I recently saw a photo on LinkedIn. It was of four generations of couples kissing and it was captioned “life in one picture”. It was so simple, yet beautiful.
This week’s #HappyAct, is a challenge. If you had to capture your life in one photo right now, what would it be? Share your pic. Here’s mine.
My happy place has always been near the water. This picture of me was taken this week on our staycation—Dave and I spent the day paddling on Desert Lake. We stopped at this beautiful little island for a swim and lunch, and to watch a mother loon in the bay swim with a baby on her back. This is my life, in one picture, and I’m ever so grateful.
There’s a new trend sweeping the nation, something we’re all secretly indulging in and speculating about: what our houses are worth.
According to a Statistics Canada report released last month, the net worth of Canadians rose by $770 billion in the first three months of 2021 with the net worth of households with a major income earner aged 55 or older being over $1.1 million dollars.
The vast majority of this is from house values. At the end of March 2021, the average price of a Canadian home was over $700,000, and that was before the housing market started going crazy.
You don’t have to look further than the crop of SOLD signs on lawns and online to see the frenzy.
We’ve had two friends who have sold their houses in the past few months. Each had more than 50 showings in a week, received more than a dozen offers and had people write letters why they should get the house. In both cases, their houses sold for 20% over the asking price. It’s downright crazy.
For those of us who grew up in the 80’s and 90’s singing along to The Barenaked Ladies, “If I had a million dollars”, it’s a bit surreal. In 1992, when the song was released, the average house price was $149,864. Since 1985, prices have risen by 5.65% annualized over the past 30 years.
If you look at our parents’ generation it must be unfathomable. My parents bought their tiny two-bedroom, one bathroom bungalow in Port Credit, a now bustling suburb of Toronto for $11,000 in 1954. They couldn’t afford the much bigger and nicer three bedroom house up the street for the extra $2,000. It’s still there today, nestled between the mansions that line the street now.
Yes, things have definitely changed since the Ladies sang, “If I had a million dollars…I’d be rich.” A million dollars probably wouldn’t get you a shack in downtown Toronto or Vancouver.
But it is fun dreaming of what we could sell our houses for until you realize you need to buy somewhere else.
Ed. Note: If you are thinking of selling and getting out of dodge, check out this Moneysense magazine article featuring the top ten best places to buy in Canada where you’ll get good value for your money. Spoiler alert: beautiful Bancroft, Ontario is #1. Here’s a picture of our house–while it may not be worth a million dollars yet, we’re happy with our million dollar view.
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.
I’m almost afraid to say it in case we jinx it, but summer may finally be here.
When the skies turn robin egg blue and the days become wonderfully warm, the last thing you want to be doing is spending your time cooking and cleaning up indoors.
It’s this time of the year, I turn to my easy peasey no pot meals. Here are my top five favourites. Most of these are quick and easy on the BBQ.
Naan pizza: a great go-to for get togethers, especially with kids. Let your guests build their own pizza using Naan bread and their own base and toppings. My favourite base is my famous garlic scape pesto
Pork tenderloin with roasted vegetables, potatoes and naan bread
Grilled chicken fajitas on the BBQ with onions and peppers, lettuce, salsa and cheese
BBQ hamburgers, sausages and corn with garlic butter and a fresh green salad
Leftover Mexican bowls: have leftover rice in the fridge? Layer it with fried onions and peppers, black beans and frozen corn, salsa and a chipotle sauce made of mayonnaise, sour cream, lime juice, garlic and Mexican spices
This week’s #HappyAct is to make a simple summertime dish. What’s your favourite breezy summertime meal? Leave a comment.
There is a raging debate going on about the future of work. Companies are considering whether to continue to let employees work remotely, return to the office or adopt some form of hybrid model when the worst of the pandemic is over.
As I said last week, we’ve learned much in the past year. But I fear that as a society, we will let a precious opportunity slip through our fingertips: the opportunity to finally redefine our relationship with work, to seek a greater work-life balance and truly imagine a brighter future, one where we don’t just spend our days making a living, but living our best lives.
Here is my vision for the future of work.
First, employees would be able to choose how many hours they want to work a week. Imagine if you could say to your employer, I want to work 24 hours a week, 30, or 32 hours a week so I can pursue my passion, whether it’s painting, writing, running a side business, or volunteering.
Employees would have more flexibility to choose when they work. 6 a.m. to noon? No problem. I was reading one study where 15% of workers said they’d prefer to work in the evenings or at night so they could do things outside during the day. Depending on the role, why not? It could also help with child care challenges for working families.
We need to discover how to bring joy and fun back into our work world. The reality for many office workers is their day consists of never-ending emails and meetings, distractions and interruptions that is making us unhappy at work. When you feel like your day consists of putting out fires and you haven’t accomplished what you set out to do, it’s disheartening. Even before the pandemic, people were habitually checking email 74 times a day and switching tasks every 10 minutes.
There are many, innovative solutions to making work fulfilling again.
Let’s start by hiring more people. I believe too many companies are running too lean. There are simply not enough people to do the work. If some people opt for shorter work weeks, there could be the opportunity to hire people and distribute work a bit more equitably to help ease stress and workloads.
We also need to be smarter about how we spend our time during the workday. Companies could establish designated meeting times, and work times to help people concentrate and accomplish meaningful work, without disruption.
Several years ago, a Fortune 500 software company in India tested a simple policy: no interruptions Tuesday, Thursday and Friday before noon. The company experienced a 65 percent increase in productivity but also reported employees experienced an increase in work satisfaction. They discovered the most important factor in daily joy and motivation was a sense of progress.
We’ve also learned working from home this past year the importance of human connection. We miss our colleagues dearly.
The future of work needs to include being together again, but not dictated by arbitrary policies. Being able to collaborate, have fun together, celebrate successes are all great examples of when it will make sense to bring employees together in person. Training is another thing we’ve learned is a much more richer experience in person than remote learning.
Good workplaces will develop a do good culture. Providing opportunities for employees to get involved in their communities, and volunteer for worthy causes will add a new layer of purpose to work. Some companies already offer up to five days a year for employees to volunteer for local charities.
The future of work also includes more vacation. There will be a pent-up demand for travel when borders open up. North Americans could learn from other countries like the UK where residents get 28 days of vacation a year, France 25, and Germany and Australia, with 20 days.
Finally, companies need to adopt the ner way of business. Ner is the business philosophy where the most important aspect is people and leaders only need to create an environment where people can excel. Companies have no hierarchy, just self-managing teams. Ner companies donate 3% of their profits and 2% of employee time to contribute to social projects and top salaries can’t be more than 2.5X higher the lowest salary. The ner philosophy creates more human, meaningful and entrepreneurial workplaces. And it works. Watch this video to learn more about ner.
Yes, we have a unique opportunity before us: to reimagine the future of work. Companies that are short-sighted will focus on one aspect: place.
Companies that are progressive and visionary will focus on outcomes and a new, more human philosophy towards work.
There’s an enemy we are all facing right now, and it’s the enemy within.
Too many people are working more hours working from home than when they were in the office.
Why are we doing this to ourselves?
Have we programmed ourselves to delete our off buttons, so we don’t know when to shut down at the end of the day? Is it because we can’t separate work life from home life working out of our bedrooms and basements? Is it because there is nothing else to do in lockdown, and things will return to normal when the world rights itself? Or is there simply too much work and never enough hours in the day to get it done so we just keep working?
I think it is all of these things and it’s extolling a price.
Each month, Morneau Shepell publishes their 2021 Mental Health Index Report. It’s no secret mental health across all age groups has taken a dive since COVID began last March, but the most recent report shows two segments: women and managers are particularly at risk of burnout as they struggle to deal with the demands of work, home life and worries about finances and health of family members.
The report indicated employees are finding it more difficult to feel motivated to work and to concentrate. A startling one-quarter of Canadians are considering a career change despite their employers handling the pandemic well.
We’ve learned much in the past year. I’ve had several friends retire or make the brave and bold decision to simply leave their jobs. We’ve realized humans were not meant to spend entire days in dark rooms on devices. It’s not natural. We’ve also learned there is more to life than work.
As we slowly emerge from the darkest days of this pandemic, we will all be faced with choices. Be brave in your choices, and whatever you do, stop being your own worst enemy.
One of the best Quora posts I ever read was someone who posed the question, “Is this all there is?” The author bared his soul, sharing his story about how he struggled with this question and how the implications of his answer compelled him to make monumental changes in his life.
For many of us, our lives are never ending hamster wheels. Get up. Work. Make dinner. Squeeze in an hour of exercise. Watch TV for an hour. Do it all over again. At some point, we will inevitably ask ourselves, is this all there is?
I know my answer. While there are days when life’s routine wears me down, I have lived a good life.
I have watched the migration of the wildebeast and zebras in the setting sun of the Serengeti.
I have strolled along the banks of the Seine, the Thames and the Hudson.
I have explored the stopes of a gold mine thousands of feet underground, and hiked to the peaks of majestic mountains.
I have swam with dolphins, raced through forests on dog sleds, and snorkeled with schools of exotic fish in clear sparkling waters.
I have hiked glaciers on mountainsides and ziplined through the canopy of the rainforest.
I have known the love and respect of a wonderful man who has been my soul mate and partner for more than 30 years.
I have experienced the joy of watching my children grow, from taking their first uncertain steps, to watching their chubby little legs race down our hill to the lake on a warm summer’s day, to blossoming into the beautiful, strong, independent young women they’ve become today.
I have cherished friends who know me better than I know myself.
And I have enjoyed the peace and tranquility of living for almost two decades on my beautiful spring-fed lake and all the joys it brings each season.
I hope life brings more adventures, but if this is all there is, I’m OK with that. I choose to find joy each day in my small, simple life, and be grateful for the life I have lived.
This week’s #HappyAct is dedicated to the memory of my sister-in-law, Karen Gillies who passed away this week and who was taken from us far too young. An amazing wife, mother and friend, she embodied kindness and grace. Karen told us that she had come to accept her fate. I derive some comfort in knowing that Karen would have answered the question, is this all there is, the same way.
Aldous Huxley once said, “The secret of genius is to carry the spirit of the child into old age which means never losing your enthusiasm.”
I would bet that many of us right now have lost some of our enthusiasm for life. Living in lockdown, not seeing friends and family, and filling our days with work, walks, books and chores without anything to look forward to is tough.
So how do we reignite joy and enthusiasm in our lives? Here are some thoughts, but I’m hoping everyone will leave a comment to help us all through this difficult time.
Spend time with a child. Children help us see the world from a fresh perspective.
Make a goal to try one new thing this week, whether it’s making a new dish, starting a new project, or learning a new hobby. When we learn new skills or focus on something fresh, our enthusiasm naturally emerges.
Be curious and ask questions. The act of asking questions stimulates interest and enthusiasm. You can even ask questions of yourself like, “What do I want?”, “What am I grateful for”, or “What’s missing in my life?”
Do something silly and that makes you laugh.
Make a list of everything you love to do, and then take 15 minutes and do one of them a day.
Plan a trip for when this is all over. It doesn’t have to be a big trip, maybe just an overnight getaway, but it will give you something to look forward to.
This week’s #HappyAct is to rediscover your zest for life. We can all be child geniuses. Now it’s your turn—what are your ideas?
I’ve often said it’s as important to know what makes you unhappy, as what makes you happy. For the past year, chronic pain has made me unhappy.
It all started a year ago when Covid hit and I began working from home. Those first few weeks were a blur. I worked long days on my sunroom couch in a bad ergonomic set up, putting in 55 hours a week issuing communications for my company.
In early April, I started to feel a pain developing beneath my shoulder blade. I quickly changed my workspace and set up a proper desk, but the damage was done.
As the pain intensified, to make matters worse, I stupidly kept working. I remember calling into some meetings lying on my bed sideways, because that was the only position where my shoulder didn’t throb. I couldn’t sit down for more than 10 minutes without searing shards of pain emanating up my back. At times the pain was blinding and I could barely concentrate.
I called my doctor, and he prescribed anti-inflammatories and muscle relaxants. They helped, a bit, but it wasn’t until I was able to get in to see my physiotherapist that I started having success manage the pain. I was only one of three patients he was seeing during lockdown.
I also started heeding the advice of my health care professionals. I reduced my hours at the computer, took microbreaks, got a sit stand desk so I could work standing up half the day, and did eventually take 3-4 weeks off completely to let it heal.
It’s been a year and while my injury has still not completely healed, it doesn’t occupy my every waking thought now.
I wanted to share my story as a cautionary tale and to help others prevent injuring themselves while working from home. Here are some key things I learned:
People told me the pain should go away if you just change your ergonomic set up. This was not true in my case. I got a proper desk, set up a second monitor, got an ergonomic chair and sit-stand tabletop desk, anti-fatigue mat for when I was standing, and changed my set up several times. The pain did not go away.
With ergonomic injuries, if you start feeling pain, you’ve already been working too long. My physio and doctor both said you shouldn’t work more than 20-30 minutes sitting in one position and to take microbreaks throughout the day.
You need to give the injury time to heal. I didn’t. I stupidly kept working. I look back at it now and know I was crazy. I had lame excuses—now is not a good time, other team members were off on vacation or moving, it’s so busy. I thought of everyone before my own health. If there was one key thing (other than not injuring myself in the first place) I would have done differently, it’s I would have taken time off work immediately to allow my injury to heal.
The best advice I received was to keep moving. When I told my doctor, the pain subsided most when I was kayaking, he said I should set up my laptop on the top of my kayak. Any movement—walking, gardening, swimming, kayaking was the best medicine.
Get a hot tub. Seriously, if you suffer from any kind of chronic pain, a hot tub is so therapeutic. From April to June last year, the 30 minutes a night I spent in my hot tub was my only pain free time during the waking hours of the day.
Exercises are a must. Before I could even get in to see my physio, a good friend of ours who is a chiropractor set me up with a customized exercise program. I still do about 20 minutes of stretching exercises every day.
Be open to different types of treatments. In addition to physio, I went regularly for massages and also went to an osteopath for the first time. I didn’t know much about osteopaths, but in some ways, I think a few osteo treatments were more effective than any other paramedical provider. I tried every cream in the book, even marijuana cream.
It’s been a rough journey and I’m very relieved to say I’m much improved. One of the things I found most difficult was not knowing whether by continuing to work, I was continuing to injure myself, or just aggravating the already existing injury.
I have developed a newfound respect for anyone who lives with chronic pain. My heart goes out to you.
Finally, I want to recognize and thank all the people this past year who lent a sympathetic ear and who helped me more than you will ever know—friends who listened and sent me exercises to do, my family for their patience and concern, Latif Khoja at Sydenham Rehab Well clinic, Christina Marshall, my amazing massage therapist, Tony Barton from Barton Chiropractic and my wonderful doctor, Steve Ingo.
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!