Monday, November 7, 2011

Into the Dark

Man, this change back to standard time is screwing me up!  I was having a hard enough time with the normal progression of things, getting used to going to work in the dark at 7am after so many months of early morning light.  Of course now with the change back we've got a few weeks of earlier morning light (sunrise at 7am), but it's getting dark at 4:30!  ACK!

I humbly admit to having a few issues with this time of year.  First, is that I have to make sure I take a walk with Trooper immediately when I get home or it will be dark before I get around to it. Of course pretty soon the snow and cold will be the bigger issue.  For now, I will enjoy complaining about the dark!

Second, is that I feel like a senior citizen.  Case in point, T and I were out running a couple errands this afternoon and were driving home as it was getting dark.  Dark = dinner time...right?  So we decided to run over to our favorite local go-to, The Roasted Pear, for a bite on our way home...only to find when we got there that it WASN'T EVEN 5:00!  We had to order a beer pretending we were there for happy hour to save face...otherwise it would seem we were there for the early bird special.


All that aside, as much of a transition as it is, I wouldn't give up living in a northern climate for anything.  I adore the definitiveness of the seasons, the reminder of impermanence, the joy of renewal and learning to embrace change.  The natural world is my teacher in all ways, and I am grateful to be this intimate with her cycles -- which are our cycles -- and to capture what wisdom there is glean from our interactions, which are different at every time of year.

Being present dictates shifting our lives in response to what is available in each moment.  It will take the next three months to get back to where we are light-wise in this moment.  Three months!  We are moving into the darkest time of the year, which for some is worrisome -- seasonal affective disorder at the top of the list -- and for others, can usher in a beautiful time of quiet contemplation, slowing down one's outside activity...or in my case, catching up on all those great books I've been putting off!  To be read in front of the fire, of course!

It can be a glorious time.  If we honor our bodies, minds and spirits and what they need as circumstances around us change.  Some of those changes can feel mighty the change back to standard time for instance??!?

Here are my rules of thumb for this time of year...

When we're tired, sleep. There's everything to be said for a good nap now and then.  Me?  I prefer a sunbeam on a Sunday afternoon...or any afternoon I feel the need and can pull it off.

Take our supplements, especially vitamin D.  I supplement with at least 4,000IU daily, especially this time of year, after learning two years ago during my annual physical in January that I was woefully deficient.  Deficient not because of any underlying health problem -- simply from living in Minnesota in the middle of winter.  Not only does vitamin D deficiency contribute to fatigue, but it also interferes with the absorption of calcium (which is why milk is fortified with it) and for women especially, can lead to osteopenia and eventually osteoporosis.  The truth is, most of us in the northern states simply can't get enough vitamin D from the sun this time of year.  I'm no doctor, but in my experience, I would never spend another winter without my vitamin D ever again.  Ever.

Get out and enjoy the outdoors when we can.  Winter is one of my favorite times of year to be out walking/hiking/snowshoeing at the farm.  It's exciting to me to start chilly and after a short time walking, becoming warm and comfortable...while I'm out in the cold!  Positively exhilarating!  And exercise, being out in the elements when the conditions allow, will get those endorphins pumping, boosting your mood as well!

Enjoy the season of comfort food.  I adore cooking this time of year, however I am aware of the need to watch the cream-of-mushroom-soup-factor I told you about! : ) A hearty soup or stew with a loaf of fresh bread can beat back the chill and lift my spirits better than almost anything else this time of year. I love it! In my book, everything is fair game...and everything in moderation.

Pace ourselves. Winter is the time of year when the world slows doesn't mean we need to grind to a halt, but in all our busyness it's easy to forget that it is our natural cycle to slow down as well.  Allow it as often as possible.  Rest, read, reflect, play games, cook...all of the things that get put by the wayside in the more active parts of the year.

The more we learn to connect with and listen to our bodies, the more we're able to respond to what they need, the more light we'll be able to shed on finding our way in the dark.  I'm all for that!//

What's For Dinner Tonight?
As I mentioned, we went to The Roasted Pear -- our locally owned, go-to. Most of the time, we have a fantastic experience...tonight, however, we did not.  Many factors play into the experience we had, most of all, that it was likely just an off night.

So minus the details, which again are incidental, I'd like to just take a moment to say a word about customer service.  T and I both work in service industries and while I do not under any circumstances believe that the customer is always right (what a destructive message that turned out to anyone who has ever worked in a service job can attest), I wholeheartedly know that the customer is why we're in business. Customers are our business.

That being said, I do believe that when a situation unfortunately goes south -- which, let's face it, it does from time to time -- it is up to the employee/manager/whomever to know how to treat a customer well. We are all people, after all. The best question an employee can ask of themselves is, How do I let this customer know they matter?

In my opinion, a customer should never be expected to direct an employee(s) how to adequately resolve an issue...this only frustrates the situation and rewards people for making a stink. Personally, I'd like to reward the folks who understand an off night by offering something for their trouble first -- a gesture of good will -- rather than leaving it open-ended, requiring a customer to potentially take advantage of the situation in order to get any response at all. And when that customer is unwilling to make a stink, doing nothing and calling it all better.

Maybe I'm making my stink now.  (Eeeewww...what is that smell??!)

It boils down to this...loyalty is built upon relationships and relationships (our ability to relate) are based on service. On authentically showing your customers that you value their experience.  Better yet, that you value them. Tonight, some loyal customers walked out of a maybe-not-so-favorite-anymore haunt, not because of an off night, but because of lousy customer service.

And that's just sad. Completely avoidable. And sad.

Good thing we have some ice cream in the freezer so I can go make my own hot fudge sundae...(now, was that so hard?).

Nighty night!

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