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?

 

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.

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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 Transformation.com 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.

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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).

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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Beach Remembrances, Tomatoes and Love

Sometimes a solitary morning walk on the beach can bring up a lot of memories. We have been in Hilton Head SC for the past couple of months and the morning walk on the beach has been the highlight of my day.

 This morning as I walked, I remembered many walks on the beach with my mom. Back in the day, she and Dad used to go to Florida for a month every winter, and I visited several times. Mom and I would don our running shoes every morning and head for a three mile walk on the beach. Most of the time Dad just let us be and did not join us. It was time for serious woman talk. As we walked we discussed a lot of things, like food, diets, hairstyles and clothing, but mostly we talked about the men in our lives.

Husbands, sons, brothers, uncles, no one was spared. We shared secrets and bounced ideas off each other. Sometimes we laughed our heads off. We were often irreverent, but it didn’t matter because there were no other ears listening. I can’t say that we solved the problems of the world on our walks but we each came away knowing that we were heard and taken seriously.

And that’s about all that matters, really.

I sure do miss those walks with my mom.

And then another thought popped into my head…

It was something a friend told me about a relationship she had many years ago.

“I love you”, he said.

“I love you too”, she said, “like a tomato.’

He went away happy, not knowing her relationship to tomatoes. She used to like them a lot, but she got tired of them and now she doesn’t eat tomatoes any more.

I am the same. I could say that I loved my ex like bread. Fact is, I used to love bread a lot. In more recent years I found that I had sensitivity to wheat bread such that every time I ate it I became sick and bloated for at least three days. I know now that I am much healthier and happier without wheat bread. (I’ll be writing more about this food sensitivity soon!)

And I’m much healthier and happier without my ex!

Nowadays I love my new husband like chocolate. I’ve always liked chocolate, but as the years pass I realize that I like it more and more. I love it so much I need some chocolate just about every day. And that makes me very happy.

These are just a couple of crazy thoughts I had while walking on the beach this morning. The nature of them tells me that I am finally starting to relax down here in Hilton Head. It’s been a long year of not feeling well and trying to find the source of my malaise. In fact, I haven’t felt like my old self in more than a year, since my shingles outbreak last year.

I think I’m getting closer.

 

 

 

I’m So Glad You Came!

I hadn’t seen my old friend Gert since 2009, the year her husband died.  I got married at the end of that year and moved to Nova Scotia not long afterwards. I have returned to Montreal a few times since then but on each visit the time passed so quickly that I never made the effort to get out to see her, a fact that made both of us a little sad.

So I hadn’t seen her in more than three years.

Dave and I decided to make a quick trip to Quebec at the beginning of the summer and I emailed Gert that we would be coming out to visit her. I’m sure that her life has been difficult and lonely since 2009, and combined with physical ailments, I hoped that she would welcome a visit from me.

Well.

Never underestimate the value of offering yourself to someone else…

She greeted us; cat Micah in arms, with the biggest smile on her face and hugs so big the poor cat almost got squashed in all the hugging. Then we sat down in old familiar chairs in the kitchen and started to talk about what we each were up to, we reminisced about old times and we brought each other up to date with our respective children.

She told me about her upcoming trip to Newfoundland to see her family.

I told her about my plans to have a picnic in the lavender fields outside town.

She told me about her ailments, but what was the point in complaining about them because no one wants to hear about it.

I told her what a hard time I had adjusting to life in rural Nova Scotia, but that everything was fine now.

All too soon our time was up and we were once again at the door, saying goodbye, come again, keep in touch, don’t be a stranger…

And I was left with the image of my old friend Gert standing in the doorway, Micah in arms, with a smile so big her face was glowing as she said, “Chris, I’m so glad you came!”

Sometimes we don’t stop to think that someone out there might be tickled pink to hear from us. We are so busy with our lives that we think everyone else is busy with their lives as well.

I called an old friend not too long ago; we hadn’t talked in well over a year. We went on chatting for quite awhile, each of us just so happy to connect again. And when it was time to hang up, she said to me, “Chris, I’m so glad you called!”

Wow! It didn’t take much effort on my part but it sure felt good afterwards. I had felt little promptings from God to reach out and I finally did it.

They say that the love transformation happens when we offer ourselves. In so doing we not only brighten up another person’s day, but we receive from them also.

And in those every day things, holiness happens:

Joy, Happiness, Peace, Gladness

                    Try it; you’ll be amazed.

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A Blast From The Past

The class of 1970 graduated in fine style from Presentation High School for girls in Corner Brook, Newfoundland. We were so young and idealistic; we thought we could do anything. That was in 1970.

And now, here we are in 2013, and the class of 1970 is turning 60. To coin a cliché, “Where did the time go?”

Class of 1970

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Thanks to Facebook, four of us “buds” have, in recent years, reconnected with each other. Being as we were, scattered to the proverbial ‘four corners’, Facebook did us all a great favor: Marg is in PA, Donna is in GA, Janet is in NL and I am in NS. We have been cheering each other on via Facebook for the past few years and now it is time to take things to a new level.

Tomorrow I will embark on a trip down memory lane to see my long lost besties. Yes, we will congregate at Marg’s in PA for four days of ‘I don’t know what to expect but I’m sure it will be a  lot of birthday fun.’

Janet will arrive from Newfoundland at the Halifax Airport just before sunup. I will pick her up there and we will commence a two-day road trip to Coopersburg PA, where Donna will have already arrived by plane from Georgia.

We’ve been told that a big pot of seafood chowder awaits us. Yum! I love seafood chowder.

I’m sure there will be lots of reminiscing, laughter, story telling, sight seeing, shopping, eating and wine drinking. We have a lot to catch up on.

After all, 44 years is a long time…

Stay tuned