Friday, August 31, 2007

blog day 2007

Blog Day 2007

Well, I was going to write about the day I met Elizabeth Edwards (prompted by this exchange from yesterday over at BlogHer) but it will have to wait.

Because today is Blog Day:

created with the belief that bloggers should have one day dedicated to getting to know other bloggers from other countries and areas of interest. On that day Bloggers will recommend other blogs to their blog visitors.
With the goal in mind, on this day every blogger will post a recommendation of 5 new blogs. This way, all blog readers will find themselves leaping around and discovering new, previously unknown blogs.

I am choosing to interpret "previously unknown" to mean blogs that are new to me, as well as blogs I read but about which I have yet to write in my blog. Here are my recommendations for Blog Day 2007:

1. cmkl / Chris Lawson's personal web site. It lacks a catchy title but everything about this blog is wonderful. Chris is a friend of mine from way back and I have followed his blog through many life changes. He's a gifted writer, with a great, wry sense of humour. I love his entries about politics and his photos of his various forays into the Ontario's wilderness but my favourite posts are about his daughter Mallory and how it feels to be her very hands-on father.

2. Love Babz: A Life in Transition is a very recent discovery. This is how Babz describes herself in her profile:

"I am 44 years old. I am married with 4 children we adopted. My husband and I are separating after 11 years of marriage. I have a BS degree in Marketing and MPA-Masters in Public Administration. I was elected to local office twice. I am the oldest of 4 children. My life as I know it is changing. I am a convicted felon of a white collar crime, And yet I know my future is bright and full of possibilities. Ain't no place to go but UP!"

Babz, like me, is a glass is half-full kind of person. As she faces foreclosure on her house and a thirty-day prison sentence, she continuously reminds us about all the reasons life is worth living. Today's post is particularly moving.

3. I found Yarn-a-Go-Go through Mason-Dixon Knitting (the blog that led to my favourite knitting book ever). Rachael is a writer, an extremely talented knitter (and designer), a dog and cat lover, and absolutely charming. Even if you've never knit a stitch in your life, she's well worth reading. The story of Digit, the cat that came back, is worth the price of admission, all by itself.

4. Nordette Adams is a contributing editor at BlogHer, on the Mommy and Family beat. She's a single mom (to a teenage son and adult daughter) and I find her writing to be both lyrical and incisive. This is a strong woman with strong opinions and a fierce love of her kids. Two Miles from a Dive is her newest blog, started after relocating her family to her native New Orleans:

"That's two miles from diving into Lake Pontchartrain in the toes of the boot, southeastern Louisiana, land of bayous, gumbo, jazz, moss, ghosts, and Hurricane Katrina survivors. You may have read me when I lived in New Jersey at Confessions of a Jersey Goddess, but that was temporary. I'm back home for good."

5. Ok, so it's cheating a little bit to include the Junky's Wife in this list, as she has been on my blogroll (which I really need to update, there are some others to add, for sure) for some time. But I have never written about her before and she certainly fits the Blog Day criteria of featuring blogs that represent a range of life experiences and perspectives. The Junky's Wife is sexy, creative, literate, heartbreakingly honest and madly in love with her recovering junkie husband. I am addicted to this one.

Go check them out.

And let me know what you think.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

chemo moments

Today, I distinctly remember dropping my keys in my bag as I left for my massage a few blocks away.
Except that I didn't do this. I arrived home to find that I was locked out, and, after my spouse cycled home to let me in, found my keys on the dining room table.

While I was out, I dropped into a neighbourhood health food store to buy the soy nut butter we like. They were out, so I bought some sunflower butter instead. I distinctly remember reading the label to see if the product contained traces of nuts and chose the organic kind because it did not have this warning.
Except that it did. When I showed it to T., he pointed out the warning, written in large, bold letters.

Scrabble, anyone? I think your odds of beating my ass are fairly good today.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

a paler shade of green

Today was a chemo day.

It took exactly ten minutes to go from feeling terrific to feeling like crap.

Five good things about the last couple of days:

  1. Yesterday, I did a purge of the junk in my linen closet and bathroom cabinets (and boy, was that overdue) (like, years overdue).
  2. Afterwards, I went for a fast walk, the kind that really gets my heart rate up. It was a gorgeous day, in my favourite place. It was also fun watching my dog almost crash into trees as he tried to catch some pretty dopey squirrels.
  3. We had an impromptu family dinner last night. My boys and my sweetie, his brother and my sister-in-law, my nieces and my mom-in-law. The best part of the meal was the tomatoes from our garden. And the lovely wine our guests had brought.
  4. I had lunch today with one of my very best friends today, the kind of friend you want to talk to about everything. We ate at one of my favourite pre-chemo haunts, a vegetarian thai place (Sacred Garden, on Bank Street, if you live in Ottawa or ever come here), with a lovely, relaxing atmosphere.
  5. As I type this in bed, my cat is curled up against my feet (sometimes, he can fool you into thinking he's a nice kind of kitty) and my dog is on his bed, snoring away. I love dog snores.
It's amazing how that little exercise always works.

I'm in a much better mood, now.

Oh and I should add that my white blood counts, and my neuts (the cells that fight infection) in particular are higher than they have been in a long time.

So, I'll spend the next couple of days in bed. And then, with renewed energy and no treatment until September 18th...

...I'm already working on my to-do list.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

the hardest

This post is written as a response to the thoughts that have been knocking around in my head since reading Blondie's piece from yesterday.

I wrote last year after finishing chemo (the first six rounds, that were supposed to cure me) that it was the hardest thing I'd ever done.

But yesterday, Blondie reminded me that I was wrong.

The hardest thing that I have ever done was tell my oldest son that I have cancer.

And then that it had come back.

To knowingly inflict pain this way on my child. I don't really have the words to express how much this hurt.

Blondie and I met at the BlogHer conference. We had a conversation at the end of a wine-soaked evening, during which she told me about her mother's cancer and how Blondie would sneak into her mother's room and hold a mirror under her mother's mouth, just to make sure she was still breathing.

The very thought makes me gasp a little.

Like Blondie's mom (who is now healthy and who told me that we had at least one chemo drug in common, in yesterday's comments), I spent the days following each chemo (which were always over a week end), lying in the dark, unable to tolerate movement, sound or light. My spouse (as well as family and friends) would make sure these week ends were full of distractions for the boys but I know they found it confusing and frightening that their mother was unable to respond to their needs.

And then, last fall, I put chemo and radiation behind me and returned to work, only to find out within weeks that the cancer had spread to my liver.

When the oncologist confirmed this diagnosis, my first words were, "I have two beautiful children!" When I asked him how much time I had, he said, "Years. Not decades."

When we told S. about the recurrence, he was very stoic and calm. We explained that I would once again be in treatment but that I had very good doctors and that we were going to do everything we could to fight the cancer. This time, he didn't ask if I was going to die. I'm glad, because I didn't want to lie to him.

I was in so much pain during that time (and so swollen from fluid buildup on my liver).

And, then, like Blondie's mom, I found myself in hospital with an infection. S. did not have to step through an airlock when he visited me but he did have to wear a mask, due to a cough (one that started when he entered the hospital and disappeared as soon as he left).

Those first few weeks after the metastasis was diagnosed are very blurred in my memory, made hazy by shock, pain and the drugs used to relieve those things.

And through it all, S. did not talk about the cancer.

Then, one day, after the dust had settled and the benefits of (much gentler) chemo had begun to take effect, there was an incident at school that revealed how much anxiety he'd been bottling up inside.

I took him home, told him that the principal had told me what happened.

I told him that I wasn't angry.

I said that I loved him very much and that he could talk to me about anything.

I told him that I was already feeling much better (which was true) and that I wasn't going anywhere any time soon.

And I set about finding a therapist.

But S. balked at the idea of talking to a therapist.

And as the weeks, then months, passed and my health was obviously improving (and ultrasounds indicated that the tumours had stabilized), we saw him relax.

By the time we went to Florida in March, he was the happiest, most confident and most at ease that he had been, not just since the cancer, but since starting school, a couple of years previously.

He ended up having a great year at school and, in July, we were able to share the news with him that my latest CT scan had revealed that my "innumerable tumours" have disappeared.

So the therapist got put on the back-burner.

But Blondie has me thinking that it might be time to make finding a therapist a priority. Someone S. could meet and to whom he could turn should he need to talk.

Because who knows what the future will bring? I plan to continue to defy expectations but I need to make sure that my children are cared for, in every way, and no matter what.

I realize, too, that the impact of cancer could manifest itself months, years or even decades into the future.

Even little D., who seems oblivious (but who knows how much he is taking in?), will not remember a time when his mother did not have cancer.

Like Blondie, I've done a lot of work in therapy (and like her, it took some doing to find the right therapist), dealing with issues from my own childhood.

I need to trust that my kids will have the strength, the resources, the willingness and the courage to deal with their own cancer fallout, if and when they need to, just as Blondie is doing now.

This is not the most eloquent piece I have ever written.

But it was the hardest.

And it was important to me to write it.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

oh my gosh, it goes by quickly

I have the house to myself this week end.

As I have written before, I love being alone (although I always have the animals for company). Having the house to myself is a delicious thing.

I always miss the boys, yet time flies by as I try to figure out how to use my time. Go for a walk? Do some exercises? Organize my house? Read my book (the Custodian of Paradise, by Wayne Johnston. It's brilliant)? Watch a movie? Write?

One of the things I have been doing is getting caught up on my daily blog reads.

And one of my favourites moved me to tears today. Go read Blondie over at Tales from Clark Street. Her mother had cancer when Blondie was a child and in today's post Blondie writes beautifully and heartbreakingly of dealing with the fallout from that time (I am happy to say that her mom is now a twenty year survivor).

Go read it.

I need to reflect a bit more before I put my own reactions into words.

Going to go get dressed now (yes, I do know that it is 2:00 in the afternoon), grab the leash and take the dog for a walk.

Friday, August 24, 2007


I have been feeling very uninspired today.

Someone I love is very sad and there is nothing I can do to make it better.

Some days are just sad days.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

jumbled brain

I really had to drag my ass over to an appointment with my naturopath today. I find, in many ways, that this, the second day post-chemo, is harder than the first. I still feel queasy, exhausted and I always get so bummed out. I keep reminding myself, that, come the week end, I will feel good again.

My ND walked me through more relaxation exercises today and, once again, I was amazed at how good they made me feel. She told me that I should try and set aside fifteen minutes a day for this. I'm going to try. And to do some stretching and strengthening (which I have done exactly once since I wrote about it here).

I do feel much more positive and energetic than before I saw her. And more relaxed (although some of the good was undone when I paid her for the latest batch of supplements and remedies she's prescribed for me. The list grows longer all the time).

Speaking of exercises, I finally signed up for daily brain exercises from mind-der-mast today. They had a table at the BlogHer conference where they had cards with different little puzzles on them (they were also giving away these cute little wooden puzzles. I took one home; I can't figure it out myself, so I gave it to my nine-year old). The folks at the table told me about a study they have been working on with chemotherapy recipients. I can't find any reference to it on their web site or any way to contact them directly (though the site is really cool and worth checking out). Perhaps I will email them in response to my first exercise and see if I can find out more about the study.

I do feel like chemo is eating away at my brain. My short term memory has been shot to hell and I can no longer trust myself to remember phone numbers and appointments unless I write them down. I have had a game of online Scrabble going pretty consistently since my diagnosis.

Staying sharp is really important to me.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

chemo in photos (or how I spent my yesterday)

Chemo is administered through my portacath. It looks kind of freaky but the thing has saved me tons of grief, as chemo veins are hard little things that can be very hard to access.

The little disk I am wearing was made by a Jacqueline Skaggs, a brilliant artist, writer and breast cancer survivor. It is asymmetrically scarred (like me) and says Rebel1in8 on it. It also came with a charming little locket (I broke the chain it came with, and can't get the locket on until I buy a chain with a smaller catch). The thing has barely left my neck since it arrived in the mail.

This is what it looks like when I am all hooked up. I am very, very stoned in this picture, from the Demerol they give me to prevent a reaction to the Herceptin.

If you look closely, you can see that my eyes are little tiny pinpricks. Very shortly after this was taken, I passed out.

Monday, August 20, 2007

chilly and lovely ottawa folk festival (or music and love - part 2)

As I wrote in Saturday's post, most of this week end was devoted to the Ottawa Folk Festival.

The festival consists were of mini-concerts (called workshops) like this one (there were a bunch of different venues but it felt like numbers were down, due to the unseasonably cool weather) and then big concerts on the main stage in the evenings.

The pic below is of the Arrogant Worms. We saw them three separate times over the week end, as S. is a huge fan. This compromise was not too difficult, since they are very funny (with lots of humour for the adults) and excellent, musically speaking. They were also paired up with some other wonderful performers.

I frickin' love these boys so much, it makes my chest ache (the ones pictured just below; I like the guys above just fine but they would no doubt be relieved to know that they are not the ones I adore).

Aren't they beautiful, all three of them?

I mean, seriously. Look at them.

And this is Bram Morrison, of Sharon, Lois and Bram fame. Remember the Elephant Show? The man claims to be losing his memory but I saw little evidence of that. And, man, he is good with kids. Introduced himself to each and every one of them before the show. And remembered their names.

Seeing him in such an intimate venue was magical for D. and me.

And Skinnamarink? It never gets old.

As you can see, D. was mesmerized, and an active participant.

We need to get this kid some music lessons. Not only can he carry a tune (which cannot be said for the rest of us) but he has a real sense of rhythm.

This is him tap-dancing in his brand new tie-dyed shorts, made by a guy named Dolphin (I am doing nothing to disabuse you all of your stereotypical notions of Folk Festivals am I?). D. developed quite a crush on the man.

One of the best things about the folk festival, though is the chance to discover performers. Here are two that you should check out. These are artists that are really worth supporting:

David Gaudet, who was this year's winner of the festival's Rising Stars award. He is a singer- songwriter with a truly original sound. I loved him.

Hoots and Hellmouth a smoking hot, many-piece band from Philadelphia. I suppose they could be called 'alt-country'. I just know that these guys really rocked. And they had a floor-sized tambourine that they all jumped on. Way cool.

More festival photos can be found at Flickr.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

music and love (part one)

I spent the day at the Ottawa Folk Festival today. It's pretty much the equivalent of the high holidays in our little heathen household and we try and spend as much time there as possible each year.

Of course, 'as much time as possible' changes once you have kids. I ran into my friend K. today, who was there with her almost-four-year old daughter. We exchanged hugs and then she ran off, calling over her shoulder, "when you're here with kids, you don't get to see anything!"

We paid a small fortune to a babysitter today to look after four year old D., so that we would actually get to take in some music. We brought a library's worth of books and magazines for our nine year old, kept him steadily supplied with food and drink (this week end is turning out to be very expensive) and did a fair bit of compromising as to which concerts we would choose to attend.

And we had fun.

But, too soon for me, S. announced that he had had enough and wanted to leave (in all fairness to him, this was at 7:00 and we had been at the music festival since shortly after noon). We insisted on staying to hear Penny Lang, he got sulky and I got mad.

It wasn't that he kept me from enjoying the concert. Or even that I really minded leaving, all that much (we are having bizarrely cold weather in Ottawa and the temperature was dropping rapidly). I was mad that he was so damned ungrateful.

Once we got home (and I sent my spouse, who doesn't mind freezing his ass off for music, back to the folk festival), S. did his thing and I did mine and we just basically stayed out of each other's way for the couple of hours before bedtime.

But I did something this evening I'd been meaning to do for a while; the first in a series of writing exercises, called "Words in a Row" devised by Birdie Jaworski, a contributing editor over at BlogHer.

My contribution can be found in the comments. As a way to unlock writing ideas, it really worked for me, but the story that flows from the points I wrote there will wait for another time.

Because writing them also reminded me how much I love S., what a good time we have together and how much I appreciate him. He is a bright, funny and very loving child. We had such a good time together today.

So when I went upstairs to turn off his light, I told him all that.

He is, after all, only nine years old and should be allowed to be a little immature.

And now, I'm off to bed. He's having trouble sleeping and I'm going to let him crawl in with me until his father gets home.

Friday, August 17, 2007

another question for you

I am considering applying for BlogHer Ads.

Call it 'paying for the internet' money.

In your opinion, how much of a sellout would this be? How distracting would you find the blog if there were small ads down the left margin?

I would ban ads from pharmaceutical companies and private health care providers, as well as for all purported cures for cancer (or for other illnesses, for that matter).

Please let me know your honest opinion, either in the comments or via email.

so, how are you, anyway?

We did this crazy icebreaker at the BlogHer conference (crazy because it involved 800 conference attendees). We formed two big circles, one inside the other, and introduced ourselves to the person facing us. Every thirty seconds, the two circles moved in opposite directions, so that we were continuously introducing ourselves to someone new.

Since we would always begin with the name of our blog, I told my cancer story, varying only slightly, over and over again - diagnosis, recurrence, remission. By the end of the exercise, I was mightily sick of my own voice. And, with a couple of notable exceptions (hello, Mom2Amara!), I can remember very little of the women I met over those twenty or so minutes.

I also found myself wishing for the first time that I had named my blog something else. I would wish this a few more times over the week end (mostly during social events) but I will elaborate on that in another post.

Last night, I was at a really lovely birthday party for a friend of mine. There were many people there whom I like very much and whom I had not seen for a long time. Most were readers of my blog, so they knew how well I've been doing and wanted to hug and congratulate me. I felt very loved and so glad to be there but left the party feeling that once again, the focus of conversations had been on me and what I am doing.

A friend once said to me that she feels that we have these regular, intimate conversations because she reads my blog. Many others have echoed this sentiment. I love that my blog makes people feel closer to me.

But I still want to be the kind of person who takes interest in the lives of others. I want friends to feel like they can share with me.

So, how have you been? What's new in your life? Are you working on anything interesting? Any interesting plans you'd care to share?

I really do want to know.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

so this is what it looks like

I had my regular pre-chemo appointment with my oncologist yesterday.

Having had time to get over the wonderful shock of my CT scan results, I had a few questions:

Q-Can my chemo schedule be scaled back now?

A-Yes! (I pause to do a few cartwheels, at least in my head). Instead of a week of Herceptin and vinorelbine, a week of just vino and then one week off, I will have two weeks of treatment and then two weeks off. Is this about as clear as mud? Another way to put it is that instead of being in treatment two-thirds of the time, I'll only be in treatment half the time (although, this exaggerates the impact because I always have treatment on Tuesdays and feel better by the week end).

Q-So, what are we treating now, since there don't appear to be any tumours on my liver?

A-Once you are in Stage IV, you assume that the cancer is systemic and you need to treat it head to toe, with a systemic drug (my oncologist actually said that in this stage, they could give me lethal doses of chemo, followed by a bone marrow transplant, and still find cancer somewhere in my body). If my cancer had been hormone positive, I could have been treated with a pill (like Tamoxifen) but the only treatments available to me are Herceptin and more chemo.

Q-But things are looking much more hopeful than they were last November (asked very tentatively)?

A-An emphatic yes. I should expect however that I will need to change my treatment at some point, when this one stops working. He did make it very clear, though, that he has many other options in his arsenal.

Q-Should we credit the Herceptin for the dramatic improvement in my condition?

A-Vinorelbine and Herceptin have been shown to work remarkably well in combination with each other but yes, Herceptin is a wonderful drug. I am very fortunate that my cancer surfaced after it was approved in Canada for treatment of breast cancer.

Q-Is this what it means to be in remission?

A-Yes, it does.

So there you have it. I'll have a bit of non-chemo time in the next little while and I have a lot more reason for hope.

Not so long ago, daring to hope to attend the BlogHer conference seemed like hubris. Now, I'm working on a couple of big projects and doing a little planning for the future.

It feels good.


It was brought to my attention yesterday that the link to my email address had disappeared. I cannot, for the life of me, figure out how to bring it back.

I have restored the address (top right) but you'll have to cut and paste it into your email.


And Chris (from the comments) I didn't receive the email you mention (and I would love to hear from you), so please resend.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

doggone it - a very bad idea and a tempting one

It seems it's all animals all the time around here today.

I can't stop thinking about an excellent post over at BlogHer about a service that rents out homeless dogs to people who don't want to make a longer term commitment. I think this is a very bad idea, as does Laurie, the author (and, when I last checked, every single commenter).

In contrast, I am finding myself sorely tempted by another doggy enterprise - a new service that allows you to send in a sample of your dog's saliva for DNA analysis, in order to learn about what breeds your dog has in his ancestry. I have written a fair bit about my lovely, lovely dog of uncertain parentage and I'm very curious as to his origins. If it weren't for the fact that my spouse is far, far saner on doggy matters than I (most people are, frankly), I might be seriously considering it.

Note to self: Nurture is a big factor in a dog's (or a human's, for that matter) disposition. A dog with the same DNA would not be a clone of my dog.

Note to self (2): Feeding the kids is more important than DNA testing for my dog.

how the mighty have fallen (or more than you probably want to know about my cat)

This is Eli.

He is thirteen years old and is the smartest cat I have ever met. He is also thoroughly neurotic.

Most likely the product of too much inbreeding, Eli can go from happy purring to a psychotic episode in a millisecond. As a younger cat he would sometimes attack pretty viciously from out of nowhere (and he once had to be quarantined after biting a neighbour. He responded to his confinement by pissing all over our apartment). This, thankfully, has stopped. He is much mellower now (although we discourage the kids from petting him and we watch for the signs that he is getting too excited).

We often remark that he could almost fool us into thinking he's a nice cat.

We like to say that Eli learned to turn his anger inward. He frequently licks himself raw in various places on his body. And recently, he has started to chase his own tail.

He gets really mad when he catches it. At first this was really funny. He would chase his tail, catch it and then, invariably fall off the bed or the couch. He would even hiss and spit as though he'd been attacked (when I asked my vet about this, he used the very scientific term, "insane" to describe the cat's clinical condition).

It's not funny anymore.

When we came back from our week at the cottage, we found blood all over the kitchen floor and Eli had an ugly gash in his tail. I think the poor thing was just desperately lonely while we were gone (he has become very social in this, his eighth of nine lives). We had someone coming in to look after him most days but I don't think this was enough for our crazy cat.

Our vet (who is thorough, compassionate and very cute and with whom I am half in love - I don't understand why all my single straight girlfriends don't acquire pets just so they can have him over to their house) had warned that this might happen and suggested that we keep rescue remedy on hand. I was worried about giving it to him but he seems to love it (it smells very boozy; I suspect we are making him drunk) and jumps up on the garbage can to drink it from the dropper.

It seems to be working. The vet did warn us that sometimes in these kinds of cases, the tail needs to be amputated because the cat just can't leave it alone.

He has relaxed a lot since we stopped letting him go outside (more than ten years ago) and he loved living with another cat. But when our younger cat died of (genetic) kidney failure, we agreed that we could not get another, as D., my youngest son, is allergic.

Eli has been a source of much entertainment for us over the years (and almost more than equal amounts of stress) and we find that we are oddly attached to him despite the trauma he has inflicted on us (could it be Stockholm syndrome?).

How many cats can claim that they once removed a screen from a window, left it propped up against the wall and went out for the evening?

We used to say that the only thing keeping this cat from true independence was his lack of opposable thumbs. Now, it seems that in his dotage, he needs us.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

my head is full of goo

You know how they say that men are the biggest babies when they get a cold and that women tend to remain more stoic?

These stereotypical roles are completely reversed in my house.

My spouse just quietly carries on when he is sick (he just gets a little grumpy). I, on the other hand, tend to whine and complain endlessly.

Come to think of it, I've whined less at the discomfort and myriad indignities of cancer and its treatments.

That being said, I feel like crap, and I really resent being sick on my last precious week off before resuming chemo.

Monday, August 13, 2007


It is so quiet here.

After the chaos of the week end (not to mention of this morning's rush to leave the house), I am gloriously alone (aside from the cat and the dog, snoozing on the couch beside me).


I don't even mind that I have a big mess to clean up, along with a mountain of laundry.

I like my own company.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

home sweet home (a pictorial blogging cop out)

A stay at my spouse's familial cottage was a great way to cap off the month long birthday extravaganza.

This is what awaited me upon my arrival August 4th:

My nieces (and young nephew) made this, along with my older son, who it turns out had not forgotten his mother during his sojourn at his cousins' house. There was also cake (that he had made with considerable assistance from my brilliant and patient sister-in-law). And presents (including dog lovers' fridge poetry and charms for my crocs from S., who I am told had been very focused on finding the perfect gift for his mother. He succeeded.).

It didn't take us very long to unwind and get in cottage mode. S. loves it up there (even if he refuses to smile for photos).

Does this not look like a man on vacation?

This was actually taken in Algonquin Park, on our way home. We were too relaxed to remember to take photos when we were still at the cottage.

This was taken in a rare vacation moment when D. was fully clothed (my youngest is a bit of an exhibitionist. I think my nieces saw much more naked boy than they cared to while we were there).

We had a very good week. The cottage is a wonderous place, able to accommodate large numbers of people without ever seeming crowded.

Now, we are home (having barely survived the long drive, yesterday), my pants are a little tighter and the house looks like a tornado blew through.

I am off to bed, though. The mess will still be here tomorrow.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

birthday pledge

This is what two other Ottawa women are doing to mark their 40th birthdays:

the warm hands network - finding forty gathering knitting

I think it's pretty inspiring. Shall all those of us who are knitters and crocheters donate at least one thing to charity this year?

Friday, August 03, 2007

bittersweet milestone

In an hour, I will be forty.

The celebrating began in early July and I have been very, very spoiled.

Life is good and I have more reason for hope than I have had in a long time.

But I would be lying if I did not admit that this birthday is a bit tinged with sadness.

My life, at forty, does not look the way I thought it would. Cancer has irrevocably changed me and the choices I will make. My expectations and aspirations will never again be what they once were.

So, yes, I'm a little sad.

But I have, thus far, defied medical expectations and I am determined that I will continue to do so.

I have a beautiful family and a community of friends who have, in turn, exceeded my expectations of love and friendship.

I am feeling more creative, inspired and confident than I have since childhood.

And it feels like more good things are just around the corner.

I need to indulge this sadness, to give it voice, and as I write, it dissipates.

Tomorrow, we head to one of my favourite places in the world, where I will be reunited with my nine-year old, who I have not seen in almost two weeks (he has been hanging out with his cousins).

I have missed him more than he has missed me (which is as it should be) but I can't wait to hug him.

I think I am going to have a very good birthday.

I'll be off line for the next week or so. I have so much to share when I get back, half written posts inspired by my time at the BlogHer conference.

It's going to be a good year. I can feel it.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

chicago day 3 (from the surreal to the sublime)

Note: Day 2 was pretty much summed up in this post.

We spent the first couple of days at the Inn of Chicago, which was nowhere near as nice as their web site would have you believe (our 'Queen' bed was a double and pretty much took up the entire room) and nowhere near as bad as some of the reviews I read after booking.

But on Thursday, July 26, we moved into the very hip W Lakeshore, which was within our reach, thanks to BlogHer's special rate.

The place was surreal and we were a little giddy.

The W does not have bellhops but 'Welcome Ambassadors." They don't have a lobby but they do have a 'living room' (which turns into a dark and noisy nightclub in the evenings).

I reclined on the day bed while, perusing the confusing array of in-room dining cards and other services (no housekeeping, but something called "styling"). There was even a pet food menu, from which you could order a filet for your pooch, a burger with Iams kibble or spend $7.00 on water (sparkling or still) for your dog. While this was cheaper than the $8.00 water for humans (would they not let me have the dog water if I did not have a dog?), I couldn't help wondering who would order this. The dogs I've known have always been happy to drink from the toilet, if you let them.

T. was fascinated with the fuzzy cube.

And we were both mystified at the shutters between the rooms and the bathroom.

Many BlogHers wrote here about frustrations with the W (and I added my voice to theirs) but I am so glad I chose to stay there. The W was something to be experienced, although, next time, I will likely choose the more sensible option (Sigh. Did my fingers just type that?)

After exploring our hotel room, it seemed time to escape the downtown core and go find a real Chicago neighbourhood.

But first we took a walk along the Navy Pier:

After checking out the building where the next day's conference would take place, we hopped on the free trolley to the El train and set out to explore a real Chicago neighbourhood. With food once again driving the agenda, we got off at Belmont Station and made our way to the Bittersweet Pastryshop for a delicious lunch and what was probably the best chocolate brownie I have ever had (yes, I know that I have stopped eating sugar but if ever there was a time for an exception, it was then).

We wandered down tree-lined streets, looked in people's windows and imagined what it would be like to live there. Honestly, I could see it.

We walked to Wrigleyville (how could we not?) and took pics in front of Wrigley Stadium. Since it wasn't a home game night, the local pubs were not too busy, so we got especially good service at the Raw Bar where we treated ourselves to a bunch of appetizers and I fell in love with Goose Island Honkers Ale.

This was my favourite day playing tourist. The next day, T. left and I got swept up in the BlogHer conference, but I really did love Chicago and am so glad we took the time for our little vacation.

antidote to irritation

So it's really freaking hot outside. It's currently 34C with a humidex of 41C (that, my American friends, is 105.8F).

I am still a little green around the gills from chemo but I had to leave the house for an appointment with my naturopath (and spend another bazillion dollars I don't have on supplements). Afterwards, I decided to drop into a nearby Staples for a memory card for my Palm.

As I was cashing out, the clerk said, "Hi, how are you?"

"Good thanks," I replied as I fished my wallet out of my purse.

"I'm very good. Thanks for asking!" he said snottily.

I was floored. I looked up in shock, with what I'm sure was a pissed off (not chagrined) look on my face.

"I was just kidding," he scolded.

The little twerp.

I went back out into the heat in the most irritated of moods.

"How are you?" is a bit of a pet peeve of mine, when asked in a perfunctory way. I try only to inquire how someone is doing when I have time to listen and to respond in a thoughtful way. The above exchange did not qualify as that kind of social interaction.

And did I mention that it's really, freaking hot outside?

Then, I step off the bus and saw this:

It's one of my crazy sunflowers poking up to greet me over my battered fence.

My irritation evaporated.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

oh glory day!

From today's
Globe and Mail:

"A cup of joe does more good than harm"

Whoo hoo!

chicago day 1 (or two tired people play tourist)

T. and I left for the airport in the very wee hours (thankfully, we had stayed at a hotel near the airport, thanks to my mom-in-law). T's flight was before mine (we both going on points, donated by friends, and as such went on different airlines).

By the time we arrived at our hotel to stash our bags, we had been up for four hours and it was only 8:00 in Chicago!

So, of course we went out for a greasy breakfast. I knit while waiting for our food (this and much coffee helped me to say awake.

Then we went for a stroll along the Magnificent Mile.

We couldn't resist stopping by Fox News to hang with the Simpsons. This photo is for S. who has been doing the countdown for the Simpsons Movie.

We followed this up with a boat tour, run by the Chicago Architectural Foundation. This tour had been highly recommended to us and it deserved to be. We learned a great deal about Chicago's history (it turns out the Chicago fire cannot be blamed on a cow, after all, for example) and were introduced to the city's amazing buildings both old and new. Every building in downtown Chicago seems to have its own special details and history. I don't know much about architecture but I was truly awestruck.

And we got to learn stuff while sitting on our bums for ninety minutes, which was a big bonus.

Then it was off to Millenium Park, where we saw this:

Anish Kapoor called his work the
Cloud Gate but we called it the jelly bean and took many, many pictures.

We also really liked the
Crown Fountain.

Designed by Spanish artist Jaume Plensa and inspired by the people of Chicago, The Crown Fountain is a major addition to the city's world-renowned public art collection.

The fountain consists of two 50-foot glass block towers at each end of a shallow reflecting pool. The towers project video images from a broad social spectrum of Chicago citizens, a reference to the traditional use of gargoyles in fountains, where faces of mythological beings were sculpted with open mouths to allow water, a symbol of life, to flow out. Plensa adapted this practice by having faces of Chicago citizens projected on LED screens and having water flow through a water outlet in the screen to give the illusion of water spouting from their mouths. The collection of faces, Plensa's tribute to Chicagoans, was taken from a cross-section of 1,000 residents.

Kids really loved the fountain, too. There were dozens of kids there when we were, playing in the jets. I love this mix of form and function and also how it made the art accessible, in different ways, to everyone.

And speaking of kids, I had been desperately ready to get away from mine (the fighting had been really wearing of late) but I spent the whole day saying, "S. would really like this! D. would really have fun here!"

I missed them.

Chicago photos are up at Flickr!

There all up! Find them here. And do let me know what you think. I am rather pleased with this lovely overview (although, forgot my camera at the hotel on the Saturday, which turned out to be a great day for pics! I haven't stopped kicking myself for that one, yet).

Feel free to comment at Flickr, or here.