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Tuesday, June 09, 2020

I'm Teaching Again!


I had great intentions when I started 2020. I wanted to dedicate a little more time to my creativity, because it has always been a strong part of personal well-being. Where I live, the winter days from January to April seem to last forever, and so I wanted to focus on some creative projects that would make those days more light-filled. Little did I know the challenges that the start of 2020 would bring to all of us!
learning to draw cute foods
In February, I started a membership with Skillshare, an online platform that provides online video classes in the subjects of art, illustration, creativity, productivity, photography and much more.  Skillshare works a lot like Netflix, it is a subscription based site, so you can take as many of their premium classes as you like, for a monthly fee. (They also have free classes.) With the right link or promo, you can get 2 months free, which I did. I thought I would give it a try, and then see if I wanted the subscription. 
my project from a class I took
I had wanted to start working on my illustrations a little more, and this looked like a great place to start.  There were so many to choose from - my list of courses I wanted to take quickly grew! I took some courses, and shared some of my projects in the community pages. I got wonderful feedback, from the instructors and fellow students. The more courses I did, the more I thought to myself, “I could do that!” 


In the past, when my kids were young, I had taught creative lettering and journaling classes at a local scrapbooking store.  I had also done some presentations at some different local conferences, and really enjoyed it.  Being a stay at home mom, it was a great opportunity for me to do something outside the home, and to continue growing my art and my style. 

When the internet first started, I changed my teaching to an online format, and sold my classes online through a digital format.  Through those classes, I met some wonderful people from all over the world, and made some friends that I have kept to this day. I had always intended to take my teaching to the next level, but like many things, the years kept going by…

So in March, I decided that I would make the commitment to my self that I would create my own class on Skillshare.  I decided that my first class would be an art journal layout.
The choice for a layout was a very easy one.  In these challenging times, it is more important than ever to note the positives. The everyday blessing. The silver linings in the clouds.
So, my first video class is about creating a “Treasures Layout”, which documents the simple joys and treasures at any given moment in time. A Treasures Layout can be  wonderful exercise in mindfulness, and gratitude. And, it can be a lot of fun!


I am hoping that teaching classes again will allow me to reconnect with some of my past students, from the online groups again, in addition to making new connections. And I am happy to say, I am already getting some positive feedback.
If you would like to see the intro to my class, you can follow my link here. Also, if you anyone who signs up for Skillshare Premium Membership through this link gets 2 free months, which is a great way to try before you buy!
I am going to continue taking classes myself, to keep that creativity spark lit! 
And, I am already thinking about what my next class will be.
If you have any ideas of what you would like to see me teach, please leave me a comment!


Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Four-Legged Angels

These are strange times. Many of us are self-isolating, or working from home.  Even those of us that still have to work, are home more than ever before.

But one thing that I have noticed with any of my family and friends, and in my own household,  is that our dogs (and other animals) are happier than ever.  Instead of spending their days waiting for their owners to come back, we are with them all day long! Dogs are getting walks several times a day.  A friend told me that her dog follows her all around the house.  She said to me in a video chat, "to be honest, I am not sure if she followed me around before - I think I was too busy to notice!" That little pup (along with her other puppy) are a bright light in a trying time of self-quarantine.

For those of us that are working from home, our pets have become our "co-workers."  My office online meetings often have us saying hello to everyone's animals. We finally have had our "bring your pet to work" day!

I know that as someone who has dealt with anxiety and depression, my dogs have given me comfort at times when really nothing else could.  They truly have been the best medicine on many occasions.


I believe that dogs are truly angels on earth. They come into our lives and bring nothing but unconditional love and joy.  And at the moment, during our terrible pandemic, they have been giving their people companionship and comfort at a time of anxiety and fear.  But there is a silver lining in this dark cloud. The drastic measures we have had to take have allowed many to slow down and appreciate these special beings more than ever.  And our dogs are so happy that they get to spend more time with us, because that is all that they ever really want. In a way, we are getting to say thank you to them for their devotion.

Sadly, I am writing this only hours after we have had to say goodbye to our big dog, George.  We had almost 11 years wth him, and now my Molly Beagle is alone with me, a warm heartbeat at my feet.  The tears fall, for another four-legged angel that was with our famiy for what felt like such a short time.

I am glad that for the last few weeks of his life, he had us all around him. That is what always made him the happiest.




Monday, March 16, 2020

What Does Your Garden Look Like?

Months ago, I took a wellness class through my employer.  In that class, we did an interesting exercise that still resonates strongly with me.  We were all asked to imagine what our dream garden would look like.  We wrote down some notes, and then compared what we had written.

I have been thinking about converting this exercise into an art piece, to frame and have in my art room. So this past weekend, on a wintery day, I decided to pick up some of my favourite art tools (pen and watercolour pencils)  and put it together. It was very calming for me to forget about Covid-19 for a little while, and dream about a summer garden.



My dream garden is sunny, with a gazebo filled with a sofa, and some comfy chairs.  The gazebo is a lovely place to draw knit, and have tea parties with my granddaughters.  My husband and I can sit there and enjoy our morning coffee, rain or shine.  Do you see the coffee cup?

My garden has music playing so that the grandbabies and their parents can always dance in the grass. 

My garden is also full of flowers, favourites that invoke wonderful memories.  There are marigolds and lilacs, like my mom had when I was growing up. She said that the marigolds always reminded her of her grandmother on the farm. There would be pink roses for me and although I did not draw it, there would be a lavender plant that I could take cuttings from. The scent of lavender is my favourite, it reminds me of my Grandma Vincent's perfume. There would be lots of lilies for my husband, they are his favourite to grow. Last but not least, there would be gladiolas like my Grandma Dubitz always grew in her garden.  Sometimes after Sunday dinners when I was a child, she would cut some of them from her flower beds for me, and I would get to take them home and put them in a vase in my bedroom.  

So what was this exercise really about?  It was about identifying our CORE VALUES.  
We had just finished going through a list of values, and identifying which values most closely represented what was important to us.  

While some people chose adventure, entrepreneurship, mastery, and environment, among many other things, my list was the following:

Family
Creativity
Relationships
Tradition
Nurture 
Love
Kindness

For everyone in the class, it seemed that their dream garden really illustrated a lot of the core values that they had chosen. For example, I realized that all my flowers in the garden were about childhood memories, and relationships.  I guess you could say my roots run deep! (Excuse the pun.)

My garden would be a place where I could be creative, and nurture my family, with love and kindness. 

What does your garden look like? I would love you to share it with me!



Thursday, February 27, 2020

Who are you?



I have worked in my job for 13 years. I am an Executive Assistant in a Student Services Office at a University, and I love what I do. I enjoy working with the students, and I take pride in the fact that I help my supervisors  in their productivity, and making their work days easier.

But I think of this as my job. It is not who I am, it is what I do. Some people say that this is the difference between your job, and your work. I feel very fortunate that my day job is something that I enjoy, and that I love the people who I work with. We are a great team!  I also consider many people that I spend my days with to be my dearest friends and a big part of my support system.  This is wonderful, because like many people, the reality is that I often spend more time in the office, than I do at home with my family.

I am a creative sort, and a creative is WHO I AM. I like to call myself an artist, although I still struggle with that term, and whether I am worthy of that title. When I was a child, and asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, I said, “an artist”. I like to think that even though these this title does not apply to my daily job, it is my life’s work.  Creating is what lights me up, and what fills my cup when I am empty.


My office is a nice space. It is located in a relatively new building on campus, with all the modern amenities, and lots of windows and open space. Lots of glass and metal. It is beautiful, really. And wonderful place to do what I do! Scheduling appointments, making phone calls, preparing files, sending letters, booking and attending meetings, and drinking coffee. Lots of coffee!

I realized quite early on in my wellness journey that I needed to have some things around my office that remind me who I was, and what gave me joy.  And our office culture is such that we are encouraged to make our spaces our own, and personalize however we like (within reason, of
course).

One of the main things in my office that I love, is a wall frame that I was able to purchase from Creative memories many years ago. It is magnetic, and I can change it whenever I want.  I have so much fun with it!




I change it with the seasons, and with the holidays.  I have also been having fun making some little garlands with my crochet hook. So cute! I have a list of ideas in my planner, snowflakes, hearts, summer fruits, the possibilities are endless.


It is a great chance to pull out some of my art pieces, and give them some time in the spotlight. And they make me happy. They remind me of the creative person that I am, and when someone first comes to my office, they will see that I am at heart, an ARTIST.


Wednesday, February 05, 2020

On Sundays, We Dance


On Sundays, we dance.

When it came to a point in our lives where some of our children did not live with us anymore, my husband and I started the tradition of hosting Sunday dinner. During my own childhood our extended family would get together at the home of my grandparents.  On Sundays, I would see my grandparents, and all of my aunts, uncles, and cousins.  This was a time to enjoy my Grandmother’s wonderful cooking, including some of the traditional Romanian fare – oh those dumplings and cabbage rolls! But it was also a time when I experienced a special connection with my extended family. The first time I had a sip of coffee, was at that grown up table! I also learned how to pour tea for everyone. My grandmother's first, because she liked it the weakest, my dad's at the end because his needed to be stronger. If my great aunts and uncles came to visit from the country, or from another city, there was always room at that table, or for us kids, who often lined up along the wall on the floor for our meal. Laughter, gossip and after dinner games of crib for those who were brave enough to play - that is what I remember. One time I was excited to have made a cake for dessert to contribute to the meal, but I made it in my easy-bake oven, and it was so small that there was only enough for my grandparents.  My Grandpa said it was delicious! That was more than 45 years ago now, and I remember it vividly. It was chocolate.

 My husband comes from a very close-knit family.  I think of it as being small compared to mine. Their Sunday dinners were at a smaller table, and more intimate. Most of my husband's extended family lived across the country, so his experience as a child was very different from mine. Those big gatherings only happened rarely when family flew in to visit. I think that the feeling of connection during those occasions was the same as I experienced as a child, but for him, those times were fewer.

Back to now. No matter how crazy a week it has been, we know that Sunday is coming and we will be together with all of our kids again.  My widowed mother is also a steady guest, as often is my niece. My husband is an AMAZING cook (I am truly blessed), and everyone goes home with a full belly, and leftovers.

My eldest granddaughter (who is three) calls Sunday her “Happy Day”. She says it is her happy day for many reasons, one of which is that she gets to see her great-grandmother, and all her aunts and uncles. She also gets to see her new baby cousin, my youngest granddaughter, who, at the time that I am writing this, is just three weeks old. Our big girl is a little uncertain right now, as she was waiting for the new baby to arrive so that they could sing “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star”, watch Disney movies together and share play dough. For her, this little bundle of joy that sleeps in our arms all the time isn’t really what she had expected.

But the biggest reason our little granddaughter calls it Happy Day is because, on Sundays, we dance.
After my kids clear the dining room table, and wash the dishes (did I mention I am truly blessed?) the music starts to play, and there is a kitchen dance party. The music will range from New Wave to Country, to Classical fare, but it will all be loud, and there will be LOTS of dancing. The little girl dances with her Grandparents, her Aunties, her Uncles.  Last weekend, while we were enjoying the new baby, and perhaps lingering too long over the last of a wonderful dinner, when my granddaughter came and whispered in her Uncle’s ear…”will you come dance with me?” And that little girl was reassured that even if her Uncle was a new daddy himself, with lots of new responsibilities and distractions, there was always time for a little Spirit of the West, and a Celtic reel with his niece.




And then the dance floor was filled. And when my adult kids dance and laugh together, it reminds me of when they were small and people would tell me how rare it was that siblings could be as close as my kids were. And that it was a surprise to see them get along so well together. That three children was going to be trouble, because there would always be two against one, and that one would always be left out. But no, they all dance together, and laugh, and hug and smile, and my heart is full, and my feet are tired. 

These three amazing adults are as connected now as much as they were as children. And now their children, will learn that feeling of family connection.

So on Sundays, on Happy Days, we dance.

Friday, October 11, 2019

Birthday Cupcakes

What do you make your friends for their birthdays? Why cupcakes, of course! These delights are extra special, because not only were they made with love, but they have zero calories...

I have made some knit cupcakes before, and although I love the pattern that I have used in the past, I wanted to do some Amigurumi. Amigurumi is the Japanese art of knitting or crocheting small stuffed toys.  It is a lot of fun, and they work up really quick, amigurumi is a  great go-to for gifts!

I did a quick search on Pinterest for "crochet cupcake" and found this great free pattern for a Cupcake Pin Cushion.  




I used my favourite cotton yarn, Bernat Handicrafter Cotton Yarn



 I was able to make up two in one weekend. I used some rice tied into nylon stockings for weight.  Although they worked up a little larger than your typical cupcake, and they don't look exactly like the picture with the pattern, I was thrilled with the whimsical results!

I made one in our Edmonton Oilers Hockey Team Colours, as one of the recipients is a big Oilers Fan. 


I hope the lucky birthday girls are as pleased with these as I am! Now to make one for myself...

Monday, October 07, 2019

Ten Minute Wonder

I am fortunate enough to work at a place that promotes Health and Wellness for its employees.  As a person with some mental health challenges (Anxiety Disorder and Depression) I have taken advantage of this support on more than one occasion.  Recently, I started a course called Bouncing Back, a six-week course. As the workbook states, the course is focused "on learning to be more resilient, productive, and happy during times of stress".  Bouncing Back, you are singing my tune! 

One of the exercises that we have been given is called the "Ten Minute Wonder".  We were asked to commit to a goal that was just for us, and our well-being. It is not to be something that we think that we should do, but something that we want that feels self-nurturing. We are to commit to only ten minutes a day for this goal.

Well, utilizing my creativity is already a HUGE part of my self-care.  I learned a long time ago, that one of the best ways to cope with my anxiety, and to keep the dark wolf at bay, was to spend time creating. So this should be easy for me, right?

Naturally, I thought that I would choose knitting or crocheting. I do it all time already, so that will make it easy. Plus, I have so many gifts I need to make... Bzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz wrong answer!

I reminded myself - not for others - just for ME!  

So I decided to commit to drawing. Drawing is something that I truly enjoy, and also am area where I would like to improve my skills.  It has been a long time since I have done any drawing, so think it will be the perfect goal.

Well, I jumped into the challenge for the first few days, and then it happened. I got too busy, I was too tired, I couldn't do it. Yes, ten minutes was TOO much to commit to. It was sad.  

When I went to the class, I found that most of us had a similar first week. Some had trouble even choosing a goal. At least I had achieved that much.  But as I told the instructor, "it was a challenge for me to find the time."  
Her response, "you will not FIND the time, you must TAKE the time for yourself!" A lightbulb was lit. I left the class with a completely different mindset. I am the only one in charge of my own well-being. I cannot wait for these things to be given to me. Instead, I need to TAKE this. It is important.

Since then, I have taken the time. And the interesting part of it, is that if I take the time, it often ends up being more than ten minutes. And the positive feelings I get from it are a wonderful payoff.  So far, so good.

My drawing from the weekend, with a little bit of watercolour pencil