don’t understand, this is unheard of for me. I don’t know if it was my technique or what, but I actually felt okay going up all those steps (and I usually stop for breath climbing up the stairs to the second floor at work). I’m proud of myself for keeping my pace… I didn’t even stop for any breaks!

I wanted to run the last 10 flights or so (there’s 144 floors in total), but I didn’t want to overexert myself and end up making my time even slower. So I just doubled up on the steps the last two flights to add to my great finish. Handed my time-card to the volunteer: 09:33:35! Just about 22 minutes. I knew I shouldn’t have kindly stepped out of that way for that aimless chick on level 83, it messed with my flow… could’ve clocked in at 21 minutes and change instead!

At that point I thought I was finished. Nope… just when you think you’re done, there’s actually about 10 more flights of stairs to climb to get to the Glass Floor level. But after those, I exited the doors and was greeted with encouraging cheers by WWF volunteers and spectators (That was a lot of fun… I felt like a celebrity).

I was given a bottle of Dasani water and had to swim through the large crowd in order to find the end of the line for the elevators down. The quote was an hour wait, at which point I was thinking that it probably would be a lot quicker to take the stairs back down. But the wait wasn’t that bad… got to chat with some tourists who mistakenly came to the Tower during the Climb and were hoping the wait time wouldn’t mess with their schedule, and a mother-daughter who amazingly did the climb even though they both have a fear of heights. I was on the elevator down just after 10am.

Trekking back to the Atrium, I collected my donation prize (whoo-hoo, movie tickets!), my official WWF T-Shirt which had my time of 22 minutes, 2 seconds on it, and collected my coat and headed home after a great morning. Of course I had to make a pit stop first for some well-deserved poutine (I was starving)!

If you have never did one of the bi-annual stair climbs at the CN Tower, I strongly encourage you to try at least once. For me it was an amazing experience, and I learned what my body can handle in terms of exercise.

Stair climb tips that worked for me:

  • Eat a decent breakfast – This is important before your climb, as you don’t want to end up passing out due to an empty stomach with all that exercise. Plus, your body needs the energy and nutrients.
  • Get there early – If you don’t want to to spend the entire morning in cues, then try to make it to registration before 7am.
  • Breath in through your nose and out through your mouth – Aside from the fact that it makes the breathing process more effective by supplying sufficient oxygen during exercise, do it if you’re worried about foreign pathogens being exuded from a concrete shaft full of sweaty stair climbers.
  • Dress for fitness success – A good pair of running shoes is a must (make sure they have good cushioning). Workout leggings/capris, shorts, T-Shirt, tank-top (and ladies, be sure to wear a sports bra), etc. Remember: deodorant is your friend.
  • Pace yourself – Don’t start off too fast, because it’s going to catch up with you by the end. Take your time: You’re only racing against yourself. Use that handrail if you need to. It will help pull you up while your legs do their work
  • Enjoy the day – Everyone there is aiming to make it to the top, whether it’s in 15 minutes or in 50, with your friends or by yourself. Be encouraging to others who might not be able to go all the way. And also appreciate the hundreds of WWF volunteers and staff that help pull off this wonderful charitable event.

The only think I regret about my first stair climb experience was not being able to capture myself on camera just before and after the event (I wanted to pose with the WWF panda mascot… haha), because I participated on my own, plus the hands-free rule kind of got in the way.

I would definitely climb those stairs again. I already recruited a couple of my friends to join in on the festivities for the United Way CN Tower Climb in October. Perhaps I’ll try to aim for a personal best and beat my time of 22 minutes.

A big thank you to all the people who sponsored me for the climb. I truly appreciate it. I managed to raise $254 in donations to help the World Wildlife Fund Canada. Online fundraising is still open until the end of May, so you can visit my page during that time and donate for a good environmental cause.

It’s one step at a time for the planet.

When Life Gives You Lemons: A Guide To Dealing With the Crap it Throws at You


I started the new year with a resolution to be a more positive person. But we all know how those resolutions go. The last month, much less, the last year has been pretty tough on me. Having to deal with various unpleasant circumstances such as coping with the loss of a loved one, dealing with work-related stress, struggling with finances, and fighting to refrain from becoming a permanently bitter spinster who has no luck with romance.

After hearing some less than stellar news today at work, I’m thinking, “This is what I get for all the blood (literally, I suffered several paper-cuts), sweat and tears I put in?”. But, surprisingly I was kind of “meh” about it, which did wonders for my blood pressure.

Each and every one of us goes through failures, setbacks and negative situations in life. Some on a greater scale than others. But in order to get through life, you have to try not to let these “lemons” get to you.

If things aren’t going your way, then try to do something positive about it. Because if anyone’s going to change something about your life, it’s going to be you.

Wow, I sound like Tony Robbins. Didn’t mean to sound so preachy there, but you get the point.

5 Things NOT to do When You’re Feeling Down

  1. Don’t engage in any high-risk or potentially reckless activities. So car surfing, bungee jumping, sky-diving without a parachute is out of the question, mainly because where does safety come into play when you’re down in the dumps about living your life?
  2. Don’t Take a stroll down Memory Lane by looking at old photos and reminiscing about how good life was/what might have been/how skinny you were/how hot your ex was. It’s only going to lead to trouble, because at times we can be our own worse enemies.
  3. Don’t drown your sorrows by raiding the liquor cabinet. Alcohol is just going to make all your issues seem a lot bigger and sadder than they really are, especially if you’re drinking all by your lonesome in the middle of the night. Self-medicating is never a good thing.
  4. Don’t sit on your couch eating an entire tub of triple-chocolate-fudge-N-brownie-cookie-dough ice cream while watching sappy movies. A lot of people tend to overeat when they’re upset. Having a food binge will probably make you even more upset than you are after you realize how much you ate. Besides, your stomach will hate you in the morning.
  5. Don’t post ambiguous status updates on Facebook, Twitter or other social media site as a cry for attention. You know what I’m talking about: those vague, over-the-top statement by Ms. Drama Queen like, “FML! How can someone be so heartless?!“, and then a bunch of concerned friends will post comments asking what happened and if they’re okay, but our poster would never exactly indicate what actually happened to her in order to be in that funk (will usually reply with something like “it’s personal, I don’t really want to talk about it”). Geez… what happened to the time when people used diaries to express their innermost thoughts and feelings?

Now you know what you shouldn’t be doing when you’re feeling down in the dumps. Here are some tips on what you should be doing in order to make yourself feel better

5 Things to do to Get Happy

  1. Learn to love yourself. When things are not going the way that you would like, it’s difficult not to find a way to blame yourself or thing that there’s something wrong with you. Go easy on yourself. People make mistakes, plain and simple (that’s how we learn from them). Things happen. That’s life.
  2. Talk to someone you trust. Be it a family member or friend (or if you’re spiritual, God or Baby Jesus), by letting your thoughts and feelings out and having a positive discussion, you’ll remember that people do care about you. Don’t want to talk about it? Then just enjoy spending time with that special someone.
  3. Embrace change. There are things in life that we can’t do anything about, and there’s things that we can. Accept what you can’t and move forward. This change could also stem to your environment: if you’re surrounded by piles of bills, papers and clutter, organizing it will help you breathe and relax.
  4. Take a breather. When you feel disappointed about something, take a step back from the situation and attempt to clear your mind about it. Do something you enjoy such as taking a jog in the park, painting on that old art easel that’s been collecting dust, or blasting some music and dancing like you’re an extra in a music video.
  5. Be good to your body. Get off that sofa and exercise, for goodness sake. Whether it’s in front of your Wii, or at the gym. The endorphins released though exercise help trigger a positive, happy feeling in the body. Sleep is another important aspect: Getting your required 7-8 hours per night, or at least take a nap during the day, can do wonders for your mood (who wants to talk to Cranky McCrankerson anyways?) Also remember to eat right. Healthy(ish) meals at even times throughout the day (say goodbye to those 2a.m. full course meals.)

Closing Thoughts
This is just a post to make you think about how you may be reacting to all those disappointments that may come your way. I’m not an expert psychologist or self-help guru, but hopefully these tips had some kind of effect on you if you’re struggling with all the lemons in your life.

Don’t let things get you down! If you’re at a low point then just think that thing can only go up from there. It’s a part of life, and why spend your life feeling sorry for yourself, when you can be happy that you’re alive and a lot better off then millions of other people on this earth.

So the next time life tosses you lemons, use them to start a lemonade stand. Then with the profits buy a military-grade bazooka, and then see if life makes that same mistake twice.