Look up

trees in beautiful BC

I’m tired of watching people looking down all the time at their devices but at others too. It’s time we looked up for a change.

When you look up, you discover a new perspective.

Towering trees, brilliant skies, amazing architecture.

Sunshine, positivity, admiration, kindness.

Leaders who deserve to lead.

Just look up.Kingston city hall

 

goats grazing on a roof
Goats on the roof at Coombs country market in BC
ceiling of BC provincial government building in Victoria
Ceiling of provincial legislature building in Victoria, BC

If I were Oprah Winfrey–my commencement speech to the graduating class of 2020–The Next Act

Clare at her Grade 8 graduation

My two beautiful daughters graduated this past week, one from high school, one from elementary school. There were no dances, no proms, no gatherings of proud parents watching graduates parade across a stage in gown and cap. There was a 15-minute interval where they picked up their diplomas and awards and had their picture taken with one or two family members, and then that was it.

My heart goes out to all of these kids, and I couldn’t help thinking, if I was some big celebrity who was asked to deliver a commencement address to the graduating class of 2020, what would I say?

Here would be my Oprah speech:

The Next Act

It wasn’t supposed to end this way.

I know this isn’t the graduation you dreamed of.

You should have been dancing. Hugging. Celebrating with your classmates. Dreaming and looking ahead with excitement and anticipation to the next act in your life.

But you are not the first class to graduate in uncertain times. There have been those before you who have graduated in times of war and economic downturn.

Graduation is by design, a time of uncertainty and change. But we acknowledge this year is different.

in addition to the natural uncertainty of the questions every graduate faces, college or university, work or travel, you have the pressing uncertainties of a world in flux and change.

#BlackLivesMatter. Climate change. Coronavirus.

You will forever be known as the graduating class of COVID-19.

We are so sorry this happened to you.

It shouldn’t have ended this way, but know how proud we are of you and how confident we are that you will come through this stronger, smarter and more resilient.

Although you may not see this now, you have been given a unique graduation gift.

A gift of time to reflect on your goals, dreams, purpose and future.

A gift of clarity of what matters most, human kindness and acceptance, our natural world, and the importance of family and human connection.

These past few months have given you an education no institution ever could.

So what will be your next act?

Whatever it may be, know there is a difference between “purpose” and “a purpose”.

Purpose is sometimes portrayed as one all-consuming passion. You may not all be Greta Thunbergs, but you can find a purpose in everything you do.

Being a good friend. A good student. A good worker. A good mother or father. Someone who cares and gets involved in their community.

Purpose is not a single act.

Finally, be kind to one another. Seek what brings us together as humans, and eschew those that divide and remember you belong to each other. Do better than our generation has done.

Above all, whatever your next act in life, make it a purposeful and happy one.

And if I really was Oprah, “you win a mask, and you win a mask and you win a mask…”

Two girls graduating

Celebrate longevity

author with flowers

By special guest blogger, Dave Swinton

This week my wife quietly celebrated a major milestone in her life. Twenty-five years working for the same company. Quietly and effectively without fanfare.  Laurie and I celebrated our 25th anniversary two years ago and by my reckoning have known each other since we were 15. That’s almost 40 years since we first met in Grade 10 music class. I knew even then that she was the one for me (too bad she didn’t).

My parents would have been married 60 years if my mother hadn’t passed away six months before their anniversary.

What makes these milestones even more amazing is our current cultures’ desire to change their iPhones every year and jobs 8-10 times during their careers.

Why do people stay committed to their jobs and to each other for so long?  It is much more than that old Roots sweater in your closet that you refuse to throw out because it fits your curves just right. Although there is a certain comfort level in the same job and the same partner, you have to be open to embrace their strengths while supporting and accepting their weaknesses. You will even find yourself finishing their sentences and rolling your eyes when they do things the same way they did so long ago.

For some, relationships are meant to be long and treasured, whether it be at work or at home.

Thank God I have a partner who even to this day I cannot bear to live without.

This week’s Happy Act is to embrace and celebrate longevity.

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! ❤

The return to common decency

 

sidewalk messages

Special guest post by Jill Yokoyama 

It looks like COVID-19 is going to be with us for awhile and every day the situation seems to get more serious.  I would like you to cast your thoughts back a few weeks to the middle of March, when all these changes were so new to us and we were trying to follow the instructions from our medical experts.

How did your interactions with your family and friends change?  If you are like me, you cancelled planned visits and get-togethers with extended family and friends; cancelled work and music rehearsals; you might have even cancelled a long-planned vacation.

As we all tried to stay home I noticed a change in my community on my daily “physically-distanced” walks. I noticed entire families going for walks or bike rides together.  I noticed families doing activities together in their front yards and on their driveways–barbecuing, making sidewalk chalk designs, playing ball, blowing bubbles.

I noticed messages of affirmation and encouragement written in chalk on the sidewalk or painted on stones. These heart-warming messages of support let us know we care for our communities and we will all get through this together.

In the 21st century we seem to have developed such busy lives that leave little time for each other. I wonder if one of the positive outcomes of COVID-19 will be a new focus on the simpler aspects of our lives such as spending time with family and friends at home and playing games together.

When COVID-19 is a distant memory, will we return to our busy lives or will we see a permanent shift in how we live our lives? Only time will tell. Stay well, my friends, and most importantly, stay home.

Ed. note: Jill submitted this post without a title. I chose the title, “The return to common decency” for her. It is a quote from Albert Camus’ The Plague written in 1941. Camus wrote, “The only means of fighting a plague is common decency.”

sidewalk sign be kind

 

The circle of life

Elton John lyric The Circle of Life

My neighbour Kim has been supplying us with fresh eggs since she’s been working from home due to COVID-19.

My other neighbour Charlene gave birth to a beautiful healthy girl, Angeline Grace on Tuesday.

With the fresh eggs Kim gave me, we made homemade banana bread, chocolate chip cookies, quiche and stew for the budding family next door.

There is a circle to all things in life.

Sometimes we don’t understand the circles that seem to swirl out of our control, but their sphere is eternal.

Make a wish

Make a wish sign

A wish is a gift

A gift of hope

Of possibility, and

Of promise

A gift to dream

To envision a better life

And imagine the unimaginable

A respite

A prayer

A chance to meditate

To know what’s true and pure in your heart

And to make change

Just wish

 

Like a #HappyAct, only better

Bernese Mountain dog funeral home therapy dog

One of the great things about the blogging community is we try to support each other.

Last week, Dave shared a blog, mypositiveoutlooks.com that he said was similar to my blog. His exact words were, “It’s like a Happy Act, only better”.

If you need a reminder of all that’s good in this world, definitely add it to your list of weekly reads. Its tagline is, “News and stories that will make you feel better after reading.”

There’s a story about a local police officer who escorted an 8-year old girl whose father just passed away to her school father-daughter dance.

A 17-year old teen who built a tiny house from scratch using all recycled materials.

And a 98-year old girl scout in in Wernersville, Pennsylvania who still sells girl guide cookies.

One of my favourites was the story of a friendship that blossomed between Herman, the pigeon and Lundy an 8-week-old Chihuahua, who met at The Mia Foundation, a New York-based rescue dedicated to giving pets with congenital disabilities a chance at having a regular life.

The story Dave shared was about a funeral home in Macon, North Carolina that has a Bernese Mountain dog puppy as a therapy dog. The pictures of Mochi are adorable.

In a world where negative news seems to dominate, mypositiveoutlooks.com is a breath of fresh air—check it out. One thing to note—the site uses Google ads, so be prepared for advertising.

Ed. note: Last week I featured a photo of Steve the cat on my blog. To be politically correct and fair to all creatures, this week I chose a picture of Mochi the pup.

 

Just be grateful you are alive

Albert Einstein quote on gratitude

Sometimes I think we are too preoccupied with insignificant things, when really we should just be grateful to be alive.

Saturday morning, as we were driving to Peterborough, Dave and I witnessed a terrible car accident on Highway 7. We were the first on the scene, so I relayed instructions from the 911 operator to Dave and other kind samaratins who had stopped and were tending to the wounded. There was a mother and an infant who were seriously hurt. The news reports had said their injuries were serious and life threatening and they had been taken to Toronto. The driver of the other car wasn’t seriously injured.

To say each day is a gift sounds trite, but when you see with your own eyes how fragile life is, those words take on new meaning.

That night, our hockey team went out for dinner. As I was leaving the restaurant, there was a young couple holding a baby near the door. I stopped and chatted with them and reached out to hold the baby’s hand. I couldn’t help myself. It felt like if I could just hold that tiny little hand for a minute, it would send waves of love to the other little baby whose hand I couldn’t hold earlier that day, and everything would be okay.

Each day is a gift. This week’s #HappyAct is to just be grateful you are alive. To the mother and baby we helped on Saturday, we’ve been praying for you. We hope you both make it and have a long future ahead with your family filled with love and laughter.

This post is dedicated to the first responders in our communities who are there when we need them most. To watch them in action on that snowy highway on Saturday morning was awe inspiring. You guys are amazing.

Where will you be in 2030?

man looking into future

Read any online news site at this time of year, and inevitably you will find an article on why new year’s resolutions fail.

New year’s resolutions are destined to fail because after one transgression, the mind will say, “oh well, I tried” and we fall back into old habits.

A more powerful and interesting exercise is to try visioning instead. Instead of saying what one thing will I do different this month or year, picture where you want to be a decade from now.

Where do you want to be in 2030? For most of us, I suspect the answer doesn’t involve significant life changes, just small changes and pivots to help us focus on what’s important in our life and what we want to do to be happy.

Here’s my answer.

I will be living in my same house on my beautiful lake that I adore and that has become a source of peace, happiness and solitude. Dave and I will be empty-nesters, but we’ll be OK. We’ll rejoice in our individual pursuits and cherish the time we spend together hiking, travelling and enjoying our lake.

I will be thinner and healthier (yes!) from being more active, instead of sitting at a desk all day.

I will write for 2-3 hours every morning, with the goal of being published.

I will continue to remain active in my community, volunteering, attending concerts with my friends, playing sports and doing things in the daytime (OMG, what a thought!)

I will take courses, either through the Queen’s Lifelong Learning seminars or through our local Seniors Association.

I will watch in wonder as my daughters discover who they are as adults, support their passions, and be there when they stumble.

I will be there for family and friends and be grateful for what each day brings.

This is my vision.

What’s yours?