Monday, August 23, 2010

Eliminate the crazy makers in your life

This was one of the tips from an article on creative ways to lighten up that a friend sent me yesterday. Yeah, I get this alright. Only it feels like the crazy makers want more of me, the more I want to distance myself from them. It's like a disease. How to ditch the dead weight? My break-up skills are rusty! Time to dig deep to my inner bitch.

On the flip side, I'm feeling a huge void of uplifting people. It's lonely. I walk the halls searching for happy people but everyone has that 'just get me to the weekend' expression ... hell, so do I. Guess I'll just have to find it within myself, be my own inspiration.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

How to make friends and influence people

I've already blogged a bit about this book. Glad to have finally read it -- was a good reminder of everything I already know, but DO NOT DO. Been trying to apply it at work especially, with limited success. Here are a few points that stood out for me.

1. never criticize condemn or complain
The book really means NEVER, even when someone asks for feedback. Criticism sparks defensiveness which erodes peace. When I think of the great people I know I can't imagine them tearing a strip off of anyone. In fact when they express disappointment, there's never any blame. One of the many examples that comes to mind is an incident whereby a prominent businessman, Charles Schwaub found some men smoking in one of his factories, right under the no smoking sign. He didn't point to the sign and chew them out, he handed them each a cigar and politely asked them if they would smoke them outside. Jesus! Who doesn't love people like this! I would never think of doing something like that.

2. avoid arguments
No one feels good after an argument -- winners don't really win and usually the loser resents losing and ends up holding onto their position even tighter. I think I'm getting better with this because I am less opinionated (which is at the same time sad). There are so many things I just don't care about. It also easier to let things go when you don't identify with your beliefs. "I'm probably wrong" isn't a bad way to think about things. You can at least appreciate hearing the other person's viewpoint by being receptive.

3. give honest and sincere appreciation
Flattery is not appreciation and nobody likes to be flattered. Sincerity is KEY. Who doesn't want to be recognized and made to feel important. I like this quote:
"Every person I meet is my superior in some way. In that, I learn of him."

4. arouse in the other person an eager want
Forget about what you want, no one is interested. Everyone is only interested in themselves. As Dr. Phil would say, figure out what their 'currency' is. This is how I feel about my job lately. I'm sick of slamming the IM agenda down people's throats. Nobody is listening! How about finding out what their needs are and determining how we can be of service at at the same time meet our goals?

I think I'd like to take a course in selling -- something like 'Everybody Sells'. It's not where I see my career going, but I want to be more persuasive and at the same time have peace in my dealings with others. There are also some courses on coaching and leadership offered at work ... might do those too ... anything to avoid actually working :-)

Saturday, August 21, 2010

More on Mars and Venus

More generalizing here, but since I find it applicable, I'm going to indulge.

What does he want?(other than sex 5x a week)

To feel trusted. I believe you are doing your best and want the best for us. I trust that you can fulfill my needs.

Acceptance. I love you the way you are and I don't want to change you.

Appreciation. I value all that you do for us. I will not take you for granted.

Admiration. I admire your loyalty, youthfulness, intellect, good looks, integrity, honesty and kindness.

Approval. I see your good intentions in everything you do.

Encouragement. When I express trust, acceptance, appreciation, admiration and approval I encourage you to be all that you can be.

... OMG, this sounds like wedding vows (GAK)

What do I want? (other than another rum and coke :-))

Caring. When you show interest in my feelings and heartfelt concern for my well-being, I feel loved and cared for.

Understanding. When you give me your undivided attention and listen without judgement but with empathy and relatedness when I express my feelings, I feel heard and understood.

Respect. When you acknowledge my rights, wishes and needs and when you take into consideration my thoughts and feelings, I feel respected.

Devotion. When you make my needs a priority and commit yourself to supporting and fulfilling me, I feel adored and special.

Validation. When you accept and confirm my feelings, I feel validated.

Reassurance. When you show that you care, understand, respect, validate and are devoted, I feel reassured (and on top of the world).

Wellllll .... if these are our primary love needs, marriage is not fulfilling them. We have our work cut out for us! I don't think it means we have to devote special time to 'working on the relationship'. It's being able to express your love by just living -- being the best you can be for your family, right?

I know that when I am blaming, controlling, criticizing, he does not feel loved. Who would? And when he doesn't listen, invalidates or ignores my feelings, I don't feel loved. I think we have it in us to change. Making the other person's needs a priority is just natural plus it feels really good. That's just how it should be.


Warning: another ranty blogpost.
My boss is counting on me to develop a magic classification system for the entire organization. She thinks I'll be able to just pull it out of my ass -- a magical system that every scrap of information can be categorized against; one that is both intuitive and user-friendly, and seamlessly supports search, retrieval and disposal.

Here's what I have to say about that: IT AIN'T GONNA HAPPEN SISTA.

First of all, if it was so important and easy to do, then it'd be done by now... and not by me, but by the people who create information in the first place.

Secondly, this is NOT how the real world works. Yes, we need order. Humans naturally group and categorize. Traditionally, foldering aids retrieval. However, information does not fit neatly into singular folders. It's organic, it links, it can be about MANY subjects ... so why stuff it in ONE folder? Folders are DEAD.

So what about 'logical' folders, or tagging? Well .... it's not going to happen either. Not only because we've gone too long without ever having to describe our information, but because the value of a particular piece of information is not always known at the point of creation. It may start out as a simple idea and evolve into something greater. Just look at the web. Do we put things away in folders and click through them to find information? Hell no, we search. Plus, not everything ends up in a 'document'. Thanks to the web, there are many ways to collaborate. Things can indeed happen without spinning documents.

Organization is also personal. We all like the flexibility of having our own systems -- by subject, priority, project, or not at all. Don't impose some kludgy taxonomy that will be out-of-date the minute it's created AND make it harder for me to find my information, just don't.

This blog is a case in point. Some time ago a friend suggested I blog about my purge as I seemed to be having more fun with talking about it than actually doing it. It was also a polite way to say "not that interested D, tell the blog sphere instead". It turned out to be great advice because I'm able to get all my ideas out of my head and make room for ... other useless ideas. I did not attempt any kind of tagging or classification because I did not know what I would be blogging about. Dreaming up potential tags seemed pointless. So I decided to wait until a critical mass was created and then I would let the information show me where there were recurring themes (such as parenting, relationships, enlightenment, fitness, etc.). I'm now at that point. Looking up older posts is painful because I have to remember 'when' I created them. Nothing is really linked so where I've expanded on a particular idea (such as gentle discipline) I have to click through many posts until I find what I want. So will I go back to all 100 posts and tag them? No, I will not. And so it goes.

Maybe I should look closer at auto-classification tools. Users DO NOT want to be burdened with this. I do not want to impose this on anyone. How the hell am I going to convince my management that this is a complete waste of time? FML.

Friday, August 20, 2010

I don't like the booze, but the booze likes me

My vices, how they hold me captive. I'm craving a lot of alcohol lately, it's sweetness, warmth, buzzzzz ..... ahhhhhh. I try to tell myself that I don't need the extra calories, expense or hang-over (even one beer does it). But I find myself constantly looking forward to it -- as much as I look forward to seeing my kids at the end of the day. This is probably just a coping mechanism to change. I'm not happy being back to work, not one iota. I feel like I'm compromising my values for money which makes me feel incredibly disingenuous (don't think that's the right word). I don't like having dependencies! I'm stronger than that. Here I go again, ending a post with yet another promise ... a dry period? Maybe I should just accept this temporary bout of alcoholism. Why fight it? Everyone will get used to our new routine. Things will be normal again. xx

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

My knight in shining armour

A wise middle-aged friend of mine who's divorced was quoting Mars and Venus the other day so I decided to dust it off. I was pleasantly surprised by how relevant it still is. While not the best written self-help book I've read, I find it's advice and examples quite straight-forward and practical.

This story in particular caught my attention (paraphrased slightly for brevity).

The Knight in Shining Armour

Deep inside every man there is knight in shining armour. More than anything he wants to succeed in serving and protecting the woman he loves. When he feels trusted, he is able to tap into this noble part of himself. He becomes more caring. When he doesn't feel trusted he loses some of his aliveness and energy, and after a while he can stop caring.
Imagine the knight traveling through the countryside. Suddenly he hears a woman in distress. In an instant he comes alive. He races to her castle where she is trapped by a dragon. The knight slays the dragon and is lovingly received by the princess.
As the gates open he is welcomed and celebrated by the family of the princess and the townspeople. He is invited to live in the town and is acknowledged as a hero. He and the princess fall in love.
A month later the knight hears his beloved princess crying out for help. Another dragon has attacked the castle. When the knight arrives, he pulls out his sword to slay the dragon. Before he swings, the princess cries out from the tower "Don't use your sword, use this noose. It will work better." She throws him the noose and motions to him instructions about how to use it. He hesitantly follows her instructions. He kills the dragon and everyone rejoices.
At the celebration dinner the knight feels he didn't really do anything. Somehow because he used her noose and didn't use his sword, he doesn't quite feel worthy of the town's trust and admiration. After the event he is slightly depressed and forgets to shine his armour.
A month later he goes on a trip and the princess reminds him to be careful and to take his sword and the noose. .... you can see where this is going ...
By the time the knight rescues his fourth princess he draws his sword to slay the dragon and hesitates -- should I use my sword, the noose, or the poison. What would the princess say?
... and so the story ends badly -- the knight never returns to his princess.

BIG SIGH here ... I created this. Years of smothering, controlling, mothering. My knight has lost his stride. I've weakened his confidence to the point that he constantly turns to me for advice. And it's so fucking unattractive! Who's the man in this relationship? Me. I have a friend who talks about the feminization of men all the time. I usually ignore most of his ranting ... but that's probably because deep down I know it's true. I want my knight back dammit.

The worst thing a man can do to a woman

In a previous post, I explored Blaming, Shaming and Complaining -- the three worst things most women do their men according to the book How to Improve Your Marriage without Talking About it. I would be remiss to not show the other side, so here goes. The worst thing a man can to do a woman is ... to leave her ALONE -- alone in her dreams, alone at home, alone in her fears, alone in bed, alone period.

Alone at Home:I'm fortunate that I wasn't born during my parent's generation when child-rearing was solely woman's work. My partner does his fair share and often more. This is a no-brainer -- our family wouldn't function if one person was left doing all the chores. I'm very grateful that we are equal partners. My problem is that I do not express my gratitude often enough. At times, I resent having to say thank you for something that's clearly his responsibility. Yet I know that it's imperative to my partner's happiness to feel appreciated. In fact, he's ready to give more when I show my gratitude, so what's stopping me?

Alone in Her Dreams:
Spouse, kids, health, career, house, leisure time. What more could a girl ask for? At the risk of sounding like an ingrate, I'm not done dreaming. There's more I want out of life and I often feel like my partner is impatient with me: "Isn't what you have enough woman?" He's uncomfortable with hearing me talk about my dream of owning my own business (not sure what yet) and would rather I stay put in my stagnant, stifling and utterly depressing (yet secure and well-paying) job. Until I can provide some guarantees on the financial viability of a new business, my ideas are pointless. That's okay, I can still blab to my friends who don't mind listening -- they have nothing vested after all.

Alone in bed:
Sex is NOT the the same as intimacy. I need to feel connected before sex, he needs sex to feel connected. Hello? It's no wonder sex is such a charged issue for many married couples. Often I feel like I'm living a Rewards Program -- everything he does for the me and the kids earns points towards sex. Hell, I know it's that way in other marriages too. Acceptance is where I'm at with this. It's futile to try and change someone else -- and what, turn him into a woman? Familiarity + routine + sleep deprivation + kids does not equal va-va-va-voom! Luckily for me, I've discovered that my feelings towards sex are mostly based on how I feel about my self. Staying healthy and fit is my key to an active sex life.

Alone in her fears:
According to this book, women's primary fears are of rejection and abandonment. It's worse when men retreat to their caves. I am particularly prone to this one, which I think stems from my childhood and was further exacerbated in my 20s with a string of dysfunctional relationships. Luckily for me, the security of a committed relationship has squelched this fear, for the most part. On occassion, the pain of rejection rises up and takes hold of me. It's those times in particular that remind me that marriage has not ruined my life. I'm generalizing here, but men underestimate how real this fear is. It's okay to turtle from conflict and pull away in order to come back more loving. I do this too sometimes. What's often missing is that tiny bit of reassurance -- "everything is cool, I'll be back, don't sweat it." THAT makes all the difference in the world.

I question how wise it is to generalize like this. Men and women behave differently in relationships and at times we swap roles :-P. I certainly spend a lot of time navel gazing and it's easy to lose perspective. Hopefully it helps to try and step into his shoes.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

I'm going to get smucked by a bus

There, I've said it. Let's hope the Law of Attraction does not make it true. I'm being really reckless on my bike lately. And it's not an agile confident kind of recklessness. It's a nervous, impatient, that-girl-is-going-to-get-herself-killed kind of recklessness. It's worse when I leave work. I have to make a dangerous left turn across four lanes of traffic. I weave around buses, wait for even the smallest gap in traffic and just gun it. I should not be taking these kinds of risks -- I'm a mother! And if that isn't bad enough, I get a slight thrill out of it. Yikes. This is so unlike me. Maybe it's a mid-life crisis thing?

So my dearest THREE followers of my blog, you are the first to know, if in fact I do get run over by a bus, I did see it coming. K - this is not good. I think I'll take the safer (and more comforting) path through Gatineau from now on.

Sunday, August 15, 2010


I'll never forget the moment someone I loved expressed complete contempt towards me. Our relationship had been on a downward spiral for quite sometime, only I was too naive to see it. In fact, I thought the fighting was normal. I had stormed off one night after a big fight and came back to our apartment many hours later. He had nothing to say to me and when I asked him if he wanted to know where I had been, he looked me in the eye and said point blank that he did not care where I had been. It wasn't so much the words, but the tone that killed me. None of the yelling, insults or cold shoulders even came close to the contempt in his face, eyes and body. In that moment I knew that our relationship was over. Two weeks later it was official.

I don't drudge up my past all the time like I used to. There's not much point. But sometimes it's moments like these that pop up to remind me of how to treat others. My words can hurt. I know my tone hurts even more. I know the power I have to crush his spirit with my sharp tongue. Luckily, I also know what if feels like to be on the receiving end and I'm grateful that my experience helps keep me in check (most of the time).

Thursday, August 12, 2010

The object of his desires

I'll admit, I was looking forward to seeing the look of shock on my colleagues faces upon seeing my new body. I was quite the pregnant heifer last time most people saw me at the office over a year ago. Plus, my shallow side quite likes the attention. Most people have been really positive -- "you look great D, nice to have you back." Thank you! What I wasn't prepared for was the leering -- "Wow, you look soooo good. I don't think I've ever seen you with your hair this long. I can't get over your LEGS. I'm amazed by how fantastic you look." K, the first few minutes made me blush. I'm not used to getting ogled by men. Then again, if I didn't want people to notice me, then why did I dress office-slut this week? Now, it's starting to annoy me. K, enough. I'm still me you loser! Get a grip. This is creeping me out.

I can see why men are easily frustrated. How many times have I heard my partner tell me: "you complain when I don't notice and when I do you accuse me of just wanting sex". Yes, this is true. What I want is subtlety. Check me out, but don't leer. Tell me I look great, but don't heap on the compliments. Flash me a smile that says "lookin' good, good lookin'", but don't drool.

I'm ready for the novelty to wear off. Let's just move past it. I also feel enormous pressure to keep this up -- I've had double cream in my coffee, greasy muffins, and even beer at work and the week is not done. I'm also anxious for people to see the new me on the inside. Patience D, this will take time. I have to SHOW them that I am more empathetic, nicer, calmer, accepting -- I can't just TELL them so.

The 'coming out' has been fun, but please, more than anything, just let me go back to being one of the guys.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Small Talk Bites

I used to love to chat about anything and everything. It's no surprise to me that many have asked if I ever stop talking. Yet lately, I dread useless chit chat. I feel like a complete bore and talking about nothing just reinforces it. For once, I don't have anything to say.

Now, when I anticipate a social setting, I try to think ahead of potential conversation topics, which usually just raises my anxiety because I seem to know nothing about pop culture. Lost, Glee, True Blood -- I've never watched any of these shows. By the time I hear about them, I'm three seasons behind. Movies, music, books .... it's depressing just thinking about how unread I've become. Sports? Pif! Politics? zzzzzzzz. NO ONE wants to hear about my job. Even the environment, which I used to be passionate about, is a bore for me.

Ten years ago I remember avoiding colleagues with young kids. Now, single people avoid me -- my kids are my life. I get the same reaction that I give people who talk about their pets -- "please, just stop, I've already stopped listening". I even dread it when someone asks me about my weekend. Everyone's weekends are pretty much the same -- some sort of scheduled activity for the kids, chores, perhaps an uneventful outing to the park or a museum, visit with family, done.

So how do you move beyond small talk to something more profound? I'm not looking to find what we have in common -- I want to hear about what's different from what I already know. How can I get to know my friends better? Listening is always a good start. I've been wanting to improve that for some time, but haven't made much headway.

There's a lot about people that I'd like to know. Maybe I should just come out and ask them. When I look at this list of conversation starters, I don't know the answers for my partner, sister or good friends, which is pretty sad. But how can I work these in at the office, really? Maybe I'm just being nosey. Anything to get past the smalltalk. It's too painful to bear.

One thing's for sure, when people ask me on Monday how my year off has been, I'll give them three sentences and turn it back on them -- how has THEIR year been. I don't want to hear myself blab. I want to take a backseat and just hear from others.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Encouraging Autonomy

A friend of mine's son is about to start university and she's completely distraught. She's devoted her entire life to her kids -- they are everything to her. I can feel her sense of loss already. She is not handling it well. On top of that she's only just realizing that her children have no life skills. They don't know how to cook, do laundry, find their way, pick up the phone to inquire about something. She's always done everything for them so that they could focus on their activities. I had to really bite my tongue and just listen to her pain. I wanted so much to judge her for being selfish and not fulfilling her duty as a parent to prepare her kids for life. But just like my own mother, I know her heart was in the right place. Who can fault a parent for loving their kids after all?

So how does one go about encouraging autonomy? Personally, I try to take my cue from my kids. When they are eager and able, it goes more smoothly than me telling them what to do (surprise, surprise). In the awesome book How To Talk So Kids will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk, the authors provide some very good advice on how to get kids to learn to do things for themselves.

1. Let children make choices (are you in the mood for your red shirt or blue shirt?)
2. Show respect for a child's struggle (tying shoe laces takes a lot of fancy fingerwork)
3. Don't ask too many questions (say: "Glad to see you; welcome home" instead of: "Did you have fun today? What did you learn? Who did you play with, etc.")
4. Don't rush to answer questions (try: "That's an interesting question. What do you think?")
5. Encourage children to use sources outside the home (maybe Grandpa would have a suggestion)
6. Don't take away hope (try: so you're considering a career in architecture! not:with your grades?)

I let the kids do little things here and there. I should really let them do more. The control freak in me needs to let things go and have more patience. Yes, it will take longer and be messier, but in the end we'll all be better for it.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

50 Things to do before I die

Yes, the mother of all Things To Do Lists. It's been a lot of fun dreaming up this bucket list the past few days, although some were stolen off the web. Personal development and humanitarian goals are not included (there's already too much of that in this blog anyway). Also missing are about a dozen sex-related items because I'm too shy to put them out there for all to see (perhaps after a few glasses of wine). Will I ever get to do these? Maybe half if I'm lucky. In no particular order:

1. Jump off the high dive at C.U.

2. Sky dive

3. Be the letter of the day

4. Bake really really good bread

5. Cook a gourmet 7-course meal for at least six people

6. Run a marathon

7. Pass my gold dances in figure skating

8. Play Beethoven's Pathetique Sonata

9. Write a song

10. Be a guest speaker at a large conference (key note would be even more amazing)

11. Visit Prague

12. Climb Manchu Picchu

13. Sit on a jury

14. Write a book

15. Spend a night back-country camping, BY MYSELF.

16. Grow a big garden

17. Surf/para sail/wind surf somewhere really dangerous

18. Scuba dive somewhere really cool

19. Go up in a hot air balloon

20. Have a repetoire of over 50 contemporary piano songs played from memory

21. Snowboard

22. Knit a sweater

23. Learn to draw

24. Canoe/kayak whitewater

25. Sail my own boat somewhere exotic for at least 21 days

26. Create a kick-ass scrap book of my family's history

27. Be an extra in a film

28. Eat at an expensive trendy NYC restaurant

29. Read all 100 of the best novels of all time

30. Have dinner with someone famous

31. Own my own business

32. Do a triathalon

33. Homestead for at least six months

34. Get a hair and make-up makeover

35. See all 100 of the best movies of all time

36. Organize a big event (at least 1000 people)

37. Add more things to this list ... I can't believe that I can't think up more. Guess I've done a lot already. :-)

Monday, August 2, 2010

We are one

You know how dog owners often resemble their pets? I feel like my partner and I have morphed into a single married blob. I thought this wasn't supposed to happen for another 20 years!

He used to be the ying to my yang. But now I'm more relaxed and he's uptight. I'm less opinionated and don't give a shit about so many things that used to really piss me off. He's always trying to be productive and doesn't make time to relax. I'm all about fitness whereas he used to be the freak. Of course not everything has flip-flopped. A lot of our demeanor, expressions, interests are EXACTLY THE SAME. He even looks and dresses like me! Other people are starting to notice too. It makes me want to shave my head, join a cult, do anything that is DIFFERENT. Please, I need some diversity in my life.

On the upside, it's certainly more harmonious when you share the same interests and opinions. No disagreements over what movie to see, which restaurant to eat at, who to vote for, what CD to listen to, etc. And lord knows there's enough other things we can bicker about. But it's also fucking boring being a married blob. How do old people do it?

Hopefully getting back to work and being around non-family members again will help. I love my family dearly, but I'm missing my identity. Plus I've changed so much that I don't even know who I am anymore! One thing is for sure though, this Bobbsey Twin is steppin' out and getting a life.