10" x 20"
acrylic on canvas
Erin Stinson 2014
“We condemn a man for stumbling this morning, but we didn’t see the blows he took yesterday. We judge a woman for the limp in her walk, but cannot see the tack in her shoe. We mock the fear in their eyes, but have no idea how many stones they have ducked or darts they have dodged.
Are they too loud? Perhaps they fear being neglected again. Are they too timid? Perhaps they fear failing again. Too slow? Perhaps they fell the last time they hurried. You don’t know. Only one who has followed yesterday’s steps can be their judge.
Not only are we ignorant about yesterday, we are ignorant about tomorrow. Dare we judge a book while chapters are yet unwritten? Should we pass a verdict on a painting while the artist still holds the brush? How can you dismiss a soul until God’s work is complete?”
In The Grip of Grace – Max Lucado
Last night "Hope in the Art" marked the beginning of Homelessness Awareness Week. The event took place at the Keyano Art Gallery and was a flurry of creative energy and activity. I arrived to see quite the variety of work displayed on the walls, people connecting, others contemplating and creating, as well as a number of musicians performing.
With every art focused event I participate in I am amazed at the creativity and talent in our community - and how hungry our art community is for these opportunities to connect and collaborate. And as the event wrapped up my thoughts transitioned from the stigmatization of homelessness to the importance of community. When we have a place to belong, just as we are, it can make a world of difference. This goes for every last one of us, no matter the struggle, no matter the battles and baggage, no matter the triumphs and successes.
I am thankful to have been a part of "Hope" - it never ceases to amaze me how the arts can reach out and bring people together. And I am feeling particularly grateful today that I have experienced true "community" in my life - places and people that have accepted me as I am, forgiven my weaknesses and encouraged me to stay true to my unique self. We need to do that for one another and we rarely do. I feel both inspired and convicted.
Can you imagine a world where grace, patience and forgiveness ran freely?
Hi, my name is Erin and I'm a recovering perfectionist. My athletic journey has been a key part of my "recovery" as it teaches me lessons that have finally begun to sink in and shape how I face each day, not just my workouts. I will write this post in sections, beginning today with how my fit life came to be. I bet you'll get a kick out of it.
And by the time I didn't have to choose gym class as an option, I was more than happy to find another class to fill its gap. We weren't taught about progress, we were expected to perform perfectly - naturally. I felt awkward and out of place. But, as I entered adulthood a new spark of interest was ignited and I felt a desire to be active and fit. Unfortunately, I took an all or nothing approach with me to my first aerobics class at University, busting a move until I was hunched over in cramps. I expected that I'd just be fit. I'd go to aerobics and that'd be that. I continued my bursts of activity followed by longer periods of inactivity all through University when I had decided, upon arriving in a new city in my first teaching position, that I'd become a runner. I tied up my cross trainers and bolted out the door - and guess what happened? I walked home defeated, clutching my cramped up sides and feeling rather nauseous.
Perfection, not progress. Get it right from the get-go, or don't bother.
A number of years later, in another new community, a big career shift and now a husband by my side, I made another attempt at entertaining this fitness bug, yet again. I had been working out at home for years, using videos for all sorts of things (dance, Tae-Bo, aerobics, yoga, etc), trying to motivate myself to be consistently active. And then along came the Wii Fit. I have to laugh now when I realize that a video gaming system was what finally got the ball seriously rolling for me. True story. I'd select a workout and sweat in the comfort of my basement, working hard to make my avatar do whatever the Wii told Mii I needed to do! And the big lightbulb revelation of progress over perfection came when I had to run around a "track" in these workouts. The game forced me to pace myself and I was finally succeeding at running. I wasn't being rewarded for running as fast as I could. Sure, I was running in one place in front of a large screen, looking at a cartoon digital version of myself but the silly Wii approached fitness in a way that I had not previously encountered. Hilarious, but revolutionary.
I had also been walking outdoors and making that time for myself was huge. I found myself wanting to test my indoor Wii running skills in the "real" world. I realized that I had never paced myself and felt like if I could keep myself in check, like the Wii did with my avatar, maybe I could finally become a runner. It was at that point that I asked my friend Jess to teach me to run. She nearly fell over (as she has known me for many years: I had long professed that running was stupid and pointless and I've never do it based on my previous experiences.) But after she picked her chin up off the ground she told me that we'd start the next day. She arrived at my house with a couch to 10K program and I was petrified. How, on Earth, would I ever run 10 kilometres? Would I fail, yet again? Could I handle this failure? But, now I was in a world of progress not perfection. She was often telling me to slow down (not because I'm a fast runner, but because I was pushing too hard out of the gate) and that pacing is what brought me from a lifetime of athletic bursts and inconsistency into a consistent lifestyle of fitness.
It is good for me to look back and remember where I started because, as much as I desired it, my previous experiences told me I'd never be able to do it. With this program I ran 1 minute and walked 1. I ran 2 minutes and wanted to lie down - seriously. And now, I've ran 2 half marathons, numerous other 8k's, 10k's, 5k's, 2 mini-tri's, a sprint triathlon, 2 obstacle races and continue to run for fun and fitness, setting new goals as desired. I am not the fastest (and I admit I find myself feeling self-conscious when I see my name far down the list of runners in a race), but I choose to be pleased with my times because I know how far I've come and how hard I've worked to get to a place where I could run 1 kilometre let alone 21 in an organized race with other runners. There's a lot of fear that has to be conquered and perhaps only those who aren't naturally skilled athletes can truly understand. With every new goal set and challenge I enter, a tremendous internal battle begins. I have to fight to embrace progress over perfection, being content in where I am and setting goals that make sense for me. I cannot compare myself to anyone else (but it's tough, especially in races/competitions).
Last year I created an art piece for the community gallery's "About Sports" exhibit entitled, "You vs. You: The Sport of Fitness". I have realized that, for me; for my life and my goals, I only have myself to compete with. I push myself to improve because I want to, not because of any standard I feel I have to achieve. And the more I embrace this way of thinking in my athletic endeavours, the more it begins to take shape in the rest of my life... stay tuned for part two. : )
Kevin and I needed a break - we were desperately in need of a change of pace. For us, slowing down and finding rest comes naturally in the great outdoors so we tossed some stuff in the Jeep and headed off to Canmore. And although we left the mountains in the midst of a snowfall warning we did get to enjoy some gorgeous days outside (and even enjoyed an outdoor hot tub with giant snowflakes accumulating around/on us - seemed very quintessential Rocky Mountains to me!)
Planning to be outside in higher elevations at the end of April is a little precarious. Many hikes were laden with ice but it was lovely to be there when it was quiet. (Note to self: bring spikes next time.) We mostly ventured into familiar territory with a couple spontaneous adventures, all the way from Kananaskis Lakes to Lake Louise. What an amazing place - we were given some photography opportunities unique to early spring.
The wildlife scene was fairly quiet but we love watching anything - plus, it's all great photography practice! We both had some new photography equipment that we were testing out, including testing out how much equipment our backs could handle as we hiked uphill! We heard an owl and did our best to search for its location and waited patiently for it to show itself to us but to no avail. Owl photography is definitely on my bucket list - or, more importantly, enjoying a moment of actually seeing one.
Walkout songs are such an interesting concept. They are often used for athletes as an entrance song, psyching them up, announcing their arrival, setting the tone for who they are and what they are ready to bring to the field/stadium/ring/etc. I think a walk-out song can tell you a lot about these athletes or at least about how they want to represent themselves.
For over a year now I have developed a relationship with kickboxing. I was hooked after one class. It's an awesome workout but even more than that, I love learning the technique and fight strategy behind every move. It's a lot to learn but I keep working towards the goal of my imaginary fight. Honestly, I struggle with the idea of ever fighting but am fascinated by it, all the same. And MMA fighters definitely have their walkout songs. It may even be my favourite part of watching a fight.
One day, before kickboxing, a discussion began about walkout songs and we began to joke how we all need a walkout song for our everyday lives. Just imagine, the door opens and as you take your first step outside for the day loud speakers are blaring your song - announcing your arrival to the world. Hello world, I'm awake and I'm coming!
I love it! Here's my walk-out song, what's yours?
I was really surprised to find how excruciating the process of taking my self-portrait has proved to be. There's no pressure when you are on vacation and hold out the camera to take a quick shot of you and your loved one for memory's sake. (And hey world, can we puh-lease stop this whole phenomenon of the bathroom mirror/kissy face "selfie"?! Ugh. Really.) But attempting to carefully and thoughtfully capture one image that represents you in an accurate light? That is a challenge.
When I first began this project I had a flood of ideas and I scrawled them down but there's something about being in front of the camera lens that changes everything. I needed to warm up to the whole experience by keeping it simple and just going with how I was feeling. If I felt like screaming at the camera, I did! And after taking a bazillion shots, I was faced with the challenge of sorting through my images... of me. If you'd like to up the ante on self-criticism, try this! Not only was I looking at lighting and composition, sharpness and shadows, I was also judging the photograph on how I was viewing myself. The great thing was that it made it very easy to sort through and immediately erase unwanted images instead of the typical photograph hoarding/sorting procrastination that occurs.
In a world of photoshop and picture perfection it's a huge challenge to let myself "shine", accepting my image just as it is, without judgement and without touch-up. Talking to colleagues who take lifestyle images full-time, I know there is tremendous pressure (often from the clients themselves) to edit pictures to make everyone look like a skinny supermodel. This continues to breed a culture where our pictures don't represent our actual image and we beat ourselves up because we don't actually look like those "perfected" images. So, yes, I want to represent myself in the best light possible but I still want the photograph to be honest - I don't want to be relying on editing to make myself feel like I look okay. I further reflected on our culture's obsession of fixing "imperfections" - how we have collectively agreed to the definition of beauty, labelling certain elements of our look as imperfect. It's time to stop that, wouldn't you agree?
Different moods, diverse lighting, various times of day - they all contribute to a new perspective and outcome. This self-portrait process has proved to be a great way to play with different lighting scenarios. And, as difficult as it is, I'm going to keep carving out some time to work on this challenge a while longer. Experimenting and practicing helps me gain clarity on my photographic values.