Make an inspiration wall


Grace’s inspiration wall

What inspires you? That’s the question we’ve been asking our employees during this year’s United Way campaign. Once again, the employees at Empire Life have blown me away by their generosity and willingness to be inspired by the incredible work United Way agencies do in our community and to make a difference.

There is so much in the world that is uninspiring today. It is rare to find something that compels you to feel or do something to create change in our society or something unique or beautiful.

I get my inspiration from my children, my friends and co-workers, and the natural surroundings of where I live.

The other day, Clare told me she wanted to start a new project: to create an inspiration wall. She started looking up inspirational sayings online. Her plan was to print them out and post them around her room. (Her teacher said she couldn’t do this at school if you can believe it). Grace created a similar inspiration wall a few years ago.

We need to be inspired at work, at home and in our community.

This week’s #HappyAct is to create your own Inspiration Wall. Here are some of the sayings Clare planned to use on her wall. Leave a comment. What inspires you?

“Happiness is found when you stop comparing yourself to other people.”

“When we get to the end of our lives together; the house we had, the cars we drove, the things we possessed won’t matter. What will matter is that I had you by my side.”

“You can never cross the ocean unless you have the courage to lose sight of the shore.”

“When it rains, look for rainbows. When it’s dark, look for stars.”

“If plan A didn’t work, the alphabet has 25 more letters.”


An inspiration wall created by Empire Life customer service teams who adopted the Kingston Youth Shelter for this year’s campaign–there were posters like this all over the floor to encourage people to bring in donations for what the shelter needs.

Hail to the harvest moon

harvest-moonLast night, I drove to Kingston to meet friends for dinner. As I got closer to Kingston, I could see the moon starting to crest the treetops across the fields. The giant orange orb played peek a boo, before revealing itself and rising magnificently in the sky.

This summer and fall have been spectacular for full moons. September was the harvest moon, the full moon closest to the start of the autumnal equinox. Last night’s moon was a supermoon, when the moon is closest to the earth.

Throughout the year, the moon rises about 50 minutes later each day. The Harvest Moon rises only 23 minutes later each day, giving the illusion of experiencing full moons over several consecutive days.

In astrological circles, full moons can portend times of change in your life or flashes of insight or perspective. Common mythology also has it that full moons are times when crazy things can happen. When I used to work in a hospital, the nurses swore they saw the wildest things on nights when there was a full moon.

Whether you believe this or not, there is something spiritual and powerful about a full moon.

This week’s #HappyAct is to keep your fingers crossed that the skies clear and witness the rise of the supermoon. Let the power of its light inspire positive change in your life and revel in its mystical beauty.

Walk a country road

Woman and dog walking on country road

Our road with our new yellow line. Clare liked this angled picture best

It’s another glorious Thanksgiving weekend.

When Dave and I used to live in the city, we’d go for a drive in October in the Caledon Hills or the Hockley Valley. This area will always have a special place in our heart, because it’s where we got married 24 years ago this month.

As much as the drive was beautiful, I would yearn to get out of the car and walk the country roads.

There’s something special about walking a country road. Seeing the farms and fields ablaze in autumnal hues, feeling the warmth of the fall sun on your face, gazing up at piercing blue skies that perfectly frame nature’s masterpiece, and wondering what picturesque view lies beyond the next bend in the road.


Clare took this amazing picture of a mushroom village we discovered

Yesterday, Clare and I walked our country road. Today, I plan to discover new roads with my best friend Leslie as we go on the Westport studio tour. I can’t imagine a better way to spend Thanksgiving Sunday.

This week’s #HappyAct is to escape for an hour this weekend from family gatherings and gobfuls of turkey and get out and walk a country road. Enjoy the brilliant sunshine, fall colours and promise of adventure around every curve.

Ed. note: Interesting side fact. Until this year, our road never had a yellow line. The roads crew painted it on Canada Day weekend. We cheered when we saw them (when you live in the country, this is our excitement), but I’m still not used to it. Maybe when winter comes, I’ll appreciate our bright yellow line.

Poison ivy

Poison ivy leaves turn a beautiful red in the fall, but they are still lethal–avoid them at all costs!

Country road

Say what you mean

cat in the hat say what you meanWhy can’t people just say what they mean?

Being clear and honest would solve so many problems.

Relationships would be stronger because we would forge stronger connections from shared understanding.

There would be less uncertainty and confusion in the world.

We would make less mistakes.

We would save precious time from trying to interpret what the other person is saying or what they want.

Saying what we mean could also help advance our interests.

Look at Donald Trump. One of the key reasons he has gotten this far in the U.S. presidential race is because he says what he means. If Hillary Clinton stopped playing the political game, and just once, came out and blasted him, and said what she really felt, I wonder if she would see a spike in the polls in her favour.

Our reluctance to say what we mean is even more of an epidemic at work.

There are some professions where I swear they actually train you to speak in euphemisms and jargon. It drives me crazy.

Last week I got an email from a colleague. The first line was, “Here is the PPT that I presented to the RLT based on the work that the INV team did.”

Now, as it turns out, I actually understood the email because sadly, I’ve worked there long enough that half of these terms are second nature to me. But god help any new person in the organization, or someone who isn’t exposed to jargon and acronyms as much as I am.

Saying what you mean is even more important for some people, for instance, people with autism.

Because Grace has a tendency to interpret everything I say literally, I’ve learned to be as specific as possible in my language. For instance if I said, “I don’t care if you want to do X, you have to get your homework done first” or whatever the issue we were discussing, she would literally interpret it that I didn’t care about her. Having an autistic child makes you think about your language choice very carefully.

Of course, there are times, when it is better to not say what you mean. Here are some golden rules of communication to keep in mind:

  1. Think before you speak.
  2. If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.
  3. Always think about whether your words could be interpreted the wrong way or how they would make the person feel.

As Maya Angelou once said, “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

This week’s #HappyAct is to say what you mean, keeping in mind the golden rules. Share a comment. Why do you think people don’t say what they mean?

The Sounds of Silence

morning sunIt’s 8:30. I’m sitting in the sunroom sipping my morning coffee, the sun streaming through the windows.

The house is still.

Bella is sprawled full-length on the futon, one eye half-open. Murphy is lying quietly at my feet, occasionally stirring to scratch an itch.

Clare is curled up on the living room couch under a blanket, fast asleep. Grace is at a friend’s sleepover.

Dave, the early riser of the house, is still in bed.

I hear nothing.

No kids yelling. No phones ringing or devices beeping. No irritating noise of the TV in the background. No dogs barking.

Just the sounds of silence.

This week’s #HappyAct is to find a few precious minutes this week to enjoy a moment of peace, quiet and solitude.

Dog sleeping on couch



Girl sleeping

Sharing the happy and the bad

Photo album

A page from an old photo album of one of our family vacations in Maine

The other day I met my friend William for lunch. William, a loyal reader of my blog asked me a really funny question. He asked, “Do you plan crazy things each week as a family so you have something to blog about, or are all the fun things you do just a regular part of your life?”

His second question made me burst out laughing. He then asked, “How can it be that your family is so happy all the time?”

It made me think of that quote, “Remember, as far as anyone knows, our family is normal.”

For the record, our family is normal. The kids fight. Dave and I natter at each other over closing the closet doors, how to load the dishwasher, and which way the toilet paper roll should hang on the hanger. (Luckily with three women in the house, we’ve trained our only male to leave the toilet seat down). We have our issues and challenges. Heck we even have a teenager in the house—‘nuff said.

We have our share of bad days and sad days, but we tend not to share these online. When Dave’s Mom passed away last year, we grieved privately.

Some may accuse us of whitewashing our lives on social media and not being authentic. I think it’s only natural we share the happy times in our lives. It’s no different than the days of yesteryear of photo albums and memory books. If you open the dusty pages of an old photo album, what do you see? Pictures of babies being born, graduations, weddings–the special moments in our lives we want to capture, remember and cherish, not photos of times of tears or fears or uncertainty in our lives.

With time, our memories become whitewashed. These images become our past. It is as it should be.

The interesting thing with social media is it can equally compel us to share a glimpse into our authentic selves. I remember reading with tears in my eyes the heart-wrenching posts on Facebook by Jann Arden when her father passed away and Sheryl Sandberg when her husband passed away. These two incredible women bared their souls in a time of immense grief and undoubtedly helped scores of others dealing with loss in their lives.

This week’s challenge is to share something happy and something real online. Be authentic, but know it’s okay to share the happier times. After all, focusing on the good in our lives is not a bad thing.

Play tourist in your own town

Newspaper clipping of huge fish caughtOne of the things I love about living in Eastern Ontario is how easy it is to play tourist in your own town.

Yesterday, we took Clare and her friends to Eastern Ontario’s newest tourist attraction—The Aquatarium at Tall Ships Landing in Brockville. This was probably one of the most interactive, engaging tourist attractions I’ve visited and it was a definite hit with all ages.

Here’s our top 10 list of favourite things we did during our three-hour visit.

  1. Getting our picture taken with a huge mackerel and otter
  2. Broadcasting the weather live on Aquatarium News Network
  3. Rowing a skull in a virtual race
  4. Watching the otters at feeding time
  5. Racing sailboats in the wind tunnel
  6. Doing a ropes course of barrels, masts and planks
  7. Learning about water and how locks work
  8. Gazing at fish through portholes and glass tunnels
  9. Touching starfish and crabs in the touch tank
  10. Discovering the secret passage in the captain’s lounge

Sound like fun? Aye captain. This week’s #HappyAct is to play tourist in your own town this month.

Kingston friends: Next weekend, there’s three premier events you won’t want to miss in our own backyard—the Tall Ships are sailing into Brockville, the 180th Kingston Fall Fair takes over the Memorial grounds, and the North American police equestrian championships are taking place at Kingston Penitentiary with proceeds to United Way.

Aquatarium at Tall Ships Landing

Girls looking at fish from a porthole