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!

 

 

 

 

 

Create A Chrysalis, Transform Your Life

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“New moon’s kick-ass list: feel the feels, release your pain, get present, be grateful, ask for help, pray, make change your greatest ally, allow every chapter to reveal a new superpower, set your own pace, don’t worry about “time”, stop competing and belittling, walk the path of your own authentic heart, love how you wanna be loved, relax into your life, travel inward to places you haven’t been before, forgive and cut chords, be patient and dedicated to your higher self, and remember to sparkle, bro. That’s it.”  – Tanya Markul (Thug Unicorn)

“We delight in the beauty of the butterfly, but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty.” ― Maya Angelou

As I sit here typing this on my laptop, there is a warm golden sunbeam shining on me through my front window.  I am snuggled on my antique couch I scored dirt cheap and I’m wrapped in an insanely soft leopard print throw blanket I just snagged for a double-discount. I’m sipping the perfect cup of coffee made just how I like it. Comfort and serenity does not require a 5 star resort, or day at the spa.  It can be created within your own living space and it doesn’t have to cost a fortune, in fact, it shouldn’t. Keeping it simple and affordable will keep the emphasis on meaningfulness and authenticity which will make you feel more satisfied with your creation in the long run.

I have come to recognize through my own commitment to personal growth and doing the work of intentionally transforming my life into what I want it to be, that our environment can be incredibly helpful to us. Doing the work of getting to the core of who we truly are through balancing the mind, body and spirit, is definitely a joyful and meaningful process, but let’s face it, it’s sometimes also painful. Facing your fears, healing old wounds and pushing personal boundaries can be uncomfortable, lonely and scary.  It’s also a daily challenge to stay inspired and motivated and not slink back into unhealthy lifestyles and old destructive patterns. Like a caterpillar transforming into a butterfly, our own transformation leaves us vulnerable, sensitive and feeling raw. Taking our cues from the all knowing wisdom of Mother Nature, we too require a protective chrysalis when we intend to transform ourselves. The good news, is that this doesn’t need to be a difficult task and the gains can be quite literally life changing.

While we are limited by only 5 well-developed senses, they are powerful tools that can help put us into the right mindset for personal improvement. Maybe you would like to spend more time meditating, doing yoga, dancing, reading, journaling or just taking a rejuvenating nap. By intentionally creating a space within our home that ignites peaceful feelings within us, we make it easier for ourselves to commit to doing those things we love that are so transformative. Just the simple act of filling a small space with things that make us feel good is a start. Once your eyes are happy, maybe some tranquil music or a little trickling fountain will provide the right sound healing. Make yourself some tea or hot cocoa to warm up your tastebuds. Put on some clothes that feel really good on your skin, light a candle for ambiance and wrap yourself in your coziest blanket. Now that you’re feeling wonderful, take the whole space to the next level by appealing to your sense of smell. Often overlooked, our sense of smell is incredibly powerful and is significantly linked to memory. Many of us have experienced memories triggered by certain smells and we are continually creating new memories linked to new scents all the time. So, why not intentionally choose to introduce scents into your mind/body/spirit practices that you will learn to associate with peacefulness, tranquility and your own personal evolution?

I have recently been introduced to Brie’s Botanicals, which have become a go-to, to immediately boost my mood and make my home feel like a haven. There is something so simple yet powerful in the experience of returning home from a hectic day and being greeted by a comfort-inducing scent like their Holiday Spice Air Freshener, or Festive Forest Oil Blend. I give myself and my pillows a spritz of Lavender Love Mist (hair, body, face and pillow spray) before I go to sleep each night, and it feels luxurious. My kids now ask for me to spray their pillows with I Love You to the Moon Mist, or Serenity when I tuck them into bed, because it helps them fall asleep. Every day when we return home from school pick up, they say “it smells so good in here!”. That is a little piece of happiness! Brie’s Botanicals are a simple and affordable way to make a real and immediate impact on your feelings of well being. Arriving home and getting to spend time in your self-created space should be therapeutic, comforting and a joy you look forward to. Our home should be our sanctuary where we are able to lighten our heavy load, recover and recharge.

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Here’s the best part, Brie’s Botanicals are made with 100% pure, all-natural essential oils, spring water and are charged with Reiki, as Brie Henderson, the product creator is also a Certified Reiki Master and Yoga Instructor . All of Brie’s Botanicals are biodegradable, antibacterial, antimicrobial, antiseptic, antiviral and CHEMICAL FREE! It’s no wonder their Multi-Purpose Cleaner and Om Shanti Yoga Mat Cleaner are customer favourites! I’m particularly enamored by their Gem Infused Mists which each have different gemstones inside (eg. quartz, rose quartz, moonstone, green aventurine, amethyst, etc.) that are purposefully chosen for each of their different blends. Soon to become treasures for my kids when it’s time for a re-fill! To top it off, Brie’s Botanicals are committed to being environmentally, ethically, and socially responsible. You can return your used bottles for a $1 discount off of new purchases. Wait, it gets better! They are a locally-made Winnipeg company! You can order directly from their website here, or find their products at their partner businesses throughout Winnipeg!

Do yourself a favour and get familiar with the transformative powers of Brie’s Botanicals! I promise you, they will be a welcome addition to your daily rituals inside your intentionally created chrysalis space and they’ll make it just that little bit easier to get down to the business of transforming yourself into the best possible version of you!

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PHOTOGRAPHY BY: Michael Sanders, Electric Monk Media

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

Special note: The painting in these photos was created by my two sons Lief and Finnley, my Husband Gregory, and I all together on the beach last summer. We captured the process which is included in a previous blog post The Art of Life.

Old Fashioned is the New Fashion. The Opera.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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About the opera Werther:

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

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

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

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

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PHOTOGRAPHY BY: Michael Sanders, Electric Monk Media.

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

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

MODELS: Gregory Chomichuk and Tara Cole-McCaffrey

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 Upcoming FREE events:

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

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

LOCATION:

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

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

Warrior of Diversity

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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PHOTOGRAPHY BY: Michael Sanders, Electric Monk Media

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

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

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

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.

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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