Monday, July 27, 2015

15 Random Facts About Me

In the spirit of posting more regularly, here are 15 random things about me, inspired by my friend, Isabel Jordan

1. As a kid, the library was my safe haven. I spent alot of time in the main branch in downtown Winnipeg. I'd hop a bus and disappear into the safety of the stacks for hours. For the longest time, I was only allowed a child's library card. It drove me crazy because I was reading 2-3 grade levels above my age. When I turned 8, I finally managed to talk the adults into allowing me to have an adult card. I immediately dove into everything the library had about the Holocaust. I have always been fascinated by world history and felt that it's extremely important to be educated about what's going on in the world and why. The library saved me in so many ways. I am still a voracious reader.

2. I have the most ridiculous sense of gallows humour. In the absolute worst situation, I will find something to laugh about. My theory is that if I can laugh at it, I can survive it. I'm a good person to have around in a crisis. 

3. My mind is a steel trap for music and lyrics. I can also create a mean mondegreen, thanks to my hearing impairment.

4. I hate shopping. The only thing I really enjoy shopping for is art supplies. I consider the mall the 7th circle of hell. Seriously.

5. I love tattoos. I have two and I want more. They are addictive!

6. My love language is food. If I love you, I will cook for you. It's a prairie thing.

7. I am obsessed with making journals. I have a stack of them. I enjoy the process of choosing the papers, the sewing and how they feel in my hands when they are done. I also have a hard time resisting buying commercially made journals. I am a paper junkie.

8. I'm an Aries, which means I am a risk taker. I am not happy unless I am growing and stretching outside my comfort zone. I am not afraid to put myself out there, to travel alone, to do something other people think I can't do. I find joy in discovering what I am capable of. The thing I am dying to do next is to climb Whistler's Via Ferrata . I look at my life as a series of adventures. I am always open to the next opportunity. Bring it!

9. People would tell you I'm an extrovert, but the truth is, I spend huge swaths of time by myself. I love people, but I need solitary time every day. I am not sure how or why this shift happened, but I think I lean more towards being an introvert. Can you be an introverted extrovert? Is that even a thing?

10. I am still looking for my creative tribe. Where are you? The Internet is great for keeping up with my far-flung creative friends, but it would be so nice to have a few local peeps (in my city) to get together with to create from time to time. Surely there are kindreds close to home who would like to connect. How come we have such a hard time finding one another?

11. I hate talking on the phone. I almost always let it go to voice mail. Yeah, I know. I'm one of those people. *hangs head* I prefer to communicate via email...or in person.

12. I want to learn to play the strum stick. I first saw this instrument when Tracy Chapman played one at a concert. I thought it was the oddest, coolest instrument. I don't have feeling in my hands, but the strum stick is supposed to be really easy to learn. I have a thing for string instruments. It's on my wish list.

13. If I ever win the lotto, the first thing I want to do is see the arctic circle. I dream of Canada's true north. It's a trip I've always wanted to do. I want to see how people live, to experience life beyond the tree line, to see the land and the snow and ice stretched out before me. I want to ice fish (which I've done as a child) to run sled dogs & sail the inside passage. The wilds of this country call to me.

14. I have an inspiration alter in my studio where I have my medals and other recognition for things I've accomplished in my life. It's there to serve as a daily reminder to strive to give back to the world, because that's how I roll. It keeps me focused on what's really important.

15. Someday, I would like to write a book. It's been on my life-list forever, but it's a matter of the right opportunity, at the right time. I am patient. It will happen when it's meant to. 

Thursday, July 09, 2015

Sideways's been awhile since I posted. It's really a case of "Life is what happens when you're busy making plans." I had a NMO relapse and had to have a round of IV steroids in early June and then two weeks ago today, my husband suffered a major heart attack at work. Our lives have gone sideways, so we are kind of in a state of shock still and trying to recover from the scare. Fortunately he had immediate surgery and is recovering, though his heart rate is still wonky. I am trying to deal with what's immediately in front of me, in an attempt to try and keep my stress manageable.

I had just done this revamp of my blog header and template the day before all hell broke loose and then didn't get a chance to actually post. Since I had a sliver of time today, I thought I would do a quick update. Without further ado...

Teresa posted this really interesting book on her Instagram and I was so intrigued I had to run off to the book store to find it. It's really good and reminds me of a zine in so many ways. Fun stuff! I'd love to see more books done in this style. The aesthetics of it is so appealing and it feels like you are almost peeking into someone's mixed media journal in a way. If I was going to write a book, I'd like to do it this way. Someday...

Speaking of zines, I wrapped up the zine exchange I was hosting. I now have a beautiful box of inspiration. So much good stuff!

This was my contribution, the 4th edition of Manual Dexterity. My plan was to have a few copies available in my Etsy store, but with all the health stuff that came out of nowhere, I just haven't had the time. I will have copies for sale eventually and I'll post here to let anyone who is interested know. I just can't say exactly when that will happen right now.

I've been puttering in my 101 year old journal. Some days it's nice to sit down for half an hour and make something. I have just been flipping to a random page and going for it. Slowly but surely, the pages are filling up. I am so in love with this journal.

I have been enjoying exploring my new neighbourhood with Indy. This is part of the green belt one minute outside my door. I feel so lucky to just be able to pop into the woods any time I feel like it. We live in an area that, according to my best friend has a very high incidence of bear sightings, but so far, no luck. I am not afraid of bears-I took a bear aware course years ago, but I do have respect for them. I am always mindful that our paths could cross any time I am out and about and I will be prepared to act accordingly. I don't want any bears to come to any harm because of me.

On Father's Day, we went up to Whistler for the day because we felt the need to see things like this.

And swim in Lost Lake.

 And eat amazing food like this (The BEST fish taco)

And this from La Cantina, our favourite restaurant in the village. My son had never been before and is a foodie so it was fun watching him taste a bunch of different menu items.

My friend Amy very sweetly sent me this book when I was having trouble sourcing it locally. It just arrived this week, so as soon as the weather cools down a bit, I am going to dive into painting. Can't wait. It's so hot at the moment that I don't think my paints would stay open long enough for me to get them onto the canvas. By the way, the author, Tracy Verdugo is turning 50 and so she's giving away 22 spots in her upcoming online class. The details are here. I've been entering daily because I'd LOVE to have the opportunity to expand my painting knowledge. Paint for me is joy and I'm on a mission to invite more joy into my life. I have my *fingers crossed*!

Maureen made this gorgeous paracord bracelet and sent it to me. That was a good mail day-perfectly timed to lift my spirits. I love how chunky it is and how comfortably it wears. It has a really great magnetic clasp so I can manage to put it on and off myself. (This has become a big issue with my jewelery-with my hands so numb, working closures has become a major problem.) I really love this piece and have been wearing it pretty much non-stop. Maureen is a local BC artist-you should check her out!

I have also been super busy with advocacy work. It seems I just get one project done and another pops up. I have shared a big announcement on NMODiaries this week. I have a guest post up for the MS Society of Canada and I'm working on something else that I can't talk about right now. It's so great to be able to have opportunities to contribute and make a difference. I really do love advocacy work. It's the work of my heart. you can see, life has been rolling along, despite the major bumps and potholes. We are coping. I am going to try and post more regularly over the summer. 

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Art & Advocacy

I wanted to share with you that last week I received the Canadian MS Society's Spring/Summer magazine in the mail. As I was flipping through it, I came across me! Back in February, they invited me, as someone living with NMO to join their Flee or Fight national campaign. I was honoured to be a part of it and submitted this photo. I knew it was going to be used-I just didn't know where, when or how. It's really exciting that it was included in the magazine which was sent out to homes across Canada! What a great way to raise awareness!

I also finally was able to gt my hands on a copy of Dawn DeVries Sokol's new book. It's a chunky monkey, loaded with beautiful art journal pages. If you don't own this one, it really is a must have.

I am please to share that my artwork is on page 33.  Both of these pieces of work mean so much to me-the man on the left was my Gramps' maternal grandfather (my great, great grandfather) old man Reimer and the family in the photo on the left is my Gram's family-my great grandparents (I was named (my middle name) for my Great Grandpa Nowell, who died a month before I was born) and my Grams' siblings. (M great aunts and uncles.) My Gram is the tall one at the back. It's a really lovely way to remember them. My friends Seth Apter and Penelope Harris also have work in this book.

I am currently working on finishing up my latest zine and watching my post box for all the zines being submitted to the exchange I am hosting. So far three have arrived and they are amazing. I am looking forward to packaging them all up and sending them off to everyone. I know they are going to love them! I have included the art work that's in Dawn's book in my zine. I couldn't resist!

I also participated in the MS Society BC-Yukon Division's art show. These are the pieces I submitted. It was a great way to help raise awareness for NMO. At one point, as I was taking this photo, two women walked up and one pointed out to the other, the long lesion on my spinal cord shown in the middle piece. (Which, by the way was published in Seth Apter's The Pulse Of Mixed Media.) I leaned over and said "Yeah and that's an NMO lesion, not and MS lesion." They then introduced themselves as scientific researchers at UBC. They were quite excited to see an MRI image used in this way.

It's been a busy time settling into our new home and neighbourhood. I've been busy feathering our new nest. The days just seem to fly by.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Big News!!

So...alot of exciting things have been happening in my life lately-amazing opportunities have been cropping up all over the place. Here's one I want to share with you:

I am teaching a journal making workshop 
at Delish General Store  on Granville Island! 

Ex Libris Journal Workshop Sample

Yes indeed, owner Tamara Komuniecki will be hosting my Ex-Libris Journal workshop on Saturday, May 2nd at her beautiful store. I am really excited to be partnering with her and spending the day at one of my favourite places in Vancouver! We will spend a full day together and I will be sharing how to transform an old book into an amazing and unique journal to capture your thoughts and art. It's a wonderful way to make some time and space just for you and to meet others who love journals as much as you do-it's always wonderful to meet kindred spirits!

For more information click here and to register, click here.
Hurry as space is limited!

You can also get a peek at another of my journals made using the techniques you will be learning in class here. The book I used to create my 2015 journal is 101 years old! It's a really wonderful way to give an old book a new and wonderful life and it saves it from going into the landfill!

I hope to see YOU there!

Thursday, April 02, 2015

New Digs!

The wall of overwhelm, (studio stuff) which I have since eliminated.


We moved over the last week, downsizing as empty-nesters do. It was an interesting exercise in letting go-letting go of too much space and a ton of stuff we really had no need for. From this point on, I will be more mindful of what I buy and bring into our home. Fortunately, we were able to give a fair amount of useful things to friends, donated alot to charity and recycled everything we could that couldn't be re-homed.

Indy smelling all the smells.

I am now in the process of unpacking and creating a new space for us to live in. Our new home is on a green belt. We look out onto a courtyard filled with mature trees (ornamental cherry trees, magnolias and others) and we're surrounded by old growth evergreens. We have a covered balcony which Indy is really enjoying. He can lie out there even on a rainy day if he wants and smell all the good smells. It's very quiet and it's really like living in a park. We love it here.

I am getting some art ready to submit to the MS Society BC-Yukon Division's MS Expressions art show which will showcase visual arts created by people living with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) and Neuromyelitis Optica (NMO). The exhibition will be held on Thursday, April 23, 2015 in the Lower lobby of Metrotower III, 4730 Kingsway, Burnaby, BC (Connected to Metrotown Mall) with a reception from 4:30 pm – 7:00 pm. The event is free and everyone is welcome. If you'd like to attend,  please RSVP here.

Since I've been so busy with packing to move over the last 3 weeks, I haven't had alot of time to read. I've also been having some issues with my vision, so some days I can read and some days I can't. I did just finish Jonathan Kellerman's latest novel in the Alex Delaware series, Motive. He remains my favourite author.

I've been viewing quite a few documentaries. The most recent one was K2: Siren of the Himalayas which is about a 2009 attempt to scale K2. I also saw Tell It On the Mountain-Tales From the Pacific Crest Trail which follows a number of hikers along the trail. Both were really interesting. I am waiting for Inspired to Ride which is a new cycling film to come out. It's by the good folks who created Ride the Divide which I loved.

Songs I am currently obsessing over:

Carrying A Torch-Van Morrison
Honest Songs-Noah Gunderson
You Won't Find Me-Amelia Curran
Slow Kind Light-Zaac Pick

Zaac Pick has a new album out on April 14th called Constellations. I can't wait. He's a local artist and one of my favourites. The Indigo Girls also have a new album out shortly and I am waiting {im}patiently for that one too!

I had a pretty interesting invitation in my email the other day. As per usual, I can't say too much about it right now, but it's something I am really excited to be asked to do and I hope to have a positive impact. I'll share more when I can!

Right now, I am looking forward to celebrating my birthday which was on the 22nd. We were so busy with the move that I elected to postpone it till after we got settled. There's a Keg dinner and a trip to the theatre to see The Second Best Marigold Hotel involved. I also have a birthday cheque to spend. It will either go towards art supplies or art books...I just need to decide. The kids are coming over for Easter dinner on Sunday. It will be our first family dinner in our new place.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Birthday Boy!

Happy Birthday to my sweet boy, Indiana Jones! Indy is 7 years old today! 
To celebrate, I got him a buffalo bone that he will be enjoying after a swim up at the lake.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Back from Los Angeles!

The drive to Manhattan beach takes about 20 minutes. While we were riding along, the driver popped in a tape that gives sort of a guided tour. I thought that was pretty okay because I am always interested in learning something about the places I am visiting. So we're going along and it tells me various things about what I am seeing when suddenly I realise I'm getting a narrative about the local raw sewage plant. Um...yeah...come to California, see our sewage plant! No thank you! (What were they thinking?!?) Fortunately, the script moved on from there with some fun facts about the beach.


Manhattan Beach was really pretty. It reminded me a bit of White Rock, BC. It's a little seaside village with quaint little shops, eateries and an expanse of white sands and rolling ocean as far as the eye could see. There was also a really nice pier. I had fun poking around and taking photos. When it was getting close to the time when the next shuttle was going to come along, I popped into the local ice cream store and got myself a cone. I decided since it was about 24C, it was perfectly okay to have coffee ice cream for lunch. It was delicious!

I hopped back on the shuttle and went to the second of two malls to shop at the Whole Foods. I wanted to pick up some bottled water and some snacks. I have no idea where the locals shop for groceries other than there because not once in my travels did I see a regular grocery store. It was really weird. The other odd thing is that the hotel I stayed in did not have a mini fridge in the room. A fridge in a hotel room is pretty standard in Canada.

I got back to the hotel around 2 pm and was able to check into my room and then I had to go do my second blood draw for the CIRCLES Study. I did my first one a couple days before Xmas, so it's been awhile.They drew 9 vials of blood. This is about 4 tablespoons or 58.5 ml, which less than you would donate to a typical blood drive. From there, the blood they collected is broken down into 40 individual containers. All blood samples are labelled with a unique code.The blood samples are shipped immediately to the biorepository lab in the eastern United States were they remain until researchers working with the Guthy-Jackson Foundation apply for samples to work with. This is one way in which I can help researchers work toward a cure for NMO. If you're interested in learning more about the CIRCLES study, I posted about it here.

Wednesday was NMO Patient Day. If you want to read about it, I have a post on that here. It was a long, but very interesting day. I came away with my brain absolutely stuffed with information and ideas. It was so great to spend time reconnecting with friends, making new ones and just feeling the sense of community. Everyone was so welcoming and friendly. I was feeling pretty cruddy because a week before I had fractured a rib and was in a considerable amount of pain. Fortunately, I was able to get a prescription for morphine to help me cope. I would not have survived or even enjoyed the trip otherwise.

Thursday, I checked out of my hotel at 8:30 am and had the concierge stow my carry-on so I could do a bit of sightseeing before I flew home in the evening. I took the hotel shuttle to the airport and then waited for a bus company to take me to Hollywood. The bus was supposed to come at the top and bottom of each hour, but for some reason, I waited an hour and a half. The company's other buses kept coming and I would ask each one when the Hollywood bus would arrive and each driver would tell me something different. Obviously no one knew their own company's schedule. Eventually it did show up. The driver was a complete jerk. At one point, he was driving so recklessly, one passenger's hard shell carry-on which he'd told her to stow in the overhead luggage racks flew out and crashed to the floor, narrowly missing her. He was rude and unhelpful and by the time we arrive in Hollywood, I was glad to be rid of him.

I was surprised that Hollywood Blvd was a ghost town. Aside from a small handful of tourists (less than 10, including me) the streets were deserted along the Walk of Fame. When I first got off, I was a bit worried I was in a sketchy part of town, but none of the people bothered me, save for one rather aggressive tour operator who didn't want to take NO for an answer. I said "No thank you." to her at least 5 times while I kept walking before she finally got the message.

I wandered along and went into a shop to see about getting some t-shirts for the family. The shop I went into was perfect-they had really good deals on really nice shirts and the Mexican lady who ran the place was lovely. As I was walking out, I spotted a penny press. My son and I have pressed pennies on every trip we've been on for years. I was pleased to be able to add three more pennies to our collection.

When I'd had enough, I started retracing my steps on the opposite side of the street. I walked right by The Scientology building. I'd snapped a photo from the other side of the street because hey-Hollyweird! As I passed by it, there were a bunch of women with pamphlets standing outside. I think they were hoping to entice people inside to see "The life of L. Ron Hubbard" (as advertised on the window in big bold letters) or something. I wasn't about to make eye contact and just kept going.

Eventually, I spotted a Starbuck's which was oddly comforting-my home away from home. I popped in to get a drink and discovered that in the US, they still sell the salted caramel cake pops! SCORE! I also bought a couple Hollywood mugs there, as I started a collection of these on our trips 6 months ago. So far we have Whistler, Toronto and Hollywood. I made it back to the bus stop just in time to catch the return bus to the airport. The driver this time could not have been any nicer if he tried. I gave him a decent tip when I got off.

I caught the shuttle back to the hotel, had lunch and hung out with some fellow NMO patients before taking the shuttle back to the airport. I decided to go a bit early because I wanted to have dinner before my flight and I had no idea how bad the lines would be at the security screening. As it was. the lines were bad, but I decided to use the accessible line (membership has its perks) and managed to get through in less than 10 minutes. Dinner was delicious-a decent cheeseburger and then a shopped for a couple more shirts for my guys at Rip Curl. I loved the shirts I bought there-they have a huge full moon on them with the California grizzly in the middle of it.

While waiting for my flight, I saw that Delta had had a plane slide off the runway in the eastern US that day. Then, sitting at my gate, the plane at the gate next to me was delayed while mechanics figured out whether or not a rotor blade was damaged on a flight going to Austin. The airline rep who was giving passengers a blow by blow about the problem and the progress in fixing it was not inspiring confidence. Eventually he said "The mechanics think it's probably okay to fly."Probably?!? 

My flight was uneventful until we came to land. We hit the runway hard and then bounced back up into the air. I knew that was not normal and I told my seatmate we were going to hit it hard when we came down again and we did. I was the last person off the plane and I overheard airport staff on their walkie-talkies saying the pilot was requesting an immediate mechanical inspection. If I had to guess, I'd say the landing gear jammed. At least we were able to land safely. Not a good day for Delta. really was a great trip. I learned so much, made new friends, reconnected with old ones and got a bit of sightseeing in on the side. I am really grateful to the Guthy-Jackson Foundation for making it possible. Oh and after I got back, I discovered that Randy Jackson from American Idol attended NMO Patient Day. It's wacky to think that he heard my presentation about the advocacy work I've been doing! Here's a photo of him at the conference. Go figure!