Welcome to another Art Journal Express – a free weekly video tutorial series posted each week (typically) Monday where I show you how I created one of my art journal pages from start to finish. Each and every Art Journal Express video tutorial is in “fast forward” mode and then narrated so that you can see each and every step and hear my thoughts behind my process without having to sit through a loooong video.
The story behind today’s art journal page is kind of long – but I’ve been feeling led to share this – and in order to really understand the depth of meaning this page has for me, you need to know the story behind it. I’m going to try to keep it as brief as I can, while still including relevant details. If you’re more interested in techniques than stories please feel free to skip through reading my story right to the supplies and video – I won’t be insulted – I promise 🙂
The story behind today’s art journal page actually started 26 years ago when I was 16 years old. That was the year my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 43. I’m not going to pretend it shattered my world – because honestly it didn’t. I was a typical self-absorbed teenager – and my mom and I had a very volatile relationship – she had a hot spanish temper and so did I so we fought a lot and didn’t really see eye to eye. Also, my mother’s partial mastectomy and radiation therapy didn’t cause many ripples in our life. The surgery and therapy went off without a hitch and and we got back to everyday life – if there was anything going on beyond that it was not something my parents shared with my sister and I.
Fast forward 7 years. I was in the first year of my Masters of Health Science Degree at the University of Toronto when I received a call from my dad letting me know that my mom’s cancer had recurred – this time in her bone. Because it was in her bones – there were no surgical options – just chemo or radiation. By this time, my mom and I were a lot closer, so I was quite upset and worried about it. But my parents seemed confident that they could beat it again. At that time I had gotten married about 6 months prior, was living in Toronto and they were living in Ottawa. Although they never went into huge amounts of detail of what they did and why – rather than seek traditional medical interventions they decide to pursue a holistic route. My mom completely changed her diet, she started taking all sorts of supplements, visited a variety of different naturopathic and holistic doctors etc. And of course they prayed, and prayed. My parents had a very strong, solid Christian faith, and my mom seemed 100% convinced that she would be healed. Things seemed to go well for just over 2 1/2 years – at which point my mom’s health started declining fairly rapidly.
By that time I had my first child – Zachary – and he was 3 months old. Because my parents owned their own business and had their office in the basement of their home, my dad had been caring for my mother while keeping the business going. He was managing fairly well until my mom became bed ridden. So while Todd continued to stay in our house in Toronto (because of work) – I moved back home with my parents to care for my mom and brought Zach with me. Over the next three months I took over my mom’s care and the cooking all the while caring for Zach. My mom did not want to be admitted to the hospital- she was adamant that she wanted to be at home – so we had a hospital bed brought in and a palliative care doctor would visit a few times a week, along with a home care nurse a few hours each week.
It was the most difficult 3 months of my life – physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. My faith was tested severely during that time, as I’m sure was my mother’s. Watching a strong, spiritual, gifted, independent woman slowly waste away and lose all her independence so that she couldn’t even take care of her most basic needs was the most heart wrenching and devastating thing I had ever experienced. Two weeks prior to her death she no longer recognized or “saw” any of us. She had reverted back to speaking her native tongue – Spanish. I was the only one who could understand her – and it seemed to me as though she was living in or remembering her childhood as she spoke to her father and other people long since passed on whom I had never known. A week later she slipped into a coma. The following week she passed away – it was March 24th, 2000 – Zachary’s 6 month birthday – with myself, my sister, my father and our pastor at her side.
I stayed with my dad for another few months until my grandparents moved in with him to provide support, encouragement and basic household help. When I got back to Toronto I had a hard time returning to “normal” life. The only way I could cope was to push the previous 6 months deep down inside. I wasn’t ready or able to deal with it – to grieve, to heal, to move on. I stubbornly refused to think about it. Except for the fear. I couldn’t seem to repress the fear of “43”, of cancer and of following in my mom’s footsteps. As much as I tried to ignore it – every so often when my headaches would flare up, or my energy levels would sink the fear would creep back in.
For more than a decade I lived with chronic headaches, chronic fatigue and low energy levels – but life was in full throttle – I was running a business, my family grew to 5 children, my grandpa moved in and of course my household responsibilities grew exponentially. As much as I had knew I needed to make changes and prioritize my health, I just couldn’t seem to make the time. Until I hit 40 of course, because then the reality of 43 being just around the corner really hit me. It was at that time that I started to confront my fear head on. While knowing there is nothing one can do about genetics, there are an awful lot of things one can do to decrease their likelihood of disease in the area of diet and exercise.
Shortly thereafter I started working out with a personal trainer and slowly making changes to my diet. Although progress was very slow, I at least felt as though I was moving forward.
Then, this past January my old trainer left the gym and my remaining sessions were transferred to a new personal trainer. Honestly I can’t say enough about him. He has been the catalyst for so much positive change in my life.
With all the issues I had been experiencing with my headaches, fatigue, low energy, aches and pains I had made the mental shift to thinking of myself as “old”, as my life “half over”, and of course thoughts of the dreaded “c” word were never too far from my mind.
He’s tough, no excuses, doesn’t believe in “can’t” and really pushes my physical limits (safely) – and in doing so has made me realize that I am capable of so much more than I gave myself credit for. He has motivated me to strive to do my best, to push my own limits, to banish excuses and stop saying “I can’t” – even when I’m working out on my own. Which honestly is nothing short of a miracle – it used to be that the minute my muscles started to burn from exertion I was done. Exercise actually became fun, and I was motivated to try new things – things that I had dreamed about for years – but had felt physically unable to tackle. Things like Karate – I joined my two older boy’s dojo – learning Shorin Ryu Karate. And – even more fun, Kickboxing. Kickboxing was love at first punch. If you read the story on my art journal page about facing your fear – then you’ll understand. Kickboxing made me feel so much more powerful. my post about fear.
The other thing I was motivated to do was to kick the final dietary issues I had been struggling with. I finished revolutionizing my diet – implementing the changes that I had been working towards for years.
I have never in my life felt as good as I have this past month. I have lost 10 lbs. I have so much energy I don’t know what to do with it. My headaches have virtually disappeared (I went from headaches 24/7 to 2-3 headaches in the last month). My hair is stronger (I had been losing quite a bit of hair in the shower). My skin has been clear (I had been having minor acne issues since my 30’s). I am happy almost all the time. I’m excited about life again.
Then last week, I felt as though the wind had completely been knocked out of my sails. I have a mild prolapsed bladder which resulted from pregnancy. Very common – but not something a lot of women talk about because frankly it’s embarrassing. I used to have to stop and cross my legs for dear life every time I coughed, sneezed or started laughing too hard. Skipping, running, hopping, jumping – anything involving impact were out of the question unless of course I wanted to pee my pants (NOT). As I started becoming more active, this started to become a problem. At the recommendation of my doctor I started seeing a pelivc physiotherapist in April and went to regular physio sessions until this past August. By September I could cough, sneeze and laugh without fear, and was even able to engage in somewhat higher impact activities without problems.
Wanting to increase the intensity of my workouts, I started adding in jogging on the treadmill. First for a couple minutes at a time until I worked my way up to 40 minutes straight – still with no issues. I was enjoying it so much, even considering actually taking up running in the spring and training for a half marathon. Then I increased my speed, and started having problems again. So I decided to go back to the pelvic physiotherapist and resume my sessions. I saw her last Monday, and that’s when she told me that my bladder prolapse seemed to be a bit worse. Her thoughts were that the impact of the jogging may have caused it. Her recommendation to me was that I stop for now. How long? Who knows. I went home crying.
Then Wednesday after working out, my entire arm and shoulder were burning (as I talked about here). Diagnosis? Tendinitis of the shoulder and likely a partial tear. Recommendation (in addition to the physio) – I had to stop all upper body exercises involving the shoulder (which is just about everything), and I had to hang up my boxing gloves – the impact of my gloves against the punching bag and the pads was too much for my shoulder. At that point, I couldn’t even help it. I just started crying – right in the middle of the clinic. And I couldn’t stop. I cried all the way home and several hours after I got home.
I had made so much progress and so much forward momentum and I was feeling better, happier and more positive than I had in my entire life – and now I was being told that I needed to give it up. While that sounds a bit dramatic – because really I didn’t have to give everything up – that’s how it felt to me. I have had enough times in my life where I have fallen of the bandwagon of change that even though this time has felt different – I was panicked that this setback would trigger another “relapse” to my old unhealthy ways. I had a good conversation with my trainer who was very supportive and encouraging and reminded that this was just a setback and we would work through it.
Although I felt a bit better emotionally when I woke up on Thursday morning I was tempted to just sleep in and skip the gym. Instead I forced myself to get up and get to the gym and then pushed myself on the treadmill and bike for about an hour. I felt so much better afterwards. As I was spinning away on the bike and praying quietly to myself, the Lord brought to my mind a quote I had read in an Oxygen magazine about weight loss being a marathon rather than a sprint. I thought that that analogy was so apt – not just for weight loss but for everything in life.
We are such a “today” and “right now” culture. We want what we want and we want it now. But nothing worthwhile comes without effort and time.
So that is the story behind today’s page. There are so many metaphors built into this page. Because no longer being able to run and train for a half marathon was my first setback – this became the metaphor for my page. Running a marathon requires endurance – it is long, and long before the end is in sight. It requires perseverance – being able to push yourself to keep going even when your heart, and lungs and muscles are screaming at you to stop. To achieve any worthwhile goal in life is no different. The runner doesn’t just represent my desire to run, it represents everything that I aspire towards which currently feels out of reach. The heart is symbolic of the core of my being – who I am, who I was created to be – it reminds me that I am more than I have believed myself to be, that I am strong, and that I can and will keep going. The black road below the runner represents life. You’ve heard the phrase “blood, sweat and tears”? That is what the red on the road represents. It is a reminder to me that there is a cost associated with achieving anything worthwhile. The blue striated background represents the hours before dawn – the beginning of a brand new day with brand new opportunities. The ink splatters represent the rain. While I totally get the benefits of rain – I hate being outside in the rain. I get damp and chilled and it smells like worms. But I have been trying to overcome my dislike of the rain. So for me, the rain is a metaphor for setbacks. And finally the quote – this is a reminder to me that there is a long road ahead – Lord willing I have not only many weeks but years to strive towards my goals – so I need to endure and persevere and keep going, even if I don’t see the end.
Here’s a close up of the page:
I’m still working in is my Dylusions journal which you can see pictured below – and it’s the large Dylusions journal. This is the journal I’ve used in every one of my Art Journal Express Video tutorials – and this is my current go-to journal or what I call my “working” journal.
Below is a photo of the supplies I used for this page.
Here are the exact supplies I used for this page: Gesso, Heavy Bodied Teal, Carbon Black and Turquoise (Pthalo) Acrylic Paint, Pyrrole Red Fluid Acrylic Paint (Golden); Beach Glass acrylic paint (Martha Stewart); Bickrylic Titanium White acrylic paint (Dick Blick); Bombay Teal India Ink (Dr. Ph Martin); Super Thick Tacky Glue (Aileen’s); Catalyst Brush B-05 (Princeton); chipboard heart (Maya Road); Palette Paper pad, plastic palette knives (art supply store). Not pictured: Matte Gel Medium (Liquitex); Silhouette Cameo (Silhouette of America), Ebony Black CS (Bazzill). The cut file of the runner and quote I created – these will be posted in Paper Crafter’s Library for our members.
Here’s the video tutorial on how I made this page:
And here’s what the two page “spread” looks like in my art journal. My preference has become to use the right page for my art journaling because I know that the pages are flat underneath as they are still untouched so anything I stamp will stamp pretty clear. The other side of the 2 page “spread” – typically the left page – I use to list the supplies I used and for any directions/notes I want to remember about my page or the creative process or the supplies.
I hope you enjoyed today’s video tutorial. If you haven’t already, please be sure to subscribe to the new You Tube Channel I’ve created specifically for the Art of Simple blog. While I am going to continue to post videos to my existing channel – for Paper Crafter’s Library, this new channel is where I’m going to be posting the Art Journal Express videos as well as any other video tutorials I create as part of this blog. So please take a minute to subscribe to my new channel HERE.
A Couple of Additional Notes:
For the next few weeks with all that’s going on with my physiotherapy etc. I will continue to post my Art Journal Express videos – but they will likely be in the middle of the week. Also – I have put my Digital Project Life temporarily on hold – still journaling and taking pictures so I plan to try and catch up. I will answer questions from the getting started video at the bottom of that post in the next couple of days.