Get into the swing and brush up on your game


Girl learning to golfA couple of weeks ago, we met my brother and his wife at one of those indoor golf simulators, where you can play a round on a world-class golf course while swilling a pitcher of beer from the comfort of a couch. I had forgot how much fun these places are.

This was the first time we took the kids out for a golf excursion. The same tired phrases uttered by my mother and father thirty years ago became a steady stream out of our mouths, “Keep your head down, don’t take your eye off the ball, don’t stop mid-swing, follow through”.

The kids did pretty well actually—they are both naturally athletic. We all had a blast and it was a great way to spend a chilly Saturday afternoon.

Here are five reasons to brush up on your swing indoors at a golf simulator before heading out on the course:

  1. Most simulators have a maximum two-putt rule–how great is that?
  2. For people learning the game, or casual golfers you can take each other’s shots
  3. When you land in a water hazard, you can choose how you want to play your next shot and where you drop the ball
  4. You don’t have to worry about remembering how many shots you take (although this can be humbling too, I think my brother who is an ace golfer won the round by about 40 strokes)
  5. Did I mention they serve beer?

The funniest moment of the day was when the head of Dave’s driver broke off mid-swing at the tee at a long par 5 and went flying into the simulator screen. Luckily no one got hurt. I’ve seen clubs break before, but usually at the hands of the golfer. I’ve never seen one split apart mid-swing.

This week’s #HappyAct is to get into the swing and brush up on your game, whatever your game may be. Have a great week everyone.


Broken golf club

The gallery at a golf simulator

A bagpiper walks into a blog

Man in kiltSpecial guest blog by David Swinton.

Ok, I’ll admit it. When my wife started this blog, I rolled my eyes and said ‘God Help Us’. Why would any person feel she is in a position to tell others how to be happier?

For a while, I even nicknamed it the ‘Crappy Act’. But personally deep down, I knew that there was no one better qualified to accomplish this mission. I have known my wife for almost 35 years. To this day, she continues to amaze me with her positive, energetic look at life. You might not always agree with her take on happiness (what the heck is an Easter Chicken anyway) but you loyal readers still come week after week to expand your happiness quotient.

When she asked me to fill in for her this week, I knew exactly what I wanted to say. After my Mom died over a year ago, I spent a lot of nights asking myself why should someone so giving of herself be taken in such a cruel manner. As with all tragic events, I started to question my own existence and where I fit into this continually evolving saga we call life. As my thoughts drifted more and more, I realized how complicated my own life had become. Between work, hockey practices, 4-H, bagpipes and the general pace of the world these days, I felt myself struggling to stay engaged. What kind of life is that? You only get one shot at it, folks.

So, in response to this, I have decided to focus at least a half hour each day to the appreciation of the simplest things in my life. One day, it might be the cardinal that has mysteriously appeared after my mother (an avid birder) died. The next day it might be the sound of wind whistling through the large pines around the house. One night I might watch a flying squirrel drift into the feeder from the darkness of the forest. The next, read a good book in a quiet corner boiling maple syrup. Laugh with your child as she pranks you for April Fools or savour a cold Corona at 10 in the morning on a hot day. Kneel down while your 9 year old shows you how intricate insect galleries under pieces of bark from a dead tree can be. Explain to her that the simplest of organisms created something this beautiful.

Your assignment this week? Put the world away for a half hour, slow down and take the time to glean a moment of pure joy from your world. And next week, enjoy while someone with actual writing talent takes back this blog.

Toast your buns

Mother and daughter in car
Grace and I fighting over the heated car seats

Minus 27 degrees Celcius. The deep freeze is finally here. The consensus on Facebook yesterday seemed to be the best way to beat the cold was to stay inside.

Not us. We spent three hours down at the lake yesterday, clearing off the rink, skating, skiing and even having a hot dog cookout. After warming up inside, we headed out again, this time in the car to Westport for a church spaghetti supper.

I don’t consider myself high maintenance. I don’t own a Coach purse or Gucci wallet. I drive a 10-year old Honda and I’m just as happy with a simple pasta supper at home or at the church in Westport than getting dressed up and going out to a fancy restaurant.

But there is one luxury I have come to appreciate, especially in the dead of winter–heated car seats.

Whenever we venture out on a cold day, the girls and I race to Dave’s car and fight over the front seat. The victor hops in the passenger side and cranks the dial to 24 or 25 and waits for the warmth of the seat to make their tush tingle. It’s luxury, pure luxury on a cold winter’s day.

Clare usually wins, because she “claims” she gets car sickness in the back seat of Dave’s car. Grace and I think it’s a sinister ruse. Trust me, it’s hard to be sympathetic when the little minx blurts out “My buttocks are burning!”

Happiness isn’t a warm puppy when it’s minus 27 outside. Happiness is a heated car seat.

This week’s #HappyAct is to fight for the front seat, or find something to keep your buns toasty warm. And if one of your kids claims they feel car sick, be heartless. Race as fast as you can to claim the front seat–no butts about it.

Diss the dis in disability

This past week, Sesame Street introduced a new character with autism and launched a new website called “Sesame Street and Autism: See Amazing in All Children”.

This is a bold, exciting step. It’s time we finally dissed the “dis” in disability and see the strengths and gifts people have to offer, regardless of their limitations or challenges.

I have a bit of experience with kids with autism. I remember attending a play group of kids “on the spectrum”. The first week, you could tell the parents sitting on the bleachers were comparing mannerisms and skills of their kids. Some kids had more overt stimming behaviours, movements kids with autism do to self-stimulate. Some were better at the physical activities they had the kids do. Others clearly struggled with speech or making friends.

What was interesting was by the end of the third week, the parents didn’t see this any more. They saw a beautiful little boy Damien, with the most gorgeous smile and sweet disposition. They saw a tall, lanky and athletic girl named Georgia, who had a wonderful heart and tried to help the other kids. They saw past their disabilities to see their abilities and strengths.

As humans, it’s natural for us to like people like us. But those who are different have so much to offer and give.

This week’s #HappyAct is to diss the dis in disability. Fight the impulse to label someone the next time or your child meets someone and thinks they’re “weird” or “different”. Be open to who they truly are. If we can all do this, the world will be a more peaceful, inclusive and happier place.

Ed. Note: As a follow up to last week’s federal election, I was heartened on election night to see the faces of our new members elect of parliament. A record number of visible minorities and women were elected to our new parliament. That in itself is a great outcome.

Marriage is a life sentence


Bagpiper husband
My bagpiping partner in crime

Yesterday was my 23rd wedding anniversary. I always think of my father-in-law on our anniversary. John used to joke that “If I had murdered your mother instead of marrying her all those years ago, I’d be out on day parole by now.”

John and Donna were into their third life sentence when she passed away this year—they would have celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary in June.

Dave and I always say that we’re inmates for life now—the proverbial ball and chain. We’re pretty sure no one else would put up with our foibles and habits.

There’s no right or wrong way to live your life. Married, single, divorced, kids, no kids, it’s just how life unfolds. Elizabeth Taylor was married seven times. You could look at her life and say that’s seven divorces, or you could look at it and say she lived a life full of romance and was blessed to have seven loves of her life. That’s pretty great.

My life sentence is to share a cell with a big bagpiper with a big heart. He’s been a wonderful partner in crime in this crazy institution called life and I love him to bits.

This week’s #HappyAct is to thank or do something special for your partner in life or crime who supports you. Just don’t bake a cake for them with a knife in it.

Go to the drive-in

Girls at the drive-inThere aren’t many things today that take you back to your youth and simpler times. The drive-in is one of them.

When Dave and I were dating, he drove a 1969 Wildcat convertible. We’d pile six of us in the Wildcat, and with elbow room to spare, watch the latest big screen double feature at the drive-in on Ford Drive in Oakville.

There aren’t many drive-ins left today. I read somewhere that more than 4,000 drive-ins have gone dark in North America in the last 40 years, a victim to urbanization and development. If you have one left in your community, consider yourself lucky.

Selfie at the drive-inIn Kingston, our drive-in is Kingston Family Fun World and it’s everything a drive-in should be and more. Last night we took Clare and six of her friends there for her birthday. It was a perfect night. The kids raced around as the sun set, a half crescent moon rose in the sky and there was just enough chill in the air to make curling up in a blanket under a lawn chair inviting.

A perfect night…except for the eight kids in the back of the car.

This week’s #HappyAct is to go to the drive-in. Order a big bucket of popcorn and a monster drink that will make you have to go the washroom twenty minutes into the first feature. Just don’t forget your flashlight so you can find your way to the concession stand in the dark.



Wear a funny hat

mother and daughter in animal hatsDo you ever wonder if your house has a black hole? I swear ours does. The latest thing sucked into the dark vortex of our home is an entire bag of hats that went missing during the annual switch over from summer to winter clothes. All of my best hats went missing, which means we’ve had to rely on our collection of “funny hats” this winter.

I like wearing funny hats, but I usually just wear them when I take the dogs for a walk or out on the lake. They’re warm, and they usually bring a smile to people’s faces. (Well, I’m not sure if it’s a smile or a grimace on Dave’s face, but we’ll go with the smile.)

Here is a picture of me in my favourite funny hat, my Elmo hat my girlfriend Elaine gave me for my birthday last year and a few more pics from a funny hat fashion show Clare and I put on yesterday. Hope it makes you smile.

This week’s #HappyAct is to wear a funny hat and keep warm.

Woman in Elmo hat

girl in rabbit hat

woman in funny hat

Christmas sweaters, me stuff and Father Time

Clock with time for me
Important stuff

Hi there. I should probably introduce myself, I’m Craig from Todays Chapter. Don’t worry, Laurie will be back next Sunday, but she has kindly offered to hand over the reins for a guest post. I’m a huge fan of Happy Act and Laurie’s thoughtful weekly advice to achieve happiness, so I’m fully aware just how big these shoes are to fill. Here goes nothing…

There is phrase often used when talking about personal finances, “Pay yourself first”. The basic concept is before you try to pay down debts or buy new things, you should carve out a little something for the ‘you’ of the future. It’s generally agreed that for this to be effective it should be done automatically, not something you consciously have to decide to do each payday. Money is finite but the list of things to buy with it is seemingly endless, so you should carve out a chunk to put aside before you blow it on that hand-knitted Christmas sweater that suddenly seems like an essential purchase.

Xmas sweater
Not important stuff

While I am terrible at paying myself first financially, I am a strong believer in applying this concept to my time. Just like money, time is a finite resource that needs to be carefully managed to achieve your goals. Unlike money you can’t earn more of it. This means we all try to cram more and more into a day.

As a new parent I particularly felt this strain. Overnight my time became someone else’s. In my initial panic to keep our darling daughter alive and happy, I stopped going to the gym; there simply wasn’t time. Then I stopped reading, then writing, then sleeping and showering. I did all of this for good reason, but the net result was a happy baby and a tired, stinky and grumpy Daddy. I’d forgotten to pay myself first. When I finally figured this out it seemed so obvious, but at the time it didn’t seem that way at all.

The solution was simple. I carve out 30 minutes a day just for me. Each day I figure out what to ‘spend’ it on, sometimes it’s a nap, others a blog post. I even manage to occasionally sneak in some video games. The other 23.5 hours a day are to spend on ‘stuff’, but that 0.5 is all mine. The difference that simple change makes is staggering, I feel like a new person. I have transformed into a tired, stinky but happy Daddy!

My advice to achieve happiness is simple, pay yourself first. Carve out a tiny slice of your day and make it all yours, then fill it with whatever makes you happy. Make this a habit, not something you do every now and again, because if you don’t you will always find other ‘stuff’ to spend that time on.

Ok, that’s it, I’m handing the controls back to our resident happiness guru. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to buy a new Christmas sweater…

Busta move

Girls dancing
Dancing in our pjs on a Sunday morning

I love to dance. At concerts, I find it hard to sit down. If I’m not standing, my feet are tapping and I’m groovin’ in my seat. When my kids were babies, they would be cranky in the evening, so I’d crank up the music and dance with them in my arms around the room. Now my daughter is 11 and she’s embarrassed any time I dance in public.

I love watching young children dance, because they don’t care—they have no inhibitions. They’ll gyrate and do the goofiest moves, letting their little bodies move and groove to the music. As adults, sadly, we become more self-conscious of how we look when we dance.

This week’s Happy Act is to dance. It’s the holiday party season so maybe you can cut a rug on the dance floor with your co-workers, check out a club, or busta move with your kids in your living room. It doesn’t matter, just dance.  You’ll be smiling when the music stops.

Here’s a picture of the gang staying at my house this weekend busting a move to David Wilcox in our jammies in my living room. To inspire you, check out this video of the 2012 Shag Dancing champions. But don’t try this at home kids, you might just bust a hip or a knee instead of a move.