One summer a long time ago (clears throat...10+years), I worked at a bar to make money to pay for university. I met three of my absolute best friends during that summer. We formed a bond that continues to grow even now all these years later. We backpacked around Europe together and continue to have many adventures now as we're older and our life stages have changed. Lucky for me (I corner them and send desperate email pleas) my friends agree to let me interview them about gratitude and other such things.
Kristine was blessed with an adventurous childhood, which she spent moving throughout Western Canada and Ontario with her close-knit family. She graduated from Journalism and Communications Media at Mohawk College and spent several years in the media industry working freelance for CTV News and several publications. She soon realized, a pursuit of her true self was calling. After several years working odd-jobs while pushing for her dream, Kristine was hired by the Toronto Police Service in 2014. She has since continued her vocational growth in the ever-changing position of a Police Constable. (I tried asking her all sorts on intel about conspiracy theories and stuff but she responsibly said "I can't talk about that stuff publicly Linds." Duh..I guess that makes sense. I'll just have to let my imagination run wild where the Toronto crime stories are concerned...
If you were to meet someone that you haven’t seen in ten years and they ask you how things are and what has changed - how would you answer?
Everything has changed and continuously is; that’s life and it’s fantastic. My path has been one truly carved out in my heart, but realized through the trial and error that is my human experience. As I continue to progress and search for truth and purpose in myself, the more clarity I am blessed with. Strange pieces of the past become a patchwork of my path to the now - and to my future. I feel completely blessed. I have realized everything I have honestly asked for, has been given to me. I feel empowered with purpose and driven to see what’s next to surface in my life.
Can you share a time or times when you have had to dig deep to find gratitude?
I think any time you experience great loss or watch a close family member or friend suffer, is where you are challenged to feel positive in many ways, including feeling gratitude. Specifically, for me, when my father went into hospital as a result of a heart attack - and following that had a secondary heart attack and passed away; this was a most difficult time of course for myself and my family.
I think while your living those moments, it can be hard to focus on soul searching and meaning, especially when it’s fresh, and your mind and heart are mourning. However, after some time has passed, the blessings begin to surface and you find the gratitude you were so desperately missing during that painful time.
I can say I am so blessed to have had such an amazing and loving father; he’d give you the shirt off his back. I am grateful I had two parents who weathered the hard times and always put their love for us first. I am blessed to have broken-off a relationship and ended up moving home in my thirties – which resulted in an enormous amount of quality time with my father I would have lost. And although his death was sudden, I am grateful he did not end up back in hospital again to his complete dissatisfaction. And of course, I am grateful to be alive today with the remaining, amazing members of my family – the word gratitude does not suffice in describing their true meaning to me.
What is your version of a gratitude attitude today?
My version? Waking each day with the intention of being present in the moment and mindful of blessings, no matter how seemingly insignificant. I will say with assertion, my job affords me heightened perspective; I see daily, the ways of life and challenges faced by so many. When I return home at the end of the day I am grateful for that insight, for the private moments, and for the confidence and trust complete strangers have afforded in their times of crisis, vulnerability and need; that is an enormous blessing.
So, let me introduce you to my best friend in the whole wide world. Her name is Jin Millea (nee Glover). She lives in Switzerland (which is awesome and terrible all at the same time). She also happens to be my daughters God Aunt (you know , the one that shows her how to dress fashionably, table manners a la Swiss, and which wine pairs with which meal).
We first met something like 14 or 15 years ago when we were both working at a bar in Wasaga Beach during the summer as a way to pay for our University studies. When we met we just clicked. She was the only one at our interview session for the job wearing heels and carrying a very fashionable purse. I liked this immediately. But obviously I realized that she was far more than just her Euro-inspired fashion. You know those people that just GET you? Jin is just that person for me. I can call her with whatever irrational ridiculous sentiment that I am having and she will listen, laugh at me but then also help me see the logic where it's lacking. She's kinda my filter and moral compass all in one.
I am so lucky that she took the time to participate in my gratitude project because she and her husband are in the middle of designing, building and opening a bar and grill in Langenthal, Switzerland.
If someone were to meet you at a dinner party for the first time and asked you about your life in the last ten years how would you describe it?
I would laugh, inhale and exhale deeply. Where to begin? Very intense but also easy, full of new but yet so familiar period of strengthened bonds while letting go of less meaningful ones, also letting go of bonds that may have been meaningful but didn’t support my character, my inner fire or sought to “calm” it for that matter.
I've had ups and downs. The highest of highs and the hardest of challenges. I married my first my love and most trusted friend, someone I never thought I would end up with again despite knowing how much I always cared for and favoured him. I lost all of my grandparents, losing Grosi has been the biggest heartbreak I’ve ever experienced.
Although I've always been a big family person I’ve realized even more how important , and immortal, loved ones really are and how much they are to be cherished.
I’ve been high on love and life and knocked down, knocked flat, even run over by things I couldn’t control or things I was too stubborn to realize or change.
There's been a rediscovery of who I am? Or a realization of who I have become? Not sure which but it's been a natural evolution, but somehow magical, as if predetermined
What are your best qualities and what are the things about yourself that you find yourself wanting to “work” on?
My best qualities : hmmm my loyalty and commitment to those I love, caring, good at bringing people together to have fun, I suppose I’m fairly resilient ( at least after rereading my answers to the first questions haha)
What needs work: patience, learning to be less demanding of myself, learning to forgive myself if I don’t meet all expectations at once, my temper.
You live in Switzerland but grew up in Canada, can you share some cultural or societal differences that you’ve observed or had to adapt to?
Haha. In many ways Canadians and Swiss are very similar but very different. They compliment each other very well and usually enjoy each others’ culture very much.
Culturally the Swiss are more discreet, introverted, reserved than Canadians. They can be a bit held back or shy at first, making it difficult to make friends quickly, but once you have them, they are extremely loyal and friends for life.
Culturally Canadians are known for their openness, friendliness and extroverted characters. They hold back much less than the Swiss, making it easy to make new friends in Canada, but unclear as to who will evolve into a forever friend.
Societal differences: Canadians love XXL – whether it be houses, meals, machinery, autos etc and the Swiss are quite opposite, favouring instead quality and ingenuity. The Swiss are super-efficient and organized, and this comes directly from how society is organized at all levels. Your township is your first check in, who then communicate with the Canton and then onto the Federal level. Canadian bureaucracy could definitely improve on this end.
The education system in Switzerland is also very different. School children are already organized from the 6th grade into the direction of study (ie. Trade schools or university). Only about 30% of school children here go directly to university after completing their mandatory schooling, while the majority head into excellently designed apprentice programmes (pretty much anything you would do in trades or college in Canada is completed via apprenticeship in Switzerland – this is a combo of schooling and practical application with a trade master). Further specialization/continued education and training programmes are huge here and the reason, in my view, for the famed Swiss quality. As you can probably tell, the whole system here is quite structured and begins at an early age – this has an effect on the way that people live their lives.
Punctuality – while Canadians are generally punctual (weather permitting), even they stare wide-eyed at how serious the Swiss take it. If the train schedule says 14:59, you better be on that train by 14:58 – because it is leaving at exactly 14:59 (and not a minute earlier, because people have planned down to the minute).
What the Swiss love about Canadian society is what they perceive to be a very spontaneous, relaxed and open culture. It is common for a Canadian to spontaneously invite someone over, host them for the night, feed them etc. The Swiss need to have this planned because they would feel they are not adequately prepared (especially with food, the Swiss tend to shop every day or every second day for their ingredients).
Both are very proud and patriotic and often noted for being ‘over polite’. Both have a slight neighbour complex, both are multilingual.
Canadians are strong in making newcomers and new Canadians feel welcome. The values that define Canadians can be easily adopted by newcomers, there really aren’t that many strict cultural aspects a newcomer must adopt to feel (or be seen as) Canadian. In Switzerland this definitely does not work as smoothly. Aside from all of the rules and regulations a newcomer must learn (and there are thousands of written and unwritten rules of conduct), the Swissness goes far beyond core values – it includes very much your day to day activity, the foods you eat, the holidays you celebrate and so on. Canadians are strong in celebrating diversity whereas the Swiss expect integration and adoption of their culture in many, many more aspects.
Canadians are also much louder and can start a party much quicker. There is less shame in Canadian society about letting loose than there is in here Switzerland. And if one lets loose here by accident, there’s usually a degree of embarrassment or shame felt about it later. Not serious, but definitely not comfortable with it.
Can you think of a time or times in your life when you have had to dig deep to find gratitude?
Indeed, While undergoing fertility treatment, most notably in vitro-fertilisation (IVF), I really struggled with the side-effects from the hormones – and quite honestly the whole bloody process. The hormones literally changed the way my brain was behaving and I was beginning to experience very dark and depressive thoughts and moods. I was honestly hardly grateful for anything during the process other than the support (and tolerance) I received from my partner and the support I received from friends close and far. I forced myself to feel gratitude for living in a country that had this medical technology available and legal. I forced myself to feel gratitude for living in a country that values me as person beyond just my gender and requirement to bear children. It was a very difficult time to find gratitude but forcing myself and practicing gratitude out loud did help a little. Shortly after, I was also informed that I would lose my job, a career I had worked very hard on and for over the last seven years, but really had grown miserable with. While anger and resentment were my first reaction, I slowly came to look at it as a sort of blessing as I noticed that I felt much lighter knowing there was an end in sight to the place. It also sent me down a new path, towards an opportunity and career in something that I am very, very passionate about. At the moment, as bizarre at it sounds to me know, I am grateful for exactly how it all unfolded, including the IVF process, because I am happy and motivated to live for myself right now.
What is your version of a gratitude attitude?
Never forget how fucking lucky you are. I tell myself this every time I get down. Sure, I have had rough times, but I have all of the tools, resources and privilege to overcome these. I remind myself that I was not able to pick where I was born, how healthy I was born, which citizenships I would receive, which family I would have, how much love I would receive from those that I love…and when I remind myself of these things, I overflow with gratitude.
Have you ever had a pair of leggings that you just couldn't get out of? Like I mean you wore them allllll the time? I can honestly say that it hasn't happened to me since University when yoga pants first became all the rage. Like I lived in them....well, me and every other girl at Western. I wouldn't even know what to wear if I had to wash them.
But.... because I didn't support the changes (super high cost regardless of outsourcing from Canada to China) that happened with the very popular and very commercial yoga pants that I once wore, I found myself longing for a serious long term relationship with leggings again, but they are just so hard to find. And honestly the kind you can buy at the grocery store just don't cut it! A) because they are cheap means that someone in some country somewhere did not get paid a fair wage to make them and B) because they simply don't perform - breathe or last.
Enter PranaVida Style. THE most AMAZINGLY comfortable, ethical and sustainable leggings I have EVER worn. Let me just tell you something - I accidentally ordered the fleece lined crops in the middle of July this summer and I loved them so much that I wanted to wear them even though it was a stifling 30+ degrees outside. I wore them and get this - it didn't matter that it was hot as hades outside - they BREATHE! (As a Yoga teacher I have tried a LOT of leggings and this is like...soo unheard of.)
Not only are these leggings incredible, but the woman who created them is even more amazing and makes you want to support her business just because of who she is and what she stands for.
Amelia Barnes is a mother, yoga teacher and creative entrepreneur passionate about helping others live in alignment with their highest self and in harmony with the earth. You can often find her on her Instagram account (@ameliakyoga), sharing little bits of her heart, mothering her daughter Lily, and tips that will inspire you to keep learning and living a simpler, conscious and love-filled life. She also shares her journey of healing after the death of her newborn son Landon in July 2014, and has written a book Landon's Legacy: The Power of a Brief Life to help others navigate loss or to better understand those they love who are grieving. Her clothing line PranaVidaStyle.com (@pranavidastyle) is quickly becoming one of the most sought-after, Canadian-made brands because of her commitment to creating only the highest quality and most environmentally conscious pieces that flatter and fit every body (they are even perfect through pregnancy and postpartum!). Amelia lives in Winnipeg, Canada with her husband Justin, daughter Lily and big white mutt Cody, and enjoys doing yoga and spending time outdoors whenever she can. You can practice yoga with her online at oneOeight.com, and her podcast Living Prana Vida will be launching in the new year.
I was fortunate enough to interview Amelia about her take on gratitude among other things and, of course it just made me want to support her business even more and I am sure that you will want to get yourself a pair of these life changing leggings too!
If someone met you for the first time at a dinner party and asked you to tell them about yourself and your life, what would you say?
I'd say I'm a mom and business owner, but really at the core I'm simply a growth seeking being. I believe that happiness comes from purpose, and purpose comes from always learning and a commitment to consciously evolving through and with whatever comes our way.
How does gratitude come into play in your business PranaVida Style? (I personally feel very grateful that you created this business every time I am wearing my PranaVida leggings!)
I'm immensely grateful that I live in a day and age where owning my own business, and being able to create something of meaning and share that with the entire world, is a real possibility. There are downsides of technology of course, but never before have we had the kind of freedom and opportunity we do today to actually follow our passions and hearts, and make a fabulous living doing it. I'm also incredibly grateful for all the people I've been able to connect with through Prana Vida - many of my customers feel like dear friends now and we have certainly created a true community of like-minded women who are committed to self-growth and conscious consumption. Just seeing the impact I'm making every day in ways big and small truly fills me up.
Can you share a time when you had to dig deep to find gratitude?
Certainly, it was very hard to find gratitude after Landon died. It was a daily struggle to find bits and pieces of hope or happiness. I found journalling and sharing about my grief helped immensely, as well as connecting to others who had been through similar experiences and were further along in their grief journeys.
What is your version of a gratitude attitude today?
When I'm feeling down I try to search my mind for the things I'm so grateful for, and focus on those things. Expressing gratitude through words or actions also helps me to find more gratitude - it's an upward spiral.
Thank you Amelia for taking the time to answer my questions and allow me to share some info about you and your amazing business! Also don't forget that you can check out Amelia's yoga classes on oneOeight,com.
Meet Heather Larson, aka @veganishmama
So, it's been a lot of food posting and reading recipes (and trying the recipes obv) these last few months. Especially with the addition of so many new vegan options. Some of my baking recipes are seriously so on pointe that when they work out I strut around the kitchen all Martha AF.
But, I first needed some inspiration. Especially since when I started looking into this plant-based way of eating I wasn't far off from having to start feeding Quinne solid food. I started to wonder how I would do it with a little wee babe who would need lots of variety and wholesome nutrition. So, as any good mom would do I started perusing Instagram, where I found the lovely Heather Larson aka @veganishmama. She helped inspire me with some recipes and ideas for meals that were more plant based! Heather's food-osophy resonates with me in the sense that it's not neurotic strict and that life allows for exceptions. (I'm currently calling myself a "sometimes-atarian.)
I reached out to her and am lucky that she took the time to answer a few questions about food but also about gratitude and how that fits into her life. And come on, how cute is she!?
Could you tell us a bit about yourself and who is the Veganish mama!?
Hi! I'm Heather aka @veganishmama. My transition to veganism began about a year ago, when I was on maternity leave from my job as a professional cheese and pizza tester. It's a real job, I'm not making that up haha! I ran the Canadian test kitchen for one of North America's largest dairy manufacturers for over 3 years, testing various cheese and pizza recipes. If you're interested, there's probably an opening there now as after going vegan, I obviously couldn't go back to my job! My husband was the one who actually started the whole "vegan thing" at our house. He was looking at the results from his physicals over the years, as he had one coming up; even though he had always been healthy, his weight and cholesterol were slowly but steadily on the rise. He decided to make a change for the two weeks prior to his appointment to see if it would make a difference, and after seeing the results, we couldn't go back to eating the way we were. A few documentaries helped for motivation, "What the Health" on Netflix, was a particularly motivating one for us. After finding a few recipes that we loved, the transition wasn't too difficult, and we haven't looked back!
I started following you on Instagram because I am more and more interested in vegan eating. I find it inspirational to see moms who are vegan with their little ones in tow because I have a perception that vegan eating is either a) very complicated and labour intensive or b) terribly boring (think veggies and hummus every damn day).
Can you walk us through a typical day of vegan eating for your house hold?
I'll be honest, we do eat a lot of hummus! My son in particular, would eat a whole tub with a spoon if we'd let him. One of the biggest differences, I think, in a vegan diet, is that we no longer eat eggs for breakfast. We do however, eat vegan BLT's made with tofu or tempeh bacon, coconut yogurt parfaits, chia pudding, smoothies, toast, vegan breakfast sausage, etc, so I certainly don't feel deprived. Lunch for us is usually leftovers from the night before. I do cook at home more that we're vegan, and I do make more from scratch, so it is a bit more labour intensive. However, I don't HAVE to, there are many vegan options available in stores now, that's just personal preference. Other favourite lunches, if we're not having leftovers, are hummus with pita and veggies, chick pea salad sandwiches (which taste like tuna salad), or vegan buffalo chicken wraps, which in my opinion, are better than the "real thing". Dinners are mostly vegan versions of what we used to eat in our pre-vegan days; tacos with either vegan chipotle crumble, or tofu, or buffalo cauliflower, or pasta with lots of veggies, vegan caesar salad, curries, sushi, vegan cannoli, and many other pasta dishes (I am married to an Italian after all). I've shared a few of these recipes on my blog :).
You wrote a blog about pumping your breastmilk and you mentioned that breastfeeding didn’t work out as planned - I can’t think of a more judgemental area than how we feed our babes, either during the infant period or when they start eating solids. Did you encounter any judgement about this or do you now with having a vegan diet in your family?
I don't think that I ever really faced "judgement" for pumping. Sometimes when I complained about the time commitment, or that I wasn't making as much milk as I wanted to, people would say "why don't you just give him formula"? This was an especially difficult question to answer when it came from a mum who had fed their babies formula. I didn't want to make anyone feel bad about their decision, I truly believe that we're all just doing our best and motherhood is freaking HARD. I definitely just stumbled my way through answering, trying not to offend anyone. As far as raising my son vegan, for the most part, everyone has been pretty supportive, even my husbands Italian grandmothers make him vegan versions of their pizza and pasta, which is so kind of them. My Grandma still offers me fish for dinner but she's trying, lol. She recently helped me veganize her famous oatmeal cookie recipe, and let me post it on my blog! We had a few comments, before our son was on solids, where people would sort of answer for us and say "of course they're not going to raise him vegan, that's crazy", but we seem to have eased them into it and everyone sort of gets it now. My husband will still have steak maybe once a year at Christmas dinner with his guy friends, but that's the "ish" in "vegan-ish" for him. I wrote a blog post all about the "ish" as well :).
So to move things over towards gratitude- Can you think of a time when you had to dig deep in order to find gratitude?
This is something that I'm actively working on. I just listened to my first audio book about gratitude called "The Universe Has Your Back", which has started to remind me to be more present, to be grateful for what I have, and to not stress so much about the future. One of the times that I had to dig deep for gratitude was probably when i was pregnant with my son. I had lost my first pregnancy at 20 weeks, and I delivered him and held him in my arms, and to be honest, my heart is still a bit broken, and I think that it always will be. When I got pregnant with my son just a few short months later, everyone was so happy for us, and I feel like a weight was lifted off of everyone else's shoulders because they felt like they didn't have to tiptoe around me anymore, like I wasn't broken anymore. Though I was so so lucky to be able to get pregnant again so easily, I know many people struggle for much longer, or aren't able to have children at all, I still struggled to be grateful for that. I just wanted to hold my baby in my arms, and I wanted answers for why he wasn't. I never got those answers, but I did eventually appreciate my next pregnancy. I can't remember if it was when the morning sickness was finally gone, or when I felt the first kick, but eventually, I started to appreciate everything that I had. My health, my husband, my family and a baby boy in my tummy.
What is your version of having a gratitude attitude?
Again, this is something that I'm sort of working to find for myself. For me this what this "gratitude attitude" looks like, is being more present, enjoying what I have right now, and recognizing how far I've come and what I've accomplished in this life so far. Being grateful that I have a roof over my head, food to feed my son, my health, my husband, and an overall wonderful life; the daily appreciation of the little things that I sometimes take for granted.
So it has been over a year since I last wrote a blog post on this website. Which is insane really. But you know, a bunch of crazy stuff happened like we moved twice, our dog had two surgeries, I was pregnant, had a baby….NBD. I’m sure I’ll write more about those things at some point but for now I want to share a few of my thoughts about food - yes food. If you follow my instagram posts (@mygrattitudeattitude you’ll see that the things I post most about are Quinne (our 6 month old baby girl), our Maltese-Poodle Jean Luc and .....food.
I personally have been incorporating way more vegetarian and vegan options into our diet for a few reasons…. The first reason is that ever since I was a kid I felt super connected to animals (even when they didn’t feel connected to me - sorry Munchie) and I always had to make sure I couldn’t think about it when I ate meat. This not thinking about it meant that I was never really mindful about what I ate. I couldn’t be! I would be too sad! (I’m not going to get into the unethical treatment of factory farmed animals here because quite frankly I can’t handle it emotionally but if you’re interested there are tons of resources on Netflix and google but don’t say I didn’t warn you…) So, this non-mindful eating led to a very unconscious state of eating and a disconnected relationship with food (ever shove a handful of something into your mouth and not even really taste it?) Ask my husband about how many bags of mini eggs I ate while pregnant - we have different answers! And I’m sure that this is due to being so thought-less around eating.
Lately I’ve been able to bake and cook a lot more while the baby is asleep or playing in the kitchen watching me and I have been having a LOT of fun with it. With this new love of experimentation the coolest thing has happened….I have learned that I don’t shove a handful of biscotti down my throat the same way anymore! You know why? Because you have to bake the biscotti TWICE. TWICE dammit. It takes time and effort to make delicious and wholesome food! I didn’t know that when I bought biscotti that someone else made so I ate it super fast not even thinking about the time it took to make it. And now, I appreciate the process more than I ever have and it allows for more mindful eating. Because I know for sure that I am NOT pumping biscotti out of THIS kitchen every week, so I better damn well savour it! Super cool.
Another reason that I have been incorporating a more plant based diet is due to family history. My family has history of hormone based breast cancer and I’d like to avoid adding any unnecessary hormones to my body - Lord knows I don’t deal well with the ones I already have thankyouverymuch.
So, I am trying to eat more mindfully, ethically and avoid excess hormones and therefore a more plant based diet seems like the natural choice right now. But here’s the truth - we are heading to Germany and Switzerland in December and you can bet your fresh baked buns that I will be eating cheese fondue and schnitzel. If we are invited to a friend’s home for a meal (any takers?) I don’t make a big deal and not eat what they serve - no way! In fact I am more thankful and mindful for having a meal made for me. In this way I feel like we are balancing an 80/20 diet where the bulk of our food at home is plant based and on special outings it’s okay to have whatever we want! Mostly, enjoy the food that we are experiencing! And also the point is to find what works best for what YOU feel is a healthy balance, and for now, this is what works for me. But it may change - just like bell bottoms and skinny jeans, butter - margarine - butter! So, as my sister says “I refuse to be put into a box!”. Anyways, I’m going to keep sharing fun food recipes among other things that I deem interesting for a little bit of a “me” outlet while the baby naps!
Here are some of the amazing cookbooks that I have been using lately in case you are interested.