Swimming in a fish bowl

Author and her husbandWe’re just two lost souls swimming in a fish bowl, year after year.”

-Wish You Were Here, Pink Floyd

This isn’t the blog post I was planning to write. I had planned to write a funny, light-hearted post about 25 years of marriage.

Yes, Dave and I are celebrating our twenty-fifth wedding anniversary this week. We’ve been two lost souls swimming in a fish bowl running over the same ground for 25 years and for the record, there’s no one I’d rather splash around with in the fish bowl of life.

But today, as I sat on the dock, my eyes filled with tears and I began crying.

Crying hopelessly for two dear friends who after decades of marriage had their happily ever afters stolen from them–one friend who lost her husband to brain cancer and another who had to put her husband this week in a home because of Alzheimers disease.

It’s just so unfair and incredibly sad.

But if there’s one thing 25 years of marriage has taught me, and the events of the last few weeks, it’s that there are no guarantees.

No guarantee people will grow old together.

No guarantee you will remain in love.

No guarantee that the phrase in sickness and in health will take on so much meaning.

No guarantee life won’t turn out the way you planned it.

To Dave, I simply say thank you for 25 wonderful years. I hope I never take you for granted, and whatever fate befalls us, I hope you will continue to be my faithful partner, swimming in circles, by my side.

And to Jack and Tom: I wish you were here.

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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.

Take a leap of faith and start a new tradition

Picture of woman trying to lasso a manEvery four years, we get a unique and wonderful opportunity–an entire extra day in the finite cycle of time to do whatever we want.

Leap year traditions date back hundreds of years, the most famous of which is the Irish tradition of young women proposing to their often reluctant-to-wed sweethearts on February 29th. Many other Leap year traditions follow along this same theme of women taking matters in their own hands to find wedded bliss. Here are some modern twists to Leap Year traditions for you to consider starting:

  • Say a little prayer—this tradition dates back to ecclesiastical times where a member of the clergy would say a prayer for couples contemplating marriage in case the person being proposed to said “no”
  • Throw a Leap Year party—this was a chance for women to ask a man to dance, but you can just make it an excuse to throw a once-in-every-four years blow-out bash
  • Send a card—this tradition stems back to the days when women would send postcards to men as invitations to a Leap Year party—why not send a thank you note or note of appreciation to someone you know to make their day, or have a little fun and send a note from a secret admirer
  • Buy a new pair of gloves: Queen Margaret of Scotland in 1288 required that fines be levied if a marriage proposal was refused by the man. The fine was a pair of leather gloves, a single rose and a kiss (the gloves were meant to mask the ring finger of the woman)
  • Of course, if you’re single, and there’s someone in your sights, this is your chance to go for it!

I thought I would add a few of my own Leap Year traditions to the list:

  • Brew a special batch of Leap Year beer or if you’re a winemaker, Leap Year wine to imbibe throughout the year
  • Declare Feb 29th Reverse Roles day. If you have kids, make them the parents—tell them they can make all the decisions about what you eat and do that day. If you’re in a relationship, switch roles—whatever household duties you’d normally do, switch with your partner
  • And my personal favourite: lobby the government to declare Feb 29 a National Holiday so we can truly gain an extra day in the year to do whatever we want (who’s in?)This week’s #HappyAct is to adopt one of these Leap Year traditions or start your own. How will you celebrate Leap Year? I’m off to buy new leather gloves. Leave a comment.

Best happy acts of 2015

Best of 2015 graphicSomeone once said you need to focus on the future, not the past, to be happy. While I think there is some truth in this statement, I think reflecting and learning from the past is valuable.

So in the spirit of reflection, here’s my Eleven Best Happy Acts of 2015 (once again eleven “for that extra push” in the immortal words of Nigel Tufnel). Most of these should inspire, but some are just for fun!

  1. Host your own awards show—with awards show season upon us, this is a great activity to do with the family or at a party.
  2. Listen with your heart—with 24 comments, this post struck a chord and sparked a debate about being self-absorbed and managing expectations in the selfie age.
  3. Whistle while you work—from guest blogger Matt Smith on the importance of being happy at work.
  4. The best investment you can make—and more pearls of wisdom from Warren Buffett, just in time for RRSP season.
  5. Make a pilgrimage to Cooperstown—my friend and guest blogger Ray Dorey wrote this before the Blue Jays came oh so close to reviving our dreams of ’85 and bringing baseball fever to a new pitch. Plan to visit in 2016.
  6. A twist on 13 things you must give up to be happy—an important lesson on reframing thoughts.
  7. Rise and shine—if January finally heralds winter winds and snow, this post will transport you back to warmer days.
  8. The science of happiness-part 2—answers the question, who do you think is more happy, lottery winners or parapalegics?
  9. Marriage is a life sentence—makes me think of my father-in-law, John Swinton every time…and smile.
  10. Diss the dis in disability—an invaluable lesson from the creators of Sesame Street. Make this your New Year’s resolution for 2016.
  11. Does being a leader make you happy? An important question. See more comments on this page on Quora.

This week’s #HappyAct is to catch up on any happy acts you missed in 2015 and look forward to happiness in 2016. Happy New Year everyone and thanks for reading!

Wrap it up in a big red bow

 

ATV with  a red bowIt’s officially here. The season of gift giving. The shopping frenzy starts with Black Friday and continues for thirty days of mall madness to Christmas and Boxing Day.

We’ve never been extravagant gift givers in our house. When the kids were little, we followed the ABC rule—a toy, a book and one outfit of new clothes. We’ve never done the “big gesture”. There’s been no trips under our tree. No diamond rings or necklaces. The gifts under our tree have always been modest.

Well, all that changed last week in a culmination of happy acts. In October, I blogged about the 23 years I’ve been married to Dave in “Marriage is a Life Sentence”. My happy act that week was to do something special for your partner in crime in life. I wracked my brains to think about something special to do for Dave and could only come up with one thing.

For the past two years, all Dave has talked about is getting an ATV. Ad nauseom. We had been saving, but a car bill here, a washing machine on the fritz here kept putting it off.

Then last week, my post was about taking the Financial Weight Loss Challenge. The idea is to take action on the one thing you should do during Financial Literacy Month to feel better about your financial health. In that post, I said we’ve always taken a balanced approach between saving and living and right now, living was winning out.

So as Dave’s birthday approached, I decided to kill two happy acts with one stone and buy an ATV from Perth Powersports (the team there were great!) It just so happened I was working from home on Dave’s birthday, and would actually be at the house when he got home from work to see his reaction. They delivered it in the morning—a shiny yellow CanAm 450 Outlander with a plow. All it needed was a big red bow.

Dave’s reaction was everything we hoped for and more. He was a 12-year old boy again on the farm with a grin a mile wide. It’s still on his face.

This week’s #HappyAct is to find the perfect gift for someone this season and wrap it up in a big red bow. I still don’t think you need the “big gesture” to bring joy and pleasure in the gift you choose. It might be cliché, but it really is the thought that counts and finding that perfect gift, big or small.

Man and ATV

Simple words to live by to create happiness

 

fulgence weddingYesterday, our friend Fulgence Mrosso got married. It makes me smile to even think about it.

We met Fulgence two years ago when Dave and I went to Tanzania. Fulgence was our guide and we spent many hours on our long safari drives in the Serengeti talking about love and marriage. Fulgence was a bit of a skeptic and I had told him he needed help finding love and jokingly promised to sign him up as the next TV Batchelor. At the time, he seemed to like the idea of dating 25 women at once.

The Facebook photos of the big day show him smiling, scooping his bride up in his arms and looking as blissfully happy as any groom on his wedding day.

Fulgence once wrote on his Facebook page,

“Every little smile can touch somebody’s heart. No one is born happy but all of us are born with the ability to create happiness. Be happy always.”

This week’s #HappyAct is to remember the beauty and truth of this simple philosophy and send someone this week a special wish. Mine is to Fulgence and his beautiful new bride: may you be happy always.

couple and guide beside a jeep

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.