Western education 2013

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

..... getting ready to teach this fall......

..... and feeling well prepared.  I woke early this morning.... to the tune of 4:30 am.  I spent the early hours reading the paper, sorting through bills, mail and answering emails and checking notes.  The oppressive humidity outside has turned into a downpour.  The stink in the air is reflected on a few FB walls... sweat socks and wet dog!!  The swing in the weather this summer has oscillated from cold days, colder nights, wet, hot as hades, cold sweater weather and now back to uncomfortable heading into the school season.  Mostly though, I am grateful for the cooler weather.... the days when I could breathe..... the rest of them were spent in the cool of the air conditioning.  

Today I feel my best in 10 days... strong and ready to work as I head out at a little past 8 am.  I am heading into the labs this morning to finalize the mini video tutorials I have been creating with Sara on my iPhone5.  The impressive ability for the video feature to capture crisp footage in low lighting is remarkable.  We have created a game plan before heading back in and spend the time deleting the clips we want from those that are sporting Sara's finger.  I joke with her that she takes photos like my Mom.... then I splash us both with Rosin from a tipped container.  A quick break to clean up and begin again where we left off.  I am back in my element loving every second of this experience.... feeling alive.  I think every cancer patient needs to have a goal and to continue to live life with as much normalcy as possible while still pursuing excellence.  I have paced myself and while I feel I have much more left to do, the foundation is built and now I get to see my hard worn effort to be put in motion next week..... and I cannot wait!!!  I purchased a teacher schedule book to use to fill in and keep track of the day to day activities.  There will be tweaking.

We decide to head over to the office so I can sign my contract before lunch and the divisional meeting that is scheduled after that.  We stop to chat to a few colleagues.  I am weary of explaining my illness and find I am not keen to talk about it.  I don't want anyone to feel sorry for me.  It is hard to see the discomfort and pity on the faces of people I have known for decades as they search for the right words in response of learning the news first hand from me.  I assure them that I am fine and looking forward to the start of the school year.  It is what my focus is.  It allows me to forget while I absorb myself deep into a new challenge.

The afternoon brings us to a division meeting with my peers and an opportunity to review goals, mission statements, values and expectations.  I really feel at this point that I am heading into the right direction with a vision to create a sense of community and connection in the classroom while teaching the soft skills so critical in a professional environment.  It was hard to not notice a few stares from around the room. One of my colleagues in another course mentioned my short hair.... I  found myself explaining to her and felt so bad that she was embarrassed and realized how awkward I had been feeling about the continued thinning of my hair and the ravages to my facial features from the chemo despite the make-up.  I have gained a fair bit of bloat from the medicines I take to offset the effects of the chemo which creates its own set of problems.  Sara and I head back to the labs to finish off our work for the day when the meeting adjourns .  "I think it's time I consider purchasing a few hats before Tuesday Sara.... not really sure I want to stand out".  She looks over at me and knows that I am feeling very aware of my own awkwardness.  Do I wear a hat, scarf or continue to go without cover?  She has a few hats if I want them but assures me that I look OK.  I will try the hat or a light scarf until I can figure out this time what works for me.

My vision for the students is to create an experience that brings them into a collaborative environment where all of them are a part of an inclusive, cohesive group of students who positively challenge each other.  My recent experiences as a student have reminded me keenly of how important the role of professor is in keeping and setting the pace of the class and expecting professional respect and behaviours from all members of the class in a non-partisan fashion.  As a teacher amongst high school students, I was reminded to immediately address issues as they came up and to be an effective communicator in facilitating open communication within the peer group to solve personality issues and to bridge misunderstandings.... the soft skills of human interaction.  While it is not perfect, I do not subscribe to ignoring a problem or wishing it away.... it only causes hard feelings and unresolved issues..... and always someone being left out.  In my professional life, a teacher is a mentor, friendly and welcoming while maintaining a high level of professional attitudes and behaviours in keeping with a good, well respected manager in industry.  They are not afraid to address issues immediately and before they become problems.  They are willing to accommodate and foster success by careful observation and reflection. The year I spent at Western was one well spent.... and now.... I am ready to put into practice new skills.  Bring it!!

William has just recently discovered the magic of collect calls.  While we arranged to have him only contact us on Sunday nights, he decided to call last night.  Yes, I will pass on your message to your GF of three weeks and will again solicit a request to have her drop off a note and picture for the package I am sending his way for next week.  I remind him to stay focused as we end our call.  He seems to be taking things in a better stride this week.  

Today will be a packed day of working from home and polishing the first few weeks of lectures, notes and lab work.  It's good to be back.  I am dedicating this blog to all the hard-working teachers I know who strive for excellence with everything they do and for all the support from an excellent hard-working team of individuals I have the priviledge of being an integral member with.  Cheers to a most excellent year!!

Monday, August 26, 2013

..... my 12th wedding anniversary with Max....

..... had a few, unspoken emotional moments.  

I met Max 16 years ago through a mutual friend who lived four doors down from me and whose son called him Uncle Max.  Max was a fun loving whacky kind of guy who wore T-shirts with sayings like 'Dicks are for chicks' with the cereal box rabbit Trix dancing underneath.  I was a single Mom, bent on caring for my two young sons after a failed marriage (I could write volumes on my first marriage and how not to involve yourself with someone who is the complete opposite of yourself and whose only ambition is to have - no ambition....) and nowhere near interested in having a relationship again.....  Max was freshly out of a marriage himself and had recently begun dating which funny enough when Andrea mentioned it a few days before her son's party made me feel awkward?  Max was only just this quirky, fun loving 'Uncle' to her son and a friend, so why would I care what he did with his free time now that he was single?

... until Mr. 'Trix' popped up the back stairs of Andrea's house, slid a case of beer on the top landing and came over to give me a kiss on the cheek. That would have been fine, only he missed the cheek and caught the corner of my lip.  That was the moment in time that our worlds collided and everything I knew to be, was thrown out the window.  Max was no longer a friend.  We spent the afternoon at Andrea's son's fourth birthday party flirting like teenagers!!!!  Later he would walk the boys and myself home and ask to see me again.  Our first date came a few weeks later on December 17th.  My neighbour Beth came over to help me colour my mousy brown hair and to put on make-up.  I didn't spend any money on myself or my wardrobe so it was a reach to find something that didn't resemble motherhood or a working grunt.  I couldn't afford anything and Christmas was coming, so the only bras I had that fit at the time were the nursing bras.... (I still blush at Max's discovery of these contraptions and the perplexed look on his face)...  He took me to play pool at a downtown bar and after a few flirty games, we found a corner table in the far reaches of the restaurant.  Well I was nervous, it was a date after all and my waving hand gestures whipped the draft beer square into my lap completely soaking me through my jeans.  I stood up embarrassed and Max waved over the wait staff to clean up and order me a water.... which also joined the beer in my lap.  Yes, he has never ever let me forget that first date and wonderful that he remembered in the moment to buy a rose from the wandering vendor and present it to me.  It would be the first of many flowers....

Christmas of 1998 came a week later and Max headed out to his family for their celebrations but promptly showed up later in the evening to spend some time with the boys and myself. He would come to visit often and stay late just chatting on my living room futon.  He never seemed to care about what my house looked like (a typical eclectic arrangement of mis-matched inexpensive furniture) or really what I looked eclectic mix of second-hand clothing that didn't always fit well. New Year's Eve came and Max called to apologize that he had already booked and paid for tickets to an event at the Convention Centre but that he would call me later.  I knew instinctively that he had a date and could feel the awkwardness of the phone call.... hours later, he would call and ask to come and see me at 1 in the morning.  I agreed and he arrived an hour later, still dressed in his tuxedo, tie undone and still slung around his neck with that look in his eyes that made the world just disappear.  I fell in love with Max that night and all the other nights since.  

In January, after a particularly busy few days in the work week, I invited Max to come for dinner.  I insisted and would later regret the invite when my boys gave Max the hardest time ever.  I looked at a frustrated Max and let him know how sorry I was and that it was selfish of me to invite him over knowing that they might act up.  I told him to leave.  It was a moment in my life that was so pivotal and life changing.  I watched him walk out the door and my heart sank to its lowest moment.  I put my boys to bed that night.... quietly and without speaking to them and headed downstairs.  I pulled out the children's scrap books and began to fill the pages.  I understood that my children came first and would always come first with me.  I was OK to just be Mom and boys if that what was in the cards for me in my future..... and then the phone rang.  He started slowly to let me know that he had given a good deal of thought to our situation and that he really truly wanted to be their stepdad.  I was completely stunned.  Here was a man whose first diapering experience consisted of Mitchel painting his room with the contents of a packed diaper!!!  Was he nuts??!!!  Yes and so was I.  That was mid January, two months after the party and a month after our first date. 

In April that year, Mitchel was just two and William was five years old.  They would meet Max's Mom and Step Dad for the first time over Easter holidays.  It would become one of many family gatherings with this special blended family in traditions I was all too familiar with.  While Max's family is Dutch, mine is a blend of German and Heinz 57.  They treated my children like their own grandchildren and gave them memories that all children should have with loved ones.  

By August, Max had moved in with me and the boys and we were making a life together.  There were a few people who didn't feel we were being altogether smart in our decisions and by the end of August, our mutual friend Andrea would have plenty to say about her husband's friend Max and would be ruthless in telling me he would break my heart and would ruin my children's lives.  I sat in my living room listening to her callous words as she watched our children play together.  It would be the first time I would tell an invited guest to leave my home and never come back.  She could not possibly imagine the wound she left me with that day.  Beth would be the next 'friend' to be ushered out my door... she became petty and mean when Max became a part of my life and she no longer had me all to herself.  She too would say things that memory now has dulled and laid to rest.  There is something to be said about surrounding yourself with supportive and kind people.

November 1999 brought with it a cold winter afternoon complete with a request from a boss to work out in the back satellite dish enclosure to help our graphic employee Paul measure the dishes to be striped with graphic decals.  My head was pounding so hard that day with a pressure headache that I didn't think to question this ridiculous request.  A few minutes in to measuring the largest satellite dish, my ex sister-in-law shows up with the boys and hauling a tape deck.  Beck promptly hits play and the tune is one Max and I considered our own song by Ricky Martin "She's all I ever had".  With the boys presenting me with flowers, music playing.... head pounding....cameras flashing.... I still did not see the horse trotting towards me from behind the communication tower equipment shack.  Max was sitting atop a white horse trotting over the snow towards me wearing his Australian slicker and matching hat. It finally dawned on me that this was the moment I had been anticipating for months since we picked out a beautiful diamond ring at a People's Jewellery sale.  The tears drowned out the pounding headache and when he dismounted and went on one knee to ask me to be his wife I was cured!!!!  Headache gone, ring on and lots of smooches later.... my co-workers and friends trekked out of the building to congratulate us both.  Thank you to Beck, my  boss and work for making this wonderful moment possible with the boys!!!

My Max has been through so much and has given us the world with his kindness, laughter and sense of play.  He is a wonderful, loving husband who is there for me and has always been there for my boys and our daughter.  While life is not perfect, I cannot imagine my life without Max.  We have built a life together on our terms and what works for us.  Last night, I dressed and he took me out on our 12th wedding anniversary to a local restaurant.  We slowly walked over to Shoeless Joes with the intention of having a drink and just sharing time.  I was so tired and the yawning seemed endless.  The bartender kept eying me out of his peripheral when speaking with Max... somehow the make-up cannot hide the ravages of chemo when I am tired.... and smiled brightly when addressing me directly. We sat in a booth across from each other, gently holding each other's hands.  He is showing me pictures from the Fan Expo he went with the kids and Uncle Paul with earlier in the day in Toronto.  We finish a drink and a mini dessert and decide to walk home the long way.  We have many silent moments between us as we meander down the sidewalk.  He encircle each other around the waist and I lay my head on his shoulder.  I tell him that I hope for another 12 years and he looks forward, silent and I can see he is emotional.... I am trying to keep it light and force out a laugh... and then the ridiculous giggling starts.  God how I love you so much Max and am deeply grateful for our wonderful life.  

I hate cancer.... there, I said it...... and I hate that my family has to go through this again!!!  While we do not know how long we have together.... and none of us do, as Anna found out when she lost her love at such a young age, we have today.  We snuggled in and and wrapped around each other and do what married people do when they are still in love .... and then fell into a deep sleep.  This morning is quiet as the kids and Uncle Paul are asleep.  Max is on the computer getting ready for school and I am blogging and getting ready for school as well.  Today I am finally feeling somewhat normal!!  The darkened sky is peaceful and I will spend the day inside finishing the quilt I have been working on for Sarah.  Mitch and Uncle Paul will go to Stratford for most of the week and Miss Lydia will cycle down to get ready for school after a very awesome summer!!!

Note:  My ex husband Michael (father of the boys) met a woman in March of 2000 and married her in September of that year.  They would have their first and only child, a daughter Hope,  born in December of 2000.  They are still together today living in the greater Chatham area.  Michael has not seen his boys since July of 2009, for the exception of a well meaning girlfriend of William's who thought to take him for a visit earlier this year and who was shocked at how little he would he would have to do with him when they got there.  His mother discontinued sending cards to her grandsons months later and Aunt Beck, who lives a few blocks away has not been to visit since August 2009.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

..... a summer of friendship.....

Yesterday, one of my dearest friends Kelly dropped in for a visit on a day in which I felt so out of sorts after a continued and nagging malaise for days since the third chemo.  I tried not to complain about how I was feeling but her understanding nods and peaceful blue eyes patiently allowed me to vent.  I adore Kelly, and not because she let me vent's because we always end up connecting on a deeper, more spiritual level.  I have always felt a connection to Kelly and when I think of her.... I know how much I miss working in the same place... although it has been years, she was always the one I looked for when I just wanted to connect with someone.  She left to pursue a teaching career over a decade ago and I felt like I had lost my best friend.  I am so blessed to have her in my life and yesterday.... she pulled me out of my funk and made me feel better than I had in days.  I love you Kelly M!!!  Thank you for calling Barb and paying for a cleaning day for me... I really need the help when I start back to school.  Barb is out enjoying a much needed rest with her son out west and will return in September.... I am surrounded by amazing, strong, wonderful women!!!!  Congrats Kelly on achieving your goal of Yoga Instructor down in Costa Rica!!!!  So jealous!!  

Sarah Brown, lovely, beautiful.... soon to be mom of two who is at the point of struggling with a challenging pregnancy, a nearly three year old daughter and a busy work schedule!!  She is learning that Mom's are allowed to take time away to recharge batteries from energetic demanding kids... she works with a few dozen of them in her career!!  She is 'daughter', BFF and overall amazing wonderful, spectacular woman!!  Her best friend Tina is also a 'daughter' and friend of ours.  Two incredible women, I have known since they were impish 9-year olds, who will be going to school this fall at the college I am teaching at.... I sense a few fun lunches over the next semesters!!  I adore and love you always and forever!!

Sara, who has spent the summer in and out of my house working on projects and helping me to get ready for the upcoming school year.... I cannot thank you enough.... really, I can't.  You are such an amazing friend and colleague... a true sounding board and confidant through the best and worst days of the past 5 years as friends.  We worked hard at making our friendship truly special!!  I adore and love you to bits!!!

Elaine.... who is responsible for getting me to where I am as a graduate at Fanshawe and making it possible and easier for me to teach.  I am personally indebted to you for the rest of my life for not only being a good friend, but for being someone who is magically always there... your timing is extraordinary!!!  Yes... I will still bug you in the office at every chance I get because frankly, your office has moved only by one cubicle.... nice planning on your part!!!  Keep making me laugh because I adore you!!!  You are most definitely a gift to me in my life. xoxoxoxo

Mandi is a dear friend who lost her Mom to leukaemia when she was just 17 years old.  Mandi is an old soul in a youthful body who understood years ago in my first diagnosis what I needed..... she put me in touch with Wellspring.... only she didn't just have me call.... she drove me there and took me inside to meet the staff.  She knew that I would not find my way there on my own, likely due, mostly in part to the fact that I really didn't want to inconvenience anyone and that I really didn't think I needed support.  She was right.  That place and her insistence changed my life.  She started a dinner club for me with volunteer cooks for each and every chemo round starting on chemo day and for the 5 days that followed.... she called it Marita Meals.....  This time, she brings us a wonderful meal on chemo day on her own.  I cannot thank her enough for balancing her own family as a single parent and looking out for so many others besides myself!!!  I love you so very much!!! 

My sister Patricia and I text back and forth these days, sharing recipes and pics of our gardens and cooking ventures.  I miss you each and every day you left here after your visit with us.  I wish you lived closer to us and we could see you both often.... you have inspired me to eat better than I have been and to look at living each day filling the wish list!!!  I am still so awed by how much we have in common despite the years apart and yes, your daughter Chelsea is so right.... we came together at a great time for both of us.  We are wiser, more seasoned (careful with that one!!!), and happier in our respective lives and marriages.  Those years were well spent.  I love you always and forever and miss you more each day.  I hope to see you sooner than soon!!!  Tons and tons of love to you and Chelsea!!!

Ameeta is my son's East Indian Momma (EIM) and has an enormous heart for her friends and family.  She is quirky and fun and says the craziest things.... she is emotional and loves deeply.  She was there for William last Saturday as he got on the plane to start his new adventure and came complete with an improvised East Indian method for blessing William's journey.  I think he still has the tiny grains of rice tucked into his civilian jeans.... and the 'dots' to go along with them.  Thank you for being there for my family and being incredibly supportive!!  I love you this..........................much!!!! 

Pat is the mom of my daughter's best friend, friend to me and sister to Chris Hadfield... who knew??  She is a wonderful, kind, loving friend who has been so amazing to our daughter this summer.  Pat and her daughter are the biggest reason for the success of our daughter's amazing summer adventures with trips to their family cottage.  Max and Lydia were invited out to go to the cottage to water ski a few weeks back with Chris and the family.  He even had his picture taken with him.  Chris is one of my, if not, theeeee one person on this planet whom I would have wanted to have my picture with!!!  I am not a super star kinda girl but I love the tech geeks and adventurers of our world!!  Thank you for all your kindness and support Pat, love you girl!!

Kirsten is another Mom of a friend of my daughter,  who has become a friend of mine.  We speak from the heart about her mother's battle with a breast cancer diagnosis.  Kirsten was left at the tender age of 14 when her Mom succumbed to the disease.  It is cathartic for her to speak about an experience that has had a lifelong impact on her world and a way for me to see another side of the story.  We spoke for hours the other night in the quiet of the dimly lit living-room while our girls played upstairs.  It was good just sitting and chatting.  Her sense of humour, insight, life experiences and a passion for teaching are foundations for our friendship and will be for many years to come... at least that's the plan!! xoxoxo

This morning is my 12th Wedding Anniversary..... where did the time go?  My husband is my rock and my best friend, whom I adore endlessly.  He is excited this morning as he rises early, careful not to wake me as he moves around the bedroom getting ready to head out to Fan Expo in Toronto.  We had always wanted to make the trek out to this enormous convention, only we never have???  So, I announced earlier this week that we were all going to the convention and promptly printed off a schedule for today.  I will not be heading down the highway with my family because I still do not feel as well as I should,  so Lydia invited her friend Sami to take my place.  The two girls spent the day yesterday prepping their 'walking dead' costumes for today's events.  This morning, they appeared, white faced, black eyed and dressed in their home made costumes, complete with grass stains and dirt!!!  The two giggling girls dashed into the van to sit in the back seat ready to go.  Max steps up to me in the driveway and kisses me gently on the lips and wishes me a Happy Anniversary.  Mitchel comes up to kiss me on the cheek and Uncle Paul hugs me.  I stand in the driveway waving to my family.  It will be a quiet day for me today, puttering around and getting the house tidied on my own schedule.  This is the part that sucks about cancer but I know the family would not have gone had they not been told to go.  Cancer or no cancer, my family deserves to enjoy their summer and have memories they can share for years to come!!!  Apparently there is a Lego station at the convention...... yes, they will have a great time!!!!!  I am sitting in the comfort of our living-room while he sends pics throughout the morning of the sights!!!  Wish I could be there but glad I am not slowing you guys down!! 

Will called before 9 am... he is homesick and misses us.... and most notably his new girlfriend.  Boys just need to stay focused on the task and realize that time goes quicker that way.  Apparently he has athletes foot and is on a two day medical to get it sorted out.  I warn him not to towel off with the same towel he uses for his body... apparently they neglected to warn him that athletes foot can become jock itch.  Maybe they are hoping he'll learn the hard way.  He is aptly warned, signs off with Mom and lets me know that it is his last communication for another 4 weeks.  Oh thank Goodness they are taking away their phones!!!!  I will write you son, no worries.  Now go focus on getting your training done!!!

Today I am sweaty, uncomfortable and still somewhat bloated.... sigh.  The toxins are finally starting to wash out of the system and the neti pot I am using is taking care of what looks like the beginnings of a sinus infection.... I am rinsing the nose now three times a day.  I am using freshly cut lemons in a lemon tea detox today to help with the bowel....I can only take so much prune juice on ice!!!  Tomorrow, I will venture out and purchase some liquid chlorophyll to add to my repertoire of 'make me feel better' necessities.  I am enjoying many fresh fruits and vegetables including the lovely fresh leek and potato soup I made last night and the fresh greek salad.  The kids are really enjoying these meals and Mitchel respects the fact that I can still cook... like I would ever forget.  My sister inspired me to cook baked cauliflower au gratin last week and they devoured the meal.  Yes, veggies can make you happy AND healthy!!  Today is better than yesterday... tomorrow will be even better!!

I wish to dedicate this blog to all my loving family and friends, who through technology have made staying connected possible.  I am a part of the day with my family even though I am not there to participate!!!  Thank you to all the women who are such an important part of my life and whom I love dearly.  Thank you to Marleen and Scott for the well-timed anniversary card.  Glad you are enjoying your trip!!!  Life is for living and enjoying those moments!!!

Thursday, August 22, 2013

.....round 3 week 1

...... is well underway with me feeling under the weather.  The humidity is back and it is keeping me in the house working on the finer touches of my school lectures for the fall.  I am getting some sewing done when I am up to it and keeping busy moving around trying to keep the lethargic bowel moving.

With all the amazing and wonderful drugs around, you would think that any of them would have helped to move the bowel now that the chemo and other symptom reducing drugs have created this challenging issue.  Mother Nature has provided us with prunes.... yup, those shrivelled plums that when hydrated through boiling water make a magical elixir.  It is the only thing that works.  I choose to drink mine with ice water which makes it yummier... if that is at all possible.  You just get used to it.  

I have reduced many things in my diet these days like sugar and foods high in carbs... yes, even cereals have high carbs which apparently cancer just loves.  Sugar is one of those man derived products that has crept into almost all packaged foods in our grocery stores.  You would be stuffed past the brim if you had to eat a full stock of sugar cane just to get those few tablespoons that it would be reduced to in the refining process.  Just like orange juice and other refined and packaged products.  I learned through my research that if you walked around the outside aisle of a grocery store, you would get everything you ever needed to feed your family and cheaper.  The aisles are full of products you do not need.  We are cooking and making most everything from scratch, eating our own vegetables and now apples from our own garden.  My perennial plants are making room for decorative obelisks to grow beans, eggplant, zucchini, and cucumbers.  The tomatoes are producing so much goodness and are sliced fresh for sandwiches.  We grow our own fresh herbs in the garden and it pots.  What is amazing is how wonderful it all tastes.  The freezer will house the ripened tomatoes for making salsa but for now, we are making fresh salsa with fresh ingredients.  My friend Sara uses Stevia - an herbal sugar substitute which is gaining in popularity.  It is so hard to believe how many illnesses are caused by sugar and man-made sugar substitutes.  Keeping a low glycemic diet and reducing the sugars, including the corn sugars (super bad... just read how this is manufactured!!), getting exercise each day and eating less red meat and fresh fruits and vegetables will not only make you feel better but give you the necessary building blocks to assist your immune system.  Oooooopsi... just fell off the soap box!!

Monday I had chemo first thing in the morning.... it went OK.  The only thing I look forward to is getting through this round and getting in to the CT scan on the 3rd of September to see if things are going the way we anticipate.  With the nodes shrunk in the neck and an easier time of breathing, I am hopeful that the cancer is being destroyed.  Some research would say otherwise and my recent look on the internet through Preventive Diseases would indicate that there are other non-toxic treatments that when used in conjunction with chemo can effectively kill off the disease..... I am still reading and finding what might help me to heal.  I am learning a lot about chronic inflammation and infections that tax our immune system.  A taxed immune system cannot fight off a cancer and allows it to grow unchecked.  A healthy well-maintained immune system can recognize and destroy cancer cells.  As a young woman, I had chronic bronchitis and chronic sinusitis.... all likely side effects of smoking.  I am fortunate that I have reduced and eliminated these issues when I quit over 8 years ago.  The body doesn't forget what you do to it... so taking steps now to better your odds of a life well lived would be wise.

Chemo brain has me in a fog through Tuesday and other than the nurse visiting to give me my Neulasta shot, I am not entirely sure what exactly went down that day!!??  Hehehehe.  I do remember William calling me from boot camp to tell me of his first day.  Looks like his energy and enthusiasm have not waned and last night, he called me between fire-picket shifts to tell me about his latest adventures.  He cracks me up with the description of one particular activity which I am hesitant to post but know that it has the boys learning to  accept each other's physical appearance... make of this what you will but he found it particularly amusing since he is very comfortable in his own skin.  Team building means breaking down your reality and creating a team mentality that works!!  He is loving the experience of being there.  He is strong and resilient.  They will remove all communication devices this Friday and I will have to wait another month to hear from him... so now I will send him letters and pics in the mail.... yup, snail mail to the base!!!

Yesterday was Wednesday.... not a particularly wonderful day.  I couldn't lay down because of the reflux, despite taking the medication for it and my stomach was just ornery.  I decided to just sit and get some work done while taking breaks.  My mom called just to see if I was coming to their wine and cheese party at the retirement home today.  I said I would and I will, but I will not stay too long.  My Mom does OK but she does not handle my illness well at all.  I do not hear from her very often despite the fact that she lives 2 minutes away.  Her dementia is worsening with time but she is still able to function well and enjoy her life with the friends she has made in the home.  I have told my Mom to not worry about me and to just enjoy her life... I have other family and friends that have been an amazing support.  My brother should be visiting soon and he will bring my Dad out to see me!!!!  I can't wait to see my Dad again!!!!  I miss him so much!! 

I am really missing my sister Patricia... we text and we share pictures online but its not the same.  The kids miss her too!!!  My husband and her husband Alan have things in common and they were just getting to know each other.  I can't wait to see her again and of course my wonderful niece Chelsea and her Earl.  What a wonderful time we spent with each other.  I still feel bad though about the so-called-authentic-italian restaurant.  Next time Patricia, it will be authentic!!

Thursday - today Adam dropped by with a steel cabinet for our garage.  It needs a bit of work but it will be a great addition to storing our garage stuff - lots of room in it.  Thanks so much.  It is always great seeing you in your very busy schedule.  

Friday is a busy day that starts with a Fanshawe course at the college campus where Max and I are the only students.  We are learning to do an online collaborative course for students and moderators.  There is so much flexibility in this technology that I can find a way to still teach my course during snow days.  I remember a time 3 years ago when we had 5 snow days which set us back quite a bit.  This is a safe alternative!!  I met with the course coordinator and uploaded all of my course files which I have spent months developing for him to review and now I feel ready to start the semester.  Last night I am texting my son who has spent his first official week at boot camp.  We try to be as supportive as possible in this tough transistion which is difficult from a distance but well  worth the effort!!

Saturday..... well, I expected to feel better but well, not happening.  I am staying at home today with my stuffed up head and keeping cool in the house.  I have done a neti pot to reduce the stuffiness in my sinuses but think that I have an infection which has necessitated emailing my physician earlier this morning. I am on fever watch today and am taking my temperature twice per day starting from day 5 to day 10.  My bowel is starting to move albeit slowly with a twice a day regimen of prune juice and high fiber foods.  Yesterday evening, I did not eat the pizza but instead enjoyed a wonderful fresh made greek salad with peppers, tomatoes, cucumber and  feta cheese.  Yummy.  I will rest today in the cool of the house.  Tomorrow the family will head off to Toronto without me... it is Comic Con and it was always something Max and I wanted to do.... so he will take the family and leave me to rest at home.  This way I am not a worry.  We are celebrating our 12th anniversary when he comes home in the evening.

I wish to dedicate this blog entry to all the men and women serving in our armed service and to the wonderfully supportive friends and family they have while they focus on their training, missions and goals to keep us free.  Our youth of today have so many more distractions and challenges that we did not have in our own growing years.  Be strong and best of luck Will in attaining your hard earned goals in the weeks and months to come.  Love always, Mom

Sunday, August 18, 2013

...... getting prepared for round 3....

.... and getting as much done as possible in the days leading up to chemo tomorrow morning.  I am finishing a quilt this week, sewed a bag, went to the college to work, purchased some furniture for Max and Lydia, purchased school supplies, and picked apples from our apple tree to make apple sauce....

Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday were spent at the college getting things ready for the upcoming school year in the lab class.  It was an amazing feeling getting the soldering iron in my hand once again!!!  I haven't missed a beat and managed to solder the through hole and surface mount components with one minor issue which I quickly rectified.  I have neuropathy (nerve damage) in both hands and the tips of my toes because of the cancer and the treatments I am receiving.  It never went away with the first journey and I am fortunate that they are numb and not tingly.  The down side means I can get easily injured if I am not careful.  Soldering meant that I had to be ever so diligent to ensure I would not burn myself and to make sure I knew where my hands were at all times.  It felt good to be productive and making gains on the practical projects!!!  Both are done and working and now it is the paperwork to document everything that needs to be completed.

Thursday was hospital day..... yes, I made sure I parked the nose end in towards a large planter box with no parking spots on the other side.  Hard to believe how fast the past three weeks went after the accident.  I arrive at Clinic 3 kiosk to obtain my blood requisition prior to my appointment with the chemotherapy doctor and the pager unit, which I tucked into the front pocket of my jeans.  I have the same lab technician drawing blood and I ask her to draw blood from the vein in my wrist.  As much as I dislike having needles in this sensitive area, I liked it even less when she tapped into my largest vein causing a bubble to form in it making it impossible to have my chemo IV installed there in my last round.  As predicted, she jabbed me and had to move the needle around to get into the vein.... yup, hurt a lot.  I miss my regular lab tech who is currently on holidays.

I arrive back in front of Clinic three and sit beside an elderly couple.  She has had a lumpectomy with the same surgeon I had and is now waiting to see the chemotherapist.  She knows very little about her cancer and believes she is a Stage I diagnosis..... I remember being just as naive about my first diagnosis.  I suppose that part of us just wants to live life without sometimes clouding it with all the minutest of details..... details that come back to slap you upside the head and you wished you had paid more attention to.  It does help to bring someone with you to these appointments to ask the questions you had not thought about and to keep track of what is going on.  I find that I really do not want to discuss her or my diagnosis and move on to creating an invite on my 'Martha Stewart' iPad application.  I fill my days in between visits and appointments with things I need to get done.  That reminds me.... I deleted the addictive Candy Crush from my iPad..... biggest relief to rid myself of this ridiculous time waster.  I have moved on to create sewing projects that have more meaningful and rewarding outcomes.  I am finishing off a quilt for Sarah's daughter and it is gracing my dining room table.  The lady next to me drapes herself over my arm as if we have been friends forever while talking to an old friend she has spotted in line.  I smile politely and continue working.  I have finished the invitation to my colleagues for a BBQ before the school year starts.  I tether my iPhone to my iPad and send the file out.  Thankfully, my pager has beckoned me to my appointment.

I do not have to wait long for the doctor to arrive after the intake nurse comes and takes all my information down.  How is my appetite?  It improves the closer to the three week mark I get but then it will subside the day of chemo and for a number of days after.  No, I am not nauseated much but my bowel stops moving, I am bloated and simply uncomfortable.  This chemo journey has been easier than the last one and I am deeply grateful.  The chemo brain clears quicker and I am able to focus better after a few days of being in the cloud.  I am active and sleep when I am tired.  I am less tired now, have more energy and can breathe a little easier.  The lumps in my neck are now impossible to find.  The doctor palpates the neck, bloated belly and listens to my heart and breathing. Epirubicin is a drug known to cause heart damage in some patients and it can take years for it to present itself so they are always cautious to check to ensure they get a good strong rhythmic beat.  The lungs are clear.... the sound of rasping or bubbling is bad... and so far so good.  I thank this incredible doctor who not only holds a mechanical engineering degree but was also a military helicopter pilot and now a doctor!!  He has packed in three lifetimes in his early 40's.....   We shake hands and I head out, only to run into my medical Oncologist.  I am so happy to see him and let him know that the lumps in my neck have disappeared.  He asks permission to inspect my neck in the waiting room and I give him the go..... yes, there is no lumps that he can find in the neck.  His smile is broad and wishes me luck.  Time and a CT scan in early September will confirm how much of the cancer is remaining in the body. Thursday afternoon has me taking William out shopping for items necessary for boot camp.  The mall is virtually empty as we go to the stores we need to find running shoes and personal care items.  His new girlfriend is with us and she is lovely but is also young and in need of completing her education and finding a good career.  He believes he is in love....I believe he needs time to do his own life before contemplating setting down.  Sarah and Tina have brought their children to play in the pool this afternoon after a night out at the drive-in.... no one is listening and poor moms are running around like mad after their kids... Sarah has a few months to go before baby number 2 and she is clearly not enjoying her day.  Yes Sarah, we all have moments like these and are grateful that they are few and far between.... hugs and love.  Linda has also come to visit and has brought fresh veggie spring rolls with her... yummy!!  Busy day with wonderful friends.

Friday brings more company to visit and a busy day of running around before William leaves on his plane to St. Jean, Quebec and to 13 weeks of boot camp.  He is so excited to be going and we are excited for him.  Today we will pack all his items and make sure he has enough stuff and money to get him started on his new path.  We all go out for dinner at Swiss Chalet thanks to Debbie Cowie who has gifted us with dinner cards.  We invite Olivia (Will's girlfriend) to join us.  She is very humble and polite - I think she is not used to being spoiled and it makes her feel awkward like yesterday when I bought her a few items from the dollar store and gave her my hoop earrings.  We all sit and chat about stuff and after dinner, the little fellow from the table next to us has walked over to me to get my attention.....this happens a lot to me with children I do not know..... and I have had a few climb into my lap without hesitation.  Little Charlie is looking up at me and smiling while his parents call him back to the table.  They apologize for him and I look up at them and then smile at Charlie as he turns to go to his Mom.  She picks him up and he faces me and waves.  I blow him a kiss and wave back..... and then they are gone.  Its a magical moment.  I am not wearing my headscarf this evening and still, he did not hesitate to try and connect with me... life is strange sometimes.  When I go to the Alzheimer's ward, the elderly love to touch me and hold my hands.... I simply hold their hands right back and talk to them.  As a child, animals would come up to me and allow me to pet them including a fawn whose mother and my mother faced off across the clearing where their children were playing quietly.... we parted ways but not without looking back at each other.  When I am at peace with myself and quiet, these moments happen more and more....a great sign that the soul is quiet...  William and Olivia will spend the last waking hour of the evening with her family and I pick them up and bring them home to sleep.  I will be making breakfast for the group in the morning.

Saturday morning arrives early with me sitting bolt upright.... my alarm has failed to rouse me from sleep but my mind knows that at 6:50 am, I have lots to do before we leave for the flight out.  Max has decided to stay back at the house and judging by the welling eyes, he has made a wise choice.  I started to well up too.  I am left to take all the kids to the airport, including Olivia,  to see him off.
Will checks in and then we are off walking towards the Tim Hortons.  Ameeta and Peter have come to see Will off.  She calls herself his Indian Mom (West Indian) and we follow her instructions on how to bless William the Indian way.  We stick a red sticker on his forehead and touch his head as he bends to touch our feet to ask for blessings.  Ameeta takes her turn with Peter and then photos are taken.  William's new colleague and girlfriend are sitting next to us as we chat about what bootcamp was like when Peter and I were in.  The boys are too excited and are all smiles as they wave to us from the waiting room in the arrival/departure lounge.  There is a glass wall between us.  Will blows a kiss to Olivia and then turns with Paul to head to the plane terminal.  I am not teary, just really super relieved that we got him there in time to start his new adventure.    Will will spend the rest of the day texting me or calling me to tell me how things are going.  I can hear the chatter and excitement from the other fellows in the background.  Apparently he is on the 7th floor of the towering building that houses so much of their living quarters and other amenities they will be taking advantage of in their training.  Thirty years ago, I was housed with 35 other women in an H-hut (2 story barracks that form an H... ), today in St. Jean, he will be in his own room after cabbing it to base with his new buddies in a cab because they didn't want to wait for the shuttle.  Something tells me they will learn the military motto quickly of 'hurry up and wait'.  I am proud of you Will and as I have texted him... "remember all the wonderful moments and feelings when times get tough and go there for a few minutes to recharge and remember why you chose this life"...... he wrote back that he loves me.... letting go.... hard....    In the early evening, Lydia and I went to check out some furniture in a storage unit.  She chose two blue vinyl/oak chairs and a round table for her room and Max picked up another computer desk for me and an office chair.  School is coming soon!!!

This morning I got a call at 5:20 on my cell phone.... "hey mom, I am up and waiting to line up for breakfast!!!"  This is so cool and I am having fun"....... wondering just when the shoe will drop and he figures it out.... oh well..... I am there for you buddy!!!  Mom loves you.  Now I will spend my day trying to get everything on my want to do list, done.... tomorrow is chemo day starting at 8:30 am.

I wish to dedicate this blog entry to my son Will and his brother Mitch.  They will miss each other so much... Mitchel is bummed out... too many people leaving his life this week... first his girlfriend Sara and now his best friend and brother Will.  Sending love to both my boys as they continue in their life path's looking for their own happiness.  Looking forward to seeing you at graduation Will.  Love forever and always, Mom.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

....... round 2 week 3

..... is going fast now that I am feeling so much better than I have in months.  I feel the need to get so much done before chemo round 3 on Monday.  This week has been split up between running Will around to buy his necessities before going to boot camp on Saturday, sewing a few projects and working at the college to get all the soldering projects completed before start of semester.  Very productive without trying to wear myself out.

I am taking eye drops this week for eyes that are getting infected from the sinuses that threaten to break out into a full blown infection if I am not careful.  I do not like taking medication if I do not have to but at this point, I cannot risk any infection which is why my family is camping for a few days and I am at home taking care of the pets and working at the college.  I feel like I am missing out  and Max knows this as he sends pictures of their far, they have water skied with Chris Hadfield (astronaut) and gone camping without me because of risk of infection as a result of bug bites.  The mosquitos are vile this year with the cooler wet weather.  West Nile is once again in our area, so after the sun goes down, I must head in.  My friend Pat has given me a number of natural products which work exceptionally well to reduce the swelling and prevent scratching if I do get the occasional bite.  Magical elixirs!!

This summer has been the absolute worst for weather.... there were only two weeks this summer that the heat reached into the high 30's and then, just as quickly as it came.... the heat disappeared and the fall like weather continued.  Ten years ago today, there was the historic blackout in North Western Canada and the States which took 10,000.000 Canadians and about three times that number affected south of the border.  Three days of quiet, dark nights when you could see an astonishing number of stars in the night sky without the constant interference from the city lights.  What a wonderful time spent with family and marveling how little we missed the TV during those days.  I worked in TV at the time and we still put on a show regardless of who could or would see it.  We ran on generator to operate the essentials of broadcasting and lighting.  I remember the sweltering heat in an old building without air conditioning.  One of my co-workers knew about a hidden door behind the staging in the old studio and opened it up to get air circulating in the building.  We continued to use the back up generator as did other major businesses who had them, in order to reduce the stress and demands when the system came back online.  My youngest was only 1 year old at that time. We lived in an old house which had poor air circulation at the best of times.  Before the outage, I had installed an inline fan, used in farm applications into the attic opening and put a window air conditioner in the opposite end of the house.  I could run both simultaneously- the fan would draw the cool air up into the upstairs taking the ambient temperature from a balmy 103 degrees to a cool 78 degrees in a matter of 30 minutes.  The boys discovered that the draw of the fan was such that they would stand underneath it and release toilet paper and whatever else the fan would draw up into the powerful updraft of the rotating blades.  Max would later discover the items of deployment when he had to climb into the attic one day to remove some insulation and check for mice.  That summer of the blackout, we were sleeping on the living room floor as the temperature upstairs had become unbearable without the fan.  The evenings were spent out on the porch chatting with neighbors and anyone else that walked by..... the quiet and the peacefulness of three nights without power had enough of an impact that we would leave the lights off for nights after that.

I headed out to the college this morning packed with a lunch and all the necessary components to get our projects completed today.  On my way in from the parking lot, I sang out good morning to the parking attendant removing the coin box from the pay parking lot.  I looked at his face closely when I recognized his voice.  "Mike?"  "Hello Marita!!"  Well, my goodness, I haven't seen Mike in about 7 years since we moved from our old neighborhood.  "it's not the same there without you", he states and then proceeds to let me know that he has been following me on the news reports over the years.  This morning I have worn a headscarf to keep my head warm from the cool morning breeze and I announce to him that I am once again in the journey.  He wipes tears from his eyes and apologizes.  Yes Mike, I miss you too and thank you for your kind words of support and offer of help....I have been blessed with many phenomenal neighbors and he makes me realize that my current neighbor issues with the bully across the street are totally unimportant in the big scheme of things.  The old neighborhood is not the same... my house is now a rental with the barest remnants of a garden in contrast to a beautiful well manicured garden when it was mine.  I used to take care of all my elderly neighbor's needs in gardening and lawn maintenance....most of them have passed away now or moved on.  I used to be the lady the neighborhood kids would go to whenever they needed help.... rescuing baby ducks and relocating them into the coves with the mommy duck flying overhead and within eyesight of the 10 babies jumping up and down in the recycle box from my porch, bandaging little cuts and running a wounded child to emerge with a traumatized mother, playing one-on-one basketball with the Native kids who threw rocks at my house (long but good story), canning vegetables with my neighbor and long-time friend Brenda....twelve years of memories and great neighbor friends.  My neighborhood here is great too and we have many close friends here as well.  Part of me just wishes the nasty neighbors across the street would just move away.

The past few days have been spent at the college getting ready for the new semester with new electronics projects.  I always go through everything to refresh myself with what the students might experience along the way and how to troubleshoot their projects as they build them.  This year, it is Sara and myself building multiple projects to come up with the best layout.  I love working in the lab and we worked continually with a very short lunch so we could get back to the task at hand.  I have almost everything in place.... just now getting all the lecture notes started.  I am getting really excited and can't wait to get back into the classroom!!!  Sara is amazing and we enjoyed chatting and singing along to the radio while steadily working away.

I left the college and headed to Sarah's house to have a quick bite of dinner and to see Miss Payton.  Wow, she is just growing in leaps and bounds as she came to greet me at the door.  Trust me to completely rial her up within minutes.  Peals of laughter and tickles as she turns into that 3 year old that needs a quick time out... testing boundaries and trying to assert herself.  I have to smile but wary as to not encourage her.  Mommy Sarah is tired these days as she is now into her third trimester.  Baby is growing fast.  Sarah needs a break and calls her mother-in-law to see if she will take her.  She will and after supper, Sarah drops her off while I wash the supper dishes.  I head off home to take the dogs out.  Sarah picks up Chai Lattes on her way to my house.  We have decided to work on finishing the quilt we started before she got pregnant.  I have two sewing machines, so while she worked away at her quilt, I made myself a bag and broke two needles in the process!!!!  I am out of needles so now I assist Sarah in getting her quilt done.

William has called on his way over to the house.  The moving truck will be at his place tomorrow afternoon to pack up his belongings and to put them in storage until he finishes his training.  Sarah has brought a gift for Will.  She had her mother-in-law engrave two dog-tags with his name and military trade on them and a keychain clip.  Really thoughtful and timely gifts.  William stays for an hour and then wraps himself around her before leaving and tells her how much he loves her.  She has always been a part of his life all these years since he was 7 months old.... and now Sarah stares up at him and wishes him good luck.  She loves him like one of her own.  Ironically, she shares the same last name as him. They hug again and he heads out to go back home to get ready for tomorrow.  I try not to be emotional when Sarah and I discuss him leaving.....I have caught myself being tearful a number of times over the past few weeks.  I know he will be fine, I will miss him dearly.... he is not my baby anymore.

I should probably head up to bed.... morning will be here soon and my appointment with the lab vampire and oncologist.  I will remember to park somewhere safer? in the hospital parking lot.  I will dedicate this blog entry to all good neighbors.... the ones who care and respect each other.  The ones who lend a hand, advice and friendship in the true sense of the word.  Thank you to Sue and John, Mitch and Brenda, Kevin and Ruth, Marg, Ian and Laura, Lynda and Murray for being really good neighbor friends!!  Sending out love and hugs to each of you and to those neighbors I left behind from the old neighborhood. xoxo

Sunday, August 11, 2013

......round 2 week 2

 ..... and I am feeling better than last week by a long shot.  Earlier in the week, nurse Trevor came over to check my blood pressure.  We were both surprised and happy to note that the high pressure has dropped significantly!!  Another great sign that the lesions are shrinking!!  The lesion in my neck that was easily found and could be palpated above the clavicle is now small enough that I have to actually search for it.  My breathing is much easier and I am not gasping for breath unless I exert myself too hard.  My energy level is improving steadily!!  Where my neck used to be really puffy and swollen looking has also begun to shrink.  This would be a result of the displacement of tissue and structure under the clavicle and into the chest wall from the

I have not had to take a nap in a few days now and I am sleeping well most nights.  My neck pain used to keep me up throughout the night but I have not had to contend with that for a few weeks now.  I am at the end of the second week of round 2 of the chemo cocktail which seems to be working.  The first day back to teaching will also be the day I get my CT scan to confirm this.  Once confirmed, I will be scheduled to complete another 3 rounds of chemo to complete the 6 rounds recommended.  This will take me half-way into the school semester. I am looking forward to starting the school year and test driving the new curriculum I have spent months developing.  The incoming president of the college is a retired military soldier who was in command of the Canadian Army and I couldn't be more excited!!!  

Speaking of the military, William was officially inducted into the armed forces Artillery on Thursday 8th August in the morning. He slept over the night before and Max provided him with a shirt and tie for this momentous occasion.  We left the house early and headed downtown to park at the Citi Center (was Galleria) to avoid traffic and so we didn't feel so rushed.  We had time upon our early arrival to  seek out a local Tim's to grab a coffee and to sit around and chat.  I am sitting outside the office towers on the stone surrounding one of many city mini-gardens and gaze into the face of my 19 year old son.  Where did the time go?  He is tall and trim with a quick easy smile and a memorable laugh.... I catch myself memorizing every inch of his face and watching him as he expresses his excitement.  This is truly the career choice for him and he knows it.  He needs the structure the military will provide him and the goals and directions they offer.  We finish our coffees and Max clasps my hand as we walk across the street to head back to the recruiting offices.  Ah, the 'hurry up and wait' is still very much alive in the military as we wait almost an hour past the start time indicated on the roster of morning events. 

When I left the forces in 1986, they were just splitting apart the tri-service back into its three distinctive roles of Air, Land and Sea which would be reflected in the change of uniform to distinguish each of them.  William will be army and will wear the greens including the jumpsuit and combat boots.  The recruiting center is well represented by all three.  Will and the other four candidates are sequestered in another room completing all of their final paperwork.  Today will mark the first day of their career as this induction (swearing on the bible) will seal their commitment to Canada and the Queen who heads the commonwealth of which we are a member of.  Included in his package is a leave pass indicating that he is on leave for the 9 days prior to his arrival at St. Jean, Quebec where his training will take place.  I trained at Cornwallis in the early 80's where all non-commissioned officers trained. We are shown a video while we wait.  It seems that other than the technology in the classrooms, much has not changed, unless of course you take into account the 13 weeks as opposed to our 10 weeks of training.  The Captain makes his entrance into the room and begins the ceremony by relaying a very funny story.  He has that look of military when he scans the room.... you know he can be merciless in the field but a gentleman in the mess hall.  He tells the recruits that they need not consider quitting even though there will be days they will want to.... knowing my son and myself.... that is clearly not an option and he is stubborn enough and driven enough to overcome the challenges that will come his way.  There will be times he will question his decision but we know that this is what will take him to his goals of being a part of a greater whole.  Saturday we will celebrate with family and friends in a send off to him.

The time has come to get up, swear the oath and accept the position offered.  His broad smile reflects his excitement.  I catch an emotion before it threatens to take over.... my son will be leaving in a week and until his graduation, I will not get to see him.  I know how much I will miss him and he knows I have his back and will support him.  This week, we will shop for his necessities to get him started in his new career. We leave after the ceremony and head out for an early lunch in a favorite eatery.  The men order beers and we chat about the exciting new adventures and stories he will have to share when he comes to visit at Christmas break.  I am so proud of you Will.

Miss Lydia wounded herself this week with the cat.  She grabbed him and he sunk a nail into the base of her thumb.  She took care of the wound without letting us know and when it began to swell and get hot, she came to see me.  We soaked it in hot salt/soapy  water to try and draw the poisons out of her hand but after an hour, it was time to take her to the hospital.  The bacterial infection was bad enough that it could have, if left unchecked, caused a septic infection.  She is healing slowly but nicely with a combination antibiotic.  The swelling is still in the tissue but is nowhere near what it was.  I believe they call this 'cat scratch fever'?  Either way, an outdoor cat, when it scratches you  can cause unbelievable infections.

Yesterday (10 August) we had Williams send off party complete with family and friends to celebrate this momentous occasion.  All in all, everyone had a really great time.  It is always wonderful enjoying life's moments with people you truly love and care about and we have been very fortunate to have been graced with many loving family members and friends in our life's journey.  Thank you to everyone who came to extend best wishes to our son.

I wish to dedicate this blog entry to the many friends that have sent cards and messages our way.  To Mauricia for dropping in for a quick visit and a coffee yesterday - thank you so much!!  To Elaine who dropped in with supper on Thursday night, thank you for your thoughtfulness and your wonderful company.  To my husband who has been steadily reducing the 'honey-do' list - thank you so much, you are doing an amazing job.  It was great spending the day alone with you yesterday and just hanging out.  Thank you to the expert repairs to my wonderful Cruze by Oakridge Ford!!!  I have my baby back!!!!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

....... living life on your own terms......

...... means being able to have the courage to find your own happiness in a world where you still need to make an income to pay your bills.  Last year, my income was good.... more than enough to get by on and when I knew I was heading back to school, I simply banked a small lump sum in a high interest account and left it there.  This year, I needed the money to get us through until I could find a position and ended up being hired to do curriculum design during the summer months and pulled from the lump sum account.  I am near the bottom of the barrel and just in time for the beginning of the teaching season.... a season of joy for me. 

If there is anything I love to do more than teaching, its spending my summer hanging laundry out to dry, puttering in my vegetable garden, enjoying the days filled with kids in the pool and friends in the evenings and working on my computer in a leisurely fashion.  I learned a lot in my first diagnosis and now into my second one..... life is entirely too short to be wasting it in a J.O.B.  My vocation has brought me an incredible amount of joy, encouraged the passion to continue to educate myself and to seek out what makes my soul soar.  I would be considered lucky by most but few would venture to go down the same path to get to the same conclusion. There is nothing like becoming mortal to sharpen the focus on what is ultimately the most important items on your bucket list of things to do.  It rarely is about the money... only what money can bring you and often it is not the stuff but the feeling you get when you are doing what you love to do.  I think about all those exotic places across the world where we all seem to want to travel to and I wonder what the residents of those places think about the lure of our country... the one we are always trying to flee to capture an 'adventure'?  My relatives always wanted to see Niagara Falls and as a matter of fact... we often had to travel distances to show them this seventh wonder of the world.... how many people living here in Ontario have actually made the trek to see a gazillion tons of water flowing endlessly over the precipice?  When we first arrived in Canada in the 60's after immigrating, my Dad promised that he would visit his newly adoptive country and the one located directly south of us.  They had become tourists in their own native lands and now were seasoned Trekkers in this new land. We traipsed over glaciers that no longer exist today, hiked up mountains, swam in the ocean, camped in the woods, ate lobster from a fishmonger, visited every military forte and museum possible and rode hundred year old tortoises.  I still love to travel but do not do nearly the amount we did when I was growing up... I guess my point is to live within your means and to find those things to do that make YOU happy.  Your happiness is not defined in the glossy pages of a tourist brochure unless that is what your soul needs to fill your emotional and physical well being.  My sister is well travelled and it fills her soul to travel with her husband to places even I cannot pronounce and perhaps when my immediate bucket list is filled... I will someday make it to Italy.... where I can eat truly authentic food and explore the birthplace of our father's side of the family while sitting across from them. Most people plan on traveling when they retire but most people will retire later in life.  They are enjoying their travels when they are young enough to enjoy pain free travel!!!  My friends Sandra and Joel travel with their kids quite a bit and their adventures are awesome.  Next year, I want to take the kids to the East Coast to smell the briny air, swim in the rolling breakers, eat fresh lobsters and do some sightseeing in our own country.....for now.

Max is enjoying his time off and getting ready for school.  We are both taking a class together near the end of the month to learn how to post our teaching videos online for our students.  Next week I will be doing a video to teach the students how to solder correctly and it will become part of their educational library.  If there is a way to incorporate technology into their tool box, I will find a way!!  In the next few weeks, I will be opening up a student blog for them to use as a guideline for their studies.

Yesterday, I finished 4 out of 5 panels for the gazebo.... the sunlight coming through the ultra-violet filtered sunroof does not discourage the heat created by the rays that come through.  It looks like an exotic middle eastern tent now... I love being able to create a project with a practical application... I just have to cover all the pillows with the same fabric to give it a more cohesive look.  I have to be very careful  I do not poke myself with any needles.  It really is looking nice... I will post pictures.  There are other projects I am working on but I am only doing one at a time these days. 

My energy is coming up in this second week.  The hair loss is minimal but still coming out, the eyes are hollow and the skin without makeup looks tawny... I do not look like myself but it is after all, temporary.  I will be applying for occasional teaching with the local school board now that I have a few Additional Qualifications and in the new year when I am done teaching at the college.  I will be too busy teaching at my favorite school!!  I am looking forward to getting back into the classroom.

Thank you to Mary who came for breakfast this morning!!!  It is always great seeing you and I look forward to seeing you again soon.  You are inspiring and wonderful!!

To Ameeta, who lost her uncle to Leukemia and had to go out of town to attend the funeral.... your aged puppy was good and she stayed by my side most of the time you were gone.  She is sweet and hobbled around the house wearing her diaper.  I only have to look under my chair to locate this miniature little lady, who by the way eats like a champion!!!  The cat stopped hissing this morning and is laying nicely on my side of the bed.  I myself am contemplating a nap in the warmth of the afternoon now that the storm passed quickly this morning.

I am dedicating my blog entry to all of you brave enough to let go of old worn out notions and to pursue your passions big or small..... to change the course of your life into a positive direction doing things that fill your soul.  Create your own job, plan a trip, take unpaid leave (if you can) to extend a vacation, buy the house you wanted, go camping, go fishing, go for a nap, take a course, take more courses, sing, dance, build a castle, build a dream and then..... follow your dreams and realize your future.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

..... round 2 week 1......

..... and I feel gross!!!  I knew this was coming but thought I had it under control and now... I am uncomfortable.  The medication that you are given to offset the side-effects of the treatments have an insidious side effect of their own.... the bowel completely stops moving.  I was taken to emerge when this happened in my first journey, only to find out that it was so compacted, it would take me weeks to get relief despite all the things I had tried.  Right now, I can barely eat anything without feeling full within minutes of eating and the belly is bloated beyond belief.  This has stopped the passing of the toxic chemo from clearing out of my system for days hence making me feel worse than I needed to.  I will be on a liquid diet for days to resolve this issue and to avoid any other complications. Yay me!!

I am forgetful these days so I make sure I put everything into my iPhone.  I am relieved that the two courses I took this summer are completed.  I received a 94% in Special Education and 92% in Green Industries.  I now think I should just lay low on the courses until next year...LOL.

It was a busy week with friends... Tuesday Colleen came to visit bearing a gift for Max and soup for us.  Wednesday, I got to see Sarah's baby in the ultrasound suite.  Shahid and Annarita visited with me in the afternoon.... later I would have to spring my dog from the pound when the gate was left open.  Thursday Adam came to give me a hand with a TV and to chow down for breakfast.  Yesterday, I picked up Sharm from his home and brought him back for brunch on the deck... today.... I will see my younger sister after 14 years!!!  I am praying I feel better by the time she arrives.  She and her husband have been so ill that they almost did not make the trip.

It poured overnight and this morning the sun has peeked into a cloudless blue yonder for as far as the eyes can see.  The pool is cold but should warm nicely once we get the pool up and running with the sun shining on the solar pad.  It feels a bit like fall out there.  I have to keep moving today to keep my system moving after taking what amounts to a lot of digestion aids with yogurt for breakfast... almost afraid to eat anything at this point.  I am excited but not nervous, surprisingly enough.  I will meet her and get to know her at whatever pace this gathering takes... I am just so humbled that they are taking the journey to see each of us.

.....  my sister knocks on the door around 10:30 Saturday morning and I open the door to this beautiful woman.  She steps in and I give her a hug.  I can tell she is nervous as she prompts her husband to get into the house.  Patricia extends her hand out to Max who has come down the hallways and introduces herself.  He smiles.  Max knows how long we have all waited for this moment and he takes it all in while the kids make their way down the stairs.  Lydia is next as Al comes through the front door and he gives me a hug before turning to shake Max's hand.  Lydia smiles and says hello.  We all make our way out to the back deck to socialize after coffees are poured.  Patricia has brought gifts for myself and the children and bottles of wine and beer for the adults.  I am completely stunned by the generosity, love and thoughtfulness put into each and every gift.  She has acurately selected something for each of us that she knew would be appropriate and appreciated.  William will be arriving later in the evening to meet with Patricia and Alan and he too would feel completely spoiled by their generosity.  

Patricia is a very thrifty and smart shopper and lets me in on her tips for saving money... she has so much to say and I am completely engrossed in every word.  She is lovely, animated, intelligent and full of life as she tells us her life's adventures.  She and Alan have been together 28 years and this is their anniversary today.... where did the time go???  They are world travellers with such ability to convey their adventures so as to inspire us to want to get on a plane and just go somewhere.  They have both worked so incredibly hard, raised their children and have been truly remarkable in their humble beginnings to etch out a life and make it their own.  They were just kids when they got married and now before me are two of the most interesting and amazing grown up people I have ever met!!!!  My in-laws would fall deeply in love with these two!!  

We have moments in the day where it is just the two of us and the conversation is frank and honest.  While there may be a 14 year gap in our history, I believe, as I am sure she does, that it was necessary for us to gain our bearings and live our lives on our terms.  I consider myself rather naive and vulnerable when it comes to our parents and while I always thought that one day they may actually love me for who I was/am, she was smart enough to stop trying.  We agree that while there is a lot of water under the bridge... that is where it will stay.... today is a new day and a new opportunity.  I can't keep my eyes off of her... she is so amazing!!!!!  Our neighbors Brenda and Mitch join us after supper on the back deck and are amazed by how much we look and sound alike.  They love hearing her stories and laugh along. William joins us on the deck and grins broadly when Patricia rises to greet him.  They hug and then he reaches over to hug Alan.  The chill in the air prompts Max to start a fire in our fire pit and the party gathers around for another drink.  Our evening ends with me dragging my exhausted butt upstairs and Lydia tucking me in.  I made it through the day without a nap!!

Sarah arrives at 10:30 Sunday morning with Miss Payton.  She wants to meet my sister.   Sarah is my best friend and 'daughter' all rolled into one and her burgening belly holds Payton's sister-to-be.  They have brought colorful flowers to welcome Patricia to London.  I am hemming panels in the family room for the Gazebo and am not sure when my sister and Alan will be arriving.  Sarah cannot stay long and I know she will be disappointed if she misses Patricia so I offer to feed them lunch.  I made a lovely potatoe leak clam chowder and I heat up lunch for them and invite Kevin next door to sit with us  Sarah really has to go and we walk out to the front of the house just as Patricia and Alan pull in.  Sarah smiles and they greet with a hug.  We all head into the house so miss Payton can give them the flowers she brought for them.  How did I get this lucky??  We all walk Sarah and Miss Payton to the door and hugs and byes later I turn to the kitchen where Patricia is preparing a fruit lunch.  OMG there is huge amount of wonderful fruit and berries and we all dig in and begin day 2 of our wonderful visit.  

I am not one to sit and neither is Patricia so we get going for a walk with the dogs in the early afternoon around the neigborhood after meeting up with some of our neighbors.  We are very lucky to be living in a place that is more than just a is our life, filled with people we care deeply for and whose time is valuable to us.  We have a beautiful property we love living on and making ours through the gardens and landscaping.  Patricia notes all the plants in our garden that she cannot grow because of the bitterly cold winters where she lives.  We live in a zone 5 and they are in a zone 7/8, making it impossible to grow the plants we have come to enjoy.  We meander through the neighborhoods that have front yard sprawls and large backyards....something that is rare to find in new builds.  She is astonished at the distance between the houses and the many gardens hosting the summer blooms.  Patricia is fearless and friendly with a lady who is kneeling in her front garden bed.  The lady comes to chat and is easily engaged in Patricia's knowledge of the many plantings.....ah, a favorite hobby we share and have a great deal of passion for.  I watch and listen to the conversation, add a few bits of my own.... I am just enjoying being with this incredible human being!!!!

Dinner time brings the entire family together as we make our way out to Dolchetto's Italian restaurant to celebrate our visit and our Anniversaries.  Wine, good food (some not so authentic - Patricia notes as she has eaten in both Italy and Venice) and amazing company.  Max and Patricia get a chance to chat while Alan has the boys with him.  Miss Lydia is cuddled up to me - she is dressed so beautifully and is sporting the new coach purse she has been gifted by Patricia.  A few pictures are taken at the table.... I am not big into my own picture being taken... my face is getting grayer, my hair is thin and I am not, in my estimation, looking quite right in the eyes.  This is our treat and I am so happy to be able to host my family in a nice restaurant.  After dinner, we take the kids to get ice-cream and we grab an ice coffee at the local Tim's within walking distance of the restaurant.  The evening has become very chilly for this time of year.  Although Patrica and Alan swam in the afternoon with Lydia yesterday.... the weather has been incredibly poor this year and swimming is not on the roster anytime soon.

We finish off our last evening with the kids gathered around on the floor as Patricia and Alan speak of their time in Europe and their insight is enlightening.  I know we have to wrap up soon as she gazes at her watch... 5 am comes early.... I get the children up to say their good-byes as I hover in the background.  There are lots of hugs and love to go around.  I will miss you both.  You are the nicest people anyone could ever meet and I am honored that you are my family.  Safe journey....I try not to tear up but their smiles and quick exit have us standing in the door smiling and waving as they head off into the darkness towards their hotel.   I love you.

Lydia and I made homemade cards of thanks to Patricia for her wonderful gifts and her time.....we will remember this visit for the rest of our lives... The pic on my card is of my younger, very blonde sister and myself at 'Reptile Gardens' in the States..... xoxoxoxoxo