An entrepreneur since childhood, I always finds ways to do what I love ...
Growing UpI was raised by a single mother who instilled a work ethic and an understanding that I could do pretty much whatever I chose – as long as I paid for it. I always had some type of job – babysitting, delivering papers, working at a burger joint, a donut shop, a bakery, a discount store … on and on … all before I went to university. I also taught guitar and played sports while secretly dreaming of a career in music and film.
During university I honed my skills as an ice hockey official and became the first woman to referee at the Women’s World Ice Hockey Championship in 1990. After graduating from York University in 1988, with an honours degree in Psychology, I was asked to coach the varsity women’s ice hockey team. I knew that would involve a big time commitment, so I decided to wait a year before looking for a real job.
During the year I coached the York University women’s hockey team, the red and white colours on the uniforms ran – turning pink. I went to the head of the physical education department and declared that we could not represent the university in those shirts. To replace the jerseys we were given a small amount of money and had to raise the balance.
I, unknowingly, walked into my first career when I ordered the replacement shirts. The seller could not meet the deadline because of the time required to cut the logo pattern. I told him I would do it all if he could get the sewing done. He agreed, I learned on the fly and he hired me the next week. All those years as a child drawing, painting, sculpting and creating landed me my first real job.
Fast forward 28 years to 2017. Dradalm Promotions, the company I co-own with Deb Adams, has been in business since 1989. I have been a self-taught graphic artist all this time.
Martial ArtsBeyond working various jobs, going to school and running business, I have always pursued other creative passions and disciplines. In 1993 I began to slowly shift my energy from officiating ice hockey to martial arts. I spent the next 20 years earning two black belts while experimenting in several styles. Using the philosophy and skills of martial arts, and being keenly aware of the prevalence of sexual abuse and violence against women and girls, I developed a unique program called Realistic Self-Defense For Women.
After all these years I continue to love holding seminars and teaching in schools and workplaces.
I always believed I would write a book. I purchased a blank-page book when I was around 14. I recall starting to write something which I never finished.
In 2007 I was teaching my self-protection program at a local high school. My business partner came into the shop and said, “You won’t believe this…” A teacher at that very school was arrested and charged with the sexual assault of a 19-year-old female who had graduated the previous year.
When I went to the school that day, I asked a teacher if I had taught the girl. I had not. But, I knew the teacher. In fact, he had come into my business to purchase shirts. That churned my stomach.
While teaching the girls that day, one kept asking questions. She was really frightened that something could happen to her. I stopped instructing and we spent the balance of the class talking about fear. Upon leaving the school, I created the whole landscape for what would become my first book, What Is Your Teenage Daughter Afraid Of? (WIYTDAO). I approached eight or nine teachers, grades 9-12, to ask their female students, “What are you afraid of?” I collected hundreds of responses and analyzed the data. The number one fear? Being assaulted.
I completed WIYTDAO in 2008. Each chapter begins with a short story from my own life. The original cover was a bit scary. And so, when I was completing my second book, Unlock The Dock – Beyond Sexual Abuse (UTD), I redesigned the cover for branding reasons.
UTD is a book I was destined to write. It came to me one evening in 2011 when I asked The Universe why I was doing a host of seemingly unrelated things – challenging myself over and over … firewalks, cycling across Canada, rebirthing, trance dances, crazy fitness, many styles of martial arts, reading a book a week, trying to overcome my fear of singing. The list goes on and on.
That night The Universe sent me a series of flashbacks of childhood sexual violations. It shocked me because I had never experienced that before. I could not shake it. I jumped out of bed and was compelled to write. I went to my computer and wrote a chapter I titled Unlock The Door. I bawled and bawled while writing it which also totally surprised me.
When I went back to bed and I asked The Universe, “Why the flashbacks?” I was delivered the message to write UTD. I reached above my head and grabbed my notebook and began a long list of questions I would ask. I knew several people I wanted to interview and instinctively knew the others would show up.
Writing UTD was the most difficult thing I have ever attempted – as well as the thing I am most proud of.
Cycling With Passion and Purpose
While attending a fitness trainers’ conference in August 2009, I saw a presentation about the Sears National Kids Cancer Ride (SNKCR) and decided, right then and there, to become a National Rider (cyclist). And so, in September 2010 I cycled across Canada, from White Rock BC to Halifax NS, to raise awareness and money for the cause. My love of cycling continues and each year I ride in The JackRide (raising money for mental health and suicide prevention).
After hiding my guitar in the closet for 25 years, in 2010 I was inspired to play again by singer-songwriter Sandy Stubbert. Sandy and I played hockey together as teenagers in Kingston, Ontario. We reconnected via Facebook when she offered to help me raise money for the SNKCR by playing a house concert. It had been 30 years since we had last seen each other in high school.
Knowing I was terrified to be heard singing, Sandy suggested I play and sing just for fun – play because I loved to and not worry about what I sounded like. That was an interesting concept. I took it to heart and it changed my musical trajectory. Without her encouragement I surely would not have revisited songwriting and most definitely would not have recorded Vulnerable Places (VP).
Sandy introduced me to Rosemary Phelan and she taught me about my voice and breathing. I recall so clearly singing Little Girl, Young Boy to her and she said I was the little girl … and I needed to own that voice. I so deeply wish Rosemary was still with us so I could hand her a copy of Vulnerable Places. She believed in my message and my songs. I was blessed when she, being so ill, recorded harmony vocals on Little Girl, Young Boy. Rosemary introduced me to Jason LaPrade, her husband. Together, Jason and I birthed VP.
Sandy, Rosemary and Jason (as well as a few really big supporters) are responsible for me believing I could fulfill my childhood dream of creating an album. I have realized that we are never too old to go back to something we loved as a child. I appreciate this album more now than I possibly could have at a younger age.
Adventures in Film & Theatre
In 2015, I began filming a documentary about the storytellers in my book, Unlock The Door – Beyond Sexual Abuse. The UTD – The Documentary, based on a series of video-taped interviews, captures the evolving stories of UTD’s courageous and resilient contributors. This documentary offers further insight and healing and will be released in 2017.
In 2016, I began collaborating with Toronto-based writer and filmmaker Megan Hutton. I directed Megan’s play Committed to Maybe which was staged at the Alumnae Threatre Company in the fall of 2016. The film is inspired by a play called HUSH, written by Megan, based on Autumn Abrahms’ true story. HUSH YOU is about a middle-aged woman who, after a confrontation with her mother, reflects on the incestuous sexual abuse she experienced throughout her childhood. HUSH YOU will be submitted to festivals throughout North America and Europe in 2017.