Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Yearly wrap-up!!!

I'm currently in Canada with my family - which isn't really being on holiday because it's more like coming home - to my other home.

Over the past four years (exactly to the day on 7th of January) I have been a resident of the UK. My time abroad has been incredibly eventful. Earning British Pounds and being given UK holidays (Seriously, 'unskilled' workers usually start with 21 days holiday a year. 21 days! NOT including statutory holidays!) has allowed me to travel more in the last four years than I did the five previous.

This last year alone I visited Calgary, went to Japan and finally saw Pema Chodron talk in New York State, which involved a few days in New York City, of course.

My mum with her first copy of 'Wise at any Age'
I also published my very first book, a dream I've had since childhood. I still sometimes catch myself looking at the single copy of Wise at any Age which sits on my bookshelf and think: 'Wow! Not only did I write that, but I also illustrated it, designed the cover and did the entire layout.'

It was a true labour of love and one of which I am incredibly proud - as are my family. 

This was also a year of study to facilitate a career change. I began the year extremely unhappy in my work, feeling bullied and completely restricted creatively. So I quit. I studied graphic design at Central Saint Martins and I began doing Lynda.com courses with gusto. I upgraded my computer and in a few weeks I was taking on design clients. In a few months I was employed part-time as an in-house designer for the UK's second largest occupational charity. And now I'm the Brand Development Manager at the Charity and I have a steady flow of freelance clients for whom I make logos, cool custom shoes and fun social media branding. 

Where the sidewalk ends...
The bike path one block from my family home
The speed with which life changes is incredible and whilst most of this year has been extremely positive, uplifting and something to be proud of, I have had a few personal blows which have been emotionally extremely difficult.

The flooding in Calgary when there is 4,000 miles and seven hours difference separating me from so many people I love so dearly was incredibly challenging. It was heart-warming to follow the many hashtags that popped up on Twitter to help inform people of developments, evacuation notices and where to go for shelter and food. Seeing where the sidewalk ends just a short distance from the home where I grew up was extremely odd. It was one of those events where there is a collective realisation that we cannot control anything and all we can do is take care of each other.

The other upheaval has been the end of both my brother's and my marriages. I won't go into it here as this isn't the forum for it, but I have to say it's been a fabulous way for the two of us to bond as we nurse our broken hearts.

There's a line in a book by Joan Didion which I feel suits this experience of life: 

"Life changes fast. Life changes in an instant. You sit down to dinner and life as you know it ends." 

Some changes are bigger than others. Some are more painful and some are full of joy.

This year I finally stopped dreading the question: "What do you do?" as I could finally talk about a career that I love.

I also stopped being someone who was married when that was someone I'd become very comfortable and happy being.

I can have a conversation in British sign-language.

I have six credits towards a masters in Psychology, which may not seem like much but it's something!

I can tell you the similarities and differences between Tokyo, London, Paris, New York and Sydney.

I finally get to say I'm an author rather than writer, because my name is on the cover of a published book.

And I can honestly say that I am happy. Because I am loved, because I love myself, and because I am so lucky to be alive to experience all the sorrow and the joy the world has to offer. 

Happy New Year.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas 2013!

It's Christmas! Whether you celebrate it or not I hope you're spending time with the people who matter most to you and keeping warm and safe. 

Because few, if any, people will be checking blogs during the hols I'm only publishing a single entry this week. 

It's nothing fancy or special (check back for my Year End Summary on the 31st!) - just some delightful shoes which will have been given as a gift today. They were a super fun project, one of so very many over the course of the last year. I finished them back in October so I'm giddy to finally get to share them. 

I hope they are well received.

Merry Christmas to all! 

I was given free reign with these, told only to make them 'Christmassy'

They were a lot of fun to design and paint. Especially the baubles. 

Finding LED shoelaces was just a bonus, really. 

May your Christmas be full of light, love and laughter. 

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Dance Mixes - Kait's Mixtape

I am not a music snob. I don't believe that there is any genre of music that can be written off or ignored. I have found songs I like in all genres and my iPod is full of an eclectic mix.

I don't believe that dance music is just fluff. Sometimes there's an amazing club mix that not only makes me want to dance but also has incredibly poetic lyrics that just fit my mood. I also find dance music to be a great way to discover new artists since so many DJs feature various artists on their tracks.

I gotta say, I've become a little addicted to David Guetta and ZEDD as of late.

'Clarity' - ZEDD feat. Foxes
'In My Head' - David Guetta feat. Nervo

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Strength in Pain - Kait's Mixtape

You'd be hard pressed to find anyone who hasn't heard Mumford & Sons. The song 'I Will Wait' seemed to grace every radio station, permeate BBC programmes and generally fill airwaves for several months. 

I definitely enjoyed the song, finding it put an incredible bounce in my step. But when I listen to music, more often than not, it's the lyrics that catch and hold me. In the case of Mumford & Sons I have found myself drawn to many of their songs. 'I Will Wait' was a gateway but the lyrics from so many others songs from the same album have resonated strongly with me. 

'The Cave' - Mumford & Sons
Picking which song to draw lyrics from first proved difficult, but in the end it was this particular line which meant the most to me. At the moment, anyway. 

I spend quite a lot of time reading Buddhist teachings and one of the most common threads throughout is how compassion is cultivated by understanding our shared experience. 

There are many forms of meditation which involve giving and receiving affirmations. Things like, "May all beings everywhere have ease of mind' and 'May all beings everywhere be free of suffering'. 
For the longest time I did these practices believing there was some sense of 'energy' I was offering to the world. I don't doubt that our thoughts do carry energy but the sceptic in me felt like thinking things better just didn't make sense - and it doesn't. 

I had a profound realisation one day when I was doing a meditation practice on the Underground. I realised that there may indeed be some energy effect to the thoughts I was having but the sayings weren't about putting something outside of myself. They were to change something within. 
We cannot control the world around us. Nothing can be held static and there will never be a time when 'everything will settle down'. Life is constant change and generally unanswerable. The only thing we can work with is our mind. 

By working with our mind we don't change the world. We change how we exist within it. 

To me, these lyrics capture that work. We cannot expect to grow stronger by avoiding the very nature of life. Strength comes from knowing our experience as it is and not resisting it. 

Thursday, December 12, 2013

As Is - Kait's Mixtape

What can I say about Ani? I first discovered her when I was in Junior High. A friend of mine burned me a CD of her music and I found myself captivated by her brilliant use of words to convey great passion about all manner of social and political issues. At the time I was a fully self-identified activist and the energy of her writing matched my own. 

As I grew older I would sometimes see how much anger there was in what she'd written and occasionally a sense of righteous indignation came through as well - turning me off of some of her music. But one thing has never changed for me. When Ani writes about relationships, about love and connection, about the very experience of being human, it has always resonated with me. 

For that reason many of her songs end up on my OCD playlist, the playlist on my iPod of songs that I can listen to on repeat, five times in a row, and not tire of. 

Ani Difranco - 'As Is'

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

How to be fully human

Nelson Mandela died on December 5th, 2013.
He was aged 95.
He lived a long life full of great accomplishments.
He was no different from you or me. Nelson Mandela didn’t fight for black rights. He didn’t fight for South Africa. He didn’t fight against Apartheid.
Nelson Mandela fought to create a world in which we can all appreciate our shared experience.
The world is not a sadder place for him not being physically present in it. It’s a better place for him having lived so well, taught so widely, and loved so genuinely, even those who many would call ‘enemy’.
Nelson Mandela is a lesson in forgiveness – he is a human being, just as you are. Just as I am. He is an example to us all.
Nelson Mandela
July 1918 - December 2013
Illustration from Wise at any Age

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Where Does the Good Go - Kait's Mixtape

Another one of my 'drawn lyrics'.

I'm quite pleased with this one and was extra excited because it involved using pastels. I adore pastels. They're just so lovely to smudge around. I like how they bleed over the edges and that my fingerprints can be seen in the final product.

Tegan & Sara have been a huge part of my life since I first attended one of their concerts at the age of 14. At the time the tickets were $5CAD and we were sat at long cloth covered tables with candles on them. It was an 'intimate evening' with Tegan & Sara.

I immediately bought 'This Business of Art' which became my favourite album ever, as not a single song on it grated me. In fact, for one summer that album was like my own personal soundtrack.

Each subsequent album, excluding 'Sainthood', has seemed to fit exactly with where I was at that time in my life, including most recently, 'Heartthrob'.

But I still visit their other songs frequently because so often what they have written captures perfectly exactly what I feel.

Tegan & Sara - 'Where Does the Good Go'

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Therapeutic Lyrics - Kait's Mixtape

I'm a writer but not a poet. I can write poetry and sometimes have, but it's just not my thing. Nor am I musically talented. But I greatly admire those who are and I love when someone shares their talent in this way and the thing they wrote and composed speaks so entirely perfectly to my own experience.

It's a lovely reminder that we are never alone. That everyone knows grief, joy, heartache, love, sadness, excitement, disappointment, discovery, betrayal - the whole rich gamut of emotions.

Recently I've been writing down specific lyrics that resonate with me and in an exploration of typography, I've been 'drawing' them. I don't know how many I'll get through - if this will be another unfinished project - or if this might become an ongoing thing for several years. But at the moment I'm enjoying the time it takes to draw each one. I'm enjoying a project that takes me away from a computer screen and involves just my drawing materials and a sketchbook.

Plus it means I'm listening to some really fabulous music, such as the delightful Amanda 'Fucking' Palmer. Her lyrics are incredible and her music videos are also pretty damn fabulous. If you've not seen her open letter composition for the Daily Mail please do watch it now. I feel it pretty much summarises how Amanda Palmer is in the world.

Amanda Palmer - 'In My Mind'