Always see with your heart

Facebook this morning is full of images and RIP messages for a very special golden retriever: Smiley.

Smiley was born without eyes, and a rare condition that made him look like he smiled all the time. He worked as a therapy dog bringing joy and happiness to everyone he met. His owners had to put him down yesterday.

His owners posted this yesterday, “The little dog with a big heart and a grand purpose left us today at 12:30pm. In Smiley’s honour, please be kind to one another, give back, and always see with your heart.”

This week’s #HappyAct is to always see with your heart and keep smiling. RIP Smiley.

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Ten cool apps for an appy Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving—the time to give thanks, spend time with family with friends and download some new apps on your phone as you curl up into turkey-induced coma on the couch.

Here are some of my favourite apps to check out that are useful.

  1. TeamSnap—Have a child on a sports team? TeamSnap allows coaches and parents to see schedules, who’s available for practices and games and even allows you to upload photos from games to create an online team photo album.
  2. Carrot—Developed in partnership with Canadian Diabetes Association, the Heart and Stroke Foundation and different government agencies, Carrot rewards you with Aeroplan, Petro Points or other reward program points for making healthy choices, taking fun interactive quizzes and even for your daily steps.
  3. Slack—Tired of endless emails at work? Slack is quickly becoming the go-to app for teams and companies who are looking for simpler, easier ways to communicate and collaborate. Many teams at my company are using Slack.
  4. Calorie counter and diet tracker—A great post-Thanksgiving app for losing weight and getting healthy.
  5. Aura: Meditation and Mindfulness—it’s like having your own personalized mindfulness coach who will guide you for three minutes a day to better mental health and happiness.
  6. AroundMe—Handy app for finding restaurants, gas stations or businesses nearby.
  7. Find My iPhone—even if your iPhone isn’t missing, it’s fun to track yourself on the map; if it is missing, it’s a lifesaver.
  8. WeTransfer/WeDownload—you don’t even need to download the app for this one, just go to the website. Allows you to transfer files up to two gigabytes free—great for sending videos, large photo collections.
  9. Stubhub—buy or sell tickets to any sporting event or concert.
  10. Yonder Outdoor Adventures–Check out posts from fellow outdoor enthusiasts on the best hikes and paddles around the world.

And if downloading apps isn’t your preferred way to while away Thanksgiving Monday, Clare informs me there is a spongebob marathan today “Spongegiving”.

What’s your favourite app? Leave a comment. Appy thanksgiving, everyone!

Swimming in a fish bowl

Author and her husbandWe’re just two lost souls swimming in a fish bowl, year after year.”

-Wish You Were Here, Pink Floyd

This isn’t the blog post I was planning to write. I had planned to write a funny, light-hearted post about 25 years of marriage.

Yes, Dave and I are celebrating our twenty-fifth wedding anniversary this week. We’ve been two lost souls swimming in a fish bowl running over the same ground for 25 years and for the record, there’s no one I’d rather splash around with in the fish bowl of life.

But today, as I sat on the dock, my eyes filled with tears and I began crying.

Crying hopelessly for two dear friends who after decades of marriage had their happily ever afters stolen from them–one friend who lost her husband to brain cancer and another who had to put her husband this week in a home because of Alzheimers disease.

It’s just so unfair and incredibly sad.

But if there’s one thing 25 years of marriage has taught me, and the events of the last few weeks, it’s that there are no guarantees.

No guarantee people will grow old together.

No guarantee you will remain in love.

No guarantee that the phrase in sickness and in health will take on so much meaning.

No guarantee life won’t turn out the way you planned it.

To Dave, I simply say thank you for 25 wonderful years. I hope I never take you for granted, and whatever fate befalls us, I hope you will continue to be my faithful partner, swimming in circles, by my side.

And to Jack and Tom: I wish you were here.

Leave a legacy

willow trees

Trees I planted 30 years ago

“Everyone must leave something behind when he dies, my grandfather said. A child or a book or a painting or a house or a wall built or a pair of shoes made. Or a garden planted. Something your hand touched some way so your soul has somewhere to go when you die.”

Ray Bradbury, author of Farhenheit 451

I’ve never thought much about what my legacy to this world will be. My children, perhaps. I live a small life so I highly doubt my name will appear in any history book or there will be a statue erected somewhere in my honour. I’m just one of a billion ordinary people in the world going about their ordinary lives.

Recently, I spent the afternoon in Mississauga strolling through JC Saddington Park by the lake. Many residents of Port Credit may not be aware that JC Saddington was actually a landfill site before it was converted to parkland.

I helped plant all the trees in that park as a summer student working for the City of Mississauga forestry department. The soil was clay and the conditions were terrible, but I marvelled as I strolled through the winding paths to see that the little wispy willow whips I planted more than 30 years ago had grown into beautiful graceful trees providing much-needed shade to the park goers on an unusually hot September day.

This week’s #HappyAct is to do something that will leave a mark on this world. As Mr. Bradbury said, “It doesn’t matter what you do, so long as you change something from the way it was before you touched it.”

If you’re interested in planting a tree to leave a legacy, join the legions of volunteers who will be planting trees this week (September 27 is National Tree Day). In Kingston, there’s tree planting at Lemoine’s Point next Saturday, September 30th at 9 a.m. at the south entrance.

 

Play hookey from work

Friends at the Kingston sign

It was our Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.

For 10 years, my BFF at work, Elaine Peterson and I had talked about going for a patio lunch and not going back to work. We finally did it on Friday.

Now before you HR types get all bent out of shape, we did this with the full knowledge and approval of our bosses, and booked it as vacation time. Whatever points we lost on the spontaneity factor were more than made up for the excitement of looking forward to our afternoon of hookey.

Our first stop was Confederation Basin to put the “I” in Kingston. Earlier this summer, Kingston erected a new sign where tourists can take their picture. There may be no “I” in team, but there is an “I” in Kingston.

Then we headed up Brock Street to Atomica for a leisurely patio lunch. If you’re not familiar with the Black Dog Hospitality Group of restaurants in Kingston, which includes Dianne’s Fish Bar, Le Chien Noir, Harper’s Burgers and Atomica, they are a favourite of the locals.

We split a yummy caeser salad; Elaine had one of their signature pastas, and I had their Retro pizza. The best part about not being “on the clock” is you can relax and just take in your surroundings (a couple of drinks each helped too.)

For instance, as I was sitting on the patio, I noticed a statue of a beaver on top of the building across the street. I’ve probably walked past that building a gazillion times and never noticed that beaver before. We also watched a young couple next to us get googlyeyed and the guy at the end of the patio shovel his food in with his fork like it was a backhoe.

beaver statue

Two hours and two drinks later, we decided to wander down to Ahoy Rentals to go canayaking (a new term I made up after a couple of beers). We got sidetracked at Battery Park by the breakwater. I was telling Elaine how as a kid I would jump from rock to rock on the breakwater in Port Credit where I grew up, but how they put a fence up so people couldn’t go out on the rocks anymore.

In Kingston, there’s just a sign warning people to proceed at their own risk, so we proceeded. At the end near the lighthouse, we could see Elaine’s office. We texted her co-workers to look out the window to see us waving, but they were too busy working (hah!) We talked to a retired RMC professor who kayaked past us and waved to the boaters.

Woman at lighthouse

Since it was already four o’clock and we were thirsty again, we decided to pass on the kanayaking and headed up Princess Street to Barcadia, a bar with old arcade games. Elaine had brought some rolls of quarters, so we raced sports cars through the streets of Paris and Moscow, played baseball (I was the home run queen and beat her in the bottom of the eighth), Pacman and pinball.

It was too nice a day to stay inside, so we checked out some of the stores on Princess Street, then topped the afternoon off with a “It was just a dream” fro yo at Parfait.

While it was well after dark when I got home, in the old days, we probably would have gone into the wee hours of the night. Still, it was an awesome afternoon playing hookey, and on the plus side, we were both able to enjoy a beautiful weekend. This week’s #HappyAct is to plan an afternoon playing hookey–just don’t get caught!

Know where you belong

sign that says happiness is knowing where you belongI’ve spent the last four days in Toronto. It struck me more than ever, that even though I was born there, I don’t belong there.

Toronto is an amazing city, but like with any large city, there is the good, the bad and the ugly.

Toronto the good

Stunning skyscrapers, lakefront paths and parks, festivals and events, fine dining and shopping, and people of every faith, race, culture living for the most part in respectful harmony.

Toronto the bad

Relentless traffic, air pollution, soaring housing prices, long commutes and endangered greenspace from concrete sprawl.

Toronto the ugly

Poverty, homelessness, and indifference. Both days, walking the few blocks to my course in the financial district, I walked past at least a dozen people sleeping on the street. One man was lying in the middle of the sidewalk sideways and was so still, he could have been dead. Everyone, EVERYONE including me stepped around him and walked by. I’m still ashamed.

This week’s #HappyAct is know where you belong. United Ways across the country are kicking off their campaigns. Get involved, give and help change lives locally where you belong.

Stand on a rocky outcrop

Girl on mountain topAt the Summit

Is there any better feeling on earth
Then touching the sky

Clear, cool mountain air
Fills my lungs

Majestic peaks, pristine lakes and blue skies
Envelop me in a blanket of beauty

Bald rock
Worn smooth from centuries of leather boots scraping its surface

The orange berries of a mountain ash
Gleam on a stunning canvas of lush green pines

A tiny flotilla of miniature canoes and kayaks
Steam up the crystal blue waters of the Fulton lakes below

Two eagles play hide and seek in the clouds
Kings and court jesters of the mountain

Like Horton Hears a Who
We are all just mere specks on this great earth.

It is ours to cherish and protect
At the summit.

This week’s #HappyAct is to stand on a rocky outcrop. My poem, The Summit was inspired by our trip last week to the Adirondacks. The pictures are of Grace on Bald Mountain, near Old Forge, New York.

Bald mountain, New York