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.

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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)

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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.

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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.

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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?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Stigma of it All

The word ‘stigma’ usually conjures up feelings of shame and embarrassment; well at least it does for me. A stigma is a mark of disgrace associated with a particular circumstance, quality or person. We hear about the stigma of mental illness, the stigma of obesity, divorce and other events in our lives. We think other people are judging us for the failure of our marriage or because we had to take anti depressants to get over the failure of our marriage. I have lived with a few stigmas, and they were mostly all in my head.
My latest stigma is on my head.
It’s my hair you see. I haven’t dyed it in exactly one year.
 I know that many will think that making an issue out of going grey is frivolous and silly in this age where ISIS is making chaos in the world and Donald Trump is rampant (that’s all I’m going to say about Donald Trump).
But it’s a big thing for me and for anyone who has gone through this ‘transition’. These days many young people are dyeing their hair grey because it’s fashionable. Even my 18-year-old niece has beautiful grey locks that she has to take care of on a regular basis. So the young people become grey in a couple of hours, for me it will take a couple of years. They don’t live with the stigma of going grey, but I just might.
And then I look at photos of EmmyLou Harris whose grey hair is just stunning, and I know why I want to do this. Not that I aspire to look like EmmyLou Harris…
I have a 22 year history with the stigma of letting my hair go grey.
My 40th birthday came at a tumultuous time in my life…I was three months pregnant with my third child. An old friend said to me, “Chris, you’ve got to keep dyeing your hair because no one wants to see a grey haired pregnant woman.” Aside from the fact that I had only a few grey hairs at the time, I took her words to heart. Later on that same day I was in the mall and I saw a greeting card in the window of a shop. It said, “Come on, there are worse things than being 40.” I entered the shop to see what on earth could be worse than being 40. I opened the card and it said, “You could be pregnant!”
I took my dyed hair home and cried.
My 50th birthday saw me with the mahogany hair color that was prevalent in Quebec at the time. I had thought of stopping the dye then, and I don’t know why I didn’t; maybe subconsciously I knew it was the wrong time. When I turned 51 my 21-year marriage was falling apart and I figured that being a 51-year-old divorced woman with grey hair would not serve me well.
So I continued to die dye.
When I turned 60 I decided to stop the nonsense once and for all. I made the announcement at my 60th birthday dinner with my three grown sons present. My husband was not for it; the guys all said it would make me look old.
I answered, “I am old.” However they and everyone else convinced me to keep dyeing.
I really didn’t want to be putting dye into my hair for the rest of my life and so one year ago (another two years after the family declaration) I decided that it was time. I decided not to care what anyone else thought; what I wanted was more important.
So I joined a Facebook support group (what would we ever do without Facebook?) and I started the transition. Since then I’ve had people tell me that I would never be able to do it, that I’d cave when the roots got about two inches long. I’ve had people tell me that it looks good on me but they could never do it because it wouldn’t suit them. And I’ve had my hairdresser try to convince me to put grey highlights to soften the blow. I ignored them all.
It has now been one year since I have dyed my hair. I can honestly say that I love my natural color! Also, my hair is much healthier, shinier and suits me better than at any time when I dyed it. It’s not even all grown out yet and I get compliments on the color all the time! Going grey doesn’t feel so much like a stigma any more; its more like a badge of honor: I earned it.

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Clearing The Stash – The Summer I Knit

It has been a wonderful summer of R&R here in Nova Scotia!

For the first time in my adult life I find myself pretty much alone for the whole two months. No children at home, no visitors and no summertime travel. Added to that, my husband is now working full time, which makes us both very happy: him, because he has something to do every day and he gets paid to do it; and me because this gives me some much needed time alone to de-stress and think about ‘things’.

I have jealously guarded my time alone and stayed pretty much in the house and yard, gardening, reading, working on my Health Coaching course and knitting.

I have had a couple of health problems that needed to be addressed in a quiet and reflective way, and being alone was the way to do it. Last years stress with my mother’s illness and death gave way to a couple of other major stressors through the fall, and you could say things came to a head with the onset of my shingles diagnosis a couple of months later. I have since learned that shingles rears its ugly head at times of stress, decreased immunity or both.

That was a wake up call!

And a lesson learned. It’s taken a long time but I have realized that I need to find a way to manage stress; to not let things get under my skin; to act on my intuitions, and to learn to say ‘no’ when the need arises.

So as I have been working on my inner self, I have been de cluttering the house of things that we’re not using anymore. Out went shoes, clothing, dishes, books, you know, the things that take up space and you get tired of looking at.

But then I came to my stash of yarn.

So many colors, so much yarn, bought at sales at Michael’s and sitting there in my craft room in the basement…

I decided to use up as much of the yarn as I could and I promised myself that I wouldn’t buy any more until I had made a substantial dent in my stash. And then I saw a pattern for a colourful blanket online that would use the kind of yarn I had.

They say there is something meditative about knitting, the repetition and rhythm of the stitches, the sheer mindlessness of it. As I sat in front of the window and knit, day after day, I managed to sort out and classify several things in my mind.

Things like worrying about my kids, the future, what people think of me and whether or not I would participate in several craft shows this year.

Things like what made me sick last winter, why I have IBS and how those things might be connected to how I see and relate to my world.

And finally, today, my stash of yarn is relatively cleared, my blanket is finished, and I can start to see a little more clearly.

This is what I made!

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My Mystery Illness

We’re spending two months in Hilton Head, SC for what are probably the worst two months of winter in Nova Scotia. Yeah! We escape the snow for two whole months! We have a great condo on the beach and the area is just gorgeous. We wake up each morning to a beautiful sunrise over the ocean. Such a lovely place to slow down the pace and recoup from a busy fall.

When we arrived in Hilton Head on January 1st I had visions of walking on the beach, shopping, doing a lot of writing, reading the stack of books I had brought and even going for a weekend visit to an old friend in Atlanta GA. I had planned to lose ten lbs during the two months we were here.

I was going to bicycle all over Hilton Head Island.

I had plans to get my body healthy, detoxify, get my mind free of all the stresses of 2014, and to find some peace in my heart, mind and soul.

But then I got sick. I guess Hilton Head is as good a place as any to get sick!

It started with back pain that I thought came from slouching on the couch. So I bought a down filled pillow to lean back on. That didn’t help much, and nothing else I did brought relief. The back pain was followed by vise grip headaches and pain deep inside my chest, accompanied by a fever that left me horizontal. Then came the rash: large red welts on my back.

I thought I was dying.

We called our insurance provider back home and I was authorized to go to a doctor here. Now I would get a glimpse of the American medical system. Off we went to Doctor’s Care, a walk in clinic right here in Hilton Head. I was told I would be seeing Dr. Coswell, a young and vibrant Southern lady, complete with “the twang”.

As soon as I told her about the symptoms I was having, she asked to see my rash. Immediately she said, “Ma’am, you have shingles.”

What the hell? Me? Shingles?

She told me that it is the same virus as chicken pox that stays in the body and manifests itself as shingles at stressful times of life, or when the immune system is compromised, and especially in older people.

Well I am older, and I have had a lot of stress in the past year.

Actually, when Dr. Coswell told me I had shingles I could have kissed her. That was much preferable to what I thought I had, which was brain cancer, heart attack, acid reflux, you name it.

So for the past couple of weeks that have felt like forever, I have been managing my pain, taking antiviral medication and coping as best I can. Having a positive attitude has been paramount.

I’m over the worst of it now and have even had a couple of walks on my beloved beach.

And now I can add to my ‘compassion list’; those things I have experienced in life that will help me to understand others when they are going through them.