Sunday, November 25, 2012

Shopping For Clothes

I HATE shopping for clothing! Yup, I admit it! I am a female who does not enjoy shopping for clothes!

For many years, I was able to find much of my wardrobe at a Canadian chain called Cotton Ginny. I LOVED that store and spent a great deal of money over the years! Sadly, it closed down a couple of years ago. Many items in my closet bare the Cotton Ginny label. I LIVED in their Organic Cotton jeans! They had just a small amount of Lycra for stretch but - OH they were SO comfortable!

I'd been dreading the day, when I had to shop for new jeans. Those beloved organic jeans have been getting a little thread bare in the last year and wasn't sure they'd make it through another winter. I really should have stocked up before the store closed for good.

Oh well, this past September it was time to face the fact that I needed new jeans. Where to start? Mark's Work Warehouse has a wide selection of garments and I'd found a few tops there over the years, but I'd never gone jean shopping there. Warehouse One was another option. I vaguely recall finding jeans there in the late 80's or early 90's. Oh, for the days of my youth when I could just pick up a pair of Wranglers without having to hit the fitting room!

I'd heard some great things about a store here in Winnipeg on Sargent Avenue called Sargent Blue Jeans. Lots of styles to choose from, knowledgeable staff and free alterations - all at very reasonable, competitive prices. It was a bit out of my way, but if I had to find jeans, I decided to start there.

Sargent Blue Jeans isn't a fancy clothing store. It's focus is on the clothes it carries and the service it provides its customers. As you walk in, the sales counter (large enough to use for a cutting board) is on the right. The fitting rooms are on the left with a commercial sewing machine nearby. Clothing hangs on the walls. In the middle are long rows with a huge assortment of neatly stacked jeans.

The woman at the counter greeted me within seconds of my entering the store. She explained that the owner had stepped out for a few minutes and she was very busy, but would help me when she could. She was in the process of altering a pair of pants, but asked me what I was looking for in a jean. I showed her the CG ones I was wearing and said something like this! CG, had had their own sizing so I had no clue what size to ask for. She looked me up and down and said she would find some to fit me.

A few minutes later, she walked up and down the aisles, stopping occasionally to check through the stacks for a size. She returned with three pairs thrown over her shoulder - showed me into a fitting room and gave me the jeans.

I tried on the first pair and was stunned to realize that they were a perfect fit! I tried on the other pairs. Over the next 15 or 20 minutes, she knocked on the door a couple of times to ask if I needed any help or other sizes. I told her what fit, what didn't and where they didn't fit. She removed the ones that didn't fit and brought more to try on.

This woman was amazing! She just looks at the customer - then walks down the aisles stacked with piles and piles of styles & sizes - picks out a few that she thinks will fit you! She was helping about 3 or 4 of us at the same time AND doing the alterations while we were trying things on! She never once got any of our sizes or style needs mixed up!

By the time I was done, the owner had returned. He was working the cash register, helping customers and ironing newly altered seams.

I tried on eight or nine pairs and purchased two very comfortable pairs of jeans that day - one a dark denim (the first pair I had tried on) and the other a charcoal grey. The total was just under $90 including taxes!

Needless to say, I will be returning to Sargent Blue Jeans for any future jean purchases!

That same day, I was also looking for a wind-breaker. I had been to Mountain Equipment Co-op a week or so earlier but hadn't found anything that I liked that was under $200! YIKES! That was more than I had paid for my winter jacket! Since I was already out, I decided to push my luck and keep shopping!

Wilderness Supply on Ferry Road at Ellice was my next stop. I found a summer weight rain jacket I liked but I wanted to check out Cabela’s while I was out in the area as I REALLY didn’t want to spend $130! The clerk said it was a 14 day return policy or she could also hold it for me for up to a week, but suggested that I should come back on that Saturday as there was going to be a big sale and I could get 60% off! I said that bus service on Saturday wasn’t great so the manager gave her the okay to give me the discount while I was there! With taxes it was $58 and change!!!! Kudos for telling me about an upcoming sale AND giving me the price in advance!!

I was on a roll! I caught a bus back down Ellice to Cabela's. I had to wait a while for a clerk in the women’s wear to be available but it was worth the wait as I found a rain jacket with a light fleece lining that is great for spring/fall and easily layered with my heavy weight hoodie! With taxes – $78 and change!

A VERY successful shopping trip! Three stops, two pairs of jeans, and two jackets for just under $230! If only all my future clothing excursions could be that successful!

A couple of weeks ago, I did return to Cabela's and purchased a pair of water/wind proof pants. I tried on the women's style but they were too short but the men's fit. I'll be layering them over long johns and jeans on the really cold days I venture out this winter.
I don't know how often I'll make it to Cabela's come the new year though as they are moving out near the new IKEA store. At the moment that area has extremely limited and very poor bus service.

I've yet to find suitable locations to buy most long sleeved items or dress pants but I'll keep looking.

With any luck, I'll find more stores that carry items I like before I have to join a nudist colony!


Sunday, November 11, 2012

Remembrance And A Hope For Peace

Today is November 11. In Canada and most Common Wealth countries today is known as Remembrance Day.

At the eleventh hour, on the eleventh day, of the eleventh month, citizens pause to pay tribute to those brave souls of the armed forces who have served and especially to those who died in the service of our country.

I can remember going to services in elementary school. The school would hold a service in the gym on the school day closest to November 11. All students were expected to attend - parents and guests were also invited. There would be bagpipes and some other music, readings, as well as a laying of a wreath. We'd hear veterans from WW1 and WW2 talk about service and freedom. I don't think they told too many war stories, but then again, I was very young.

My maternal grandfather served in WW1. Several uncles served in WW2. To the best of my recollection, I can't recall hearing war stories from them or anyone I knew when I was growing up.

To be honest, I never really understood the meaning of the day when I was a kid. I don't remember being taught a lot about war and its consequences until we reached junior high or even high school. History was never one of my favourite subjects though, so whatever we were taught, pretty much left my memory as soon as the tests for various eras were over.

Even so, the concept of a nation at war and people being drafted into military service or freely signing up to fight anywhere in the world seemed like a very strange concept to a farm kid on the Canadian prairies.

Naive? Yes, I was somewhat sheltered, but that was the early 1960's. The Cold War was looming and the Vietnam War was heating up but both seemed obscure in my world. My parents followed the news and read the papers, but media did not have the ever intrusive roll that it does nowadays. Talk of wars half way around the world or demonstrations against the wars, were not common topic in our area. My parents were more focused on the day to day responsibilities of running a farm. They focused on the weather forecasts as well as the livestock and commodities markets. They focused on raising their children.

My parents did tell us some stories of what it was like for them during the depression of the 1930's and the struggles of rationing during WW2. Given our relative state of abundance, it seemed hard to believe that things had been that difficult only thirty odd years earlier.

As I grew up and was more exposed to the state of the world outside of my prairie home, I saw more reports of world conflicts, civil wars and sadly, even more senseless deaths.

Some want all the toys and all the land and the blind, undying loyalty of the people that they rule.

Some refuse any and all rights to women - including the right to be educated.

Some believe that their religion or language is the only one of value.

Some are all too eager to pick up a weapon and go after their version of justice.

Some choose to believe in the necessity of war - the concept of an eye for an eye and all the destruction that goes with it.

Not me. No matter how hard I tried, I just couldn't seem to wrap my mind around any reasons for people to go to war. Why couldn't they find a way to get along and live in peace?

I was a pacifist long before I even knew that there was a name for what I believed.

Strange as this may sound, I think it was while watching TV shows like "The Walton's" and seeing their day to day trials through the 30's and 40's that made war and hardship more real for me. I've never been comfortable watching war movies or documentaries though as the emotional and physical consequences of war, were just too painful for me to watch. The images would haunt my mind for days and nights after. The only two movies that I can recall managing to watch in their entirety were "Mrs.Miniver" and "Schindler's List".

In more recent years, I've had the opportunity to hear many radio broadcasts from the war years. They often included stories from the home front of how WW2 was affecting their lives and how citizens could help the efforts of the allied forces fighting on so many fronts for freedom. It hasn't changed my beliefs on pacifism - it has just helped me to understand more of the circumstances and realities of those times.

Today, there is a multitude of media formats to keep us apprised of the seemingly countless conflicts of the world. Despite all the hardships and lessons of the past, there are still those who feel the only answer is to go to war over lands, possessions and beliefs.

Why can't we find non violent ways to resolve the differences?

Why can't we learn to accept each other equally?

Why can't we learn to share?

Why can't we learn to be tolerant of others, 
regardless of our languages, religions, beliefs and abilities?

My heart breaks for those who have had to endure war. For the innocent victims of war. For those who have lost their lives in the pursuit of freedom and equal rights for ALL citizens. For those who have lost friends and loved ones. For those families who must cope with the absence of a loved one who is serving. For those brave souls who come home broken, scarred and disabled.

However, I choose not to wear a red poppy to honour those who have sacrificed so much for our freedoms.

If I were to wear a physical symbol of Remembrance Day, it would be a white poppy. A white poppy is a pacifists symbol of showing respect for, and remembrance of ALL victims of ALL wars. The word peace is written across the black center to symbolize a hope for the future.
I know that my opinions aren't shared by all and that some will be offended or feel that I am being disrespectful of those who serve. Not so. I am deeply grateful for the sacrifices they have made. With all of my heart and soul, I just wish that war and it's consequences were not even a possible answer to settling differences.
So, on this day of Remembrance, I stop to think of those who have given so much and to hope that someday, there will be Peace throughout the world.