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

The three types of happiness

Quote from Aristotle: Happiness depends upon ourselvesPart 4 on the science of happiness

Are we consumed with the pursuit of happiness? ” Jamie Gruman of the Canadian Positive Psychology Association thinks so. He calls it “happyology”. If you consider this blog and the scores of books and articles telling us how to lead happier lives, you would be hard put to argue with him.

Earlier this year, I discovered an underlying science to this blog: all my posts fall into three categories of happiness.

  1. Hedonic: originating from the Greek philosopher Aristippus, hedonic happiness are acts that allow us to experience as much pleasure as possible while generally avoiding any painful experiences.
  2. Eudemonic: the pursuit of personal fulfillment, purpose and realizing your potential.
  3. Halyconic: to live in the moment and accept life without ambition to achieve or acquire more.

Most of us are familiar with hedonism, the pursuit of pleasure. It was Aristotle who challenged Aristippus’ definition of hedonic happiness. Aristotle believed that hedonic acts, while temporarily satisfying, would not result in long-term happiness. He believed that happiness depended on the cultivation of virtue, and the realization of our full potential as humans beings.

Gruman says halyconic happiness runs counterintuitive to everything we are taught. Go forward, be ambitious, live an active life, set goals and focus on achievements. What happened to just live in the moment? 

Some psychologists maintain that instead of focusing on happiness, we should focus on well-being, which is defined as the extent to which we feel comfortable, healthy, and satisfied with our lives.

What’s the difference? A person might use drugs or alcohol to feel happy, but this is a short-term emotion and has serious consequences for their physical and mental health and will likely lead to unhappiness.

In my very first blog post, I wrote that the phrase, “the pursuit of happiness” is hogwash. Happiness is not a destination. You don’t find it or achieve it. Happiness is a state of being, a continuum.

This week’s #HappyAct is to continue on this journey with me. Join me in the ongoing exploration of what it means to be happy, one hedonistic, eudemonic or halyconic happy act at a time. Bonus act: Help me realize my eudemonic self by sharing this post.

Fall Fan Fair

Girls from 4H club

Grace and her 4H friends in the pens before the goat show

Demolition derbys, horse pulls, rides and greasy food. You know it’s fall in Ontario when the fall fair rolls into town.

Yesterday, we spent the day at the Coe Hill Fair, just south of Bancroft. Grace is a member of the Napanee 4H Goat Club and she was showing her goat, Cloud in the goat show.

The Coe Hill Fair was founded in 1882. Before automobiles, a special train came from Trenton to bring exhibitors and fair goers to the fairgrounds. Today, the Coe Hill train station sits on the fairgrounds.

You never know what you will find or who you will meet at a fall fair. As soon as we walked into the fairgrounds, we met friends Reg and Barb Watson. Reg regularly shows his poultry in the fairs north of Kingston. We watched the poultry judge lift each chicken out of its cage, feel its neck and feathers and measure its wingspan. Reg took first prize for his Silver Duck Wing and Rhode Island Red.

Pot bellied pig

Leeloo the pig, follow him on Facebook

Walking towards the goat pens, we came across Leeloo the potbellied pig. Leeloo is a local celebrity with his own Facebook page along with pigmates Sparky and Eli. Sparky is the TELUS pig you see in commercials. Eli became famous when his owner adopted him and started an animal rescue facility outside of Guelph. Dave knew about Leeloo, Sparky and Eli after hearing an interview about them on the CBC.

After filling up on sausages (sorry Leeloo!), roast beef on a bun and french fries, we headed over to the goat show ring. The judge had just flown in the night before from Ohio. This guy knew his goats.

While judging the milkers, at one point he said, “This goat has a good mammory system, well attached with lateral support.” I asked Dave if I had a good mammory system, well attached with lateral support. He didn’t answer me.

We were the only spectators in the stands for most of the show. You should have seen us do the wave.

Husband and wife in stands at the goat show

Dave and I just before we did the wave at the goat show

 

In the end, Grace took second prize for showmanship and a bunch of fourth place finishes in the confirmation judging, which is more about the size and shape of the goat.

We toured the exhibit barns of quilts, flower arrangements, photography exhibits and all the usual homemade delectables of pies, jams and vegetables. We listened to live music in the grandstand and watched the horse and cow shows. We barely saw Clare who spent the entire day riding the carnival rides.

It was a good day.

Silkie chickens

Beautiful silkies in the poultry barn

This week’s #HappyAct is to take in a fall fair. Here are some upcoming fall fairs in Ontario. You can find a full listing here.

  • Centreville Fair, Sep 2-3
  • Georgetown, Sep 9-10
  • Kingston, Sep 15-18
  • Norwood Fall Fair, Oct 8-10th—I haven’t been to this one, but our friend Keith tells us it’s the best little fair in Ontario
  • And the granddaddy of them all, the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair in Toronto, Nov 4-13. Grace will be going to the Royal this year, showing her goat Cloud on the Sunday.

How to deal with an unreasonable boss

people quit because of bad bossesThere’s a new book I’ve put on my summer reading list: Colin Powell’s My American Journey. Here’s a great quote from it:

“The day the soldiers stop bringing you their problems is the day you stopped leading them. They have either lost confidence that you can help them or concluded that you do not care. Either case is a failure of leadership.” —Colin Powell

Oren Harari, a professor at the University of San Francisco says if this was a litmus test, most CEOs would fail. I couldn’t agree more.

Powell talks about busy bastard bosses, bosses that never rest, and as a result never let their staff rest. It’s sad, but I’ve heard of more busy bastard bosses making life hell for their employees in organizations and it’s time we put a stop to it.

Powell advises against being a BBB. He writes, “Be busy, work hard, but don’t become so busy that you cut out other things in life, like family and recreation and hobbies. And never be so busy that you’re not giving your staff and your followers enough time to do the same thing.”

Here are tips for dealing with an unreasonable boss:

  • Don’t check email at night unless it’s a crisis. Just because someone sends you an email at 10:30 at night doesn’t mean you have to answer it at 10:30 at night.
  • Watch and learn how they like to work. Some bosses want everything by email. Some want updates in a meeting. Learn their preferences and as long as they’re reasonable, change your habits to accommodate them.
  • Set limits. If you need to be home with your kids in the morning, but can stay late if needed at night, make them aware of this.
  • Be concise and to the point, and ask for clarity. Unreasonable bosses often think they communicate well, but they don’t. They’re so focused on being busy, and moving on to the next thing on their list, they gloss over instructions and fail to provide clear direction.
  • Figure out how to get what you need or get things done through other people so you don’t have to deal with them.
  • If they give you an unrealistic deadline, ask for more time. If they say no, ask which other work can be put on hold so you can meet the deadline.

Most bosses aren’t bastards, but they are busy. If you set limits, learn how they like to work, and do good work, you’ll have a good chance of establishing boundaries and a good work life balance.

And for those poor souls who work for a busy bastard boss who are hopeless—bosses who are so unreasonable or disorganized they make it impossible for you to do your job, who don’t care or even know about what’s going on in the lives of their employees, and only see employees as a head count or resource, find another job.

What a joke

trump hell toupeeThanks to our holidays, killing time in the car and Donald Trump, I’ve heard lots of great jokes lately. Joke telling is a dying art, unless you’re a late night talk show host or you’re an internet joke junkie. My Dad used to be a great joke teller. I don’t have his gift, but luckily I do have one good friend who still loves to tell a good joke and make us all giggle.

Here are some giggles to make you smile this week. And in the interest of full disclosure, some of these were told to me by my kids or kids we met in campgrounds, so they might be a bit corny.

How is a wife like a hand grenade?
Remove the ring and your house is gone

What day does an egg fear most?
Friday

How did Captain Hook die?
He got distracted and wiped his bum with the wrong hand

What’s the difference between an angry circus owner and a Roman barber?
One is a raving showman, and the other is a shaving Roman

Here are some Donald Trump jokes. He started out as a joke, now he’s the joke, but the joke will be on us if he wins (shudder).

What instrument does Donald Trump play?
The trumpet

Why is it impossible to finish a Donald Trump biography?
Because every page goes back to Chapter 11

How does Donald Trump plan on deporting 12 million illegal immigrants?
Juan by Juan

What airline does Donald Trump aspire to fly?
Hair Force One

Whats Donald Trump’s favorite nation?
Discrimination.

And finally for the kids going back to school…

Teacher: “Kids, what does the fluffy chicken give you?”
Students: “Eggs!”
Teacher: “Very good! Now what does the pink pig give you?”
Students: “Bacon!”
Teacher: “Great! And what does the fat cow give you?”
Students: “Homework!”

This week’s #HappyAct is to tell a joke and bring a smile to someone’s day. I’ll end with this one on this week’s Happy Act:

“They say money doesn’t buy you happiness. Still, it’s always better to verify things for yourself.”

Life’s a beach

Girl riding beach toyWhat a summer we’ve had in eastern Canada—one of the hottest on record. The best way to beat the heat is to hit the beach with your favourite floating toy.

This year on the July long weekend, my brother and his wife brought the kids the latest installment in our collection of exotic beach toys: a big yellow banana. Yes, riding the Big Banana has taken on a whole new meaning in the Swinton household this summer.

There have been epic noodle fights, rodeo rides and spectacular spills on that banana, especially the time Dave tried to ride it. I can’t help but wonder what the cottagers across the lake think when they look across and see The Big Yellow Banana.

Beach toys are a part of summer. We have a raft of old beach toys crumpled up in a deflated pile in our barn. Oh the memories. There was Homer Simpson, who one year we found floating at the other end of the lake in early spring. The Montreal Canadiens life raft—symbolic I think. And too many floating chairs to mention now sunk in the graveyard of water toys in our barn.

This week’s #HappyAct is to keep cool with a cool beach toy–whatever floats your boat. Ours just happens to be a big yellow banana.

Ed. note: As a kid cottaging on Lake Simcoe, I remember we used to dive off huge inner tubes that came from military truck tires. There was a guy in Port Credit who used to sell those inner tubes. They’re fantastic for jumping and diving, and rafting. If anyone knows where you can get inner tubes, post a comment.

Girl on a floating raft