The Next Adventure in Maggie’s Odyssey of Thorny Roses

There is some irony in the timing of finally receiving the good news about the *most likely* source of this mystery leg pain that has been with me for the last 9 months. It came during my birthday month, which as usual, was full of celebrations of life.

Maggie’s Thorny Rose Tattoo

These days, I am also rejoicing that I am still alive—finally, fully on board, in my thoughts and beliefs, and in the stories that I tell myself.

The not so pretty news, though, is that the *most likely* root cause of my leg pain is a rather extensive spread of *most likely* breast cancer cells into my bones and spine.

A recent MRI shows what doctors interpret as cancer metastasis. Whether it is breast cancer cells that have spread, or whether other types of cancer cells are having an out of control party in those areas of my body, this cannot be determined until a tissue sample is analyzed under a microscope in a biopsy. But regardless of the type of cell overgrowth, it cannot be denied that my health situation is serious.

I felt sad receiving this news. But I also felt unbelievably calm, centred, and present—everything felt more real than ever before. It felt incredibly *perfect*…

I felt well prepared for news of this magnitude about the health of my body at this point in my journey. I have *lived* for 8 years since my original breast cancer diagnosis in 2009.

I instinctively knew what I needed to do:

  1. Decide that I still want to live
  2. Trust myself

A part of me still feels that I can’t help but question some of my past decisions, and to what-if myself about doing more of this and less of that—although, logically, I know that it will not make any difference now, except for how much stress I put myself through. Only *I* can stop feeling “bad” about it, and I’m using my meditation skills to do that. I’m almost there!!

I am recognizing that I made the best decisions I could with the knowledge, resources and convictions I had at the time…and that by questioning those decisions now, I am still learning from those experiences back then and from this experience of my current circumstances.

When I contemplated sharing this, I thought about what I want to give and receive:

I want to give my genuine view about my situation.

I want to share the hope I feel that I can somehow come out of this, with years of living more experiences, which I truly believe is possible.

I am sharing far and wide, as I want to give everyone who knows my situation the opportunity to, please, support each other.

I want to receive thoughts and prayers of good will and support.

I want to receive the belief that I am already healing.

The Writer During Her 44th Birthday Month

I believe that the thoughts, prayers and beliefs of others—directed my way—can make a difference.

I thought about how difficult it is for me to forget the mainstream story of certain death in a short time that a diagnosis of this magnitude brings to mind—to forget it in favour of keeping focused on other stories:

  • stories of radical remissions*,
  • stories of people living for years and decades with terminal cancer diagnoses,
  • stories of people living long lives with all sorts of health challenges, including cancers, but without knowing what specifically ails them,
  • stories of me, once again, being a statistical outlier (being unique, special, different).

And, if it is difficult for me to keep focus on the stories of longevity, I thought about how difficult it may be for those I share this with, and ask for their support, to keep focus on those stories of longevity and recovery.

Admittedly, we don’t actually ever know anything for sure, and really, anything is possible. And so, what if the effects of thoughts, prayers and beliefs for someone’s health and longevity are like the effect of…democracy—where reality is determined by a majority vote in favour of an outcome.

What if life is a health-ocracy? What if each person reading this or hearing about my latest diagnosis actually has a say in the outcome of my well-being and on my longevity?

Trusting that each person is a powerful being, I wonder if seeing life as a healthocracy can make it easier for me, and for each person that knows my situation, to keep focus on the stories of recovery and longevity…

I think so.

And I trust that others will think so, too!

Individually, we’re pretty powerful, but maybe not sufficiently powerful at this point in evolution to make a huge difference in another person’s health outcome—but if anything is possible, as I believe it is—then it’s possible that each person, now, can contribute with their hopeful thoughts in a healthocratic kind of way…and together, we can help me to stick around a long while longer still…

That is all I ask: please keep focus on the stories of longevity and recovery while directing thoughts and prayers of good will and support my way.

Radical Remission – Stories of Longevity and Recovery

*Reading the research-based book, entitled Radical Remission, may be helpful. It follows the fate of over 100 individuals across the world in recent years, who received a terminal, Stage 4, wide-spread cancer diagnosis—and lived for years and decades to tell about it. In addition, the researcher interviewed 50 holistic healers and studied over 1000 documented cases to write this book. The author then summarized the 9 most common factors in these people’s lives that shed some light on their radical remissions:

  1. Radically changing your diet.
  2. Taking control of your health.
  3. Following your intuition.
  4. Using herbs and supplements.
  5. Releasing suppressed emotions.
  6. Increasing positive emotions.
  7. Embracing social support.
  8. Deepening your spiritual connection.
  9. Having strong reasons for living.

These may be considered to be the essential “treatments” that these individuals embraced in their own healing journeys.

Related is this article on the 9 Key Factors Affecting Radical Remission From Cancer, which refers to over 3500 case studies published in the medical literature, and collected by the Institute of Noetic Sciences, about people who experienced spontaneous remissions from seemingly “incurable diseases.” Most of the case studies revolved around people with Stage 4 cancer diagnosis, who either declined conventional treatment or were given treatment deemed by doctors to be inadequate for a cure.

And I know, I know! I can stop spreading this sort of “Thorny Roses” sunshine anytime now!

So, besides all the cancer talk and attending medical appointments…

…what else is going on in my days?

The Writer Celebrating Birthday Month with Food & Good Company

I celebrated my birthday month with various get-togethers with friends and relatives in-person over delicious meals and via Skype, went out dancing, took myself out for a steak tartare dinner and Fifty Shades Darker movie date, had a stranger leave me a beautiful white lily in the basket of my bicycle, received a loving birthday gift from my German travel companion, let myself sleep in on many occasions, kept up with my daily morning 2 minute plank routine and weekly Pilates classes, among other enjoyable experiences.

Random Stranger Helping the Writer Celebrate Birthday Month with a Lily in Bike Basket

The Writer Celebrating Birthday Month with a Steak Tartare & Movie Night

Appreciating Thoughtful Birthday Month Gifts from German Travel Partner

I said goodbye to my favourite local grocer that’s closing its doors after decades of operating in that location. Between stocking up there, and during a Costco shopping spree with my friendly neighbour, my pantry is overflowing with food abundance.

I’ve attended several author readings and the Room Magazine writing festival—and a few comedy shows touring in Vancouver.

I’ve dusted off the draft of my book, Maggie’s Way, and began writing down my story again.

I’ve re-read some of my poetry from my collection of over 100, which I still really like, and plan to work on sharing more of it online and publishing it.

I also plan to pay some attention to getting my affairs in order, and finally get to some of those organizational tasks—such as updating my will, and preparing power of attorney documents—as there’s really no time like the present for this kind of administrative fun.

The Writer in One of Her Favourite Environments

I plan to visit with a couple of my engineering girlfriends in Victoria on Vancouver Island over the Easter long weekend in April.

In the Summer, I may go abroad on a healing retreat and / or a bucket list trip.

This year, I celebrate my 20th anniversary of graduating in engineering from the University of Waterloo, 20 years of living in Vancouver, and 20 years since moving here on the cross-Canada train. I’m planning to go back East for the graduation reunion in September—maybe even on the train!

And I’m adding specific experiences to my bucket list for afterwards.

And resting! I plan to spend a good portion of my days in peaceful, life-affirming, comfortable places—in nature, in my body and mind with my soul, and in my beautiful, granxurious new bed!

The Writer’s Granxurious New Bed

Who has the time for dying when there’s so much living to be done!

But, first, I think I’ll go and meditate for a bit, to calm myself from all the excitement of this update and of taking stock of my thoughts, activities and plans!

I highly recommend guided meditations on YouTube by Jason Stephenson.

Here are some of my favourites:

And more recently, these:

Although my situation is serious, since I’m still alive, it is not too late!

Thank you for caring and for witnessing this part of my journey.

If you wish to be in touch, please share your thoughts:

  • in comments below, and / or
  • email me [ maggie@maggiesway.ca ].

Thank you for understanding that it might take me a while to respond, and for trusting that I will read your message but may not respond individually.

If you wish to receive email updates on new posts (and to reduce my administrative tasks), please add your email address to my mailing list:

Special Dish for the Week: Birthday Month Dinner

This Special Dish for the Week is one of the many celebrations that I invent this year to commemorate my life, including my:

Birthday Month Dinner

Birthday Dinner Menu 2016

Birthday Dinner Menu 2016

Charcuterie Board

Charcuterie Board

I invite a friend to share in some of my favourite dishes, which in this dinner turn into a Polish-German-African fusion.

I start with a charcuterie board consisting of homemade fermented pickles, Austrian schinkenspeck, and Winnipeg sausage (“kielbasa”).

My friend supplies a lovely Pinot Gris white wine from BC’s / Lillooet Fort Berens Estate Winery, and we begin toasting the meal…and well, me!

Charcuterie Board Table

Charcuterie Board Table

Fig and Green Peppercorn Soup

Fig and Green Peppercorn Soup

For second course, I serve Fig and Green Peppercorn Soup, which my French-speaking German friend introduced to me to during my Book Writing Tour 2013. The soup is once more a hit, with its flavourful and texture combination of sweet, savoury, gritty and creamy.

My guest and I agree that a few more peppercorns would have balanced the sweetness of the figs with spice a little better. My conversion from European grams North American millilitres is not so precise unfortunately. It is still delicious with the licorice flavour.

Fig and Green Peppercorn Soup Table

Fig and Green Peppercorn Soup Table

Butternut Squash Tagine

Butternut Squash Tagine

The main course likewise is a lovely combination of spicy and sweet, in the Butternut Squash Tagine.

Having made previous tagines with chickpeas and zucchini, I return to the original recipe of squash for this dish and “Maggify” it again with shittake mushrooms.

As usual, I garnish my plates with a little greens, such as cilantro, for added colour, flavour, and nutrition.

We pair this dish with the Meritage red wine from BC’s / Lillooet Fort Berens Estate Winery, which my friend also supplies.

Butternut Squash Tagine Table

Butternut Squash Tagine Table

Makowiec Polish Poppy Seed Cake

Makowiec Polish Poppy Seed Cake

For dessert, I bake a Polish poppy seed cake (“makowiec”), which is my friend’s favourite, and as I like it too, I stretch myself once more into baking (typically not my forte, unlike cooking). It is deliciously sweet. Some Polish loose leaf mint tea goes very well with it.

And in the Polish tradition of celebrating every occasion with flowers, I shower myself with my favourites: gerberas, and my friend showers me with these unique looking purplish flowers.

Birthday Flowers

Birthday Flowers

Rosy Celebrations of Birthday Occasion

Live because you can!

Celebrate every opportunity!

Make extraordinary out of the mundane!

That is how I like to live my life. Though I am not presently actively working on capturing my story in a book, I continue to write—submitting some pieces to prize-enticing writing competitions. I continue to generate content for current and future writing—healing myself from my breast cancer, dystonia, and other deficiencies in self-love.

I continue to “live life alive” by celebrating another birthday month.

For my forty-second year, with the participation of loved ones, nearby and from afar, I assemble another diverse compilation of life-affirming celebrations, that span mid-February to April.

The Writer and Waterloo Friend Launch Birthday Month

The Writer and Waterloo Friend Launch Birthday Month

A good long-time friend from Waterloo school and Ottawa work-term days launches the birthday month festivities with a visit from Virginia, showering me with feng shui insights, enthusiasm for the outdoorsy Vancouver lifestyle of inspiring walks and gentle bike rides, and loads of fresh, nutritious and delicious Daikichi sushi and homemade Thai Eggplant Curry.

The Writer and Waterloo Friend Celebrate Launch of Birthday Month with Sushi

The Writer and Waterloo Friend Celebrate Launch of Birthday Month with Sushi

Birthday Month Flower

Birthday Month Flower

Friends and family from around the world grace me with their presence-in-spirit through a multitude of well-wishing cards, phone calls, and Facebook messages, while neighbours and in-town acquaintances envelop me in hugs, kisses, chocolate and flowers.

Birthday Post TLC

Birthday Post TLC

The Writer's Red Streaked Undercut - Front View

The Writer’s Red Streaked Undercut – Front View

Always one wont to help others achieve their goals and dreams, I benefit from the skill and artistic delights of a friend studying hairstyling—and we unleash her on my already short do, creating a funky avant-garde undercut with a streak of colour red. I love it, she’s proud, we have fun and get a good grade!

The Writer's Red Streaked Undercut - Back View

The Writer’s Red Streaked Undercut – Back View

Sunny Beach Walk on Tranquil Pender Island

Sunny Beach Walk on Tranquil Pender Island

For my birthday week, I retreat to a friend’s tranquil sanctuary on Pender Island that offers lakeside meanderings, sunny and moonlit beach walks, relaxing heat of cedar sauna and hot tub, and invigorating exchanges of poetry readings and compilations. Naturally, delicious food abound, we enjoy my Special Dish for the Week: Creamy Carrot Soup, whip up Mediterranean feasts, and splurge on my birthday eve dinner out.

Sunset/Moonlit Beach Walk on Tranquil Pender Island

Sunset/Moonlit Beach Walk on Tranquil Pender Island

Pender Island's Roe Lake Inspired Poetic Compilation

Pender Island’s Roe Lake Inspired Poetic Compilation

The Writer on Sunset Pacific Gulf Cruise

The Writer on Sunset Pacific Gulf Cruise

While on Pender Island, I am inspired during a leisurely walk around Roe Lake to compose a poem, entitled “Blanketed In Love”.

For my actual birthday, I take a Pacific Gulf cruise with my charming Pender Island companion back to Vancouver, where we indulge in some South East Asian delights at U & I Thai—which I love, not only for its adorable name.

Thai Birthday Dinner

Thai Birthday Dinner

Engineering Themed Birthday Dinner

Engineering Themed Birthday Dinner

The birthday month dining extravaganza continues with a fabulous and rich dinner at the now upscale Homer Street Café—a treat by my decade-long engineering friends and DAWEGing colleagues. I get my fill of peanut butter cookies as dessert to my scallop main dish, although they still don’t quench my craving for peanut butter.

Peanut Butter Cookie Birthday Treat

Peanut Butter Cookie Birthday Treat

More of my engineering world gets in on the birthday festivities when my engineering association invites me to a luncheon to award me with a Fellowship in Engineers Canada, the national engineering body, for my long-time “noteworthy” contributions to the engineering profession in Canada.

The Writer Awarded Fellowship in Engineers Canada During Birthday Month

The Writer Awarded Fellowship in Engineers Canada During Birthday Month

Oyster Surprise Birthday Dinner with Good Friends and Mentors of Various Sorts

Oyster Surprise Birthday Dinner with Good Friends and Mentors of Various Sorts

I share another Special Dish for the Week: Mushroom Risotto & Citrus Winter Greens Dinner with my good friends and mentors, chez Maggie, where I am lavished with their TLC of good wine, home baked cookies, apple crumble, birthday cake, and birthday wishes that include “May the dreams you hold dearest be those which come true”. I feel most definitely blessed as I blow out my birthday candle.

Naturally, my birthday month celebrations include more sushi cheer of sashimi, my favourite roll: salmon avocado, along with spicy tuna and gomae (spinach) salad, to which I am treated by my sushi buddy neighbour.

Birthday Dinner with Sushi Buddy Neighbour

Birthday Dinner with Sushi Buddy Neighbour

The Writer Boarding the Birthday Dinner Train

The Writer Boarding the Birthday Dinner Train

Another friend, knowing my love of train travel, organises for us a dinner train trip to the historic Billy Miner Pub in Maple Ridge by the West Coast Express, Vancouver’s regional commuter train. For our 45-minute journey, I make sure I pack a snack of the Special Dish for the Week: Savoury Fig Cake.

The Writer and Accomplice on Birthday Dinner Train Trip

The Writer and Accomplice on Birthday Dinner Train Trip

Pub Pitstop During Birthday Dinner Train Trip

Pub Pitstop During Birthday Dinner Train Trip

Still increasing my physical, mental and spiritual endurance with nearly daily bike rides, daily morning 1-minute pilates plank routines, weekly yoga and pilates classes at the local YMCA, energy healings at Friends For Life—the latest holistic wellness organisation I recently joined, where a special “nearer death” certificate constitutes the membership fee—I also ensure I incorporate an evening of dancing into my birthday month and attend the tantalising La Fête Corsete. Dancing to music that moves one’s body and soul proves to be a cure for many an undesirable condition, including dystonia, in me and in others, releasing us from the grips of painful spasmings and from the curious, cruelly judging eyes of uniformed onlookers, for a moment or two.

During my birthday month I even make my TV debut (at minute 9:10) of this Friends For Life fundraiser promotional segment on Breakfast Television by CityTV, not surprisingly involving food: Dining Out For Life.

Birthday Month TV Debut for Fundraiser

Birthday Month TV Debut for Fundraiser

Five weeks into the celebrations, a packet attentive to my celebratory needs arrives from Germany, containing cautionary words of wisdom: “Save Water – Drink Wine” along with vintage paper straws for those classy ones donning lipstick while dipping their nectar of the gods.

Birthday Month Celebratory Packet from Germany

Birthday Month Celebratory Packet from Germany

The Writer's Cook Street Village Workspace

The Writer’s Cook Street Village Workspace

A weekend getaway to Victoria, for collaborative sessions with my book editor and an energy healer whom I serendipitously met last fall, rounds out my birthday month celebrations. Naturally, eating while writing at a local café in Cook Street Village and celebratory dinner treat with my editor at Il Terrazzo are involved—as is the customary photo op shot with the BC Parliament buildings in the background, all lit up by night.

The Writer Celebrating Birthday Month with Her Editor at Il Terrazzo

The Writer Celebrating Birthday Month with Her Editor at Il Terrazzo

The Writer in Victoria by Night

The Writer in Victoria by Night

The Writer in Plush Blanket with Plush Pillow, Donning Plush Slippers

The Writer in Plush Blanket with Plush Pillow, Donning Plush Slippers

With month-long celebrations like these—and with generally finding it a challenge to do less—my birthday gift to myself shall be to prioritise sleep (or at the very least, restful relaxation) as my #3 priority for the month of April (contentment and looowww streeesss remaining in the lead). The tender loving plush (black) blanket and pillow, which are delivered last fall by my Wish Fairy Cousin, will contribute enticement towards this self-gift of month-long rest and sleep.

The Writer Loving and Loved by Her Plush Pillow

The Writer Loving and Loved by Her Plush Pillow

Homemade Apple Sauce and Dark Chocolate Treats

Homemade Apple Sauce and Dark Chocolate Treats

Remaining also from last fall’s showering of treats, just in time for Easter’s chocolate savouring traditions, is one bar of dark chocolate from good friends who joined me for a Special Dish for the Week: Peanut Sauce Stir Fry Dinner. Their delicious homegrown / homemade apple sauce is now but a distant memory—as is my Wish Fairy Cousin’s dark chocolate almond spread.

Feeling grateful for all the love that I receive, from others and increasingly more from myself. Though part of my health healing journey, it seems to me that we can all learn to give ourselves more love—and to receive it, too!

Dark Chocolate Almond Spread Treat

Dark Chocolate Almond Spread Treat

 

Seventh Week of Birthday and Writing Interrupted

The Writer Nourished by Gourmet Birthday Package

The Writer Nourished by Gourmet Birthday Package

My six weeks of birthday celebrations turns into seven, stretching into April, with the arrival of a personalised gourmet package of souvenirs from my good friend in Hamburg, Germany—some serving as reminders of our travels together—including, among others: Dutch Advocaat (egg liqueur, or ‘ajerkoniak’ as I know it from Poland), which we sipped from the lids of Nivea creme containers in our budget Amsterdam hotel; Ginger Beer, which we looked for in Southeast Asia to sooth an upset stomach; and truffled cheese for the Orange Cardamom Soup recipe that my Hamburgerin friend sends me, and which I finally can try.

Flower-Adorned Bicycle Basket Bearing Mini-Roses

Flower-Adorned Bicycle Basket Bearing Mini-Roses

I extend my birthday celebrations also to my bicycle, treating my new basket to a new bouquet of imitation flowers that my Hamburgerin friend sends me as a replacement for the original ones she sent several years ago. Preparing for my Thorny Roses adventures, I take my basket shopping and stock up on a few pots of miniature roses to give out as gifts of appreciation.

Another friend contributes to my seventh week of birthday celebrations by treating me with a gift card for breakfast smoothies at the Musette Bicycle Caffè, where I sometimes spend my mornings writing down my stories. I promptly go there later in the week, inspired by this idea to do some writing, only to discover that they no longer serve smoothies at this location. I opt for a cranberry turkey sandwich and a vegetarian chili, instead, which I savour while contemplating a particular point in my story that I endeavour to capture in words.

The Writer's Workspace at Musette Bicycle Caffe

The Writer’s Workspace at Musette Bicycle Caffe

Yet another friend brings in the end of my seven weeks of birthday celebrations by treating me to glass of Pinot Noir at The Wicklow Pub, while we recount our various serendipitous chance encounters that appear to guide us along our paths, if we choose to take notice of them.

The Writer Finds Inspiration over Lunch Picnic Cycling through Pretty Cemetery

The Writer Finds Inspiration over Lunch Picnic Cycling through Pretty Cemetery

In early May, I set off for a mini-writing retreat in nearby Victoria, where a work colleague (and friend) invites me to stay in her charming garden suite, and where my Developmental Editor—who has just returned from living abroad—lends me her fancy pregnancy bike to get around on in my own, somewhat compromised, condition. I am working on two projects during my Victorian sojourn: one is a longish chapter in my book; the other is a soliloquy of sorts, which I may share when it is completed. My creative juices are further inspired by delicious breakfast fruit, cheerful potted gerbera, and tasty picnic lunch that I stop to enjoy while cycling through the pretty Ross Bay Cemetery from the Moss Street Market.

Mini-Writing Retreat in Victoria

Mini-Writing Retreat in Victoria

Although my writing is interrupted as life—and potentially new book content—get in the way, I manage to squeeze in a book writing and publishing class and several Artist Dates over the months of April and May.

The recent The Tyee Master Class on “Build[ing] Your Winning Publishing Plan” gives me an opportunity (and, essentially, a deadline) to work out another summary of my book concept, as we are asked to come ready to explain and workshop our intended projects in order to hone our book pitch. I present version 5.4 by now, which I draft with the editorial assistance from my Developmental Editor and my new Strategic Researcher. I am grateful for my Strategic Researcher’s suggestion to use my Spokeman voice amplifier (a glorified term for a personal microphone and speaker) when presenting my “story pitch” to the 20 or so participants in my soft but even voice without causing an urge to strain it for volume.

The Writer's Workspace at Publishing Workshop

The Writer’s Workspace at Publishing Workshop

Still not fully trusting my improved voice, I use the belt-and-suspenders approach—throwing in a few safety pins, just in case, too—to my preparations for reciting the 200-word synopsis that takes me about 3.5 minutes to say.

I write out my book concept summary, in large font, underlining the key words to make it easier for me to read (or to hand to someone to read for me, if my voice proves particularly uncooperative); I ensure my Spokeman batteries are fully charged and check the optimal distance between it and the microphone to avoid the screechy feedback; and I pre-record my reading of my book pitch on my iTouch Voice Memos App, testing the external speaker add-on for sufficient volume on my voice and for battery functionality, in case I need to lean on this strategy. I pack all this electronic kit into my bicycle pannier and basket—along with my notebook computer, camera (for the requisite photo for my post), sliced apple and few dark chocolate squares—and am rewarded for all my efforts—technological and literary—by an appreciative applause from my fellow classmates following my successful performance.

Although I am not yet comfortable sharing the details of my written story, I use this opportunity to gently stretch my comfort zone—and with an open mind, I receive small-group and individual feedback to the details I choose to share in the relative safety of these strangers, bound by writers’ inherent agreement of confidentiality. Two feedback themes emerge for me from the day: 1) it is possible that my story may be too big for one book; and 2) my story personifies for others the ideas of transformation and getting on with life. Next, I need to hone my book pitch into 1-2 sentences—mercifully, they are allowed to be long(ish) sentences!

While not actually writing down much of my story in these recent months, I continue to shape the intent of what I want to express with parts of my story—and the few Artist Dates that I take myself on, support me in my feat.

In particular, the Edward Burtynsky exhibit at the Vancouver Art Gallery, entitled “A Terrible Beauty”, leaves me further grateful for living where I do; for having the opportunities that I do; and for having the challenges that I do. I would not want to exchange those with anyone appearing in the photographs and in the documentary “Watermark” that are a part of the exhibit.

All the while, my heart continues to long for a little bit more of the French heaven.

Six Weeks of Birthday and Chance Encounters

My six weeks of birthday celebrations (turned into seven!) are nearing their end, but hopefully the serendipitous chance encounters I am also experiencing lately are not. And I am having lot of fun with both. These and other life, job and health goings-on are more or less connected with my book writing endeavour—and they certainly keep me sufficiently busy to not be also writing about them more regularly in my story posts. Some I now recount in this post, and others will perhaps be shared in future posts or will form more content for my book.

What is the story behind the six weeks of birthday, I have been asked a few times? Usually, I “just” celebrate birthday month, but the idea behind both is to make the birthday target big enough so that my birthday wishes are never early and never belated, and by making my birthday celebrations virtually impossible to miss, everyone can just feel good about my birthday!

BIrthday Potluck Mexican Dinner

BIrthday Potluck Mexican Dinner

This year, my birthday celebrations begin mid-February with a potluck Mexican dinner prepared with a couple of friends, in commemoration of the Book Writing Retreat 2014 Barra de Navidad, from which I had just returned.

We feast on spicy tomato and avocado guacamole and sweet corn and black bean salad as appetiser. For the main course, we enjoy corn tortillas filled with deeply green spinach and cilantro rice, sweet peppers stir fry, grated cheese and sour cream (Americanised Mexican food variation). Dessert turns out to be extra-rum flambé bananas. It truly is a feast for all senses!

Birthday Thai Dinner Fit for a Queen

Birthday Thai Dinner Fit for a Queen

For another birthday celebration, a friend treats me like a queen, allowing me to assume my position in a strategically placed arm chair—which feels more like a throne—while she prepares for me a Thai curry dinner and showers me with the most thoughtful gifts of two kinds of dark chocolate, red French wine, handmade porcelain clay dish, and a hand crafted Pisces-themed birthday card. Not being one for accepting or giving material presents, I delight at my friend’s thoughtfulness on this occasion. During the evening we also enjoy a brisk walk down to the Fraser River to whet our appetites.

On my actual birthday day, I invite a friend and prepare a French Charcuterie Board dish, in commemoration of the Book Writing Retreat 2013-2014 Nice, from which I had returned earlier in the year.

On another evening, two friends join me for an adventurous experience of dining in complete darkness at the Dark Table restaurant. The experience is designed to emulate performing all but one activity without the sense of vision, allowing a new perception of reality, where the senses of touch, taste, hearing and smell are intensified. I experience a temporary sensation of vertigo when I sit down, before I regain my sense of balance through the sense of touch by feeling my way to what is vertical (the wall beside me) and what is horizontal (the table in front of me). I also find that it is my sense of hearing rather than taste that is the most intensified. I complete my experience of walking in other people’s shoes by taking a trip to the washroom, where I need to be lead by a visually impaired waiter, much more skilled at finding their way without seeing with their eyes than me—and I redouble my gratefulness for my sight when I reach the toilets, which are fortunately, for me, fully lit. No meal pictures from this experience as they would have been rather dull without an infrared feature on my camera.

A steady supply of wine and tea with various friends nearby, as well as wishes and gift packages from friends abroad, see me through to the end of March.

Why would anyone ever stop celebrating their birthday just because they don’t like the number attributed to a particular year’s festivities?!

I continue my education on the book production process and industry by attending a self-publishing fair, once again organised at the Vancouver Public Library. There, I meet and listen to an apparently successful self-published author, Martin Crosbie, who very generously shares his discoveries of strategies to dramatically increase his books’ sales on Amazon. It is a little too early in the process for me to apply any of his findings, although it is encouraging to know that Amazon is not such a book selling mystery after all.

The Writer's Workplace at Just Write Vancouver Meetup Weekend Retreat

The Writer’s Workplace at Just Write Vancouver Meetup Weekend Retreat

I also partake in an in-town, 1-day Writing Retreat, organized as part of the Just Write Vancouver Meetup group. I am grateful for the chance and for giving myself permission to dedicate this day to writing, which I rather enjoy, but sometimes—with a lot of other life going on—I find it a challenge to get to. I have a chance to network with other writers, sharing writing craft and industry tips over refreshment breaks and a healthful, delicious, seasonal, mainly local and organic lunch at Tractor Foods restaurant.

Keeping up my French ameliorations is one of the many activities competing for my time, attention, and sense of enjoyment—I really do enjoy learning and using this fabulous and romantic language. One evening, I go with a friend—with a similar passion for French—to see the movie entitled “Gare du Nord”. This movie is naturally quite artistic (i.e., a little confusing), and incredibly well done. It tells a story of the people, the ghosts, and the people who feel or are made to feel like ghosts, whose lives intersect at this Parisian jewel of a cross-roads that is Gare du Nord. On another evening, I head to a Vancouver French Meetup event for some conversational practice after work, only to find myself crashing a retirement party for a Federal Government colleague and serendipitously connecting with a Francophone acquaintance, with whom I parler en français for a good 45 minutes.

The Writer's Garden Cottage at Xenia Retreat Centre

The Writer’s Garden Cottage at Xenia Retreat Centre

My serendipitous encounters also take me on a search for the Celestine Prophecy book—which fortuitously is about apparent coincidences, their meanings, and possible ways of living life if one chooses to follow the path that these reveal.

This, in turn, leads me to finding my amazing, past yoga teacher, and to partaking in the Ocean Breath yoga retreat, which she leads the following month on Bowen Island near Vancouver. This turns out to be precisely the relaxing, meditative, peaceful, and insightful weekend getaway that I crave at the point that it takes place. I stay in this amazing little Garden Cottage that reminds me that “Everyday is a Gift”.

The Writer at Her Garden Cottage

The Writer at Her Garden Cottage

Between some relaxing and some invigorating yoga sessions; fantastic and healthy meals with inspiring conversations; nature walks that include a visit with Opa—the 1000 year old cedar—a walk around a secluded lake through a forest, and a walking meditation at a rock labyrinth: I spend time at my little cottage writing through my thoughts and working on my book, as I am kept company by a pretty pewter ferry and a friendly pewter humming bird in the windows.

Opa - The 1000 Year Old Cedar

Opa – The 1000 Year Old Cedar

I experience a new for me sensation while hovering my left hand over a round of white crystals—the air between the underside of my hand and the crystals feels cold, but only with my left hand. On the other hand, the air feels the same temperature below and above my hand when I try this with my right hand. I am not sure what, if anything, this tries to tell me.

The Writer in Her Natural Environment at Xenia

The Writer in Her Natural Environment at Xenia

My healing energies are invigorated by a resident energy healer and a couple of sociable sessions in a wood burning sauna. Having recently read another kindred spirit’s mantra about “When cloudy pool of water settles, it becomes clear”, I make it my intention for the retreat weekend. Though clarity does not fully crystallise just then, my time and encounters at Xenia make space for my spirit to breathe and calm my mind and body.

Back at home in Vancouver, I continue to inspire my senses with Special Dishes for the Week that include Rainbow Life Salad with Quinoa and Red Lentil Dhal with Smoked Paprika Eggplant.

What a delicious six weeks of birthday this has been!

Special Dish for the Week: Birthday Charcuterie Board

This week my Special Dish for the Week is for the official birthday-day of my 2014 six-weeks-of-birthday celebrations, and for the occasion I invite a friend and prepare a French dish:

Birthday Charcuterie Board

It is such a delight to gather the ingredients and assemble them in a dish that includes some authentic French ingredients, “smuggled in” from France on the way back from my Book Writing Retreat 2013-2014 Nice; some local French ingredients from Faubourg Parisian bakery café; and some other French imitation stand-ins as it is simply impossible to reasonably find all the authentic ingredients in Vancouver within my cycling radius — so I roll with what I can get, and it works out great!

Birthday 2014 Fig and Green Peppercorn Soup

Birthday 2014 Fig and Green Peppercorn Soup

We start off the festive meal with hors-d’oeuvre of authentic olives à la méditerranéenne avec ail et fines herbes, while sipping a glass of authentic red Châteauneuf-du-Pape Héritages wine. I serve the olives in my new birthday gift, porcelain-clay bowl, hand-made by another good friend of mine. I get to relish the thoughtful gift while I relish its olive contents.

First course consists of Fig and Green Peppercorn Soup, which my French-speaking German friend introduced to me to during my Book Writing Tour 2013. The soup is once more a hit, with its flavourful and texture combination of sweet, savoury, gritty and creamy.

Birthday 2014 French Charcuterie Board

Birthday 2014 French Charcuterie Board

Second course is my adaptation of a more traditional meat & cheese charcuterie board and add a few non-pickled veggies. One of the veggies is thickly sliced avocado sprinkled with unrefined toasted sesame oil, black sesame seeds, sea salt, and a balsamic glaze, while the other veggie is thickly sliced tomato dashed with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper, with sides of cilantro and lime wedges. Definitely a lighter refreshment to offset the more traditional ingredients.

Of the more traditional ingredients, I serve thinly sliced Italian prosciutto, not being able to reasonably find French jambon cru — which is just fine, since that is what we also had for our charcuterie board New Year’s Eve dinner during my Book Writing Retreat 2013-2014 Nice. I also share my authentic medallion of foie gras (thank you duckies!). Two types of goat cheese (chèvre) round out the dish: fine herb and fig flavours.

All these delights are enjoyed with a baguette tradtionelle, from the local French bakery café, which sadly disappoints in its lack of crispness on the outside and softness on the inside by the time we have our evening meal. But my mind reaches back for memories of the real thing in Paris and Nice, and it stands in nicely to make this birthday charcuterie board fully enjoyable. Organic butter and authentic Dijon mustard intensify the textures and the flavours of the main ingredients.

For dessert, I serve several different flavours of macarons, also acquired from the local French bakery café, and enjoyed with rooibos tea lightly flavoured with authentic eucalyptus essential oil infused honey also from Nice.

What a feast! What great company! And to think: this is but one of the experiences of my six-weeks-of-birthday celebrations!