WIP Wednesday rolls around again!

Goodness, Wednesday sure does roll around in a hurry! This week I stumbled upon a new  block-of-the-month party and decided I wanted to join. This one had already started, but I was only 2 blocks behind and figured I could catch up. Each month will be a different half-square triangle block, so that’s pretty easy and should be easy for me to keep up with.  This quilt will be going to my sister, but she will have to wait an entire year for it, lol! The website is called In Color Order and here are the January & February blocks, which I made this week:





The other block-of-the-month party I participate in is on Eleanor Burn’s (Quilt in a Day) Facebook page. These blocks are NOT easy beginner blocks! They are HARD! LOL!  Each month I look at the pattern with trepidation. Each month I rip as many seams as I sew in. But each month I finish and have learned something new.  This month’s block called for the use of rulers that I didn’t have. Probably an experienced quilter could have made them anyway, but considering that I couldn’t even visualize the block by reading the instructions,  I didn’t want to chance it. So I ordered the rulers. I figure that to get good at a skill you have to have the right tools. Here are the rulers: “perfect corners” ruler and “triangle in a square” ruler. Both are from the Quilt in a Day website.




The rulers just came in the mail on Monday, so I got the square made just in the nick of time. If it wasn’t a leap year I wouldn’t have made the block by the end of the month. Here is block #5 (February) and is called “Storm at Sea:”







And arrgggh! Looking at it here on the screen, I see that I sewed in all 4 of the corner squares backwards.  Well too bad. I don’t have the patience to rip it apart again. And besides, as the Amish say, “only god makes perfection”. Of course, they are also known to sew a mistake into their quilts on purpose. Sewing a quilt too perfectly is definately not a problem I share!




1940s DanceTonight!

Today is going to be a good day! Today I am getting my hair done and tonight I’m getting dressed up in my brand-new-to-me sparkly black dress and playing my beloved bari sax in The Big Band. One of my most favourite activities!

It’s going to be a fabulous evening of swing music and Rendezvous shenanigans at the Transportation Museum as we celebrate the 70th anniversary of the Alaska Highway. Come dressed in 1940’s period costume and be eligible for a prize! Music by The Big Band with a special 4th set by the RCAF swing band. Gillian Campbell will do her thing, as well as the CanCan girls and more! Ton of Fun!




A Happy Ending

Yesterday was a discombobulated day. Don’t you just love that word? Dis-com-bob-u-lated. Ta da!

Anyway, I spent yesterday morning on the computer, updating the website and changing it all around, including deciding on a new name! My website URL is now nitadances.com!

And, you will notice that the blog is now the main page, with a tab to Celebrations Bellydance instead of the other way around. Later on I’ll add a gallery tab, too.

Now, I am not a computer-savvy person and so it took me all morning to do what my friend George could have done in 5 minutes. But that’s okay. I’m learning, and that’s a good thing! I’m sending great big thank you to George at Tutshi Web Solutions for changing the URL for me.

I’m very happy to have settled on a new name. And really, it’s the most obvious choice, isn’t it? Even if I am taking a break from dancing right now because of illness (and I stress the “illness” part, because it sure isn’t by choice!), there are many ways to dance through life and my job at the moment is to discover them.

Yesterday was also what I’ve been calling a “broken” day. Days where the depression is more overwhelming and getting through the day is more challenging. So working on the website was probably more frustrating than it might have otherwise been. After I had done as much as I could do at the computer, I sat down with the spectre of housework staring me in the face. The floors really needed to be vacuumed. I felt near to tears because suddenly I couldn’t do it. Why? Because in order to vacuum, I would have to take the machine out of the closet. Suddenly this felt like two things at once on a one-thing-at-a-time day. So what did I do? I had a cup of tea and then I did something that I didn’t HAVE to do. I made a quilt square!

Don’t ask me why, but doing something for pleasure first did the trick. (A “want” instead of a “should.”) After that, I took the vacuum out and did the floors and felt much better. I even took Samson out for a walk.  So, I guess I danced my way through that one with a little creative mind-over-matter trickery. (and a phone call from a friend was also a happy thing). Take THAT, you nasty depression gremlin!

WIP Wednesday!

Today is WIP (Work in Progress) Wednesday! Lots of crafty people like to blog on Wednesdays about what they’ve got “in progress”, so I think I’ll join the crowd today and show you what I’m working on. Yay!

I’m part of the We Be Learning on-line Quilt Bee. There are 12 ladies participating, and each is assigned one month of the year. Each person picks a beginner-level square and specifies the colour scheme when it is her month, then we each make that square and mail it to her. So over the course of the year I will have the opportunity to learn to make 12 different squares, work with colours and combinations I might not otherwise use, and also receive 12 squares of my own to sew together into my own quilt. My month is July and I’m already thinking about which pattern to choose.

This month (February) is my friend Dee‘s month and she choose a log cabin square made out of florals and with a black starting block. So, last week I made Dee’s square plus an extra one for me (I’ll be making an extra each month so will end up with a sampler quilt at the end as well!) Here they are. The one on the Left with the crocus is Dee’s.







Last week I finally finished the top for a quilt that will be going to Kelly’s cousin. She is only 54 and is recovering from a stroke. Her hospital room in Vancouver could use some cheery colour. It’s about all I can think of to do to help out since I am so far away. There will be an entire blog post on the construction of this quilt soon!






And last week I also put it together with the backing & batting, basted it and put it into the frame for hand quilting. I’ve been working on the hand quilting in the evenings and am nearly half finished already!







And for my own personal work-in-progress as I deal with menopausal depression, I will be spending time this week with an anti-depressant skills work book.  I am hoping that it will contain some good ideas that I can incorporate into my recovery plan.

Wishing you all happy stitches this week!

Menopausal Depression part 2

Please read my blog of February 8th for part one of the story. Thank you to those who have given me their love and support, your words mean a great deal to me. I am neither strong nor brave…in fact, I am writing the next part in the 2nd person because it is still very difficult to talk about and somehow saying “you” instead of “I” makes it more bearable to share to the world as I am doing, however silly that may be. I still feel the stigma and the guilt and shame. But because I truely believe that talking about it is the only way we can remove that stigma and help each other, here is part two of my story. Part three will come another day.

Imagine yourself wandering blissfully through a field. Grasses are waving, the air is warm and scented, and butterflies flit around. You know where you are going; you’re open to challenges and capable of meeting them. You love your life. You love your job and your home and your family. There are a myriad of little things that you do every day that you don’t even think about. You get out of bed in the morning. You brush your teeth. You take your vitamins. You look forward to the day. You sing and you dance. You describe yourself as a happy person, a content person.

That’s your life before depression. When depression hits, you don’t notice at first. You go along, but you just aren’t your “old self”. People might notice that you are less patient than you used to be. Maybe you start to make errors at work, drop balls you used to juggle effortlessly. You probably don’t notice this is happening, though others will. What you do notice is that it is harder to concentrate, harder to juggle more than one thing at a time. Things you used to love doing have become chores. Things that used to be hard become impossible. You know you’re going through menopause, so you attribute your mental state to that. After a while, the green grass in your meadow starts to dry out and get prickly. The nice smell goes away and the pretty butterflies turn into annoying gnats. Instead of dancing along cheerfully, you begin trudging up a hill and the sun gradually goes behind some pretty nasty-looking black clouds.

You used to get out of bed and spend time with your home yoga practice or walk on the treadmill every morning. Maybe you always complained about getting up early (who doesn’t?), but you did it, and once you were out of bed, you enjoyed it. Now, you only get up when you absolutely have to. Now you get up at the last minute and rush through getting ready. You don’t even think about yoga or exercise. It’s all you can do just to get out the door. You used to bounce your shoulders and nod you head to the music on the radio as you drove to work. Now, you start crying before you’re half-way there. The world is flat and uninteresting. You feel hollow. You start to eat comfort food to fill the empty space, but of course what you gain is weight, not happiness.

You know something is seriously wrong, but you don’t know what and you are unable to do anything about it. And then you tell yourself that maybe it isn’t so bad, really – you’re still doing your job, you’re still teaching your classes, you’re still cooking dinner at night. So what if the joy is gone, that’s just life. You tell yourself you’re just tired. You’ll get over it. And you know that’s crazy. You start listening to the dark voices in your head. You are exhausted at the end of the day because you’ve been wearing a mask to fool everyone around you into thinking you are fine, and that mask takes every ounce to maintain. And you think you’ve done a pretty good job of it, too, because nobody says anything to you or appears to notice anything amiss. Which means you must be fine and these feelings (or lack of them) are normal.

You start to wish things weren’t always so hard. Wouldn’t it be nice to get into a nice little car crash – just bad enough to put you in the hospital for a few weeks? People would take care of you, make you tea, bring you books and presents, show they cared. You wouldn’t have to do anything but sleep. Then you cry because you know that is a seriously bad thing to think about. How selfish you are, wanting to be taken care of! People like that are weak. You are weak. You are useless. This is it. This is your life.

One day you are walking along the river with your husband and your dog. The ice is in. You don’t remember the last time you laughed. You don’t remember it being this hard to walk. You feel like you weigh 500 pounds, just lifting your feet and putting them down one after the other. You watch the ice in the river and wonder what it would be like to go under it. You think about it all week. You don’t want to do it, not really – but you wonder what it would be like. One night it is -40 and your husband is out of town. You wonder what it would be like to go outside in your nightgown and just go to sleep. You don’t have any intention of really doing it, but never-the-less, just having these thoughts invade your mind scares you. Scares you into action.

You’ve been seeing the “Depression Hurts” ads on TV. You begin paying attention to them.  When your husband gets home you tell him that you think you might have depression and then, with his encouragement, you make an appointment with your doctor.

You are so ashamed to even say the word “depression” about yourself. You research it on the web. You print off a depression checklist and take the test. You don’t like the result, so you take it again, moving your answers all one place to the left on the checklist. You still don’t like the result. You do it again. Eventually you’ve moved all your answers to a place that don’t reflect how you really feel anymore. You throw them away and take the original checked off list to the doctor. He spends a good amount of time talking with you and asking questions. He reads your check list. Then he says you have severe menopausal depression and tells you about how brain chemicals and hormones work. He tells you that some women need a little help getting through menopause, and he writes you a prescription.

You are not happy with the diagnosis. No way are you going to admit to anybody that you have a mental illness. No way are you going to take an antidepressant, for god’s sake! So you make an appointment with a therapist. You want a second opinion. The therapist spends an hour with you. She reads your checklist. She talks and asks questions. Then she says you have acute depression.

So okay. The doctor was a good doctor. He looked at you when he talked to you. The therapist was a good therapist. She listened and confirmed the doctor’s diagnosis. So you go to the pharmacy and you get the prescription filled.  You can’t look the pharmasist in the eye. You feel as fragile as glass. You really hate taking medication, but you know you need help. And to prove you aren’t weak and because you are a stubborn person,  you’re going to take that help in the form of a little white pill every day for probably 6 months.

You are relieved. Something really was wrong with you, and you can do something about it.

If you think you or a loved one is ill with depression, menopausal or otherwise, please see your doctor. There is help. The grass does turn green again.



Menopausal Depression part 1

Today is Bell Canada’s Let’s Talk about Depression day. Today, for every text message sent and every long distance call made by Bell and Bell Aliant customers, Bell will donate 5 cents to mental health programs.

In a CTV news article, Olympian Clara Hughes says that the biggest adversary she has ever fought is depression. As spokesperson for the Bell Canada campaign, she is sharing her own story in order to help remove the stigma around the illness and to encourage people to talk about it.  “Mental illness is much more common among Canadians than many people think. According to the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, one in five Canadians will experience a mental illness in their lifetime, and the remaining four will be affected through a friend, family member or colleague.”*

So I’m going to take a deep breath and talk about Menopausal Depression.

I find it a hard thing to talk about. It’s very personal. It isn’t something I really want to share with people. So why am I blogging about it when it really isn’t anyone else’s business? I don’t know. I guess that if Clara Hughes can talk about it, so can I. And maybe someone reading this will recognize themselves and go talk to their doctor. Maybe someone reading this will learn something and become more tolerant of a depressed person in their life. Maybe by telling the world, I will learn to be more accepting of myself and my illness.

Society has a long history of being suspicious and afraid of mental illness. So while you don’t want to tell people because you don’t want to be labeled as being mentally ill and stigmatized by those words, you also carry those very same misconceptions and stigmas, and use them against yourself. This self-imposed shame on top of the public stigma can be very crazy-making. I cannot say about myself that I have a mental illness. I can say, however, that I have menopausal depression, or that I have a chemical or serotonin imbalance. Same thing, different words. Crazy, eh?

The word depression has been thrown around so much that it can be hard to attach any seriousness or legitimacy to it. Being depressed is not being down in the dumps. It doesn’t mean being slightly frustrated or shocked by an unpleasantness. You can’t become depressed by the state of your closet or by a rainy day. And you can’t tell a depressed person to snap out of it any more than you can tell a diabetic to will their blood sugars down. Being depressed is an illness that is caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain.

Menopause is another thing that people don’t talk about very much. Every woman is different, but I started noticing signs of peri-menopause (the period of time before menstruation ceases) at about age 44 when I noticed that my monthly periods were becoming less reliable. At age 49 I officially entered menopause (you are “in menopause” for the full year in which you have not had a menstrual period). I am now considered a post-menopausal woman, and I turned 50 last July.

Menopausal Depression is caused by low serotonin levels, which are the result of a drop in estrogen. “Serotonin regulates sleep, energy, mood and libido, and is central to our well-being. Women (like men) vary in the amounts of serotonin they have available in the brain. Researchers have suggested that women who have low serotonin to start out with (largely a genetic matter) may become more symptomatic than other women at menopause.” **

When your brain is messed up this way, you don’t see things clearly. You exist in a fog. You’re tired all the time and you feel bland and empty. Happiness disappears from your life. You can’t dance because dance is joy, and joy is gone. It takes all your energy just to hold your end of a conversation or to show animation in your features.  It takes all your energy to go to work, and your work eventually suffers. While having a cup of tea with your friend may be the best thing for you, it is also completely exhausting and so you avoid your friends.

There are medications that can help, including a fairly new class of drugs called SSRIs (Selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors.) SSRI drugs work by slowing the reuptake process in brain neurons, which results in a rise of the amount of serotonin in the brain. With more serotonin present, the brain can more efficiently transmit messages regarding sleep, mood, emotions and feelings. ***

If you have a friend who suffers from depression, one thing you can do for them is to educate yourself on the illness, and then take it upon yourself to check in with them now and again. Not to talk about their depression, but just to say hello… because depressed people almost always isolate themselves.

Living with menopausal depression is a struggle. It’s like climbing a scree slope. I might decide to write more about how depression has affected me another time. For today, I just wanted to add my voice to the conversation and let people know that menopausal depression is real and it isn’t something to be ashamed of.

This excerpt from Tess Zevenberge of The Province says it better than I can:

Accepting the fact you are depressed is not easy. You may fear what people’s perceptions of you will be. I was terrified  everyone would see me as weak. I definitely felt weak and powerless and surrendering to this feeling was hard to do. Depression was the antithesis of everything I thought I was — resilient, independent and in control.  Instead my depression has taught me humility and moreover, that I am human but not superhuman.

Working through the grey malaise of depression has made me stronger even when I am at my most vulnerable. I can see the bright spot in my depression in the form of my courage and strength to be open about it and in my ability to accept it and reach out for help. There is nothing to fear and nothing to be embarrassed about. I have to shed societal expectations of who I think I should be and start living my life as who I am, as one friend put it. It’s a process. There is no overnight cure.

So it’s with conviction and personal experience that I tell you the worst thing you can do when you are depressed is socially isolate yourself and worry how others will perceive you. This will not help you get better.

We need to give depression and mental illness a voice and that’s what I aim to do. I want to be part of the conversation that does make it better and provides hope.

References in this blog found at:

** http://www.womens-wellbeing-and-mental-health.com/Menopausal-Depression.html



I danced!

I danced! This morning, for about 2 minutes, I actually danced! Cleaning up my sewing room shelves, I found the funky bow that Nathalie had put on my birthday present last summer. I held it in my hand, and humming Begin the Beguine, I did a little candle dance with the funky twinkling bow. In my nightgown. I hummed and I danced. I thought about how it would look cool for the troupe…that’s a choreography idea! Maybe there is joy at the end of this journey after all.


I wake up at 1am and again at 1:30. I wake up at 3am and get up to pee. I
lay in the bed and try not to fidget because Kelly is such a light sleeper and
I don’t want to waken him. The cat is like a buzzing electric blanket on my
head. Finally at 4am I give up. I carefully extract myself from the bungee
cords of the dog & cat and carefully, so carefully, trying not to make any
movement or sound, slither out of bed. Down to the living room I go. Now comes
after me Misty, to sit on the arm of the couch and stare. Followed by the
heated chainsaw purring Spooky. Followed shortly after by the “clickey
clickety click” of Samson on the wood floors. No way is Kelly going to
sleep through the mass exodus. And of course he doesn’t. In a minute I hear him
going into the bathroom. Then a sleepy “where are you?” I tell him to
go back to bed, I’ll be there soon. I let Samson out to pee. As I stand in the
window watching for his return, I am looking across at my neighbour’s house. I
see the green ghost light of her TV in her kitchen window. I see her shadow
pass back and forth. She is awake, also. I look away because it isn’t polite to
invade her privacy. And I know that she can also see me, a dark shadow in the
doorway. I wonder, if we could see through walls, would we see an entire host
of night people roaming the dark rooms, or  moving from bed to bathroom and back again? People in the night, moving silently by the light of the street lamps streaming into kitchen windows? Ghost people. Dark, shadow people. Awake at 4am.