Archive for November, 2010

It’s Needcember
November 30, 2010

On the heels of the genius Movember movement, I’d like to propose we rename December to Needcember. You see, at my house, one of our big challenges is to explain to our boys the difference between what they need and what they want. And the conversation usually goes something like this. “Mom, I need to go to Zellers to buy the Pokemon Gold Silver Game”. To which I always respond “you NEED another Pokemon game? Really honey, you need food and water and shelter. Parents who love you. You need a good night sleep and you need to eat your breakfast before school. You need to do your homework. That’s what you need! You might want a Pokemon game but it’s not the same thing.” Insert eye roll here.

In an over commercialized world, it’s hard for kids to make that distinction. But I think my boys are starting to get it. So at dinner the other night, I asked the boys what we should give for Christmas. Give? Say what? “You mean get, right mom?” My eight year old gave me a “what’s you talkin’about Willis” glance. My six year old was horrified feeling as if he’d already made it quite clear that he wanted to get a remote control truck and some moon sand. Duh! But I persisted.

“No. Really, don’t you think there might be kids who need things at Christmas that they won’t get?” I asked. “Like a limited edition Roberto Luongo hockey card?” said my eight year old. “Sort of”, I said. “Like food, or a gift under the tree?” It got awfully quiet at the dinner table.

So we talked some more and decided that each of us would pick one “pretend person” who needed something and try to fill that need. My eight year old would like to buy tickets to a Silverbacks game for a teenager. As far as he’s concerned teenagers are the coolest people on earth. With money for pop and fries at the concession, of course. My six year old isn’t sure. But if it involves a trip to Zellers to pick something out for another six year old, he’s okay with that. I will buy diapers and formula for the Family Resource Centre Teen Pregnancy Outreach Program because babies make the world a better place and we need to help them make their way. And my hubby will get movie tickets for teenage kids who could use a night out with their friends. Because even a grown up dad can appreciate a night out with the boys.

So at our house, we’ll call it Needcember. There are real needs out there now that December is upon us. So I’d invite any group who has real needs to meet to let us know what that need would be and we’ll do our best because we need to. Or am I being too subtle? And I’d invite any of you who feel the need to read this blog to do the same. I’m not against getting, but I know that giving feels so much better.

So happy Needcember. Fill it with as much as you can. And if anyone finds a Pokemon guide for idiot moms, I’d like a copy, but I don’t really need one.

Attention all Shoppers
November 26, 2010

It’s Black Friday. Weird tradition. I guess our only equivalent here in the Great White North would be the Boxing Day Sales. The idea of getting up at 3am to go shopping violently conflicts with my plans to spend most of my upcoming Christmas holiday inside in my new jammies or outside in my snow suit.

I always feel bad for the employees who have to work at those sales. Apparently Walmart was open on American Thanksgiving this year. I guess saving more and living better means the employees of the world’s largest company have to go without turkey or worst, turducken. Honestly, couldn’t we save the savings till Saturday?

The Saturday after Thanksgiving, as it turns out, is now Small Business Saturday in the States. I like this concept. I first heard about when I saw this ad this morning: 

This is a big business idea started by American Express. I gotta hand it to them. I especially love the tag line. Shop small. It’s gonna be huge. I sure hope they’re right. It’s this kind of thinking and that kind of support that could very well kick start the new economy. Because, let’s face it,  the old economy is just plain broke – and so are many of us as a result.

Now, if you’ll follow me down this tangent for a moment, I think that shoppers are divided into two groups. People who think about how to spend their money and others who think about what happens to their money after they spend it. At least I think that’s what I think.

Money is funny. It’s a man made concept. It’s not really real, like water or food, yet we trust it, and how it’s managed and where it’s put and how it’s divided up probably more than we should. Try explaining to an eight year old why the $20 he took out of his bank account doesn’t look the same as the one he put in. Try explaining to him that there is no “real” bank account back there behind the wickett with his name on that he can look at. And don’t get me stared on those little pieces of papers mommy calls cheques. What’s that all about and why can’t I just write one whenever I want for whatever I want. Kids get it. We’re the ones who are all messed up about money.

But back to my tangent. Thinking about what happens to money after we spend it. I’m the first to admit that I like a good deal. And that trumps all altruistic feelings about my economy. But if I pay full price and I buy local, I do so knowing that my friendly shop owner is making more than BC’s despicable $6 training wage. (Side note – George, if you win the liberal leadership in BC, could you see about changing that please?) The money I spend locally is circulated in town three times more than the same dollars spent at large chains in larger cities. So when we say spending money is good for the economy, it’s only partly true. It’s not how much money we spend, it’s how we spend our money.

Amex is spending a ton of money helping the USA rethink how it spends its money and I admire that. Besides, I don’t think Walmart takes American Express cards anyway. I’m sure it’s not just altruism at work. It’s good business. And good business is smart, thoughtful and impactful.

Here in Salmon Arm, we have our fair share of smart, thoughtful and impactful businesses. I’ll let you decide who that might be for you. I know who I can count on and they know they can count on me.

Chances are, any of our American neighbours who were crazy enough to get up at 3am to go shopping at Walmart will likely be too tired for Small Business Saturday shopping. And so be it. But for those who aren’t and for those of us just heading into shopping season, let’s make an effort to shop small. Let’s see how huge it really can be. Will it make a difference? I’ll put money on it! I hope you will too.

November 19, 2010

I have to think after this week’s public squabbles in BC politics that our representatives in Victoria might be hitting the egg nog a little early this holiday season.

Truth is, BC politics have never really been “normal”. I’m the first to admit I don’t really get it. I’m still trying to figure out why our liberals are really conservatives, our NDP constantly turn their fame into infamy (remember Bingogate?) and what on earth Socred is.

Before moving to BC, I lived in Ottawa where I was sure my destiny was to work in politics. In first year university, I was a parliamentary page in the House of Commons. Great work if you can get it. Nice uniform, good pay, nice perks including the occasional dinner invitation to a fancy doo.

Then I worked nights at Hansard as a typist. We made revisions to the days proceedings all through the night. Also a great gig. A taxi home every night. Decent pay. Lots of pizza while we waited for the next batch of revisions. Also a fool proof way to learn how to type very quickly.

My final Ottawa gig was as a hill staffer working for the local MP as a correspondence and research assistant. The pay wasn’t as good. But the cafeteria food and prices were impossible to beat. Best meal in town. And there’s something to be said for walking up to Parliament Hill every day, hearing the Peace Tower chime (it’s hard to be late for work when there’s chimes involved) and seeing it all happen.

Anyway, in 1990 when I decided to move to Victoria, I thought their Parliament might be a good fit for my skill set. I started asking around. This was pre-internet days afterall so I had to talk to actual people to form an opinion. The research was astounding. Nobody in Ottawa knew much of anything about BC except to say it was “la la land” out there. They had no liberals, they had no conservatives. They had this socred thing but nobody really knew what that was about. Apparently EXPO 86 had been fun, but that was all I could find out.

Indeed, when I did get to Victoria, I had no luck whatsoever. So I spent 9 glorious months being unemployed, reading the paper, listening to Gzowski, talking long walks along the ocean, and questioning everything. Which is why I’m no longer in politics, come to think of it.

But this week was a doozy. I don’t pretend to have ever known what goes on behind that beautifully lit building on Victoria’s inner harbour, but this week, I really had to wonder. Suffice it to say, I quite enjoyed the brutal honesty. It’s too easy to forget that our politicians are real people with real feelings – and if that means I live in la-la land, well so be it.

Maybe Ottawa could learn a thing or two from us afterall. Maybe they need a little egg nog too.



Take off eh?
November 16, 2010

Dear Air Canada,

We need to talk. I’ve been meaning to do this for awhile. I just didn’t have the heart to. Truth is, this just isn’t working for me anymore. I need to break up with you once and for all.

Why I stood by for all these years when clearly you long ago lost interest is unclear to me. Shared history maybe. You took me to Disneyworld as a kid. You took me on my backpacking trip to Europe. Happy visits back and forth to be with family. We’ll always have that trip to Italy, I guess.

But this last attempt to reconcile, a botched flight to and from New York is the last straw. I can take a hint, even if it was booked on an Air Canada flight.

I stuck with you through thick and thin. Mergers and acquisitions, strikes and scares, bankruptcy and insolvency.  I thought you were worth sticking with because you had talent and experience despite younger and nicer suitors like that WestJet cowboy or the super keen and handsome Prep school boy Porter Airlines.

Lotta good it did me.  It’s painfully clear to me that computers and dollars are the only things that fuel you.  For me, it was about the maple leaf on my luggage and on the tail of the planes in the fleet in every major airport worldwide. You no longer wear it well. It should be a dollar sign instead (no wait, you’re not making money) or maybe an unhappy face 😦 that would work. . Come to think of it, you might consider changing your name as well to air can’t-a-da.

So as part of  the settlement,  I’ll cash in all my aeroplan points and be the proud owner of a brand new travel iron or gold membership to costco or some other lame reward. But who cares. I’ll be done with you and I’ll get on with my life.

Next time I travel, I’ll look over with a knowing, somewhat disgusted glance, that I did the right thing. And judging by your so called “friends” on your facebook page, I don’t think I’ll be alone.

So in the words of the immortal Bob and Doug Mackenzie, as far as I’m concerned Air Canada can take off eh, I’m flying West Jet instead.


November 9, 2010

Years in the planning. Budget overages. Safety and security issues. Cross border negotiations. IT issues. Transportation restrictions. Homeland security. No, it’s not a summit, it’s a trip to NYC with friends and I haven’t even packed yet.

Thursday morning I head out to New York City with friends for an extended long weekend. Preparations for this trip have proven, once again, that in life, as in travel, the journey is the destination.

Years in the planning
Years ago when my favourite 18 year old was then in grade 10, her mom and two of us friends declared “When you graduate from high school, we’re taking you to New York City!” And darned if she didn’t do it. Good on ya Sara. We’re so very proud of you.

So starting last summer, the hunt for tickets and hotels in the Big Apple began. And for the centre of the universe, it isn’t really the easiest place to get to or stay in, believe it or not.

Budget overages
There is one daily direct flight from Calgary to NYC but Air Canada can’t get you from Kelowna to Calgary in time to make that flight. WestJet only flies to NYC until the end of October. So they’re out. We could fly from Seattle on a discount carrier but you probably have to go thru Fort Worth to get there. And with only 4 days to devote to this adventure, I can’t afford a layover – no matter how tempting the balmy climate.

Air Canada is willing to fly us out of Kelowna to Vancouver, to Toronto then to New York. Sure, what’s an extra 1,000 kms when you’re already at a flying altitude of 35,000 feet? So that’s our route. So, it’s their way, at their price. But it’s fine. You couldn’t get a taxi or bus for that price. Small consolation prize but I’ll take what I can get.

And if anyone can find a decent hotel in NYC for under $500 a night, please, let me know. I’ll be sure to check it out whether or not it’s an urban myth.

Safety and security issues
These are very minor. In fact, so minor, the human eye can hardly see them. Bed bugs. Everywhere in New York. My mom wanted me to cancel my trip. “Everyone is cancelling their trips to New York”, she claims. Like it’s going to be post-apocalyptic Manhattan. Better than those legendary line-ups I guess. So we google the bed bug issue and learn that silk linings for sleeping bags repels the little pests. And we make a pact to leave our suitcases outside until they freeze to kill them off when we get home. Problem solved. I hope.

Cross border negotiations
I like to keep in touch when I’m away. Which brings me to the matter of my least favourite topic: cell phones. I don’t want the nasty surprise of roaming charges on my next bill because I dared to cross the border with my i-phone. Ugh. I reluctantly phone Rogers and ask the customer service agent what would happen if I left my phone on while away in the states for a weekend. “Well”, he says, “that depends”. On what? My credit rating? So I arrange for a special travel pack which allows me a few text messages and the chancge to google a thing or two while there. Phew. There’s 45 bucks I’ll never get back. But that’s the price of worry, I suppose. I’m happy to pay that out.

IT issues
What’s the issue? To bring my laptop or not to bring my laptop. I thought about it and I decided that if I can’t get away from my laptop for four days, I probably have bigger issues than all of the above. So it’s staying home and I’m going away.

Transportation restrictions
And this has more to do with how much stuff I need to transport to feel at my best in NYC. Can I really fit two pairs of boots in a tiny MEC backpack?  Probably not. If I wear one pair and pack the other, would that work? How about coats. Long? Short? Warm? Stylish? Practical? The jury is still out. I’m thinking I could wear my cozy pjs under my long coat and boots and no one would be the wiser. God forbid I should look like a tourist while on vacation. How silly.

Homeland security
But ultimately, I want everyone to stay safe while I’m away.  Suddenly I’m treating my husband like a fifteen year old babysitter. Here’s the health cards. Here’s where I’ll be. Don’t hesitate to call. Don’t forget to pack their lunch. Lock the doors before bedtime. There’s microwave popcorn in the cupboard if they want a late night snack. I mean c’mon. He’s their dad. And I love him for putting up with my nonsense.

So off we go. NYC with the BFFs. Can’t wait. Wish us happy landings.