Thursday, September 30, 2010

Day 261: On being a third wheel

Generally speaking, I don't discuss my love life here.

You never know who is reading this.

But, I'm gonna state something.

I'm currently single.

And because I'm currently single, I have found myself to be a third wheel on occasion.

At first, this was most unsettling. I would lament and brood when going to a movie with a friend and her boyfriend happened to come along, when sitting alone on the rollercoaster, and when not bringing a date to a wedding... but recently I brought my sister, who as it turns out happened to be the best date ever:

My sister Julie and I. 
Best dressed couple at the wedding.

After time, I've learned to embrace my odd-(wo)man-out-hood. At the wedding (as shown above), I'm officially a friend of the bride and like spending time with her alone but I like spending time with her and the groom, too. There is a different satisfaction for all of us in the trio dynamic.

My friend, Marni, too. I like spending time alone with her but I also comfortably slide myself between her and her sister at her family events, taking my rightful place as the middle child. All three of us need that dynamic, too, for our own separate reasons.

My sister Julie and her husband, too. We brought him to the event to be the "manny" for the baby. I felt super fancy having an entourage. One of my fondest memories of the wedding weekend was driving back with them to the airport so we could have an uninterrupted 3 hour chat. And we three need that dynamic as much as our one-to-one dynamics.

Now I celebrate being a third wheel. I know I won't be a third wheel forever, but I'm learning to embrace the times in life when I am. Perhaps the trios I find myself in during this current state of singlehood are stronger—like a three-pegged stool—than if there was a fourth.


Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Day 260: iCandy and other sweet addictions

Everyone has an addiction.

Or two or three.

If it's not something obvious like smoking, drugs or alcohol, it's caffeine, cheese or sugar.

Whatever just came to mind is yours.

I won't even try to give up coffee.

There are other addictions, too. Love, for one. People who constantly live in—and almost seem to feed off of—the drama of dating and relationships. Been there. Done that. And I actually burned it out via my morning pages. Three cheers for me.

There is the addiction to glamor, too. Spending an unbalanced amount of time on appearance and focusing too much on the size and depth of rolls and wrinkles. Relying heavily on how others talk to you about your appearance. Believing that outward appearance trumps all. That our worth is based largely (or sometimes entirely) on the size of our thighs and the smoothness of our skin.

Another addiction is the internet. Think about the first few places you visit online everyday. For me, I check email, stocks and facebook—in that order. And I'm here to admit to you now that I have an addiction to all three, which I collectively refer to as my iCandy.

I hunger for fun emails, especially the email notifications that tell me you, dear reader, have left a comment on my blog. Oh how I love these! Pah-lease be my enabler.

Then there is the stock market. While it's important to pay attention to investments, I don't have to be so Gollum about it.

Then there is facebook. The daily harvesting of interesting goings on of my friends and facebook crushes. The "what if I miss something" syndrome. Today, my motivation was to harvest photos from the wedding I attended last week where I was a bridesmaid. Fancy.

Today's crop reveals:

Guess who has a bit of the glamor addiction.

Knowing is half the battle, as G.I. Joe says. And he been called a real American hero. He should know a thing or two about glamor addiction.

Facebook also provides a Scrabble addiction so you get two addictions for the price of one login.

Beyond email, stocks and facebook, I head to my favorite blog sites and sprinkle my reading of them throughout the day so I can have my iCandy sugar rush last all day long. It's my new pleasure. My new chocolate. My sweet addiction. 

So dear reader, do you have an internet addiction? If so, what sites do you go to daily? What is your iCandy?


Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Day 259: Canadian Odyssey Part 1: Agritourism/CheeseFest 2010

I just returned from a two week holiday in Canada.

I ate a lot of cheese and fish.

I know what you're thinking. You're thinking, I didn't think vegans ate cheese and fish.


They don't. But I'm only vegan in the USA.


How do you figure? 

I just made that rule up because I was weak, weak I tell you. Weak when faced with two weeks of cocktail parties involving wine, cheese and smoked salmon. I also ate a very-non-vegan Boston Cream donut from Tim Hortons.

Delicious but deadly.


Now that I'm back in the USA, I'm back to being vegan full time. I'm back on all my positions about not supporting factory farming. Funny how that works.

So is this guy. It's a vulnerable little post from one of my favorite vegan bloggers who lost (but is slowly regaining) the vegan stance during his recovery from surgery.

I didn't have to deal with recovery. I was just at parties most of the time. Wine is the gateway drug to  brie and smoked salmon.

First stop: Southern Ontario. In between family events, I was driving around checking out the  agritourism of the region.
Agritourism helps small farmers keep business alive by supplementing traditional farm work with tourism. -- from HowStuffWorks.com
All these little hobby farms have cropped up around Southern Ontario and have sweet little fruit stands at the end of driveways. Most of the time these stands aren't manned by anything more than a tin can for money. You put your loonie in, you grab a squash. People don't generally stiff the farmer either. That's just bad karma. I'd rather over pay by $19 than stiff a farmer his due dollar. Just the other day, my brother-in-law sat at the end of the driveway for 15 minutes waiting for another customer so he could get change. Good man.

He has a squash monger that he visits just down the road. He's got an apple guy, too. And everyone has a sweet corn guy. It's all quite charming, healthy, environmental and good for farmers, which means it's good for me.
Hi there, sweetness.


A note to Ontario readers like you and you, I'll make it your way again in December.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Day 258: The spinning wheel of death

I'm at an undisclosed location with a super slow internet connection. I'll give you two clues:

 Clue 1: There is snow.

Clue 2: I'm not in the States.

I'm so very blessed to have a slow internet connection so I can practice the art of patience. If you've wondered why I haven't blogged, my art of patience can use some work.

It's amazing how one little thing like a slow internet connection can make me throw up my hands and say, "Goddammitthisshittyeffinggoodfornothinginternetconnection!!!!" Then shut the lid on the ol' laptop and go for a walk.

This symbol and I have seen many moments together:
The spinning wheel of death.

I'll be more apt to update once I get back to my screaming fast internet connection. In the meantime, keep your head in the game, stick on the ice and eye on the puck.





Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Day 257: Robin Hooda Woulda Coulda Shoulda

No.

I remember being excited about the new Robin Hood movie starring Russell Crowe, but then it arrived in theaters with little fan fair and soon it was gone.

Now I know why.

It's a tale of how Robin Hood became Robin Hood. I thought I'd want to know how Robin Hood became Robin Hood but it turns out, nah not really. Bat Man? Yes, please. Darth Vader? You betcha. But somehow Robin Hood? Ehhhh, I'll pass.

The entire movie (and I'm not ruining anything that wasn't already ruined) is reminiscent of that boring bit in The Two Towers, the second film in the Lord of the Rings trilogy. You know the one. Long and loud desensitizing battle scenes. Hey Ridley Scott. You did this already. It was called Gladiator.

Ya so kill another guy with your sword. Big deal. Chop off a head? Whatevs.

I was on a plane watching Russell Crowe version of Robin Hood. The guy next to me was also watching it and he shut it off half way through to watch Two and a Half Men!

Yes.

Some films should not be remade. More on this here.

A comparison 
Robin Hood starring Russell Crowe vs. Robin Hood starring Kevin Costner

Robin Hood
Kevin Costner vs. Russell Crowe: Honestly, it's a toss up. I'd probably go with Crowe but in this case, it's Kevin Costner. I can't believe I said that but it's true. And I love the Crowe. Loved.

Maid Marian
Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio vs Cate Blanchett: Again, I'd probably go with Cate normally but Mastrantonio did it better. Way better. Though don't go knocking Cate. She did what she could with what she had, which wasn't much.

The Villian
Sir Godfrey played by Mark Strong vs Sheriff George of Nottingham played by Alan Rickman.
C'mon.

Who can compete with Alan Rickman and great lines like, “Cancel the kitchen scraps for the lepers and the orphans, no more merciful beheadings, and call off Christmas!”

I wish I had those two hours back. Was this remake a recession decision? Did Hollywood execs sit around a conference room on the Avenue of the Stars or by a pool in Bel Air and think, "What will people go to see anyway just to see?" Robin Hood, of course. We will throw in two fantastic actors and a brilliant director. The story is weak but they'll only figure that out after they pay.

No.

No.

No.

Not cool, Hollywood. Not cool.

A palette cleanser to undo the bad taste of the new Robin Hood:




Day 256: In defense of the dress guy

You know the one. The guy who didn't gush over my dress, the same guy who didn't fetch it from the tailor.

That guy.

But...

When I asked him to fix my laptop, he did.

When my iPhone died, he loaned me one until my new one arrived.

When I didn't want to drive to the Hollywood Bowl on my own to see the Dave Matthews Band, 11th row center that he got tickets for, he drove 40 minutes out of his way to fetch me.

And while I was out of town, he didn't watch any of the TV shows we watch together because he honors the sacred act of shared seasons of TV.

And while he didn't gush over my dress, he did take a gazillion photos of me in it:
That's him in the background.

So I sheepishly admit that I was willing to get all nasty here in my blog and say bad things about him because he didn't do my bidding this one time.

Ugh it's so ugly to admit the truth about self to self... and to you, dear reader.

That's cool, I can take it. You're not half bad.

Whew. Thanks.

This whole kerfuffle started because I had failed to remember the Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman, which explains the importance of being able to express love to a friend in a way that your friend can understand. Had I kept these love languages in mind, I would have realized that my friend does in fact love me anyway, despite my own hasty passive aggressive blogging ways.

The Five Love Languages are: 
  1. Words of Affirmation
    This is when you say nice things like, "Oh my GAWD that is the nicest dress I have ever seen! You look ravishing. I can't believe how beautiful you look in that dress. You MUST buy that dress immediately." This builds your friend's confidence and makes her feel pretty goddammit.
  2. Quality Time
    This one is definitely me. My gift is my time. I will spend time with you. I will show up. I will be there. I will have forgotten about bringing you a gift but if it's important, I'll be there. And when I do show up, I'll do my best to give you undivided attention. In the case of the dress guy, he was in the Nordstrom dressing room waiting area waiting for me to try on the dress. That counts as quality time.
  3. Gifts
    It doesn't have to be a big gift, but some people show love by giving gifts. Some people also only feel loved when receiving gifts. If you are not a gift giver (like me) and you are friends with a person who feels love mostly when a gift is received, you could be jagged edges to each other with nothing ever going smoothly. With the dress guy, he was taking the photo of me shown above to send as a gift later. How nice is that?
  4. Acts of Service
    Doing things for each other is a great way to show love. With this guy, he fixed my computer and iPhone. And did I mention he went dress shopping with me?
  5. Physical Touch
    This is where you smooch, cuddle, stroke each other's backs and have snugs while watching your favorite TV show.
Dear reader, I noticed this last one piqued your interest. Well, the dress guy and I are just friends.

Sure you are.

Sorry. No stroking, smooching or cuddling for us. Nope. Nadda. Not gonna happen. Sorry to disappoint you, you cheeky monkey.

Dress guy's final score is 3 out of 5 of the Five Love Languages. The two that didn't make the grade were Physical Touch which is non-applicable in our case (don't give me that look) and Words of Affirmation. And again, in his defense, he's pretty good about Words of Affirmation most of the time. As far as Acts of Service go, having him fix my laptop and iPhone trumps fetching my dress at the tailor. And in the end, it all worked out.

Knowing all this makes me feel like I'm not a good friend. Like I'm unbending, not easy going, not easy, not nice. In short, I feel like a boob. Had I realized all this, I could have saved us all a lot of angst.

Note to self.


Monday, September 20, 2010

Day 255: I am an idiot

I am an idiot.

It all began with this dress. Had to get it off to the tailor so that I'd look even more fabulous that I already do. I had arranged to have a friend fetch it but he failed me. FAIL. FAIL. FAIL.

That was my first sign of being an idiot. Asking for it to be fetched by someone whom I didn't know would bail.

That meant I had to fetch it myself. In order to do so, I had to leave work EXACTLY on time, PRAY that there would be no traffic, HOPE there was a parking spot IMMEDIATELY outside the tailor's shop before it closed.

Relying on all this was my second, third and fourth sign of being an idiot because I often have to stay at work late, I often hit traffic and I often have to circle around looking for parking.

Then there was the risk that the dress would not be finished. I didn't call the tailor to confirm that it was ready (fifth sign). If the dress was not finished I would be taking an untailored dress to the event that was the next day. There was no wiggle room on time but there was plenty of wiggle room in my dress. Wearing an untailored dress would mean I failed. FAIL. FAIL. FAIL.

As I was driving to the tailor I was thinking of all this and was also thinking that this is just the type of thing about self that drives self nuts. I can't keep cutting it so close. It creates anxiety, which for me reveals itself physically in the form of zits.

Fortunately, it all worked out. I was able to leave work exactly on time, didn't run into traffic, found a perfect parking spot outside the tailor's shop and picked up the dress that was, in fact, ready and did, in fact, look fabulous on my idiot self.

But now I have a zit.




Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Day 254: I love Tom Brokaw

... always have. Always will.
I love Tom Brokaw. And if you don't, I'll punch you in the arm. Real hard.

All this talk about Tom came about because George Michael turned himself in for driving whilst under the influence and smashing into the Snappy Snaps photography shop in Hampstead, North London. WHAM!

That's a bit of a digression donchathink?

Let me explain. 

George Michael in the news made me think of the news itself  and George Michael songs, which made me think of the song Father Figure and Tom Brokaw.

Wow. 

I know. 

I think it stems from childhood conditioning. In Canada, where I lived on the north shore of Lake Erie, we had one Canadian television station. The other three were American stations. So when I was a kid, I'd play with my toys in the living room while my parents watched the NBC Nightly News with Tom Brokaw. I'd listen to Tom tell it like it is as I had my plush Cookie Monster pretend to eat cookies.

No kid ever bought that he ate those cookies.

I know. They fell out of the side of his mouth. No kid would let that happen. We were never fooled.

Never fooled. 

I never really listened to the content of what Tom was saying so much as his soothing, calm voice say words like Iran Contra Hearing and Beruit and Nicaragua. Even if what he was saying about the Cold War was concerning, I felt warm and fuzzy. 

MSN describes him with phrases like "distinguished," "most trusted and respected figures," "insight, ability and integrity" and "was the first evening news anchor to [insert brave act here]."

I describe him as my TV dad.

Other popular TV dads:
Grabbed from "TV Dads: Where are they now?" on NYDailyNews.com who composed this one image. How nice of them. 

And the ultimate TV dad:
Michael Landon.

But, despite all these great TV dads, I love Tom Brokaw more. And it turns out, Tom Brokaw loves me, too:


Hey reader, who is your TV dad?


Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Day 253: The art of being brave

"And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to bloom." -- Anais Nin


Be brave

Be the one who rushes to apologize
The one who says, Ya that was weird when you said that and now I'm confused
Be brave
Be the one who doesn't sheepishly bemoan about it
Be brave
And don't be that girl

Be brave and tell it like it is
Say that your plans are to take a nap later
And hang with self
So no, a movie together won't work
Perhaps another night

Be brave and turn off the TV
And the cell phone
And the computer
Commune with silence
It has much to say
Staying connected isn't all it's cracked up to be anyway

Be brave and don't play that game
And don't say you want more
When you don't really want that much
And what you really want is an itch to be scratched
Let it go
Read a book
Walk it off
Try not to text back

Be brave and go to that new job
As if you own the place
Be the mayor of that job's ass
Fake it if you have to
Everyone does once in awhile

Be brave and call a spade a spade
Don't keep waiting for your real life to begin
It already has
But you were too preoccupied with wants to notice

Be brave and let yourself go
Don't worry about people missing you
They'll be glad to see you daring to make something happen
Instead of waiting for something to happen to you
They will stare in amazement
And wish that they were brave like you

Be brave and share that story
Especially with those you're scared will read it
You're scared because there is a truth in it
You're scared because you know it's great
And sometimes it's scary to be great
Be brave and admit to yourself
That you are, in fact, a shiny bauble
In a box of dull doorknobs

Be brave and say the words
That have made you hesitate before
Spirit
God
Balls

Be brave
We're all waiting


Monday, September 13, 2010

Day 252: My favorite undertaker

When I was a kid and was watching TV with my mom, if there was a scene that was too grown up for my little eyes and ears, my mom would make me sit in the kitchen until the scene was over.

No love making scene, no domestic abuse scene or any scenes that were nudie in nature.

I was in my own Cinema Paradiso.

If you've never seen Cinema Paradiso, IMDB says, "A filmmaker recalls his childhood, when he fell in love with the movies at his village's theater and formed a deep friendship with the theater's projectionist."
I grabbed this photo from this blog, which tells the story beautifully.

In this town, the priest has the projectionist edit out all the juicy bits of the films before they were shown in the town. No boobies, no kisses. Imagine watching a film and then right as the man is about to kiss the woman POOF! Next scene. Madness, I tell you, madness.

Back to me.

Even now, when I watch a movie in the living room and it gets to scary or violent, I edit it down by going to sit in the kitchen for awhile. After a minute or two, I poke my head around the corner to the living room and check to see when the scene is over. I call ahead, "Is the scary bit done? What happened?" and whoever is in the living room will report back, "Ya, it's done... the guy hit her then passed out on the bed. Then she burned the bed with him in it. You can come back now."

You could say I'm a bit of a lightweight when it comes to dark subjects.

You'd likely think it was strange that one of my favorite blogs is about the life of an undertaker.

An undertaker? 

Yep. As she says, an underground furniture salesman.

An undertaker that's a girl?!?!

I know. Awesome.

So her blog is great. I learn about the secret life of undertakers but all in a way that doesn't make me have to sit in the kitchen until the bad parts are over.

Anyway, yesterday I clicked on her blog and POOF! It was gone.

Turns out her blog got around to another undertaker who apparently didn't like certain phrases like "money hungry owners" and "push to sell merchandise." This dork face undertaker started sending out lame emails about her blog to others in the undertaker underground.

What a jackass.

I know!

So she took down the blog and is now likely plotting her revenge.

Now I'm going through my own mini grief period, missing my blog about embalming and body parts.

I'm insensed by this dumb dumb stupid undertaker who can't even ponder why someone would say such things about him. Dork face creep. He clearly did not think of MY NEEDS when he tried to muscle her out of the Cool Kids Undertaker Society.

I hardly know what to do with myself.

I need to go sit in the kitchen.


Sunday, September 12, 2010

Day 251: Women, food and God


Seems only fitting that I talk about the book I'm reading after I post about Spanx.

(Before I begin, I must address the need for a comma between Women and Food in Geneen Roth's Women Food and God. This book is not about a cuisine called women food. Okay, my inner editor feels better now.)

This book discusses using food as a spiritual growth opportunity. I don't know about you, but at times I "live in a limbo world in which the taste of food is all you know of heaven and the size of your thighs is all you know of hell." When extremes like this are present, so to is a spiritual growth opportunity.

Some people go to an ashram in India and follow a guru to awaken spiritually. Some of us have bodies that allow us to use our relationship with the food on our plates every single day to helps us awaken. Lucky us.

In my life, I haven't had extreme bouts of eating disorders. Thank God (truly). But I have had an underlying constant love/hate relationship with food and my body. I don't binge. I don't starve. But I do notice everything that goes into my mouth, I calculate it and judge it accordingly. And, in my experience of myself, I have linked the size of my body to the worth of being.

Skinny =  More Lovable. Period.

The other day, I was at a dress shop with a friend of mine. I tried on the most beautiful dress. The kind of dress that makes your good bits look really good and your bad bits look surprisingly good. It was amazing. I beamed. When I showed him the dress, he didn't gush.

He said it was nice.

But he didn't gush.

He didn't gush or look at me in any way other than the way he usually looks at me.

He isn't expected to look at me differently. We're just friends.

But in this moment where Skinny = More Lovable, I expected a more loving reaction from him. After all, I look more skinny so he better look at me more lovingly dammit.

None of this is his fault. He had no idea how to react. He is not aware of my Skinny = More Lovable equation. He was standing there and nodding approvingly, which is FINE. Fine.

So I seethed privately as I changed out of the dress. The sales lady called over the change room door, "Did he like the dress?"

"He thought it was fine."

"Oh." Silence. "Well, what does he know. You look stunning in that dress."

"Ya, what does he know." Somehow, women gush is not important.

It's so easy to fall into despair. I was happy when I saw myself in the dress and was immediately devastated when he didn't react in a way that is congruent with my belief that Skinny = More Lovable. 

In Woman Food and God we examine why we developed thought beliefs such as Skinny = More Lovable. We search for root causes, we gain clarity and we learn how break these beliefs down. Was it our mothers? Was being skinny their way to keep our fathers happy and close to home? Was their equation: Become Fat = A Broken Home? Or was it our mothers' mothers? Were our grandmothers conservative with food portions because there wasn't enough food to go around? Was their equation Binge = Starve? Then did our mothers take on a restrictive food habit that trickled down to us?

Somehow, pondering these questions helped me break out of some of my own bad habits with food. It's not the food itself that is bad. It's my reaction to it that could use work. And my reaction to my body. And my reaction to other people's reactions.

I don't understand why in reading this book, I've become more calm about all of it. Maybe it has something to do with doing the work outlined in the book, or it has something to do with grace or even, it may have something to do with God.


Thursday, September 9, 2010

Day 250: Spanx

I believe I just bruised my thighs attempting to squeeze myself into my new pair of Spanx.

I do not look like this in Spanx.

I look more like a sausage. 

All this to look beautiful on the outside while my insides are smooshed together like sardines. No, not like sardines. Like a fist squeezing a handful of sardines. 

The Spanx were purchased so I can look super slim for all occasions when looking slim is important, which happens to be all occasions. 

Sometimes I wish I could meditate my body issues away. If I could just rise above, I'd be fine. Then I could wear track pants to weddings, at events and out on dates and it would all be honky dory. 

Speaking of dates... this is the truth about Spanx. Many girls wear them out on dates. If there is a possibility the date will go extremely well and the man might actually make his way up the girl's skirt, the girl will go to the bathroom and remove the Spanx before he has a chance to discover them. All over the world, women are walking out of public bathrooms with girdles wadded up in their purses. Personally, I prefer to peel out of the Spanx at home and shove them in the drawer under the tampons. He'll never snoop there.

No joke. This is the honest to goodness truth. 

Why do we hide the Spanx? 

Sure, they are a bit unattractive (except for in the photo of the model wearing them above) and we don't want a man to think we aren't as skinny as we appear to be. But the real reason we don't want a man knowing about them is because they are effing difficult to get into and remove. I perform acrobatic moves trying to shove my rolls into—and unleash myself from—my Spanx. I've got legs kicking everywhere. My torso is wriggling and convulsing in every direction to dislodge from the Spanx. My arm muscles strain to reef them over my butt cheeks.

No man that we are considering getting busy with should see this. It's both horrifying and hilarious.  And it can completely ruin the mood.

I give huge props to this woman who reveals the truth about Spanx on YouTube for all the world to see: 

From this funny site: http://mypheme.com/

Spanx. Friend and foe.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Day 249: The sweetness of a shared song

Last night I was sitting at home minding my own business when I got a FaceTime video chat on my iPhone from a friend who was at the David Gray concert at the Greek. It's pretty rad.

I sat mesmerized watching David Gray sing Babylon.

And here is my friend watching me on his iPhone watching David Gray sing Babylon.
You can see my tiny little noggin in the screen of the iPhone. 

There isn't much more to say other than that it was a sweet gift from a friend that just wanted to share song.


Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Day 248: My stupid dumb dumb painting

Haunted by Hugh MacLeod @ gapingvoid.com

I was viewing some photos from an aspiring photographer the other day.

They were pretty good.

They were.

They were a good start.

But they weren't stellar.

And he knew it.

He threw up his arms and huffed, "If I can't be perfect right out of the gate, FORGET IT!!!!"

I was encouraging. "No, these are good photos. And you're at the beginning. It's going to get better from here."

Then I went home and painted the most hideous crapola dumb dumb painting ever. I threw up my arms and huffed, "FORGET IT!!!!"

Whilst I stewed in my own feelings of inadequacy, my mom popped up on video chat. I showed her my hideous crapola dumb dumb painting and she exclaimed, "That would look GREAT in my kitchen! You know my birthday is coming up."

I beamed, "Thanks mommy!"

I don't know if she meant it or not. She might even hang the painting when I visit and stow it in the closet once I leave. I don't care. Her nice words about the painting made me feel like Picasso.

So I learned a little about the power of encouragement today. Even after I click "Publish Post," Blogger gives me this message of encouragement:

My blog post published successfully? Wow! Awesome! That's fantastic!

Encourage the artists in your life. It means so much.
Also from Hugh MacLeod @ gapingvoid.com

Day 247: What do you do for a living?

"What do you do for a living?"

That question. A generic pleasantry used to engage in surface chit chat for conversations with new people. Sometimes I go to parties with dread knowing this question will be asked. I don't even know why I have dread about it. I have an impressive answer:

"I'm a writer. I write books, a blog and advertising."

They respond in one of three ways: 

1) "Advertising? Like in MadMen? 

2) A blog? What's it about?

3) Books? What kind of books?"

Then I launch into a conversation about whichever of the three options intrigues them most.

1) Yes, like in MadMen. I'm like Peggy Olson.

2) Yes, a blog. I'm a blogging superstar. It's amazing. It's a new and exciting art form.

3) I write self help books.

I've gone through this schpiel a hundred times. It's like watching reruns of the Me Show.

This may sound self-centered of me. I would agree. But yesterday I was at a barbecue with people I didn't know and the question came up. I responded in my usual manner. It helps me from staring at the clock and locking myself in the bathroom until it's time to leave.

Turns out the woman I was speaking with was going through a divorce so my book, The Breakup Repair Kit intrigued her.

Then, through what I can only describe as the magic of angels, the other party-goers veered off on their own and we found ourselves alone so she could reveal to me the progress of her process.  I sat there, nodding and practicing my listening skills. It was a beautiful, touching and (I believe) a healing conversation.

After I left, I pondered once again the question, "What do you do for a living?" So often I see it as a vague conversation starter, used to get through the moments in conversation with people we don't know. But in this case, it was well served.

Now, if they choose option 2, I hand them my blog card. I actually do have them.

If they choose 1, the advertising option, we inevitably talk about this pretty amazing scene from this weeks episode of MadMen:



Sorry about the advertising. Geesh. Friggin' advertising.

Now I ponder other people's schpiels about what they do for a living. So dear reader, what do you do for a living?

Friday, September 3, 2010

Day 246: I said goodbye to someone very important today


I took this photo this morning. It's a photo of my old blue Mountain Equipment Co-op (MEC) book bag sitting in my alley, waiting for a new home.

I've had this bag for about 17 years. The zippers are perfect, the fabric nary a tear. But the inner waterproof lining is disintegrating and the bag itself is a bit heavy. Ultimately, it didn't make the cut of items I will toss into my ONE suitcase that I use to travel with around the world. Or somewhere. I'm not sure where and I'm not sure when (Note: It depends on the activity of the Donate button to the right of this blog post) but I know this bag isn't going to make the cut.

It's still an okay bag though and I couldn't bear tossing it. To the right of the frame of the photo above are rubbish bins. I was about to toss my MEC bag in but I just didn't have the strength. This bag may not work for me anymore but perhaps it will work for someone.

So I set the bag on the step in the alley, hoping it would find a good home. I took a photo, said goodbye, hopped in my car and drove off. Then I thought about the bag all day and wondered if it would be there when I got home.

It wasn't.

I was a little sad about that.

I didn't know I was so attached.

But the lining... it's rotting. I just can't take it with me. I. Just. Can't. There are lighter bags now. Bags with more technical fabric. Technical fabric that didn't even exist when I bought my beloved blue MEC bag. I hope my bag understands.

And I hope I'll see my MEC bag one day. Likely on the back of a hobo scrounging through the garbage in the alley looking for recyclables. I'll likely go up to this hobo and hug him from behind. He won't realize it's the MEC bag I'm hugging.

Hugging it because the bag saw me through all my entire advertising career, my life in Toronto and, up until today, my life in Los Angeles.

Hugging it because the zippers never broke. Not one. Not once.

Hugging it because the MEC logo was noticed by people in France and Italy as a sign that I was Canadian, which meant I was friendly and could be asked questions in English, like how to use the bus or where to find the best restaurant in town.
This logo is a dead giveaway that you're Canadian. 
And the world knows it. 

The hobo will be confused but eventually, after years of flawless use from his new as-of-today MEC bag, he'll understand why he was hugged in the alley from behind from a random Canadian girl.

Perhaps one day he, too, will release the bag. He'll set it out in the alley behind his place that he managed to save up for from all the recyclables he collected in my alley. He'll admire the stitching and the fabric that thinks it's steel. His heart will beat a little harder on the day he releases the bag, knowing that it was a good companion. That it had his back. That it was his constant companion. That it was there for him when no one else was. He'll look that bag sitting in the alley as I did today and say:

"That there? That was a good bag. That was a good friend."

Goodbye my dear, MEC bag. You served me well.


Thursday, September 2, 2010

Day 245: The secrets I keep

"Sometimes you feel like you live too long
Days drip slowly on the page
You catch yourself
Pacing the cage."

--- Bruce Cockburn, Pacing the cage
Sometimes the blog posts drip slowly on the page. This happens because there is so much I can't tell you.

Here's the thing about writing a blog: If you're lucky, people read it.

Here's the other thing about writing a blog: You don't know who reads it.

I can't exactly tell you why I lament about office life because my office mates read this. And though some of them will agree wholeheartedly about my laments, there are other office mates that can affect my work life in a not-so-preferred-way if I "run off with the mouth" as my mother likes to say.

There is so much to say and so much that cannot be said. 

But all those things brought me to big giant alligator tears today right in my office right in front of those "other office mates that can affect my work life in a not-so-preferred-way if I 'run off with the mouth.'"

It wasn't a stellar moment.

But hey, "If you want to reach the castle, you've got to swim through the moat," as Richard from Texas says in Elizabeth Gilbert's obscure little book Eat Pray Love. I wonder if that book will ever make it.

You're joking right?

Yes, dear reader, I'm joking.

Today, I swam the moat. I was nervous and frustrated and angry. I was truly at the end of my rope. The workload added up and there was only me to do it. It was so extreme that it was both retarded and ridiculous. For a moment there, I thought someone was playing a joke on me. But when I realized it wasn't a joke, the tears spurted out of my head and I couldn't hold them back. That's when I put the Do Not Disturb sign outside my office where people would stop, then look in my office and wave to me, hence disturbing me.

I just couldn't win today.

One day I will have a life where I can "run off with the mouth" as much as I like. But for now, I haven't got a lot to say other than today sucked and I can't discuss it right now. 

Instead, I'll give you a few photos of self that I found while cleaning out my apartment. Cleaning out my apartment pleases me, though you wouldn't be able to tell by this expression on my face:
Had I known this would forever be my baby photo, I would have at least cracked a smile.

Same outfit. Still no smile.

The piano pleased me. As did the pants.

... then there were the awkward middle school years... I'm not sure what happened to those photos. I probably burned them in a fit of low self esteem. The next photos I have were in my 20s, where I'm happy to report, I managed a bigger smile:


But then I went back to not smiling: 

Hmmm. This is neither a smile or not a smile. A bit Mona Lisa-esque I think.

Happiness is a process.


Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Day 244: How to orbit a giant hairball

A corporate fool's guide to surviving with grace.

In between researching stock quotes, I've been flipping through Orbiting the Giant Hairball: A corporate fool's guide to surviving with grace by Gordon MacKenzie. I have a love hate relationship with corporations. I love the money and the chiropractic health benefits. I loathe with the white hot heat of a thousand burning suns the policies, politics, time sheets, accrued vacation days, feeling stuck 9-6 M-F in an office, frienemies and a few other things, too. But... oh how I love the cash.

A few years ago I pulled a few tips from MacKenzie's book and threw in a few of my own tidbits. Then I wrote them all on post-it notes and posted them in my office. My office looked a bit like A Beautiful Mind.

The post-its helped. Now though, I feel I need something stronger.
But if you, like me, can't think and drink, use these cheat notes to successfully survive corporate life with grace... at least while you're in the office. Then drink later.

16 ways to orbit the giant hairball and survive corporate life with grace:
  1. Do have rest periods. Smokers take them. Why can't you?

  2. Make the company's job of feeding all the employees easier by being good at your own job.

  3. Do strive to make your performance at work bulletproof so no one has a reason to complain about you.

  4. Remember that people will complain about you anyway. Strive to turn complaints into compliments. And remember that most of what they complain about is probably based on their own projections anyway.

  5. Do save money and live beneath your means so you are never worried about the gig suddenly ending. Remember that ultimately, every job is a freelance gig anyway.

  6. Do try to assume that your bosses job is to help you get better at your job. It's a form of service and opportunity for mastery. (This one can be tough sometimes.)

  7. Do not try to get away with anything. It won't work and it will just make you paranoid.

  8. Do trust that your job can include fun, laughter, love, creativity, talent, achievement, success and even enlightenment.

  9. Do know that you are at this job as a training ground for greatness.

  10. Do play well with coworkers. They are under the gun to come up with a great product, too.

  11. Do remember that there is a balance between product and people. We aren't paid to hang out.

  12. Do stay in a state of gratitude for every day you have this job.

  13. Do remember that whatever happens will happy for the highest good of all concerned.

  14. Do remember that communicating is part of your job here. The very fact that you are having this conversation means the other person is important.

  15. Convince yourself that the worst case scenario can actually be awesome.

  16. And when you reach the end of your rope, tie a knot, hang on and swing.
And if none of that works...



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