Thursday, March 31, 2011

Happy Birthday to Me

Today is my birthday. As one person said, I've now reached the age where I've officially arrived at the answer to life, the universe, and everything. I'd never thought of my age that way but I like it.

Ian made me a lovely double-chocolate cupcakes (from a muffin mix) with mascarpone cheese icing and vanilla frozen yogourt. Yummy! He also made dinner for me.

I've received many birthday wishes from all over the place which I've really appreciated, especially this year. This birthday still feels sort of bittersweet and melancholy but I'm happy that I'm around to celebrate another birthday. I hope there are many more birthdays in my future.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Juno Awards 2011 Red Carpet

I was starting to go through red carpet withdrawl so I was thrilled to discover that there was a red carpet for this past weekend's Juno awards. They're the Canadian music industry awards and they were held in Toronto. The number of people on this red carpet was much smaller than at some other events, of course, but it's still enough to satisfy my need for a red carpet post.

One thing I like about these smaller red carpet events is that the people who attend them don't necessarily have designers giving them clothes or stylists and makeup artists helping them out. The people are more likely to wear what they already have and to do their makeup and hair themselves. Therefore, I'm more interested in whether they chose outfits that flatter them and suit the occasion and I try to be less harsh in my critiques.

As usual, I'm only looking at the women's outfits on the red carpet. See all the photos after the jump.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Birthday week

My birthday is coming up on Thursday this week. Normally I look forward to my birthday because I get lots of attention and happy thoughts and stuff but this year I'm just not feeling it. In past years my mom has called me to wish me happy birthday... even after my dad died, she would call. But she won't be calling me this year and I find that I'm having a hard time with that.

A lot of the time I can sort of pretend that my mom is still living in Edmonton and that she's not dead. After all, the routines of my daily life are the same regardless of whether my mother is alive. But times like this, when I'd expect to be talking to her, make me fully realize that she's gone. And that leaves me feeling very, very sad. And missing her tremendously.

Ian says that if she did call me this year that it would be scary. He does have a point. Personally, I think it would be both scary and awesome if she did call because it would prove to me that there's some kind of life after death. I'd be ok with that.

We went out for dinner tonight to celebrate my birthday a bit early. We're going out for dinner with friends on Friday night and I didn't want to go out for dinner two nights in a row. While there I was playing with a long scarf I've been wearing around my neck. I've tried to wear it like other people do but it just doesn't look right to me so I got this idea that I wanted to wear it knotted like a men's tie. The trouble was that I didn't know how to tie a tie. So Ian taught me how to tie a full Windsor knot. I'm very happy with it... I'll think of it as a little present to myself.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Still getting used to my new self

I had been feeling really overwhelmed and tired with all the different things going on. Thankfully, almost everything is finished and all I've got is my bereavement group on Tuesdays. Once that's over, I'll start my next metalsmithing class (also on Tuesdays). My Tuesday evenings are going to be busy until early June but I won't have much else happening.

I always seem to forget that I'm not the person I used to be and that I need more downtime than I did before. Back in the day I used to work every day (and many evenings and weekends) and then do bellydancing or dragonboating a few times a week and I was ok. But these days it's all I can do to be busy more than two days a week. Any more than that and I'm out of sorts.

Sometimes I can't help but feel like a bit of a loser or an old lady because I can't do as much as I used to or as much as I think I should be able to do. I don't like the word "should" because I feel that it's used to deny what is actually happening and also to add pressure and/or expectations onto a person. I try to stay away from using it myself but it still comes up in this one area because I don't like the reality in front of me.

I know that I'm not quite as physically or mentally capable as I used to be and I've accepted that as part of the aging process. However, I seem to consistently underestimate just how much I've changed, which is why I feel that I "should" be a different way. One of these days I hope to be able to fully accept my new self with all of its (changing) limitations. For now I'm just happy that I've got fewer time commitments than I did last month.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Another federal election coming

We in Canada are heading to the polls May 2 for yet another federal election. I'm not impressed. Honestly, can't these politicians just make things work?

Even before the events leading up to the election the Conservative party was airing ads against the Michael Ignatieff, the Liberal leader because he went to the US and liked it there. It would be one thing if there were multiple ads saying different things but we've been seeing these exact same ads for months now. So not only am I annoyed, but I'm bored. Personally, I don't like the idea of making or showing derogatory ads against the other party. Putting down the other party doesn't make the one party look any better; it makes it look like they're trying to deflect attention from their own faults.

And those faults are many for the Conservative party. The government was brought down after a non-confidence vote called after they were found in Contempt of Parliament (in an historic decision, I might add) because the party failed to produce documents supporting their legislation. Historic events abound here in Canada, it seems.

There was a second contempt of parliament process going on at the same time as the one that brought down the government. Bev Oda, a conservative party cabinet minister who altered a funding approval document by inserting a "not" into the text, was found in contempt of parliament by the Speaker of the House but Parliament was dissolved before a vote could be taken on whether she was actually in contempt or not.

I have no faith in the Conservative party or Stephen Harper. Remember how, in 2008, he prorogued Parliament rather than face a non-confidence vote? And now he's had these contempt rulings against him? And of course there's a ton of other, little things - Peter MacKay's conflict of interest and the Conservative party's party-labeled government cheques (not illegal but unethical), for example - that together paint the members of the party as playing fast and loose with the rules.

I hope that the Conservative party doesn't end up the minority leader again. I don't want to go to the polls yet again but I hope that Canadians use this opportunity to effect a change in our government. We deserve better than to be led by people who are unethical.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Home and Garden Show

The largest Home and Garden show in the region is on this weekend. Since we have both a home and a garden so we thought we'd check out the show.

There were a lot of window and door vendors, construction and renovation companies, and quite a few landscape vendors. We walked by most of the exhibitors but there were a few that we investigated.

We especially liked the custom fireplace and mantel products. They had a screen on the gas fireplace that was attractive when the fire wasn't burning and apparently makes the fire look more real when the fire is burning. They didn't have any fireplaces burning at the show but they have them going at their showroom. They also build custom corner mantels with shelving above the fireplace that were quite attractive. We don't like the look of either of our fireplaces and we especially dislike the one in the great room. We'll probably go and take a look at the showroom at some point.

I also liked the rolling screen doors that one vendor was selling. I'd much rather have the screen hidden than have it take up half of our patio door when it's not in use. We take bird pictures and it's hard to do that when there's a screen in the way.

We also stopped to talk to the cleaning companies about cleaning with unscented products. Molly Maid does have unscented products and their price is reasonable. The person also said that we'd get the same team each time unless someone was sick or on vacation which was a bit of a relief to us. We weren't as comfortable with the other cleaning company that was there as the representative didn't seem as professional as the Molly Maid representative. I wish that Merry Maids had been there because they're the ones who do the Cleaning for a Reason. I'd like to support that, all other things being equal, but scent-free cleaning products are important to us. I guess we'll have to call them separately and maybe get both companies to do an estimate.

Costco was also at the show and we bought ourselves a membership. We'd been thinking about getting one but we didn't really know if it would be worth it. We're still not sure if it's completely worth it, but we bought it anyways.

That's pretty much all we saw there and it took less than an hour. We'd thought it would take a lot more time to see the show but there wasn't as much there as we thought there would be. It wasn't all bad but I think we'd enjoy an interior design or do it yourself show more.

Since we were finished so early we decided to head to Costco since we had our shiny new membership. We have to wait to get our pictures taken and the cards issued until the show applications are taken to the store so they issued us a temporary pass for today. It was very busy (Saturday is NOT the day to go to Costco) so we didn't look at everything but we wandered around, picked up a few things, and got a sense of what they had. I'll go back there and take a closer look next week.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Movie night: Takers

It was movie night at our friend's place tonight! I haven't seen them in a while and so even though I'm tired, we still went. The company was great; the movie, not so much.

We watched Takers. It's about a group of people, their heist, and the cops who are trying to catch them. On paper, this sounds like a pretty good premise but the finished product wasn't nearly so good. The problems were many: the acting, the script, the story, the editing, and the music.

The movie stars Chris Brown and Tip (T.I) Harris along with a bunch of others as the people setting up the heist and they're better at posing and being all rapper-tough than actually acting. Maybe that's the fault of the script; after all, the cops (one of which is played by Matt Dillon) have pretty bad dialogue, too.

I could possibly overlook the strange acting if the story made sense. It's got a lot of holes in it and there are a lot of scenes that are completely unnecessary. If those scenes were cut the movie would only be about an hour long so maybe that's why they were kept.

The editing is also a bit strange in that the timing feels off. Someone would say something and then there would be a pause while the camera focused on them before shifting the focus to the other person. This is a technique that works well for emotional dialogue, where the actor has to portray depth or feeling or something. It doesn't work so well here, though, especially for dialogue like, "How you doing, G?" when entering the hangout.

Finally, the music was almost always there and not just during action scenes when it would be expected. There was even music during some dialogue scenes.

Aside from all of those problems, Takers is still mostly watchable. I wouldn't recommend that you seek it out but if it happens to be on the tv and you're bored then you might enjoy this one. There is some violence, mostly with guns, but there was no real sex in this one so it could easily show up on a tv station near you.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Pamidronate day again

Today was Pamidronate day, as well as haircut day and Book Club day. It was going to be a fairly long day no matter what but I didn't sleep well last night. I had my last metalsmithing class this session and I as so excited about finishing that it was very late (or early) by the time I fell asleep.

Even though today was busy it went smoothly. Driving to the hospital took longer than usual because we got a ton of snow yesterday that left the roads quite slippery. Apparently a semi-trailer couldn't accelerate up the road we took this morning. It's a gentle slope but it was too much for the semi.

Once I got to the hospital, I noticed that the parking garage has a new addition: supports on each edge of each level. They're like the basement supports in a house and it freaked me out a bit. The garage is less than ten years old and it's rusty and the concrete paint stuff has peeled. It looks like it's in rough shape and the added support is making me question the safety of the structure.

Fortunately, I got out of the parking garage and hospital alive to finish the rest of my appointments. I'm still very tired and looking forward to a relaxing day tomorrow. 

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Bereavement group lessons

I wasn't originally sure what to expect from the bereavement group but I'm finding it very helpful. The group members are all bonding, in a way, because we're all survivors of a death by suicide and that's automatically a bonding experience. I think I've mentioned before that I thought the facilitator was great and each week my respect and admiration for her increases.

She's very knowledgeable about a number of aspects of suicide, including the latest research, current models, and public policies. It turns out that this is because she co-founded the Waterloo Region Suicide Prevention Council which holds conferences in and gathers research from a number of different areas relating to suicide.

Apparently here in Canada, unlike in the US, the UK, and other countries, there is no national suicide-related public policy. This means that there's no funding available to reduce suicide in Canada. The facilitator said that here in Canada more people die each year from suicide than in motor vehicle accidents - and look how much money goes into reducing motor vehicle fatalities and how little goes into reducing suicide deaths. There's so much stigma associated with suicide that people (including public policymakers) don't even talk about suicide, let alone make policy related to it.

The facilitator also talked about how a person who is suicidal has a chemical imbalance. This makes them deeply mentally ill so that they can't make an informed choice. She also said that in the time leading up to the suicide attempt, the person gets tunnel vision and sees only suicide as an option and that during that time, no one can say anything to change their mind. No one else is responsible for that person's suicide attempt... really, the only thing responsible for it is the illness. For this reason the facilitator said that suicide isn't a sin. I never thought it was, but then I'm not religious.

I find this view quite comforting. My mom struggled for a decade with suicidal thoughts and actions. She had other mental illnesses as well and the combination of all of them was too much for her. Knowing that there was really nothing I could do to stop it - and that it wasn't anything I did - helps. Even though people told me not to, I felt guilty before, as though I had been partly responsible for her death. That guilt is leaving me now and I feel much lighter and freer.

Of course I wish that I'd done more for her and included her more in my life. I feel the same way about my dad, that I wish I could have included him more in my life and tried to make him happier. This feeling is different than the guilt and feeling of responsibility for that person's death; it's more a feeling of regret. I think it's fairly common to feel this way because none of us is perfect, meaning that we sometimes don't take full advantage of our time with our loved one. I know I did my best, and who can ask for more than that?

Monday, March 21, 2011

Glad that's over with

Today I went in to talk to my former counselor about the last session. I was very nervous last night and didn't sleep well but I felt quite calm when I actually went in to the centre.

I told my former counselor what I had told you in that recent post in the nicest way possible - firmly, but honestly. She was surprised that I'd felt that way because she had thought the session went so well, that I'd been so open and honest, and that she was worried when she hadn't seen me since then. She asked me why I didn't call her right after that session to tell her how I felt. Well, of course I didn't call her - it was her words that had left me feeling this way!

She said that she had been trying to challenge me and that she didn't mean for that to be interpreted as disbelieving what I was saying. I talked to her a bit about word choices and how important it is to choose neutral words so that she doesn't come across as judging, labelling, or leading the person. I don't think she really understood me. Sigh. I'm not sure that English is her first language and that may be part of the reason why I came away from this feeling like she didn't really get what I was saying.

Afterwards, she told me that she thought I was very strong and she was impressed with me. And she thanked me for speaking honestly with her and giving her the feedback she did.

So that's over. I'm not sure how much difference it made but at least I said what I needed to say. I'm proud of myself for standing up for me by telling her (as clearly and honestly as possible) how I really felt without attacking her personally or hurting her feelings. I feel like a weight has been lifted from my shoulders. Whew!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Movie: Antichrist

Even though I'm still mad at Netflix for replacing our great UI for a crappy one, I haven't canceled it. Ian figures that we'll need it later in the year when we run out of television to watch. Last night we each wandered through the menus - he on the PS3 and me on the computer - and we both ended up looking at the same movie: Antichrist. It sounded interesting so we decided to watch it. After seeing it, we decided that it was better that we didn't know too much about the movie before we saw it because it was much more effective that way. So I'm not going to give much away.

Antichrist isn't a religious movie: it's an independent horror art-film. It's got all the hallmarks of an art film, with closeups, interesting camera angles and time effects, images that no mainstream film would show, and unusual pacing. It also has a rich, interesting story that stays with you. There is horror in this movie but it isn't something that hits you over the head while saying, "BOO!". There's an uneasiness in the first parts of this movie that deepens into a subtle, psychological horror which in turn ends in some unusual torture.

Structurally, the movie is divided into six parts that include a prologue and epilogue. The movie is about a couple whose son dies, after which she is overcome with grief. He, a therapist, feels that he can help her best through her grief. To overcome some of the fears she has, they go to an isolated cabin. Things start to become strange and he discovers that his wife is not exactly who or what he thought she was... and neither is that place.

That's all I'm going to tell you about what happens. I highly recommend this movie with the following caveats. First, the initial pacing feels slow. It's an art film, though, and the imagery is beautiful so try to relax and enjoy that bit. Second, there is some reasonably explicit sex and a lot of male bum shown. Most people won't mind that, I don't think, but it's important to mention it. Finally, there are some very disturbing - some might even say shocking - scenes for both men and women. If you're ok with all of that and you're interested in unusual movies, this is definitely a good choice for you.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

So there's this appointment on Monday...

I haven't heard from my oncologist about my CT scan so I'm assuming that nothing showed up. I'll know for sure when I see her in about three weeks but for now I'll just go with the idea that nothing has changed. After I see my oncologist I'll start investigating the pain and weird aches in my right side.

On Monday I'm going back to see that counselor to tell her about how I felt after that last session we had. We did that adult attachment inventory thing then, where we were trying to figure out what kind of early attachment I had with my parents. Several times during that session she labeled my feelings and at least one event in my life and other times the clarification questions she was asking were leading.

At one point she'd said that she was trying to make sure that I just wasn't being overly negative in my description and that's why she was taking the approach she did. But if the point of the session is to figure out the relationship I had with my parents, and that relationship was negative, why would she be trying to deny that?

I came out of that session feeling invalidated and reliving my early childhood (which was neutral at best) and feeling generally bad. After a while, I did some research on this questionnaire thing and found a guideline for administering that questionnaire. It specifically said not to lead the person, not to label, and to accept the person's words as given, asking only for clarification like market researchers do: "what do you mean by {that word}?" "can you tell me more about {that word}?" "can you describe a situation where {that} happened?"

I've also spent some time talking to people about my experience and they've all said that I need to get away from that counselor and that the leading and labeling and stuff should never have happened. Part of me just wants to run away from this counselor, which is why I canceled my appointment two weeks ago. However, a greater part of me wants to give her the benefit of the doubt, that she was trying to do well and somehow misread the situation because I'd never talked this way before. We hadn't talked about my childhood and relationship to my parents before that time and I guess if you don't know about all that stuff it can come as a bit of a surprise.

So I'm going to keep Monday's appointment and tell her about how I felt after that session as well as what specifically bothered me. Normally I wouldn't talk about this until tomorrow or Monday but I'm quite nervous about doing this. I know it's the right thing for me to do but doing the right thing is hard. I don't know how she'll react or how I'll feel during or after.

All I have to do is get through the next couple of days and it'll be over. I think I'm going to wait to go back to a counselor until after I'm done the bereavement group... like in the late spring or summer. This experience has spooked me a bit and now I'm questioning whether I should actually see a psychologist instead of a social worker (MSW) because of my early history and the mental illness in my family.

One thing I did get out of this experience was a better understanding of what it was like for my mom when she was uncomfortable with the psychiatrist she was seeing. I get to go and see someone else if I want but she didn't have the choice. I have much more empathy for the way she felt after some of her sessions and I wish she was still here so that I could tell her that.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Walking, walking, walking

It feels like spring is really on its way here. The temperature got to positive double digits today and almost got there yesterday and everything is melting. The world looks so much taller without a foot or two of snow covering it.

After last night's metalsmithing class, I saw that I had some time to wait for the bus. So I walked to the next stop.... then the next one... then the next one.... until at one point I watched the bus rush past me. Oops. I guess I could have run for the bus but there were slippery sections on the sidewalk and it was so nice out that I figured I could just continue walking. I've always loved walking at night and I don't often get a chance to do it, these days.

I kept mainly to one or another bus route on the way home, figuring that they would be safer, and got home about an hour after I left the first bus stop. I was tired but exhilarated from the walk. I did have a tough time getting to sleep because even though I was physically tired, exercise at night can keep me awake. I forgot about that.

Unfortunately, I was a little too tired to really take advantage of today's warm temperatures. I'd planned to go for a walk today since it was going to be so nice. I did open up the patio doors while I had breakfast so that I could hear the birds chirping. It'll be even better when all the birds are back and there's a lot of chirping but I liked listening to the birds that were there.

Oh, I forgot to tell you that our basement is better now. They weren't able to put in a new sump pump liner because the old one was concreted in (apparently that's unusual) but they did everything else. The noise wasn't nearly as bad as we'd feared it would be and they had disposable earplugs for us anyways. There was a fair bit of dust left behind and under their protective mats.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

If you care about your privacy, stay away from etsy

Through an unannounced change in the personal information etsy gives out, people's real names are now searchable on Google together with the items that people have bought. If you bought something on etsy and you put your real name on your account, then your purchasing history is available on etsy. I feel for the guy that purchased that butt plug, because his name has been posted in different forums.

Etsy says that this is no big deal, that they're working with Google to unindex those pages. But the problem isn't Google, the problem is etsy. The problem is that etsy made this change, to request your real name upon registration (without telling you that it was required) and then made it publicly available in feedback. Etsy also won't be informing users that they've done this.

In their rush to develop "social ecommerce", etsy has run over their user's privacy and their users. If etsy doesn't care about its buyers and sellers, why should buyers and sellers spend their money on etsy, where they violate their user's privacy at the drop of a hat and without apology and where they have no seller tools. It's time to stop buying and selling on etsy... it's been a good run, but it's time to go somewhere else.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Feeling better today

It was gorgeous outside today: the sun was shining, the sky was blue, and the temperature was just around freezing. I went out walking for about an hour in the neighbourhood so that I could be outside and get some fresh air and sunshine. I'm feeling better than I did yesterday, although the walk tired me out! I ended up having a big nap this afternoon. 

I don't think I'll be able to get out for a walk tomorrow because our basement is being fixed. the guys are supposed to arrive around 9am and they'll be here most of the day. I'm not relishing the idea of having someone jackhammering in the basement. I find loud sounds to be extremely overwhelming: I find myself unable to think because the sound is everything. I think we have earplugs and that should help cut down the sound. If not, I think we have ear-covering headphones that I can wear.

Enough about me. Have you been following what's been going in Japan? The nuclear plants weren't really designed to handle as strong an earthquake as they got and now there are two reactors that might be undergoing a meltdown. That's really scary. I don't know how much of a direct impact a meltdown (partial or full) would have on us here in North America. I suspect that if meltdown does happen, nuclear power programmes around the world will slow down or stop.

They say that this situation is as bad or worse than it was right after WWII and it took decades to recover from that. I hope that since society is more technologically advanced now that it won't take quite as long this time to recover. I feel for all of those people who are homeless, whose towns have been wiped out, and who are without power, food, or gasoline. It's like an end-of-the-world movie but it's really happening.

No matter how long the recovery process takes, I suspect that the long-term economic and cultural impact will be significant. Japanese products and sub-cultures are a big part of our current culture and I wonder what will take their place. 

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Stuck in a rut

I've been feeling bored and out of sorts lately. It's as though there's something I want to do or that there's I'm expecting to happen or something else I'm waiting for. It's hard to describe. I feel kind of impatient as well as cranky and dissatisfied with just about everything - as if nothing is right, somehow - and at the same time I feel like I could burst into tears at any second.

Part of me feels like I need to sew or make jewelry or do something else creative because my mind and creativity has become slow and sluggish. I have my metalsmithing class and I'm enjoying that, as you know, but I feel like I need to do something more during the day - that sitting in front of the tv while surfing the interwebs just isn't creatively or intellectually stimulating enough.

I also feel very physically sluggish. I wonder if I need to change up my routine and do some more physical activity like go out for a walk or get some exercise on our stationary bike. I see the sunshine from inside but I'm not out there listening to the birds chirp or breathing in the outside air.

I guess I'm in a bit of a rut and the more I stay in it, the easier it is to stay there and the more bored and impatient I become. I think I'm going to try to shake up my routine a bit in the hopes that this mood will pass.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Two very tired people

Ian arrived home early this morning and I'm really happy to see him. I've been very tired all week and I was worried that I would be too tired to enjoy Ian's company. Lucky for me, Ian is as tired as I am so we enjoyed each other's company by napping together.

I don't know if it's just that I wasn't sleeping well or I was staying up too late or what, but I definitely need more sleep. Ian took the red-eye home so he at least has an excuse for being tired. We had a lovely nap while watching this afternoon's Brier game. Curling can be exciting to watch but there's a rhythm to it that can lull a sleepy person to sleep.

We were awake to watch the last few ends so that we saw that Ontario's Howard beat Alberta's Martin. Martin has a very talented team and they just didn't play as well this year. The team wasn't able to adjust to the ice conditions as easily as other teams. It's been warm and humid and that makes the ice less predictable. Martin has made no secret of the fact that he prefers "perfect" ice but that kind of perfection isn't always easy to come by and part of the game of curling is reading and adjusting to ice conditions.

This evening our plan is to watch more curling and get to sleep early. The plan is for us to be more awake tomorrow and we'll see how that goes.

Friday, March 11, 2011

A tale of two support boards

After I was originally diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer I joined a support board for young women with breast cancer at all stages. The board has a bunch of sub-boards so that those of us with mets could talk about mets-specific stuff in one place and people could talk about general stuff in another place and so on. Anyone was allowed to post in any sub-board.

There have always been tensions between those who have mets and those who don't on that board. The people with mets felt like boogeymen a lot of the time. They also felt that couldn't be completely honest about treatments or fears because people were already scared of them. And they were frustrated when they did post about how, say, things weren't going well and some well-meaning non-mets person would say "I know you'll beat this!" Once you have mets, you're not going to beat it and so that kind of comment is especially grating.

After a while, I and some other people formed a private support board for young women with breast cancer mets. The private board is a safe, sacred place where anything can be discussed. It's also completely private because only members can read or post there. The board has been very successful; there's so much unconditional love and support there. Even people who don't get along outside the private board don't bring their fights to that board which is not at all the case on the first board.

Belonging to the private board doesn't mean that people can't post to the first board but people who belong to the private board have drifted away from the first board. And why wouldn't they? There are no silly but well-meaning comments, anything at all can be discussed, and no one is afraid of anyone on the private board.

But when private board members go back to the first board, many first board members say that they miss the people on the private board and that they want them to come back. I understand that, and I also know that the first board people want to offer their support and they aren't able to see how misguided some of that support is (even though they feel the same way and make the same comments about people who don't have breast cancer). And I understand that they feel that their support isn't "good enough". I don't know how to reassure them or if it's even possible to give that kind of reassurance.

I'm not sure what to do. I can't make people post on the first board. Should I just stop going there since I end up so frustrated when I do go there? Or is there a way to deal with the people there so that these same issues don't keep coming up and the atmosphere is more welcoming? I'd appreciate any help or advice you have for me.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Book review

I recently finished reading an interesting book called Heavy Drinking: The Myth of Alcoholism as a Disease by Herbert Fingarette.

The book starts off by sourcing a huge number of studies and examining them within a logical framework, the author proves that alcoholism isn't as disease and shouldn't be thought of or treated as such. In fact, the author says that for people who drink heavily, drinking has become a central activity in their life. These central activities are "any hub of activity (job, religious practice, serious hobby, family or community role) that in part defines and inspires a person's identity, values, conduct, and life choices." (p 99)

Heavy drinkers are living with the results of one of their central activities. And if those results are not always positive, well, people make mistakes and don't always choose the best things for themselves in any area of their lives let alone with respect to their central activities.

So when a heavy drinker tries to stop, they're in effect cutting out a central activity in their life and that's hard. Think of how hard it is when someone is laid off from the job that defined them, or they retire. There's an adjustment period where nothing feels right and the person wants to go back to the way things were even if it was bad.

Therefore when it comes down to trying to cut down or stop drinking, of course it's going to be difficult and of course people will relapse. It takes a lot of courage and help to see oneself in a new way and to let go of a central part of themselves. Really, the last thing someone in this position needs is to say that they are powerless over their drinking (as in AA), because they're not. They need to take responsibility for their choices and behaviour in order to change it. However, during the transition period some people will benefit from a treatment program but of course no one treatment works for everyone.

The book concludes with some ideas about how public policy could be changed to better encourage heavy drinkers quit or reduce drinking. The author favours a multi-faceted approach because different people will respond to different policies as was done with cigarettes.

The idea that for drinking is a central activity for drinkers is a new and interesting perspective on the problem of heavy drinking. Thinking of drinking as a central activity in the drinker's life - rather than as a disease, which really does make no sense - is eye-opening and makes perfect sense to me. I used to drink heavily and when I did it was definitely part of who I was - it was as central an activity as my work or family. I structured my life around it and chose my friends and activities accordingly.

As well, I've long thought that AA's 12 steps are all backwards. They were written after AA's founders had a spiritual awakening and they're designed to help the person have their own spiritual awakening. However, as someone who's had a spiritual awakening (not through AA), I can tell you that the 12 steps are very naturally the things you do once you've had the awakening. Seriously - I was quite surprised when I realized this. So awakening leads to the 12 steps but the reverse,  that the 12 steps lead to a spiritual awakening, isn't true and doesn't really make sense.

Having a spiritual awakening and then quitting drinking also supports the idea that drinking is a central activity for heavy drinkers. Removing a central activity in someone's life requires fundamental changes to be made to the person's values, inspirations, and thoughts. A spiritual awakening is that kind of fundamental change.

Although this book was first published in 1989, its conclusions are still relevant. I believe that the conclusions and ideas expressed in this book are the direction that alcoholism treatment should be going, and that it is time to retire the idea and treatment model of heavy drinking as a disease or allergy. I highly recommend this book if you're at all interested in this approach to understanding why some people drink heavily. 

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

I'm loving this metalsmithing class

I am still loving my metalsmithing class. Right now we're learning how to make band rings - not with stones on them, but with various other embellishments. I'm making myself a thumb ring - why not? I still have to finish other projects because each time we had to design something I took too long. I'm not the only one who did that and who's behind in stuff. I know what I need to do to finish and next class I hope to get it all done.

It turns out that the instructor will be holding a next-level class in April. It's still considered introductory because there are so many techniques we haven't yet learned. We should be getting information next week about this next class although she has said that it'll be held on Tuesday nights. I think I'm going to take that class as long as it's not too expensive and the dates work out. So far, Tuesdays for the next couple of months are looking good for metalsmithing.

At some point, if I do end up enjoying creating things as much as I think I do, I'll want to start investing in equipment. I already have a couple of things but there's a whole lot of stuff that I could definitely use and it isn't cheap. I don't want to go out and buy things until I need them. I don't want to get too excited and just buy stuff because I want to be sure that I need the things before shelling out money for them. There's no sense getting ahead of myself.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

International Women's Day thoughts

I watched an interesting documentary on feminism last week on CBC's Doc zone called The F Word: Who wants to be a feminist? It looks at the role of feminism over the last century and asks whether feminism is still relevant today. I highly recommend it.

For all of the visibility that feminists had in the 20s and 70s, women aren't really any farther ahead than they were before. Sure, women can go to work if they want, but the documentary reports that studies still show that women aren't making as much as men do for the same jobs. When I saw that, I was stunned. I knew that there was a disparity in salaries way back in the day but for that still to be true is shocking.

When women do work outside the home, they still get to come home and take care of their houses and their family. They're still doing two jobs: one outside and one inside the home. Moreover, women are still underrepresented at very high business levels and in government.

Weren't things supposed to be different by now? What happened? A backlash against feminism is what happened, according to the documentary - and this makes sense to me. Feminists pushed hard against the status quo in the 70s and the status quo pushed back hard. I don't even know if that backlash is quite over - after all, "feminism" is still kind of a dirty word in most circles.

The feminism of the 70s might not be quite relevant today, but there's still a place for feminism in this day and age. There's no good reason for women not to receive equal pay for equal work, or for women to have to take on most of the house and child care duties, or for women to be underrepresented in positions of power.

One area that could use feminist attention is in reproductive freedoms. The day I heard that the US had planned to cancel funding to Planned Parenthood, I felt a sinking feeling in my stomach. What good is giving women access to abortions if they don't also have access to confidential, impartial counseling? I saw this move as a sneaky way of undermining access to abortions.

Of course some abortions - so-called "partial birth abortions" - have been banned in the US, which definitely limits women's reproductive freedom. There's not even a clause for the case that there's something significantly wrong with the fetus. Some US states have enacted feticide laws and others are just waiting for Roe v Wade to be overturned. This is scary. Who will protect women's reproductive rights in the US?

I know I'm in Canada and things aren't quite the same here as are in the US. I hope I never see the day that women's freedoms are limited in that way here.

We've come a long way - or some way, at least - but have we come far enough? Are we even going in the right direction?

Monday, March 07, 2011

CT scan day

You know how you can tell that Ian's away? I eat an entire 500mL carton of Haagen-Dazs ice cream straight from the carton in one sitting.... which is what I did this afternoon. You see, when Ian's home we usually buy frozen yogourt, which has about half the calories as the Haagen-Dazs, and we share it. We also serve the ice cream into bowls and don't eat it directly from the carton. I tell you, I'm a wild woman!

It isn't just that Ian's not home which has prompted me to eat this ice cream. I had my regular CT scan this morning which examines my chest, abdomen, and pelvis for any signs that the cancer has spread to new places. I've been having some new pains in my sternum that feel like they're on the other side as the mets that had given me pain before. I've also got something weird pains in my right abdomen.

Now, I don't really think that the cancer has gone anywhere or that my pains mean much. I've had pains at various points in my colon for a long time and I expect that the pain I'm feeling is coming from there. The pain in my sternum is probably related to the existing mets there somehow. One explanation is that I've been on this level of pain medication for quite a long time and so it isn't as effective as it used to be because I've developed a tolerance to it.

The fact that I have perfectly reasonable explanations for these new pains doesn't mean that I'm not worried about them... only that I'm not freaking out. If I hadn't had the CT scan this morning I'd have called my oncologist in about a week. I did mention them to the technician so they'll take a closer look at those areas when they read my scans. This way, when I get the clear report I'll be confident that they didn't miss anything.

My oncologist doesn't typically call me with good results. If I were to get bad results she'd want me to come in and discuss them with her. If she'd been calling me to tell me results, then I'd freak out if she called me and didn't give me the results or if she didn't call me - I'd be sure that they were bad and I'd worry more. I've seen that happen with other people, where they get really upset when the oncologist doesn't call them with results and then it turns out later that the oncologist was out or sick or something. That's a whole lot of worrying for no good reason.

If I really want the results I can call for them in about a week. I'm not that anxious to get them so if I don't hear from my oncologist by mid-next week I'll assume that they're good and I'll get the full report when I see her next in a month or so. Until the "deadline" for her calling me has passed, however, I'll be a little anxious and may need to eat more ice cream. It's a good thing that I bought more today because that first carton is gone. :)

Sunday, March 06, 2011

42nd NAACP Image Awards Red Carpet

I'm feeling the red carpet love right now so when I saw that the NAACP Image Awards had a red carpet - with some rather interesting dresses - I knew that I had to share it with you. I know I'm spoiling those of you who love the red carpet posts but from here until August or September there will be slim red carpet pickings.

What I loved about this red carpet is that it wasn't full of celebrities or stick-thin people. There were real women of all occupations - writers, producers, directors, actresses, singers - with real figures in all shapes and sizes on this red carpet. Some of the women were able to dress their bodies in flattering and balanced ways, and some weren't.

As usual, I'm only looking at what the women wore. I've included as many red carpet photos from this event that I can find as well as the outfit designers where possible. Because there are so many pictures and this post is so long, I'm putting the bulk of it after the jump. This way, people who don't want to scroll through all of these pictures can avoid them.

Saturday, March 05, 2011


We watched a couple of movies tonight: Baghead and Teeth.

Baghead is an indie movie about a group of four who are trying to write a movie about a guy with a bag over his head that terrorizes them. At some point the writing of the movie becomes confused with the events that occur. Maintaining that fuzzy line between the movie and the movie within a movie makes this interesting to watch. It helps that the actors wee good, that there was no soundtrack, and that most of the movie was shot on a handheld camera.

Baghead has horror elements but it's really more of a drama/comedy. There are quite a few funny moments throughout the movie. Most of these funny moments are related to typical, real-life events. The way the people interacted with each other felt very natural and real.

Teeth is a horror movie that also has funny moments. In it, a teenager who wants to save herself for marriage is "blessed" with vagina dentata that bite whenever they're near something that makes them (or her) not happy. This should have been a funny movie but the pacing was off. Most shots were just a bit long and the editing also made each scene longer than it should have been.

The acting was also lacking as were some of the special effects. For example, it was clear that the tattooed guy's tattoos were drawn on because they were sharpie dark. I don't know anyone who darkens their tattoos like that and even new tattoos aren't that dark. I also couldn't tell whether this movie was set in our universe or in an imaginary one because no one was behaving naturally. There were also a whole lot of shots of the nuclear power plant but the nuclear power didn't play a role in the movie.

Of the two, Baghead was definitely the better movie and the one I'd recommend. Teeth isn't really worth watching unless you really love horror movies. Even then, some men may be uncomfortable watching some scenes in the movie (the teeth didn't just bite fingers off).

Friday, March 04, 2011

Vanity Fair Oscar Party 2011 Red Carpet

The biggest party on Oscar night is the Vanity Fair party. The Academy Award winners often attend this party after the show is over which means that anyone who wants to rub elbows with the winners tries to be there. While other red carpet trends are seen on this red carpet, it is a party so just about anything is possible.

As usual, I'm only looking at the women's outfits and I've tried to include the designer name where possible. I've included as many unique outfits as I can find and excluded outfits that have already appeared in either the Academy Award or Elton John red carpet posts. Most people who attended these other events wore the same outfits to each one but a few did change between events.

Very image-heavy post after the jump! They're there so that they don't clutter up the page and so that people who don't want to look at or load that many pictures don't have to.

19th Annual Elton John AIDS Foundation Oscar Viewing Party Red Carpet

Lots and lots of images ahead!

This party held by Elton John was one of the big parties on Oscar night. Most of the people attending didn't attend the Academy Awards for one reason or another.e Instead of staying home and watching the Oscars, they dressed up and got together with others in the industry to watch the show. Afterwards some headed off to the other big Oscar night party: Vanity Fair's party, which I'll cover in the next post.

This red carpet was beige, not red, but I'll call it a red carpet anyway. Some of the trends on other red carpets showed up on this one, of course, but really just about anything went. Because the party is associated with the Oscars, the dresses did tend to be upscale and glamourous and sparkly.

As usual, I look only at women's outfits and I've included as many as I can find. Where I can find the designer of an outfit, I've included that, too. The pictures are after the jump... this way, the post isn't quite so long for those that might not want to look at the pictures.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Fixing the basement

This morning a representative from a basement waterproofing company came in to look at our cold room and workshop. The previous owners may have "fixed" the problem by draining the water into the sewer line but that's really just a workaround, not a permanent fix. We believe that fixing it properly is the right thing to do; a workaround is fine as an interim solution but we want things to be done right.

The guy suggested replacing the sump pump with a better model that has a battery backup, water alarm, splash valve thing, and that allows water to come in from the surroundings. He also suggested digging a trench along the entire length of the cold room and putting weeping tile there. His final suggestion was to fix the crack in the wall on the workshop side by digging down below the footing, sealing the wall crack with something flexible, and putting additional waterproofing extending on each side.

These suggestions sound good to us. We figured that the sump pump needed to be replaced because it is old and it might have been overwhelmed before. We also thought that putting weeping tile in there would make sense, given the amount of water down there. And since the picture I took showed water around that crack, it's a good idea to get it fixed, too.

The price we were quoted was quite reasonable - just a bit more than we paid for the work that was done outside - and so we've booked this company to do the work. We're currently scheduled for the work to be done the week after next, although they might be able to come in next week if another job goes well. The guy said that the work could be done in a single day, which surprised us. The hardest work will be jackhammering out the concrete and once that's done the rest of the job should go quickly. We're thrilled that the work will be finished before the spring at a reasonable cost. I tell you, owning a house is a lot of work... not to mention expensive.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Academy Awards 2011 Red Carpet

Finally, here's my Oscar red carpet post! I've included all of the pre-award show red carpet looks I can find as well as all of Anne Hathaway's on-stage outfits. I know that those outfits aren't strictly red carpet but they were as talked about as the red carpet dresses so I thought they should be included. If you didn't know, all of Anne Hathaway's on-stage outfits were chosen and styled by Rachel Zoe. I think she chose fantastic outfits and styled them beautifully. I didn't always like Anne Hathaway's hair but the fact that she completely changed outfits, jewelry, and hair seven times in this one award show is such a feat that I can overlook some messy hair.

I have not included any after-party looks in this post. Many, if not most, celebrities changed outfits for the after-parties. To me, the outfits worn on an award show red carpet and party red carpet have different purposes and so should be discussed separately. If you're lucky I'll discuss them :)

There are two main new trends that showed up on this red carpet: sleek silhouettes and allover sparkle. Very few women are wearing those long dresses with the trains that make them look like they're being swallowed up by the red carpet. I'm thrilled by this change because I was getting tired of those dresses. Embellishments - aside from the allover sparkle - are more minimal on this red carpet than they've been in the last few years. Lace is still making an appearance in these dresses.

Colour-wise, most women wore black, whites and other neutrals, and anything in the blue, purple, and red spectrum. There are a few outliers and a couple of prints but most dresses are these. I like seeing colour on the red carpet; black is ok but it's kind of a fallback colour. Just as the little black dress is the go-to dress for most women, so is the black gown.

Jewelry was fairly understand except for earrings and either a necklace or bracelet/cuff. Hair tended to be shiny, wavy, and loose. A few women went for a modified bedhead look, as though they'd started out with nicer hair and then messed it up in the limo.

Warning: image-heavy post after the jump! The images are there so that they don't take up the entire page and so that anyone who doesn't want to look at them doesn't have to scroll through them.