Learning from Loss

Another dose of grief has come my way... this one different from Christy... but yet I know those close to him have joined the "Grief Club" (see previous post).


Cole Brown has been our "guy in Haiti" as I have coordinated with him and our Hope for Haiti fundraising efforts here in Canada over the past few years to build an ART room and teach art at the school there. Cole has been living in DR/Haiti for the past 10 years and passed away in a plane crash doing aid work following the recent hurricane in Haiti.

I think you can tell a lot about a person by how children react... and the children in Haiti were a testament to how passionate Cole was about them and helping their school and community. He was also an insanely amazing photographer that I may or may not have been jealous of and wanted to be just like when I grow up!!


So even though Cole was super private, I kinda forced him to get in front of the camera for me and video taped an interview I had with him while in Haiti... through some nerves, you can hear the passion and heart he had for this country and my prayer is that we can continue to help fulfill his visions for this community...



The lessons I am learning through loss lately are vast... but the bottom line is this...

Life on earth is fleeting. I believe God prompts us in different ways to make the most of it by helping others. My prayer is that when it is my time, I will hear the words in Heaven, "Well done good and faithful servant." And so that is how I want to live out the rest of my life on earth, however long that may be.

I've Joined a Secret Club

I feel like I have joined a secret club... a club I didn't realize existed.

I joined the day I lost my soul sista Christy Riopel... young moms are not supposed to suddenly pass away out of our lives forever...


I was sitting in church when I found out and it decimated me. I've never lost anyone before that was this close, this important, this young and I've been learning ever since just how GRIEF works it's way into your life and forces you to join this secret club... 

the GRIEF club.

Everyone who has lost someone near and dear knows of this secret club... everyone understands that there is nothing you can do about it either... you suddenly join one day and GRIEF has it's way with you... however it wants, whenever it wants and for as long as it wants. 

This is what I wrote that day...

My heart is decimated...I'm not done doing life with you yet... I'm not done laughing with you till it hurts and tears are running down my legs and I'm not done crying with you till the tears dry up and the laughter returns...I'm not done learning all you still had to teach me...I'm not done being soul sistas who truly know and love one another through good and bad times...I'm not done eating your amazing cooking (who knew you can BBQ a turkey?!?)...
I'm not done watching you create masterpieces of art out of thin air...
I'm not done with the dreams we had once we had the time and money and opportunity...
I'm not done travelling to hot tropical locations with you...
I'm not done having our long life perspective talks (who am I going to call now?!?)...
I'm simply not done and I don't know what to do...
My heart is not ready to be done...
I sat in church this morning before I knew... the Bible passage was Psalm 23 and specifically talking about walking through the valley and shadow of death... I had no idea that was coming into my life within hours...
I'm not ready to do that yet... but God is and always will be my comfort and my rock so I trust in Him to get me through and pray the same for all who knew and loved you... I love you my friend and forever soul sista 
I'm not done watching you create masterpieces of art out of thin air...I'm not done with the dreams we had once we had the time and money and opportunity...I'm not done travelling to hot tropical locations with you...I'm not done having our long life perspective talks (who am I going to call now?!?)...I'm simply not done and I don't know what to do...My heart is not ready to be done... I sat in church this morning before I knew... the Bible passage was Psalm 23 and specifically talking about walking through the valley and shadow of death... I had no idea that was coming into my life within hours... I'm not ready to do that yet... but God is and always will be my comfort and my rock so I trust in Him to get me through and pray the same for all who knew and loved you... I love you my friend and forever soul sista Christy.

I created the above art in her honour for the Bible Art Journaling article in the Winter 2016 issue of Creative Scrapbooker Magazine... be sure to buy that issue as we have several amazing tributes to Christy within the pages...



Meanwhile, I'm still learning what it means to be a member of the GRIEF club... but this I know... I have a new appreciation for life. I always thought I already had good perspective on what is truly important, but the loss of Christy has taken it all to a whole new level yet again. I'm not exactly certain what it will all mean... but I'm open and ready to learn. I'm 50 years old and still trying to figure out what I want to do with my life... this I know... it's going to have to be meaningful.

PS. I am sooooo thankful I forced Christy to pose for a few portraits in my studio recently... I always say that one day your photos will be your most valuable possession... and there are never enough of them. Truth.

Be Still My Heart!!


This is a "be still my  heart" video from Haiti... we were at the end of our trip and as always, we get to feed the children at the school. It quickly came to our attention, however, that some of the older children were stealing food from the younger ones... you can't really blame them I guess as when you are that hungry, you resort to a bit of a "survival of the fittest". 

But once we were aware, we became the PROTECTORS of the younger and more vulnerable and amidst the utter chaos of 200+ students trying to eat and run around on the playground, I pointed my camera at my husband... this precious little girl was so utterly contentedly letting him feed her!! Each time she wanted a drink, she would just look at him and give a gentle nod...

video

One of the greatest needs this community has is food... and I've been brainstorming how we can help provide that for them. They had a kitchen generously donated to the school so that is now there and ready to go, but they need a source of food... and in Haiti, that is a huge challenge!!! But not impossible...




So even though we raised enough funds to build them the ART ROOM (which is AWESOME!!!!), I don't think I can stop there knowing that even their basic needs of food and water are still going unmet.. here is where we stand today on our fundraising...


I still believe that TOGETHER WE CAN DO THIS!!!

Haiti in July

 

It's hard to know where to begin!!  This was my third trip to Haiti to help build the school and teach art and it was probably one of the best yet hardest experiences... the children were again so very happy to see visitors and especially excited about getting to do more ART!!!

Below you see how they prepared for our arrival and on top of that rooftop is where we began building the new ART ROOM or ART DECK that will have a beautiful view overlooking the city of Cap Haitien below. 



I got to personally deliver the hundreds of ART banners that Canadian crafters all made to help decorate the new art room!!! I took photos of each one with one of the students holding it so watch for those still coming if YOU are one of the generous souls that donated one!!  We will still have to sew them together and deliver the final banner someday, but it's exciting to see them all!!


I also had the privilege of delivering this extra special piece of ART from the Seven Person's School in Alberta to the principal (it's now hanging in the "teachers room"!! Together this tiny little class of grade 5/6 students raised over $3000 for the school in Haiti AND sent sport supplies for them!!! The principal said he was going to pray many blessings come back to those who gave so much :)


So... guess how old this little boy in red is?!?!?!

Our team member standing with him is 16... this little boy is 15...

He comes from a family with a single mom and her 5 boys (the youngest 4 attend the school) and we had the privilege of helping build them a new home!!!! But it was so very hard to see how malnourished they all were... just utterly gut wrenching :(  So many of the kids there are in similar situations and it is so very hard to know what to do... but long ago I learned that we help by helping one person, one family, one community, one school... and if everyone does a small part, it can make such a HUGE difference.

So much more to still share!!!

Crops for Haiti Across Canada

Check it out!!! 
If you haven't already seen this visual... here are all the locations that held similar Crop for Haiti events across Canada!!

I have to say it has been overwhelming for me to see how even complete strangers have joined in our project and I can't say thank you enough!!!

THANK YOU!!!!

A special thank you to Creative Scrapbooker magazine for partnering with me to help make this happen and for their constant support and encouragement of my big hairy audacious ideas!!

Here are a few group photos from some of the events with more to come!







TOGETHER WE CAN DO IT!!!

Crop For Haiti - Calgary results!!

Before I even begin, I need to say a

HUGE THANK YOU 

to everyone who made this event a success...

My team (Jennifer Reynard, Brenda Bedard, Marlene McCook) who so willingly jumped in to help out in so very many ways (and especially in the kitchen which is NOT my forte!). Michelle King, Heather Rambow and Jennifer Reynard for designing and teaching, and ALL my volunteers that helped out during the day including the "carriers", my hubby, sister-in-law Cindy and 84 year old parents!! And to all who donated Raffle Prizes, items for the Spin to Win, food and more!! And then of course, all our 54 attendees!!!


Our motto for the Hope for Haiti project to raise $20,000 for the school in Haiti with Creative Scrapbooker magazine and Live Different is

"Together we can do this!"

Although there are still some final receipts, etc. trickling in, TOGETHER we were able to raise

$5,779 

We spoke with Live Different this week and found out there are some immediate needs at the school they are currently working on (finishing the kitchen, obtaining a water supply, etc.) that might be part of the building project in July when Brad and I are planning to go (we also might start the art room too!!). So we will donate the majority ($4000) from our crop specifically to the Art Room fund and will reserve the remainder ($1779) for the immediate needs and building projects at the school during our trip in July (hopefully including some more ART supplies to teach ART again while there!!).

They also sent me a couple photos showing an update on the school and it was so very exciting to see and hear about some amazing progress since I was there last year... 


On top of the roof of the first classroom (on the front left of the photo) is where the new "Art room/open area classroom" will eventually be built. The unfinished building on the right of the photo is the new kitchen/feeding area where they plan on feeding the children at least one meal each day so that they are better prepared to learn :)


This is the view of the school from behind over looking the ocean and the city of Cap Haitien below. As you can see, there is still a LOT of work to be done, but such progress is so great to see!!


And one of my favourite photos of Cole who works for Live Different and lives in Haiti... sitting inside one of the finished classrooms surrounded by the students captivated by something on his computer :)

And finally, I leave you with a shorter version of the video we showed at the crop...


Again, from the bottom of my heart and overflowing out my eyes...

Thank you.

Crop for Haiti - Calgary



Join us for this year's annual "Crop for Haiti" event in Calgary on Saturday, January 30, 2016!!

Cost is $75 and includes a light breakfast, lunch, supper and snacks, a Crop and Cruise Tote Bag with special gift ($25+ value), "Hope for Haiti" flag to decorate including techniques ($35 value), volunteers to carry your supplies to and from your cars, start and sweep snow off your car (priceless!), raffle prizes, games and more!!


Event will take place in the gymnasium at Grace Baptist Church located at 2670 Radcliffe Drive SE from 9am-9pm with plenty of space to crop! This crop is part of the "Crop for Haiti" events taking place across Canada to raise funds for the school in Haiti we are helping to build! Space is limited so register soon!!

Bible Art Journaling - How to get started!!

Christy: (while chatting on the phone) I keep forgetting to tell you about Bible Art Journaling!
Allison: What's that?? Sounds interesting!!
Christy: People are doing art journaling right inside their Bibles. Google it.
Allison: (Googling) This is soooo cool!! This is so me!!
Christy: I thought you'd like it! And I thought we could do it together... you know the Bible and I know art!!



And that's how it began.

We (Christy Riopel and I) bought journaling Bibles from Amazon (ESV Journaling Bible published by Crossway) and did our very first pages together (above)... Proverbs 3:5... "Trust in the Lord with ALL your heart and do NOT lean on your own understanding." I can't begin to explain how many times this verse has helped me through my life.

(Prima Bloom Girl stamp designed by Jaime Dougherty who is also an avid Bible Art journaler!!!)

And I can't begin to explain how my heart is captivated by this new obsession!! Imagine... I can combine my faith with my art and recording my thoughts and life lessons all within the pages of one precious Bible!!! And I can even add photos!!!

It's like my entire heart all in one place!!!

And Bible Art Journaling is growing around the world!! Some call it "illustrated faith" or "documented faith" or "creating in faith" (google those!!) and they can't seem to keep the Journaling Bibles in stock!! I think it's because so many of us are finding ourselves driven back into our Bibles in a new and creative way with this!!



So tons of you are asking a TON of questions so I thought I'd answer a few here :)

Q&A about Bible Art Journaling

Q. What sort of Bible do you use for Bible Art Journaling?

Ideally you want a Bible that has "margins" down the side of each page (mine are 2") and slightly thicker pages. The translation is up to you. I bought an ESV Journaling Bible published by Crossway from Amazon. You can also order direct from Crossway or other online Christian book stores. Here is the one I use...



Q. What supplies do you need to get started?

Once you have your Bible, you can honestly begin with just a pencil!! Most also use pencil crayons and gel highlighters and journaling pens that don't bleed through (I like Faber Castell Pitt Pens best and bought a set at Michaels). For this page I took a photo of myself, changed it into a drawing on the computer then replicated it in my Bible using pencils, added the tears (and fake eyelashes cuz I can!) and then journaled. I LOVE it!!!!


For scrapbookers like me, I'm finding a TON of use from my scrapbooking supplies (stamps, inks, gelatos, stickers, rub-ons, stickles, glitter, stencils, etc.) and have developed a new fetish for stamps!! Because I can't usually draw super well, I find stamps are puurrrrfect!!!! Some companies are now even creating stamps just for Bible Art Journaling or illustrating your faith like Stephanie Ackerman's from Unity Stamps :)



Q. Don't paints, inks, colours and pens bleed through to the other side of the thin pages?

Depending on what you are wanting to do with your page, you might want to prep the page with gesso or a clear matte gel first (buy at any art store). This not only seals the page and prevents bleed, but it also allows certain mediums to be better applied, blended and worked with.


I did a video of Christy demonstrating how to use gesso to prepare a page so I will be sure to post that real soon!! It's always better to be able to watch someone else do it and learn that way especially someone as talented as Christy :)


Well I think that's enough for today, but you HAVE TO get the Fall 2015 issue of Canadian Scrapbooker Magazine where Christy and I wrote an entire article that has 20 different page samples and explains in even more details how to get started with Bible Art Journaling and illustrating your faith right inside your Bibles!!! You can also follow me on Facebook and Instagram (click button on top of page) to see more work!!


And if you have any more questions, please don't hesitate to ask!!!

Save the Date - Sat. May 9

I am excited to announce that I will be involved in an ART SHOW AND SALE on 
Saturday, May 9th!!

"Art from the Heart" will feature several local artists with a wide variety of products that will be perfect additions to your home or gifts for Mother's Day!!! These include:


  • Mixed Media
  • Glass Fusion Jewelry
  • Oil Paintings
  • Metal Art
  • Photography
  • and more!!

AND... you will have the opportunity to support a great cause... Hope for Haiti ART ROOM Building Project through a Silent Auction of items and the purchase of ART made by the actual students attending the school in Haiti! Come to the show to pick your own custom piece of ART!!!




What I want for my 49th birthday

So I've been celebrating turning 49 for at least a week and I don't want it to stop. In fact, I think I'll just go all year in anticipation of a SUPER BIG celebration next year when I turn 50!!

Yes 50!!! WOW!!! When did THAT happen?!?!?! Well it hasn't yet, but it's coming God willing! And I am going to PARTY!!!! But perhaps not how you might think...

Sure I'd love to have a huge celebration with family and friends, but on my wish list of things I'd most want to receive is another experience like Haiti again... there is nothing else that comes close to feeding my soul to the depths...


You see, going to Haiti puts ALL of life into perspective... and as I'm aging, I'm finding real clarity in what I want to do with my life and how I wish to spend my time, my energy, my strengths and talents, and my money. 

And high up on that list is continuing to help these precious children and the entire community in Haiti by continuing to build their school and bring water and food and healthcare and ART to them!!


I've got some ideas for this next year and I CAN. NOT. WAIT.

Meanwhile, know that my birthday plans involve YOU!!! Because together we can change our world.

Short Haiti Story - "The Tarantula"

We are home from another trip to Haiti building a school there for some of the neediest people in our world. I have so many stories and photos to share so I'm going to break them into "short stories" from Haiti over the next several weeks. Enjoy!!!

"The Tarantula"

Last year in Haiti we worked with a group of construction workers at the school who didn't speak our language which made it difficult for us to connect. It wasn't until the end of our trip last year when they challenged us to a soccer game that we finally felt we made inroads into relationships with them... and then we left.


Well this year, many of the same construction workers were there and we recognized each other and right from the get-go, there was a much warmer reception! So the very first day we were working, I had tried to speak some Creole with a few of them while working and was moving a pile of rocks (there were a TON of rocks to move!!!) when we uncovered a TARANTULA!!!

A big hairy live tarantula!!!


Well despite being terrified of ANY spider-type creature, the photographer in me jumped immediately into action as I ran to grab my camera and returned to take a photo of this super creepy specimen!! So as with all photos of creepy things, I started further off capturing photos and then slowly moved closer as I felt safe to do so. So I was getting in nice and close when one of the construction workers reached in, grabbed the tarantula and

THREW IT AT ME!!!!!!

What happened next is quite the blur, but I remember leaping in the opposite direction to where I thought the tarantula landed and have been told there was some screaming involved and I apparently hit the construction worker a few times!!! Oh and all the while I was desperately reminding myself to NOT DROP MY CAMERA as I jumped on top of loose rocks especially as I had NOT taken the time to put the strap around my neck.

And you know what??? 

This was the highlight of my day and one of the best moments of my trip this year!!!

You see, it was such a sure sign to me that the local Haitian construction workers welcomed us foreigners with open arms... what you need to understand is Haitians are used to being exploited by foreigners and strangers... they don't trust easily... they don't understand why "rich white people" would come to their country to work and pay to do it!! But because we had come last year and returned to do it again this year, they trust that we really do care... and they trusted us enough to have some fun and throw a tarantula at us (or me... but I like to think of it as "taking one for the team").

And that incident set the tone for the rest of the week... their acceptance of us was evident and it was pure joy to work along-side these men who work so very hard building this school for this community (part of our trip expenses goes towards paying their wages to work on the project with us). 


And for those wondering, the construction worker insured that we would be safe from the tarantula. After analyzing it (check out this photo of the underside of a tarantula!!!), he safely removed it far away from our construction site (ok he smashed it a couple times with his shovel and then drop-kicked it down the mountain!!). And for those of you on Facebook who were more worried about the tarantula than me... sorry to say he did NOT survive... (but I did :)

Stay tuned for more stories!!!!

So much HOPE!!

I'm sitting here with tears streaming down my face because I am just so full of HOPE right now.

HOPE is something that I don't always feel… I watch the news and lose hope. I see so many of my friends suffering struggling and I lose hope. I see disease taking away loved ones and I lose hope. I walk into my laundry room and see mountains of clothing and lose hope (yup some days it is sadly just that simple).

But this week I am full of HOPE.

Live Different is the organization that I use to go to Mexico, Dominican and Haiti to build with and help change lives. I love them. They are Canadian. They are determined to help meet the most basic needs of some of the neediest in our world. WestJet is one of their biggest sponsors and this week a video has been flying around the internet… WestJet's "Blue Santa" went to the Dominican to the same community I was there building with and I recognize so many of the children!!!

And WestJet has definitely built a LOT of homes in this community and now a playground I plan on playing on in February when I go back to visit… but I need to give a special call-out to Live Different and the people who have dedicated their lives to helping those in our world struggling to even have the basics in life… they along with companies like WestJet give me hope.

So I am heading back to Haiti in February (we fly into Dominican so that is why we get to visit the above community again). And because I am NOT a large organization like WestJet, my "offerings" are smaller, but having been there and seen first hand, I fully understand the difference even $1 makes…. sadly it is shocking… but seeing how many are willing to get involved gives me hope :)

There are 3 ways you can help me "multiply my offerings"…


1. My good friend Jennifer Reynard (who has a heart of gold), is hosting one of her infamous crops here in Calgary and donating the proceeds to the trip in February where we will continue to help build a school there. This fills me with hope as this crop fills up. There are limited spots available so register ASAP if you would like to join us Jan. 24.



2. I am also doing an ONLINE AUCTION of mostly scrapbooking and crafting items, but also a few other goodies thrown in!! It started this past week and will pretty much run until it is either all gone or the Jan. 24 crop… whichever comes first!! 100% of all proceeds will go towards the Haiti trip and school so build generously and please SHARE!!!  It is on Facebook HERE.
 

3. If you would just like to donate money, you can do that too!!! Anything over $20 is tax receiptable and the link to do that is HERE.

And one more thing that just put a smile on my face this week and HOPE in my heart… I photographed a special lady… she wants to give her children the gift of a legacy portrait this Christmas… her and her husband have been married over 55 years… she understands that one day these photos will be precious… we had so much fun!! We added eyelashes and lip gloss and dressed her up in beautiful lace and sparkly jewels and we talked for hours about everything from marriage and how she met her husband to her favourite perogy recipe and fashion. I know her children will see the beauty of this portrait and now I just pray that she will also see it as she is truly a beautiful lady inside and out.


In case it isn't already obvious… I love what I do.

And because my heart for photography and helping others go hand in hand, I have another way you can help support the school in Haiti… 100% of proceeds from my photography this Christmas is going towards the funds for this trip AND I created a Christmas Special...


So with the purchase of a Deluxe Photo Session ($175), you receive a BONUS GIFT worth over $175 ($350+ value for only $175). And it all goes towards the Haiti school building trip in February. But HURRY as there are only 5 left!!!

Oh my and ONE more way to help with Haiti… I am now a Mary Kay consultant and am also donating all my proceeds towards the trip from now until I leave in February so if you would like a catalogue or would like to put in an order, please let me know!!

Killing Creativity



So as my teenaged kids are exploring assorted options for their future lives (especially Justin who is graduating this year), so I am re-visiting what I know to be true in life in attempts to help them make some important decisions on their journey… and I came across one of my favourite TED talks ever!!! I had seen this years ago, but it is worth rewatching (over and over again).

AND… it just so happens to also reinforce why I am so passionate about helping the school in Haiti build an ART CLASSROOM!!!  "ART" encompasses actual art, but also music, dance and all things creative… which we know to be vital to for so many children, but so poorly understood or encouraged. Anyways, I love one of his final quotes in his talk...

"We need to see our children for the HOPE that they are… our task is to educate the WHOLE being so they can face the future and make something of it."

So despite our world screaming that academics, education, money and status is what "success" looks like, I'm trying to be the voice in the wilderness proclaiming something different… and the most critical piece of advice is an ancient piece of wisdom and truth… spoken by a really wise man centuries ago who knows even more about the future than Ken Robinson… Jesus said...

"Love the Lord your God with all your heart,
and with all your soul,
and with all your strength,
and with all your mind;
and love your neighbour as yourself.
Do this and you will live."
Luke 10:27-28

So what do I REALLY want for my children on this earth? 


1. I want them to love God with all their heart.
2. I want them to love themselves.
3. I want them to love others with as much passion.
4. I want them to find joy in a life of service to God and themselves and others.

And so with that base firmly established, now the task is to discern how this will play out in the specifics of what they choose to do! Justin is graduating and Lindsey is in Grade 11 so some HUGE decisions are being made over the next short while!! 

Both have strong academics (especially in the maths and sciences… clearly not MY genetics!), but both also have strong creative sides (I will lay claim to these genetics however) and strong athletic interests (from both Brad and I)!! So they could each go in so very many different directions!! But I'm excited to see where they end up and the last thing I want to do is kill their creativity in any way!!


And speaking of creativity, I have some other exciting news!!! I found a NEW creative passion!!! Well, it's not a passion yet, but I sense it will become one!!! More later on that, but meanwhile here is a hint!!!

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