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Imprinting

4 Nov

Will I ever learn from past mistakes?

Does anyone?

Ten years ago I knew my friend Jim was sick.  Jim was more than a friend.  He was a kind hearted, sarcastic, and hilarious father figure who was always checking up on me; he wanted to know what I was up to and what I was interested in.  

Jim started getting sick shortly after his retirement. I think it took quite awhile to get a diagnosis, but when a diagnosis was given, it was not good.  The prognosis was poor: it was just a matter of time.  

Jim kept the seriousness to himself and hid the reality from those he loved and who loved him back.  When I finally learned about the severity of his condition, he forbade me from coming to see him.  

If I could go back in time, I would just go knock on his door.  I would just go sit with him.

Five years ago, I knew my friend Lydia’s kidneys had failed.  She moved back to her home town to be closer to family and wait for a new kidney.  She was very sick but her humour and positive outlook were steadfast.  

We texted back and forth pretty regularly and made future plans to get together.  It was never the right time though.  I had little kids, she was too tired to even stand up a lot of the time.

I knew in my heart that Lydia would get her kidney.  After all, her dad got a kidney and it just makes sense that a younger person would get a kidney too!  But then one day I got a message telling me she was gone.  So suddenly.  Why did I put off seeing her?  Because I thought I had more time.

Two and a half years ago, a few days after my youngest was born, we learned that my gramma had three days to live.  I wanted desperately to go and see her but I had just given birth and I was so worn out, so body-weary and in so much pain.  

In July of this year, I was told about a friend named Kurt who received a terrible cancer diagnosis.  It looked bad but he was going to fight it.  

I waited a bit, as to not bother him or his family, then sent him a message to let him know I was thinking about him and wishing him strength and stamina and all that nice stuff you’re supposed to say to someone who is very very sick.  

We messaged back and forth about what I could draw for him (and his family).  He told me he needed to talk to the kids about it but maybe, in the meantime, I could make something “Han and Leia” for him and his partner Sara.

I ordered a print of a picture I had drawn of Han and Leia gazing at each other.  I told Kurt I’d bring it over to his house when the final product was delivered.  

It was delivered and I told him I’d bring it over very soon.  He told me to put some words on the print.  

I love you.  I know.

Classic Han and Leia.


Classic Kurt and Sara.

Then all of a sudden, he was gone.  

For over a year we (Kurt and Sara and myself and my boyfriend) continually made tentative plans to get together for dinner.  Then he was sick.  Then he was gone.  Why did we wait?  Why did I wait?

Because I’m busy.  

Because I’m tired.  

Because I’m always worried about bothering people.  

Because all of the above.

After I found out that Kurt died, I re-read seven years worth of Facebook messages.  It was awesome and heartbreaking: a story book of our friendship.

Kurt was (is) so funny and so kind; so silly and so helpful.  Our conversations over the years spanned the topics: babies, his graphic novel, babies, zombies, his family, my family, needing time away from babies, and more. 
Kurt and I were not especially close, but we were friends. We had good conversations, right up until two weeks before his death. Never a cross word was exchanged between us; he never had an unkind word to say about anyone.

When we spoke (in person and online) he really listened.

I’m going to miss him a lot.  I’m going to miss running into him, out and about, in our shared neighbourhood.

I’m grieving him and grieving for his family and closest friends.  My heart hurts for his wife Sara, his children, his sisters, and his parents.  And for so many more.


Of course he’s not gone though.  

Not really.  

He doesn’t have a body anymore, but when I see his kids smile, I’ll see Kurt smiling too.  When I look at my bookshelf, I’ll see his graphic novel and say, Hey Kurt, I see you there.  

He left his imprint on so many people; it won’t be leaving any time soon.

Will I ever learn though?

Will we ever learn?

Tell your loved ones how you feel.  

Go and see them if you can. 

Do it today and don’t delay.


Much love and light to a beautiful person: a lover and fighter in equal parts.

Nine 

30 Aug

Dear R1

Today you are 9 years old.

Wow.  

I don’t know how you got to be nine when clearly I myself haven’t aged.  What a mystery!

Your 8th year brought a new school and a new school bus route and the challenge of making new friends.  I was worried about how difficult this would be for you because you already had such a great group of friends at your old school.  I’m pretty thrilled with the kids I’ve met though.  Grade 3 seems to have set a good foundation for the rest of your years at this school.


You struggled a bit with the work this year.  You were trying to learn how to read English and French at the same time; we had some tearful conversations about how you just couldn’t understand what was going on.  It had me questioning whether you should even stay in the French program or whether we should find a tutor.  But we kept trying and kept at it.  

This was the year that the reading really clicked.  You’ve made amazing strides with reading English and the French had improved a lot.  Your math skills seem to be good (I have no idea what you’re doing with the new math) and the teachers say you’re friendly and helpful and very social.  



For a 9 year old, you’re a bit small compared to the other kids.  You’re not very fast or athletic but that’s ok. You’re  funny and sarcastic and clever.  You’re also a know it all and bossy and pretty picky.  


You have a short fuse with middle brother (I’m trying to help you be more patient) but you have a lot of patience with little brother.  You’re so helpful and so good and entertaining little brother; you make him laugh and cuddle him and help him if he gets hurt.  

Your compassion for him helps ease my worries with regards to your impatience with middle brother. And let’s face it, middle brother can be quite trying. 


You’re so interested in Lego and star wars and Minecraft.  The big three.  You’re also pretty obsessed with some game called Clash Royal and now Zelda.  Then let’s not forget Plants vs Zombies and DC and Marvel.


We are gearing up for grade 4 now.  Here’s hoping for more improvement with your French and a bigger mouth (I know, right?) to fit all the adult teeth that keep growing in before the baby teeth fall out.

Here’s hoping for more patience with middle brother and continued growth in your compassion for and understanding of the world around you.  You’re very perceptive and you just “get” almost everything I explain to you.  


In your own words, “The world isn’t divided into black and white, mom!”  No, it certainly isn’t.  I love you so much, my first born, the boy who made me a mother.  I will always love you.

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.




Our Children

20 May

Over the past few years, we’ve watched open-mouthed as young black men have been gunned down in the United States.  

One was an unarmed father of five, selling cigarettes.  One was trying to walk home from the store.  One was a 12 year old boy in a park. There are so many others.  It was heartbreaking to hear about again and again.  Canada, as a country, grieved with the parents.  

We grieved from afar but also patted ourselves on the back because that kind of awfulness just doesn’t happen in Canada.  

After all, our gun laws are stricter.  

After all, we’re just so darn nice here.  

After all, we embrace multiculturalism and diversity.

We say sorry if we bump into each other; we tell each other to have a nice day, eh!

But truthfully, we are no better.  Not really.  We proudly proclaim Canada as the epitome of human rights, while ignoring the very people who were here first.  

2017 marks Canada’s 150th birthday.  150 years as an official country.  To many that’s a major cause for celebration.  For others it’s a stark reminder of broken promises, residential schools, missing and murdered indigenous women, reserves with never ending boil-water advisories, and dead children.

The children.  Oh my heart just breaks thinking about what their parents and family members have gone through.  Are going through. 

The past decade in Thunder Bay has seen nine teens pulled from the same river.

These are their names: 

JETHRO ANDERSON

CURRAN STRANG

PAUL PANACHEESE

ROBYN HARPER

REGGIE BUSHIE

KYLE MORRISOW 

JORDAN WABASSE 

TAMMY KEEASH

JOSIAH BEGG

These names are important.  

These young people need to be remembered.

Nine young indigenous teens, ranging from 14 years to 18 years old.  All of them were in Thunder Bay for schooling (or appointments) and far from home.  They were away from their families.  They ended up in the river.

Why?  Why did these young people end up in the river?  Were they pushed?  Were they drinking?  Were they alone?  Did someone push them?  Was it accidental?  Suicide?  Murder?

I have no answers and no solutions.

What I can do, however, starts at home.  I have three white (perhaps) heterosexual sons.  

At this point in their lives, they barely understand the concepts of racism and bigotry.  We talk about it in age-appropriate ways and they have a basic understanding that some people are treated badly because of their skin colour or where they were born, what they believe, etc.  They think it’s unfair. 

Like any parent, I worry about my children.  One thing I don’t often think about though, is whether or not my sons will be shot by police officers.  Or whether or not they’ll end up in a river.  

I mean, it could happen, but it’s statistically improbable.  I just don’t spend time worrying that my sons will get shot by police officers or attacked because of their skin colour.  Nobody is going to call my sons derogatory names becsuse of their skin colour.

This is my privilege.  

I recognize it; I own it.

I don’t know what the future holds.  But today I’m telling my almost nine year old about the young boy who was pulled from the river, like the many before him.  

I’m talking to him about safety and personal responsibility.  Soon I’ll tell him that if he’s in a scary situation, he can ALWAYS call me or his dad or his Gramma. 

I don’t know what happened to Josiah and the others, but I do think about the what-ifs.  Was he alone? Was he with a friend?  Did he have a cell phone?  Was he unable to call anyone for help?  Did he call and nobody came?  Was he scared?  Did he know he was about to die?  Was he even aware of what was happening?  

That poor child.  His poor mother.  

It’s so easy to look at this situation and dismiss it outright because it happened to someone else.  But that someone else is still a person.  He’s a son and brother.  He had hopes and dreams.  He had friends.  

Josiah was Sunshine Winter’s child but really, he was our child.  A child of Canada, of Turtle Island.  All these children are our children.  This country is hurting and has been for centuries.  

We can’t change the past, but we can work towards a better future.

The children are the future, we can’t let them down.

Let’s do this.

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Resources if you’re interested in an overview of the current situation:

Fifth Estate Segment discussing police activity in response to the deaths of these teens.

Article about the most recent deaths causing concern about police practices. 

An article about the inquest launched into the deaths over the last ten years.

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!

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.