When a Cell Phone Ruins the Movie

I was at the movie theatre one night, on the edge of my seat, holding my breath, when Dame Judi Dench was in the middle of a long pause, about to utter with masterful precision the words that will earn her next Academy Award nomination… when I was suddenly blinded by a bright blue screen, from the idiot in front of me, checking her phone.

Needless to say, I was devastated to have been dragged out of the precious moment where I completely escaped my own life, to live vicariously through the characters of this cinematic masterpiece. I felt robbed.

I leaned over and whispered sternly, “That’s very distracting!” The idiot turned back and gave me a glare like she was the offended one.

Are you kidding me?

After she turned around, I offered her my look of scorn and severe disdain with one eyebrow raised and one lowered, accompanied by a middle-finger salute, a gesture I reserve for the rare few who crack through my calm exterior and get my blood instantly boiling. With that done, I was able to let it go and reconnect with the movie.

I don’t know why but lately, it seems that every visit to a theatre has at least one person checking their phone during the movie which is completely unfair to the rest of the movie patrons.

A movie theatre is a place where people go to escape from day-to-day reality. It’s a place to forget one’s troubles, to get inspired and to be taken away to a different world.

For some people, that movie may be a precious refuge from a busy life, a stressful time, a difficult journey or a break from dealing with difficult people or circumstances.

With the price of movie tickets and concession stand offerings, a night at the movies is a significant investment. Why do people feel that their need to check their phone (for whatever reason) is somehow of greater importance than the enjoyment of a movie by 100 to 200 spectators?

Isn’t the point of going to the movies to disconnect for a couple of hours?

I truly wish people would take a step back and realize that they are not in their living rooms. They are in public where courtesy and consideration for others should be a priority. I fear that smart phones are having the opposite effect.

Every movie starts with a reminder to turn off cell phones. What part of that simple message are people not getting?

If they absolutely must stay connected during a movie there are ways of doing it discreetly:
– Turn down the brightness of the screen;
– Put the phone on vibrate;
– When there is a message that absolutely requires a response, step out of the theatre and respond in the hallway.
It’s really not that difficult to stay in touch without advertising it to the entire movie theatre and spoiling everyone’s evening.

The glare of the extra bright screen is not only jarring but it is a huge irritation, as much as the people who seem to have something to say throughout the movie as well as the notorious seat kickers.

It really concerns me that smart phone etiquette continues to slip through the cracks of society. I fear a continuing path where basic common sense, courtesy, respect and good manners are seemingly going out of style.

Maybe it is time for movie theatres to crank up the awareness campaigns and to more rigorously enforce their policy regarding cell phones. It is sad that we have to go there, but if the message isn’t getting through, measures need to be taken to preserve the sanctuary and serenity of the cinema.

Did you enjoy this post? If you did, please know that there are plenty more where that came from! If you haven’t already, you can check out the rest of my blog at andrebegin.blog. From there, you can click on the “Follow” button to receive future posts directly in your inbox.
Also, don’t be shy, feel free to tell a friend or to share the link.
Sincere thanks for reading!
Have a great day,
André

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How I Got My Cat to Use a Toothbrush

When I took Ivy the Wonder Cat to the veterinarian for the very first time, at one year old, she was just a feline teenager and the absolute picture of health. The only thing that was mentioned as a potential issue down the road was her teeth, as tartar was already starting to build up.

Given the back story offered to me by the Ottawa Humane Society, of a life on the cold, wintry streets of Ottawa, fending for herself, eating from garbage cans in a tough neighbourhood, I should not have been surprised that Ivy’s teeth weren’t worthy of a finalist’s spot on America’s Next Top Model.

My vet recommended I put out a bowl of tartar control dry food, something she might eat more consistently than the occasional tartar control cat treat that I might give her. The second alternative was to brush her teeth.

At the time, I was already on the nerve-racking journey of finding the right time and mood where she would allow me to gently trim her nails. Some days, the right mood just wasn’t there, as scratch marks added up like a tote board on a telethon. Getting a toothbrush anywhere near her mouth seemed like an impossible dream.

As I lugged the bag of tartar control food back to my car, I couldn’t help asking myself why it didn’t come in a sample size and where was I going to keep it? Given that Miss Ivy was already revealing signs of a picky palate (though after eating garbage for several months, you’d think that anything from a can or a bag would be a step up) there was a chance that she may not like it.

The first time I put the tartar control food down, I was crushed as she sniffed it, meowed at it, wiped the floor in a stroking motion with her right paw (I still haven’t deciphered that one yet, as she still does it, but in different contexts) and walked away. But I knew I needed to be patient. I left the food out.

A few days later upon returning home from work, as I was serving up her favourite feline version of canned paella, I noticed that the tartar control food was disappearing. Relief! Initially, my parental instincts suggested I should get her to smile to show me her pearly whites to see what kind of difference it was making, but I realized that might be a lot to ask.

Just the same, she continued eating the dry food in waves. Some weeks the bowl would be empty while others, she’d barely touch it. It must have taken six or seven months to finish the bag, but she did, so I bought another one to keep up with our tartar control routine.

Over the next couple of years, Ivy was becoming more comfortable with my gentle attempts to trim her nails, as my intuition improved for finding the right time and technique. As that was happening, I started wondering if she might be comfortable with me approaching her with a toothbrush.

Last December, on a snowy night when there was seemingly nothing on TV, I started watching YouTube videos on how to brush a cat’s teeth. If someone had told me 30 years ago I’d be doing this, I’m not sure what part I would believe the least: watching videos on a “tablet” from the comfort of my couch or watching video clips from complete strangers about brushing a cat’s teeth.

I watched clip after clip of happy people brushing happy cats’ teeth, in complete peace and harmony. They made it look so easy. All I had were visions of a trip to Emergency, and explaining all the scratch marks on my arms.

Then a funny sound came from the Christmas tree… it sounded like a rubbing noise. I got up from my pillow and blanket fort on the couch to see Ivy rubbing the inside of her mouth, back and forth, on the branches of my artificial tree. It was like she was brushing her teeth on the branches!

I could have sworn I heard the angels singing, but it may have been the Hallmark Christmas movie playing on TV. Maybe getting Ivy to use a toothbrush wouldn’t be the struggle I thought it would be. Food for thought.

One day, on my way home from work, I stopped by the pet store and picked up a soft toothbrush and toothpaste made especially for pets.

Just to try it out, I gave the brush a rinse, and then presented it to Ivy to see what she would do. She sniffed it a few times, she looked at it from different angles, she rubbed the outside of her cheek on it to get a feel for it… and then she opened her mouth and started performing the same routine she did on the Christmas tree. She was brushing her teeth herself!

The next day I presented the toothbrush again, and she went a little longer, letting the bristles do their thing. I guess she likes the texture.

Unfortunately, she is not a fan of the toothpaste yet, but that’s OK… one challenge at a time. Maybe it’s just Ivy, but so far, she seems to like brushing without it, so who am I to argue. I just need to keep the brush clean and germ-free.

As we are still in the introductory phase, every couple of days, I present her the toothbrush at playtime, and she seems to engage with it willingly, opening her mouth and rubbing her teeth against it. It may not be the most perfect technique, but she’s using it. I’ll take it. Baby steps…

I’m delighted that she still plays along (most times) when the toothbrush is in front of her. I am hoping that with time, she’ll continue enjoying the toothbrush for the texture, which will allow me to develop skills as a feline dental hygienist.

Who knows, if this keeps up, maybe someday she will be the happy cat in the happy YouTube videos, demonstrating techniques for good dental hygiene!

Did you enjoy this post? If you did, please know that there are plenty more where that came from! If you haven’t already, you can check out the rest of my blog at andrebegin.blog. From there, you can click on the “Follow” button to receive future posts directly in your inbox.
Also, don’t be shy, feel free to tell a friend or to share the link.
Sincere thanks for reading!
Have a great day,
André

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Filed under Cats, How to, Humour

Bell Let’s Talk: How Therapy Helped Me

A few months ago, I published a blog post about my anxiety and the signs that it was time to reach out for help. I knew that by speaking with a therapist, someone outside of my immediate circle, I wouldn’t feel like I was dumping or oversharing. In addition, I thought that a professional might be better able to suggest solutions to problems that seemed to come back again and again.

Little did I know how much better I would feel one year later:

I always knew I was a sensitive guy, but I didn’t quite understand to what extent. I learned to strike a happy medium in allowing myself to be the sensitive guy that I am without feeling that I was out of sync with everyone else.

As much as my triggers for anxiety seemed random and unrelated, they really do stem from a few specific events in the distant past. With the help of my therapist, I am working through those and trying to curb the anxiety response.

A pattern of lack of assertiveness emerged. Now that I know, I have been gently nudging myself into being more assertive in specific circumstances.

I learned that saying no (politely, firmly and without getting emotional) was a valid response that should not be feared when I really want to say no.

I learned that setting boundaries and calmly enforcing boundaries that were not respected, are an essential part of living and survival.

Even in the last few weeks, I find myself proactively drawing lines in the sand because once the boundaries are articulated, out in the open and agreed upon, life is a lot easier when uncertainty is removed from the equation.

There have been circumstances that in being a people-pleaser, I have been more considerate of others than I was of myself, and then paid the price later in feeling short-changed.

I also learned that as much as I like to think of myself as a good communicator, my reflex for tact and diplomacy to spare others’ feelings can sometimes obscure the clarity in the messaging when setting boundaries. I am working on that too.

The irony is that I really don’t care what people think about me. They can judge and criticize and it bounces off me like I’m Teflon coated. But for some strange reason, I still feel responsible for the happiness of others.

I recognized a pattern of self-inflicted guilt trips after asserting myself even when I was justified in stating my position.

I learned that worry, racing thoughts and rumination are a call to action. Letting things fester contributed to the escalation of my anxiety responses.

It’s a little late, but better late than never: I learned exactly why some work assignments over the span of my career were ideally suited for me, and why some others were not. In a nutshell, a proactive guy in a highly reactive job is not a good fit.

I learned that my decision-making process is dependent on a harmonious connection between mind, body and spirit. Even if intellectually, I believe something is right, if it doesn’t feel right in my gut, I either need to give it time to sink in or re-evaluate the decision. Otherwise, I will likely be stressing about the decision long after it was taken.

I was able to connect the dots (metaphorically speaking) between the events that pushed me to the limit, stressed me to the max, and my body fought back when presenting me with a bad case of shingles in 2014. Clearly I didn’t deal well with my stress.

With the help of the therapist, I revisited past scenarios that triggered anxiety responses and developed ideas for what I would have done differently to deal with those situations better.

I also learned that despite having the best tool kit for dealing with boundary issues, assertiveness issues, stress and anxiety, situations don’t always get resolved as neatly as we would like them to. Sometimes, I just need to let go and move on rather than channeling huge amounts of energy into something that might not be meant to be.

In doing so, I find myself gradually returning to the calm, cool and collected dude I always was deep inside, but that got lost in the shuffle of unfortunate circumstances, people who were toxic in my world and the hunt for the right tools to deal with them.

With less time spent ruminating or stewing over issues, I am finding more head space for more fun, more creativity, and the opportunity to be more present and in the moment.

As I find my natural positive energy returning, therapy helped me get in touch with the authentic me again.

 

Did you enjoy this post?  If you did, please know that there are plenty more where that came from!  If you haven’t already, you can check out the rest of my blog at andrebegin.blog. From there, you can click on the “Follow” button to receive future posts directly in your inbox.
Also, don’t be shy, feel free to tell a friend or to share the link.
Sincere thanks for reading!
Have a great day,
André

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Filed under Health and Wellness, mental health

My Lifelong Envy of Artists and Their Sketch Pads

Regular readers of my blog might remember a couple of posts in which I talk about how other artists inspire me as a writer, even when their works of art come from other creative disciplines.

Musicians who can pick up an instrument, anytime, anywhere, and start playing beautiful music are mind-blowing to me. I am also in awe of singers who can not only carry a tune, but bring such depth and complexity to a song by smartly using their “instrument”. It is also a joy to behold when an actor can take a script and breathe such life into a role that I am able to completely suspend judgement and believe in a fictional character.

I especially envy visual artists who can take a pencil and a sheet of paper and produce picture-perfect images worthy of a gallery showing.

In high school, while certain teachers droned on in that Charlie Brown teacher’s voice, I remember looking over at my artist friends during class, pencils blazing over whatever piece of paper (or flat surface) was at their disposal. Blank pages were magically transformed into masterpieces with images of eyes, faces or pets from different angles, and all from the perspective of their mind’s eye.

There was seemingly no struggle to their process. They did not stare at a blank page, think hard about it, draw, erase, draw, erase and start over. It just seemed to flow out of them like they were on auto-pilot. They made it look effortless. Continue reading

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When a Colleague Has Food Allergies

A couple of months ago, I overheard a young lady and her colleague on the elevator, in a conversation that went something like this:

“Are you going to the pizza lunch?”

“Yes, I guess we have to. It’s mandatory.”

“Except for those people who asked for gluten-free.” She started shaking her head and continued, “Come on, it’s a free lunch.”

Ever since that conversation I still find myself shaking my head in disbelief that anyone could say something so unenlightened. Whether a person has an allergy, an intolerance, a medical condition, a dietary restriction or a preference, people’s food choices need to be respected. Period!

I suspect that the young lady in question probably does not have a family member with a food allergy or intolerance, for her to say that a lunch being free is a good reason to eat something that could pose an allergy risk.

In my case, wheat can turn my world completely upside down for about 24 hours. Imagine if you will, your absolute worst stomach flu, resulting in frequent, persistent, urgent and (please excuse the vulgarity) “explosive” trips to the washroom. Then add the sensation of something sharp painfully working its way through the digestive system. Continue reading

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Filed under food, Health and Wellness, Misc blogs

The Struggle to Pick a Format for a Story Idea

Last year, I was most fortunate in having enough blog content ready to post, that I could afford myself a little time to pursue other creative writing opportunities. There have been several ideas for fictional stories swirling around in my head lately, and committing them to paper (before I forget them) was becoming increasingly important as plot twists and defining moments in conversation were routinely popping into my head.

What seems to be a continuing trend, whether writing for my blog or for a fictional piece, is that I don’t seem to have a linear process of writing a story from beginning to end. It starts with glimmers of ideas that spawn other ideas that, over time, can be organized into an outline which then leads to the development of the background and context to connect those ideas.

It’s not pretty and makes writing a bit of a puzzle, but if directors can shoot movies out of sequence, why can’t a writer write out of sequence. In the end, the process of reassembling and organizing the sections can be just as much fun. Thankfully, technology makes that part so much easier.

However, for my fictional material, a new struggle emerged. As much as my little writer’s voice has been very enthusiastic about spreading its wings and committing creative material to paper, it has also been subject to some analysis paralysis.

The question that keeps coming up: What is this story? Is it a novel? Is it a short story? Is it a play? Is it a screenplay? Is it a movie? Is it a series?

I can’t tell you how many times this question rambles in the back of my mind when I am stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic. Continue reading

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New Year’s Resolution 2018: Inner Peace (Again!)

When I look back on last year’s blog post “Resolution: Inner Peace”, I remember how tired I was with the status quo at that time. For someone who is usually seen as positive, upbeat and generally calm, cool and collected, something just wasn’t right. Even in life’s quietest moments, I found my core jumping into “fight or flight” mode and didn’t know why. Little stressors were sparking up stronger reactions within me and anxiety was starting to take over.

I also found myself having a hard time letting go of chapters that were seemingly concluded. This wasn’t me! As this prolonged over time, I found my energy was heading downhill.

Despite having a huge tool kit of stress management techniques that I had accumulated over the years, I just couldn’t keep these stressors in check and to get past them. Negative emotions were festering and growing. I couldn’t get the upper hand on the situation and I didn’t know why.

I felt like I was headed the wrong way down a one-way street and getting farther away from the more serene self that I aspire to be. My 2017 resolution for seeking out inner peace was probably the best declaration I ever made. I was prepared for change.

Three anxiety attacks into 2017, I had hit my limit. It was time to seek help. My referral to a psychotherapist was the catalyst that helped me begin to break the cycle of anxiety.

But it wasn’t easy. I would say this was one of the toughest projects I had ever undertaken, having to recall and relive many of the stressors throughout my lifetime to find out what they had in common. Continue reading

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Filed under 50+, How to, Inspiring, mental health, Misc blogs