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

 

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

Nerd is the New Cool in NYC!

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New York City, shot from Empire State Building

I just got home from a 5 day trip to New York City with my Husband, Gregory Chomichuk.  We were there to promote and sell his work as a writer/illustrator of graphic novels and all-ages books at the New York Comic Con. It was 4 really intense days with 150 000 fans dedicated to all things sci-fi, fantasy, and super-heros!  Some were there to buy comics, art prints and toys, some were there to test out the newest video game designs and some were there to meet the celebrities who work on their favourite T.V. shows and movies like Milla Jovovich, Carrie Fisher, Ethan Hawke, Kate Beckinsale, Keanu Reeves, and the cast of The Walking Dead and Stranger Things, to name a few.

The juxtaposition of being immersed in the heart of nerd culture for 12 hours a day in one of the coolest and most admired cities in the world was a mad mind trip to say the least. There were people of all ages, demographics and walks of life all there to celebrate a common love that seems to speak to every type of person. One second I would be talking super-heros with a teenage cosplayer decked out in a costume that must have taken weeks to create, and the next, with a t.v. crew member who’s currently working on several Netflix shows, and then an Emmy nominated creative director/producer who’s worked on several HBO t.v. shows, produced concerts by Bob Dylan and the Rolling Stones and worked with Disney. Each of them bought art and books from my Husband. Say whaaat?! Never have I been in a situation where perceived opposite sub-cultures interacted and blissed out together so seamlessly.  It was inspiring and humbling to be a part of!

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Gregory and I at his Comic Con booth

“In New York, you’ve got Donald Trump, Woody Allen, a crack addict and a regular Joe, and they’re all on the same subway car.” – Ethan Hawke

“I love nerds. Comic-Con junkies are the tastemakers of tomorrow. Isn’t that funny? The tables have turned.”  – Kristen Bell

“What was previously perceived as nerdy is now viewed as original. What I like about nerdiness, geekiness, is it doesn’t really matter what you’re into – it just means you’re not a follower.”  – Kristen Bell

New York City is a sexy beast, there’s no doubt about that!  I have never been happier to be in a city that truly doesn’t sleep so that I got an opportunity to see some sights, eat some amazing food and flow with the pulse of the city into the wee hours every night after the convention.  Some cities shut down after 11:00 p.m. on a weekday, so there’s no chance to see anything other than the inside of your hotel room. New York is definitely not that kind of city.  We ate dinner at 9 p.m., strolled through Times Square shoulder to shoulder with hoards of people at midnight, hung out on the rooftop of the Empire State Building at 12:30 and then had a dance party…I mean shopped, at H&M at 1:00 in the morning.  Followed by a quick stop at a busy grocery store for healthy snacks for the next days convention, and back to the comfort of our hotel The Staybridge Suites to finally put up our aching feet and crash from blissed-out exhaustion.

My entire New York experience can be summed up in one word.  Diversity.  I saw and met every kind of person in a chaotic fast-passed haze.  I talked fan-art politics, super heroes and fashion in the same conversation. I had dinner one night with a filmmaker, and a 5th generation New Yorker who introduced us to the best pizza in the world, and then was invited to a loft apartment to smoke weed (which I didn’t)  with a Harry Potter star (who shall remain unnamed).  We walked passed beautiful people in designer clothes, homeless drug addicts, regular folks who were more than willing to recommend great places to eat, and every once in a while, a storm trooper.

All in all, it was an experience steeped in humanity.  It was all about people.  Lots and lots of people, all living life and being their unapologetic selves in a city where anything goes, and you are free to be yourself. We are all in this together after all.

NEW YORK CITY

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THE HOTEL

THE NEW YORK COMIC CON

THE EMPIRE STATE BUILDING

PHOTOGRAPHY and VIDEO BY: Gregory Chomichuk and yours truly. All on my iPhone 6, raw and un-edited.

THRIFTED: Hats, jackets, palazzo pants and yellow skirt.

FEATURED FASHION: Lennard Taylor Brenda swing shirt, Tony Chestnut pink jumpsuit, American Apparel body suit, and my Dr Marten boots that went the distance on this trip and saved my feet!

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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

HOBO CHIC

Down around the corner
A half a mile from here
You see them old trains runnin’
And you watch them disappear
Without love
Where would you be now
Without love…

Where pistons keep on churnin’
And the wheels go ’round and ’round
And the steel rails are cold and hard
For the miles that they go down
Without love
Where would you be right now
Without love
Where would you be now

-The Doobie Brothers, Long Train Runnin 

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“A journey is a person in itself; no two are alike. And all plans, safeguards, policing, and coercion are fruitless. We find that after years of struggle that we do not take a trip; a trip takes us.” -John Steinbeck

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Each and every one of us is on a journey.  A journey away from where we have been, towards some kind of unknown future.  In this we are the same.  No matter how organized, well intentioned or thoughtful you are about planning the course you want your life to take, the truth is none of us really knows how our life will unfold.  We have plans, wishes, desires, dreams and many of us have plotted out a course to achieve all those things. But life often has a different idea about where you’re going doesn’t it?  Life seems to direct us all over the map, throwing up obstacles and curve balls and even sending us in what appears to be the opposite direction from our goals.

When I was in my 20’s, I had my life very clearly planned out. In fact, most of it was set out in my mind as a teenager. I was more than a little bit Type A and a bit of an over-achiever, but still far from a perfectionist thank goodness. I knew what I wanted and I was adamant that I be one of those people that accomplished everything that they set out to do, instead of someone who just talks about things but never gets around to doing them.  The truth is, I was rather effective with this approach to life.  I fell in love, started a career in Environmental Science, bought a house and a car, got married, travelled to exotic locations, got a dog, and was pregnant with my first child all before the age of 30. I had accomplished everything I set out to do in record time. Some call this success.  But I wasn’t completely satisfied, and I was only moderately happy.  The key thing that never sat right with me was that the road to get there was really difficult, and somehow I always felt that if I was on the right path, I would find more ease in the process.  If I am completely honest, it was a real slog.  I was exhausted and drained and getting where I was going felt like an up-hill climb against the grain.  I had proven to myself that whatever you put your mind and focus on you can achieve, but what had I put my mind and focus on?  I was completely focussed on all the typical milestones that society has deemed worthy goals.   I put all my attention and focus on the things I thought I was supposed to do. Things I knew people would approve of and encourage and praise. I was following the path of millions who came before me and I was looking for external gratification and approval instead of following my own passions and dreams.  In doing so, I landed precisely where I aimed.  The middle.  I was completely successful at landing right smack dab in the middle of mainstream mediocrity, and it was a slog to get there.  I had created a perfectly average, middle-class, working for a pay-check lifestyle.  Life was ok. Life was beige.  I had very few lows, but I had almost no highs.  Every day was just “meh”.  Rise and grind, sleep, repeat. I was taking very few risks and as a result, was completely un-inspired!  I feel exceptionally blessed that I had a wake-up call in my early 30’s. The road I was on came to a screeching halt when my first son was born.  Not to be cliché, but it truly opened my eyes! I think it saved me from a fate too many experience. The all too common mid-life crises.  At 30 I looked at my life and all my accomplishments and said “what now?”  Is this really all there is?  Is this really what I’ve been working so hard for?  I was bored and stressed out all at the same time.  Something was seriously amiss.

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One of life’s little synchronisities.  Me and ‘ol Chimney Top had a moment.  He gets me! 

So here’s what I’ve learned since.  The more you try to control every experience in your life, the smaller and more mundane your life becomes.  Control is based in fear. The fear that if you let go and leave it up to anyone or anything else, all hell will break loose.  When you live like this, the energy and passion and purpose you are here to fulfill gets sucked out of your experiences and life becomes an endless series of to-do lists.  Life only started to get interesting for me when I started to let go.  I mean really let go. It was an act of loving kindness towards myself when I began to surrender to the twisting, turning, strangely winding road of life with trust and faith instead of trying to control every twist and turn.  This has been exceptionally difficult for me at times, but oh so necessary.  The word surrender has always had terrible connotations to me.  It was something that the weak did when they had no more fight in them by waving their white flag and giving up, whereby ending up a prisoner in someone else’s kingdom. The feisty warrior woman in me was repulsed by this idea.  I’d rather die fighting than surrender!  But life isn’t an action movie and I’m not on a battle field.  The truth is, I’d rather live than die fighting. I had to re-define surrender for myself. I realized that my definition was holding me back.  Surrender really means letting go of the need to control every situation, and by doing so, releasing all of the resistance you create as a result.  I was a ball of tension and I needed to let that shit go!

So, I gave up!  I gave up my average, mediocre, safe little life in the middle.  I started living with passion.  I started taking risks, I started focussing on things that really mattered to me, whether people approved and praised it or not. I gave up on average and started shooting for the moon, so even if I fall short, I’ll land among the stars.  When I started doing this, an amazing thing happened.  My life started creating itself.  I no longer had to force things into place by exhausting myself trying to control everything.  As I took one step towards my goals, things just started to unfold and one positive experience led me to the next.  This is what people mean when they say follow your bliss.  You have to let go and trust and move in the direction of your enthusiasm and excitement. This is where the magic happens and the momentum begins to pick up.  This is where strange twists and turns you could never have planned out lead you to the most incredible people, situations and opportunities.   The second I begin to tightly clutch at life or try to make things happen instead of allowing them to unfold, all the obstacles show up and life gets really difficult again.  This is not to say that life will ever be easy, but there is a big difference between physical exhaustion from the hussle, and mental and emotional exhaustion from just trying to get through your un-inspiring day with no flow whatsoever.  I’m still learning and growing, but I know I am moving in the right direction. Life truly is a journey after all, and there really is no destination.  I know now, that you never really get there.  We are all just travellers passing through and having experiences at every stop.  So trust in the journey.  Let go, surrender, and allow this crazy train to take you on the ride of your life. The life you are supposed to lead.

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PHOTOGRAPHY BY: Michael Sanders, Electric Monk Media

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

VINTAGE: Hat, blouse, vest, jackets, backpack (I’ve had since I was 17.  It came to Europe with me), wrist warmers, rings and pipe.

CURRENT FASHION: earrings from Urban Waves, skirt by Nygard, velvet boots by Shellys London , from Hudson’s Bay Company.