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Down the rabbit hole

1 Aug

It’s no secret that I have a slight obsession with Alice in Wonderland.  I love the books, the Disney movie, and yes, even the Burton movies.

When I turned 28, I began planning my 30th Mad Hatter Tea Party Birthday.  And it was grand.

Last summer, I began plotting out a year of photo shoots wherein I would artistically document and explore my healing journey from a broken marriage.

You know, because I’m all deep and thoughtful.  Like Deep Thought!

I wanted my final images to be striking and interesting.  

I wanted the process to be fun and meaningful.  

I wanted to surround myself with my favourite people.

You’ll remember the cathartic burning of my wedding dress.

A close up look at the transformative power and beauty of tattoos.

And finally, an enjoyable embracing of girl power, saucily illustrated as super heroes and villains.

Today, in a triumphant return to my wonderland obsession, I bring you a journey down the rabbit hole.

Even though my obsession with wonderland spans decades now, I like to think it’s an appropriate metaphor for a variety of experiences.

Go to University, start a new job, move to a new city, get married, buy a house, have a baby.  These are all pretty standard life events for much of the population.  

No matter how much you’ve prepared yourself, you never really know what to expect until it’s happening.  Not even the most detailed books can prepare you for the madness and chaos that is parenting.  Or… no matter how in love you are with your new spouse, you’ll undoubtedly find yourself wondering how on earth you’re going to beat the odds and make a marriage work.

And loss.  

What a trip.

The loss of a child.  A job.  A parent.  A relationship.  

Nothing can prepare you for such a loss, especially when it comes out of nowhere and sucker punches you in the gut.  

And the heart.

And then you’re free falling, head first into the unknown.  It’s terrifying and weird and you refuse to believe it’s real.  

But it’s real.  

Falling unwillingly into the rabbit hole last year was one of the worst experiences and losses in my life.  Heartbreak, sorrow, loss of appetite, anger, all while walking around feeling lost.

But it doesn’t have to last.  Embrace the chaos.  Give into the madness.  Open your eyes and look around and you might like what you see.  

Wonderland is the new normal and it doesn’t have to be scary.

Photo Shoot Prep:

Location: The Chanterelle 

I interviewed Maelyn several months ago about The Chanterelle, a new downtown venue for weddings, parties, and other big events. I took a look at the brick walls and knew I’d be going back!

My initial visit was amongst drywall dust and table saws.  When we went back take our pictures, much of the construction mess was cleaned up but there was still a lot of work to do.  

Over social media today, I saw that The Chanterelle had a soft opening event over the weekend.  Likely there was food and music!  

The renovations are complete, the kitchen is in place, the decor is on point.  It’s absolutely beautiful and I hope I get to go back again very soon!


Photographer: Scott Hobbs Photography

I don’t think we need to delve too deeply into the details and specifics of my friend Scott.  We’ve seen his work before after all. 

I’m very happy to have shared these experiences with him.  He’s both talented and compassionate.  He’s professional and silly.  I’ll work with him again in the future.

Makeup: Ashley Meagher Makeup Design.  

My friend Scotia was unavailable so she recommended Ashley for this project.  All that did was make me have two favourite makeup artists!

The Players: My squad.  

Some people hate that term.  I don’t care.  I love it.  These are some of my people.  Todd, Devon, Jay, Shelley, Dee, Tracy.  

I love that they were excited about spending an entire afternoon with me as we made our own attempt at Wonderland.

Behind the scenes.  People like behind the scenes stuff, right?

The Professional Results

Here she sits, young Alice…





Who is this White Rabbit?



The Blue Caterpillar



Time for tea with the Mad Hatter and the March Hare





The Cheshire Cat is sneaky



The Red Queen can be temperamental




Uh oh…





Off with their heads, yes?

It’s ok.  We were all friends in the end.  I think…


Thank you to my lovely models.  Each and every one of you is beautiful and completely wonderful.  

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Thank you to Scott for also being beautiful and wonderful.


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Thank you to Ashley for your talent and excitement at our transformations.


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Thank you to The Chanterelle for being so kind, so helpful, and letting us come in before the renovations were complete.


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I wonder what our next project should be…

In a Year

15 Jun

Some people have told me not to put so much stock or value in the dates.  After all, they’re just numbers and why should I let these numbers have control over me?

Well…  I’m not sure what to say to that except…  Numbers and dates are important to me.  They don’t control my life but I’ve always enjoyed the passing of time marked by numbers and I’ve always enjoyed assigning significance to certain days.  

Such as today.

June 15th, 2017.  Mine and my husband’s 14th anniversary of being together.

Except not.

It would have been, but it’s also the one year anniversary of the end of our marriage.

It’s hard not to be sad on this day.  Last year I was so happy.  Thirteen years together and ten years married.  

We celebrated our anniversary with dinner and a movie.  

I was confident that the troubles in our marriage were secondary compared to our foundation of love.  I was still in love and really looking forward to making plans for the future.  We had been through so much together and we could undoubtedly get through a lot more.  

And now it’s been a year since my heart was broken.

A year isn’t enough time to get over some things.

Granted, I’m not in love with my ex-husband anymore.  That died pretty quick after the final death knell rang.

I’m also extremely happy with my current domestic situation: beautiful house, my three sons, and a man that loves me and appreciates  me and wants me.

If you know who you are, and you love yourself (check and check), a year is enough time to move on with acceptance and an open heart.  But no, it’s not enough time to let go of the hurt and anger.  Maybe next year.

So what have I learned in this past year?

Well, I’m still awesome.  Obvious understatement, right?  But I’ve been pretty surprised with how many people have told me how brightly my candle is burning this year.  Apparently I was hiding under a bushel without an identify of my own?  I don’t know if I agree with that assessment, but dozens of people have told me it’s like I just opened up and radiated happiness and positivity after my divorce.  Wow!  I’m both encouraged and surprised!

What else….

Maybe don’t get married at age 22. 

Do counselling before marriage to see if you’re both on the same page.  One of you might be confident whereas the other might be unsure.

Communicate with your spouse about everything.  As I’ve said before, I used to be cocky.  I considered my marriage to be superior to others.  After all, we talked about everything and everything.  We talked all the time.  Or I thought we did.

Never say never.  Up until last year I said I’d never get divorced.  I wasn’t lying to myself; I believed it with every ounce of my soul.  I’ll never say never again.  Anything can happen.

Some friends will desert you in times of life transition.  It happens.  Try not to be consumed by that and focus instead on the people who are still there.  Oh there were some amazing shows of support for me last summer, from some wonderful people.

Because some new friends will find you during transition as well, and they will become the best friends you’ve ever had.  Like brothers and sisters really.  Despite losing a great love, this past year has been more full of love than I thought would be possible.

That’s enough rambling for now.  It’s time to click off and get out of the city.  

I’m thrilled to be taking a special long weekend getaway with my amazing boyfriend.  New memories will be made on this strange weekend full of anniversaries and memories.

It’s Time to Move On

By Tom Petty

It’s time to move on, time to get going

What lies ahead, I have no way of knowing

But under my feet, baby, grass is growing

It’s time to move on, it’s time to get going

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Broken skyline, movin’ through the airport

She’s an honest defector

Conscientious objector

Now her own protector

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Broken skyline, which way to love land
Which way to something better

Which way to forgiveness

Which way do I go

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Sometime later, getting the words wrong

Wasting the meaning and losing the rhyme

Nauseous adrenalin

Like breakin’ up a dogfight

Like a deer in the headlights

Frozen in real time

I’m losing my mind

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It’s time to move on, time to get going

What lies ahead, I have no way of knowing

But under my feet, baby, grass is growing

It’s time to move on, it’s time to get going

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Been working non-stop on my side project (which is more like the main project now): People of Port Arthur by Eating Dirt.

Been working equally hard on my new art endeavour: Pop Art Prints by Eating Dirt.

There she is, one year post divorce. Self portrait.




Super Girls

3 May

If you follow me on various social media platforms, you’ll have seen the bombardment of photos from my November 2016 Super Girls photo shoot.

In the same way that I wrote about my Dress Burning photos and my Tattoo photos, I’d like to now talk about Super Girls.

The concept began as I was attempting to put together some sort of Catwoman costume for Halloween.  

My friend Shelley had a Wonder Woman costume.  We didn’t have a set plan for Halloween festivities but I thought it would be fun if we could get a picture of us together, in our costumes!  

It didn’t end up happening because of scheduling conflicts, but I thought we could still get together and put our costumes on!

The original idea of a simple picture began growing and transforming into an entire afternoon of makeup, costumes, and photography.  At first I thought it would just be Shelley and I but then it became “and Scotia” and then finally, “and Diane.”  Naturally I asked Scotia to do makeup and hair and naturally I wanted Scott as the photographer.

This launched the third instalment of my journey to healing: Healing from Heartbreak through personal exploration and conceptual photography projects.  

In other words, some of my friends and I were going to put on sassy costumes, pretend to fight, and have someone take pictures.

A fun way to spend an afternoon?  

Of course!

The cast of characters?  

Let’s meet them.

Scott.  The Photographer.  From Scott Hobbs Photography.  Number 46 on People of Port Arthur.


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Scotia.  The Makeup Artist and Hair Stylist of Sweet Cherry Spa.  Number 26 on People of Port Arthur.  Also known as BANE!


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Diane. Professor. Cosplay enthusiast. She did her own makeup and hair here.  Number 72 on People of Port Arthur.  Also known as the Brunette Super Girl.


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Shelley.  Public health nurse.  Number 59 on People of Port Arthur.  Also known as the blond Wonder Woman!


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And of course, me!  Catwoman.  The blogger!



It’s amazing what a bit of makeup and hairspray can do!

The tireless photographer and his trouble-making subjects:

The basic story here is that Catwoman and her two friends,  Supergirl and Wonder Woman, were on a business meeting in downtown Port Arthur.  All of a sudden, Bane appeared and her objective was to take down the trio of heros (we’re working with the premise here that Catwoman flip-flops from good to bad and in this particular situation, she’s “good”).  

Of course there was some fighting and a few tense moments.  But in the end, good triumphed over bad.  









What a happy ending!  Supergirl rescued us!

A few one-offs:






There is no deep and mysterious meanings to the subject matter of this particular photo shoot.  

I think it’s all rather self-explanatory.

1. It’s important to have fun; you don’t always have to take yourself seriously.

2. It’s important to surround yourselves with friends.

3. Every woman (every person) is a super hero on the inside.  We are strong and resilient.

4. When the going gets tough, be your own super hero.

5. When the going gets tough, surround yourself with other super heros.

I’ve come so far on this journey of healing.  It’s been just over a year now.

Journeying through grief takes on so many forms when mourning the loss of a marriage.  I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t still mad about it.  I am.  I likely will continue to feel anger for quite some time.  

But I’m stronger than hatred and stronger than despair.  I have so much love and laughter in my life. 

My friends are my super heros.  These friends, and so many more.


*serious heart hands*

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Keep your eye on this space because this isn’t the end of the photo-shoot fun.  Not by a long shot!

Girl Blogger

23 Mar

I’m still neglecting this space. 

It’s the whole, having-three-kids and having-a-new-love in my life that are occupying a lot of my time these days.  Naturally.

I’m also having so much fun with my not-so-side-project, People of Port Arthur.  Have you checked it out yet?  

It will likely be more interesting if you live in Thunder Bay or you’re from Thunder Bay.  I love talking and I love learning about people; I’m having so much fun introducing readers to the people I meet on my daily travels throughout my part of the city.  

It’s my own little Sesame Street.  

These are the people in my neighbourhood…

Now remember, if you don’t live in or work in the Port Arthur half of Thunder Bay, you can still be featured.  It’s not a hard and fast rule, it’s just a lovely little bit of alliteration (PEOPLE of PORT ARTHUR) that appeals so greatly to me!  Plus, I am not a frequent visitor to the southernmost areas of our city.  

If you see me out and about, you’re welcome to approach me and ask for a feature on People of Port Arthur.  I have a backlog of people so it wouldn’t actually happen immediately.  But it would happen eventually!  

However, if I’m with my kids and they’re screaming or running into traffic or punching each other, it’s best not to approach unless you want an exasperated eye roll for a response.  You know, you gotta feel the room.

Another little pastime that’s been consuming my hours is a new art endeavour.  

Pop Art Prints by Eating Dirt.  

It’s something fun and creative that has the potential (through commissions) to earn a bit of pocket money.  And by pocket money, I mean grocery money.

So!  Despite my neglect, it was really nice to see this article in The Argus today!


First there was Amanda Bay of Bay Awesome: 


Then me:


And Sabrina from ArcticSabrina:


Each blogger had a lovely description following the picture.  It was interesting to know that someone out there considers me a badass.  Me?  Little old me???  I think I’m pretty strong and resilient so I will take that badass label and wear it proudly.

I spend a lot of time writing about other people and I’m pretty good at writing about myself with honesty and objectivity.  It’s interesting, a bit surprising, and humbling to read what someone else has written about you.  

Thank you to the author, Leah Ching, who used such kind words to describe me and my fellow girl bloggers.

One thing is definitely for certain: I’m in great company, here in Thunder Bay.  I’m lucky and blessed to know so many creative and talented people and even luckier to be counted in their numbers.

Thank you readers for continuing to come back.  I may not write as frequently as I used to, but I’m not going anywhere.

Tattoo & Transform

18 Jan

After my marriage ended, I wanted to do something to commemorate my feelings and to signify the start of a new chapter.

Enter, the torched wedding dress.

I wrote about that experience here, but I’m going to show a few pictures again anyway because I love them.





Scott Hobbs of Scott Hobbs Photography was the man behind the camera for this particular event (makeup and hair by Scotia of Sweet Cherry Spa) and I decided I wanted him behind the camera for future projects.  

He was happy to oblige with his expertise and I decided my next series of photos would document the beautiful and transformative process of tattooing.

This was a casual photo shoot that felt just like friends hanging out and laughing.  One of those friends just happened to have a big camera!

Scott is a professional


My hope was that the camera would be able to get up really close and personal as the needle pushed ink into the skin.  

I hoped there would be a mess of ink and blood that could represent how life can sometimes be really messy and definitely painful.  

But what happens after all that pain?  

Wipe away the mess and what’s left is a beautiful piece of art.

After the mess and heartbreak of last spring began to fade away (as time passed), I felt reborn.  

I never lost who I was, but being thrust into a new kind of life, shook me. 

It was a summer of reconnecting with old friends and connecting with new friends.  My people rallied around me and new people built me up and fortified me.  My heart is so full and happy and at peace.

That’s not to say it’s easy and stress-free.  But the process of becoming more ME and more fabulous than ever before is a good one.  I’m not stagnating; something is always happening.

The pictures didn’t go exactly as I planned because I didn’t bleed.  It wasn’t a messy experience at all.  

But we are adaptable and I was rewarded with some lovely photographs.






Thank you Scott for the lovely photos and for the gift of your time.

Thank you Vanessa (of Red River Trade Company) for the beautiful art that is now a part of me.

My collection of body art will continue to grow and I will too.

Best of 2016

2 Jan

A few days after Christmas, the annual Walleye reader survey of the brightest and best in Thunder Bay was released.


I, like most people, am very aware that the people, businesses, and artists mentioned in this yearly issue are not necessarily the best.  

It all comes down to who nominated who and who voted.

Some people hate this magazine and especially this issue.  

You can’t please ALL the people ALL the time.

Seeing your name (or the name of your blog) in print, is a special feeling.

I don’t think I’m better than anyone else, but I do think I’m pretty awesome.  

I’m continually striving to be the best version of myself that I can; I’m continually working to be a better me.


If it’s shallow and meaningless to some, I’m okay with that.  This makes me feel happy.  

I know some of my friends voted for me, just like I voted for them.  And that’s ok.  It still means something to me and it was a lovely way to finish up the year.

Included in the issue was a nice little write up by Kirsti Salmi.



I’m excited to keep writing and telling stories in 2017.  

If you’ve stuck around this long, please continue to do so!  

More reader giveaways, more spotlights on colourful locals, more of my side projects, and more realness.

Thank you to everybody.

2016 in review

1 Jan

Summing up the year in pictures.  

Starting in December and traveling back in time to January 2016.

So many lovely friends:

Christmas with the triple Rs: 

Ashley:

A non-Christmas party success by three fun hosts:

A fun photo shoot:

A tattoo:

Got back into drawing and art:

Halloween fun:

A new blogging venture:

A therapeutic photo-shoot:

A tattoo:

New steps for my new abode:

A fun day at the amethyst mine:

August in Alberta:

Exploring my new neighbourhood:

My birthday with my boys:

Moving day:

Ashley:

Last day of school:

Last photo taken as a family of five:

 

A little boy turns one:

May in Alberta:

Speaking on a panel for online authors:

Meeting Lynn Johnston:

The big boys start learning the fun of interacting with a growing baby brother:


It was fun going through a year’s worth of pictures, but very difficult to be concise.  I’m never concise.

Looking through the pictures, it’s clear 2016 was a big one.  There was lots of change.  

The pictures don’t really show the heartbreak and sadness, but they do show the happiness.  

One special picture I’d like to share sums up the last quarter of my year is this: 


Love finds you when you’re not looking for it and when you’re definitely not expecting it. 

What a high note upon which to end this strange year.  

I have good feelings about 2017.  

Bring it on.