My Year By Design

The journey to living by design.

Why I love the Olympics

I’m addicted to watching the Olympics. I used the CBC app to stream from the opening ceremonies to the closing ceremonies. I cheered, laughed and cried. As the Summer Olympics wraps up for another four years, I’ve been thinking about why I love watching the Olympics so much.

Reason 1 – Unapologetic nationalism.

Other than Canada Day, there are not always a lot of opportunities for me to don my Canada gear and sing my national anthem at the top of my lungs. I adore seeing how much our athletes love our country; how they rock Canada clothing, hats, nail art, and even tattoos; how they tear up at the sight of our flag being raised in the Olympic stadium. I also enjoy watching the host country celebrate the best aspects of their home. It is a fine thing to have an excuse to be ridiculously proud of your nation.

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Reason 2 – The stories.

Say what you will about the media, they expertly craft stories of endurance, triumph and even failure that have consistently made me cheer and cry. I know these stories are heavily constructed and edited, but what story isn’t? The media necessarily needs to select and edit stories because there is just too much to cover otherwise. Besides, media is a business and ratings are their benchmark for success. Highlighting captivating stories draws in viewers. Knowing I’m seeing a story built by the media doesn’t make me enjoy it less and the Canadian media takes great care in covering as many Canadian athletes as they can.

Reason 3 – Armchair coaching.

“That’s not how you do a reverse 1 1/2 somersault from the pike position!” It doesn’t matter that I can’t even fall into the water without doing a belly flop, I’m going to shout out my instructions to the athletes as if they can hear me. Maybe not every family participates in this but it’s a lot of fun to coach from the couch. When I was a kid, my dad would get so engaged in televised sports that my mom bought him a foam brick he could throw at the TV. My whole family gets involved in yelling things at the Olympics, even my much more soft-spoken husband has been know to call out his encouragement.

Reason 4 – Humans at peak performance.

“Look at how strong her shoulders are!”

“Check out his leg muscles, they’re huge!”

“How does she jump like that?”

“His last dive was so clean!”

Somehow watching athletes achieve their goals makes my own less public and perhaps smaller scale goals seem much more achievable. If these athletes can give everything to their sport, I can lose five pounds, eat healthier and manage my stress better. The Olympics remind me that humans are capable of amazing things and that I am capable of achieving success if I keep working at it.

The Olympics are so much fun to watch and as Olympic fever dissipates, I am already looking forward to the next Olympics in Tokyo.



Are you bilingual? Multilingual? I can speak enough French to ask directions and order food but that’s about it. I used to be quite fluent in high school so I’d like to hone my French skills again. A colleague recommended I try an app called Duolingo. It’s a free app that allows users to learn or practice a language. I’ve been using it over the summer to brush up on my French. The app lets users set a daily goal, (I set mine for 5 minutes per day,) and then users open the app once a day and do the required amount of practice. I’ve included some screenshots below of my own practice:


I recently completed 50 days in a row of French practice. I think Duolingo is helping me regain my confidence speaking French. On a recent trip to Ottawa I was able to speak French to service staff and hotel staff. They did understand me, even if it took me a bit longer to say it and they were very patient. Ottawa is a bilingual city and most people working in customer service are considerate of folks like me who want to practice their French.

I’d be interested to see how well the app works when the user is trying to learn a brand new language. For example, would I do well trying to learn German with no prior knowledge of it? If anyone decided to use this app for a new second language, send me a comment on what you think of the app. I’ve included screenshots of the available language training programs in the app for inspiration.

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Ramping Up

So I’ve now completed half of the On-Ramp program at West London Crossfit. I’m really glad I arranged to retake this class as a way to return to Crossfit training. I’m trying to get back to my best habits and I know it’s better if I do it in small steps like the ones provided by On-Ramp. I’m getting a refresher in all the basics, (warm up, lifting, mobility, etc.) and now my form will be much better when I join the regular classes again. I’m sore from class but I feel good. I’m slowly starting to feel stronger and more confident.

I’ve gotten a pretty universal reaction from the coaches and Crossfit regulars. They look at me quizzically for a minute and then say something like, “You still train here?” I smile and tell them that I took a break but that I’m back now. Everyone is welcoming. Two more weeks of On-Ramp to go and then I’ll be back to CrossFit training. I’m looking forward to it.


Art Assignment 50: Vehicular Palette

I chose to focus on the number of seat belts in each car my family has owned because seat belts are the one part of the car that every driver and passenger should use in the same way to be safe. Here is my data visualization:


It still looks more like math than art to me but it was fun to complete this project because it was so different from what I usually think of as ‘making art’. #theartassignment

On Ramp


I’ve been a member of West London Cross Fit since it opened several years ago. However, I stopped going last December. I had a bad bout of anxiety and I needed the time off to work on that before I could worry about building muscle.

Now that I’m feeling more stable, I’ve decided to go back. Today I attended my first On Ramp class. On Ramp is a program that West London Cross Fit runs to get people ready to start Cross Fit. During three classes a week for four weeks, On Rampers learn all the movements used in Cross Fit from stretches, to burpees, to proper bar bell lifts. Even though the classes are targeted for beginners, I asked the coaches if I could re-take the class to properly ease me back into my full workout routine.

My first class was really good. I like taking the time to review the basics and improve my overall form. I worked hard and I sweated. Beginner class or not, Cross Fit is a great burn. I’m looking forward to my second class already. This just goes to show that I am strong enough to go back to my best habits, even when I’ve taken a break.

Things I’ve learned meditating at home


There is no right or wrong way to meditate. I’ve meditated sitting, lying down, standing and even walking. I don’t have a set time or place for meditating either. It’s easier for me to meditate when and where I want. I find or make a spot when I need it, rather than needing to move to a specific location before I can meditate.

You can move and open your eyes. I know I’ve been in meditations where I’ve locked my body down so I can CONCENTRATE. Then I get an itch, a twitch. I need to scratch my nose or adjust my hips. I’m uncomfortable but I can’t move or I have to start over, right? Actually, it’s fine to move a bit as you meditate. The goal is to move less and less as you get more relaxed.

Sometimes it’s not going to work. No matter how often I meditate, there are days where I just can’t get my brain to slow down. I keep at the meditation but I may come away feeling frustrated. At these times, it’s important to go through the process even if my results are not as satisfactory as usual. Over time, I hope I will experience fewer of these times.

It gets better as you practice. Meditation definitely gets more satisfying as I work at it. In fact, I’m starting to move from meditation feeling like work to meditating because I enjoy it. I think I could meditate for many years and still never consider myself an expert, but it is fun to try.

Art Assignment 49: Conjure a Studio


This Art Assignment reminded me of being a teenager, living in my parents’ house and feeling like I had the smallest bits of privacy. I used journals and sketchbooks as my studio. I decorated them with bright collages laminated with packing tape and they were where I wrote and sketched and drew. My parents always respected these journals and never looked at them unless I wanted to share something I had done. I was smart enough to keep them after high school and they live in a wooden chest in my bedroom. I dug out two of my favourite sketchbooks and decided to share their covers with you.

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So these are my teenage studios and I still love them. Oh, you want to see what’s inside them?


Did you miss it? Did I flip through too fast? Sorry folks, I’m not quite ready to share my high school creations. #theartassignment

Art Assignment 48: Measuring Histories

For this assignment, I decided to trace all the places I’ve lived so far. I defined living somewhere as any place where I stayed for more than a month. I don’t consider myself terribly well-traveled at this point but I have lived in some neat places. All of the maps except one are within Canada. Being Canadian and living in Canada is a proud part of both my personal and cultural history.

None of these maps are to scale with each other and that is on purpose. Instead, I used how I felt about these places and how I imagine them mapped out in my mind to give them the scale I think they each require in relation to each other.

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This idea of tracing my history across maps reminds me of a conversation I had with my husband Nick when we first met. As we were getting to know each other, it became apparent that we had lived within a few blocks of each other for years and had never met. We went to the same grocery store and bank, we even had the same dentist. We even found out we’d both attended some of the same concerts and music festivals over the years. I lived in London for five and a half years before he and I ever met. I like these idea of us slowly circling each other around the city, pulling towards each other a bit at a time.

My favourite reasons to do yoga at home

The dress code: I can do yoga in my pajamas, or my underwear, or nothing at all, (TMI?) I don’t have to do my hair or worry about how I look. I can roll right out of bed and hit the mat.

The class schedule: Yoga on demand 24-7. I can practice when I want for as long as I want.

The pace: I can speed up, slow down or take a break any time I need.

The studio: My house, my rules. I can have any setup I like. I get to choose the lighting, the temperature, the music, and anything else I like to suit my mood that day. I always get the best spot in the room too 🙂

My classmates: Me, myself and I…and an occasional furry visitor.


The peace: Being by myself is a real meditation booster. The house is quiet and I can slow down and just be.

If that doesn’t inspire you to try yoga at home, I don’t think anything will! Namaste.


Having a good time with my brain


I’m in the middle of an online learning course to update my teaching certification. I won’t bore you with the details as it’s really only interesting to people in my field of study. However, I will say this: every day in my course I feel like I’m getting smarter. It’s like I can actually feel new connections being made and reinforced in my brain. This is a very condensed course, (only 20 days!) so I’m having to read, write, research, and think very quickly. The last time I really felt like this was during my Masters program, where I was hacking through courses with new concepts and ideas daily. It might be my imagination, but in these moments I think I can feel my brain changing for the better.

When was the last time you really enjoyed learning? When a book changed your mind on something? When you finished a major project? When you successful overcame an obstacle? It could be something as simple as when I helped my niece and nephew put together a perfect Lego tower.  It is important to notice these times when we are improving our brains. At North Americans, we are very focused on improving our physical health, (going to the gym, eating healthy, etc.) but we tend to neglect our mental development once we leave school. I’m going to try to keep doing things that are good for my brain. I hope you do too. Keep learning!

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