Thursday, December 30, 2010

There was a Wednesday?

You know how when you sleep all day and you wake up the next day and you don't really know what day it is? I'm in that place. I went to bed at about 11pm on Tuesday, slept until 7pm Wednesday, went back to sleep about an hour and a half later, and got up this morning around 9:30am.

Apparently I needed the sleep.

Tuesday night I'd been trying to read my Mom's diaries and appointment books starting from 2000. I got about three years in and I just couldn't read any more... I felt like my heart was going to break, reading about her appointments and her hospitalizations and shock therapies and different doctor's appointments. I started crying uncontrollably and even though I stopped reading I didn't stop crying, so I took an Ativan. And then I slept.

Unfortunately, I lack the skills to cope with that kind of uncontrollable crying: taking Ativan works but it isn't a long-term solution. I hope to learn some new skills through one or another therapy. I also think that maybe it isn't time to read my Mom's diaries, that maybe I should give myself some time to grieve before reading them so that they don't affect me as powerfully.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Sister friends

My sisters and I had a great afternoon shopping and hanging out. Who knew that a fur vest could give rise to so many giggles? It was so nice to just be with my sisters and laugh and talk. After our shopping adventure we had our counseling session. We're going to a few counseling sessions together to help us develop a stronger relationship between us. We've always had our parents in common but we want to have a relationship based on more than the fact that we're related.

Our mom often played two against one and would say things about any of us behind our backs to the other two. If she had an issue with one of us she never just talked to that person about what was going on, instead talking to anyone and everyone but that person. My dad mostly stayed out of things or would relay messages for our mom.

Add to that the fact that when we were vulnerable around our mom, she would poke at that vulnerability and hurt us, and you can see where we might need some help being close to each other. As a result of the way we were raised, my sisters and I don't know how to talk to each other like normal people do, especially when we get upset or we're angry. I've really enjoyed our sessions and they've definitely given me things to think about. We'll have at least one more session next week and possibly others over the phone or skype or something.

I'll be seeing an individual counselor when I get back to Ontario. I know I need help with some things but I'm not sure exactly what I'm going to do when I get there. I know that I have some behaviours I don't like and it would be good to get those under control, but I also think I could use some help processing my upbringing. It's hard to know exactly where to start. It's also hard to think about where to start because my thoughts slide around the most painful and vulnerable areas without looking too deeply at them. Maybe the counselor can help me figure out where to start.

I'll definitely be spending more time with my sisters while I'm here. I'm excited at the prospect of being closer to them and to be more aware of and involved in their lives. There's just us now and it's important to me that we forge strong, healthy bonds between us so as to not lose the connection we have to each other.

Monday, December 27, 2010

On the road again

Yesterday flight from Toronto to Edmonton was definitely an adventure.

This is the first year I've flown anywhere on Boxing Day and I think it'll be the last. I didn't really think that a lot of families would be flying but of course it makes sense that they would be traveling that day since Christmas is over. On my flight were four children under two years old and so none of them had their own seat. that's really not a big deal but the worst-behaved was sitting directly behind me. For some reason, his parents thought that bringing the fire truck with sirens and speeding sounds was a great idea. I had no idea how disruptive it is to have said firetruck run sideways across the back of my seat but I know now.

I was surprised at how great an arm the kid had, too. He threw a container full of candies or lego or other small pieces right at the back of my seat, breaking it open and startling me. Then he started kicking my seat. All of this happened before the flight even took off and I knew that I couldn't handle that child for four more hours so I changed seats. There were free seats in the emergency row because they don't recline and I sat on the aisle there. I know that I probably shouldn't be in an emergency row but I figured that I was the last line of defence there and that it would be ok.

After I moved I ended up sitting next to a fellow who was coming home to Edmonton after visiting his family in Ontario. I'd planned on sleeping through the flight but it seems that he needed to talk. So I listened to him until he got tired and then I was able to read and doze off. I hope he feels better.

He was actually the third person that seemed to need to talk or reach out to me: the other two were in the airport and were also pre-boarders. The one woman had been going since noon in Halifax and she was diabetic but didn't have any food and her insulin was packed (I don't think she'll do that again). I had some trail mix that was in my Christmas stocking and I gave it to her because I figured she needed it.

Every time I talked to someone there was this voice in the back of my head saying, "Look at me being all normal. I'm talking and I'm not telling them that my mom killed herself!" Weird, I know.

I like the hotel where I'm staying: it's right downtown above a mall so I have easy access to things without having to go outside. There's a grocery store only about three blocks away that can be almost completely reached without setting foot outside. My room faces outside due north so it's fairly quiet. The tub is also deep enough for soaking and has jets (which I doubt I'll use). I have a mini-fridge and I think I could get a microwave if I wanted - we'll see about that. I can make hot water for tea and oatmeal and I don't have a freezer so I don't know that a microwave will help that much. We'll see.

I do wish there was another chair and maybe a coffee table in the room, and there is a pillar kind of in the middle of it. The room could also probably use a fresh coat of paint. Even with those drawbacks I like the room and I think it'll be a comfortable place to spend the next two weeks.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas!

I hope that this Christmas is full of peace and love for all of you and that Santa was generous to you. Santa gave me exactly what I wanted: a low-key Christmas with lots of time to myself to read, have a bath, nap, or surf the internet. My day has felt a lot like a normal day to me except that we're at Ian's parents' house. I feel completely at home here so being here hasn't been at all stressful for me.

Tomorrow I'm heading back to Edmonton for Christmas and to see my family and friends. Traveling is inherently stressful for me because I'm not sleeping n my own bed or eating my own food. This year I've got grief on top of the travel stress and between the two I won't have a lot of energy left for other people. In past years I would try and cram as much as I could into each day that I was there but I can't afford to do that this time. I'm thinking that instead of doing two or more activities each day I'll start with one and see how it goes. I can't emotionally afford to come back from Edmonton needing a vacation! :)

That's not to say that I won't have any fun while I'm in Edmonton. I expect to be mourning some of the time but mourning doesn't mean that I can't enjoy myself. It means that my fun might be more on the low-key side but the fun will still be there.

Speaking of fun, I gave myself a Christmas present: a class in basic silversmithing. I've wanted to learn how to solder and make rings and whatnot for a while and when I saw that the course is starting in January, I signed up. I'm excited about learning something new and about the prospect of getting back into making some jewelry when I get back.

Friday, December 24, 2010

The joys of having a port-a-cath

How can it be Christmas Eve already? Where has the time gone?

Yesterday the nurse came to flush my port. The port has to be flushed every four to six weeks to prevent clotting in the catheter and since I only receive Pamidronate every eight weeks, the nurse has to access and flush the port in between Pamidronate appointments.

My port is a little finicky to access. When I first got it, the nurses had trouble accessing it because it would slide around and the needle would end up going alongside the port. Thankfully, scar tissue has grown up around the port and now holds it in place. Now the port finicky because it's set a little deeper than most ports which stick out so much that you can clearly see them underneath clothes. Because I'll have my port forever I didn't want it showing that much so the doctor put it in a fleshier area and set it a little deeper than usual.

My finicky port has given even experienced nurses trouble and yesterday's nurse wasn't experienced: she had accessed and flushed exactly one port before mine. She ended up poking me with the access needle six or seven times. She even managed to get the needle only half-way in, which I didn't think was possible and is something I'd never seen before. In addition to the multiple needle sticks, there was something about the way she was holding the port that made the experience even more painful. I think she was actually pushing the port down instead of fixing it in place and pushing it up, if that makes sense. The area around the port is now very tender and I know it'll be a while before the access holes heal up.

I don't usually mind when new nurses access my port because it's good experience for them but it's not usually so painful. If I'd known that she'd never accessed any ports before yesterday I would have asked for one of the more experienced people to come with her and show her how to handle a tricky port like mine. I ended up giving her tips on accessing my port which finally led to success. She was grateful for the experience because she learned a lot and got to see the process through to the end.

At least the port has been accessed and flushed and I'm all set to go. I guess I can think of the experience as my gift to the nurse. The pain will fade away soon enough and she did learn a lot about dealing with finicky ports. And it's not like I can access the port myself: I don't have what it takes to stick a needle in my own skin and since I'm a bit squeamish, I have no desire to learn how to do it. So Merry Christmas, nurse!

So there's one gift done. It's not the kind of thing I usually expect to give but it worked out fine in the end. As long as no one else expects to get this kind of gift from me, I think I'll be good to go.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

I don't love you anymore, Netflix

I loved Netflix since it was first available on the PS3. I could watch movie after movie after documentary after movie - no wonder I thought it was the greatest thing since sliced bread. 

Sadly, things have changed. Apparently Netflix tests user interfaces (UI) all the time, so at any given moment a subscriber might be faced with a new UI. Yesterday we were switched from this regular UI:
Netflix's old UI. See the nice menus on the left? You didn't
have to use them, but they sure are handy for people like me
who like to browse through titles.

to using this test UI:
The test Netflix UI we've been given. There are no menus
and navigation is very difficult. It's harder to use than
Rogers On Demand.

In the old UI, I navigated through a menu system to find the genre of movie I wanted to see and then I'd browse through those titles. The titles in a genre were arranged in rows of five and I'd scroll up and down through the rows. If the cursor paused on one of the titles, the description would show up below. This UI was easy to use and fairly intuitive.

There's no menu system in the test UI. I scroll down through the rows to find the genre I want and then I scroll sideways to find a title. Pausing on a title brings up the description in the right -hand third of the screen. Some of the genres have 250 titles in them and I just don't have the patience to scroll through them. Plus at least one other genre is shown above or below the one that I'm looking at, cluttering up the screen.

I know that some people would like this new UI but I don't: I find it harder to navigate through the titles and I have a very hard time browsing to find something to watch. The end result is that I'm not watching anything on netflix and that leaves me feeling unhappy. I like watching movies and I used to like watching them on netflix.

Of course I called them today to tell them that I was very unhappy about this because I'm vocal about things I don't like. I told them that if the menu system doesn't change back we'll cancel the service. I can't justify paying every month for a service that is almost impossible for me to use. Since this is a test they should be able to switch the UI back to the old one or one of the two others being tested.

I love the idea of netflix and the fact that I can watch so much stuff. But if I can't find stuff to watch because they're messing with the UI, it's not the great product I thought it was. If you're ok with being a guinea pig for netflix, you don't care about a product's ease-of-use, and you like watching movies streamed through your PS3, netflix on the PS3 might be the product for you. 

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Today's wonders

Ian and I went to see the Wonders of Winter this evening. I had the car to run some errands and since the Wonders are near Ian's workplace it made sense to see them when I picked him up. Each one of these Wonders is a scene or animal or cartoon character made out of different colours of rope lights. Most of these scenes are sponsored by different companies in the region.

We hadn't been to this event in a few years and it was interesting to see all of the new scenes that have been set up. There are a lot more of these scenes than there used to be so there's a longer walk to see all of them. Because we got there just after dark, we shared our time with a lot of kids. As much as we enjoyed it, it was funny to hear the little kids all excited over the scenes.

I had a bit of time today between appointments and spent some time wandering through the drugstore. I've been on the hunt for a good eyebrow pencil for a long time. My eyebrows are so sparse and light as to be nonexistent and I'd like to be able to darken them. The problem is that most eyebrow pencils for brunettes have a lot of red in them which looks awful on me. My natural hair colour is ash brown with streaks of grey and not a red highlight to be found.

Luckily for me, I managed to find a non-red brown eyebrow pencil today: Quo Cashmere Brows in Brunette. It's perfect! One end is sharp for drawing lines and the other is soft for filling in and smudging a whole area. I tried it out and it looked great. I think I'm going to be very happy with this eyebrow pencil - hopefully I get a chance to use it soon.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Looking at things a new way

I was having a hard time this morning thinking about my Mom and how I didn't do everything that I could have done to reach out to her. It's going to take some time for me to learn how to deal with that guilt and with the guilt that comes with the knowledge that I'm free to not be like her anymore. Before, I couldn't fundamentally change the way I behaved because I learned it from my family and doing anything else felt like a betrayal to them.

Fortunately, the social worker from the cancer center called while I was feeling this way and we had a good talk. She's happy that I have a plan in place to get some counseling in the new year and she understands how shocking it is when someone commits suicide. She did give me some ideas that have stuck with me: first, that my Mom was an adult who made her own choices and no one can take those choices away from her; and second, that she knew both how to kill herself and how to ask for help (in the past she had called the crisis line) and she made her choice.

Hearing from someone else that my Mom's death was her own choice helps to deal with it. It isn't a choice I wanted her to make or one that I approve of but it wasn't my choice to make. This is a very freeing concept.

The person I talked to today felt that I didn't need to see her again because I have a plan in place to deal with my grief and the aftermath of my Mom's death. I can always call her or her replacement (or other people) if I need to talk again. I'm so lucky and grateful to have all of this support around me.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

We went out tonight

Friends of ours are moving to the US at the end of this month and had the second of their two going-away events tonight. I'm not really in the mood to see a lot of people but because they're moving, I made a special effort to go to their party.

It turned out to be really fun, and we stayed a bit longer than I thought we would. There weren't many people there when we first arrived so we had a chance to talk to our friends and catch up. We also ate too mnuch of the yummy things they had.

This was the first time I've been out among people since my Mom died and although I was a little nervous about going at first, I'm happy that I went. It was good to get out and be amongst people. Our friThat's a big sends knew about my Mom, of course, but it didn't come up in discussion at all because we were all too busy talking about their moving and job adventures.

I don't think that I'm going to be going to be going out every night or anything, but I feel more comfortable hanging out with people other than Ian and my family. This is good; to me it's a sign that I'm starting to heal a little bit.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Lethargic and grumpy

We'd planned to go to a friend's place tonight to see a movie but I just wasn't feeling up to it. I'm feeling quite lethargic most of the time and I'm impatient when anything deviates from whatever I'd planned. It seems that I'm also feeling quite a bit of anger that I'm so far controlling but that I don't like.

The anger stems from the uncertainty around some stuff related to my mom's estate. She died without a will and without appointing anyone as her executor. Her estate's pretty small so my sisters and I are trying to figure out the best way to do something. All of the uncertainty and the pressure to make decisions - and no clear decisions to be made - leaves me feeling flustered and upset and I handle those best when they're plain old anger.

At least I have an appointment to see an individual counselor in January. This isn't the person I was going to talk to at the cancer center; it's someone else at a local counselling place. We'll see how that goes. I figure that it can't hurt and there are things with which I could definitely use some help.

I'm looking forward to the day where I'm finished grieving my mom's death... and the day that all of her estate stuff is permanently wrapped up.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Oncologist appointment

Funny how life goes on even when something bad happens. I'd like for everything to just stand still while I deal with things and feel better but things just don't work that way. Case in point: my oncology appointments, one of which was today.

I never really look forward to my oncology appointment. Even though I've been incredibly superlucky and not had any progression for over four years now, I know that my cancer will progress someday. So every time I see the oncologist, there's this niggling worry in the back of my mind that today is the day I find out that my superlucky streak is over and the cancer has progressed.

Fortunately, today wasn't that day. My cancer is still stable with my tumour markers at 35. Yay!

Honestly, I'd have had a hard time dealing with bad news from my oncologist because of my Mom. If the rest of the world won't stop and wait for me to deal with things, I prefer to have only one life-changing event going on at a time.

Speaking of my mom, I did tell my oncologist and nurse what happened. They were very sympathetic and offered to put me in touch with the therapist at the cancer center. Apparently the person currently in that position is moving on and there's a new fellow taking over. The nurse thought it would be better if I could see the new person for continuity reasons. I haven't heard from them yet but I hope to hear from someone tomorrow.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

One box at a time

As soon as I opened the boxes from my Mom's place today I started crying. As I started to look through more and more of the boxes I cried harder and harder until I finally curled up into a ball on the floor and wailed and cried.

I knew that opening the boxes would be hard but I didn't expect it to be quite as difficult as it was. It's the first time I've cried like that since she died. By having these things it was clear in a way that kind of wasn't before that my Mom was dead. Cleaning out her apartment was hard but we could have been helping her move.

We didn't have a service for my Mom at her request so I didn't have the opportunity to get closure there. I'd also wanted to see her body before it was cremated but I was talked out of doing that by my sisters on the advice of the funeral home. At the time one of the reasons I wanted to see her was to let her touch my soft cashmere sweater, which I'd promised to do when I saw her. That would never have worked because of the decomposition but I also wanted to see her just to see her. I know she wouldn't have looked like I remember her - my sisters were told that decomposition was accelerated because of the pills my she took to kill herself.

There were good reasons why seeing her was a bad idea but I wish I'd stuck to my gut and seen her anyways. I would have been able to say goodbye to her in person and I think that it might have done me some good. Since I lack a time-travel machine, I can't go back and change things and so I need to use what I've got to gain closure. The boxes full of Mom's stuff is what I have and it's what I'll use to deal with her death and to gain the closure I need.

The opened boxes are still sitting in the hallway. At least I've looked in the boxes and know where their contents need to end up. I suspect that it'll take a while to deal with and put it all away. That time will be a great opportunity for me to deal with my grief and if I can only put away one box a day, well, that's better than no boxes a day.

I'll tell you, though, just the act of opening the boxes and looking at their contents left me feeling drained and very sad even after the ativan. I plan to spend the evening sitting in front of the tv watching whatever is interesting while trying to process the emotions I feel.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

My boxes are here

Ian talked to our next-door neighbour and explained that he wanted to clear the driveway himself, at least for a while. If he decides that it's too much work then the neighbour will start clearing it again for a very reasonable fee. It's really no trouble for him to do it but Ian wants the exercise. For now, anyways :)

The boxes I shipped from Edmonton have all arrived. They make quite a pile in the hall! The dressform and rocking chair arrived yesterday and the rest came late this afternoon. I couldn't bring myself to open them today... there just wouldn't be time to properly deal with everything. I suspect that opening boxes and looking through everything again will take a lot time and space.

I don't think I mentioned this because of what happened with my Mom, but our furnace died the same morning she did. (Yes, December 2, 2010 was quite a day for me.) We were meeting with the furnace people and filling out the paperwork for the new furnace when I got the call about my Mom. The next day was very busy for Ian as he booked our flights and made arrangements with people so that we could have the new furnace installed while we were away. I wasn't able to do any of that stuff as I was too upset and couldn't figure out how to do anything.

A friend of ours watched over the furnace installation and energy audit for which I'm very grateful. We're very happy with the new furnace as it's quiet - it's so much quieter than our old furnace - and seems to work well. The energy audit helped them calibrate our furnace and means that we'll get some money back because we've improved energy efficiency in our home.

If you're interested, we ended up buying a dual-stage furnace which brings the fan up at about 60% to start and then increases to 100%. Apparently this results in more even heat than the one-stage, on-off furnace. We also got the extra-good filter that takes out smaller things than the regular filter. We have allergies and I can get sick easily (that fateful day I also discovered that my neutrophils dropped to 1.1, which means I'm quite susceptible to infections) so having a very good furnace filter is good for both of us.

The point of me talking about this is that because we weren't there during the installation and because we didn't finish filling in the paperwork, the person we were originally talking to is coming by tonight to go over the installation and the findings. So even if I wanted to open all of the boxes and go through them right this second, it's better to wait until after this person has come and gone.

Tomorrow I have the house to myself until after curling so I hope to start going through boxes then, providing I'm up to it.

ps - I want to thank the reader of my blog who contacted my cancer support center about my Mom. I also owe that person apology, which I was going to give at the last meeting of the Book Club but I didn't make it. Can that person please email me? My email address is on my profile. Thanks :)

Monday, December 13, 2010

Snow snow

We got a bunch of snow last night. Not the 1.5m (5ft!) of snow that London has received this past week, but about 6in or so. It's quite windy out there which has sculpted some interesting snow shapes in the backyard.

I love just looking at the backyard and seeing the changes that come with each type of weather. It's beautiful in the summer and fall with all of the plants and it's gorgeous in the winter, too. now I have a reason to stare out at the backyard because Ian put up the bird feeders that his parents gave us. The birds have found it and we both enjoy watching the little chickadees come and go. There are other birds that use the feeders but we don't yet know what they are.

It looks like a peaceful, private winter wonderland out there with the snow and the birds and the bunnies (who forage under the bird feeder) and the neighbourhood cats and the squirrels.

The front yard is lovely, too, but it's not as peaceful or private. For some reason our neighbour - the one who put in the weeping tiles and did the landscaping - has been clearing our driveway. We haven't asked him to do it and the last time he offered to do it for the winter I asked him to send us a quote for the work for the winter. It's very nice of him to do the work but I'm not comfortable getting it done for free. Nothing is really free and by accepting a free favour we open ourselves up to being asked for a favour in the future and possibly risking conflict if we say no. I don't mind him clearing the driveway; I just want to pay a fair price for it.

Neither of us really know how to approach our neighbour, though, and I guess I'm hoping that we'll just see him one day and we can talk to him instead of going over there or calling him. If we don't see him this weekend we'll have to figure out a way to talk to him so that this gets straightened out before too much time has passed.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Did all that really happen?

For someone who usually writes here every day, it's weird to not have been writing stuff down over the last week. It wasn't that I was that busy every day but I had a hard time just opening the laptop, let alone writing my blog. It's been a tough week.

I still feel like I'm in shock, like my mom didn't die. When I'm walking around and see someone about the size of my mom, especially in a red coat, I gasp because I think it's her and that maybe it was all a mistake. And then I remember that she really did die and I feel sick and sad again. I grieved when my dad died but I think I feel even more grief this time, maybe because the death was unexpected or because she was my last remaining parent.

My sisters, their husbands, Ian, and I all managed to get my Mom's furniture and stuff divided up and as many loose ends tied up as we could. By "dividing stuff up" I mean "shipping a lot of stuff to Ontario". There wasn't much time to sort through everything at my Mom's apartment and I couldn't just get rid of stuff... so I took it for me. Fortunately, there wasn't any overlap between what my sisters and I wanted so it was ok for me to take the stuff. I also took her wooden rocking chair because I'd been told that it was given to my Mom when I was born and I just couldn't part with it.

I ended up shipping 11 boxes of stuff plus the wooden rocking chair (and a dressform my sister gave me) home. Yes, 11 boxes! It makes me look like more of a hoarder than I already am, doesn't it? :) It's all supposed to arrive tomorrow and I have no idea where it'll go, but I know I wanted it all.

A few of the larger pieces of furniture stayed in the apartment for people in the building who don't have anything and most of the the rest of the stuff  into a building re-use-it area. At least this way everything will be used by someone.

One sister and I separately talked to the maids who cleaned Mom's apartment and apparently they really liked chatting with her and couldn't understand why she killed herself. She was kind of ornery and all but they (and others) really liked her and will miss her. Mom didn't seem to know that people cared about her or that they liked her; in her diary she talked over and over about how sad and lonely she was without seeming to realize that people did like her and would be her friend if she wanted. That's so sad.

I'm home for a couple of weeks before I go back to Edmonton for my scheduled Christmas trip and I'm looking forward to having some time to myself in a comfortable environment. I feel like I need to give myself the time and space to process everything that's happened and I hope that I'll be able to start doing that over the next couple of weeks.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Tying up loose ends

We've basically sorted everything at my mom's place now. I've set aside quite a number of things that I want to ship home: her sewing machine, threads, notions, knitting needles, books, afghans and quilts, and pictures.

I've started reading her diary beginning in January of this year and I'm overwhelmed by how sad and lonely she was. I didn't know, and if I did know, I brushed it off by saying that she was exaggerating it. Now I see that she was deeply unhappy and I wish I could have done something for her.

Why didn't I write her more? Or call her once in a while? Or send her cards that I was thinking of her? Why did I have to be so impatient with her instead of being as kind to her as I would be to any of my friends? I could have treated her better - no matter how she treated me or pushed me away because she was lonely and afraid - and I didn't. I wish I could go back and change what I did and said to her. I'm so sorry.

Knowing that she was in so much internal pain, in a way I'm relieved that her pain is over. Even feeling nothing is better than the way she was feeling before. I hope she's at peace.

My feelings are still very strong: right now they're mostly just a big ball of sad and hurt and guilt and shame, with a bit of anger for seasoning and relief for spice. It's going to be a long time before I'm able to fully articulate the way I feel.

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Wrapping up a life

Ian and I flew to Edmonton yesterday so that I could help my sisters wrap up our mom's life. Ian came with me so that I wasn't alone and had someone to lean on.

A part of me still didn't feel like my mom was really dead until I got here and saw her apartment. I'd never seen the apartment before - she moved since I was last in Edmonton - and first I had to get used to the fact that this is where she lived and that she really was gone. Every time I looked at something and imagined my mom living her life I started crying.

The Medical Examiner has confirmed that my mom killed herself. There were lots (hundreds) or partial pills found in her stomach, and she left a note detailing what she took. She took the pills between about 6:30pm and 10:30pm on December 1 and died sometime early in the morning on December 2.

If I'd called her on their wedding anniversary I would have been the last person to talk to her... if she answered the phone at all. There's no way that I could have stopped her from killing herself.

We found her daily diary - kind of a list of what happened every day - where she talked about how she was so unhappy. I wish I'd known how unhappy she was.... one of the reasons I'm crying so much is that I can feel the sadness and desperation in her things. The tragedy of the whole situation is overwhelming. I hope that if she's still out there that she's out of pain and is feeling less lonely and unloved.,

Thursday, December 02, 2010

My mom

My mom died today. She killed herself by overdosing on some pills she'd apparently been keeping for some time. I'm so very sad and hurt. I feel like a little kid whose mommy is gone I don't understand why but I must have done - or not done - something.

My mom had deep-seated mental issues and was in treatment for many years in an attempt to deal with them. She could be very selfish and angry and could seem manipulative but she could also make me laugh, and I enjoyed sitting there with her and talking or watching movies (we shared the same tastes in movies!). She was such a smart, educated woman and we had many interesting talks.

My happiest memories about her are from when I was a teenager and a young adult and we'd hang out together at the mall or outside and we'd talk and laugh. They were good times, and I missed that connection I had with her later. She was always mentally ill, we think, but it got so much worse after she hit her head about 10 years ago. Her personality fundamentally changed then and while I still loved her I didn't really feel I knew her. We drifted apart.

Her death comes as a shock because we all thought that she was getting better. I knew she was struggling, as I say, but she hadn't tried to kill herself in a few years so I didn't think she was on her way to suicide. Plus she was planning for events in the future, like our Christmas celebration and appointments next year. And she seemed slightly more engaged in life around her.

I knew that her wedding anniversary would be a hard day for her because my dad died almost two years ago and I'd planned to call my mom and talk to her but for some reason I thought that day was today and it was yesterday. So I didn't get the chance to say that I loved her and knew she was having a hard time and I feel guilty about that. Even if I had called her, it might not have made any difference, and even if it did, she might have killed herself anyways another day.

I wish I had been there to talk to her more over the last year. I wish I could have seen her before she died and told her that I loved her. My heart breaks not just for me being sad but also for my mom, because she felt her life wasn't worth living.

Rest in peace, Mom. I miss you. I hope you've found Pere, wherever you both are now.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Another movie

I'm still working my way through Netflix's movies - I can't figure out if it's a good thing or a bad thing that new movies are added every week - and I recently watched one that I loved: Exam. In this movie, eight candidates vying for a job are undertaking an 80 minute exam in a room. There are only a few rules: don't spoil your own paper; don't choose to leave the room; don't communicate with the guard or anyone outside the room; and answer the one question before them. As the exam begins, the applicants turn over their papers to discover that they are blank.

This is a very good psychological thriller. It starts fairly innocuously as the applicants realize that they can talk to each other and they try to figure out where this question is located. As they fail to find the question, the applicants become more frustrated and the claws really come out. The second half of the movie is as compelling as the first half as each person tries to gain an edge over the others.

This movie reminds me very much of Cube, a favourite of mine, which is probably why I liked it. Aside from the opening scene, the entire movie takes place in one room and we feel as claustrophobic as the characters while they (and we) try to solve the puzzle.

If you liked Cube, I think you'll like Exam. It's definitely worth your time.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Cake baking

Thanks for the suggestions about the leftover milk! I think I'm going to make pudding with the milk we have. I love tapioca pudding and we have some quick tapioca pudding stuff. I'd be happy with a basic vanilla pudding

Ian's birthday is today so I made him a chocolate cake with icing (I put nutella in with the icing instead of fudge sauce). I never thought that I would make a cake that was too rich for both me and Ian, but I succeeded with this one. We served 1/8 of the cake each and both of us had trouble finishing our portion. Ian had to take a break in the middle of eating the cake and even though I ate all mine at once, my tummy isn't thanking me for it now. It may be less rich if it were kept in the fridge. Maybe.

Because I was so busy with the cake I didn't make a fancy dinner for Ian but that's ok. He enjoyed the cake even though I didn't do a perfect job (I should have sifted and/or blended better). It's been a long time since I've made a cake and so I'm happy with the job I did.

Tomorrow I don't have to cook anything special (aside from the aforementioned pudding), thank goodness! Maybe I'll actually get some cleaning done.

Monday, November 29, 2010

I made risotto!

Because Ian was away every evening last week I haven't made dinner for the two of us in quite a while. So tonight I decided to experiment by making a chicken risotto. We didn't have any white wine or garlic so I made it with chicken stock instead.

I've never made risotto before but I figured that I can't be that hard and I was right. The hardest part is the constant stirring but aside from that it wasn't hard. Ian helped with the stirring, too, making my job a lot easier :) I was very pleased with the results and I'd love to make it again with the white wine and garlic - how much yummier will it be then?

I'm also very pleased with my willingness to make dinner for the two of us and to experiment beyond the usual pasta, tacos, and curry that I make all the time. I'm still not totally comfortable making proteins other than ground stuff or chicken breasts but that will come in time.

I need to figure out how to use a litre of milk because our milk expires in a couple of days and we have a lot left. I don't want it to go to waste. Ian's birthday is tomorrow and I'm thinking that I might make a pudding or custard but beyond that I don't really know what to do. If you have any yummy suggestions for that much milk, let me know.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Last night's show

Ian's team lost at curling yesterday afternoon, meaning that they ended up tied for third place amongst 88 teams. That's a great showing, and the best the skip has done so far! I was very impressed, although it has been a lot of curling for Ian.

Last night we had tickets for a comedy show but I ended up going with a friend of mine instead of with Ian. Even though Ian could have gone to the show, he was very tired from all the curling and being out and about for so many days. Both Ian and my friend came to dinner which was fun - especially since Ian hadn't met my friend before.

The show was Shawn Majumder doing stand-up comedy. usually at a stand-up show there are several comedians but in this case there was only the one. Fortunately, he was funny. He was born in Newfoundland of a Caucasian mother and Indian father and much of his comedy was poking fun at racial stereotypes. There was quite a bit of adult humour as well.

One of the funniest bits last night was in the way he interacted with the audience. He picked out two people: Jacob, a 14-year-old, who he named "Pubes" on account of the fact that Jacob's pubes should make an appearance soon; and Vern, an 80-year-old. Throughout the show he kept asking Pubes if he had learned anything or if he had any questions. Sometimes the comedian reassured Pubes that he would learn about certain things (like fisting) in grade eight.

I know I'm not good at conveying just how funny it was last night with the comedian talking to Pubes and Vern - I can't tell jokes and I don't get them, either - but trust me, it was hilarious. If you get a chance to see Shawn Majumder doing stand-up, take advantage of the opportunity because it's well worth the couple of hours.

Friday, November 26, 2010

My plans for sleeping in until all hours today were foiled by Ian's team winning last night. I had to get up early to drive Ian to work because of the way tonight's driving arrangements worked out.

They won tonight, too, so they play again tomorrow afternoon. Ian will be curling eight days in a row when he plays in his regular league on Sunday - I'm impressed! Ian will need a lot of rest after this week.

I was able to have a bit of a nap this evening; in fact I got up just as Ian was coming home so I'm still a bit groggy and dream-filled. I think I'm still tired enough to get to sleep tonight. I hope so - the last thing I need is to be awake all hours.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

So very tired

Today was the third day in a row that I was up early. I know that 8:30am is a "normal" time to be awake for most people but I usually get up around 10:30 or 11am and getting up earlier than that isn't easy for me. I was up early to meet a friend of mine for coffee and a light breakfast before her appointments today. I haven't seen her in ages so I wasn't going to say no to seeing her even though it was early.

I took the bus only partway home so that I could pick up some prescriptions and then I walked home. I wanted the exercise and it wasn't too cold. But between the walk and being up so early, by the time I got home I was exhausted. I feel asleep in the bath, got out, and went to bed around 2:30pm this afternoon. I woke up when Ian called at around 5pm but fell asleep again. When Ian got home, we napped together until 7pm, when we both got up.

I could have slept until tomorrow morning but I hadn't checked mail at all today and I thought that it would be good to do that. I'm looking forward to sleeping in until very late tomorrow.

Oh, I'm also pleased to report that while cashmere doesn't absorb all the sweat, it's still very comfortable to wear even when I'm sweating. So my sweater purchase hasn't been all in vain... and I now have some lovely sweaters that I can hardly wait to wear. The prospect of wearing the same clothes all day long - and not having to change because I've sweated through my clothes - is so exciting!

Ian's been tired because he's been curling in the tournament. This tournament is held in clubs all through the region and there is a 7pm and a 9pm draw at each club. Ian doesn't get home until around midnight if he's curling in the later draw but he doesn't sleep in ever, so he's still getting up at the same time as usual. Between staying up late, not sleeping in, and curling every night, no wonder Ian's tired.

His team has won every game so far so they're playing tonight in the "A" division. They keep playing each night until they lose at which point they're knocked out. I want for Ian's team to win, of course, but I also hope that he's able to make it to Saturday night's comedy show. Saturday night is the tournament final and if they make it that far, he (and his skip) won't be going to the show.

After this week I think both of us are going to be taking it easy so that we get some rest.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Dermatologist's appointment

So the dermatologist appointment wasn't everything I hoped it would be. He looked at the things on my shoulder and said they weren't anything to worry about, which is good. As for the sweating, he said that there's really nothing that can be done.

He said that my choices are: pills, a strong antiperspirant, or surgery. Surgery is out at this point because I scar so badly and I don't want to do surgery unless it's absolutely necessary. He described the pills as a treatment worse than the disease because they have very bad dry mouth and dry eye side effects. I already have a dry mouth and dry eyes from the lack of estrogen and I don't need more problems here.

He wasn't selling the antiperspirant, either: he said that I would have to do it every day on my abdomen and back and that it would only work for each day. He reluctantly gave me some samples of a gel-based formulation with a 15% concentration of the active ingredient. He said that if I wanted to try using the antiperspirant, the gel would be better than the other, stronger (20%) stuff which is alcohol-based and runnier. At least the strong antiperspirants are available over-the-counter, if I end up using them. I'll try it and see what happens.

Sigh. I went on a shopping spree and bought another bunch of sweaters today. I now have eight or nine sweaters made of acrylic, wool, or cashmere - and not all of them are black. I wore one today and while I was still sweating as much as I usually do, I didn't feel cold or anything. Because I had to take the bus and walk outside I did have to change into a different sweater. If I wasn't going to be outside in the cold, I wouldn't have had to change the sweater.

The waistband of my jeans was still damp but it wasn't as wet as it usually is. So that's something, right? Hopefully all of my new sweaters will work as well as today's did.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Shopping fun

I was out most of today and I'll be out most of tomorrow so I have no pictures of the house for you. Hopefully it'll be nice on Thursday; this place really does look best when it's sunny out.

I went shopping today and managed to buy some black wool sweaters and a couple of acrylic sweaters as well. There's a lot of black out there this season and while I'd love to buy something that's purple or teal or red, I'm just not finding it yet. I decided that I was better off buying what's available so that I'd have something I can wear that will hopefully be comfortable.

It turns out that not all wool sweaters are itchy. Yay! I'm finding that I prefer a very lightweight wool or cashmere; cashmere, if it's light enough, isn't itchy at all. So we'll see how these sweaters work in helping me feel comfortable when I'm sweating.

I see the dermatologist tomorrow and I hope he'll be able to help. Apparently I was supposed to confirm the appointment last week... oops. They called this morning to confirm - it's a good thing, or else I'd have shown up there for nothing! I'd hoped to take a book with me in which I write appointment-related things but I can't find it. I remember seeing it to pack it but I don't quite remember in which box it got packed. It's got the photocopies of the sarcoidosis lab results which would be a useful thing to bring; I guess I'll just have to ask him to believe me while I get the results sent over to him. Hopefully it won't be a problem.

Monday, November 22, 2010

On my own, watching movies

I'm going to be on my own for at least the beginning of the week as Ian's curling in a tournament. He'll definitely be curling tonight, tomorrow, and Wednesday; if they win on Wednesday they'll keep curling each night until they lose.

I took advantage of the time this evening to tidy up the great room and a bit of the kitchen so that I can take some pictures for you of the painting we've done. If it's sunny tomorrow afternoon I'll take the pictures then. There's still a lot to do but at least the main areas are done enough until we get more furniture and things for the walls.

I'm still a huge fan on Netflix and have been watching a lot of movies and documentaries. Most of them are interesting but kind of forgettable. One movie stayed with me: The Living and the Dead, a British horror movie. It isn't a gory horror movie, really... it's more of a psychological horror or a horrific tragedy, if that makes sense. The film focuses on three people: Daniel, his sick, bedridden wife Nancy, and their childlike, under-medicated schizophrenic son James.

All three live in a run-down, huge country mansion that they are on the verge of losing because they are out of money. Because of his wife's medical bills, Daniel must leave his wife and son and travel to the city. Normally he'd have a nurse come in to look after Nancy and James because James can't be trusted to even take his medication. But the nurse can't come in the day Daniel leaves so James is left alone to take care of himself and Nancy because Daniel has to leave. Because wants to take care of his mummy and to make her better, all on his own, he locks the door against the nurse. Things fall apart afterward as James unravels completely.

This is a dark film and it feels very claustrophobic at times because of the cinematography and discordant music. It's told in a strange sort of flashback-flashforward style where events from different timelines are mixed. The only way to distinguish between the timelines is by the lighting and condition of the house which mirrors Nancy's condition.

One key theme of the film is the lack of help or care given to people who have long-term illnesses and the toll that this takes on their loved ones. James should be in a care facility because he is incapable of looking after himself. Nancy should be in a hospital because she's clearly doing very badly. And James never should have been looking after Nancy, let alone left alone with her, but Daniel had no choice: there was no one else to do the job, and Daniel had to leave because their financial situation was dire.There's just no way out of this situation and that's what makes the events of this movie so horrific. That, and the knowledge that almost anyone could find themselves trapped in a similar situation where all the choices lead to very, very bad outcomes.

This is a very engaging, compelling, thought-provoking film and well worth your time.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Christmas trip booked

Yippee - I'm going to Edmonton! I'll be leaving just after Christmas and staying almost two weeks. I'll even be there over New Year's Eve this year. I haven't been there since last October and I've missed everyone very much. Since I moved to Ontario I've been to Edmonton at least once per year and this is the longest I've spent without going there. My entire immediate family is there and most of them aren't able to come here, so the only way I can see them is if I go there.

In the past I've stayed with various members of my family - most often my mom - but this year I've decided to stay in a hotel. One reason for that is because my mom has moved into a new place with less room for guests. While I hope to stay with her for a couple of nights, staying there the entire time would be impractical for both of us.

As well, staying in a hotel means that I won't be intruding on anyone's time or space and I'll be able to rest and recharge my energy as needed. When I go to conferences or meet up my friends, I find I have an easier time traveling if I stay on my own. I don't mind sharing close quarters with someone for a couple of nights but any longer than that is difficult for me. If I don't get enough time alone I get stressed and easily overwhelmed, making for a bad time for me and everyone around me.

The hotel I'll be staying at is right in downtown Edmonton which will be convenient for shopping, movies, and getting around the city. The price was reasonable and includes free internet so I can stay connected to everyone in and out of Edmonton. 

The one thing I don't have is a cellphone. I know it sounds silly, but I haven't bothered to replace mine since I had to give up my BlackBerry. If I'm going to get one, buying it before I head to Edmonton makes sense. Choosing one will be the hard part. We haven't been able to go out and buy all the stuff we wanted for the house because it's hard to choose and I have no reason to think that choosing a cellphone will be any easier. 

At the end of the day it doesn't really matter whether or not I have a cellphone or where I'll be staying. What's important is that I'm going and will be spending lots of time with my family and friends. I'm really excited and looking forward to the trip!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Let's go to Mars!

The other day I read an article talking about To boldly Go: A One-Way Human Mission to Mars, a paper recently published in the Journal of Cosmology. As its title suggests, it's about sending one-way missions to Mars. The idea of the one-way mission is in direct opposition to the implicit assumption by NASA that anyone sent out comes back.

Think about it. What if, this paper proposes, people who went to Mars expected to stay there? What if we thought of colonizing Mars like our ancestors thought about colonizing the New World (aka North America), where the colonists went to the new frontier and stayed there?

This idea makes perfect sense to me. There would be substantial cost savings in not carrying return fuel and having to rehabilitate the colonists upon their return to our planet if they didn't come back. Having the colonists stay on Mars would also mean that they could establish a permanent base of operations for future space exploration.

Of course I've always thought of space exploration as a one-way trip because of the distances involved. I know that not everyone thinks that way and so such a project would require a substantial shift in thinking. The authors of the paper do list some criteria for choosing colonists: they should be past their reproductive years and with a life expectancy of 20 years or less.

However, even with these selection criteria, I think it's unlikely that the US government or NASA would construct a one-way mission to Mars. It costs money to mount any kind of mission to Mars and with NASA's funding in doubt, I doubt that they're going to jump at the possibility to go there. The US has rested on its laurels of going to the moon and the space station without seriously considering anything new, space-wise. It seems that they've lost their drive to go into space.

At this point, space exploration is firmly in the hands of private, very wealthy individuals and other countries like China and India. These countries and people have the money and the desire to explore this "final frontier", especially if the missions are one-way. In fact, one-way missions make the possibility of colonizing Mars feasible. The hardest part would be finding volunteers for such a mission, but I can imagine that there are many, many people who would volunteer to go. I would. I ache to be able to go but even if I didn't have cancer, I don't have any of the skills that permanent colonists would need.

Going to Mars feels like a tantalizingly close possibility. I hope it happens in my lifetime.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Fun at the dentist

Since my last dentist's appointment I've started chewing gum pretty much whenever I'm not eating. I hadn't been chewing gum because it used to make my jaw ache. I grind my teeth at night and wear a nightguard because of that, so my jaw gets achy easily. But for some reason, the gum hasn't been making my jaws sore.

Plus chewing gum seems to have a side benefit for me: less plaque on my teeth. I had my regular tooth cleaning appointment this morning and the hygienist had to do much less scaling than normal so that my appointment was a half hour instead of my usual 45 minutes. I know that the reduction in plaque isn't due to increased flossing because, if anything, I've decreased the amount of flossing that I've been doing.

I don't think the gum I'm chewing is taking the plaque away. Instead, I think the act of chewing gum has increased the amount of saliva I have in my mouth which is in turn decreasing the amount of plaque. A side effect of the Femara is dry mouth which tends to cause increased plaque build-up because there isn't enough saliva to wash away the plaque. I guess the gum is helping to compensate.

I also found out this morning that my old hygienist (S) , who is on maternity leave, will be back for my next appointment. I've really liked the new hygienist (J) who is filling in for my old one: she's gentle, she's thorough about getting my history, she can check and clean all of my teeth without me opening my jaw wide and hurting it, she taught me how to floss properly, she checks for oral cancer at every other visit, she always polishes my teeth (unless we decide together not to polish them), and each visit she puts a blue dye on my teeth to show me how much plaque is there.

J is the best hygienist who's ever worked on me, and honestly, I was not looking forward to going back to S. Don't get me wrong: S does do a great scaling job, but she doesn't do all those other things J does because she's too busy talking. I was even thinking of changing dentists to avoid going back to S, which I didn't really want to do because I've been with this dentist for ten years. Still, now is a good time to change dentists if I'm going to because we've just moved and that makes a good excuse for the change.

So you can imagine how thrilled I was to hear that J is staying! Both J and S will be in the office, apparently, and the receptionist let me choose which one I wanted to see next time. Obviously I chose J! The receptionist said that many people (including herself and her kids) are preferring J over S for much the same reasons I do. I figure that S can learn a lot from J, if she wants.

Oh and I was able to get a couple of lightweight wool sweaters. They aren't itchy and they are both comfortable so we'll see whether they work to keep me dry.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Thoughts on sweating... I need more clothes

While painting, I wore a fleece vest and sweatshirt-fleece shorts and even though I was sweating as much as ever, I didn't feel cold or icky at all. In fact, I didn't have to change clothes at all during the entire painting process, making me feel almost like a normal person!

Afterwards it occurred to me that the fleece absorbed a lot of the sweat, like wool does, which went a long way towards making me comfortable. Also, because the clothes were close-fitting, they didn't stick and then pull away and then touch my skin again, making me feel cold. I think also by not covering my arms and legs, the sweat was able to evaporate off easily and didn't make my clothes stick to me.

While I can't walk around with bare arms and legs, I can change what I wear during the day and when I go out. Instead of wearing (usually over-sized) cotton t-shirts and jeans or layers of shirts, I can wear snug acrylic or wool sweaters with wool or acrylic pants. Sweater-dresses with tights might work, too.

I don't have many of these clothes so I went out shopping today. Ian curls on Wednesday nights so I don't have to be home as early and I figured that I'd spend some time looking at clothes. I tried on a few sweater dresses and either my body has changed or manufacturers have better styles because some of them looked nice. The sleeves made my look twice as wide as I am but at least the body fit so there's hope.

I ended up not buying anything because nothing was quite right. I think I want to go to the other mall closer to our old place because it has an H&M and a better Winners. I'm actually hoping to go tomorrow since I have a dentist's appointment and will need the car for that.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Squish, squish

I had my annual mammogram today. Even though I have stage iv breast cancer with my sternal mets, I have what my oncologist considers minimal mets because only one bone is affected. My oncologist figures that if the cancer were to show up in the breast again, it would be worth treating the breast as if I didn't have mets because treating the breast would reduce the amount of cancer in my body. So one of my annual scans is a mammogram.

Today's mammogram was the least painful I've had. In past years they've squished my boobs really hard and it's been a bit painful, but this year it was painless. Then again, she had me approach the machine differently: instead of standing right against the machine, she had me stand further back and lean in, which I think probably gave a better picture.

As far as tests go, the mammogram is pretty easy to do. There's nothing to drink and no eating restrictions and you don't have to be still for very long. I wish all my scans were this simple!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Weekend painting

We spent the weekend painting the great room because we decided that we didn't want it to be that greenish-grey any longer. Plus we wanted to get it painted before more furniture arrives (or we buy more) because it's easier to paint if the room doesn't have much in it.

The colour is Benjamin Moore's Rich Clay Brown (2164-30). This colour had a bit more of a smell to it than the other one we used for the kitchen but the smell wasn't bad at all. The colour is warm and inviting and we think makes the room feel so much more comfortable. The fireplace looks a lot better with the new colour and our sofa looks great, too. We're very, very happy with it. I promise that once we've put the furniture back later this week we'll take some photos of it and the great room and post them.

We'd better be happy with it because painting is exhausting! This room was particularly challenging because of the peaked wall that starts above the stairwell: Ian needed the ladder to get to that wall and its adjacent walls. Even without that part, painting is fairly physical work and it seems like every muscle has been used.

Now that we've done the kitchen and great room, we're looking at the original colour in the hall and thinking that it would be good to change it, too. We'll want another paint colour to do that, but even if we had the colour we wouldn't be ready to paint such a large area for a while because we need to recover from this experience.

We do hope to paint the ceilings in the main bathroom and the laundry room because neither are white and both feel very dark and close. We think that each job can be done in an evening. We'll see - I very much doubt that we'll be painting anything else this week.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Dreams and dreaming

Who isn't fascinated by their dreams? I know I'm interested in my own and so I assume that other people are interested in their own as well, although they may not be quite so interested in other people's dreams. How many of you have started to tell somebody else about a crazy dream and watched that other person's eyes kind of glaze over? Just me?

Well, I love to think about my dreams, anyway, at least most of the time, and I love to watch or read about things that will help me understand those dreams.

So imagine how excited I was to watch this documentary by Nova called What are Dreams? about dreaming, dream interpretation, sleep stages - there are now three instead of four - and more. The documentary discusses a lot of very interesting dream research going on, like the guy who can see what rats are dreaming, but what caught my attention was something new: people dream during non-REM sleep.

For all this time I thought that people only dreamed during REM sleep. I had no idea that dreams occurred during other sleep stages. Non-REM sleep would explain night terrors, which is cool on its own, I guess. For me the idea of non-REM dreaming is personally interesting to me because I dream a lot while the alarm is snoozing. Seriously, I have these epic dreams in nine-minute blocks of time and I'm pretty sure that I'm not going into REM sleep then.

Moreover, these dreams share certain characteristics: I'm with a group of people I don't know in a city with which I'm unfamiliar and I'm almost always just living a life, going about normal day-to-day activities. It's like I'm living this other, secret life in these dreams when I have them and that other life stays with me throughout the day.

I know that my anti-depressant and my pain medication combine to make my dreams particularly vivid, and I wonder if these medications also contribute to non-REM dreaming. Something about the medications also suppresses the paralysis most people have during REM sleep and dreams. I move a LOT then - I don't get out of bed or anything but my hands wave and type and move around. I also talk quite often (or try to), and my legs and feet move all the time. According to the documentary, this isn't completely uncommon; many people have this problem to even more extremes, where they get out of bed and hurt their partners.

I can never learn enough about how dreams work and why people dream. This documentary has a lot of new information presented in an easy-to-understand, interesting way, so I'm happy to have watched it. If you're at all interested in dreams or dream research this is definitely a documentary you should see.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

HVAC fun

We had the HVAC people come today to check our out furnace and gas fireplaces. It turns out that they're all original to the house and so are all thirteen years old. They're all in great shape considering that they appear not to have been maintained since they were installed.

We'd wanted the furnace looked at not just because we the house is new to us but also because the intake air pipe had been cut. It turns out that the furnace exhaust pipe points straight out while the furnace intake pipe points up downwind from the exhaust pipe. So the intake pipe pulls in exhaust air and the furnace doesn't work so well.

So instead of fixing this problem properly when it first appeared, by changing the orientation of the pipes, they just cut the pipe. Fortunately the furnace is rated to have just one pipe instead of the two so the current configuration is ok but it won't work as well as it could have.

I'm not sure how we're going to fix this. The pipes are the old black ABS pipes. If a professional fixes them, we have to have the new white PVC pipes put in because of the new building code (existing pipes are grandfathered in) and that'll cost a lot. Alternatively, we could fix the ABS pipes ourselves by getting some elbow joints and stuff. I'm thinking that it might make sense to have the pipes changed when we get a new furnace, which will be next year or the year after. Our furnace is thirteen years old and is rated for 12-15 years so it's due to be changed anyway.

I'm a little surprised that the owners just cut the pipe instead of fixing it properly. They told us that they hired "professionals" for all of their work but no professional HVAC person would have just cut that pipe: they'd have fixed the problem. Moreover, chances are that the problem showed up during the first year or two the owners lived in the house, long before the PVC pipes had to be put in (I think that came in around 2007) so it would have cost them next to nothing to fix the problem back then.

I guess this is part of the joys of owning a house, right?

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

How much can one person sweat? A lot.

I was going to tell a funny story about me first stuffing toilet paper - which didn't work so well - and then paper towels into the front of my underwear in an effort to soak up the excess sweat and make it look less like I peed myself. Ok, so that was the story, and it is pretty funny, I guess, but it's also felt kind of humiliating at the time.

Today I went out for my book club and then my flu shot and even though I brought two separate top changes (each with two shirts), it wasn't enough. I sweated through all of them - all six shirts - in the five hours I was out of the house. I should have brought pants changes, too, because my jeans were soaked on the waistband (and the aforementioned front) and wet throughout. Then again, I suspect that I could have lugged a suitcase full of clothes and I still would have sweated through them.

I wasn't even sweating because I was hot. No, I was a normal temperature, not even feeling the least bit warm, and when I started sweating I got cold and stayed that way, which probably caused me to sweat even more. If I do anything at all other than just sit down - and sometimes even then - I sweat. And I'm not just sweating under the arms or on my feet: my back, shoulders, arms, abdomen, and head all sweat profusely.

Sometimes I sweat less if I take percocet even if I know that I'm not going through withdrawl from the pain patches, but that's not a practical solution. Interestingly, I don't sweat at night. My sheets never get soaked and I don't wake up because of this. It's a problem only when I'm awake.

I don't know if I'm actually sweating more now - that it's become worse than it was - or if I'm doing more and so it's worse. Either way, it's having a serious impact on my life. I don't want to go anywhere because I know that I'll need to change once I soak through the clothes I'm wearing. When I do go out, I try to be out only a short time and then rush back home because I'm cold and wet. We've got a Christmas party coming up and I'm dreading it because it's embarrassing and uncomfortable, sweating this much. I leave a wet mark on chairs and cushions just about everywhere I go. And Ian finds it unpleasant to hug me or even hold my hand because my back and hands are almost always wet.

I talked to my family doctor about this before and he said that it's just menopause. I understand that but I just can't live this way. My surgeon referred me to a dermatologist about the warts on my shoulders (that have started to spread down my chest) and I'll talk to that doctor when I see him/her in two weeks. Maybe they can help - a dermatologist treats skin conditions, and maybe excessive sweating is a skin condition.

I just want some relief from this. Walking around with paper towel (or worse, toilet paper, which shreds when wet) stuffed down the front of my underwear because of the sweat isn't something anyone should have to do.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Being lazy

We got our couch yesterday! I haven't taken pictures of it yet but I will so that you can see it. Now that we have the sofa in the great room, we're realizing that we're going to need even more furniture than the two chairs that are on their way. We'll need to get some furniture to fill out the other half of the great room and we'll need to get tables and lamps and plants and stuff in there to fill out the room.

We also need to get that great room painted. Right now there isn't much in the way of furniture in there but as we get more it'll be harder to paint the room. We're trying to build ourselves up to doing it this coming weekend, maybe.

I've been watching a fair bit of Netflix lately, mostly because there aren't many shows on that I don't watch with Ian. I like to watch a bit of tv while surfing the interweb before I get started on chores for the house.

The other day, for example, I watched High Tension, a compelling French thriller about two friends who go to one's family farmhouse to study for exams when all of a sudden a serial killer appears. Most of the film was in English and might have been dubbed but it was still very good. There's some blood and gore but this movie is more than just that. It's well worth watching.

I also like documentaries. Yesterday I watched Gay Sex in the 70s, a documentary interviewing people about what life was like in the gay community in New York City between the Stonewall riots in 1969 and the beginning of the AIDS epidemic in 1981. Those twelve years came after decades of repression and shame and so were a period of joy and celebration... and sex. Lots of sex.

I found this documentary very poignant because the time period - just twelve years - was the beginning, middle, and end of an era. The 70s were an era unto themselves for many but for gay men it was an unprecedented time of fellowship, brotherhood, and sex. Everyone interviewed remembered that decade very fondly and had a great time... at least until their friends started to die from AIDS. I very much enjoyed this documentary and highly recommend it if you're interested in this kind of recent history. There is a lot of nudity and sex and some drug use in it, of course, so be prepared for that.

Today I watched Modify, a documentary about the body modification culture. The people who created different extreme modification techniques and others who have done extreme modification to themselves (or others - several plastic surgeons and teeth modification people are included) are interviewed about different aspects of this culture.

We aren't just talking about tattoos here, although tattoos are part of it; there's scarification, implants, branding, teeth changes, hanging from hooks implanted into the skin, and sexual organ modifications. I find body modification to be quite interesting and hearing about why people do the things they do is fascinating. It's obviously a deeply personal choice and I realize that it isn't for everyone, but this documentary helps understand why each person featured has chosen to modify their bodies in the way they did.

If you're at all interested in body modifications, you should definitely see this documentary. Note that it does show modification procedures in progress and sex organ modifications so some of it is not for the faint-of-heart; be prepared for that.

After watching these three shows, I do have to wonder what movie and documentary suggestions Netflix will have for us. The suggestions will be unusual, I suspect. :)

Sunday, November 07, 2010

One decision down

Although we'd planned to go out shopping today, we ended up staying in. Ian had to do some work and we wanted to be sure that the great room was tidied up before tomorrow's sofa delivery. Yay! The great room won't look so empty.

I've also been sketching out some ideas for my sewing room. I won't be furnishing that room right away as we still need to paint and do the floor first. But I do want to get a sense of what layouts will work and what types of storage I'll need.

I've made a decision: almost all of my fabric will be wrapped onto comic book boards (which are acid-free, archival-quality cardboard) and stored upright. There's another, similar product called Mini Bolts which are plastic, slightly larger, and more expensive than comic book boards. They might be better for heavier fabrics but I'm not sure the extra cost is worth it so I'll probably just go with the cheaper comic book boards. I can put two or three together for heavier fabrics, if need be.

The advantage to storing fabric this way is that it is neat, looks nice, takes up almost the least amount of space, and all of the fabrics are visible and easy to access. I have to check, but I think fabric stored this way can fit on bookcases which are 12" deep instead of closet shelves which are 24" deep. Putting doors on bookcases is no problem.

Not all my fabrics can be wrapped this way, of course. I'm not sure the jersey fabrics can be stored this way but these can be rolled or stored flat. It's possible that some of my more upscale fabrics might be better off hanging as well, so I'll need to make a decision about that.

At least I've made a decision about fabric storage, even if the details aren't fully thought-out. :) I need to make more decisions about threads and other notions as well as a home for all of my patterns. I plan on putting storage underneath the sewing and cutting tables as well as some up on the walls. I can hardly wait!

As an aside, I might be able to get a gravity-feed iron for (comparatively) cheap. If this opportunity comes my way, should I take advantage of it? Or should I look for a steam iron? Thoughts?

Saturday, November 06, 2010

Shoes, glorious shoes

Both Ian and I replaced our walking shoes for the first time in I don't know how long today. When my walking shoes lose their cushioning and absorbency, my feet and knees start to hurt. I've noticed an uptick in my knee pain lately and when I checked my shoes I saw why. The outsole was almost completely smooth and the insole wasn't in the right position.

Ian knew it was time for new shoes because his had a hole in them. We each got the exact same model as we'd had before without looking for anything better - why change something that works, right? :) Afterward, we went out for a walk in the neighbourhood to try out our shoes. My knees didn't hurt and my feet felt really happy while walking. Yay!

We could have gone to a hardware store or looked at rugs or flooring for the sewing room or any number of other practical shopping trips instead, but we decided that new shoes were more important that all that today. 
Now that our feet and knees are happy, we can turn our attention back to putting more things away and the never-ending process of buying things for the house.

Friday, November 05, 2010

About to make some progress

I went out yesterday on my own for the first time since we've moved here. I needed to pick up a prescription at the drugstore and I wanted to also wander through some of the other stores there. It's about a half-hour's walk from here and there are also a couple of buses I can take to get there, if I wasn't feeling up to walking.

I was determined to walk yesterday because I haven't done any exercise in weeks and I've been eating way too much candy and other bad things lately. I'm happy that I was able to do the walk although I think I might have overdone it a bit because I was very tired when I got home. In the future I'll either not wander through the stores or I'll take the bus home, at least until I've got my strength back up.

Today I'm taking it a bit easier: I hope to unpack our books and to do some laundry. The books are going into the spare room (aka the guest room/library/computer room) and because the books are all sorted it should be a straightforward job to put them on the shelves. Once the book boxes are cleared from that room, we'll be able to finish setting it up and hopefully use it as a staging place for stuff from the great room.

I'll be happy to make some progress on the unpacking. Not just so that I stop freaking out about the stuff all over the place, but also so that the house will be ready for our sofa, which is on its way! We got a call yesterday telling us that it was ready to be delivered and we have until Monday to make room for it. I can hardly wait to actually have proper furniture in the great room and a neater, tidier environment there.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Silent Bob speaks

Last night we went out to An Evening with Kevin Smith. For those of you who don't know of him, Kevin Smith first came to fame as director of Clerks - a classic movie, and one that made him the voice of the slacker generation - and more recently directed Cop Out and Zack and Miri Make a Porno. He also plays Silent Bob in many of his early movies.

Microphones had been set up in various places throughout the theatre so that people could ask him questions. Those questions served as fodder for him to go off on a completely different tangent and tell all sorts of stories. Fortunately, the stories were compelling so it wasn't frustrating or annoying that he wasn't answering the questions. These rambling stories unfortunately meant that only 12 questions got asked in the four-hour show.

Yes, the show was four hours with no intermission. I don't know how all the stoners in the audience made it through the whole thing. Smith apparently started smoking a lot of weed a few years ago. Stoners have always liked his movies and they like Smith even more now because he smokes weed himself and is honest and up-front about it. Then again, he's honest and up-front about everything.

As I said before, Smith told some very compelling stories and some of them were really funny. Ian and I were both laughing so hard we couldn't breathe while he told the story about smoking much too much weed for the first time and going poo and ordering too much food in that state. It was way too much TMI but hilarious.

Don't get me wrong: I don't approve of making drugs funny because that doesn't show the whole picture. I don't like the idea that kids hear how hilarious these experiences can be without also hearing how awful some of them are, too. Apparently this particular experience did put him off of weed for quite some time and it was only later that he had more positive experiences with it and started smoking all the time. So at least he tried to make the story a little more responsible.

My favourite parts of the show were when he talked about what it was like behind-the-scenes on the movie set. I love hearing about how things work and getting glimpses into these other worlds. One story that stayed with me was about his recent experience directing Cop Out and his attempts to direct Bruce Willis. Apparently the studio knew something Smith didn't, because they repeatedly questioned whether or not he was prepared to work with Bruce Willis. That should have been a red flag, because why would they keep asking?, but Smith had worked with Willis on another movie and he was a big fan of Bruce Willis so didn't see any problems.

Then while directing the very first scene - the one that was supposed to open the movie - Smith asked Willis to deliver his lines just a bit differently in the next take. Willis changed nothing. This set the tone for the whole time on set: in fact, Willis refused to change his interpretation of the script at all, did not respond to direction, and sometimes told Smith how to direct certain scenes. He also apparently gave Smith the "Bruce Willis look" - the one that he gives in movies when he's angry - which started and scared Smith.

Smith very charitably said that Willis behaved this way because Willis is a Movie Star, but I think Willis did it because he was (is?) a Spoiled, Selfish Brat. I can easily believe that Willis would behave badly, especially if he didn't want to do that movie or felt that the Smith wasn't as experienced as he is. But Willis has been making movies for 25 years, so I think it's not at all unreasonable to expect a higher level of professionalism from him on-set. I am not impressed by this kind of diva behaviour

It was clear throughout the evening that Smith has recently gone through a crisis of confidence: at one point he felt that his work had no value and as a result he became despondent and angry and sank into a depression. Smith has come through that experience stronger and more focused about his life and his work. I admire his honesty about this experience and its aftermath. I think him talking honestly about what happened will help those fans of his who will go through the same thing. After all, that kind of crisis happens to almost everyone and when it happens it can seem like you'll never get through it.

I enjoyed the show and I'm happy that we went. Kevin Smith is an interesting person and has a lot to offer his audience - in spite of all the swearing, and talk about weed, sex, and bodily functions - making his show definitely worth seeing.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

The disorganization is getting to me

It's hard to believe that we've been in our house now for close to two weeks because it's still a mess. There are boxes everywhere because we have no idea where to put their contents. Clearly this is something we should have thought about before moving. For example, where should our winter boots, hats, and mittens live? Our front closet is tiny and there's really not enough room there for all of the winter gear we wear.

We haven't even decided where all the kitchen stuff is going. The spices are still in a bag on the floor because we don't know which cupboard will be best for them.

At least I've managed to put away most of our clothes although I have no idea where all my shoes should live. Our walk-in closet just isn't that big and there isn't really room in the bedroom. it might be possible to add some shoe-specific storage somewhere but I have no idea where that will be.

The basement is marginally better although there are piles of stuff everywhere. My sewing stuff - which won't have a home until the room is completed and that probably won't get done until the rest of the house is livable - is piled up neatly against the wall. The DVDs are all in one place.

You might be able to tell that the disorganization is starting to get to me. I can live in a mess (for a while) but I don't like living in the I-can't-find-anything mess that we've got right now. It was better for a while but it's bad again and I find it very stressful. I am a little overwhelmed by the mess as well because I don't know where to start... mainly because I don't know where anything needs to go.

It never even occurred to me that planning out where things should go in each room - not just into which room things should go but how they would be stored in that room - would be a useful thing to do. Now I know. If I ever have to move again (and I hope I don't) I'll make sure to think about how each room will be set up in the new place and figure out how to put things away quickly so that I don't have to live like this.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

A few more weekend thoughts

I must have been much more tired than I thought because I slept almost all of yesterday. I'm feeling much better today and I hope to get some unpacking done today.

I forgot to talk about one thing at the conference that I didn't like. One of the speakers talked about nutrition and said that if we ate this one way we would prevent the breast cancer from recurring. Not "help to prevent" but "prevent", which of course isn't true. I disliked this because it gives people a false sense of security, that if they just eat right and eliminate sugars and refined products and whatever from their diet, they won't get cancer again.

That's another reason why I loved Bif Naked's talk: she kind of presented an alternate view just by being herself and talking about her own life. She's a raw-food vegan who doesn't drink or smoke and who got breast cancer in spite of living that way. I hope that people realized that eating right and getting lots of exercise and treating one's body well doesn't necessarily prevent cancer from developing in spite of what that nutritionist said.

Anyways - on to happier topics, namely, Halloween! Happily, I was home before it was time to give out candy to the kids on Sunday. Ian had bought three pumpkins and carved two of them, leaving one for me. He also put up a few lights outside and a couple of other decorations.

When we met with the previous owner, we asked how many kids came around at Halloween. We love to give out candy to the kids and to see their costumes. The previous owner said that they got almost no kids here because we're on the end of the place, so she would just buy big chocolate bars and give them to the six kids on the place.

Well, we got 25 kids! We almost ran out of candy because Ian bought only one box and I was giving out lots of the chocolate bars to each kid, figuring that we wouldn't see any kids. I was stingier with the later kids so that everyone got some and we ended up with six left over from the box of 96. Next year we'll buy more.

Seeing as how we got more than a few kids at our house, we wondered whether the other neighbours really did dislike the previous owner as much as the one guy said they did. It's also possible that the previous owner didn't really decorate much. We watched the kids as they came into and went around the place (we can see the whole street from our dining room) and they really only went to the houses that were decorated. They avoided our neighbour's place completely even though their light was on.

I wonder, too, if some of the people came around to see who the "new people" are. I'd be curious to see the new neighbours if someone bought a house on my block. Who knows. At least we got lots of kids and we know that we'll need to have lots of candy on hand for next year.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

CBCN Body, Mind, Spirit conference 2010

The Body, Mind, Spirit conference this past weekend was fantastic and I'm so happy that I decided to go. Unfortunately I didn't see any of the people that I knew were going because we hadn't made any specific plans to meet and because I didn't know what they looked like I couldn't pick them out of the crowd. This actually worked out ok because I was able to meet a ton of new people.

Instead of sitting in the same spot all the time (my usual M.O.), I sat with different people every chance I got and so was able to meet as many different people as possible. I also made sure to sit with people who were on their own at a table. I've been that person who sits on her own because she's too shy to sit with strangers but who's ashamed to be alone, sure that everyone is looking at her, and who is desperately hoping that someone will sit with her. I wanted people who felt (or appeared to feel) that way to feel more comfortable and at ease and not so much alone.

As an aside... I never thought I'd see the day when I wasn't shy or nervous around people. I have no idea what brought about the change but I'll take it. Of course it means that I'm now the person who'll chat with anyone, anywhere -  in line at the store, on the bus, at the mirror in the washroom, or wherever - which some might think is a bit weird, but I'm fine with that.

The conference was composed of a selection of workshops at available during six different times plus other big sessions. I went to four workshops: Creative Art for Self-Expression, Grieving Loss and Celebrating Life, Spirituality and Spiritual Health, and Living with Metastatic Cancer: Support that Works. I thoroughly enjoyed each one.

In the self-expression workshop, we were first asked to draw an image of the cancer on a transparent sheet. Then we were each given a large plain white bag that was supposed to represent ourself and were to decorate it to describe how cancer has affected our lives.

I like this type of creative art class where there's no right or wrong and where you create something person with meaning for you. Exercises like this often help me see things about myself that I hadn't previously seen. In this case, I discovered that the amount of grief I felt for the losses associated with cancer was pretty well balanced by the emotional growth I've seen since I found out I had mets. I had no idea that the two were balanced in this way.

We got to work together in groups of four or so in the grief workshop to create a kite. We covered the kites with a collage of images and words cut out of magazine describing our vision for the future in each of our physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual lives. Here I realized that if one of those four areas is overwhelmed by loss or grief, I can focus more on the other areas to balance my life and to help move forward. If I'm struggling physically, for example, I can do more with my emotional or mental self; I don't have to only focus on my physical limitations.

Going to the spirituality workshop was a bit of a last-minute decision for me. I wasn't sure I was going to attend anything in that time slot but the leader of the grief workshop had worked with the leader of the spirituality workshop to make the two groups sort of work together. Here we discussed the different ways of expressing or viewing our spirituality. She separated the ways into four types: Head, or meditating on a word or phrase; Work, or helping others in day-to-day life; Heart, or developing stillness through meditation; and Imagination, which is similar to Heart but involves guided imagery.

Clearly these ways overlap to some extent, but most people find it easiest to approach spirituality in one of the four ways. She said that it is best to try and develop all four methods within oneself, which made sense to me. It isn't enough to always make myself an open vessel via a breathing meditation, for example; I have to use other techniques and, most importantly, be spiritual in my actions.

In the metastatic support workshop, the leader (a psychiatric oncologist) asked for a summary about ourselves and then guided an open chat about what we need support for and how we get that support. There were some non-mets people there asking how they could help their friends or loved ones with mets. What should they say? What should they not say?

In answer to those questions, many of us agreed that we don't like hearing about how strong we are, or how much of an inspiration we are, or how you know we're going to beat this, or you know we're going to live a long time, or any of that kind of cheerleading talk because it denies what we're saying. We most want the people around us to listen to us and to give us space to talk about the things that are really important to us, whatever those things may be. We don't want people to just do things for us but to ask if we need anything. People can always say that they're thinking of us, or that they hope today is good for us, or anything dealing with right now in response to what we've said.

In addition to all the workshops, there was a movie on Friday night - Jonna's Body, Please Hold - about a woman who'd had three different cancers. In the movie, a WWII telephone operator keeps the body running optimally until the foreigners move in and set up their home, inviting all their friends over for a party. That's a pretty good metaphor for a tumour, isn't it? :) This movie is really funny and light-hearted but is also profound at the same time. It's definitely worth watching.

Saturday night, Bif Naked spoke about her cancer experience. I'd heard of Bif Naked but I didn't really know anything about her except that she was a punk-rock type singer. It turns out that she's very personable and funny as anything. Her story is compelling not because it's all that different from a "typical" young woman's breast cancer experience but because of the way she told it. She was honest and forthright and put this light spin on this dark experience. I'm honoured to have been able to hear her tell her story.

Of course there's more to a conference than just the conference itself, right? Yep! There's the location and amenities, for example. The conference was held in downtown Toronto at the Hilton and there was a room rate for participants so almost all of us stayed there. It's a nice hotel (I don't know how many stars - three or four, I guess) decorated in an updated mid-century modern-type style. I especially liked that the blackout curtains were closest to the window and glued to the wall so no light got into the room.

The hotel wasn't without issues, however. Friday night I got to hear the kids in the room next to me (or one over) yelling and screaming as loudly as if they were sitting in my room. Saturday night I was woken from a deep sleep at 3am - while wearing earplugs - by the Halloween revelers on the street 12 floors below. Now, I know that the hotel can't help the noise outside and they can't help the way sound bounces up to the higher floors.... but being woken up by noise on the street (while wearing earplugs!!) means the hotel isn't properly soundproofed.

I also wasn`t all that impressed with housekeeping. We'd received a razor in our swag so I shaved my legs Friday night during my bath. Sorry if this is TMI, but I hadn't shaved my legs in quite a while so I left a bunch of hairs in the tub. Saturday afternoon after housekeeping had done my room, the hairs were still there. I had to rinse out my own tub before having a bath which is fine at home but not when I'm paying to stay somewhere...... and the Hilton isn't exactly a cheap hotel.

At least the food was ok during the conference, except for Friday's dinner. That night we had overcooked beef sliders, mini hot dogs, and a few vegetables. The only desserts were packaged ones in our swag. I think (hope) that Friday's dinner was not provided by the hotel but by some other organization and if I knew who they were, I'd recommend that none of us eat there.

Overall, I had a fantastic weekend at the conference! I'd love to go again if it were held in another hotel. Of course now I'm so exhausted from doing all that stuff and being woken so much that I can barely see to type this. It'll take a couple of days to recover from the weekend but it was worth it.