Brrrr….

Greetings from the frozen north – Churchill, Manitoba. And I do mean frozen – temps have been in the single digits with wind chill making it feel like -15° or so. Still, I can’t complain – a month ago, I wasn’t even sure I’d be healthy enough to make this trip (who am I kidding – I told the gastroenterologist that I had no intention of missing it).

I am here with some other folks hoping to shoot polar bears – with a camera. Unfortunately, just before we arrived, the wind shifted to be from the north and the Hudson Bay had a major freeze. To the polar bears, that signals that it’s time to move on, and it appears most of them have.

We got lucky on our first day and spotted two different bears. I got some great photos of the first one. It was getting dark when we came across the second one, and it was a good distance away, so my photos are pretty grainy. We also saw an arctic hare. There were a couple foxes during the day, too, but they were moving too fast to photograph. I did get a picture of one’s butt, tho. (continues below the pix)

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Day two was… let’s call it an adventure. We drove around in blizzard conditions hunting for bears. At times, it was basically white-out conditions. We did spot some ptarmigans (aka snow chickens and related to partridges) and I got some good pictures of them. There were also some other small birds flitting around in some trees. (continues below)

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While we were at lunch, we got word that a mama bear and cub were spotted. We rushed out and did manage tho find them. Unfortunately, they were just too far away to photograph, even with the 150-450 mm lens I rented. Besides, the wind was so strong that my hands nearly froze the minute I left the car (seriously, this weather is intense!). Still, it was cool to see them.

Today was day 3. The weather conditions were better, relatively speaking. Temps were still single digits and the wind was brutal, but the snow wasn’t falling, at least, and the sun was shining most of the day. Alas, still no bears. We got in a few landscape shots and did manage to see a couple arctic hares, at least.

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Tomorrow, we will be on a Tundra Buggy that will be looking for bears in the conservation area / national park (private guides operate in a different area closer to town). The reports are not terribly promising – people we spoke to today saw 10 bears on their trip, but they were all out on the ice already and sounded like they were out of camera range. So we’ll see…

In the meantime, I’ll just soak up some rays while the sun is out…

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An update…

I’ve been quiet again lately. It’s largely been with good reason. Well, it’s a bad reason but a good excuse.

In my last post, I mentioned that I hadn’t been feeling well and had gone to the doctor. At that appointment, my doctor posited a few possible reasons and she ordered a bunch of tests, including an abdominal CT scan which I had a few days later. The following Monday evening, I found myself in the emergency room and subsequently admitted to the hospital. The CT scan seemed to indicate a tubo-ovarian abscess – basically, an abscess on my fallopian tube or ovary – and if that was the case, it could rupture with possibly dangerous implications. Fortunately – or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it – it wasn’t that. But I’ll get to that…

(As an aside, I learned that Monday is apparently the worst day to visit the emergency room. So, if you are going to get sick or injured, try to avoid Mondays.)

Around 11pm, after a roughly 5 hour wait, I finally got taken in to to an exam room in the ER. I would be there for almost 4 hours before being admitted to the hospital. Around 1am, I was wheeled off for an ultrasound, including one that was quite, ummm, intrusive. Around 3am, a gynecologist came by for further examinations (again, quite intrusive, this time with a med student observing). Based on her exam and the preliminary ultrasound reading, she felt I was not dealing with an abscess but likely something else.

I was admitted to the hospital that night and would ultimately spend 3 nights. Over the next couple days, I was visited by multiple doctors, including a gastroenterologist and a colorectal surgeon, in addition to the general hospitalist. I also was subjected to a battery of tests, including an abdominal MRI (which required me to drink a large quantity of a sickly sweet fluid) and a colonoscopy (which required drinking a lot of a very nasty liquid).

Ultimately, it turned out that my Crohn’s disease was active and I had significant intestinal inflammation (so severe the doctor couldn’t complete the colonoscopy). The doctor thinks my Crohn’s has been active for quite some time and that I had just grown used to living with the discomfort. Exacerbating it was a large ovarian cyst, which explains the image on the original CT scan. There also appeared to be some infection, indicated by the fevers I kept spiking. I was given IV antibiotics in the hospital and eventually sent home with two weeks worth of hard core antibiotics that left me feeling even sicker.

I spent the next few days at home, doing little more than sleeping. I suppose it didn’t help that I hadn’t had caffeine the whole time I was in the hospital, so I was probably experiencing a little bit of withdrawal. (I have now been basically caffeine free for over a month, only drinking a small cup of coffee on a couple of very early mornings. Surprisingly, I generally have had more energy than I remember having in a long time, and no afternoon crash.)

I am now feeling more or less back to normal. In fact, I feel better than I have in a long time. But the Crohn’s is still active and, as the gastroenterologist now treating me keeps reminding whenever I say I’m feeling pretty good, I’m going to have to treat it. That means IV infusions of a biologic medication for the foreseeable future. The cyst, at least, was expected to resolve itself within a couple of menstrual cycles (estimated around 6 weeks) and the pain/discomfort on that side of my abdomen has definitely subsided, so I suspect it has at least shrunk. I have an ultrasound scheduled just after Thanksgiving to see how things look and then the doctors can figure out how best to move forward.

For now, I’m in Churchill, Manitoba looking for polar bears. A month ago, I was worried I might have to cancel this trip. So, hey, it could be worse…

Sometimes little things have a big impact…

You never know what someone else is going through in their life. A simple kindness can brighten someone’s bad day, while a minor slight can make their world crash down around them. This is a story of the latter, unfortunately.

First, a little background –

Ever since my ex asked for a divorce in mid-September 2014, just 10 days after my birthday, September has felt cursed. Maybe the curse actually began when we got married the previous September.  Since then, September – my birthday month – has proven difficult for me (with the possible exception of the time I spent in Switzerland, but even that trip had its negative points).

One of the little things I look forward to in September – a sense of normalcy in a month that has often been difficult – is our monthly departmental birthday celebration. For a few years, I was the only September, so I had my choice of birthday cakes. Now there are other Septembers, so we all reach agreement on a type of cake. I am usually fairly flexible with one caveat – no chocolate. I have never liked chocolate and I rarely eat it in any form.  So imagine my surprise when I walked in to our birthday celebration this week and saw not the strawberry shortcake we had agreed to, but a large chocolate cake.

I realize this is very “First World problems” and maybe I should just brush it off. But, as I mentioned, you never know what someone is going through. This has been a really difficult month for me on many levels and so I was really looking forward to that one little bright spot in an otherwise dark month.

This September started off so well that I had totally forgotten the curse.  Over Labor Day weekend, I went on two dates with someone who I had taken a liking to and who I was hoping to get to know better. My birthday (ironically, on Labor Day) started with brunch with a friend who I hadn’t seen in a while, then a visit to the spa for a massage and facial, and dinner with my mom. All in all, probably one of the best birthday weekends I have had in several years.

But that was the end of the positive this September. By that Friday, the person I was hoping to get to know better was out of my life (it came as a complete shock to me and it was particularly disappointing as I really would have liked to at least maintain a friendship). A little over a week later, I got some concerning test results after I went in for a physical. A few days after that, I started running a mysterious, intermittent fever combined with abdominal pain. It has been over two weeks since that started and it may be more serious than I first surmised.

I finally went to the doctor to have the fever and abdominal pain checked out on the day we had our birthday celebration. The visit raised several concerns (and a referral for a CT scan). Blood tests indicate some sort of infection and I am now awaiting the results of a CT scan. During that visit, the doctor had quite a bit of blood drawn to run some tests, which left me feeling woozy. But, as I told first the nurse, then the doctor, and then the lab tech, I was in a rush because I was looking forward to the birthday cake awaiting me.

I emailed the person in charge of cake for the month multiple times, letting her know first that I might be running late and then that I was done with my appointment and could, in fact, make it back in time for the celebration. I then rushed from the doctor’s office back to my office. At least 3 emails were exchanged – at no time did she ever mention there was a snafu with the cake.

I am sure my disappointment was obvious, although few people seemed to care – everyone else got a type of cake they liked, after all. Needing sugar after the blood draw, I grabbed some cookies from my office. “Why are you eating cookies before your cake,” a coworker asked. “Because I can’t eat any of this,” I responded, pointing at the cake. The organizer mentioned the bakery screwed up, so she got chocolate because she knew the other two liked it. She pointed out that she had gotten two fruit tarts (both of which had chocolate in them and both of which had kiwi, which I generally avoid). I reiterated that I don’t eat chocolate which prompted someone to ask if I was allergic – it shouldn’t matter why I don’t eat chocolate, simply that I made clear I don’t eat chocolate. Would it really have been so impossible for someone to at least pick up a cupcake or something more in line with my tastes? Would it have been so hard to genuinely apologize?

One of the other birthday people was stuck on a call that was running late and suddenly was unavailable until 3:15 – when I had to leave to get to another commitment. At that point, it didn’t matter to me – it was clear it wasn’t my birthday celebration anyway. My preferences and feelings had been completely disregarded by all involved.

As I noted, maybe I should let this slide by – it’s very “first world problems” and not a huge issue in the scheme of things. But, in the midst of struggling with the medical issues I am dealing with, and having the type of September I have been having, it was just really hurtful to be completely disregarded in that manner.

 

 

Why I believe Christine Blasey Ford

I am home dealing with some medical issues, so I took the opportunity to watch the Brett Kavanaugh hearings.

I debated whether to post this, whether to go public with this. But watching Kavanaugh rage in his opening statement, listening to his partisan rant, and hearing him play the victim, seeing his crocodile tears and the disrespect he is showing women on the committee, I felt I needed to speak up. First, setting aside any sexual assault allegations, this man is a partisan bully who has no business serving on any court, let alone the Supreme Court.

But it is the sexual assault allegations, and the absolute rage and victimhood with which he denied them, that compels me to speak. Like most women, I have my own decades-old stories. Yes, stories – more than one.

One incident occurred when I was in my late teens, in my very own bedroom. A family member’s friend, a few years younger than me, was at the house. I was in my own room, lying on the bed studying or reading , when he came in and locked the door behind him. He climbed on to my bed and made his way toward me. I put up my foot – or perhaps it was my knee – to block his way. I remember him making the kind of “come on, it will be fun” or “you know you want to ” comments that are often said in those situations as I pushed him away, making whatever excuses I could think of. Eventually I pushed him off the bed and physically pushed him out of the room as he laughed. To this day, 3 decades later, I still don’t know if it was all a big joke and he was messing around with me or if he would have done something had I not resisted. For years, I dismissed it as the former, but could never dismiss the possibility it was the latter and that he was testing how far he could push. I have lived with it for years, impacting me in ways I probably still don’t realize. And, no, I never told anyone about it until recently.

The second incident was a couple years later, when I was traveling alone in Prague. I was 19 or 20 and traveling alone (before Prague really opened up to international tourism). I was walking back to my relative’s apartment, where I was staying. Two guys (around my age?) came up to me and started walking beside me, one on either side. One tried to put his arm around me which I shrugged off. I tried to ignore them as best I could and kept walking a little faster but, moments later, as we approached an alley, one of them tried to guide, then shove me into the alley. I ducked and started running toward an open bar/restaurant I could see down the street. They didn’t follow – they just stood there laughing. To this day, I don’t know if they were just fucking with the tourist, if they intended to rob me or worse. I still look askance any time I’m walking alone and someone gets too close. Again, I never reported it, although I think I may have mentioned it to people about it over the years. I was a foreigner traveling in a country that was recently emerging from Communism – who was I going to report it to?

If we go back even farther, there was the time when I was in elementary school and wearing really short shorts (it was the 70s) while at the grocery store with my mom.  My mom was some distance away. An old man came up to me and said he could see my panties. I think he probably meant well, as disconcerting as it was. I think he was just saying I should cover up – I don’t recall anything lewd about it. But still… even if it was just a man telling a girl how to dress/behave, it has stuck with me for 4 decades.

I can guarantee you that not a single one of the men involved in my decades-old incidents remember them. I guarantee you no one nearby at the time remembers them.  But I do. They will forever be seared into my memory. I may not remember every detail, but I remember the incidents. I remember the men. I remember the laughter.

For these reasons and the millions of other stories out there, I believe Christine Blasey Ford and believe Brett Kavanaugh is unfit for the highest court in our land.

Things happen for a reason…

… and, in the same way, it seems people come into your life for a reason.

I mentioned in a couple prior posts about how my recent foray into dating didn’t work out and how the person was randomly on my mind recently. I think I now have a better sense for why the universe brought them into my life.

I have never been good about keeping up with medical appointments, including routine physicals. I was only about 4 months behind on that, but a few years behind on some other routine screenings. I have a pre-existing condition that makes one of those routine screenings particularly important and, at present, I appear to be having some issues related to it.

During a text conversation this person mentioned their own upcoming physical. At that moment, I was sitting at my desk, my computer and phone conveniently beside me, and nothing but our conversation distracting me at that moment (there was a contract I was taking a quick break from, but I digress). Without a second thought, I scheduled my overdue annual physical (for the very next week). Had that conversation happened at any other time, I would have made a mental note to schedule the appointment and then forgotten as work, school, or other distractions took priority.

Typical of such exams, my doctor scheduled a slew of tests. She also referred me to several specialists for additional testing. The results started coming in and there were a bunch of minor abnormalities, but the doctor felt most were not of concern. But last week, a different test came back with more concerning abnormalities. I have been awaiting additional results related to the issue, which finally came in yesterday. Fortunately, the remaining tests were normal, taking a huge weight off my shoulders. But it is a situation that will now require monitoring and more diligence in my personal health care.

Which brings me back to my initial point. I believe this person came into my life at this particular time for a reason. While I very much hoped we could remain friends when the dating relationship didn’t work out, I am grateful to them. They helped me refocus some of my personal priorities. But, more importantly, if not for that conversation at that particular moment in time, I would not have made that doctor’s appointment and would not have finally scheduled the other screenings. It remains to be seen what, if anything, comes of those appointments, but I will at least finally have them. And for that, I owe this person a debt of gratitude.

And so it begins again…

School, that is…

Today was the official start of the fall semester for my final year of my LLM program. I am finding it a little challenging to get back into study mode, but I suppose that is typical for me. I do have excuses I could make (I haven’t been feeling well the last couple days and Saturday did start with a memorial service), but it is pretty typical for me to procrastinate. In fact, I am doing so right now…

This semester’s class is Corporate Compliance: Law and Ethics. It struck me as something particularly useful for a corporate counsel in this day and age, even if my employer is not international. The course was probably not the most useful toward my dissertation, but I found its case-study approach to be interesting. This week, Enron and Wells Fargo are included in the reading so…

Truth be told I’m looking forward to writing my dissertation over the summer (at least at this moment – I’m sure I’ll burn out again before that), because that will be a chance to do some substantive research on an IP and/or tech law topic of personal interest.  I still don’t fully understand the process for submitting and getting approval of my proposed topics, but that process doesn’t start for a few months. Suffice it to say, I already have an overly-long list of topics I will need to narrow down.

As a random aside – have you ever met someone who you just feel so comfortable with, who you can talk with about nearly anything at anytime and just feel comfortable being open about things? I don’t make “real” friends very easily and it is so rare for me to find someone like that.  When someone like that comes into my life, their subsequent absence is noticeable. Today was one of those days, where my momentary instinct was to text that person about something that happened. I didn’t/couldn’t, of course. But the instinct apparently still lingers.

Live for today because tomorrow isn’t promised…

I spent Saturday morning at a thought-provoking and moving memorial/celebration of life for a colleague’s wife who died far too young (less than 3 years older than me). These types of things inevitably make you think about your own life and this was no different. There were anecdotes and messages shared in this service that resonated about my own life and I hope they will stick with me

First, a slight aside – at the service, I ran into several people who I hadn’t seen in several years (some I do see on Facebook, at least).  I commented to one that it always seems to be funerals/memorials that reconnect people. The same was true for my family – it was at a memorial service a few years ago (it must have been about 4 years, since it was just before my divorce) that the family gathered and I saw extended relatives who I hadn’t seen since I was much younger. Why is it we only seem to gather in our times of grief? I admit, I am terrible about maintaining contact with people on a regular basis. I get busy – we all do. And I tend to be an introvert, so social situations have a tendency to drain me. But there is something to be said for maintaining contact. I said to one person that maybe it is time for us to gather a group of us for lunch. I am resolving to put that into action, even if just that one lunch.

A second aside – another message I took away from the service had to do with how we treat our fellow humans. Speakers at the service spoke of community, of getting involved, of finding mentees. As a natural introvert, these things are very difficult for me. But I do try to do what I can to help others.

But I digress…

I have lost too many friends and colleagues over the last few years, most before their time. I discussed their impact a little in a prior post, and this service  (for the person whose death I learned of while high on a mountain) reiterated the messages I had taken from those prior deaths.  I realized that I need to remember to live in the present, to appreciate the life I’m living and to not focus too much on a future that is never guaranteed.

That’s not to say I have given up considering my future. I have spent the last 18+ years ensuring my future was secure, very often at the expense of the present. I have worked for a salary that is significantly below market because, from a long-term perspective, it provides a pension and, in the short-term, it provides other benefits that are above-market. But I have never been able to have anything close to the lifestyle I envisioned when I went to an expensive, highly-ranked private law school. I certainly didn’t expect to still be paying off my student loans (which I still will be doing for years to come).

Over the last few years, I have started to make a greater effort to stop putting things off until “someday” because that “someday” is never promised. The future plans I have worked so hard for whether my pension or my plans to do certain things when I retire – can all evaporate in a moment.

The truth is, I will have absolutely no regrets if something happens to me and my student loans are never fully repaid. But I would regret if I never saw the Northern Lights or Michelangelo’s David or the Roman Colosseum or the canals of Venice.  I have a long bucket list, especially where travel is concerned.

I am no longer waiting for someday. Someday is today.