Category: Reading Nook

The Bigger the Dream, the Deeper the Roots

At this time of year, so many of us are deep in reflection*. Over the past week, I’ve had a lot of discussions with people near and dear to me about what they learned from 2019 and what they are envisioning for 2020. The more people I spoke with, the more I noticed a surprising theme emerging: slow growth.

I know. It’s not sexy, is it? Where are the big hairy audacious goals? The brave and bold choices? The dramatic transformations?

We all just seem a little tired for that.

Or maybe, it’s something more unexpected – we’re actually dreaming bigger.

When Justin and I sat down on New Year’s Eve and talked about our past year, it was clearly about our home renovation. As we explored the experience, we realized that we had actually been working on this dream for over three years! There was the year we committed and then started to dream and save. Then came the year we started working with the architect and getting the city’s approval. That was also the year that we went through all of our belongings, clearing the way for a new vision and a fresh start. Then last year we packed and moved and the construction work began. Our house was taken down to the studs and then was built back up again. Now, at the beginning of our fourth year, we’re preparing to move back in and make this fresh new space into our home. It’s time for us to nest.

If I’d been aware of how long it would take, I’m not sure how I would have approached it or whether I would have at all. How many times do we walk away from a dream because it seems like it will take too long – especially as we get older!

I don’t have time to get a degree!

It’s too late to start my own business!

I’m too old to learn the violin now!


There. I said it. Hogwash.

When I first read The Artist’s Way, I was shaken by something Julia Cameron said and it forever changed my perspective in this regard. I’m paraphrasing but I think you’ll get the point.

Yes, it takes a long time. Yes, it may be late. But in 5 years, you can either have 5 years of experience playing the piano or none. You choose.

And the beautiful thing, the thing that makes all the difference, is that it’s not just about the destination or even about the journey. It’s about who you become when you step into a desire or a dream. Do I want to be a woman who studies Art History or a woman who decided it was too late? Do I want to be a woman who can fumble her way through a conversation in French or a woman who wishes she learned? Do I want to be a woman who is writing a book or one who hopes to one day?

I have felt in a rush for a lot of my life. I’ve been a late bloomer and struggled with a constant state of worrying that I’ll miss out. It’s taken me a long time to realize how much I miss out on when I rush, including the chance to build big dreams, the kind of dreams that take patience and time, and the chance to live the kind of life that takes time to build.

I’m learning to not be intimidated by things that take a long time. No matter what happens, saying yes to what I dream of makes me the woman that I want to be.

Sometimes moving slow is dreaming big after all.

Awaken Your Creative Capacity

There’s something liminal about December.

Here in the studio, we’re wrapping up one season and preparing for the next. In a few weeks, we’ll all be moving from fall into winter (or spring into summer, if you are in the Southern Hemisphere). For me, personally, I’m completing one solar return and moving into the next with my birthday next weekend. And, of course, with our home renovation, we’re hoping to finish up the biggest project of our lives and move back home.

One of the things I love about these in-between times is how they give us a chance to shake things up, to break things up and to find new ways. When the path trudges on, day after day, with no break or disruption, it is harder to make a change. I’ve seen this with so many clients who have tucked into their regular life with devotion for years and then, when they feel the need to make a change, it seems impossible to do so because of ‘the way things are.’

You have a hand in creating the way things are!

You have been given this extraordinary gift of a creative spirit and that can show up on the page, in the studio and in your life. Yes, we all have what I call ‘given circumstances.’ These are the elemental truths of this moment in time, both limitations and blessings. What will you make of them? What will you imagine and create?

In Mindful Mondays, we start each week by imagining what we would like it to be and then we go about doing our level best to create it.

I want a week filled with creative play! How will I make it so?
I want a week with more ease! How will I invite that in?
I want to be brave this week! I will follow where that leads me!

Little by little, week by week, with our imaginings, our choices and our actions, we steer our lives in the direction or our soul. Little by little, week by week, our life aligns with our heart.

It’s easy for us to forget that we have this magic within us. We fall easily under the sway of ‘The Way It Is’ spell, believing that we are just a small being in a strong current and cannot make a difference, not even in our own lives. This is not true.

Our creativity shows us our magic every time.

Every time you knit a sock or make a meal, every time you make a painting or a collage, every time you rearrange your furniture or change your hairstyle, you have impact. With each creative act, you demonstrate your ability to change your life and your world. You experience your capacity to make something where there was nothing or to transform one thing into something new.

If you can do it on the page, on the canvas or in the kitchen, you can do it in your life.

You can bring ideas that make a difference.
You can make choices that make a difference.
You can take action that make a difference.

You have the creative capacity to make a difference in your life and in the world.

I’m here to remind you. The studio is full of classes to support you. Awaken your creative capacity and discover what’s possible. Bring your magic to the art, to the life and the world that calls you. Do it now.

5 Minutes of Creativity

How much time do you need for your creativity? An afternoon? A weekend? A lifetime?

How many of us leave our creativity languishing in the wings while we wait for a glorious expanse of time? What are we missing by not simply doing what we can when we can with what we have where we are?

As I go through this massive home renovation, I’ve managed to keep writing but art making? Not at all. I notice it each week as I check in with my Focus Pages in my Studio Yearbook. Not only has the “Art” section been consistently empty but a couple of weeks ago I completely cut it from the mix. I thought, I’m just not getting to it. Maybe it’s too much with all that’s going on. I’ll get to it later.

There’s only one problem with that.

Art is a part of me. It’s not something for later. It’s something for always.

Years ago I went through a wonderful Expressive Arts training program. Each week we painted, sculpted, wrote, danced, sang and played theatre games. A couple of weeks after the training was over, I was talking to my sister Shannon about the horrible mood I was in. She gently and sagely said, “Do you think it has anything to do with not having regular creative time anymore?”

*blink* *blink*

Why yes. Yes, I think it does.

It still does.

So instead of my original plan of shunting art aside, I’ve started a little practice. I’m calling it #5minutesofcreativity. I have an 8 x 10 storage box from the dollar store. In it are all sorts of paper cut-outs and scraps. (I’ve learned to gather not only images I love but also textures, colours and shapes.) It’s all dumped into the box, willy-nilly. I also toss in a sketchbook, scissors and a glue stick. With that, I have everything I need for a 5-minute burst of creative fun.

At least once a day I open up that box and give myself five minutes to make a collage. I have no plan. I sift through the papers looking for something to catch my eye. When it does, I cut it into a shape or put it on the page as-is. Then I let it inspire me to look for the next piece and the next. Before I know it, something’s appeared on the page.

I don’t stress about getting it right because what is ‘right’ after all? I just want 5 minutes of inspiration, 5 minutes of creative expression, 5 minutes of me time, 5 minutes of possibility. In that 5 minutes, my body relaxes, I stop thinking about the worries of the day and I breathe. When I’m done, I take a picture and share it on Instagram stories and then I put everything back in the box ready for tomorrow.

I love this little practice. I feel so much better for it. And yes, I still long for Art Days and expansive creating but here’s the news: I get to have both – and so do you! Saying yes to small moments of creative bliss doesn’t mean giving up on longer creative play dates. If anything, it paves the way, building momentum, keeping you in creative shape and reminding you of just how important your art and creativity really are.

This week I invite you to join me and take 5 minutes for your creativity. Collage, doodle, dance, sing – you choose. If you decide to share, tag me and use the hashtag #5minutesofcreativity. I’ll be cheering you on.


Becoming an Energy Wizard (a Strategy for Empaths & Highly Sensitive People)

This week I was at a party and a woman spoke to me about how she struggled as an empath, particularly in this world where so much is so distressing. She was deeply disturbed by the news and also had an activist’s heart. She wanted to make a difference but how could she when she felt consistently emotionally overwhelmed?

Here’s a strategy I offered to her and that I use myself. I hope it works wonders for you.

If you are an empath or a highly sensitive person, you already know the power of energy. You do not need to be convinced of it. You have experienced it. You have experienced the way your heart rate goes up, the way tears appear, the way you have a tangible reaction to the world around you.

This is not a one-way channel.

In the moment that you are receiving the anger, the heartbreak, the terror, the joy of a particular situation, crowd or individual, if you can find and stand your ground, you can send back love, peace, calm and hope through the connection between you. The experience will take on a different tenor, at minimum for you and perhaps for all.

Have you ever seen a fantasy film where an evil wizard or a dragon pours out fire in the direction of their foe and the good wizard responds with water or ice? Their magic connects and you watch the red glow and the cool blue meet and meld until one dissipates. Working your empath energy magic is like that.

Now, it takes time and strength to be an energy wizard. You need to tend to the practices and habits that keep you healthy and strong (e.g. good sleep, nourishing food, meditation). You also need boundaries and strategies for when the energy coming at you is too strong for your current state. But also remember that your sensitivity to energy is a super power. We tend to think of it only as a receptive power but it is also an active one. If the energy we receive can make a difference in our world, the energy we send can too.

There is a reason that so many creatives are highly sensitive people. We are tuned into the depth and breadth of what it means to be human. That is glorious and it is challenging too. Like a wizard, there will be days when we need to be alone, to be quiet and attend to our studies but there will also be days when we can use our magic to turn fear into hope and frogs into butterflies.

My Strategies for Handling My Biggest Project to Date

This month we are moving in with family, moving all of our things into storage and, at last, our renovation begins.

Oh, July, you will be an adventure!

During several recent events, people asked me how I was managing it all and whether I’d be sharing more about the renovation. In terms of sharing, I’m doing a lot of writing and picture taking behind the scenes but it’s all pretty raw. Perhaps that’s why the place I’m doing the most sharing right now is Instagram stories. It’s a quick place for me to share a photo and go, “Ack! Is this storage place going to be enough?” or “Omg, look at Scout on top of all those boxes.” I’m really loving being there and sharing. So if you want a daily dose of cats, the garden and the move, be sure to visit me on Instagram and check out my stories.

As for how I’m handling it all, I feel like I’ll have much more to say in a month but for now…

My Current Strategies for Handling My Biggest Project Ever

Be Devoted to Sleep. With so much on the go, it’s easy to become exhausted. I’ve been fiercely committed to getting to bed at a good time and trying to get 7 hours of sleep, no matter what. If I need a nap, I take it. If something on my to-do list needs to get cut, it’s cut. Sleep matters.

Eat Nutrition-rich Rood. I always find this is the hardest thing during busy times. This time I’m going to try and make sure that the fridge is stocked with simple and healthy choices all the time. I found this food prep video very inspiring and it’s exactly the approach I hope to take. (Yep, I’m just starting work on this one)

Drink Lots of Water. When things are demanding and I’m tired, it’s super easy to make one more cup of tea or drink one more cup of coffee. It’s all too easy to rev myself up while depleting my fluids. Not to mention that the heat has hit and I’m doing lots of lifting, shifting and moving. I’m reaching for water more often then not, maybe even with a few lovely berries for colour and sass.

Logs & Check-Ins. I start each day with going over the state of all of my projects, including the reno. I remind myself of what has been achieved and also what needs to get done. Throughout the day, I keep a journal page that lists not only my plans and tasks but also things that have happened and information I need to record, for example, “Building inspector called at 10:40 and said… Remember to email him about…” At the end of the day I review my page, noting in particular what didn’t get done so I am ready to tackle it the next day.

Communication & Relationships. Not only are there lots of moving pieces to a big project like this but there are also many people involved. I try to make sure that each communication not only moves the project forward but also deepens my relationship with the person involved, whether that’s a member of the family or the renovation team.

Remember the Dream. There have been many (and no doubt will be many more) reasons to stress and worry. There will be hard work and a thousand decisions and who knows what else. It’s easy to get caught up in it all and forget that above all else this is a blessing, an opportunity for us to create our home and make it a place we love. On the hard days I will remind myself that I believe it is worth the effort.

Remember What’s Important. From early on in our relationship, Justin and I made a decision that has served us well. If we ever feel ourselves getting edgy over something or other, getting a little heated about what colour to paint the walls or whether the couch should be on this side of the room or that, we stop immediately and remind one another, it’s not that important. It’s a colour. It’s paint. It’s a couch. It’s not us. What matters to us is each other. All the other choices will be just fine. It’s love that makes a home.

Remind me I said that when we’re picking lighting fixtures ;)

7 Tips for Saying Yes when Opportunity Knocks

Recently, I had an amazing opportunity arrive in my inbox. Because I participated in last year’s Luminato, a Toronto arts festival, I was invited to be a member of a small rehearsal audience for a highly interactive piece of theatre. It would involve one day in the studio with a brilliant established artist doing innovative work with active audience participation. I looked at that email for a while, weighing all of the priorities of my busy week, juggling all the pieces on my schedule, wondering if I could make it work.

Justin’s reaction? “Just say yes. You LIVE for this stuff.”

And he’s right. Creativity. Vision. Experiences. Engagement. Experimentatipn. I just couldn’t say no. Luckily I had the tools for saying yes!

7 Tips for Saying Yes when Opportunity Knocks

Some of the most amazing experiences I’ve had have come from saying a brave and unwavering yes to unexpected opportunities like this one. In fact, I’ve cultivated some habits that help me seize the moment instead of letting these chances slip into the realm of ‘maybe someday’. Despite being Sagittarius, I’m actually not that good at being spontaneous and that’s why I prepare for it! Let me share my top tips with you.

1. Know What Matters to You

Knowing what’s important to you allows you to recognize a good opportunity when you see it. If this had been free tickets to a sporting event or a chance to learn how to make sushi, it might have been interesting but it wouldn’t have rung out with that loud “THIS IS FOR ME” that means an immediate yes. Knowing yourself and what matters to you allows you to make quick and good decisions about opportunities as they arise.

2. Let Others Know Too

Let your loved ones know the truth of who you are so that they can recognize what matters to you too. This isn’t always easy. Our relationships aren’t always supportive of our dreams. That’s why it’s crucial to develop relationships with at least one or two people who will cheer on the yeses of your soul. Let your people know who you are and what you love. Tell a friend or two or all of them what you’re yearning for. Not only can they be your cheerleaders but they can also keep their eye out for opportunities that will fit you just right!

3. Be Devoted to Your Practice

One of the purposes of practices is to prepare you for ‘show time’. When you regularly show up for your art, for your life, for your self, you maintain a sense of readiness. An actor doesn’t wait for the audition to prepare a monologue. She has one, two, three in her back pocket, ready to go when opportunity knocks. Her voice is strong. Her body limber. She is ready to show up for the work when the work shows up for her. Be devoted to your work. Develop your skills. Be ready to say yes when the moment arrives.

4. Put Yourself in Opportunity’s Way

Have you heard that saying, “What you seek seeks you”? It’s true but so often when we want something deeply, we hole up at home, hiding our desires (sometimes even from ourselves), making wish upon wish that something would happen to move us towards our hopes and dreams. But how is your art, your love, your puppy, your job, your show, your friend supposed to find you? Go to a class or a meetup. Be seen! Sign up for a newsletter – and read it. (That’s how I got the dance audition.) Send a letter. Make a call. Start somewhere.

5. Failure Isn’t Failure

There are no guarantees when you say yes. Sometimes we think that the results should match the bravery or effort we put in but it doesn’t always work that way (at least not directly). You may audition and not get the part. You may go to class and get discouraged. But direct results aren’t the only results worth having! You’ve gained experience, wisdom and maybe even a great story. You’ve tuned your inner compass. I know it isn’t easy but use the experience to move you forward. Turn every experience into a win.

6. Learn from Experience

You can do that by letting all of your experiences grow you as an artist. Take the time to lock in your learning by journaling out all of your insights and observations (or talking them out if you have a friend, colleague or coach). If it was hard, release your feelings onto the page. Process it all. I always take time after a class or artistic adventure to go to a coffee shop and write, write, write. I don’t want to lose a drop of that learning. I want to think it through. Try it on. Turn it over. Take it deeper. Be clear on my own thoughts and reactions. Then I can put it down and rest, trusting that all that I’ve learned is steeping into my creative soul.

7. Develop Self-Trust

When you can trust yourself to show up, when you know that you can tend to your needs whatever happens, it’s easier to say yes to opportunities, even challenging ones. You learn to trust that if an opportunity turns sour, you can manage it and if it is extraordinary, you can manage that too. You lay the foundations of self-trust in your practice and you deepen it by taking it ‘off the mat’. When you risk saying yes to something you truly want and you play it out, you build a confidence that in time will become unshakable.

When it comes to these habits and your creative life, no effort is wasted. Whether opportunities show up or not, being clear on what matters, having supportive relationships, devoting yourself to practice, putting your energy out in the world, developing resilience, actively learning and building self-trust will serve you well. Start today.

You never know what is going to happen but what you will know is that you are ready to say yes.

Bonus Tip: Leave Room for Magic

We often fill our schedules to the brim, piling on more to-dos than can reasonably be achieved by a regular human person. When opportunities show up, instead of feeling excited, we feel overwhelmed. We only see two options available – say no or let something drop – and neither of those feels right or good. Instead, make it a habit to leave a little room for magic. Create some space on your calendar so you have flexibility. Pare down your to-do list so there is room for the unexpected. (This is good for both opportunities and emergencies.) Get out of the habit of overextending yourself so that you have energy and presence to share.

Trust Your Magic

Today and everyday may you rediscover your creative heart.

May you wake each morning knowing the day ahead holds gifts for you.

May you trust with unwavering confidence the beauty and magic of your unique soul.

May you bring your gifts to the world and may the world receive them well and wisely.

May you follow the path that brings you alive – Yes, even if it takes bravery. Yes, even if there is risk. Yes, even if you feel unsure, unworthy and unprepared.

Because here is what I know.

You are meant to be alive – vivaciously, rapturously, radiantly alive.

You do not have to know everything or be everything.

You do not need to prepare.

You have all you need for the journey.

You are enough as you are right now.

Enough to take a step.

Enough to make a start.

Enough to move in the direction of your dreams.

You will find challenges, yes.

But through them you will discover your bravery, your wisdom and your gifts.

You will rise and meet what is meant for you and as you do, you will shine.

You will come to life in ways you have never imagined and

You will light the way.

The spark of life is in you.

Nourish it.

Cherish it.

Follow it.

It will guide you well.