Have a mother daughter paint nite

Painting of me

Last week, Clare’s school organized a paint nite, hosted by Salmon River studios in Tamworth.

Our project was to paint a portrait of each other. Our instructor Gabriel had us sit across from our partner, then showed us the technique of drawing the person first, then using a pastel outline, finished by light watercolours to complete our portrait.

Since most people who aren’t artists feel inhibited by portraits, Gabriel had us do a short three-minute warm-up activity. We had to stare at our partner and do a pencil drawing of the person without looking at our paper. The results were pretty funny, but I actually liked my blind pencil sketch of Clare better than my portrait of her.

It was inspiring to see the creativity in the room and the final portraits after the hour was over. Some of the kids used bold colours, painting their parents like cartoon characters or caricatures. One Dad painted his daughter as an amazing fairy-like Jedi. There were some incredible likenesses, and all were very special.

One tip Gabriel shared: when drawing portraits, there’s a tendency to make people’s eyes too close together. The distance between the eyes should be the same as the width of the eye itself.

I spoke to Gabriel afterwards, and he said while some instructors follow a very prescribed approach, he prefers to provide just a few simple instructions, then give people’s creativity full reign.

I especially loved that Clare painted me more beautiful than I actually am.

This week’s #HappyAct is to have a paint nite. I should add that while this is a perfect parent/child activity (perfect for Mother’s Day!), this would be a great activity for any teambuilding event, birthday party, or girls fun night.

More about Salmon River Studios: Located in Tamworth, the studio runs summer arts camps for kids, Sunday afternoon pottery workshops for all ages, school programs and more. Check out their website and sign up for a course today.

Drawing of girl
My pencil sketch of Clare

Group paint nite photo

 

Advertisements

In quest of the ultimate tacky souvenir

Donald Trump bottle opener

This year for our family vacation, we spent a week in Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina in April. As always, we had a great time exploring the area, hanging on the beach and enjoying some much needed sunshine after a long Canadian winter.

Just like most tourists, we scour the souvenir shops looking for the perfect souvenir to remember our trip.

This trip I SCORED BIG.

I found one of my favourite souvenirs of all time, and it didn’t cost me a dime. I ordered a Shark Bite, a refreshing mix of rum, blue curacao and grenadine, and it came in the most classic, Jaws-dropping, great white and blue shark mug.

And then, just when I thought it couldn’t get any better, I found a souvenir that scored 11 (1 better) on the tacky souvenir scale.

It’s a fridge magnet bottle opener of Trump with bright orange hair in a blue suit. The hole where you crack open your beer is Trump’s pie-hole flashing a ghastly teethy grin, like he’s hailing-to-the-chief expletives at Omarosa, Spence or Comey or defending himself at his impeachment hearing in Congress.

I will treasure it for always.

This week’s #HappyAct is to seek the ultimate tacky souvenir. I’ve thrown down the gauntlet. See if you can trump mine.

souvenir shark mug

The Gorilla glue of an organization

kid with capeEmployee engagement continues to be at an all-time low globally. According to Gallup’s 2017 State of the Global Workplace report, 85% of employees are not engaged or actively disengaged at work. The economic consequences of this global “norm” are approximately $7 trillion in lost productivity a year.

I’ve shared my own views about declining employee engagement before. In Love in the Workplace, I said a pay cheque is what makes people show up for work every day, but what they do with their time depends on three key things: the degree to which the work they do aligns to their passions and strengths, the relationships they have at work, and what I called the “negative quotient” or “piss off” factor–the degree to which negative factors at work affect their ability to succeed.

I believe that more than ever, but I think there is a fourth key factor contributing to low employee engagement, and that is undervaluing a key segment of employees, the unsung heroes of every organization.

This group is highly knowledgeable and experienced but usually not as well known to senior leaders. They may not aspire to move up the corporate ladder, but prefer to fly under the radar and do their work without fanfare, quietly coming in every day and producing, solving problems, sharing their knowledge and helping team members out of jams. They are the glue that keeps the corporate machine running smoothly.

They also serve another incredibly indispensable purpose—they set the tone for the culture of a company.

I’m very lucky to work for a company that has these unsung heroes in spades, but we need to do a better job of recognizing them.

In my world of corporate and strategic communications, data, metrics, employee engagement numbers and strategic alignment, and yes, culture are buzzwords that rule the day. Some leaders believe the most valuable use of their time is crunching numbers and spreadsheets.

I take a contrarian view. I think I provide the greatest value by doing my part to develop and promote a positive and people-focused culture, by helping and recognizing the people who are the Gorilla glue of my organization.

So to the Mirandas, Randys, Sandras, Donnas, Karens, Lillians, Elaines, Amys, Kristas, Andreas, Garys, Jessicas and all the other unsung heroes I have the privilege working with every day, thank you.

This week’s #HappyAct is to recognize an unsung hero in your life or organization. Feel free to share your message to them below.

Why not?

kid ready to fly

Special guest blog by Ray Dorey

You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.”
Wayne Gretzky

A few weeks ago, I caught up with a good friend over coffee. You might have heard of her. She’s the driving force behind the Happy Act blog, Laurie Swinton.

One of our exchanges was about a course I’ve been taking in genre fiction, which led to a discussion about comedy writing. I brought up the iconic Saturday Night Live, and what an absolute blast those writers must have crafting timely sketches for that particular week’s show.

And then, casually out of left field, Laurie suggested, “(SNL creator and executive producer) Lorne Michaels is Canadian. We should ask him about sitting in on a couple of writer’s meetings.”

I smiled. Was she serious? Surely there wasn’t a snowball’s chance in hell of that ever happening.

But then I recalled a time in my life when such a proposal was common.

I grew up captivated by all that was Disney; the movies, the tv programming, and the theme parks. I couldn’t get enough of the Mickey Mouse brand magic. Disney fueled my imagination, and creative passions.

Eagerly, I would scribe my heart out; sometimes conveying ideas, other times making requests, and nearly every time, I received a response. It made no difference that the replies were often form letters. I was still ecstatic.

Rejection letter from Walt Disney corporation

Sometime between then and now, I grew up, at least a little, and perhaps I lost some of that youthful exuberance. Today, I might only execute similar reach-outs when I thought I had a high chance of success. Dreams perhaps died before they ever had a chance to blossom.

But my younger self always had it right. What’s wrong with asking, even though a voice might warn you there’s a slim chance of reward? You could be inaccurate in your presumptions, or you could simply catch lightning in a bottle. Stranger things have happened. Why not to me? Why do people buy lottery tickets? Because the prize is so much greater than the risk–despite the low odds of winning.

Feeling buoyed, I told Laurie I would write to Lorne Michaels with our request. And I did. A brief search yielded multiple mail and email addresses for Mr. Michaels. So I crafted and launched the following missive:

Mr. Lorne Michaels
Creator and executive producer, Saturday Night Live
NBC Studios

30 Rockefeller Plaza
New York, NY – 10112

Dear Mr. Michaels,

No, I am not high and/or mentally unstable, depending on who you ask.

A friend and I, fellow Canadians and aspiring writers, are both long-time fans of Saturday Night Live.

While meeting recently over coffee, our conversation led to speculation about the creative process used to craft and hone material for the show, and how much indescribable fun it must be to participate.

So we were wondering (here comes the crazy part)…

Would it be possible for the two of us to sit-in on one or two writers meetings as observers?

We are not asking for anything else, and we can only offer our undying gratitude in return.

Sincerely,
Ray Dorey

A few days later, I received a response. My heart leapt in my throat.

One of the email addresses had bounced back. Oh well… it wasn’t the response I was hoping for, but it wasn’t a no, and it was still early. Seeds need time to yield mighty oaks.

But whether Mr. Michaels ever responds is really secondary here. The point is that I made the attempt, and knocked on a door that would have never had a chance to open otherwise.

I encourage you, as I re-encourage myself, to dare to defy logic, and to be more creative and optimistic with your pursuits. We’re only here for a short time, and fortune favours the bold as they say, so why not?

You can read more of Ray’s adventures and short stories at storiesfromdoreyville.wordpress.com.

Goodbye Rick Mercer and thanks for the memories

Like millions of other Canadians this week, I watched the final episode of the Rick Mercer Report Tuesday night.

For the past 15 years, Rick Mercer has been a staple in our household most Tuesday nights.

What struck me the most when I watched his final episode was how much his show personified what it means to be Canadian and the best about our country.

I’ve been lucky to see Rick in action twice over the years—once in Kingston when he did a segment on a national tree climbing competition in Lake Ontario Park, and last November at the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair in Toronto. Both times he was engaging, funny, genuinely happy to meet and learn about people, and clearly proud to showcase the best about our country.

On Tuesday’s show, Rick did a special tribute to all the para-athletes he’s interviewed over the years. While we still have a long way to go in making Canada accessible, I believe thanks to legislation and guys like Rick, who have illuminated the wit, grace, and determination of people with disabilities, we are more aware and understanding of the needs and unique talents of this segment of our population.

Another segment was dedicated to politicians. There were some clips I hadn’t seen before (how did I miss the show where he and Bob Rae jumped into a lake buck naked?) I couldn’t help but contrast the relationship between Canadian media and our politicians with the United States.

While there is still an appropriate level of adversarial criticism and oversight, necessary for the media to do their jobs, the Rick Mercer Report personified how accessible our politicians are to the media, and the deep-rooted respect Canadians have for those who devote their lives to public office.

Through the Rick Mercer Report, we were able to explore the best of our country. From showcasing schools raising funds for Spread the Net to end malaria in third world countries, to the weird, wacky and wonderful events and people from coast to coast, Rick was our own personal Sherpa each week, taking us to new places and adventures across the land.

In his “Go See Canada” rant, Rick urged us to explore Canada, saying “I know in my heart of hearts, we would be better, stronger, and more unified if more Canadians could make it their business to see more of Canada.”

This week’s #HappyAct is to go see Canada. Thanks for the memories Rick. All the best in your next adventure.

And in case you missed it, I almost fell off my chair laughing this week watching Rick’s Seven-Day Forecast, especially since we’re frozen in this never-ending winter. Here it is again for your viewing pleasure.

Ed. note: A political note, thank you CBC for bringing Rick into our homes each week. Shows like the Rick Mercer Report would never exist if we didn’t have a publicly funded broadcaster. Keep them coming, and for all of you who fear going into withdrawal each Tuesday night, there’s still This Hour Has 22 Minutes, one of the best on television.

Take the work happiness test

sign take the test

The average person spends 2,000 hours per year at work. Based on that staggering figure, it stands to reason that being happy at work is key to our overall happiness.

According to Harvard Business Review, there are three main things that contribute to happiness at work:

  1. Feeling like you are making a difference
  2. How hopeful you are about the future and the link between your work and your goals and aspirations
  3. Having positive work relationships

In Love in the Workplace, I shared the findings of one leadership expert, Mark Crowley who found a monumental shift in the drivers of happiness from time with family and hobbies to time at work. Crowley concluded “how satisfied workers feel in their jobs now determines their overall happiness with life. This monumental shift means that job fulfillment has become essential to people everywhere.”

HBR has a 24-question test you can take to measure your happiness at work. It gives you a summary report and tips on how to use your strengths and find happiness. It also shows your responses and happiness/satisfaction levels in comparison to other HBR readers who take the test.

I took it again this week. Like employee engagement scores, I find results for these kinds of tests can swing depending on your current state of mind. I scored Medium on Purpose and Hope and High on Friendship at Work. The test reinforced for me what I need to do to stay engaged at work and gave me helpful advice for making work a positive experience.

This week’s #HappyAct is to take the test to see how happy you are at work. How did you do? Leave a comment.

For more on happiness at work, read

How to be happier at work

Develop your emotional intelligence

Conversations with an 11-year old

reflection of girl in window

My 11-year old is one of the funniest, coolest people I know. She’s more comfortable in her own skin than most 40-year olds.

Here’s a compilation of conversations with Clare over the past week.

—————–

This kid Austin in her class tells her he’s planning a big summer blowout. It’s in 2019. Austin brought in a list for all his classmates to bring to the party. The list went something like this: bow and arrow, swan and pink flamingo floaties, Sunny D, chicken nuggets, and beer. Did I mention they are 11? Now that’s a party.

—————–

We’re driving in the car one morning, and there’s a news story about a NHL player who’s back playing after being injured. Now when injured players return, the NHL allows them to wear “red shirts” which means no contact.

I say to Clare, “Wow, isn’t that fantastic—I think that’s new, I don’t remember the NHL doing that before.”

Clare says, “What’s new for you Mom is 10 years old. What’s new for me is a few months old.”

Then a jingle comes on the radio for an adult fun store in Kingston. She starts singing along, then stops and says, “It’s really sad I’m singing to this right now.”

—————–

I ask her what time we need to be at her volleyball tournament. I say, “Okay, let’s leave at 7:45.”

She says, “No, let’s make it a quarter to eight.”

—————–

Clare asks if we can watch a movie. I say, “Can I choose the movie for a change?” Clare says, “As long as it’s not a chick flick or some old person’s movie.” Her favourite movie right now is Deadpool.

Her favourite line is “That’s why Regina rhymes with fun.”

—————–

She recites the full lyrics to Salt n Pepa’s Shoop at least three times a day.

Bright as the sun, I wanna have some fun
Come and give me some of that yum-yum
Chocolate chip, honey dip, can I get a scoop?
Baby, take a ride in my coupe, you make me wanna
Shoop shoop ba-doop (Baby, hey)

—————–

Then she lays a Yo Mamma’s joke on me.

“Yo Mama’s sooooo fat, I took a picture of her last Christmas and it’s still printing.”

—————–

I’m trying to convince her we should visit the Diefenbunker museum when we’re in Ottawa.

She says, “Mom, I don’t learn about history. I make history.”

—————–

It’s 9 o’clock and we’re playing HQ Trivia. Clare is sitting beside me. I bug everyone in the house to join in so we have a shot at winning. Third question, and I know the answer, but Clare is yelling in my ear the wrong answer and I tell her to be quiet.

She leaves in a huff and says, “You know Mom, sometimes with you, it’s damned if you do, damned if you don’t.”

She knows me so well.

At least it’s nice having a kid in the house that will actually talk to me.

This week’s #HappyAct is to have a conversation with a cool 11-year old. Mine’s free if you want a kid for a week.

Clare shooting a bow and arrow
Clare practicing her archery for Austin’s big summer blowout