Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Footprints in the sand

On Friday night several friends came over for dinner, after which we watched the movie "Doubt"; a spectacular performance by Meryl Streep and Philip Seymour Hoffman. If you haven't seen it yet, I strongly encourage you to. For me, one of the strongest messages in this movie comes when Father Flynn preaches a sermon about gossip. Father Flynn uses a parable to tell a story of a woman who seeks repentance for her sin of gossipping. The woman's confessor tells her to go home and find a feather pillow, take the pillow to the highest point in her village, and rip it open with a knife, letting the feathers be taken away by the wind, at which point she should come back to receive her penance. After dispatching the feathers in the wind, she returns to the confessional for instructions. She is told to go out and gather all of the feathers that she let loose. When she objects to this, claiming that it is an impossible task, her confessor replies; "And now you know what happens when you gossip". Brilliant .

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Happy Easter, Buona Pasqua, Felices Pascuas, Joyeuses Pâques

When I agreed to join the adult Acolytes at St. Michael's Church, (after a hiatus of about 34 years) I'm quite sure I had forgotten how many hours of standing, kneeling and praying I would be in for between the start of Lent and Easter Sunday. Mind you, the last time I served on the altar, I was a little more flexible, and my joints were a little more limber. None-the-less, I have no regrets. Being an active participant in my church during Lent and Holy Week has really helped to stregthen and renew my faith. Now I'm not, and I don't expect I ever will be what you would call a bible thumper. And despite all my years of being a Catholic, I still have my doubts about religion and about the faith that we ascribe to. But if I'm honest with myself, I also have doubts about many other things. Despite the "science" that proves so many things, I have very limited experience when it comes to experiencing these "proven truths" for myself. For example, we believe that the earth is round, but I don't know this from my own experience. I have taken the word of a handful of astronauts who have been to outer space. I have trusted the mathematicians who have "proven" this. But I have no personal experience to confirm this belief. I suppose I would have to fly a plane around the world to recant my doubt on this topic. So did a man named Jesus really come into this world through a virgin birth, perform miracles, die for our sins and rise from the dead? I believe he did, but I have no proof, only the written words of his followers. However, regardless of what I believe, the fact is that the lessons that were attributed to this man are as relevant today as they were the day he spoke them, for example "A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another". Of all of the liturgies that I attended, the most moving was on Holy Thursday when the priest gets down on his knees and re-enacts the washing of His disciples feet. As I stood behind each of the men having their feet washed, I was overcome with the humility of this act. At one point I had to fight back tears. This ritual of the washing of the feet is a part of many of the treatments that are performed at Ste. Anne's. We incorporated this into our treatments after experiencing this many years ago in Thailand, a country that exudes humility, except it would appear, when it comes to it's method of changing governments. May the mystery of life and the wonder of creation inspire you and your family over this holiday weekend - Happy Easter.

Monday, April 6, 2009

A funny think happened to me on my way to the coffee aisle

Despite my lack of enthusiasm for getting caught up in the "current economic situation", I eventually gave in to all the pressure in the media and decided that I had to start worrying and take immediate and decisive steps to minimize my exposure to the global economic crisis. At first, I set my hopes for a bailout, either from the government, the bank or the lottery people. I rushed to the mailbox each day, I checked my voicemail every hour on the hour, but much to my surprise, and chagrin, I didn't receive a priority post envelope with instructions on how I should access my bailout, or a special delivery invitation to attend a news conference about how my bank would be making new forms of credit available to me, or lowering fees, nor did I get a voicemail asking me to contact the lottery office to make arrangements to pick up my massive winnings in front of a live press conference. Undeterred, I decided that I was fully capable of taking matters into my own hands. I implemented a new policy that required all of my department heads to submit purchase order requests to me for approval a week in advance. I also informed my accounting staff that from now on I would be signing all the cheques and reviewing all transactions. It took a little while, but one by one, each of my team members fell into line and gave me back the control that I had so proudly delegated to them over the past 19 years. Everyone that is, except my Chef. As it turned out, our food service supplier (a big multi-national company that has food service supply down to a fine, fine art) had pretty much taken over the ordering process, and they weren't too eager to give it up. As much as I like to be sold by a good salesperson, nothing gets my back up more than when my sales person cuts me right out of the buying process. To force myself into the process, I put a moratorium on ordering from our regular suppliers and invited my Chef to join me at the new Costco store, recently opened in Peterborough. I think my Chef thought I had finally gone crazy, and God knows I was driving him crazy with my new found interest in his purchasing habits. None-the-less, we shared a couple of hours of tense fun pushing big carts from the meat section to the produce section to the canned goods, and back again stopping at every sample table of course. We racked up quite a bill, but it was still significantly less than what we had been spending with our regular food service supplier. Now to be fair, part of the reason for the difference was because we forgot some things, because, as I said earlier, we weren't really in the habit of putting our orders together ourselves, and I didn't think our food service supplier would be too keen to join us on our shopping expedition at Costco. However, there definitely were savings, and I think there was an immediate impact on waste and over buying brought about by my direct involvement in the process. Now, one of the things we bought was coffee. I was a little worried about this purchase, because, although I'm not a big coffee drinker myself, my spa guests are very particular about their coffee. I expected that before long I'd be getting complaints about the cheap new Costco coffee we were serving. So you can imagine my surprise (and glee) when I received an email this morning from our dining room manager asking what we should be telling guests who were raving about our new coffee and asking where we were getting it from. Go figure! I'm still shopping at Costco once a week, and we have an ordering system in place for all departments. The jury is still out as to how much of an impact all of this senior management interference is having, but I have a good feeling about it. Our recession fighting plan is now well underway; it was a bit of a rough road getting there - and we still have a long ways to go. But gosh darn it, we're going to do our part to bring this economic beast to the ground by cutting back our spending, controlling our labour costs, and reducing our credit requirements, and doing our part to contribute to all the fear mongering going on in the media! (Yes, I am being sarcastic, thank you for noticing).