Call a cottage day

deck chairs on a dock

On Friday, when the temperatures were forecasted to soar into the thirties, I said to Dave, “I’m calling a cottage day”.

You don’t need to actually own a cottage to call a cottage day. A cottage day is when you pretend you are at somebody else’s cottage, where there’s no laundry or chores calling your name and you spend the entire day lounging around, relaxing on the deck reading books, playing games, eating and drinking.

It’s a day where you give yourself permission to do whatever you want and not even think about housework or chores.

I slept in, read a magazine while eating my breakfast, did a few things around the house, then headed to the lake. I read my book on the dock, threw the ball endlessly for Benny in the lake, went for a long paddle and three long swims, before heading up to have lunch on the back deck.

After lunch, I took a nap in the screened porch, then we went to our local farmer’s market to stock up on fresh greens and bread for dinner. It was exactly what I needed and the perfect panacea after a busy week and month.

Years ago, after we got married, Dave and I had the great debate. Do we save and buy a cottage property, or buy a home on the water? Two big factors swayed us to our decision to buy a year-round waterfront home.

The first was we were both absolutely useless at home renovations, repairs and maintenance. The idea of maintaining two properties was just not in the cards for us.

The second was our decision to move out of the Greater Toronto Area to north of Kingston where lakefront properties abound. We made it a goal the minute we moved down here to own lakefront and bought our little piece of paradise six years later and have never looked back.

Now Dave’s favourite thing is to go fishing on Sunday nights after supper. When we’re out on the boat, he always says the same thing. “If we were up at a cottage, we’d be stuck in traffic right now driving back to the city.” Then he casts his line into the still waters, the setting sun casting a warm glow behind him, and turns to me and smiles.

The perfect end to the perfect cottage day.

This week’s #HappyAct is to call a cottage day. Enjoy!

The Camera Roll of Life

Dave and his father

Sometimes, when life is a blur, I like to look back on my camera roll to remind me of all the things I’ve done in the past month. It reminds me that no matter how busy and tired I am, I’m blessed to live such a full life, filled with good friends, good food, people who love me no matter what, and lots of fond memories. Here are some of my favourite pictures from my camera roll this month.

What’s on your camera roll? Tell me about your favourite photos in the comments.

Pictured above: We had Dave’s Dad visiting us last week and we went for a drive up to Wheeler’s Pancake House for breakfast. If you’ve never tried their maple breakfast sausages, they are definitely worth the drive!

Woman holding a basket of herbs

This is my friend Audrey. We went to the Frontenac Women’s Chorus spring concert and Audrey won the door prize, this beautiful herb basket!

Bride and groom to be feeding each other cupcakes

These are my friends Steve and Katie. They’re getting married in June and I went to their stag and doe. Here they are feeding each other cupcakes blindfolded.

Grace, Dave and two golden retrievers

We love dog visitors and one of our favourites, Rip came to stay with us for a few days this month. It’s also been great having Grace home.

Man in front of a garden

One night after work last week I stopped by to drop off my seedlings fundraiser money to my friends Helen and Roger. Roger gave me a tour of his beautiful gardens.

Girls hockey team

This weekend, Clare competed in a hockey tournament in Kingston. She played six games in three days. They took home silver.

Do it for you

Neil Pasricha's Happiness Equation

I’ve just finished reading two books, Neil Young’s biography Wage Heavy Peace and Neil Pasricha’s New York Times Bestseller from 2016, The Happiness Equation.

Both were great reads and even though they were very different books, the authors shared a common message: to be happy and successful in life, you have to do it for you.

I didn’t know much about Neil Young before I read his biography, other than he grew up in Omemee (pronounced Oh-me-me) outside of Peterborough and of course his music, since I’m a big fan.

To say he’s led an interesting, incredible life is an understatement, but I was surprised to learn of all the health challenges, personal tragedy and struggles he’s shared in his life from polio as a child, to back surgeries, grief and loss.

Throughout, music has been his inspiration, solace, escape and passion. I wasn’t aware of his other passions in life–his love of old cars, model trains and his quest to revolutionize sound by developing technology to restore the purity of records through his company Pona and interest in electric vehicles through his Lincvolt project. What an amazing guy.

Did he pursue any of these things because his record labels wanted him to, or to sell records or ingratiate himself with fans? No, he did it for himself.

Young insisted on festival seating for all his indoor shows, even though it meant less money for the band because he wanted people who were stoked to be there at the front of the stage instead of “rich folk on cell phones”, saying the feeling of the shows and experience for the band and audience was much better. He once had his manager rewrite the contracts for a tour already booked because they hadn’t included festival seating.

A writer once accused him of compiling his archives just to further his own legend “whatever that is”. He writes, “What a shallow existence that would be…” and then in classic Neil Young fashion, “it pissed me off.”

In The Happiness Equation, Parischa openly admits he was a victim of his own success early in his career, equating happiness with more book sales, speaking engagements and the number of hits on his blog.

Parischa talks about intrinsic and extrinsic motivators, saying the happiest people are driven by intrinsic motivation. They eschew the critics, the pressure to do what others want them to do, and they forge their own path. He quotes John Lennon who once famously said, “I’m not judging whether ‘I Am the Walrus’ is a better or worse than ‘Imagine’. It is for others to judge. I am doing it. I do. I don’t stand back and judge…I do.”

This week’s #HappyAct is to take it from the Neils and do it for you.

Roots and Wings

Me and my daughter on the beach in South Carolina

I once read the greatest thing you can do for your children is to give them roots and wings.

Roots where there is…

People who love them unconditionally

A shoulder to cry on

Food in the fridge

A hug to share

Doggies to cuddle with

Respite from the daily stresses of life

A sympathetic ear

…no matter how messy their room is

Wings to…

Venture out on their own

Race down mountains on skis

Swim across lakes

And win face-offs at centre ice

Set their own study and work schedules

Discover what they’re good at

Make their own decisions and mistakes

And tackle the world on their own terms

…even if it means worrying and sleepness nights

To my beautiful girls Grace and Clare, I’m so proud of you. It has been a privilege to watch you find your wings and soar. Know we’ll always be here for you.

Grace and Clare packing hampers for the Salvation Army
Clare at centre ice playing hockey
Grace in the boat with Bentley at sunset

The Summer Side of Life

This week, a part of Canada died. Gordon Lightfoot passed away at the age of 84.

A troubadour and master storyteller, his soothing voice and spellbinding lyrics captured the essence of life, love and everything Canadiana, making him one of our most beloved national artists of all time.

Here are songs and lyrics from my favourite Gordon Lightfoot songs of all time to add to your playlist, a tribute to the man and legend. Even now, as I read these lyrics and listen to the beautiful strains of his guitar, my eyes well up.

Song for a Winter’s Night

The lamp is burnin’ low upon my table top
The snow is softly falling
The air is still in the silence of my room
I hear your voice softly calling

If I could only have you near
To breathe a sigh or two
I would be happy just to hold the hands I love
On this winter night with you

Christian Island

I’m sailing down the summer wind
I’ve got whiskers on my chin
And I like the mood I’m in
As I while away the time of day
In the lee of Christian Island

Minstrel of the Dawn

The minstrel boy will understand
He holds a promise in his hand
He talks of better days ahead
And by his words your fortunes read
Listen to the pictures flow
Across the room into your mind they go
Listen to the strings
They jangle and dangle
While the old guitar rings

Canadian Railroad Trilogy

There was a time in this fair land when the railroad did not run
When the wild majestic mountains stood alone against the sun
Long before the white man and long before the wheel
When the green dark forest was too silent to be real

The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald

Lake Huron rolls, Superior sings
In the rooms of her ice-water mansion

Pussywillows Cattails

Pussywillows, cat-tails, soft winds and roses
Rain pools in the woodland, water to my knees
Shivering, quivering, the warm breath of spring

Don Quixote

Through the woodland, through the valley
Comes a horseman wild and free
Tilting at the windmills passing
Who can the brave young horseman be


At times I just don’t know
How you could be anything but beautiful
I think that I was made for you
And you were made for me

The Last Time I Saw Her Face

Her eyes were bathed in starlight
And her hair hung long
The last time she spoke to me,
Her lips were like the scented flowers
Inside a rain-drenched forest
But that was so long ago
That I can scarcely feel
The way I felt before

Here’s a clip of Lightfoot performing That’s What You Get For Loving Me with Johnny Cash in 1969.

RIP Gord.

The Crap Joy Ratio

Penny Marshall quote, "If you're not having a good time, find something else that gives you some joy in life."

Sometimes you find inspiration in the least likely of places.

I often glance at the obituaries in my local newspaper. This morning, I was reading the obit from an accomplished doctor, Dr. Nicholas Evans. The caption under his photo read, “I have used my days well.”

He was Chief of Gastroenterology at The Toronto Western Hospital and a world leader in the research of the gut-brain interaction. What struck me the most was the majority of the column was devoted to his family and life outside of work. One paragraph in particular captured my attention.

His family wrote, “He shared his life-long belief in the ‘Joy/Crap’ ratio with generations of family, friends and colleagues in need of guidance. Everything in life can be distilled down to one simple question—does the crap outweigh the joy? If so, you have your answer, follow the joy, ditch the crap and change what you can to ensure the joy always outweighs the crap.”

So my friends, what is your crap/joy ratio? This week’s #HappyAct is to make one change to achieve a healthier ratio. Ditch the crap. Find the joy.

And if you need a smile, along the same vein of dealing with life’s crap:

Watch the world go by

boy on beach

My mother-in-law once said the biggest change she had seen in her lifetime was no one just sits anymore.

On my last sunny beach day in South Carolina a few weeks ago, I just sat on the beach and watched the world go by.

There were families who lugged their beach carts to the same spot they had the day before, filled to the brim with plastic sand shovels, coolers, colourful beach chairs and umbrellas. Before the adults could set up even one chair, the kids would grab the beach toys and run with glee towards the water and furiously start digging in the sand.

There were surf fisherman who sat close to shore, the water lapping up on their toes as their lines bounced in the white-flecked waves.

There were lots and lots of dogs, since it was a pet friendly beach. German shepherds, labs, a grizzled old golden retriever that lay beside its owners in a small patch of shade beside their chair, and breeds I never even knew existed like the German Elo (who was named Murphy, by the way, just like our old dog Murph).

There were osprey soaring in the brilliant blue skies, splashing into the surf to catch their lunch, then lifting slowly and wobbily, a fresh catch in their talons. There were pelican armies flying in formation patrolling the picturesque shoreline, and gulls, terns and sandpipers tiptoeing in the grainy sands.

And best of all there were dolphins. Spied first far, far out in the ocean. Their fins cresting out of the water in graceful intervals. Then closer to shore, coming near my two teenagers splashing in the waves. I try to yell at them to look, but they just wave back, oblivious of the magnificent creatures sharing the ocean’s expanse.

I couldn’t believe how many dolphins I spied that day. There were multiple pods, some playing in the waves, leaping in the white crests of the surf and blowing and chuffing as they came up for air. They must have known the weather was about to change and decided to enjoy their final day on the beach frolicking in the waves.

Yes, spending a day watching the world go by is a bit of a luxury in today’s world, but I highly recommend it…especially at the beach.

Ed. note: The photos below were all taken in the evening since I didn’t bring my phone to the beach during the day so they don’t capture the images I’ve described above, but I hope you enjoy them anyway.

terns and pipers on beach
deserted beach
Grace and Clare swimming in the ocean at sunset
Woman and her daughter on the beach

Don’t meet your life away

meeting schedule

Are meetings the bane of your existence? Recently, Shopify introduced a new policy that cancels all recurring meetings with more than two people in an effort to give employees time back in their day so they can actually do work.

The company has instituted a six-hour window on Thursdays for large meetings, and they’re encouraging employees to decline other meetings, and remove themselves from large internal chat groups.

Meeting mania has been sweeping workplaces for years, and only became worse during the pandemic when Zoom became a verb that became synonymous with fatigue and eye strain.

In my old job, I probably spent anywhere from 3-4 hours a day in meetings, and my meeting schedule was considered light compared to most other managers.

In my new bridge retirement job, I have very few meetings. I just work. What a novel concept.

Here are some tips on how you can reduce the number of meetings in your work day and increase your job satisfaction:

  • Book shorter meeting times: try 15-minute touch bases or half-hour meetings instead of a full hour
  • List all the meetings where you’re just mainly listening in and not really participating. Chances are, you don’t need to be there. Decline and clear your schedule.
  • Have 5 or 6 items you need to ask your boss? Book one 15-minute touch base or save your questions up for a regular weekly meeting
  • Call or video chat people. This is an interesting one given nobody uses the phone anymore, and some people are reluctant to video chat you if you don’t have a time booked on your calendar, but often a quick 5-minute chat can get you the answers you need without another meeting filling up your calendar
  • Set an ideal work to meeting ratio, then stick to it. This will be highly role dependent. The ratio for a web developer for example may be 10:1 (so in a 40 hour work week, 36 hours of work to 4 hours of meeting) whereas for a Vice-President, it may be more like 4:6 (16 hours of work to 24 hours of meetings a week)

This week’s #HappyAct is to try working for a change, instead of meeting your life away.

Live in the cloud

Stunning orange clouds

In What if your best friend was a bot, we asked Siri what she looked like. She replied, “In the cloud, nobody cares what you look like”.

The height of irony? Maybe. But what a wonderful world it would be.

The trees of my life

Man sitting on bench on BC coast

The Toronto Star used to run a column on a neighbourhood tree. I’ve always loved trees, maybe that’s why I married a lumberjack.

By my count, I’ve either directly or indirectly had a hand or shovel in planting tens of thousands of trees in my lifetime.

As a summer student in the Forestry department at the City of Mississauga, we reforested city parks, my favourite being Saddington Park, a former landfill and now one of the prettiest parks in Mississauga with beautiful willows we planted swaying in the lake breezes.

My family has planted trees every spring and fall at Lemoine’s Point Conservation area as part of their annual tree planting program.

And for the past seven years or so, I’ve sold seedlings as a fundraiser for local non-profit organizations like the Sydenham Lake Canoe Club. I’m looking forward to seeing my regular clients again this spring and hearing where they planted their trees from last year, how big they’ve grown, and what their plans are for this year’s seedlings.

Some days when I’m feeling down about the effects of climate change and our inertia as a global community to address it, I think about the trees I’ve helped to plant and it makes me feel better.

So this week’s #HappyAct is a photo essay, a tribute if you will, to the trees of my life.

Above: Dave beside arbutus trees on the Sunshine Coast in British Columbia

trees overlooking a lake

The beautiful pine trees off my back deck

Family sitting on a patio at a golf course

I always loved this pine tree at the 18th green at our local golf course in Verona. It came down in a storm a few years ago.

Magnolia tree in a restaurant courtyard

Magnolia trees in Chez Piggy courtyard, one of my favourite patios in Kingston

trees in Stamp River Provincial Park

Tree canopy in Stamp River Provincial Park in Alberni, BC

trees in the fall

Trees near the magic waterfall in the woods where I walk

Girl holding seedlings

Clare helping me sell trees as a fundraiser

Palm trees at dusk

Palm trees from the Carolinas, where we vacation every year

willow trees
Trees I planted 30 years ago in Saddington Park, Mississauga
Arbutus tree

Arbutus tree in British Columbia

Trees in the mist

More from my back deck, definitely my happy place