It’s More than February Fourteenth

Valentine’s Day is busy with flower deliveries and long line-ups at chocolate shops. Red and white hearts tell us that this is the day of love and romance.

I remember a Lynn Johnston cartoon (For Better or For Worse) of many years ago in which Elly remarks, Some men say it with car maintenance.

Yes, roses and chocolates are lovely. They are the symbols that have been created for us of love and caring. But love and caring are year long. February the fourteenth doesn’t have the monopoly on love and romance. It’s the little things, the things that happen every day, that really have the true meaning. If I had to decide between a box of dark chocolate truffles on February 14th and the following all year, guess which I’d choose?

  • A surprise cup of tea delivered to my desk.

  • Dinner under way when I’m late coming home.

  • An empty dishwasher.IMG_3673_2uca

  • Computer gremlins evicted.

  • The red jujubes set aside.

  • Knowing my vehicle is always ready for the road.

If anyone comes across the For Better or Worse cartoon I mentioned I hope you will share it. It had a powerful message. There are many ways to say I love you. And Valentine’s Day isn’t the only day to say it or show it.

Say and show I love you to someone today, not just February 14th. It doesn’t have to be a spouse or partner. Who is important in your life? Let them know. Any day. Today would be good.

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Walking With Our Sisters

Earlier this month I was in Yellowknife in the Northwest Territories for business. On the flight a gentleman told me about an exhibit that had just opened in Yellowknife for a short period. I made a mental note to try to catch it.

After giving two days of presentations I was tired. It was -35C. The hotel room was warm, had great internet connection and room service. Not a bad way to spend my four free hours.

As warm and cozy as it was in my room I felt compelled to visit the Prince of Wales Heritage Centre. For the past year or so the tragedy of murdered and missing indigenous women has been prominent in our news. Here was an exhibit that pays tribute to these women.

Walking With Our Sisters is a travelling exhibit. It consists of a path of beaded moccasin vamps laid out on the floor. Only the vamps, the tops of the moccasins, are made. These unfinished moccasins represent the unfinished lives of hundreds of murdered and missing indigenous women in Canada and the United States. Each pair of vamps represents one woman. The vamps wound through two rooms. The numbers were shocking.

The beading was beautiful. Each pair unique, just like the women they represent.

Here are a few pictures, taken with permission, from the Walking With Our Sisters poster. No photography is allowed in the exhibit.

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I urge you to visit the website and read more. It is sobering. It is reality.

Should we, as a nation, be ashamed?
Yes.

Should we be outraged?
Yes.

Can we do anything about it?
Yes.

At the end of my tour of the vamps I was met by a gracious lady, fully prepared to engage with emotionally impacted visitors. Like the exhibit, she exuded peace and serenity. These women are gone, but not forgotten.

Let us know if you read more about Walking With Our Sisters. We would love to know your thoughts.

For our Ottawa readers, the exhibit will be at Gallery 101, September 25th – October 16th, 2015.IMG_3658uca_2

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Be Nice to the Gym Newbies

This post was triggered by a comment from a toned, five- year- gym -attending friend. A couple of days into January she commented, ”Parking was awful at the gym today and I had to wait for an elliptical. It’s all those New Year resolution newbies. It’ll be back to normal by the second week in February.  They never last long.”

I’ve already talked about gym etiquette, Ten Easy Steps to Become That Annoying Gym Person . This post is about being nice to the gym newbies.  We’re all good at something (yes, we are!) but had to learn and progress. You may be an excellent driver now, but do you remember your first attempt at parallel parking?

I agree, the gym parking lot seems unusually full this time of year. Good for the new people. They’re making an effort. Try to imagine how uncomfortable some of them may feel. It’s like attempting to parallel park for the first time with an audience of professional racing car drivers.

  • If someone seems unsure about gym protocol, ask if they would like some tips. Be friendly.
  • Imagine the gym newbies feelings as they struggle to replace the weights and you casually pick up ones four times heavier. An encouraging smile is quite different from a superior smile. Be nice.
  • The new gym member is wrapped in a bath sheet, trying to figure out how to maneuver into their undies unseen. Having to witness naked hair drying only adds to their discomfort. Keep naked strolls to a minimum. Be respectful.
  • Let the new gym member know that it wasn’t easy for you when you first started working out. Well, was it?  Be encouraging.

I hope the gym parking lots stay full all year. I hope all the gym newbies become confident and comfortable. You can help: Be friendly. Be nice. Be respectful.  Be encouraging.

Kindness – it’s healthy and beautiful.

Ready. Set. Be kind.

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Things That Made Me Smile This Week

I looked at the things that made me smile this week:

  • An elderly lady grocery shopping with the assistance of her daughter. The octogenarian was wearing a red and white top hat with HO HO HO printed around the band. To top if off, she had reindeer antlers attached to the handles of her walker.

  • In long check-out line a small child was on the verge smiley_face_clip_art_20340of a melt down. His father removed the child’s knitted hat (complete with floppy ears and a furry mane) and perched it on his own head. Squeals of laughter and melt down averted.

  • In a crowded parking lot with cars prowling for a vacant spot a man jumped from his car to direct another driver from their tight parking spot.

  • Driving along the expressway not far from my home I spotted a fir tree growing over the fence near the edge of the road. It was covered in red Christmas balls.

  • Tea with a friend.

  • Opening my mailbox to find a Christmas card from a dear friend with words that warmed my heart.

  • A surprise bottle of wine left by a neighbour.

  • An eleven day old baby having their first picture taken with Santa.

“Tis the season to be jolly. Well, not everyone seems to of that mindset. It’s also a time when many are stressed, overworked, and overtired. But when we really look at things, it’s the little things that make us smile. It’s the little things that can make a big difference.

What made you smile this week? And more importantly, who did you make smile?

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My Neighbour’s Cousin’s Father-In-Law Has the Same Thing

pulse-trace-163708_1280A few years has passed since a loved one had a heart attack and open heart surgery. It was an extremely anxious and stressful time. After daily hospital visits I would either phone or email friends and relatives with the latest updates. Many times, when relaying my distressing news, I ended up feeling that my anxiety had been minimized by others.

I lost count of the number of times I was told that this was routine surgery. They made it sound like an annual flu shot. Yes, it may be common place but to me, my loved one was still on the operating table for eight hours with a stopped heart. Hardly routine to me.

I lost count of the number of times I was told about a neighbour/friend/relative who had the same thing happen to them and had the same surgery. No medical event is exactly the same as another. Maybe they were trying to make me feel better but they made the event seem insignificant. It was not insignificant to me.

Others told me tales of friends with far worse illnesses. I would think to myself, “This isn’t a game of I Can Top That”. This was also the time I felt I had the right to be selfish. This was my story I was sharing with them.

After the death of an elderly person I have often heard the bereaved asked the age of the deceased. What does it matter? What is unspoken is what did you expect? They were old. The loss of a loved one, regardless of their age, is painful.

A few tips when someone shares their anxiety or grief:

  • Let the person talk.

  • Do not compare their pain with yours or someone else’s.

  • Ask questions, but not too probing or personal.

  • Stay in touch.

  • Recognize that everyone handles stress differently and it may explain their behaviour.

I will always remember and feel gratitude to those who supported me during the stressful weeks I have described.

  • They listened.

  • They did not judge.

  • They performed mundane tasks to make my life easier.

  • When I refused another casserole they were not offended.

  • They were there long after the crisis was over.

Good health to all of you. As always, I appreciate your comments.

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Remembrance Day

Part of the War Memorial in OttawaIt’s November 11th again. For Canadians, this November 11th, Remembrance Day, is even more poignant. Recent tragic and horrific events took place at the very spot many of us are gathering, as we do every year, to honour those, past and present, who protect our freedoms.

We are not there to glorify war.

  • We are there to pay respect.

  • We are there to remember the sacrifices.

  • We are there to show our unity.

  • We are there to say we do not take our freedom for granted.

Dad, you will always be my hero. Miss you.

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Things Aren’t Always As Easy As They Seem

Things aren’t always what they seem or not always as easy as it sounds.

A few months ago I received a Serger sewing machine. The

Yasmin showing me the latest computerized do-everyting-but-the-dishes sewing machine.

Yasmin showing me the latest computerized do-everyting-but-the-dishes sewing machine.

accompanying CD was intended to demonstrate how to thread the four needles. Head twisted sideways and with frequent pauses and replays it still didn’t make sense. Time to call the expert. I was fortunate to find Yasmin at the Ottawa Sewing Centre. I booked a one on one session and am now a serging frenzy.

A few years ago, prior to a trip to China, I thought a few polite phrases and survival questions in Mandarin would be helpful. I now have a box of instructional CDs that I am tempted to use for skeet shooting. Time to call the expert. I am now enrolled in a small group Mandarin class and managing to stumble through a few key phrases.

Even in my own area of Etiquette and Civility I have been appalled at some of the advice I have read online. Not everything that is written with the hashtag etiquette is appropriate. Yikes gentlemen, remove your hat even in a casual restaurant! Oh my, send someone an anonymous note that they’re rude? Who are these authors? What are their credentials? Where did they study? Time to call the expert.

Books and videos can certainly be wonderful and helpful instructional tools. Sometimes though they’re just not enough. Ever try to learn to dance by following cardboard foot prints on the ground? Ever tried to learn to play the piano with a fake keyboard? Don’t even think of cutting down a tree thicker than your wrist. I wonder how many people have rented a chainsaw and then realized they needed expert instruction. Let’s hope this realization wasn’t on their way to the emergency department.

Sometimes we can learn things online and in books.

Sometimes the smartest thing is to call the expert.

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