Over the years you have come to know me as a mother of special needs children, a maker and art teacher. Being a maker and art teacher served my family well during the times when I wanted and needed to be able to drop everything for my kids. Whether it was a heart appointment for Emily or an autism conference for Evan, being a maker and teacher allowed me the freedom to work -- which I love -- and the comfort in knowing that the career I built fit perfectly into our lives.
What you might not have known is that when Emily was 4-years old she was granted a wish from the Make a Wish Foundation to visit Florida for a week and stay at Kids Village, a property dedicated to special needs children through Give Kids The World. It was magical. On the plane ride home Emily and I cried and I promised that we would return to Florida and Disney World soon. I wasn't working at the time and didn't know how I would keep my promise and afford a vacation as magical as the one we just enjoyed. We started planning to return to Florida anyway. We picked the date, January 2000. We didn't know that I was expecting and Emily's little brother, Evan, would be born January 2000. Opting to postpone to 2001 gave me the opportunity to research our future dream vacation in great depth. Along the way I met remarkable people on a Disney forum -- Facebook didn't exist at the time. One of the people in the group contacted me and offered me a job as a travel agent specializing in Disney because of the thorough research I posted on the travel forum.
It was perfect! I needed a job where I could stay-at-home with my children and work in a field that I loved. After intensive training and passing my TICO exam (required in Ontario, Canada), I started selling travel -- primarily Disney.
We also were able to visit Disney annually until Emily's heart health worsened.
I traded my travel career and became a maker and teacher -- only booking travel occasionally on special request.
We had several more happy years with Emily.
She died January 2021 due to complications from her May 2019 heart transplant. She was 27-years old.
My husband, Gary, and I decided not to make any big decisions for one-year, although we did do a lot of talking about our future and what changes we might consider.
When January 2022 came, Gary announced that he would be retiring in April 2022, he's 62-years old. We got our ducks in a row -- as the saying goes.
I have been helping Evan build a business as his autism is best suited for him to be an entrepreneur. He is such a lovely soul.
Wanderlust returned in 2022 and I was hired by Northstar Travel in Ontario as a travel agent -- work-from-home. Covid-19 gave me the opportunity to stay home and dive into re-learning the travel industry and all the new pandemic protocols. Everyone is buying travel insurance now!
This brings me to why I am writing to you.
I wanted to let you know that once again my family life made a pivot.
I will continue to make and teach art, but my main focus will be the travel industry.
We can still chat about art, crafts, fiber, textile arts, homesteading, raising chickens and beekeeping of course. Now we can add travel to our conversations.
I absolutely love talking about travel.
My travel service is free -- travel suppliers pay travel agents commission.
Booking with a travel agent doesn't cost travelers more and often saves money because we have the inside scoop on industry framework and patterns.
Even if you just want to chat about travel you are considering and not necessarily planning, I am here to help. Northstar Travel is a full-service travel company. I will be focusing on family travel, Florida, theme park destinations, beach vacations, and traveling with special needs children and adults.
I started a blog https://www.sandraclarke.ca/travel and will soon post a travel vlog on YouTube. The blog and vlog will have lots of tips and helpful travel information.
Thanks so much for your support over the years.
I'm happy to move forward together and chat with you about dream vacations and bucket list travel.
We are planning a road trip from Toronto to Florida in September. I'll post updates about that too!
Have a great day,
16 days from today.
January 1st marks one year since our daughter, Emily's died due to complications from her heart transplant.
As a creative person I knew that I would express my feelings thru art.
So far I haven't been able to use Emily's clothing in a project. I haven't been able to draw, sew, knit, weave, or mend my feelings.
I have written about our loss and how I have seen my craftivism voice Emily's views, but that's it -- until today.
I bought a huge king sized sheet at Choices Thrift Store in Bancroft, Ontario in the summer. I've been cutting pieces from it as needed. Experimenting with natural dying and rusting the fabric. This is last of the sheet. I rusted a long thin piece of it without knowing how it will be used.
For several weeks I've been letting an idea brew in my head. The idea is to quilt 3 golden lines (Gary, Evan, myself) and a 4th line (Emily) would be golden Sashiko method sewing.
Today, I looked at the rusted fabric -- it's golden!
So I laid the sheet on the floor, cut the rusted fabric into 4 pieces. From right to left -- Gary, my husband, Me, Emily, and our son, Evan.
I guess I am ready to express myself creatively.
Stay in touch to see how this works out. Thanks for listening. XOXO
I can't believe we are still dealing with this sh*t!
Recently I received an email from a man challenging my information. When I emailed him back with proof he started bullying me for supporting my information. If I were a man he would have never responded the way he did. He would have never challenged the information I first sent him.
"Ignore him." I was told.
That would have worked for me in the 1970s and even the 1980s, but not now.
When Emily died I was left the only female in our home. I feel it. I feel the lack of feminine energy in our home. My husband and son are feminists. I am equal in everyway in our home. I feel it. The men who know me treat me well. Men have come a long way -- but it's clearly not enough men have been paying attention. What have you noticed? Have you ever thought, 'If I were a man I wouldn't have been treated this way."?
In 2010 I stumbled across CreativeLive, an online teaching platform for creatives. Their model is offering free LIVE online classes and workshops and sell the recordings afterwards. Subjects range from photography, to entrepreneurship, to arts, design, and makers. It was awesome! During the free live classes I participated in the chat room and made new creative friends that I'm still in touch with.
As I took one class after another, I thought, 'Online classes are the future, I need to join this magical industry.'
In 1998 I started teaching fitness classes. During a workshop for fitness instructors, my boss mentioned that she had to find a fitness instructor to teach children's classes. My daughter, Emily, was 4.5 years old and starting kindergarten September 1998. By her December 5th birthday that year, I was teaching children's fitness classes during Emily's school hours. This lead to teaching children's art classes. Teaching fitness to adults a couple of evenings a week and teaching children's art and kindergym classes while Emily was in school worked out perfectly.
By 2010 when I found CreativeLive I was ready to move some of my adult in-person classes ONLINE!
During a CreativeLive class an instructor mentioned that she taught on Skillshare and she sent everyone a link to a free Skillshare trial.
I joined Skillshare as a student and learned how to turn a few of my art classes to online art classes.
I re-branded a couple of times as my teaching evolved from teaching art to teaching art business and social media marketing.
I spent several years on Skillshare, but it wasn't generating the full-time income that I wanted.
So I started looking for other ways to earn income doing things that I liked doing.
Around that time I read that China's middle class was growing quickly. I said to my husband, "What I need to do is figure out what Chinese middle class families want to buy and sell them that!"
I was also looking to continue working from home so that I could continue being available for my kids.
My research took me to teaching online English classes to students in China. I had the credentials, experience, and enthusiasm to teach online ESL classes.
In retrospect I realized that I was able to recognize earning trends.
I also got into new venture trends at the perfect times, long before industry saturation.
My job or career criteria remained the same; flexible hours, excellent pay, and above all -- it had to be joyful. Building online classes generated passive income -- courses I made in 2014 still pay monthly royalties -- not a huge amount, but enough to buy two beehives, eleven chickens, and four bunnies for my homestead this year.
My ESL work was more structured with defined schedules, but I set the hours that I wanted to work.
When the pandemic hit all of my in-person classes were cancelled, postponed, or adjusted to online courses. The art business courses that I created were busier than ever before leading to new contracts with art councils, galleries, and colleges.
As the pandemic appeared to have reached it's climax, people started to see the other side of lockdown. They are prioritizing post-pandemic life to include fulfilling their Bucket List.
Right around the time I looked into my crystal ball of what will trend post-pandemic. The Chinese government stopped foreign teachers from teaching online to young students in China. I wanted to replace my lost ESL time and income with a post-pandemic Bucket List item.
Although we are early in post-pandemic vacation planning, I decided to dust off my TICO certificate (to sell travel in Ontario, Canada one must be TICO certified -- which I am -- saving that information for another blog.)
I enrolled in several courses to update my travel industry knowledge and joined a well respected travel company.
The next trend is travel. Not any travel -- unique travel that blends personal interests with scenic and beautiful destinations. Bucket List travel like hiking around Machu Picchu, knitting on Scotland's Fair Isle, or making a Faroese shawl on Faroe Island, visiting places from favourite novels, learning to weave in Peru, yurt building in Mongolia, painting on the Left Bank, taking a sculpting lesson in Florence, Italy, the birth place of Michelangelo. That is the next trend.
So tell me -- what is your Bucket List dream vacation and activity?
Sandra Clarke • A Work In Progress