Bits and bobs

Random thoughts about random things by a random person


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Day 7 (Sept 18/19): Irish VAT rate – Why I may never complain about HST again!

(I just discovered that I hadn’t actually posted this last night when I wrote it…Oops! Not hard to tell why I’m not blogging for a living! 🙂 )

When I was purchasing some things in a gift shop this morning, the lady asked if I’d be claiming the tax back. I said I had planned on it, but didn’t know the process.

She helpfully explained it to me and gave me the card I would need.

She said it’s worth doing because even though I would get the full 23% back, it would definitely add up.

23%!!! I almost choked.

Before you ask, no I didn’t already know the tax was that high. Everything I’ve bought to this point was the price that was advertised so I had no idea how much of that was tax.

Anyway, it makes our 13% HST in Ontario seem rather paltry now…

I guess all things really are relative!

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Putting the right perspective on other people’s opinions

When it comes to this topic, the most common thing I hear is that we should never let other people’s opinions influence us.

I don’t think that’s necessarily true, or healthy.

And I don’t think the opposite is true, or healthy, either.

Other people can provide a distanced perspective on things in our lives and help us see things slightly (or even sometimes completely) differently than we see them.

Sometimes we can’t see the forest for the trees and we keep waltzing deeper and deeper in.

Even unasked for advice can provide some valuable insight on something – even though it can be as annoying as all get out.

That’s not to say that we should always follow the advice we are given. Listening and following are two completely different things.

If we are able to sit and really listen to what is said and allow ourselves to be distanced a little from the situation, we can evaluate what has been said a little more objectively. We can pull out the things that we accept and then push aside the things we don’t want to accept.

It might help us with some of the decisions we have to make – or possibly even help us extricate ourselves from some situations already-made decisions have put us into.

Of course, it’s easier to write those two paragraphs than it is to put them into action!

It takes a certain amount of, I would say, emotional maturity to do that. Depending on the situation – or the person giving the advice – we may have more or less of that than in other situations, or if we are hearing it from someone else.

A few things that could help in determining if we should listen or not are listed below. This is not an exhaustive list. And you may already have your own formula for how to deal with other people’s opinions. These are just some things that have helped me sift through the occasional morass of opinions.

1. What do I want and why do I want it? What do I expect to accomplish or get from it?

We can be very easily influenced if we don’t have a solid idea of where we stand on any given thing. Before we start listening to what other people have to say, we should at least have an idea of our own position on it and why it’s important.

2. What is the intention of the person speaking to me?

If we know that the person genuinely loves us, then we can assume that they are speaking from a place of concern. For me, that makes them more worth listening to than someone whose motives I’m not so sure about.

3. How much do I trust that person?

This is related to #2.

If the person is someone we trust, then why wouldn’t we listen? Even if it’s something we don’t want to hear, it might be that we need to hear it. I would rather hear something like that from someone I trust than anyone else. Or worse, not hear it at all and make a really stupid decision because I was maybe too stubborn to listen to another perspective.

4. How many people are saying the same thing?

If everyone around us is telling us practically the same thing, that’s a really good sign that we should stop and at least think about it.

Unless we’ve completely surrounded ourselves with awful people (and why on earth would we do that??), at least some of those people should be people we know and trust. If that’s the case there’s a good chance that what they are all saying has at least some value.

5. What do I want and why do I want it? What do I expect to accomplish or get from it?

Hopefully you have paid enough attention that you have noticed that this is the same as #1. 🙂

That’s because after we’ve heard what everyone has had to say, we should re-evaluate our own thoughts and position.

Has anyone said anything that shows that we won’t actually achieve our goal by following our current plan?

Or maybe has someone articulated a fear that we already had – or a consequence we hadn’t though of – and, hopefully, even provided some suggested solutions?

After all that, though, ultimately it is our own decision, whatever comes of it.

What’s that saying? Something to the effect that

We are free to choose, but we can’t choose the consequences.

So we have to accept everything that comes with those choices – the good, the bad and the ugly.

In a nutshell: Don’t dismiss what others have to say just because you don’t want to hear it. And don’t automatically do what they say just because they want you to.

Easy-peasy, right? 😉

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Day 6 (Sept 17/19): I’ve got mail!!

I can’t believe I forgot to tell you about this yesterday! So even though this is being written on day 7, it’s about day 6, so that’s how I’ve titled it. 🙂

As I was sitting at the sea-side of the house yesterday, doing my drawing, I heard some rustling at the back door. (That’s the door that I think I already told you is broken and I can’t get open.)

I looked up and through the frosted glass, I could see a man there in a red shirt. It looked like he was trying to put something in the mailbox.

That wouldn’t have anything to do with me, so I went back to my pencil and paper.

Then he knocked.

I went to the door and let him know it was broken and I couldn’t open it.

Then, quite unexpectedly, he asked, “Is this Lucy Cove?”

I was awash in a mixture of surprise and childlike, Christmas-morning glee! Mail for me? Here?!?!

I maintained my cool outwardly and simply asked him to put it in the box and I would go round later to collect it.

He did so and left.

Never, since I got here, had I wished that door wasn’t broken like I wished it in that moment!

I couldn’t just pop around the house to get it, either. It’s an end unit townhouse, with a carpark next door. I had scoped out earlier in my stay if there was a quick way through the carpark to the upper road.

Unless I magically develop some decent parkour skills on the quick like, it wasn’t going to happen.

I would have to walk down to the other end of the block and then back to this end of the block (on the back street) to get into the garden and claim my prize.

I was tempted to go right away, but I knew if I left off the drawing without finishing it, I would never finish it and it was something I really wanted to do. Plus, I’ve been practicing telling myself no and this was another opportunity for me to learn to wait.

So I waited – until I had finished the drawing and got dressed to go out for lunch.

It wasn’t easy. Every now and then I would look towards the back door. Or I’d look at the paper and think, “I could finish this when I come back…” (knowing full well that I wouldn’t).

I wasn’t curious about what it was – I’m hitting the big 5-0 while I’m here so I assumed it was a birthday card.

I did wonder, however, who on earth would have sent something to me while I’m on holiday in Ireland?? I remembered my friend Kelly had texted me a few days before I left, asking when I would be leaving for my trip, so I thought then that it must have been her.

Despite the temptation and curiosity, though, I persevered and waited!

Once ready to go, and still not really wanting to go down the block, to come back a block, and then have to turn around and go back up that block (which was the actual direction I needed to go for lunch and errands), I thought I’d take another look at the carpark.

Maybe I could scale the stone wall? Maybe it wasn’t as high as I remembered?

I scoped it out and, yeah, it was high. Too high for my almost-fifty, unathletic body at any rate. Bummer.

I took a gander to the left side of the lot to see if there was any hope in that direction…Hmmm…Did I see a break in the large boulders that bordered it? Did that look like a path between the boulders and the fenced-off field next door??

Off I toddled to check it out. Sure enough – there was a small path that I hadn’t seen before! I scrambled between/over two boulders and up the path to the other road. Then I went through the gate to the back garden and, through a little jungle of flies and webs, I claimed my prize!!!

There was another surprise when I didn’t recognize the handwriting. Kelly and I have known each other for decades now and I am familiar with her writing. This wasn’t it.

Now, totally flummoxed, I looked to the top left corner of the envelope.

It was from my friend Trish!!! That was even more unexpected because she is on holiday right now in Portugal!

I looked at the postage cancellation mark and sure enough – she sent it from her holiday.

So here I am, currently in Ireland, getting a birthday card from Portugal, from a friend who lives only about 3 hours away from me in Ontario! How fun is that??

Take that, Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks!!


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It’s not what you see…it’s what you SEE.

This is my view when I’m working or crafting in my den.

Your first thought might be, “Well, that’s nothing to get excited about – it’s a parking lot.”

And, technically, you would be correct.

But it’s also a voyeuristic peek into the theatre of life.

“Whoa there! You’re getting seriously corny now. Back off with the hyperbole, would ya??!”

I know…but it’s true.

A couple of weeks ago, for example, on a Friday afternoon, I saw a big SUV pull up. A couple of young women got out and a couple of other young women from my building came out, laden with backpacks and such. To say they were excited would be a serious understatement.

It was a beautiful day – the start of what promised to be a beautiful weekend and I immediately thought, “Girls trip!”

I couldn’t help but be affected the excitement of their moment. I was immediately thrown back in time to girls’ weekends I have participated in and a flood of wonderful memories washed over me.

My main cast of characters, though, are of the “lower” orders of Kingdom Animalia. Squirrels, birds, chipmunks, caterpillars, flies, and – oddly, for apparently a one-day-only showing – two cats.

The caterpillars were a fleeting seasonal thing, but when they were here, boy oh boy, were there a ton of them. I don’t normally mind caterpillars – I enjoy watching their furry little bodies inching along. But there were so many that I would have to say that their show bordered on the Stephen King side of things. But still, it was a free show and they didn’t eat all the leaves off the trees, so who am I to complain?

The birds – robins, mostly – have their annual shows in the spring. Wherever they’ve been before that, they have most definitely been well-fed. No scrawny, starving actors in that troupe! They proudly show off their red rotundity for all to see!

The chipmunks are the primary stars, though. They are around from spring, through summer and into fall. They are quite active and constantly alert! I don’t know how many of them are around – there might just be one or two repeats or there could be a bunch of different ones. They flit around so much that it’s hard to notice individual markings. In my head, though, there’s just one and, with my genius creative mind, I have named him Chippy.

Just yesterday, though, Chippy perched on the window well for quite a while and had a LOT to say in his monosyllabic chirpy voice. His favourite place seems to be at the exit of the downspout, though. Frequently my attention will be grabbed as I see his head pop out and up from there. (I’ve tried to get a picture of him – them? – but he’s just too fast. They’ve all come out blurry.)

The weather can be a character in and of itself, too. Beautiful, sunny days show the traverse of the sun – through shadows, as my window faces mostly north. Wind and rain or snow evoke a sense of coziness and gratitude for the warmth inside. Fog reminds me of growing up. Even if there are no living characters in the scene, weather can inspire feelings as strong as the most populated stage!

All that to say, while the parking lot, in and of itself, ain’t no great shakes to look at, the view from where I sit is really quite grand after all.


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The ocean – the ultimate battery charger!

My ocean view, growing up in St. Lawrence, NL

I grew up in a small town on the southeast coast of Newfoundland, a beautiful, rugged island jutting out into the North Atlantic. The ocean was a very strong presence in my youth and it has stayed with me throughout my life, even though most of my adult life has been spent away from in.

It is no surprise, then, when I say that my favourite place to recharge is by the ocean. I’m not a total snob about it – any body of water will do in a pinch, but the ocean is where it’s really at for me.

I spent almost 14 years living in Calgary, Alberta, on Canada’s prairies, about 40 minutes from the Canadian Rockies. People I knew who had grown up there got the same thing from going to the mountains. Others, who had grown up further east, fully on the prairies, got it from the vast openness of the horizon that they offered.

After having lived there for so long, I can understand both perspectives. There is something truly majestic about being in the mountains. Taking the gondola up Sulphur Mountain in Banff gives you a view and perspective that you can only get in the mountains.

I also really valued the open expanse of the prairies. There are lots of jokes about it – your dog runs away and you can see him for days and so on. Obviously, that’s not how it is, but it sure can seem like it – horizon and sky for days! It, too, offers a perspective on our place in the universe that can’t be achieved the same way in the mountains or by the ocean.

One of the things I miss the most about living on the prairies is being able to watch a storm from miles away as it crawls along the landscape – a curtain of snow or rain, or even just wind and dust, moving along the horizon like a separate living thing in and of itself. It’s truly beautiful.

Yet still, for me, it’s the ocean. I love the smell of it, the sound of it, the look of it. Standing on Signal Hill or at Cape Spear, facing east and seeing nothing but the vast expanse of blue (or steely grey on a cloudy day), knowing there’s nothing between you and Ireland except the rolling deep, gives another perspective of how we fit into this world.

You can even almost feel the pull of the swells. Even when it looks flat and calm, you know that beneath the surface there are currents constantly moving, moving, moving. The iiiiiin-out, iiiiiin-out, iiiiiin-out push and pull of the waves is hypnotic.

It was a similar feeling when I stood at Point Loma in San Diego and faced west out over the Pacific Ocean.

But it wasn’t quite the same because it wasn’t “my” ocean. The Atlantic is where my heart is, so yeah, I do play favourites. 🙂

Here are some other favourite ocean places and pics for your perusal.

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Practice does not always make perfect

We are all familiar with the old adage:

Practice makes perfect.

Anonymous

I’m sure most of us have even accepted it as fact. The more you practice something, the better you get at it – obviously! And, even if you never quite reach actual perfection in it, you at least develop a proficiency in it.

Well, a couple of weeks ago, I watched a video on Becca Courtice’s blog that totally turned that idea on its head for me.

Becca featured an interview with professional scribe Paul Antonio and they talked about the pre-basics of learning calligraphy. Paul said something that really struck me:

Practice doesn’t make perfect. Practice makes permanent.

Paul Antonio

As Paul explained, if you are practicing something the entirely wrong way, that absolutely won’t make it perfect. It can’t. It will, however, make the imperfections permanent.

BOOM! Serious mic drop moment for me.

How did we never glom onto that before? Or is it just me? Did everybody else realize this, while I was off to the side practicing to make my imperfections permanent? Dang!!

This whole idea has added a completely different dimension to practically everything I do now. See…you CAN teach an old dog new tricks!!

Have you thought about this before? Where and how did you stumble across that idea?

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How to avoid regrets – Or, “Hey – your last post said they were fine!”

If you looked at my last post, you may think that there is a contradiction between the title of that post and this one. 🙂

It’s just that in writing that one, I had a few other thoughts that take regret in a bit of a different direction. So, I guess this post is kind of a partner post (if that’s a thing) to the last one. 🙂

As you may recall, the previous post talked about regret in the context of things that have happened in the past.

This post talks about avoiding the regret in the first place.

Really, it’s quite simple: Don’t do anything you will wish you didn’t do and do everything you will wish you had.

Ta daaaaaaaaaaa!! That’s solved.

“Then,” you might ask, “why are there still more words on this page, Lucy???”

Well, naturally, nothing is ever really that simple, is it? I mean, in a way it really does come down to that, but there’s a bit more involved.

When I was 18, I was at university and having a lot of fun. There was a party one night (well, lots of nights, actually… 🙂 ) and I had to work. I really wanted to go out with my friends so I called work and quit. Obviously, at that point in my life, I thought I’d regret missing that party more than I’d regret quitting that job.

Now, I can’t even conceive of doing such a thing!

What I would regret now is considerably different than what I would have regretted then.

That said, there are some general suggestions we can follow that can help us avoid some potential down-the-road moments of “I wish I had….”

In fact, if you ask Mr. Google for advice on how to prevent future regret, you’ll get a LOT of advice. There are all kinds of lists, with 5, 10 or even 15 tips in them.

Here are just a few of them, if you’d like to check them out:

There are things common to most of the lists I’ve read, such as spending time with loved ones or not living the life other people expect us to live. But there is some variety in there, too – something for everyone, I would say.

None of it is rocket science (unless, perhaps you might regret one day not having learned rocket science 😉 ), but they are still good reminders.

Sometimes in the hustle and bustle of everyday life, we forget to do the things that are important to us and need those reminders every now and then.

In some time management stuff I read years ago, I learned something that has stuck with me to this day: We put our time into what is important to us.

I didn’t (and don’t) intend this to be a time-management post, but I think it is relevant to touch on it a tiny bit. It can be a useful exercise to sit and look at what we spend our time doing and compare that list to a list of the things that are important to us.

I would suggest that the things we say are important to us and that we don’t spend our time on are probably the things we will regret.

By bringing those lists into alignment with each other we can in that way create our own customized list of ways to prevent our personal regrets down the road.

We probably can’t completely avoid “I wish I had…” statements, but doing that one thing can help us avoid some of the biggest regrets that we might otherwise have had.


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