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.

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.

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.

Lick a beater

Whipped cream on a beater

There is nothing more comforting than doing something that takes you back to your childhood.

One of my favourite childhood memories was when my Mom baked, and called us into the kitchen as she was putting a cake into the oven to lick a beater.

Licking a beater is a bit trickier than you think. You have to wrap your tongue around the curved edges of the beater blades, twisting it like a corkscrew to make sure you lick every last morsel of cake mix or whipping cream on the blades.

When I bake today, it astonishes me that neither of my kids want to lick the beater. But that makes me happy–all the more for me. As they say in the Swinton house, you snooze, you lose.

This week’s #HappyAct is to do something that takes you back to your childhood.

Signs of happiness

We were driving to Georgia this spring, and one of the billboard signs on the side of the highway said, “Put your positive pants on”.

I didn’t get a chance to take a picture, but it made me smile and laugh and think about all the wonderful motivational signs on happiness.

Here are some of my favourites. You can buy most of these from etsy.com or Amazon. Have a happy week!

Why limit happy to an hour
Those who say only sunshine brings happiness have never danced in the rain
Be happy sign
John Lennon quote on happiness
Irish blessing
All our visitors bring happiness, some by coming, some by going
The key to happiness is low expectations
If Mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy!
My all-time favourite, a fridge magnet the girls gave me one year for Mother’s Day!

You’ve got a friend

Author and her best friend

There are no words to describe the comfort of a friend. Friends console us when we’re down. They are a sympathetic ear when troubles weigh heavy on your heart and the first person to say I believe in you. You will overcome this.

They share in life’s joys, sorrows and celebrations. They are the person you turn to when you need a hug, or someone to listen without judgement, or just want to share a laugh or what’s on your mind. They love you unconditionally, warts and all. Without them, we’d be lost.  

It’s a scientific fact that having one good friend has a significant impact on happiness. It’s not surprising having a friend increases your happiness in good times, but it’s been proven that having a friend is critical during times of stress when you need help.

In his New York University course The Science of Happiness, Dr. Alan Schlechter lectures about the “tend and befriend” response. The cousin to the fight or flight response, the tend and befriend response is when the hormone oxytocin, induced by stress tells us to reach out for help. When we reach out to a friend, our cortisone level goes down and we feel better.

They say you’re lucky to have at least one true friend in your lifetime. I’ve been fortunate enough to have two, my best friend Leslie and my husband Dave. Thanks for being my rock, guys. I love you both.

This week’s #HappyAct is to tell your best friend how much they mean to you.

Author and her other best friend, her husband

Spend time with a different type of screen

Dog in screened porch

I’ve always loved a screen porch. There’s just something special about feeling like you’re outdoors, in nature but without the bugs, and spending quality time talking, playing cards, reading or doing puzzles.

The other night after dinner, I wandered into the front room and asked Dave where the girls were. He said he thought Clare was in the screened porch doing school work.

I went to join her and found Grace sitting on the futon, gently strumming her guitar while Clare sat in the lounger under a fluffy duvet writing out an assignment. I joined them and we just sat there for about an hour, listening to the chords float into the air, the birds chirping outside and watching the cotton candy sky swirl above the leafy treetops as the sun went down.

It was a special moment in a special place and I was so grateful to be able to spend time with my girls, with no phones, computers or devices to take away from the peace, serenity and tranquility of our beautiful surroundings.

This week’s #HappyAct is to spend some time with a different type of screen. Here’s a picture of Bentley after a swim in our screened porch.

Life lessons from happy cats with cattitude

Two cats staring at each other through a window
Photo caption: Yoyo and Ginsu in a standoff. We renamed Ginsu “Lil Putin” because he makes trouble everywhere he goes. 

Those of you who know me well or who have followed this blog, know I am a dog lover. In the interests of diversity, equity and inclusion, I welcome the diverse perspective of cat people. I hope you enjoy this week’s post on cats from guest blogger and cat lover, Jill Yokoyama!

When Laurie first started writing her weekly blog I remember commenting on the name “happy act” and joking that she would have to do a “happy cat” post sometime. That day has arrived! 

I have always been a “cat person” and growing up our family always had a cat or two as pets. For the last ten years, Gary & I have shared a home with our cat Yoyo. She is a run-of-the-mill brown tabby with lots of “cattitude” and one of Gary’s lines is “Careful, you can be replaced; there are 20,000 cats just like you in Hamilton…” Despite this joking threat, she has worked her way firmly into our hearts and we are endlessly amused by Yoyo. 

After spending the last two years 24/7 observing Yoyo, here are some important life lessons from a cat:

  • Always take the opportunity for a long nap. Even if it seems like you just woke up from a nap, it’s never too early to consider another one. 
  • Wallow in the sunshine whenever possible–close your eyes, stretch out and relax.
  • Spend a few minutes every day with your people, showing your love & affection for them. 
  • Be curious about the world around you, whether it be the swirling flush of the toilet or what might be on the kitchen counter.
  • Take joy in small pleasures. Chase a piece of string around the house like it is your most precious treasure. 
  • Defend yourself loudly and unreservedly when a bully comes around. Even if you are small, puff up your tail and fur and believe in your ability to take on a larger foe.
  • Always say yes to treats!

We hope you enjoyed this week’s #HappyCat!

Advice from a sea turtle

Girl walking on a beach

I’ve been dreaming of white sandy beaches and palm trees lately. It made me think of one of my favourite passages, “Advice from a sea turtle”:

Swim with the current
Be a good navigator
Stay calm under pressure
Be well travelled
Think long term
Age gracefully
Spend time at the beach

Have a happy week!

The OGs of our day

Clare looking cool at the lake

Warning: today’s blog post contains coarse language because it’s hella cool.

I ate shit the other day. Not the actual shit like in the Cheech and Chong skit or the type you’d find in your hamster cage. I fell down hard in our skating rink of a driveway. Grace and Clare both fell too, and burst in the door saying, “I just ate shit”.

You see, eating shit is the latest vernacular for taking a header, falling down, wiping out. I thought it was a strange choice of words, but hey, kids these days. Amirite?

Luckily, my friend Jess recently gave me “A Very Modern Dictionary”, a handy book of 400 words, phrases, acronyms and slang to keep your culture game on fleek (perfectly executed).

I thought I would try it out with my bae, which is different from your bff by the way. Your bae is your significant other; your bff your best friend. Whatever you do, don’t get your bf (boyfriend), bff, gf or bae mixed up. I’m planning a trip down east with my girlfriends this summer (gfs), but my bae is my baller, a rockstar, especially with his dadbod. Together we are the power couple of Spring Lake.

Let me part the kimono a bit more on this new landscape of communication.

I was chillaxing last week with my homies down at the lake, catching fish and taking Instaworthy photos, when we realized we were fungry (f*in hungry) and I said let’s grab some grub.

We were sitting at the table when the dog let out a big question fart, a fart where the sound ends in an upward inflection, similar to when you ask a question and we all laughed and said, that’s craycray, Bentley’s so dope!

Grace was phubbing us, ignoring the conversation and looking at her phone, but stopped surfing for a moment to ask for a loan from the Bank of Mum and Dad. I said, “Ain’t nobody got time for that.”

This generation thinks they’re the bomb, the OGs of words and Wordle, when our generation was actually the Original Gangsta’s of slang. Old school is now a term of “respect and deference” instead of an insult and I laughed out loud (LOL) when I saw TGIF listed as a “modern” slang term.

I blogged eight years ago about being normcore, which the dictionary describes as “a fashion style characterized by the elevation of bland, ‘normal’ clothing” that has become so popular with hipsters it has “turned the style into a trend, making its claim of being unpretentious decidedly pretentious.” Hey dude, don’t call me pretentious.

This week’s #HappyAct is to get savage with your vocabulary, and not be jelly of the younger generation and their slang and feel #blessed. Nailed it!

A very modern dictionary book cover
Cheech and Chong skit–still a classic!