Sunday, November 15, 2015

Much Ado About A Red Cup

Unless you have been living under a rock for the last week or so, you've no doubt heard that Starbucks new holiday cup for the 2015 season seems to be going over like a lump of coal. In the past, the coffee giant has offered a variety of designs to celebrate the festive season. This year, the design is a simple red cup with the chain's logo on it. No snowflakes, snowmen, trees or other holiday symbols.

For the record, I don't even drink coffee and can almost count on one hand the number of times I've even splurged or been treated to one of Starbucks other overpriced beverages. Truth is, I rarely go to "coffee shops" of any kind. I have more important, life sustaining things to spend my limited finances on. That being said, I know a number of people who make an almost daily pilgrimage to a Starbucks or a Tim Horton's for their java fix.

The loudest outcry against the simple design that Starbucks has introduced seems to be coming from those who are devout Christians. For some reason, they feel that this is corporate America and political correctness trying to ban their holiday traditions and religious freedoms.

Despite what many of the "offended" want to believe - let alone acknowledge - is that there is more than one religion and a number of those religions also have major celebrations that often overlap with the Christian observance of Christmas.

Regardless of your religious beliefs - or lack thereof - the holiday season is supposed to be about love, peace and giving.  Yet, many Christians have chosen to get their knickers in a knot over an apparent blocking of their religious beliefs. Even some Christmas traditionalists are crying foul over the lack of symbolism. People are screaming from the top of their lungs - and their social media pages - about the supposed slap in the face from Starbucks for removing "holiday symbols" from their coffee cups. They've deemed this a "War On Christmas".


Here's the deal people. IF you can afford the beverages at Starbucks you are better off financially than many people in this world. If you are offended that Starbucks is now offering a simple red cup that doesn't acknowledge your specific holiday beliefs and traditions then you need to find a way to be more accepting and tolerant of other religions and beliefs. Despite what you may want to believe, this time of year is a celebration for many religions. It ISN'T all about you and your beliefs.

Not to mention, that a red cup from a mega corporation that doesn't feature "your" particular holiday themes is a pretty minor thing to complain about in the grand scheme of life!

There are millions of people in this world who are homeless. Millions who are risking their lives fleeing from war torn countries. Millions who don't even have clean, safe water to drink.

I highly doubt that many of them would gripe about the type of cup their beverage was served in. They'd more likely just be grateful for the beverage within,

Expressing your religious views through your own decorations is entirely within your rights. Implying that your personal beliefs are more important than others is just selfish and inconsiderate.

Complaining because a company chooses to be more inclusive and tolerant of other peoples beliefs than what you are willing to acknowledge is just plain ignorant and intolerant on your part.

Luckily, for the majority of (Starbucks) complainers, you live in countries with countless options of where to get your beverages. If you want your overpriced beverages in a holiday themed cup then buy a thermal or reusable cup with the symbols on it and - if you must - parade it in front of all those who choose to be more tolerant and accepting of other peoples beliefs or those who have other beliefs.

Slowly sip your beverage while sitting atop your self-righteous high horse.

Then, try taking a careful step down from your pious perch and think about just how truly fortunate you are.

You have to make a choice. The taste of your beverage or how it is served. You have choices in beverages, where to obtain them and how they are served to you.

If you still feel the need to complain then perhaps you could try a different approach.

Buy your coffee somewhere else. There are any number of other places to buy your pricy drinks. Though not as pricy or as diverse in choices and varieties, you could buy a beverage at Dunkin' Donuts as they have introduced a holiday themed cup for this season with the word "Joy" on it.

What's that? Dunkin' isn't up to your standards? Then why not skip the big chains and support a local coffee shop? Some of those independent or local chains serve some rather fancy brews. Not to mention that supporting small businesses is good for the local economy.

Better yet, make it at home and carry a more environmentally friendly thermal mug. With all the varieties of coffees and coffee makers on the market, surely there must be at least one that could help sustain your caffeine fix!

Purchasing your beverages at another business or making it at home probably won't make a big difference to Starbucks bank account. However, the money you save will add up and can - no, should be used to help others less fortunate than yourself.

The money you save can be donated to a homeless shelter, a food bank, a toy drive for under privileged kids or any number of other worthy charities. No doubt they would be truly grateful to accept your donations.

BTW, your coffee cup protest may also create a side benefit! By not purchasing those expensive blends you may also cut back on a few calories! A regular cup of coffee - even with a bit of cream and sugar isn't nearly as high in calories as the specialty concoctions! That is, assuming you can also resist all the donuts, muffins, shortbread and other holiday treats that are often served alongside those beverages! A refillable bottle of water and some fresh fruit would save even more money and calories but that would probably be asking most of you for too much saving and giving!

As I said, the choice of how and where to obtain your beverages is up to you.

Personally, I don't believe there is a war on Christmas.

Declaring a war on anything is NOT the answer.

I believe that we need to find ways to work together. We need to find ways to bring cultures and religions together without killing each other in the process. We need to make a conscious effort to learn about other people's beliefs and cultures. We need to find ways to be more tolerant of our differences and more accepting of those who don't have the same beliefs.

Respect, understanding, acceptance, inclusiveness, tolerance and love should be our goals. It is the only way we will ever bring peace to this sorely troubled world.


Sunday, November 1, 2015

Fleeting Autumn Beauty

According to the calendar, we are almost halfway through Autumn but you'd never know it by looking at the trees around here!

Mother Nature rarely cuts us Canadian prairie folk a break when it comes to the fall beauty! I don't mean to sound ungrateful, but it always seems that those in Eastern Canada and the North-Eastern United States get a longer more spectacular show of Autumn foliage  I've made no secret that Autumn is my favourite season but the picturesque beauty of it is far too short! Here on the Canadian prairies, we are lucky if the leaves stay on the trees more than a couple weeks after they start turning!

It just doesn't seem fair - especially when you consider how long and harsh our winters can be. There really should be a law that Mother Nature is not allowed to throw heavy rains or strong winds while the leaves are in full on fall glory!

Oh well, I guess that is supposed to make us more grateful for the fleeting beauty of the season - and for me it does! When the leaves are at their most colourful, I set aside almost anything else that needs doing to go out and enjoy as much of it as I can! Even when I am home, I find myself looking out the window just to admire the colourful treetops of my neighbourhood!

I took several walks this Autumn as well as enjoying my apartment view! I'd like to share some of these views with you today.

This year, the leaves were just starting to turn in mid September, but there was a bit more colour by the end of the month. On September 25, I took a walk in Assiniboine Park.
Over the next week or so there were a few nights with a bit of frost and the leaves were in full out beauty by early October! Alas, they were also starting to fall!

I took a walk out Wellington Crescent to Munson Park on October 2.
Sunrises, are always a bit out of view from my apartment, but there are mornings that the reflective light is just too lovely not to take some pictures! This seems to be especially true in Autumn!
On October 9, one of my gal pals and I took a walk through Assiniboine Forrest. Despite living in Winnipeg for many years, neither of us had ever been there before! It was a cool, partly cloudy morning but we thoroughly enjoyed the crisp air and the spectacular beauty of the urban forest!  There are numerous trails through the forest, with a few markers along the various paths. Intersecting paths are marked with maps, but there are also a few small painted markers on tree branches to tell you which path you are on. Our walk was mostly on the pink and green trails, though the light blue and yellow do align with them in places. 
Then came a major rainy, windy Thanksgiving Monday (October 12) and it was all but over for the majority of the colourful leaves. Soggy leaves covered the ground and nearly naked trees were everywhere!
Such is the nature of the changing seasons here on the prairies! So, I enjoy the beauty while it is here. When the outside weather isn't cooperating or the beauty is past, I focus on preparing for the coming months. Thanks to above normal temps, I managed to hold off on many of those fall chores till after Thanksgiving. Since then, I've switched out the down blanket for the down duvet on my bed. The summer clothes have been moved to the back of the closet. Summer jackets have been packed away and the heavier ones now hang by the front door. Gloves, scarves and even the boots are at the ready, but hopefully won't be needed for a while yet. The freezer has been defrosted and an inventory taken of it and the pantry. There have been numerous errands and shopping trips to restock the pantry and freezer for the winter months. I've also been gathering my supplies for holiday baking which will be started in the next few days.

Time moves all too fast come September. One day the leaves are green and we are still in summer clothes. In what seems like a heartbeat the leaves have turned and are falling to the ground. The weather gets nippier, the days get shorter and we pull out the heavier clothing and turn on the heat. We pull out our cookbooks and turn on our stoves to fill our homes with the scents of the bountiful harvest.

It is now the beginning of November. The clocks have been set back an hour and we have entered that sometimes bleak inbetween season. For some, there is the anticipation of outdoor winter activities, but for many of us there is the sense of impending partial hibernation and indoor activities.

To each their own.

For me, I will treasure the beauty that was - no matter how short. I will enjoy the pictures and the memories of times shared. In the coming weeks there will be plenty of holiday baking to keep me busy. There will always be recipes to play with. There are books to be read. Movies and videos to be watched. Writing to be done. Winter's naps to be savoured.

Thank you Mother Nature for the fleeting beauty that is our prairie autumn.