Customer Service? Sushi? Anyone?

Did you ever notice the Customer Service counter in many large stores, but most especially in grocery stores? I always thought they were for returns, complaints and other negative things, like people sounding off because the price of sugar changed, or they want last week’s price on ground beef because they missed it last week. Who would want to work in the Customer Service department, right? Fielding complaints all day must be so stressful!

Well that’s what I always thought until recently. I was in Antigonish, NS on the weekend to visit my son Aaron. He is the master sushi maker! We were planning a little Labor Day Sushi supper at his apartment with his roommates and their parents, making us a party of eight. The idea was to get all the ingredients at Sobeys early in the afternoon, and then the boys would spend a few hours preparing our gourmet meal.

Making sushi is quite involved. The sticky rice has to be prepared, omelet made, vegetables julienned, raw fish sliced, and then it is all rolled up in square seaweed sheets called nori. Afterwards the rolls are sliced into 1” pieces. Then it is eaten with soy sauce mixed with a little wasabi (if you’re really brave) and a couple of other sauces.



sushi2A sushi party is a most delicious and fun meal!

Antigonish is a small university town in the heart of Nova Scotia, and you can’t buy just anything there like you could in a city. So off we went to Sobeys, Aaron and I, hoping to get the ingredients for the sushi party on Saturday afternoon. We filled the cart with avocado, cucumber, carrots, eggs, shrimp, salmon, crab, tuna, sticky rice, soy sauce, rice vinegar and wasabi. All that was missing were nori sheets to roll it all up in.

We searched in the Asian section and the International section but there were none. I asked a cashier where the nori sheets might be and she told me to check out the deli section where they make their own sushi to sell. The girl behind the deli counter told me they were all out.

We were getting a little panicked because there was nowhere else in Antigonish to buy this specialty item; we couldn’t even beg from a sushi restaurant because there is none. If we didn’t find some nori we would have been forced to change the menu completely and maybe have chicken or spaghetti or something mundane. Everyone would have been very disappointed.

In desperation I flagged down a man in a white shirt with a name tag identifying him as Kevin.

“Are you a store manager?” I asked him.

“Yes I am. What can I help you with?”

“Well, as you can see, we have all the makings here in the cart for a sushi party, but we’re missing the nori.”

He asked us how much we would need and we told him, about 20 sheets.

“I’ll go check at the deli”, he said.

But we knew there was no nori for sale at the deli. So I just told him we would follow him there. Once he got to the deli section, I saw him rooting around. No one behind the counter would argue with a manager!

A minute or two later he came out from behind the counter with a plastic bag chock filled with the coveted nori sheets!

“This is on us”, he said with a smile as he handed Aaron the bag. “I wouldn’t want your sushi party to be spoiled.”

We shook Kevin’s hand and thanked him profusely. The sushi party was saved and a lovely party it was! (Thanks to Kevin)



That was probably the best customer service I had ever received in a grocery store! This man could have just told us he was sorry but there was no nori for sale in the store and we would have thanked him for looking, but Kevin went the extra mile and made our day!

So today I am here to tell you that customer service is important, so important that you can rest assured I will return to Sobeys in Antigonish anytime with a smile because one man went beyond the call of duty to help out this mom and her son last Saturday. We were very grateful.

How about you? Have you experienced good customer service lately?


Photos and More Photos

IPhoto tells me that I have 3,323 photos, and I know that is very conservative compared to many people I know. I love looking at my photos; they transport me back in time to special occasions, outings, great meals and good times. They remind me of loved ones who are no longer with us, and friends and family who live far away.

Isn’t it great to have it all there on the computer? Sometimes when I want to look at photos of my precious Mom, I sift through all the other ones in order to get to the good ones. Other ones like 83 photos of a cousin’s wedding, 47 of the last baby shower we went to, complete with all the ‘mistake’ ones, and another 24 of the baby.

How many do we need? Would 10 good photos of the wedding have sufficed? Two of the pregnant belly? How about 10 of the baby? Naw, I think we need all the ones of the baby.

I have been going through my photos recently and eliminating all the repeats, the ones that make people not look good, and the ones that just don’t matter anymore, like 15 of a turtle I saw on my walk two years ago.

On another thought, when we take multitudinous photos of every event we go to, every restaurant meal we eat and every trip we take, do we not experience the event through the lens of the camera rather than just enjoy the day? We go to the restaurant and take photos of the food, the decor, and then the inevitable group selfie.

Writers write in their head instead of living in the moment; this is such a beautiful scene – how can I describe it – lush colors, blood stained sky, panoramic masterpiece, rather than just drinking in the scene with all their senses. I do that all the time.

The rest of the world takes photos so that they will never forget. The problem is that they miss out on the music, the laughter and the scents that go with that beautiful scene or delectable meal.

My current project is to simplify life by not only living in the moment, but also loving the moment, every moment, and keeping them to memory and sentiment rather than on my computer.

This poem by Wendell Berry captures in a great and humorous fashion, the dilemma of our times.


The Vacation

Once there was a man who filmed his vacation.

He went flying down the river in his boat

with his video camera to his eye, making

a moving picture of the moving river

upon which his sleek boat moved swiftly

toward the end of his vacation. He showed

his vacation to his camera, which pictured it,

preserving it forever: the river, the trees,

the sky, the light, the bow of his rushing boat

behind which he stood with his camera

preserving his vacation even as he was having it

so that after he had had it he would still

have it. It would be there. With a flick

of a switch, there it would be. But he

would not be in it. He would never be in it.

                                                                                                Wendell Berry


The Art of Saying No


A large part of simplifying a life is accomplished not just in reducing your possessions, but also in giving yourself time to enjoy the spaces you’ve created. It is also experiencing joy and contentment, spending time with family and friends while doing the things that make you happy. For the longest time I wondered why I didn’t feel peace in my heart and life. I had pretty much decluttered the house, donated things that needed to be donated, and sold things that needed to be sold.

But there was something that really bothered me about my life. It was my calendar. Yes, my calendar. It was filled with all sorts of good things up to three months in advance. One April day a few years ago, a friend called wanting to set up a time to get our two families together. I looked at my calendar and had to say, “Wow, it looks like we are booked solid until the third Saturday in June! Should I pencil you in?”

That was quite pathetic, that we would have to wait two and a half months to get together. My calendar was filled to the brim with appointments, engagements, family things, professional things, weekends away, visitors, and all the things that make a life. Truth be told, I had put all those things on the schedule because saying ‘no’ would have been harder.

Why would a person say yes to something they don’t particularly want to do? Guilt? Shame? Unease? Difficulty in saying no? Fear of hurting the other person? For the longest time I have been making plans only to cancel them at the last minute when I feel overwhelmed with too much to do, not enough time, or just a discomfort with the request. It would have been easier to just say no in the first place.

I had to realize that my time is valuable; that I am valuable, and that I cannot do justice to an outing or an engagement if I would rather be doing something else.

But what do you do when someone calls with an invitation or a request to speak, volunteer, sit on a committee or some other such thing that will take some of your time? Many of these things are worthy and good, but are they worthy and good for me? Rather than saying an outright yes or no, I have come up with a method that works for me. Now whenever I am asked anything, I respond with,

                                        “Let me get back to you on that.”

And then I have time to go home and decide whether or not this thing will be something I can do or attend, whether it works for my family, and whether or not it is a good fit for me. That’s a lot easier than saying yes now, fretting for a time, and then back pedaling later. However, having said “Let me get back to you on that”, now I have to make sure that I actually do get back to them.

Let’s be purposeful with the things we say yes to, and make sure that they add value to our lives. Choose wisely! And don’t apologize.

How about you? Do you find your schedule too full? Do you wish you had some time to do the things you love rather than doing what other people think you should be doing? The next time you’re asked to do something you’re not sure of, just try saying, “Let me get back to you on that.” and see what happens.


Oh, by the way, yesterday I brought a third carload of ‘stuff’ to donate to VeeVee’s Boutique. They will be opening in one week and it will be interesting to see what shows up in the shop.


VeeVee’s Boutique!

There’s a new thrift shop opening next week in my town! Yes, Value Village will be opening its doors to the citizens of the Annapolis Valley very soon.

We jokingly call it VeeVee’s Boutique, but really, it’s a great place to get all things second hand, from clothing to furniture to anything a person would need in the kitchen. Actually you can buy anything you would need in a house or garage.

Their slogan is “We keep millions of items out of landfills every year!” Value Village is one of the best second hand shops around.

In an effort to simplify life around here, I have been gathering up various things from around the house to help a good cause. It’s a win-win situation because Value Village helps many charitable organizations as well as employing many people; and I get to donate all this stuff.

Donating helps me get rid of things I don’t have the audience for on kijiji and articles I can’t bring to consignment shops or used book stores because they are not clothing or books. It has felt so good to liberate space in the house and get rid of some things I have been looking at forever that don’t make me happy at all. The great thing is that someone else will be happy to have these things and will put them to good use.

Like the old tapestry suitcase full of craft supplies that I haven’t used in 8 years. And yarn that I will never use. Also several picture frames that have been behind the bookcase for the past five years. Once I get on a roll I would just throw out everything in the house. Decorative tins, tired lampshades, books, ornaments, even some silverware. How about six apple baking dishes that I got on sale 10 years ago and only used once? And pottery goblets that were cute when I bought them 7 years ago but never used? It gets exciting to open a cupboard and see where things used to topple over one another and now there is just a space.

I have to make sure I don’t start filling my spaces with more crap that I may or may not use. Like, how many coffee machines do we really need? I found a great Cuisinart one at Frenchys last year and use it all the time. So the two Krups machines languish in the basement, waiting for the Cuisinart to break.

But it probably won’t break.

Instead of owning my stuff, my stuff had started to own me.

So far I have brought two carloads of items to Value Village, and I have another lot ready to bring tomorrow. I had often worried that the things I get rid of today, for sure next week I will go looking for them. However, that very seldom happens.


My rule of thumb has been, if I haven’t used it in the past 1 – 3 years then it might be time to consider tossing it.

I have decided to use my living space to live in, not to store things in! And as there is more and more space in the closets and cupboards, I begin to see more clearly and feel more at peace with myself.

How about you? Do you have a place to get rid of things that are dragging you down? Are you willing to part with them?








Simplify! Simplify! Simplify!

Location, location, location! That’s the catch phrase for running a business these days, but there is a new one out there:

Simplify, simplify, simplify!

It seems that everywhere you go people are talking about simplifying, downsizing, minimalizing and having more with less. It’s everywhere you look these days: on Facebook, in people’s personal blogs, and in magazines and newspapers.

I had often thought that I couldn’t part with many of my possessions and that I needed all I had to live a comfortable life. If the house is reasonably tidy on any given day, why all the fuss about simplifying?

I am learning that having a simple life is more than just tidying up the house and bringing used clothing and books to the local donation centers.

Since I’ve been into decluttering forever, I thought I had this thing down pat, but it wasn’t until I lived out of a carry on suitcase for ten days and then out of a larger suitcase for three months that I understood just how little we need to live and be comfortable. Last year we rented a condo in Hilton Head for three months. I wondered what to bring; warm clothing, beach things, going out things and all the other articles I thought I couldn’t live without for three months. Needless to say, much of what I brought was never worn or used. I found that I wore the same three or four things every day.

Having lived with much less for that period of time, when we came home, I looked differently at all my possessions and their place in the house. So I started to get rid of what I thought was a lot of ‘stuff’. I kept getting the feeling there was more to this than just ‘stuff’. What about the clutter in my mind? What about the state of my finances? What about the things I eat? How about the people in my life? The time I spend on the phone or the computer?

These are questions I couldn’t really answer a few months ago, but it is becoming clearer now. I actually signed up for a 30 day challenge to be on track and get the things out of my life that don’t bring me joy. I’m 13 days into it now and I’ve been making changes; little ones that don’t upset life too much.

Probably the most important change I’ve made so far is to get off the phone, iPad and computer at 8PM, rather than bringing it to bed with me. And now I don’t keep my iPad beside the bed. I used to wake up in the middle of the night and check my mail, Facebook, Etsy and Fitbit. Can you imagine? Do you do that as well? I’ve found that since I instituted that new habit, I am sleeping much better.

And there’s more.

Over the next while I will share here what I have been doing to simplify my life and home. I am not becoming a minimalist, but I am trying to do my part to have a better life. If you have anything to add to what I’ve been doing, please share in the comments.




Did you ever Google yourself?

Every now and then I Google myself, just to see what’s ‘out there’ about me. Not that I am so special that Google would make a fuss over me, but I do have a blog and I did write a book. I guess that gives me a very small amount of notoriety, at least in some peoples’ eyes.

I used to wonder what my exes would see if they googled my name. So a few years ago I tried it. It was a little distressing, to say the least. You know, everything you do online can be found by just about anyone. I had been on website in 2011. It was a site run by Bill Phillips where you could transform your body, mind and outlook. It was sort of like Facebook, but for people looking to get fit. A part of the process was to post ‘before’ pics, which I did. I thought they were just for the people on the site. Imagine my horror when I Google imaged myself and saw my bathing suit / underwear ‘before’ pics, right there for the entire world to see. As a consolation, my ‘after’ pics were there as well, along with my Facebook pic, my book, my LinkedIn pic, some of my Pinterest items and everything and anything connected to my name. There were also pics of people connected with me, like some of my family members, friends and acquaintances.


And then when I googled my name, up came every blog entry I had ever written, Twitter entries, some comments I had made on Facebook and just about everything that was connected with my name on sites that are not completely private.

There was an entry I had written in 2008 on a site called Runaway Husbands that the entire world could see. In it I had outlined coping strategies for sanity when my husband left in 2004. It took me two years to get my comment removed from the site; however the reply to my comment is still there.

What’s the solution for all this madness? I guess I know now why some people don’t use their real names on these social media sites. Smart move, but too late for me.

At one time I thought of writing a blog with everything I really wanted to say and using a pseudonym so that I could blast away about personal things, family things, and everything that bugged me. Truth be told, I did start that blog, a few years ago when things were getting ugly in my life. It was a great place for me to vent safely in cyberspace anonymously. I was Marie Soleil; however I was NOT a ray of sunshine in any sense of the word. When I had done all my venting I took the blog down and with one click it was no more.

Marie Soleil’s blog had served its purpose and no one was the wiser.

Oh and by the way, my ‘before’ pics can no longer be found in cyberspace. (Just in case you were thinking of having a look).

IBS Is No Joke…

It all started back in 1983 when I got married. I’m not kidding; that was really the beginning of my digestive issues. Back then not much was known about solving these things other than to ‘drink more water, eat more fiber and get more exercise’. It is now commonly accepted that there is a gut-brain connection; that what is going on in your psyche and emotions will affect your digestion.

Back then we just didn’t make the connection.

I was in a stressful marriage (and that’s an understatement). It was a patriarchal union, meaning the husband would be the head of the home and by consequence, the head of the woman. That would be me. At the time I was kind of grateful to have husbie take charge of just about everything; I married at 30 years old and was tired of doing it all for myself. I didn’t realize it, but I became the proverbial ‘frog in the water’ and as time passed, I became a different person, one that my old friends would not have recognized. I slowly gave up my rights, the ability to express an opinion and I became fearful of just about everything. Even though I didn’t see my life from the outside, my family did, and my guts knew back then that I was in a difficult situation. We were ‘born again’ Christians. Not that there was anything wrong with that, but we kept going to Bill Gothard’s Basic Seminar, Advanced Seminar and finally we homeschooled our children with Gothard’s Advanced Training Institute. Our lives were governed by rules and regulations. For example, I was not allowed to wear pants; I had to defer to my husband in everything; modesty ruled; men couldn’t have a beard; we were to accept as many children as God brought, so there was no birth control. From age 31 to age 40 I had five pregnancies which included two miscarriages, all the while homeschooling my children with no real curriculum except for the Bible and 40 ‘wisdom booklets’.

I cried every four weeks.

Throughout all this I started to have IBS symptoms, although I didn’t know then what it was. I thought I just didn’t eat enough fiber, drink enough water and exercise enough. Well, who would have had the time with all the pregnancies, homeschooling and a demanding husband? But the stress took its toll and I alternated between bloating, constipation, tummy ache, diarrhea, more bloating, and general misery. I had a hard time to eat out and when I did, I came home with an 8-month pregnant looking stomach. And it hurt. On the 30 minute drive to church every Sunday, we would have to stop a couple of times for ‘Mommy to do her business’. It was a standing family joke, but I wasn’t laughing.

A doctor never attended to these problems of mine and they persisted for the 21-year duration of my marriage, and beyond.

More to come…