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

Friday, May 31, 2013

It ain't no platitude!

(Feeling playful after a great week!)

gratefully yours,

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

reaching for the words...

I’ll be honest: it’s difficult for me to put words to the experience of bringing *the gratitude project: dare to be grateful* out into the community.  I keep leaning into words like overwhelming, exhilarating, exhausting, gratifying, positive…  It is clear that this initiative struck a chord with the people who attended Hintonburg ArtsPark.  Let’s face it: I live in a very grateful community!   What I didn’t expect was how easily people would “get it”… how open they would be with sharing their gratitude… how seamlessly we would progress to very deep levels of conversation… and how quickly they invited me to be part of other events or initiatives.  Yikes!  Oh the places we could go… 

As I continue to process the experience, I’ll leave you with some images from the day.  I'll upload a few more on our Facebook page.  Many thanks to my friend Stuart Hickox for joining me and serving as an amazing ambassador for *the gratitude project*!

ready and waiting...

this girl kept coming back to add more. "I love this - it makes me think!" she'd say...
what person you have never met are you most grateful for?

what makes you happy?
grateful for...

what decision are you most grateful for?
grateful for...

even Mayor Jim Watson and City Councillor Katherine Hobbs got into the spirit

tag team gratitude ambassadors: stuart & jag...
just jag - so very grateful for it all!
  gratefully yours,


Sunday, May 26, 2013

celebrating lives greatly full :: dominique hurley

photo: Cathy Chicoine
I have known Dominique Hurley for over (gasp!) 25 years.  I met her in university my first year in Ottawa.  She was - and still is - unlike anyone else I know.  Her commitment to her creative call stood out, even at a time when all I could focus on were term papers and course notes. Although we don't get to connect in person very often, I am so very grateful that we have kept in touch!

Dominique's latest quest will bring her from St-John's Newfoundland to Vienna Austria to attend the Vienna  Academy of Visionary Arts.  You can contribute to making that journey a reality and receive beautiful creative gifts in return by checking out her crowdfunding pageThanks for participating in *the gratitude project* Dominique... You truly are a creative inspiration to me.

What DECISION are you grateful for? 

The Art of Listening

In 2011, I received what I believe to be the second auditory intuitive message in my life.  Truth be told, I heard a voice say, “That’s where you’re living next” when my eyes fell on a non-descript nature photo on my Yahoo homepage. After pausing a moment to register what had just happened, I clicked on the picture in fear that it was taken in some war-torn country somewhere.  What a relief!  It was Newfoundland! In the following few days, so many confirming signs came my way that I easily and gracefully decided to follow what I like to call my Spirit Call, and I am so grateful I did. 

In the last two years of living in St. John’s, I have been blessed with a simple and creative lifestyle in line with my life’s purpose of exploring and expressing my love of beauty and the beauty of love.  Indeed, I have dedicated most of my time to my art – both photography and painting, which has led to countless opportunities to evolve, contribute, collaborate, create, and learn, both as an artist and human being.  It has also led to my most recent Spirit Call to study in Austria in the fall for a trimester at the Vienna Academy of Visionary Arts – embracing, once again, the mystery of it all, the mystery of the Call.
I’ve learned that each time I answer a call (even such a small one as following an inner feeling to turn right instead of left at an intersection), I am saying yes to receiving more guidance. I’m not naturally a risk taker (even though most would say I am), but with the years, I’ve learned to both listen and trust my inner guidance – taking both baby steps and leaps of faith. 

The more I listen, the clearer the messages become. I’m grateful, therefore, that I’ve learned to pay attention to the messages that come through my body, mind, soul, and Spirit– and that even if I often do feel the fear, I do it anyway. 

I have no idea where it’s all leading, but that’s not the point.  I’m giving and living my best, and so I have no regrets.

For that, I am truly grateful.

Friday, May 24, 2013

the grateful dance...

Everything in the universe has rhythm.  Everything dances.
- Maya Angelou
Instead of seeing the rug being pulled from under us,
we can learn to dance on the shifting carpet.
- Thomas Crum
Allow yourself to trust joy and embrace it. You will find you dance with everything.
 - Ralph Waldo Emerson

I am grateful for the joy this video brings to me.
I come back to it regularly and it makes me smile big.
It brings tears to my eyes.

I think buried deep inside me is a dancer. 

gratefully yours,

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

stepping out of cyberspace...

It's hard not to be grateful following a weekend like the one I just had.  It was a perfect blend of being productive around the home, and spending time with good friends, and lounging around reading a good book, and going on a movie date with Hubby... Truly, it had all the makings of a great weekend!

A few more details for my upcoming West Coast Adventures have fallen into place.  Aaaand, I am excited to share that *the gratitude project: dare to be grateful* will be leaving the comfort of cyberspace and will be venturing out into the community!  Yes, that's right... we are bringing a new dimension to the project by engaging people in face-to-face conversation around gratitude at next Saturday's ArtsPark 2013 in Hintonburg (Ottawa).  We hope to create a "Wall of Gratitude" by inviting people to share what they are grateful for in writing.  If you are in the area, do drop by and say hello - and of course, share your gratitude! We will be there from 10am to 12:30pm.  As you can see here, there will be many activities to keep you and your family fully entertained!

This is an exciting time... Today, I am especially grateful for the gift of creativity and curiosity in my life. 

What are you especially grateful for today?

gratefully yours,

Sunday, May 19, 2013

celebrating lives greatly full :: ryan grant

I am so happy to be featuring Ryan Grant on the blog today!  Ryan is a local professional triathlete and co-owner of Solefit Inc.  I first met him as a client of Solefit when I went for my first gait analysis. I had heard nothing but wonderful things about him and the Solefit team. Since then, I have learned that not only is he a skilled and dedicated Pedorthist, but he is an amazing athlete with a heart and smile that even overshadow his athletic accomplishments!  (And we're talking about a guy who actually WINS things. :-))

Ryan & Friends, Addis Abeba, Ethiopia

Recently, Ryan had the chance to spend some time in Ethiopia, working with many of the best runners in the world. He is also a strong supporter of many local and international not-for-profit initiatives. Although I can't say that I really know him all that well, Ryan certainly falls into the category of inspiring people who make me go: "wow".   
GRATITUDE: the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness.

I was honored to be asked by Jo-Anne to write on her blog and initially thought that gratitude would be an easy thing for me to write about.  However, after reading through all of the wonderfully written previous posts, I really started to over-think what gratitude means to me!  After a good amount of thought, I came to the conclusion that for me, gratitude really is all about the simple things in life.

First and foremost, I'm grateful for my physical and mental health.  My best experiences in life have come from my ability to move my body and to question things with my mind.  I cherish the ability to be physically active and experience all the great things that come along with it.

I'm also very grateful for my curious nature.  The world really is a wonderful place and as far as we know, we only get one crack at it!  I'm happy to try almost anything once and I've stumbled across so many unexpected experiences by having an open mind.  I'm grateful for those experiences, good and bad!
And finally, I'm grateful to be surrounded by such wonderful family and friends.  I consider myself so lucky to be born into a family that has been so supportive and positive.  I really do think that we are a reflection of those that are around us and I'm grateful to be surrounded by friends that are a constant source of inspiration!

Thanks so much for the initiative to put this blog together Jo-Anne!


Friday, May 17, 2013

for those who have shaped who we are today...

It's as good a day as any to feature a bit of Jason Mraz, singing of his gratitude for one and all to hear!  I believe this song is actually called "Who I Am Today" and he sang it on his Gratitude CafĂ© Tour in 2010.  Enjoy!

Who are the people who have shaped the person you are today? 
Have you ever told them?

gratefully yours,

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

grateful heart for another...

I am surprised at how full my heart is for a loved one's dream-come-true! I knew I would be excited for her, but I wasn't expecting to feel SO excited and - yes - grateful that my sister is fulfilling a long-held dream of being in Paris. I see the pictures she is posting on Facebook and my heart swells. 

Seeing her live her dream gives me permission to keep on dreaming mine.

Be grateful for dreams that come true even when they are not your own... for they tell us of a hope-filled world.

gratefully yours,

Sunday, May 12, 2013

celebrating lives greatly full :: jim ladouceur

Jim (right) with Richard Rohr
Jim Ladouceur and his wife Maureen are good friends of ours. Although we don't see them nearly enough, time with them is always enjoyable and heart-filling.

A couple of years ago, I loaned Jim a book by my favourite spiritual writer (Richard Rohr) thinking he may appreciate the focus on male spirituality. I don't think either of us could have predicted  where that simple gesture would lead.  Jim has since gone on to complete the men's program through Rohr's Center for Action and Contemplation and is playing an important role in coordinating men's programs here in Canada through Illuman.  Illuman is dedicated to transforming men, and through them, communities and families for generations to come.  Who knew retirement could be so full?

During a recent grocery store check-out line encounter, I told Jim of *the gratitude project*, knowing that he himself lived a life of gratitude. When I asked if he'd contribute, he immediately said YES - I love it when people immediately say YES!! Thank you my friend...

What Am I Grateful For?

I thank God for my handicaps for, through them, I have found myself, my work, and my God. - Helen Keller

I am showered with so much bounty in my life that the creation of a gratitude list could run the risk of far outrunning the space available to me to write this entry. Truly I am a blessed with much and I am thankful to the God of my understanding for the good in my life. But as I reflect more deeply on the complexity of the notion of gratitude, my meditations take me to ponder two key ideas. 

The first is to consider the difference between “being grateful” and “being in a state of gratefulness.”  Both are connected but the latter concept allows for so much more depth. For instance a state of gratefulness calls for humility.  To be humble is to be grateful.
The second idea captures the notion that one needs to be just as grateful for the negative elements and trials in life as for the positive gifts. A person in a state of gratefulness has learned, through personal trial and deep soul searching, that gratitude goes to greater meaning when one is able to embrace one’s character defects, pains, failures, trials, fears, broken hearts, addictions, guilt, loneliness and acknowledge being grateful for them too. For me, gratitude must include all of those shadow elements that we share by way of our common humanness.  It is our failures as well as our successes that form the basis of a spirit of gratefulness. The God of my understanding gives in equal measure. 
Prophets and great thinkers through the ages have understood that one of the realities of life, indeed the path to an intimate understanding of true gratitude, must of necessity be tinged with suffering and darkness.  To paraphrase Hafiz the poet, to know the light one must be burned in the flame. 

It is and has been in the depths of my winters that I have learned that there is in me an invincible summer. 

My sincere thanks and gratitude to Jo-Anne for including me in this wonderful initiative.

Friday, May 10, 2013

grateful for hard goodbyes...

In my cyber-wanderings yesterday, I came across this heart-warming music video.  The quote at the end of it made me gasp:

“How lucky I am to have something
that makes saying goodbye so hard.”
A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh

This young man - Zach Sobiech - is living his last days by writing, singing and sharing his music so that he can let his loved ones know that he will always be with them.  He embodies that quote by A.A. Milne and I think that is certainly worth featuring on this beautiful Friday.

What am I doing today to make sure I have something that makes saying goodbye so hard?

gratefully yours,

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

head west, young man (or woman!)...

Six weeks from today, I will be travelling. 
On a train.
Across the country.

This West Coast Adventure of mine - a one month solo journey to the other side of Canada and a long-held fervent wish of mine - is the event that triggered the whole idea of *the gratitude project*.  I will be riding the rails across this incredibly beautiful country of mine! (And before you say, yes but what about the eastern part?!  I've already had the privilege covering that portion by train. :-)) 

Excited, yes.  But I am fundamentally an introvert and part of me was afraid I would spend the entire train ride in solitude.  I know I could!  And there is nothing wrong with that, but it's not what I was looking for.  Not this time. 

So, as I was swimming in gratitude for the blessings in my own life, I wondered if I could use the train trip as a vehicle to collect stories from others... to reach out and find out what they might be grateful for!  A chat here... a discussion there... and next thing you know, this idea had expanded into a year-long creative project.

Not surprisingly, *the gratitude project* is still a work in progress...
Ideas have come.
Ideas have gone.
And ideas will be making their way towards the sunset.

In just six weeks, I will be travelling.
And the West Coast Adventure will be underway.

Stay tuned... I look forward to sharing the journey with you!

gratefully yours,

Sunday, May 5, 2013

celebrating lives greatly full :: stuart hickox

I am so glad there are people like Stuart Hickox in the world. To me, he is partly cynic but mostly a dreamer... a wannabe curmudgeon but deep down, a hopeless romantic. What kind of person takes a 10 acre swath of clearcut in the middle of PEI and channels Henry David Thoreau in creating a woodland oasis? What kind of guy enlists the help of friends to erect a giant sign on Parliament Hill to propose to his girlfriend? (She said yes.) And more recently, who the heck sends an email to Jane Siberry inviting her to sing at his house over the holidays?! (She also said yes, btw.) I mean, who DOES that?!  Stuart does.

Stuart is the President and Founder of One Change, a non-profit grassroots organization that empowers people to believe that simple actions matter and encourages environmentally sustainable choices and better behaviours.  He is also a gifted writer with several stories published nationally and internationally.  His writing never fails to provoke a reaction in me, and his sharing here is no different. Today, I am thrilled to share a piece of classic Stuart Hickox. Thank you, my friend!

Sh*t happens.Thank God!

I was an anxious, risk averse little kid. Life had started out on the wrong foot. Mom bled out and nearly died the day I was born, and I was readmitted to hospital 2 weeks after coming home, thin and pale, for "nervous baby syndrome." My fraternal grandmother (100) still laughs when she talks about how I used to spontaneously projectile vomit -  triggered easily by a barking dog or the ding-dong of the gypsy lady peddling pottery or scents mid-afternoon. Those door-to-door people …

Life was good, but it was only by grade one that I had my first, and to this day, most memorable moment of pure gratitude. Every winter as my birthday rolled around I was absolutely terrified that it would fall on Friday the 13th. So the day I finally and fully realized that this horror would never visit me was pure joy (my birthday is March 12). The sense of release and gratitude I felt knowing that I would never, ever have to face a party in a red caboose with a scary burger clown on Friday the 13th bounced me all the way home that day in the back of my rickety school bus. I had escaped. I was glad. Thank God!

Jo-Anne's request for a blog post has prompted me to think a lot about this. Thanks JAG! My opinion? Frankly, I think gratitude is weak when expressed as a way to recognize the moment that the dreaded worst doesn't happen. Or, by extension, when things gently exceed carefully nurtured low expectations. Gratitude is pathetic when it's a pale partner to fair-weather "hope." It can also be a toothy control freak in fluffy fleece - a way to keep honest aspiration and indignation at arms length. The next time you hear someone tell you to "Support the troops!" consider for a moment how gratitude can be a social and political tool. 

In a word, I think Hallmark gratitude Sucks.

So, amid all this negativity, it may seem perverse to suggest that I am now most grateful in my life for all the bad things that have happened to me. 

The thing is, for a lot of my life I thought I should be grateful for just getting by. I was afraid of failure, of death, of public speaking (still hate that), of loss. I was grateful for every day I avoided these things. Then life happened.

What I'm trying to say is that real gratitude can be empowering and a force for good. Pain and self awareness are its strong legs that kick you in the ass. There are words that describe living life grateful that the worst hasn't yet happened: Fear. Denial. Because, people, The Worst happens to everyone eventually. As sure as you are reading this, The Worst will happen to you. It's just different for everyone. And sometimes the "Worst" is living life right to the last breath risk-averse, and trying to avoid bad things.  

So here's what I'm grateful for: I'm grateful that I had no choice but to experience the death of three family members across three generations -- in one year. I'm grateful for a boss who made me choose between my secure paying job and my "little not-for-profit." I'm grateful that the not-for-profit failed. And, on a more positive note, I'm very grateful for the people who rallied around me to help rebuild when I was ready to quit. 

Most of all, today, I'm grateful that I married the unflappable Suzy Fraser, someone who snorts at the significance of Friday the 13th, and who provides a safe haven of acceptance for that scared little kid on the school bus. Because he's still here. Luckily, he can now speak in public without fainting, and no longer pukes when the doorbell rings. I consider that progress.

Friday, May 3, 2013

in the words of... horace

Even if that hand is shaky and uncertain...

photo and image by jag
gratefully yours,

Thursday, May 2, 2013

emerging from silence...

photo by jag
Emerging from silence is never easy for me.  I struggle with it. Every. Single. Time.  And this time is no different.  Although, I must admit, I did not reach a very deep level of internal silence during this retreat.  I'm in a creative phase right now... a fertile time of ideas with a mind that resists slowing down.  What I did manage, however, was to honour my need for a physical slowing down.  In other words...

I slept.
And slept.
And slept.

Then I had a nap.

I had moments of stillness of body where I would just... 

and listen
and ponder.

photo by jag
I went to the woods and made direct contact with the trees and the mulch-y forest floor. 

I breathed in the spicy aroma.

I attended a concert featuring a solo performance by a young robin perched upon the top branch of the endlessly tall pine tree outside my room window.

And I prayed some goodbyes.

The recent death of my aunt brought me back in touch with other losses that had not been properly or fully acknowledged.  "Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted."

And I was.

It sounds much to simplistic to say "I am grateful" for my time at Stillpoint.  So I won't just speak my gratitude.

I will stand in it.
I will claim it and own it.
I will pray it.
I will express it by doing my best to fully accept and live the day I am given.

I will breathe it in.
I will breathe it out.

gratefully yours,