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

Sunday, March 31, 2013

celebrating lives greatly full :: stephanie guimond

photo by jag
I first met Stephanie Guimond, well, when she was born. :-) In the interest of full disclosure, this week's grateful guest is my sister.  So yes, some might say I am biased towards her (which is true), but I invite you to delve into her words - both here & here - and check out her art for yourself.  You will soon see that this self-professed "artist, visionary, avid left-brainer" brings a lot of beauty, passion and talent to Life.  I am grateful for her support in all things and trust that you will enjoy her contribution to *the gratitude project* as much as I did!
My life is full and rich; though I may not always see it that way, I have much to be grateful for.
I am grateful for soup and biscuits...

The obvious-to-me: I'm grateful for health, nature, thought, love, home, food on the table, a general feeling of safety, family, friends, books, art supplies and dark chocolate.

The seemingly mundane, but not to be dismissed: I'm grateful for my 10 year old car, my computer, the Internet, indoor plumbing, Netflix documentaries, paper clips, my clothesline, and a functioning pepper mill.

The everyday comforts: I'm grateful for my dog's silky paws, my husband's flip flops at the door, the smell of fresh coffee, sun streaming in the window, meals shared at the dining room table, wool blankets and old movies, and falling asleep beside my beloved.

I could easily add another fifty things to any of these categories.

But I want to dig deeper...

I am grateful for three powerful concepts that, slowly but surely, have edged their way into my life and become a practice – part of how I try to live my every day:
possibility, curiosity, and choice.

...for floral thumb tacks...

I'm grateful for possibility because it's all around me, all the time. Opportunities abound at every corner even when I don't see them or when I think my options are nil. Life is hope-full.

I'm grateful for curiosity because it fuels forward movement. Not that long ago I had no hobbies, no interests, and no real ambition; then I experienced a transition that landed me into a world of exploration and growth. Today I have more interests than I can handle.
Life is rich.

I'm grateful for choice because it's liberating. Knowing that I can choose my actions, even if it's a choice of reaction to something that's out of my control, is pretty dang empowering. Knowing that with choice comes consequences prompts me to live more deliberately. Life is engaging.

Possibility, curiosity and choice, it's a trio that packs a punch. Combine that with the obvious, the mundane and everyday comforts, and really, there's nothing more a girl could ask for.

I am grateful. Yes.
...and walks in the woods with my fellow travellers in life.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013


photo by jag
This past week, I had the opportunity to re-connect with two different friends from the past.  It had been years since I had spent face-to-face time with either one of them... and in both cases, conversation went from zero to sixty in 10 seconds flat!  We very quickly went from the level of "so, what have you been up to?" to "here is where I'm at on my Life journey and it's tough, isn't it?!"  It was a joy to be in the presence of such trust.

I'm thinking that part of the reason is this age of wisdom that we are reaching... I know that, the older I get, the less tolerance I have for "small talk".  I have a growing awareness and desire for real connection.  Connection at the soul level.  And it really isn't all that complicated; all I need to do is be willing to reach out and to be vulnerable in the presence of another.

Simple, yes - but not always easy.  Which is why this past week, I have been grateful for the ease of friendship and for the courage to be true.

gratefully yours,

Sunday, March 24, 2013

celebrating lives greatly full :: mike herzog

Mike Herzog is an all 'round good guy... a loving husband & father, gifted endurance athlete and founder of GoodGuysTri.  In his own words, he works to leverage his passion for endurance sports to simply do good in this crazy world. He is determined to Live Life Intentionally.  Mike was one of my inspirations as I began to plan the gratitude project, and I'm happy to have him as a contributor... Thanks Mike!
What DECISION are you most grateful for, and why?

I am most grateful for the “Leap of Faith” taken on September 27th, 2003, the day Genevieve married me – a mutual decision.  Over the course of the past 10 years I cannot imagine my life without her love, support, and unique ability to “kick my butt” when needed.  We live a privileged life – yes, it takes effort, self-control, and goal setting but we recognize, and remain grateful, for the “head-start” afforded by our parents – both as role models and in support they provide us to this point.  We are rich in love, friendship and healthy children.  I am grateful to feel this way and our decision!

What PERSONAL QUALITY are you most grateful for, and why?

Being first generation Canadian of parents who have witnessed the worst of humanity (Second World War, Holocaust, Communism, and the Hungarian Revolution), the personal quality my parents instilled is unrelenting passion and effort to succeed with integrity.  Faced with so many “shortcuts” in life that may not reflect our ethical path, I am grateful and passionate about applying unrelenting energy to achieve the highest possible outcome without compromising ethics.  The result is both success and failure now fill my spiritual cup and feeling of self-worth.

What FAILURE are you most grateful for, and why?

Every time I fail to show love to those important to me I realize (at some point) the opportunity lost.  Each failure in this realm reinforces the importance of giving and receiving love in all sorts of realms (Self, Life Partner, Family, Friends, and complete Strangers).  In my opinion, the discord of the heart, mind and soul is overcome by giving and receiving love.  Love yourself, love family and friends, and the world around you.  My greatest failure is in the lost opportunities to do this and I am grateful for the reflection that refocuses my attention to “Love”.

I am not particularly religious but the following statement by a priest years ago echoes in my head:

“Love thy neighbour… even if you do not like them”

“Love is all you need”  The Beatles

Friday, March 22, 2013

the practice of gratitude...

Today, as part of the "friday features" series, I wanted to share one of my favourite online resources.  Although I have been turning to Spirituality & Practice for inspiration and information for several years now, I feel I have only glanced at the tip of the iceberg!

Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat have created a multifaith and interspiritual website devoted to resources for the spiritual journey.
The site's name reflects a basic understanding: spirituality and practice are the two places where all the world's religions and spiritual paths come together. While respecting the differences among traditions, we celebrate what they share in common.
Not surprisingly, one of the 37 spiritual practices they explore in great depth is Gratitude. I just love the way they introduce the practice:
The spiritual practice of gratitude has been called a state of mind and a way of life. But we prefer to think of it as a grammar — an underlying structure that helps us construct and make sense out of our lives. The rules of this grammar cover all our activities. Its syntax reveals a system of relationships linking us to the divine and to every other part of the creation.

Offering everything from poetry, to films, to journaling exercises, to music, art & prayers, I invite you to visit this rich and beautiful exploration of the spiritual practice of gratitude!

Do you have a favourite gratitude resource?

gratefully yours,

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

when gratitude doesn't come...

This was the scene for my run on Friday.  I was not grateful for the newly fallen snow. Not one bit.  It took every bit of will power I had to go out running in this (and a commitment to run with a friend!).  And with every step forward, it seems I slipped two steps back. It was a messy, slow slog of a run.

I am done with winter... Done. And yet, it persists.  Another 15cm - 20cm of the white stuff is falling down on us.  Today and apparently tomorrow too. Did I mention that I. am. done?!?

So, what does one do when there is a clear lack of gratitude towards something that is entirely non-controllable?  No. Seriously. What does one do?!  As someone who is striving to live life fully grounded in gratitude, I am truly humbled by my inability to live that way when faced with such a trivial circumstance. 

Sometimes, it seems easier to view a situation through the lens of gratitude when it's the BIG stuff of life.  Like yesterday for example.  We learned that Hubby's aunt passed away.  She was the eldest of the remaining sisters (fondly known as "the Council" :-)) and had recently celebrated her 94th birthday.  Her death came fairly quickly, and it is not particularly surprising for someone who has lived such a full, long life.  Upon hearing the news, I thought to myself: Well, I'm grateful she went quickly.  I'm grateful the family was able to celebrate her birthday with her last month.  I'm grateful she was able to see the scrapbook that the nieces & nephews put together.  I'm grateful... 

When faced with death, gratitude came easily.  When faced with snow, it was nowhere to be found.

Perhaps this is because we need to make sense of the big stuff, like death.  And love. 

And gratitude makes sense.

So, tell me... what do YOU do when gratitude seems to be nowhere to be found?

gratefully yours,

Sunday, March 17, 2013

celebrating lives greatly full :: terry sancartier

I first met Terry a few years ago through my running community, my "crew".  Although he's part of the group that runs much faster and farther than me, his kindness and his gentleness really stood out to me.  As I've gotten to know him better, I can assuredly say that he is one of the most talented people I know.  Not only is he determined to run 50 marathons before he turns 50, he is also an amazing singer and an accomplished photographer.  I love how he sees the world!  Some of Terry's latest images can be seen in an exhibit entitled "Passages" at Resto Piz'za-za in the Hull sector of Gatineau.  I am thrilled to share his heartfelt gratitude here at the gratitude project!  Merci Terry...

I must say that I am grateful for many things. Having grown up in a poor family and having to get by with less has, I believe, made me more appreciative of what I have. From as far as I can remember, I have always kept a positive outlook on life.  For that I am grateful because it is the basis for all I do.

I am grateful for my persistence and for always wanting to better myself.

I am grateful for my singing voice as it is, among other things,  a wonderful way to communicate emotion to others.  

I am grateful for my talents in photography as I can show people how I see the world.  I am grateful that it opens up discussions with them.

I am grateful for my sense of humour and my gift of gab.  

I am grateful for being surrounded by amazing human beings.  

A divorce is never easy but I am grateful that in my case, fourteen years were not lost and I kept my friend and her family still welcomes me as one of their own.

For years I never thought I wanted kids let alone be with someone who had kids.  I am pleased that I changed my thinking on that and now I love three wonderful hearts who love me just as much in return.  I am truly grateful to have Geneviève, Raphaël and Miguel in my life.  My favorite moments (and there are many) is when we all cuddle up together Saturday mornings. It’s the simple things in life.

Friday, March 15, 2013

in the words of... mary oliver

Yes, sometimes it can be this simple.

photo: jag
gratefully yours,

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

all roads lead to jason mraz

OK, so maybe not ALL roads, but Jason Mraz has certainly been a big part of my gratitude journey!   Those of you who know me may be aware of my... um... affection for Mr. Mraz.  I don't listen to music all that much, but I will listen to every. single. word. that Jason Mraz may be inspired to write/sing.  His lyrics and his music feed my soul and to see him in concert is an experience that will never grow old.  NEVAH!  So much of what I love about Jason has to do with his attitude.  His attitude of gratitude.

Take the name of his 2009 tour, for example.  This is my friend Danielle wearing the t-shirt from that year's tour:  The Gratitude Café Tour.  (We had the pleasure of seeing him in Toronto that year.)  Although I was aware of the power of gratitude in my life, it was this pure celebration of gratitude that stayed with me.  Maybe this was something that was not meant to stay between me and my God, but rather, something that was meant to be shared... sung... yes, celebrated!

THEN, in 2011, Jason Mraz partnered up with Energy Muse and co-designed the Gratitude Bracelet

"This Energy Muse piece was designed to help you align with the practice of Gratitude. Gratitude shifts our attention back to love, abundance, and the divine qualities we all have within us. As we express our gratitude awareness grows. Gratitude is what takes you to the next level. This bracelet, co-created by Jason Mraz, was inspired by Café Gratitude, a school of transformation guised as a raw food restaurant." Energy Muse Web Site

So, hubby had it easy in the buying-birthday-gift department that year...

Me:  Hon, I'm gonna send you a link, OK?
He:  OK, why?
Me: Well, just in case you hadn't decided on what to buy me for my birthday...
He:  Yes...?
Me:  Well, just get me this.

And he did.  Good, good hubby.  :-)

And so now, every day, I wear this visible reminder of my gratitude.
And of Jason Mraz.
Oh, and of my loving & smart hubby, of course.

What about you?  How do you keep your gratitude within reach?

gratefully yours,

Sunday, March 10, 2013

celebrating lives greatly full :: Sean Zio

I have known Sean Zio for many years and his passion and creative energy have long inspired me.  He is a seeker, an artist, a writer and a community-builder. He is the co-founder of Ravenswing Arts and Music Fair and is a regular contributor to Gumshoe

Sean was one of the first people I turned to when the seed of the gratitude project was first planted in my heart.  I am honoured to feature him as my first grateful guest in the "sunday spotlight: celebrating lives greatly full" series!  Thank you, dear friend...
Celebrating Art and Music With Community

by Sean Zio

In May 2013, I will be helping run the 8th annual Ravenswing Arts and Music Fair. This event features over 75 local artisans selling their unique goods, along with live music, free skill-sharing workshops and the Clothesline Project, a public art exhibit to end violence against women.

In 2005, a friend of mine and I had a dream to run a craft and zine fair in Ottawa in order to give local artisans and writers an affordable marketplace to sell their goods. We added music to support the great talent  in our neighbourhood and added workshops to encourage community building and knowledge sharing.

In seven years, our event has tripled in terms of volunteers, participants and visitors to the fair. You would not believe the amount of work that the volunteer coordinators put into organizing this event—all for the love of celebrating art, music and community. Currently, we have eight coordinators who plan this event and nearly three dozen individuals who help run it on the day of the fair.

I am grateful to share the vision of Ravenswing with all of these people. Even more, I am grateful to get to support, trust and depend on these coordinators who I work with for the four months leading up to the event, and then to see all of our dedication come to life with the buzz of community and live tunes.

Every year when I know that we need to being organizing the fair, I get excited. I know that I will be spending more time with these friends, and I feel less alone in the world. For this, I am especially grateful.

Friday, March 8, 2013

gratitude - what's it to you?

In this first in a series of "friday features", I bring to you... gratitude: wikipedia-style!

I found it interesting to see what Wikipedia had to say about "gratitude".  They spend very little time defining it, and focus more on exploring the benefits of gratitude from a psychological perspective.  They also explore the connection to spirituality:

"The link between spirituality and gratitude has recently become a popular subject of study. While these two characteristics are certainly not dependent on each other, studies have found that spirituality is capable of enhancing a person’s ability to be grateful and therefore, those who regularly attend religious services or engage in religious activities are more likely to have a greater sense of gratitude in all areas of life."

My personal definition of gratitude has certainly evolved over the years. And I have no doubt it will continue to do so. Today, gratitude is a stance... it is a perspective from which I am called to view the experiences of my life. I sometimes refer to it as a "lens through which I see the world". It is a spiritual practice where I choose to accept and receive my experiences as pure gift... as grace.  For sure, there are days when I am not at all grounded in that stance... The lens is well beyond my reach, and my perception of events or people takes on that "wtf?!" attitude. Luckily, gratitude is just a breath away (OK, maybe 5 or 6 breaths :-))...

What about you? Gratitude - what's it to you??

gratefully yours,

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

daring greatly

"Wouldn't it be cool to find out what other people are grateful for?"


This one little question just wouldn't let go. I was on a mid-winter vacation in Miami Beach, basking in gratitude for all the blessings in my life, and this simple thought popped into my head.

For reasons unknown to me, this thought migrated from my head to my heart and triggered the idea of the gratitude project. I have often had ideas and have done nothing to follow through on them. The perfect excuse would show up at the perfect time, and I'd go with that.

This time, the words "daring greatly" from Brene Brown danced in my heart... And a timely article on the value of failure asked me the question: "When was the last time you failed at something? What did you learn from the experience?" I knew I wanted to celebrate gratitude in some big way this year, but truth was that I was afraid my idea would flop. Big way = big flop. Big time.

But I reached out to a few trusted advisors and began to give voice to my idea. the gratitude project began to take shape... I began to grow in confidence and to welcome the opportunity to dare greatly. And so, here we are!

the gratitude project is a social engagement experiment that seeks to engage people in a conversation around gratitude. This blog is just the starting point: guest bloggers, featured resources, personal reflections... I invite you to join me and contribute in your own was as the experiment unfolds!

gratefully yours,

Monday, March 4, 2013

countdown - 1 day to release...

March 4, 2013

1. Today, I am grateful for the opportunity to learn something new - I am starting an online course on "video montage" with Vivienne McMaster. Totally out of my element, but I'm hoping to create something that will support my project. "Which project is that...", you ask?? Why, the one I'll be announcing TOMORROW! :-)

What are YOU grateful for today?

countdown - 2 days to release...

March 3, 2013

2. Today, I am not feeling 100% and I am grateful for the most comfortable bed and bedding EVER! And for sleep - the great restorer.

And you? What are you grateful for on this day??

countdown - 3 days to release...

March 2, 2013
3. Today, I am SO VERY grateful for reconnecting with a friend from the past. Monique and I were billeted together during a grade-9 exchange trip. She lives in St-Boniface, MB and, although we found each other on FB a few years ago, there is NOTHING like a f2f reunion! Friendship renewed...

And you? What has your day offered for you to be grateful for?

countdown - 4 days to release...

March 1, 2013

4. Today, I am grateful for one of the most beautiful urban running routes in Canada (iconic bldgs everywhere!) and for a friendship born of my first learn-to-run clinic. Danielle & I have had a standing running date every Wednesday for the past 7 years! We don't always keep it, but we check in every week.

What are YOU grateful for today?!

countdown - 5 days to release...

Feb. 28, 2013

5. Today, I am grateful for the perfect winter boots for a wet & slushy day! 
What are YOU grateful for today?