Friday, April 27, 2012

Chicken Soup for the Soul: Say Goodbye to Stress

On my doorstep the other day was a box! The box I had been waiting for!

I had been waiting so long for this box, since somewhere around November, and it was really starting to stress me out (even though I knew it wouldn’t come until around now, anyways, but that’s beside the point).

I hate waiting; I’m really bad at it. It consumes me and I become obsessed by it, almost to the point of getting completely stressed out. Even if it’s for something good, the waiting almost kills me.

And it’s funny, really, when I think about it, how stressed out from waiting I actually got, given the contents of the box.

I was stressfully waiting for my author copies of ‘Chicken Soup for the Soul: Say Goodbye to Stress,’ which contains my story, ‘Power Walk.’

I am not making light of stress; I know it is nothing to joke about it. As I write in my story, ‘Power Walk,’ stress resulting from a very difficult time in my life robbed me of my sleep, my positive mood, and time for myself. Letting stress do this only gave it power. My story shows how I learned to religiously get out there, no matter what was happening or how I felt, and walk off the stress – pound all my worries away with every step.

The book has 26 personal stories of how folks like me dealt with stress resulting from various situations like money, health, over multi-tasking, and life’s inevitable ups and downs. Dr. Jeff Brown of Harvard Medical School contributes medical advice and facts about stress and its affects on health, and in a down-to-earth, easy-to-read manner, he helps readers find ways to get through those stressful times (there’s even a recipe!).

‘Chicken Soup for the Soul; Say Goodbye to Stress’ in bookstores on May 22, 2012, aims to live up to its title and help you say goodbye to stress.

Back to my books…

So I displayed my copies of books, denying any family member of touching them (oh alright, I DID let them read my story in print, BUT I held the book for them).

With the book about relieving stress finally in my hands, I can now say goodbye to stress.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

To Scrub Or Not To Scrub

I like to write notes of appreciation. Whether to say ‘thank you for your kindness,’ or to say ‘thanks for being you,’ I do it because everyone at one time or another deserves a pat on the back.

When I had surgery not so long ago, thereby handicapping me of doing anything strenuous around the house, I had to rely on my three men to pick up the slack. And truly, they were wonderful (I need to write them a ‘thank you’ note).

However, doing things like cleaning toilets was not to be. I did manage to teach one lad how to clean the bathtub, so I can’t complain.

When I was finally able to get out and about, my idea of ‘out and about’ was walking 50 steps to the grocery store to do laps up and down the aisles while leaning on the shopping cart. As I was slow, I had time to REALLY peruse the shelves. This is a foreign concept to me given my usual whirlwind shopping sprees.

One day I was in the cleaning products aisle, one of my favourite sections of the store. Not that I am a compulsive cleaner, my house sterile enough to lick the spaghetti sauce off the floors, but I get a kick out of trying new products when I have the time and energy.

On the shelves between the scouring pads and dryer sheets I found the answer to my cleaning dilemma – or more specifically, my bathroom cleaning dilemma.

Scrubbing Bubbles® products by SC Johnson has a whole slew of products for cleaning your bathroom and kitchen. I don’t know if it was the cute little bubble guys on the packaging that drew my attention, but they were a welcome, cheery distraction from my woes.

Scrubbing Bubbles® Continuous Clean Toilet Cleaning Gel is a little gizmo that by way of a plastic applicator, you stick a glob of slow-dissolving cleaning gel to the inside of your toilet bowl, and with every flush fresh-scented cleaner swirls around the bowl, keeping it ring-free!

My GOD! I wanted to jump and frolic among the nearby Brillo® pads, but my sore post-surgery body wouldn’t allow it.

I later somehow managed to lean over the toilet and apply one of the gel globs, and that was it! The package says they last for a week, but they lasted a lot longer than that.

And I won’t get into the Scrubbing Bubbles® Extend-A-Clean for bathtubs. Just spray, leave it on for a bit, rinse, and voila! You have a barrier against bathtub rings for 3 – 4 days!

So, of course, I had to write them. And of course, without disrespecting their products, I put a little humour into it.

Here’s what I wrote:


Just had to tell you that I was very, very pleased to discover your Continuous Clean Toilet Cleaning Gel and Extend-a-Clean for bathtubs. I had surgery, and was unable to do many household chores. I have a family of men, but....well....they helped as best as they could, but...

Anyways, it was a pleasure to have found a product that I could leave on and would self-clean my toilet and tub, so that I didn't have to worry about it, given my inability to clean, etc. I have been using the toilet cleaning gel for over a month, and have never seen a stain. In that time, the gel 'globs' have only had to have been replaced twice; each lasts longer than a week.

And as with the bathtub, with three messy men in my house, bathtub rings are a constant, so the Extend a Clean has been perfect!

Thank you for this: I will continue using your products.

Not too long after, they wrote me back. Not only were they happy to hear their products had helped me and my men during their ‘cleaning patrol,’ but they were quite taken with my note, saying that my ‘delightful comments had been shared with the Scrubbing Bubbles® team.’

I’m famous!

(I didn’t want to print their letter without their permission, but I think given our ‘best friend’ status, I don’t think they will mind me quoting a few lines from their letter).

Now I know the first question many will ask is if they sent me a lifetime supply of cleaning products. No, they didn’t – but that’s fine with me. I didn’t write to them expecting something in return. I am more than thrilled that they took the time to personally write me back, and that they appreciated my note and my sense of humour. It gave me as much a giggle as I gave them.

Not that I was poking fun at their products, but hey, when talkin’ toilets, ya gotta laugh.

So what is the lesson learned in all this? Keep your toilet and bathtub clean with Scrubbing Bubbles®, and always send someone a nice note. You’ll be rewarded with a smile.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Bountiful Bumpershoots - Bold or Bland?

Where I live where rain is part of coastal living, many complain about it yet still live here. And since it comes whether we like it or not any time of the year, we have no choice but to just flow right along with it. Resistance is futile on the West Coast; just put on your boots and raincoat and get on with it.

Packing an umbrella is typical, and not having one is ludicrous. I carry mine right up until July. Some folks think I am silly, but I was a Brownie then a Girl Guide – I am always prepared.

As I walk around downtown Victoria, the crazy quilt of umbrellas intrigues me. And as someone’s umbrella almost pokes out my eye in their rush to pass me, their umbrella of black fabric printed with red kisses makes me wonder - are umbrellas an expression of age, gender, and status?

There’s the typical businessman decked out in a dark suit and tie with his black raincoat flapping around his knees. What does he carry? A sombre black umbrella. There are those who prefer the compact sort, the perfect size when collapsed for a briefcase. Or there is the ultra-dapper businessman who opts for the classic cane-style, complete with a U-shaped wooden handle. Whether he is hoping for an impromptu fencing match, or whether he thinks of it as a weapon of self-defence, who knows. But it’s all in the ‘look,’ I guess.

The average office worker can be seen carrying any kind. A man in chinos and a casual shirt and tie sets off his attire with an umbrella that either a/ is used as a promotional piece, b/ is one he won in a raffle and has no other choice, or c/ is one he just really likes. Brightly coloured never-ending comic strips circle the top, and although it's not an umbrella I would consider ugly, it just didn’t match the rest of him. Oblivious to the fact that he stood out among all the dark and dreary umbrellas marching past him, I must say I was rather impressed with his bold choice.

Or maybe he just borrowed it from the girl in the cubicle next to him.

Then there is another fellow, similarly dressed, marching by carrying one of the iconic beige, black, white and red check of Burberry. Although Burberry fashions everyone, man or woman, this fellow caught my attention as I usually see women sporting this pattern in scarves, bags and umbrellas. But I should talk. My unfashionista-self owns nothing Burberry, and the holes in my socks are testament to my priorities. But as he turned to go in the other direction, I couldn't help but notice the bent, broken, flattened back of the umbrella had the rainwater running down the back of his jacket.

There are the women who have umbrellas of bright and colourful pansies, or of kittens prancing around the edge, or of happy little polka dots – anything to bring joy during dark and dreary days. I have yet to know a man who would happily walk down the street carrying a pink umbrella with pansies and smiley faces all over it. I wouldn’t exactly walk down the street with an umbrella sporting skulls along the brim.

Some women match their umbrella to their coat and carry in style - class versus flash (hello Gucci?) There are the young with their dinosaur umbrellas (my house saw many of these) for boys, or Barbie for girls. Some folks simply opt for the dark and unassuming, hoping to blend in and be anonymous, and not draw attention to themselves. There are those who snatch the closest one from their friend or co-worker, eager to preserve their hair and clothes. For some it's simply a matter of staying dry; they don't care what they use and are happy to find one in a corner somewhere. Lost and found departments are usually overflowing with them.

As for the rest of the world, there is the soccer mom who huddles under her leaking brelly while faithfully cheering on her son. There is the urban walker marching along on his daily walk, his cane-style, pointed tip brolly at the ready to fend off coyotes, rabid rabbits, and pyschotic cats. Then there is the mother who struggles with a stroller in one hand and a toddler in the other - both mom and toddler tote clear plastic bumpershoots with Hello Kitty always smiling.

As for me, I used to have a cane-style umbrella with multiple cats dancing around the brim - something like what is sold by the London Humane Society. Naturally like the demise of most umbrellas, I lost it, but would I carry it around now? Not likely. I have moved on in the umbrella department.

I carry an understated black compact umbrella, one I can tuck in my bag or purse. One that lets me people/umbrella-watch, unnoticed.

In the end, it doesn't matter who you are and what kind you have, as long as you have one at all.

Friday, April 6, 2012

A Book Nook and Tea

I very often hustle through The Empress Hotel for a quick pit-stop at the washroom. I love the hotel. The d├ęcor intertwined with secrets and history embedded in the walls fascinates me, and I long to stay there and hunt down a ghost or two.

History and ghosts aside, when I am there I am on a mission. I scurry through the Tea Lobby where the famous ‘high tea’ is served, ignoring the chintz fabrics, antique rugs, and vintage furnishings – the washroom my destination. Of course, I can’t help but snatch a finger sandwich from a waiting tea tray. No one sees this, of course, and I am planning the greatest ‘oops I tripped’ scheme - without breaking the fine china - and execute the greatest ‘five second rule’ ever. I mean, they can’t very well serve stuff that’s been on the floor, now can they?

I hadn’t been there in a while, so one day as I skulked through the halls, dry-swallowing as many swiped pastries and sandwiches as my mouth could hold (forget the lox and caviar – ick), I rounded a corner and nearly choked on my raspberry tart.

There stood a bookcase I was sure hadn’t been there before.

I tried not to pick at a raspberry seed stuck in my tooth, because who does such unrefined things in such a fine establishment, and a framed sign on its shelves. Of course, in true Empress Hotel style, the frame was pewter.

Resisting the urge to shove the fancy frame in my purse, I peered at it closely.

Well what a novel idea!

Now, I know the concept is nothing new. Club rooms in apartment buildings and curling rinks often have them (yes, I have seen one at a curling rink, not that I curl or anything. I just happened to be there, but not for curling. I don’t curl. Not that there is anything wrong with curling, and not that I am comparing the Empress Hotel to a curling rink, not that one is better than the other, but…oh never mind). These little book nooks here and there are like little free libraries for all.

Not that I am a revisiting patron of the hotel intimately familiar with every inch of the premises (but I should at least have my own washroom stall), but I was sure the bookcase was a new fixture in this area of the hotel; the partly bare shelves, telling.

All I could think of as I stood there not contemplating pilfering the frame, never mind wishing I had grabbed a lemon tart instead (I hate those raspberry seeds), was what a great PR platform this would be for a published author. What a great way for an author to promote his or her books; leave an autographed book, get known!

I put back the frame (I had ONLY moved it to take a picture, not to shove it in my purse), and stood back to admire the perfect little sitting room where it sat.

Just to add to the mystique of it all, among the chintz sofas, flouncy drapes, and antique wood polished to a mirror shine, stood a desk with something else that caught my eye: a computer.

It stood out like a sore thumb among the antique furnishings, but at the same time, it seemed just right. I instantly saw myself there writing daily, composing masterpiece upon masterpiece to adorn the bookshelf. And heck, I would have food and washrooms at my disposal! How perfect would that be?

Oh alright…so the sign next to the computer said for ‘hotel guests only.’ But they DID provide sign-on passwords. And really, I was a guest, in a sense; I was visiting. And I did eat there.


But back to the bookcase and the PR possibilities…

With tourist season in these parts starting with the arrival of the first cruise ships on April 17th, it would be a perfect time to line the shelves with one’s own books!

I finally made my way to the washroom, passing through the Tea Lobby once more where patrons were enjoying their high tea, and knocked back a few gulps of tea. I was sure they didn’t mind, and I warned them off the lox.

So next time you run through the Empress Hotel, leave the sandwiches for me, stay out of my washroom stall, and take a book – but make sure to leave one.

And don’t interrupt me if I am writing.

(be sure to visit the Recipe of the Week section for a Raspberry Tart Recipe)