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Inspiration for living a luxuriously and balanced life

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

When is Annual – Not Annual - Gardening

I just adore this time of the year, as the garden starts to wake-up from its long winter’s nap, adding an array of colors to our days.

I first started gardening 7 years ago, when I purchased my home in the city. Like any new home owner you want your entertaining area to look inviting and fabulous – so I headed to the local nursery. I carefully selected flowers for the half moon flowerbeds (13’x3’x 2’ depth for new soil) – which I had taken on the task of doing myself. Keep in mind up to this point in my life gardening to me was going to the florist picking up some flowers and placing them in vases throughout my home (I have always loved fresh cut flowers throughout my home).
My selection was amazing, I received rave reviews when friends visited and I was quite pleased with myself. My nails and hands were very happy when I discovered “gardening gloves” who knew. As summer turned to fall and winter, I waited eagerly for spring to arrive and the anticipation of that glorious collection of colour and texture I had so lovingly nurtured. When spring arrived – I waited- and waited …. and waited, but the majority of my beautiful flowers did not spring up. What could have happened?

I set out to the nursery, receipts and little plastic flower identity pixs in hand, determined to get to the bottom of this mystery. As I spoke with the elderly gentlemen, he listened enthusiastically – I explained that I was aware of their 1 year warranty and how hard I had worked on my garden… he just nodded and listen. I presented my receipts and flower pixs – I always kept track of everything. He looked over each receipt carefully … and said in a sweet almost grandfatherly way … Dear you purchased “annuals” – yes, annuals like the Annual sale at Holts, or the Annual lighting of the Christmas lights at Nathan Philips Square – these flowers should come up every year. Needless to say that day I learned the difference between Annual and Perennial in the Gardening world. To help me get started “again” the nursery staff directed me to the Perennial section, offered some very helpful suggestions and also gave me a huge discount, to soften my faux pas. It was a long time before I ventured back into the Annual section at a nursery.

The garden area at my city home is small, compared to the available garden area I am faced with at our home in the country. The thought of planning various gardens is overwhelming (a challenge I would have welcomed with open arms 3 ½ years ago) - not to mention the energy that is exhausted trying to plant and maintain. I have however been determined to not give up gardening – so much so that aside from pushing myself “stupidly” – I would lay on the ground so that I could utilize every bit of energy to plant and weed (I would be out of commission for the following few days not to mention the aches and pains).
As the gardening season starts this year Mr. G has already had "the talk" with me – about pacing myself and accepting help. So far so good, I have not over done it. Oh did I mention, I we haven’t yet started. We are in the process of planning this season’s gardens (we plan to add 2-3) and the areas for additional gardens to be added over the next 3-4 years. The past couple of summers, we have been working on a butterfly garden, cutting garden, Angel garden and a vegetable garden.
The images are of our country property over the past couple of summers. Yes, those are geese running across the grass -they return every year with their babies. I will be posting the progress of our gardening adventures on upcoming Mondays.

What does it mean to be happy?

This little guy pretty much sums up how I have been feeling the past few days. So I have been going through notes and letters friends sent me over the past couple of years to reflect on. I came across the letter below and it helped put a little bounce back in my step. I hope it inspires you, if you are having a sad day.

The definition of Happy is different for each of us but we share a common need to feel good about ourselves and to be content -- no matter how that translates for each of us.

The next time you're having a bad day, remember that there are a myriad of ways to indulge in life's simple pleasures.

Sometimes all you need to improve your mood is to slow down and remember that life is full of simple pleasures. Tomorrow morning, make the choice to have a wonderful day. A few minor changes to your approach may be all you need to take your day from good to great!

To get started, here are 16 ways to have a better day. The suggestions are simple but the rewards can be meaningful.

1. Get up on the other side of the bed. Go ahead! Break your routine! The monotony of a habit can be a source of frustration, so try something new, even if it's as simple as this.

2. Replace coffee with a cup of green tea. Used since ancient times by the Chinese for its many health benefits (from ceasing headaches to easing depression), today's research also indicates that green tea can play a critical role in disease prevention. Plus, since green tea has less caffeine than coffee, you're likely to get a better night's sleep!

3. Enjoy some alone time. Whether it's curled up with your favourite book or enjoying your latest CD purchase, spending time alone, doing something you love to do, is a superb way to clear your mind.

4. Don't lie. It's not that you're a compulsive liar but sometimes, before you know it, a little white lie has slipped out of your mouth. Don't do it. Just tell the truth -- it's liberating and gives you one less thing to worry about during your day.

5. Call your mother. Or someone you've been meaning to call for weeks. Staying in touch with the people who matter most is an important way to stay grounded and remind yourself about the things and people you care about.

6. Buy fresh flowers. Don't wait for someone to buy you a bouquet. Treat yourself. Stimulate your senses with brightly coloured, fragrant blooms. Do they make you smile? Mission accomplished!

7. Play with a cat or dog. Pets have a wonderful way of alleviating stress, preventing loneliness and reminding you of life's simple pleasures. In fact, according to the Medical Journal of Australia, pet owners involved in a clinical trial had lower levels of accepted risk factors for cardiovascular disease. Pets can relieve tension by providing a welcome distraction.

8. Do a good deed. There are so many ways to perform good deeds throughout the day, but oftentimes we're just too busy. If you're in a drive-thru line, why not pay for the customer behind you? It may cost you a couple of bucks but it'll make their day -- and yours!

9. Go for a walk. Whether with a friend, your spouse or alone, walking is a wonderful activity that is easy and cheap. Bathe in the fresh air and allow yourself some time, if only for 10 minutes, to clear your mind.

10. Spend time in your garden. Surround yourself with nature's beautiful bounty. If you don't have a garden of your own, walk around your neighbourhood or visit a nearby park.

11. Chill out. Stuck in a traffic jam? Breathe in deeply and relax. There's nothing you can do about it so don't get wound up. Enjoy the time to listen to your favourite CD or catch up on the news of the day. Better yet, turn off the radio, take in the silence and enjoy the view.

12. Write a letter to a friend. In this electronic age, personal letters that arrive in the mail have become relics of the past –- but make no mistake, their charm hasn't diminished one bit! Set aside half an hour to write a letter to someone. The gesture is sure to be appreciated and is a great way to share your thoughts with a friend in a personal way.

13. Buy a new pair of shoes. Or treat yourself to a new outfit. When you look good, you feel good.

14. Tackle a nagging task. What have you been meaning to do for months? Whether it's cleaning out your closets and taking the clothes you no longer wear to the Salvation Army or fixing the leaky faucet in the kitchen, take control and get the job done. You'll feel a great sense of accomplishment when it's done and you can finally stop thinking about it!

15. Take a bath. To relax your body and mind, indulge in a long, hot bath. Soak the stresses of the day and drain them with the bath water. Doesn't a vanilla bubble bath sound good?

16. Say, "I love you". It's easy to get swept up in life's day-to-day hustle and bustle. But it's important to tell those around you, who love and support you, that you love them. Life is too short and uncertain not to let the important people in our lives know just how much they mean to us.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Fragrance … What do you suggest?

Obsession Perfume for Women by Calvin Klein has been my signature fragrance for as long as I can remember. Obsession’s feminine scent possesses a blend of citrus, vanilla and greens lowering to notes of sandalwood, spices and musk- classified as a flowery fragrance. Whenever I have worn it men and women alike often say, “You smell so good” and want to know what I’m wearing. Yes, this fragrance has been good to me, making the decision to replace it a challenging one – until now.

Mr. G. has surprised me with an upcoming trip to Paris next month! I ask you, what better city one could ask for to discover themselves and a new fragrance along the way.

With a firm decision to say-goodbye to Obsession, the challenge becomes what to replace it with? Dear friends I am turning to you for some help! The choice has been narrowed down to three - with a 4th open to suggestions. Every suggest will be explored and when I return from Paris I will announce my new signature fragrance.

I  would love to hear what is your signature fragrance and why you have choosen it!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Acquired Brain Injury (ABI) … What is it - what does it look like?

Thank you for emails of encouragement. Your comments, suggestions and questions are greatly appreciated. This post is in repsonse to a question that many of you have been emailing me about - what is ABI? I hope that this address your question and if you know someone with an ABI that it helps you to better understand what they are going through.

What is ABI?

ABI – is the result of either a traumatic injury due to an accident or non-traumatic injury due to stroke or substance abuse. Often when people hear “brain injury” the first thing that comes to their mind is intellectual disability. The truth is most people with ABI retain their intellectual abilities, but the brain injury may affect thought processing, making it difficult for a person to express themselves.

How does ABI affect the brain?

Our brain enables us to think, move, and feel. In a person with ABI their cognitive processing may be affected, as well as their physical activity and social functioning.

What does it look like?

There is no one specific thing or “style” indentifying people with an ABI, nor are any two people with ABI identical. Many persons with ABI work extensively with various therapists to learn coping mechanisms for their particular situation. Be it behavioral management due to frustration, and/or speech due to thought processing or memory related.

What is like for someone with ABI?

Wow, where do I begin? As, I mentioned ABI affects everyone differently. For me personally - In the beginning my speech was like that of a child and the words that were in my head usually were not the words that came out when I spoke. It was and continues to be very frustrating to be aware of a deficiency in your speech –pitch, vocabulary, speaking style – and not be able to correct it. The energy that it takes to focus, concentrate and try to communicate effectively is most of the times overwhelming; leaving me exhausted and frustrated.

Loud areas, multiple people conversing, and excessive background noise make it nearly impossible to remain composed. My head starts spinning like an out of balance machine, on spin cycle with no off button. I have to remove myself from these situations (something that took me a long time to realize - these were triggers for other things, but thats a post for another time). Sometimes I push myself to participate in social activities – like when we went to watch a Raptor game recently - Mr. G was so excited to have Platinum tickets and was so looking forward to taking me. Not wanting to disappoint him, I agreed to attend. As soon as we entered the ACC – the excitement from the fans in the concession areas started to overpower me, I had to retreat to our seats and remove myself from the area, leaving Mr. G in the jersey shop. During the game, the cheering and booing from the fans and the activity of the game kept me on pins and needles. I managed to get through the game and seeing Mr. G happy that we shared this moment together, was worth the anxiety I felt inside and next two days of bed rest.

My attention span is at times is very limited, and I am easily distracted. This became more apparent of a problem when Mr. G started finding pots at the “boiled dry” state on the stove; while me without a care or thought was chatting on the phone; or outside with one of our doggies. Now, I only use the stove when someone is around. Uggg …. More loss of independence. Being easily distracted affects many areas of life and needing someone (usually Mr. G.) to remind me about simple everyday things like eating, grooming and at times choices in dressing.

The challenges that affect persons with ABI – are not always visible. We may look exactly like you – and often we do - we are stylish, and on really good days and in quiet environments we can manage to stay focused.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank my friends and family, who even when I’m stumbling to get my words out, or when I talk in circles, trying to mask that I have forgotten what we were speaking about – don’t call me on it, and patiently wait or try to get me back on topic discreetly. And i would liketo thank God - for giving me the courage to write this and hopefuly by me sharing my situation it will help someone to know they are not alone and to not give up!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

SPRING Is Definitely Here …. Holts Spring Catalogue has arrived….

I still remember the first time I entered Holt Renfrew (HR) for the first time. A dear girlfriend of mine, who was a regular shopper, could not believe I had never been to HR. So one cold December morning we bundled up and made our way to HR on Bloor Street. As we approached the store, we were greeted by one of the friendliest doorman; he smiled cheerfully and wished us a wonderful day as we entered. You couldn’t help but feel a little more special, than when you first approached the store.

As I stepped in it was like cosmetic heaven, Dior, Chanel, Bobbi Brown, Guerlain etc. - just waiting to be sampled. The staff behind each counter was very knowledgeable and friendly. They were very patient as I had them spray various fragrances – I was about to settle for Estee Lauder’s Youth Dew. When the woman looked at me shook her head and said “No , darling, I see you more as this…” and with a spray out came the most sensual fragrance I ever smelled – to this day I still wear Obsession by Calvin Klein. I have tried other fragrances over the years – but each time I wear Obsession – everyone wants to know what fragrance I’m wearing.
Handbags, accessories and men’s wear can also be found on the first floor. On a mid floor between the first and second floor you will find shoes, coats, lingerie and café. Up the escalator to the second floor you will find high end brands such as Chanel, Gucci, Prada etc. Contemporary labels like Marc by Marc Jacobs, See by Chloe, Theory, Teenflo, Catherine Maldandrino, Missoni, Tory Burch, Burrburry, Pink Tarten, DVF as well as a fully stocked denim department, are located on the third floor.

HR can be on the expensive side, but there is something for everyone no matter the budget. Holt Renfrew does have sales, the end of Summer and Winter sales offer up to 75-80% off.

Here is a sampling of the Spring 2010 at HR. It does not cost anything to go in - sometimes just being surrounded by great fashion is very theraputic and just what the doctor ordered for the drabbest days. Not to mention even the simplist of items such as a lisptick or mascara are lovingly wrapped in tissue and carefully placed in a beautiful pink bag with Holt Renfrew printed in white lettering on the side.

Image Credit: Holt Renfrew Spring 2010 catalogue

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Yorkville – the Rodeo Drive of Toronto – warm memories for a cold day

The weather today was not as warm as the 17-19 degree weather we have been experiencing. in March. So, the day before Spring officially arrives, temperatures here (we live about 1 ½ hours north of Toronto) are hovering around 4 degrees. As, I let our little Yorkie out for some fresh air, our outing is cut short by a shower of light freezing rain. Once back inside, my thoughts drifted to Afternoon Tea.

When I was living in the city one of my favorite cold weather indulgences on week-ends was to visit some of the Boutiques along Bloor Street in Yorkville, with my girl friends. Just the anticipation of being surround by beautiful fabrics, styles, and the possibility that we may actually find that elusive missing wardrobe item (you know the one - you don’t need, don’t know exists – but the minute you see it, try it on – you know you must have it ), kept us warm – as we navigated our way along. My friend Janice, her two must stop at shops were Hermès and Tiffany’s; for me it was Holt’s and L’Occitane. Our final stop on these outings would be the Windsor Arms Hotel (WAH), for Afternoon Tea.

Walking into the WAH you feel like you have just stepped into a European Boutique Hotel. The WAH has drawn on the chic elegance of Paris for their interpretation of Afternoon Tea. As you are seated in the French-Style room or the Majestic Purple room with the original(1927) fireplace and an enormous chandelier that looks as if it could have once graced Marie Antoinette's Salon, you know you are about to experience something magnifique.

Once your tea is served, all there is left to do is, sit back relax and let the warmth of the hot tea work its magic. Of course, we always started off with a glass of sparkly and finished with the most delectable strawberries and whipped cream! In between our taste buds tingled with each bite of the savory finger sandwiches. My favorite -the smoked salmon & caviar with an oven roasted tomato cream – the way the caviar would burst in my mouth, always made me giggle. We would coat our warm scones with Devonshire cream and preserves. By the time we reached the petit fours, our palettes were quite satisfied.

Just recalling these fond memories has warmed up my insides and my day. To make it even grandeur I’m going to make myself a cup of tea; while my tea is steeping I’ll bring to room temperature a couple of Lavish Cupcakes (I’ll share this location another time – cupcakes deserve their own posting after all), and I do believe we have a small bottle of Veuve Clicquot (we usually keep a small bottle chilling) for such spontaneous occasions. Not exactly Afternoon Tea at WAH, but it will do.

I hope my stroll down memory lane has inspired you to take a moment for yourself and to enjoy a cup tea or a glass of bubbly.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Travelling for the Soul … Part Two

"Inspiration is all around us; it is when we are
ready emotionally and mentally, that it becomes visible to us."
~ Celia Maria

Going through our pictures, I could not help but take notice at how peaceful and happy the local people were. Yet, when I was there – all I saw was how awful the living conditions were, that it was difficult for them to find work that provided financial stability, that they had to work very long hours (at the resort you would see the same staff at 8:00 a.m. that you saw at 11:00 p.m.), the irony of such a beautiful tropical back drop for people living in poverty.

Looking back over our days there, we were always greeted with smiles from the resort staff to local vendors on the street. They were always ready and willing to give each other a helping hand, as well as us foreigners. From the street vendor that suggested to me “pretty lady, you should remove your sun glasses, its dark and hard to see once you get in the caves, I would not want you to trip” his kindness saved me a fall, like the person a few feet ahead of me. To the always joyful resort activity personnel reminding you about sunscreen or just giving you a smile – one in particular, no matter if it was early morning or late, evening always greeted you with enthusiasm and “Hola, Hola, Coca-Cola” – no matter how I was feeling it always made me smile!

People in La Romana do not live to work; they have grown up working to live – they embrace life and enjoy it! They do not need expensive cars, elaborate homes, or fancy places to purchase their basic needs (food, clothing, etc.). Traffic jams do not excite them – no road rage here – they just honk to let other drivers know they are going through. They live a simple life and are truly happy!

Rural children in the Dominican do not need a computer, DS or television, to help them develop their skills or to occupy themselves. Instead these children use their imagination and creativity, a stick and margarine container becomes a drum; a stick also becomes a piece of chalk marking the dirt to make a hop-scotch. These children have so little, still they smile and are happy. When you offer them a piece of candy their eyes twinkle – for them it’s a real treat, not an everyday open the cupboard or draw and it’s there.

Looking at the pictures of these children, I think to myself with what little they have, they make the most of it. They accept life as it is – and they are happy.

Acceptance of that which you cannot change ... For me, I need to come to terms -that I am no longer who I was - I have to accept life as it is. I know easier said than done. What obstacle is holding you back from total enjoyment of life? Recognizing the obstacle is step one in healing.
I wonder what I will learn on my trip to Paris?

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Travelling for the Soul … Part One

Getting on a plane always gave me a sense of freedom – exploring new cultures and meeting interesting people from all walks of life. My passion for travel has taken me through Asia (Macau and Thailand were my favorite); Portugal (including Azores); England; various cities in the United States - New York and Miami hold fond shopping memories. Miami the bikinis I bought; of the numerous islands I have travelled to I would go back to Jamaica and Barbados anytime.

My trip to the island of Terceira 4 years ago (August, 2006), was to be the kick off to my next round of travelling. I had planned to visit Lisbon and the Algarve, later that year, to connect with friends and 2007 would be my year to visit Tuscany and Paris. Well, we know that when we are busy making plans, that is when life happens.

After my “detour in life”, all thoughts of travelling became a distant memory. I would not get on a plane again until February 2008. And although Victoria B.C. and the Empress Hotel will remain on my list of places to visit a second time, the experience of travelling was very difficult and the damp weather was extremely difficult on my joints and emotionally it was too soon (I know that now). There have been short week-end escapes to Quebec, again timing of weather is now a consideration, so those experiences, were also not as fun and rewarding as I recalled travelling to be.

It would be another 2 years before Mr. G would be able to convince me to give travel another try. Mr. G started taking about going to Mexico, or Jamaica - I could wear a bikini and the sun and warm climate would do me good. The sun and warmth I agreed, but a bikini, was he crazy, did he not see the road map that was no etched on my abdomen? My bikini days came to a complete halt, not by choice, on October 28, 2006. The thought of having to face another loss of who I was, was too overwhelming. The mention of going somewhere hot and bikini sent me into an internal state of panic for months. Then a couple weeks ago Mr. G mentioned Dominican, I did some checking into and it looked like a great place to visit, sandy beaches, pretty much guaranteed good weather, aqua blue water and the resort he had in mind was fairly secluded (not a destination the loud party crowd would be considering). So when out of the blue, he was able to get a great deal on tickets – I didn’t have the heart to burst his enthusiasm. So with butterflies circling in my stomach and my internal temperature heating up, I braced myself as I packed, for a trip I so desperately had wanted to take but emotionally and physically was not prepared for.

What I did not know, was that this trip would become a stepping stone to healing (more about this in Part Two). For now enjoy these wonderful pictures, may they bring some sunshine into your day.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

No easy access to computers on Beach

Hi friends:

Just wanted to let you know that I am just away and will post lots of awesome pictures and resume posting when I return next week. I have missed reading all your wonderful words, but plan to catch up on that too!

In the Dominican....

Saturday, March 6, 2010

The Power of the Written Word ...

Some of my fondest memories are unwinding at the end of a hectic work week curled up on my couch with a wonderful book. This is a part of me I refuse to give up! Now, since my “detour in life”, my ability to retain what I have read is frustrating at times – but the feeling I experience while reading remains with me. I have gone from reading a paragraph to almost getting past a dozen or pages, before I find myself needing to look back at who is who and what has happened on the previous pages, so that what I’m currently reading makes sense.

When the impact this detour was having on my life became a reality, I never asked “why me?” I did however ask “Now what?”. So I slowly started pulling out books that people had given me while I was in the hospital and as welcome home gifts. Over the next couple of years I would read and re-read books a few times, desperate to retain the messages within. My speech therapist R. suggested that I make notes, as I read. At first it didn’t make sense, but when I gave it a try I found that my notes simplified what I had read and served as triggers to help recall what I had read. It does not always work, but, has been a step towards helping me start picking up books again.

Some of the books that that I found inspiring the first year of my “detour in life” are pictured below;

If you are seeking answers I encourage you to read these books – they will challenge you to question things around you and help get you back into a positive way of thinking – the first step in overcoming any obstacle life presents you.

Friday, March 5, 2010

My Dolce Jeans Shrunk? …. Saying Good-bye

For the past 3 ½ years I have been living in pajamas (nice comfy fashionable ones, I’ll have you know) and my Juicy sweats about 80% of the time. I found it was more comfortable on my incisions, but best of all I could pull them on and off without having someone help me dress and undress – and they have matching tops so no need to stress thinking what to put with them - ah independence! All was good in the world … till the day a dear friend said “ I think it’s time you use pajamas for sleeping and sweats for going for walks or just physio –“ what was she saying, as I looked down at my soft pink pajamas imprinted with stylish shoes, hand bags, lipstick tubes etc. – they spoke fashionista – didn’t they?

After much discussion – mainly me pleading my case for my fashion choice du jour, we entered my closet. There, all hung nicely on pant hangers, by colour were my old friends – as my friend pull out each pair she would say “so let me introduce you to Mr. Dolce and Gabbana, Mr. Cavalli, Mr. Versace etc. – I know you recall them, they have been feeling neglected and would like to be part of your life again … what do you say?” I wasn’t feeling particularly sentimental until she pulled out my Achilles heel – my first pair of Dolce and Gabbana jeans - I recalled how great I felt the first time I put them on, I knew instantly that they were coming home with me. Blue (a cross between Indigo and dark blue) with a slight soft golden paisley pattern, slim legged with a slight boot flare bottom and a great fit on the behind… ah the compliments I received! She knew the history I had with these jeans, so it wasn’t hard to convince me to give them a go. As she helped me put both legs in and pull them up, I have to admit a smile was starting on my face …. As quickly as it appeared it quickly vanished. ..What was happening? The button and the button hole were not meeting! Panic set it in … who had shrunk my favourite jeans?
Desperate to prove I could still fit into my other clothes we went through outfit after outfit I was regularly wearing just prior to my “detour in life”, it quickly became apparent I was no longer a size 2/3. A trip to the stores would cement things further; I was now a size 6 /8. Seeing how frustrated I was, my friend suggested that we set a date to go through my closet and remove all clothes that no longer fit me or were no longer practical – she couldn’t see me wearing an Armani suit to physio or doctor appointments. Her theory was to remove clothes that reminded me of what I was no longer able to wear and replace them with clothes that were both practical and fit properly.

I knew she was right, but I just couldn’t bring myself to say good-bye. It seemed “good-bye” is all I have been saying to everything that collectively made up ME. I did manage a couple weeks later with her help to sort through clothes – donated some to charity, gave some to friends, and discarded others. The Dolce jeans I held onto, I wasn’t ready to say good-bye.
Looking back the irony, I went down 20-25lbs when I was in the hospital. I looked both malnourished and as if a wind should blow by it would surely take me in its breathe. It took eight months and many cans of Boost and eating to get back to my normal pre-accident weight of 112 lbs. Now in the last couple of years I have gained 15-20 lbs more than my normal weight. I'd like to say that I don't see myself as "fat" - but I'm just not comfortable at this weight and without having been able to exercise properly, has made the extra pounds look even more.
Starting spring 2010, I am hoping to be able to return to some modified cardio work-outs and yoga. As I continue posting, I will keep you updated on my exercise goal - of returning to my normal weight of 112-115 lbs. by the end of the year - 10 month plan. If you are embarking on a fitness goal, I would love to hear from you - and what you find has worked. We can keep each other motivated.
I’m happy to say that I few weeks ago, I was able to part with the Dolce jeans. They are now owned by someone I know appreciated receiving them and will take good care of them. They are her first Dolce and Gabbana jeans, and I know they will be as comforting to her as they were for me.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Hand Bags and High Heels …. Learning to like flats and wristlets

One does not really stop to think about just how important the full functionality of our limbs is to doing some of the basic things in life, not to mention how it affects your ability to accessorize. I am very blessed that I still have my right arm (thanks to my sister and brother. The hospital wanted to amputate … as it was not life threatening my siblings would not authorize it). The extensive damage to the forearm and elbow has been dealt with metal plates and screws and an artificial elbow (see image) respectively. The pronation and supatation (turning back and forth) could not be restored in my right wrist/arm without further nerve damage, so I no longer have this movement ability.

My right arm was in a hand shake position for almost 1 ½ years, before the destroyed elbow was replaced. During that time, I was not able to touch my face, head, eat with my right hand and sleeping required my arm to stick up (lots of pillows to support it). Any movement with the right arm was actually a shoulder movement. Since the replacement, I now can hold my arm at my side (not fully) and although I do not have full flexion, it does have some bend. The arm gets tired easily and is in constant varying degrees of pain. Washing and styling my own hair is no longer an option (I have natural curly hair and it requires a lot of maintenance to keep styled); tying scarves, putting on small earrings and necklace clasps, and sometimes buttoning shirts, some personal grooming things, etc. now require assistance.

The biggest challenge is to not over do it with the right arm – no more than 5 lbs should be carried with right arm (Dr. A – would rather I keep it at 2 lb limit) –Do you understand what 5 lbs really is, let alone 2 lbs? I invite you to weigh your purse – you’ll be surprised.

Large LV, Prada, and Gucci bags are now mainly used to hold scarves and as display props in my closet. When I do pull them out – somehow no matter what (little)I put in them the shoulder strap puts tension on my shoulder and neck; and the hand held weigh my arm down causing increased pain and throbbing from my shoulder to my fingers on my right arm. I have learned to make friends with wristlets and am working on learning to like across the chest pouches.

Next to the hand bags all lined up on shelves tempting me to just slip them on, taunting me –“Those pants, dress etc. would look much better if I completed the look, instead of those flat, what kind of heel is that you have just slipped on? Remember how sleek I made your legs, not to mention the extra lift I gave your behind.” Yes, heels speak! … sit my Jimmy Choo, Dolce & Gabbana , Versace and Manolo heels. Most of the time I am able to ignore their taunts, but when I give in - I pay the price for the next few days, with severe pain from my right ankle (pins and screws hold it together) right up to my neck. Gone are the days when I would put on a pair of high heels in the morning and not take them off until the wee hours of the evening, without a second thought. Now, where I’m going, how long I will be out take some priority over fashion. Thank the Shoe Gods for some fashionable wedgies and flats – but there really is no replacement for the confidence and lift a beautiful heel gives, especially when you are 5’2”.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

In God's Hands

In God's Hands~at the scene
Sunday, October 29, 2006 Change of plans

On Saturday evening, Wanda and I and our roommate went to a friend's birthday party near Eglinton Avenue and Brentcliffe Road. 

Approaching the apartment lobby, we heard the crunch and tinkling glass of a car accident on the street. Curiosity got the better of Daniel, the cake-bearer, and he headed toward the street for a look. I followed him, reasoning that it would pass the time until our host answered the buzzer.

I saw a woman sprawled in the middle of the street -- clearly one party to the thud and tinkling I had just heard. I abandoned the broccoli dish on the low brick wall and jogged out into traffic, fumbling for my phone and dialing 911. "I need an ambulance at Eglinton and Brentcliffe, a pedestrian has been struck by traffic." I looked at prone body on the wet pavement, hoping to see some sign of life. Two other gents were bent over her, one at her head and one at her feet. I saw them both bend down and I was on the verge of hollering "Don't move her!" as they abandoned the effort.

"Male or female?" "A woman, middle-aged" 

"Middle-aged? What does that mean, middle-aged?"

"Thirty to thirty-five, I guess". Do they need census information before they dispatch EMS? She was an attractive woman in her mid-thirties, stylishly dressed; I didn't recognize her. The woman's eyes were wide open, staring straight ahead into the murky night sky, but I didn't see any chest movement indicating breathing. I thought she was gone.

"Is she conscious?"

"I don't know, standby." I waved a hand over the woman's face and shouted to be heard over the traffic. "Miss, are you all right? Can you hear me?" No response.

"I think she's unconscious..." "You think? You don't know?"

"Her eyes are open but she is not responding to visual or audible stimuli," I said, "She is probably in shock." Just then I saw her chest rise and fall, and her mouth twitched. I paused for a millisecond and there it was again. "She is breathing." Some of the onlookers started covering her in blankets and jackets to ward off the cold night air.

"Does she have any injuries?"

There was a small trickle of blood from the woman's mouth. No other external bleeding that I could see. Her jeans were torn at the right hip and the skin had been punctured / lacerated, but it was not bleeding. I informed the operator of the visible trauma.

"How far was she thrown?"

"Fifteen to twenty feet at least," I said, looking at a now completely detached driver-side mirror and estimating the distance to where the woman now lay. "I'm not sure if the car is still at the scene," I said to the operator, "it sounds like he may have left." The two cars bracketing the woman both had intact driver- and passenger-side mirrors.

"My God, I know her!" I looked up. My roommate Rogner was standing beside me. "It's Celia." I looked down again, but still didn't recognize her. I had met Celia once before at Rogner's birthday party several months earlier, but the catatonic woman on the pavement hardly resembled the lively, vivacious Celia. She was not, fortunately, the birthday girl -- but she was definitely supposed to be one of the attendees.

A white-haired policeman consented to Rogner riding along with Celia to the hospital. He and Rogner walked out to the newly-arrived ambulance as the EMS technicians embarked their patient. 

Eventually the white-haired police officer returned and gave us the lowdown on Celia's extensive injuries. He told us what trauma center she was headed for. Celia had a lot of broken bones and some serious internal injuries, but the medical professionals didn't seem too pessimistic.

The seriousness of the situation did not really sink in until several hours after the accident when Rogner returned. Peering out the window after dinner, it was apparent that Toronto Police lingered long after EMS and TFS had departed. A big slab-sided forensics truck had joined the cruisers, and witnesses' cars had not budged an inch. In fact Eglinton Avenue East between Leslie and Brentcliffe was closed in both directions. 

I saw a couple of policemen scanning the north side of Eglinton with their flashlights, and I let them know we had found Celia's Blackberry.

"You're friends of the young woman that was hit?" said an officer. "Celia? Yes," replied Silmar. "She's in bad shape. It's in God's hands now."

Silmar and I shared an uncomfortable look. This was not welcome news. "Why are you guys giving this scene the white-glove treatment... mobile crime scene lab, surveyor instruments, et cetera?"

"It's standard procedure in fata-- ah, life-threatening accidents," replied the officer. 

So there you have it. I don't know if Celia made it. But if you can spare a couple of minutes, a prayer or two probably wouldn't hurt.

Experts from a post by Chris Taylor - written at 03:33 am Sunday October 29, 2006.

Monday, March 1, 2010

My Story ... It all starts somewhere

On October 28, 2006, my day started out like most Saturdays; wake –up, chat on phone with friends, plan the day. The day would go something like this; run some errands, early afternoon meet Elsa for coffee at Timothy’s Cafe, then home to change and relax, late-afternoon meet with Janice for a quick girl’s catch up at Sassafraza in Yorkville, before heading to Rogner's and John's for dinner, to celebrate a mutual friend’s birthday.

The day went pretty much as planned. I made it to Rogner's and John’s sort of…

As I attempted to open my eyes, the light was blinding … I didn’t recognize my surroundings. Was I dreaming? I tried to focus … “she’s awake” I heard someone say– then a flurry of questions from all directions. My head, my body felt like it had gone through a meat grinder. Where was I? “you have been in a terrible accident, you are going to be ok” I heard a voice, a familiar voice, my sister – what was she doing here and where was I? What accident?

Over the next few days, I would learn, I had been struck by a car while crossing the street to Rogner’s and John’s house; that I had suffered serious life threatening internal injuries; had multiple broken bones; my right elbow was destroyed; sustained an ABI (acquired brain injury); had received over 54 Units of blood, been given a trial drug- had not been expected to live; the list of injuries went on and on; and that it was the end of November.

The next few months would become a blur as I went through various rehabilitation processes. I had to learn to speak, eat,walk and my head (thoughts) was not cooperating – it was difficult to recall things and usually what I wanted to say was not what came out of my mouth.

Returning to my home, it felt strange like I no longer belonged there. The person in the mirror was a stranger to me. My voice had lost its pitch, clothes did not fit, I had to depend on others for most of my basic needs – showering, dressing, eating and sometimes using the facilities. A whole new team of people was hired to provide on-going care and the rehabilitation I required.

The past couple of years I have underwent various surgeries – I now have an artificial right elbow to compliment the steel bars and screws in my right forearm.

In a blink of an eye, I went from a completely independent, physically fit, career- driven, fashionista, adventurous, social person to someone who was completely dependent on others, pajama wearing, with-drawn home body. There were some break through moments – when I thought I could beat this and I would push myself, only to be beaten by exhaustion, pain and frustration. As weeks turned to months and months turned to years, the pain and torment at the loss of me pre-accident did not lessen, at times it seemed even more painful than the physical pain I deal with every day.

To this day I miss me terribly, but to move forward I must find the strength to close the chapter of my pre-accident life and embrace the process of creating a new life. By sharing my struggles, and triumphs, I hope to inspire anyone who is going through a life changing experience to keep going, to not give up (myself included). For those who live with or know someone who is going through a life changing experience, I hope to give you some insight into the world of learning to live again and creating a new life.

You can read more about the event that changed my life here In God's Hands.
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