Sunday, January 25, 2015

Hello TO!!

Last week I flew to Toronto to meet with the Canadian MS Society's Personnel Grants committee. It's mind blowing that it takes the same amount of time (just over 4 hrs.) to fly 3/4's of the way across Canada as it does for me to drive through the mountains to my in-laws' in the interior.

Along the way, I got to see two of the Great Lakes-Lake Superior (left) and Lake Huron (right). When we were landing in Toronto, I was stunned to discover there was no snow on the ground!! Here I'd purchased brand new snow boots just for this trip and there was nothing! It's a good thing I'd packed a pair of shoes. Crazy!

I took the Rocket bus from the airport to Kipling Station to catch the subway (left) into downtown. It reminded me alot of the subway in NYC. So different from our skytrain here-it's a much older system and runs almost entirely underground. I was also surprised that they have actual people sitting in the subway to collect fares, rather than having automated ticket machines like we do in BC.

It was about an hour from the airport to the hotel I stayed in, which was a Hilton right downtown, just a block away from St. Patrick's station. The photo on the right was my view from my hotel room.

Monday night, the Canadian MS Society took our team out for dinner at The Queen & Beaver. We had a lovely dinner and then everyone headed back to the hotel to rest up for the big meeting the next day. I won't go into detail about the all-day meeting on Tuesday-that's another post, but let's just say it was intense, hugely interesting and I came away with a full heart and a deep sense of satisfaction for the work our team did together.

Wednesday, I had the entire day to sight see before catching an evening flight home. My friend Jenna, whom I write with on NMO Diaries lives in TO, so we finally had a chance to meet. We had dinner together Tuesday night and then she picked me up on Wednesday morning and drove me all over the city. I really appreciated her taking time out of her busy life to be my tour guide. She did a fantastic job.

We started our day having coffee (tea!) at Casa Coffee in this cool little neighbourhood. Jenna said that in the summer, they close the street here to traffic and it becomes a funky street market. I love the indie of this coffee shop-it had a whole old school candy counter at one end and the ceiling was decorated with a ton of globes. The photo doesn't really do it justice. The conversations of the locals were highly entertaining-it's such a small space that you can't help but overhear what other people are saying. I kept catching snippets of things like "She was only wearing a g-sting and a fur coat..." and "Here comes the Russian Mafia!" and "I am totally dressed for fashion week man!". I had to keep my back to the locals because I couldn't stop laughing.

Here's Jenna and I in the coffee shop. I think I need a selfie stick!

 Afterwards, we made our way to the alley ways where Rick Mercer does his rants for his show. Of everything you could see in Toronto, this was the one thing I was most wanting to see. 

The lane ways seem to go on forever. There's so much amazing graffiti and I only managed to see a small fraction of it. Part of that had to do with how cold it was: -13C. It was too cold to be standing around for too long and taking off your mittens to take iphone photos. I might have fared better with my DSLR camera, (I can operate it with gloves on) but I opted not to bring it this trip. I did however record my own rant which I will be posting to Rick Mercer as soon as I get a chance to upload it. Silly but fun!

We did a drive by of the Hockey Hall of Fame, or as die hard Canadian hockey fans would call it, church. (Hockey is a religion in Canada.) Really cool building-Toronto has some gorgeous architecture. 

And then there was of course, the obligatory viewing on the CN Tower. Jenna very kindly offered to take me up, but as we were sitting there on the street, the observation deck was being swallowed up by clouds. No point in going all the way up to see absolutely nothing! I was fine with it-I've done the Space Needle in Seattle, so it wasn't really a big deal to not go up.

I loved the little trolley buses. This shot shows the old ones. The new ones look very much like Japanese bullet trains. I had hoped to find time to ride one, even briefly, but just didn't get to it. 

For lunch, we went to Trattoria Nervosa in Yorkville. It was a really cool Italian eatery. We ordered a traditional Italian pizza and a Caesar salad to share. The selfie (right) was taken in the entryway. I loved the medallion on the floor. The bike was just around the corner in front of one of the many trendy little shops. I had a great time visiting with Jenna and getting to know her. We'll see one another again in early March when we both fly to LA for NMO Patient Day.

Jenna dropped me off at one of the subway stations after lunch and I made my way back to the airport, just in time to get through an enormous backlog at the security checkpoint. Fortunately, I was able to go through an accessible line, which was a life saver. My flight home was rough-we had major turbulence the entire way and I didn't get out of my seat the whole time. Normally, I don't mind turbulence-that's how you know you're flying, but I was feeling a bit under the weather and so it wasn't as much fun as it normally would be. Fortunately, our flight arrived 1/2 hour early, so that kind of made up for it.

I really enjoyed my trip to Toronto. I'd never been before and that's now as far east in Canada as I've ever been. I plan to write about the actual work I was doing there for the Canadian MS Society, but it will be posted over on their site, when I do. 

So...I am home now and playing catch up with various things-laundry, emails, blogging, etc. (Oh the glamour of it all!) I have a few projects in motion that need my attention. I'll be making a list first thing tomorrow morning. No rest for the wicked!

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

As 2014 Fades to Black

Contrary to popular belief, I have not fallen off the face of the earth! I've just been super busy not only with the usual holiday hustle and bustle, but also reviewing 24 grants for the Canadian MS Society. It's alot of very concentrated reading and then equally thoughtful writing. I've managed to get all 24 reviews written and after New Year's I will work on editing what I've written. It's challenging but interesting work.

In between times, I have also managed to steal some time to make myself something! Two weeks ago, I decided I really wanted to make myself a journal for 2015. I took a really old book I'd been saving and started working on transforming it. I bought it originally because it was small, (I love books that fit comfortably in the palm of my hand) it was leather and it had some cool gold hinges printed on the cover.

As I began pulling it apart, I realised that this book was printed in 1914, making it 100 years old this year! Really cool! The middle photo is of the journal lying open to show some of the pages I sewed in. It's about an inch and a half thick. I love a good chunky monkey journal. 

The final photo is how I altered the cover. The photo on the cover is actually a vintage photograph I picked up in an antique store. I loved the strong women of various generations standing in their garden. It called to my prairie roots. I didn't feel bad about using an original photograph because 1. this journal is mine and 2. oddly enough, there were several of the exact same photo in the pile when I bought it, so I bought them all.  I've already been working in my 100 year old journal! (It was just too hard to resist!)

I have begun preparing for my trip to Toronto in late January. (I am flying out to TO for 3 days to meet with the Grants Review committee.)  Unlike the west coast, Toronto has snow. Being a Winnipegger, born and raised, I know all about snow so I knew I would have to get myself a decent pair of winter boots. Before the holidays, I decided to pop into a store just to see what they had. I looked at aisles of the most ridiculous boots-boots that were basically "fashion" boots-not warm and with heels high enough that if you hit a patch of black ice, you were just spoiling for a fractured ankle. NO THANK YOU!

Anyway, getting down to the end of the aisle, I spotted some boots that looked like they would do. They were mostly black with a hint of lime green trim and really good tread. I found my size, opened the box and was surprised to find the exact same pair, but in buffalo plaid!! I love buffalo plaid!! Of course I had to have them and I got the last pair in the store.

(Photo credit Delish General Store)

 The funny thing was that Delish General Store had a buffalo plaid infinity scarf I had been coveting for forever. My husband know this was on my Xmas wish list so Tamara, owner of Delish General Store was able to make sure he got the right one when he came in to buy it for me. I am now suitably outfitted for TO! I shall be warm and toasty! (And stylish!) I am laughing about the boots because living on the west coast where we don't get weather warranting the wearing of snow boots very often, (if at all) my new boots will last me for a very long time. Good thing I love them!

What would Xmas be without a new toy to play with? My son and his girlfriend very sweetly gave me a Fujifilm Instax Mini 8 in vintage aqua. (Pictured on the left.) It's prints credit card sized photos (3 3/8 tall x 2 1/8 wide) which are the perfect size for adding into a journal. The camera is very light weight, since it's made from plastic and measures about 4 1/2 inches square. I think it will tuck nicely into my carry-on bag for my trip. 

Tonight marks a special occasion-my husband and I are celebrating the 25th anniversary of our first date. It's hard to believe that happened a quarter of a century ago. Man, I feel old! In typical Canadian fashion, our first date took place at a hockey rink, watching the Canucks vs. Philadelphia game. (My husband is a huge Philly fan.) We were fated to be together.

Truth be told, I had the best intentions of writing some end of the year, sum-it-all-up post, but just never seemed to find the time to do it, so this will have to do. I want to thank everyone who has taken the time to leave me comments over the last year-I appreciate it! I want to wish you a happy, healthy, creative 2015 and may we all continue to find ways to make this world a better place.

Here's to 2015-may she be a good one!

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

On The *Really* Small Screen

(Filming at UBC in early October, 2014)

Twice this year, I did some filming for a new medical course that has been in development at the University of British Columbia called the Certificate in Collaborative Practice for Health Professionals . This new course is designed to help health care professionals strengthen communication and collaboration skills in order to enhance patient-centred care. I have been serving on an advisory committee that has been helping in the development of this certificate course, along with several of my fellow Health Mentors over the last year. The work has been both challenging and interesting. What I’ve loved best about it is that I know that the work we are doing is going to have a very positive impact on how health care is delivered in our province. 

Yesterday afternoon, I received an email from the project manager that the video component of the course is finally finished and available for me to view online. While I can't show you the videos, I can share a couple screen shots!

In this module, I talk about some of the aspects of my patient experience and the impact those experiences have had. I had the opportunity to acknowledge what an amazing family doctor I have by sharing how she makes a difference in my life by the way in which she delivers care. When it comes to be patient-focused, she sets the bar exceptionally high. I am extremely lucky to have her as part of my care team.

In this second screen shot, you'll notice I've got new glasses and a new haircut. (This section was shot in early October.) In this module, I am talking about my views on leadership within my health care team. Who the health care team thinks is the leader and who the patient believes it to be can be two very different things.

I think it's so sweet how they have the little orange circle on the screen that says "Learn more about our Lelainia". It's clickable and when you click it, up comes a brief bio:

This course is currently available across British Columbia and I've been told that at some point, it may expand beyond provincial borders. I can't tell you what a tremendous privilege it's been to be a part of the team helping to develop this certificate program. I am incredibly proud of the work we have done so far, but we're not done yet! The work continues with our focus shifting to ethics. Again, very important and interesting conversations are happening. I am learning so much, even as I am lending my own thoughts and experiences to the process. 

When I was watching the finished video clips, I was getting teary just thinking about how this is going to change lives. Advocacy is something I am incredibly passionate about and it just gives me so much pleasure to be able to use my knowledge and skills in such a meaningful way.

Monday, December 08, 2014


I keep forgetting to post about being nominated for a Health Activist Hero award. I was nominated by Lisa of Damsel in a Dress fame. (Thank you Lisa! I am humbled.)

If you would like to endorse (vote for) me, I would love that-if I win, Wego Health will make a donation to the charity of my choice. Voting is open till the end of December. Just so you know, you can only vote once, so it's pretty quick and painless. To vote for me, click here

A heartfelt thank you to the 48 people who have voted for me so far. You guys ROCK!!

Additionally, the blog team of, the Canadian MS Society's blog for younger people who either have have Ms or have a loved one affected by MS has also been nominated for a Best Team Award. I've been writing for since the website's inception almost 4 years ago. If you'd like to take a moment to endorse our team, I'd really appreciate that too. 
You can vote here.

Please feel free to share this post with your networks-the more votes we get, the better the chance that we'll win and the MS Society of Canada and the Guthy-Jackson Foundation will receive donations! 

Saturday, December 06, 2014

5X5 Small Works Exhibition

So some time ago, in 2012, I submitted a piece for my friend Seth Apter's 5X5 project, which followed the publication of his first book, The Pulse of Mixed Media. 75 artists contributed work to the project in a variety of mediums.

All of the art for Seth's 5x5 project is currently on exhibit in Putnam, Connecticut at The Empty Spaces Project. Seth has posted about it in more detail here. The Empty Space Project has a blurb about the exhibit on their website, which is here. I also wanted to share that all of the art is available for purchase. To view the pieces and to purchase, click here.

In the late fall of 2012, Seth's 5x5 project was featured in the November/December issue of Somerset Studios.

My piece was part of that feature. 
Here's a closer look at the 5x5 zine I made:

This piece is also available for purchase. If you're looking for it on Seth's post, it's about 3/4 of the way down.

Congratulations Seth on this wonderful exhibit! 
Here's a peek:

(Photo Credit: Seth Apter)

Pretty darn cool!

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Exciting News!!

So...I have been keeping something very exciting under wraps for just over a month now, but I can finally tell you about it. In September, I applied to be a Community Representative for the Canadian MS Society and I received an email indicating that I'd been accepted as the representative for British Columbia at the end of October. 

A Community Representative is someone who is affected by MS-either they live with MS themselves or have a family member who does. In my case, I lived with an MS diagnosis for 5 years before being re-diagnosed with Neuromyelitis Optica (NMO). I have a number of close friends who have MS and I also have members of my family who live with or have lived with MS as well, so my ties to the MS community run deep. 

Community Representative assess MS research grant applications to ensure ease of comprehension and relevance to MS and offer valuable insight throughout the review process to ensure that research dollars are spent wisely on projects that will have a significant impact on those affected by MS. Each Community Representative spends significant volunteer hours reviewing, evaluating and recommending studies for funding by the Canadian MS Society. 

I have been assigned to the Personnel Awards Review Committee, which is responsible for reviewing Masters, Doctoral and fellowship applications that are involved in both biomedical research and clinical and population health research. This committee is made up of one chair person, ten scientific reviewers (Doctors) and four community representatives. 

Over the next month, I will be working hard on the review process and then in mid-January, I will be flying out to Toronto for a meeting to go over in detail each application our committee has reviewed. 

I am very honoured to have been selected to participate in this process and to have the opportunity to have an impact on the future of MS research in this way. I am really looking forward to working with my committee (I think it will be an excellent fit!) and am excited to learn new things. 

The Canadian MS Society will be posting profiles of each of the Community Representatives on their website soon. If you'd like to learn more about the Canadian MS Society's research program, you can do so by clicking here.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

December Design Sneak Peek #3

Thanks for all the great comments on yesterday's design reveal. Many Paper Artsy stamps really lend themselves to stitchery and I love finding new ways to use what I have.

 My final sneak peek for Paper Artsy for December is this:

The reveal is over here.