Monday, October 24, 2016

Breast Cancer Awareness Month

A good friend of mine sent me a link to this wonderful blog when I first started planning my move to Bahrain. The author is a mom who has lived in 7 countries in the last 17 years. She is also a great writer. I have been following her adventure ever since.

As October and Breast Cancer Awareness Month winds down she posted this blog and I think it is a wonderful reminder for all of us ladies to take care of our selves.  When was your last mammogram?

She has a great story about knowing where Ikea is located in every country and also knowing where to get a good mammogram.  

Yes, I can tell you exactly where the closest Ikea is from Manama, Bahrain. It is in Al Khobar, Saudi Arabia. 

Unfortunately, I do not know where the best mammogram is.  Do you?

Please pass this on!


A Buttered Bum
Posted: 22 Oct 2016 11:43 PM PDT
*I gave a talk yesterday at a Breast Cancer Awareness function in Doha. There were some great speakers from Hamad and the Cancer Centre – lots of great info and a great event to show women in Qatar that they are in good hands. I really want to say thank you to the American Women’s Association. Those love heart cushions and drain bags are so incredibly useful after surgery. We love useful.  Here’s my speech from the event (that I completely messed up after I lost my place)* 
My girlfriend Erika has a phrase that I love, it’s one she uses for someone who always manages to land on their feet. Someone who appears to live in a constant state of good luck. You may have heard it, she’ll say:
“She/he always lands with her bum in the butter” this comes after she hears of the latest good fortune.

I’m not sure why having your bum in butter is a state to be envied – but I completely understand the context.

I’m pretty sure if you were to ask my parents and childhood friends they’d tell you that my bum has always appeared to be perfectly buttered.
Until last year.

My good fortune in life has meant I grew up with two loving parents in a very comfortable middle class Australian home. My sister and I had our grandparents living next door, and a swag of uncles and aunts to turn to for advice or help. I was physically able, heavily involved in sports and had enough talent to sing a song in a school play or dance in a chorus if required. Don’t get me wrong, I was not a star but any stretch of the imagination, but I had something that I didn’t realize was a gift until years later when I had my own children. I had the confidence to attempt anything. I was always happy to try. The biggest problem my parents had with me was that I wanted to do everything, every sport, every activity, every event.

When it came to luck, I had it handed to me in large doses. I put absolutely no effort into school but still managed to just scrape by. Once again, don’t get me wrong, I was not a star – but I always knew things were going to work out. I wasn’t nervous about what would happen next. When you’re someone who as my friend Erika would say “always lands with her bum in the butter” you’re never too worried about what will happen next – because you’re always fairly confident that it will all be okay.

Me and my well buttered bum had a lot of fun in our twenties. I stumbled across a career that I loved, one I of course fell into because of mutual friends. And when it came to finding the right man? Where did I find him? Well, he arrived at my  front door of course! Hand delivered by a girlfriend. Kirsty, meet Greg. See? Bum in the butter.

We dated for a few weeks and were married within a few months. ‘How can you be so sure? Aren’t you worried’ people asked. I just knew. Like a girl who always lands with her bum in the butter does. He was perfect, I adored him, he adored me. Of course it would be fine.

Like most married couples we’ve had our every day ups and downs. Through mortgages,  moves, and the complete madness of having four children under the age of six. Our adventure has meant that we’ve lived in 7 countries over the past 17 years. I appeared to share my butter with my husband. Four healthy children, constant employment, many giggles, and friends from all over the world.

So, having told you all of this, you can understand the confusion on my face when the doctor walked into the room to tell me that they’d noticed something “sinister” on my ultrasound.

Fourteen months ago I was diagnosed with breast cancer.

And for a girl with a buttered bum, this was highly inconvenient news.

My instant reaction was to thank the lovely doctor and radiologists for letting me know, and to  explain politely that I now had to head off to lunch with a girlfriend and then fly back to Doha with my children because, you know, school starts on Monday!

To say I had no concept of what was about to unfold in our lives, would be an understatement.

Last year I watched a YouTube clip of a breast cancer talk in the Middle East, I can’t remember if it was Abu Dhabi or Dubai – but I’ll go and find it and post it on my Facebook page. The one thing about the breast cancer talk that I clearly remember, was when the presenter, a woman in a headscarf, asked the crowd of women if they knew how to get to the closest IKEA. I think 90% of the crowd raised its hand. She then asked for a show of hands on how many people knew where to go for a trustworthy and reliable mammogram? About 10% of the room raised its hand.

I could drive you to IKEA in 7 different countries, but I only knew how to get a mammogram in Australia. Thankfully, and maybe because I always land with my bum in the butter (depending on how you look at things) I was in the right place at the right time. I had my mammogram and following ultrasound when my tumor was about 9mm big. I found it early, I got to it before it made its way into my lymph nodes. These are all good things, and all reasons why you need to make yourself get checked regularly.

Here’s what I didn’t know about breast cancer before last year.

There are so many different types. My breast cancer is probably completely different to the breast cancer of your aunt, sister, friend or mother. Therefore my treatment is completely different. While my breast cancer is triple negative which means there are no drugs I can have after chemotherapy or radiation, my girlfriend’s breast cancer is hormonal which means she will take drugs for the next ten years to protect herself. My breast cancer is highly aggressive and has the highest return rate within five years, bizarrely though, if I can get through the next five years my success rate is higher than other breast cancers. What does this mean?

It means we’re having a really big party in about five years time.

This time last year I had my first round of chemotherapy. I did this in Doha with the help of amazing friends, and with my children and husband around me. I went though the experience that most of us see in the movies. My hair fell out, my face took on an appearance of steroids, and I had some of the usual side effect: tingly fingers and sore feet, nausea, weight gain, yes gain! So unfair.

But here are a few of the other side effects.  I began a new job and acquired a whole lot of new skills. I bought a block of land with my husband and began planning our dream home. I gained an insight into the world of health care and those who are trapped in the cancer cycle. I met women whose cancer had metastasized, which means it had spread to other parts of their bodies and would never go away. “When do you finish chemo?” I naively asked someone one day. “When I die” she answered. 

These are the women we need to think about – and why I struggle so much with the pretty in pink. It’s not fun runs and girl’s night out for everyone.

Landing with your bum in the butter is all about perception. We may perceive that someone has been lucky in getting a certain job, or a house, or a partner. They are a moments in time. None of us know what’s around the corner, whether it’s fabulous or not, and while people like myself will always assume it will end fabulously – we really don’t know.

The only thing we can do is check in now and then to see how things are tracking. Find out where you can have a trustworthy and reliable mammogram, get a second opinion, ask for an ultrasound. Follow your instinct.

And here’s to years and years more of buttered bums.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Sizing Down, Down and Down Again

When we decided to go to the Middle East, I had to consolidate and get rid of many of our possessions (and junk).  I was eventually forced to hire a company to bring a full size dump truck to our home to haul away the junk and things that could be recycled. I completely filled our garage with junk.

After I was done with all of that I felt like I had downsized very nicely. We left our 6,000 square foot home in Virginia to move to Bahrain taking only about 50 boxes with us.

The rest of our household goods and furniture went into storage in a facility in Delaware.

Even after I "downsized" in our big house, se still had a large amount of stuff.

In Bahrain we had a 3,000 square foot flat.

This is a picture of our boxes getting ready to come back to the US. I can't find my good photo files from Bahrain. I think the photo drive is still on that slow boat from Bahrain that has not arrived in the US yet.  They think (remember they are coming from Bahrain so this is just a suggestion) they might arrive in September.
This is taken in our Bahrain living room.
The Bahrain flat did have some spectacular sunrises.

We downsized from Virginia by 50%.

When we left Bahrain we shipped back 78 boxes. This was a few more than we took because of the wonderful carpets and art I collected there.  Today those boxes are in route to us and I believe they are still on a boat. Pretty soon they will arrive in Miami.

 However I keep telling myself these are coming from Bahrain so don't count on them arriving until they arrive.

In late June when we arrived back in the States from Bahrain we moved into one of our rental properties in Florida that is furnished. We brought with us only what we could carry in 6 suite cases.

The condo we are in has 1,100 square feet. 

The condo is small, but it has a nice view for sunsets.

We downsized from Bahrain by 60%.

TODAY we will be moving out of the condo into a great house built in 1992 that we are going to COMPLETELY remodel inside and outside. It could take up to 6 months so we will be living in one of the guest bedrooms with an attached bathroom and we will have only 400 square feet.

Another downsize of 54%.


For those of you who have downsized, you understand.  For anyone who has not downsized, it is a great feeling to reduce your footprint.  You feel liberated.

This will be a short-lived freedom.

Our TWO moving vans filled with possessions from Virginia will be delivered to the new house in just a few days.  I am not at all sure what I will do with all of those things while we complete our remodel work. This will definitely be a challenge.

Our 78 boxes from Bahrain should be delivered sometime, maybe in September. REALLY? I certainly do not know what I will do with all that stuff.

I guess I better start searching for a good consignment store.  LOL

It really is a first world problem and you won’t hear me complain (much).


Monday, August 15, 2016

Another Pinch Me Weekend

I have to admit I just had a “Pinch me -- am I really here?” weekend with granddaughter ML.

ML is an engineering student at the University of Oklahoma. After graduating high school at the top of her class and becoming a National Merit Scholarship finalist, ML received a full scholarship to study engineering at OU. 

We could not be more proud of her.  Even though she is in the rigorous honors program at OU, she is still maintaining her high grades.

What a wonderful grandparent experience it is!

This summer ML participated in an engineering internship in Ft. Worth, Texas.  After she settled in I suggested that I come for a visit. She was thrilled and all summer we planned the fun things we would do during my visit.

While Hubby D and I lived in Bahrain, ML came to visit us. It was very special and I knew this trip would also be a special memory.

ML and I toured the Bahrain Grand Mosque together when she came to visit.
My arrival at the Dallas Ft. Worth airport was during the workday so I decided to rent a car and drive over to ML’s little apartment. I arrived safely and texted her to let her know.

Hi! I'm here!
ML's apartment was over a garage in a very quaint part of town.
The wysteria bush at the top of the stairs grabbed me every time I went in or out.
The building where ML worked is the tall glass one.

When I was growing up I had visited Dallas a few times. Dallas has great shopping and of course the Six Flags Over Texas amusement park.  Once I even attended an OU football game in the Texas stadium.

The first thing that jumped out at me was all of the Tex-Mex restaurants everywhere. Even the airport was filled with them. And, there was one at every intersection. In Florida we have drug stores on every corner.

Airport Tex-Mex.

Much to my disappointment, ML does not like Tex-Mex food very much so I missed that experience while in Ft. Worth. I did not mind. We had other great food we both love.

Sushi was on our list for the first night. ML learned to love sushi from Hubby D and I when she was younger and she would come to visit us in Virginia.

Maybe sushi is something we could have as a tradition for our first meal together? In Bahrain we also had sushi the first night.
Sushi in Bahrain.
Sushi in Ft. Worth

As it turns out, the restaurant she had picked out, Little Lilly Sushi was voted one of the best in Ft. Worth. We went home stuffed and satisfied.

While ML was at work on Friday, I ventured out into Ft. Worth and ran a few errands for her. The Italian leather shoes we bought together in Rome had a stich coming out. They had become one of her favorites so I was on a quest to find a shoe repair shop that could do the repair immediately. Luckily I found the perfect shop and the shoes were as good as new.  I was very proud of myself.

On our brief tour of the neighborhood late the night before, ML had pointed out a grocery store she assured me was the best one she had ever seen. The Fresh Market store seemed huge.

For lunch, I decided to stop by and see what their deli had to offer. IT WAS JUST AMAZING. Why oh why can’t they have stores like this in Florida????

This store had to be great. Look at all the orchids!!!!!

And,  a FINE selection of hams!

I bet this hummus is good but I did not try it.  There was too much of the other stuff that I haven't had in years!!

When ML arrived home we headed out to take in double-header movies at the local Movie Tavern.  They don’t have these kind of movie places in Florida either.  Life is really good in Ft. Worth.

We snagged great seats and ordered dinner to enjoy with Jason Bourne and dessert to enjoy with Star Trek.  It was a really different AND FUN experience.

Check it out!  A huge menu of yummy food right here in the theatre. 
Saturday morning we were up early to head over to Dallas for some serious shopping.  ML researched great breakfast restaurants where we could start off with some fun and trendy nourishment. She found the ABSOLUTELY PERFECT spot in an artsy area of Dallas, Odd Fellows.  We had Texas style eggs benedict in the cutest restaurant that was packed with yuppie types. 

We shared a blue berry pancake.  YUMMMY!
COME ON NOW!  This is not right.  Coffee grown in Austin?

With our hunger satisfied, we were off to the biggest outlet mall I have ever seen.  Shop ‘til we drop was the goal.

Several shopping bags later we headed over to North Park Center, one of the hippest and largest malls in Dallas.

One of the items on our “must have” shopping list was a new computer/book bag for ML. We searched and searched until finally the perfect bag was found at the Madewell store.  The only question was what color.

As we wearily headed back to Ft. Worth, ML asked me if I was sure I wanted to go out to dinner as we planned. I assured her dinner was definitely on the agenda. There was an adorable local restaurant down the street from her apartment that had a big banner advertising their crab festival. Crab legs with ML were definitely a MUST DO experience.

Lucile's State Side Bistro was a fun restaurant and the crab was great.
Stuffed and tired I collapsed on to my sofa bed that night with fond memories of a great time with ML.

Sadly the next morning I had to head out to the airport early.  A hug, a kiss and a couple of tears later I started driving in the direction of my flight home.

In Florida we don't have a lot of highway interchanges with multiple roads. Certainly they don't have these in Bahrain. I just had to stop and take a picture. There are 5 roads converging here.

During my visit ML and I had some great fun. In between the fun, food and shopping there was a great deal of serious conversation.

ML and I talked about life goals, friends and relationships as well as family and her plans for the future. Although some of our conversations were extremely serious, I loved them all. They were definitely the highlight of my trip.

ML has a handle on her life. She knows herself and her values. She knows what is important to her and what she wants out of life.  Achieving her goals won’t be easy but she is determined to do it all.

I have always felt that the way to get the most out of life is to look upon it as an adventure.

ML is headed for one great adventure and I am just thrilled to be a part of it.


Thursday, July 21, 2016

Flowers In Bahrain

Flowers are a passion for me.  I just love any kind of blossom. However as my friends and family know, my favorites are orchids. Someday I hope to have a garden of orchids.

These are my orchids in my Virginia kitchen right before we left for Bahrain.

Sometimes when I look at a flower I think it has a face with an expression. Some seem to smile; some have a sad expression; some are pensive and diffident; others again are plain, honest and upright. Each one with it's many working parts and beauty in all of them. They all function together to create a work of art - true natural beauty.

One of my fondest memories of Bahrain was walking at the Ritz and seeing all the beautiful flowers blooming.

 I could not help myself. I was in awe of the beauty all around me.

There was a large pond on the Ritz property. Many types of flowers surrounded the pond. 
There were pink flamingos that lived on the edge of the pond at the Ritz with a row of blossoms framing their habitat.
Quite frequently they put out new flowers at the entrance to the Ritz compound. This is a view looking back at our building, Rasfa Towers just after they planted new flowers.

Bahrain is primarily desert without a lot of natural vegetation. When you drive away from our area, the Al Seef district you see mostly hearty desert bushes except where they have planted trees along the highways.

The government plants red and yellow blooming bushes along the highway. The yellow ones always seem to thrive but the red ones struggle.

The Bahraini people love fresh flowers.  In fact, it is a tradition to take flowers to the hostess when you are invited to someone's home. I like that tradition. This is a centerpiece that was at the Embassy Bazar where I volunteered each year.
I tried growing some plants on our balcony. It was difficult because the balcony had full sun for a good part of the day. It would become quite hot out there.

The best growing flowers were definitely at the Ritz.
These are beach morning glories that lined the shore facing the Arabian sea. They bloomed each morning.
Trees filled with these soft yellow blossoms surround the outdoor bubble pool. The petals would drift gently down and land in the water at my feet while I read the morning newspaper. 

The drives surrounding the Ritz were lined with flowers that were changed about every three months.
There were many trees filled with fragrant blossoms around the Ritz and on the road leading up to the gate. 

These flowers were only the size of your thumb nail. 
The parking lots were lined with bougainvillea in several colors.
Bougainvillea bloomed everywhere - around the pool, down the walks, on the island, and in the parking lot.

Inside the entrance to the health club was a large table always filled with flowers.

These flowers were on some shrubs planted at the base of palm trees.

Even the palm trees bloomed occasionally.

The roads were lined with these flowers in the Bahraini National colors, red and white.

I hope you enjoy these images. I GREATLY enjoyed taking the pictures and putting them into this visual blog. 

While I was working on them I came across this quote.

"A flower's appeal is in its contradictions — so delicate in form yet strong in fragrance, so small in size yet big in beauty, so short in life yet long on effect." ~Terri Guillemetsqe

I am not sure why I enjoy flowers so much, but I am forever grateful that I do. Indeed they have a wonderful and lasting effect on me.