The Trumpet Vine House

I remember walking by a yard on my street and I noticed a man working in the flower beds. In the corner was a giant flowering bush and it really stood out against all the other small, pruned shrubs he was hacking at. So I said, "Wow, I never noticed what a gorgeous tree was growing there!" He snipped back, "Oh that thing? My wife takes care of that. I’m not allowed to touch it." To which I replied, "you don’t like how big it is?" knowing all too well his sheers were pulling like a magnet towards it. "Just look at it! It’s taking over!" I just smiled and said, "Well, I like it!!" and I moved on.

What I wanted to say was, "It’s the only thing I like in your yard. The rest looks like a kid’s bad bowl haircut." But, uh…I just didn’t go there. ;)
I do understand that when you don’t have a very big yard, you don’t want to give up some of the space because it’s already tight quarters. But I guess I saw that tree as adding some life to his cramped space and it caught my eye. Cut grass and hacked hedges don’t really make me look twice.

It reminds me of children. Many children grow up in apartments and townhouses where there isn’t a lot of space. I don’t think this is ideal of course, but it doesn’t have to be a problem. Many families who live in tight quarters still manage to go to the beach, the parks, hiking trails and lakes to allow their children’s spirits to expand and grow. But sadly, when many children try to express themselves, even the people with big homes want to cut their branches back suggesting they might get dirt in the pretty room of their home. Quite often many grow up and don’t see their true potential because they were over-pruned.

But like a good gardener with a green thumb, they can prune the dead stuff away and direct the child to grow in a way that they can reach their true potential…where they can be the flowering tree they were meant to be where others see them for what they were supposed to be.

I don’t think that everything needs acres and acres to grow properly either. Now, coming from a 33 acre farm, you probably won’t take my analogy seriously, but I have had my share of cramped city apartment living too. HA! I am reminded of the Trumpet Vine House my Dad built for us. Basically, he took some old cedar rails and in popsicle-stick building fashion (but on a bigger scale of course) stuck four in the ground straight up and four across the tops of them to connect them. (I think there were some other support boards, but those are the main ones I remembered). Trumpet Vine was planted at the base of each and allowed the vine to completely take over only cutting away room for a doorway. We spent a large amount of our childhood playing in that thing. The hummingbirds would come and it was one of our favorite clubhouses. (We also made clubhouses out of pig stalls, but I’ll save that for another time)

This thing wasn’t big, but the Vine was allowed to do what it was intended to do, go rather crazy and grow with a purpose. As a result, it was the first thing people would notice coming over to visit. In all those acres, it shone.
I really believe each of us has the unique ability to flower and grow, but I know I have felt over-pruned and hacked up for a lot of my adult life. Many locations and situations haven’t been ideal for me to grow to my full potential, but I also think we prune because we think we should. Everyone around us is over-pruned right? Why bother blooming? It’s too awkward for us to stand out like a sore thumb and who wants the attention?

Maybe the best thing we can do is just let the vine crawl over the space around us for awhile, knowing it can be cut back if needed. Why do we need that pretty room in our house? Could we not instead convert it into a craft area? Why should the basement be only for watching movies, could a music room take over instead or at least add a Disco ball and have parties? Does the car REALLY have to be parked there or could a workshop go there? (Ok, I know, I grew up in Canada, I hate chipping ice off too)

In relationships as well as parenting, I’ve seen and experienced too many gardeners. We want to keep the place too clean, so we won’t pull out games to play. We won’t allow anyone to bake in the kitchen because we don’t want to do dishes. I’ve even seen parents say no to kids pulling the furniture back to dance, because they don’t want "new leg marks in the carpet".

If a shorn-looking home is what you are going for and you are perfectly content, then I say, keep on doing what you are doing! But if we are longing for a Trumpet-Vine House or some interesting shrubbery, I believe we have to start allowing not only each other but ourselves to grow with minimal pruning. It’s affecting our mental well-being and depression is at an all-time high!
But hey, that might just be me again wanting to get back to the country. ;)

ROCK ON my friends!
Karen :)

"People are like dirt. They can either nourish you and help you grow as a person or they can stunt your growth and make you wilt and die." ~Plato


Setting our Angels Free

It’s not that I don’t love new films, new books, new art, new quotes but I adore the 1800’s (hence the stove top hat and Oliver Twist look) Art and music from that time period is so timeless to me. Many things from over 100 years ago still hold true with a firm foundation and I really dig that. Of course then there are words from thousands of years ago that are still relevant today. That is pretty incredible when an old Sage, Prophet, Philosopher or Scientist makes some remark that remains true. It feels sturdy and you can’t poke as many holes in it.

Tonight I found myself somewhere in the 1500s reading about Michelangelo perhaps best known for the Statue of David and his paintings inside the Sistine Chapel. It’s obvious the guy was talented; I mean you look at what he did and think people today must be lazy! (another blog) But what really strikes me is what makes him tick to begin with. These are a few quotes of his that really resonated with me;

"If people knew how hard I worked to get my mastery, it wouldn’t seem so wonderful at all."

"There is no greater harm than that of time wasted."

"The greater danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short; but in setting our aim too low, and achieving our mark."

These quotes showed a creative, hard-working spirit. We envy his talent, and all he achieved but why don’t we ever envy the work? (silly question)

But aside from his focus and diligence, I love the magic of his words in these quotes;

"Every block of stone has a statue inside it and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it."

"I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free."

"I am still learning."

They are magical to me because they possess a child-like quality, a return to innocence.

But he also said;

"Genius is eternal patience."

"Faith in oneself is the best and safest course."

In my life at one time or another, I have tried to individually focus on these areas; working hard, trying to learn patience (uh, yeah…hard one) keeping faith in my ability to accomplish something and the biggest one of all, attempting to recapture the uncomplicated magic that was probably the happiest time of my life.

In reading about Michelangelo tonight, it would seem his true art lied in how to make these all work together…and I am very inspired. Zooming out from all that he had in his art case, this was clearly a man set on fire by a bigger purpose and reason in his life more so than simply setting goals. How cool is that?

Someday, I will go see the fruits of his labor at the Chapel. :)

Much love on ya,
Karen :)

(I'm completely over quota on my quotes on this one, no need for anymore) ;)


My Junk Show

I grabbed a cup of tea and wandered about my place. I was looking at the various instruments like guitars and accordions and knew my Dad influenced me. My various book choices came from Mom who was very much into history and poetry. I have silly mementos. I cut out pictures from junk mail that I find amusing, ignore the advertisement and stick them in envelopes. My CD collection ranges from Lisa Dalbello who is probably my biggest female influence to Deep Purple (Ian’s voice is so kick ass!) There is a lot of classical like Chopin, Beethoven and Mozart. I have metal, rock… you name it. My books and music are inspirational.

I looked through the DVDs which I regard as entertainment (of course some learning as well, but for the most part they are an escape) I love the great comedians like Bob Hope and George Burns, but am also a huge Jim Carrey fan. Then there are the actors who inspire me like Anthony Hopkins. I love my Queensryche; Operation Mindcrime DVD and really dig the Fleetwood Mac live. I adore nature shows, documentaries, Cirque du Soleil and many, many other forms of entertainment.

I got thinking about how a lot of my books, CDs and DVDs are in boxes in Canada. I wondered why I didn’t miss any of them (except my Garry Marshall book- he signed it for me after I worked on a set with him and it’s such a funny book) In thinking about the things that are left there, I wondered why I hadn’t missed them.

The majority of my books back there are very "heavy". Being a huge bookworm, I have read probably every biography on every major world leader. I used to have a fascination with various religions so I have read every book from pretty much any that were translated. I had picked up all the conspiracy theory and apocalyptic scariness you can imagine. I even had some very embarrassing gossip-style books on celebrities who interested me.

I know now why I don’t miss these things. They are for the most part gloomy. I guess I can be proud to say I have been tolerant and open enough to learn, but I don’t miss them because they don’t contribute to my well-being. They do not make me laugh, they don’t make my character grow, they don’t entertain or inspire, and for the most part, they aren’t educational; I don’t learn fact so much as opinion. Don’t get me wrong, I am not regretting the amount of reading I have done, I just feel like as important as it is to surround ourselves with good people, it’s equally as important to furnish our home with things that assist us in being able to be the best we can be to people around us, especially if we have the tendency to be depressed.

This is not to say my home is now pink and sunny, in fact pink is forbidden in my décor simply because it doesn’t go with me. I have many dark things around me but it all feels very balanced. There is a real sense of calm. I don’t want to go join some big movement and yet I don’t want to curl up under a blanket and wish for death. I am enjoying the art of being.

The art and music that surrounds me now is probably pretty boring to some, but in wandering around with my teacup, I am proud of one thing; everything here is an extension of me. I finally feel like I am reaching a point where things that don’t contribute to my well-being don’t get through the door and if I can assess properly with a clear enough head, the bad ones go out the door. It has taken years of looking back to see that even though some of that reading material was educational and I don’t have regrets, it wasn’t helpful to me or anyone else for that matter.
The worst thing I could have done was had things in my home that were negative while I was going through depression. What a deadly combination or at least contribution.

Do you know what the coolest part of looking at my current "stuff" is? I feel courageous enough to keep things that are me and simplify my life. This is significant…because it means I am brave enough to accept who I am. I don’t decorate based on who comes to visit…my home is very "lived-in". (ok, it’s a junk show, there I said it) But it’s not ‘junk’. ;) The clutter I have now includes things like notebooks and sketchbooks, small stuffed animals, lyric sheets and of course, teacups.

I hope that whatever is in your home; music, books, DVDs, figurines…that you truly feel like it’s an extension of the real you (not what some Mother-in-law or neighbor digs) and that it contributes to your well being and keeps your heart and mind passionate and growing!

Much love on ya!
Karen :)

"I could tell that my parents hated me. My bath toys were a toaster and a radio." ~Rodney Dangerfield


Why is our Heart the First to Die?

Dreams of course never make perfect sense and I am not into dream dissection really. I am more of the mind that things throughout my day can influence them or we dream because the brain just needs to keep functioning. I have however had bizarre instances throughout my life come true, I really don’t care if they are a superpower or coincidence, ‘cause I simply don’t care enough. Like, one time I had a dream where I met Jane Lynch and two weeks later when I took my cat, ‘Filthy’ to the Vet, she was in there with her dog…some things in life are just weird.

Last night’s dream was a combination of watching an episode of Dexter before bed and the film "Up" earlier this week …plus visiting my Gramma in the nursing home around Christmas.

I was at a picnic with an odd assortment of people. Some I used to work with, some people I’ve seen on TV…I even think Adam Lambert was there. Lol It was a good sunny day and someone yelled, "He has a gun!" Well, I looked over and it was my Grandpa (My mom’s dad, who actually died years and years ago) I approached him and said, "Grandpa, why are you doing this?" he kept warning me to not come any closer. Grandpa had a really thick head of snowy white hair and dark glasses much like the main character in "Up" (which if you haven’t seen, I would recommend it…I usually don’t like Shrek-y looking animation, but the sets and scene plus story was marvelous) I finally got my arm around him and managed to take the gun from him when I asked, "Do you miss Gramma?" (which is ridiculous because it’s Gramma who is 90 and in the nursing home now) He nodded and said, "Yes." I hugged him and heard myself say,

"Why is our heart the first to die, when it should be the last?"

I woke up shortly after that and lied in bed for a long time thinking about it. Of course the breaking of a heart is symbolic; our heart chambers don’t actually explode when someone we love dies. But I thought of how many elderly people have had their hearts broken when their spouse’s heart attack killed them.

I don’t want to ruin "Up" for you if you haven’t seen it, but I love the idea that the writer(s) noticed that for many old people that their bodies may be aging, but they still have a spirit that wants to explore and discover after they lose someone.

As reality is kicking in here this morning, I am thinking about Gramma lying quite lifeless in the nursing home. I wonder during her many naps how many adventures she is going on in her dreams. Did she and Grandpa have some retirement plans that they never got to do? How does she internally see life now? Does she have many significant regrets?

And for the rest of us, how do we avoid those regrets? Is each chapter that closes in our life really the beginning of a new one? Are we strong enough to view it that way?

For me, I am just continuing to watch for where my purpose is. I used to think there was a big purpose for me, but maybe it’s a string of little ones and what I need to do is blur the breaking of the lines in between chapters, recognizing my heart has been broken but it isn’t dead until it’s dead.

Think I shall go dig for treasures at the Swap Meet today. The sun in LA finally came out after a flooded week.

Go enjoy your weekend!!
Karen :)

"People are like stained-glass windows.
They sparkle and shine when the sun is out,
but when the darkness sets in,
their true beauty is revealed only if there is a light from within."
~Elizabeth Kubler-Ross


Half EMPTY or Half POISON?

It’s a whole new level of pessimism when you don’t even include Half FULL (suggesting water) into the question. It’s another level of doom and gloom when you choose EMPTY over POISON. (not recognising another option) Well, of course nobody would choose the POISON (unless they wanted to just put an end to it all), but it’s the fact that we get to the point of feeling content with just EMPTY as an option.

You ever hear someone say (I’ve heard myself say it) "I’d rather be alone than be with that son-of-a-"?

Now some people would absolutely have no problem living alone, but I mean for this to point out the people who didn’t initially want to be alone. They had their heart set on finding their soul mate, they tasted the poison of it and opted to just not have a partner. It is bitterness bred from be tainted.

I have spent many years being tainted by my poison. I wasn’t always a pessimistic person. After all, I grew up with my "I think I can, I think I can…" blaring in my brain. Somewhere along the way I was the ‘Little Engine Who Could But Didn’t See The Point’. (my novel title there may be a tad long to go to market)

Being surrounded by negative news and ultra negative people can launch us into a state of cynicism. It’s quite often the very people we make fun of and call names are the ones we are grabbing the damaging energy from. But what would happen if we rid ourselves of the negativity around us? Could our empty cup eventually be filled back up with the liquid that could assist us in replenishing our tired skin and dehydrated mind? And how do we get there?

Well, I may not be the best person to dispense that kind of advice because my rebuild took too many years in my opinion. I am the type to suggest never looking back, but I am also under the impression that our history can teach us a thing or two. As much as we’d love for others to learn from our own mistakes (especially our children) it would seem that the ‘slow and steady wins the race’ theme is probably the most stable way of doing it. Taking each day as it comes and tackling what you can when pulling out weeds from the garden can contribute to an empty glass that is ready to fill up again.

Now I wouldn’t suggest bringing your brain to a state of ‘clear’ necessarily as suggested by some because I think all of our memories shape us, but I do think empty should be viewed as a starting point, not a viable, settling option. Maybe it’s a better approach to ditch the poisonous influences which make us distrust everything around us. This could be the news station that is constantly on the TV in our homes. This could be the friends we invite over for dinner. This could be the extra minutes spent around the water cooler at work where gossip spreads like cancer.

It takes a renewed energy to look around us and see the beauty in it all. As a starting place, may I humbly suggest renting (or buying) the Planet Earth series (as well as Blue Planet). They are mind-restoring in my opinion. The News shows us bad news which can alter our headspace but I find revisiting this series is a good reminder of this amazing gift we were given. Do you ever see miles under the sea on the news? What about silk nests spun by birds in deep caves? Does the news show you a volcanic eruption that is simply shaping our earth or is it only if it’s catastrophic?

It is my sincere belief that we have the full capability of making our own glass completely full. But in my experience, I couldn’t expect it to happen overnight. My glass is just being left under a faucet which seems to drip one drop every hour. But I see it filling up and it feels pretty good. :)
At some point, I may have to find a bigger pot to gather more water…that seems to be far away right now, but I think it’s at least possible. ;)

Hope you have a GREAT day ahead!
Karen :)

"Many an optimist has become rich by buying out a pessimist." ~Robert G. Allen


What a Lazy Bum!

Laziness is a term that gets thrown around a lot. You hear parents call their children that, you hear politicians accuse each other of being that and spouses yell it at the top of their lungs to each other. I even remember a teacher in my elementary school scream it at a student.

I’m certain there are lazy people out there, maybe even a whole bunch of them. But what I can’t seem to understand is are we born lazy or are we just too lazy to dig to the root of a person so we give them that title?

I remember someone in my own family accusing her husband of being a "fat, lazy slob". Well, let’s not even talk about how many things are wrong with her description. First off, it is mean. She may be right that he is lazy, but bookending the word with two physical traits is cowardly to me. I think there is a bigger truth lying behind the accusation.

If he won’t take out the garbage, clean the garage or pick up some things, he gets the term thrown at him. Now in looking at this;

a) She is a person who is constantly seeking his attention…to the point of nagging him to death. She didn’t care if he ever took a bag to the curb, she just hated that he didn’t "do" something she wanted. I would watch her take this nagging approach because she felt neglected by him. It’s sad, yes.

b) He is a person who has been brow-beaten to the point where he will say, "What difference would it make?" or "Why would I bother?" Those are not words of a lazy person. They are words of someone who is either depressed or defeated.

It seems to be a chicken or the egg scenario. Maybe he ignored her first, maybe she nagged him first, but what you can be sure of, both parties thinks it’s the other person’s doing why he is sitting there.
Feeling defeated seems to be indicative of a bigger epidemic these days. It may not be our family, it could be co-workers or even worse, a lack of work. We often lash out when we are stressed, but what seems worse to me is when you feel like the common spirit in your household is that of people who have be wiped out by their own overwhelming sadness. Many times we carry this feeling of being annihilated into future relationships (aka baggage) and then our new partner thinks we are lazy.

A person who seems lazy could be in poor health, physically or mentally. To just say someone needs to "get their ass up off the couch" is really not helpful. I also don’t know many people who are actually happy with remaining so uncomfortably idle. There must be a reason why they are sitting there. They could be depressed, defeated or incorporating an act of defiance against the person who is attacking them. It’s a bad sign in a relationship when someone has decided to sit in silence over the choice of clawing like a cornered cat. It renders a situation rather hopeless.

I really feel like we need to quit nagging at each other and pushing each other’s buttons. I’ve never known a good ass-kicking to do much beyond getting one thing done at the time of a beating. It’s also cruel, illegal and reflects badly on one’s character.

It would be nice if we could take a step back and realize we are on the same team. We’ve perpetuated an anger towards each other that makes us think our friends are our enemies. We have forgotten we are in it together. I also think in relationships, we all have our ups and downs and true love will be willing to cut each other some slack. Not only do we have a history of baggage, but we have current craziness coming at us! The term, "Two heads are better than one" comes to mind. I think if we can somehow get back on the same team again, we can put our twigs together to form a bond that is more difficult to break.

It’s a very difficult thing to hold our hand out to someone we deem lazy and offer to pull them up in a manner of love. Maybe instead of trying to pull them up, we can stop for a good old-fashioned hug and just breathe. Maybe it’s time to offer the olive branch again, promise to be there for them and show some grace. You never know when you could be the one who feels defeated and needs someone to be the stronger one.

Relationships fluctuate a lot and sometimes you have to change roles when necessary…when it’s your turn.

If we are still here, we are not defeated. :)

Much love on ya!
Karen :)

"What is defeat? Nothing but education; nothing but the first step to something better." ~Wendell Phillips


What is Trapping You?

In one of my relationships, I probably stayed for three years too long. (it may have been more, but hey who’s counting?) If you know what this feels like, you’ll understand what I mean by the ‘shifting percentage’. It’s where things start out at 100% good and it starts a steady decline at a certain rate per year. At some point it’s about 50% good, 50% bad which is the teetering time where you apply the old song, ‘Should I stay or Should I go?’. For me, those last 3 years declined well under 0. It’s where it becomes not just 100% bad, but seems to scrape underneath the fingernails for extra dirt.

My counselor at that time was the one who set me on the right track. He’d ask why I hadn’t left yet. My answer was simple, "I can’t afford to."
When we discussed my career plans and the job I was doing at the time, he’d asked why I hadn’t moved on to do music fulltime. It was the same response, "I can’t afford to."

He wondered why I couldn’t afford to leave the bad relationship and if I stayed why I couldn’t afford to take the leap in my career. My answer (which was a surprise to me to) was, "I guess it’s not only money that is trapping me."

He told me he was big on making lists. I have a successful uncle who coincidentally at that time told me how lists not only saved his life, but saved his sleep also. I now try to make a list every night before bed of what I need to accomplish the next day and then I go to bed. I promise to not take anything that is on that list to sleep with me so my rest is uninterrupted by my own thoughts.

He explained to me that leaving a bad relationship (as long as it isn’t abusive) sometimes works better if you have a game plan. So that’s what I did. I made a list of daily things I needed to accomplish and a list of long-term goals and shorter-term goals to get me there. One of the things he couldn’t believe was that my partner had a personal bank account, but that my bank account was joint. He encouraged me to start one for myself. So I opened an account with a pitiful $10. I looked at my book they gave me and was exasperated at how small the amount was and how it seemed I would never make any kind of move with that. But what he did was teach me how to put every extra dollar lying around into the account suggesting too many people won’t make a deposit unless it’s large.

My bank book makes me laugh. If you look in it, you’ll see $5 deposits in it. The idea was that I didn’t touch it. I could have saved it at home in a sock, but that didn’t feel the same as seeing the climbing total. I enjoyed watching it inch up that I actually started looking for coins to roll up and take to the bank, sifting through the laundry pockets, wherever I could find it. It also kept my mind focused, as measly as that sounds.
The idea behind doing this was two-fold. It kept my mind occupied on something tangible and it gave me some independence. My counselor explained that even if I ended up staying in the relationship and it all worked out, everyone should be saving this way no matter what. I never realized how I was frittering away the dollars and cents. So it was a good lesson in money management.

His concern he said was that many people are trapped in bad relationships, they get in a brutal fight and then abruptly leave with no game plan. They are basically standing in the middle of the street with a bag in hand. Then the tears pour torrentially and they really want to give up. It’s like insult to injury to have to start over with nothing.

So, I did find out money was trapping me in the relationship, but what I found out was the bigger trap was my own daily thoughts and how I allocated them. I had accumulated a large account of negative energy. When we are upset by our situation, it’s so simple (and often understandable) that we wallow in self-pity on top of our already tumultuous relationship. It’s simply not helpful. I was trapped by my brain spending time thinking about nostalgic years prior to the rough time and I wasn’t thinking clearly.

My lists taught me to get my brain back into some mode of operation again. I applied the term, "flying under the radar" to my life. It became my new approach. Flying under the radar was where I began biting my tongue and biding my time (which some of you may recognize from the Funeral Mute song) I kept focused on the biggest thing trapping me-my own sadness. Once I figured this out, I gained a new focus which ended up leading to my new life. I applied it in all areas. I allocated more time each day to my choice career while still logically keeping the job that I was also trapped in but paid. Basically all parts of my life started the climb back out of hell and the percentages got back up to where they were. Why should I expect that something that declined over years should take minutes to fix itself? I just tried to keep an eye on the daily accomplishments and it was a lot less overwhelming.

The human brain has a tendency to stir thoughts like a chili in a slow cooker. You almost don’t recognize any one part of it anymore by the time it’s cooked! But putting a pen to paper can keep a person centered. It did me anyways. Understanding what was trapping me was the first step in prying open the teeth of it. It wasn’t just money, it was my own desperation.

Focus and clarity I think sometimes are a special gift….or in many cases we just have to learn them.

Much love on you!
Karen :)

"Patience is the ability to count down before you blast off." ~ Author Unknown


Living in Layers

"Life is the art of drawing without an eraser." ~John W Gardner

I stared at this quote for probably 15 minutes this morning and then thought about it long enough to start writing.

Not even forgiveness is an eraser although we are often told to forgive and forget. I don’t necessarily buy into it. I mean, it’s a lovely thought to think we can completely forget the wrongs (especially if they are ours!) but I know I haven’t forgotten about the things that have happened to me nor do I expect the people I have disappointed will have erased it from their memory.

What I hope for with forgiveness is a tighter relationship between people. When we screw up, I believe a callus is built on our hands, a toughness which makes us ready to combat the next thing together as a unit. We haven’t ditched the good times and we haven’t forgotten the bad ones, but we have decided that the relationship is worth fighting for despite the bad times.

I admire visual art immensely. I love simple pencil drawings but I adore paintings. If he messes up, it’s very difficult to take the paint off of the canvass and so the painter has to work in layers. If he’s really proficient in his work, every layer may be on purpose, but I have talked to painters who have just learned to cover up the mistakes. Then, for others they view each layer as part of the journey and would not want them to be taken away because simply there is a beauty in each brush stroke. They took a chance mixing a new color or applying a thicker amount to the picture. Their risk may have been high, but their open-mindedness exposed a better painting in the end that even surprised themselves.

I feel this way about life. We don’t have an eraser. But if we are open to whatever the next thing is for us, we may just find that each layer that was a perceived error is going to add a rich texture to our character and biography. I would much rather have the lines, wrinkles, calluses and muscle from my experiences than a blank background of sheltered skin. There is nothing remotely interesting about that. :) Nor does it prepare us for the next storm.

I hope that whatever you are painting today, you do it boldly, without caring what anyone thinks about it and if you mess up, you can with a few brush strokes, turn it into your masterpiece where you can reflect upon the layers. After all, I believe it is our layers that make-up who we are…not a blank canvass.

We can always cover it up with a superficial eggshell wash at the end. hahahaa

Be good to you!
Karen :)

I know I began with a quote, but I must add this one too;

"Every child is an artist, the problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up." ~Pablo Picasso


You are NOT a Paperdoll Cut-Out

I grew up in the Southern Ontario area (GO LEAFS!! Uh, if you don’t say that the Mounties hunt you down) ;) When I started auditioning for commercials, I spent a lot of time going back and forth to Toronto. T.O. is our big city. Basically Toronto and Vancouver are the New York and LA of Canada.

There you have your Canadian lesson for the day. It’s not all dogsleds and igloos up there. ;)

When I would show up for my audition, I would walk into a room where everyone looked like me. It’s horrifying to think you don’t really have your own look but I understood later when I was involved in the casting end of things that the requirement is, "We need a blonde, average height, etc etc". Similarly, they could need a balding, short man and so all those guys probably feel like they don’t have an identity either when they stand in that room with 100 other guys like them.

The quick lesson I had to learn with auditioning is that it didn’t matter how you coiffed your hair or how cool the heels you picked out were, there is pretty much no chance of physically standing out to the casting director. Your smile may be slightly bigger, your skin may be a bit clearer but overall looks weren’t going to do it. And it hit me, "How do I separate myself from these look-alikes?"

So, I went through a huge phase where I would rehearse one-liners to attract the director’s attention. I’d look up funny jokes before driving there so I would have a real stinger for them as soon as I walked in. This improved my chances slightly… I would at least have them remembering me. But then as time went on I thought, I’m going to just show them what I can do. I realized they were hiring me based on a certain look + a talent.
I had a history at The Second City Improv in Toronto so I thought, "It’s on my resume, so why not just bring it? They read my resume before I got the audition, there must have been something on it they liked." From there on I would immerse myself in improv at my auditions instead of worrying about which shoulder my hair was hanging over. That was the ticket.

I started landing many commercials and made some good money at it. It was because I started on a path to separate myself, but ultimately what happened is I just decided to BE myself. The same thing happened to me in the music industry. I had entered it in the dance genre and quit when I felt like it wasn’t me. I quit when one of my songs had hit pretty high in the dance charts and it felt really good to detach myself from something that had nothing to do with who I was!

I believe strongly that each one of us shouldn’t be competing with anyone else on a contest of looks and I firmly believe each one of us has something that is not only uniquely us, but HONESTLY us. It takes a lot of courage to be yourself.

I remember when I used to do some casting, I would learn to look for the standout personalities with the unique talent, but mostly I would look for the honesty behind a performance. Even now with music, movies and various art, my first question is, "Do I believe it?" When a 24 year old pop singer sings songs with content like she is 14, do I believe it? Is an actor fully immersed in their character or is it too far outside their character. And what is the motivation? I can smell a phony a thousand miles away. ;)

All I wanna do now is meet the spirits of people…individuals who are simply and uniquely themselves.

We are not supposed to be like everyone else. The things that are similar I believe are meant to bond us together and I like that. But in your chase, on your journey, in your life…are you really sure you are you? Or are you still physically competing in an arena that is nothing like you?

When I found the answer to that, I was sad at my own response, but then I set myself completely free of it. Now I can fly.

IT’S a CHEESY morning y’all…..hahahahahahaha

Karen :)

"No one should part with their individuality and become that of another." William Ellery Channing


I’m Watching the Most Amazing Thing

I was waiting for my tea to boil and the sounds from the back parking lot caught my attention.

About four years ago, I used to look back there and see a mother who would open up all the lids of the garbage cans and pluck out the recyclables. She would put them in small bags and throw them into a crappy car. She had a boy who was barely old enough to run around and a baby in a stroller. The baby would cry, she would walk over and take her out, comfort her by patting her on the back and walk about the parking lot until she was calm, then put her back in the stroller. It didn’t last long, but she consistently visited the garbage cans from what I could see.

Then many months rolled by and I saw them drive in with a truck. It wasn’t a great truck, but it was better than the car they had. I remember the neighbors all gathering around them and they seemed all pleased with themselves although I couldn’t understand them as they didn’t speak English. As time went on, I’d notice the man come home with garbage bags in the back and she’d add her bags to his. They basically started their own recycling business.

This past year, they got rid of their truck which was getting very weathered and got a really nice one. They continue putting bags in the back and they really take pride in it by scrubbing it down and keeping it clean. It’s always shiny white.

Today, the kids are 4 years older, so I imagine the girl is close to 5 and the boy a couple years older. When I looked out the window because I heard their squeals, I saw them running around playing and I heard them talk to each other in English. It would seem that the parents came here for a better life, worked really really hard and their children are getting schooled well.

But the best part of it that made my eyes well up was that the Mother was with them, chasing them around and laughing. I’ve never seen her like that. She’s always working it seems! She must have decided it was time to just let loose and be a kid herself. (now of course she probably does it more often than what I see)

But I am sat here thinking, yes…you deserve it girl! Go play!

I hope you get some time this weekend to laugh and be silly with the ones you love the most!
Karen :)

"Dream as if you’ll live forever, live as if you’ll die today." ~James Dean


I’m Sick and Tired, but that’s OK!

I CAN’T believe I am sick. It’s the middle of the night and my throat is too scratchy to sleep.

I don’t remember the last time I was sick. In California, the smog is bad, but you can have windows open. In Canada, the air seems better where I was but because it’s winter, you have to close everything up tight. Canadian windows are always some double-pane bullet-proof glass too (lol) so once you are in, you basically suffocate…BUT! You are at least warm then, right?

Most of my family and friends had some illness over the holidays. One of my young nephews was coughing and while he ‘sometimes’ remembers to cover his mouth, it’s unrealistic to think it will be every time and the closed up home just locks in the bugs anyways.

I’m sitting here though reminiscing about a visit with my Father’s brother and another with his sister. (I uploaded the pics today to a Family album under My Photos) My aunt Shirley is my Dad’s youngest sister and she is a Stever in every sense of the word. Crazy, super funny, silly…I just adore her. When I came over to her place, it hadn’t been since my Mom died that I saw her back in 2001. She said, "I have some bug in my throat, so don’t come close." I grabbed her anyways and hugged her tight. As sick as I feel right now, I am thankful for our visit together. She shared so many amazing stories about my Dad and I fought back tears all night. My Dad died in a plane crash when I was a little girl and Shirley’s husband, my Uncle Fred helped him build planes so I was thrilled to hear all about the good times they had too. I’m sure if you had lost someone long ago and you met up with people who could give you extra info on them, you’d know what I mean. Visiting my Dad’s brother Erv was really great too because he’s the only brother left and I curled up beside his chair like a little girl while he shared stories from when he and my dad hung out. He opened his bible and read to me and even though I don’t like when people read like that to me, he was humbled in his life even though he was a fountain of knowledge overall. I almost didn’t care what he was saying. His voice sounded like my Daddy and I was carried away into a million thoughts.

I guess this cold was just the price of admission for some of these visits and memories. It’s like the mud on your shoes after you make it home from a broken-down car. You feel like the journey was a bit tough on ya, left some dirt on you but once you arrive, you are so thankful you made it and perhaps there were some cool moments that you could pocket in your diary. Ever woke up extra early to go meet someone or stayed awake to watch over someone? It’s a small price to pay. We should never view it as a nuisance although you may have to catch up after the fact.

I think most life experiences that are worthwhile are like that. I caught a cold but I had a great time with them. I feel lousy right now and can’t sleep but I have these awesome photos. Shirley is starting to look like my Gramma Stever a lot, so I’ve been thinking about her too. My cousin Mark in the pictures brought us all together again and I am ever so grateful to him. I haven’t had any personal riffs, but some people in the generations have. He’s shown me that you can just fly on past them all and be a family despite it.

I think I understand now why all the older people in my family love looking at photos so much. I’ve always loved them, but I’m just viewing them differently tonight. Maybe when you are too sick or too old you are more alone with photos…I dunno. I bet a single photo for a lonely soldier can go a long way, huh?

So ya, the cold sucks, memories ROCK, though!

Hope you are recovering from whatever the holidays did to you…
Karen :)

"In every conceivable manner, the family is link to our past, bridge to our future." ~Alex Haley


Is your life a Horror Movie?

I remember sitting in a room with a bunch of other rape and incest survivors. I didn’t want to be there, but you are told that by talking to other people with similar experiences that you can begin to heal or at least you don’t feel quite so alone in what happened to you.

I spent most of those meetings staring at the large clock on the wall hoping I could leave soon. These people didn’t know what I had been through. What I felt was true suffering compared to these dumb little stories was a mismatch of souls put together by some pitifully-run charitable organization and I didn’t think it was working. I basically left every meeting feeling like these people tripped and scraped their knee and I was beaten in a dark alley.

I’ve had similar experiences throughout my life where I felt very condescending towards others thinking their version of a bad life was whiny and pathetic. This was before the internet.

I have since heard stories from people younger, my age and older that make my alley-style life look like a knee scrape. The stories from some people who have come here from other countries make my jaw drop. What’s the lesson in it all? There is always someone who has it worse off than you.

This shouldn’t lessen our own pain, though. Just yesterday I spoke with someone who I think came the closest to having it exactly like me. Their story pretty much mirrored mine. I wouldn’t say really any worse or any better (even though if looked at under a magnifying glass, there would be a difference I’m sure) and it dawned on me that since we all get to talk on a network with millions of people in a world with billions of people we can now find people who we relate to. We see it in music, in films and in the arts. If you like any genre of music, you will find others who like it too. If you like horror films, you will find others who enjoy them. There seems to be a huge selection of like-minded people out there to pick the brains of and find comfort in their numbers.

When I do find the people with parallel lives, I am both thrilled and saddened. Those of us who seem to be healing from our bad past have done the same thing; made lemonade out of lemons (ya, I stretched my tired lil brain this morning for an alternate cliché, but that’s what we are going with) The thing about the music we love and the films we watch is that although they are mostly fictional, the best artists and filmmakers all understand the experience. It’s awful to think a person running away from a screaming chainsaw on the big screen is based off someone, somewhere in real life being chased, but it reaches into the heart of victims everywhere. Yes, you could leave the film feeling worse than when you came, but you could also walk away feeling pretty good about your history …and present life…not having it so bad.

So, if your life has felt like a horror movie, have you ever thought of writing one? Maybe your life hasn’t been quite that colorful, but you know others would benefit from reading about it.

For me personally, I initially do music to get things off my chest with not a lot of consideration for what others will think, but it’s been a tremendous blessing in my life to hear that what I am doing is positively affecting those who have also had a personal hell to deal with. I never imagined that any good could ever have come from those experiences. It turns out no matter how crazy our story is or how seemingly bland our existence is, there are others who are in our same boat. If I could go thousands of miles above earth and rearrange everyone into groups that were better matched, I would. If it was as simple as placing everyone like pins on a map, we’d all find more comfort.

For all its flaws, the internet is not only exposing sadness that needs attention, but its giving those who are hurting the opportunity to find groups who are like them.

And for those of you who write, paint, make music or films; your story can transform into a beautiful butterfly with potential to heal others. May I humbly encourage you to look for the good in your scenario…the hope in your world and the art in your sadness. As ugly as it is now, roses can grow from the ashes.

Now, if that isn’t the cheesiest thing you’ve ever heard; go grab your day!

ROCK ON my friends,
Karen :)

"Happiness is a direction, not a place." ~Sydney J. Harris


Wherever you go, there you are

Disoriented, tired with surreal flashes of WTF(where not what) am I? That’s me right now. (mostly due to connecting flights all over the US…gotta love the heavy Christmas traffic) In LA now...

I left LA mid December and spent weeks with family and friends back home in Canada. It’s a shocker to my little frame let me tell ya. The air is clearer in Ontario but much colder! (Obviously I wasn’t close to the Hamilton smokestacks, but did manage to visit family near the African Lion Safari) I wouldn’t say it was like the January and February months I spent as a child there digging my way through snow drifts by the apple orchards but there was enough snow in some areas to make me buy new gloves and winter boots.

In my opinion, some people have changed for the worse, some for the better, but not by a large fraction. With the exception of some nieces and nephews shooting up in height, my family is doing pretty much the same. All are happy and keeping busy with the flow of work and family life.

I left there thinking I was the one who had changed, but it’s mixed with moments of wondering if I was the same but just moving around a lot. I guess we all transform in some way…I don’t mean the obvious growth but I feel perspectives in my life have changed. Some of my visits were difficult to listen to people still prejudice in their old ways where I feel like I have learned to be tolerant…but then some of my visits were difficult because the people were doing simple things that I longed for. I often say travel breeds tolerance but I think there is something lovely about routine and tradition.

I feel like despite what I am missing in my life, I am still me. I still mixed in with the same jokes and craziness with family and still had wonderful visits with friends. Whether I am sleeping in my own bed or in a spare room somewhere, I still wake up to me. I wouldn’t say I am as lonely as I used to be. I think loneliness has nothing to do with being alone either. I have felt desperately lonely in the past with a house full of people. I guess what is happening is that I am reacquainting myself with me. I am learning how to take a 5 hour flight and be alone with my thoughts.

But mostly, I am feeling pretty creative and reconnecting with some old childhood friends. When I say childhood friends, I don’t actually mean real people. I mean the ones in my imagination (get yer straight jacket ready) I never realized until lately that the people I have been neglecting to visit the most were the spirits of imagination and creativity. The characters who are waiting to be written about! Remember when you were a child and you spent time with them? They are calling me now.

While I don’t believe much in new year’s resolutions, the timing is just falling here that I am having a new year’s revelation. The season’s visits are just making it obvious who I need to visit the most right now.

If I may be so bold to say, I think many of us are in need of visiting those spirits too! ;) I think when we do, it makes our visits with others that much better.

I hope that you are able to find what makes you passionate…not necessarily this year, this month or even this day…but that you experience a moment that brings you great joy!

Much love on ya!
Karen :)

"The world breaks everyone, and afterward, some are strong at the broken places." ~Ernest Hemingway