Friday, November 30, 2007

Power of the Belly

I've heard a lot of pregnant women complain about people touching their belly and I must admit that I myself have marveled at the audacity at some people but I have to say that I feel differently now that I am here and it is happening. I think it's wonderful. After having traveled and lived in other countries around the world I have witnessed time and time again how socially isolated we are in North America. We are protective of our personal space to the point of compulsion and it always makes me feel a little sad. There was a part of me that loved standing shoulder to shoulder with someone on the bus in Korea, feeling the warmth of their body and knowing that the other person wasn't the least bit uncomfortable. I've seen people here calculate, methodically, how to best separate themselves from the other passengers on a train or a bus. Why? What have we gained by having no contact with strangers, no human intersections beyond those we seek out?

A pregnant belly breaks through all those barriers and social rules and penetrates the invisible social bubble that we all live under. The idea that the baby is coming into a world where complete strangers want to look at it and touch it and care for it brings me comfort because that's exactly how it should be. Babies should be welcomed into a community that extends beyond their immediate family and loved and cared for by the village, so to speak.

When people, even strangers, touch my tummy it feels nice. Their hand is warm and they are almost always smiling...waiting to feel her move. And when they do they are excited and happy and I feel like I'm a part of something bigger. I find it amazing that babies and more specifically, the baby in my tummy, has the incredibly powerful ability to break down social barriers, make friends out of strangers and connect people in time who otherwise would have walked right past each other.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Reasons Why Leaving Work Won't be So Bad #4...

After watching my colleagues routinely throw out paper cups and envelopes rather than recycling them I volunteered at the last office meeting to develop some recycling guidelines so everyone would know what they could and couldn't recycle. The intent was also to give a little pep-talk on living green in the workplace...less printing, using go-cups and basically reducing waste.

This morning my CEO asked me to print out one copy of my green guidelines for each employee. Instead of say, emailing it. Jesus Christ.

Thursday, November 22, 2007


I am taking a prenatal yoga class and I have really been enjoying it (it probably doesn't hurt that the yoga studio is located right above a Dairy Queen). I've taken yoga before and I always liked the way it made me feel and the opportunity to take some time just for myself. The same is true for this class and if anything I've enjoyed it even more being pregnant. It's very peaceful and at the end I not only feel relaxed and calm but I also feel like I got a decent workout. My teacher, Carolyn, is really sweet and has avoided any of the fluffier yogi philosophy that has always bugged me about yoga. That is, until tonight.

I am not a Doctor, nor do I claim to know and understand everything about the human body. But I do have a degree in Neuroscience and I can say after working on many brains that there are certain things I am absolutely certain of. Like that the lungs do not operate on the same crossed neural pathways as say, the eyes. And that despite the "thousands of years of yogi studies", breathing through one nostril at a time will not balance the brain. Nothing can balance the brain...because it doesn't need to be balanced. It's hard for me to sit and relax and breathe while someone is spewing absolute garbage. Tell me it clears the nasal passages and forces you to concentrate on your breath. Tell me that stretching the ligaments and muscles of the neck can alleviate pressure and tightness and lessen headaches. But please, do not tell me that breathing predominantly through one nostril can cause psychosis and schizophrenia and that we need to balance our breathing so that each lung (which in case nobody notices, DO NOT function independently) is equally innervated and cleansed. Cleansed of what? Air? And what the hell has innervation got to do with breathing in the first place?

I worked very hard tonight to stay calm and not let this get to me. I want to take the good away from this class and not worry myself over the silly little things...let people believe what they want right? My problem is that when something is a matter of opinion, say the existence of God, I'm far more content to have a debate about it but still respect that at the end of the day either one of us could be wrong. But this? This is not a matter of opinion. This was just craziness masking itself as science and that is one of my biggest pet peeves...the same people who turn away from science seem to have no problem using it to disguise and validate their nutty ideas.

And now I am here, unraveling all the calmness I worked so hard to achieve.

Namaste and good night.

And we rest...

This week's breakthrough in stem cell research was a fascinating one for me. It brought with is a spiritual experience (if you could call it that) that made me feel peaceful and even more secure in my beliefs about the world and the existence of God. As a scientist you have to accept that there are things we do not yet understand and that cannot be explained. Religious people will often insert God is this knowledge gap and call it evidence of a higher power. Atheists merely acknowledge there is still more to learn and continue to look for the answers.

Pluripotency (the ability to become any kind of cell) has always intrigued me. Knowing that life begins with two cells joining together and believing that as magical as it is it does not require supernatural interjection, leads one to conclude that all cells at some point in their life must be stem cells. If this weren't the case it would mean that somehow, two cells that came from the same parent cells would have had to have become fundamentally different in their structure. It just never made sense.

This week two separate groups of scientists confirmed that by turning on a specific (actually two distinct but related) genetic pathway, any cell could become pluripotent. It made me feel happy - like a piece of the puzzle that I knew was missing but still hadn't found just dropped into place.

That is what we are all looking for in the end I suppose. For the world around us to make sense. I'm just happy that I can find my answers in the world I actually live in without having to conjure up an imaginary being to help me.

Friday, November 16, 2007

November is Diabetes Awareness Month

I will avoid another rant on the abuse of ribbons and say I merely chose this image because I could find a good "Diabetes" image - I suppose the disease does not lend itself to visual artistry.

This month is Diabetes Awareness Month and so I thought I would talk about my diabetes and how it has changed my life. I remember when I was first diagnosed I was shocked because I didn't know that people my age could get Type 1 Diabetes. Turns out we can and it's not as rare as I thought. The Canadian Diabetes Association is currently running a whole campaign on young adults and diabetes. I was angry that this had happened to me and scared that my life had changed forever and it was all out of my control. Since then I have worked hard to learn about the disease and how to best manage it and so, I thought I would pass on some information:

1. First of all, Type 1 Diabetes and Type 2 Diabetes are not the same thing. Not even close. It's nice that your Grandma has diabetes and so you totally know what I'm going through but guess what, you don't. Type 2 diabetics have a functioning pancreas (for the most part) but they have developed a resistance to the insulin that their body is making. Those with Type 1 have a crappy pancreas that no longer makes enough, or any, insulin. Type 1 diabetes has nothing to do with obesity, exercise or drinking too much pop. It is an autoimmune disease where the body's immune system has attacked the cells that produce insulin...this means it is in the same family as Multiple Sclerosis, Lupus or Crohn's Disease. My disease cannot be cured by exercising any more than someone can think their way out of Parkinson's disease.

2. Please do not offer to give me insulin when my sugars are low...this is the wrong thing to do. In fact it could kill me or at the very least, make things a lot worse. If my sugars are too low it is because I need sugar and have either taken too much insulin or have not eaten enough. I will not pass out from having high sugars unless they have been very high for a long time. My job is to try and balance the sugars in my body by using insulin and food intake (carbohydrates specifically) as counterweights to keep it all in balance. The more carbs I take it, the more insulin I need to balance the sugars and keep them in the right range. This balance can be thrown off by many things - hormones, illness, stress and how tired I am.

3. Please do not dismiss diabetes by saying it is manageable or that it's not a big deal. I've never heard a Diabetic say that so you probably shouldn't either. Yes, diabetes is not going to kill you in the next 6 months but is still a very big deal and a shock when it happens to you.

4. I can eat pretty much whatever I want so please do not make comments about the piece of cake I just ate. As long as I account for the carbs I can eat it. Having said that, there are certain things that are pretty much out...pop and juice (unless my sugars are crashing in which case I need sugar fast) and Slurpees. Which, trust me, I don't miss.

5. The injections do not hurt too badly but I will admit they are annoying. This is my routine on any given day:

First thing in the morning I test my blood sugar which must be under 5.3 mmol/L. Then I count the carbs I am going to have for breakfast, calculate the insulin I will need and shoot up into my tummy. Two hours after breakfast I test my sugar again. These tests involve a lancet into the finger - just enough to draw a drop of blood. This blood get sucked up on a test strip that costs about 80 cents and can only be used once. Before lunch I test again to see where I'm at, shoot up my insulin again and then two hours later, test again. Same thing with dinner. If I exercise during the day I have to take that into account and adjust my insulin accordingly. When I exercise I have to make sure I don't go too low and always have candy or juice nearby. Before bed I test again and then inject a different long-lasting insulin into my thigh. This one hurts a little bit because the dose is usually much bigger. By the end of the day I will have injected 4-6 times and tested about 8-10 times (a cost of more than $7.00/day not including the needles or insulin). And there you have it...every single day, weekend or not, sick or not, weather be damned.

6. If you see candy in my car or a juice box in my bag/desk drawer/glove box etc. please do not eat or drink it. That is there for emergencies. I go low usually 3-5 times a week and I need that sugar to get me back up. Going low is a horrible feeling. I feel woozy, dizzy, shaky, sick and sweaty. Even after I've taken my juice it can take 15 minutes for it to come up again so please give me some time. When I'm low I have a hard time hearing properly. processing things and feel like I'm not really in the same world as everyone else. I feel vulnerable and self-conscious. I just need some time and a snack and I'll be fine.

7. My diabetes is probably not going to go away unless there is some big medical breakthrough. I am not entirely okay with this but I guess I don't have a choice. I am scared of what the future holds and am afraid of ending up in the hospital, having heart disease or losing control of my diabetes. These are all things I work on now to prevent but can never guarantee.

So, there you, go...consider yourself more diabetically aware. If you have any other questions, please just ask. And if someone you know tells you one day that they have just found out they have diabetes, do not down play it or dismiss it. Recognize that it is a life long illness that will change their life but that with a lot of work and commitment, they will be okay.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Reasons Why Leaving Work Won't Be So Bad...#3

The knowledge that about a week after I leave someone is going to realize that nobody knows how to edit or update the website and that despite all my efforts to explain how things work over the past few years, nobody bothered to listen.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Bad Boys Bad Boys, Whatcha Gonna Do?

This morning we were heading out early to drive to Edmonton to meet up with my parents and brothers for lunch. As we were pulling out of the parking lot we noticed that our Passat was dented and scratched and that our neighbour had apparently run into it when he came home last night (at 5:30 am, only to crank the tunes but that's another story). Brian started banging on the neighbours door but there was no answer.

We knew, based on things we've seen with our neighbours (like the time they needed to borrow our electricity or came to the house so high they wanted to use our phone to call their lost cell phone and then listened intently like somehow it might be in our house) that if we left and tried to follow up later they would have no recollection of hitting our car and that in fact they may even have disappeared entirely. As Brian was knocking he noticed a guy walk out from behind the houses across the street, towards us and then sort of veer off behind our house. He knew right away that this guy probably lived at this house and was likely our culprit, (as opposed to his wife who smiled at the guy in an attempt to distract him from the fact that we were banging on our neighbor's door) so Brian followed him to the back of the house. By the time Brian got around the back the guy had one leg in the basement window and was caught a little off-guard when Brian asked, "Do you live here?" A negative answer would mean he was breaking and entering and admitting that he did indeed live there would necessitate a conversation with Brian...he clearly didn't know what to do. "Uhhh...yah" he said after a long pause. Brian got him to come around the front to inspect the damage and proceeded to ask him what had happened. The exchange was priceless:

Brian: Is this your car?
Guy: No, it's my roomates.
Brian: Where is your roomate? What's his name?
Guy: Uhhh, he's Donnie. He went to Edmonton yesterday afternoon on the bus.
Brian: Okay, so who else lives here?
Guy: Nobody. Just me.
Brian: And you are?
Guy: Clayton
Brian: Okay Clayton. So tell me, were you driving the car?
Clayton: No way man, I can't drive, I have a suspended license. I don't know who drove the car.
Brian: So let me get this straight. You're the only one here but you don't know who drove the car last night?
Clayton: Yah man.

It went on like this for awhile...I left at this point to go and call the police because obviously Clayton (who was still drunk) wasn't going to be very helpful.

The cops showed up and heard the same story Brian had but were a little less patient that we had been. Clayton disappeared in the house at some point and the cops were unable to retrieve him. They banged on the door and called the house. He eventually emerged, shoeless, about 10 minutes later claiming he had fallen asleep. The cops called the registered owners of the vehicle who turned out to be Donnie's parents. They told the cops that they would come and sort it out. We were about to be unwilling witnesses to a white trash reunion.

The parents pulled up at about the same time that Donnie, who supposedly was in Edmonton, appeared from nowhere. They started yelling at the two boys, "Which one of you drove the car" and then to Clayton, "And who the hell are you anyway?! Do you live here!?" Brian and I slowly but steadily backed up into our house, behind the door while this spilled out onto our front lawn. I felt like I was in an episode of Cops and I was waiting for someone to be cuffed and thrown into the cruiser. I didn't have to wait too long.

Before we really knew what was happening Donnie was being patted down and cuffed while Clayton was being given a sobriety test. There was more yelling and then tears. By the time Donnie was taken away the Mom was crying, the sister was crying and Clayton was sitting on the front stoop, head in hands, crying. The parents were throwing garbage out of the car and repossessing it and were yelling about selling the house from underneath them. Donnie was charged with a hit and run (even though the cops were convinced it was Clayton who had been driving) along with who knows what else and it looks like we're getting new neighbours.

What drama! A small dent on our car and a call to the police and this kid's life fell apart in front of our eyes. I felt pretty bad but at the same time I knew there must have been a lot more going on than just a scratched car and a drunken mistake.

It sucks that our car, which we were supposed to sell this week is now going to have to be fixed and could take weeks to sell. But to keep it in least we aren't those guys.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Reasons Why Leaving Work Won't Be So Bad...#2

Today my boss told me that particles are electricity (which was somehow supposed to explain why she was so hyper). When I tried to correct her she insisted that she was correct and that this was based on simple string theory. She actually said this with a straight face, "simple string theory"...from a woman who can't tell an electron from an endoplasmic reticulum. Again I tried to gently correct her and he became very condescending until she realized that she didn't mean electricity, she meant energy! Silly is made of particles. She saw it in the movie "Starman". Who can argue with that?

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Our Newest Addition...

I am so excited...we just bought a Honda Element! Now, I know that this vehicle is extremely polarizing and many people really hate it but for me, and for Brian, this car has been on our radar since we first saw it. I always said that if I won the lottery I would buy a green Honda Element which of course, made people laugh at me. Not a Jaguar or a Lamborghini but a Honda? The Element was my "I've made it" car and I guess that means I've made it.

So laugh all you want you Bentley-aspiring dreamers because it looks like I just won my lottery. :)

Tuesday, November 06, 2007


With each week that passes my pregnant state becomes more and more obvious to myself as well as the rest of the world, and I am often left feeling overwhelmed and like this isn't real. There isn't really a person growing inside me is there? When you stop and think about it, about the cells dividing and the nutrients moving from my body into hers it becomes too much to comprehend. Too big, and yet, so normal.

I have felt so many emotions over the past few months and I often find myself checking in with my own head, "How are we doing?" You still okay with this?" Mostly, the answer is yes but I would be lying if I said there weren't days where I am panicked and terrified and want to hit the eject button. I feel fat and vulnerable and totally unprepared to become a mother. I liked the life that Brian and I had made for ourselves. I liked going for drinks on Friday's and sleeping in and going out for late-night meals. I liked knowing that we had a team of two to take on the world and planning our next vacation to a far away place. I'm scared to lose all of that.

At some level I know that we will gain so much more and that Brian and I will always be a team. It's the awkward stage in between where you can imagine all the things you love being gone but it is still too abstract to really envision what is to come. I know I'm pregnant, I feel the baby kicking and I am steadily preparing for her arrival but I still cannot really picture her or what my days will consist of. I am taking a giant leap into the unknown. I suppose, if she could, our baby would feel very much the same way.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Reasons Why Leaving Work Won't Be So Bad...#1

Today my boss asked me if I could teach her HTML before I leave. Sure, no about we get you fluent in Russian next week as well?