Are Our Standards Slipping?

We were out for dinner the other night. It was just ok. I thought of how many times we have eaten out and it has been just ok. Yet we still eat out and still don’t find it anything special. I love a club sandwich, but I could make it at home myself. (Even though I really dislike cooking bacon and getting splashed by it). Even fried food like fish and chips we could do at home if we really wanted good fish and chips.

Maybe our standards are slipping too far. Shouldn’t we be going out to a movie or dinner and expecting it to be great? If not, what is the point of going and paying for it. Why are we satisfied with something that is just ok or not really all that good?

If they serve frozen vegetables I could have done that at home myself, and paid a lot less! If the coffee tastes like dishwater why are you still drinking it?  If they serve a frozen pie or some other dessert I could have defrosted myself why am I paying as much for a slice as I could for the whole pie? I’m tired of paying for overcooked vegetables I’d likely use for compost if I were at home. I’m tired of paying $50 for a meal (for two) I’d describe as less than average.

Write about the last meal you ate out, other than fast food. Was it great? Were you amazed by the level of skill in preparing and cooking the meal? Were you satisfied at the cost of the meal versus the value of the food you ate? Did you eat something you wanted to get the recipe for? Did anything melt in your mouth, other than an ice cube? Or did something actually taste off/ funny/ bad?  They may not be able to do much about a fly buzzing around your table but they can certainly serve you good food, if not delicious food, if not the “best thing you ever ate” food.

Plain as Day Directions?

Think of a place you have been to today, maybe out for coffee, out to work, as long as you had to get out of your homespace. Think about the route you took to get there. Things you needed along the way, like a bus pass, your purse. Anything you stopped for such as coffee or cash at the bank machine.

Could you describe your route and all your stops along the way to your destination. Write out directions and instructions for someone else (assume they do not live in your area and will not know the street names or landmarks). When you read back your directions do they make sense? Could you follow them clearly yourself? Test them out on someone if you can. See how clear they are to another person.

Writing directions can be tricky. Women look at landmarks while men, typically, want street names and plain directions with right, left, north, west, etc. Beyond that, everyone notices different things along the route. Something that seems plain as day to you may go unnoticed by someone else.

How to Enjoy your Manic Monday

Ben Barden: How to Enjoy Mondays. Read Ben’s list. My favourite of his tips was to have a decent breakfast. I love having breakfast out somewhere, especially if I can get going very early in the morning, when it still feels like the world is quietly dreaming.

Mondays don’t bother me really. It was halfway through the work week that I would be ready to take a vacation. But, the theme is the same, which ever day it is that you find yourself needing a break from the job/ career you love/ hate or love to hate. What are some ideas to make your kind of Monday better?

Can you make a list of five?

  1. Get up really early, catch the first bus of the day, and have a seat all the way to work – with elbow room!
  2. When you arrive at work (far too early) find a sunny corner to have coffee and contemplate the world as it wakes up. If you can find yourself on a highrise looking down it is almost perfect.
  3. At some point you will have to actually start work. Say “Good Morning” to people as you pass them in the halls and such. A smile will go a long way too.
  4. Sneak a great snack into your purse at some point. Know it is there, lurking in secret. You can pull it out any time for a chocolate lust fest just for you! You might even leave it there until the bus ride home, something to look forward to all day long.
  5. Wink at someone on the ride home. It makes them wonder what you’re really up to. You devious thing you!

Manic Monday – The Bangles

Six o’clock already
I was just in the middle of a dream
I was kissin’ Valentino
By a crystal blue Italian stream
But I can’t be late
‘Cause then I guess I just won’t get paid
These are the days
When you wish your bed was already made

It’s just another manic Monday
I wish it was Sunday
‘Cause that’s my funday
My I don’t have to runday
It’s just another manic Monday

Have to catch an early train
Got to be to work by nine
And if I had an air-o-plane
I still couldn’t make it on time
‘Cause it takes me so long
Just to figure out what I’m gonna wear
Blame it on the train
But the boss is already there

All of the nights
Why did my lover have to pick last night
To get down
Doesn’t it matter
That I have to feed the both of us
Employment’s down
He tells me in his bedroom voice
C’mon honey, let’s go make some noise
Time it goes so fast
When you’re having fun

Note: WordPress 3.0 is Anti-Social

I hope to have my blog up and running by tonight. But, I am having to do battle with the new WordPress upgrade. First, it won’t let me upgrade any plugins, new or old. I did have them all deactivated before installing the new WP. Then, WP insists it is not fully installed or has “failed to complete”. But, it will not auto-install, just has yet more errors.

Earlier today I had just a blank page instead of any blog at all. But, that turned out to be a plugin with an allergic reaction. I deleted a bunch of plugins and tested those I kept. That seems to have been the fix for that. I am still having error notes from WordPress about the installation for 3.0. I changed to the basic WP theme instead of my usual Thesis. I deactivated all the plugins again. I tried a fix for the missing directory issue (thanks to Ben who gave me the information and link in the WP support forums). But, that did not fix the problem. I still have the error about missing the directory when I try to auto-install or upgrade anything.

This has sucked up most of my day today, but for the odd break to make coffee, dinner and play a card game. I wish I had not installed the new version of WP. I usually wait till they fix a few bugs. I never like being part of the pack anyway. Tonight, in a few minutes, I am going to reinstall WP 3.0 from my ftp and skip the auto stuff that seems to be tying itself into a pretzel at my expense. To say I am not impressed with the new WordPress right now is like making a sandcastle during a tornado, pretty unlikely.

Update: While watching Doctor Who on the Space channel I manually uploaded the files for WP3.0 and then deleted a few odds and ends and now… IT IS ALL WORKING! Would I do this again? Heck no.

Try a Bio-Poem

Write your life (or someone of your choosing) into lines of poetry.

Make the first line the first name, the last line is the last name. In between bring your character to life.

Here is a plan, as a guide to get you started:

  • Line 2 – one key adjective.
  • Line 3 – Brother/ sister of ” ? “.
  • Line 4 – Lover of “name 3 things”.
  • Line 5 – Who feels “3 things”.
  • Line 6 – Who needs “3 things”.
  • Line 7 – Who gives “3 things”.
  • Line 8 – Who fears “3 things”.
  • Line 9 – Who would like to see “3 things”.
  • Line 10 – Resident of “city/ town name”.

Aunt of Zack.
Lover of red, adventure and unusually good ideas.
Feels soft, sharp and mushy.
Needs more coffee, less allergies and yet more money.
Gives very little backtalk, creative impulses and hair.
Fears hair and teeth loss, sharp objects and entrapment.
Would like to see just a bit more snow, the book I’m looking for and a train ticket.
Resident of Ontario, Canada.

Lucky Coins on the Ground

I was a few steps away from the coffee shop entrance. I noticed a dime on the ground. So I leaned down, picked it up and then noticed it was a US dime (not that it makes any real difference, it was just interesting).

When was the last time you picked up a coin from the ground? Would it have to be at least a dime in order for you to bother, or would you still pick up a lucky penny?

I don’t always pick up change. It’s not worth all that much and I consider how dirty it has gotten with people walking on it (and the odd really gross person who spits on the ground too). Is it lucky? Maybe. Whatever it is or it is not, it’s still ten cents in my pocket.

Next time you see a coin on the ground pick it up (then wash your hands) and see if something lucky happens in your day. I think the odds are with you, keep an open mind and watch for good things.

The Character Project Writing Exercise

Writing prompt from The Character Project:

That guy. The one over there in the red shirt. He’s been in here every day this week.

“That guy. The one over there in the red shirt. He’s been in here every day this week. He bought the breakfast platter and then two coffee refills after that. He read the newspaper, three times over, but still he sat right there all that time. He didn’t leave until noon and then he came back the next day and did it all again”. Tim stopped to look at me and make sure I was listening. Tim owned The Cookin Chicken diner and treated his staff well, as I knew even though I’d only been there a short time.

“Now, it’s Saturday, we’ve got the tourists filling every seat and he’s back again, settled in like he plans to spend the whole morning today. We need to get him out of here. He can’t take up a whole booth during the Saturday breakfast rush. Can’t you just accept his proposal and take him away? I’ll even give you the rest of the day off. Heck, I’ll give you the whole weekend just to get rid of him!”

Tim was looking pretty grumpy. It suited him. He has one of those dark, scruffy faces that look so well on male models and actors. Tim looked good too. I’d been trying to get him to look at me as more than just another waitress but it wasn’t working. Instead, it was Jim, Tim’s twin brother, who kept noticing me, sending me longing looks and expensive flowers.

Not that Jim wasn’t a good guy, he just wasn’t my first choice. For one thing, he was a widower with six kids. Six kids were kind of intimidating. I’d never been the type to take on something with that much responsibility. But, now, Tim and Jim were conspiring to get me to give Jim a chance. I knew Tim wasn’t really angry about his brother hanging around. Though it was true that Saturday is busy and the diner was getting really full with a line up out the door.

Still, I really think it was a bit extreme and desperate for Jim to propose marriage the first day he met me. Tim said not to take it seriously, that he’d already asked almost every single woman in town and was just trying it out on me cause I was a new face in town. But, still, it’s not quite the usual pick up line.

Jim finished his coffee and began clearing his own table. I guess he knew Tim was about to ask him to move out and let customers have the spot. I watched Jim clear the table, he looked sad, like someone who was giving up on something. I felt kind of bad. Tim promised he wasn’t an axe murderer, just a bit of a geek. Really… a weekend off work would be kind of nice. I still hadn’t gotten used to standing all those hours and the tourists could be pretty demanding as customers.

Tim was frowning down at me, not quite glaring, yet clearly wishing I’d take his brother out of his hair. Jim came towards us, about to walk out the door. Maybe an opportunity for a good guy after all the times I’d said I never met any good guys. I took a deep breath, held it a second and then, just as Jim stepped past us I reached out and took hold of his jacket. Suddenly it all felt right. He felt the tug on his sleeve and looked back at me. I smiled up at him. I never noticed Jim had that twinkle in his eyes before. Tim didn’t have that.

“Let’s blow this chicken stand, Jim.” That was all I needed to say. Jim had the biggest puppy dog look of happiness then he took my hand and escorted me out of the diner.

Five Things you can do When Life Overwhelms You

If you’re having a bad day, week, month even, it’s hard to sit down and focus on writing. Projects which you know are coming up, deadlines creep right along and you just get more and more behind by the moment. It drags on your spirit and takes your creativity with it. But, here are five things you can do that help me. I hope they will do the same for you.

  1. Get one thing done. Make at least one task your focus and accomplish it, completely. You will feel better to have done at least one thing each day. Don’t slip and let it be something silly or too simple. You need that feeling of accomplishing something each day and you won’t get it from just putting away one book when there are twenty piled up and needing to be put away.
  2. Go outside. Take a good long walk, make your muscles, your body work. Use up some physical energy to help get your mental energy back in line. Not only will you feel better but when you’re walking you will get all kinds of ideas, bring along a notebook and pen. You might even bring along a camera, see what little things you notice along the way, once you look outside yourself.
  3. Have a hot, steamy shower. Use the really good conditioner on your hair, the one that needs 5 minutes to soak in and leaves your hair looking like a million bucks all day. Use a scrub brush on your skin, exfoliate and clean away all the negative energy and smuck that’s been building up around you. Clean your body so that you can dry off from the shower and feel fresh. Get yourself a great new shower body wash, like pink grapefruit or mint scented. How can you not feel better with such great smells enveloping you!
  4. Go out for coffee (or tea). Take lots of blank paper (plain, not lined) and pens, pencil crayons, or wax crayons if you have them. Get a great latte or flavoured coffee, whatever kind of coffee smells great when you walk in that door. Take out your pens and paper, begin with a doodle. Draw anything, start with some shapes if you can’t get into it. Add feet, hands and a face to the shapes you drew. Stick on a hat. How about some accessories: a purse, a book, a garden hoe, a coffee cup, a laptop, a frying pan, anything that pops into your head. Now do another one. Draw at least until you finish your coffee. Jot down any ideas you get as you work, all the little things that come into your mind while you’re creating characters from the shapes you drew.
  5. Take stock of what you have to do. Make a real list of everything you have to do, all the projects, the deadlines and everything from your day to day responsibilities – including family commitments, your job/ career and any freelancing you are doing. Don’t forget housework and all that fun stuff too. Now check your list, add anything you forgot when you started. When you are sure you have a full list read it over. Don’t let yourself feel trapped, intimidated or stressed from this mountain in front of you. You’re about to make it smaller, more manageable. How many things on that list are important things which you really, sincerely must do? How many things are day to day versus once a week, monthy or something which you can procrastinate on until your to-do list isn’t so full? Maybe most important of all, consider how many of the things on your list (which are not vital like taking care of children) are not giving you anything back for the time and energy you put into them? Cross off things which you have committed to do but are not appreciated or giving you something back in return. Don’t get stuck in the trap of doing things which really only drain you. Anything you cross off your list in this way you should also cross out of your life. This is a great way to lighten your to-do list and give yourself the break you’ve been wishing for.

I do not claim to be any kind of professional to help someone with depression or any kind of issues you are having. But, being someone who does get feeling trapped, overwhelmed and pretty discouraged at times I know the things that help me. This is my own list, things that do work for me. If you have things that work for you add them to the comments. We can all use more ideas to help us keep going, be productive and feel we are still a part of things, still have worth and more to contribute to the world (even if only our neighbourhood of it).

Coffee Shop Confessional

I’m so used to typing rather than writing by hand it’s confusing my brain. I’m second guessing all my spelling cause it feels so unusual to be writing out each letter in the word. In my mind I see them coming out in type, fully spelled and sorted. The long hand way makes them all look less sure of themselves.

The drawing above is my latest Coffee Shop Confessional. I bended the rules. Instead of drawing on a napkin I used my notebook and I didn’t draw more than the one first thing that came to my mind. I also flubbed the name when I wrote it down at the coffee shop last night.

No More Sunnyside Up Fortune Cookies

  • Seek out the signifigance of your problem at this time. Try to understand.
  • Your road to glory will be rocky, but fulfilling.
  • It is time to help a friend in need.
  • You will continue to take chances and be glad you did.
  • You will realize your dreams by your own efforts.

As nice as all of these are… don’t you kind of miss the days when fortune cookies were kind of a scary prospect? Do you even know that once upon a time fortune cookies were less than sweet and encouraging?

A real fortune cookie should be opened carefully, with consideration to the possible threat to your life inside of it. Each prediction could be your ultimate downfall, or you may be one of the lucky ones who gets a good fortune. Just don’t count on it…

Write a real prediction for a fortune cookie, something to bring back the traditional fear that fortune cookies have lost.

  • You will get a papercut in shark infested water.
  • Your emails will all arrive in Morse code.
  • Your favourite coffee mug will be borrowed.
  • Beware the white stuff you put on your fries, all white stuff is not salt.
  • Your pet turtle will not make it across the street in time.

After reading my list, which kind of fortune would you rather read?