Opalescence

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Opalescent: Something that is opalescent reflects light and changes colour like an opal.  – Cambridge Dictionary

Opal: A precious stone whose colour changes when the position of the person looking at it changes.  -Cambridge Dictionary

The opal, also known as the “Eye Stone” is known for it’s ability to bring a person’s personal characteristics and traits to the forefront as well as bringing unresolved patterns or tendencies that require self examination to the surface. This self evaluation can lead to profound personal transformation. Opal boosts creativity and originality. It is considered to be a karmic stone, showing us that what we put out into the world will come back to us. Also, how we perceive the world, will be shown to us like a mirror reflection.

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Each of us are like the opal, a complete spectrum of colours that changes from different perspectives. When people look at us, they see a reflection of themselves. You show them their hopes, their fears, their insecurities, their desires. They look at you and they see what they like and what they don’t like about the world in which they live, which is really just a reflection of who they are, or rather, who they believe themselves to be based on their life experience. People look at you only in relation to themselves, which is why no two people see you in exactly the same light. Every person who lays eyes on you sees a different colour depending on the perspective they are coming from. People see you in relation to the stories they tell themselves about the world. In truth, no other person can really see you, even though you are there in all of your glory. You are the only one who can actually see yourself, but you will never see your true self in a mirror. When we see with the human eye, we see only a reflection of our beliefs, our world views and our current state of mind. Who you really are is deep within you and can only be felt with the heart and the spirit, not seen with the human eye.

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Although we cannot see people as they truly are, what we can do is feel people, but we are so trained in our society to see with our limited sense of eye-sight, that we have neglected to develop and maintain our ability to experience and know one another through feeling. This ability, which all of us have, requires a deep sense of compassion for others and the ability to feel beyond the sensory information coming in all directions from our basic five senses. The five senses while important and useful for moving around and experiencing our physical world, can be very distracting and overstimulating which keeps us trapped in a constant state of reacting to our surroundings. It is difficult to live an intentional life with focus, direction and action when we have become a slave to our senses and are continually responding to stimulus. And let’s face it, we live in a society that is designed to bombard our senses with stimulation. We take the sensory information in and believe it to be truth, instead of just information reflecting our current attitudes and perspectives. What I mean to say is that your state of mind effects your mood and your mood can make your sensory perspective very different from one moment to the next, and very different from one person to the next. For example, loud music when you are in a bad mood can be irritating, but the same loud music when you are in a good mood may make you want to get up and dance. Both situations are the same, the truth if you will, but your perspective means that you experience the same stimulus in a very different way. What this means is that your reaction or perception of the situation has nothing to do with the situation, but has everything to do with your personal perspective and current state of mind when you experience the music.

Do you see what this means?  It means that how you experience the world around you and the people in it, is really just a reflection of your inner state and relationship with yourself. It is a reflection of your beliefs, your views, your expectations, your understanding of the world from your life experience and your current attitudes. You tell yourself that it is truth, but there are billions of people on the planet and each of us is experiencing our own personal story as truth. This is why you can have two people being exposed to virtually the same circumstances, yet each of them experience it very differently. It is not your circumstances that determine what kind of life you have, but the way in which you experience and react to those circumstances. There are so many examples of people born into poverty, abuse, and horrendous circumstances who manage to rise above it by sheer force of will and attitude about life. There are many other examples of people who have been born into wealth and affluence with every need being met, and opportunity given,  yet they waste their life away doing nothing of consequence and often loosing themselves in a life of drugs and disfunction. If the victim narrative is deeply engrained in you, this is going to be a bitter pill to swallow, because ultimately, it means that you have far more control over your life experience than you think you do, and you have to take responsibility for your own happiness or misery. You may not be able to control the circumstances or events that occur in your life, but you do have a choice about how and what you react to.

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Here is the true freedom gleaned from this understanding. The way that you see other people and experience your life is constantly acting as a mirror to tell you what your state of mind is and the current state of your relationship with yourself. Every reaction to other people or situations is an opportunity to learn about you and become more self aware. How strong your reactions are can tell you a lot about your pain, issues you haven’t dealt with, and it sticks a pin in exactly what your fears and insecurities are. Ugh, I know, it’s rough, but it’s also a gift, if you self-examine and use the new found understanding of who you are to transform into a better version of yourself. Here is the other gold nugget. If your reactions to and understanding of others is a reflection of you, then their reactions to you and understanding of what you are all about is a reflection of them. Their perception of you, good or bad, has absolutely nothing to do with you. Their opinion of you and reaction towards you is not your responsibility. Whether they are criticizing you or praising you should not determine how you feel about yourself. All you are responsible for is working on yourself, taking responsibility for your feelings and emotions and how you react or don’t react to people and circumstances. When what you say, what you do, what you wear, or how you live your life causes people to respond angrily, or with judgement, it shines a light on the things they themselves need to heal. Often the differences we see in others invokes deep seeded feelings of fear of the unknown and triggers all the ways in which we ourselves have adapted who we are in order to fit in and belong and not make others feel uncomfortable. Deep down many of us are hurting because of this because all we want is to be loved and accepted for who we actually are. We are tired of suppressing ourselves to be more acceptable to the status quo.

So what is the lesson in all of this? Well, what I have come to learn is that many people are holding other people and circumstances responsible for their own happiness. They believe that they would be happier and their life would be easier if other people and situations changed. This is a terrible and disempowering trap, that can only lead to depression. I have learned to become more aware of my own reactions towards people and situations and do my best to explore and investigate why I feel the way I feel and determine if what I am perceiving is indeed truth, or if my reactions are just a symptom of my own personal fears and insecurities. Because of this, I have felt more empowered, more in control of my own life experience and far less emotional and volatile. I have been taking responsibility for my perspective and spending a lot more time understanding myself and nurturing my relationship with myself, and a lot less time holding other people accountable for my happiness. We tend to focus our attention on understanding others and how they appear to be towards us. This is the ego perspective. Try looking at yourself instead when something that someone says, does, or doesn’t say or do hurts you or upsets you in some way. You cannot change them, but you can heal your own perspective. Also, you don’t have to agree with someone’s lifestyle, world views or appearance, but you also don’t need to allow that difference of opinion to make you volatile, or feel you must impose your opinion or educate another about the way it actually is. That’s your self-important ego talking. You can have strong opinions and views without losing your sense of inner peace. Social media is a perfect example of people running rampant with volatile reactions to every post they don’t see eye to eye with. Either blatant personal attacks of character, or my personal fave, the self-righteous armchair activist who seem to say “There, I’ve given you a piece of my well-educated mind and taught you a lesson with my well-sourced arguments! It’s all in a days’ work!”, like they’ve actually accomplished something by arguing with people on Facebook or Instagram. You are giving all of your power away when you do that because you are robbing yourself of peace and happiness in that precious moment, while you type angry, hateful, or self-rightous truths from your perspective towards another human being. All the while blaming them for robbing you of peace and happiness, and convincing yourself that it’s your job to change them. You quite literally poison yourself with the poison you are trying to shove down someone else’s throat. Hurt people, hurt people. You react so strongly because of old pain or fear, that has nothing to do with the person you are directing your anger at, they have just touched a trigger point within you. A hot button that needs your attention. A place within yourself that needs healing. When you become aware of this, you become aware that the entire human race is experiencing the same thing. This knowledge plants a seed of compassion towards others in your heart. Even if their anger or negativity is directed towards you, you can maintain a state of peaceful awareness because you recognize that they have their own pain, fear and insecurity that they are living with, and they are possibly completely unaware of it. When it spills over to you and you react strongly, it just feeds the monster that you are disapproving of.

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“A life of reaction is a life of slavery, intellectually and spiritually. One must fight for a life of action, not reaction.” – Rita Mae Brown

“Non-reaction to the ego in others is one of the most effective ways not only of going beyond ego in yourself but also of dissolving the collective human ego.”

– Eckhart Tolle

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Here are some of the philosophies that I try to live by. When you heal yourself, you heal the world. Stop giving your power away to those who have no capacity to understand who you actually are and are not responsible for your happiness or life experience. Take responsibility for your own life and your self-worth and stop letting the praisers and criticizers decide how you are going to feel about yourself. Make your own personal growth and healing your top priority because it is your relationship with yourself that will determine your relationships with everyone and everything around you. Every time you are about to criticize someone else, stop and self-assess. What is going on inside of me that makes me feel this way? There is always a gem of self-discovery in there that will make your life easier if you face it. You can only respond to the world from your current state of awareness and consciousness. When I look at people and situations, I want to see all the colours of the spectrum like an opalescent symphony from a place of self-awareness and compassion. I know that this requires me to work on myself. To get honest about my issues, to stop holding others accountable and take responsibility for me. I want to live in a world where people would rather spend their time bettering themselves than trying to force others to change because they understand that you can’t control other people, but you can control how you react to people. And one by one, each of us begins to react to one another from a place of self-awareness and compassion, and before you know it, we have transcended a pain and fear-filled society and we can finally begin to feel one another for who we actually are. It is then, I believe that we will begin to discover what we are truly capable of, and just how colourful and opalescent we really are.

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PHOTOGRAPHY BY: Michael Sanders, Electric Monk Media

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

VINTAGE FASHION: Dress from Wildwoodrose Vintage Market (note: the next market is on June 9th in Winnipeg at Old Market Square! I will be selling vintage there this year!!!). 70’s leather skirt from Shop Take Care . Shop Take Care is sells vintage, consigned fashion and goods from local makers and artisans. Vintage coyote-fur hat. Vintage scarf.

CURRENT FASHION: Thrifted Mukluks from Manitobah Mukluks. Sunglasses from Urban Waves Winnipeg. Rose Quartz necklace from BCP Jewelry

LOCATION: Red River Mutual Trail in Winnipeg. PONTAGON, the Faculty of Architecture’s warming hut installation at the Forks, in collaboration with the City of Winnipeg’s Walk/Bike/Bridge project.

Thinning of the Veil

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

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

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

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

The veil is thinning.

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

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

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

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

PHOTOGRAPHY BY: Michael Sanders, Electric Monk Media

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

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

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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.

A Marriage of Geek and Glamour

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

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

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“NO MUSE IS GOOD MUSE

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

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

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PHOTOGRAPHY BY: Michael Sanders, Electric Monk Media

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

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

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

BOOKS, PRINTS & ART BY:   GMB Chomichuk

BOOKS (Available for purchase on-line):

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

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

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

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

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

6.Moonshot– Indigenous comics collection

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

8.Fractured  Tales of the Canadian Post Apocalypse.

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

The 90’s Influence

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“The duty of youth is to challenge corruption.” –Kurt Cobain, Nirvana

“Just A Girl”

Take this pink ribbon off my eyes
I’m exposed and it’s no big surprise
Don’t you think I know exactly where I stand
This world is forcing me to hold your hand

‘Cause I’m just a girl, a little ‘ol me
Well don’t let me out of your sight
Oh I’m just a girl, all pretty and petite
So don’t let me have any rights

Oh…I’ve had it up to here!

The moment that I step outside
So many reasons for me to run and hide
I can’t do the little things I hold so dear
‘Cause it’s all those little things that I fear

‘Cause I’m just a girl I’d rather not be
‘Cause they won’t let me drive late at night
Oh I’m just a girl, guess I’m some kind of freak
‘Cause they all sit and stare with their eyes

Oh I’m just a girl, take a good look at me
Just your typical prototype

Oh…I’ve had it up to here!

Oh…am I making myself clear?

I’m just a girl
I’m just a girl in the world…
That’s all that you’ll let me be!

I’m just a girl, living in captivity
Your rule of thumb makes me worry some
I’m just a girl, what’s my destiny?
What I’ve succumbed to is making me numb

Oh I’m just a girl, my apologies
What I’ve become is so burdensome
Oh I’m just a girl, lucky me
Twiddle-dum there’s no comparison

Oh…I’ve had it up to!
Oh…I’ve had it up to!
Oh…I’ve had it up to here!

No Doubt, Gwen Stephani 

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I was a teen of the 90’s.  I went through puberty; graduated high school; used the internet for the first time; fell in love (twice), and moved out on my own.  I went through some of the biggest and most informative changes of my life during that decade.  The 90’s left a significant mark on my character and it still resonates with me today in 2016.

It was in the 90’s that I accepted my interest in fashion and style as a legitimate part of who I was.  I cared about it, and I put time and energy into it. If I wanted something I couldn’t afford, or it seemed unavailable to me (remember this was before on-line shopping), I bought second hand and altered it, or sewed it from scratch. I laugh now to think of what a strange experience it must have been for my parents to have a teenage daughter during the 90’s grunge era.  I imagine it must have been a combination of relief at the blatant lack of overt sexuality being displayed in the popular youth fashion of the time, and a touch of horror at my shabby, oversized, somewhat masculine style sense. Not to mention the very cheap price tag that went along with my almost entirely vintage wardrobe, which would be a relief to any parent. My style fell somewhere between your Grandpa’s closet in the 70’s, and Kurt Cobain’s, with an ever so tiny sprinkling of Charlie’s Angels. There were a lot of chords, bell bottoms, ripped jeans, 70’s big-collered button-downs and my most favourite pair of army pants bought at the local Army Surplus store.  I later regretted trading those beloved pants to my friend Ian, for his tie-dye sarong scarf. Although I do still have and use that scarf today.  Hey Ian, if your reading this, I want my pants back!

I jokingly laugh with my Husband and our male friends now about how they were ripped-off at the lack of skin and female bodies being put on display during their teenage years and twenties. The truth is, we all know how good it was for us in reality. The following generation of Brittany Spears/Christina Aguillera look-alikes made that abundantly clear to us. I feel lucky that I became a woman at a time in history when popular youth culture wasn’t embracing overt sexuality in women’s fashion.  That experience powerfully informed my opinions of how sexuality and the female body is displayed in fashion and it comes through in my taste now and how I dress myself daily.  I wasn’t even conciously aware of my tendency towards modesty in my style until another fashion blogger Miss Mellalina wanted to feature me on her blog as an example of a modest fashionista.  It was an interesting realization. My style is definitely bold and out-there, but it’s not overtly sexual. It’s true that most of the outfits I put together cover up most of my skin and don’t show off too much of my body.  Any skin I do show is typically a result of contextual function (e.g. wearing a bathing suit at the beach or cabin, shorts in the summer), or it’s balanced by a very contrasting counter-style (e.g. plunging neckline paired with oversized men’s trousers or all other skin completely covered up).

That said, I am fully aware of the effect that showing off even the tiniest portion of my body has had on my viewers.  Don’t think I didn’t notice the significant increase in the amount of attention my last blog post got for it’s slightly more provocative nature. It’s both totally predictable and yet completely astounding to me, the effect that a plunging neckline and seeing nipples through a top can have on people.  My likes, comments, and general traffic on all my social media accounts increased instantly and substantially.  Hmmm.  What does that say about us as a society?  It certainly shows why there are so many women and girls showing off their bodies and being provocative and seductive on social media.  The world has told us quite clearly and effectively that that is what it likes and wants, so that is what they keep giving to us. Don’t get me wrong, I certainly appreciate every like and comment that I get, but, here’s the thing,  you won’t see me posting any overt ass or boob shots on the internet simply for more “likes”.  You can be sure that the well established grunge era influence on me will be ever present in my choices to display my body.  Everything I do with fashion, I do for a reason and I can guarantee that if sexuality shows up in my posts, it will be to tell a story or express an idea or as an intentional art piece.  I have no intention of using my sexuality to get attention or gain more followers. The truth is, in my opinion, it’s too easy, superficial, and boring.  It’s also being done to death!  Not to mention it leads too many women down the path of attaching too much value to their physical appearance and then losing their self-worth in their later years, when showing off their bodies no longer gets the attention it once did. Hollywood’s substantial list of women over 35 who have had botox or plastic surgery is proof of that. Now, does that mean that my social media climb will be longer?  Likely.  Does it mean that the followers I do get will be more genuine? Indeed.

As a women who is approaching her 40’s now, I’ve lived some life, explored my sexuality and it’s effect, and I’ve been lucky enough to land in a place of self-worth and confidence that holds me true to my values without compromise.  If you ever find yourself in a place where you are allowing society to define who you are or what you have to offer, take a moment and determine if what others are saying they want from you is in line with what you want from yourself.  If your opinion doesn’t match theirs, I implore you to choose yourself over them. Our current focus on instant gratification, external approval and quick fixes has driven so many down a path that is not sustainable or satisfying in the long term.  In the end, what you create will be for others, at your expense. Gwen Stephani’s lyrics still resonate today as if it was still 1995…

“I’m just a girl, living in captivity
Your rule of thumb makes me worry some
I’m just a girl, what’s my destiny?
What I’ve succumbed to is making me numb”

If you stay true to yourself, you are patient, and you don’t succumb to society’s rule of thumb, you will find that there are many others who share the same values and tastes as you and they will find you, stick with you and help you to achieve the things that are important to you, because they are important to them too.  Everybody wins, no compromise.

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PHOTOGRAPHY BY: Michael Sanders, Electric Monk Media

STYLING BY: Tara Cole-McCaffrey, Patron of Dreams

THRIFTED FASHION: Jeans (altered by me), militarty/faux leather sleeve jacket (altered by me with addition of ethnic textiles).

CURRENT FASHION: Hat and purse by H&M, sequin skirt and plaid shirt by Forever 21, boots by Dr. Martens, faux septum ring from Urban Waves Winnipeg.

Let Fashion Transform You

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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PHOTOGRAPHY BY: Michael Sanders, Electric Monk Media

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

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

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

VINTAGE: Faux fur leopard print jacket