Just hang in there

Happy couple of 30 years

This weekend, Dave and I celebrate our 30th wedding anniversary. We’ve always been there for each other and supported one other, but I’m sure if you asked Dave, he’d say at times it hasn’t been easy living with me. (He on the other hand is the President’s Choice of Husbands).

I think the best advice I ever received about how to have a long, successful marriage was from an older gentleman who I met earlier this year at the Old Mill in Toronto. Leslie and I were there having brunch, and were seated next to a large party, a family celebrating some special occasion.

At the end of the brunch, while his children and grandchildren were visiting, the gentleman who was sitting at the head of the table must have noticed me watching him so I smiled at him and he smiled back.

He reminded me of my father with piercing blue eyes, a kind smile and gentle goodness about him. After a few minutes, he came over to talk to me.

We exchanged greetings and chatted casually as strangers do. When I asked if it was a special occasion, he told me he and his wife were celebrating their 65th wedding anniversary. He told me how he met his wife, and a bit about their life together. When I asked what the secret to a long, successful marriage was, he thought for a moment, then answered, “Just hang in there.”

Such sage, simple advice.

To my loving husband of 30 years, thanks for hanging in there with me. As we often say, I can’t imagine going through this crazy life with anyone but you.

Ein prosit!

Oktoberfest beer hall in Bavaria

There’s nothing that says fall more than Oktoberfest.

Each year at this time, I start dreaming of swilling pints of beer from froth-filled glasses, eating warm, freshly-baked pretzels, and singing ein prosit by the hour with newfound friends.

While Oktoberfest is celebrated around the world, most local Oktoberfest celebrations can’t capture the magic and spirit of the authentic German festival, except Canada’s grand celebration in Kitchener-Waterloo.

I’ve been to Kitchener-Waterloo’s Oktoberfest many times and to the real Oktoberfest in Munchen, Germany. Many people don’t realize that in Germany, Oktoberfest actually kicks off in September. This year it runs from September 17 until October 3 and is expected to attract six million visitors.

In Germany, it is a national celebration with the whole country shutting down or taking vacation to celebrate for two weeks. In Munich, the festival is held on the Theresienwiese fairgrounds with dozens of beer tents, performance stages, carnival rides and attractions to keep festival-goers entertained between pints.

The first day of Oktoberfest in Munich, we arrived at the fairgrounds around 1 p.m. That’s another big difference between Germany and our Oktoberfest celebrations—in Germany, many of the events are in the afternoon, so you start drinking early. We sat down in one of the festival tents and quickly made friends with a group of German men who were visiting from out of town.

Fraulein servers in traditional colourful Bavarian costumes, their biceps bulging out of their costumes, wound their way through the crowded tables, carrying six gigantic beer steins in each hand. On stage an oom pah pah band played polka music. There was lots of toasting, singing and every hour, you’d sing ein prosit, and raise a hearty toast and chug to the cry of Oans, Zwoa, G’suffa! 

Truth be told, I don’t remember how we made it home that night, but I do remember the memories that have lasted a lifetime.

Here are three Oktoberfest celebrations in Ontario to check out:

  • Kingston-Waterloo: on now through to October 15. While the Concordia Club is generally considered the most authentic hall, both the Alpine Club and Transylvania Club provide authentic experiences. Bingeman’s used to be more the draw for the university students in town.
  • Prince Edward County Oktoberfest: September 30-October 1
  • Toronto Oktoberfest: September 30-October 1 at Ontario Place

This week’s #HappyAct is to get your leiderhosen on and raise a toast to fall. Ein prosit!

Living a life of service

Queen Elizabeth II

The tributes for Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II continue to pour in. Despite differing opinions on the institution of the monarchy and legacy of colonialism, the world seems united in celebrating a remarkable woman who dedicated her life to public service and who for 70 years was a stable, reassuring presence in turbulent times.

I’ve been thinking quite a bit lately of what it means to live a life of service. Ghandi once said, “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.”

Most of us live a life of service in small ways, as parents, good neighbours and community members, and in some cases, in our career choices. Health care providers, first responders and elected officials all dedicate their lives to helping or serving others. But for many of us, the concept of living a life of service is not how we would describe our day-to-day life or even our purpose in life.

Living a life of service is different than having purpose. You can have purpose, a passion or focus that makes you happy and feel alive but doesn’t involve serving others.

The world and the people in it seem a bit lost these days. Perhaps the best way to find ourselves again is to be more intentional in leading a life of service.

Related posts:

Make decisions that make you smile

Poster on decisions

A few months ago, I made a decision that didn’t make me smile.

The worst part was, I knew it right away. As soon as I made it, I had that sinking feeling in my gut, but I knew I needed a change, and I resolved once I had committed to a course of action, to make the most of it and apply all my energies to making it work.

Of course it was the wrong decision. The serious reservations I had going in transpired, and it took an immediate toll on my happiness.

Luckily, I was able to extricate myself from the situation and am now in a much happier place.

Sometimes the path forward isn’t always clear. But you will always discover the right path if you make decisions that make you smile.

Have a happy week…

Be the next contestant and C’MON DOWN!

The Price is Right studio audience

I’ve always had a secret fantasy of winning big on a game show.

Growing up, my favourite game shows were The Wheel of Fortune and The Price is Right. I remember watching Bob Barker with his long sleek microphone, pearly white smile and slicked back hair. Barker hosted the show for 35 years, from 1972 to 2007 before Drew Carey took over as host.

There was always that moment of anticipation when the next member of the studio audience would have their name called and you’d hear Barker exclaim, “C’mon down, you are the next contestant on The Price is Right!”

Well, if you live close to Kingston, you can live out your game show fantasy next month by buying tickets to The Price is Right Live Stage Show at the Leon’s Centre on Tuesday, September 20.

Yes, you could be the next contestant to spin the Big Wheel, play Bullseye, Cliff Bangers or Bonkers and win big. The Leon’s Centre website says about 60 prizes are up for grabs with a retail value of $25,000 US.

In 2001, my girlfriend Mary Beth and I planned an epic, once in a lifetime trip to Los Angeles, an extension of a work conference. We had rented a convertible, booked tickets to see James Taylor at an outdoor amphitheatre and the Ellen Show and had talked about going to see The Price is Right. Then 911 hit and all our travel plans were quashed.

Back in those days, to get picked to be in the studio audience, you had to stand in a long line, wear crazy costumes and impress the show’s handlers who would scan the crowd for the best TV-worthy contestants. Now, you just have to fill out a form and declare you’re not an employee of CBS to get tickets for the TV show.

Of course, if you buy tickets for the Leon’s Centre stage sure, you’re a sure thing to be part of the studio audience.

But beware, before you get ready to drive away in your BRAND NEW CAR!!!, California contestants get a form to fill out to pay taxes on it (I’m not sure what the rules are here in Canada for the stage show.)

If you want to win big, you can still get tickets on the Leon’s Centre website. Tickets range from $49-$59.

But here’s the million dollar question (wait, that’s another show)—is it prices from a year ago or today’s crazy inflationary prices?

I guess I’ll have to start studying up. Good luck contestants!

What’s your once a day?

Lake and clouds

When life is challenging, it’s important to have an escape, something that helps take your mind off things and help you face what’s to come. For me, it’s always been swimming.

Last Saturday was a particularly difficult day. I was in Westport helping my brother-in-law. I knew it was going to be a long, stressful day. In between chores and calls, I slipped down to Westport Beach for 45-minutes and went for a long swim in Sand Lake.

The minute I splashed into the water, all the stresses and sadness began to wash away. My weary eyes concentrated on the beautiful sunshine sparkling on the water and dreamy white clouds floating up above. With each stroke, I swam away from my troubles, towards what I thought was a white buoy bobbing in the water, but on closer inspection was a very large gull. I felt cleansed, refreshed and at peace with what would come.

For my neighbour Kim, her once a day is her garden. As long as she can spend 30 minutes a day in her garden, she feels happy, balanced, ready to face what life brings.

Dave says his once a day is to look at our beautiful lake and remind himself every day how lucky we are, knowing there are so many people in the world who are not so fortunate.

What’s your once a day? Leave a comment.

Down east sayings to make you giggle

Man holding bottles of wine
Terry with his favourite wines

The West is beautiful, but you can’t beat the warmth, humour and light o’ life attitude of Easterners.

When we arrived in Antigonish a few weeks ago to spend a few days with Danette’s parents, her Dad Terry greeted us with a big hug and holding two bottles of wine in his hands, Four Skins and Kiss Me Arse.

The next day Terry walked out wearing a t-shirt that said, “It’s all shits and giggles until someone giggles and shits”.

We visited one little fishing wharf where every building had a funny sign on it, some even upside down. There was The Lost and Found Bouys shack and the Little River Fisheries and Heritage Museum, Closed for Innovations.

Lost and Found Bouys fishing shack

We sure had lots of giggles on our trip and thankfully not the shits. We learned “The older the crab, the tougher its claws” and if someone was running late, they were “off like a herd of turtles”.

Yes, we can all learn a thing or two about keeping life light and happy from our friends down east. And remember, if yer not happy where yer is, yer never will be happy where yer to.

Long may your big jib draw. Til next week…

Sign on lobster shack

Walk on the ocean floor

Girls at Hopewell Rocks, New Brunswick
Me, Danette and Leslie at Hopewell Rocks, New Brunswick

Have you ever wondered what it’s like to walk on the ocean floor?

Last week at this time, I was walking on the ocean floor at Hopewell Rocks Provincial Park in New Brunswick on the way home from an epic two-week vacation to Cape Breton with my girlfriends Leslie and Danette.

Hopewell Rocks is one of the most recognizable landmarks in Canada. It is known for its iconic flowerpot rocks and for being located on the Bay of Fundy which has some of the highest tides in the world. Twice a day, the bay fills and empties of a billion tonnes of water during each tide cycle—more than the flow of all the world’s freshwater rivers combined.

Flowerpot rocks at Hopewell Rocks

The tides rise and fall between 40-50 feet at Hopewell Rocks. The entrance fee to the park is actually good for two days, since many people like to come back to see both low and high tides, or kayak between the rocks during high tide.

We arrived mid-afternoon and descended the massive staircase to the ocean floor. It’s a bit of a strange feeling to know that the rocks and beach you’re strolling on will be completely underwater in a matter of minutes. The tides rise so fast there, they now have park staff monitoring different sections of the beach to make sure stragglers make it back to the stairs to return to the surface in time.

We arrived as the tide was coming in. I stood and watched two exposed rocks to see how long it would take for the water to engulf them. I probably only watched for about five minutes for the rocks to fully disappear—that was how fast the water rose.

I was fascinated by the shape of the rocks, their unique patterns and colouring and the barnacles that covered the rocks like blankets. They were rubbery and uniform and dry to the touch. Some say the flowerpot rocks will eventually crumble, but they’ve lasted for thousands of years so my guess is you still have plenty of time to see them if you plan to visit.

Girl in front of rocks
Barnacles on rock

Many visitors don’t take the time to explore the many viewing platforms from up above, but I highly recommend it. When we first arrived, we watched a young deer trying to manoeuvre its way through the vast dark brown sand to the more lush green vegetation on the banks. It struggled to move through the quicksand and seemed disoriented in the loamy soil left from the receding waters. It was still trying to escape to safety when we moved to the next viewing platform.

There we saw a mother peregrine falcon perched on a tree limb stretching out over the Bay’s waters. This was the first time I’ve ever seen a peregrine falcon in the wild. We were very close, so we got a great view of her.

View of sandy soil and a deer
It’s nearly impossible to see, but the tiny dot in the estuary of water between all the brown loamy ocean soil was a deer trying to find its way to safety
Mother and baby peregrine falcon

As we were admiring her stately helmet and stature, one of her babies came flying in beside her. They screeched an exchange for a few minutes, then both settled on the limb. One of the park staff later told me there were four babies. Babies often stay in the same area as their family after leaving the nest, flying with them while hunting. The staff member showed me a bunch of photos he had of the falcons on his phone—he said this is one of the first years they’ve had peregrine falcons at the park and the park staff were clearly very proud of their newest residents.

This week’s #HappyAct is to plan a trip to walk on the ocean floor, or visit an iconic park landmark in your area. Happy travels!

Rock at Hopewell Rocks
Rock at Hopewell Rocks
Muddy ocean floor

Advice from a sunflower

sunflower

For some reason, this spoke to me this week.

Be bright

Be kind

Be sunny and positive

Spread seeds of happiness

Rise, shine and hold your head high

Have a happy week and smile if you see a sunflower.

The end or the beginning

Special guest blogger in sunlight

Special guest post by Dave Swinton

Lately, I have been thinking a lot about the end.  How will it unfold?  How will people remember me? Will people remember me at all?

What will be my most remembered quality? Hardworking, caring, empathetic, or just a latent comedian telling lame jokes to captive family members.

I have also been thinking about some other people near and dear to me who are also thinking about the same subject.

For me it is only about retirement; for others it is a different beginning.

I am always in awe of how my father at 91 views his future as not an end but rather a new beginning. An ascension from his earthly form to something much better.

Always a deeply religious person, he sees a new beginning with my mother and all the benefits of a life deeply rooted in faith.

For me it is much simpler. Puttering around my gardens, cutting firewood with the odd day of fishing sprinkled in. Long walks with our dog and of course spending endless days travelling with my loving partner.

The point is to think less about the end of one chapter and more about the beginning of the next.