Things I Would Tell My Younger Self

I could turn this into a novel. I could explain everything in dripping detail. Or I could keep it short and sweet. I’ve decided to keep it short and sweet.

  1. Don’t live for other people. You’ll do this unaware that you are doing it.
  2. No matter what you do, even if it’s literally just existing, someone will hate you. You cannot be right or perfect for everyone, so don’t try. Expect haters.
  3. Pain is an internal fire alarm. Your pain is valid. Listen to it.
  4. Throw labels out with the trash.
  5. Negativity is a poison. Optimistism can be too. Just look at things as they are and accept them. Hope is sacred though. Keep it.
  6. Believe in yourself. Cheesy AF, but also true AF.
  7. Your interests are valid. Even the uncool ones.
  8. People who love you don’t treat you like shit. Walk away. You can love someone from far away. Walking away doesn’t mean you’re not loyal or that you don’t love someone.
  9. Be vulnerable.
  10. Don’t ever regret loving someone or something. Even if they hurt you, you weren’t doing something wrong by caring.
  11. You can’t save anyone. It’s not your job to save anyone.
  12. Loyalty is sticking with people through the hard times, not sticking with someone who intently constantly hurts you.
  13. Don’t give up.
  14. Tell people you love/need/respect/admire/appreciate them. Say thank yous. You’re going to lose more people to death or unfortunate life events than you expect and it’ll happen in an instant…so tell people when you can.
  15. Keep the photos.
  16. Everything you’ve been told about diet, fitness, being healthy, being fit, food, beauty, aging…health, in general, is a lie. Which brings me to:
  17. You’ve got PCOS. Your body is broken and it’s not your fault.
  18. Food is not poison. Food is awesome. It’s ok to love food. It’s ok to eat. Food is not the enemy.
  19. You don’t have to be nice to creepy perverts. Tell them to fuck off.
  20. Go on that trip. I’ve never regretted a trip I took or a place I’ve visited.
  21. Trauma makes you afraid. Let go of that fear.
  22. Take a joke. Make jokes. Laugh at jokes. Laugh at yourself. Humor is power.
  23. Keep writing. Keep drawing. Keep dreaming.
  24. It’s ok to make mistakes.
  25. Don’t be someone’s shit basket.
  26. You don’t have to smile if you don’t want to.
  27. Crying doesn’t mean you’re weak.
  28. The system is rigged, so you will put 110% in and fall short. You have to be your own advocate.
  29. View each day as a micro-life. Let that weight just fall off your shoulders when you do.
  30. 30 isn’t old. It’s still young…very young.
  31. You’re allowed to change your mind.

P.S. Invest in those weird bands you like so much. They become famous.

 

Hygge

Serendipity…searching for how to survive winter I learned what I was missing in my daily life.

I stood in soggy boots, the north wind blew at me sideways, my face was red, my fingers were numb, my nose was running, and my hair was a hot mess. It was my first winter in Canada. I was not prepared.

Then came the second winter and I was still a mess.

Come 2017 I ignored the idea of winter until November came and went leaving me in December. The winter wind is roaring back and I’ll need more than waterproof boots to get through this one.

I lived in Florida for years and they don’t have winters. I lived in Texas a bit and their winters are just cold air. Texas is just sky and flat land. Summer there is hell’s breath, but winter is survivable. I grew up in Tennessee, where winter is mild with the occasional blizzard. I did get stuck in a blizzard in Colorado once; had to drive for 24 hours to get away from it. That’s another story.

I’m trying to make a home in Canada so I need to adapt. I got a giant cup of coffee and googled countries with serious winters and how they survive it, which lead me to Scandinavian cultures which lead me to the word hygge. The word hit me like a wool sweater in the face. (That joke will make more sense later.)

It sounds a bit like “hoo-ga” (do not say “higgy”) and the word belongs to the Danish with no English equivalent. It has siblings in other languages, however. The Dutch have gezelligheid. The Norwegians have koselig. The Swedish have mysig. The Germans have gemütlichkeit. The Finnish have kalsarikännit, which is sitting alone at home in your underwear drinking with no intention of going outside. Close enough. (If I got the words wrong, correct me.)

In a gist, it is a feeling…the feeling you get when you’re safe, cozy, and enjoying things. The opposite feeling I get in the winter. The word is a notable cultural aspect of Denmark. The word is used as a noun or verb. Meeting a friend over coffee can be hygge. Sitting by the fire can be hygge. Having a piece of cake with family can be hygge. People hygge all the time and don’t realize it. Talking about politics, playing on your phone, or being rude is not hygge.

There were some clever people who saw the opportunity of wrapping hygge in a bow and selling it to the masses. The feeling cannot be bought or sold or forced; you don’t have to spend a dime to feel hygge. It’s marketed as sitting by the fireplace wearing socks drinking hot cocoa, but you can feel it by the campfire in the summer with friends.

The dark side of moving to a new country (or even a new city) is that hygge is lost. As a psychology nerd, I see a connection between hygge and the familiar. Being an expat means re-creating a home in a new, strange place. Hygge becomes a rare and special feeling. Though hygge cannot be forced it can be invited or encouraged, so my game plan is to survive enjoy winter, like practicing old traditions from home, making new traditions, candlelight dinners, time with friends, making and sharing comfort food. Time will pass and life in Canada will settle in, being less foreign and more familiar.

I can’t visit family or friends back home and I’m still getting to know this country. I was fortunate to move in with my boyfriend. His family and friends are welcoming. Many expats move alone and must struggle without support in their new home. I can’t imagine that.

No one likes having their snot freeze, but I’m thankful for the chance to experience winter and have excuses to do things only suited for cold weather.

Now, pardon me while I go put on a second pair of socks. That’s right…double socks.

***

Hygge may be used as a commerce tool to sell things, but don’t throw the baby out with the bath water. Behind the Instagram aesthetics of pie and coffee mug cozies, there’s a real feeling. Here’s your permission to take a break.

Danes Explaining Hygge 2014

Danish Man explaining Hygge in Detail

VisitDenmark Explaining Hygge 2013

More Reading

Gezelligheid vs Hygge < Dutch vs Danish differences in coziness.

9 Ways to be Gezellig < The Dutch hygge

Is Hygge real, or just hype? < Danish answer the question.

Dutch Tell Ya How to Gezellig < Features lots of cool Dutch words.

Norway: koselig

Koselig to get through the Winter

Kalsarikännit < Finnish

Hygge Conspiracy

When You Change Your Art Changes

A topic discussed briefly over coffee at a local gamer stop: painting in colors you hate. It happens. That’s why judging an artist by their art is challenging, the art could reflecting a rare part of them. The science of what is happening behind the scenes when an artist creates is still outside our understanding, but it doesn’t stop me from studying it in myself and others.

Over the past couple of years, I’ve experienced outrageous changes (love to my friends and family sticking with me through it). I found myself doing things without knowing why. The changes have caught up to my artwork. I’ve been trying to paint on my numerous acrylic canvases but hating the results. I’ve gone through two buckets of gesso covering things and starting over. Only, I kept hating it.

I’m painting with colors I do not like. Half way through a large piece I asked myself: if I had unlimited resources, what would I make art with and what would I make? That’s when my answer revealed the changes in me.

I wouldn’t grab the tubes of acrylics I’ve grown to know so well. I wouldn’t paint bright colors and messages of joy. I want to bleed watercolor into paper, I want to cut into lino blocks and press ink into thick paper. I want to etch weird, curving, disturbing lines with a pen onto a faded color background. I want to draw pictures about things that haunt my mind. I’ve experienced trauma. I’ve witnessed pain. I know suffering. I want to make art about that. I want to share my insides, not a fake outside. Sure, I wish I could make colorful, pastel, happy flowers on an inspirational quote, but I’d be forcing it. That is not me. Sure, I make “happy” art sometimes, but it’s when the mood strikes me and still with a hint of darkness. Even when I do use bright or pastel colors, they represent a rebellion in me. Using pink is my feminine side pushing back at the irony of binary gender-obsessed society. The first time I read “Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus” I wanted to stab my own eyes out. (FYI the differences between men and women are so minute they only really matter to scientists and medical professionals.)

It wasn’t until World War I that pink was associated with girls, and after that, the aesthetic become hard fast to the point that many modern men will refuse to wear pink. Pink is for girls. In my early “fuck the patriarchy” years I refused to wear pink because I thought showing any so-called feminine traits would make me appear weak. I wanted to appear strong, something that society had decided was a masculine trait. My brain operates from a completely different space now. I use pink as defiance. “Look, I’m wearing bows and delicate pink and glitter and STILL being strong!” Of course, I’ve also learned the true meanings of strength and power as well; they have nothing to do with physical strength, dominance, or assertiveness. The Buddhists and Pagans helped me learn that part. I digress. The point is pink is just a color and I’ve been using pink along with other colors I didn’t like growing up in giant art paintings.

Still, I want to explore the other changes inside my mind that I do not understand yet. I’ve been drawing weird, ugly, or alien people. I’ve been wanting to make some weird ass art. I love memento mori art, vanitas, Celtic and Norse, mythology inspired, fairy stories, and all things strange. I’ve spent so long hiding those parts of myself, showing them only to certain people in ideal scenarios.

Then I asked, why not? What stops me from doing what I want? Fear. Fear of rejection. Fear of how people will react. Fear that people will judge me, unfriend or unfollow me, fear that people will think I’m a sick, twisted, or disturbed person inside. It will happen, I’m sure, though I wish people were more understanding. I’ve accepted my own darkness and my own weirdness, but other people have not. It’s trying to force it’s way out. My soul wants to be authentic and I’m trying to water it down with pastels and some sunshine. Light needs a dark backdrop and shadows to be fully real. I’m that shadow. I want to explore my ancestry tree and the art that ancient Europeans made that inspires me so much. I need to wrestle with my people’s demons and the hell we’ve created. I want to make art from nature and dwell in it.

On the cusp of accepting this part of myself, my art will change. My body will change. My voice, language, movement, music, and what I wear. That’s one thing that art does: it empowers people. Empowerment manifests in different ways, but as I form my new life and live authenticly I will look and feel different. I will change because I have power over my own choices. I’m living my life, not someone else’s…for that reason my art will be mine, not some else’s.

To avoid being wasteful, I will fill what canvases I have felt with paint, but I’m moving on to new territories.

Have you ever found yourself suddenly not liking something you used to like? Has your taste in art, music, or even food changed over the last 5 years? Do you make art that is authentic to you, or do you make art that you’re told to make?

Weeds

Dandelions, the bane of the master lawn keeper. Tiny balls of yellow peeking from rough, pointy leaves dotted across the once neat tidy field of grass. The yard is a battleground and homeowners arm themselves with chemicals to destroy their enemy. The bees don’t mind the mess though. The yellow petals turn into tiny, white puffs; seeds with wings that children use to make wishes.

I grew up learning that there are annoying no-good plants called weeds and that everyone hated them. No one wanted weeds, they wanted roses and carpets of grass. But when I started to study local plants, urban gardening, and gardening from the middle ages, I was informed that many if not all weeds were actually useful. In some cases, the weeds were uninvited guests brought to the land by the very people who grew to hate them, known as invasive species. Some weeds are the natives, and the landscape we try to force onto our lawns is actually unnatural. We created the war against weeds. Check out the next natural field you see and note how the grass is only part of the equation. Dandelions, in particular, were once known as a “common herb”. When consumed they provide nutrients like protein, calcium, iron, and vitamins A and C. The petals can be turned into tea, jelly, balm, and wine. Their leaves can be harvested when young to use in salads. You don’t have to believe me, learn more here: Taraxacum Wiki.

The lawn devil is actually food. This unwanted even hated thing, I learned, is actually useful. I think they are beautiful, too. There are even pink ones.

Learning all this changed my perspective not only about plants I didn’t invite but also how I see myself and others. Some of us are weird. I’d dare say most of us are weird. Most of my life I’ve felt like an outsider for one reason or another, meaning I can relate to the feeling a weed might have if they could think as we do – I’m not welcome, I don’t belong here, and I’m odd. Yet, plants labeled as weeds are often viewed that way because they are in the wrong place at the wrong time or colliding with the desired norm. This acknowledgment that weeds are not evil, just a point that shows what context the viewer is living in, help me accept the part of me that is often the outsider. In a sense, I’m a weed. From the outside, I may appear like a bright yellow ball of what-are-you-doing-here, but I still bring something to the table, liked or not. Now, I love dandelions and what they symbolize in my personal story. Surely I’m not the only person who has ever felt like a weed or outsider or weird. We “weeds” should be proud, not ashamed. We symbolize freedom, self-expression, and individuality.

Do you still hate weeds or could you change your perspective and how you interact with them? Do you ever feel like a weed? What are common non-native plants in your area and what could you do about them? Are there common plants that we should learn to utilize in a different way?

Are you a proud weed?

Staying in Canada 101: Notes from an American Traveller

I came to Canada for love and ended up loving Canada too…but in the midst of an…interesting…election year for US citizens, many friends and family are jokingly (but not really) stating they’ll move to Canada. Heck, some people are just curious about the process and what I’ve been doing paperwork wise. It’s been a huge learning experience, even though it hasn’t been easy. The silver lining is that I’m able to sympathize with immigrates now…because I am one!

For those interested or just curious, I’m sharing my notes about crossing the border into Canada. Keep in mind, this is an American going to Canada. Also, I’d like to dispel a few myths I hear on both sides of the border.

Note 001 – Your Go-To Source:

Is the “CIC” or Citizenship and Immigration Canada. This site is the center of everything you’d have to deal with: http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/index.asp

Even if you just want to visit, study, or work in Canada, even for a little bit, you have to work with the CIC.

Keep in mind, their step-by-step “are you qualified” format isn’t prefect. If it says you’re ineligible, you still might be. Just because it says you’re eligible, doesn’t mean you’ll get approved.

Note 002 – For Everything Else, There’s Forums

The wording for immigration documents is confusing, even for me – a self proclaimed super nerd that reads dictionaries for fun. I can’t imagine the confusion a non-native English speaker feels trying to understand what they want. Also, there’s questions about taxes or tips or a need for friendship with people going through the same thing…
My favorite forum has been Canada Visa Forum. It’s not an official forum or even run by the CIC, but it’s a community of people who’ve been there and done that. They’ve helped me so much!

Note 003 – When to Lawyer Up

You don’t need an attorney, unless your case is special. I recommend asking for help if you have unusual things like a criminal background, children from another marriage, advanced health complications, or other things that might make paperwork extra difficult. Keep in mind, they can be expensive. I’ve only needed one to verify certain documents.

Common Myth – Marriage Isn’t a Golden Ticket

One myth I hear everywhere is that you can just marry someone from another country and BAM! “You’re a citizen and you can work and do whatever you want!” False.
 
First of all, marriage isn’t a golden ticket anywhere. The country does not have to recognize the marriage. Also, some countries will allow the spouse to live in the country, but not work or study. Citizenship is also not transferred (Canada or US) automatically to anyone by marriage. You have to do paperwork!
Basically, all those fools getting married for fraud…are doing more work than necessary. There are lots of options. Plus, marriage simply for hopes of citizenship or permits…is a crime.

The awesome thing about Canada is that it acknowledges same-sex marriage and common law couples!

If you want to visit, like a vacation

If you’re a US citizen or common wealth nation, visiting is pretty easy. As an American, I was able to visit Canada for up to six months without fancy paperwork, as long as I didn’t work or go to school without a permit. However, a helpful tip if you are dating an Canadian or plan to stay there longer in the future, you can request a visitor record at the border. This creates a document trail of your visits and that you comply with the laws. If you plan to stay longer than six months, you’ll need to apply for a visitor visa.

Visiting another country is a privilege, not a right. It’s cool though, because as an American you can stay in Canada on vacation for six months. I guess if you have the money saved up that would be one heck of a vacation!

If you want to extend your stay past six months

You’ll need to apply for a visitor visa extension.
Initial Fee: $200 or more Canadian Dollars (CAD) to start and $100 to apply for further extensions.
They may ask you to provide:
1. Recent photo with certain specifications (the most awkward selfie I’ve ever taken)
2. Letter of explanation
3. Proof of financial support
4. You have to fill out two documents: forms IMM5257B and IMM5708E
5. Passport and/or visitor documents
>>> You can apply and pay online! Nice.

 

If you want to work in Canada

This is where things get sticky. I tried this…and it’s way harder than one might think. It’s preferred that you have a special skill, high education, be a farmer, or some other experience that’s beneficial to Canada. Bi- or Multi- lingual is a plus!
1. Job Offer
2. Job must pay fees and receive LMIA (it’s the LMIA that’s tricky, since the criteria is hard.)
 > There are exemptions to the LMIA, but they’re very specific – like actors doing a short gig in Canada…like circus performers.
3. Take the job offer and LMIA acceptance number and apply for a temporary work permit.
4. If accepted…then you work for allotted time at said job. This is not an open work permit.
Fees: Starts at $165 for the work permit.

Other Costs and Documents: Background check, medical exam, transportation, yearly renewal of work permit, and extra tax forms during tax season, living expenses, language test, up to date passport, etc.

Check out: CIC Work in Canada

The plus side of a work permit: if you have family, like a spouse, they may be to apply for a work permit as well so they can stay with you!

If you want to work anywhere in Canada

Well, you can’t really unless you meet special requirements. You’ll want an open work permit to work at different jobs. A regular work permit is only for a specific employer and job. There are also limitations to an open work permit.
You can apply for an open work permit if you have ties to Canada, such as a Canadian spouse or family that you plan to stay with, or you have refugee status, or in a special program.
Note: Just because you can apply doesn’t mean you’ll be approved!
It is possible to join a special program that let’s you work and stay in Canada for a bit. It’s great for students! Start with the International Experience Canada page!

If you are self-employed

The wait for a self-employed work permit to be accepted is an average of 99 months. Oh, wait. I just checked the site again…we’re down to 95 months.
That’s wanting to immigrant into Canada as self-employed. I stopped researching after that figuring it was too much for me!
There are multiple ways to immigrate under what they call Economic Class: Permanent Under Eco Class
If you’re still interested, the fee for permanent residency under Economic Class as self-employed is $1050 and the wait is average. I’m not sure if actually takes that long!

Immigrating To Canada: Different Paths of Immigration

These different paths include: humanitarian causes, farmers wanted to start a farm in Canada, investors, child-care/in-home care givers, and even a special start-up business path!

Yes, that’s right. You can start a business in Canada and immigrate that way! Just click on the above link and select “Start-up business class”.

If You are actually marrying, or in a serious relationship with a Canadian

Then you and your significant other (the Canadian) can apply for Permanent Residency. This means your partner applies to sponsor you, and once approved, you can apply for permanent resident status, allowing you to live and work in Canada (with limits).

They used to have fiance visas, but not anymore.

Permanent Residence is a bit more complicated. You have to pick one of two avenues: Outland or Inland.

Outland: You can live in your home, or another, country while doing the process; however you can be called into an interview at their office. For US citizens, that means you could be called into the New York, NY or Los Angeles office for an interview. The neat side of an outland application is that you are allowed to work after it’s approved. It tends to process faster, depending on the case, and allows the applicant to visit.

Inland: You can stay in Canada, but you can’t work without a permit. You have to apply for an extended visitor visa to stay, but since it takes so long, you may apply for a work permit while the process is happening (after you’ve already applied for permanent resident status).

After you choose which one works best for your case, next step is:

Sponsorship

Your significant, Canadian other can sponsor you under: Married Spouse, Common Law Spouse, or Conjugal relationship.
Married: You have to follow the laws of wherever you get married. In some provinces you have to provide further documents if you’ve ever been married before and if you have dependent children.
Common Law Spouse: If you have lived together for over a year as a couple (Be sure to check laws of the province!)

Conjugal: Applies to couples who cannot be together because of religious, political, or other conflicts that prevent them from living together or being married. You have to prove it.

Family Member: Grandparents, children, or other dependents.

After you’ve selected the right path, you’ll need to collect documents and pay fees. This depends on the country of origin of the sponsored spouse (the not Canadian person) and if they are bringing family with them.

The fee to apply starts at about $1040, not included the medical exam, background check, and other things you might need. BUT you get to stay with your partner, working and living in Canada! There are limits, of course, but they are fair limits, like not running for political office in Canada.

Note:You don’t have to be rich. There’s no minimum income requirement for sponsorship, you just have to explain how you and your family will live. Where will you live? How will you pay for it? So on…

Permanent Residence Permits expire! Some are issued for five years or one year. You have to renew 6 months before the expiration date.

Yo, I just want to study in Canada

You have to apply for a student permit, which is a much lower fee than normal. The catch is getting funding for school and where you’ll live. If you get accepted into a Canadian school, just apply for a student visa. If approved, you can apply for a work permit so you can work while studying. After graduating you can apply for a special extension to work and live in Canada a little while after.
Fee: $150

 

There’s More

There’s a lot more actually, but this is just a 101 post. I’ll share more as time passes and I learn more myself…but this is your jumping off point if you are interested. All fees were listed as Canadian Dollar value.
If you have any questions, just ask! Keep in mind, I’m not an expert or an immigration lawyer. Just an American girl in love with a Canadian guy. 🙂 Let me know what other topics I should blog about!
Later.

The LivingRoom Community Art Studio | Art Travel & Community

This is attempt number four in trying to write about the LivingRoom Community Art Studio. It’s difficult to put into words what this place is doing for the community. For such a tiny place, it does big things.

Thus, I’m going to keep it simple. I’ll let the Studio speak for itself.

What is the LivingRoom Community Art Studio

In Oshawa, Ontario, there’s a place where you can make art for free. No strings attached. Yes, it’s actually free. No, it’s not only for children. Anyone and everyone can just walk in and make art. There’s all the supplies you’d need. If not, there’s all the supplies to make it work. I don’t mean someone micromanaging or telling you how to make art. I legit mean you can walk in, grab supplies, sit at a table, and make whatever.
Today I made bat mobile thingy, a moon phase wall hanging, and something to pin pictures to (out of drift wood), and spray painted a tin box I was having problems with at home. Best thing about paint – paint over it to start over.
Inside the LivingRoom Studio you’ll see the walls lined with all manner of art and craft supplies. Local and distant artists have their work on display. Music is usually playing, but on a busy day the melodies are just background noise to the sounds of art happening.
Strangers become friends. Friends get to know each other better. Neighbors exchange more than just “hello” for the first time, and there’s no rush to leave, like at a coffee shop. Making art also releases the nervousness in social interaction, as you have something to keep your hands and mind busy.
People come in just to say “hi” or drop off donations. You could worry that they’ll run out of supplies…but oh, no! They have so much from all the kind people donating their extra supplies or things they don’t want anymore. The space is full.
Just some of the spaces in the LivingRoom…

Why a Community Art Studio?

Many communities, in the US and apparently Canada, lack resources for the creative side of life. Even the education system has failed in many places to provide study in the arts. Society (for reasons we could write books about) decided that the arts are not important and cut funding. Art is becoming for the elite – this is not okay.
What about the artist that can’t afford supplies? What about the inner artist in all of us? What about a place for community members to meet, share, brainstorm, and make things happen together? The LivingRoom hasn’t even seen it’s full potential yet.
We need more places like this.
I shouldn’t have to explain why art and a creative space is important. Take away art, music, dance, poetry, literature, and other such things from a society and what’s left? A skeleton of basic human behavior. Art is the voice of a culture.

 

The patio, some art, and squirrels.

 

What You Can Do in the LivingRoom Community?

You can use free art supplies
You can buy art and craft supplies for a great deal during yard sales
You can buy pre-made art kits
You can sell your art
You can attend a “Pay What You Can” Workshop
You can learn from other artists that visit the Studio
You can attend their pop up events
You can read through their large art resource library
You can rent the space
You can teach workshops
You can meet other local artists
You can volunteer
You can start your own art hive studio
The Studio

The LGBTQ + community is welcome there and they try their best to be a supportive place for all artists. Plus, everyone is an artist.

In their words:

The LivingRoom Community Art Studio will:
CONTRIBUTE to the well-being and stability of our community by providing a working model of a non-institutional community art setting that sustains and improves community mental health and social capital.
ESTABLISH a safe, non-judgemental space where people from all walks of life can come to make meaning of their experiences and connect with others through constructive, arts based activities.
PROMOTE positive Self Identities and BUILD Self-Esteem through acknowledging and celebrating the uniqueness of every individual and their creative accomplishments, reinforcing the value of their work through positive feedback and public exhibitions.
ENHANCE the lives of those members of our community who feel most marginalized by providing them with a place where they can be defined as creators and artists, and not by the challenges they may regularly face.
STRENGTHEN relationships between community members and organizations by bringing together people who might not otherwise interact, to talk and make art about what matters to them, and to learn about one another and the worlds in which they live.
INSPIRE community driven action through providing people with opportunities to contribute to and collaborate on group art projects and exhibits that acknowledge, examine and address the issues and themes that impact them and their Communities.
EMPOWER community members through highlighting skills and knowledge they already possess by providing manageable ways of transmitting those resources to others through workshops, skill shares and studio mentoring.
PROVIDE income to local community members through providing them with regular opportunities to exhibit and sell their artwork and handicraft to the public.
ENCOURAGE social equity and inclusivity by making the arts accessible for everyone and providing individuals and families who may not have regular access to arts activities and events with regular and ongoing opportunities to participate for free.
INCREASE cultural vitality through engaging community members in arts activities and community events that broaden their understanding of what art is, and who artists are.

This Week in the Studio

I’ve been making stuffs!
Moon art, bats, and drift wood display.

 

Go, Make Art and Visit an Art Studio Near You

That Time I was Naked in the Woods

When I woke up that sunny, summer morning I didn’t know that at some point that day I’d be naked in the middle of nowhere, covered in bug bites and trying not to drown in a muddy river.

24 HOURS BEFORE NAKED DRAMA

I was dealing with relationship problems which were getting worse. (Don’t worry, I’m better now and I’m happy with someone else who is super awesome!) I kept needing time away from the situation. If it had been possible, I would have spent time away from myself. One thing life doesn’t let us do, right? Funny that we are eternally stuck in our own company. A friend saw my need to get out and about, inviting me out to a park of wilderness and natural springs.
In Florida, especially where I was, it’s all about water. It’s everywhere. Every type of H2O form there can be, it’s there. Swamps, bayous, pools, ponds, lakes, creeks, gulf, brackish, hurricanes, water funnels, torrential rainfall…I swear, there’s water lingering in the air. The humidity is so high that I could straightened my hair and step outside for instant curls. Fruit rotted by the time I got home. Mold is a real issue for everyone. Spiders swim. Side note: going from there to Canada was a shock to my skin. I’m basically bathing in lotion everyday.
The most interesting form of water there were the natural spring waters. Fresh, cold, clean water from deep, deep underground eventually finds the surface and bubbles up, making lovely springs to swim in. We decided to visit one in the middle of nowhere, because nothing could possibly go wrong.

MORNING OF NAKED SITUATION

My friend, her toddler, and I packed into a truck with snacks, drinks, towels, and a map, The first leg of the trip was driving for a bit on normal roads. I don’t remember how long, perhaps an hour…I think more like a couple of hours. Later events take over my memory collection of that day, so who knows.
We spent time talking and laughing and reflecting on life. Our friendship is non-existent these days, but at the time we were close. A couple of years later I would fade out of her life, bearing no ill will to her, but deciding for myself that I can’t be a part of her life. She’s awesome and it’s difficult to explain. I miss her. She’s a great listener and great at being with someone in the moment. She was being a great friend for me. This adventure was supposed to be a fun, relaxed time for all three of us.

T-MINUS ZERO TO NAKED

We get a little confused trying to find the spring and are driving pretty deep into woods and mud paths. We were close to the spring when we drive past prison-workers without a guard. Several men were working on something in the middle of the woods with only a port-a-potty and tools. Neither of us are the judging type, but we’d rather not be in the woods alone with strangers. We both decide to not care unless it becomes an issue. Little did I know, it was foreshadowing to the tone of the day: surprise!
The spring was tucked away in a large, group camping area with a picnic bench deep in pine tree forest. The shade was cool, but the air was still hot from new summer sun. It smelled like trees and dirt; I was in heaven. The spring was larger than I had imagined. It was probably more than 20 feet wide in some places and several feet deep in a few spots.
We had forgotten about the rain from days before.
For those who are more city-folk than country-folk, rain changes bodies of water. They can get super muddy and even dangerous. The spring was so muddy it was impossible to see into the water. The current was swift and strong.
“We’re strong swimmers!” we said. None of us brought swimsuits, but being women alone in the woods just means swimming in the skinny. This is when things turn for the crazy. Keep in mind, I’m white as the moon. Seriously, I glow in the dark. The Florida sun was shining off my white skin like a reflector. Perhaps that’s how the demons found me.
Standing in the nude several feet from the water I was attacked by a swarm of mosquitoes. For those who don’t know what a mosquito is…it’s the devil spawn of hell. Mosquitoes activate my darkside, turning me into a lord of darkness bent on world domination and complete annihilation of all things mosquitoes. Think Kylo Ren from Star Wars. If I was a bard retelling the story to drunk warriors by a hearth, I’d say 10,000 demon blood suckers swarmed us and we fled to the water for our lives.
You know how sometimes you enter natural water with caution because it’s so cold? You stand in it waist-deep for a minute and wait until you’re more comfortable? You giggle about how cold it is and splash your friends because you all are making funny faces?
I ran into the cold water and dived in like a polar bear who’d been living in the Sahara for ten years. Fear of cold was silenced by blood-sucking biters. My thought was, “ArrrRRrrggGgGGghhHhHH!

IT GETS WORSE

Now, two adult women and a small child are in underworld cold water bear butt and covered in bites. Don’t worry…the ice muddy water blunted the pain at that point…but we’re moving…? I tilt my head as I notice the shore is moving away.
The current is strong. At least, both of us being optimists, we smile and say things like, “Oh, the current is fast” and “it’s been awhile since I swam last”. Then panic sets in as we’re trying to swim. I try to swim across the spring to no avail. Keep in mind I’m a natural swimmer. I don’t have amazing form or anything like that. I can’t dive right most of the time, but I feel at home in the water. A good current though and I’m helpless. I’m only part-mermaid. My Viking learned that in the gulf last year…that’s another story.
Anyway, I try to swim across the spring to the other shore. Nope. I lower my standards to a large branch sticking out in the water. Nope. I lower my standards more, aiming for a root. Nope. Okay, perhaps just not get swept away? Nope. Every muscle is working to just not float away. The toddler is climbing unto her mother’s head. I hadn’t thought about how her work was even harder and I move to help. The child now goes back and forth between us as we try to stay afloat.
We’re fighting the current in cold water, naked and afraid of biting demons. We try to make the best of it and are eventually like…This is not what I imagined or hoped. I am not relaxed.
 
There was actually a moment I started to worry. Legitimate fear crept in and started to imagine myself on a shore miles down the spring with no clothes.
After a long struggle, we managed to grab roots and pull back onto shore, climbing up a muddy curve into demon biter land again. We rushed to the car, put on the clothes quick as wit, and sat in the truck. I felt gross, tired, winded, wet, and itchy. I had hoped for a relaxing, meditative day in the water and I’m sure my friend did, too. I wasn’t angry or sad, just thinking, Well, that just happened.

POST DEMON LORD WATER TORTURE SITUATION

The outing still helped my mental state, as I was dreaming often about drowning. That’s yet another story for another day, but this unexpected event taught me something. That day and over the span of two years I learned something weird about me that I still don’t understand fully. For some reason, no matter how grim the situation is, I don’t quit. Sometimes to a fault, so it’s a not brag. There are times I should quit and be swept away. I’m still learning, but I’m glad to know I have grit. Swimming in muddy water in the woods isn’t an example of my grit, but it was a tiny moment of my stubbornness.

I SAY ALL THAT TO SAY THIS

I used a funny story that happened to me to mention something else…
 
Depression is like drowning. We don’t expect a drowning person to save their own life, why do we expect someone suffering from depression to save their own life alone? Change my story…what if it had been the small child alone? Or just the mother and child without me to help? Or just me, plus lost in the woods and injured? Also, telling someone to “suck it up and deal with it” is like telling a naked, injured person drowning in a river to help himself. Uh, not possible.
When someone is suffering from depression, their brain cells are releasing chemicals (summed up in layman terms) that affect their whole body. In some cases, the brain cells are doing this without reason – as in there’s a natural chemical imbalance in the body and it’s not that person’s fault. Even if the depression is caused by an outside force, like something horrible happening to the person, we should reach out like a root in the river for them to hold on to, help them back to the shore.
People don’t walk into depression willing, just like I didn’t walk into a mosquito swarm and fast river with the intent to suffer. Sure, people could try to argue that I should have brought insect repellent or a swimsuit or just not gotten into the water…
Some people don’t have access to mental health care. We don’t choose our life, our body, or our brain. Besides that, people make mistakes. Should they suffer endlessly because we feel better just standing there and not helping? Why wouldn’t you want to help someone?
Spin off from some of my favorite quotes…if you’re not helping people, what are you doing? I’m not wanting anyone to feel guilty, just understand that depression is real and we all can help.
If you see someone fighting the current, reach out.
If you’re having a bad day, just picture a nerdy girl glowing white in the pine forest running from a swarm of bugs into ice cold water. I may or may not have been screaming.
SOME SOURCES
 
If you have any problems with these sources or have better suggestions, let me know!
 

Look Up at the Sky Day

According to some calendars, it’s “Look up at the Sky” Day. As it happened I did look up at the sky today. It was a solid blue, the shade of a robin’s egg with no clouds. It was sunny and chilly, but in the nice spring-is-coming way.

Looking at the sky is actually a personal worldview check-in for me. During a particularly lonely time in my life I felt hopeless. I wouldn’t wish that feeling on anyone. There’s loneliness. There’s helplessness. Then there’s hopelessness. It’s one of the worst feelings ever, because the person experiencing it no longer has the desire to reach out or believe in anything. It’s a dangerous place to be.

I was sitting on the steps outside of where I lived, wrapped in a thick coat and trying to find the stars in the night sky…but it was cloudy! My temporary mood lifter of brilliant stars across an inky sky was denied to me by thick, dark clouds. I was angry and saddened…at first.

Then a break in the clouds revealed a few stars for a moment. Something lit up inside of me that day that I haven’t lost since. First, I realized that even though I couldn’t see them, the stars were still there. Every day, all day. Even when I couldn’t see the light, it was still there. Second, I felt small because the sky didn’t need me. The stars didn’t care if I saw them or not. One could think that would be a bad thing, yet it was freeing. The universe is going to work if I’m there or not…as in I can’t break the universe if I make a mistake.

That’s what I tell people when they’re confused or scared. That’s what I tell myself before an adventure or a big decision. That’s what I tell people dealing with guilt…

 

You can’t break the universe. 

You’re free to make mistakes, change your mind, be confused, or spend a day feeling absolutely unproductive.

So, look up at the sky and search for the light…it’s there.

Land of Canada

Report 1.0

Canada is similar enough to the States that I’m not suffering from extreme culture shock, but there are some things that are different.

THINGS IN CANADA

1. Milk in bags. Yup…milk comes in bags. I don’t like touching the swishing milk in plastic bags.
2. Tim Horton’s coffee. I didn’t want to admit it at first, but their coffee is better and at a better price. I actually craved Tim’s after my first visit to Canada.
3. So. Many. Trees. I love it! I missed having four, real seasons. Well, I’m getting the most winter-y winter and colorful fall a (pumpkin spice, white) girl could want.
4. People sound mostly like people from the States, until they say “eh”.
5. I don’t get trash for apologizing anymore. Actually, I need to work on my public niceness. Years in the States made me a little rude in public compared to Canadians. Funny.

* Update: The other day a stranger bumped into me and I apologized. I think I’m becoming Canadian!

6. There are black squirrels. I had never seen a black squirrel in my travels before, so it shocked me. I saw one steal a whole pear the other day. They are also larger. In fact, a lot of things are bigger. Yes, bigger than in Texas. Sorry, Texas.
7. Thanksgiving is in October! Which is nice, considering my birthday is right after the American Thanksgiving…not good timing on my part.
8. There is French everywhere. Wish I had paid more attention to my French teacher, probably would make finding a job easier. Instead I had tried Russian, then Spanish. I’ve spent years learning dead languages on my own…but not French.
9. There are moose and beavers everywhere!!! 😉 Just kidding.
10. Canadian snacks will make me fat, because they are so good! Ketchup chips are the devil.
More updates later.