Saturday, February 28, 2009

why yes, i have lost my mind

But I think I look very cute in my new pink cowboy hat (I am told that it's the same one that Julia Roberts wore in Runaway Bride - except hers wasn't pink). It's also really, really comfortable and it makes me happy. So there.

Thanks to Debbie from Journey Bags for taking the photo and emailing it to me. She asked me to let you all know that if you use Promotional Code 1208 when ordering from her site, you can get 10% off.

I think my hat is very Texas. And cheaper than new cowboy boots. And since I passed on the opportunity to go to a real cowboy bar and ride the mechanical bull, I thought I should bring home a little bit of the Lonestar State.

Friday, February 27, 2009

random travel observations

I decided when I was on my walk around the hotel grounds this morning that the complaining I did earlier made me sound very spoiled. The truth is that this venue seems pretty ideal for a conference and I am extremely lucky to be here (and I mean that in so many ways). It would be great if it didn't cost $3.25US for a coffee but it is what it is. And I am assuming there will be free coffee once the conference starts in earnest.

Yesterday was a very long travel day. I miscalculated and finished my book way too early in the trip. As a result, my notebook is filled with random observations I made as I sought to fill the time:

I always feel nervous and guilty when I go through security, immigration or customs. I feel like I am going to be "caught." This is ridiculous since I never lie in these situations or smuggle.

There are signs up at US Immigration stating that all travellers will have their hands scanned and photos taken. I only saw this happen to one person. He was an older white guy so not sure if this was random or some new kind of profiling I've never heard about.

You wouldn't know that the North American economy is in crisis, judging by the number of people who are travelling. Both my flights were full, with long standby lists.

My flight out of Chicago was delayed because the plane was struck by lightning. Folks were very upset but I kind of felt that I would rather have a safe plane than one that left on time.

I have never had a sandwich in an airport that didn't taste like cardboard.

One woman seemed to think that the airport was a great place to find a boy friend. In the waiting area in Chicago, I overheard the following conversation:

40ish Blonde Woman (flirtatiously): "Watcha readin?"

Attractive 50 something man: Mumbled title.

Woman: "Is it a Christian book?"

Man: "I suppose it is."

Woman: "That's what I had heard about it."

Man: Silence.

Woman: "You seem really interested. You just keep writing things down."

Man: "Just noting some things."


Woman: "Do you live in Dallas?"

Man: Silence.

Woman: Launches into detailed explanation of where she lives. Mortified I get up and leave.

Some time later, after we change gates, I see them again. She is calling out to him, "Don't go away! I'm a catch!"

A few minutes later, she has moved on to another man. From across the waiting room I can hear her talking about going to church.

So - was she prosletyzing or cruising? Or both?

When I am desperate enough, I will read anything. Apparently this includes the in-flight magazine (this month's issue features the NBA) and something called Skymall. I found myself coveting this and this and thinking this was kind of gross. And then I felt guilty that I don't have anything like this to protect my neighbours from my unsightly air conditioner (but what would protect them from all the unsightly dog poo in my yard?). I could go on and on. And the prose in the catalogue was fantastic.

I was too shy to talk to two women I saw at the Chicago end of my flight who I guessed were going to the conference. I redeemed myself by greeting them as we waited for our bags in Dallas. They told me that they have been coming to this conference for six years. They promised me that I was going to have a wonderful time. They also told me that they are expecting 1,000 participants this year. Wow.

The "Networking Opportunity" I mentioned in a previous post is happening now. Time to take a deep breath, gather up my leis and head on down.


I'm green and orange. As with previous events of this nature, I like to identify others who know what it's like to live with mets. I am also acutely conscious that wearing the orange may be every participant's worse nightmare.

suitcase stowaway

I am in Dallas (or somewhere on the edge of Dallas with only highway and hotels as far as the eye can see. The hotel claims to have seven acres of "park" with walking trails that I have yet to find or check out. Given that the restaurant with the "open air ambiance" is actually in a roped off area of an indoor courtyard and the spa and gym are in a separate building and charge a membership fee, I am prepared to be disappointed). This hotel is huge.

Please note the little friend that I found when I opened my suitcase. He's half of a pair of "sweater monsters" that were given to me by a dear friend. I think D. decided that I might be lonely on my trip. How thoughtful was that?

I am off to find coffee and breakfast. I've been up since 6.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

random observations

observation #1: I am getting dumber and my kids are getting smarter.

My youngest son is undergoing some tests with a psychologist as part of an educational assessment. After his session, the psychologist showed us some of the non-verbal test questions, which involved pattern recognition. D. picked out the illustrations that fit the sequence in split seconds. I asked if he had seen these particular questions before. He hadn't. He's just quick and very, very bright.

The thing is that he answered these questions much more quickly than I could have, selecting the right answer while I was still puzzling it out.

observation #2: I derive almost as much satisfaction from making lists as I do getting things done.

I am going away tomorrow morning (I got a scholarship to attend the Annual Conference for Young Women Affected By Breast Cancer, in Dallas) for a few days. I spent a good part of the morning making a list of everything I need to get done. I love lists. Having several (what to bring in my carry on, what to pack and what I need to do before I go) has made me feel much almost as though my work is done.

observation #3: I am very anxious about attending a conference where I will know no one.

The truth is that I would rather speak in front of 1000 people than meet 100 people one at a time. The words "networking opportunity" scare me. I have been reminding myself that I need to have an open and friendly demeanor and that it's OK to bail and go to my room when it all gets to be too much.

observation #4: Having worked in communications does not make it easier to promote my own work.

I would rather sell a message or promote someone else then sell myself. I have had the same business cards (lovely ones that my older son made for me) for a year and have yet to make much of a dent in them. I am bringing flyers advertising my book, though and will at least put them on tables, even if I don't have the courage to talk about it.

observation #5: I get very excited at having time to myself and tend to over-estimate what I will have the time to do.

The weather will be warm in Dallas. And my hotel (we got great discounted conference rates) is far from anything touristy to do. It does have nice grounds, a nice gym, several pools and an outdoor restaurant, so I plan to pretend that I am at the spa in the hours before the conference starts. I am bringing knitting, books and workout gear. Lots of all of it.

observation #6: Homeland Security is going to have a field day with my suitcase.

Circular knitting needles (joined by flexible cables), pins (for blocking or shaping finished scarves on my extra bed) and a bottle of hair mousse. I might as well paste a sign on my suitcase that says "suspicious contents!". The Yarn Harlot says that her suitcase is opened and checked every time she goes to the States. Mine was only opened the one time I packed knitting in my suitcase. I think knitting needles look suspicious on x-rays.

Off to make some tick marks in my to-do list now.

I may blog while I'm away, if I can find free wireless in the hotel lobby. Can someone tell me why the cheap chains give you free wireless but the fancy hotels charge extortionate rates for slow access?

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

women with real influence

My youngest son came to see me in the kitchen this morning, while I was making school lunches (By the way, has there ever been a more thankless task in the history of parenting? I don't thinks so).

Me: "Your face is so clean! Great job!"

D.: "I washed my face!" (He shows me how he did it, miming vigorous rubbing.)

Me: "That's great!"

D.: "And I brushed my teeth. And I even flossed." (He mimes brushing and flossing.)

Me (impressed): "That is amazing. You are awesome."

D.: "I did it because at day care we are learning about the importance of good hygiene."

They have good teachers at the day care. And, apparently, their words carry more weight than mine do. Maybe I could ask them to talk about "the importance of being polite to his parents" or "the importance of cleaning up his toys."

Friday, February 20, 2009

when life gives you lemons

A couple of weeks ago (has it really been that long?), Nonlinear Girl, presented me (and a few other bloggers with the Lemonade Award.

What it's supposed to mean is that the recipients have been handed some lemons by life and have gone on to make lemonade. I love Nonlinear Girl's blog. I met her at BlogHer last year and have been reading ever since. She seems like someone I would hang out with if we lived closer to each other (she's in Portland and I'm in Ottawa), except that she's smarter and more talented than I am.

She's also expecting twins in a month or two. I am thrilled for her and in awe.

But back to the award. Recipients are supposed to tag ten other bloggers but I think I am going to follow Nonlinear Girl's lead and just choose a few bloggers I like, who write bravely, humourously and well about their lives and the obstacles they have had to overcome. There is no pressure on any of them to pass this on, I just enjoy them and think you will too.

So the award goes to:


Princess TinyButt


The Maven

Thursday, February 19, 2009

bigger than the beatles

So Barack Obama is
in my town as I write this. He has had a meeting with the Prime Minister, some lunch and then they took him for a beaver tail (deep-fried flat pastries) in the market.

Why am I embarrassed by this?

I can't help but think, though, that he would have enjoyed the beaver tail more if had gone skating first.

I hope he was advised to have the Killaloe Sunshine and not the Nutella.

Traffic in my neighbourhood is a mess right now, as I live on the way to the airport. I really pity anyone who had a commercial flight out of the city today.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

asymmetry at the songbird branch

I have a post up at
The Songbird Branch (a blog started by the brilliant Jacqueline) about my attempt to knit an asymmetrical sweater for my asymmetrical body.

Go check it out and the really beautiful items that have been found and made for the post-mastectomy body.

book review: "the widows of eastwick"*

I have a confession to make. Before The Widows of Eastwick, I had never read anything by John Updike (although, I did see the movie version of The Witches of Eastwick, which is sort of a prequel to this one. I'm not sure how faithful the movie was to the book. Given Hollywood's track record in this regard, I imagine the book and the movie were fairly different).

The Widows of Eastwick, picks up some 30 years after The Witches. As the title suggests, the three witches find themselves widowed, reconnect with each other and (after doing some travelling together) return to the earlier scene of their crimes. The mansion in which they partied as younger women has been turned into condos and they decide to rent one for the summer.

None of these women is very likeable, nor did I find it easy to relate to any of them (not sure if this was in part because I am so much younger - although I have read and enjoyed books with much older protagonists before). I did very much enjoy the writing, although I found that the dialogue was more an opportunity for the women to pronounce on the world, as opposed to really engaging with each other:

Jane looked aged in the harsh desert light, shrunken. Blue veins writhed on the backs of her hands. "There's this stink to the past," she said, "of magic that stopped working. It never really did work, of course. Just gave the priests more power than was good for them."
"If they believed it worked, maybe it did. It made them less anxious. As I remember us in Eastwick, we used to believe that there was an old religion, before men came in and took it over just as they took over midwifing and haute couture. It was a nature religion that never died - women carried it on even when they were tortured and killed."

The book is less about what is happening in the present and more about looking back to the past. The women are motivated by a desire to make amends for their crimes (causing the death, through witchcraft of a rival and of some other people who appear to have been thorns in their sides) and to relive their wild and powerful youth. The whole thing feels more like a padded short story than a full length novel. Some interesting things do happen but I found it hard to feel too interested.

As I was reading this book, I learned that Updike had died. I feel a bit guilty that I can't write a more positive review. I am very confident that this, the last of his novels, was not his best work by any stretch of the imagination. And perhaps I would be feeling less critical if I had read and enjoyed The Witches before reading this one.

Updike must have been grappling with cancer as he wrote this book and there is lots of talk of cancer throughout. The women killed their rival by giving her ovarian cancer and Alexa (one of the witches - the one played by Cher in the movie, I think) is obsessed with cancer.

I didn't hate this book. I just didn't really like it. I was expecting so much more.

Any Updike fans out there? How does this book compare to his other works? I would love to know.

*This is book was sent to me via Library Thing's Early Reviewer Program.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

rants and ramblings on a rainy day

Some things make me very, very angry.

Like every new detail coming out about the needless deaths of Robert Dziekanski and Brian Sinclair. Each man could have been saved so many times by so many different people.

Like the fact that the mayor of Ottawa and the leadership of OcTranspo were guilty of several big whoppers around the transit strike (especially about how much money the city was saving and how long it would take the buses to get back on the road).

Some things make me laugh.

Like making silicone breast prosthesis jokes with my sister last night (you really did have to be there).

And going to see a taping of The Debaters with my son and my spouse.

Some things make me smile.

Like getting an email from a woman I have never met who tells me that she loves my blog and seems to be living a parallel life to mine (right down to the kids five years apart and two dogs).

Like the sound of two dogs snoring as I type this.

Some things make me worry about my faculties.

Like the fact that I bought tickets for a show (the above-mentioned Debaters) and then made child care arrangements for the wrong night (thank goodness for my wonderful sister who changed her evening plans so she could still come and hang out with my youngest son).

Like the fact that I woke up one night in a cold sweat in the middle of the night a week ago and double-checked that I had bought the tickets, yet didn't notice that they were for the wrong night.

Some things are good.

Some things are bad.

Some things just are.

Still working, sometimes, on sorting out the difference.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

girls and women

A brilliant and beautiful girl that I know (the daughter of an equally brilliant and beautiful friend) is turning 13 this week. Her mother, who wonders at how quickly this happened, sent this link about girls to a a group of her friends.

My spouse's great aunt, a talented and formidable woman, passed away late last week at the age of 97. Tutzi was extremely proud of her granddaughters and her great-granddaughters and loved them very much. She was also an artist and a teacher of art.

My spouse and I have been wanting to do something as a tribute to Tutzi. The family has asked for donations to the Baycrest Foundation (the wonderful facility where Tutzi passed her last years) but I think that she would be equally pleased if we made a donation in her honour that would have a lasting impact on the lives of girls.

I urge you to take a minute today to think about all the girls in your life and the lives of girls in your community and around the world. Then check out the link and think about making a small change in a girl's life today.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

re-writing a novel in 140 characters

Peter Sagal, the host of NPR's Wait...Wait Don't Tell Me! (yes, I am a big nerd. And so is my spouse. My son listens to podcasts of the show on his ipod) has started a meme.

He is encouraging folks to write Twitter-length versions of novels. For those who don't know about Twitter (or can't be bothered to sign up), every "tweet" must be no longer than 140 characters. Sagal came up with a Twitter version of
The Grapes of Wrath:
"Times are hard. Sister breast feeding homeless guy. I am so outta here."

You can read more examples here.

Here's mine:

"Ambitious mothers are annoying. Nice girls marry well. Loose girls get trapped. Colin Firth smolders on."

See? (That's Pride and Prejudice, by the way).

Want to play? If you tweet, then be sure and add the hashtag #twitternovels. If not, feel free to just leave your mini-novel in the comments.

Monday, February 09, 2009

25 truly random things about me

I am definitely on the mend but still sick (less nausea, light-headed and now sneezing my face off). It seems to me a good day to finally get to this "25 things" meme that I keep getting tagged for on Facebook.

I just came back from getting some fresh air with the dogs and many of these are things I thought about when I was out. I make no promises about whether or not I have written any of this before. And since my mother reads my blog, I may engage in a bit of censorship (Hi Mom! I love you!).

1. When I become interested in something, I tend to read everything I can on that subject.
2. My current interest is Enneagrams.
3. I am a 1.
4. I am married to a 9.
5. These two facts actually help me to understand my life a lot better.
6. My spouse and I have been together almost 18 years.
7. My longest relationship before my current one lasted 4.5 months.
8. I hated being pregnant.
9. I had a miscarriage between my two successful pregnancies. I was 11 weeks along. I was devastated.
10. I have struggled with depression since my early teens.
11. When I was diagnosed with breast cancer in early 2006, I was the healthiest and strongest I had ever been. I believe that helped a lot.
12. Since I found out about the cancer, I have been angry and sad at times but I cannot say that I have been depressed for very long stretches.
13. I am addicted to online word games, namely Scrabble and Word Twist.
14. I am embarrassed that I can't understand some of my 10 year old son's math homework.
15. I love intensely, hold fierce grudges and forgive easily.
16. I have mellowed.
17. I am an atheist.
18. I feel guilty about everything.
19. I still think my spouse is hot.
20. I still my miss Emma, my golden retriever. She died on June 30, 2006. She was almost 14.
21. One year later, I had my first clean CT scan.
22. I don't consider myself to be sick, despite the fact that I have a chronic illness.
23. If I could turn back the clock and make my life go back to the way it was before the cancer, I am not sure that I would do it.
24. That last sentence astounds me.
25. I wish I were a better knitter.

Friday, February 06, 2009

and i got the shot and everything

I have the flu. Or some kind of bug.

I took my temperature last night and realized that I was running a fever. When this happens, I am supposed to go to the hospital but it seemed counter-intuitive to take my worn down self to an emergency room full of sick people.

I called the cancer centre this morning and they told me to come on in to their stretcher bay area (I was still feverish, sore all over, queasy and light-headed). I got my blood counts checked and all is well on that front. They also gave me some intravenous fluids, which perked me up a bit (the trip into the cancer centre had knocked the stuffing out of me).

Then they sent me home with instructions to get lots of rest and stay hydrated.

It's not even insult to injury, it's injury to injury. At least I know that my body has the white blood cells it needs to fight this.

I'm just feeling a little sorry for myself.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

walloped, wallowing and whining

Chemo has knocked me on my ass.

I had treatment on Tuesday (Herceptin and vinorelbine). Yesterday, I felt a little green and a little sore but not too bad, really. Today, I am in rough shape.

My body hurts.

I feel really queasy.

My head feels like it's stuck in a vise.

I am so, so tired (and yes, I am staying in bed).

I have a couple of posts in draft form but I can't be coherent enough to make them blog-worthy today.

So - know any good jokes?

I'll be feeling better by Saturday.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

taking care of my body in 2009: part 2

This year I promised myself to "treat my body as well as I have been treating my mind."

That's my ultimate goal but I am trying to be S.M.A.R.T. about it (setting small goals along the way that are specific, measurable, attainable and realistic and timely).

In January I set out to:

1-Walk VIGOROUSLY for an average of one hour, five times per week (300 minutes a week).

I did pretty well at this. I fell about 90 minutes short of my goal for the month but given the truly lousy weather we had last month, I am still giving myself a pat on the back.

It certainly felt good to pick up the pace again. I hadn't really noticed how my walks had turned into strolls (and a lot of time standing around in the dog park). When I had to stop running (just after the Run for the Cure in October) because of tendonitis, I didn't really think about getting my heart rate up again during walks. I'm pushing myself again now and it feels really good (once I convince myself to get out the door).

A big benefit (I was going to write "side benefit" but it's really not) of exercise is the psychological boost it gives me. My weight hasn't changed and my clothes still fit the same way but I look different in the mirror. I see myself differently. I was going through a period where I would wake up in the morning and really dislike my own face in the mirror (the word "hag" actually crossed my lips once or twice, I am embarrassed to admit). But I feel pretty again. I (mostly) like the way I look. And I have more energy.

Not bad a bad payoff for four weeks.

2-Eat seven servings of fruit and veggies a day.

Doing it. I seem to have actually developed an addiction to blueberries in the morning.

3-Cook dinner at least once a week.

I did this one too! At least on average. One week I cooked five times. Sometimes the meals were extremely simple and none were particularly fancy but I am actually starting to enjoy it. I never thought I'd see the day.

And I would welcome any suggestions for healthy, kid friendly meals.

So, still taking baby steps, here are my additional goals for February:

1-Go to yoga once every week.

This one felt huge because I hadn't been since some time in the spring. But I went on Monday! My friend L. was in town and she goes to a weekly yoga class. I asked if she would force me to go to class come to class with me and she readily agreed.

Iyengar yoga can be a little weird (lots of props, lots of precise instruction, less flow and lots of talking) and my teacher is a bit eccentric. L. was game and a very good sport about it all (I had warned her ahead of time) and we both liked it that there are people of all ages and shapes (the teacher is the exact opposite of the stereotypical yoga instructor) in the class I go to, dress is very casual and they know how to accommodate a range of disabilities (there was a woman who had obviously injured her back, doing modified poses on a contraption with a rail). The atmosphere is extremely comfortable and it's a three minute walk from my house.

My teacher recognized me instantly and I found myself wondering in the first three minutes why I had found it such a big deal to come back. We worked hard and although I didn't realize I had been working my core, I was sore in all the right places the next day.

I have to remember that feeling next time I am curled up on my couch and it all just seems like a lot of time and trouble.

2-Cut down on refined sugar.

What do I mean by 'cut down'?

I am allowed to have a low sugar cereal in the morning (or a bit of maple syrup on unsweetened cereal).

I can have one row of dark, fair trade chocolate, if I am craving something sweet (and only once per day).

And during and after chemo, if the only thing I want to eat are bran muffins, than so be it.

But no more ice cream or desserts unless they are very, very special and then only rarely. I don't like how sugar makes me feel and it doesn't take long for me to become addicted. I think I will feel less tired.

Anyone know any good recipes for making muffins with stevia or other non-chemical sugar substitute?

3- Take my vitamin D and calcium supplements daily.

It's Wednesday and I haven't done this once, so I had better get on it.

How have you been doing with the goals you set this year?