Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Things to do while you are temporarily blind.

This picture will make sense if you
continue reading.
This afternoon, as my field of vision was slowly consumed by a migraine-induced growing blind spot, ringed by kaleidoscopic rays, I got bored.

Sure, the first 15 times or so, it was interesting. Well, after it stopped being scary, that is.

For a while, I would close my eyes and "watch" the light show. Often the aura was not even followed by a headache, so it really was nothing more than a 20-minute visual interlude.

However, they have become so frequent - every five to 15 days - that I've simply lost patience with them. Also the other effects (nausea, headache, stupidity) are becoming increasingly troublesome. And they are inconveniently boring.

I would imagine that people with progressive permanent blindness have ways of coping with the impairment. And I can't imagine the mental anguish that comes with permanently losing your sight.

For the few of us who experience temporary or recurrent episodes of blindness, as I do with migraines, it presents a slightly different challenge.

So, today I consulted a few of my fellow temporary-blindness sufferers and asked them what were their "go-to tactics" for (1) relieving boredom and (2) calming anxiety when afflicted. Here are their tidbits, along with my own.

Relieving boredom: 
  • Listen to music. (satellite radio or iPod/MP3)
  • Snuggle with pets or loved ones.
  • Daydream! (Something we rarely get to do!)
  • Listen to audio fiction, if you want to rest your brain.
  • Listen to audio non-fiction if you want to exercise your brain. "I miss the exchange of ideas that happens when you're young and in college. And when I read now, I tend to want a break from seriousness, but the few times I listen to "Ideas" on CBC Radio 1 I find myself remembering what it was like to learn new things!"
  • Eat. (Coincidentally, I had just picked up some soup and fresh fruit for lunch; easy enough to eat without a full field of vision). Possibly not the best tactic for me to use every time my brain hiccups.
  • Sleep - if you can and are in the right place.
  • Get a facial, massage, manicure or pedicure - if you have the time, and if you don't have to drive. (I seriously considered this today, but had just gotten my nails done on the weekend. And I don't like massages.)
Calming anxiety:
  • Sing. "I sing "my favorite things" from The Sound of Music to myself."
  • Snuggle with pets or loved ones
  • Take a bath
  • Sleep
  • Talk with someone
  • Get a massage, if you're into that.
There must be other ideas we've missed . . .  Share your ideas.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Things they should stop selling right now.

As I sat on the toilet seat (with the lid down) to blow-dry my hair this evening, a thought occurred to me: they should stop manufacturing toilet-seat lids that give the impression of being solid, but then -- usually about 30 seconds after you've relaxed -- cave in.

It is so annoying. Even though I know full well that our toilet-seat lids are the cheap kind that tease you with the semblance of solidity, it freaks me out every time it happens. I think I'm about to fall into the toilet. It's even worse if I stand on the lid. I'll let your imagination develop that picture.

It got me to thinking about other things that fall into that category: either so shoddy or so horrible that they should not be sold.

Hang on a sec. Make that, "they should not be made."

I'm not talking about things that are controversial, like genetically modified foods, or things that are a question of personal taste, like Britney Spears albums.

Well, okay, maybe some of these come down to taste . . . Here's my list.

Leggings above size 14.

Seriously. You aren't doing women like this any favours. I would make an exception for these if they were sold only as a set with a permanently attached loose-fitting tunic-length top.

These are actually "silk" flowers.
Plastic flowers

We have a neighbour (who doesn't?) who actually puts plastic flowers in the front garden. They are atrocious. And, after several years, they have faded.

Gigantic, ugly houses

There is a house in Ottawa that Steve and I laugh at as the ugliest house in the city. It is squeezed onto a double city lot, on a busy street. It has a formal brick fence and gate, with a courtyard and huge fountain.

It was featured in our local paper (when it was listed for sale and sat on the market for ages), and the article listed a catalog of high-end features: marble, skylights, fireplaces.

And every stone of it was gaudy and ugly.

Kitchen utensils that are not dishwasher safe

I can understand having a special pot or pan that does not go in the dishwasher. But a garlic press? Seriously? I bought one at IKEA many, many years ago, and it turned black the first time I put it through the dishwasher. Thereafter, it turned my garlic black as well. NOT appetizing. I don't know if they still make them, but they shouldn't.

Table linens that cannot go in the washer and dryer

Wha'? I can't imagine a place in the house that is more likely to get dirty. Except, perhaps, the kitchen or bathroom counter. But we don't generally put linens across those!

I bought a set of pretty placemats at Pier I last summer, only to have them crinkle into ripply ugliness after washing. Reading the label, it appeared that they were not supposed to go in the dryer. Fine. I washed the remaining ones and laid them out flat to dry. They crinkled just as badly as the others.

Fortunately, I got my money back. But the question was why would they even make them anything BUT washer-and-dryer friendly in the first place? Didn't they even test this product?

The Simple Styles Modern Updo Pin

In my quest to find simple, elegant solutions for workday hairstyles. I actually bought one of these. The package promised all sorts of easy possibilities that would have me looking like Grace Kelly. Well, at least, my HAIR would look like Grace Kelly's.

Wrong. It was incomprehensible to use, even after watching videos on YouTube. And, when it did manage to grab my hair, it HURT! A lot.

I can't think of anything else, but I'm sure you can. Tell me what you think they should stop making.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Our Lady of Eternal Surprise

"What?! Not again!"

That is the thought that runs through my mind every time I realize I've got my period.

[And with that, men and my children and anyone else who is too delicate to contemplate the miseries and mysteries of the female reproductive system, I give you warning to close this browser tab and go back to Facebook. Or here: The Useless Web]

Now that it's just us girls, I can be frank.

I've been menstruating for 37 years now, and you'd think I'd have become accustomed to this frequent onslaught of ickiness, but, no, I have not. Or you'd think that, at the very least, I'd have become acquainted with the calendar and my body's relationship thereto, but, again, I have not.

I know women who can plan their vacations according to their menstrual cycles; I am not one of them. Au contraire, Steve and I used to joke that the surest way to bring on my period was to plan a romantic weekend away.

Every time I start my period, it is as if I had expected the previous one to be THE LAST PERIOD.

Perhaps it's just wishful thinking, or denial, but I blame this on a few things:

First, until I became pregnant with our first child when I was 25, my cycle was extremely irregular. Only during the months of "trying" -- taking temperatures every morning, trying to see if I could tell when I was ovulating -- did I come close to anticipating my period. Even then, my cycle was anywhere from 16 days to 45 days.

Second, when you combine breastfeeding-induced lack of menstruation (I was very, very fortunate) and pregnancy, there is a total of 6 and a half years in there that I either did not have a period at all, or they were irregular. Can you believe it? Neither can I.

Third, since Steve got his vasectomy almost 17 years ago, there has been absolutely no risk of my becoming pregnant, so I stopped worrying about it. It has been deeeeelightful.

Finally - and best of all - I am finally, finally entering menopause. Though there have been some miserable symptoms (migraines, sweats, clotty periods), I mostly have welcomed them as harbingers of the end of this stupid cycle.

So I'm always caught by surprise.

One of these days, though, I'll wander down the "feminine hygiene" aisle at the grocery store and suddenly realize that I haven't had to buy any of those things for, lo, these many months, years, even. I'll buy a box or two for the guest bathroom and do a little happy dance. Maybe even burn a little incense in a hag-like ritual of wise-woman crone-hood.

And, with my luck, I'll get my period the next day.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Bad Mother Diaries

Gotta feed these growing boys!
Any mother who has ever taken a trip without her children will appreciate the guilt I'm feeling right now. Whether that trip was for business or pleasure really makes very little difference.

In late September, Steve and I spent a weekend together in Kingston -- work-related for him, pleasure for me.

In late October, I spent several days in Montreal for work.

Last week, Steve came to Quebec with me. He stayed for the weekend, then I stayed on through to Thursday.

I got back on Thursday and was just bagged. In fact, I worked from home on Friday because I was just too bushed to make myself presentable, and I've slept twelve solid hours both Friday night and Saturday night.

So, Thursday night, I ordered in Chinese. The boys were happy, but I felt twinges of maternal guilt for not making a home-cooked meal.

Friday night, Steve and I went out for dinner. (The excuse was that we had some errands to run.) The boys scavenged leftovers. (Yay, for Chinese food!)

Saturday night, Steve and I again went out for dinner and caught up with friends we hadn't seen in too long. The boys ate hot dogs and canned beans.

My sons had not had a "real" meal since Wednesday. Not a vegetable in sight! I could only hope they'd been eating the fruit I'd stockpiled before I went away.

So tonight, I had to prepare a real meal. No excuses. Because feeding our children is one of the fundamental mandates of mothers.

Of course, I went for comfort food: barbecue beef, corn-on-the-cob, rice. And apple pie (store-bought, but still). It felt good to sit down at the table for the first time in a week and enjoy a family dinner.

I'm feeling slightly less guilty.

Now, I have to finish the laundry.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

All's well that ends well.

Do you remember my saying that I always forget to pack something when I travel? Even with a list, I invariably check something off before I've actually stuffed it in my bag, simply because I intend to put it in the bag. Dumb, I know.

More often than not, however, I simply ignore the list.

In the past, I have forgotten:

  • pyjamas
  • underwear
  • charger for laptop
  • charger for phone or camera
  • prescriptions
  • shoes
  • umbrella
  • raincoat

This is by no means an exhaustive list, just some of the items in recent memory that I have ended up purchasing under duress. In fact, I now have not one, but two universal laptop chargers.

Today, I'm in Quebec City. I'm here early with Steve for a little RR&R (romantic rest & relaxation) before a business function on Tuesday and Wednesday. My plan is to telecommute on Monday, while nailing down all final details and logistics for the work events.

Not surprisingly, I left the office late on Friday. When I finally shut down my laptop and grabbed my laptop bag (stuffed with various printed materials for our events), I felt pretty smug about how prepared I was. I had it in the bag.

Except, as I discovered on Saturday morning, I did not have one crucial piece of equipment in the bag: my work laptop with all my special software! I did have all my critical files on a memory stick, and I could've brought my personal laptop in its place, but that would have severely limited my telecommuting. So we had to stop by the office.

Also, I had neglected to order a prescription refill and had to stop by the pharmacy before we could head for Quebec.

As we got into the car after picking up my meds, I promptly spilled a full cup of hot coffee down the front of my pants. I grabbed my clean jeans out of the suitcase and decided to change in the car (the parking lot was not very full and we were in a fairly deserted area of the lot).

As you might have predicted, an SUV pulled up beside our little Toyota, giving the driver a nice perspective of my bare legs and granny panties. I turned my head away from him, in the full belief that, if I couldn't see him, he couldn't see me. That's how it works, right?

In the end, we made it to Quebec City shortly after sunset, with my work laptop, clean pants, and my prescriptions.

Today, we've enjoyed all the RR&R prescribed. Here are some pictures of beautiful, beautiful Quebec.
The first time I saw an inukshuk, I was fascinated. Now, however, they are such a pervasive icon of Canadian northern culture that I'm a little jaded. This particular one, however, was quite lovely.
The Quebec Legislature

We then went inside the walls of vieux Qu├ębec, the only fortified city in Canada (possibly North America, though Steve thinks there may be some old Spanish fortifications in Florida).
Not sure why they had a sculpture of Ben Kingsley.
Oh, wait, yah, that's probably Gandhi.

It really felt as though we had magically travelled backwards through time 250 years. As with Kingston, the stone and architecture were captivating.

This is where we ate brunch.
Aux anciens canadiens
This is the restaurant that my sister recommended - and where we will be dining this evening. As soon as we saw it, Steve said, "Oh! That's where we ate last time we came here. We ate upstairs." I would not have recognized it if my life depended on it (that was almost 30 years ago), but I did remember eating at a quaint, delightful restaurant in the old city, so I trusted Stephen.  

It is the oldest house in Quebec, built between 1675 and 1676.

Art in the city

There was shopping a-plenty!
As with an old, European city, the streets were really more like laneways - narrow and winding.
Meanwhile I found this captivating floor mat inside a dressing room. Made myself dizzy twirling in circles to watch my footprints come and go.

You can tell by the pictures that it was overcast. It was also quite chilly - cold enough that we saw this as we left the walled part of the city.

Temps were not freezing, so we figure there was some means of artificially freezing the ice. These poor ladies were not dressed for the weather at all. 
Les muses
So it has all ended well. We'll enjoy dinner tonight, I'm sure (Steve even called to make a reservation, even though it required using the phone), but I doubt that I'll have much time to get out with the camera this week. 

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Testing, Testing, Z Y X

This is actually a video I've wanted to make for quite a while.

Stephen, he of more brain cells than most, once figured out that you can sing the alphabet song backwards. He taught it to our children and, eventually, to me.

It has become a party trick. Sad. We don't get invited out much. Maybe we should find a new party trick?

Anyway, here it is, with Peter playing piano accompaniment. Neither of us is ready for the big time. But who knows? With more practice . . .

Yah. Probably won't give up my day job.

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