Category Archives: Instructive

Never Hug A Stranger (Revisited)

A rather strange thing has been happening over the past week. Well at first I thought it was strange but now that things have turned a corner in this world I suppose it isn’t. As you may or may not know, WordPress (they are the guys that let me write and publish this blog and to whom, in the next few days, I will once again send my 24 bucks) lets me see how many people are reading my posts and which posts they are reading. Now as you know I have a small but loyal following and I really appreciate that many of you actually click on my posts when I post them. I don’t want to bog you down with technicalities so suffice to say that typically a new post will generate views for about 3 or 4 days, with the majority coming in around 3 to 4 minutes after it goes live (as they say in the biz) and waning fairly significantly thereafter. As time marches on it is not unheard of, but rare for anyone to revisit a post from the past and to be honest, I’m pretty ok with that. I mean I don’t even revisit them so why would anyone else? 

But this week things have been different. This week, much to my surprise, there has been a veritable flurry of visits to a post I wrote quite some time ago. These hits (that’s what we bloggers call them) are coming from all around the world. Now I don’t want to blow my own horn but I’m pretty used to having my posts read by people living in places like Canada, the U.S., Britain, Switzerland and Australia. I mean I even know people in Australia so it’s not too much of a stretch to think they might give me a read once in a while. But when my reader map (yes, WordPress has that too) starts to register hits from countries like Bahrain, South Africa and Iraq well that’s when I take notice. That’s when I think something must be up. And when all of those hits are on the same post I gotta figure it’s more than a coincidence. Especially when that post is titled “Never Hug A Stranger”. If you happen to have a little time on your hands and missed it way back when, or if you just want a little reminder, feel free to take a look. The title speaks for itself. 

Now I’m the last person to indulge in self-aggrandizement because I know that people look for any port in a storm. So I’m pretty sure that my new friends from around this globe are not actually seeking the advice of a shallow person. But indeed, that’s where they landed, albeit through no fault of their own. And while I am wont to ask anyone to heed my advice or to suggest they adopt any of my idiosyncrasies this is the one time I suggest you do. While I’m never one to say “I told you so” and hindsight, as we know, is 20/20 somehow this time I sure seem to have hit the nail directly on its head. One day, if you insist, I’m sure you will be able to hug again but for now your only job is to flatten the curve. If need be send virtual hugs to everyone you know but keep those arms by your side. Chances are they won’t span the six feet you’ll need them to anyway.

There’s just one more thing. When all of this passes, and it will pass, please do me a favour and ignore my advice for just a bit. There are many, many people who are literally risking their lives to save ours. Health care workers, first responders, truck drivers, bus drivers, journalists, government workers, grocers, and a whole host of others. All of them, each and every one, deserve a hug from you, so go ahead and make both your days. With permission of course. And while you are at it, give them one from me too. 

Stay safe and be well!

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Remember the Golden Rule

If I’m going to be honest with you, I must admit I’ve never been much of a risk taker. Which doesn’t mean I haven’t taken a few bold steps in my lifetime. Like traveling 2000 miles (it was miles in those days) from my rather comfortable life in the “big city” to what some would say was a marginally habitable small metropolis (well it was in those days) located in one of the least hospitable climes of this rather large country of ours. Without any solid job prospects. In a very old car. On the cusp of winter. Ok. Now it’s starting to sound a little foolish to me. Or the time I went out on a limb and ordered a size smaller than I rightfully should have from my fav online retailer. In the end both turned out fine despite some moments of doubt and consternation along the way. But the truth is I am likely one of only a few people who resided in the “Gateway to the North” for 38 years and has never actually driven on snow and ice. And to save myself a trip to the mall I now only order what I know to be my tried and true size. Like it or not my inner self knows, and now so do you, that I am confidently risk averse. Which is not necessarily a bad thing. Especially in times like these.

These are difficult times. Shallow as I may be I would never make light of the fact that the world, and hundreds of thousands of people in it, are suffering from what appears to be a disease that, to date, is beyond our control. When entire countries shut down to try to save their citizens we know we are in serious trouble. People are scared. They are scared to travel. Scared to go to a movie theatre. Or a sports event. As of today I’m guessing many people are scared about their financial future. And they have every right to be scared. Financial markets are suffering historic losses. Cruise ships are spending days travelling up and down coastlines waiting for a green light to dock. “Social distancing” has suddenly become part of our everyday vocabulary. People are dying. Most of them our cherished elders. And as if that’s not enough, Trump is still President. If there was ever a time not to take risks this just could be it. But even me, a confirmed non-risk taker, is a little flummoxed about what I see happening around town. 

Now I know it’s important to be prepared. For anything. Let’s face it. I live on an Island that is well known to have one of our earth’s cracks running right smack down the middle. So I have to have a kit for that. As would any reasonable person. It’s nothing over the top. Just a bag with some really important stuff should the lights literally go out. What I don’t have is five years worth of black beans, rice, chocolate chip cookies (even though they are my favourites) or 20 kg bags of flour. I mean how many loaves of bread can one person bake before little crawly things invade? But apparently I must be missing something as the last time I ventured into my local grocers (and I venture in quite a lot) many of the shelves were bare. It seems that people don’t want to risk running out of just about anything. And more than anything else they clearly don’t want to run out of Purell. Or, toilet paper.

I get the reason for wanting to have some Purell on hand. Who doesn’t need a little something to freshen up after touching the ATM or accidentally putting a hand on the escalator railing? Especially now when it is so important to keep one’s hands spotlessly clean. But anyone who has ever used any type of hand sanitizer must know that this is a situation where truly a little dab’ll do ya. One squirt and you can pretty much cover the territory. Those little bottles go a long way. Just imagine what a litre of the stuff will do. So here’s my advice. Next time you are standing in front of the shelf debating whether to empty it of its contents try to remember the golden rule. Because if you leave some for me I’ll be sure to leave some for you. That way, if either one of us happens to be unlucky enough to run out of the stuff, and it is most unlikely that either of us will, we’ll be able to come back and get some more. As for all the hoopla about the toilet paper, let me just say this is a respiratory illness and leave it at that.

Oh yea. Speaking of toilet paper. A couple of weeks ago we discovered we were running low. As is always the case we decided this warranted a trip to our local Costco where we could pick up our favourite brand and a few other items while there. Driving into the parking lot it seemed like just about any other day at the big box store. But as we approached the door I did notice that an extraordinary number of people seemed to have extraordinary amounts of toilet paper in their carts. Wonderful! I thought. There must be a sale on TP right when we need it.  Making our way to the back of the store, all the while succumbing to Costco’s dastardly marketing techniques, we arrived at a rather towering display of the tissues and much to our dismay, discovered there was nothing on sale. Nonetheless, we were in need so tossed a package into our cart.

It wasn’t until later that evening while watching the news that I became aware that I was one of the lucky few who managed to wrangle a pack because apparently everyone and their dog is worried about running out. My first reaction was “OMG! What was I thinking? Why the heck didn’t I pick up a few extra when I had the chance?” Then, as everyone should do at this stage, I sat back and thought about it. That package I managed to corral has 30 hefty roles in it. Should be enough for a good long while. I think I’m just going to risk it. Maybe you should too. 

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Misery Loves Miserable Company – Or Does It?

This might not be a shallow blog. I’ll let you decide. 

Those of you who have stuck with me over the many, many years of this blog will know that I don’t indulge in what has become a yearly tradition of making promises that are, unfortunately, most often destined to be broken. Even so, I have always resolved to be as honest as possible (although it’s not always possible) with my readers so here’s something you might not have imagined about me. Hard as it might be to believe, I wasn’t always at the top of my alma mater class which, I confess, is putting it mildly. It’s not that I didn’t like university. It’s just that I liked other things better. Like sleeping. Or spending ridiculous amounts of time in the cafeteria drinking coffee. Both of which may have been the result of having an extra draft or two (afterall, they were only two bits) the night before. Admittedly, things picked up in my later years, but those first year courses. Well let’s just say I’m a little short on the details. Except for one. 

If I had to guess, and the odds are not that great given I’m about 48 more years down this road of mine, I would say that the reason I found myself sitting in a lecture theatre surrounded by 400 budding psychologists was that it was the only available course that fit my schedule, meaning I didn’t have to be “up and at ‘em” before noon. Also I had heard the professor had a wicked, dry sense of humour and a guy who thinks brain stuff is funny can’t be all bad. Beyond that, I must refrain from making any judgements about the course because I can’t honestly say I remember much. Not much, but I do remember one thing which has stuck with me through the years. What our professor explained to us, and what I remember like it was just yesterday, was that while it is common knowledge that “misery loves company” what we might be surprised to find out is that misery actually loves miserable company. At the time it was quite a revelation. One which I have come to think about more than I perhaps would like over the past few months.

Let me backtrack just a tad. If you’ve been reading lately, (and granted I haven’t been writing much lately) you’ll know that 2019 has not been a stellar year for me and my family. There was the passing of my Mother in August, the Cat in September and my Aunt in October. And just when we thought we were out of the woods, because we all know that good/bad things happen in threes, we discovered, much to our chagrin, they actually don’t. Nope. Without getting into too much detail, that husband of mine decided to bring a little more excitement into our lives, and suffice to say, I spent much of the first week in December travelling to and fro from my home to the hospital. While things are now looking up I learned almost as much from this experience as I did from that old prof of mine. About people. And their miseries.

So we’re sitting in the rather sterile basement of the “other” hospital in this little city of ours, waiting for what I think is the third CT scan of the week. Knowing how these things can go I’m ready for a longish wait, having plugged a couple of extra hours into the meter and packed my Mother’s very well stocked Kobo which, I might add, I have made quite a dent in over the past few months. I’m pretty much minding my own business when in walks another couple who, I surmise, are there for the very same reason we are. Now I’m not really one to make idle conversation with complete strangers, especially in a rather uninviting environment, but I’m not so callous as to ignore their presence altogether. With that in mind I raise my eyes from my book (which btw, I’m quite enjoying) long enough to flash a welcoming smile and toss out a polite hello. One hour later I have been apprised of not only her husband’s current unfortunate health situation, but also of her own, those of her daughter, her grandson, her son-in-law and I’m pretty sure the neighbour who lived beside her before the neighbour who lives beside her now. 

But here’s the thing. Call me shallow but the truth of the matter is I really don’t want to hear about other people’s problems simply because I have some of my own. Honestly, I would rather talk about something wonderful going on in your life. A lovely trip you have taken. Perhaps a good meal you shared with someone you love. I’ll even listen to stories about your grand kids and their rather dubious accomplishments. I promise when things get back to normal in my life I will be glad to talk about your mother-in-law’s persistent bladder infection or your sister’s upcoming knee operation. You can tell me all about the adverse reaction you had to some plant-based supplement you decided to take on the recommendation of your herbalist. I’ll be happy to listen to any and all of the problems you have. Just not right now. Because now is not a good time for that.

Later in her life my Mother who I know loved me very much, would say this, in the nicest way, whenever I called to complain to her about an ache in my shoulder or a pain in my back. She’d say: “I have enough of my own aches and pains, I don’t really need to hear about yours”.  I didn’t always get it then but I get it now. She was right. Misery actually doesn’t love miserable company. And if you ask me, that professor of mine could have learned quite a lot from my Mom.

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The Art (maybe science?) of Grocery Shopping

I learn a lot from TV. Which is a good thing since it seems to take up a significant part of my  evenings. And it’s not just the news shows I learn from. Although I do. I mean who doesn’t turn to Mr. Anderson Cooper to catch up on the ongoing shenanigans (is that too forgiving?) in those United States of America? Or Ms. Lisa Laflamme for the ones in our own country for that matter. And while I find the comings and goings of the world at large compelling, I also like to spend a little time each day with Ms. Stacy Ross and Mr. Ben O’Hara learning more about what’s going on right here in this little hometown of mine. Because it’s pretty important to know exactly which neighborhoods that recently, and frequently I might add, sighted cougar might be prowling around. The thing is, anyone who knows cougars knows that they really don’t want to find themselves face-to-face, looking into those big, green eyes, no matter how beautiful they might be. So it’s important to know. But as any shallow person can tell you, there’s more to TV than just the news and thankfully, so much more to learn.  

Take Madame Secretary for example. I know. It’s not really the White House but it could be. After all, this is a show that helps us understand how things work in the upper echelons of  government. So what if everything always seems to turn out hunky dory? That’s probably what would actually happen if politicians were better actors and could pretend they actually cared about someone other than themselves. Or how about that Amazing Race? What a way to see the world without having to spend hours waiting in lines, getting on and off planes and struggling to decipher a menu in an unfamiliar language which could result in finding oneself hungry while sadly staring at a plate of veal kidney stew. Who needs it when in the span of one hour you can travel through two, maybe three countries, visit all of the tourist highlights and more, while never having to leave the comforts of your own home. And let’s not forget that all you have to do is watch a few episodes of Survivor to learn that you never want to be stranded on a desert island with a bunch of strangers. But even though, as you can plainly see, there is much to learn from the news and the shows, there is even more to be gained from watching the commercials.

So let me tell you what I have recently learned from commercials. It seems there are now a number of services that provide people with all of the ingredients needed for an evening meal, measured out and delivered to the door, along with an easy to follow recipe. All that’s left to do is put the stuff together and presto, in just 30 minutes there’s a gourmet meal on the table. Never mind that you don’t know what an “Open-faced Halloumi sandwich” is or whether “Tofu Larb Lettuce Cups with Sticky Rice” will tickle your fancy. One way or the other you’re going to come out of this looking like a gourmet chef. Sounds perfect, doesn’t it. Unless, of course, you are me. Because, and you may know this or you may not, not only do I not cook most nights which makes this service a little redundant but, and this is the honest to god truth, I love to shop for groceries.

That’s right. Give me a fistful of flyers and a stack of reusable grocery bags and I am one happy camper. And because I know not everyone shares my enthusiasm for gathering food I thought I would take this opportunity to share some tips that just might improve the experience for you. I like to think of it as the art (maybe science) of grocery shopping. 

Tip 1: There’s some homework to do. Start with the flyers. Some online, some paper. The good news is these all come out on the same day. There’s no bad news.

Tip 2: Make some lists. As many as you need because you’ll be compiling the best deals in each of the stores. Don’t worry. No one’s going to hold your hand to the fire. You’ll find stuff in your cart that’s not on your list but nonetheless, it’s a good place to start.

Tip 3: Make a plan. You have to visit each of the stores on your lists but there’s no point going hither and yon. You’ve got a lot of ground to cover so be systematic and do your best to limit your mileage. Just remember to visit the store with the best deal on ice cream last.

Tip 4: Shop. It’s not that hard. Get yourself a cart, make your way up and down the aisles and don’t get too distracted or overwhelmed by the plethora of choices. There might be 43 flavours of Cheerios but you only need one. Make like a shallow person. Don’t dwell.

Tip 5: Check-out and pay. Remember when your Mom and/or Dad bought you that toy cash register and a bunch of fake food to go with it? You had hours of fun pretending your were a cashier and all your stuffies were your customers. Well now most stores will let you check out and bag all of your own stuff. It’s still as much fun as it was when you were a kid. Except now it’s for real.

Tip 6: Check out your savings. If you have paid attention they should be pretty substantial. Of course in some cases you might need a store savings card to get the best deals. If you don’t have one, just ask. They’ll be happy to oblige. Yes, I know they use it to track what you buy. So what! If you use the internet (and you do because you are here) privacy is pretty much a moot point for you anyway.

Tip 7: Get home, put everything away and know you’ll be able to feed yourself and whoever else you might feed for at least a little longer. And really, what could be more rewarding than that?

I know. Now you’re thinking this shallow gal has way too much time on her hands. Well that could be true. But if you ask me, it’s a whole lot better than finding an Halloumi Sandwich on my plate for dinner.

 

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Yep, It’s Cold Outside

As a shallow person you might imagine that I have mastered the art of small talk. And you would be right. To some extent at least. Honestly,  there are many times when I really don’t want to talk to anyone about anything. But when I do I can usually figure out something small to talk about. Especially these days with “45” and all of his hijinx. Can’t get much smaller than that. But there are better things to talk about. Like pets. It’s pretty easy to make small talk about a pet, particularly when you happen to have one that’s 19 years old. There’s a lot to be said about growing old no matter who/what you are. Just ask my 103 year old Mother. She’ll tell you a thing or two about it. And not that I would ever try to equate the two, but both make pretty decent conversation starters. If, of course, it’s a  conversation you actually want to start. However if, unlike me, you don’t have longevity to fall back on, evidently you can always talk about the weather. Because, it seems, that’s what Canadians (and I’m guessing) Americans do. Although, I must admit, I have never really seen the point.

It’s not that I don’t care about the weather. Anyone who knows me well knows that this sleek “do” of mine requires a fair bit of tampering and has a significant dependence on blue skies and very low humidity. Even the slightest of mists will cause these strands to go awry and there’s nothing worse (to me at least) than making my way to some fancy, shmancy party only to discover that my carefully coiffed hair has transformed into something that I’m quite sure would have made a rather comfortable home for Joey, my dearly beloved but very long ago gone, pet budgie (may he rest in peace). Suffice to say, it is very unlikely you will find me out frolicking in the rain. But other than my hairstylist, who really cares about my first world weather problems? It just seems to me that, whether we like it or not, weather simply does not make for great conversation. As a matter of fact, I find the whole notion of our collective obsession with weather rather disconcerting. For a couple of, perhaps, unrelated reasons. Let me explain.

Who doesn’t spend oodles of time watching, listening and googling weather reports?. As a regular TV news fan I see people who have selflessly dedicated their lives to showing us all manner of weather patterns each and every night. There’s maps covered in solid, dotted and dashed lines, some curving, some straight, some just going around in what appear to be endless circles. And to what end? Why on earth do I want to know that it’s sunny and 80 degrees in Florida when I am sitting on my couch, shivering under my blankets? And, as much as I hate to cast a dark cloud on their predictions, we all know that many a time the weatherperson is simply wrong. I mean who hasn’t woken up to what was supposed to be a bright and sunny day only to find the rain pouring down and, as a result, no chance you’re gonna fulfill your promise to take your ten year old nephew to the go-kart track? Somehow the prospect of seeing “The Return of Mary Poppins” just doesn’t cut it with him. Although if I must say, it is a very delightful movie and something every parent should keep in their back pocket for a rainy day. But I digress. The thing is, how helpful is it to know what the weather will be tomorrow or seven days down the road anyway? I mean in most cases, who can change their plans? It’s not like I could say, “Oh darn! Wednesday’s going to be rainy. Guess I’ll just have to stay home from work so my hair won’t get frizzy.” Besides, in this part of the world we all know you can wait 15 minutes and the weather will change. Seems to me if you really want to know what the weather’s like it’s best just to open your door and step outside. Guaranteed you’ll be 100% accurate, for that moment at least. So why, may I ask, would anyone want to talk about something as unpredictable as weather?

Not only that but, in case you missed it (icymi) people seem to treat weather as a blood sport. And I can say that having recently spent 38 years in one of the northernmost cities in this country of ours. Just try talking to me or one of my compatriots about the weather. Because, when we say “yep, it’s cold outside”, believe me, we know from where we speak. Have you ever spent an entire month getting to and from work, school, grocery shopping, and just about everywhere else knee deep in snow with temps hovering around the -40c mark? Without factoring in the wind chill? Do you know what happens to your skin, nose, ears and just about every other part of your body in that kind of cold? Have you ever looked outside your window and thought that someone had forgotten to mention you had landed on the moon? You get the drift. When someone from this little Island of mine complains about a chill in the air ‘cause the temps have uncharacteristically fallen slightly below the freezing point you can bet your bottom dollar I’ll call, raise them 50 bucks and take the pot on this hand.  Seems to me there’s a lot of one-upmanship going on when it comes to weather and who knows what kind of trouble that can lead to? There’s a pretty good chance that amidst all of your chin wagging about the cold you’re going to run into a climate change denier and I, for one, don’t want to be around when the resulting mayhem ensues. Which is why it seems to me that it’s best to avoid the weather topic altogether.

So for this season of light, joy and happiness take my advice and do your best to talk about anything but the weather. If you’re at your wit’s end about what to say you can always revisit my blog. With a few notable exceptions I’ve pretty much provided you with 5 good years worth of topics. Think of it as my little holiday gift to you. You’re welcome.

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