One Size Does NOT Fit All!

photo of me - cold Jan 24 13 adjWarning: Before reading today"™s blog post, be aware that I"™m on a rant as I"™m tired of spending the past 6 days in deep freezer mode here on the East Coast. I most likely am vitamin D, C, A, Z deprived and any other compound in between that I"™m lacking from not feeling the sun"™s warmth!

So"¦ as I mentioned above, my neck of the woods has been experiencing colder than normal winter temperatures for the past 6 days due to a low pressure of Artic air that"™s stuck over the region. For example, when I dragged my sorry butt out of bed this morning, it was -34C with wind chill factored in (around -29F for those of you who don"™t use the Celsius system). Now that"™s a tad chilly by anyone"™s thermometer and since I don"™t own a fur coat (don"™t believe in them) by choice I"™ve stayed indoors, gazing at the bright sunshine that isn"™t providing a smidgen of warmth through the windows of my home. (I should add that my poor electric furnace is also getting a work-out and I"™m afraid that the wheel on the meter is spinning so fast that it"™s going to pop off its axis and slice through the glass casing!)

Anyhow, I digress from the point of this rant.

To try and combat the cold, 4 days ago I dug through my dresser drawers in search of some heavyweight winter tights that I have for just these occasions. In my childhood days, these were referred to as leotards, but in today"™s advanced fashion terms, tights seem to be the more acceptable term. However, there"™s one slight problem "“ I only have a couple of pairs of these winter wonders and this morning after my shower I discovered both were in the dirty clothes hamper. Uh oh"¦

But wait! After a little digging through aforementioned dresser drawer, I found a brand spanking new pair of "˜patterned"™ tights just waiting to be unwrapped from their hermitically sealed plastic covering. I vaguely remember buying them last spring at an end of winter clearance event and had never put them to use, but today was going to be the day they saw the light. (Or darkness under my jeans to be more precise.)

Now the following description may be too vivid for some people to handle, so if you"™ve no sense of humour, stop reading here.

I unfolded the beautiful jacquard patterned black tights, easing them lovingly over my toes and then rolling them up my thighs"¦ and that"™s when the elastic hit the fan. These totally posh tights STOPPED an inch short of my umm nether region! I started pulling with all my might but nope, they weren"™t budging. By this time I"™m sweating from the exertion of trying to haul up the now obnoxious pair of too-tight tights and I"™m ready for my second shower of the day.

In a fit of rage, I grab the package to see what possible size these thigh huggers are and there on the label lies the culprit: ONE SIZE FITS ALL.

Okay. Who the BLEEP is "˜One"™ and how come HER measurements are used as a gauge for the rest of us?  One isn"™t even a prime number for heaven"™s sake! I remember from the movie The Matrix that "˜Neo"™ was determined to be The One, and frankly at this point of trying to get these stupid tights on, I was going to need a miracle of futuristic proportions in order to get them on my body!

I say we outlaw the ONE SIZE FITS ALL labelling of garments because it never does. Same goes with hats. That label equates to them being either too small or too big on me and I"™ve yet to find sweaters that fit perfectly bearing that tag as well.

Let"™s start a movement, ladies, to get this stupid "˜no size"™ label off clothing now! How about we get rid of it and create "˜MIGHT FIT"™ or "˜NO WAY HONEY"™ labels instead? They might be a tad more accurate and at least not give one false hope that the garment may cover whatever body part it"™s meant for.

I did manage to scrounge another older much worn pair of tights from another drawer which fit just fine. But get this: the tag on this pair says "˜Large "“ Tall."™ I"™m 5"™ 3" (and that"™s pushing it) so perhaps the labelling on what constitutes tall is a tad off as well.

So, what"™s the moral of this story? Don"™t buy anything labelled ONE SIZE FITS ALL unless you"™re 110% positive that you"™re the "˜one"™ who was directly involved in the construction of said garment. Either that or just take your chances and be ready for an extra workout in the morning trying to get the @#*! on J

Stay warm everyone!

Why Money Should Never Be Your Motivator

Yesterday I watched a short clip that a friend had posted on Facebook entitled "œWhat If Money Was   No Object?" and it was so good that I shared it on my own wall. It made me stop and realize that for a good part of my life, money was my motivator "“ the driving force behind 90% of every decision I made.

For a lot of people, their life"™s equation looks like this: work + money = success. Yet at what cost to human creativity? I wonder how many of us reach a certain age, stop and look back over our lives and wonder, "œWhat if I"™d done something different. How would I feel today?" Even worse, there are far too many people who lay on their deathbed and think, "œI wish I"™d followed my true passion of "¦" you fill in the blank.

Yes, money is important, to the extent that we need a certain amount of it to live a reasonably comfortable life. We all need a dry roof over our heads, clothes on our back, and food on our table. These are the basic necessities of life and in order to enjoy them, we need to earn money to pay for them doing some type of work. However, where is it written that we have to stifle our dreams and desires for doing what we truly love to do in order to be considered a success? Who, exactly, dictates that we need to work at a 9 to 5 J.O.B. that we detest simply because "œThat"™s what everybody does!?"

I wonder if people like Monet or Rembrandt thought, "œWell, I"™ll never be rich and famous because I"™m "˜just"™ a painter" or if writers such as Hemingway, Fitzgerald, or so many other literary giants decided, "œI"™m going to write because I"™ll achieve critical acclaim and be revered for my work when I die." I suspect they, along with thousands of others who have followed their passion, did what they did because they paid attention to their innate intuition to follow what made their heart sing "“ to do what fulfilled them and made them want to get up in the morning, EVERY day of their life, and do it all over again.

The title of this piece is "œWhy Money Should Never Be Your Motivator" and here"™s why I believe this statement to be true. If you base your sense of self-worth and self-esteem on the size of your bank account, you run the risk of having a zero balance "“ in both your wallet AND in your life. Finances have a way of ebbing and flowing, much like the tides of the ocean are governed by the moon. If your moral character is based on hard currency, then what happens if you lose all your wealth? What do you have in your "˜internal"™ safety deposit box to fall back on to get you through such a hardship? Probably zilch.

I have no children of my own, but I do have nieces and one nephew whom I adore, as well as an extended family of great-nieces and great-nephews. If I were allowed to share with them only one piece of business advice, it would be this: Choose your career path by that which makes you feel happy. For if you follow your instincts and take the path that fills your soul with satisfaction, the money will eventually come. And when it does, you will most likely be more appreciative of those dollars and cents, and share your wealth (and joy) with others in the world.

Pay attention to your dreams as they will provide you with a lifetime of joy.

PS: By the way, here"™s the link to the video clip should you like to watch it. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=siu6JYqOZ0g

The Road to Entrepreneurialism is Paved With… Vegetables?

The Old Farmhouse Barn Aug 27 12 adjI know. Strange title for a blog post but after you read the remainder of the story, you"™ll know why I"™ve chosen this  as the introductory line.

I suspect if you were to take a poll of 100 business owners, all of them can pinpoint the main reason why they took the plunge into entrepreneurialism. I also know that being their own "˜boss"™ would most likely rank in the top 5 answers to that question. For me, my entrepreneur ideas took root when I was 8 years old, literally and figuratively.

I was born and raised in an 18 room farmhouse situated on 200 acres (more or less) of relatively fertile ground, located in a fairly remote rural area of New Brunswick, alongside the coastline of the Northumberland Strait. My father was a self-employed business man, who held down 2 demanding jobs: that of being an owner of his own front-end loader/backhoe during the day, and in all the hours before 8:00 am and after 5:00 pm, he toiled at his true love, that of farming.

As most of the people in the area did, we too, grew our own vegetables and harvested them for winter. The trouble was my Dad thought that a ½ acre of garden simply wasn"™t enough to feed our huge family (including myself, there were only 4 of us children), so therefore a second ½ acre or more was ploughed, seeded and tended which grew only potatoes, turnip and cabbage. For those of you who"™ve never tended gardens of that size, let me assure you that it takes a LOT of hoeing, weeding, tilling etc. to maintain something of that size.

Over the years, people from nearby towns constructed cottages along the beautiful coastline and my older brother had started what we called the "˜vegetable route"™ supplying the "˜cottagers"™ with fresh vegetables once they came into season.

The summer I turned 8, my brother decided he was too old to be doing this piddly work and passed the baton down to me. My father sat me down at the end of June and said, "œI"™ll make you a deal. If you take over the cottage route, I"™ll split the money we make with you at the end of August." Well, to an 8 year old girl, in 1965, the promise of actual dollar bills seemed like a tremendous idea, so we shook hands and a deal was struck. All the monies collected were to be deposited in an old tobacco can which sat at the back of the sideboard in the kitchen and divided just before school started in September.

I still didn"™t have a bicycle yet (although I should add I"™d started nagging my parents 2 years prior for one!), so twice a week I"™d either walk the 2 mile route, knock on the cottager"™s doors, smile and ask, "œDo you need any vegetables this week?" and proceed to rattle off what offerings were available, or on the odd occasion my Mum would drive me in our family car. I"™d write down their orders in a tiny coil-bound flip-top book, move on to the next cottage and repeat the process. When the last cottage was duly asked for an order, I"™d walk back home and then my mother and I would tally up how many bunches of carrots, beets, radishes, pounds of peas, beans, or potatoes etc. we"™d need to pick, wash, and pack to deliver later that day.

I should also mention here that a "˜bunch"™ of carrots consisted of 12 firm, bright orange beauties, all nicely washed and tied with a piece of left-over baler twine, which sold for the princely sum of $.25/per bunch. (Yes, I"™m that old!)

The hazy days of summer quickly passed and the garden once again yielded a wonderful crop. I cannot tell you how many trips I made down the cottager"™s route; the tons of weeds I pulled from those rows of vegetables; the mosquito bites I received from pushing through the thorny raspberry bushes in search of the bigger, more tastier morsels, or how happy I was to hand a brown paper bag full of produce to the respective buyers and say, "œThat comes to $ 1.85 please" and run home to stash the cash into the tobacco can.

Cooler days rolled in and September 1st arrived. Dad decided that the Saturday night before Labour Day was to be the big reveal and division of funds. I could hardly wait.

With both of us sitting at the sturdy weathered farmhouse kitchen table, he dumped the contents of the tobacco can and started counting. After 20 minutes or so, we had the grand sum of"¦ $ 60.00 (give or take a few pennies). Woo hoo! I would get $ 30.00 for working the entire summer!

And that"™s when I learned my first lesson in entrepreneurship from my Dad.

He looked at me and said: "œBefore we split this money, the first $20.00 is mine because I paid for the seeds, fertilizer, and gas for the tractor and tiller." "œWhat do you mean, Dad? You"™re taking more money than me!", I defiantly said.  He smiled and replied, "œRemember, little girl. Being in business costs money, and you can"™t make money if you don"™t spend money."

Hmpf!

In the end I took my precious $20.00 or so and stashed it away in my empty Cherry Blossom candy bar box that served as my piggy bank from whence I carefully doled out a dime here or a quarter then which was spent on trips to the general store to buy penny candy on Saturday nights.

I continued to do the summer cottage vegetable route until I was 15 and got my first "˜real"™ job washing dishes and peeling produce at a new restaurant/gas bar that had opened the summer of 1972 about a mile from my home. I then passed the vegetable route on to my youngest brother who was around 8 at the time"¦ and HE had a bike! (Lucky kid!)

That meager paying, labor intensive summer job lit a spark deep inside me and I knew that at some point in my life I would become an entrepreneur. In April of 2006 I finally opened my existing wordsmith business.

No, I don"™t keep my money in an empty candy bar box today, but I do pay my bills on time and try and put aside a smidgen for "˜rainy days."™

And I still tend to a teeny vegetable garden just because:-)

Fresh tomatoes from my garden Sept. 2012

9 Words

I"™ve read a lot of self-help/motivational books over the years and have taken bits and pieces from each of them to build the life I lead today. Some of the "˜experts"™ claim that the most important statements one can make to another human being are "œI love you" or "œI am sorry." While both of these phrases certainly belong in everyone"™s vocabulary, (and should be used frequently in my opinion), I recently heard 9 words that should be shared with the people in your life, especially with those you are fortunate to be around in their early childhood. 

Last Sunday afternoon, my hubby and I went to an afternoon matinee at our local theatre. I got to choose the movie we"™d see, and since I"™d heard rave reviews of the film, The Help, based on the book by Kathryn Stockett, that was my pick. 

It turned out to be best $10.00 I"™ve spent in years. 

This amazing movie chronicles the behind the scenes feelings of colored domestic maids in the early 1960"™s in Jackson, MS. While I suspect that some of the incidents and situations in the movie were indeed true, I"™m choosing not to comment on the politics of the film, but rather the words that from the moment I heard them, I knew them to be some of the most profound I"™ve heard in my lifetime. 

The main character, Aibileen Clark, portrayed brilliantly by actress Viola Davis, tells her story of raising white children during this era. In one of the early scenes in the movie, Aibileen reaches into a crib, picks up the little white girl she is looking after, sits down with her in a rocking chair near the bed, and says"¦Â 

"œYou is kind; you is smart; you is important."Â 

9 words. 

Aibileen makes the little girl repeat these words after she says them to her as if repeating them will somehow make the child realize her own worth.

I"™ve been wondering all week long what would happen if all of us said these 9 words to the children in our life. Better yet, what if we, as adults, switched them around a bit and daily told ourselves, "˜I am kind; I am smart; I am important."

They say it takes 28 days to either break or form a new habit. I"™m issuing a challenge to everyone who reads this post. For the next 28 days, before you get out of your bed each morning, silently say these words: "œI am kind; I am smart; I am important." Better yet, if you happen to have children or grandchildren, or even young nieces and nephews, at least once a day tell THEM these same words. 

9 simple words. 

I wish I"™d heard them sooner.

Anticipation

Anticipation

How our definition of this word changes as we age.

Today is the first day of school in my area. Since I live on a street that ends at the local elementary school, I get to see all the children in my neighbourhood between the ages of 5 and 13 walk past my house heading to the big brick building where they"™ll spend roughly 5 hours a day for the next 10 months.

Guess which ones I love to watch the most? It"™s those first-timers, the little kindergartener"™s and grade one students. You can divide them into two categories: those filled with anticipation and the others who are filled with dread.

I LOVE the anticipation crowd! They"™re the ones that are running ahead of their Mom"™s or Dad, skipping over cracks in the sidewalk in their haste to get to school for the first day. With faces as shiny and radiant as their new backpacks and lunch pails, they exude anticipation for what is to come once they enter those hallowed doors of the school. "œSlow down, Suzie! Don"™t run, John!" anxious parents admonish their children. "œBut"¦ but"¦ I don"™t wanna be late!" exclaim the little ones. Such exuberance and unbridled joy.

It"™s been a long time since I felt that much bottled-up anticipation in my life, until last Friday, that is. My sweetheart decided to give in to my whining for a new puppy and brought home Max, a Havanese/Shih Tzu mix, from Paradise Kennels which is about 5 hours from our home. Along the way he"™d take periodic pictures of Max and send them to me via email with silly captions like, "œHe"™s not too impressed" showing Max woefully looking up from his cardboard box at my hubby.

By 4:00 pm my anticipation meter had blown through the roof. At around 4:10 the phone rang and my hubby said, "œWe"™re about 5 minutes away." I rushed outside and stood in the middle of driveway as I could not wait to see and hold our newest addition to the family. My hubby"™s car barely made it to a stop when I yanked open the passenger side door and reached into the box to lovingly pick up my new "˜baby"™ to pet him. I held that gorgeous ball of fur"¦ and he started licking my face showering me with puppy chow kisses. And you got it "“ I started bawling.

DSC01491For one brief moment in time, I was just like those little kids who were skipping on their way to school today. Full of anticipation as THE day had arrived filled with unlimited possibilities.

So, I raise my coffee cup to salute all the little children who traveled on the road to adulthood this morning, filled with bravery, wonderment, happiness, enthusiasm, with just a little anxiety thrown in for good measure.

I know exactly how you feel!

PS -  Here’s my all-time favorite song about Anticipation. Enjoy!

Anticipation – Carly Simon

How Are You Showing Up In Your Business?

Last week while speaking with a prospective new client, towards the end of the conversation she said something that caused me to pause in the middle of my sentence. I had been explaining to her the process of how I performed editing/ghostwriting and my general business practices when she said, "œWow! It sounds as if you"™re a very honest and ethical person!"

After digesting what she"™d just said, I responded, "œWell"¦ isn"™t that the way that everyone should conduct business?" to which she responded, "œNo, unfortunately, not everyone is as upfront as you are."

Later that afternoon as I was winding down for the day, I started reflecting on the words she"™d said to me, hence the reason behind this posting.

How are YOU showing up in YOUR business?

I am a solopreneur, so I get to wear all the hats in the running of my business. Yes, I"™ve contracted out the tasks that I don"™t particularly like doing, like accounting, (thank goodness for my long-time buddy and number-cruncher, Sandra Drisdelle), and anything that has to do with the back-end working of my website, (Jef Keep, I am SO glad you"™re my best "˜virtual"™ friend), but all of the business decisions fall on my shoulders. It"™s me who must take full responsibility for securing new clients, ensuring that my existing customer workload is performed on time and correct the first time round, and generally making sure that my business continues to thrive.

I only have so many hours in a day in which to activate my three working brain cells to produce stellar copy, or magnificently manipulate syllables and syntaxes in manuscripts. I really don"™t have a lot of time to waste, so I tend to be "˜up front"™ and "˜out loud"™ as the saying goes with all my clients.

Let me explain where the honesty part comes into play with me. If a client asks me to do something that is out of my realm of expertise, I politely tell them that I"™m afraid I can"™t help them, but I do offer names of other qualified people who might be able to assist them. What do you think would happen to my reputation of being expedient if I said, "œSure, I"™ll take care of that for you!" and then had to spend 5 hours of billable time, wasting my clients money trying to figure out how to install a widget on a whatcamacallit. Imagine the "˜sticker shock"™ they"™d experience at month"™s end when they received my invoice. Can you say "œOuch?!" Can you also say "œGoodbye client?"

Let me give you another quick example. I"™m often asked to give estimates on how long it will take to edit a full manuscript. I usually ask authors to send me a sample chapter (which I edit for free) and then try to calculate how many hours it will take to whip their musings into shape. However, (here comes what I refer to as the "˜honesty +integrity cocktail"™) I always tell them upfront that I cannot guarantee the number of questimated hours as chapters often differ in a book, then I offer to give them periodic progress reports so they"™ll know how many hours of time I"™ve used at any given time. This way there are no hidden costs, I"™ve reduced my client"™s level of worry about billing, and I make doubly sure I keep in constant contact with them throughout the process. A happy client equals a very happy Marlene.

So, how do you run your business? Do you make an effort to inform new clients of exactly how you operate, or do you "˜assume"™ that they should feel privileged just to have you as a supplier or service provider and not question your business practices? Do you over-promise and under deliver instead of the other way around? Or are you still using the sales pitch mantra of the "˜70s"™, the "˜BBB"™ method? You know, the good old "˜Bulls%*t Baffles Brains"™ theory? (Good luck with that!)

I"™m known for not having much of a "˜filter"™ between what I think and what I say, and for me that works just dandy. I definitely "˜walk my talk"™ and when I make a promise, I do my utmost to keep it. I learned a long, long time ago that it"™s easier, safer, and so much less stress-inducing to be upfront about what I can or cannot do for my clients.

Ask yourself this week if there are certain new practices that you can implement into YOUR business to create winning partnerships with your clients. Try adding larges doses of honesty mixed liberally with integrity into your client relationships. Perhaps, like me, some of your favorite customers just may also become a few of your absolute best friends!

2011: The Year of Being Me

Here I sit, perched excitedly on the cusp of the beginning of brand spanking New Year with mere hours to go. I ask you "“ how invigorating is it to know that come January 1st we all get a fresh clean slate to start writing on? I feel like I"™m eight and it"™s the commencement of a new school year. I"™ve got a shiny backpack, unmarked notebooks and sharpened pencils, plus a fresh package of new crayons with which to color my world any hue of the rainbow I desire.

That"™s what January 1st means to me: it"™s a "˜do over"™ start if you will, and I know exactly where I"™m going to begin"¦ with me.

2010 was a year of learning for me, and with some of those lessons came smidgens of sadness and dabs of disappointment. I won"™t lie and say that all those lessons were great because they weren"™t. At times I felt a bit lost, as if I were oar less in a leaky rowboat, somewhere out on a seemingly endless sea.

Thankfully by November, I had found a life-line, pulled my battered boat to shore, and on shaky legs finally stood up on solid ground once more. And here"™s what I"™m taking with me from the journey of 2010 into this nice, sparkly New Year:

1. It"™s okay to not always know where you"™re going. Why? Because if you travel the same path over and over and over again, without taking side trips and an occasional detour here and there, you"™ll never get to see any of the wonders that await you off the beaten tried and true path.

2. Learn to trust your intuition because your "˜gut"™ never lies. There"™s a reason why they call it "˜gut"™ instinct "“ that little voice inside us that sends out clear messages like, "œDon"™t touch that burner "“ it"™s hot and you"™ll get burned!" That wise person inside each of us also tells us what is the right (and wrong!) thing to do when faced with making decisions. We just have to learn to be patient "“ to wait for directions, and be still enough to hear them when they arrive.

3. We are our own worst critics but can also be our best supporters. Believe that you matter. You are a "˜somebody"™ in your own life "“ a hero to yourself. When you are living a life that makes you smile, brings peacefulness and joy into your heart and others, then YOU have become the champion of YOU.

4. Keep the fire of adventure and imagination burning brightly in your heart and mind. Never lose your sense of wonderment. I grant you that some days the only wonder you may experience is trying to figure out how they get the caramel into the Caramilk bar, but never stop dreaming. At least once a day ask yourself, "œI wonder if"¦" and fill in the blank. Even if it"™s something totally silly it will keep those creative juices flowing in your mind and may cause you to smile.

5. And last, but certainly not the least by far, laugh. Out loud. At anything, at least once every day. A true, straight from the belly, snorting, guffaw until tears leak out from your eyes type of laugh. This was the life-line I regained back in November and I am going to do my utmost to hang on to it for the duration of 2011.

I’d like to leave you with this wonderful prayer I found many years ago which has been my unofficial mantra for the past year.

“To Be Prayer”

O Lord, I ain’t what I ought to be,

And I ain’t what I want to be,

And I ain’t what I’m going to be,

But O Lord, I thank You,

That I ain’t what I used to be.”

I know I love this new me and have a great feeling I’m going to like this New Year. Happy 2011 to all!

Is "˜Hugh Muir"™ A Part of Your Life?

I know that this is a very strange title for a musing and probably has quite a few of you wondering, "œWho the heck is Hugh Muir, and why do I need him in my life?" Keep reading and you"™ll see why.

I"™m a solopreneur. For those of you who"™ve not heard that term before, it simply means that I"™m self-employed and have no other employees in my business. It"™s just me, myself, and my overactive imagination, the latter of which does come in handy since I"™m a writer and editor.

Some days I"™m crazy busy, and others I"™ll have a few hours where there is nothing in my inbox for me to work on. It"™s those "˜others"™ that sometimes gets me into trouble.

A few years ago I developed an online buddy support system with another virtual assistant who is self-employed as well. He resides in another province so we communicate mainly through instant messaging and occasional phone calls (on his dime I might add, as I"™m too frugal to purchase a "˜real"™ long distance plan. Hey, VoIP works for me and is inexpensive! What can I say.)

Two days ago we were kvetching through instant messenger and got chatting about how some people have absolutely no sense of humour, especially irate clients who expect everything to have been completed yesterday when they"™ve only sent you the work to be done an hour earlier. Since both of us have clientele from the US and Canada, we frequently switch back and forth between the two different spelling formats of each country. In his haste to type the word "˜humour"™ in the IM box, he pecked out "˜humer"™, then "˜humor"™, followed by "˜humour."™ By this time I was snickering and since I was having one of my non-busy days, I responded, "œDon"™t you mean "˜Hugh Muir?"™ That did it for me. I started laughing and couldn"™t stop until I had tears running down my face and a stitch in my side.

It suddenly occurred to me that this one trait, my whacky, off-the-wall, slightly warped sense of humour, is what has gotten me through all the rough patches and obstacles I"™ve faced in growing of my business. For example, when I first opened my doors for business and noticed nobody seemed to be beating a path to them, I got very scared. Then one day I simply decided that while I was waiting for those unknown clients to line up, I"™d plant beautiful flowers along the front of my walkway. This way, I reasoned, at least they"™d have something nice to smell when they arrived.

I firmly believe that if you can cultivate the ability to be able to laugh at adversity, or find something funny in a down situation, then you"™ve developed an admirable trait. I know for a fact that laughter reduces the level of stress hormones and increases the level of health-enhancing hormones like endorphins and neurotransmitters in your body, plus it just plain feels good. Another benefit of laughter is that when you"™re with other people and one of you starts chuckling, it sort of becomes this contagious "˜smiling"™ disease. The next thing you notice is that most of your group is laughing as well.

Laughter is also a terrific ice breaker when trying to engage new clients in conversation. I"™m not suggesting that you try to be a comedian and crack them up with witty one-liners every 2 minutes, but I"™ve yet to see a book on business building where they strongly suggest that you NEVER smile or say something funny. In fact I warn all my new clients that I don"™t have a very good filter on my mouth and to be prepared for the unexpected when talking with me.

So, the next time you"™re feeling frustrated because your client list isn"™t as big as you"™d like, or your bank account isn"™t even close to what Madonna pays her personal trainer, (I couldn"™t find an accurate estimate here or I"™d have shared it with you!), go ahead "“ laugh. It"™s free; it feels good; you won"™t gain a pound from it, or have to go to confession because of guilt. And you just might find that your day and disposition will improve.

Invite "˜Hugh Muir"™ into your life. I can guarantee you he"™ll be a very nice addition to your household and life.

PS "“ To all the actual real life "˜Hugh Muir"™s"™ out there, I do apologize for borrowing your name for this article. I"™m certain that you"™re very nice gentlemen and most definitely have developed your own sense of humour"¦ or humor"¦ or however you spell it where you live.

“Ground Black People?” – Best Gaff of the Week

j0178843Call me sick, call me totally whacko, but I thought I"™d crack up laughing this morning when I read an AP posting entitled, "œCookbook pulped over ‘ground black people’ typo." First off, I wondered why the writer had inserted the word "˜pulped"™ into the title of the column. Were they trying to be cutesy and use a play on words, or did the actual headline include a typo as well? Had they meant to say, "œCookbook PULLED over "˜ground black people"™ typo?"Â 

Then I went on to read the article itself and that"™s when I started silently snickering. Apparently the "œPasta Bible" recipe for spelt tagliatelle, (a hardy wheat type of pasta, and yes, I had to look that up!), with sardines and prosciutto, was supposed to call for black pepper, not "˜ground black people."™Â Â Â Â 

Aha! Now ground pepper makes much more sense to me than the appalling bad typo ingredient. 

This story reminded me of a bad cooking experience I had about 20 years ago. One Christmas I decided I"™d make my Dad"™s favourite dessert, namely my Mom"™s recipe for Suet Pudding. (Don"™t start gagging here folks "“ stick with me on this!) It was a fairly complicated pudding; I was in a hurry; and when I"™d originally copied down the recipe from my Mom"™s original tattered and batter-stained recipe card, I missed one crucial ingredient: baking powder. 

Anyhow, this lovely concoction was steaming gently away, balanced precariously on a smaller pot inserted into a larger one filled with boiling water while I served the Christmas main course to the crowd. Now came the time to serve the piece de resistance, the Suet Pudding. (I"™d also made apple pies for those of you who still have your face screwed up over the thought of eating suet.) 

I removed the wonderfully aromatic pudding from the pot and instantly my eye"™s register that something is really amiss: the pudding is still only about 2" thick instead of the lovely light and airy 6" version by Mom used to serve. My Dad gamely polished off a large portion of what I called, "œSteamed brick on a plate," but later that night after the hubbub of the day had ended, I had to figure out what I"™d done wrong. Going back over the recipe, I couldn"™t see any baking powder in the list, and I know that without that one tiny ingredient, you"™ll always have pancake flat, "˜looks like lead"™ cakes.

Moral of the story? Read everything you write at least THREE times before you publish it or try to cook from it! 

Oh"¦ and here"™s the link to the "˜ground black people"™ gaff if you"™d like to read the rest of the article:  http://bit.ly/9B73rB

Sometimes a Flower Isn’t Just a Flower

firstsignofspring2010 adj1I woke up this morning to bright, beautiful sunshine flooding my bedroom through the slats of my window blind. This is the second day in a row where I experienced this wonderful phenomenon after a week that brought more snow, (blech!) and cold temperatures to my little corner of the east coast of Canada. At this point, any warmth or semblance thereof brings me comfort as I am not a winter person by any stretch of the imagination. 

After breakfast, my hubby and I decided to go run a few errands. Even though the temperature still was in the minus Celsius range, we could feel the warmth of that wonderful sunshine beaming through the windshield. Both of us commented on how great it was to be alive on such a glorious morning. And the day just got better and better. 

Upon arriving back at the house, we took our little Westie, Angel, outside to do her "˜business"™ and I ventured around to the front of the house to marvel at how the snow was gently melting around the basement footing. 

And that"™s when I saw it – a tiny sprig of greenery popping through the thawing ground, yet still surrounded by snow banks. Whether it was a tulip or hyacinth daring to show its face to the world, I couldn"™t be sure, but it was the first sign that spring is on its way to my region. Then this amazing thought popped into my head: sometimes a flower isn"™t just a flower!

Somewhere this past winter, especially after seeing only grey-filled skies and snow-laden clouds for so many months, I had lost the wonderment of life, and of how precious even a smidgen of warmth can warm the soul and lift the spirit. 

I found my "˜joy"™ again this morning. The struggles of repurposing my business after suffering disappointment after disillusionment this past January melted away, just as the snow surrounding the little budding flower was slowly receding. 

So, if that amazing budding greenery can dare to show its tenacity and bravery to show up well before spring is even official in these parts, then I too, can persevere and emerge victorious through my really minor trials and tribulations. 

Sometimes a flower isn"™t just a flower "“ it"™s a sign that beauty and joy can be a part of your life"¦ if you"™ll just stick around long enough to see them.

Look out world. I’m back!

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