5K to end Brain Tumours

16807227_1075796519233009_8611937441616097235_nOn March 18th 2015, I was diagnosed with a brain tumour and it was life changing. I believe that no one should hear the words “you have a brain tumour”, but it will continue to happen. Which is why it is so important for me to support organizations like the Brain Tumour Foundation of Canada that help those of us unfortunate enough to have heard those words.

As a brain tumour survivor I feel that it’s my duty to raise money for those that never got the chance. Brain tumours and brain cancer are nasty beasts so please join me in supporting this cause near and dear to my brain. I will be running the 5K on May 28th and I will gladly accept your donations on behalf of the Brain Tumour Foundation of Canada.

This is why I’m fundraising for Brain Tumour Foundation of Canada. Patients and families need information, support and education. We also need more research. There are too few treatments for this disease and survival needs to be improved.

Every dollar raised by the Brain Tumour Walk goes towards these goals.

Thank you for giving and, more importantly, for helping the 27 Canadians diagnosed daily with a brain tumour. You’re changing lives.

For those of you that have already sponsored me, thank you!

On May 28th my family will be running to raise money for the Brain Tumour Foundation to donate please follow this link. THANK YOU!!

Ebb & Flow

Two and a half months after brain surgery my husband and I went away over night to celebrate our anniversary without the kids! It was the same weekend as the Brain Cancer Got Me Thinking art show, in October 2015. I participated in the art show and was interested in seeing the show, but I also wanted to have a spa weekend with my husband.

We opted for the spa weekend, and I am glad that we did. We spent the better part of the day in a mineral pool and it was the first time in a long time that I felt relaxed. It also inspired the piece which I submitted this year for the Brain Cancer Got Me Thinking art show.

Ebb & Flow is a quilling (paper) piece inspired by our weekend away post surgery. Learning that you have a brain tumour is a dark experience. “Ebb & Flow” depicts my recovery from brain surgery. The large dark circles represent the hours spent in surgery and the balance of the circles depicts the good and bad days after surgery. I was in a state of constant fluctuation much like the ebb and flow of the tide. The colours used are intended to represent water.

This piece is part of the Brain Cancer Got Me Thinking show at the Visual Space Gallery in Vancouver. The show runs from May 3-9th. If you check it out let me know what you think.

So what’s next?

Over the past two and a half years when I was asked “what do you do” (for work)? I answered, I am working on my Masters, which usually sparked a discussion about education. But it usually ended with “What are you going to do with that degree, or what kind of work are you looking for when you are finished?” This answer changed depending on my mood, how close I was to completion, and whether it was before or after my brain tumour situation.

Before I can answer what’s next, it might be important to understand why I went back to school in the first place.

When we moved to Victoria a city devoid of furniture manufacturing for my husband’s job I quickly realized that my diploma in furniture design wasn’t going to get me very far. I created a job for myself as a business consultant for a furniture dealer, and was later headhunted for a job in Vancouver. The company in Vancouver had a great education program, and I creatively earned a Bachelor of Design degree at night in hotel rooms.

Wow, I just realized how bad that sounds.

The creative part is that I could take all the certificates, diplomas and work experience I had, compile it all together and devise a plan to complete the academic requirements for a B.Des through Thompson River’s University. The hotel room resulted from a job which required weekly travel, and at night in hotel rooms I fervently worked away on course work.

Four years and one child later I graduated with a Bachelor of Design days before the birth of my second son. 

Knowing that a Bachelor of Design wasn’t going to change my situation much, a year and a half after my second son was born I applied to graduate school with the intention of completing a Masters of Business Administration, on a part-time (at night in a hotel room) basis. The universe had different plans for me and I ended up starting the September semester as a full-time student.

I rationalized the financial investment of an MBA by calculating the cost of childcare for the kids for the next three years and quickly realized that it was CHEAPER to get a MBA than it was to pay for care for my kids while I worked. That was a bit of an eye opener. I realize that there are lost opportunity costs, and other financial factors to consider but the decision to invest 40K in myself was easy to justify when I looked at the alternative of paying someone the same amount to change diapers. Plus, because it was an online program I could stay home with my kids. So, reason number two was to be more present for my kids.

The third reason was simply to see if I could do it. I have never been very good at math. Or at least that was my perception, being married to an Aerospace Engineer doesn’t do much for my math confidence. As it turns out my math skills are fine, or at least good enough to complete a MBA.

As I mentioned my husband is an Aerospace Engineer, and I am a furniture designer. It’s quite the combination, but not exactly a good combination if we are both wanting to be employed in the same city. Our careers, education and experiences are industry specific, and to broaden my career options I thought an MBA would open more doors. We have always had competing careers and something had to give, and that something was me.

For many reasons, I made the decision to pursue a MBA. But the question of what are you going to do after you graduate kept coming up repeatedly. So, what am I going to do next…

When I started the program 2.5 years ago, I was going to take over the world. Maybe not the world but certainly I intended to fully utilize the investment I was making in myself. But then I was diagnosed with a brain tumour, and that changed everything. What was once important quickly became trivial. The quest for money and a career with power died and was replaced with a need for wealth.

Wealth in the form of time. Time to do what I enjoy. Time with my family. Time to travel. Time to live. You might think that you need to have lots of money to be wealthy, I disagree. Quoting from Wikipedia is a major faux pas in academic studies which is why it gives me great pleasure to do it here.

“Wealth has been defined as a collection of things limited in supply, transferable, and useful in satisfying human desires. Scarcity is a fundamental factor for wealth. When a desirable or valuable commodity (transferable good or skill) is abundantly available to everyone, the owner of the commodity will possess no potential for wealth. When a valuable or desirable commodity is in scarce supply, the owner of the commodity will possess great potential for wealth.”

Time is a scarce resource, and even though my brain tumour situation worked out in my favour it is a constant reminder that time is limited. When deciding what to do after I completed the MBA program, I thought a lot about what is important to me. 

My life works better when I am home, at least part of the time. I have worked full-time with kids in daycare, worked from home, traveled for work weekly, taken full year long maternity leaves, been a part-time student, and been a full-time student. I have tried it all. Some options were more successful than others, and keeping this in mind I knew that I wanted a job that gave me some flexibility with my time.

As it happened, I was contacted out of the blue in February through my LinkedIn profile. I got a message saying that there was an opportunity would I like to come in and discuss it. Never one to turn down an opportunity I took the meeting. When I was asked, what am I looking for in a position once I am finished my MBA I explained that the most important thing to me was time. Ideally, I was looking for a part-time position where I would work school hours allowing me to drop my kids at school, go to work and pick them up at the end of their day. Surprisingly they said yes. Mid March I signed a contract and I start Tuesday.

What am I doing? If you have read my about page, then you might know that it has always been a dream of mine to be an Interior Designer. I have in various capacities worked in Interior Design but never in a 100% dedicated role. I am super excited that everything aligned and I can do something I love and still do what works best for my family.

Do I need a MBA for this role? No, probably not. Will I use what I learned? Everyday. Reflecting on the last 2.5 years the academic education wasn’t the important part, what I learned in the process of learning is the gold.

MBA=40K, what I learned in the process=priceless.

sparkler
Celebrating my brain

Before and After Brain Makeover

As a designer I LOVE a good before and after makeover. Before I went in for surgery to remove a brain tumour named Timmy, I joked about my brain being closed for renovations. On March 18, 2015 two years ago today I was diagnosed with a brain tumour standing in the hallway of emergency in my jammies. It was the worst day of my life (hopefully for ever).

Today two years later I am fully recovered from my renovations and I must say that my neurosurgeon did an amazing job. He really knows how to use that skull saw, and drill! Because I wanted all of the gory details, I ordered my surgery report and read it with a much needed bottle of wine. Aside from the metal plate holding my brain in, and the three inch scar running down the back of my head I am as good as new.

Timmy took up residence in my cerebellum the part of the brain which coordinates movement. On my one year surgery anniversary I tested my cerebellum with a paddle board yoga class, and although I took a dip in the Welland canal my balance has never been better. I still can’t dance but I’m pretty sure my lack of dance ability is a genetic defect and not brain tumour related.

What I have learned from having a brain tumour, and now being a brain tumour survivor has changed me forever. For the better I think 😉 Plus I have one hell of a scar.

No makeover is complete without pictures, so here is my brain with a brain tumour and 3 months after surgery.

Gryffindor Scarf

I am having one of those “where did the time go moments”. Today is my son’s 8th birthday, and it seems like yesterday that I was swaddling a newborn. I enjoy the independence that he now has, but I miss the baby cuddles. I have traditionally made my kids gifts for their birthdays (and every other holiday known to man). I don’t get many crafting requests from the boys, but this year a certain someone is enthralled with Harry Potter and he requested a Gryffindor scarf.

I have knit a few scarves in my day, but usually they are not worn. It’s a great easy project but when it comes down to it, scarves are not needed here. It doesn’t get cold enough. They do however become handles, bridges, leashes for stuffies and various other tools of creativity. But in Making A Life fashion, if there is a request for a crafty project I jump on board. Plus I sent my son into my craft closet to search for the colours of yarn needed and he returned immediately with the exact right colours, so how could I say no.

Should you need to whip up a scarf, and you are a muggle without magical knitting powers here is the pattern;

This pattern is knit in the round on either US 10 – 6mm circular needles or 4 double points. I started it flat and it started to roll so I switched to knitting in the round. The yarn is Lion Brand Vanna’s choice in Mustard and Cranberry. Also needed is a 6mm or larger crochet hook for the fringe.

CO36 (divide 12 stitches per needle if using double points)
Join for working in the round, and place marker
Knit 20 rows Cranberry
Knit 20 rows Mustard
Repeat Cranberry and Mustard rows until there are at least 11 squares in alternating colours, ending with cranberry
Using a crochet hook add fringe

 

Celebrating my Women on International Women’s day

I have been blessed to be surrounded by strong women my whole life. Women who believe that they are equal and can do anything.

When I was a kid in the 80’s I visited my Nana at work regularly, I remember that she had her own office and an assistant. She was the administrator of an long-term care facility, she cared for the sick and the dying. She also taught at a local university. This was my normal.

My Great-Aunt was an entrepreneur, she and my Uncle started a successful Interior Design company in Toronto. There was no denying that she was the boss (of everyone). This was my normal.

My mom stayed at home with four kids when I was young. With two kids of my own I now think that this is the hardest job ever. When my dad got laid off he stayed home, and my mom went to work. My dad braided our hair, and gave us face lift pony tails. My parents were equals, there were no male female roles. When we were deemed old enough my mom started her own business, and later worked as an Executive Director in a creative field. This was my normal.

When I chose to pursue an education involving power tools and welding, one of the women in my family footed the bill for four years of post secondary education, no questions asked. When I started a job that required time away from my kids my mom said that this would be the best thing for my kids and she was right. From a young age my kids have learned that mom and dad are interchangeable. Dad can do everything that mom can do, and mom can do everything that dad can do. Equality starts at home.

On International Women’s Day I celebrate all the women who have come before me, and who have persevered through inequality. It is because of you that I think that anything is possible, and that I am equal. #beboldforchange

With all my heart

my-valentineHappy Valentines’s Day! I am a celebrator, I celebrate everything. Including Valentine’s Day which my husband lovingly calls a Hallmark holiday.

On a side note, have you seen the price of cards lately? Ridiculous. I pulled out the Valentine’s card that my husband bought me two years ago. I think if you use them over and over again that maybe you can get $5.00 worth. Only three more years to go.

Last year we celebrated Valentine’s day with my parents at the Kennedy Space Station for an out of this world Valentines’ extravaganza. This year the celebration is much more subdued, and will include a giant heart cookie. When I was a kid we would go to the mall and I always wanted one of those giant chocolate chip cookies. Now that I am a grown-up and can operate the oven (most of the time) I figured that I would bake one for the family as a Valentine’s day treat.

I used this recipe but I cut the quantities in half for a medium sizedvalentine-cookie_making-a-life heart shaped cake pan.

LOVE

My youngest wants to decorate for every possible celebration, and I feel the need to oblige him. The day after Christmas he asked if we could decorate for Easter, just like he asked to decorate for Christmas the day after Halloween. Can celebrating events be genetic?

I started making these giant wooden candy hearts late last week for Valentine’s Day. But while I was making them I was disturbed by all of the events circulating in the news. I am not going to go off on a political rant all I am going to say is that we need more love in the world.

My husband will tell you that Valentine’s day is a hallmark holiday and maybe he is right. But this year we need more love circulating so I plan on celebrating Valentine’s day by spreading love. Are you with me?

I made these from pre-cut wood hearts (from Michaels), craft paint and letter stamps. I happen to have a set of alphabet stamps but it would be easy enough to stencil or free-hand the letters.

Surprises in the Mail, Part 3

Every once in a while a package from my mom arrives with a surprise inside for the kids. Once it was these little cuties, and another time it was Star Wars and Paw Patrol finger puppets. This past week it was a cute Christmas scene complete with its own box. I know that I can thank my dad for that contribution because it looks like one of his cigar boxes. My mom has some serious talents as she dreams up these little figures. I appreciate the up-cycled cigar box for the environmental aspect as well as the storage of this little set. My boys are very lucky to have such a talented grandma to make them toys.

Yoga Socks

yoga-socks-4_making-a-life

With every new year comes resolutions and I seem to make at least one similar resolution every year. Last year I resolved to listen to more music, and be more active. These resolutions went well together, and I did become more active while listening to music. This year I resolved to become a better listener, and to continue to be more active.

My resolution to be more active required the making of Yoga socks. I have been doing yoga in my living room but I end up with little people crawling under my downward dog. They also like to participate with me (really really close) by holding hands or sitting on me. My workout space is in my garage and it’s chilly, so I am thinking that if I wear socks maybe it won’t be so bad, and I won’t get interrupted by my little people. If you happen to have the same issues here is a pattern for yoga socks.

I was asked “what are yoga socks and why would I want them” by a follower the other day. In case you don’t know what, they are, they are socks designed to do yoga in. They come in a variety of forms but the main objective is allowing your toes to separate, and prevent you from slipping. You might want some if you are doing yoga in a cold space, or you really like to wear socks. I have a little issue in that my toes are attached, and the toe version of yoga socks will not work for me, so this is my solution.

Materials:

  • Fingerling weight #1 yarn – 3 stitches per inch
  • set of 4 double points and or 22″ circular needles – US 3/3.25 mm
  • large needle

Pattern:

  • ROW 1: CO64
  • ROW 2: Join and K2 P2* repeat to end of row
  • ROW 3-15: Repeat ROW 2
  • ROW 16-38: Knit desired length depending on the size of your feet (24 rows for my size 10 feet)
  • ROW 39: K2 P2* repeat for 32 stitches, K32
  • ROW 40-45: repeat row 39 5 times
  • ROW 46: K32, Cast off 32 (heel opening)
  • ROW 47: K32, Cast on 32
  • ROW 48: K64
  • ROW 49-63 : K64 – 15 times
  • ROW 64 : K2 P2* repeat to end of row
  • ROW 65-103: repeat row 64 38 times or desired length
  • ROW 104 – Cast off
  • Cut yarn leaving a long enough tail to weave in ends with a needle

This pattern is intended for personal use only. I offer this pattern for free but I request that you do not sell it or any product made from it.