HOOFING IT Across Canada!

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Today I’m super excited to share something that’s very close to my heart and to give you an opportunity to participate!

It’s almost 7 years since I was diagnosed with neuroendocrine cancer (NETS). Once the shock of learning that I had a cancer that I’d never heard of and that I’d be living with it for the rest of my life wore off, it became important to me to do what I could to help raise awareness of this little known disease and to support fundraising efforts for research, better treatments, and patient support. That’s why I’m going to be HOOFING IT Across Canada with CNETS Canada!

Between July 1st and September 7th, the Canadian neuroendocrine cancer community will be working together in an effort to raise $100,000 for neuroendocrine cancer research! Participants will rack up as many kilometres as they can by walking, hiking, kayaking, swimming, cycling, roller-blading, or any other forward moving activity that they can think of and tracking their individual distances. Together, we aim to record 5,514 kilometres, the distance from Newfoundland and Labrador to the Yukon! In the days of Covid-19, the beauty of this is that we can each participate in our own community while practicing appropriate social distancing.

My goal during this campaign is to walk and/or hike 100 kilometres and to raise a minimum of $1500. That’s where you come in! I’m hoping that I can persuade you to visit my fundraising page here and make a donation. No amount is too small! Every cent that is received by CNETS will be directed to neuroendocrine cancer research. We need to know what causes this disease and we need to find a cure!

If you’re in Sedgewick, you’ll probably see me walking around town or out on the walking path wearing my zebra stripes and from time to time I’ll post updates here on the blog.

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Please make a donation!

The psychology of fashion

LogoConsidering all that’s been going on in the world lately, I must admit that I felt a little guilty complaining about my wardrobe in last Friday’s post. After all, that’s such a first world problem. In fact, sometimes writing about fashion at all seems terribly trivial.

On the other hand, I’ve been reading about something called enclothed cognition, a term that relates to the effect that clothing has on the way a person thinks, feels, and functions. There’s nothing new about the idea that how we dress influences the way others perceive and respond to us. That’s why we dress differently for a job interview than we do for a day at the beach. Recent studies show, however, that what we wear also directly affects our behaviour, attitudes, personality, mood, confidence, and even the way we interact with others. If that’s the case, then perhaps taking an interest in what we wear isn’t as shallow and self-centred as it might seem!

An interesting question to ask yourself is not only what messages do you want your clothing to tell others about you, but also how do you want to feel when you wear them? I’m reminded of how I instinctively packed what might best be referred to as comfort clothes when I got the call that my father was dying. In this case, I was using clothes to help reduce anxiety and foster calm. If clothing actually has a therapeutic impact, maybe it really does matter that I’m not entirely satisfied with what I see hanging in my closet! After all, self care is an important aspect of mental health.

Sharing spaces

Big Knife Provincial park, less than an hour from home, has become one of our favourite places to get away from the busyness of life. We’re just back from enjoying three days of peace and quiet there. 72 hours without cell phone or internet. No news. No politics. Just us and nature!

We certainly weren’t alone, however. We shared our camp spot with a very busy pair of yellow-bellied sapsuckers. I’m not an avid bird watcher, but these two piqued my curiosity and I had to do a bit of research as soon as we got home. Here’s what I learned.

The Yellow-bellied Sapsucker is a medium-sized woodpecker that breeds in Canada and the north-northeastern United States. It makes two kinds of holes in trees to harvest sap. Round holes extend deep in the tree and are not enlarged. The sapsucker inserts its bill into the hole to probe for sap. Rectangular holes are shallower, and must be maintained continually for the sap to flow. The sapsucker  laps up the leaking sap and any trapped insects with its specialized, brush-tipped tongue, and eats the cambium of the tree too. New holes usually are made in a line with old holes, or in a new line above the old.

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That’s Mr Sapsucker in my photo. His Missus looks almost the same except her bib is grey instead of red. With thousands of trees in the area, why they chose one in the middle of the campground, I’ll never know, but they were clearly quite comfortable sharing space with us. Apparently, our trailer was in their flight path between this tree and the woods surrounding the campsite, but Mr quickly took to flying directly under our awning even when we were sitting there! Thankfully, there were no collisions as he went back and forth all day long!

We also shared our space with chipmunks and squirrels who checked the site from time to time to see if we’d left anything edible lying around, and a couple of rabbits who just passed on through.

One of the things that we love to do at Big Knife is kayak on the Battle River. Yesterday, we discovered the spot where Big Knife Creek feeds into the river, so of course we had to explore it. The slow moving creek was shallow in spots, but navigable. We went as far as we could (up the creek with a paddle!) until a huge fallen tree blocked our pathway and we had to turn around.

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Pristine, untouched wilderness!

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We quickly discovered that even here we weren’t alone. This time we were sharing space with beaver. Lots of beaver! They obviously weren’t as comfortable as the sapsuckers were with the idea of sharing space with us though. As soon as we got anywhere close, tails hit the water with thundering splashes and they disappeared below the surface. I managed to get a picture of this one just before he gave his warning shot and disappeared from sight.

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In a wardrobe funk

LogoLiving as I do in a location that has very distinct seasons, I have two almost entirely different wardrobes. There are, of course, some pieces that stay in my closet year round, but I do a seasonal wardrobe switch twice a year. Our bedroom closet isn’t very big, so the off-season clothes go into storage in the basement. Before that happens, I usually do a good sort and try to get rid of things that are taking up space and not likely to be worn again. I say “try to” because I’m not always good at letting go of things. That’s definitely part of what has led to my present wardrobe funk. It’s barely past the middle of June and I’m already feeling fed up with my summer wardrobe! There were things that I fully intended to get rid of at the end of last summer, but when it came time to do that, I wasn’t disciplined enough. Instead, they went into storage and when I hung them back in the closet this spring, I was immediately discouraged by what I saw. That’s definitely not a good way to start a new season!

And what a season it’s been! The monotony of the Covid-19 quarantine has definitely added to my present feeling of discouragement with my wardrobe. Though I firmly believe in getting dressed every morning and not hanging around the house in pyjamas or sweats, the shutdown has seriously limited where we’ve been able to go and consequently what I’ve worn. There are a number of dressier items languishing in my closet simply because I’ve had nowhere to wear them.

Then there’s the weather. Last year we basically didn’t have summer. It was the coldest, wettest summer that I can ever remember. Though we’ve had a few really nice days this year, it isn’t starting out a lot warmer. I still enjoy wearing shorts and sleeveless tops on hot days, but with temperatures barely creeping above 20ºC (68ºF) most days and some not even that warm, I need things that are suitable for cooler days. That’s where the choices in my closet are most limited; another reason for my present wardrobe woe.

A poorly curated closet + a pandemic + gloomy weather = a serious wardrobe funk! 

So, what am I going to do about it? This year, I’m not going to wait until the end of summer to weed out the items in my closet that should no longer be there. I already have a collection of clothing and other things to drop off at our local thrift store as soon as it reopens and I’m going to start adding to it right now! Although the Covid restrictions are starting to loosen, it’s probably going to be awhile before I go shopping for anything new, but once I’ve pared down the closet to those things that I actually want to wear again, I’ll take a close look at where the gaps are and make a wish list. That way, when I finally do go shopping, I’ll be prepared! In the meantime, I’m also going to work even harder than I already have been at putting together new and different combinations from the items that are already in my closet. Who knows, maybe I’ll even find some interesting ones to share with you in future posts.

Now, how are you doing? Have you found yourself in a funk lately… wardrobe or otherwise?

Emerging

6b418a7e1c894727282ae55335b6bb1aLike butterflies coming out of cocoons, we’re gradually emerging from the Covid-19 shutdown and figuring out what living in this new world is going to look like. I don’t know about anyone else, but I’m finding it a little bit unnerving. My cocoon was comfortable. I knew exactly what to do and what not to do. I wasn’t worried about contracting  the virus because we easily kept our distance from other people and almost never left our county where there hasn’t been a single confirmed case. Thankfully, I was able to fit the local golf course into my cocoon!

Even though Alberta entered the first phase  of a three stage relaunch strategy back on May 14, nothing really changed for us. Now, with the introduction of Stage 2 on Friday, a week ahead of schedule, bigger changes are happening. In addition to those businesses that were deemed essential and never closed, as well as those that reopened in Stage 1, theatres, libraries, places of worship, casinos, bingo halls, arcades, and recreational facilities including gyms and pools, as well as many other similar facilities, can now be open. Personal services, including skin and body treatments, facials, manicures, pedicures, waxing, and tanning are also allowed now.

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Life at this stage is a bit like the newly emerged butterfly; somewhat fragile and facing many unknowns. As we step out of our cocoons, we need to decide which of the many available options we feel comfortable resuming right now and what precautions should be taken when we do.

Though we’re being reminded to remain diligent about social distancing and to wear masks when that’s not possible, I’m concerned that many people seem to think the crisis has passed and are becoming lax about following the recommendations. If that continues to happen, I foresee an upswing in Covid cases and possibly a need to shut things down again. Though my cocoon was comfortable and safe, I don’t want to have to hide away in it for any longer than necessary, so while we spread our wings, please let’s do it with care and caution!

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What happens to your returns?

LogoIn last Friday’s post, I shared some of the reasons why I prefer shopping for clothes in person rather than online. Today, I want to discuss what I consider to be another very big strike against online shopping.

Do you know what happens to the items that you return? In far too many cases, they end up in the landfill! That’s right! It’s estimated that more than 25% of all returns go into the garbage! I was shocked and appalled when a reader brought this to my attention.

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In a time when people are doing more than ever before to protect the environment, consumers usually don’t realize that their online shopping habits could be undoing a lot of the good that they are doing in other areas. While it might be convenient to order a pair of jeans in two or three different sizes, keep the one that fits, and return the others, most people would probably think twice about doing that if they knew that the pairs they are returning might end up in the garbage.

So why is this happening? It’s all about money, of course. It costs companies more to employ the people required to check returns for damage and, in the case of clothing, to re-press and repackage each item than it does to simply incinerate them or throw them in the dumpster. Not only does the environment suffer, but we, the consumers, end up paying more for products because retailers have to increase their prices to recoup their losses.

So how big is this problem? In Canada alone, we are returning $46 billion worth of goods every year. In the US, over 4 billion pounds of brand new returned apparel end up in the landfills annually. That’s approximately the equivalent to every family in the country throwing one laundry load of clothing in the garbage every year. This dirty little secret isn’t exclusively an online shopping problem. About 5 to 10 percent of in-store purchases are returned, but that rises to 15 to 40 percent for purchases made online. Clothing and shoes bought online typically have the highest rates with 30 to 40 percent returned.

If I wasn’t already committed to shopping in person, I definitely would be after looking into this! I learn a lot from my readers, so please keep the comments coming. 🙂

Celebrating survival!

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Today, the first Sunday of June, is National Cancer Survivors Day, an annual, worldwide celebration of life set aside to honour the millions of people worldwide who are living with and beyond cancer and to raise awareness of the challenges that they face.

Major advances in cancer prevention, early detection, and treatment have resulted in longer survival, but a cancer diagnosis can leave a host of problems in its wake. Physical, financial, and emotional hardships often persist for years after diagnosis and treatment. Depending on where they live, survivors often contend with rapidly rising drug costs, inadequate insurance coverage, difficulty finding or keeping employment, and a lack of understanding from family and friends. Despite these difficulties, cancer survivors can live active, productive, inspiring lives.

So what is a survivor? To many, the term ‘cancer survivor’ suggests a person who has beaten their cancer; perhaps one who has been cancer free for several years, but I like the definition used by the National Cancer Survivors Day Foundation. “A ‘survivor’ is anyone living with a history of cancer – from the moment of diagnosis through the remainder of life.”

In other words, I am a survivor! In fact, I’m a three times survivor.

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I live with cancer every day. Unless a cure is found for neuroendocrine cancer (NETS) within my lifetime or God performs a miracle on my behalf, I will never be cancer free. People have a hard time grasping the idea of a chronic cancer. The usual assumption is that patients either die of their disease or they are cured, thereby becoming cancer survivors, but I look at my situation differently. I may eventually die of my cancer or I may die with it, but either way, I am a survivor! Fortunately my NETS is stable at this point and it doesn’t significantly impact my day to day life. I’ve had all the PRRT treatments that I can have, but a monthly injection given here in my home by a visiting nurse seems to be keeping things under control. I had my 87th of these “butt darts” just over a week ago.

I’m also a cancer survivor in the more tradition sense, as in one who had the disease, but is now free of it. As many of you know, seven months after my NETS diagnosis, I was diagnosed with a second, completely unrelated cancer that was removed surgically. Six weeks of radiation followed and, since that time, there has been no recurrence.

Cancer number three, most likely caused by the radiation that I received for the other two, was discovered in my thyroid almost exactly a year ago. Though it’s not a particularly aggressive form of cancer, it’s the one that concerns me the most right now. I was supposed to see my specialist two months ago and have an ultrasound to determine whether or not the cancer is growing. Thanks to Covid-19, that didn’t happen and it’s been eight months since my thyroid was last looked at. Though my specialist still isn’t seeing patients except in emergency situations, I decided to do a bit of self-advocating and his office is now in the process of trying to arrange for me to have an ultrasound done in a hospital closer to home in a small city that has only had one Covid-19 patient.

Yes, in spite of all this, I am a survivor! Survivors are people from all walks of life, of all ethnicities and income levels. They’re children, moms, dads, and grandparents. They may be your coworkers, friends, and loved ones. Traditionally, National Cancer Survivors Day celebrations have included parades, carnivals, health fairs, awareness walks, candle-lighting ceremonies, and other community events. This year, due to Covid-19 restrictions, the celebrations may be somewhat more subdued, but life with and after cancer goes on and it ought to be about more than just surviving. It ought to be about living well and that’s always something to celebrate!

 

Online or brick and mortar?

LogoOnline shopping has grown in popularity over the past few years, but Covid-19 has taken it to a whole new level. Here in Canada, e-commerce giant, Amazon, uses the postal system to ship parcels. For the past couple of months, Canada Post has been handling volume comparable to the usual Christmas rush. I’ve made a couple of orders myself, but when it comes to clothing, I’m definitely a brick and mortar shopper even though I live in a teeny, tiny town that doesn’t boast a single clothing store!

There are several reasons why I prefer to shop in conventional stores. First of all, I like to actually see the garment that I’m considering buying, feel the fabric, and examine the workmanship. I can’t do that looking at an image on my computer screen.

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Fit is another important reason why I choose to shop in person. Size charts and customerScreen Shot 2020-06-03 at 2.00.26 PM reviews are helpful, but nothing beats trying the garment on and standing in front of a three way mirror. I could probably do quite well ordering tops online, but pants are my nemesis. I’m tall and thin with a very boyish figure, sometimes referred to as a pencil body type. Made for more curvy girls, pants that fit my waist often bag at the hips. I usually have to try on several pairs to find the ones that fit me well and flatter my body type.

Shoes are another item that I would have a very hard time buying online (except for this pair that I had already tried on in store). My feet are very narrow, so again, finding ones that fit well sometimes involves trying on several pairs.

I realize that online purchases can be returned and that many companies seek to make that process as simple as possible, but it’s still a hassle and there’s often additional cost involved. The fact that our town doesn’t have a drop off point for any of the  courier services adds further complication. I do wonder how often someone ends up keeping a garment that would have been returned to the rack if they had picked it up in a brick and mortar store. Chances are those items don’t get worn very often if at all.

There’s also an emotional and social aspect to personal shopping that’s absent when purchasing online. While setting aside time and actually going to the store requires more effort, the personal attention of trained customer service staff often enhances the experience and, of course, in-store shopping can also be shared with friends. Finally, there’s the luxury of walking out of a store with exactly what you want and not having to wait for delivery.

As pandemic restrictions gradually lift, we’re likely going to see long-term changes to the shopping landscape. Sadly, some retailers, especially those that were already struggling financially, may disappear entirely and others may move to an online presence only. Hopefully, however, there will always be a place for in-store shopping!

Do you prefer to shop in person or online? If you shop online, do you have any tips that you can share?