Is a recording contract next? or, Lebed Healthy-Steps isn’t just exercise

Me and the girls from my exercise class just belting one out. (This photo shows The Five DeMarco Sisters, Arlene DeMarco, centre, who performed with the likes of Frank Sinatra, Jerry Lewis , Ed Sullivan and Jackie Gleason. Photo courtesy Noah K. Murray/ The Star-Ledger)

Me and the girls from my exercise class just belting one out. (This photo shows The Five DeMarco Sisters, Arlene DeMarco, centre, who performed with the likes of Frank Sinatra, Jerry Lewis , Ed Sullivan and Jackie Gleason. Photo courtesy Noah K. Murray/ The Star-Ledger)


Quick answer: no, but it’s certainly a start 😉

Every Wednesday since October I have pulled on yoga pants and top to take part in an exercise class. The last time I did that was before I had Tessa, pre-1991, and that was with my sister Heidi. We had joined Premier Fitness Clubs, and would go there and do weights and machines and a class and then sit in the parking lot and have a cigarette and wonder when we were going to start feeling that wonderful exercise “high.” I never did.

Now I drive downtown to Toronto General Hospital every Wednesday for an exercise class designed to increase lymphatic flow. I do not have a cigarette afterward—quit that for good in 1999—and I do feel good afterward. The Healthy-Steps Lebed Method exercise program was designed by two doctors and a dance movement therapist to heal and prevent complications from all cancers and chronic illnesses, with a special nod to those thrivers/survivors of  breast cancer and lymphedema (the dance-therapist co-creator has both, plus hep C). From very humble beginnings, the classes are now available in 900 locations around the world, and Toronto General Hospital is one of them.

I am not a joiner, a cheerleader or a dancer, and frankly, I really had to force myself to even sign up for this class, let alone take the elevator to the basement to find the room. It’s part of ELLICSR, the very name of which conjured up the taste of a nasty medicine. The full title is ELLICSR: Health, Wellness and Cancer Survivorship Centre (the acronym stands for Electronic Living Laboratory for Cancer Survivorship and Research) and after spending time in this warm, peaceful, multi-use space I think the long-life, changing-base-metal-into-gold definitions for elixir are more appropriate.

There are two certified Healthy-Steps instructors for the two weekly classes: Barbara Jenkins and Stephanie Phan. The Lebed organization announced a contest for a theme song last fall, and sent out guidelines for the song, including a long list of words and phrases that had to be in the song, all of them buzzwords for the exercise program: “smooth, slow resistance” and “Sherry, Mark and Joel”—not exactly lyrical on their own! Barbara took on the challenge of writing the song, and set it to the tune of the World War I marching song “Pack Up Your Troubles in Your Old Kit-Bag, and Smile, Smile, Smile.” She worked it out so the words perfectly fit the tune, then printed them out and took us through practices before and/or after class for weeks.

The women I exercise with are sweet, funny and very brave. They come from Etobicoke, North Toronto and downtown (Scarborough too, I’m sure) with headscarves, curly chemo hair, stylish short cuts and a few with beautiful full heads of hair. We blow bubbles—to increase deep breathing—do leg raises to work on balance, and do all manner of “jazz-hands” moves to get that lymphatic fluid moving past zapped lymph nodes and back into the system. Singing wasn’t exactly on the program description, but when you listen, stretch and dance to Adele, The Beatles and Beach Boys, UB40, ABBA, Pit Bull, Madonna and Stevie Wonder, what’s a WWI marching song? Barbara and Stephanie had us sing it a few times to get it recorded, and then sent it off to Lebed. The winning song would give the creator, host organizations (TGH and PMCC) and songstresses bragging rights for winning an international competition. The song will be played at Lebed functions and conferences, and be on the website—whether it will be our voices remains to be seen.

Weeks later, we got the word—we won!

Congrats to Barbara for doing all the work, and to Stephanie and all my fellow thrivers/survivors for hitting those high notes (or not) and laughing all the way through. And that was in the fall. This winter Barbara choreographed a dance for a second competition, this time to The Beach Boys’ Kokomo, and we did it on video with paper palm trees, beachwear, Hawaiian shirts, flowered skirts and flip-flops. It’s been like the summer camp I never attended. And it has been lots of fun. So much so it’s almost possible to forget, for a while, why we’re all here.

Found on

Found on


Things I Love Thursday: Consonant soaps and a contest!

tilt.jpgOver at The Diaper Diaries, it’s time for Jill’s weekly “Things I Love Thursday” blog carnival. A couple of months ago I did my TILT (Things I Love Thursday) posting and held a contest to give away what I loved. It was a success, so I did it again, this time using a huge messenger bag from Teletoon, stuffed with Teletoon-themed DVDs, books, travel mug, school supplies, and the winner is HenniPenni! You can read all about this uber-cool great-grandmother who loves the Simpsons in this post. And I’ll be doing a giveaway on the fabulous line I’m talking about today!

PhotobucketPhotobucketWhile I am the first person to scoff at hokey ad come-ons, “Change your TV, change your life,” and the way they drill concepts into the brains of our kids (and us!), I am a sucker for well-written, clever copy. Hence my very first impression of Consonant Body Organic Skincare’s body soap. I picked up the box, turned it over in my hand and read:

“Well look at you, you unapologetically discerning shopper. you. Holding this bar of organic body soap just inches from your meticulously groomed face. Examining every last detail. Ensuring it contains the finest quality natural ingredients. Wondering whether it’s safe for all skin types and hoping you are right for such a great product.

“Well, it does. And it is. And you are.”

Obviously this has to be a superior soap, because it has superior copy! How clever, how tongue-in-cheek, how presumptuous! I loved it before I even opened the box, which, when I did, let escape a wonderful “eat me, chew, me, spread me on your skin” fragrance of spearmint and sage. Folded carefully into the box was a slice of loofah, all the better to exfoliate, and a bonus since I had no idea it would be there.

I received three soaps, and have tried all three. Warm, gentle and rich describe them. The scents are subtle, and even the exfoliating soaps feel soft and gentle. The slogan for Consonant Body is “What goes on your body goes in your body,” and so only the puest and fewest ingredients are used. The president of the company, Bill Baker, says “Our bodies can’t process all the chemicals we absorb. They are ‘persistent bio-cumulative,’ and as they build in our bodies they are irritating at best; toxic and dangerous at worst.” Consonant Body products have no parabens, sodium lauryl sulfate, sodium laureth sulfate, artificial colours, dyes or synthetic fragrances—all those things you usually see on the shampoo bottle if you can focus your eyes in the shower.

I have tried the body wash and the body moisturizer too—both are amazing—but I’m stuck on the soaps for now. These are the types:

  • clove (organic vanilla, buttermilk and clove oil)
  • goat’s milk (organic vanilla and goat’s milk)
  • goat’s milk and hemp (organic oatmeal, shredded hemp and goat’s milk)
  • olive oil (organic beeswax, spring water and glycerin)
  • spearmint and sage (organic citrus oil, spearmint and sage)
  • spearmint and sage with exfoliating sage (hominy grits, dillweed, polenta, oatbran, spearmint and sage)

This company is Canadian (yay!), and just starting out, with plans to expand its line of soaps, body washes and body lotions to products for the face (double yay!).

And the best news for you: Consonant Body Organic Skincare is providing me with a giveaway of items from the Pure collection, perfect for babies, children, pregnant women and anyone with sensitive skin or a sensitive nose, because this line has no added colours or scents, organic or otherwise.

The giveaway consists of a full-size Pure Unscented Body Wash, Pure Unscented Body Lotion and the Organic Olive Oil Pure Unscented Soap. And all you need to do is answer one of my questions (or more, if you’d like).

QUESTIONS FOR YOU: on a scale of 1 (not important at all) to 10 (vitally important), how imortant is organic purity in what you put on your body? How important is organic purity in what you put on your face? How important is organic purity in what you put IN your body? Would you buy a skin care product from the internet after researching it and finding good reviews? Or would you have to be able to try it, or at least examine it, in store before buying? And last, but not least, who would you buy a $12 bar of organic soap for: yourself? your partner? your teen? your grade-schooler? your baby?

That’s it! Post an answer and maybe you’ll be loving your skin with Consonant Body products. Contest closes January 30th, so spread the word, get your mum to enter, your sister, your friend—just decide ahead of time if you’re sharing!

You can buy all the Consonant products online from Consonant Body, or in Toronto at Delineation, Lileo, Outer Layer and Pir Cosmetics.

Good luck!

And the winner is…

Television has the Golden Globes, I have the Great Teletoon Giveaway. I was blogging about my extreme fondness for cartoons, and the holiday lineup at Teletoon and Teletoon Retro, and their amazing publicist Kate sent me the most fabulous swag—SO, HERE ‘S THE PRIZE! This fabulous bag of swag is king-size, and includes, among other items, a sparkly Teletoon travel mug, the hat and pencil set pictured below, a big hardcover Looney Tunes Storybook Collection, Teletoon notebook and matching pen, plus three DVDs—6teen Deck the Mall, the original Tom & Jerry A Nutcracker Tale, and the original Scooby-Doo! Pirates Ahoy! That has to add up to $100 easy. And all I asked readers to do is answer one question below, or more if they liked.

QUESTIONS FOR YOU: what was your favourite cartoon as a kid? Do you watch cartoons now? With a kid, or on your own? What’s your current fave? What is your favourite Christmas or holiday cartoon?

And the winner is HenniPenni, who left this response:

When I was a girl, cartoons were something you watched at the local cinema (yes, I am dating myself). Walt Disney movies were so amazing to us. I think that nothing can beat what Disney did, but today Pixar has taken that to a new level. I love watching Disney cartoons on my own or with my grandchildren and now my great granddaughter. But I admit, I am a fan of The Simpsons and not ashamed to say it, although when it first came out I was shocked. I guess if you live long enough, you can see the humour in anything.

My favourite Christmas cartoons are the stop-motion ones: Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer and Santa Claus is Coming to Town. But I love the gentle sweetness of A Charlie Brown Christmas. Every year I still wish someone would send him a Christmas card.

And what an excellent response. When I contacted her to tell her she won the prize, I asked her if I could do a little profile of her— my mother is glued to her computer, but how many great grandmas enter online contests? What she wrote back was so good, I realized I didn’t have to rewrite a word of it.

I’m pleased to introduce the latest winner of Because I Said So!’s giveaway, Ms. HenniPenni!

How very nice of you to select me as the winner of your contest. I will definitely be the coolest grandma in my apartment building. I think I will save all the prizes and give them to my grandchildren for Valentine’s Day or maybe I will just keep them all for myself if they don’t come to visit me. Ha Ha.

I am going to be 75 years young this year. When I worked I used a computer for my job, and although I came into it at a later age, I enjoyed using one and learning about them. I got back into the workforce after my husband died before his 50th birthday, so I understand what it is like to raise 3 children on your own. For a year, I took keypunch training to give me a skill before I started back to work. Do you or anyone else remember that? When you used to have to punch cards for the computer.

As with many people today, I still work, but now I work for that big retailer we all know and love/hate. Let’s not name names, but just say I look wonderful in my blue vest. I like getting out and meeting people (well, at least that is true most days). I have 5 grandchildren and 1 great-grandchild.

My daughter gave me a computer for my home and my son set up my internet. Some of my grandchildren lived in Europe for a few years and would send me pictures and letters by e-mail. I am still fascinated that you can do that. I think in some ways I heard more from them that way than I would have if they were right next door. I enjoy getting jokes from them.

I have only recently been introduced to the world of blogs, but I don’t have one myself. I am still learning about what is available on the Internet. This weekend my grandson showed me his ipod and how it works. What a great invention. I liked the idea that he can learn a language on it. He made me laugh when he showed me that in his Chinese phrase book it tells him how to say, “Please don’t shoot me,” and “The drugs are not mine.” What a different world today’s young people live in.

So, that is a bit about me. Thank you again for the prize. I will be the envy of all my neighbours when the parcel arrives.

Well-said, and thank you to HenniPenni and everyone else who entered. My next giveaway starts January 15, and the prize is a gift pack of full-size Consonant Body Organic skincare items. Better come back now, y’all hear?

Things I Love Thursday: cartoons and a contest!

tilt.jpgOver at The Diaper Diaries, it’s time for Jill’s weekly “Things I Love Thursday” blog carnival. A couple of weeks ago I did my TILT (Things I Love Tursday) posting and held a contest to give away what I loved. It was a success, and I’m doing it again.

I love cartoons. When I was little, it was Top Cat (I knew every word—I checked it out on YouTube, and yes, my memory is smokin’: “Top Cat! The most effectual Top Cat! Whose intellectual close friends get to call him T.C., providing it’s with dignity. Top Cat! The indisputable leader of the gang. He’s the boss, he’s a pip, he’s the championship. He’s the most tip top, Top Cat. Yes he’s a chief, he’s a king, but above everything, he’s the most tip top, Top Cat. Top Cat!” I will have to spend more time on YouTube—it is cartoon therapy!); Wally Gator (whom I received plenty of teasing over as a kid, now sing along! “Wally Gator is a swinging alligator in the swamp. He’s the greatest peculator [OK, I never knew this meant embezzler. Wally Gator was an operator, but an embezzler? Now I’m starting to take offense] when he really starts to romp. There has never been a greater operator in the swamp. See ya later, Wally Gator!”) and Snagglepuss, of “Exit, stage right!” and “Heavens to Meratroid!”

Kids today have it made in the cartoon department. They get the brand-new cartoons, the animé and the oldies. Luka has recently shifted away from the newer offerings to Teletoon Retro and it’s phenomenal retro catoons—The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle, Boris Badanov and Natasha, Dudley Do-Right, Woody Woodpecker, The Jetsons, The Tom & Jerry Show, even the original Spider-Man and that spine-tingling theme song (small note, I sang it as a wake-up lullaby to my sons, and it really worked!).

In addition to a nonstop diet of retro on Teletoon Retro (and that’s retro to viewers in their ’30s, 40’s, ’50s, 60’s and beyond), the regular Teletoon channel has all the good new cartoons such as 6teen (which we cannot live without at our house), Wayside, Ben 10, Johnny Test, My Gym Partner’s a Monkey, Futurama and returning soon, Total Drama Island.

Here is the holiday sked for those all important “Watch the Christmas movie, pass the tape and keep signing those cards” family evenings that are happening right now. All new this year on Teletoon are the broadcast and Canadian premieres of:

Side Show Christmas, where Santa is hypnotized and made part of The Most Unbelievable Show on Earth (Dec. 16 at 6p.m., Dec. 22 at 7 a.m. and 8:30 p.m.). A Dennis the Menace Christmas has Dennis staying true to character (Dec. 20 at 7:30, Dec. 23 at 5:30 and Dec. 24 at noon). Gotta Catch Santa Claus is an animated feature where a 12-year-old boy sets out to prove Santa is real, and finds a monster named LeFreeze is also on his trail. You have to tune in for this one, because William Shatner is the voice of the big guy (Dec. 21 ay 6 p.m., Dec. 22 at 11 a.m.

When Dec. 20 rolls around, it’s back-to-back cartoons with a Christmas theme of one kind or another, right up to ther big day.

It’s never to late to jump on The Secret World of Santa Claus, a 26-episode extravaganza of Santa and the elves foiling the useless attempts of troll-villains Gruzzlebeard and Dudley. Catch it every weekday at noon and 7p.m., and on the 25th, all episodes run in order from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m.

SO, HERE ‘S THE CONTEST! This fabulous bag of swag is king-size, and includes, among other items, a sparkly Teletoon travel mug, the hat and pencil set pictured below, a big hardcover Looney Tunes Storybook Collection, Teletoon notebook and matching pen, plus three DVDs—6teen Deck the Mall, the original Tom & Jerry A Nutcracker Tale, and the original Scooby-Doo! Pirates Ahoy! That has to add up to $100 easy. And all you have to do is answer one question below, or more if you like!

QUESTIONS FOR YOU: what was your favourite cartoon as a kid? Do you watch cartoons now? With a kid, or on your own? What’s your current fave? What is your favourite Christmas or holiday cartoon?

Now, check out The Diaper Diaries for more Things I Love Thursday posts, and enter my contest!

We have winners!

I have the winners in the Amazing Baby contest! I want to thank everyone who entered, and say that this is when I wish I had an unlimited supply of prizes, because every entry deserves a prize. You guys write so well, and so from the heart! Your love of babies comes through with every word. Here are the winning entries:

The most amazing things about the babies in my life:

They learn, even if we do not teach them.
They love us, even if we do not love ourselves.
They see good, even if we surround them with bad.
They smile when they see us, even if we have had the worst day.
They show endurance, even if we put obstacles in their way.
They love our voice, even if we cannot sing.
They bring comfort, especially when its been too long since we’ve been touched.
They find happiness in the smallest thing, and remind us to do the same.
They love to play, and show us it is okay to do the same.
They need us, almost as much as we need them.


She has this amazing ability to make me smile with her little antics. Her hugs takes away the worst of the say. Her laugh is so infectious. She reminds me to slow down when I am stressed. She is an angel. Her love is so unconditional.


I’m sending an email to each of you, asking for a mailing address. The prize, and a final plug for a book that I adore and think should be in the possession of every parent, grandparent and parent-to-be, is Amazing Baby, the new book by world-renowned anthropologist Desmond Morris (Firefly Books, hardcover, $40). Congratulations! Enjoy your incredible book!

I have a new contest coming up the end of this week, with prizes from a television station we are truly addicted to in my house: Teletoon! I’m going to give you the highlight kids’ shows over the holiday period, and all you have to do is tell me what YOUR favourite kid show is (from today’s shows and your own favourites when you were a kid!). See you tomorrow!

Things I Love Thursday: Amazing Baby by Desmond Morris PLUS a contest!

tilt.jpgThis blog carnival is called Things I Love Thursday. The rules are simple: “pick an actual thing that you love. Feel free to do a product review, but make sure to let your readers know that you have been supplied with the product to review so we are keepin’ it honest.” This Thursday the thing I love is a book, Amazing Baby by Desmond Morris, and the publisher—Firefly Books—has given me two copies (hardcover, $40) and they’re both up to be won! Read on!

This post could also be called People I Love, and right there beside Tessa, Graydon and Luka (my three babies) would be Desmond Morris. It was his book The Naked Ape that made loving my babies as easy as it was. This new book—Amazing Baby—will do the same for every parent or parent-to-be who reads it. It is sumptuous to look at and hold, with the most beautiful photography and glassine paper overlays, and so freeing in the text that if you don’t have a baby to hold, I’m pretty sure you’ll be visiting a friend with a baby to get some cuddle time. I tried Ferberizing my first baby, and quit after about, well, one night. Morris gave me the permission I needed to respond to her cries and need to be held and fed when she wanted, not when a silly routine said to. He said we were the only mammal on earth to intentionally separate mother from baby, and that it was unnatural. That sounded sound to me. I responded to my babies’ cries, coos, outstretched arms, all on their schedules, not mine. Family bed, too. Attachment parenting is a lovely thing.

Amazing Baby traces the first two years of babies, with insight on their biology, development and behaviour. It’s an unmitigated lovefest of babies. You know who can say it best? Mr. Desmond. Click to see his two-minute spot on YouTube—again, I love this man.

Can you tell how much I love his book too???

So, how can you win one?

Answer this question: What is the most amazing thing about a baby in your life?

A panel of three will choose two lucky winners next Friday, November 28 December 7. I forgot my American readers will be having Thanksgiving and their Black Friday frenzy, so I’ve extended the contest a week. Grab a coffee and think about those warm, wonderful, trusting little humans and get writing!

For more excellent things that bloggers love, check out The

Contest alert! Winner!

And the winner of the “Seriously folks, how much do you want to know?” readers poll is—Jen. I want to thank everyone who weighed in with an answer. I think I can handle writing about therapy, but if no one cared to read about it, ha! I’m out! I used science to pick the winner: I assigned a number to each comment on that day’s and the actual contest announcement day’s posts, and asked my seven-year-old Luka to randomly select a number. Jen wins this prize pack:

And when I hear back from her with an address (I have emailed her), she might send some biographical info for me to share!

The original question and the kick-off for the poll was this:
…it is time to see my very own therapist. I have not done this. I have sought and found psychiatrists, psychologists and therapists for my children and for the family as a whole, but never for me. I hate to think of it this way, but that seems so subservient, mother-puts-all-others-before-herself. So, I’m doing it. I am seeing someone and we’ll see if it’s a good fit. It’s certainly a new chapter in my life.

So my Reader poll after all this is: do you want me to blog it? Not word-for-word of course (however, I might post interesting bits to YouTube), but some of the illuminating thoughts, coping strategies, useful advice, and just some notes on focusing finally on the MOM?…

and the overwhelming answer was yes, but only as much as you want.

So, you’ll start hearing about it next week. Here’s hoping we all learn something!