A tour of sorts……….

This post needs a bit of an explanation. The American Tall Ship, the Niagara visited our harbour in Kingsville, Ontario last weekend and we were allowed onboard for tours. This is a bit of a local piece I wrote in my column for the newspaper I work for, but some of you may find it interesting. The Jiimann is a ferry which sails out of Kingsville for a few months of the year to Pelee Island in Lake Erie (about 1 1/2 hr “voyage”).

Majestic. That was my first impression of the Flagship Niagara, the Tall Ship that docked for the weekend at the Kingsville harbour. I first saw it in a clearing at the Mettawas Park parking lot, proudly sitting next to the dock—the sails neatly folded away and the rigging in full view and splendour.

Do not expect proper nautical terms from me—I am a full blown landlubber prone to seasickness even on short forays to Pelee Island, but even I understand the romance of the open water. I picked up a brochure that described the “Live-Aboard Programs” touting “an experience you will long remember.” Perhaps a few decades ago (I will not reveal how many, but more than one or two….) I would have jumped at the chance—but today, I cannot even go below deck as the stairs leading to the mess and sleeping area were just a bit narrow and steep for me. I seem to have developed a fear of steps that are not wide and generous of late—something I find limiting, but alas….

I enjoyed the shortened tour I took on the deck, the mounds of thick ropes, the beautiful wooden decking, the navigational apparatus, and every one of the guides/seamen and women were friendly and knowledgeable. I was allowed through some of the roped areas as I could not complete the tour. No one needs to see a woman go head first down a hatch. A man (much older than I) explained to me that the ship was not handicapped accessible—making me feel just a little bit more senior than I actually am. Oh well, that MRI on my knee cannot come soon enough…..

I noticed that in the middle of the ship there was a raised portion (skylight?) that had bars on the windows. A young father told his daughter that that was where they held the prisoners. I laughed, but then I looked down and saw a woman doing paperwork below deck. I pointed it out to my husband and told him that I felt like that when I did paperwork (trapped in case you are not getting my drift). I am a self-proclaimed creative (?) and I hate paperwork, especially when it involves math any higher that multiplication and division (I have adding and subtracting down pat; formulas not so much).

We met an older volunteer on the deck who was from Albany, New York. He listened very patiently and even seemed interested while my husband regaled him with (true) tales of my ancestor, Peter Geauvreau who was a ships’ carpenter on the Queen Charlotte involved in the same 1812 Battle of Put-In- Bay as The Niagara. We must not have annoyed him too much, as he caught up with us later as we were leaving and talked to us some more about ship history and life in general.

I took some pictures on the dock and then ventured over to one of the fishing boat docks and took some more. I caught the ship with the Jiimann in the background just leaving for its voyage to Pelee Island. I waited and caught the two boats nose to nose, the juxtaposition of old and new a wonderful metaphor for the day—the past and the present entwined for a moment.

Published in: on September 1, 2015 at 2:18 pm  Comments (7)  

Curiosity Really Did Kill the Cat

Caught the last half of Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday and now have the next book on my “TO READ” list. It is “A Curious Mind: The Secret of a Bigger Life” by Brian Grazer and Charles Fishman. Perhaps I am one of those people the advertisers just love—because, yes, sometimes I am influenced by what I see and hear on TV.

What I saw this morning was Oprah interviewing television and movie producer extraordinaire Brian Grazer (who has been nominated for 43 Academy Awards and 131 Emmys for a few things like the movies Splash and A Beautiful Mind). He was also named one of the hundred most influential people in the world in 2002 by Time magazine. But to me, his fame is secondary to what he had to say during the interview. Perhaps sometimes it takes great fame to make one humble. Brian came across as someone who sincerely believes in something. And that something is curiosity.

I could really relate to his deep quest. He has turned curiosity into his “spiritual practice”. It is his discipline (or religion) and it is something he has made a habit of developing and exercising on a regular basis. He surmises that he has done about 800 “curiosity interviews”, five hundred of which are in his book.

He first started his curiosity practice by making it his goal to meet a new person every day and “learn the secrets of their process”. Not just meet them, but get to know them, and see just what makes them tick. Oprah called him “instinctively curious”. I think that curiosity is deeply ingrained in his DNA, as it is in all of us if we choose to pursue it.

I am curious to a fault. If you are not being generous, this could be termed as “nosey”. But like Brian, I am curious out of a sense of wanting to find out more about people; trying to find out what their “story” is; and delving into what makes up their personality. In finding out these things, it gives one a wider look at the world. Brian said that getting to know other people helps you climb out of your box; gives you a more balanced look at life than you can derive by yourself; and helps you make sense of the world.

I am curious as to what makes this man tick. And so was Oprah. She asked him how he started his day. And this was his answer: when he gets up in the morning he has two glasses of water, a cup of coffee, an apple and a banana, and goes directly to his computer and tunes into the Internet where he gets his “news fix” as well as a little gossip from various blogs and newspapers he follows. He says that this is what “gets him going” in the morning—water, coffee, fruit, and inspiration in the form of what is going on in the world around him.

I think that without curiosity we become too myopic. We focus on our own problems and joys and do not make an “emotional connection” (as Oprah terms it) with other people and their problems and joys. We need to get beyond ourselves and understand that we can make our world bigger than what merely goes on in front of our own noses.

Personally I have to curb my curiosity. When I visit your home and go to the washroom I keep myself from looking in your medicine cabinet and comfort myself with merely observing what you have on public display—what you choose to show of yourself. I do not go beyond the social mores of the day and pry into your life by opening closed doors. (And you can do me the same favour when you come to my house—closed doors at my house really do hide a multitude of sins—the mess of my life gathered up in hampers and hopefully “hidden”.)

I often wonder where the phrase “curiosity killed the cat” came from. According to that infamous site of all things explainable, Wikipedia, it is part of a proverb. I find it interesting that the last part of the proverb, “but satisfaction brought it back” is less frequently seen. Not so surprising if you think about it, as it seems to pardon the supposed sin of curiosity. It is interesting to note though that in 1916, “Curiosity Killed the Cat” was a real headline in The Washington Post. A cat by the name of Blackie actually did die of a broken back after falling from some high climbing high jinx.

Notwithstanding Blackie’s unfortunate fall and eventual death, curiosity satisfied makes life “bigger” (unless you are a cat who has used up your nine lives.)

Published in: on August 25, 2015 at 12:36 pm  Comments (3)  

Not Quite a Haiku

The veil has lifted ~
A new dawn, new day, new dusk;
I am ready, Freddy

No, I do not know who Freddy is either, but it rhymed and it came readily to mind. I do not know why.

Published in: on August 21, 2015 at 1:30 pm  Comments (5)  

Confessions of a Difficult Person

There are three library books in my house right now that I did not order and hopefully were not taken out in order to deal with me. Once I reveal the titles you will know whereof my trepidation lies. The first is called “Powerful Phrases for Dealing with Difficult People” by Renee Evenson. The real kicker is in the description of the book: “Over 325 ready-to use words and phrases for working with challenging personalities.” Okay, I will fess up—I am a challenging personality (sometimes), but I like to think I keep most of my lesser agreeable traits under wraps (most of the time).

The second book is called “Dealing with Difficult People” and it brags that it is the revised edition of an international best seller. I am denoting a theme here and the word of the day seems to be “difficult”. Written by Roberta ta Cava this book says that it helps one deal with “nasty” people of various varieties. I may have my nasty moments, but on the whole I am generally pretty nice. So hopefully this book is not aimed at me (specifically).

Number three is called “Perfect Phrases for Dealing with Difficult People” by Susan F. Benjamin. (Aside number 1: I am wondering here if there is any coincidence in the fact that all three authors are women.) Anyway, Susan provides only “hundreds of (as opposed to Renee’s 325) ready-to-use phrases for handling conflict, confrontations, and challenging personalities.” Am wondering if I should be a little disquieted here, but am sure that my minor flaws are not worthy of three (count them: three!) books about difficult people.

In case I forgot to mention it, these three books were taken out of the library by my husband. He has been known to comment on my “delicate sensibilities” in the past when I have amusingly annoyed him, and the used the phrase “You can always tell a Harvard woman but you can’t tell her much” (changing the gender but not the meaning) when I have not particularly charmed him with my wily ways.

(Aside number 2: My youngest son has a whole different take on the books. Tyler saw them on the dining room table and during a conversation he was having with his older brother (which I overheard) he said “Look Adam, Dad got these books to figure out how to deal with you.” You gotta love sibling jesting.)

We have all come upon “challenging personalities”, and we all have our ways of dealing with their particular propensities. I must admit that adding a few key phrases to my repertoire might not be such a bad thing, on those rare occasions when I believe something should be dealt with in a manner other than hiding my head in the sand (by the way this idiom about the maligned ostrich has been proven incorrect but I still like it).

Susan of “Perfect Phases…” believes that “constant complainers ranks as one of (our) most formidable foes” and suggests these six phrases to counteract or balance their discontent. She says that first you should show you are listening (and I am sure not rolling your eyes helps with the sincerity), then you should utter one of these phrases:

1. Thanks for letting me know your impression.
2. I appreciate your input.
3. I understand what you mean.
4. I was not aware that you saw the situation that way.
5. That’s an interesting way of seeing the situation. (Love this one as it uses one of my favourite words, “interesting” in a way that seems innocuous but is not.)
6. Thanks for giving me your take on that matter.

Now, I don’t know about you, but I know that if I were the complainer in question here, I would not be satisfied with any of the six responses. I would know I was being patronized and also that my concerns were being given short shrift. But wait, Susan does not leave it there—she says that after uttering one of these phrases you validate the points made (by the complainer) and discuss ways of addressing the issues brought up by either saying that you will meet with someone who can do something about the complaint or offer to look into the matter further. Personally I think you should just skip to this step and leave out the phrases she suggests to mollify the complainer. I find them a bit demeaning and they would not put me in the mood for the important part of the conversation, which is doing something solid about the complaint. Just saying………

Okay, so maybe I am a difficult person.

Are you a difficult person?

Published in: on August 20, 2015 at 2:18 pm  Comments (7)  

A Glass of Vino

“Why don’t you just go begging on the street corner?” This was a response I received on Kijiji this week after placing a free ad asking for a particular article I was interested in obtaining. Inadvertently I put in an incorrect sum I was willing to pay for said article. What I was asking for and the sum I put in were completely incongruent, thus the above response from someone seemingly outraged by my “stupidity”.

The sum that appeared in the ad was $2.00 when one could not expect to buy the article I was requesting for anything less than 100 times that amount. I thanked the responder, who was by the very nature of the rules of advertising on Kijiji, anonymous, and said I would go back into the ad and correct it. But I am still a bit stymied by the response. First, I was a bit angry. It seemed like a pretty extreme retort to something that was obviously a mistake. Then, I wanted to respond in kind with a bitter edged strongly worded reply. Finally, I decided not to play the game that is quite rampant on the internet and spill out my guts in words I would later regret. So I simply thanked the disgruntled respondent for the “heads up” and told them I would correct my error.

I wonder though if the person who responded so severely would have done so if not under the guise of anonymity. Would they have been so insulting if I could trace the response back to them? Or was this a Kijiji generated response letting me know that my ad was, by all standards, insulting to anyone who read it. Who knows? I do not expect an answer, but it does give one pause about the lack of politeness under the cover of the faceless shadow of anonymity.

I have learned that the internet is a lovely place. I have a blog and through it I have met some wonderful people. But when I first entered the blog world I found a few people who were, shall we say—not so nice. I have learned how not to engage these people. And I used that knowledge as my measure in dealing with the Kijiji bully whose comment I found, on one hand, amusing, on the other, troubling. I am pretty sure the perpetrator was not trying to be funny. I think they were trying to put me in my place. And, rather than just inform me that they thought I made a mistake in my ad, they took an adversarial approach. To my mind, this is never the path to jog down.

On A Lighter Note

I have a more amusing and less troubling anecdote to share with you regarding a response from something that seems to have been computer generated (opposed to anonymous mean-mindedness). I am sure that anyone who uses a computer is familiar with the twists and turns your computer takes if you happen to hit the wrong key and your computer goes, for lack of a more technical term, kafluey. (I will not be applying for any IT jobs in the near future). Anyway, I was trying to figure out why my screen had gone blank, and during my efforts to return it to normal, a screen came up with these words: “I am sorry but what you are doing is not working. Go and have a glass of wine and come back later.” (These may not be the exact words—but the gist of the message is authentic.)

Well, I almost fell off my chair laughing—and that is a very dangerous thing to do particularly if it is a swivel office chair—because your feet get caught awkwardly in the mechanism and it is very difficult to extricate yourself. Then, I took the advice given to me on the screen from some unknown source (or Microsoft guy/gal with a great sense of humour). I got up from the computer, considered having a glass of wine (but since it was 10:00 a.m. in the morning—even I could not hide behind the phrase “it is five o’clock somewhere”) and left my computer.

I consulted my youngest son via telephone (he was away at college) as to how to handle the problem. And his response? “Turn off the computer”. This is advice I have taken to heart now, and you would not believe how many computer problems it solves (works with my cell phone too). I do not know how or why it works (perhaps things reset themselves?) but 9 times out of 10, turning off the computer works.

Now, if we could find a way to turn off cyber bullies that easily…………….

Have you had any questionable experiences?

Published in: on August 10, 2015 at 3:12 pm  Comments (11)  

Feeling Very August Today

Imposing, stately
Majestic and dignified
Eminent August.

Note: these are all words that come up when you use the thesaurus on the word august.I love the Thesaurus.

Published in: on August 6, 2015 at 3:08 pm  Comments (3)  

Late Summer

cool morning greets us

skin warmed by afternoon sun

night shadows shiver

Published in: on August 6, 2015 at 1:55 am  Comments (2)  

August Ruminations

Someone once said that maturity has nothing to do with age. I am sure they were famous. From the outside looking in, I seem mature (caveat: until I open my mouth); but from the inside looking out I am still that little girl struggling with life—the ups and downs but mostly the sideways. By the way, have you ever noticed that a lot of life is sideways—not really a roller coaster but instead one of those swings that go round and round, faster and faster, then gradually slow to a halt? Anyway, I digress (there is such freedom in digression—not having to stay on topic, no particular beginning, middle or end; no particular point to make; no, what is that word I find intriguing but can never remember—denouement—or proper conclusion).

Anyway, back to the topic at hand—maturity. Stick with me here—I am sure I have a point to make. With maturity, comes wisdom, and with wisdom comes responsibility and sensibleness. I really would not mind being looked on as wise, but with responsibility comes a heavy load. And we all bear it—whether, like me you walk into it unaware, or you jog into it fully cognisant of your role. And there is nothing wrong with being sensible–although it can limit you. When you are sensible (sane, rationale, practical, no-nonsense) you tend to look at all sides of an issue, then discard the issue because it is neither judicious nor prudent. And you miss a chance, an opportunity, a risk. I am all for good decisions—but those decisions should have a soupcon of danger—not to life and limb, but a respite from the safe and secure.

Do not get me wrong—safety and security are paramount to a happy life—but a little risk mixed in makes life that much more interesting. (Interesting is a word many people use when they do not know how to respond. For example when you ask someone if they like your dress, and they reply that it is interesting, be aware that they do not like your dress.) Interesting in the context of this rambling essay means stimulating, thought-provoking, and attention-grabbing, not curious or remarkable. (Remarkable is another one of those words that can be used when you need a word that is not outwardly insulting—as in “that is a remarkable dress”—when the underlying thought is—“I would not be caught dead in that dress.”)

My new favourite book is called “the life changing magic of tidying up” by Marie Kondo . (It is quite simply my new favourite book because it is the one I am currently reading—it does not take much to become my new favourite book). Marie is Japanese, and the book is subtitled “the Japanese art of decluttering and organizing.” Now what does decluttering have to do with maturity you might ask? Well, I am finally mature enough to admit that my disorganized office and bedroom are no longer just quirks of my creative nature, but perhaps (just perhaps) the result of too much introspective justification. If you cloak messiness in creativity then it becomes charming. Or not…..

I am no longer charmed by my own disorganization. I am ready (once again) to take up the gauntlet of what Marie calls a “life-transforming” habit. She says that “A dramatic reorganization of the home causes correspondingly dramatic changes in lifestyle and perspective. It is life-transforming. I mean it.” And to further her call to organization she provides us with some testimonies of people who were her clients—some of which I find a bit dubious; some inspirational. One person quit their job and launched their own dream business; one got a divorce (I do not find this testimonial all that inspirational, but I guess it all depends on perspective); another was “amazed to find that just throwing things away has changed me so much.”

If you get this book be aware that the author wants you to throw out a whole lot of stuff. She is unforgiving when it comes to this—and I must say I was a bit uncomfortable with her garbage bag solution—(I am more of a recycle girl myself)—but part of the Kool-Aid she wants you to drink is not to give your stuff to someone else so they then have to guiltily purge themselves of your stuff too. So there is a method to her madness, though she does relent in some areas and gives us permission to recycle if we are not burdening someone with our stuff.

I recommend this book to anyone, who, like me, is trying to convince themselves that creativity does not necessarily come from chaos. Or, if you just want to find that other blue suede shoe.

Published in: on August 4, 2015 at 12:50 pm  Comments (7)  
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The first week of August

Originally posted on Live & Learn:

fans-summer-gif-august-hot

The first week of August hangs at the very top of summer, the top of the live-long year, like the highest seat of a Ferris wheel when it pauses on its turning. The weeks that come before are only a climb from balmy spring, and those that follow a drop to the chill of autumn, but the first week of August is motionless, and hot. It is curiously silent, too, with blank white dawns and glaring noons, and sunsets smeared with too much color.

–Natalie Babbitt, from Tuck Everlasting


Notes: Image Source: David Pichler, 3oneseven.com (via Mennyfox55). Quote source: Paper Ghosts

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Published in: on August 4, 2015 at 12:43 pm  Leave a Comment  

…..and thou

“Nothing is better than a picnic.” ~ Zooey Deschanel

Picnics. Does the reality of an actual picnic live up to its hype? I love picnics—at least the concept of them. Eating out in the fresh air. A blanket spread on vast greenness. A bottle of wine, a loaf of bread, a chunk of good cheese, some fine chocolate……………okay now for the not so romantic reality. The reality of most picnics is that they are a lot of work. Time and planning and a great deal of preparation go into something which is supposed to be simple fun with convivial friends and good food.

The first step is deciding where to have the picnic. At the local park? At the beach? In your backyard? And how will you eat–at a picnic table, in lawn chairs eating off your lap, or on a blanket spread on the ground? How many people will be invited and what will be on the menu? Is it going to be potluck, a wiener roast, or a steak barbeque (which these days seems to be limited to millionaires with the price of beef and lack of sales on the more expensive bovine cuts). And most importantly–what about dessert?

The picnics of my youth were wonderful affairs. And do you know why? Because all I was expected to do was show up. Maybe help carry a few things from the car to the picnic site—but all the other variables—who was coming, what was being served, where we were having the picnic were planned by someone else. And that someone else always turned out to my mom.

I never once heard her complain. Not while she was frying up mounds of chicken (she made the best fried chicken in the world). Or while she was making copious amounts of potato salad, fourteen pies (I may be exaggerating a bit here—but only a bit)and all the other fixings that went with a good picnic. She did not complain while she was packing it all up in coolers or wrapping the hot stuff in newspapers to keep them hot.

I have planned a few picnics. I have complained as I made a few salads to go with the inevitable bucket or three of the Colonel’s chicken. I have not been a particularly happy camper in figuring out all the logistics—the who, what, where, when and how of the picnic, nor have I been particularly gracious when it came time to clean up.

I love the idea of a picnic. I love the idea of eating outside. But I do not like heat and humidity. Or bugs of either the flying or crawling variety. I like the picnics that I see the fictional characters of Downton Abbey partake in. But they had servants and cooks. And I believe they may have used crystal and china and silverware at their picnics. Not Styrofoam plates, plastic knives and forks, or paper cups. According to Alice Walker, “Tea to the English is really a picnic indoors” so they are well versed in the practices of the picnic even when picnic weather is not forecast.

I have wonderful memories of picnics when I was a kid. Particularly the one we would have every year to celebrate the Crawford Reunion. (My mom was a Crawford.) It was usually the second Sunday in July—and in the latter years that it was held, it was at Lakeside Park (in Kingsville, Ontario for my blog friends).Tables upon tables had to be corralled so there would be enough to seat the families of my grandpa and all his brothers and sisters and their families. (I cannot readily remember how many but there were at least ten).

We always had a banner affixed with a badge proudly bearing the Crawford tartan announcing our reunion to one and all (and woe betide anyone who tried to take one of the tables under the banner). The reunion itself, for a kid was lots of fun. It was the granddaddy of picnics with lots of people who you were related to in some manner or other, games, and of course, food galore. And when you shared what you brought with the others sitting around you, and they shared what they brought— it was a true feast.

I leave you with a rather romantic view of picnicking from Omar Khayyam who penned this in the 12th century with no mention of fuss and bother, bug spray and sunscreen, or mess and logistics:

A book of verse beneath the bough,
A loaf of bread, a jug of wine, and thou
Beside me singing in the Wilderness –
Ah, wilderness were paradise enow!

What are your best picnic memories?

Published in: on July 28, 2015 at 1:44 pm  Comments (5)  
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