Vegan bag love

Replacing all my bags with vegan ones is a process. Of course there are loads of non-leather bags around (3/4 of the bags at Winners!)…but finding ones that suit my style and that I like as much as my lovely leather collection takes effort! 

On Black Friday I found a new grey bag! It is by a brand called Akaiv Los Angeles, bought at Heaven in the promenade mall

I also noticed a brand called Nella Bella at shoppers, and looking online think I have found a new black bag (the fake Stella McCartney lasted a month!): 

A few other stunning offerings from Nella Bella:

Kate Nu Soho

Rose Nu Soho

Duke Nu Soho


Frustration 

One of the things I’m finding most frustrating about being a recent cancer survivor is how hard it is to get my energy back and feel like myself again. With me it’s very 2 steps forward 1 step back. I will have a few days or a week where I am pretty well the way I used to be…working and exercising and doing stuff with friends and watching Netflix till 11 or midnight with my husband…and then I will have a week where I am sleeping through my alarm and hitting the sack at 9 every night. 

It’s so frustrating because I really want to feel like myself and I don’t. Today is a perfect example. Last week we were away and Even though Cuba was relaxing I swam and walked a ton, probably used more energy than I do at home. Then I worked all day Wednesday and then went to a work event and got home at 10, Thursday I worked all day and then went to a barre class, yesterday I worked all day and then went to the mall with a friend after work and got home after nine. It all felt so “normal” to me and before chemo it would have been…but then today I feel like I hit the wall!!  I slept for about 10 hours last night and even so I can barely pick up my head today and I’m sending my husband to do the groceries that I would normally do (and I love doing the groceries!). I’ve been told that can take one or two years after chemo to have my past level of energy, that’s so depressing.

I find it especially frustrating because I work full-time and have two kids, and I cannot really not work or not parent…so the energy takes things from me if that makes sense. I have to work, and cook, and help with homework, and do laundry, etc…so when I don’t have much energy it’s the things I want to do for myself, like exercising and shopping and reading and watching my favourite shows on Netflix and spending more time with friends, that don’t get to happen.

Of course when I complain to people they often remind me that I’m lucky to be alive, or it’s a small price to pay for beating cancer, or whatever.  It’s true but still hard. I beat cancer because I want to live, that means I want to  live my life. Also, the reality is I don’t really know if I beat cancer. I don’t know if I’m gonna have a recurrence in a few months or a few years (I hope I won’t, and I’m not trying to be negative, it’s just the reality of cancer especially one like mine but made it to my lymph node), so it’s important for me to live my life as best I can now…but that’s  hard to do without much energy. I know I should be gentle with myself, pace myself, and give myself time. But it’s hard to do, I just want to be me again… the me that works full-time and does my job well, does everything I have to for my kids and home, and still has enough energy to enjoy me things like exercising and friends and family and TV and reading. 

One day. 

About travelling without kids

Our trip to Cuba last week was the first time that Adam and I have ever gone away without our kids, that’s right in 13 years we have never gone away without the children, not even for a weekend.

For the last few years whenever I have told somebody that, they have expressed shock and dismay, telling us that we simply have to go away without our kids on a regular basis to have a strong marriage.

Leading me to tell them to “fuck off” in my head, because I don’t think anybody else is in a position to judge whether my marriage is strong or not.

Actually, my marriage is strong and has been for a long time. We had some difficulties in the past for various personal reasons, and we overcame them and it did not take a vacation alone to do so, it took communication and understanding and forgiveness and commitment. 

Until I got cancer, we rarely talked about travelling alone. We don’t have a lot of money and we don’t travel very often, so it always seemed like it would be unfair to use any of our travel money to go away without the kids, when our kids already travel much less that a lot of their friends and relatives. Going away alone was something we talked about doing in the far future, and it didn’t really bother us to think that it would be a long long time away. As I said, our marriage is perfectly happy and I don’t think we need to have a large amount of alone time to keep it happy. When we are spending time focussing on each other, and communicating, the amount of time we have together after the kids go to bed and on the occasional date night is more than enough to keep our marriage “alive”. 

However, cancer did two things.

1.  It was stressful. Really really stressful. It was the most stressful thing I’ve ever gone through in my life, and stress leads to more stress. I’m still stressed out because I had cancer; I’m stressed because I worry it’s going to come back. Stressed because my wonderful organization gave me accommodations to work through my treatment but I am almost done with them and will be going back to a full caseload which is a very stressful job. I’m stressed because I have more doctors appointments than I ever have in the past, and everyone of them is scary. Stressed because every time I think I’ve got a handle on this, there is some new medication or procedure I need to start thinking about. I’m stressed because with all this stress, I’m still a full-time working mom who never has enough hours in the day and never has enough time to just chill. 

2. Cancer made us realize that if we were waiting to do something, it might not happen. We never know what tomorrow has to bring, so if we really wanted to go away without the kids, it was time.

So the reason we chose to finally take a vacation without the kids is because I got cancer, because I was so stressed out by cancer that I just needed to de-stress, in a way that I can’t do when my kids are around. Even though vacations are always relaxing for my family, there is still a lot of fighting and bickering and stress involved…there are two kids after all! We also went because it was something we had talked about doing, vaguely and with no urgency, but it seemed like a combination of having cancer and being so stressed from having cancer made now more the right time than it had ever been.

We had a wonderful trip. We relaxed completely, without having to worry about the kids schedules or bickering or needs. We did not fight for one minute the entire trip, not a single misunderstanding or disagreement, nothing. We never fight often, but bickering (usually over something that has to be done for the kids) happens.

It was wonderful, mostly just to relax so much…but it did not improve our marriage, it did not strengthen our marriage, it did not make me feel like my marriage is better now than it was a week ago.

After going away with alone with my husband, I definitely feel that it if any stressed parents have an opportunity to do so, they should take it. But I also do not feel anymore than I did before that it is necessary to have a happy and connected marriage. If you are a couple that can’t get away without your kids, don’t worry about it, you can still have a great marriage. You can set aside time for each other to reconnect in the evenings, take advantage of opportunities for date-nights when they come, remember that your kids are only getting older and things will get better, and when anybody tells you that you simply need to travel without your kids to have a great marriage tell them to “fuck off” in your head!

One other thing, if you are one of those couples that feels that you need to have time away from the kids regularly, and travel together without your kids to have a strong marriage, I would recommend rethinking that and exploring how you can make your marriage one that does not depend on that. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t travel without your kids and take time alone when you can get it and enjoy it, I think if you can you should absolutely! But it’s also important to remember that life can change on a dime, travel is a privilege, and that you want your marriage to be one that doesn’t depend on outside influences to keep it happy, but rather the relationship itself at home and away. 

Cuba!!

Adam and I just returned from our first ever solo (no kids) vacay since having kids!! 

We went to the Melia Jardines Del Ray in Cayo-Coco, Cuba

We had wonderful time! It took a while to get used to only (mostly, we chatted with others a bit) having each other for company but once we got used to it we really enjoyed it. Of course we missed the kids but it was so nice to have a break from the stresses of daily life…including kids and their fighting!! 

The resort was huge and lovely…I think the salty wind and limits on materials available to Cuba make it hard for resorts to stay “fresh” but it was easy to see how hard they tried…painting and other repairs were a constant sight!

The Cuban people were so kind to us. Friendly and eager to please their guests. Service was excellent and problems (a inexplicably broken toilet seat we returned to one day) were quite promptly dealt with! 

Our 15 year anniversary was Friday and we had a lovely day…we visited an adult only resort for lunch, drinks and swimming and had a great dinner at the Chinese a la carte restaurant.

Everybody says the food in Cuba sucks but we thought it was perfectly fine, not 5 star but edible with some variety. That said it wasn’t the best place for a gluten intolerant vegan and I pretty well lived on rice, potatoes (hash brown, sautéed and French fries were all at nearly every meal), corn, chickpeas, and whatever fruit was decent on a given day. I ate a lot of fried food, sugar, and alcohol (and I think butter too, I’m pretty sure all the vegetables were sautéed in it!)…things I usually avoid or limit…so I will be doing a 30-day reset to get my usually healthier tastes back on track! However, there was a scale in the room and in spite of my poor eating, I left weighing what I did on arrival which was a relief. 

That may be because I was able to stay very active. I walked and swam a ton, and also participated in yoga, pilates, stretching and aquafit classes daily. The classes were pretty low exertion…but a fun way to stay fit and friendly. 

In badinage news, on the first day I went swimming in the ocean in my super tight fitting Maui Jim sunglasses…and lost them. Then I lost my contact lenses looking for them. Luckily I had a spare pair of contacts. As for the sunnies, a very kind woman I met on the beach who assured me she had several pair gave me hers. They are unbranded and probably from a drugstore…but it was so kind! 

I was able to read 3 books on our trip, here are some mini reviews: 

I’ll give you the sun by Jandy Nelson 
A bit difficult to get into due to excessive use of metaphor…so much that I barely knew what was happening. As the book progressed either the metaphors lessened or I got more accustomed, because it sucked me in and I ended up loving this YA novel about family, friendship, love and betrayal.

Beauty of humanity movement by Camila Gibb
A beautiful book weaving together Vietnam past and present as a young Vietnamese-American woman searched for her history with the help of an older man and and a young travel guide. Well developed (but not over-developed to tedium) characters in a very readable book.


Truly, madly, guilty by Liane Moriarty
Another unputdownable novel by Liane Moriarty. A story about an innocent barbecue among 3 families that ends in tragedy. The book is told from different perspectives and is a mystery to the end.  

Here are some collages I prepared: 

 

The Animals