Working It

Thursday, July 30, 2009

I can't believe I missed it.

I started working for the government on July 19, 1989 so last week was my 20th anniversary at work. And I missed it.

Is it too late to get out some noise makers and streamers?

In 1988-1989, I was still in high school, but not sure what I was going to be doing after 'graduation'. I had graduted from grade 12 the year before, qualifying me for entry to college, if I cared to apply and get accepted. I hadn't finished enough OAC (grade 13) credits to get into university. (In Canada, there is a distinction between college and university). I was working at a Mexican restaurant, and going out with co-workers after work and generally taking it easy. My mom suggested applying to a government inventory so I filled out some paperwork and sent it in. She knew a manager who was looking to hire someone, and I got an interview. I didn't get that job, but other departments were hiring and someone got my name off the inventory. I got another interview, this time for an entry-level job in computers. I had taken typing in school (before it was called keyboarding) and a computer course or two, so the questions weren't that hard. They asked me what the keyboard does, how the monitor displays information, and how computers work. At the time, almost no one had a home computer, and I had really only ever used my cousins' Commodore 64 to play Olympics.

I got the job, and started in July.

A month earlier, I had moved out on my own because my mom was moving to Barbados. Turns out, she didn't move away, but I had a lease and a roommate, so I stuck it out. It was my first time living on my own, and I had just turned 18, so I was swimming in the deep end. I hadn't figured out budgeting and those were some pretty lean times. I remember sometimes only having enough money to buy bread, and I'd have to eat it with mayonaise, mustard, or whatever condiments I had in the fridge. I was lucky I made it to and from work because sometimes I had trouble scrounging up enough change for the bus.

I worked on Shift C at the National Data Centre, with Suzie, Jamie, Georges, and Sylvie, a friend to this day! We had so much fun on our night shifts, saving up our breaks and heading to a club for some dancing in the middle of the night, or playing cards with Guy and Eric downstairs in the lunch room. Georges didn't speak English, so my French improved immensely, and I'll always be thankful to him for that. After my beginnings as a tape librarian, moving those big, round computer tapes from place to place, I ended up moving to the help desk. After a couple of years, I started getting a bit bored and decided to go to university.

My boss, Pierre, allowed me to work part-time while I went to school. By cramming my classes together whenever possible, so I could work a few days during week, and by working 4 months every summer, and most of the time during exam periods (May and December), I was able to finish my honours degree in four years and work 65% of full-time. Since I was making decent money at this time, and lived with roommates, with a compact, budget-friendly car, I was pretty comfortable and could go out and do all of the things I enjoyed, when I wasn't studying.

About a year after graduation, I was looking for more challenges, so I switched departments. I ended up working as a LAN administrator, which was a really poor fit for me. Within 7 months, I had applied for, and been accepted to teach English in Japan for a year, with a possibility to extend for up to three. My employer allowed me the one-time, one-year-less-a-day personal leave outlined in my classification's contract. Before I left in July of 1997, I also started dating DH, having met him on the ultimate field the summer before.

I left for Japan and met Jessica and hit it off with her. We had so much fun when we were together, but there were also quite a few frustrations, boredom and I missed DH terribly. I made two trips home that year, and DH and I met in Australia for 2 1/2 weeks that Christmas. At the end of the year in Japan, I returned home and stayed with DH for a while, then got my own apartment, and went back to work.

I made a lateral transfer a few months later, then applied for the government's management trainee program and got accepted. I enjoyed a posting in the international commerce group, and one in a central agency, before managing a <$2M IT project over 13 months from fall of 2000 to the fall of 2001. When I started working there, I was a newlywed, with no project management experience, and by the time I left, I had won a competition as a project manager, and I was pregnant with my first child. I left the management trainee program to take the PM job, but didn't stay long as I was expecting.

Since May of 2002, I've been in the same job, but I have been moved from project to project. I
haven't worked that much, having taken one year maternity leave with each of my three kids, plus an additional 2 years after child number 3. Now I'm working two days/week and have been for almost a year. Eventually I'll go back full-time and be able to put some effort and focus into my career again. Gearing down out of the rat race and watching my career aspirations get taken down a notch was a bitter pill. On the other hand, I have a great relationship with my kids, they are turning out pretty well, plus I've been able to do a lot of fun, creative stuff, like blog, do photography, and scrapbook.

I have it pretty good right now and I know how lucky I am.

I'm about half way through my career. The trade off for working part-time is that it will delay my retirement by however long I do it. As far as I can tell, I have 20 down, 20 years to go. Is there such a thing as a mid-career crisis?

And happy 20th anniversary of our friendship Sylvie! I can't wait for our shopping trip to Montreal!


Engagement Party Teaser #2

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

On my five day countdown to the engagement party, I have different activities planned for each night this week. I've managed to get mostly everything done on schedule despite also buying my wedding attendant dress and getting the flower girl dresses with Sheila in the last two days. DH has been awesome and has looked at my list and done anything that he could handle himself, specifically the jobs around the house.

Last night, I downloaded all of the romantic songs from my posting of the other day and I'm making playlists on my iPod for various parts of the party. Sheila has come up with a tasty menu. I've narrowed down the list of signature cocktails we may serve. I'm having trouble deciding between Cuban Specials and Soho Cocktails. I also have to pick up some shot glasses because we're also serving kamikazes. Yummy.

Cuban Specials
Soho CocktailKamikaze

Tonight I need to research ice breaker games. About half of the guests are AMB's friends and half are Tyler's. To get to know each other better is one of the reasons for holding the party in the first place. I'm also going to have a games table and we have a wide selection of games. My brother and I spent hours on my grandmother's knee, playing euchre, just watching at first, then holding the cards, then playing the card we were told, then suggesting a card to play, and finally playing our own hand.

Any ideas on how to put a matrimonial twist on traditional board games or euchre? Anyone? Anyone know any good icebreakers?


Recreational Camping

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

With nothing but rain forecast for last weekend, our neighbours started pulling out of our annual camping trip a few days before our expected departure date of last Friday. Our good friend Geoff (GFG) and his daughters were coming with us and a friend of his mom's had offered up her trailer for us to use. It's parked at a 'seasonal' campground. It's a bit like a cross between camping and a cottage. You go to the same place every weekend, with the same neighbours, and have running water, electricity, a roof over your head etc, but it's at a large campground. There was a beach, bunk beds for the kids, a fire pit, etc. etc. We even had a fridge to store our beer and somewhere to plug in our iPod.GFG hamming it up after a few wobbly pops.

It only rained for about 2 hours the whole time we were there. The campground was great, and had practically no traffic, so no worries about kids getting run over. The beach was great, and the kids liked jumping off the raft. There were group activities, but we never had time because the kids were busy roasting marshmallows, swimming, or playing at the play structure. We had a good time and didn't want to leave come Sunday night.
Precious enjoyed the beach.


Engagement Party Teaser

Friday, July 24, 2009

We're holding an engagement party for my brother and Anne Marie next weekend.

Here are some of the songs we'll be playing.

We've Only Just Begun / The Carpenters
Love and Marriage / Frank Sinatra
All You Need Is Love / The Beatles
Best Thing That Ever Happened to Me / Gladys Knight and the Pips
White Wedding / Billy Idol
Diamonds Are Forever / Shirley Bassey
Unforgettable / Natalie Cole & Nat King Cole
Love Me Tender / Elvis Presley
Nothing Compares 2 U / Sinead O'Connor
You Are the Sunshine of My Life / Stevie Wonder

Lots more surprised in store!



Second Photo Shoot - Tyler and Anne Marie's Engagement

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

There were just too many nice images to post the other day. I snapped another PG-rated kissing photo.
Another grassy photo.
And one of them holding hands.
It was nice getting one of each of them.This is probably my favourite picture of my brother, ever.

I used Pioneer's Woman's PW B&W action to get this cool effect on this rainy photo.
And found a great new location to use for photos. This park was only 5 minutes from my house, and 2 minutes from Tyler and AMB's. There were tons of rocks, trees, a park bench, which we never got to use, as well as an old stone building that used to be a school house. Tyler really liked the look of the stone and it made a great backdrop for the photos.Next wedding-related activity, the engagement party next week! Then I need to find a dress, and help my brother pick out a suit or tux. I'm excited!


Another Engagement Photo Shoot

Monday, July 20, 2009

Despite the mosquitoes, the rain, and the curious onlookers, Tyler and Anne Marie obliged me with another photo shoot tonight. Here are some of the best photos from the evening.
The ring.
A few showers.

But nothing could dampen their spirits.


Good Woman

Saturday, July 18, 2009

I've always known I was a good woman, but now I'm the best woman! I was thrilled today when my brother came by and asked me if I would be his best (wo)man for his wedding this September. I may not organize the bachelor party, but since I have literally 'always' been there for my brother (his words!), I get to stand up for him at his wedding!

I am beyond excited, but I have no idea what I'll wear as I'd like to co-ordinate with my brother, and the maid of honour. I'd like to make a speech too, and help with the decoration, and everything else.




Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Of course I think my three children are beautiful! Mr. Boy looks a bit like me. He has brown eyes like Daddy, and blond hair, like Uncle Tyler. Sweet Pea looks a lot like Daddy, but she has my nose. Precious looks like me in that she is pale and has blue eyes and we have the same colour hair, but she looks like Daddy in the forehead.

Mr. Boy isn't that fond of having his photo taken. Precious is hard to photograph because she has dark hair and really, really light skin, and she does the fake smile a lot. Sweet Pea doesn't nap, and she's home with me in the afternoon, so she's often my willing and able photography subject.

I was taking the girls to an orthodentist for a consultation. The ortho has these appliances that children can use from age 5 or 6, which help stretch the jaw, while the child is growing the most, and allow for less crowding of teeth which avoids or reduces the need for braces. I asked Sweet Pea if she wanted her hair done for the appointment. She was already wearing a little of my blush. She asked for Princess Leia buns. After I styled her hair, I kept saying "you have nice buns" but I was the only one who laughed.

Sweet Pea was in the kitchen helping me pack a snack 'to go' for the car ride to the dentist. She was sitting on the light-coloured floor, with the bright sun coming through the skylight, hitting the floor, and bouncing up. I used the pop-up flash turned all the way down, and the light from the floor and got this cute photo. I shot it in RAW and only moved the 'blacks' slider up a smidge, as well as increased the sharpness a tiny bit.

I love that Sweet Pea will pose for me anytime, anyplace. And man, is she ever cute. And I realize that I'm a bit fan of high key photos.


Engagement Photos - Part Two

I wasn't kidding when I said there were so many good photos of Tyler and Anne Marie's engagement session. And this was an impromptu shoot I did with them after supper, two days after they got engaged. We plan to do another shoot, with dressier clothes, make-up, etc.

For now, Anne Marie needs to focus on finding a dress and the happy couple also needs a venue for their wedding.

Bob, Sheila, DH and I are thrilled to be hosting an engagement party for Tyler and AMB in a couple of weeks.

I got a chance to review the photos from the engagement shoot, and found a bunch of stunners. I applied Ren's RAW preset called Grandpa's bite. It takes the blue out of their eyes, but I just can't get enough of this look.
The same photo cropped two different ways (above and below).
Yes, you have seen this one before, but it remains my favourite.
AMB should be a hand model!
My brother actually suggested kissing photos, which surprised me a little as he isn't into PDAs. I snapped quite a few, but because of the exact second I took some of them, they ended up looking x-rated. These ones are a little more tame.
Now, as soon as I get their guest list for the engagement party, I'm all set.


Kitty Cat Lexi

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

We got a new cat! She's an "orange and white, domestic shorthair, spayed, female". She's about 8 months old and we adopted her through the humane society. I call her a 'plug and play cat' because she is already fixed, microchipped, litter box trained, has all her shots, and even has a collar and tags. She's a bit older than your typical kitten, so she's pretty easy to train, but still very kitten-like and playful. She does try to bolt for the door every time we open it, but I'm not ready to let her be an outdoor cat because I'm not sure she knows where she lives yet!
The kids like her, except Precious is a little scared of her still. The cat likes to chase string and the kids spent a lot of time on the weekend running around the house pulling string. They had fun, and they even tired out the cat.

Her name was Ruby when we got her, but since that is already Sweet Pea's middle name, we changed the cat's name to Lexi even though the kids originally wanted to name her Leia or Solo! I think Lexi really suits her even though I originally thought of calling her Ginger.

I have been looking at the humane society website frequently over the last few months. I was thinking about getting a dog, but I know I just don't have the time. Our cat died a few months ago, and I wanted to get an orange (ginger) cat. I saw our cat's photo on the Humane Society's website a few weeks ago, then noticed that her adoption was pending. I kicked myself for not rushing out to get her the first time I saw her photo up there. When I checked a few days later, she was up there, but without 'adoption pending' beside her name, and I knew I had to get her. Saturday, I headed out with the kids and they got a chance to see her and pet her before we decided. I had a hard time deciding, because she was stressed out from being in a loud place, and she had never been fostered, so little was known about her temperment. With a brand new couch in my basement, I was also worried about the fact that she has claws. I got her a scratching post, which she has been using, and so far, so good.

The first two nights with us, she slept upstairs, and woke up around 3:30 or 4:00 a.m. and started playing with the metal cord of the lamp, which made a lot of noise and woke us up. This morning, she stayed in bed with us until I got up with Precious at 7:10!

DH describes her as the "best cat ever" and I have to agree!


Basement Reno Before and Afters - Part 2

Monday, July 13, 2009

I posted part 1 of the basement renos on Saturday. Here is the rest of the basement. I didn't include any photos of the storage room, but the contractors re-sized the plywood and 2X4 shelves that were in the basement when we moved in, and they fit the outside walls of the storage room. They're just big enough to fit Rubbermaid containers, and I can stack three on one side. The other side has bigger shelves, so we've stacked boxes over there. All of our tools are in the basement, but I think we'll be doing repairs, sawing, hammering and the like in the garage. I'd like to get a small tool bench, with some peg board for the garage. Then we can move all of the tools out there, get them out of boxes, and make them more accessible.

With the basement, there were a few tricky areas to deal with. There were plumbing stacks, headers, and columns. We also have a crawl space, which runs along the back of our garage, and has the mud room above it. There are heating vents that run into the crawl space. It was a bit of an eyesore and also a terribly unhealthy thing to have in our basement, as it was full of dirt. Interestingly, the previous neighbours, who seemed to throw nothing away and left all kinds of bits and pieces behind, decided to roll up some old carpeting and put it in the crawl space, for us to deal with. You can only imagine the mould and bacteria in there. We had a vapour barrier put in there, and insulation, so no mould or cold air can get into our basement. We needed to be able to get into the crawl space, if necessary, but we also wanted to hide it.

Here is the crawl space, with the duct work, and a plumbing stack coming out.

The armoire was designed to maximize the amount of storage space inside, while hiding the crawl space and the stack. We have an flat inner section to the armoire, which can be tipped out by removing some screws. The bottom drawer is shallower, for the stack. A lot of people ask if we are putting a TV in the open area of the armoire. That area is reserved for some art that we can't yet afford. The spare bedroom was a bit of a playroom before, but it was so humid down there, that we had to be careful that things didn't get ruined. The kids had made some playdoh figurines, and had let them dry out. The figurines ended up downstairs, and they re-constituted themselves!

In the corner, is the electrical panel, as well as our old central vac. We had the windows replaced, moved the central vac to the garage, and the electrical panel is covered by a panel painted the same colour as the wall.

On the left-hand side of this 'after' photo, you can just make out the handles of the electrical panel. The other interesting challenge of this room was that it is beside the furnace. Since we upgraded to a furnace with a DC motor, there isn't any noise anymore, but there are a lot of ducts that come out right into the spare bedroom. The ceiling was going to be so low that we couldn't locate the closet under the back half of the room, as the type of door we chose can't be cut down. We decided to make the low ceiling as much of a feature as possible and located pot lights right above the night stands, and put the bed under the lowest part of the ceiling. I feel like it gives it a cozier feeling. The bonus is that the closet is between the bed and the playroom, giving even more of a buffer for noise.
And, finally, the TV room. I don't have any 'before' pictures because there wasn't anything to photograph but the walls. The TV room is located beside the bar, and you can see the bar half-wall on the left of this photo. We got our microfibre couch last week, as well as our TV. The couch is 8' 10" X 8' 10". Despite having drawn the whole thing out on graph paper before even buying the couch, I was shocked at how big it looked in the room. We got the Barcelona chairs from Costco months ago. DH and I hung the TV on the wall last weekend, and got an IKEA TV stand for underneath. With the rest of the furniture, the couch finally looks like it belongs.

Since I hate clutter, I love the fact that all of the components (DVD player, cable box, etc.) are behind frosted glass and the remotes work through the glass! All of the cords are hidden behind the TV or the TV bench, and we are really happy with how cozy and comfy this room feels.
We have a lot of the major pieces of furniture we will need. The accessories will have to wait until we save up some cash.

DH has set up a little music area downstairs and a future project will be to get a desk and some vertical shelving to house his components a little more neatly. We have a table, made by DH's grandfather, that we'll get repaired and re-vamped so we can use it as a games table and set it up right beside the armoire for easy access to the cards and puzzles. I can't wait to play euchre downstairs.


Digital scrapbook challenge #11 Do Over

Sunday, July 12, 2009

I just wasn't happy with the page I made for the last digital scrapbook challenge. I had a chance to work on it this morning and here is the new and improved page! A much more pleasing design and it works well with the page it will be beside.


Digital scrapbook challenge #12

This week's digital scrapbook challenge was to use red and white. I didn't take too many photos this year on Canada Day, but I did have a page from last Canada Day that I hadn't finished. I ended up re-doing the whole page and even changed which photos I used. My photo editing abilities and my confidence in what style of photo I like has really improved, but I left the photos 'as is' because I can't go back and correct every layout I've ever done!
I'm looking forward to this weeks' challenge. I am re-organizing my supplies this weekend, and it feels great. I am remembering a bunch of stuff I forgot I owned. That always gets my creativity up. I've also been over at Jessica Sprague's website looking at her tutorials for a bit of inspiration. There's so much great stuff there.


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