The Letter

I love getting cards and letters via regular mail, although I have to say they’re about as rare as hen’s teeth these days. Most people tend to send emails or quick texts as it’s so much easier and faster. I feel as if so much of the true sentiment behind a handwritten letter or card gets lost when sent via electronic methods. People also tend to be extremely brief in an email missive, as if it’s a chore just to sit down and compose a few sentences and hit ‘send’ on the computer. Everything has to be fast, easy, and over and done with in under three minutes.

That’s why I was tickled pink to get a handwritten (or hand printed in this case) lovely letter encased in a pretty handcrafted envelope. It even had an old-fashioned wax seal on the back and the words “Miss You” were stamped in the pretty blue hued wax. This letter was even hand delivered by the writer’s grandmother or G-Mum as she’s called, so it was even extra special.

A lovely gold gel pen was used to write the note from my “BFF” who I met about two years ago. Her grandfather (aka “Grumpy” although he’s anything but) was starting a business and my hubby and I had gone over to PEI to help he and his wife start the set-up process of the space they’d rented for their new business. His lovely daughter, whom I’ve known since she was two, and three of her four children joined us at the new place of business, and after enjoying a fabulous lunch we all buckled down and starting the cleaning etc. of the premises.

I decided that I’d start sweeping the floors and then give them a once-over mopping afterward. Their second oldest granddaughter, who was 6 at the time, decided she was going to help me. She’s a regular chatterbox – full of questions about anything and everything, and just being around her reminded me of me at that age. When you’re that age every day is adventure, and meeting new people always made me happy as it was someone new to learn about. (Yeah, I know. I probably drove my Mum crazy with a million questions a day as well as anyone else who’d listen!)

Anyhow, I nicknamed this wonderful little girl “Sweet Pea” and out of the blue, she proclaimed that her nickname for me was going to be “Cupcake.” This totally cracked me up at the absurdity of an almost 60 year-old woman being called Cupcake, but she insisted and it’s stuck!

When we got ready to come back to New Brunswick, Sweet Pea made me pinky-swear that we’d stay in touch… and we have. She came to visit me last summer and we had a fabulous afternoon painting rocks and canvases all the while enjoying treats on my back deck in the sun. I’d only Facetimed with her once until last evening as she’d asked her G-Mum to make sure that she turned on her phone so she could see me open her letter. Man, was she excited. “Marleeeeene! You got my letter! What did you think of it? Did you like it? I REALLY miss you, BFF!” was her opening line, all said in one breath. “Do you think we can be pen pals? Huh?”

Wow. How can you measure that much enthusiasm and love? You can’t. Plus don’t forget that there’s about fifty-four years – count ‘em – 54 years between us. I told her I’d be thrilled to be her pen pal and that it didn’t matter what we wrote about to each other, just as long as we put pens of any coloured ink to paper and did it.

So in the next day or so I’m going to find some actual note paper to use and scribble down some handwritten words to try and keep an almost 8 year-old interested in staying my pen pal. I know one thing for certain. She’s not going to complain about my shaky handwriting as her printing is still a bit off centre as well. See? That’s one thing we have in common: she’s just beginning to learn to write and doesn’t stick to lines, and I’m old and my hands have a touch of arthritis so my writing is off as well.

I ask you, folks. How blessed am I to have someone so young think of me as their BFF and want me to be their pen pal?

I tell you, life can be very interesting when you’re almost 8… or almost 62. I guess age is really just a number after all.

Do You Hear to Listen or to Understand?

A couple of days ago while wasting time on Facebook (yeah, I do that sometimes), I came across a video of a hilarious British comedian named Peter Kay who was doing a skit on misheard song lyrics. This guy cracked me up as I’ve recently learned that I’m not really the self-proclaimed Queen of the ‘70s lyrics lady as I once believed. You see, I’ve been going to the gym (sorry – should have posted a warning before that statement in case someone has a coronary over moi actually working out) and I’ve created a YouTube playlist of old rock ‘n roll faves to keep me motivated while secretly mind bashing the treadmill. So I mouth along with the tunes I’m listening to and have discovered I really haven’t been singing the right words for decades.

This revelation got me thinking about a line in a book I’d read a couple of months back about how we either hear to listen or hear to understand. And it’s clear I’m guilty of simply not paying close attention.

For years we women have accused men of having ‘selective hearing’ and only retaining what they want to remember, while easily forgetting the rest of the request or story we’ve been telling them. Yet it’s not just the guys who have this problem. Almost all of us at times go on autopilot and automatically tune out the words that someone is throwing our way in a conversation. Sometimes it’s because we’re really not that interested in what the other person is saying, or it could be that we’ve got a bajillion other things on our mind and we just can’t concentrate on the conversation at hand.

While hopefully nothing of great importance gets overlooked when we take those mini ‘hearing’ vacations, there are probably times when being slightly oblivious to the words coming our way have a cost or repercussion in our lives. When our spouse, child, friend, or even clients are trying to impart the importance of something that happened to them, or want to share a significant thought they’ve had with us and we’re in hearing to listen mode, that’s when we suffer a great loss. We can totally miss the reason or reasons behind the other person speaking to us. They could be hurting or in pain and we might miss the subtle clues offered by their words. We could also not comprehend that someone is so overcome with joy that they simply want to share it with us. And there we stand, nodding our head as if we’re totally getting what they’re saying… but we’re not.

Sure, we all have people in our lives that drone on and on and… (you get the drift and I’m certain I’ve been one of those people a time or three), but we put up with them because we like them. And yes, they can be as annoying as a mosquito buzzing around in your bedroom at night and you can’t see it to smack it and end the tale of misery. But the next time someone you care for starts a conversation with you, perhaps you could REALLY try to understand what it is that they’re saying to you. Give them ten minutes of your undivided attention before you slip into the ‘drone zone.’

And business peeps, that’s also something you may want to practice at your next networking event as well. You might actually impress a potential new client by comprehending what their business is all about and what they’re looking from you IF you’re listening to understand.

PS: Here’s the link to the Peter Kay’s skit on misheard lyrics for your ‘listening’ enjoyment. Man, I love British humour.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UMYorpYNMKc

This Cheque is for You!

I am ecstatic – over the moon, actually.

I was so relieved that I cried this morning.

Why, you might wonder?

Because today I received my very first Canada Pension Plan (CPP) deposit/cheque.

No, it’s not much in dollars and cents as I never held very high-paying jobs in my lifetime, even though I’ve been working steadily since 1975.

No, it’s not enough money for me to retire and live a luxurious lifestyle. And no, I didn’t cry because of the fact I’ve now officially moved into the ‘old age’ generation.

I cried for one reason only.

Back in 1984 there was a lady I knew very well who was starting her plans to retire. She worked as a hotel maid, cleaning motel/hotel and cabins in the community I was born and raised in during the tourist season. Hard work because I did it for one week and decided that it wasn’t something I wanted to do for the rest of my life. (Hence my unwavering gratitude for maids and later on waitresses because those are really hard jobs!). Plus after she’d put in a full eight-hour day at that job, she’d come home and make a full home-cooked meal that had to be on the table at exactly 5:00 pm. Some nights she’d nod off sitting in a chair at the same kitchen table because the bread she’d made that evening hadn’t finished baking and it was almost midnight.

She was tired. This was to be her last year of working so hard as she would be eligible to receive the spouse’s CPP allowance the following year when her husband turned 65. Requirements for eligibility have changed since then, but back in ’84, that was the rule.

By the end of August, she went into the hospital as she was sick. By the first of September, she was formally diagnosed with incurable lung cancer. No chemo, no radiation, no reprieve. She couldn’t complete the necessary work weeks to even draw Unemployment Insurance (EIC as it’s known today) during her illness.

She died on February 13th, 1985, and never got to see even one CPP cheque come into the house with her name on it. All her lovely retirement dreams were never realized.

And now to today, August 29th, 2017, 32 years later.

All the health problems I’ve gone through in the past few years made me wonder if I’d ever get to see an actual CPP deposit come into my account. But there it was, showing up as clear as day, in my bank account when I checked online this morning. How wonderful!

Dear Mum, my first cheque will be spent in memory of you. 

You Are NOT Your “Story!”

I’ve been vowing to write this blog post for over two months and today is the day.

I belong to a great entrepreneurs group founded by the multi-talented Maureen Craig McIntosh (http://monctonrealitytherapy.com/join-eric) and on one of our ERIC calls the subject came up about beliefs that we carry throughout our life that somehow continue to define how we live our lives. I listened to a couple of other people on the call who spoke on the subject and then I blurted out in my usual interruptive way and said, “We are NOT our story!”

After a couple of minutes of silence, I proceeded to back up that statement by sharing the following point of view on the subject.

Frankly, at some point in all our lives, we have to let go of our past hurts, disappointments, and so-called failures. We can only blame our parents and others for the way we turned out for so long. I believe the expiration date on blame placement should end around age 40 because frankly, if we haven’t “grown up” by then chances are we aren’t going to. We’ll be forever finger pointing and beating our chest crying out in anger “If you hadn’t told me I was (insert appropriate limiting belief statement here) then I would have NEVER turned out this way!” Another great often used excuse for not potentially reaching a goal is “Well, if my (mother, father, sister, brother, uncle, cousin – you name it) had encouraged me to study harder and go to (college, university, trade school etc.) than I would be wealthy by now!”

People, pull a “Frozen” and let that story go!

Yes, it’s true that some people never receive the encouragement a young child needs to build healthy levels of self-esteem. And it’s also true that life seems to bestow great and wonderful things on some while heaping crud on others. Yet by the time we approach mid-life, WE are creating our own stories and beliefs. WE are making choices on how we wish to live our lives. I truly believe that if we keep rekindling hurtful memories and fanning the anger fire within ourselves, we will never, ever, achieve a state of happiness or be comfortable in our own skin.

What happened thirty, twenty, ten, or even a single year or day ago is in the past. Why are you still carrying around that incident or grudge? Aren’t you tired of living in sadness or rage? Plus think of the valuable “real estate” in your brain that you’re letting these people and thoughts rent for free! Why? And how are those thoughts serving you today?

Not very well, are they?!

Alexander Pope was spot on when he said, “To err is human, to forgive divine.” Acknowledge that so and so was mistaken when they made a negative judgement call on any aspect of your character way back when… and then forgive them. Besides, you are NOT the person today that you were years ago.

You are NOT your story, or at least not anymore.

 

Maybe it’s time you wiped the slate clean and started writing a new book called “My Life NOW!”

 

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Marlene Oulton, AKA “The Words Lady” and resident wordsmith of www.MarleneOulton.com derives great satisfaction from assisting authors, writers, coaches and SOHO entrepreneurs produce clean, crisp and concisely written articles, newsletters, website copy and other literary works. To find out more on how she can make your words sing and dance… without adding music visit www.MarleneOulton.com today!

 

Please Stop “Vaguebooking!”

Warning: rant ahead. Read at the risk of getting pissed off.

People, you have to stop “vaguebooking.” For those of you who might not know what this term means, it is “An intentionally vague Facebook status update that prompts friends to ask what’s going on, or is possibly a cry for help.” (Courtesy of www.UrbanDictionary.com.)

Before some of you get your knickers in a knot, I get where “vaguebooking” when used as advance marketing tool builder of excitement for a product launch or an advertising campaign for a company is semi-acceptable (although some of them can be downright annoying due to repetitiveness). It’s the “I don’t know what I’m going to do!” type of posts that leave the reader hanging, not knowing what the person who posted that sentence is going through. When I see comments like that it creates within me a sense of urgency and anxiety – as if the poster is going through something horrible or may need real help. Then three posts and fifteen minutes later they write, “Phew! Turns out it was just a bad spark plug that made the car not start this morning.” I mean, wtf people? I thought you were going through some life or death situation, not having crappy car problems! Meanwhile, myself and 132+ others have been worrying ourselves needlessly over you.

The other “vaguebooking” posts that totally suck are ones like “Something awesome just happened! So excited!” or “This is huge! Can’t wait to share!” Really? You should have waited to share your big news WHEN you knew for sure it was REAL news. (Don’t get me started on ‘fake news’ or I’ll be here all day.)

I’m happy that your company is releasing a new and improved (although they can’t be both of those items at once) type of adult diaper, or that you’ve reinvented a better mosquito trap that humanely captures and releases the little buggers outside via a reverse vacuum system. I get that you want to sell us these items by creating a big hoopla about their eventual release into the unsuspecting psyche of the buying public by creating a buzz (pun intended) before launch day. But those of you who deliberately and habitually practice “vaguebooking” need to get over your love of creating drama at the expense of having the rest of us worry for nothing.

Because if you don’t, one of these days you might just cry “wolf” … and no one will come to your rescue.

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