24 November 2017

After a week without travel or that damn cold/flu thing under my belt I’m feeling more like myself. Getting back to training hasn’t fixed my problems with the US Border people, but it has given my brain other things to think about than lawyers and lost work, which in turn has massively reduced my anxiety levels now that I’m doing something with my unexpected free time.

The torn muscle in my shoulder is ever so slowly repairing, but this week I used it as a kick in the pants to break out the unicycle I bought over the summer. I’ve been riding up and down the hallway outside the Fly with Me studio to supplement my aerial training limitations. The unicycle definitely works my leg muscles more than aerial has and my brain is trying to fire in new ways that can only be good for it.

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20 November 2017

It’s unfortunate that I usually only find myself wanting to write when things are terrible. The past weeks have been an especially extreme series of ups and downs vacillating wildly between moments where I feel like I have all of my stuff together and pretty good about how it is all going to just a few minutes later realizing that I’ve made some dumb mistake, smacking my head saying wondering why I’m such a bonehead. Frustration, confusion, joy, pride, pain, concern, exhaustion, overwhelm all ping-ponging off each other. Unsurprisingly, the swirl of travelling, stress, injury and fighting a seemingly never-ending cold have played havoc on my diet and exercise habits which are exactly the things I need to keep me firmly buckled in during this type of emotional roller coaster.

I’ve had amazing opportunities open up along with huge obstacles loom overhead and I find myself determined to view my current life situation as a whole life version of the tough mudder challenge because unless I find some way to reframe what is going on I’m in grave danger of falling into a pit of seasonal depressive sulkiness about the unfairness portions of what is happening. So went into the weekend determined to square my shoulders, shake off this threatening ennui and get to work. If life is going to start beating me down, I feel like now is a tipping point where I can either keep taking the punches or start fighting back.

Sorry for the vagueness of the above, but there is much happening on several fronts so I’m going to start with vague and fill in the gaps as I go along.

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25 March 2017

As part of a personal desire to reduce the amount of time I spend mindlessly surfing the internet and focus on doing things in life with more intention I’ve been journalling a lot more. Writing has been helpful with other personal changes for me so I definitely view journaling/writing as an important tool in my efforts to be more deliberate.

I’ve been reading the archives of The Simple Year lately. Each year the blog has a different author with their own definition of what they want to do to simplify their life. The founder spent a year without buying anything new, while others have had spent a year focussed on decluttering, reducing trash, and other areas. I’ve long been drawn to these types of projects ever since reading Living the Simple Life: A Guide to Scaling Down and Enjoying More back in the 1990s. Lately the simple living idea has become an internet movement with lots of bloggers and books promoting aspects of simplicity like minimalism decluttering zero waste in various combinations and I’ve been gobbling them up. I’ve spent many free hours roaming the internet on this topic and even implemented a few of the common ideas into my real life like the Marie Kondo sock and underwear storage techniques, Project 333 and doing a weekly dinner planning list.

Currently, The Simple Year is taking applications for a new author. The project lover in me is really tempted to apply, thinking that the accountability of writing for a public blog with a huge following would force me into success. Much to my own surprise, I’ve also realized that agreeing to write for a popular blog would add an extra commitment to a life that already has a lot going on and likely have the exact opposite effect to what I’m aiming for. Instead, I’m going to stay away from making any big announcements on social media, use my own personal journals, and the neglected blog that I already have.

This is meant to be a warning to myself (and for anyone who happens to stumble across it), that while there may be more posts showing up here it is happening in conjunction with a desire to keep things as simple as I can. I don’t plan on having any sort of plan. Not that this blog ever had one to begin with. Let the random continue!

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Astronaut Update

Canadian Space Agency astronaut recruitment continues without me. The current pool of 32 includes Vanessa Fulford who is not only a remarkable woman with a resume that bears a striking resemblance to Chris Hadfield, but is a former student of my childhood BFF so I’m cheering for her.

I won’t be one of Canada’s next astronauts, but for a few weeks around Christmas I believed that I had made it to the top 100. In reality I had been cut earlier, but didn’t receive email. But whether I made the top 100 or top 600, for a few weeks I really did believe I could be in serious consideration for the job. In that time I asked myself just how much I wanted to be an astronaut and why. My work as a consultant involves a lot of solo driving providing plenty of time for this kind of navel gazing. Should I ever find a way to safely write blog entries while driving posting frequency on this site would be off the charts.

But back to my point… I’m a person who has always had a general interest in space but not a clear passion for all things extraterrestrial. My imagined future memoir was easily going to be titled ‘Accidental Astronaut’. So why did I want this job?

Being in space is only a tiny fraction of the actual work of an astronaut. To be honest I’m pretty happy not to be turning my family’s life upside down, selling the house, moving to Houston and following a career path that would have me away from them for huge chunks of time. So what actually did excite me about the work so much that I genuinely hoped to become an astronaut?

It certainly wasn’t the money. Much like working for Cirque du Soleil, being an astronaut requires an exceptional amount of hard work for a comparatively unexceptional amount of money. Definitely not the fame. Currently, Canada’s astronaut corps is all male (all 2 of them). The next woman to join this group will be on the receiving end of a lot of attention. I may be an extrovert, but I’m also old enough to recognize the downsides of living in the public eye. Sure there are some out of the world travel perks, but there are also training postings to places with purposefully inhospitable environments like the Arctic Circle, and months at the Yuri Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center in Star City, Russia.

I came to realize that the things I valued most about being an astronaut were the incredible challenges of the work. Astronauts must push themselves mentally and physically, learning skills ranging from piloting and plumbing repair, to diving and dentistry. I was also very proud of the opportunity to be a positive role model as a woman in STEM. Happily, I quickly realized that I can be/do all those things right here and right now within the life I’m already living. It won’t come with the public recognition that being an astronaut would have, but glory wasn’t the point anyway.

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Summer Summary

The summer of 2016 certainly hasn’t been boring. After a nice long informative meeting with the Sickkids genetics department we have formal confirmation that there really isn’t anything to do/not do for the time being. The cavernoma situation has slowly become a fact of our life. Happily, the kiddo hasn’t had any vertigo issues since May so we are now chugging along with all systems normal.

July was a blur of day camps for the kiddo and work for the adults. August included some real summer holiday plans with a week at my parents house in New Brunswick and another week in Temagami at summer camp. Wanapitei offered a week long ‘Family Camp’ that allowed all three of us to almost completely escape work and electronics. It was the first backcountry trip that I’ve taken since having Portia and meeting Simon so it was exciting to rediscover camping with these people I love. There were just as many bugs, stinky out houses, and smelly body parts as expected, plus even more stunning moons, loon called still morning lakes, daily canoe trips, heart racing cliff jumps, and new friends than I could have hoped for.

We’ve been back from summer camp for less than a week and already Portia has lost her first tooth, I got to train with a few Cirque du Soleil performers, and Simon and I received invitations to move to the next stage of the Canadian Space Agency’s Astronaut Corp recruitment. we have officially met the minimum requirements to apply for the job, which is a pretty big achievement in my books. With 3772 people applying for 2 positions the chances of actually becoming an astronaut remains incredibly remote, but it has been fun just throwing my hat in the ring and spending my summer imagining the possibility.

Work has finally slowed down. Like myself, most of my clients take vacation in August. The rest of the year, however, is looking bananas work-wise. Detroit in early September and a full week in New Brunswick are already confirmed along with a looming project in Mexico plus potential training sessions for a big corporation in Montreal, Atlanta, Ohio, Chicago, New Jersey, Oregon, Illinois and two more in Mexico that all need to happen by end of 2016. Another lifetime ago the prospect of so much travel would have been exciting. I still love that my work provides opportunities to explore non-vacation places that one would rarely travel to by choice, but the thought of scheduling all that, missing the kid and leaving Simon with all the home-front responsibilities along with his own demanding work schedule takes some of the fun out of it. Sounds like I need to find someone in my neighbourhood that we can hire to help with dog walking, school drop offs and maybe a few of those myriad other little things.

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The past two weeks have been a challenge. Simon had back-to-back conferences with only a few days between to celebrate his birthday at home. Portia’s neurosurgeon appointment became scheduled just as he left for Germany on Thursday. Work continued to go great guns and I of course, tried to keep up my circus training through it all. So after a massive stretch of solo parenting, medical appointments, medical related emotions, dog walking and work insanity I’m capping it off with 2 blissful days of staycation time. Simon is still in Europe, Portia is with her grandparents, and I am decadently responsible for only myself and the dogs.

The neurosurgeon meeting went as I had expected/hoped. Watch and wait will be the name of the game. Many people with cavernomas can live their entire life not knowing they are there. And so, with no evidence of bleeding the plan is to leave them alone, monitor them via MRI once a year or so, and get on with life.

Not knowing for sure what the neurosurgeon meeting would bring or how I might react I made no formal plans for my staycation weekend apart from circus classes (aka mental health improvement sessions). When the Canadian Space Agency announced Friday morning that they were recruiting for astronauts, my weekend plans became clear. I guess it says something about where I am in my life, that rather than make plans to party it up I’m playing at the gym, spinning in my cyr wheel and spending the remainder of my time on the deck with a beer working on my ‘Why I want to be an astronaut’ essay.

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Just keep swimming

I named my online journal TurbulentFlow as an acknowledgement that the flow of life is rarely smooth and laminar. Right now, the river of life could be headed straight toward a waterfall while I do my very best to continue paddling calmly along.

The hidden undertow is a brain issue with my six-year-old daughter P. Since late November, she has had multiple vertigo type episodes that seemed to come in ever growing waves over the course of a week, crest, and then fade away. We went to Sickkids emergency during the first one. They tried some kind of physical vestibular maneuver, but the conclusion was that she didn’t respond in the expected manner and unlikely she was experiencing typical vertigo. The episode resolved on its own while we were at the hospital, so we went home and resumed life as normal.

Early this month it started again. She immediately saw the pediatrician cascading into referrals to a series of specialists to investigate what is going on. We didn’t expect to get in for an MRI very quickly, but were able to jump on a cancellation spot within a week. 2 days later we had a report identifying 4 potential cavernomas in her brain. Cavernoma (otherwise known as cerebral cavernous malformations (CCM), cavernous haemangioma or cavernous angioma) are tangles of blood vessels similar to raspberry birthmarks on the skin. The clusters form low pressure blood pockets similar in size and shape to a raspberry or piece of popcorn. Unfortunately, what is totally benign and harmless at skin level has the potential to be much more terrifying when inside of a brain.

We’re continuing with the other medical appointments as well, but right now, the cavernomas seem to be a pretty likely explanation of P’s symptoms. I try not to google medical stuff too much. Cavernoma Alliance UK website has been the most useful so far.  The MRI report recommended a neurosurgical review, which we are waiting to get an appointment for now. At minimum, the identification of cavernomas should mean another MRI to obtain a clear picture (the first one was unsurprisingly motion degraded), and regular MRIs after that to keep an eye on them for changes. Unfortunately, the only formal treatment available for cavernomas is brain surgery, which is terrifying for obvious reasons… actually, the whole concept of anything other than brains in her brain is terrifying for obvious reasons. The upside is that we live near Sickkids, one of the best children’s hospitals in the world. No matter what happens, she will be in excellent hands.

And so here we are now. For P’s sake, my husband and I won’t give in to the fear. Everyone who knows and loves this little girl is worried, but she will take her cues from the adults around her. Keep calm and carry on – it’s the only thing we can do.



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Wrapping up 2015

Holiday party at the Fly with Me studio. This was my 2nd time performing this routine*, the first was in June. Still needs work, but it has definitely improved from the first run.

*any routine

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I started running in 2006 with the couch-to-5k program. It’s a straight forward 8 week training program that took me from gasping for breath after 90 seconds of continuous running to being able to steadily run 5km without stopping.

For a long time, running was my only source of fitness. I had a dog that needed walking anyway, so even when life was super busy I could multi-task. I never felt more like a bad-ass single parent that on the days I managed to run with the stroller + dog to daycare, drop the kiddo off, continue my loop back home with the dog, shower, change and be at my desk working by 8:30am.

After almost 10 years of running I can safely say that I have minimal natural running talent. I’m slow and that’s okay. I take a strange sort of pride in sticking with something that I’m clearly not very good at. I love the simplicity of running. No class to fit into the schedule or membership needed.

Unfortunately, my relationship with running shoes is filled with drama. After running for 4-6 months on a set of shoes I’ll notice my hip and knee starting to ache indicating that it is time to replace the worn out pair. Because running shoe fashions change, I can rarely find the same model to replace the worn. More than once I’ve wasted money on new shoes that set me on the biomechanical path to plantar fasciitis within a week. Maybe I just have super special snowflake princess feet – 2 years post-bunion surgery, the right one has enough scars and imbedded hardware to qualify as a special snowflake princess franken-foot. Whatever the cause, it is incredibly frustrating.

This week my body feels like a broken down car. I can’t blame it all on the bad shoes, but they are responsible for a decent share. I’m a mess literally from head to foot. As I lay in bed this morning and took inventory:

  • Aching eyes – I need reading glasses or less internet. Probably both.
  • Left rotator cuff – Been slacking on rehab exercises and it shows.
  • Low back pain – showed up when I started doing silks. Need to research yoga poses.
  • Right hip – Bad shoes.
  • Right plantar fascia – Bad shoes continued.

The above combination also means I’m sleeping like crap and can easily start to spiral downward. It Expands beyond my physical self I’m self-flagellating with all my flaws. I procrastinate. I’m careless. I’d rather eat cheese and muffins than carrots and turnips. What’s the point of all this exercise if everything is just going to break?

Thankfully, breakfast and the full light of day usually helps. Nothing to do but keep moving and trust that this is just a bump in the road.

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Circus in the city – Flying Arts Collective

I hold pretty consistently to an 8am-4pm Mon-Fri work schedule, but as a self-employed consultant, it is primarily by choice. When a last minute client reschedule opened up a Friday morning slot I took the opportunity to get in some extra aerial practice.

The Flying Arts Collective offers drop-in open gym time Fridays 10:30am-1pm and Sunday 4pm-6pm. The inexpensive class $10 (non-member), $5 (member) (cash only *I think*) is meant to supplement existing aerial training. Someone is in charge to ensure equipment is used safely, but no teacher is provided, so this isn’t the place for pure beginners or learning new tricks. The main doorway is well marked on the street as ‘Toronto Fighting Arts Collective‘ (shared space with all sorts of interesting looking groups) at 927 Dupont 2nd Floor.

I showed up my usual 10min early (being late for stuff gives me hives), which I wouldn’t recommend since I was the very first one there. Upon reflection I can see that 2.5hrs of aerial is more than plenty of time to work out and performing arts folks aren’t renowned for being early birds. Fortunately, someone from the martial arts space noted my lost expression and invited me to make myself at home and start warming up. Jasper from Flying Arts arrived at 10:30am to lower the permanently rigged equipment. While others trickled in, I signed a waiver, paid for the class and finished warming up. By 11am, things were well underway.

The 2.5 hour all you can aerial session is very well equipped. 5 sets of silks, 2 single point hoops (different diameters), 1 static trapeze, 1 dance trapeze and a corde lisse (rope) were all available for use. Each piece of equipment had ~1” foam matting beneath and a few crash mats floated around for general use. On the day I was there ~15 people attended the session which kept much of the equipment in use without being crowded.

Similar to the open gym sessions, training classes at this space are run on a per class price system. This is similar to a yoga studio, but pretty unusual in Toronto for circus training, which generally runs on a per semester basis. My hours of research watching Centerstage and similar 1990s era dance movies, have led me to believe it is a common class format used in the New York performing arts community. This could also explain why the majority of the people attending the open gym session appeared to be either professional performers or just very very good. It was equal parts impressive and intimidating.

Everyone there was friendly and welcoming. Any and all intimidation I felt was entirely the result of my much deflated ego clanging around my own headspace. I’ve been training on hoop for over a year and like to think that I’m pretty fit these days, but I’m also still a 40something full-time working person who just started silks this summer. Despite an intention to work on my silks skills, I bailed after a few climbs and stayed on the more familiar hoop for the remainder of the class. Next time I’ll go in with a written plan of what I want to work on so it is less tempting to just work the things I’m already comfortable with.

All-in-all, it seems like a great place. The fact that they offer a number of daytime training classes could allow me to add in an extra circus training session around my work schedule. I’m going to buy a 5-class pass and see how it goes!

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