When I hear the quote from Greek philosopher Epictetus, “it’s not what happens to you, it’s how you react to it that matters,” I admit that the words are sometimes a bitter pill to swallow when my frustration is beginning to swirl.
However, over time, I have discovered the wisdom of those words when I have seen the contrast in my own feelings over a recurring situation, and how those feelings can change depending on any number of contextual factors.
The first snowfall of the season is an excellent example.
As a young boy, that first snowfall was consistently met with joy and excitement as it meant a switch in the games we played outside at recess.
Running after snowflakes and catching them on our tongues to see who could catch the biggest was a favourite (clearly, it didn’t take much to amuse us). Piles of snow would become the focal point of a game of “king or queen of the castle”. And of course we would blow off steam with the occasional snowball fight, just for the fun of it. Continue reading
In my late 30’s when I first noticed my hair thinning, I wasn’t prepared to admit defeat. I chose to chase after the remedies on the market that claimed to restore hair.
The sad reality was that I could not fight with Mother Nature as male pattern baldness ran like sap through one side of the family tree.
It was after I turned 40 that I became more accepting of the situation, although you could say that I didn’t really have much choice. All of the haircuts that I tried seemed to look a little off-balance in one way or another, which drove the Type A part of me a little crazy.
One day, I saw a picture of a young man with a shaved head, whose facial features and head shape looked a lot like mine. The shaved head was a very flattering look for this guy. I would even say that he looked pretty cool, which opened the door for me to gradually cut back my hair and then to try my first clipper cut.
Once I started in the clipper zone and went progressively shorter and shorter, I grew to like it more and more.
To me, this was an extremely freeing experience. With a low-maintenance haircut, I reclaimed so much time in the morning, I was able to sleep more plus I saved money on hair product and trips to the hair stylist.
Now, in retirement, I appreciate it even more, in terms of saving time and energy for more important activities, especially my writing. Continue reading
Filed under 50+, Humour, Lists
Over the span of my career, I took great joy in preparing drafts of memos, briefing notes and all kinds of correspondence for my management team. Naturally, I learned a lot along the way and I was more than happy to pass on to the advice to the newest generation when it was my turn to coach them.
In the early days, one comment that came back a few times was the editing note, “in full first”.
By saying that, my director was suggesting that I should write out an acronym in full the first time it appeared in the document and then to include its acronym version in parentheses. Once that is clarified to the reader, the writer can then feel free to use the acronym in its shortened form throughout the rest of the document.
What sage advice that was! To this day, I really appreciate the time, effort and patience that this busy executive took in tutoring me on the importance of spelling out an acronym.
She explained that an acronym that might be commonly used by my peers and myself might not be evident to someone on another team, someone who isn’t involved in the technical aspects of the work, or someone outside of our organization. Continue reading
Shortly after we settled into our home in the country, my partner and I were beyond surprised to discover grapevines in our garden.
Maybe I am too much of a city boy to know better, but to find out that grapes could successfully grow at all in this northern climate was news to me. To discover them in our own garden was pure serendipity.
Given that it was just a couple of grapevines, we did not develop any grand illusions of a future in winemaking. Just the same, we looked forward to seeing how much they might produce and whether the grapes would be fit for consumption.
The first summer we were here, we were so busy, I don’t even recall seeing the grapes. But it was a drought year, so there is a chance that we barely had any.
It was in the second growing season that conditions were quite good. Not only did our apple tree give us a bumper crop, but the grape harvest filled a 4 litre basket, just enough for a batch of grape jelly. With the help of a recipe I found online, it was time to make jelly magic.
This was not my first time making jelly. Back in the early 2000s, at a time when I was forever searching for creative projects, I found a recipe for red pepper jelly in the TV Guide and thought to myself, “that doesn’t sound too hard.” I bought mason jars and the necessary ingredients and successfully produced a beautiful red jelly, perfect for Christmas gift giving.
With that experience long behind me (maybe too long), my grape jelly journey began. While I am certainly no stranger in the kitchen, the multi-step process seemed more complex than I remembered from my first experience. Continue reading
Filed under food, home, Humour
Of all the inanimate objects in the universe, there is one item that seems to be my equivalent to Lucy pulling the football before Charlie Brown gets to kick it… it’s paper towel dispensers.
Let’s be clear, I am not referring to any specific brand of paper towel dispensers, or even specific paper towel dispensers in a specific venue. I just mean paper towel dispensers in general.
Am I the only one for whom they don’t seem to work right?
Before I start getting nasty emails from paper towel dispenser companies, let me say up front: it’s not your fault.
It’s the human component using them that seems to have a knack for messing them up… and I’m not talking about myself.
The principle for a mechanical dispenser should be pretty simple. You wash your hands; you gently pull down on the little lever to feed the desired amount of paper through slot; you carefully pull off the towel with the help of the serrated blade; you dry your hands with the towel; you toss the used towel in the receptacle provided.
It’s not rocket science. The devices are pretty intuitive and should be easy to use.
But much like the rules of the road are not always followed to the letter of the law, there are rebels in the bathroom reinventing how to use the dispensers. Continue reading
Filed under Humour, stories
My apologies for the vulgarity in the title, but please be forewarned that the word “poop” will come up a few times in this post.
Back when I lived in the city, in a development of townhomes grouped together quite cozily, one of my biggest pet peeves was people who walked their dogs and didn’t clean up after them.
I recall on one occasion opening my window when witnessing an owner letting their dog do its business and not picking it up. I cleared my throat and shouted “EXCUSE ME! Are you going to clean that up?”
They ignored me and just jogged into the distance like it never happened. As much as I would have liked to run out, pick it up and throw it at them, I like to think I’m classier than that.
But it was a next door neighbour with a German shepherd that pushed the boundaries and my buttons. They’d let their dog roam on a very long leash, into my backyard to relieve itself.
The burns in the grass from the urine were bad enough but it was the accumulating fecal matter that was the issue, despite my repeated objections and requests for them to clean up after their dog.
The only time they seemed to respond to my texts was after a snowfall, when the droppings weren’t visible anymore, and say, “Sorry, we’ll try better next time” … How thoughtful of them! Continue reading
On a recent trip to a grocery store, I had a most bizarre encounter with a fellow shopper.
I was pushing my cart down an aisle that was very narrow, given the shelves of potato chips on one side and an island of cases of soft drinks in the middle. Essentially, the aisle was divided into two one-way streets.
If traditional rules of the road prevailed, in theory, I was taking the correct approach. I was traveling on the right side of the aisle while oncoming traffic should have been on the other side of the Island of Coca Cola.
I was near the end of my one-way street when a gentleman (and I use the term loosely) turned the corner and chose to enter the same one-way street I was using… but in the opposite direction.
I watched him as he picked up different bags of chips and quickly put them down without tossing any into his cart. I sensed that something weird was brewing.
Then he paused, not making eye contact with me, still looking in the direction of the shelf. His body language showed that he not actively looking for anything anymore.
Something was up.
Was this a showdown of some sort? Continue reading
Filed under Humour, stories
I never learned touch typing.
Believe it or not, I type with the thumbs, indexes and middle fingers of both hands, it’s a weird hybrid six finger technique that I developed myself that has stayed with me for more than 40 years.
In having written as much as I have, I know intuitively where all of the keys are. The six fingers in question know when to engage to hit the right keys. As a result, I rarely need to look down and can get words committed to paper pretty accurately.
But back at the office, I recall situations when accuracy suffered… often! It is amazing how last-minute urgent requests, conflicting priorities and needing to be in multiple places at once can conspire to help me conjure up a whole new language… or completely mess up the ones I supposedly know already.
Similarly, auto-correct has tripped me up a few times. I type a word correctly but auto-correct changes it to something obscure, rudely incorrect, or a word that I use so rarely that it makes me wonder if someone else has been using my computer. This is one of the reasons why I have a hard time trusting artificial intelligence (AI).
For all of these reasons, proofreading BEFORE hitting the “Send” button is incredibly important.
Yet some of the typos I have produced over the years have been known to make me stop and enjoy the absurdity, the humour, or both.
For your enjoyment, here are ten of my favourite typos: Continue reading
How I miss the days when I had a stomach of steel (metaphorically speaking of course) and could eat pretty much anything, at any time, and in any quantities that I wished.
Those were the days… the joys of being a growing boy, with a healthy appetite and a metabolism to burn calories like an industrial grade furnace.
In looking back, I am grateful that I did take advantage of that period to enjoy a few all-you-can-eat buffets, which I cannot really do much anymore. Now, just a little too much food can have me immobilized on the couch like a tortoise flipped upside down on its shell, and then skipping the next meal or two.
Also, I am glad that when my stomach was pretty infallible, I was able to get a bit adventurous in going outside of the “meat and potatas” my Dad preferred as our nightly dishes, and to try out different cuisines when the opportunity presented itself.
But for some reason, as I got older, my stomach had its ups, downs and intolerances that have complicated things a bit. Continue reading
Filed under 50+, food, Humour
On a recent shopping trip to my rural pharmacy, when I brought my bottle of vitamin supplements to the cash register, the cashier rang it up and said “With your discount, your total is…”
In true Canadian fashion, my immediate reflex was to reply, “Thank you” as I reached for my credit card. Then the unexpected word “discount” finally sunk in and processed through my subconscious.
“What discount was that?” I asked.
“The seniors’ discount” replied the cashier.
At that moment, I could see a momentary pause came over her face. I wondered if she thought she might have insulted me especially since I believed that my hydrating cream and anti-dark-circle eye stick seemed to be working in perfect unison on the day in question.
I jumped in and inquired “Oh, and at what age does that start?”
She said “55.”
I didn’t want to have her thinking she had made a social faux-pas. I let her off the hook by quickly exclaiming, “Oh that’s wonderful, I’m 56!” Continue reading