Fireworks and fireflies

Me in my kayak with sparklers

Last weekend, the little girl next door turned five years old. Other than having a dragonfly-themed birthday party (a huge departure from the usual Frozen theme), all she wanted for her birthday was to stay up late after dark.

To honour her wish and give her a birthday she’ll never forget, we hatched a scheme with our neighbours to shoot off fireworks at the lake at dusk.

It was a warm summer evening, one of those nights when the air hangs heavily like wet clothes on a clothesline and the water is as still as glass. Shortly after eight, we headed down to the lake and piled in boats and kayaks. My neighbour Bruno was the pyrotechnician. He devised an ingenious launching pad in his boat (he only has a trolling motor, no gas can!) so he could light the fireworks, then swing the wooden stick that was serving as a launch pad away out into the water for safety.

Within minutes, we heard little voices chattering excitedly coming down the hill. The kids piled into their pontoon boat, anxiously anticipating a special treat.

Their eyes opened wide when the first fireworks lit up the sky. Burst after burst of sizzling rockets, fountains, firecrackers and sparklers were met by squeals of delight and cheers and claps.

After the show, we lit up sparklers on the dock and in the boats. From my kayak, I wrote the birthday girl’s name in the air with my sparkler, just like we did when we were kids.

As we were getting ready to head home, we looked up the hill. The brush and trees were lit up by fireflies, flitting like mystical fairies in the dark. I guess Mother Nature didn’t want the show to end.

This week’s #HappyAct is to enjoy some fireworks or fireflies this summer. If you want to read more about fireflies, check out this earlier post.

Kids watching fireworks
Kids watching fireworks
Fireworks in the sky

My secret addiction

Dog with eight soccer balls

A few years ago, Clare was hooked on a TV series called My Strange Addiction. It featured people who were addicted to the weirdest things. There was one woman who ate mattresses, another who ate rocks, someone who snorted baby powder all day and a girl who took her pillow with her everywhere. I’ve posted the link to the episode featuring the mattress lady below.

Most of us have a secret addiction. Dave’s is fishing gear, boats and motors. Mine is sweaters (but hey, we do live in Canada where it’s cold eight months of the year).

My dog’s is soccer balls. Bentley is obsessed with balls. When he’s outside, his ball is with him wherever he goes. He’ll even sleep with his head on it, and now he doesn’t want to come inside unless he has his ball with him.

The problem is he destroys balls as soon as he gets them. His ETTR (estimated time to rip apart) is now 60 seconds. About a month ago, Grace bought him a shiny new ball from Shopper’s Drug Mart. The lady at the checkout guaranteed it was dog proof. Grace got out of the car and proudly presented it to Bentley. He grabbed it in his mouth, wagged his tail and started chewing, and on the third jaw crunch, the ball deflated.

I did the math, and figured we’d be broke by the end of summer at this pace, so a few weeks ago, I reached out to my Facebook friends to ask if they had any old balls lying around we could take off their hands.

Here is Bentley with the most recent donations from Clare’s old baseball coach (thanks Gee family!) and my friend Bev.

Secret or not-so-secret addictions can be fun and make you happy. Just don’t let them take over your life to the point where you end up on a TV show.

What’s your secret addiction? Leave a comment and have a happy week!

Dog with head on a ball
Girl with dog and ball

Out for a rip

Husband and author on ATV

Does this interminable lockdown have you down? Has cabin fever got you feverish for adventure? The perfect panacea for this perpetual pandemic is to go out for a rip.

We’ve been going out for a rip on our ATV, exploring the back roads and trails in our area the last few nights.

While technically you can go out for a rip in any vehicle like a car, truck, snowmobile, or even bicycle, there’s nothing like the open air and wind hitting your face when you’re on an ATV or bike.  

You also get to explore new terrain in an ATV. We’re very fortunate to have the K&P trail which is open to ATVs north of Verona just up the road from us.

Our area is well known for this pastime, iconicized by the famous Tamworth rapper BRich. Watch his music video Out for a Rip to find out how to do it right. (Foul language warning).   

On my rip with Dave, we whizzed past farmer fields filled with purple and white wallflowers, through old growth forests and cottage laneways. We stopped to see a magnificent barred owl, watching us from the hydro lines, a mossy covered snapping turtle laying her eggs at the top of a waterfall, and to catch the fading sun over a lily-pad covered bay.

With Clare last night, we came across three baby raccoons who clambered up a tree beside the road when we stopped to watch them, a turkey perched in a tree, and two deer.

If you enjoy the freedom of an open road, you’ll love the freedom of an open trail.

This week’s #HappyAct is to go out for a rip, bud.

And I couldn’t resist throwing it back to this post featuring the BRich Sportsnet video, “Get out your swimming trunks—the Leafs are in the playoffs”. Sorry, Leaf fans!

View from the back of an ATV
Snapping turtle laying her eggs
Baby raccoons in the trees
pond with lily pads
My daughter Clare on our ATV

Plan the perfect do-nothing vacation

Me and Dave on a boardwalk in South Carolina

I’m starting a week’s vacation, and to be honest, I’m pretty stoked about it. I plan to poke around some garden centres, do a little kayaking, fishing, lots of eating, drinking, and watching Netflix. Basically all the same things I’ve been doing for the past year, minus work.

I used to be one of those people that would never take a vacation day if I didn’t have anything to do. The whole thought of spending an entire day at home was foreign to me. I always had to have something planned, either a big trip, or at least some day trips or overnighters to friends’ cottages or the city. Staycations were not my thing.

Now Covid is giving staycation a whole new meaning.

But there is something liberating about a do-nothing vacation. You can sleep as much as you want. You don’t have to worry about packing or having to be somewhere on time or follow a schedule. If it rains, who cares? It doesn’t ruin your plans because you don’t have any. You can just curl up for a nap, or find something to do inside.

Actually, it sounds rather idyllic except for two things.

My teenagers, both home all week, one home schooling, the other waiting for her summer job to start. All of a sudden, work doesn’t look that bad.

This week’s #HappyAct is to plan the perfect do-nothing vacation. What do you plan to do on yours? Leave a comment. Here’s a picture from a do-something vacation from two years ago outside Bubba’s Love Shak on a boardwalk in South Carolina. Sigh.

Coming to grips with the five most terrifying words you will ever ask yourself

Author with her daughters on the beach

One of the best Quora posts I ever read was someone who posed the question, “Is this all there is?” The author bared his soul, sharing his story about how he struggled with this question and how the implications of his answer compelled him to make monumental changes in his life.

For many of us, our lives are never ending hamster wheels. Get up. Work. Make dinner. Squeeze in an hour of exercise. Watch TV for an hour. Do it all over again. At some point, we will inevitably ask ourselves, is this all there is?

I know my answer.  While there are days when life’s routine wears me down, I have lived a good life.

I have watched the migration of the wildebeast and zebras in the setting sun of the Serengeti.

I have strolled along the banks of the Seine, the Thames and the Hudson.

I have explored the stopes of a gold mine thousands of feet underground, and hiked to the peaks of majestic mountains.

I have swam with dolphins, raced through forests on dog sleds, and snorkeled with schools of exotic fish in clear sparkling waters.

I have hiked glaciers on mountainsides and ziplined through the canopy of the rainforest.

I have known the love and respect of a wonderful man who has been my soul mate and partner for more than 30 years.

I have experienced the joy of watching my children grow, from taking their first uncertain steps, to watching their chubby little legs race down our hill to the lake on a warm summer’s day, to blossoming into the beautiful, strong, independent young women they’ve become today.

I have cherished friends who know me better than I know myself.

And I have enjoyed the peace and tranquility of living for almost two decades on my beautiful spring-fed lake and all the joys it brings each season.

I hope life brings more adventures, but if this is all there is, I’m OK with that. I choose to find joy each day in my small, simple life, and be grateful for the life I have lived.

This week’s #HappyAct is dedicated to the memory of my sister-in-law, Karen Gillies who passed away this week and who was taken from us far too young. An amazing wife, mother and friend, she embodied kindness and grace. Karen told us that she had come to accept her fate. I derive some comfort in knowing that Karen would have answered the question, is this all there is, the same way.

 Author at the top of Whistler mountain

I #ChooseToChallenge but respectfully

Author and her daughter holding their hands high in solidarity for International Women's Day

Tomorrow is International Women’s Day. This year the theme is #ChooseToChallenge. The rallying cry is not just to celebrate women’s achievements, but to call out gender bias and inequality so “collectively, we can all help create an inclusive world. From challenge comes change, so let’s all choose to challenge.”

As someone who has witnessed gender bias and inequality and tried to advocate all my life for gender equity, I will hold my hand high to show my support with women across the globe but with one important caveat: I #ChooseToChallenge respectfully.

We are living in very strange times indeed, times when even when you are trying to do the right thing and speak up, you can be vilified for your words.

Last month, actress Olivia Wilde praised her boyfriend, Harry Styles publicly on her Instagram feed for taking a supporting role in a film she directed featuring a strong female cast. She said “Little known fact, most male actors don’t want to play supporting roles in female-led films. The industry has raised them to believe it lessens their power (i.e financial value) to accept these roles, which is one of the reasons it’s so hard to get financing for movies focusing on female stories.”

The backlash was fast, furious and full of vitriol, accusing Wilde of praising Styles for doing his job or as one person said on Twitter, “the bare minimum level shit”.

What’s the lesson here? Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.

C’mon everybody. Speak up. Choose to challenge, but be damned sure you say the right thing.

I’m honestly getting really tired. Tired of people trying to do the right thing and being raked over the coals, tired of the haters, tired of the nastiness overshadowing the real, important conversations and hampering real change.

So yes, we must #ChooseToChallenge, but please, help make this world a happier and more productive place and #ChooseToChallenge respectfully.

Make love a daily ritual

Roses are red
Violets are blue
I promise each day
To say I love you

There are few words in the English language that convey such emotion as the simple, four-letter word love.

Just thinking of the word love makes you feel warm all over, giddy inside, happy and fulfilled.

I made a vow when I was quite young to tell the people I love that I love them every day. You see, when I was 12, my Mom was diagnosed with cancer. I knew the day would come when I might not be able to say those words to her anymore, so we made a pact to say we loved each other every day. She died when I was 19.

I’ve continued that daily ritual in my marriage and with my children. Not a day goes by where I don’t tell them I love them.

If there’s one thing this past year has taught us is, life is short. This week’s #HappyAct is to make sure the people you love know how you feel about them. Don’t leave words unsaid.

Happy hearts day, everyone. And for those of you with a more amorous turn who like a play on words, feel free to make love a daily ritual too!

Tails from Bentley

Special guest blog by Bentley the dog

Greetings, or as I like to say, happy tails! I can’t believe it’s been only weeks since I left the streets of Cairo, flew on a plane and arrived in Canada. A nice man named Kevin greeted me and drove me to meet my new family. We had lots of laughs and pets in his driveway, then it was time to go home.

The minute I walked in the door, I knew I found my furrever home. The oldest girl, Grace gave me a big hug and had a new toy and sign ready for me, saying “Welcome home”.

My new home is doggie paradise. My owners posted pictures of me on Facebook and all their friends said I won the doggie lottery. Apparently their house is known as a“doggie spa” because it is pawsitively awesome and regularly gets five tail wag reviews on PupAdvisor from four-legged visitors.

My new house is all one level and has a wood stove for me to curl up beside in the winter and a beautiful sunroom with all windows. I have six acres to roam on a spring-fed lake. My family keeps telling me we will go fishing and swimming in the summer, but for now, it’s all frozen and snowy. I have already been ice fishing and skating and like to blow bubbles in the ice fishing holes and minnows bucket!

I love watching the birds on my property. I especially love chasing the squirrels. When my owners let me out the front or back door, I go tearing after them and five or six squirrels will go flying off the bird feeders onto the fences and trees in a flourish. It makes me howl every time! My family doesn’t mind because it keeps the squirrels away from the bird feeders.

It took me about a week to adjust to everything. My tummy was off a bit, so my Mom gave me pumpkin in my food for a few days. On Christmas Eve she made a pumpkin pie. She left it on the counter and asked my Dad to get the tupperware container down and cover it up. He got the wrong one that doesn’t close properly and so before bed, I smelled the pumpkin, thinking it was for me and put my paws on the counter and ate half of it.

Another time, a neighbour dropped some apple crisp off at the front door and got stuck in the icy snow in their driveway. When they all went out to help them get unstuck, I helped myself to half a brie and lovely charcuterie board on the dining room table. I know I shouldn’t, but if stupid humans leave food out like that, I can’t help myself. I’ll have to train them better if I’m going to keep my boyish figure.

My family is home during the day and spend their time looking at screens a lot. They take lots of breaks to play with me and take me for walks. They keep using words like “Covid” and “virus” and assure me we will visit more with other people and dogs when those strange words are over.

My favourite place to sleep now is in my Dad’s chair in the sunroom. It fits me just perfect, I can look out the windows and it makes me feel closer to him when he is away at work. Mom says it’s like I’m a prince on my throne.

Grace keeps bringing stuffed toys home for me. My ETTR (estimated time to rip apart) is 24 hours. I’m trying to improve my time to get into the Guinness Book of Dog Records. I figure I have a good shot if she keeps bringing dollar store items. I also like to go around and pick up hats, mitts and socks. Mom is trying to teach me to drop the dirty items in the laundry basket for biscuits.

Grace has a boyfriend and he is a cat person (horrors). I have made it my secret mission to convert him to become a dog person so we snuggle a lot and play together. I think my master plan is working.

I am so happy in my new home. We believe in our hearts we were MFEO (Made For Each Other). I know this wonderful new life of mine would never have been possible without Golden Rescue and my generous sponsor. From the tip of my tail, I want to say thank you so much for bringing me to such a wonderful place.

Happy tails, Bentley!

The year in review: my favourite happy acts from the year of COVID

Two girls graduating

Each year at this time, I select my top ten favourite blog posts for my annual year in review.

I was a bit worried this year that pickings would be slim. Truth be told blogging about happiness during a global pandemic is a bit of a tough slog. With little prospects for fun excursions, and at times struggling with my own mental and physical health, there were many weeks when I wondered what simple act could I share this week to make the world a happier place?

But as I re-read the posts two things hit home. You can feel moments of happiness and gratitude at the most unexpected times and by doing the simplest of acts.

The other realization was happiness cannot be viewed in isolation. We are vastly impacted by events happening around us. My blog this past year has been as much a reflection and chronicle of the times as anything else.

Here were my favourite happy acts from a year that will go down in the history books as a year to remember:

There you have it. Another year under the bridge, another year of happy acts. Here’s to a happier 2021 for us all.

The best Christmas gift ever

golden retriever

One of the first blog posts I ever wrote when I started sharing a happy act a week to help make the world a happier place was, “Hug a dog”.

There is nothing like the love and licks of a furry four-legged friend to make bad days better and good days epic. When our two large dogs passed away within the same year, we held off getting another dog. Our schedules were hectic and we thought we’d just look after friends’ dogs when they were away.

Then COVID hit and everyone got a dog. Friends who have never had a dog before were getting puppies. We started searching for the right dog online but even mutts were going for $1,200 and pickings were scant.

We were dogless in lockdown during a pandemic. It just wasn’t right. We wrote out our Christmas lists and each made the same wish to Santa: please bring us a puppy.

Our wishes came true this week when we adopted a one and a half year-old golden retriever rescue dog from goldenrescue.ca. He flew all the way from Cairo, Egypt and already has nuzzled his way into our hearts and his furever home.

He is a big, gentle loving soul who loves to play, walk and snuggle. We can’t get over how good he is already. His worst habits are stealing the toilet paper roll off the holder and picking up Dave’s socks from the floor which he always brings and presents to me proudly. My goal is to teach him to put the socks in the laundry basket—one less chore in the house.

But we need help with a name. He came with the name Bailey, but I had a dog for 17 years named Bailey and every dog has their own unique personality. Here are some suggestions that have already come in from friends on Facebook.

This week’s #HappyAct is to make someone’s Christmas wish come true and give the best present ever, or at least help us name our newest family member. I hope everyone has a wonderful and joyous Christmas. Be sure to read next week’s annual year-end wrap up of the best happy acts of 2020.

  • Beau
  • Cairo
  • Tucker
  • Harley
  • Jasper
  • Red
  • Rusty Griswold Swinton (since we got him at Christmas)
  • Nugget (like a gold nugget)
  • Elvis (my choice, the rest of the fam are nixing this one)
  • Duke
Dave and Clare walking the dog
Doing his first Christmas bird count