Sunday, January 30, 2011

Superstitious Lucky Rabbits

I just threw salt over my shoulder, and missed – damn.
Now it’s in my eye.
Just a sec.....................

How superstitious are you?

Derived from religious and cultural beliefs, superstitions have been passed down from generation to generation, often blurring from one culture to the next. Many ‘old wives’ tales’ have faded in time, their wording and meaning changing with each era. But some superstitions are so commonly known, so part of our daily lives, that we practice them without thinking (uncross those fingers!). Even those who STRONGLY object to superstition still pick up a penny when they see it. But do they do it in the spirit of acquiring great wealth, or are they repeating the age old saying ‘See a penny, pick it up, and for the day you’ll have good luck?’

Now, if I were smart about it, I would have saved every penny I found since childhood; I would have been a wealthy woman by now.

Not that I am compulsively phobic about superstitions, rearranging and arranging my life around them, but they are ever-present in my daily life. Heck, I even confuse one with the other, but I figure ‘better safe than sorry,’ and perform some sort of luck-fostering act.

And if I learn of one that has apparently ‘been around for ages,’ I panic – ‘How come I didn’t know about this? Oh how my life would have been luckier/wealthier/happier/safer if I had ONLY known to (insert appropriate newly-learned superstition here) all these years!’

Getting back to that salt in my eye, I dug around a bit (not in my eye, mind you), and found a clearly worded phrase to match the action:

Bad luck will follow the spilling of salt unless a pinch is thrown over the left shoulder into the face of the devil waiting there.

Ack! I never knew about the ‘devil’ bit, but the part about bad luck/salt over the shoulder? My mother instilled this on me since birth - more than the necessity for hairspray.

While discovering superstitions surrounding salt, I came across this one:

Put salt on the doorstep of a new house and no evil can enter.

That’s news to me! And to think I recently moved and never salted my doorstep! Would salting slugs do? Na – that’s not very nice.

How about this one:

Salty soup is a sign that the cook is in love.

Does that apply to mounds of salt on French Fries? And scrap the love bit...just pass the salt and vinegar, please!

And don’t go getting me around a ladder. In fact, I darn well nearly cross the street just to avoid the stupid things.

In my constant flurry in the kitchen, something is always being spilled, dropped, thrown or broken. I practically weep every time I drop a spoon – doing so brings disappointment.

My free-spirited friend thinks I am crazy, and mocks my twisted belief system. Sceptics like her say if you can’t see it or prove it, well then - forget it.

I don’t care. What’s wrong with a little luck? It never hurt anyone, did it?

Just to fuel my worries, I have been hounding my co-worker about Chinese superstition and luck. Her teachings have spiked my superstitious concerns, my imagination and phobic tendencies instantly taking on these cultural ways of thinking as my own.

As the Chinese New Year fast approaches, I grill her for every shred of lucky action I can perform. I am near ready to swallow tarantulas whole if it would make my life better.

Why this sudden neurotic need for more superstitious knowledge than my frail mentality can handle?

Numerous opinions on fostering a successful writing career have been penned by experts more prolific than I. Some strongly oppose the concept of having luck on your side when pursuing the literary dream. They say the road, path, journey – whatever you want to call it – to publication is not one of luck, but of hard work, perseverance, and determination. Other authors strongly oppose, saying that very often, especially in their own experiences, luck has played a huge part in their success. I agree with hard work and determination – and luck. What’s to hurt having a little on your side?

When I asked my co-worker what I should and shouldn’t be doing on Chinese New Year, hoping that any rituals I perform on the day commencing The Year of the Rabbit would prove successful for me in the forthcoming year, she patiently reminded me that with a country of 1.3 billion people in over 20 provinces, hosting numerous religious and cultural ways, she cannot possibly know all traditions.

“Oh.” My shoulders slumped. “Fine. Gimme what ya got.”

She pointedly looked at me and listed two ‘what not to do’s:’

No cussing. No reading. (She never elaborated as to why.)

Damn. I’m done for.

But then she brightened and said the day of the Chinese New Year is a ‘good time’ to buy clothes and underwear.

HOT DAMN! I guess I’m going shopping!

As I bid you Kung Hei Fat Choy, wishing you much happiness, wealth and luck in the coming Year of the Rabbit, I remind you to rely on your own strengths and determination to see you through.

And keep your fingers crossed – luck is right around the corner.

Wish me luck!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Now What?

It was just over a week ago when we ran around cheerfully shouting ‘See you next year!’ to everyone and anyone. It’s a joke we all share, knowing how absurd it sounds. ‘Next year’ is literally only a day or two or three away from the day we say it, depending on how much time off we have off from work, or when we will see the person next. We can only say it once a year and mean it, so we relish the time when we can.

Unless, of course, you were lucky enough to be able to sell all your belongings, pack a few undies and a bathing suit, and head over to the beaches of the Seychelles Islands for a year.

The noise makers, champagne flutes and badly recorded versions of ‘Auld Lang Syne’ are now tucked away with the Christmas decorations for another year. Our living rooms are devoid of any sparkling light or activity. The bowl of dust-covered ribbon candy is the only remnant of the season past. We sigh in relief grateful that the chaos is over, routines resuming with previously scheduled regularity, but yet.....

Now what?

Our lives are dictated by seasons and holidays. In the months following Christmas and New Year’s, although we stumble into work secretly glad for the return of routine, we scowl in our coffee cups and mumble ‘now what?’ Leftover Christmas candies and treats are our only joy.

Next on the calendar is Ground Hog Day, February 2nd. Not a holiday, and no food or candies are consumed, so scratch that. Valentine’s Day, February 14th, approaches and although not a work-free ‘holiday,’ at least we can gorge on chocolate. The Easter Bunny follows-up by breaking into our homes, leaving a (welcomed) mess of chocolate. Ground Hog Day and Valentine’s Day (for some) was a bust, so the Easter Bunny better pick up the slack. At least we can mainline chocolate again, drowning our sorrows in sugar and cocoa.

But what do we do in between? Sure we raced out on Boxing Day anxious not only for deals on electronics and Chia Pets, but also for deals on chocolates and candies. While waiting for more holidays in which to excessively gorge ourselves on candies, chocolates and lavish dinners (turkey again?), we are back to the original problem; now what? What do we have to look forward to?

In my angst to find SOMETHING to look forward to in the months leading up to another holiday/excuse to eat everything sugar or chocolate-laced in sight, I found the perfect ‘calendar’ a person could ever dream off.

A Candy Holiday Calendar. Be still my heart!

The wonderful folks over at the National Confectioners Association, , just saved my life and sanity.

‘Representing the Candy, Chocolate & Gum Industries since 1884,’ the National Confectioners Association is a trade organization representing and supporting manufacturers, distributors and retailers of CANDY (the proper word is confection).

Searching the website under ‘candy holidays,’ I rejoice out loud, thanking Mr. Hershey (chocolate bars, USA, 1894), Mr. Nestle (chocolate bars, USA, 1875,), Mr. Rogers (chocolatier, Victoria, BC, 1885), and Mr. Purdy’s (chocolatier, Vancouver, 1907) for making our world a better place. Here are just a few of the holidays I found:

• January 8th is National English Toffee Day.
• January 26th is National Peanut Brittle Day
• February 19th is Chocolate Mint Day.
• March 19th is National Chocolate Caramel Day

The list goes on. For a moment, my anger surged; WHY DIDN’T I KNOW ABOUT THESE HOLIDAYS?! But before I lost all mental faculties, verging on doing something stupid like swearing off candies forever in revolt, I sat back...

...and thought about it....
...and ate a leftover chocolate from New Year’s...
...and realized....

...there is always something to look forward to, at any time of year, no matter what the season. The most simple can brighten your day, candy or otherwise.

There is so much to look forward to – even in the little things – while waiting for the Easter Bunny.

Now go eat a chocolate - you’ll feel better.

Happy New Year!

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Call Waiting; Thought Waiting.....

I love it that writers are on the same PAGE.

We interrupt, shush, and ignore each other. We ‘cut-off’ each other mid-conversation/email. Why? To preserve a writerly thought - an idea. Before the other person can utter another word making us loose that paramount idea forever, we MUST get it down, even if it means tossing all manners aside. It’s understood; we get it. It’s an unspoken rule, and no apology or forgiveness is ever needed.

And if your writer friend suddenly stares off into space as you recount your marvellous, newly discovered technique of how to trim your cat’s claws, don’t be offended – she isn’t bored with your story. She is just having writerly thoughts.

Most recently, my writer friend (a fellow blogger) and I were having a quick chat on email, and something she said inspired her. She had a writerly, or more specifically, a bloggable thought, and had to run to expand on it, thus promptly ending our email conversation. I didn’t respond to her last email - I didn’t want to make her feel obliged to read and respond thereby interrupting her thought.

No problem; no hard feelings. I get it – I’m with ya on that one, sister.

Alternately, I hate that call-waiting thing with a passion. Maybe it’s because I was left on the ‘line’ one too many times many years ago when call-waiting on private household phones was invented. Patiently waiting for the person to finish their call with the person on the OTHER line (I called FIRST), I would sit and wait. And wait. And wait. Out of frustration and hurt (never mind the need to pee) I would finally hang up. I don’t hold a grudge, but still waters run deep and all that...

Being put on hold when calling a business, however, is a different story. The concept is guaranteed, and you’re naive if you think it won’t happen to you. Although lengthy and time consuming, your frustration skyrockets if the music playing is not to your liking. And then to no one listening on the other end, except for the sporadic recorded ‘thank you for holding, your business is important to us – please stay on the line and someone will be with you shortly’ greeting, you curse the company, curse the phones, and swear to never allow yourself to be put on hold EVER again! (Not that I have ever done that!)

But holding while the receptionist confirms my earlobe-lift appointment is a different story. NO problem - THAT, I can handle.

And at least if you are on the phone with a writer friend (although rare because we are too busy ignoring each other), if a writerly thought does come up, we can write it down in silence, and still stay on the line.

What do you think hands-free phones are for?

There are no awkward silences while on the phone with a writer friend – we are WRITING! And no, this is not some lame excuse fabricated to chat on the phone during our writing/working hours. This is what writers do; chat, bounce ideas off each other, support each other, and nurture each other’s self-esteem. And then, when convenient, promptly ignore each other in the name of creativity, throwing everything our mothers and Miss. Manners taught us out the window.

My friend's 'bloggable thought' interruption was welcomed, embraced, and cherished. It is said that the business of writing is not for the faint of heart, so if you hope to make it in the writing world, toughen up and get used to being ignored/shushed/cut-off - and love it. We are like folk – the community of writers share a common bond, and receiving this kind of treatment means you are welcomed.

Now go away – I just had another bloggable thought.