Monday, February 27, 2012

Should I be worried?

On Saturday, I made one final attempt to make decent bread in my bread machine. (How hard can it be, right?) Previously, it has produced "bread" that is dry and leaden, and heavy as a brick. This time it worked: the bread was light, with an even texture and flavorful with basil and oregano. It was gone by breakfast.

When my fifteen-year-old finally came downstairs, he called out, "Who ate the last of the bread you baked yesterday?"

Me: I don't know. Should I bake more?

Brian: Yes, please!

So I showed Brian how to bake some bread and the house filled with the smells of comfort food.

Also on Saturday, Emily asked if I would help her make cookies to bring to her friend who is in hospital with Crohn's. This friend is not supposed to eat cookies, but she is craving Just. One. Poor thing.

Steve: That sounds like a fun Mommy-Emily activity.

So I agreed. Fast forward to this afternoon while the bread fills the house with its yeasty goodness.

Emily: Are you ready to help me bake cookies? Last time I tried, they all burned.

Me (with a little trepidation): Sure.

So we mix up a batch of buttery, sugary chocolate-chip yumminess.
I'd like to see YOU try not to eat one of these!
Freshly baked bread? Warm-from-the-oven cookies? Hey, I am only human! Diabetes be damned, I ate a cookie [three cookies]. And I did have a slice of that bread [two slices] with butter melting into its herb-flecked sponge.

In the meantime, I can't help but wonder if my kids are trying to hasten my demise ...

Sunday, February 26, 2012

The Crone

Once upon a time, I was young, and met many of our culture's criteria for prettiness. I was slender, my face was more or less symmetrical, I had a clear complexion, I was short, and I had discernible breasts.

I received a good bit of attention for this, not all of it pleasant. A pervert flashed his member while I walked past on my way home from high school. ["Flashed" makes it sound like I could've missed it if I'd blinked; let me assure you, I would have to have taken a nap to have missed it.]

A health-club sales prospect once pressed his full body up against my back as I showed him the squash courts. [Oh! Now I get it: the SQUASH courts! Hah! I did not find it funny. I was afraid he was going to push me right over into the court many feet below.]

But most of the attention was innocuous: doors held open, smiles. Inclusion.

Then I gained weight. And then I aged. And gradually, I have become almost invisible. You may doubt me, but it's true. I recently stood patiently waiting for a fitting room for at least 10 minutes before the pretty, young attendant even acknowledged me and directed me to a room that had been vacant the entire time. (No one had left in the previous ten minutes, so I know it hadn't been recently vacated.)

I remember also one colleague who virtually stopped communicating with me when I gained weight, only to "rediscover" me when I lost 25 pounds. Even Jennifer Hudson, who lost 80 pounds, agrees.
People are friendlier; there are more opportunities, more flexibility in so many different ways. I think it’s messed up that people are so image-driven and your appearance affects the way people treat you,” she added. “It’s crazy and it may be something we do subconsciously, but there it is.
Frankly, I've reached a point where, even if I could exercise and diet my way back into a size 6, my skin, age spots, under-eye circles, and boob-saggage would clearly mark me as non-sexual and therefore invisible (except to a certain significant other). I have not inherited good genes in that department.

Gloria Swanson as Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard. Source
Why are there sequins on her face? Are they covering moles?
I can see how women once idolized for their beauty - like Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard -- make youth their obsession.

I'm not quite ready to embrace the role of Crone, nor am I bitter or disgruntled about fading to the periphery (though rudeness, as displayed by the fitting room attendant, is not okay). I'm just reflecting on what it is to be me, overweight, approaching 50, and entering menopause. It is an entirely new stage of life. And unlike the other stages (childhood, adolescence, womanhood, motherhood ...), I think I would like to navigate this one, rather than just ride the currents.

Incidentally, all of this meandering was triggered by this hysterically funny video. Enjoy!
"All the things I have to look forward to, now that my womb is ... old." ~ Shannon Bradley-Colleary, the Woman Formerly Known as Beautiful.

Friday, February 24, 2012

The Four-Day Cold, brought to you by Cold-FX

The following is an unpaid product endorsement.

Remember the old saw about the lofty value of "finding the cure for the common cold"? I don't think they use it anymore. It's all about the cure for cancer now.

But that may be because the makers of Cold-FX actually have found the cure for the common cold. I can't believe they did it and it didn't get more press. Seriously.

My first encounter with Cold-FX [blastedly annoying to type that!], came shortly after my sister-in-law, who works for a prestigious medical journal, told us about this new product. Health Canada, it seems, had vindicated the product's claims that it could prevent or relieve colds.

My daughter had a very, very bad cold. I was staying with her, even sharing a bed. We both started loading the Cold-FX. She got gradually better; I NEVER GOT SICK. Not even a sniffle.

Last week,  I got sick. I came down with a cold on Wednesday evening, and, by Monday morning, I was all better. Seriously: not a sniffle, not a scratch, no dirty looks from fellow passengers on the airplane. No sinus infection or bronchitis.

I followed the recommended regime:
  • Three capsules three times a day on the first day
  • Two capsules three times a day on the second day
  • One capsule three times a day on the third day
  • One capsule a day for "steady state"  (I don't actually take the one-a-day capsule unless I'm sick, though some people do.)
Now, this was a cold that had travelled through our office and our household, so I know how dreadful it could be. People were still sick a week or two later.

I've decided to keep a Cold-FX go-pack in my travel pack as well as a large bottle in our medicine drawer. This stuff is simply amazing.

By the way, we have tried the knock-off store-brand versions. They are NOT the same and do not get the same results.

Incidentally, I know it can be harder to find in the U.S., but you can buy it online. 

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

This is not an emergency.

You can buy this keychain on
(And don't you love how the website says, "dispatched," instead of "shipped"?)
I love that proverb, though I would never actually say it to anyone. In fact, I am more inclined to help someone out of a tight spot, partly because I've been there myself, a time or two, and partly because I really like to make people smile.

[I'm much tougher here on my blog than I ever would be in real life. For example, though I rant about grammar and spelling errors here, the only person I ever correct on Facebook is my own son. And then, only because I know he knows better, and he knows I love him, and he knows I'm doing it sarcastically. (I've been told I "try too hard." So sue me. Whatever.)]

So it surprises me when I come across someone who is less obliging.

Well, today it was I who brought what I considered an emergency to someone who stood her ground. I didn't like it.

So here's the deal. After almost two years of not testing my blood sugar, I finally bought a glucose monitor and discovered -- holy heck! -- my uncontrolled diabetes was out of control. Over the past three weeks I've been a little more careful with my diet, but really haven't done anything exercise-wise.

But I HAVE done a lot of obsessing [googling]. Here's what I've learned:
  • Low blood sugar (hypoglycemia, under 3 mmol/L) constitutes a real emergency and can rapidly (within minutes-to-hours) lead to seizures, coma, etc.
  • High blood sugar (hyperglycemia, above 7 mmol/L) can lead to ketoacidosis which causes all sorts of nastiness like organ failure and coma, but over a prolonged period (months). The patient should see a doctor. 
My problem is high blood sugar, and my average over the past three weeks has been 13.9 mmol/L, so, yeah, I knew I needed to see a doctor. But I'm still waiting for the New & Improved doctor to accept me as a patient. And I figured, I got in this mess over many months, so what's the panic? 

Then I saw this in the instructions that came with my glucose monitor. 
I called the doctor-elect. I am not yet on the roster. I didn't want to go back to my ex-doctor, since we had had such a nice, cordial break-up and I didn't want to have make-up medicine. So I went to a walk-in clinic. hoping for a one-night (or one-month) stand.

The doctor at the walk-in clinic did not accept that I had divorced my family doctor, and told me to go see him about my blood sugar. I almost cried. 

But she's right, of course. 
Bad behaviour on my part does not constitute an emergency on her part.
If it were truly an emergency, she'd have done something. It's not. It's just my current obsession.

I've decided that I'll give the doctor-elect a couple more weeks, and in the meantime, make a better effort to be healthy, but I'm not going to panic.

Here is me not panicking.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

I saw a ghost.

Last night, I slipped out of my hotel room and walked a couple of blocks down to Tim Horton's. Rain was drizzling down, as it had been most of the day. It was cold out, not freezing, but that miserable, wet cold that you get when it rains.

The sidewalks were crowded with people heading out to dinner, out to shows, out to meet friends. And there were homeless people huddled by walls and curbs with their hats out, hoping for spare change.

I stayed out of the way of the revelers who seem to need more space per person than the rest of us, I dodged umbrellas, and I smiled  recognition at the homeless people, but kept walking without dropping any coins.

I reached the warm embrace of Tim Horton's and picked up a bowl of chili and a garlic roll, then stepped back into the rain.

Waiting to cross one intersection, I glanced at the panhandler huddled by the post. He was was sitting on his haunches, knees tucked under his jacket, teeth chattering, a hat upturned by his feet. The hat was sodden and flat and empty.

And, for a flash, less than a moment, I saw my son. I saw Peter shivering and cold and alone. I saw my son who has Asperger syndrome and sometimes finds himself needing help but unable to ask for it. I saw my son who is sometimes ostracized because he seems "odd."

I thought: I should give him money.

But I didn't want him to buy drugs or booze.

I thought, I could give him my chili.
I thought, I could take him back to Tim Horton's and let him choose a meal.
I thought, I could sit with him.

I froze at that last thought and it erased all the other good impulses I had had. Because I wasn't able to do the truly Christlike (or Ghandi-like or Mother Teresa-like) thing, I did nothing.


The light changed, I walked to my room and ate my dinner.

I am so sorry. I am ashamed that, even though I saw my son (my own son!), I still walked by, holding my bag of warm food. What would it take to reach me?
Don't forget to show hospitality to strangers, for some who have done this have entertained angels without realizing it! ~ Hebrews 13:2

Friday, February 17, 2012

Call the WAH-mbulance!

I love Vancouver, but the feeling does NOT seem to be mutual.

Last summer I came out to work at a conference, but I came down with a bug a day or so before flying out. It was nasty; I swore it was turning into pneumonia (I've never before or since heard sounds like that coming from my chest). I dragged myself through the three days, went home and collapsed in bed.

Again, I'm in Vancouver, and again I'm sick. I've finally caught the cold that had been bouncing around our office and at home. (Steve even took a sick day! I can count on one hand the number of times he has done that in his career.)

Fortunately, my boss is here and she also had the cold, so she knows how miserable it is.

But I feel guilty! Yes, guilty. For all the expense of flying me out here, putting me up and I'm contributing ... very little really.

I hope the Cold FX kicks in tomorrow, so I can put forth more of an effort.

And as a final whine, I didn't bring my camera, and I really wish I had. Packing light sucks.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Skinny Malinsky

Once upon a time, when mail was still sent in paper wrappers with postage stamps on the front, I was a very tiny young girl. In fact, some said I was skinny.

I had knees that were wider than my calves, vertebrae that made a dot-to-dot curve on my spine.

Despite appearances, I was not anorexic or bulimic; I just burned every calorie I consumed.

But that didn’t stop other kids from teasing me [or other adults from worrying about me, but that’s a story for another day].

As often happens amongst elementary-school girls, I had a best “frienemy.” We lived in two halves of a semi-detached house and spent hours and hours playing with Barbie dolls, playing school, putting on make-up.

On the “enemy” side, we sometimes fought like cats. We screamed nasty epithets at each other, along the lines of “poopy-face!” and “nose-picker!”  (We were far too goody-two-shoes to use obscenities.)

During one of these rancorous episodes, my friend called me something that sounded like “skinny malinksy.”

Malinksy? My friend was first-generation Canadian whose parents immigrated to Canada from Scotland, bringing with them a lyric accent and entertaining vocabulary, so I assumed that’s where it came from.

Once we were friends again, I asked her what it meant. She had no idea; I must have heard incorrectly, and she could not remember what she’d actually said.

But it stuck in my head, as these things do when we are young and allow others to define us. At about the same time I learned to write a cursive signature, I started adding a symbol of Skinny Malinksy to it. It looked like this.

Doesn’t get much skinnier than that. I think I even occasionally added hair, a face and hands to the figure.

Gradually, I drew faster and more flowingly – Skinny Malinsky developed curves.

And more curves.  (It occurs to me that my signature was developing curves at the same rate I was. And the name Skinny Malinsky no longer attached to me.)

I simplified it a little.

By the time I met Steve, my emblem had evolved a little more. He thought it was an elaborate letter “g,” but couldn't figure out why I was signing my name as Simpsong. I thought it resembled an “S.” With an extra swoosh.

In any case, it stuck. It’s now such an ingrained part of my signature that I even include it on legal documents. I’m even working out a way to make it a kind of logo on my photography.

I realize it looks pretty much like a scribble. Or a snake.

But it’s me.

I recently learned that, when it comes to signature ornamentation, it could be worse. I could, like Katy Perry, include a smiley emoticon as part of my signature. Which is all well and good if you’re thirteen years old and you’re signing your bus pass, but on divorce papers?  Ouch!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Valentine's Date Disasters

Is it too predictable that I am diabetic and I love Valentine's Day?
Well, okay, they don't really qualify as disasters, but Steve and I have had a few dud Valentine's dates.

Like most couples, we've debated how big a deal to make out of this artificial celebration of romantic love. At least once, we've decided to do nothing, only to find me feeling let-down. On the whole, I choose to make it festive.

One year we had decided not to do anything special, not even go out to dinner, but then about a week before the big date, I changed my mind. By then, of course, our favourite places were all booked up. But there was one restaurant on our way home from work that we'd always been curious about. They could seat us! Yay! [That should have been a warning.]

People were crammed in the vestibule waiting to be seated, servers were scrambling around with platters of drinks and food. The lighting was Home-Depot fluorescent, the flowers were plastic, and the tables were a step up from diner tables, but not a big step.

"We're together, and that's what matters," I chirped. [Hit me with a stick.]

"Yup. That's what this is about," Steve chimed in. [These may not be his actual words.]

I don't remember the meal, and that's probably a good thing, though I do have a flashback of one of those token "salads" that consist of half a cup of iceberg lettuce, two tomato wedges and a slice of cucumber.

We never went back.

The following year, we learned from our mistake and booked early. In January, I called Il Primo on Preston and booked our Valentine's day seating. The evening arrived and we put on pantyhose (me) and tie (Steve) and presented ourselves at the door.

Our reservation was nowhere to be found. The tables were full.

It turned out they had written down our reservation on January 14th, not on February 14th.

I almost cried as we went back to the car and decided to go see a movie instead. Half way to the theatre, the restaurant called us; they'd had a cancellation and could seat us after all!

We doubled back and enjoyed a truly delicious meal. At the end of the evening, the owner gave us a gift certificate for a complimentary meal - which we enjoyed several weeks later.

[Okay, so that one was decidedly not a disaster, but you do see how it could have been, right?]

A few years later, we decided to dine at a new restaurant rather than our tried-and-true favourites. We are both fans of Greek food (and have a trip to Greece somewhere in our future, probably after the flames have died down), so we went looking for something Hellenic. In Colorado.

Now Colorado Springs has some excellent dining, notably some fabulous Mexican cuisine and Thai food, but Greek is not very popular. But we got recommendations and showed up on Valentine's night.

We were overdressed. They ran out of the entree and the wine that I wanted. The lighting was glaring. The cabinetry was ... oily, sticky. It again had that diner allure to it.

So, we have learned: book early (and accurately) and a special night is not the night to try something new.

And, when all else fails, we just remind ourselves: we're together, and that's what matters.

P.S. This year, the plan is to go to a nice, little Italian restaurant downtown, but Steve has been stricken by the Cold from Hades and may not feel up to a dinner out. I won't count that as a disastrous date, but I will take a raincheck. And flowers.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Hungry for Spring (and Summer and Fall)

Winter is nature's way of saying, "Up yours."  ~ Robert Byrne
This is what it looks like outside today. Sunny and bright, yes, but almost colourless.
February 12, 2012 in Ottawa
Temperature: -10C | 14F
It is cold. The world seems dead. And, even though we've been blessed with a relatively mild winter (Winterlude has been a bit of a bust), I am BEYOND ready for it to be over. For colour to come back into our world.

Every winter,
When the great sun has turned his face away,
The earth goes down into a vale of grief,
And fasts, and weeps, and shrouds herself in sables,
Leaving her wedding-garlands to decay -
Then leaps in spring to his returning kisses.
~ Charles Kingsley, Saint's Tragedy (act III, sc. 1)

I am so eager for spring that I stopped at Michael's yesterday and bought some peonies (my favourite flower) and dogwood. Artificial, yes, but still beautiful for all that.

Instantly, my heart lifted a little. Beauty has such a powerful effect on me. 

I still can't wait for the REAL peonies in our garden to make their way through the thawing earth and taunt me with their swollen buds for weeks (it always seems so long, as I watch the ants crawl across the sepals, birthing the extravagant blossoms within).

And then I sliced myself a pear [Yay for me: healthy snack!] and was grateful for the fact that here, in the depths of winter, I can still enjoy a succulent fruit.

It was neither organic nor grown within a 100 km radius, but I enjoyed every last sticky drip of it.

All of this is my way of telling winter, "Up yours." ~ Wynn Anne Sibbald

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Wake-up Call

I was diagnosed with Type II diabetes, oh, three or four years ago. At first I was panicky, and tested my blood sugar several times a day, only to find that it was really fairly stable. It would spike after a meal, but then gradually settle down.

As a little background, here are some numbers for everyday blood sugar:


   Max mmol/L
(units used in Canada
and the UK)

(units used
in the US)

Target for diabetics<7130

At the time of my diagnosis, my fasting results ranged from 90 mg/dL to about 150 mg/dL. Eventually, I saw an endocrinologist who suggested that I could probably just test my blood once or twice a week. Which, in my case, translated into "never."

Because, whether I like it or not, I am a creature of habit. If it doesn't happen every single day, it is likely never to happen at all. (Except Tiramisu, which I will take at random intervals.)

Then we moved back to Canada and finding a good family doctor was a pain. I visited our old family doctor who wasn't too concerned and suggested I check in once a year for an A1C test. (A blood test that gives a 2-to-3-month snapshot of what's going on with your blood sugar.) A healthy A1C is below 6.5%. Mine was about 7%. So, high, but not scary.

My diabetes was considered "diet-and-exercise controlled." Which, if you know me, translates to "Really not controlled at all. Pretty much random. Might just as well prepare some burnt offerings."

About six months ago, I thought I should probably start monitoring my sugar again. But I procrastinated. My old test strips were expired; my old monitor used U.S. units, not Canadian. I was feeling okay, and my doctors didn't seem too concerned ...

Well, today, I finally got around to buying a new monitor and test strips. Because I like playing with new toys, I immediately tested my blood.

My jaw just about hit the floor when I saw the result on the monitor.

That's 19.5 mmol/L = 351 mg/dL
I had NEVER, EVER had results that high. And I didn't feel ill. (Well, except for the constant thirst and the continual emptying of the bladder ... but those are also side effects of some of my meds and, um, middle age, right?) But there is no arguing with the meter. Yes, I tested again just before lunch because ... neurotic! The number had fallen to 13.4 mmol/L. Still not good.

For the record, I had not had a heavy "binge" the night before, and I'd only had a PB&J sandwich with coffee for breakfast.

I couldn't believe my pancreatic health had gone from "worrisome" to "we are having an emergency" in one short year.

To further feed my neurosis (and because I had just "broken up" with my old doctor so that I could  get a better one, and because the better one had not officially accepted me as a patient, so I was stuck in limbo as to OHIP-covered lab tests), I purchased an at-home A1C test.

These are a relatively new thing in Canada, and I'm sure the medical labs all scoff at their reliability, but I very carefully followed the instructions. My A1C was 9.6%.
In the orange zone.
Suddenly, this shit got real, in a way that the original diagnosis never did. It's time to give that diet and exercise regime a serious effort. Cuz the burnt offerings aren't working.


Saturday, February 4, 2012


A token of romantic love.
The prompt for this month's Gratitude Journal entry is "love - of all kinds." In her note to those of us who have subscribed, Karen Walrond (a.k.a. Chookooloonks) writes,
Yet, it seems to me a pity that we devote an entire 24 hours to celebrate romantic love, and no time at all to celebrate all the other types of love that are all around us -- love that, let's face it, is at least as plentiful (if not more so) than romantic love.
So, although you all know how nuts I am for Stephen, for my post this month, I'm focusing on storge, "fondness through familiarity, especially between family members or people who have otherwise found themselves together by chance," according to Wikipedia.

Often, while I am sitting in my living room reading or surfing the net, I'll hear my kids in the sunroom kibitzing, joking (sometimes making fun of good, old Mom), and it warms my heart. I love the relationship my kids have with each other. Sometimes, it is intense; sometimes it is not much more than background music, but it is always There.
Three of our four: Peter, Emily, Brian (Katie wasn't available)
They aren't saints or best friends, and they don't usually snuggle this close, but they care about each other.

And I am so grateful for that. I've seen siblings who don't treat each other with respect, let alone with affection. That doesn't happen often here, thankfully.

Friday, February 3, 2012

A Different Lifetime

Peter, age 4
Do you ever look back on certain periods of your life and wonder how you coped?

Today, I read Ruth Schwarz's blog, "the mom" where she outlined just ONE of her days caring for her special-needs daughter Davy as well as her three sons, and it brought back memories. She writes,

I had to leave the house by 8:30 to get to Davy's first therapy (OT) at 9. had to secure a sitter (thank you Heather) and a ride to and from preschool for Harper. Went to Davy's second therapy (pt) at 10. Then had to jam over to CHOC by 11:15 for her feeding therapy. Then had a speech evaluation right after that.
And that's just her morning; she and Davy didn't make it home till six.

Such is life when you have a child with special needs. And it is exhausting, completely draining.

I have a frozen-in-time image of sitting in a waiting area at the Ottawa Children's Treatment Centre (OCTC) (about which I cannot say enough good things!). Peter, who has Asperger Syndrome, had back-to-back appointments for occupational therapy, physical therapy, and speech therapy.

Emily was just a toddler and she was bored. As a single-income family, we couldn't afford to hire a sitter while I took Peter to his appointments.

What others may not realize is that all of these therapies for a child require parental involvement. I was not just sitting in an uncomfortable lounge chair reading year-old magazines. I was learning and working along with Peter, and was expected to continue these exercises at home between appointments. (I failed so often, though I always started out with the best intentions.)

It is not physically arduous, but it is emotionally draining: my inner dialogue kept hoping he would surprise us. My outer dialogue quietly encouraged him without making him feel like he was disappointing us. I was also conscious of wanting to impress the professionals by what a Good Mother I was, or at least have them feel I was adequate.

And, really, Peter's needs were quite minimal, compared to many of the kids seen at the OCTC. He was able to walk, dress, and feed himself. He could talk in full sentences and make his needs known. But he was behind on all the milestones, and there was an emotional/psychological aspect to his disability that I found hard to explain.

This was at least a year before he was diagnosed, so at the time, we were just dealing with an interesting array of challenges. In some ways he was so close to "normal" that I wondered if I were not making things up or exaggerating things. But, to me, he seemed vulnerable, so I kept pushing for help.

Peter has made great strides, and we are so proud of him. Those days are so far away, but surprisingly immediate in my mind. I sometimes still feel like that exhausted, young mother.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Silly Conversation

Steve (reviewing his bank statement online): Yay! I got paid.

Me: Oh, right. Today is the day you get paid.

Steve: Yup.... They should have a word for that. Paying-day?

Me: Day-o-pay?

Steve: Salary-day?

Me: Salarday!

Steve: Yes!

And that is why we stay married.

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