Seven things you can do to be a child genius

One of the cool things about social media is you get a glimpse into people’s lives that you would normally never have the chance to meet.

I follow Ron Howard @RealRonHoward on Twitter. Ron recently replaced Phil Lord and Chris Miller as director of the new Hans Solo movie in production and has been posting behind the scenes photos and stories from the set. His posts are always interesting.

Anyone who has worked with Ron says the same thing about him—his childlike enthusiasm and passion for making movies is infectious. It’s almost like little Ritchie Cunningham never grew up.

To be able to retain youthful enthusiasm is a gift. To be able to share that gift with others to inspire and motivate is pure genious.

As we age, our childlike wonder wanes. We become more stuck in our ways, closed off and disillusioned by life’s challenges.

It doesn’t have to be that way. Here are seven things you can do to keep your childlike wonder alive:

  1. Marvel at a miracle: a snowflake, a firefly, a butterfly. Every day we are surrounded by beautiful things and creatures. Take a moment to marvel at them.
  2. Live in the present
  3. Open up to others. Start conversations. People are amazing. Learn from them.
  4. Do things you are passionate about. If you love flowers, take a course in floral arrangements. If you love to bake, develop a new recipe from scratch.
  5. Ask questions.
  6. Spend time with a child. See the world through their eyes.
  7. Take time to play

Aldous Huxley once said, “The secret of genius is to carry the spirit of the child into old age which means never losing your enthusiasm.”

This week’s #HappyAct is to be a child genious. Have a wonderful week.

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Accept we are not in control

Comic Mind full or mindfulSpecial guest blog by Ray Dorey. You can read more of Ray’s adventures at www.storiesfromdoreyville.wordpress.com.

“The key to a happy life is to accept you are never actually in control.” – Character of Simon Masrani, Jurassic World.

I think I laughed out loud when I first heard this. I’d always believed the polar opposite. But as I’ve come to learn, these words from a fictional movie about a dinosaur park couldn’t ring more true.

I have somewhat of an obsession with “to do” lists – summaries both personal and professional, detailing all of my goals and tasks for a given period of time.

In my job, I have every day of the week planned nearly down to the minute. All meetings and objectives are scheduled to optimize efficiency and ensure completion.

And whether personally or professionally, I had always at least partially measured my success by how many of the items on my list were completed in the time I had prescribed.

But as we all know, life often doesn’t care about our tidy lists. It can be so easy for our plans to fall off the rails, and that can lead quickly to frustration – and possibly anxiety if we allow it.

I’ve learned that what is far more important than measuring ourselves strictly to planned objectives, is how we choose to react to the inevitable surprises and challenges that get interjected without notice or reason.

The past two years have been especially challenging for me personally. I’ve suffered multiple retinal detachments in both of my eyes, requiring surgery and extended recovery periods. In an instant, all of my immediate plans were abruptly pushed to the side, and longer-term plans became a complete blur (pardon the pun).

But my recent health issues have also strangely been among the most positive things to happen to me. Throughout seemingly endless visits to my ophthalmologist, I encountered and empathized with many others fighting their own vision issues, from the very young to the elderly.

My experience has taught me patience, perspective, and what is truly important in life. During recovery, when I couldn’t do much but keep my head down and stare straight at the floor, I would write (using my one good eye of course). I’d often scribe summaries of everything I was grateful for – from my parents, siblings, and faithful canine companion, to the air I breathe. It didn’t take long to fill at least a page and a half every time.

I watched a documentary recently about mindfulness, the psychological process of bringing one’s attention to the internal and external experiences occurring in the present moment. Participants at a weekend retreat were first required to purge distractions including leaving their smart phones in their rooms. Two of the exercises stood out. In the first, attendees simply walked across a room. But they did so very slowly, and were encouraged to be mindful of every step, including awareness of the position of their body and the feel of their feet on the floor. In the second exercise, participants ate a quiet meal, chewing slowly and focusing carefully on the taste and texture of every bite. On the surface, both exercises appeared ridiculous, but I understood the lessons they were meant to teach – to concentrate on the here and now and truly savour each precious moment.

I now follow a couple of Twitter feeds to provide daily reminders to slow down and value each moment. Buddha Quotes (@ByBuddha) and Daily Zen (@dailyzen).

As I write, I often glance at my dog, sleeping peacefully on the couch. I envy her, for I doubt she ever worries about the future. If she could write, her daily “to do” list would most likely be limited to four core activities: eat, drink, play and sleep. Not in any particular order, and just responding to needs and wants from one “now” to the next.

At the risk of oversimplifying, we really need to learn to “go with the flow.” There’s no problem in trying to maintain control – we all have responsibilities that we must try and manage. Just be cognizant of the fact that challenge lies around every corner, and we must be mentally prepared – and conditioned – to cope.

This week’s #HappyAct is to focus on the present moment. Every minute you spend worrying about future events robs you of your enjoyment of the here and now. Practiced mindfulness can easily lead to deliberate happiness.

Get unplugged

Special guest blog by Alison Taylor

Sometimes, it’s the simple things that make me happy. Well, to be truthful, most times it is the simple things.

Living in a country setting really makes you appreciate the quiet calm of the countryside. I am lucky to have access to hundreds of acres of fields and bush that I can walk through with my pal, Molly (friend of the four legged kind).

I like to get away from “devices” and unplug. I don’t disconnect though….I rather connect in a different way and use my senses to observe and interact with the “natural” kind. Sometimes it is the stillness, and peacefulness of the experience. Other times, the wind is howling, snow is crunching under your big boots, and you feel exhilarated.

There can be those moments where you see wildlife and marvel at their resilience, or watch the birds flittering in the grasses and listen to their songs and time stands still.

For me, I like to unplug as much as I can on weekends. My work week is full of the latest buzz words: high tech, digital disruption, seeking electronic efficiencies, etc.  It is nice to spend my weekend on what really matters, and spend time “unplugged” and surrounded by an environment that has stood the test of time and will be around many years to come whether I plug in or not.

Top Ten Predictions for 2017

 

top predictionsHere are my predictions for 2017 from the world of entertainment, social media and the home front. I’m not sure if any of these will make the world a happier place, but they may make you smile.

  1. Kim Kardashian and Kanye West and Donald and Melania Trump will divorce. Kanye and Trump will shack up together in the White House and become the new “it“ power couple, The Donkan, which sounds a lot like donkey
  2. Justin Trudeau will become the host of a new TV news program, “Joint, Counterjoint” where he and his guests will get high each week while solving the world’s problems
  3. My dogs will get off the couch before 11 a.m.
  4. Justin Bieber will post a picture on Instagram where he is actually smiling
  5. One of our chickens will lay 8 eggs at once, creating an new internet sensation, Octochick and getting Clare into the Guinness Book of World Records
  6. Fifth Harmony will become Fourth Discord—wait, that one’s come true
  7. One freaky Friday, teenagers all over the world will morph into the pig-like creatures they post on Snapchat
  8. Beyonce will score big with her next hit release, Orange Juice
  9. Our friend Jack Patch will become obscenely rich from inventing the newest social media craze, Assbook (happy birthday, Jack!)
  10. Hit reality show The Bachelor will experience its lowest ratings ever in January from choosing despicable Nick, and be pressured by fans in Batchelor Nation to change the show’s name to The Loser

There you have it. My top predictions for 2017. What are your predictions or New Year’s resolutions for 2017? Happy New Year everyone!

Sharing the happy and the bad

Photo album

A page from an old photo album of one of our family vacations in Maine

The other day I met my friend William for lunch. William, a loyal reader of my blog asked me a really funny question. He asked, “Do you plan crazy things each week as a family so you have something to blog about, or are all the fun things you do just a regular part of your life?”

His second question made me burst out laughing. He then asked, “How can it be that your family is so happy all the time?”

It made me think of that quote, “Remember, as far as anyone knows, our family is normal.”

For the record, our family is normal. The kids fight. Dave and I natter at each other over closing the closet doors, how to load the dishwasher, and which way the toilet paper roll should hang on the hanger. (Luckily with three women in the house, we’ve trained our only male to leave the toilet seat down). We have our issues and challenges. Heck we even have a teenager in the house—‘nuff said.

We have our share of bad days and sad days, but we tend not to share these online. When Dave’s Mom passed away last year, we grieved privately.

Some may accuse us of whitewashing our lives on social media and not being authentic. I think it’s only natural we share the happy times in our lives. It’s no different than the days of yesteryear of photo albums and memory books. If you open the dusty pages of an old photo album, what do you see? Pictures of babies being born, graduations, weddings–the special moments in our lives we want to capture, remember and cherish, not photos of times of tears or fears or uncertainty in our lives.

With time, our memories become whitewashed. These images become our past. It is as it should be.

The interesting thing with social media is it can equally compel us to share a glimpse into our authentic selves. I remember reading with tears in my eyes the heart-wrenching posts on Facebook by Jann Arden when her father passed away and Sheryl Sandberg when her husband passed away. These two incredible women bared their souls in a time of immense grief and undoubtedly helped scores of others dealing with loss in their lives.

This week’s challenge is to share something happy and something real online. Be authentic, but know it’s okay to share the happier times. After all, focusing on the good in our lives is not a bad thing.

Listen with your heart

listen with your heartI need your advice. One of the things I’ve learned since starting this blog is it’s just as much important to understand what doesn’t make you happy, as what does make you happy. I also know that sometimes you just have to Let it go, and channel your energies into something positive instead of focusing on the negative.

Last week we spent the evening with a group of people we see often and are close to us. It was a nice night but it occurred to me at the end of the night, they didn’t ask a single question about my work, what we’ve been up to lately, or a big trip I’m taking in a couple of weeks. It really hit home when we got up to leave and not a single person said “Have a great trip” even though they knew they wouldn’t see me before I left.

I’ll admit I was a bit hurt. This same group of people have stated on many occasions (including that night) that they are way too busy to read my blog and have never read it.

For those of you who do read this blog, you’ll know I often post about my family. I know there’s lots of people out there who won’t like what I post and who don’t get this blog and I’m okay with that. But I would have thought people close to us might check in from time to time if for no other reason than to see what my family is up to. To blatantly dismiss it and show no interest is bizarre to me and frankly a little hurtful. Since they’ve told me many times they don’t read it, I don’t have to worry about them seeing this post.

Dave and I had an interesting conversation afterwards about the art of conversation. I observed that it seems people don’t truly listen anymore or take an interest in what others are doing. He agreed and told me that to this day, a close co-worker has still not said “sorry for your loss” or acknowledged in any way the death of his mother this February.

There’s a funny little column in the Toronto Star called The Dating Diaries. Each week, someone goes on a date with a person they met online, then describes the date and rates it out of 10. I’ve noticed a theme in these columns. Often the person writing the column rates the date low and says that the other person talked about themselves the entire time. No second date.

Dave blames social media for the narcissistic society that we have become. We post what we’re doing every minute of the day on Facebook and bloggers like me take to the net in a never-ending stream of self-gratification. We are living in selfie age. I agree, but I also think social media is a great way to keep in touch with those you might not be able to see, support people, and engage and share in conversations.

So, dear readers, now it’s your chance to weigh in on the debate and give me your advice. Am I unrealistic to expect people to take an interest in my life? Have we stopped listening with our hearts? And do you think social media is to blame or are we just so busy in our lives we’ve stopped listening with our hearts and caring about what is going on in other people’s lives?

This week’s #HappyAct is to leave a comment to help me understand and to actively reverse this trend by listening with your heart. Make a conscious effort to stop what you are doing, shut your mind to distractions and completely focus on your conversations with people and ask about what’s happening in their lives.

Enter a contest…and win it!

We need to go to Vegas, baby. This week, lady luck was in the house as the Swintons raked in three prizes.

I came home one night to a nice message on my answering machine saying one of our local councillors, John McDougall put my name in a draw for people who volunteer in our community. I won a $25 gift certificate to our local gift shop, Nicole’s gifts—thanks John!

So I’m shopping at Nicole’s yesterday for presents for my sister-in-laws for their birthdays (shop local everyone!) when Nicole says to me, did you come in to pick up your prize from Christmas? I had won another draw and came home with a stocking of gift prizes!

The jackpot came on Friday when Clare’s picture of her landing an eight-pound pike ice fishing was chosen as the Friday photo winner for Ontario Out of Doors magazine. She won a $100 Canadian Tire gift card, which will come in handy when it’s time to buy new skates and hockey equipment next year. It made my day.

This week’s #HappyAct is to enter a contest. In a world where nothing is free, but online contests are a dime a dozen, it’s easy to enter to win. Have you ever won anything? Leave a comment and share your story.