Personal Grace

Do you ever think about grace? 

   Once upon a time, in my twenty-something days, I was the most graceless person on the face of the planet. No joke, you would not have liked me, at all! I was conceited, self-serving, and unkind. I had very little compassion for those around me, and I drove hard nails into the judgemental coffins I constructed. 

   It took years of health struggles, and a veritable volley—(Oooo, I like those two v-words together)—of real-life-kick-in-the-pants-problems, before I understood the true meaning of grace. It wasn’t until I’d walked in some hard shoes that I realized I had no right to judge. Most of us learn this life lesson first, and as a result, most of us get better about having grace for others. But what about having grace for ourselves too?

   Sometimes, I’m downright brutal; I berate myself for not getting all the things down, I’m by far my own worst critic, and I constantly focus on my mistakes. Sound familiar? 

   I think we treat ourselves poorly for a lot of reasons, but especially because we often believe its immodest to extend grace to ourselves—almost like we’re not being humble if we give ourselves some slack. Honestly though, self-abasement is abusive to the soul, and no matter how innately human, it draws us down a dark path. The truth is, we’re NOT perfect, the fact is, no one is. And the MOST graceless thing we can do to ourselves is to constantly focus on our shortcomings.

   For example: living with chronic illness is my reality. I can’t do ALL the things anymore, and in this, I need to have grace, either that or the frustration around my physical limitations will destroy me emotionally. I also need to have more grace for myself when I mess up. While I should definitely acknowledge my mistakes, I can’t let them define me… Mistakes can be used to help me grow, but afterwards, I need to move on.

   Personal grace will look different for each of us, but I honestly believe that if we don’t start extending more of it to ourselves, we’ll eventually have nothing left to give others. 

A Word of Encouragement About Reviews to New Authors

I wonder what the world would be like if everything we ever created was subject to reviews?

   Let’s imagine you spend three full months knitting a complex and detailed adult sweater, but, when it’s finished, you’re required to post that sweater online for reviews. Now, keeping in mind that most of the reviewers are not knitters themselves, what do you think the reviews will be like? My guess is that some people might feel your craftsmanship was exquisite even though they didn’t like the colour, others might love the colour but feel like the cable design was off, still others might love most of it but not like the texture.   

   This is the inevitable nature of reviews, isn’t it?

   People’s likes and dislikes are entirely subjective, and taste varies wildly from person to person…

   I just released my debut novel, The Maiden Ship on February 7, 2020 and this is my first real experience being open to public review as an author. It’s an interesting journey, and for the sake of bringing my point home, I want to share a few of the contrasts I’ve read in the reviews on my own book: one reviewer thought my main character’s pinnacle development moment came too abruptly while another thought he took forever to get there, another said my writing was not poetic enough while another called it too flowery, and while some loved that my novel maintained a male POV (point of view) throughout, some criticized this by saying that a girl (me) should not be writing in a male POV. Talk about variety, hey?!

   Quite honestly it’s impossible to be hurt by any of these, none of them are objective, they’re obviously based on personal bias and taste. I know all you veteran authors out there have this down pat already, but I just want to encourage the newbie authors out there, like me, not to take these reviews to heart.  That’s not to say constructive criticism from knowledgeable professionals should be ignored, not at all, but when it comes to the average online review, you need to take them all with a grain of salt. And NEVER, EVER let them discourage you, SIMPLY KEEP WRITING!

   P.S. I’ve also learned not to trust book reviews for my own reading choices. From now on, I plan to let a book speak for itself and I’ll no longer be turned off from reading something I’m interested in just because of a random two star review that was posted online—who’s to say that what didn’t suit that person won’t suit me? Of course if you still feel like you need reviews then let me suggest you seek out friends with similar tastes instead, that way you’ll be able to trust their recommendations whole heartedly. Happy reading!

A TRIBUTE TO THOSE ON THE FRONT LINES OF THIS PANDEMIC!

This tribute of gratitude goes out to ALL of our front line heroes right now! I couldn’t perfectly represent all of you here in this art, but you know who you are! <3

To all our healthcare workers, doctors, nurses, care aids, scientists, first responders, firemen, paramedics, law enforcement, border guards, police, military, essential public servers, grocery store staff, pharmacists, janitors, factory workers, mail delivery staff, city service workers, child protection services, social service workers, uber and taxi drivers, truck drivers, and all those keeping us afloat like teachers, pastors, and people spreading positivity online… I know I’ve probably missed some of you, BUT WE ARE IMMENSELY GRATEFUL FOR YOU ALL!!! Thank you for keeping us going through this pandemic, you are REAL HEROES!

Show these heroes your gratitude and honour their sacrifice by staying home!

Vision vs Execution

“After a few months of practice, David lamented to his teacher, “But I can hear the music so much better in my head than I can get it out of my fingers.”

To which the Master replied, “What makes you think that ever changes?” “ ~ Art & Fear by David Bayles & Ted Orland

Yesterday I posted a portrait of my character, Sable, on IG and I hated it. I tried hard to convince myself to like it, but I couldn’t do it. She just did not look the same way she did in my head. It maddened me. I deleted it. And then today I started all over again. The portrait you see here is my fourth attempt at Sable. That’s right, yesterday was my third. She has been down right obstinate, and nearly impossible to capture.

If you are a creator, then I bet you too have faced this kind of frustration. Our vision rarely fits our execution. It’s like the image in our mind’s eye gets twisted, mucked up, and lost in translation. On rare occasions it manages to work out, but for the most part it’s much like Picasso said, “I begin with an idea, and then it becomes something else.”

Now, we can do one of three things with this experience; we can simply give up, we can try again (and again, and again in my case), or we can just accept what Picasso calls “something else” and move onto the next creation. Nowadays, option two and three is where I usually land, but in the past I have given up. I don’t recommend it. It’s important to realize that our vision (the picture in our head) is, as the Master said to his student above, always going to exceed our abilities. And, in the end, this is NOT a bad thing. Without this vision we would never improve. The vision pushes us beyond ourselves. It asks greater things of us each time we create. While we strive to reach it, we grow. And growth is good.

Am I completely satisfied with how Sable came out today? That’s a good question. Maybe… She’s a bit better, I think… Either way, she’s taught me a lot. 😉

Sable is an original character from my up coming novel, The Maiden Ship.

What is the Point?

I’ve written about this before, how obsessing over numbers on social media can make me miserable. And I might be beating a dead horse with this new post, but apparently it’s still needs to be worked out of my system. It’s source is typically in that conundrum of working umpteen hours on a painting I’m proud of to have it flop on social media, verses doing a fast sketch that gets triple the love. It makes me shake my head in frustration, rail my fists at the social media gods, and even slump into minor bouts of depressive thinking. Maybe I should just quit? Why am I even doing all this work? What is the point?

Let’s just look at those questions a little closer.

Maybe I should just quit? This isn’t even a realistic question. Let’s be honest, I’m never going to quit. I love being creative so much so that quitting would be a greater injury to my soul than continuing on with no recognition at all. Which leads me realize that recognition and reward drive none of what I do. Surprised? So am I. Turns out I don’t actually need it to create. That painting I spent hours pouring my heart into, the one I was actually proud of, that’s my reward. The joy of capturing what I wanted, the sense of real accomplishment are far greater gifts than any number of likes on Instagram or Facebook. And now that I have realized this, I have also inadvertently answered my other two questions above as well. I do the work because the process is fulfilling. I love the process. I create because I love creating, that is the point, and honestly, it needs nothing more.

Now this is not to say that all the likes, comments, and interactions on social media mean nothing to me. They mean a great deal in the sense that they help me to make a living. Every interaction here helps my family buy groceries. It means I can work from home, and care for my son who cannot be alone. These are deeply meaningful things. However, what I cannot do is base my intrinsic worth as an artist on the interactions I receive here. Social media is a fickle friend, and while I might need her to survive, she doesn’t deserve to be in charge of my heart.

There, done, I think perhaps I’ve got this now. Hopefully it resonated with some of your hearts as well. <3

Embracing Uncertainty

At this point I just might be able to write a novel based upon the real events of my own life. If I carefully plotted out my forty-seven year old history, I’d end up with a story full of flawed characters, twisted turns, and insurmountable odds. Seriously, if you knew my tale, in all it’s strange and colourful glory, you’d probably agree that it’s near novel worthy. I am laughing inwardly now because, while I love fiction, I never really wanted my life to mimic it.

I’ve heard them, (you know them), say that the we are the authors of our own destiny. As a middle aged woman, with a fair amount of road now behind me, I know this isn’t 100% true. We do have a say in a large portion via our personal choices, but we have only to look at relationships, health struggles, accidents, and the larger world view to see that life is full of uncertainty. I’m going to quote scripture now, bear with, ’Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring forth.’ (Proverbs 27:1)

Uncertainty is a universal truth, and if I’ve learned anything, rallying against it doesn’t work, but embracing it does.

Yesterday I learned that because of unforeseen circumstances Charting Stars will have to be put on hold for an indefinite period. (It was set to release October 1st.) I am obviously heartbroken by this, but I am trying to embrace the uncertainty (the fact that this is just life), so that I can carry on. Though I may feel like my life story could be novel material, I’m pretty sure it will not have that kind of cataclysmic finish that ends up on the bestseller list, but my prayerful hope is that, despite the uncertainty of every day yet to come, I will be able to live out whatever is left of my own story here moving forward in a positive, cheerful and worthy manner.

If you’ve read all of that, you are appreciated beyond words. Thanks for sticking with me.

Obsessing Over Numbers on Social Media

I love my Instagram account, @whimsicalillustration. I’m not kidding, it is my favourite app for following everything I’m interested in. It has been a lifeline to me during my struggles with chronic illness, it has been a critical business tool as an artist, and, above all, I have met the most amazing friends there.

I LOVE Instagram! (Did I say that already?)

However, (there’s always a however), I tend to get sucked into the numbers; the number of followers, the number of likes, the number of comments. I sometimes even let the numbers affect my day and my mood. For example, if one post doesn’t get as much engagement as another I agonize over it. Did I post at the right time? Maybe this drawing wasn’t good enough? Perhaps I need to draw more of this instead of that? Do people find I’m posting too much, or maybe I’m posting too little? Aaaaggghhh… I can literally drive myself bananas thinking things through, all because of the blasted NUMBERS!

The thing is, we humans are hard wired for approval, and those numbers feed that need. They make us feel accepted, they give us a sense of belonging, and let’s be honest, everyone needs to belong. This need for approval and belonging are natural, and not bad in and of themselves because we are not created to be alone. Humans have always survived in groups, but if the need becomes obsessive then perhaps it is time to step back.

Do I get obsessed?

Yep, sometimes I think I do.

Is there a solution?

I could sing Elsa’s theme song from Frozen here, but I don’t think it’s that easy, and I simply don’t have the magic to build myself a beautiful ice palace in the mountains where I can live out my days alone. And, for me, the pros of Instagram outweigh the cons, so, I think I’m going to have to settle for awareness. By that I mean, I am aware that I occasionally obsess over the numbers, and that I might need to start making a conscious effort to relax my internal response to them. My guess is that some days I’ll do a better job at relaxing than others, but for the sake of my emotional well being it’s worth the effort.

Do you obsess about numbers on social media? If so, have you found a way to manage it?

Do You Have A Teen Who Loves to Write? Ten Writing Tips for Teens

My teenage daughter loves to write! She spends every spare moment buried inside her little notebook creating character sketches, writing scenes and working out new story scenarios. She’s a good little writer and I’m always encouraging her to continue. The other day I came across this little graphic with 10 writing tips for teens. We both found these tips quite useful so we wanted to share – hope you are all having a lovely week. 🙂2c1a971e3771798e64f26a58e83db96d

Let’s Go Fly a Kite!

Hunter looked outside and remarked, “It’s really windy – I think it’s a good day to fly a kite!”  I knew that we had some old broken kites somewhere in the garage but I wasn’t up for the search.  Instead, we did a little online searching.  The kids and I found some instructions which assured us that drinking straws, plastic grocery bags, string and tape would quickly produce fully functioning kites. Perfect – we set to work!Kites_2011_01 Kites_2011_07I’m sure you are not surprised to hear that once we got our homemade kites outside, they didn’t fly at all… 🙁  Hannah took this disappointment in stride but Hunter was pretty bummed. It’s always sad when your hard work doesn’t quite pay off…Kites_2011_09Hannah didn’t give up though! She went into the garage, rummaged through and found one of our old kites. After a bit of sawing, taping and tying we managed to create a NEW-OLD kite that flew perfectly!Kites_2011_05We all know that life is often more about the journey than the end result. My kids and I had a lot of fun constructing those kites together. And in the end, I also learned that making old things new again can sometimes be a better option than starting from scratch. 😉Kites_2011_03

Happy Sunday,

Micheline

Busy Bees

Bee_smallMost of us complain, “I’m just so busy!” We often use the expression “busy as a bee” or “ants in your pants” to describe our incessant activity. But how much does our busyness really compare to that of a bee or an ant?

Apart from producing one of the sweetest nectars on earth, bees are essential to pollinating our ecosystems. If bees were to stop their “busyness” it would negatively impact all of us. Pollination helps preserve our natural forests and wildflowers providing the seeds, fruit, and nuts that sustain wild animals. Pollination of our own vast food supplies sustains us. Our very survival relies on these tiny, magnificent creatures.Paint-2a_smallAnts are equally magnificent; they turn over and enrich the soil more than earthworms, they spread seeds, pollinate plants and control the pest and spider populations. Additionally, they keep the environment clean by consuming dead animals and they themselves are a food supply for many other species.

In all honesty I can’t profess that my “busyness” even remotely compares to that of a bee or an ant. While much of my time is spent caring for my family and community, in all honesty I take on a lot of things that actually reduce the time I have to spend on the people and things I care about.

I suppose the issue isn’t necessarily our “busyness” but instead it’s what we are busy doing.

~ MichelineSpring_2011_17_smallIMG_8178_smallMy Father-in-law found this spectacular “Ant Castle” last year. It has roads winding round and round – all the way up to the top!