A chain has been physically broken…

Poppies in Spain

Poppies in Spain


A chain has been physically broken…
But never to be separated soulfully. Our oldest sister passed away this week – and when you have a chain of 5 siblings, closer than most families, more linked in every way … then the departure now marks the space that held the chain together… we will need to leverage the love, the commitment, the understanding and the compassion to keep it together soulfully…

I am truly blessed as I am to undertake my third Camino de Santiago in Spain. This Camino, however, is one of a journey of two souls, but only one set of steps. Two hearts connected forever will discover new insights, new ways to communicate, and a truly double appreciation of what the Camino provides.

Calmness when silence is needed to manage the emotions. Beauty in the nature that will surround us. Comfort, connections, smiles and support from other pilgrims. The solace of a worn down pew seat in a small village church. The wind in the crops, the sun on the flowers and the cold refreshing waters of the fountains.

She really enjoyed poppies, therefore my dates have changed to have us stroll through the country, jostle through the large cities, shed tears at sight of the largest crimson jewels stretching out to reach the rays of the warm sun.

May 19th – my feet on some part of the Camino (to be determined upon my arrival in Madrid) will start this amazing journey that will be as unique as our Canadian snowflakes… one of a kind journey of two alike souls.

This journey will ignite the healing needed to recover from such a loss, and will offer endless ways to connect at much deeper levels.
My boots are by my door, my pack is slowly gorging with items, and my heart and soul are preparing for an amazing experience.
41 days and counting…
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The Slow Down Challenge…

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It’s 6 AM on a Wednesday morning, and I have been tossing and turning all night. I’m fighting a cold, fighting a cough, and lately, fighting myself. “In what way are you fighting yourself?” you may ask.

It’s the beginning of winter and winter, for my body, means cocooning in a warm blanket of quietness. I should follow my body’s wants and just enjoy this time of the year but somehow my type A personality seems to not accept cocooning as a viable option.

I’ve always been at odds with myself during the season of frigid cold winds and whiteouts. Winter, I believe, is why soft cuddly blankets and warm cups of cocoa come about, bringing a natural slowdown to our hectic lives. Who can keep the old spring or summer pace when the simple of act of dressing for the arctic air could easily end up as a multi-paged process diagram?

This is the only time of year where my mind just doesn’t seem to pay attention to my body’s need for a more koala-like pace; slow, deliberate and zen-like motions alike one entering a still lake with the intention of minimizing waves. My mind, however, wants to keep a running cheetah speed and this is when my internal fighting happens.

However, I am a firm believer in positive thinking and projecting what we want out of life. I believe that things happen when they need to happen and today is not exception.

In light of my tossing and turning I opted to surf the web for some inspirational nugget that might enlighten me or offer my brain a little bite of busyness. As it often happens when one has an open mind for the “whatever”, I chance upon a title that catches my attention – The Slow Down Challenge.

“When we slow down, we do better, more creative work; we become better stewards of the relationships in our lives; and we grown grateful for the small things in life” writes Author Jeff Goins.

The Slow Down Challenge project is a five-day series of reflection and action that will help participants to live with greater intentionality, have better focus and develop deeper relationships.

Perhaps this is what I need to get myself into a slower paced frame of mind. I will document my daily insights and findings (a requirement of this program) and hopefully my mind will slow down and allow me to sync to a more harmonious state with my body.

My soft cuddly blanket awaits…

The Purpose of Belief

Anthony Robbins states “What’s the purpose of a belief? It guides us in making decisions about how to avoid pain or gain pleasure more quickly. Because of our beliefs, we don’t have to continually start from scratch in making those decisions. Sometimes in our moments of greatest fear, pain, or emotional intensity, we look for relief in the form of a belief.”

I’ve been struggling with trying to share my experience of my visit to Lourdes in France. Having been raised in a catholic environment at least in my early formative years, I have been taught much about belief and how it applies to religion.

As I aged and questioned much of the notions imparted on me, the question of belief always confounded me. As an adult I recognized that belief did ease the pain of losing my father, at least, at the onset of his passing. I wrote a letter stating that I felt he was lucky to be in heaven near Jesus, and this when I was only 9. Religion and church was important to me as it was intricately woven its reach into my daily life.

The older I got, the more I questioned everything, including the effect of belief and its value in my life. Not only belief in terms of religion, a higher being, a greater place than our physical world, but also the belief in destiny, in our own abilities etc.

This summer I had the privilege to visit Lourdes in France. Lourdes is famous for the Marian apparitions of Our Lady of Lourdes said to have occurred in 1858 to Bernadette Soubirous. Each year approximately 5 million tourists visit this site, many in hope for a healing or a cure for their ailments.
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I arrived at this location expecting to see some injured and sick visitors but I was taken aback at the number of wheelchair bound visitors, many in an advanced state of illness. Blue wheelchairs pushed by hundreds of volunteers dominated each area and I imagined that a bird’s eye view would display an ant-like colony in movement.

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Hundreds of people were strategically placed in front of the statue where the sightings were said to have happened. Prayers were said and rosaries were clasped. The overall mood was somber yet dare I say, hopeful. A caravan of buses unloaded their passengers as all made their way to the main area which consisted of some benches, but mostly open space to accommodate the wheelchairs. Some knelt on small cushions while praying quietly. Some openly and unabashedly cried while others sat and stared at the statue.

We walked over to one of the churches and joined the mass already in progress. We stood in the back behind hundreds of blue wheelchairs; a sight that moved me to tears.
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The one sight that stopped me in mid step is etched in my mind. On a stretcher a person was draped with a blanket while being hooked to a variety of life-sustaining machines including a tracheotomy unit. I counted 12 individuals surrounding the stretcher and at that moment I realized just how strong one’s belief must be to travel in such a state in order to physically be in this special location.

I wonder if this was the wish of the patient or the family. Was this visit in hope of a cure or for a type of last rite before passing? I looked around at all the injured and ill believers and wondered if they were seeking divine intervention or simply felt the need to be in this sacred place? What I can tell you is, however strange this may seem, in my mind, belief is what I saw in abundance that day.

I am honored to have had the privilege to visit this very unique location.

Reflecting on 9/11

Twelve years have passed, yet the memories of that day are still vivid in my mind. I was in Orlando Florida for a Gartner conference.
The evening before I had bumped into a client from a Montreal project and we were surprised to see each other. I recall thinking it was strange to see him since he wasn’t in a role that typically required attending IT conferences and I had actually voiced my surprised.

I sat in the first row of our presentation room, eager to hear all about Customer Service Statistics. Near the mid point of the presentation someone walked into the room and loudly announced “You are all to gather in the lobby of the hotel” and walked out. We looked at each other and headed to the lobby not knowing what we would encounter.

The hotel staff had brought in two very large screen TV and I recall CNN was reporting on the first plane that had struck the North Tower.
We stood there and at that very moment my eyes caught those of my client I had meet the previous night. A short time later, the second plane hit the adjoining tower and the entire lobby was a cacophony of gasps and “Oh my God” statements.

The pentagon was the next to be hit and by then the hotel manager had announced that the hotel would be on lock down for a short while fearing large public parks such as Disney might be a target.
By then, it was assumed that these were terrorist strikes.

I rushed to the phones (cell phones would not work at that time) and got in line to call home and let my family know I was fine. I returned to the lobby just a few minutes before the first tower crumbled. We all stood in shock as the tower started its descent; the lobby went silent for a few seconds then the sounds of cries were heard. At that very moment our group of guests started to huddle closer together.

The rest of the morning was total chaos. The phones lines were down and frantic New Yorkers were identified and strangers rallied around them to lend moral support. We all became this entity wanting to help those affected by this tragedy.

Later that day when I was able to pull myself away from the television, I ran into my Montreal client who stated “Last night you said how strange it was for us to meet here, and I believe it;s because you and I will be driving together back home”. I looked at him and realized that was my only way out since all the airports had been closed.

We headed out of Orlando passing through three road blocks where we were asked for ID and the car searched. We decided to drive straight through by taking two hour drive shifts in rotation, stopping only to call home, grab food and stretch our legs. We talked a lot during that long 23 hour ride, and as we approached the outskirts of New York we both shed tears seeing the black sky doming the city.

My husband was waiting for us at the border in Montreal as we could not cross into Canada with our rental vehicle. We dropped off my co-driver but not before hugging tightly and recognizing that we had formed a very unique bond that time would not erase.

Today, I remember and pray for those whose lives were tragically taken that day. I pray for their friends and families and hope the love they share with them will have helped them heal.

Pay It Backwards

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Yes, you did read “Pay It Backwards” not Pay It Forward. Why would I write this? Let me explain.

During the course of my life up to now, there have been so many amazing individuals who have positively influenced me in great ways. At times I didn’t even realize the impact they had on me until months or years later. I suspect you have had such individuals in your lives as well. Time passes, and we somehow remember fondly those people but realize we may not have taken the time to thank them. I know that often it was not an intentional omission but we still feel we should have taken the time to thank them explicitly.

Well, it’s never too late. I say this, but I know that there are times when the people who influenced us, especially when we were younger, may no longer be part of our world. Perhaps their family members are, and even though the “thank you” may not be about them, it will be about someone they loved and cherished.

So think back on the people who have been part of your lives, and have left a positive trace on your heart. Perhaps it was that 10th grade teacher who went above and beyond to help you get through the class. Perhaps it was the friend with whom you’ve lost touch and who was there to help you through difficult times. Perhaps it was the family member who particularly shone and supported you or a coworker who was there when you needed help. Perhaps it was an old flame who, even though didn’t turn out to be your permanent partner, helped you grow into the person you are today.

Imagine the surprise if you received a letter or card (handwritten please, rather than email (just saying!)) letting you know what a great influence you were on you. Imagine your smile when you read the reasons why this person felt the need to thank you, so many months, years or even decades post your connection. Imagine how wonderful your day would be to know that your actions supported, helped and maybe even influenced someone enough for them to remember and celebrate YOU.

Now, think back on the top 3 or 5 people who have had the most influence on you. Are they still in your life today? If this is the case, this is an easy activity since you already are in contact with them. If not, there might just be some tricky imaginative searches you will need to do to find them. Don’t let this keep you from connecting with them – today it’s amazing how easy it can be to find someone. Think Facebook, google search, high school sites that invite alumni to register, blogs and other options.

I suggest that when you sit yourself down to write them a note, think of what exactly they did and how exactly their actions influenced you. A general “thank you” is good, but giving specific details will be even better. I have many individuals I could list in my life, and I try as often as possible to be very thankful in the moment. Looking back, I have often wished I could contact old teachers, supervisors, friends etc. I have vowed to try to connect with those from my past who have, knowingly or not, shaped who I am today.

I encourage you to consider doing the same – it’s never too late to be thankful.
Continue to “pay it forward” but don’t forget to “pay it backwards” as well.
Cheers
Sylvie

When was the last time you whistled?

In honor of Happiness Happens month, I decided to revive a piece I wrote in 2009 about a very special person who was the inspiration for this story. I think of him now and then, and wonder if he is still whistling – somehow, I think he is!

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This was a typical evening, long day at work, back at the apartment, dinner was finished and I was still working. I then remembered I had an early call in the morning but had noticed that the snack counter in my training room was low so time to replenish it. Given I had a 7 am call it seemed best to head to the nearby 24 hour grocery store.

I pulled into the parking lot, went in and spent about 15 minutes picking up my favorite boxes of 100 calories snack packages. I like to have snacks around, but healthy is a good approach! As I headed back to my car a driver pulled up beside me in a van. I started unloading my cart and he came around whistling happily. “Can I help you with your groceries” he asked with a smile. He stood about 5″10, mid thirties, dressed in blue jeans and a blue shirt with rolled up sleeves. He smiled constantly and as he walked over, he said “I’ll even take your cart so you don’t have to put it back” he said.

I looked at him and listening to him whistle. “Well, you seem like a happy person at 10 o’clock at night” I said to him.
“Well, I’m almost finished my shift” he said.
“OH – so you are happy you are almost done” I mentioned heading to my car.
“Oh no, I’m just happy” he said smiling.
“You must love your job” I asked a bit intrigued.
“Well, I’m kids’ dreams and parents’ nightmare” he said laughing.
At this point, I was both curious and a bit apprehensive.

“So, what kind of job do you do?” I asked.
“You’ll see in a moment” he said, opening the back door of his van.
He started pulling out gum ball machines – the type you see in grocery stores or department stores. He just kept pilling them up in my empty cart, and all this time smiling and whistling.
“I have a great job” he said, and a bit more seriously “I don’t make much money, but I get to sleep in as long as I want, I only start at 2. I get to work when the sun goes down, and here in San Antonio, that is a good thing. ”
“I meet lots of people, and it’s an easy job….”
He laughed and turned to me and said “I hope you like your job just as well; life is too short not to be happy!” and he smiled again, waved and wished me a good night.

I have to admit the entire encounter barely lasted about 5 minutes. Somehow, I knew this was one of those encounters that would touch me.
Here was someone who seemed to be one of the most joyful person I had ever seen.

To many, a job lugging candy and bubble gum machines to stores after stores could be seen as a boring job. Yet, to hear him whistle, and see him smile and listen to him speak gave me the feeling that he was likely the best in his role, in San Antonio, perhaps in Texas, maybe even in the U.S. of A.!

He took pride in what he did, he was happy and just seemingly content… and for a moment, I tried to remember the last time I saw someone so content and peaceful and joyous! – I’m still trying to remember…

It seems these days I have been really trying to determine what it is that makes me “whistle” – what makes me smile, even a few hours before ending my “shift” (if my shift really ever has an end..) I thought about those around me – when was the last time I hear someone hum, or whistle or just smile so big that we wonder what one must be thinking to be so happy…

Sometimes, life hands us these moments to make us reflect. We get caught up in the hustle, the rush, the stress, the urgency, the muti-tasking and we may not realize how much we get swept in the motion like being caught in a vortex. We don’t realize the pace we keep, the level of continued stress we accept as tolerable, the amount of moments when we need to take deep breaths to get clarity in the midst of chaos.

I stood by my car as i saw him make his way into the store; his cart overfilled with dispensing machines full of gums, toys and trinkets and as he made his way I could still hear him whistle and nod to those passing by.

One has to wonder, are we in a whistling mind set or are we so focused on everything else we don’t feel the joy of what we do, in a way that makes us sing, or hum or smile ?
When was the last time YOU WHISTLED?????
Cheers
Sylvie

Tragedies remind us to CARPE DIEM

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I sat at my home office desk when I first saw the headline “Tragedy, train crashes in Santiago Spain” and my stomach cramped, my throat got dry and my eyes filled with tears. Without even knowing the extent of this terrible accident or the details, I was flooded with emotions because once again, when tragedy happened I was filled with both intense gratitude for being safe and sound, and awareness of the fragility of life. There have been quite a few times when tragedy hit me hard even though I wasn’t a victim of those events.

These past few months were spent in Spain and France, and several times I have been on high speed trains in Spain. In fact, my last train ride was from Sahagun to Madrid less than one week ago. When the twin towers fell in New York in 2001, I was at a business conference in Orlando, and flying from the various airports where the doomed air planes left their respective runways that day was something I regularly did in my career. In these times, even more often than usual I am reminded of the saying CARPE DIEM. We know it as a loose translation of SEIZE THE DAY.

A phrase that is used over and over again to emphasize that we should FULLY live in the present. My philosophy has been to live life as if it was my last day because, well, one day, that will be the case. I try my best to not have any unfinished business. I do not hesitate to live life to the fullest of my abilities. I try not be miss an opportunity to let people know I care and love them. I give life my 110% as often as possible and I am grateful every single morning I wake up at the realization that I have one more day ahead of me.

I know that tomorrow is promised to no one and this fact alone makes me well aware that each day is truly a gift. This latest tragedy hit home quite hard. I even considered an invitation to be in Santiago on the 24th to experience the joys of the Santiago celebrations and I wonder what might have happened had I decided to go. I could have just as well been one of the names that we now mourn from afar.

My thoughts turn to those who are struggling to overcome this tragedy, to the families who have lost loved ones and to all who have been affected by this event. And tonight, as I have done since learning of this tragedy, I will think even more about the fact that I am blessed to have the life I have, the health I have, the loved ones I have.
CARPE DIEM my friends, CARPE DIEM.

Today I held history in my hands

Today I did something so unexpected and surreal – I held history in my hands… I should really say I held history between my fingers.

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This is a true size replica of the world’s earliest known realistic representation of a human face sculpted in mammoth ivory more than 25,000 years ago. She is known as La Dame de Brassempouy (the Lady of Brassempouy) or La Dame à la Capuche (Lady with the hood). It was discovered in a cave at Brassempouy, France in 1892.

She is 3.65 cm high, 2.2 cm deep and 1.9 cm wide – 1.43 inches high, 0.87 inches deep and 0.56 inches high. A vertical crack on the right side of the face is linked to the internal structure of the ivory. On the head is a checkerboard-like pattern formed by two series of shallow incisions at right angles to each other; it has been interpreted as a wig, a hood, or simply a representation of hair.

Brassempouy is a small village in the département of Landes in southwest France. Two caves near the village, and only 100 metres from each other, were among the first Paleolithic sites to be explored in France. This sculpture along with eight other sculptures were discovered in the Pope’s Cave in 1894.

Although the style of representation is essentially realistic, the proportions of the head do not correspond exactly to any known human population of the present or past. Archeologists and researchers have determined that not only is this sculpture the earliest of a human face, it also is a conceptual depiction of a woman indicating that the cromagnon artist was capable of a higher level of imagination, thinking and creativity than was ever attributed before this discovery.

As I held this tiny intricate and detailed work of art my preconceived notions of cromagnon beings faded away. I found myself in awe knowing that the tools used to carve this sculpture were crude and less than precise, yet here was this amazing piece of history held between my fingers.

What other preconceived notions do I hold that are totally wrong? If an artist created this work of art more than 25,000 years ago with primitive tools, what are we capable of doing, thinking, inventing and creating today?

All I know is that I held in my hands an important representation of art from the dawn of man… And now, space and time have taken on a totally new meaning to me. I think I will need some time to put my arms around all that. Until then I stand in awe of an experience I will never forget.
Cheers from France
Sylvie

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