Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Curious Tuesday: My Favourite Outfit

In need of a writing "prompt", I thought I might participate in Gala Darling's Curious Tuesday, as I've done in the past, but I wanted to explore the idea in a bit more detail...

Gala's question today is "what is your favourite outfit? The outfit which makes you feel most beautiful, powerful, confident & capable… & when you think (or look) back on it, what does that tell you about clothing & your personal style?".

When I first read this question, I was immediately intrigued - anyone who knows me knows that I love clothes and I always take the time to put a thoughtful outfit together. I just don't feel good if I don't do this. I mean everyone has off days where you're either late or just don't care or both, but for the most part, if I throw clothes on to cover my body with no thought to mood, colour, weather, expectations for the day, etc, I don't feel as attractive and confident as I could. It really does affect my mood for the whole day.

However, choosing a "favourite" outfit is extremely hard for me because I don't really have one. My style is sort of like my personality - eclectic, moody and experimental. My style is hard to define because it is constantly changing. I really like to try out new trends, shapes and styles and my clothing choices are based in large part upon my mood that day and how I want to convey it.

I suppose if I had to TRY and define my favourite outfit, I would say it must incorporate the following ideas: a balance between dressy and casual (I never like to look too much of either), comfort and versatility (I'm on-the-go a lot and I DO NOT have time or patience for high maintainence), and colourful/fun (I hate being monochromatic - if I do wear a printed or bright piece I tend to temper it with neutrals/plains, but I have to have some kind of colour or print in my outfit or I just feel like a snooze). I also like to have a balance in shapes - e.g. if I wear a loose top I prefer to pair it with a streamlined/fitted bottom, or vice versa. Overall, I always like to look a little different from everyone else, while still blending in.

In my 20's I have become a lot more confident in my style and trying new things. I've also become a lot more polished and creative. One thing I've gotten really into is accessories - I always wear at least some kind of accessory (usually more than one) actually and I feel naked without them. I LOVE scarves and jewelry and I tend to be attracted to colourful, "ethnic" pieces that look like you could have picked them up on a mediterranean vacation or that were handed down from a grandmother.

I'm only 5 feet tall and I have a curvy body so I do have to be careful how MANY accessories and how much print I wear - too much can overwhelm me or accentuate parts I don't need help accentuating further (like my ass, for one). However, I also don't believe in living by strict style "rules", per se. There are things that magazines (and tall, skinny girls) would say I shouldn't wear (like leggings, flats, fuller tops, etc) but I still do. As long as you feel comfortable in it and you wear it in a way that's flattering to your body type and situation (e.g. I love leggings but ALWAYS wear them with a shirt that covers the butt and hips; also, some ensembles are just never appropriate for the office), who cares?

That is what is so great about fashion! There are SO many possibilities and when it comes right down to it there are no rules. You can reflect your personality and mindset without saying a word. For someone like me, who can be shy in some situations, this is an especially great thing.

At my "goodbye party" the other night, my boss and another co-worker were raving to me about my style. My boss said my fashion sense "amazes her" and they both mentioned how much they look forward to seeing what I wear everyday. This meant a lot, partially because I didn't realize they felt this way, but also because I take great pride in what I wear. This may seem shallow to some people, but to me it's just a form of creative expression. I have a lot of fun with what I wear, and my clothes (as well as my ability to put them together in pleasing ways) make me feel really good about myself; ultimately it's something I do for my own pleasure and would do whether it were recognized by others or not, but it still felt special for them to notice the pride and effort I put into it.

The idea of clothes as armour and artistic tool is the centre idea in a play currently showing in New York, LA and Toronto called "Love, Loss & What I Wore". The play is by Nora and Delia Ephron (whose movies I LOVE btw!) and based on the book by Ilene Beckerman. According to the website, this play "uses clothing and accessories and the memories they trigger to tell funny and often poignant stories that all women can relate to." The play has a rotating cast who perform in 4 week cycles; some of the cast has included the following women I LOVE: Kristin Chenoweth, Fran Drescher, Janeane Garofalo, Jane Lynch, and Wendy Crewson (Toronto). A portion of each ticket for the Toronto show are going to Dress for Success.

I recently read a review of this play and have been dying to go to Toronto to see it ever since. The idea behind the stories perfectly encapsulates the point I'm trying to make with this post - that clothes are not just about covering our bodies; they are tools for making us feel "beautiful, powerful, confident & capable", and for expressing who we are. Any outfit that does that is a favourite in my book.

I think I've pretty much answered your question, haven't I, Gala?? :)

Thursday, August 26, 2010

It's My Party, and I'll Cry If I Want To

Today is sort of my last day at work. I say sort of because next Friday (Sept 3rd) is my last day in the office, but tonight is my "Goodbye Party". Yes, my boss wanted to have a party for me to say goodbye (and not because she's just THAT happy to see me finally leave...though actually I don't know that 100%...hmm....)


This is why I'm going to miss working here - because I work with the kind of people who want to throw a PARTY for me. ME! I've never had this happen before - heck at my last job I was barely given the space/time to clean out my desk. Generally, I hate being the centre of attention so at first the suggestion of having a party just for me made me cringe, but for the most part it made me all warm and fuzzy inside. I felt like having a Sally Field moment and yelling "You like me! You really like me!" (but I didn't - at least not out loud).

I feel very lucky that I even have a job, let alone one that has allowed me the freedom, support and genuine caring that I've experienced here. Of course, I don't technically HAVE a job anymore, which doesn't make me feel so lucky, but I'm still grateful for the experience I have had here. Honestly I wasn't that drawn to this job when it first fell into my lap about 15 months ago - frankly, I took it because I was unemployed and desperately broke so I really only saw it as a way to pay the bills. Little did I know how much I would learn about myself (my strengths and weaknesses, likes and dislikes, etc), how openly the "family" would welcome me into the fold, how patient everyone would be while I attempted to fill some large shoes (whose owner had gone on mat leave), and how many fun, creative projects I would have the chance to work on.

In addition, I had no idea that my boss would turn out to be the best I've ever had. She has always made me feel valued, cared for, productive, and trusted, not to mention has always put my quality of life at the top of the list and in that vein has given me free time and space when I need it, no questions asked.

So, needless to say this party will be bittersweet for me. I'm not looking forward to leaving and I'll be sad to not be a part of this group anymore (I'll be sad to no longer have a job, period). However, I will still be helping them out on a contract basis here and there, so my foot will be kept in the door. And for the most part, I feel very positive about the whole thing because I'm very grateful I at least had this experience. I know first-hand how tough it is to find any job, let alone one that you enjoy and that allows you to work with people you enjoy as well. This is rare, and I'm privileged to have found it, even for a short time.

I've been feeling down lately about my job situation (or lack thereof), among other things and I'm very unsure of the future at the moment. But I'm determined to not to let this get me down. I have decided I'm going to try and stay positive no matter what. The drive for this comes from the gratefulness I feel re. the above, but also from a desire to come out on the other side rather than be mowed down.

I've been using various tactics to stay positive and one activity I've started doing that I would recommend to anyone is writing a list of "Affirmations" at the end of each day. This is a list of 10 positive things that happened that day and it's as simple as that. I started it as a way to train my brain to focus on the positive rather than the negative (which is tough for me as I tend to be naturally cynical and pessimistic). At first, I was worried it would be really hard to come up with 10 things every time and I decided I'd settle for coming up with more than one, but each day I have been able to draft a list quite quickly; I've found that once I start, the affirmations literally SPILL from my brain and out the pen! Even yesterday when I was feeling probably the most down I've felt all week and thought to myself "ugh, it's going to be tough to come up with 10 things tonight", I had 10 things listed in the blink of an eye! I was, and am, shocked at how such a small action can help so much.

It's sort of silly and there's no way of knowing whether it will actually help in the long run, but I truly think that if I keep it up, eventually my brain's thoughts will conform automatically to positive thinking, at least most of the time. If anything, it ends my day on a high note and allows me to go to sleep content and ready to tackle the morning, and that can never be a bad thing. I need all the positive thinking I can muster right now, and I am sure it will only come back to me in the long run.

Even if it doesn't, I will be satisfied just knowing I tried to fight the blues and had wonderful people behind me the entire time.

(This all being said, I'm still not looking forward to the "goodbye" part of the party. Ah well, at least there will be booze)

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Things'll Be Great For Sure...Downtown

How was your weekend? I had a great one! Why, do you ask? Well, there are a few reasons for that, but the best part of my weekend was probably Saturday because this is the day I finally completed my Big Day Downtown*! If you aren't sure what the heck I'm talking about, you can read all about it here.

I had my activites for the day pretty much mapped out weeks ago, but actually changed it up at the last minute for various reasons. For example, I planned on visiting the new Farmer's Market first thing, but was scared away by reports from friends about the crazy busy-ness and I really didn't feel like getting up at 6am on a weekend (call me lazy, but I do that all week for work). My main goals for the day were to visit places that previous bloggers hadn't written about, and to have a mixture of experiences - e.g., visit new places as well as familiar ones, not stick to one particular activity, and plan the day out but also leave room for the unexpected. Interestingly, this is pretty much how I live my life a good part of the time so...neat!

WORD OF WARNING: this is a long post and there's lots of photos, so it's not a quick read. It's hard to cram an full 8 hour day of fun into a few hundred words (so sue me). Also, excuse the funky spacing in some parts - arranging photos in Blogger is quite the chore and I could only fix so much without completely messing up my format, so you will have to settle for less than perfect. Sorry!

Friday, August 20, 2010

Money (it's a crime)

Money is a funny thing (at least that's what ABBA says). Funny is an appropriate descriptor because money is a good thing, but it's also bad; it exists in this kind of grey-limbo area in life where it brings everyone joy and pain in equal measure. Funny is also an appropriate descriptor because what I think of money is impossible to define - I both love and hate it all at the same time.

I got to thinking about money lately because, in the midst of the "epic of epic epicness" that is my job search, I finally came across a job that sounds perfect for me, is in line with my career goals, and I think I'd love to do. So, I'm sure you're thinking the same thing I am - there's gotta be a catch, right? I mean that's how life generally works. And you got it! The catch would be that the salary is approx. $6,000 less than what I'm making at my current job, and what I've become accustomed to making over the past 15 mths. Doesn't sound like a huge decrease? Do the math - it means bringing in approx. $500 less per month.

I had to think really hard - is this salary cut worth it to me? I did the number-crunching and there's no question that this pay cut would be tough and would mean cutting out a few expenses. This obviously is not ideal, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized I would be very disappointed to give up the chance at a great job just because of the salary. Ultimately I decided that I can better handle a more frugal lifestyle than another random, crappy job that has nothing whatsoever to do with what I'm passionate about.

Obviously, the job isn't mine yet and maybe I won't even get it, but in any case it was an excuse to think about money and how I value it. It was eye-opening to actually write down the amounts I pay out and to what each month and add it all up. I would consider myself to be smart with money and I'm in pretty good shape financially compared to others my age - I'm not perfect but I don't have any student loan debt, don't own a car or a house, I live alone and therefore spend less on groceries and power, etc, I always pay my bills on time or early, and always pay more than the minimum payment on my credit cards (and pay on them twice per month rather than just once). But I've never really had a budget - I've kind of just paid things without recording or thinking much about the amounts - and the total of my monthly expenses surprised me once it stared me in the face.

If I do happen to be offered the aforementioned job*, I'm not going to lie, I would not be happy about having to make changes to my lifestyle and budget. I know it would be tough to get used to and I would most likely have to skip out on things I want to do because I wouldn't be able to afford them. However, I also think it would be liberating and educational - having less money would force me to look more closely at cash flow and be more responsible with it. It would force me to get more creative with "cutting corners" and ways to make extra cash on the side. It would force me to get real with the amount of debt I have, get more serious about paying off what I have before adding more, and get more serious about the future - savings, RRSP's, etc.

I guess money is a case of quality over quantity - it's not so much how much money you make, but how you spend it that counts. There's nothing wrong with spending money on a new top or magazine, as long as you prepare for that and don't do it all the time. Just like in dieting, spending is all about moderation. When it comes right down to it, I don't need much. And I'm guessing that buying fewer things will ultimately make me appreciate each thing all the more...

...though more than likely all of this is a bunch of bull, I'm completely delusional and/or overly optimistic, and will be crying into my food stamps about how broke I am in another month or two. I guess we'll see.

So, what are your thoughts? What financial challenges do you have? Do you keep a budget? How do you cut corners or work on the side to keep/make extra cash?

I think these song lyrics perfectly encapsulates my complex feelings/thoughts about money, so I thought I'd share:

'Money' - Pink Floyd
Money, get away
Get a good job with more pay
And your O.K.
Money, it's a gas
Grab that cash with both hands
And make a stash
New car, caviar, four star daydream
Think I'll buy me a football team
Money get back
I'm all right Jack
Keep your hands off my stack
Money, it's a hit
Don't give me that
Do goody good bullshit
I'm in the hi-fidelity
First class traveling set
And I think I need a Lear jet
Money, it's a crime
Share it fairly
But don't take a slice of my pie
Money, so they say
Is the root of all evil
But if you ask for a raise
It's no surprise that they're
Giving none away
*I guess we will see what happens! Don't worry - if I hear anything, you will too! I'll be shouting it from the rooftops*

Monday, August 16, 2010

Kick Off My Sunday Shoes

Yes, I'm still alive. I've been in a wonderful little land called "vacation" for the past 10 days or so, hence the lack of posting. I went on my annual cottage trip to PEI with my mom and sister, with a few extra days off before and after. I had a really stressful week leading up to going away so I wanted to make it a point to abstain from a lot of computering while away and focus on enjoying the sunshine, beach, food and reading.

So, not much more to say about that except that it was good! And I'm back to real life and to the regular grind!

The bad news is that I'm behind on things I've been meaning to post! Before I left for vacation, I did an interview for the new blog for Mephisto shoes. A lovely lady contacted me a few weeks ago, after I posted here about shoes, saying that she liked my blog and wondered if I'd mind being featured. You can read the interview here.

I say this every time, but I'm so blown away when I get messages like that and I hear that people actually read this little blog and enjoy it! It feels so great! And not just anyone but someone from a well-established company who wants to get my insights?! Seriously?! It's very humbling, especially since most of the time I feel like I just ramble on about very trivial, opinionated things in these posts of mine and probably don't even make sense. Actually when I re-read my answers to the interview questions, I cringed at my long-windedness in some responses! However, that's me, and as I say in one of my answers, the great thing about blogging is you have the freedom to be yourself, and to write however and about whatever you want. As long as it makes sense to you, that's the important thing (occasional cringe-worthy editing aside).

This is going to be a regular feature on Mephisto's new blog - interviews with bloggers that they enjoy - so I'll certainly be giving my contact there the names of a few blogs that I think are pretty great. What good is love if you can't spread it around a little?

I had a lot of fun perusing the shoes on GoMephisto.com (um, who wouldn't?!) and have several favourite pairs. At the time of my interview, I picked the Cataron style as my favourite, but I'm also a fan of Algie, Catiena, Abbie, and Bella (on another note, I don't know who comes up with the names of these styles, but I love them). These shoes really marry style to function and comfort, which I love. I'm always on the go, so it's important that my feet feel good!

Thanks so much to Pat at the blog for contacting me (and liking the blog!), and thanks to everyone who reads my stuff. It really means a lot. Even though this blog is ultimately for me and about me, I still love being able to connect with others through my words and pictures.

Keep up the great work, Blogsphere! xo Stay tuned for my post for the #bigdaydowntown project, that I'm completing this weekend (wherein I take downtown Halifax by storm), and an upcoming travelogue I'm entering in a contest over at Trazzler, plus some other fun goodies I haven't come up with yet but am sure I will soon, not to mention the continued saga of "the job search". It's good to be back.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

The Kids Are (Not) Alright

I was sitting in a coffee shop with my mom yesterday after work enjoying a lovely cappuccino and cookie, reading the paper, trying to relax my stressed mind, overwhelmed with job-interview anxiety among other things.

However it was rather hard to relax given that there were 3 kids in the "toy area" yelling at the top of their lungs to each other and banging the toys around as much as they could. It sounded like they were dismantling a frigin nuclear missile over there given the sounds of destruction that were coming from that corner. After a bit they proceeded to leave the "toy area" and run up and down the stairs and back repeatedly in the loudest and most hyper way possible. I actually had to talk to my mom from the top of my lungs just so she could hear me over the din. She was sitting right across the table.

I couldn't help but think - do those kids REALLY need to be that loud? I understand they are kids and they are playing and letting off steam but is it really necessary to stomp through a public place like a herd of elephants? Could their mother not have asked them to not scream or bang QUITE so loud?

Not to mention, on Monday we went to a lake near my mom's house to relax on the grass in the sun and go for a swim. There was a small group of three or four boys, probably around 10 years old, who were gathering balls of seaweed/sludge from the lake-bottom and throwing them at each others heads and yelling and screaming in the process. Trouble was, they were also hitting others including my mom who was trying to have a relaxing swim. She had to speak to them twice. I say "had" to because the boys' parents (wherever they were) certainly didn't see fit to do so.

I realize they were just goofing off, as young boys will do but it's possible to have fun while also respecting the fact that others are around you and want to enjoy themselves too. And not everyone's idea of enjoying themselves is having kids scream in their ear and being hit in the head with lake sludge (call them crazy).

On the one hand I feel like a huge douche saying these things because I do realize that kids are loud and sometimes obnoxious; they don't have the same concept of personal courtesy that adults do (well, SOME adults). And that's ok! They should be allowed to be kids. And parent's should certainly be allowed to have a break to chat with a friend in the sun or just read the paper over a latte. I'm not a mom so I really have no concept of what it's like to control three energetic children but I know enough to assume that it's not an easy task.

However, on the other hand I feel there is a line between letting kids be kids and letting your kids just completely run wild with no control or accountability. The mom/guardian of the kids at the coffee place was sitting about six feet away from these kids, so it's not like she didn't see or hear their antics (considering their volume I'm pretty sure their antics could be heard in Australia).

I can't tell you how many times I've been shopping (and also working retail, back when) or sitting and having a coffee and have watched children pulling down displays and shelves, verbally and physically throwing themselves at other customers (and their parents), and just generally walking around like they own the place. And I can't tell you how many times I've watched parent's sit there and do NOTHING about it. I've even seen some parents laugh at these crazy antics as if it's somehow endearing.

I hate to sound like not only a douche but a cranky old lady, but it just seems like kids these days have the control over their parents rather than the other way around and I don't get it. It frustrates me on one level because, as a member of Generation Y, I feel like I'm constantly hearing from older folks how ungrateful, lazy and entitled we "young people" are and how much better their attitudes and expectations were when they were our age, when it seems to me that it's actually the Generation BEHIND us that is like this.

Sure, there are people in my generation who do live up to this stereotype, but aren't there in every generation? I suppose too that every generation thinks that one that comes behind them are worse in every way. But I can't help but notice that the children I see around are very different than I ever was - they are demanding and their demands are immediately fulfilled by completely compliant parents who placate their bad attitudes with Happy Meals and Lululemon hoodies (depending on their age), or simply practice systemic ignorance at their behaviour.

I'm only 25 years old so it's not as if I was a kid or teenager EONS ago - I do remember what it's like to think the universe revolves around you and to struggle with a growing body and mind. But I just don't remember me or any of my friends being given whatever we wanted hand over fist. If I wanted something I had to earn it, and if I talked back or acted out I was told where to go and punished for it.

Don't kids have any accountability for their actions anymore? I don't know but the scenes that I'm witnessing out there in public nowadays tell me NO.

Kids will be kids, of course, and for every kid who acts up and has an attitude, there is probably one who is respectful. I know this opinion I'm presenting is a bit extreme and does not consider the millions of factors at play in each individual situation. Plus, I'm almost certain that kids have always been like this from the beginning of time so I really shouldn't judge! But I'm just calling 'em how I see 'em. And the way I see 'em means sometimes I just can't help but wonder what is up with kids these days - and moreover, what is up with parents.

Parenting is a tough job; kids don't come with an instruction manual. But I'm guessing there are more resources and support for parents today than ever before. So parents who don't know how to control their kids: how about picking up a book or browsing a website and picking up some tips about telling your kids NO and letting them know who's BOSS. Despite what your kids may think or tell you, that person is not THEM, it's YOU.

Monday, August 2, 2010

The Dog Days Are Over

As I mentioned here, I decided to participate in the Dog Days of Summer challenge, put on by Be the Change for Pets. Well I've completed the challenge so the next step is to share my experience!

When I first heard about this challenge, I was so excited and inspired by it, that I sent a notice out to some friends and family to see if I could get some extra support. My mom and sister, as well as two friends donated a whole load of supplies which increased my donation three-fold! I was blown away by how much they contributed, I really wasn't expecting it!

Check out how much I ended up with!

How awesome is that?! I realize this challenge was technically focused on food donations, but Bide Awhile is lucky in that their food is provided by Royal Canin. However, they are obviously in need of many supplies aside from food, so I still wanted to participate for that reason. We used the Wish List on the Bide Awhile website for reference. Honestly I didn't think to take "inventory" of everything before delivering it but our donation included the following supplies: cleaning products (bleach, sprays, dish soap, hand sanitizer, paper towel), food/water bowls, collars with leashes/harnesses, cat and dog toys, tennis balls, doggie doo bags, a cat condo/scratching post (thanks Maike!), garbage bags (various sizes), gloves (latex and rubber), pieces of fleece for blankets, etc. I was excited to do the donation regardless, but thanks to the help from a few people I was able to donate so much more, and I was even more excited to drop it off.

I had a little visit with the kitties (duh!) while I was there. I wanted to take like 5 of them home! This is a dangerous place for me to visit - so many beautiful kitties. Observe:
Black Spot kitty
Contortionist kitty

Contemplative kitty
Halloween kitty

Couch-hog kitty

Ballet kitty

I mean, really. How could you not want to smuggle each one into your handbag?!

This special guy is Trio:

Trio is the resident cat at Bide Awhile - he only has 3 legs (hence the name) and he just turned 22! Clearly he's made of some tough stuff (either that or they just treat him like a king).  

It was so much fun to walk around and check each one out, pet them and hear info about each of their characters. When I was bent over petting the Contortionist kitty (pictured above) a grey fluffy beauty jumped right onto my back from the floor! Dug the claws right in! It caught me off guard, but ultimately I thought it was funny; she LOVES people so much, she kept trying to climb me and the girl showing me around. (Didn't get a photo though unfortunately because, well it's a bit awkward to take a photo of something on your back, plus I was sort of distracted by the claws in my flesh.)

There are two dogs there currently, but I couldn't be taken down to visit them because they are recovering and one is quite jumpy around people. Just served to highlight the important work that shelters such as Bide Awhile do every day.

Anyway, it was a great experience. I think I may put together another donation in a few months and drop it off again, perhaps for Christmas. Good excuse to drop in and pet the animals! I will be involved with their Board in the Fall though so I'm sure this isn't the last I'll see of the kitty-cats.

Thank you again to friends Maike and Beth, plus my mom and sister for contributing such awesome supplies to this donation! Nice to know there are folks you can count on to help you out whenever you need it (Maike is also watching my cat, Nutty, when I'm on vacation next week so she's extra generous).

To learn more about Bide Awhile visit http://www.bideawhile.org/ and to learn more about Be the Change for Pets visit their Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/bethechangeforpets

I am the change; and so are you.