Is A Serenade Street Harassment?


Not so long ago I came across a blog post, written by an author who identified herself only as “Cappy”. She spun a tale of love and heartbreak in the span of a couple paragraphs, about a how a boy she didn’t know serenaded her in her university’s common area against her wishes. It’s potentially great comic fodder — or not. The story started with laughter, mine not hers, but ended with a grimace, for both of us. All this made me wonder: Is serenading an antiquated courtship ritual irrelevant for the modern world? Is it anti-feminist? Can it be seen in the context of harassment?

The serenade is the stuff of Hollywood B-movies. A young man’s aspirations to star in a romantic comedy of his own devising swiftly go astray after he alienates his unsuspecting co-star. In one sense it sounds like a mildly humorous storyline meant for direct-to-TV, but on the other hand it gives us a space to think about the long history of the serenade and how affection, lust and social conceptions surrounding women and sex manifest themselves as we enter modern adulthood.

Traditionally a serenade is a musical performance made in someone’s honor, but not just any someone—a lover. Typically performed in the evening, possibly through a window, it was an expressive gesture of feeling to a willing and expectant recipient. Historically, serenades have never been a socially acceptable method of self-introduction; rather they were an act reserved for people who’d been properly socially introduced. In its traditional form I think the serenade is neither irrelevant nor anti-feminist, it was simply a method of self-expression rooted in its time. Oh, but how things can change.

People who set out to serenade in this modern context that blogger Cappy experienced—confronting or cornering unknown women in public with love songs and unwelcome physical contact—are participating in the same type of problematic male-female social dynamic that is behind catcalling and street harassment. Catcalling, which has existed across the swath of our contemporary history (see example A, example B, and example C), remains a huge and pressing concern. Street harassment of any form is gendered and sexualized verbal or physical violence that severely limits the ability of people (including women, LGBT individuals, and transgender individuals) to exist in a public space with a true sense of security and safety. According to Stop Street Harassment between 65% and 99% of women (and 90% of gay men) reported experiencing street harassment, depending on locale and the type of harassment, with catcalling being the most prevalent form experienced…



Vintage Colour Palettes


Authentic vintage colours are soft and rich, and when combined in the right away, can produce a beautiful vista of vintage décor in your home. To establish a vintage colour palette you can follow a number of different methods. In general they will all produce similar results, but it’s best to make sure you are starting out with a true vintage central colour, around which to build your palette, for your vintage home décor to be authentic. Finding a vintage palette can be as simple as checking out Pinterest, but constructing a vintage colour palette yourself is about more than simply selecting colours or patterns from vintage magazine ads or photographs—though it’s a good place to start. You can find a vintage image that speaks to the vintage décor you are trying to establish and then select a series of colours directly from the image (see below).


To put together an authentic palette a little research into historical pigments is necessary, as the beautiful range of colours we associate with vintage home décor were derived from paints produced in an era that was technologically different from the world of paint we know today. Some of the truest vintage hues available for modern paint and fabric are replicated by using the same natural pigment bases used in their historical period.





Kitchen Trends: Metal In Your Kitchen Design


The white kitchen has held a tight grip on its position as the reigning go-to style choice for interior kitchen design, but even the longest ruling dynasties eventually give way to what’s new and fresh. In this case, the latest kitchen trends are in metal.

When designer Christopher Peacock brought the all-white kitchen to the forefront of interior design in the early 2000s, he was, quite simply, tired of looking at in-your-face kitchens. Apparently so was everyone else, as evidenced by the huge and enduring surge in the colour’s popularity. Unfortunately, the all-white look is so popular it has almost become synonymous with “everyday” and “ordinary.” However, change is coming. Bold hued cabinetry, as well as black kitchens, are the latest kitchen trends, and they are increasingly frequent in kitchen design lookbooks.

Though the black kitchen is something interesting to think about, here at OUR HOMES, we think metal kitchens are about to steal the spotlight. We love metal and all the ways it can be incorporated into a kitchen redesign, to give a space a sleek and modern look. We also love how functional metal surfaces are – especially when you’re talking about our cultural germophobia – impervious, nonporous and easy to clean.

Metal has long been a component of home design, lending its structural stability to furniture, accents and built-in features to give them long-lasting durability. And slowly but surely, it has been angling to become the element of style itself. Once stark and alienating, the industrial décor look, famous for its use of metal work, has blurred into other aesthetic trends. Crossover terms like “chic industrial,” “industrial vintage” and “rustic meets industrial” have become part of our interior décor lexicon and metal has increasingly been popping up looking soft and welcoming…




Social Language Around Serious Illness Is Doing More Harm Than Good

By: Jenn Schleich / Published @

Isolating. That’s the word Cosmopolitan’s beauty editor Deanna Pai used to describe her experience as a 25-year-old second time cancer patient with hepatoblastoma (a type of liver cancer) in a blunt, raw, and angry personal essay within the pages of Cosmo’s April issue. She’s pissed and she’s disconnected, but she’s not alone. A lot of people in these types of critical situations feel isolated, because their family and friends are confused about how to talk to people with serious illnesses.

Pai’s personal account of her cancer diagnosis and chemotherapy treatment resonated with me, and then just a few weeks later I encountered the exact same sentiments Pai expressed, this time in illustrative form. On May 3, artist Emily McDowell released her latest creation — empathy cards for people with serious illness — along with a blog post about how her own battle with cancer (Stage 3 Hodgkin’s lymphoma at 24-years-old) inspired a series of down-to-earth, honest, and thoughtful greeting cards. McDowell found most people in her life didn’t know what to say, or sometimes they didn’t know how to say it authentically, because let’s face it — get well soon doesn’t make a whole lot of sense when someone might not get well at all.

McDowell explains that most people struggle to find the right words when a loved one faces a major health crisis, and that’s a big problem because the people we love need support when they’re ill, and we lack the language to provide that support. Her goal is to connect people with each other through truth, insight, and an edgy sense of humor.

“I believe we need some better, more authentic ways to communicate about sickness and suffering,” she says. “[Fuck cancer] is a nice sentiment, but when I had cancer, it never really made me feel better… I never personally connected with jokes about being bald or getting a free boob job, which is what most ‘cancer cards’ focus on.”


Both McDowell and Cosmo’s editor Pai have taken a pretty similar stance in their respective personal essays. Some people in their life may as well have disappeared following their diagnosis, and the loneliness they felt when their friends and family members withdrew from social interaction was like a second stab in the back after cancer took the first ugly jab.

“The most difficult part of my illness wasn’t losing my hair, or being erroneously called ‘sir’ by Starbucks baristas,” notes McDowell. “It was the loneliness and isolation I felt when many of my close friends and family members disappeared because they didn’t know what to say, or said the absolute wrong thing without realizing it.”

In Pai’s Cosmo essay, she writes a pretty similar statement with more angry vigor, “I get that people freak out, even friends. But if cancer makes you so uncomfortable that you can’t send me a, ‘Hi, how are you?’ text, get over it. My cancer is very busy making me uncomfortable and cannot seem to pencil you in today.”

Both women also had the same advice: don’t push positive thinking, don’t share your wonky holistic health approaches that worked for your sister-in-law’s cousin’s husband’s aunt, don’t tell me you’re sorry, and don’t make vague offers of help, should I have the energy and audacity to ask for it….





She Shed Ideas: Women’s Answer To The Man Cave

By Jenn Schleich / Published at

You may or may not have heard of she sheds, the grown-up Wendy houses that have been garnering internet attention lately. If you weren’t a Peter Pan fan, a Wendy house is a small playhouse built for children inspired by J.M. Barrie’s famous play. She sheds are essentially the same, but for the adult woman who fondly reminisces on the imaginative escapism of her childhood. Or rather, for the adult woman who just needs a break for the chaos and go-go-go of modern life.

The woman’s answer to the man cave is a potting shed transformed into a garden haven. Though we love the idea of giving women a designated oasis in (or out of) the home, where she can escape for quiet solitude to contemplate life, write, read, paint or work on various hobbies, we don’t think women want to cuddle up with a book among soil-caked clay pots and long-legged spiders. Rustic might be in right now, but today’s “rustic” is a high-design take on real rustic. Don’t get confused and spend your evenings sitting in a light layer of soil while your husband lounges on quality leather.

The man cave has become a zone of male luxury, complete with the plushest Lazy Boys, neon lights, pool tables, custom bars and bottles of Scotch that could empty your bank account. Why exactly are women caves relegated to the likes of DIY redecorated garden sheds when men are putting home theatres in their basement and calling it a day? At OUR HOMES we say enough is enough, it’s time women enjoyed a little private luxury too. If you’re thinking about getting yourself a she shed this summer, go for luxe, whether that means decorating your garden shed to the nines or opting for a brand new prefab or custom-built structure instead.

We’ve done the legwork and have compiled a series of inspirational she shed ideas and contemporary shed designs to get you started. Check out these garden studio spaces for inspiration; they will make your femme pals jealous of your she “shed” and your husband do a double-take.



17 Alternative Wedding Dresses For The Adventurous Bride To Be

By Jenn Schleich / Published at

Despite our proclivity for perusing the World Wide Web all hours of the day and night, many of us have only been treated to alternative wedding fashions in passing and even fewer have attended a wedding where a bride wore anything other than a white gown. Wedding fashions remain staunchly traditional, even in their wildly extravagant runway form.

The first time I came face-to-face with a non-traditional wedding gown I was about 16. As a teenager, one of my favorite Internet pit stops was Craftster — a community of do-it-yourselfers before DIY was hip. The clothing section was a happening place to discover alternative fashions and wedding dresses were no exception. That frequent exposure to custom quirky and alternative wedding gowns completely normalized non-traditional wedding fashion for me. As a teenager who performed craft surgery on her wardrobe daily, I was undeniably drawn to the funky, colorful and personalized dresses. Everything you could image was being hand-crafted (often by the bride herself), from rainbow crinolines, rockabilly and gothic dresses, to themed costume inspired by comic books or steampunk.

That’s not to say I don’t love a good old fashioned white wedding; I’ve swooned over many a friend’s dress as she glided down the aisle. My vices in life are few, but I do harbor a secret affection for shallow television — cue soap operas and Say Yes to the Dress. Like my affinity for junk food, I can’t resist flipping the station to TLC whenever I come within 10 feet of cable TV. I’ve watched more marathons of Randy Fenoli pulling out glamorous Pnina Tornai dresses than I care to enumerate for the sake of my own image, but on onlyone occasion did I ever see a bride try on a black gown. I bet you can already surmise that she didn’t buy it. Randy himself insisted she pick something more “bridal” because to Randy Fenoli bridal means white, just as it does to most everyone else. Say Yes to the Dressis a great example of the pervasiveness of long-held tradition in the wedding industry, but in case you didn’t realize, there’s so much more available than white.

What’s surprising to me is that nearly 12 years after my first encounter with alternative wedding dresses, they still aren’t more broadly normalized in our society. Traditional gowns remain the go-to choice and it’s still assumed brides will wear a white dress. Even if you aren’t experimental or fashion-brave, my hope is you will still appreciate how amazeballs these quirky and alternative wedding gowns really are….


Skorts Are Back And It’s Not Just Fashion Nostalgia

By Jenn Schleich / Published on

I just bought a skort; don’t judge me. Try and suppress your inner tween, who is screaming in protest. Skorts are back as a re-emerging trend (and not just for athletes) and they’re popping up in one way or another across the broad swath of standard retail stores like H&M, American Eagle, Free People, Forever 21, Lilly Pulitzer, etcetera. You can’t stop a fashion train from running you over, so it’s best to just get out of the way fast or jump on board.

In case you somehow skipped the ’90s, let’s clarify: A skort is a cross between a skirt and short or, as Urban Dictionary so wonderfully defines it, “a mullet for your butt.” This all sounds so appealing; you might be wondering why we would ever want this strange style to return. It might have something to do with the general re-emergence of ’90s fashion, of course.

Just like the average Joe, the fashion industry is often struck unsuspectingly by waves of nostalgia. Our sentiment for the past is usually quite rosey and idealized. No matter how much we look upon platform heels and tie-dye with disdain, fashion’s by-gone styles also conjure up happy memories. As such, we generally take delight in looking back upon our fashion past to reminisce about the crazy styles of yesteryear.

I’m prone to impulse shopping and I purchased my skort on a wild whim. I only began researching the skort and fashion nostalgia after my shopping buzz began to subside and I spiraled down into nail-biting anxiety; was I shortly going to be regretting my purchase? I started to wonder if nostalgia-inspired fashion can ever have any lasting longevity or if it must always be a trend. I think we can say with almost certainty the former is true and longevity is possible — just look at skinny jeans. For a nostalgic style to gain a firm foothold it must be re-imagined to suit contemporary social attitudes and it must also pair well with contemporary fashion. For example, what good is it to have trucker hats return to the mainstream if it’s difficult to pair them with anything?

I personally enjoy how Nadia Buick, who thinks our culture is currently experiencing an over-arching longing for the past, puts it: “Fashion is a paradoxical design form that is both driven by a desire for the new, and a love of nostalgia… but such ‘new’ ideas are more often than not old ideas brought back to life by way of a strange cultural nostalgia. Fashion seems to cannibalize itself at a much faster and more complex rate than any other design or art form.” The gist is the old must be brought back to life in new ways for it to actually be considered change. The good news is the skort has been reimagined in a new way….


What About Norma Jeane?

By Jenn Schleich / Published on

Marilyn Monroe’s beauty, which encapsulates the idea of sultry Hollywood glamour, has been oft-described as timeless. It must be true—2015 is turning out to be a big year for Monroe. Quite a feat, considering she’s been haunting fashion, beauty and entertainment for going on 53 years. Yet here she is, gracing the inside pages of Cosmo’s April issue for Big Sexy Hair’s newest ad campaign, just months after she was appointed Max Factor’s new “global ambassador” . Sexy Hair and Max Factor aren’t the first brands to call on Monroe to primp their public image and they won’t be the last; MAC and Chanel have previously boosted their marketing campaigns with the help of her fame. Then there’s Star Magazine’s Special Investigation April cover emblazoned with Marilyn’s face and 200 of the FBI’s darkest and most mysterious photos and documents on the long-deceased Hollywood celeb. Of course Star itself might have missed the boat on this one, didn’t the FBI take the wraps off Monroe’s famous communist file way back in 2012? The feature speaks to our culture’s ongoing obsession with uncovering the nitty gritty damning details about those whom we elevate to stardom.

The irony of all this recent media frenzy over Monroe is not lost on us; still in 2015 society is striving to impose its beauty ideals on the long-admired woman and Max Factor’s hands are the grimiest of them all. Aside from Max Factor’s glaringly inaccurate statement that Max Factor Jr. was the guiding force behind Marilyn Monroe’s transformation from the young brunette Norma Jeane into the blonde bombshell Monroe we’ve come to know and love, the company has been busy trying to squeeze Monroe (quite literally) into our contemporary structures of beauty and fashion.

Max Factor has taken their own spin on the star’s classic look for their advertising campaign. If you haven’t yet spotted Max Factor’s Monroe lookalike she definitely has the blue eyes, blonde hair and bold lips down packed, but there’s more than a couple sizes between model Candice Swanepoel and authentic curvy Marilyn Monroe. Max Factor has appropriated Monroe’s image so smoothly most people haven’t even noticed the degree to which it’s been re-imagined (delete: curves) to suit our millennial ideologies and then re-distributed to the public as commercialized “reality”.

As biographer Sarah Churchwell puts it, “Norma Jeane was not changed by someone else into the glamorous movie star Marilyn Monroe… she was always an extremely beautiful girl.” The truth is quite simply that Marilyn “was not created by makeup, in any sense: cosmetics were not sufficient to create Marilyn Monroe, and neither were other people… no one except Marilyn Monroe created Marilyn Monroe, and in 2015 it’s past time for us to give credit to the woman who earned it.”

Makeup isn’t the be-all-end-all of sex appeal. Just as Churchwell and Monroe herself point out, makeup didn’t make Monroe Hollywood’s “It Girl”, her attitude and persona did. Attraction and charisma don’t start in the mirror, but in the way you carry and express yourself.

Perhaps Max Factor ought to reconsider imposing itself on history. We live in an era of constant and considerable awareness of our behaviors, our social constructions, our cultural values and our innumerable failures to validate women regardless of shape, size or hair color (thanks for that social media). Somehow all our self-reflection isn’t enough, we’re still allowing, and even supporting, global corporations to run amok all over realism and real beauty. At the very least it’s a shame that we still fail to recognize the injustice that was perpetrated on Marilyn Monroe by her contemporaries (and now ours). All that work, including weekly hair bleachings and a harrowing exercise routine, and how much more beautiful was she? Not any more beautiful at all—simply someone else’s idea of beauty.

The Max Factor campaign isn’t the first to pick at Monroe’s long-admired looks. The minor plastic surgery she had performed on her nose and chin (let’s emphasize minor! 1950s plastic surgery is not in the league of today’s skilled carvers), has caused plenty of excitement in the media in recent years. The only person who should care about Marilyn Monroe’s chin implant is Marilyn herself, who was subjected to the critical prying public eye. She was once quoted as saying, “I want to grow old without facelifts… I want to have the courage to be loyal to the face I’ve made.” The face she made and no one else. Every beautifying effort that Monroe took was about her one all-encompassing goal: to be somebody in the eyes of the world. “I live to succeed, not to please you or anyone else.”

Why are we even trying to disparage her iconic beauty or impose our 2015 standards on her 1950s lifestyle? As Monroe herself said, “Beneath the makeup and behind the smile I am just a girl who wishes for the world.”




12 Badass Maternity Photos That Will Surprise You

By Jenn Schleich / Published on

There are some things our culture thinks you just shouldn’t do if you’re a pregnant woman. Whether it’s eating sushi, lifting weights, or sporting a mohawk, we tend to still have pretty conservative notions about women who are expecting. Well, these women and their maternity photos are here to tell society to shove it.

We’re used to seeing maternity photos that are overtly feminine in the most antiquated sense of the word. Pastel colors, hazy edges, long golden ringlets, and soft, flowing dresses tend to predominate. Almost too intimate, they capture couples holding hands, exchanging kisses, and swooning over bellies, complete with props and dress-up in a world of pretend.

There’s nothing wrong with a homely maternity shoot, but if you like things a little edgier, then don’t despair. Interspersed between the mainstream is the unconventional: women kicking pregnant booty — because pregnancy doesn’t mean our personalities wither away. Our passions and interests continue to thrive, not just during the nine months of pregnancy, but during all the years after. So, why shouldn’t maternity photos strive to capture that personal essence?

Check out these 12 badass moms-to-be whose striking maternity photography is more about them than it is about their bellies. These photos say unabashedly, “This is who I am,” in the most genuine of ways.




The DAMNsel Pussy Pouch Can Change The Way We Think About Being A Woman

By Jenn Schleich / Published on

“Pussy Pouch” sounds like a euphemism destined for the tombs of Urban Dictionary, but it’s actually a fashion accessory with a feminist twist. The intimate pale pink clutch resembling a vagina is part of a growing movement that recognizes the contemporary and historical impact fashion has had on transforming social ideologies and institutions. Let’s call it fashion for social change. Fashion is more than pretty clothes, aesthetic and design; it’s a construction of culture rooted in the time and place where it came to fruition — immeasurably influenced by current social values, but also infusing a spark of change into the cultural melee that surrounds it.

I literally stumbled — clumsily — across designer Rachel Feinberg’s cutting edge vagina purse and her company DAMNsel. I was so stunned, which I assume is half the point of such an accessory, that I stared endlessly at a photo of a woman with her legs splayed out provocatively on the ground. Dead center an oversized pink vulva was flashing at me through my computer screen. I’m pretty open minded, but having never before seen such an explicit fashion accessory (other than a boob beanie), I was admittedly thrown off kilter.


At this point, Feinberg was a recent graduate from Parsons the New School for Art and Design and her website was short on information and only carrying one product: the Pussy Pouch. I try not to think of myself as too vanilla, but it took me 10 minutes to gather the courage to Google “pussy pouch.” I was hooked; as a woman and a writer, I needed to know this story.

The Pussy Pouch was born during lonely rides on the downtown F train of the New York City Metro and was deeply inspired by Feinberg’s fellow F train occupants and the feminist text Politics of Reality: Oppression by Marilyn Frye, according to the DAMNsel website…





Rihanna’s News Shouldn’t Change How We Feel About Dior

By Jenn Schleich / Published at

By now you’ve heard Rihanna has been named the new face of Dior’s Secret Garden campaign. She’s the first black woman to ever be named a campaign star by Dior. The appointment, which was announced on March 13, has been lauded in the media as a progressive move on Dior’s part.

It’s not all sunshine and roses though. While Rihanna is a talented performer with an impeccable sense of fashion, who no doubt earned the position with a lot of blood, sweat and tears over the course of her career, Dior hasn’t worked nearly so hard on its own self-image.

As a company, Dior’s lacklustre efforts to effect social change, internally within its own institution, nor externally within broader society, are pretty damning. Hop in my time machine; Yves Saint Laurent, who only studied under Christian Dior for three years before Dior’s early death, has long set itself apart from Dior. After breaking ties from Dior in 1960, following Yves Saint Laurent’s infamous lawsuit against the fashion house for wrongful dismissal during his stint in uniform, he proceeded to found his own fashion house (YSL), which espoused ideas in radical contradiction to Dior’s staunchly traditional Euro-Centric values. Moving forward without restriction and under his own name, he proceeded to make a two-fold influence on fashion over the proceeding decades. His contributions to women’s fashion are as important as those made by iconic names like Chanel; he applied the rational and practical elements of men’s clothing to women’s wear without sacrificing—dare we say it—sex. Take trousers, khaki and the pea coat as examples.

YSL’s fashions, inscribed with subversive text (in terms of both design and choice of models), frequently challenged convention and conformity. He prolificly worked with models of color during the turbulent civil rights era and beyond, and he’s even said to be the force behind the first black model (Naomi Campbell) appearing on a French Vogue cover. He famously held a deep appreciation for Somalian model Iman, who he oft-described as his fashion muse; he once described her as his “dream woman” and even devoted an entire collection (The African Queen) to her. All this poses an interesting question: why didn’t YSL use black models at Dior—was it because Dior, like most Haute Couture houses, holds a long-standing obsession with Euro-Centric ideals of beauty? More importantly, does Dior continue to espouse a concept of non-European beauty as inferior? YSL’s noteworthy career is proof that the fashion industry wields powers of social transformation; especially potent information, considering Dior’s long aversion to creating ripples in society.

If you remember, it took current creative director Raf Simons seven collections before he cast a single black model, and then he only did so after coming under public fire from casting director James Scully. We can’t forget previous creative director John Galliano, who was long rumored to possess anti-Semitic leanings and was eventually fired after making publicly racist remarks in a video. And, what about the Shanghai Dreamers campaign?

In the case of Dior, Rihanna’s representation isn’t simply a black face on a white company, it’s a black mask disguising decades of white-washed history. Historically speaking, this is nothing new. In fact, a black mask placed on white privilege is a concept we’ve seen repeated in art, literature and culture over the past several centuries. Arguably, the first notable appearance of a black mask in cultural media dates to the royal court of Queen Anne in the 1600s , who planned and participated in court masques (an elaborate form of theatrical dance), which saw women twirl around in impressive fashions paired with black masks. Though there is a subversive undercurrent to Queen Anne’s famous masques, scholars agree the intent is quite plain: the celebration of patriarchal power, the perfection of European beauty and the superiority of the court.

If you’re not sure how this is relevant: the English court, like a high-fashion house such as Dior, is the epitome of white privilege. The choice to utilize a black face as a method of perpetuating a chosen ideology is the intent, both then and now. We have to remember Dior has immense socio-cultural power. Consider Rihanna’s statement to Vogue about what it felt like to be acknowledged as a person of great worth by such a company.

It’s about time Dior got with it, but Rihanna’s new position is no guarantee we will continue to see women of color take a prominent role within Dior. For a fashion house with such a prolific public platform, it’s unfathomable it took 70 years for one black woman to be appointment the face of Dior. Some might argue we can’t expect haute couture fashion to be socially conscious, but they would be ignoring fashion’s long history as a space for the exchange of transformative ideas.

Brand representation comes down to one goal: perpetuating an image company executives want the public to believe. It’s about swaying favor and garnering positive attention. If Dior made valuable contributions to improving socio-economic equalities, if the fashion house worked to break down barriers in fashion, if the company was seeking to reflect its internal values, then Rihanna’s appointment as the first black representative in Dior’s 70 year history would be a socially progressive move on Dior’s part. But Dior is none of these things—except 70 years old (well, not quite).


This 23-Year-Old Wants A Hysterectomy For Her Endometriosis — So Why Didn’t Doctors Want To Give Her One?

As published on

By now, you’ve heard that Angelina Jolie removed her ovaries and fallopian tubes in order to protect herself from developing cancer. Her announcement, published Tuesday in an op-ed in the New York Times, has helped to raise awareness about the choices a woman can take to manage the terms of her own health. But cancer prevention is just one reason a woman might remove her reproductive organs.

Take my friend, university student 23-year-old Kyra Yeo, who is about to undergo a hysterectomy. Unlike Jolie, she isn’t taking precautionary measures to prevent cancer. Yeo is getting the surgery because she suffers from a painful disorder called endometriosis, a disease which causes uterine tissue to grow outside of the uterus.

Only about half of the 6-10 percent of women who suffer from endometriosis experience chronic pain, and Yeo is one of them. Endometriosis has been the source of debilitating pain that has impacted her life to a profound degree for more than a decade.

“I was so incredibly isolated for several years because I was too fatigued and worn out to hang out with friends. I had a reputation as the ‘fun police’ and most people who I thought were my friends ended up dropping me,” Yeo tells Bustle…


Credit: Sharman/Flickr

An Ode to Winter: The Familiar Made Alien

As published in The Cliffhanger, Mar. 5

Winter forges a world akin to a desert, seemingly barren and harsh, full of deception, mirages and apparitions. It is ruled by a powerful force. Sure, ice storms and what-not, but the real talent winter possesses is to transform even the most rudimentary and mundane scenes into otherworldly and alien landscapes. Unfamiliar and frightening, yet undeniably seductive, it is ultimately unknowable.

Credit: Torek/Flickr
Credit: Torek/Flickr

A brisk blowing snow replaces a field with a hazy endless abyss—where one is lost and doomed without a beacon—while crisp fallen flakes and sunny skies create a glittering tableau so beautiful it hurts the eyes to look upon it. Freezing fog stills the world with its icy fragility. A momentary break in a snow squall exposes a sunset, muted in a palette of soft pinks and yellows that shatters the illusion of the black and white movie in which we walk for the months of wintertime. Jagged uprisings of ice at the edge of a frigid lake become mountains, beyond which, stretches an endless and winding valley of snow. Cars, street benches, park swings and trees become ensconced in impenetrable cold shells.

Even zoomed in, the metaphor persists. The unequivocally perfect geometry of a snowflake, a single frozen sphere of a raindrop poised on a leaf, an intangible soap bubble waiting for the careful photographer, a rabbit’s tiny paw prints trailing across new snow, the spectrum of light diffused through a rippled icicle, a winter berry coated in ethereal frost; these are quiet moments of artistry hidden within an abysmal and harsh season…




Take the Skating Trail

As published in Parks Blogger Ontario, March 2015
By Jennifer Schleich

The stillness of winter infuses MacGregor Point Provincial Park in the off-season. The doors are shuttered at the permit office and the visitor’s centre, the firewood cages are empty and untouched snow stretches as far as the eye can see.

It’s a bit of an illusion though. The bustle of tourist season may be a distant memory but despite the frigid air there is still something exciting happening. Each year, cold temperatures permitting, the park plays host to a unique feature, which draws in locals and day trippers: a 400-metre skating trail loop through the park’s forest. But that’s not all. Bonfires are welcome, with campfire pits stationed at the skating loop and nearby at an adjacent hockey rink, as well as bird feeding station.

Skating Loop

The winding trail is situated in the park’s Algonquin campground, next to the cross-country ski Deer Run Trail entrance. The loop is surprisingly smooth for an outdoor ice surface and though there is the ever present light crackling of ice under blade, there are no rough patches to catch skates and falls were few and far between.


The elevation of the trail follows the natural slope of the area, racing skaters downwards for three quarters of the distance and then forcing a slight uphill climb for the remaining stretch. It’s an easy skate for even the smallest children…




Photo credit:

The Journey or the Destination

As published in The Cliffhanger, Thurs. Feb 19 2015

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By Jennifer Schleich

Home is a source of comfort; a place we are drawn to return to. By no means should it be a place we always stay.

To come to know the world in which we live is something difficult to accomplish without leaving home. Though our contemporary society is over brimming with rich literature and visual media, enjoying a photograph of a mountain view cannot possibly convey the emotional experience of standing on a mountain.

We’re into mid-February now; the last stretch of winter and possibly the hardest part of the season to get through. I look around and my neighbours and friends are flying the coop left, right and centre to escape the winter blues. I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say half my social circle has a trip booked in the next couple weeks. I envy those of you who are touching down right now in sweltering hot and sunny destinations.

That jealousy inducing dash for the airport gates, for which February and March are famous (hello spring break), is but one kind of travel: a vacation – when the destination is the focus and the actual travel is a burden endured to get there. Sometimes it’s more of a burden than others, you know like when you’re traveling with a two-year-old or have five connecting flights.

Other times it’s the journey that matters. For some, adventure is where the heart dwells and then travel is more about the experience and wonder of roaming from place to place.

Recently, I won’t say who, but someone in my house has been binging on the TV show Departures (now on Netflix) – most people probably haven’t heard of it. Filmed between 2008 and 2010 by a group of young Canadians from Ontario, it’s an around-the-world backpacking journey of high school friends Scott Wilson and Justin Lukach, and their videographer Andre Dupuis.

Canadian down to its soul, an easy familiarity with the everyday duo blurs the boundary of the TV screen…



- Jenn Schleich

Pitter Patter of Little Feet

As published in Parks Blogger Ontario (July 23, 2014) 
By Jenn Schleich

Hiking with children can be a pleasure, with some preparation and luck. A smooth experience means ensuring the park you choose meets the needs of your children’s age and skill levels.

Killbear Provincial Park near Parry Sound, which is known for its Georgian Bay beaches, windswept campgrounds, and low mosquito population, has a few quiet trails. There are four main trails, but the Twin Points Trail (1.6 km loop), the Lighthouse Point Trail (800 m loop) and the Lookout Point Trail (3.5 km loop) provide the most breathtaking experience and all three are surprisingly easy to navigate with children in tow.


At Twin Points Trail the smooth pink granite of the Canadian Shield is exposed in large swaths. Markers along the trail share interesting tidbits about the visible geological features. The trail winds through a sparse pine forest and emerges onto the shore, where hikers can be spotted taking breaks to sunbathe on the smooth warm stone and dangle their toes in the lake. The crystal clear water here beckons swimmers, but the stone shore makes for a slippery entrance and exit.

Lighthouse Point Trail is located at the south-eastern tip and loops around a small peninsula. The west side offers rocky platforms, panoramic views and a quaint red and white signal light at the tip. The eastern side of the trail is forested with off-shooting paths to small sandy beaches along the way.

Lookout Point Trail takes hikers through a forest where signs of past fire and regrowth are evident. Small plaques along the route offer insight into the ecology of the park for little burgeoning scientists…