Watch a movie under a starry sky

 

Movies in the squareOne of my favourite things to do in the summer is to watch a movie outside under the stars in downtown Kingston as part of their Movies in the Square series.

It’s such a great vibe. People start arriving, armchairs and blankets in hand. The air cools as the sun sets. The sky turns a royal blue, providing a stunning backdrop for the magnificent dome of City Hall and the lights surrounding market square.

Children run back and forth from the popcorn vendor, getting their final bursts of energy out before the big screen roars to life and the first of the big images are projected on the big screen. You look up and the stars begin to reveal themselves, providing a sparkling backdrop to a beautiful night.

I missed the movie I really wanted to catch this summer on Thursday—La La Land. I bet it was magical under the stars.

This week’s #HappyAct is to watch a movie under a starry sky before summer is out. Many communities offer open air movie nights. Check out the schedule in your area. Here is the rest of the line-up for Kingston this year.

Movies in the square line up Kingston 2019 

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What will matter

Author's mother in her wedding dress
It’s Mother’s Day, so this week I’m going to give myself the morning off and share words of wisdom that have resonated with me over the years about life and happiness. It’s a poem from Michael Josephson called What will matter.

What will matter
Ready or not, some day it will all come to an end.
There will be no more sunrises, no minutes, hours or days.
All the things you collected, whether treasured or forgotten
will pass to someone else.

Your wealth, fame and temporal power will shrivel to irrelevance.
It will not matter what you owned or what you were owed.
Your grudges, resentments, frustrations
and jealousies will finally disappear.

So too, your hopes, ambitions, plans and to-do lists will expire.
The wins and losses that once seemed so important will fade away.
It won’t matter where you came from
or what side of the tracks you lived on at the end.

It won’t matter whether you were beautiful or brilliant.
Even your gender and skin color will be irrelevant.
So what will matter?
How will the value of your days be measured?

What will matter is not what you bought
but what you built, not what you got but what you gave.

What will matter is not your success
but your significance.

What will matter is not what you learned
but what you taught.

What will matter is every act of integrity,
compassion, courage, or sacrifice
that enriched, empowered or encouraged others
to emulate your example.

What will matter is not your competence
but your character.

What will matter is not how many people you knew,
but how many will feel a lasting loss when you’re gone.

What will matter is not your memories
but the memories that live in those who loved you.

What will matter is how long you will be remembered,
by whom and for what.

Living a life that matters doesn’t happen by accident.
It’s not a matter of circumstance but of choice.

Choose to live a life that matters.

This week’s #HappyAct is to choose a life that matters. For the photo for this week’s blog, I chose a photo of my Mom who has been gone for 35 years now. She led a small life, but definitely a life that mattered.

Discover an undersea world

My friend looking at a shark

I’d like to be under the sea
In an octopus’s garden in the shade

-The Beatles, Octopus’s Garden

In January, on a very snowy winter afternoon, my girlfriends and I spent the afternoon at Ripley’s Aquarium in Toronto. I’d never been to the aquarium before, but Dave and the kids had raved about it so I was looking forward to exploring it, especially the shark tank and tunnel where the sharks swim right over your head.

It was an amazing mid-winter afternoon escape. We watched one of their divers feed the stingrays just feet away from us. Stingrays are incredibly graceful, floating and gliding effortlessly, but at feeding time, they’ll flock around the diver like a scene out of Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds, opening their mouths to gobble up the fish being offered.

Stingrays

At one point, since we had been hoofing it around the city in blustery snow all day, we just sat and watched one of the huge tanks for a half an hour. The longer we sat and watched, the more species we saw. Bright playful clown fish, luminescent mandarinfish, and fish with wonderful names like Love Bird Parrot and Moorish Idol formed a moving kaleidoscope before our eyes. It was very peaceful and beautiful, and dare I say, zen.

Fish tank

The main attraction was the Dangerous Lagoon which is North America’s longest underwater viewing tunnel and which Ripley’s describes as a breathtaking underwater gallery. We hopped on the moving sidewalk three times to watch and wonder at the magnificent sharks, sea turtles and sawfish swimming just inches above and beside us.

Shark in tank

This week’s #HappyAct is to escape the cold and snow, and dive into an undersea world.

Looking for something ultra cool? Every second Friday, they host a jazz night with live music and cash bars throughout the aquarium. Or have a slumber party and sleepover with the sharks. You can drop off the kids or stay for a family experience.  You can sign up for their Scales and Tales e-newsletter with exclusive offers, news and behind-the-scenes info. They even have PD Day camps if you’re looking for something for the kids on the next PD day.

If you don’t have any plans to go to Toronto and live in Eastern Ontario, try the Aquatarium in Brockville. Here is an old blog post I wrote about it a few years ago.

Ed. Note: Have you ever wondered how The Beatles came up with the lyrics to Octopus’ Garden? As the tale goes, Ringo Starr wrote the lyrics after spending a day at sea in Sardinia with comedian Peter Sellers. A waiter mistakenly brought him squid instead of fish and chips and he said, “It was okay. A bit rubbery. Tasted like chicken.” The captain went on to tell Starr about how octopuses travel along the seabed picking up stones and other shiny objects and create gardens with them.

Stingray

Pass down a holiday tradition

Girl walking in snow

We have a holiday tradition that makes people gasp in horror. We open our presents on Christmas night. Not Christmas Eve, Christmas night.

It’s a tradition that stems back to the days when my grandparents owned a greenhouse in the 1930s in Cooksville (now Mississauga) at the corner of Highways 5 and 10, Dundas and Hurontario Streets. Christmas was one of their busiest times of the year, and they would often still be preparing floral orders and making deliveries right up until lunch time on Christmas Day. The only time they could sit down to relax and open gifts was after dinner.

It was a tradition my parents continued when we were young, and a tradition Dave and I have passed on to our children.

I love opening gifts at nighttime, with the fire crackling, the Christmas tree lights shining and a glass of Bailey’s in your hand. You don’t have to worry about jumping up and getting the turkey in the oven or baking pies and it prolongs the anticipation beyond Christmas morning. It also lets us get outside and enjoy the beauty and peace of the day.

I knew the circle was complete when on one of our nightly walks this week, Clare asked, “Mom, can we open presents Christmas night again this year? I really love it.”

My work as a parent is done.

Whatever your traditions or faith, I hope you have a joyous holiday. What’s your favourite holiday tradition? Leave a comment.

Ever happy in Toyland

Girl and mother in funny hats in toy store

“Toyland, toyland
Little girl and boy land
While you dwell within it
You are ever happy there”

Lyrics from the holiday classic “Toyland”

The best way to discover your inner child is to spend an afternoon in a toy store.

Years ago, I worked for a company called Discovery Toys. I was their writer, so my job was to play with the toys and write all the catalogue and promotional copy.

Their slogan was “Play is a child’s work”.

Play is how children learn, but as adults, play serves a different purpose. Toys have the power to transport us back in time to when we didn’t have a care in the world. Our imagination immediately gets reawakened and once again life is full of possibilities.

Play allows us to forget our current cares and troubles. We can reinvent ourselves for a moment in time and be whoever we want to be: an astronaut, a ballerina, or a warrior.

Perhaps the greatest gift of all, play allows us to see the world through a child’s eyes again.

This week’s #HappyAct is to pay a visit to Santa’s toy shop, or MasterMind Toys if you can’t make it to the North Pole. Here are some pictures Clare and I took on a recent excursion to MasterMind. And if you happen to be in Quebec City, be sure to check out toy store Benjo—a magical place.

Girl and hockey game
Clare beating me at table top hockey

Girl and elephant

Girl and giraffe

 

The crappy act revisited

Dog with sunglasses
Our one dog now, the Bellediot–beautiful but stupid as a bag of hammers

My life is starting to resemble a country song. We had to put my old dog down, two of my appliances died, our car was in the shop and we got a ticket for parking in front of a hydrant, bills are piling up and to make matters worse, I’ve had a throat infection that’s only getting worse which means I’ll have to go back to the doctor for another appointment.

As Dave says, there are weeks when the happy act should really be The Crappy Act. It’s made me reflect on how to keep chipper when life gets you down. Here are a few things that work for me.

  • Taking care of myself. Easier said than done, but I’ve always been a huge advocate of listening to your body, and when I’m feeling poorly I try to slow down and take care of myself. Note to self: make another doctor’s appointment tomorrow.
  • Being grateful for what I have instead of what I’ve lost. I loved Murphy our old dog, but we still have our Great Pyrenees, Bella, the stupidest dog on the face of the planet. Even though her various nicknames range from Bella the Fart Smeller, to Bella the Drywall Eating Dog, to the Bellidiot, we still love her and I’m grateful my big fluffy polar bear of a dog is still here to greet me every night when I come home.
  • Remembering that no matter what challenges we are facing, there is someone sitting next to me dealing with far more serious issues. I was reminded of this twice this weekend.
  • Knowing this too shall pass.
  • Oh, and chocolate and ice cream don’t hurt either (and are cool on the throat).

Hope everyone else had a happy week….and thanks for the kind words about Murphy. Our gentle giant is in a happier place.

Feel your heart fill with pride

Girls with silver medals

Any parent knows there is no greater joy than watching their child excel at something.

This past weekend, Clare competed in the Ontario provincial kayaking championships in Welland, Ontario. She qualified for two races: the K1 1000 metre individual developmental race, and the K2 500 metre competitive final with her kayaking partner, Parker Friendship.

This is only her second year competing with the Sydenham Lake Canoe Club so the fact she made it to the provincials is pretty amazing.

I’m not one of those crazy parents that loses it at sporting events, even though I do yell and cheer loudly at hockey games, much to my kids’ chagrin.  But when that horn blasted and Clare and Parker plunged their paddles into the water and powered their boat in perfect synchrony to the front of the pack, my heart started racing too.

It was the first time I experienced an actual physiological reaction watching my child compete, and my heart didn’t stop racing until they crossed the finish line in second place. Tears filled my eyes and my heart filled with pride. It was a moment to remember.

Congratulations to Clare and Parker on a phenomenal race and their silver medals making them #2 in all of Ontario. We couldn’t be more proud of you! Special thanks to Helen Parfitt and Roger Labbe who pour their heart and soul into making the Sydenham Lake Canoe Club the welcoming, supportive and successful club it is, and Rhiannon Murphy for being such a wonderful coach and mentor to all our kids this summer.

Kayakers on podium