… and, it’s almost Hallowe’en

 

Wow. October 29th. Two more nights until the ghosts and goblins are out and about.

Oh, wait. I think they’re generally about all the time, these days.

Everywhere you look people have decorated their front entrances, lawns and porches with pumpkins, skeletons, witches and all manner of ghoulish creatures. Not me.

Call me the Scrooge of Hallowe’en. I just don’t see the need for all the fuss it gets. Once upon a time I didn’t mind it, but as the years have progressed I’ve actually come to hate it.

Like all occasions — I can’t call it a holiday, because it’s just not — it’s been over-commercialized to the point of ridiculousness.

We can send Happy Hallowe’en cards to loved ones, for Pete’s sake. Honestly! Why?

The proliferation of pop-up retailers in the two months before Hallowe’en is testament to the fact that there is big money to be made for this one night of fright. I absolutely refuse to give them one red cent of my hard-earned money.

When I was a kid we looked forward to Hallowe’en for about a week — not months. Costumes were cobbled together from our parent’s old clothes, worn out bed sheets and pillow cases, and our makeup was shoe polish, some of Mom’s lipstick and flour dusted in our hair. And it was all we needed. We used the same stuff from year to year and it got passed down from brother to sister with no problems.

Now? You’re looking at about 50 bucks for a store-bought costume that will see one year’s wear, and, because they’re so cheaply and shoddily made they’ll be garbage by the end of the night. And why? To go out and collect candy that kids don’t even really care about anymore.

Candy was a big deal for my brothers and sisters and I when we were little. There wasn’t a lot of extra money in our household and it sure wasn’t spent on buying us treats. It was that way for most families. A treat was exactly that — an occasional chocolate bar, bottle of pop or bag of penny candy. We treasured it, we fantasized about our favourites, we suffered agonizing anticipation on those occasions that we knew would bring us our hearts’ desires.

Today kids get ‘treats’ on an almost daily basis. I honestly don’t think they give a hoot about the goodies they get trick or treating.

Meanwhile, retailers are laughing all the way to the bank.

And, sadly, our poor environment pays the price. Candy wrappers, chip bags and juice boxes are littered up and down streets, in school yards and at bus stops for weeks afterwards.

Discarded costumes and all that plastic that makes up the bulk of Hallowe’en decorations gets dumped in the garbage where it will languish in a landfill for eternity — if it isn’t just allowed to blow away on the next big wind.

I know that this kind of waste isn’t specific to Hallowe’en — it’s the same for Easter, Valentine’s Day, Thanksgiving, Canada Day, Christmas, Mother’s and Father’s Day, etc., etc. For some reason it just bugs me more.

I think it’s time we really examined how and why we celebrate things like Hallowe’en. Is it because it really has meaning for us, or is it simply because the retail industry has done such a great job on selling it to us, and convincing us that we’re cheap and ‘no fun’ if we don’t buy in?

You know what I did like about Hallowe’en? Watching It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown with my family. It was sweet and simple — and we loved it.

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Day 78 — hey! It’s William Shatner’s birthday

Someone posted that little fact on FB this morning. The man is 87 today.  Happy birthday Mr. Shatner!

Thinking of him brings back some great memories. It’s not just about Star Trek – it’s about a time and the places I was in, and how those times shaped me.

There was always a certain sense of innocence, hope and belief in the inherent goodness of people/life that the Star Trek movies featuring Captain Kirk embodied. I loved that he was so much bigger than life, that his character was so incredibly over-the-top, it was like watching a manic boy scout save the world. You knew that it was all going to work out, the good guys would survive – the only casualty would be the hapless, nameless ensign in the red suit who got chosen for the away team at the last moment.

Entertainment is so different these days. Our heroes are always flawed (realistic), characters we love are constantly being killed (viewer investment) and the outcome is never guaranteed (spinoffs).

I’m not saying I don’t enjoy movies and television as they are now.  I’m just saying it’s different.

And  when I think of those lost times I feel my whole being smile. It was an event to go stand in line for a movie with your friends and family. Entertaining each other, talking, laughing and joking. Begging the staff to let you in so you could go to the bathroom. Rushing to get the best seats. Hurrying to get popcorn so that you didn’t miss any of the trailers or the short before the actual movie.  When the movie finally started you were READY. You were invested.

That doesn’t happen anymore. We pre-purchase tickets for all the big releases. Sometimes our seats are already pre-chosen. We meet moments before the movie theatre doors open, get our popcorn, file into an already dark theatre, sit in our seats and barely say a word to one another. We check our phones to avoid watching commercials and barely pay attention to the trailers because we’ve already seen them on television. There is no such thing as a short anymore, which puzzles me because they are always a category at the Oscars. Who gets to see them?

Going to the movies is just business now. I find myself leaving the theatre feeling empty no matter how good the film was. It’s just something to do. You can say you saw it. But there’s no connection. So sad.

I’m sitting here this morning, writing this while I listen to a Bruce Springsteen music station. It’s my way-back machine. I guess I’m just feeling nostalgic and a little bit yearny today. Wishing for simpler times, simpler pleasures, and, as Bruce sings – a little of that Human Touch.

Day 68 and the purge continues

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As I said in my last post I was having a great time looking after my grandkids for a week. Well, the week ended on Saturday. It was a busy one and I’m so thankful I had that opportunity.

Busy as last week was I still managed to get some purging done at home.

I tackled the old sewing basket. This we inherited from Tim’s mother. It’s a good, sturdy one and it holds a lot. Over the years I’ve stuffed it so full of notions and sewing stuff that it had become next to impossible to find anything in it.

You know all the buttons, snaps and clasps that come attached to any new piece of clothing you buy? Jammed in there. Along with spool after spool of thread, sewing needles still with the thread in them, straight pins, safety pins, iron on patches, zippers and elastic. There was a large mason jar full of buttons – that Tim’s mom had collected. (My button collection is stored elsewhere.)

Needless to say it needed to be cleaned up. It took me an afternoon, but I did it. I chucked most of the elastic – because it wasn’t elasticky anymore, and I rounded up all the loose needles, de-threaded them and stuck them back in one of the three packages I found.

Then I had to unpackage all those buttons. All those tiny little plastic bags they were in bothered me.  First, what a waste of plastic and second, they were hard to get open.

Back in the day extra buttons were tacked to the inside of a garment – on a hem or a seam – a far more efficient and useful method. I’d think this way of providing that extra button or snap would be cheaper for the manufacturer. And it would save a helluva lot of time for the wearer when they needed to find that matching button. ‘Cause there it would be, right on the garment! Sometimes, old ideas are best.

This week is another busy one.  We have company coming and I’ve got a bunch of stuff to do to get ready.  A leaky shower head to fix, window frames to paint and coat hooks to put up. It seems like there’s always something.

I find myself wishing that all the things I needed to get done were already done. That I could spend an entire day writing or baking or reading or walking. Anything but attending to what has to be done. Because when I do any of the former I’m left feeling guilty that I didn’t accomplish any of the latter.

My goal today is to turn that feeling of guilt into a feeling of accomplishment. I’ll get what I need to done and then I’ll focus on what I want.

 

 

Day 61

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The tree that had the light – unfortunately my skills couldn’t capture it – but it was there!

I’m a lucky grandma. I get to spend a week with my grandbabies. Their parents are off for a little R&R.

So I’m spending these few days getting to know them all just a little better. They’re growing up so fast and becoming such interesting people. I love how their personalities just shine through; they’re not babies anymore. It’s great having real conversations with them and  getting small glimpses of the adults they’ll one day become.

Of course, realizing that they’re getting older reminds me that I am, too. Sigh. I don’t have the energy I did when they were small and when it’s bedtime for them, its bedtime for me.

I like that I get this mini opportunity to grand-parent. The joy of preparing meals for them and sitting down together to eat and talk and laugh. Asking them how school was and did they learn anything interesting. The answer is the same one their father gave me: no. Just doing small things for them that I hope will make them smile. It’s such a joy.

I have always been very conscious of time. The limit of it, the way it is expended in each and every heartbeat and I’ve tried as hard as I can to make sure the time I’ve been given is not wasted.

Lately, and I know this has a lot to do with my father’s passing and my impending 60th birthday, I’ve been doing a lot of wondering about how I’ve spent my time.

When I look back I see the mistakes I made, and I truly regret them. But then, I look at my grandchildren and I see how everything I’ve done has led to them. And for that I have no regret.

The sun is shining today, making the frost in the trees sparkle. At breakfast, my grandsons were talking about it. The youngest told his brother “look at that tree, the top is like a light,” with the wonder only an eight-year old can have.  His brother, who is two years older, scoffed and replied, not unkindly, “it’s not a light, it’s just the sun shining on the frost.” The youngest took a bite of cereal and then very calmly and firmly said, “It’s light. And it’s sparkly.”

I’m so glad I was there to hear them. It’s always the small things.

#48

pexels-photo-259200.jpegWhat’s this? Posting two days in a row?  What the.  .  .?

Purging will be simple today – it’s just venting.

Vent # 1- aquafit/aquasize/water aerobics – whatever you want to call it last night. It was my second class. Because last Friday’s got cancelled. I had rushed to get there all enthusiastic and everything (and a little late, too) only to be told it was cancelled due to the Alberta Winter Games.

Well.

I knew the games were on but the instructor never said anything when she was telling us that our next class was to be held in a different pool because the one we were in needed some maintenance.

You know what they say about assuming things.  .  .?

Anyway, I made plans to go with someone to a class last night. (Double checked that the class was running, first.) We arrived and stood around looking lost because we had no idea where the class was being held – no signs to indicate which pool, no milling crowd of excited participants – just us shivering on the edge feeling conspicuous in front of the row of men sitting outside the steam room and the sauna. (We come to watch!)

Finally, I asked where the class was taking place. The instructor shows up and we get in to the water. The cold water. The deep, cold water. We were standing on our toes, water lapping at our chins.  Ever tried doing a skiers lunge in water that’s nearly over your head? Ha ha ha ha. We toughed it out, but were pretty chilled by the end of the hour.

This is what was great about the class – I got out for the evening, I spent a lot of time laughing, I got to spend a bit more time with a new friend, I got some exercise and I got to sit in a hot tub afterwards.

Vent #2 – Rewards programs.

Like 99% of the population I like rewards. I like the feeling that I’m getting a little something extra for my loyalty as a consumer.

Hence, we collect Airmiles. At the rate of about 10 a year. We have 2 travel points credit cards – which get used quite regularly, and which have been extremely beneficial. We also have a PC/Optimum card for groceries and whatever.

Generally, I don’t complain about these programs because I figure, hey,  it’s a bonus and it’s better than getting nothing. Right?

Riiiight.

In the last year our travel VISA through TD has changed the way you earn and redeem points. These were tagged as ‘new’ and ‘important’ changes.  Essentially what it means is that we earn fewer points per purchase but it costs us more points when we want to redeem.

I did the irate consumer thing and called to voice my dissatisfaction. All that got me was a “We value your opinion and we’ll be sure to pass along your comments” platitude. Despite my threat to cut the card up I’ve still got it, because, well, you know, something is always better than nothing. Right?

Recently, I’ve been forced into the PC Optimum program. This is an amalgamation of the President’s Choice family of companies and Shoppers Drug Mart.

I shopped at Shoppers quite a lot, and had earned a swack of points. I didn’t really shop at Superstore that much, just occasionally, even though I had a PC points card. So I really didn’t earn many points there.

When the switcheroo came my points transferred over and I thought nothing of it. Other than – now that the two programs are joined I might as well shop more often at Superstore, and any other stores affiliated with the PC Optimum program.

And that’s how they get you. Because you think there’s a benefit in it for you.  Well, not so much.

Now I no longer earn points on every dollar I spend. I only earn points on those items they choose to send me offers for. And most of those offers are for things I’d never purchase.

It’s an ingenious marketing strategy, and one I’m sure many producers are paying handsomely to be part of. Because now they can directly target consumers and entice them to buy their products through the promise of points that they can redeem for more of their products.

So many people use these points programs to enhance the quality of their lives. It allows them to put more food on their tables, take vacations, buy gifts they might not otherwise be able to afford.

When I consider this I can’t help wondering: if, instead of spending trillions of dollars creating these ‘loyalty’ programs, companies simply lowered their prices so that consumers could actually afford to purchase what they needed and wanted – wouldn’t that in itself create loyalty?

It’s a long one today – glad I got it all out.

41st Purge

pexels-photo-235474.jpegThe weather has been very odd the last few days.

First, it’s blisteringly cold. Then it warms up to the point it was raining last night. Today it’s bloody cold again.

I get tired of saying, ah well, winter in Alberta, but really.  . .

Today I started an aquafit class. It was a lot tougher than I thought. Trying to force foam dumbbells through the water while holding them at waist height is not as easy as you’d think. A couple of times I felt like I was going to lose control and one or both of my arms would just go rocketing up out of the water and I’d look like a drunk synchronised swimmer. Thankfully, our instructor seemed to know exactly when we’d reached our limit and she’d let us have a millisecond of rest.

Another thing that’s way hard in the water? Jogging. Fast. She had us do the equivalent of wind sprints all the while exhorting us to keep our shoulders back, our heads up, our backs straight and our stomachs in. Seriously. Water torture.

Never mind my whining. I enjoyed the class and I’m looking forward to continuing.

You know what else I enjoyed? Getting the senior discount! I don’t want to brag or nothin’, but I saved 75% of the regular cost. Ha, ha. Take that. I think I’m going to like being 60.

Well, I’m trying to convince myself that I will. Think young to stay young.

Day 41 of The Purge

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Confession: I don’t think I should say this blog is about purging anymore. Although.  .  .

Tim and I talked about purging yesterday. It didn’t go well. More in a bit.

The last four days were what I consider ‘good’ days. The weather was decent; I got some great walks in (Tim even came with me once).

We took some dance lessons on Friday night. Learned the two-step, which I pretty much knew how to do, but they taught us how to twirl and do the cuddle. We need more practice, but we had fun and met some nice people.

Saturday was an incredibly lazy day. The most I did was make this weight watchers loaded cauliflower bake. We visited with some friends in the evening and I wanted to give this recipe a try. It was actually very good. Lo-carb and (fairly) lo-cal. The important thing is it had cheese and bacon in it.

Sunday, I spent the morning on the phone.  Easy to do when you have seven siblings. Then Tim and I indulged ourselves and went to Cora’s for brunch.

I never used to be a Cora’s fan, but I tell you, I sure am now.

After our leisurely brunch – where the subject of purging raised its ugly head – we went for a long walk in the cold, but very sunny afternoon. Lovely.

So now about the purging.

And it occurs to me that I have discovered another way that I am actively purging, but I’ll get to that after this.

While we were waiting for our meals at Cora’s we began discussing the future. As in three years from now when Tim retires again.

One of our main plans is to have our house completely retirement ready. All repairs and reno’s done so that we don’t have to spend our time, energy and limited income on doing them when we have nothing but time on our hands.

To do that we have to really clean house. Tim and I have VERY different ideas about what that means.

I would like to get one of those rent-a-dumpsters and just go to town.

Tim is all for saving every thing. He considers all the stuff we’ve accumulated over 39 years together as’ history’.

You see the problem.

The more we (I) talked the more agitated he got. Finally, it got to the point where he told me he wasn’t going to talk about it anymore. Which annoyed the crap out of me. So I asked him what could we talk about. Nothing, he said. So, what, we’re just going to sit here staring at one another? I asked. I guess, he said.

So that’s what I did. I made my eyes as big as I could and I stared right at him. He was studiously ignoring me, but he finally had to look in my direction. The second his eyes caught mine he started to laugh. You’re such a jerk, he said.

After that we had a great time. However, I wisely left the subject of purging alone.

Now, the way in which I am actively doing some purging is while I’m walking. I get so tired of seeing garbage on the street and walkways and I always complain about it.  Last week I decided to stop complaining. Instead, I pick it up.

Fort McMurray is a wonderful town for having an abundance of garbage cans and receptacles on its streets. And for the most part its citizens are very good about using them. Still, there is always some garbage littering the ground. Generally, it’s plastic stuff. Stuff that won’t break down or biodegrade.

It’s such an easy thing to do to bend down and pick it up and carry it the few feet to the next garbage can.

There you have it. It won’t save the world, but it’ll keep a little more waste out of the river and the trees and maybe it’ll save a bird or a fish.

Gotta love the urge to purge.