My art was a beautiful escape when I was a teenager. My charcoal portraits did not tease me like the kids at school. The Supermodels I drew in my sketchbook didn’t care that I wore hand-me down clothes and no make-up. I had felt an unspoken commitment to those models to correctly shade their Versace boots or Calvin Klein jeans. If they smiled in the photo, I smiled too. Something I still do today. My imagination brought me joy. If I wasn’t drawing, I wrote mysteries and designed my own books. I cut paper to book size and used needle and thread for binding. For good measure, I bound those books with tape as well, almost causing my mother to go bankrupt from buying Scotch tape.
I grew older and enrolled in the legal secretary program at the local college, whereI received training for a respectable job that pleased my parents. Art was lost from my life when Economics 101 stepped in. Soon I bought into the whole adult package and found myself married with two daughters. I worked full-time to help support our family. I’m proud of my girls and my working-mom years; I was a positive, independent role model for my daughters.
After 30 years of not
drawing, my best friend said to me, “Get yourself a small sketchbook and draw
for yourself. No one has to see.” I began drawing again, spending 4 to 6 hours
every dayat the kitchen table. After
6 months, my drawings improved and I received my first car commission. I was surprised
yet pleased that a woman paid me money to illustrate her husband’s lipstick red
Sprint car. Like sex, I will never forget this “first time” commission. Soon
after another car commission followed. I added motorcycle commissions to my car
My art was lost but
then it was found. JCVArtStudio is my Instagram and websitename. My gift returned and to not pay it forward would be selfish.
Why have this gift at all? While blending marker ink, new ideas blossomed, such
as my “Woman Empowered” motorcycle series, which depicts women empowered rather
than women as sex objects. I show women living by their own rules, riding their
motorcycles, and being free. I have 27 motorcycle illustrations, 75% of them of
women, and with my newly acquired InDesign book publishing experience, I am
creating a book of motorcycle illustrations entitled “Feel the Thunder” featuring
women motorcycle riders from the U.K., Australia, the U.S., Mexico, Nova Scotia
and Victoria. I will donate the proceeds to the men and women of Wounded
For 24 years I believed the urban legend that a writer could not illustrate her own book, and an illustrator could not write a novel. I found my thriller manuscript from 2006. In June 2019 I will publish my thriller novel, “The Unravelling” written, illustrated and designed by me. In 2020 I will publish my motorcycle illustration book. Nobody tells me what I can or cannot do. My art and writing are two friends on a teeter-totter, a delicate balance.
Joanna Vander Vlugt My Art was Lost but then It was Found
“I think you need to see your doctor about getting medication for this.”
My partner spoke these words one day when he walked into our bedroom to find me once again laying in the dark in a fetal position with tears pouring from my eyes.
Medication was the very last thing I wanted, but I understood where he was coming from. He hated seeing me riddled with anxiety; it made him sad, it made him feel hopeless. I was also feeling disconnected from the world, from my family, and that hurt me the most.
I was suffering with an unknown autoimmune disease and no one had answers to offer me. I had seen doctor after doctor, had blood test after blood test, and spent countless hours in hospitals and clinics. All for nothing. Everyone just shrugged their shoulders and sent me for more tests. I eventually had to become my own health advocate on this lonely road.
I was sitting on the couch one afternoon drinking hot chocolate when I began to feel hives making their usual appearance. My neck and face flushed and my skin became “prickly” with heat and welts. Hives were just one of the many symptoms of my unknown illness. At that moment I picked up my phone and googled “sugar and hives” and the first word I read was: Candida.
I had never heard of Candida before, and not one of my doctors mentioned it to me. The symptoms of Candida made my jaw drop. I had been experiencing almost every symptom listed on the site, from hot flashes, brain fog and vertigo, to allergies, eczema, and hives. Tears welled up in my eyes as a feeling of hope cascaded through my body
A woman in my area who specializes in BIE (Bioenergetic Intolerance Elimination) performed an energy test for me. This test not only recognizes food sensitivities and disease, but emotions as well. Her tests confirmed my Candida suspicions. I felt as though my soul sighed in relief. Finally I had answers and I could work towards healing myself, without using medication.
I spent the next 30 days on a cleanse that eliminated dairy, gluten, sugar, most carbohydrates, and other foods that irritated Candida and attributed to its growth. Candida, a yeast naturally present in the body, can become overgrown due to poor diet, medications (including birth control), prolonged stress, and other various factors.
I also knew an emotional imbalance, something deep and unconscious, was playing a role in my Candida overgrowth. Although it may have been externally triggered, I truly believe that everything stems from within; there is always a root of an issue, and my symptoms were merely the branches of that root.
During my healing journey, I began practicing meditation, which changed my life. I also learned how the emotions we store in our body can affect us on a physical level. Our bodies can become “pained bodies” due to the stored pain and trauma.
Thanks to the cleanse, I lost nearly 20 pounds (a welcome bonus), but more importantly, all my health issues, including my hives and allergies disappeared. My energy levels were through the roof, and I felt light and clear, full of clarity.
During the time of my health issues, I had forgotten what it felt like to feel good and, now that I finally felt good, I was free to be me again.
Much of my journey was spent reflecting within and letting go of all the past pain and heartache I had been holding onto so tightly. I needed to forgive myself and others so I could release what no longer served me purpose.
Sometimes we need to be the advocate for our own health and well-being because we know our bodies best. While it’s important we seek medical assistance and advice when necessary, we also need to trust ourselves and our intuition. We must also never disregard our bodies natural ability to heal; it’s essential we trust and have absolute faith in this fact, for belief is the root of all creation.
Vanessa Marie Dewsbury Spiritual Life Coach | Reiki Master
Author of Majestic Reflections & Best Selling Book “Heart is Where the Home Is”
This day is so much more for me, over and above celebrating the women of this world, how far we have come, and the journey that lies ahead. This day symbolizes a pivotal part in my own personal journey. I want to share that with you today, as it is not something I have publicly spoke about in detail.
On International Women’s Day 2017, the slogan was #beboldforchange. The words alone ignited a fire in my belly, a feeling still very present to this day. I remember the morning clearly. I was sitting on my couch, sipping my coffee, reflecting on my journey as a woman through the adversity of the corporate world. I was proud that none of my career accolades had been handed to me. I worked my tail off to get to where I was and I was incredibly proud of myself for what I had achieved. I was 10-20 years younger than most of my peers, most of which were men. Yet none of that made me wonder whether or not I could stand alongside them as an equal. I commanded the respect by showing up powerfully with my own presence and confidence in what I had to offer. I took up the space that I knew I deserved to be in. Still, I wasn’t blind. I fully recognized that men had a much higher representation in middle management, and even more so at the Senior and Executive levels. The statistics are very real and it needs to change. Yet, I never doubted my ability to reach great heights as a woman. It was never if. It was when.
I remember going into deep thought that morning about what mysterious code I must have cracked in order to accomplish these types of things with a seemingly large amount of ease. Was it who I knew? Was it the extra hours I put in? Was it my ownership of results? My ability to lead and influence? My ability to get from point A to point B as efficiently as possible? Was it my brutal honesty in meetings? Was it my ability to engage my teams and drive results? Was it the fact that I never allowed myself to feel intimidated by the powers that be? Maybe it was a combination of all of the above. Yet none of it held a candle to the sudden and profound realization I had that morning. I had an ability to succeed at whatever I put my mind to, because I stood firmly in my own power, as a woman. Whether the odds or statistics were against me or not – I stood tall and I stood strong. For such, I was rewarded greatly with whatever I chose to lock my crosshairs onto. Some call it manifestation. I see it as more of personal commandment of worth and deservingness.
I could hold my own in a volatile board room of up to 90% men with 4x the experience I had, the same way I could hold the hand of a woman on my team while she found her footing through her divorce.
I could engage a room full of 6-figure to multiple 6-figure business leaders in a conference room, the same way I could engage my employees in a team building obstacle course in someone’s back yard.
I could stand firmly against a policy and take on the responsibility of building a new one, the same way I could take on the responsibility of misstepping and experiencing failure.
I stood in my power through all of it, even when my style of leadership often raised an eyebrow. I spent time helping my team manage personal road blocks that were ultimately creating professional road blocks, and in turn negatively impacting their own metrics. I incorporated personal development tools, team building activities, reflection days and a whole other arsenal of unorthodox approaches in a world of black and white business. I had an ability to see people in an entirely different way, and as a result, I lead them with an entirely different approach. I had operated this way since my first leadership role at the age of 21, and I stood firmly in my approach for the next ten years.
So there I was on my couch, still in my housecoat with a half drank cold cup of coffee, beginning to feel something huge unfolding. I had paved the way for myself, and now I needed to pave the way for others. For the women who had not yet discovered their own power, or understood the value and rewards of standing in it tall and strong. Then came the realization that without a natural ability to stand in one’s power, a safe container for growth needed to be created. An environment where women could feel free to cultivate the power that already existed within them, until they felt bold and strong enough to stand in their power on their own. I felt the excitement rising within me.
By this time it was around 9am, and I had taken note of the fact that my organization had not recognized International Women’s Day. Hmmm… There was nothing in our e-mail. Nothing in the online portal and no discussions or events taking place for the women in the organization. My excitement was slowly being replaced with a sinking feeling in my stomach because I knew what I was being called to do. Be Bold for Change.
Our Value of Diversity: International Women’s Day was the title of the e-mail. I felt the irony of it all hit me like a ton of bricks when I typed the names of those who had the power to help me inflict this change in the “To:” box. They were all men. Every single one of them. There was not a single woman in any of these senior and executive positions that would have any steering power for the change that needed to occur. With a deep breathe, I began to type. The e-mail was crafted in such a way that provided both education and solutions (and a slight touch of: it’s time to wake up, gentlemen…). I entered into some sort of vortex that I came out of two hours later as I reviewed the e-mail one last time before hitting send. It was the most powerful piece of writing I have ever created, even still to this present day. My mind was clear. My heart was full. I was proud. And…I was also not naive. I knew that by hitting send, it would be up to me to withstand any backlash that could come as a result. And so I surrendered.
It was brilliantly written, Sarah. Did your husband help you write it?
The responses that came in over e-mail and in person over the next 2 days had me in a state of shock. Disbelief. None of it was intentionally malicious, but it was a glaring state of ignorance at best. It left me questioning everything. Was I proud? If I wasn’t proud, was I actually successful? Is the corporate ladder really what I wanted to achieve? Am I actually being responsible by clinging to my career? Words escaped me, which was rare for someone as outspoken and as bold of a career woman as I was. It’s like my throat chakra slammed itself shut in order to protect me from the anger, confusion and ugliness that was brewing within me. I was beginning to realize that without the confidence to stand in her own power, career dreams for a woman would be unnecessarily difficult due to societal and corporate ignorance alone. There was a reel of women flashing through my mind, never achieving their dreams in a system that wasn’t set up for their success unless they had the courage I had. This realization extended far beyond my own organization, as I was beginning to see how very real this issue still was in 2017. It was dizzying. My higher self recognized that my usual bullet-proof level of emotional intelligence was eroding by the minute and I was on the verge of erupting. My husband and my parents took the brunt of it all for a good 48 hours as I released the steam that had built up at an alarming rate.
Throughout the chaos, I heard this little voice. It was as faint as a whisper, but I heard it loud and clear. Save your energy, Sarah. This isn’t the fight you’re meant to be fighting. There’s greater work to be done.
I knew after this emotionally volatile experience, I was changed forever – yet at the time I didn’t know what it all meant. I just knew there was no going backwards now. I was being called forward for something as a universal force flooded me with broken record that kept saying: Be the change. Be the change. Be the change. Be the change.
BE the change?! I would exclaim back to this invisible voice. What does that even mean?!
This isn’t your platform, Sarah. A platform?! What is a platform?!
The next few months were a haze. I entered into an all out war with myself. My higher self was calling me forward to create large scale impact in a way I couldn’t even yet see, as the societal definitions of responsibility, success & achievement kept me trudging my angry ass to work every day. It wasn’t long before my mind gave up and could barely form a thought, let alone a strategy. My soul was exhausted from trying to get me to listen and my body was physically wrecked from a poor level of self care.
I wish I could say my big leap was inspiringly smooth. It wasn’t. It was messy AF. If I could draw it, it would look like one of those movie scenes where someone is running away from something terrifying, and then they trip and fall and end up rolling and tumbling down a slope, bouncing off of trees and rocks for what seems like an unnecessarily long period of time before coming to rest at the bottom, questioning whether or not they’re awake, asleep, dead or something confusing in between.
I recognize this now as the inevitable breakdown, before the beautiful breakthrough. There was so much within me, so much coming at me, and only flames of fear spilling out of me. Little did I know at the time, that I was in the midst of the greatest awakening I had ever experienced. I had done so much personal development work that I had worked myself right into a corner, knowing that only I was responsible for fixing this and stepping into the highest level of power I knew existed within me. A level of leadership and responsibility that terrified me beyond words.
In January of 2018 I started my business with nothing other than a Facebook group (Shout out to the Life Intentionally family!) and this little voice in my mind that told me to just trust myself. By March, a new seed had been planted, unbeknownst to me. I had embarked on a women’s empowerment weekend in California, feeling shocked to meet so many Canadians I had never heard of before, who were all doing incredible things. Why did I have to go all the way to California to come to know so many epic Canadians? Why don’t I know them already? Why isn’t there a platform for Canadian women? It was a thought that stuck to my soul like Gorilla glue, and the little voice came back with a vengeance. Create it. This is it. The leadership responsibility of representing and taking a stand for Canadian women to claim their own power felt like the weight of the world. Who am I to do this!? A week before launching, my fear almost convinced me to change my brand name entirely to Soul Hustle. Can you imagine?! After a short but effective lecture on fear from my little sister (which I had given her in the past) it was decided. On July 1st 2018 also known as Canada Day, The Great Canadian Woman brand was born. This is your platform, Sarah. The little voice whispered with a sign of relief, knowing that I had finally figured it out. Sometimes it takes me a while. I am a Taurus after all…
Through empowerment coaching, business consulting, live events, blogs, books and the Great Canadian Woman podcast, this platform has impacted thousands of women directly, and one can only estimate the reach of the ripple effect. Women have launched businesses, left jobs that don’t feed their soul, asked for their worth in pay and received it, left toxic relationships, discovered their own worth and love for themselves, established the highest levels of self respect, shared their stories, grown their businesses, helped other women start their businesses, and the list goes on…
On International Women’s Day 2017, I was spitting flames, trying to push an idea onto a group of people who weren’t ready to understand it. Today, just two years later, The Great Canadian Woman Podcast was chosen to be a part of Apple’s Inspiring Women campaign for International Women’s Day 2019. The Great Canadian Woman platform is the safe container for growth that I was attempting to build back in 2017, but that little voice was just telling me to build it somewhere else, and make it a little bigger. 😉
Be the change. Command the change. I had to. We all have to.
Happy International Women’s Day 2019! May you all be blessed with #balanceforbetter
Are you familiar with that gnawing feeling inside? The knot in your stomach, or the lump in your chest that you’re meant for something more? I knew there was something greater inside of me, something the world needed. I just didn’t know what it was. I’d looked for it in other people, in a variety of jobs, and a whole slew of side hustles over the last four years.
Not knowing what I was looking for, I did all that I knew how to do – I got busy, being busy. You know the kind of busy that you’re not really moving in a particular direction, but you’re always on the move? Even backwards at times. I started to search, trying different side jobs, ventures, anything I could get my hands on that could spark the feeling I had long desired inside me. Something that would illuminate the path I’d been longing for. It wasn’t long before this need to discover my path became an obsession. Unfortunately this obsession led me to becoming very skilled at burning my candle at both ends. Sometimes determination can be a bad thing when it doesn’t include room for rest.
Stress does fascinating and terrible things to the body, mind and soul. Everyone has different signs, signals or feelings that arise when they’re reaching their limit. For me, my body tends to tense up, I start losing sleep and eventually I’ll wake up with a cold sore; the tell tale sign that I need to slow things down and rest. Getting to know your own signals, and then honouring your need for rest will save you a pile of discomfort and hurt.
There was a moment throughout this experience where I truly pushed myself beyond my own limitations and the Universe was forced to step in to intervene. The level I reached with my experience with burnout is one for the history books.
June 2018 was the climax of years of hustling, and I’d now been working long hours at my day job, and even longer hours on my new business that was set to launch in a couple weeks. I’d been putting off taking a mental health day for weeks, months even. Being the one responsible for opening the store, I wouldn’t let myself call in. Either way I felt myself reaching the point of doing too much, and my sleep quality was beginning to deteriorate.
After spending an entire weekend playing in a Corporate Challenge Slo-Pitch Tournament totaling seven games and a whole lot of sun exposure, I was sunburnt, sore and utterly exhausted. I woke up Monday feeling like I’d been hit by a freight train. I remember rolling out of bed, moaning and most likely complaining to my partner that my lips had never been so sunburnt. They were swollen, achy and sore. I went about my morning, jumped in my car and drove to work. I managed to push through all of Monday and Tuesday on literal fumes in my tank. I was still putting in long hours, no breaks and preparing for a 11 day kick off launch for my new business. Anyone who saw me in that first week of June would have a clear as day picture of what textbook exhaustion looks like.
June 6th is a day I’ll never forget. It’s when everything I’d been pushing down, persevering through and ignoring finally came full circle. By this time in the week my lips had swollen to three times their normal size. It was then that I realized it was more than just sunburnt lips, it was also one of the worst outbreaks of cold sores I’d ever experienced. My lips looked like they’d been pumped full of botox; even Kim Kardashian herself would have been jealous. It was hard enough to go to work right now with how I was feeling, but now I LOOKED awful too. Every ounce of my body was screaming at me that morning to stay in bed, to call my boss and let him know what my soul was crying out for. To finally take that mental health day. I didn’t do it though, I pushed on telling myself I could get through the rest of the week and recharge over the weekend and get just enough rest to be ready to kick off my business launch.
I take the same route to work every morning. It was along this familiar route that the Universe finally decided to make herself known and step in. I was exiting off the highway onto another major roadway. I was driving in behind a semi, and as he whirled into the merge lane he had such momentum that it caused the suction effect to pick a piece of drywall up off the side of the road and hurl it directly into my path. It hit my 2013 Buick Encore square in the nose as I quite literally drove through “a wall”. There was no avoiding it, I had to drive straight through. Shocked, panicked, alive I slowed down only to get increasingly upset at the driver, and for some strange reason at myself (as if I had control?). I put the pedal to the metal and cursed a few lovely sentences in my vehicle as I pursued the semi driver. I managed to pull him over only to have him say that it wasn’t his fault, have a nice day! That was it. I reached my breaking point. I had finally hit a wall…literally. It was in this moment that I put any ugly crying girl you’ve ever seen to shame.
I called my partner in complete tears, and with every passing breath I was losing my grip on “keeping my cool”. I was bouncing in between blubbering and hyperventilating, I’m sure he barely understood what I was saying. Since I was already pulled over I took a look at the damage – it was minor. I’d lost my emblem, tow hook cover and damaged my hood slightly. Though the front end of my car looked like it’d had a bag of flour explode all over it (or illegal drugs). I took some deep mindful breaths and pulled myself together, by thin and weakened threads – I still had to get to work to open the store and I was going to be late. I spent the rest of my drive being grateful for the little amount of damage, and the fact that no one was seriously hurt (in between waves of emotion and tears).
Once I safely parked. I leaned in to my tribe. I had joined Sarah’s Unstuck program and had an incredible support team that had known all about what I’d been going through. I went live in that group and poured my heart out, with laughter, big crocodile tears, ridiculously reflective glasses that probably hid my red eyes, and my sore and swollen lips. The Universe finally got through to me. I was finally ready to listen, and I was definitely done pushing myself day in, day out. I needed rest. I was sent home for my mental health day shortly after my boss arrived to work.
Since that fateful day in June, I’ve been able to establish better boundaries, though there are still times I work longer and harder. I’ve also eliminated my corporate job and pursued the business I launched that week full-time. Burnout and stress are very real in our working world. If you can learn anything from reading this is to listen to your body, take rest early, and know that should you choose to push yourself too far – the Universe will likely step in and FORCE you to rest. It can show up unannounced and at anytime and in any way.
Remember that your body is always speaking to you.
It is always communicating and sending updates on how you’ve been treating it.
Call it intuition.
Call it signals. Call it warning signs. Call it whatever the hell you want.
Just don’t ignore it. Ever.
Once the Universe is forced to step in – you never know what she’ll do to wake you up, or slow you down. Much love, Miss Olivia
Olivia Shwetz is an Intuition Reactivation Coach from Alberta, Canada. Find her on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/wakethewildwithin/ and check out her 8-week program: Naturally Intuitive http://bit.ly/Naturally_Intuitive
She woke up one morning a different from the woman who went to bed the night before.
She was no longer going to wait.
She had enough!
Enough waiting for the perfect moment.
Enough hiding from the world.
Enough putting everyone else’s needs first.
Enough ignoring her soul.
She had seen enough pain in the world and could no longer sit by and do nothing.
She had enough of the fear. Enough of the, “who am I to do this?“
She had enough of telling herself she wasn’t good enough.
What is “good enough?” She couldn’t define it.
So she let it go!
No more believing she didn’t know enough. The time had come to rise up. The time to act is now!
That voice in her head that had kept her stuck and small for so long, was gone!
There’s no room for it in this space!
No Space in this world that is desperately calling for women to stand up and speak out, share the truth from the depths of their soul, spread the hope about overcoming trauma and tragic loss and offer comfort to those who are struggling,
She knew she needed to be that voice.
To be heard, to be seen, to serve.
There was a new voice in her mind.
One of a cheerleader, encouraging her every step of the way.
You’ve got this!
It is a privilege to be in your presence!
The world needs your light!
And so she put herself out there. Raw, vulnerable & real.
And the world was a brighter place for it!
She never looked back.
She had no regrets.
For she knew her worth and she knew it from her core.
She showed up. First for herself, and then for others.