Monday, August 31, 2009


What is the one question that people who first meet you are likely to ask? "What do you do?" would be my guess and starting today, well... I'm not "doing" anything. I was chatting with a friend on Friday and was telling her that I was now unemployed and she thought that didn't sound very good. "Call it a sabbatical" she recommended. Sure. A sabbatical sounds good.

Except that I am not taking a year off, and do not have the objective of traveling the world or writing a book (although one day, I might write a book, I just haven't found the topic yet). I'm taking some time off to figure out what I'm going to do next. Maybe I should call it an extended spa day for my career, after which I hope to feel rejuvenated and ready to embark on a great adventure.

This week is however a bit different. I'm on vacation this week. I'm not thinking career plans, not spending lots of time researching and networking, I'm resting. I needed a vacation, haven't taken any time off since April and that includes Victoria Day, Saint-Jean-Baptiste and Canada Day. I think I took a day in replacement of one of the three holidays to move. Or pack. Not really to rest. The move has also been really exhausting, mentally and physically. Thank goodness I had some help, because I came pretty close to suffering from boxeritis, where the sight of an unpacked box is giving you nausea.

I have a few modest plans for the week. I reactivated my membership at the Y and have an appointment with a trainer on Thursday to get a program. I have a 5 à 7 with colleagues to celebrate (?) my departure. Everyone was on vacation last week. I am meeting with a lady from FEM International where I will be volunteering a few hours of my time in the next few months. On Wednesday, I will help mom and dad prepare Annie's apartment, so she at least has a bed to sleep in when she arrives Friday. And I have meals to cook. I promised Brendan that I would cook dinner more often, because he gets home so late from work and if nothing is ready, we end up eating dinner really late.

Nothing ambitious, just enough stuff to keep me busy, but also give me enough time to read, go for walks (maybe to the library to get a card so I can start borrowing more reading material), and prepare for week 1 of my sabbatical.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Gutsy move? Only time will tell...

This week is my last at work. On August 13, I told my boss that I was leaving, and I told him why. It wasn't that I didn't like the team, or the challenges, or the company. It's the type of work we do that I don't like and unfortunately, that's really hard to change unless you move on to another position in another company. I don't have another position in mind yet, even less another company, but I knew it was time to leave. So I did.

Don't get me wrong. I work with good people. But I also work with workaholics. Nothing wrong with being a dedicated worker if you are passionate about what you are doing. I wasn't. There is no half measure in my line of work, you either love it, or you don't. I didn't. I didn't like that we did all this research, thinking, analyzing, interviewing, and reporting only to leave at what I consider the most critical time: execution. I realized that I am an action-oriented woman. Give me a task, and I'll get it done. When my task is to make recommendations that I will never see being implemented (because we leave the client with this part of the task), I feel very detached from my work. It's too abstract, too theoretical.

I also didn't like the short-term relationships we developed with clients. Part of helping a team or a company realize something is to understand their culture and the rich web of relationships that exist between people. When you work with a clients for a few months, and most of the time from a distance, you cannot understand culture. Or maybe others can, but not me. I'd like to have a more personal relationship with the people I work with, be it clients or coworkers. But that wasn't possible in my line of work.

There were other reasons for deciding to leave, but these were the main ones. And one week before my last day, I feel that more than ever, I've made the right decision. I also took the time to sit down with each of my colleagues to explain to them why I was leaving. I work with smart, exceptional folks and I don't want to leave in bad terms, with lots of questions hanging about my motives.

Today, I updated my status in Facebook to let friends and family know what I had decided to do. I was really surprised by the show of support and the well-wishing tone of the comments overall. Not that I doubt the support of my friends, but at the same time I was wondering if anyone would ask why, wonder about my sanity for doing this. Nobody did.

Last week. Doesn't feel different. It will next Monday...

Monday, August 17, 2009

The pug is driving the car

I really love this weather. Although it has made unpacking a little slower than expected, I will not complain about the sun and heat. Not after the summer we've had so far.

We’re already nicely settled in, key areas unpacked and operational (kitchen, bathroom and closet), and we're now focusing on clearing out the remaining boxes before the weekend. Brendan’s grandparents are visiting from Sudbury, our first house guests!

Yesterday, after spending the morning unpacking, we decided to have brunch at the Orford Café, a small restaurant on Sherbrooke street not far from where we live. We’d been there once and the food was great, albeit a bit expensive. We sat outside, right at the corner of Orford and Sherbrooke, and ordered our meals. While we were waiting, we noticed a car slowing down on Sherbrooke, down to a halt before it crawled onto Orford at a snail’s pace. We check out the driver only to realize that it was a man in his 50’s with a fidgety pug standing on his lap. Speaking of things that will distract you from the road… I’m surprised the guy wasn't also speaking on his cell.

The car drives around a second time and the driver parks it right next to us. He gets out, along with a slender blond woman, and proceeds to get a table in a shaded area on the patio. That’s when we realized that they had left the engine running, with the AC on, with the front-seat window cracked open an inch, I’m assuming so the dog did not feel too locked in and stressed.

They left the car idling… Both Brendan and I are dumbfounded, even folks sitting next to us are staring back at the car, slightly amused and in disbelief.

We get our meal and start eating, still under shock, when we realized that we are starting to smell the car exhaust. On days where the city air is thick with smog, this idling engine is simply outrageous. I place my utensils on my plate, stand up, straighten up my dress and walk over to the table where the couple is now enjoying their coffee.

“Excuse me”, I say “you've left your car idling and we’re sitting at the table right next to it, we can smell the exhaust.” The first response the guy gives me? “Why don’t you change table?”

I see. The comfort of your dog not only beats any concern for the environment, but also the comfort of the people around you. I guess this is not one person I would win over with arguments of air pollution.

“We already started eating, and we don’t really want to move” was my next comment. He then looked around, annoyed, and pointed out to the busy Sherbrooke segment in front of the restaurant to show me that there were no other parking spaces available. There was a space a few buildings away, but he wanted to keep the car close so the dog could see them.

Oh brother.

“Why don’t you take the dog with you instead?”, I asked. After all, we’re sitting literally on the street and I've seen others have breakfast with a dog lying down at their feet. The man asks the waitress if he was allowed and she reassured him that it wasn't a problem at all.

“Yeah, I guess I can do that. Yeah, see that’s a good solution.”

I thanked him and walked back to my table. As I sat down, Brendan gave me an inquisitive look as if asking “how did you do that?” Well, no reasonable argument was going to convince this person to turn off his car engine. No argument other than the comfort of his precious fur child. I was happy of the outcome, that’s for sure, even if the reason for the change in behavior seemed completely wrong. I smiled as I saw the dog twitching on his owner’s lap as the man was trying to eat his eggs.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

At least I don't have to water the tomato plants

I can't believe it's raining again.

Still alive, but so busy with packing, unpacking and cleaning that I can only think of a good night's sleep when I'm done with my chores. Fortunately, I have been sleeping like a baby as we have purchased a new mattress for the duplex (incredible comfort), our neighbourhood is really quiet in the evening and the new home doesn't get as hot and humid as the apartment on Saint-Antoine (thanks to all the lovely trees). We don't even sleep in the apartment anymore, we make the trip every night to NDG to catch a snooze.

Now if only I could figure out how to keep the squirrels out of the plants (they haven't touched the tomatoes yet, but I'm not holding my breath). One of the pepper plants dad gave me had a tiny green pepper growing on it. It lasted two days. Damn furry rats. We're debating about purchasing a Super Soaker, but maybe a watering device attached to a motion detector would be more dissuasive. If we want to build a garden next year, it will probably have to be enclosed like the one my parents have up north.