Sunday, November 14, 2010

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Oh, the irony...

Two years ago I was living with my ex-boyfriend who was so into work that it drove me crazy. I had made the decision to leave my corporate-world job, because work had been taking over my own life. When I worked there, I would come home from a long day at the office, still thinking about projects and timelines and deliverables. Powerpoint was my best friend - I would spend evenings slaving away at presentations, answering "urgent" emails. I'd take work phone calls during personal time. I was stressed out all the time. I could not make that mystical work-life balance concept work for me. I felt great about leaving for something completely different, but I was frustrated beyond belief that my partner seemed to live for all those things that I'd left behind.

School was a whole different kind of work - two years of learning things I was definitely not hard wired for. Memorizing anatomy, forcing myself to grasp physiology and clinical pathology. And trying out a slew of new practical skills. The frustration that comes with learning something and not instantly being good at it was certainly trying. Observe. Read. Try. Fail. Tweak my technique. Try again. Better, but still, mostly fail. Tweak more. Try again. It takes time and it takes determination, and it takes a thick skin. While in school, I was insanely busy.

And now, lo and behold, I'm still insanely busy. All I seem to be doing is working. How did this happen? How's that for irony? Between veterinary nursing and dog training, I have a whole new life... which is mostly about work. The difference is, I love it. I feel like I'm making a difference. I'm helping people and I'm helping pets. I'm learning how to relate to a lot of different people and animals, and how to react to a lot of different scenarios. And when I leave work, there's no taking stuff home with me.

Plus, I'm through all the hard stuff, and I'm in the best part of the work phase - I'm getting good at things! I teach my own agility class at doggie school. Somehow after a day in the clinic, commuting to job #2 and then assisting in two beginner dog classes, it's nine o'clock at night, and I can control a whole group of owners and dogs as they conquer agility obstacles together. I get my energy up, I give direction confidently, I motivate clients. People ask me for help. I look forward to it. At the clinic too, my skills are improving. I keep up with the hectic pace. I prep surgeries, I monitor anesthetics, I place IV catheters, I collect blood samples, I x-ray, I clean teeth, I educate clients, I passed a course in therapeutic laser techniques. I'm being exposed to more, and all in all, my confidence just keeps rising. It's a great feeling.

Choosing a career that pays crap, means I need to work hard. I didn't envision working two jobs, but right now, from a financial perspective, it's a must. (Memo to those that think they can comfortably live solo in Toronto with pets on a Vet Tech salary: you cannot!) But for me, it's okay, because I get so much out of both my jobs. What's hard is slotting in social engagements, and friends, and family, and fun. (And uh, blogging.) Meeting so many new people at work who are into the same things sure helps fulfill the social side. I am dating. My friend social circle is changing a little, I'm losing people to motherhood and marriage and domestic bliss, but I'm meeting people new people all the time and getting to know them. I'm in demand, and there's almost not enough of me to go around.

It's going to be go-go-go for the next little while, but as long as I keep learning, I'm good with that. I have some entrepreneurial ideas, and I won't be working this many hours forever. I feel things falling into place. A good place.

I am not a workaholic.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Online Dating So Far: Meh.

After a couple months in the online dating scene, here's a shortlist of what most men on online are looking for, from what I can surmise.

No baggage: I object to this. If you've been in a relationship before, you have baggage. If you've ever said goodbye to a relationship, or someone's ever said goodbye to a relationship with you, you have baggage. If you've had ups and downs in your life, you have baggage. And sorry, but that's all of us. Our past experiences shape who we are today. What we go through keeps us learning, and ultimately makes us stronger. We all have baggage.

Takes care of herself: This is murky. It could mean, eats well, stays relatively in shape, is not an alcoholic or a drug addict, lives in a clean environment, does these things independently. Or it could mean, always looks immaculate, maintains fresh manicures, never wears anything wrinkled, gets her hair done twice a month, does yoga, and thai-boxing, and is a gym junkie, and always presents her best side. To what standard are they speaking? Ambiguous.

Self-confidence: I'm the first to admit I'm not always sure of myself. I know that I'm smart, I'm kind, I'm funny, and that I have a lot to offer. But sometimes - gasp - I doubt myself. I don't live in a world of crippling fear and self-doubt or anything, but if I didn't doubt myself at times, I think I'd be an ego-maniac. Which I am not. I would describe myself as definitely self-confident in some capacities and definitely lacking in self confidence in others. Which I thought made me balanced, but which I guess makes me an unsuitable companion for the majority of men out there. Damn it - why do I have to be so honest with myself?

Adventurous: Men on online dating sites all seem to be into extreme sports - or so they say. They go rock climbing, they kayak through rapids, they skydive, they fly planes. Do they want women who will do these things with them? Are they lying because they think it will make them more attractive? Because really, that many people are into extreme sports? Or are extreme sport people just more likely to be single? These men's profiles typically feature carefully selected and carefully posed photos of them on their motorcycles, which of course, highlights just how adventurous they are.

So, Internet? I guess I'm doomed. I've got baggage. I doubt myself about certain things. While I'm not, for example, a junkie, I have never owned a gym membership in my life, I keep my fingernails short and naked for work, I spend most of my life in jeans, and for fun, I pick watching live music over jumping out of airplanes. And this is why I delete 90% of the correspondence I get from men on online dating sites. Meh.

Monday, September 06, 2010

Food, Inc : You should really watch this.

Know what you're eating. Know where it comes from. Know what it costs, and not just to you at the supermarket - to the farmers, to the animals, to the planet, and to your health and well-being. Watch this movie, now, and then tell someone else to. (Please?)

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Money, and why I would like to have more of it.

Things I would spend money on if I were rich, in no particular order:

Get a stem cell transplant for Siroons. Siris has really bad arthritis. When she was about six, I found out she had really bad elbows – she had surgery on one, which slowed the development of the inevitable osteoarthritis and degenerative joint disease, but at nearly twelve, she’s pretty sore. As a result, she’s on an NSAID daily for life, and even with taking these, and taking glucosamine supplements, she is still lame on her front right leg. She’ll have days where her elbows are hugely swollen and where she needs to be carried down stairs. She moans and groans when she lies down and gets up. And it breaks my heart. She’s still active, she still wants to run around like a lunatic, but sometimes her body won’t let her, and her leg gives out on her. On these days, she trips mid run. She has trouble getting in and out of cars. If I could afford it, I would try anything so she could be pain-free and fully mobile again, and the idea of a stem-cell transplant appeals to the veterinary nerd in me.

Go on more volunt-ouring trips. I would go back to Uganda to visit everyone I met there. I wanna hang out Central and South America, maybe helping in schools. I would love, love, love to volunteer on a behavioural research project and work with gorillas or chimpanzees. Oh, the adventures I could have. How much I could see and learn and immerse myself in, if I didn't have bills to pay.

Pay my parents back my school debt. Because owing my parents money sucks, and I don’t like the strings-attached feeling of it, even (especially?) when I don’t know what the strings are.

Ramp up the investing. Yeah, cause I’m sensible like that. I would hire one of those mysterious financial planners I hear so much about , and do all the things I’m supposed to have done by now. Like make sure I have a decent investment portfolio, that would set me up for retirement and make sure I have any emergencies covered, and blah blah blah. I would see that I’m contributing more than a measly $50 a month to an RRSP. And then I’d relish watching my savings grow, and feel secure in my financial future.

Buy a house in downtown Toronto with a basement apartment and an upper level one too, and a nice backyard. My little brother could live in one of the apartments and I could rent out the other one, which would hopefully cover my property taxes and homeowner expenses. I would have little patio parties in the yard, I would grill veggie kebabs and roast corn on the BBQ. I would have a sweet little garden.

Rent a downtown space and open a business. I would set up an all in one doggie daycare, training centre, pet supply store, and grooming salon. I’d do training classes at night, and have a store in the front/day care in the back during the days. I’d hire a bunch of dog nerds, equally giddy about obscure dog breeds and new dog training tools and philosophies. We’d be the best place to work and the best place to bring your pooch. A portion of our proceeds would be donated to worthy animal shelters and rescues, and we would always have a resident foster dog. It would be magical.

Own a car. Nothing fancy, but wheels to get me from A to B. No more slumming it on public transit. It would make my grocery shopping easier, I could lug around pet related items like giant bags of dog food and kitty litter, agility equipment, etc. I could take off for a weekend if I felt like it, and just drive to wherever, because I felt like it.

Get laser hair removal. What? Okay, yeah, it’s a bit superficial, but I would treat myself. I hate shaving. (Waxing? Is also annoying.) If I never had to do either again, and I could have silky smooth skin that lasts forever with no effort, well, that would be fabulous.

Treat myself to whole new wardrobe. Again, this is a superficial one. But I’d love to buy whatever clothes I wanted to, whenever, regardless of price. Yay, fashion!

Employ a life coach. But not an annoying new-agey one, and there seem to be a lot of those. Just someone who I could bounce shit off and who would tell me if I was being an idiot, and who would pump me up when I need it, and help me put things in perspective. What about my friends, you say? They’re great, but they rarely call me out when I’m being an idiot. And while I was at it I would also hire a personal trainer, and a nutritionist.

Support people who are doing good things. I’d give a ton of cash to people and organizations who are doing great things. Invisible Children. Toronto Cat Rescue. Bullies in Need. Best Friends Animal Sanctuary. Doctors Without Borders. African Child in Need. Plus, probably a ton more. Then, I’d start up a not-for-profit organization myself. And I would buy all my art from local artists and all my food locally grown, no matter what the cost.

Of course, this is a very partial list, but a good example for now. It's a bit random and all over the place - yes, I know that some items on this list would be achievable with me making (just) double or triple my salary, while others would require me to actually win the lottery, but you get the idea.

Money shouldn’t mean much, but damn if it can’t be a colossal barrier sometimes. Sigh.

What would *you* do if you had a crapload of cash?

Sunday, August 15, 2010

That Day in Amsterdam

A couple of years ago now, on my way home from Kampala, I had the most wonderful day. The kind of day where time stands still, where nothing matters, where everything is sunshine and warmth and goodness.

It was an eight hour layover in Amsterdam. After spending two weeks exploring Uganda, after having my mind blown by the generosity of people and my heart broken by poverty and desperation, after seeing the effects of AIDS, of war, after two weeks of living in a strange hostel, of getting to know co-workers, of learning the Ugandan culture, and realizing, really realizing just how lucky I am, I was on my way back home, but not quite there yet.

Our big group of fourteen dispersed at the end of our time in Uganda. Some of my trip mates (the rich ones!) flew to Tanzania for a safari. Some flew back to their homes in Montreal, in Chicago, in New York. A couple went on to Kenya to do some more volun-touring. And so, it was just Eric and Jenn and I and eight hours in glorious Amsterdam. Eric and Jenn, who I barely knew before this trip, but who had experienced so much with me over the previous two weeks. Who were now my friends. We were jet-lagged and culture shocked. None of us had had much alone time in fourteen days. We were coming off a surreal adventure. We were only a day away from our homes, our beds, our friends, our families - but we were still thousands of miles away.

We landed in the early hours of the morning. In the airport, we exchanged money for Euros. We boarded the first train to downtown where we watched the sunrise on a 24 hour cafĂ© patio. We ordered the greasiest breakfast ever – a welcome treat after subsiding on basically rice, beans and plantains for the last several meals. It was a Saturday morning, and the narrow cobbled streets were littered with flyers, cigarette butts, evidence of night’s debauchery. It being 7 am, they were empty. We watched the street cleaning crews sucking everything up, making everything pretty for when the people wake up and want to go for a stroll. I remembered from my last visit, how clean and green the city was, and now I know it is all thanks to the early morning city workers, who work quickly, quietly, diligently to clear the streets of all that grossness.

Nothing was open yet. We walked around by the canals, and watched the city slowly wake up. Everything was so peaceful. Amsterdam belonged to us.

The first coffee shop that we found that was open was calling to us. We’d all been to this city before but we’d forgotten how it works – ordering up marijuana from a menu, we didn’t know what we wanted, we just knew we wanted a joint.

“You order.”

“No, YOU order.”

“No, YOU.”

Finally someone did, I don’t remember who. With our tiny green stash in hand, we walked across the city. Destination: Vondelpark, which I now know to be one of the prettiest, happiest places in the world.

It was maybe 10 am by the time we picked out a spot, by the water, under a large tree. Our feet hurt from all the walking. We plunked ourselves down. We’d stocked up on snacks. We fired up our first Amsterdam joint. We didn’t have to be back at the airport till four.

The three of us basked in the park. We made friends with dogs who were out on their morning walks, and we chatted with their people. (How old? What breed? So cute!) We thought about our own dogs at home and how much they’d love it here. We watched the dynamics of little dogs playing with bigger dogs, shy dogs meeting boisterous dogs. We smiled and nodded at joggers. We waved at bicycle riders. We spied on couples having picnics. We ate candy, in the morning. Tourists asked us for directions – which way out of the park? We had no idea.

We retrieved fly away Frisbees and returned them to their rightful owners. There were ducks in the water. We watched them paddle around, take off briefly, and then return. We laughed together, about so many things. Silly things, stupid things I don’t even remember, but what I do remember is feeling my cheeks hurt from smiling so much. We observed everything, even colonies of ants in the grass we were sitting in, and making up stories about each member, Eric adding on to Jenn’s contribution, me adding to Eric’s, the stories getting progressively more ridiculous as they went on.

Our senses heightened, we took in the sounds of the park, bird calls, water rippling, dogs barking, Dutch accents, bicycle spokes. We lied back in the grass with our eyes closed, feeling the sun on our faces. It was magical. We did this all day. A few times we convinced ourselves we should explore the park, and we got lost a few times, did a couple of circles without knowing it until landmarks looked familiar, realizing we’d past them before. We gave up our exploratory mission in favour of another sunny out of the way corner to talk, laugh, read, and take everything in. We tried not to think about how weird it would be to go home, to explain our last two weeks to our friends and families, how we would be back to work, back to normal routines. Because for now, we were here, happily stoned in Vondelpark, amongst the green grass and the sunshine, and loving every minute.

Nobody wanted the day to end. We contemplated changing our airline tickets and staying another day to do the same thing again the next, but in the end were too lazy to look into the costs, to wait in lines, to deal with customer service agents, to book hotels, to take all the steps needed to accomplish this. Still, we procrastinated on heading back to the airport, waiting til the last minute, getting lost once again on our way out of the park, after begrudgingly, we flagged down a cab and began the journey back to our real lives. The perfect end to a most amazing journey, and a day that I’ll never in my life forget...

Vondelpark will cast a spell on you -- go!

Friday, July 16, 2010

Smiliest Dog Ever.

I was just looking through some old photos and stumbled upon one of my favourite shots of Siris. It was taken enroute to a week long cottage vacation, and she was pretty happy to be on a car ride to somewhere fun. I love this photo!