From the category archives:

Personal Views

Not taken for granted

by lulujane on January 30, 2013

10abcToday my sister had a prescription for a knee brace, hopefully to remedy the ongoing pain caused by osteo arthritis.  As I sat in the store watching, waiting for her to be fitted, I listened to other customers whose first questions were `how much is it` and `am I covered`. (Punctuation here is an ongoing problem for me as there is a glitch in the program, so forgive lack of question marks or correct punctuation.)

I live in a city in which  many individuals and families, sometimes generations of families, have been employed and supported by the auto industry, in some instances from cradle to grave.  Unions have fought strongly for benefit packages for their members.  Even although I was always a salaried employee, working for an employer not connected with the auto industry, my wages and benefits were influenced by comparison with what was earned in the auto sector.  Because of that I have retired with a generous benefit package; a comfortable pension, prescription drugs for a thirty-five cent co-pay, ongoing dental coverage, etc.  Even although my employer is paying for it, I have no hesitation in acknowledging that were it not for the union demands and sacrifices over the years I would not have this.

Back to the fitting shop experience today, within the period of a couple of hours my sister had a prescription from her doctor (thanks to free medical care), was fitted for an appliance, and walked out the door pain free, at no financial cost to her for the $790 brace that she wore out the door.

I often wonder how many of us really appreciate this.  A few years ago when I was in Florida I overheard someone say `they must be Canadian….  they want everything for free`.  Is that what we have become…. a nation of  people whose expectation is one of entitlement that they shouldn`t have to pay for anything.  I hope not!

My belief is that a business similar to the one we visited today wouldn`t function or be as  profitable in another community away from the production lines that nudge the cars and vans out in rapid succession. My sense is that the great majority of people in our province, in our country must go without because they don`t have have the good fortune that we have.

On occasion I have written letters to my former employer expressing gratitude for the benefits I enjoy, which serve to provide me with financial peace of mind in my day-to-day life.  That might sound goofy to some people but to me, it is important that I not take gifts, blessings or benefits for granted.  It is important for me to not only feel grateful, but to express it.

In good conscience, how could I not

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That’s my story…

by lulujane on January 10, 2011

I walked into our local Chapters/Indigo book store and paused for a moment. In doing so, I was aware of stillness.  It felt sacred, like I was in a church.  I observed the stillness and took time to enjoy this silent moment. I realized that a large bookstore or library  is a  space where the greatest assembly of artistic expression exists in one place.  Bearing their spines on multi-tiered display spaces or centre aisle showcases, thousands and thousands of books call to us. I think of the hours of preparation, research, hard work, sometimes years that can go into writing a single book.  Try multiplying that by the number of books on shelves or available on-line. Nowhere on this planet can anyone, regardless of financial wealth or social standing, stand in the centre of such a creative collection.

When an author shares words with another author, there must be an understanding between them, even if they don’t know each other, because of their shared experience.  Listening to some authors it sounds like it is a real effort to sit at their writing space and allow the flow of the words that hopefully, fill the page.  Some must twist themselves in knots or stand on their heads (I’m picturing visuals for these expressions) in painful yearning awaiting the burst of a few words nudging them forward on their page, while others admit that the words ‘just come through them’, as if they are receiving it from a source outside of themselves.

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I write on a very small, amateur scale and have no real concept of what it takes for someone to craft the writing of a book based on their knowledge, experience, education, imagination, humour, passion, research, frustration, commitment, creativity, etc.  I took a creative writing class a while back nudging me out of familiar comfort zones. I took our compassionate, well qualified and dedicated teacher’s instructions seriously.  Each week we had an assignment. In addition we were emailed copies of the writing assignments of every other student. We were to review the other students’ work with a view to offering only positive critique at our next class.

I took painstaking care with my writing, and the class helped me to explore deep emotional parts of myself to create results I was happy with.  The hard part was reviewing the other papers.  I read with enjoyment and sensitivity to the feelings of the writers when giving thought about how to positively critique some aspects of their papers.  They did the same with mine.  Doing this with such care took a lot of time.  I did not sign up for the next term because it was just too much work.  I worked a full time job and the one evening a week writing class turned into a full week of concentrated focus and stress for me.

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What I am trying to say is that when someone bares their soul to create a volume of work for public consumption,  a lot goes into it.  A sentence or a paragraph can be written, rewritten or moved many times before it flows with the rest of the narrative. Creating even a good short story would be a herculean task so I’m thinking that writers have guts, grit, determination, tenacity, courage, etc. to keep themselves on track, pushing through to the heart of the next paragraph, the next chapter – and then maybe onto the next book.

If one writes from memory or personal experience my sense is that the story can flow naturally, without having to resort to research except when memory needs refreshing. Mmmmm … better to write when young than when older… lots less to remember, and a shorter period of time to remember it for.

What is it about books?  Whenever I go to Costco I am drawn into the magnetic field of the book aisle where many titles of the same name are stacked deep and wide. I scan titles, run my hand over dust jackets as if by feeling the book I will be imbued with the flavour of what is inside. Oddly enough I hardly ever glance at cookbooks, salivate over cover photos, or touch their covers or pages.  Although great food prepared with love offer the diner a luscious experience, the language of recipes doesn’t evoke the feeling that I get from a good story or biography.  When I touch them I know there are lots of feeling characters, tumbling emotions, mystery, adventure tied up inside. I am told that this big box book department takes in a lot of dollars from those of us whose pulses race as we hurriedly push our shopping carts there, where lots of us just can’t resist the impulse shopping that the display demands.

And when I get my book home I don`t always read it, but I just had to have it. What is it about needing to have a book?  I have a lot of books on tables, in baskets, and shelves, in pretty well every room in my home. This includes a deep shelf  book unit in my cluttered  laundry room space. My favourite reading is a page turning story which can be a novel, biography or autobiography.  My attention span being what it is, the page turner quality helps me focus and stay with it.  And when I am into it, I devour it like a starving man would inhale his first next meal.  And then, hungry again, I start looking for the next good book.

If a book is hard to get into I leave my bookmark in place and search for another.  It is not uncommon to have five or six books on the go at the same time, none of which I am invested in fully.  And when it gets to be just too much and I feel scattered beyond description I close the covers on all of them and put them away, hoping to start back at square one, with just one book that calls my name.  And once I respond, it owns me.

I honour talented writers and their commitment to their work – for they give us much.  They entertain us, teach us, help us to find our way. For those who make it to the big time, whose work,  faces and names are recognized and applauded,  good for you.  And for those who have put their heart and soul into your work without reaping the glory of fame and financial reward, my wish is that you know that there is a public you have served well through the sharing of your gift.

In my home many exquisitely beautiful floral images seem always in my periphery, and even if I am not looking directly at them, giving them no immediate attention, I know that they have a positive effect on me.  Perhaps even if I don’t read all of the wonderful books I bring into my home, the creative energy expressed in, or that it took to create them, also has a positive effect on me.

That is my story, and I am sticking to it!

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it is just changeWhen I was very young, I knew how to count change. By that, I mean that if someone bought something for $2.31 and they gave me $5, without the aid of a calculator or cash register, paper or pen  telling me how much the change was, I could give someone the correct amount of change.  My sense is that this simple task is becoming a lost art.

Since computerized cash registers have calculated the amount of change , it has become common for a cashier to complete our transactions by just dumping a handful of change into our hand.  And me, like most other customers do not count, do not question; we just put it into our purse or pocket and off we go.

The same can be said for signing a Visa slip when charging a purchase.  The casher rings up or scans a number of items and has us sign the Visa chit, and we do so without first being shown the receipt to make sure we are authorizing the proper amount.  In fact, we don’t even get to see the cash register receipt before signing. Ditto for checking a restaurant receipt when dining out.  Many people look only at the amount of the tax to help them calculate an approximate 15% tip. In some stores an electronic screen is in view so we can watch items being recorded; other stores do not allow us this courtesy.

When and how did we become so casual in our relationships with money and cashiers?

I keep my cash register slips and compare them at month end to my debit and credit accounts.  A couple of times I thought there was an error and when I checked with Visa discovered that the merchant name from another city that I didn’t recognize was actually a vendor at a local arts and craft show.  When I saw one of my adult sons toss away a cash register receipt I wondered aloud if he checked them against his statements. He doesn’t and asked me “really mom, have you ever found a mistake?’. In his own way he was telling me that I worry too much and am wasting my time.  Admittedly, though I have been painstakingly executing this task for many years, errors have either been small and few or non-existent.  Does this mean I don’t have to do this anymore?

This all came to mind yesterday when unexpectedly a cashier actually counted the change into my hand – not going from the amount of the purchase to the amount given to her, but by verbally matching what she gave me with the amount on the cash register screen.  This is not a common practice. Usually I am told the amount of my change, or not, and then it is given to me.

I believe that if I were in almost any store in North America and the power went out, the cashier would have to decline the processing of my purchase because he or she would’t know how to give change.  I think that is sad.

I get annoyed with myself for being so blase’ about being given a handful of change and without even looking up, tucking it away without checking it and moving on to the next store to do the same.  However, I am heartened when an alert cashier tells me I have given them too much money.

Most of the time in these transactions I am dealing with  ‘small change’  and yet I continue to wonder when I hand over the cash or sign an authorization slip  if I am putting too much trust into machines and people I don’t even know.

Perhaps it’s all about the change darlin’ – it’s all about change.

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Lots of things going on in here…

by lulujane on December 4, 2010

As I say `Lots of thinking going on in here..` I am tapping on my right temple with the middle finger on my right hand, the finger next to the finger that wears my nice gold cameo ring.

Every morning I check my iGoogle home page for words of wisdom.  I already have lots of them, know lots of them, often writing down the ones that ring true for me.  And, on a moment`s notice in an appropriate situation I can conjure up and quote my favourites as if I am expert.

Today`s offering from iGoogle is `This one step – choosing a goal and staying to it – changes everything.` (Right now I am frustrated with my computer putting an apostrophe when I want a quote mark, and my wisdom is telling me to ignore it – that it doesn`t really matter. And in the grand scheme of things, I know it doesn`t matter, so on I go.)

Speaking of `this one step`… quite often for me, I know the wisdom in taking an important step, is in choosing to remain still, until I feel that the moment is right.  And that is MY bit of wisdom for this day – December 4, 2010. Maybe that is why I am choosing to ignore my present issue with the quote marks.

My bit of wisdom from yesterday, December 3, is that I don`t want to count birthdays anymore – henceforth, I shall be, and I am 55 years of age.  Even this is much older than I feel, but the double 5`s sound nice rolling off my tongue and they look pretty standing beside each other. I am thinking that each year adding a year to my age can make me feel older than I feel, older than I actually am in my mind, body and heart.  Stating my age to someone who doesn`t know me can also influence how others feel when they relate to something, or make a judgment about a number. So, no more getting out the calculator to deduct my birth year from the current year, to give me an increasingly larger result.  When my children`s ages start to overlap mine, then I might have to rethink this, but for now, 55 is a darned good thing.

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dscn1428x420Some people in my city of Windsor, Ontario www.citywindsor.ca are high on promoting our community/region as the perfect place for seniors to retire.  Essex County is known as the Banana Belt, being the southernmost point in Canada.  Actually at Point Pelee we are on the same parallel as Rome, Italy and Northern California.  That’s pretty impressive.

I recently attended a presentation by Mr. Lynne Adams of the new Senior Advisory Council in Windsor. Many seniors have concerns about crossing busy streets.   Lynne mentioned that some busy intersections have lights timed in a way that does not permit sufficient time for unhurried crossing.  When a light turns green a pedestrian should first check traffic, then look down to ensure safe footing before starting to walk.   Feeling rushed makes some seniors, as well as people with disabilities, feel nervous and unsafe.

Another observation I made while in Florida in January was the courtesy I was consistently shown by drivers,  driving in traffic, and while I was a pedestrian.  I think I noticed it because of the sharp contrast to how people drive in my hometown of Windsor where drivers rush to beat other cars and pedestrian through an intersection or crosswalk with an ‘it’s all about me’ attitude.

One way to attract seniors to our community, as well as enhancing the lives of those presently living here, would be for the city residents to focus on, and be known for, courteous drivers.

While in New Brunswick a few years ago, my friend and I were standing on the sidewalk near the curb.  We were debating where to go next.  When I looked up I saw that traffic in both directions had stopped.  I looked at my friend with the question on my face and immediately spoken through my lips – wondering why the traffic had come to a sudden standstill.  She laughed and said “That’s what they do here.  They see us at the curb and are stopping to allow us to cross.”  And that was without us showing any obvious intention to cross.  Based on my life experience this was so extreme that I had to take notice.

Awareness is the key. When I returned to Windsor from my vacation I found myself allowing pedestrians the right of way in a way that is not always my norm.  As odd as it may seem, this makes ME feel better about myself.  I know I can do better, so I am concentrating on how courteous I can be, like in the adage, “Do unto others”.

Courtesy extended to a visitor is like saying “We appreciate you being here.  We would be happy for you to like us enough to come back”.

I am thinking that we can do that here, wondering what it would be like if our citizens got on the bandwagon and took this on, as a way of improving how others view us, changing how we do things, making us proud.

And it doesn’t cost a dime.

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The simpler math of tipping

by lulujane on February 28, 2009

dscn2290Many in the service industry depend on tips to supplement their income.  At the Sandbar Restaurant on Anna Maria Island, Florida www.sandbar-restaurant.com our receipt  included information which presented the calculation of three percentage choices (15%, 17.5% and 20%) “for your convenience” to assist the customer in calculating their tip. It made figuring out my bill so much easier. In previous years our Ontario PST and GST combined to add 15% in taxes onto bills, so many people here just added the taxes to figure out a 15% tip if that was their level of tipping.

Although this receipt information may be utilized by merchants in my local community, I haven’t seen it yet.  The way I see it, it not only benefited me in helping me to calculate my tip, but also the serving staff who would receive it.

Bravo to Sandbar Restaurant.

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Attitude is everything

by lulujane on February 28, 2009

dscn2071-420I just got off the phone from talking with my friend Bonnie.  Even this early in the morning she is cheery and bubbly. We shared what our day will look like, with a positive outlook of course.  I am grateful that I see my life through a clear filter, not muddied or dusty with residue or interference.  How my day will go will depend on how I choose to see it.  It is all up to me.

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Getting ‘another chance’

by lulujane on December 27, 2008

001xHow many of us would recognize when we are given another chance?

While on a mild morning slushy, puddly walk with my sister Joyce, dodging accumulated ice and snow where homeowners didn’t have the energy or the means to shovel, I walked past a small piece of paper sticking up from a snowbank. Breaking my stride I quickly reversed direction and picked it up.  It was a 649 lottery ticket purchased on December 17th.

This might be a chance, or it might turn out to be just another piece of useless paper.  I like to consider the possibility and opportunity to consider the metaphor.

Lucky me! I have been given a chance.

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Accepting invitations

by lulujane on December 21, 2008

chads-cd-release-dec-08-84201How many times do we turn down invitations to do something outside what is normal for us?  The invitation is offered, we think for a short moment, shake our head and simply say ‘no’…  I am thinking it really limits our life experience when we shut out what might not ‘speak to us’  for the simple reason that we aren’t open to trying new things.  My friend Gail often laughs at me when I say that something doesn’t ‘speak to ME’.

My youngest son, Tom, coaxes me out – to explore, experience new things and new people.  He is a supporter, person of great encouragement, not only to me, but to family, friends, planners, dreamers, organizers, people of vision, people of action, musicians, writers, visual artists, etc.  Through his invitation to me, I meet with him and a group of this demographic once a week.  I hear ideas, plans, projects.  One of this group’s members is Chad Howson. Chad is lead singer, musician, song writer of a band called Another Saturday Knight.  Their Chad-designed logo is ASK.

Yesterday, Another Saturday Knight had a CD release party – two really;  an all ages one at Dr. Disc on Ouellette Avenue in Windsor, Ontario and an evening show at Phog Lounge www.phoglounge.com on University Avenue in the same city. http://profile.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=user.viewprofile&friendID=163453200

Project Thunderwind – Members of our Thursday meeting group are encouraged to invite others to echads-cd-release-dec-08-4xbwx420vents and activities outside their norm.  So, to this CD release party, I invited my 14 year old granddaughter Krista.  Tom brought his brother-in-law Trevor.  In addition to supporting people in the arts and music, he is big on supporting people who are also supporting these things.  Hence, my invitation to Krista to Dr. Disc.   Dr. Disc is an independent music store whose owner/operator is one of these people.  Tom has often praised Liam http://www.drdiscrecords.com to me and even though I only had a quick introduction and a warm handshake, I understood.

I took early retirement from my full time job in June of this year (soon to be last year) and it is with gratitude and joy that I sit in the circle with these young people with passion and talent.  Chad, being one of these people, is what made me want to attend the CD release party.  This was also an opportunity for me to check out this independent music venue.  Likely typical for someone of my age, encouraged by Tom to browse while listening to Another Saturday Knight, I ended up buying CD’s by Enya, Josh Groban, Sarah McLachlan and, believe it or not, Marty Robbins.  We even threw one in for Krista – her choice – for a grand total purchase of around $48.  I will be back.

And so, invited and encouraged, I have learned, I have been open to adventure, and I have grown.

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Shift in Perception

by lulujane on December 19, 2008

It is said that the miracle is in our shift in perception.

I remember my early days of active photography.  I thought my photographs were incredibly wonderful.  When I look at these now I am embarrassed that I excitedly touted them around showing them to friends and family.  I am grateful that they didn’t burst my balloon and  I am glad that I perceived them that way initially because that is what kept me at it and moved me forward.

My vision, the way I see the world, often the way I choose to see the world, is my perception of it.  As I tiptoe through the tulips so to speak, I silently ask to be shown the beauty.  And I do find it.  I believe it is the same in the people we meet.  By opening my heart and asking to see it, it is revealed to me.  This makes me a softer, gentler, more accepting person.

As human beings, when we make judgments about others, it doesn’t say so much about them as it does about us.  If we choose to hold a negative opinion or a grudge and seize it tightly so that no one an wrench it from us, it holds us back. It keeps us stuck.  Holding firmly to the belief that we are superior or right and the other person is wrong leaves no room for negotiation. No space to breathe.  No way to escape. We become imprisoned.

I  had the personal experience of praying for a solution to an uncomfortable working relationship.  And then one day, totally out of the blue I had peace around it.  Where once I saw him as a jerk, and names worse that I won’t write here, I began to see the other person as a good man and became his friend.

Oddly enough, after I stopped fixating on what an awful person I believed him to be, I also learned to detach from outcome of the things in my job that I felt I had to control.  I see this as a big life lesson and appreciate the connection I had with him because ‘I got it’. My willingness to want peace around my daily interactions with this gentleman surprisingly gave me the gift of letting go of my need to control.

It is said that the miracle is in our shift of perception.

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