From the category archives:

It IS all about me

It went something like this:

**ring ring**

Hello?

DaniGirl! It’s the Universe calling. It’s been a while, so I thought I’d check up on you.

Hey Universe! Great to hear from you. How’s that supernova in Betelgeuse 5?

Shining bright, DaniGirl! Hey, speaking of “shine” – I see you got a tattoo a couple of weeks ago!

I sure did! I was thinking of you – you saw the design? Three stars!

It looks great and I love the design. That red star is giving you some trouble though, isn’t it?

Ugh, yes. It’s been two weeks since I got the tattoo and everything has healed beautifully, except that red star. The skin around it is still swollen and blotchy and you can barely make out the star shape. This is how it looked last Friday.

At least it’s not as bad as you first thought it was.

No, you’re right about that. When a week had passed and the scabs started to heal on all the other parts of the tattoo, I started getting concerned because the skin around the red star was a little *too* red, and sort of angry looking. Here’s a bit of advice for you, Universe. Never, ever do a google image search on “skin reactions to red tattoo ink” unless you want some really horrific images burned into your brain.

Oy, I can imagine. And by the time you’d finished your Internet research, Dr Google told you some things you weren’t too happy about, eh?

I was somewhere between annoyed and horrified when I found out that most reactions to tattoo ink result from the fact that there’s mercury in the red ink and cadmium in the yellow.

Mercury? Yikes! Isn’t that toxic?

You’d think so, right? And I’ve always been sensitive to metals – I can’t wear earrings that aren’t pure gold or silver, and my gums react to metal fillings. When I read that there was likely mercury in the tattoo ink, I was pissed. How could I have missed that in all the research I did on tattoos before I got one? And then I started reading all sorts of stuff about how the heavy metals in the tattoo ink can affect things like MRIs – crazy!

So did you get it looked at?

Yes. By the time I found out about the mercury and whatnot, a week had passed and while the rest of the tattoo was healing nicely, the red star looked more like an angry bee sting. My friends actually convinced me to call Telehealth while I was waiting to hear back from the tattoo shop and the nurse insisted I present myself to a doctor within four hours when I described what was going on and the fact that the reaction seemed to be escalating. I stopped in at the tattoo shop on my way to the walk-in clinic and they reassured me that they haven’t used mercury in tattoo ink in a long time.

You must have been relieved! So what’s in the ink that’s causing the reaction?

The list of ingredients is pretty benign: distilled water, alcohol, witch hazel and “organic non toxic pigments”.

Heh. That’s not too specific, is it?

Not really. But it’s still better than mercury and cadmium! The senior tattooist in the shop took a look at the reaction and said in 30 years of tattooing, he’s seen about five reactions like mine – each time to red ink. I’m special! He said if I were to eat a hundred red Smarties, I’d probably react to that, too. To which I replied that 100 Smarties would send me into a diabetic coma, but I did get his point. It was simply the red dye to which I was reacting, and not some toxic heavy metal sludge.

I’ve always known you were special, DaniGirl. So did you go to the clinic?

I did. While I will happily crowd-source medical advice from the Internet, I wasn’t willing to give the final word to the erudite opinion of a guy without a medical degree. I did feel hella sheepish presenting myself to the clinic, though. To his credit, the doctor who saw me did not make light of the situation. Unfortunately, it was me who schooled him on tattoos and the prevalence of reactions to red ink, but he did say he wasn’t particularly concerned about it and did not see the need to remove the tattoo or the leg. It was clearly, in his opinion, an allergic reaction, and suggested some Benadryl cream would take down the swelling.

So what happens now?

We wait it out, I guess. That was a week ago, and the swelling and blotchyness are down a bit but not completely. It’s hard to tell what the actual red star part of the tattoo looks like, but it’s certainly not as crisp and bright as the blue and green stars. It seems possible that my body will just reject the ink entirely, and it will either push it out or I may react on and off to it for years.

Huh. That’s annoying. What will you do if your body does push the ink out?

Well, the whole idea was to get THREE stars, and getting rid of one kid to better match the deep symbolism of my tattoo is probably not an appropriate course of action. The tattoo shop said they’d be happy to retouch it for me in a couple of months if that happens, but I’m not convinced that’s a smart idea. I suppose I could get the third star re-tattooed in a different colour, say a nice maroon or a non-cadmium yellow.

But then you lose your clever “RGB” symbolism?

Right. And I do hate to circumvent my own cleverness.

Uh huh.

So I guess I’ll just wait and see and hope for the best.

I gotta say, DaniGirl, you do find the most unique ways to find bloggy fodder, don’t you?

All in the name of a good story, old friend. I am a cautionary tale.

Indeed. Well, take care of yourself, DaniGirl. We’ll chat again soon.

I’ll look forward to it, Universe. I always do.


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As I mentioned yesterday, I finally got my tattoo yesterday. I am so happy with how it turned out and with the whole experience. I am also hugely relieved. I wasn’t worried about the pain. Seriously? I birthed not one, not two but THREE 10 lbs babies, one without medication and two after more than 20 hours of labour. The thing that I was most anxious about was the thing that most vexes me about photography and occasionally blogging – that it wouldn’t turn out in reality to be anything like what I had cooked up in my head, and (unlike photography or blogging) that I would be stuck with it forever. For a girl who fears committing photos to frames, this was commitment on an epic scale.

As I mentioned, when I first started thinking about getting a tattoo, it was because I had fallen in love with the idea of a shooting star design, which morphed over time into three shooting stars. When I decided earlier this summer that I was finally going to bite the bullet and do this thing for my 45th birthday, I spent hours looking at various star and shooting star tattoo designs online, but nothing was speaking to me.

When I couldn’t find exactly what I wanted, I commissioned Beloved to help me create something – you’d be amazed how often it comes in handy having a classically trained artist in the house! We had just started working out a design when a friend mentioned her tattoo of the word “balance” and that resonated with me. Not the word balance itself, but the idea of a word tattoo. I am, after all, a wordy sort of girl. But which word? There are ever so many of them from which to choose! And when the right word suddenly presented itself to me, in the grocery store of all places, I felt that inner zing when the cosmic tumblers click into place. Shine. Of course! Once I had the word, there was no going back.

You know what was 100x more painful than the tattoo itself? Choosing a font. Oh. My. God. I kid you not, I looked at the word “shine” in more than 600 fonts, until the word itself lost all meaning and just became a shapeless blob. Handwriting fonts, gothic fonts, serif fonts, san-serif fonts, curly fonts, elegant fonts, typewriter fonts. Once I start dithering over fonts for a project, it becomes a black hole that sucks me in for hours – oh how I love to play with fonts. Imagine the pressure of deciding on one that would be permanently engraved on me! Here’s just a wee sample of the ones I played with:

And once I finished dithering over fonts (I changed my final design three times this month!) there was the whole star thing to work out. Multi-coloured or monochrome? Solid or outline? Oh, the agonizing. Finally Beloved and I worked out this one, and I knew it was perfect.

Unfortunately, when I presented it to the tattoo artist, she was concerned that the definition in the scribble would be lost unless we went with a much larger tattoo than I had envisioned – the lines would just bleed together into a blob. She played with it a bit and we decided on the outline version you see in the final design. I also dithered for a bit on whether to get it on my ankle or on my wrist, but I have heard that the wrist tattoos can be a bit more painful. Not that I’m overly concerned about it, but the ankle tattoo is also a little easier to conceal, should the need ever arise. I also toyed with putting it near my clavicle. Oh the choices!

If you’re thinking about getting a tattoo, I can’t say enough nice things about Amanda (Pickles) at Sacred Ink Collective. She’s patient and empathetic and not afraid to tell you what she recommends based on her experience, but she was also willing to listen to what I wanted and why I wanted it. I had booked an appointment with another tattoo shop that comes highly recommended in Ottawa, but I felt condescended to when I went in to pay my deposit, and they flatly refused to offer any insight into my design ideas. I ended up switching to Sacred Ink on the recommendation of a few friends and I definitely recommend them if you’re thinking about inking!

We resized the stencil twice and messed with the placement once before we were both happy with it, but I’m pretty sure she would have let me go on tinkering for quite a while until it was exactly what I wanted. The tinkering actually took longer than the tattooing. (See? She’s so nice and so patient!)

Tattoo-2

Despite the fact that I know I have a pretty high tolerance for pain, I admit that I was a wee bit worried about the ouchy part. I’m not particularly squeamish, but who likes the idea of 100 pokes per second with a needle? It did hurt a bit in some spots more than others, but Amanda’s rhythm of on and off made it entirely bearable. Once the needle stops, so does the pain. I grated a chunk off the knuckle of my thumb with cheese grater the day before yesterday, and I am getting more residual twinges from that than I am from the tattoo 15 hours after the fact. This morning I feel a vague patch of itchiness, and that’s about it.

Tattoo-3

In all, it took less than 25 minutes of actual poking for her to finish the design. I am so pleased with the result – it’s exactly what I wanted, and I’ll be happy to show it off well into old age.

Tattoo-4

After care of the tattoo is pretty easy. It bled a tiny bit in some of the stars, and while I was warned it would scab and peel, I’m not seeing any signs of that yet. At Sacred Ink, they do offer one touch-up after the tattoo heals if it’s required, but I can’t see anything I’d need fixed. I deliberately waited until the end of summer to get the tattoo, as I’m not supposed to submerge it in a pool or bath for three or four weeks, and too much sun exposure could cause the ink to fade prematurely. It was only yesterday that I realized I won’t be able to shave over it for a week or so, either. Otherwise, it’s just a matter of keeping it clean and moisturizing it a couple of times a day.

What I’m most pleased about is what I was most worried about – Amanda was completely faithful to the design, with the exception of changing the scribble fill to outlines of the stars. I’m not sure I could trace it so faithfully with a pen and tracing paper, let alone malleable skin! I’m quite in love with it and hope the summer stretches long into the autumn so I can continue to show it off.

So now the only question is — what should I get tattooed on my wrist???? ;)


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Guess what I did today? Okay, so it was supposed to be a 45th birthday present to myself and I’m a little late, but it’s still my birthday month!

Inked!

Why “shine”? Because it makes me happy, of course! It’s an imperative, for one thing – a sort of reminder to myself that “shine” is exactly what I should always strive to do. And because my Granda’s song was always “You are my sunshine” and because I sang that to all three boys when they were babies. And because of John Lennon’s “We all shine on” and summer sunshine and Lake of Shining Waters, among others. And because we should all shine whenever we can, right?

And why stars? Because they are meaningful to me, and I’m always drawn to star patterns. And of course there are three of them – I do love things that come in threes. And they are red, blue and green, which happen to be two of three boys’ favourite colours. And if you know anything about photography or design, you’ll know what RGB means. I managed to resist getting an actual camera tattoo (barely!) but I couldn’t resist a little photo-geekery in the symbolism.

I love it. LOVE it! It’s better than I hoped it would be. I’ll share the whole experience of designing and actually getting the tattoo in a separate blog post.

What do you think?


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Thinking about inking

by DaniGirl on August 12, 2014 · 5 comments

in It IS all about me

I was never particularly interested in getting a tattoo. “Why would you permanently emboss yourself with artwork that you wouldn’t hang on your walls?” was my all-purpose response to the very idea. It’s not that I was morally opposed to tattoos or even disliked the idea. I just couldn’t imagine committing to a single bit of art forever – which may, now that I think about it, be a generalized extension of my inability to commit to framed photographs as well.

However, one day last year it occurred to me pretty much out of the blue that *if* I were to ever get a tattoo, it would be a tattoo of a shooting star. Nay, a tattoo of THREE shooting stars. Now THAT is something I would love for the rest of my life, and something that will still be as meaningful to me in 30 years as it is today.

In a manner completely atypical for a woman who thinks instant gratification is far too long to wait, I have pondered and toyed with the idea for more than a year. Finally, the occasion of my 45th birthday seemed like the right time to finally acquiesce to impulse – even if that impulse was more than a year in the percolating.

Well, I didn’t quite manage to get the tattoo in time for my birthday earlier this month, but I do have an appointment coming up. I could have had it done by now, but apparently it’s recommended that you wait three to four weeks (WEEKS!) before submerging your tattoo in a bath or swimming pool or allowing it to be exposed to sunlight, and that would put a serious crimp in my end-of-summer enjoyment of our pool membership and trips to the beach. Looking at the forecast from now through Labour Day, though, I’m not sure I’ll be missing much pool-worthy weather if I do hold off, so I keep waffling on whether to wait or go ahead.

Funny, though, that in the same way everyone seems to have a white car when you buy a white car, I am seeing a LOT of chatter about tattoos on the web lately. I thought this post was pretty funny: Why You Should Never Ever Get a Tattoo (But Having a Baby is Fine), but it did make me wonder – do people really still think like this? If the 40-something moms I know are getting tatts, how taboo can they be? I figured tattoos these days are about as risqué as double-pierced ears – and yet more than one person has asked me if I’ll be getting the tattoo in a place that will be easily concealed at work. Hell no! If I’m going to bother, I’m going to show that baby off as much as I can! Mind you, I’m not talking about a full sleeve or something that wraps from my neck to my hipbone. At most, it wouldn’t be larger than a post-it note, probably on my ankle but I did seriously contemplate the inside of my wrist for greater visibility.

And no, I’m not sharing my tattoo design just yet. I need to save that for a big bloggy reveal! ;)

Inevitably, since I started talking about getting one, the boys (well, let’s be honest, the middle boy, my teenager in waiting) has asked if he can get one. Ha, I laughed at him. Of course not! Talk to me when you’re 45, babycakes. Although he then changed directions and started talking about an earring, which I am pretty much fine with – but that’s a conversation for another day.

So talk to me about tattoos, bloggy peeps. Are tattoos still risqué when the moms at the schoolyard pickup are sharing tattoo aftercare tips? Or do they still send out a negative impression in your opinion? Are tattoos mainstream, or do they still make people judgy? Do you have one? How and why did you choose your design? Do you have any regrets about having – or not having – one? You won’t talk me into or out of getting one, but I’m fascinated that there are still such divergent opinions out there on this!


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Working up a sweat

by DaniGirl on June 16, 2014 · 2 comments

in It IS all about me

The man-child decided he wanted to walk home after school today, even though I’d met them at the school with the car. He is competing in an inter-school track and field meet on Wednesday (he scored first in his school for 60m dash!) and he wanted to get in a little extra practice. We live about a kilometer away from the school, and as I drove past him with one child in the back seat (the other had also decided to walk, yay!) he was loping along the side of the road like a gazelle.

He came in the door with a sweet rosy glow and a little out of breath, and pretty much got on with his afternoon without missing a beat. I watched this with open-mouthed wonder. He’d just pretty much sprinted a kilometer, and showed about as much effort as I do climbing the stairs from the basement. Oh to be twelve again!

Goode Run 5 of 6

(Three years ago – his first 5K.)

I like to think I’m leading a pretty active lifestyle. This month I’m regularly clocking my goal of 10,000 steps, which is more or less 5K of walking, and I work out a couple of times a week. And yet, I can’t expend more than a few kilojoules of energy without turning red and drenching myself in sweat as if I’ve just finished the Boston Marathon in 100% humidity. I can’t figure out if this is middle age, wonky hormones or a sedentary lifestyle, but holy crap is it ever annoying!

I like to walk on my lunch break at work, but even if I maintain a very moderate pace, far slower than what it takes to wind me, I will be soaked with sweat by the time I’m done if I walk anything more than half a kilometer or so. And by soaked, I mean sweat dripping from my temples and running down my back. Let me tell you, the discomfort of spending the day in a damp bra is a huge disincentive for that vigourous walk! I’ve learned to (TMI alert!) line the inside of my bra with paper towels, which is a little bit more convenient than carrying a spare bra but only slightly. I’d blame the summery weather but I was like this in March with my coat open in -5C, too.

And if I am a sweaty mess after a brisk walk, you can imagine the soaking, tomato-faced disaster I am after a visit to the gym or a 45 minute tangle with the lawn-mower and the ditch of death. We’re not talking patting a hankie on your brow, either, but towelling off in waves.

I heard somewhere that the more you sweat, the more efficiently your body-machine is running. Therefore, the more fit I get, the more I can expect to sweat. I’m thinking terry-cloth undergarments are the next step.

Can anyone else commiserate on this one? Any ideas on how to regulate your internal thermostat so it’s not quite so touchy?

PS more progress on the weight loss: down 7 lbs overall. Apparently most of that in sweat! ;)


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I was already thinking about writing a blog post about Yoni Freedhoff’s book The Diet Fix when I happened to catch him speaking to Jian Ghomeshi this morning on CBC Radio Q. I’ve been aware of Dr Freedhoff, an Ottawa doctor who specializes in treating overweight people, for many years. I’ve been following him on Twitter for a lot of that time, and have occasionally read his Weighty Matters blog. While I have always found his opinions interesting, I have to admit that I have previously found him a little too strident in his views (and how he espouses them) for my tastes.

Maybe he’s become more moderate in his views, or maybe I’ve become more rigid in mine. Maybe I just never gave him enough of my attention to make a fair judgement. Regardless, between reading The Diet Fix and listening to him on Q this morning, I’m well on my way to becoming a fangirl.

If you’re struggling with health and weight and nutrition, I really recommend you give Dr Freedhoff’s book a try. He preaches embracing a lifestyle of moderation, giving you straightforward advice about how to re-think the idea of dieting and allowing you the flexibility to enjoy real food, including those occasional indulgences of chips, chocolate and ice cream – as long as it’s in thoughtful quantities that are the minimum amount that will make you happy. It’s exactly what I’ve already been doing, but it’s also given me some good insight into where I might have been deceiving myself and subverting my own efforts.

I know myself well enough to know that deprivation of any sort simply will not work for me. While I have great admiration for those of you who have succeeded on low carb or low fat diets, or who have eliminated sugar from their diets, I always knew that I would never be able to maintain that sort of diet. And if I did manage it, I’d be miserable. I’m a creature of comfort – I don’t like to be miserable. I do, however, believe in moderation, and that’s the thread that runs through The Diet Fix.

I keep thinking about one quote in the book: “You can’t outrun your fork.” Dr Freedhoff isn’t a fan of Biggest Loser style guerrilla exercise campaigns where you burn off excess calories with hours at the gym. I’ve been a little self-critical about the fact that I haven’t been making the time to work out more, so this spoke to me. He cautions that treadmills and elliptical often give a false and inflated sense of calories burned, and your body’s hunger response to all those burned calories is to crave – more calories. Instead, he asks “Is this a level of exercise you are comfortable committing to for the foreseeable future?” And he approaches calories in the same way: the amount of calories you should be consuming needs to be at a level you’ll be comfortable consuming not just until you achieve your best weight, but beyond that, too.

The nice thing for me is that I’m pretty much doing exactly that. I’m just over 1/3 of the way to my goal of 14 lbs weight loss about five and a half weeks in, which is not stellar progress but it is progress. I was going to crop this chart to take the actual weight out – but I’m going to take a deep breath and leave the numbers there. As some clever person said in an earlier comment, the absolute numbers really only offer true insight into my relationship with gravity. Ten years (and one baby and one miscarriage) ago, I was at 170 lbs and considering joining weight watchers because I thought I was too heavy. Now that’s my goal weight and I’m pretty happy with how I look just a few pounds over that. But it’s still tough to share those numbers. I’m pleased enough with the downward meandering curve to take a deep breath and post them, though I am cringing just a bit.

I remember when I had my big weight loss success in 2008-2009 having the idea in my mind “I don’t eat that.” At the time, “that” comprised doughnuts, nachos, chips and a handful of other things. For six months, I didn’t eat those things, and I remember feeling vaguely naughty eating chips and salsa at a New Years party that year, but giving myself “permission” because I’d reached my weight goal. It took five years, but I gained back about 80% of that weight in the intervening time. I’m hoping this time I’m able to find a balance, as the book preaches, that lets me continue happily eating this way for good – mostly on track, but with no forbidden foods and constant mindfulness.

I’ve capitulated to the fact that I must count and measure portions and calories, at least for now. I’m lazy about it, and I guesstimate a lot. I think if I were more diligent, I’d lose the weight a little quicker, but I really do appreciate the concept of embracing a relationship with food and eating that you will be comfortable maintaining for the long term. So I will happily trade slower progress for less stress in the getting there. To me, it’s as much about awareness and informed choices as anything.

I have to say, though, the chapter that most deeply affected me was called “Parent” – as in, how to parent a child who is overweight. This is a new challenge for us right now, and I really don’t want to say too much about it except to say that it is consuming a lot of my mental energy right now. I’m so grateful to Dr Freedhoff for this chapter, which I just read last night. While I have stratospherically improved in serving healthy meals at home in the last few years, getting the children to actually eat, let alone enjoy, those meals is an ongoing challenge. Dr Freedhoff’s recounting of changing his own taste for coffee from double-double to black over the course of months inspired me. He found it took roughly 1800 sips of coffee to retrain his taste buds to appreciate black coffee – and gave me great hope that maybe some day the boys will love quinoa salad, kale and seafood as much as I do. Only 1500 nibbles to go.

Anyway, this is not so much a book review as a brain dump. I picked up the book on a whim from the express loan section of the library, and although I have to say that I was more than 75% of the way down this road, I’m grateful for Dr Freedhoff for the ideas and inspiration on how to tweak my progress without depriving myself or setting myself up for future failure or regression. It’s a good book – if you’re interested in a healthier lifestyle that is the opposite of a prescriptive diet, I highly recommend it.


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In which there is an app for that

19 May 2014 Me, only better

Two weeks ago, I lamented that despite my best efforts, I had utterly failed to lose a pound and in fact, was losing the battle against the 10 lbs I gained in the last year. I whined that I did not want to count calories, that I was doing my best, that I did not [...]

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In which she utterly fails to lose a pound in six weeks

3 May 2014 Me, only better

I will try very hard not to whine during this blog post, I promise, but I am soooo frustrated that I need some moral support, and maybe some advice. As you might have noticed, I am really working on healthier living. I cook more than 90 per cent of our meals from scratch and I [...]

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Guess which blog is featured in Capital Parent Newspaper?

1 May 2014 My 15 minutes

Thanks a million to the amazing Lynn Jatania for writing this very sweet feature on Postcards from the Mothership for the Blogs We Love column in the May 2014 in Capital Parent Newspaper! I knew Lynn was writing the feature when she asked me for the photo (truth be told, I took that photo because [...]

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In which she discusses ski trips with the Universe

20 February 2014 It IS all about me

It went something like this… *Ring, ring* Hello? Hey DaniGirl, it’s the Universe calling. Oh hey, Universe! It’s been a while! Always a delight to hear from you, though. What’s new? Oh you know, the usual – lately I’ve been entertaining myself cooking up theories on black holes with Stephen Hawking. He’s a riot! But [...]

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