Monday, September 30, 2013

Big Hair

Yesterday I told my stylist that I had decided to grow my hair long because I want to "embrace change".  He got worried.  Usually when clients come in with a request for something really new and different, it's because their marriage or relationship has broken up.  He thought this was my way of telling him that I was getting a divorce from Ken.


Thankfully, that's not an issue at the moment.  Ken and I are still BFF's.  The (potential) change I want to embrace is the situation in my workplace, which, incidentally, is still hanging in limbo and don't hold your breath because I have no idea. 

I've been dreaming of a headful of long, silky hair which I'm forever plaiting into smooth, glossy braids.  I know the reality won't be quite that lovely.  My hair has a tendency towards frizz, and when I used to braid it I had to strike while it was still slightly damp, and then it usually took three or four attempts to get a nice, even plait without a lot of short bits sticking out in the middle or big, floppy loops at the hairline.  Despite the hassle, I miss fussing over my hair.  It always did turn out looking pretty in the end.

I thought my stylist might be annoyed by my decision.  I figured that long hair would be more trouble for him to cut, without as much scope for creativity.  In fact, he's excited by the prospect!  Which is fantastic!  He's never seen me with long hair; I started going to him after I had it all lopped off around 6 years ago.  And although he gives the impression of being a bit of a scruffy punk, he's the best, most committed hair stylist I've ever had.  He takes pride in his work.

We talked about the last time I had long hair.  I used to keep it all one length, like a thick, heavy curtain, because I didn't feel that I had any other options.  Every once in a while some hairdresser would take it into his or her head to layer my hair, but that would just make it pouf out uncontrollably. My current stylist explained: back in the '80's, when I was still willing to experiment with layering, the proper technique for "texturizing" (i.e. thinning out) puffy hair like mine hadn't been invented yet.  Seriously?  That makes me feel so old!  I was born before the technology to deal with my hair even existed!  At least I'll manage to experience it in my middle age. 

(Or at least I assume I'll live to see my hair grow out.  I don't think that's too wildly optimistic.  It should only take a year.)

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Dutiful weekly update

The past week has been pretty good.

I celebrated my birthday.  One of my friends baked me a delish-tastic cake, and gave me knee socks that say "BOOKWORM" up the sides.  Another friend gave me a bag full of ice cream.   I got a birthday card hand-lettered by a six-year-old, with some of the letters facing backwards.  And I went to a huge second-hand book sale and bought as many books as I could carry home.  So obviously life is pretty great.

On the other hand, there have been some developments with my super-top-secret work situation.  In a nutshell, there is a small but real possibility that I might be out of a job in a week or so.  The more likely alternative is that I keep my job, the situation drags on in limbo, but I have to terminate one of my employees.   Don't even ask why.  It's a long story and I don't feel like talking about it.

So even though I have a lot to be grateful for right now, and that's what I'm trying to stay focused on, life is kind of weird at the moment.  I mean, I actually took home some of my personal property from work, little gifts people had given me and so forth, so that I won't have so much to carry home in a cardboard box if I get the axe.  No one knows what's going on except a small handful of managers, so with everyone else I have to pretend like everything is normal.  It's pretty disorienting wondering if this, say, might be my 3rd-last day of work, or my 5th-last, but carrying on as though nothing has changed. 

I feel sad when I think about losing my job, mostly because of the relationships I've built up at work over the years.  Some days I can keep up the illusion that nothing is going to change, but not every day.  When I get tired of feeling sad, I feel numb.  I know that nothing can last forever.  Maybe what's making it so difficult is not being able to talk about it.  Keeping this huge secret from everyone I've always been so transparent with makes me feel that I'm already at a bit of a remove.

Well, no one is dying; I'm incredibly re-employable; and maybe the future has something even better in store for me.  So no matter how things go, I'm going to be okay.  I promise.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

No wiener required

Thanks for all your kind comments on my last post.  I did speak with my friend, and she heard me out without getting upset.  We're all good now.

Today's topic is something that I didn't expect to be writing about in Toronto in 2013.  I was raised to believe that women can do anything men can do, with the exception of a few obvious biological functions.  Sometimes I forget that I was in the first generation to be raised with these beliefs, at least on a society-wide scale.  In my mother's day, boys took woodworking classes and girls took sewing.  In my day, we all had to do both (and metal shop, and cooking basics).  I find it weird when I run into older peoples' beliefs about gender roles.

I recently took over responsibility for the light-bulbs at work.  It sounds like a joke.  How many Sparks does it take to change a light bulb? Ha ha.  But in an 18,000 square foot facility, believe me, there are a lot of light bulbs.  And as we have almost no windows or skylights, the lights are always on, and they burn out at a tremendous rate.

There are various types of fixtures to be dealt with.  The trickiest are the recessed pot lights.  Frankly, I think they are badly designed.  I took my first crack at changing those bulbs last week.  I brought out the 6-foot stepladder that I had purchased when we were at our previous location: an office with lower ceilings.  The ceiling I'm dealing with these days is 10 feet up.  I had to stand on the second-last step.  I was feeling pretty wobbly, and would have liked to brace myself against a solid support, but you need both hands on these stupid fixtures to pop the bulb casing out of the bracket, twirl the old bulb out, twirl a new bulb in, and whack the damn thing back into the ceiling.  I had a helper (a girl even shorter than me) to pass the bulbs up and be my spotter.  Nonetheless, I wasn't feeling especially secure up there.

An older, male client observed "Aren't there any men around here to do this?"

Well then of course I had to prove that I could do it myself.

There is, in fact, a man around that I could have asked for help.  He wouldn't have objected.  But why should I, when I can do it myself?  I mean, this guy is a Filipino.  If he's taller than me, it's not by much.

So I stubbornly stayed on task until I ran out of fresh light bulbs.  I gained confidence each time I completed another fixture.  Finally, covered in dust that had rained down on me from the ceiling tiles, I called it a day.

Upon reflection, although I was proud of having done the job like a daredevil, I realized that the wisest course of action would be to buy a taller ladder.  So I did.  I placed an order with an online company which promised next-day shipping.  Next time I would have an 8 foot ladder at my disposal.

As so often in life, a solution to one problem created another problem.  The 8 foot ladder was shipped in a 70 foot truck.  That truck could not deliver the ladder to my work address, because it was too big to turn around in our parking lot.  Fortunately, the building next door has a loading dock area.  I arranged for the driver to park there, just a one-minute walk away.  Then I brought my helper girl out to the truck with me.  I figured we could each take one end of the "featherweight" aluminum ladder and carry it back with us.

The driver was an older man, maybe 60.  When he saw us coming, guess what he said?  "Aren't there any men around who can do this?"

I said "Who needs men?", and we two ladies carried the ladder back across the parking lot without a problem.

I mean, I have nothing against men in general.  I'm sure these older fellows were just trying to be helpful, or wondering sadly when chivalry had died.  Sometimes it's handy to have a human with more strength and/or height to help with things, and it just so happens that slightly more often than not those stronger, taller people are male.  But I also really like doing things myself, when I can.

With a tall enough ladder, the sky's the limit. ;-)

Thursday, September 12, 2013

That Uncomfortable Moment When...

In the course of my work, I have facilitated resolutions to many interpersonal conflicts.  It's something I feel confident doing.  Even when I have to take the two combatants into our boardroom for a monitored "airing of feelings" session, I only get a little bit nervous.  Not all relationships can be patched up, but most can.  It's very satisfying to walk into a room with two people who are giving each other the stink-eye, and walk out with good feelings all around.

Most of the time, I'm refereeing between two of my own subordinates, or between one subordinate and a manager from another department.  Subordinates are the easiest to deal with, obviously.  They have to listen to me and they have to make an effort towards resolving the problem, if they like their jobs. 

However, it's a whole other kettle of fish when I have to confront a peer with their behaviour.  Especially when that peer, another manager, happens to be someone I count among my friends.  We lean on each other for support during bad days, and sometimes we spend time together on weekends.

This friend of mine has been getting too aggressive with my staff.  A couple of days ago, she loudly confronted one of my ladies in an open area of the office, within earshot of at least a half-a-dozen people.  My staffer wasn't entirely blameless, but that doesn't justify my friend's outburst. 

My friend has had a bad couple of weeks, and my feeling is that she was indulging in "kicking the dog", without being conscious of it.  You know, that situation where your clients and service providers are ticking you off, but you have to be polite to them, so when you finally have a reason to get irritated with an underling you take out all your frustrations on them?  That.

I can't ignore the situation.  Our organization has policies in place that specifically protect employees from harassment ("any behaviour that demeans, embarrasses, humiliates, annoys, alarms, or verbally abuses a person and that is known or would be expected to be unwelcome").  This is required by the Ministry of Labour of Ontario.

I have two options.  1)  I could report the behaviour to my boss, and let him handle it, in which case my friend would probably come back to me and ask why I didn't just speak to her myself; or 2) I could speak to her myself.  And I will, speak with her I mean.  I feel that I owe it to both of us to give that approach a try.  But I have been going over and over in my mind what I need to say and how I might best say it, and I'm still not feeling sure.

The thing is, in the five years since I've known her, we've never had a serious disagreement.  This will be the biggest challenge to our friendship so far.  Will she be willing to hear "constructive criticism" from me?  Will this affect our working relationship?  Will it create politics amongst our other friends in the office?  I feel that we probably have a strong enough bond that she will be open to what I have to say.  At the same time, I'm scared!

Either way, I'm going to be brave and go ahead with the confrontation as best I can.  It was not possible to do it today, so it'll be tomorrow or Monday.  Wish me luck!

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Lake View

I didn't have anything to blog about, so I went to the lake, just for you.  Okay, maybe not just for you.  I love the lake.  I hadn't been there in a long time.  Now that I live in Willowdale it's just a little too far away to pop down there casually, on a whim.  But I had free time today, so off I went.

Ooh, there it is!  Looking all blue and inviting.

I found myself a spot with a good view, and had a sit.  Me and my new friends hung out and watched the water sparkle.

That shot is not zoomed in at all.  The seagulls were so close I could have reached out and grabbed one if I wanted to.  It was slightly tempting.  Their feathers looked so soft and nice.

Some lucky people live in fancy condos right on the water and get this view every day.

Okay, see the boardwalk across the water?  We're about to head on over there.

And here we are, looking back at the corner where I was sitting a moment ago.  Apparently this is the duck area.  (If you want to see more detail, click on any photo to get the LARGEST POSSIBLE VIEW.)

Hello, duckie!

I wanted to take a photo that showed the majestic grace and nobility of the Canada geese, but they wouldn't cooperate.  They kept sticking their butts in the air.

They are diving for seaweed.

Moving right along.  To the man-made pond!  With paddle-boats!  With a toddler in a toddler-sized paddle boat!  This kid, who couldn't have been more than three, was using hand cranks attached to each paddle wheel to motor around the pond.  He'd even figured out that if he cranked one forward and one backwards, he'd spin in a circle.  What?!  Man, that kid is a better driver than me.

There were a LOT of people in the open-field area of the waterfront, and a lot of booths set up under tents.  It took me a minute to figure out what was going on, but then I saw the banana-girl...

... and I knew.  It was the Vegetarian Food Festival!

I didn't stay long in that area because it was super-crowded.  However, I did take note of a couple of veggie puns.

Badum TSHH!

Come on, folks!  Let's have a little appreciation!

*taps mike*  Is this thing on?


This one was on a food truck.  Lovin' would be easy if your colours were like my dreams.

Having escaped from the crowded festival, I arrived at the wibbly boardwalk.

And climbed to the top of one of the hills.

Talk about a million-dollar view.

Long shadows are so slimming!  Actually, more to the point, they're talling.  I sometimes like to pretend that I'm tall.

That was it!  Having accomplished my mission, I set out for home.  And that, folks, is the end.