Archive for August, 2011

Weekly Photo Challenge – Up

August 26, 2011 12 comments

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Irene is on the move; we know how you feel

August 26, 2011 Leave a comment

Hurricane Season. Like cold and flu season, it can bring misery or it can pass mildly to everyone’s deep relief. Over the past years, however, the forecasters have predicted increased hurricane activity and for the most part they have been right. Unfortunately. In June we were not overly concerned about hurricanes yet. By contrast September is traditionally our high-activity month.
As I watch the news coverage of Hurricane Irene, I whisper a prayer and think, “We know how you feel”.

We know how you feel, Bahamas, to be the center of a hurricane’s attention. Last year Hurricane Igor threatened to wreak havoc on our itty-bitty paradise. By the time Igor approached us, it was already a Category 4 storm 500 miles across. If that weren’t bad enough, Igor advanced with the potential of growing to Cat 5. Frightening because 2005’s Hurricane Katrina was a Cat 3 storm and no one can deny its devastating effects. Hurricane Fabian (2003) packed 150 mile per hour winds, caused approximately $300 million in damages and claimed four precious souls. Hurricanes are serious.

We know how you feel, Carolinas, Cape Cod, and New York, to be in the midst of preparation’s flurry. On one hand everyone wishes the storm will dissipate out at sea or miraculously die down to a puff of wind. In the meantime, what to do? What to do? We know how it feels to have ‘hurricane boxes’ in our homes, stocked with the supplies required for this time of year: flashlights, batteries, rope, tarpaulins, hammer, nails, water . . .

We know there’s a gulf between underestimating and overcompensating. If the storm dies out, just how many peanut butter sandwiches can a person eat? What is the expiration date on those D batteries anyway? However, we need to have enough to carry us through the storm and then the aftermath which usually involves being without electricity for days at a time, sometimes weeks, and the inability to move about due to downed trees and other road debris. Plus in those “worst case scenarios” that are staring even the bravest in the eye, enough strength and courage to pick up the pieces and help our neighbors.

The best advice: prepare for the worst and pray for the best. Hurricanes are capricious. If a threatening storm loses steam and peters out without so much as a how do you do, I will never complain. I get on my knees and thank God for mercy, pack away the extra non-perishable items and carry on. Better safe than sorry.

To those up and down the East Coast who may be sitting in cars right now moving inch by inch because your area is being evacuated due to Hurricane Irene or boarding up windows or filling bathtubs with extra drinking water, we are praying for your safety and well being. From those of us who know how you feel.

Weekly Photo Challenge – Flowers

August 21, 2011 4 comments

Arranging a bowl of flowers in the morning can give a sense of quiet in a crowded day – like writing a poem or saying a prayer.
(Anne Morrow Lindbergh)

Weekly Photo Challenge: Flowers

August 19, 2011 4 comments

Music, color, flowers . . . elements on parade.

Enjoy the Watermelon and Spit out the Seeds

August 18, 2011 2 comments

The supermarket that I frequent has been disappointing me lately. Expired food items still on the shelves. A stack of another food item that looked so old I didn’t even think about checking out the expiration dates. Check-out clerks and grocery packers who discuss my food purchases (a personal pet peeve) like soap opera gossip. The practice of allowing food to melt—even partially—and refreezing it before selling it to customers is the area of the most frustration lately. I have noticed the telltale signs of refrigeration problems—wet, bunched-up paper towels shoved under the refrigerator cases. The latest victim, a box of three mango iced smoothie pops that had obviously melted to some degree. Hubby was too disgusted to even try to dig out the stick from the middle of the pop.

“Another waste,” he sighed and threw it in the trash. “They don’t treat their food like this at [name of competing supermarket].”

Hint. Hint.

I took the hint and shopped at the other store this week, which is like moving into a new neighborhood. The aisles are different. The store layout is different. Even the pricing method is different; they label the shelves, not the individual food items. Feeling like a foreigner but determined to make the task as pleasant as possible, I took my time choosing what I needed, discovering new products and mentally estimating differences in prices between the old supermarket and this one. After all, I have a budget to stick to.

After unpacking our groceries and getting supper out of the way, I picked up the supermarket receipt during a discussion with Hubby about my plans for recording all of our receipts, a tactic I learned in a recent budgeting seminar. I planned to start the process with the grocery receipt. Then I saw it.

What's that blip on my receipt??

Take a look at the picture of the receipt. See anything . . . extravagant? As a vegetarian, I understand the importance of proper nutrition, especially getting one’s daily allowance of fruit and vegetables. But goodness! That watermelon cost $17.99! Are you kidding me?! I shook my head. I scratched my head. I held my head so my veins wouldn’t pop out. Eighteen dollars for a watermelon!

The good thing is, it won’t go to waste. Hubby loves fruit and both of us enjoy watermelon. So I stopped screaming and looked at the blessings in this situation:

1. We have access to fresh, nutritious food.
2. I had enough money to buy the food I needed. After all, I didn’t notice the outrageous price until I got home, not at the cash register.
3. We have choices. Next time, I could choose to shop somewhere else or skip the overpriced watermelon.

Okay, so the watermelon cost an arm and a leg, but I what I really got was a lesson on gratitude.

Weekly Photo Challenge – Entrance

August 14, 2011 Leave a comment

Every exit is an entrance somewhere else. – Tom Stoppard

Entrance doorway

Edinburgh, Scotland, is full of quaint, picturesque entrance ways that call out, “You, with the camera; take my picture!” So you obey.

“Street Entrance”

Entrance through the gate

Entrance to a refugee camp after the Asian Tsunami.

Entrance to the Camp

Let Me Buy Something

August 9, 2011 1 comment

I’m not your average shop-til-you-drop female. I admit, I don’t love it. Shopping falls in the category of necessity much like having one’s car serviced or taking the dog to the vet. It’s not as painful as, say, a root canal, but there are so many variables that can make the experience unpleasant that I avoid shopping until a genuine, unavoidable need arises. Today was such a day, but since it involved a bookstore, I wasn’t completely averse by the prospect. The need: pick up my next book club book. Browsing through book shelves is much more palatable than trying to snag a bargain at a clothing store. No sizes to dread or lines to the dressing room. No need to match colors or accessorize.

I walked purposefully to the book store during my lunch hour, ignoring the many clothing store mannequins showing off stylish summer dresses, tops, and purses as I breeze by. My plan is to pick up the book club selection first then search for another book I’m interested in, Lisa See’s “Snow Flower and the Secret Fan: A Novel”. The balance on my gift card will cover most of the first book, so buying a second is a possibility. If I still have time, I will linger a while to look for interesting titles for the future.

Several copies of “Same Kind of Different as Me” by Ron Hall and Denver Moore are reserved for my book club, and the sales clerk finds it quickly. She immediately proceeds to the cash register and rings up the sale–$22.95, without telling me the price first, asking if there would be anything else, or even acknowledging my presence for that matter. What’s her rush? I’m the one on my lunch hour. Where’s her salesmanship? Rather than fuss, I go along with the transaction. After I purchase the book, I find “Snow Flower” and check the price for a future visit to the store–$20.75. Today’s sale could have been worth $43.70 instead of only half that much except for the shortsightedness of the sales clerk who thinks she’s just there to ring up numbers on a machine, rather than sell merchandise.

So here are a few tips from a customer that could possibly add a bit of cash in your cash register next time, Miss In-A-Rush-to-Wait-for-the-Next-Customer:

1. Assume the customer didn’t come into your store for just that one item. Browsing is allowed, even encouraged. Ever heard of impulse spending? In this economy, your store sure would appreciate it.

2. Make eye contact, smile and drop hints. Tell me you’ll hold my purchase until I have finished shopping. If I am in the mood to browse, I’ll say “thank you” and wander around. If I’m already late getting back to work, I’ll start fishing for my wallet and say “I’m finished”.

3. Chat with customers, not friends. This should be obvious, but customers need attention. A shop full of BFFs is a turnoff. It possibly means errors at the checkout, incorrect information, and general unprofessionalism. Nor do customers need to hear gripes and complaints about horrible bosses. Customers will go across the street if it means the salespeople at your competitor’s store will actually provide good service.

One more thing, Amazon has the Kindle; Barnes and Noble has the Nook. What do you have? That walk-in customer that needs some face-to-face service who still holds a book in her hands rather than an electronic device. I may be old fashioned, but we’re in this together.