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Begin with the end in mind

I started this blog in 2011 when I decided to leave Kanata. Strange but true: I’m returning to work in Kanata in a few weeks and I am very excited about it. My people came looking for me, and I fully understand how I can help them. This will be my final post at this particular blog spot; the time has come to re-invent the wheel!

 

Imperfection

Today is one of those days where I am keenly aware that I can be doing just about anything I wanted to do with my day.

It’s been a while since I tried the spin class. In the past week, I have been back at the gym a few times to ride five effortless miles on an indoor bike. It seems odd to be driving over there, but Canadian winter makes it cold outside and it’s working for me. The spin class was more of a workout; the indoor bike feels just about right.

Last night I taught an evening sewing class at the fabric store. It ran late. It was bliss. I have switched to a scheduling system to reign in the alterations clients. I had given a lot of thought to the Shopify platform in 2015. Upon closer inspection (I had time), it’s very product oriented and I am selling a service. I did set up a trial site with service offerings and evaluate it. My conclusion is that it is not the right thing for right now. I’m glad I looked closely, it will save some “What If?” later.

This week I’ve been binging on movies through Netflix and Google Play. Today it was the Most Exotic Marigold Hotel. Last week was a bit of outer space theme in which I became an armchair astronaut. (I may not have worked for NASA but I have worked for at least one of their suppliers, and that’s going to have to be good enough.) I am hoping to get to an actual theatre today. I hear the Revenant makes good use of the bigger screen.

After the kids leave for school, I cook breakfast for myself and the other adult in the house. Two fridges and the freezer are packed to capacity with meat. He was put in charge of procurement well over a year ago. It’s a good system and it’s working. We all pitch in and take turns with preparing the dinner meal.

In my spare time, I’ve been working on an afghan. I picked it back up again if only because it’s a sizeable unfinished project that’s spent considerable time in a bottom dresser drawer and I was looking for something to do with my fidgety hands. I had started it with knitting but eventually realized it wasn’t going to hold the shapes I needed for the Tetris pattern. I started it over with crocheting a few months ago. In granny squares, it makes a lot more sense. It seems to be a matter of pressing importance to finish it up in the next week or so. At times, I fail to understand how my mind prioritizes anything. I am wise enough to obey the directive as it stands.

New upstairs tenants arrived this week. The upstairs flat was vacant for a while and we have mostly had the house to ourselves. Our tenancy here started with the main-level only of this quirky 1920s house. About a year ago, we annexed the basement studio. A few years back we put a shed up in the backyard.

This past summer, our landlord improved the backyard fence, creating an enclosed pen for our beagle. It also runs along side the carport, which we are using this winter to actually shelter the car. With side door access from the studio to the carport, it makes bad weather days just a little more tolerable. I remain quite content as a tenant.

I write because I learn new things about myself everyday. Over the years, I have convinced myself I cannot draw and am no artist. I’ve taken up acrylic painting. I was tracing things at first, but I have to say, I’m getting nearer to my comfort zone. This particular “I can’t” stems from a different place as the “I can’t do brain surgery” (which I clearly can’t and should not do!) I wonder at one point that I adopted this particular point of view. That moment I make a mark on a piece of paper or a canvas, it becomes art. By definition, that makes me an artist.

French is not my first language although it was my grandmother’s. This heritage is important to me as my children have sometimes found themselves immersed in French immersion schools and (gasp!) speaking French in our home. This statement of the obvious comes up a lot in my search for interesting work in an officially bilingual government town. While I have studied it extensively (from primary school to university undergrad and beyond) and applied my knowledge widely (at various contracts in the private and public sectors and in my travels), there are just some situations where it must be.

I am at peace with the idea that I will continue to be screened out of competitions simply because it is a criteria I cannot meet. That I do have some francophone heritage makes it rather ridiculous at times though. I am getting better at identifying which competitions fall into the non-negotiable category and I am getting better at asking directly before any recruiter/agent ties up days of my time prepping for an interview or competition to illustrate compliance on all technical skills and requirements. I don’t take refresher French courses any more even though I have time and I could. It’s a fool’s game in this town.

My self-paced learning lately instead has been directed at improving my technical skills. I need to write about this more. Somewhere it must be written that one cannot be cheerful, good with people, female, and technical. There can be no other logical explanation to why this viewpoint is so widely held in my places of technical work. I am and always have been all of these things. If someone can’t see them then it’s either because I’ve chosen not to share them (yet) or something else is obstructing their view. It’s been a recurring theme in my career as is the all too familiar tune of I am less entitled to be here for all the same reasons.

I refuse to buy in. It is crap.

In my recent coding courses, I have been casting how I learn in a new light. My recent experience teaching has showcased extraordinary patience, of which I could certainly extend a bit towards myself. To learn new technical skills: I follow the lectures, study the lesson, try the tutorials and scan the manuals for syntax and code samples, just like anybody else. What makes me different? Perhaps it’s the wisdom of the ages, having written countless manuals, exhaustive syntax, and rounding up code samples. Or karma, catching up.

Spin class?!

Last week I met my new rheumatologist. He specializes in fibromyalgia cases. That possibility hadn’t been on my radar and it caught me by surprise. He sent me off to the blood lab and will follow-up in 3 months. No treatment plan is on the table at this time.

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I continue to see incremental improvements with my weekly dose of the wonder drug that the dermatologist prescribed. I have a follow-up with him today. This past weekend, I went for a walk alone in the forest on a carpet of oak leaves. What a treat!

In other news, I attended a 50-minute spin class this week. Making a note of it. The instructor is a therapist in her life outside the studio. There are disco lights and part of the session is intentionally dimly lit. The shoes clip to the stationary bike pedals.

In the category of simple pleasures, I’ve been knitting hats from free patterns. I altered the black pattern slightly. The blue one is baby alpaca.

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Also, in the works are passport updates for me and my youngest child who hasn’t set foot off Canadian soil since she arrived here in 2009.

My cane arrived in this week’s mail.

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Optimizing for the conditions

Journal entry, from me to me

The week started on a bit of a low note with news that I do not meet the minimum requirements to work as a barista after finally gathering up nerve to ask. It was something I enjoyed as a younger person and I have always held out hope that I might get back to it later. However, I cannot stand for 8 hours and I cannot lift 50 pounds. This is unlikely to change and the time has come to let the idea completely go. It will free up space for other thoughts.

In sharp contrast, I co-hosted a business basics workshop for grade 5 students. Note to self: don’t wait too long before going back to do it again. I met a delightful math teacher along the way. The homeroom teacher is big on sustainability and I have accepted his challenge to turn a bag of previously enjoyed clothing into something useful.  The best part of the day was the interviewing lesson. In two mock interviews, I gathered knowledge I was able to apply in my real life almost right away.

Then, I had a rare three-interview day!

First, I met with a yarn-store proprietor (our second interview) who incorrectly called me out as an impostor when I was least expecting it. Snap judgments are not anybody’s friend. What I learned: we’ll both carry on quite nicely without any future dealings between us. It’s her store and she can run it however she likes. I’m less likely to patronize it now. Impostor syndrome is rampant in my profession. It has no place in my future.

In sharp contrast, I am hugged when I walk into the fabric store where I currently teach part-time. Just when I think that I could not love the proprietors more than I currently do, something unexpected happens and I do.

Second, I was screened by a former employer (who is also a current client) for a very promising assessment/evaluation role. Their recruiter found me online and reached out, leaving me free to call my deal-breaking terms in our negotiation. Although we were unable to reach an agreement at this time, we both left richer for the experience. I feel a seed was planted here and there may be harvest yet to come.

The third one was a more of a request for proposal on some prototyping work in the wearable technology field, which was subsequently accepted by my new client!

Later in the week, I completed the training (for a government agency) to review funding proposals for emerging businesses. The volume of work is unclear due to many variables, and I should have a better idea a month from now. I like the idea of the work and increasing my qualification in this area.

After a few weeks on a higher dosage of my medication, I am noticing small improvements in my health again. The scooter is stored for winter.

The Cha-Cha Slide

I declared myself cured a few weeks after writing my previous post, and even called my mom. It was a full week of glorious bike rides and a full-day walking tour of Montreal that got my hopes up. Then my meds suddenly stopped working, and I’ve been increasingly losing ground for the past four weeks.

Mix in less mobility, more all-day morning stiffness, runaway rashes on my hands, arms, legs and torso, and a dash of flaking eyelids. I’ve been one crabby lady these past few days. Home life is great. Work-life-family balance is balanced (strongly in favour of life).

I’m approaching the one-year anniversary of when I started taking this medication. It’s been a full year without any alcohol because it does not mix with meds. I can’t say I’ve missed it. Given choices, I’d rather walk than wine. My dermatologist has suggested we increase the dose next week. I’m raising my hopes again.

Older, wiser

Coming soon:
Professional portraits and updated business cards.

Already happening:
Bike rides, but not every day. I’m up to 7 km.

Keep your eyes peeled for a butterfly emerging from her cocoon.

P.S. Last day of Leo in Jupiter.

Deflated

I talked my eldest daughter into helping me coax an old bike out the shed yesterday. It’s a bike I purchased in 1999 from some of the proceeds of a rather lucrative batch of dot-com stock options with the highest of high hopes and optimism about a year before completing her adoption papers. It’s the bike I was riding in the days leading up to the cross-continental journey to bring her home.

A few years ago, I lowered the seat on this bike so she could ride it. I had kept it as a spare after injuring it in a minor accident with a roller blader along the Niagara Escarpment in 2007. It was still at the shop for repairs when I left for vacation in Lake Placid a few weeks later. I replaced it with a nicer make and model, a Marin hybrid, which made the trip with me and became my faithful companion through the peak of my athletic period.

It is hard for me to write about these things.

At the same time, it’s a disservice to myself to pretend that they never happened. Over the next few years, I logged over 10,000 km on that Marin, many of them with my youngest in tow. There is this concept of resetting to zero, to steel and brace yourself for the mastery of something new. It’s the trick of many a successful technical writer. The Marin was eventually replaced with another Trek, but it never really took flight and had at most 20 km on it before I passed it along to its next owner.

We took the old Trek out of the shed to have a look at it, with fresh eyes. My time off for good behaviour has granted me the unexpected gift of new perspective on my old ways. These memories have their place and time, but they are better left in a scrapbook. They have a way of wreaking a special kind of havoc on my easily cluttered mind. The time has come to park and stow them long-term for clarity. I need the shorter-term space for nearer term things.

In the shed, we found my helmet too. Before mounting my old bicycle, I looked it over and rolled it a bit to make sure it was structurally sound enough not to collapse from the weight of me. It’s at least 16 years old. Having its seat lower to the ground is important to me right now. While I have increased the range of motion in my hips in recent months, it hasn’t been a huge improvement.

I can see clearly that the tires aren’t holding air any more, and may not be so capable. They are also looking rather thin. The brakes are rusted, but they work.

My eldest and I discussed the matter at length, and agreed the next step would be a tune-up for the bicycle. The bike rack is long gone from the car, and it’s about 3 km round trip to a decent shop. She would walk the bike and I would take the scooter.

One block into the trip, she convinced me that it wasn’t my finest idea.

She successfully pitched it as a fool’s errand and scored a direct hit, because: “Mom!! You’re riding the scooter?! You know?! The bike is not really a very good idea!!”

With tears in my eyes, we turned back. I got home first, went into my room, locked the door, and cried for about an hour. Just whose voice was I hearing, any way, and all because she didn’t want to go for a walk.

Here is something I have learned about myself over the years, after someone tactfully pointed it out to me. When I put my mind to something, Mastery is always both the prize and the goal. Nothing less will do.

I took an online data science course last week. I completed all the lectures and assignments in less than 24 hours. It’s a five-week course. I missed one question, which should give me a final grade between 99 and 100 per cent. The only thing I will remember in the long term is the question that I missed. It’s who I am.

I know that the thing that pre-occupies my thought must be addressed before other thoughts work their way into the queue and up the hierarchy of thought. That thing has almost always been a problem approaching its solution. Why specifically this bike then?

My old Trek? It’s also the bike that helped me close a chapter of tremendous loss and disappointment.

I suspect I am resetting to zero.