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

On Coparenting

By Nicole Dalcourt

I’m sitting in the passenger seat on my way to Florida to try and escape my seasonal depression. My amazing husband is behind the wheel. The Tragically Hip is cranked and we are giddy to escape the long Canadian winter for the next two weeks. It’s important to note here, that this trip would not have been possible without the help of my ex-husband.

My ex-husband and I share custody of our children. Equally. We always have, and hopefully always will. We both grew up in broken families, with absentee (biological) fathers and the impact of that loss left us both wounded. Despite how we felt about each other, we wanted to leave our kids with a different legacy – so we set out to love our kids more than we hated each other.

But, It wasn’t always easy. Not by a long shot. As early as four years ago we were in court fighting over passports and the Christmas schedule – and it wasn’t even the first time we ended up there. I felt ashamed every time we stood in the family courts, arguing over things that wouldn’t matter six months later. Neither one of us ever willing to relent, even the tiniest bit, each of us so desperate to win.

There are plenty of opportunities for arguments with this type of co-parenting schedule. This arrangement requires almost constant communication; texting, phone calls and face-to-face meetings, shared parent-teacher interviews and doctor appointments. Neither one of us wanted to miss out on our kids lives and because of this, they flourished. 

Behind the scenes though, it was a very different story. There was a lot of hate, grief and tears. So many tears. We insulted and fought and pushed and pulled, neither one willing to let go of the reigns. I can’t speak for him, but for me, it was just too hard to admit that he was doing a good job. A huge part of me wanted him to fail, so I could have the kids to myself. I didn’t want to share, not only because I missed them incredibly when they were with him, but also because it made me feel ‘less than’.

Every mother I knew had custody of her children, and I could feel a mixture of jealousy and judgment every time I told another divorced woman we shared the kids equally. I always felt a need to explain why I didn’t fight for full custody and had a host of canned responses I recycled through. The bottom line, and reason I never pursued it, was that the only ones who would feel the loss of their father would be the kids. It just wasn’t a burden I was willing to give them.

That realization had a profound effect on me. The current state of our co-parenting relationship was tumultuous at best, and the stress of it was starting to bleed into all other areas of my life. I had to put down my sword, even if he didn’t. Especially if he didn’t. I’d have to control my emotions, my anger and my fear, in all interactions I had with him. I knew it was going to be hard but with help from a therapist I committed to changing our relationship, or at least my contribution to it.

The first argument we had after I’d made that decision didn’t go very well. I was overwhelmed with my need to be right, too proud to let him believe he was ‘winning’. I was sucked back into the familiar rhythm that had wreaked havoc on my life for the previous six years. I had to learn to listen, even when I felt unheard and I had to be kind even when I wanted to rage. The next time we argued, I let him have the last word. It ate away at me for days. But, the more I practiced, the easier it got. Soon, I was barely reacting at all.

Then, something amazing began to happen. The more I softened, the more he did as well. Our communication became more thoughtful, which led to more understanding and compassion. Slowly, and with some backward steps too, our relationship changed. It grew to be a respectful exchange of ideas in regards to the two things we value most in our lives. Our children.

Nicole Dalcourt