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

www.vanessamariedewsbury.com

The Science & Art of Business & Leadership

By Sarah Swain

This is an open letter to all entrepreneurs, visionaries, side hustlers, executives and middle managers alike. There is an art and a science behind what we get to do. The science is the business and the business is in the numbers. Metrics, formulas, trends, graphs, trajectories, projections, performance, growth, productivity, losses, profit and anything else you can measure. It’s black and white, or should I say, black or red. The business is either running, or it isn’t. The business is either producing results, or it isn’t. The business is either growing or it isn’t. The business is either profitable or it isn’t. The results of the numbers tell us this, our feelings don’t. There is no grey area here, and how we feel about our business doesn’t have a line on the profit and loss report. This isn’t cold. This is business. The warmth of business lies in the art; the art of leadership.

Here’s the deal though, being a business owner does not make you a leader by default, just the same as being a leader to a group of people doesn’t mean you can run a business. Titles don’t generate leaders, behaviours do. Inspiration and feelings don’t produce results, performance does.

Through my observations of working for billion dollar companies, running my own business, and watching others run their own platforms, there is one thing I know for sure. In order for business, or anyone in business to survive, they must respect the balance between the art and the science. I have seen great business minds fall down as a result of their poor leadership skills and I have seen great leaders fall because of their lack of business fundamentals. I have seen visionaries quit their own vision because business feels too cold for them, and I have seen brilliant business ideas flop because of something as simple as a lack of interpersonal skills.

Successful, sustainable business is a dance.

The best business models I have ever seen, possess this ideology – If it isn’t good for the employees/clients, it isn’t good for the business. Meaning, if the employees and/or the clients and customers are not happy, the business has a decision to make: listen and change, or ignore and fail. Because guess what? Businesses with happy, engaged employees and happy customers win every single time. If you’re making decisions for the business, without consulting the input and overall experience of your team, clients & customers, your business won’t succeed in the long term. On the flip side, if you’re allowing emotions to create knee jerk reactions and decisions for the business without proper planning, strategy and roll out, you’re still heading for a metric face plant. Its’ a dance.

One thing I did at the beginning of 2017 when I knew my craving for entrepreneurship was nearing it’s breaking point, I did what most people wouldn’t. I asked for feedback. I surveyed over 30 people I had worked with or had personal relations with over the past decade and asked them for their feedback based on their experience with me in the categories of leadership, communication, business & interpersonal skills. In exchange for their honesty, I committed to not rebutting any of their comments, or engaging in any type of justification for why they may have had a sub-par opinion. Why did I do this? Well, it’s easy for us to get caught up in what we think we are really great at and ignore some of the tougher interactions that may suggest we have room for improvement. Naturally, we don’t like to acknowledge our weaknesses so we tend to steer away from those lanes. However, if you’re going to engage in business in any form, I can’t stress this enough. Your weaknesses are your blind spots because if you don’t familiarize yourself with your blind spots, it makes it that much easier for threats to your business and reputation to enter in through the spaces which you cannot, or choose not to see.

The art of business & entrepreneurship is to know yourself, your triggers & your blind spots. The art is to acknowledge your strengths and your weaknesses. The art is to be conscious of how you’re showing up as and being seen in your community. The art is the willingness to listen to feedback and engage your emotional intelligence before responding. The art is to stay in your area of expertise and genius as often as you can, while simultaneously addressing skill sets or traits that may pull you backwards. The art is surrendering when it’s time for you to delegate to people who have the required skills that you don’t possess. The art is knowing when to take a step back and evaluate. The art is continuing to learn. The art is accepting that you don’t know it all, and finding excitement in knowing there is still so much more for you to learn. The art is your ability to lead because your ability to lead affects your business, more than your business affects your ability to lead.

Sarah Swain

Founder & Visionary, The Great Canadian Woman

http://www.thegreatcanadianwoman.ca

https://www.instagram.com/thegreatcanadianwoman

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

https://www.facebook.com/nicolecdalcourt/

https://www.instagram.com/author.nicoledalcourt/

Entrepreneurship & Mental Health

By Sarah Swain

That face you make when someone tells you that you shouldn’t be stressed or depressed as an entrepreneur who gets to bring their vision to life.

FACT: entrepreneurs are more susceptible to depression, anxiety and substance abuse than traditional employees (source in bio for reference). .

Why?

Stress. Uncertainty. Social isolation. Personal and professional identity crossover. To name a FEW, of many…

Don’t let the world of Instagrammers living the dream on the beaches of Bali fool you into thinking something must be wrong with you and how you’re feeling behind the scenes of your business.

Gratitude isn’t lost on you for what you get to do with your life.

And it’s confusing as hell when you feel like you have it all, and feel like Hell all in one single moment.

There’s also nothing wrong with how you’re feeling. You’re not alone in your feelings.
Talk.
Reach out.
Talk to me.

Chances are I’ve felt what you’re feeling, too…and, we’ve got this.

And to all the entrepreneurs out there who make it all seem so easy, glamorous, and filled with nothing other than joy, beaches and laptops 👉🏼 This falsehood is harming people. This shit is hard! And sometimes it flat out hurts.

I have a full transparency e-book on Entrepreneurship Year 1 releasing in a couple of weeks and in it, I bare all this stuff – the behind the scenes funk, for this exact reason. It’s hard, it hurts, ands it’s lonely…all simultaneously along side joy, bliss, passion and excitement – the stuff that makes it all worth it !!.

Three articles below to help illustrate the relationship between entrepreneurship & mental health.

Sarah Swain

Founder & Visionary at The Great Canadian Woman

https://www.instagram.com/thegreatcanadianwoman/