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!

Ten love quotes for Valentine’s Day

poster of love quote

Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day, the day you’ll find panicked husbands staring blankly in the empty aisles of Shopper’s Drug Mart, scrambling to find the perfect last minute $10 card and box of heart-shaped chocolates.

For me, Valentine’s Day is simply a day to tell the people I love how much I care for them and how I can’t imagine living life without them. Here are my ten favourite love quotes for Valentine’s Day.

“We are most alive when we are in love.”
John Updike

“The only thing we never get enough of is love; and the only thing we never give enough of is love.”
Henry Miller

“Love and work, work and love… that’s all there is.”
Sigmund Freud (defining happiness and reflecting on the importance of relationships and having a sense of purpose)

“When you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible.”
Nora Ephron

“It is a curious thought, but it is only when you see people looking ridiculous that you realize just how much you love them.”
Agatha Christie

“Lots of people want to ride with you in the limo, but what you want is someone who will take the bus with you when the limo breaks down.”
Oprah Winfrey

“True love stories never have endings.”
Richard Bach

“Never love anyone who treats you like you’re ordinary.”
Oscar Wilde

“All you need is love. But a little chocolate now and then doesn’t hurt.”
Charles M. Schulz

And an important one for the times we live in,

“I have decided to stick to love; hate is too great a burden to bear.”
Martin Luther King Jr.

And if I were to add my own:

“The greatest teacher of love is a dog.”
Laurie Swinton

This week’s #HappyAct is to look beyond the consumer trappings of Valentine’s Day and tell the ones you love how much they mean to you. But hey, like Snoopy’s Dad said, a little chocolate isn’t going to hurt anyone.

The 75 Easy Challenge

Bentley the dog ready for his 75 Easy Challenge
Bentley ready to take up his 75 Easy Challenge

You may have heard about the 75 Hard challenge that’s taken over TikTok and the internet. Created by fitness guru Andy Frisella, it’s a challenge that is supposed to toughen you up mentally and physically. He calls it “ironman for your brain”. The challenge involves doing five things for 75 days straight:

  1. Drink 3-4 litres of water a day 
  2. Follow a diet with no cheat meals or alcohol
  3. Workout twice a day for 45 minutes, and one of the workouts must be done outdoors 
  4. Read 10 pages of a non-fiction or self-help book each day
  5. Take a progress picture each day

We were talking about the challenge in the car yesterday, and I said, “that’s way too hard and life’s challenging enough right now, I’d rather do a 75-day easy challenge”. Here’s what our 75 Easy challenge would look like:

Laurie’s 75 Easy challenge

  1. Drink two glasses of wine two days a week, one white, one red
  2. Complete one puzzle
  3. Read the newspapers and actually get moving before 10 a.m. on the weekends (shoot, I guess I’ll have to start the challenge tomorrow)
  4. Walk from my home office to the kitchen fridge and back at least twice a day
  5. Wear something other than slippers and leggings at least once a week

Dave’s 75 Easy challenge

  1. Ice fish twice a week
  2. Pet Bentley 10 times a day, including once on the belly
  3. Read 30 pages of either John Sandford, Wilbur Smith or Ken Follett a night
  4. Drink one bottle of Baileys or Cabot Trail maple cream, with or without coffee
  5. Bring his minnows in every night so they don’t freeze on the front porch (to help with #1)

Clare’s 75 Easy challenge

  1. Eat two Mr. Noodles a day, one small bowl and one large bowl
  2. Limit her screen time on her phone to less than four hours per day
  3. Wear an actual winter coat each time she leaves the house
  4. Watch at least one hour of Netflix or DisneyPlus a night
  5. Clean up after herself in the kitchen at least once a week (again, see #1)  

Grace’s 75 Easy challenge

  1. Keep her voice down to under 100 decibels when talking on the phone late at night
  2. Journal every day
  3. Write and re-write her study schedule daily
  4. Pick two items of clothing up off of her floor each day
  5. Learn one new song on the guitar each week

Bentley’s 75 Easy challenge

  1. Chase the squirrels from the bird feeders twice a day
  2. Sleep on one couch at least once every night
  3. Eat two dog treats a day without trying to slobber
  4. Actually come when my humans call, “Come, Bentley”
  5. Bark for only 10 minutes a night on the front porch at absolutely nothing

There you have it. Hey, at least we’ll feel good when we’re all successful at the end of the 75 days. This week’s #HappyAct is to make up your own 75 Hard or Easy Challenge. What will it be? Leave a comment.

It’s written in the cards

Tarot cards

It’s always fun this time of year to scour your horoscope to see what’s in store for the year ahead.

We took it a step further and did tarot readings for everybody in the house this week. Here’s what the cards told us:

  • Grace has a secret admirer, but there is also distrust of acquaintances who are seeking to betray her.
  • There is a mystery that will affect Clare for the better. Her confiding disposition may generate a friendship that will warm into love.
  • I drew cards that foretold of successful ventures in business and riches, the ship and anchor. I guess my ship will come in this year.
  • Dave? Well, he doesn’t believe in this mumbo jumbo stuff. We’re still trying to convince him to let us do a reading. For now, let’s say there will be water and fish in his future.

This week’s #HappyAct is to buy a cheap card of tarot cards (only $9.99 on most sites) and see what’s written in the cards for you this year. Happy reading!

Tarot card reading

Top ten travel happy acts for 2022

Stormy beach in North Carolina
Carolina beach before the storm

Normally in December, I do a round-up of my favourite happy acts of the year. But as I’ve said more than once during COVID-19, it’s tough blogging about happiness during a pandemic. So this year, I’ve decided to choose my top ten list of travel-related posts to give us something to look forward to in 2022. Some of these are great staycation ideas, others involve finding adventures further afar.

  1. Explore the backroads and hamlets of Eastern Ontario in Take a Scenic Drive and Visit an Amazing Place.
  2. Experience the feeling of skating until your feet chafe in The world’s longest skating rink turns 50 celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Rideau Canal in Ottawa.
  3. Bridgerton fans: experience what life was like in Regency Europe by visiting English and Irish manors in Of manors and mansions when lords and duchesses attended balls, paid morning visits and strolled in stately gardens.
  4. On a glorious autumn day, there is no better experience in the world than picking grapes and helping with the harvest in Harvest the grape.
  5. In Walk through a sky with a thousand suns, we explored a sunflower farm in Prince Edward County.
  6. The Carolinas have always held a special place in our hearts, find out why in Carolina on my mind.
  7. On a wintry day, one of the best places to visit is an aquarium. Read about my girls’ weekend winter getaway to Ripley’s Aquarium in Discover an undersea world.
  8. There’s a reason why British Columbia has “Beautiful British Columbia” on its license plates. See why in Happy in beautiful BC.
  9. Hamilton, Ontario, a great tourist destination, really? Explore all it has to offer in Challenge a steadfast belief.
  10. Make a date to explore your local zoo or one of the smaller zoos in your region where you can get up close and personal with the animals in Have a Zootastic experience.

Where do you plan to visit next year? Leave a comment and here’s to a happier 2022 with many more travels and adventures ahead!

Daughter Grace in a garden in South Carolina
Grace at a manor house in North Carolina
Daughter Clare in a sunflower field in Prince Edward County, Ontario
Clare in the sunflower field in Prince Edward County

Find meaning behind the words this season

Sign with words hope, peace, joy and love

Peace and goodwill. Comfort and joy.

You hear these words everywhere you go this time of year, in holiday cards, in songs, in greetings and on signs.

I noticed a slight variation this week on my favourite church sign. It said, “Wishing you peace, joy, happiness and strength”.

Strength. It was an interesting choice of words. Yes, more than anything right now, we need strength and resilience.

This week’s #HappyAct is to find meaning behind the words this holiday season.

May you experience,

Kindness and generosity of spirit
Love and laughter
The comfort of warm food and fond memories
Precious time to reflect and recharge
Moments of happiness and joy
And strength and acceptance to bring you peace this holiday season

From my family to yours, Merry Christmas.

Don’t miss next week’s special year-end edition of Top 10 Happy Acts, my favourite blog posts to help you get through another COVID winter.

And to the stranger who showed generosity of spirit and bought our hot chocolates at the McDonald’s drive-through in Kingston last Wednesday, thank you for paying it forward! We reciprocated and hope the person behind us enjoyed their McHappy Meal and chocolate shake.