Saturday, June 14, 2014

Epic Impact: RTCC 2014

As a lot of you may know, I spent last weekend volunteering for the Ride To Conquer Cancer, as a Crew Captain, running a pit stop. As anyone who has ever been involved in the event knows, it is really hard to describe the impact of this event, but I am going to try!

Friday night in Niagara Falls (you can ride Toronto to Niagara, Niagara to Toronto, and a few more routes), one of the staff of the event started out the crew meeting by saying something to the effect of 'Your friends might be spending the weekend at the cottage, or having a party, but they wont remember this weekend like you will', and boy was she ever right. 

I can hardly put into words how inspiring and moving it is to spend your weekend with approx 6000 other people who all want to kick cancer in the butt, and collectively fundraised $20 MILLION to do so. As a volunteer, you get to see almost every rider come through your pit stop, and while you are giving them food and water you get a small snapshot of everyone's stories, as you ask them how their ride is and they share a bit of themselves with you. 

One particular story that I was privileged to get to be a part of was Sylvia's story. Sylvia is an amazing woman who was on my crew. Sylvia's husband Doug passed away from Cancer in February, after a battle of not much more than a year. At the Friday night dinner in the Falls, the captain of the KPMG team was invited to say a few words and he told everyone about how his friend Doug had lost his battle and how Sylvia was volunteering at Pit Stop 2, and how the KPMG team was riding in Doug's memory (with his name on the sleeve of their Jerseys). Needless to say there were a few tears shed at pit stop 2, but there were also hugs from strangers who didn't know Sylvia or Doug, but heard their story and made it a point to find her and give her a hug. Sylvia wrote to me in an email that this was something Doug would have loved helping out with, and to see her doing this for him was truly incredible. 

(a photo posted by the ride that happens to feature my friend Jon)

It sounds crazy to say that 6000 strangers can feel like a family, but at the Ride they really do. It doesn't matter who you are, you strike up a conversation and make memories that you wont soon forget. Like Alan and Myra. Myra is blind, and she and Alan ride a tandem bike, and have the most amazing energy. Or like walking through the main tent during the camp ceremony and having thousands of riders all cheering for the volunteers, when they are the ones riding 200+ km, we should be cheering for them! It felt so strange coming back to reality on Monday, and riding a crowded subway to work where strangers don't smile at each other or ask each other how they are doing, or tell each other they are doing a great job! 

I went into this weekend with two particular people in my heart whose loss hits way too close, and I left with thousands more. Cancer affects way too many people, and that is a devastating reality, but the amazing researchers and doctors at the Princess Margaret Cancer Foundation, and all the other Cancer research centres around the world, are making progress. The number of new treatments we heard about, or new research currently in clinical trials, makes me hopeful. As does the $20 million. I got involved with this weekend because I wanted to give back, and I came out of it with gratitude and respect and love for all the people who pour their hearts and souls into this cause, into this ride, and into conquering cancer in OUR LIFETIME!

A special shout out to everyone who donated to my fundraising efforts for this ride, that $20 million is all you! And how could I forget to thank my mom! Who slept in a tent and got up at 4am to support me on this journey! <3 

See you all at the ride in 2015?!

Gratefully yours,

Jaime Ariella

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Week Ten: Sisters make you happier

Between my younger sister's birthday a few weeks ago, and Family Day yesterday, I thought I would dedicate this week's blog to my sisters, for whom I am profoundly thankful!

Growing up as the middle child in a family of three girls wasn't always a cup of tea. Between crying that my older sister wouldn't let me play with her and her friends, and yelling at my little sister to get out of my room (and stop picking my lock), I feel bad for my mom in retrospect. She would always tell us that one day we would be thankful for each other, but I really just thought she was saying it to get some peace and quiet. 

(my fave pic of us from the 90s)

Imagine my surprise when I recently read an article about a study stating that growing up with at least one female sibling has a profoundly positive impact on the life of the person with the sister, as well as the family as a whole. According to this study having a sister makes you happier, more optimistic, able to handle problems better, able to communicate more openly, and makes you more independent. And I thought my mom was just making things up! Sorry mom!

(and a more recent photo of us)

Even before reading that article, I have grown up to really appreciate my sisters and love spending time with them. Sisters, I love you to the moon and back, and I don't know what I would do without you! Thank you for making me who I am today, stronger for having fought with you, more caring for having been loved by you, and more able to take on the world.

If you have a sister, or if like me you are lucky enough to have more than one, consider yourself lucky! And if you don't, you can borrow one of mine any day!

Gratefully yours,

Jaime Ariella

Monday, January 20, 2014

Week Nine: Three cheers for the blog!

Three separate people (only one being a member of my immediate family) asked  me in the last week how my blog was going, and I think we all know the answer. Like so many other things we start with good intentions, life got in the way and my weekly posts fell by the wayside. Well, my friends, it is a new year and the blog is back!

So this week, I am thankful for supportive people in my life. Stephen, Laura, Mom, and anyone else who has asked about my blog, and everyone who has supported and encouraged me since the inception of this blog, thank you! Thank you for being supportive of me in my blog, and in everything else. I am truly lucky to have such supportive people in my life.

Over the holidays a friend was visiting from out of town and we went for brunch on a miserable rainy day. Somehow I got to talking about how I envied those people who always looked so put together even when they were carrying a million parcels, were bundled up, and were doing more than one thing at a time. I envy those people because I always feel like a hot mess when doing even half of that. My friend looked at me like I was crazy and said "Are you kidding me?! You're the most put together person I know. I almost didn't wear this sweater today because I knew you would be so much more put together!" This comment shocked me and made me think about how I really never thought of myself as put together, but none the less a supportive/encouraging comment from a friend can make me feel so much better about myself.

So while I am not only thankful for the supportive words of my friends, I have made it one of my new years resolutions to "tell people things they do not often hear". Just one way I can pay forward the unexpected support and encouragement I got from my friend on the best gloomy Saturday.

Here's hoping you all pay it forward this week and say something supportive/encouraging that your friend/family member doesn't often but deserves to hear about themselves!

Gratefully yours,

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Week Eight: Accepting Gratitude

A few times at work last week I caught myself responding to Thank-Yous with "no worries" or "of course". I am not sure what made me catch myself and start noticing a pattern, but once I did I couldn't help but notice this wasn't a very grateful way to respond.

I have been trying so hard to be grateful and appreciative that I have been dismissing other people's gratitude! Accepting gratitude is not always easy because we assume that if we are being thanked for something that is just part of our jobs, that a thank you is unnecessary. But let me tell you, a thank you is never unnecessary.

And once I started thinking about how I responded to gratitude, it was as if the universe were thinking about it too. In one day I saw two articles/posts on LinkedIn about the response to a thank you. How synchronous (look it up, its a fabulous word)!

The first was an article called "Why You Shouldn't Say 'You're Welcome'". The second was a post by my friend and inspiration when it comes to inspiration, Stephen (you may remember him from this post) that said "Nothing quite feels better than those relationships where the only natural response to 'Thank you!' is, 'No, thank you!'". 

The first article talked about how you're welcome has become such a reflex response and how there are better responses that imply expected reciprocity and are about doing favours for one another. Well, Adam Grant, I respectfully disagree. I don't think gratitude is about reciprocity. I think too much of life is about reciprocity but I think gratitude is the opposite. Saying "Thank You" can be an admission that you needed help, or just simply an acknowledgement of another person's kindness, talent, or dedication. It is simple and it is pure, and I think saying "You're Welcome" is a fantastic response.

Which leads me to Stephen's post. I had an old office manager that I used to drive crazy by responding to her thank yous with "no, thank you". But Stephen put this in an entirely different light for me. While I would say it jokingly to my office manager, if there is one thing this reflection on my response to thank yous has taught me it is that I really want to thank the person for thanking me. Thank them for acknowledging me, thank them for appreciating me, and thank them for taking the time out of their day to realize that life is full of reasons and people to be thankful for!

While writing this post I realized that today someone said thank you and instead of the usual response, I answered "My Pleasure!" And it really was. I really was pleased to be able to help, and to be able to cause someone else to be grateful.

So my challenge to you this week is to think about how you respond to thank yous. I think you will find that thinking about your response will make you more grateful and make you notice more thank yous too.

Gratefully yours,

Jaime Ariella

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Week 7: Unexpected Role Models

Those of you who know me, or read  my blog, will know that I love me a good TED talk. I love finding new TED talks that inspire me to do new things or give me new perspective on things I am already doing, or make me see things in a new light. I also like getting my daily inspiration on Instagram from Simon Sinek, and reading all of those "12 things happy people do differently" posts, but most of all I like finding inspiration and role models in the most surprising places.

A few months ago Ashton Kutcher accepted a teen choice award and surprised the world with the amazingly inspirational speech he gave. The video went viral the next few days because no one expected him to give amazing advice and perspective on  the things he had learned. In short, his words of wisdom were: opportunity looks a lot like hard work, the sexiest thing in the entire world is being really smart thoughtful and generous, and build a life instead of living one. If you haven't watched the original video, watch it here.

Earlier this week Ashton was on Ellen talking about this speech and how it was an opportunity for him to be honest, and to help break through the propaganda so that kids want to grow wanting to do something and be someone instead of just wanting to be famous. I agree with Ashton that this new generation of entitlement is an unhealthy one, and that "working hard, and being generous and thoughtful and smart is a path to a better life".

Ashton could have gotten up there and said the same old crap that other actors do in acceptance speeches, but instead he chose to say something meaningful and powerful and for that I am thankful. I am thankful that there are people out there who understand what being a role model is and and appreciate what is really important. Check out Ellen's interview with Ashton:

Who is your favourite unexpected role model?

Gratefully yours,

Jaime Ariella

Friday, November 1, 2013

Week Six: Moustaches and Hashtags

 The month of November is full of advocacy and activism. Movember, Crohn's and Colitis awareness month, Diabetes awareness month, Holocaust Education week, just to name a few. These are all causes that have affected people near and dear to me, and for that I am happy to help spread the word.

Movember, which raises money and awareness for prostate and other mens cancers, while populating our city with some pretty hideously moustached men, has been a game changer in charity events and campaigns. While it isn't something I can participate in personally, it is something I am glad to support my friends in.

(at MoStock 2011)

One of my closest friends suffers from Crohns, I know many people living with Diabetes (not to mention the love of my life Tom Hanks), and as the grandchild of Holocaust Survivors I feel strongly about the importance of Holocaust Education Week, and I care a great deal about all of these causes.

And this year, my friend Stacey Beth is adding another campaign to the month of November. She is calling this one #GratitudeTweets! While pretty self explanatory, Stacey is going to use twitter for the month of  November to tell her friends and followers what she is grateful of, and asking you to join in!

So this month, whatever cause(s) you care about, get out there, spread the word, donate to life-saving research and education, and show off your mo. I, for one, am grateful for all these amazing charities and organizations, and their dedicated staff and volunteers, who make all these incredible awareness months and campaigns possible. This reminds me of one of my favourite quotes by Thomas Edison: "If we all did the things we are capable of doing we would literally astound ourselves". So lets all do what we are capable of, lets raise money and awareness, and change the face of diseases and illnesses. I am ready to be astounded!

Happy November!

Gratefully Yours,

Jaime Ariela

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Fun PJs for the homeless

Last week I was fortunate enough to be able to attend a dinner focused on the concept of repairing the world, and more specifically on how we view and understand homelessness in our community. The panel of speakers was truly incredible, including an amazing speaker and author named Danny Siegal, the founder of a wonderful humanitarian aid organization called Ve'ahavta (and one of its outreach workers), and an unbelievably inspiring and strong homeless woman in her 30s. 

This amazing young woman told her story of being homeless, and how through it all, although she knew that this week she would be kicked out of the shelter she had been staying in since August, she truly believed that there was a higher being/power that was looking out for her, and that while she didn't know what she would do, she knew everything would be okay. 

While the speakers did not directly answer the question they posed of "Should you give change to a homeless person?", I couldn't help but think about it all week as I went about my life and encountered many people asking for money on the street. While I still don't have a hard and fast rule of who/when/how much I give, I can say that I am much more aware of the need in our community and our ability to help in whatever small way possible. Danny Siegal, the keynote speaker of the event, was talking about what shelters need, and one of the things he mentioned was fun pajamas for children in these shelters, and how even (and especially) homeless people deserve dignity and how little money it takes to provide dignity in the way of fun PJs. 

(Great quote from Oprah's Pinterest)

So what am I thankful for this week? I am thankful that I have a home, food, shelter, and clothes. I am thankful that I am even able to think about giving back. I am thankful for the reminder that I have so much to be thankful for, and that not everyone has much at all and yet are still able to be grateful and have faith. My challenge this week is to just think about giving. While we often have charities and causes we like to give to, it is always nice to learn about new ones and find ways that we give back. It doesn't have to be through money. It can be through time, and it can be through donations.

I am going to spend some time this weekend cleaning through my closet and donating clothes to a worthy cause. Who's with me?