20 more things that make me happy

By Caitlin Kelly

Hearing a loon call — and it’s someone’s ringtone

Touring an Ontario heritage site hosted by a young ranger, D. Fife, whose mother is Ojibway and father is Scottish — classic Canada

Scoring a gorgeous teapot at auction

$31. Score!
$31. Score!

Paying a lot of tax on vacation purchases in Canada — knowing that it helps to pay for cradle-to-grave health care for everyone there and supports Canadian students’ $5,000/year college tuitions.

The scent of sun-warmed dried pine needles

The sun back-lighting a garden, iris glowing

Sitting very still in an Adirondack chair watching Lake Massawippi


Hearing French spoken all around me, and on the radio, and speaking it myself

A bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwich on toasted whole wheat bread, with mayo

Stocking up on Big Turks


Floating alone in a swimming pool, motionless and silent

Eating butter tarts,Β  peameal bacon and smoked meat while home visiting Canada

Reading a terrific murder mystery set in the Eastern Townships, with a chapter that begins “‘Tabarnacle,’ whispered Beauvoir.” Quebec slang! Written by a former Canadian journalist living within a few miles of where I was reading her work

A very good professional massage

Huge squishy pillows covered in soft white cotton

Driving through Vermont in the rain listening to U2’s Joshua Tree

Awakening to birdsong

A pretty new cardigan in ballet-slipper pink at Ca Va De Soi, a knitwear firm with shops in Ottawa, Montreal and Toronto — and also soon online

Feeling so well-loved by dear old friends who welcome us back into their homes, year after year


A badly-needed 10-day vacation — then returning to multiple freelance assignments and teaching gigs

Bonus: Having two countries I’m legally able to belong to, and to work in: Canada, where I was born and raised and the U.S., where I have lived since 1988 and am lucky enough to have a “green card”. I get to celebrate my two countries in the same week each year —

Happy Canada Day! (July 1) and Happy 4th of July!

Two sets of fireworks!




46 thoughts on “20 more things that make me happy

  1. Caitlin,
    a lovely, tantalizing list of many of the same things I enjoyed growing up as a kid on the CA-NY border… and oh, summers on the water. How I miss them. Gorgeous tea pot! And, I so wish my children could hear a real loon call soon. The Adirondack’s were the playground of my young adulthood… thanks for some great recall triggers! – Renee

    1. Loons! I miss that sound so much…and white birches…writing postcards on birchbark…:-)

      I have no doubt there’s a loon call somewhere to be heard on the Internet. Glad this one resonated for you.

      1. Ha- the birch bark postcards. Yup. My first boyfriend I had in college was a stage manager from Hamilton who also led canoe trips through the Algonquin. He taught me how to make birch bark post cards. Will have to find loon calls online. Thought of you this weekend as we talked about the advantages our children have with two passports.

      2. Ooooh, you had me at “Algonquin”! I think a (successful) canoe trip with your sweetie is an amazing experience — I went twice (oh my), once with a male friend who pounced (shriek) and once with a new boyfriend so woodsy-inept I ditched him the minute we got back to the city.

        Thanks for thinking of me! Two passports is a great gift.

      3. I hear you. I can’t deal with men who aren’t “woods adept…” Well put!!! Likewise, intentional lack of worldliness–or world ignorance–really riles me. Double passports is really a gift. My girls are slowly beginning to really understand this. I’m itching for my oldest to set up house overseas… I’ll have an automatic crash pad… hopefully…

      4. Totally agreed on the sexiness of competence and curiosity. Saw Elizabeth Gilbert speak this week. She turned the idea of follow your passion on its head, by suggesting that it’s an exclusionary idea… that it’s better to follow one’s curiosity–which can then lead to a passion, but not everyone knows his or her passion yet… but curiosity can lead there. While I’ve avoided being an Eat Pray Love devotee…I must say I do so appreciate Gilbert’s centeredness and openness… back to that curiosity thing — so much like you. Your work and willingness to converse with readers and the universe alike -without holding back- are refreshing. -Renee

      5. Thanks! Lucky you to have heard her speak…I heard EG back when she was just one more magazine writer…not the best-selling author/speaker she has since become. The problem with this idea of “passion” is that not every job is that emotionally compelling or engaging but it still has to get DONE! (Janitorial work comes to mind — completely essential but not maybe everyone’s first career choice. Or working (god help them) in corrections…where a decent pension and wage are the draw, not curiosity or passion.

        The convo’s are why I do this! πŸ™‚

      6. On that – after reading the Times piece on why Tsui finds it now helpful to be part of a writing community, I wondered how much you use your blog to shape your writing and thinking. I know it’s not quantifiable… I’ve used it this way and know of other editors out here in this parched land who’ve also used their blogs in a similar fashion– and idea spring board, etc.

      7. I did read it — it’s making the rounds of writers I know. Recently a very large group of women writers created a Facebook community and it has proven a surprisingly congenial place. I also “talk” to fellow writers daily (Facebook, twitter email and sometimes even phone!)

        I tend to talk very rarely about process versus marketing…just finding enough people with the $$$$ to keep me afloat with work worth doing. At this point, I’d say 80% of my work comes through personal referrals; I cold-call sometimes and sometimes it works out very well.

        Not sure what role the blog plays, really…a place to test out some ideas, a proving ground to editors that I know how to connect with readers, a chance to mull stuff over with people of similar (or wildly different) notions, esp. globally, which I really miss.

        I tend to keep my best (i.e. most saleable) ideas off the blog; they’re inventory!

      8. That makes sense and jives with my thoughts on blogging. It sometimes spurs an idea and the blog conversation can steer the idea, but the blog if anything is a germination stage for larger more in-depth pieces…many of which, I’m still figuring out how to place and market. I’ve got the lit journal process and publications down, but taking things to the next step out of academia and beyond lit journal publication and editing is my next line of inquiry to be honest.

      9. VERY different world. You might (?) find one of my webinars helpful — or a few hours’ coaching on whatever you want to chat about.

        Placing and marketing are not as easy as one would wish; I just had a convo today with an editor to whom (even after an hr’s initial convo and reading examples of her stories) I pitched five (!) ideas, none of which found favor. Gah.

      10. But what I take inspiration from — is that you’ve survived all the transitioning in the industry and still dog it… continue to go after it with everything you’ve got without dwelling on what once was. That is admirable. I do have a story that may have some commercial traction: on getting my almost octogenarian father to the Everest Base CAmp this Fall, and I would appreciate some coaching on the pitch and placement… where/how can we best talk terms? I can be emailed at unpackedwriter at gmail.com and we can switch communication modes from there if that works best for you. Thanks, Renee

  2. That teapot you have is lovely! I need to invest in a good, strong teapot that doesn’t leak…
    What are Big Turks, by the way? From your picture, you seem to like them a lot, but I’ve never heard of them.

    1. Love that teapot! I got a really nice bone china one years ago at Crate and Barrel, of all places; they have good tableware. If you ever hit a crafts fair (?), you can also find lovely hand-made pottery ones.

      Big Turk is a chocolate bar that is pink Turkish delight covered in a layer of chocolate…hence, Turk. Finding Turkish delight (a sort of sweet jelly) is difficult enough in the U.S.! I do like them a lot…and can only buy them at home in Canada, which is why I buy so many at once, since I usually get to Canada only 1 or 2 times a year.

      1. Ooooh, nice. I love Crate and Barrel, though I haven’t been for a while.

        Ah, okay, I see. That does indeed make sense, and it sounds good. I’ve only ever tried Turkish delight once, but I remember liking it after the initial shock of new food. Thanks for the explanation and the teapot recommendations!

      2. I agree. The flavor isn’t there, and it doesn’t look half as pretty. Plus, there’s just something about preparing tea and pouring it out of the teapot that is soothing.

      3. I try to sit down with a pot of hot tea at 4:00 pm most days…it’s a great break, hydrating, soothing and a nice ritual. I love the elegance of tea in a teapot and pouring it into a cup of bone china with a saucer…the sounds it makes are unique. (Although a mug will do!)

      4. Mmm, that sounds so relaxing, and a highlight of the day to look forward to. I might just have to start my own tea ritual, perhaps while reading a chapter from some of my favorite books, or something similar.

  3. A wonderful list! There’s nothing as eerie as a loon call at dusk. Reminds me of canoeing with my parents in Killarney Provincial Park. We stock up on Smarties and Coffee Crisps when we visit home.

  4. Big Turks! I also stock up on those when I go home to Canada (I also get my best friend to mail them to me, along with red licorice Twizzlers). I felt homesick reading your post and wished that I too could be home for the summer. I see that you’re in the Eastern Townships – I went there once. But home for me would be places in Ontario. Where else are you visiting?

    1. I try to get people to mail me licorice allsorts, too!

      We’re now back in NY but we were in Toronto, Stoney Lake (near Peterborough) and Port Hope, where my Dad lives, then in North Hatley, PQ. It’s a route we’ve taken many times and love: family, friends and a bit of luxury! It feels really good, even now, to see those Canadian flags and cross that border. I get really sick of toxic American politics.

      1. Geez…speaking of toxic politics…it’s pretty bad in France. Sarkozy has resurfaced with claims of corruption, etc. Never a dull moment! My mother lived in Port Hope in the 1990s (and sadly died there). In earlier years we had a farm near Peterborough (near a town on the Trent River called Campbellford), so I know the lay of the land that you visited. Nice. Do you think you might retire in one of those places in the future?

      2. Sarko…quelle bordel! πŸ™‚

        I am not sure what we’ll do. Jose loves Canada and I miss my friends there. I’ve always dreamed of retiring, at least part-time to France (where?) and we also like NY and easy access to it. Port Hope is very close to Toronto (without crazy prices for that access), which I like; you can head in for the day easily enough. I know I am not very good at small town/rural life without ready access to a fairly major city….my 18 months in New Hampshire taught me that!

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