Lost and Found

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 commissions.

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 Warriors.

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

A Journey to Health

“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

Instagram Handle: Vanessa Marie Dewsbury


Grateful Heart

By Robin Liechti

“Let’s raise children who won’t need to recover from their childhoods.” – Pam Leo

Gratitude. This one simple word has changed my life forever.
I keep hearing “be who you needed when you were younger”. My first reaction is to defend my family, because I’ve always felt I had a good childhood. We spent holidays together, went on trips, I was loved and I full heartedly know my parents did the best they could. I’m not sure if it’s a person I could have benefited from, or just the knowledge, but what I needed is simple. Gratitude. I needed gratitude for myself… for my body, my thoughts, my feelings and all of my perfect imperfections. How was I supposed to be grateful for others, things or life in general when I wasn’t even grateful for myself? How could I love someone else unconditionally, when I didn’t even love myself?

Gratitude goes hand in hand with self love. Although I have no regrets in life, while lacking both of these, it certainly lead me down some dark roads. I wasn’t treating my body with the respect and love it so needed and deserved. Instead of nourish and care for my body, I would starve it. Instead of take pride in my body, I would compare it to everyone else’s. I didn’t appreciate that we are all different and that’s what makes us who we are. I didn’t appreciate that I am the only me there is, and I relied on validation from others instead of loving and honouring myself.

As I look back on my childhood and teenage years there isn’t anything I would change, as its part of who I am now. I am still the same me, just a stronger, more accepting and loving version with a greater sense of awareness through gratitude. Practicing daily gratitude has positively changed my life and views. I’ve learnt that there is gratitude to be found in the tiny moments, the big moments, in the struggles and in who I am.

I’m grateful for being Canadian.
I’m grateful for my body for growing, carrying and delivering my children.
I’m grateful for my marriage that ended in divorce.
I’m grateful for reuniting with my first love after the previous.
I’m grateful for family dinners, hikes and adventures.
I’m grateful for the chipmunks that show up at our patio door during breakfast and dinner time. (They are pretty much our pets)
I’m grateful for having the courage to pursue my dreams and inspire others.
I’m grateful for the support from family, friends and those I have not met.
And, I’m grateful for cuddles with my boys.

I have decided to be the change, and inspire change. My goal is to encourage love, peace, joy, kindness, fulfillment and resilience through gratitude. With the unrealistic media expectations and the rise in anxiety and self-esteem issues, I feel its imperative we act on this now. I have had so much fun creating and publishing a children’s gratitude journal titled The Making of a Grateful Heart. This journal encourages children and families to practice daily gratitude, together, and really appreciate all there is and all that they are. Once I realized this journal could have benefited me as a child and could benefit my children now, I knew I had to write it. When we are grateful for ourselves, we can find true appreciation and joy for everything else the world has to offer. Without gratitude, we’re just going through the motions but never stopping to admire the little things in life. When is the last time you stopped to listen to the leaves dancing in the wind? Or watch the sunset? When we pay more attention to the little things, the things we often take for granted, we come to realize how beautiful the world really is. I wish for all children to grow up truly loving and appreciating this world as a whole.

Gratitude is love, spread it generously!

Robyn Liechti

Robyn Liechti




Highs and Lows

By Stephanie Johnston

Highs and lows are a normal part of the human experience. Peaks and valleys. I have been told so many times, “You are always happy!” I think the dimples make me seem that way but the truth is, I have highs and lows too. I’m an emotional being, so what I feel is usually amplified. 

Since it’s been a long winter here on the East Coast, I thought I’d share some of the ways I deal with the low days when they do show up. Knowing that it’s OK to have sad days, and allowing myself to feel what I’m feeling helps so much!
Here’s what I do:

  • I surrender to Netflix marathons, wrapped up in cozy blankets. 
  • I play outside with my best friend ROXY (My angelic Golden Retriever). Seeing her in her happy state makes me smile every single time!
  • I always feel better in the water.  Oceans + rivers in the summer, bathtubs or pools in the winter. 
  • Turn off social media!
  • Lay in bed (or on my living room floor) and listen to music.
  • Take a drive to the wintery beach with the music turned up!
  • Look up at the sky and notice the clouds or the birds flying.
  • Move my body!
  • Journal or write out my thoughts and feelings.
  • Walk in the woods to ground myself and enjoy the scents and sounds.
  • Book myself in for a massage therapy session. 

I always just ask myself, what could make me feel even just a little bit better? What would bring me comfort right now? 

Stephanie Johnston

Founder, The Goddess Gatherings

Find Stephanie on Facebook or Instagram or on her website

canadian women, canadian podcast, canadian content, canadian moms, motherhood, lifestyle blog, small business blog

On Adulting

Dr. Gillian Sawyer

Adulting is hard sometimes. Nothing brings up more of that realization than sitting in raw situations like waiting for loved ones to come out on the other side of surgery.

This story while I was in it was hardAF to sit through, let alone write about. At the same time it’s cathartic, distracting, and also reminds me of how far I’ve come.  

I’m not sure how birth order plays into all of this but I’m the youngest of my siblings. I’ve been a caregiver, by nature, my entire life. When my mom was sick, it was natural to take care of her. My dad and I tag teamed her care. She had everything she needed and a “team” behind her, always. We tried to give her a fraction of the grace and love she gave all of us through her life.

Having one parent left, makes waiting for my Dad to come out of surgery really difficult. I sat in that painfully familiar café at the hospital fighting tears and running through the worst-case scenarios, picturing the surgeon coming out with a defeated look on the same, very confident face he had had six hours ago, uttering something along the lines of, “I’m sorry, we did everything we could.” I wondered what life would be like with no parents. These thoughts let my mind run into my kids getting sick, my husband being in an accident . . . There’s something that changes in your soul when you’ve lost a loved one. An emptiness, a heaviness, a feeling of “well if it happened once, surely it can again.” I’ve spent the last five years trying to shake this feeling. It’s an ongoing battle for me.

As I sat alone with my thoughts in the very same building I spent hours and hours sitting in when my mom was in and out of the hospital, I felt the heaviness of all that comes with adulting. Thinking back to the times when life felt easier. When we first came back here six months ago for my dad’s surgical consult, it took my breath away. I don’t love that I know this hospital like the back of my hand, but it is what it is. As you can imagine, a lot of pain, fear, grief has bubbled up. This moment and the past five years have been undeniably a state of survival mode . . . and somehow you just get through what you need to. Such is Adulting.

This brings me to my first thought. We are strongAF. As women, as moms, as humans. There is a ton of resolve deep down inside of us that just waits for the perfect time to come to the surface, right when you need it the most. The lump in my throat constantly reminds me that I’m human, I’m strong, and that I’m still alive. Is it uncomfortable, yes. Is it scary? Yes. But here I am doing it, and currently surviving it!

If you are reading this and currently faced with some pretty heavy shit, just know that you are strong and that you can get through more than you think you can. There’s a whole heap of resilience inside of you just waiting to be needed (cue self pep talk).

The next thought is that there are really nice people in the world. The nurses here, the doctors, my friends that will literally drop everything. The number of “I’m here” messages I’ve gotten from these special people in my life is just a testament to this. Just remember when the world seems dark . . . there are still a ton of really great people out there. And if YOU ever need someone, I’M HERE . . . just an email away. I mean that.

The last thought I have is life is precious and short. We get these reminders all the time. Go into grateful mode and then get hung up in life again. Let this be a gentle nudge for you to snuggle your kids a minute longer, back down from a fight or tell someone you love them.

A bit heavy, yes for sure. But this is life. And part of the reason I am here in this life is to share my story. I know this.

A side note here, a “light” if you will. I’m looking out the window of the café towards the main entrance of the hospital. THAT exact entrance is where I rolled up almost four years ago at 4:20am, at the end of January. With no pants on, in my Ugg boots, draped with my husband’s oversized flannel coat, trying to keep my daughter from crowning as I perched on a wheel chair rushing up to labour and delivery. She was born less than 10 minutes later a few floors up. In fact I can see the window of the room from here.

Finding peace, and light in the midst of darkness is part of adulting. I’m hoping that you see some light in the midst of whatever you are up against in your life. Your resilience and strength is just waiting to shine.

THAT entrance was also where we met my dad at 9:00am on a Monday on July. We flicked the hazard lights on, got my then two and a half year old daughter out of the car, gave her a kiss and said,  “Mommy’s going to have your baby sister, have fun with grandpa”. She came shortly after in that exact same room, just a few floors up. And by noon that same day my family of four was all together, back at home, in our living room and my life felt complete.

Love & Light,

Dr. Gillian

Dr. Gillian Sawyer

Chiropractor for Moms & Babes