Sunday, August 29, 2010

Creative Adventuring & Taking Credit - Katherine Toms

I am not the first to start things off with a confession, but here goes: I am a dabbler. I have come to realize that I often enjoy learning how to do new things even more than I enjoy doing those things once I learn how. This has led to a long string of hobbies, or to put it a bit differently, a long string of doing lots of things half-assed. I am like the small child who swears she wants to play violin, take up basketball, or learn to dance, and ends up with a closet full of unused instruments, gear and accessories. The parents of these children often get frustrated that their child can't stick with one particular interest, and that they see such little return on their investments in the right equipment. I see it differently - I think the fact that my inner child has so many passions is something to celebrate. I am more than happy to follow them wherever they may lead, and make occasional modest investments in pursuing them even if the only "payoff" is the fun of trying something new. And hey, someone else can use my supplies when I'm done with them. I was not always this forgiving of creative adventuring. I was not always this in touch with the simple joys of doing what feels right. There was a time when I would wag my finger at that inner child and ask things like: "Are you going to stick with it?" "If I buy you these things will you practice every day?" And because we are our own worst critics, I would ask things of myself you would never ask a child with a budding interest in anything: "Are you going to be good enough at this to make it worth trying?" "What if you fail miserably?" "Don't you know there are probably millions of people in the world who are better at this than you?" "What's the point if you're going to do it half-assed?!" Someone recommended the book The Artist's Way to me at a point in my life when it was exactly what I needed. I have since recommended it to friends, and I will recommend it to you. Yes, you. You may not consider yourself to be an artist, or even a creative person - read it anyway. You may think your life is just fine and doesn't need anything that even resembles a 12-step program - read it anyway. You may be an atheist and find talk about spirituality unnerving - keep an open mind and read it anyway. You may think a book that promises to change your life is clearly trying to scam you - take it out at the library for free and read it anyway. It may appear to be a book about discovering your inner artist, but it is really a course in self-nurturing. We are so often and so easily cruel to ourselves, especially when it comes to creativity. We tend to silence or drown out the inner voice that tells us what we need, especially if what we need requires great change, but learning to hear and honor that voice is one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself. Something that has come up for me recently is the fact that so many people, women especially, are afraid to acknowledge and own their talents. We call our pursuits "hobbies" because we don't believe we are artists. We call ourselves "bloggers" because we don't believe we are writers. Where is our confidence? Where is MY confidence? The reality is, in most cases, nobody else is going crown you an artist. Some great artists are undiscovered; some great writers are unpublished. Somewhere out there a very talented performer is saying "I use a trapeze" instead of "I am a trapeze artist." There is no visible line you cross one day to enter the territory of artist-ism - you have to make that decision yourself. I still struggle with this. When I signed up to write this guest post I had no idea what I would say, or if I'd even have anything to say. I know how to make jewelry and for the past year or so have sold some items at craft sales - how does this make me qualified to talk about life as a woman artist? I so easily forgot what I had learned from my inner artist child: "I AM TOO an artist!" (Am not.) "Am TOO!" (Am not.) "AM TOO, STAMPSIES!!" I am an artist. I am a writer. I am a poet, a drawer of pictures, a maker of pretty things. A knitter! A baker! A candle maker! A weaver of dreams, and the architect of a happy life. I nurture and cultivate beauty. I am my own Creator. And a dabbler. Hopefully an incurable one. ----------- Katherine found herself in Toronto and is having fun with it. You can read her blog here: She would like to thank Michelle for providing a safe and nurturing space for her fellow wavemakerz - keep rocking the boat!

Guest Blogger : Manjiri Prabhu

I am a writer of mystery novels and a filmmaker from Pune, India. But today, I'd like to talk about a subject very close to my heart. Caring for street animals. In India, (and perhaps all over the world) street dogs are at constant risk from humans in one form or another, whether it is starving to death or being considered a menace or a parasitic nuisance in society. Either way, they are condemned to a life of misery and pain. I have worked for street dogs in my own small way for several years and I have come to one solution : 'The Dogtrine of Peace', which perhaps I shall explain at some other point in time. For now I would like to recount an experience, which completely changed me.

One fine morning, during the monsoons, I was walking down the street. The rain had lifted momentarily and the weather was hot. Just then a heartrending squeal rung through the air. Startled, I hastened round the corner. A huge vehicle with a long grilled low cage was parked in the street. There were several dogs peering from within the cage. But what I saw made my blood go cold and my heart beat as loudly as a cracker. A man had swung a noose round a bitch and with all his strength was throwing her inside the van. She was thin and weak with a bloated stomach. She was pregnant! The rope cut into her delicate neck, choking her as she was hurled against the truck. If that was not all, another man was prodding a stick into the bulging belly, so as to direct her to enter the narrow grilled door. She screamed and whined, every time they missed their mark and fear and anger wrung my heart. Anger burst on me like a blob of water sizzling on a hot pan. The expressions on the faces of the men were cold, their actions mechanical, as if they had done this several times before and their attitude was indifferent. They looked like two men, dead in every possible way. As dead as the dogs would be in some time. So that the streets would remain clean and some humans would feel safe to tread the paths that they had forcefully declared as theirs. So that some humans could enjoy, with their forked sense of morality, the rights of living. Those rights of freedom and existence that they had snatched from the street dogs. These humans were nothing but thieves, I thought.

But worse than the dog-pickers, were the people who had gathered to see the fun, idle in mind and thought, careless of the fate of the dogs. Who, with their threadbare sense of ethics, saw nothing objectionable in the inhuman treatment meted out to a dumb creature. And if they did, who could not be roused from their mental lethargy to protest against the cruelty enacted before their eyes.

A child of around seven, was watching the scene with a gleeful expression on his face. His smile widened with every squeal and for a moment my attention was riveted towards him. He wore a checked shirt and long trousers and his oiled hair was neatly parted and combed. His gaze was fixed on the enactment before him. There was something positively hideous in his totally absorbed stance. Here was a human, a miniature of a man but with the same look as an adult. A strange thought entered my mind. I saw humans as not growing from small to big in size and thought, but in the reverse, as big to small. Reducing in height, over the years, to be dwarfed like a child. Their intelligence, feelings, emotions and sensitivity, narrowing in intensity, their growth not only arrested but getting retarded into an obtuse lumpish form of flesh. And this was how they would look - like this boy. Small, a clean shining face with ironed clothes on a stunted body. But who would gaze at the savagery of humans with a delightful expression on his face. He could only have a stone for a heart. And then he could only be a lump of flesh! With a start, I wondered - had the reversal process already begun?

Before anyone accuses me of it, let me explain that I am not a human basher or hater. On the contrary, my ranting is for the betterment of human beings. I also do not mean to say that all humans are like the ones described above. There are some whose compassion and hard work for animals makes you want to salute them!

This following poem is dedicated to all the animals, apologizing for all the meaningless harassment and torture as well as selfish killing of animals, all around the world.

I Apologize

I apologize….

For the hand that throws the stone

And waits not to hear your groan.

I apologize,

For the hand that piles you in a place,

Where a sigh can find no space!

I apologize,

For the hand that hangs you upside down,

where the pedals hit your pounding crown!

I apologize,

For the hand that holds the knife

And separates you mercilessly from life.

I apologize,

For the hand that enjoys the touch of blood

And drags you through the mud.

I apologize,

For the hand that drowns you in boiling water

And celebrates this horrendous slaughter!

I apologize,

For, the hand that knows no feeling

and believes in killing instead of healing.

I apologize……

But hopeone day, the hand will change its course

And awaken its life-giving force!

I hope…..

That the hand will lift, support and give,

Save, caress, live and let live!

Manjiri Prabhu manjiriprabhu(at)gmail(dot)com

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Michelle van Looy check in

Hi all, I've heard from many of this week's bloggers and the tide of businesses has struck our current bloggers, full on. With all the work in a day, doesn't surprise me one bit! I want everyone to write when they feel ready not restricted by a timeline, if you missed your date no worries post when you have time or when you are ready..... The blog is meant to be fun not stress! This is not school :0) Enjoy the sun. Chat more soon, Michelle van Looy That's Women's Work Arts Network (When incorporating we had to alter our name because it was too general, I'll still be using That's Women's Work- but formally we'll be That's Women's Work Arts Network.)

Monday, August 23, 2010


As a child I spent most of my time alone reading books. My world was an imaginary one filled with stories of people and experiences I'd never have. I think I first started taking things apart in an effort to get out of my head. I needed to find a way to experience the world.
I don't remember quite when, but at some point I started wondering what things looked like on the inside. Normal everyday things like VCRs(remember them?) and clocks. I would collect old VCRs from the garbage at the curb and spend hours on my bedroom floor dismantling them to get at the wonder I knew was inside them. Once I had pulled many of them apart I started thinking that maybe I should try making something with the pieces. Otherwise I'd just have a room full of old broken junk for no reason. But if I was making something with them then there would be a solid purpose for my curiosity.
So I started making jewellery and sculptures out of what I scavenged on those nights before garbage pick-up. I had pulled things apart to get at their beauty and now I could wear them! People would ask me why I didn't "fix" things and make them work again. I never felt any interest in that. I just wanted the joy of discovery, of finding out what something looked like inside it's boring outer case. And I WAS fixing things and putting them back together, just not in the way one might expect.
I must admit that my early attempts were very rough. I had not much in the way of artistic skills or training. I made things however I could manage and many of them still had sharp edges. I often thought of myself as an unmade bed.
These days I am equipped with training and am honing my skills through practice. I have a jeweller's bench and the proper equipment. I'm learning about the nature of metals and how to use their properties to suit my creative needs.
All these years later though I am still that 19 year old woman sitting on her floor taking things apart. My workspace is covered with antique watches in various stages of undress. I've learned how to marry my goldsmith skills to my creativity and natural curiosity. It feels in a way as if I have come full circle to meet my former self. I've realized that she and I don't need to be enemies. We can work together. We can get to the heart of an object and remake it into something beautiful.
Michelle Poplar

Who's in charge here?

LOL ok so I agreed to change dates with a blogger and then you won't believe this I forgot to blog...... Yup, so I'm posting today, guest blogger of the day I hope my prompt posting sits okay with you! I'm doing something a little crazy- I'm posting poetry. For me poetry is like dentistry something that should be left to the professionals, but here I go my first public poetry-ing..... Thank you to all the brave bloggers who have shown their lives, their arts and their experiences out in the light for all to see, truly my deepest thank you. Honored and touched by your trust.....
Okay the poetry......Let's never speak of this again, lol Michelle van Looy- That's Women's Work ---------------------------------------------- I wish for one minute that I or no one else would have to explain, and that the forms with those god damn check boxes of F  or M ™ could be replaced,
with nothing. I wish that for one minute I wouldn’t have to pull out a bio of past lovers to confirm my status within your eyes, your permission of how I can identify in your parade. I wish for one minute I could block out all the shit the media tells me about my body and love the bumps and veins and curves like this body deserves, instead of Having to Pretend Sometimes. I wish for one minute that I could tell my friends of their beauty And Strength and Power And that they could hear and for one minute breath It in (take deep breathe) I wish for one minute the words nervous break down would disappear from our vernacular and that we would know as women that it is Just Hysteria Redressed, repackaged for a new generation. I wish that for one minute the stats could collapse and 1 in 4 would be no more I wish for one minute the balance would be restored that my body wouldn’t be a testing ground for meds and treatments funded by the biggest pockets and worst intentions I wish for one minute that nature and science could align that I could fill a prescription for sunshine, in February. I wish that the fault the blame the shame could disappear and that the clarity would tell my gut, my body and my brain, It Was Not Your Fault and I’d believe it, for one minute. I wish for one minute that I could feel safe at night alone, in bed in my home, with a heavy crash heard and I would roll over and go to sleep, cause it was probably nothing. I wish for one minute the police would declare marshal matriarchy amongst themselves, their motives, their intentions resulting in imprisonment, Leaving the women in charge (laughs the good ones, of course the ones who get it) I wish that for one minute this city would acknowledge
that childhood is cheaper than cold cells that they are growing child soldiers within our system and that for some there is no other choice for survival but the bullet
ironic, because We created it that way. I wish for one minute the media could tell the truth take off the political and capitalist Lens and report what is really happening out here. I wish for one minute that all the shit I buy didn’t drip in blood and sweat of children and women , harvested from raw hands and that I could be aware of all and powerful enough to halt it. I wish for one minute, one minute per year, one minute per month, one minute per week, one minute per day, one minute per hour I wish for Just one minute.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Can't spell moral without oral

Traditionally stripping as been viewed by the feminist movement (most notably by radical and anti-pornography feminists), as a profession that is demeaning to women because they believe that stripping reinforces the standards of patriarchy by strengthening the commodification of women’s bodies as sexual objects (Dines et al, 1997; MacKinnon, 2006; & Stark et al 2004). Some feminists have also stated that stripping can have a negative impact on a women’s body image (Eaves, 2004; & Frank, 2002). However, this was not the case for me as it was not until I shed my clothes that I accepted what I had underneath them. I began my career in stripping at 18 years of age. I had just given birth to my son a year before and was feeling quite low about the appearance of my post pregnancy body. The B-cup size breasts that used to sit firmly high upon my chest had since shrunk (after ballooning to a breastfeeding size DD), to a pair of A-cup size breasts that were so saggy whenever I would look into a mirror the first thing that crossed my mind was “pancake house”. My breasts were not the only part of my body that changed after pregnancy, not only had I gained over 50 pounds but, my stomach which was once flat and tight was now flabby and covered with stretch marks. So when my friend Tanya, suggested that I try stripping as a means to support my son I assumed she was joking as there was no way I could compete with the flawless bodies and large breasts that I believed (from watching TV, movies, and reading magazines), was requirement for women wanting to work at a strip club. “Don’t you think the male audience will revolt in disgust at the sight of my naked body?” I asked Tanya who not only assured me that they would not but, also offered to go with me to give me moral support. Since I was really, really broke and was not expecting a child support cheque anytime soon I decided to give it a try. Upon entering the club for the first time I immediately noticed the platinum blondes and silicone breasts that most people expect when entering a strip club but, I also noticed something that I didn’t expect: women with imperfect bodies (including women with cellulite, small breasts, and women who were overweight), being ogled and praised by the male audience. “Maybe this won’t be that bad”, I thought to myself as I headed to the change room to slip into the tight red dress and black stiletto heels that I brought with me. After changing I came upstairs to the main floor, met up with Tanya and the two of us made our way over to an empty table and sat down so I could observe how the other dancers worked. After a few pep talks from Tanya, and a couple of beers, I soon got enough courage to begin approaching customers to ask if they’d be interested in a dance. I approached about 3 men before one finally agreed to pay me to dance for him. Nervously, I led him over to the back of the club towards the VIP section, sat him down, and anxiously waited for the next song to start. As soon as it did I became frightened but, still managed to get up and begin seductively dancing for him while simultaneously taking off my clothes. Once I had taken off all my clothes I was completely mortified as I stood their naked in front of him half expecting him to turn away in disgust yet, to my surprise he didn’t, in fact he asked for another dance prompting me to question whether my body was really as ‘disgusting’ as I thought. I kept on dancing for three more years, which taught me that despite the patriarchal notion that women cannot be sexually attractive unless they look like the air-brushed models with the Barbie-like proportions that are portrayed in the media most men have a much more varied perception of what sort of bodies are attractive. From my experience as a stripper I learned that most men do not seem to mind if a women is overweight, has stretch marks, cellulite, or small breasts. All men really care about is that a naked women, who appears to be confident with her body and sexuality, is standing (or dancing) in front of them. As for feeling like a sex object or feeling demeaned, I did not feel either. Instead, I became much more comfortable not only with my body but, also with expressing my sexuality. I think as feminists we need to understand that one women’s negative experience could be another women’s positive experience, and for me, stripping was one of those positive experiences. Wendy Babcock

Krista Cousins

Moving from Prince Edward Island to Toronto one year ago to be with my partner, Armand, was one of the biggest decisions of my young life. A leap that, initially, proved rather difficult. The first few months I was kept relatively busy by spending my days occupied with the task of arranging our new home; a big job for such a unique space. But once the last books were on the shelves... there wasn't much for me to do. I didn't really know anyone in the city and I was next to broke from moving. And sure, it's possible to have fun for free, but really, you have to know where to look. So I spent time looking for a job, making jewellery and being more or less miserable from 10-6 when my hubby was at work. Admittedly I didn't make much of an effort to explore for many reasons, the main one being my loneliness. Finally I got a job. I met some fantastic people but no one I could directly relate to. Don't get me wrong, I adored them, I was just so much older and in a different place in my life. After Christmas my job was over and I was basically back where I had started. I had become friends with Armand's friends but obviously these boys were not friends I would hang out with on my own. Eventually Armand introduced me to Katherine Toms because she had been telling him about the That's Women's Work craft sale and her and I had both signed up. (My first and a great success!) I was excited about the idea of being involved in something so amazing during its infancy. It sounded like just the sort of thing I'd been longing to be a part of, so when the open mic was held at Alternative Grounds I jumped at the chance to meet Michelle. The open mic night was a lot of fun and I couldn't stop thinking about what a great place AG was to host such an event. So when it was time to really get back to looking for another job I immediately went up and down Roncesvalles, with a folder full of resumes under my arm. A few days later I got a call from Alternative Grounds. I went in for my interview and it went really well. It was so nice to have someone to talk to outside of the house about community and to start feeling like I was going to be a part of one. AG had everything I had wanted. Amazing staff. Friendly regulars. COMMUNITY was the focus. Globally and locally. This is the first job I have ever loved. I have made friends. I run into people I know on the street and the ttc. I can talk to anyone who comes in about whatever they choose. I am gaining confidence and I no longer find this big city to be debilitating-ly lonely. Krista Cousins Rosebud Collections PS. Happy Birthday to my younger brother, Bradley, who turns twenty-two today! <3

Saturday, August 21, 2010

So I sit wondering what I should write about feeling like there is nothing special about and who would what to read what I have to say but at this very second some very special women have made me change my mind. So for the past few years I have been a part-time student for the Assaulted Women’s Children Counsellor/Advocate Program (so happy to say that Monday is my last day of this program), and through this whole time I’ve had this horrible fear what if I this filed isn’t for me. Ops maybe I should let you all know who I am, my name is Elvia Maria Penate and it’s a pleasure to meet all of you. so where was I; yes like I was saying I’ve always felt a fear that maybe I wouldn’t good in this field since your dealing with people and the last thing you what to do is hurt them more then they be already hurting. Sadly I have not been the field that long cause few years ago I didn’t even what to deal with my own issues of abuse and self harm and what better to deal then to pretend that I’m fine and the world is a great place and that bad things really don’t happen (how may times have you heard that one). But I was really happy to come across this program that I’m and woman (should have been boy but I don’t do things like I should any more;)) did it open my eyes. I was very blessed to have met some amazing women who have helped me grow in the woman I am and that woman I can still be because I do believe we are always growing as persons. Still with all this I was really scared who am I, can I really make a change, and what if I really mess up. Well this past July I was throw in situation where I had to do what needed to be done. I have been very lucky to have friends who work in field and this help me gain a lot of knowledge and placement experience has truly been amazing from running a food bank/community garden to helping women family court and so on but there has always been a part of me that knows I what to work with youth due to the fact that when I was 16 I had youth counsellor come into my life and she help me so much and I just what to do the same for youth who many feel alone for whatever reason. This placement gave me that chance when I helped run a leadership summer camp for youth. It was the hardest and easiest thing I have ever done so far in my life. I remember being so nervous what if they don’t listen to me, what if they think what I have to say is dumb, what if we can’t relate to one and other, or what if I mess up big! All This was going though my mind when the young women started showing up because my co-worker and I both knew that most of these girls don’t what to be there and if we don’t keep them interested they may not show up the next day. But they had fun and the next day we had some of them bring friends because they thought their friends might like it too. We stated with 7 girls and with the week we went up to 15, sadly we closed it off there since we needed the group to feel comfortable with each other since some of the topics where hard. You see we run the like this workshop in the morning and a fun activity in the afternoon and it really work out lovely cause you could them changing into more amazing young they where already and I knew we where doing something right. Now they great things working with youth is they are so honest and they told us what work and what didn’t and we listen. This showed them we were there for them and not the other way around. But I’ll be honest though this whole time I was still wondering if this was really for me, not that I didn’t love it (trust me I would get up at 7am every morning and couldn’t wait to get there) but I was so worried I wasn’t doing enough. But I had two occasion where I knew this is what I’m meant to do, when the girls just for a fun activity to stay with us and just talk and one the girls told me that she was really glad that she meet us because I was the first woman she could relate to about her sexually and that helped her not feel so alone. Right there I knew I was doing something right. You see these girls help me realizes as long I don’t try to be perfect and as long they know that we can grow together and that is doing something good. I know that I have a long way to go but who wouldn’t what a life time of learning when I can be learning some of the most amazing young people in the world.

Friday, August 20, 2010

As I sit here at my computer I wonder What do I write? Since signing up to be a guest blogger for That's Women's Work I've been asking myself that very question. Each time I ask, the answer sounds somewhat like a choir of crickets singing so off tune... Consider that for moment... AND the moment's done. Lets continue shall we? I've been staring at my keyboard (rather intensely I might add) giving the keys my best attempt at a Jedi stare; Hoping that it will read my inner thoughts--- Type for me. Type for me. TYPE FOR ME!!! While I am not a Jedi master, trainee or associated with a Jedi in any shape or form, I thought if I was ever going to utilize the powers of my mind to force an object to do my bidding, now would be as good a time as ever. But alas, I am no Jedi (shocking! I know). The keys are not typing by themselves (sad, but true). And thus I've realized that nothing in my life (even something as simple as a blog entry) is ever going to be accomplished unless I roll up my sleeves, breathe in, breathe out, and do it my damn self. And so now I'm here- nearing the end of my second paragraph- ignoring everything they taught in English class about form, grammar and yadda yadda, still having no idea what to write, but I'm writing none the less. So all things considered, I'm in a rather good position. And I'm sure you can all appreciate a good position from time to time. hehehe (clears throat). As far as I'm concerned, the Jedi's can keep their mind tricks. I'm going to harness my own power- the power of my mind and creativity- to get the job done. Now that's women's work! Light bulb! BINGO! There it is folks. I now know what I'm going to write about. Are you ready for it? Eeeeee (that's me squealing in giddy anticipation for the reveal). (And yes, I am a grown-ass woman that gets giddy and squeals. Don't judge!) I'm going to discuss (drum roll please--- hold your applause until the end) HATS! Ahhh! Amazing right?! *Side note* You're probably sitting at your computer reading this, wondering what the hell I'm talking about right? Allow me explain. I'm not going to discuss hats, as in... hats... but more so the hats that we as individuals wear on a daily basis. Hats- the titles we own and the titles that are bestowed upon us (sometimes without our consent or knowledge). And thus my journey and this blog truly begins... I am a single mother. As such I wear many hats. I am a teacher, a provider, a nurturer, a disciplinary, a friend. I am the chaser of monsters and bad dreams (and little boys that attempt to kiss my daughter at recess. In my opinion JK students shouldn't be kissing at all- especially MY DAUGHTER- but I digress). I am the shoulder she cries on when she's upset. The person she looks up to- until she's too big to hold my hand while she crosses the street that is. I'm her would-be hero, nurse and griot. I am also the resident dish-washer, seamstress and the finder of toys and other lost treasures. I am all of these, among many other things. For awhile I was a mother and a wife. That was all. While my life was full with so many things, I felt a little empty inside. In a way I forgot who I was. I got caught up wearing all these different hats and I forgot how to be me. I neglected to wear my hat- first- before all others. *Another side note* I feel as though it's ingrained in us (as women more so then men) to please everyone and put everyone's needs, wants, desires and demands ahead of our own. In February 2008 I reached my breaking point and decided to put on my hat and wear it with pride. But when I left my husband, I went into the world as a child- afraid, naive and in dire need of her mommmy. I had neglected my own vision and needs for so long that it was difficult to be reintroduced as the woman that I had grown to be. But I did it, slowly and painfully at times. But the more I believed in myself the easier it became. ...FAST FORWARD TO TODAY... I can declare with much pride and conviction that over the last two and a half years I find myself finally fitting into my shoes, or hats as it were. I've found a beautiful balance between being a mother and a woman (and all that entails). As I write this, I'm preparing to move to Guelph next month and start fresh with my daughter Valerie. If you had said last year even, that I would be in this position, I would have laughed at the obscenity of the suggestion. I've come to understand and embrace the fact that it's what we do with the circumstances we're presented with while wearing those hats that truly define us. It is possible for me to be a mom, a partner, a friend, an employee (though I long for the day I can work for myself. As a freelance artist I'm getting there, slowly but surely) and a contributing member of society while never losing sight of who I am, my goals or my true spirit. I would like to write A LOT more about this topic (trust me, I certainly could), but one of the hats I wear is that of a spoken word artist and I have a show in less then half an hour and must depart! I will most likely add to this entry when I have the chance. Should you want to follow along, read some of my other works, book me for a show (just throwing it out there), please email me at I'd love to hear from you. Thanks for following along! yours in creativity and unity, Kay'la Fraser -- Kay'la Fraser •Spoken Word Artist•Workshop Facilitator•Event Coordinator•

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Who am I, and Where do I come from?

I’ve never really been much of a writer, and this whole blogging experience is quite new to me. Having just graduated from Ryerson’s bachelor of social work program this April, I am done with theoretical papers. The academics are done, and now the bulk of my writing consists of shift logs and incident reports. And now, when I do decide to write, it’s because I want to. What a nice change! I remember in my second year of the social work program, one of our program requirements was a course in Aboriginal approaches to social work. My professor, this absolutely amazing woman, asked us in our first class “Who are you, and where do you come from?” Of course, we all answered with fairly superficial answers, “My name is Chantal, and I grew up in the town of Whitby, about an hour East of Toronto”. That was it. But to this day, I still think of this question. Who am I, and where do I come from? And most importantly, how does this inform the work that I do? When it comes to the work I do, I’m now working two jobs in the social service field. I have an overnight gig as a mental health support worker in a transitional housing program for women aged 35-60 who have a mental health diagnosis and are, or are at risk of being, homeless. I also work as a relief client support worker in a community health centre, working primarily with homeless and marginally housed individuals, people from a variety of different cultures, those with mental health diagnoses, and because we operate a harm reduction program, I also work with many people who use drugs and do sex work. It can be difficult, especially being so new to the field. Witnessing the traumatic events many of the folks I work with are exposed to, watching as they are re-victimized by systems that perpetuate their feelings of powerlessness, and on occasion becoming the target of their anger and hostility as they deal with the frustration of navigating these systems, it can be exhausting. Regardless though, I couldn’t see myself doing anything else and am continually amazed at the resilience and strength that the human spirit carries with it. So who am I? Beyond just being Chantal, I’m a white, middle-class, university-educated, able-bodied, cis-gendered, queer identified woman in my early twenties. I’m a daughter, a sister, an aunt, a friend, an intimate partner. All of these identities shape how I experience and understand the world, and I’m still learning to navigate the implications these identities have on others. What does my physicality tell others about who I am, and what I am like? How do these identities shape the way I carry myself? How exactly do I have privilege in certain situations, while facing oppression in others, and work to not perpetuate those very same systems of power and oppression? Reflexivity has become such an important tool and I have to consider all of these questions, among others, during every interaction I have with a person. Where I come from is also such an important question to consider. This goes beyond the geographical sense of course, more so, it includes my experiences. There's a saying about social work practitioners, that often times we're wounded healers. We come to the work we do with our own experiences, pain, sorrow, and trauma, and often times through this comes some of our greatest strengths and our ability to empathize. Being somebody who has survived intimate partner violence, has been the loved one of a person with a mental health diagnosis, and has a history of substance use, I feel as though I can empathize with the people I work with now. My experiences have made me realize the importance of allowing people to create and share their own narratives, and to have a safe space in which to do so. The importance of allowing a person to be the expert of their own experiences, and to use my experiences in a way that supports them rather than takes priority in an interaction. My experiences have taught me the importance of being present in every situation, so that I can truly show caring and compassion. Most importantly, they have taught me that there is no easy fix to life's problems, that we are all on journeys, and that we need to work with somebody in a client centred way so that we can work from where they are rather than where we as workers think they should be. So who I am and where I come from has very concrete effects on the work I do in social services. These questions are so important to consider. Otherwise, how are we supposed to try and support others if we never look at ourselves in the process? If we don't address it, our own crap will get in the way. But if we do realize we are on a journey just as much as any of the people we work with, that will only make us that much more caring, compassionate, and empathetic. I know it definitely gives me an edge in connecting with others on a person to person level, and not just that of a worker to a client. And that is why I can't see myself doing any other kind of work.

When The Muse Calls

Well, what can I possibly share with all you wonderfully talented ladies? Perhaps I ought to introduce myself first. My name is Michelle Chermaine, and I am an artist, writer, new media designer and jewelry designer. I know I’m in good company with many peers on this blog, many of whom share a passion for creative work and are more experienced than I am. I am in no position to give advice but there are some thoughts I would like to share. When was the last time you truly felt inspired, when you felt like you could make anything happen? When was the last time you let yourself dream like that? Creative blocks are normal. Oftentimes we find ourselves settling into a mundane routine whether out of necessity or habit due to work or family commitments and other obligations. We’re often in a hurry to get somewhere that we sometimes forget to stop and ask ourselves if that destination is where our dreams lie. The danger in losing sight of our goals is that we end up losing more than that. When we let ourselves be programmed to want what other people expect us to want, we lose more than our dreams – we end up losing ourselves. I remember a time when I thought I’d be anything but an artist. I can’t remember the first time I picked up a brush. I’ve been drawing and painting since I was little. It just came naturally and I went to a school from kindergarten till sixth grade where teachers didn’t mind me drawing caricatures of them during class. I was very fortunate to have been in a supportive environment and by eleven I was a published cartoonist. Things changed when I had to start 7th grade at a different school. This particular school was anything but a pool of creativity. It was, in fact, an emotional and creative black hole. The arts were frowned upon in favour of math and science which they considered to be superior subjects. There was an art studio but no real supplies which is probably why the art teachers resigned. Moreover, students were later sorted like cattle into two departments – the science department and the arts & literature department. If your math and science grades were high enough, you could choose where you wanted to go. Students who had low grades in math and science were automatically “dumped” into the arts and literature department, whether or not they were artistically inclined. What’s worse is some members of the faculty would actually make discriminatory remarks about the arts and lit department which only served to further devalue the importance of creativity and artistic thought in the minds of most of the people within that school system. The artsy types were looked down on. In case you’re wondering, I was in the science section. It wasn’t because I wanted to be. It was just because I thought it was the best place to be since I still hadn’t decided on a career path at the time. Everybody expected me to be an artist, but for the longest time I thought it was better to be something else. Maybe in a way, I had succumbed to the system’s conditioning for a while. Fortunately the muse wouldn’t allow it. When I moved to Canada, I went through the whole process of going to a new school, meeting new people and making new friends. I also started painting more often and once more, everyone expected me to study fine arts, an idea I openly refused to consider because I felt that my money and time would be better spent pursuing a more “practical” career. Again, this was the residual effect of the mental programming from the previous scientifically inclined environment I used to be in. Being a bit of a computer geek, I decided to pursue new media design, where I ended up sitting in a computer lab working all day and night. However, something was still missing. My muse still beckoned me towards the canvas and called me to paint again. The voice would not be silenced and I had no other choice but to give in and start painting again after a hiatus. If I had to go back, I had to create something greater than my last piece or at least equal in depth. I promised myself that much. That lead to the birth of Love Takes Flight and it was one of the most liberating experiences ever to have reconnected with what my soul had always yearned for all those years but I had somehow forgotten. I felt like I had woken from a long sleep and broken out of a cocoon to rediscover myself. It was in a sense, a resurrection. I learned to embrace the muse’s gifts and to appreciate the importance of feeding your soul with what inspires you and makes you happy. If it’s been a long time since you last spent some time alone doing something that makes you happy, try to recreate the moments you that led to those happy thoughts. Ask yourself the following questions: What made you happy as a child? What did you used to dream of doing when you grew up? What makes you happy today? What are you doing to nurture your soul today? Michelle Chermaine Ramos – Artist/Writer/Designer

Sunday, August 15, 2010

On my own

Hello people. I am very excited to have this opportunity to blog for 'this women's work'. I havent blogged in a very long time, because of unforseen personal circumstances. Despite being a feminist 'for lack of a better word', I found myself in a horribly abusive relationship with someone who pretended to be a good guy. I trusted in him, so when he broke my heart, the shock was so paramount that it destroyed my ability to trust myself. I really did love him, so I pretty much became catatonic. I found that I couldn't articulate myself, or that when I did speak, I sounded hysteric. it was uncomfortable to be in my skin cos I felt that everyone could see through me. Writing would have been tantamount to betraying myself. I felt that he had penetrated my inner most defenses, and I had no choice but to ignore that very fact, in order to survive cos you can't let them get to you. There are people in the world, desperate, needy and greedy for some love and affection but don't know how to treasure the very things they want the most, and instead lash out, and hurt you. It's so hard when there's a constant pressure for you to be with involved in a relationship with someone. I feel like normalized western culture believes in setting up little girls, and little boys, in 'relationship' mode with each other, from when they are tiny. It's like we are sold the story of true love and romance, so many ideas and feelings all hyped up to give us this perfection that we seek in the arms of our partners. Little girls grow up wanting their prince charming, and little boys grow up seeking their princesses. These expectations place us in boxes which map out our insides, in order to complement what we need from the outside. I mean, people look at children as young as 5 or 6 years old with fondness and delight as they talk to the opposite sex, bestowing their smiles upon them as they imagine their future with a romantic partner. It really sets up these highly sexual situations between the sexes from very little. I am here to say that this is not ok. I think that children should be allowed their purity, and that we shouldn't impose our own ideas of love, and sexuality onto them. They should be allowed to decide for themselves, to discover for themselves, and to choose for themselves. I think we set up a trap for them, we are the ones responsible for their heartbreak, the sexual violence, and the abusive situations. So many relationships are abusive and people dont know any better. Men are raised to be men, like dominant, aggresive, and headstrong, and women are raised to be caring, nurturing, and emotional. Like this sets up a power dynamic where men get to keep women down. And women are conditioned to accept it, and can't rise above because they never really expected more, that is just not the way we are raised. I hope you are following me on this rant, because I speak from personal experience. I was raised in India, which traditionally is a conservative environment where its not so much in your face. Boys and girls are treasured for their innocence, and there is no hurry to marr it. Most girls save their virginities till marriage, because they are sacred. I realize that in the west, some might consider that a hypocricy or a sham, but I was raised that way. My dad actually told me not to open my legs for anyone until I got married. I was in highschool when a boy asked me out. I told him 'no'. And then he asked me out again. I said 'no'. And then he asked me out again. This time, he called me with my best friend, who told me I was beautiful, and that I should try having a boyfriend. It was the new craze. All the girls were doing it. So I said, 'ok, i will try it.' We dated, for like two days, and we went to the movies together. I wore the ugliest sweater, cos I am kinda kooky that way. And we were in the movie. It was 'Snow falling on Cedars' and it was so boring, and the projector stopped working halfway through. We were holding hands, and I looked up at him, and I saw a huge ball of ear wax in his ear. I was so grossed out. I broke up with him the next day, asking him not to tell anyone that we dated. And then, he would always just touch me, or flirt with me without my consent. I think he tapped into my low-self esteem and I actually started feeling for him. But I still didnt want to get intimate with him. We were at the lake, when I put on my lipgloss, and I made some snarky comment about how I like the taste of it, and he started to move in for a kiss. I moved back, and he followed, i moved back some more, and I ended up with my back on the park bench. And then there was nowhere to go, and he kissed me. I certainly felt a tingle, but kept it to myself. This wasnt how I had imagined my first relationship to be like. But I was confused. I mean, wasnt the first guy who ever touched me supposed to be my husband? I had never been touched before, and the sexual feelings in me were confusing me, and i suppose so were my hormones. Yet I kept my distance. But he didnt respect that, and despite not being boyfriend-girlfriend, continued to molest me in a joking offhand manner. I guess I lost my dignity, but hid it under the guise of true love cos we ended up having sex, and being in a relationship for over 4 years. Well, I wanted it to be a relationship, but he said we were just friends with benefits. It really hurt. A lot. I thought I deserved to be treated that way, and I didnt see a way out, except with him. He also came out as gay during our time together, and dated other men, but wasnt willing to let me go, and neither was I. It was pretty destructive and I was happy to finally let it go. I wouldnt have seen the way out, if a dear gay boyfriend of his hadnt told me how wrong it was of him to be doing that to me. Except he turned out to have the hots for me too, except he was too cocky, and too mean to actually realize it, and treated me like dirt. My new found happiness and freedom lasted like a second. If it had lasted a little bit more, maybe I would have been strong enough to fight the abuse he inflicted on me. Maybe I would have walked away on my own this time. Except I didnt. And ended up way damaged, and diagnosed with psychosis. After having been to the edge twice and back, I feel like I never want to see the ocean again. That the stars shine for me. That the wind blows for me. And the sun rises for me. And that i will find my own way. And that I dont need anybody but myself. That its dangerous for girls to seek validation in the arms of their men, because they can dismantle it like we are toys. We are fine as long as we are dolls, pretty, and perfect, but they need us to be breakable, to be expendable, to be disposable in order for them to feel their manhood surge, in order for them to feel like they are the kings of the world. I think this world is really scary for girls, especially young girls, cos we are in danger of unwanted attention, lecherous men, jealousy, competion, violence, and rape. It is the least we can do to empower them, to trust themselves, to love themselves, and one another, so that they can be forewarned when it comes to men or other dangers. They need to be aware and alert always because we are undeniable, sensational, capable, and brilliant. we dont need men to stand behind or to protect us, cos we are strong enough. we are forces of nature. we are goddesses. we should band together like a pack of wild hyenas, and really just threaten and destabalize the ground that men walk on. The things they are capable of, we are just as strong to acknowledge, and stir up. We have the power. It is in our hands. I love you ladies. P.s- My name is Miz Nish, and I like kittens, lace, and cigarettes. I believe that we have the tools to create a revolution, and that the goddess would never throw anything at us that we couldnt handle. I love to riot, and create art. I think girls kissing is hot. I think that there needs to be more feminist men. And i think that you should get in touch with me at, if you want to talk about anything under the sun. :)

Saturday, August 14, 2010

We accept the ________________ we think we deserve.

When I was first approached to write this blog entry, my first reaction was “Why would I deserve to write among the other fine ladies who have been asked?”. I am not a woman out there doing for herself with her own business, I have beaten no impossible odds, I’m just not extraordinary. I have no titles or schooling behind my name, I’ve never been in the news for being a “wavemaker”, I don’t own my own business. I’m just a simple girl with a simple horse and a simple blog. I work for a large corporation (sadly not myself), I am an unpublished author who is butting her head up against the rocks trying to find an agent, and in the meantime, I divert myself by writing a blog. I am young, too young to have learned a pocketful of good life lessons, but I have learned one thing. I deserve good things. It was a difficult nugget to acquire, but it is the most valuable gem of information and knowledge that I have ever had the privilege to learn. And so, even if I am not an accomplished woman with years of successes (or struggles) under her belt, I can share this and hope to enrich the life of some other woman who might allow herself to think that even though she is a good person, even though she gives and gives and gives of herself to others, even though she is selfless and caring and people depend on her, that she might not deserve the good things she is due. Once I learned this lesson… surprise, surprise! Good things started happening to me – because I allowed them to happen, because I loved and trusted myself enough to MAKE them happen for me – because I knew that I deserved them as much as any other person that I had once watched enviously, thinking “I wish I lived as well as that person did”… I write a blog for plus sized horse back riders. When you think of equestrian participants, you generally don't think of anyone who isn't the stereotypical svelte, toned, skinny legged woman prancing elegantly down the ring on her horse. Somehow, her breasts stay perfectly in place, and there is little flab on her thighs. Unfortunately, there are many women (and some men, I have discovered) that have allowed that image to override anything they might know about horses, about physics, about themselves, and denied themselves the things that they love for far longer than they should. They've actually allowed themselves to go without the good things because they don't think they deserve them. As often as I can, I share nuggets of thoughts from my journey with my horse, Bronwyn, and interesting factoids and information I find online. I share tips and ideas – the ongoing theme is to accept that you may have challenges or issues – that you may need to be realistic about what you are doing and the qualities of good horses for weight bearing, but also ongoing is the theme to work through them anyway and let yourself live the good life that you deserve. Occasionally, I have a buddy write a blog for me, all of it with the goal of showing the plus sized set out there who love horses that life does not end just because you weigh more than 200lbs. (Interestingly, but unrelated to this blog, I have found that the reaction of the less-plus-sized set is either complete acceptance and enthusiasm, outrage that I would suggest that plus sized riders CAN ride, OR complete discomfort that I draw a difference and recognize the challenges of plus sized vs average sized riders.) My dream is to someday share this on the large scale. I only lived in my shell as someone who thought good stuff only happened to the rich and the beautiful for 23 years – far shorter than the years some other people allow themselves to be trapped there – and it was too long. I imagine someday running a summer camp specifically for girls with low self esteem, because those are the ones who will morph into young women who know they are good people, but still think that the good life is reserved for others more deserving. I'd incorporate horses and empowerment workshops in the backdrop that I grew up and loved – rural New Brunswick. It's a long way off, but someday I do hope to share the way that horses, and accomplishing things that you aren't “supposed” to be able to accomplish, can heal you, encourage you, and prove to you that you deserve every good thing in this life. Amanda Neal Writer, “A Fat Girl & A Fat Horse: A Blog For Plus Sized Riders”

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Social values a basis for our company

I felt really inspired by having read the previous blog entries and I applaud the journey some of my fellow August bloggers had taken. So, I would like to talk about our journey and share some of our philosophies with you. Maybe I should introduce myself first. My name is Martina Ernst, and I am the CEO of Wo-Built Inc, a Design and Build General Contractor which is 100% female owned. Elida Huignard, president of Wo-Built, and I co-founded the company 3 ½ years ago with the social mission to mentor and help women enter and succeed in the building trades. And, we did this through a For Profit Company for self determination. Doing this has its challenges. Our business model is to finance our social mission through our building revenue. We are ineligible for almost all grants available for Not-for-Profits and our social message often distracts from our income source - designing and building home renovations, additions and custom houses. But Elida and I have the unfailing believe that companies need to have a social mission at their cores to make a difference in our communities. Our company was founded on a social mission rather than adopting one at a later date, I guess this makes us social entrepreneurs. One of the main issues of social entrepreneurship is that you are splitting your focus between what is your bread and butter money maker (in our case innovative design and build) and what is the heart of the company. Also by having to fund the social initiative through our profits (and what start-up company makes money in the first couple of years?) our mentoring efforts were not as extensive as we would have liked. But we are continuing to find new ways of furthering women’s careers in the trades. We see ourselves a stepping stones in women’s careers by giving them a first job in a construction related environment. They obtain valuable work experience which they then can take to larger companies that are able to provide them with apprenticeships. As we grow we hope to make a difference for many women who want to have a career in the trades. Martina Ernst CEO - Wo-Built Inc

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Confessions of a Self-Help Junkie

Some might say that I have an addiction to self-helpery.
Since high school, I've been drawn to books that encourage us to explore the inner realm; when I'm high, I get off on watching trippy youtube talks about living authentically; my weekends are jam-packed with self-discovery workshops in pretty much all manner of personal-development and new-age streams. I love this stuff. I eat it for breakfast. I love the very idea of them. I love that I have the privilege of time to attend them. I love that a good portion of them are affordable. I'm grateful that there is an abundance of amazing self-help/new-age/personal-development events here in our glorious city. In fact, I even run a workshop space so people can lead these very workshops in my home (... and I love that I can attend without even having to get out of my pajamas! Double-awesome!)
So, yea, I'm a self-help junkie.
There, I said it.
And it isn't that my life is all that crappy. Compared to what I see in society around me, there's not a lot of "improvement" needed in my life, so why do I instinctively/obsessive go to so many of these 'self-improvement' type events?
Hmm.. A good question indeed.
From there, a part of me wonders if there is ever a time when we no longer need or want these kinds of workshops and books. Is there a time to let them go, and say, "I have all I need. I have experienced transformation and now am just going to be." Like the boat that gets us across the stream, is it wise to part with workshops and books once we're there?
(And where is "there?" How do we know when we are "there?" Aren't we already/always there?? In which case, do we keep the boat for life? I mean, practice is important. And if workshops and books keep us in the game, then that's necessary, right? But what of other boats? I've been wrestling with this "do I still need it?" feeling with my psychotherapist as well. Not to mention my love-affair with ganja. When to let go...)
Not knowing the answer to any of this, I also ask: 'Well, what is the motivation for my relentless attraction to these kinds of books, videos, and seminars?'
Although it's on the sane side of obsession (some might say barely!), does my search for increased knowledge and experience that these "self-help" modalities provide me with indicate an addiction? How does one know? Perhaps the most important question to ask is: Are they having any lasting positive impact on my experience of being alive, or do they put me into a head-space where I'm convinced that things are constantly in need of improving (or deepening, expanding, etc.). Can I go to a self-improvement workshop yet also know myself to be a perfect being? Are they mutually-exclusive? I guess the main negative of the whole self-help lifestyle that I'm in is that I seem to have difficulty integrating the teachings. It is like being a junkie in a way, although perhaps the difference is that the drug of choice is positive. Even so, I'm noticing myself flipping from self-improvement workshop to self-improvement workshop, dabbling in improving my confidence with art, my ability to kiss, my organizing skills, my Buddhist meditation practice, my knowledge about how archetypes play into our experiences, ... the list goes on. And it isn't like I don't think these are worthy ways to spend one's life (especially compared to hypnotically absorbing capitalism's messages through passive tv-watching!). - I'm just wondering how to best allow these workshops, books, courses, plant-medicine experiences (etc!) to serve me. - How to engage with them wisely. I'm wondering how I can integrate and embody the various teachings, modalities, and ways of knowing, to have an experience of feeling whole and united with something larger than myself.
Writing this (in less than half an hour before I'm out the door), I'm finding myself feeling simultaneously feel like "I don't need them. I am complete" AND "I like them. They inspire me."
So, there.
Dee Dussault
August 2010
blogging on un-inspired and late! the closer you are to something the longer you wait to actually go there; always late for work, if it's too nearby. finally saw my brother tonight, who lives relatively nearby at queen and greenwood but this the first time all spring / summer i've actually made the bike trip (when he lived in BC i would make voyages west for quality visits). passing time now listening to private guitar serenades and being a muse (? this is a real role). on being a muse; there is a blog topic, and one should appreciate the weight and burden that comes along with the responsibility; the value of true inspiration. what is happiness, truth, beauty, freedom, love? all intertwined and inexpressible except sometimes through art, in a song. can you feel it? can you hear it? and then everyday service jobs can get in the way, but attempt not to lose sight or hearing of it. of the contradictions; love versus freedom. etc. good night.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Following My Own Advice -Carey West

As a singer and a music teacher, I find many opportunities to make connections between my own creative work, and my paid proffession. When it comes to issues of entitlement, I find singing makes most people particularly vulnerable. I'm sure this issue has it's resonance in all art forms. Even in writing this blog I find myself asking the question: "Why would anyone want to pay attention to me?" Perhaps as women, we suffer from this self devaluation more then men, but perhaps not. The current incarnation of the internet has made is so easy to self publish. Hell, Twitter and Facebook have taken sharing our self reflections to a perhaps ridiculous level. The same technology has also changed the face and the core of the music industry in which I work. As I set out to record another album, I'm fraught with questions to which there are no answers: "How am I going to get this music out there?" "What will make it stand apart?" "How am I going to sell the project I've invested so much in?" "When anyone can sing and make a high quality recording and distribute it, what's the value of my work?" and finally "Is this just a big vanity project?" Really these are all just versions of that same initial question: why should I ask people to pay attention to me? Yes, this is a debilitating position to produce work from. Yet, I find when the tables are turned, and others seek my advice or approval, I have no hesitation finding answers. On a recent tour where I was providing music for dancers, the musicians were asked to join in the company warm-ups. Like children who have no expectations, and utter faith in their enthusiasm, we joined our professional road-mates with good humor and the kind of pride that only first-timers can have. No, we did not look graceful, nor skillful as we sacheted across the floor, or attempted to memorize a combo. But tongues out and arms flailing we demonstrated good sportsmanship if nothing else. All the dancers were charmed by our limitations and treated us with gentle and appreciative encouragement. I think we reminded them of how much they know as professionals, but also how much fun it was to be innocent. One afternoon in our hotel, my dancer roommate was absentmindedly singing while she checked her email. Suddenly she stopped. "Sorry! Does it bother you when regular people sing?" I hadn't even really noticed, to honest. I just took the sound for granted as a pleasant ambient noise. After all the accepting comments she had made towards my professional interloping during warm ups, it struck me how much we frighten ourselves away from messing in these most human art forms. "Not at all," I replied, "In fact I like it quite a bit." Another example of how easy it is to value others "voices" while questioning the value of our own came this past spring when my students were preparing for their graduation ceremony. Our solitary grade six student had set herself the goal of singing K'naan's "Waving Flag" (the celebration mix). She wanted to sing the verses all by herself, but invited the whole school to join her in the chorus'. During the dress rehearsal, it became clear, she would need a microphone to be heard over the drumming of her classmates. When I instructed the tech to set one up for her she said "A microphone? But then everyone will hear me if I make a mistake?". I could see that the full breadth of the responsibility she'd taken on by deciding to "front the band" was just dawning on her. I had to act fast to make sure she didn't retreat into regret. The forces that be opened my mouth and out came, "Yes, but everyone will respect the risk you are taking." I think as artists on the precipice of creation, or even presentation, we often experience this moment of fear: BUT EVERYONE WILL SEE ME. And some times additionally: IF I MAKE A MISTAKE. And over and over I'd love to make a habit of taking my own advice and answer: YES, AND EVERYONE WILL RESPECT THE RISK YOU ARE TAKING. If you ever suffer from these arrests in development, like I do, maybe write that last sentence on a piece of paper and keep it in your wallet. If you do, remember to write on the back, the one thing I couldn't tell my student: AND IF THEY DON'T, FUCK 'EM.

On "Mother-ing"

I'm taking this one right from my own blog. Although it's not obviously related to my business, my work as an Energy Therapist and Life Coach reflects everything that goes on in my personal life. If I'm a good coach/therapist (and I think I am, most of the time :) ), it's largely because of the relationships I've had and what I've learned from personal experiences. And as you'll see, this story IS an example of Bust to Boom! "Wednesday July 14th: I FINALLY take the morning off that I’ve been promising myself. Walk to the Beach. Lie in the sun reading “light “novel. When I’m hot enough, I brave the algae in Lake Ontario and swim leisurely along the shoreline. I’m aware of the green floating bits around me, but not really bothered by them. The water feels soothing, supportive. I haven’t swum in ages, so tire fairly quickly, return to the shore. Walking home (mid-afternoon), I realize I’m having trouble remembering the simplest things. What day is it? Do I have any clients booked for this evening? I really have no idea. It’s like my head is suddenly empty. I put it down to the fact that I’ve been carrying a pretty heavy load for awhile and that I’ve finally taken some time to relax. Get home, check phone messages. My son-in-law Chris has called, asking me to come to Markham to take care of my four-year-old grand-daughter. It seems that my daughter is about to give birth to her second baby(one month earlier than her due date). I try to reach Chris on his cell-phone, can’t get through. Decide to find a cab to drive me to Markham. Get a call from my daughter-in-law saying that Chris has called her, and she's on her way to pick me up. I’m more than a little freaked out at this point, sensing that something is "wrong" and overwhelmed by primal instinct to get to my child. My daughter-in-law Maria and I head out to Markham, getting stuck in traffic, making a wrong turn, encountering an “accident”. And NONE of the cell phones is working. (Apparently some kind of signal went out that afternoon because of a solar wind). When we get to the hospital (after an eternity) we find my grand-daughter being cared for by a lovely “Child Specialist”. My daughter has just had an emergency C-section. And my little grandson James is in the Special Care Nursery, having been resuscitated at birth. He’ll be heading to Sick Kids’ Hospital, where a higher level of medical intervention and support awaits. Sometime later, when it feels safe to do so, I realize that I very nearly lost my daughter and her little son. No crying, until I leave her room. It’s my job to give her as much strength as I can. I call my youngest daughter and give in to the tears. I did NOT realize how absolutely terrified I 'd been. The fear is quickly replaced by gratitude. This lovely baby, whose purpose is yet to be revealed, is HERE. He’s chosen to live, to respond to the medical intervention that he’s been offered. And my own child is still here. I offer a prayer of profound thanks. Sixteen days later: Feels like months (maybe eons) later. We’ve all taken turns sitting beside him, stroking him, talking to him, singing to him. We offer prayers (Christian, Native, whomever we pray to) and Energy work. My daughter holds her son, amid the tangle of tubes and wires attached to his arms, legs and head. Soon, we all get a chance to hold him and the technology that's delivering food and air to his little body becomes less intimidating. The medical folks give him everything they’ve got (including huge doses of compassion). One day he opens his eyes and looks around. He breathes for the first time on his own. Is gradually weaned from medical support. Takes his first bottle-and finally, like he’d been waiting SO long for this; he drinks from his mommy’s breast! Today, July 30th 2010, little James is at home. I am so madly, deeply in love with him, my feelings astound me. There’s been so much obvious love and nurturing in and around our family since he arrived. So much “mother-ing”. SO much to be thankful for." Sue Burness, Woman, Mother, Grandmother, Energy Therapist/Life Coach

Saturday, August 7, 2010

something different - Kelli Kieley

------- i wondered what i should share in this blog. (i have written two pieces already but wound up with a spontaneous one because...) today i did everything differently. (for example, usually i blog privately. i have many blog entries very few people have seen. this is my first public blog). also... i woke up at 5:00 am, and, unlike other nighttime bathroom stumbles, became conscious enough to notice the time. instead of rolling over and going back to sleep, i lay awake, thinking. instead of trying to get back to sleep, i got up to go for a walk. instead of walking around my neighbourhood, i walked to my new neighbourhood (where i will become, for the first time in 10 years, a renter vs. a home-owner). instead of knowing my way around, i got lost. instead of passing by a new coffee shop en route to my favorite coffee shop, i stopped, turned around, and went inside the new coffee shop, aptly called "the New Neighbour. instead of reading a book in my bag, i browsed the offerings on display at New Neighbour's. instead of being cynical and put off by the title The Optimist's Handbook, i thought it might be important. Some of the many things that spoke to me: “In his recent book Courage, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown notes that not all courage is the kind seen on the battlefield, the risk of danger: ‘there is also courage that comes form cultivating a habit of refusing to let fear dictate ones’ actions, courage that would be described as grace under pressure…:’ It is not a an innate or instinctual response, it is not calculated. It can only be tested in action. And courage, as Nelson Mandela points out, multiplies when it is shared….” “Our software for thinking, which we inherited from the Big Three of Greek - Socrates, Plato and Aristotle - is about truth, logic, argument, and analysis. It’s excellent in the same way that a rear left wheel is on a car is excellent. But it missed out on creativity, design, perception. 90 percent of errors of logic in thinking are errors of perception, not Logic.” (-- Edward de Bono) excerpts from The Optimist’s Handbook, Nick Inman ( --- it might be useful to share some things that i experienced prior to my 6am journey this morning, that are remotely related… i have been doing things so differently for the past 3 years that i truly believe i am being cellular-ly reconfigured. 3 years ago, when life became heavy to the point of unbearable i got to thinking... “you know, this (strife) just can't be right. it must be me. i must be doing something wrong. there has to be a better way. i have to do something different...” (i remember driving down the road and having some kind of vision... i saw myself floating in space grabbing and randomly grabbing and hanging on to one star and then another... my consciousness was telling me to choose my stars carefully, this haphazard star-grabbing was a way to stay randomly floating forever...) so i found myself browsing in the (previously laughable) self-help section of a book store. i began reading books such as julia cameron's The Artist's Way, and jack canfield's The Success Principles. (i read them again and keep them by my bed. i also keep Women Who Run With The Wolves.) these books were the beginning of an exciting, scary journey for me. The information was exciting, but.. the journey began terribly with a deep, profound, crushing depression, some uncharacteristic, odd and self-destructive behaviour, a “dark night of the soul. (which was underscored a sense of hope/faith that things could and would ultimately be better, giving me a dollop of courage to do things differently and/or be willing to let go…) then, a chronic problem turned into a debilitating and almost deadly illness. “hmm… definitely still more work to do, have to do even more things differently...” so the illness near-death thing led beyond books to dabbling in therapy. i sat on several couches blabbing and became concerned this was going to take 20 years…but I had two small kids… “no. there has to be something else. i have to commit all my time/effort/money into finding something different, above all else...” and then, more therapeutic exploration until, thankfully and finally, meeting my two angels/health care providers to whom i attribute this literal cellular reconfiguration/healing/growth. (the chronic, debilitating/deadly health affliction that either preceded or was caused by depression/break-down has been cured… an illness for which modern medicine had no cure available. another story.) the books, the therapy, the remedies have profoundly changed my view of my self, my outlook and my (changing) understanding of my place and experience in the world... it cost me money and time and required courage to let go of many things, wounds, relationships, victimhood, patterns, self-images, defenses and blaming, to name a few. the courage to accept responsibility and acknowledge my choices. my life is completely different now. technically, i am still the same. i'm still some chick living in toronto with two children making a living and media and wondering and observing and wandering and stuff. but i now believe i shape my own life. i know how to listen to myself to define what my needs are, and am shaped less by what outside influences tell me they should be. my life still has its challenges, but i feel more confident about handling them and know where to go if i need help. just like today, a saturday like any other, when everything is technically the same, but also very different. kind of like two ways of thinking, or perceiving, or viewing that glass of water. so, what i learned or realized i have to share today is... sometimes you just have to have the courage or will to do something different, to respond to an impulse, small or large, to let go of your belief, routines, the rules and regulations, your idea of yourself, to have faith and believe everything will work out favorably somehow, (and maybe remember to keep The Optimist's Handbook in your back pocket or by your bed, for when you forget...) thanks to michelle van looy – a courageous, creative-thinking optimist with a big heart - for the opportunity to do something different! (and the other lovely ladies! xo) kelli kieley is the owner of a strange brain, a single mother of two phenomenal inspirations, an entrepreneur, a media producer, an aspiring change agent, and community arts fan/participant/collaborator.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

I am a Fabric Addict

I, Julia, am addicted to fabric. There I have openly admitted it - and that's the first step to recovery right? Except I don't want to recover from this addiction! I thrive on collecting and working with beautiful pieces of cotton and flannel and minky. Each new piece is my inspiration for another quiet moment of 'mommy is allowed to sew' time. I started creating with fabric shortly before my little monkey Jacob entered the world. I had been forced on home rest and was going batty not having anything to do while being hugely pregnant. I decorated his nursery with every sock monkey fabric I could find - which led to other mommies asking where they could get the same curtains, crib set etc. I figured I could turn my re-found love of fabrics into a small business. Something to keep my occupied while I was on maternity leave (because a newborn isn't challenging enough!). The problem is I make no money from my business because of my addiction. Every penny I make selling my creations goes right back into buying more fabrics. Animal prints, neon plush minky, retro inspired flannels - I have six large totes over flowing and crowding my sewing studio. Do I dare part with one scrap - no! Each tiny piece I covet and try to turn into yet another creation. I like to call it recycling! Each blankie, bib, or diaper wipe I create is like a tiny being I am sending off into the world. I pray that the home it finds enjoys it as much as I enjoyed picking out the materials, merging them together and making them into something. Nothing would break my heart more then to think that someone didn't like something I made. Not because it might insult my creativity; but because each item is one of my little babies alone in the world! I often wonder if true artists feel the same way? I don't consider what I do an art - it's more of a hobby. Does a sculptor personify their creations and then worry their 'child' will be rejected? Does a painter find comfort in mixing colours and textures the same way I do with fabrics? I wish I could draw or paint or sculpt so I could claim to be artistic. But I am happy being able to say I am creative - and a fabric addict! Julia Mackenzie Owner and Creator of Mommy's Lil Monkey

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Art for my mind's sake.

I used to think that I had no artistic talent what so ever, that the ability to make the beautiful things that my sisters create were given only to them and not me. I can draw something that more or less resembles what it was meant to be, and I can paint a room like nobody's business, but none of my art would be likely to be hanging in a gallery. I have discovered, over the years, that I have two talents: Using minerals to heal, and writing. It took me a long time to realize that these two talents, alone and together, have helped me keep my sanity when things got tough. How I discovered them is still a mystery to me, but I don't question them anymore. One day, about 14 years ago, my future father-in-law gave me some stones and jewellery making equipment, and I fell immediately in love. I have spent countless hours working with rocks, wire, clasps, and heavy duty fishing line, creating necklaces and bracelets, anklets and even earrings. The minerals speak to me in a language that touches my heart, and I have come to the conclusion that THEY chose ME to do THEIR work. Many of my friends have pieces I have made for them, and I love seeing someone wearing something that I made. That is the kicker, though. Many times I make something and I just know that it isn't for me. Within a few hours or days, I will see someone and know that it is theirs. I have given away many more pieces then I have ever sold, and I'm okay with that. The joy I get from working with the stones has been payment enough for me, and anytime I try to make pieces specifically to sell, I have too many blocks to allow me to create beauty. That is something that I am working on, but it is a slow go. Writing is something that I've done for many years, although I have walked away from it more times than I can count. If I cannot physically write something down, I work through it in my head, defining and refining it until I am satisfied. Having a laptop helps, but when I really need to write, anything will do. Napkins, scrap paper, even my journals all hold pieces of writing that I've done over the years. I've never published any of my work, and it is rarely seen by others. I do it for my own pleasure, and truly have no idea if others would even like it. I have discovered and used other talents over the years, but those two things are the ones that follow me through all of the changes I have gone through in the last 20 years. I am on the cusp of starting a new business, one that allows me to work with the Mother and all of her beauty, and it has brought me immense pleasure. Colouring my decision to start a new business is that I struggle, like many other women, with being able to make a decent amount of money doing something I love instead of something that pays well but sucks the life out of you. I guess the reality is that it is just a matter of getting up the nerve to face creating a business and incorporating, getting insurance, and a bank account, and all the other stuff involved. In the words of the great sage, I need to "Suck it up, Buttercup" and just get on with it. I wish I could just do what I like doing, but the reality is that I need to be able to move within the current system to survive. I hope that it will be better this time because it is on my terms.

Monday, August 2, 2010

From Bust to Boom ! by Colleen Lowe

‘They’ say that life goes in 7 year cycles … oh please don’t let that be true because I don’t ever want to go back to where I was 7 years ago. It is a great place to be from, I’ve learned an enormous amount, I’ve fought the odds and won, my self-esteem has grown, my self-love along with it (doesn’t mean I’m conceited), and my happiness and it’s ok to be alone and lonely. All of these things help you grow. I grew a new body, replaced every darn cell, stretched some to their max and shrank some of them back again. Might have blown a few brain cells along the way but I’ll get over that too ! As of this date of writing I have an organic soap business. Enfleurage Organics. I could say it’s also an organic body care business but folks would then be looking for the shea butter, the eyelift creams, etc. and at this point in time, I don’t do that, just soap … I make organic soaps for the new and not so new - soap for your face, your hair, your body, your hairy face, pits, legs etc. so you can shave and a soap for your hairy or not so hairy dog because they are like us … what goes on goes in. My business is not yet certified but I’m working on it. Finally escaped from Regulatory purgatory because they weren’t quite sure how to certify soap. It’s not a cosmetic, it’s not food or hey, maybe it is food and then of course we have that organic free trade agreement with the USA and … oh my, what do they do with me and my wonderful soaps? I’ve recently had an appointment with Whole Foods (knees were shaking) to present my soaps to them as they have this ‘support local producers’ initiative in full swing and well, seen as I worked there for 3 years I think it’s all their fault I go so darn hooked on organic living, they at least had to look at me, make suggestions and one day put my products on their shelves. The meeting was brief but I left with the words ringing in my ears, “We have shelf space for you !! We just have to get all the paperwork completed.” I market through farmers markets and the Guelph Organic Conference, as well as the COG Conference. I have a few wholesale accounts and some regular customers who praise my soaps even on my website … I’m so grateful to them. So how does this all tie in to 7 years ago and from Bust to Boom. Well, 7 years ago I was laying about with about as much energy as zip as I was recovering from cancer surgery and one of those nasty infections that you can pick up in the hospital. Well, I thought that’s where the infection came from. I learned just last year it was because my surgeon left a gap in my colon so there was u-know-what leaking out and yes, I almost didn’t make it. I was renting a townhouse that had been a drug lords hideaway I think. Door frames were in pieces that were kind of glued to the walls with a few extra layers of paint. You see, my other landlord had his real estate agent call me mid-January and ask me how soon could I move as the house was on the market and they wanted vacant possession as soon as possible. What??!! Two weeks later when I saw my dr. and my test results prescribed “Surgery”, she asked “What’s going on in your life?” I told her about the house. “ooops, you have two weeks to get moved because you could be in the hospital any day after that”. This dump was close, reasonable and was I in my right mind to be looking for a new home? Moved the coldest day of that winter … bless those guys who pitched in to help… friends of friends who didn’t even know me. The surgery didn’t happen ‘til early June and then I was a lay about for a few months. You do a lot of thinking when you can’t go anywhere. I was in my mid-50’s, I was supposed to be off work maybe 6 weeks max. Oooops ! No savings, the part-job was paying for the wheels and insurance. My last business venture didn’t exactly fatten my bank account and I was still paying that off so what’s a gal to do? Yep, I investigated and talked to a counselor and I declared bankruptcy. The shame of it all. I was feeling pretty low as it was and then on top of all of this I had to pull the plug. The gentleman I worked with was totally awesome. Made me feel as if I was a wonderful woman just in the wrong place at the wrong time due to no fault of my own and there was no shame in what I was doing, as a matter of fact I was taking responsibility for my life, reducing my stress which would help me overcome my illness and I wasn’t to think another negative thought about the whole process !! I became even more into the Power of Positive Thinking. The whole gang of The Secret became my mentors. I created my vision, my vision board and I planned it out. I was going to become an entrepreneur again, live in a town, get involved in what was going on in that town, be an inspiration to other women in business or thinking of getting into business and I was never going to look back with regret. Things started to happen. I found a wonderful place to live in Oakville. My neighbours are into Reiki, Aromatherapy, Poetry, green living, etc. How could I be so lucky? Ahhh, the Universe was unfolding my vision. I soon became involved in the brand new organic farmers market. People were buying my new creations … boy were they rough back then but it was organic soap and they loved it !! Then a girlfriend said, “Hey, you are going to be in the Guelph Organic Conference Market aren’t you?!!” I didn’t have a clue as to what she was talking about but a few short months later there we were selling soaps that were looking a whole lot more like bars of soap you would be proud to display in your bathroom and sell we did ! WOW ! Then people started approaching me wanting my soaps in their business establishments. Pinch me ! People were coming to me wanting to sell my soaps. WOW ! One day as I drove to work … oh yes, I still work a 40 hour a week job in Toronto as well as run my soaping business basically alone, do 3 markets a week with the help of two great young ladies and fill wholesale and retail orders as well. It’s a lot of work, I’m not rich but I sure do feel like all this hard work has my business and life BOOMing. Never ever give up ! When the chips are down, pick yourself up and move it ! Put your vision out there and watch it grow ! Be grateful for everything … the sun, the rain, the little kid who wants to sniff every soap on the table… take it all in and embrace it with JOY ! Oh, as I was saying, one day as I was driving to work I realized something. It hit me hard and I smiled the widest smile imaginable. I was living in a town – just a little larger than I’d imagine as I did my visioning. I was involved in that town – heck I had joined a political party, campaigned in the last Federal election and belong to some other organizations around town. I’ve launched a website and I know a lot of people visit it every day and I get comments on the things they’ve learned by being on my website. Now I’m talking to you about being in your own business. Never give up. Maybe you have to put it on the shelf for a while but don’t lose sight of that dream. Reword the dream if you have to. Think outside your realm. When Enfleurage Organics finally gets to be USDA Certified Organic through EcoCert Canada, I will own one of the first certified organic soap businesses in Canada !! I did it myself but not alone. Many very special people helped me in so many different ways and I truly appreciate each and every one of you, even the ones that I don’t know but you were there saying a good word about my product or whatever it was you were doing to help me move ahead. I’m still a small business but not forever ! ~ Colleen Lowe ~ The Soap Lady Oakville, ON We’ve Got You Covered … hair, face, body…even dog soap !