Monday, June 25, 2012

A Few of My Favourite Things

Today, I am going on an anti-rant. I am going to wax effusive about some of the things (not the people) that make me happy. Here they are, in no particular order.

1. Sunlight streaming through sheer or lace curtains across a floor. Especially in winter.

2. The weight of an infant slumped in sleep across my chest.

3. The sound of rain on water. (I love to keep our bedroom window open on rainy nights, so we can hear the water on the pool.)

4. The gentle sway of a hammock.

5. Sunsets. Always, but especially on water. 

6. Curtains billowing in the breeze.
7. Tiramisu, of course. (Obviously, these are not in order.)

8. Spooning.

9. Turkey dinner with all the fixings, especially bread stuffing.

10. Cut flowers in bouquets.

11. My garden in bloom.

12. A fire in a fireplace. (No pictures with fire, yet, but this holds the promise of many hearthside glasses of wine to come.)

13. The smell of bread or cookies or turkey baking in the oven. (Step outside, then come back in, just to savour the goodness!)

14. The smell of a baby's head.

15. The motion of a train washboarding over tracks or very light turbulence in flight.

Oh, I could go on and on and on. But I won't. I'm just going to stew in this state of gratitude.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Another Year Older

Wynn Anne and Steve, May 1993
And it's not just any year older. I have reached the milestone of 50 years.

I don't feel 50. I feel, maybe, mid-thirties. And when I turn toward a mirror, I expect to see Wynn Anne circa 1990. I think my self-image froze in time about then.

Reality, however, has not been so kind. Gravity and failing cells have allowed sags and wrinkles, not to mention arthritis and diabetes. It is, alas, the common condition: we cannot keep our first blush of youth; our bodies march inexorably toward death.

Doesn't mean we have to rush things along, but it is the reality of aging.

Hmm. This isn't quite where I thought I was going with this . . . Let's get this particular meandering back on track!

In the lead-up to this milestone birthday, I wasn't feeling very celebratory. Diabetes, the angina scare, and a puzzling increase in the frequency and severity of my migraines left me resentful, truth be told. So I told Steve that, yes, I wanted a party, but to please keep it small. Still festive, but small.

He did as asked, but also managed to surprise me by arranging for my sister, Pat, to come up from Oakville. I was completely taken by surprise when she stepped out of the car. For some perplexing reason, I thought she was a cleaning lady. (Wha? Where did that come from?)

And then I blurted out, "I thought you were a duck!" The latter was a tongue-tie that combined from my having posted a note on Facebook about puppies and the fact that I was currently playing a game that involved ducks.

I did not, in fact, think she was a duck. And I was beyond elated to have her here. I couldn't stop hugging her.
See? She doesn't look like a duck. Or a cleaning lady.
The next day, Pat helped me get ready for the party and accompanied me on a mani-pedi.

Pat helped me choose these very girly balloons.
(Did you know there is a helium shortage in Ottawa? So we were told.)
I was in full-on princess mode, and loving every minute of it.
I also had one frivolous and very specific request: I wanted a piglet cake. As a Timid Traveler and Generally Anxious Person, Piglet is a bit of an animal spirit for me. The idea for the cake was inspired by this cake, which I discovered on Pinterest, but here's a link to the baker's blog.

Steve scoured the Ottawa area and found Justkist Cakes, who produced this absolutely huggable sculptured cake. Yes, it's all edible except for the head. 
Can you say, "Adorable"?
I didn't get pictures of everyone. As I've said before, I kind of lose my paparazzi momentum about half way through a party. Sorry, Emily, Peter, Barb and Stuart, Katie and Rovic, and Laurel, and Elliott!

Paul and Nancy
Kathryn sings Happy Birthday while Claus helps out with the beer.
Ron and Heidi
I forgot to get pictures of the delicious food, including Tiramisu made by Kathryn. Of course, when the time came to serve the cake, there was some understandable horror about having to pull off Piglet's head.
But we got over it. 
Even Elizabeth, who might have been traumatized, found it funny.
(She later ate an ear. Solid sugar.)
There were, of course, jokes about John the Baptist and Lord of the Flies.
A pretty perfect birthday party, I would say. Thank you, Steve, Pat, Barb, and Kathryn, for all the hard work, and to my friends and family for an uplifting day - and for your generous gifts. 
The man who made it happen.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Catching a Wave

The Great Wave off Kanagawa
1760-1849 Japanese

The other day, I complained on Facebook. (I know: "Mom! Someone complained on Facebook!")

It received many sympathetic comments and suggestions, including the possibility that coffee might affect my blood sugar. As a matter of fact, that possibility had occurred to me earlier. I found conflicting information on the internet, but did learn that many diabetics are especially susceptible to blood-sugar spikes in the morning.

This is partly because of what is known as the Dawn Phenomenon, wherein Tony Orlando becomes a sex symbol. Kidding. [If you don't get the reference, google it.]

The Dawn Phenomenon is "the term used to describe an abnormal early-morning increase in blood sugar (glucose) — usually between 2 a.m. and 8 a.m. — in people with diabetes," according to Dr. Collazo-Clavell at the Mayo Clinic.

One explanation I've read is that this is the normal body's protection against potentially fatal hypoglycemia. Because sleep requires a prolonged period without food, the body stimulates the liver to release extra sugar into the blood. In normal people, this is fine. In diabetics, the sugar just hangs around in the blood because either there is no insulin (Type I diabetes), or the insulin that is there just isn't working very well at getting the sugar into the muscles or brain cells.

I already knew about this when I whined. I had forgotten that my blood sugar reading reflects not only the meal I just ate, but the build-up over the previous 12 to 24 hours or so. 

It's like the tide coming in: the waves themselves may not be any higher than they were at low-tide, but they reach farther because the tide itself is pushing them forward and upward.

So my bedtime binge on a cookie, cherries and sangria was ill advised. [I know! Who would have guessed!] I thought the surge would be gone by morning or would at least taper off if I were very careful at breakfast. In a healthy metabolism, that might be the case; for a diabetic - or at least, for this diabetic -- it is not.

I'm still learning how to live with diabetes. What is clear is that I can't "cheat" like someone with a normal metabolism can. Binge eating is bad, especially in the evening. 

On the bright side, by dinner time, my ultra-low-carb breakfast and low-carb lunch had my blood sugar back down to 5.3 mmol/L. That's NORMAL, folks! And today I've been within normal range ALL DAY! (Incidentally, that's with my usual coffee and sweetener.)

And I'll have to amend my "all I had was coffee and my blood sugar soared" whine to "all I had was coffee, two glasses of sangria, a big bowl of cherries and a cookie."

All this talk is making me hungry. But I think I'll skip the cherries and maybe have a nibble of cheese.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Seven Tips for Dressing for the Workplace

I once attended a workshop where the instructor stated that every workplace has a dress code, whether it is written down or not. She advocated writing it down because not everyone is as observant as one might hope.

Anyway, over the years I've developed some guidelines for looking professional in the workplace. And since your workplace probably does not have a written dress code, here is a starting point for you.

One Word: Grooming

But I don't get it. . .
why isn't she smiling?
         The scary thing is that customs and security agents are supposed to recognize this as the same person as in the previous picture.
I have hidden that picture from you for, lo, these many years. Aren't you glad?

And it really didn't take all that much to go from the before to the after. Both were taken on the same day within about half an hour of each other.
  • Smile. It makes people feel like magicians when they can make your face transform into something beautiful. (Plus you'll scare fewer babies on the bus.) Caution: don't walk around with an open-mouth smile. People will compare you to Dopey.
  • Comb hair and pull into a controlled style. 
  • Wash face. (I have the dreadful habit of sleeping in my makeup.)
  • Concealer and a little bit of neutral eye shadow, a soft fluff of blush, and mascara. I also always wear lipstick because I have no natural lip colour and people keep thinking I am dying. In this case, I painted carefully around the cold sore (so I wouldn't contaminate the lipstick). 
"Business Casual" does not mean "casual."

Be presentable enough at all times that you could meet your boss's boss or your top client. Even in a relaxed workplace, as where I work now, you need to look pulled together. My rule-of-thumb for business casual is that either the top or the bottom can be casual, but the other half needs to be business dress.

Some examples:
  • Jeans with a crisp white button-down shirt, or a jacket (but not a jean jacket), or a twin set.
  • A more casual top (but still modest, of course) with dress pants.
  • A fun-printed skirt with a tank top and sweater.
Just make sure the casual part is in good repair with no stains or rips.

"Sexy" is a four-letter word in the workplace.

Cleavage? No.
Intentional hints of undergarments? Bad idea.
[Don't even consider going full Lewinsky!] 
Despite what shows like House and The Practice might indicate, dressing like Dr. Cuddy or Ally McBeal will not help you gain credibility in the workplace.

It's not a question of potential harassment; it's a question of showing off your best asset. If your best assets are your ass and cleavage, well then maybe the Dr. Cuddy look is your best route. However, if you want to be recognized for your brains, your work ethic, or your skills, then showing your curves is just . . . throwing a curve. [OMG, I am so funny!]

I will allow an exception to this guideline: you are allowed one saxy thang. As with the business-casual look, if everything else about your outfit is CEO-worthy, then you may slip in one small hint of sexy.

For example, if Dr. Cuddy's top were long-sleeved and slightly less fitted, she might be able to get away with that much cleavage (but without the lace showing). Or if the top showed no cleavage, she could allow her camisole to peek out the top.

Tread carefully, though. I once wore fishnet stockings with an otherwise staid suit and got several comments on it. Oops..

BTW, rule-of-thumb for decolletage: your top should come to two inches above your cleavage. If it doesn't, add a camisole.


The right scarf, necklace or ear rings can make an otherwise plain outfit stand out. I often buy a necklace or scarf at the same time as I buy a dress or suit. Not only is this convenient, but when the seasons change the available colours will also change.

Pearls and simple chains are timeless, of course, and can lift a simple dress to Jackie O status.

Just be careful not to overdo it. Choose which item you want to receive the attention. If you have a busy top, then skip the necklace. A patterned jacket and a patterned scarf may work well on the runway, but may make you look like a runaway train. [And they just keep on coming!]

Remind yourself that you are neither Gisele Bundchen nor Rachel Zoe.

Enjoy the trends, but invest in classics.

A few weeks ago I saw a young woman wearing a trench coat in a Burberry-type print. I knew immediately that it was a knock-off because the stripes of the plaid were not lined up at the seams. She would have been further ahead to buy a decent trench coat in a neutral fabric.

Quality materials and workmanship will show.

On the other hand, some things are so trendy that you should not pay top dollar for them.

Dress for your size, not your fanta-size.

As someone who has lost and gained more pounds than I care to admit, this is really hard for me. I hate buying a larger size! Hate it, hate it, hate it. But nothing says "overweight and gaining" faster than a too-snug top or pants.

I've also erred by buying clothes that I'm sure I'll fit into next month when I lose just a little bit more.

Don't sweat the small stuff.

It happens to everyone: pantyhose slide down a silky girdle; coffee spills down a white blouse; a classic hairdo slides miserably during a job interview. As my brother commented on that hairdo post, "If it is any consolation, the guy interviewers were oblivious to your situation, and the girls would have totally understood and given you bonus points."

There are, of course, haters who will hate, but I always have great respect for anyone who can soldier through when things are falling apart. It says much about their characters.

Remember this:
This is what bravery and grace look like.
According to Lady Bird Johnson, who was also present, "Her hair [was] falling in her face but [she was] very composed ... I looked at her. Mrs. Kennedy's dress was stained with blood. One leg was almost entirely covered with it and her right glove was caked, it was caked with blood – her husband's blood. Somehow that was one of the most poignant sights – that immaculate woman, exquisitely dressed, and caked in blood."

Monday, June 11, 2012

There's just one thing that I can't figure out.

Peter Falk, scratching his head.

Remember Peter Falk’s squinty-eyed Lieutenant Columbo? 

We all waited for that moment when he would walk dejectedly away from the murderer (who would be smirking, thinking he had literally gotten away with murder), then pause, scratch his head, turn back to the guilty SOB and apologetically say something like, “There’s just one thing that I can’t figure out.”

Within seconds the tightly knitted veil of deceit would unravel and the killer would have given away the entire case.

Last week, as I left my doctor’s office, I felt like Columbo – but about three minutes slower on the draw. 

By the time I thought of the questions I wanted to ask, the doctor was on to her next patient and I was at the pharmacy dropping off new prescriptions for drugs unrelated to my questions.

A few minutes earlier, the doctor had blithely noted that my ECG results had been normal. Then we spent several minutes discussing my diabetes meds (and even my pearls!), without returning to the ECG and the reasons for ordering the test (the bizarre morning pain that scared the crap out of me).

So many questions ran through my mind:
  • Does that mean it’s not angina?
  • What should I do if it happens again?
  • Could it have been a stroke-type thing? Or a transient ischemic attack?

All of which remain unanswered, except by the internet.

Does that mean it’s not angina?
No. Angina is not usually detected on an ECG unless it actually takes place while the electrodes are stuck to your chest. This works well with normal, activity-related angina, but not with the kind that occurs while you are resting, as I was. ECG is great for showing that there is damaged heart tissue, as is the case with a heart attack.

What should I do if it happens again?
If symptoms do not abate after 5 minutes of sitting up and resting, call 911. In my case, even if the symptoms do ease (with or without coughing), I will get myself to a clinic and ask my questions.

Could it have been a stroke? Or a transient ischemic attack?
Actually, the internet cannot answer this one. I will have to talk to an actual doctor about it.

Which brings me to the best news I’ve had in AGES: I finally have a doctor. Well, sort of. I have a meet-and-greet appointment with a doctor in August. She is in a group practice near our home and is about three years out of school. She probably looks like a teenager. 

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Hitting an all-time low.

[Note: I am stranded at the Caalgary airport, delays in my flight from Ottawa having caused me to miss my connection to Saskatoon (or S'toon, as Saskatchewanianianians call it). No pictures in this post because Blogger and iPad disagree on that.]

The problem with being an "early adopter" is that you get to work out the glitches in whatever cutting-edge technology is using you as a guinea pig. My most recent experience is with the relatively new diabetes medication Victoza.

It's been available in Europe for a while, so I'm not worried about any ghastly side effects or anything (or I wouldn't try it), but I did Suffer through my doctor's lack of experience with this new drug that has garnered rave reviews for controlling blood sugar while also suppressing appetite which obviously has health benefits in terms of weight loss.

For me, the suppressed appetite has been truly eye-opening, as I mentioned in an earlier post. I'm still enjoying the effects, though the weight loss has slowed.

More importantly, my blood sugar has slowly but steadily been sliding into the normal range.

But it wasn't moving swiftly enough for my doctor, (I am the first patient she's tried Victoza with.) so she prescribed a third medication. The effect was almost immediate . . . And alarming. I took a dose with dinner and woke up feeling . . . weird. Like simething was wrong. Couldn't put my finger on it.

I wasn't nauseated. Didnt havea headache or feel the hands of the grim reaper around my neck.

I finally got out of bed and realized I was a little shaky and my legs felt like rubber. That's when hypoglycemia occurred to me.

3.5 mmol/L. Hypoglycemia is anything below 4. WhAt's more, if your blood augar has been high for a long time, you can feel hypoglycemic even at higher measures.

Hypoglycemia is a medical emergency: if the muscles and brain are deprived of energy for long enough you can slip into a coma and even die.

Because of this, the body has a built-in panic response. Adrenalin floods your system.

So on top of feeling wobbly as I stumbled downstairs to find my sugar pills, I was panicky and couldn't think straight. I had planned to go for the ECG the doc had ordered (more about that later), but couldn't figure out what to do first: get dressed? Make the bed? What about my hair? Make up?

Even after my blood sugar was back to normal, I felt uneasy.

Stupidly, I took another dose. The same thing happened twice more that day. And that was that.

Meanwhile, Victoza has been ever so slowly working my sugars down into the normal range. Part of that, I am convinced, is because the "normal" appetite makes it so very much easier to say no to large helpings and non-stop snacking.

And I feel great!

But I wish I were being treated by a more up-to-date doctor. Still waiting for a referral.

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