Electronics Positive and Negative Influences on Our Lives

Being an editor, I’m able to observe several mistakes that are common that folks makes consistently inside their writing. Audio type is fantastic within the tone of the piece, and often syntax does indeed take a seat that is back to symbolism and impact. However, there are particular widespread errors which are made in producing that do not alter impact or imagery and so are simply editing and syntax mistakes. Let’s take a look at one of many most frequent writing errors made. DAYS One common mistakes I observe in editing seems to be just a little known principle about how exactly to properly punctuate and utilize appointments written down, especially denoting a year. Continue reading Electronics Positive and Negative Influences on Our Lives

Some Books about Habits

One of the great things about not working in the summer is having time to read books for fun.  So far this summer, I have made it through two books about one of my favourite topics: the making and breaking of habits.

The first, Better Than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives, is by Gretchen Rubin, famous for her books on “Happiness Projects”.  Rubin loves to research her topics deeply, and provides lots of quotes and examples from other texts.  In this book, she divides people up according to their tendency to keep inner and outer obligations.  She then goes through a number of strategies for starting new, good habits and breaking old, bad ones, and explains how each strategy works with each tendency.  Rubin emphasizes the importance of knowing yourself well before trying to make a change.  For example, I found out that I am an “Obliger”, which means having some sort of external accountability is very important if I hope to make a change.  In total, the author lists twenty-one strategies for habit change, all of them explained in detail.  I highly recommend this book for people looking to make a personal change, large or small.

The second book is Zen Habits: Mastering the Art of Change, by Leo Babauta. Babauta writes a very popular blog, also entitled Zen Habits, in which he talks extensively about making and breaking habits, simplicity, and mindfulness.  This book can be a quick read, or it can be read just one short chapter a day.  The chapters then take you through the formation and reinforcement of a specific habit.  While Rubin’s book is heavily researched from external sources, this book leans on Babauta’s personal experiences, working through his own habits and coaching thousands of others.  The ideas on this book are in keeping with Zen philosophy.  For example, he explains how our “Childish Mind” likes life to be easy and comfortable, and doesn’t like to make difficult changes.  Mindfulness is a major topic of this book – the idea is to be present with each moment of change and accept it, rather than facing it with fear.  There is a lot of good advice in this book, although I have yet to read it daily as intended.  For people interested in meditation and the like, this is a great read.

Now that I have all of this information about habits floating in my mind, I really want to use it to tackle one of the many habits I aspire to.  I know from my reading to just pick one change at a time… which to start with??

Habit Forming

There are always lots of habits I think I should develop.  Exercise daily, eat more fibre, drink herbal tea instead of coffee, and so on.  I think most people probably have such a list.  But starting new habits is hard, and breaking bad ones is even harder.  For some time I’ve been reading Leo Babauta’s “Zen Habits” blog, in which he writes about his own struggles with habits.  In today’s post, he took all the wisdom he’s gleaned over the years and sorted it into 36 bite-size points.  Some are repetitive, but overall I think he gets at the essence of what it takes to form a habit.  If you have some things in your life you hope to change, you would do well by looking at this list too.  As he suggests, it’s best to tackle one small change at a time that has a single, regular trigger.  So for the sake of accountability, the habit I am working on for myself right now is cycling on the stationary bike for 20 minutes every day before bed.  Feel free to quiz me periodically on how this habit is going!  Here’s the link to Leo’s worthwhile article:



In which I get some good news!

Well, the test results are in and I have tested negative for all currently-known BRCA-1 and 2 gene mutations related to breast cancer!  So not only do I not have the mutation that some of my family members have, I don’t have any others either.  Of course, with lots of research still being done, I will keep in touch with my genetic counsellor in case there are further tests I can have in the future.

This doesn’t eliminate my risk of breast cancer though, it leaves me with about a 35% lifetime risk based on my family history (on my mom’s side).  That still leaves me in the high risk category, but on the good side, that makes me eligible (in Ontario at least) for annual mammograms and annual breast MRIs.  Ideally those are scheduled 6 months apart, so I would have a breast checkup twice a year.  I was glad to hear that I qualify for the frequent exams.

So for the time being at least, I don’t need to consider more drastic measures such as preventive mastectomy.  I’m glad for the information I’ve gathered on that subject though, and the time I’ve invested thinking about it.  And I continue to think of the friends and family members going through these decisions.

Angelina’s Story (I’m in good company!)

If you haven’t already seen it, you should take a few minutes to read this story in the New York Times by Angelina Jolie (yes that one).


In it she shares her own story of learning she had a gene mutation that left her with an 87% chance of getting breast cancer, and a 50% chance of getting ovarian cancer.  Having lost her own mother to breast cancer, and wanting to be around for her (many) kids for as long as possible, she opted to have a preventive double mastectomy.

Isn’t it cool when celebrities share their personal stories, not to brag, but to inspire others facing similar situations?  It’s a bit like NBA star Jason Collins sharing his sexual orientation to inspire other gay athletes.  Maybe the idea of having preventive mastectomy surgery seems a little less scary and weird knowing that even famous people have had it done.

I applaud her decision to share her story and hope others will continue to do the same.

Meanwhile, it’s mid-May.  I should be hearing the results of my own tests in another month or so… I’ll keep you posted.

Genetic Counsellor Visit – part 1

Wednesday morning I ventured up to the Grand River Cancer Centre for my appointment with the genetic counsellor.  Being there was somewhat surreal, since my last time at GRCC was with my mum before she was admitted to the hospital due to leukemia.  They try hard to make it a warm and inviting place, with many windows, a big fireplace, free coffee and lots of friendly volunteers.  This was not actually my first genetics appointment – I had an initial visit about 4 years ago, but at that time we didn’t know for sure that the BRCA gene mutation was in our family, so they didn’t believe my testing would be covered.  At this appointment I had a lot more information to present to the counsellor, including the exact strain(?) of mutation that had been found in my relatives.

The gene mutation on my dad’s side is a strain of BRCA-2.  So it would definitely be covered for me to be tested specifically for that.  The question was whether or not it would be covered for me to be tested for all BRCA-1 and BRCA-2 mutations.  So that, if I test negative for the version on my dad’s side, they will still catch it if I have something from my mum’s side.  The fact that both my mum and her mum had breast cancer tipped the odds in my favour, so to speak, and they decided I would in fact be eligible to be tested for all BRCAs.  I was very relieved to hear this news.  Otherwise I might be left wondering.  I asked how much it would cost if I paid for a full screening myself and it runs upwards of $4000.  Thank you to Canada, Tommy Douglas, and my fellow taxpayers for allowing me to have these tests without the out-of-pocket expense!

I talked briefly with the counsellor about the ramifications of being tested.  There is the issue of insurability, but thanks to my mental health challenges and some of the meds I take for those, I am pretty much uninsurable already.  There is the question of surgery if I test positive, but I have decided that I will have all of that done if need be.  I will have to carefully consider when to have the surgery if I need it – missing 6 weeks of class time is not the best option.  That leaves the summer, but since I won’t get any test results back until around June, and we hope to move this summer, I’d be looking at summer 2014 for surgery, and that seems like a long time to wait.

So… the blood has been taken and is making its way to Hamilton for testing.  Now to try and put it out of my mind, or at least on the back burner, for the next 4 months.


Big Decisions

How do you make big decisions?  Not the “what’s for dinner” or “where should I go on vacation” kinds of decisions, but the ones that will potentially have life or death consequences?  Who do you talk to, listen to, confide in?

My mum and her mum before her both developed and beat breast cancer in their lifetimes.  Several on my dad’s side also had the disease.  Now some of my close family members have tested positive for the BRCA gene mutation, which is associated with a much higher risk of developing breast and/or ovarian cancer.  Next week is my appointment with the genetic counsellor at the Grand River Cancer Clinic and I have a big decision to make.  If I go ahead with the testing for BRCA, and if I test positive, I will be encouraged to have some pretty major surgeries.  It will be suggested that I have my uterus and ovaries removed, to avoid ovarian cancer, and also that I have a preventative double mastectomy, to avoid breast cancer.

I didn’t want to book the appointment with the geneticist until I had decided for myself what I would do if I get the bad news about the gene mutation.  I’ve obviously talked to my family, but I’ve also talked to a number of friends and colleagues, some of whom have been on their own breast cancer journeys already.  The consensus among them all seems to be that they’re only body parts, and we can live without them.  In my situation the decision would actually be a bit easier since I’m finished having children.  And in the case of the mastectomy the parts are even replaceable, since breast reconstruction through implants is usually part of the process.

I hope that I don’t test positive, but if I do, I am prepared to seriously consider whatever needs to be done to minimize my risks of cancer.  Because ultimately the one I need to listen to is myself.


February check-in

It’s time to look at my January resolutions and evaluate what is and isn’t working.  Here again were my goals for the month:

1.  Bring my own coffee/breakfast to work at least 4 days/week – Breakfast is going well… I either eat at home or bring something to work with me like yogurt and a granola bar.  Coffee is not going well – I need to get up just a bit earlier to have time to put coffee in my Klean Kanteen thermos.  Still need to work on that.
2.  Bring my own lunch to work at least 4 days/week – Doing very well with this one.  I’m particularly happy with all the leftovers I’ve eating for lunch – saves money and reduces waste.
3.  90 minutes of exercise activity per week – Yeah, still need some work here too.  I’ve started a new habit of walking when I get home from school (while it’s still light out) and I think it’s going to work out well.
4.  Maximum of 1 pre-meditated clothing purchase per month (and no spontaneous purchases) – This one was easy.  Didn’t buy any clothes for Daniel or myself at all this month.  We did buy clothes for Marko but that’s alright – not related to my problem compulsive behaviour.
5.  Plan ahead and purchase ahead for all weekday meals – Good work here too.  We are back in the habit of planning for meals and purchasing just what we need for those meals.  Keep it up.
6.  Minimum of 7 hours sleep per weeknight, 8 hours on weekend nights – Well, weeknights are always between 6 and 7 hours now, which is an improvement.  Could still be better though, and I’d like to avoid having mid-day naps (the walks are meant to address this problem too).

All things considered, I’m going to leave 1, 3 and 6 on the list for February.  The others will move to the back burner, meaning I will keep an eye on them but they’re not my primary focus.  And I’d like to add a new one to the list: meditation.  Nothing fancy or too extensive, just 5 minutes a day of mindfulness meditation to relax and focus.  If it goes well, I plan to increase the length of time slightly each week.

So, here are my February resolutions, hopefully they are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and timely.  I think they are.

  • Bring my own coffee to work at least 4 days/week
  • 90 minutes of exercise activity per week, including a walk after school at least 2 days/week
  • Minimum of 7 hours sleep/weeknight (who am I kidding, weekend sleep is not a problem!)
  • 5 minutes of mindfulness meditation per day

Wish me luck! 🙂

From chaos to harmonious spaces

I have a secret weapon in my battle to declutter and simplify my life: her name is Heidi.  Heidi is a professional organizer working in the greater Kitcher-Waterloo area and she’s also a miracle worker.  I call upon her on a semi-regular basis to help me dig out from under the clutter and get my house and my life back on track.

But let me go back a few years first of all.  As I’ve mentioned before, I have a problem with what I like to call “chronic disorganization”.  I’m not a hoarder, and I’m actually getting better at pitching out what I don’t need anymore, but I am really bad at knowing where things go and putting things back where they belong.  I used to just have piles of assorted stuff in every room.  Finding things when I needed them was a nightmare.  Then along came “Clean Sweep” – the decluttering show on TLC from several years ago.  This magnificent person named Peter Walsh, part organizer, part psychologist, was helping couples on the show deal with huge clutter issues and helping them to reclaim whole rooms in their houses.  I watched that show obsessively and tried to follow up by decluttering my own stuff.  However I was only partly successful – I got discouraged very quickly.  I was missing the “Peter Walsh” part of the equation.

It took a bit of convincing, but my dear husband agreed to having a professional organizer come to the house to help me out.  I found Heidi’s business – Harmonious Spaces – on the Internet.  I chose her above the other possible candidates because she had the best-looking website.  🙂  I was incredibly nervous the first time she came over because I felt like she would judge me and scold me for my chaotic house.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  She was incredibly patient and understanding and walked me through the whole process.  We tackled one shelf at a time, one box at a time, and after 3 hours I couldn’t believe how much we’d accomplished.  Not only did things look tidier, but Heidi set me up with a workable filing system, an “action file”, clear workspace on my desk and a vision for my storage areas.  I had piles of stuff for the trash and piles to donate.  I had been dreading the experience but it was fun, even exhilirating, and somewhat addictive.  I wanted to tackle the next room, and the next…

While I’m definitely getting better with the clutter situation, I still need assistance from Heidi from time to time to get back on track or to tackle a particularly tough area.  I greatly look forward to her visits because I know that when she leaves not only will my house look better but I’ll feel better – a sense of relief.

I wanted to share this story because I know there are other people out there who are just overwhelmed by clutter.  And that can affect other areas of our lives too, so that soon we feel like we’re drowning.  I wanted to tell you that if you feel like that, why not consider enlisting the help of someone else, a professional organizer or maybe an objective friend.  It’s made a world of difference for me.