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!

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

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

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