What I Can Do Now Thanks To Yin Yoga

Winged Victory of SamothraceLast night I took off my sneakers and told my husband,”Watch this!” I bent over and touched my toes with my fingers and then proceeded to place my palms on the floor! My knees were not bent, my hands were flat on the floor and I certainly do not want to tell you how long it’s been since I could do that! I had not rehearsed it or tried to do it any time in recent memory. I am very very flexible now that I have been practicing yoga seriously for the past 6+ months. So, trying a few adult flexibility tricks is not out of the question, and I think I will show off for my internist at my next physical in December.

Yin yoga isn’t for strength so much as it is for flexibility, and that is worth its weight in gold. If you are limber, you walk better, you have much less pain, your movements are fluid and graceful, your confidence zooms up. It’s just 100% positive and it’s simple to do.

I also tried to do The Wheel recently and was happily surprised that I could! I used to do that when I was 6, it was kind of a party trick that my parents would have me do. I was somewhat leery of trying it again, after all it is a hard one and it had been a long time since I had tried it. I went up like a pro, thanks to a lot of Yin.

Yoga is a wonderful and necessary exercise and I hope that you try it for a while and see and feel the the goodness.

This blog is brought to you by Possets Perfume!


What You Do In October Part 5

I was sore and tender. My husband took me to our favorite little family diner for lunch. We laughed and talked. We returned home. I worked on computer things. I remembered that I had started shaking a little bit after the procedure was over and willed myself to stop. What if? I hoped the doctor would never call me. Maybe he will forget.

I went for a walk. My usual fitness routine was too strenuous for me for the first 48 hours after the biopsy. I talked to my best friend as I went around the park. My phone died. I hoped that wasn’t an omen and then scoffed at myself for being a sissy. There were tons of women in this world worse off by far than me. I e-mailed a dear friend in a far away land who comforted me. My husband was the kindest. All would be well. I had no assurance I would be healthy.

I woke up today, read the news and had coffee. My husband kept on telling me that everything would be fine. How does he know? We decided to go to morning yoga together. It’s a Yin class and I told the teacher (who is a nurse) that I had had a biopsy yesterday and she was extremely supportive. The class was a godsend.

After yoga I still had a few rounds of sustaining exercise to do. Things heal better with gentle exercise. While I was on the treadmill, the biopsy doctor called. I answered sounding very wary. He sounded positively cheery. I though, “Oh, no, he’s cheery…there is something wrong, I know it. He is trying to lull me into a stupor and then he is going to give me the bad news!” “Mrs. Christenson, it turns out that the spot we saw on the mammogram was benign.” Oh, happy happy day. I was so relieved and I didn’t even almost fall off the treadmill! Just happy and utterly in control. I thanked him heartily and called my husband. What a relief.

I know that not everyone gets that decision. There are plenty of women (and some men, too) who get bad news about breast cancer. For all of my worrying, I did remember to think that I was having yearly mammograms, following up on them when I needed to, and that the risk of my suffering a catastrophic surprise of rampant disease was vastly lower than if I had skipped all the unpleasantness of the mammogram and biopsy. That fact alone was the one I clung to during my worst fears and anxieties. My life would have been far more miserable if I had not had that to remember.

I do so hope that even though it’s getting to be the end of October, that you will have your annual mammogram (if you are a woman) and don’t put it off because it’s a bother or you don’t like the machine pinching you or whatever you don’t like about it. It really does save lives and makes treatment much less extreme if anything is wrong. Getting your mammogram done at the same place every year is a very wise thing to do as well. So, if you haven’t scheduled your mammogram, please do it now even if you end up having it in November.

All my best, Fabienne from Possets

This blog is brought to you by Possets Perfume!


What You Do In October Part 4

Good Samaritan Hospital was abustle in the Breast Center. I was told that we do descend on them in October and it looked like today was biopsy day. I sat with the other ladies in our “gowns” (not like ball gowns but hospital gowns) waiting to go in. I felt like one of the “ladies” in a Toulouse Lautrec painting.

“Mrs.Christenson?” My blood froze but I stood up and walked into the business end of the Breast Center with my purse tucked under my arm. I had taken half of the anxiety pill but didn’t feel much less anxiety, and that made me more anxious than ever.

I was asked over and over what my birthdate was and my name. Finally I landed in the room with an ultrasound machine. The doctor would be in shortly. Lying on my back, with my left arm over my head, I was draped with sterile cloths, squirted with gel for the ultrasound and the doctor would be in soon. My stomach shriveled and I imagined that it looked like a raisin inside.

“Can you please hand me my purse? I would like to take the other half of my anxiety pill.” Sure, I was handed my purse and fished out the other half. I hoped it would work by the time the procedure got underway.

The doctor looked more like a regular guy than some scientist. There was a bit of fussing around, checking my birthday, double checking about what is to be done. Then packages were ripped open and I was told that the lidocane would feel like a hornet sting. Hornet? What a nasty image, and right on my tender breast…to have a hornet sting me there? Oh creepy…I was so glad I took the other half of my pill.

As the doctor was busy injecting me with numbing juices, I kept on thinking that if I had a tumor growing in me and I had not had the luxury of this kind of care I would die a harsh death and I should be grateful that I could feel that sting of Lidocane and would get the comfort of having part of me cut away and scrutinized by experts. That might save my life. No. Kidding. This is deadly serious.

Now the biopsy began in earnest. The doctor threaded the instrument from the lower left hand side of my breast to the tip. He tried to nip off a bit of the offending growth but it eluded him. That happens sometimes, it’s like bobbing for apples in some spots. I heard the needle go POP which means it was taking a piece of me. 3 to go. Now time felt like eternity. More fishing around under the surface of my skin, stop and POP. I jumped, you can’t help it. the technician let me hold her hand. I really squeezed it hard, she said that was OK. The anti anxiety drug was probably doing its job but my fears were the basic old type which still scoured the back of my brain and took all of my courage and good sense to keep confined to places where they would not do real harm. POP. After the requisite number of bites the doctor announced,”That is all I need.” The needle was withdrawn and I was inspected, they made sure I was not bleeding and put a special bandage on me which would fall off on its own in about 7 days.

I was sent home with a list of instructions and told the doctor would call me in 2 days.

Again, the torture of waiting for the results. What would the next step be? I was not feeling lucky. The procedure had gone well but living through it is nerve wracking. So is waiting.

This blog is brought to you by Possets Perfume!


What You Do In October Part 3

Now is the most detestable part of the entire process, waiting and conjuring up every awful scene your imagination can hang in your consciousness. What if, what if, what if. What if it’s some rare form of 100% fatal cancer? What if I lose part of my breast? What if it spread? What if….

Of course you worry. That is natural. You are trying to defend yourself from something you can’t fight alone and which might be an ineluctable foe. I talked to my husband about all this and there is no angel on earth who could have been more supporting than he was. I talked to my doctor and told him that I was really anxious, just afraid of the whole process. He prescribed some anti anxiety pill just for the day of the biopsy. I was grateful, and glad I had the nerve to confess my skittishness to the doc so that I could be gentler on myself…and that I could be gentle to myself instead of believing that the fear is all part of the experience and I should go through it. More fear wasn’t going to make this better. Less fear was the best alternative, and I took it.

I also talked to my best friend who had a biopsy. Hers was a totally different experience but she was terribly kind and listened to my terrors with the greatest of care. That comforted me immeasurably.

I also kept to my regular schedule of workouts and the night before I went for the biopsy I was lucky enough to get a nice long Yin Yoga class. I slowly stretched and let go for an hour and a half. At the end of it, I was very calm and could face the proceedings of the next day with a less agitated mind. I slept well that night.

How would things go when I actually had to be put to the test?

This blog is brought to you by Possets Perfume!


What You Do In October Part 2

“Mrs.Christenson, we’d like you to come down to the Radiology Lab.” I felt like someone just shot battery acid into my stomach. The technician rotated the screen on which the mammogram was showing and an oblong white spot showed up clearly. “This is what we found and we would like to take an ultrasound to see if it’s a cyst or some benign object or whether it’s something that needs to be taken care of.”

At this point I was numb. I followed obediently down the hall feeling very much like running, and taking off, and flying away, and not facing the fact of a cancer diagnosis. But, instead I followed meekly along. My heart was banging away in my ribcage by now.

A nice woman in the radiology lab had me lie down, arm over head. She squirted the gel on my left breast and started to knead and twirl around with the ultrasound head. Mercifully, the machine didn’t make those loud underwater sounds, it was silent. I hated every minute of it. I could feel myself starting to shake and I willed myself to stop. By now I felt like someone had dropped an icecube into my head, right between the two halves of my brain. The ultrasound went on for what felt like an hour, it was probably 5 minutes. The technician was very thorough.

Finally, she turned the screen around and the oblong creation was facing me again. “This is what we really need to take a look at.” Biopsy, I thought. The next step is going to be a biopsy. “I think we need to do a biopsy. Let me check with the doctor but in cases like this he usually recommends a biopsy.”

At this point, I was just alone. I could not think, I was numb. In a short time, the tech appeared. She confirmed that I was a good candidate for a needle biopsy, a great improvement over the old fashioned way of taking a part of a possible tumor for analysis. A small needle is inserted and a bit of the suspicious tissue is bitten off. Then they look at it and see if there is any cancer cell activity and proceed from there. The whole thing takes about 10 minutes, the breast is numbed with lidocane, the needle is guided with the help of ultrasound and it’s relatively painless.

Oh,that is a better option than the one my mother would have gotten had she been in my situation. I left under something of a cloud but I was going to find out for sure. My biopsy would be scheduled for Tuesday October 22 and it was now the Thursday before.

This blog is brought to you by Possets Perfumes.


What You Do In October Part 1

Every year I get a mammogram and this year I was able to get one closer to home in a fancy new facility owned the hospital I use. It was a beautiful October day and I felt pretty lucky to be able to pop over and have my mammo and scoot back to work (and take a detour to get a nice Starbucks as a reward for doing the right thing) all within an hour. The place was new, spotless, and filled with very cheerful folk. Everyone was laughing and smiling, it was really a good experience. I even got a little buttermint in a pink wrapper when I finished. “Maybe that was for being a good girl and not crying,” I chuckled to myself.

I drove back home, enjoying the cobalt blue sky, I even found a place where they smoke their own salmon and bought a pound as a treat for the family. All was right with the world.

Three days later, I got a phone call. They wanted me to come in and get another mammogram of my left breast. They claimed that they did not have a clear enough picture of it. They wanted another. They wanted me to go to the big hospital to have it done. I thought, “Oh bother. *Sigh*” I made the appointment and went last week.

The hospital has valet parking and super nice people to help you in and get you situated. A lady who x-rayed me in years past greeted me but she was not smiling. “We are going to put you in tight this time, and don’t breath,” she said. I did as I was told and the machines made a scary sound, a ‘zot’ sort of thing.

I stood there waiting for her to adjust the machine for a side shot as she casually said,”…the spot we wanted to take a better look at.” I stopped breathing right then and there. It sounded like they were really looking for something. Not just a bad image, but a bad result! Oh dear. I could have breast cancer, for real. My feet felt as if they had become glued to the floor and my heart pounded as the technician said in a clipped voice,”I am going to have a word with the radiologist, I’ll be back in a minute.”

What would be the next step? I was not comforted by her tone of voice and somehow I felt very alone. See part 2 for what happened next.

This blog is brought to you by Possets Perfume.


New Cambienne Labels!

cambiennebackgroundI just designed a new label for Possets and it looks wonderful! From now on all Cambienne limited fragrance labels will have the beautiful image of the Cambienne gentleman on them. He is surrounded by a mandorla of the zodiac and is part of an exquisite illuminated manuscript called Les Tres Riches Heures de Duc de Berry.

Ooo, regard the goodness at Possets Perfume!


The Worst Thing I Have Ever Smelled

fallingAn intriguing question I was asked at the beginning of my career was,”What was the worst thing you have ever smelled?” I gave an answer then BUT I just encountered the worst thing I have ever smelled ever in my life this weekend. I have deer and rabbits in my back yard and they eat all of the plants I truly love. I don’t care if they graze on my ground cover, and there is a whole pasture in the back for them to happily munch on and tear up if they please. So, in the interest of encouraging the deer and rabbits to eat things that are mutually OK, I decided to ask a friend what he uses to keep the munchers off his prized plants. He is a Master Gardener and he told me the only thing which works is Repell-X and I should buy a bottle and use it. I did. It was jolly expensive, friends, and I made the mistake of reading the label before I mixed it up. I won’t go into detail, but suffice it to say that it contained offal and hot peppers. Ewwwww. It is 100% natural, by the way.

On Sunday, I decided to go ahead and spray the plants I didn’t want eaten. I opened the container and measured out the correct amount for a small batch. I did notice a smell but it didn’t really get to me. I added water and by now I was starting to process the odor. I put the lid on the sprayer and started out the door. Once in front of my prized (and bitten) Harry Lauder’s Walking Stick (burgundy leaf variety and with some adorable catkins starting to dangle from the tormented branches) I pumped up the sprayer and started spraying. It. Was. Awful. First it was red (EWWWWWW), THICK (EWWWWW), and the smell. Yikes, once it was atomized and floating in the air, this stuff was shocking my soul!

Exactly what was it like? If they serve sausages in Hell, they would smell like this. That is all the description I am going to give. Someone who made this stuff up had put some sort of spice in it, probably to keep it from being so unbelievably offensive to the humans who have to handle it. Misguided, this olfactory cover up made matters infinitely worse than if they had just left it alone. This stuff was so bad, it bypassed gag inducing and nauseating, becoming mental cruelty of the worst order. My psyche was screaming,”Get away from this vile miasma!!! Now!!!!!”

I am sure it works. As sure as I am that the sun rises in the East and sets in the West. But I am just going to let the deer have the specimen plants because there are some things I will never ever tangle with again. It has taken me three days to get the memory of Repell-X out of my head. And now I know…I know what the foulest smell on Earth is. I guess that makes me the wisest perfumer out there.

Honestly, I do think that perfumers have to smell as much as they can. You have to have an educated mind in order to successfully make perfume, and something tells me that at times every action has an equal and opposite reaction. Ironically enough, it’s the experience of the awful which can lead you into the realm of the sublime. At least I hope so. Suffering that much should never be in vain.

OK, now consider sampling some of the best things you have ever smelled, at Possets Perfume.


Procter and Gamble Visits Possets!

Today I got to entertain two people from Procter and Gamble, the famous and highly successful personal care company headquartered here in Cincinnati. They were on a mini tour of local companies which appear to be doing things that P&G values and which they want their young employees to study “in the wild”. The lady was from Belgium (one of my favorite countries) and the gentleman was from Cincinnati, graduate of the University of Cincinnati College of Design, Art, Architecture, and Planning (DAAP) in. They were variously interested in how I wrote the descriptions for my perfumes and presentation of the product.

One thing about being interviewed by exceptional people, it makes you articulate things which you just tuck away in the back of your head and classify,”Yes…I do that”. My answers said why I do some things, and I am convinced that taking a fresh look at my regular way of doing things was an invaluable exercise for me as well. I found that at the foundation of what I do is just good old yeoman’s English…the same idea as you find in The Elements of Style and A Manual For Writers. Make the verb do the work and don’t use the same old thing/tired cliche.

When you write, make it yours. I was asked about writing descriptions for particular fragrances, and I responded that you have to smell it for yourself and decide what YOU find in it. Someone might present it to you as “soft” or “redolent with creamy jasmine notes” and that’s nice BUT if all you smell is a strong aggressive musk with a grape-like background note then write it up as it truly smells. To do otherwise just invites disappointment. Describing what you actually smell is difficult, you must be achingly honest with yourself, and you need experience in sorting out parts of fragrances and being able to assign a sensible name to them. (Of course this is all muddled because we don’t have a full and uniform vocabulary for fragrance in the “normal” world).

Of course, there is the personality of the company to consider. The fragrance presentation has to reflect the persona of the entity presenting it. If your corporation is “family friendly” as one of its main characteristics, then stay away from the raw and raunchy. On the other hand, if your company is the wild child of the industry, not to shock would be not to succeed. So, sometimes the allure of a product has to be amped mightily, and other times it has to be hinted at to play in keeping with your commercial environment.

They asked me how do I come up with a name for a perfume? There are various ways.  I remember creating a fabulous gingerbread smelling perfume and not being able to get away from thinking of it as “Gingerbread House”. That would have been quite a dull name and I doubt it would have inspired anything other than the notion of its being “twee”. I was standing in front of a display of gingerbread houses at a holiday trunk show, and “Gingerbread Whorehouse” popped into my mind. It stuck, it was naughty but not lewd and became a best seller partially due to the name. On the other hand, I created a perfume, Fabienne, after deciding to create an eponymous blend.

Finally, the “ride” you offer the customer. I try to get 5 collections out a year. Each one has a theme. In my world it is exceptionally important to go on a fantasy and explore something different several times in a year, something which is appropriate to the season and flows from the previous collection or makes a complete break from it. I started 2013 with the Valentines as traditional fragrances for the most part, spring (Sacred Geometry) was something beautiful and esoteric (but capable of being presented sensibly to the casual viewer). Poetry was the theme for summer around which I could play off such diverse work as: Beowulf, haiku, and Allen Ginsberg’s Howl. Autumn celebrates the beautiful dark poetry of Dante which was just right for Halloween. Moreover, the fragrances which suited the seasons could match nicely with each theme; Hell being a perfect vehicle for dark resins, strong spices, and incense/smokey scents; Sacred Geometry was cool and in love with sandalwood and grapefruit for emerging spring.

The time passed quickly, talking about Possets is one of my favorite occupations. There has been a lot of time and effort put into this company and I was very proud to have it recognized by the amazing hometown industry leader.