The 2 Dreaded ‘A’ Words


This blog will be a raw journal of my feelings; as well as updates on my mums well being, but mostly it will be a safe space for me to say what I need to say and it won't always be flowers and roses.

If this makes you uncomfortable, don't read it. I'll still love you. april

a·pha·sia : loss of ability to understand or express speech, caused by brain damage.

a·prax·i·a : inability to perform particular purposive actions, as a result of brain damage.


These 2 things, while fairly small words are what's holding Jill's recovery back. Right now, they feel like the biggest words in the English language, and for mum, they probably feel like the box that is confining her. I imagine a box similar to the ones you see in cartoons, wooden, with loads of chains and padlocks, but somehow the cartoon character can always escape.

Jill has a long history with lots of recoveries...and she is good at it. She has always been a highly motivated individual. This time too, if it weren't for that stupid box.

Jill can, for the most part, understand everything you say - and will say 'WHAT?' if she doesn't. She can read, but not entire books- as she has some right neglect (I will discuss this in my next post). She cannot write or type. She can draw. Her drawings, to me, an artist, evoke so much feeling of being alone.

Now, she has come a long way - she has limited control of her right leg and can walk with someone for short distances - those walks are getting longer and longer though. I attribute this recovery of the body to mums sheer will-power (Smith women can be a little stubborn) but also muscle memory of her being so active. My entire life, mum has never sat still for this long.


Over the months it has been said to me many times by many people that they just don't know what to say to Jill now. The answer is; Everything and nothing.

She is still the Jill you knew and loved. The Jill you meditated, knitted, went to meetings or walked with. I have been thinking a lot about this and how people feel awkward with the silence...some people spend hundreds of dollars to go to these silent retreats - mum included! Sometimes even now, we just sit in silence and hold hands that is enough for her. Saying nothing IS good enough.

The fact remains that people don't know what to say...

She still likes to hear about the weather, I prattle on about the birds I have seen, the garden or the repairs that may need to be done at the house. She can still answer my questions for the most part. She still has a sense of humor. I just have to think and phrase my question or statement a little differently to a yes or no answer. A small price to pay to hang out with this wonderful lady and benefit from her years of wisdom.

Yes, she gets frustrated sometimes and yes she cries, but wouldn't you? I certainly would.

I ask what are a few tears between friends?

I have known Jill to help many people in their own recoveries, this is no different. Pay it forward with love - mums motto. So that's why I am here doing what I am doing. It's a tough job, but saying that, it is also very rewarding.

xo a


The Move

My stuff makes it to NS
My stuff makes it to NS

Aug 31/19

This blog will be a raw journal of my feelings; as well as updates on my mums well being, but mostly it will be a safe space for me to say what I need to say and it won't always be sunshine and roses.

If this makes you uncomfortable, don't read it. I'll still love you. april

All in all, I think the move went pretty well. I hadn’t moved in over 13 years. I had read horror stories of movers holding your life ransom on these big moves. I had stress and nightmares as the guys drove off with all my memories. Not one thing of mine was broken or lost. YAY movers!

When I got here, without S, it felt like it had all those months did in the winter UNTIL a month had passed, and I wasn’t on a plane heading home. That's when things started to feel really weird…

…Like I had just assumed my mother's life. Like a costume. Like the Faceless Men of Game of Thrones. Here I am, living in her houses, operating her B&B, paying her bills, seeing her friends. It was weird for her too I spoke with her about it. Like my life as I knew it had ended and I was just moving forward in her shoes. Those shoes, while tiny on the outside, are HUGE on the inside….I didn’t (and still/don’t) feel worthy of filling them…but they ARE comfortable. 🙂

Here I was, in Yarmouth - the edge of the earth, alone, feeling so small in the shadow of my mother and my own little girl was a million miles away from me and I wouldn’t see her again for yet another month! She was finishing off school and spending some time with her friends she wouldn’t be seeing for a bit. This has also been a HUGE change for her, without her gypsy gramma around. I felt like a failure as a mum and a failure as a caretaker - because I couldn’t be there for my kid but I also couldn’t take mum’s pain away.

But still, I mustered on….as a Smith woman does…

You probably didn't hear much from me.

I circled the date on the calendar that S would re-join me and kept on moving forward through my own pain, both physical and mental.

**Did I mention that shortly before Jill's stroke I was diagnosed with Ankylosing spondylitis? Full-on Arthritis. Yep. fun. this isn’t about that though…**

During this dark time, my neighbors at witsend (Baccaro) helped me immensely. they reminded me to get out - enjoy some nature - do it even if you didn't feel like doing it. Take pleasure in something. I bought a camera and started taking photos. L & E took me for many boat rides, we went looking for deer together, I cannot even tell you how much these 2 people made my heart lift a little - and still do I might add.

After many nights of crying both with mum and without...Finally, July 26th came!!!

The added bonus of my girl rejoining me was her delivery person, my best friend and my son from another mum, M. My heart was elated. I cannot even describe what it felt like waiting for them at the airport - then finally getting my arms around all of them. I thought I might burst! Even writing about it now I can feel it in my bones.

I had a piece of my life back!

This time I got to spend with my people recharged my battery. Made me remember me and who I am and made me remember not to forget who I am…while I am here.

This is a very important lesson to all caregivers out there - Don't get lost in it all.

Sometimes it is hard to find you in there, but its most important you do.

xo a


Q: How are you?

the journey begins with a step..
the journey begins with a step..

Aug 30/19

This blog will be a raw journal of my feelings; as well as updates on my mums well being, but mostly it will be a safe space for me to say what I need to say and it won't always be flowers and roses.

If this makes you uncomfortable, don't read it. I'll still love you. april

Almost a year later and I am still wondering how to answer this. It seems as though people, on the whole, do not want me to answer this question honestly given my situation.

On October 14th of last year (2018) my mother, Jill (69), had a major stroke. Actually she had 3 in total-but the last was the one to do all the damage. Those of you that don’t know my mother she was fiercely independent, highly educated, super athletic woman. She was a hippie - a tree lover, a logophile, a wanderer, and she loved adventure. She also was a stage 4 Merkel Cell skin cancer survivor. This stroke happened a day before her 5 year anniversary of being cancer-free.

The day before the major stroke, Jill fell and broke her knee, but was unable to tell us WHY she fell. This was a bit out of character for her as she was in much better shape than I was. She went to the hospital, they bandaged up her knee and sent her home with a friend.

**This is where I wonder if she was anywhere but the south shore of NS if the story would have stopped here and they would have detected the TIA that she had that day, most likely they would have. The healthcare system here is in dire straights. I have heard the phrase “The hospital is closed” on more than one occasion. Having now read about strokes - it is very common to have a fall, and not be able to tell why you fell.

I talked to her that night. She seemed shaken but ok.

The next evening, at 8 pm, I was watching TV with my daughter in Toronto when my phone rang. It was a number I didn’t know 0000 - I decided to pick it up anyway. It was the ER in Yarmouth “Your mother has had a stroke, You are her emergency contact can we give her a clot buster?”

That day I lost my best friend, my confidant…and the person who was truly there for me when I most needed her. All this makes it sound as though she passed away, but the reality for both of us, is much, much, worse…

Jill had an ischemic stroke in the left hemisphere of her brain. Leaving her paralyzed on her right side, but worse, Aphasia and Apraxia have left her impaired far beyond what I (or she) could possibly imagine what her worst nightmare could be. Although she has brain damage, her thoughts and personality are still there in her head but she is pretty much locked inside herself. She is unable to talk, she can only gesture - even the few words she can say, don’t come out at the right time. This can be confusing for me, her, and anyone who is trying to interact with her. Imagine how frustrating this would be for a writer; lover of language?

So many lives changed that day… the day I wish had never happened.

I spent most of the winter going back and forth from TO to NS. It was exhausting and I missed my daughter and my life, but when I wasn’t in NS I was always worried about my mum. Something had to change. I looked into bringing mum to Toronto, but the waitlists were long and things at my job were very slow, leaving me to wonder if I would even HAVE a job to come back to. By April, I had made the decision to pack things in Toronto to come here to Yarmouth to be my mother's advocate.

Since the move, people and friends say to me, how strong I am and what a good daughter…but I am no hero…there wasn’t even a choice. How could I leave this inspiration to me all alone? This model human being - completely alone - because that is what she is now. She could be in a room full of people yet still so very alone.

I have much more to say but have to get my day started - lawns don't mow themselves ...Anyone got some sheep to spare? 🙂

xo a

Spring 2018 Colours

In the throws of winter I love to look ahead to spring and its vibrant colours to inspire and invigorate me.

The Pantone Spring 2018 (images from Pantone trend forecasting)  palette is a fun an playful one with an air of complexity of colour that is ideal for some unique and dramatic colour mixing. I cannot wait to experiment with these vibrant hues!

  • birds



Brand Identity : Closson Road Cycles

I took on a project to develop a brand identity for Closson Road Cycles, a new bike rental business in Prince Edward County. I researched different things about bikes and came up with these logo ideas to present to my client, Cassandra.

Possible Brand Ideas

After sending them to her, she loved a lot of them and took some time to decide in which direction she wanted to go. Given the location of the business (a fixed up barn) they decided to go with a more rustic look. She suggested a few changes of 2 and from there, made a final decision.


Next came the building of the site. We knew the client needed it to be relatively easy for her to update and that she was under budget constraints. We decided to go the way of a customized WordPress site.

With the website designed and launched, we noticed when she “Googled” the business, her site was on the 8th page of Google. She called me asking for help. I explained I had never researched SEO, but would try to quickly educate myself and help her to get to the first page of google. It took a lot a of reading and writing a few blog posts. Linking to other sites, and surrounding businesses. Along with that I started pinging blog servers with her url. It took a couple of months but we got her to the number one ranking!