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. 

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Classic Jack

Jack and Dianna Patch

Last Saturday, friends and family gathered in Madoc to celebrate the life of Jack Patch. Jack was a dear friend of ours who passed away last year. His wife, Dianna had asked me to say a few words that day, but I couldn’t.

I wanted to, but I didn’t know what I wanted to say. That’s because Jack was a classic. In many ways, he was indescribable.

And then one night this week, as I was walking on a country road with the sun shimmering through the trees and the sounds of tinging bats and shouts from Clare’s baseball practice wafting in the distance, the words just came to me.

This is what I wanted to say.

Jack Patch was a classic. He was my Jack.

Jack was my dance partner. When all the other men in the room wanted to sit around and drink beer, Jack would be the one who would get up and dance with two women at the same time.

Jack was a child. Jack always liked kids, including my kids, as long as they didn’t irritate him too much or did what he wanted. I think it was because he never grew up himself.

Jack Patch and boy
Jack with our friend Murray and Libby’s son, Alex as a boy

Jack was a mountain man and MacGyver guy. He puttered. I never saw him move faster than a shuffle, unless the sap was about to boil over in his homemade maple syrup operation.

Jack and Dianna bought 25 acres on the Moira River in the 1980s and built a cabin on the river. We had some great parties in those days, and we were all there to help them when they decided to quit work and build an off-the-grid cabin on the land. That basically gave him carte blanche to build stuff and putter for the next 25 years.

Jack and Dave putting up drywall
Jack and Dave putting up drywall in their home on the Moira River

Jack was an environmentalist. He built trails on his property and did annual counts for species like birds and frogs. He was nature’s friend.

Jack was a dog lover. He always had a four-legged friend by his side. Even as his mind and body started to fail him, his neighbour’s dog Sophie was his faithful friend and helped spark life back into him.

Jack was my skinny dipping partner. He believed swimming trunks were a scourge on humanity and had the skinny dip down to an art of science.

He would stroll to the end of the dock, sit down and dangle his white legs in the water, and slip off his trunks so surreptitiously, only the loons would notice. My favourite picture I ever took of Jack was one I snapped quietly while he was sitting on the end of our friend Murray’s dock with one cheek showing.

Man skinny dipping

Jack was my vintner. Jack was a purveyor of bad alcohol. Bad wine. Really bad wine. But we drank it anyway.

Jack was my comic relief. My favourite Jack quote of all time was on January 1, 2000. Our regular group had spent the millennium New Year’s at Jack and Dianna’s off-the-grid cottage, because if the world was going to end, you might as well spend it with the people you love most and at a place where you don’t need electricity.

We had imbibed in a few too many drinks naturally, and the next morning were slow to emerge from our hovels to see if the world was still intact. I remember Jack shuffling out of his bedroom in his saggy t-shirt and boxer shorts. He scratched his chest and said, “Well, that’s a relief. Now I don’t have to worry about being a 90s man anymore.”

Not that Jack was ever a 90s man. Jack figured out about 40 years ago, that if he didn’t do something exactly the way Dianna wanted him to do it, it would give him a lifetime free pass. That included changing diapers, dishes and just about anything he didn’t want to do.

Jack was a lover of life. He always had a twinkle in his eye, and a wonderful low chuckle of a laugh, the Jack laugh.

One of the last times we saw Jack was on a visit to Pine Meadows nursing home in Northbrook where he spent his last year. It was Mother’s Day weekend, and the staff had brought in an entertainer for a morning sing-along with the guests. The nice singer in a break between songs at one point asked if Jack was my father, or who he was in relation to me.

I simply said, “He’s my Jack.” And he was a classic.

Jack, we love you and miss you. Thank you for all the happy memories. I hope you’ve finally found your happy place where you can putter, skinny dip and dance to your heart’s content.Jack Patch and friends

Ten lessons on love and relationships from The Bachelor

Batchelor meme

With Valentine’s Day around the corner, the girls and I thought we’d share our observations on love and relationships from our favourite show, The Bachelor.

  1. Don’t wear a chicken outfit or sloth costume on your first date—you will probably end up going home
  2. It’s never a good idea to tell two people you love them on the same night
  3. It’s much easier to think you’re in love on a helicopter date
  4. Never date a guy named Juan Pablo
  5. You know it’s going to be a good date if there is a limo or hot tub involved.
  6. If your date asks you if you want to spend the night in the Fantasy Suite, ask if there will be cameras involved
  7. When it comes to following your head or your heart, your heart will always win out (just don’t follow something else)
  8. Wear waterproof mascara, because at some point, you know it will all end in tears
  9. Always choose the person who makes you laugh the most
  10. And finally, if you’re a virgin, The Bachelor might not be the show for you

Happy Valentine’s Day!

What do you do when you don’t like someone you love?

Hilary Clinton quote: You don't walk away from someone you love

This week’s post isn’t really a post. It’s a question, and I’m hoping all of you reading this will leave a comment to share your insights on this question.

Many of us may have someone in our lives who we love, but we don’t like all the time or approve of their behaviour. What do you do in these cases?

A few weeks ago, I read a Dear Amy column. It was called, “Mother seeks cure for daughter’s affluenza”. It was about a mother who found her daughter’s lack of reciprocity, insensitivity and self-centred attitude appalling.

Amy quoted Ralph Waldo Emerson: “The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived, and lived well.”

I’m not sure I agree with Emerson’s statement that our purpose in life is not to be happy, but I think there’s some truth in his belief that if you do the things he says should be our purpose, you will have a better chance of being happy.

Amy had some great advice for her reader. She said always make sure the person knows that you love them, even if you don’t like them right now or their behaviour. Loving without expectation, and through disappointment will liberate you from your harsh judgement and should lead to acceptance.

I’ll add one insight. Try to find common ground. In the world of behavioural psychology, there’s even a term for it, “pairing”. Focus on their strengths and what you do like about them.

And finally, never ever give up on them.

So dear readers, it’s your turn. What do you do when you don’t like someone you love?

Swimming in a fish bowl

Author and her husbandWe’re just two lost souls swimming in a fish bowl, year after year.”

-Wish You Were Here, Pink Floyd

This isn’t the blog post I was planning to write. I had planned to write a funny, light-hearted post about 25 years of marriage.

Yes, Dave and I are celebrating our twenty-fifth wedding anniversary this week. We’ve been two lost souls swimming in a fish bowl running over the same ground for 25 years and for the record, there’s no one I’d rather splash around with in the fish bowl of life.

But today, as I sat on the dock, my eyes filled with tears and I began crying.

Crying hopelessly for two dear friends who after decades of marriage had their happily ever afters stolen from them–one friend who lost her husband to brain cancer and another who had to put her husband this week in a home because of Alzheimers disease.

It’s just so unfair and incredibly sad.

But if there’s one thing 25 years of marriage has taught me, and the events of the last few weeks, it’s that there are no guarantees.

No guarantee people will grow old together.

No guarantee you will remain in love.

No guarantee that the phrase in sickness and in health will take on so much meaning.

No guarantee life won’t turn out the way you planned it.

To Dave, I simply say thank you for 25 wonderful years. I hope I never take you for granted, and whatever fate befalls us, I hope you will continue to be my faithful partner, swimming in circles, by my side.

And to Jack and Tom: I wish you were here.

Wag more, bark less

Bumper sticker that says wag more, bark lessYesterday was #NationalDogDay. There is much we can learn from our four-legged friends.

  • Love unconditionally
  • Nap often
  • Let the wind ruffle your ears
  • Live life with abandon
  • Play
  • Walk daily
  • Take time to stop and sniff the roses
  • Wag more, bark less

This week’s #HappyAct is to take a cue from man’s best friend. Let’s all wag more, bark less.

Have an unbirthday party

group picture of cottagers
Love the look on Clare’s face in this photo!

When our kids were young, we had a wonderful neighbour named Mark Berry.

Mark was in his 60’s and lived on his own on our lake. His family was in Toronto, so he adopted us and we adopted him. Our dogs became best friends and we’d often have Mark over for a beer or dinner.

Every time Mark came for dinner, he’d bring us presents, claiming it was an “unbirthday party”.

There’d be huge stuffed animals for the girls, something for the kitchen or a bottle of wine for me, and usually something fish-related for Dave. These were some of our favourite nights.

Last weekend, it was our turn to pay it forward and hold an unbirthday party for a group of friends we’ve been getting together with for almost 20 years.

Girls wearing wine drinking team tshirts and socks
Our official wine drinking team–the socks say “if you can read this, bring me a glass of wine”

We brought wine drinking team t-shirts and socks for the girls, water bottles for the kids, funny beer koozies for the boys and a few other gifts for the real birthday boy who happened to be celebrating that weekend. I think everyone appreciated their gifts.

The best gift is having this wonderful group of friends who we’ve shared so many memories with in our lives.

This week’s #HappyAct is to plan an unbirthday party for a special group of people. May it bring many happy memories and returns.

 

 

Man with birthday hat and glasses
The real birthday boy