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.

Good riddance to the Year of the Rat

Sometimes when I can’t make head or tails of what’s happening in my life or the world, I look to the most scientific, reliable of sources: my horoscope.

This weekend my horoscope was “If you don’t like what’s going on around you, remove yourself from the situation and do your own thing.”

Good advice, which I plan to follow.

It’s also not surprising that 2020 is the Year of the Rat in the Chinese Zodiac. To be exact, the Year of the Rat doesn’t end until February 11, 2021, but just like the year of Covid, most of us can’t wait to kick 2020 to the curb.

Rats are tricky, deceiving creatures. If you were born in 1948, 1960, 1972, 1984, 1986, 2008 or 2020, you are a Rat (with apologies to all you lovely rats out there).

In the Chinese Zodiac, the Rat is the first of all zodiac animals. According to one myth, the Jade Emperor said the order would be decided by the order in which they arrived to his party. The Rat tricked the Ox into giving him a ride. Then, just as they arrived at the finish line, Rat jumped down and landed ahead of Ox, becoming first.

What’s more, according to Chinese astrology, the year of their birth sign will bring people nothing but bad luck because it is believed that people will offend Tai Sui, the God of Age. Rats needed to be extra careful to avoid misfortune in 2020 since it is the year of their birth sign. 

The last year of the rat was 2008, the year of the financial crisis.

Rat also rhymes with bat. Coincidence? I think not.

If I haven’t convinced you yet this year was destined to be a dirty, dastardly disaster of a year, read the Rat horoscope for 2020:

“Rats are destined to experience a lot of challenges and ill fortune due to being in opposition to the Tai Sui star (or God of Age). Rats will now and then feel exhausted. Life will be easiest in the middle of the year. In autumn and winter, they should pay attention to their skin and respiratory protection. Vulnerable to sicknesses, like colds and fatigue, the Rat will have to be extra careful in 2020. At the first sign of symptoms, head to your general practitioner immediately. The faster you get medicine and the treatment you need, the quicker you will heal.”

There you have it. The good news is, the Year of the Rat is almost over.

This week’s #HappyAct is to join me in saying good riddance to 2020.

You filthy rat.

Pearl’s coronavirus diaries

Let me introduce you to Pearl Killingbeck. Pearl lives in Mississippi Station, a community of just 12 people north of highway 7.

Pearl writes the column for Mississippi in our local newspaper, The Frontenac News. The News is in itself a little gem. It’s privately owned, independently run and features weekly local news, events and columns from reporters from all the different hamlets in our area. It’s also free.

Pearl has been writing the column for Mississippi Station since 2002. She doesn’t own a computer, so she writes every column by hand. Before the pandemic hit, she’d write about local events and happenings, but when events dried up, she came up the idea of writing “Pearl’s coronavirus diaries”.

She shares funny things that happen to her through the week, and little “pearls” of wisdom, jokes and stories to give people a smile or make them laugh. Early on after Day 21 of isolation, Pearl wrote, “New things I’ve learned in 21 days: throwing kisses, air hugs, knuckle bumps, air high fives and stump bumps. I use the phone more than ever. My house is cleaner. I found out my treadmill is for exercising, not for holding clothes or piling stuff on; that Meals on Wheels is like going to a restaurant only a lot cheaper.” Recently, she celebrated her 82nd birthday with her boyfriend, “Johnny Walker” who she calls her happy hour beau.

Here’s a chuckle from Pearl’s column this week:

“A husband and wife, Ron and Alice were sitting at home, when the husband suddenly said, ‘Darling, just so you know, I never want to be kept alive in a vegetative state, having to depend on machines and fluids from a bottle. If that ever happens to me, just pull the plug.’ So the wife got up and pulled the plug out of the TV and threw out all his beers.”

Her stories grew in popularity and soon she started receiving letters from fans across the region.

Pearl’s local celebrity status skyrocketed when a listener emailed the CBC with some of Pearl’s clippings and interviewed her on Ontario morning in October. Here is the CBC episode, Pearl’s segment is about half-way in. The Frontenac News also published links to many of her columns here.

In a time when many people are struggling to find lightness and laughter, Pearl is a shining example of how to live your life: “Always have a sense of humour no matter how bad a situation is, and laugh once a day even if you’re alone when you’re laughing.”

In an era when traditional media outlets are struggling, this week’s #HappyAct is to support your local newspaper and columnists like Pearl and to keep laughing.

Seven ways living through the year of COVID is like an episode of WKRP in Cincinatti

It’s been a weird year, a year where sometimes it feels like we’re living in a bad sitcom or reality show.

One of my favourite TV shows growing up was WKRP in Cincinnati, which aired from 1978 to 1982 for four seasons. The show centred around a zany cast of characters who worked at an easy-listening-turned-rock-and-roll radio station in Cincinnati. Here’s how living through the year of COVID has been like a WKRP episode:

  1. Walking with our heads down, following arrows on floors, just like the radio station gang did in The Baby episode as they tried to find the hospital room where their boss’s wife was delivering their first baby. “Follow the blue line until it crosses the green line, take the green line until it crosses the yellow, then turn left.” In one scene, DJ Johnny Fever follows the lines with his head down and walks in a complete circle, ending up right where he started. Venus, who’s a germaphobe, sniffs the air when he enters the hospital, then covers his mouth with a handkerchief.
  2. Drawing imaginary lines around our workspaces working from home and creating imaginary office doors like neurotic news reporter Les Nessman did to make smaltzy salesman HerbTalerk respect his office space in this classic episode.
  3. Venus FlyTrap was one of the more serious characters on the show with actor Tim Reid playing the nighttime DJ. The series tackled important issues that resonate today. In this clip, former schoolteacher Venus teaches a young black man about atoms using street lingo. In another episode, after getting angry at Venus for going out with his sister, program manager Andy overcompensates to prove he isn’t racist. In the third season, Venus is tempted to take another job, but later learns it’s a station that plays automated music and they only want him as a token hire.
  4. Herb Tarlek, the station’s only sales guy was portrayed as a loveable buffoon, but with the occasional smart insight. In one episode, Herb said, “You should never take advice from a crazy person.” He could have been talking about Donald Trump.
  5. Daytime DJ Johnny Fever was one of the most popular characters on the show. He called himself “the doctor” prescribing rock and roll to heal what ails us. His lines could be an anthem for 2020. “We ALL in critical condition babies, but you can tell me where it hurts, ’cause I got the healing prescription here from the big ‘KRP musical medicine cabinet! Now I am talking about your 50,000-watt intensive CARE unit, babies! So just sit right down, relax, open your ears REAL wide and say “Give it to me straight, doctor, I can take it!” Watch this compilation of Johnny’s best moments.
  6. One of my all-time favourite episodes was when Johnny and Venus agreed to take an on-air alcohol test to raise awareness about the dangers of drinking. While Venus starts slurring his words and getting tipsy after two or three drinks, Johnny’s reflexes improve and he becomes more clear-headed and coherent after each drink. That’s been my response to the year of COVID —just keep drinking and things will become more clear.
  7. Thanksgiving is coming. Check out this hilarious news report of Les Nessman reporting live on the scene when the radio station released live turkeys over a shopping mall as a holiday promotion stunt gone awry. “As God is my witness, I thought turkeys could fly!”

These lyrics from the show’s theme song say it all,

Memories help me hide my lonesome feelin’
Far away from you and feelin’ low
It’s gettin’ late my friend, I miss you so
Take good care of you, I’ve gotta go

Advice on how to train a teenager

two teenage girls

While normally each week on this blog I share a small act of happiness, from time to time I’ve used this platform to ask for advice in my own personal quest for happiness. This week, I ask you dear readers, to share your insights and advice on how to train a teenager.

Yes, both my girls are teenagers now, and as teenagers go, they are great kids. Respectful, hardworking, funny and driven. I love them to bits.

My beefs are small things, like not making a mess on the bathroom counter, putting their dishes in the dishwasher instead of the sink, wasting food, and remembering to do chores like taking out the garbage.

A couple of weeks ago I got the garbage ready in the morning and left it at the door. All my teenager had to do was pick it up, put it in her car, and drop it off at the end of the driveway on the way to work. I reminded her twice the night before and was pleasantly surprised when she grabbed it without needing to be reminded in the morning. It turns out she forgot to stop and put it out at the end of the driveway, took it to work where it sat in her car in 30-degree heat all day, then put it back in the barn when she got home without telling me. A raccoon got into it, and I spent the whole next day cleaning up the stinky mess in the barn.

Now, as a parent, I’d rate my overall performance at a solid 5. I’ve loved my kids, I’ve been there for them as much as possible, but other than that, I’ve barely scraped by. And I’ve definitely had failing marks when it comes to training them to do things like putting their dishes in the dishwasher.

So how do you train a teenager?

I thought of treats, but making them sit and beg for Smarties or Hostess Cupcakes seems a bit degrading.

Punishment seemed a bit harsh for their transgressions and I learned early on taking their devices away is like cutting off an arm. Plus you’re really just punishing yourself since you have to put up with a grumpy bored teenager nagging you all week.

Then a few years ago, I had an evil, wonderful epiphany. I realized if I’m going to punish the little twerps for bad behaviour, I might as well get something I want out of it.

Most of the time, I’ll assign them chores I don’t feel like doing. But last week I hit a new low—I confiscated my daughter’s alcohol. I’ve been enjoying Grace’s delicious Smirnoffs Peach Bellini coolers by the lake. I know I should be ashamed, and have a moment of two of remorse, but then the sun comes out, I have another refreshing sip, and dive in the lake.

Here’s the rub. Whatever I do, it doesn’t make a difference.

I remember when I was pregnant, I listened to one of those parenting tapes. The psychologist shared a story of how he spent years reminding his teenager to take out the garbage until one week, she finally did it on her own. He described it as a success, which I thought was funny given it took years for the kid to finally see it as their responsibility and actually remember to do it.

His message was they’ll eventually grow up, take responsibility and become adults. But in the meantime, my bathroom is a mess and I’m a glorified maid.

So dear readers, tell me and make me happy, how do you train a teenager? Leave a comment!

If I could talk to the animals

baby loon

It’s official. I’ve gone Covid crazy and have started talking to the animals. I have become Dr. Dolittle.

I had no choice. After four months of living in close quarters, my family has stopped listening to me. The animals still listen.

I had a spat the other day with a five foot black rat snake that was crossing the road. I started off asking him a joke. “Why did the rat snake cross the road?”. He just lay there, heckling me in silence. Then I told him he better hurry up or some mean person might run him over. I kicked a few pebbles toward him to urge him along. He recoiled and hissed at me. “How ungrateful”, I said.

The next day I had to apologize to a kingfisher when I startled him in the back lake. It was very still, and as I paddled up to him, I let out a huge sneeze. He jumped two feet off the branch and flew away, chattering the whole time. “I’m sorry, your highness”, I yelled as he flew off in a huff.

I presided over a christening for our loon family on the lake. We christened the baby “Letty” since her parents are Lionel and Lucy. They inform me Letty is doing just fine, and has learned to dive and fish.

I swore at a fellow creature when I surprised a mother bear and two cubs on my nightly walk. I was on a desolate stretch when I heard a rustling in the trees beside the road. Thinking it was a deer, I stopped and peered in the woods. I heard a few snorts, then saw two bear cubs scramble up a tree.

“Holy sh**t” I exclaimed, then looked to the left to see the mother standing on her hind feet, staring at me. Running through my head was the silly song, “The other day, I saw a bear, a great big bear, away up there… she looked at me. I looked at her”, then we both took off in opposite directions.

Mostly I’ve been having friendly conversations with our little chipmunk that Clare has been feeding. We talk about the weather, what’s for breakfast, how many nuts he can stash in his cheeks (he says 12), and how many tunnels he’s dug under our lawn.

Oh, if I could talk to the animals, think of what fun it would be…

Go easy on yourself

inspirational saying

Each day since COVID hit, I’ve been sharing a daily dose of sunshine with my co-workers–a joke, a funny meme or just a thought to stay connected as we worked remotely.

Well, I’ve developed terrible tech neck and shoulder pain from working long hours due to a bad ergonomic set up, so I asked my friend Jessica Schonewille to send last Friday’s daily dose of sunshine. It made me smile and laugh. Here’s what she wrote:

“Happy Friday, friends! Laurie headed out early so I get the honour of brightening your day.

I’ve noticed some people discussing all the plans they had to get done during the quarantine–cleaning out closets, cabinets and cupboards–but they haven’t done anything on their list. A few even said they feel like a failure.

Well, that’s bullshit! (pardon my français). We’re living in unprecedented, unnatural times. Just the fact that you got out of bed this morning is something to celebrate! I realized an hour ago that I’ve been wearing my shirt inside out all day. It’s also the same shirt I wore yesterday. But who cares? Heck, my uncle used to say you could wear one pair of underwear for four days: frontward, backward, then inside out frontward and backward. Glass half full: I’m a day ahead of schedule. We’re winning, folks!

So my dose of sunshine is to remind everyone to go easy on ourselves. Don’t expect too much. If you don’t have the energy to tackle a home project, don’t worry–there’s plenty of time for that in the future. No desire to learn something new right now? Don’t stress about it. Something, someday, will fire up your passion and get you excited. Or not. And that’s ok.

If I don’t say it enough, I love you guys!

So…happy Friday! ❤

OK child of boomer

Clint Eastwood meme that says Say OK boomer just one more time

It happened. About a month ago, when we were talking, Clare let me have it with “OK boomer”.

After the second or third “OK boomer”, I finally retaliated with “OK, child of boomer”.

Her response? “Mom, that makes no sense, whatsoever.”

For those of you out of the loop, the phrase “OK boomer” became an internet sensation in 2019 when a younger member of New Zealand’s Parliament hurled it at an older colleague in response to heckling. Someone made a TikTok video out of it, and it went viral. Now all the “kids” are using it.

For centuries, generations have struggled to understand one another. Older generations feel marginalized and undervalued. Younger generations feel like they have so much to contribute, but they’re dismissed as young and inexperienced and not given opportunities to prove themselves.

This generates the negative perception of millennials by older people that they’ve got it figured out, and the old farts “just don’t get it”, OK boomer. And so the torch of youth and know-it-allness is passed.

Labelling generations is a relatively new phenomenon. It started in the twentieth century, and took off mid-century when a large glut of babies were born post-war, creating the “baby boom generation” or Boomers.

As an official boomer myself, I usually try to take the high road whenever there is a generational dispute and try to see it from the other person’s perspective.

But I will confess it doesn’t help when millennials have to give a name to things that make it sound like theirs was the first generation to ever grow up. For instance, every time I hear a twenty-something use the term “adulting”, I just want to change their diaper.

This week’s #HappyAct is to either take the high road or the low road the next time you run into a generational dispute. You could try to bridge the generational gap by seeking to understand their perspective. Or if you take the low road and have fun taking the piss out of a millennial. Your choice.

OK child of boomer, gotta bounce, but if you think this post is lit, give me a RT, will ya?

Dear Santa: All I Want for Christmas

author on lake

Dear Santa. I started this note to you on Facebook the other day, but had to cut it short since I had to get to work.

I saw Rudolph on the ice this morning crossing the lake with Dancer and Prancer.  I think they were here on a recon mission. It’s a good thing our lakes are frozen, that way you can travel faster Christmas Eve. I messed up in the kitchen the other night so you may get store bought cookies left out. Hope that’s OK. By the way, the kids were hoping you could define naughty for them. I think they’re getting nervous.

I’m a little late sending you my Christmas wish, but most of the items on it are things you can work on year-round after you deliver toys to all the good girls and boys on Tuesday night. Here it is.

All I Want for Christmas

  • An electric vehicle that’s four wheel or all wheel drive with long driving ranges for people who live in the country who want to do their part to reduce greenhouse emissions
  • A new grocery retailer in Kingston that is environmentally friendly. Santa, since you travel a lot you probably have seen these new zero-waste food stores that have opened in Europe and around the world. Please help bring them to Canada and help us to do our part to reduce excess packaging.
  • An end to exorbitant bank fees—I think it’s highway robbery they charge $3 every time you take money out of a machine if it’s not your bank. I hope all the banks are on your naughty list this year
  • A new dryer that automatically sorts and matches socks (this one has been on my list before)
  • An end to homelessness; everyone deserves a warm, inviting place to call home
  • A hockey rink heater that actually works
  • Most of all, I want you to do what you can for a special group of people who are constantly in my heart and thoughts who are dealing with serious health issues right now; you know who they are. Please help them get better and bring them joy and happiness this Christmas season.

Sincerely,
Laurie

Screw you Marie Kondo

native carvings
First, let me start by saying no artefacts were hurt in the writing of today’s blog and no disrespect to anyone personally, but screw you Marie Kondo.

Marie Kondo is the Japanese organizing expert and author of the best selling book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up whose craze of decluttering and minimalist philosophy swept North America a few years ago. People started throwing items they didn’t need or were just collecting dust in the spirit of simplifying their life.

If you Marie Kondo’d your house, and it made you happy, good for you. I happen to like my stuff and embrace clutter.

It’s not the things themselves, although I find them all beautiful and make my house feel like a home, it’s the memories they represent.

The two stained glass cardinals that sparkle in the sunlight in my living room window remind me of Dave’s mom and his Dad.

The original watercolour of a fish hovering over a lake by local artist Alana Kapell has a spiritual quality and reminds me how lucky I am to live on a lake, and the fish are calling.

A framed handpainted feather of a tropical bird reminds me of the trip Dave and I took to Costa Rica before the kids were born.

handpainted feather

The beautiful hand carved wooden mirror with a rose made locally in Perth Ontario and given to us by my best friend for a wedding present reminds me of Leslie and our wedding day.

The hand carved loons and bold beautiful native fish carving above our entertainment unit reminds me of trips to the St. Lawrence River and Vancouver Island.

These are all my favourite things and I love them. So screw you, Marie Kondo. In the spirit of the holiday gift giving season, embrace your favourite things, find that perfect gift and memory for someone and enjoy.

stained glass cardinal