Sunday, June 29, 2014

Being a “Yes” man...

Anyone who’s in the public eye knows the probability of being misjudged for a simple slip of the tongue or expressing an unpopular opinion. Having strength of character and being ethical are essentials when we throw our hat into the political arena or volunteer to serve the public.

In small towns especially, newcomers learn a hard lesson if they innocently comment about Mr. or Mrs. Anyone to a colleague or attendee at a public function. Familial relationships are complicated and close; gossip spreads like wildfire, so zipped lips will keep you out of hot water. At the boardroom table, where confidentiality is presumed, don’t count on it. There may be someone who wants to make themselves feel important – so inevitably a juicy fact or private detail is leaked.

At this particular time of year, the Classifieds section of local newspapers are peppered with calls for volunteers to join the Board of Directors for various groups who require governance as part of their Charter mandate. Stepping forward is not a trivial decision—there are legalities and liabilities to be clearly understood.

Being “sworn in” as a Director is not trivial. The work at hand will require commitment, homework is required to establish a clear understanding of the issues on the table at the meeting, and the courage to make your voice heard when the naiveté of others clouds clear thinking. At risk of appearing contrary either in discussion or when a vote is called by a show of hands, stand tall and take pride in not being a “yes” man.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Same time next year….

Last Sunday I was reading both in the newspaper and online, the gushes of remembrance about Father’s Day. Pictures were viewed and faded memories renewed, a time of fond reminiscences for many.

It’s been said that a woman should wisely observe how their lover’s father treats his wife – supposedly an insight into probability of their own experience ahead.
Sometimes a long-suffering wife tries hard to keep the atmosphere at home smoothed over and on an even keel. Little girls, since grown up, should ideally be able to recall happy times when daddy dandled her on his knee or ruffled her curls.

My own father clearly loved his three children. We each had different relationships of course and are lucky to have wryly amusing thoughts and reminders of him in our adult lives. I have to think hard about the number of years since my father died; it feels distant. Some days I miss being able to bounce around an idea or ask for his opinion—he was always both decisive and direct in his reply.

Our Dads are the hero figure we all want to look up to and revere. When little boys grow to manhood and often fatherhood, they strive for greatness too. Acknowledgement is intrinsic, affection and respect are reciprocal, and acceptance should be heartfelt, not perfunctory. Rifts and estrangements are numerous; if your Dad is alive and you know how to contact him, it’s not too late. Reach out and let him know, with kindness, that you thought of him on Father’s Day. Patching up relationships is a hard decision, but you’ll be happy with yourself if you at least take that first step. Next year you too may only have a memory.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Marking an "X"...

The hoopla and exhortations of provincial election candidates and their platforms will draw to a close on June 14th. There is no cause celebre that catches our eye though—too many people don’t think it’s worthwhile to cast their ballot.

Recognize the possibility that your vote can be a deciding factor! If the results in your polls demand a recount it could be just one or two ballots that effect a game changing result.

Young women whose name is on the Voter’s List for the first time may not realize how essential it is to make your opinion count. A century has not passed since women in Canada were given the right to vote – now it’s both a right and a privilege. Don’t scoff it off or swagger that the results don’t affect you – fulfill your responsibility as an adult and be proud of it.

Advance polling stations are closed at this time – and the polling clerks have seen a good turnout. Men and women who’ve already seen it all still make it a priority to respond. I watched yesterday as an elderly and frail man inched up the stairs and was carefully escorted to present his Notice and show identification. He then was accompanied by his wife to assist in marking his choice, eyesight obviously not quite adequate and his hand a bit unsteady.

Take time from your busy schedule to make your vote count by marking your X.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Your Opinion Please...

We’ve all heard the expression “when the cat’s away the mice will play”. What should a neighbour do when Mom’s out of town and the mice are partying?

Noise level on Night 1 wasn’t intolerable. Too many cars were parked for a small property, and more young men arriving on foot. Golf clubs and beer, one boy on his hands and knees while his chum encourages the driver to “back up, fast” as his hand was under the wheel – either reaching for a fallen object or supporting himself from collapsing. Boy regains footing, car leaves

Night 2 was rowdier – even someone skateboarding up the hill.  Only one car in and out. Girls in the window. A cab came at around 2:00 a.m. and some wrangling to get everyone out of the house. The tipsy skateboarder careened into the night, downhill all the way.

A broken planter, and draperies askew, underage guzzling. I never called out or snitched, what would you do?

I’d love your opinion please!

Sunday, April 20, 2014

We Already Know…

I had a telephone call recently, early in the evening, from someone I had spoken with earlier that day. Readily recognizable by Call Display first, and voice of course, the hairs on my neck bristled. Quelled panic, the flat edges of concern, and concise enunciation…Moments later I was out the door and on my way to help the caller in need.

It’s amazing how our involuntary reflexes sure to the fore, examples of which are a person’s amazing strength when another may be pinned under a vehicle or other weight. An adrenalin rush that’s inexplicable. Good Samaritan efforts by passersby when it’s clear immediate help is needed. The fight-or-flight response of reflexes contributes to “being calm in a crisis, then letting go after it’s ended” – a good cry, trembling and sometimes nausea or lightheadedness.

Several years ago while vacationing I was aboard a catamaran when the captain alerted to fellow mariners in distress. A personal watercraft had capsized and all that was visible was the snout bobbing above the surface. Clinging desperately to it were the driver and passenger, one of whom could not swim and was paralysed with fear. Two crewmen from our vessel dove into the water and swam to the rescue – literally prying his hands off the nosecone. Once aboard they were all rewarded with a tot of rum, hard-earned, and the sobbing man shivered despite the blanket thrown around his shoulders on a tropical day!

When we’re abed and in a deep sleep, roused by the ringing of the telephone in the still of the night, our reflexes bound us upright and on instant alert. Unless it is mistakenly a wrongly-dialled number intuition acutely messages to our conscious and now wide-awake self what We Already Know…


Tuesday, April 8, 2014

No Growling or Whimpering…

Every employee, no matter where on the planet, ranks as a minion the hands of those who supervise ineptly.

 My first job, at a large company, included nearly 100 other willing and capable computer input clerks who stoically drudged daily under the eagle eye of a relentless supervisor. We would cringe if she approached and apprehensive of both her bark and bite; hers was a fearsome presence!

Quality control was and is the intention, and rightly so; however, bully boy tactics are still prevalent. In customer service industries, the front desk receptionist is the first introduction to the company. Dress codes may be included in the policies and procedures manuals, sometimes necessarily enforced on the disrespectful or thoughtless. Most front line workers recognize the importance of both deportment and pleasantries and are an asset to their employer.

Regardless of the role people represent, everyone has goals they want to eventually achieve. Persistent good performance and excellent behaviour sometimes earns a salary increase and/or new opportunity to step up the ladder.
Lip service paid to a wannabe is sometimes a foil by more senior staff to patronize their ambition, without intention of ever enabling that person to move forward in their aspirations.

It’s a sad state of affairs when someone’s sunny smile and goodwill to their employer is dashed in the blink of an eye. Collusion to favour someone less worthy sometimes may eventually contribute to the downfall of the bully whose own thought was self-aggrandizement…hence the proverbial “Wait till the real boss finds out”!

I think one of the reasons that the T-V series Undercover Boss is so appealing is that the real people who count can identify and reward the underdog who is true to the company without growling or whimpering.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Getting Prepped….

With spring in the offing and snow visibly dissipating, the soft breezes of inspiration give us a sense of optimism for the real estate rush long overdue. In cottage country areas where roads have been impassable and, in Muskoka, there was a recorded snowfall of 20-feet+/-; REALTORS® sense a pent-up demand for cottage ownership.

Custom builders often have waterfront cottages already open for viewing – staffed by a host or hostess. There will be a selection of pamphlets, colour brochures and maps to pore over – it’s the stuff of dreams!  Don’t be shy about enabling a relationship, if you wish to receive newsletters or e-mails it will add to your foundation-building storehouse of knowledge which is the base for decision making.

A couple who have just stopped in to the luxury cottage where we’re open for business was thrilled that their anticipation of a friendly and knowledgeable welcome was fulfilled. A noisy blue jay, glittering snow and sun on the flowing water enhanced the pleasure.

The annual Cottage Life Show in Toronto is this weekend. There’s info and ideas aplenty there, check it out!

Whether you’re a Buyer, a prospective Seller, a REALTOR® or a builder; this time of year is when everyone’s getting prepped.

Sunday, March 9, 2014


Every family who has a son or daughter in post-secondary education knows that the weekend before holiday time always is reserved for the trek to school, home for the break, and back again. Sometimes the “can’t wait to see them” feeling is tempered by week’s end when it’s “hurry up, we have to get going” in a push to regain your own space!

Students who study at a campus far from home often feel isolated from family and friends. Using Skype™ or face time technology is helpful – though sometimes wistful for all when it’s time to sign off. The family car is packed tight with treats and more than the basic necessities when the drive is To School, but sometimes the Coming Home trip is a tight fit as well.

I know a Dad who makes a nearly ten hour trek several times a year into what must feel like a different world altogether. From skidding slushy city driving to twelve-foot snow banks, barely two lanes and those dicey at best. The daughter, on campus, shares a house with three other girls – each of whom has a pet, or two. “Dad’s ark” as he calls it rides light on the trip north, but is laden heavily for the trip south.

Amid the luggage, foodstuffs for the trip, and probably some laundry are two cats in a crate, a goldfish named Marley and a hamster with plenty of kilometers under his paws!

If the weather holds and the roads are passable and the trip uneventful, this Dad will make the drive North beginning Friday after work and then back to the city on Saturday, leaving before Noon to hit home before midnight. These are the unsung heroes of all students whose destination is home for the holidays – true Survivor men!

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

On the Calendar….

Calendars for the coming year are available in the last quarter of the year, as well as mobile phone apps and online access. Business people often enter certain important dates in their e-mail program so they “pop up” as a reminder. Others - so as not to forget, make it a point to sit down with their notes book and hand print birth dates, anniversaries, vacation times, etc. onto the new calendar.

Boxed sets of birthday or all-occasion cards are popular – I’ve heard that a ritual early in January is to sign, address and stamp cards for the entire year so it’s just a matter of popping the envelope in the mail!

Personal occasions, such as one’s birthday, are more important to some than to others. One family in my own circle of relatives has never celebrated birthdays, anniversaries or dates such as Valentines, Easter, Thanksgiving, etc... It’s a practice they’re used to so nobody gets bent out of shape on their birthday, for example, when there’s no card or cake.

If your Mom, Dad or partner doesn’t acknowledge a specific date – a first inclination is to feel disappointed, and maybe a titch vexed! The first time it happened to me it took a whole day to realize that my Dad forgetting my birthday was “just one of those things”. Last year my Mother forgot my anniversary – and again, not a big deal. As she blithely said later, “it’s only important to the couple”.

It feels special though when there’s a card on the tree at Christmas and other occasions! With Valentine’s Day and all its hype fast-approaching, hold onto the outburst of hurt that likely fills your throat – maybe there’s a reason. Consider all the possibilities before the Big Pout – and don’t indulge in pay-back.

Couples who have weathered storms over a long time together have confidence that their commitment is still strong. With the pace of life and that too-long list of Things to Do, it’s easy to forget an occasion, unless there are Reminders posted everywhere! Frothy cards and maybe flowers are truly a treat, especially when unexpected! It’s what’s in our heart that’s more significant than what’s on the calendar.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Lost ...but Found!

More than forty years ago I had decided to settle in Toronto, where my mother and sister were already living. Six months of gallivanting with ‘nary a care had led me to Calgary, Vancouver and points north – but I returned east in October to revisit my home city of Montreal, job seeking. The political climate was poor and nobody could get into any office building without an appointment, so I straggled back to Toronto and started pounding the pavement.

Three girls in particular were great pals – each of us in the secretarial pool of a major insurance company. One was married already, and two of us single. Eventually we met who we thought was the knight on a white steed – and the dye was cast. The married friend was my Matron of Honour at a small ceremony, her husband the unofficial photographer. As time unfolded, they became parents; and I was asked to be godmother to their son.

Circumstances led us in different directions, and we lost touch eventually. The significance of being someone’s godmother was not lost on me though, and I always wondered if they had returned to England. The trail was cold – and I tried for a long time surfing internet sites to discover their whereabouts.

More recently, I had been entering the husband’s name on all of the social media sites, with no luck. A lot of water likely under the bridge for them and me; and my hopes waned.

Last evening, when browsing; bingo! Previously not discovered – a face leapt out at me – not really as I had remembered him, but there was very likely the husband! I nearly quavered – but zipped off a one-liner message which said “Do you have a son named “so-and-so”? Today a reply –“yes”, and with a couple of back and forth messages, we’re going to reconnect!

This may not seem particularly unbelievable – but there’s more – all of us are living in the same municipality… and this week they will be no longer Lost… but Found!

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Performance Reviews…

I recently watched the 2003 movie entitled Something’s Gotta Give, which starred Jack Nicholson, Diane Keaton, and Canadian actor Keanu Reeves. It was a perfect filler for an evening when nothing in the TV lineup was appealing!

When observing mixed groups in social scenes a lot of surreptitious eyeballing goes on when others’ actions are observed. Public behaviours that are too sensational have proved to be the downfall of many an unwitting employee when the boss either sees or hears of incident. Green-eyed antagonists vying for either a beauty or a beast can flash daggers one to the other! Observant neighbours form gossipy opinions which target anyone who’s created too much attention – do they merit “In” or “Out” at the PTA table or Sunday group? Business competitors sometimes dig for dirt too.

Playing the game by the rules, keeping one’s head up and sidestepping controversy are well thought out actions. In this age electronic communications when personal privacy may be readily compromised, whatever you post, sext or otherwise share is a public performance review. Travel sites have been popular for a long time – vacation planners access the public reviews and are influenced by what they read! Dissing the doctor as your appointment wasn’t quite on schedule isn’t a smart way to maintain cordiality – if in need don’t knead!  Stiletto rants in print, on radio or TV and abbreviated comments have avid public followers – proverbial darts or laurels that measure someone’s merit.

Families keep a close eye on the actions of siblings, their respective partners, parents and anyone else who comes into view – sizing up their observations and assessing incidents and failure to comply behaviours!  

In the movie, Keanu Reeves’ perceptiveness as the intuitive doctor was rewarding. Wherever we may be, there’s likely a discerning someone who’s putting two and two together to culminate in just one of our many personal performance reviews.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Grinding Spices….

As a young woman and since, I have always been a keen cook. One Christmas, more than 30 years ago, I was suffering from a too-thin wallet, and decided that my only option for gifting was an assortment of pickles, relishes and chutney that had been put down in the summer season.
The recipients were truly delighted, and as everyone knows, home-crafted anythings are dear to everyone’s heart!

Cooking classes for children were begun in 1978 and continued until 1985. Students and parents alike were excited with the mastery of how-to and menu planning. A stint hostessing an International class for adults evolved from in-depth study of countries, their cultures and their foods. Sampler baskets of spices and varying spice combinations were offered at boutique stores – with requests for more.

For anyone who has used it, a mortar and pestle garners personal satisfaction and a sense of calm when rough is rendered smooth. At this particular juncture in my life, I am rediscovering the pleasures of preparing meals at home and rekindling my imagination. In this winter of 2013/2014, there are more grey skies and bluster than sun and sparkle, so yummy aromas pervading the house evoke both anticipation and, almost oppositely, calm, contentment, and a sense of stability.

As I take stock of staples and how to tweak treats, I am not only doing physical preparation of food – my mind is also nurturing and defining career opportunities which will be  perfect recipes to both produce income and offer people skills and customer care that are often essential ingredients in business development. Inadvertent failure to include them leaves tasters with a sense that “there’s something missing but I’m not sure what”. Everyone’s personal and profession occupation requires well-formulated combinations when grinding spices.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Looking Back…..

I recently read an “advice column” response to comments from a woman who had been widowed, committed to a relationship within a few months thereafter, and was heartbroken and “couldn’t stop crying” when the new partner ended their twosome.

Many men and women sometimes feel “unsuccessful” or “incomplete” if they aren’t half of what’s perceived as a whole entity.

When one looks at one’s own reflection in the mirror, do we recognize ourselves as the egg white or the egg yolk half of a partnership; or more affirmatively, as our own whole egg?  Whether it be marriage vows or an unofficial pledge, when one person commits to being the partner in a relationship, it’s a given that some compromise is an implicit presumption. So do we lose part of our identity as well?

The various life stages we grow through are, ideally, an ever-becoming process of the real person, blossoming into their best. Some people seem to always go with the flow, we can’t see evolvement; others are super-strivers to cultivate their personal and professional potential. On occasion, we feel at odds, but back-pedaling isn’t an option so we feel stuck.

The hubbub of the holiday season behind, and now in a new year where every page is still blank, most people intend to write their own book. Intentions are as real as pens and pencils – sometime there’s a block of short-sightedness that holds us back from setting down that first word!

Indecision and lack of clarity reflects in our face – others can see that something’s amiss. If our life’s journey includes wading through a swamp and we are mired down, think of it as a Temporary Assignment we’re obliged to complete.

That shell we grow is in self-defense, protecting inner thoughts and outward actions. “This too shall pass”, and the day will come when the face you see in the mirror is the real you looking back.