My Year By Design

The journey to living by design.

Archive for the month “May, 2014”

Making the Most of Spring: Try Something New

I’ve said it (and blogged it) before, I’m not a fan of running for long distances. Nonetheless, it is Spring, the traditional season of new beginnings. So when I heard one of the teachers at my school was starting a Learn to Run Club, I thought ‘Why not?’ So I strapped on my new shoes and joined the staff and students for a run:


We got little maps of our route.

We got little maps of our route.

It was…well, not fun, exactly, but I felt like I had accomplished something. I kept up pretty well for all but the last leg of the run and that’s no small task! Don’t believe me? Try to keep up with a group of long-legged teenaged runners. I’m lucky I made it at all!

So what new things will you be trying this spring?



As someone with anxiety and depression, you have to become very adept at explaining yourself. First there’s the medical definitions:

I have generalize anxiety disorder. I take an SSRI (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor,) and see my general physician and a registered counsellor to deal with it.

But then there is the more complicated matter of explaining to people how you feel. There are a lot of levels of anxiety and depression and how you explain them can drastically affect how people treat you. For example, if you just say you have anxiety or depression, or if you resort to clichés like ‘I’m feeling down’ or ‘I feel like I want to crawl out of my skin,’ people will nod sympathetically but never really understand what’s going on with you. This challenge forces me to be more creative with my language. For example, here are some explanations I have used:

I feel like a hundred angry black dogs are chasing me, even though we’re just sitting on this couch.

I feel like there are judgemental eyes on every person I see.

I had trouble making eye contact with myself in the mirror today.

I feel like all of my bones have little weights inside them that are stopping me from getting up.

These may seem bleak, but they effectively communicate my levels of panic, fear, shame and the physical symptoms that get all wrapped up in anxiety attacks. Plus, playing with words gives me a small measure of control over how I feel. I have also chosen a new favourite word for my depression:


Dictionary definition: a feeling of listlessness and dissatisfaction arising from a lack of occupation or excitement.

Also know as: boredom, tedium, listlessness, lethargy, lassitude, languor, weariness, enervation, More

malaise, dissatisfaction, melancholy, depression, world-weariness, Weltschmerz.

Check out poor Neville. This is my favourite page from the Gashlycrumb Tinies. Check it out for a thrilling, gory bedtime read!

Now all joking aside, describing anxiety and depression is a vital part of the diagnosis and in the moment, such colourful turns of phrase may take too long. When my anxiety is at its worst, my doctors and I use a ten point rating system.

1 = not anxious at all.

2-4 = a little bit anxious.

5 = starting to feel the beginning of the fight or flight response.

6 = experiencing symptoms that interrupt daily life.

7 = difficulty functioning.

8 = uncontrollable negative thoughts and feelings, lack of concentration and sleep.

9 = barely functioning.

10 = at home, crying on the floor, cannot get up.

This allows quick communication of where my brain is and what it’s doing. The key is communication! If you feel anxious or depressed, especially for long periods of time, tell someone! Best health to you.

Art Assignment 5: The Quietest Place

Upstairs hallway of my school seven minutes after the last bell of the day. Nuff said. Happy weekend.



Brain Pain

Dear Brain,

Usually I love you. Thank you for all the amazing things you do; keeping the beat of heart and lungs, creating dreams. However, I have a request. Please stop manifesting my emotions as physical symptoms; as body aches and headaches, as muscles weakness and sleepless nights. No one wants to feel sick, especially for no real reason at all. Please don’t soak up my hope and my motivation.

I know I’m not the only one who feels this way.

All my love,

Your body.

Art Assignment 4: Never Seen, Never Will

I am fascinated by the Cottingley Fairies. These photos were taken by Elsie Wright and Frances Griffiths in 1917 and enthralled the likes of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. These sweet-faced girls convinced people that fairies were real and living in their gardens.


For my ‘never seen, never will’ project I wanted to take my own fairy photos. I’ve never seen a fairy but I’d like to think they’re out in the woods somewhere. The obvious, modern solution would be to manufacture some slick images in Photoshop but I wanted to seek out the magic that Elsie and Frances created with paper and scissors and camera alone.

I found some pictures of Victorian flower fairies and painstakingly cut them out. Then to get the feel of old-fashioned film, I downloaded the Retrica app on my smart phone. My photos have their logo in the corner but you can pay to have it removed if you want to use this app. Here are my results:

015 016 019
So, do you believe I fairies?




Calling All Tweeters! #DailyJoy

I have been tweeting positive messages into the Twittersphere using #DailyJoy for a few weeks and now I want you to join in. So it’s time for some quid pro quo. Jump on Twitter and send out something joyful, funny or beautiful and tag it #DailyJoy. I’ll be searching for your posts and retweeting them and posting them on my blog. That way we can share in the positive energy and pass it along to others. Social media can be a negative space but if we work at it, we can make it a little nicer for everyone. Happy tweeting!

Art Assignment 3: Intimate, Indespenible GIF


This moment is an intensely private one for me. This was my first look with Nick on our wedding day. I was never one of those girls who dreamed of her wedding. Actually, my wedding had fourteen guests (including us!) and included unusual elements like paper flowers and no dancing. The photos for this GIF were taken by Wes from LoveKnots Photography. Because Wes was well back with a telephoto lens, Nick and I felt we were alone and what you are seeing is our authentic responses to being reunited on our wedding day. Thank you for sharing this moment with us.

Hug a Mommy!

Everyone has one and we wouldn’t be here without them; Moms! Moms do so many things that if I began to list them here, the text would stretch from here to the other side of the Internet.

How do we thank someone who granted us life? Time. Spend time with your mom. Do some of the things she wants to do. Moms love that type of present better than any trinket or card. Plus, you’ll probably find you enjoy your time together too.

No matter what, mom are there for us. However, it gets even better if we are there for her too. If we are lucky, we get to laugh with her and see her as a real person. We get to imagine her young, as young as we are. We get to marvel at how one person in this world can love us so much. I love you Mom xxxooo.

Art Assignment 2: The Stakeout (AKA: See what happens when you hang out with music teachers)

Where is the one place you’re not supposed to make noise? The library. Where is the one place we’re going to try to get people to make noise? The library. So we staked-out the library on Friday for an hour. I brought an assortment of musical instruments from the dollar store. Jodie made us some beautiful shakers:


I have a feeling she had just as much fun making the shakers as she did going on the stakeout!

Here is our stakeout setup inside the library:


Just to be on the safe side, we also set up a display in the mall attached to our library:


Here are our results:
5pm – Male mall maintenance worker, mid-thirties, slowed to read the sign but did not touch it. Thanks for not taking away our art!

5:08pm – Female, early twenties, black coat and big silver earphones, turned to read the sign but kept walking quickly. She looked like she was in a hurry.

5:09pm – Man, mid-twenties, grey hoodie. Slowed down to read the sign but kept going.

5:22pm – Rocker dude in a toque, stopped and came back for a closer look. C’mon buddy, you know you want to shake a tambourine! But no, ultimately he moved on.

5:33pm – A little girl in pink pointed out the sign but her parents wouldn’t let her stop. Bad parents! You prevented your child from participating in art!

5:35pm man, forties, green army jacket, approached, read our sign and then quickly walked away. Perhaps he sensed he was being watched?

5:47pm – Little boy, blue jacket, too involved in his iPod to notice our sign. I lament for the minds of the young.

5:51pm – Women, mid-thirties, grey and purple knitted sweater, read our signed, inched closer and then inched away.

At the very end of our experiment, a lady working at the library came by to tidy up. She didn’t say a word to our strange little group and although she looked at our set up, she didn’t touch them. Maybe the downtown branch is used to such behaviour? Darn, I was all ready to say to her, “Sorry we arted all over your library!” as she chased us out, possible swinging a broom.

So the results were a bit disappointing. People were interested but London seems gripped with performance anxiety. To assure myself that there are still some creative souls around, I set up this little display outside my classroom:


These guys are my favourite:


I was treated all day to the sound of students chirping away and making joyful noise, (mostly between classes and at lunch). Their first choice of instrument seemed to be the tambourine. However, shortly after first period, I noticed my whoopee cushion was missing. No surprises there. Later, one of my students in third period brought it into the class and managed to slip it into a friend’s seat without her noticing. This unexpected noise cracked every up, including the girl who sat on the cushion. Once again, teenagers have restored my faith in the creativity of our society!

Art Assignment 1: Meet in the Middle

Here’s the email I sent to my friends.

I’ve been watching a You tube series called the Art Assignment and I’d like to complete some of their assignments and post them to my WordPress blog. Would you girls want to help me? Also, would you be comfortable guest staring on my blog?

Here is assignment one. It focuses on art as an experience rather than as an object:
1. Meet in the Middle – Douglas Paulson and Christopher Robbins

So I suggest we set this thing up via email and then try it out. If you are interested please do the following:

1. Send me a selfie of you holding art supplies (camera, crayons, glitter, etc.) for my blog. Mine’s attached.

2. Pick a date. I suggest Sunday April 20th for lunch, Thursday April 24th for dinner or Saturday April 26th for lunch.

3. Once we decide that stuff, I will send you the halfway meeting point between all three of our houses. I suggest we show up with some cash in hand and eat at whatever restaurant we find closest to that point.


My friends quickly agreed so here is the second email I sent:

I knew I could count on you guys! This is going to be fun!

So after we set this up, we’re not allowed to communicate about it, even on the day of, (no phone calls, emails, texts). Map 1 shows our three houses. Map 2 is the triangle our houses make. Map 3 marks the centre of our triangle, (yeah geometry!) Map 4 is our zoomed in location, (the corner of Huron Street and William Street). Shall I meet you both there at 6pm on Thursday the 24th?

Go art!

Here are the maps  used to figure out our meeting place:





So having completed this assignment, I noticed a few things.

First, our meeting point ended up being very near Adelaide Street, which divides London, Ontario into East of Adelaide (EOA) and West of Adelaide. Think of East Egg and West Egg The Great Gatsby. also, see the EOA song Julie mentions (and sings along to) in her vlog).


Next, we used some unusual methods to complete assignment one. When I think of making art, I usually imagine paints, paper, canvass, clay and the like but this assignment was about art as an experience. Our little group used geography, math, written language, oral communication, technology, photography, video, and the physicality of a journey to compete our project. This widens the definition of what art is.

Finally, as you saw in the emails above, our group arranged where and when to meet but we never discussed how we would document our adventure. I found it interesting that we all chose slightly different but complimentary methods of presentation. For example, Jodie used video and Julie used video and photos. I used computer technology (email, MapQuest, Jing and WordPress,) and videos and text. Now that it is complete, we will be using WordPress, Tumblr, Facebook, and Twitter to share our work with all of you. Please enjoy!

Here are the photos and video from our adventure:

Here is my walk to the meeting point. If you look closely, you can see Julie walking in front of me.

Here is my walk to the meeting point. If you look closely, you can see Julie walking in front of me.

We arrive at the Palasad for dinner.

We arrive at the Palasad for dinner.

Our table had a bowling pin on it. Also, a menu Julie had to examine very closely.

Our table had a bowling pin on it. Also, a menu Julie had to examine very closely.

My strawberry lemonade.

My strawberry lemonade.

My dinner.

My dinner.

Jodie and Julie's dinners.

Jodie and Julie’s dinners.




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