Painting, if my kids can do it, so can I

IMG_1311 copyWhen I was in Junior High, my top 3 subjects at school were Art, History and Accounting, 97% for all 3, but who’s counting right?! With my heart in the arts from the beginning I continued down that path with a skip in my step. My grade 12 art finals were the last time I painted anything of significance. I mentioned before how my gran is an artist and how she really inspired me as a child and into early adulthood to embrace my creative side.

Almost 20 years later I find myself inspired once again to pick up the brush and dust off the old easel. I have started painting again and I’d like to take you through my first few pieces. What I have found so many years later is that my skill set for composition has greatly improved from my experience in advertising and more recently in photography. My understanding of colour has grown in leaps and bounds with my studying of interior design. That last point was a surprise to me. I thought I knew all there was to know about colour, turns out there’s so much more to how, why and when certain colours go together, which is one of the many inspirations behind this blog –  you’re welcome.

Side note: There’s an important lesson here, never stop learning in life. You may find yourself using your newly found knowledge in unexpected places. With our whole lives ahead of us, and so much information out there, there are so many channels to enrich our characters and influence the people we will become, and ultimately, the legacy we leave behind.

Let me take you through my process. Go easy on me, like I said, it’s been almost 20 years.

The concept

  • Inject joy into the images that I capture in and around Kuwait.

How

  • With careful consideration of the use of colour in my painting of these images onto canvas.

The process

  • My starting point is photography. I go on many walkabouts in and around the city. After I select my personal, favourite photos I begin to work on these images, one at a time. I prefer to work from photographs I have taken and not from other’s work as this makes it personal and original, not simply a painted copy of someone else’s vision.
  • With a 4×6 print carefully taped to the easel I start with a loose sketch. From there I carefully pre-select my colours. With my pallet board prepped, my brushes and pallet knives ready to go, I begin the process of trying to extract the interpretation of the photograph I see in my mind and project it onto the canvas using acrylic paint.

Kuwait Water Towers:

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Photo: Kirrily Morris

Typical Kuwait Date Palm Tree:

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  • My most recent work explores mixed media. I do enjoy the structure that photography brings, but I prefer the depth I get from painting.

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The only way I know whether I am finished or not is when something inside me says: “Yes, that’s what I saw and that’s what I want to show people” 

Now that the painting is finished, what do I do with them? You may remember my friend and inspiring cultural photographer, Kirrily Morris, also based here in Kuwait, she has started an Instagram and Facebook art gallery called PhotoArt Kuwait. She invited me to join her gallery so this will be my main platform for now. It is a place where people can purchase slices of Kuwait life and hold on to the moments of joy that this season has brought them.

We would love for you to follow us and keep a look out for new work being added to the Instagram and Facebook account often!

Special thanks for the courage to pursue a long forgotten passion goes to my children. I saw them painting so confidently and so proudly and I envied that. I always thought that painting is something I’d love to get back into, but filled my head with lies thinking that it was something to be left behind in my childhood. But why? Why not paint? Isn’t it great that our kids are able to teach us something, that WE can learn from THEM! If my kids can do it, with such confidence and joy then so can I. And so can you! Honestly, no matter what it turns out like as long as long as you enjoy the process it is worth it!

Happy painting,

la

 

Flavors of Fatherhood

{Guest post by: Jenny Delaney Frickie}

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Fatherhood is not something you can easily define, for the seasons of fatherhood are as fluid as the cold beer he drinks after a long hard day. There are many different kinds of fathers in this world. There is the stoic father who laborers tirelessly for his family, expecting his actions to speak the words he can’t seem to share. There is the goofy dad who seems to be as young and carefree as his kids, exemplifying the art of playfulness at all stages of life.  There is the adventurous father who is only satisfied exposing his family to the wonders of the world, instilling a life long fascination of exploration. There is the handy daddy who can fix anything he sets his mind to, especially the treasured toys of his children.

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A father can be each of these and more at one point or another. As the seasons of life pass from one to the other, and the challenges of each season wear heavily upon his shoulders, a father never ceases in his labor of love for his family. He will move from the season of “daddy” to the season “dad”, just as spring all to quickly turns into summer. The summer years will fade to the brisk fall evenings, as pre-teens begin to push against authority. Then suddenly a father must weather the blizzards and winter storms of the teenage years with the hope that the spring of adulthood is just around the corner- when once again he will be a wanted voice of wisdom and encouragement.

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Through it all, a father’s heart carries the burdens of his family with pride. He takes great care in providing shelter and food for his little tribe. Yet his provision goes so much deeper. His encouraging words and cheering smiles provide the very confidence that will propel his children into world in search of success and prosperity. A father’s love fills his children’s souls and prepares them for the day they will encounter the enormous love of their Father in Heaven. A love they are able to receive and believe in easily, for they have been loved unconditionally all their lives.

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A father instills within his son what is means to be a good man; devoted and loving. He helps define the man of his daughter’s dreams, as she will seek a man who embodies the positive characteristics of her daddy. 

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Fathers instruct their children, raising them up with honorable character and setting ever-widening boundaries that prepare for adulthood. Father’s are caretakers, providers and lovers. They are hard workers who make investments not just financially, but emotionally and spiritually. No, fatherhood is not easily defined for it encompasses all aspects of life and is displayed as uniquely as the beers displayed at a store.  Fatherhood is determined by the man’s personality and season in which he resides; his flavor and color is unique- but a refreshing cold beer nonetheless. 

Cheers to you dads!

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IACW - Jen bio picAlong with being Katie’s little sister, Jenny is a Christian author, a home school mama of three, and Marine wife. In between parenting and teaching, she uses her limited free time to write inspirational devotions and children’s literature. Her first published essay was chosen for the I HEART MOM anthology of motherhood.

This is Jenny’s first guest blog post on IACW and we look forward to her sharing her heart and inspiration with us in the future!

 

Portraits & Trust

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We are indeed our own worst critics. I know I am guilty of it as well. Compound that with a few incidents of people speaking ugliness into your life and you start to believe those lies about yourself. It makes me so sad when friends and clients tell me they are not photogenic. My response is always the same: let me try.

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Ok, I know not everyone is a super model, but hear me on this. If you tell yourself the photo will be awful before it’s even snapped then your inner thoughts will be all over your face. Half of the equation for a good portrait, selfie or otherwise, is being hopeful that your inner super model will shine.

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The other half is the photographer. Let’s face it, there are bad portrait photographers. Not every professional photographer should work in portraiture. We all have our strengths. I for one, am not a landscape photographer – I want to put people in that field! So, what makes a good portrait photographer? Skills, obviously, but beyond that it is the ability to capture that inner beauty we all have. Seriously, no matter what you have been told or think of yourself, you are beautiful, or handsome as the case maybe.

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It is our job as photographers to make our subjects feel comfortable and trust us. It is on us to ask questions and listen to the answers as we get to know them, and then hone in on what makes them light up.

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Lindy-Ann and I are blessed with the ability to be self-depreciating and goofy for the sake of our clients. There is no silly song, word, face, or conversation we won’t try to engage our subject from behind the lens. I’m talking about our grown up subjects too, not just children!

There is a triangular relationship between the subject, the photographer, and the camera. It is normal for my boys to talk to me through the camera, but that is not everyone’s reality. Therefore photographers have to help their subjects see and hear them between snaps, poses, and faces, and build that trust.

View More: http://dgdesignsphotography.pass.us/jankord-family-2015

Here are a couple of our tips for capturing a portrait that says more than just a face.

  1. Pre-Session chat – We recommend meeting, emailing, and/or calling your clients beforehand if you don’t know them. {This is even easier if you have an existing relationship, yay for coffee dates!} Ask them questions that will help you to get a sense of who they are and what they are about.
  2. Night before prep – Go back over those prep notes and communications. A person’s name is important to them, so if you are like me and are horrible with names, then the night before is the best to double check that list of the family member’s names. It also gives you a chance to make sure you pack any props or other items you discussed with them. This will go along way for them to trust you have their best interest at heart.
  3. Names – We are going to hammer this in: USE THEIR NAMES! Saying,  “You, with the blue shirt, move over to the right” will cause them to withdraw from you. Engage them by using their names and those things you learned about them. Now, we must have a little grace with ourselves, because in the midst of shooting even I still get a little confused and call people the wrong names, but I make up for by saying, “I’m so sorry I know your name (INSERT CORRECT NAME HERE).” Again, they will trust you are focused (literally and figuratively) on them.
  4. One-on-One – at some point each session you will be focusing on one member of the group and it is those moments you have to up your trust game. Remember the things they like and ask how they are doing. Talk and help them relax.
  5. Art Direction – This maybe one of the toughest and most intuitive parts of photography. Art direction is taking in scene and eliminating and adding to the scene as well as directing the subjects poses and body placement, all to make the photograph. Thanks to mirrors and selfies, most people have practiced their  “best looks” so allow them to be a part of the art direction. To be clear, a part of the art direction, not the director. You must remain in charge, which also lends to the client trusting you know what you are doing.
  6. Pause – There are a few stages in a session that we recommend you pause. When you start out, instead of ducking behind the camera right away (Guilty!), pause and engage them in conversation. Another moment to take pause is just before snapping, to see them, really see them, through your view finder. Pause on their face and appreciate, as an artist, their unique characteristics. SEE THEM. I’m reminded of that scene in Hook when the littlest lost boy smushes Robin Williams face around and then says, “Oh, there you are Peter.” He saw him.
  7. Be goofy – Be ridiculous, laugh, make fun of the awkwardness – all of this will help them let you in and let down their defenses. Instead of the stiff fake smiles you will capture the genuine joy and laughter.

Next time someone you care about says they are not photogenic, we challenge you to try and capture what you see in them. We guarantee that if you are thoughtful about it, the photo you take will make them smile.

Keep snappin’-

kdg

Strength and Beauty

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I have this friend, Vienna. She is strong. I mean physical strength combined with an inner fortitude that makes her a true force to be reckoned with. She personifies strength to me.

In the year that I have known her, she has shared her strength with me and come to my rescue more than a few times, whether it’s babysitting my boys, letting me cry it out in her van, or editing blog posts.  I can lean on her and know that my load will not break her.  She is strong enough to take it.

In the past two weekends I have watched, cheered, and photographed her as she displayed her physical prowess at the Israeli Ready For Action (RFA) CrossFit competition and participating in the Memorial Day Murph Challenge. This girl is amazing and definitely inspiring.

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We joke that she is not my first CrossFit friend {Love you, Drennans!}, but this was my first CrossFit competition and I left the stadium in awe of her dedication and her never-quit attitude. Five weeks prior to the RFA Vienna participated in the CrossFit open. Only 2 weeks into the open she contracted an insane eye infection that made light intolerable, and yet she persevered and finished 2nd in the Masters Woman division, over all of Israel, qualifying her for the RAF.

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She killed the first event of the RAF and finished first in her division and 2nd over all the woman. To be clear, she beat out women half her age! Seriously, incredible! Friday’s events proved to be a bit tougher for V, as she struggled to scale the rope with a 20lb vest, which cut into the time she had finish the other elements of the event, particularly the things she is better at; lifting heavy things. The suspense of that rope climb was so intense and she shared afterward that, when she finally hit the top, she felt the stadium shake with our cheers! Even though Friday was not as successful as Thursday had been, she was in great spirits, showing everyone that inner strength to keep moving forward.

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Saturday was full of life lessons and impactful moments as well, especially because her kids were in the crowd with us. As a mom watching a daughter cheer for her mom, I was struck with what V was teaching her children; moms are strong, do your best, and if you fail it’s going to be ok, failures are opportunities to get better, never give up, sportsmanship, and, of course, keep smiling! At four, seven, and nine, they may not see of that right now, but I have a feeling those were ideals imprinted on their little hearts.

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She ended up qualifying for the finals and obliterating the event! It was a fantastic way to end the RFA!

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Those of us that had the pleasure of cheering on our friend from the stands were in awe.

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A week later, she put herself to the test again to join thousands of other athletes around the world in honoring our fallen on Memorial Day with a CrossFit Hero WOD ‘MURPH’. Named for fallen seal, LT. Michael P. Murphy. The challenge consisted of 1 mile run, 100 pull-ups, 200 push-ups 300 squats, followed by another mile run; all done in a weighted vest. Her personal goal was to stay under 50 minutes and she finished with a 48:54. Another life lesson: set goals and reach for them with all your heart!

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I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t inspired to work out after all this, I may not be jumping on the CrossFit train, but I’m ready for {a little more} action. We can call it the RFalmA for short.

More than that, I proud of my friend, for pursing her passion for fitness, for facing her fears of failing, and for preserving. Thank you Vienna for your strength in my life, in all its beauty.

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On a photography note: I was thrilled with how the images of the indoor stadium came out even with a high ISO. My only regret is not having had a telephoto lens since I did not have press access at the stadium and for when the runners were far off during the Murph. This was the first time since my yearbook days in college to shoot a sporting event. It was fun to step outside my portraiture comfort zone and challenge myself. I really liked it!

What inspires you to stay strong and work out? Share your secrets in the comments below!

In addition, to being a great friend, Vienna is also a personal trainer, so if you are in the Herzliya/Tel Aviv area and interested in getting fit with this superstar, email her at Rucksack Fitness.

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Thank you Adi Edri for capturing me getting my cheer on!

I’ll be here cheering you on too!

kdg

Dive deeper:

Rucksack Fitness

CrossFit

 The MURPH Challenge

Adi Edri Photographer

Have the last word

No one stops to think what their last words may be to someone they love. No one stops to think about the last words written either. I do.

The reason…

My mother Meryll, passed away due to complications from surgery at the age of 49. I was 27. My mother never got to meet my children. They will never get to know their grandmother. The last written words I have to remember her by are found in a hand written journal from her time in hospital. When she had a pipe down her throat she used this journal to communicate with visitors and nurses. Sadly, these are the last words I have from her. Not words a daughter would ordinarily choose to keep, but precious words none-the-less. The content of some of her sentences are really hard to read but just seeing her tangible hand writing makes me feel closer to her.

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My brother Warren, Meryll, Me

I sit here almost 8 years later reflecting on my own little family and I am faced with the reality that tomorrow is not promised to anyone. I have so many questions for my mom and would give anything to be able to sit down with her, I would drink coffee and she would have her favourite Rooibos Honey tea, as she always did, and we would talk for hours. I would ask her not only questions about parenting, but questions about marriage, too. She died 3 months before my wedding. So many things were left unsaid. So many big issues in life I have had to figure out for myself, moments where having my mom around would have come in handy. No offence Dad, but advice on birthing, delivery, and postpartum really can only come from a mom 😉

My last spoken words to my mom were “I’ll speak to you soon” – I never did.

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Below is the last entry she ever wrote in that book, what bothers me more than her last few written words, is the fact that there is more than half the book left blank; so many things left unsaid and still so many pages left open, waiting to be filled with words never written.

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My plan is to leave my 3 kiddos a journal specific to each child. Of course when it comes to generic news I will most likely type something up and print out 3 copies to insert, dated, into each book. I hope that one day when they’re old and grey these books will be relevant, but if life has other plans and I have to check out early,  I’m glad I will be able to leave them a few of their mother’s words. Good words, positive ones, funny ones, inspired ones, words of love and devotions. Words of pure heart. Memories that all too quickly seem to fade.

So I encourage you, if you have ever wanted to pen something, or a collection of somethings, to your children, do it! Do it now! Online images will move down your timeline, out of site and out of mind, but classic handwritten words, are priceless.

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“Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart” – William Wordsworth

with love,

la

Colours of Africa – The Alexa Kirsten Story

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When my friend Kerry casually dropped 6 books on a table amongst friends, she said “Oh, I have a few books of my mom’s story, if anyone wants to read it.” I’m pretty sure I elbowed our other friend Robin out the way to be one of the first ones to read it. Sorry Robin.

The book Colours of Africa – The Alexa Kirsten Story was written by Debra Hunter and published by Hunter publishing, New Zealand, in 2013.

“We shall not cease from exploring, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time” – T.S. Eliot

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Background:

The books goes into detail of how this family started their African journey back in 1938. When Alexa’s mother, Lexie, and her best friend Faith arrived in Cape Town, South Africa from England, to start their epic adventure travelling and hitch-hiking through Africa. The British pair had very little money, but a whole lot of heart, and this was my first insight into the strength and character of the women of this family.

During the war in 1943, Lexie was a qualified physiotherapist when she met South African solider, Charles Campbell Elliot. It was love at first sight and the pair were married within 2 weeks in Tripoli, Libya. On 27 July, 1952, Alexa Helen Jessie Elliot was born in Port Elizabeth, South Africa to this remarkable couple. She was their 3rd child, and first daughter. Tich, Alexa’s younger sister followed 18 months later.

When Alexa’s family moved to Knysna she met her would-be-husband, Steve Kirsten. In 1973 the couple got married in The Holy Trinity Church in Knysna.  Fun fact: this was the first building to be designed by a female Architect in Africa.

From Knysna the couple then settled in Wellington after the birth of their first child, a daughter, Kerry. Once there they went on to have a second child, Ben, and 10 years later Luke made his appearance.

“God, send me anywhere, only go with me. Lay any burden on me, only sustain me. And sever any tie in my heart, except the tie that binds my heart to Yours” – David Livingstone (1813-73), explorer

Monday morning, 7 February, 2005

Alexa heard a scream coming from the neighbours house and ran over to investigate. She entered the house calling out, but there was no reply. And then she saw him. A short dark male figure emerging from the shadows. He said nothing. Alexa slowly turned around and walked back towards the back door and then she felt it. She has been hit alongside the head with an old iron door stopper. She staggered and then fell to the floor. He then went on to stab her in the back of the neck 17 times. She was left for dead.

But she was not gone. She very clearly recalls herself leaving her body and rising up above the scene with a complete sense of freedom and peace. She was completely calm and pain free in that moment. But she felt something holding her down, she describes it as the Hand of God, not allowing her to rise any further. But it didn’t last, she found herself back inside her body once again, the fear and pain returning, she could see the figure running away. Her neighbour had been killed in the attack. Alexa was taken to hospital and began her very long road to recovery.

She ultimately testified in court along with many witnesses and her attacker was sentenced to life in prison. Alexa, has chosen to live a life free of hatred, filled with forgiveness and overflowing with courage. She now does public speaking, helping women who have been through crisis to bring comfort and support and she also speaks at prisons, helping to shed light and conform (I can only imagine the courage it must take to go there).

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Her Art

Alexa has always had a love for art, but even more so since her attack. Her colours are even more vivid and her illustrations even more charismatic. She is also a remarkable story teller. The biography features letters she has written to her neighbour since the attack as a form of therapy.  It’s through these letters that you start to see the true artist behind artwork. She is a very talented writer and painter.

You can view her cloth work on her Facebook page Colours of Africa Cloth or via her website.

I can’t wait to commission her to create a memory cloth for my own family; it’s a beautiful way to hold onto our stories and memories.

Thanks

My thanks go out to Alexa Kirsten for sharing your story with such strength and grace. You are truly an inspirational woman and one simply cannot come across your story and remain unchanged.

Debra Hunter, for writing Alexa’s story.

My friend Kerry for boldly sharing her mother’s story with us.

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” I begin to understand a little more of why God allowed me back and gave me another shot at life – this is indeed a violent, fearful and angry land. With so much bitterness and hatred, it is so easy to become part of the negative talk and situation. I was able to put this to these men, the fear and hatred that abounds outside the prison walls – from people who have been violated and traumatised by the things that they had done – their crimes. The ordinary people live in fear – fear for themselves and their loved ones, people who are shocked by the terrible, unbelievable awful things that happen these days.I pray with all my heart that my story, told to these, the most unlovely of men, might touch their hearts and that they may turn from their old lives, that they may make restitution with those whose lives they have destroyed, with themselves, and ultimately with God himself.” – Alexa Kirsten

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The Kirsten family still lives happily in South Africa and cherishes everyday, even Great- Grandmother Lexie is doing well at 103.4 years old!

I hope this story has inspired you as much as it did me.

xoxo,

la

Image_Hack – Changing the way women are portrayed in the media

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Do you remember the Real Women campaign by Dove a few years back? As women – we saw “real” women in the pages of magazines, we pictured ourselves as one of them, we related to them and therefore to the brand. In response, some of us went out and started buying more Dove products. Although, it was successful in building brand loyalty, creative director, Kenneth Kaadtmann, of Mindshare ad agency, states that,  “For Dove, it has never been about Dove; it’s about making an actual difference to society. Great brands hold great power, and therefore great responsibilities.”

Unfortunately, it never really made a long lasting impact to change a rather unrealistic industry. According to Dove’s Global Beauty and Confidence Report from 2016, 7 out of 10 women can’t identify with the images they see in ads. The advertising industry tells us that according to research, they are simply giving women the images they want to see. Alternatively, if the industry truly started showing women images they could relate to there would be a paradigm shift and the numbers would start to reflect that.

Interestingly enough, when you search for “beautiful women” on Shutterstock, a popular image search engine used for media campaigns, these are still the first images we see:

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However, there is hope. Image_Hack is Dove’s fantastic, new initiative that has potential to truly change the market with long term and lasting effects. It challenges the ad agencies and companies to use more realistic images in their campaigns. Browse some of the images that have already been submitted here and learn more this innovative concept.

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As a mom of two girls, a previous art director in advertising, and now a photographer, I am excited to get involved with this project and be a part of that change. Will you join me and the Image_Hack initiative? #equalwomen

here’s to change,

la

CREDITS FOR THIS FORWARD THINKING CAMPAIGN GO TO:

Client: Dove
Agency: Mindshare, Denmark
Creative Director: Kenneth Kaadtmann
Client Director: Michael Hansen
Strategy: Mette Bierbum Bacher
Copywriter: Kenneth Kaadtmann
Copywriter: Anne Ingevold
Art Director: Sune Overby Sørensen
Digital Designer: Andreas Berglund
Media Buyer: Henrik Welling

Book Review: Grace, Not Perfection – embracing simplicity, celebrating joy

A dear friend of mine came back from her December holidays and planted this book proudly on my living room table and said,“It’s beautifully designed and she’s so inspiring I just know you’ll love it.” Thanks, Viv, you were so right!

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Once upon a time, I enjoyed an amazing career in advertising for many years, traveling to countries such as Mozambique, Romania, Spain, and Lebanon to name a few. Then 3 months after getting married, I fell pregnant with my first child. I had never planned on becoming a house wife! I had never even taken Home Ec at school! After a good dose of humble pie and a whole heap of life lessons, this book was such a welcome read for me. It put into words so many of the things I have felt and faced living this new creative mom life path.

“The most important work you will ever do will be within the walls of your own home” – Harold B. Lee

Shortly after Viv shared the book with me, Katie was sharing her hurting, over committed, overwhelmed, and stressed out heart with me, and I told her she needed to read this book. It took her a few months (and more than a few nudges), but she finally ordered it. I just knew that Emily’s story, her way with words, and the gorgeous, clean design would speak to her, as it did for me.

The author, Emily Ley, is a designer, wife and mom of 3 little ones. With degrees in English, Marketing, and Public Relations, she launched her own brand in 2008. In 2011 Emily created The Simplified Planner® for busy working moms like herself and has grown from strength to strength with global success.

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Along with practical tools and tips on how to simplify your life, Emily shares her testimony. Through the stories she weaves so eloquently, the reader can see that her strength and wisdom come from her Christian faith and upbringing. It is essential to her overcoming the battle for perfection and turning her focus to gratitude and grace. It is authentic and honest, not pushy, and we believe most readers will appreciate her openness, Christian or not.

There are so many great quotes that resonated with both of us throughout the book. Some that inspired us to declutter and set priorities, and others that reaffirmed us. It is truly a wonderful book that motivates, challenges, and loves on the reader.

Here are some take aways that spoke to us and influenced us for the better:

• Perfect doesn’t always equal worthy.

• Give yourself permission to slow down.

• Fiercely guard the pages of your calendar.

• It’s ok to say NO, not just is it ok, it is very necessary.

• Make sure you are taking time for yourself so that you can pour out sweet water to your people.

• Decluttering and organizing your life will make room for more joy.

• Don’t miss the joys hidden between the grand moments in life.

• Free your hands. Lock the phone in the drawer. Everything else can wait. 

• Home days are as important as playdates.

• Eliminate distractions, especially the digital ones; they are time-suckers. Turn off notifications and check your email when you want to, and try keeping your social media app out of site.

• Grace and gratitude go hand in hand.

• Mommy guilt is a liar and comparison steals joy.

“Mommy guilt. It’s an epidemic. The working mom, the part-time mom, the stay-at-home mom, the super-mom, the room mom, the traditional mom, the modern mom, the helicopter mom, the tiger mom. No one is immune when mommy guilt rears it’s ugly head to whisper the lie that we’re somehow failing our children.” – Emily Ley

We have both recommended this book to the moms we know looking for balance, more joy, and ultimately grace in their mess. Each of them receiving it with the same gratitude that we did. Feeling liberated in knowing that WE ARE ENOUGH! 

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“Ultimately simplifying allows us to slow down enough to savor this life” – Emily Ley

So in the spirit of simplifying and pursing joy, let’s agree to not rush these days away – our kids are growing up so fast as it is. Let’s take the time to appreciate the little things, find the joy between the grand moments, pursue our calling, and a be present in each season of life. Seek Grace, not perfection.

We both highly recommend this book, so when you give it a read, tell us what you think. Did it change your perspective or inspire you?

happy reading,

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Mindful Friendship & Inspiration

I have this friend we will call her Ms. Stacy, like the kiddos do. She is a super talented and energetic. She is one of those friends you like to have around because their enthusiasm for life is infectious and encouraging, so much so, that she has the power to encourage you right into volunteering for the Parent Teacher Association (PTA),  (of which she is the president). Yup, she hooked me the first day I met her.

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In addition, to being the PTA president and a personal trainer, Ms, Stacy is a teacher. This year she started her journey into teaching a mindfulness class at the American International School here in Israel. If you haven’t heard of mindfulness yet, you will, it is reaching schools across the world now. It is a method of intentionality and meditation. In kids they are using it help them put words to their feelings, learn how to help themselves settle down, self-soothe, and a number of things I wish I had learned when I was little.

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In January, she asked me to assist her with branding her Mindfulness curriculum; of course, I was honored. Then in February she successfully launched her ‘Zen Den’ in the elementary school. Each class has a Zen Den sign to post on their door as they practice 5 minutes of mindfulness using videos she developed. The students love it! She has had parents telling her that their kids are coming home sharing what Ms. Stacy had taught them and the parents are trying it out too. I’m so proud of her; she is helping shape our kids into better, kinder, and more conscientious, intentional people.

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She is also helping and challenging me to be better. Like most moms, I am woken up in the middle of the night by children, to-do lists, or simply a sound in the house that might be the children.  In the past couple weeks I have been plagued by these wake-ups and and could not peacefully go back to sleep. When I shared this with her, she challenged me to use the mindfulness technique of equanimity. Equanimity is calmness and level-headedness. In practice it means that you allow each thought to have equal value- not right or wrong, good or bad, just all equal. She suggested that I let bombarding thoughts float like a cloud over me, to not attack them as wrong or praise them as right, but to let them be and float away. It worked. I peacefully drifted back to sleep.

The concept of mindfulness is natural for me, possibly due to my faith and prayer life, years of yoga practice, or maybe simply because I love a good visualization. For a visual person, like Lindy-Ann alluded to in her post about raising artbrains, we see everything. Providing us a description of something we can picture in our minds brings it to life in a new way. Growing up I was always told to “think before you speak” and “slow down,” but without these tools I didn’t know how to. Now in my thirties, it’s clicking and I can share these techniques with my kids establish these good foundations in their thought-life.

I asked her to share one of her Mindfulness videos with us. I hope you take a moment to try it and let us know what you think. Did it help? 

Mindful Script Credit: CounselorChelsey, TPT Photo credit: Lucinda Keeler Foster, Music credit: unknown

Namaste,

kdg

Thirty-four years young

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As I bid farewell to thirty-three I have been reflecting on how I have grown this past year. We alway track our children and their development and as they grow from year to year, but somewhere along the way we forget to track our personal development. Ok, we do have annual reviews that discuss our professional development and many of us take stock of our physical status and capabilities, but I am talking about our mental and spiritual growth.

So often in conversations we discuss how life has changed or how we view situations differently than we did in our 20s or in college, but what has actually changed in us to make that true?

Reflecting on a few of my current feelings, I realize that last year I changed. The usual expat process of transition; saying see you later to family and friends and settling into your new routines is tough. We love this life, but it is not without heartache. Each move holds lessons that, if learned, will make us stronger and better at life.

Last year was especially bittersweet for our family as we had 6 months between posts abroad back home in Virginia. We cherished every moment with our family and friends, because we knew that season was short and may never happen exactly like that again. In the spirit treasuring that time with the people we love, I almost missed out on making a wonderful new friend. My parents live in a great neighborhood and my mom was convinced that one their neighbors would be the perfect friend for me. Thankfully it worked out and Kelly and I became friends and shared some fabulous times together before both of us moved away in the summer and I know we will see each other again. Lesson learned, keep your heart open to new friendships in all seasons.

In addition to the expat life lessons, parenting is one of the great refiners. Parenthood revealed to me that I don’t like to ask for help even if I am drowning. Receiving help is tough for me, because I grew up as a military brat and we pick ourselves up by our bootstraps and move on, as the saying goes, and I am stubborn. So this life lesson has been taken bit longer to learn than others. Thankfully I have been blessed with people who are stronger at saying “I will help you” than I am at saying “I’m ok.” In the past year, I literally had to go through situations where I need to ask and receive help at least once a month. Now I can truly say that I will accept help when it is offered and although I still struggle with it, I will ask for help. I also had an epiphany  about this that really made me get over myself. When we don’t let people to help us, because we think it selfish to ask, we are actually selfishly not allowing them to fulfill their calling and share their heart with us. 

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The other excruciating lesson that I am having to learn over and over is about overcommitting. It is like a compulsive disorder that makes me raise my hand when people ask for creative help! AHHH! I get involved and the perfectionist in me rears her ugly head, and there am at 2:00am working on my laptop, because a full night of sleep will come when my kids are raising my grandchildren and my to-do list is clear. Seriously, when I am in and I am all in, especially when it comes to photography and design. This last weekend of thirty-three however I made a decision to not put myself in this stress-filled space again. I am happy to report I just put my hand down, I’m actually sitting on it. I may actually be graduating from this course and moving on to conquer time management, ha!

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As you can see thirty-three was bittersweet and I grew up a little bit more. I learned to say no, and yes, to enjoy my people, to grow my circle of people, and learn from each experience good and bad. Now at thirty-four, I hope to be a better wife, mother, daughter, friend, puppy mom (eek!) creative, and entrepreneur. My birthday wish this year is for all of us to be more joyful and laugh often, even at ourselves.

Cheers,

kdg