Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Let the purging begin...or not.

Since my room will be painted in the upcoming weeks and I'll have to move everything only to put it back again, I've decided to use this opportunity to start purging some of my stuff. This is like a trial run for the real purge that will have to take place late next year, when I move into my condo.

I hate to admit it, but I'm a bit of a pack-rat. I keep EVERYTHING, "just in case." But I also keep things for sentimental reasons: I have bags of paraphernalia from my trips to Australia, Europe and Asia that I've been saving up for a travel scrapbook; I have old letters and postcards from friends; I have cute little knick-knacks that I received as gifts way back when and boxes of cute stationary and cards...and let's not forget the clothes.

(This is just a fraction of the cute stationary I picked up while I was in Japan a couple years ago)

My clothes have taken over two bedrooms: my own, which holds mainly my fall/winter/transitional wardrobe (these seasons are the longest in Canada after all) and my collection of handbags; and my sister's old room, where I keep my summer wardrobe and all my many shoes.

The other spare room is my den/study, where I keep 2 desks: one which, aside from administrative details and notes, also houses more cute stationary and the other, which I use as a work-table for my jewellery hobby.

So...I started out with great intentions. I pulled open one of the drawers in my ancient wardrobe and started sorting things into 2 piles: one to keep and the other to donate. When I tried putting the drawer back in, the plastic runner on the side of the wardrobe broke, and the bottom fell out of my drawer.

What was I supposed to do with all the stuff I was going to keep?! I hate looking at the hole where my drawer should be. Until it can be fixed, my keepers are in a big plastic bag and the drawer is leaning against my wardrobe. The hope is that the contractors will have small enough nails to secure the bottom in place. I'm not so sure that it can be saved though...I'm all set to go to Ikea this weekend to buy a new wardrobe since they've got a big sale going on now anyway.

Long story short, this minor setback was enough to put me off a chore that I wasn't all too keen on...I know I'll have to get to it eventually...but that broken drawer is the roadblock. As long as my keepers are in a plastic bag, I can't begin sorting to purge because I know there will be lots to donate and I'm a bit freaked that in all the confusion that may result, I'll donate the wrong bag. That would not be good. A mistake like that could put me off purging in the years to come, and I don't want to be the crazy pack-rat woman who keeps everything and anything. No. It's better to postpone my purging until the conditions are right...

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Real Home Renos: prologue

I came home from work to find out that our granite counters won’t be in until next Wednesday, so the kitchen remains unfinished until then. The house has been in complete disarray for the last couple weeks: the stove and dishwasher are presently under heavy plastic in the backyard; the kitchen table, microwave, cutlery and mugs are in the family room; and the fridge, along with the rest of the kitchen drawers and the innards of the cabinets are scattered around the dining room table. Thank goodness we have a kitchen in the basement; otherwise it would have been beyond miserable to have to eat out for such a long period of time.

To make things worse, the contractor who will be working on what remains of our home renovation says he’ll be able to start work this Saturday! So I'll have to spend the start of this long weekend sorting through things to determine what goes back into our unfinished kitchen and what is to be donated, and the rest of the long weekend dealing with the endless dust as the faux wood-panelling in the family room and basement is torn down and drywall put up.

(And yes, it’s a statutory holiday Saturday, but these guys are Chinese, and the Chinese generally don’t observe holidays—my parents used to own a Chinese supermarket and our store was open 365 days a year, which explains why I don’t have any memories of childhood family vacations.)

While I like to consider myself a detail-oriented planner (maybe it’s the Virgo in me), my mother’s content to sort of do things on the fly and let the “experts” take care of things. I’m very wary of leaving the details to chance like that. If we consulted with an interior designer/decorator, it would be a different story since they would have taken the time to find out what our particular tastes are, but we’re not dealing with a décor expert. Perhaps the contractor will know what’s the latest and greatest in baseboards—but will they know what colour we’d like to paint them?

To that end, I’ve spent the last few hours making detailed notes on what needs to be done and picking out paint colours for all the different rooms in the house. This entire renovation exercise has highlighted the differences between me and my mother. Left to her own devices, all our walls would be various shades of white, and our floors various shades of beige. It’s this indifference that has resulted in a dirty cotton-candy shade of pink on our two upstairs bathroom floors which doesn’t relate at all to the countertops (one of which is varying shades of beigy-brown and the other off-white.)

I’ve picked out soft shades of greens, blues, pinks, creams and taupes for the house….none of the colours are as deep as I would like, but it’s definitely an improvement over white here, there and everywhere.

We’re doing a complete overhaul of the house, which has remained pretty much the same since we first moved in 20 years ago. Once this contractor is done, we’ll replace all the window treatments and the wall-to-wall carpeting. I’ve been working on convincing my mother to re-finish the hardwood floors that are beneath the carpets—it seems such a shame to cover up such beautiful hardwood floor. Besides, we’ll be able to work in some more colours by laying down area rugs—but my mother prefers the feeling of carpet beneath her feet, and she’s bent on recovering with the same boring beige.

I will continue to fight the good fight to add some colour and spice to our home, and maybe she’ll come around to my way of thinking sooner rather than later—she did about getting a new kitchen table. She was initially set on keeping our blond kitchen table because it’s “good quality”, but it occurred to her about a week ago that it won’t match the dark granite counter we’re putting in. She’s made noises about getting a glass-topped table in a smoky gray (!!) Maybe there’s hope for us after all. :)

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Happy Pride!

The weather was perfect for Pride today. The sun was shining and the temperature was just right—not like the suffocating heat we had last weekend!

This was the first year that I’ve seen the parade from start to finish…and I can see the reason for the banner that said something along the lines of “Fuck the corporations” being marched out near the start of the parade. There was a crazy amount of corporate presence….the Trojan condoms float made sense to me: gay men, safe sex and all that…but it was a bit odd to see the big banks walking along…RBC, CIBC and TD were out and proud..

Stranger still was the float for the candidates for leader of the federal Liberal Party. I recognized Michael Ignatieff, Gerard Kennedy and Bill Graham. Scott Brison might have been there too since there were people in the parade holding signs for him. Not to be outdone, the NDP were accounted for as well (Jack Layton and Olivia Chow rode their bikes, and Howard Hampton walked the route.) I can understand why Mayor David Miller and members of Toronto City Council were present since this is their city (and though I've read in various articles that he's tall, I never realized how tall until I saw him today and he’s slimmed down much since he was first elected.)

It's funny how on any other day, public nudity would result in a fine/arrest by police, but during Pride, it's perfectly acceptable. To paraphrase my gay boyfriend: there’s boobage on display that I don’t want to see under normal circumstances, let alone painted and on parade. Oh!…and TNT: Totally Naked Toronto…old men walking about in their birthday suits!! My tender eyes! ;)

I didn’t get nearly as much sun as I would have liked…I spritzed on the SPF 30 so my legs look no darker tonight then they did this morning…I missed a spot on my shoulder so I’m a bit tender there. All in all, it was a long and fun day. A perfect end to the weekend.

Friday, June 23, 2006

The happiest day of the year

According to a Welsh psychologist who derived a formula for its calculation, today is the happiest day of the year. In case you ever wanted to do some number crunching on your own:
O + (N x S) + Cpm/T + He
Where O = being outdoors and outdoor activity,
N = nature,
S = social interaction,
Cpm = childhood summers and positive memories,
T = temperature,
He = holidays and looking forward to time off.

I love Toronto in the summer. There’s so much to do! Summer festivals, blading and people-watching down by the Beaches, sitting out on the patio, backyard BBQs and browsing the weekend artisans’ market at the Distillery District…This weekend alone marks the beginning of the Toronto Jazz Festival, the Dragon Boat races at Centre Island, and the culmination of Pride Week.

Then there’s the stuff to do outside of the city: the Stratford and Shaw Festivals, wine-tasting in Niagara, cottaging and camping (not that I have ever engaged in the latter, since I’m a city girl and I must have my creature comforts—staying at a cottage is the closest I’ve ever come to roughing it.)

The best thing I like about summer though is that I get to wear all my pretty girly-girl skirts!—and I have many. I probably have enough summer skirts (not including dresses) that I could go about a month without repeating. That being the case, I’m trying to cut back on the purchase of said skirts, which appears to be working pretty well since I haven’t bought a new summer skirt this year.
BUT! (And there’s always a but.) It seems like I’ve just taken the funds that I would have spent on skirts and re-directed them towards other things. I’ve never really considered myself a shoe girl, but in the last 3 months alone, I’ve bought 8 pairs of shoes, soon to be 9 pairs because I need to find one to go with this gold and cream silk brocade dress I bought to wear to a friend’s wedding…it has a full-ish pleated skirt with pockets. Very Oscar de la Renta!

So, with all that’s going on this weekend, what am I going to do with myself? Tomorrow, I think I will shop in the morning, and perhaps take in some jazz later on in the day and Sunday I plan on catching some rays while out at the parade with the boys. It should be much fun!

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

BA? Check. CMA? Check. MRS? Nada.

Thanks to various administrative chores done on behalf of my mother, I’ve been called Mrs. [x] so many times in the last few days that I’m starting to get really annoyed.

It all started with the Home Depot credit card on Sunday. I filled out the application and when the teenaged girl came back with my temporary “card” (read: stapled papers with an account number printed on it) I noticed that the card was for a “Mrs.” When I told her I wasn’t a Mrs. and asked to have it changed, I was advised that I would have to call a 1-800 number to get it done. How dumb is that? I can be approved for credit on the spot with nothing but a driver’s license as ID, yet I can’t have something as simple as my title changed?!

Granted, I probably should have checked the box for my desired title—I had left it blank because I was lazy and annoyed to be applying for a card I didn’t want in the first place, just so my mother could get herself a $15 gift. I usually check Ms. if it’s available, otherwise, I leave it blank. I figure, my name is obviously a woman’s name, so why should I bother checking the box anyway?

And just this morning, while I was talking to a couple phone companies about canceling a line, I was called Mrs. again—more than once. I'm not sure why it irks me so much, so I started to think about it...

Growing up, I used to think that I would be married by 30 and all the things I am capable of doing for myself, I thought a man would do for me—meanwhile, 30 is just around the corner and I remain single. I’m not waiting around for a man to complete me though: I've studied and worked hard to get to where I am today. I’ve travelled abroad; I’ve bought myself diamond jewellery because I can and because it makes me happy (advertising does work! right hand ring, anyone?); and next year, I move into my very own home—I’ll be deep in mortgage debt, but it will be my own. I am an Independent Woman.

I would not claim to be a “feminist” though. There are many definitions of the word, the most basic being an advocate of equal rights for women. But more often than not, the word feminist brings to mind radical bra-burning man-haters—extreme imagery, I know, but that’s what comes to my mind.

So why do I prefer Ms.? According to

Ms. also Ms (m z)
n. pl. Mses., also Mses also Mss. or Mss (m z z)

1. Used as a courtesy title before the surname or full name of a woman or girl: Ms. Doe; Ms. Jane Doe.
2. Used in informal titles for a woman to indicate the epitomizing of an attribute or activity: Ms. Fashionable; Ms. Volleyball.
[Blend of Miss, and Mrs..]

Usage Note: Many of us think of Ms. or Ms as a fairly recent invention of the women's movement, but in fact the term was first suggested as a convenience to writers of business letters by such publications as the Bulletin of the American Business Writing Association (1951) and The Simplified Letter, issued by the National Office Management Association (1952). Ms. is now widely used in both professional and social contexts. As a courtesy title Ms. serves exactly the same function that Mr. does for men, and like Mr. it may be used with a last name alone or with a full name. Furthermore, Ms. is correct regardless of a woman's marital status, thus relegating that information to the realm of private life, where many feel it belongs anyway. Some women prefer Miss or Mrs., however, and courtesy requires that their wishes be respected.

I find this note interesting since the word's association with the women’s movement is likely due to the magazine of the same name founded by Gloria Steinem in the 70s. But it's the last bit in regards to it being the correct term regardless of a woman's marital status that resonates with me.

Why is it necessary to signify one's status anyway? Men don't. They're a Mr., regardless, yet women are branded. I don't want to rant on about the double standard in the negative terms that have been used to describe single women in the past, (spinster and old maid spring to mind) and the struggle single, independent women have gone through to gain society's acceptance. (Betsy Israel's Bachelor Girl does a fairly good job of chronicling this history.)

It irritates me to no end though that my mother believes my life is incomplete without a husband. My role model, who single-handedly raised 3 kids while leading about 20 employees in her own business and supported us all through post-secondary education thinks I need to learn to be weak and let a man help me do things that I can do for myself.

I’m quite befuddled by how I am supposed to learn this “skill.” It’s a complete 180 since I never saw it growing up. My mother was always the image of a strong, independent woman. When I encounter such “weak” women, I have no patience for them. I find it manipulative and I refuse to be that woman. (Maybe it's a means of flirting? That's probably a different post and a different problem though...)

Anyway...if it seems like I contradict myself, it's probably because I'm still trying to figure out where I stand on this issue. Here's what I know: I am not looking for a man to complete me. I'm doing quite well on my own, thank you very much. What I am looking for is a man to enhance my life, I am in search of that indefinable something that makes everything "more": more funny, more sad, more happy, more angry, more everything. I thought I had found it once or twice in the past, but it turns out I was wrong, so the search continues...Is there an MRS in my future? Only time will tell.

Monday, June 19, 2006

I now understand why people siesta....

It's been freakin' hot. So hot that I felt lethargic and needed a nap midday Saturday, which is pretty unheard of for me. I know, boo hoo, too bad, so sad. If it's not too hot it's too cold.

I spent a pretty unproductive Saturday afternoon. I couldn't even muster up the energy to work with my pretty beads. All I could do was sit in front of the TV and veg because it required the least amount of effort. And I waited until the last minute to get ready for dinner, only because Curtis was on again.

I picked up the birthday boy for our second dinner celebration, this time at Byzantium, where we indulged in some tasty martinis. We ended the night at Woody's, which was rather underwhelming, despite the Best Legs contest and the drag queen show. The birthday festivities were kept purposely low-key in preparation for this weekend's Pride parties.

Meanwhile, the renovation continues. I spent yesterday afternoon and this evening checking out light fixtures and faucets...I ended up applying for a Home Depot card that I will likely not use again, just so my mom could get a $15 gift. She continues to think up new things that she'd like done in the house; her most recent brainstorm was to add a pantry to the basement kitchen. I talked her out of that and she appears to be OK with my reasoning, but who knows what she'll come up with tomorrow? All I know now is that I probably best get some sleep. I'll need it to face whatever she comes up with next.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Diamonds and Pearls

It was my 1/2 day Friday so I drove out to Scarbaria to check out beadFX. I was inspired by this diamond and pearl necklace (two of my favourite things!) so I spent some time picking out pearls and crystals for my version. Guess what I'll be doing this weekend in my free moments??

My man Curtis is on so we're spending some quality time before I have to head out to dinner AND the tile for the kitchen floor has been laid and it looks FABULOUS!

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Ix-nay e-thay uxedo-tay

I went to visit my designer-friend after work tonight. The first order of business was to discuss my custom-made tuxedo-style suit. It’s been over 6 months since we first dreamed up this suit, and because the pants and the jacket weren’t ordered at the same time, fabric from different dye-lots was used. Unfortunately for me, of the fabric that remains, there is no match. Since the first rush of excitement had long faded, when presented with the opportunity for a credit, I took it.

My main intent tonight was to discuss the design of a white summer dress incorporating elements from a couple of my favourites. After chatting with her, I am now considering the possibility of a second dress. She reasoned that since she has to make the pattern anyway, I may as well maximize its use and get a second dress out of it.

The other possibility for using up what remains of my credit is to make a couple pairs of dress capris since most of the capris I have are too casual for work… so I go back this Friday afternoon to look at fabric samples. It’s a good thing this is my week for a ½ day Friday since I have a slew of errands to attend to, in addition to this latest appointment.

This weekend is shaping up to be a very busy one, with a couple of birthday dinners in a row and Father’s Day. I have to figure out how to best co-ordinate the logistics so I’m efficient in gas consumption as a drive back and forth across the city. The prospect of paying $70 for a tank of gas makes me almost regret getting a V6 engine when a V4 would have sufficed. But I do so enjoy how responsive my little coupe is when I need to accelerate quickly… :)

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Boring Beige or Daring Drama?

I know summer officially arrives next week, so I’m rather late to write about this, but spring is not about the birds and the bees. No, one sure sign of spring is when renovations appear to be in full swing.

My office is nearby a neighbourhood of multi-million-dollar homes, so the warm weather has made it more agreeable to go for walks out and about during the lunch hour. While on these walks, I’ve noticed that quite a few homes have those big trash bins parked outside with work crews occasionally loitering about during a break.

We’re about to start our own kitchen renovation, among other things. My mother first considered turning our home into a construction zone last fall. It was supposed to be my project but it’s taken this long for me to feel like we have any kind of momentum because my mother keeps changing her mind.

I used to think it might be fun to be an interior designer, but if I had to deal with clients that were as indecisive as my mother on a regular basis, I don’t think I could handle it. She drives me quite mad. I’ve seen Design, Inc. with Sarah Richardson and I don’t think I could ever be as diplomatic with clients…I’d probably bite my tongue right off.

My uncle is our contractor for the kitchen renovation and his workers could be in as early as Thursday to start demolition. We picked out tiles for the floor and backsplash tonight. As soon as I walked in, I saw what I wanted: a rich ebony/gray 14x14 granite tile with flecks of gold that matched our countertop exactly. The pattern it was laid out in included a 4x4 white tile set in the intersection of 4 of the dark tiles. It would have made for quite the dramatic kitchen with the white cabinets we had picked out. But my mother didn’t like the idea of a dark floor—she keeps gravitating towards boring beige and cream.

After looking at all the samples twice, and in some cases, thrice over, we decided on something we could both live with: a 13x13 porcelain tile for the floor that’s imitation marble with a vein of gold running through it that picks up the gold flecks in the granite countertop. It also has spots of white in it that echo the white of the cabinets. The backsplash is a sort-of beige 4x4 tile that has co-ordinating decorative tiles that will provide the drama and tie everything together. Until I saw the backsplash sample, I was pretty set on a darker floor, but I think the decorative tile will save the kitchen from being boring beige.

So, in the end, my mother gets her beige and I get my drama and everyone is happy. I’m excited and nervous at the same time, anxious to see the end result. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that it will come together as I envision it. The samples look like they’ll work, but until it’s a done deal it only exists in my imagination. I've never had to take responsibility for starting something from scratch like this before...and what if it goes horribly wrong?!

The upside is that this is practice for when I will have to choose the finishes for my own condo (hopefully) later this year. The downside is that if it turns out awful, my mother will have to live with the kitchen and I will have to feel guilty every time I come home for a visit. Not to mention what the the various aunties and uncles in my mother's extended circle of friends will think. I'm not usually one to care, but I know how some people are, and I am Chinese after all. I'm not immune to wanting to save "face"! Please please please let it turn out well!!!

Sunday, June 11, 2006

"Your room is messy."

My 5-year-old cousin has been spending his time after school with us while my aunt has been out-of-town. He stays for dinner, and then we take him home where a grandmotherly neighbour watches him until my uncle arrives home from work. One day, last week, he was in my room, and what does he say but: “Your room is messy.” Yeah, tell me something I don’t know, kid.

So I spent the day cleaning and organizing. I started with my car intending to work my way from the inside-out. After two hours of vacuuming, dusting and cleaning, I was tired. So I drove to the nearby carwash to finish the job.

My room was next on my list—more specifically, the pile of new books on my dresser that needed a home on my crowded bookcase, the clean laundry that’s been sitting on my couch for the last week, and the endless receipts, papers, magazines and dust that litter my dresser and floor.

Somehow, while vacuuming, I cut my thumb. How? I do not know. The last time I mopped the floor, I tripped over the bucket so hard that I bruised myself and broke the skin. I still have the scar to show for it. I think the universe is trying to tell me something…like maybe I should stop it with the cleaning.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Adventures of a Curious Woman

Sometimes, in the course of my reading, I come across passages that articulate my feelings about something precisely—oftentimes it’s an idea that I haven’t fully thought out, but when I see it in print, the thought is crystallized in my mind. I came across just such a passage when I was reading Educating Alice, by Alice Steinbach. In relating her writing workshop experience, she writes:

…listening to literature read aloud—poetry being the exception—in no way approximates the experience of reading a writer’s work on your own. To become fully engaged in a story, I need to see the words on a page, to see how they fit together, how they shape ideas and meaning, and how they sound as my thinking voice says them.

‘Nuff said on that.

I’m inspired by Ms. Steinbach. I read her first book, Without Reservations, about 4 years ago and loved how she heeded the impulse to temporarily abandon her daily routine and responsibilities to travel and seek a new life. I love too, how she wrote herself postcards while traveling and mailed them back home as a reminder of her experiences.

In Educating Alice, she travels the world taking lessons and courses. I’ve always maintained that if I ever won the lottery, I’d go back to school, just for fun and study whatever interested me. After reading her book, I realize that my fantasy was too small and conventional.

Ms. Steinbach traveled the world stopping in cities like Paris, where she learned to cook at the Ritz-Escoffier Ecole de Gastronomie Française; she went to Kyoto and studied traditional Japanese arts through the Women’s Association of Kyoto; her course in Florence through the British Institute enlightened her about that city’s Art; while studying at the University of Exeter in England, she explored The World of Jane Austen; in Provence, she discovered secret gardens; and in Havana, she familiarized herself with Cuban architecture and art.

One of my favourite chapters was the one of her stop in Prague because many of the places she wrote of where familiar to me. I was last there in April and stayed in Mala Strana on Nerudova Street. I walked up the many steps to Prague Castle, explored Stare Mesto and Josefov, browsed the designer shops on Parizska Street and hung out in Ebel Coffee House in Tyn Square sipping a Hot Apple…those were a fun 3 days in a city where just about everywhere you turned, there was a beautifully-restored art nouveau building waiting to be wondered at…

You're welcome any time, Curtis

I must confess, I'm a reality show TV junkie...not the Survivor/Apprentice-style reality shows. This breed of "real people" seem to play to the camera to produce the greatest amount of drama in order to extend their 15 minutes of (in)fame(y), it's like watching a train-wreck and I just can't do it.

No, I much prefer the reality of shows on networks like TLC, HGTV and the Food Network.

A recent fave is Take Home Chef on TLC, which I’ve caught a few times while channel surfing. Although I’ve never been one for blonds, Curtis Stone can surprise me at the grocery any time and offer to come home and cook for me.

Scene: We're sitting together having breakfast and reading the newspaper. He says something really silly and charming in his Aussie accent about a story he's reading so I can't resist but laugh and muss up his hair, which is, as you can see, already irresistably mussed.

According to the bio on his fansite, he's 30, he's single and the man can obviously cook. In one word: yum. ;)

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Should I stay or should I go

I want this David and Goliath T. It succinctly expresses my feelings after our group off-site yesterday:

I had an impromptu discussion this morning with my manager. I don’t even remember how it started…we were talking about the work I’ve been doing for Finance, which he actually had to help me with yesterday so that I could make it to our last minute off-site. He might have asked if I was “pissed” about something…so I told him I wasn’t pissed so much as frustrated.

This temporary stint with Finance has not unfolded as advertised—it was supposed to be an opportunity for me to gain a different perspective of the company, etc., but I haven’t learnt anything new—the work I’ve been given comes in drips and drabs. It's tedious and anyone with half a brain can do it.

The group meeting we had yesterday about our mandate going forward sounded great, but time will tell whether or not there is any substance behind the talk and if things will indeed pick up.

I told my manager very frankly that if things don’t change in the next couple months, I will be looking for a new job. And that’s when he suggested that we should go across the street for coffee so we wouldn’t have to whisper any more.

We sat and talked for about half an hour, and I’m glad that we had the conversation…it remains to be seen whether anything constructive will come of it since I’m not the only one in the group who is finding it hard to keep busy.

I've heard the little pep-talky speech about how people in our group are hand-picked blah blah blah. Today's analogy was that of the stable of race horses: senior management likes to have a stable of talent to run whichever race that comes up. (How flattering to be compared to a horse. The other analogy I've heard is that of players on a sports team and how we've got strength in the bench.)

Being underutilized, or worse, not utilized at all, is a problem for everyone on the team and for that reason, among others, group morale has been particularly low. You can't have a group of smart high-achievers and expect that they will be content to sit around un-challenged for long. To say it's poor talent management is an understatement.

Given how things have been the last 7 months, I’m not very optimistic that things will improve. But maybe I’ll be proven wrong. Regardless, I think it wise to update my CV…just in case.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Lucky Shopping!

Yesterday afternoon, a meeting request was sent out for a group off-site scheduled for today. In my almost 2 years with the company, we’ve never had an off-site. Other groups manage to have them on a seemingly regular basis (even Finance!) but our group? Not.

Last year, a golf off-site was scheduled, so I took all these lessons to prepare, but they were all for naught. It was cancelled at the eleventh hour because we were in the midst of due diligence for an M&A deal and to this day, I'm still irked by the wasted expense. I could have used those funds on something more meaningful to books...or a pretty handbag...or shoes...

Our V.P. kicked it off this morning with a meeting on-site, outlining our group’s focus and mandate for the next 6-12 months. We then made our way north to Lucky Strike Lanes for lunch and bowling.

I hadn’t really thought much about whether or not I would enjoy myself since I’m not much of a bowler—I was more concerned about whether or not I would even make it to this off-site since I was committed to helping Finance out for the short-term.

It turned out to be a lot of fun. They mixed it up a bit by adding in all these criteria for the first game. They included bowling with your opposite hand, bowling with your eyes closed, bowling without standing on your feet, etc. I’ve always been a fluke player, so it was no surprise that I scored better in that first game then I did in the second one, when I played “normal”. I managed to halve my score in the second game, that’s how bad I am.

Afterwards, I went shopping. I’ve never been to Vaughan Mills, and if it weren’t for this off-site, I don’t know when I would have come up to shop since it’s quite the trek. So, I decided to take advantage since we finished around 3:30.

Oftentimes, I find it’s riskiest to shop when I’m alone and not looking for anything specific because I can take my time trying stuff on that I perhaps might not normally, just “for fun." And that’s when the trouble starts…

My one goal was to hit Holt Renfrew Last Call and UpCountry, so I started walking towards that neighbourhood—that’s right—the mall’s so freakin’ big that they call the sections neighbourhoods. By the time I got there, I’d already bought a pair of really cute espadrilles and a pair of black pumps called Venom by Charles by Charles David. I love them in gold but they were only available in black at the store. :( I also bought 3 tops, 3 pairs of pants and a belt. I was on FIRE—which is kind of funny since the fire alarm went off in between our two games and the loud, shrill beeping forced us to seek refuge outside in the sun.

If you take a look at the map, I didn’t travel very far—I didn’t even make it through half the mall! But by the time I got to HRLC, I was tuckered out. I walked into the store, and faced with all the racks before me, I turned around and walked right out. I couldn’t muster up any enthusiasm to hunt up designer bargains. I went next door to UpCountry and sat in a lot of different chairs and sofas. I stayed long enough to file away some furniture ideas and to summon up the energy to make the drive home, and then I took my leave.

Now I’m feeling the discomfort of bowler’s arm and must rest. I am sure I will get quite the ribbing tomorrow from the rest of my team if I tell them how much trouble I got into after I bid them all good-bye…Perhaps I’ll just keep mum about the retail therapy I didn't even realize I needed...

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Brace face, part deux?

I had an appointment with my orthodontist today for my annual appliance check-up. (Why do they call it that? Fridges and stoves come to mind whenever I hear that word, unless it’s prefaced by small, in which case I think of electric can openers or toaster ovens.)

After a couple minutes of looking at my bite, he pronounced that everything was fine and was all set to scoot me out of his chair when I asked him about why my two bottom-front teeth were slightly crooked, especially when I wear my splint faithfully every night. How can my teeth be crooked?!

Apparently I's got issues. Of course, I knew that already...I just didn't realize how bad they were! You know Jay Leno's famous chin? That would have been me without the orthodontics and oral surgery.

My be-yoo-ti-ful smile cost my dear mother a very pretty penny and it irks me that I will have to endure braces again if I want my teeth straightened out. My orthodontist thought very carefully before he answered my question as to the why—something about forces keeping the teeth in place but because I breathe with my mouth open sometimes (doesn’t everyone?), my teeth have grown out…who knew?! I thought I just clenched my jaw.

He outlined 3 options to resolve the crowding that's happening amongst my bottom teeth. He can:

1. place small titanium screws in my bottom jaw to help pull my back teeth back into the jawbone (sounds extremely ick, but apparently it’s a very simple and painless procedure) and put braces back on to straighten the teeth at the same time;

2. straighten my bottom teeth with Invisalign braces;

3. make a splint for my bottom teeth to maintain the status quo.

Of course, the 4th option would be to do nothing at all, but the consequence is that it will likely get worse. Not an option I find appealing.

The whole screws in my jaw thing just does not work for me...I already have permanent titanium screws in my jaw...I don't feel the need to add any temporary ones...and the fact that the screws are supposed to pull my teeth back into the bone just sounds painful. Why would I do that to myself?!

Option #3 also doesn't appeal because I already have one splint...the last thing I want is to add another. How sexy do you think it is to go to bed with your mouth filled with "appliances"?!

So, upon initial consideration, option #2 seems the best, even though it will be costly and likely uncomfortable. But, the clear plastic will be virtually invisible, I won’t speak with a lisp for the duration of treatment, and I won’t have to worry about food stuck in my braces.

Next steps include further research and checking to see if my insurance at work covers orthodontics, and if so, how much…if only I weren’t so vain...

Monday, June 05, 2006

The art of grace

This article about Chinese brush painting and Toronto-based artist William Ho brought back childhood memories of taking the 505 streetcar down Dundas to my painting and calligraphy lessons at Ming Ming Kids Club on Spadina.

I remember the sense of independence and freedom I felt that my mother allowed me and my siblings to travel the distance alone by streetcar and then walk from Dundas to almost Queen along Spadina when we were so young…I must have been about 10 or 11. Nowadays, I don’t think any parent would allow their child to travel too far from their sight…the city was a safer, kinder place back then.

When I was a kid, China Book Store on Gerrard Street was one of my favourite places in the world. I loved to browse the cute stationary on display there. I still have the Little Twin Star lead pencil set that my parents bought for me….and the Leslie Cheung music tape that my grandfather gave me because my dad wouldn’t allow us to listen to pop music…

One of the aisles at the China Book Store stocked Chinese brushes, beautiful rolls of rice paper, watercolour paint sets and the cakes of black paint for calligraphy. I loved to visit this aisle to pick out the supplies for my lessons. My one specialty was painting bamboo stalks. It was the easiest thing to paint and was just about the ONLY thing I could paint well.

I’m rather inspired to look into one of Mr. Ho’s painting seminars at the ROM. I have no delusions of suddenly becoming an artiste…I’m far too critical for that…but it would certainly be nice to relive the sensation of holding a Chinese paint brush and dabbling in watercolours again…if nothing else, I’d just like to unroll that beautiful rice paper and feel its thick texture between my fingers…

Sunday, June 04, 2006

What I'll miss about my 20s...

One thing I’ll miss about my 20s, aside from the fact that I will no longer be a twenty-something, is all the theatre and cultural discounts I will no longer be eligible for. I was reminded of this when I was reading about the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts, which is the new home of the Canadian Opera Company. There was mention of a program for patrons under 30 that made available 120 seats for $30 each. When the new season opens in the fall, it will be too late for me to take advantage of this program. I'll have to pay regular price like everyone else.

I’m not a big symphony fan and never have been, even though I was a member of the "symphonic band" at school—memories of sitting through TSO rehearsals at Roy Thompson Hall on high school field trips and trying really hard not to fall asleep come to mind—but because of tsoundcheck, which makes available $12 tickets to young people aged 15-29, I went to quite a few performances in the last couple years—without falling asleep, even. I guess taking away the “must-do” element of school helped alleviate the boredom and want-to-fall-asleep factor. They also occasionally offered special ticket prices to performances by the National Ballet of Canada and productions by the Canadian Stage Company, which I also took advantage of.

As a theatre fan, what I will really miss are the discount programs at Stratford Festival and the Shaw: Stratford’s Play On lets anyone aged 18 – 29 buy tickets to selected performances for only $20—BUT! It seems after visiting their website, that Stratford has a new program called Play Encore, for people aged 30-35, which affords savings of up to 50% on designated performances all season long. Yay!

Shaw Festival also has a similar Pay $30 if you’re under 30 program for regularly-priced performances at all three theatres. For whatever reason, I was always a Stratford Festival chick as opposed to a Shaw Fest chick, despite the latter's close proximity to the Niagara wine region. (Last year was actually the first year I had gone to the Shaw and the $30 tickets certainly made it more appealing.) Too bad there isn’t an extension for those 30+. Boo.

The stereotypical profile of a patron of the arts as one who is well-to-do, older, and white is not sustainable. It's to the benefit of cultural institutions to reach out and target young people. If you hook 'em while they're young, there's a greater chance that these young people will remain patrons and supporters of the arts.

These discount programs make culture more accessible and affordable. A classical concert isn't necessarily something that would appeal to the regular twenty-something at regular prices starting at about $30. But at $12, less than it costs to go to a movie, it might be considered a viable option when considering what to do on a week night after work. It certainly was for me.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

7 hours later on a rainy Saturday...

I woke up this morning to a rainy Saturday, and it made me smile because it's perfect weather to stay indoors fussing with my beads! I went to the bead store, picked out some more crystals, pearls and shells and made it home in time for blueberry pancakes.

I tried not to be anxious to start my project...after brunch, I did the dishes, read the paper...and then set myself up at the kitchen table with iTunes powered up on my laptop.

I laid out all the materials and arranged them in a pseudo-random pattern, measured and adjusted...and finally got to work. I thought I was done on 3 or 4 separate occasions, but it was either too long or too short, or the stones didn't layer together properly, or the colour combinations weren't right to my I'd cut the wire, several times in the middle of the chain, and re-connect with a different bead.

Even when I thought I was finally done, I wasn't. I removed a bead or crystal here or there and re-wired. Here's my version to the right. Not bad, huh? It’ll look fabulous with summer white.

In the end, it turns out I bought too many beads—about $40 too many! I suppose I got a little carried away and didn't plan as well as I thought I had. Oh well. I figure I can make something with what’s left for my sister. I’ll have to go back to the bead store to get additional beads though…I’m not thrilled with the combination of what’s left on its own. They’re rather blah colour-wise.

And with this necklace done, I can turn my attention to a new project...and I have many waiting in the wings...but I'm not sure my bank account can handle it. The materials for this one alone cost about $100 (though the one that inspired it retails for US$250). So much for my fantasy of turning this hobby into a side-gig. The costs are probably too high for it to be viable, unless I were to take on the occasional "contract" to make pieces for friends and family.

Sourcing the materials to make this necklace was quite fun; it was sort of like a grown-up version of a child's learning game to match things that are the same. I think I might explore other bead stores though...and start comparing prices and selection. There's a store in Scarborough that apparently has really great prices for Swarovski crystals...and there are a couple stores on Queen Street I have to check out as well...

Friday, June 02, 2006

The 5 people who change your life

We have summer hours at work so I worked a ½ day today and met my ex-manager for lunch. I actually saw her last weekend but didn’t really have a chance to catch-up with her one-on-one.
When we first met 9(!!) years ago, she was working at her first full-time job out of university, and I was on my third co-op work term. We kept in touch off and on through the years and eventually worked together again when she hired me about 2 years ago. I had always been fascinated by the kind of work she did and was hoping to find something like that myself somewhere.

It’s a bit funny how I ended up working for her. We were in the midst of a re-org at my last company and while I am certain I would have been placed somewhere in the organization, I didn’t want someone else to decide my career path for me. I had been bored for a while anyway, and had been thinking about a change, so the re-org was the kick-in-the-butt I needed to start looking.

I started searching the job sites and got in touch with a headhunter I had worked with in the past to get the ball rolling. When I first read the posting for my current job, I remember thinking: “Wow, sounds like the challenge I’ve been looking for….and eerily similar…” When I looked at the details for the job, it turns out my friend was the hiring manager. So I sent her an email to ask if it would be weird for me to apply, went through several rounds of interviews, and the rest, as they say, is history.

I have this vague notion that Dr. Phil or some other self-help guru wrote a book about how there are 5 people in one’s life who have a significant impact...I seem to remember, too, Oprah talking about how this book changed her life…I’ve sort of played with this idea, wondering about who the 5 in my life would be, and if I’ve met them all yet.

This list would most definitely include my parents whose actions and thoughts have fundamentally shaped my personality and beliefs—my father because he died when I was 9, and my mother because she raised 3 kids on her own. That leaves 3 spots free on my list. In terms of my career, to date, possible candidates include two people who have helped me along the way, one of them is a friend from school, and the other would be my ex-manager. Who’s to say what the future will bring and how this list will change?

On a lighter note, I’ve been practicing my wire-wrapping the last couple evenings just so I can get my hands on the good stuff. I’ve also been browsing various sites online to find some inspiration so that when I felt my technique was worthy of more expensive materials, I’d have the perfect project to focus on. Well, I think that time is now.

I’ve lately been quite taken with turquoise so I spent an hour after lunch at the bead store having a ball picking out semi-precious stones, crystals, shells and pearls to make a necklace similar to this one here. Over $100 and forty minutes in rush hour traffic later—at 2 in the afternoon!!!—I get home and lay out all my goodies into a pattern. It’s then that I realize I didn’t buy enough beads, and the wire I bought was the wrong gauge! Grrr! So, instead of starting work on my necklace as I had planned for the afternoon, I have to wait until tomorrow to go to the bead store to get sufficient supplies. How disappointing.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...