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!

 

 

 

 

 

The Future is Feminine

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“I want to thank everyone who broke their silence this year and spoke out about abuse and harassment. You are so brave. So people out there who are feeling silenced by harassment, discrimination, abuse, Time’s Up! We see you, we hear you and we will tell your stories.” – Reese Witherspoon, 2018 Golden Globe Awards

“Today I will wear black in solidarity and gratitude with all women in all industries, acknowledging our mutual power and vulnerability. #TimesUp on silence, on imbalance of power, on inaction.” -Susan Sarandon

“What I know for sure is that speaking your truth is the most powerful tool we all have. And I am especially proud and inspired by all the women who have felt strong enough and empowered enough to speak up and share their personal stories.” -Oprah Winfrey, 2018 Golden Globe Awards

We live in a Man’s world. Designed by Men, for Men. I know that for some of you, that elicits a defensive response. I’m sorry it’s hard to hear, but it doesn’t make it less true. Some find it hard to relate, or understand when hashtags like #MeToo and #TimesUp are made popular by Hollywood, a demographic of society which many of us can’t relate to. It’s important to understand that the struggles, inequalities and horrors that Hollywood is only now blasting a spotlight on, on TV’s, phones and computer screens all around the globe, happens everywhere, to every girl and woman, for all of our written history. Those with power and position in Hollywood who choose to use their platforms to bring the truth to light and make change, should be commended. Their experiences aren’t different than ours, they just have the world’s attention.

I am just a regular woman, living a regular life, but I too have a story. Too many stories to share them all here, but none of them are new or exceptional or special in any way, that is what makes them significant. The fact that they are common-place enough that even I have been programmed to accept that this just how it is to be a woman in this world. I had become complacent about my own numerous experiences with inequality and sexism, simply because they were just a normal daily part of being a woman. Well, as the world has said loud and clear, TIME’S UP!

I have been groped, sexually assaulted, and cat-called by Men on many, many occasions. Too many to remember all of them, but enough for it to have damaged my self-worth. I’ve been pulled away at parties, cornered and aggressively held against my will at least 3 times by 3 different Men during my teen years. When I was a pre-teen, I slept over at a friends house when her parents were having a party. Her very drunk Uncle cornered me in her bedroom, had me backed up against the wall and started trying to touch me. My friend ran from the room and went to get her teenage brother, who got his Uncle out of the room and slept in a sleeping back on the floor against the door all night to keep us safe. I fear for what may have happened to me on any one of those occasions, had good friends not come for me. Far too many are not so lucky.  I learned from those experiences that I was not safe in this world. I had to always be vigilant and guarded and keep an eagle eye of protection on my female friends when we went out into the world. If I am alone at night, I fear for my safety. This is the world we live in.

As I got older and pursued a career, I experienced an entirely new form of sexual discrimination. Working as an Environmental Consultant at an Engineering Firm, I was sexually objectified out in the open, publicly on job-sites by both co-workers and clients alike. One time I was asked on the sly by a co-worker for the details about what was going on between me and another male co-worker. I learned that a rumour was going around my office that I was having an affair or at the very least, fooling around with one of the only friends I had at work. Keep in mind that there were only about 5 women in my entire office at that time. Yes, he was a Man and was happily married, I might add. I was also happily living common-law with a Man, who later became my Husband. Of course nothing happened between us. It didn’t have to. Just being friends with a Man was enough to arouse suspicion and start a vicious rumour that damaged my reputation at my workplace. On another occasion, I was asked to provide a character reference for an old school-mate who was applying for a job at my company. I told them that yes, he’s a great guy and a hard worker, and they should definitely hire him. I later found out that although I had been there for years already, had more experience and authority than him, and the same level of education, he was making more money than me. When I addressed it with the Office Manager in confidence, he told me that the new co-worker and his wife had a baby on the way, so he needed the money more that I did. I think that this was the first time I truly understood the nature of sexual inequality, and that it was indeed still alive and well.

Despite these experiences, I went on to work at a much bigger and more significant company, in a more responsible role. All went well, until I got pregnant with my first child. My intentions were to go back to work after my 1 year Maternity Leave, so through my pregnancy, I worked harder than ever to make sure all my ducks were in a row to ensure things would run smoothly in my absence. A few weeks before I was to leave, I brought some concerns to the table in a meeting with my department as well as several consultants I was responsible for managing. My Boss, said that since I was to be leaving soon, I “shouldn’t worry my pretty little head about it.” My concerns and suggestions were dismissed without further discussion. I was devastated, and humiliated in front of my peers and subordinates.

About 6 months after leaving for Maternity Leave, I spent hours on the phone to Human Resources about the daycare that was supposed to be going into my building for employees kids, that now wasn’t going to happen because the company had decided they could make more money renting the space for events. This left me in a very difficult child-care situation, where 1 year waiting lists for daycares was the norm. I also tried to negotiate more flexible hours, or the possibility of job-sharing, but alas, they told me my position held too much responsibility, required too much travel and wouldn’t allow for that flexibility. In addition I asked HR where the designated room is for returning Mothers to breast pump. I fully expected that for a huge company in a brand new, multi-million dollar state of the art building, full of women of childbearing age, that they had taken that need into account and provided a room for those returning from Maternity Leave who are weaning their babies from nursing. To my dismay, they had no such room, or fridge to store the breast milk until the end of each day, and a mini fridge at individual desks was not permitted. It’s important to note that at the time, Maternity Leave was 1 year long, and the Health Canada recommended duration for breast-feeding was also 1 year. For anyone who has never breast fed a baby, it isn’t like a water tap that you can just turn on and off. A woman’s body produces enough milk to meet the demand of the baby, so weaning your milk production down until you no longer produce milk can take weeks, sometimes months depending on your baby’s needs. So, if you plan to breast feed for a year as recommended, you will likely still need to pump once you’ve already returned to work at the 1 year mark. That’s not to say anything of the choice to breastfeed for longer if you wanted to, which I did. Currently the Canadian Pediatric Society recommends,  “…exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months of life. At about 6 months, your baby will be ready for other foods, but you can continue breastfeeding until your child is 2 years of age and beyond.”  My employer expected me to sit in a bathroom stall on the toilet to pump my breast milk, so my baby could eat and my breasts wouldn’t end up engorged, painful, or worse, with a mastitis infection. So, needless to say, with so many frustrating obstacles to face, in addition to the stress and emotional nature of returning to work after a Maternity Leave, I quit. It was just one more example of how the world I was living in was not designed for women. I payed back my Maternity Leave top-up money and I never looked back.

So yes, we live in a Man’s world, that has not been designed for women and all the changing roles they may have within their lifetime. A world where in the past women have had to use their physical beauty and manipulation to get what they needed or wanted because asking directly was not an option. We evolved into a time where women had to be quicker, smarter, have a thicker skin and more aggressive ambition than the men around them just to play on the same field, let alone be successful at the game. We have had to prove ourselves, being tested again and again to gain permission to play, and once we make it into the game, we have needed the resilience of a warrior to carry on through the sexism, objectification and the endless justifications required for our ideas to be heard, and our needs to be accommodated. Not to mention the sexual harassment, belittling and disempowering. Even in this environment, women have stayed their coarse. We have gained legal acknowledgement as “persons” instead of property.  We have won the right to vote and own property. Despite the horrors of watching our sisters burn for their knowledge of the cosmic cycles, plant medicines and the natural processes of birth and death, we have gained the freedom to practice our crafts and arts, love and marry who we wish, and the right to keep our own name if we so choose. We have come so far because we have rallied together and not given up. We have learned to hold each other up, cheer one another on, and be companions and comforters through dark and difficult times. We have shared our knowledge, experience and gifts with one another through the generations that Her Story did not make it into History. We have been each other’s strength. A secret sisterhood. Keepers of the divine feminine, nurturing, protecting and blowing gently on the embers to keep the warmth and light going until the time comes to build a fire the likes of which the modern world has never seen. A fire that will cleanse all the pain and oppression and fear that has kept our world imbalanced for so long. A fire that will draw the women and men back together like moths to a flame and restore the balance.

Until then, women of the world, we must continue to rally together. We must gather and share our personal stories. We must honour one another and celebrate one another’s efforts and successes. We must support and sing one another’s praises. We must shed light on all the characteristics we have always had that have not been recognized in the past. We must cheer women on for their intelligence, creativity, innovation, and ingenuity. We must celebrate our intuition, emotions, sexuality and motherhood as divine. We must reclaim our sovereignty. We must love each other and hold one another up so fiercely that our love and encouragement resonates so deeply between us that it shatters the glass ceiling. We must fill future HERstory books with the power of love and compassion that make the history of war, fear and power struggles look like primitive child’s-play. Above all, we must love ourselves and stop looking for external approval and validation. There was a time not that long ago, that our sister ancestors were owned as property. The time has come to look that ugly past in the eye, allow it’s pain to rattle our bones and then step past it into our empowerment. Stop looking for a permission that will never come. Own yourself and take your position. The future is ours. The future is feminine.

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PHOTOGRAPHY BY: Michael Sanders, Electric Monk Media

MODELS: Leanne Sanders and Tara Cole-McCaffrey

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

CURRENT FASHION: Embroidered parasol from Prairie Sky Books, and sunglasses and glasses from Urban Waves.

VINTAGE: Lace dress on Tara by Precious Threads Vintage and embroidered elephant vest from Metal Physical Moon (Found on Corydon).