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Bumbling Onward In Tough Times

On August 10th around 9:15 pm, my son, my dog and I hopped into our car and drove up the 105 highway, temporarily blinded by billowing smoke that told us a forest fire was threatening to wipe out our community. As we drove away from Red Lake, with Brad minutes behind in his vehicle, I took a deep sigh of relief knowing we had a place to go to in heading towards the farm. As it turns out, the whole region accepted evacuees from the Red Lake area with open arms; ensuring that everyone had a place to rest their weary heads while we collectively worried about our little spot at the end of a one way highway. A week later, we were given the thumbs up to go home to Red Lake, miraculously unscathed due to the incredibly hard work of a variety of people that protected our district.

This was a mere 1.5 hours before we actually evacuated. We weren’t being goofy by 9:00! We got serious right quickly.

After the evacuation, I vowed that I would start to eliminate stuff in my home that no longer serves its purpose. When push came to shove on the day of evacuation, I knew in an instant what was important to me and what I could walk away from. I didn’t even have a jam-packed car. I didn’t even pack shirts! It was a pivotal experience that made me truly see what I choose to surround myself with in my day to day life and why I do that.

Anyone that knows me knows that I am a raven, a knick-knack doodad collector with pockets full of potential and sometimes shiny things. And I mentally collect the memories that go with it. Each item I collect takes me back to that day, who I was with, what the setting was, etc. Think of it this way; when people go on holidays, they bring back souvenirs…. a reminder of the great experience they had in said place. I do that with life. I have been known to keep papers because a gift from someone special was wrapped in it. I have my childhood Valentine’s cards and little trinkets my dad bought me. And many times, these items, papers, et al, get incorporated into my artwork. As a matter of fact, my thesis in university was in “multimedia drawing” where I incorporated memorabilia into all my creations. I used suitcases as my canvas so there was lots of room to fill the interior space with stuff. I am an artistic memory collector.

Some of the thingamabobs I have in a doodad bin that makes for some fun art pieces, especially when creating art with kids!

You would think because of this that I am a hoarder. It would be easy to think that I live in a bog of what-not, wading through it all to get to my studio table. But the art teacher in me is well trained. Because I had to teach students every single day to clean their supplies and put them away, I too learned to keep things well organized. Everything is compartmentalized into boxes or fancy containers, folders, clipped here, stacked there, rolled and tucked and inconspicuous (for the most part).

These pull out bins ensure that I don’t get too carried away with my pom pom purchases.

And I have filing cabinets. I have all of the papers and files that I developed in my 20 year teaching career, along with personal folders as well. When only ONE milk crate full of folders came with me on that evacuation journey, I realized that I don’t need to cart these things around anymore.

I used to give my students access to my filing cabinets when they were in their senior years so that they could do their own research on “flow Fridays”; a day once a week where they were allowed to explore their own creative ideas and do personal projects.

So today is the day that I am cleaning out my filing cabinet. As is the nature of filing cabinets, my paperwork is stored alphabetically. I have started with my business filing cabinet, so I went through folders labelled Art Club, Articles, Art Grants, Artist in Residences, Artist Profile and ended up at Business Licenses. I opened it expecting to see all the information connected to my master business license, but instead was surprised to come across an old business license application that I had written on January 5th, 1998. It was an application to become the sole proprietor of a company that I was going to name “Funkydoodads and All That Jazz”. I even went and made a Hotmail account using the term “funkydoodad” in it. I was branding a business before I even knew what branding was! I never handed in that application form. But the seed had already been set. In 1998 (actually, probably even before that), I wanted to start my own business which according to my writing on the application form said I would be “making and selling arts and crafts and teaching art lessons”.

In 1998 I wrote “Just me”. Little did I know that it takes a ton of support from friends and family to get to where we are today. I am so thankful.

Funnily, I still have the paper which showed the brainstorming I went through to come up with my business name: I used words such as whim, impressions, doohickeys, art-cetera, funky formations, “this, that and other whatnots” to try and describe what I wanted my business to be. To this day, I still like the ring that “Funkydoodads and all that jazz” has.

And then I opened another folder to find a big brown sheet of craft paper that Brad and I had doodled on in 2011. This would have been a year after we started dating and 13 years after I first filled out that potential application form to start my own business. Early in our relationship I shared my business dream with Brad and he was totally on board. We sat down in front of this sheet of paper and started a word web about having an artistic space to share with others. On the web are words and phrases such as “magical spaces” and “meditation garden”, “open to new experiences” and “creative growth”. I showed the word web to Brad today and he said, “Let’s bring that to the farm and take a good look at it again.” I know he’s thinking the same thing I am…. we’ve come a long way and we’re so close to seeing this become a reality. There’s so much on this word web that has already become a reality and it’s really exciting to see how far we have truly come. You would never have known it 5 years ago when we were standing in a tangled field of weeds up to our armpits and a perpetual scrap pile burned behind us.

Man, there are so many old buildings that were thrown onto that fire. I am happy to report that all our burn piles are now brush piles, not old building piles! lol

But we’re not there yet. When we initially had this brainstorming session, we didn’t even have the farm property yet. As I wrote before in another blog, we spent years and years looking for property. We were pretty bent on possibly buying a camp called “Deer Trail Lodge” but that didn’t happen for a variety of reasons. We looked at other camps as well, but it just was not going to be feasible that way. Through those years of hunting for land, I continued to take business related courses and join groups, go to workshops, research, reach out, and do whatever I could to learn more and more about the entrepreneurial world. And I continue to do that today because it’s ever changing (especially with the reality of Covid).

And then the opportunity came along to buy the farm property, and Brad and I were in brainstorming mode again. We assessed what we had, (and boy, what we had was definitely something else) and came up with a plan of attack (which we’re still working on). But in the 5 or so years of going back and forth between the farm and Red Lake, we have learned a lot about the flow of the land and what we want this space to be, not only for us, but for you as well. And we have made big plans and a lot of lists and word webs since our first brainstorming session together in 2011.

But Covid has definitely created a bit of a hiccup in our plans. Because we were so unsure of the direction everything would go in March, April and May, we made the big decision to not build the studio this year. That was a really tough decision to make and was quite heart breaking at the time. But in retrospect, we are thankful that the build is on hiatus, because the effort that we have put into getting the bunkhouse up and running has been a TON of work! Not only did we put months and months into the prep of simply getting the bunkhouse brought to the farm, we were also prepping to get the building accommodated with electricity, plumbing and water. That meant we had to get hydro brought over to that area of our acreage, build a septic field and dig a well. As you know, money does not grow on trees, so it’s been tight and stressful.

We have been gutting the interior of the bunkhouse and dealing with some issues that were created when extra “work” was done to the building that was not necessarily a smart choice for the building in the long run. If you want to know about all of the fixings we had to go through to get the bunkhouse up and running, head over to my resource library where I share the details of what needed to be fixed before we could move forward. Fortunately, with the help of Brad’s friend, Chris Penner, from Penner Renovations, we were able to fix small problems so that they wouldn’t turn into big problems in the future. We are going to have a super durable, warm, dry, clean, funkily decorated bunkhouse to share with you, hopefully by next spring or summer!

Todd, Brad and Chris chilling out after a long day of hard work on the bunkhouse.

So what does all of this mean?

What does it mean to go through a road full of smoke and a paradigm shift and come out the other side unscathed? It means that we are surrounded by stuff that ultimately does not mean anything. It means that life has no purpose if you don’t have the people you love beside you to share it with. It means that you need to find the people that get you; I mean, REALLY get you, and be with those people whenever you can. And it means that sometimes your goals take time.

I consider myself tenacious. Some would call it stubborn where as others would call it goal oriented. But I am not going forward with all of this because 22 years ago I filled out a license application to become the sole proprietor of a business that sold arts and crafts and ran art workshops. I am going forward with this because it’s always been in me. I have had a lot of incredible detours along the way in those last 22 years and I have no regrets; I have a beautiful child that I co-parented with Stan and Brad and our parents and friends and teachers. I had the opportunity to teach the most mis-understood humans on the face of the planet in being a high school teacher for 18 years. I met and married the guy that challenges me and still makes me giggle like a silly school girl with big hearts in my eyes after 10 years. I have travelled, I have explored, and I have dreamed of having this big ol’ space to share with creative minds of all ages for years and years and years. And I won’t stop thinking about it and doing something about it until I am there.

I am thankful I cracked open that filing cabinet and started to dig into the reasoning behind holding on to those pieces of paper. I dragged two big boxes of papers to my fire pit today, and in between rain sessions, I slowly crumpled unnecessary pieces of paper and ceremoniously watched them burst into flames before withering into frail black ash. From fire to fire, I have realized what it’s all about and I’m bumbling my way forward.

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