Flowers in California

Flowers in California

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Fearing What We Eat

I'm not a big fan of food poisoning.  For that reason, I kept an online article I received about how to avoid it.  Tonight I got around to reading it.  As I may never eat again, avoiding food poisoning should be quite easy from now on.

I wash my hands, wash all food, wash kitchen linens often and err on the side of safety with food freshness.  "If in doubt, throw it out" is my guiding principle in the kitchen.  (Sadly that's the only guiding principle I really have in the kitchen.  Perhaps this explains my cooking.)  While I do take these precautions, I have never been extremely concerned about the potential for nasty culprits lurking in the food.  Apparently, according to this article, we should fear them at every turn.  It's not good news.

I don't mean to make light of the serious illnesses that foods can cause.  I know that people really suffer and it is awful that food poisoning can make people terribly sick.  What I find interesting is the number of foods about which we are warned in this article.  A partial list includes:

Raw fruits and vegetables
Shellfish and Fish
Poultry and Eggs
Canned Foods
Meat, Stew and Gravy
Sandwiches, Salads and Pastries
Processed Foods

That doesn't leave a lot to relax and munch on.

We should follow safe food practices.  I think, though, that we can only do so much to be careful.  I don't know that it's helpful to learn the dangers associated with each food.  Any food, if improperly handled, can be a problem.  The article mentioned that risk too.  Unfortunately, there is never a guarantee of food safety.

I will delete the article and proceed with my established safety procedures in the kitchen.  My cooking may lead to frequent disappointment, occasional signs of hope and a degree of confusion but I don't want to add fear to the mix.  Things are fine just the way they are.


Tuesday, February 21, 2012


A while ago, I sat and wrote down 33 ideas for writing topics.  Writing down that many topics doesn't mean I will use all or perhaps even most of them.  I see, from the list, that I have used one of the them so far.  That was the entry about being an aunt.  The exercise of writing the list gets my mind going and sometimes (often), I need help with that.

I am glad that I am able to look at this list.  A few moments ago, I could not find it.  I was feeling rather displeased about that.

While the list is not essential to my future writing activities, I put some work into it and I would like to keep it, for now at least.  Thus, I would like other people to respect it.  I would prefer that they not write their sandwich order on the back of it (this was done) and I don't want it to become the go-to piece of scrap paper.  I note that all the handwriting on the back of the paper is mine but I am trying to make a point.

In a way, it wouldn't have made much difference if this piece of paper had stayed lost.  It has some value to me, though, and I am glad that it didn't get shredded or tossed in the recycling bin with other papers.  Perhaps it represents something deeper.  I guess I want some things around here to be mine and be respected as such.  Sometimes things start out as mine but quickly join general usage.  I am thinking of one soft blanket in particular.  I had it in a secret location for my use.  Now it's in the family room, free for anyone to use and soon the rabbits will probably be burrowing in it's soft, fur-like surface.  It would be nice to have it back but maybe I will let that one go.  At least I have my piece of paper.  I also have a new appreciation that while it's good to share, sometimes it's good to have something that is "Mine!``  It seems like small children had it right all along.


I just wanted to buy pants

I had another one of those shopping experiences today that seemed to become way more complicated than it had to be.

I had decided to buy pants because I've signed up with another temporary employment agency (a good one this time, I think) and if I am going to be ready at a moment's notice to work, I will probably need to have clothes.  No one specified this requirement but it seems safe to assume.  So, I went to Sears for pants.  They will do for now and, ideally, I will buy pants in smaller sizes soon.  One can hope.

Choosing and trying on the pants were no problem at all.  It was when I got to the cash desk that things got tricky.

There were some delays and mix-ups on one side of the cash desk but someone cheerfully offered to serve me at the other desk.  She didn't indicate that she had a lot more than a simple purchase transaction planned.

Right away, it wasn't good that I wanted to use a debit card.  If I opened a Sears account, I would save $10.  I said that I had a Sears account.  Well, I should the Sears account and pay it off right away with my debit card.  I would earn points.  I didn't venture to ask what value these points will add to my life but I agreed to use my Sears card.  It turned out that my Sears card was old.  The new ones are silver!  And they have so many features including lower interest.  I brought up the point that the interest isn't an issue as I hardly ever use the card.  That didn't seem to matter.  I don't know why.

Once the cashier had successfully talked me into the new, and so much better, card I had to produce identification, recite my phone number twice, do a small amount of paperwork and I think I signed something.  I wonder what I signed.  It was coming at me fast and furiously.  I feared that the woman behind me in line was becoming angry.  I feared she would blame me for the event that my pants purchase was becoming.  I would not be pleased if I was her.

When we got to the part of the pants purchase exercise when I bought pants, the cashier told me that my purchase has a price guarantee.  If the pants go on sale within a certain time period (the length of which I forget), I can bring them in and get the sale price.  Immediately I knew that to benefit from this guarantee I would have to check the sales flyers weekly.  That seemed annoying.  At this point, I turned to the woman behind me and said something like "It's so complicated.  I just wanted to buy pants."  She smiled.  I had her on my side.  She would know I didn't ask for any of the hoopla.  She would know I didn't enjoy delaying her purchase.  (I wonder how her purchase went.  Poor soul.  I wonder if she's still there.)  She would know I wanted this whole thing to be a lot simpler than it was.

I like Sears.  It's not hip but, really, neither am I.  I understand that one of their strategies right now is to get more people using Sears accounts and that the employees are likely encouraged to promote them.  The situation that developed doesn't make me mad but it did tie things up at the cash desk.

For me, I had the time, I acquired writing material, and I found the whole thing funny, if a bit overwhelming.  And I did end up with pants so I will be able to go to work fully dressed.  To me, that last point makes it all worthwhile.


Friday, February 17, 2012

Shopping Can Be Fun

My son and I went out this morning, primarily for him to have a sandwich at Quizno's.  He loves their sandwiches.  I had some water and watched him eat.  Moments later, we went to Starbucks and he sat and watched me drink coffee.  Both of us were reasonably well-behaved.

As we strolled through by the other shops in the complex afterwards, the flower shop caught my eye.  I've always noticed that they have pretty things in the window but I was never sure if they offered much beyond flowers.  Today I learned they offer a lot more (including a lovely display of stuffed bunnies which is always good) and my son and I had a really nice time in there.

Now, looking at a shop that features flowers and night lights and cute little lamps and jewellery and pretty serviettes is not my son's idea of a really good time.  (I could ask him, just to be sure, but I'm quite confident saying that.)  The woman working in the store made it a fun time for both of us though.  That's pretty amazing.

We were greeted in a friendly and genuine manner.  Soon, she asked my son about whether he had a day off school.  When she had placed my purchase in a cute little pink bag at the end, she made a point of asking him to carry it.  It was lighthearted, it was nice and I will go back to the store.  So, it worked for the store too.

As a shopper, there are times when I don't want a lot of service or attention.  I'm thinking of bookstores where well-meaning people are a little too willing to help.  Usually in bookstores, I want to browse and will ask if I need assistance.  And meaningless chitchat doesn't add much.  (My mother and I were once asked, in a store, if we were out shopping.  We were.)  Being followed around a store is downright awful and difficult to interpret.  Does the employee think you look good for a big commission sale or for stealing something really valuable?  It's hard to shop when you're trying to guess the answer to that question.

Sharing some genuine friendliness and adding some humour to the situation do add value to the shopping experience.  I think a lot of stores could learn a lesson from the woman with whom my son and I dealt today.  With more employees like her, even people who don't like stores with really pretty things can endure being in them a bit longer.  I can't promise they'll enjoy being in those stores but enduring is a start.  Happy shopping!


Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The Grammys this Year

Since the weekend, and the Grammy awards show broadcast on Sunday evening, I have had Adele and Whitney Houston songs floating through my head.  Right now, a Whitney Houston song is playing.  Listen close, perhaps you can hear it.

The Grammys focused on these 2 women for such very different reasons.  Adele was honoured with six Grammy awards and had what must surely be one of the biggest nights of her life.  Whitney Houston was honoured, one day after her sad death, for the rich contribution she made to music.  She was still very much a part of the show on Sunday evening.

While the reasons why these singers were honoured on the same night were so extremely different, the reasons for their acclaim are not.  Both of these women were gifted with beautiful and powerful voices.  With these voices, they sang.  Adele continues to sing.  Neither of them required props or artifice to share their gift with the world.  Their voices are all that's required.

I saw Lady Gaga at the ceremony.  As usual, she was costumed in an unusual way and this time had some kind of mesh over her face.  She did not appear to be wearing meat so that's good.  I don't know exactly what Nicki Minaj was up to but there was a lot more involved in her performance than sharing her voice with the world.  The style of these women is such a contrast to that of Whitney Houston and Adele.  Perhaps they have their place too, perhaps their performances and approaches have value.  It's different though.  To me, on this night when we focused on two artists whose pure talent has always been enough, the excess seemed out of place and unnecessary.

Clearly, Whitney Houston's voice and her success did not ensure her happiness.  I hope that Adele's path is much brighter.  I am so sorry for the reason that Whitney Houston was honoured on Sunday night.  I am grateful for what she shared with the world and the way in which she shared it.  I am excited that Adele is carrying on the tradition of a wonderful singer who simply shares her beautiful voice.  God bless them both.


Saturday, February 11, 2012

Staying Put - and happy about it

It's winter and a popular time for people to travel to warm, sunny locations.  I like warmth and sun and I understand the attraction of these trips.  I have taken 2 myself in previous years.  It's pretty amazing and nice to know that we can board a plane and get somewhere warm pretty quickly no matter how cold it is where we are.

This year, I am not going anywhere and I'm pleased.  My reasons have nothing to do with problems other travellers have encountered in some locations or any issues with travelling.  Rather, I am so engaged with my life here right now that I wouldn't want to leave it.  Wow.  That's a nice way to feel.

I am reading a book that I find fascinating, I am filling out pages of surveys to determine what might be my appropriate career and life path, I am writing, I am communicating with people and I am busy with my life.  Yes, sand between my toes would be nice but my life here is nice too.

Vacations can be wonderful.  I remain a believer in them and their abilities to refresh us.  They end though and we end up back where we started.  If we can feel energized and excited about life without going away, that's wonderful too.  It is at home that we live.  It is at home that we deal with our reality.  It is nice when it's so exciting we don't want to leave it behind.

I hope that others are enjoying winter at home too.   And safe travels to everyone who goes away.


That's Her! She's the one who spilled coffee on me

Yes, it was me.  I'm the one who spilled the coffee.  Let me explain.  Please, let me explain.

I have a habit of carrying a Starbucks coffee around with me.  People should probably have an intervention for me about this and my coffee habit in general.  I may have a problem.

Last week, at the mall, just after I had paid for something at Shoppers Drug Mart, I knocked my coffee cup on its side on the counter and the coffee started pouring out.  The cashier righted the cup quickly but some had spilled and, unfortunately, some had spilled on the elderly lady behind me in line.  I apologized, I tried to figure out how to make the situation right, and I left pretty quickly because I couldn't see a way to make it right.  The damage was done.

The lady on whom I spilled the coffee did not react particularly well.  She didn't scream at me or anything but she was upset and my apologies didn't seem to help.  I felt bad enough for the spill and she made me feel worse.  I didn't intend to spill coffee on anyone.  Not that day, anyways.

Out of this incident, I have learned that I should stop carrying coffee around when I'm shopping.  I don't want to spill coffee, or any other beverages, on anyone or anything.  I've also learned something else.

To that lady in line, I am and will always be the woman who spilled the coffee on her.  It doesn't matter what I did before or anything I do after that point in time.  All she knows of me is what she saw in that one brief incident.  I don't think she liked what she saw.

As we go about our lives, we often encounter people who make us angry.  It might be in traffic, in stores, or at the bottom of an escalator when someone or some group can't decide which way they're going.  It is easy to get frustrated and angry with the things people do, and it is easy to define the people by these actions.  It is also easy to forget that there is a lot more to each of these people than what we see in one unfortunate action.

Everyone has a life story, everyone has things on their mind and plans for the day.  We know so little about the people we encounter - what they're up against, what their lives are like, what they dream, what they fear.  It is so wrong to reduce a person to, let's say, the idiot who couldn't figure out what to order at Starbucks.  In reality, I would like to know the story of each person.  I would like to sit down with each of them over coffee, once they figure out what to order, and hear what they have to say.

I am much more than the person who spilled coffee on that lady.  I will try to be tolerant when people do things that irritate me.  A smile that says we're all human, we all do annoying things sometimes, and we're all doing our imperfect best, might help.  And if my smile is not well-received, well, I do know how to spill coffee on people.  Please keep that in mind.