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It’s the little things

It’s 5 days before Christmas and yours truly is able to enjoy some time off before the big day. The last time I had time off at Christmas was because I had the stupid cut out (hysterectomy)…7 years ago. Sure, I had “time off” at the holidays when my daughter was a toddler, but those of us with children know that although the world may see it as time off, time with a toddler is a 24/7 job with no pay, with a boss who can’t find their shoe and cries because you gave them the wrong colored cup with their lunch…so “time off” is a relative term.

As I was running errands yesterday, I found myself getting caught up in the hustle and bustle of the holidays. I almost succumbed to the Grinch and Scrooge mentality. Almost.  Hearing everyone around me sighing, complaining that the lines were taking too long, or honking at each other in the parking lot because they needed that parking space, it’s hard not to get sucked in to it all. As I was listening to the ladies complain about having people over for dinner as they were about to start a rumble over the biggest pot roast in the meat department, I looked over to see an elderly woman with her little basket with a few items in it and I thought to myself “she probably wishes her biggest problem was getting a big enough roast to feed her guests.”. …and that’s when I began to hum a Christmas carol, carry on with my shopping and tune out the sighs and complaints that passed me through the aisles.

Don’t get me wrong, I am no angel as my daughter can attest to. I cuss like a sailor if you are riding my tail end too close in traffic – when I have my kid in the car, her safety comes first so all bets are off. I have been known to use a certain finger when the snowplow comes by just as I have dug out their first visit’s mound of snow and I may have pretended not to speak English when a telemarketer just wouldn’t get “take me off your calling list”. There have been times throughout the days of Christmas past when I pouted even though I knew Santa saw me. There were times I started to Scrooge out or felt the Grinch was onto something complaining about the noise of Christmas, but I always remembered something that others seem to forget. At the end of both these Christmas stories, Ebenezer Scrooge and the Grinch gave over to the magic and the spirit of Christmas. If they could do it, you can too.

  • give to the Salvation army. If they are giving out candy canes for each donation, do what I do. Ask them to give it to the next child that walks by.

 

  • wave to Santa at the mall. Trust me, he is having a harder day than you.

 

  • don’t fight over a parking space. If the other person is gunning for it, let them have it. If you have to park further away, the fresh air will do you good.

 

  • If the grocery store is out of the size of turkey you need, your family and guests will survive. I promise, the sky will not turn black and the world will not swallow you whole.

 

  • when you make eye contact with someone, say hello or wish them a Merry Christmas, or Happy Holidays for those weary of offending.

 

  • give to every toy drive you can find. Any toy will do. The dollar store has coloring books and crayons for a dollar a piece. …psst…you spent more than that on the mocha frappe latte concoction you have in your hand.

 

  • give to your local food bank. If you can, a monetary donation is best – the food bank can stretch a dollar farther than you can imagine.

Take a moment to remember how snow once made you squeal with glee, how hours would pass as you wondered how Santa got to every house. Remember the smell of your Gramma’s perfume as she reached out to hug you, or the cackle of your Grampa’s laugh when he got your joke. Think back to the smiles on your parents faces on Christmas morning, thinking they were so happy Santa brought you your favorite toy, only to now know, the smile was for them and you, not Santa and you. When you take a moment to remember the magic and spirit of Christmas, you too will realize it’s not having the perfectly trimmed tree or the biggest turkey that you remember, it’s all the little things that mattered the most.

 

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The choice is yours

A few years ago I received a sign for my office from my girl, with many positive affirmations collaged together. The one that sticks out the most to me is “Happiness is a choice you make everyday”. So very true, so easy to remember yet so easily forgotten.

Over the past weeks I have heard the following from friends, family and the people I see everyday;

  • I’d be happier if he was nicer
  • I’d be happier if I got a raise
  • I’d be happier if my child behaved in public
  • I’d be happier if people kept their opinions to themselves
  • I’d be happier if I got to see my friend’s more
  • I’d be happier if I had more help around the house
  • Etc… etc… etc…

It seems everyone wants to be happier, but doesn’t want to do the work. Trust me. I know. It is easier to put the blame of our woes on someone else’s behaviour. Been there, done that. Try my best not to do that anymore. For no one, anywhere, wants to look in the mirror, take a long hard look at themselves and admit a fault. …but darlin’, ya gotta. There is no magic happiness pill, no happiness potion, no mystery man arriving at your doorstep with your package of happiness waiting to be unwrapped, it’s all up to you. Before you get all upset or weepy, I do know that life throws curveballs, of this I am certain. There will be illnesses, job losses, flat tires, spilled coffee, baby spit up on your shoulder that you missed, but the President of the company did not. There will be bad hair days, bloated days, adult acne days ….by the way…what kind of sick cosmic joke is that? We cannot control what happens to us or around us. We can control how we decide to let it affect us. We can control how long a harsh word gets to live in our head rent free.  Have your head spin around and spew venom because the dishes weren’t done or the garbage emptied, or don’t. The decision is yours.

Happiness can be created anywhere, anytime. It can.

  • Had a hard day at work and still have to go to the grocery store? Buy an extra canned good or two and drop in it the food bank donation bin.
  • Your teenager is making you crazy and you are at your wits end over the useless arguments…go look at their baby pictures, their saved school artwork…remind yourself of the love there.
  • Just a long, stupid day? Get yourself some instant cocoa, grab your favorite mug and top that baby off with some whipped cream. …sprinkles too if it the day really kicked your ass.
  • Make a Jello. My gramma Leah always told me that. This way whenever you look in the fridge, you can be reminded that you made something that day and accomplished something.
  • Make some cookies or muffins and deliver them to a neighbour or friend, for no reason. Just to do it. Trust me, 9 out of 10 times, they are in dire need of a glimpse of happiness and a the touch of kindness.
  • Send a joke to a friend.
  • Share a you tube video with a friend, reminding them of a memory you share.
  • Post a joke on your Facebook wall in the morning…it will make someone’s day.

Doing for others is doing for yourself. Making others feel good will make you feel good. Carrying happiness with you will allow happiness to spread to those you are around. Plain and simple.

bubbles

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Actions speak louder than words

The Holiday Season is in full swing. Macy’s has had it’s parade. Black Friday has come & gone. Many are nestled in their beds while visions of Cyber Monday deals dance in their heads. This year marks my 26th. year working in the customer service/sales/retail biz during the Holiday Season. I have heard, seen and smelled (yes, smelled) it all. …and every year I hear the same argument – to wish a Merry Christmas or a Happy Holidays. I remember a time I worked for a company who sent a corporate memo stating that under no circumstance were we to wish anyone “Merry Christmas”, we were instructed to wish our customers “Happy Holidays”. As you all know, I am not a “yes man”, so I continued to wish customers a Merry Christmas, much to my boss’s dismay. She was quite worried I may offend someone, and then they would call head office and she would lose her job. I reassured her that if the customer was wearing a Yamaka, I would not wish them a Merry Christmas. I then had to explain what a Yamaka was …between that and the memo, I knew it was time to leave. Back to the tale at hand. The point I was trying to make to my boss, and am trying to convey today is this – paying attention and being kind are key in the biz of customer service, and in life for that matter. For instance, I have a woman who comes in every November to purchase her Christmas gifts for her kids and grandkids before she heads to Florida. Her purchase is quite large and usually fills 3 – 5 bags. I take them to her car for her. Every year. It is actually the reason she comes back to our shop. The first time she came in, 5 years ago, she had a cane. She was recovering from knee replacement surgery. She told me she always remembered me because I did not ask if I could help her with her bags, I told her I was going to help her, no questions asked. She told me I reminded her of what customer service used to be.

 

Over the past weeks I have been listening to people complain that Merry Christmas isn’t wished enough. I have seen posts on Facebook cheering shops that are writing Merry Christmas instead of Happy Holidays on their shop windows. I have also seen posts of people stating they will not shop anywhere that says Merry Christmas instead of Happy Holidays. Everyone is so busy being politically correct or trying to look and sound important that they have all forgotten one key point. It doesn’t matter what you say, it matters how you behave. Listen, no amount of  Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays wishes can or will make up for ignorance and neglect.

This December, instead of worrying what to say, how about worrying about how to act.

  • When you are at the mall and you see the Salvation Army band playing, don’t hide behind the plants and try to scurry past, holding on to your nickels and dimes – walk over to them, take a moment to listen, and let go of some of your nickels and dimes.
  • Whenever you can, as you are paying for your purchases and are asked if you want to make a donation to a local charity, do it. … if you can spend $100.00 at the liquor store, you can add a dollar or two to your total. Just sayin’.
  • Donate to your local toy drives. Every child deserves a toy on Christmas. Every child can’t wait to tell their friends and classmates what was under the tree Christmas morning.
  • All business owners – this gem is for you. Give your customers a little treat, be it a sample or a coupon for their next purchase. At our shop, the Starburst candy dish at the front cash is always full and samples are waiting to be sampled. We offer free travel size products for any purchase over $60.00. Our customers and clients are giving us their business, they deserve a thank you.
  • Donate to your local food bank. Every grocery store takes non perishable food donations and monetary donations. Everyone deserves food in their cupboards and on their table. Whether you are Christian, Muslim or Jewish – a parent wants to be able to feed their child, and sometimes we all need a helping hand.
  • Shovel your neighbour’s walkway. It’s a lovely surprise for them.
  • Hold the door – enough said.
  • When standing in line and you notice the person behind you has less purchases than you do, let them go ahead of you.
  • Remember those who have lost loved ones and give them a call, or send them a card. There is no better feeling than the feeling that someone is thinking of you.
Actions speak louder than words. Plain and simple.
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Christmas Presence

As I sit here, snow is falling, Christmas carols are playing on the radio, lights are twinkling on the tree and my loved ones are safe and snuggled under warm blankets watching a movie. I am relishing the peace for it is the middle of December, which for any of us in the service industry/retail sector, we know is the beginning of the craziest, busiest time of the year. I have been working the Holiday/Christmas season for over 20 years, and have seen it all, from mothers beginning to cry because the antlers that their child needed for the Christmas pageant broke and are now out of stock to husbands panicking that the KMS gift pack their wife wanted is no longer available and he can’t go home without it. I have seen grown women lose it over the fact the newest red holiday shade of polish is sold out and have had a grown man throw a flat iron at me because I wouldn’t return it for him because he didn’t have a receipt, or the box for that matter. One commonality I have always found – too many people are concerned about their Christmas presents instead of their Christmas presence.

Last year I wrote of the pressure women (and gents…mostly the ladies) put on themselves over the holidays (see link below)

https://thatgirlintheredcoat.com/2012/12/03/its-time-to-paint-your-own-picture/ .

I told a tale of letting go and easing up on yourself and your loved ones. This year, my tale will be one of presence. Too many of us are not present, in our own lives, in the lives of our loved ones, in our conversations, hell, even in our driving. We are getting so caught up in the idea of the perfect gift and the perfect dinner that we aren’t even able to keep up with who got who what gift and cannot even remember what that perfect dinner tasted like. Being me, I have compiled a little list, a how to for the holidays if you will.

– When you are out shopping with your child and they stop at the big tree in the mall exclaiming “WOW!!! It’s so pretty!” instead of yanking their little arm and scowling “yeah, yeah…lets go!” stand with them for a minute and agree with them. Take the few seconds, take a breath and make a memory.

– We all have those friends/family members that need a Santa picture. Here’s the deal, if your child doesn’t want to sit on Santa’s lap, don’t make them. Stand beside Santa holding your child, or forgo the picture all together. Your loved ones will survive a Christmas without a Santa photo. I know mine have. *Think about it…all year we scold “don’t talk to strangers” then force our kids to talk to  a stranger AND sit on his lap…no wonder there are so many tears.

– When you are shopping and a sales person asks if you need a hand, let us help you.  Let yourself be helped, it will ease the stress that you can’t find what you are looking for, and if by chance it is out of stock, we can let you know when the product is arriving and can call you when it arrives. …oh, for me, please do not say “already got two!” when we ask if you need a hand – trust me, we have heard it.

– Be kind to the cashier. She has been standing there for hours, has 5 more hours left of her shift and only gets a 30 minute break during an 8 hour shift, having to deal with people yelling at her for things she has no control over, like the debit being down, or a product being out of stock, or being yelled  at by a manager because she said “Merry Christmas” instead of “Happy Holidays”. – the latter happened to yours truly…I kept saying Merry Christmas.

– If your family doesn’t like turkey, you do not have to have it for Christmas dinner. It’s okay. The ghost of Christmas past, present and future will not haunt you. Make a meal that everyone enjoys, that you enjoy making. Trust me, I know of what I speak. I tried to do the “Christmas dinner with all the trimmings” and the whole day with every dish I prepared all I thought was who wasn’t going to like what and that I was disappointing Martha Stewart. This year I am making quesadilla’s. They are always a hit, everyone loves them and I spend less time in the kitchen and more time in the living room with my family.

– When you are getting your groceries, give to your local food bank. Many grocery store already have prepacked bags of food ready to give. Most packs cost $4.99 (the cost of your two morning coffees on your way to work)  and can give a family more than one meal. It’s a win/win, a mother will be able to make a meal for her child, and your child got to see their mother help her.

– Always give to the Salvation Army. The Salvation Army does more than you can imagine.

– Try not to complain so much about having to go to your Mother’s/Father’s house…again. Many have lost a parent, or both parents and wish that they had to sit through another conversation about how “easy we have it these days”.

This season, take it easy on yourself. Take it easy on your loved ones, for it is not their fault you are stressed that what you wanted to buy them is no longer available. Take a breath. Take a friend a coffee. Give to your local food bank. Make your hubby his favorite treat. Teach your child how to make cookies. Send a Christmas card or a text out of the blue. Smile as you pass people on the street or in the grocery aisle. Your Christmas presence will mean more to many than your Christmas presents will mean to one.