Monday, August 31, 2009

On my own for two weeks

Ian left early this morning and now I'm on my own for a couple of weeks. This won't change much of my day-to-day life although my evenings will be different because I'll be alone for them. I'm pretty sure I can manage to occupy myself while he's gone. :)

I watched a movie online today: Suicide Dolls, a very strange Japanese movie. I chose it because it was an extreme, 18+ only movie, and I like that kind of movie. I think of myself as someone who likes extreme sorts of movies, you know? Well, it turns out that even I have limits, and this movie is it.

This is one strange movie. It's got three main segments and in each segment a woman commits suicide. There is dialog in each part but it's all in Japanese and the movie isn't subbed or dubbed so the viewer has no idea what's going on. Maybe it would make sense if the viewer understood the dialog? There's a fourth part where dolls murder each other as well. This is a very weird, very gory, very strange movie. It's not for everyone... even me. So you might want to avoid it.

I have to add this: have any of you watched the new A&E program called Hoarders? It's on Mondays at 10pm after Intervention. I guess this is the place where I have to admit that I watch Intervention, huh? Yes, I do watch this show. I feel for the addicts on the show, and their families.

Anyways, back to Hoarders. Apparently hoarding is a mental illness where people collect (hoard) things to a point where the things take over and there's no room for living. It seems that a lot of people do it because the things they collect might be useful someday and have a hard time throwing anything away. Often the conditions in which hoarders are living are unsanitary and unsafe. It's heartbreaking, listening to the people on the show, because they don't really want to live that way but they can't help it.

I used to know a couple who were hoarders. Their place looked like the pictures of hoarder's places. It was weird.

While I watch this show I can't help but look around at the piles of stuff I've collected... the magazines that I've kept over there... the beads... the patterns... the fabric... the pieces of paper... all this stuff that I've bought or kept even when I have no good reason to buy or keep it except that it might be useful. Our home doesn't look like the ones on the tv but I do have areas that are like those houses...  it seems to be a difference only of degree. Am I a hoarder-in-training? Maybe if I clean up I'll feel better.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Lazy days of summer

Remember how I thought that we weren't going to be just sitting around this weekend? I was wrong. We'd thought about seeing the buskers today but it was raining this morning... and then we decided to sit around and be lazy for the rest of the day.

All we've done today is to sit around - Ian's been playing video games and I've been sitting here surfing the internet while watching him play. He's got a new game - Batman: Arkham Asylum - and it's quite interesting. The graphics are very good, as is the story. For once the quality of the cut scenes is equal to that of the regular gameplay; usually they're pre-rendered and so are of much better quality. It isn't just a fighting game, either, although there is fighting; there are puzzles to solve and things to do off of the main storyline. One thing I like is that the voice acting is really good - it's way better than most video games. It's been an entertaining game to watch and listen to so far. People who play video games might like to play it.

One thing I discovered in my travels was a way to Mad Men myself. It's an interactive flash tool that lets you choose characteristics to make a Mad Men-type character that might match you. I'm using my Mad Men self as my profile picture in various places because my other pic is old and I wanted to replace it. This is my Mad Men self:

I looove the glasses!

I don't know what our plans for tomorrow will be, although I'm guessing that we're going to sit around. Ian's going away on Monday for two weeks and he'll want to be packing and getting ready tomorrow. And we'll want to spend time together before he leaves, of course. I think that'll mean more video game playing for Ian and watching for me. That sounds like good, lazy time to me

Friday, August 28, 2009

Movie night

We watched Splinter tonight. It's a horror movie where a couple are taken hostage by another couple; the four wind up in a gas station with some new life form that kills things. This new life form - or monster - takes over the bodies of its hosts and moves them around however it wants whether the hosts are dead or alive. It can also bring different bodies together to make a big body and infect other bodies via the spiky (splinter) things. It also appears to digest blood.

This is a new type of monster which is definitely weird and alien. One of the special features on the DVD talks about how the creature came to "life" which is really interesting. The creature effects are amazing. The creature's movements were creepy and weird... watching it move the host bodies was seriously freaky. And cool.

This movie has lots of believable tension and creepiness throughout, as well as really good acting with a very well-written script and dialogue. Seriously, the acting and production quality are better than most horror movies and are equal to that of more mainstream movies. This is an awesome movie - it isn't just me who thinks so; it actually won the Screamfest 2008 Best Picture award - and I highly recommend it. Yes, there is some gore, but not that much; it's more creepy and suspenseful than gory,

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Movie thoughts

Rob Zombie was the guest host on AMC tonight to show some of the Halloween movies. We ended up watching the original Halloween tonight. What a classic!
I think Rob Zombie was guest hosting tonight because his Halloween II remake is opening this weekend. It's his sequel to his remake/reimaging/prequel of Halloween (yeah, that's confusing - the whole Halloween sequel thing is a mess, quite frankly)... which, sadly, we haven't seen. :( I definitely want to see Rob Zombie's Halloween movies because I'm a fan of his work... his movies tend to be creepy and suspenseful with a lot of gore, and I like that in a movie.
I don't think I've seen Rob Zombie's Halloween in the video store (or else we've ignored it in favour of other movies). Maybe it'll be there now or on demand since the sequel opens tomorrow. I hope so. The second movie might be good on its own but it probably won't make much sense without having seen the first movie... that's the way of these types of slasher movies.
Unfortunately, we might not get to Rob Zombie's Halloween movies this weekend given the difficulty of finding the first movie. Even if we could find it, we probably don't have time to watch those movies this weekend as we want to see Inglourious Basterds. Plus the Waterloo Busker Carnival is also happening this weekend and we'll most likely check that out if the weather is good. I suspect we won't be sitting around being lazy all weekend like usual. :)

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Sewing, finally!

Thanks for your suggestions about my hair - I appreciate all of your thoughts and ideas. I suspect that I'm having a systemic reaction to the dye that shows up under the patches. The patches work by administering the painkiller via the patch adhesive - and of course I'm sensitive to adhesives. I think having the constant exposure to the adhesives might sensitize my system and the dye overwhelms the skin already burdened by the patches.

I will keep your suggestions in mind and maybe give them a try - having the rash once or twice more while trying to prevent it probably won't do me too much damage.

Today, for the first time in ages - since before the vacation - I actually did some pattern work. My work area is a little untidy and I've been lazy so I decided to work with a contemporary pattern. A contemporary pattern needs less work from me because I don't have to trace it out or grade it. I want to have easy, casual dresses that I can just throw on when I'm bumming around the house or if I want to go out or something.

I chose Simplicity 3503 (view E with the long skirt and neckband, to start). I know the picture looks sort of weird but the reviews on patternreview were generally positive, aside from the pocket placement and that ir runs big. The pattern doesn't actually run that big, with only one inch of ease at the bust - this is perfectly reasonable, even though it's for a knit pattern, given that there are gathers there. I think one problem is that the midriff band doesn't hug the midriff, which it should, so the dress feels big. Another problem might be using fabrics that are too stretchy so they hang down too much. All knits are not created equally.

I ended up cutting the midriff a size or so smaller so that it will fit more snugly, but I left the rest of the pattern alone except for the standard length changes I have to make. Well, I changed the back a little bit, too, so that my bra strap won't show. I hope it works out; if the midriff is still too big I can easily fix it. Since it'll be the first time I'm going to use the pattern, I'll baste the seams together before serging them. I think I'll also put darts instead of gathers in the back, as per some reviews on patternreview, to make it slightly more flattering.

I've already decided that I'll make this dress out of this fabric that I bought from Gorgeous Fabrics a while ago, with a navy blue jersey for the neck and midriff bands. I thought about using the patterned fabric for the neck and midriff, but after looking at the pictures in the reviews I decided that the contrast midriff and neckband would be much better. I am going to do a long dress and if I don't like it (now or later), I can chop it off.

I think this is an easy dress and shouldn't take too long to put together. If that's true and it looks nice, then I can make more of these with the different tops. If it does work then I might think about modifying the pattern somehow to use woven fabrics with elastic or a self-belt or something. We'll see - I'll take this one step at a time, starting with the dress I'm going to work on tomorrow while getting my Pamidronate.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

My hair

I think you all know that I dye my hair. Back when I first found out about the mets, I cut my hair and started dyeing it. At the time, I figured that as long as I have hair I would make it look nice - so I get it cut by a professional stylist every five or six weeks and have been dyeing it myself. I'd figured that I would have lost my hair due to chemo long before now (meaning that I wouldn't have to deal with this), but that hasn't happened yet.

Unfortunately, I've run into a bit of a snag as far as dyeing my hair goes: when I rinse out the dye in my hair, I develop a bad rash under my pain-relief patches. The rash lasts a few weeks and looks awful. Sigh. So far, I've just been going ahead and dyeing my hair in spite of the rash, but I know that's bad so I'm afraid to dye my hair again. And now I'm not quite sure what to do.

Right now I've got a half-inch of roots all over. The colour of those roots varies depending on where they are. On the top of my head at my part and crown, the roots are a light ash brown with silvery grey strands. The roots showing above my ears are almost translucent - I guess they'd be ... beige? ash blond? skin colour? And the roots at the back of my head are a light ash brown with no grey.

I talked to my hairstylist about my situation during my regular haircut today. I can't afford for them to colour my hair for me all the time (which would prevent the dye from contacting my patches - but doesn't guarantee that I wouldn't have another reaction) but I'm not sure how to go about growing out my roots... or if I want to do that.

One solution would be to somehow strip out the current colour in my hair and to cover it all with a semi-permanent colour that's close to either my natural colour or my greyer colour. Then I think I only really colour it one more time with a less harsh dye - after the bleach, of course. This is something that my hairstylist would have to do. But... I *like* my dyed hair, you know? 

My hairstylist suggested highlights in basically the same colour as my dyed hair to break up the root lines so that the growth is less obvious. They'd have to be touched up every few months but wouldn't be quite as obvious as the current hair. The highlights don't touch the scalp - only the hair - so a reaction could be avoided. Then at some point, when the growth has gone far enough I could just cut my hair into some cute pixie cut or something.

Of course I have no idea what I'd do once I had the current colour out of my hair, either. Stay with highlights? Highlight a different colour that worked better with light mousy ash brown?

I just don't know what to do. What do you think? I'd appreciate any thoughts, ideas, or recommendations you have. I'd like to go back to having pretty hair... right now, it's not at its prettiest.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Pretend house shopping

I think I've mentioned before that we're thinking of buying a house. We haven't contacted a realtor yet, but we will - in case you noticed, we don't do things quickly :). We know that the best houses here are sold right away without being listed on the realtor site, but it's fun to check the site anyways to see what's out there. Right now there's not much for us.

Once it's clear that there's nothing suitable for us on the site, I like to look at what we could get if we had unlimited amounts of money. It's like "house-shopping" in fancy neighbourhoods but even better because the listings show the interiors, too... so my nosiness is better satisfied.

There's a lovely $12.5M, 11000 sq. ft. house for sale that's only about a ten minute drive away from our place. This beauty has its own tennis court, gardens, forests, ponds with waterfalls, and walking trails - and that's just on the outside, on its 100acre lot adjoining a river! On the inside are four bedrooms and nine baths, a lovely indoor pool/hot tub with vaulted retractable roof, wine cellar and tasting room, and elevator. This mansion would be perfect for old-school entertaining - the kind where people would travel for days to stay with their relatives and then would have the run of the grounds.

Of course $12.5M is a lot of money and might too much. Consider, then, this luscious, $3.45M, 8000 sq. ft. bungalow on a 100acre lot in the country, about a twenty minute drive from our place. This honey of a home has only three bedrooms and five baths but makes up for its lack of sleeping areas with a pool room, indoor ice rink, and outdoor pool.  The interior is impeccably, tastefully appointed in warm colours. Friends and family would be comfortable here.

Perhaps you'd prefer something a little closer to the city, with city-supplied utilities? Take a look at this magnificent $4.25M, 12000 sq. ft estate. Its gorgeously terraced yard with pond and waterfall backs right onto the Grand River. This slice of heaven has four bedrooms, ten bathrooms, a 12-seat theatre, and enclosed pool and spa. You would have no problem keeping yourself and your guests comfortable and entertained here!

Isn't house-shopping fun? :) I love love love these ginormous houses (especially the last one, I think - all that stone appeals to me), but they might be a bit too much house for us. You'd need a team of people to keep it clean and to do the landscaping, and we don't have a team of people. Not to mention a lack of mortgage approval. Of course if anyone just bought me one of these properties, I wouldn't say no.

I was quite surprised to see that there are actually quite a number of properties in the $1-1.5M price range up for sale right now here in Waterloo. There aren't that many of them, but there are definitely of options in that price range which is not what I'd expect for this region. I used to walk by this one on the way to school a few years ago; it's in a nice, mature-treed neighbourhood and is close to the University.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Where did the weekend go?

I've been quite a lazy bum this weekend. Seriously, I've done nothing interesting or really even worth noting. How can this be possible?

I did go for a walk today with Ian, but I didn't go shopping with him - which is something we would normally do together. I just didn't have the energy to go out this afternoon... or yesterday. I could have worked on something, or tidied up (I still haven't done that but it's still on my mind), but I sat on the couch and watched endless tv while surfing the internet.

I thought, after doing all that stuff on vacation, that I'd do more stuff when I got home. This weekend that definitely didn't hold true. I have hopes that I'll do something slightly more productive this coming week.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Movie night with friends

We went over to a friend's house to hang out and watch a movie. Their youngest son is growing and super-cute. He, like most babies, stared at me a lot, and I think I finally know why they do that: I have a round face with features that have the same proportions a baby's together with blue blue eyes like a baby's. So I think that I look like another, slightly bigger baby to them.

Anyways, we ended up watching Knowing. It's a Nicolas Cage movie where he gets a piece of paper from a 50-year-old time capsule that turns out to have listed every disaster that occurred over the last fifty years, along with a few more disasters yet to come.

This is a more serious movie, but it's interesting, too. There are disasters that happen and they feel really real, like you're right there. Usually when movies show disasters they're kind of over the top, but here the sounds and sights were real... and so were the silences after and during the events.

I also liked the 1950's scenes - those costumes and hairstyles were perfect. And I liked the story itself; it didn't end exactly like I thought it would - although I knew that the ending was a possibility - and I liked the buildup to the ending. There were also some good, family-is-important messages in the movie and I liked that, too.

On the down side, some of the things that happened didn't always relate to the rest of the movie - like when Cage lectured his class, for example - and it would have been better if each scene had more than one purpose. As well, not everything was completely explained, but I think that's what's supposed to happen. And one other thing: Cage got a bunch of disaster-related pictures on the internet and I don't know how he found them so easily. I've looked for pictures like that (I'm a bit of a disaster junkie, you know) and they're hard to find.

The movie is just about two hours long but it didn't feel long; in fact, some of the scenes felt a little bit rushed. Of course those scenes could have been a movie in and of themselves :)

Overall, I liked this movie. It didn't get great reviews but I think it's well worth watching... maybe even twice.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Scan results

My oncologist called and left a message - the results were just fine. I assume that this means that I do actually have a brain and not a hamster on a wheel there :) Either way, there are no mets there and my cancer is still stable.


Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Happy things

I thought I was going to be spending today doing things, like tidying or sewing. I did go into my sewing room, and I picked up and played with my fabric there, and I looked at a pattern or two, but that was it.

Instead, I slept all afternoon, and I must say that I feel much better for it. I almost always dream during an afternoon nap, and this time I dreamt that my whole family was with me; that we were eating and talking and hanging out and playing games (I've never seen these games before, but that doesn't matter, does it?). I woke up feeling happy and loved. This is one of the most normal dreams I've had in a while - normally they're a bit darker and creepier. Today's dream was a pleasant and timely change.

I also spent some time reading a new funny blog: There, I fixed it. It's got pictures of things people have "fixed" or "put together". Of course seeing these things is hilarious... but for me, what's even funnier is that I myself could have made some of those thing. Sometimes I'm creative and sometimes I can't figure out how to do even the simplest task. So I occasionally come up with stuff like you can find in that blog. :)

One of the links from that blog shows what I think might be the best use of lego, ever: Dispatchwork. You know, I think I like urban guerrilla art. I know I liked the yarnbombing, or knitta, which knits covers for urban things. The world could use some prettying up sometimes, you know?

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Scan day

The CT head scan (aka my brain scan) was uneventful. The technician who set up my IV recognized me from the last time I was there. I guess after a while they get to know you, which is nice. The scans are usually a little stressful and having friendly people there makes the experience better.

When I got home from my scan, I saw that someone had sent me an email called "Cancer Update Information (Johns Hopkins)" which says that people can fight cancer by eating differently. The email has already been debunked, of course, but apparently it's still making its way around the internet.

When something says that people can fight cancer by eating differently, logically, that thing is also saying that anyone who doesn't eat well is responsible for their cancer or not fighting their cancer hard enough. That's crap, of course. Eating well is always good, but it doesn't cure, prevent, or fight cancer. I know people who have done all the right things before and after their cancers and they've still died.

The idea that a person is responsible for "curing" their cancer pisses me off to no end, because I have metastatic breast cancer and I'm not responsible for that - I didn't give myself cancer and I'm fighting plenty hard enough to stay alive. On top of that, today I was already nervous about having brain mets and that email sent me over the edge a little.

Mass emails like this usually sound urgent and honest (which is why they get forwarded), but they aren't always true. If you see a mass email like that, whether it's about cancer or another topic, please don't just forward it to people you know. Instead, do a quick check on, who gather information about urban legends (including emails), to see if the email has been discredited. If the email is fake, don't send it; delete it.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Staying calm and relaxed

You'd think I'd actually have got something done today, even though I didn't get up until almost 2pm. I thought about doing some sewing - there's a dress or two or three or four that I want to sew. I'm pretty sure I know which one I want to start with, but I just need to actually get started. Unfortunately, I still haven't cleaned or tidied up my work areas and so it's hard to get stuff done there.

I'm sort of hoping that I'll have enough nervous energy tomorrow morning to at least work on the pattern, if not tidy up. As much as sitting on my butt surfing the internet or watching tv is fun, I might feel better about each day if I did something else... you know, something more productive. Like sewing, or tidying up.

We'll see. I need to treat myself gently over the next few days, until after I get the results from the scan. It's easy to feel overwhelmed (even if I don't recognize that I feel that way) when waiting for results. If I keep myself relaxed then hopefully I can avoid freaking out over nothing ... or just freaking out in general.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Going out to the movies

We saw District 9 today. There's been a lot of hype around the movie and viral marketing and whatnot for this movie, creating lots of buzz. I'm pleased to say that the hype and buzz are justified. This is a technically brilliant, thought-provoking, intelligent movie with lots to occupy people who would rather not think about what the movie might really be saying.

As you probably know, the premise is that aliens (that do sort of look like prawns on legs) parked their mothership over Johannesburg. Finding the aliens on the ship starving, humans bring them down into a temporary holding area - District 9 - that ultimately turns into a slum. The movie begins when a military organization decides to move the aliens into a new area away from the city.

The story is unsettling. Clearly the aliens in their slum represent any minority peoples moved into a ghetto by the majority race or religion. More awful is the thought that, if aliens or other people did show up and were weak... militaries and governments would treat them that way. Not everyone would support them, maybe, but people have definitely shown themselves capable of that and worse.

This thought makes the movie very uncomfortable, at times, but also equally compelling. It wasn't exactly the movie or story I thought it would be - it was better in many ways. Plus it's a fine action film as well. We highly recommend this movie; it's well worth seeing.

Then, when you've seen it, watch Alive in Joburg, the short film on which District 9 is based (note: the short film is very, very quiet... but worth watching anyway).

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Saturday movie night

Today was very, very relaxing. All we did was just sit around watching sub tv or playing video games. It was nice. Sure, we should have cleaned or tidied or been productive in some other way, but I was just as happy to do nothing at all.

This evening we watched M. Butterfly, a David Cronenberg film set in 1960s China. The film follows the romance and love between a French embassy employee and a local Madame Butterfly opera singer. Of course things are not quite what they seem, and this inevitably leads to tragedy. It's kind of a weird film (what Cronenberg film isn't?), and I think it's more subtle than most of his films; this might be because it's based on a true story and it is not a horror movie. It's definitely worth watching if you get the chance.

From subtle to over-the-top...

After M. Butterfly we watched Videodrome, another, earlier, Cronenberg movie. I've loved this movie ever since I first saw it ages and ages ago, and not just because Deborah Harry is in it. I find the story compelling. It's about a guy who works at a small, independent tv show who picks up a pirate signal showing only torture and murder. The guy becomes obsessed with finding this show and as he gets closer and closer to it, things start to change. Reality becomes blurred... and nothing seems right. Not even the viewer knows exactly what is going on. This is definitely a creepy movie and one that I think is worth watching over and over.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Maybe I'm not as ... not worried... as I thought

My oncologist has scheduled a brain CT scan for Tuesday at 3pm and a follow-up appointment with her Thursday at noon.. I guess we're doing a CT scan because we did one after I fell last summer, and she'll have something to compare. She'd said at that time that she thought there were differences between the right and left sides but those differences weren't mentioned on the report.
So we'll see what happens. I thought I was handling everything ok and then I realized this morning that I had forgotten to call my niece on her 15th birthday. I'm not great about calling people but I've been trying to do better this year. I'll call her tonight but it won't be exactly the same, and I'm sorry about that.
I think it's best if I revise my expectations from being not worried or tense to being nervous about it... even though the outcome is most likely normal, and even though the outcome has already been determined - if there are brain mets there, they're already there and no amount of hope or worry will change that - I'm likely going to be a bit tense for the next week.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Oncologist appointment

So I saw my oncologist today. Apparently my bone and CT scans were exactly the same as last time in the mets areas, which is to say that the mets in my sternum are very stable. Yay!

My tumour markers were 35 which is up from last time's 24, but they're still within normal range.

I talked to her about the headaches I've been getting lately, and about the other weird memory things that have been happening. I don't know if I've mentioned the headaches - mostly I talk about how tired I am :) - but I've been getting them a lot lately. They're sort of like migraines but they're not my migraines (or my usual sinus headaches), and they've even gone so far as to wake me up in the middle of the night! They tend to start early on in the day and go on for what seems like forever.

I've only had a couple of weird memory things happen; one was that I lost how to insert a zipper into the dress. The other was when I borrowed Ian's phone thing to post my blog and I couldn't figure out how to work the keys. It had a qwerty keyboard and was set up much like a full qwerty keyboard on the blackberry, but I couldn't figure out how to add characters like dashes, commas, and periods. And then when I went back to my blackberry, I had no idea how to work it, either. It was like I'd never seen one before.

My headaches could be some weird stress thing or some new migraine thing - who knows? And the memory things could just be me getting old. However, these things could also be signs of brain mets, and so to be safe my oncologist is requesting an urgent brain scan. I don't know whether she'll schedule an MRI or a CT - I hope an MRI - and she'll see me the day after the scan to go over the results.

While the thought of having brain mets is scary, I figure that the chance of me actually having them is probably not that high. As Ian says, I'm a bit of a hypochondriac...  and some of my friends have recently been diagnosed with brain mets. Like medical students who "develop" the diseases they study, it wouldn't be a huge surprise if I ended up with symptoms that suggest brain mets, too. So I'm trying not to worry about it or focus on it, and I'm actually feeling ok overall.

I did do a little retail therapy and bought some tops after I finished seeing my oncologist. It gave me a chance to wander around and look at new stuff. The tops are quite lovely :) And I also went out and got my handicapped card thingy for the car so I'm ready for intense shopping in a crowded parking lot.

We watched Snatch tonight. That Guy Ritchie does direct an awesome grifting/con move. This one is quite good with lots of funny and silly bits. Even better, Brad Pitt does an amazing accent, showing more talent than I'd previously given him credit for. This was definitely a good way to spend an evening.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

A productive day

For the first time since I've been back from vacation, I was actually able to get stuff done. I did laundry, I rode the stationary bike, I finally worked on a task for the new mets board, I thought about sewing, and I did some sketches to decide what to sew next.

Yes, to my surprise, I felt almost like a "normal" person today. I could have done a lot more - the living room and my creating table both need tidying. I've been feeling like I need to create something but it's too messy over there and in the rest of the room to even think about starting a new project.

In case you were wondering, I was doing the sketches because I currently weigh... too much... and if I'm not careful, I could make something that is decidedly unflattering. I've done it before, after all :) So I drew a little croquis of myself and sketched different styles over it. It turns out - and I'm sure Ian could tell you this - that I can't wear things that don't have a clearly-defined waist. Making the waist look smaller makes the rest of me look comparatively smaller, as long as the design doesn't emphasize my hips or butt

Hopefully I'll get a design figured out tomorrow. I see my oncologist for my normal appointment early in the morning; I hope I'm awake and have energy afterwards to do stuff. As long as I have enough energy and wakefulness to draw more sketches or tidy up my creating table, I'm happy.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The trip, part seven: Vancouver and area sights

We didn't have all that much time in the Vancouver area during our vacation. The first few days were filled with wedding-related activities and at the end we were quite tired. So we didn't end up doing a lot of really touristy-type things... but we did manage to see some of the more natural area attractions.

The first one we saw was Capilano Park, and we actually went there on the morning of the wedding as a way of relaxing. There's a famous suspension bridge there that is the tallest and longest of its kind for some area. The park also has a Treetop adventure thing where you can walk on raised boardwalks among the trees, and there are more regular paths as well. We'd thought that the park would be a lot bigger, given that the bridge was so long, but it turned out not to be all that big at all.

We did enjoy seeing everything that was there, but we would've liked to have paid less. Non-BC residents pay $30/entry while BC residents pay $20.10/year. It was still busy even with the high cost, I guess because it's a tourist attraction. I was much better at swinging the bridge than the kids were; I figured out right away that all you have to do to swing it is make sure that you place your foot just to the outside of where your hip is (ie, take wide steps). The bridge will start a-swinging. I didn't do that for too long, of course, because they don't like it when you do that.

When we got back to Vancouver, the first place we visited was Lighthouse Park in West Vancouver. It was pretty, with a working lighthouse and many paths. We wandered around there with Ian's parents, looking at things and trying to stay shady - it was hot that day. After we'd seen Lighthouse Park, we decided to drive down Marine Dr to nearby Ambleside Park. It was also pretty; we walked around there for a bit, looking at trees and stuff. It was quite relaxing.

The next day we went to Stanley Park. It's a very big park and there's no way a person could see the whole thing in one day, so we didn't even try. We chose to drive there with Ian's parents since there were a lot of us, and our GPS (we bought one for the trip and it was very, very useful) took us the most direct way, right through the Downtown Eastside. It's not a good area by any means but it seemed to have been cleaned up a bit since I was there over 20 years ago. I heard that they were giving homeless people one-way tickets to Edmonton or Calgary, and if that's true, that will have contributed to the lack badness that I saw. They've clearly also tried to clean up that area in time for the 2010 Olympics.

We did make it to Stanley Park and parked next to the lighthouse there. While we were there, some guy was filming some other guy photographing a topless model. Lots of people stopped to watch. We went for a little walk around that area, getting good pictures of the Girl in a Wetsuit sculpture, and then decided to park nearer another part of the park to see the hollow tree and Siwash rock.

The paper map of Stanley Park showed parking by the hollow tree, but the map lied. The 4-car parking lot used to go right to the foot of the tree but is closed off. You see, the hollow tree is a very large, dead, hollow stump. And it's falling down, as dead, hollow tree stumps are apt to do. But there are people who think that the hollow tree should be restored - even though it is not at all possible to completely restore a large, dead, hollow stump that's falling over. They want to put up all sorts of infrastructure things that they claim people won't notice. They've posted 10 "reasons" why they think the tree should be saved; among those reasons is that people saw it before and want to see it now.

Honestly, I can't believe that anyone would think that it would be a good idea to restore the damn thing. If they fix it, it won't be THE hollow tree anymore, will it? How is the "restored" tree better than, say, a replica? Or a plaque with a lovely picture? I also have trouble believing that anyone has actually given them money to do this! I just don't understand people. What a waste of money!

If you can't tell, I'm very strongly against restoring the hollow tree (I think it's a stupid idea, really, in case that didn't come across). I ranted about this when we were there, too. Now that I think about it, my friend had died the day before... so it is possible that I was relating the preservation of something clearly dead to my newly-dead and already-missed friend. Once people are gone, they're gone, and nothing can bring them back. Nothing lasts forever. Why waste money on a tree?

After that we decided to go down and see Siwash rock. There's no easy trail to get there and we weren't sure which way to go so we ended up backtracking. But it was definitely something to see. It's a very cool flowerpot-type island (well, that's what I call them, anyways - I'm not entirely sure that's what the proper name is).

It turned out that we were near Third Beach so I went and dipped my toes into the water. I tried to dip my toes in different bodies of water as much as I could, but the water was often too cold for me to want to keep doing it. That day was so warm that the cool water felt nice on my feet.

After getting back to the hotel and having a bath and a nap, we had dinner with a friend/former roommate of ours from university. He's doing well - he and his girlfriend have just got a car and are planning a trip. he's also looking for a house, like we hope to be doing (I guess they're at that age?). He's much the same person as he's always been and it was good to catch up with him. He's about the only person that I know, aside from Ian, who would think that saying only "braaaiiinsss" to a child - until they start walking - would be funny. Imagine a little toddler, toddling unsteadily about and saying "braaaiiins! braaaiiins!" :) Most people think that would be ... not funny. Maybe even the opposite of funny.

Moving on... the next day was our last day there and so we didn't want to do too much. We decided to go to Lynn Canyon Park, which is just like Capilano Park except that it's free. And the bridge and trails are different, with less structure. We had a lovely stroll through the trails there.

When we got to the water, we overhead one of the park people talking about the news the night before. These days were the start of a heat wave in Vancouver and the news recommended that people cool off in the water; I think it also showed someone jumping into the water at Lynn Canyon. The park person was very upset that they would show such a thing, because three people had died this year already jumping into the canyon. I know it's a silly thing to do, but I guess there are people out there who wouldn't think twice about jumping into a canyon from above.

After wandering around Lynn Canyon for a while, we headed for Deer Lake park in Burnaby. The wedding had been held here and we'd wanted to see more of it. They have a working carousel from the 1920s there, which looked interesting, but you had to pay to get in and there were already schoolkids in there. So we nixed that idea and just walked a trail around the park and the lake there. On the way, we saw some eco-sculptures, which are sculptures made of plants on a form. There are something like four sites in Burnaby but we only saw these ones. I'd have liked to have seen the rest.

By the time we finished the walk around Deer Lake, it was hot and we were done... so we went back and had a rest. That evening Ian's brother and his new wife served us a very yummy dinner and we left the next day.

Have you seen those Air Canada commercials where the people are tracing things in the air? And it turns out that they're tracing a pod-thingy on a plane? We flew home on a plane that had them; we were on a 777, which turned out to be a pretty big plane. The jet engines under the wing are ginormous!

The plane had those pod things in first class and rows of 3-3-3 regular seats in economy. The pods looked like they might have a little bit less leg room, and they are definitely designed for single travelers - it would be hard to talk to your neighbour in one of those. Which is a good thing, maybe :)

I think the seats in economy were slightly wider than in other planes but there was less legroom. Instead of having the lifevest right under the entire seat, leaving space under every seat, the lifevest was under the entire front half of every seat. So you couldn't fit nearly as much stuff under the seat as normal, since you only had half as much space there, and you couldn't hook your toes on the steel bar under your seat and sit that way, because the lifevest was vertical and flush with the front of the seat. There is a whole lot more overhead storage to compensate for the lack of underseat storage, but I would've liked a bit more leg room. And I'm short!

And that was the end of our vacation. Overall, the trip was amazing and I'm so glad that we took the time to see everything that we did. I wish I'd been up to seeing more but looking back, we saw plenty! I would very much like to see Stanley Park again, and to walk the seawall around its perimeter, and I'd like to see Burnaby mountain and maybe Grouse mountain as well. And while I'm kind of glad that I didn't do a lot of shopping, I would've liked to have seen some interesting stores in our travels. Next time.

I did get through the pictures and the ones from the Vancouver area are here. There are some updates to the plants and animals here as well. Thanks for your compliments on these pictures! I can't take all the credit for them, though, because Ian took most of them and I just chose and cropped them. I am glad that you enjoy them.

Monday, August 10, 2009

So very, very sleepy

You know, I didn't overdo anything yesterday - mostly because I didn't actually do much of anything at all - and yet I'm exhausted. I got up around 2pm today and have had trouble staying awake ever since. I'm so tired I can barely keep my eyes open and I'm having trouble concentrating.

So I didn't get any more vacation pictures ready today, which means that the next vacation post will have to wait until at least tomorrow when I'm (hopefully) more awake.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

The trip, part six: Omak to Kamloops to Vancouver

We left Omak fairly early in the morning. It was quite cloudy and we thought it would be a bad day's drive, but it wasn't; it cleared up pretty quickly. We didn't stop all that often because there wasn't anything in particular to see... there were fields and hills in the distance, but that was it. It was quite relaxing, really.

We reached the border crossing at Osoyoos sooner than we thought we would. This crossing is so tiny compared to the Ontario ones. :) It wasn't even busy. Goodbye, Washington state and hello, Canada!

The change between the US Okanogan and the Canadian Okanagan was immediate and clear: the Canadian side was all built up and commercialized. There were billboards as far as the eye could see on both sides of the road and businesses everywhere. Where the US side was all about growing, the Canadian side from Osoyoos all the way to Kelowna was all about commercialism and tourism.

I was shocked and appalled. There are virtually no national or provincial parks in the area, and where there are parks, people have built right up to the border of them. I'd seen that around San Francisco and I didn't like it there... I don't much like it in BC, either. We even saw signs protesting the formation of a new national park!

We stopped for lunch in Kelowna and wandered around at the beach downtown for a while. Later on we went to another park/beach in the city (Gyro Beach Park) where I'd spent a few weeks the summer I was 15. I had a lot of memories there and I wanted to "see" them again, if that makes sense. It's hard to believe that my niece and nephew are going to be 15 this year - the same age as I was that summer.

Between seeing the parks, we decided to go for a little hike in Okanagon Mountain Provincial Park. It's next to a very, very nice area in Kelowna; there are houses for sale there that are in the $3M and up range. We knew it was an expensive area because there were lots of waterfront properties and other properties overlooking the water... but we were surprised at just how much those properties are going for. Several properties are up for sale right now, if you're interested in a summer cottage in BC.

The park we were in was where the fire of 2003 started; lightning struck a tree and the fire was on. There is still a lot of evidence of the fire with lots of burnt trees and new underbrush growing. You may not be surprised to find out that the hike turned out to be a bit longer and harder than we'd thought it would be. We didn't actually finish our hike but we did enjoy it. We saw a few other people in the area - one fellow was carrying an altimeter and clearly hiked the area a lot. :)

When we finished our hike and visiting the aforementioned beach in Kelowna, we hit the road again. We had thought about staying in Kelowna but it was too .... not right for us. So we drove up to Kamloops and stayed there. That drive was beautiful because we were driving in the evening amongst the fields with the hills in the distance - much like our drive in the morning.

After checking the maps, we discovered that we could actually drive pretty easily to Whistler from Kamloops along highway 99. So we did that. This is a beautiful, windy drive through the mountains. We saw a number of cyclists riding up the mountains as well; when we stopped, we saw their pit crew. Apparently they're driving up from Texas to Alaska to raise money for some cancer-related thing. It looked like they were working very hard.

The place we stopped (ok, it was a pit stop for us, too; there aren't many in the mountains) turned out to be a lovely lake... with a lot of mosquitos. We got some photos before we were driven away by the insects.

From there, we continued to Lillooet, where I looked up and saw a cloud attached to a mountain?... no... no... that was definitely smoke. And then I saw a plane dumping red stuff onto the fire causing the smoke. Once we found a place we could stop, we did, so that we could get some pictures. Many other people stopped as well - we hadn't realized that so many people were behind us. They were fighting the fire as we watched, with three or four helicopters pulling water out of the lake and dumping it onto the fire and also a plane dumping the red stuff. It seemed like every time I blinked, there was smoke in a new spot. It was kind of scary to watch but also cool. I don't think that this was last week's big fire that evacuated part of the town, but it was still pretty big.

We'd sort of thought we could park in Whistler and then find a place to eat. Ha! There's no parking there. Of course it was Saturday, and all the parking lots are under construction, and there are only five parking spots in the visitor's center. So we drove around, got annoyed at all the people and the lack of parking, and left. We ate in Squamish instead and then drove back to Burnaby.

We didn't take that many pictures on this leg of the trip, but what we did take are here. We also added a couple of new small animal pictures here.

Next up: the Vancouver-area sites we saw.

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Movie night!

I did mean to work on photos today but somehow I ran out of time, so the next trip update has to wait until tomorrow. I've had a bad headache for the last few days and I slept all afternoon hoping it would go away. The headache is better but it's not gone and I very much hope that it leaves soon.

This evening we rented The Haunting in Connecticut. Although the movie didn't get great reviews, it is actually a pretty good psychological thriller. The movie tells the story of a family whose eldest son has cancer that rents a former funeral home on the cheap so that they can be close to the son's treatments. The son sees lots of things - seances, people, and that sort of thing - because he is so sick with his cancer and treatment, and soon the rest of the family sees things too. Eventually it turns out that the undertaker was involved in Dark Arts and stole some dead bodies to make his medium stronger during the seances. It's these dead bodies, and the spirit of the medium, that are causing the problems in the house.

As I say, the story is good; it's compelling and scary without relying too heavily on startling people. There are some startling moments, of course, but not all of the scary bits rely on it. The story also comes across as believable, requiring very little suspension of disbelief.

The movie is loosely based on a supposedly true story. There really was a son who had cancer, and the family really did rent a house (although not as nice as the house in the movie, which is gorgeous)... well, they rented part of a house; the former funeral home had been split into two apartments, and the family rented the lower half. Like others, I am skeptical of the original story; I don't know that it actually happened, that it wasn't just an opportunity for that family to make money and gain notoriety. For example, no one in the upper half of the house experienced anything unusual while the family was there. Fortunately, the story doesn't have to be true to enjoy the movie.

There are some interesting special features on the DVD or Blu-Ray. There's one about the original story (which highlights how odd these people were) and there's one on photographs of the dead which is interesting and informative. And creepy.

We highly recommend this movie if you like a good thriller. It's well worth the hour and a half or so.

Friday, August 07, 2009

Driving adventures

I should have edited photos for you today but things got away from me. I had a regular follow-up appointment with my surgeon late this morning in Oakville and did a little shopping afterward. I bought this pair of cute shoes for only $11 at StyleSense. I like them not just because they're cute, but because they have a little bit of arch support. I've found that I can wear completely flat shoes for a short period of time but that shoes with some arch support are more comfortable.

Sadly, that pair of shoes was all I bought. There were lots and lots and lots of beautiful shoes there... Sigh. I almost missed working, for a minute, because that would have been a place that I could wear shoes like that. I know that even if I were to return to work I wouldn't wear anything but flat shoes or shoes with a short and sturdy heel... but I can dream about wearing awesome shoes.

As I was turning onto our street on my drive home, I noticed that the front passenger tire felt sort of funny... sort of soft, I guess, and sort of rumbly. So I slowed down more than normal to make the second turn into the driveway in case there really was something wrong with the tire. If I hadn't been that close to home I would have pulled over to the side of the road but I was very close to home.

As you might have guessed, the tire was flat. I'm not exactly sure what happened but at least I wasn't driving on the flat for long or at any high speed. After the tire was changed I noticed something that looked like a puncture; if I'm right, that'll be the cause of the flat, even if I don't know the exact moment it happened.

Notice I said, "after the tire was changed?" That's because I wasn't the one who changed the tire. We have 24hr roadside assistance and I called them to do it. Lame, I know. But I've never changed a tire before and I didn't know how to do it - not to mention that I'm the clumsiest person I know and could easily hurt myself changing a tire on my own. So I called the professional - which was free for me, anyways, so why not?

I'm not quite sure what we'll have to do next. Obviously we'll need to get the tire patched or replaced so that we can drive on the highway as the spare can't be driven there. We've never had this happen before so dealing with it is all new to us. I guess we'll call the service people and see if they can help us tomorrow so that we have the car in good shape for the whole weekend.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

The trip, part five: North Cascades Scenic Drive

Once we left the hotel we stayed at in Everett, we headed towards the North Cascades Scenic Drive. We could have taken a more major route but it would've been boring so elected to take the shorter, scenic route. That's what this vacation was all about, right?

The drive basically goes along road 2 in Washington state through forests and dams and mountains. There are a number of scenic stopping points with information about the area. It's quite a lovely drive, and would have been nicer if it was sunny - but for the first time we got the more normal Washington weather: cloudy with a chance of rain. We'd been spoiled by all of the sun. :)

So we stopped at some dams and mountains and took some photos. The lakes are beautiful.... that gorgeous greenish-turquoise colour, next to trees and and rock and sky. We actually were leading a storm the whole time; it reached Omak, our stopping point, within an hour after we did. It was beautiful.

It was funny, because at each of the stops we saw the same people. There was one fellow who was going to pick up his son. We saw him over and over and over and at the last stop, he was running very late and taking pictures without even looking at what he was photographing. I hope he made it.

Omak was like Yakima, in that it had a small airfield, railroads, and lots of fruit crates. Clearly both towns are distribution points for the fruit growing in the region. We shared our hotel with a family reunion and ended up chatting with some people from William's Lake while we washed a few clothes.

This day did turn out to be very relaxing; it was exactly what I needed at that point.

There are a few pictures of this drive here.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Saw my family doctor yesterday

Apparently to leave comments on our photos, you need to be logged into Picasaweb. I signed in using my gmail account and everything seemed to just work... hopefully that'll work for you, too.

I'm still going through photos so the next trip installment will be tomorrow.

I saw my family doctor yesterday for my annual physical. I think I was supposed to have seen him a few months ago but if you don't book the next appointment at the current one, then you have to wait months to see him for the physical.

It was a good visit: he didn't nag me about my weight. In fact, he said that he'd rather I was fit than thin, and that if I started to lose weight all of a sudden, warning bells would be going off. So that I can get more fit, he's given me a referral to a physiotherapist so that I can learn what I can and cannot do. I very much want to do physical activities other than walking but I'm scared to do things because I don't know how to not hurt myself. So I'm supposed to get some "back education" and learn how to take care of it with the understanding that the back problems will never go away.

I asked for and got approval for a handicapped parking permit thingy. I have to fill in the form and take it in to the ministry of transportation to get my pass. Part of me didn't want to have to get one of these but when my back is very bad, it's very hard for me to walk any distance to an entrance. So getting one of these things will definitely help.

He also agreed to a slightly different pain patch routine. Currently I change both patches every two or three days, which can result in moderate to severe withdrawl symptoms in the hours before the patches are changed. Someone recommended to me that I alternate changing them to keep the level of painkiller in my system more even, and my family doctor has agreed to this idea. Hopefully this method will work .

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

The trip, part four: Seattle

When planning our visit to the city of Seattle, we decided that we didn't want to drive into the city because driving into a downtown area of any city tends to be stressful. After some investigation, we figured we'd take the Central Link (light-rail transit) from the Tukwila parking lot to downtown Seattle. Here again, we were lucky: this link had opened on Monday, and this was Wednesday: we were riding on the third day of operation. It was great! They had very friendly people there helping everyone get tickets.

One thing I especially liked about this ride was that there was a lot of art along the whole line. In the Tukwila station there was a hanging milk drop splashing into water and molecular-type structure with short phrases about what people liked about the area. Apparently there were 33 or 35 pieces of art along the whole line. It was cool.

We'd done quite a lot over the last two days and wanted to take it easier this day. So our plan was to take the Underground Tour, then wander through Pike's Market, and finally go to the Science Fiction Museum including the Experience Music Project.

We highly recommend the Underground Tour: it only costs $15, leaves every hour on the hour, and takes about 90 minutes. We very much enjoyed it and thought it was well worth the time and money. That part of the city was originally built on tidal mudflats with additional buildings atop a huge cliff. A huge fire cleared out the area so they elected to rebuild, but this time, they wanted to have better sanitation with a better grade, and to not have problems with the tide and mudflats. So what they wanted to do was take the dirt from the big cliff and make a lovely graded hill.

The business people didn't want to wait for them to do that, so they went ahead and built buildings knowing full well that the first floor (at least) would be hidden after the grading was complete. Those first floors are what make up the Underground. Some businesses use their Underground spaces but not all of them, and some had been rediscovered. The tour includes some history about the kinds of business that there were as well as construction techniques and whatnot. It was awesome.

Once the tour was over, we had a bite and then walked down to Pike's Place Market. Apparently one of the "things to see" there are fish being flung, but we didn't see that. It was very busy and kind of interesting, like any market. We saw the original Starbucks there and a bunch of vendors and stuff but we didn't buy anything.

From there, we wandered down to the Science Fiction museum next to the Space Needle. We didn't see the needle because we have the CN Tower in Toronto and we've both been up that. Anyways, the Science Fiction museum building was designed by Frank Gehry; personally, I loved the way the building looks but apparently many people think that it's ugly.

The museum was awesome. The museum is divided up into different sections according to idea, or subject, I guess, so there's a "what if?" section, an "armor" section, a "weapons" section, and so on. In each section are books, comics, posters, and movie and television artifacts like scripts. There were also interactive exhibits and stuff.

The very best part of the museum was the Jim Henson exhibit. It was awesome! There were walls covered with muppet fur, and sketches, and storyboards, and even some of the commercials that he'd done in his early career. So you could see the actual storyboards or sketches for the different commercials, and that was really neat. There was one sketch that showed what Jim Henson wanted for Bert and Ernie - it was one page with some scribbles. So you could see that the puppet-makers had as much to do with the final product as Jim Henson's ideas.

There was also an Experience Music Project at the museum which looked interesting, but unfortunately we were exhausted by that point so we didn't go through there. So we went back to the car and went out to eat. After that, I had a little ... breakdown? temper tantrum? I don't know the right name for it. I was exhausted and just wanted to stop moving but we weren't able to stop just then. You see, we knew that we'd be better off the next day if we drove that night, even if it meant me pushing myself even further that night.

So we did that, but I kind of wish we hadn't because I was already so exhausted and pushing myself further didn't help that. I'd been having a hard time getting to a new place late each night and then getting up and going, going, going all the next day. I felt like I wasn't getting enough chances to relax and regroup making me feel emotionally overwhelmed. And I was in pain. I'd way, way, way overdone it the two days before and that day so my hips, back, and knees were in agony.

Don't get me wrong: I was having a great time and I enjoyed seeing what I did (and I wanted to see more!), but I'd definitely pushed myself too far. I think I might have been better off if we had had a "home base" for more than one night at a time, as had been my original plan, or if we'd done less each day. Of course it's hard to do less because when you're on vacation somewhere you want to experience as much as you possibly can. So I think I should have planned to see fewer sites in the first place. Live and learn.

Fortunately, a big cry, a hot bath, and a good night's sleep did me a world of good that night and I was ok for the next day... which I'll talk about in my next trip post. I don't have pictures of that stuff ready yet. :)

We did take a number of pictures while we were in Seattle, and they're available here for your viewing pleasure. Enjoy

Monday, August 03, 2009

Finally - a movie!

We see our family doctor tomorrow so we're in Mississauga tonight. We have our annual physicals tomorrow.....ick. I know that he's going to tell me to lose weight, which I know I need to do. It's hard to lose weight when you're not sure what exercises are okay. Hopefully we'll talk about that tomorrow.

My point in telling you this is that I don't have the trip photos with me so you'll have to wait until tomorrow for further updates. In the meantime, we saw the new Harry Potter movie this weekend.

The movie is ok. It doesn't follow the book as closely as the other movies because the book is so long. That's not entirey bad, except that the movie doesn't make as much sense as the book. One other thing I noticed about the movie was that there were a lot of continuity errors. Moreover, they looked like amateur errors, like the person checking was new or didn't care. I mean, Dumbledore had only one burnt hand, and it was only the one hand - yet in the movie, the burnt hand went from right to left to gloved and back. I ended up feeling like they didn't do a good job and maybe they felt that they didn't have to becauae people loved Harry Potter so much.

And the plot.... well, since some things were cut, there was a whole subplot that made no sense.

So the movie is ok but I don't think that it's worth the money to see it in a movie theater. Wait to rent it.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

The trip, part three: Mount St. Helens and Mount Rainier

Our plan after leaving my family had been to stay in one place and drive to our various destinations and back until it was time to head out of the state of Washington. After seeing how much traffic there was on a weekend, we decided that it would be better to check out each day, drive to whatever we were seeing, and then drive close to the next day's adventure.

After seeing my family, we drove to Olympia, at the bottom of Lake Washington, to spend the night since we were going to Mount St. Helens the next day. Downtown Olympia is strange - there are about five or six tattoo parlors in just a few square blocks. The people hanging out in the park reminded me very much of grunge-type people. This wasn't a bad thing, but it was a little unexpected since I thought grunge was sort of over.

The next morning we headed out to Mount St. Helens. I wanted to go there because I remembered the 1980 eruption; I was living in Edmonton at the time and I remember seeing ash drops left after it rained. And of course I watched coverage on tv then and afterward. Fortunately, it's not that far from Olympia.

There are several access points to Mount St. Helens and we'd heard that it was worthwhile to go to the main Johnson Ridge Observatory. It has a direct view of the crater, so we drove there first. We stopped in one or two lookouts on the way there. There's a huge area around the crater itself that has been designated a volcanic monument and that is being allowed to regenerate naturally. This area still hasn't completely grown back; there are hardly any trees or plants or anything. Some plants are starting to grow and there are elk in the area, so eventually some of the area will grow back.

Seeing the Mount St Helens crater was awe-inspiring. Even now, ash is drifting up from the crater. It sort of looks like the crater is cloudy all the time but when you get a good look at it, it's clearly ash. The devastation from the 1980 eruption is still evident everywhere there. The whole area looks like a post-apocalyptic wasteland... and it's beautiful in its own way, as only barren rock can be beautiful.

Once we saw what we could see from the Johnson Ridge Observatory, we decided that we'd like to see another viewpoint. We decided on Windy Ridge, which looked pretty close - there's a hiking trail connecting the two points, so how far apart could they be?

Really far apart, as it turns out. There's only one road in or out of the Johnson Ridge Observatory, so to get anywhere else you have to backtrack along that road. It's about a 1 1/2 hour drive along that road, and then we needed to get to the next view point. So what we thought was going to be a short trip turned out to be a rather majour detour.

We had some very lucky moments during this trip; the first one came during our drive to Windy Ridge. We took the shortest route there (the other route was much, much longer) and it turned out that this route had only been open for about a month. The road washed away at one point over a year ago and the one-lane bridge has only been open for a month or so. The area that had been washed away was obvious but we didn't know that the road had only recently been opened. Good thing luck was on our side.

Even though it took forever to get to Windy Ridge, it was well worth it. This viewpoint overlooks Spirit Lake, has a side view of the crater and good views of Mount Adams and Mount Hood when it's clear... which it was. The day had started out cloudy but ended up almost perfectly, unusually clear. The only downside to Windy Ridge is that you have to climb 368 steps to get to the top, and the steps are not all the same size. Even so, it's well worth the trip.

Once we finished looking around at Mount St. Helens, it was pretty late. We knew we were going to see Mount Rainier the next day so we checked our maps and decided to stay in Yakima. I'd never heard of it before, but it's in the southern part of the US okanagan. The town has a railroad, a small airport, and lots and lots of warehouse with crates. Of course Yakima is on the other side of the Cascade mountain range, so we had to cross the range. I didn't say that we were taking the shortest route overall, did I? :)

Mount Rainier has several viewpoints. After some thinking, we decided to go to Sunrise, which has good views of the mountain and has a sub-alpine mountain meadow. Sunrise is also the viewpoint at the highest elevation that can be reached by car at about 6400 ft.

We stopped at Tipsoo Lake, just inside the park boundary, for a short lunch. This was one of the most beautiful, serene places I've ever seen. There's a lake surrounded by meadow-covered hills. And snow - the snow hadn't yet melted when we got there. Oh, it was so beautiful there.

At Sunrise we decided to go on (what we thought was) a short hike through mountain meadow to Frozen Lake and back. The trail was mostly easy and I had no problem with it, except for the part that went across the snow. The snow was slippery and crusty as it had been melted and re-froze a number of times. I fell while covering that part, but I wasn't hurt or anything. I felt pretty silly, though. :)

We were very lucky to get a clear, blue sky there; apparently Mount Rainier is normally covered in clouds. We actually got a sunburn while we were walking! We could see Mount Rainier from every angle as well as other ridges and hills. There were many, many, many flowers and interesting bugs and stuff and hardly any people on the trails. there were enough so that you knew you weren't alone, but not so many that you felt totally surrounded. The only thing that surrounded us were the mosquitoes and the flies. Once they found us, they wouldn't leave us alone. This was easily the worst part of the two days - mosquito bites over a sunburn aren't fun at all.

We did misjudge our trail, though.. we'd thought that it was a couple of kilometers and it turned out to be about 3.5 or so. And we'd chosen a detour that was even longer. By the time we stumbled back to the car, we were some kind of tired and our feets were sore. You could say that we overdid it... especially since the day before we'd walked around at Mount St. Helens and then driven to Yakima.

That was quite enough of a day for us so we decided to head back. We'd planned to spend the next day in Seattle so of course we wanted to stay somewhere where we could easily get there. Any guesses as to what that meant? If you'd guessed "driving back across the Cascades" you'd be right. We'd thought to stay in Kent but after driving around for what seemed like forever, we ended up staying in Seatac, the town that encompasses the airport.

I loved these two days. The mountains are so very beautiful and being able to see them and experience an area that is so different from anything else I'd seen was an unforgettable experience. I'm so glad that we were able to see these mountains, even though we did overdo the hiking and driving these days. We could've spent days and days and days there, if we'd had the time.

I loved that these mountains were so different from other mountains I've seen. Mount St. Helens and Mount Rainier tower over the rest of the Cascades... it's like the Cascades define a new ground level and these mountains are cones coming out of the "ground". These mountains look exactly like the mountains that kids draw and that are shown in kids books - they're cone-shaped with snow/glaciers at the top and rock and trees below. I remember when I saw the Rockies for the first time; they almost didn't seem like mountains to me because they didn't have that "classic" cone shape.

Another difference is that the mountains we visited have different rocks. I know that sounds sort of silly. :) But they're sort of hexagonal and three-dimensional, if that makes sense, whereas the rocks in the Rockies are more rectangular with striations. Even the rocks in the Canadian Shield have some striations and aren't hexagonal like the ones we saw.

I know that in the past, we've taken pictures but haven't had time to go through and edit them for you. Lucky for you, this time, we took lots of pictures and I've been able to go through and pull some out for your viewing pleasure.

There are pictures from Mount St. Helens and Mount Rainier, of course, but there are some other ones, too. Seeing mountains isn't just about seeing the majestic snow-capped mountains; it's also about seeing the little things that make up the big picture. Things like the flowers, and the rocks, and the insects. Ian took a lot of these kinds of pictures so you can look at some lovely pictures of plants and animals, too. :)

Saturday, August 01, 2009

The trip, part two: The family mini-reunion

I'm feeing less sleepy today, although I'm still quite tired. This is no surprise to me, really, because the trip was quite tiring in places. Today I'll talk about the mini family reunion we had. When I knew that we were going to be in the Vancouver/Seattle/Washington state area, I contacted my aunt - my mom's oldest sister - to see if she could meet us. From there, we decided to get together with her daughters and their families plus her other sister and her daughters. I hadn't seen most of this family since my grandmother died - and honestly, I wasn't really there then because I was drinking all the time - and the others I hadn't seen for many years.

Having cancer and seeing so many people die has strengthened my need to connect with my family and everyone else that I love. Life is so short; it feels even doubly shorter to me because I wasted so much time being out of it. So since there was this opportunity to get some family together, I took it.

The day after the wedding, we went to a brunch with the wedding party and then had a long afternoon nap. We'd planned to leave a bit earlier in the afternoon, but the wedding preparations and stuff were tiring and we wanted to have a rest before the next part of the trip. We woke to my cousin's call - thank goodness she called, or I don't know when we would have got up - and were on our way.

We got to my cousin's house and everyone was there! My one aunt and her three daughters plus their partners and all of their kids but one - including the "kid" that is about 19 and was with his girlfriend - and my other aunt and one of her daughters plus her husband were there. It was so exciting!!! I didn't recognize everyone right away because in my head, everyone looked like they did from before. Which you'll remember was at least 15 years ago... so it's no surprise that everyone looked different. :)

That night, we talked and laughed and caught up and had a great time. When it got late, everyone else left and we stayed at that cousin's house.

It turns out that all three of my one aunt's daughters lived within a 5min drive of each other (the other aunt plus her daughter and her husband live further away and traveled to the get together). So we went over to one of their places for a very tasty brunch. There was soooo much yummy, yummy, yummy food and coffee and juice. And more talking and laughing and catching up.

It was wonderful. Ian got to meet everyone and they got to know him and I got to know them all a bit better. I am so glad that we were able to be there with this side of my family and to re-connect with them as I feel that I'm getting to know my whole family. I hope that these family reunions happen more often. In the meantime, there's email and all that... but email isn't the same as seeing people in person, or giving them hugs.