A Christmas Memories Box

Christmas tree with cardinal garland

We finally decorated the house for Christmas this weekend. Twenty minutes in, Clare shook her head in disgust and asked, “Can someone become Jewish?”

You see my family doesn’t approve of my decorating skills which are somewhere between a cross of Clark Griswold and anything on the Worst Tacky Decorated Homes for the Season list. Last year after we were done, and I asked everyone how the house looked, Clare surveyed the room blandly and said, “It looks like Christmas barfed up all over the house.”

So this year I tried to take their criticism to heart and not put out every broken ceramic Santa and faded snowman cushion.

The one area I refuse to scale back on is tree decorations. Every year when we open up the box with the ornaments for the tree, Clare says we have way too much and should throw some of it away. But I can’t. To me, our battered old green box is a treasure trove of memories. Each ornament tells a story of a different period in our lives.

There are ornaments I painted by hand after I finished a term at university when I was in my twenties, ornaments made by the kids out of popsicle sticks when they were toddlers, and decorations from every trip we’ve ever taken as a family.

There are ornaments that reflect every aspect of our lives: birdhouses and kayaks, dogs, bagpipers, skates, hockey, musical instruments, wine glasses, plenty of fish (we have an entire tree of fish ornaments!), even a Grinch one that says “2020: Stink, Stank, Stunk”. 

There are scores of snowmen because every year Dave’s sister MaryAnne gave the girls a snowman ornament. When they move out, our tree will become less cluttered. And there are at least half a dozen cardinals in memory of loved ones who can no longer be with us in person, but are always with us in spirit at this time of the year. This year I found a beautiful cardinal ribbon garland we added to the tree in memory of my two sister-in-laws who passed away from cancer.

So I will continue unapologetically to put every ornament in my Christmas memory box on the tree. Tacky be damned.

This week’s #HappyAct is to cherish the memories the holidays bring.

Stink Stank Stunk 2020 ornament

Down east sayings to make you giggle

Man holding bottles of wine
Terry with his favourite wines

The West is beautiful, but you can’t beat the warmth, humour and light o’ life attitude of Easterners.

When we arrived in Antigonish a few weeks ago to spend a few days with Danette’s parents, her Dad Terry greeted us with a big hug and holding two bottles of wine in his hands, Four Skins and Kiss Me Arse.

The next day Terry walked out wearing a t-shirt that said, “It’s all shits and giggles until someone giggles and shits”.

We visited one little fishing wharf where every building had a funny sign on it, some even upside down. There was The Lost and Found Bouys shack and the Little River Fisheries and Heritage Museum, Closed for Innovations.

Lost and Found Bouys fishing shack

We sure had lots of giggles on our trip and thankfully not the shits. We learned “The older the crab, the tougher its claws” and if someone was running late, they were “off like a herd of turtles”.

Yes, we can all learn a thing or two about keeping life light and happy from our friends down east. And remember, if yer not happy where yer is, yer never will be happy where yer to.

Long may your big jib draw. Til next week…

Sign on lobster shack

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!

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.

Life hacks from a 90-year old

My 90-year old father-in-law and his two daughters
Dave’s sisters, Liz, Mary Anne and their Dad

This weekend, we attended a very special celebration, the 90th birthday of my father-in-law, John Swinton.
 
I’ve blogged about John before. He is quite the character and comes with many self-anointed titles. Master Storyteller. Grand Champion of Cards. Number One Habs Fan. I’ve been blessed to spend a lot of time with John this past year, and have been the recipient of his many wisdoms (as he would tell you). Here are words to live by, courtesy of the big guy:
 
 On gender identity and gender neutral names
“You can call me anything, just don’t call me late for dinner.”
 
On entertaining a crowd
“Always tell your best joke first and get them laughing, then they’ll be putty in your hands all night.”
 
On women
“If the women don’t find you handsome, they should at least find you handy” (from one of his favourite characters, Red Green.)
 
On his hometown
“I was born in Harriston because I wanted to be close to my mother.”
 
On marriage
“Marriage is a life sentence. If I had killed your mother by now, I’d be out on parole.”
 
And if you’re slow getting the teapot on the table after dinner,
“After 35 years, you’d think a man could get a cup of tea!”
 
All kidding aside, we love you John and hope you enjoy many more celebrations to come.

On life
God, grant me the serenity
To accept the things I cannot change;
Courage to change the things I can;
And wisdom to know the difference.

90 birthday cake
Old photos
90 years of memories and accomplishments

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

Forgive me/she/her

Pride month poster

June is Pride month. A few weeks ago, I finally changed my autosignature to include my pronouns she/her at the end. I’ve been meaning to change it for almost a year now, but finally got a round tuit at the hardware store when I was on vacation last week.

I’ve always considered myself an ally of the LGBTQ community and am looking forward to seeing a rainbow-filled feed on my social media channels on Tuesday.

But I confess I sometimes do find it hard to navigate this world of diversity and inclusion. It will be only a matter of time before I make a mistake and will have to ask for forgiveness.

For instance, I was writing an email to my team last week. I have a small team and we all know each other pretty well, so our work emails are pretty informal.

I started out writing my normal, “Hey guys, I’ll need to move our regular team meeting…” But then I remembered reading an article that said “guys” is inappropriate since it implies men and excludes others. I say this to my family all the time so hopefully I’m not insulting Grace and Clare the next time I say, “Hey guys, what do you want for dinner tonight?”

I thought about “Hey gang” but was afraid it might be discriminatory against people in actual gangs or imply they were a bunch of miscreants or hooligans.

I tried “Hey folks”, but then wondered if that had southern connotations, even though we don’t live in the United States, or a rural connotation that might be offensive.

I’ve sometimes used “Hey peeps” which seems pretty harmless, but could be racist towards chickens.

In the end, I just went with “Hey team”. Whew, problem solved.

You see my dilemma.

I know I’m being cheeky and there is a good chance someone who is reading this has already taking offence to me making light of an important subject.

I believe people have a right to be called whatever they want, whether it’s he, she, per, ze/ziethey, or they. Addressing people the way they prefer to be called is simply a matter of respect and is no different than when women started challenging the use of Miss and Mrs. as part of the feminist movement.

Personally, I don’t care what I’m called as long as you don’t call me late for dinner.

I know I have a lot to learn. I will make mistakes. I just hope you forgive me/she/her when I make them.

And to all my LGBTQ friends, I love you just as you are. You are authentic, funny and strong, and I am proud to celebrate by your side, a true ally, this month. Happy pride month, everyone!

Ed. Note: The dilemma of how to address people was encapsulated perfectly in the Saturday Night Live skit, “It’s Pat” in the early 90’s. Here’s an episode where the friends of androgynous Pat throw a birthday party for them. SNL was always on the cutting edge of societal issues. While the character of Pat was a caricature, the humour was in seeing how people with good intentions tried to unearth clues as to how to address Pat.

Ten things to avoid if you want to be happy

Road construction

I’ve often said on this blog, it’s just as important to know what doesn’t make you happy, as what does make you happy. Here are ten things that haven’t made me happy in the past year:

1) Talking to car salesmen. Seriously, do these guys go to school to learn how to be schmaltzy and schmarmy? In fairness, the team at Kingston Volkswagen were great and we love our new Tiguan.

2) Teenagers who roll their eyes at everything you say and whose favourite words to describe you are weird and embarrassing (and that’s on a good day).

3) Road construction. My road is a mess right now. It’s year two of what most likely will be three years of construction. We’ve given up trying to keep our cars clean and washed.

4) Real estate prices. What is going on? It makes me sad that home ownership has become out of reach for the younger generation.

5) Wasted food. Remember the teenagers I mentioned above? I wish I had a dime for every bruised banana, unopened granola bar or uneaten sandwich I’ve seen thrown in the garbage. It makes my blood boil.

6) Waiting in lines. This may be a necessary evil right now, but if I see a line longer than 10 people, I don’t bother.

7) Bad online shopping experiences. Online shopping has been a lifesaver for many of us during COVID, but some sites need a lot of work to create a better overall customer experience.

8) Mosquitoes and ticks. Get a bug zapper.

9) Hockey fans who whinge about unfair penalty calls and Leaf fans who think Auston Matthews is a god. Okay, the reffing was a bit blatant last night, but bad calls are part of the game.

10) COVID-19: Don’t underestimate it. Keep wearing a mask, wash your hands frequently and get vaccinated. I know we’re all tired of it, but we’re so close, let’s see it through so we can get back to some semblance of normal.

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.

Stay in a luxurious over-the-water bungalow

Imagine your dream escape.

An over-the-water bungalow in a secluded locale

Silence and serenity your only companions

Gaze into the waters below and watch another world unfold

Every amenity within reach

There is nothing to do but relax

Except maybe curl up with your favourite book

Or wet a line and see if you can catch your dinner

Fresh grilled fish. A delicacy

The late day sun casts a reddish glow across the sky

Its yellow orb casting shadows over a breathtaking view

Until the moon appears, cresting the skyline

The end to another spectacular day in paradise

Thinking this isn’t possible right now? Well, think again. Come visit us any time in our beautiful over-the-water bungalow. Here’s a picture of our sweet little escape and of the fish I caught! And remember, you can always dream. The picture above was an ad I saw on TravelZoo. $1,899 for two to stay for a week at over-the-water bungalows in the Maldives, fully refundable. Hope this week’s #HappyAct made you smile!

Ice hut
Author with pike caught through the ice