Risk Takers / Denise Arsenault



Denise Arsenault at work.

I’ve started a new interview series here on the blog, called “Risk Takers.” The reason is that I’m feeling “poised” these days, on the edge of whatever will come after I graduate in June from my two-year design program at NSCC. (I’m wondering things like, Will I find a job? Where? Will I start my own business? But how? And so on.) All of this change happening in my own life makes me keenly aware of risk.

Risk is part of life, and it’s possible to take risks wherever you are in your life, but it comes to the forefront when you’re at a cross-roads, for sure. And then you wonder to yourself, should I take a risk? I’m often quite scared of taking risks, and feel anxiety about the unknown, just like everyone else.

So this is a selfish series, really! It’s to inspire me and remind me that risks can be exciting, that they can bring growth and beauty. And that everyone goes through the anxieties of taking risks, and that you have to go through them to get something worthwhile on the other side. So I’m going to be reaching out to people who’ve taken risks and done interesting things, and sharing their stories, and I hope it brings you some of that inspiration too!

Today’s featured Risk Taker is Denise Arsenault. She is my “birthday twin,” we’re both born on April 22nd. We met at a dinner at the Dancing River Sprite several years ago, and became fast friends. She is honest, open and down-to-earth, and I just love what she had to say when I asked her about taking risks. Here are her answers to my questions:

1) What is your name, age, and where do you live?

Denise Arsenault, 27!

I live in Cheticamp, Nova Scotia, where my parents moved when I was 3 months old, where we lived with my grandparents until we eventually moved into my grandmothers cabin that we transformed into our home. I was born in Sydney and had a lot of family there and we spent a lot of time there, but I always say I was born and raised in Cheticamp. Cheticamp is what has molded me.


Denise’s partner Jonny and their son Hunter.


Denise on the job, looking safe!

2) What are your passions?

Motherhood, attachment/instinctual parenting, cheerleading/dancing/fitness/yoga, volunteering and helping others, green and natural living, saving the planet, reading (this is new), and learning!

So in short, I guess my passion is Life! And creating a better world for all to live in, creating a better life for myself, my family and all those around me. I feel that all the troubles in the world come back to kids, to these tiny little beings and that they have the power to change everything, but it’s our responsibility to guide them to become world-changing beings, earth-appreciating humans. Children, babies, life: fascinates me. The idea that you can create living breathing babies, is just amazing, with all the intricate details of their organs, veins, teeny-tiny toenails. Just a few years ago I remember thinking how amazing it was that I could grow food out of a single tiny seed.


The view from Denise’s home, of Cheticamp Island.


3) Do you take risks in business, or in life? What are they?

I don’t think of myself as a risk taker, and I can think a lot and very hard and can’t come up with anything awesome that I have done, although when someone else looks at my life, they think my experiences are so cool.

I’ve traveled quite a bit, starting when I was 13 and went on a choir trip to Ottawa, I went on to travel to Lousiana with a dance group, Paris with my graduating class, New York and New Jersey with my family, Cuba and finally, I flew out West to Calgary to pick up my partner to prepare for our cross-country journey home in a 1966 Chevy Biscayne (the radiator of which had blown up a couple nights prior). We went as West as Banff before driving for 2 weeks back to Cape Breton, stopping in every Province for a night, meeting people along the way and stopping in every community we could. When you think of it, we could have shipped the car and my partner could have flown home, but where’s the fun in that? How many opportunities does one get to travel across their home country, native land?

I am always willing to try new things career wise, and I like to move ahead quickly. I’ve ventured into a few entrepreneurial businesses already in my short life and am always thinking in entrepreneurial ways, even about things that our communities need that may be business ventures.

I started a home-based business in direct sales when I was 19, selling makeup and skin care. This was an invaluable experience in mistakes alone! Then I tried my hand at direct sales of sensual products and I’ve been with the company for 4 years and doing great! I’ve learned so much with this company when it comes to sales, marketing, selling techniques, advertising and so much more!

I work on a ferry that crosses the Cabot Strait daily, and I guess that is a risk all of its own. I’m very forward about learning my ship and all necessary life-saving measures and equipment, which is much different than the rest of the crew in my department. My latest risk involving my career is surrounding a current opportunity with a company. I’m not divulging too much information yet because I need to complete a course, get certified and complete training before I can begin ground work with the company but this is an opportunity for me to stay at home (by home I mean my little jobless community I am so desperately trying to hold onto, for reasons unknown other than family, a few friends and sheer beauty of the land, this place has me by the heart and I can never find the right reasons to leave). This career will provide me with flexibility (geographical and schedule wise), income, a great work environment and an opportunity to help people where they need it the most!

Life has really changed for me since my divorce. I think hitting rock bottom really changes a person and for me, it made me realize that there is really nothing to be afraid of and you only lose by not taking advantage of opportunities that may present themselves. I used to be very calculated, and thought I could plan life, but now, we take life day by day, accepting whatever challenges and opportunities that come our way. I seem to be the first of my age group and peers to do things, buy a house, get married, have a baby. I make a lot of mistakes for that reason, I have no one to learn from. I guess, I have always taken risks.

I can remember my first day in university. I only knew 2 people that went there, who both lived on campus and never seen them, never went to frosh week and had just stepped foot on campus with no idea where to find anything and knew no one to ask. The cafeteria was packed, there may have been 1 table open. I got my food and I looked around the cafeteria, I walked over to a random group of people and asked if they minded if I sat with them! I did this every day for a week, and by the end of the week, I had made so many friends, some of them I consider best friends to this day.

Later in life, I volunteered for committees and groups, never knowing what I would get myself into. I’ve tried to get things off the ground for activities in my community for my son. I make suggestions that people don’t think of, to make things better and enhance our quality of living. We are taking risks every day in our family, we never know where we are going to end up, we know it will be where God intends, and have faith that He’s leading us in the right direction.


Denise has donated hair twice. Pictured here, her 8″ ponytail was part of a team for Relay for Life in Cheticamp.

4) Have you ever felt discouraged, unconfident, or unsure of what you’re doing? What do you do when that happens? (Think of this, too, as advice for others who might feel that way.)

I often feel discouraged. I don’t know what it is about living in rural Cape Breton but I feel so often, any innovative ideas are shot down faster than game during hunting season! I remember when I first moved back home and I was a volunteer coach for a cheerleading team, and they needed a lot of funds! I had came up with all these great, new ideas, that no one had seen before, from my cheerleading days in university. People are always complaining about buying tickets or chocolate bars and so much of the money is lost. I came up with high profitability fundraisers, with little effort and they didn’t even get a second thought after being mentioned. Same when I tried it with my brother’s sports team. Well, it was enough to make me feel like shutting my mouth and never spouting an idea ever again! I went on to provide invaluable insight and ideas to more committees and projects that I can count so it was a good thing I didn’t.

Feeling discouraged is a normal feeling, but it’s important to remember that life goes on, your learn from whatever it is that made you feel discouraged. When I was 19, I invested $3500 in my little makeup business, that’s before interest and other business expenses. I never made that back, I never broke even. That’s discouraging, with my [now ex-] husband in the background telling me “I told you so” over and over. I don’t dwell on that, or even regret it. I learned a lot from that business, it was an investment to learn how to run a business, and when I started with the next company, I knew that I didn’t want an inventory. I shopped around for a company that would allow me to start without an inventory, and I’ve had major success!

I learned there is no shame is quitting… Sometimes, the circumstances are not right, it does not mean you are a failure. I quit the makeup buisness. I had so much guilt over quitting and it felt like a failure, but it had nothing to do with me. It had to do with my market, my customers, and my product. It wasn’t what they wanted, I needed something more suited to my area, my customers, and my market.

I always try to find the positive of a situation, a lot of people get annoyed by it because they just want to vent and although I am never trying to discredit their feelings, I am trying to provide a positive that they may not see. The power of positive thinking is really an amazing thing, and I use it whenever my partner is having a hard day at work, at the other end of the country, and I tell him to keep his chin up, things will get better, hard days make us stronger. When he complains about how much work they did that day, I remind him how much easier it will be to go back to what they were doing previously!

When I really can’t see the path out of the darkness, when I really feel like there is no end in sight or no light at the end of the tunnel, I simply pray. Pray for guidance, for strength and for courage to do the things I need to do. I go to bed, and its like magic! When I wake up, its a whole new day! Brand new, and I get to start over. On my worst days, I just think to myself, you’ve just gotta make it to the end of the day, because tomorrow, is a brand new day! One of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever received was in regards to my breastfeeding journey (but really can be applied to any facet of life): “Don’t give up on your hardest day.” You’ll have good days and bad days.

If you really want to talk about feeling discouraged, doubtful, unconfident, then ask me about parenting, especially in a way that is different than the cultural norms. Judging and questioning your every decision becomes a way of life especially when you are getting so much mixed advice about what is the right way to do something, anything.


Denise as a rad cheerleader in university.


5) How has taking risks paid off for you? What good things have they brought to you, that you are grateful for?

Taking risks means gaining experience. Even if the outcomes are not as expected, it’s never a bad thing. If you fail, you use that knowledge to propel yourself forward for the next time. I’ve made a ton of friends and networks that I can reach out to to accomplish anything. I have built myself a great reputation in town for being a hard worker, smart, dedicated, successful, and someone people can call on if they need something done or need someone they can count on. In turn, that means that I can seek the same from those people. When I do ask for help, there is a whole community at my fingertips who appreciate all the hard work I’ve put in volunteering and the difference I have made in the community.

I’ve gained so much experience, I’ve had so many experiences, without them all, I wouldn’t be the person I am today. I fear I would be home, every weeknight, watching tv with my ex-husband, not contributing to the world. Not really feeling happy, but maybe just a void of being sad. That’s not what I want, I want to give, I want to give back, I want to teach my son that you do great things in life without expecting anything in return. Sometimes, the only thing I get in return is the awesome feeling of having helped someone out! That’s all I need.

What I’m grateful for, is the person I have become. A well-rounded, well-spoken, intelligent, problem-solving, innovative and forward-thinking individual, with like-minded aquaintances, with a partner that gives me all the freedom I need to be myself, and make mistakes, and learn who it is I want to be, and of course I’m grateful for the family we’ve built. I’m grateful for creating a place I can call home, a place I don’t need to escape from and a place I don’t need a vacation from! I’m grateful for a life I can be thankful for every day and think of how lucky I am to live here, with the most important people in the world.

The first two interviews in this series are with Jenni Welsh and Hailey Isadore. For more Q+As with rad Cape Bretoners go to my Interviews page.

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multitude monday / may 5


A tomato plant for sale at the first North Sydney Farmers Market of the season, yesterday.

My friend and classmate Katie MacLennan writes a great blog called Polka Dot Soup. On it she writes a post some Mondays called “Multitude Monday.” About the feature, she writes, “Mondays are about documenting the little (or big!) things in life that make me oh-so-happy. Let’s make Mondays a day to reflect on the goodies, and not the baddies.”

A few months ago I read Brené Brown’s book “Daring Greatly,” in which she writes, “The shudder of vulnerability that accompanies joy is an invitation to practice gratitude, to acknowledge how truly grateful we are for the person, the beauty, the connection, or simply the moment before us.”

(The last Multitude Monday post I wrote, last week, is here.)

Here are the ten things right now that I’m thankful for:

61. Laughter yoga on Saturday at Green Lotus in Sydney was goofy and so much fun. I could go to that once a week! Imagine if such a thing were mandatory around the world? We might just have world peace, I think.

62. A beautiful concert at the Chanterelle Inn in North River, accompanied by my good friend Jacquie, where I got to see my friend Carmel Mikol and her friends The Modern Grass do their amazing magic stuff.

63. Seeing old friends while at that concert — that geographic area and the people who live there are so special to me! (Here is a post about last year’s Writers Festival there, for a bit more info about the St. Ann’s Bay area.)

64. Falling asleep on Saturday afternoon out on the deck, in the sun, was medicine for the soul. I could hear the birds and feel the breeze. It was plus fifteen degrees. It was gorgeous.

65. On Sunday morning I slept in til 10, which is an item for gratitude in itself, and then got up and went to the brand-new North Sydney Farmers Market. I stayed there til 1:30 when it closed, and just loved chatting and catching up with friends, and meeting new people, and buying some local goodies. It was really well attended and just felt really great to go to a market in my new hometown!

66. My work term is going really, really well and I am so excited to go there each day! I’m learning a lot, and I just love that feeling, of happily soaking up new knowledge.

67. I love my dear Adam and I fall more in love with him every day. How is that even possible?! I’m not sure of the physics of it, but I’m so darn grateful for his love and his support. (Aww, I know, I’m a sap. And proud of it!)

68. These sweet rainbow stickers for my laptop’s keyboard makes my work fun, no matter what the task.

69. The feeling of excitement, generally, that I feel every day about life in Cape Breton these days. It’s a feeling like the one I got in New England a few years ago, visiting friends there. It felt exciting, like there were lots of rad people of all ages doing really neat stuff, being more sustainable and also having fun. There were times in my life when I wondered if I would feel that way, about this place, someday. And I’m so happy that I can honestly say that I do!

70. The grass is growing! The landscape is starting to awaken and turn green, in a subtle yet unmistakable way. And that just feels so good, deep down inside.

Have a great Monday!

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links loved: the Gaidhlig edition


Well, after spending one full work week at Colaisde Na Gaidhlig / The Gaelic College, I’m hooked on the Celtic culture! I suppose one can’t help it, being surrounded by it. The place is so lively! Margie’s office, where I have a little desk (and it really is wee, I’ll have to show you a picture sometime), is right next door to the Tartan Room, where the master kiltmaker and the apprentice kiltmaker make, well, kilts, but also hats, scarves and lots of other products for the Craft Shop downstairs. It’s great; as I’m working away on ads and posters I can hear the snick-snick-snick of scissors and the whirr of the sewing machine.

New this year, they’re making tartan infinity scarves, and I knew as soon as I saw them, I wanted one! My last name, Noble, is a sept of Clan Macintosh, so that’s the tartan mine will be made in. Pretty cool! I’ll show it to you all when it’s done!

Anyway, this Saturday I decided my “Links Loved” post would all be neat stuff I love and have found online, that have something to do with the Celtic culture I now find myself immersed in. Enjoy!

I love this high-waist tartan pencil skirt by Halifax-based designer Veronica MacIsaac.

This 1:41 video is an interview with that same designer.

Hilarious Rick Mercer visits the Gaelic College in 2010 for Celtic Colours, and gets to learn some Gaelic, wear the Great Kilt, and play a harp. You might even see someone you know! Video runs 6:47.

I might order myself this rad little notebook from a Scottish Etsy shop for my own ideas!

The videos on this page of the Gaelic College’s website are just adorable. (Kids speaking Gaelic!)

Beautiful music and beautiful design! Cape Breton fiddler Chrissy Crowley’s website.

A blogger’s walk through Killarney National Park in Ireland.

A Celtic-themed wedding photographed at Ingonish’s Keltic Lodge.

These embossed Celtic-knot cards (from an Etsy shop in Victoria, BC) are gorgeous!

An Edinburgh university study found that students taught all their subjects in Gaelic keep up with their English peers.

Learn a few sample Gaelic phrases from Mary Jane Lamond and Jim Watson on the Highland Village website.

Well I could go on… there is no shortage of beauty in the Celtic culture. But it’s time to get on with the weekend. Hope you have a great one!

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hello, spring

photo-2 photo

I was walking yesterday on my lunch break at the Gaelic College, down a little road off to the side called MacKillop Road.

The wind was warm and I could hear birds and a chipmunk. There was still some snow but not a lot. There is nothing like the feeling of springtime, even if it is a cool and mostly-rainy one. It feels so fresh and good.

Yesterday’s post about local food got a lot of comments when I posted it in the Facebook group that Alicia Lake started last year called “50% Local September Club”! Lots of inspiration for what’s either available now or what people stored over winter and are still eating, and conversation between people about what they’ve got.

OK now I must be off to work! Have a great Friday.

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local food this time of year?


I was cracking open a bulb of garlic last night to use in my and Adam’s supper, a bulb that my Mom grew in her garden, and it got me thinking about local food and wondering what a local-food-eater would be eating this time of year. This garlic is in great shape at the end of April, no little green sprouts yet, but the potatoes I used for the mashed potatoes were getting a bit black in spots. Mind you, the potatoes weren’t local, but from SuperStore. (The bag of “Farmer’s Market” brand Russets just says “Atlantic Harvest/Product of Canada” for a source.)

I’ve definitely gotten away from my local food habits, mainly since I moved out of my mother’s house two years ago. It was a lot easier to eat locally when she was doing so much of it already, and had two big freezers full of her own garden produce. I have no excuse, though, really: I simply have given in to the convenience of going to one big grocery store once a week to buy what I need to eat. I really want to make an effort this year to eat more local food and support the local food economy, and that will mean a bit of pushing myself out of my comfort zone, and also learning some new stuff.

So I’m curious, for those of you eating a mainly (or at least partly) local food diet: this time of year, when the gardens haven’t started yet, but there is still some food that is stored, what are you eating that’s local? Educate this gal!


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work term is great, and the time is flying

photo-2 photo-3 photo-4 photo-5 photo The last two days have flown by. Seriously, I am not quite sure where they went, so it’s good that I have photographic evidence!

Because I’m just not happy when I’m not blogging, I decided to write this quick post just after supper + showering, and just before finishing up a job application. (Which is just before a glass of wine, and then bed.)

I don’t actually have much to say, because I don’t know how much of the stuff I am working on for the Gaelic College I can share just yet — such is the nature of the graphic design business, I guess! Promotional stuff must be kept secret until it’s meant to be released.

But something I’ve been getting up close and personal with that I can share, is KitchenFest!, a brand new festival this year on the island. The materials I’m working on aren’t done yet (posters and some ads), but I’m working with some stuff that Margie has already designed, like the logo, and existing ads and posters, which is really rad. I get to take her InDesign and Photoshop files and work with them, and see how she sets them up and the little effects she puts on things. It’s such a great learning environment, for sure! And the other folks I’ve met so far — Gail, Jenny, Jenn, Rodney, Colin, Joyce, Darrell, Rita, and Laurie — are all super nice and sweet.


And then the sun came out at the end of the workday today, so that was nice. 🙂

Alright, onwards and upwards! When things quiet down a wee bit, I’ve got a great new piece for the Risk Taker series to (edit and then) share, and a post about my new 30Walks adventure to (write and then) share, and some posts to write about the books I’ve been reading. Whew! All good things in time, right? Or, something like that.

I hope you have a great day!

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multitude monday / april 28


My friend and classmate Katie MacLennan writes a great blog called Polka Dot Soup. On it she writes a post some Mondays called “Multitude Monday.” She writes, “Mondays are about documenting the little (or big!) things in life that make me oh-so-happy. Let’s make Mondays a day to reflect on the goodies, and not the baddies.”

A few months ago I read Brené Brown’s book “Daring Greatly,” in which she writes, “The shudder of vulnerability that accompanies joy is an invitation to practice gratitude, to acknowledge how truly grateful we are for the person, the beauty, the connection, or simply the moment before us.”

The last Multitude Monday post I wrote, a whole month ago, is here.

Here are the ten things right now that I’m thankful for:

51. Classes are done and my work term starts today!

52. Adam put new shelves in my office!! I geeked out a little a lot. I filled them with stuff and then went and got the bookcase that I was using in the bedroom for my clothes, and brought it in and filled it too, with all the books I’d had in storage. I am a very happy bee now, with my office nearing completion and all my books at hand! (My clothes are now in a big pile on the floor, but as Adam says, “Isn’t that how they are normally?”)

53. A great meeting in Baddeck on the weekend with the Bras d’Or Stewardship Society (I’m the Secretary) and then a lunch date with a lovely friend at the Bean There Cafe.

54. Crocuses and daffodils poking up out of the ground! Spring is here, ish.

55. A ginourmous sleep-in on Sunday. So much lazy! I was a bit grumpy to do my chores (laundry and dishes), as I was enjoying the lazy lifestyle so much.

56. Looking forward to another Laughter Yoga session next weekend!

57. My friend Katie’s baby is due this week!!

58. My rental car is swanky and has heated seats! A gal could get used to this.

59. Enjoying this quiet pop album by Malaysian artist Yuna a lot.

60. Having fun with my pal Jacquie making the “Share That You Care” graphics.

Have a grand Monday!

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