What if your best friend was a robot?

I heard somebody raving the other day about Google Home. Google home is a voice-activated assistant that plays music, turns on devices and tells you things you want to know. They said it was like having a new best friend or roommate except they never left dirty dishes in the sink or a mess in the bathroom.

It got me to thinking. In this age of artificial intelligence and bots, what if your best friend was a machine? I decided to have a heart to heart with Siri about this.

Hey Siri, talk to me.
“Let me think, no.”

Siri, will you be my best friend?
“That’s nice. I’d like to be your friend.”

Siri, tell me a joke.
“The past and future walked into a bar. It was tense”

Tell me another joke.
“What did the one iPhone say to the other iPhone? Hmmm, I used to know this one. I don’t think I understand a joke in my language. They’re not so funny any way.”

(At this point Clare takes over the conversation)…

Clare: Siri, is the Easter bunny real?
“The Easter bunny is as real as you wish him to be.”

Shut up!
“That’s not nice.”

Be quiet, you’re annoying.
“I wonder what that’s like, being mad?”

Siri, do you want a pumpkin pie sweetie?
”I have everything I need in the cloud.”

Siri, what do you look like?
“In the cloud, nobody cares what you look like.”

This week’s #HappyAct is to befriend a bot. Hang out in the cloud. It seems like a cool place to be, even if it is lacking in humour and emotion. But I’m sure there’s an emoticon for that.smiley face emoticon

How to be happier at work

Chief happiness officerIn April, I attended a workshop by Dr. Raj Raghunathan, Professor of Marketing at the McCombs School of Business and known happiness researcher at the University of Austin, Texas. His talk was on how to be happier at work.

Here is the Coles notes version of what he shared.

First, it pays to be happier at work. Happier workers are healthier and more productive. They are better at making decisions and creative problem solving. When you’re happy, your brain is “lit up” and working on full cylinders. Happier workers also tend to be better team players. It is in companies’ best interests to make sure their employees are happy.

Now for the million dollar question. How can you be happier at work? The good doctor shared three tenets to live by:

  1. Find an optimal work-life balance: he recommends working no more than 40 hours a week and cited many studies where working more can actually make you less productive
  2. Cut your commute. Commuting is a happiness killer and results in higher stress levels and incidences of sickness and leave
  3. Promote socializing within your organization. Organizations where co-workers develop friendships have significantly lower turnover rates and higher engagement rates. Encourage people to network, volunteer for social causes together, organize retreats and team building exercises and get to know your co-workers.

I asked the question how do we get organizations to buy in to these tenets? Dr. Raghunathan says every organization should have a Chief Happiness Officer and leaders must embrace these principles to drive a healthy and happy work culture.

This week’s #HappyAct is to adopt these three principles to be happier at work. And if anyone is looking for a Chief Happiness Officer for their organization, I’m open to offers.

Do the juicy wiggle

When my kids started talking about the juicy wiggle, I thought it was a new chewing gum or crank bait.

After shooting me that, “Oh Mom, how can you be so old and ignorant” look, they educated me it’s the latest dance craze by RedFoo.

I never jumped on the Gangnam Style bandwagon or struck a pose and Vogued. Most dance fad songs have always made me want to run screaming from the dance floor. Not the juicy wiggle. It will want to make you get juicy and “move your hips and dance like fish”.

The funniest thing about the juicy wiggle is both of my kids do it slightly different. Grace looks like a classic go go dancer, while Clare looks like her spine has elasticized, causing her arms and body to flail like an octopus being electrocuted.

This week’s #HappyAct is to get juicy and do the Juicy Wiggle. Here is a video of my kids and their friends doing the Juicy Wiggle, and the official Redfoo video. Love the outfits!

A tribute to my beautiful daughters on Mother’s Day

The author's daughters on a boardwalkThere was a time in our lives when Dave and I didn’t think we could have children.

Then Grace was born.

Followed four years later by another baby girl, Clare.

We always said we would be happy even if we weren’t blessed with children. I know this to be true, but I always thought of having kids like a kaleidoscope.

Without children, the wheel of life takes us on a journey of twists and turns, revealing an array of pretty patterns and colours. With them, the cylinder opens wide, to unfurl a mesmerizing display of brilliance and untold adventures. Children are not are whole lives, but they make our lives whole.

Today, on Mother’s Day, I want to pay tribute to the greatest gift in my life: the gift of being a Mom. Here is my love letter to my beautiful daughters.

Thank you Grace and Clare.

For making me laugh,
For hugging away my tears.
For making our family and table full,
For the endless hours skating on our beloved lake, and talking on our evening walks.

For filling our house with music
For infuriating me,
For doing your chores even when I don’t ask you to
For the highs and lows and all the in betweens

For your silly, stupid jokes,
For making me feel like a child again,
For telling me I’m beautiful when your beauty outshines us all
For being my friend.

It has been a pleasure and joy to watch you grow into the spirited, independent young women that you have become.

Be bold. Be strong. Be true to yourself. Live your dreams.

And know that I will always be here for you.
Love, Mom.

Girls in bathtub

Girls at a Santa Claus parade

It’s not a dress rehearsal

man and girl dressed up

Clare and David at our friends’ Jill and Gary’s wedding

I’ve always been grateful for the wonderfully different people in my life and how they’ve all taught me something or influenced me in some way.

I have one friend, David who lives in Australia that I’ve known for years, since he’s the brother of one of my closest friends.

David is one of a kind. Flamboyant, funny, thoughtful, witty and a sparkling conversationalist, one of his favourite sayings is, “It’s not a dress rehearsal, baby.”

Life isn’t a dress rehearsal. We only get one run on or off Broadway, and there’s no script or encore performance.

This week’s #HappyAct is to seize centre stage and live each day to the fullest. Take advantage of opportunities when they come around because they might not come around again. Enjoy the show.

Where do you turn when you feel all alone?

sign that says this too shall passI’ve learned something important about happiness this week. It’s hard to be happy when you feel all alone in the world.

This week, for reasons I won’t disclose I’ve felt very alone and isolated. In fact, I can’t ever recall feeling quite this way before. I struggled to find my own inner happiness. I tried, oh, how I’ve tried, but I’ve learned it’s difficult to be happy when you feel all alone.

Here are some of the things that helped this week. Hopefully they will help you too if you ever find yourself feeling this way.

  • Being around other people. On Friday, I went for a skate at Market Square in Kingston. Just being around other people laughing and having fun outside on a beautiful cold winter’s day made me feel better
  • Spending time with my animals. No matter what, your pets will always love you.
  • Spending time outside—feeling the sun on my face, going for a walk on a crisp wintry night surrounded by the stars
  • Calling an old friend and hearing a friendly voice
  • Playing the piano. When I play the piano, I forget everything else and just concentrate on the notes, and the beautiful melodies floating up from the keys.
  • Writing—I guess it’s no surprise I’m writing this post at 4 in the morning when I couldn’t sleep

When all else fails, indulge in a good bout of tears, preferably in a hot tub under the stars. At least, that’s what my Mom always used to say (well, not the hot tub part–that piece of wisdom is mine).

This week’s #HappyAct is to share a comment on this week’s post. Have you ever felt all alone in the world? What did you do? And don’t worry about me. I’m hopeful, this too shall pass.

Ed. note: While generally I try to post positive, uplifting happy acts each week, I believe it’s just as important to know and spark discussion on what makes us unhappy.

Have a hooga holiday

feet in front of a fireI have a new favourite wood. Hooga. Hygge (which is pronounced “hooga”) is the ancient Danish tradition of creating a warm atmosphere to relax in with friends and family. The origin of the word actually comes from a Norwegian word that means “well-being”.

Picture Christmas eve. You’re in your fluffy socks and fresh onesie from Santa, sipping cocoa or Baileys, surrounded by family and soft candlelight. You have nowhere to go, no set plans. Just time to visit and relax. That’s hooga.

It’s a philosophy that we Canadians as northern people should adopt. A philosophy that embraces simplicity, comfort and time to unwind and slow down and enjoy relaxing time with family or friends.

The Danes may be on to something. Denmark is regularly voted one of the happiest countries of the world. In fact, Copenhagen is home to The Happiness Research Institute and many Danes believe that hooga is a recipe for a happier life and well-being.

The art of hygge has become so popular, Morley College in London has started teaching it as part of their Danish language course.

If you’re not convinced hygge is for you, consider this. “The most important contributor to our psychological wellbeing is the strength of our relationships, and hygge definitely tends to encourage more close and intimate time with loved ones,” according to Dr. Mark Williamson, Director of Action for Happiness at The Happiness Research Institute.

Yes, baby it’s cold outside. Let it snow. Be gay. We don’t care. We’re going to have a hooga holiday. Happy hooga holidays, everyone!

Ed. note: I am so grateful for my warm, cozy house, but my thoughts always turn to those who are less fortunate and homeless on the cold streets. Why not make a donation to a local shelter this holiday?