The Gear

  Yes I did, and maybe I will.  

This trip feels really bitter-sweet for a few reasons, some work, some personal and I’ve been struggling to get excited about it.

Milano. Come on! I know right?  Well wrong. From having to pack, yuck, to realizing my curated schedule is going to be dramatically disrupted to missing my hour long morning commute when I get to think – I am working on getting  excited. 

So in my attempt to make things a little more “normal” while I am away I googled and found the highest-star rating Muay Thai gym I could find close to my hotel.  Awesome.

Emmanuel is on the ball.  He replied sometime at 2am his time to welcome me to his club.  And then it started sinking in.  I was what?  Going to randomly show up at some gym where I don’t speak the language and from the photos on their website, they are serious.  Never mind that this is the first time in the country, being sent by work to an office where I am not so sure they know what to do with me when I arrive.  

Let’s add on some more unknowns while I am at it and commit to meeting a group of what looks like a hard-core Muay Thai group.  

And so I spent the better part of the day Saturday and all morning Sunday stressing about whether to pack my gear.  If I don’t pack my gear I don’t need to show up.  If I pack my gear, I might be lugging it around three airports for no reason.  

If I don’t take it, I might be royally disappointed and be getting ansty for my flight home.

In the end I packed the gear.  Emmanuel, I am one step closer to setting foot in the gym you proudly call your own.  

And now it begins again, should I have brought my shin guards, my chest guard, what about a mouth guard? Am I still going to have teeth in April!

If it was linear, it wouldn’t be my life 🙂

Sunday Coffee

An afternoon at the coffee shop while procrastinating on my future is helping me….procrastinate.

There is a couple on a first date. They sound as though they are both on interviews. Each taking their turn talking about the “year’s” they’ve spent honing their professional crafts. They are maybe 30 so I wonder how they’d describe these same stories in 10, 20 years from now. These young adults are our future.

What does life do to us? Experience shapes how we tell a same story from one decade to the next.

What was funny, or smart, or classy or important in our 20’s, isn’t so funny, smart or classy and important in our 30’s and as I imagine our 40’s, 50’s or 60’s – I have yet to arrive!

We mimic. We observe. We try on other people’s stories. We jump into life and we learn. Our beliefs sometimes shift or become more entrenched.

We learn to take ourselves a little less seriously.

Life is good.

Coffee is great 🙂

On Packing

 
 It’s almost time. I’ve begun digging through my closet, making myself a list to pack the perfect away-bag.

I didn’t call the tailor to follow-up on the pants. I haven’t even picked out fabric! Way behind and I am resigned to piecing together a work appropriate wardrobe with what I own.

I like dressing up.

What I don’t enjoy is hauling around 10 pairs of shoes to fit 10 different outfits. I exaggerate however when attempting to pack for in-cabin luggage, space becomes a premium. Shoes become the first thing to get cut from the bag and hence my burning desire for well tailored pants that keep their shape and only require one pair of shoes.

My room becomes a war zone of shoes, boots and clothes strewn about.

In between trying things on, humming and hawing I distract myself with reading the news. Then I decide to dig up my small bills of foreign currency. You know, 1’s, 2’s and 5’s for tipping and paying road tolls.

Ah, my passport. Let me have a look at all the entry stamps I’ve received so far…Munich, Barbados…the list goes on and I smile at the memories. Maybe I’ll do a day trip to Salzburg, a jaunt down memory lane.

Then I flip to the picture page.

Oh, ha, I had a cold, my nose is red, my hair messy. Bah.

Then I look at the issue date….then the expiry date….

Suddenly my anxiety over my wardrobe, the lack of fancy tailored pants is replaced by sheer panic…it expires in less than 25 days!

I check this website, that website, I fill out my replacement passport form.

I convince myself I am going to be ok.

And I will be ok the moment I am holding my new passport, where as a reminder of my neglect I’ll continue to be sporting messy albeit unwashed hair for 10 years.

Post-Valentine’s Day 2016

“Puberty destroys Valentine’s Day.” Unknown man said to the barista. “I’d rather be single than be in a bad relationship. And I think most people if they thought about it would prefer that too.” He continued, “When we are mature and we find someone is nice but we realize that there isn’t a connection, we then can make the decision to be friends instead.”

Amen to that, unshaven, dishevelled man who clearly lives on his own. And I mean that in the most endearing manner. The same could be said for me, in my high top kicks, flannel shirt, and 5 year old faded jeans. I can’t remember if I washed my face this morning. A-T-T-R-A-C-T-I-V-E!

I was struggling to focus on reading my book, the conversation behind me diverted towards the philosophy of changing political beliefs, “Often time as people age they become more right-wing rather than changing their beliefs from right-wing to left-wing.”

I nod to myself, according to Pew Research, the older generation today in the US is certainly more conservative on the extreme.

But not to get political, that was the start to my Valentine’s Day 2016. I can pretend to dislike Valentine’s Day but the fact is I rather like it. It is the one day out of the year that complete strangers are compelled to talk to one another about their beliefs on love and relationships and … politics.

There is that undertone of love gone wrong, a memory of a past relationship not quite reconciled, a little baggage here and there and it’s ok to share in riddles.

We are connected through our experience of pain?

I’ve yet to overhear complete strangers on Valentine’s Day discuss relationship stories of great love and gain.

But perhaps I simply need a new coffee shop! 🙂

The Cannonball

I’ve been in my job a year, it feels like it’s been 5. Work is good and I’ve managed to avoid the 15% per month work travel that was part of my contract. I didn’t think I’d get so excited about not traveling, but I managed to find things to do, like see my family more often, join a dojang and a running group and become addicted to all three.

I built a routine. Something I hadn’t done ever and you know what, those feel-good books are right. Routine is A-M-A-Z-I-N-G and oddly grounding :-P. It’s a breakthrough perhaps only for me and +30 years late but there is no time like today.

So I escaped work travel and I was sad about that, but now that 15% travel in my contract is coming at me full force, “You missed a whole year of work travel so we are bumping your travel up to 90% for this year. How d’ya like us now!”

Ok so they didn’t really say that to me and it’s not 90% but for now there is a “plan” where I’ll have to be packed for 5 weeks straight.

That concerns me slightly – WHAT DO I PACK!

A uniform, I’ve decided. Black dress pants and fitted dress shirts. Boring and functional.

And that is how I ended up on Queen Street East.

After a futile shopping experience where the kids in the Retail shops ignored me and what I did try on just didn’t fit, I resorted to the Internet.

Tailored clothes!

Ok so it feels a little like I am back in the 30’s but I’ve also done my research and the price difference that I am paying between something off the rack that sags in the wrong spots, that will to rub to shiny within months and something that is fitted to me and will last year’s, is minimal.

What has The Cannonball Coffee and Bar have to do with Tailored pants?

Nothing really except it is a Toronto GEM and happens to be just down the street from the Tailor. It has great music, the yummiest breakfast bagels (served after 5pm even!!) I have ever tried, plus their coffee is pretty good.

And the only reason I am here is because work asked me to travel, I need pants, I found a tailor and am enjoying an impromptu evening at one of my favourite coffee house’s in the city.

The Book Club

Where do I start. At the end perhaps.

I was walking quickly towards my car. Down the one way street.

The man standing on the patio, smoking his cigarette called out to me, “You look cold.”

“Yes, I am but I suppose it’s winter!”

“True,” he responded and I kept on marching.

I was shivering, I was cold even though my feet continued to sweat from being in my boots and indoors for two hours, having participated in a book club.

I can’t quite say I actively participated. I participated to the point of laughing when things were funny, shared small talk with the person on my right and on my left, when appropriate (only pre-book club, during break and post-book club) and typed tidbits on my iPad.

I was the only one typing and I am sure that was obvious. I noticed other people jotting things down in their note pads, but no typing. Just me. Typing, smiling, laughing, sometimes looking serious (or at least in my head I was serious) and enjoying my time in a circle full of strangers.

Strange. I know.

The discussion around the book was lively with many different ideas and insights shared. I particularly enjoyed the diversity of the group. This is not a “group think” club. At times it was so academically informed that I was having difficulty keeping up with the concepts that, thankfully, were then followed by light-hearted jokes.

And real funny jokes. I always got the jokes!

I arrived a few minutes early. There was a small group of people waiting outside of the auditorium. The librarian was rustling with the keys, finding the one that fit the lock to open the door. Inside the room I sat down on a chair in the circle and willed myself NOT to pull out my phone. The point of a book club is to be social, no place for my phone. It felt awkward (really, I know) so I rationalized with myself that my iPad would be acceptable – I needed access to Google Books in any event!

The man two seats away leaned over towards me.

“DId you read the book?”

“Part of it,” I replied

“It didn’t like the book. I don’t know who picked this book. Look how big it is,” and he pointed to another book club member who had brought along a library copy.

I nodded towards him not sure what to say to keep the conversation going, but no worry, he continued, “They could have at least picked a book about relationships and marriage. EVERYONE likes reading about THAT,” he emphasized.

I didn’t know how to respond. I clammed up. Of course everyone likes talking about relationships and I imagined in my head what the next bits of conversation would be like and I shyly turned away to my open iPad. All of a sudden I couldn’t bring myself to be social.

Shortly after a second gentleman arrived and sat between us. It didn’t take long before the two strangers were talking up a storm.

“There is a woman I know,” the first man was saying, “She met a Canadian man and moved to Canada. She’s a widow now.”

“Oh yes,” replied the second gentleman

“I can, you know, set up a date for you but she’s older,” and then he stated her age.

The second gentleman nodded and I didn’t catch his reply but I’d like to think he said yes to a set-up to the man who likes talking about relationships and marriage!

🙂

Favourite lines of the night:

  1. “Life is random.”
  2. “We tend to blow things out of proportion.”
  3. “If you want to be happy, join a book club don’t buy a fancy car.”

I enjoyed my night and recommend joining a book club even if only to be a smiling typist.

In The Eyes

I joined a MeetUp Group this past December. This is the 3rd or 4th MeetUp Group I’ve joined but only the 2nd one where I am likely to show up to one of their outings. I admit the groups I’ve joined tend to be a little nerdy and one in particular had some full-on nerd humour in the comments section about the planned events.

“I am busy but I totally want to be there, can you move the event to another evening.” Followed by a reply “If you know how to program, create a clone object of yourself.” Doubting, “Will the object inherit the knowledge?” Reassurance, “Of course if you make an exact copy and you can merge the two so you can consolidate learning from both sources.”

Funny? Eye-roll. It’s funny.

And if I had of been able to make the event, I would have been the creep at the back of a room of 200 people, grinning broadly, being amused to exhaustion.

I missed the event, sadly, but this next event I am going to make. It’s not about data or programming and from the comments section, its going to be much more serious.

This time it’s a book club. Not a “regular” book club. Like the one’s where people show up to a house, 7, 8 people trickle in with food in their hands, no books in sight. This is a bona-fide book club. They have rules. Rules on how long you are able to verbally express your thoughts regarding the book along with other general behaviour do’s and don’ts.

I can do this and the book is intriguing, interesting even.

The book, “Thinking Fast and Slow” discuses how our brains use two distinct functions to process tasks. Fast processes and slow processes, just as the title suggests.

What I have learned up to chapter two is that tasks that require slow thinking are “pupil dilating” and they take more effort to perform. Tasks so demanding that “In the first 5 seconds, the pupil dilates by about 50% of its original area and heart rate increases by about 7 beats per minute. This is as hard as people can work—they give up if more is asked of them.”

Seriously.

So when that person, with whom you are interacting, pupils dilate to 50% of their original size and their heart-rate increases during a slow thinking task, requiring effort, they are on the verge of having given up.

I’ve about given up on this blog post.

The Emergency


My day started out pretty great. After 9 hours of needed sleep, I woke up mostly refreshed. Whatever that thing that was subconsciously stressing me seemed only to be a memory.

Cracking my hands, stopping off at my coffee shop on time, weaving my way through morning traffic, I was at my desk a good 30 minutes early. I had this! I’d breeze through the looming documentation even though I’d be making an effort to concentrate.

I popped open my iPad. I was going to need that playlist to get me through the next few hours. Thank you Chloé.

All settled, earbuds in, playlist on when I noticed out of the corner of my eye a pop-up notification on my iPad.

Hmmm…a family group update. And like the distracted person I can sometimes be I reached over to see what the latest update was all about.

And what was it all about!

It was about my nephew sporting a newly, shaved to the skin, Aang-The-Airbender look! What! So cute. But why.

“Oh dear …. we found lice this am!”

This wouldn’t normally get any thoughts racing through my mind. He lives pretty far away, BUT we did spend the holidays together ….. and there is that possibility a little undetected nymph hopped from his head to ….. all of our heads ….

Now I have a very informed sister who lives close to me. She is informed about most topics. Not just slightly informed, she is FULLY informed. If ever I need to be informed she’s the person I call. I don’t Google, I call her. I love her for that (and other reasons too) but she is super good at calming me down, giving me tips and tricks and basically calling me off from the ledge. I won’t lie, sometimes she will inform me when I am nowhere near the ledge and then I walk over to it and peer over – just to make sure I don’t want to fall over the ledge – basically she keeps me in line.

So I call her. No answer on her cell phone. No answer on her home phone

Argh. She’s probably dealing with this potential lice situation with her girls. I better do the same thing!

I quickly Google “Lice Removal”. I scan the listings and find one with a positive review and call their office. I need someone quickly. The office who can see me ASAP is close to my house. I pick their first available time, 1 hour from the time I’d called, I didn’t have much time so I composed a note to my absent boss and project manager.

“Dear Boss, I have an emergency appointment and will be leaving the office for the day. I expect to be back online by 1pm. This will not hinder our deadline for next week as I will be sure to make up the time. Best Regards”

I pack up my things and tear out of the office, scratching my head, feeling my hair moving on it’s own. I can hardly hold the steering wheel for fear that I have bugs crawling all over my head!

10 minutes away from my appointment, my sister calls me back.

“Sorry don, I didn’t hear your call. I was busy putting away laundry.”

“Just putting away laundry?” I ask, probing, isn’t she worried about a potential lice infestation in her children’s beautiful long hair?!

“What are you up to,” she asks calmly, nothing doing!

What! What am I doing?! I am doing what she is doing?! No? I panic slightly and reply as calmly as I can muster, “I am going to a clinic to have my head checked for lice.”

“Huh, now?” She responds all blasé.

I feel my blood pressure rising, “Ya, aren’t YOU worried about lice?”

“Um, not really, our nephew would likely have only had eggs in his hair when we saw him, so that would have taken time for them to hatch…,” and she continued on her explanation of the life cycle of Louse, including how they lay their eggs, how long they live, how many eggs they lay a day..on and on..and my head feels like it’s going to explode.

She finishes her explanation and reiterates her baiting question, “So you are going to a clinic now to get your head checked for lice?”

“Yes,” I state matter-of-fact and rather proud of my brave decision, “I want to know if I have lice, can you imagine if I have them and I spread them to the dojang,” I gasp the last part. The dojang, I wouldn’t want to be the reason it has a lice infestation, never mind my house, my friends!

She continues her questions wanting to get to the bottom of my decision to be checked immediately, “Did you just up and leave the office?”

Still not understanding what she is getting at I enthusiastically reply, “Yes, I up and left – but not before I sent a note to my boss to let him know I had an emergency appointment.”

“WHAT,” she replies incredulously, “EMERGENCY, you said EMERGENCY!!” And with that she is laughing so hard she can’t breathe!!! “It’s just lice don, it won’t kill you, EMERGENCY,” she continues, “Imagine if my husband up and left his job for a lice EMERGENCY! How many eggs do you think would have hatched between 10am and 5pm!?”

I shiver at the thought but with the visual I burst out laughing and realize my emergency isn’t so much of an emergency but rather a “peace-of-mind” appointment.

For the record I DO NOT have lice, nymphs, nits etc. I did however get a nice hours worth of combing…front to back, the “Donald Trump” followed by the back to front.

I can recommend NitWorks Lice Removal for a relaxing, however intense hair combing. For expert advice, I can recommend my sister 🙂

Handled

Originally, this last blog of 2015 was long winded about why as a child I was relegated to dishwasher duty. I am messy in the kitchen. Also there had been a paragraph or two about the number of people packed into my parents 4 bedroom bungalow for a week. It’s squishy and a little like camping only with a functioning kitchen and bathrooms. If camping were only this organized, warm and dry!

But none of those stories are as funny as the stories I am collecting from spending 7 days hanging out, in some form, with my nieces and nephews.

We just celebrated my birthday. It’s fun celebrating surrounded by kids who love any excuse to be celebrating. I baked a cake for the event and decided it would be fun to have my nieces and nephews ice it.

I had this handled.

This was my idea and as I began setting up to make the icing, oddly everyone above the age of 10 disappeared from the vacinity of the kitchen.

I had this handled.

Standing in the kitchen with my 5 little helpers all vying for attention, all wanting to be part of mixing the icing, two were arguing, two were pushing their chairs around the kitchen, colliding with each other and the 5th was cutely grunting something I couldn’t understand.

I had this handled.

Arranging the two fellas colliding was easy, next was refereeing the argument.

“So tell me what’s happening.”

“Well…”, said in a high pitched voice…

“Without the drama, just tell me the story calmly.”

“Well, she kept telling me the same thing over and over again,” her voice slightly rising, “and I already knew what she was telling me.”

“Ok, so you wanted her to cut to the chase?”

“Yes”

“Alright,” turning to the second little lady, “Your turn”

“Well, I was going to say all that, what she just said, but I was going to add one thing.”

“Ok, what’s that.”

Silence. Arms crossed.

Behind me the two little boys were getting restless. Dancing on their chairs, poking the bag of icing sugar.

“Auntie-dee-dee, how do we make icing?”

Not 5 minutes into our baking adventure and I was already not sure we’d all make it through unscathed.

New found respect for parents everywhere, how do they do this 24/7?!

The icing did get made, the cake did get iced however, before all that happened and 10 minutes into my adventure my sister stepped into the kitchen to give some tips on hardening up the icing.  I handed her my mixing bowl, relieved her of my niece in her arms and scooted out of the kitchen.

Handled 🙂

Car Service…wait, what, date proposal?

A few weeks ago, while out painting the town with my friend and her husband, we took a car service home from the restaurant. Our driver was concerned about UberX and the upcoming launch of UberHop in the city. But he had a plan for the day he’d no longer be driving as a car service.

He was 60-ish year’s old, his son was on the verge of being married. He’d been driving since arriving in Canada some 10 years earlier.

A while back he’d bought himself a classic car that needed some fixing up and in his spare time, fixing it up became his hobby.

As we drove along the Highway towards home, he pulled out of the drivers door side-pocket a dark blue a hard covered binder and handed it to my friends husband seated in the passenger seat.

“That’s the car I am fixing up,” he indicated as my friends husband opened up the binder revealing a number of 8×11, printer quality, colour-photos of his project all neatly tucked into their individual protective plastic sleeves.

He continued his verbal show-and-tell as my friends husband flipped through the pages.

He was finishing up his story as we pulled up in front of my condo building. My friends husband handed back the blue hard covered binder which disappeared back into the car door side-pocket.

He put the car in park and as we all clambered out the driver continued explaining his life plans, “When I no longer have a job as a driver because of UberX and UberHop, I am going to rent my classic car out along with my driving services for special occasions, like weddings”

With a glint in her eyes and a smile on her face my friend quipped, “DF when you get married, you can hire him!”

Without skipping a beat the driver turned to face us and belted out across the roof of the car, “I AM SINGLE!” and he reached into the car door side-pocket, pulled out a business card and handed it to me.