Category Archives: Informative

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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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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I am not a Robot

I gotta tell you. Writing a shallow blog these days is tough. There are just so many things that make it hard. Believe me. It’s not just about the “moron” (not my words) down south. He’s a problem but like many things, he too shall pass. Unfortunately there are more endemic issues we all face over the long term. Like climate change. Unless you have been living under a rock, and one that miraculously hasn’t been uprooted by a major hurricane, or bulldozed by those brave men and women fighting the extraordinary fires of late, it seems almost impossible to deny that our climate is, in fact, changing, leaving paths of death and destruction in it’s wake. And guns. I suppose not guns in and of themselves. But guns without controls. Guns that end up in the hands of people who, perhaps due to mental illness or, in my less benevolent moments, are quite simply horrible, decide to use them to take away hundreds and thousands of innocent lives. Lately that’s happened a lot. Honestly, it seems not a week goes by without some natural or unnatural disaster taking place and so it’s hard. Hard to be shallow in this world of ours.

Here’s the thing. I’m sure you understand by now that even though I am a self professed shallow person, I have feelings. Just like you. Well almost. So all this stuff bothers me too. Afterall, I am not a robot. Google knows that ‘cause I always check off the “I am not a robot” CAPTCHA on their sites. Which is a good thing since, to be brutally honest, I don’t really like robots very much. As a matter of fact, I find them pretty creepy. And if I must say so myself, I’m in pretty good company with the likes of Elon Musk, and my personal fav, Dr. Sherry Turkle, weighing in on what our collective future could hold with a bunch of tin men and women walking by our sides. Ok, they might not be made of tin but, make no mistake about it, they will be walking by our sides.  

I’m guessing that for some of you this revelation may come as a bit of a surprise. Because you might expect that if anyone was going to embrace the prospect of having a companion who, for all intents and purposes, looks and feels like you and me but remains unencumbered by the complexities of the human condition, it would be me. After all, we’re talking about a facsimile that will pretty much do your bidding without batting an eyelash, which, by the way, they will have. No questions asked. No drama. No feelings to hurt. Actually, no feelings what so ever. They’ll laugh when you laugh, cry when you cry. Out of bananas? They’ll get those for you without all the whining that would normally accompany such a request to the “real” people who reside in your home. With a robot by your side you could start to think that life had become that proverbial bowl of cherries. And I’m pretty sure they’ll pit those for you too. So what’s my beef? Why would the shallow gal feel so apprehensive about what is clearly touted as the next best thing since sliced bread? Well, here’s why.

Call me crazy but somehow I don’t cherish the prospect of sharing my life with an animate, inanimate object. Especially one that has a brain programmed to learn way more than my brain ever will. I’m an adult educator. I know all about lifelong learning. But this brings that concept to a whole new level. We’re not talking just about intelligence. We’re talking about artificial intelligence. This is not computer assisted learning. This is computers actually learning. Computers that are walking around your homes, businesses, playgrounds. Yep, there too. Computers that are getting smarter and smarter every day. Certainly smarter than you and me but also smarter than the smartest people we have among us. And they’re going to look a lot like us, although they are never going to get blemishes or wrinkles or big brown spots on their faces and hands. Elon Musk is worried that robots will take away our jobs. Rightly so. They can already teach themselves how to walk and talk and very soon they will be able to do what you and I do, only much better. Sherry Turkle worries that we have become so accustomed to interacting with devices that soon we won’t know what’s real and what’s not. Nor will we care. It’s a worry for sure. But I’m worried about a couple of other things.

Like guns. Guns and robots. We all know that guns are a problem. Guns in the hands of the wrong people are a bigger problem. Guns in the hands of robots? A problem perhaps too big to imagine. Here’s a scenario for you. A robot walks into a gun shop. Asks to buy a gun. Of course they do a background check. Not a problem. Robots don’t have backgrounds. It gets the gun. Now it tells its robot friends how easy it was. They all decide this is a really good idea and do the same. Remember.  There are hundreds and hundreds of robots who are smarter than us and have no real feelings. But now they have guns. Maybe they decide they don’t like people who are not as smart as they are. Or maybe they decide they just want to have some fun. You know. Like in the movies or the video games. I don’t know about you but this seems like a big problem and a pretty good reason to not like robots very much.

But that’s not the only reason I don’t like robots. It seems to me that if anyone or anything could be more shallow than me, it would  be a robot. A really smart robot. With no feelings. Smarter and shallower than me. I’m guessing that robot would never be stumped for ideas about what to write. No matter what’s going on in this world of ours. Hmmmm. Maybe I need to give this some more thought. Under the circumstances, getting a robot to write this blog might not be such a bad idea. 

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We’ll See.

All I can say is it’s been 2 weeks and I’m not sure this is for me. Maybe it’s because I’m shallow or perhaps because I’m not shallow enough. That rather frightening thought has occurred to me over this past little while. And I say “little” with my tongue in cheek as the last 14 days have been one of the longest years of my life. Let’s get a couple of things out of the way from the start. First, I’m not implying that all of you happy retired people are shallow, although it’s possible some of you might be and there’s really nothing wrong with that if you are. Second, I’ve always  known that the hardest part of retirement isn’t about the money. It’s about figuring out what you want to do with these golden years of your life. And before everyone starts dishing out advice, yes, I did the research. Read the books. Well skimmed a few. Talked to all of my happily retired friends. Found out what they like, what they don’t like, what they do and what they don’t do. I’ve paid attention as they post one seemingly joyous status update to Facebook after another. Good God! I’ve even lived with a retired person for the past 8 years so no one can say I haven’t done my due diligence. And yet, here I sit, wondering why many people seem to spend their entire working life looking forward to the day they don’t have to work anymore.

I’ve never been one for routines. My cat has routines. My husband has routines. I just don’t. I don’t get up at the same time everyday. I don’t even have an alarm clock. Sometimes I eat breakfast, sometimes I don’t. Sometimes I get dressed when I get up, most often I don’t. When I worked, I did my work when my work needed to be done. And it’s been this way for quite a while now.

I suppose if I think back to when I was younger, it probably wasn’t the case. In those days I wasn’t seasoned enough to go about my business any which way. Younger people (at least in my day) had the disadvantage of youth. Not enough experience (or guts) to tell the old guys how things should be done. So in we came five days a week, starting at 9, working to 5 whether or not there was work to be done. If nothing else, it gave the day some structure. You knew what time you had to be up, what time you would be home again. You got hungry around 7:00 because that’s how long it took you to make dinner. You did something in the evening but not too much since that alarm of yours was going to go off bright and early the next morning. Much time was spent thinking about what you were going to do on the week-end because back then, there was a difference between weekdays and weekends.

Here’s the good thing about getting older. Some time ago I finally figured out that they needed me just an eensy bit more than I needed them. I can’t say exactly when that happened or when it will happen for you. When it does you’ll just know. You’ll start to come to work a little late and no one will say anything, even though they most certainly will notice. You’ll leave early and they won’t ask you where you’re going because they assume you have something important to do. Eventually you won’t even have to pretend you are on your way to a meeting. Before you know it you’ll add your afternoon hair appointment to your calendar, even though everyone you work with can see it. It’s then you realize you’re captain of your ship, master of your universe. You’re doing things when you want to do them. You broke the mold. Hit the jackpot. Finally, no more routines for you.

And here’s the irony of it all. It seems to me (and you can correct me if I’m wrong) that the people who are most successful at this retirement thing are those who have managed to adopt a routine for themselves. They’re the ones who get up each morning knowing pretty much how the day is going to play out. Maybe they run. Or eat a hearty breakfast. Or find some friends and go for a long morning walk. Perhaps they read the paper. I’m thinking they must make lists because it seems that whatever it is they do, they know what they are going to do next. Things fall into place. At least that’s what they tell me. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying they do the same thing each and every day.  After all, there’s not a concert in the park every day. Just every Wednesday. And on Wednesday you can bet your bottom dollar that’s where they’ll be.

I’ll let you in on a secret. I haven’t quite come to grips with my new found status in life and I’m finding this all a bit confusing.   After years of working my way out of a life of day to day routine it appears that my best bet is to go out there and find one.  I’m struggling just a little bit. Maybe I’ll write my way through this. I’ve been thinking about turning those “Prickly Pete” bedtime stories I used to tell my kids, into a series. I’ve also been thinking about writing a “Shallow Guide to Retirement”, although seems to me that might be a tad premature. I don’t know.  I’m not ready to make any commitments. For now I’m reminded of when I used to ask my Mother if something was going to happen for sure. Most often she would reply with a rather definitive “We’ll see”.  Maybe two weeks just isn’t enough time. I suppose we’ll see.

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The Cat’s Not Dead, Yet

To work or not to work. It may not be “the” question but it is a question nonetheless. And it’s one I’ve been pondering for some time now. As many of you know, I retired (apparently fake news) going on two and a half years ago. It’s true. I got the gifts and the accolades from my colleagues, which included a very public declaration of my aversion to hugging. Timely I’d say on that particularly day. I even gave a “poem speech” as I am apt to do on these type of occasions. So you would think I would have packed my bags, bid a fond adieu and rode off into the sunset. You would think. But, again as many of you know, I took a day off (actually two) and headed back to my desk, albeit in a rather distant location,where I have remained ever since. Because apparently it’s what I love to do. Work. But “the time has come to talk of other things, like shoes and ships and sealing wax” (Thanks LC). Well maybe not that. Ok, shoes. But at the very least one must talk about what to do when stepping away from the almost too familiar daily grind.

As I am wont to do at these times of indecision, I called a good ol’ friend and headed to my neighborhood watering hole (ok, you know where I went) to shoot the breeze and have someone else figure this out for me. It’s the least they can do, don’t you think? I mean I’ve pretty much worked out my life for myself to this point. I think it’s about time that someone else stepped up to the plate and took a swing at the bat. Why let fate take its course when you can plant the blame firmly on someone else? Sure. It might cost you a cuppa coffee or two but if that’s what it takes to absolve yourself of all future responsibility for the decisions you make, it’s money well spent in my book. Just think of it as an investment in your future. And so, there we sat under the blazing sun in the eternally blue skies of Alberta, talking about all things retirement.

The thing I love about retired people is how they manage to put a positive spin on just about anything. Talk to them about money. Let’s face it. More than likely, when you retire you will be living on a few less shekels than what you’ve become accustomed. I know. There are the pensions the government gives out in order to leave enough cat food on the shelves for the cats. And then there’s the dollars you have been saving for nigh on 40 years that you can now start to pry out of that wallet of yours. Nonetheless, you are still likely to come up a little bit short. But ask a retired person about living on less and, dimes to dollars, they’re going to tell you that they don’t even notice the difference. First they’ll rattle on about all of the seniors discounts that are now at your disposal. So what if you can only go to the grocery store on the first Tuesday of every month and the lines will literally be out the door? You’re retired! What else did you have to do? Then there’s those early bird specials at the local diner which are perfect, now that you will want to be home for the 6:00 news anyway. Of course clothes are no longer an issue since you can pretty much wear the same jeans and T for most everything. Afterall, who’s looking at you? And if you decide you need a new frock, just head down to the nearest Bay store, on a Tuesday of course.. At the end of this diatribe you’re absolutely convinced that, not only will you be able to avail yourself of all of the necessities of life, but should Bill Gates come knocking at your door you’ll welcome him with open arms and let him know you’ve managed to reserve a suite for he and his family at the Four Season’s. Gratis.

As important as money might be however, that’s not what you’re really worried about. You really want to know more about what’s going to get you out of bed each day. How are you going to pass all of that time now that you don’t have a whack of emails to go through, people to see, places to go. And here again they’ll pontificate on the wonder that is retirement. Somehow, and apparently this happens each and every day, you get up in the morning and before you know it, the day is done. They`re not even sure where the time goes but somehow between reading the morning paper and watching Peter Mansbridge  end the day with the nightly news (it`s a Canadian thing), time just flies by. Asking for more specifics reaps some rather vague chatter about taking walks, meeting friends for coffee, getting through the stack of books that’s managed to accumulate over dozens of years, the gratifying feeling that one gets from volunteering once a week and that continuing education photography course they should have, would have taken years ago if only they had found the time. This will all end with the now very much overused and perhaps even, somewhat trite “I don’t know how I ever had time to work” followed by what can only be described as a long sigh of gratitude that those days of tedium are over and done with.

Of course, the conversation can’t come to an end without some talk about travel. It seems to me that for most, this is really what retirement is all about. Once you’ve wrapped up the daily 9 – 5 you are apparently now free to travel the world. There are places to go, people to see.  And so it was that I sat and listened to my friend wax eloquently about the exotic destinations he’s visited, the wonderful food and wine he consumed, and the beaches he has relaxed on, with nothing better to do than sip Margaritas and watch the evening sun slip through the sky. Who could ask for anything more? So I was not surprised that when he stopped to take a well deserved breath, he noticed the look of dismay on my face. The conversation that followed went something like this:

My Friend: “What?” he said. “Have I not convinced you that this will be the best time of your life?”
Me: “Don’t get me wrong. This all sounds great.
My Friend: “What is it then? What’s the problem?”
Me: As enticing as the walking and the discounts, the coffee and Peter might be, I’m really most interested in the travelling. But, I’m afraid I’m not going to be able to do that.”
My Friend: Why not? You’re still young! You have the time, the money and the energy. What’s going to stop you now?”
Me. “Well, it’s none of those things. It’s just that the cat’s not dead yet.”

I don’t know. Maybe I better just keep working.

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