Thrifty By Design

Thrifty By Design

Denise Corcoran is a North Vancouver based author, crafter, upcycler and workshop facilitator, whose passion is to turn ‘junk’ into new and funky pieces. From refinishing furniture found at the dump to repurposing discarded items like wine corks into jewelry, there is no limit to what her time and know-how can create. Read her adventures at Thrifty By Design, and check out her crafty book: “Raw Crafts: 40 Projects from Hemp, Jute, Burlap and Cork” to find fun DIYs.

I’m a bit of a digital nerd by day. And a crafty kind of gal by night. The mix seems to work and keeps me out of trouble! The two allow me to continue learning, sharing and engaging which I love. These days I’m realizing the beauty in getting older – still young at heart combined with a bit of experience and maturity behind me is a magical combo.

My new motto is: stay sparkly and share your awesomeness. I feel truly blessed these days. I cherish my family and friends, the ability to go on adventures and the attitude to be grateful for all the goodness in my life. Bring it!

Regarding my love life, I’m married, as of April 30, 2015. I never thought I would get married, especially after the demise of my 11 year common law relationship at the end of 2009. But I met my person while adventuring. Roly was an amazing travel love affair that stuck. We met in Old Havana. He’s an English tour guide there at a popular tourist spot. He also gives tours through the US Embassy and bakes cakes. I traveled to Cuba on my own back in 2013 and had some ‘challenges’ in Havana as a lone woman traveller. We hit it off right away, and he asked to take me out that night and show me how a real Cuban is. We had this amazing evening then went out the next night. I went to Varadero for a few days and he called me every day, then we spent my last night in Havana together. Meeting him changed my life – he’s my ‘game changer.’ I never realized what I wanted or what was possible until I met him. I tried to find someone like him here but needless to say I obviously didn’t find anyone anything like him here, since we’re now married. I just knew I’d be stupid not to marry him. I had promised myself after my break up that I would wait for someone who wanted to be with me and who would fight to be with me. Lots of people want to be with ’someone’ but I know this man wants to be with me.

I remember when we went to a resort in Varadero, a couple of years ago. By the end of the first day, Roly knew everyone either working there or staying there. At first, I was a bit a perturbed ‘cause I felt like chopped liver, but then I realized it’s so nice to be with someone where you can sometimes sit back and let them lead. I was always leading in my previous relationship – so this was definitely a switch. But a really nice switch, where you have someone who takes charge while you sit back. And then you lead and they sit back. I love that about him. We both have this talking to strangers, being joyful and adventurous vibe in common. He’s a happy guy who has no problems meeting people and he loves his life in Cuba but he wants to be with me. If it means taking a leap of faith, that’s what he’s gonna do. And that’s what I’m gonna do.

Right now it’s challenging because we don’t live in the same country, city, or even home, but soon he’ll be here and we can begin our life together. It’s all up to Immigration Canada as to when… But here’s hoping it’s very soon. I suggested I move to Havana but Roly told me I wouldn’t survive there. But I think I could. Maybe one day. Who knows!

Doing what we can to make this work. Totally worth waiting for.

I’m super happy. I feel like a walking, talking cheesy rom-com. I adore him as a friend, lover, husband and I always want the best for him. And luckily I get to be part of making that happen (vice versa). That’s the biggest difference between my previous relationship and my current one.


In my previous relationship, I just found myself in it one day. I didn’t even think about it. We dated, we slept together, we lived together and then we were in this ‘relationship’ and then 11 years went by! With Roly, I was more thoughtful. There were two things I wanted in a partner at that point – someone who wanted to be with me and not just ‘someone,’ and a partner who was going to fight for me. And that’s Roly. And that’s how I feel about him. I just want him to be happy and if I can be part of making that happen then that’s pretty great. I just really like him as a friend and person. The rest is icing.

The hard part is the distance. Long distance relationships can be done, but sooner or later you just wanna start and end the day with your person. In person. Thank God for texting, Facebook, video calls, and regular calls. We end up connecting every couple of days. Things have gotten easier for us in the past two years. Still not easy but easier. If I need to hear from him, or vice versa, we both make the effort to be there for the other as much as possible. I don’t recommend long distance but it’s possible. He’s worth waiting for, so I wait it out and do what I can to be ready for that day when he arrives.

The other difficulty I think is just dealing with baggage from previous relationships. That inner dialogue is a bitch. That voice is challenging as you get older because you’ve been through some tough experiences. What if this person leaves me like my ex did? What if I’m not enough? At a certain point, you just gotta say “fuck it.” We all deserve good stuff, so expect that, give that, want that. Negativity begets negativity – that inner dialogue can give you all that negative crap if that’s what you expect. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy.

I think it’s important to be aware of, and to dismantle the negative to see it for what it is. It’s our own insecurities, experiences getting in the way of us being happy I guess. Maybe it’s self protection. Who knows but it’s BS. We can create our own hurdles or say we’re not deserving of something awesome. Fuck that. Just go for it.

Before meeting Roly, after my break-up, I went through a bit of time healing time; enjoying being single and working on that positive headspace. When I was ready to put myself out there, I went on a date with a well-known local architect. We’d met through work a couple of times and he seemed awesome. But then we went out. Wow. He was nothing like the guy I originally met. The guy I met seemed authentic, modest and insightful. A very grounded person. Date guy spent most of the night talking about himself, his accomplishments, about how women would throw themselves at him. Ew! I think it’s great when you meet someone and you get to discover all the kewl things about them, over time, or by asking questions, instead of them talking at you and listing all their accomplishments. What’s left for me to discover or be intrigued by? Not much.

The kicker was when he told me halfway through our date that he’d a ‘sleepover’ the previous night. Yup – that’s when potential love interest turned into a possible friendship and then ended with nothing to be retrieved but my dignity, I guess. It was a huge moment of realization for me. Some people would let it pass, try to be the one to make him commit. But nah! If something doesn’t fit no matter how you alter it, there will come a time when you see the patch job you did wasn’t worth it. I sometimes think about these things like a dress… I know – random metaphor or what?! But you’re shopping for that perfect dress. And you find one that is on sale, the colour is close, the fit is pretty good so you buy it. But whenever you wear it you’re pulling it down, adjusting the top or what have you. It never truly feels ‘right’ so that sale dress wasn’t such a deal, was it? What if you had held out for the dress that was a bit more money, took a bit more shopping around for but every time you wear it you feel fucking awesome. You can upcycle a thrift store dress but you can’t upcycle people. You can’t really change someone. And the person you see them as or see them growing into isn’t necessarily who they end up being.

None of us are perfect but if someone doesn’t see your value then there’s nothing you can do to change that. In my previous relationship, I tried really hard to make love fit. I lowered my expectations, became less of myself, put up with crappy behaviour. But we all deserve more than that. During this disastrous date, I knew I just wasn’t willing to put up with any more ickiness. I knew I would rather be on my own and wait for someone worthwhile.

Some of us get things right early on, but then some of us need those test runs. I had a test run, a practice boyfriend, and then Roly. The only reason I was so sure this time was because of my past dating experiences. I knew I was never going to meet someone like him again, and I knew he was going to make some woman very happy, so why couldn’t that woman be me? When I was with my long time partner, looking back, I think I settled a bit and went with a man who was less than deserving of me. I guess I did this to avoid getting hurt. But in the end, he ‘dumped’ me just after our 11 year anniversary and just before Christmas. 2009 was a crap year – my Dad nearly died, my Mom had health issues and then my partner broke up with me. Through that though I learned and grew a lot. And one thing in particular has stuck with me: heartache is heartache. It feels the same whether it’s mourning an ok relationship or something great. So I decided to hold out for great. And when I found it, I took the leap. Going for something wonderful is scary, because you maybe don’t feel deserving or up for it but really settling doesn’t guarantee anything. So you go for it and see where it goes. And sometimes it just works out. I sent Roly a quote after meeting him that he always reminds me of: “always believe something wonderful is about to happen.” He is that, for me.

If I have any advice on the subject of love, I would want everyone, not just guys, to know that settling is safe but heartache will happen regardless. So go for the game changer. Take the chance and know you’re worth “amazing.” Settling is no guarantee of avoiding heart break. Be open to possibility, to the surprise conversation on the bus, the amazing travel love affair, the cute neighbor.

Love just seems to find us in those random, beautiful moments so be ready for it and know you’re deserving.

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