My passport had expired and I was very happy to find the application form online. I was even happier to discover that there was a short form that didn’t require a guarantor. As far as I could tell all I needed to do was fill out the form, supply signed photos taken by a photographer who did this kind of work and include my expired passport and my Visa information to cover the fee. The whole process took part of a day and the application was in the mail.

A few weeks went by and it seemed that the process was taking longer than required but I wasn’t concerned as I had registered the letter. Imagine my dismay when the postman delivered a rejection notice highlighted in several areas in bright yellow marker.

I had failed to copy my name exactly as it appeared on my expired passport. I had written Sandra M Maureen instead of Sandra Mary Maureen and it set off alarms. In addition I added a line at the beginning of the M’s in my signature that were straight instead of curved as in the passport signature. HORSE-FEATHERS!!! I have always had handwriting that was more linear and vertical when note-taking and more flourished and slanted when relaxed and feeling expressive. May be I should be worried about having multiple personalities but in the moment I had a a few choice words run through my mind for the overzealous bureaucrat that couldn’t see that Sandra M and Sandra Mary are the one and same ME whether signed with a curved M or straight M.

I even had the same outfit on when I had my photo taken then and now… not everyone has a lime green silk jacket, for heavens sake. Most women I know are clothes hounds and don’t have the same wardrobe for years and years.

So I have made up a story about this person who spends their day looking at details to ferret out I don’t know what – spies, terrorists, illegals – and it is a sad tale. I admit to being abysmal at filling out forms but I pray that I never reincarnate as a bureaucrat stuck at a desk with a yellow highlighter in hand. ENFP’s were not designed to be good at forms. They are not our cup of tea in any way shape or form. (No pun intended). While there is no love lost for bureaucrats in my life, I might not mind coming back as someone who can rant at the passport office like this woman who is my new hero..

Category : MBTI Facts | Personal | Blog

Over the last month the situation in Darfur has been on my mind. This war torn part of Sudan in has seen many refugees escape to camps in neighbouring Chad. The women are caught in a vicious cycle of violence best described as torture. They have virtually no rights and those who keep them from speaking on their own behalf are often living in the same camps. This video below is one of many that highlights their blight.

This month I have been participating in a fund-raising effort that centers on dancing for 15 minutes a day. I really liked the idea of doing something and having it be an uplifting activity that might translate into something uplifting for the women.

One thing that struck me and has stayed with me are the number of reports that describe what is happening to these nameless women. Of course it is pointed out that it is simply too dangerous for them to be named but I can’t help thinking about the other implications of that. Who are we without our name? Is this nameless lumping of these individuals under the generic grouping “women” further robbing them of something essential and personal.

When I danced I gave these women names and faces. Sometimes dancing for Aisha and sometimes for Fareeda or another of her sisters. Thinking of the plight of these women every day for a month left a lasting impression of sadness and anger at the injustice of this situation … yet joy at being part of some small action.

I occasionally hear that people don’t appreciate being labeled as one personality type or another but I have never heard of anyone happy being called the wrong name. Imagine the only reference to your identity being the label woman of Canada or Englishman or American woman.

Recognition of our individuality, our uniqueness always trumps any insight that might be gleaned by looking at common traits of any group. First and foremost we are the only of us – ever and that is what matters.

Category : Personal | Video | Blog

Seven women from book club gathered for a three day cottage get-away… a little kayaking, swimming, walks to town, shopping, reading and talking books, dinner on the verandah, sunset watching on the dock. Nothing that we did was spectacular, after all we have known each other for years, however we all remarked at how special this time was, totally awesome actually, and how good we all felt. One of the women passed on an email that summed it up quite nicely – I don’t know the source, but I am sharing it anyway with the invitation to add “nurturing relationships” to your exercise routine.

I just finished taking an evening class at Stanford. The last lecture was on the mind-body connection–the relationship between stress and disease. The speaker (head of psychiatry at Stanford) said, among other things, that one of the best things that a man could do for his health is to be married to a woman whereas for a woman, one of the best things she could do for her health was to nurture her relationships with her girlfriends. At first everyone laughed, but he was serious.

Women connect with each other differently and provide support systems that help each other to deal with stress and difficult life experiences. Physically this quality “girlfriend time” helps us to create more seratonin–a neurotransmitter that helps combat depression and can create a general feeling of well being. Women share feelings whereas men often form relationships around activities. They rarely sit down with a buddy and talk about how they feel about certain things or how their personal lives are going. Jobs? Yes. Sports? Yes. Cars? Yes. Fishing, hunting, golf? Yes. But their feelings?–rarely. Women do it all of the time. We share from our souls with our sisters, and evidently that is very good for our health. He said that spending time with a friend is just as important to our general health as jogging or working out at a gym.

There’s a tendency to think that when we are “exercising” we are doing something good for our bodies, but when we are hanging out with friends, we are wasting our time and should be more productively engaged–not true. In fact, he said that failure to create and maintain quality personal relationships with other humans is as dangerous to our physical health as smoking! So every time you hang out to shmooze with a gal pal, just pat yourself on the back and congratulate yourself for doing something good for your health! We are indeed very very lucky.

Category : Personal | Relationships | Blog

ShuttersMy house is as close to picture perfect as I am going to get it in preparation for listing it for sale. It has been close to this state many times when I have hosted art shows as part of the local art tour. However for all those years, chotchkies, clutter, all extraneous items were shoved into boxes and stashed in rooms behind closed doors. The thing is when you sell your house people look in all those favourite hiding places, and they see if you have organized and aesthetically pleasing inner spaces.

It has taken me a month to purge and tidy. My whole art studio got shipped to the garage at the cottage, the potters wheel and massage table from various past lives were sold on Craigslist, an account was opened at the Elegant Garage Sale to move the “good” stuff and the Goodwill graciously took the ordinary stuff. Every nook and cranny has been emptied, sorted, purged, cleaned and returned to shelves straightened and colour co-ordinated.

This is soooooo not me. The biggest consequence of working on this month’s never-ending “to do” list is the huge energy drain. Details are not in any description of my ENFP type except to say “AVOIDS them.” I prefer keeping things open and fluid with just enough order to get things accomplished. A little chaos feels creative and a lot of order feels restrictive to me if truth be told.

While being focused on creating order (perfection) for these last 30 days I have created an neat-freak monster as I now go around measuring the bottoms of the towels hanging in the bathrooms, smoothing the linen on the bed to Architectural Digest standards, and adjusting the louvers on all 9 windows so they line up with military precision.

How about you? Can you think of areas at home or at work where you feel drained? Could any of this energy depletion result from operating against your natural preferred way of being? I will be thrilled to see the SOLD sign go up relieving me from this tidy hell.

Category : Personal | Blog

Breanne Potter of “Assessment Buzz” sounds the alarm over the proposed changes the APA – American Psychiatric Association has tabled that will revise the DSM 5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) to include Introversion as a symptom of personality disorder.

Carl Jung identified Introversion as a preference for turning inward toward reflection as a way of re-energizing. This definition is benign and describes a way of being as valid as any other. Unfortunately in most business and social contexts in North American society we have come to extol Extraverted behaviour as “the way to get things done around here”. As Breanne points out this contributes to an unwarranted challenge for Introverts who have to contend with some misguided assumptions about their nature.

The difficulty lies with language especially when we attempt to use one word to accurately reflect a constellation of meaning. One of the things that I was taught was that as an MBTI professional language matters. People are not a label no matter what that label is. They might have a preference for something such as Introversion, but who they are is so much more than the word Introvert can capture.

The APA would do well to reconsider this proposed change. If you agree that this change is problematic, register on the APA’s site and let your voice be heard.

Category : Personal | Blog

Are you like me in that most of your friends are in a similar kind of work? Most of our family friends are independent business owners, consultants/coaches or professionals working in their own practice – all this laced with a smattering of entrepreneur. One implication of this is that a dinner party with friends, some of whom are of high school vintage, will include our accountant, bookkeeper, lawyer, security system provider, graphic designer, software wizard etc. etc. It works both ways as some friends who are coaches/consultants engage me to facilitate planning sessions personally or as a collaborative venture with their clients and some friends have my art on their walls.

Understanding the MBTI type of your friends may provide insight if there is the odd bump in the road in your everyday interactions. However when you do business together the value of understanding differences and appreciating where the person is coming from and how to communicate with them more effectively can be a critical factor in maintaining a strong relationship on a professional level. Of course keeping things going smoothly has huge implications on a personal level.

Some people may caution against working with friends. My approach is to take it on a case by case basis. Some people you can work with and with others you need to trust your gut. If working together would place too much strain on your friendship, it is not worth the temptation of working with someone who knows you well.

On the other hand one side implication is that you get to see your friend in a different context. If this context is stressful, it may have some negative side effects. However, the other day I was amazed and delighted to have the pleasure of seeing someone I have known for years in the midst of using their expertise. They were masterful beyond anything I had expected and it was a joy to behold. I have learned so much from my friends and appreciate the gifts that they share in my life

What is your policy about working with friends?

Category : entrepreneurs | Personal | Relationships | Blog

In the midst of the talks on climate change in Copenhagen I’d like to take a moment to address this critical issue. The article below was written by friend, social-activist and author Liz Armstrong. It captures much of what I have been thinking lately for her story parallels my own in many ways. I too am ashamed of my actions or non-actions as part of the Boomer generation.

We have an ever narrowing window of opportunity to take action… not just the Boomers but all of us. This issue is so critical and important to me that it trumps any thoughts of trait or personality distinctions that I have at this moment. I hope you are inspired to make your voice heard with the politicians in your area. This is not a Canadian issue. It is a human existence issue.

Boomers – let’s step up big-time on climate change
An Inconvenient Fishwife hollers for a stable climate & sustainable future

By Liz Armstrong
Erin, Ontario

Here’s a headline for the ages: A privileged generation chose to roll the dice on its children’s future. That one stopped me cold. It appeared in much too small type – it should have been 3 inches high – in a major Canadian newspaper the day after the Copenhagen climate talks began.

The writer was referring to – who else? – the Boomers, my generation, that huge surge of tens of millions of babies born into post-war prosperity between 1946 and 1964. Then came the crux of the matter: “After inheriting wealth, knowledge and health, after being spared the horrors of world wars and a great depression, history’s most privileged cohorts are rolling the dice on someone else’s future.”

With dire evidence of global warming mounting daily, we Boomers are playing a dangerous game of Russian roulette with the most beloved of all, our children and grandchildren.
Ask any parent or grandparent what is most important in their lives, and they will (nearly) always say: our kids and grandkids.

I don’t have children of my own (nieces and nephews, yes – this is for them) but over the years, I’ve heard brand new mothers and fathers – spellbound by the tiny miracle cradled in their arms – declare they would do anything to keep this precious life out of harm’s way. They would take up weapons, empty their bank accounts, throw themselves in front of a speeding train to push this child to safety…

…But apparently would not – especially not as we get older – slash carbon footprints to the bone so these same kids can have a viable future. Or, right now, in late 2009, fill the streets protesting Canada’s disgraceful lack of climate action in Copenhagen. Or demand – relentlessly – that our elected representatives do everything in their power – and then more – to slow down and finally drag the juggernaut of global warming to a halt. Maybe the answer is much simpler: to yell like a fishwife until something shifts noticeably for the better. (That was my own mother’s prescription for activism, and probably not such a bad strategy as I look back – and ahead.) Whatever it takes…

I am ashamed of me and my generation, the Boomers. Most of us got addicted to the bloated, fossil-fueled lifestyles that are now putting so much of life on Earth in jeopardy. The International Union for Conservation of Nature, the world’s oldest and largest environmental network, reports that nearly a third of amphibians, one in eight birds and 25% of mammals are threatened with extinction, mainly from habitat destruction to satisfy voracious consumer appetites, but increasingly from climate change.

We Boomers are reluctant to take responsibility for what has happened on our watch, even as the scientific evidence of ‘coming’ climate change – now rearing its ugly head in real time in many parts of the world including the Canada’s Arctic – steadily mounted over the past three decades, and especially since the year 2000.

We’re still way too willing to allow the climate change deniers, many of them richly financed by the oil, coal and gas industries, to conveniently freeze our worries – and potential action – into false hope that what’s happening is just an overblown hoax or a natural weather cycle. We’re apparently content to let ‘someone else’ solve the mess – what choice will younger generations have? – shrugging it off with “What can I possibly do anyway?” Or, the trump card, blame the politicians – then get right back to our Wii games.

For three years in the early 1970s I was a grade 8 teacher in downtown Toronto. These days I’m spending some spare time in classrooms in the village of Erin, the small, friendly southwestern Ontario town where I now live, talking to students about global warming, greenhouses gases, and how their school lunch choices can ‘take a bite out of climate change.’ (Food and agriculture account for over 30% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, so it’s not a bad place to start with kids too young to drive a SUV or buy one of those 4,000 square foot estate homes that seem to be springing up everywhere). But I have a hard time looking these kids straight in the eye. Why? Because they trust adults implicitly, and would be utterly shattered to know that so many of us are sitting on our hands, not acting with urgency essential to their future well-being. Worse, being utterly silent about it.
Can we redeem ourselves? Will we stand up and be counted for the massive change that must happen so that generations following us have a reasonably decent future on the only planet we’ve got?

Or maybe it’s already too late? (That’s another excuse to act helpless, by the way, then tune into the latest ‘reality’ TV show.) My friend and colleague Guy Dauncey, the author of the inspiring new book, The Climate Challenge: 101 Solutions to Global Warming, says, no, it’s not too late to prevent runaway global warming if we start now and dig into the abundance of solutions that already exist. Guy, for one – and there are others, thankfully – knows there is a golden opportunity for humanity inside this alarming climate crisis, and his book shines the light toward this healthy, sustainable, energy-secure future.

The choice is ours: whether we act boldly, or not; whether we succeed in limiting the damage of climate change, or not. So much can turn on this one mega-generation’s decision to break its silence – and perhaps take a proud place in history.

C’mon Boomers, let’s step up now. (PS. Lots of other fishwives welcome. Fish husbands too.)

Category : Personal | Blog

I had a tour of an amazing facility in Toronto that has been a hidden gem for me until today. I am so excited about this wonderful place that I want to shout it to the rooftops.

Mukibaum Treatment Centres serve children and adults with complex disabilities in a number of venues from residential facilities, day programs for children and programs for adults. I visited the bright, spacious facility which houses day programs for adults. I met some of the people you can see in these images.

One of the staff was saying that people have a willingness and understanding that children with the kinds of complex disabilities that Mukibaum serves have the possibility for growth and development. Unfortunately this attitude often does not extend to adults, and this lack of enthusiasm and commitment hampers fund raising and the visibility of the center.

Once inside the walls what I sensed was total commitment and enthusiasm from those who work at Mukibaum and from the people that they serve. Everyone was recognized as an individual with a unique personality. The program was tailored to work with each individual’s strengths and to offer support in areas where it would be of benefit.

There was so much to take in but in the midst of expressive arts rooms, music rooms, dance rooms, art studios, rooms for storytelling, many rooms for sensory development there was the virtual reality room. It was here that I got an understanding of the level of creativity and dedication of the staff.

One of their clients had been a kayaker before head trauma changed his life. Seizure activity prevented working a therapeutic way in a kayak on a river or in a pool, but the virtual reality experience did not produce seizures. This fabulous set up allowed them to help use the kayaking movements to exercise the parts of the brain that had previously had strong neuro-pathways.

The use of technology provides a lot of fun and is so rewarding that people are motivated to learn how to work with the equipment. This is a big reach that is a bonus side effect of the value of the experience from a therapy perspective.

Not only did the staff understand the needs of the clients but also their own needs and what keeps the work alive and fresh and their spirits intact. One small example is the room that is set up for the volunteer chiropractors that serve both staff and clients.

It is well worth visiting the site to see what else is happening and to watch the video of the real Michael aka Muki Baum who inspired it all.

I came away “filled up” by being in an environment where everyone was viewed through the lens of possibility. A good reminder for us all.

Category : creativity | Personal | Blog

Can we learn from others?

My response is YES as long as we translate their process to adapt to our own strengths, natural motivation and preferences.

I wrote a previous blog post in response to an email question I received but my answer wasn’t what Sandra was asking. Below is my second response. My painting process has developed through some self-observation, through trying to work with my Enneagram Six tendency for self-doubt and it may be a portrait of an ENFP in action. I trust that Sandra, who asks the question below will find one piece in this ramble to “translate” into how she can paint “Ideas” her way.

After reading your blog post, I understand what you were talking about although that wasn’t what I was asking. I understand you are saying you could use an idea rather than an object as subject matter. But I was asking specifically about your process of getting that idea onto canvas. For example, if you were going to paint “hatred” would you sketch it out, work it out first, think about it or would you just stand in front of a blank canvas and “feel” or intuit your way through it? In other words, how do you translate concept into visual.

I have more than one way in. I suppose I do all of what you suggested but I vary the order depending on the circumstance. I go by what feels right in the moment. This can be influenced by the weather, the amount of sleep I’ve had the people who are around, the materials I have on hand etc. Forcing things doesn’t work for me.

Often something I read or write or learn about sparks an idea. The shapes and colours may come full blown or I may work them out ahead of time. The times I try to work them out on canvas are either a roaring success or a big flop. It might work to go straight to canvas at the end of a long day of painting when I am open and warmed up.

* For Inner Landscapes 1 I had a clear outcome in mind – which was to capture the essence of each of the 16 Reiss desires so that people could add the image to the description of the desire and enhance their understanding. I wanted them to look and be able to say “YES That’s me.” or “NO way.”
* For my Inner Landscapes 2 show I also wanted people to engage with the MBTI in order to deepen their understanding and anchor it in their memory. I had coaching clients come to the gallery and sketch their interpretation of a concept such as Introversion and I used those sketches as a jumping off spot for about 1/3 of the 33 paintings – then I filled in the other components with my interpretation which evolved from what the clients started.





* For some things like Introversion- I then ask myself what would the opposite of something I have done -feel like, look like. How would I paint Extroversion to have the opposite energy? This is something that I do quite often – eg 2 paintings-1 of the word MORE called “too Much is Not Enough” and One of the word LESS called “Less is More” – humour is big for me and it is often there but not explicit. I change colour, texture etc. to show the difference
* I often ask a question something like ” I know I want to paint about X so what do I want to say?” and then let things percolate for a few days until something comes to me –
* Then I might try some ideas out in a series of one minute sketches – I like to go from sketch to painting pretty quickly while the feeling state is alive for me. Everything I do is part of a coherent whole eg standing, using a big brush and big gestures for a painting about a concept like freedom that calls for that way of painting. Painting intimacy might be suited to a different size brush, different palette and a different physical posture – perhaps sitting and doing more considered and careful brushwork

* I often have a big back story going on for me while I paint. This video above shows an example of 2 paintings that I did for a show to be curated by Moses Znaimer on the Last Taboo (which is aging acc to Moses). You can see that I was in the country and that being in nature influenced my thinking and my images. What I wanted to paint didn’t get fully expressed so I just found myself exploring Twitter to see what people in general thought about aging. One thing led to another and I ended up doing a twitter background created from 2 other paintings. The canvas panel from the printed jpegs of the Twitter search is blanket stitched on because to me that was a funny juxtaposition of some hand craft I learned as a kid which could be considered something old fashioned and the new element of Social media. There are a hundred little thoughts and connections and reasons why things are the way they are in these paintings that I can’t express – I tried in a blog post and got 1/4 of what I was thinking – having to explain it takes some of the fun and magic out of the process for me – I love the PROCESS – the end result needs to be OKAY in other words I want to be somewhat proud of the art but it isn’t the exciting thing for me – the process of expressing something is where the charge is. If people have a reaction that is a bonus – I am even more pumped if they have a completely different story going on for them than the one I made up. It’s all about engagement for me.

Sixteen MBTI types

Sixteen MBTI types

* For the 16 MBTI type paintings I had certain things that I wanted to express – In one of the 16 type paintings I used a series of blocks expressing order and the colour of those arranged in a pyramid shape to represent hierarchy for the ESTJ. I used the red colour for the SP types because they are so physical and because different temperament tools use red or orange for those types

* I have thoughts, ideas, theories and then once I start to paint I surrender to the process of making marks and putting paint on paper or canvas. The physicality of the process is so pleasurable – put paint on take paint off, go with the happy accidents and try to be bold and open to what wants to happen at the same time. There is a real paradox in the painting process.
* Sometimes the initial gesture is about my idea and then the painting takes on a life of its own. I surrender to the textures and shapes as they emerge on the canvas so that the end result is a surprise. At this point in my development as an artist, I trust that I know when to bail or when to keep on until I have a semblance of something worthwhile.

Category : creativity | Personal | Video | Blog

I’ve attended various events where the topic of the inter-generational aspect of the workplace has been discussed, dissected, labeled and yet still left open and somehow unresolved.

One thing that I do know that is the same for me now as it always has been is that I want to push the edges of who I am. I want to contribute and I definitely don’t want to be relegated to the corner (Oh Patrick Swayze – taking Baby out of the corner was a “best ever” moment and I hope you can hear my thanks).

This brings me to a personal exploration I have been immersed in since creating and submitting two paintings for an art show called “The Last Taboo.”

Moses Znaimer is a Toronto media legend – founding the “at that time” cutting edge CITY-TV and now venturing into reimaging what it means to be 45 plus by putting the Zip into Boomer in his ZoomerShow 2009 – a Lifestyle Expo to be held this month. He is curating an art show called “The Last Taboo” as a way of inviting commentary on how people of a certain age are relegated to the corner because WE (whoever we are) are not comfortable reconciling aging with sensuality, sexuality, individualism and either turn away or label people as “cute”.

So my question to you is “what don’t you want to know about, think about or see when it comes to aging?”

That’s it… that’s my question

since I was limited to 250 words in my submission I will continue.

If you are curious about how some of my thinking on aging has been spinning over the last month by all means continue. If not – Ciao until next time!

The Great Escape
Simply doesn’t exist. That is if you think you can escape aging it eventually catches up with you in some form or other. AND THERE ARE PARTS OF IT THAT SUCK. But the real question is “so what?” Now comes the time to put my money where my mouth is and to carry on living what I say I believe. Doing this when it is easy …is …well … easy. So now I get to be ME regardless of aches and pains and all the tiny things that mark out “aging”. Some people become their complaints and I don’t wish to do that.

The Real Taboo
I have been looking at nature and getting curious about how our observation of the cycle of life influences our attitudes. We seem to accept growth and decline in nature but I wonder if at a certain level how much of our taboo against aging is really about our fear of death.

The Role of Acceptance
Carl Jung is quoted as saying, “What you resist persists.” Being in denial or resistance to aging actually defeats the achievement of a desired way of being. All the energy goes into the resistance. Acknowledging what is real and accepting it is not a surrender. It is a liberation. Now I can ask “Given what is real for me now – what do I want to create next?”

My Interpretation
Let me start with the end – my birth sign is Cancer and I often wander sideways into things just like a crab walks sideways. I did the last painting first

What's on Your Horizon?

What's on Your Horizon?

What's on Your Horizon?

Every evening at the cottage I sit on the dock and watch the sunset and then the following morning lift my head off my pillow to watch the sun rise from my bedroom window. At some point the sun on the horizon looks the same . That led me to ask what I wanted to have on my horizon? What did I want to have the sun rise on now in my life? It wasn’t going to be anything CUTE or part of any RED Hat Society. I painted the colours of the sky when it is ablaze with the crimson of the sun. Stepping into that colour in my life…yes… I say YES to that!!!!

I did a twitter search on “old people” and got a cross section of attitudes from disgusting to enlightening. I made a banner of this search by adding a Twitter background of a combo of my Twitter background and a painting of the word ACCEPT.

I blanket stitched it on because I thought the juxtaposition of Social Media and blanket stitching was hilarious and part of how I want to go forward… still a bit sassy yet not trying hard to be anything but who I am.

Back to the Beginning
This painting tells of the four seasons, and the story nature tells in the trees that surround me in my Fenelon Falls retreat. This really is the beginning of my exploration by having a look at “what is”. The truth is that the old tree really is magnificent.

The rings that make up the core of the tree contain all the seasons before. Developmental work is similar. No matter where we are on any developmental model (Torbert, Spiral Dynamics, Maslow) we bring with us the elements of the previous levels in the model or at least we are in a stronger position if those previous elements are as developed as they ought to be.

This is a comforting and inspiring thought. I have earned the rings of my inner core. It is not up to me to change society’s attitudes. It is up to me to work with my own beliefs and to shift them if I have put myself in a corner.


Magnificence of Age

Magnificence of Age

If you have read this far … you might want to stay and watch this 2:47 minute video. In it you can see the influence the beauty of nature has had in inspiring me to step up to the taking on the next decade of my life with grace and all the flair I can grab onto.

Category : creativity | Events | Personal | Blog