Sunday, December 20, 2009
I explicitly tell Pentti things during the year which he could use to compile a list of possible gifts. He knows where I shop the most and what kinds of things I buy for myself. Just in case he reads this blog, here are a few of my favourite shops:
Reitman's, Old Navy, Starbucks, Winners, Home Sense, Superstore, Black Bond Books, Pier 1, Ikea
A gift card to any of these stores would get used. Trust me.
A few of my favourite things:
pajamas, picture frames, candles, chocolate, books, purses, shoes (esp. black ones), mugs (esp. from Starbucks), scarves
I can't stop buying the above. Every time I see a cute pajama I want to buy it. Pentti knows this. And yet, he has no idea what to buy me. This leads us to reason number two why men can't find gifts. They are too logical. Take Pentti for example. He knows I love pjs. But then he remembers the pjs that I already own and thinks I don't NEED any more. So, he decides he is definitely not buying pjs. This leads directly to panic because he has no idea what I do need. Hmmm, maybe I should tell him what women everywhere know-that gifts are not about need. They are about what you think the other person would LIKE.
Sunday, November 29, 2009
Do you lighten the burden of the world, or do you add to it? I have been thinking about this a lot because I think that I sometimes add to people's burdens when I am right about something and feel like I should share my "rightness" with others. Surely it's my responsibility to help others to see the error of their ways? Or is it? As a teacher, my job is to teach, assess, correct, and reteach. But teaching is fairly straightforward in that I have to math textbook with the answers. You either understood, did it right and got the correct answer, or you didn't. Life is not so simple. People have stress, and illness, and accidents, and relationship problems and financial difficulties etc etc. So, even if you're "right", telling the widow of a smoker that it was his own fault that he died is not helping to lighten the widow's burden (this happened to a friend of mine this past summer).
Therefore, even if I am right. And indignant about someone's actions. And think they did it to themselves. I am NOT going to add to their burdens by forcing my rightness down their throat. I want to lighten the burdens of those around me. I want to be like my current principal. When I was away due to illness, he didn't give me a hard time. He just sent me an email saying that I was awesome, and thanks for planning so well for the substitute. He could have told me that it was a bad time to be away, that it was unfortunate timing, that it would create unnecessary hassle for him. He would have been right. But it would not have changed my absence, so why bother. Instead, he phoned every student's family to cancel my student-led conferences and encouraged me to take care of myself and come back when I felt better. His words alone made me feel better. And lightened my load.
These are two of the Santa letters my students wrote. We have been discussing persuasive writing, how to convince someone and how a compliment never hurts. I totally laughed when I read the letters because they had so obviously taken these lessons to heart. Both of the letters are unedited and were written by grade 2s.
Wednesday, September 30, 2009
Sunday, September 6, 2009
I continue to be stunned at the ineptitude and ignorance of sales people. Am I just “blessed” with bad luck which always leads me to direct my questions to the salesperson who has just started working at that particular store five minutes ago? Or are people (as I suspect) actually getting dumber?
I used to work at Eaton’s for seven years, so I have a lot of sympathy for salespeople. I know that customers can be really awful and demanding and that the pay is not very good. I’ve had customers expect me to undress them (I didn’t do it), strip in front of me (in the middle of the store), pay their account in small change causing my till to overflow, call me a “fat, little thing”, and a bunch of other treasured moments. Still, I can’t believe the lack of service and knowledge I encounter in stores today.
We recently renovated our kitchen and in doing so, had to do a lot of shopping and ask a lot of questions. In Home Depot, which I would have thought would be a fairly good place for service, the staff was completely ignorant. Every time I asked about painting my kitchen table, I got a completely different answer. One salesperson, when I dared to interrupt with a question, glared at me and said, “can I finish what I am saying first”. When I went looking for undermount sinks, a salesperson told me that they don’t sell undermount sinks at all. He then directed me to the appropriate aisle, which was FULL of undermount sinks. He came to check that I had found the right aisle and when I said that there were in fact undermount sinks, he answered, “oh yeah, we sell lots of undermount sinks”.
At Ikea, the old lady who processed our order, ordered so many extra items that we returned $500 worth of stuff. How she could order extra parts when we had made a detailed drawing/diagram and list of everything we wanted on Ikea’s own software, I have no idea. When the measurements for our countertop were made, we ended up owing Ikea money. When I called Ikea, the woman on the phone had no idea what I was supposed to do. When we drove there to straighten it out, the salesperson went to look up our file. This entailed her opening up a cupboard full of wire baskets that were overflowing with papers. She proceeded to pull out a pile and ask one by one “are you Jane”, “are you Susan”….When I didn’t match anyone in her pile, she went to the back room to look further. We sorted it out finally and paid up. A week later someone from Ikea phoned to say that we owed them money…
When we wanted to buy infloor heating, Pentti shopped around for the best technology at the best price. He decided on Rona (I think it was) and called there, asked about pricing and stock availability. It was all good, so he went in to buy it. When he got there, the salesperson informed him that the particular flooring he was looking for was not only NOT in stock, but that they in fact had not carried it for THREE YEARS!
The countertop people took the cake, They kept calling to reschedule. Or actually, we had to call them when no one showed up for scheduled appointments. The day of the installation they kept calling, until 4pm when they called to say they weren’t coming at all. They rescheduled for 11am the next day, and showed up at 3pm. Then, they proceeded to wait in our driveway for at least an HOUR for some third dude to show up. From Coquitlam. In rush hour. No, I didn’t offer them coffee while they waited.
This past weekend, I went to
Wednesday, August 19, 2009
I’ve decided that I live in the wrong city. Not because I don’t like Vancouver, because I do. I don’t even mind the rain, and that’s saying something! The reason I live in the wrong city is that I am not a nature girl. I love the mountains and the parks and the lakes and rivers. To look at, and admire. That does not mean that I want to necessarily experience them first hand through hiking them, or swimming them, or camping in them. I am not interested in what kinds of bugs live in them. I have no desire to wake up in a tent and smell the clean mountain air. I would rather wake up to the sound of my espresso machine warming up. I have no desire to “rough it”. I like my down comforter and my big fluffy pillow. I like to shower, every day. I like electricity. I hate bugs. And insects. And slimy animals. Basically I dislike everything outdoorsy, besides the tranquility and the beauty. And I have to admit that campfires are pretty cool.
Anyway, living on the west coast with all the hippy, crunchy, granola, tree-hugging people makes me feel like I should try. Like maybe I would like camping if I went with the right people or something. BUT. I am done apologizing and pretending. I am a high maintenance indoor girl and that’s just the way it is.
Friday, August 7, 2009
I think every parent decides before the birth of the second child that she will make sure that the second one does not get ripped off/short shrifted. Everyone warns you that number one gets a million photos and number two gets three pics: birth, graduation and wedding. Number one gets a tome of scrapbooking and number two gets a piece of loose leaf with measurements from birth and the first doctor’s visit scribbled on it.
Well, I too started out with good intentions….But then, the night that Joonas was born (three weeks early), it started. As we headed to the hospital, Pentti grabbed his camera, as an afterthought. Granted, we never thought we were staying since I wasn’t in labour (my water had broken and the doctor just wanted to check me out). Anyway, imagine if Pentti had not grabbed his camera. Classic second child stuff: yeah, sorry Joonas, but we have no pics of you being born. No, you weren’t adopted, we just didn’t have the camera with us…” We also didn’t bring any clothes for Joonas to the hospital. Pentti did of course go home to get some later, but still.
With number one, you are so careful and consistent. Soothers and bottles get boiled and sterilized regularly. With number two, the soothers get a once-over, maybe some dust is blown off and back in his mouth it goes. Bottles are kept clean, but often you will hear the following exchange: “how old is the milk in this bottle”, “I dunno, I think that’s the one I filled this morning”….and in his mouth it goes.
Matias had no candy until he was at least 2. We watered down his juice to cut down on the sugar. Joonas has been eating sugared stuff from birth (almost). His favourite foods are pulla and banana loaf. He knocks back those juice boxes no problem. I did try to put some juice from the box into his water bottle, but he couldn’t figure out that it was the same stuff and refused to taste it from the bottle. So, I gave up.
Matias watched hardly any tv until after 2. He may have caught some by accident if we were watching, but we never actually sat him down to watch anything. Joonas turns the tv on himself and sits back on our bed to watch at his leisure.
I took Matias to music classes and to Mother Goose and to the public library story times and Music and Movement. I took Joonas to Mother Goose once.
Being the second child does, however, have some advantages too. With Matias we stressed about potty training for months. With Joonas, we’ll let him decide when he’s ready. We clued in with Matias that stressing didn’t help and probably slowed the process down. With Matias we worried that he wasn’t talking soon enough. Joonas will talk when he feels like it and that’s just fine with us. With Matias we had the energy to play (and win) the battle of the wills a lot. With Joonas, we give up a lot. So, he gets his way a lot more than Matias used to. This is of course only an advantage from his prespective.
I do feel guilty sometimes, but there is not much I am willing and/or able to do about it. With two little ones under foot, I need to pick my battles and I have realized that many of the battles that I thought were worth winning, aren’t.
Friday, July 24, 2009
Saturday, June 13, 2009
I love that quote. I think it’s much harder to be noble in the small daily things in life. When someone cuts you off. When you have to wait in line. When your kids are screaming and fighting. When someone offends you. When you get left out. These are the everyday moments when you could really make a difference. These are the moments when you could practice being the better person. Because it’s often these moments that someone remembers later and comes to say; I was so rude and you still smiled, that really moved me. Or I hurt your feelings and you still invited me to your house. Etc.
Because let’s face it, there aren’t THAT many big moments in our lives, and we don’t become better people in the abstract, by just thinking about it. We make a difference in little ways in the everyday moments. Or we don’t make a difference at all.
Wednesday, May 20, 2009
Mark Twain said that “You are about as happy as you make up your mind to be.” I think that’s true even though I often forget to apply it to my own life. I was reminded of it again today when I was on facebook. Heh. I know, I spend way too much time there, especially after Pentti bought me an iPod…
Anyway, I came across the picture above and it brought me to tears. Doesn’t the woman look happy? Doesn’t it make you want to smile just looking at her? Well, she has had a lot of hardship lately. Her husband died a little over a year ago and her health has been a major issue. In fact, she ended up having both of her legs amputated and now sits in a wheelchair. More recently, she fell and broke her arm and had to be in the hospital for weeks. I don’t know about you, but my face would probably not look like that if I were in her place. And yet, she looks content. And happy.
So, I am reminded once again that even if my life seems to be in chaos daily and the kids are screaming and crying and fighting, I am STILL as happy as I make my mind up to be.
Monday, May 18, 2009
Tuesday, May 5, 2009
The title is Latin for the age old saying that there is no accounting for taste, or that personal preferences are not debatable. And yet…some people just have incredibly bad taste. I don’t claim to be a doyenne of style, but lately I have see things that scream such tackiness, that I am forced to comment…
I totally understand that particularly in today’s economy, people are trying to save money. I totally get that. But that is the number one misconception about style-that you need to have money in order to be stylish. For example, I recently had lunch with a friend at Seasons in the Park in Queen Elizabeth Park. As we sat there sipping coffee, we saw a bridal party having their pictures taken. Again, I understand that a lot of people don’t want to spend their downpayment for a house on their wedding. But the bride had a bouquet of (assorted) flowers still wrapped in cellophane, probably picked up from some random corner grocery store. And no, it wasn’t tied with raffia. I wouldn’t be surprised if the $6.99 price tag was still stuck on the cellophane. If, on the other hand, the bride had wanted to be stylishly thrifty, she could have had one rose, or calla lily, or even a cheap bouquet from the corner store, but in ONE colour, and UNWRAPPED, with maybe some ribbon? And while I’m on the flower thing…if you know you don’t have good taste (some people actually recognize this fact), always buy bouquets that are one colour. They ALWAYS look better and more expensive than the mismash bouquets that include every colour of the rainbow. Personally, I think that white bouquets with different shades of white and pale yellow always look the most expensive and classy. But that’s just me.
A while back I visited some people who had recently renovated their bathroom. They had chosen a colour theme of browns and yellows. Not my first choice of coulours, but whatever. Imagine my surprise when the guest towels featured in the bathroom were blue and white. I know that not everything has to match, but come on. Blue and white? Towels are not that expensive. Wouldn’t you want to keep the (questionable) colour theme of your bathroom going to complete the look? Pentti thinks I’m crazy because everything needs to match, but really, blue and white towels are just an eyesore. Not only that, there were also elements of red and green and yellow in that bathroom. Don’t get me wrong, there is such a thing as eclectic style and I love it. But you need to be extremely fashion savvy in order to pull it off. I am not nearly confident enough in my sense of style that I would imagine mixing modern with traditional, with French country with asian style.
Now, perhaps you think I am being overly critical and that everyone should be happy in their own home with their own style(s). True enough. But for most women I know, they want to make their homes nice and stylish, and quite frankly, want other people to admire them. So, it matters. And for the record, when in doubt, always go monochromatic. Pick one or two colours and stick with them. In everything. Down to the towels and the toothbrush holders.
White socks. They should just be banned, unless you are working out or work construction or something and need to wear sports socks. Otherwise, pitch them. Especially if they have holes, or have become a dingy shade of grey. No excuses. White socks that aren’t sports socks, should not even exist. Trouser socks in white? Don’t do it, not even if you are wearing white pants.
Staff lunches, appreciations, retirements etc. Assuming again, that one wants to save money and have a lunch in the staffroom, you can go the tacky route or the classy route. Tacky would entail mismatched vinyl tablecloths scrounged up from the back of some cupboards, perhaps with a Christmas theme. Lunch would entail everyone bringing a potato and some fixings, with everything served in their original plastic containers. Tacky would mean minimal effort and it would show. On the other hand, I went to a staff lunch at another school one afternoon. I forget what they were celebrating, but it was classy. The effort was also minimal and cheap and yet, the effect was completely different. They had decided on a French café theme. The tablecloths were still vinyl and probably from the dollar store. But they were red and white checked with matching red napkins. Diana Krall was playing softly on the cd player in the background. The lights had been turned off (you know-those glaring fluorescent ones) and there were candles. The sandwiches were in little baskets lined with red and white napkins. The cost of both parties was probably roughly the same, but what a difference a little thought makes.
By the way, if you are reading this blog, you needn’t worry. It means you are probably my friend and that means that you have style.
Wednesday, March 25, 2009
Running: to and from the car as I try to make it to Matias’ preschool on time, after Joonas in any store where I dare to let him out of the stroller and he proceeds to touch and lick and destroy everything within a 20 foot radius
Squats: putting laundry in the machine, switching it to the dryer and then pulling it out to fold it.
Stairclimbing: We have two flights of stairs in our townhouse and everything I need is always two floors away. Always. Plus, when I climb to the third floor to get something, I have been known to get distracted and come all the way back down without said item…so, back up the stairs I go.
Weightlifting: carrying multiple bags of groceries from the car (usually all of them as long as my arms don’t get ripped out of their sockets), lifting/holding/carrying Joonas, lugging the 10kg sacks of flour and sugar out of the cupboard and back again
Lunges: every time I spot one of the boys (usually Joonas) with the cell phone, remote, laptop, cordless phone, or a knife, hanger, or any of the various tools we have lying around right now.
Jumping/Grooving/Dancing: We listen to the Wiggles a lot around here. Matias jams on his guitar and can sing along to most of the songs. I am often ordered to groove along, or at the very least, to watch him.
Tuesday, March 10, 2009
I am no hippie parent. I believe in using the word “no”. However, I do find it more effective and useful to phrase things in the positive for my kids (and students). Rather than saying, “don’t jump on the couch”, I prefer to say “the couch is for sitting, please sit down”. HOWEVER, there are things that I have had to just outright forbid.There is just no way to put a positive spin on, “don’t sit on your brother”. Here is a list of some of the other rules that I can’t believe that I have had to make around here. In most cases they have NOT been put positively, either because I was freaking out about the behaviour and my first instinct was to yell “NO. Stop that”, or because my sleep-deprived mommy brain was just running low on creativity and no inspired positive statements came to mind.
-don’t pick up garbage or gum on the street and put it in your mouth
-don’t play in the toilet bowl
-don’t jump head first off the sofa
-don’t eat your shoes
-don’t pull all the toilet paper off the roll
-don’t shove your mouth so full of food that you gag
-don’t lick the grocery cart handle
-don’t teach your brother to spit
-don’t dig through random people’s purses
-don’t eat…hand cream, glue, diaper cream, playdough, toys, paper, cds, keys, makeup, tools, remotes, cell phones etc etc
And many more that I am forgetting. If you think of a positive spin for any of these, feel free to let me know…
Friday, February 27, 2009
-he HATES vegetables, to the point of being unreasonable (refusing, for example, to even TOUCH celery)
-his need for a better, faster computer is unending
-he thinks that laundry magically travels from the floor to the laundry basket
-he is color blind, but doesn’t know and/or admit it (there is no other explanation)
-he sticks to diets with annoying tenacity
-he hates washing cars
-he thinks cleaning of any kind is unnecessary and therefore a waste of time
-he is allergic to the sound of the vacuum (using one himself would probably cause convulsions)
-he drives the speed limit (who does that????)
-he “saves” clothes for wearing the next day (therefore not putting them away), but then takes fresh ones in the morning anyway
-he has trouble locating his keys, shoes, socks, pants, cell phone, key card and whatever else he needs when leaving for work in the morning
-he likes to wear fleece pants; ALL the time
-he likes Mr. Bean
-he hates classical music and jazz
-he doesn’t like the taste of coffee
-he thinks corn is only suitable for pigs
-he likes to watch Poker (probably likes watching paint dry too-I haven’t asked)
-he leaves a trail of loose change (falling out of his pockets) wherever he goes
-he thinks greeting cards are stupid
-he likes small towns
-when he says he’ll do it soon, he will forget before “soon” comes
Things Pentti probably wishes he had known about me:
-everything needs to match; ie no soap dispenser at all in the bathroom is better than one that doesn’t match
-what I eat at any particular meal depends on what I FEEL like eating. Sometimes this leads to lots of driving around trying to find something that I am in the mood to eat
-I love veggies and salads and prefer them over meat
-I am not low maintenance; I would rather be late than not shower
-you can never have too many pairs of shoes
-I can tune out the entire world when I am reading
-I squeeze the toothpaste and all other tubes from the middle
-I follow traffic laws very selectively
-I treat all Hallmark created holidays as near-religious occasions
-when I ask for his opinion, I usually have an idea of what I would like that opinion to be
-I don’t have a sense of humour (for his jokes specifically)
-I’ll be ready soon, means at least 8 minutes
-I require indoor plumbing at all times
Monday, February 16, 2009
APPROACHABLE: This is huge. If a leader is not approachable I consider the “game” lost from the word go.
HUMBLE: I don’t mean meek, or subservient, but I definitely DO mean, NOT arrogant. A lot of people seem to be leaders, not in order to lead, but so that they can have power. Power-hungry people are never humble and rarely accommodate anyone else in their singular quest to run everything and be everything.
WISE: And I don’t mean all-knowing. Wisdom sometimes means admitting you don’t know something or letting someone else handle something.
DELEGATORS: Knowing the right people to ask, and being the kind of leader who inspires others to do their part. Doing everything yourself is stupid. Enough said.
FIRM: Spineless noodles need not apply.
FLEXIBLE: Life happens.
COMPASSIONATE: If you don’t care about me, I don’t care about your ideas.
INSPIRATIONAL: Leaders inspire change. They make people want to become better versions of themselves.
Notice that missing from my list are knowledge, degrees, awards and the like. Although they are great, they are not necessary.
When I think back over all the leaders that I have known, only two fit this criteria. They are VM and MV. If you know me at all, you can figure out at least one, if not both of them. If you don’t know me, it’s not important who they are. Just know that good leaders do indeed exist.
Thursday, January 22, 2009
2 loads of laundry
1 running of the dishwasher
10 times telling Matias to be careful around the baby
15 times saying, “please stop yelling and use your inside voice”
3 bottles of milk to prepare
3 cups of coffee (more on a bad day)
5 dirty diapers
8 dressings and/or undressings of uncooperative children
20 minutes spent chasing around children who don’t want to change their pants, put on socks, or shoes, wear jackets, or hats, or change into pajamas
12 toys I trip on
15 “car crashes” in my living room
8 toddler-preschooler "disputes"
3 wardrobe changes
10 screams/prolonged bouts of crying (mostly Joonas’)
72 kids books on the living room floor (I counted!)
3 toy repairs
2 spills of milk or food
8 “negotiations” with a 3 year old
2 I love yous
12 funny things my 3 year old says
3 readings of “Peek-a-Moo”, the latest favourite
1 walk outside stopping to look at every rock, leaf, twig, bug, fire hydrant etc etc
Sunday, January 18, 2009
I shall have lunch with those who are my friends and not even waste a coffee on those who are not. I shall have people over even if my house is not spotless and use my very best dishes. Even on a Wednesday.
I shall not worry about what others think of me. I shall say what I think and not care about political correctness or subtlety or useless chitchat.
I shall travel to all the places that fascinate me and not feign interest in the ones that don’t. I shall wake up each morning glad to be alive and ready to try something new.
I shall go to concerts and lectures and plays and walk out if I am not enjoying myself.
I shall buy myself flowers. Fresh ones. Every week.
I shall get my hair dyed whenever I want and not worry about making the colour last. I shall have regular massages in my own home. I shall take everything that requires ironing to the dry cleaner. I shall dance in the street and sing in the store. I shall play the piano and go to Spain to brush up on my Spanish. I shall burn candles when I want to, even if it’s summer.
I shall take classes on cake decorating, sushi-making, writing, Italian, yoga, painting, photography and whatever else captures my fancy. I shall not thereafter feel any pressure to decorate a single cake, make a single sushi roll, write a single letter, speak any Italian, do any yoga, paint any pictures or photograph anyone. Unless I feel like it.
I shall meet with my book club which we shall rename The Broads of Bibliophilia. I shall order all the books I want from Amazon to come straight to my door. I shall read all those books that sit on my bookshelf waiting: War and Peace, Don Quixote…
I shall not call my kids and/or grandkids with annoying questions or to tell them the minute details of my elderly life. I shall not expect to be visited, but shall be happy and content if and when I receive visitors. I shall not judge others, but give them the freedom to be themselves.
When I am old, I shall be me. But better.
PS. The picture is of my late paternal grandmother. She was an awesome lady.
Saturday, January 10, 2009
If G.K. Chesterton was correct, then there isn’t much high level thinking going on these days. The simple act of saying “thank you” seems to be dying and it really bugs me. I have purchased gifts for birthdays, baby showers and retirements. I have wanted to buy the gifts and have put (at least some) thought into buying them. To have the gift never even acknowledged, let alone thanked for is rude and inconsiderate. Finnish people are especially lacking in this area, but then their whole thank you card philosophy is different. In Canada, when you send a thank you card for a wedding gift for example, you mention the specific gift and how you will use it. In Finland, you DO NOT mention the gift because that is considered rude. Why? I have no idea!! I have actually received Finnish “thank you” cards where the couple did not even sign the card. Just a picture and two words of text: thank you. How personal and full of thought (not).
Of course here in the land of Hallmark, there is sometimes a tendency to go to the other extreme. There are cards for every conceivable (and inconceivable) occasion. Sorry about your bad hair cut, congratulations on your dog's first birthday...there are probably even “thank you for the thank you” cards. But I still find that preferable to the silent treatment of the ungrateful. Anyway, even in Canada, despite the plethora of cards available, thank you is becoming a foreign concept. Not only do people not send cards, they don’t even verbally say thanks. A phone call or even an email is the very least you could do when you are in a debt of gratitude.
I am no model for anything, but I really try hard to say thanks when I am given something or someone helps me out. In fact, I make it a point to send handwritten cards whenever possible. Obviously I sent out thank you cards for our wedding presents, baby shower presents, and baby gifts. But I also hand wrote cards for all the “teacher gifts” I received. Even if I hated the gift, I wanted the student (family) that gave it to me to feel like I appreciated the thought and the gesture behind the gift. I guess that’s what it boils down to for me-showing your appreciation for another person. Thank you for thinking of me and spending your money on something you thought that I would like. Or, thank you for being so thoughtful as to do “x” for me, or to make “x” for me. Like G.B stern says, “Silent gratitude isn’t much use to anyone.”