04/10/2013 05:21 EDT | Updated 06/10/2013 05:12 EDT

Turning to Art to Find My Voice

Being the first-born-generation as a Filipino-Canadian and growing-up in the 80s conjured the kind of awkwardness that kids today will never know. I had to turn to art to escape and find my voice. And even since a very early age, it was one thing, one simple idea, I seemed to always turn to... Art.

little boy draws bright colors

I recall scanning the class. I was taking mental snap-shots of the various types of blonde hair-colour shades that existed all around me. My teacher's voice suddenly faded as she taught the different values of each coin in the Canadian society. She had blonde hair too.

As I stared into space and crash landed on this confusing planet called social isolation, I felt like the alien in some sense. "One of these things is not like the other" played as much in my head as it did on that PBS success program, Sesame Street.

I was in grade two and the only Asian in Miss Antle's class.

Being the first-born-generation as a Filipino-Canadian and growing-up in the '80s conjured the kind of awkwardness that kids today will never know. We ate rice and more rice. My cousins, brother and I were blessed to have been watched by my grandmother, Paula Camit Crisostomo. She instilled the Filipino culture in me through the fresh ube (Filipino purple dessert) she'd feed us, her Sinigang (Filipino broth with fresh ginger, veggies beef or fish or shrimp...omg) her beef-steak, and her mixed Tagalog-English dialect.

Her actions continue to be very telling of her character. At 94, I am convinced she is the reason I adore old churches and beads. But I think it was the examples and stories she told that shaped how I saw the world. And in her, I belonged.

Back then, we never heard the word "bully." Hardly anyone took it at face value, but kids like me know it's there. Friendships were held onto tighter because of the risk they'd one day convert to the 'other side' -- the judgers, who'd rather follow than lead. God forbid you get to know someone!

The beneficial aspects of it all are threaded in me and are apparent in my role as a mother. I know what it takes to feel broken, but most importantly I've gained so much in breaking free -- the ability to accept strength created this life I have now, which led me to learn, I wasn't broken at all.

It's that feeling I get in my throat when I give metaphoric scenarios to my six-year old to "dance in the storm." It's the pride in my heritage I've embraced and attempt to pay forward. I was forced to look internally. Luckily, I liked myself and realized it wasn't hard to fade-out the rest of the world or Miss Antle's class.

And even since a very early age, it was one thing, one simple idea, I seemed to always turn to... art.

Lisa Phillips, a blog Journalist for says:

"Artistic creations are born through the solving of problems. How do I turn this clay into a sculpture? How do I portray a particular emotion through dance? How will my character react in this situation? Without even realizing it kids that participate in the arts are consistently being challenged to solve problems. All this practice problem solving develops children's skills in reasoning and understanding. This will help develop important problem-solving skills necessary for success in any career."

We all know what love we all share in cafés. Whether it's grabbing your blended coffee, a nice piping green tea, devouring on that can't-have-enough macaroon, curling up with a book, living on study-mode or perhaps that feeling that you could possibly meet someone today -- it's a whole species of culture.

Best Toronto cafés

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Smock Café is a new location that is picking up new trends in ways that I've never seen. Having two young children, my appreciation is shown with my presence and recommendations to anyone who has a uterus or offspring. Smock is located in the urban trendy area, on 287 Roncesvalles Ave. in Toronto.

Sara Wood, the Owner and Founder of Smock Café says:

"Smock is a place of warmth and whimsy. It's part art school, part playground, part cozy café, and part 'community salon.' It's a place where families can slow down and connect through art, music, books, the natural world, and great food. The intent of Smock is to give parents, children, and caregivers an inviting space to nurture creative stimulation not over-stimulation. Designed using the colours and textures of nature as our guide, and the imagination of a child at heart, the space is a place where both adults and children will feel welcome and inspired."

When you walk into Smock, it's a bright space. It's an open canvas. The colours and furniture are not only inviting, but create this happy room. Aside from their delicious and healthy menu, there is so much going on.

Smock is a wonder workshop that provides amazing kids-parties and gatherings. They also have camps and classes for the children. The classes entail Drama, Family singing, the Imagination Station, Kideroke and the list goes on. And it doesn't end there. They even have classes for adults. From knitting, silk-screening, prenatal yoga, understanding fertility connections to breastfeeding, it's pretty incredible.

The diversity and culture this café provides not only opens the door to art, it's created this communal place to learn, grow and achieve. "It's really a 'choose your own adventure!'" says Sara.

I had to turn to art to escape and find my voice. A bigger picture exists now. Keeping my Grandmother in my back pocket at all times wasn't an option -- but the advantages of art live on. My two young children created their first little art projects at ages 12 months and seven months, and that was important.

Smock Café understands the value of self-expression. Even if you are no longer a child, there's no reason why you can't play and express yourself through art. Art knows no limits and no rules.

I can attest to the fact that a Mother never wants their child to search for a place to be heard; we must honour our children and allow them to express themselves freely whenever they feel to. The more tools they are given, the more they can be.

As Auguste Rodine, the great French Sculptor once said, "The main thing is to be moved, to love, to hope, to tremble, to live."