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2014 – The Year of Transitions

Greetings this holiday season to you!

It has been months since Reflections has come to you, and I’ve missed you! I apologize for my absence from the written word, but it has been a fabulous year of paddling, transitioning to our new status as a 501(c)3 organization and living our mission at the Red Kayak Institute – “Encouraging women to receive the healing benefits of kayaking. Just add water.” And add water we did with four revitalizing retreats for women (and a few men) in transition.

In June we launched our season with our 2nd Annual Edward Cancer Center paddle. This retreat grew from 10 women in 2013 to 20 this year, including two men who are primary caregivers for these survivors. We paddled the DuPage River, and all the participants were challenged to a new level.


Mar helping a retreater navigate “the shallows”

In the press release about the retreat, Georgiann Baldino wrote, “The success of these events showed the healing benefits of nature. A few hours on the water reopened a door to health.” Social Worker, Sharon Kelleher indicated, “We were all there for a beautiful day on the river, but Mary Anne’s special touches challenged us to engage in contemplation and promised release and serenity.”

Red Kayak Institute – Helping women in transition with cancer to RECLAIM THEMSELVES.

Also in June we hosted our first “Recovery on the Water” retreat for women struggling with addictions. Again we launched on the DuPage River and almost immediately, one of the retreaters took a plunge in the river, while dodging a low hanging tree branch near the shore. Thankfully with the help of other retreaters, we secured her kayak, paddle, shoes and dry bag – all of which went floating downstream – and got her safely back in her kayak. As we paddled along, she shared with me that it was no surprise to her that she went in the water, as she has been struggling with balance in her life for the last few months and was going to ponder “balance” for the remainder of the trip. I was proud of her and in her post-retreat comments, she said that falling in the river was the best part of the day. It made me smile when I read it.

Whatever is meant to happen on the water will happen. It is a great teacher, if we allow the lessons to surface. These women are working through a transition that is a daily challenge that many of us cannot understand, and yet it is no different than what we all face at some time in our lives. Transitions are necessary for personal growth, for healing and for becoming the authentic people we are meant to be.

Red Kayak Institute – Helping women in transition with addictions to RECLAIM THEMSELVES.

July found us in Cleveland, Ohio for the Pat Raynor Memorial Paddle. Pat bravely lived with the challenge of cancer until January, 2014. Her motto from the movie, Finding Nemo, was “Just Keep Swimming.” She was an inspiration to us all, and at her memorial paddle, a scholarship fund for future cancer retreats was established in her memory.

This retreat was all about transitioning through grief. Grief is a strange and unwelcome companion. She holds us in an unfamiliar space and we lose our sense of what is “normal”, because there is no normal. Her veil clouds our every movement, and the shadow is different every day. How we process our grief and how long it takes true healing to burst through the clouds is a personal journey, with no time frame and no instruction manual.

Her friends and loved ones gathered for a day of silence on the water. The group sharing session after the paddle was amazing, as I watched this closely knit group open their hearts to bear their grief with each other.

One retreater wrote afterwards, “As I shared with everyone, grief was the most weighing on me. So, I threw a stone in the water to lessen the weight. Honestly, I have been 10 times better since then. I have not wallowed in my grief for Pat since, and that’s what Pat wanted for me too! Figuring out that grief is what I wanted to release, announcing it in front of everyone and then burning it on the spot was very impactful for me. Pat is surely smiling!”

Red Kayak Institute – Helping women in transition with grief to RECLAIM THEMSELVES.

A beautiful September morning at the Saganashkee Slough graced our final cause retreat for the year.

2014 year in transition

The Jan Malloy Memorial Paddle was held at in collaboration with Mother McAuley High School, the largest all-girls catholic high school in the country. Jan was the Alumnae Coordinator there and since her passing from ovarian cancer in September, 2009 a scholarship has been established in her memory at the school. All proceeds, over $4,000, from this retreat benefited her scholarship fund.

This retreat was about a mixture of transitions, from a paddler sharing unprocessed grief for the loss of her father 21 years ago to small, everyday transitions of balancing work, family and self. One of our token male retreaters shared a poem he wrote from a place on the Slough we call Ponder Cove. It read like this:

“The water is my world. When calm, all seems peaceful. Rough waters occur time to time. I must try to think calm, smooth waters to make my life more meaningful, restful, and less stressful.
Paddle fast and you will reach a safe cove. Try to paddle slowly more often so as not to miss the beauty of life along the way. Also the faster you paddle the more tired you become. You will still meet the journey’s end but you will have missed so much along the way!
Our collective goal is the same: to reach safe harbor, see our fellow travelers and gaze on the face of the “Great Harbor Master” of souls.”

Every day we experience life’s changes and losses, and although seemingly insignificant, when unprocessed, they bond to each other inside our hearts until they become a weighty and unexplainable “something” that needs to be released.

Red Kayak Institute – Helping people with everyday transitions to RECLAIM THEMSELVES.

This is the time of year for noticeable transitions. The weather is changing and the season of winter, which brings the silence of contemplation, places its blanket of quiet upon us. The holidays are upon us, and we move through the hustle and bustle, often without time of reflection, and then wonder where the time went. A new year is approaching, and it is the perfect time to look back, revisit noteworthy shifts of the year and place our intentions upon the altar of 2015. May you transition well as you paddle on into the new.


What was the biggest change or transition in your life in 2014? Did you manage it easily, going with the flow, or did you resist?

Have you been able to see how this transition has helped you, regardless of its nature?

What one transition would you like to see for 2015, and how can you make that happen?

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