Thursday, January 30, 2014

A Book Review!

I'm a big reader. Last year I read 40 books. In 2012 I competed with my dad to see who could read the most. I finished with 63, beating him by a single book. I'm glad I didn't compete with him last year as he set a new personal record - reading 89 books by the year's end - the most he's read in a year since he started keeping track.

I'm not in the same competition this year although my dad and I always compare our lists when we Skype each weekend. We summarise where we're at, what we're reading currently and what we have coming up.

This regular chat we have is something I love and it got me thinking. I would say probably every fifth or sixth book I read is so incredibly influential that I want to share it with my parents and anyone else willing to listen. Anyone who knows me knows I won't shut up when I've read something particularly good.

So I'm always looking for stuff to write about in this blog and it occurred to me: Why not book reviews?!

What a great way to share something I've discovered!

To start off I'm going to review the first book I finished reading in the New Year:

My Stroke of Insight by Jill Bolte Taylor

Bolte Taylor is a neuroscientist, inspired to study the brain after her brother was diagnosed as schizophrenic. 

At 37 she suffered a massive stroke on the left hemisphere of her brain. As a brain scientist she grew very curious about her experience and she attributes her recovery to her knowledge and understanding of the brain's elasticity and ability to create new neural pathways when old ones have been damaged or destroyed. 

I don't want to reveal any spoilers so that's all I'll tell you about the contents. 

I love this book. I love this book so much I'll probably re-read it this year. I love this book so much people who know me will probably soon own their own copies. That's how amazing I found it. 

As someone who meditates I believe very strongly in the power of the mind and the present moment. I have done Cognitive Behaviour Therapy with my psychologist and believe wholeheartedly that working to change habitual thoughts patterns does change how we feel about and respond to life. 

Bolte Taylor's writing confirms all of this and shares it in language that's easy to understand. Reading the experience of someone who has medical training on how the brain works is both fascinating and affirming. The way she breaks down the role each hemisphere plays and how they communicate together is wonderful. Her subsequent revelations based on the experience of 'reconnecting' that communication opened my own mind to new ways of thinking. 

I feel her most profound revelation was that we control our brains, rather than the other way around. This was a discovery she didn't make as a brain scientist but as a stroke patient in recovery. As a result she has developed some incredible tools to ensure a sense of happiness and wellbeing and discourage negative patterns of thought.   

I have been using some of the tools she describes to work with my own thoughts, with profound results. Her insight is incredible and I'm extremely grateful to her for sharing her story. I appreciate that she shared it largely to assist people in recovering from or supporting someone recovering from a stroke, but I think it would be beneficial to anyone willing and interested in working with their mind.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014


This is going to be a very short but very exciting blog post:
My Website redesign is done!!!

Go check it out and please share far and wide! As a Creative Specialist I rely quite a lot on word-of-mouth for the work I do. So if you're one of the lucky owners of a pair of shoes on my site or you're a small business I've done a logo for, please let your friends and family know about the source!

I appreciate it hugely!

Thank you!

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

The talented Ms. Michaelson - Kait's Mixtape

I first discovered Ingrid Michaelson entirely by accident. I mis-clicked when downloading.

What a fortuitous mis-purchase it was as I quickly fell in love with her lyrics, musical talent and voice. She is an incredibly talented woman, able to play a multitude of different instruments from piano to guitar to ukelele and many more. Her voice is rich and tells the story of her lyrics beautifully.

But it is her lyrics that resonate with me the most. From the sensible and helpful 'Keep Breathing' to the empowering moving on lyrics of 'Starting Now', there are few songs of hers which haven't at some point graced my OCD playlist. One, 'The Chain', was on the aforementioned playlist for well over a year and has recently made a reappearance as I always understood the lyrics but was recently living them.

Choosing just one of her lyrics to turn into a typographical bit of artwork was rather difficult as so many of them speak to me. In the end I chose a song which has acted as a therapeutic anthem for me last year.

Ingrid Michaelson
'Sort Of'

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Hair as Art

When I was fourteen I asked my mum what she would think if I coloured my hair blue.

"Do I have to pay for it?" she asked.

"No," I told her.

"Then knock yourself out."

I don't think she expected I'd become quite so committed to colourful hair, keeping it blue nearly solidly for the next four years. I mixed it up occasionally by shaving my head entirely but as soon as it was long enough again I'd have it bleached and put the colour back in.

When I was eighteen I mixed it up by doing my hair rainbow for Pride celebrations. This soon became an annual style - applied just in time for my birthday on the 1st of May and up kept until mid-July, at which point the incredible maintenance of keeping six colours in my hair would be just way too much.

The rainbow! 
Generally the blue was my 'natural' colour from the unnatural selection, but I saw my hair as yet another material to use when expressing myself creatively. It's been hot pink, green for Christmas, black for Hallowe'en, and red just to use up some excess dye.

One of the last combos I did was blue with a pink strip down one side of my faux hawk, the hairstyle I've sported almost exclusively since 2003. I called this 'My Little Pony' hair and it was this colour I had in my hair last when I began growing out the roots in preparation for moving to London.

Gotta get it nearly white
before putting dye in. 
I've never had a challenge getting a job with my hair coloured. I can guarantee it was not my natural dark brown when I applied for any of the jobs I've had since graduation, but something told me it would be a good idea to have natural hair for my job search in London. I knew it was going to be challenge enough getting work given none of my experience was in the UK and all my references were a seven hour time difference away.

Just before my move I had my hair cut so all the colour was gone. I was also the proud owner of a rat tail, which my best friend snipped off much to the relief of pretty much everyone who knew me.

Within two months I was working at Pancreatic Cancer UK, where I would remain for the next two and a half years. A few weeks into working there I ran the idea of colouring my hair by the CEO and was told she wasn't comfortable with it. I felt a bit odd without colourful hair but I respected her request and carried on.

Four years later and I have a job where there is no concern about the colour of my hair - or clothes or anything else for that matter. Having felt that not colouring my hair hadn't been my choice, I decided to give it a go over the holidays, reviving the My Little Pony look.

Ran out of gloves…
couldn't be bothered to go buy new ones.
I was so excited to have my bright hair back! To play with the canvas on my head and experiment once again! Until it was done…

As I towelled my head dry after washing the dye out with ice cold water and conditioner, I remembered just how much work it is to upkeep the colour.

I miss my brown hair. I miss washing my head with hot water every day. And I no longer identify with brightly coloured hair - as much fun as it is.

It's interesting to look back and see how I've changed and grown. There was a time when, if asked to list what made me me, I would have indisputably included blue or rainbow hair.

What I find most refreshing about this discovery is how comfortable I am with letting go of something I'd always felt defined me. I think it was Leonard Cohen who said, "The less there is of me, the happier I am."

There's something very rewarding about not holding on so tightly to how I think I should or shouldn't be or something I feel defines who I am.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014


I did my best to use my time in Canada over Christmas as a proper break. I cleared up all my freelance work and made sure I didn't have any personal projects hanging (My website doesn't count and yes, I know it's still not working and I promise I will be sorting that out in the next few weeks - by end of February at the latest) and I could use the sixteen days to decompress. 

I did, however, have one project that came up as a friend of mine is getting married this year and she requested a custom cake topper for the wedding. I was happy to accommodate and my parents kindly picked up some polymer clay for me to get this project done with. 

My brother came around one evening while I was working on the cake toppers and was struck with an idea which he later texted me about. "Could you make a Kerbal?" 

For those of you who are not uber nerds, Kerbals are these little people that live on Kerbin, which is a made-up planet in a space launch computer game. They're quite cute and when a player launches their rocket they can see the expression of the Kerbal aboard in the lower right hand corner of the screen - which acts as a gauge to how successful the launch will be. Unless it's a dumb Kerbal, in which case they always have a look of general glee on their faces, even if the rocket they're riding is about to explode mid-launch. 

So I made my brother one of these rather oblivious Kerbals. It was good fun as they're a great shape for polymer clay. There was no worry about the legs being too weak or the structure collapsing during the baking process. 

He was chuffed. 

My polymer Kerbal!

Thursday, January 9, 2014

lynbree Photography

Last year I had the great privilege of working on two logos for one client. One was for a community support organisation for the trans community in Calgary (More of that in a future post - I promise) and the other was a logo for their photography business.

Both were very fun projects and the client was so happy with the logo designs that they requested a website design too. Now, I am NOT a web designer. I don't do code and probably never will. My own site is a complete WYSIWYG set-up and that suits me just fine - but it still requires a bit of work. I told this client about the provider I use and they requested a site built by me via the provider.

This was a lot of fun to work on and a lot of it also involved Skype tutorials to help my client gain confidence in using the platform so they can manage their own site. In the end they were extremely happy with what they were able to make and whilst I designed many of the headers as well as the watermark and logo, they really did take the site and make it totally their own.

The client has since launched the site and it's great to see them so happy with the tools they have to promote their fantastic photography. 

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

London Journal - 4 years

Today is the fourth anniversary of my arrival in London. I'm pretty tired as I write this due to jet lag and moving house the day after my return from Canada, so apologies if this entry seems a little uninspired. I've had a pretty full-on weekend.

Four years ago my arrival was marked with much the same curiosity, apprehension and excitement as it is now. I'm in a new home, establishing my own safe space, re-establishing the friendship I have with myself and focussing on the moment as much as possible. Just waiting to see what will happen next and remaining open to possibilities.

I have a few plans for the month, including a revamp of my website. To anyone who has had problems with images loading: I know. It's because it's mid-redesign and the site builder I use doesn't 'remember' anything that's been shuffled around.

I'm not setting myself hard deadlines at the moment unless I'm doing client work. This is mostly to allow me time to de-stress and disentangle. Work is a nice routine and I welcome it as a way to focus my mind.

I have a different direction I'd like to take the freelance side of what I do. Having a full-time job definitely gives me the freedom to explore my art without pressure to 'make money'.
The Rockies - I can't look at them without
feeling like I'm home.

While I was in Canada my mum organized a private book signing amongst friends and family. The most common question was: "When is the next one coming out?" so I've also been considering which manuscript to tackle next in preparation for publication.

I'm not sure enough yet to give a specific date but I'm feeling a r
enewed sense of energy now that my living situation is sorted.

I have a few things yet to do to set the space up suitably, but it already feels like home. The concept of which has been changing greatly. I believe that home is very much a space residing within us. When we are at home we are comfortable, safe and at peace with ourselves as we are - warts and all.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

First entry of 2014 - Kait's Mixtape

'Make a Noise' - Katie Herzig

While every day is an opportunity to grow and learn I do feel that 2013 was a particularly intense year of growth for me. There has been a significant shift in my understanding of life, the world and what it means to be content. I went from intellectually 'getting' a lot of things to actually knowing them on a deep gut level.

I'm starting to understand that I can be there for others and for myself without having to 'fix' anything. 

I definitely understand what it means to drop the story-line, to let go of 'me' vs. 'them'. 

And I get it when I hear a saying like, "Love the life you're living". 

In keeping with my usual tradition I'm setting myself some annual goals. Not resolutions but targets. Things to accomplish over the next twelve months.

One is to maintain and increase my daily meditation practice and generally explore the teachings of the Dharma further.
In the last year I've finally begun to understand applications vs. technique. The difference between comprehension and inherently knowing. I no longer look at meditation as something I should do because I know it helps but something I am eager to do because I so love being present and the sense of calm and contentment it brings me no matter what my circumstances.

Another is to continue my design education. 
I am so fortunate to love what I do and who I work with. To have an incredible manager and team is delightful and the opportunities open to me right now are going to be so beneficial no matter what the future holds. I also appreciate the time I have for my freelance work as and when it suits me, to be able to build upon my portfolio.

The last goal of the year is to travel. 
I have always intended to return to Canada sometime in my 30th year. I have no hard and fast plans (I'm re-learning how to be comfortable with uncertainty in my future.) but I do know that some time in 2015 I'll be living back in Canada. Between now and then I'd like to see as much of Europe as I can considering that was one of the original reasons I moved to London. Up until now I've found myself spending my travel money on far more elaborate and far-reaching trips, like Thailand and Japan, because these were places I simply couldn't have afforded to get to when I was living in Canada. But with Europe at my fingertips and a stable job and quite a few days holiday available, now seems the time to take advantage.

Life really is a series of never-ending lessons. Some we will relearn or come to understand differently as we grow older and our experiences change the way we see the world. Others will seem profound at one time and foolish later on. But one lesson I've learned feels like it will stay strong and true throughout my life.

Life is made for living and no one is going to do that for you. We can sit around and wait for things to happen or we can go out and make them happen. There are always going to be trials and tribulations, the rug will always be pulled out from under us and none of us will ever reach a point where everything is 'okay' so it's better to do things now than when we think we'll be 'ready'.

No matter the weather, no matter the turmoil in our relationships or the stability of our work or living situations - life is about participation.

Don't ignore your dreams. Let them out. By letting them out they become ideas and ideas become goals and goals become achievements.

May you have a year of great achievement - no matter what you decide to do with it.