Look for a silver lining

light in a dark cloudy sky

I’m into week six of living life indoors with a broken ankle.

Aside from the chronic nerve pain, I’ve been surprised that I’ve been able to keep my spirits up for the most part. And in a strange way, there have been some silver linings.

I’ve started on some writing projects I never seemed to have time for.

I’ve been able to spend days home with Bentley, although he mainly just looks at me with sad, accusing eyes.

I’ve spent time on the phone catching up with friends.

For the first time ever, I’m caught up with my bills, correspondence and filing.

I’ve learned that as long as you have the right system, you can be self-sufficient and do things on your own (although I still say you can’t drink a proper cup of tea from a Yeti).

And finally, I’ve learned that even if someday I am limited in my mobility, I’ll be OK. I used to think that if I didn’t get outside every day, I would literally wither away. I now understand how some seniors choose to stay indoors where it is warm and safe during the winter months.

As I gaze out my sunroom windows on this snowy morning, I’m looking forward to my first walk in the fresh snow, but I also know now that if someday, that walk isn’t possible, I can still be happy.

This week’s #HappyAct is to look for the silver lining.

Five inspiring Netflix picks for February

There’s something about watching a great film that can brighten up even the dreariest of winter days. Here are five Netflix movies to inspire you.

  • Blinded by the Light: an endearing British film about a Pakistani teenager who discovers the music of Bruce Springsteen. A story about family ties and values and following your dreams.
  • Eddie the Eagle: if you watched the Calgary Olympics in 1988, you know the story of Eddie the Eagle, the British ski jumper who captured our hearts with his determination to jump despite all the odds (and little training!) With Hugh Jackman and Taron Egerton.
  • The Fundamentals of Caring: I loved this quirky tale of a teenager with muscular dystrophy who bonds with his caregiver on a cross-country journey to see a big pit. Terrific cast, including Paul Rudd, Selena Gomez, Craig Roberts, and it took me a minute to place the Mom, but Jennifer Ehle from Pride and Prejudice fame.
  • The Swimmers: full disclosure, I haven’t watched this one yet, but it’s next on my list. A true story of two Syrian sisters who escape war to pursue their dreams of being competitive swimmers.
  • My Octopus Teacher: a documentary by diver Craig Foster who develops a unique bond with an octopus while filming off the coast of South Africa. Beautiful, inspiring with amazing underwater cinematography.

There you have it. Happy viewing!

Ed. note: If you’re a movie buff and live in Eastern Ontario, make sure you get tickets for the Kingston Canadian Film Festival in March. The line-up will be announced on February 2 and tickets go on sale February 6. Last year, I saw the amazing film Scarborough at the festival.

What’s your word for 2023?

Bertrand Russell quote

I always like this time of year. Whether you believe in making New Year’s resolutions or not, it’s a chance to reflect, look forward, set goals, reinvent ourselves if we want to, and redefine our place and contributions in the world.

It’s also interesting to read the year in review articles and columns that come out around this time. As someone who’s interested in writing, I’m fascinated by the “word of the year” choices.

2022 was the first year Oxford allowed members of the public to vote on the word of the year and 93% voted in favour of a phrase I’ve never even heard of before: goblin mode which won out over metaverse” and “#IStandWith. Merriam-Webster chose the word gaslighting.

I googled “goblin mode” and a wide range of definitions came up, none of them complimentary. It means acting in a way that is reckless, self-indulgent, with no consideration for the well-being of others or social norms or expectations. To embrace your inner goblin is to indulge in a type of behaviour that is lazy, slovenly, or greedy, a means of escape, which Oxford says reflects the ethos, mood or preoccupations of the past 12 months in our post-COVID world.

I think it’s sad that these two words are seen to represent the way the world is feeling right now.

I prefer to choose different words for 2023 based on this quote from philosopher and mathematician Bertrand Russell: wisdom and courage. Russell wrote this passage in 1953 in Human Society and Ethics, but to me, it resonates today more than ever.

“I allow myself to hope that the world will emerge from its present troubles, that it will one day learn to give the direction of its affairs, not to cruel swindlers and scoundrels, but to men possessed of wisdom and courage.

I see before me a shining vision: a world where none are hungry, where few are ill, where work is pleasant and not excessive, where kindly feeling is common, and where minds released from fear create delight for eye, ear and heart.

Do not say this is impossible. It is not impossible. I do not say it can be done tomorrow, but I do say that it could be done within a thousand years, if only men would bend their minds to the achievement of the kind of happiness that should be distinctive of man.”

What’s your word or quote for 2023? Leave a comment.

11 Best Happy Acts of 2022

Cabin on a lake

What better way to kick off a new year than a top ten list? This year I’ve I’ve chosen 11 posts for all you Spinal Tap fans out there that will hopefully inspire you to make a positive change in the year ahead, with a few fun posts thrown in “for shits and giggles”.

Happy reading and may 2023 bring joy, health and happiness.

Thoughts to live by:

#11: The end or the beginning by my President’s Choice of Husbands

#10: See past your thoughts

Great yarns and just for laughs

#9: The legend of the jacket

#8: Down east sayings to make you giggle

#7: OGs of our day

Happiness at work

#6: The key to job satisfaction in a post-pandemic world

#5: Make decisions that make you smile

Connecting with nature

#4: Explore a deserted beach featuring the haunting Driftwood Beach on Jekyll Island, Georgia

#3: Poem Beneath the canopy

Getting involved in your community

#2: As a blogger, you always wonder if your posts resonate with people. In June, after I posted this community success story about the Food Redistribution Warehouse in Kingston, a friend reached out to say they started volunteering there after reading my post.

And finally, before you make your New Year’s Resolutions for 2023, be sure to read

#1: The 75 Easy Challenge

Thanks to all my loyal readers who follow this blog and read my posts on Sunday mornings. If you want to subscribe to receive posts by email, just click on the three dots in the upper right-hand corner and enter your email. Here’s to many #HappyActs in the year ahead.

Angels amongst us

Angel decoration

Some people believe there are angels who walk amongst us. I’m not sure if that’s true but it’s comforting to think that when our loved ones pass away, they ascend to a heavenly place, then send guardians to watch over us and be by our side here on earth.

We found this beautiful angel in Dave’s sisters’ Christmas decorations earlier this month.

At first, I put it aside to give away, but as I went through all her pretty trinkets and baubles, many from a trip MaryAnne took to Germany’s Christmas markets several years ago, I found myself drawn to this particular angel.

The detail is exquisite, from her dainty hands holding a long silver horn to the magnificent wings etched in glitter and flowing silver cape. Her porcelain face, with expressive eyes and red, slightly upturned lips exudes calmness, love and peace. She has quickly become my favourite Christmas decoration and watches over us in our sunroom.

I’m not sure if every time a bell rings, an angel gets its wings, but at this most joyous time of year, let us believe there are angels amongst us.

Merry Christmas

Angel decoration

You’re never too old

Teenager Clare with Santa

You’re never too old to learn something new

You’re never too old to get your picture taken with Santa

You’re never too old to dance when no one is watching

You’re never too old to skinny dip

You’re never too old to snuggle

You’re never too old to listen with your heart

You’re never too old to sing loud and clear for all to hear

You’re never too old to seek out new adventures

You’re never too old to love

You’re never too old to share a smile and a laugh

You’re never too old to play

You’re never too old to believe

This week’s #HappyAct is dedicated to my father-in-law John Swinton who turns 91 tomorrow. Many happy returns.

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

Kind it forward

Dalai Lama quote: When we feel love and kindness toward others, it not only makes others feel loved and cared for, but it helps us also to develop inner peace and happiness

“Do things for people not because of who they are or what they do in return, but because of who you are.”
– Harold S. Kushner, prominent American rabbi, and author.

Today is World Kindness Day, a day to celebrate and promote good deeds and kindness. Last week I reflected on the state of kindness in the world in “Take the high road”. This week, I’m adjuring all of us to do one #KindAct to spread happiness and kindness in the world. Here are some ideas on how you can kind it forward:

Ways to kind it forward

  1. Reach out to a friend or family member you haven’t spoken to in a while.
  2. If there’s been a rift, forgive them. Apologize and be a good listener.
  3. It seems everyone is sick with some kind of cold or flu right now. Take someone who’s feeling under the weather a bowl of soup, magazine or some baked goods.
  4. Many communities right now are holding food drives for their local food bank. I spoke to our local food bank the other day and their shelves are desperately low and they anticipate higher demand with food prices soaring. South Frontenac Township is holding a food drive during the whole month of November. You can drop off items at the arena, 4432 George Street or 2490 Keeley Road.
  5. This one’s my favourite: do a random act of kindness that will make someone’s day, like buy a coffee for the next person in line or the drive-through or leave a beautiful card with an inspirational saying in a neighbour’s mailbox.
  6. Hug your family and tell them you love them.
  7. Be kind to yourself.

Kindness isn’t a day. It isn’t a single act. It defines who we are as individuals and a society and who we aspire to be.

The best way we can make the world more kind is simply engaging, listening and caring for others.

What will your act of kindness be today? More importantly, what will it be tomorrow, and the next day, and the day after that? Leave a comment—I’d love to hear about how your day went.

Take the high road

Sign that says "I would rather be annoyingly positive and optimistic than destructively negative and hateful"

Is it just me, or does it feel like nobody takes the high road anymore?

Last week, I was out for my lunchtime walk, and I came across an altercation at the local high school. There was an older student on the one side of the road screaming at two kids across the road. The language was deplorable but it was the intensity and hatred that made me stop in my tracks.

I wasn’t sure whether I should intervene, or just mind my own business and keep walking. I was concerned it could escalate into something far more serious. I hesitated for about half a minute, then walked up to the girl who was yelling and swearing and her friends, asking if there was a problem and whether I could help.

The girl glared at me and said, “Those two have been staring at me non-stop for the past three days. They needed to be put in their place.” She had other choice words for the two kids that I won’t repeat here.

Now, I don’t know what transpired between these two groups of kids, and I know it’s high school, but I will say this whole incident really disturbed me.

First, I can tell you I never once spoke to anyone like that in high school. Sure, there were cliques and kids who didn’t like each other and didn’t get along, but you mainly stuck with your own friends and avoided them. No one ever stood in a street and hurled vitriole and swear words at the top of their lungs for the whole world to witness.

Second, this girl said these kids had been “staring” at her for the past three days. If that was their biggest crime, I can only imagine how this girl will cope some day when she experiences real conflict at home, with her friends or in the workplace.

I think what upset me the most though was this girl thought it was OK to act and speak like that. In fact, not only did she defend herself and her actions, she took pride in her response, saying someone had to stand up to them, they deserved it.

I just couldn’t stop thinking, if this is what our kids think is normal and acceptable behaviour, what hope do we have as a society of being kind to each other and battling the divisiveness that seems to be permeating our culture?

To me, it’s simple. You never know what people are dealing with in their lives. That’s why you should always take the high road and turn the other cheek.

It comes down to two basic tenets: treat others with kindness and respect.

This week’s #HappyAct is to always take the high road. Have a kind week.

The rainbow connection

Double rainbow

What is it about rainbows that make us look up with wonder and smile?

Last week, I saw the most incredible double rainbow. It appeared one morning on my way to work and I stopped to take a picture of it. My boss did the same thing and when we walked into the office, there were a bunch of people milling around the glass doors, gazing out at the beautiful arched spectacle framing the sky.

It’s easy to understand why we’re so enamoured with rainbows.

Rare, beautiful, magical, their kaleidoscope of colours are a miracle of nature.

Pure, elusive, we recognize they are a gift from heaven and we gaze at them with childlike wonder.  

They teach us that when things are dark and gloomy, light and beauty may be a raindrop away.

They represent hope and wonder and remind us of the importance of stopping to take in the moment, because at any time, their elusive beauty may fade away.

Just like the words in the song, even though they are mere illusions, we are transformed into lovers and dreamers while we remain under their spell.

This week’s #HappyAct is to find your rainbow connection even if you don’t see a rainbow.