Happy New Year Tutu You

I used to have this whole other life. I try not to think about it all that much because I don’t find it particularly helpful or productive to long for the life I loved and lost, but bits and pieces of this other life just pop up now and again.

Sometimes, these bits and pieces take me by surprise and it feels like they belong to someone else. Like yesterday, when in the middle of an organization overhaul I came across a big fat binder labelled “Genetics, Stats and Cell Metabolism” followed by another one labelled “Physiology 1, 2 and Anatomy.” Were those my binders?! Did I really used to know all that stuff?! Weird.

Other times these bits and pieces bring with them memories that are much more heart achingly familiar. Again like yesterday, when amidst the same organization overhaul I opened up a box with a few pairs of old pointe shoes. I should add that in addition to being full of heart achingly familiar memories, this box is also kind of smelly. Even still, those smelly old dance shoes always make me sad because dance was such a huge part of my life for so many years and I really miss it.

Yesterday, though, I felt a little less sad than usual. I actually even smiled!

But of course, before I tell you why I smiled I shall ramble on for a while with some back story. Pretty sure you know the drill by now!

I grew up dancing. I started taking ballet classes when I was four years old with my best buddy.

I am third from the left with the jellybean tummy and hyper-extended knee…hello early signs of EDS! We were frogs, by the way. A few years later we were bluebirds…I would like to note that I have very clear memories of our mothers posing us for that picture and I’m not sure what they were thinking either.

The older I got the more classes I took…and the more brightly coloured spandex costumes I acquired. As a teenager I started teaching dance. I seriously loved my job, and one of my favourite classes to teach was baby ballet for 3 and 4 year olds. Baby ballet is all about imagination. It was chaotic but also a lot of fun! Plus the little ones always wore the cutest outfits and said the silliest things.

Now, you probably already know this, but I love to crochet. I love it because I’m fairly certain that it keeps me sane, but also for many other reasons that I will write about another time. I don’t have a favourite thing to make, though one thing I always enjoy making is a tutu! Why yes, you can crochet a tutu. Every time I make one I spend a few minutes just bouncing the skirt up and down and watching the ruffles dance. Following this delight, I always say that if I still taught baby ballet I would make tutus for all my little ballerinas as well as one for myself because how much fun would that be? And then I follow that up by thinking about how sad I am that I can’t teach dance anymore and thus have no need for a tutu.

Last time I made a tutu, though, I had a new thought…I thought well why not? Why do I have to be a ballet teacher to wear a tutu? Why can’t I still make myself one?

And so I did! I made a Catherine-sized tutu!


Safety warning: Make-shift self-timer photo shoots may cause tachycardia, dizziness and shortness of breath. Attempt with caution.

Besides being fun, my tutu is also very wise. When things aren’t going my way, my tutu tells me that I can make my own magic. When I’m worn out and tired of this life, it reminds me that I can still sparkle. When I feel powerless, it encourages me to stand up for myself, even if it means ruffling a few feathers. And when I feel like I’m 24 going on 80, trapped inside this falling apart body, my tutu assures me that there is still a silly, whimsical little girl inside of me.

So when I came across my old dance shoes yesterday I smiled because now I have a tutu. It doesn’t make up for the fact that I can’t dance anymore, but when I miss the whole other life I used to have, the whole other me I used to be, it reminds me that I can still make the best of the life that I have now. Even though nothing around me changes, life just seems a little bit brighter when I put on my tutu. “Ahhh young whippersnapper,” my tutu says, “the way you see the world is up to you.”

And isn’t that such a great reminder as we find ourselves at the start of brand New Year?

We can’t change the past, we have no idea what is going to happen in the future, and we can’t even control everything that is going on right now. We can, however, control how we deal with right now. We have the power to choose to see the best in things and to make the best of things. We can sparkle. We can make magic for ourselves. We can sparkle and make magic for each other, too.

So whether you make grand resolutions or not, whether the end of 2015 finds you struggling or succeeding, and whether you’re hopeful or hesitant about the year to come, my New Year’s wish for you is that now and again in 2016 you make time for a little silliness and whimsy, and that you let yourself sparkle because I believe the world is a better place with your magic in it.

Happy New Year tutu you!


Six years sick: I would rather have a dragon

Tomorrow is kind of a significant day for me. For one, it’s Thanksgiving (we Canadians know that October is in fact the right month in which to celebrate Thanksgiving!), but it’s also six years to the day since I first got sick. Six years since I entered the world of chronic illness and became a spoonie.


Two years ago, October 11 was my would-be university convocation day and I was stuck in bed with a tube up my nose and down my throat so that was pretty terrible. Last year on October 11, I was less than two weeks into a five and a half week hospital admission so I was pretty miserable then, too.

And this year? Well, I’m not where I hoped I’d be. This time last year, I expected that things now would be better than they are, but still, things are better now than they were then. That’s super ambiguous, so let me try to clear that up for you. I can summarize where I’m at after being sick for six years in one sentence…

I would rather have a dragon.

The end.

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Not the end.

Okay so several weeks ago I had this text conversation with my friend in Saskatoon, Tabrez.

Tabrez: Would you rather have a dragon or be a dragon?

Me: Hm. Are other people dragons? Could I still talk and effectively communicate with people? Would I still be sick if I were a dragon?

(Apparently I didn’t answer properly…)

Tabrez: Annnndddd this isn’t a game I can play with Catherine. LOL.

Me: Sorrryyy. I pick have a dragon unless it means that I wouldn’t be sick anymore then I would consider being a dragon.

It’s probably not news to you that I like to analyze, and in many cases over-analyze, things, so you’re probably not surprised to know that over the next few days I gave that question a lot of thought. Before I could make my decision there were a lot of logistics to consider!

I wondered whether or not people would still know the dragon was me…if I would keep my memories upon becoming a dragon…if I would turn into a dragon now or if I would have been one my whole life…and of course none of these questions had answers because it was just a random game and reality and logic were never meant to be part of the equation.

But of course I kept thinking about it, and the more I thought about it, the less appealing being a dragon seemed. I figured if I were a dragon I likely would have been one my whole life so I wouldn’t even be me…I’d be a 24 year old dragon who had lived 24 dragon years doing whatever it is that dragons do. But even if that weren’t the case, even if it worked out so that I magically turned into a dragon and was still me just now in dragon form, I figured I probably wouldn’t get to talk to my family and friends anymore. I would maybe be allowed to live in the backyard but definitely wouldn’t be allowed inside the house. And I don’t know too much about dragon anatomy, but I kind of picture dragon arms like T-rex arms and that means that crocheting would probably be out of the question. Being a dragon was not looking like a good time, but I kept coming back to one question.

Would I still be sick?

So really, this is what it came down to: would I give up everything about my life for the chance to not be sick? Put that way? The answer is easy.

No. No, I would not give up everything about my life for the chance to not be sick.

Having a chronic illness is awful. Life with a chronic illness can be terrible, lonely, hopeless, disgusting, traumatic, and so many other negative adjectives. But those adjectives describe my life with an illness.

They do not describe my life. My entire life is not awful. It’s not terrible, lonely, hopeless, disgusting or traumatic. Because my life is more than just my illness. And for all of the awful things I’ve gone through and the terrible moments I face every single day, I’ve also been witness to an incredible amount of goodness. I have encountered so many wonderful people, people who have made me laugh, showed me compassion, and gone out of their way to make my day a little brighter and my life a little easier. I have had people reach out to me and help me in my most vulnerable moments, and I’ve had the opportunity to reach out to other people and be there for them in those moments of their own. That incredible amount of goodness has brought with it the most authentically beautiful side of humanity.

I have been discouraged, demoralized, and pushed aside, but I’ve also been empowered, uplifted and inspired. I’ve been poked, prodded and cut into, but I’ve also been treated with care and concern and have been held together when I’ve otherwise been falling apart. I’ve felt lonely and isolated, but I’ve also never been closer to my loved ones than I am now. I’ve found myself headed in the wrong direction more times than I count, but I’ve always managed to turn myself around again. I have experienced all of this because I’ve been sick, but also because I’m human. As far as I know, dragons don’t have these same experiences.

Being sick has changed me. It’s changed my family and my friendships. It’s changed my values and my perspectives. It’s changed my goals and my interests, my worries and my fears. And all of this change? It’s not all for the worse. Some of it’s for the better.

If I could snap my fingers and not be sick anymore but still be me, absolutely I would do it. The thing is, that’s not realistic.

Why don’t we look at a more realistic situation…the dragon situation, of course. If I had the choice between being a dragon and having a dragon, I wouldn’t want to be a dragon. I would not change everything about my life, everything about me, for the chance to not be sick.

So like I said, I can summarize where I’m at after six years sick in one sentence.

I would rather have a dragon.


Hugs from a cloud with a touch of life perspective

This post is inspired by my new towels.

You might be thinking, “Alright she has really lost her marbles this time,” but that’s just not the case. First of all, I don’t think I’ve ever owned any marbles thus I have no marbles to lose. And if it’s my sanity you are worried about, does this really look like the face of someone who’s going a little crazy?

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I didn’t think so.

Sooo where was I?

New towels.

I got some new towels for my birthday last week. I didn’t ask for towels, not because I didn’t want them but because I didn’t know what I wanted. It turns out that new towels ended up being one of the most exciting gifts I’ve ever received!

Unlike the old, mismatched and slightly scratchy towels I’d been using, these new towels are awesome! I was feeling very grown up as I started pulling towels out of the gift bag…hand towel, face cloth, bath mat, larger-than-a-hand-towel-but-not-too-large-perfect-for-wrapping-up-wet-hair towel…and then there was one more. I held a large towel in my hands and became very confused.

”What is this one for?”

“It’s a bath sheet.”

“But what do I do with it?”

“It’s a towel. Like a towel-towel. Like for showers.”

Before you start to think that I’m just the most clued out person ever, you should know that I’ve never had my own ‘bath sheet’ before. (Side note: who knew that those large towels were even called bath sheets?) You see, for as long as I can remember I’ve used beach towels. When I was growing up we all used beach towels for showers because you could buy large, inexpensive and relatively sturdy beach towels at Costco in a variety of fun patterns, perfect for three kids who shared a bathroom and didn’t want to get their towels mixed up.

That’s just how we did it. I so clearly remember being the first kid home one day when my mom had bought us all new towels and getting first pick (I am the youngest child so getting first pick was very exciting)! In fact, just a few weeks ago I noticed that my towel was getting scratchy and I’ve been meaning to ask my mom to pick me up a new one next time she was at Costco. As I said, beach towels are just what I know.

So when I pulled out the bath sheet I didn’t know what to do with it. It seems silly now but it never occurred to me that I could use anything other than a beach towel.

It never occurred to me that there was another way.

Before I continue I just want to say that my new towels are absolutely delightful! It’s like being hugged by a cloud. I’m not talking about real clouds…the large collections of tiny droplets of water or ice crystals…I’m talking about fluffy and trampoline-like clouds, the kind that I dreamed about jumping on as a kid. My old towel has a fun pattern, but look how sophisticated my new bath sheet is! (By the way the wine glass is just to emphasize the level of sophistication.)

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Energized by the awesomeness of my new towels, I started to wonder about my routines and my habits…how many times have I done something a certain way just because it never occurred to me there was another way to do it? I love a good routine as much as the next person. Truthfully, I probably love a good routine more than the next person; I’m a big fan of tradition and not a big fan of change.

But sometimes change is a good thing! Sometimes an open mind or a willingness to try something new is worth it.

When my sister graduated from a crib to a real bed (and just in case there is any confusion this is not a recent event but one that happened before I was even born!) she didn’t know she could get out of it on her own. After she woke up she would call for my mom to come take her out of bed because she just assumed she was stuck in bed like she had been stuck in her crib.


Aside from Natasha being a cute toddler and aside from this being a cute anecdote, this story has a point. She was stuck in bed because of boundaries that didn’t even exist. How often do we limit ourselves by never bothering to find out if the barriers holding us back are even real or not? My first word was “uh-oh” and my nickname is Careful so I’m all for being cautious, but sometimes taking a chance and venturing over the edge of the bed is worth it.

I don’t want to be stuck in bed and I don’t want to go through the rest of my life using a beach towel instead of a bath sheet. Literally and figuratively.

In case I haven’t said it enough times already, my new towels are awesome. And I want as much awesomeness in my life as possible which means keeping an open mind and being willing to do some things differently from how I’ve always done them. I’m grateful for my new cloud-hugging towels, but I’m also really appreciative for the reminder and encouragement to let go of what I know and try something new. Different isn’t always scary. Sometimes it’s fun. Sometimes it’s eye-opening. Sometimes it’s freeing.

And sometimes it’s awesome.

You know what else is awesome? My new towels. Alright I’m done now!