Winter at the Studio!

It’s great to be back and to have a chance to share all of the wonderful things that are coming up in the studio this season, especially Journal Club, Love Letters from Trail Makers, the Studio Forum and the Studio Yearbook! Watch and let the magic of this season begin!

Check out the Academy here. And be sure to sign up for the studio to get word of the Love Letters for Trail Makers offering!

Tending to Ourselves when Suffering Is All Around

Fire and Ice
When my mother was dying, it was exhausting in every way imaginable, despite the great support we received from palliative care. I remember one conversation with the support coordinator where I passionately outlined my concerns for not only my mom but also for my sisters. She offered solutions and then looked at me and said, “You know, we’re here for you too.” I blinked. For a moment I didn’t understand what she was saying and then my eyes filled with tears. There was support for me too?

Sometimes when all around us there is strife and need we forget that we are a part of the healing equation. Tending to ourselves is important though it seems like the least reasonable thing to do.

How can I sleep when my loved one is suffering?

How can I take time to write, when there is a crisis?

How can I have my own feelings when clearly this is not about me?

We human beings are social animals and we live and love and work in constellations. What happens to others in our world happens to us also. We are not separated, isolated or alone, which means we are not free from shared suffering or support.

Our lives are intertwined with the lives of others and how we care for ourselves makes a difference for everyone.

I often say that a garden is a gift to all of us. When I walk through the neighbourhood and pass by a well-loved patch of land, it nourishes me. I say thank you not only to the Universe for creating tulips, peonies and tall grasses but also to the hands and hearts that turned the soil and tended the plants.

Each of us is a garden. When we are fully resourced, strong and blooming we are better able to bring light, love and care to any situation.

Here are the things I found most important for tending myself while supporting others:

Eat Well. For me, this is always the greatest challenge. In tough situations, I find myself just wanting to eat something fast and comforting but I’ve learned that taking the time and making the effort to focus on fresh foods, particularly vegetables, and mindful eating makes a difference.

Rest Well. Take naps. Go to bed early. If you can’t sleep, close your eyes and power down, even for 10 minutes. Your body, mind and soul are in overdrive. They need recuperation time. Give it.

Move. Just as we need rest, we need movement. Stress, intensity, crisis, challenge, all of it puts immense demands on your body. Moving our bodies helps the built-up energy burn up and pass through. Movement helps us let go and release things we might not even know we are holding. Moving our bodies helps us stay healthy, free and agile, ready for the tasks at hand.

Journal. Conflict, stress and strife bring up all sorts of feelings. When someone else is in crisis or need, we often push down our own feelings, dismissing them as trivial, selfish or inappropriate. It may be true that your loved one doesn’t currently have the capacity to respond to your feelings but that doesn’t mean they aren’t valid or don’t need expression. Turn to your journal and express yourself fully, completely and without judgment. Let it be a safe place for you to let out what is in your heart and on your mind.

Take “Me Time.”  Even if your caretaking responsibilities are heavy, (especially if your caretaking responsibilities are heavy) you need time that is just for you. Give yourself quiet moments away from the crisis so you can refill your well, remember who you and breathe.  You may also find that you need some time with other people, time to express your heart or to have fun and remember the light and love that exists in the world.

Create. As creatives, our souls settle when we use our hands, hearts, minds and bodies in the act of creation. Write poetry. Knit a scarf. Dance your feelings before going to bed. Play with plasticene. Cut paper and collage. Not only will these practices give your energy somewhere to flow but they will also remind you of the power and possibility of creation even in the midst of the hardest of times. This does the heart good.

As Best You Can, Tend Your Life. It’s hard. It’s hard to show up to work, to pay your bills, to plan your meals, to clean the kitchen. Sometimes it is the last thing you want to do but when everything else is out of control, it can be grounding to keep regular life going, to keep daily activities flowing. Plus you won’t add the layer of worry that inevitably comes from letting things slip or have to throw yourself in with the furious energy of catching up when things finally settle down (if they ever do). You may even find a new sense of meaning, joy and gratitude for everyday, normal things. That certainly happened for me.

No matter where this message finds you today, may these practices serve you well. May they support you when all is well and when all is trying. May you and all your loved ones be free of suffering and strife. May you trust the knowing that tending your soil is a gift to the world.

stART eps 90 (Live Recording!): Our 2017 Season Finale!

Every couple of weeks I film stART: Creating as We Go with my two sisters, Suzie and Shannon. We share our creative projects, from challenges to celebrations, and support each other’s creative lives. In this episode we chat about art classes, creative projects, breakthroughs and breaks, as well as diving full-on into our creative hearts.

For our final episode of 2017 we went LIVE on our YouTube channel to share thoughts on the year and take viewer questions. Thank you to each and every one of you who came to party with us!

In this episode we mention…

Keep up-to-date with stART: Creating As We Go

The Cold, Cupcakes and Champagne: Celebrating My Birthday!

Jamie & Justin

One of my favourite traditions that Justin and I have is taking off one another’s birthdays. Last Thursday, December 7, was mine and we started our celebrations the night before, getting dressed up and heading out for a wonderful meal.  Weeks earlier Justin came up with a fun and creative way to choose the restaurant. He picked five different places he thought I would enjoy, copied just their menus into a document and asked me to pick based on what looked yum. It was so much fun and, for me, the clear winner was Momofuku.

We’d seen it many times. It strikes a pose on the west side of University Avenue here in Toronto, just south of where we used to live in the Queen West neighbourhood. Momofuku covers three floors, each of which houses a different concept restaurant. We went to Daishon with its floor to high-ceiling glass walls overlooking the busyness of downtown. The position of our table allowed me to look right up University with all the lights of the city and street – beautiful!

After a brief encounter with a mildly unfriendly hostess, everything was wonderful. The service was thoughtful, helpful and friendly and the food was complex, balanced and even fun! We started with steamed chicken buns (Chicken Bun – ssäm sauce, pickled carrots, scallion)  and honestly, they were such a beautiful contrast of soft and crispy with such a delicious tanginess that I thought we should skip the rest of the meal and just tell them to keep them coming! Thank goodness I didn’t because honestly, the rice cakes (Rice Cakes – spicy pork sausage, chinese broccoli, tofu) were a treat and I will be talking about the Brussels sprouts (Brussels Sprouts – fish sauce, puffed rice, mint  ) for a very long time.

Delicious food, a beautiful view and my wonderful husband, my birthday was off to a good start.

In the morning the cold had arrived but that has never stopped Justin and I from going down to the Beaches for some yearly traditions. We stopped at our favourite spot for breakfast where it was just us and one other customer enjoying a morning meal. We ate a classic breakfast and drank our coffee in the quiet and talked about all that we’re dreaming of for the year ahead. Once fortified, we braved the beach!

In 2013, on the first birthday after my mom passed away, it was a grey, cold day much like this year and when Justin and I went down to the beach, the clouds parted and the sun broke through for just a few moments. I knew in my heart that was Mom telling me she was there, celebrating with me. It happened again this year, just a few moments of light to connect me to my mom’s love.

In the spirit of that connection, I continued my now yearly tradition of buying myself a piece of birthday jewellery from my mom.  Each year, except this one, there has been a young woman who has also lost her mom working at the shop. We talk about our loss and the things we do to keep our mothers alive in our hearts.  I hope she is well.

Choosing this birthday gift from my mom has become deeply meaningful to me. Each piece becomes a part of my story with and without her. This year I chose a pendant of rutilated quartz. I’ve had my eye on this stone for years. I had no idea that it is a powerful healing stone, one that amplifies intuition and clears away negativity. I think my mom and I have chosen a powerful ally for the year ahead.

The blessings continued as we met up with my sister Shannon to go to the movies! We’d all been wanting to see Thor: Ragnarok and this was our chance to catch it before it disappeared from the theatres. We had so much fun!

We even found a sparkling spot at the theatre for celebrating with presents! Look at this gorgeous journal that Shannon made for me! I just love it. I had seen her create this pattern in her own journal and fell in love with it instantly! Now I have my own. She also made me my favourite cookies: Chocolate Drop Quickies. They have been my favourite since I was 10! I still have the well-worn index card where my young baking self wrote the recipe by hand. wish I could share  a picture of the cookies but, well, they didn’t last that long! Yum!

I have such creative sisters! Suzie sent me a gorgeous clay pendant that she had made herself! It is doubly precious to me because it represents the creative joy she discovered this year in fulfilling a lifelong dream to work with clay. I see in this pendant Suzie’s artistry and love and I will feel that every day I wear it! She also sent me these wonderful prints of our childhood photos. Look at the two of us! What beamers!

The next day the celebrations continued with my birthday Journal Jam!

Last year I started having friends over for these fun Journal Jam nights. Usually we pull out our journals, some markers, coloured pencils and collage materials but for my birthday I thought it would be so much fun to play with paint! First we shared a delicious dinner and popped open some champagne and then we changed the buffet offerings over to paints and spent the rest of the night playing, laughing and talking.

We even did potato printing! (I love these beauties by my friend Kim!) Seriously, I felt like I had the best 12-year-old birthday I could imagine! One of my favourite moments was when our youngest Journal Jammer (she’s just about 10) said, “I never want to leave!” That’s exactly how I feel about Journal Jam, Stella bella!

Last night my birthday celebrations wrapped up with Justin and I braving the cold once again to see Sarah Slean perform at the Harbourfront Theatre. Glorious! She was witty, dramatic and wonderfully playful and the music – brilliant, absolutely brilliant. We were with her for every heartbeat, attentive and appreciative, and when she played The Right Words, tears rolled down my cheeks. This year, for this birthday, I felt as though she played it just for me.

If you’re unfamiliar with Sarah’s music, let me draw my birthday celebration to a close by offering up the gift of introducing the two of you. May each note and each word be a blessing as it has been for me. I am filled with joy and gratitude for this birthday. May this be the beginning of a beautiful, auspicious year.

Aliveness, Creativity & New Bulletin Board Art Invitational Theme: BTS Season Finale!

On Tuesday & Friday mornings I invite you Behind the Scenes at my studio.

Today: It’s the Season Finale! Let’s be sure to get creative over our time apart. With the new season’s theme, you’ve even got a project! Thank you so much for being a part of the Behind the Scenes in 2017. I hope that you close this year with a sense of celebration and begin the new year with a sense of adventure.

Mentioned on Today’s Show: