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?

Top ten happy acts of 2019

Girl walking in fall leaves

Welcome to the final happy act of 2019 where I recap the top happy acts of the year. I’ve come to learn my little blog, where I share a piece of inspiration or something we can all do to be happy each week has also become a chronicle of sorts: of my travels, family life, and of current issues on the minds of Canadians. I hope you still enjoy reading it as much as I enjoy writing it each week. Here’s my top 10 happy acts of 2019.

  1. Take the self-care pledge. If you’re looking for a New Year’s resolution to start off 2020 on the right path, this post may inspire you.
  2. Always look on the bright side of life: a tribute to Monty Python
  3. Living in the country has its charms. One of them is Funny country signs.
  4. Plan a red hot date night. Read about my steamy date with one of the last of the red hot lovers.
  5. Harvest the Grape. One of my favourite days this year was spent picking grapes at a local vineyard. Read about the harvest and what goes into making a truly remarkable vintage.
  6. Already missing the crisp cool days of fall? Check out Autumn ablaze, a photo essay with my favourite photos of eastern Ontario this spectacular fall.
  7. In Screams and curtain calls, guest blogger Ray Dorey shares his experience in local theatre.
  8. In Eat from a Dish with one Spoon, I explored native culture and what we can learn from First Nations people.
  9. A discovery of an old box of newspaper clippings of my Dad’s led to this photo essay and tribute to Toronto the good in photos, a must read if you live in the GTA.
  10. If there was one issue that galvanized the world in unity and action in 2019, it was climate change. In #FridaysforFuture and Lessons from Frome, learn about what one town in England is doing to take action.

There you have it. Thanks for continuing to join me each week in this journey. Here’s to many more happy acts in 2020.

300 Happy Acts

flower petal

Last week, my little blog hit a milestone. I posted my 300th happy act.

Six years ago, when I decided to start this blog, I wasn’t sure where it would take me. The idea was simple: post one insight or one little act of happiness each week, and challenge my readers to join me.

I was inspired by many things, but mainly from watching people I care about struggle with happiness.

Sadly, I think my blog is more relevant today than it was six years ago. I believe mental health issues in young people especially are reaching epidemic proportions in this country. When social platforms like Facebook talk about removing likes to protect people from feelings of envy and negative self-worth, it’s a sign of a major societal problem.

I’ve learned many things from this blog. I’ve learned the importance of living in the moment, and being grateful for what I have. In going back through some of my old drafts, I found this post I had written but never shared for my 100th happy act written on Thanksgiving weekend. I’d like to share it with you now.

——————————————-

This is my 100th blog post. I’m happy I reached this milestone on Thanksgiving weekend because it reminds me of everything in my life to be thankful for.

It also reminds me the things that make me most happy are life’s everyday moments. So for my one hundredth #HappyAct, I thought I’d recite happy moments from just one day this weekend.

  • Swilling German beer at my friend Karen’s Oktoberfest party
  • Meeting someone new
  • Feeling the breeze and warm sun on my face
  • Watching the sun shimmer on Bella and Clare in the boat
  • Petting my big dopey mutts
  • Making a Halloween scarecrow
  • Curling up and watching a movie with Clare
  • Reading the newspapers
  • Sitting with a glass of wine on the back deck
  • Buying $30 worth of candy at Bulk Barn that will last only a week
  • Eating caramels at 10 o’clock in the morning
  • Biting into a fresh, crunchy apple
  • Having a hot tub
  • Watching a red leaf dance in the air as it gently floats to the ground
  • Picking fresh flowers

This week’s #HappyAct is to celebrate the little moments that make life wonderful and be grateful for each and every day. Thanks for continuing on this journey with me.

Learn from everyone you meet

 

Girl with her coach

The first week of September is always a week of mixed emotions in our household. We’re all sad summer is coming to an end, but the kids are excited and nervous to go back to school and dive into their courses and learning.

Usually a few weeks in, there’s the normal complaining about one of their teachers. We’ve always urged the kids to be open and understand that you can learn from everyone you meet, even from people you may not connect with or get along with. I think they’re finally starting to understand this.

It’s a great lesson for us all. I remember one time a friend of mine asking me why I make small talk with people on trains and planes. They said, “You’re never going to see them again, why do you bother?” I looked at them as if they had eight heads, and answered that it was because I enjoy talking to people, and I learn something from every interaction.

I’ve also followed this philosophy throughout my career. I once had a boss who was honestly one of a kind, and so different from me. She was very reserved, you never knew what she was thinking, precise to a T and not exactly a change agent or a communicator, but I learned so much from her and respected her for her knowledge.

I’ve also worked for people that taught me about the type of leader I didn’t want to be. Luckily I haven’t had too many of these bosses. The last-minute, disorganized, all over the map types, or worse, the “do it my way or the highway” dictatorial director (I only worked for one of these and they were gone in three months.) They were important reverse role models in my career and in some bizarre way, I may have learned even more from them than my good bosses.

The kids have learned this in sports too. There has been several times when at the beginning of a season, they’ve said they’re not sure they like their coach—he’s a bit loud or yells a lot or is harsh. But often at the end of the season, once they understand the person’s coaching style and get to know the person, they love their coach and say they’ve learned so much from them.  

This week’s #HappyAct is to learn from everyone you meet. I’d like to dedicate this week’s blog post to all the coaches out there who give tirelessly of their time and energy to help kids be all they can be, on the ice, the field, and on the water. You are doing such a wonderful thing. Thank you! This photo is of Clare and her kayakying coach this summer, Rhiannon Murphy. 

Coles notes on life

words hear me

Every time I come back from a conference, I’ve gotten into the habit of capturing key messages or ideas on one page that I hang in my cubicle. Usually it’s practical tips on how to be a more effective communicator.

This time, as I looked at my notes I realized the messages that resonated with me the most went beyond what I do for a living, so I thought I’d share them with you.

“We all need to be heard as humans, but there is a huge difference in who gets heard.”

 “Don’t go into every conversation thinking what you will teach, go in thinking what you will learn.”

“Stop repeating yourself—you’re just training people not to listen”

“Stop sharing everything you know in your head”

 “We should aspire for progress over perfection. If you’re not sure if something is good enough, ask yourself the question ‘Is this something only I would notice or care about?”

“Beware of HIPPOs: the highest paid person’s opinion in the room”

 “Never be constrained by your role”

I’ll add my personal favourite, “No stupid rules”. This week’s #HappyAct is to create your own Coles’ notes to live by. What would be on your sheet of paper?

Happiness for sale

Sign about happiness

If there’s one thing I’ve learned from writing this blog, it’s to look for happiness in the most unusual places.

A few weeks ago, Dave and I were touring up the Sunshine Coast in British Columbia. We were off the beaten path, and found ourselves at the end of the road in Halfmoon Bay. There was a small general store and an ice cream shop, so naturally we stopped.

We bought some supplies and I stopped to read the notices on their local community board. Tucked between the flyer for the local fish fry Friday night, a business card for BigMoustacheDave.ca and wood for sale was this note:

Happiness
1. Connection makes us happy
2. Selfishness keeps us from connecting
3. Instead of seeking to benefit myself, seeking to benefit others and nature. This creates connection and happiness.

I stopped and wondered. What would possess someone to write a note about happiness, then pin it on a corkboard in the general store in Halfmoon Bay? What happened in their life that propelled them to share this wisdom? Have they found happiness? And how many people besides me have stopped to read this note?

If only happiness could be for sale. If only you could order it by the skidload, or walk up to a happiness bar like the oxygen bars in the airports and say, “I’ll take $20 worth, please”.

If only…

Halfmoon Bay General Store
The general store in Halfmoon Bay. The ice cream shop next door was for sale if any of you are looking for a change of pace