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Sunday Relax & Read with Karla

Come along with Stand Up Speak Up co-founder Karla as she explores everyday topics about life, love and learning.

Travel Stories I - Moving to Changsha

Travel Stories I - Moving to Changsha

I graduated from McMaster University with a BA in Humanities, a concentration that no longer exists. It was basically a general arts degree. I knew I wanted to get into business, but without a degree in Commerce or industry connections, who would take a chance on me? I knew job hunting was going to be hopeless. My grades were also very sub par. School never came easily to me. If it were not for my friends I probably would have quit. To this day, I…
Travel Stories Intro - Al & Karla's Love Story

Travel Stories Intro - Al & Karla's Love Story

We are about to get started with a series that is all about my career of working internationally in telecommunications. I was lucky enough to do this alongside my incredible husband, Al Tolstoy. So, before we head to China, Romania and the Czech Republic, I thought I would tell you the story of Al and me. We met in Canada in 1992. More accurately, that was the first time I noticed him across a meeting room. I had just started to work for Bell Mobility…
Life Purpose

Life Purpose

I used to believe in order to live a full life a person needed to have purpose. I spent time, money, energy, trying to figure out with desperation what my purpose was. For most of my adult life, I believed my purpose on this earth was to help people in corporate settings think differently and see the world through a different lens – a less judgmental and kinder lens that celebrates and accepts what makes us different.  When I found myself without a career at…
Vulnerability: Anxiety Part 2

Vulnerability: Anxiety Part 2

Last week, I started telling you about my lifetime of living with anxiety. If you have not read the first part yet, you can find it here. When I first started struggling with my mental health, it was barely something that anyone talked about. I think we were all taught the way to deal with trauma or bad thoughts of any kind was to push them down and try to forget about them. After having radiation for my cancer, this was no longer a viable…
Vulnerability: Anxiety

Vulnerability: Anxiety

If anxiety were a person, it would be Putin. It desperately tries to convince us that they are always right and powerful. It constantly fights to gain control and goes to war with the good joyous parts of us. And if it manages to shut out the rest of the world, the world that gives us perspective and acknowledges us, it holds the greatest threat of succeeding. Looking back on my life, I was constantly looking for answers from friends, family, and doctors on why…
Vulnerability: The One Truth I Know Is...

Vulnerability: The One Truth I Know Is...

The one truth I know for certain is we are all going to die. We have all heard that joke that the only two certain things in life are death and taxes, but it feels like less of a joke the more you really think about it. I am trying to control my death. I take over 40 pills a day to prove it. I dedicate the majority of my waking time to living a high quality life. What makes a life worth living? This…
Vulnerability: Failure is just a matter of Perspective

Vulnerability: Failure is just a matter of Perspective

Failure is just a matter of perspective and I know this to be the truth. Even by their definitions, it is quite easy to see how this is true. Failure: lack of success Perspective: a particular attitude toward or way of regarding something; a point of view. Success and the measure of it is something that is different for every person and we can each change our opinion of it many times throughout our lives.  For example, Madonna was the biggest success in music at…
Dear Me: Two Sides of Living with Cancer

Dear Me: Two Sides of Living with Cancer

I am grateful for my cancer meds everyday. I am grateful that I live in a place where they are accessible to me. I am grateful that my family hasn’t been bankrupted to keep me alive. I am grateful for the pain relief they are able to give me. I am grateful even if I still can’t live a normal life, doing the things I once did.  But cancer medication also comes with challenges. Each of my 50+ pills per day has its own benefits…
Vulnerability: Daydreaming

Vulnerability: Daydreaming

I have always been a daydreamer, thinking about my future life. For years, when I was a child, I would go through the Sears catalogues with my best friend Marla and we would pick out the furniture we were going to get when we moved into our own apartment together. We had decided we would find a place just like Mary’s apartment on the Mary Tyler Moore Show, complete with a cool shag carpet. By the time I was six, my mother was constantly telling…
Vulnerability: Opening the Gates

Vulnerability: Opening the Gates

Over the past three years, as I have learned to live with cancer and have had thousands of lessons about life along the way, one of the things that comes up often is vulnerability. I have talked about it before – how in the beginning I needed to come to terms with people being a part of and discussing my body and its functions more than is the norm. But once that flood gate was opened, so too was I open to explore all sides…
What is Laziness?

What is Laziness?

As someone who has lived with stage 4 cancer for the past three years (at least),I have a complicated relationship with my bed. It has become one of my greatest sources of comfort, as something welcoming that I can go back to when I am in pain, when I am sad, or when I just need some quiet from the world.  But it has also become a symbol of some of the shame that I feel living with a chronic illness. I am not capable…
Manifesting for the New Year

Manifesting for the New Year

When the book The Secret came out in 2006, it was a huge buzz and everyone around me seemed to try asking the universe for what they wanted. It all seemed like such a simple and easy solution to getting what you really want and directing the focus of your life and actions. Egotistically, all I seemed to want at that time was a fast-paced exciting career, to continue being in love with my husband, to be a good mother and have a great relationship…
The Two Sides of Gift Giving

The Two Sides of Gift Giving

When I was still living in the Czech Republic and working for Oskar, I had a stroke on December 6th. This was a huge health crisis and was made even worse by being far from my parents and siblings. But one of the things that I remember worrying most about was that I didn’t get my Christmas shopping done and was going to show up to celebrations without gifts for some people. This fear wasn’t born out of nothing. I have always worried about the…
Navigating the Holidays

Navigating the Holidays

I am excited for the holidays but it can also be a tricky time. One wrong action or word from one person to another can almost ruin the celebration. The lead up to the big day or days can be so exhausting as you prepare and finish up the work that you might never feel like you are able to relax and enjoy any of it. You might even find that you get through the holidays more stressed out than when it all started. We…
The Energy of the Holidays

The Energy of the Holidays

I am a spiritual person. I believe we are made up of energy and we control our own energy and whether we release positive or negative vibes. I believe most of us are full of about 80% positive energy, which encourages us to be kind, generous, empathetic and put good into the world and 20% negative energy, which is usually the result of fear, disappointment, loneliness and our past traumas and is more reactionary and can cause us to hurt others, hurt ourselves or self…
Taking on Life with My Whole Heart

Taking on Life with My Whole Heart

Vulnerability is something that you can’t dismiss when you are living with a chronic illness. It becomes impossible to hide pain or weakness or escape the full range of emotions that are inevitably going to sweep over you again and again. I think that we all know that there is power in being vulnerable, even if we’re afraid to tap into it. We see the benefits to opening ourselves up to love and the sense of freedom and comfort that can come from being completely…
Discovering The Power of Thought

Discovering The Power of Thought

How could anyone be optimistic all the time? Overly-positive people used to irritate me. I saw them as inauthentic, as if they were making a conscious effort to be sunny just to shame my complaining, depression or failure to see the good side. The more negative I became, the more I told myself that I was simply far more truthful and real than they were. Then, after three years of battling cancer, I hit a wall – a large cement one that no amount of resilience could push me through.…
A Celebration of Gratitude

A Celebration of Gratitude

To my son Zach this Thanksgiving season, Gratitude was always something I wanted you to have in your life. I have always wanted you to understand how our world’s view can be different from others and be mindful of our responsibilities to help create more equity and inclusion. Above all, I wanted you to embrace the small things that can bring so much joy, peace and comfort. In some ways, it has been harder to find gratitude in the past few years, with cancer seeping its…
Confronting My Bias

Confronting My Bias

Encountering and overcoming bias is something we all need to do, no matter your age, values or history. I think we have all felt the big shift in our culture. While most of us were raised to believe that our goodness was determined by our own conscious choices and our intentions, we are starting to open our eyes to see that it matters more how our actions, words and choices affect others. My mom and I have been embarking on a journey of examining our biases…
Midnight Musings: The End Is Looming

Midnight Musings: The End Is Looming

Strange how I feel the same age as my parents. Not in birth years, but physically, mentally and emotionally. Since my cancer diagnosis, I relate to my husband in a new way I never could before and for the same reason I can relate to my parents . All four of us have death looming. It’s not immediate, but is not too far in the distance either. The pendulum is more in favor of death in our cases. I myself have watched my own timeline…
Reflections from My Youth: Communication

Reflections from My Youth: Communication

I want to share some recollections of my youth and while this is therapeutic for me, I hope you’ll find it informative and at times entertaining. Throughout, I try to describe how I felt then and upon reflection how I feel today and the impact of growing up in the home like ours. I did not really speak until I was three years old. Experts told my parents this was because I didn’t have too! Between my gestures and my sisters speaking on my behalf,…
Secrets Can Shape Us

Secrets Can Shape Us

*Trigger Warning: Sexual Assault* We all have secrets. Some don’t hurt anyone and are small enough to never hurt anyone. Others beg for dramatic reveals that can shift lives and relationships. But is a secret still a secret if no one ever knew there was something to tell? There is a moment in time that I have never written about and hardly ever spoke about until recently.  It has lived in my thoughts for 37 years. As I finally put this experience down on paper,…

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