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A little romance, a few laughs. It's all good.

  • THEA LAMBERT

I’ve just arrived at a library and Sinatra comes on the Christmas radio station. I love Christmas music. I love Sinatra. He was so cool, had a great voice. So, I sit and listen for a while.


Ol’ Blue Eyes is crooning, “I’ve Got My Love to Keep Me Warm.” A Mills Brothers classic, but Sinatra is doing it justice. It’s got a slightly romantic vibe, acceptable in today’s MeToo climate, unlike “Baby It’s Cold Outside.” I start to sing along with Frank. I’ve got it going on. I should be asked to do a duet with one of his songs, like Celine Dion did. I don’t like Celine.


I start to sing louder which always annoys my family. But they don’t understand. I knew a young man who wanted to be a recording artist, something his family dismissed. I remember a particular line of the acceptance speech he planned to deliver when he won a Grammy Award. “I’d like to thank my family, but…”


I open the car door while the song is still playing and I’m still singing. The song starts to crescendo, “Off with my overcoat, off with my glove. I need no overcoat, I’m burning with love.” My voice hits the top note, let’s face it, not very well, but with commitment. Meaning loud. Then I see a gentleman unlocking his car door as he stares with worry. He carefully gets into his car, still watching me. Perhaps he thinks I’ve got a paper cup and plan to ask for a gratuity.


And like that, my daydream of Frank Sinatra’s estate urging me to record with the crooner crumbles faster than a gingerbread house that hasn’t been enforced with royal icing. I get back into my car and slide down the seat, remaining until the man drives off. It’s a cold night in Iowa, but I am burning with embarrassment. But it doesn’t last long. R&B great Etta James follows with the song, “Merry Christmas, Baby.” Her singing is strong, sure, powerful. And like that, I’m pulled away from my doldrums and am back in the musical groove. I start singing again. Singing strong and sure, even if it’s too loud. I am in the spirit of the season. I feel like that line Etta sings–“I haven’t had a toddy this morning, but I am lit like a Christmas Tree.”


  • THEA LAMBERT

We were busy at our laptops, working on our NaNoWriMo projects, when the atmosphere in the room changed. I looked up to see my friend Mavis* staring at her computer with a stunned yet hopeful expression. Her voice shaking, she said, “Would you read this? I think I’m near to getting a publisher and I want to make sure I’m reading this right.”


Another writer and I began to read the detailed email from a publisher in response to Mavis’ manuscript. And while it wasn’t a yes, it was a very strong “you work on these specific issues and you’ve got a contract.” When we confirmed that it was indeed what she thought, Mavis broke out into the widest, happiest smile you’d ever seen. She was radiant and teary-eyed. The rest of us were smiling and cheering too. It was so great that a good writer and a good person was getting close to the goal she held in her heart for so many years.


A few hours later, however, I wasn’t smiling as much. Oh, I was still happy for my friend, but new feelings began to flare as I thought, “When will it be my turn? Will I ever have a turn?” It was petty and selfish, I knew that. Mavis has been faithfully writing a lot longer than I have and her skill level is higher. We don’t write in the same genre. She’s the one who encouraged me to submit my work for publication. But I still was jealous.


Of course, this has happened before. I’ve read about classmates, acquaintances, and former co-workers who are doing very well, according to Facebook or LinkedIn. But those successes are easier to take when you’ve only read about them and not have them happen in front of you. I used to work with a woman named Cammy. We worked in the same position and became friends. Eventually, she left and I got a promotion. It was a position that no one desired, dealing with people who were penny-pinching and difficult. But it was one of necessity.


A few months later, Cammy realized she wanted to return to the company and she was welcomed back. I was glad. I’d missed her. When another co-worker decided to leave the company sometime later, Cammy was promoted. Technically, we were in the same position but hers had a higher profile and more prestige. I was kept at the other job because I was already trained for it. It was easier keeping me there than training someone else. I was the red-headed, stepchild of my department. I was hurt and angry. But not at Cammy who, while happy to get the promotion, felt bad for me and hoped I wasn’t mad at her. I hid how I felt because I didn’t want to rob her of her joy.


Yet, for a while I felt like that quote of Gore Vidal’s. “Every time a friend succeeds, I die a little.”


Now it was happening with Mavis.


I realize that there is no point comparing myself to others. There are always going to be people who are more successful than I am and those who are doing worse. We each are traveling on our own paths and should not try to “keep up with the Joneses.”


The writer who read Mavis’ email with me said that seeing this great thing happen to our friend was proof it could happen to us, that we have to trust in the universe.


So, I will trust in the universe, be happy for those who are succeeding, and continue the work that I have to do in order to ensure my own success. However, I’ve heard it said that life is like a game of golf. Every game is different and you are ultimately playing against yourself, trying to make par or better. I can’t help but wonder that if this is true, then aren’t we actually competing against those Joneses who’ve decreed what the par of each hole is?


*Names have been changed

  • THEA LAMBERT

Canada is in the middle of a crisis. Just days after recreational marijuana use became legal, supplies of cannabis are running out faster than had been expected. A greater number of users as well as a dearth of retail outlets (due to a long sales license process) are contributors to this problem. I have a suggestion for Ottawa: NAFTA


The historical North American Free Trade Agreement, signed by Canada, Mexico, and the U.S., has been in effect for nearly twenty-five years. It was used to limit tariffs placed on the goods of the three nations. Canada should ask its southern neighbors to begin exporting cannabis to their country. I’m sure the U.S. states that have legalized marijuana (nine to date) could supply product for the nation. Mexico could as well. And who knows? Wages for farm workers in both countries might increase. And our maple syrup-sucking partner will receive monetary benefits as well in the form of sales tax. But why stop there? Here are a couple of other ideas I’ve had to bring in the dollars (Canadian or otherwise) from the toke-loving citizens of the North.


Marijuana Tours


Kind of like cuisine or wine tours only the tourists here will sample the cannabis specialties of an area. On the tour, they can see how a weed brand compares either when smoking or ingesting it. They can even compare the “terroir” between the different areas that the marijuana is grown. For example, does New Brunswick cannabis have a more peaty taste than one grown in Alberta? If France legalizes pot, “herbes de Provence” will take on a whole new meaning.


Celebrity Weed Endorsements


In England, a product may be given what’s known as a Royal Warrant of Appointment. Basically, it’s an endorsement from the Queen. Look at a box of Twinings Tea, and you will read the words “By appointment to her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II.” Why not do this using celebrity appointments? For musicians, Snoop Dogg, Willie Nelson, Jay-Z, Rihanna, and Paul McCartney spring to mind. With actors, there’s Woody Harrelson, Seth Rogen, Cheech Marin, and Frances McDormand. With sports figures, you would obviously have to go the retired route. No current professional athlete will risk losing endorsement money, so how about Bill Lee, Warren Sapp, or Michael Phelps? Want to feel as rich and successful as a business legend? Buy the marijuana Richard Branson favors and get high when you are a mile high (yes, that’s bad Virgin Airlines joke).


The other day, I heard an eighth grade boy talking about the “4/20 holiday” like it was the coolest thing around. So if cannabis is going to continue to become legal in the United States and around the world, then we should use the situation to find ways to make the drug more average, less prestigious. It might help us not only make a profit in the form of badly needed taxes, but also cause the drug to lose its luster.

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