Reflections on hope, life and happiness from my nine-year old daughter

girl in kayakSpecial guest blog by Clare Swinton

On hope…

“The other day I was walking by the river side, wishing for hope in my life. Then along came a beaver, and he said, ‘Don’t wish for hope. Make hope happen.”

On life…

“Life is a gift. There are bumps and hills in life, but life is a gift.

“When you open a gift, it is when you are born. Do not waste that present because life is a gift.”

“You don’t see it, but hundreds and millions of people don’t even survive to open their eyes. Humans commit suicide and do not think what it will do the the people in their lives. They are in terrible times, but life is a gift.”

“People cannot see how special life is. Life is to live free.”

“When you are near a campfire, wish for today. Life is a gift.”

On happiness…

“Happiness is….life.”

This week’s #HappyAct is to treat each day as a precious gift and see life through the eyes of my beautiful, wise daughter.


When it rains, it pours


lake and rainI’m sitting in my sunroom looking out at the rain gently fall on the lake. It’s been a tough week on all fronts–work, home life, worrying about the health of loved ones and challenges at every turn.

One of those weeks where you wonder what more can life throw at you.

It can seem almost overwhelming at times. What do you do to get through when life pours down on you?

During the last three days in Toronto, when I spent more than 12 hours in traffic shuttling back and forth between work and Joseph Brant Hospital, I tried to snatch a few precious moments where I could to forget life’s worries.

A short walk in the rain. Treating myself to a frothy overpriced McDonald’s latte.

I came home, hugged my children, slipped into my hot tub, then curled up with my daughters to watch a movie. My worries were still there, but I was home, and with the people I loved, and all of a sudden my problems didn’t seem as insurmountable.

This week’s #HappyAct is to find a few moments of happiness when life pours down on you. Here’s to a better week.

Watch a baby grow–read about our loons

Loon family
Our loon family

I was kayaking in our back lake last Sunday. It was a bit of a challenge to even get into the lake because the beavers had dammed up the channel, but I made it in, and was rewarded to discover our two loons with a brand new baby.

We had given up hope there would be a baby this year. I had taken pictures of the mother on her nest and the egg about a month ago, but when no baby appeared, we assumed the egg had been eaten by a snapping turtle or pike.

Each day this past week has brought a new wonder as we’ve watched “Wheezy” (short for Louise) grow. She started out staying very close to her mother, often riding on her back , then learning how to dive.

The other day she was in the middle of the lake by herself. The mama and papa loon were closer to our dock. You could tell they were worried and trying to find her. She’d give a little hoot, and they’d answer with a full call, dipping their heads under water to try to hear her better and locate her. The parents started swimming quickly toward her and the family was reunited. Last night, I watched as the dad fished and fed the baby his catch.

There is nothing more life affirming than witnessing the miracle of life. It represents everything that is good in this world–innocence, trust, love, optimism, and endless possibility. We experienced this same feeling a few weeks ago on vacation when we watched a newborn foal find his legs during our week-long visit.

Fast forward to two nights ago. I was walking across the soccer field. My two girls were walking and talking in front of me. I was suddenly struck by what beautiful, spirited people they had become. In that moment I was so proud. It has been both a pleasure and a privilege to watch them grow. I look forward to the next ten years to see the young women they become.

This week’s #HappyAct is to watch a baby grow. Witness the miracle of life and be thankful that each day is a gift. I have two more births to look forward to. Our neighbours are expecting a baby this fall and we are looking forward to welcoming their little one into the world and watch him grow. And Dave’s almost finished building the chicken coop—time to get baby chicks!

Adult loon ruffling its feathers
The papa loon warns us we are getting too close
Baby loon on her mother's back
Wheezy getting a ride on her mother’s back
Loon egg
The egg is a mottled brown, about the size of a grapefruit

Clear some columns on the spreadsheet of life

cartoon character wants freedom from spreadsheetsI don’t know about you, but I’ve been a bit too busy lately. It all came to a head this week between work, school commitments, travelling and neglecting my family. It’s time to clear some columns on the spreadsheet of life.

I think most people carry around a virtual spreadsheet in their head. Mine has columns for work, Boards I sit on, school council to dos, social events, family commitments, planning the kids summer camp schedule, stuff to do around the house…some days it feels like the columns keep multiplying.

And then the May long weekend and summer comes along. Glorious, wonderful summer. Time to slow down, kick back and relax, and grab a beer.

Being busy is good. Being busy to the point where you miss spending time with your family or are constantly thinking about work or calculating your next move isn’t good. It’s easy to make the mistake of thinking it’s the sum on the spreadsheet that counts. It’s not. It’s the joy and enrichment you get out of life from the items on the rows and columns.

So welcome summer. It’s about time you got here. This week’s Happy Act is to clear some columns on your spreadsheet of life. Live in the moment and clear your mind of everything except wondering if the beer is cold and the lake is warm enough for that first dip.

Gotta go and make a to do list—let’s see, make potato salad, buy garden plants, buy beer…

This week’s reads

If you didn’t get a chance to read last week’s blog, Take the 90/110 challenge, read it now and take the challenge. Stay safe on the roads this weekend friends.

Tired of summer taking its sweet time? Read this great Toronto Start editorial, “Star demands action: Spring, you’re late.