Dear Grama

When journeys collide

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Dear Grama,

I was on a mission that day that not even the rain could disrupt. As I made my way to Westminster Bridge to recreate this photo of you, I remember thinking about the beauty of perspective.  Not only was I grateful to have found this photograph of you in front of this very spot decades earlier, but to be there giggling to myself as the wind blew my umbrella inside out, left me in awe.  How did I get here? Who’s crazy idea was this?  I actually made this happen?

Looking back at this photo now, over a year later, makes me realize that anything is possible.  The incredibly unpredictable journeys that brought you to this bridge, then brought me to this bridge, then gave me the urge to dig up this photograph to have another look are more connected than I ever knew possible.  The layers and years in constant dance with one another creating beauty and rhythm with every step.

I am writing to tell you that in 4 months time, I will hold the first draft of my book in these tiny little hands of mine.  The book that will be laced with both of our fingerprints, decades apart.  I don’t want to do this alone.  I can’t do this alone.  This is why I am telling you.

With a granddaughters love & admiration,

Carly xoxo

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To every “LIKE”

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Since this journey began, my head has been filled with shoulds. I should write. I should blog. I should tweet. I should network. I should learn how to get more followers. And the list goes on.  I was surprised when the greatest lesson I would take away from this journey hadn’t shown up on any lists – the importance of human connection.

Though I spent most of my days connected to the world, through facebook, instagram, twitter, email, texting, letters and just about every other form of technology, I felt a deep loneliness. It didn’t matter how many virtual connections I had received that day, what I longed for the most was physical touch, someone’s presence, or a conversation – live in real time.

The most profound aspects of my journey were the people I met.  On a parkbench, in a library, at a cafe and even on the ship on my voyage home, I noticed the connection between people and what good old fashioned connection has to go up against in this time: cell phone notifications, cameras, texts, selfie photo ops.  I couldn’t help but wonder if we are losing the ability to truly connect with one another anymore.

I’ll never forget the moment in a Starbucks when all I could have ever wished for was someone to sit across from me and share a story or engage in meaningful conversation when I noticed two girls sitting beside me.  Mid conversation one of them took out her phone and took a selfie with her mocha frocca latte frappiccino – cutting her friend off completely, to show her instagram and facebook friends what she was up to. It rocked me.  It didn’t make sense. We have things so backwards it hurts my soul, my heart and my ego when I actually think about the amount of times I’ve done it, too.

Of course I see the perks of it all.  We keep in touch in this now very small world because of it all.  I know instantly what someone is doing in Costa Rica.  I follow a Japanese Hedgehog on Instagram for goodness sake.  But something is happening and our world needs a shift.  My generation is feeling it and the generations after us need to be educated on it.  We need to put our phones away and connect with our grandparents – our elders.  There is a whole generation of people who lived through the world wars that are dying.  I am guilty of it, too.  My grandfather lives 2 minutes from me and I only go for visits every so often. He tells stories.  I need to hear his stories and record them.  There is an urgency about this that needs to be addressed.  Yes there is a place for technology, smartphones and facebook – but I want to stand for connection in its truest form – in real time – with those around you who you love the most.

Our wedding video going viral has made me feel it even deeper.  I have received lovely messages from people near and far.  From Cape Breton to Australia and England to my hometown of Leamington.  People are so sweet and the likes, shares and followers truly do mean a lot.  The truth is, my wish for everyone is that to every “like” there is a hug, a conversation, a touch, a look…in real time, with those around you who mean the most to you.  With those who if you were given one month to live, you would turn down all the computers and hug, soak their soul into your heart forever, talk about the big stuff, the life altering lessons that make you say: right, THAT is what matters most in life.

We are born to connect and there will be a shift.  I can feel it.  I want to be a leader for that shift.  So here I am making a commitment to you.  This week I will visit my papa, I will take in a sunset while resisting the urge to document it, and I will leave my phone at home the next time I go for a coffee date.

What will you do?

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Good Morning America called

10 things I’ve learned the second time ‘round a media blitz.

Thanks to our viral video shared in the last post.

 1.    Breathe.

Sunday night I was flat on the floor and my heart rate was as if I had ran a marathon.  Let’s just say that I made my mom’s birthday…uh…memorable.  I was officially overwhelmed by the 100,000+ views.

2.    AVOID the comment section when feeling overwhelmed

There are some very lovely people out there sending us well wishes.  Some are even saying our love has brought them to tears.  What is also true is that there are some people out there who have opinions or make assumptions about stuff they don’t even know about. We truly are blown away with the amount of people taking the time to respond and truly appreciate that.  Something I’ve learned through all of this is that you must try, try, try to remember 3 good to every bad.

3.    Focus on the positive

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve wanted to scream from the rooftops that “I chose my own dress!” I could go crazy sifting through the many inaccurate articles online, but that’s not very positive.  The positive is that some people are actually reaching out to me wanting to interview us.  That’s pretty darn cool. This has also been a wonderful chance for Adam & I to relive our wedding day ALL over again.  It really is quite special.

4.    Thank you, and YES I’d love to be interviewed

These things happen really fast – especially with the pace of the internet, so when people contact you for an interview – say YES and make it happen.  Anyone who has reached out to us has been kind, sweet and genuinely happy for us.  The second I started getting calls, my heart rate slowed down to a somewhat normal pace, so that I could actually explain myself, which leads me to my next point.

5.    Use your voice

Once I started getting tweets, messages and calls, I was able to use my voice and tell my story. And this is what lifesletter is all about…having the courage to tell my story and encourage YOU, yes YOU, to own your story and write your life’s letter – no matter how scary that may be.

6.    Love  your support system.

Both online and offline.  Truthfully, press or no press, all that matters is that I am married to a wonderful man, we have the most incredible family and friends and their support and loving words mean the world to us.

7.    Be Grateful. 

Any press is good press, right? I’m writing a book and hope to share my story with the world.  If anything, this is putting my name out there, giving me experience with media and making my skin a little thicker.  This is all part of the journey.

8.    Get your hair done. 

It just makes you feel good!

9.    Dare Greatly

I’ve been struggling lately to share my truth and own my story – hence a silent blog for a while.  I’m a huge fan of Brene Brown and her latest book is based on this quote by Theodore Roosevelt: “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doers or deeds could have done them better.  The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly;…who at best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.” I’m ready to enter the arena again, folks.  Get out of my comfort zone, embrace the fear, and show up.

10. Breathe

And be sure to take it all in.  It’s not every day that Good Morning America calls.  Enjoy the rush.

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That’s right folks, our wedding video has had over 80,000 views in only a few days.  It’s a pretty surreal feeling even 7 months later.  It sure has been an exciting week reliving the magic of our surprise wedding day all over again – not to mention getting my butt into gear…back into the blogosphere.  Thanks again to Steve Shilson of Straylight Films for capturing our day so beautifully.  More to come soon…stay tuned.

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That Summer in Burgundy

I’m not even really sure how to start this post.  I’m back.  I’ve missed you.  I’m ready to share.  I want to start by going back a bit…back to “That Summer in Burgundy”.  The video truly says it all…inspiration, beauty, creativity, COWS, wine, cheese, nature, simplicity, writing & connection.

I had the pleasure of meeting Marty Gervais before I left for England back in January.  He loved my story, gave me some writing advice & was even the one to suggest  the brilliant “Dear Grama” approach.  He also invited me to join his group of creative writing & photojournalist students for a summer course in France.  Not only did he invite me to take part in the course itself, but he also asked me to do my own talk for the group.  What an honour…my first speaking engagement.

On the second night of the 10 day trip, I was on the hot seat and must admit that I was a little nervous.  I made up a slideshow of photos from my journey, shared stories of the ups & downs of putting my hopes & dreams out there for the world to see, and talked about what the creative process was like for me.  I wrote every single day while in England…that in itself was quite the process.  Let’s just say, the presentation was well received.  The more I shared, the more authentically I showed up & the more vulnerable I was, the greater the impact.  I had the audience engaged, I had them laughing & I even had them crying just by being me, sharing my story, and truly honouring what the last 6 months were like for me.  The good, the bad & the ugly – and by that I mean that I even showed a picture of myself ugly crying in the slideshow.

It was a wonderful experience & I can just tell that this is the beginning of something BIG for me.  Not only did it help me become clear on how I am going to approach writing my book, but it also made me realize that I want to share the WHOLE story every chance I get.  The stories of self-doubt, what it’s like to hear negative comments in the media, the never fading fear of pressing ENTER after writing a blog post, the feelings of doing something different – & a little outrageous – that may cost you friendships, money & time and after all of that combined finding a way to POWER through.

I already have plans to share my story with schools & university creative writing classes in the near future.  My hope is that in sharing my story, I can hear yours.  I can hear your heart & soul’s desires, crazy-nutty dreams & ideas that may not even be full sentences yet.  Even if at this stage it’s just an itch, an inkling or an intuition that there’s something creative you want to give-a-go.

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SURPRISE!!!!

 

Well hello there friends, family & followers! I haven’t forgotten about you, I promise! The past 2 & a half weeks have been out of this world.  It has truly been like a fairytale.  I have so much to share that I don’t even know where to begin! I still have to fill you in on France & all that I gained from that experience, saying farewell to England, my voyage home & the incredible things that have happened in the week that I’ve been back.

The Queen Mary was amazing & truly the most magical ending to my journey.  I met some wonderful people, ate some great food & had conversations that I will forever cherish.  Grama was with me the whole way & arranged some spectacular sunsets.  I spent the majority of my time on the 7th deck, looking out to the vast Atlantic and savouring the daily celebration of the completion of this extraordinary journey.

Arriving in New York City as the sun was rising on July 27th was like a dream.  After a wonderful day in the city, a dear friend & I got on the train from New York to Toronto…then Toronto to Windsor the following day.  My reunion with Adam was one of the best moments of my life.  To be in his arms again felt like heaven.

The week was filled with seeing friends & family, getting some media attention from CTV Windsor & CBC Windsor, and the week was going to end with the highly anticipated engagement party to celebrate the love that Adam & I share with all of our family & friends.

Turns out, my fiance is the most romantic man on the planet, because him & my mom had been planning our surprise WEDDING since March.  I found out at 9am THAT DAY that everything had been arranged…hair, make-up, bridesmaid dresses, photographer, videographers, ceremony, reception, flowers….EVERYTHING! It was the BEST day of our lives, surrounded by those we love.  The joy, love & happiness in my heart was overwhelming in the best way possible.  It’s all still sinking in & there are so many details & stories that I want to share…but first…a HONEYMOON!

I thought I would share some photos to give you all a quick update & sneak peek.  I truly couldn’t have done any of this without the love & support of family, friends & complete strangers who I have connected with along the way throughout this journey.

Love & Hugs to all of you….and you will hear from me in a few weeks!

Mrs. Verheyen

xoxox

 

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