Creators Without Compromise

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“Every man must decide whether he will walk in the light of creative altruism or in the darkness of destructive selfishness.”- Martin Luther King, Jr.

It is one of my deepest desires to live within a world where I can surround myself with beauty, luxury and comfort without compromising this beautiful earth we live on, or the health and wellbeing of the people on it. I believe with all my heart that this is the world that is coming. The world that many of us are currently consciously creating. I believe that we can not only have abundance in our lives, but that it’s our birthright. When I say abundance, I don’t mean excess, because that would be out of balance with everything. I mean the bounty that comes from feeling full, satisfied, content with what we have and the peace and serenity that comes when you feel well cared for and a part of something bigger than yourself. When we reach this level of contentment, the only desires that arise are the ones that drive us to create and expand our human experience through making and doing and the positive impacts that it has on the world.

When we choose to experience life from a place of gratitude and we live from the perspective of possibility, we begin to see the potential of human beings and their capacity to be in sync with the rythms of the earth and live harmoniously with it and each other. We begin to also see the potential in ourselves. It is this faith in human potential that drives everything I do. Not only do I want to create things for the joy of it, I want to create things that help others to achieve their fullest potential as well, while at the same time promoting a connection to the earth and a unity between people and planet. I know that compassion and collaboration are key in the creation of this kind of life experience. This might seem like a very large undertaking and a bit overwhelming from one perspective, but it is my view that even the simplest creative acts are part of a greater good. You don’t need to commit to some grand elaborate scale of creative achievement in order to have a massive impact. We may only play a song on our guitar that few will ever hear, or up-cycle and refurbish old furniture or clothing for our own personal use, but the ripple effect of these small acts of creation and expansion can have an impact that is substantial. You may think nothing of your little hobby that you do when you think no one is watching, but your simple act of making it a priority and doing creates an allowing within those around you that can quite literally change people’s lives. Think of the child who carries a bounty of creative potential who sees others around him taking the time to be creative. That child could be the next Nikola Tesla, or Ludwig Van Beethoven, and your simple acts of creativity help to cultivate an environment that allows that child to feel safe enough to take a chance, to explore, to investigate their own creative instincts. Every single person can have an impact that they may never even know they have, and every single person who is inspired to create because of someone else’s creativity is a win for all of us in the human family.

Ren (Chinese: 仁) is the Confucian (Chinese Philosophy) virtue denoting the good feeling a virtuous human experiences when being altruistic.

Confucius (Chinese Philosopher) also defined ren in the following way: “wishing to be established himself, seeks also to establish others; wishing to be enlarged himself, he seeks also to enlarge others.” Confucius also said, “Ren is not far off; he who seeks it has already found it.” -Wikipedia

It is when the deep creative force within us as well as a desire to live in harmony and do no harm in the process of that creation meet in the middle, that true magic occurs. It’s like the entire universe is at your back cheering you on and at your front clearing a path for you. You are driven by your own need to expand, but also, the need to feel your connection with all things. You know that you are impacted by others and that you too have impact and it leaves you feeling empowered and significant, yet completely humbled and in service of others at the same time.

“Keep a green tree in your heart and perhaps a singing bird will come.”

-Chinese Proverb

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It is my greatest pleasure to introduce you to Little Tree Hugger Soap! Luxury, hand made, natural bath and body products made right here in Manitoba. It was the beauty and inspiration from nature that drew me in, but their commitment to sustainability and compassion, never compromising on people’s health and the health of the planet was what truly won me over! Not only do they make exceptional quality products, they are committed to something greater than themselves and a belief that we should all experience the benefits of feeling luxurious and pampered, guilt free. This is a philosophy I can truly get behind!

“At Little Tree Hugger Soap we strive to provide Luxury without Compromise. What does that mean? You get the finest quality, luxurious bath and body products that never comprise our health or the health of our planet and it’s many creatures.

We want you to feel secure in your bath and body products; we carefully research every ingredient and promise you Truth in Labelling at all times. Sustainability and compassion are central to everything we do. We are proud to be certified cruelty free by Leaping Bunny and EWG Certified. We believe firmly in supporting local business; we source all of our ingredients from Canadian Companies even when that means paying more. Our products are fair-trade and organic whenever possible. We use only the highest quality ingredients, natural botanicals, essential oils, and phthalate and paraben free fragrances. Fragranced products are always clearly marked for those wishing to avoid fragrances. Finally, we pay close attention to our artistic vision and spare no detail in creating a visually pleasing, effective, and luxurious product you will thoroughly enjoy!”  -Little Tree Hugger Soap Website

To purchase Little Tree Hugger Soap products, visit their website www.littletreehuggersoap.com to shop on-line, or any of their Partner Stores located in Manitoba. Also…

*****STAY TUNED for the GRAND OPENING of their NEW SHOP at 296 McDermot Ave. in Winnipeg! Their SOFT OPENING is AUGUST 1st!!!*****

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PHOTOGRAPHY BY: Michael Sanders, Electric Monk Media

STYLING, HAIR & MAKEUP BY: Tara Cole-McCaffrey, Patron of Dreams

FASHION: Dress from Shakti, Earrings by Divine Light Therapies.

SOAPS, BATH & BODY PRODUCTS BY: Little Tree Hugger Soap

 

Free Bird

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“Blackbird singing in the dead of night
Take these broken wings and learn to fly
All your life
You were only waiting for this moment to arise
Blackbird singing in the dead of night
Take these sunken eyes and learn to see
All your life
You were only waiting for this moment to be free
Blackbird fly, blackbird fly
Into the light of the dark black night
Blackbird fly, blackbird fly
Into the light of the dark black night
Blackbird singing in the dead of night
Take these broken wings and learn to fly
All your life
You were only waiting for this moment to arise”   – The Beatles

From the moment you open your eyes for the first time into the light of this world, you are taught how to fit in. As parents and communities, we teach children the rules, the social norms and culture in which they’ve been born into. We are taught how to be appropriate and what behaviour is acceptable in our community. These rules and norms and social structures are different all over the world, and even from household to household. How you are taught to be, largely depends on where you come forth onto this planet. This is one of the reasons I think that travel is so very important. When you see how other people live, in very different cultures than the one you were born into, you see that there are other ways to live this life. You realize that there really is no right way or wrong way, it all just depends on what you were taught based on the rules of your community.

I feel very fortunate to have been born in a country that prides itself on diversity. In Canada I have so many options, and freedoms to decide for myself how I want to live. I never take that for granted. When you are young, you tend to conform to the ideals of the people around you. Your family, teachers, neighbourhood and city. As you get older and you become exposed to more diversity, your influences begin to grow and expand. I was lucky enough to travel across the ocean to England and France for 3 weeks with a group of 20 other students when I was only 17 years old. That was a game changer for me! I saw how much bigger the world actually is. It opened my eyes and my mind to the idea that I have way more options than I ever thought I had. It was the first time that I started to dream about what my life could be, which was a welcome discovery with graduation from High School looming in the near future and the mounting pressure for me to figure out what I wanted to do with the rest of my life.

I have since experienced many twists and turns in this crazy life, but one thing has remained consistent. I have made sure that travel is a part of it, even if only a sprinkle here and there. In addition to visiting England and France, I have been to Turkey, Greece, Mexico, several U.S. States, Costa Rica and all over Canada. While this is really just a small smattering of places on our big beautiful blue planet, it has gained me a knowledge I could not have received had I never left the city I was born in. My experiences with the people of other cultures has given me perspective into what the meaning of freedom is to me, and that’s no small thing. I think that if you really look at all the things that people want, no matter where they are from, it all boils down to one thing, freedom. People want love and acceptance, they want to feel safe and cared for, to have nice things in a comfortable home, they want to find meaning and purpose in their work or whatever they spend their time doing. People want to laugh and feel joyful and give back to others. All of these things added up together really equate to a life where you feel free. Some view freedom as the romanticized concept where you have no ties to anyone or responsibilities, so you can come and go as you please with no accountability. You can travel the world and do what you want without answering to a soul. I have known people who have chosen this life when they were young, mostly to regret it later, when they begin to crave belonging and roots and people around them who love them consistently. That’s not to say that living that romanticized ideal for a while for your own personal growth and self development isn’t a noble pursuit. I just believe that it doesn’t fully capture the full essence of what it is to be free. At some point, you are likely to feel something is missing and then you are no longer free.

“Young man, full of big plans and thinking about tomorrow
Young man, going to make a stand
You beg, steal, you borrow
You beg, you steal, you borrow
Dreaming of the day
You’re gonna pack your bags
Put the miles away
Oh, just grab your girl and go
Where no one knows you
What will all the old folks say?
So the home town’s bringing you down
Are you drowning in the small talk and the chatter? Or you gonna step into line like your daddy done
Punching the time and climbing life’s long ladder”

 – Ray LaMontague, Beg Steal or Borrow lyrics

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So what is freedom really then? Well, in my estimation, it’s living a lifestyle where you are allowed to fully be yourself. If you have to change who you are to accommodate those around you, you are not free. If your responsibilities to others outweigh your ability to nurture yourself and your passions, you are not free. If you are spending your days at a job or in a role that doesn’t feed your soul, you are not free. If you are financially strapped because you are living beyond your means to maintain a certain lifestyle, you are not free. All of these things keep you from being true to yourself and fully embracing the person you are meant to be, and I believe they are all symptoms of the same thing, trying to fit in, instead of being yourself. It comes right back to our beginnings when fitting in and following the social rules of engagement was being hammered into us from all directions as children. We spend much of our adult lives realizing that there are many ways to live and we actually have a choice, but choosing differently from those around us may present all kinds of challenges. I think many people are too afraid to face those challenges and choose a life of appealing to others to the detriment of themselves, and possibly to the entire world, because who knows what you are capable of if given the chance to let your talents shine.

My suggested solution to this dilemma is simple. It’s stated in one way or another in every major religion of the world. Do unto others as you would have others do unto you! We all want to feel free. Every. Single. One. Of. Us! So, allow. Allow people to be themselves. Allow people to have their opinions. Allow people to choose their own adventure. Allow people to have the lifestyle that suites them. Allow others, because you want to be allowed, and through our allowing, we remove the need to conform to fit in and belong. This creates an incredible ripple effect of personal freedom. It removes the tendency to compare yourself with others and the need to keep up with the Jones’s. This would save a lot of people from financial debt and living beyond their means. It also removes the insecurity that makes us easily manipulated by advertising and promises of happiness if you just be, live and look a certain way. There is no right way to live. If you don’t believe me, then travel the world. See for yourself. There are millions of people doing it differently who are happy. There are more options than you can possibly imagine and by choosing something different that speaks to your soul, you open up the option for others’ who may not have known they could choose something else. You don’t have to follow the herd, and you may be very surprised to discover that if you have the courage to be true to yourself, you will inspire others to do the same. People you couldn’t have imagined will be encouraged your bravery. Just allow. Stop trying to conform everyone to your one way of living. Sing it’s praises if you love it, but don’t assume it’s right for everyone. Teach the children in your life how incredibly important it is for them to nurture themselves and their interests. Expose them to as much variety as possible so they see how many options there are out there for them. Stop trying to turn children into replicas of each other so they can fit in, or celebrities so they’re cool, and Parent’s, please, oh please, stop trying to mould your kids into mini versions of yourself. Let them unfold. Let them be them. Let their little personalities and quirks and talents reveal themselves and encourage their realness, not their conformity. I’m not saying we need to abandon all the rules and the social contracts. They are a part of the world we live in too and they are important to understand and navigate. But, balance is key and let’s face it, some rules are made to be broken. Our children need to understand all the rules in order to know which ones are arbitrary, or down right damaging, and which ones actually help society. Social rules should never stop us from living our truth and being ourselves.

So be yourself and help others do the same. We can only open the bars of all the cages and set one another free if we support each another. Live and let live. Be brave enough to follow your own path while allowing others to follow theirs. Just spread your wings and fly. Be free to be you.

“I’ve always been fascinated by everything with wings.” – Dolly Parton

Introducing, THE SALVAGE HEART!!!

These crazy-fun, winged earrings are created by The Salvage Heart, using up-cycled leather, faux leather and other found materials, right here in Manitoba, Canada. I love designer, Nadia Kuhl’s work because she has so many options! There is literally a pair of earrings for every type of person in every colour and texture, and I am ecstatic when I discover fashion or jewellery that is ethically and sustainably made. There is nothing better than supporting businesses that are making our planet a priority. Nadia is an incredible artist, who also up-cycles and re-works denim and other fashion too. You can find her beautiful creations for sale on-line at thesalvageheart.com, as well as in person at Poor Michaels Emporium in Onanole, Manitoba.

Coming up next! Where you can find The Salvage Heart:

  • June 9-10, 2018 just west of Winnipeg Beach as part of Proutopia, a weekend art village featuring 25 artists.
  • July 5-8, 2018 at The Winnipeg Folk Festival at Birds Hill Provincial Park in the Hand Made Village.

“Owned by Manitoba prairie based artist Nadia Kuhl
The Salvage Heart ~ is born from the desire to create something new
from found, salvaged & re-purposed treasures.
All of our creations are 100% hand-made in Manitoba
from items that were destined to end up in landfills.
Reduce, reuse, recycle, recreate.” –The Salvage Heart Website

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PHOTOGRAPHY BY: Michael Sanders, Electric Monk Media

STYLING, HAIR & MAKEUP BY: Tara Cole-McCaffey, Patron of Dreams

THRIFTED FASHION: Wonder Woman t-shirt, hot-pink satin slip, cowboy boots and black suede fringe jacket.

VINTAGE FASHION: Velvet pants from Shop Take Care.

CURRENT FASHION: Up-cycled earrings from The Salvage Heart. Sunglasses from Urban Waves Winnipeg.

Special note: Huge thank you to Carey Coffin and her Parents for providing this incredible teal 1966 Beaumont Convertible for this shoot! Many. many thanks!

 

 

 

 

 

Winter Blues

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Trouble in Mind

Trouble in mind, Lord I’m blue
Honey I won’t be blue always,
Sun’s gonna shine in my,
Lord, shine in my back door someday.
I’m gonna lay,
Lay my head
On that lonesome railroad line,
And let the 219 train
Ease my troubled mind.
Trouble in mind
Lord I’m blue, now,
I won’t be blue always
Yeah, that sun’s gonna shine in my,
Lord, shine in my back door someday.  Janis Joplin

 

Golden Years

Don’t let me hear you say life’s taking you nowhere, angel
Come get up my baby
Look at that sky, life’s begun
Nights are warm and the days are young
Come get up my baby
There’s my baby, lost that’s all
Once I’m begging you save her little soul
Golden years, gold whop whop whop
Come get up my baby
Last night they loved you, opening doors and pulling some strings, angel
Come get up my baby
In walked luck and you looked in time
Never look back, walk tall, act fine
Come get up my baby
I’ll stick with you baby for a thousand years
Nothing’s gonna touch you in these golden years, gold
Golden years, gold whop whop whop
Come get up my babyDavid Bowie

Winter. It can be a bitch. Not enough sun and not enough fun. It’s the result of that funny universal pendulum that keeps everything in balance. After December, a month of total excess and too much of everything, we get slammed with a harsh reality check, and it leaves us feeling the polar opposite of December, like there’s not enough. I think the trick for conquering this, is awareness of this pendulum phenomenon. When you can shine a light on the patterns that repeat, and the ever swinging pendulum of extreme opposites, you can start to anticipate it, laugh at it before it even happens, and mitigate it’s effects. You can also realize that all you are really in control of is your own emotions. You can let your reactionary feelings take you on a roller coaster ride through your own personal misery, or you can get yourself into the driver’s seat and decide exactly where you want to go and how much attention and energy you want to give to the things that don’t make you feel good.

It took me many years of teenage and twenty-something angst to realize that the flexible and ever changing nature of our emotions allows them to be adapted by us if we can make it a personal practice to be aware of what’s happening inside of us. Let me be clear that I’m not talking about combating clinical depression or anxiety disorders. I realize that no one dealing with these difficult issues can just flip a switch in their brain to feel better. Those of us not dealing with that still experience a struggle to get the winter blues under control. It should also be said that I’m not talking about avoiding serious emotional issues or traumas that you need to work through either. Those nasties have a way of returning over and over and over again until you do the emotional and spiritual work of facing them, working through the painful emotions and healing yourself. I’m talking about the general funk or malaise that seems to go along with lack of sunshine, maybe less money, less hustle and bustle, some unwanted extra weight, and where I’m from, the frigid cold that on some days requires more will power than it’s worth just to get out the door.

I’m here to tell you that we all have a magic button. A silver bullet that smacks us out of our negativity before we find ourselves in an emotional tailspin. We always have a choice. We do have the ability to switch gears and decide that our foul mood is pointless and not helping us in any way. The only purpose it serves is to challenge you to overcome it. There are little over-riding tricks you can employ to consciously decide to change your mood in an instant. For me, and I imagine for a lot of you too, music is that magic button.

When I was younger I ended a crappy day with moody music that kept me drowning in self pity. I chose tunes that matched my misery and fed the monster of festering despair. I’m not sure when or why it happened, but at some point, I just decided I didn’t want to feel like that anymore. I was tired of dragging these unproductive kill-joy feelings out any longer than absolutely necessary. I recognized that no one was going to save me, so if I wanted to feel better I’d have to save myself. Music is a very powerful tool for this. It can work almost instantly. Do yourself a favour and conduct a little experiment. Next time you are feeling a little rough, put on some of your favourite music that typically ilicites the polar opposite mood to the nasty one you are feeling. You may find at first that you feel annoyed by it, because it doesn’t match your current vibe at all. The reality is, that irritation is still a better feeling than despair. You may also find that if you stick with it, irritation quickly becomes indifference, which turns to optimism, which leads to joy. And voila, you just changed your mood and decided to create your feelings intentionally instead of just allowing them to run on auto-pilot where all the drama sneaks in. You are now on your way to an intentional life.

Managing one mood at a time, one day at a time by remembering to be aware of your feelings and directing them intentionally is completely life changing. It’s just part of a healthy lifestyle. Like eating more fruit and veggies, or getting enough exercise, it’s a commitment. When I started this lifestyle change, I needed LOTS of reminders. I would slip into autopilot all the time and forget to be aware of how I was feeling, and before I knew it, negative thoughts had led me straight into a bad mood. But, just like committing to a workout plan, I made a commitment to it. I put sticky notes all over my house that said “How are you feeling?”. I know it sounds nuts, but WOW, it’s amazing how that question immediately creates an awareness and presence within you, and sheds an immediate light on what you were thinking and feeling. You become aware of how little your feelings have to do with what’s happening right now, and that they really reflect where your thoughts had taken you and what feelings transpired as a result of those thoughts. Auto-pilot. Your mind will drive you, if you aren’t intentionally driving it. Here’s where choosing up-lifting music, inspiring books and positive people around you makes all the difference, even in the middle of a dark, deep freeze winter when life feels extra challenging. Get intentional, become aware of your feelings and decide to take charge of your moods. Your future self will thank you, I promise! Until then, get into the music and out of the winter blues.

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PHOTOGRAPHY BY: Michael Sanders, Electric Monk Media

STYLING, HAIR & MAKEUP, ART DIRECTION: Tara Cole-McCaffrey, Patron of Dreams

VINTAGE FASHION: Re-worked vintage wide-leg jeans by Patron of Dreams. Vintage blue Chinese satin jacket from Atomic Age Vintage. Blue sequin top from Ruby Slipper.  Vintage blue suede, Penny-Lane style coat from Value Village Thrift.

CURRENT FASHION: Blue aviator sunglasses from Urban Waves. Black ankle boots from Rooster Shoes.

MUSIC *S.O.S (since 1962)

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Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to                                                                                                              get through this thing called life. *1                               

What have they done to the earth?
What have they done to our fair sister?
Ravaged and plundered and ripped her and bit her
Stuck her with knives in the side of the dawn
And tied her with fences and dragged her down
I hear a very gentle sound
With your ear down to the ground
We want the world and we want it
We want the world and we want it now *2

And when the broken-hearted people
Living in the world agree
There will be an answer
Let it be

For though they may be parted there is
Still a chance that they will see
There will be an answer, Let it be *3

How many ears must one person have
Before he can hear people cry?
And how many deaths will it take ’till he knows
That too many people have died?
The answer, my friends, is blowin’ in the wind
The answer is blowin’ in the wind *4                        

So the days float through my eyes
But still the days seem the same
And these children that you spit on
As they try to change their worlds
Are immune to your consultations
They’re quite aware of what they’re going through                                                                            Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes Turn and face the strange Ch-ch-changes *5

Oh, mirror in the sky, what is love?
Can the child within my heart rise above?
Can I sail through the changing ocean tides?
Can I handle the seasons of my life?
Mmm, mmm, mmm
Well, I’ve been afraid of changing
‘Cause I’ve built my life around you
But time makes you bolder
Even children get older and I’m getting older too *6

Well, I won’t back down
No, I won’t back down
You can stand me up at the gates of hell
But I won’t back down
No, I’ll stand my ground
Won’t be turned around
And I’ll keep this world from draggin’ me down
Gonna stand my ground *7

Let’s get together to fight this Holy Armageddon (One Love!)
So when the Man comes there will be no, no doom (One Song!)
Have pity on those whose chances grows thinner
There ain’t no hiding place from the Father of Creation. Sayin’: “One Love”!                                                                                        What about the One Heart? (One Heart!) What about the – ? Let’s get together and feel all right. I’m pleadin’ to mankind! (One Love!) *8

Lay down your funky weapon, come join us on the floor
Making love and music’s the only things worth fighting for
We are the new power generation, we want to change the world. *9

But it’s been no bed of roses, no pleasure cruise. I consider it a challenge before the whole human race, and I ain’t gonna lose. We are the champions, my friends.                       And we’ll keep on fighting ’til the end. We are the champions. We are the champions.                                                                                                                            No time for losers ‘Cause we are the champions of the world. *10

Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people sharing all the world
You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope some day you’ll join us
And the world will live as one *11

I’m starting with the man in the mirror
I’m asking him to change his ways
And no message could have been any clearer
If you wanna make the world a better place
Take a look at yourself and then make a change
You gotta get it right, while you got the time
Cause when you close your heart
Then you close your mind *12

*1 PRINCE (Let’s Go Crazy 1984)

*2 THE DOORS (When the Music’s Over 1967)

*3 THE BEATLES (Let it Be 1970)

*4 BOB DYLAN (Blowin’ in The Wind 1962)

*5 DAVID BOWIE (Changes 1971)

*6 STEVIE NICKS (Landslide 1973)

*7 TOM PETTY (I Won’t Back Down 1989)

*8 BOB MARLEY (One Love 1977)

*9 PRINCE (New Power Generation 1990)

*10 FREDDIE MERCURY (We are The Champions 1977)

*11 JOHN LENNON (Imagine 1971)

*12 MICHAEL JACKSON (Man in the Mirror 1987) patron_stvital-8137patron_stvital-8118patron_stvital-7946patron_stvital-7981patron_stvital-8040patron_stvital-8158patron_stvital-8011patron_stvital-8286patron_stvital-8362patron_stvital-8061patron_stvital-7958patron_stvital-8127patron_stvital-8049patron_stvital-8300patron_stvital-8213

PHOTOGRAPHY BY: Michael Sanders, Electric Monk Media

STYLING, MODELING, HAIR & MAKEUP BY: Tara Cole-McCaffrey, Patron of Dreams

CONTEMPORARY FASHION: Booties from Rooster. Sunglasses from Urban Waves

VINTAGE FASHION: Denim bellbottoms from Vintage Glory.  Vintage military hat from Antiques and Funk.  Vintage velvet Indian caftan from Shakti.  

*S.O.S = Save Our Souls

 

Thinning of the Veil

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“To everything – turn, turn, turn
There is a season – turn, turn, turn
And a time to every purpose under heaven

A time to be born, a time to die
A time to plant, a time to reap
A time to kill, a time to heal
A time to laugh, a time to weep”

– The Byrds (Lyrics for Turn! Turn! Turn!) (Adapted from the Bible: Ecclesiastes 3:1-8)

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The days are shortening and the darkness and cold is seeping in slowly like a fog, a little more each day. I no longer feel fresh and new like the first sprouts of spring. This does not sadden or disappoint me. Instead, I feel ripe, potent and intense like the sweet heady scent of decaying leaves with wafts of cinnamon and smoke from burning stubble on farmers’ fields. The air feels crackly and thin giving me shivers and making the little hairs all over my body stand on end, telling me daily that I’m not alone. On the contrary, I am closer to all things than I am during any other season. It is the time of great dying, when Mother Nature transitions from a time of life and growth and prepares for a great sleep after giving us her harvested bounty and moving towards the season of death. All times of transition can be times of great reflection. The darkening days reflect the shadows within our own souls that we must attend to and heal. All of us carry darkness that we must not fear and turn away from, but instead, look deeply into and move through it, like we move through winter towards the light and re-birth on the other side. The fall transition is a time of gratitude for the abundance received all summer and a time of preparation for the dark cold days where we must create our own light and warmth by turning within and projecting outward.

The veil is thinning.

The realms of the living world and spirit world are transitioning and in flux. The memories of loved ones that have passed come to us in dreams. We feel them closer than we tend to at other times of the year. We are reminded of our own mortality. We are reminded that like the seasons, we too are markers of time, change and transition. This is not morbid or negative. It serves as a reminder that we are all an integral part of everything. All life and all death. All lightness and all darkness. Connected.

As we age, we are given signs that we are getting closer to who we actually are, which lays just out of reach on the other side of the veil. Every wrinkle, age spot and change within our physical body is not something to hide, fear or loathe. We miss the point when we do not honour that they are signs that we are coming back to our source. We are getting closer to ourselves. We are spiritual beings having a human experience. This has nothing to do with religion or dogma, it means that our spirit never ages, but gets clearer and clearer as time moves on and our physical form fades. Have you not noticed that as people age, they seem to grow into themselves? When you speak to older people, they tend to talk about how they have become more confident over time, more self assured and have learned to care much less about what other people think of them. They may become more free or eccentric as time marches on. They may take more risks and do things that they never would have done when they were younger. They may become quiet, introspective, thoughtful and peaceful. They are not as rattled or as emotional about things that happen in life. They grow more patient, compassionate and generous with themselves and others.

Aging is a great gift and a mirror reflection of nature all around us. Just like we cannot stop winter from coming, we cannot stop aging, yet there are endless anti-aging products and techniques out there that are sabotaging our personal growth. They teach us to fear and be ashamed of aging. They teach us to hide it and covet youth which carries a great illusion of power. It is one of the great many lies that keep us from our own growth. This is not to say that beauty products or adornment are wrong or do not have their place. On the contrary, they can help us celebrate ourselves and the beauty of our own evolution at every stage of life that we move through. It is when the culture of shame and anti-aging takes over and manipulates us into striving for the illusion of youth that it becomes so damaging to the human spirit. The constant effort and attempts to look younger, spending money, time and energy on a losing battle, instead of on the development of spirit and character is robbing us of so many opportunities to evolve and grow into our potential. It stagnates us, so we are so glamoured by our own reflection, we forget that the true meaning of our life lives on the inside, where no one can see. Aging, like the changing seasons is a great teacher which never stops giving us opportunities to learn and grow until our time earth-side has come to an end. Whether or not we pay attention to the lessons and decide to learn from them becomes a matter of personal choice.

You may have heard the expression “what we resist, persists”. We cannot resist age, just as a flower cannot bloom forever, nor does it try to. Instead, it spends it’s time reaching for the light and growing as vibrant and to it’s fullest potential as it possibly can within the time it has before it’s death. It does not fear death, or try to stop the inevitable. It knows that this would be a waste of it’s energy in the limited time it has. We can learn a lot from a flower. We can learn a lot from the natural cycles of nature. We can learn from the thinning of the veil that occurs every autumn that we are nature, and nature is us, and it is precisely in that place where the physical world and spirit world connect that we find out who we actually are. But only if we choose to pay attention and learn.

PHOTOGRAPHY BY: Michael Sanders, Electric Monk Media

STYLING, HAIR & MAKEUP: Tara Cole-McCaffrey, Patron of Dreams

VINTAGE FASHION: 90’s vintage from head to toe!

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Old Fashioned is the New Fashion. The Opera.

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“An opera begins long before the curtain goes up and ends long after it has come down. It starts in my imagination, it becomes my life, and it stays part of my life long after I’ve left the opera house.” – Maria Callas (Greek-American Soprano Opera singer)

If you have never been to the opera, you are missing out on one of life’s exquisite experiences. There is such an abundance of history, beauty, passion and talent that goes into the creation of this performance art that it’s quite thrilling to behold.  Just take a moment to consider the complexity and orchestration of different components involved in bringing an opera to the stage.  The opera requires composers; writers; musicians; singers; costume designers; set designers; construction crews; makeup artists; hair stylists; lighting and sound technicians.  The list goes on, and each of the people involved has spent months preparing for each performance and years of study and practice to perfect their art.  The opera is a veritable bounty of passionate individuals who devote themselves to creating an experience for you that can bring you to tears, invoke full belly laughter, or invigorate and inspire you.

We all love to be entertained. In today’s modern world we spend our time and dollars on entertainment in the form of dinner out at a nice restaurant with friends, a date-night movie, or late night drinks and dancing. While those experiences are wonderful, they are common, and just don’t provide the magic and atmosphere that live performance does. As someone who has spent her fare share of time in the performance world (you can ask me about my colourful past experiences on stage when I see you at the opera), there is an extra level of energy and communication that occurs between the audience and the performers that only a live performance experience can provide.  To know and understand that an entire whirlwind of people and activity is happening backstage while the mirrored hustle and bustle of patrons arrives and finds their seats is thrilling. As much as the audience is excited and in anticipation, so are the artists who are anxiously preparing to perform for you. That energetic tension is exhilarating and it’s part of the beauty of the opera.

I have heard some say that they think the opera is “old-fashioned” or “out-dated”, or even that “it’s not relevant anymore”, typically from those who have never been to the opera.  I say, what a tragedy to not see that opera, just like classic literature or Shakespearian plays, provides an emotional journey into the human condition, which has not changed, even though our social structures, ways of dressing and speaking has been through many iterations.  People are still emotional beings. Love, hate, joy, sorrow, passion, romance and intrigue are still very much the same in this day and age as they were, and going to the opera can remind us of that. The opera, just like old movies, can bring historical ideas or values that are considered controversial or inappropriate by current standards into the light. To perform it, is not to say it’s right or wrong, or to have an opinion about it or not, it just shines a light on a part of our history, and can serve as a reminder of how different things are now. It can start intelligent conversations about meaningful things. The opera makes us feel something, and isn’t that what all good art is meant to do?

Let’s also not overlook the experience leading up to the performance itself.  There is something very romantic about getting dressed up (with a now modern and relaxed dress-code), and entering the majesty and opulence of a theatre or opera house.  In Winnipeg, we have the Centennial Concert Hall with its massive sparking chandeliers, vast staircases and hardwood detailing throughout. The process of checking your coat, having a glass of champagne or espresso from the coffee bar, gathering with friends and revelling in the anticipation of being transported to a different time and place is nothing short of magical.

The Manitoba Opera’s production of Werther by Jules Massenet will be in Winnipeg on
April 29, May 2, and May 5, 2017.  I will definitely be there, experiencing Werther for the first time!  Come and join me and experience the romance of the opera!

Also, stay tuned on Instagram for an upcoming “giveaway” in collaboration between Patron of Dreams, Manitoba Opera, and fashion designer Lennard Taylor!

(Don’t miss out on their BOGO deal for Werther tickets. Use coupon code: BOGO for this limited time offer!)

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About the opera Werther:

Werther (pronounced “Vare-tare”) is an opera by French composer, Jules Massenet, that tells the story of the idealistic young poet who cannot live without love. Sets and costumes for this production are provided by L’Opéra de Montreal, reset in America in the 1920s. Costumes were designed by Sabrina Barilà of Barilà in Montreal, who creates edgy, urban women’s clothing with a touch of whimsy and romance. 

Note: The opera is sung in French with projected English translations (so you can read along and always know what’s happening!)

Synopsis: Werther is the tale of a young poet who meets the woman of his dreams, only to find that she is engaged to another. Werther tries to stay away, but his tormented heart aches to be with her. Her marriage sends Werther into a dark downward spiral; a final rejection drives Werther to suicide. His beloved declares her feelings for him as he breathes his last breath.

“I have so much in me, and the feeling for her absorbs it all; I have so much, and without her it all comes to nothing.”
― Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, The Sorrows of Young Werther

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PHOTOGRAPHY BY: Michael Sanders, Electric Monk Media.

LOCATION: Shot at the Centennial Concert Hall in collaboration with Manitoba Opera and fashion designer Lennard Taylor.

FASHION STYLING, ARTISTIC DIRECTION, HAIR & MAKEUP BY: Tara Cole-McCaffrey, Patron of Dreams

MODELS: Gregory Chomichuk and Tara Cole-McCaffrey

FASHION: Gregory’s Outfit: Jeans, top and jacket by Lennard Taylor. Yellow pashmina scarf from Sears; shoes from Winners.

Tara’s Outfit: Fringe shirt-dress and vest by Lennard Taylor. Beret hat from the Haberdashery, and shoes are thrifted Madden Girl.

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Juicy Facts about Werther and Upcoming Events:
The opera is based on the novel The Sorrows of Young Werther by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. The over-the-top romanticism of the novella captivated (mostly younger) readers when it was first published in 1774. This work was considered to be the beginning of the Romantic Movement, and achieved incredible popularity. The fervour surrounding this novel eventually came to irritate Goethe, as he found it difficult to escape his legacy as “the man who wrote Werther.”

Emulation of the protagonist was fashionable, and copious amounts of fan art and fan fiction were created by young men and women who loved the tale. But there was a sinister side to the mimicry. Officials in Leipzig, Germany, feared that a wave of suicides would follow; they successfully petitioned to ban the novel. The book was subsequently banned in Italy, Denmark, and Germany. Fear of a suicide contagion was potent. Copycat suicides would come to be known as “The Werther Effect.”

FASHION FRIDAY launches at Werther
A night at the opera is always an evening that features a dazzling array of personal styles on display throughout the Centennial Concert Hall. In celebration of this beautiful diversity, Manitoba Opera is launching Fashion Fridays.

Beginning with Closing Night of Werther, Friday, May 5, and the Friday performances of subsequent productions, a roving photographer will be on the hunt for patrons with “notable style.” Photos of notable style makers will be posted (with permission) on Manitoba Opera’s social media channels after the production.

Notable style may encompass bow-ties and pearls, leopard print and paisley, or jeans and that special t-shirt. One thing is for sure, Manitoba Opera patrons have inimitable style, whether in gowns, jeans, or anything in between!

 Upcoming FREE events:

The Werther Effect: Romantic-Era Perceptions of Suicide
Dr. Michelle Faubert
Thursday, April 20, 7 pm
Carol Shields Auditorium, Millennium Library

Opera Primer: Werther
Don Anderson
Sunday, April 23, 2 pm
Theatre, Université de Saint-Boniface

LOCATION:

Centennial Concert Hall
555 Main Street
Phone: (204) 942-7479
Email: mbopera@manitobaopera.mb.ca
www.manitobaopera.mb.ca

Note: All italicized text in this post was provided by Manitoba Opera

Warrior of Diversity

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“Human diversity makes tolerance more than a virtue; it makes it a requirement for survival.” –Rene Dubos

“Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace

You may say that I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will be as one”
John Lennon, Imagine

“Whatever you are physically…male or female, strong or weak, ill or healthy–all those things matter less than what your heart contains. If you have the soul of a warrior, you are a warrior. All those other things, they are the glass that contains the lamp, but you are the light inside.”
Cassandra Clare

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It’s okay to be different.  It’s okay to be an individual.  It’s okay to be these things because there is no such thing as being completely the same as anyone else.  We all have similarities and things that we have in common with one another, but there are no two people on planet earth that are exactly the same.  Even identical twins have differences. We are, by nature of being human, very diverse. Each one of us is a complex combination of various traits.Yet, it seems deeply ingrained within humanity to attempt to categorize and label one another so that we know where each other fits within the puzzle of belonging. It tricks us into feeling safe and secure. I know who and what you are, therefore I know where I stand in relation to you.  Unfortunately, this always seems to result in an over simplification of one another and inevitably results in us deciding whether another human being belongs with us, or with them. We focus on the differences so emphatically which leads us to take sides, choose teams, we exclude, we ridicule and we reject, until we have separated ourselves from each other so efficiently, that we as people, loose the ability to see past the labels and categories to the essence of sameness that lies underneath.  The sameness, that is ultimately, our individuality and difference.  It’s a conundrum.  We are all different from each other in some way, yet our focusing on the differences instead of the similarities is what divides us and leads to separation at best and hate towards each other at worst.

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Let’s look at the past. If we look back throughout history to the beginning of humanity, we can see a pattern. People began living within small groups or communities with a basic set of rules and values that everyone agreed on and followed, until an individual had a different idea or opinion.  This created conflict within the group if one person, or a few people were not willing to conform.  Often, this led to that individual or individuals, being rejected by the community and they became outcasts.  Quite literally, they were kicked out, or they left of their own volition.  If their ideas were so different that no one agreed with them and went with them, they would often parish, and their ideas would parish along with them. If a few people agreed with them and were brave enough to leave the larger group, this led to the development of another separate community that represented new ideas.  This pattern has repeated over and over and over and created a diverse human civilization. When we look back at history, we can clearly see that the world is not the same as it was in the 1800’s, 1930’s, 1960’s, 1990’s, etc.  Every new generation has new ideas, new values and new dreams about how they want to the world to be.  If history has taught us anything, it is that the old ways die out and the new ways determine the future of humanity.  If you want to know where the world is going, whether you like it or not, look to the youth of your community. Look to the new ideas and values. Whether you agree with change and evolution or not, history has shown us that it is inevitable.

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When we look back at human evolution, it becomes clear where we got the idea that being different, or not conforming was bad. It often lead to conflict and separation.  It meant being rejected and having to survive on your own.  It meant having a tougher path and possibly death, yet we can also see how incredibly important it was to human development.  Each individual that challenged the status quo, lead to the evolution of the human race.  We now live in a time, where human diversity is so incredibly vast that it is becoming more and more difficult to label and categorize people. Yet, we still try our level best to continue doing so.  We sort other people constantly.  He/she is the same as me, he/she is different than me. Us and Them. Yet, it is almost impossible to know someone’s ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, political views, or basic values, just by looking at them. There were times in history where this was much more obvious and simpler to do, but it is far more challenging in today’s world. There are a few obvious exceptions of course, like clothing intended to signify someone’s religion, but generally speaking, we still make far too many assumptions about one another based on very little actual information. We also get very frustrated or even angry when we can’t easily put people into boxes, or if our assumptions based on appearance lead us to reprimand people for cultural appropriation, or mis-representation, without actually having the slightest clue what someone’s culture, life experience, or up-bringing has been.  Just when we think we have someone pegged, they surprise us with something we never knew about them.  For example, most people don’t know, that I have at least six different ethnicities in my heritage, one of which is Mi’kmaq (First Nations people indigenous to Canada’s Maritime Provinces).  You may just see a white girl with naturally blonde hair and blue eyes, and an Irish name.  The truth is, I am much more diverse than that.  I have also been asked on many occasions if I am Scandinavian because of how I look.  I have a diverse heritage, but Scandinavian, the ethnicity I apparently look the most like, isn’t part of it. Funny now, that I married someone who is partly Scandinavian, and so now my children are, so it has become part of my family’s culture. My story, is a common story, especially in Canada, and it is becoming more and more common with the globalization and integration of many cultures, religions, ethnicities, etc.  Inter-racial marriage, adoption, mixed families through marriages, not to mention all the people who live and raise their families within a culture that is not their culture of origin. Our ancestors fought for generations to allow the diversity and integration that is now common, to become socially acceptable. Lest we forget how it used to be, and the intolerance that previous generations had to endure.

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So, I ask myself, given the state of the world, what if we are at a tipping point in humanity, where a pattern that existed to focus on the differences between people in order to sort and separate for the sake of creating human diversity, is no longer in our best interest for our evolution?  What if, we have become so diverse and so separate now, that the only way for us to evolve further is to switch our focus to the sameness and oneness that is humanity?  What if carrying on in the same manner as we have been with a population as large and diverse as it currently is, will only lead us towards conflict and self destruction? I mean, how separate can we possibly get before it all falls apart? History has shown us again and again that too much separation makes us vulnerable. We know innately that we are stronger together, and I can’t help but notice that a shift in much of society has been occurring.  A shift towards inclusion and tolerance and in the allowing of each individual to just exist without a constant need to label them. This shift becomes quite obvious when you listen to the youth.

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To see just how complicated the world has become, just watch people ordering a coffee at Starbucks or buying a pair of jeans, there are so many options now, it’s overwhelming.  It is also overwhelming to try to constantly put people in boxes.  Gay? Straight? Bi? Male? Female? Trans-Gender? Religion? Ethnicity? Culture? Age? Liberal? Conservative? Rich? Poor?  AHHHHHHHHH?!!! Let’s not even get started on all the sub-cultures, sub-religions, etc. The diversity makes some people so frustrated, that they flatly refuse to even acknowledge some of the diversities that exist. They can’t even process more categories so they simply say, “There is male and female, that is all!  Blue and Pink.  End of story.” Well, here’s another perspective. If the complex diversity of people makes you feel threatened, or confused and overwhelmed so much so that you don’t even want to acknowledge it’s very real existence, why not stop trying so damn hard to label and categorize everyone, and just see other people as human beings instead? Admit it, trying to figure everyone out and sorting them into boxes gives us anxiety. So, let’s stop! Ask yourself, what is the point?  Why spend your time and energy doing that? To what end, and for what purpose? Why not take a load off of yourself and surrender to the simple fact that we are all Humans? We all live on planet earth, we all have a heartbeat, we all come from a woman’s body, we all have families and friends, we all feel love and fear and a multitude of emotions.We all breath air and look up at the same starry sky.  The sun rises and sets on all of us and we all move through our lives within the same 24 hours per day. We all are born, we live life and we die. We are also, each and every one of us, complex and diverse individuals.  This too, makes us the same.  We are one people. One race.  The Human Race, and our diversity is our strength.

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PHOTOGRAPHY BY: Michael Sanders, Electric Monk Media

STYLING, HAIR & MAKEUP BY: Tara Cole-McCaffrey, Patron of Dreams

VINTAGE & THRIFTED FASHION: Fur hat, fur coat, mukluks, military-style cropped jacket, leopard print skirt, necklace, belts and rings.

CURRENT FASHION: tie-dye tights and faux septum ring from Urban Waves Winnipeg,  black military-style coat by Ralph Lauren.