Life hacks from a 90-year old

My 90-year old father-in-law and his two daughters
Dave’s sisters, Liz, Mary Anne and their Dad

This weekend, we attended a very special celebration, the 90th birthday of my father-in-law, John Swinton.
 
I’ve blogged about John before. He is quite the character and comes with many self-anointed titles. Master Storyteller. Grand Champion of Cards. Number One Habs Fan. I’ve been blessed to spend a lot of time with John this past year, and have been the recipient of his many wisdoms (as he would tell you). Here are words to live by, courtesy of the big guy:
 
 On gender identity and gender neutral names
“You can call me anything, just don’t call me late for dinner.”
 
On entertaining a crowd
“Always tell your best joke first and get them laughing, then they’ll be putty in your hands all night.”
 
On women
“If the women don’t find you handsome, they should at least find you handy” (from one of his favourite characters, Red Green.)
 
On his hometown
“I was born in Harriston because I wanted to be close to my mother.”
 
On marriage
“Marriage is a life sentence. If I had killed your mother by now, I’d be out on parole.”
 
And if you’re slow getting the teapot on the table after dinner,
“After 35 years, you’d think a man could get a cup of tea!”
 
All kidding aside, we love you John and hope you enjoy many more celebrations to come.

On life
God, grant me the serenity
To accept the things I cannot change;
Courage to change the things I can;
And wisdom to know the difference.

90 birthday cake
Old photos
90 years of memories and accomplishments

Believe in the illusion

Daughter Grace with a drink

Last weekend, Clare had a hockey tournament in Barrie. It was supposed to be a fun-filled family weekend of shopping, eating out, spending time with her team and celebrating Grace’s birthday since my baby turned 19 last week.

It was probably one of our worst family weekends ever.

Clare woke up the Friday morning with a stuffy nose, claiming it was allergies. After 5-6 hours of driving, it had developed into a full-fledged head cold. She was miserable. Grace was upset because her big birthday weekend was ruined and we spent the next 24 hours in the car or hotel room yelling at each other or sulking before turning around and driving home the next day.

There was one shining moment during that wash of a weekend. After buying drive-through Wendy’s for Clare to eat in the hotel room by herself, Dave and I did take Grace out for a nice birthday dinner at Milestones. We bought her first drink: a bellini.

If you saw any of my posts on Facebook last weekend, you’d never know our weekend was such a bust. You’d see a funny video of the kids acting silly during the car ride, a picture of Grace smiling at the restaurant with her bellini, and the pathetic Santa display in the lobby of our crappy hotel that made us laugh.

That’s the beauty of Facebook, social media and our memories. Ten years from now, we may look back on those posts and only remember those happy moments, not the tears, fighting and miserable parts of the weekend.

Not a bad thing, really.

This week’s #HappyAct is to believe in the illusion. Tis the season of believing, after all, and who knows, someday, at least in our minds and memories, it may become the truth.

What do you do if you’re not sure what makes you happy anymore?

Sign what makes you happy

My horoscope yesterday said, “Do what makes you happy”. The problem is, I’m not sure what that is anymore.

Call it the pandemic blues, call it middle age (okay, I’m being kind to myself here), but I’ve found myself pondering this question the past 24 hours.

What used to make me happy was simple. My family, my beautiful lake and property, visiting with friends and neighbours, little things like the refrains of the piano drifting through the air while I sit on the back deck with a glass of wine.

These things still make me happy, but I’ll admit, it’s more subdued now.

I wish I was one of these people who found a new passion and purpose during COVID. I haven’t. I’ve fallen into the cohort known as “languishers” the term coined by the New York Times to describe those of us feeling joyless and aimless, and “slipping slowly into solitude.”

With things opening up, you’d think I’d be chomping at the bit to reach out and connect with people, but I’m not. I was talking to a friend at work the other day who felt the same way. It’s not that we have social anxiety, it’s not that we don’t miss people and would love to see them again, we just don’t have the energy.  

They say one antidote to languishing is to immerse yourself in a project. But that takes energy too.

So dear readers, this week my #HappyAct is to ask you for advice. How do you figure out what makes you happy again? Please, leave a comment.

300 Happy Acts

flower petal

Last week, my little blog hit a milestone. I posted my 300th happy act.

Six years ago, when I decided to start this blog, I wasn’t sure where it would take me. The idea was simple: post one insight or one little act of happiness each week, and challenge my readers to join me.

I was inspired by many things, but mainly from watching people I care about struggle with happiness.

Sadly, I think my blog is more relevant today than it was six years ago. I believe mental health issues in young people especially are reaching epidemic proportions in this country. When social platforms like Facebook talk about removing likes to protect people from feelings of envy and negative self-worth, it’s a sign of a major societal problem.

I’ve learned many things from this blog. I’ve learned the importance of living in the moment, and being grateful for what I have. In going back through some of my old drafts, I found this post I had written but never shared for my 100th happy act written on Thanksgiving weekend. I’d like to share it with you now.

——————————————-

This is my 100th blog post. I’m happy I reached this milestone on Thanksgiving weekend because it reminds me of everything in my life to be thankful for.

It also reminds me the things that make me most happy are life’s everyday moments. So for my one hundredth #HappyAct, I thought I’d recite happy moments from just one day this weekend.

  • Swilling German beer at my friend Karen’s Oktoberfest party
  • Meeting someone new
  • Feeling the breeze and warm sun on my face
  • Watching the sun shimmer on Bella and Clare in the boat
  • Petting my big dopey mutts
  • Making a Halloween scarecrow
  • Curling up and watching a movie with Clare
  • Reading the newspapers
  • Sitting with a glass of wine on the back deck
  • Buying $30 worth of candy at Bulk Barn that will last only a week
  • Eating caramels at 10 o’clock in the morning
  • Biting into a fresh, crunchy apple
  • Having a hot tub
  • Watching a red leaf dance in the air as it gently floats to the ground
  • Picking fresh flowers

This week’s #HappyAct is to celebrate the little moments that make life wonderful and be grateful for each and every day. Thanks for continuing on this journey with me.

Happiness for sale

Sign about happiness

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”.

If only…

Halfmoon Bay General Store
The general store in Halfmoon Bay. The ice cream shop next door was for sale if any of you are looking for a change of pace

Happiness comes in waves

Sign about happiness

I came upon this sign last week on Broadway on the Beach in Myrtle. It said happiness comes in waves.

It was for some surf shop, but I thought it was very true. Happiness comes in waves. Some days the surf is calm, and you wade easily through the still waters. Other days moments of sadness or happiness wash over you like crests of a wave, all part of the normal ebb and flow of life.

When this happens, you just need to ride the wave.

My #HappyAct this week was literally riding the waves. The kids bought mini surf boards in Myrtle, so we spent the week body surfing—so much fun!

 

Best happy acts of 2018

Author and her daughter

When I started this blog four years ago, I hoped I would find a community of people who would join me on a journey to explore what it means to be happy and be inspired to take action to create our own happiness, one happy act at a time.

I also knew there would be others who would never “get it” and think I’m crazy. I once had someone ask me, why do you blog about the same thing every week?  Sigh.

While there is always a common thread in my posts: exploring what makes us happy, I hope dear loyal readers you have figured out that like life, happyact.ca is a smorgasbord of content. Some weeks, it is a blog for foodies or commentary on work; other weeks it’s a travelogue or a humour column.

Some weeks it’s an advice column where I’m seeking advice for a problem or issue in my life. Other weeks, I’m sharing a tiny drop of inspiration or motivation. Either way, I hope you’ve enjoyed reading it and it’s helped you on your journey to be happy.

I know life gets busy and there is a good chance you may have missed some happy acts this year, so to help you overcome FOMO (fear of missing out), here is a reprise of my top ten favourite happy acts of 2018. I hope you keep reading every Sunday morning and continue on with me on this journey in 2019.

On travel and exploring

On being happy at work

For giggles

Motivation and inspiration

Happy New Year everyone and here’s to a happiness filled 2019.

The crappy act revisited

Dog with sunglasses
Our one dog now, the Bellediot–beautiful but stupid as a bag of hammers

My life is starting to resemble a country song. We had to put my old dog down, two of my appliances died, our car was in the shop and we got a ticket for parking in front of a hydrant, bills are piling up and to make matters worse, I’ve had a throat infection that’s only getting worse which means I’ll have to go back to the doctor for another appointment.

As Dave says, there are weeks when the happy act should really be The Crappy Act. It’s made me reflect on how to keep chipper when life gets you down. Here are a few things that work for me.

  • Taking care of myself. Easier said than done, but I’ve always been a huge advocate of listening to your body, and when I’m feeling poorly I try to slow down and take care of myself. Note to self: make another doctor’s appointment tomorrow.
  • Being grateful for what I have instead of what I’ve lost. I loved Murphy our old dog, but we still have our Great Pyrenees, Bella, the stupidest dog on the face of the planet. Even though her various nicknames range from Bella the Fart Smeller, to Bella the Drywall Eating Dog, to the Bellidiot, we still love her and I’m grateful my big fluffy polar bear of a dog is still here to greet me every night when I come home.
  • Remembering that no matter what challenges we are facing, there is someone sitting next to me dealing with far more serious issues. I was reminded of this twice this weekend.
  • Knowing this too shall pass.
  • Oh, and chocolate and ice cream don’t hurt either (and are cool on the throat).

Hope everyone else had a happy week….and thanks for the kind words about Murphy. Our gentle giant is in a happier place.

Hang out with happy people

Song album cover for Save yourself

Two weeks ago, I shared a post called Seven Habits of Highly Unhappy People.

As much as it’s important to avoid unhappy habits, it’s just as important to avoid hanging out with people who are pessimistic, focus too much on themselves and see themselves as victims in this world.

As Ed Sheeran in his beautiful song Save Yourself says, “human beings are destined to radiate or drain.”

This week’s #HappyAct is to surround yourself with people who are positive, bring out the best in you and who radiate. Avoid those who drain.

Live a right life

Saying live a right life

This week’s #HappyAct is courtesy of a colleague who posted this saying on his Instagram account, “Do everything with a good heart and expect nothing in return and you will never be disappointed.”

He said he has made many mistakes in his life (haven’t we all), learned many lessons and changed behaviours. His mantra from now on was going to be “live a right life”.

His words really spoke to me. I’m not sure how many people do things nowadays with a pure heart, expecting nothing in return.

Live a right life is going to be my mantra from now on too. Thanks for the inspiration, Paul.