It has been inspiring to see how reconciliation has finally become more than just a word in this country.
Every conference and event now starts with an acknowledgement of the First Nation territories and their land upon which the event is being held.
When I was at Queen’s University a few weeks ago to hear presentations from graduate students in their school of public health, covering one wall was a string of flags hung by the students declaring their personal act of reconciliation.
I was especially proud recently to view a special work of art done by the students of Loughborough Public School, where Clare goes to school. The piece called “From What Dish Do You Want to Feed Your Grandchildren From” is 13 feet long and spans one of the foyer walls. The artwork was chosen as the Ontario entry for a special gathering in Winnipeg as part of the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation.
It was inspired by a treaty signed between the Anishinaabe, Mississauga and Haudenosaunee First Nations in 1701 where they agreed to share the territory and protect the land, its animals and bounty around Lake Ontario. The philosophy these young students are trying to pass down to future generations is we all share the same land and eat from the same bowl with the same spoon. We must respect the land, its inhabitants and take care of it so it continues to thrive and reap bountiful harvests for future generations.
There are no knives at the table—an equally powerful message about acceptance, harmony and living in a peaceful society without war.
I’m always amazed at the creativity and talent of young people. They used natural elements like beaver pelts and birch bark stitched together with modern symbols of how we are harming our environment in a beautiful tapestry, then overlayed personal messages and artwork for a powerful mosaic that reflects Canadian and First Nations values and principles.
This week’s #HappyAct is to ask yourself and answer the question these young minds are challenging us to answer: what will be your personal act of reconciliation?
Last Saturday, friends and family gathered in Madoc to celebrate the life of Jack Patch. Jack was a dear friend of ours who passed away last year. His wife, Dianna had asked me to say a few words that day, but I couldn’t.
I wanted to, but I didn’t know what I wanted to say. That’s because Jack was a classic. In many ways, he was indescribable.
And then one night this week, as I was walking on a country road with the sun shimmering through the trees and the sounds of tinging bats and shouts from Clare’s baseball practice wafting in the distance, the words just came to me.
This is what I wanted to say.
Jack Patch was a classic. He was my Jack.
Jack was my dance partner. When all the other men in the room wanted to sit around and drink beer, Jack would be the one who would get up and dance with two women at the same time.
Jack was a child. Jack always liked kids, including my kids, as long as they didn’t irritate him too much or did what he wanted. I think it was because he never grew up himself.
Jack was a mountain man and MacGyver guy. He puttered. I never saw him move faster than a shuffle, unless the sap was about to boil over in his homemade maple syrup operation.
Jack and Dianna bought 25 acres on the Moira River in the 1980s and built a cabin on the river. We had some great parties in those days, and we were all there to help them when they decided to quit work and build an off-the-grid cabin on the land. That basically gave him carte blanche to build stuff and putter for the next 25 years.
Jack was an environmentalist. He built trails on his property and did annual counts for species like birds and frogs. He was nature’s friend.
Jack was a dog lover. He always had a four-legged friend by his side. Even as his mind and body started to fail him, his neighbour’s dog Sophie was his faithful friend and helped spark life back into him.
Jack was my skinny dipping partner. He believed swimming trunks were a scourge on humanity and had the skinny dip down to an art of science.
He would stroll to the end of the dock, sit down and dangle his white legs in the water, and slip off his trunks so surreptitiously, only the loons would notice. My favourite picture I ever took of Jack was one I snapped quietly while he was sitting on the end of our friend Murray’s dock with one cheek showing.
Jack was my vintner. Jack was a purveyor of bad alcohol. Bad wine. Really bad wine. But we drank it anyway.
Jack was my comic relief. My favourite Jack quote of all time was on January 1, 2000. Our regular group had spent the millennium New Year’s at Jack and Dianna’s off-the-grid cottage, because if the world was going to end, you might as well spend it with the people you love most and at a place where you don’t need electricity.
We had imbibed in a few too many drinks naturally, and the next morning were slow to emerge from our hovels to see if the world was still intact. I remember Jack shuffling out of his bedroom in his saggy t-shirt and boxer shorts. He scratched his chest and said, “Well, that’s a relief. Now I don’t have to worry about being a 90s man anymore.”
Not that Jack was ever a 90s man. Jack figured out about 40 years ago, that if he didn’t do something exactly the way Dianna wanted him to do it, it would give him a lifetime free pass. That included changing diapers, dishes and just about anything he didn’t want to do.
Jack was a lover of life. He always had a twinkle in his eye, and a wonderful low chuckle of a laugh, the Jack laugh.
One of the last times we saw Jack was on a visit to Pine Meadows nursing home in Northbrook where he spent his last year. It was Mother’s Day weekend, and the staff had brought in an entertainer for a morning sing-along with the guests. The nice singer in a break between songs at one point asked if Jack was my father, or who he was in relation to me.
I simply said, “He’s my Jack.” And he was a classic.
Jack, we love you and miss you. Thank you for all the happy memories. I hope you’ve finally found your happy place where you can putter, skinny dip and dance to your heart’s content.
Summer’s here and it’s shaping up to be a barn burner again.
When the sun is scorching hot and it feels like you could fry an egg on the sidewalk, the best way to cool off is to reach for your favourite frozen treat.
When I was growing up, the ultimate frozen treat was the Lola. It was a triangular shaped slushie that you had to eat like a beaver, chomping on the corners of each triangle with your two front teeth. At least three or four times red or purple juice would spit out or spill all over your white t-shirt. To finish it, you had to tilt the triangle up to slurp the sugary juice, choking and sputtering liquid everywhere.
Lola’s were only sold in Ontario and Quebec from 1959 to 1982 but I read somewhere that they actually brought it back in 1999, under the slogan, “One taste of Lola, and you’re back in the fun-loving ’70s”.
This week’s #HappyAct is to stay cool by indulging in your favourite frozen treat. What’s yours? Leave a comment.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned from writing this blog, it’s to look for happiness in the most unusual places.
A few weeks ago, Dave and I were touring up the Sunshine Coast in British Columbia. We were off the beaten path, and found ourselves at the end of the road in Halfmoon Bay. There was a small general store and an ice cream shop, so naturally we stopped.
We bought some supplies and I stopped to read the notices on their local community board. Tucked between the flyer for the local fish fry Friday night, a business card for BigMoustacheDave.ca and wood for sale was this note:
Happiness 1. Connection makes us happy 2. Selfishness keeps us from connecting 3. Instead of seeking to benefit myself, seeking to benefit others and nature. This creates connection and happiness.
I stopped and wondered. What would possess someone to write a note about happiness, then pin it on a corkboard in the general store in Halfmoon Bay? What happened in their life that propelled them to share this wisdom? Have they found happiness? And how many people besides me have stopped to read this note?
If only happiness could be for sale. If only you could order it by the skidload, or walk up to a happiness bar like the oxygen bars in the airports and say, “I’ll take $20 worth, please”.
It was a dark and stormy night. At least it was dark. Not so sure about the stormy part. But there was definitely a nip in the air that October evening, as my friend and I ventured into Fort Fright, a popular Halloween attraction at the Fort Henry historical site in Kingston.
You might not know it by the amount of time I spent cowered behind my friend, but I loved every minute. I suppose I have my dad to thank for that. Halloween was always one of his favourite times of the year.
What made Fort Fright so special were the scare actors. Real people wearing makeup and costumes, and with an agenda to extract the most fear from the masses winding their way through the dimly lit passages.
It looked like so much fun that a crazy idea popped in my head. I wanted to be a scare actor. Why not?
The following August, I reached out to express my interest. I interviewed shortly after, and was subsequently hired as a member of the Fort Fright scare acting team for the 2018 season. I was ecstatic beyond words.
To begin with, it was cool just working at Fort Henry every night, and being surrounded by all of the history. Our locker rooms were at the end of one of the parade squares, near the spot where I saw my first Tragically Hip concert. As I walked in each night, I would look to where the stage once was, and envision Gord Downie rocking and bouncing the microphone stand off his head.
The character I would assume for the month was an evil brain surgeon in the haunted hospital. I would lope around an operating table carrying a bloody, rubber brain, lurching out at guests as they nervously passed. Over time, I developed a few lines of dialogue, and I would learn to adapt my theatrics to the mood of the crowd.
Throughout October, I worked my full day job in Brockville, rushed home, and then was off to Kingston to work at Fort Fright for the evening. I actually used some vacation time to give myself a break from working double shifts. When it was all over, I had attended all but one evening that the attraction was open. Not surprisingly, I was tired some of those nights, but the adrenaline would kick in hard as the first visitors approached my post.
The job wasn’t without its risks. There was one night when I scared a big, burly man walking through with his date. My pleasure at nailing the scare just as quickly changed to horror when he turned towards me with an angry glare, and for a moment, I thought he was going to pulverize me. Thankfully, he thought better of it and continued on, as I breathed a huge sigh of relief.
But truly, the best part of the experience were my co-workers; energetic, passionate professionals all. And always anxious and friendly to offer guidance to the rookies such as myself.
Would I do it again? Absolutely! Truly the most fun I’ve ever had doing a job. I can’t imagine my fall without it.
In the midst of my foray into scare acting, several friends suggested that I should try my hand at more conventional acting. I balked a bit at first. Running around with a mask and jumping out at people was one thing. I couldn’t imagine myself being part of a formal production.
There was a local venue that I had driven by many times but had never entered; the Royale Theatre Thousand Islands in Gananoque. I knew they occasionally held open auditions for various performances, so I began following their Facebook page for notifications.
It was early February when they posted for a play called MURDER AFOOT. I attended and was provided with a script and a brief synopsis. The director assigned and rotated different roles while we read in a circle. When I left after about 45 minutes, I wasn’t really sure what to make from the experience. Of course, I was glad I had attended, but I had no idea how I had done.
About a week later, I was offered a role. I could not have imagined then how much I was going to enjoy every minute of the experience.
The play itself was a comedy murder mystery. My character was businessman Thomas Tottering, Vice President of Platt Shoes, engaged to Penny Platt, the daughter of the Company owner.
The rehearsal process itself was fascinating. We would start each session with warm-up, memory and accent exercises. MURDER AFOOT was set in 1930s England, so one challenge I had was learning a British accent for my role.
Rehearsing was much more than just memorizing lines. I was learning timing, inflection, and interacting with other characters. I was also learning how to enter and position myself on stage without blocking other cast members. During breaks, we would all be sized for costumes.
Over the course of about two months, it was thrilling to see the progression in everyone’s performance, as we would make tweaks and improvements along the way.
And I can’t say enough about the entire cast and stage crew. Again like my co-workers at Fort Fright, all talented and dedicated people. I was only one of two people in the play who were completely new to the theatre. The others had all performed in previous productions. We were all volunteers with a passion for the local arts community, and the Royal Theatre Thousand Islands.
Surprisingly, as opening night approached, I really wasn’t nervous at all. I was in fact energized and confident, eager for the show to start. As I waited off stage for my first scene, I had a few butterflies, but they quickly vanished with the delivery of my first line.
Three days, and four performances went by in a flash, and I can still remember the bittersweet experience of our last show, knowing that this would be the last time I would be in this character, delivering these lines, with this cast.
But it won’t likely be the last time I set foot on that stage.
This week’s #HappyAct is to embrace the unconventional. Discover those opportunities out there waiting for you to explore elements of yourself that you weren’t sure existed.
My new guilty pleasure is a British reality TV series called How Did You Get So Rich. The premise is simple. The host, Katherine Ryan goes up to rich people in the UK and asks them how they became so stinking rich (I added the stinking part).
I know what you’re thinking. How crass and incredibly unBritish of her, but a) she’s a comedian and b) she’s not British, she’s from Sarnia, Ontario (I knew I liked this girl!)
The show is funny, insightful and has amazing life lessons on what it takes to succeed and be happy.
In episode one, she interviews the founders of the UK chain Poundland, the UK equivalent of Dollarama. They live in a lavish mansion, go on helicopter dates, but pack their own canned goods when they travel to Europe to save money. In another episode, she interviews a custom car designer, a self-professed playboy, and two men who made millions from sex toys.
The most fascinating segment was an interview with Garrett Gee, who in 2014 created a mobile scanning app with his college buddies, then sold the app to Snapchat for a cool $54 million. Garrett hasn’t spent a dime of his fortune on himself. Instead, he and his wife and two kids travel the world for free, being hosted and paid to post travel videos. The only money the family has spent from the fortune he made is given to people or charities in the places they visit.
This week’s #HappyAct is to watch an episode and be inspired by the rags to riches stories and what happens when you follow your passion and dreams and take risks.
There’s a legion of research on how smart phones are making us unhappy. The most recent article I read was called “Kind of a sad story: Pessimism increases among millennials and Gen Z”. The article talked about how economic, social and political optimism is at record lows with millennials and the fact that 60% of millennials and 59% of Z-ers say they’d be happier if they spent less time on social media.
The obsession with our phones is not just limited to this age demographic. The average person spends 3 hours and 35 minutes a day on their smart phone.
Let me repeat that in case that staggering statistic slipped past you. THREE HOURS AND THIRTY-FIVE MINUTES a day.
It’s time to kick the smart phone habit. Here are some things to think about to inspire you:
Ask yourself what better things you could be doing with three full hours a day, or three full days a week? You could learn a new sport, tackle a home reno project, go hiking, or here’s a crazy thought, actually talk to your family members.
Catherine Price, author of “How to Break Up With Your Phone” encourages people to ask the three WWW’s when they pick up their phone: What for? Why now? What else? If you are simply reaching for your phone out of habit, or boredom, it’s probably time to find something else more productive to do
This may be a sacrilege suggestion, but make a point of not bringing your phone with you wherever you go. If it’s not within reach, you won’t spend as much time on it.
Finally, ask yourself is it helping you grow as a person, or is it numbing you or making you feel inferior or disconnected? If it’s the latter, you know what you have to do.
This week’s #HappyAct is to break up with your phone this summer. Get out and enjoy the great outdoors. Thanks to Mark Hurst’s Creative Good blog for some of the ideas in this week’s post.