Here there be dragons...

"I'm telling you stories. Trust me." - Winterson

The world lost a bright light today.

Zara Mathilde Buren: January 10, 2006- September 21, 2020

Today...   Today meditation didn't stand a chance.  Yesterday's meditation was about breath -- I get that one, even if I didn't love the way it was done.  Today's was about "feel the room".  Nope, don't get it, and honestly, too destroyed by the world to try.

Yesterday, Sabrina and her 14 year old daughter, Zara, went out for a hack.  Both accomplished riders, so what a perfect way to spend a fall evening.   They were on a path they didn't know, and Zara's horse got stuck.   Like any good horsewoman, she dismounted to give her horse a better chance at getting free.  Unfortunately, she herself ended up submerged.  They got her out and rushed to the hospital, but it was too late.  This beautiful inside and out, vivacious, friendly young girl lost her life.   In her mother's words "My darling Zara saved her horse's life and sacrificed her own.  We shall be forever proud of her selfless love for the animals in her care."

I don't claim to be close to the family.  Sabrina and I used to ride together -- more years ago than either of us would care to admit -- and I remember her being pregnant with Chloe, Zara's older sister.   We reconnected a couple years ago when Zara and I were riding at the same farm.  I got to know Zara then as an individual, rather than the continuation of her mother's story.  And she was one of those kids that you were just happy to be around.  And she was all in for the riding thing -- I guess part of me will always connect with kids like that, because I was that kid for whom any barn time is good time.  Although I was not nearly as accomplished as she was at the same age!

Somehow though the news just destroyed me.  I can't even imagine what her mom (and dad, and sister) are going through.  They say the brightest flames burn the fastest, but this... This was too fast.   How such a perfect night, turned so unbelievably horrid.  

So yeah, suffice to say, today's meditation did not go as planned.

For any interested, the family has asked that in lieu of flowers, a donation be made in Zara's name to the Oakville Humane Society:

7 Days of Meditation - Day 1

Right, so I'm not convinced I'll write every day, but I figured I should at least do days 1 and 7...

So Day 1…

I decided to do between work and home as a transition….  Good in theory, but it turns out when I’m done work I want to move straight into home.  I like home.  I don’t want a 12 minute delay!  Lol so I’ll rethink that approach tomorrow.  

The meditation itself was a much better pace than the one I tried last week.   I’m going to say I felt moderately calmer after, without feeling tired or lazy, so that was good.  For stress relief my noon trip to the gym to punch things was, admittedly, far more effective.  It was also more effective as an energy boost.  But for just plain stop my brain from spinning, the 12 minutes of beginner meditation did reasonably well…

I did the vast majority with my eyes closed, but I also found eyes open but focused on the leaves of the tree outside my window seemed to work.  At which point I wondered if there was a VR app that would give things to look at?  And then questioned if you need a VR app are you actually meditating or does it defeat the purpose?

lol so after my 12 mins were up, I googled.  There *is* a free VR app for my Quest and it does guided meditation only instead of eyes closed, you're immersed in a world of slowly moving shapes and colours.   I didn't actually do the whole thing, just signed in to see what it was.  May try it out after day 7.  Was more just amused that it exists.

That being said, I used a sleep one last night, and both fell asleep faster and then slept like the dead.  Not sure that wasn't a fluke, but still woke up more alive this am than I have in a long time.   To be fair, I've tried it before with less effective results, so the fluke possibility is strong.  But we shall see.  That is definitely not an every night thing.

On to Day 2...

Embroidery - Take 1


1st Attempt at Embroidery

So I gave my first attempt at embroidery this weekend.  Pattern is by Jess Wariorka -- I changed some colours and a couple minor details, but in general followed what was recommended.  It's officially intermediate level, but I'm not sure why as it only required two stitches (although there are four shown here).

So lessons learned:
- first, and definitely most important, pre-wash the fabric!   Super frustrating how puckery it got after only rinsing in cold wanter :( 
- it is much faster than cross stitch, but requires more work to set up and more executive input/competence re design.  With cross stitch, if you follow the pattern, you're likely to end up with something nearly identical to the original, regardless of skill level.  With this, there's a significantly greater margin for error.
- I *loved* all the fabric options and was sad that for this one plain white really was the only good choice
- I liked the fabric much better, but found it far more frustrating to deal with the threads as I couldn't travel (it shows through) or tie off (causes bumps).  Finishing strands was no problem, but starting was a pita.

Overall I found it more frustrating and less satisfying than cross stitch, but I do love the end result.  I've found far fewer (and by that I mean zero to date) other patterns I want to do -- so the market for what appeals to me is clearly not there.  But I will keep an eye out and may try another one at some point, for variety sake if anything.   Would love to do one on a fun colour :).  But so far, tons of cross stitch either on my to-do list or waiting in my wish list for me to decide what's next, but none of these...

Anyways - it's not perfect, but I think not too bad for a first effort.  Going to deem this a 2020 win; have to take them where we can find them!

I want to be in the moment, just not this moment. Like a moment when I'm on a warm beach...


I've been doing a fair bit of reading and decided it would probably be a good life-choice to try to learn basic meditation. Now I'm a big fan of silence, so I figure that was step one.  I also have multiple projects on the go atm (who's surprised by this?  No one?  Really? ;) and figure anything that can boost brain power to support is likely a good plan.

Okay so step one -- meditation apps for people who don't like to meditate ;).  Surprisingly (or maybe not so much) there are a number of blog posts dedicated to this theme.   Now I'm committed to this to the tune of $0, so I quickly ignored any that required payment for any reasonable amount of access.  So the one I liked best, all the content I was interested in was locked *sigh*.  And locked to the tune of $60/day -- for something I'm not sure will last a week.  Hard no.

So I found two apps that have reasonable content for free; one I really liked at first, but once I got in I was lost and didn't know how to find anything interesting.  And of course the few interesting things I did manage to stumble on, were locked.

The other isn't nearly as appealing a UI, but seems to have lots of free content, and better yet: "courses".  Lol we have a winner.

Then time of day -- I actually want to do it mid-day, cause that's when I struggle for quiet brain.  First thing in the morning I'm not really awake so "success" (whatever that means) would be somewhat arbitrary, while at night I actually use some of the techniques already to fall asleep.  But my new objective is calm without sleep -- and I definitely don't want to do anything to interfere with my hard-won sleep.

Alright, so now that I've made it as hard as possible, I decided before diving into a course, I'd try a random beginner one.  6 minutes -- how hard can 6 minutes be?  

OMG it was the longest 6 minutes.  I swear it would've past faster in plank position.  The woman was speaking sooooo slooowwwly....   And with pauses that make William Shatner sound like he's on speed.  But honestly, I might've been better to just set a 6 min timer and sit quietly ;). At least that wouldn't have annoyed me.

That was Thurs.  It was so painful, I couldn't bring myself to repeat it on Fri.  And then, well, weekends off of course ;).  That being said, they have a ton of "coaches" and do suggest trying multiple to find one that suits.  So could just be a fit issue.  Or could be a "I have 800 other things that I could be doing right now" issue ;).  Which, to be fair, is kinda the point.

There's a 7 day 101 course that I'll try starting...   Um probably Monday.  12 minutes a day.  Right.  Wish me luck.  I'll post an update next week with how it went ;)

PS - in searching for an image to include, I just found a "2 Minute Meditation for Bitches Who Don't Meditate" lol I think I found my yogi.  I will start there tomorrow :)   Then the 7 days can legit start on Monday.

Escape from reality

So I got to escape to the cottage for a few days and it was amazing.  Sasha did *all* the running around with multiple walks, swims, and ball/squirrel chasing excursions each day.

One thing I got to try for the first time was paddle boarding.  I've wanted to try it for quite some time, but wasn't sure I'd enjoy it.  Mostly cause I feel like I should enjoy canoeing and kayaking, but I don't actually like either.  But this one for some reason I really enjoyed.  There were no boats out, so the lake was still and quiet; it was so peaceful.  I kinda wanted to just paddle out to the middle and lie down and float for a while to soak up the quiet.  The best was when a duck paddled alongside me for a while.  

Super relaxing

And then, to balance it out, I went sea-dooing ;).  Always good to top off some relaxation with some adrenaline.  I have done that before, but not since I was a teenager.  And again, with nobody on the lake, we could really enjoy :).  Even managed to get some air time skipping over Linda's wake :)

So yeah, All the Fun.

Sad that summer's over, and wasn't nearly long enough a vacation, but was still a really excellent refresh :)

And I was super-pleased to see the Candy Store has so far survived COVID and was open for business; my annual allotment of Jelly Tots has been secured.  Important things in life.

Sasha was absolutely exhausted on the ride home

Cause the Spanish language isn't fast enough...

So was moderately amused the other day in my Spanish lesson when my prof opened up a youtube video and went to the speed selection -- I, naively, thought he was going to show me how to slow the native speakers down so I'd have a hope at understanding (which I acknowledge is an option I may have utilized previously ;). But no, no that was not his intent at all.  Instead, he SPEEDS THEM UP!  Wtf?!?!  Spanish is already the second fastest common language in the world, but sure, let's make it faster. lol.  I have to give him credit though - it was an interesting exercise.  He wanted me to just pick out any words I could -- apparently even one would be acceptable.  The like five I came up with was a shocker ;).  We repeated it a couple times then he slowed it down to 1.5x normal and I got a few more.  By the time we got to normal speed I had enough to figure out context.  Admittedly not an exercise that's super-useful on my own as it requires somebody who can actually understand it to identify if the words I think I hear are actually there, but still good.


I've also discovered that SO many of my DVDs and BluRays have a Spanish option :). This is particularly awesome for animated movies where the misaligned speaking (which generally drives me insane) doesn't matter at all.  So I've been playing with that and have to say I have a HUGE respect for the translators dealing w musicals.  Lol not only do they have to translate, but also in a rhythm and rhyme that works with the English songs.  Now to be fair, I have no idea how much of these I'm "understanding" because I already have the movies memorized.  I may or may not rewatch favourites on a regular basis.  But I'm getting enough to acknowledge that the meaning if not the literal translation are generally pretty close to the original.  For instance, Be Our Guest was moderately amusing in Spanish as "Guest" has 3 syllables in Spanish so credit to the translators on that one.  No closed captioning with this option though, so I’m thinking my knowledge of the story helps balance out the fact that I can’t read to cheat ;).  With stories I don’t already know, I definitely still need the text option to get anything more than the gist.  Ah well.


I also learned how much I generally just listen to movies I already know.  Was watching Anastasia in Spanish and paying much closer attention than normal; SO many details on screen that add to the story that I’d long since forgotten.   But when you don’t really understand the words, any hints help ;).  


The challenge continues…. 

Embrace your inner unicorn


Theme for the day

Long time readers of this blog, or people who actually know me in person, will know that when I get bored or frustrated with life, dramatic change is generally my thing ;).  That being said, dramatic change is a lot harder when one has to consider one's husband and is taking place the midst of a global pandemic.  So what I *really* wanted to do, like finding a job in Spain so I can learn and apply Spanish, is not actually feasible at this time.  Said husband is enrolled in school and can't just pick up and move, and well, global pandemic -- nobody can just pick up and move.  Lol and realistically, even if I could, there are few places with as low numbers as Canada atm, so I'd probably just prefer to stay here.

I *am* going to be doing my MBA, so that will likely take up most of my time, but that hasn't started yet and because I know it's going to take much of my time, I'm disinclined to find a new hobby to amuse myself.  So....  Other options...

The photo that started it all

Back about when the pandemic started I saw this (or a photo very similar) and absolutely loved it.  And my hair is super long these days, so why not...   Well, firstly, job interviews.  *sigh*. I work in just about the most traditional industry ever and I very much want to find a more challenging job (sooner than later). Which means interviews.  And while hair colour should not play a role in people's decision making...  People are human, and it just might.   So I didn't seriously consider following up on it.   And then pandemic -- everything closed and I couldn't follow up on it even if I wanted to.

But then things started to open up again and I realized A - the job market is dead, so odds of many interviews are slim.  AND, B - due to pandemic work-from-home conditions, even if I do manage to get an interview, it will be via video conference and thus I could tie my hair back and have it be very not-obvious that it was dramatically coloured.  Win.

So off I go on my quest.  Call my favourite salon and get "that's stunning, but we don't do that here."   Second choice salon, similar answer.   Insert sad Lauren here :(.  

Fail.  So I ask Kennedy, who almost always has fun coloured hair, if she has any suggestions and she did!  Win :).  And one of them was in Oakville - extra win.   Less than 10 mins from my house.   I scroll that shop's Facebook and see ALL the colours.  lol and admittedly many are not to my taste, but many are gorgeous.  Sweet.  

Contact the shop (Beloved Hair Studio) and they say yes absolutely they can do it, but it will depend on my hair and they need to see me first.  So we arrange for a free consult and in I go.  To sad news -- there's no way they can do it on my hair.  Too much red for the colour to be accurate and too fine to bleach to the degree required to get rid of all the red.  Sad. 

But, I had plan B.   lol I had screen shotted (is that a word?) the images on their site I liked best that were not just variations of red (don't get me wrong, I *loved* some of those, but the idea was change), and asked if any of those were possible.   And Yes!  Woohoo!  Most were.  The general rule seemed to be no blue -- but turquoise might be okay...  hmmmm that's fine, I like turquoise.

So price discussed (yeah birthday money from Mum and Dad! ;) and appointment booked for...  I think it was about 3 weeks out.   Book the time off work and wait.

And wait.

But life's busy so it wasn't toooooo bad a wait.  

Although getting through a particularly aggravating morning at work the day of the appointment was definitely a challenge.   But I made it.

I was told that due to covid they couldn't serve food or drinks so make sure I bring something as it would be 4-6 hours.

The shop was small but super-cute, spotless, and very bright.  We had a quick chat about what we were going to do and then headed downstairs to the basement.  Underground but somehow still very bright and cheery.

One wall of the downstairs

I was the only client due to covid restrictions so felt very spoiled :).  And a little like hanging out a girlfriend's place for the afternoon.  A girlfriend who happens to be *very* skilled with hair dye and colours ;). And whom I'd only met once before for the consult.

So decision time; we chatted about what I wanted to happen (dark purple on top, blending purple/pink the rest, and - in a perfect world, with a subtle turquoise flip that you could only really see if my was pulled forward.  This last piece I saw in one of her pics online and fell in love with).   

We had a brief discussion about how to do the top colour - to bleach or not to bleach.  Since I'm lazy about getting it dyed and mostly broke, I asked her not to bleach the top so that when it grows out it'll be less obvious -- and in her words "you won't be a slave to your colour".  lol

Good to go.  Started with the dark purple dye and then bleaching where the rest would go (and was interesting to watch the meshing of the two so she'd get a good transition).   She had an apprentice working with her so I got to learn more about the process than I otherwise would (apprentice for me was just doing washing / cleanup type work but she is getting hands on practice with other people apparently.  At one point she left to do a trim on somebody upstairs -- that was the only other client all day ).

Okay so...  Poor apprentice had to get my now very chemicaled and not conditioned hair knot free...   That was a challenge and I give her credit for her patience.  But eventually we ended up with dark purple on top, bleached on bottom.

Right - so it turns out my hair *really* wants to be red

Yeah - I was expecting the bleach to have no colour.   And even the stylist acknowledged she expected it to have a lot less than that.  But she warned me that doing it again or using a stronger remover would destroy my hair.   Ah well.

So she brings me over the colour pallet she wants to use.   I loved the purple, was meh on the pink -- I really wanted brighter, it was drifting just a little too pastel for me, and - she had a turquoise!  Win.   She assured me the pink would be bright - it was on a white paper towel so not showing quite accurately, and warned me the turquoise was a maybe.   She said it *should* work, and if it didn't, would be an easy fix, so worth a try.

Okay - well hire a pro and then trust them to do their job right?  Let's play this game.   ALL the colours went on and then we got to sit and wait while they did their thing.  Sok - I had both my phone and a kindle, the world is good.

Then time for the rinse and reveal ;).  Down side -- colour requires *cold* water only.   Brrrrrr.  Possibly the least fun rinse ever -- although credit to them, they were good about keeping it off my skull as much as possible.   

And of course while it's wet, you can't really tell the colour.   And the turquoise was hidden from my sight.  As the stylist was doing her thing, I was pretty happy with what I could see but still not sure...  There were two stations across from one another -- and at one point I was surprised that the apprentice had another client cause I hadn't seen anyone come in.  Until I realized - wait!  That's me!  lol I legitimately didn't realize the hair I'd been admiring was mine ;).  So that was my first real indication that I was really going to be happy.

Anyways - she finished up and added some curl (lol those who've ever seen me try to get my hair to hold shape will appreciate more than half was gone by the time I got home, but one lone curl lasted all night!) and I got to see the finished product.  I really had no idea I could be so excited about my hair.  lol such a silly thing, but two days later I still grin any time I catch sight of it, or it drifts in front of my eyes.   The turquoise worked, and exactly as I'd hoped -- it's super subtle and only shows if it's pulled forward, or at the bottom of my pony tail.   AND on the super plus side - should I actually manage to have a job interview any time soon, pulling it back hides all the colour and, just looks like it's black.   Win.

Before and After

I wanted a change.  I expected it would be well done and it would amuse me; I didn't expect to absolutely LOVE it.  But I do.  I very much do.

Before and After 2

Lol Chris just asked me if I was writing all about how we're a studious household these days.   Nope.  Priorities.  While I am excited to do my MBA, I've been through many many years of school - that's not new.  I've never had exciting coloured hair before ;).  

I'm not usually one for selfies, but I feel in this case it's justified ;)

Life is more interesting when you're easily impressed

So I was playing w my VR for the first time in months (looks like May was the last time I logged in) and discovered two things - my fitness level is horribly pathetic right now (yeah gym opens tomorrow!)   Anyways - yeah I was getting a workout from my games so that’s both sad and amusing at the same time.  

But what was really cool is the second thing -- they’ve updated the nav system so you don’t need controllers?!?!?!   This was SO cool.  Just point at what you want and use the usual pinch gesture to select and good to go.  No gloves, no wires, no buttons.  Really incredible.  So that was my fun thing I learned tonight.   

Both games I played still needed controllers - but both games you’d be holding something anyways (light sabers in one and a racket in the other).  I have one game there’s no logical reason to hold something but it needed a big update so I just let it go and will test it out another day.  I’m betting that’s why it needed the update ;)

First Aid during a pandemic

So as a requirement of my coaching insurance, I have to keep my first aid current.  That was a bit of a problem when it expired in March *sigh* but now that we’re in Phase 3, it’s an option again.  I did “blended” learning which means all the theory was online.  For me this was *awesome* as it took a fraction the time doing it in class would’ve ;).   Might not have been as useful for someone new to it or who doesn’t learn well through reading (there were videos too but I didn’t have the patience for that).  But for me it meant as fast as I could read and pass the tests I was done.  No listening to other people’s endless questions - which is an act of patience sometimes, let’s be honest.

Then the practical in class was only half a day.  A couple things we couldn’t do because they require a partner and it was strictly hands off due to covid, but credit to the woman instructing - she did a great job within the rules she had to follow.

The dummies have improved since I last did it - more pressure required for CPR and felt more real (well I’m sure it’s the same amount that was always required but the previous ones took a lot less to push down).  And what definitely wasn’t real but was a super learning aid was the feedback lights on the dummy’s shoulder that tracked speed and pressure.  So that was cool.

Sadly my dummy was horribly ill and required a throat and lung transplant before we could even start CPR.  Lol that made me laugh.  He was definitely not having a good day.

2 person CPR / AED was moderately entertaining as we all had to stay in our social distancing squares.  So the theory was while we each had a dummy, pretend we were working on the same one.  Some pair could *not* get that through their heads and it was a riot to watch (eg - you can’t both be doing chest compressions at the same time).  Fortunately I was paired with somebody intelligent so he and I got through it quickly w no issues.

The end exam was beyond painful as they can’t hand out booklets anymore, so the questions were put on the screen one at a time and read to us.  And then, any questions anybody missed were repeated at the end.  I don’t know how it was possible to miss them, but hey - this is the same group who couldn’t figure out how to coordinate using two dummies to simulate one.

Anyways - all in, it was a far less painful approach than it usually is and I’m free for the next 3 years :).  Win.

Cause learning Spanish wasn't hard enough ;)

So it's definitely an interesting time -- and not just cause it's 2020 ;)

If you’re following the adventure you’ll know that:
  • Chris returned to University starting in July
  • We sold our house in the middle of a pandemic
But really, that’s not nearly enough excitement to write home about ;)

So with Chris at school, we’re down to one reliable income and one flexible one.  And I have a funny feeling the economy is going to be doing some unfriendly things over the next couple years.   So instead of buying something cheaper and risk getting stuck w something we really don’t like for several years, my ever-amazing parents have very generously agreed to let us move in with them while C is in school.

This gives time to discover what the post-COVID world will look like; if I don’t have to commute anymore, it opens anywhere with viable internet as a possibility.  Logically, I know it’s the right thing to do.  Emotionally I really struggled with the idea.  But okay - it’s to lead to better things.  

And then I clued in…. If we’re living there, it’s prob the best shot I’ll ever have at being able to do my MBA.  Hmmmm. 

So back into researching mode.  The one I *really* wanted to do was the EMBA from McMaster / DeGroot.  I loved the curriculum, I liked the balance of in-class vs online, and the location is just around the corner.  BUT - it’s just shy of $100K.  Ummm no.   

I immediately eliminated any university that required a GMAT score and wouldn’t accept a MA as proof of competency at that level.  Especially for a degree that many people do years after graduation, the GMAT is a little ridiculous.  I was also really bitter that UofT wouldn’t accept a master’s from their own university instead of it.  Lol not that I could afford UofT anyways, but still.   AND, what I had liked about their program (namely that it’s either before or after work) is actually a detriment if I’m not in TO every day.  Hard no.

Shifted my focus to online.  The only one that seemed to be 100% online in Canada is Athabasca.  I’ve taken other courses from there, and talked to a bunch of MBA grads, who all spoke very positively about it.  BUT several things about their program didn’t appeal to me.  You have to do the whole thing with a single cohort — same courses in the same order.  The curriculum didn’t really appeal to me.  Lots of group work and “participation” marks.  There’s a mandatory residential component.  And - it’s still more than $50K (before the residential piece!).  Meh.

But wait — if a degree is truly online, it doesn’t have to be local.  Welcome world.   So more research.  There are a LOT of degrees online once you leave Canada.  So criteria required:
  • Credentials recognized in Canada (not doing this if I don’t get those little letters!)
  • Reasonable timeframe (I’ve seen a range from 1-5 years!)
  • Interesting and at least vaguely relevant curriculum
  • Decent local and international reputation
  • Not in its first five years
  • Price 
Well, let me tell you, that laundry list helped pare things down quickly.  The last three alone eliminated the entire US lol.

I did a lot of research and narrowed it down to Aston University (UK) and the Australian Institute of Business.  Both met all the list of requirements.   Similar timeframe (~2 years).  Aston had the plus of a very long and established reputation (with a physical school as well as online).  Their admissions person was amazing (whereas AIB’s was awful).  AIB has been around for 38 years so certainly not new as a business, but definitely new in terms of a school.  Doing some research it has an excellent reputation both in Australia and outside.  Okay.   Interestingly *both* schools were specifically targeting Canadian students and have brochures etc that target Canada specifically (it’s possible they have for lots of countries — but for AIB I got to see their “brochure library” and they had Australian, Canadian, and Global).  For AIB I was able to locate Canadian students who are also RBC’rs and connect with them (LinkedIn win!).   For Aston I could not, and they could not provide me with any current students to connect with due to privacy restrictions.  This was, at least partially, a deciding factor.  The other deciding factor is that I had slightly more interest in the AIB curriculum than the Aston one and AIB is the more affordable of the two (~$7k cheaper depending on exchange rates.  Not a huge difference given that they’re about $70k cheaper than Mac, but still more than a couple paycheques! ;)

So I messaged a few of the RBC people who are currently attending AIB and picked their brains about a wide range of topics (also - all were incredibly generous with their time and open in their responses).  The two biggest cautions were — it’s a greater time commitment than you expect, and classes will be at inconvenient hours.  Apparently they do keep Canadian students in mind, so they’re not usually in the middle of the night, but they’re not ideal timing either.   However, they are recorded.   Okay - I can deal with that.  I also reached out to a friend in Australia who kindly tagged some of her friends so I got a little more info that way as well which was super helpful.

So yeah - after all of that, I have applied and have been accepted to  AIB for my MBA.  Class starts the last week of Aug.

You know - the same week we move ;)