Flowers in California

Flowers in California

Thursday, December 13, 2012

On Sometimes Being Humourous

Some weeks I notice a listing in a city magazine for a group within the city called "Wit & Writing for Women" and I wonder about going to their meetings.  I'm not sure that it's a good idea.  I will try to explain why.

Occasionally I write or say a funny thing.  And that's nice.  But I am not always in a humourous frame of mind.  I'm also good at cranky and depressive/ing states.  And I'm not always (or even often) bold and outgoing.  I can still be the person who sits silently in a group situation staring at my hands until someone says "I wonder why Joanne didn't show up" and then people realize I did.   If I go to one of these meetings on a night when I'm kind of quiet and keeping to myself, how can I show people that I belong in a group where people display their wit?  I can just imagine me sitting there, quiet and defensive, and someone kindly offering me tea.  I'll blurt out that I like coffee better, sympathy will turn to dislike, and pretty soon their drop-in fee for visitors will become their refunded fee for people they never want to see again.  I wouldn't find that a very humourous experience.

I wonder how this group typically welcomes new members.  Don't a lot of people feel nervous when they go somewhere for the first time?  How does one become comfortable enough to be funny in such a situation?  Maybe they give people time before they have the big "funny" test.  Six months might be good.  If they supply enough resource materials, I could probably pass.

I will keep thinking about going to one of these meetings.  I don't think I'm ready right now for all the things that could go wrong.  My discomfort might provide some entertainment for the members though.  That's one way I could make them laugh.


Selective Laziness - With a Side of Danger

As I prepared to leave the gym yesterday, I had to decide which way to walk home.  There was the icy way through alleyways; I suspected it would be especially slippery yesterday as it was quite cold.  There was the other way, a sunny route along a pleasant street with clear sidewalks.  It seemed an easy choice until I considered one factor - the pleasant walk would talk a little longer.  Realizing that, I made my decision and headed to the slippery alleys.

I find this decision curious although I would probably make the same one again.  Why is it that I will exercise at the gym but refuse to take a route home that might add 3 minutes of time?  I'm afraid of falling but I will take the risk.

In addition to the very real possibility of falling on the very real ice, the alleyways present other potential perils.  I try not to think about any nasty human element and comfort myself that there always people nearby should that ever be a problem.  But there are coyotes in the neighbourhood.  Apparently they're not much of a danger to adult humans but I don't want to encounter one that's in a bad mood.  Everyone has off days.  Unleashed dogs are another concern.  I'm terrified of them and it doesn't help when people say they can sense my fear.  That makes me more afraid.  And let us not forget the neighbourhood rabbits.  No one really knows what havoc they can wreak.  I've seen 6 or more together at a time; I don't know what they're planning.

Walking along a street doesn't necessarily protect one from all dangers but being in plain view of drivers and pedestrians could be helpful when one is attacked by mean-spirited rabbits or unable to get up after a spectacular and injurious fall.  I am reconsidering my choices but I doubt that they'll change.  I seem pretty much set on saving that little bit of time.

I guess we all do cost/benefit analyses in our heads as we go through our days.  What will save time, how much energy are we willing to expend, how dangerous would that action really be?  To us, the decisions we make as a result of these analyses make sense.  To others, they may seem strange.

I didn't fall the other day and the wildlife stayed a safe distance away.  I did get home faster and that enabled me to regale my family sooner with tales of my athletic feats (or, in my case, whimper and complain about the discomforts and pain I had caused myself at the gym).  For me, on that day, that decision was right.  I hope that we all keep making decisions that turn out to be right for us.  And that no one encounters any dangerous wildlife anytime soon.


Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Putting a Coat in A Closet. So Simple - And Yet

I was at a place today where I would have liked to look smart.  I suppose I'd like to look smart in a lot of places but I'm realistic.

While at this place, I needed to put my coat in a closet.  If I had given this activity much thought before I commenced it, I would have expected to perform it well and perhaps even gracefully.  I've put coats in closets.  There can be problems with items sliding off hangers, scarves falling on the floor, and struggles to find room for bulky winter clothes but these things are expected.  Today, though, this activity presented new challenges.  In trying to meet them, I couldn't have looked too smart.

Perhaps I have fallen behind in my understanding of modern closet door technology.  I was unfamiliar with the "things" (handles?/knobs?/mystical, magical buttons?) which were embedded in the doors and which appeared in some way to lead their opening.  Should these items be pushed?  Should I try to slide one in some way?  If I simply touched one, would a door burst open, eager to welcome my outerwear?  It was a puzzle and it was not one I could easily solve.

In situations like this one, and I do encounter them, I like it when someone says something like "Those doors are tricky, aren't they?  Everyone has trouble with them." I don't need to know that no one else has ever had a problem and they're secretly questioning what on earth is wrong with me.  I would prefer, of course, if they handed me a detailed instruction manual but a few kind words would help.  In this situation, no one said anything.  Perhaps I should be grateful that no one pointed and laughed but I could have used a little more assistance.

With fumbling determination, I worked on the door until it finally opened.  Another person came into the facility while I was there and didn't even attempt to use the closet.  Perhaps she had been warned of its dangers.  I decided, on the way out, to risk further humiliation and retrieve my coat.  It's quite a nice coat.  Again, I had some trouble but I managed to get it open.  There were no other coats in the closet at that time.  I can see why.

As awkward as we (or maybe it's just me but I'll tell myself it happens to others too) feel when we encounter situations like this, they make life a little more interesting.  Opening a door gave my mind a chance to travel in new directions and I had a little fun figuring out a challenge.  It's good to keep figuring out and learning new things.  I will try to remember these cheerful thoughts the next time I find myself in a baffling and/or awkward situation.  The good thing is, I probably won't have to wait too long.


Thursday, November 29, 2012

On Many, Many Small Kitchen Appliances

There are many small kitchen appliances available in the stores.  I caught on to this the first time I saw cake pop makers.  These are not to be confused with cupcake makers or whoopie pie makers or doughnut makers or mini cupcake makers.  There is an individual product for each of these baked goods.  Wow.

In addition to the fact that it could get really expensive to buy all of the available small appliances, I wonder where people are supposed to store all of them.  Even with a huge kitchen, is there really space for blenders and juicers, coffee, tea and espresso makers, deep fryers, ice cream makers, mixers, roasters and rotisseries, slow cookers, rice cookers, steamers, toasters, all the baking appliances listed above and Specialty Appliances too?  Specialty Appliances include hot dog rollers, waffle conemakers, strawberry shortcake makers, churro, quesadilla, pretzel and empanada makers, "Snacks on a Stick" makers, cotton candy makers, Egg Genies, jam and jelly makers, soda pop makers, pigs-in-a-blanket makers, and ice cream sandwich makers.

(I'm not judging people who buy any of these products.  No, that's not true.  I really have it in for people who buy cotton candy makers for home use.  But that's all.)

I can see it coming soon that specialized storage buildings will be constructed and placed outside homes solely to store small kitchen appliances.  Some designers will specialize in the aesthetics, both inside and out, of these new structures.  IKEA will come up with amazing storage systems to make them work well.  Inevitably though, one won't be enough.  I can imagine someone, about to start preparing dinner, sending a spouse out to the storage facility to get the rice cooker and asking them to bring the key for the other building too, in case they want popcorn later.  Life will be very different at that time.

I don't have a great need for many new small kitchen appliances right now.  Our popcorn maker became a fire hazard and I threw it out so I wouldn't mind getting a new (and ideally not flammable) popcorn maker. I had a dangerous accident with a portable blender (It's lucky I didn't swallow a big piece of metal.  Strange story) but the blender is fine.  And while I do love baking, I tend to use baking trays that go in the oven.  Perhaps the oven uses more electricity than the smaller baking appliances but I have no desire to start amassing these items (at least not before I get my shed ready in the backyard).

I wonder how popular these small appliances will be for gift-giving this Christmas season.  And, will more and more of these products be developed or are there just enough (or way too many) now?  I'll go make a smoothie and ponder these questions.  At least I don't have to go out in the snow to get my (almost lethal) blender.  It hasn't gotten to that point yet.



Determining the Value of Our Time

While thinking about a business idea, I arrived at the matter of charging for my services.  I have no idea how to do that.  I have no way of saying "My time is valuable."  For the past 12 years, almost exclusively, I have been out of the workforce and nothing I have done has had any economic value.  Or none from which I have financially benefitted.  So, how can I put a price on my time and contributions?

I'm not writing this from a bitter place.  I'm being honest.  Some people can determine that their expertise is worth a certain, perhaps high, amount and charge accordingly.  They feel deserving of it.  Perhaps the fact that I don't have a certain expertise is an issue.  But I like to think I have some talent.  So, using it and using up some of my time must be worth something.  I don't know what that would be.

Small jobs that I've had with rather low incomes are not the issue.  I believe that I was and am reasonably compensated for them.  The problem is with effort that I have expended elsewhere for zero compensation.  My volunteer work has included writing/editing responsibilities, event preparation (mismanaged, yes, but I tried), baking and some emotionally damaging school field trips.  I know that a lot of other people do a lot more on a volunteer basis.  It's not wrong to do it, and it is by choice, but when we give away so much time and effort for free, how do we turn around and say that our time has value?  We've shown, it seems to me, that it is available to be given away.

Additionally, there's the whole, huge issue of staying home with a child.  I made that choice and I am so glad that I did but I know that I've expended some effort in that area and financially, there has been no compensation.  I don't know that there could or should be but it does make it hard for a parent to know what their time is worth, in an economic sense.

It's probably not difficult to get an idea of what to charge for various (writing, memoir, editing) services (tell your friends!).  The issue is in believing that I deserve any money at all.  It's hard to find a cause and effect between effort and reward.  I've done things, my husband has earned money, I've earned small amounts of money and somehow we've gotten by.  The whole thing looks a little murky to me.

I guess the key is to realize that everyone's efforts, whether expended as volunteers, parents, or in the workplace, have value.  When we volunteer or raise children, we forego financial compensation.  When we return to the worplace, in whatever way we do that, we should be properly paid for our efforts.  Our value has not diminished (and may have increased through our diverse activities) because we have done some work for free.

Thinking about all of this, I have a new appreciation for the unpaid work that so many people do.  It is valuable.  And everyone's time is valuable.  It's very hard to put a dollar figure on this value but I guess it can be done.  Coming up with a wish list of purchases and then dividing it by hours worked probably isn't an ideal formula.  It might be a good place to start though.


Sunday, November 18, 2012

A Few Random, Unsolicited Thoughts

Over the last few days I've had some thoughts.   And, while I apologize in advance, I feel a need to share them.

1.  Sometimes, the sweet smell of baked goods emanates from the local grocery store.  One day, recently, I smelled fish instead.  As I considered this in my mind, I came up with a product that would smell sweet AND fishy.  Called Cupcake Surprise, it would be a delightful cupcake with the bonus of fish in the middle.  Chosen correctly, the fish would offer antioxidant benefits inside a sweet treat.  Isn't your mouth just watering?

2.  I went into a store today and discovered a simple way to learn how kind people can be:  Bleed!  Unbeknownst to me until I went to pay for a smoothie and a wrap, I had a small cut and a surprisingly large amount of blood on my hand.  My son helped me complete the purchase and I tried to clean up the mess.  Soon enough, the man behind the counter offered me band-aids.  He was so nice!  As a result, I will make a point to patronize his store again.  And if I once again have an open wound, all the better.

3.  If someone had told me when I woke up this morning that today I would help a Furby toy work through some issues and develop a better outlook on life, I would have been baffled and confused.  I'm still baffled and confused (about this and many other things) but this happened.  Interactive toys are very interactive now and Furbies respond to how they are treated.  As well, some come out of the box rather cranky and need a lot of support.  I was able to supply that support to one young friend's Furby.  That's something to put on the resume.

4.  My family may have to move out of our house to make room for all of the reusable shopping bags we have.  Sadly, I often end up at the checkout desk without a resuable shopping bag.  Refusing to come with me on shopping trips, I think they stay home and plot the takeover of even more areas of the house.  I'm quite scared.

5. A kitchen product catalogue arrived in our house. My husband has gotten to the point where he knows that buying me anything to encourage or help me in the kitchen would be an unwise move. We've been married 20 years; let's give up on me ever having an interest in cooking (although I do love baking). I suggest he avoid the kitchen area of the house when doing any shopping for me. Unless he wants to get me a Shark mop to clean the floor.  Oddly enough, I would love that.

6.  I went into a store and saw a Christmas tree that would be the perfect size for my rabbits.  Really?  It's gone that far?  Oh I hope not.  What is it about this season that makes buying something ridiculous like that seem like a good idea?  Why is it that doing and buying everything suddenly seems like the right thing?  I hope we can all find more meaning in the season that that.

7.  A few days ago, through (almost) no fault of my own, I was locked out of my house even though I had a key.  I could explain more fully but I won't.  Thankfully when I phoned my son's school to give him a message about an alternate place to go after school, I kept the story short too.  I would prefer to have staff at the school think, simply, that I locked myself out and not that I am a disturbed person who feels compelled to explain stories in the most minute detail for no particular reason.  They don't need to know that.  (That's why I have a blog).

Happy thoughts to all!


Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Going Back to the Beginning

I decided to do some renovations to this blog.  They won't be anything major and they won't involve a lot of drywall dust (thankfully).  In doing so, I tried to rewrite the "About this Blog" section.  Finding that a bit of a challenge, I went back to the first entry for guidance.  It's from March 10, 2010.  It still holds true in describing this blog.  If there are any suggestions for further renovations, please let me know and I will consider incorporating them (as long as they don't involve new drywall).  Thank you.
And thank you for reading even one entry in my blog.  It means a lot.
And So It Begins...

I'm blogging. Wow.

So, for all of you who are reading this, hi. I will go over a few things today to explain why we are here. It sounds so formal. It won't be.

First of all, I feel a need to express what's in me. Whatever that is. Maybe we'll find out.

Second, I want people to feel connected. If there's something about me that can help other people on their journeys, I want to help them. I want to share. It's not nice feeling isolated, like you're the only one with a problem or concern or experience. I know.

I don't want this blog to be all heavy though. I have a sense of humour. You'll see that. I enjoy laughing and I enjoy making people laugh. I'm a big fan of Gary on Spongebob Squarepants. He's an exemplary snail. I have, at various points in my life, set up a room in my house specifically for sock matching and, on a completely unrelated note, I have named a pumpkin. The sock matching room didn't help. And despite the love and affection I bestowed on my pumpkin, it succumbed to cold weather on Halloween night. Steve became compost.

I'm a Mum, a friend, a daughter, a neighbour, a reader, a wannabe writer (I love writing) and, oh, there must be more. I have some neurotic tendencies and I don't keep the cleanest house. I mean to though. I'm in a Book Club and I'm trying to lose weight. Those last 2 items are rather contradictory because we have really good food at our Book Club meetings. I love to bake and am repelled my cooking. I bought a slow cooker. My husband used it once. We know it works.

So, that's my first blog posting. Stay tuned. Please come back. We'll have fun.

Thank you for reading.


Monday, November 12, 2012

Thinking about the World's Cuddliest Rabbit - And Other Pets Too

My rabbit Theodore enjoys being held.  If he needed (more) t-shirts, I'd get him one that says "World's Cuddliest Rabbit."

I met the cuddliest rabbit in the IKEA parking lot.  His previous owner and I had agreed to meet there for the transfer.  We'd talked on the phone and, evidently, I met the criteria for a suitable new owner.  There wasn't a thorough background check.

Upon seeing Theodore, I didn't really want him.  He was bigger than I expected and somehow didn't look like he could ever be my rabbit.  On the phone, I had tried to ask questions so that I could make a good decision.  Once the whole chain of events had started though, it was very unlikely that I would refuse to take him.  Once I saw a bunny sitting there, needing me, it was even more unlikely.

I took Theodore home and he was wild and crazy at the beginning.  He charged up the stairs, he chewed cords and he was somewhat difficult to love.  Fortunately, he calmed down and set his sights on earning the cuddliest rabbit title.  Now he can bask in that glory.

While the young man who gave Theodore to me seemed to like him and to know him well, he gave him to a stranger in a parking lot, for free.  This animal, while bigger than some rabbits, is really so small and defenceless.  He had and has so much love to give and there he was, sitting in his cage, at the mercy of someone who wanted to get rid of him and someone he didn't know.  Is that the best we can do for an animal?

I was in a pet store today, buying food for Theodore and little Powder.  I stood and watched a beautiful rabbit.  He or she was playful and seemed happy.  I wonder what its life will be like.  I wonder if someone will buy it and take care of it for the rest of its life.  It's possible.  But I've been to the Humane Society, looked up classified listings, acquired a rabbit in a parking lot.  I know that rabbits and other pets often end up needing new homes.  I know that pet owners are not always committed to animals they purchase.  I know that people don't always afford animals the care they deserve.  A happy ending for that rabbit is not guaranteed.

My instinct was to buy the rabbit I saw today.  That's not the answer.  I'll just become The Crazy Rabbit Lady (I know there are bets on for when that will happen anyways) and that won't be good for anyone.  Instead, I will take care of my pets and quietly seek ways to encourage responsible pet ownership.  Animals have so much love to give.  They deserve lots of ours in return.


Saturday, November 10, 2012

A Window on the Past

My husband and I were out for a drive the other day and he bought a burrito.  It looked good.  He pulled over and parked to eat the burrito in a quiet and interesting neighbourhood.

As he ate and I sipped some coffee, I noticed a window in an older house and my mind went back instantly to my grandfather's house.  There must have been similar windows in that house but I don't remember them well.  He died when I was nine; it's been such a long time.  I do remember my grandfather and I'm glad of that.

Going back in my mind to that house leads to some sad curiosity.  I have what I think are vivid memories of that place but I would like to go back and verify them.  I'd like to see what the scale of the rooms was.  Would they look smaller now that I am bigger?  Were there various green things in the house?  Was the backyard as I remember it and did the rabbit hutch look like I think it did?  (Yes, of course there was a rabbit house.)  It would be nice, perhaps, to learn the answers.

The window in that one older house led my mind to a place that means something to me.  Other people would react differently or not at all.  We all have our unique histories and we bring them to each new experience.  Something so simple can elicit such a quick response.

I'm glad that my husband stopped to eat his burrito and afforded me the opportunity to notice that house.  It was nice to take a trip back in time and to remember my grandfather.  That window afforded me a nice view.


Tuesday, November 6, 2012

On Winter, Acceptance And a Baby in a Hat

I don't care for cold weather, warm clothes, structured footwear, ice and most other things that go along with winter.  I sense that my many complaints would not hold anyone's interest for very long though so I will not expound upon them right now.  Suffice it to say winter is, at best, my fourth favourite season.

While I was in the grocery store today, I saw a baby.  It's hard to know the opinions of babies on weather changes.  This little guy was sitting back in his stroller with a look of quiet resignation on his face.  He was wearing a hat and had a blanket draped across him.  Clearly, he was well cared for and well dressed for the cold day.  But I wonder what he thinks of being covered up with so many warm things when, just a few weeks ago, he might have been barefoot and kicking his feet all over the place.  Now he has a lot less freedom and the burden of potentially itchy fabrics all around him.  I admire his stoicism in the face of such unpleasant changes.

While we learn some things about weather and seasons as we get older, and aren't quite as bewildered by these things as babies are, we cannot change the weather, the forces of nature or the seasons.  Storms still damage and destroy.  The temperature still goes up and down whether we want it to or not.  Seasons come and go as days lengthen and shorten.  We can only react to and deal with these events; we can't decide which ones will happen.

Perhaps, wherever we live, these powerful forces serve to remind us that, much as we'd like to, we can't control everything.  We're all pretty small really.  I guess we have to learn to adapt to whatever the universe brings us, put on a cute hat and grab our blanket if we need to, and make the best of our ever-changing reality.  The baby seemed to have adapted quite well.  I think I should follow his lead.


Thursday, November 1, 2012

Sometimes the Angry One, Sometimes the Fool

Normally I speed through self check-out at Safeway.  I know the procedures, I've memorized the numbers I need to enter and I learned long ago that I should only take small orders to these desks.  I am not eager to take on self-check out in stores I don't know because I can be, oh, a little awkward when learning new things but at Safeway I know what I'm doing.  You would want me to be behind me in line.

My proficiency in this one activity (everybody has at least one special talent - this is mine) makes me rather cranky at times.  I don't have a lot of patience when people appear baffled or take too long or otherwise slow me down.  Of course no one would know any of this because I still stand there, quietly, but I do rage inside.. 

Today, however, the tables turned.  My check-out routine fell apart.  I confused my Air Miles number with my parents' phone number and then, even when I had figured out the correct number, I didn't know how to backtrack and fix my mistake.  Then when I looked for the card I wanted to use, I couldn't find it so chose to use another.  I questioned the PIN for that card but managed to come up with the right one.  All of this was for a two item order.  That makes it more sad.

I was disappointed in myself as I stumbled through this experience..  Somehow, though, I was unaware that there were people behind me, waitng for a checkout line to open.  And from what I saw, in one horrifying glance backwards, they were well aware of what I had been doing and the fact that I was slowing them down.  I had become one of those people at whom I direct my rage.

In the grand scheme of things, none of this really matters.  Nobody gets delayed in line that long and we should all relax and take a breath.  For me, though, this experience reminded me that we're all humans, we're all fallible, we're all simply trying to buy our groceries and go home.  We're all ok after all.

I will try to be more organized the next time I go to the self check-out line.  And I will probably continue to avoid those lines in stores I don't know.  I will also keep in mind that nobody is trying to torture me by getting confused about what type of tomatoes they're buying.  There are a lot of different tomatoes out there.  It could be confusing.


Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Halloween at the Mall

I ended up in the mall today while on an outing to buy Halloween candy.  Once inside I realized that there were many costumed children there today because they can trick or treat at the stores.  I felt a little like fleeing because it made me sad that my son and I don't do that anymore.  I bought a nice coffee though (it cures so much) and worked through my thoughts.  Then I started to enjoy seeing the many cute little people and their cute little costumes.

Having been away from this activity for a number of years now, and perhaps because it has evolved in that time, I wasn't aware of the ins and outs of mall trick or treating procedures.  I learned quickly, though, that many stores post signs indicating whether or not they welcome trick-or-treaters.  Once I knew that, I decided to take a lot at which stores fell into which category.  And to judge harshly those that were not being generous.

I won't provide the full breakdown here (please contact me if you'd like - I did take notes) but here are some highlights from what I observed:

1.  Birks was giving out candy.  I wouldn't expect a formal store like Birks to want children trotting in and out all day and I applaud them for this generosity.  Also, an art store was in a giving mood.  Or they were when I was there.  If children have since smeared candy on or fallen into pieces of art, things may have changed.

2.  Most stores had standard signs, probably given out by the mall, indicating their candy status.  Swimco had a more elaborate sign saying they were not giving out candy.  If they could go to the trouble of making a fancy sign, couldn't they just buy some candy and give it out?

3.  Telecom companies were pretty reliable.  Bell, Telus and Rogers were being kind to kids even if mobile service in Canada is somewhat overpriced.

4.  The poor little hair salon, Glamour Secrets, that's hidden away, almost under an escalator, welcomed trick-or-treaters.  I'm sure kids seeking candy would manage to find them even though their location is challenging.  Making people aware of its existence can only help that salon.

5.  I'm still not sure why the Flip Flop Shop has opened in Calgary.  Yes, they opened during the summer and flip flops are a popular footwear choice in that season.  They are significantly less popular, though, in all the other seasons.  It was nice of them to give out candy today regardless of their business strategy.  Because of this, I will seek them out for all my flip flop needs, limited though they are at this time.

6.  Shopper Drug Mart participated.  I like Shoppers Drug Mart so I'm mentioning them for no reason more exciting than that.

The people that I saw who were giving out candy looked like they were really enjoying the experience.  And why not?  The kids were cute, the costumes were adorable and it's a fun thing to do.  I don't know if every place has to participate in this event but I think it's so nice of the ones that did.

I'm glad that I stumbled into the mall today and experienced this event.  While its occurrence may help to explain why very few trick-or-treaters are coming to our door it's good to know that a lot of kids had a fun Halloween in a warm place.  And it was interesting to learn which stores were willing to help to make that happen.

I won't make all my future buying decisions based on what I saw today (and all I really buy is coffee anyways and Starbucks gave out candy) but the participating stores built up some goodwill for themselves.  Aside from all the fun of this event, that seems like a smart business thing to do.  I suppose this is especially true for businesses that try to sell things like flip flops, in Calgary, year round.  Happy Halloween!


Monday, October 22, 2012

On Not Seeking Revenge

Recently I was involved in an unpleasant interaction with someone.  It was very upsetting at the time and while it was happening and afterwards, I could have made it worse.  I could have fled from the situation.  That would have been very irresponsible.  I could have complained vehemently afterwards and pointed fingers in the direction of various people.  I could have used more subtle methods to seek revenge.  (If anyone ever needs some ideas on how to respond angrily to a situation, give me a call.  I can really be counted on to have some nasty ideas.)  In this situation, though, I calmed down, thought things through and I didn't cause any trouble.  While this really went against my natural inclinations, I am glad that I chose the path I did.

Regardless of who was right or wrong in this conflict, holding onto anger and seeking revenge would have only added more negative energy to the situation and the world.  Liking people and proceeding peacefully with them is way more pleasant than feeling hostility towards them (or wondering when they will step in their shoes and find them filled with an unidentified liquid - one of the many revenge strategies I did consider).  Forgiveness and a brief discussion of earlier concerns turned out to be the way to proceed.  People are feeling ok with each other again and I am glad.

I can't guarantee that I will always act admirably when confronted with unpleasantness in the future.  I hope this incident has helped me learn, though, that knee-jerk reactions aren't the best ones to employ.  Looking like a jerk would be the most likely result of them.  I prefer to avoid that if I can.  Yes, it's a shame that so many creative revenge ideas will go to waste.  But I can have fun with them in my head and I am always willing to share them with others.  I advise against using them but they can be a lot of fun to consider.


Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Opening A Door

Yesterday I enjoyed a nice bus ride.  I had a seat, the bus went along a street I enjoy (lots of Arts and Crafts style homes) and I had some peaceful thinking time.  As well, an accident with a truck was avoided (very narrowly) so there was that for which to be grateful.

At some point during the ride, a young man entered the bus.  From his clothes, demeanour and the way he sat in a heap at the back of the bus, he seemed like he might be troublesome.  He did nothing wrong but I remained aware that he was there.

When we got to our common destination, I got off the bus first.  I managed to open the door (I am never quite sure about Calgary bus doors so this was an accomplishment) and held it for this man. For me, this was a very simple act.  I'm glad I carried it out though.  For one thing, it meant I didn't get squashed in it as it snapped shut.  More importantly though, the man said "Thank you."

While neither of us did anything big in this situation, I think that we both did things that are worthwhile.  By holding the door open, I suggested that this man as worthy of courtesy.  By saying "Thank you" he confirmed that this is true.

He brightened my day by reminding me that there's so much more to people than sometimes meets the eye.  I don't know if I made any difference to him but my action didn't hurt.  I wish him well and hope he reveals some more of the good inside him.  And I hope that he has better luck with bus doors than I do.  Those things can be scary.


Thursday, October 4, 2012

The Woman in the Cape

While at the mall today, I crossed paths with a woman who was wearing a cape (or cape-like garment; let's go with cape).  Initially I looked at her because she resembled a neighbour.  My neighbour is always impeccably dressed; she might wear a cape well.  This woman was not my neighbour.  And I might not have given her much thought, despite the cape, if it were not for the look she gave me as we passed by.  It was a look that seemed to say, and I'm paraphrasing, "You're not fit to walk the same planet, much less in the same mall, as me.  And look,  I have a cape."  It wasn't a friendly look.

Admittedly, I was not looking my loveliest today.  My clothes were in a changing seasons state of confusion and didn't match my running shoes.  I was wearing the running shoes because I have recently lost a nicer pair of shoes (I know; how does anyone lose shoes?  Did I come home barefoot from somewhere?)  It was, at best, a casual approach to fashion that I was projecting.  I would understand if the caped woman was disappointed.  I don't know if it was my fashion sense that bothered her though.

While, of course, I can't be sure of anything that this woman was thinking, what I sensed from her was that she thought she was better than me.  On that, I beg to disagree.  She was dressed more formally and I suspect that she may have a lot of money.  I'm not sure where "better than me" could possibly enter the picture though.  And if she thought in any way that I'm envious of her, I'm not.  I was and am having quite a happy, energetic and creative day.  I wasn't walking along thinking that I'd like to be anyone else or have anything else in the world (although I would like to find my shoes).  It would be nice to have more money but I hope that having it doesn't mean one has to wander around trying to look superior to other people.  If so, I don't need it.

I don't know a lot about this woman and she doesn't know a lot about me.  On both our parts, snap judgments seem to have been made.  Her look upset me a little though and I worked to figure out why.  I even looked at a cape.  I don't know that I could carry off such an unstructured piece - I knocked it off the hanger in the store; that wasn't a good start - and I don't feel a need to copy that woman.  I may try to dress a little bit better when I appear in public though.  And I'll try not to lose any more shoes.


The Truth, The Lie and a Clean Kitchen Drawer

Recently I posted a picture on Facebook of a beautifully arranged drawer.  Indeed, it deserved all the attention it got.  With a cutlery tray in it to keep various tools and tape and batteries rigidly held in place, it's an example of organizational perfection rarely found in my house.

While the drawer still looks as good as it did when the picture was taken, it's a bit of an illusion.  Maybe even a lie.  Even as the picture was being taken, there were items sitting on the counter that I had taken from the drawer and not yet replaced.  The drawer had been a frightening mess and if I put everything back in it, cutlery tray or not, there would still be clutter.  So I took a plastic box, dumped a bunch of stuff in it and put it away.  Now it's the linen closet's problem.

I don't foresee a need to open the box anytime soon.  Every item in it must have a use but we don't know what those uses are.  There are brackets capable of holding substantial items on walls.  Items are not falling off the walls though - things seem secure.  I've seen ends of flashlights but I don't see flashlights lying around the house, fully functional if only they had their ends.  There are two pointy pieces that look they belong on the bottom of furniture.  How did we end up with two pieces?  And what looks like a vacuum cleaner filter is clean and new but I don't think we have its vacuum anymore.  We don't need these things in a drawer in the kitchen.  It's possible we don't need these things at all.

The problem is that while we might not need any of these things, we might need some of them.   Maybe we'll need only one of them.  It'd be nice to have whatever we need and frustrating to know we'd thrown something out.  So, I'm keeping it all, just in case.

I'm glad it's only one plastic box of unknown pieces that I have and not a whole house of things we might need some day and can't throw it.  That's hoarding and that's sad.  It's strange though that things collect as they do and amazing that, these days, our belongings seem to come with their own belongings.  It's really easy for clutter to build up.

I'll be pretty happy, I suppose, if one day soon things start falling off the walls and I come across flashlights without ends, furniture that needs pointy things and the vacuum that would use that filter.  Until that glorious day, my box and I will wait.  And I hope the kitchen drawer stays camera-ready.  Sure, I just shuffled elsewhere to get it like that but it really does like nice.  And I hope the box and linen closet can work things out.


Monday, October 1, 2012

The Towel of Imperfection

While folding laundry recently, I noticed that one towel had holes in it.  Immediately I started to consider what to do with it.  I still folded it (I like folding laundry.  I'm pretty good at it too and there's usually lots of evidence to see my work as I 'm not as good at putting it away) but its future had become very uncertain.

I wondered whether my rabbits would enjoy playing with it.  They might.  They're kind of like kids with new toys though - the fascination with things wears off quickly.  And there might never be a lot of fascination with a towel.  Maybe it could go in the rag container.  We have a lot of rags though.  And we don't use that many as we also have micro-fibre cloths that work better.  I could start a bag of towels to go to the Humane Society.  I've done that before.  I even made it out of there without adopting a new rabbit one time but I can't guarantee I could do that again.  At some point, I started to consider if this towel had to stop being a towel.  Really, why can't we use a towel with a few holes?

As this is a hand towel and it can still hang in a bathroom and be used to dry hands, it can still serve its primary purpose.  And this morning when I spilled coffee on the newsaper, myself and the floor as I sat in the living room (and how did your day start?) and called to my husband to bring a towel, it would have served another purpose.  The holes wouldn't have bothered me at all.

Because the towel is still in good shape except for the holes, I could arrange it so that no one would even know.   Does that matter?  Should it?  Would it be terrible for people to see a towel with holes?  Would people think differently of me because I put such an item out for use?  Is it bordering on the really weird to do this?  If we do consider this really weird, should we?

I like attractive things for my house and buying them can be fun.  I don't like waste though.  Recently we had to dispose of a five year old washing machine.  People who work with appliances didn't seem too surprised.  Aside from the cost, it's horrible that such a large, relatively new piece of equipment is now scrap.

When things don't work or when they've become unsafe, they have to go.  When something only has aesthetic imperfections but is still useful, I'm not sure that we should immediately toss it away.  Our new washing machine has scratches and, because of them, it was sold in the clearance section of the store at a significantly reduced price.  I don't notice the scratches; I'm really glad to have a machine that washes clothes again.

I'm not sure what I'll do with the towel.  I think I'll keep it for a while at least to remind myself that imperfect items can still be perfectly useful.  And they can even make us stop and think.


Monday, September 24, 2012

One Day, This Day

The capacity of one day.  What is it?   If we do all that we dream of doing in one day, this day, what can we accomplish?  I will try to find out.  For one day, at least, I'll treasure my time and  value my contribution.  Maybe time has no end but mine does.  I want to use it well.  I want to use it up.  And at the end of this day, I want to go to sleep knowing I've done my best today at living, at making my contribution.

I hope that you are all cherishing and enjoying your days.


Thursday, September 6, 2012

My Return to the Gym

You might notice that the title does not include the word "triumphant."  That's ok.  Neither does it include the word "disastrous."  Or "heartbreaking."  For me, this is good.

I returned to the gym because I'd pieced together lately that maybe I was more creative when I was going to the gym regularly.  It does make me feel great.  I've also been told I'm nicer when I work out.  Apparently this is a good thing.

With the duration of time since I'd last been, I  had to look for my gym bag and give some thought to what my lock combination might be.  Forgetting that could be a problem and it's one I've had to work through before.  I do know my grade 7 locker combo but that never helps.  (It's 39-3-50 and, as the lock was stolen a few years ago, I'm very willing to share it.  Go ahead and give it a try.  My lock is out there somewhere.)

Eager to be properly prepared for my return, I had my membership card in my hand before I got inside the building.  Still, though, I had to pass through the electronic card reader.  While I prefer an electronic device in such a situation to a possibly athletic person checking my card and offering me a look of condescension, restrained humour or outright pity, these devices have their own ways of suggesting that I don't belong in a gym.  As I presented my card in numerous ways and continued to receive no recognition, lines like "Not you again, We thought you'd given up, The gym teachers were right, Or the mean ones anyways" floated through my head.  I persisted though and got in.  That, at least, was a triumph.

My confidence had increased a bit by the time I walked past all the people using elliptical machines.  Many of those people looked at me and not in a friendly way.  I choose to believe that I caught their attention because I'm not usually there at that time of day (or, really, any time of day) and not because they took an immediate dislike to me.  I would expect disliking me to take longer but maybe not.  Regardless, my attitude by that time was "Yeah, I'm back, deal with it."  Somehow they did.

The 30 minutes I spent on the treadmill was uneventful.  The tv choices were disappointing (tennis on a small screen or a morning talk show that I don't enjoy no matter who the new co-host is) but my mind was happily occupied so it didn't matter.  I kept setting new goals of time, glancing at my heart rate, and not dwelling on the low number of calories I used.  Another treadmill user lost his footing and stumbled off the back of the machine but I didn't do that and he's going to be just fine.   

I left the gym today feeling better than when I went in and I did feel more creative.  I will go back much sooner this time (really!) and I want to go regularly.  Exercise alone does not lead to rapid weight loss (that would be nice) but there are benefits far more important than that.  Even if the card reader never accepts me, I will keep trying to convince it and myself that I belong. My return was not triumphant but it was good.  I like exercising and I like it when my creativity flows.  And I'm glad that, on my first day back at least, it wasn't me who fell off the treadmill.  I can save that for another day.


Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The Feedback I Fear

Awaiting feedback on a piece of writing/editing that I submitted recently, I was (and still am) feeling uncomfortable about the reaction it will receive.  I decided to document the kind of letter I most fear.  I hope I'm now more ready to deal with whatever feedback I do receive.  Hopefully it will not be quite this bad.

Dear Joanne:

We received your piece of writing.  Normally we would thank a writer at this point but, in this case, we do not find it appropriate to do so.

Your work on this piece was not what we expected.  Our concerns go so much beyond this one piece, though.  We suggest you find someone to go through the rest of the letter with you.  For one thing, you may find some of the content upsetting.  Also, we think you may need help with some of the larger words.

We are concerned about your state of mind.  Writing such as yours does not come from a healthy place.  And whatever events in your life led you to believe you have any writing ability were misinterpreted.  Clearly your judgment is very poor.

While we hope you understand by this point that we will not be using this piece, we must brace you for some more bad news.  Based on this one document and the questions it has raised about you, we have chosen to revoke your membership in our association.  Your fees will be refunded and, more importantly in our view, we will direct you to the professionals you need.  We believe that the team we put together will have a chance of making some degree of progress with you.  That is our hope.

We understand that you may be somewhat disappointed by this turn of events.  So are we.  We wish you good luck in your future endeavours and fervently hope that they will not be in the writing field.  That would be best for everyone concerned.

People Who Know

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Look Out! I Tried to Sew!

No one got hurt.  While I can be grateful for that, I am troubled by the experience I had moments ago with my sewing machine.  Really, it's what I should have expected.  The last time I remember using my sewing machine was in 2003.  I was trying to make some changes to a Halloween costume for my son.  It was on Halloween.  I thought of throwing the machine out the front door.  Halloween is, of course, one of the worst days to randomly throw large heavy objects out the front door but we don't get a lot of trick-or-treaters so it probably would have been ok.

I think I can sew.  It's difficult to prove that but I think Ms. Koenig taught me pretty well in Junior High.  I made an apron that looked like an apron and a cushion that looked like a tooth.  It was supposed to be a rabbit but somehow its yellowness made it more like Murphy the Molar.  I also took lessons at Singer.  .

Perhaps if I had bought a Singer sewing machine, all would have been well.  The machine I bought has a vertical bobbin.  That seems unnecessarily cruel.  Right now, I have the bobbin and all bobbin-related pieces lying on the kitchen table.  If I could properly install them, I think I might have a chance of sewing some day.

I will spend some more time looking at the instruction manual.  It hasn't helped out a lot so far.  It devotes an inordinate amount of time to how to attach the power supply.  I had managed to figure that part out rather quickly.  And by page 4 it lists "Available Accessories and Attachments."  I really don't think more pieces are the answer.  The biggest problem I have with the manual, though, is that under "Care of Your Machine" it doesn't warn against throwing it out the front door.  It leaves that tempting option on the table.  I can't guarantee I won't pursue it.

I would like to be able to sew the occasional straight line on curtains or pillows.  I don't have great sewing ambitions.  It's frustrating when a piece of machinery stands in my way.  I am going to try once more to get it working.  Thus, in the interest of safety, I advise everyone to stay away from the front of my house for a while.  I think the mail carrier has passed by and my husband would know to duck if he saw me open the door with a large object in my hands so there shouldn't be any injuries.  But maybe that won't be necessary.  Maybe I will get the bobbin inserted properly.  Maybe I will even sew a straight line.  That's all I ask and it would be so nice.



Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The Battles in Crafting

"That really is Crafting 101."  For many people, not knowing the full curriculum of Crafting 101, which I've never seen listed in any course catalogues, wouldn't be a serious matter.  We don't know but we get it but we get by in life, somehow.  For the contestants on the new tv show "Craft Wars," however, it's a serious matter and a terrible failing.  The shame must have been great for the person to whom the judge spoke those words.  How could you come back from something like that?

TLC describes its new show as follows:

"TLC is about to turn crafting on its head. Long gone are the days where crafting solely referred to a world of quaint tea cozies and popsicle stick bird houses. Today, there is a strong movement of crafters taking this beloved hobby and transforming it into an extreme art form. Now, for the first time ever, TLC has assembled these craft virtuosos for a knock-down, drag-out fight for supremacy."

I hadn't realized that things had gotten so serious.  And nasty.  While indeed the world may only need so many tea cozies and bird houses, there are many other beautiful items that talented people create, apparently without feeling a need to prove themselves through full-scale battles.  Maybe there's more going on than I see but the artists I know who do rug hooking, visual art, photography, furniture restorartion, and quilting seem to express the best of themselves through their art without a need to fight for superiority.  They each add beauty to the world in their unique way.  I'm so grateful that they do.

I guess competition is interesting to watch.  Maybe the show will do well.  I don't know, though, that it will have much connection to the beautiful work already being created by so many people.  While the contestants on the show may be talented people too, I doubt that their involvement will spur them to produce their creative best.  Hopefully it will be harmless and maybe it will lead to some viewers getting in touch with their own creativity.  Maybe then they will find themselves engaging in activities more fulfilling than watching people engage in "knock-down, drag-out" battles over crafts. 

I suppose another potential upside to this show is that people like me may be able to benefit in the crafting world.  While my talents in that area are not strong, I can be ferocious and would be willing to fight to win the $10,000 price.  My participation on the show wouldn't add beauty to the world but it would provide some entertainment.  And, rather sadly, I think that's all the producers are really looking for after all.  Stay tuned for my episode!


Monday, July 16, 2012

Finding Things to Say

While I enjoy conversation a great deal and hopefully handle it well on most occasions, there are times when I don't have a lot to offer.  Sometimes, all I really have to say is something like "I'm hungry," "My right nostril is clogged" or, and no one wants it to come to this "Wow, I feel better after that trip to the bathroom."  None of that is especially enlightening.

While I don't usually resort to sharing thoughts like those ones, there can be times during a conversation when I struggle for something to say and they stand a chance of being verbalized.  It seems a shame to struggle for something to say though.  What is it about silence in conversation that makes this effort seem necessary?

It's wonderful when two or more people share themselves and their thoughts in conversation.  I suppose it is a lot to expect, though, that people will speak every second of their time together.  We may need breaks to absorb what we have heard, to generate new thoughts and to gather thoughts that we have not shared yet.  To fill every second with words, we would have to work on what we are going to say when we should be concentrating on what someone else is saying.  Slowing down and allowing silences should enrich our conversations, our sharing.  But we seem reluctant to slow down.

Perhaps when there is silence we fear that we're not interesting (although everyone is pretty interesting, in my opinion) or that we don't have the connection we thought we did with someone.  We want validation and connection and that's good.  What's not so good is trying to force the issue.  When we struggle to come up with something to say, we put a lot of pressure on ourselves.  Perhaps relaxing and letting thoughts come to us more naturally is a better approach.  And even if we find out that there's not a connection with someone, that is ok.  And so are we.

I will try to let conversation flow a little more naturally and see how that goes.  If we're ever in a conversation and I suddenly tell you "I might have a toenail fungus" or "I'm craving cheesecake" (and we're not in a foot clinic or restaurant, respectively), please be gentle and know that I'm trying a little too hard.  I have to learn to appreciate that sometimes silence is a far better choice than saying what's really on my mind.


Sunday, July 15, 2012

So Sad

I saw on the news last night the aftermath of landslides in BC.  They've devastated a small community and there may be some lives lost.  It is terrible.

One woman spoke about what she did once that slide had hit.  She got her three children out of their house safely.  She did not manage, however, to bring her baby's ashes.  They may be lost forever.  She said that she should have taken them.  Oh.

The thing that struck me was that this lovely young woman should not have a baby's ashes.  Why did she have to endure whatever events led to that sad outcome?  To me, that doesn't seem like what "should" have happened.  And yet she blames herself for not taking the ashes.  She managed to bring her three living children to safety.  She did so well.

I understand her regret.  I hope she manages to forgive herself though.  To my way of thinking, she "shouldn't" have to bring her baby's ashes - she should have another living child to help out of the house.  She has suffered already.  I hope she doesn't hurt herself with regret.


Getting Out There

This week I experienced, again, what it is like to be new.  I started a job and I have to learn how to perform the tasks it entails.  There are things I don't know and sometimes I've struggled.  I know more now than I did when I started but I have things to learn and confidence to gain.  It hasn't felt good at times.  I believe, though, that it is good to be in this situation.  It seems better than the alternative.

It can be comfortable to stay in familiar situations.  We may not always be happy or fulfilled but, to quote Sheldon on The Big Bang Theory "It's called the comfort zone for a reason."  Moving outside it, though, we open ourselves to new possibilities.  We can't know what they are until we get outside that zone. 

By going outside my comfort zone, I have identified some of my weaknesses and strengths, I have learned about an interesting field of healing and I have come to appreciate being at home more when I'm not always here.  I have also spent no time being annoyed by how much time the man across the street here fusses with his yard so that's good.  (While he may waste time on his yard, the fact that I was keeping track of his activities didn't say great things about my time usage.)  And this is only a seemingly simple, part-time job and I've been there for three days.  What a difference a difference makes.

I don't pretend to know what people should do in their lives.  But I have some evidence that stepping out has benefits and opens us up to good things.  I could have stayed where I was and lived my life in the quiet way I was doing it.  I guess it would have been okay.  There is so much in life to experience, though, and I'm glad to be sampling more of it.  I guess someone else can keep an eye on my neighbour for a while.  As long as they report back to me once in a while, everything will be fine.


Friday, July 6, 2012

To Experience Summer

I've been outside recently, in the beautiful summer weather, and felt like I get it.  I really understand that it's a shame to waste a beautiful season like this inside and especially unfortunate to spend any of it in front of the tv.  My family has put some effort into making our backyard space more comfortable this year and we've all had some fun in it.  Still, though, it's easy to end up back inside and let another summer go by.  I'm doing it right now.  Maybe it's habit.  In this climate, it's cold for a lot of the year and staying inside when it's cold makes sense to me.  I want to work on a new habit - to go outside and live life from a different perspective.   I don't know what the outcome of that effort will be and it surprises me that it seems like an effort to spend more time outside.  I will try to learn the outcome though.  There are only so many beautiful summer days and nights.  It's good to enjoy them.


Friday, June 29, 2012

On Papering Books

In looking through old decorating magazines the other day, I came across one with a lot of do-it-yourself projects.  I don't really do these projects - lists of supplies and the need for specific tools intimidate me - but I find some of them inspiring.  New ideas are nice.

One of the projects suggested was to "paper a book."  The idea was to cover a book with wallpaper.  Immediately a question arose in my mind:


The answer provided in this magazine is that doing so adds "a decorative finish."  I suppose it does.  I'm not sure, though, that I see the decorative benefit of wrapping books in wallpaper.  And are we supposed to wrap only one book or all books?  I can think of better usages of time than a lengthy session of book-wrapping.  Reading the books seems like a good one. 

I see a problem, too, when it's time to sell some older books at the second-hand store.  For some reason, I already have trouble selling many of my books.  I've never figured out why but I don't want to give the bookstore people more reasons to turn my books away -  "Oh, we can't take that one, it's had wallpaper on it.  And ugly wallpaper at that."  That might sting a little.  I don't know how I'd figure out which ones to sell anyways if they all had decorative covers. And if I wrote the names on them in black magic marker, they might not look so decorative.  Perhaps I should study calligraphy to make the project complete.

Some of these projects, done by the right people, probably turn out really well and are worthwhile.  To me, this one seems of questionable value and another one shown on this same page may be worse.  It is suggested that you glue rubber ducks all around a bathroom mirror.  I can't imagine when that would be good to have in a bathroom - when children are small they might try to climb up and pull down one of the ducks.  When they're bigger, they wouldn't want a rubber-duck themed mirror. 

In deciding whether to take on any of these DIY projects, it seems useful to me to consider whether the effort is really worth it.  For me, it's usually not.  Most likely I don't have enough old wallpaper, decorative or not, to cover a lot of books and our rubber duck supply is running low.  I do have a lot of old magazines though.  I wonder if there's something brilliant I can do with them.


Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Pondering the School Awards Ceremony

Last week I attended the second semester and year-end awards ceremony at my son's middle school.  I found it an emotional experience and cried through the grade 7 slide show.  My son is not in grade 7 but it was a good chance to cry as the gym was dark at that time.  I appreciate the inclusion of slide shows at these events.  Sometimes I even enjoy the slides.

As a proud mother, I have to declare my excitement that my son won some awards.  I'm not sure,  however, that I agree with the concept of the awards ceremony.  It is wonderful for the students who win awards to be honoured and I applaud the teachers and administration for awarding prizes in a wide variety of categories.  Still, there are students who sit through the whole ceremony (with awards, slide shows and speeches from administration it took an hour and a half) and receive nothing.  I wonder how those students feel and I wonder what effect such a ceremony has on their future academic efforts.  That there are a variety of awards given out might make things worse for them.  And for any students who sat until the end hoping that they would get some form of recognition, the end of the ceremony may be a time of sadness and disappointment.

Recognizing the concern, school administrators point out that the students who didn't receive awards can set goals for the next time.  Yes, they can and maybe these ceremonies and those words help some students to push themselves and excel. I doubt that is the case for everyone though.  After no recognition at a few of these ceremonies, it must be challenging to find the inner resolve and self confidence to get motivated for the future.  At a certain point, students may start to feel that they will never be among the award recipients; those students are different from them.  I hope that at this point they do not either give up on doing their own best work, decide to get attention in more troubling ways or start bullying students who receive awards.

My thoughts on this subject are based in a lot of uncertainty.  I don't remember attending academic award ceremonies when in school.  I attended an athletic awards ceremony once, as a guest, and even there my lack of acclaim left me feeling diminished.  I didn't feel motivated to set athletic goals.  I did have strengths in other areas.  Maybe if there had been recognition offered in those areas, I would have felt better.

Every student, every person has unique strengths.  I realize that schools cannot present awards based on each strength for each student.  I think it is up to schools, though, to help students learn about the areas in which they are especially strong.  I wish that my high school had helped me more in this area.  Knowing their unique gifts, students could feel good about themselves and know the directions in life they might want to go.  They could then sit at awards ceremonies confident in who they are regardless if there's an award that recognizes their specific talents.

Congratulations to every student at that ceremony and in every school.  Please keep trying to be your best.  That's all we can ask of anyone.  You all have so much talent to share.


Sunday, June 24, 2012

Maybe Not Such an Ugly Little Strip Mall After All

I went with my husband to buy spices today.  I stayed outside in the truck because I have nothing to contribute to spice-buying decisions.  For most of the time waiting, I looked at and played on my phone.  Yes, I needed a toy to keep me occupied.

The spice store is situated in a strip mall that might win the prize for "Ugliest Strip Mall in the World" (Now that would be a competition!  I have seen some strong contenders.)  There is nothing physically appealing about the building and some of the stores seem almost to make an effort to be ugly.  I don't think there are empty stores though and things keep humming along, year after ugly year.

Despite my intense concentration on my phone, I noticed some things as I sat there today.  For one thing, and this was difficult to ignore, there was very loud music coming from somewhere.  It was difficult to pinpoint where until a door opened and I realized it was coming from a church that is in the mall.  Someone from the church came outside to talk on his phone and the music became even louder.  Soon a woman came outside with two small children.  Maybe the music had become too much for them or maybe they had become too much for the music.  (I take my hat off to these kids if they had been too disruptive in that environment.  It was very loud.)  Regardless, within this building which I consider ugly, an active, enthusiastic church was functioning.  It didn't sound like the parishioners were troubled by the appearance of their place of worship.  They had created beauty within it.

I also noticed a beautiful sunflower picture hanging in a store window.  A scrapbooking store has opened and I guess the owners are trying to make it look somewhat nice.  I know that some scrapbookers really love their craft and hope that they too can look past the appearance of the mall.  As rent cannot be high in that place, low prices might make it easier to do that.  I hope it does well.

I wondered, as I looked at the sunflower picture in the context of the whole setting, if it did make things nicer.  It is only one picture.  Amidst the ghastly signs in store windows and the aging stores themselves, it looked out of place.  Maybe, though, it's a small sign of things to come.  Maybe one day, there will be more beauty at that mall.  Maybe it doesn't matter as long as the rents stay low.

Despite the fact that it's nice to be and shop and do anything in nice surroundings, I wonder how much difference it makes.  I started reading a book yesterday called "The Architecture of Happiness."  I haven't gotten far yet but, as one would expect, it's about how the architecture of buildings can affect happiness.  I doubt it would advocate ugly strip malls for the promotion of well-being.  If the parishioners of the church, and the shoppers and vendors in the mall are pleased with how things are going, though, I don't think there is a problem with this little shopping centre.  It serves a variety of purposes and it seems to do fine.  It's got a fun bowling alley too.

While this little structure won't win any architectural awards for beauty, perhaps it should win some for its function and simplicity.  You can accomplish a number of things there, including buying spices.  And I did really well playing a game on my phone.  I suppose that's not really related to the mall but I was excited.


Monday, June 18, 2012

I Could Have Been Friendlier

The other day, I was sitting at my son's baseball game.  Another mother came along.  I looked at her and she looked at me.  While she didn't say anything either, I think she would have been receptive to me saying "hi."  I said nothing.  I knew instantly that I could have done better.

This year, I don't know any of the other baseball parents.  There have been other seasons when I've looked forward to sitting and chatting with people during games.  This year, I sit alone or with my husband if he's not helping out.  I don't mind that.  I enjoy good conversation but small talk tires me.  Sitting quietly and watching the games is fine.  I don't know this woman to whom I didn't say "hi" and, as it's late in the season, I probably won't get to know her.  Still, a simple greeting wouldn't have hurt.

I know the quote "When in doubt, do the friendliest thing."  (I can't find who came up with the quote to give them credit.)  I would like to live by it and it guides me sometimes.  Being somewhat shy, it's not always the easiest thing to take a chance and be friendly.  I think it's worthwhile, though.  We don't know what other people are feeling.  People can be going through lots of things and appearances can be very misleading.  A friendly greeting can help, if only a little bit.

If the rain holds off and I see that woman at the game this evening, maybe I will get a chance to say "hi.".  I don't make any promises.  I use the quote as a guideline and, if anyone tries to engage me in silly small talk, I can't guarantee I won't growl at them.  I still have some work to do on my friendliness, I suppose.


The Ultimate Sale (Unless You Want A Blue Hoodie)

I was at a store today where a huge sale was going on.  It's not just huge, it's ultimate.  That's what they call it anyways.  I guess it's a pretty big deal.

I looked through the store and there was a lot of merchandise.  Some of it I didn't recognize as being items that the store would carry.  While I like this chain, I have noticed before that they seem to bring in items when they have sales.  I don't like that.  Still, there were some items I'd liked previously and they were on sale.  They didn't have all sizes though so I couldn't get the top I wanted.

I did find a blue hoodie that I liked.  Now, unless I want to break some record for blue hoodie/sweater/jacket ownership, I probably don't need another one.  But I would wear it and it looked nice.  I could use a fresh blue hoodie.  Couldn't we all?  Sadly, and I suppose I should have expected it, this item was not part of the sale.  Tables of mystery tank tops and weird, flouncy blouses that looked like they're in the store due to a shipping mistake were part of the sale.  Good solid hoodies were just not ultimate enough to be included, somehow.

Sometimes I think that my tastes are unpopular enough that I will do well in a sale or clearance environment.  Unless I have had my eye on something previously though, this rarely works out.  Maybe my taste is better than I think or maybe sales aren't always all they seem to be.  I can see the potential for making bad purchasing decisions when you're in a store surrounded by sale signs and items with substantial markdowns.  A lot of things can suddenly seem like a good buy.

I suppose that even in favourite stores, we as buyers still have to beware.  Stores want to sell us items and it's up to us to be selective about the ones we buy.  Maybe some day I will find that blue hoodie on sale and buy it.  It would get along well with the one I'm wearing now.


The Water Keeps Flowing

I watched Nik Wallenda's tightrope walk across Niagara Falls.  I found it incredibly inspiring although I'm not exactly sure yet what it inspired me to do.  I have no ambitions to do tightrope walking and now that he's done that, anything along those lines that I would do would seem anti-climactic.  So that's why I won't be trying anything like that.  Sure.

While watching the telecast, I also looked at the falls and the rock walls surrounding the gorge.  I was somewhat concerned that the shapes of the falls may be changing.  There are the two main falls, of course and I think of the American Falls as a straight line.  They are not straight now.  Whether that has changed in my lifetime or whether they never were as linear as I thought, I'd have to investigate.  But on Friday night, as I watched, I wanted efforts to be made to halt the changing landscape at Niagara Falls.  I wanted everything to stay as it is or perhaps even be somewhat remediated so it could look like it did a few years ago.  At some point, though I realized that's a ridiculous desire.

Niagara Falls would not look as it does were it not for the powerful water wearing away at the rock for periods of time that, even if scientists tried to explain, are difficult to comprehend.  Alongside the drive from Queenston into Niagara Falls, Canada, the river is a long way down and the gorge is wide. I would rather not look (also a reason I don't plan to walk tightropes).  Somehow, the water has carved out so much rock and left what we see today.  The power of the water has provided electricity for many years and another power plant is being built.   The humidity from the falls may help the beautiful flowers nearby grow so well.  If it were not for the water and its power, Niagara Falls would not be.  Water has given it to us.

The water keeps flowing down the Niagara River and over the falls.  It will keep doing so.  (I remember a time in my childhood when it was artificially stopped.  I don't know why and I don't know for how long that would be sustainable.  Certainly, the tourist industry wouldn't like it for too long.)  It will keep changing the landscape because, with its power, it can.

I suppose we have those moments where we forget our place in time and think that we can keep everything as it is right now, as if we will somehow be around forever to enjoy them.  Things don't work that way.  I have a few snapshots in my mind of what Niagara Falls looks like.  So do many other people but even if we could put them all together, we would have only a very, very small piece of the history of Niagara Falls.  We can enjoy the falls but we can't ask them or anything else, really, to stay the same.  Accepting this, we can let go of energy we use to hold back change and harness it so that in the relatively brief time we have here, we can make a difference, we can contribute to life in our ways.  We won't carve out natural falls (and many of us won't go on tightropes) but what we can do has beauty too.  And it is powerful.


Saturday, June 16, 2012

On Knowing How and Arch Support

I don't know if it's just me but sometimes I buy things, simple, seemingly straightforward things, and I find myself utterly confused about how to use them.  And I feel like there is not just some instruction sheet for the particular item I'm missing but some fundamental know-how that everyone but me has.  I feel left out.

The other day I bought Dr. Scholl's Massaging Gel Insoles.  I walk a lot and while I don't have terrible foot pain, I have some and I think it's time to be nicer to start being nicer to my feet. I didn't know which type of insole to buy and there wasn't one of those machines to tell me.  I decided to try the ones with arch support.

I took them out of the package the other day in eager anticipation.  Looking inside for instructions, I was disappointed to find that there were very few.  They only said to put the left insole in the left shoe, gel side down and, as one would expect, the right insole in the right shoe.  I would have figured out the left/right thing (way to go!) but I can't guarantee about the gel side down thing.  But they told me and that's fine.  I believe them.

The trouble started when I tried to figure out where in the shoe the insole goes.  They're not full length and I couldn't figure out if they went in the back or front.  The back seemed to line up reasonably well with my shoe.  Thinking that other people surely must have the same question, I looked it up on the computer.  I didn't get the impression that anyone else has ever had to ask.  I didn't see a lot of searches on this question and the Dr. Scholl's site didn't have diagrams or a FAQ for massaging gel insole placement.  Perhaps it really is just me.   

The information on the site would make it seem that my feet are a little different from everyone else's too.  Now, I know that I will never be a foot model (that dream is long dead) but I consider my feet to be at least a normal shape and the way my shoes fit suggests that I'm right about that.  Apparently though, these insoles are 3/4 length and don't need trimming.  The front of the foot and the arch are supposed to rest on them.  My foot and I would like to see how all of that really works.

Dr. Scholl may not have approved of the way in which I ended up putting the insoles in my shoes but I did my best.  At first, they felt ok when I was walking but that didn't last.  By the time I got to the grocery store, I was starting to get blisters and I had to take the insoles out.  I carried them home and haven't tried again.

I still don't know what the secret is to inserting Dr. Scholl's Massaging Gel Insoles.  Maybe the rest of the world does.  I know that they go inside shoes.  Beyond that, I'm missing the instructions that everyone else has.  For this, and perhaps for many other things too.  If someone could give me a copy of theirs, I'd be most appreciative.  I would love to read up on knowing how to do the simple things.


Thursday, June 14, 2012

Paying Attention In Our Interesting World

It's good to have the ability to concentrate.  When we give someone our full attention, focus intently on a task we are performing or immerse ourselves in something we are reading, we give and take so much more from the experience than we do when we are not fully present in the moment.  I think it's worthwhile to try to concentrate well.

In concentrating well, though, we shut out distractions.  We have to.  There are so many.  In doing this, though, we miss things.  There's so much going on around us.  Some of it is amazing if we stop to think about it.

This year, it seems there are more birds than usual hanging out around our house.  A lot of them are robins and there are some magpies.  Judging by the way a magpie devoured a robin on the front lawn last week, I don't think that the two types get along well.  I suspect the threat of being eaten by someone would put a strain on a friendship but, thankfully, I don't know that from personal experience.  I do know that there is much activity that goes on in the bird world. From chirping to squawking, mysterious rustling in trees and the occasional chase, birds keep busy. To us, however, the sights and sounds of the birds are often a nuisance if they're noticed at all.  While they represent a fascinating piece of nature, we'd like birds to keep the noise down.

A sound that I hear right now, and which is so common to hear, is that of a plane.  Unless one sounds particularly low or loud, I don't think we notice planes much at all.  But each flight is so interesting.  Each one is made up of people who have their own reasons for travel - business, pleasure, family matters.  Some flights are smooth, some are kind of scary.  There may be pets very ready for the flight to be over and babies who think the whole thing was a bad idea (and they want everyone to know it).  As we go about our lives though, we barely notice a plane in the sky.  We don't consider all that is carried in each flight that goes by.

Living in a city, we often hear sirens.  We will never know why emergency services were called each time we hear their wail.  In some cases, they mean there is a serious crisis situation for people who live nearby.  We would care if we knew but we are not afforded the opportunity.  There can be so many reasons for emergency calls and again, to us, they become simply more noise to shut out.

We have to shut out these and other sights and sounds to concentrate.  But if we want to pay attention to them sometimes, they are there for us to notice and consider.  The world is so interesting, even right outside our doors.  And I think I'd better pay some attention to the birds around the house.  There really are a lot of them and I don't know what they're up to.  I don't want to end up like that poor robin.


Thursday, May 31, 2012

A Scent of Far Away

This is not the heartfelt piece to which I referred on Facebook.  This one came afterwords and is a lot more frivolous.  Still pretty sincere also pretty inconsequential in the larger scheme of things.  Basically, I smelled something and was reminded of someone.  There, I told you what happens.  Now you don't even need to read it because I gave away the storyline.  Oh well.  I would be pleased, of course, if you did choose to read it.  I always am.  :)

The scent of a cologne or an aftershave or something that makes men smell good drifted to me as I sat in a Starbucks today.  Immediately, I was reminded of someone.  My brain didn't question or judge me for having those memories.  It allowed them.  It was kind of nice.

Scent is so effective at taking us back to places, times, people.  By our initial reaction to a scent, I think we can tell how we feel on an unconscious level about who or what is associated with it.  It's an interesting way to access what's going on inside.

I thought a little of what it would be like if the person I had in mind could enter that Starbucks and sit down with me for a while.  We could catch up.  That's all I want.

Some people live close enough that maybe some day they will run into each other again.  They live with the possibility that it could happen.  Within a city, a province, a country, it's possible for their paths to cross.  I wonder what it's like to live with that possibility.  He is still alive (or was last I heard) so it's not impossible but some continents seem far enough away that accidental encounters seem quite unlikely.  I would REALLY be surprised if it ever happened.

I run into many people that are important in my life now and I keep up with many more through various means.  And it's not that I want to re-enter my romantic past.  I shudder at that thought and love my husband dearly.  I would love, though, to at least be able to fantasize about a surprise meeting occurring.  We could smile at each other and remember that brief time in our past.  Of course, he's probably changed his cologne by now and I wouldn't even recognize him.  We'd have to rely on the fact that he remembers me from how I looked in my early twenties.  Yeah, this is starting to seem even more unlikely.  And really, that's fine with me.


On Tragedies and Helping

I've heard of some tragedies recently.  There are always tragedies, of course.  Life is such a curious mixture of the horrible and the beautiful; it's hard to understand.  The recent incidents involve young people deciding to end their lives and, in one case, a man also chose to end the lives of the people closest to him.  So much is lost.

We can never know exactly what was in the mind of a person who has chosen to end his or her life. Was there an ongoing mental problem or was there a troubling situation that arose and seemed insurmountable?  In some cases, drugs and alcohol cloud the mind and the decision-making process. Afterwards, it doesn't really help to know the reasons.  The results are the same.  The damage is done.

It doesn't help, either, to blame oneself and to think that we should have helped, that we should have done something, whatever something is.  Most of us are not trained mental health professionals and all of us only pass through this life once.  It's hard to know what to do and it's hard even for mental health professionals.  Nothing is guaranteed to help.  When a person has gotten to the point of suicidal thoughts, we can try to help, if we know.  We can try to learn signs so that we may have a better chance of knowing.  But it is not our fault if it happens.  People make their choices. Sometimes their choices are tragic.

While blame is not helpful, I hope that we can try to help each other and show that we care as we live our lives.  Before people get to the extremes of distress, maybe we can help them, listen to them, support them as they try to go in new and better directions.  We can let them know that, although they may have problems, one of them is not that they're all alone.  Alone, things can get worse and problems can lock us into bad places.

It is important to reach out to others and it is important that we open up when we could use help too. We don't have to act like we have it all together, that we are leading charmed lives.  Life isn't easy or straightforward or predtable or fair.  I don't see how it helps anyone to "keep a stiff upper lip" on a regular basis.  It's o.k. to need help.  Very often when we ask for help with something, we learn that someone else has had a similar experience or at least has had some difficulties too.  They help us and we free them from feeling that they need to hold it all in.  We don't need to hold it all in and, to stay healthy, we can't.  We're not designed for that.

The young family that was lost this week to murder-suicide lived in Airdrie, Alberta.  It seems ironic that census numbers were released this week and that community was highlighted for its growing young population.  Looking at pictures and hearing about them now, this family seems to have typified that community's ideal family.  They had education, employment, a home, good looks and an adorable child in their midst.  We must never be fooled by such appearances.  Listening to a young woman talk recently, I was struck by how her inner world differed from the confident, successful image she portrayed.  She was willing to let people know of her situation, though.  Not everyone lets us know of their pain.

Nobody has life figured out completely.  That's o.k.  It's important to say that sometimes we need help.  That help may be as simple as a listening ear or two.  It's important to try even though we can't make everything all right.  I wish we could.  We are all in this together.  I hope we can show each other that and that no one ever feels they are alone.

JAHD - Please feel free to consider this piece dedicated to anyone you have known.  For me, it is dedicated to Mark.  (Of course I still remember.  I wish you'd known I cared.)

Monday, May 28, 2012

Sure, that seems like a really good idea.

I'm afraid this entry might turn into a rant.  I don't often rant or, at least, not in this forum.  Tonight, however, I feel the need.

Yesterday, my family went to the Lilac Festival.  Our schedule was tight but we saw some of the booths and a lot of people walking along the street.  Except for the fact I saw no lilacs, it was a pleasant affair.

Partway through our walk along the street, we encountered a cheerful woman.  She approached my son and gave him a pen.  She was very excited about the pen and told him to take it to school.  Indeed, it is an unusual pen.  It looks like a syringe filled with blood or some other liquid.  With my brain in festival mode, it seemed wonderful.  When you're in festival mode, lots of things seem wonderful.

Later on, my son decided to poke me with the pen.  I'm not mad at him.   He was being playful and this pen invites that activity.  While he surprised me when he poked me, I was also surprised to find out how much this pen could hurt.  I panicked.  I started to wonder if maybe it wasn't a pen but actually a syringe that some deranged woman on the street had been randomly handing out.  In looking at it, I saw the name of a health centre and was reasonably reassured.  Also, the pen does write.  So, I felt reasonably confident we were in no danger.

As I thought more about the pen, I came to realize that it's very inappropriate item to suggest an 11 year old boy take it to school.  I don't think the principal needs a bunch of students carrying around items that look like fluid-filled syringes.  Generally, kids are encouraged to stay away from such things.  Once they become familiar with these pens, they may be inclined to pick up similar looking items from the ground.  Sometimes things that look like syringes are syringes.  That a health centre came up with this idea and put its name on it is alarming.

In addition to the problems with the nature of this item, and I think those are serious, I don't understand why a public health facility in a non-market environment feels the need to have promotional items.  Are they in some form of competition to attract patients away from other public health facilities?  There's an urgent care centre and other clinics at this location.  Why is there a need to advertise?  If I'm injured, I'm not going to choose where I get care based on whether or not they hand out pens (although I might tend to stay away from a place that has the poor judgment to hand out syringe pens).  Even if I did, why would that matter?  Health services are provided at different sites but they're provided by the public system (mostly).  If, somehow, this site isn't busy and there is a desire to redistribute patients from busier locations to it, information could be provided by other means.  All we received was a pen (and some bandages; they provided even less information).  Perhaps the cost of the pens is small but an unnecessary expense is still unnecessary.  I don't understand the need.

So, our trip to the Lilac Festival was brief but we did come home with a great new pen and many questions to ponder.  I would rather have come home weighed down with lots of lilacs and lilac-related items but I guess this is good too.  I'm not letting my son take the pen to school.  For this, I expect the principal would be very grateful.

Thank you for bearing with me.  My rant is now complete.