Rewarding a job well done

‘Tipping’ is the act of rewarding a job well done, monetarily, and I’m all for random acts of generosity when warranted, but lately I find  myself wondering if these acts are truly earned or simply expected.

When presented with a bill for service we are now given the ‘choice’ of tipping a fixed percentage (15%, 20%) or a dollar amount, and rarely is there an option for no tip. Now it’s not very often I would opt for no tip. I have no problem acknowledging exceptional service, and I can on occasion be very generous when met with quality work but is it really my responsibility to acknowledge it? Who’s benefiting the most here? And I especially take issue with restaurants that build in the tip to their bill so we have no choice. Who are they to decide if I will be happy with the service?

A waiter or waitress in a restaurant is hired to provide good customer service and as a patron I should expect no less – I am paying for it. As I understand it most wait staff are poorly paid, i.e. minimum wage; the expectation for better income is via tips, taking the onus, and the expense, off the owner. How fair is that? As the owner of a business isn’t it their responsibility to ensure their employees provide good customer service? And in doing so does that not improve the business and thereby the owners profit from it? That being the case, why aren’t the owners ‘rewarding’ their staff? They’re the ones reaping the benefit. If an owner has an employee who goes above and beyond, the owner should be rewarding them, not his patrons.

For that matter I struggle with the whole ‘pooled’ tips system many restaurants mandate. All tips are effectively pooled then divided evenly between ALL staff, including those who do not have direct contact with customers. Again, aren’t these employees the responsibility of the owner? Hire the right people, pay them a fair wage, and reward premium performance when warranted. Don’t dump that financial obligation on your patrons. We don’t have a say in who you hire so why make us pay them?  Isn’t it enough that we keep coming back to your establishment because YOU (the owner) are profiting every time we do. And where’s the incentive for an employee to go that extra mile in this scenario? The employee who does half the work, without a smile will still get their ‘cut’ of the pooled tips, so why work harder? Let the others do it.

I also struggle with the blatant expectation of a tip in a self-serve environment. Coffee houses put their tip jars front and centre where no one can miss it, but what is it for? The employee presses a button and passes the coffee to the customer. We put in our own cream, sugar, and apply the lid, so what did they do that warrants payment over and above their salary. Where specialty coffees are prepared, the employees need to put in a little more effort, but HEEEELLOOOOO,,,,that’s their job. And if they’re really good at it, shouldn’t the owner be rewarding them? (it’s not like we don’t already pay a fortune for the coffee)

I’m all for improving the base wage for those who serve the public (because the public isn’t always easy to serve) but I believe the responsibility of paying a fare wage lies with the owner and it’s a copout to dump that expense on your patrons. As for tipping, I still support it where earned, but ALL proceeds should go to the employee who earned them. I’m sure your kitchen staff and cleaning staff do a fine job but you as the owner have the responsibility to pay them, and that includes any bonuses related to premium performance. In turn you’ll have happier staff who have a vested interest in helping your business succeed.


Where’s my entourage?

We women have to stick together. It’s the code of the sisterhood. (thou shalt not neglect thine sister, remember?) We do not leave our friends at a bar. We do not leave their drinks unattended. And we do not give them an honest opinion about their body. (probably because they’ll reciprocate with an honest opinion about ours) They are never wrong…it’s the other guys fault, always, and they are NOT just like their mother.

We ALWAYS tell them when there’s food in their teeth, why the guy ditched them, and when it’s time to call their mother. We also NEVER remind them of stupid things they’ve done.

Unlike men, women have a code of conduct that ensures no embarrassing moments. It’s the unwritten rule that protects us from society’s criticisms (ok, our criticisms….women really are the worst for dissecting each other)

Last year when my son got married I experienced such a ‘moment’. Just after the ceremony I dashed to the washroom to empty out the 2 glasses of wine I’d slugged back before the speeches started. I hiked up my dress, did what was needed, then stepped to the sink to wash my hands. I felt something wet slap the back of my legs and looked back to see that the chiffon cape attached to the back of my dress was soaked. Apparently when I hiked up my skirt I missed grabbing that piece and it was dunked into the toilet (OMG, I peed on my cape!) Well isn’t that lovely? Mother of the groom.

I could hear the speeches starting up so desperate I yanked the cape to the front, washed it in the sink, then held it up in front of the hand dryer for what seemed like an eternity. Finally it was dry and appeared to be stain free so I flew back out to enjoy the wedding. (getting that dress to a dry cleaner was my first priority after that weekend) I was mortified at my clumsiness but thanks to the 2 glasses of wine from earlier, not as discreet as I probably should’ve been. Upon exiting the washroom I bumped into the mother of the bride (who’d managed to keep her dress pee-free…show off) and she roared! She also told her sisters who were standing nearby and we all had a good laugh.

A year passed and I happened to bump into these women at another function and one of them reminded me of my little ‘accident’. (I had completely forgotten about it but thanked her for the memory) We laughed all over again, just in fun because that’s what our entourage does. Protects us, laughs with us (never at) and, going forward, holds up our dress when we have to pee.

the sisterhood

Food, glorious fooooood!

Food, I love it. All of it. (ok, not liver…..there’s something seriously disturbing about liver,,,and eggplant, ghastly stuff!) But those aside, I love food, cooking it, eating it, offering it. Food really is one of life’s greatest pleasures.

There’s nothing quite like a juicy steak served with potato smothered in sour cream, and green beans, or poached salmon with rice and asparagus, or how about a fresh salad, crunchy and flavourful….and never have we had access to a better array of food; fresh, frozen, organic, homemade, fat free, sugar free (ok, scratch those last two if you want any flavor) but you get my drift. Enjoying the earth’s bounty is a gift…..and I plan to enjoy every mouthful before I die.

Now I am very health conscious. I honestly eat 5-10 servings of fresh fruits and vegetables every day but that doesn’t come cheap. Eating healthy costs more than living on fast food and prepared meals, and it takes discipline. That said, I’m only human and not beyond falling into temptation. I like my potato chips every so often – we all crave junk food some times. And I’m fairly certain that chocolate covered cherries are a necessary part of my healthy eating regimen. (If they weren’t how are they constantly appearing in my mouth?)

Some foods are easier to prepare than others, especially those you like. Personally, I’m a noodle lover. Boil me up some egg noodles topped with sour cream and I’ll follow you anywhere (and homemade noodles are by far the best!) And while I love fresh salads, I have to set some boundaries about what does and doesn’t qualify as ‘salad greens’. Kale and cabbage are NOT among those that qualify. Both are tasty and make wonderful additives to salads (in small doses) but any salad that contains only kale or only cabbage is guaranteed to be a workout. I once ordered a kale Cesar salad at a restaurant and couldn’t get through it (And I never leave a plate empty) Every mouthful took so long to chew my jaw eventually started to ache so I had to abandon it….I just got tired of chewing (That’s one good way to diet I guess) It also doesn’t have a lot of flavor, whereas a variety of lettuces seem to pack their own unique taste (or maybe they just absorb the dressing better)

I love a hearty lumberjack’s breakfast complete with bacon, eggs and toast, and I never underestimate the value of a nice thick slice of salami…any time….it’s just good for the soul.

Now I’m not knocking fast food or dissing the restaurant industry, both have their place is society’s eating routines. Sometimes that slice of pizza hits the spot when you’re on the run, and never discount the role of the almighty french fry, humanity is hooked on them, and the more crap you pile onto them (cheese, gravy, mayo….) the better. I think we need to limit these foods because they offer no nutritional value and, thanks to a host of preservatives and artificial flavours, they also pack on the pounds. But limiting them isn’t easy. If you’re single it’s not motivating to cook for one. If you’re tired from working all day, you just want fast and easy. And if you just don’t like to cook, you probably aren’t very good at it, so why bother? (Fortunately for me, I love to cook…ok, probably because I love to eat)

I guess I believe that anything is good, in moderation and this is where we fall apart in society. We tend to binge, then we seek out extreme diets that eliminate sugars, flours, starches,,,,anything that adds pounds, when really if we just ate everything we wanted in moderation, we’d probably be ok. The occasional indulgence of our junky treats, or the overindulgence that comes with holidays and gatherings, would balance out when we return to our moderate eating…… assuming we DO return to it. Seems like there’s more and more fast food restaurants opening up and more prepared foods accompanying our kids to school, and this is where we need the change, or rather the discipline.

I guess at the end of the day it all comes down to personal preference and what each one of us is willing to do for our eating habits. Good food costs, a lot. And good cooking takes practice and time and desire, and that’s a big commitment, cause if you don’t like it or don’t do it well, you’ll have wasted the effort and the money. I maintain that a healthy balance of both worlds will keep both the conscience and the body happy so I’m ok with occasionally washing my healthy salad down with a glass of red wine and a side order of fries. I like the good stuff, and I allow the bad stuff some times, and for the moment, the food Gods appear to be happy with me…so who am I to mess with a good thing?

Food eating.png

The ‘Man cold’….it could be terminal, but for who?

Why is it when men get sick it’s a monumental event? They never seem to get the common cold, no no, it’s always borderline pneumonia. They lay themselves across the bed like they’re preparing for burial, yet they’ve no detectable fever and they have a surprisingly robust appetite for one so gravely ill….seems they just can’t get up to eat it. It has to be served, in their sick bed, next to the remote control.

My darling husband had such a bout recently, the poor baby. He woke up Saturday morning with a scratchy throat….and the voice (suitably enhanced) to go with it. There were no other symptoms, he just felt poorly for three days (the same three days that preempted him from golfing due to inclement weather…how’s that for lucky timing?) We had some prearranged family functions that he had to attend over the course of his illness and he managed them stoically, steadily making his way through the lovely meals and snacks, and partaking happily of the offered libations (for medicinal purposes, of course) Unfortunately he was much too weak to finish mowing the back yard, or take out the garbage, or fold the laundry.

And when the cable on our bedroom tv went on the fritz he barely made it to the lazy-boy chair in the family room in time for the hockey game. (thank goodness he was able to muster up the strength)  Of course once there, he collapsed into the chair unable to make his own drink. I even had to get his peanuts for him, poor baby. (Oh I do hope he survives this!!!!)

Ok Buster, here’s a reality check.

When the wife and mother gets the flu she has two options; 1) get over it, pronto, or 2) deal with it….and don’t let it interfere with any household routine, i.e. you still cook the meals, do the laundry, get the kids to school or hockey or ballet or whatever, you put out the garbage, buy the groceries, pack the lunches, clean the house and, like most women today, go to work full time. Taking time off for illness is not an option. (could that be why women live longer? We stay more active, we engage more on a daily basis…mmmm, food for thought)

Yesterday we had an appointment to get the snow tires put on our car, and he was deathly ill, could barely lift his head from the pillow. So I rearranged some appointments I had and took the car in, but only after bringing him his breakfast and cold medicine in bed. A few hours later I returned to find he was gone. The weather after three days had finally cleared so he went to the driving range to practice for his upcoming golf trip with the boys, the one scheduled for tomorrow in fact. I was afraid he’d have to cancel but wow! I’m happy so to report that my darling made a miraculous recovery and just in time. How lucky is that???

Why just a couple of hours ago he scarfed down two slices of pizza, a small of salad, (at my insistence) two rye and gingers, a bowl of peanuts, and a pack of M & M’s, then practically leapt out the front door to meet his ride….it’s card night with the boys.

What is it that motivates men to play up their illnesses? Is it that they need occasional validation that we’ll continue to look after them or just a deep seated desire to take a break and play helpless? And all men do it. The ‘man cold’ is legendary and I’ve yet to meet a woman who hasn’t fallen victim to nursing the ‘man cold’.

Now, there’s a case to be heard for males having a weaker respiratory system; they ‘feel’ the symptoms of a flu more deeply, and it apparently lasts longer for males. (who made these findings…a male?) Personally, I think it’s all in the head. We ALL get viruses, and flu’s, and colds, and how we deal with that is individual. I suspect the mother instinct in women kicks in so we just take on the role of caregiver, and men love that attention. (how stupid are we?) On the other hand they do succumb to the simplest of ailments; it’s like they have no fight in them, especially as they age. Women, on the other hand, tough it out because life goes on and indulging illness is not an option, ever. As a result, we become stronger, more resilient, hence our longevity.

Thank God women live longer. It’s the only break we get!

Man Cold

Halloween, I really hate it…I think

Or maybe it’s not the actual holiday I hate, rather the ritual of going door to door amassing junk food. Every year I dread October 31st because I just don’t think we’re doing it right.

Now I’m no grouch. I love to see kids have fun. I carve a pumpkin. I buy the candy. I praise each child on how wonderful their costume is, and I wish them all a fun night. I guess what I struggle with is here is what kind of ‘fun’ are they really having? The excitement of dressing up and enjoying the company of friends doesn’t necessarily need the ritual of going door to door collecting candy. Kids of all ages can gather, in costume, and celebrate Halloween in the safety of someone’s home, and any food items acquired there likely don’t need the scrutiny checks parents employ for treats obtained from strangers’ houses.

When I was young we made our costumes and they were not expensive. We used what we had, added some imagination, and presto, we took on a new identity for a day! When I was 19 and working full time, our office decided we’d all dress up for Halloween one year. I was Minnie Mouse and I made the costume myself, black tights with a tail sticking out from under my short red polka dot skirt and the mouse ears complete with a big red bow. Unfortunately, early in the day my tail accidentally dipped into the toilet (I’m not used to peeing with a tail) and before I realized it I flushed and the water pressure was so strong it ripped the tail right out of my tights. OK, it was only attached with a safety pin, but still, that’s some water pressure! (Fortunately my skirt covered the gaping hole in my tights but it didn’t protect me from the draft that would plague me the rest of the day).

Now parents buy costumes for their kids, so no work and no imagination is required. How uninspiring. There was a time when homemade treats were the norm; rice crispy squares, homemade cookies, apples…and kids were thrilled with those. Then a few psycho’s thought it would be fun to ‘tamper’ with treats, sticking pins or razor blades in them (You know you could just turn off your lights and not participate. Why hurt an innocent kid just because you’re nuts?) so parents had to start culling their children’s treats, tossing anything that was ‘homemade’ or not ‘sealed’ for security. Are we still having fun?

I think in a society where child obesity is on the rise we could probably do without a shopping bag full of chemically laden sugary treats. Maybe parents could host a little gathering for their children’s friends. Let them dress up; encourage them to ‘make their own costume’, in fact, make it a prerequisite. It’s amazing how much fun a kid can have when their creative juices start to flow. And coordinate with each parent to contribute one treat so they each get a bag of goodies, and let them go nuts. If they want to eat the whole bag in a night, even better. It gets it over with, and limiting their loot ensures they don’t have a steady diet of junk for the next two weeks.

Even our changing weather patterns have had an impact on the trick or treating ritual. Days are shorter, so it’s already dark to start with and this poses a safety risk for children, i.e. drivers need to be on high alert. And Halloween often comes with cool, even damp weather, forcing kids to wear plastic bags over their costumes to stay dry. How fun is that?

I know of some people who don’t want the constant visitors at their door so they simply place a big bowl of treats on their front step with a sign that says ‘help yourself’. (Is there any kid out there who can be trusted with the honour system when it comes to candy?) Isn’t it time for change?

As I mentioned earlier, I am not a scrooge when it comes to Halloween, because I don’t want to disappoint any kids. They deserve to go a little wild one day a year but I think we could find better ways to indulge them. Let’s poll our kids to see what they’d prefer – I’m betting they’d opt for something a little simpler. In the interim, I will continue to host the holiday with enthusiasm (even when I don’t feel it) because I don’t want to spoil the fun. But no one, and I mean NO ONE is happier than I when 8:00pm strikes on October 31st cause that’s when I toss those pumpkins into the composter, turn off my lights, and settle in with a glass of wine to enjoy MY treats.


Boys and their toys

My husband is an average guy. Like most men he helps around the house, minimally, (I have to tell him when it’s time to vacuum because apparently until I do he can’t see any dirt).  He doesn’t really cook except to make croutons, which is an excruciating process that takes over half my kitchen. He does however, do dishes (I think he sees it as the price he pays for food)  He’s never cleaned a bathroom in his life and likely never will but he does help with the laundry,,,,except folding fitted bed sheets,,,,they really confuse him, so he just rolls them into a big ball and leaves them for me.

In short I’d say he’s pretty typical,,,,until it comes to his ‘toys’, the favourite being golf toys, balls specifically. He can’t have enough. My garage holds all the things you’d expect to find in a garage, buckets, tires, tools, holiday lights, shovels, gardening equipment, etc. The only difference is all of these things have golf balls in them. There’s shoe boxes without shoes, rubber boots and grocery bags full of golf balls, flower pots full of,,,not flowers, wait for it,,,,golf balls. I hazard a conservative guess that there’s well over a thousand golf balls stashed in my garage and it doesn’t end there.

When I was hosting the rehearsal dinner for my sons wedding I had ordered 13 rotisserie chickens. When I picked them I made sure to clear out the trunk of my husbands car so I could line them all up flat across the trunk to ensure there was no risk of them over turning. While driving home with my cargo I heard a whoosh and thumping coming from the trunk but I disregarded it because I knew I’d cleared everything out. When I got home and opened the trunk my chickens were covered in a sea of golf balls. Unbeknownst to me there’s a hidden shelf in the upper back of my husbands car where he stashed dozens of balls, all of which came cascading onto my chickens.

Now I’ve indulged my darling this little fetish because until very recently it never posed any real threat to his safety, it was just weird. (did I mention that he periodically pulls some of his stash out and washes them? He spreads them out to dry all over my kitchen counter then neatly loads them all back into boxes, boots, pots, bags, whatever, and stuffs them back into the garage, or the closets, or the trunk of his car….this guy’s certifiable)

Anyway, recently we were visiting family in Toronto, where he returns once a year to play his home course (I visit with family and friends, which is what most sane people do on vacation) and it was here that his compulsion for collecting golf balls finally posed a risk to his safety.

After playing 18 holes of golf, my husband decided to play another few holes alone and while he rounded the course hitting his balls he scoured the rough for any stray balls to add to his collection (because the thousand balls he has aren’t enough) Eventually he came to a riverbank where he spied a plethora of balls shimmering in the river bed,,,,JACKPOT! No one was around so he felt courageous (or stupid) and decided to brave the currents.

Now I should preface this by noting that the day before we had had a heavy downpour so the river was higher than normal and fast flowing. This would typically cause one to take caution but my husbands obsession with getting those balls over ruled any logic, so he approached the riverbank. Clutching 3 golf clubs in one hand he stepped onto a patch of tall grass,,,at least that’s what he thought it was. Turns out the tall river grass had flattened down from the weight of the rain water and when he stepped onto it he quickly realized there was nothing below, i.e., no ground. Falling forward into his empty step he toppled head over heels into the river. Panicking he focused only on righting himself so that he could get above the water and stand, and when he did he was minus his glasses and one of the three golf clubs he was holding (the latter was a bigger concern to him because it was ‘his new wedge’) He also injured the tendons of his hand, the one clutching his clubs (because holding on to his prescription glasses wouldn’t occur to him)

Now, like most, he was shaken by the events, but not enough to deter him. He gave up on the notion of getting the balls in the water, and his glasses were long gone with the current, but clutching his two remaining clubs he made his way to the edge of the river and climbed out. Soaked through and muddy he did what any normal male would do,,,,,he went back onto the green and finished up his hole.

Eventually he squirshed his way back up to the clubhouse ignoring the curious stares, where he showered and changed into dry clothes. He recounted the tale to a few golf buddies in the clubhouse and mentioned to the boys in the pro shop that he’d lost his new wedge (the fact that he couldn’t see three feet in front of him without glasses was irrelevant) and pitifully showed them his injured hand.

Later that day he was to meet me at my fathers’ house for dinner but it’s hard to drive when you can’t see, so he took the public transit, groping his way to my fathers’ where he once again recited his tale. I pointed out that he was lucky he didn’t hit his head in the tumble and knock himself out – he could’ve surely drowned in that river,,,, but he was till stewing over the lost wedge and concerned that his injured tendons would now affect his grip.

Now this tale does have a happy ending in that we were able to have his old glasses couriered to us (thanks to a kind neighbor who was more than happy to help after she stopped laughing) so he could once again drive. And his missing wedge had been fished out of the river at some point and anonymously returned to his golf bag, so you would think that in all this he would’ve learned a lesson. This could’ve ended very differently, tragically, and it should’ve been a wake-up call, but it wasn’t. Only days after we’d returned home he was out on the course, looking for stray balls in the woods. It would appear that a boy and his balls are never parted, for long. Now a rational mind????? Apparently that was left in the river!


Political ‘slurling’

We are in the midst of a federal election.  I am not as interested in politics, as I should be, I suppose. I just don’t get it….and I really don’t want to, but like it or not, I am exposed to a healthy dose of our political climate for the duration of the election. (which is too bloody long!) So, fine, I listen. And I do honestly try to keep an open mind because this is important (at least that’s what my husband says)  and  (apparently) I have a voice, so I listen. But what I see and hear is never what I expect. Please, help me here, because I’m so clearly missing something. (and I’m missing all my favourite tv shows for these blowhards airtime!)

Every commercial I see features a party leader depicting their ‘vision’ for us, for our country, and how they, as a leader  will ‘bring us to the threshold of success, locally and globally’…, no  wait, that’s not it. It should be it, but instead what I see is the start of the temper tantrum.

In the one hour taping, each candidate is allotted a fixed number of minutes to speak their piece, then the microphone is turned over to the commentator who summarizes the events, after which one opponent is declared the ‘leader’ of this particular debate. Sounds fair enough….but this sophisticated plateau rapidly loses ground as soon as the horses are out of the gate.

The first opponent takes the mic and from the minute he opens his/her mouth the political ‘slurling’ starts. (ok, I made that word up,,,,SLURLING. It’s a combination of political ‘slurs’ and ‘hurling’, ,,,’slurling’… pretty good huh?) Anyway, whatever we call it, it happens. The candidates spend all their time trashing their opponents, their platforms, their projected policies, etc. Their committees spend every waking minute searching the archives, public meetings (birthday parties, funerals, who knows where they’d stop) looking for ‘dirt’ on their opponent. And invariably they find something because we are all, at one time, young and stupid, and we do things, we say things, recklessly…..innocently, naively, but that doesn’t matter anymore, because only now is it relevant.

I endure the entire debate (painfully) because I know it’s my duty as a citizen to make an informed decision on election day as to who will represent my interests and the interests of my country going forward. (isn’t it enough I have to endure their commercials?)

Weeks have passed and the political ‘slurling’ has ramped up because when the public do not respond as expected to whatever sordid story the opponent has dug up, they just go deeper. They’ll find more dirt, and if it isn’t dirty enough, they’ll ‘re-interpret’ it on behalf of the public (because we’re so stupid?) No, in defense of the public! And the message here is clear,,,,, if we vote for this candidate, we’d have to be morons.

Does anyone understand my confusion here? I would love to trust, respect, support and revere my political representative. Just find me one worthy of it.

Why do they have to come out slinging accusations instead of boasting about their own accomplishments?  (could it be they have none?)

Why can they not spend valuable publicity time enthusiastically listing the many attributes of their platform, instead tearing down the platform of their opponents? (could it be the opponents have something better to offer and they feel threatened by it???) Just imagine a candidate laying out his proposed agenda and his opponent, saying “Wow, what a great idea…wish I’d thought of that!” or “Hey, let’s work together on this for the benefit of all our fellow countrymen!”  It’ll never happen.

Do they think we are so gullible that we would take what they say at face value? When these candidates look out at their audience during these debates, hurling their accusations against the opponents, do they see ‘stupid’ stamped on our foreheads?

I suppose the political campaign agenda has been long since established. Offer the world, i.e., spew the crap,  knowing you won’t deliver,,,, just say what you have to say to get into office. Once there, dodge all historical issues or any with long term commitments, i.e. do only what makes you look good for the duration of your term….until your next big promotion. Beyond that, just smile pretty for every photo opp.

Now, after the debates I honestly thought I’d vote for the candidate who took the higher road, the dignified one. Unfortunately there wasn’t any because at the end of the day, when the politician smells defeat, they pull out the big guns and that’s when it really gets ugly.

Why would anyone go into politics?

Political slurling

The Four Seasons

Let me begin by clarifying that this blog is in no way about the famous American pop band of the same name. When I talk about the four seasons here I refer to the seasons of life, my life, and because I live in Canada where four seasons of weather occur, I draw on each as a metaphor of sorts.

In the spring of our lives, between birth and age 25 years, we are exploring. Everything is new and exciting, and we embrace each experience with wonder and awe. Just like the new spring blossoms, we are pure and unblemished and beautiful, and the future holds only promise and optimism because youth is beautiful. (I relate this to my childhood where I recall discovering games and school and friends. I played, I skipped, and I loved to sing. I was of average size with very straight blonde hair (it was natural ly blonde then) and I loved my family. My teen years were uneventful, unlike many.  I did not experiment with drugs or alcohol, nor did I break curfews. In short I was a meek and mild young girl content to follow the rules. (my sister was a challenging teen so I guess I figured that was enough for my parents) Home was safe and secure and life was good)

In the summer of our lives, from 26 to 50 years, we experiment with the innocence  of our spring. We are brave and independent, setting lofty goals with confidence because we can conquer anything.  We succeed, sometimes we fail. We evaluate what we want out of life, set priorities then hone our skills to forge ahead on our chosen path. We are still somewhat  ‘green’, like the summer leaves, in that we’ve physically peaked but there is still much room for trial and error and mental growth and maturity. We are confident, cocky even, because we think we know it all, and unlike the spring of our lives our appearance now reflects the wear and tear; no longer pure and unblemished but still beautiful because we are strong and dynamic. (Now this is the season of life I found most challenging. I chose my career path (actually my mother chose it for me – she was quite overbearing,,,,but I digress) Let’s say I ‘accepted’ my chosen career path. I found my partner in life, and I grew a spine. No longer meek and mild I started speaking up for myself,,,, maybe too much? (my husband would say I never shut up) Tired of straight hair I experimented with new looks, perming my hair until it frizzed like a giant brillo pad and restoring my ‘natural’ blonde hair colour. I worked hard and played harder and by the end of my summer my appearance clearly reflected my wear and tear. A little older, a few lines on my face and pounds on my middle, and not always as confident as my cocky exterior displayed, I strutted my stuff. Sometimes I had to face my own shortcomings and much as I initially resisted, by the late summer of my life I found it easier to come clean,,,,and life was good)

In the autumn of our lives, between 51 and 75, (that’s where I am now) we take stock of all we’ve learned. We reflect and sometimes regret the impetuousness of our youth. Most importantly we accept and forgive because by now the cockiness has left us and we now see ourselves more clearly, not always perfect, and honest enough to admit it. Like the autumn leaves we now bear the scars of lessons learned along the way in a colourful display that proudly declares that we’ve finally come in to our own and we’re ok with it.  We now know what we want out of life and we boldly go for it but we tread lightly now because physically we are weakening. (I have found the fall of my life to be the most gratifying to date. I take pride in all I’ve accomplished and let go of regret. Instead of judging or criticizing others, I now laugh at their uniqueness, and you know, that’s very freeing. (Why didn’t I do this sooner?) I stopped stressing over what I haven’t done and celebrate what I have. I accepted, finally, that my hair is painfully straight and gave up trying to force it to curl (I think it’s because I was distracted by all the grey that was now peppering my ‘natural’ blonde) I let the dust in my house collect because I’d rather spend my time laughing in the company of others. And most importantly, I found my spiritual side. Life has a deeper meaning. Like the typical fall colours, I am now brave enough to sport flaming red lipstick and leopard print pants because they’re fun and what others think really doesn’t matter anymore – this is me, and life is not just good, it’s better)

In the winter of our lives, from ages 76 to 100, (should we live that long) we seek reconciliation. Life has given us many opportunities and we acknowledge how we managed them, honestly. We share our hard earned wisdom with those younger than us hoping they won’t make the same mistakes but knowing full well each has a path to walk, and many are laden with hurdles. We no longer regret, rather we span our seasons with gratitude accepting that which we acquired along the way, good or bad. And like the winter, so drab and colourless, we are wrinkled and tired, still beautiful but in a different way. No longer are we strong of body but our wisdom is now matured thanks to the experiences from the spring, summer and fall of our lives. We are, for all purposes, complete and perfect, and we finally see clearly our reason for being here. We find and reflect inner peace, taking our due position in our communities as respected elders. (too bad we had to wait so long, huh?) We have earned this. (frankly, I can hardly wait to reach the winter of my life cause when I do I’m not doing a damn thing! I’m gonna sit back and enjoy the fruits of my labour. I’ll still sport outrageous outfits (maybe more so?) I will speak my mind and let you work for me because I spent a life time working for you. In short, this wrinkled old lady is gonna ride what’s left of her roller coaster ride with gusto,,,,,just try to stop me! There may be snow on the rooftop but there will always be a fiery spirit in the hearth)

And just like the four seasons we have come full circle, and if we are fortunate enough to make it through all four with our noodles in tact we will have fulfilled our life’s purpose. We came in the spring and played. We grew and learned in the summer. We reconciled in the fall. And in the winter we accepted with gratitude all that we’ve experienced. Truth told, it goes by fast so don’t close your eyes for too long lest you miss an important season. Life is good… very good!

four seasons

Yoga Revisited

The benefits of yoga and meditation are broadly advertised and the routine is rapidly gaining popularity as a busy population realizes that the practice of calming the mind really does improve your life.

I originally tried yoga a number of years ago on the advice of my physician. She said it would help regulate my blood pressure and ease the stiffness I would invariably encounter with arthritis and aging. (we’re all gonna have this) At the time yoga was trendy. Studios were on every corner and yoga ‘gear’ was widely available. The issue for me, was twofold.  The first was time. Yoga and meditation require us to slow down; each practice requires no less than 40-60 minutes of complete focus and surrender and I found it difficult to allow myself that down time. I’m a doer and if I’m not ‘doing’ something I feel as though I am not productive and being non-productive, in my opinion is being idle, and idle is not in my DNA.

Secondly, I struggled with the average age in most yoga classes, i.e., I was always the oldest in the group by a good 20 years and therefore the least flexible. I couldn’t keep up, and because I was often the only one who couldn’t, the instructors catered the routine to the majority. I went less and less often until I just eventually stopped going altogether.

Ever since I last tried (then abandoned) yoga I’ve struggled with the aches and pains typical of my age, then about a year ago, while on vacation, I noticed a gentleman, a few years older than I practicing his yoga on the beach, unconcerned about who might be watching. This impressed me so I dug a little deeper into my own psyche to find out why. I researched the practice of yoga and meditation and it turns out it’s a very individual spiritual and physical practice. There’s no ‘team’ effort required, or desired and it’s in no one else’s interest how well you do it, or if you do it for that matter. This fellow was oblivious to any spectators nor did he care, and the spectators,,,,,well, they didn’t seem interested either. (ok, now we’re getting somewhere)

One of the things I felt uncomfortable about in group yoga classes was my obvious lack of finesse. I couldn’t manage most of the poses and when I tried I couldn’t contain the gasps or groans that accompanied my efforts. I was self-conscious and felt on display in a very unflattering way.

Then about a year ago, after a strained muscle in my lower back literally laid me up for weeks, I decided something had to change if I was to enjoy life over 30. (ok, well over 30) I’ve always been active so it wasn’t lack of exercise that plagued me. What I needed I realized, was a routine that focused solely on flexibility, and this could only be achieved through a disciplined practice of focus and intention.  This would require patience (which is not my forte) In short, I had to revisit yoga.

The trendier yoga studios that once peppered every street corner eventually closed, leaving only a few that advertised a variety of classes, from beginner, to yoga for seniors, and everything in between. I searched out studios near me, read up on their founders and reputation, then bought a 1 month pass. I was relieved to see a number of people in my age range in the first class, (actually, there was a couple noticeably older) and even more relieved to see that their mobility, like mine, was limited. The instructor guided each move in a very broad sense, constantly stressing that we should work within our own limitations. She focused on breathing techniques to work through difficult poses and offered numerous variations to each pose that ensured anyone, regardless of ability, was included in the class. After the 1 hour session  I felt limber, light even, and I vowed to return the next day for another class.  (amazing what a good instructor can do)

Over the next few months I attended a variety of classes and experimented with the different instructors. Some are much tougher than others and ask you to push your limits, but always in an encouraging and supportive way. And at the end of each class we are reminded to slow our breathing and focus our intention inward, and in doing so we unconsciously prioritize our daily lives. If you truly embrace the practice of mindfulness you will reap enormous gratification from every activity, every day.

My blood pressure is regulated. I can bend over to tie my shoes without straining. I sleep like a rock and no longer wake with stiff joints. But most importantly I see things differently. People and events have a deeper meaning because I no longer simply scan life. Yoga has disciplined me to read the emotion and participate fully in each encounter. I take the time to stop and listen, to appreciate, and this in itself is the greatest feat because the hardest thing for me was slowing myself down. I guess I realized that rushing through life would only bring me closer to death and I’m not ready for that.

Now I don’t want to preach, nor am I on a mission to recruit anyone. I just want to share a valuable life lesson because I wish I’d found this practice sooner. I still can’t do all the poses and likely never will. I still unwittingly groan or gasp in class, but I note I am not alone. I also note nobody notices or cares, so focused are they on their own practice. Yoga is a lifestyle, one I advocate hugely. Love yourself enough to embrace the practice of yoga and meditation. You’ll be so glad you did!

Yoga revisited

The Book Club

I’ve always liked the idea of a book club but I never got invited to join one (could it be my company is not as sought after as I thought?) so I decided to start my own. I scouted out friends and neighbours whose company I enjoy and who I believed would enjoy such a gathering. I selected a book, and sent my email invitation to all 8 participants. (I wanted to keep it small and intimate) Our first meeting was this past week and it was a great success! (I think) Two members were unavailable for this first meeting, but that’s to be expected – there’s bound to be conflicts when you’re trying to coordinate numerous schedules.

On the day of our meeting I stocked up on the essentials; wine and cheese, then waited for my fellow bookworms to arrive. I wasn’t sure what to expect.  Is there an agenda to these things? What are the rules around hosting a book club meeting? I read the book and bought the wine – isn’t that enough?

One by one my friends started arriving and with each addition, the volume of voices increased until my kitchen was alive with chatter and laughter. Some brought their book, along with notes they’d made for discussion (gotta love a keener!) others immediately launched into a hearty debate about who did what, and why the author was remiss in certain details. Two members bought the book but hadn’t yet read it so they just sipped their wine quietly until the subject moved to another topic, which it invariably did throughout the night.

Even Jesus made an appearance….yes, Jesus. He crashed my party! One member, a lovely woman of very strong catholic faith kept trying to find connections between the book and the bible but since she was one of the two who hadn’t read the book she struggled to convince us. (Ok, it didn’t help that we had two atheists in the crowd) Maybe if Jesus had read the book?

Our conversations strayed constantly. Who’s having their kitchen redone, why is the neighbours garbage still at the curb after being rejected 3 weeks in a row, and how much wine does it take to fully review a book? The ‘keener’ tried several times to interject with questions that brought us back to the topic of the book, and’ Holy Member’ kept quoting the bible in an effort to take us down another path. Now I should mention that this is all done in the spirit of fun and friendship. Our ‘Holy Member’ is strong of faith, but completely harmless, i.e., she doesn’t push anything, rather she simply loves her religion and wants the world to know. We playfully indulge her passion, and she in turn, takes our ribbing in stride. And the ‘keener’, well, she keeps law and order. This is a Book Club, after all, so some effort should be made to acknowledge the book. Eventually however, she too, gave up and just drank the wine, letting the conversation go where it wanted.

At the end of the night after we’d drunk all the wine and answered all the questions we’d had about the book, the neighbours, and Jesus, we called it a night, agreeing to meet again next month.  A new book was chosen by another member and the location of our next meeting  confirmed. Commitments were made by all to actually read the book, but we also agreed there’s no penalty for just enjoying the social aspects of the book club. Oh, and we also agreed unanimously that Jesus can join our book club if He wants to, but when it’s his turn to pick the book, it can’t be the bible, and He has to bring the wine!

Book Club