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.

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!

 

From Grade School to Greyed Fools

Let me tell you, there’s something soothing about sitting at a table surrounded by old friends that you once knew forty plus years ago.

And there we were. All gathered again because one of our high school friends had decided to she wanted to celebrate turning the big ‘60’ by having a few of her 180+ fellow grads from 1975 show up at a local restaurant/tavern to help her celebrate the momentous occasion. Most of the members of that class will be turning that auspicious number at some point in 2017 so what better time to get together with people we hadn’t seen in over forty years.

Twelve people ending up at the table once you included friends and spouses. Three of us had been friends since meeting in grade five while the other three had joined the rank of ‘Elgineer’s’ when we met at the beginning of grade seven. We each played a part in the molding of each other’s character from grades five on through to high school, although we didn’t know it at the time.

These people had been a part of my life from those carefree grade school days when the worst that happened to me was when someone stole my lunch and I had to bum a half-sandwich from one of them, to those terrible teen-aged, hormonal angst fueled days of high school where everything minute thing was a major occurrence (or seemed so at the time).

I looked at all those familiar yet slightly altered faces and let my mind wander back in time to specific roles that each of them had played in my life. In most cases, the sound of their voice and laughter was exactly as I remembered it from way back when. For a moment time seemed to slip away and I could picture them as they looked at twelve… fifteen… eighteen. I knew that when I’d hugged the friends who meant so much to me on graduation night that I’d probably never see them again, and that’s why this gathering was a touch more special than an ordinary evening out. I made sure that my sweetie went around snapping pictures of me with my trusty camera phone so that I’d have a hard copy remembrance of this evening, although I doubt my memory will need to see the evidence to be reminded of the joy and happiness being with these lovable and memorable people has brought into my life.

This morning as I was looking at the photos from last night’s reunion, a very old country and western song played through my mind. I think Tom T. Hall said it best when he sang “Ain’t but three things in this world that’s worth a solitary dime, But old dogs and children and watermelon wine©” from the song of the same name.

We were mere children when we met, my friends, and the bonds forged back then are still strong, even if it has been forty plus years since we all sat a table in the cafeteria of our high school bemoaning the fact that our grades sucked, Mr. X was a shitty teacher, and who had an extra cigarette that so and so could bum.

Hey, guys and gals, look around. Somehow we’ve made it this far. Isn’t that a hoot?

Let’s do this again before another forty years has passed, okay?

©Watermelon Wine – Tom T. Hall

 

 

So Long Sweetie

Let me be perfectly clear: I love my dogs more than I like some people. While there are some humans who might take offense to that statement, there are other pet loving people just like me who adore their furry or feathered friends just as much, if not more.

The reason why I love dogs so much is because the ones I’ve picked over the years seemed to have had a heightened sense of knowing – brainpower, if you will. While some of them might not have won awards for being best dog in show, they all had two things in common: 1) they loved me unconditionally, no leashes (pardon the pun) attached, and 2) none of them ever took the washer and dryer (or any appliances for that matter) when the relationship between us ended.

Take this little beauty pictured here. After bidding a sad adieu to my previous canine companion, Chuck, a totally too big and fur-shedding Sheltie that resembled a Border Collie, five years prior, I decided it was time to get another dog. My partner, Allan, and I discussed it and batted the idea back and forth for some time and agreed that a dog might be a great addition to our household. Said partner and I had only been together for a year at that point, but we both loved dogs so the idea was set in motion.

One morning after Allan had set out on a road trip for work, I happened to pick up the Times-Transcript and saw a teeny ad that read: “West Highland Terrier puppies for sale. Purebred but no papers, located in the Miramichi. Wormed, first shots, ready to go. Call X.” I couldn’t believe my eyes! I ran to the phone, called Allan on his cell phone and said, “You wouldn’t happen to have some time after your business calls at lunch today to go look at some puppies, would you?”

He called me about three hours later. “They’re awfully tiny,” he said. “And the breeder only has one female left, so if we want her we’re going to have to act fast.”

“Do you have any cash on you?” I asked.

“I think I have $60.00” he said.

“Then drive back to that ladies house and give it to her, okay?”

And so the deal was sealed.

We picked her up on the coldest day of the year, Feb. 15th, 2003. It was a balmy -28C with windchill factored in and this poor little furball had never set foot outside of her birthing cage. And then I wondered why she didn’t want to go pee in the snow on the side of the road half-way on the drive home. Duh!

It took us the better part of four months to housetrain her, and there were times I was certain she’d never catch on to the fact that the hardwood floor was not a good place to do her business.

However, she only chewed the laces off one pair of sneakers and the heel of a friend’s shoe. Not bad for a new pup.

In the blink of an eye, she was five years old. An unknown allergy suddenly caused her to start scratching uncontrollably and she lost most of her beautiful white fur. The next nine years were spent ferrying her back and forth to the vet for monthly Depo shots and almost bi-monthly ones of antibiotics in an effort to try and combat the nasty skin infections. Weekly baths became a normal way of life for her and me with both of us ending up soaking wet. Countless new food trials and different shampoos were tested but nothing else besides the medication worked for her.

Then in January of 2014, diabetes became her next affliction. Both Allan and I had to learn how to give her twice daily shots of insulin which we took in stride, even if needles give us both the heebie jeebies. Next came a profusion of skin growths for which she had two surgeries to remove them, only to see them grow back with a vengeance.

2015 brought about increasing deafness, the development of cataracts, arthritis in her back legs, and cognitive disorder where she would awaken with a start in the middle of the night and cry out because she didn’t know where she was anymore.

To see her constant daily struggle to move from room to room finally became too much for us to bear and we said a tearful goodbye to our beloved Angel this afternoon at 3:30 pm.

Last night, while saying my prayers, I asked my Dad who passed back in 2001, to be on the lookout for her today, and to introduce her to Chuck so she’d have someone nice to play with at her final destination.

I hope you’re running full out, Angel girl, just like you did when you’d escape your leash and revel in your sudden freedom.

Run, sweetie girl, run!

Digging Up Plants With Ms. Daisy

Remember my blog post from a week or so ago titled “Driving With Ms. Daisy?”

Well, here’s another one because if I don’t write down these stories as they happen, I’ll forget them, and they’re just too damned funny not to share.

 

Euphorbia-milii-plant
Ms. V had decided that she wanted to plant some “flerers” (flowers) in the back of her ground floor condo because “That thare gravel jest don’t look right.” During this past winter, the gentleman who owned a condo three or four doors down from her had passed, and his beautiful red and yellow Crown of Thorns bushes were being neglected. She’d checked with the person who was looking after the condo and asked if she could transplant them into her own garden. Ms. V got the go ahead and was waiting for the perfect day to move them over to her place. After all, she’d already told me “Heck, I might as wall (well) take ‘em cause he ain’t gonna be using ‘em anymore!”
Good point… I guess.
Well, Tuesday was that day.

 
I’m not quite sure if it was the fact she woke up earlier than usual (around 5:30 am), or if she thought that doing hard physical labor in 80F degree heat with a Humidex rating of 90% would somehow help her lose 5 pounds from digging those plants out were the cause of her decision to do it that particular morning.

 
When I finally saw her text to me that morning about potentially going shopping, (that’s a whole other story for another day), I responded saying I’d love to go out with her, but I didn’t get an answer. So I took a stroll out by her place only to find her digging up the plants wearing a lovely white blue tank top, white capris… and glittery blue rhinestone encrusted flip flops. Oh, and using ONE work glove she’d found on the sidewalk. (When asked about her Michael Jackson impersonation of wearing one glove, she replied “I kin’t (can’t) but haul on only one piece of plant at a time!”)

 
Keep in mind here that this Crown of Thorns plant has ½” spikes sticking out all over its stem which if touched will cause you to bleed faster than water running out of a busted water pipe.

 
Ms. V is in pretty good shape, but I’d worked up a light sweat just walking the 200’ to where these plants were located, and you could cut the humidity with a knife it was so thick. Me, being slightly crazy and not really awake, decided to go give her a hand.
So back I go to Ms. Ohio’s place, (I just call the people here by the state they’re originally from – easier to remember them that way), ask her if I can borrow one of her old t-shirts and heavy work gloves, and off I go to give Ms. V a hand.

 
By the time I get back to her, she’s got one of the spikes dug out lying on the ground. Wielding that pitchfork l

ike she was stabbing the very Devil to death, she was trying to dislodge the main plant which was about 8” around and I’m sure, buried at least two feet deep. The conversation went something like this:
“Ms. V, don’t you have a shovel?” said I, seeing that the plant wasn’t budging an inch no matter how hard she was leaning on that pitchfork.
“’Yars’ (yes) I do, but I done left it up at my condo. It’s “learning” (leaning) on the perch (porch) wall and I’m too lazy to go git it.”

 

I retrace my steps, get the hoe, and go back to the scene of the grime, I mean crime. (Ms. V was now sporting some mud on those bright, shiny blue flip flops.)
“You move over to the side and I’ll start digging to see if I can’t get some of the soil to move around the base of this plant” I said, proceeding to dig away.

 
Dear lord in heaven, I swear the ground surrounding that plant had been baking in the Florida heat for 30 years! It was harder than cement and the size of the shovel base was about the equivalent to a large garden spade. I wasn’t making much of a difference. (I think Jimmy Hoffa might be in there somewhere!) At this point I felt sweat starting to build up at the back of my neck.

 
“Pass me the pitchfork, Ms. V, and let me try moving it with that.”
“Hare you go,” she said, passing me the tool. She then proceed to literally bend over and haul one of the smaller shoots out by hand, saying “If I a wanna somethin’ done it’s gonna git done, one way or ta other!”

 
Whoosh! Out comes that Crown of Thorns so fast it almost hit me. I’d switched to the shovel thinking I could make better headway and laid down the pitchfork on the ground close to Ms. V. When I saw that huge stem popping out, I turned around fast to avoid the thorns and stepped on the pitchfork handle. You know what? Those cartoons where they show the doofus being hit in the head because they stepped on the handle of a pitchfork are totally correct! Thankfully I dodged the upcoming handle and avoided being knocked out cold.

 
I picked up the @#*! pitchfork, drove it into the cement-like ground with every ounce of strength I had, and started digging.
An hour later, after I had sweat so much I could have wrung out a gallon of water from my bra, we’d relocated “them thare” plants which were now transplanted at the back of Ms. V’s lanai. She wanted me to place some of the shoots over to the side, pointing to the middle of the space saying “Jest dig a hole thare. I think a piece of two of them would look right nice thare, don’t you?” I shoved that pitchfork into the spot she indicated and it fetched up against something solid. That’s when I noticed what was either an electrical box or sprinkler system sticking out of the ground about a foot a way and called a halt to further excavation.

 
I’m now officially toast.

I can not move a muscle, I stink to the high heavens, have dirt all down my legs and arms, yet other than muddy blue rhinestone studded flip flops, Ms. V, always the Southern genteel lady, looks like she’s just gone for a stroll in the park.

 
Moral of this story? Never, ever underestimate the stamina or strength of a Southern belle because she’ll beat you into the ground every time.

 
And after seeing Ms. V drive that pitchfork into that almost solid rockbed, I hope I never, ever piss her off.
PS – I told Ms. V that after going through all that trouble to transplant those “flerers” I expect to get pictures sent to me via email every six months on the progress of our work. Those suckers had better live!

Smile… Pretty Please?

“Smile at strangers and you just might change a life.” – Steve Maraboli

Emily June20004One of the most underrated activities, but most thoroughly appreciated ones, has to be the art of giving and receiving of a smile.

One of the hot topics almost every day in the business world is poor customer service… which I think relates to smiling or the lack thereof. There are tons of posts on Facebook and other social media sites telling tales of how such and such a company ‘shafted’ someone out of money by refusing to issue a refund, or how the cashier at a local grocery store practically bit someone’s head off when they questioned whether the price of the kumquat’s they were purchasing was correct. While some of the beefs are definitely legitimate, I believe I’ve stumbled on one of the biggest flaws in providing excellent customer service. And do you know what it is? (more…)

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