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

Friday, August 30, 2013

gratitude grows...

Will you let it go where you go?

photo & words by jag
gratefully yours,

Sunday, August 25, 2013

celebrating lives greatly full :: kelly barton

Every once in a while, you meet someone and BAM! - before you know it, you are crushing big time.  I'm not ashamed to admit it; Kelly Barton is my latest girl crush.  I met her at the Your Story Retreat in Oregon earlier this summer and feel like a lovely new spark has entered my life.

She oozes creativity. She celebrates colour in everything she does.  She has a great laugh.  She loves Lenny Kravitz the way I love Jason Mraz. (Yes, that much.)

She is a talented artist, regardless of the media: watercolours, pens, beads or sidewalk chalk.

She makes me want to visit Indiana.

Thanks so much for being such a great supporter of *the gratitude project: dare to be grateful*, Kelly!  So glad to share a bit of your spark here as one of our grateful guests...

I am a girl who lives in the middle.

A girl who for quite a while was the middle child.

A girl who has always felt stuck. in the middle.
But over the years the layers of life slowly began to peel away. One slowly rolling back leaving just enough space for that next layer to begin to open. And then the next. That is what i am most grateful for, each layer that opened up. That allowed the light to shine in on my days, bringing new knowledge, understanding and patience to this girl's world.

Of course there were those layers whose momentum caused pain and sadness and yes, failures. But without each of those layers, the stages of learning wouldn't have been existed. It can be tough even thinking about some of those stinky layers, the discomfort can some days be unbearable, but the failures are what bring our success.

I am a girl grateful for parents who raised me with love and also weren’t afraid to be the parent. Who taught us to be helpful and to step in when someone needed a nudge.

I am happy that I have lived in the middle so long that each fall I get to witness the most amazing harvest moons and smell the popcorn being popped at the football field while the drums guide the Friday night crowd into the game.

I am thankful for my colorful home that keeps us cozy in the winter. Where twinkle lights hang off the tree in the backyard and frames our mantle keeping me company many nights. A little reminder to slow down and soak in the simple moments.

I am blessed to be chosen by three wicked funny pixies. Who each carry their own beliefs, color and flair. Moments of utter disbelief in their antics can never dismiss the love that is packed down into little pockets for each of them. Grateful that even in my less than finer moments they still love me, as well and continue to walk beside me.

I am the one who looks over at him and smiles deep down grateful and happy that somehow we found one another and after 16 years, we still giggle, disagree and almost every night of the year, we snuggle up under this old house.
I am a girl. grateful for all the layers that have gently peeled back over the years, just for me, sharing the sweet spot in this silly. crazy. colorful. life.


Tuesday, August 20, 2013

wherever gratitude goes...

It was time to step out of cyberspace once again, and back into the community.

They loved *the gratitude project* at ArtsPark.

They loved *the gratitude project* at Your Story Retreat.

But how would it be received by people just going about their business, on a busy street, in the middle of a summer work day?  Hence the experimentation component of this “public engagement experiment”!

On Monday, August 19th, the lovely Chrisann joined me as we set up a pop-up gratitude project on Sparks Street, a busy pedestrian street in downtown Ottawa.  We set up during lunch hour, when hundreds of public servants and tourists mill about for reasons known only to them.  Admittedly, I was nervous.  How would people react to *the gratitude project*?  Would I be able to just put myself out there, and detach from the outcome?  Well, there was only one way to find out…

In our 90 minutes on Sparks Street, we collected close to 30 expressions of gratitude for our “gratitude wall” (a re-purposed garden trellis)!  Several people came to us without prompting, drawn by the visual expression of our key  question: what are you grateful for?  Others stopped when invited: hi there – would you like to participate in the gratitude project?  Either out of politeness or out of genuine curiosity, they took a few moments to hear about the project and participate. However the majority of people just walked on by.  I would even say some people executed what appeared to be highly-trained, tactical avoidance manoeuvres!  It became clear that, if you are standing on the street with a clipboard over lunch hour and attempting to make eye contact, it is assumed you want money. In some instances, they would direct a quick “no-thank-you” our way, while with others, we simply didn’t exist.  If-I-don’t-look-at-you; you-are-not-there.   Our friendly greeting was met with stone-cold silence. Very interesting! (This is an experiment, remember?! J)

One of my favourite moments was the gentleman who quickly said “no thanks” as he walked by, but who then turned around and said: “actually yes, I would like to participate. tell me more about this…”.  I loved that!  It showed me that, even though people kept on walking, they were probably thinking about it.  I mean, how can you read the question what are you grateful for? and not even think about a response??  You may not share it, or barely even admit it to yourself, but chances are good that you. are. thinking. about. it.

Another wonderful outcome of setting up in this environment was the potential for reaching tourists.  A couple of the items posted were in languages other than English or French – gratitude goes beyond language!  And, as in the other locations, wonderful conversations were had.  Those who get it, really get it.    So affirming! 

I’m glad we did this… and that I was able to detach personally and really look at this as an experiment.  Society as a giant laboratory.  If ever YOU are interested in trying this out in your community, get in touch by leaving a comment here, or via our Facebook page.  I can share the logo and the list of questions I use to engage people.  Or, you can do your own thing and let me know how it goes!

Wherever gratitude goes, gratitude grows.

gratefully yours,

this. from a beautiful young japanese woman who was worried about her english.
looks pretty perfect to me.

 this. from a young woman who picked the question: "what person you've never met are you most grateful for?"  (i loved her sense of humour)

this. just a sampling of the many who expressed gratitude for family.
it was certainly the theme of the day.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

celebrating lives greatly full :: myra bierria

It is so thrilling for me to share a gratitude post like this... a post that - at it's core - is a love letter.  And the fact that it is a story of sisterly love, well that just hits me where it counts, as I too am blessed with a sister for whom I am deeply grateful.

Myra Bierria is another of these fierce, brave women I met in Oregon in June.  (You will be meeting several more of them in the weeks ahead!)  Along with Angela, she was my roommate and the three of us made up the BEST room at The Lodge. In our humble opinion, of course. I was drawn to Myra by her humour and her light. And by the way she spoke of her children with such love. She is truly a beautiful woman and I look forward to a continued friendship where I will get to know her even better.  Despite our distance.  OK, so maybe I'll have to plan a trip to Atlanta, Georgia next!

Myra, your post brought tears to my eyes. Thank you for being a part of this project.  And maybe in THIS life, we can grow old together, in friendship. 

I am truly blessed to have a good number of friends (very old and very new) that I hold in my inner circle, but there is one that I am most grateful for and that is my sister.  When we were younger, our older half sister gave us each a coffee mug that had “Sisters are forever and I’m so glad you’re mine,” painted on it and it has been our motto for our relationship ever since.

Over the years our relationship has ebbed and flowed.  As young kids we were super close playing and living in our real and imaginary world; as teenagers we fought constantly while trying to establish our individuality; as young adults we grew apart when she went off to college and got married; and as more mature adults we grew the closest we have ever been when I got married and started my own family.

Through it all, my sister has been a constant anchor for me.  I have always been able to count on her.  I am so grateful for the money and moral support she gave me when I was a starving student in law school and later fumbling my way through my first job at a big firm in New York.
I am so grateful for the support she gave me when I met my husband and decided to marry him even though deep down inside I was terrified of that level of commitment. 
I am so grateful for her being present at the birth of each of my children, because she knew how afraid I was. 
I am so grateful for how she makes each of my children feel special because she has so much room in her heart for mine as well as her own. 
I am so grateful for her showing me what a good mother she is for her daughter and how I should be for my children. 
I am so grateful for the courage she displays as a minority woman in a corporate environment that doesn’t necessarily nurture the type of success she has achieved, because it makes me want to do better and work harder too. 
I am so grateful that she never judges me when I screw up or come to her for advice, even though I have been guilty of judging her. 
I am so grateful that she has never given up on me. 
I am so grateful for her love.
I am lucky that God chose my sister, Mamie, for me.  I can’t imagine what my life would have been like without her.  I am so excited about the rest of what life will bring us and for the adventures that are yet to come! 

Thank you for letting me share this.

Friday, August 16, 2013

sally, holly & lisa...

One of the shortest stops on my West Coast Adventure was my one full day in Seattle, WA.  Short.  And oh so sweet. 

One of the highlights of my visit to Seattle was an impromptu meeting & conversation with three lovely women at Pike Place Market.  Holly, Lisa & Sally were having a bite to eat near the edge of the market and I happened to stop to catch my breath beside them.  A conversation ensued and, as things often did during this trip, the talk turned to gratitude. I invited them to share their story of gratitude for the blog, and they quickly agreed!  
Holly, Lisa, Sally

Sally (from Pheonix, AZ - in town to visit her twin sister, Holly):  grateful for the ability to be grateful again... the freedom to be grateful...  freedom from criticism and constant blows to her self-worth.  (She quickly teared up, hinting at a deep and  painful story.  I loved her in that moment, for being so honest and trusting.)

Holly (from nearby Vashon Is.):  grateful for her sisters.  Others were supposed to be visiting them as well, but one of them was quite ill and without a diagnosis.  She is grateful for the ability to have such love and caring for her sisters - something that allows her to feel so sad amidst that love.

Lisa (Holly's daughter): grateful for being at a stage in her life where she can take more control over how she spends her time, and be more intentional in choosing who she spends it with.  She is an artist and is grateful for this period of creative expansion and expression, and she is excited to see where it will lead.

Later, after I took my leave of them, I was sitting on an overturned plastic bin eating my hummus and pita from Mr. D's Greek Delicacies and I heard a cheerful: "Hi Jo-Anne!!"  It was Sally, and Holly, and Lisa passing by. 

And in that moment, I no longer felt so far from home.

gratefully yours,

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Sunday, August 11, 2013

celebrating lives greatly full :: alli hanson

One of the greatest gifts from my recent West Coast Adventure was attending the Your Story Retreat in Gearhart, Oregon.  There, I connected with a group of fiercely brave and creative women who have embraced and inspired me. Women like alli hanson.  Self-described mom. wife. daughter. sister. aunt. cousin. niece. granddaughter. friend. life lover. card maker. cancer fighter.

Just in the short time I have known her, in person and through her blog, I see a woman of light, kindness, love and courage.  You should read her blog: alli's equilibrium.  For real.  Her words as she quietly celebrated her 38th birthday last month are powerful words.

And, as you read her post below, you will see that - like her words - her creative actions are powerful actions.  Simple kindness can be like that.  Thanks so much for being part of *the gratitude project: dare to be grateful* alli!!  Now, s'cuse me while I go make some happy mail. 

what creative outlet are you most grateful for, and why?

my mom and dad taught me from a very young age that being kind to others is an important way to live your life. they have always set a strong example of thinking of others and letting them know you care. my parent's generosity with their time and spirit has always made me so proud to be their daughter. i have happily followed their wonderful lead.
one of my most favorite ways to let others know that i am thinking of them is to send what i call "happy mail." i love to make cards, and sending one of my cards to friends and family is one of my greatest joys. i enjoy the whole process -- making the card, writing my words inside the card, addressing the envelope, and finally sending it on its way when i drop it in the mailbox. i really enjoy sending mail that will let someone know that i was thinking of them, maybe for a specific reason, other times simply because i want them to know i love them. 
when i open my mailbox and see my name handwritten on an envelope it makes me smile, and i don't even know what is in yet. but i know it is meant just for me from someone i love. 
i bet the same is true for you. 
in this world of texts, emails, messages, etc., it can be easy to use electronics to communicate with people in a million others ways than sending snail mail. but that is the exact reason that happy mail means so much. it is a real connection. real connections should be cherished. embraced. savored. say your thanks for them. 
take five minutes out of your week and send someone a piece of happy mail. i guarantee you the person who gets it will be grateful. i bet you will feel a little grateful as well as you think about why they mean so much to you. share the gratitude. that is what life is all about.
just ask my mom and dad.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

celebrating lives greatly full :: angela smith

Some people become old friends instantly. 

That is what happened when I first met Angela.  We met at a women's creative retreat in Oregon in June.  I had integrated this retreat to my West Coast Adventure and she, well, she is a storyteller and was looking to explore that more deeply. 

I was drawn to her beauty, her grace, her smile and to her love for Jason Mraz. (Seriously. How could we not be friends?! :-)) I am now confident that I have a new soul-friend for life.  And for that, I am seriously grateful.
If you looking for a way to bring the story of your company/business to life, you may not need to look any further than Angela Smith. She is based in Portland, Maine. 
Thanks for being a part of *the gratitude project: dare to be grateful* Angela! Quite happy to be stuck with you.  :-)
My Nana used to carry positive quotes in her wallet. She used to love pulling them out and sharing them. Of course, for every quote she had tucked away, she could rattle off a hundred. Her favorite: “Do your best and angels can do no more.”

I loved her sayings because they affirmed my optimism. I am grateful for a myriad of things in life – too many to capture in a post or even in a lifetime – but perhaps as I sit down in reflection today, I am most grateful that I am an ETERNAL OPTIMIST.

Being an optimist has shaped my life. It has allowed me to always find a silver lining, dance in the darkness, celebrate the light, seek beauty in pain, hold steadfastly to joy, know good always triumphs, and feast on this crazy, wonderful, hard, awesome, scary, funny, bittersweet life.

Underpinning my optimism is unwavering FAITH, the thread that runs through me of which I never let go – faith in God, people, and myself.

My 8-year-old son Lincoln recently received his First Holy Communion. I so wanted to fast forward his life for just seconds to give him a glimpse of how important and powerful faith will be throughout his life. But I know it is a gift that grows over time. My faith in God grounds me, and I am forever grateful.

And, people…I am simply in awe. Dr. Seuss certainly got it right when he said, “Oh, the people you’ll meet.” From my family and friends to strangers and earth angels to artists and survivors, I am so thankful for the amazing people who walk this earth and who love, support, and inspire me. I adore people, and my gratitude exceeds words.

Then, it comes to believing in me. This isn’t always easy, but I know at my core I am strong. And, I know if I do my best, angels can do no more. Thanks, Nana.

I invite you to join me. Look on the bright side. Have faith. Believe. HOPE. Be positive. Live with gratitude. Choose OPTIMISM.

Friday, August 2, 2013

rockin' the gratitude...

Gratitude extends across all genres of music!

I have already featured one of my favourite songs on gratitude on this blog.  Here are just two other tunes to get you started this long August weekend:

Rockin' it out - with the Beastie Boys...

What's gonna set you free
Look inside and you'll see
When you got so much to say
It's called gratitude

Then getting' all mellow - with Olivia Newton-John...

Thank you for life
Thank you for everything
I stand here in grace and gratitude
And I .. I thank you

Music. The great communicator.

What is your favourite song celebrating gratitude?

gratefully yours,