Friday, July 31, 2009

Sleep, sleep, and more sleep

I'm very, very tired. I slept until 5:30pm today (when Ian woke me up) and I've been sitting here trying to keep my eyes open. I'm not surprised at all because I had Pamidronate yesterday and I was tired from the trip.

So this is it for today; tomorrow I'll continue talking about our vacation.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

The trip, part one: The wedding

I'm pretty tired so I'm not going to describe the whole trip today. I'll leave the bulk of the sightseeing description until tomorrow or the next day, when I'm more up for it. But I do want to talk about the wedding.

It was catered by and held at the Hart House, a restaurant in Burnaby's Deer Lake park. There's a field between the restaurant and the lake where they have a permanent tent set up to one side for weddings (it's a great location) and the reception was there. The wedding was held outdoors beside the tent.

The ceremony was fairly short but lovely and meaningful. A significant part of the ceremony was the reading of the marriage section of The Prophet, which talks about how couples can keep and maintain a healthy relationship. The passage was very poetic and inspiring; it's definitely an appropriate passage for a wedding.

The couple wanted to save money on the wedding - a wedding is expensive, after all - and so they did everything possible themselves. The bride did a great job at the planning; so great, that almost nothing went wrong. Sure, there were a few little things here and there that might not have been perfect, but no one noticed.

I know you're all wondering whether I wore my dress, and yes, I did, and yes, we got some pictures between the ceremony and the reception. Here you go:

I felt that it fit well and I felt attractive in it. I wish I was smaller (and I could do without the extra chin), but the dress looked as good on me as it could. And of course I love the fabric :)

I ended up not staying the whole night at the dance because I was tired. The wedding was definitely something I enjoyed seeing.

ps - this is post #1001. I never thought, when I started this blog, that I'd end up with this many posts. Thanks for sticking with me this far. Here's to the next thousand!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

One more thing...

I need to talk about one thing tonight, even though I'm tired. I've been holding this in for a whil.

This past Sunday a friend of mine died of breast cancer. My friend just turned 40 and had two young kids. She had liver mets and found out just before I met her again in Philly that she had a single lesion on her brain. One single brain met, three months ago. And now she's dead.

I don't know how she could have died so quickly. She had radiation for the lesion and then... nothing. All that time, my friend didn't know that she was sick... she thought she was going to be getting treatment - her oncologist never told her anything different! She was in terrible pain as well. But while we knew things weren't perfect, we thought it was ok, that she was going to be better.

It wasn't until she talked to someone a couple of weeks ago and was totally incoherent - indicating that the single brain met had spread - that we knew that there was a problem. A mutual friend got hospice involved to get some pain relief going and some help for my friend's husband (who was trying to deal with his wife and two young daughters with no support or help). On Saturday, my friend moved into a hospice facility and died the next day.

It was hard to hear about my friend while we were away... here we were in this beautiful place, seeing these more amazing things, and my friend is dead way more quickly than anyone had a right to think was even possible.

I hate cancer and I want it to stop killing my friends.

LisaG, I miss you... you were so funny, irreverent, and smart. I wish you'd had more time with us. I love you so much and I hope you're at peace now, watching over the rest of us.

Home at last

We are finally home after two weeks away on vacation. I'm exhausted and have to be up early tomorrow for Pamidronate, so for now I'll just sum up the trip by giving an overview of the trip. I'll have more details on what we did in the coming days.

First was Ian's brother's wedding which was well-organized and gorgeous. The bride was radiant and beautiful from the inside out. As was the groom. :) They made a very happy couple.

Then we got to see family members that I haven't seen in many, many years. I loved seeing and connecting with everyone and was sad to have to leave. I very much want to see everyone again.

Following that was the big road trip that was the heart of our vacation. We started in Washington state, driving back and forth over the Cascade mountains with visits to Mt St. Helens and Mt Rainier and stops at Olympia, Yakima, Seatac, Seattle, and Omak. From there we drove up through Kelowna to Kamloops and then down to Whistler and back to the Vancouver area. We saw the most beautiful, amazing places and things on this part of the vacation... we were lucky to be in some of the most beautiful areas ever with the best weather possible.

Over the last few days, we visited some parks and areas in the Vancouver area. They were also beautiful, but not quite as serene as some of the earlier places we visited.

And now we're home! Home, with all of our stuff and our setup and our life. I loved the vacation (and wish I could have spent more time at some places) but I'm really happy to be home.

Over the next few posts, I'll describe the trip in more detail. We have around 1000 pictures that we need to sort through, and I hope to have at least a few for you to enjoy.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Leaving on a jet plane

You'd think I was on vacation already because I haven't posted in two days! Sorry about that - I was exhausted after the retreat on Sunday and last night I was busy hand-sewing the dress hem until bedtime. The dress is completely done and packed and ready to go - yay!!!! You'll have to wait for pictures until at least Friday, when I'll be wearing it at the wedding.

The retreat on Sunday was ok. I don't feel that it was a waste of time, thank goodness. There was a labyrinth there where the paths were bounded by different flowers and plants. Some of the flowers looked like they might be orchids; they were very pretty. Walking the labyrinth was very relaxing. I took it slowly while meditated to clear my mind.

I ended up realizing that I was very tense (no surprise) because of the number of friends I have that are not doing well. Two close friends and a third I know less well are not well at all... hospice in involved in two cases and should be there in the third. It's so heartbreaking to hear and read that they're going downhill. They're all beautiful, compassionate, awesome women and the world will be a lesser place without them. This time - the one leading up to when they die - is hard, because we know it's coming, but not when.

Anyways, I ended up thinking about them while looking at the flowers and I realized that death is a natural part of life and that it's ok for people to die. And it's ok to be sad about it, and to miss them, and to want for them to be happy and comfortable while they're here (and to want them back). These women will live on through everyone who knows them, and that's how things should be, too - new things come out of the ones who came before. I knew all of this before but I found the reminder comforting.

The retreat took place at a ginseng farm which had fields in different growth stages. The ginseng is planted in raised straw mounds and then semi-transparent tarps are placed about six or eight feet above the mounds in the summer to protect the plants from the sun. The tarps are removed for winter. It takes several years to fully grow the ginseng.

I tell you this because I spent the afternoon wandering around the perimeters of the fields. It was a beautiful afternoon, sunny but not too hot with a lovely breeze, and it was fun to just wander around where there were no people and go exploring, with nothing in particular to do and nowhere to be. Almost everyone else took part in the drumming circle. I decided not to do the drumming thing and fortunately I wasn't the only one.

Doing all of that - walking around and just enjoying the day - was awesome. There were parts of the retreat which were not quite so awesome. Like when we did the opening meditation and the guy leading it said over and over and over that we could heal ourselves and make ourselves perfect just by imagining and believing it. I don't hold with that theory - if it worked, don't you think my three dying friends would do it? And saying that we have the power to cure ourselves like that implies that we cause our own disease. I don't take responsibility for my disease.

There were weird things as well... one of the drummers apparently heals water. She said that a person can send out healing words to the water and that it would work to heal it. Hmmm. If that worked, our oceans and lakes wouldn't be the mess they are, would they? Maybe we're just not believing hard enough.

While I enjoyed myself, I don't think I'll go back to one of these retreats. I did volunteer to help sew for the centre because they need someone to do it, and I can sew. Plus some say that doing some kind of volunteer work can help to make those of us who aren't working feel more like we contribute to society. We'll see how it goes.

Anyways, after being out in the sun all day - even though I didn't get a sunburn due to liberal and repeated use of the free, non-smelly sunscreen - and after sitting on a bus for three hours (one and a half each way), I was really, really tired and cranky when I got home. I ended up having a temper tantrum in the early part of the evening. Stomping around, yelling incoherently, not wanting to do things... I might as well have been a three-year-old, because I certainly acted like one. Sigh. Ian bore the brunt of this terrible behaviour quite well, telling me to go to sleep. Which I did.

Yesterday and today I ran around doing errands and getting ready for the trip. We leave early tomorrow morning and I think we've got everything. I hope we do, anyway, because there won't be time to pack anything but toiletries tomorrow. I'm excited about the trip because we're going to a wedding and then seeing my extended family and then we're going to explore parts of Washington state through the Okanaga/Okanogan and back to Vancouver.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

So close to finishing.... plus some shopping

All I have left to do is hem the dress; I'm leaving it to hang overnight so that it can relax. Strictly speaking, something less than a circle or larger skirt doesn't necessarily need to relax (and anything that's a circle or larger skirt should hang for a few days), but it's better if it does. I guess I have some handwork to do, tacking down the  facings, but that'll take next to no time at all.

I decided I needed shorts because I only really have one decent pair so I went shopping today. It's the first time that I've really been shopping for quite a while; lately I've been buying things on the internet and I don't buy clothes there. There are so many styles out there... most of them aren't right for me, of course, but that's ok. I tried on quite a few things and came out with two pairs of shorts and one top that needs hemming. I have to pick up a package this week so I might poke around and see what I see then.

Tomorrow I'm going on an all-day retreat with the cancer support centre. I'm feeling a little overwhelmed because we leave Wednesday morning for vacation. I thought about that when I signed up, but I realized then that having a day of relaxation and meditation might do me a world of good. Especially since Meditation has been cancelled for the summer - I haven't had my weekly dose of it, so I'm tenser an more irritable than normal.

So even though I'm tense, I'm going to the retreat tomorrow. I hope I'm making the right decision.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Almost finished...

The dress is almost done. All I've got left is to sew the seam below the invisible zipper, apply the facings to the neck and armholes, and hem the skirt.The last thing I did today was to put the zipper in, after which I tried this final product on for the first time.

It looks amazing! It fits like a glove and the colour is spectacular - better than I thought it would be! I'd made a few changes to the pattern before sewing the final product so I was nervous about how it would fit, but I'm no longer nervous. It looks soooo good - I can't wait to finish it so that I can show you pictures.

Putting the dress together hasn't been too bad. Because I'm layering the fabric I had to figure out how I wanted to put the two layers together. I decided on something that acts as an internlining (the top and under fabrics are sewn together) in the yoke and gusset and as a lining (the top and under fabrics are sewn separately) below. The only tricky part with that was putting the gusset in under the arm. The gusset itself has the top and under fabrics together, but the side seam in which the gusset is inserted has separate top and under layers. After a bit of fiddling I got it sorted out.

One strange thing happened while I was inserting the invisible zipper: I forgot how to do it. I developed a method for inserting it that perfectly aligns cross-seams. I knew the first step: baste the seam closed. But I didn't remember any steps after that. I tried to do it but I got it wrong, and then I muddled through and managed to insert the zipper... but I still don't know whether I used the method I'd used before.

This was a little scary. True, I haven't inserted an invisible zipper for maybe six months or so, and I've only had this method... for ... some amount of time (I don't remember when I came up with the method, but I know that it was after I left work, so sometime in the last three years). But to have totally lost the memory is a little freaky. My hands didn't even remember how to do it... sometimes, even if I can't think of the steps, my hands "know" what to do. They didn't this time.

Hopefully this is an isolated incident and it doesn't happen again.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Surfing the internet

You know how I surf the internet sometimes? I spent some time doing that today. It all started with one of those Disasters of the Century show which had a segment on the Hinton train collision (which I remember, sort of). So I looked that up on Wikipedia, and then I browsed some railway disaster pages... and then I started looking at other disasters.

I ended up reading about the Iroquois Theatre fire, of course about the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, and others.... in many cases, there were inadequate or hidden exits, or the doors opened the wrong way. Things like this don't happen too often here now, but they still happen in other countries. For example, there are many, many examples of theatre fires in China.

From there (thinking about fire creeps me out a bit, so I went on to other topics), I looked the sinking of the SS Eastland. The boat was of top-heavy design and when people boarded it for a company picnic, it just turned on its side while still tied to the dock. That doesn't happen often these days because ship design has changed. But really, who thought a top-heavy boat would be a good thing in the first place? Seriously - I sometimes wonder if sometimes these things happen because no one asked the obvious questions - like, "will a top-heavy boat be stable?"

As an aside, my manager (back when I was working) was of the type to not ask those questions. I never did understand that.... but having done all this reading, I'm very happy that he doesn't do anything that could end up killing people.

From that, I moved onto building collapses. Like the Sampoong department store building collapse. It collapsed because the building was designed to be an office, not a shopping centre, and some of the changes to the building's purpose resulted in removing support columns, weakening the structure. And then, later on, they added an extra floor... plus heavy airconditioners, that the original structure had never been designed to support. Plus substandard building materials were used. What were they thinking???? Any one of those poor decisions would have been bad... but compounded, they're horrific.

Moving on.... to a variety of collapsed buildings in Egypt. They happen all the time. Seriously. Buildings are condemned but never taken down, and worse, extra stories are added on top of foundations never designed to take the weight... even if they were designed for it, the right materials might not have been used in construction, and public officials are paid to look the other way. It's bad enough when these are residential buildings... but it happens with commercial buildings and factories, too.

It's just so hard to believe that in this day and age, people are dying because of very poor construction methods and materials. Just because that doesn't happen often here - although it does happen occasionally - doesn't mean that it's ok for it to happen anywhere else. Too often, shortcuts are taken to save money for one reason or another, without anyone thinking of the consequences.

Note that Egypt isn't the only place with building problems; in China, there have been many, many theatre fires. In parts of Bangladesh, factories often collapse. In India and other places, bad things like fires happen on overcrowded trains. So many of these disasters have come from too many people using woefully inadequate services in addition to inadequate construction methods.

Many of these disasters have give rise to better design, engineering, and construction practices being implemented. Sometimes it takes a big disaster to make people realize that what worked before doesn't work anymore... If only that lesson would find its way to countries where money trumps human life.

I hope you don't think I'm being especially morbid, here. There is something compelling about reading about them, kind of the same way that train wrecks or car accidents are compelling. And of course I wanted to give you an example of the kinds of internet surfing that I do - I talk about surfing the interweb a lot, but that's not the same as talking about the kind of surfing that I'm doing.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

One day I'll finish what I've started

I had such great intentions today... that I'd get work done on the pattern and cut out the fabric and everything. Instead, I had a wonderful lunch with a friend followed by a nap. I didn't sleep well last night; between the problems on the message board and my hip, I couldn't sleep. The nap today helped quite a bit.

My hip has been hurting differently... I call it my hip, but it's really my lower back. There are two disks that are degenerating there. When the vertebrae shift, they pinch different nerves. The one currently being pinched is along my left inner thigh. Sigh. I haven't lost feeling there or anything but it's really hard to walk. I very much hope that my back resets itself and I can walk more easily again.

This evening we watched Shakespeare in Love. I wasn't sure that I'd like the movie, even though it is a costume drama. I don't usually like romantic comedy... or any type of romance-type movies, because you sort of know how it's going to end. But I kept finding my gaze drawn to the screen and watching closely, completely caught up in the story. This is a rare thing for me.

This is a great movie - it's funny, it's compelling, and the acting is superb (I especially liked the Queen... she was everything I thought a queen should be, and more). The costumes were definitely amazing - intricate and beautiful. If you haven't seen it, I think you should.

Monday, July 06, 2009

Support... or lack thereof

I took another look at the dress and I discovered that it didn't properly fit. It was too big at the sides by far. I've made some adjustments and taken it up by about half an inch. I do have to make a change to the gusset under the arm to raise the underarm, but I've figured out what to do there.

The dress looks so much prettier now and I feel so much better about it. I also took another look at the fabric (there are two layers) and I'm very happy with it, too.

That was the best stuff that happened today.

The worse stuff involves the young survival board. There was a message thread on not posting links to people's private blogs without their permission. Someone had posted such a link and I'd asked her privately and nicely to remove. The person who's blog was exposed isn't doing well and has been feeling stalked by people who have been reading that blog. The person who posted the link didn't think there was any reason to remove it... and didn't seem to understand why the issue mattered in the first place.

I was completely floored by this, but after some thought and talk with others, I'd decided to drop it.

But then the general thread exploded today. A friend of this other woman's started posting, and the whole thing blew up. I'm ashamed to say that I got angry in that thread and I swore, which is something I rarely do in messages. In my justification, I was called a liar by someone who hadn't read what I'd written. Not that this made anything better.

This isn't the first time a thread has blown up like that, but it's happening more often lately. Things have changed there recently... where before people would argue but not really take sides, now there is an out-and-gang of bullies there. When posting, they paraphrase what people say and twist the words that were written - in post after post after post - until you look like a fool trying to defend yourself. But the allegations are so preposterous that you can't not defend yourself, you know?

This was an awful experience. At several points today I was so tense I was shaking and had a terrible headache, just from the stress on that board. And mixed in with all the anger was my inability to understand why it was even an issue... why people think it's ok to post a link to a private blog, and then justify by saying people had thanked them, and that other information about that person could be found on google. I don't get it.

The only way out of that mess would have been to not get involved, which I didn't do. The thread has now been closed by moderators (in an unprecedented move), prompting other threads by the bullies. I'm staying away from that gang. Life's too short. And besides, I have a dress to make.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Finally, some sewing

Believe it or not, I'm finally finished doing test garments for the dress I'm making. The dress fits me pretty well and I'm happy with it, but the jacket is not going to work. It's basically a short box that goes to just above my waist and there's absolutely no way that that silhouette is going to work for me. Well, when I'm thinner it might work but at the moment I seem to have misplaced my hourglass figure, so anything that doesn't help to define a waist makes me look like a balloon.

I think I'll like the dress when it's done although I do have some niggling reservations. I'm not sure exactly why I have reservations - the dress shape is lovely, and the style is flattering. The fabric I'm using is a green burnout over a green lining, and it's lovely, too. So what don't I like? I don't know. Maybe when it's done I'll like it better.

Friday, July 03, 2009

So tired

Pamidronate can be counted on to leave me extremely sleepy the next day. I had Pamidronate yesterday and slept today until 2... and I'm still exhausted. I'll be going to sleep at a reasonable hour tonight for sure.

I get my next Pamidronate the day after we get back from our vacation at the end of this month. For some silly reason I went and scheduled a doctor's appointment for the very next day. Even if the trip doesn't exhaust me, the Pamidronate will, and I just don't see how I'll be wanting to drive to Oakville for a 10 minute doctor's appointment. I think, to save myself unnecessary exhaustion, I'll change that appointment.

I very much hope that I'll sleep well tonight and be able to sew tomorrow. I really, really need to get this dress and jacket done.

Thursday, July 02, 2009


It was busy at the hospital today because yesterday was a holiday and so it took longer than usual to get my Pamidronate. That's ok; it's not like I was going to work afterwards or anything, unlike a woman I spoke with. She's on treatment "forever" and is now receiving it weekly instead of bi-weekly and is finding that her work isn't happily accommodating her anymore. She said she didn't qualify for short-term disability but I talked to her about long-term disability and I think she might try and get that instead. I'm glad that I don't have problems at work. :)

This evening I watched Vinyan. It's the story of a couple who's son was taken by a tusnami; the mother believes that she saw her son alive on a video and so the couple pay a guy - a human trafficker or pirate - to take them up the Burma coast to find him. What follows is a journey up the river into a world where there are only boys or the elderly; where nothing is quite real or imaginary, and where the couple are reduced, finally, to who they really are. In this way, it's much like Heart of Darkness (which I've still never read) or Apocalypse Now. Intertwined with the journey is a lot of sexuality and cruelty that feel sort of offhand or incidental, as though they're just part of life. Maybe they are.

The move is billed as a horror movie but it isn't one; I'm not sure it is so easily classified. It's a psychological thriller, sort of, except that it's fairly slow-moving and gorgeous, like any journey up a river, and not like a horror film. The movie's pace is balanced by the awesome cinematography (done by Benoit Debie, the same fellow who did the cinematography for Irreversible, another favourite of mine - and a movie that is most definitely not for everyone); I particularly loved the floating lights and the jungle.

There's a lot to this film: the relationship between people, the role of the mother, children, the true self, the difference between Western and Eastern coping methods, grief, ritual, and the cost of the search. I very much enjoyed Vinyan even though (or because?) it's not the right movie for everyone.

Vinyan and other movies I've watched and really enjoyed were shown at some point at the Toronto International Film Festival. I think one of these years I'd like to actually go to the festival and see these fantastic movies there.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Happy Canada Day!

This is the first year, I think, where we haven't gone and participated in the Canada Day celebrations held by the University. We're also not going to go and watch tonight's fireworks.

The reason? It's been raining off and on for a few days now so the ground is soggy. My hip has been bothering me and I don't feel like walking or sitting on soggy ground. I also didn't feel like getting rained on while looking at stuff. We haven't had bad weather for the holiday so today is weird; Ian's been home almost all day with me so it feels like a Saturday.

I did make good use of my time to get some sewing-related things done today. I didn't do as much as I maybe could have, but I was able to cut out the pieces and mark them. I lay and cut the fabric on the floor and that was harder than usual today because my hip was hurting. Damn hip.

Even though tomorrow is Pamidronate day; I hope to get a bit more sewing done. It could happen. :)s