Friday, July 31, 2009

Thursday, July 30, 2009

A sad ending but a happy beginning - the Wreck this Journal finale

This is my fourth morning wrapped in the loving arms of my creative sanctuary. Aaaaahhhhh! This is so much fun, I'm dreaming of quitting my job and figuring out how to make a living doing what I love right here in this studio. This morning I wrote a "how I can quit my job and still have food on the table" list, and I'm pretty sure I can do this within the next year.

Part of the fun in my studio yesterday morning involved the final "chapter" of the Wreck this Journal saga - a saga that has been very closely aligned with the creating of my studio, and the dreaming and building of my new website (it's happening people!). For this particular wrecking, I decided to explore the intersection between creativity and destruction, while I figured out a way to commemorate and immortalize the Journal as a symbol (and as a companion) of my creative journey.

Check out what I created with my wreckage! And if you stick around right to the bitter end, you'll catch a glimpse of the "history of the artist as a young woman". I'm won't tell you everything, but it involves something about paper dolls and horses...

Here are some links to some earlier wreckage...
The beginning (including the pictures of hiding a page in the wall)
Wrecking with the kids (includes bicycles, swings, and a Slurpee machine)
Wrecking with a friend (and a generous stranger)
Wrecking graveside (visiting my son's burial place)

Monday, July 27, 2009

Five hours

It's amazing what you can accomplish in 5 hours. I've just had the gift of five hours of creative time in my studio. Thanks to my supportive husband and (mostly) understanding kids, I'm trying to carve out 5 hours every morning of the next 2 weeks (before I go back to work) for studio time.

This morning was the first installment and OH MY what a delight! I managed to finish a painting that will be the banner for my new website, do a little writing, take a few pictures, and just get lost in my imagination. Even though it meant getting up at 7:00 a.m. on my holidays, it was SO worth it!

Things are starting to fall together for the fulfillment of my big dream and I'm as giddy as Maddy was when she saw all the friendly comments about her art giveaway. (That girl knows how to BOUNCE!) I can almost taste it, and oh, it tastes good! Yes, the practical truth is that I have to go back to work in a couple of weeks, but that's not stopping me from dreaming about the day (I'm hoping it's by next summer), that I'll have managed to create a big enough space to hold my dreams AND provide enough income that makes quitting my job not too much of a hardship for my family.

It's going to be hard to pull myself out of my studio in 20 minutes (I told my family I'd emerge by noon), but I will be able to do it feeling refreshed and happy.

And speaking of my studio... another package arrived in the mail today - this time from the lovely, talented, incredibly encouraging, big dreamin' rockstar, Jamie Ridler. It's my very own little Jamie-created dreamboard! I think I will get lost in the dreaminess of it - especially the picture at the top that she says is "my book". (Yes, a book is in the works as well as the website!)

Here's Jamie's contribution. Thank you Jamie!
If you're curious about why I'm getting lovely art packages in the mail, you can read about it here. And you can see some of the other pieces here. And if you want to get in on the action, leave a comment or send me an email and I'll send you my mailing address.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Maddy's turn

Maddy loves to paint. Once, when she was painting, I said "maybe you'll be an artist when you grow up". She looked at me in that long-suffering way and said "of COURSE I'll be an artist when I grow up. I already am!" If you ask her what kind of art she prefers, she says "modern art."

She's having a hard time resisting the urge to take over my studio. It almost kills her when I insist on having a little mommy time alone in here. I manage to appease her now and then by letting her come in and create with me.

When she saw all the lovely art I was receiving from other people, her creative juices got going and she said "Mommy, we should paint something together and then give it away to someone on your blog." So that's what we've done. Here's Maddy telling you all about it...

And here's a photo Maddie took of the painting...
If you'd like it, just say so in the comments, and we'll pick a lucky winner.

(I think we have a budding blogger on our hands. She'll outpace me in no time.)

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Morning in the studio - Come see my new art pieces!

I'm so excited about the new art pieces that arrived in the mail while I was away! To show them off, I stretched myself a bit creatively and did something I haven't done before - I tried my hand at "vlogging" (that's video-logging, for the uninitiated).

If you're new to this blog, you might want to visit this post where I showed off my creative sanctuary and asked people to help me decorate it. There's still room for more, so if you haven't already done so, please consider sending me something.

Click on the video below and spend a little time with me in my new studio. You'll get to see the first three pieces hanging on my "inspiration from others" wall. And for a bonus, you'll see the things I splurged on while on vacation - the amazing pottery mug that called out to me from a wonderful gallery in Duluth, and the swirly silver earrings that I couldn't resist at an equally wonderful little gallery on Madeline Island. (The links aren't to the actual pieces I bought, but to the artists' pages - both worth visiting.)

(The video quality is a little poor due to poor lighting and a cheap low res camera, but hopefully you can still see enough to enjoy the tour.)

Here are the links to the lovely people who sent me art...
Sherri from Life After Web
My sister-in-law, also known as Accidental Poet
Andrea Pratt from Colouring Outside the Lines

Friday, July 24, 2009

End of vacation

We are happy, healthy, and... home.

We spent the last week and a half wandering around Minnesota and Wisconsin, starting with a big soccer tournament the girls' teams were in, hanging out in a lovely hotel with a big waterpark, then camping in a few different places, visiting the zoo and the Mall of America, taking a ferry to Madeline Island in Lake Superior (one of my new favourite places - I want to go back!), and ending with a night in a hotel in Duluth.

I have lots of pictures to download and oodles of stories to reminisce about - not to mention mountains of laundry to do. But for now, I'll leave you with just a few of the many pictures we came home with.

First off, this picture stopped me in my tracks when I saw it. It surprised me just how happy and relaxed I look. It's been a little too long since I've looked in the mirror and saw that much contentment on my face. Apparently the vacation was the right kind of healing for the lines that have been deepening on my face.
This picture may not seem like much, but if you look closely, you can see by the body language and facial expressions that Marcel and the girls were having a good laugh (at the Minnesota zoo - one of the best zoos I've ever been to). I love to watch my family laugh. We did a lot of that on this trip.
And speaking of laughing, the girls were having a hoot on the air mattress at the beach on Madeline Island. I think, for the coming year, when I need to go to my "happy place" it will be that beach on Madeline Island. Pretty close to perfection.
And one last shot of the girls and I on the ferry leaving the island. Ferries have a unique ability to make me happy. There's just something about them.
If you're looking for a fun place to spend a few days with your family, and you enjoy a place with relaxed island charm (where you can play pool at the local beach club as you watch baby ducks float past the window), a lovely woodsy secluded campground (where deer wander past your site at dusk), a beautiful sandy beach with crystal clear water (and very few people cluttering it up) and you're not too far from Lake Superior, you might want to consider Madeline Island. (I have not been paid for this endorsement. Just trust me - it was a little bit of magic.) I think Marcel and I may go back some time for a little "second honeymoon", but this time we might check out the quaint little inn or one of the bed and breakfasts we saw. (And wouldn't you just love to attend an art camp here? I think I may add that to my "list of things I want to do before I die".)

Happily, I still have a couple more weeks off work, so we'll be doing more fun things a little closer to home.


Oh... and one more thing... it was oh so DELIGHTFUL to come home to REAL MAIL - not just bills and grocery store flyers! I got the first pieces of inspiring art for my studio! I'm so excited! I'll take pictures soon and show you what showed up. For those of you who already sent yours... thank you, thank you, THANK YOU! For those who still want to... it's never too late!

Thursday, July 23, 2009


We're having a lovely vacation. This is my first time plugged in in 5 days and I can't say I've missed it. We'll be home soon and I'll tell you all about it.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Someone hand be a soap-box, please

I'm not a big fan of huge indoor shopping malls (like the one we'll visit in a few days, if the girls have their way), BUT...

These massive outdoor malls, where someone decided it was a good idea to take all the shops out of the same building, spread them over thousands of acres (of what is probably good farmland, but pfft - who cares?), wrap them around a maze of confusing streets and parking lots so that you have no choice but to use your car to get to them and through them and you end up spending an hour cursing your way to the grocery store at the very far end of the maze just to pick up some snacks for the hotel room? Ummm... seriously... WHO thought these were a good idea?

In a world where we could quite possibly run out of both arable farmland and fossil fuels in the not too distant future, could there possibly be anything LESS forward thinking?

I'm just sayin'.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

What is your calling?

I’ve been thinking about calling lately. A lot of things have been happening to influence this thought process, like reading amazing books, being inspired by the thoughts of others, coming to a growing realization that it may be time for a shift in my own calling, and being gifted with a powerful idea for energizing people in their personal calling.

I’ll be doing more writing about this as I prepare posts for my new website, but for now, I thought I’d write a few random thoughts that are on my mind. (And yes, I know I’m mixing metaphors all the way through, but that’s why I’m calling them “random” as opposed to “polished”.)

Here are some of the things I’ve learned about following your calling and honouring your giftedness.

1. A calling is not a clear or straight path. Sometimes you have to take surprising detours along the way, stumble through a lot of undergrowth, and climb over major obstacles. The remarkable thing about all those obstacles and detours, though, is that once you’ve struggled past them, you can usually look back and recognize the value in them.

2. There may not be any “ultimate destination” in the path to your calling. More often than not, the real calling is to the journey, not the destination. Be faithful in the journey and you’re being faithful to your calling. Don’t beat yourself up if you haven’t mastered “who you were meant to be”.

3. Sometimes, just when you think you’ve found exactly the path you’re meant to be on and you believe that you’re doing just what you’ve been placed on this earth to do, the path will begin to fade or lose its interest. It may be time to shift direction again, or stumble in the dark for awhile until a new path emerges. Open yourself up to new learning, even if it seems scary.

4. On the other hand, there will be some moments when, like Moses, you will see your “burning bush” and know undeniably that you are standing on holy ground. It may be a moment when you accomplish something so remarkable that you know it comes from a higher power than just your own (like Moses parting the Red Sea). It may be a moment when you feel a tingling sensation because you know that something you have been inspired to create is truly good.

5. If you find and follow the wrong path for awhile, your body and soul will begin to tell you it doesn’t feel right. Pay attention to the signs. Are you exhausted? Losing your creative edge? Irritable with your children? Stop and listen.

6. Sometimes waiting patiently is the most important thing you can do. When you’ve discovered you may be on the wrong path (or even if you’ve been on the right path but recognize it’s time to change), it’s important to cut yourself some slack and find time for rest, quiet meditation and prayer before you seek a new direction. Chances are the “wrong path” will end up being the “right path” for that period of time because of the things it was able to teach you.

7. Good people will show up along the path to support you. Trust them and be open to them. When you feel that you lack the capacity and strength to fully accomplish your task, perhaps it means that you’re meant to invite someone else onto the path with you – someone who will bring their own giftedness to make the completed task even more beautiful.

8. Sometimes though, the people who show up won’t believe you’re meant to be on that particular path. They may have your best interests at heart and just don’t want to see you (or those around you) get hurt, or they may feel anger or jealousy toward you because you’ve found something they haven’t. Listen to them, if they have something valuable to say, but don’t let yourself be too swayed by their opinions. Remember that they’re just human – these people do not have greater access to truth than you do.

9. You may need to be willing to give up and let go for the path to become clear again. Sometimes rock bottom is the best place to start a new journey. It will be really hard to reach that place and to truly let go of all of your ambitions and dreams, but when you are willing to open your hand and heart and release whatever you’re hanging onto, a brand new beautiful gift may be placed into your open and empty hand.

10. There may be long stretches of time when life feels more like drudgery and just "getting things done" than following some kind of higher calling. That's okay. Just be. Don't stretch too much or try too hard. Maybe it's just your time to live, to support other people in their calling, to hibernate, or to germinate new seeds that will see growth come Springtime.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

His arms

I was going to write something about disappointment today. Something about how disappointing it was to miss a day of my beloved Folk Festival because I was busy vomiting and passing out. Something about how I never felt like I fully engaged in the rest of the Folk Festival because I was weary and still queezy and didn't ever have one of those "lost fully in the beauty of it" moments. Something about how disappointing it was to wake up Monday morning (on my "take an extra day off work just to rest" day) only to rush to the toilet for round 2 of this knock-out illness, whatever it is.

But that's not what came flowing from me when I sat down to write. What did come, instead, was gratitude. Gratitude for the man who looked after me all weekend and so patiently wrapped his arms around me so that I wouldn't injure myself when I fell. Gratitude for his understanding of how important this festival is to me. Sometimes one has to live with disappointment to recognize the beauty in the things you might have missed otherwise. This is for you, Marcel.

His arms

He’s given me so much
So much affection
So many meals
So many affirmations
But today
What I marvel at the most
Are the times he’s given me
His arms

It’s his arms that have held me
When I’ve cried about mean bosses
Or difficult choices

It’s his arms that kept me from falling
When the news of my dad’s death came
And my legs betrayed me

It’s his arms that have caressed me
And made me feel loved
When I wasn’t sure I could love myself

It’s his arms that have wrapped around me
And kept my face from hitting the floor
When sickness stole my consciousness

There is so much of him to love
But today I thank God most for
His arms

Saturday, July 11, 2009

I'm back!

I feel like I've been raised from the dead. Okay, so maybe that's a little over-dramatic, but at least I've returned from that "hanging-over-the-toilet-seat" sickness that feels a little like death. And, trust me, I know how to do that sickness well - complete with fainting spells almost every time I throw up. It's not a pretty sight. (Or so they tell me - I don't remember the part where my body goes limp, my eyes roll back in my head, and I start to twitch and make clicking sounds.)

What a disappointment - to get sick on the first full day of Folk Festival! Julie was sick too, and her and I spent the day in bed together trying not to hate all of the lucky people we know who were enjoying the day at the Festival.

But today I feel human again! Not perfect, but at least human, and I get to go to the Folk Festival! Oh, it's a happy, happy day! The sun is shining, my Mad Nomad chair is waiting, and I might actually be able to muster the appetite for a whale's tail!

It's my 26th year for this pilgrimage - yes, it's just that good!

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Creative Sanctuary - a virtual tour and a request

It all started with an ugly little storage room tucked behind the stairs. Like the ugly duckling though, that little room was destined to transform into a swan. All it took was some hand-me-down carpet, some "leftover from the seventies" fake wood paneling, a little cheap unbleached cotton, an old particle-board desk (from the first year of our marriage), a nearly-broken chair, and some magical shimmery gauzy fabric.

It might not seem like much, but it's a dream come true! I finally have a space of my own where I can create, write, paint, sew, meditate, dream, read, pray, do yoga, and just stare at the ceiling when I feel like it. Want to come for a tour?

Let's start right where I'm sitting right now. It's the "writing/painting/thinking" corner.
The writing/creating space

Right beside that is the art supply and yoga mat corner.

Above the desk is the "surround myself with creative inspiration from other writers" corner. On the shelf above the books is the Kenyan leadership stick that reminds me to be a bold and courageous leader.
A few of my inspiring books and knick-knacks

Opposite that is the "dreaming of new possibilities and creating new art" wall.
Imagining new and exciting ideas

Above all of that is the best part - the magical, dreamy ceiling! (Yes, I'm sure I'll manage to kill a little time just lying on the floor staring at it.)
The ceiling of my creative sanctuary

One of the things I'm really excited about is that I've also been able to bring in some mementos that remind me of the people who have supported me and helped shape me in this creative journey.

There's the director's chair that my beloved, supportive husband had made for me (back before he was my husband) when I was busy producing one of my first plays at the Fringe Festival. He believed in me then and he still believes in me now.
The director's chair from my husband (from before he was my husband)

And there are the two cameras owned by my parents back when they were young and hopeful and looking forward to many long years together. Neither of them would have called themselves artists, and yet they managed to raise four creative children (count them - one, two, three, and four) by teaching us to see beauty in dandelions, frogs, freshly baked bread, sheep, and friendships.
My mom and dad's original cameras

And there's some space set aside for the artwork of my children, who remind me to find joy in dancing in the rain and swimming with your clothes on.
Maddy's artful contribution

What's missing? Well YOU are, of course! After adding all of those pieces that inspire me, it occurred to me that I'm missing an important section of people who've inspired, encouraged, and cheered me on. Yes, I'm talking about YOU!

Here's the thing... I've saved a space for you...
Waiting for more art

I've got a bunch of cool swirly clips on a string and I would LOVE to fill that wall with the artwork and little blessings of all of the friends (in person and online) and family who've supported me in this journey. What do you think? Are you in? Would you like to send me a little blessing of some sort? It doesn't need to be much - just a postcard or a card, if that's all you can muster (but I would LOVE some original, creative things meant just for this little space).

If you're in (and EVERYONE is welcome - even the lurkers who don't admit to reading, even the people who've just stumbled on this blog for the first time), let me know in the comments or drop me an email at heatherpl at mts dot net and I'll let you know how you can get it to me. (If you'd rather just send me something electronic that I can print out, that's fine too.) Whatever you create should be approximately 4" x 6" and not too heavy to hang on a string.

What's in it for you? Well, the joy of knowing you've made me happy, of course! But there's more - I'll send you a little something in exchange (that you can hang in your space, or even your bathroom if you prefer). AND I'll give you a chance to be a contributor when I open my new site at www.whatareyougivingaway.com.

Last night, after settling in, I couldn't resist going for a walk to the river just to stare at the full moon. The moonlight reflected on the water, the flickering fireflies in the tall grass, the jumping fish - it all seemed like a special magical blessing from the great creator for all of the things I dream of creating in this lovely space. I hope that you will consider adding your own blessings too!

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

A room of my own

There have only been a few years in my life when I've had a room of my own. Growing up, I shared a room with my sister. When I moved away to college and then to the city to start my adult-life-away from home, I almost always shared rooms with roommates and (for a few years) my sister again. There were really only about two years just before I got married that I had my very own bedroom.

Tonight I'm feeling a little giddy, because I finally have a room of my own. It's a tiny little room that's more like a cocoon (only about 7 feet by 10 feet with no windows), but it's big enough for a desk, a chair, a lamp, and some cushions on the floor. I think I can even manage to spread out my yoga mat in here.

I'm blogging from my new little room right now and I feel so very, very happy. Finally I have a space to escape to when I want to do uninterrupted creative things like paint, write, and just imagine possibilities.

I'll write more about it soon - and even post pictures. But for now, I'm just sitting here basking in the glow.

It feels rather serendipitous that I moved in here on the evening of the full moon.

What do you do with criticism when it comes too late?

He sat in my office, and though it was a few months too late to give me feedback and I certainly wasn’t asking for any now that all was said and done and the plan was well in motion, he said “I think you’re making a mistake. I think you should be doing X and Y instead of A and B.”

I sat there dumbfounded for a minute, and then, more calmly than I felt, I said “I’m sorry, I am no longer soliciting feedback on this issue. I asked for your feedback a few months ago, and since you didn’t offer it then, you have no right to offer it now. I don’t believe I’m making a mistake and I’m committed to the decisions I’ve made.”

A few hours later, after he’d left and my gut reaction had settled from seething to just slightly frustrated, it struck me how significant this conversation was. Not that it was unusual to get unsolicited feedback too late from my staff or co-workers – that happens all the time. What WAS unusual though was the fact that, even though it was a frustrating conversation, it had not ONCE caused me to doubt the wisdom of my decision.

I’ve been taking some fairly bold steps in my day-job lately, and though there are lots of supporters for the path I’m forging, there have been a lot of naysayers too. For whatever reason (uncertainty, fear, jealousy, genuine concern – you name it) boldness always brings out the critics. Constructive criticism during the development phase can be a very good thing (it helped make my idea a whole lot better, as a matter of fact), but the "after-the-fact" critiques just feel like rain on someone's parade.

This realization that I’m getting better at handling it and not letting it send me into a spiral of self-doubt and insecurity was a refreshing and welcome shift. For too long, I’ve let fear of criticism, fear of failure, fear of resistance, and fear of embarrassing myself keep me from boldness. I’ve worked a little too hard at making sure all my decisions were met with acceptance rather than resistance. Let’s face it – I just wanna be liked.

But that’s starting to shift and I’m so grateful. The person who sat in my office and critiqued my plan doesn’t have to like me or my plan. I still think it’s the right plan. The person who made negative comments about the video I executive-produced (after it was completed and too late to make any changes) doesn’t have to like it. I still think it’s good.

What do you do with criticism or rejection – especially the stuff that comes too late? Are you able to rise above and keep believing in yourself? Are you able to continue to face the world with boldness and self confidence?

Today, when you begin to let the critics (either external or internal) eat away at your confidence, stand up and say out loud (even if you just do it alone in your bathroom) “I have not given you permission to dump all over my good idea. I believe that it is good and I am committed to seeing it through.”

Monday, July 06, 2009


I'm busy downloading a bunch of pictures from our camping trip this past weekend and I couldn't resist posting this one of my two oldest daughters. It was a lovely time of relaxation with some of our favourite people.

Friday, July 03, 2009

A kinder, gentler wrecking

Don’t you love it when the right book shows up just when you need it? After ordering a book I’d suggested, Vicki sent me a suggestion for another book, and it couldn’t have shown up at a better time. I think the writer crawled into my brain, studied my random thoughts for awhile, and, like a doctor, prescribed just the right medication for what’s ailing me.

I’ve underlined so many things already, and I’m only on page 57. This one, for example, could have been pulled almost verbatim from my recent blog posts: “Some have felt eager and engaged by their work for years and then walked into their office one fine morning to find their enthusiasm gone, their energies spent, their imaginations engaged in secret ways, elsewhere.” Hmmm… secret ways? Yup, I got ‘em.

On the bus yesterday, I underlined this quote: “For most of us, an inner parental voice continually keeps the world at bay. It says, ‘Life is precarious; you young cannot know how precarious. Don’t add to the sum total of difficulty that awaits you: Stay off the moors; Stay off the ocean, stay away from the edge, don’t follow the intensity of your more passionate dreams, find safe work, and adventure not into your own nature lest it lead you directly into nature itself. Adventure only on the weekends of life and not in the working week.’”

I nearly choked on that quote. It stirred so many things for me, a lot of them related to the reason I chose “fearlessness” as my word for the year. How many times have I chosen what’s safe? How many times have I failed to “adventure into my own nature”?

The other thing it stirred in me was the concern that I have become that parental voice for my children. More than anything, I want them to be authentic, bold, and passionately in search of their own calling and nature. But sometimes, let's face it, a mother’s first concern is that they be safe. How do we balance those desires for our children without messing them up in the process?

When I went grocery shopping last night, I took my “Wreck this Journal” along, thinking I’d do something silly with it. Instead though, with these book-induced thoughts spinning through my mind, I took a detour to my son’s grave and did some wrecking of a kinder, gentler variety.

If you can't see the video yet, it might not be fully loaded. I'm posting before it's ready - don't have time to wait.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Thursday Thirteen - an ode to summer

Thirteen random happy summer things

1. Wearing sandals. Oh how I love having bare toes! And not having to dig through laundry baskets for socks? Heaven!

2. Bubbles…
Yay!  Bubbles!

3. Wandering. Yesterday (Canada Day) was a picture perfect day for wandering (through Osborne Village, to the Forks), people-watching, eating treats, and listening to music – all with people who are easy to be around

4. Folk Festival! A week from today! Yippee!

5. Riding my bike along the river. The bike ride home from work is the best part of my day.

6. Camping! S’mores, campfires, beach-bummin’, “camper breakfast”, sleeping in a tent – it’s all good.

7. A family road trip. Yippee! I love, love, LOVE road trips with my family. I think we all get along best on road trips (even when cramped in a car that we’re outgrowing), ‘cause we’re all just so relaxed and happy.

8. Warm sun, good books…
Relaxing with a good book

9. Holidays. Being away from work for awhile. Re-charging. Oh how I need that. (Sadly, though, I have to split my holidays so that I can go through a hiring process to replace the staff person who just resigned.)

10. Water. I LOVE being near water in the summer – lakes, rivers, creeks, oceans, you name it.

11. Drinks on a patio. It’s my goal to have a few more lovely evenings like this with interesting, creative friends. (Friends in my proximity? Consider this a warning – I’ll be calling you. Unless you call me first, of course.)

12. Summer food. Barbecues. Picnics. Potato salad. Hotdogs from a street vendor.

13. Fun and carefree creative things. Like more wreckage. And finishing up my creative sanctuary in the basement. And doing a little more painting.