NEW!

NEW Photography Class!! Join me this Saturday!!


So if you've ever been intimidated by your camera, THIS is the class for you!!!

It is a new class that is based on the concept that we learn BEST through PLAY!!  And so I have a bag of "tricks and toys" that we will use to learn how to move off auto mode and into a little bit of creative play with our photos!!

At this point, this Saturday is the only scheduled class, but if you can't make it and there is enough interest, I will consider teaching it again :)

Meanwhile, click HERE to register for Saturday!!!  I would  LOVE to play with you!!

And while you are there, you may as well join us at the Great Canadian Scrapbook Carnival!!!  There is shopping and creating and sooooo much fun to be had with our Canadian Scrapbooker Magazine team and readers!!!!  Wooooo hoooooo!!!!
CS14 - cover

September 26-27, 2014
Friday 9am – 6pm
Saturday 9am – 5pm
**NEW VENUE SPRUCE MEADOWS EQUIPLEX!
Admission Tickets:
2 Day Adult Pass:  $18
1 Day Adult Pass:  $12
2 Day Senior/Student Pass:  $15
1 Day Senior/Student Pass:  $10
Children 6yrs – 12yrs:  $2
(under 6 no charge)
FREE Shuttle from Somerset-Bridlewood Station

Announcing: Hope For Haiti Project!!


Okay so THIS has been on my heart since standing in Haiti at the school after helping to finish the 5th classroom and talking about the vast needs still to be met for these precious children…

As we stood looking across the rugged property of this school built on the side of the mountain, they mentioned that one day they hoped for an outdoor Art Room to be built on the rooftop overlooking the city of Cap Haitien below.


I smiled as I could so easily envision the students creating beautiful art and music in such an inspiring space… perhaps for just a small part of their day while at school, they could forget the difficult conditions that come with living in the slums at the base of the mountain.


I got to spend part of the day with the family of one of the students and help them cook a meal and clean their home… this is the mom in her kitchen (I vowed I would never again complain about anything in my own home!)

What really hit me is it takes so little to do so much for their lives in Haiti… and I'm not just talking money (although that helps too!).  I will never forget the look on this little girl's face as I indicated that I wanted to pick her up… it was like she won the lottery that I chose her to hold in that moment…


Anyways, back to the Art Room… I informed Frantzo, one of the many who has dedicated his life to helping those in need in both Haiti and Dominican, that I would see if all my Canadian artist friends back in Canada would be willing to help make this dream a reality. BTW… Canadians are mostly the ones who have helped build the school from the start so they LOVE us!!!


Once home, I emailed Canadian Scrapbooker Magazine whom I have worked with for almost 10 years to see if they wanted to join forces and within minutes I received a resounding YES!!! So we are partnering with Live Different who hosts trips to Haiti (and other locations to do humanitarian work).

And we are now calling on all our readers and all artists from across Canada to participate in this project!!

There are 3 ways you can participate!

1. Hope for Haiti Flags: for donations $35+ if you would like, we will send you a blank canvas flag that you can decorate and send back to us. We will then join them all together to create a beautiful banner for the new Art Room in Haiti!

2. Hope for Haiti Events: Host an art day, hold a garage sale or dinner or come up with another creative way to raise funds! Be sure to take a picture at your event and send it to us so we can share it with others! Every dollar and every gesture is precious to us!

3. Hope for Haiti Donations: We have set up a link where you can donate directly to the building of the Art Room!


Thank you in advance for your support and we invite you to watch closely how artists from across Canada can come together to make a difference in the lives of these deserving children in Haiti… what a beautiful picture of artists in Canada helping to bring art and hope and support to so many in Haiti.

Finally sharing

Ok… finally time to open up my gut and share about my trip to Haiti…

I wrote the below the week I returned (I was supposed to share in church, but had lost my voice)…


Every time I visit a new country, it seems I leave a little bit of my heart there.
This time, I left a huge chunk of my heart in Haiti.
I'm not exactly sure why… I've been processing to figure it out.

Maybe it was the blatant poverty that is apparent as soon as you cross the border into Haiti.


Maybe it was the sea of yellow ribbons on all the students I finally got to meet in real life after watching so many videos of them from my comfortable home in Canada. Those kids were almost like celebrities in my mind!


But I do know that God pretty clearly showed me how my teacher's heart, my passion for photography and my involvement in the art industry could all come together to help some of the most needy I've ever seen.


On the final day in Haiti, the school had a farewell party for us… this is something they only do a few times each year as there are sadly not a lot of Live Different groups that go to Haiti… it is expensive and far more physically demanding than other trips.


As we arrived to the party, the Christian principal and teachers led the students in singing "How Great Thou Art" in English for us… it took everything in me to not go into ugly cry while listening and knowing how harsh their lives really are living in the slums of Haiti.


Following a bit of a presentation (they LOVE Canadians by the way!), we were given the opportunity to serve the children a huge plateful of rice, beans and a small piece of chicken.  As each child ate, I walked around taking a good look (and some photos) of each and every student… saying a silent prayer for each one that God would somehow help them meet their daily needs of shelter, clothing, food and yes, even education.


I will never forget those beautiful children, their smiles and their hugs… nor do I want to. So now I'm figuring out what is my "do something" that I can still do for this vast need in Haiti.


So since writing the above, I have processed even more and am excited to say I have come up with some ways to further to help this school in Haiti as they struggle to continue building their school (we helped build the 5th classroom while there) and offer education to more and more needy students!!! So be sure to watch for the details for that and see how YOU can also get involved :)

Meanwhile, here is a short video of our trip to both Dominican to build a home and Haiti to build the school.  While watching, I challenge YOU to think about… "What is YOUR do-something"???

Going to Haiti!!!!

It's finally arrived!!!  

We leave this week for our trip to Haiti and Dominican to help build a school in Haiti and a home for a deserving family in the Dominican and we were just introduced to the family!!!!


This family of four consists of husband and wife, Jose (33) and Juanemilia (21), and their two children, Luis (3) and Wisnalyn (6 months). Jose has been living in the community for 25 years, and his wife recently relocated there 2 years ago. Jose works at a local car wash, and Juanemilia, who was only able to complete elementary school, stays home to care for the two young children. They are excited to be receiving a new home, as the one they are living in currently is unsafe, with mold problems, and rain that comes through the walls and roof.

Check out the baby girl and little boy!!!!  Better go empty my camera memory card cuz I've got a feeling it will be FULL of these two by the end!!!

Then we get to go help build this school in Haiti… 
it's up on a mountain… 
I should have worked out more to prepare!!!


I have to say this whole trip has somewhat snuck up on me!!!  Even though I've done a fairly good job of planning ahead and started gathering things for the trip months ago, I'm still finding myself suddenly frantically packing and creating last minute shopping and "to-do" lists!!  

I blame it on this past long weekend… it took away my Monday and I was counting on that day!!  But it was sooo worth it!!!  I absolutely LOVE LOVE LOVE watching my kids play soccer and I LOVE LOVE LOVE taking photos of the action (outdoors especially)…



Justin is in his last year of "regular" soccer and will need to play on a men's team next year if he wishes to continue (ACK!!!  My baby boy is growing up!!!!) so I'm desperate to not only watch every one of his final games, but to capture the memories as well in photos… 
it's a happy sad sort of thing… 
I envision myself scrapbooking after my kids have left home and laughing and crying as I relive it all.  But I'm going to stop now, because if I continue with this line of thought, I will end up in tears as I type!

Back to Haiti… I cannot wait.
I cannot wait to experience again the deep inner joy of making a difference in our world.
I cannot wait to experience it with so many close family and friends.
I cannot wait to capture images that will forever preserve it all.
And I cannot wait to come back and share with you all I learn and see and do.

What Moms REALLY want...



Mother's Day is this weekend...

I'm the first to admit that I love and eat chocolate and thoroughly enjoy beautiful flowers… but if you asked me what I REALLY want for Mother's Day, those things would be so far down the list (in fact I really DON'T want them on "expected days")!!

So when my son asked me awhile ago what I'd like as a gift "that wasn't too expensive" as he doesn't have a lot of money right now… I knew immediately…

"There is nothing I want more right now than a beautiful photo of me and you".

"I think I can do that", he replied.  "I'm beginning to see why they are important".


You'd think as a photographer I'd have thousands of me and my kids… but I don't.  I'm usually the one behind the camera so I have to be more intentional with this.

And when I think about what if something happened to them or to me, I fear I don't have enough photos!!!

Yup, even my son is starting to recognize that life as we know it today won't be the same as tomorrow and isn't what it was yesterday… 
we grow, we change, and sadly…

we lose loved ones sometimes unexpectedly… far before "their time"…

like the 5 university students here in Calgary recently…
like the niece my friend lost this week...

and suddenly photos are immensely meaningful, and precious, and coveted. 

And so that is what I as a Mom REALLY want for Mother's Day this year… some beautiful photos of me with my kids.

And I'm guessing many other moms out there would say the very same thing and so I have a special gift offer to give you what I want for myself… buy it for yourself or for your mom or a new mom or show it to someone who will buy it for you!!! 

And I've committed to giving 25% of the certificates bought towards helping moms and kids and families in Haiti when I go in 3 weeks…  what could be more special this Mother's Day?!?!?!


Oh and meanwhile go hug your loved ones and let them know you love them.

Mixed Media for Photography?!?!?!


So suffice it to say… I am just having WAY TOO MUCH FUN!!!

Not only am I LOVE LOVE LOVING playing in my new studio with beautiful everyday women (like Carlyn seen above who is expecting her first baby soon!!)… but I am also LOVING learning and playing with computer editing on my portraits!!!

As an artist who has been active in the scrapbooking world for decades and a photographer for even longer, it pleases me to no end to be able to create art with my photography!!!  Starting with beautiful props, gorgeous fabrics and a plethora of flowers and creative photo sessions with hair and makeup perfect for portraits and posing women just right to look their best and editing with artistic filters and colours and effects on the computer and finally presentation of professionally printed images in a beautiful frame or folio box.


And it IS ALL ART!!!  

In the crafting world, we call combining artistic methods "Mixed Media" (and may I just say that my soul sista Christy Riopel is the Queen of Mixed Media?!?!?!  Check out this piece she did recently… I am in love… and she's going to help me do my own art canvas for my home!!!  Be sure to watch for that reveal!!!)


Anyways, I'm not sure what the equivalent of "Mixed Media" would be in the world of photography, but I am having fun exploring it and pushing the boundaries… 
all while helping everyday women get to experience something fun where they get to look and feel gorgeous and have a beautiful artistic portrait of themselves that they can be proud of…

Like Sammi (below) who bravely shaved her head for a friend going through cancer…
who is graduating this year…
and deserves to have a beautiful portrait in her stunning grad dress.

Calgary GRAD Portraits

It seems like the entire year of Grade 12 is dedicated to graduating!!!

In between studying and making sure you actually pass and get into the college or university you would like, it is also a fun time of... 
finding a dress
choosing a hairstyle
 securing a limo...

but please don't forget about the PORTRAITS… especially those beyond the typical cap and gown!!  

After all, portraits preserve the memories of this wonderful milestone in life so be sure to save some time and money to invest in this extra fun part of graduation that will truly last a lifetime :)

And gathering a group of friends makes it extra special!!



I have a NEW GRAD PACKAGE ready to go for 2014 GRADS so be sure to contact me soon if you are interested.  I want to capture the true YOU!!!


Brazil… my own personal Soap Opera

I admit that back in my college days, I watched Days of Our Lives… it wasn't my fault though.

My roommate and I had one of the only TVs in the dorm and after lunch, all the girls would gather on our waterbed (yes, this was the 80s) and watch Days of Our Lives.  Despite my initial mocking of this ritual, I found myself gradually enthralled in a few story lines (ok… anything with Bo Brady) and before I knew it, I was fully hooked and joined in watching the ups and downs, tears and rejoicing and crazy plot twists!!

So what does this have to do with my recent trip to Brazil??  Well, the weeks leading up to leaving and the actual trip had a somewhat "Soap Opera" feel for me… ups and downs and crazy plot twists… and lots of tears!!  Let me explain…


I've sponsored children in Brazil for many years… and I've met each one of my "children".  That alone has ups and downs because 2 of them I currently have no idea where they are now… each time I go to Brazil, I pray I find them or see them, but to date, I have never heard again from Alexandre or Carina :(

Then two years ago while in Brazil, our family chose to sponsor Taira Patrick Machado Rodrigues…


It was easy to love Patrick (he preferred we call him this as we struggled to pronounce his first name!)  He was a soccer player on his way to possibly play for a professional team (he spent hours playing soccer with Justin and Lindsey)



And he was always full of joy and happiness and fun… and he spoke fairly good English which really helped!!  And when we returned to Canada, we continued to talk on Skype and Facebook and he slipped into my heart like he was one of my own children. 

So I had been anxiously waiting for 2 years to return to Brazil to see Patrick and all the other kids at Chain of Love. Patrick's birthday was Feb. 6 (he turned 18) and I was so excited as I was arriving the next week on Feb. 14 and had both Christmas and Birthday gifts ready to deliver along with two years of missed hugs.  We talked online the morning of his birthday and I thought all was well...

But I was devastated later that day to learn that he left Chain of Love that afternoon.

  And all the worries and thoughts about not ever seeing him again flooded my heart… my friends consoled me as best they could, but I was so very sad and desperately prayed that I would still get to see him.  And thankfully I did… and it was wonderful.  I heard that he had moved in with a brother I had never met.  Well, let me introduce you to Bruno…


Here's where the classic Soap Opera twist comes in… a few months ago, this guy Bruno came looking for Patrick at Chain of Love and introduced himself as his biological older brother.  They had no idea each other existed… and to meet Bruno was like seeing double!!!  They are freakishly similar in so many ways!!!  And along with Bruno, came an extended family that is now part of Patrick's life outside of Chain of Love. 


It was soooo sweet as we jumped on a bus and he took me on a whirlwind trip to meet his grandparents (who he and Bruno currently live with), his biological father, his uncle and cousins.  I got to see Patrick several times over the week and would have loved more time with him, but I'm just thankful for what we did have together.


He still calls me "Mommy" and I love that, but I feel so much better knowing he has real family now in Brazil who also care about him. I still worry about him… he is trying to finish school this year, but it is difficult for him and education just doesn't hold the same importance there sadly.  But I pray each day for him and just trust that God has a wonderful plan for his life… and I have to just love him from a distance again… and it's so very hard, but it's all so very good.

SCENE 2 from my Brazilian Soap Opera:  

So before leaving for Brazil when I was being consoled by my soul sista Christy about Patrick leaving Chain of Love, she said to me, 

"Maybe God is just making room in your heart for the next child"

And I didn't want to consider it because I was hurting so bad… 
But then while doing a photo shoot (we also sponsor this beautiful girl named Jana… I had sooo much fun doing portraits with her!!!  She is such a special and talented girl… she's artistic too!!)


So while taking portraits, along came the sweetest boy I think I have ever met.  He said to me, "Excuse me, but would it be possible for you to also take a photo of my sister?  She is shy and does not think she is beautiful, but I think she is very beautiful."  
And my heart melted.  
Meet Matheus and his sister Yasmin…


And now I sponsor Matheus (who likes to be called Mat because it sounds more Canadian)… his birthday is the day before mine and he will turn 16 in March.  And we talk every day (his English is excellent) and he is quickly slipping into my heart… you were right Christy.  Patrick is still very much in my heart and always will be, but there is always room for more… God gives us infinite space for love… and for that I am thankful.

So my Brazilian Soap Opera still continues… it has ups and downs and plot twists and changing characters… but it is mine and it adds so very much to my life and I can NOT WAIT to see what all happens next!!!

And the WINNER IS...

And the WINNER IS...

The Children in Haiti!!!!!



This past weekend we did our Crop For Haiti scrapbooking and crafting event and it just always makes me giddy that that we can have THAT MUCH FUN and raise THAT MUCH MONEY that is going to change THAT MANY LIVES!!!!

So our total raised was (insert drum roll here)...

$7607.25


During the event, I had a "moment"... 
I looked across the room at all the women laughing, crafting, eating and chatting away...
and I just had such a heart full of gratitude (my word of the year)...
I am still in awe how a few posts on facebook and my blog results in this event each year...
with the absolute BEST women ever!!!!!
And the best instructors EVER (seriously talented ones that give so generously of their heart, soul and creative giftedness without hesitation)...
and the best team of helpers (who take control of everything non-crafty for me!!)
and a church that enables all of it...
and an organization Live Different who is changing our world!!!!



We don't yet know exactly how much building the school in Haiti is going to cost or how much building a home in Dominican will be... but it is ALL GOOD!!!  I will keep you posted once I know, but in the meantime...

My heartfelt THANK YOU to those who joined in.  
I have no more words... just gratitude for you.

Crop For Haiti this Saturday, Feb. 1!!!!!

Woooo hooooo!!!  This Saturday, February 1, 2014 is the BEST event EVER for a great cause!!!  And I can hardly wait!!!  We still have about 5 spots left should you still wish to join us for the entire day, but note:

EVERYONE IS WELCOME 
to come shop our onsite Crafting Garage Sale 
(from 10am-4pm) 
or even sign up for one of the below classes.  

And once you see these amazing classes, you might want to rearrange your schedule!!!


"Enjoy the Journey" layout by Christy Riopel (10:30am - $30)  Let Christy guide you through the creation of a lusciously layered layout designed to showcase a special photo of someone enjoying this journey called "life" (hopefully it's YOU!!)


"Flutterbies and Friendship" cards designed by Jennifer Reynard and taught by Sharon Reinhart (1:30pm - $20)  Any day is a great day to give a special card, but with Valentine's Day just around the corner these beauties will give you 4 great reasons to share some loving words with someone special!!


"Creative Canvas Play" mixed media canvas with Christy Riopel (4pm - $30)  We don't call her the "Queen of Mixed Media" for nothing!!!  Learn how to play with sprays, stencils and simple drawing to create your very own unique masterpiece!!

Now that you've seen the awesome classes, let me introduce our talented instructors...


Sharon Reinhart
Sharon is a multi-media designer, teacher, consultant and author who has been widely published and has taught at countless events including CHA.  We are so very fortunate to have this local Calgary girl join us for this event for a cause.


Christy is our local "Queen of Mixed Media" and teaches us great new techniques each and every time she blesses us with her projects!!  She writes for Canadian Scrapbooker Magazine and has also taught around the world including at CHA and Crop and Cruise and at countless other events.

I cannot wait for Saturday!!!  And most importantly, I cannot wait for May when I will get to go to Haiti to help build a school and a home in Dominican for some very deserving families and children!!!  I couldn't do it without you!!!!

How I plan to fail in 2014

I love New Years!!  Partly because we always have a huge party to celebrate the New Year and partly because I seize any opportunity to re-evaluate my life and ponder and plan what I want to change.   I do this at New Years, on my birthday in March, at the beginning of Summer, start of Fall... pretty much anytime I can as I think it is the key to actually seeing growth in myself.

So after much pondering leading up to 2014, I decided that I will plan on failing on some things this year!!!

YES... I'm planning to fail in 2014!!!

Before you think I've gone a little "cray cray"... let me explain.  I've never really been scared of failure in my life... I fully admit I experience fear (like with spiders, heights, blood, being seen without make-up, etc.),
but I'm not scared of failure... 
if something lights a fire in my heart, 
I am the first to jump on it and go for it.  
If it works out, GREAT, if not, 
live and learn and move on.

There is a pattern in my life of me trying somewhat crazy things... this is what led me many years ago to try out for my college volleyball team despite never having really played (and yes, I made the team)


It's what made me jump at a job in inner city Winnipeg working with street kids (and wandering all alone through some pretty dangerous areas of town... much to my mother's chagrin!!  I just kept telling her "Mom, if I'm meant to be shot, I'm not going to drown".  I'm sure that calmed her!!!!)


It's also what led me to take a chance with this guy who caught my eye one night sitting in Bible Study at church (I still have the note I wrote out to phone him when I knew he was out... I rehearsed it over and over to make sure I sounded calm, cool and collected when leaving a message!!  It worked!!!  He called me back, we talked for hours and the rest is history!!!)


Years later after "finding scrapbooking"... I entered the biggest contest out there at the time... Creating Keepsakes Magazine's infamous "Hall of Fame" contest and got chosen and published in the 2003 edition!!!!  (It was only honourable mention, but it ignited my passions and long story short, led me to my first front cover with Better Homes and Gardens Magazine and regular appearances on TV that I still do to this day!!!


And THAT led me to probably the craziest BHAG (Big Harried Audacious Goal) I ever had... I took a HUGE risk and planned, coordinated and hosted a Scrapbooking Cruise... and I had NEVER EVEN BEEN ON A CRUISE SHIP BEFORE!!!  Talk about biting off more than I can chew... but it worked and I did it again and again as it made for some of the best adventures of my life and friendships that I am eternally grateful for!!!


So you see, I could go on and on about how my life is FULL of taking chances and risking failure (btw, not all of my BHAGs work out!!  Sometimes things don't go as planned... but I don't let it knock me down and out... like our favourite fish says... "Just keep swimming, swimming, swimming!"

And this year, 2014, I am planning to fail because I'm setting up some pretty crazy goals... one I've already failed!!!

Perhaps you have heard about "365 Grateful"... it's a challenge to take a photo each day of something you are grateful for.
Well... I've already failed!!!!  
And it's only January!!!! 
And I'm a photographer!!!
  
BUT IT'S OK!!! I knew full well I would fail!!!  But that doesn't stop me from trying and still taking photos some days and striving to be more grateful in my life in 2014.  In fact, it's my word of the year for 2014 (and this photo is one of the ones I DID take of my orchids from that handsome guy posted above that are blooming beautifully)...


So although I'm planning to fail at the official 365 Grateful challenge, I am NOT planning to fail at being more grateful and taking photos of random things I wouldn't otherwise photograph that make me happy and grateful for the abundant blessings in my life... I just won't do it every day and that's ok!!

And one more way I plan to fail in 2014...
I mean, it's bound to happen...
And I'm bracing myself for it now...
Because I don't want THIS failure in particular to stop me...

I'm going to take a beautiful photo of a beautiful woman... and she's NOT going to like it and she will NOT see it as beautiful or see herself as beautiful.

And there will be nothing more I can do about it except hope and pray that one day she will see herself the way others see her and especially the way God sees her... a beautiful creation worthy of celebration for simply being alive.  So in anticipation of this inevitability, I'm choosing to focus instead on all the women who DO come through my studio who not only LOVE the experience, but also LOVE their photos... like Tanya... wife, daughter, devoted hockey-mom, scrapbooker, friend to many and much more that makes her truly beautiful (inside and out)!!!!


Yup... I am bound to fail in my BHAG of photographing every day women and capturing beautiful photos for them... 
but that's ok... 
and I will persevere 
because I know the truth :)