Why 54 days are better than 60.

54 days

55 days plus a 3-day weekend ago, I embarked on a bit of an extreme diet journey. Extreme from the perspective of most of us who have gotten used to relying on refined carbohydrates and artificial sweeteners and the convenience of processed and fast foods. Normal if you think of how food used to be for most of the history of humanity.

I did what is called the Whole30 diet, which rules out grains and all grain products, dairy, sugars and all sweeteners including honey and maple syrup, legumes, and common preservative and additives such as lecithins, sulfites, MSG, and carageenan. Few people would be able to do the Whole30 all the time. It’s meant as a sort of nutritional reset, a time for your body to heal from all the non-natural stuff you’ve been pumping into it for your entire life. It’s not your fault–it’s our culture’s fault.

After the success of my first month, I boldly decided to do two. My friend Erika did, after all, and she had inspired me to try the Whole30 in the first place.

Something went wrong in my calculations, and I put yesterday in my calendar as the last day, Day 30, time to celebrate! Last week, I began to get excited. I could finally eat some cheese! Dig into the chocolate that has been accumulating in my candy jar, taunting me! Check to see if the bottle of wine I opened before all this started is still remotely good!

Having just come through about 10 days of academic zombie madness, where avoiding that chocolate was an exercise in self-control I didn’t know I had, the idea of finishing became very very enticing.

I could finally relax my Kaiser-esque food regime, buy cheaper food, eat some of the convenient-and-less-nutritional stuff in the freezer, have dinner with someone without a long list of I-cannot-eats.

I got excited, and I began to count on yesterday being the last day. Then, the night before last, I realized my mistake. Yesterday was not day 60, it was day 54! Oh no! A sort of despair started to settle in as I thought about having to forgo that bottle of wine I had promised to share with my BF’s parents on the weekend, about not being able to enjoy the potluck dinner with friends we are attending on Saturday.

And I started to think about what it really means to quit at Day 54 rather than Day 60.

It means I went without grains and sugar and dairy and legumes and preservatives for 54 days!! It means I’m running 20 solid minutes tonight! It means I have lost weight! It also means I have spent so much time shopping and planning and cooking and packing meals and washing the resulting dishes. I have spent so much money on vegetables and meat, money that I didn’t really have. It means I have little patience left for waiting for a sip of wine, a taste of chocolate, a bite of cheese.

It means enough.

sanity restored

I was on a mission to get “wholly healthy.” I didn’t get all the way there, but I got 54 days and 5 weeks of Couch to 5K closer. I learned a lot about food and cooking and spices and oils and myriad ways of making vegetables into something yummy and crunchy.

Now, for me, “wholly healthy” means backing off of the strict diet. Relaxing my boundaries a bit, a little at a time, finding a balance between what I have learned and what my real life is. Taking some time away from the stove and giving it to some of the people in my life. It means enjoying those things that I have always loved, albeit with much greater moderation than ever. It means learning how to say “No, thank you” to a second helping of whatever delightful carb is offered.

It means greater sanity. And sanity, for me, sometimes feels too thinly spread across the fabric of my life. I will take more sanity over 6 more days without cheese or chocolate, thank you very much!


I have a Facebook page!

A Transparent Life's Facebook page

That is, this website is now on Facebook. Personally, I’ve been on that people-from-far-away-connecting, privacy-selling, time-sucking site since…2007? Not since the beginning, but long enough. Long enough to know I’m not sure how I would connect to my network-at-large without it. Long enough to know it’s kind of on its way out. Shh, don’t tell Mark Zuckerberg: he recently submitted Facebook for an IPO.

But I am proud to announce that, as of yesterday, this blog site has a corresponding Facebook page. Did it really need one? No, probably not. It does, however, increase the likelihood that people on Facebook can see A Transparent Life, and interact with me and my posts there. I’m pretty picky about who I accept friend requests from (I actually have to know you – imagine that!), which would limit anyone outside of my immediate network from being able to see my posts on Facebook.

So here we are: more invested in the interwebs.

Come and join the social network party: facebook.com/SarahsTransparentLife.

(At this point, it appears as if you have to be signed into your Facebook profile for this link to work. I’m not sure why. Another option would be to click “Like” in the Facebook box on the sidebar of my site.)

Wordless Wednesday: Hukt on foniks

"Warshed rags and towels..."

Seen in the custodial office of a local high school

Fresh Ink: Professor + Officer = Profficer

Every month or two, I get the chance to write a story for my faculty’s student publication, the mitZine. It’s staffed with talented writers, editors, and illustrators, and it’s a privilege to see my work with theirs on the pages of one of Western’s alternative voices.

For this month’s issue, I wanted to write about a professor that taught a course that’s in my top 5 so far, “Police & the Media“. His name is Michael Arntfield, and he is both a professor of criminology and media studies and a full-time Detective-Constable with the London Police. His experience and insight, because of those two careers, is rare, and fascinating.

But, rather than reiterate my whole article, here it is so you can read it yourself. Or, download the whole mitZine issue from Scribd (my article is on page 10).

Profficer: The Badge & The Briefcase

Professor Arntfield, as I know him, is building a website that will link interested citizens with his work. Check out the work in progress at profficer.ca.

The Downside of Social Connection

Two writers of my acquaintance have written stories in the last couple of weeks about the downside of social media, one about losing balance in their life, and the other about the potential for depression.

As someone who has been accused of being too social-network-centric, and of occasionally (my word, not theirs) ignoring the real people I’m with in favour of checking my email/Facebook/Twitter, etc., this is an issue that is getting my attention more and more. That and the fact that the social media giants keep exchanging my for their profit.

As much as I adore my social network, and the fun of social bookmarking and viral videos, I have a dream where I live with my loved ones beyond the reach of Internet and data coverage…

In that world, I get lots of sleep. The black bags under my eyes go away. I have time to do serious cooking. I have time to read. I have a front porch with a swing on it, and the time to spend evenings sitting on it watching the sun go down with the people I love.

The phone hardly rings, and I’m not caught up in what’s new or what the latest meme or phrase is. Fads become irrelevant, and life is more about being healthy in all aspects: physically, emotionally, mentally, environmentally.

I realize that my vision is idealistic, but there is something in it, isn’t there? A by-product of a heavily-technologized modern life is getting caught up in a rhythm of life that tends to be frenetic and unbalanced. We focus on a to-do list that prioritizes rational tasks over mental or spiritual health. Technology compounds our stress by allowing us to always be “on the clock,” multi-task, and do things last-minute.

I will not give up the dream.

As it is now, I think I may have to take up meditation to help myself re-learn how to focus on what’s important.

Here are the articles that inspired me (the third has some compelling graphics that relate very well):

Black Transparency, “Balance is Key,” by Jennifer Black

The Western Gazette, “Facebook may lead to depression,” by Julian Uzielli

Gizbot.com, “Effects of social media on the human brain”



“I wonder if white people even know how lucky they are to be white”

This term, I am taking a class about racism, ethnicity, and technology. A mere three weeks in, I have found myself thinking about things I never have before.

To start with, there is Peggy McIntosh‘s list of “the daily effects of white privilege” in her life. In her article “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Backpack, Ms. McIntosh considers things like:

7. When I am told about our national heritage or about “civilization,” I am told that people of my colour made it what it is.

12. I can go into a music shop and count on finding the music of my race represented, into a supermarket and find the staple foods which fit with my cultural traditions, into a hairdresser’s shop and find someone who can cut my hair.

24. I can be pretty sure that if I ask to talk to “the person in charge,” I will be facing a person of my race.

43. If I have low credibility as a leader I can be sure that my race is not the problem.

50. I will feel welcomed and “normal” in the usual walks of public life, institutional and social.

The list goes on. Please read the rest of the list.

The following image was borrowed from PostSecret and subsequently, I borrowed it from the linked blog:

Do we? Do we know how lucky we are?

A few decades ago, comedian Eddie Murphy embarked on a journey to see what the world was like for a white man. I couldn’t figure out how to post the video here, so you’ll have to click on the photo below to watch the video on another site.

Alright, it’s a bit exaggerated, but did you notice no one in the audience laughed during the scene where he is at the counter, trying to comprehend why the white clerk won’t let him pay for the newspaper? There’s something here. We realize that there IS a difference!

Did you know that 80-90% of the jobs available in the USA aren’t posted in places where the majority of the population can see them. Or the fact that “urban renewal” (making downtown pretty) has destroyed the homes and playgrounds of people who can’t afford to live anywhere but downtown? The majority of those people without access and without playgrounds? Yup, you guessed: people of colour.

Then there is also the fact that, even though we talk a lot about women getting paid less than men, we tend not to even think about the people of colour who are doctors and lawyers in their home countries but whose training is not accepted in Canada, and so they are forced to drive taxis and work as custodians. They make less than white women. Non-white women make even less as nannies and fast-food workers.

Makes you think, doesn’t it?

Racism is live and well. Racism is inside us. We the whites were born with it, merely because white isn’t a race. We think of white as normal, and non-white as “other”. Racism might look like this:

Whites have privileges we don’t even think about. But we should. Imagine if it were Barack Obama’s teenage daughter rather than Sarah Palin’s that were pregnant…

But that’s the United States, right, Canadians?

How about the Attawapiskat Housing Crisis in northern Ontario?

I feel ashamed knowing that I will likely never have to live like people in my own province live every day, that my children will never have to live in tiny, mold-infested smoky rooms, or live off of KD and pepperoni sticks.

It is not likely that I will be able to lessen our society’s embedded racism through anything that I do, but at least I can perhaps tear the blinders off of other people’s eyes. White is a race, too. And we are guilty of being ignorant about the inherent privilege we are born into, no matter which class we belong to.

(Thanks to my professor, Dr. Warren Steele, for these videos, & inspiration)

A Rant for the Scantily Clad

I get wanting to look sexy. I do. But isn’t there a line? Does anyone else think there’s a line between sexy and naked?

I fear that too few girls and women these days (yup, Imma throw out a “these days”) know where that line is. Either that or they don’t care. Either that or I’m the one that’s confused, and what looks sexy to me is really the equivalent of wearing a floor-length flannel nightgown, and what looks naked to me is prim and proper evening attire.

“But we’re young!”

So being young exempts you from respecting yourself?

“But we’re young and stupid!”

I’ll give you the stupid part. Wait – you made it into one of Canada’s best universities, so you can’t really be stupid.

“But we’re young and stupid and DRUNK!”

Ah. With alcohol involved, nothing matters. Especially your self-respect.

“Well…. we’re horny. So… You know.”

So you’re willing to look like you don’t respect yourself, put all your goodies on display for guys you don’t know, freeze your toes off wading through snow in your heels and bare legs, spend a lot of money on booze and cabs, feel like crap the next day, not to mention doing exactly what every other girl around you is doing, just for a chance at getting rubbed up against by an equally drunk and stupid stranger?

“But everyone–“

–is doing it? Sorry, hon, but that is a very old and clichéd line.

There’s something going on here that has to do with gender stereotypes and patriarchal values and the effect of the media, but without delving into much of the academic stuff, I wanna ask about something along the lines of myth and ideology: doesn’t it make you feel dirty, putting yourself on display like that in exchange for something temporary and meaningless? Don’t you know that you’re the one getting the short end of the stick?

I get wanting to feel sexy, wanting to look sexy.

What I don’t get is wanting to wear less clothes than a prostitute while paying for your own booze, then giving it all away to a random guy, for free.

“But we don’t pay for our drinks – the random guys buy them.”

WHY DIDN’T YOU SAY SO?! Clearly nothing else matters.

Keep the Server Happy, Website Edition

This week, I submitted my last final assignment. Finally.

Currently, I’m procrastinating from studying for a take-home exam due this afternoon. Oops.

But it’s once again been too long since I posted, and I’m pretty excited about this final assignment and I want to share it with you. Now.

The assignment, which was for an online class called Writing for the Web, was to design a website with at least 5 different pages to it, incorporating the principles we learned during this course.

I don’t know how my prof will grade it, since I only submitted it for marking yesterday morning, but after receiving some good feedback from my Facebook friends, I thought I’d share it with you. I am thinking of purchasing a domain name for this site and publishing it to the web for real and making it a bit of a hub for all that stuff servers wish their customers knew!

Here’s a linked screen shot so you can go see it yourself:

Keep in mind I’m an amateur Dreamweaver user, and I built this all from scratch, and I didn’t really have the time to finess things too much. It’s a beginning, more than anything.

But – do you like it?

Do you have a restaurant story to add to my “This one time…” page?

I have some ideas for a domain name, which I’m hoping to host as a sub-page to this site, we’ll see. Meanwhile, I could use your feedback about domain name ideas:

Send me your “This one time at a Restaurant” stories for when I debut the website with its own domain name!

Which is Worse, Tyrants or Tycoons?

Yesterday, I read a couple of articles about the Occupy Wall Street movement (#occupywallstreet) that is underway in the Western world. One article, titled “This is what democracy looks like” was for the Globe and Mail, co-written by an assistant professor of my program (Media, Information, and Technoculture at the University of Western Ontario), Amanda Grzyb:

"This is What Democracy Looks Like..."

The other was for the New York Times, written by opinion columnist Mark Bittman:

"Finally Making Sense on Wall Street"
Both authors are sympathetic to the cause, and Bittman even says the movement is “being embraced by the Democratic leadership.” This movement is clearly different: it is resonating with hundreds of thousands of people world-wide.

Occupy Wall Street began 26 days ago with a call to action from a culture-jamming group known as Adbusters. People responded to their call for a horizontally-structured (as opposed to vertically-structured and therefore bureaucratic in nature) movement demanding change. Participants then began to camp on Wall Street (and the streets of other cities’ financial districts, including Toronto’s Bay Street starting this Saturday), and present themselves as the “99 percent” that struggles while the remaining 1 percent enjoys the majority of the wealth of the west.

Their inspiration? The Arab Spring, a massive ongoing series of uprisings that have caused civil wars and unrest in several Middle Eastern and North African countries, not to mention the deaths of thousands upon thousands of oppressed citizens who have had enough of autocracy and persecution.

Adbusters: Occupy Wall Street

Ironic, isn’t it, that thousands die to obtain democracy while our friends and neighbours suffer because of democratic deceitfulness and capitalist crookedness?

As Bittman says, the desire to protest the status quo isn’t new: perhaps one of the reasons this movement resonates so deeply for so many people is that almost every generation has faced some injustice that required standing up and standing out. Think the Vietnam War, or even the French Revolution.

Our generation has it the worst of any other yet, though, according to Bittman. If this movement does not result in substantial change, will our children get hit even worse? Is it even possible to bring about the change that we so desperately need?


I wonder which is worse, tyrants or tycoons?

Hey Bad Tipper: You’re Breakin’ my Heart! You’re Shakin’ my Confidence, Baby!

Five years of experience might not make me an expert, but it does make me experienced.

Those five years have taught me that I’m a better server than some, and, provided my attitude doesn’t get in the way, often deserving of a good tip. Those same five years have opened my eyes to a glaring fact that surprises me less these days, but continues to rile me: people are CLUELESS!

Okay, so maybe not in general, but in tipping, I guarantee you that the majority of people I serve have no idea what they should be doing. They have no idea that their ten-percent-before-taxes is breaking my heart, one table at a time. They have no idea that my Waitress Face is hiding my profound disappointment. We laughed, we cried, it was better than cats… until they got up to the counter and slapped me in the face with their loonie. WHAAA–?!

Clueless. That’s all. They’re not having a bad time. They enjoyed their food. They dug the music. They wanted my silver spoon handle ring. They encouraged me in my future career. They offered to send my children to school… And then they broke my heart.

I have thought a lot about what might be done to illuminate the unwritten rules of the service industries of the world. I really am no closer to a solution, other than to do what I do best and rant about it on my blog (I’ve also thought about writing something more substantial. An essay? A compilation? A booklet on how to be a good customer? … Thoughts welcomed).

So. For those NOT in the know, here are the basics:

  • An average (think: minimum) tip these days in Canada is 15%. Yup. FIFTEEN, not ten.
  • In recognition of good service (defined below), tip 20% or thereabouts.
  • MOST IMPORTANT: 10% is an insult. A letdown. A farce.

Fun fact: did you know that the minimum wage for servers is less than for everyone else because it is assumed that tips will provide the rest?

Yes, someone decided to give YOU the power to pay part of my wages! Why you gotta let me down?! Can you believe there are actually people out there who think: “I worked hard for my money: why should I give any to you?” Hi. This is me, working hard for my money. Which used to be your money. If you didn’t want to pay for the whole restaurant experience, why did you leave your own kitchen?

Okay. Good service. The twenty-percent qualifying round. These are things a good server does (watch for them!):

  • Greet you in a friendly manner
  • Get to you as soon as they can (sometimes that means they’ll get to you to tell you they’ll get to you as soon as they can)
  • Keep you in the loop (specials, soups, what the kitchen is out of, any delays, where the bathroom is, etc.)
  • Explain the menu, if it’s not self-explanatory
  • Ensure your drinks and food arrive in a timely manner, or, if there’s nothing that can be done, keep you in the loop about it and give you updates about what’s happening
  • Double-check to make sure that you got what you ordered and that everything is as it should be, you have the condiments, utensils, drinks, napkins, etc. that you need.
  • Check on you after you start eating to ask if everything is okay, or if there’s anything you need
  • Keep your water glass more full than empty
  • Notice when your drink is low and ask if you would like another
  • Clear your plates in a timely manner (the best servers often wait until everyone is done: it’s more polite that way)
  • Offer you apres-dinner items (drinks, dessert, etc.)
  • Make sure you are good and done before speaking of/presenting the bill
  • Process your bill in a timely, professional manner
  • Try to avoid mentioning anything about a tip. That’s just tacky!

My Condensed Idiot’s Guide to Being a Good Customer will have to wait for now. I have papers to write. Meanwhile, don’t forget: you are part of your restaurant experience. If you are being annoying, chances are your server will be less inclined to give you good service. Are you doing it just so that you’ll have an excuse to give him or her a lower tip? Hmmm.

You know that adage, “If Mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy”? Think of your server as Mama, and life gets better for everyone.