Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Book review

I finished reading Dry by Augusten Burroughs. I liked it, just as I liked Running with Scissors. Both of these books are memoirs, not parts of autobiographies, which to me is a crucial distinction. As far as I'm concerned, events in an autobiography should be entirely true and have occurred almost exactly as described. I expect an autobiography to be factually correct with possibly some editorial comments reflecting back on the events described.

In a memoir, I expect that the events in the books have some basis in reality and aren't just made up completely. The events could be a pastiche of other events and may even have been massaged for better dramatic and comedic timing but will have some basis in truth. In many ways, I expect a memoir to read like a novel and to be emotionally, if not completely factually, true.

These memoirs are very well-written and do read like very good novels. There's something about the way that Burroughs writes that I really like. He describes events in a self-deprecating and yet deeply truthful way. He never really comes and and says what he's feeling: he never says that he's ashamed or sad or grieving or scared. Instead, the reader infers how he feels based on the event itself and the words he uses. 

In this way, the reader becomes emotionally invested in the events that occur and really feels what the writer is feeling. I've been in similar situations as Burroughs and I found that I could really relate to those events. Reading those events actually brought up some past memories of mine... memories that I don't like to examine all that often. Examining them in the light of these books made them less terrible and more bearable and that made these books very powerful for me.

The family portrayed in Running with Scissors felt that they were inaccurately portrayed and they sued the author for defamation even though names and identifying details were changed. The family wasn't informed that this memoir was going to be published and were shocked at what was there. I can't imagine that most authors would necessarily get permission from the people in their books but I do think they should notify those people about the project before publishing. The case was settled out of court and on subsequent memoirs of his it's made clear that details and events might be changed.

Even though Burroughs didn't lose the case, the fact that he didn't contact the family before publishing the first book is very much in keeping with type of person the author is... he's selfish, vain, and shallow. He's a jerk. Oddly enough, even though he's a jerk, I still enjoy his writing. Maybe it's because he doesn't try to pretend he's someone else: he is who he is. I like that. I don't think I'd like him as a person, but I do like his writing style and his books and I plan on reading more of them soon.

Both Running with Scissors and Dry are quirky, interesting, funny, and easy to read. They're worth reading if you're interested in unusual families (Running with Scissors) or what it's like to get sober (Dry).

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Dinner and stuff

I saw my friend for dinner tonight - I'm so glad that she was available tonight after I cancelled yesterday. It was great seeing her and I wish that we got together more often. I see her about every six months or so and there's just too much catching up to do over dinner when there's that much time between visits.

She works for the company that recently employed me and I do feel sort of sad, hearing about the trials and tribulations of working there. I miss being there in the thick of things, you know? I wish my body was able to handle that much stress because sometimes it sounds like such fun. Then again, it can also be awful, and why would I waste my energy on something awful?

I think my friend is planning a game night soon and I hope we'll be able to go and see everyone. She promised to keep the number of people there to a low number which should make the games more interesting. I look forward to seeing her again.

On another topic, I'm getting quite tired of receiving calls from telemarketers. We're on the national Do Not Call list and so we're not supposed to get calls like this at all but they don't even bother to check whether we're on the list. I looked into reporting these people and it turns out that you don't need much information to make a report: you only need the date and time they called you, the name the person calling gave you, the company name, and the company phone number.

So when I received a call yesterday from one of these telemarketers (from an alarm system company, he was), before he could get into his spiel, I asked him to repeat his name, which he did. Then I asked for the company name, which I confirmed with him. And I asked him for the phone number of the company, which he gave me. Then I told him that I was on the Do Not Call list, which meant that I should not have received this call and that I was going to report this call. I also told him that the person who made the call as well as the company itself can fined for calling numbers not on the list.

Then I reported the call.

If you're not on the Do Not Call list, I urge you to register your number there. If you are on the list and are receiving calls from telemarketers, I strongly urge you to report those calls. The more we report these calls, the more that can be done to stop them.

Monday, June 28, 2010

An adventurous day

I was supposed to have dinner with a friend of mine tonight but I was so tired after my adventures this afternoon that I had to postpone dinner until tomorrow.

I finally had my appointment with the surgeon who did my biopsy last month. As I thought, the incision is healing just fine. He'll be referring me to a respirologist as well; he faxed the referral over and now I need to wait for an appointment to come up.

It was a gorgeous afternoon and I wanted to take advantage of it so I thought that I would wander up to the next bus stop. I should have done some planning and wore different shoes, however. I've walked quite a bit in these shoes before but for some reason, today I got blisters. I went into the pharmacy next door to the doctor's office and bought some bandages to put over the blister.

About a block later I noticed that the bandage wasn't on and just made the blister worse so I put another bandage on. A block after that, the bandages were coming off so I went into the hospital pharmacy and bought some more bandages. And some paper tape, which we'd been running out of.

I put the bandage on and everything seemed ok until all of a sudden, about two blocks later, my foot started hurting again. So I put another bandage on. Two blocks after that, my foot started hurting even more so I took the bandage off and put two on, overlapping them so that they would stay on and wouldn't hurt.

This time, I was in luck. The bandages stayed on until I got off the bus. I'm getting ahead of myself, however. I did manage to walk around and on the way to the bus I passed by my favourite local independent bookstore. They had a bunch of books on sale in a display outside and being the devourer of books that I am, I stopped to take a look.On the table was a book I've been looking for: Dry, by Augusten Burroughs. I've already read Running with Scissors, his memoir of his childhood, and I wanted to read this next memoir about when he got sober.

I wandered around in the bookstore for a few minutes to see if there was anything else that I wanted but I didn't find anything. Unfortunately the extra time in the bookstore meant that I missed my bus by about one minute. I took advantage of the fifteen minutes I had to wait to sit and read my new book. It's as good as I'd hoped it would be. When I got off the bus my foot still hurt so I took the bandages off and left the blister bandage-less for my walk home - surprisingly, the blister didn't hurt so much.

On my walk home I found a report card. I knew it was the last day of school and that report cards were given out but you usually don't find them on the sidewalk. I didn't really know what to do with it - I had these visions of me taking it home and trying to phone the kid's parents to try and give it back, but that wasn't something that I thought I should do, even if I wanted to do it. I also didn't think that the report card should just sit on the ground like that.

The school was only a few blocks away so I decided to take the report card back there and let them deal with it. Even though it was way past school dismissal time I hoped that one of the teachers would still be there and I was in luck: there were three cars in the parking lot. The doors were locked, though. I went around the whole school and tried to open - and then knocked on - every door. Thinking back, it's a good thing that I had the report card in my hand, because those inside may have thought that I was trying to break in or something. Maybe they thought that anyways. When I got back around to the front door I could see someone inside, so I held up the report card and she unlocked the door to take it.

She seemed to recognize the name on the report card; I got the impression that maybe the student hadn't dropped it accidentally on purpose but that something else had happened. I can't imagine what that something else could be, but either way I was happy to not have the report card in my hands any more.

After all that I finally got to go home - only an hour and a half after I could have been there. but then I wouldn't have bought the new book or had the report card adventure.

In other news, the laptop we ordered arrived today. It's nice-looking and I'm sure it's much more powerful than the current one. We thought that the current laptop had a 17" screen so that's what we ordered. Surprise! Our old laptop has a 15.4" screen. I guess we should have measured to save some money. Oops. It is a lovely laptop and it even has a numeric keypad, which I love... so we'll learn to live with (and love) it's ginormosity.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

A Sunday evening movie

We're still very excited about our fancy new tv. Since the resolution on this tv is so much better than on our old tv, we were interested in seeing whether the display from a Blu-Ray in our PS3 on this tv was better than on our old tv. To do that, we went to the video store for a movie. We were quite surprised at how many titles there were that we'd wanted to see. Clearly we haven't been watching enough movies lately! Almost every title interested us.

In the end, we chose to rent The Book of Eli, which we'd sort of planned to get until we saw that there were so many other choices. This is a post-apocalyptic movie that follows a "chosen man" who is journeying West through a wasteland while carrying a book that has the power to restart humanity. There is a battle between "good" and "evil" where each side defines their beliefs and what is precious in almost identical ways but to different ends. Nothing is really black and white, though; bad characters have good in them and vice versa. There's a lot to this movie, if you want to look at it that way - but you can enjoy it for what it is, too.

Cinematically, this movie is quite unusual.. It takes place not in a big city but in rural communities and the real stars in it are the ground and the sky with hardly any differentiation between them. This lack of differentiation is achieved in part by the sepia-ness of the movie. There are very few colours throughout most of this film, which contributes much to the atmosphere of this movie

This is a compelling, very good movie that we highly recommend. There is violence, and there are some disturbing scenes, but it's an excellent movie. So good, in fact, that I think it stands up to multiple viewings. The special features add a lot to the movie as well - they aren't all just trailers or re-telling the story; there's more too them. Like the graphic novel that they basically wrote to define their scenes and shots. If you see this movie, watch the special features, too. They're worth your time.

Oh - and yes, this new tv definitely has a better Blu-Ray picture. Everything is crisp and the colours are as graduated as we'd see in a theatre. We're very happy with our purchase. :)

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Games night!

We went out and played games tonight for the first time in ages! We played games with a different crowd than we used to which was fun. I knew some of the people there but I hadn't seen them in ages so it was great to see them and catch up a bit. I'll have to get together with them again because I shouldn't have to wait this long to see them again. There was a great mix of geeky people like us at the games party, probably because we were also watching episodes of Big Bang Theory, so we got to meet new people, too.

We played Apples to Apples and Sputnik. Apples to Apples is a fun party game that we've played before. Sputnik was new to us and it was a really fun game to play. Each player starts with a rocket piece on a landing piece surrounded by stacks of galaxy pieces. Each player moves their rocket piece to a galaxy piece next to them and then removes another galaxy piece if one is available. If a player can't move to a galaxy piece, they can transform their landing piece into a galaxy piece on an empty space near them; if there's no place for the rocket to move, the player is out.

It's a simple game to understand and play but the strategy can be quite complex, which makes it an interesting game to play. We recommend it.

We also bought a new tv today. We've been waiting to buy a really, really big tv for when we get a house - we'll put an entertainment area in the basement where we'll be able to play video games and watch movies on a nice, big screen. But we don't have a house yet and our old tv was a flat-screen CRT model with HD capabilities. It was fine for regular tv but it didn't have enough resolution for video games or some of the fine HD stuff.

So we decided to spend a little money now to buy a replacement 37" LCD tv that's bigger and has better resolution than our old tv. We'll probably put this tv in the living room or great room or whatever we end up with in the new house, so that we can watch tv while cooking or hanging out on the main floor for whatever reason.

Friday, June 25, 2010

A bit of this and a bit of that

Apparently the longest Wimbledon game ever so far was recently played. I don't follow Wimbledon, but there's a live blogger talking about the games for those that like that sort of thing. The entries about this particular game are hilarious! Even better, you definitely don't need to understand tennis in order to get the humour.

The entries are here; the whole thing is entertaining but the real fun starts at about 5pm. Have a look if you're in need of some giggles - and really, who doesn't need giggles once in a while?

I went for a two-hour walk this afternoon. I almost didn't go out because I was feeling lazy but I ate way, way, way too much ice cream last night and I figured that I should do something other than sit around at home. I managed to find a fairly long path through the closest woods. It was so nice in there, with the birds singing and the light coming through the leaves. I think I may have got too much sun on my face, though. Ian says my face has a few extra freckles and it feels hot. Oops.

This weekend we'll go to some open houses, as usual. There are hardly any tomorrow and too many on Sunday. Most of the houses won't be right, of course, but we've had our eye on a couple of them for a while: one that's a bit out of our price range and another that's way down by the 401. It isn't worth taking up our realtor's time to see them but we'd still like to see what these places are like. If we like them, then we can see them again with our realtor.

It turns out that seeing places that we like twice is a good idea for us (well, for me, anyways). The first time through we kind of wander around looking at the overall picture and react with our feelings or intuition. The second time we see a place, we look at things more carefully. It's hard on my emotions but at the same time, I do have a hard time thinking critically about a place I'm looking at when my feelings about it are so strong. Love is blind, as they say.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

More house-hunting

We looked at a couple of houses with our realtor today. Well, we really looked at one and a half houses because we couldn't get into the first house as there was an alarm system. We did take a really good look at the yard and exterior of that house, however. It had the most decadent yard of a couple of hundred feet of mostly trees merging into a conservation area.

Sadly, there was a lot of traffic noise in the yard from the nearby major street. At first we thought the noise was from the expressway but that road is sunken and has a noise barrier, so the noise is almost certainly coming from the nearby regular major street. Even though that house appears to have potential, the traffic noise interfered with our ability to enjoy the tranquility and peacefulness of the backyard. There's no point having a 300ft long property if you can't enjoy it, right?

The other house is a newer house that hadn't really been updated. It was ok but didn't really excite us. Plus the master bedroom windows looked directly into the neighbour's windows - presumably it was their master bedroom. We're not the kind of people that like peeking into our neighbour's windows. Besides, that window placement meant that the bedroom got no light.

The basement in that house was also unfinished which meant that we'd have to finish it... and I wouldn't have a sewing room until that was done. Even though I haven't been sewing much lately, I still want to be able to sew whenever I want.

Remember that house we loved and thought about putting in an offer for? it's way, way overpriced for the neighbourhood and its amenities. It seems that the realtor representing that house contacted our realtor to find out why we didn't put in an offer and basically told her that they wouldn't reject an offer closer to the house's value. We're still not going to buy that house. Even though we loved that layout and everything, we don't have a good feeling about it.

In some ways not buying a house was a good thing this week because Ian was really, really busy at work and it would have been hard to have the stresses of the house and work at the same time.

Our house is out there... somewhere.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Odds and ends

I felt my first earthquake today! I didn't even know it was an earthquake until it was over and I was reading about an earthquake that occurred at that time. There was a 5.0 quake at about 1:42pm this afternoon with an epicenter just north of Ottawa and effects were felt all over Southern Ontario and parts of the US. Here at home it felt like someone was walking heavily over the roof and there was a rumbling sound sort of like thunder. Over in Ottawa the effects were much stronger and buildings were evacuated.

Earthquakes in Eastern Canada are fairly rare; hopefully there won't be more of them.

Around the time the earthquake happened I was trying to figure out what happened to a package I expected to receive weeks ago. I ordered a vintage pattern on May 27 and it hasn't arrived yet, which I thought was strange. The seller has a tracking number and I checked it and the package has apparently been sitting in the Kitchener sorting facility since June 3. I called Canada Post and instead of delivering items immediately, they wait until the package delivery standard time arrives.

So if a package is supposed to be delivered in 21 days, they'll wait until almost 21 days has passed before attempting to delivery it. Similarly, if a package is supposed to take four to six weeks to arrive, Canada Post will wait to deliver it until at least four weeks have passed. It doesn't matter when the package arrives at the sorting plant.

How ridiculous is this? Canada Post, you suck.

Also, I'm not allowed to try and trace the package. The seller has to contact the US Postal Service who will then track the package. The fact that they apparently tried to find out if Royal Mail (in the UK) had scanned the package does not fill me with confidence, however. Canada and the UK are not at all the same country.

I'm concerned that something's happened because I know that my postal delivery worker doesn't leave the attempted delivery thingy on my door until the day after the delivery attempt, if I'm not home. I paid a ridiculous amount of shipping for it to take this long to arrive. Sigh.

Finally, I wanted to talk about yesterday's post, because I didn't explain myself very well. Getting excited isn't always good for me, especially if I'm disappointed afterwards. But excitement isn't bad in and of itself; it's only bad when it prevents me from sleeping. When I'm physically tired I'm not able to handle emotional ups and downs. Emotional extremes do leave me feeling tired and if I'm already physically tired, the extra emotional tiredness is too much for me.

So when I say that I'm thinking about tranquilizers for part of this process, I mean that I need to take something so that I sleep when I'm excited so that I don't stay up all or half the night being excited (which is what happened this last time). I've tried to do meditation then but my excited thoughts are out of control and just keep interrupting.

I have no intention of taking tranquilizers all the time or even every night because I don't like them. However, my goal is to make sure that I get the rest I need when exciting house-related stuff happens and if that means I take an ativan or klonopin before bed, then that's what I do. I've never taken sleeping pills - which might be the thing most people would take in this situation - and I don't want to start taking them when important house stuff is going on.

I do need to see my family doctor and when I see him, I'll ask him what else I can do or take to help me sleep and to better handle emotional ups and downs that can't be avoided. Maybe I should take sleeping pills in this case - but I'm not going to try them until he gives me the ok.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Looking for a house in exhausting

You know, the emotional highs and lows associated with looking for and buying a house sucks. I was so excited thinking that we'd found the right house and then I was just so disappointed when we found out that the house wouldn't work. I went from feeling excited and happy to a very deep low that persisted through today. The low was made worse by the fact that I was so tired; I didn't sleep well when I was excited about the house and then feeling that disappointed left me exhausted.

From this, I'm learning that it's much better for me to try and stay emotionally even. The emotional ups and downs aren't good for my mood and I end up physically and emotionally exhausted from which it takes me a while to recover. I don't have the extra energy to go through this, you know? Still, it's hard not to be excited about a house we like. Next time we see a house we like, I'm wondering if it would be better if I took ativan or klonopin (clonazepam) so that I don't get so excited or disappointed.

At least we're not looking at another house for two more days: we're viewing a property on Thursday. It seems very nice - in a nicer area than that other house was in - backing onto a ginormous greenspace/conservation area and only a ten-minute walk from the park that we love. This place is also close to a grocery store and to the highway. It was built in 1969 so it's as old as I am and seems to be updated. We'll see. One problem we know of is that it has the oven and cook-top separated and the oven might be too high for me but I hope that won't be a major issue.

In a lot of ways it was great to not think about houses today. Instead, I got my hair cut for the first time in nine weeks - it was shaggy! I also got a chance to do some grocery shopping, so we actually have some food and vegetables (and diet soda in a couple of flavours) in the house again. And I did the laundry so we have clean clothes, too. It's easy for me to let things go and I was happy to do some catching up today.

Tomorrow I plan to take it easy, although I'll need to do some dishes and make some yummy dinner with the food I bought.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Well, that didn't work out

We did not put an offer in on that house. You know, if we keep getting this excited about houses, by the time we finally do get a house we'll be totally cool and nonchalant about the whole thing.

We met with the realtor at the house this afternoon and went through the place. It turns out that the house wasn't built by a builder but just some guy who hired sub-contractors to do the work. Worse, the house wasn't registered with Tarion, the organization that regulates new home building, enforces the provincial new home building act, and backs new home warranties. Apparently the guy was willing to offer us a warranty, but what would that be worth if it wasn't backed by the regulatory body?

For all we know, this house was the best-built house possible. But the guy didn't register the house and to us, not registering the home with the right organization means that the guy cut some corners and we just weren't willing to take the chance that other, more serious corners were cut. After all, we already knew that the front steps were weird because there was no handrail and that the drainage in the back might be a problem. It's entirely possible that the guy didn't get an engineer to figure out how to grade the yard so that drainage wouldn't be a problem, and that worries us.

Really, the moment where we figured that something was off was when we saw the cut-out window area above the basement stairs. We want basement stairs because we want to cut off the basement from the rest of the house and having a cut-out there defeats that purpose. It turns out that the cut-out was there because there is no light on the stairs. All the light comes from the bottom of the stairs and through that cutout. That just isn't right.

Also, we looked and looked for the attic access panel and finally found it in the garage. I mentioned before that it was a cathedral-ceiling garage, right? Well, at the door to the house from the garage, there was a platform with some stairs. The attic access panel is located 15ft over those stairs close to the platform side. It's a tricky place to get to by ladder because it would be uneven.

We really wish that this house worked out because we did love the layout. But there were all these little things that just weren't right... and they were just the things we could see. Because the whole house is finished, we can't see what things are like behind the scenes. What if there were other, more serious, code violations? What if there was water damage in the basement already? Apparently basements don't usually get finished for at least the first two years so that if there is water damage, it can be found and dealt with without taking apart the finishing.

As first-time home-buyers who don't know much about homes, we need to be extra-careful about what we buy. We don't have the expertise to deal with a lemon and we don't have the money to fix up an expensive lemon. Knowing what we do about the house, we felt that putting in an offer wasn't the right thing for us to do.

Even if the house had been built by a builder and there weren't weird things about it, it was definitely overpriced. It didn't have the amenities that a house at that price should have and at the asking price it was by far the most expensive house on the street. We would have made an offer considerably under the asking price and there's no guarantee that this offer would have been accepted.

So the search continues. We've been looking for such a long time and we're both feeling a bit discouraged. At least we know that the house we want is out there... we just have to find it. We're very picky and have unusual requests so of course it'll take longer to find the right place.

One good thing that came out of today is that we were able to sit down with our realtor and read over the offer paperwork and talk about what's involved in putting in an offer. We both feel much more knowledgeable about the process now. We also feel that our realtor did a really, really good job getting together the information we'd need and in explaining things to us. We're confident that when the right house does come along we can trust her completely to represent us.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

I think this really is it

We finished watching From Hell today. It was a really good movie! It gives an interesting explanation and suspect for the Jack Ripper murders that apparently has little basis in reality... but it's still an intriguing and engrossing tale and movie. The latter two-thirds of the movie have much less gore than the first third. If you enjoy suspense or thriller movies, this one's for you.

Of course, being the weekend, we did go to a couple of open houses. There was nothing we wanted to see yesterday but we saw two places today. One was totally wrong: it was in Breslau near the local airport and didn't have a basement. We were actually really lucky to get there when we did because there was an airshow going on this weekend and traffic was really backed up headed that way right after we got there.

We love love love love the second house we saw. It's down by Chicopee hill, near Fairview Mall, which is the other big mall in the city. There's a huge, fantastic park area right nearby with lots of trails and areas to explore. There's a grocery store (and the local Fabricland!) about a ten-minute walk away, too. After exploring this area a bit, we've decided that we love it so if this place doesn't work out, we'll keep looking in that area.

The house we love is a two-year-old, 1800sq ft bungalow with lots of room and a finished basement with eight or nine foot high ceilings. It has everything we want with living areas separate from sleeping areas, a big kitchen, and a place to put a big entertainment area (the basement). The house is kind of a "reverse" walkout with the backyard sloping more towards the front yard. In fact, the backyard has a big slope going up behind the house; the slope continues up to the top of the hill and there are houses up there. There are no houses directly behind this one, though. It's a hilly area, being kind of one side of Chicopee.

Our biggest concerns about the house are the drainage in the backyard with that slope (we don't want a swamp there during the spring runoff season) and the steps in front. There are quite a few steps in the front and currently there's no handrail. I think it's possible to build a ramp there and I'm sure that putting handrails won't be a problem. We can always enter through the cathedral-ceiling garage if we have to - there's a railing there. :)

We're going to see the place again with our realtor tomorrow at lunch to make sure we still like it and that we're not crazy wanting to put an offer on it. There's apparently an offer on the house that's contingent on the offerees selling their own place, which hasn't happened yet. I guess that puts us in a multiple offer situation because I assume that if we put in an offer, the people with the current offer will have a chance to modify or remove their offer and it's possible that we could get into a bidding war.

What's funny (or sad) is that this house has been on the market for quite a while and I've been watching it and liking the idea of it - the pictures do not do this house justice - since it showed up. It's just that we haven't been looking at that area of the city so we didn't know how much we'd love this house or this area.

So here's hoping that things go well tomorrow: that we still love the house and that the offer process goes well.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Another long walk and part of a movie

I managed to get Ian to go on a long walk with me this evening. Usually we just walk around the neighbourhood but this time we went a bit further afield. I was surprised that he was willing to go for such a long walk since he'd done work around the house earlier but he wanted to get out. It turned out to be a really nice evening: clear, with a bit of a breeze.

When we got home we flopped on the couch and ate some ice cream. We've been working our way through the new Compliments Sensations ice cream flavours; tonight's new flavour was peanut butter, and it's yummy, if a bit sweet. It has little chocolate-covered peanut butter cups in it. The base ice cream used for each flavour is quite tasty, I must say.

We started to watch From Hell, a movie based on the graphic novel by Alan Moore, on tv. We got through about an hour of it but we were very tired from our walk and decided to go to bed and finish watching it in the morning.

The movie is the story of a clairvoyant detective who is investigating the Jack the Ripper murders. I hadn't realized how grisly the Jack the Ripper murders were, what with all of the abdominal mutilations. The movie is quite honest in its portrayal of the women the Ripper preyed on (aside from the fact that they were too clean). Their life was very hard and the movie shows that rather unflinchingly. The movie is also definitely not suitable for children: there's gore and full-frontal female nudity. So far, the movie has been quite good and I'm looking forward to seeing the end tomorrow.

Friday, June 18, 2010

What a beautiful day

So that's it; after today I'm not a RIM employee. I'm happy that this day has come and is just about gone, although things don't really end for another month - that's when my benefits will end and when I'll receive my severance payout.

When my benefits expire I can buy medical/dental benefit coverage from the insurance company. I'm waiting to hear back from the contact person at RIM about the cost of purchasing the coverage and what coverage I'd have. If it isn't too much and I'd have at least medical and dental I'll go ahead and purchase the benefit coverage. I'm covered by Ian's benefits but as far as I'm concerned, the more coverage, the better, especially because I don't know what costs I'll have going forward.

Because today is sort of a "big day" I didn't just want to sit around and wallow; I wanted to do something. Luckily it was a gorgeous day, all sunny and warm and nice and bright and beautiful. So I went for an epic walk - a two-hour walk to the newer subdivision just west of here and back. I thought that I'd walked a huge distance, because I used to walk about 5km/h, but it turns out that I only walked about 8km. That's still a pretty good distance considering that I've only been walking since the spring and that I haven't been walking since before I went to Atlantic City.

It really does feel good to be outside. I love getting the fresh air and feeling the warm sun and breeze on my sunscreened face. Right now, the limiting factors to how long I can walk are that my feet get sore and it's hard to carry enough water. I need to buy new walking shoes so my feet don't hurt, which is no big deal - it's the water that's really limiting.

Today I carried about a liter of water and it was just enough for me; I probably could have used just a bit more. Right now I just carry the water in one hand and I have the cane in the other. Maybe I should get myself one of those camelbak backpack thingies so that I have a free hand while walking. It would be more comfortable and I think that I could carry more water, although Ian thinks it would look silly. I'll have to look into different water options because I don't see my walks getting shorter... at least until winter.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Better, definitely better

I wallowed in self-pity over my soon-to-be unemployed status for most of this afternoon, until I got bored. It seems that I can only take so much of my own self-pity before it annoys and bores me. That's good, right?

So I don't have a job, and I'm unemployed... I've still got a paycheck and a good life. Besides, I didn't love the company I no longer work for, so not being employed by them shouldn't be that big of a deal. it's time to move on.

I'm feeling less tired, too, and more like doing something. I think I might actually be healing from the surgery, finally. The incision looks good and there isn't too much swelling around it. If I stretch my neck too much, things feel weird and I start having trouble breathing. Weird, huh? I'll talk to the surgeon about it when I see him in a couple of weeks.

Now that I'm feeling more human and all, I think it's just about time to sew again! I've still got that dress - the one I started before my trip - to sew up, and I've got some other great fabrics that I want to make into great outfits. Or just plain things to wear, anyways; they don't have to be great. Either way, it's time to start doing something other than just sitting around.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Sleepy, sad day

I was one tired puppy today. Yesterday was emotionally exhausting for me and I'm still feeling emotionally fragile.

I did contact the company who contacted the insurance company and a severance package payout is not considered income so I'll be able to keep it all. It won't be that much but it's better than the nothing which I was expecting. I could use the money to buy ourselves a nice couch or two for our new house whenever we get that.

Yesterday I was also given the name and email of someone at RIM who works with the insurance company; I have the option of buying my benefits coverage from the insurance company at some reduced rate. The person I talked to yesterday said that she couldn't tell me what that rate was (it's confidential). If the rate isn't too high than we would definitely purchase the extra coverage.

Tonight the head person at Ian's work threw a big party because some big-shot at the company is receiving an honorary PhD this week. And someone else got some kind of award. They brought in some circus people to do tricks and stuff and fed us while we mingled. Sadly, it wasn't that warm outside; a thunderstorm had just come through, the grass was wet, and there was a very cold wind blowing. It was fun seeing the people from Ian's office; I haven't seen them since the Christmas party a few months ago.

Tomorrow my plan is to do nothing at all to just rest and get used to things. feel like I need the time. Ian doesn't really get why I'm so upset about the work thing, and intellectually I know that there's no real reason to be as upset as I am. It's just that I'm having trouble transitioning to being unemployed and it also sounds like the team is doing exactly what I though it to be doing way back when I was there. If I had just become unemployed or the team was changing I'd have an easier time of it, but both things together are really hard for me to deal with. I really wish I could be with the team going through these changes, you know? But I can't - I can't work, and in fact I'm unemployed.

So for the next little while, I feel like I need to lick my wounds and take care of myself. If this means that I wallow in self-pity for a little while, so be it. I just need the time to get used to this new situation.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Bye, RIM

I got all the RIM property I had together and returned it to my contact person today. She was very nice and apologized for surprising me with the phone call that they were terminating my employment. I apologized for freaking out the way that I did, too.

We had a lovely chat. It turns out that there are changes happening within my team, including that my boss is no longer managing the team. This is leading to lots of good things happening on the team and within the rest of the company. I still wish that I could return to work because the leadership and team they have now are working exactly the way I'd been working before. If I could work, I think I'd love it there now whereas before there was no way I could have worked there.

I will be receiving a severance payout in about a month. I forgot to ask whether the payout would work with my LTD benefit. Normally, LTD doesn't allow me to make income and if the severance package is considered income, I'd have to pay it all back to the insurance. I sent a message to the person I met with today to find out.

I felt so sad when I left the meeting, because it means that I really won't be going back to work, even though I still want to. I left the car at Ian's work and cried and cried and cried... I'm still crying. I don't feel rejected, exactly, but I do feel like I'm grieving and mourning for the life I had until recently. It's all real now that I won't go back to work. I've taken Ativan but I'm still crying so I figure that I'll take it easy the next few days and just be gentle with myself.

Monday, June 14, 2010

This and that

We did go to see a house yesterday that had a main floor master bedroom and a loft. The great room was gorgeous, as was the kitchen, but the main floor master bedroom was located right off of the great room, beside the kitchen. That would never work for us because we want the sleeping and living areas separate from each other.

There's a house for sale by owner that's very similar to the place we saw yesterday. I'd like to see it, but we don't know how to put in an offer on a house for sale by owner... or even if we'd want to do that.

I had a follow-up appointment with my regular surgeon this morning in Oakville and so I spent the night with Ian's parents. We ended up watching the Tony awards. I've watched a lot of award shows but never the Tonys - they were great! I loved the songs from the musicals and of course I loved the dresses :) The whole production felt so much more relaxed and upbeat than award shows lately. Plus the show managed to end just about on time, even if the acceptance speeches at the beginning were longer than those at the end.

Tomorrow I return my RIM property to the company and pick up my severance letter and stuff. I don't expect the appointment to take that long but I'm finding myself feeling a bit sad about the relationship with the company coming to an end. I didn't always like it there - ok, I really hated some things there - but I felt more secure being employed. And some part of me has thought that I'd go back to work, that I'd be well enough to go back. I still feel that way... but now, if I ever actually feel like I could work, I don't have anywhere to go back to.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Weekend open houses

If it's the weekend, we must be seeing open houses. We went to see two different houses today: both houses had a split entry, where when you walk in there's a landing and you can go either up to the main level or down to the basement. We have this theory that if the landing was big enough to have a coat closet that this type of entry might work. Of course we have no idea whether or not this theoretical layout actually exists.

Even if the split entries were big enough (and they weren't), neither house was right for us. The first was just too small with no room for a sewing room and the second was fugly. It was so awful; both of us walked in and wanted to run away from the house. Smokers had recently lived there and we could see the smoke on the walls and we could smell it everywhere. It also looked like there was a water problem in the basement. The lot on this house was huge, though, and it's in a great area. The best thing to do with this house would be to demolish it and start over.

We actually saw another house earlier this week that we liked. The biggest problem was that it had a very musty smell, especially in the basement. This smell could have been due to the very old carpet - when was purple shag carpet last available? - but we didn't want to take a chance on buying the house and finding out that the problem is more than just the purple shag carpet. This house had great bones and if it had been updated would have been fantastic. But we just couldn't take a chance.

We're planning on looking at a couple of houses tomorrow as well. We think that one probably won't be right because the master bedroom is right off of the great room and the other one probably won't work because it's a house up for private sale. We figure that it's worth seeing houses that probably aren't right to learn more about what is right for us and to see details that might work when we decorate our house.

Friday, June 11, 2010


So the results are in: the mediastinal nodes are enlarged due to sarcoidosis. The surgeon biopsied the three of the four enlarged nodes that were below the neck and they all showed sarcoidosis.

At least it's not cancer... although to be honest, more cancer would be easier to deal with than a second systemic illness that looks exactly like cancer on scans. But then more cancer would be worse in terms of life-time prognosis. So I guess I'll be around for a long time but have to do more biopsies when things show up on scans. That's a good thing.

I need to see a respirologist to figure out treatment for these enlarged nodes. the main treatments for sarcoidosis are steroids. Personally, O'm not a fan of taking steroids because the main side effects are acne, weight gain, and mood changes. I'm already bigger than I want to be and I already take antidepressants; I don't need steroid "help" in either area.

Sometimes sarcoidosis is left untreated because it goes away on its own. Since I don't have a cough or too much shortness of breath I'm hoping that we'll just leave things as-is or not have to take steroids for very long.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Tomorrow's a big day

I thought about sleeping as late as I could today but then I figured that I should set an alarm so that I woke up before Ian got home.

I set my alarm for 2pm and that's when I got up. :) I was sort of awake before that because there were landscaping people making noise but I was ready to go right back to sleep. Believe it or not, I'm still very tired.

Tomorrow I see my oncologist for my biopsy results. Ian's coming with me since this is a fairly important appointment; the biopsy results determine whether or not a treatment change is in order. I don't feel especially nervous about the appointment but subconsciously I'm probably a little scared. That would definitely contribute to my being so tired.

I'll let you know the results and how the rest of the appointment went tomorrow. I hope the results are in and are definitive; just having results is so much better than living in this limbo-land.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

More about the book, and sleep

Ian still thinks that I should read the book... and I feel quite strongly about NOT reading the book. In fact, I feel quite angry about having been sent this book at all. I guess I'm feeling strongly about this book because next week my employment with RIM is being terminated by them, I'm taking up all my resentments and anger that I have towards them and focusing it on this book. I feel like they're kicking me to the curb and I resent them sending me a book on how great the company is. A great company, in my mind, might have handled this situation better... or this situation wouldn't have come up at all.

I probably wouldn't have felt quite as strongly if I there wasn't this juxtaposition of me being terminated and a book about how great the Blackberry is... if I'd received something else or the book was about something else, I might feel less strongly about it. Maybe.

I might also feel better about this book if I wasn't so tired. I'm still exhausted... I don't mean to sound like a broken record, but I am so very tired. We thought about going out to get some yummy food but the thought of putting real clothes on is overwhelming to me. I just want to sleep and sleep and sleep.

At least my incision is healing well. There's still some puffiness and swelling behind it and it's still a bit tender and itchy, but it's healing well. Maybe more sleep will help it heal better... another good reason to sleep in as late as possible tomorrow.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Home and tired

I think I overdid it while I was away because I'm exhausted now. I'm so very tired and I'm finding myself falling asleep while sitting in front of the tv. Of course I was only a week out of surgery when I went and the incision still isn't fully healed, plus I spent a lot of time in the sun over the weekend. Looking at all that it's no surprise that I'm so tired now. My body was trying to heal and I gave it too much to do and that's catching up to me now.

While I was away, Ian got a notice about a package that needed a signature for delivery. He signed the card and left it for the delivery person and it was waiting for me when I got back. I was expecting a pattern to come with signature confirmation but he said that it didn't look like a pattern. Plus it said "book" on it.

Imagine my surprise when I opened the package and it's the book Blackberry: The Inside Story of Research In Motion by Rod McQueen. I guess these RIM execs got themselves a book written about how they created RIM and wanted to share the book with all of their employees. Since I'm a RIM employee until the end of next week, I'm a "lucky" recipient of this book. Their book sales must look awesome if every employee got one. Way to toot your own horns, Mike L and Jim B.

If it's so important that employees read about how great RIM is, why didn't we get the last book that was written about the company: BlackBerry Planet: The Story of Research in Motion and the Little Device that Took the World by Storm? RIM looks so great on the outside but on the inside it's got serious problems. I expect that if a book telling the inside story ever gets written, each employee won't be given one for free. They'd deserve one just for working there.

I'd rather have received a nice bag or jacket or something useful instead of a book about the company. Ian said that I should read it since I have it now but I don't know... we'll see. I have other books I chose for myself that I want to read before I get to this extended press release.

Monday, June 07, 2010

My trip to Atlantic City

As you know, I was in Atlantic City this past weekend. Atlantic City is like Vegas' smaller sister: there are a bunch of resort-style casinos located in groups along a boardwalk instead of all together along the Strip. These resorts are much smaller than the ones at Vegas and aren't all connected with inside paths, but they're nice. Smoking is allowed in designated areas of the casinos, some hotel rooms, and outside.

Getting to Atlantic City is no easy feat. I heard that they're trying to get more people to go there and if that's the case, they'd be well-advised to have more direct flights to and from their airport. I got there by flying to Philadelphia, taking the train to the main train station, and then taking a train to Atlantic City. Traveling by train is one of my favourite ways to go - I love seeing the land pass by.

When I arrived in Philadelphia, I had no US money with me but I figured that I'd see a bank machine or ticket machine on the way to the train platform. I didn't see either one so I asked someone waiting for the train about paying for the ticket. She told me that tickets are purchased from the train conductor and that if I didn't have the money, they'd just fill out a form and I could pay at the main station.

She also said that if there were any problems, she'd just pay my fare! She ended up not needing to do that because they did have me fill in a form and I did pay the fare at the station. Even if she'd had to pay for me it would only have been $7USD. But still, I was so touched by her generosity; her offer meant so much to me because I was worried about how I was going to pay. What a nice thing to do for someone! I feel like I should pay that offer forward somehow.

My friend picked me up at the Atlantic City train station and we drove to the hotel. We stayed at the Showboat, a New Orleans-themed hotel. Well, they called it "New Orleans" but really it was more a Mardi Gras theme. They even had a very loud, energetic, parade of performers circle around the casino floor three times a day. They stop right beside the check-in desk at 3:30pm. Coincidentally, that's when we checked in.

The noise made it kind of hard to hear the person behind the desk tell us that we weren't supposed to be in that line, and it made it harder for her to hear from her manager that she was supposed to take us because we were the group they were expecting. Fortunately, the person behind the desk was well able to convey her feelings about having to check us in when she didn't want to do it even though she could barely be heard above the din.

The group of us were supposed to get rooms near each other but we ended up spread out on different floors. The front desk person said that they could only "try" to get us together and they couldn't promise that we would be near each other. I'm thinking that this particular front desk person might not have tried as hard as another one would have. Not that it matters; it would have been nice to be near each other but being all over the place was ok, too.

The rooms themselves were quite spacious and every one had a view of the ocean. The tub was deeper than most hotel tubs and I was able to have a really good soak in it. The bed was also comfortable. Strangely, my king-size bed didn't have a fitted sheet and only had two double-sized pillows. Usually king-sized beds come with several king-sized pillows and have sheets that fit all the way to the end of the bed.

The major problem with the room was sound-related. Every room we saw had a connection to the room next to it; the connection doors were right across from the bathroom doors in each room. There didn't seem to be any insulation in the doors or anything so every time the next room door opened, I thought someone was coming into my room.

Also, when I was in the bathroom - whether or not my bathroom door was closed - I could clearly hear my neighbours. And by clearly hear them, I mean that I could hear everything they said in the room or did in the bathroom. For example, one of the guys did a fine a-cappella version of some popular songs while he showered. My appreciation for his singing was somewhat diminished by the fact that I'd had to listen to him grunting on the toilet only moments earlier, however.

I've stayed in rooms with connections to the neighbouring room before and I've never heard my neighbours so clearly. At least the neighbour room was occupied for only the first night and I had ear plugs with me

The boardwalk is one of the features in Atlantic City and I spent quite a lot of time walking there. On one side of the boardwalk is the beach and ocean and on the other are tourist-type shops. If a person didn't want to walk, they could be pushed in a rolling chair (for a fee). Closest to the casinos there are some decent food places but mostly the shops are filled with almost identical selections of poorly-made clothes that get destroyed in one wash and knick-knacks. The most original and varied pieces in the stores were the bongs. There were a lot of those.

There was a mall with restaurants and good shops near Caesar's and just up the road there are outlet stores. I'd thought about going shopping but I decided that I didn't need anything, really. Besides, there weren't that many stores in the mall and the outlet shops were all freestanding and it was so hot out that I didn't want to have to go from store to store.

When I wasn't with the group, I spent a lot of time walking along the boardwalk. On Friday morning I walked to the end of the boardwalk away from the casinos to see what the "real" Atlantic City was like. The buildings were fairly run-down and the boardwalk itself was badly maintained. Near the casinos the boardwalk is very well maintained and there's no rotted wood but away from the casinos part of the boardwalk was completely torn away.

While I walked along the boardwalk I couldn't resist the pull of the ocean. Watching and listening to the waves is very relaxing and each time I walked on the boardwalk I spent some time getting my feet wet in the ocean. I'm not a swimmer and the water was cold but I love the feel of the little waves crashing over my feet :) I also played the slots when I had some time but I don't like gambling all that much - I don't like to lose money - so when I got to a point that I won back my money, I cashed out and stopped. I prefer to be out walking over gambling.

Thursday night we had a bite to eat and then walked along the boardwalk for a while, just to see the sights. We poked around in the shops and wandered around. Some people gambled and went to the bar after that but I decided to get some rest as I'd been traveling most of the day.

Friday night we went out to a buffet dinner after hanging out in one person's room. I didn't really eat enough to justify the buffet but it tasted ok. After dinner I had some trouble sleeping so I went for a walk down the boardwalk - the casinos are open 24 hours and there are people out all the time - and when I got back I felt extremely nauseous. I think something from dinner didn't agree with me. I ended up awake very, very late.

The next day we thought it was going to rain and thunderstorm in the afternoon so we all decided to go to the nearby (about 30-45 minutes away by car) town of Wildwood. There's a boardwalk there, too, with better stores and restaurants along each side. We figured that we could duck into the stores if the rain came.

One person had done some exploring early in the day and had driven herself to this town. The remaining six of us had two cars available but the drivers of those two cars decided that the drive wasn't that long and so it would be silly to have to take three cars back. They figured we could all scrunch together in one five-seat car to get there. I ended up in the back with three others, half on the seat and leaning on the front passenger's headrest. Somehow this position made my feet go numb a couple of times and my adjustments started a cascade of other adjustments by my companions.

Thankfully, we arrived at the town in the right number of pieces. When it was time to leave, I went with the other driver and two other people. It was a much more comfortable ride back.

Most of the others were hungry and went to eat in a pizza place but I still wasn't feeling well from the night before and couldn't bear the greasy smells. I went looking in nearby shops to see if there was anything interesting there but bought nothing. When everyone was done eating, we walked down the boardwalk. Even though the forecast had called for rain and thundershowers, no rain fell and no thunder boomed. We spent the afternoon under the very hot - well over 30C - sun without any relief from it. I hadn't brought my hat with me so I had to buy another one there.

At one point during out walk, we had a choice to go straight to the parking lot or to take a detour down the midway (there was an amusement park there). Several of us (including me) were exhausted from being in the heat for several hours but some people - including the two drivers - really wanted to see that part of the boardwalk. Those of us who went straight to the parking lot ended up sitting and waiting for a while.

We got back to the hotel not quite two hours before our 7pm dinner. This didn't leave much time to rest and get ready since it took about 25 minutes to get to the restaurant, but it was long enough for me to have a bath at least. The Saturday night dinner was the only thing we'd really planned because a couple of people who lived nearby wanted to drive in and join us.

We went to Continental for delicious global tapas. Tapas are usually a Spanish thing; they're like appetizers that you share. It's a great way to eat if you've got a big group because you can order and try a bunch of different things. This place had tapas-sized items from all sorts of cultures and they were delicious. They also apparently had very yummy drinks.

After dinner I decided to go back to the hotel because I was very tired after not sleeping well the night before and having been out in the sun all day. We'd made vague plans to have breakfast the next morning and someone was going to drive me to the train station. Unfortunately, I couldn't reach the person by texting her so I didn't see anyone that last morning. I went for a walk along the boardwalk instead and took a taxi to the train station.

I'm so happy to be home. It was good to get away and see people but it was even better to come home.

Sunday, June 06, 2010


I'm home now. It was fun to see everyone but I'm very happy to be home. Right now I'm really tired so I'll save the detailed description of my weekend for tomorrow, but I wanted to let you know that I made it home.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Getting ready to go away

It smelled so nice this morning and I thought that it would be great to go out walking, but then it started to rain. And rain. And rain. It's been pouring all afternoon, and while I know I won't shrink in the rain, I don't really want to be out in it.

Besides, I had to do laundry and pack because tomorrow morning I'm heading to Atlantic City. For some reason there are no flights from Toronto to Atlantic City so I'm flying direct into Philadelphia and then taking the train downtown and then to Atlantic City. The flight is only an hour and a half long and the train rides are just over an hour combined but the train schedules don't really connect all that well. At least the traveling part is easy and having an hour or so to wait between trains isn't such a bad thing.

I'm really looking forward to this trip. I'll be seeing friends that I haven't seen for about six months now. So much has happened since then and it'll be relaxing and awesome to connect with them again. This is going to be great :) We know we're having a big dinner with some other people on Saturday and we could also go and see some different shows each night... who knows exactly what we'll do? Aside from talk and laugh and giggle and be together, that is.

Because I'll be out of town and won't have my laptop with me, I won't be updating my blog until Sunday or Monday. I hope your weekend is as good as I think mine will be!

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

One very lazy day

I think I overdid it yesterday. I remember finishing my walk and my chest feeling weird, almost as though I could feel where the lymph node biopsy had been taken.

I was also feeling sleepy today so I decided to take it completely easy. Even though it was a glorious day outside, I didn't go for a walk. I miss going for a walk .... it's so wonderful outside with the sun and the breeze and the growing things. I ended up feeling a little frustrated and sad later on in the day and I wonder how much the lack of a walk had to do with that mood change.

I also didn't do any sewing today. I thought about doing some sewing but I figured that if I started sewing, I would rush to try to finish it before I go away this weekend. I know me - it's exactly the kind of thing I would do even, though I don't need to actually finish anything before the weekend. Sure, it would be nice to have the dress for the weekend but I don't need to be done then; my plan is to have this and other dresses for the summer. There's no need to stress myself out over finishing the dress. Next week (or the week after) is good enough.

This evening Ian and I did some errands. I bought myself a lovely sunhat for my walking adventures. I walk a lot these days, as you know, and I also know that I'll be outside walking in Atlantic City. No matter where I'm walking I like to wear a hat to protect my face and neck from the sun. Normally I wear sunscreen and/or a SunVeil to protect my skin from the sun. I've decided to bring the SunVeil on my trip because I don't feel comfortable applying sunscreen over the incision  site. I'll be so stylin', wearing my big straw hat and sunveil while walking down the Boardwalk. :)

Speaking of my incision site, it's healing well. There's still a huge bump under the incision but I think it's going down just a bit. The little scabby bits are coming off fairly easily, too, and the edges of the incision are mostly staying together. This is a very good sign: I scar the worst when the incision edges don't meet while healing.

I won't be able to be quite as lackadaisical tomorrow because I need to get ready for my trip and that includes doing laundry. I do hope to go for a walk (wearing my hat and sunveil) to calm myself down and keep my mood even before I leave. I'm very excited about the trip and to see the people who will be there. I may not sleep so well tomorrow night :)