Wednesday, November 30, 2005


Dear Liam & Morgan,

Tuesday, November 29, 2005 was a rainy day. The sky was covered in clouds, shades of grey ranging from pearl to light charcoal. It was raining most of the day, but warm enough that if you’re of Viking/East Coast heritage, you could go out with just a light jacket. Normally on days like that, people get pretty cranky, but I woke up with a sense of optimism and possibility. I had no idea why at first, but then, at 11:35am, your dad called me and told me that it was to be your birth day and then all the hope and happiness inside me made sense.

We have talked about when you’d be born, guessing, hoping, thinking of days already with special significance, of how cool it would be if you were born on this day or that. And you showed that already, you are very much an Andersen-Biggs combination of uniqueness and insistence on doing things your way (and as fast as possible). You chose your own day to be born, completely ignoring any requests or urging to stay inside a little longer. And then, just as everyone got behind the idea, you did what the whole family does when something is expected of them: you did the exact opposite and slowed right down. Nobody tells the Andersen-Biggs clan what to do!

Your mormor went to be with your mom and dad – you were too far away for me to get there, but I gave mormor my digital camera and a pile of quarters, with strict instructions to call me often with updates. And then I paced grooves into my floor for the rest of the day, my body in Toronto, but the rest of me with you.

You were born on Wednesday, November 30, 2005. Liam was born at 6:27am and was 1913gr (4lb3oz) and Morgan at 6:40am and was 1810gr (4lb). Mormor saw you come out and she says you are beautiful.

Your dad was a tower of strength, supporting your mom in the hard work she was doing and your mom? Your mom was a warrior, a woman to be reckoned with. You chose well, when you chose these two as parents.

I wanted very much to write you something special today, but ever since I got the news this morning, there has been nothing in my mind but stillness and the word “wow”. My heart is brimming over because of this: you are here.

If you ever need monsters slain, I’ll be your champion.

Blessed be,
Moster Lene

This is the last picture of Janne and John before they became parents (pardon the fuzziness - mormor was new at the digital camera thing):

Liam (which apparently means "he of the ginormous hands and feet"). The bruise has simmered down since this was taken:

And Morgan, who is already showing signs of inquisitiveness (and who looks like her mother):


Monday, November 28, 2005

My First Blogmeets

It’s been a week of blogmeets. I read about it on knitting blogs all the time, but have never experienced the phenomenon myself.

It all started last Wednesday, when I met up with Emma before her big move to Owen Sound. The lovely woman had offered to cut Mojo’s nails for me – or, as she’s often called during nail cutting events, “The Demon Cat From Hell”. Mojo has strong opinions about being told what to do. As do I, which may explain why I’ve always understood her panic at being restrained and having bits of herself cut off. Surprisingly, it went off without a hitch. Minimum trauma to the cat and no damage at all to Emma. After that, we chatted for a while and what I remember most is the laughing. There was a lot of it. Why the woman has to move is beyond me.

This weekend was the inaugural TUFT. Although I am no longer a knitter, I do have a somewhat embarrassing tendency to fondle yarn (and occasionally making small satisfied cooing noises while doing so), so naturally, meeting up with Stephanie and Juno was a must. We met at St. Lawrence Market at 1:15pm. Well, I should say that we were supposed to meet at St. Lawrence Market at 1:15pm, but as the minutes ticked by and my toes increasingly showed signs of freezing solid and falling off with little festive clinking sounds, it became apparent that there was some sort of hiccup. I managed to entertain myself.

First, I ran into my friend, the Birthday Goddess

Please say ‘happy birthday’ to Theresa, everyone!

Then chatted with a neighbour and got roped into watching Sky’s stall while he went to buy lunch. Didn't manage to sell anything - a career in sales is clearly not for me). And I didn’t insist on being rewarded for it, which I think was really polite of me, as he sells the most gorgeous silk and cashmere scarves from India.

The weary TUFTies finally arrived and we hurried off to warmer locales for pubgrub. Solely for the warmth it provides. Really. Had nothing to do with the beer, which has been pushed out of this picture so we could all pretend it was a non-alcoholic event. Note the fabulous handknit shawls.
We discussed other possibilities for Juno’s ongoing exposure to “the ways of our people” and naturally, poutine came up. Juno and I both agreed that this was something best experienced in theory and I have no idea why Stephanie thought waxing poetic about how it’s best when the cheese curds are squeaky would make it more enticing. I don’t care how long I’ve lived here, I claim an immigrant exemption. Poutine is not the way of my people and I’m so not eating it.

The verdict? I like this blogmeet thing.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Remember This?

Juno thinks that the first official dumping of white stuff this winter was "festive". And well... in terms of snowfall, it was pretty festive initially and in downtown Toronto, a bit of a non-event. As of last night, though? Holy icicletoes, Batman!!

Last night, it dipped down to -22C with the windchill. That's -7F (handy conversion tool here). Or, in the words of an old friend of mine, FF. That's a polite company/work environment way of saying Fucking Freezing, which is really the only way of describing such temperatures.

Welcome to Canada, Juno! Won't you be happy to leave it again?

(And yes, I turned on the heat. Dammit)

I know it's a smidge early in the season to despair, but I need a reminder of better times. To give me hope.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005


It’s occurred to me that it’s time to have some fun and these days, I tend to involve The Hen in the fun, either by playing games with her ever-increasing girth or some other sort of interaction with The Tinks.

At the same time, ‘tis the season for giving back and although I am already a MSF partner (check it out – easily some of the best bang for your buck anywhere), I like doing a little extra. This year, the recipient is an easy one: the hospital that’s taking such good care of Liam and Morgan (although they could feed The Hen better).

So here’s the idea:

Guess the date/time of The Tinks’ entry into this world and write it in the comments. One guess per person and if the date/time you want is taken, think of a new one. The person who comes closest (in the immortal words of Bob Barker), “without going over”, wins. If you win, I make a donation to the hospital in your name.

One more rule: the doctors have determined the 34-week mark as the “magic date” where they’d be somewhat comfortable with the kids making an appearance. Therefore, no guesses before December 6 will be accepted.

People with an unfair advantage - me, TinkMama, TinkPapa and mormor (that's Danish for grandma) - are ineligible to play.

Good luck!

Late note: don't forget the time of day in your guess.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Bump Watch - 32 Weeks

(photo by TinkPapa)

Love how The Hen has become a triangle. My Sister The Pyramid! The decapitated pyramid. With hospital jewelry. Very fetching. If we’re lucky, we might get one with an actual head for the next update.

The Tinks are fine – still impatient, still staying put. Here’s Morgan in 4 dimensions.

Cool, eh? Liam's being reclusive, so we'll have to wait to see him.

(I don’t know how that works, as I thought time was the fourth dimension and how can a picture be in 4D, but I’m leaving that sort of thing for people geekier than me, as thinking too hard about it gives me a headache)

Monday, November 21, 2005

He's Heeeere!

If you’re from Toronto, you know what this weekend was. This weekend was the official start of the Christmas season, the weekend that Santa Claus came to town.

When I first came here, I wasn’t a fan of the Santa Claus Parade. I’d watch a bit on TV and not understand what all of the fuss was about. I saw it only through adult (European) eyes, with no childhood memories of magic - that float thing's kind of strange and the marching bands? I’m from Denmark. I have no frame of reference.

Then I moved to within easy walking distance of the parade route and went to check it out. The first year, I was non-impressed. The second I thought it was tacky and ridiculous, yet somehow started Christmas. By the third year, I’d started looking at people’s faces when Santa came into view and realized that this wasn’t just for children – although, seeing the kids' faces makes your heart grow three sizes, no matter how Grinchy you’re feeling. No, what made me connect all the way to the weird all-consuming enchantment of the parade was watching adults. People light up, the unguarded smiles spread across their faces and perfectly dignified grown-ups (including police officers) wave madly and shout for Santa. That’s pretty powerful.

These days, I’m a complete convert, although I do tend to not show up until the last hour or so - too many floats still bore me. I watch the crowd: the kids, the adults – who’s there with little ones and who came just to be part of it. I watch the paramedics wearing Santa hats, the smiles, the hot chocolate and start absorbing the excitement. By the time Santa gets there, I’m wide open and highly susceptible. And every year, when the float goes by where I sit and Santa shouts ‘Merry Christmas’ for what’s probably the 17,568th time in the past 3 hours, I wave back and shout ‘Merry Christmas’, too. It is a moment of perfect joy and the moment when Christmas arrives.

It started very seasonally on Friday with this:

Yes, that is snow. Actual fall-down-and-stay snow. Not a lot, but bonafide white stuff.

Luckily, things warmed up Saturday and Sunday was a lovely day for standing outside for hours.

This float’s for TinkPapa:

And here he is:

Feel free to wave and shout ‘Merry Christmas’ (or, if you’re at work, maybe just whisper it).

Liam and Morgan? See you there next year!

Friday, November 18, 2005

The Five of Cups

A long time ago – a very, very long time ago – I had my tarot cards read. I’ve had them read since, but none were as memorable as that day in February some 17(?) years ago. It wasn’t that the psychic was particularly good, in fact, she rather sucked. Except for one moment which changed the way I think. She turned this card, the Five of Cups:

and told me that it meant “look at what you have, not at what you don’t have”.

Fairly earth shattering, no? I tend to forget at times. Often, actually. Especially when the pain is hunting me or when I forget that it’s all a process and that patience and perseverance are the keys to getting where I want. And then at some point, it comes back to me. Look at what you have, not at what you don’t have. It’s a hard lesson to live - the temptation to rail at what has stopped you from being where you think you should be, is so much louder than the quiet reminder to look, really look at your life.

And that’s the other thing. That large happiness is so rare in life. We – well, I, anyway – tend to forget that the true stuff of happy is often in the small moments. Someone once told me an old saying – Portuguese, she claimed – “there is no happiness, only moments of happiness”. The trick seems to be to notice those moments, to pay attention to the seconds of joy, of laughter, of being pulled out of yourself to truly see what is around you, to see what you have. Sometimes, it takes a concerted effort, every day.

These are my happies this week:

The Tinks are still inside. A more detailed update to follow, with Bump Watch photo, next week.

I had an appointment this week where we discussed the effects of Enbrel in a roundabout way. I am no longer taking large amounts of anti-inflammatories, codeine and Tylenol #2. Extra-Strength Tylenol is sufficient to get things down to manageable. Also, one of the reasons I’ve lost weight (a bit too much, but I’m working on it) is that the pain levels are now so low that I’m moving more. You’d be surprised how many calories you can use, even while sitting down. I keep forgetting how mindblowing the change is.

I still haven’t turned on the heat.

I went out a to take pictures of Fall things a few days ago and came upon a squirrel, busily foraging, burying, preparing for the cold. So naturally, I followed it – slowly, so I wouldn’t scare it - thinking I’d be able to get a cute picture. That worked for a minute or so, until the squirrel decided it’d had enough of being stalked and started walking towards me, flattening itself so it’d look more intimidating. I know enough about animals to realize when you shouldn’t push any further, so I backed down. Still got a not-bad picture, though. And a good laugh.

I’ve had several very good meals. Good food makes you feel better.

I watched The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants and absolutely loved it. I’m an adult, so I didn’t cry. Much. Only the last 30 minutes.

Instead of the news, I’ve started watching an episode of Sex and the City before I go to bed. I’m sleeping better now.

Winter skies are beautiful.

What makes you happy today?

Monday, November 14, 2005

A Sudden Country

I’ve been reading “A Sudden Country” by Karen Fisher. Based on a spare journal by one of the author’s ancestors, it takes place during the 1847 Oregon migration. One of the main characters is Lucy Mitchell, a re-married widow, who is reluctantly following her second husband across the country, leaving the civility in which she was comfortable. The other main character is James McLaren, a Scottish Hudson’s Bay trapper, who has lost his Nez Perce wife to another trapper and his children to smallpox and who eventually becomes a member of the Mitchell party.

It is a gorgeous book, a very sad book. It moves with the slow rhythm of grief and the measured pace of travelling across the plains in wagons drawn by oxen. The author paints with language – indelible portraits of people, animals, feelings and landscapes, densely detailed. Each sentence is a gem of poetry, dense with imagery and emotion, making the story come alive in your mind. In the words of a friend of mine, it makes you realize you’re not worthy of writing a personal cheque.

It is a book so dense, so rich, it’s best read in smaller bites - 1 or 2 chapters at a time. And bites it is – it is what my mother calls “a book you can chew”. It makes you still inside, wanting to settle in and disappear into it. I can imagine that it may be better listened to than read – that way, you can let the language wash over you. The narrator is wonderful – the tone of her voice conveys the emotions of the characters and the landscape. Although her Scottish burr is wobbly at times, you don’t really mind – she manages to draw you so far into the story that you don’t really notice how she is reading, only that the words and the voice become one.

Given all of this, I don’t know why my interest in the book came to a screeching halt a little over half way through. Maybe it’s how rich it is. You know how after several days of rich food during the holidays, all you want is salad, fruit, steamed fish and really healthy cereal? It might be that. The language is so intense, the story so emotionally demanding, that you can only take so much and then you need something much more sparse before you dive back in.

Where’s Dick Francis when you need him?

Friday, November 11, 2005

Getting Up

Pain makes me feel like a dog. One dog in particular – the one in the Seligman experiment. The one that had learned that nothing it did would prevent the shocks.

First you roll with it – just a set-back, no biggie. Then you start losing your sense of humour about it a little, which leads to fighting it and that’s when you start to lose focus. That’s when the pain starts filling the atmosphere with static and worry and tension and blocks access to part of my brain that knows that this is a journey with ups and down, that I am exactly where I’m supposed to be and all that other Zen stuff. Fighting it leads to more tension, which leads to more static, which makes me deaf to the voice that says “let go and just trust it”.

You can only be Chumbawamba so many times. After getting knocked down again and knowing you have to get up for what feels like the gazillionth time, it gets a little daunting. The temptation to have a rest, a wee lie down on the (metaphorical) cool tile floor is overwhelming. So you do, except it’s a trap. It’s not a cool tile floor, there to soothe and replenish you. It’s quicksand. There to pull you down, persuade you that it’s safer lying there. It tells you lies about how bad it’ll be if try to get back up again, about how you have no control and how it’s better, really, to just lie very still, because then nothing bad will happen. And then, without you knowing how – or even quite noticing - your life is no longer your own. Your life is ruled by something else and you lose touch with the promises you’ve made yourself.

I’ve been here before – it takes a couple of months to get lost, of loud enough pain or injuries that won’t heal. Then there’s that point where it all comes together and you realize that the only way to stop it is to sit very still and barely breathe, because maybe that way, the monsters won’t notice you. It gets very primal.

These days, I’m better at giving myself that kick in the rear, of realizing when I’m in over my head and need to ask for help. So I whined at my doctor, she came up with something that gave me enough space and silence to see where I was and to start doing what I had to so I could get back up again.

That’s what I’ve been doing this week – slowly dragging myself out of the quicksand, clearing the fog, re-connecting with my dreams. And I know this again: It may feel like nothing bad is happening, but your life is being taken away from you while you’re hiding.

I read an interview with Charlize Theron in the October 28, 2005 Entertainment Weekly where she is quoted as saying “[a]t the end of the day, we have to take responsibility for the choices we make”. Eurekas come in many forms from many places and although it was in a completely different context, today, that sentence got things clicked all the way back in place.

I made a choice to want to get well again.
I made a choice to ask for help.
I made a choice to start Enbrel.
I made a choice to change my life.

Then what the blazes was I doing lying curled up on the floor? Who has time for that nonsense? I’ve got things to do, a life to lead.

And so, I’m up again. (and superstitious enough to knock wood when I say that)

Monday, November 07, 2005

The View From There

I was talking to The Hen the other day.

(The Hen being my sister, who’s nesting in The Chicken Coop and although that might only be funny in my head, it is funny enough that I’ll continue to use it and be somewhat grateful that there isn’t internet access in the hospi... er, Chicken Coop)

So, I was talking to The Hen and she mentioned how she and John had taken a stroll outside for some real oxygen, her in a wheelchair. On the way back to the Coop, they’d gone into the giftshop and it had struck her: “this is how Lene sees things. Weird”.

Several years ago, my partner (now ex) and I were dancing in my livingroom. Although it was an intensely romantic moment, I was having a hard time getting lost in it – I was too busy looking around at the world from a 6’1” vantage point, stunned at the change in perspective, the unfamiliarity of the the familiar (and the dust on the top shelves).

Friday, November 04, 2005

Mea Culpa

Before I get to the grovelling, I have to tell you this: yesterday, I ate lunch in the park. “There is no evidence of global warming”, my arse. When you live in the second-coldest country in the world, eating souvlaki in the park while you’re reading a good book (and not dressed in a parka) on November 3 is plenty of evidence. Hated it in July, but I have to admit, right now I’m sort of liking it….

About a year ago, Stephanie wrote about growing a glacier in her inbox. I find myself in a similar predicament. I wanted to respond to every comment, but then downgraded to responding every now and again. My mother taught me to do things like that and although I wasn’t always great at it when I was younger, I find that the older I get, the more good manners matter to me. I’m probably going to start using the term ’whippersnapper’ any day now.

However, due to the ever-present injuries (are you as tired of reading that word as I am of writing it?), my responding is woefully behind and showing no signs of improving. So I would like to take this opportunity to tell you all that I thoroughly enjoy reading your comments (ok, it’d be more accurate to describe me as a comment whore), to please keep posting and when you don’t hear from me, it’s not because I don’t want to, but because I have to ration my typing.

For the moment – and who knows how long that moment might be – I’m attempting to use ESP to thank you and/or continue the conversation. Let me know if you receive any psychic messages.