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Happy by OHMJAM.com

Finding old friends
Old Friends

HAPPY, you bet I am.  Perhaps it’s because Spring is in the air and everything feels lighter, fresher and new but I have other reasons for being happy.  It started a couple of weeks ago, I had been thinking about an old friend that I hadn’t been in contact with for several years.  This pic of the horses is quite appropriate because I used to call her Mare, short for Mary.  She had been my best friend, the person I shared everything with but we had a silly disagreement and our cooling down period ended up lasting more than 10 years.  So many times I wanted to pick up the phone to call her but pride got in the way, you know that thought when you tell yourself it’s not your fault and they should pick up the phone, not you.  Needless to say I didn’t make the call and as it does, life went on.  I missed her but not just her, I missed her family, I missed us and the way we laughed together.

I always know when I’m about to get a life lesson because things get in my head and they linger until the lesson presents itself.  For weeks I had been thinking about her, wondering what her kids were up to and then – I got a message from her on Facebook.  We chatted via messenger for a couple of hours, sent each other pictures of our families and brought each other up to date.   I was shocked to learn that she had a couple of strokes but thankfully was doing much better.  I could hardly sleep that night because of the emotion that had welled up inside of me. Lesson learned – friendships are treasures we find in life, we need to cherish them while we can because life is short.

Then of course it was Mother’s Day and my boys didn’t disappoint.  It can be a sad time when you’re so far away but messages from the heart can mean so much more than presents.  I adore my sons and while every mother says that, it’s true in my case.  I had them when I was very young so not only are they my children but they are a little like the brothers I never had too.  They are my best friends and I’m so blessed because in spite of having them was I was a mere child, they’ve grown up to be successful adults so I must have done something right.  The fact that they’re handsome, intelligent, funny and talented is another bonus.  I jokingly refer to them as my slugs – just because.

I received pics of these girls the other day and I melted.  My Mom grew up on a farm, she had a horse (Bob) that she loved and when he got old and had to be put down, she never quite got over it.  She loved horses so much that she

Two M's
Beauties taking time out of Taekwondo to ride

became quite a gambler.  Needless to say, I spent a great deal of my childhood at the racetrack.  Naturally I developed a deep love for horses as well. To me horses represent family.  Four years ago I was in Australia and took my grandchildren to the racetrack – had to keep the tradition alive.  As we were leaving I told them that if I moved back to Australia I would buy us a horse.  My youngest granddaughter who just happens to share a birthday with my Mother has inherited the same love of horses.  I was hoping that she could come to spend the summer here in Canada with me as I live just a couple of miles from a stable and I have friends who own horses.  That was just a dream, the girls have school, Taekwondo and a myriad of other things going on but I’m delighted that they are riding too.

Lastly, I put my IKEA pieces together all by myself.  Trust me this is not always an easy thing to do but I did it and I’m so happy because I now have drawers for my craft tools and a cube to store fabric, although I need a door or containers to put it in so it doesn’t look so messy.  I need more of these as I have a wall of cupboards that are filled to the brim with fabric and no place to store other things.  Another trip to the city is on the agenda.

Ikea finds
IKEA solutions

They came to measure for the flooring yesterday and once that is done my studio will be complete and I will be ready to design a fall/winter collection.  I’m not even going to try to do a collection for the summer, I have so many other things I want to do so I’ve decided to take the summer off to enjoy life, my friends and spend time at the gym getting fit and fabulous.

Life is good and that makes me happy.    I hope you are too.


In the meantime, Keep Creating!



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Hashtag #LovemyLife by OHMJAM.com

Yonge Street in the 50’s

One of my most used Hashtags is #lovemylife so I thought I’d share a little about just why I love my life. This is my beloved Toronto, circa 1950 I’m guessing. Growing up in downtown Toronto, Yonge Street was pretty much my backyard and over the years I saw changes but for the most part it remained the same.  I assure you it doesn’t look like this any longer although most of the old buildings remain but the movie theatres that lined the street are gone now with the exception of the Pantages Theatre.  This is an aerial view of the city today, sadly the skyline is all but gone now.

Toronto today


Don’t get me wrong I love Toronto, it’s my hometown, it’s where I grew up and where I spent the better part of my life with the exception of the years I lived in Australia but it’s changed.  I’m not opposed to change but…… there’s always a but isn’t there.  Okay let me explain.  I’m one of those people that when I get something in my head, I’m not content until I bring it to fruition.  I started renovating my studio months ago and it’s still not complete.  The flooring still needs to be done and I needed storage items.  I can’t design until I’ve created the ambiance that exists in my head.  So I searched the net for the items I wanted and of course where can you find just about anything – IKEA of course. Where is the nearest IKEATORONTO of course.  You can find everything in Toronto. For weeks I have been wanting/needing to go and get those pieces but for a number of reasons hadn’t been able to – weather mostly.  Yesterday the weather was perfect so off I went with a friend..  I hate taking the highway, no matter the time of day everybody thinks they’re Mario Andretti and I’m never in that much of a hurry.  Besides I love taking the side roads; the views of lush green grass in spring, trees in bloom and animals grazing feeds my soul. We saw plenty of that yesterday as well as quaint little towns that make you wish you lived in them.   Best of all traffic was almost absent.

The minute we hit Toronto, we were fighting our way through traffic -why we don’t hear more stories of road rage in the City is beyond me, drivers were very aggressive.   Arriving at our first destination, the famous IKEA, it took us quite awhile to find a parking space – really don’t people work anymore, it was mid day.  I got a few of the items I needed but one of the most important I couldn’t fit in my car.

After a well deserved lunch, it was getting late now and we still had a two hour drive home but I wasn’t going home without going to one of my old haunts – Grande Cheese on Orfus Rd. to pick up a couple of things I can’t find in the country – Passitti cheese and tarelli. For those who don’t know what Passitti is, it’s those little balls hanging. I went via the Bridal Path to get to Lawrence thinking there wouldn’t be a lot of traffic there – I was ABSOLUTELY wrong. We spent an hour in more traffic but nothing was going to stop me and I’m so glad I persevered.  Walking into this place, the blended aroma of cheese and salami filled the air and I felt a warmth come over me.  I was so grateful that this place hadn’t changed and that it was still there.  My friend who had never been there looked at me and her eyes lit up.  Before we left she said I could spend hours here.  I was so happy to share my little treasure with her. There’s something wonderful about the security of knowing that some things don’t change.

Grande Cheese

I got my passitti, my favourite pasta and we headed for home. There was no time to hit another of my favourite places in Toronto – Queen Street West where people in the fashion biz can find just about anything they want or need.  Heading home I thought I need to come back, I’m missing the familiarity of home, I just don’t miss the congestion.

Queen Street

We weren’t in a hurry to get home so we once again took another route. This time we saw plenty of opulence.  For a moment I wondered if the views were like those one would see in South Carolina where there are rolling estates.  Here’s an example of what I’m talking about.

On our way home.

The ride home was beautiful, I didn’t feel tired or tense when I arrived as I so often do when I’ve spent a day fighting my way through traffic.

That was my start to this week.  Last week I spent doing some spring cleaning and giving my closet a fresh coat of paint.  However, in the midst of that I took a day off to go on a little adventure with one of my artist friends who is doing such beautiful work she has inspired me.  I’m not going to share the name of it because it’s still fairly untouched, it’s a little brook that flows into/and a favourite fishing spot on Lake Huron.  It was so beautiful and spending time in a nature always makes me feel creative and alive.  This is my home now, beautiful South Georgian Bay where you can find a different kind of everything.

Brook flowing in the Lake Huron

So you see I love my life because I have the time to explore and I find beauty in all that I discover.  Life is never dull when you can do that.

No time for exploration this week however, now it’s time to get things done, get organized so I can design.  There is so much fabric in my studio just waiting to become objects of beauty.  Stay tuned.

In the meantime, Keep creating!

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Good-Bye 2016 (Designs by OHMJAM)

Good-bye 201
From our house to yours in 2016

Another year is about to come to an end so I thought I’d take some time to reflect on what the past year has been like for me and for the record, I personally can’t wait to say good-bye to 2016.

The year started off busy and so full of hope as I worked feverishly to make my Fashion Fundraiser a success and indeed it was but that’s where it ended.  I don’t like to regret anything in life but it was something I ended up deeply regretting.  I did something kind, selfless to bring awareness to an organization but it became nothing more than contentious or perhaps it was just that way because of the people involved.  Either way I learned a lesson in life about people, a lesson I would much rather not have had to learn.  I learned how wrong I was about people I thought were integral, I learned not to trust.

2016 was about loss, endings for me.  Friendships ended, some I thought would last a lifetime. I walked away from an organization I was responsible for starting and was passionate about.  I learned that people I thought I could count on forever, weren’t as reliable as I thought.  I learned how much gossip and lies hurt.  Sadly, I learned how not to give so much of my time and energy to undeserving people.

I committed to being a co-chair on the Wasaga Film Festival and making the 6th Annual a Year to Remember.  I had no idea as to just how much work I was signing up for (another lesson) but when I make a commitment, I follow through.  It has allowed me to meet a number of people that I am glad to have met so I can’t complain.  I do confess having time to rest and relax over the holidays has been a wonderful respite from all the work.

There were so many heart wrenching situations that happened all over the world I confess that while I’m not prone to depression, I struggled this year.  The only thing that truly made me happy was my family and their accomplishments.  It’s not easy to be happy when there are so many people fighting to survive,  are being terrorized or you open your computer only to discover that yet there’s another terrorist attack, or someone that brought so much happiness to your life has passed.

Resolutions are always difficult for me because I start off with such high expectations of myself and then one by one they seem to fall by the wayside.  However, I have decided that the lessons I learned this year will serve me well in 2017 as I plan to make it about me and fulfilling my wish list.  There are so many things I want to do while I still can – I want to learn to paint and incorporate art into my designs.  I want to live a healthier more creative life, I want to learn how to say NO and not feel guilty, I want to love more (if that’s possible) but most of all I just want to become the best me that I can be for me.

So that’s it for me, 2016 SUCKED.  I’m renovating my studio and incorporating a lot of happiness into the design so stay tuned for some fabulous designs in 2017.

Party time
Party time Good-bye 2016

I wish you all a Happy 2017, let’s all hope that it’s a kinder, more gentler year filled with peace, hope and love.

In the meantime, Keep Creating!







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Ready for the Holidays by OHMJAM.com (Online Fashion Boutique)

Purple was the Colour Theme this year.

I am sooooo ready for the Holidays; to have some alone time as well as time with friends. I’ve been going non-stop since September and I’m exhausted. It’s been wonderful things that have kept me busy but I definitely need to relax and recharge before the new year. I didn’t realize until today that I haven’t stopped since January when I was preparing for my Fashion Fundraiser which was held in March. Since then I’ve been going full on with the Wasaga Film Festival and the Wasaga Society for the Arts.

So exactly what has kept me so busy – first off I hosted a luncheon for the amazing Liberty Silver in early October.  We then took her to RogersTV to do a taping for our October 19th Press Release.October 19th, we appeared on Georgian Bay Life and then immediately raced to meet with Ian Adams, Reporter for the Wasaga Beach Sun

The Wasaga Film Festival Committee
The Wasaga Film Festival Committee, Linda McGill, Kathy Wadham, Carol Romanella, Ronald Domerchie, Debbie Colleti and Aimee Lococo-Sarabura.

There was a lovely night at the Gayety Theatre to listen to Moses Znaimer, a wonderful Show at the Simcoe Theatre where I saw a fabulous Musical called No Chance in Hell and a great Creative Symposium also at the Simcoe Theatre with Guest Speaker Jeremy Frieberger from CoBalt Connects.

November there were non stop meetings and telephone conferences, with a little trip to Molly Blooms in Collingwood to do a fundraiser.  Then one of the most exciting things happened at the end of November, the first M in OHMJAM fought her way in Taekwondo to represent Australia in the Oceana Championships in Fiji.  She took home a bronze medal.  I couldn’t be more proud of her.

Maeve represented Australia in Fiji
Maeve represented Australia in Fiji

While Maeve was off representing Australia, I was in Collingwood in the Santa Claus parade, trying to portray blonde bombshell Jayne Mansfield.  Kudos to us as we came third in the Non-Profit category.

Hollywood Characters from the Silver Screen - the Wasaga Film Festival Committee
Hollywood Characters from the Silver Screen – the Wasaga Film Festival Committee
The Wasaga Film Festival's Santa Parade Float 2016
The Wasaga Film Festival’s Santa Parade Float 2016

Third for a first time entry wasn’t at all bad but what was really special was that we actually won first prize in the Wasaga Beach Santa Parade.

Throughout all of that we were prepping for our Youth workshops which happened yesterday with Brett Heard.

Brett Heard - from Fresh Baked and The Incubator Studio
Brett Heard – from Fresh Baked and The Incubator Studio

We decided to make the third workshop available to all ages as so many people had expressed an interest in wanting to learn how to do a film.  I was delighted with the turnout and got to learn some valuable information.  I am hosting a dinner party next week and wondering whether I should spring it on my unsuspecting guests that I want them to be part of my film or tell them in advance and hope that they still show up.  Either way I will hopefully film the preparation of the meal if my oven works.   Turned on the oven today and it sounded like there was a Harley in my kitchen – please please let me get it repaired this week.

What I did learn yesterday will not only help me with the film I intend to make but I have a manuscript that’s been sitting collecting dust for far too long.  I think I may take advantage of the holidays to take it out, dust it off and get working on finishing it.  Wish me luck.

Next week is still a busy one with more preparations for the holidays – baking, sewing, wrapping presents and I have another household project that I would love to do – I found some fabulous tiles that I want to install downstairs.  Will I get it all done? We’ll see but I promise to let you know by the time I write my annual year end blog.

I hope you’re all ready for the holidays and that you’re able to spend it with loved ones and good friends.

In the meantime, Keep Creating!

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September 11th, 2001 – We’ll Never Forget!

September 11th and what it means to me. I wrote a couple of weeks ago about feeling emotional and about being a cancer survivor.  I hate saying that, perhaps it’s because I associate survival with guilt or the fact that being a cancer survivor is tantamount to being chased by some invisible monster and hoping you never get caught.  For me it’s definitely GUILT. 

In 2001, while in Australia to visit friends and family for a month I felt sick the entire time, thinking I had the flu and the 24 plus flight had taken it’s toll making it even harder to recover.  When I got home I discovered a lump, not in my breast but under my arm.  After a regular check up, I asked the doctor what it was – he joked that it was a bone but maybe I should have a mammogram.  My Homeopath finally diagnosed it as a ganglion but I will forever refer to it as my divine intervention.

I’d already had two lumpectomies for benign tumours and was told I had to have regular mammograms.  I took that advice and had one every year until 1996 when for the first time in my life I had a woman doctor tell me I was wasting time having them.  I stopped getting mammograms, after all I’d been told I was wasting time, making me feel like a naughty little girl for having done so;  besides I knew how to check myself after finding the other lumps. This time I resisted a mammogram, insisting on an ultrasound instead – it was less painful.

The ultrasound indicated there was something and they took me into another room to have a needle biopsy, I’d been through that so many times already it didn’t matter.  Days later I got a phone call from my doctor telling me it was cancer and that I needed to have surgery as soon as possible.  When you live alone and you get devastating news you don’t know what to do, there’s nobody there to talk to so you absorb the shock, I went into auto-pilot mode.  I calmly called my sons in Australia to tell them then wondered if I should have.  Would they feel as helpless as I did being so far away but they had to know, there was the dog and the house to be taken care of in case…………

My surgery was scheduled for August 12th, my oldest son’s birthday (how ironic) and later postponed to the 17th which caused more stress, that meant it had a week longer to grow inside of me and I wanted it out.  Surgery then badda bang, badda bing – I wanted to go home, get on with my life and act like it never happened while nurses kept telling me I didn’t have to be so brave.  I wasn’t being brave, I was scared as hell but refused to give in to it.

September 11th I was scheduled to get my patholgy report, they had removed 14 lymph nodes, I would find out whether it had spread.  The report was good, I was told that all nodes were clear, the cancer had been removed and all that remained were the scars from the surgery.  I raced out of the hospital, almost feeling smug, never wanting to see the inside of a cancer hospital ever again.  I felt like I was walking on air as I found my way home, I turned on the tv and there it was.

Twin towers - September 11th, 2001
Twin towers – September 11th, 2001

This was what I saw – absolute horror, the images of planes hitting the towers, people jumping from the towers.  I kept changing the channel thinking that it was some sort of bizarre movie being made, it couldn’t be real.  Not my beloved New York – NOOOOOOOOOO make it stop I screamed to an empty house.   Then the guilt set it – I had just received the happiest news of my life while thousands of innocent people were being killed, lives were destroyed for no reason. sept-11-2


The images were horrific, they took me to a place in my being that I had never been, a dark horrible place where I tried to understand, how something so evil could possibly happen in my lifetime.  How could anybody be filled with so much hate? I remembered the images in my head after reading Viktor Frankl’s book Man’s Search for Meaning  where he described life in the Nazi death camps, spiritual survival and books about soldiers experiencing P.T.S.D. after the war in Viet Nam.  However, I believed that those atrocities could never happen again, surely we had learned from that and we were wiser now.

My life was changed forever on September 11th, 2001, I could no longer live in the little bubble where I was comfortable and felt safe.  It made me want to be a better person, to give more without expectation, to be passionate about life, to never take anything for granted again.   It also left a deeper scar, it left me untrusting and fearful, afraid to let anyone get too close, I put up a shield so I could never feel that much pain or see such ugliness again.  I left the bubble only to build a wall.

It’s taken me 15 years to realize it but two weeks ago I did.  I’m no longer afraid to live without the shield, I will no longer let fear of pain rule my life.  I know that there will always be hatred, people who don’t care how much they hurt others, and people who relish in doing so. Ego never stops trying to rule us. It will always sadden me when I hear or read irrational, illogical, negative, ungrateful or deceitful words but all I can do is be responsible for me, how I behave and react to those people. If our own children and parents can hurt us then why not the rest of the world but the wall has been torn down.

Albert Einstein
Albert Einstein

Let’s all try to be kinder, gentler and more loving to each other so that there can never be another September 11th, 2001.

In the meantime Keep Creating!



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Feeling Emotional by OHMJAM (Women’s online Fashion Boutique)

Gord Downie and Justin Trudeau
Gord Downie and Justin Trudeau

EMOTIONAL  – I can’t even begin to think of any other word to use when trying to describe my experience watching the Tragically Hip concert last week.  I, like most of Canada watched while fighting back tears and celebrated this iconic man/group with a broken heart.  As much as I hate talking about, even saying the word – cancer – I need to talk about it today.  The world needs to know just what a brave, courageous, kind and giving human being Gord Downie is.

As a 15 year cancer survivor I can tell you that I couldn’t have done what he did –  traveled across the country in a month, let alone perform concerts such as he did so soon after treatment.  Bravo Gord and that is why Canada loves you, apart from your talent – you do it your way.

What else has contributed to my emotional state?  I have no idea but the last time I felt this way was just before I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Then my diagnosis had coincided with the ending of a relationship that left me feeling disillusioned, so it was understandable.  This time is different, I’m happy, there’s no reason to be this way.  I have everything I need, I’m busy and I live in what I consider to be a little piece of heaven.  I like to be in control and feeling like I’m going to burst into tears at any given second has been wracking havoc on my psyche as I try to understand this emotional state I’m in.

It has caused me to struggle with insomnia, something I’ve never had to deal with but it’s even more than just not being able to sleep, it’s not wanting to, like I have too much to do. Then it happened – my epiphany.  Whether it was seeing the Hip concert, or the positioning of the planets I don’t know but it was like bubbles in my soul, percolating to the surface of my being, refusing to be silenced, all the memories from the last 15 years unfolding at such speed I couldn’t grasp them.

Let’s go back to the beginning of that 15 year old journey.  My diagnosis was initially earth shattering but I remember it as if it were yesterday.  For the first time in my life I was happy to be so independent – it was my life and my decision to chose or refuse treatment and God help anybody who told me what I should do.  I sat in the waiting area one day looking at the faces of the other patients, looking for answers to questions I didn’t have, almost feeling sorry for myself when suddenly it hit me – not ‘why me’, but ‘why not me’ and then it became life altering.

I changed jobs, enrolled to become a Homeopath and spent the next 10 years doing exactly what I thought I had freed myself from – giving and being there for everybody but myself. Needing a creative outlet I went back to school, this time to study fashion design.  By now my Mother was going blind and deaf so I sacrificed a great deal to be there for her until she passed in 2011. The next two years  I spent mourning, feeling like an orphan at my age; trying to figure out what to do with this newfound freedom of not having to care for a parent, child, patient or employer.

AND so I have come full circle.  Friday night, unable to sleep yet again, I listened to a podcast from the late Wayne Dyer and at 4:30 a.m. I turned on the lights and allowed myself to cry openly and without shame because a little crack of light appeared in my heart, a little opening into the truth of who I am and why; a fearless acceptance that I’ve never truly felt before.

So begins my journey of self-discovery.  Stay tuned or don’t, it’s up to you.

In the meantime, Keep Creating!

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It’s Summer you say by OHMJAM (online fashion boutique for Women)

Feet up - not a chance
Feet up – not a chance

They tell me it’s Summer but what is it they say ‘the best laid plans’? We’re a month into the season and I’ve accomplished very little of what I planned to do – gardening, going to the gym, yoga, hanging out with friends and enjoying life. Why you ask, why indeed. I am now one of the co-chairs for the Wasaga Film Festival and what a lot of work we’ve been doing to make the 6th Annual, the biggest and best yet.  After all next year is Canada’s 150th birthday and we’re hoping that people will come to our Red Carpet Gala on April 29th, 2017.

This year we’ve changed a couple of things, we’ve added a culinary category and we’re excited about a filmmaker challenge that we’re extending to all in South Georgian Bay “A Day in………”.  Check it out on our Facebook page and if you live in the region or know someone who does, help us spread the word.

The most exciting thing that has happened in the past week is that I received the most wonderful news about one of the M’s in OHMJAM. My beautiful and oh so talented granddaughter who I just happened to blog about exactly 4 years ago to the day, has qualified to represent Australia in the 2016 Oceania Championships in Fiji in later this year. I couldn’t be any prouder if I tried.


 Maeve Romanella
Maeve Romanella

 athlete qualified to compete at the Oceania Championships in Fiji later this year.

Okay well I’m off to do what else?  WORK and more WORK.  Although I did take the evening off last night and went to see Augusta Ray and her band sing.

August Ray and her Band with Kathy Wadham from Music Heals the Soul
August Ray and her Band with Kathy Wadham from Music Heals the Soul

WOW she’s 17 and already a power house singer and entertainer.  Her new CD is up on iTunes so check it out.

I should never have stopped for coffee on the way home tho, I was up till the wee hours thinking about all that I have to do this week.   I hope you all have a safe and relaxing Canada Day long weekend and stay tuned for news about the Wasaga Film Festival 2017.

In the meantime Keep Creating!








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HAPPY CANADA DAY by OHMJAM (Online Fashion Boutique for Women)

Canada Day
Canada Day

July 1st is Canada Day and I wanted to take a moment to share just how proud I am to be Canadian (The Great white North), proud to live in a country that embraces equality, freedom and peace. 

If you want to learn about us just go to You Tube and type in Canada – you might be surprised to learn just how many of today’s most famous actors, singers and entertainers were born here.   Canadians have made contributions in the areas of sports, medicine, innovation, art and while we are a peace loving nation that’s not to say that we haven’t fought as allies.  Yes there is much to be proud of not least of which is our commitment, we live in a country where temperatures can reach -30+, where the snow can keep you housebound for days yet we bravely persevere – we shovel our way out and get on with it.  In summer we spend hours in our cars trekking to cottages so we can escape traffic and construction in the city, just to spend a day or two relaxing.

I never thought that I could be anything but a city girl, I loved shopping (still do), I so enjoyed meeting up with friends for dinner and trying one of the many new restaurants,  I love the theatre, going to concerts, plays, the ballet and even the odd opera.  I traded all that in when I could no longer handle the congestion, I’m far too impatient to sit in traffic for hours to get to a destination.  If I have any regrets, they’re quickly forgotten when I realize that I live in a community of almost 18,000 and know many of them, I have a house that has land and a garage, I live 5 minutes away from the world’s longest fresh water beach, I can get in the car and see cows, chickens, sheep and horses within 8 minutes, I live in a community that cares about preservation and the environment and every day I learn something new.

This morning I went for my morning Tim’s where the line of cars stretched forever.  On the way home I passed by the beach, it’s raining and only 16 degrees yet there they were – people on the beach playing volleyball, setting up for the celebrations of the day, the Canadian flag proudly flying everywhere and I couldn’t help but shed a tear of joy for being so blessed to live in this Country and to be a Canadian.


Yes indeed, Happy Birthday Canada and to all Canadians wherever you might be. I hope you all enjoy the Long Weekend and the rest of July.

In the meantime, Keep Creating!




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Silver Award, International Winner – Janet Brown from Australia by OHMJAM

Janet Brown
Janet Brown

I am delighted to have as my guest this week, silver award winner – Janet Brown from Australia. Janet’s short film titled ‘Water, Water’ was the silver winner in the International documentary category at the Wasaga Film Fest. The film was written and produced by Janet and directed by my dear friend Iris Walsh-Howling. I first saw the film when Iris posted a link on Facebook and I was immediately taken by the rawness of the film. I have since referred to it as a poignant film about the fragility of life.

I have since discovered that Janet has literary articles and short stories that have been published in Australian anthologies and journals in U.S. academic and literary texts.  Her short stories and plays have won prizes in both Australia and the U.K.

Janet has a Master of Arts in Creative Writing from Victoria University and a Bachelor of Science Education from Melbourne University. In addition to all that she does, she also teaches writing courses and workshops. Amongst her many accomplishments are the following:

– A Hole in the Ground – Janet co-wrote with Joanne Ryan, Directed by David Myles
– One Plain, One Purl was a winner of The Write Stuff playwriting award in 2004 and produced in 2005
– Dolly Stainer of Kew Cottage, Directed by David Myles
– Le Jardin De Ma Mare, Directed by Judy Ellis
– Small Bites (2010)
– Making Waves (2011)
– You was a finalist in the Gala of the 2010 Melbourne Short & Sweet Festival at Chapel off Chapel
– Sand, 2015

Her first short film Water, Water was filmed on the Victorian Surf Coast and has screened in Spain, within Australia and now has won in Canada.

Water, Water
Water, Water

Welcome Janet and thank you for taking time out of your very busy schedule to do this blog.

Janet I can’t tell you how happy I am that you not only submitted your film to the Wasaga Film Fest but that the judges were able to see what I did and award you the silver. I admit to letting out a very loud squeal when the win was announced at the red carpet Gala. I was told I should have gone up to accept the award on your behalf but I was so thrilled and emotional I couldn’t move. Now I know what it feels like to be at the Oscars and I’m so sorry you weren’t here to be honoured. How did it feel when you got the news?

Carol, Thank you so much for your interest in our film and encouraging us to submit it to the Wasaga Film Festival.  When Iris phoned me to say that you had just posted about our win on Facebook, I was absolutely elated.  Unlike yourself, I was jumping around the room and carrying on like a happy child.  It was such a lovely feeling to have the judges acknowledge our work.   

Where do you get the inspiration for your work and for Water, Water specifically?

The inspiration for my work can come from anywhere, and it does come from the strangest places at times.  My first play,  A Hole in the Ground, co-written with Joanne Ryan, was based on a community campaign to fight the proposal to build a toxic dump in Werribee, where I lived for many years.  Joanne and I were both involved in the campaign.  It was a political play, intersecting with the personal lives of real people who we knew.  At the opposite extreme, I have recently written a short story for adults about a little boy with feathers, it’s speculative fiction I suppose, and the idea just came from a fleeting image in my mind that I wanted to explore.  It hasn’t been published yet,  Other times I might be inspired by a tiny comment I hear in a conversation or interview.  

Water, Water’ started as a short story and it came about because there were massive floods in Queensland and Victoria, Australia, a few years ago.  I saw news footage on television showing the devastation and listening to people talk about staying and rebuilding their lives and homes.  I wanted to explore the sentiments of someone who made a different decision.  It is not often we see films where the main character is a middle aged woman, and I think that mature women are very interesting.  They have had loads of life experiences that give them challenges, insight, wisdom and daring, so that was where the idea originated from.  

I totally agree.  Claudia Clarke, the sole actress in the film did such an excellent job of telling the story and making us realize that this was a woman with very little fight left in her after life had taken its toll.  Tell us about Claudia and how you came to have her in the film?

Claudia is a beautiful actress, so talented.  She is highly respected for her live theatre work and played the role on stage in 2012 as part of a touring production of short plays called ‘Making Waves’.  When I had the idea to make the film version, I really wanted Claudia to be our actor again.  I feel that she had a huge responsibility with this film, and her performance is so poignant and real, I am very lucky she took on this project. 

I’m of course biased when it comes to Iris because she is so wonderfully talented and creative but how did it happen that Iris Walsh-Howling directed this film?

Iris Walsh-Howling with Janet Brown and Claudia Clarke
Iris Walsh-Howling with Janet Brown and Claudia Clarke

Yes, Iris is incredibly talented, and we have been friends and interested in each other’s work and projects for the past ten years since I moved to the Victorian Surf Coast,  It is a region where many creative artists live and work.  I’d been thinking about a project to work on specifically with Iris, so you can only imagine how delighted I was when she agreed to direct ‘Water, Water’.  Iris has a unique creative sense.  Her projects have an individual stamp on them that is inspired by her great knowledge and experience of theatre and performance-making, without being derivative, and then re-invented and energized through her own creative genesis.  I do mean ‘genesis’  like a birthing of something completely new and fresh.  Apart from that, I like to work with people who are a pleasure to work with. The process is as important as the outcome.  

I’ve been to the Victorian Surf Coast and to Lorne specifically and the similarities to Wasaga Beach are amazing. I read that you spent a lot of time in 2014 submitting the film to festivals both in Australia and internationally.  How did you determine which festivals to submit the film to and was the Wasaga Film Fest on the radar at all?  Any advice you would give to people wishing to submit their films?

There are a number of websites like Withoutabox, Filmfreeway and Reelport that list film festivals around the world.  They cover everything from the most prestigious festivals like Cannes and Sundance right through to smaller community festivals.  Each festival has its own criteria – length of films, filming equipment used, categories, issues (ie some festivals are just about films on the environment, women’s issues, disability, diversity).  Some are free to enter, some are costly.  You can upload your film and follow the calendar to choose the film festivals that interest you for your project.  It;s very time consuming, and some of these festivals have up to 5,000 entries, so  the chances of being screened are really limited.  I did not know about the Wasaga Film Festival in 2014.  Perhaps I missed it, perhaps it was not on these sites.  We were selected for screening at the Puertas Film Festival in Spain and the Barossa Film Festival in South Australia so we are very proud of our little film.

My only advice to other film makers would be to really consider what you want to achieve with your film and, if you want to explore the festival track, choose the festivals carefully.  It is great for the film team’s reputation if you are selected for screening and even more if your film wins a prize – we have been absolutely delighted how the news of our silver prize at Wasaga has been received.  People are now taking extra interest in our project and our work.  Thank you Wasaga!!

You also have a degree in Science Education which seems so far removed from Creative Writing.  I am probably one of the few people that would understand since I majored in Business Administration in my earlier years, went on to study and become a Homeopath and then finally a fashion designer.  However, people always tell me that I have to be one or the other or people won’t take me seriously.  Are you an academic first and a creative second or is it the other way around?

To be honest Carol, I am quite sure that I am a creative artist, a writer, first.  My science studies (we are going back more than 30 years!) probably gave me an approach to my creative projects where I feel I am always experimenting, firstly with the idea, the inspiration, that’s the question I am exploring.  Then, my method, how best to ‘do’ this.  What’s the form, the approach – a story, a play, a novel or non-fiction.  But unlike science where there are quantitative results and outcomes, with creative work the outcomes, or the final product, have a different measure.  My Master of Arts  studies were in Creative Writing, and I worked at Victoria University as an academic skills lecturer some time ago, but these days any teaching for me is usually in community learning centres as a creative writing teacher – such fun.  

Tell us a little bit about you Janet, what would your friends tell us about you if given the opportunity?

Oh dear, what would my friends say about me?? I would love to know too!

What’s next for the multi-talented Janet – another film, book or play?

Your comments are very kind Carol, thank you.  I have been asked to write a performance piece based on the real-life experiences of people with mental illness, so the first step is research and interviewing.  This is to be staged in October 2017.  Usually I have a few projects in various stages of development and I am fine tuning another play script about a woman who has been a prime minister and is very ill.  We don’t see the lives of powerful women represented very much on stage.  So often the main roles are of women as victims.  One of her daughters is a photographer and she documents her mother’s illness experience by taking photos.  She hasn’t asked her mother permission to do this and intends exhibiting them, to the horror of the other daughter who feels this does not respect their mother’s privacy.  I am interested in the line between the personal and the public, privacy, and this era of social media does it even exist?  

It all sounds awfully serious doesn’t it?  Mind you,  I have a funny satirical musical that I would love somebody to produce.  It is called ‘infiltration‘….. a media mogul has had a kidney transplant and he thinks the ‘spirit’ of his kidney donor is taking over…….

What pearls of wisdom would you like to leave us with Janet?

Everybody has a story to tell.  Listen carefully. 

I couldn’t agree more.  You can reach Janet by email at janetbrown.m@hotmail.com and you can view ‘Water,Water’ at https:/vimeo.com.

Janet Brown, Iris Walsh-Howling and Claudia Clarke Celebrate their win.
Janet Brown, Iris Walsh-Howling and Claudia Clarke Celebrate their win.

Thanks again Janet and as always Keep Creating!

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Grace by Definition – a controlled, polite and pleasant way of behaving – by OHMJAM (Women’s online fashion boutique)

Grace, another definition – a way of moving that is smooth and attractive.  I’m going on a bit of a rant today in the hopes of reminding people that they have choices – you can choose to be gracious or surly.

IMG_3977 I am blessed to have friends who are the most caring, loving individuals you could ever meet.  One of them gave me this book recently.  She is one of those women that people just naturally gravitate to.  She doesn’t have to be the centre of attention yet she often is because she speaks intelligently and acts with grace.

I have another friend who doesn’t have a lot but is always willing to share what she has with her friends.  She has a smile for everyone and rarely an unkind word for or about anybody. I’m always amazed because people will do just about anything for her.  I tease her that it’s because of her brownies that are the best but the truth is, it’s her kindness that shines.

I also have a couple who are always supportive, encouraging and kind.  I’ve known them a short time yet they have taken me under their wing and have found ways to brighten my days and don’t hesitate to share.

So why would I want to rant?  Because I received a message yesterday that made me so sad for the person that sent it.  She wrote to tell me how disappointed in me she was because I didn’t promote her more, talk about her during my radio interview, ask her to be one of the models for my recent Fashion Fundraiser and she went on to blame me because people had left before she performed.  I won’t mention her name, she knows who she is and now I hope she’s got the attention that she was seeking. arrogance

I spent months working on the event, my personal life took a back seat  during that time as I woke each day to reply to emails.  I spent considerable time on Facebook promoting the event.  I spoke at various groups that I am involved in about all that was planned.  I contacted people to see if I could get them to sponsor the event.  I contacted 5 fabulous women I didn’t really know to model for me.  Then I designed and made the clothes that they modeled.  I planned and executed a fundraiser/gala for about 170 people single-handedly because it was important to me that the community attend a function that was worth attending.  I was representing the Wasaga Society for the Arts, a group of people devoted to doing their part to promote arts and culture in our community.  Someone said to me the other day “my only complaint was that the fashion show was too short, the clothes were so beautiful we wanted to see more”.  Indeed I wanted to make more but time didn’t permit and the evening was about bringing awareness not only to OHMJAM’s 2016 Spring/Summer collection but to the Wasaga Society for the Arts.  Not looking for any kudos for what I did, I took the job on and I’m happy that I did because I got to meet even more gracious women and now the community knows who the WSA members are.

Remember it costs nothing to be kind, grateful or gracious and it’s always the best choice.

In the meantime, Keep Creating!



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