Shine On You Crazy Diamond

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Remember when you were young, you shone like the sun.
Shine on you crazy diamond.
Now there’s a look in your eyes, like black holes in the sky.
Shine on you crazy diamond.
You were caught on the crossfire of childhood and stardom,
Blown on the steel breeze.
Come on you target for faraway laughter,
Come on you stranger, you legend, you martyr, and shine!
You reached for the secret too soon, you cried for the moon.
Shine on you crazy diamond.
Threatened by shadows at night, and exposed in the light.
Shine on you crazy diamond.
Well you wore out your welcome with random precision,
Rode on the steel breeze.
Come on you raver, you seer of visions,
Come on you painter, you piper, you prisoner, and shine!

-Pink Floyd, Shine on You Crazy Diamond

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There is something about you that is different. Even if you have convinced yourself that you are average or blend into the backdrop of the mainstream. I am here to tell you, that you are indeed different, because the concept of normal is a complete fabrication designed to keep us feeling trapped in a cage of our own creation. This disillusionment of normal keeps us disempowered and willing agents in perpetuating a system that serves only those very few at the top, while the rest of us waste away in the land of average and sameness, always feeling like something is missing and never reaching our potential. It is possibly the most important task of your life to discover what it is exactly that sets you apart, defines who you are, and then surrender to it fully with all of your heart. If you can make this a priority, your life will change forever and you will wonder why in the hell you never did it sooner?

Who are you? The question of questions, and one that I ask myself every day to ensure I don’t slip back into complacency and a false sense of self, designed by my ego when I was young in order to help me survive and navigate a painful world, plagued with conformity. We are not our family, our job, the city we live in and the society that has shaped us. These are just the effects of nurture, but they are not your nature. We came into this world with something that is uniquely us and our life experience has either helped to steer us towards ourself or away from it. So really, the question is, who were you before the world got a hold of you? Who were you before you got talked out of following your heart and your bliss and all the things that ignite your fire and make your soul smile and cheer? Who were you before you integrated the message that if your interests don’t make you money they should not be a priority? Who were you before security, practicality and responsibility steered you away from who you actually are and what you want for yourself?

When I see people struggling within the life they have created because somehow, along the way they have ended up filling their days with way more ‘have to’s” than “want to’s”, I have nothing but compassion because I’ve been there. I, like so many others was programmed by social conditioning to keep putting the things I loved aside in favour of socially accepted and understood choices that would ultimately make me money and provide me with security, social status and respect. I went into sciences at University because I had been told repeatedly by many sources that I was more likely to get a job in the field of science, and nothing was more important than a secure job. I then ended up in a very practical Environmental Technology program at College. A couple of years later, I moved out from my childhood home into my own apartment, got a part-time job to pay the rent and gas for my car and then graduated soon after. By the time I was 21 I had started my career at an Engineering firm and began a 10 year climb up the corporate ladder and into a well respected position in a glass sky-rise at a large Corporation downtown. During this climb, I bought a house with my then boyfriend, now husband at age 24, got a dog, bought my first new car, and went on a warm vacation annually. By all socially accepted measures of success, at only 28 years of age, I had made it. While some might have found that life comforting, a deeper, more intuitive part of me found it deeply disheartening. I was only 10 years into being an adult and there were very few rungs left on that corporate ladder I was climbing. I had landed directly in the middle of average. I shot for the middle instead of the stars and landed there more quickly than I had expected. This life was taking up all of my time with very little left over for my interests or passions. Was this really going to fulfill me for the next 35 years of my life until retirement? And then what? Then I get to do what I want? Was I living for the weekend, the next holiday, the golden retirement years? I had a constant nagging feeling within me for something more, that money and vacations and marriage was not fulfilling. Then, I checked the next milestone off my well laid out and organized life. I got pregnant, and everything changed. I was faced with the hardest and also the easiest decision of my life. Would I stay in my extremely demanding career and try to juggle being a Mother, a Wife and a career woman, or would I give up the career I had been building and working towards since high school? That’s when I started to question everything, mostly myself. That’s the first time I had dared to ask myself “who am I?”, and allowed myself to be brutally honest. After quieting the opinions of others and finally listening to my inner knowing, I knew that this life I had built so diligently by following the rules and playing the game, was not in fact who I was. So I gave up my career, and all the money and status that came with it and devoted myself to raising my babies, all the while, doing the soul searching work of getting back to the core of who I was before I got onto this well trodden mainstream track. The isolation and solitude that being a stay-at-home Mom provided me, while lonely and alienating much of the time, was the best gift I have ever given myself. I had a legitimate excuse to get out of the rat race, be separated from the constant reinforcement of popular opinion, and come back home into my own heart.

Often, people who are experiencing that nagging, that inner turmoil that tells them they aren’t living their authentic life, get stuck, because when they ask themselves “who am I?”, “what do I want?” they honestly don’t know the answer. My humble advice for this common experience is to go back to the beginning and start from there. Who were you before other people’s influences, projected fears and scarcity mentality got the better of you? What were you like as a child? What did you do with yourself when boredom led to self-directed creativity? When you were told to go and play or entertain yourself, what did you gravitate to? What made time stop for you, that you lost yourself in completely, that you returned to again and again? All of those things, no matter how trivial or silly they may seem to you now, are the clues to your bliss. They are where the essence of who you are resides.

When I asked myself these questions, it was very clear to see who I was, and I was definitely not being true to her anymore. I was dishonouring that little girl who loved to dress up in elaborate costumes and create characters in her Grandmother’s wardrobe and then come downstairs and ad-lib in character to my Grandparents delight. I was not being true to the little girl who loved to sing and dance, create costumes and perform dance routines to Mini-Pops songs on my portable record player and microphone that connected to our radio. Thank you 1980’s! I had suppressed that pre-teen who dressed her friends up in our Mothers’ clothes and created sets and themes riffing on popular advertisements. I’d take their pictures on an old camera, taking the time to get them developed and putting them into photo albums. I had polished and wiped clean that wild child with the messy tangled mass of hair, who was strong and athletic, wore a camo sweatsuit, painted mud on her face, hiked in the woods, communed with nature and built ramps to jump her BMX bike on dirt trails. I had silenced the teenager who wrote poetry and short stories to process her emotions, played guitar and piano, adored thrift shopping for vintage and cutting up and sewing new clothes out of thrift store finds. There was almost no sign of the girl who read countless books on astrology, spirituality and mysticism, learned to read tarot cards and burned incense daily in the solitude of her room. I was no longer honouring the young woman who chose theatre as her extra curricular activity in high school and Bellydancing as her twenty-something after work hobby that she squeezed into her work schedule. Dance led to teaching, performing and producing Vaudeville-estque productions, and eventually training with world-renowned Bellydancers. Aside from keeping a small fire lit in my heart with dance, I had somehow completely suppressed the girl within me, my soul self, my essence and she was screaming to come out, and making it harder and harder to ignore her dissatisfaction as the years ticked by. I had been waiting for permission to be myself, to be told by someone, anyone, that the things I loved were worthy of my time and focus, and that they deserved to be the centre of my life, not something I pushed to the sidelines in favour of money and security and conformity. I had talked myself out of myself. Everything in me wanted to believe that if I followed my bliss, my interests, the things that made my heart sing, I would be ok. I would be able to take care of myself in this world that had convinced me that the things I love carry no value and have no place here.

I have spent the last decade, re-claiming myself. Gathering up all the ways in which I gave myself away, spread myself too thin and replaced my soul self with an imposter out of fear and the very human need to belong, even if it meant I’d end up surrounding myself with people who would never fully understand or genuinely encourage the real me. I gathered that young creative girl up in my arms and I told her she has my full and complete permission and undying support to unleash herself fully un-encumbered. I started to take chances again. I re-aquainted myself with my creative spark. I re-connected with the wild, natural, mystically inclined warrior woman I always was. I dove back into my passion for vintage clothing, began fashion styling, creating fashion editorials and working with photographers to create visual art. I started writing again and embraced art, philosophy and poetry. I started this blog for the shear joy of mashing all my passions together and birthing them out into the world. I continued to dance and teach and learn. The more of myself I accepted, the more layers of false reality about the world started unravelling and revealing to me. The more honest and authentic I have become with myself, the more confident I get and the easier it is for me to reveal my truest nature to others. I’m not going to tell you that it’s easy, or that you won’t lose people along the way. Being true to yourself at all costs takes an immense amount of courage and conviction and can be challenging for those around you who would prefer you to not rock the boat so they can stay comfortable inside the paradigm they’ve accepted. People who uphold mainstream values will see your choices to live alternatively in favour of your own truth, as a personal judgement on them, not as the brave and honest thing it is. People will see your personal sacrifices of monetary gain and non-attachment to titles and material things as an affront to a lifestyle they are trying to justify to themselves daily in order to have the gumption to hit that alarm clock every morning and go to a job they complain about all the time. You have to be willing to allow those people to fall away from your life and open yourself up to all the new beautiful souls who will begin to appear in your experience.

There is almost always a period of isolation and loneliness in the process of un-learning your social programming and embracing your true self, but I can’t even begin to explain to you the incredible freedom that comes with self-acceptance. Pursuing the life that matches your values and attracting like-minded individuals who will come into your life to teach you new things, cheer you on, support and encourage you and celebrate your victories along with you is incredibly fulfilling and vindicating after facing your fears and conquering them. These new advocates will not only not be threatened by you or want to compete with you, they will hold you up and inspire the hell out of you! The mutual respect will be that which you have always deeply desired. The angst and judgement you felt towards people because you gave your power away by blaming them for robbing you of your vitality, will start to become beautiful to you in incredible ways and you will begin to love the world again the more you love yourself and honour the things that call to your heart and soul.

Remember. Remember the creative genius of a soul that is you. Remember who you are and don’t give your power away. No one can take it from you, it has to be given up freely. Make yourself a priority and get back to that joyful being you were so freely as a child. Peel away the layers of false messages that have been keeping you down and re-claim your potential. And Shine. Shine on you crazy diamond!

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When I was young, it seemed that life was so wonderful
A miracle, oh it was beautiful, magical
And all the birds in the trees, well they’d be singing so happily
Oh joyfully, playfully watching me
But then they send me away to teach me how to be sensible
Logical, oh responsible, practical
And they showed me a world where I could be so dependable
Oh clinical, oh intellectual, cynical
There are times when all the world’s asleep
The questions run too deep
For such a simple man
Won’t you please, please tell me what we’ve learned
I know it sounds absurd
Please tell me who I am
I said, watch what you say or they’ll be calling you a radical
Liberal, oh fanatical, criminal
Won’t you sign up your name, we’d like to feel you’re Acceptable
Respectable, oh presentable, a vegetable!
Oh, take it take it yeah
But at night, when all the world’s asleep
The questions run so deep
For such a simple man
Won’t you please tell me what we’ve learned
I know it sounds absurd
Please tell me who I am, who I am, who I am, who I am
‘Cause I was feeling so logical
D-d-digital
One, two, three, five
Oh, oh, oh, oh
It’s getting unbelievable

– Supertramp, The Logical Song

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PHOTOGRAPHY BY: Michael Sanders, Electric Monk Media

STYLING, MODELLING and ARTISTIC DIRECTION: Tara Cole-McCaffrey, Patron of Dreams Shop

MAKEUP: Kitty Berns, FreshHair Boutique and Tara Cole-McCaffrey, Patron of Dreams Shop

HAIR, & MASK DESIGN: Kitty Berns, FreshHair Boutique

FASHION:

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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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Ascension

“The most authentic thing about us is our capacity to create, to overcome, to endure, to transform, to love and to be greater than our suffering.” – Ben Okri

“When you can imagine, you begin to create and when you begin to create you realize that you can create a world that you prefer to live in, rather than a world that you’re suffering in.” – Ben Okri

“Reach for the best feeling thought you have access too.” -Abraham Hicks

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Mid-January.  It’s still dark out by 5 p.m. The holidays are over, bank accounts are looking dismal, the sugar detox is real, and statistics show that most people have already given up on their New Year’s resolutions a week ago.  Enter Blue Monday, the third Monday in January, reported to be the most depressing day of the year.  I’m not gonna lie, it can be very challenging to keep your chin up and keep on trucking optimistically when so many people around you are suffering and struggling to see the point of it all. It can leave you having to dig deep to find the motivation to power on.  So, what do we do about it?  Well, for starters, let’s not fall for the oldest mistake in the proverbial book.  If you are feeling a little lower than usual, now is not the time to shoot for the stars and make unrealistic plans and demands on yourself.  You know I’m all about dreaming big and believing in your ability to live your dream life, but I have lived long enough to know that shooting too high, when you are feeling too low, is a recipe for failure and can knock you back even further than where you started from.  I think about my emotions like a staircase.  Each step up is a small improvement in how I feel.  The bottom step is hopelessness.  It’s where depression resides.  You may currently be on the third step, where frustration is rampant, but remember, it is a whole lot better than hopelessness. So, how do I climb the staircase?  Well, firstly, I realize that I can’t jump from the bottom step to the top.  Its just not possible, physically, or emotionally.  But, I can focus on the things that are working and the little things that make me feel good, like the warm glow of a scented candle, a really great cup of coffee, or how lovely the light is in the morning through my front window, and suddenly, my gratitude has carried me up a few steps.  If you treat it as a daily practice to notice the good stuff, then before you know it, you have reached the step that has you revelling in hope and optimism.  From here, you can see the top and now is the time to dream big and get specific about the things you want.  If you can get up enough inspiration and emotional will, you may even be able to launch yourself up the last few steps to the top, where all your dreams reside.  Here’s the catch though, no one stays at the top of the staircase forever.  The truth is, you’d get bored there.  It’s in our nature to want to be working toward something, to want to improve and to overcome adversity.  It’s in our DNA.  It’s part of being human.  From one day to the next, we climb up and down the staircase of life through many trials and tribulations.  Sometimes we get stuck for longer than we’d like on a particular step, or continually return to one on the regular.  If this is happening to you, chances are, you have something to learn from it, and you’ll keep returning to that step until you do.  The thing to remember is that it is in our power to climb or not climb.  We have the capacity to look around us right now in this very moment, find things to be grateful for, and start the process of ascension, no matter where you are on the staircase of life.

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PHOTOGRAPHY BY: Michael Sanders, Electric Monk Media

STYLING, HAIR & MAKEUP BY: Tara Cole-McCaffrey, Patron of Dreams. Hair cut and colour by Kitty of Berns and Black.

NEW FASHION: Flared pants by H&M, Velvet booties from Hudson’s Bay, Velvet jacket from Winners.

THRIFTED FASHION: Sunglasses, satin Chinese-inspired blouse, scarf.

VINTAGE FASHION: Embroidered hat.

Merry Little Christmas

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Santa Claus Is Back In Town

Well, it’s Christmas time pretty baby
And the snow is falling on the ground
Well, it’s Christmas time pretty baby
And the snow is falling down
Well you be a real good little girl
Santa Claus is back in town
Got no sleigh with reindeer
No sack on my back
You’re gonna see me comin’ in a big black caddilac

-Elvis Presley

This was my favourite Christmas song growing up. No really, it was!  I listened to it over and over and over again.  It may in fact have been the first time I was exposed to old-school rock and roll, and it blew my mind. You really have to listen to it to appreciate it’s magic, because the lyrics leave something to be desired.  Full on rock and roll, groovy Christmas, with some subtle sexiness on the side (which Elvis did oh so well), oh and an amazing jazz piano solo.  Now I rock out to it with my own kids. Tradition.  It is not something I would have guessed would become so important to me, but it is.

Christmas means different things to different people. During a really difficult time in my life when I was at the tender age of 20 and planning to move out on my own for the first time, I really started thinking about what the holidays really meant to me.  It was a tumultuous time on my Mother’s side of the family with an immense amount of change being imposed on me and for the first time in my life, I was an adult, living on my own, paying my own way, and I was in a position for the first time ever in my life to choose for myself what I wanted. So, out of a really difficult situation that hurt me deeply and left me feeling really alone, came a really wonderful opportunity (as often happens).  The opportunity to really do some soul searching and decide who I was and what I believed in and valued. I was extremely fortunate to have a really solid group of friends around me and my then boyfriend who was later to become my husband and partner for life.

After digging into my own heart for answers, I realized that what hurt the most about everything I was going through with my family was the loss of history and tradition.  I realized that the real glue that holds a family together are the things that we repeat. Our rituals. We have all kinds of new experiences every day, but tradition allows for a regular check-in on our roots and they become the milestones for the passage of time.  All you have to do is look back at old photos.  Before the era of smart phones, people only pulled out their cameras during special occasions (a.k.a. traditions).  Most of my childhood photos were from Christmas, Easter, Summer Holidays and Birthdays.  Our traditions are our culture. It is the fabric that holds us together.  It is the music we listen to, the food we eat, the sayings and expressions we say, and all the rituals we carry out together in bond.

So, I started over.  I began again from scratch and I built my own traditions.  I dug in my own roots, deep and wide, and made my own glue, thick and strong.   At first, Gregory (then my boyfriend) thought it was all a little too much.  I insisted that we go and get a real Christmas tree on the first weekend of December, every year without fail.  I made sure we blasted Christmas carols in the car on the way.  I decorated every square inch of our apartment and made a Christmas list of all my favourite classic Christmas tunes, which I played constantly until New Years.  I trekked down to the other end of the city every year to get fresh  perogies made by local Ukrainian ladies.   I learned how to make a turkey and wrap gifts like a champ. I was an epically annoying Christmas elf that Gregory learned to tolerate!  Then we had children.  Then, Gregory got it!  I had been nesting.  Digging in the roots and building a strong foundation of tradition.  When he saw how much joy they got out of it, and how much more magic was created by their knowing expectation of all the fun and magical rituals that were awaiting them as the holiday season approached, he understood. It’s about belonging.  When you know the rituals and are part of the traditions, you belong, and the bond is strengthened. This was what I was building.  Every year, my sons know what to expect and we all take comfort in the traditions that bring us together and strengthen our connection.  We drink eggnog, sing carols and decorate the tree.  We eat together, we laugh together and we build memories together.  So, what does Christmas mean to me?  Christmas is about traditions that stand the test of time and ride the waves of change unscathed.

Merry Christmas everyone and the most joyful and prosperous New Year from our family to yours!

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PHOTOGRAPHY BY: Michael Sanders, Electric Monk Media

STYLING, HAIR & MAKEUP BY: Tara Cole-McCaffrey, Patron of Dreams.  Hair cut and colour by Kitty from Berns & Black

VINTAGE: Shoes from Buffalo Exchange, Beret from Ruby Slipper Vintage, Blouse from Value Village Thrift.

NEW FASHION: This incredibly adorable and insanely perfect for the holidays Velvet Colorblock Mini Dress by Tony Chestnut Design (An amazing Winnipeg designer who is rocking my world these days! You need to check out her work!) Knee-high socks by American Apparel.

A Marriage of Geek and Glamour

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“For too many centuries women have been being muses to artists. I wanted to be the muse, I wanted to be the wife of the artist, but I was really trying to avoid the final issue — that I had to do the job myself.”
― Anaïs Nin

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“The ‘Muse’ is not an artistic mystery, but a mathematical equation. The gift are those ideas you think of as you drift to sleep. The giver is that one you think of when you first awake.”
― Roman Payne

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“NO MUSE IS GOOD MUSE

To be an Artist you need talent, as well as a wife
who washes the socks and the children,
and returns phone calls and library books and types.
In other words, the reason there are so many more
Men Geniuses than Women Geniuses is not Genius.
It is because Hemingway never joined the P.T.A.
And Arthur Rubinstein ignored Halloween.
Do you think Portnoy’s creator sits through children’s theater
matinees–on Saturdays?
Or that Norman Mailer faced ‘driver’s ed’ failure,
chicken pox or chipped teeth?
Fitzgerald’s night was so tender because the fender
his teen-ager dented happened when Papa was at a story conference.
Since Picasso does the painting, Mrs. Picasso did the toilet training.
And if Saul Bellow, National Book Award winner, invited thirty-three
for Thanksgiving Day dinner, I’ll bet he had help.
I’m sure Henry Moore was never a Cub Scout leader,
and Leonard Bernstein never instructed a tricycler
On becoming a bicycler just before he conducted.
Tell me again my anatomy is not necessarily my destiny,
tell me my hang-up is a personal and not a universal quandary,
and I’ll tell you no muse is a good muse
unless she also helps with the laundry.”
― Rochelle Distelheim

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I am both Geek and Glam, and so is my beloved, Gregory Chomichuk.  We share a love of books, film, art, the strange, the fringe, the beautiful and the underground.  He makes graphic novels, kids books and fine art.  I style wardrobes, bellydance and tell stories with images. Finding one another at such a young and idealistic age (I was 21, he was 23) has posed both tremendous challenges and growing pains, as well as rewarded us with a consciously created and curated life together. Side by side, we grew both together and independently, purposefully giving each other space and respect to become who we are as individuals.  We are united.  We are each others greatest supporter, we share everything and work diligently to constantly create circumstances where our passions and interests can overlap and intersect.  But, we are not the same.  We disagree on many things.  We do not love all the same movies and books and topics of conversation.  We do not understand the intricacies of one another’s work, nor do we trip over ourselves trying to. And we are absolutely not one another’s greatest fan!  Truth be told, I’m not even a fan of comics.  YES, I just said that! It is not a genre that has ever drawn me in, aside from a small handful. You see, our strength is our differences and our unwavering and ever conscious encouragement towards being ourselves. I don’t have to love comics to love my Husband. He, like myself, is much more than the work he does and no fan will ever know the truth of the Man. What I love, respect and admire, is his passion and drive to do what he loves no matter what.  The life we have built together, now including our two sons and two dogs, has us riding the waves of deep connection, while at times being oceans apart.  The constant ebb and flow has created a strong foundation while allowing each of us to grow into the people we are aspiring to be. When we wrote our wedding vows many moons ago, we included our intention to continually inspire one another.  We understood that working towards bettering ourselves and keeping life interesting and always evolving was one of the magic ingredients to a happy lasting marriage. There is still an air of mystery within each of us that keeps the other guessing, and our perpetual forward movement provides endless surprises and fulfilling experiences. We keep each other on our toes, so to say. He is my Muse and I am his. Together we share the non-glamorous as well as the glamorous sides of our life. He takes out the garbage and I do the laundry and together we build an empire and celebrate our victories with our Princes. It isn’t perfect, and it isn’t always easy, but it’s authentic and intentional and a glorious masterpiece in progress. We are powerful on our own, but together, together we are a force to be reckoned with.

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PHOTOGRAPHY BY: Michael Sanders, Electric Monk Media

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

FASHION: Great Gatsby sweatshirt, glasses and beanie (embellished by me) from Urban Waves in Winnipeg. Over the knee leg warmer by American Apparel.

VINTAGE: Thigh-high boots from Ruby Slipper Vintage, scarf from Value Village Thrift

BOOKS, PRINTS & ART BY:   GMB Chomichuk

BOOKS (Available for purchase on-line):

1.Infinitum– Time travel noir. A murder mystery that asks the question: Is love a force of nature or a force of habit?

2.Midnight City: Corpse Blossom + Midnight City: Flesh Tree– Pulp era mystery men and woman fighting a secret war against a mythos inspired by the horror auther H.P. Lovercraft.

3.Underworld– True crime, dipped in greek mythology set in Winnipeg in the 1980s.

4.Cassie and Tonk– All ages adventure about a girl and her robot at the end of the world.

5.Rust and Water – All ages graphic novel about two unlikely travellers learning to find a common language and alter the collision course of violence between their two cultures.

6.Moonshot– Indigenous comics collection

7.The Imagination Manifesto– Five interconnected stories that share a central theme- what happens when the things we believe in start to come true?

8.Fractured  Tales of the Canadian Post Apocalypse.

9.Will I See?– Illuminates the issue of missing and murdered Indigenous women.

Be a Queen

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“Think like a queen. A queen is not afraid to fail. Failure is another stepping stone to greatness.” –  Oprah Winfrey

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You’re the type of woman a man should never let go of

you’re the type of woman men regret losing

nothing about you is ordinary

choose someone who knows this…

never settle for less than you are…

– r.h. sin

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She has the mindset of a Queen and the heart of a warrior

she is everything all at once

and too much for anyone who doesn’t deserve her

she is you

-r.h. sin

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Being a Queen is a state of mind. It’s about hearing all the noise around you; the opinions, the criticisms, the suggestions, and considering them all without allowing them to sway your truths and values, or rattling your core.  A Queen makes difficult decisions every day and understands the flow of give and take to maintain balance and order.  A Queen knows that she is ultimately alone and responsible for her own happiness, and at the same time she is a part of everything and everyone. A Queen knows her worth and holds herself in high regard so that others may do the same. She understands that a deep respect for herself and unwavering values commands the same from others.  She is all women.  She is maiden, lover, mother and matriarch.  She is goddess, and servant, and witch and warrior.  She is your screams and tears and fear and anger.  She is your love and compassion and tenderness and joy.  Through all things, she is serene.  Although the depths of her heart may rage and churn like angry waters through all that she must do, and the choices she must make, the surface of her soul stays calm and clear like glass.  She does not shatter.  She is strength and peace personified.

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PHOTOGRAPHY BY: Michael Sanders, Electric Monk Media

STYLING, HAIR & MAKEUP: Tara Cole-McCaffrey, Patron of Dreams.  Hair cut and colour by Kitty Berns of Berns & Black.

VINTAGE FASHION: fur hat, wool coat, fur stole and boots all from The Ruby Slipper Vintage Shoppe.  Purple sari from Value Village Thrift.

NEW FASHION: Indian mirrored vest and tunic top from Shakti, layered necklace (VEGAS & MAX) from Mirina Collections (USE CODE: “tara” at checkout when you purchase anything from the site and receive 20% OFF!!!)

 

Over The Top With a Cherry On Top

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“One should either be a work of art, or wear a work of art.”  -Oscar Wilde

“Too much of a good thing can be wonderful!”  -Mae West

“One of the most tragic things I know about human nature is that all of us tend to put off living. We are all dreaming of some magical rose garden over the horizon instead of enjoying the roses that are blooming outside our windows today.” – Dale Carnegie

“Life is short. Eat dessert first. ” ― Jacques Torres

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The creation of this shoot was an absolute pleasure and guilt-free indulgence with fellow fashion stylist Monique Andrew, Style Hunter Fox.  We share the same love and passion for creating a story with styling and decorative design.  We agreed that if we were to join forces, then we must go big.  In truth, I think going small would have been an impossibility for us together. When those creative juices start flowing, it can be difficult to reign them in. We knew that with both of us throwing our passion into it, it would have to be fantastically bold, and so, what better subject than Marie Antoinette and her over the top decadent and indulgent lifestyle.

I was fortunate enough on this shoot to collaborate with some amazing local businesses and talents.  All of the mouth watering baking was provided by Winnipeg gem, Pinky’s Bakeshop, and YES, we ate it!  The incredible one of a kind, re-worked vintage jewelry was provided by Vintage Bling. The intricate and beautiful white lazer-cut bustier worn by model Madeline Brandt was provided by designer Rebecca Johnson.  The photography was  done by Winnipeg photographer Dano Tanaka, and the location of the shoot was graciously provided by my Grandmother, Judy Cole.  The gorgeously elaborate hair was the creation of Monique Andrew, Style Hunter Fox. The creative concept, artistic direction and styling was the collaborative love child of both Monique and I.

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I am a true believer that when you feel good, you do good!  When I am feeling joyful and excited and my cup runneth over, I am my most generous and giving self and it feels effortless.  I think it is really important to indulge and treat ourselves every once in a while without guilt or shame.  We feel wonderful when we can pamper or treat someone else, so why not ourselves?  In this case, I think that balance is key.  We know how distasteful opulence, excess and extravagance can be when it becomes someone’s everyday lifestyle.  No one in history has taught us better than Marie Antoinette, how shallow, short-sited and ultimately destructive excessive indulgence can be. However, self deprivation and habitually denying yourself pleasure can be just as destructive and leave us feeling resentful and un-able to give back to the world around us.  True happiness lies somewhere in the middle.  Sometimes we go without and focus on others and sometimes we should have our cake and eat it too. Hopefully we enjoy our cake not with a side of guilt and shame, but instead, with a cherry on top.

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It is my wish and desire, especially as the holiday season approaches, that this post inspires you to suck the marrow out of life a little more than usual.  Don’t just eat that macaron, savour it. Stop to smell the crisp fall air or study the colours of the sunset. Drink champagne instead of your regular bottle of wine and celebrate that you are alive! Why do we need more reason than that to celebrate?  Wear something decadent hiding in the back of your closet, like the satin or velvet that makes you feel gorgeous and treat yourself with a manicure or new hairdo, or even something as simple as whipped cream on your hot chocolate. Go over the top, just because.  You don’t have to spend money or be wasteful to indulge either.  Wear those sexy underwear and silk robe you’ve been saving for a “special occasion” on a weeknight just for the hell of it! Use those fancy dishes you inherited that are collecting dust in the basement.  Put on Grandma’s diamond ring and the fur coat she left to you that you tucked away in a box somewhere and host a tea party!   The point is, life is short and it’s okay to indulge sometimes.

Like Oscar Wilde said, “Everything in moderation, including moderation.”

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PHOTOGRAPHY: Dano Tanaka

STYLING & ARTISTIC DIRECTION: Monique Andrew, Style Hunter Fox  and Tara Cole-McCaffrey, Patron of Dreams

HAIR: Monique Andrew, Style Hunter Fox

MAKEUP: Each model applied their own makeup

MODELS: Monique Andrew, Madeline Brandt, Tara Cole-McCaffrey

JEWELRY: Vintage Bling

BUSTIER: Designer, Rebecca Johnson

BAKING: Pinky’s Bakeshop

* Special thanks to Angela Brandt for all her help and support at this shoot! xo

Let Fashion Transform You

“Fashion is the armor to survive the reality of everyday life.” —Bill Cunningham

“Fashion is what you’re offered four times a year by designers. And style is what you choose.” —Lauren Hutton

“Style is a way to say who you are without having to speak.” —Rachel Zoe

“Style is knowing who you are, what you want to say, and not giving a damn”
― Orson Welles

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One of the most satisfying things about fashion, is how it enables us to transform ourselves over and over again.  In a chameleon-like way, we can express all the different sides of our personality by shining a spot-light on a specific part of ourselves through the clothes we choose to put on.  We can visit different eras in history and through styling the fashions of the time, we get a taste of the energy of that time and get to experience the feeling of that moment in history. We can also mix and match eras with our fashion and create a new energy and feeling that is all our own, or try on a lifestyle we don’t have just to see how it might feel. The clothes we wear can also allow us ease in manoeuvring through the variety of places, people, and circumstances we find ourselves in. I have found that my ability to adapt my style to the company I’m keeping, places I visit, or events I attend has been invaluable to me, and it’s also half the fun! Fashion allows us to wear our feelings on the outside if we want to, or to change our mood when we start the day in a funk and want to turn that around.

You can almost always tell how I am feeling or what type of mood I am in by what I’m wearing.  The process of getting dressed in the morning is so much more than just covering my body with coordinated clothing.  It is about tuning into how I’m feeling, or how I’d like to feel, checking in with myself and becoming aware of what traits of mine are feeling amplified.  I dress to the dominant characteristics that come through with the mood I’m in each day.  Some days I’m subdued and all I want is comfort and ease.  Some days spike heels and a push-up bra feel like my second skin. Sometimes I’m wacky and contrasting because I’m feeling artistic or counter culture.  Some days I’m just in jeans and a t-shirt, although admittedly, this is pretty rare for me. Some days I like to push the bar with a provacative attitude that says, “just try and question me on this look!  I dare you!”

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I think that it’s important for people not to get too attached to a specific style or look that they identify with, or they may begin to feel uncomfortable when they aren’t wearing it.  What I mean to say is, are you wearing your clothes or are your clothes wearing you?  Is your comfort so tied to the style you’ve adopted that you are no longer expressing certain sides of yourself?  Is your inner vamp being stifled by your black skinny jeans and t-shirt?  Are you afraid of colour or contrast because you are afraid you’ll attract too much attention to yourself? Are you becoming less adventurous in life because every time you go out you wear your little black dress instead of trying something new?  Does our lack of adventurousness in life cause a lack of adventurousness in our style, or is it the other way around?  Hmmm.  I would hazard a guess that if you took more chances with your style, it would positively impact your life.  I’m going to take the plunge and even suggest that being more adventurous and allowing your style to better reflect your feelings on a daily basis would have a dramatic positive effect on how you feel about yourself and that it will translate into a more positive life experience.  The clothes you choose to put on every morning can empower you tremendously and transform your life, or they can drain you and sap you of your motivation.  You have to admit that you feel exceptionally different in sweat pants and a hoodie than you do in a dress and heels, and I’m not talking about physical comfort.  I’m talking about the energy created by how you feel about yourself in one look versus another.  One of these looks leads to adventure and who knows what, and the other leads to Netflix and chips.

Sometimes you just need to push your own boundaries and step outside of your comfort zone. Even the simple addition of a scarf or other accessories to a very basic outfit can be an incredible energetic mood boost. Each one of us is made up of all kinds of personality traits, and moods that are equally a part of us.  If you aren’t already, I strongly urge you to play with your style and express some of those sides of yourself, if for no other reason than just to have FUN!  That is what fashion and style is really all about in the end.  It’s not meant to be intimidating and serious.  It’s about creation and exploration and self expression at it’s core.  It’s a tool.  It’s the paint and your body is the canvas.  Have some fun, get creative and let those hidden sides of yourself shine forth. It’s so simple, yet so incredibly liberating!

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PHOTOGRAPHY BY: Michael Sanders, Electric Monk Media

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

THRIFTED FASHION: Traditional Scottish wool plaid skirt from Ruby Slipper, Boots from The Goodwill Store.

MODERN FASHION:Gold body suit and tights by American Apparel, feather earrings from The Haberdashery

VINTAGE: Faux fur leopard print jacket

 

 

The Spectre of Self

Spec*tre

a ghost.

  • something widely feared as a possible unpleasant or dangerous occurance

e.g. “the spectre of war”

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“We all have a social mask, right? We put it on, we go out, put our best foot forward, our best image. But behind that social mask is a personal truth, what we really, really believe about who we are and what we’re capable of.” – Phil McGraw

“The most important kind of freedom is to be what you really are. You trade in your reality for a role. You give up your ability to feel, and in exchange, put on a mask.” – Jim Morrison

It can be the most difficult thing in the world to honestly be yourself.  Being who we truly are begins to be socialized out of us in early childhood.  We learn how to please others because we are taught that pleasing others is more important than pleasing ourselves.  We are taught that we are better people if we put ourselves aside and present to the world what the world wants us to be.  We learn how to wear masks to suite the people, places and situations in our lives.  We learn that being ourselves can be excruciatingly painful, because being ourselves makes us vulnerable.  If they see our true colours, they can criticize us, laugh at us, or reject us.  We are social creatures, so we begin to believe that fitting in and being the same is safer and more comfortable. The truth is, it causes more damage to us and those around us than being ourselves ever will.  When we are our truest selves we have so much more to offer the world that only we can give.  Wearing masks to protect our vulnerability dims the powerful light that is within each of us and weakens our ability to let it out and benefit the world.

So we suppress our truest spirit.  We put on a brave face when we are scared, a happy face when we are sad, an agreeable face when we are angry.  We pretend that we like things that we don’t, we compromise when we are fundamentally opposed to something that’s important to us, and we tell ourselves that we are being nice, and keeping the peace.  We wouldn’t want to rock the boat now would we?  But is it actually being nice and keeping the peace, or are we just trading the potential conflict with others with a very real and very immediate conflict within ourselves?  We are so afraid of what others might think of us, that we have given them all the power and have placed more significance on what they think than what we think of ourselves, and it slowly eats at our spirit.  In reality, we end up more lonely, isolated and insignificant by letting that fear rule us, than we would be if we just allowed ourselves to be authentic.

I am not saying that we should all air our dirty laundry, or go around telling everyone the details of our exceptionally crappy day when they ask how we are.  You can be real without being negative, complaining or wallowing in self pity. You can look your unhappiness or discomfort in the face, admit to it, talk to a friend or loved-one about it and then, put your energy into a solution. I do believe in the power of positivity.  I do believe in looking for the good in all situations, and I do believe in compromise for the greater good.  I don’t however, believe that these things should be done when they are in direct conflict with your truest self.  If the foot you put forward for the world to see requires you to lie to yourself about who you are and how you really feel, you do the world a great dis-service.

It’s time to throw off the veil.  Time to come out of the shadows and let the world see you.  Time to take off all the different masks we wear and be brave enough to look criticism and conflict in the eye and realize that avoiding it is not more important and less painful than being honest with yourself and finding your true place in the world.  The world needs you.  The authentic you.  The most beautiful part of this is that all we really want is love and belonging and the more of us that throw off the veil, the more authentic people there will be in the world to have real and meaningful relationships with.  The more we allow ourselves to be known, the more we allow others to be known.  Freedom and authenticity are contagious.

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PHOTOGRAPHY BY: Michael Sanders, Electric Monk Media

MODELS, HAIR & MAKEUP: Leanne Sanders and Tara Cole-McCaffrey

STYLING: Patron of Dreams

VINTAGE: White dresses, shawls and scarves from The Goodwill Store in Winnipeg

CRYSTALS and STONES: Shakti in Winnipeg