Jill Of Some Trades

And Master Of At Least One


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Political Correctness and the Art of Being a Grinch

I celebrate Chanukah, the more low-key Festival of Lights.  I appreciate it when people wish me a Happy Chanukah – really.   By the same token, if I know someone celebrates Christmas, I wish them a Merry one.  I don’t go for the Happy Holiday thing unless I’m not sure what that particular person celebrates.  I wish my Muslim friends an Eid Mubarak when it is their holiday.  I firmly believe that it is politically correct to offer wishes in the manner that the person celebrates.  I also know some people that are Jehovah’s Witnesses and I don’t wish them anything at the holidays, nor do I wish them a happy birthday.  It is about respecting people’s beliefs, not watering them down.

If you speak to most people who are minorities in Canada, most feel the same way.  My Jewish and Muslim friends appreciate and enjoy other people’s traditions.  If truth be told, it is extreme political correctness that is ruining the holidays.  I’ve written about my thoughts on this before (holiday trees?  Please, it’s a Christmas tree) but now, the sensitive, participation award winning people of the world are trying to ban “Baby It’s Cold Outside” and Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer (the cartoon).  “Baby It’s Cold Outside” is said to have questionable lyrics about consent and little Rudolph because it features verbal abuse and bullying.  

Here is the truth – “Baby It’s Cold Outside” does feature questionable lyrics, but who really pays attention?  Lady Gaga and Joseph Gordon-Levitt performed it on The Muppets with the Lady herself singing the traditionally male part of the duet.  Rudolph actually has an anti-bullying message with the one thing that makes the adorable little reindeer different being the very thing that saves the day (his bright red nose) – a positive message for any child who feels different.  

Can we not just live and let live?  It is up to the individual to decide what messages a song carries.  If those particular lyrics are an issue, how about some very misogynistic Rap or Hip-Hop lyrics?  Should we ban 80’s music too?  “Every Breath You Take” is about stalking if you read the lyrics as is “Hungry Like the Wolf” by my beloved Duran Duran.  Are you doubting me?  How about this:
Stalked in the forest too close to hide
I’ll be upon you by the moonlight side

A little creepy, isn’t it?  How about “Your So Vain” by Carly Simon?  It’s about Warren Beatty and if you think about it is bullying him.  How about any song Taylor Swift does?  It’s usually a revenge song against one of her ex-boyfriends – does that not qualify as bullying?  There is also “Cake By The Ocean” by DNCE with these lyrics:

Not so serious, girl, why those feet cold? 
We just getting started, don’t you tiptoe 
Tiptoe, ah 

I could go on and on, but you get the idea.  I do not want any song banned unless it promotes hate.  Certain songs, like the ones I’ve noted or “Baby It’s Cold Outside” are of the time that they were created in and people should understand that and stop reading too much into things.  This hyper-political correctness is often to detriment of the causes that they are trying to support as a select few take it seriously.  Many causes, including the #MeToo and other Women’s Rights movement are so important, but what starts out in such a promising way, gets watered down when they take things too far.  It is about gender equality, not female superiority.  Many women have been harassed and you know when it is happening, but I have had male friends who are ardent supporters of women’s rights called out for innocently touching a woman on the arm or for opening a door for them.  

Why can we just not let people judge for themselves what is appropriate?  If you don’t like “Baby It’s Cold Outside” or “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer” turn off the radio and TV respectively.  Vote with ratings – not by doing something that is not in the interest of anyone.  Remember, book banning and burning was part of the Holocaust and the Taliban rule of Afghanistan.  You might think it’s an extreme comparison, but when you start banning things, and subscribing to a mob mentality – this is the result.  I know that some smart aleck out there will say “What about if this was Mein Kempf if you believe in freedom of speech?”  Again, there is a difference between hate propaganda and freedom of speech.  I absolutely agree that people are entitled to freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression as laid out in our Charter of Rights and Freedoms, but that means everyone, not a select few who force their will on others.

Let people enjoy their holidays including Christmas and lives – and while you have the right to express yourself, remember that the message is lost when it’s taken too far, like it has been lately.


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How the Holidays Are Like A Snuggie

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Don’t you love my Snuggie?

A leopard Snuggie, a hot tea, winning at Trivial Pursuit – these are the things that put a smile on my face as I enjoy the  holidays.  I’ve seen a lot of my favourite friends, my family and just enjoyed a few days where the only messages on my blackberry were friendly ones.  January 5, the holiday ends and heigh ho, heigh ho – it’s back to work I go, but first let me tell you a few things that I did:

  • I spent Christmas Eve with my family including one Frousin and Babs.  Babs feels sometimes that it’s all about the frousins, but I hope that she knows after more than 40 years of friendship that she is counted amongst my family.  You made our traditional Jewish Christmas Eve special because you were there.  It’s not that exciting, we just eat vegetarian lasagna and yap a lot, but Babs, you fit right in : )
  • Christmas Day (aka Eeyore’s Birthday) was fabulous.  Every Christmas morning, for the past 8 or 9 years, I’ve done the same thing, slept over at my mother’s and looked out the window (she lives in a building with a view of a very busy shopping street).  I saw, what I see every year – very few cars, and just one or two people walking.  Nothing is better than looking out for a few minutes at the stillness….except winning at the family Trivial Pursuit game, but I don’t like to gloat.  Ok, Eeyore won as well, but we don’t need to dwell on that.  It was just nice to celebrate a birthday with the entire family.
  • On Boxing Day (and yesterday) I learned that my Frousin GK is a formidable shopper – welcome to the Boxing Day Shopping Club – come back next year!
  • I learned that sometimes, your friends do listen – one friend bought me a Chopra Centre meditation gift certificate, another themed my gift around health and wellness – thank you for paying attention!  You are amazing friends.
  • Thanks to my Shoe for always including me in every Christmas celebration at Casa Papadopoulous – it is party I always look most forward to and that’s because not only is she a great friend, she has an amazing family too.  You are also the person that bought me THREE SNUGGIES – which are just the blanket version of a warm hug.  I don’t know where I would have be without them.
  • Thanks to my frousin, AK, for making time to see me before becoming a temporary snow bird.  I can’t wait to see you when you get back.
  • I’m very excited to see two of my favourite work friends tomorrow – actually, make that just friends : )
  • Even my work Christmas party was fun – who would have thought?  Although, I’ve never met a party that I didn’t like.
  • The whole month of December, other than a few pesky days at work (ok many long hours at work) has been exactly what I’ve wanted from the holidays – spending time with my family, seeing my very favourite people and enjoying the holidays.  It hasn’t been perfectly relaxing, but it has been pretty perfect in the ways that have counted.  I hope that you and your families have enjoyed it no matter what you celebrate.

Last but not least, I haven’t forgotten about my vow of decluttering my room.  My big gift was a new duvet set – it’s pretty fabulous, and today, I threw out two bed pillows, three decorative pillows and my old duvet to make room for the new.  A final report is coming on the final day of my year of living Oz-ily – that’s December 31st to you. I think it would be redundant to write about what I am grateful for when it’s so clearly illustrated above – I’m grateful to my family and my wonderful friends for making this such a great month and there are still two days left to go!


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Soaring Like Beagle and Other Holiday Angst

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Image courtesy of picgifs.com (and I’m pretty sure Charles Schulz deserves some credit)

As I’ve written time and time again, Dr. Oz loves meditation and introduced me to my homeboy Deepak Chopra or Deeps as I affectionately like to call him.  I’m currently reading one of Deeps’ earlier books, “The Spontaneous Fulfillment of Desire”.  As I’ve been voraciously reading the book, I found, in parts, that I had to suspend my own skepticism and embrace things that I usually find to bordering on hooey.  There are many wonderful parts of the book including a very true equation for luck.  If you decide to pick up the book, you’ll find it on page 123, “Opportunity + Preparedness = Good Luck”.  So true – I can tell you that I’ve been told, that I’m pretty lucky when it comes to finding jobs, or rather having jobs find me.  Au contraire, my freres – it’s all part of the divine equation that Deeps laid out so succinctly in his book.  I believe that Randy Pausch also highlighted this very fact in one of the best books ever written – “The Last Lecture”.  There is some degree of the universe helping me out, but most luck that I’ve experienced is self-generated, where opportunity met preparedness.

Yes, there are many amazing parts to the book and he breaks down meditation, providing this klutzy meditator with some tools to help me increase my health with this Oz approved practice, but there is some stuff that’s just beyond me.  He lost me with identifying archetypes.  I think mine may be a princess of some small nation like Denmark.  Mostly because you get all of the benefits of British Royalty (like a lovely tiara and some travel) with none of the crazy stalkers and paparazzi following you around.  I have a feeling that’s not what he’s thinking about though.  Then came the moment that I realized that I may lack the depth to pursue my goal of listening to the vibrations of the universe…In one of the blondest moments of my life, I read, “Become an eagle; experience the world as a soaring bird” (page 162) as “Become a beagle…”.   Yes, I pondered the statement and was wondering if it was possible to experience life as everyone’s favourite beagle – Snoopy.  A good five minutes of thinking later, I re-read the sentence, and boy, did I feel like a dummy.  I’ll keep trying, but I’m not so sure I’ll ever get this stuff right.  My good friend gave me a Chopra Centre gift card so that will definitely help!

You know, Dr. Oz has a huge section on how to avoid weight gain and to enjoy the holidays in a healthy way. I’m going to spend some time reading them and reporting back, but I think it’s also one of those times of year when maybe, it’s ok to say, I’m just going to give in to the dark side. I love seeing my friends and family during the festive season, but I, like many think that maybe we are taking the commercialization a little bit too far.  I celebrate Chanukah and for the most part, appreciate the simplicity of the holiday.  I was in a book store yesterday and saw a doll called “Mensch on a Bench”.  Instead of being amused by this “Elf on a Shelf” take off, I was a little taken aback.  Christmas and all of the trappings are great and meaningful if that’s the holiday that you celebrate, but Chanukah is the “Festival of Lights” – all you need is a Menorah and maybe a dreidel or two and you are good to go.  We don’t have an equivalent to Santa Claus – there is not Hanukah Harry, so Mensch on a Bench makes me feel like we are having a “me too – see, we can be fun” kind of moment.  I’m not religious in any way shape or form, but I don’t believe that we have to shape things in a certain way in order to enjoy the holidays and the more simple celebrations are just as meaningful.  I love the Christmas decorations and nobody sings a Christmas Carol better than Kelly Clarkson.  I love going to Christmas parties and joining in the fun of the season, but I am happy with the traditions that I grew up with too and have never felt that I was missing out on anything by having Chanukah. What could be better than Chinese Food and a movie on December 25th? OY VEY – is all I have to say about this Mensch on a Bench business.  Just enjoy yourself, no matter what holiday you celebrate.

Today, I’m grateful that I got to spend time with my family to celebrate the festival.  We went to visit our cousin who had a little accident and it was just nice to be together, even if it was in a hospital.  I’m grateful to my poor mother for pushing through back pain to prepare the best latkes ever and for always making the holiday about what’s important no matter what religion you are – spending time with loved ones.


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Volunteering is Good for Your Health?

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According to doctoroz.com, “…people who do volunteer work for 2 or more hours per week have lower rates of depression and heart disease, live happier more fulfilled lives, have greater self-esteem and greater function ability, especially for older adults.”  I don’t volunteer as much as I used to, in fact, the last few years, it’s just been once or twice a year.  Every year, except for one – last year, when I had a terrible cold – my bestie and I travel to our friend Paula’s place to wrap gifts for The Boys and Girls Club.  It’s a pretty basic thing to do, takes around 4-ish hours or so – sometimes longer depending on how many people volunteer, and you end up helping, in a very small way, make people’s lives a little easier.  This year, there were fewer corporate sponsors.  It’s so sad – I mean, I understand that there are needy people all over the world, and many worthy charities, but I also think it’s important to assist and aid people in your own communities.  This particular charity provides needy kids of all ages, from infant to teen, with the essentials that they need to get through a Canadian Winter.  The kids get a winter coat and boots, an outfit, shoes if they need them, pyjamas, underwear, socks, mittens, a hat and a special request item like a toy. One year, when I was reading what the “dream item” was, it ended up being pencils and a backpack.  How sad is it that a child’s deepest wish is to have the basics that they need for school?

According to the article on Dr. Oz’s site http://www.doctoroz.com/blog/donna-cardillo-rn-ma/volunteering-good-your-health-and-your-career, “When you focus on helping others, you are less likely to focus on your own troubles. And if your volunteer work happens to be with people who are ill, disabled or underprivileged, it can put challenges in your own life in perspective.”  It’s so true.  In 2003, a family member became very ill, and I was worried constantly.  At this point in time, I was volunteering weekly with an after-school program at work.  The kids would come each week for 60-90 minutes to be tutored.  We were each paired up with a child.  I can tell you, that it was like going to the gym – I’d dread it all day, then, after the session, I’d be invigorated.  It also made me realize, that although I was having a difficult time, that spending some of my energy focusing on someone else, made me feel better, and it showed me that no matter how difficult life gets, that you can make a difference.  The kids were special.  Some needed more help than others, but most were just looking for undivided attention from an adult.  I did this every week for three years and to this day, it’s one of my proudest accomplishments.

I hope to volunteer more in 2015.  I may not be able to commit to weekly volunteering, but one of my resolutions is to commit to at least 12 times in the year.  Today, I am grateful to Paula for having a group of people invade her house every year to wrap gifts, for arranging everything and for being an overall inspiration of how someone can make people’s lives better.  I’m also grateful to get to partner with my bestie –  the photo was taken today as we plower (or plodded) through the gift wrapping.  The holidays, regardless of what your background is, can be difficult.  Volunteering is a way to connect with others and get out of the “poor me” rut that we all can get into.


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A Dose of Holiday Gratitude

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My “reflective” photo

The holidays make people reflect about what they are grateful for and Dr. Oz and Deepak Chopra, my homeboys, buds, brothers from other mothers, etc. recommend you state what tickles you to remind yourself of all of the good in the world.  I do this quite often in my blog, while others, I’m not naming names (Shoe) keep a journal.  I’d like to give you a dose of what I feel grateful for at this moment in time:

  • I found this Sesame Street video on my cousin’s Facebook page.  If you can’t feel grateful for the Yippers, well, I don’t know what you can be grateful for
  • There was a huge snow storm in Toronto, and unlike previous years, we didn’t have to call out the army to dig us out #torontostrong
  • I was grateful that although I cancelled plans on a friend who lives just too far away, I ended up getting a dinner invitation to my mother’s – timing is everything
  • I’m grateful that I got to see my Mommy AND she was finally able to sew a button on my winter coat for me – it’s been hanging over my head for months
  • I’m grateful that I got to see my niece AND I found out that she too can sew a button – it’s always good to have a back up
  • I’m grateful that I got to see my oldest sister today AND I know that she can sew a button.  It’s all about connections
  • I’m grateful that I got to speak to my middle sister AND I suspect that she can sew a button.  I need to know that I’m surrounded by domestic goddesses since I’ll never be one
  • I’m grateful that I got a seat on the subway, and my coat was so thick, it didn’t matter if it was warm or not
  • I’m grateful that I got another gift off of my list – wasn’t that a Hall and Oates’ song?  “Because your gift, your gift is on my list” – oh it’s “Your Kiss is On My List” – silly me
  • I’m grateful that I had the time to blog today
  • I’m grateful that today, one person got exactly what I was saying
  • I’m grateful that I got to see “The Mindy Project” last night and that it was basically picked up for a full season
  • I’m grateful that in 6 business days, I’ll have two weeks off!!!!
  • I’m grateful that I got to shop my mother’s pantry because it saved me a trip to the store.  I’m also grateful that I have a mother who is generous enough to let me shop the pantry, although, if she would let me organize each shelf alphabetically by product, it would make me so happy.  She won’t – weird – because she’s type A too
  • I’m grateful that I’ve committed to getting my Christmas cards written over the weekend – I’d be even more grateful if I had someone to write them for me – everyone always calls me to translate my chicken scratch.  I’m also grateful that I buy my cards on Boxing Day so that I never need to worry about having enough for the holidays

That’s about all that I’m grateful for – but not so bad, since it covers off only one day.  Until next time, I remain

Gratefully yours,

Jill


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4 Tips to Staying Healthy and More!

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I always make New Year’s Resolutions and was looking for something to inspire me for 2015.  I know, they are usually unrealistic, but I try to make my resolutions “objectives”, meaning that they are measurable.  I came across an old interview with Dr. Oz on a local Hawaiian newscast and he had 4 tips for staying healthy that seem like a pretty solid starting point for my 2015 list:

  1. Get some physical activity daily – and even better if it’s vigorous.  He doesn’t mean you have to exercise 7 days a week, but make sure that you are doing something to develop your strength.  As we age, we are more prone to falling and strength training (even just carrying a heavy grocery order) can help you avoid falls.  I really have to worry about this – I’m a klutz  – and can find a pothole to trip over even on the smoothest sidewalk.  I’ve mentioned before that  Oops is my middle name.  Point taken Dr. Oz – I’m seeing my trainer 3 times this week to get the ball rolling on this one.
  2. Eat whole foods.  This basically means food in their original forms.  This means eat broccoli, not cream of broccoli soup.  I love veggies, so it’s not an issue for me.  I did eat a frozen dinner last week, but sometimes desperate times call for desperate measures.  In general, since March, I’ve been much more mindful of eating whole foods, and even try to be careful to buy foods that are GMO free where possible.  I’m turning into one of those people that I used to mock, but you gotta do what you gotta do…I silently mock myself when I buy organic, GMO free peanut butter if it makes you feel better.
  3. Be thoughtful about the relationships that you have.  We all need to do a better job with this.  I know I try as hard as possible to be a good friend and family member, but I can’t be perfect – no one can.  Lately I haven’t been perfect about keeping in touch – work gets in the way but that’s a whole other blog topic. On brighter note, I have bumped into a lot of people from the past and have been reconnecting with them – it’s been really nice.
  4. You have a purpose and vision in life – basically some life goals.  I’m type A – DUH of course I have them, but I think one of the things that I have realized is that career-wise, I’ve really reached all of the goals that I’ve set for myself so perhaps it’s time to focus on something else.  Health has been a bigger priority and this blog has been a tool to help me make attaining optimum health one of my “purposes” in life.

That’s it – just 4 easy little steps and I expect to see all of you at my 100th birthday party.

In other visions for myself, if you think that I’ve given up decluttering just because I haven’t been writing about it weekly, think again.  Today, I decluttered my wallet, getting rid of 67 (that’s not a typo) receipts and 2 loyalty cards.  I had one in there for a bagel shop – buy 12 bagels with cream cheese, get one free.  I’ve had one bagel with cream cheese in general and from there in particular in 2 years.  At that rate, it would take me 24 years to get the free bagel – not worth the space it was taking in my wallet.  I’m going to be more discerning about which cards that I take…my wallet will thank me.  I also sold 3 items on Kijiji totalling $100!!!!  I got rid of 2 purses and one pair of sunglasses and best of all – they are no longer taking up space in my house.  If you are making it a resolution (or objective) to declutter – consider selling some of your “in mint condition” household items and clothing – even just some knick knacks that are turning into dust collectors – your trash is someone else’s treasure.  I’ll write some tips on how to use these services at a later date.

I have a lot to be grateful for this week.  I got to celebrate my nephew’s birthday with my family yesterday which was very nice – I’d write a big mushy article about him, but he won’t read it anyway – he’s 19 and not interested in reading this : )  My sister outdid herself with the brunch – down to the caramel apples she made for everyone.  So good – it’s almost a whole food – there was an apple in there buried under the caramel.  I also got to go to an annual Christmas party that my dear friend Shoe’s (not her real name) parents put on.  Her mother is Greek an one of the best cooks, aside from my mother, in Toronto, or quite possibly the world.  It is always a really nice time and an opportunity to have some interesting conversations with people that I sometimes only get to see once a year.  It’s so relaxed, not one of those parties where there is tension – just a fun night.  Thank you Shoe for always being a great friend and for including me and my sister every year.