My 25-year old daughter, Emily, has been in hospital for 68 days waiting for a heart transplant. This is an important first sentence because Emily's heart health has sculpted my last 25-years. I wasn't that entrepreneur, solopreneur, mompreneur who hated her corporate job and tossed it aside to start a business. I was a happy, corporate employed, married, pregnant woman in 1993 planning on returning to that much loved job after my baby was born.
Then in December 1993, Emily was born with complex congenital heart defects that couldn’t be repaired. As a result, she’s had three heart operations at Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children and a heart transplant would be in her future. Priorities for my husband, Gary, and I snapped into place immediately after Emily was born. I wouldn’t return to the career I adored, and that was 100% fine with Gary and myself. There wasn’t even a millisecond of doubt that my life wouldn’t be devoted to family. There is a foundation of security knowing exactly the path we would travel even though the path itself remained a mystery.
I stayed home raising Emily, mostly at Sick Kids for her first three years. In January 1998, Emily was given the okay to go home and live a great life. We knew Emily’s heart health journey wouldn’t be easy and wanted to make every moment count.
In June 1998 we went to Disney World. It was such an amazing vacation that we decided to return often, even though I didn’t have an income to finance Disney vacations.
After Emily’s third heart surgery, a year before she started kindergarten, I wanted to get healthy, fit, and take aerobics instructor training. A month after Emily started school, I started teaching fitness classes for The City of Mississauga fitness centres and Goodlife. Soon, I was teaching yoga and art lessons while Emily was in school and in the evening when Gary was home.
In January 2000, we welcomed our son, Evan. Our next Disney World vacation would come to fruition a year later. That vacation also came with a freelance job offer as a travel agent specializing in Disney.
Without realizing it, I became an entrepreneur.
Life was magical, even enchanted ….. until it wasn’t.
In the 6th grade Emily received a grim diagnosis of a rare disease that had a miserable mortality. The disease was a result of a complication of her last heart operation.
I became depressed, anxious and was put on anti-depressant meds. The side effect of weight gain made aerobics and yoga instruction so difficult that I stopped. I let my Disney travel business mostly fade away. But, I did continued teaching art lessons.
Art was my therapy. It had to be, all the traditional therapy that I tried was not helpful. Not only was art my therapy, it became my business.
Once again, I was an entrepreneur.
Entrepreneurship is the perfect career for me. I’m able to earn a living and still be Emily’s heart health advocate.
I created an adult colouring book, started writing knitting and crochet patterns for Ravelry, built an Etsy shop, taught art lessons (still do), became an Artist in Residence at Mississauga’s Living Arts Centre, and built Earth Looms.
In 2010, we bought a 2.5 acre off-the-grid cabin in the woods just south of Algonquin Park in Ontario. We recently converted my Algonquin art studio into an Airbnb. Because my creative focus is textiles and fiber arts, we have plans to raise fiber animals, such as angora rabbits, goats, and sheep once Emily’s heart health becomes stable. For now I spin and teach spinning (on spinning wheels and drop spindles) with sheep fleece from Ontario farms. I still teach weaving, knitting, and crochet. My Etsy shop and Ravelry patterns are excellent passive income. I sell all things related to textile and fiber arts; spinning wheels, drop spindles, raw fleece, roving, knitting supplies, embroidery hoops and patterns, crochet supplies, weaving looms and supplies, and more. Our off-the-grid cabin has inspired me to pursue permaculture techniques that include; microgreens, vermiculture, beekeeping, and organic urban farming.
Forever a teacher, I also teach online English lessons to students in China early in the mornings before you even think about your morning coffee.
We are so fortunate to have our feet in two locations. Living in Mississauga gives us the home base to visit Emily in Toronto General hospital daily, and the Algonquin cabin gives us the retreat we need to recharge to be able to give Emily our complete support.
Although we are in a holding pattern waiting for Emily’s heart transplant, we can still move forward. I include Emily in my creative entrepreneur business. She helps make and select items for the Etsy shop, she enjoys needle felting, adult colouring books, and sometimes crochets.
We are working on an interesting new cookbook (Emily is a foodie) that will be published just in time for Christmas 2019.
Twenty-five years ago my life dramatically changed course and I wouldn’t have missed a single second. #GratefulMom
#BEaDONOR #AdultColoringBook #LivingArtsCentre #Airbnb #TextileArts #FiberArts #Ravelry #Etsy #AerieNorthProject #PatternsBySandra #Beekeeping #Permaculture #Vermiculture #Studio89 #Mississauga #OffTheGrid #Homesteading #Microgreens #UrbanFarming #TeachOnline #Spinning #SpinningWheel #Spinolution #DropSpindle #Knitting #Crochet #Weaving #Loom #ArtTherapy
October 29, 2019. It appears to be snowing all around our townhouse in the city and at the homestead but no snow in town. I love snow! Everything hibernates giving me pause to think and plan for the future. I'm still unable to do "regular" work. My health is far too inconsistant for that, but I'm working on it. After spending almost 2 weeks at the homestead last month, I lost 25 lbs as a result of working on the property. That's an excellent step in the right direction. It does get frustrating to have plans and not knowing if the day will be a "good" health day, a "bad" health day, or an "in bed all day in pain" day. I do the best I can. Working on the homestead is a labour of love. It's good that I can work for 20 minutes, take a break, then return to work. Things go slow and can be unpredicable, but I love it there.
When I have a good day, I am able to spend time on my laptop writing knitting and crochet patterns, planning vermicomposting, apiary, and garden ideas.
Emily's last cardiac appointment was a little scary. Her cardiologist is proceeding with the heart transplant meetings. The plan is to list Emily around February. Once she is listed, she could be called any time for a new heart. We are fortunate to live rather close to the hospital (other than the disgraceful Toronto traffic). We will live life as "normal" as possible. Emily will continue to go to school, Gary will continue to work, and I will continue to build our nest at the homestead. If everything goes well, Emily will get a new heart, spend a few weeks in hospital, and then recover at home.
I receive a couple of emails from Wwoofers who want to help on the homestead and Airbnb, I can't guarantee them work because of Emily's heart health. (click HERE for Wwoofer info)
My worm farm (vermiculture) is growing. It's in my townhouse basment because it's too cold for them at the homestead during the winter. I am learning everything I can about beekeeping. Hopefully I'll have beehives in May at the homestead. I will be starting an indoor greenhouse in the townhouse this winter. I planted raspberry plants at the homestead and so far, no bears. The wild blueberries should do well when the bees arrive. Herb gardens and micro-greens are all ready for next season.
Thanks for reading my blog. It's like my "Dear Diary" time. XOXO Sandra
Hello, My name is Sandra Clarke. I am a part-time homesteader. We (my husband Gary and I) bought our homestead (just south of Algonquin Park, Ontario, Canada) in 2010 when our two children were 10 and 16 years old. Our intent was to relax and enjoy the property on weekends while working in the city (Toronto, Ontario). However, we quickly grew to see the homestead had potential to be more than 2.5 acres and two off-the-grid cabins in the woods. Our plans expanded to create an organic homestead, eco-retreat for artists, writers, and nature lovers.
Gary and I are in our 50’s. We have a part-time city life and part-time homestead life. Gary still works full-time and I am a textile artist, both in the city and on the homestead.
Our 24-year old daughter, Emily, was born with complex heart defects that cannot be repaired. She’s had three heart operations and is currently in the process of being listed for a heart transplant. Emily is a brilliant writer (I’ll post some of her short stories on this blog). Emily attends college in Mississauga (near Toronto, Ontario).
Our 18-year old son, Evan, is also in school. He has a creative soul like Emily. Evan is a photographer and videographer. He specializes in nature films.
Our children are our priority. This is the primary reason why we are part-time homesteaders rather than full-time. Once Emily receives a new heart and is stable, we will be able to move permanently to the homestead. Our homestead is about a three hour drive to Emily’s hospital, so it’s best that we keep our little townhouse in the city to be closer to the hospital.
So that’s us! I wanted to keep my first blog short and sweet. I hope you come back for more. Thanks for your time!