Sunday, 30 June 2013


Another project I undertook over the past few months was to make some coasters. I don't really know why I thought this would be a fun thing to do, it sounded so easy on the blogs that I read. So for a few weeks in April, I made some coasters.

I took the fabric or paper that I was using and modpodged it to some ceramic tiles that I picked up at Kents. I made sets of 4, I'm not really sure why, it just seemed like the appropriate number of coasters. I did several layers of modpodge and then I sealed them with Enviro-tex which is a thick varnish that smells awful and takes several days to set. According to the Internet people who had tried this before, it is the only product that is both water and heat resistant. I had my trusty partner put it on for me while I stood far away giving him directions and trying to avoid the fumes. Surprisingly, he seemed to not appreciate my gentle reminders from the doorway of how he was doing it wrong and missing spots while he inhaled the toxic fumes trying to madly blow out the bubbles before it dried. I was just trying to be helpful!

The first batch turned out surprisingly well. I forgot to take pictures of all of them so you'll just have to imagine that they looked awesome. There was only one that had the Enviro-tex leak through to the paper and two of the Hawaiian prints that had some air bubbles left in them.

The second batch I made, I was much more focused on not missing any spots when I did my modpodge layers. I was super careful to put each layer on a different way. Ie - paint horizontal one day, vertical the next, diagonal the next. I allowed more time for the modpodge to dry which may have also been my mistake the first time. I also built up the edges if there was any overlay of the paper on the tile.

All in all it was a fun project that consumed a few weeks, a lot of people got some coasters out of it, and I have a mismatch batch of the less-than-perfect ones for myself.

Made with a map of Paris's center
The less-than-perfect coasters for myself
*Rotate head to the right* A set of abstract art coasters and a set of animals (plus a robot!)

Saturday, 29 June 2013

Traveling with a Disability

The past trip to Newfoundland was one of the first trips that I have been on where I actually feel like my disability has prevented me from doing something that I wanted to do. That was not a pleasant feeling. Of course my crappy lungs have kept me from things in the past but I usually either avoided those activities completely (ie climbing Machu Picchu)  or gritted my teeth and did the best I could with many breaks (ie. climbing up to 'Zeus's Cave' on Naxos last year). However, this trip we (my sister and I) spent 2 nights in the beautiful Gros Morne where the main activity is hiking. 

The first day we did the 3-km hike to the fjord boat ride (we later learned it is not a true fjord). That hike was ok as it was flat, the weather was warm but breezy. I had my oxygen with me but I never ended up using it. I told myself it was because I was feeling ok but honestly, I'm still pretty self-conscious about it despite all my attempts otherwise. 

  The second day was humid and muggy. Anyone with crappy lungs can tell you that humid weather is worse than the cold for ability to accomplish anything more than moving off the couch. We started off on a hike of the Tablelands and the air was so thick that we ended up turning back pretty early. The hike was flat and not very long so it is not like we were trying to be over-achievers, I just couldn't catch my breath in the weather. We also passed by a hike that I had done 5 years ago when visiting Gros Morne after my epic bike trip. There is no way I would be able to do that hike now even with oxygen and perfect weather.  It makes me sad that my health has deteriorated that much. 

Of course I rationally knew it had deteriorated significantly but when it is so gradual, it is hard to contrast one day from another. I also try to avoid many activities such as walking up flights of stairs so I can trick myself into feeling well. It was harder this trip when it was more in my face. 

The tablelands got the best of us.

Friday, 28 June 2013

Fabric Art

One of the first crafty things that I did when I was put off work in March besides learning how to knit, was to do some of the projects that I had meant to get to for years.

One such project was to do something with the fabric I had lying around the apartment. Two pieces were some that my partner bought while working in the Yukon. It is hand dyed and as you can see, the blue fabric depicts Yukon tress with the Northern lights. The red fabric is meant to represent the lights in a more abstract fashion. I thought they were fabulous but never knew what to do with them. My mother also bought fabric when she visited the Yukon and had it framed which I really liked. However, these the pieces are a bit too big for me to be able to finance their framing at this time. I also couldn't bring myself to cut the pieces as they seemed to be a picture by themselves.

Another piece was some fabric that I bought in Turkey last year. It is thick material and would work well as a throw pillow but I had been too cheap at the time to buy 2 meters. So, fabric art it is!

As a cheaper alternative than framing, I bought some canvass at Micheals, grabbed my handy stapler and got to work. I basically just stretched them out over the canvas and stapled the hell out of them. It seemed to work pretty well.

Finally no longer stuck in a drawer!

Yukon fabric finally up!

Thursday, 27 June 2013

What do you do?

One of the first questions that we ask when meeting someone new after the customary 'where are you from?' is 'what do you do?'. I find this question incredibly hard to answer now. For most people, I usually just say that I am a recreation therapist and leave it at that. There is no point going into detail when I'm never going to see that person again. Much like "How are you?" (See earlier ranting post), it is the people who I see occasionally or people who I am first meeting but I know I will see them again.

I find that our society is so focused on forming the persons career choice as their identity that it is easy to feel that you don't have an identity if you don't have a career or job. You aren't allowed to answer the question of 'what do you do?' by saying that 'I read books, I paint, I cycle, I cook'. Those things aren't enough for a society that places ones career at the same level of a persons worth.

Why do we do this?

I imagine it is so we can place each other in our categories and put them in our imaginary hierarchy of how they fit into our world. We divide people's worth based on their employment choice. Nurse - good job, probably a good person; Garbage person - not so great job, maybe not a great person; CEO- excellent job, must be a really awesome person. We make assumptions based on a persons income level or even perceived income level that immediately effects how we treat that person from then on.

So what do you do if you have no employment?

You become the lowest form of society. You are the ones who want the handouts, the ones who will do anything to get out of a day of honest work, the ones with a sense of entitlement who want freebies from the government. Right? If you listen to the politicians and policy makers and some of society, that is all you become.

No wonder people get depressed when they lose their job or retire or have their permanent disability deteriorate to the point where working might actually kill them. It is hard to be positive when society tells you that without work, you have no identity and do not contribute in a meaningful way to the existence of humanity. Not that I really know what it means to 'contribute to humanity'. I would argue that the oil companies or bankers or stock markets do not positively 'contribute to humanity' so why is my unemployment so offensive to the politicians?

Trust me, I would rather be working over waiting at home for a lung transplant any day. Everyone I know who is un or under-employed would rather be working at a better job and it is not for the want of trying.

How do we make this better?

I propose that we should be asking people what they do for fun rather than asking what they are paid to do. We will learn much more about each other person by knowing what they do with their leisure time than learning about a job they might hate or might not have. I can guarantee we would find each other much more interesting and if they are between jobs or out of work, they will very much appreciate talking about their passions instead of trying to awkwardly explain why they do not have a job at the moment.

Wednesday, 26 June 2013


I"m back from vacation! It was a fabulous time, we saw whales, icebergs, and puffins (oh my!). I didn't get to knit as much as I thought as the roads were windy and my stomach is not a fan of my moving while trying to focus on other tasks. Thankfully we had some audiobooks, a ton of CBC podcasts (Thanks Q and Vinyl Cafe!), and the soundtrack from Les Miserable (The Broadway version) that got us through our crazy marathon drives sanely.

I love Newfoundland, it is gorgeous and wild. I also really enjoyed St. Pierre, I didn't really know what to expect as I had never talked to anyone who had been there. It was somewhere I had also thought would be fun to go and since I"m so unsure about the future,  I better get in all the things I've always wanted to do while I still have the chance. I took a small oxygen tank over with me which was good as I was able to use it after our day of walking around in the town. The town was not as touristy as I had feared and it was very french. We both got to practice our french immersion French. I pretty much forget all of my vocabulary which was especially noticeable when I had to read the menu and tried to decipher what 'leeks' and 'buckwheat crepes' is in French.

Where do we go?

Probably contained a pound of butter per pastry. My dietitian would be proud. 

All in all it was a very successful trip and we had pretty much perfect weather considering it was Newfoundland. It rained a few days but those were the days when we weren't camping so it wasn't a huge deal.

Hurray vacations!

The wind almost blew us back off the hill.

Wednesday, 12 June 2013


I'm off on vacation! I realize that I don't need a vacation from my lack of job but not working has not taken away my love of traveling and camping. My sister and I are going to Newfoundland for 2 weeks on a search for some humpback whales and icebergs. Hopefully it won't be too cold or rainy while we are gone.

I am also excited to leave behind the ants who have taken over my bedroom the past few days. They seem to be very intent on traveling from my window to the crack around the bedroom door. According to the internet people, putting bay leaves and chili powder around is suppose to get rid of them but so far they just seem to be enjoying the obstacle course. My partner has agreed to get some actual chemical traps while I am gone and hopefully that will work. I don't remember having ants last year. Maybe because of all the rain they have decided that living in nature is not their thing.

I have also packed my knitting stuff in anticipation of having a long wait at the ferry terminals or to kill off boredom while we drive around. I printed off some toque patterns, I hope to move on from dishclothes onto something a bit more exciting.

See you in 2 weeks!

Tuesday, 11 June 2013


One of the first things that I learned to do after being told to go off work was to learn how to knit. I got myself some needles and yarn and watched a bunch of youtube videos .

I first knit a straight line. 
Joey modelling 'Doggie Headband'
I then knit a horrendous dishcloth.

First attempt: Not so great
That was when I decided maybe I should get a lesson from an actual human being. I went with my sister to one of her friends who patiently taught us how to properly cast on, add and decrease stitches, and cast off. Funny how much easier it is to learn when someone there to answer my million annoying questions. 

I have since moved on to making dishcloths with fun patterns using 'knit/pearl' alternative rows which I have learned is called "Stockinette stitch" (yay learning!).

Elephant! Why? Because elephants are cool.
All in all, knitting has provided me with a low-key activity that I can enjoy and gives me a chance to create things and still feel like I can contribute to this world as a human being. Dishcloths for everyone!

Monday, 10 June 2013

Stabbing myself with needles and art with dogs

Today was the start of my insulin trial.

Talk about a disaster.

This morning I tried to inject myself with the stuff and instead had a full-out panic attack. I could not bring myself to go near my stomach with the needle. I know rationally the needle is no bigger then the one I use to prick my finger and that I've been poked a million times for flu shots or to draw blood. I think the problem is that it is always someone else doing the poking. Or in the case of checking my blood sugars, the needle pops out when I hit a button so I do not have to physically put the needle in my flesh.

I can dig a splinter out of my finger with a needle and I had no problem digging at my feet when I had a wart but put that insulin pen in my hand and ask me to inject myself and I have a complete meltdown.

It was not a pretty sight. It went from my 'almost injecting myself' to 'having a break down' to 'stop sobbing long enough to feel absolutely foolish' then become 'determined that it is not a big deal' and....repeat.

Why was this so damn terrifying?
After watching the cycle repeat itself several times, my partner tackled me down and stabbed me with the pen.

Ok, maybe I laid on the couch and asked him to do it for me. Then I had to stop squirming long enough for him to actually inject me. Of course it didn't even hurt so I couldn't even feel justified in my squeamishness. What an annoying mental block to have.

After all that, it turned out that throughout the day, the insulin lowered my sugars more then expected. So, it is being stopped until after my Newfoundland trip, maybe longer.

Hurray for being able to postpone events that terrify me!

For something less traumatic, the following are some canvass I made for my sister's birthday. I dog-sat her dog, Joey, back in March when she went to Hawaii. Since he is a really old dog, I thought it might be nice to make her something from him on the off chance he died while she was away (thankfully he survived). I painted the canvass and then painted one of his paws,clipping off any long hairs, and made the print. It took many many tries before I got some that looked like an actual paw and not a black blob. He was not very cooperative and kept trying (and succeeding) to run away from me leaving little black paw prints all over the apartment. Eventually this is what I ended up with: 


Sunday, 9 June 2013

Its official: I have diabetes!

So, I met with my dietitian yesterday and I am officially a diabetic and am starting a very low dose of insulin on Monday. Apparently new research shows that even if a persons sugars aren't exceptionally high, a low doses of insulin can help maintain their muscle mass and increase lung function. So yay to science.

The following is the conversation I usually have when I tell people about my new diagnosis of diabetes.

(Friend) Is it common for someone with cystic fibrosis to also get diabetes?

      (Me) Yes. Due to the high rate of infection and the crazy medication we take, our
      bodies usually reach a point where they are unable to produce insulin normally.

(Friend) Well that sucks, so is it type one or type two?

     (Me) Neither, I can't just have regular diabetes, I need my own kind. It's a special CF kind. It
     is kind of a mix of the two.

(Friend) Huh. That's weird. Do you have to stop eating sugar?

     (Me) Nope! I continue to eat whatever I want and it will be controlled with insulin.
     Since I struggle to maintain my weight, I will keep eating my high fat, high protein diet but
     will now just be shooting myself with insulin on top of that.

 (Friend) Oh. Well good luck with that. Lets go get some lunch.

I'm not overly thrilled with the prospect of poking myself daily but seeing as I've gotten use to stabbing myself to check my sugars, I'm sure I will get use to this too. Millions of people have to give themselves insulin after every meal so really once a day isn't that dramatic. I just hate that there is yet another thing I need to add to my daily routine of medications. Another reminder that I am unwell and another thing to forget when I go away for the weekend. Also, it has to be given roughly the same time every morning so no more sleeping in until noon. Boooo!!!!
If you want to read more about CF-related-diabetes, you can go to the CF Foundation to read more about it with the proper scientific terminology.


Wednesday, 5 June 2013


Here are a few cards that I made last night. Two of them are birthday cards and the pop-up one is a Father's Day card. Since my sister and I are going on a mini-vacation next week, we are celebrating her birthday and Father's Day this weekend. I also really enjoy making fun envelopes. I'm sure the post-office does not enjoy them as much as I do.

Father's day card!

My father always ends up bbq'ing his own special meals.
Birthday Cards.

All ready to be opened on Saturday.

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Me Before Yo by Jojo Moyes: Some musings

This isn't really a book review but rather musings on the book that I just finished that left me bawling on the couch so much that my partner came out to see what was wrong. I even went for a bike ride after I stopped crying to try and clear my head. Let me say that I started this book knowing nothing about it, I just thought it looked like another feel-good happy ending book.

If you haven't read the book, go read it now and come back when you are done.

This is the synopsis of the book from Goodreads:

"Lou Clark knows lots of things. She knows how many footsteps there are between the bus stop and home. She knows she likes working in The Buttered Bun tea shop and she knows she might not love her boyfriend Patrick. What Lou doesn't know is she's about to lose her job or that knowing what's coming is what keeps her sane. Will Traynor knows his motorcycle accident took away his desire to live. He knows everything feels very small and rather joyless now and he knows exactly how he's going to put a stop to that. What Will doesn't know is that Lou is about to burst into his world in a riot of colour. And neither of them knows they're going to change the other for all time."

That paragraph does not prepare you for the gut-wrenching-emotional drive that is this book. The plot of this book is more about ones right to choose to live and die then the little love story you think is about to happen. The man in this book, Will, felt that being a quadaplegic and having to live trapped in that body was not a life worth living. He felt if he could not be his old self who traveled the world or had an awesome career or use the bathroom by himself that it just wasn't worth living. The female in this book tries to show him that there are still experiences worth living for but in the end he decides that it is not enough. 

This book made me feel and think about a lot of issues. The first being assisted dying and a persons right to die. I am pro-assisted dying for probably obvious reasons. From my vantage point, I think I understand that at some point your life might end up being so different then what you want out of life that it does not make living enjoyable. I empathized with Will, I think that I would feel the same in that situation. I'm not saying this would be the same for everyone because obviously a lot of people who are quadriplegic find a lot worth living for and still get enjoyment out of life.

One can never be sure until they are in the same situation but when I think about what makes my life worth living: travelling, camping, making art, cooking and eating that delicious food, hugging, cuddling, biking, being with my friends, none of them would be possible with the body he was in. He was in close to continuous pain and was often hospitalized for illnesses and while he very much enjoyed some aspects of his life, he did not find it enough to continue on. I believe strongly in quality of life over quantity and living just for the sake of being able to say you lived one more day does not seem worth it to me.  I realize this contradicts my last post where I said I need to start accepting more the body I have and things I am able to do and stop comparing myself to the old-me. I think that is still valid up to the point where the old-you is so completely foreign to the new-you that you don't see any point in living.

This book brought to the forefront my greatest fear: that I am going to get a lung transplant and then have to spend the rest of my life in and out of the hospital, continuously fighting infections and not being able to live my life outside of the medical bubble I will be forced to live in. That is not any quality of life to me. I would rather spend less time living an awesome life than one spent in and out of hospital with illness. That said, I might feel totally different if/when I ever get to that point. 

The other aspect of this book was that it made me feel incredibly guilty for complaining about not being able to travel as much or walk up some flights of stairs without wheezing. There are tons of people who would love to be able to do as much as me. I vowed never to complain about my situation or have days of self-pity again (I wonder how long that will last). I felt like one of those children I mock on youtube who are screaming that they were given the white ipad and not the black one and how their lives are now ruined. Then I thought of one of my friends who told me that the following quote from Perks of  Being a Wallflower has helped her when she was feeling guilty for feeling sad and it really stuck with me.
“I think that if I ever have kids, and they are upset, I won't tell them that people are starving in China or anything like that because it wouldn't change the fact that they were upset. And even if somebody else has it much worse, that doesn't really change the fact that you have what you have.”
I guess the best thing to do for everyone is to acknowledge your feelings (because suppressed feelings are rarely healthy), work through the self-pity or general shitty mood but also realize that it probably could be worse. There is a balance that needs to be found somewhere in there.

I think my next read will be something a little more upbeat.

Monday, 3 June 2013

Breakthroughs on PEI

This past weekend, my partner and I decided to take a spontaneous camping trip over to PEI. This is the advantage of being off work and having a partner who is currently unemployed due to the saturated economy of 20-somethings with bachelor degrees, massive student loans, and no practical work experience.

So we loaded the car with our bikes and camping equipment and off we went to PEI. He thought it would be fun to bike the confederation trail for a few days and I thought it would be fun to sit on the beach and eat smores. It was a fun weekend, we camped two nights and crashed with family on the third rainy night.

Over the past few years, since my health has been declining, I have been lamenting on activities I can no long accomplish. I get exhausted if I go on long hikes, I can't cycle for hours on end, I get winded when I spent too much time cooking or cleaning the house (not an activity often lamented about), I can no longer spend 3 weeks trekking around a country without being shattered for awhile afterward, and if I laugh too hard, I cough for an embarrassing amount of time afterward. Due to this, I have stopped doing a lot of the physical activities that I enjoy because I am not able to finish it until the end. I have been telling myself that if I can't hike the full trail, what is the point of hiking any of it. I think it is my competitive streak that stops me as I do not do well with losing or being seen as 'less than able' so it is hard to start something and then not be able to complete it.

I just want to point out that this is fully in my head and that my friends and family are completely supportive and would be more then understanding if I ever said that I needed to turn around or stop for a little bit. My loving partner has been telling me for years that I need to just do what I can and not compare myself to my old self or anyone else but I have not been listening to him.

However, something seemed to click this weekend and I think I've had a bit of a mental breakthrough while I was cycling along a coastal trail (with my oxygen of course) and thoroughly enjoying myself. I kept thinking how stupid it was to keep myself from participating in things that I enjoy just because I'm not as capable as I use to be.  I am still able to cycle for an hour hear and there and I need to keep doing what I want while I'm still able. That while I have been doing  some awesome things, there is still a lot I have kept myself from doing. Like when I stopped going to those intro dance classes at university because I kept coughing afterward or during, or not trying a new exercise class because it might be too hard, or not going out dancing with some friends because I might need to go home early. I still need to be able to try new things and be ok when I'm not always physically able to finish them. Breakthrough!

Does everyone who has a decline in health have this fight and then acceptance of themselves? 

Hanging out at the beach while waiting for my partner to cycle back to get the car.