Not a Winner

Remember that contest I entered? Well I didn’t win. Not even an honourable mention. But I’m ok with that. Mostly because now I can post it here.


An Open Letter to an Old Friend

Dear Mr. Starbucks,

I’m not one to complain. It’s just my nature to let things slide, forgive and forget, look the other way. When, of course, there is another way to look. Truth is, I’m an easy-going kind of gal who just needs a grande, nonfat, no foam, extra hot, one shot (perhaps with a  pump of vanilla) latte each day right around 2:00 pm to stay that way. I don’t even grimace when waiting in line to plunk down the 4 bucks and change for my afternoon indulgence. And all I have ever asked in return from you is a comfy chair on which I can rest my larger than I ever remember, middle-aged, or so, behind. Which brings me to the reason for this letter. Mr. Starbucks, what exactly were you thinking?

Don’t get me wrong. I was excited to learn that you were embarking on a revamp of my neighborhood haunt. It was going to take a month. So what? Who’s Mother hasn’t told them good things come to those who wait? Besides, that month gave me more time to dream. Soon enough I’ll be nestled in a brand new overstuffed, cocoon-like, leather chair, adjacent to a cozy, glowing fireplace, whiling away the afternoon sipping on that perfectly made latte, reading the latest offering of my favourite author, sharing philosophical banter with one of my many Starbucks’ friends. Perhaps a short snooze if the time is right.

It’s hard for me to explain the feeling of anticipation as I watched the brown paper that had covered the windows for what seemed like an eternity (you really should revisit your definition of “coming soon”) slowly peeled off to reveal the fruits of your labourers. Stepping over the threshold, my eyes quickly traveled from one corner of the room to another, and then yet another. Wait. There’s no fireplace. No comfy chairs. Hardly any chairs at all. As you can imagine, I was overcome with dismay. This renovation is for someone else. Someone, I suspect, with a much tighter behind than mine; one that has no trouble settling into the miniature wooden structure I’m supposed to believe is a bar stool. Someone whose body is still supple enough to duck under the long, sterile looking table to plug in an electronic device that becomes her conversational partner for the remainder of the afternoon. Someone who is definitely not me.

I get it Mr. S. Time does not stand still. There’s a younger generation primed and ready to fill my chair. But just for the meantime, while I’m still around, would it kill you to make that chair just a little more comfy?

Your friend,

Wendy C.

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Pets are People Too

I’ve been thinking about this a lot since walking past the young woman wearing a Tee emblazoned with “Pets are People Too” as she made her way with her loyal companion to our neighbourhood dog beach. Named as such, I suppose, because its a place where you can let your dog frolic without the constraints of a leash and where no sane person without a dog would dare to venture.  As I pondered this sentiment of hers (I assume that’s why she donned that particular Tee) I came to the only conclusion that I could. Actually they are not. Pets are not people too.

Now before you get your knickers in a knot, you need to remember that I have shared my home with cats (there have been 3) for the past 38 (yes, I counted) years. And I love, and have loved them dearly. I know from experience that we pet owners, cherish our pets. They become important members of the family. We pamper them, cuddle them, talk to them and give them our hearts. But I can honestly say that at no time over what has been a very long time, have I ever mistaken one of them for a person.

This might surprise you but as a shallow person I don’t come to conclusions lightly. Actually, I like to look at things from all sides mostly in the hope of never having to commit to one or the other. So when I started to think about pets being people I spent some considerable time pondering whether or not this could actually be true. The more I thought about it the more examples I came up with to disprove this theory. Think about it.

First things first. If pets were people at some point in their lives, hopefully sooner than later, they would figure out that it is rather inappropriate to “do their business”, so to speak, wherever and whenever they choose. Even the most resistant of children come to grips with going to the toilet before they reach, I’ll be generous here as some less demanding parents are, their 4th birthday. With pets however, we seem quite content to pick up after them ad infinitum. We don’t hesitate to load up our pockets with plastic bags each time we leave the house or start the day off, sieve in hand, over the litter box cleaning out the produce of the previous day. If pets were people, it seems to me that we wouldn’t be picking up their poop for the rest of their lives.

This too. If pets were people they certainly would not tolerate having us dress them up in silly outfits. Have you ever tried to put a hat on a baby? You put it on, they take it off. You put it on again, they take it off again. One more try. You put it on, with more authority this time. They start screaming and throw it on the floor. You pick it up and put it back in the closet. But not pets. Your pet (well let’s be realistic, this doesn’t apply to all pets) will not only let you dress them in a Halloween costume of your choice, they will also let you take a pic and post the goofy look on Facebook for all your friends to comment. Just try that with one of your kids and see what happens. If pets were people you’d be out that night trick or treating on your own.

And finally. If pets were people, dimes to dollars they wouldn’t be quite as loyal, compassionate, forgiving and non-judgemental as we all know they are. Let’s face it. When was the last time your pet looked at you as if to say “where did you find those 10 pounds?” Or chastised you for not having dinner on the table precisely at 6:30 pm? Who lays at the end of your bed all day long while you sniff and blow and moan and groan with that flu bug you didn’t get a shot for simply because they know it makes you feel just a little bit better to have them there? Who can you tell all of your secrets to and be 100 percent confident that they will never tell anyone else? And who’s there to greet you each and every time you walk through your front door no matter how long you’ve been away? I’ll tell you who. Your pet. Well unless it’s a hamster, a rabbit, some sort of reptile, a bird or a fish in which case greeting you at the door probably isn’t such a good idea. Can you say the same for the people in your house? That’s what I thought.

As you can see I have put quite a lot of thought into this and steadfastly stand by my claim that pets are not really people at all. And you know what? I don’t think that’s such a bad thing.

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You Can Dress for It…So What!

Not so long ago I found myself in my old hometown for a short visit. Since I come and go relatively frequently I wasn’t really anticipating any surprises. Sure, the big city always seems to get a little bigger over time, but then so do I. And I have come to understand that getting ensnared in the ever expanding “rush hour” (which seems to be a rather gross misnomer given that it encompasses most of the hours of the day) is simply a new (for me) reality. Besides, most of what I do while in town is visit family and nothing can ever surprise me on that front. As you can tell, I’m pretty much prepared for anything. Except maybe the ice cold blast of air that confronted me as I stepped out of YYZ. When the heck did Toronto get “this” cold?

Now you and I both know I’m no stranger to the cold. Let’s recall that I’m the one who spent 38 years in the “Gateway to the North”, where temps were known to hover around -30 (that’s celsius) for weeks at a time. Metric or Imperial, that’s cold. Without getting too graphic, at -30 every feature associated with your face freezes pretty much as soon as you step outside. Those tears of regret you shed as you try to remember why you ever came here in the first place, will quickly form icicles on your cheeks. If you are foolish enough to think your fitness still matters, you will arrive home from your morning run very much resembling what I can only imagine the abominable snowman would looks like if the abominable snowman actually exists. Believe me, I know cold. And yet there are people who insist on living in a state of denial by proclaiming to those of us who “came from away” that it might be cold but (are you ready for it?) “you can dress for it”. Sure you can. But so what!

Let me explain. For those of you who are less familiar with northern climes perhaps I should describe what it means to dress for the cold. First you put on your “base layer” which is simply a fancy word for the long-johns your Mother always wanted you to wear and you never did. Now the layering really begins. You see, in most cases while it’s cold outside it’s warm and toasty inside so whatever you decide to put on to stave off the cold will have to come off shortly after reaching your destination. So some combination of shirts, light sweaters, and, of course, heavy sweaters will be in order. You can decide how to shed these as you thaw. Optimally your pants will have some kind of lining and be large enough to fit over that base layer of yours. People say the camera adds 10 pounds. Well just imagine what this outfit will do. Nevermind. It’s -30. YOu’ll get your figure back in the Spring.

Now you’re ready for the outside layer. You’re going to need a rather substantial down coat with a decent hood. These days that should set you back about a grand. Whatever you do give a pass to that little number with the fur. trim It might be warm but those icy stares you’ll get will pierce your very soul. It goes without saying that you’ll want a pair of sheepskin boots, preferably one or two sizes larger than your regular shoes as they will need to accommodate those extra thick, woollen socks someone bought you when you mentioned you were moving “up north”. If you’re really lucky, once you manage to get those on,  you’ll still be able to walk

You probably think you’re done, but you’re not. Attention must now be paid to your head. I know. You bought that coat with the hood but it’s not going to be enough. A hat is a must, preferably one that covers the ears. Forget about the couple hundred dollars you just spent on your “do”. That went by the wayside the moment you picked up that toque with the lovely pom pom on top.  For your hands, mittens work better than gloves although once on there will be very little you can do without taking them off again. Finally, you’re gonna need a scarf. This one’s a little tricky. The problem is, to keep you warm it will have to be long enough to cover as much of your face as possible. But here’s the problem. When the warm air from your mouth and nose meets the frigid air in which you are walking, it’s going to freeze. So get ready. At some point in your journey your lovely, long, warm, scarf is going to turn into what is essentially a block of ice. It’s not pretty but there’s really nothing you can do other than grin (if you still can) and bear it.

Ok. So now you’re dressed for “it”. You walk outside and, whoa! You’re still cold. Of course you are. It’s 30 effing degrees below zero! (My little bro’ taught me that). What did you think would happen? So here’s some unsolicited advice from a shallow gal who knows. Do what I say. Take all the money you were going to spend on that little outfit of yours and hightail it down to your favourite beach town. Because you know what? You can dress for that too. 

I’m in it to Win it

Once again it’s been a while. I’m guessing by now you think I’ve retired. I have. But surprisingly, not from the blog. Nope. The thing is, this shallow gal has been very busy. It’s not just my Tuesday morning walks with the walking women, or the daily afternoon sojourns to the local coffee shop that are taking up my time. It’s been much more than that. You see, for the last month or so I have been working on my submission to a writing contest. That’s right! I’ve entered a contest. And let me tell you, that was no small feat. As a matter of fact, it was a rather grueling process. There was the thinking about what to write, the thinking about how to write it and last, but not least, the writing of it. It’s not easy to come up with 450 words (exactly) that will (potentially) be read by none other than Mr. Dave Barry. Remember Dave Barry? Well I do. His rather iconic “open shirt over a T” look was my family’s fashion influence for most of the ‘90s. And he’s really funny. So, as you can imagine, this was a pretty daunting task.

Now here’s something you might or might not know, depending on how well we know each other. I’m not only shallow. I’m really competitive too. And I’ll be the first to admit that. For me “doing my best” just doesn’t cut it. Nor do I want to “learn from the experience” or take pride in knowing “I tried my hardest”. That’s just not me. When I enter a contest, I enter to win. Of course that’s only for contests where I actually have to do something. I mean, if I’m just filling out a form and placing it in a box with hundreds of other entries, I would like to win but I’m not overly concerned if I don’t. Or if I have to go to the internet to enter some random number from a yogurt container in order to potentially win one of 10,000 prizes I’m ok with the not unexpected “sorry, better luck next time” message that I invariably get. But when I have to actually perform in some way, well for me it’s all or nothing. Honourable mention? That would be nice…for someone else. Not for this gal. This gal is in it to win it.

For those of you who are still not convinced, allow me to refer you to one of my many Words With Friends partners. They know I’m relentless. I will literally sit for many minutes, scrutinizing the board in an effort to make the very best move possible. It goes without saying that I use the little green meter that lets me know if I have made my best move.  Let me tell you. It’s a blessing and a curse. If the meter goes to the top, I’m good. If not, if there is even one little sliver of opportunity to get a few more points, you can bet your bottom dollar I’m going to find it. No matter how long it takes I will figure out how to maximize my points. But I’ll only make that move if I’m not setting up my opponent for a triple play. That’s the trick. You need to be aggressive and defensive all at the same time. But you can be sure, when it’s safe to do so, I’ll go in for the kill. Just a game you say?  You do realize that I just analyzed my game-play for WWF. Yeah, that’s how competitive I am. So you can only imagine my feelings about entering a contest where my actual skill will be judged. And perhaps even more importantly, where there’s a prize to be won.

Now I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking “Did she say 450 words? What the heck took her so long to write 450 words?!” Well here’s the thing about 450 words. That’s not a lot. And when you don’t have a lot of words to use you have to use them very carefully. The fewer the words, the more important each and every one of them is. With 450 words there are none to mince. You’ve got to get to the point pretty darn quickly. There’s no rambling like there is in this blog of mine. So it’s a lot of work. And it takes time. Lots of it. Which brings me back to where I started and hopefully provides you with an answer to why I haven’t posted for so long.

Anyway, while I’m here, and since I have no self-imposed word limits, let me take this time to wish you and your families a very happy New Year. If you make resolutions, make good ones ‘cause they’ll be with you all year long. Me? I’ll be looking forward to the Spring when the results of the competition will be out. And I’ll let you know how things go.  But only if I win.

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Put Those Scissors Away!

I’m pretty sure it’s not just me. I’ll bet this has happened to you too. In my case it usually occurs once or twice a day but then I’m a shallow person. For you, maybe more. Whatever the number, it seems to me that by hook or by crook at some point in each and every day you will, without a doubt, have one, or perhaps many, decisions to make. Some big, some not. Like when you decide to go for a coffee. What do you do now that your local and most fav Starbucks is under renovation? (There will be more about that another time). Do you drive to the one by the water with the perfect view or do you save both gas and the environment by taking that rather lengthy walk, albeit through one of the most beautiful urban parks in this country of ours, to a more mundane location? In this case it’s really a win/win since the outcome (that would be the coffee) is the same. You just have to decide what’s more important. The “getting there” or the “being there”. Which really doesn’t make for a very difficult decision. But they’re not all like that. Some decisions, as we all know, are really hard to make.

Like maybe you’re thinking about retiring but are not entirely sure it’s a good idea. Do you or don’t you? And if you do, what will you do? There’s some significance to that. Or you’re looking to buy a house, or have a baby, or trying to decide who to vote for in the next election. Ok, if you live in those United States of America that last one should be a no-brainer (did I really say that?) but it will have an impact for sure. So it’s important. If you are anything like me, when it comes to big decisions you dither. Quite a lot. And you make lists. There’s the pros and there’s the cons. When that doesn’t help you create some kind of point system. On a spreadsheet. Once completed it looks quite impressive but does little to help you make up your mind. After all of these shenanigans you finally decide that you have exhausted the decision-making possibilities and you do the only thing you know that’s left to do. You trust your gut. Followed perhaps, by just a short little prayer to who/whatever you might call upon in these sorts of situations. And the reason you do all of this is that you know, when you make the big decision, it’s made. Done. No turning back. You’re stuck with it. Or are you?

Not so long ago I was visiting a dear friend who found herself in need of a new frock. This was not a frivolous undertaking. This frock was going to find itself at some very important meetings so of course, it had to be just right.  As most of us would, she set off to find just the right thing at just the right store. And she found it. At least she was pretty sure she had found it. The thing is, when you shell out a considerable sum of money, which I am guessing she did but can’t say for sure, on what you think could be your “go to” dress, you need to have not even one little doubt about it. So she did what any reasonable person in her position would do. She wore the dress to the meeting, price tag and all. Now some of you might be thinking “Who does that?” Who leaves the tag on the dress, just in case?” But I gotta tell you. The more I think about it, the more I like the idea. Because it puts a whole new perspective on the decision-making process.

Here’s what I mean. What if you could “leave the tag” on all of your big decisions? Like when you buy a house. Maybe instead of going home to sleep “on it” you should actually be sleeping “in it”. Not only would you have a chance to learn first hand about all the quirks and quarks, you would also know exactly what they meant when they said the neighbors were a “little” eccentric. And it will be ok because you left the tag on. After a week or two in the new abode you can change your mind and go back home. Or maybe you’re trying to decide what new car to buy. That 12 minute test drive doesn’t really help all that much. If you could just bring that puppy home, maybe try it out during the first snowfall, the decision would be oh so much easier to make. If all is not well you can just take it back ‘cause the tag’s still on. Or you retired and decided it’s not all that it’s cracked up to be. Endless days of lunches, coffees, walks around the park just don’t cut it for you. If you had left the proverbial tag on you could just go back to do whatever it was you were doing before you left. Not that you necessarily would. I’m just sayin’ that you could. And if you had known that from the start there might have been fewer sleepless nights wondering if it was the right or wrong thing to do in the first place.

Not convinced yet? Then think about this. What if all of those people in the United States of America had been able to leave the tag on after the last election? Just for a little while. To see how things worked out. Bet you’re with me now! What do you say we all put those scissors away.

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