"For all that has been, thanks. For all that will be, yes." - Dag Hammarskjold

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

an invitation to explore gratitude...

If you have made your way here via the wonderful Deb Ozarko's UNPLUG podcast series - WELCOME!   Although *the gratitude project: dare to be grateful* came to a close on December 31, 2013, I invite you to stay a while to explore the blog and all it has to offer. 

A great place to start is with this post, with an alphabetical list of links to every one of the stories posted as part of the "celebrating lives greatly full" series.   In addition to these, the blog will offer you photos, quotes, student essays and personal reflections from yours truly.

Thanks for stopping by...
gratefully yours,

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

i couldn't have done it without you...

Planning - and following through with - *the gratitude project: dare to be grateful* may very well be one of the bravest things I've ever done.  And by far, the best part of the entire experiment was connecting with others and allowing them to be a part of this.  At times, the asking came easily; other times, not so much.  But every time, the asking led to being on the receiving end of incredible generosity.  Every. Single. Time.

You were so giving of your time,
     your expertise,
          your support,
               your presence,
                    your confidence,
                         your enthusiasm,
                              your gratitude.

At the risk of forgetting someone, I want to express my deep gratitude...
  • to Sean & Stephanie - my creative advisors, for that first conversation at Bridgehead Coffeehouse and for your ongoing support
  • to Giacomo - for sharing your experience in gathering stories and for suggesting "the gratitude project" as a possible name for my experiment
  • to GGT Mike - for sharing your experience in engaging others in a cause and for your unfailing support of the project (and of me personally!)
  • to Cheryl - for your graphic design help, allowing me to go from a concept in my head to a logo on a t-shirt, business cards and postcards!
  • to Suzy - for introducing me to the mysterious world of Twitter and helping me set up a presence in the Twitter-sphere
  • to Stuart and Chrisann - for being there, and for helping me reach out to others in our community engagement events
  • to those of you who, early on, bought our limited edition t-shirts - for supporting the project and for continuing to ignite gratitude with the simple question: what are you grateful for?
  • to Paulette - for allowing me to have a space at Hintonburg ArtsPark (our first community event)
  • to Alisa - for inviting me into your school and sharing your students' essays with us
  • to Kathleen - for giving *the gratitude project* visibility in our community via your article in the Kitchissippi Times
  • to Stephanie (OAG) - for letting me come to your gratitude party
  • to the travellers - for sharing your stories of gratitude as we sped across this beautiful country by train on VIA Rail's The Canadian
  • to my 39 grateful guest bloggers - for your honesty and willingness to share your gratitude
  • to the unknowns who sent in a postcard - for your leap of faith and willingness to be a part of something bigger than you
  • to the hundreds who followed along/contributed on Facebook and/or Twitter - you will never know the thrill I felt when I started seeing names of people I didn't know joining on board!
  • to Jason Mraz, Patience Salgado and Brene Brown - for the original inspiration
  • to Brian - for loving & accepting me as I am and supporting my seemingly outrageous ideas. Always.
Seriously, I couldn't have done this without you - inspirers and cheerleaders, contributors and readers.  Thank you seems wholly inadequate, but it's all I've got. That, and memories of an unforgettable year soaked in gratitude! 

Here's wishing you all continued blessings, joy and daring on your gratitude journey...

gratefully yours,

p.s.  ... and that's a wrap, m'friends! :-)

Monday, December 30, 2013

preparing for a new focus...

Early in 2013, as *the gratitude project: dare to be grateful* began to take shape, I drafted the following description:

The gratitude project: dare to be grateful is a social engagement experiment triggered by my personal desire to celebrate the many blessings in my life in concert with others.  It was sparked by the simple question: “Wouldn’t it be cool to find out what others are grateful for?!” 

Project Goals
  • To express and share my personal gratitude with others
  • To reach out and engage others - friends and strangers - in a conversation around gratitude
  • To inspire others to put their gratitude into action
  • To step out of my comfort zone and learn
  • The gratitude project is a multi-faceted initiative that lives and evolves on several levels: blog, community events, travels & story collecting, postcards project, charitable fundraising… 
  • The timeframe is March - December 2013, however neither a forced ending nor extension will be imposed.
  • Part of the learning will be around the use of social media, including a blog, Facebook, Twitter & Instagram.
So, here I am - at the closing of 2013 - looking back at what has been accomplished.  Have my goals been met?  Why turn the page now? What is next?

I have known for a couple of months now that *the gratitude project* would be ending at the close of 2013.  It just feels right.  To continue would feel forced and would lack the authentic drive and energy that has nourished the project thus far. As I review the goals established at the onset, I can say - without a doubt - that they have been achieved.  And for the most part, wholly surpassed!  I could never have imagined the response to this experiment from both friends and strangers alike.  I experienced moments of pure connection with people... connection on a level where we can all agree that Life is a blessing and that we have much to be grateful for. 

Beyond all our differences, there is gratitude.

I have learned that I can step waaaay outside my comfort zone... and live to tell the tale!

I have learned that I can ask for help... and that my courage grows in the asking.

I have learned that "what are you grateful for?" is the best conversation starter ever.  :-)

I have learned that gratitude is a lens that is always within my grasp. 

I have learned that there are others who are dedicating themselves to celebrating gratitude and I will continue to turn to them for inspiration in those moments when gratitude does not come easily.  

The one element of *the gratitude project: dare to be grateful* that I did not develop fully was the charitable fundraising aspect. I had hoped to put my gratitude into action in a concrete way by creating fundraising events to give back to my community. It just didn't happen. Well, not yet anyway. It seems perfect that "giving back to the community" is the one component of the project that will be following me into 2014...

The time is right for a new endeavour. New goals. New learnings. 

I hereby declare that 2014 will be my year of the marathon!  Yes, that's right.  I will be running my first full marathon (42.2K / 26.2 miles) in New York City in November 2014.  And inspired by so many of the people I met this past year, I plan to use this new "project" as a platform to raise awareness and funds for charitable causes within my community.

And so, although I am turning the page on *the gratitude project*, I will continue to dare to be grateful. 

I will put my gratitude into action in conjunction with my new focus:
- to successfully complete a marathon while raising awareness and funds for a local charity.

gratefully yours,


Sunday, December 29, 2013

celebrating lives greatly full :: looking back...

A project is a temporary endeavor designed to produce a unique product, service or result with a defined beginning and end (usually time-constrained), undertaken to meet unique goals and objectives, typically to bring about beneficial change or added value.

With this "project management 101" definition in mind, and with the permissions and parametres I set for myself at the beginning of *the gratitude project: dare to be grateful*, I have decided it is time to bring the project to a close.  I will be sharing my reflections on this social engagement experiment over the next few days, as I begin to wrap things up here.  This is not the end of gratitude in my life - I don't think that is even possible! - but rather a turning-of-the-page towards a new creative focus.  More on this in a future post... 

Today, I want to honour and thank the 39 people who accepted the invitation to share their gratitude as part of the "celebrating lives greatly full" series.  Time and time again, as I received their submissions, I was humbled and moved by their honesty and their daring to be grateful.

I savoured their words. I was moved to tears. I rejoiced when they told me how valuable the exercise had been for them.  The ripples of gratitude spreading in so many directions!  And so, in alphabetical order (by last name), here they are... the storytellers, the lifeblood of *the gratitude project: dare to be grateful*.  Truly, a celebration of lives greatly full!  (My heart may be exploding with love & gratitude right now. Just sayin'.)

  1. Anonymous (postcards)
Each and every one of these people have touched my life.  And now they have touched yours.

We are beyond rich.

gratefully yours,

Saturday, December 28, 2013

the gratitude project assignment :: elly...

This is the last in a series of essays from Grade 8 students from Broadview Public School here in Ottawa.  I had the pleasure of meeting with Ms. Viner and Ms. Krochmalnek's classes just before our Canadian Thanksgiving, to talk to them about *the gratitude project: dare to be grateful*. (Read more about that here.) Students were then given an assignment to interview a friend or family member about what they were grateful for, and to submit a short essay based on that interview.   If you have not been following along, you will want to read these.  Seriously. These kids rock.

(Read Julia's essay here, Minseong and Judy's essays here, O'Dane and Evan's essays here,Dylan's essay here, Selina's essay here, Lily & Noah's essays here, Hannah's essay here and  Carson's essay here.)

Elly's essay below just blew me away.  Knowing there are young people like her and her friend Ashley gives me great hope for the future...

For my interview, I have chosen someone who I feel has a lot to say and will not be afraid to tell me what they are truly grateful for. I have known my interviewee for more than 6 years, and through that time they have been nothing but meaningful and honest to me and their other friends and family. Ashley is expressive verbally, physically and artistically and has much to be thankful for. When I asked her what personal quality she was most grateful for, she answered with sight because she loved all the beauty that the world had to offer.

To start off the interview, I asked my Ashley the question ‘what personal quality are you most grateful for?’ She thought about it for a few seconds and the first thing she said was “although I have so much in my life to be grateful for, I would have to say my sight”. The interviewee told me about why she chose this and I thought her examples were absolutely fascinating.

The first one she gave me was about the world always changing. She talked about the leaves and the sky and how crazy it was that everyday is different from the others. Each day has something special about it. The weather is always changing. With global warming, were not getting the same amount of snow and coldness as we used to. When I was little, the snow banks used to be up to the stop signs, though recently, the snow hardly passes a couple of feet. Ashley made a very interesting connection when she gave this example. She related the uniqueness and always changing weather, to people. Everyone changes as they get older. They have new friends, a new personality and they branch off in different directions.

Ashley also loves to preserve the memories she sees everyday. She told me about some of her hobbies that are truly has a passion for her. “I love to take pictures because it is showing someone else how I see the world”. Since everyone sees the world differently, a photo with a lot of voice really opens a window and lets people see into your head. What you take pictures of is completely up to you, and what you choose to capture really shows your personality. Ashley stated that she loves being able to share her experiences with other people who haven’t been able to experience it for them be themselves. Painting, it’s a way of expressing yourself through colour, pattern and shape. This is another thing that Ashley finds herself drawn to. While I was interviewing her, she told me something that really got me thinking, “I like to paint the world, not how it is, but how I see it”. This could be interpreted in so many different ways by different people. When I read this, I think of a forest. If most people were to paint a forest, they would do a couple of brown lines and some green spots, but Ashley would have all the animals and the patterns on the bark, the way the morning sun glimmers and shines off the leaves, and all the gorgeous flowers in full bloom.

One of the last things Ashley talked about towards the end of the interview, was being able to see things the way she sees them. "If they stop and really look at something, just a little closer, they can find beauty in everything”. This reminds me of an expression, ‘stop and smell the roses’. It means that if you take a second out of your day and stop what you’re doing, you can find beauty in nature and in the world. Anyone can, but not everyone will.

Thinking back to the interview, I can really relate to everything that Ashley talked about when she said everyone has a different way of seeing things. Personally, I absolutely love photography and take my camera everywhere with me. I take thousands of pictures when I go on vacation because it is a totally new experience. What also speaks to me are upclose shots of plants and animals, because you cannot see things like that without a special lense.
When I share my work with others, some really love it and want to see more, where as some don’t find it that interesting. That is because everyone is unique and sees things in different ways. Reflecting on other things that were said in the interview, I can see that Ashley is truly grateful for her quality of sight and does not take it for granted. She loves being able to see the world and all the people in it from her own perspective, which is unlike anyone else's. By having sight, she is able to look into other peoples interests and differences which is very special. If it were me being interviewed, I may have said something very similar to Ashley, because sight is a personal quality we should all be grateful for.

What are you grateful for?

Friday, December 27, 2013

the gratitude project assignment :: carson...

Our ongoing series of essays from Grade 8 students from Broadview Public School here in Ottawa.  I had the pleasure of meeting with Ms. Viner and Ms. Krochmalnek's classes just before our Canadian Thanksgiving, to talk to them about *the gratitude project: dare to be grateful*. (Read more about that here.) Students were then given an assignment to interview a friend or family member about what they were grateful for, and to submit a short essay based on that interview.   I have been publishing a selection of these essays here on the blog over the past several weeks.  You will want to read these.  Seriously. These kids rock.

(Read Julia's essay here, Minseong and Judy's essays here, O'Dane and Evan's essays here,Dylan's essay here, Selina's essay here, Lily & Noah's essays here and Hannah's essay here.)

And now, introducing Carson...

The Gratitude Project: by Carson

My grandma is very special. Born in Windsor she has moved 4 times to Elliot Lake to Niagara Falls then to Atikokan and back to Niagara Falls. She also has a lot of allergies. There are so many I can’t list them all but here are a few, she’s allergic to wheat, grass, dust, citric foods, some fruits and the list goes on and on. She has worked as a school teacher and a chemist. She is also a very strong Christian. The best part about her is, she is a great grandma. :)

I asked my grandma what failure are you most grateful for?

When my grandma worked as a chemist in Windsor there were two guys that were always messing with her when she was doing her job and we all know that when you’re working with chemicals you don’t want to mess up. My grandma, who’s not very graceful, thought she was doing a good job of not messing up. Normally, at the end of a project, you wash the beakers and lab equipment with acid but this experiment was different, you were supposed to clean the equipment with water not acid. She wasn’t thinking and the two guys were distracting her and she accidentally washed the materials with acid and that created a deadly gas and everyone had to evacuate the building. That’s when she realized that she needed to leave that work field because it was putting others in danger. She then decided to start teaching and get married. She is most grateful for the chemical accident because it lead to a safe and more enjoyable job. It also lead to her getting married and having four kids and 10 grandchildren!
I think she made the right decision changing jobs. One reason because it lead to me and it also could have saved some people’s lives. ;) It also let her do a job that she enjoyed more which was teaching.

Monday, December 23, 2013

the gratitude project assignment :: hannah...

Our ongoing series of essays from Grade 8 students from Broadview Public School here in Ottawa.  I had the pleasure of meeting with Ms. Viner and Ms. Krochmalnek's classes just before our Canadian Thanksgiving, to talk to them about *the gratitude project: dare to be grateful*. (Read more about that here.) Students were then given an assignment to interview a friend or family member about what they were grateful for, and to submit a short essay based on that interview.   You will want to read these.  Seriously. These kids rock.

(Read Julia's essay here, Minseong and Judy's essays here, O'Dane and Evan's essays here,Dylan's essay here, Selina's essay here and Lily & Noah's essays here.)

Here's what Hannah discovered during her assignment...

The person I chose to interview was a person named Emma. Emma is 15 years old and a student at Canterbury high school. The reason why I chose to interview her is because I look up to and admire her.

The question I chose to ask Emma was what life experience are you most grateful for? This question could have so many possible answers so I was curious to see how she would respond to the question.
The one life experience Emma is grateful for is outdoor ed. The reason why she is grateful for this is because she met a lot of new people and experienced new activities with that group of people. Emma also said that outdoor ed was a great way to meet new people that are going to be into the same things as you because outdoor ed has specific activities.

She also is grateful for the program because it was a change from school. Sometimes it is nice to just drop everything and go to a new surrounding. She was in the Gatineau’s so it was a totally new environment to learn new things in.

Many activities that she did were mountain biking, camping outside and canoeing. These were activities that she was grateful for. Some of these activities she had either not done before or she didn’t do the activity very often. She said that by doing the outdoor ed program she learnt a lot about the activity, actually did the activity and had fun while doing all of this.

I think that by asking Emma this question, I learnt new things about Emma and the things that she is grateful for. I learned that Emma is open to trying new things and she like to engage with new people. I think I would have chosen a different life experience to be grateful for but that is her opinion and that is what she is grateful for. Based on this interview I think that I would like to do the outdoor ed program because she has had a good experience and I might too.