I used to think I couldn’t drink wine. Especially red. My parents like dry reds. Very tannic reds. The sort of reds that suck the moisture out of your nose when you put it near the glass. And I figured all reds must be like that.
So, as a young adult, I drank Arbour Mist. Wine, right? (Wrong).
However, over the past few years, I’ve started experiencing more and more wines, and the variety that comes with it. I ‘d say that the turning point was a ladies event I attended at J. Webb in the latter half of 2011 – there were many wines for tasting and I started to get a feel for some of the varietals I most enjoyed, namely syrah and pinot noir.
With that, 2012 saw our first visit to the Okanagan for wine touring, and we’ve been out at least once a year ever since. I think the number of cases we buy doubles every time we go out now.
Since then, I ‘ve branched out. Cab sauv is a nice, bold wine that goes well with meals. Merlot is great with or without food. I’m starting to get into whites, especially oaked, like some chardonnays from California. And we’re finding that rosés can be quite tart, not the sickly sweet rosés of times past that we all drank when we were in our late teens – a perfect addition to a barbeque or on the patio in the sun after work.
With this in mind, for the better part of a year I looked at the Wine & Spirit Education Trust courses that are available through Fine Vintage in Calgary. I put it off, partially due to the cost, and also because the program runs on Tuesdays and Miki and I volunteer at a seniors home on Tuesdays. But, the stars aligned and I managed to find a session of the course earlier this year during which I’d only miss one visit with Miki out of the four weeks. I justified the cost as spending money on my own development and a hobby I have great interest in.
I learned so much when I thought I had a pretty good grasp on the subject. The format was four weeks (although they also offer it in a one-day course) in the evenings. We tasted seven to nine wines each class, but you are required to SPIT, which is a foreign concept for most of us (the one-day format must be cheaper because they taste fewer wines – there’s no way you could do that many in one day, even though you spit). You learn how to properly taste, identify characteristics of the wine, guess the aroma and taste on your palate (sometimes the answer is obvious but quite often no two people would have the same answers written down). I’m also much more particular about what wines I pair with food (or without).
Throughout the four weeks, you get to know your fellow students. An interesting observation is that less than half of the attendees work in the industry, either hospitality or with wine directly. Most of us were just there for general interest, or a possible career change. The instructor said this was fairly typical, but as you start going up in levels you’d see more and more industry members and fewer “just checking it out” students.
We also learned about different varietals, their characteristics, what terroire is and how it affects the wine, the difference between viticulture and viniculture, and many things in between.
At the end of the course, there is a test – it is sent to the WSET headquarters and you receive your grade in six to eight weeks. If you don’t pass, you cannot take the next level. It’s a bit nervewracking, even though the pass rate is fairly high. However, if you did the math, about two of the people in our class were slated to fail. (Don’t worry, I passed. In fact, I aced the test. I’m a keener).
Did I enjoy it? Well, I signed up for Level 2 before I even knew if I’d passed Level 1. Happy birthday… and Christmas… to me, for the next few years. I would recommend Level 1 for anyone who has a keen interest in wine. Your ability to hold long conversations about wine at parties will explode. I’d recommend the four-day, instead of the one-day marathon – after one night of tastings, we all felt that our palates were shot. No idea how you’d do it all in one day.
Several people have asked me if I’m doing these courses to become a sommelier. To be honest? I’m not sure. The further you go in the program, the more of a commitment, to the point that they liken Level 4 to a university program and it takes two years to complete. At this point in time, I’d say I’m not interested in going that far. But, who knows? Five years ago I’d’ve laughed if you said I’d be taking wine courses. The world is a strange place.
Has anyone else done the WSET courses? Past Level 1? Thoughts?
You’re likely going to see a new topic take over my blog for the foreseeable future.
You see, I’ve gone to the wine.
No, not whine – although, I do a fair bit of that too – but wine. Sweet, dry, red, white, tannins, acidity… these are all terms that flow off my tongue daily for the past few months.
It started with our yearly visits to the Okanagan for some wine and time off. But I’ve found myself buying more and more wine at liquor stores. Not beer. Not hard liquor. Wine.
Which then enticed me to take a wine course through Fine Vintage and write the WSET Level 1 test – and now I find myself perusing the wine list wherever I go. What regions, what varietals? What will go best with what I’m eating?
So, like any good blogger, of which I’m not because I sorely neglect this blog, I’d like to share my experiences and knowledge in the hopes that I can shed some light on this delicious yet mysterious hobby of mine.
Hope you can come along for the ride.
And, yes, I will still continue to post about other topics… and pictures of pets.
On Friday, December 20, 2013, I went to Gimbel and they made small, permanent holes in my eyes. No, seriously – they used a laser to punch holes in my irises, also called a laser iridotomy. This procedure is quite often used for people who have glaucoma, which results in increased pressure in the eye. The little holes allow another exit for the fluid in your eyes so that the pressure doesn’t build up. Because of the addition of a second lens into my eye in the ICL procedure, it can block the fluid from exiting in a normal manner, so the iridotomy is a precaution to lower the chance of increased pressure in the eye.
During my procedure, the left eye literally took two shots of the laser, the total number of holes put into the iris, whereas the right required about 20, and they hit a blood vessel. I guess it has to do with how well I manage to hold my eyes open and the angle of the hits – apparently my left was more cooperative than the right.
The following Monday was D-day. I arrived for my appointment quite early – which just left more time for panic. The pre-tests were quick and they gave me a mild sedative to calm my jitters, but not enough to put me out. I didn’t think it was working, but when I went to stand up to go into the operating room, I almost fell over. So, here’s my public service message: you likely can’t drive after having those few drinks, even if you “feel fine.”
There were a few of us in the waiting room as they could only do one of this type of procedure at once. While I was focusing on my tablet (with dilated eyes, n0t easy) in order to calm my nerves, I did listen to the conversations and chat a bit as well. A few were having cataracts removed (older people, naturally) while another gentleman was having a procedure similar to mine, although for correcting a different issue. We discovered that the people with cataracts could only have one eye done at once (because it is covered by healthcare) whereas those of us having elective procedures were having both eyes done at once. The things you learn.
The actual procedure was very interesting and less scary. It’s like when you close your eyes and rub them hard so that you see stars and colours (wait – nobody else did that? Who knows, maybe that’s why my corneas are so weird) but it went on for about 10 or 15 minutes per eye. They didn’t describe what was going on during the procedure but if it meant they were concentrating more on the surgery itself I was fine with that. They did the right eye first since the left is my dominant eye (despite being right-handed) and right away I could see more clearly out of the eye while they were prepping for the left; this made me very excited. In between eyes, the nurses and I chatted about what pie I was going to make for Christmas dinner. The left went very much like the right, although my vision wasn’t as clear immediately after the procedure.
The next day, I went back for an assessment. They told me my right eye was already 20/20 and my left was 20/40. The latter did not surprise me as I could tell that my right was much clearer than the left. Despite this, they gave me a letter that okayed me for driving without corrective lenses – it never occurred to me that people don’t need 20/20 vision in both eyes to drive. Who knew?
I struggled with not spending too much time on my phone, laptop, TV as I was off work the entire week, but having a puppy around helped with it a little (although perhaps not my stress levels or blood pressure). Despite being off work, we hosted my family for dinner twice and Matt’s for dinner once so it was a very busy time. I was a bit unnerved by my left eye still lagging behind the right, and going back to work January 2 and 3 made for uncomfortable work on the computer trying to focus, but about a week ago my left eye seemed to have caught up to my right, if not a little inconsistent – at times, especially if I’m tired or my eye is dry, it’s blurry but otherwise seems to be on par with my right.
My two- (actually three) week appointment confirmed this: I came out as perfect 20/20 vision. Yes, I know of people who’ve had better than perfect (after his eye surgery my dad had 20/15 in one eye) but I’m not going to be greedy! I am perfectly happy with 20/20; it is what my goal was. They had some concern about the amount of space between my natural and implanted lenses in my right eye at the appointment the day after the surgery, but after several tests today the doctor let me know that the space widened and they are not concerned about the possibility of cataract (which can occur if the two lenses rub together). The pressure in my eyes is also normal, which means that the iridotomies are doing their jobs.
So, all in all, everything seems to be going well. I am finished the medicated drops they prescribed for three weeks after the surgery, my eyes are humming along and they’ll see me again for my two-month check-up.
Thanks my mom and Matt for being a huge support – my mom was my chauffeur and Matt was my rock at home. And to my dad and sister for being understanding and listening to me earlier in the year, when it felt like the entire world was falling apart.
Was it worth it? Yes. I’m lucky that I was able to afford the procedure through a shrewd (but mostly lucky) investment situation. But I believe that not having to wear contacts 12-18 hours a day every day will result in healthier eyes in my future, and that being able to see without corrective lenses is safer in the long run.
And, with that, ends my eye saga.
I was inspired by one of the people I follow on Twitter – Jillian is a fan of vision boards to help frame your year. In the past I’ve heard of vision boards, though most often in the cut & paste from magazines sense, but I’ve never created one. This year, I’ve felt compelled to pave my own path with more conviction than the past two.
One evening, I set out to create my vision board. By Jillian’s suggestion, I used Oprah’s site, although I’ve never seen her show, read the magazine or watched the network. Instead of seeking out my own images, I browsed what was available.
And I came up with this:
At first, I was a bit worried – my board looks nothing like Jillian’s. I don’t have any motivational quips or inspirational images. However, when I look back at my vision board, it says everything I need it to say. I did not create my captions and seek images to match them – I found images that caught my eye, tried to group them accordingly and wrote my aspirations to speak to those themes. Maybe next year I’ll change the format but I think for a first attempt, I’ve hit the mark. No two vision boards are the same, and there’s no wrong or right way to create one.
The past year, due to many reasons, I’ve found my home to be a less-than-relaxing place. I’ve never done a good purge of my belongings, five years after moving in. My boyfriend moved in with me over a year ago, which introduced another layer of complexity. Last year I was consumed by other worries, like a stressful job and renovating my basement suite, which left me little enough time to see to the basics, never mind cleaning out my home.
So, this year I want to take more pleasure in my humble abode. We’ve already started this process – I’ve assigned one (or more) room to each weekend in January for a complete de-cluttering. All in all, I live a pretty minimalist life, but I’m finding that I have no more space, figuratively and literally, for new items in my life. I’m purging everything, donating what I can and throwing out the rest. My bedroom alone yielded two large garbage bags of trash and two more of clothing donations between the two of us this weekend, along with half a bag of stuffed animals (all mine, of course).
We’ve also re-arranged my living room so that the TV isn’t the focal point, and that there’s a conversation/lounging area, meant for reading, being on your laptop, or just taking a nap. Throughout the year, I have plans to further simplify my home so that it’s a peaceful retreat instead of a beast that constantly needs to be tidied or fixed.
Respect my body
While we’ve done well at making meals at home, with all the energy that went into my career and other responsibilities last year, my choices away from home weren’t always the best. And exercise has been minimal. In order to be the person I want to be, I need to respect my body in three different ways:
Eat healthier – choose to bring meals from home, pick the healthier choices over the ones I crave at the moment, and ensure I am sticking to meal plans instead of giving into laziness and ordering in.
Exercise – in 2008, I was the healthiest I’ve ever been in my life and I’d like to get back to that state. A big part of this will include exercise: get myself moving, continue to push myself harder and mixing up my activities to keep my body guessing.
Stop consuming dairy – it seems like a no-brainer, but I keep falling prey to my cravings and eating items that I know likely contain dairy. If you didn’t know, I am dairy-sensitive; consuming any product derived from any sort of dairy causes inflammation in my body. For example, last week, after 10 days of staying at home and eating well, I chose to eat a scone from Starbucks; 10 hours of abdominal and back pain ensued – I counted. That’s not to mention the 24 – 48 hours of general malaise I feel afterwards. If I “fall off the wagon” for a couple of days, I start to feel joint pain and have trouble sleeping. No rational person does this to herself.
Find time for myself
I find that last year I was focused on many things, namely work and volunteering. I neglected to carve out time for myself. I didn’t find time to exercise. I didn’t find time to puruse my interests. I didn’t find time to appreciate the good aspects of my life. These are all things I do because I enjoy them, but also because it makes me a better person. I need to take care of myself. I am an introvert – I need down time. Others can go out and socialize every night of the week; if I don’t have at least two nights off, I implode. This also means being more selective about where I spend my time – I should be getting more out of my interactions while still maintaining a schedule that is conducive to me.
A friend who had a very tough year created a “year in review” for 2013 – despite undergoing incredible upheaval in hear life, she still managed to have an amazing year. It was a tough year for me, too, so I tried to do the same thing, but I found I had much less to document. My year was, very much, as terrible as it seemed; this is partly my fault. My friend proved that just because one aspect of your life isn’t working the way you planned doesn’t mean you can’t throw yourself into other pursuits while trying to pick up the pieces. Instead of shutting down if things are falling off the rails, I want to push out of my comfort zone and try things I wouldn’t ordinarily consider. This isn’t always as easy as it sounds, I know from personal experience, but it’s a reminder to myself that things can, and will, get better, and my actions throughout will determine what life looks like before, during and after. Embracing adventure also means travelling to new places, instead of the same old, and considering smaller trips to new places rather than grand vacations. At the end of 2014, I want every month to be an accomplishment, even if there are (and there will be) challenges along the way.
I am an avid scholar – I enjoy learning new things. I took a marketing course last year which, naturally, fell at the worst possible time and ended up being more of a stressor than I’d hoped, but in the end I came out with a greater appreciation for the field. I want to keep learning, although this year my focus will be communications and PR more than marketing – I am looking to taking courses to ground my knowledge in my chosen career. However, learning doesn’t always have to take place in the college sense. Learning can be honing skills with my camera or taking an artistic course, which for a non-creative type is terrifying in itself. I want my learning to be planned, spontaneous, alone, together… I want to meet up with more people, network, have coffee, listen to what others are doing. Last year was very much spent folded into myself: this year I am going to broaden my horizons.
Live with purpose
I know this is an overused phrase but it does describe how I want to conduct myself going forward. Instead of going with the flow and following an invisible path along with everyone else, I want to re-evaluate the commitments I’ve made and take steps towards maintaining better control of my life. This will largely fall out of some of the themes above – all of them include being a more active participant in my own life. I see this year being a defining one, a step towards deciding where I want my path to lead and how I can modify my short- and long-term goals to get there. My path will not look the same as anyone else’s and, while I will need advice and support to get there, only I can determine what the light at the end of the tunnel looks like.
The above may or may not make sense to you. I’m still trying to make sense of some of it myself. But it does give you insight into where I am going with this year. I have a fairly good idea of goals in some of these themes, still developing them in others.
On to you: have you created a vision board or similar concept for 2014? What does yours look like? Link it!
More than likely, you’ve read Part 1 of my Eye Saga. If not, you may want to peruse it for the background to my story.
Going back a little, I had mentioned that I was a good candidate for almost all of the procedures but not an excellent one for any of them.
To put a little more detail around this:
|LASIK (with cross-linking)||Traditional LASIK surgery (with the flap) with addition of cross-linking to help stabilize the results of the procedure||Well-documented procedure, great results for most people, less costly than implants, my thick corneas made this procedure a good option||My risk of having the procedure re-done was higher than most, flap may be difficult to lift/set down after a touch-up procedure|
|PRK (with cross-linking)||Laser surgery in which they go through the cornea instead of creating the flap, again with the cross-linking procedure to stabilize results||Less risky without needing to create the flap, less costly than implants||With my prescription, would need the procedure repeated 2 or 3 times to attain 20/20 vision (higher risk), very long (3 week) healing period|
|Cachet implants||A fairly new type of man-made lens that is implanted in front of the lens in your eye||Reversible procedure, lowest risk, do not have to touch the cornea of the eye at all||Costly procedure|
|ICL implants||A procedure that has been in use for more than a decade, implants a man-made lens behind the lens in your eye||Reversible procedure, moderate risk, do not have to touch the cornea of the eye at all||Most costly option, slight risk of causing a cataract when implanting the lens due to proximity to lens in eye|
The Cachet Game
In short, both myself and the optometrist believed LASIK with cross-linking and Cachet lenses to be my least risky, most-viable options. After much thought, and getting the opinion of Dr. Gimbel himself, at the beginning of January 2013 I chose Cachet lenses.
The lenses took 4 – 6 months to order in, so it became a waiting game. I called at the beginning of April to check in, but nothing had happened yet. I called again towards mid-June, and, to my surprise, the lenses had been pulled off the market in April. According to Gimbel’s file, I should have been contacted as soon as they knew, but was apparently missed from the process. To say I was disappointed is an understatement. But, looking back, the issue occurred mainly in Asian people and those with small eyes, and I definitely fall into the latter category. I would much rather put up with the disappointment than possibly irreversibly lose my vision in the future.
So, that was that.
The switch to LASIK
On June 21, 2013 (otherwise known in my brain as Flood Day), I went back to see the optometrist and she confirmed that LASIK with cross-linking was still a good option for me. We reviewed my charts and I made an appointment with the counsellor for mid-July to have the surgery. As the date approached, the excitement and trepidation grew. A week before the surgery, I had to try to cut down on Vitamin C as it makes the cross-linking more likely to work as intended – apparently Vitamin C strengthens the corneal layer but you want it to be more pliable for the procedure. Who knew bell peppers had so much Vitamin C? Between my not eating red meat, dairy sensitivity and cutting down on Vit C, I felt like there was nothing I could eat that week.
The day of, I went into the main part of the offices to have my tests re-done before the surgery, since it had been more than six months since my last set. As I was sitting in the optometrist’s office, I started to feel a bit uneasy as she had left for some time to speak to the surgeon. And (I felt like) my whole world fell apart when she came into the room and said that I could not have the LASIK procedure due to irregularities in my cornea.
Basically, the irregularities increased my chance of developing keratectasia, which is a bulging of the eye due to removing too much of the cornea or where weak spots appeared on the eye. The corneal thickness of my eye also varies greatly from top to bottom, especially on my left eye. In short, with the additional risks these tests uncovered, the surgeons decided against allowing me to do laser surgery of any kind.
I also know more about the composition and topography of my eyes than any other living person, I’m convinced.
To this day, we’re all still unsure as to why these irregularities didn’t show up in the first set of tests. I tend to blink, a lot, and they actually have to recruit someone to hold my eyelids open for some of the tests, so it’s possible I blinked at the wrong time. Dr. Gimbel thought that there was an outside chance it could be dry eyes, so I hydrated like there was no tomorrow over that weekend and went back for re-tests the following Monday, to no avail.
Ironically, the test that had seemed most risky in that chart above, and is most costly, is now my only option: ICL implants.
Luckily, the space in my eye they insert the lens into is normal-sized, which means my risk of developing a cataract is fairly small, no more or less than your average person.
And, thanks to the CP shares, cost in this decision has been less of a factor than it would be for most people.
Onto the ICL
So, here we are. At the end of August I went in for a final test during which they did an ultrasound on my eye (very odd procedure) so that they could do measurements for ordering of the implants.
There have been tears shed. Excitement, hope, disappointment, nervousness, trepidation, resignation… these are all emotions I’ve felt during this process.
Two days before Christmas 2013, I had the procedure performed. The rest of the story to come.
Only I could have a series of posts entitled the Eye Saga. But my journey to vision correction truly has been just that – an epic story.
It started off with the massive rise in price of Canadian Pacific’s stocks. What better use of the money than to (finally) correct my vision? I’ve worn glasses since I was seven, contacts since Grade 10, and I’m currently sitting at a -7, -6.5 for contact prescription (for those of you with perfect vision – ENVY – this means that I literally can’t see the hand in front of my face without corrective lenses). Needless to say, I’ve had enough.
It was also partially prompted by my optometrist’s proclamation, after viewing the pictures of my eyes during my last visit, that I’d be an excellent candidate for surgery because my vision has been consistent for years and I have a thick corneal layer (if talk of parts of the eye bothers you, it’s probably best to stop reading now).
I started my journey in December 2012, deciding to visit two vision centres for assessment of suitability for correction: Gimbel Eye Centre and LasikMD. I chose these two due to their reputation and recommendations from others.
Gimbel was first. The entire process was quite good. You wait and they bring you in to do a few tests in a couple of different rooms. Afterward, you’re taken to a second waiting room to wait for an optometrist/opthamologist. S/he discusses your options based on results. And then you are shuttled to a third waiting room where you then speak to a counsellor and, possibly, book your surgery.
While speaking to the optometrist, she confirmed that, indeed, I do have thick corneas. However, I also have poor vision and somewhat steep corneas, which are risk factors for laser surgery. In short, I was a good candidate for most of the corrective procedures but not an excellent candidate for any of them. Due to this fact, and because I knew I had an appointment the following day at LasikMD, I did not book a surgery that day with the counsellor.
My overall impression of Gimbel was that the staff were well-trained and professional, it was nice to speak to an actual doctor, and there was absolutely no pressure to book an appointment for a surgery (although they did caution that if I took more than six months to decide, the tests would have to be repeated so that they were up-to-date before any surgery).
The next day, I went to LasikMD. There was a bit of a kerfuffle when reception had to come retrieve a clipboard and papers from me in the waiting room because it hadn’t been clear that they wanted me to return them, but no harm done. The tests done were similar to Gimbel – not quite as comprehensive. I was disappointed to find out that you didn’t meet with an actual doctor, just a technician, to discuss surgery options. I was told that I was an excellent candidate for LASIK – however, no mention of my thick corneas, which I thought would be a point of discussion since it’s vital to someone with my high prescription when it comes to the surgery, or the risk factors that come with my high prescription.
The part that I least liked about LasikMD was meeting with their counsellor. While I plainly stated that I was still assessing options and did not want to book a surgery, she insisted on booking me a surgery date on the spot and told me I could cancel at any time afterward. Which I did: the next day. The tactic felt like one during high-pressure sales, and I do not believe a decision such as this should be subject to coersion.
In the end, I decided to go with Gimbel for my vision correction for several reasons:
- Better technologies and a more comprehensive exam
- More options for vision correction
- The ability to see a trained optometrist/opthamologist during my visists
- A softer, gentler approach to making decisions
- Overall, better experience and more professional employees
- Experiences of family and friends have been more than positive
Just wait – Part 2 is when this story really gets juicy. Stay tuned!