Monday, June 01, 2009

It’s All In How You Look At Life...

This time of year, I can NEVER keep ahead of the dandelions in my lawn!

Every time that I start to look at them as a nuisance, I remember the moment that my oldest child taught me to look at life in a different way...

It has been over a decade now, but when Erin was very small, she was my constant companion on grocery trips, errands etc. but we often had to take them at HER pace, especially if it was close to nap time or any meal.

There was a certain day in may when she was 3 that we had left the car for servicing at the Co-op and walked over to do our groceries together. We finished that task and had our snack, but there were still about 15 minutes to wait until the car was going to be ready. Since it was a lovely day, we left the groceries in the parcel pickup area and headed outside to wait on the grassy lawn beside the building which was awash with hundreds of dandelion blooms.

I sat down on the lawn carefully, trying to avoid staining my jean shorts as Erin began to gather a huge bouquet of the yellow flowers. Stroking one particularly puffy dandelion rather lovingly, she looked over at me.

“God must really LOVE dandelions!” she announced.

I’d been so busy looking at the same dandelions as annoying weeds that her comment caught me by surprise.

“Why do you say that?” I remember asking her.

“Because God made them soft and YELLOW... and yellow is such a HAPPY colour!” she replied reaching for another huge dandelion as if it should be obvious.

Have you ever truly watched a small child touch dandelions or pick a bouquet?

She taught me to think about how I look at life all over that day. Eleven springs later, I think of what she said every time I see a huge patch of dandelions or spend time on my knees digging them out of my lawn one by one.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Walking the Path of HOPE...

It has been just over 3 years since I let this blog go idle. The last entry was written just before a cross stitch show in Nashville that I attended and shortly thereafter a lot of things happened that caused me to lose a bit of hope in my career in the needlework industry.

In the fall of 2006, I ended up illustrating my first children’s book for a local author and publisher, setting my feet down a different path, though I still kept a hand in needlework as well.

I decided to revive this blog because I am SICK and TIRED of all the negativity out there in the media.

Yes, the economy all over our planet is hurting...

Yes, our planet’s environment seems more fragile than ever before...

Yes, there are a lot of stories of gloom and doom out there for the vultures to feed on...

...but when did we start giving up on the belief that WE had the power to CHANGE THINGS??

When did we stop looking for stories of HOPE and JOY and WONDER to help soothe our souls and calm our fears??

This blog is a tiny bit of defiance in the midst of all the negativity out there.

I am setting my feet on a path of HOPE. I am going to wander and look for things, quotes, people and stories that INSPIRE me to believe that it is NEVER too late

... for each of us

... for each of our countries

... for our entire planet

... for the human race.

I hope you’ll enjoy the journey!

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Setting Forth On Journeys...

This is the first year of doing the Nashville show that I don’t anticipate being up until the wee hours of the morning trying to finish everything off, pack etc. It seems almost strange to be doing the last step- blogging about the journey before I set off tomorrow.

Bethany still minds me leaving. How do I explain that one of the reasons I can be here when she gets off the bus from school is because I also have to go away on trips like these 4 or 5 times a year? Erin, of course, is old enough to understand and be a huge help to Nick... but her perceptions are also deeper. The other night she suddenly looked at me as said in a really quiet voice “Do you ever worry when you head off on a trip that something bad might happen?” What a cool thing to be able to have deep discussions now with my eldest child. One of the designs that I am releasing at this show contains a verse I wrote for the day they each leave home. It can be a great design to stitch up for a Graduation, adding the name, date and school in letters beneath the design, but it is also nice just on its own as a sort of wish/blessing for your child as they leave home to make their own way in the world. The design is called CHILD OF MINE and the verse goes as follows:

Child of mine, the time has come
To venture on your own.
May all you’ve learned go with you
To guide you now you’re grown.

Be brave and bold yet loving,
Be fair in all you do.
Be wise but have compassion.
To all you are... be true!

© Jennifer Aikman-Smith

I am glad that I will have my girls home for almost another decade or so, but already I can see how much they have grown and get glimpses of the astonishing young women they may become. The following quote is one that I want them to know.

It’s not the load that breaks you, it’s how you carry it.
-Leana Horne

We shared the load of building this giant snowman as a family, and it was quite bearable... but none of us could lift the middle section and head alone. Amazing that life lessons can come in the middle of fun and when you least expect them!

Friday, February 03, 2006

A New Path For My Husband!!!

I wrote about pieces and fragments last time and now it is about a whole new path for my husband. A chance to walk down a new trail and leave his own footprints!! Nick has interviewed for and won the position of Principal at Magnetic Hill school for a five year term starting next fall. He withdrew his applications for the other 2 schools and so is back at work today instead of in another round of interviews for a different position.

I am SO proud of him, so amazed at how much he has grown as an administrator and so excited for him. He worked very hard to get to this point in his career and is absolutely giddy about getting this school so close to home in the next boundary over. He measured the distance and it is just under 8 km from our door which means a much shorter commute and the chance to come home for dinner even if there are evening meetings or events he needs to return for.

There is also a sense of wonder as Nick gets his career path set for this 5 year term. After 4 years of change and upheaval as he switched schools in the middle of his Vice-Principalship, he now has a chance to vision, implement and watch things grow from year to year in the same place. He is SO ready for the challenge of his own school!!

This sense of wonder stems from wondering now where I am meant to be in terms of career. I will never walk away from cross stitching completely, but there is this knowledge that I also need to find my next challenge in a field that is not so prone to theft. Somehow, there became a climate of tolerance among to great a group that scanning and sharing designs was permissible. Technology and the industry have also changed so that I really can’t rely on cross stitch to make up a full third of my income anymore... I still find a deep sense of enjoyment from creating the designs and a sense of astonishment that so many stitchers have taken pleasure in creating their own versions of one of my designs, but I am also enough of a realist to know when I need to concentrate on other ways to help provide for my family.

If I am truly honest with myself, I must also admit that it is time to stop letting the fear of rejection keep me from doing one of the things I have always wanted to do... illustrate children’s books. Right before I got into cross stitch a dozen years ago, I was short-listed for 2 illustration projects and in both cases, the project went to one of the other 2 illustrators chosen to submit some rough designs. When selling and producing cross stitch designs started to take off and meet with success, it was very easy to put facing such rejection on the back burner and go with what was working. Adding children into the mix only meant more justification not to just work “on spec” but rather spend my “work time” on projects or areas that would bring in income within 30 -60 days.

I have wanted to draw pictures for a living for almost 30 years now and have, for the most part, been able to live that dream. But I have also wanted to know that my pictures brought joy to a child’s world as they discovered reading. I was that little kid who used to curl up in the corner of a library or bring home the pile of books that was almost too heavy to carry... so I think it is time to stop being afraid of failing at the one thing I have always wanted most and just start doing it!!

“The reward of a thing well done is to have done it.”
- Ralph Waldo Emerson

Wednesday, February 01, 2006


I meant to post about this last week... but somehow in all the confusion, I never got my thoughts together again. A bit like Humpty Dumpty. Everyone wrestles with times when it feels as if all you are doing is running around trying to put pieces back together again or trying not to let things break in the first place. We struggle to keep everything together... to keep those outward appearances as smooth and perfect as an egg. How fragile that facade can be!

Bethany found out how fragile an arm bone can be and ended up in a cast for 3 weeks.

Nick found out how quickly things can change. He has 3 interviews for 3 separate Principalships that would begin for the 2006-2007 school year next fall. He has been picking up pieces of his teaching career and putting them together in a new mosaic of Power Point presentations (each school needs a different presentation) to create something new and wonderful... but he certainly feels like he's walking on eggshells!

Erin has been testing the limit of what her shell can bear with a lot of assignments and projects lately. She was also chosen for an enrichment project for her school to write and illustrate a book. She has it written and half drawn, but the deadline will be the end of this shortest month and she is beginning to feel the pressure, despite my telling her that she doesn't need to "do everything"!

I have had my nose to my stitching or the computer as I got a model finished, charts to the printers and other files ready for my trade show next week in Nashville. I haven't had the time I needed to also add to my portfolio for the DragonCon jury on March 1st, so I am feeling very much like the eggshell in the picture... a bunch of little pieces all scattered about. Life just seems to fly by at an alarming rate!

I'd like to share two of the quotes that finally snapped me out of that feeling and made me realize that perhaps there will always be things that I don't accomplish...

“The ambitious climbs up high and perilous stairs, and never cares how to come down; the desire of rising hath swallowed up his fear of a fall.” -Thomas Adams

“Ah, but a man’s reach should exceed his grasp, or what ‘s a heaven for?”
-Robert Browning

Monday, January 16, 2006


Saturday night and Sunday morning it was so warm and rainy that most of the snow disappeared and we actually had to shopvac the window well into my office as preventative medicine. Yesterday afternoon the temperature plummeted and everything changed to freezing rain and then snow.

This morning, everything is dusted with about 3 inches of white powder and we are back to winter. I even managed to strap on my cross country skis once the girls got on the bus for a quick workout... or so I thought until I hit the point where a slushy puddle caused the bottom of my skis to ice up and collect lots of snow. I think I shuffled back more than glided, but it was still fun.

Today’s quote is a reminder that little things really can add up to something powerful or beautiful. Just ask any stitcher, knitter or quilter what happens when you put all those tiny stitches or pieces together!

‘Snowflakes are one of Nature’s most fragile things, but just look at what they can do when they stick together!’

-Vesta Kelly

Thursday, January 12, 2006


To everything - turn, turn, turn There is a season - turn, turn, turn And a time
for every purpose under heaven.

The Birds sung about this Biblical passage in their song Turn!Turn!Turn! and it seamed the most fitting for this entry.

Sometimes change can be invigorating... such as when you face new challenges, new job opportunities or learn new skills.

Sometimes change can be scary... when things are thrust upon you suddenly and you have no choice but to cope. Bethany is learning that now as she faces the next 3 weeks with her “drawing hand” in a cast.

Sometimes change can be sad yet accepting. After only a month with us, we have discovered that our new dwarf hamster, Jellybean, who is finally taming into a lovely second pet, is diabetic. Like our first hamster Nipper, who passed away a year ago this month, she may not live long. We know for sure now that we will not breed her with our 10 month old male hamster, Wuffles. There is no way of controlling this disease in hamsters except to give them the mix of food we have already been feeding her and cut out the few pellets of commercial food she enjoyed completely. Not knowing how long she will be with us adds that bittersweet element to playing with her.

If there is a season for everything and a time for everything, then there is always time to look for the brightest spots in each time, always time to hope for what may yet be and time to savour the moment that is.