Sunday, May 29, 2011

On making a positive impact

With World Partnership Walk events taking place in three cities across Canada this weekend, I was inspired to post one last plea to help me eliminate global poverty. As you know by now, 100% of funds raised go directly to longterm sustainable international development solutions that help improve the lives and livelihoods of some of the poorest people in the world. Not one cent is spent on administration! Plus, your donation will help leverage additional funds from partners like the Canadian International Development Agency, who last year multiplied donations by an average factor of 6.

Just think! Your $50 donation became $300. All of it helped fund projects that are identified and implemented by local communities, targeting the areas they determine to be in greatest need and providing solutions like revitalizing a rural economy, ensuring clean water and sanitation, strengthening community-based organizations and educating new generations of girls and women. Just like that!

I raise funds for the World Partnership Walk because I want to make a positive impact on the world. I can't afford to give much, but I do what I can, volunteering my time and expertise as well. Please help me leave a legacy I can be proud of. Click here to donate now and give the gift of hope:

Together, we can end world poverty, one step at a time! Join me in Ottawa on June 12, 2011 at Major's Hill Park as we walk the Walk in symbolic support of those who walk daily for their basic necessities: drinkable water, an education, or work in the fields. In this beautiful setting, rain or shine, we will continue the legacy of the 17 women who started the World Partnership Walk in Vancouver 27 years ago. Since then, we have raised over $60 million dollars for the cause. How high can we take that number in 2011?

Thank you so much for your continued support. It means the world to me!


Monday, May 16, 2011

On going dairy-free

In the most recent development of my ongoing stomach issues saga, my doctor friend has asked me to go dairy-free for two weeks. This was after my actual doctor, either because she wasn't happy that I was discussing my health issues with my doctor friends or because she was simply unaware, told me there was no such thing as a lactose intolerance test.

You see, my doctor friend wondered if my stomach issues could be more than H.Pylori (it wasn't) or GERD (this is probably part of it). Our current "favourites" are Irritable Bowel Syndrome, something deeper, darker, and scarier and rarer that has yet to be mentioned, or lactose intolerance. To recap, not only will I probably have to take Proton-Pump Inhibitors for the rest of my life, based on the treatment's semi-effectiveness one month in, but I probably will have to make another change in my day-to-day routine.

So we go dairy-free. It's the hard way of figuring out if I'm actually lactose intolerant or simply lactose sensitive, as I've been terming it. I haven't been able to drink straight-up cow's milk for at least 3 years, and the creamier a food, the more trouble it gives me. This means ice cream is often a pain in my gut, and I avoid alfredo sauce, creamy desserts, and more. (Yes, I know about soy and almond milk products. I can't handle the texture - it makes me feel like puking.)

One would think that since I'm already on "lactose-free" milk, removing dairy from my diet wouldn't be such a big deal. I just have to manage my cheese and chocolate cravings for 14 days and forget butter exists. Easy peasy!


Did you know that most prepared meats, breads/baked goods, snacks, salad dressings and canned foods have some sort of milk additive? Look up the ingredients. If you see casein, whey, dry milk powder, prebiotics, high protein, or any other variations on the list, that product is not dairy-safe. Even prescription pills use milk products as filler! My morning cereal has whey in it so I can't even have that stable staple to look forward to!

No potato chips, no crackers except for melba toast, no seasonings except for oil and herbs.

Basically, my diet for the next two weeks will consist of "fresh" meats and fish, veggies, and pasta. I'm not risking any canned foods in case they're not listing possible milk cross-contamination, since there are no milk allergy or "lactose-free" guidelines in Canada. Fortunately, my regular bread is safe, as are peanut butter and most jams/jellies/honey.

I spent half my day today looking up safe and unsafe foods, finding appropriate recipes, and reading the ingredients on pretty much everything in my fridge and pantry. Tomorrow, I'm going to pick up some dairy-free cheese and finally attempt to make my own tofu. I'm also going to search for dairy-free chocolate (cocoa is dairy-free but most commercial brands add lactose or milk powder to their products and even dark chocolate could be contaminated from being produced on the same line as milk chocolate.)

I'm just really glad this is a two-week try-out. And that I'm not allergic to milk because I'd probably be dead by now if I were... Between my love for goat cheese and my addiction to chocolate, I put up with a fair amount of discomfort to satisfy my cravings.

That's going to be the hard part. That and remembering to read the ingredients in everything, including sauces used for marinades. If I weren't focusing on finishing a paper (and then 2 group papers and a conference presentation), I wouldn't mind the extra time commitment that this diet demands. If I wasn't a mono-dweller, I'd also find it easier to manage. But cooking for one or two requires a whole lot of portion planning and, as I've re-discovered this past week, a lot of my fresh ingredients tend to go to waste simply because can't use them up fast enough. I try to limit my shopping trips since I don't have a car but I was considering not buying fresh until I had more time to plan my meals. Throwing away rotten ingredients is not something I'm proud of, especially when so many people around the world are literally dying for a bit of that food. Plus, it's expensive.

Needless to say, the next two days will be a roller-coaster. So far, the craziest thing I've done is squirted Nesquik into my mouth to try to squash a particularly poignant unrelenting chocolate craving. Since I don't drink tea or coffee, chocolate is my main source of caffeine, not to mention its excellent comforting capacities. I guess I'll be making a lot more herbal tea in the next 14 days! Only time will tell if these sacrifices were worth it!

And then, regardless of results, I have to find a way to break it to my doctor. Wish me luck!

Sunday, May 01, 2011

On grieving

It surprises me that I still grieve for my friend's mom. Sure, we had a close relationship at one time, but not in the past few years. Kristin Walker passed away one week ago, peacefully, surrounded by 15 family members in a palliative care unit. After her third (I think?) bout with breast cancer, she couldn't fight anymore. It had metastesized over the years, slowly attacking her major organs. Liver. Lungs. Brain. One by one, they fell.

Kristin was more than my friend's mom. She was my ex-boyfriend's mom, and so, a surrogate mom for me, at one point in my life. I spent a considerable amount of time in her home and knew her family and loved ones very well. At one point, they were my friends and family too. In her last week, they tried to contact me. My Facebook issues made that very difficult. My ex, as usual, was not very forthcoming with information. To be fair, he had other things on his mind. He emailed me with the news on Sunday. His family didn't know I had finally been reached.

I should have known something was going on. I should have trusted my instincts. In the past few weeks, I kept feeling like I should call him, or at least text or email to see what was going on in his life. I kept putting it off. I dread awkward conversations. Many do. But I should have known. I should have listened to my pestering inner voice instead of not so subconsciously forgetting to follow through.

I wish I had gotten to say goodbye. It pains me to know that I was wanted and couldn't be there. Especially since I was only 20 minutes away by car, having gone home for an Easter visit. I wish I had known. I wish I could have wordlessly touched her hand and transferred some of my positive energy to her. Just in case it would have made a difference.

The funny thing is that I had been thinking of her all weekend. The first time I met Kristin was at a family Easter brunch. My first encounter with the Walkers. I remember it well. I remember the exact table we sat at in the restaurant, the way she looked at me. I remember her hair. I remember stressing over what to wear. I remember what I wore and I remember the warmth. The funny thing is that memory kept coming back to me. Now Easter will always be a time to remember her, even moreso than before.

I wish I could have stayed for the funeral. I wish I could have been at the wake. Because of the distance, I couldn't even bake. I ordered from a local bakery and a nearby friend - an angel - delivered them instead. She described Kristin's mom's reaction to me later over Twitter. No one should have to bury their child, no matter how young or how old. That's not the way life's energy is supposed to flow. We're supposed to grow.

It all comes back to the same place, I suppose. Kristin's life impacted that of everyone she encountered. That's just the way she was. She was a wild spirit and though everyone has their faults, she was rarely malicious. Manipulative, perhaps, but all strong spirits are. That's what makes them so feisty, so full of fire. That's what makes them who they are.

It's fitting that Kristin's wake should have taken place on the day of the Royal Wedding. She would have loved to watch it, in her pyjamas in her living room, or perhaps even in bed. She probably would have called a bunch of her friends as she watched. Gossiping. Gasping. Giggling.

Instead, all her friends came to watch her. At least she isn't suffering anymore, that much we know. At least she's not worrying anymore, she doesn't have to know. It was her time to go. And in a few weeks, we will party in her honour once more, celebrating her life, marking her death, and sharing memories that will help her live on forever in our hearts, in our heads.

Kristin, you were loved. And you will be missed.