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In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Pay It Forward.”

When the mundane job gets tough and I’ve had enough I generally take 15 minutes to just walk away and collect my sanity. I’m very grateful that I do have a job that keeps me fed, clothed and stocked up on paint and canvas but sometimes you just need a white chocolate, macadamia cookie to put things right.

And that’s just what I did. Went to the closest sandwich shop to get that cookie. I paid with a $10 bill, got my change and sat outside the shop to eat my cookie. There was a panhandler whom I see often on the street. I decided that once I was finished my cookie I would give him my change. but I needed to save $5 for bread on the way home. I would give him all my change.

I began to adjust my change purse and my wallet when I realized that the cashier had short changed me $5. As I set to standing up there she was at my side, apologizing for making a mistake and handing me the five dollars. At the same instant another woman was offering to buy the panhandler a sandwich. He stood up and walked toward the shop passing me. I handed him the five dollars.

It was a very sweet moment. Not more than 10 seconds had passed since that $5 bill had been given to me in an act of honesty and kindness and I knew that I had to give it up to the man in need.

It felt so natural and real and the only moment of that day that I treasure.

Naturally Flowing Kindness

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Retreat Results

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Retreat Results

Each year I embark on a full day personal retreat along the Ottawa River. It became a tradition when I was searching for energy and inspiration as an artist around 2009. But now I am blogging this confession. I have not been on one of these retreats for 2 years and I have not been to my studio in 2 months. I’m stuck, blocked, dead in the water.

Last weekend I decided that I MUST go on my retreat.  I deduced that I can’t expect energy from the concrete jungle. I needed the same energy I got from spending 4 days in Westmeath. I realized that I didn’t go last year because I was just too tired and the planning usually took me two weeks. I would research different retreat ideas and incorporate them into a full day schedule. Seeking that creative nectar from the bosoms of Mother Nature should be structured after all …nes pas? (insert sarcasm of the highest level).

When I finally made up my mind that I was going and my back which had been wrenched for two weeks finally jerked back into place,  I also chose not to structure this retreat. I just packed a lunch and headed toward Quebec. Yes, I cross the creek from time to time but mostly for the cool trails that eventually lead me to solitude. Don’t get me wrong, Ottawa has the same trails but I prefer to start in Quebec and bike my way back to Ontario.

My good friend Mimma had suggested that I check out Recycle D’art along Montcalm. I absolutely did that and was impressed with the creative welding that I witnessed. The coolest piece for me was the odd looking all white cyclist and the creepiest one was the fur teepee with a face. I liked the tv fountain and really adored the multibreasted fairy along the water. It was a good start to a long day

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I made my way from this exhibit to the trail that leads to Park Mouffette. About half a kilometer into it I realized how out of shape I am and remembered how many freeking hills this trail has. I came up the fourth one and stopped at an old railway bridge that was no longer in use. I used to live close to this bridge in Ottawa and always promised myself that I would cross it one day. Now was as good a day as any and I sure didn’t want to take on any more of those hills in this heat.

I was immediately rewarded with a landscape of graffiti and birds. The two seemed to go hand in hand and lived in harmony. The squawking of the islands full of sea gulls and double breasted comorants gave life to the expansive bridge from Quebec to Ontario. It was all rust and urban art. Every inch of steel was harmonious and alive. My multicolored yarnbombed bike really stood out! I came across two teenagers just before Lemieux Island. They were jumping off the bridge and swimming in the river. Such bravery ! Then I came across another couple who were taking pictures from the bridge and smooching. At one point I heard male voices in the bushes and I became a little afraid. But they just smiled and lifted their beers as I walked by their private bush party. Phewf!

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I thought of my dog Ellis who used to love these trails too. I wished he was with me on this one. He always gave me courage, strength and love. Just thinking of him made me smile. I moved on with him in my heart and knew exactly where the next stop was going to be.

Remic Rapids has always been a source of energy for me and for many, people. John Ceprano is the man behind the sculptures there and I remember fondly the first time I met him on my first retreat along the river. When we met he filled me up with optimism, love for my fellow man and artistic appreciation in the first ten minutes of our conversation. I knew he would be a friend for life. And , six years later it is his hug I look most forward to when I bike along the river.

John really has a connection with nature and humanity. He’s fun to watch. As I approached the sculptures at the rapids this day I was disappointed to see he was not there. A young couple had crossed the taped off barrier and were checking out his work when all of a sudden one of the sculptures came crashing down. I was mortified and felt so bad for John that his work is so easily destroyed. I also felt bad for the couple that accidentally knocked it down.  Then out of the corner of my eye I see John strolling toward the couple with a smile on his face and an “oh well, shit happens” swagger. He didn’t even blink an eye and was immediately putting the sculpture back into balance. The young couple stayed and helped him and it was their wedding anniversary. What a great gift for all people involved. As it turns out the young man is an American Italian like John and they had the most wonderful conversations. I realized that I was on this retreat to listen.

It is the deep, hippy go lucky conversations, the long flowing talks that keep me coming back year after year. I listened, watched the ducks and geese and water and listened to these people connecting. I watched John teaching the young man his skills as they pieced the tower of rocks together again. I then knew that I was looking in the wrong place for answers and it was to him that I asked once we were alone,  “What do you do when you are blocked?”  “Well,” he replied, ” you just have to wait for it to pass. It will pass. You just do what you can do to get through it. It happens to everyone no matter what you are working on.”What a relief it was to give up the guilt I had been imposing on myself for weeks and weeks. I had to hear it from fellow artists. I’ve since heard the same thing from several artists. My mojo took a vacation. I don’t have a choice but to wait for its return. I could possibly take this “creative time-out” to just listen and learn new things. There are a million things I could do, or I could do nothing at all. It is truly up to me. I’m thinking I need a mentor and the other side of me doesn’t think she needs no stinking teacher. I giggle as my twins and crab battle it out inside me.

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These are the results of my retreat. I left my home at 10 a.m. and I returned home at 8 pm. I promise myself to not skip any more annual river retreats. And….the unstructured version works best for me.

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What is your secret to balance?

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I am often perplexed by how busy my life gets at times. And even more baffled when I find myself doing absolutely nothing for days. It’s a case of feast or famine with me usually and I’d like to find healthy ways to balance out my life. It’s not easily done when you have three people living inside you. Don’t get it twisted, I mean the zodiac personalities that reside in this shell. I was born June 21st so I am Gemini and Cancer. A set of twins and a crab can sometimes be a little daunting to deal with. I imagine that has something to do with the feast (twins) or the famine (crab inside her shell) aspects of Justy. But I know I am more than my zodiac. In Chinese zodiac I am a rabbit. So you can clearly see how sometimes I am going at 100 miles per hour and the next minute hunkered down inside my shell just sleeping. That is how my world is balanced.  With such opposing signs I wonder if I should even dream of having an even keel lifestyle.

I began gardening back in April and it seems to have consumed my every spare moment. I keep telling myself that I need to divide my time between garden and studio. I shouldn’t be spending so much time at home, being all domestic and redesigning my living spaces. Then I remind myself that I shouldn’t “should” myself and continue on my contented merry Suzy Homemaker way.

Today I am asking myself, am I avoiding the studio or is this cycle of being home bound something natural. Is this a natural cycle of renewal and domestic appreciation?  I’m growing suspicious of myself.

I work during the day, in an office with very little creative outlet. When I go home at night I am instantly drawn to my balcony full of greenery and flowers and then to the rooftop to tend to my vegetables. I’m not a very good gardener. I think I ate four salads from my garden last year. Things just didn’t grow as well as I expected. I learn more every year. Last night I gave my mother two new radishes from my garden. I grown radishes mainly because I know my mother loves them. I ate a strawberry from my garden and chatted with a neighbor who was planting flowers with his little dog Winston.  Back to my apartment to cook dinner and muck about cleaning here and there. This past weekend I actually spent the entire time cleaning my apartment and sorting my spare room where everything art related gets dumped. I still have much to do there.

What is keeping me so anchored to my apartment? How can I balance me (and all my personalities), my job and my art. I haven’t painted since March. I’m a little suspicious of me.

How do you find balance?

You can beat the Winter Blues

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I was just about to give into them, the Winter Blues. I was ready to  hunker down with as much chocolate, popcorn, wine and hobby projects and just wait out the rest of this winter in my little apartment. Then I started chatting online with a fairly new acquaintance and before I knew it we were exchanging some very intimate and personal stuff. It really struck me, THIS is what’s missing in my diet!

I was about to chock it up to menopause, which is already driving me mad because it’s starting to look like all the things I didn’t get as a teenager (pms, cravings, etc.) I am now getting. It’s Aunt Flo’s way of telling me, “You had it way too easy bitch, you can’t escape all of my wrath before you put me out to pasture!” But it was something more. I’ve been single for almost 15 years now. I’ve had a few flings here and there but nothing permanent. It’s been a fun ride but it can also be a very lonely. It’s been like sitting in a roller coaster car alone when you know you really want to squeeze someone’s hand next to you while you scream your fool heads off. It’s still a fun ride though but imagine how GREAT crushing someone’s hand could have been!

So now that menopause runs my life, I’m dealing with a little less sleep, a lot more sweat, and mood swings that make me feel schizo. One day I’m on top of the moon the next day I can’t find a dark enough hole to crawl into. It’s madness I tell ya! I really wish this would have hit me at puberty instead of now. Makes me wonder if women who did have pms don’t have any of this insanity during menopause. It’s too cruel to make women go through this twice in a lifetime….Mother Nature you’re a cold hard bitch at times. These times!

So I drank myself into a stupor Friday Night. I sat and chatted with a friend online, crocheted some doggie stuff, experimented with a new craft with mugs and watched the last season of The Wire. All in one night! I think I was bored? Maybe? Perhaps? So in my stupor I agreed to meet this new acquaintance for brunch before I realized that I just told the world that I am having a pity party all weekend and most everyone can go screw themselves. If that isn’t meno-bi-polarism smacking me in the face I don’t know what is. It’s definitely some messed up shit . And, being the woman I am, being my word and making the tongue in my mouth match the tongue in my shoe, I didn’t back out. I thought about it once or twice. I rumbled around with the idea of coming down with a migraine and ultimately chose to just be my word. It’s just much easier and more integral in my world.

So, I sat in the house on Saturday night as well. I ran to the studio to grab some gel medium and then back home again in that wonderful snow storm. It was actually quite pretty. I watched some comedies hoping to lift my spirits and made magnets for friends at work. They turned out like crap but I’m going to give them to my colleagues anyway. I could be judging myself too harshly but they are super elementary looking. Oh well, can’t always have a masterpiece happen. I chatted a little bit and before I realized it I made another date with a friend I haven’t seen in a long while. I was like, wtf is happening to me. I’m making dates in the same breath that I’m telling people I’m not feeling very sociable.

Yup, menopolarized! That’s my new word for this Jekyll and Hyde crap going on. I can’t blame it all on Winter Blues but the two are a wicked combo. I didn’t even get fries with it.

So my first galdate on Sunday turned out amazing and I know I’ve made a new trusted friend for life. She really just made me laugh and think and talk..yes she made me talk even if I didn’t want to. And she dragged me through her hood even though I just wanted to crawl back in my hole. And it’s a mighty fine hood.

I’m kind of catching onto myself. My mind and heart openly defying the desires of my astrological signs. All I want to do is crawl into my shell and have a little pity party with the twins. My soul is teaching my mind to ignore my heart. I’m being forced into social activities because deep deep deep inside me, its knows, I need people to feel alive, to stay alive, to feed my appetite for joy and I suspect, dare I say, hope, that whoever is running this show will be victorious!

I have another galdate on Friday and I know it’s going to turn out just fine too because she has aminals!!

Yes, I’m onto myself. I will probably still resist what is good for me from time to time but I’m going to go with the YES more often than the NO and see what happens. Perhaps the winter blahs will get shorter every year.

2014 wrapped up and moving ahead full steam into 2015

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Shall we start off 2015 by saying…GOODBYE 2014! It was a good year, a busy year, yes a very busy year and now my body is saying, slow down, smell the roses, paint a few roses, love a few roses.
Time to start a new year and new ways.
I have my health at the top of the list. I really want to loose another 40 lbs and I’m on day 6 of another cleanse. I must say I pigged out big time over the holidays and gained 5 lbs but I’ve already lost that. I also want to focus on my painting. I was a little embarrassed last October during our studio open house because I had very little work to show. Well not embarrassed but, okay a little, but really it was an eye opener that even though I have a studio I really need to start taking my art more seriously.
A colleague at work has commissioned a painting from me. That excites me. I’ve started with some paint sketches (small paintings) but I don’t think I’ve come up with something that is worth showing her yet. I’ll keep plugging away at it.

I’m really obsessed with Zentangles at the moment and I’ve done many of them on acrylic paper but now I’m translating it to canvas. Here is a pic of the beginnings of a zentangle. You can google the word to learn more if it really interests you. That’s what I did and I was hooked immediately. It’s basically a form of art meditation where you start with one central line and then work one side of the line at one time,  then the other. This is the largest zentangle I have ever done but you know me, break all the rules lol. It’s about 30″ x 40″. I’ve done one in color too and that breaks the camel’s back I’m sure lol.

below is a completed zentangle that I gave to a friend

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Oh I also completed some projects around the house during my holidays that I had put off all year because I was too fucking busy crocheting !!  Here is my favorite one. Took me an entire week to collect corks from people around the city but I godder done! Imagine how much wine I would have had to drink all year to accumulate those many corks? And corked wine is not cheap! The frame took 6 coats of paint and is about 14″ x 18″. I love my new jewelry box on the wall .

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and last but not least…here is my new favorite animal. I’ve babysat him twice now and I’m in love. His name is Zeus and he’s only a year old but he’s strong, cute and a little puppy in a great big great dane body lol….yes he takes up half the bed but that’s okay cuz he’s a super duper cuddly boy and I wuvs him!

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