Summer’s here and it’s shaping up to be a barn burner again.
When the sun is scorching hot and it feels like you could fry an egg on the sidewalk, the best way to cool off is to reach for your favourite frozen treat.
When I was growing up, the ultimate frozen treat was the Lola. It was a triangular shaped slushie that you had to eat like a beaver, chomping on the corners of each triangle with your two front teeth. At least three or four times red or purple juice would spit out or spill all over your white t-shirt. To finish it, you had to tilt the triangle up to slurp the sugary juice, choking and sputtering liquid everywhere.
Lola’s were only sold in Ontario and Quebec from 1959 to 1982 but I read somewhere that they actually brought it back in 1999, under the slogan, “One taste of Lola, and you’re back in the fun-loving ’70s”.
This week’s #HappyAct is to stay cool by indulging in your favourite frozen treat. What’s yours? Leave a comment.
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”.
It was a dark and stormy night. At least it was dark. Not so sure about the stormy part. But there was definitely a nip in the air that October evening, as my friend and I ventured into Fort Fright, a popular Halloween attraction at the Fort Henry historical site in Kingston.
You might not know it by the amount of time I spent cowered behind my friend, but I loved every minute. I suppose I have my dad to thank for that. Halloween was always one of his favourite times of the year.
What made Fort Fright so special were the scare actors. Real people wearing makeup and costumes, and with an agenda to extract the most fear from the masses winding their way through the dimly lit passages.
It looked like so much fun that a crazy idea popped in my head. I wanted to be a scare actor. Why not?
The following August, I reached out to express my interest. I interviewed shortly after, and was subsequently hired as a member of the Fort Fright scare acting team for the 2018 season. I was ecstatic beyond words.
To begin with, it was cool just working at Fort Henry every night, and being surrounded by all of the history. Our locker rooms were at the end of one of the parade squares, near the spot where I saw my first Tragically Hip concert. As I walked in each night, I would look to where the stage once was, and envision Gord Downie rocking and bouncing the microphone stand off his head.
The character I would assume for the month was an evil brain surgeon in the haunted hospital. I would lope around an operating table carrying a bloody, rubber brain, lurching out at guests as they nervously passed. Over time, I developed a few lines of dialogue, and I would learn to adapt my theatrics to the mood of the crowd.
Throughout October, I worked my full day job in Brockville, rushed home, and then was off to Kingston to work at Fort Fright for the evening. I actually used some vacation time to give myself a break from working double shifts. When it was all over, I had attended all but one evening that the attraction was open. Not surprisingly, I was tired some of those nights, but the adrenaline would kick in hard as the first visitors approached my post.
The job wasn’t without its risks. There was one night when I scared a big, burly man walking through with his date. My pleasure at nailing the scare just as quickly changed to horror when he turned towards me with an angry glare, and for a moment, I thought he was going to pulverize me. Thankfully, he thought better of it and continued on, as I breathed a huge sigh of relief.
But truly, the best part of the experience were my co-workers; energetic, passionate professionals all. And always anxious and friendly to offer guidance to the rookies such as myself.
Would I do it again? Absolutely! Truly the most fun I’ve ever had doing a job. I can’t imagine my fall without it.
In the midst of my foray into scare acting, several friends suggested that I should try my hand at more conventional acting. I balked a bit at first. Running around with a mask and jumping out at people was one thing. I couldn’t imagine myself being part of a formal production.
There was a local venue that I had driven by many times but had never entered; the Royale Theatre Thousand Islands in Gananoque. I knew they occasionally held open auditions for various performances, so I began following their Facebook page for notifications.
It was early February when they posted for a play called MURDER AFOOT. I attended and was provided with a script and a brief synopsis. The director assigned and rotated different roles while we read in a circle. When I left after about 45 minutes, I wasn’t really sure what to make from the experience. Of course, I was glad I had attended, but I had no idea how I had done.
About a week later, I was offered a role. I could not have imagined then how much I was going to enjoy every minute of the experience.
The play itself was a comedy murder mystery. My character was businessman Thomas Tottering, Vice President of Platt Shoes, engaged to Penny Platt, the daughter of the Company owner.
The rehearsal process itself was fascinating. We would start each session with warm-up, memory and accent exercises. MURDER AFOOT was set in 1930s England, so one challenge I had was learning a British accent for my role.
Rehearsing was much more than just memorizing lines. I was learning timing, inflection, and interacting with other characters. I was also learning how to enter and position myself on stage without blocking other cast members. During breaks, we would all be sized for costumes.
Over the course of about two months, it was thrilling to see the progression in everyone’s performance, as we would make tweaks and improvements along the way.
And I can’t say enough about the entire cast and stage crew. Again like my co-workers at Fort Fright, all talented and dedicated people. I was only one of two people in the play who were completely new to the theatre. The others had all performed in previous productions. We were all volunteers with a passion for the local arts community, and the Royal Theatre Thousand Islands.
Surprisingly, as opening night approached, I really wasn’t nervous at all. I was in fact energized and confident, eager for the show to start. As I waited off stage for my first scene, I had a few butterflies, but they quickly vanished with the delivery of my first line.
Three days, and four performances went by in a flash, and I can still remember the bittersweet experience of our last show, knowing that this would be the last time I would be in this character, delivering these lines, with this cast.
But it won’t likely be the last time I set foot on that stage.
This week’s #HappyAct is to embrace the unconventional. Discover those opportunities out there waiting for you to explore elements of yourself that you weren’t sure existed.
My new guilty pleasure is a British reality TV series called How Did You Get So Rich. The premise is simple. The host, Katherine Ryan goes up to rich people in the UK and asks them how they became so stinking rich (I added the stinking part).
I know what you’re thinking. How crass and incredibly unBritish of her, but a) she’s a comedian and b) she’s not British, she’s from Sarnia, Ontario (I knew I liked this girl!)
The show is funny, insightful and has amazing life lessons on what it takes to succeed and be happy.
In episode one, she interviews the founders of the UK chain Poundland, the UK equivalent of Dollarama. They live in a lavish mansion, go on helicopter dates, but pack their own canned goods when they travel to Europe to save money. In another episode, she interviews a custom car designer, a self-professed playboy, and two men who made millions from sex toys.
The most fascinating segment was an interview with Garrett Gee, who in 2014 created a mobile scanning app with his college buddies, then sold the app to Snapchat for a cool $54 million. Garrett hasn’t spent a dime of his fortune on himself. Instead, he and his wife and two kids travel the world for free, being hosted and paid to post travel videos. The only money the family has spent from the fortune he made is given to people or charities in the places they visit.
This week’s #HappyAct is to watch an episode and be inspired by the rags to riches stories and what happens when you follow your passion and dreams and take risks.
There’s a legion of research on how smart phones are making us unhappy. The most recent article I read was called “Kind of a sad story: Pessimism increases among millennials and Gen Z”. The article talked about how economic, social and political optimism is at record lows with millennials and the fact that 60% of millennials and 59% of Z-ers say they’d be happier if they spent less time on social media.
The obsession with our phones is not just limited to this age demographic. The average person spends 3 hours and 35 minutes a day on their smart phone.
Let me repeat that in case that staggering statistic slipped past you. THREE HOURS AND THIRTY-FIVE MINUTES a day.
It’s time to kick the smart phone habit. Here are some things to think about to inspire you:
Ask yourself what better things you could be doing with three full hours a day, or three full days a week? You could learn a new sport, tackle a home reno project, go hiking, or here’s a crazy thought, actually talk to your family members.
Catherine Price, author of “How to Break Up With Your Phone” encourages people to ask the three WWW’s when they pick up their phone: What for? Why now? What else? If you are simply reaching for your phone out of habit, or boredom, it’s probably time to find something else more productive to do
This may be a sacrilege suggestion, but make a point of not bringing your phone with you wherever you go. If it’s not within reach, you won’t spend as much time on it.
Finally, ask yourself is it helping you grow as a person, or is it numbing you or making you feel inferior or disconnected? If it’s the latter, you know what you have to do.
This week’s #HappyAct is to break up with your phone this summer. Get out and enjoy the great outdoors. Thanks to Mark Hurst’s Creative Good blog for some of the ideas in this week’s post.
In my work, I get the privilege of speaking to and learning from different people every day. Last week, I was interviewing one of our executives, and I asked him if he had a mantra or a saying he lived by. His answer was, “Be useful”.
There is a lot written on the power of purpose. Motivational speakers like Oprah and Les Brown have built entire careers on it. Most of these speakers have a common message: to live a happy, fulfilled life, you must live a life of purpose or service. Being useful is the key to happiness.
The grand concept of purpose is a topic for another day. For some of us, it may be harder to see a clear path to what our purpose is for being here on this earth. But all of us can be useful.
We are useful when we plant seeds that will reap a bountiful harvest. We are useful when we take the time to listen to the cares and worries of a friend. We are useful when we make a special meal for a family member, or run the kids to yet another baseball game or practice.
A couple of years ago, I made it a personal mantra to do one thing every day at work to make my workplace a great place for people to work, learn and grow. Some days it’s buying a coffee for the person standing next to me in line. Other days, it may just be sending a note of thanks or appreciation to someone who helped me on a project. I realized the greatest way I could be useful was to help make my work a happy place to come to every day.
This week’s #HappyAct is be useful every day. Don’t worry about grand gestures. Focus on the little ones.
I firmly believe the greatest risk to my physical and mental health right now is the amount I sit.
The negative health effects of sitting have been known for some time, but stole headlines a few years ago when James Levine, a professor of medicine at the Mayo Clinic coined the phrase “sitting is the new smoking” and said “the chair is out to kill us” in an interview with the LA Times.
It’s estimated that in North America, half of our waking hours are spent sitting down. “Sitting is more dangerous than smoking, kills more people than HIV, and is more treacherous than parachuting. We are sitting ourselves to death,” says Levine.
The harmful physical effects of sitting are well known. Sitting or lying down for too long increases your risk of obesity, chronic health problems, such as heart disease, diabetes and some cancers and can shorten your life span.
What was even more startling as I researched this was learning that getting the recommended 30-60 minutes of exercise a day won’t help. You can’t offset 10 hours of stillness with one hour of exercise.
Here’s the science behind it. Metabolism slows down 90 percent after 30 minutes of sitting. The enzymes that move the bad fat from your arteries to your muscles, where it can get burned off, slow down. The muscles in your lower body are turned off. After two hours, good cholesterol drops 20 percent.
And that’s only half of it. Sitting too much also has an impact on your mental health.
Dr. Alan Schlechter, a professor on the science of happiness at New York University says the way we tell our brain to grow is to move. We are meant to move, and when we sit down for more than 20 minutes, our body and brains shut down.
There is one simple solution to fighting the chair. Get up and move every twenty minutes.
As one expert said, “Just getting up for five minutes is going to get things going again. These things are so simple they’re almost stupid.”
This week, I’m taking up my armrests and fighting the chair in the interests of my own physical and mental health. I’m going to start booking walking meetings at work, move around more, take the stairs, watch less TV at night and get up and move every 20 minutes. Who’s with me?