Walking in a winter WTF?

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Dear Mother Nature and Old Man Winter,

While I can appreciate your exuberant spirit this time of year, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention my lack of sharing your enthusiasm to the extent at which you seem so willing to share with the rest of us.

Although I too enjoy a white Christmas, your overwhelming desire to coat the world in an abundant layer of winter frosting has become exaggerated to the point of becoming meddlesome.  The charming Northern snow globe in which we reside has been clamped into a paint shaker and set to convulse at an alarming rate, leaving us armed with nothing but shovels and good intentions.

Similar to Anthony Michael Hall’s geeky character in The Breakfast Club, I have been assigned the task of writing a letter on behalf of the disgruntled local residents who share my sentiments.

I could write an essay telling you how much this ridiculous amount of snow is defining our lives, but it wouldn’t matter.  You would still see us as you want to see us, in the simplest terms and the most convenient definitions. Through this barrage of lake effect snow and churning vortexes of flakes, you found out that each one of us is a brain for surviving the storm, a princess for not wanting to drive in it, a criminal for stealing a few extra minutes hiding under the covers, an athlete for shoveling for three days straight and a basket case for forgetting all those other things and thinking it is still beautiful outside.

morning

Does this answer my question?  No.  But I certainly feel a little better having rested between the previous and the next battle with the effing shovel.

Sincerely yours,

The Winter Club

PS: I had to cancel my appointment to get my snow tires on because of you two!

I’m starting to question my intelligence

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I have always been proud of the fact that I have a great deal of common sense.  Sometimes I have moments of cleverness that make me happy that I have the ability to formulate logical and reasonable assessments of a situation. Lately, all of that has changed.

Tired of hearing the Squirrel Grand Prix up and down my walls at 6:00 am, I decided to take action.  I bought a live trap with the thought that it would be easy to trick a few red squirrels into it so I could re-home them.  I was wrong.

I was lucky on the first round.  I came home to find a large black squirrel in the trap and we went for a nice drive to a golf course about 10 km from my house.  It was surprisingly calm during the ride but once the cage was out of the car, it was quite anxious to begin its life in its new home. One point for me.

I put some nice, plump cashews on the spring trap and set it out before I went to bed. I peeked out the window the next morning to see the trap had been sprung but there was nothing inside. I used peanut butter to attach the cashews to the spring trap with the same results. I knew the trap worked since I had imprisoned a few chickadees in the process. The status of the hunt was moved up to Defcon 3. I took a small mason jar and placed it inside on one side of the trap with the nuts inside the jar. I made sure the trap would close with the jar inside. I put the trap close enough to a beam on my deck so the little buggers would have no choice but to enter from one side, climb over the plate springing the trap in the process and making me the victor. That did not happen.

When I went out the next morning the trap had been sprung, the nuts were gone and the little shit squirrel had defecated in the jar as a way of saying, “screw you, lady”. Defcon 2 – I was at the point where I was going to borrow my brother’s wildlife night-vision camera so I could see how this was happening.  That squirrel had to be the rodent version of Tom Cruise in Mission Impossible to get in and out of there without getting caught. It probably was licking its fingers after its meal and reached through the side of the trap and set it off – just to spite me.

Defcon 1 – Someone made a suggestion that made complete sense. Why had I not thought of this? I went to the local Home Hardware and purchased some Krazy Glue. If I was knowingly going to feed these furry creatures again, they were going to work for it! But the dynamic changed. They were on to me. Those nuts sat glued to that tray for two weeks and were buried in our mid-April snowstorm. Once the snow had melted and the elements had broken down the glue, the little bastards came back, took the nuts and left.

The only stage left after Defcon 1 is war. Wish me luck, I’m going in.

Customer Service 101

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I am a creature of habit, not necessarily routine, but certainly habit and because of that I have been brand-loyal to my car dealership for almost 30 years.  In that time, their salesmanship and service have been exemplary.  Today is the first day that I have ever been disappointed in that service.

Two weeks ago, I had booked an appointment for the first scheduled service for my new car as well as requesting to have my snow tires installed.  When I leased my new car in March, I was told that the snow tires I left in storage at the dealership were the same size as my new wheels so I would be able to use them this winter.

I received a call this morning from the service department informing me that they had taken those snow tires out of their storage and disposed of them a few months earlier.  There was no discussion with me about this – they just made the arbitrary decision to discard something that belonged to me, that I owned.  Even if the snow tires were felt to be “on the borderline” of being usable for one more winter, that was MY decision to make – not theirs.

Since my sales representative was off for the day, I left a message for the sales manager and, true to form, he called me back before the end of the day.  Being the person I am, I felt uncomfortable asking for some sort of restitution, but I feel my request was completely justified and, thankfully, he agreed.

We are still discussing how we can come to a mutual agreement regarding my tires but I am confident that the resolution will make me believe that I have been a loyal customer for a reason.  The fact that I have had to cough up $550.00 to buy tires that I was not expecting to buy has not escaped me but hopefully this unexpected expense will be slightly offset by my dealership’s recognition of their error.

Here’s hoping that my service appointment goes well on Saturday morning.

 

 

 

The business of doing business

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I have a very large, very dead pine tree looming over my driveway and threatening the safety of my home and my new car.   It has been dead for several years but each day when I drive in my driveway, I convince myself that it is leaning closer to my house than it was the previous day.  It was time to call in the professionals.

I found four local companies that offer tree removal services as well as free estimates.  All four came to my house and gave me a wide range of quotes for different ways that the tree could be felled and cleared.  The company I chose to do the job was the best fit in terms of safely felling the tree with the right equipment and not charging me a fortune to move the pieces off to the side of my driveway.  I thanked the other companies for their quotes and let them know I went with a different service.

Two of the other three were understanding.  One was not.  After I told him I would be happy to pass on his information to others looking for his services, I received a text message from Brian and this is what it said, “Well thank you Susan.  No need to pass my name around since you have not experienced the level of service we provide.  In future, I would respectfully suggest you exhaust your cheaper options before calling someone that spends their time and fuel to look at your work.  Good luck with your tree and hopefully the damage will be minimal.”

WTF???

To say that I was angered would be a gross understatement.   I had to hold myself back from responding with the words that were churning in my head.   Instead, I politely explained that I had chosen a company with a similar rate but a better option for me and the safety of my oak tree since Brian was going to strap the dead tree and pull it down so it would come into direct contact with my 100-year-old oak tree.  (But he assured me the oak tree would be fine!)

What I should have texted was this, “Well, thank YOU Brian.  I will certainly be passing your name around now, just not in the way I had expected since I now understand the level of service you provide.  I respectfully suggest that you not offer free estimates if you are going to whine about the time and fuel you spent doing something you advertise as free and act like an asshole when you don’t get the job.”

Don’t you have anything better to do with your time?

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If you have read my past blog posts, you’ll know that I have started a wonderful project to help our local food bank.  We are making Freezer Crockpot meals so families can feel the satisfaction of having a home-cooked meal on the table, once or twice a week, that is made with REAL food.  The ingredients are things like chicken, stewing beef, ground beef, ground turkey, vegetables and potatoes.   It has been a love affair of mine since it began last winter and continues to capture my heart.

After a sneaky email from a friend, I was recently interviewed by a local TV news station and the reporter and her fellow newscasters were impressed by the project as well.  We had a small segment on the 6:00 news to help promote our cause and gain more coverage to help increase donations.  The coverage was also put on the TV stations’ and my Facebook page to  help spread the word so we could try to help more people who could use a hand this time of year.

I received some fantastic comments and queries from others who wish to start the same type of project in their community, which is exactly what I was hoping would happen.  But amidst the praises and pats on the back, I should have known there lurked a few eyes that glowed eerily in the darkness.

After watching the clip on the news, a woman called the lodge where I work (and the kitchen we use for prepping meals) and was irate that we were not wearing gloves while we prepared these meals.  Upon first hearing of this call, I was taken aback…..and then I was angry.  I have volunteered countless hours of my time to make life a little better for those who struggle through the winter months, only to have this woman challenge my culinary safety practices.

chef-chopping

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I have been trained in kitchens since I was in college.  Before I went to college I worked in restaurants.  And in the 30+ years I have worked in the hospitality industry, I have never encountered a Chef who wears gloves, or makes their staff wear gloves, unless they have been cut and are wearing a bandage.  Hospitality staff are trained in food safety.  From the temperature of a fridge, to the cooking temperature of meats and the frequent hand-washing to avoid cross-contamination, we are well-versed in following very strict guidelines.   Watch a few videos of Gordon Ramsay, Anthony Bourdain, Jamie Oliver or any of the popular cooking-challenge shows and tell me if you see their hands concealed by Latex gloves.  This is cooking, not open-heart surgery.

Sufficed to say, my blood pressure has come down and I am moving on.  One angry voice in a sea of positivity will not get me down.  I can only hope that, one day, this woman will get as much satisfaction from helping others as I do and will give the same strong-arm to anyone who tries to bring her down.

 

 

 

Putting the “jerk” in knee-jerk reaction…..

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On Saturday, I spent a couple of hours at our local Foodland trying to promote our small curling club.  We  had a tiny table set up with a lone chair, our club banner and some flyers with information about our open houses and our membership rates.  What I thought was going to be a couple of hours of chatting about the club turned into a very eye-opening experience and a great deal of fodder for this blog post.

If you have ever shopped in a grocery store, you have undoubtedly seen small town clubs raising awareness (or funds) for their groups.  Having never been on this side of the table before, I was ill-prepared for the events that transpired.

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Many locals did stop at the table.  To their good fortune, and our misfortune, they were snow birds counting the days until they left for the sunny south.  We did receive a collection of names to add to our list of possible new members.  But what I didn’t expect were the reactions of the multitude of people going by who would do anything to avoid eye contact with me.

Let me remind you, I was not selling anything or asking for money.  Most shoppers picked up their pace as they passed me, looking straight ahead as if trying to remember where they parked their car.  Several people didn’t even want to know why I was sitting in that cold lobby, they just told me they didn’t have any cash and kept moving.  One lady went so far as to tell me she had already donated!   This generous stranger had somehow anonymously given money to our little curling club and nobody on the executive committee were any the wiser.

The crowning glory was a middle-aged woman who, as she pushed her full grocery cart past me, simply responded “NO” when I had asked, “How are you today?”.

I was in awe of how quickly people were willing to dismiss  me, to turn a blind eye and not even take a moment to understand why I was there.  My presence wasn’t threatening.  I was not holding my hand out asking for anything.  To say I was disappointed by the reactions of those people is an egregious understatement.  And I can only hope that if I ever have a knee-jerk reaction to a similar situation, that I’m not such a jerk about it.

When skin gets thin

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I cannot change the moods or the behavior of others.  I can only control how I let those moods and behaviors affect me.   Today, however, was a glowing example of how that ideal can radically fail.

If I were superstitious, today would have been my Friday the 13th.  My black cat was the neighbors dog, who, first thing this morning, managed to soil, not one but, two pairs of my shorts on my way to work.  The ladder I walked under was the exit door from my house.  And the broken mirror was the negativity that continued to rain throughout the day like the shards of glass falling from that broken mirror.

I am usually very thick-skinned.   Most of the time I can deflect negativity and remain blissfully unaware of the antagonism that tends to eddy in the normally calm waters of my life.  But the vortex of that disapproval became too much.  I, without my life-preserver, was pulled under and was out of breath.

eddy

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A little positive reinforcement can go a long way.  As an adult with a great deal of life experience under my belt, I know life is unfair and the wheels can fall off the bus at any given second.   But to focus solely on the loose lug nut that made the wheel come off is negating the safe driving before that wheel fell off and the work that the bus driver had to do after its liberation to safely get that bus to the shoulder of the road.

Thick skin can actually be quite tenuous and a little praise goes a long way.   If criticism is deserved, than criticism should be administered.  But if praise is deserved, it should be just as easily passed from the lips of the people who need to say it to the ears of the people who need to hear it.