Christmas Shopping & The Meaning of Life

christmas shoppingThis one goes out to the Costco employees at the Laird Road location in Mississauga.

Thank you for reminding me to be kind and friendly this holiday season.

Your rude behavior and obvious annoyance at being bothered by your customers has made me rethink how I show up in the world every day.

In other words, you’re a shining example of how I don’t want to be.

The art of living truly is about mastering how you show up in the world wherever that place may be; home, work, school, or even Costco.

Trust me darlings, I too would rather be at home relaxing with a cocktail than being locked in a metal, windowless box spending my hard earned money with a bunch of people who feel the same way.

Before you ask, yes, I have worked retail, and yes, I know how annoying people can be.

Also, in case you thought I was independently wealthy, I have to work  as hard as you do for my money.  By the way, newsflash, I can spend hundreds and hundreds of dollars, somewhere else for the very same products. If dealing with customers is such a pain in the ass, try dealing with no customers and no job.

Your brand of misery is the reason why people are giving up their materialistic Christmases of gluttony and trading them in for the simple joy of spending time together.

Spending time and energy buying stuff from people who are rude really doesn’t scream Merry, or Joy, or Peace on Earth.

The more I interact with you, the more I resent spending an hour finding a parking spot, being jostled like cattle through your aisles, and then ending the long-journey-of-consumer-monotony with a cashier who doesn’t know how to engage in a polite greeting, look me in the eye, and throws my conveniently-mega-packaged purchases into my cart like they’re trash.

Wishing that you and yours find the joy of the season where you least expect to find it; your own, every-day life.

 

 

 

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Why Your Terrible Breakfast Offends Me

"Let them eat cake." ~Marie Antoinette before the French Revolution~

“Let them eat cake.”
~Marie Antoinette before the French Revolution~

Not you, dish-rag of a girl behind the counter, nor you, 65ish waitress with the second-hand Target sweater and hair clip.

Nope, you two have my respect. You’ve earned it. Over and over, you’ve earned it. Day in, and day out, you’ve earned it.

Say what you like about what money can’t buy, it can buy a whole lot of peace of mind and privilege. That’s why it’s so coveted, and so hoarded by those who have it. If it was as worthless as all the popular memes want us to believe, people would be way, way, way more generous.

Why your terrible breakfast offends me is because YOU are likely a greedy-money-hording employer from hell. I’m guessing, but it’s an educated guess.

More than once favourite restaurants have changed hands, and I believe that one of my favourite breakfast spots, Artisano’s may have also changed ownership, or perhaps the management has just dumped the concept of customer service? I’m not sure. I am sure that I will not be going back, nor recommending it based on my own personal experience.

Any time front-line staff don’t produce excellent products or customer service, it’s likely because they don’t have the tools or energy to do it. After all, who likes to feel second-best after a long day at work? When I say tools, in this case I mean decent food to use and enough staff. When I say energy, I mean; the staff likely get treated and paid like hell.

Yah, a bad breakfast is a first world problem, but it’s the symptom of a larger problem. First of all, if you’re raising kids, and working, you likely have to stop somewhere to eat at least once or even twice a week, simply because the demands of work and the demands of trying to have your kids get ahead mean you have no time and a whole whack of  extra blood pressure. Why? Simply put; the Have’s now have more, and the Have-Nots have even less. And yet we’re not protesting in Canadian streets. This both intrigues and frightens me.

ewwwSo, when I get a chance to actually enjoy a meal, and I’m paying YOU for it, I’d like it to be well-cooked, fresh and hot. That’s the least someone should expect. Your burned bacon and rubbery-older-than-dirt sausage and cold as hell eggs suck. No salt or pepper. Clearly those are extravagances.  Besides, when the food is burned, old and cold, salt and pepper are really just putting lipstick on the pig aren’t they darlings?  And if you’re looking at the photo, that’s not pepper, it’s grit from the grill. Ewww.

Staff to bring you those things after you ask? Can’t be bothered. Breakfast is a completely indulgent meal to enjoy on a Sunday morning; with hot coffee and a newspaper, there are few things that make me happier.

I do not blame the all too commonly underpaid staff who are working their buns off to pay the bills. I do blame employers who skimp, penny-pinch and do so at the cost of the health of employees and customers.  This is why your terrible breakfast offends me. This is why I will not be back.

When Nothing Matters, It Matters Most

Toast 1Despite having a career which could easily see me lost day and night in the good and meaningful work I am blessed to be able to do, the energy I have to do that work comes from making time for rejuvenation, shenanigans, and spending time being nurtured by the people who love me.

Stirring honey into my tea today, I overheard a woman exclaim that she was feeling overwhelmed, and complaining that going away for a holiday just made it harder to come back and get up every day to get back to work.

I slipped my wooden stir-stick into the trash and stole a quick peak at her from under my luscious locks. She was a bit younger than me, and clearly, unbalanced.

That’s not a cynical observation.

She looked to be carrying the weight of the world even though she was sipping a gourmet beverage in an upscale coffee shop with a friend willing to listen. “Why is life so difficult“, her high shoulders seemed to be whimpering. I know shoulder language, because more often than not, my own shoulders are tensed right up to my ear lobes, and the margins in my life are tighter than cycling shorts on a man smack dab in the middle of a mid-life crisis.

You read that right. Men in cycling shorts should never happen. Ever.

Anyway…

Balance; the-shoulds-of-a capitalistic-society verses the shoulds of, Deep-down-I-am-a-free-thinking-spiritual-lush. Recently I’ve been up to a little ‘make herself happy’  balance plan.

laughingwomenFood, wine and friendship, the great triumvirate of happiness. Combine those three, and I’m a happy woman.

Before I allowed my joy to be stolen by a grand conspiracy of single-parenthood, economic necessity, and surrender, I was the queen of food, wine and friendship, the duchess of do-it-all-and-then-some, the grand-dame-of-damn-that-woman-can-dance. Oh yah, I lived in and for the moment.

That was long ago and far away, but not an impossible attitude to resurrect.

Trying to be a responsible-adult-woman, the final strike was entering into a relationship with a man who ruined all three for me; food, wine AND friendship.  I carried on in the relationship because that’s what I thought I was supposed to be doing when in fact, I was supposed to be doing whatever the hell I felt like.

Life as I knew it and dreamed it was over when that relationships ended. It was both heartbreaking (there would be no big, happy family or new babies) and emancipating. Turns out, I’m not sure I was ever convinced, other than the apparent security, that a traditional relationship was best for me after so many years of doing everything on my own.

More than a man who needed to lead, it turns out I need a man who values laughter, discovering new food, wine and ways of making sure moments matter even if it’s just sitting in companionable silence. I thought I had  someone like that making a place in my life this summer, but I was mistaken. Must have been the wine.

On my way home from the office I stopped on a whim and picked up a couple of bottles of wine to hold me over until the vintage release this weekend. I found a much coveted Italian varietal, and another which conjures a warm, no.  Wait. Not warm. It conjures memories of an electrically charged, white-hot  and carefree love-affair, aptly birthed in Sonoma, California and named Folies a Deux.

I will take my charming new find to be uncorked at a French restaurant tomorrow evening to share over a meal and wonderful conversation.

Being excited to try new wine, try new recipes, make time for friends, writing, and maybe a little tryst in a land far-far-away means I’ve got the groove back I thought I had lost.

"We all begin as stringers..."  ~ANDSHELAUGHS~

“We all begin as strangers…”
~ANDSHELAUGHS~

What on earth was I thinking? When you’ve got it, you can never lose it.

Get out there and be fabulous darlings. There is exquisite wine held hostage in bottles just waiting to be emancipated. There is savoury food waiting to dance on your palate, and friendships that need rekindling.

I also have a suspicion that there are delectable men who are worthy of wooing us, just waiting for our school-girl hearts to bow to the sage wisdom of serendipity.

 

 

 

 

Doing the Impossible

dotheimpossible

Personal Leadership & The Leaders Who Lack It

wolfbreathThere is nothing worse than a person with power who lacks leadership. Take, for instance, most world leaders today. Most are egomaniacs with a side of masochism. Et voila! Welcome to the modern world of faster, more and who gives a damn.

This is your call to action. Each day we wake up and participate in the false global economy, and dawdle off to our nine-to-five so we can pay our bills, we have a choice. We can silently let the world and all of the unfairness in it go by, or we can choose to act in a way that honours our human instinct ( I do believe it’s an instinct) and follows the golden rule. In other words, we can be selfish wahoos, or individual leaders standing up for what’s right.

There have been times in my life when I’ve come home from school or work, ready to throw in the towel.

I have what I believe to be reasonable standards when it comes to how I treat other people, and how I expect to be treated. I expect to be treated with respect, and like to do the same to the people I encounter on a daily basis.  I do my best not to complain, gripe, gossip or bring negativity to the room when I enter it. After all, isn’t it nice to have a conversation that doesn’t make your gut clench with anxiety or reach for a tissue? Yes, yes it is.

Sometimes, ok, a lot of the time, we are in situations with ‘leaders’ who have about as much couth as a coyote in a henhouse. The ability to lead has very little to do with experience, education or seniority. It has to do with personal philosophy, spiritual cultivation, and knowing oneself. Now expecting those qualities from someone, my darlings, is having high expectations.

As I’ve aged (and yes, leaders with no leadership ability is exactly the type of thing that ages me), and matured, I’ve come to realize that trying to change, explain to, or negotiate with a person in power who lacks leadership is a complete and utter waste of time. It’s like wearing mascara to the steam bath. It just gets messy and ugly in a hurry.

The issue becomes not whether you can change someone else, it becomes how well you are able to know yourself, and control your own reactions. I had two great pieces of advice given to me when I was a teenager chomping at the bit of independence; first of all, you don’t go anywhere if you don’t step forward, secondly, and I quote, “Sweetie, there will always be assholes.”  I grew up in the country, this wasn’t really considered cursing, it was just a matter of fact.

If you too find yourself spending time brooding over someone who consistently and more frequently displays a lack of true leadership, don’t do anything. The reality is, you need to do and say nothing. You need to buck up, carry on, and not let anyone rock the firm foundation of who you are or what you stand for. You do not need to argue, rant, run or cry. When it comes to jobs and relationships, give it a thorough analysis, because wherever you go, an idiot will be there. I’m not saying stay in an abusive situation, but try not to take it personally.

Eventually, you do learn that it really isn’t you, it’s them, and oh my, how they must suffer living in such misery.

By doing nothing, not reacting, or buying the kind of crazy that leadership-lacking-leaders are selling, you create this little zone of discomfort. It’s in that zone, when leaders cannot affect your own control over yourself, that they get a little woozy. You see, they thrive off your discomfort, and when you cut that little supply of nourishing misery off, they starve.  If none of their bullying tactics work,  it may prompt a little self-reflection. Don’t bet on it though. Just bet on yourself, and don’t forget sweetie, “…there will always be assholes.” Don’t let them recruit you.

YOU LEARN

by: Veronica A. Shoffstall

After a while you learn the subtle difference
Between holding a hand and chaining a soul,
And you learn that love doesn’t mean leaning
And company doesn’t mean security.
And you begin to learn that kisses aren’t contracts
And presents aren’t promises,
And you begin to accept your defeats
With your head up and your eyes open
With the grace of a woman, not the grief of a child,
And you learn to build all your roads on today
Because tomorrow’s ground is too uncertain for plans
And futures have a way of falling down in mid-flight.
After a while you learn…
That even sunshine burns if you get too much.
So you plant your garden and decorate your own soul,
Instead of waiting for someone to bring you flowers.
And you learn that you really can endure
That you really are strong
And you really do have worth…
And you learn and learn…
With every good-bye you learn.

Do not let a leader who lacks personal leadership spoil your day. As the great Jimmy Buffett once sung, “…breathe in, breathe out, move on…”

Customer Service: The Art of Joy

IMG_4336

Goose. Yep. That was the message delivered from the ‘Animal Spirit Guides’ deck that was gifted to me this past Christmas.

Goose? When I think of a goose, I think of the absurd waddling they do, their plump bodies, and the way that they disguise their natural survival instincts with the appearance of total oblivion to anything other than pooping on paved park paths and wandering in circles.

This was my first week back to reality after two weeks of holiday time, away from the office, social media, housework, parenting, and anything else that required attire more formal than a bathing suit.

Having been a good-girl, I came home with some extra spending money, and decided that I could afford to treat myself to a dress that I saw while visiting The Bitter End. So, I ordered it. What ensued has been a miserable experience with HiHo Clothing’s Customer Service department, and an even more frustrating time with UPS. Lessons learned; just buy the damn dress, use FedEx, buy local.

What does this experience have to do with the Goose totem? Well, frist of all, I thought of the saying, ‘Silly
Goose’, which in my wee little girl brain means a doddering woman who is naive, and weak. Drawing the Goose totem also meant just taking an inward glance at my own attitude. A return to ‘real life’ always means kicking into high professional, domestic, and everything-else high-gear. In short, it sucked.

But why?” I asked myself over and over. Why did it feel so icky to be back to a life that I had created for myself? I love my job. I love my kid. I don’t live in a castle, but I also don’t have to shovel my own snow or mow my own grass, so it all evens out.

Satisfaction. That’s what I think it boils down to. I am very rarely satisfied with what I have, and continually strive to be better, to have more, to do more. What a lunatic!

Which leads me to believe that the atrocious lack of customer service at HiHo and UPS is a result of people showing up do to a job, get a pay-cheque, and leave to get back to their real life. It also likely means that the employees likely don’t have a great working environment, but that’s just my opinion. Rarely do satisfied employees metaphorically flip you the bird by hanging up on you or not responding to email. Satisfied employees have time to address customer questions and respond in a way that makes everyone feel warm and fuzzy.

Newsflash; Your job is your real life. Those moments on the clock are about being yourself and being of service to others, whether it’s solving problems, creating something brilliant, or cleaning up a bathroom stall so we don’t all die of some poop-bacteria-related disease.

So, as I caution you against the exceptional lack of customer service which abounds, I also challenge you to take a little look inside and ask yourself if you too are being a customer service asshole (that’s French for being useless).

Watching myself transform into an uptight-bot within 24 hours of arriving back to my ‘real world’, I took the advice of the Goose. I slowed down, took a look around and marveled at just how far I’d come, and with that attitude, I carried on with my week, trying to be kind, at work, home, and everywhere else. Most importantly, I reminded myself that it’s ok to relax, breathe deeply and trust my own value.

Doing that doesn’t make me a weak, naïve woman. It makes me healthy, helpful, and energized.

So go on ladies, dare to be a goose. Dare to create a life you life with joy.

Do YOU know???

I know my limits

Take it Off…All Off!

takeitalloffYou have absolutely no idea how excruciatingly wonderful it felt to slip my tailored suit jacket down my arm and across my back as I kicked off my heels and walked toward my bedroom.

“Good-bye fancy ear-ring,” I said, as my fingertips gripped the back of the clasp…

You will never comprehend how decadent it felt to peel off my pantyhose and know that for two-whole weeks, the only big wardrobe choice I have to make is flip-flops or bare feet.

Sah-weet!

When you wear a uniform or uniform-like attire to work every day, it becomes part of your identity.  Not that that’s a bad thing. I happen to be among the chosen few who actually love their job and the people they work with. Having said that, every now and then, it’s nice to put some distance between your skin and the clinging sheath of your professional persona.

Sometimes it’s just really nice to reconnect with what it means to be a free-creative-music-and-art-loving-spirit, connected to the earth and sea. For me it’s always been the sea. It’s always been the water, and the fresh wind, and the dark night sky and it’s been so terribly long…

Stepping out of my suit and taking off my ear-rings, necklace, watch and rings, I relished the feeling of freedom that comes with not having to.

I write to you my lovelies because I care. If you, like me, get lost in the routine of every day, occasionally get overwhelmed with anxiety and fear of the future, are thankful for all of the blessings in your life, and don’t want to rock the boat, I urge you to resist your fear and make time to reconnect with what you love.

The margins in my life are narrow. My resources are all self-mined and lean toward the depleted side. I look death in the eye daily, and I know that life is short. It’s all a gamble my friends. It’s all water under the bridge to never-never-land. Every now and then you need to take a leap of faith, jump for joy and do something that rekindles the spark that made you absolutely fabulous once-upon-a-time.

As I slip out of my suit and into something the good-lord made comfortable, I raise a glass to the simple joy of saying, “Fuck it”, and then doing just as you please.

 

 

 

 

Reply All: A Guide To Email Etiquette

"Many attempts to communicate are nullified by saying too much." ~Robert Greenleaf~

“Many attempts to communicate are nullified by saying too much.”
~Robert Greenleaf~

I happen to have the very best friends a gal could ever wish for. I also happen to be associated with some incredibly gifted, kind and passionate professionals as well. Having said that, we all do crazy things now and then, like hit the ‘Reply All’ tab when we’re responding to email.

Reply All. Hmmm….

A great idea in theory, but it’s the digital equivalent of the paper junk mail that clutters my inbox and kills bazillions of trees. I have to admit being guilty of it in the past month, replying to a  group email that has to do with a vacation that I’m really, really, really excited about.  I’m guilty of reply-alling.

‘Reply All’ is usually unnecessary however. Generally the person who generates the email is the ‘organizer’, the nerve center of communication, and they will ultimately gather responses, send out information neatly tallied and succinctly explained in another email, thus avoiding the thousands of irritating responses.

Asking for directions and parking is a no-no in a ‘Reply All’ response. MapQuest? GPS? Yes, techno-wizard, use it. The other common and particularly stunning faux pas with ‘Reply All’ responses is asking, or delivering personal information that ought to remain personal between the emailer and emailee . Yes, consider those your first new words of 2015.

More often than not ‘Reply All’ is not necessary, overflows already bursting inboxes and annoys the ever-loving-shit out of most folks.

You can thank me for your modern etiquette lesson later on darlings, for now, just nod and carry on being your fabulous selves.

An Open Letter to Mothers With Young Children

"Mothers are the people who love us for no good reason. And those of us who are mothers know it's the most exquisite love of all." ~Maggie Gallagher~

“Mothers are the people who love us for no good reason. And those of us who are mothers know it’s the most exquisite love of all.”
~Maggie Gallagher~

I was you once – giddy with affection and unconditional love for my child.

Every moment was a miracle, and every second I could kiss, cuddle, snuggle or coo my little one, I did. Unapologetically.

I see you out there, proud as punch as you push your strollers and post your photos on social media of your naps, and first steps, and messy little-helping hands of your budding cookie bakers.

Don’t stop.

That’s right. You read that correctly. Don’t stop falling in love with your babies.

I’m the middle-aged woman you pass at the coffee shop, or in the shopping aisle who stops to tell you how beautiful your baby, toddler or young child is. I’m the woman who coos over the outfits and little faces, and even the tears.  I’m one of the kazillion middle-aged women who look at you through their newly increased lens prescription and says; “Enjoy them while they’re young.”

Don’t stop being amazed at every new stage. Ever.Don’t stop wondering how they are when they head off to school, and don’t stop bothering them for a hug, or stories about their day when they become teenagers. Trust me, they will challenge you sometimes.

Whatever happens and whatever they get up to, don’t stop being the ferociously loving mother that you are.

I’ll be honest with you. When my child turned three, I was tempted to see what the return policy was. Four was better. Like a light switch being turned on, the ‘terrible three’s’ (it was three not two) turned into the fabulous four’s, and I had my angel back.

It’s true, every age and stage holds some surprise. Some stages, much like the prize your potty-training-darling hands to you while proudly shouting, “Poo-Poo”  are less satisfying than others. Sometimes you will despair at how you will get through the day; emotionally, physically, financially. Sometimes, you will have nothing left to give. But that’s when us older gals come in.

We’ve been there; the smiling photo-posting-proud-as-pie times and the lonely-how-am-I-going-to-do-it-times. Pick up the phone, talk to us in line at Starbuck’s, or at the grocery store. We’ve been there sister, and lived to coach you through it.

For now, just keep doing what you do. You’re great at it, even when you’re not sure you’re doing it right, you are.

~Enjoy them while they’re little. They grow up too quickly.~