Sunday, October 31, 2010

Kind Memories

James Herriot says in the introduction to his book, James Herriot's Dog Stories: Warm and Wonderful Stories About the Animals Herriot Loves Best, it is a sad truth, that dogs do not live long enough. But he also makes this observation, "It is a reaffirmation of the truth which must console all dog owners; that those short lives do not mean unending emptiness; that the void can be filled while the good memories remain." Thus his advice to clients who are mourning the death of their cherished dog, get another immediately. It has been a week since we had to euthanize our beloved border collie of almost 15 years, Damon. Although we have another dog, Mojo, it is difficult to express how empty our home is without Damon.

I've posted about the innate kindness of dogs before, sharing how much our dogs enrich our lives. Damon was only a few years younger than both of our oldest children, so his life is entwined with theirs. There were few vacations that did not include his exceptional life-guarding skills, or Hallowe'ens that he managed to find and eat all of our daughters' loot. The countless hours we spent playing hide-and-seek in the corn fields behind our first house, the peels of laughter as he pulled the kid's snow boots off and made them chase him across the lawn in their stocking feet, his incredible ability to catch any flying object, and the best party trick ever - he could flush the toilet, are memories that helped to define my children's childhood. He celebrated every holiday, and thankfully, every graduation. He loved not only our family, but all the children's friends over the years, and often made that apparent by trying not so inconspicuously to crawl on to beds, or into the middle of mass of bodies sleeping all over the basement floor.

I'm not sure how long it will take before I stop waking up to let him out in morning, or opening the front door with the expectation that he will be resting against it, or wondering where his food dish is, but let me assure you, it was the kindness of friends and family who supported us this week with their phone calls, cards, emails and hugs, that made the passing of his too-short-life bearable.

In particular, we were touched by the deliberate act of kindness of our daughter's floor mates in residence, who all chipped in to buy her flowers and an ice cream cake.

I'll leave you with a few pictures of our beloved Damon:

Today we went to look at puppies.......

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Daks: improve your well-being

Recently I stumbled across a super TED speech by Happiness Researcher, Nic Marks. Not only is he a great speaker, witty and poignant, but the concept is foundational to the future of our planet. Mr. Marks has created the Happy Planet Index, which essentially measures national well-being against the use of resources.

I guess it isn't surprising that the worlds most developed nations do not rank highly on the list. In fact, Costa Rica is the most highly ranked country, followed by the Dominican Republic and Jamaica. The index is a compilation of three measures: life expectancy, life satisfaction and ecological footprint. Canada is ranked 89 out of 143 countries, the U.S. is 114th.

What might this have to do with kindness and the dakbands you ask? Well...the New Economic Foundation (nef), of which Nic Marks is the founder, was commissioned by the U.K. government (in 2008) to develop a set of evidence-based actions that improve well-being. They reviewed the inter-disciplinary work of 400 researchers and came up with five evidence-based actions. I am encouraged. The first of the five is:(image is from the nef website)

It's time to make the dakbands a national phenomenon, we definitely need to improve our ranking. Apparently, the U.K and the U.S. need them as well :)

With that in mind, I have to make another plea for your votes. Please take a moment to vote for us (scroll down to find the Deliberate Acts of Kindness project), for the grant from Freerange Studios and ask everyone you know to vote as well - we need your help to improve the well-being of people around the world.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Over the Top

Last weekend was definitely 'Over the Top'. Not only did we Canadians celebrate Thanks Giving, but I spent two days with friends at the Women of Faith conference in Rochester New York, aptly themed Over the Top. A couple of years ago I led some workshops at the Christian Camping and Conference Association annual conference - and loved it; but, this was my first time at a conference of any kind as simply an attendee. Unfortunately I was only able to attend the first of two days, however, I was sorely tempted to skip all the prep work I had to do in order to host Thanks Giving dinner, so I could stay.

The music was great and the speakers were amazing. Patsy Clairemont and Andy Andrews were the keynotes of the day. Patsy is funny, poignant and the best dressed sixty-something I've ever seen - look what she is wearing in the Youtube link at the bottom of the post. She rocks. Andy was also incredibly funny, inspiring and relevant. I left with both of his best selling books. And as good fortune (or answered prayer) would have it, we were able to give them both a set of dakbands.

To top the day off, Steven Curtis Chapman performed and his wife, MaryBeth Chapman spoke about her new book. It was pure magic.

But you know what really made it the most fun? Being there with my friends. From left to right: Lori, Vicky, Me, Connie, MaryAnn. Lori hosted MaryAnn, Connie and I in her lovely century home, and had forty-seven other friends who attended the conference. That's definitely, over the top. We arrived on Thursday evening at Lori's and spent the evening huddled around the dinning room table with a bottle glass of wine, doing what women do best......emoting :) MaryAnn spread the dakband love, all day Friday - I think every policeman in Rochester now has a pair - which was really fun. I'm still waiting for an update on how Saturday went, but I'm pretty sure Connie and MaryAnn (my fellow Canadians) are out walking off their turkey dinners, just like me.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Dak Magic

This was the first dak of a dak filled day. And for those of you who may share my coffee
addiction dependency, might understand how important it is to have the necessary condiments. For me that condiment is cream. So, when I woke up yesterday and my husband brought me my coffee he announced, "There was no cream, so I just used milk." He may as well have announced that there was no coffee at all. Despite the mental note, I woke up this morning and realized, I forgot to buy cream. But when I staggered into the kitchen, I found the coffee made and a little love note from husband - disguised as my half and half.

After dropping our son off at school I had an hour before my hair dressers appointment. Naturally, I stopped at my local Starbucks for my second and final coffee of the day: a double long half caf. The baristas know me well, very well. It might be the daily visit. Today the barista bought me my coffee. Two coffee daks in less than two hours. It was almost magic. Fortunately I was wearing my dakbands......

It doesn't stop there. In a caffeine haze I arrived at my hair appointment, ready to enjoy the next two hours and get some work done while the colorist worked her magic. The woman beside me was already lathered up and buried in a magazine. There must been dak fairy dust in the air, because instead of burying myself in the advanced statistics book I'd brought to study, I found myself in a therapy session with a complete stranger. Well she started out as a stranger reading a magazine, with her head covered in hair dye, sitting beside me in a beauty salon. She left as Jennifer, my friend, who was kind and generous, and confident enough, to share the story of how her sons were able to overcome emotional trauma caused by her severe post partumn depression. She did this to encourage me and give me hope for my son, who experienced severe emotional trauma when he entered the adoption system as a two year old. By sharing her story, she gave me courage to share mine, and perhaps even gave me tools to change the outcome. We exchanged numbers and I gave her my last two dakbands.

What a day.