Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Back to School

I've mentioned it a few times before, but starting in September I'm going to be back in school!  In a manner of speaking, at least.  I've told lots of people about it in person, but I keep getting the "So...what exactly is this program?" question so I thought I would do a blog post to get it all out there.  It's a really great program too, so maybe there are some other people who would be interested in it.

Okay - the short answer to the question is that I'm enrolled in the Diploma in Public Administration program at Western.  It's a part of their Local Government program and operates a little differently.  I'm enrolled as a city-sponsored employee, which means that I was accepted through my employer (The City of London) to be involved in the program.  So instead of doing week-long intensive courses, I have two hours a week on campus in the evenings, and two hours a week at City Hall in the afternoons.  It's only four courses plus a research project, so it will make for a busy and exciting year!

The question at this point seems to be - but what will you do with it?  Well, this program is aimed at people who work in municipal government.  There really isn't another program quite like it.  After this, there is a Master of Public Administration Program, and the MPA program at Western is the only one in Canada.  This is the education that people are looking for when it comes to upper-level municipal government positions.  I've been noticing more and more how it's listed in the qualifications of mayors, police chiefs, chief administrative officers, any of those high rollers.  So basically it's the program that is best suited to my educational background and experience.  If I want to keep working in municipal government and get to some upper level stuff, this is what I need to do.

The plan right now is to do the DPA program this year, completing my research project in Summer 2016.  That would put me on track to start the MPA program in Fall 2016.  Doing the masters degree on a part-time basis while working full-time should take me about three years.  The MPA program is structured to accommodate students who are working full-time, so it should work out okay.  Basically I'm hoping to spend the next four years in schooling to put myself in a good position for advancement within the next five years.

It's a pretty big deal that I was accepted as a city-sponsored employee.  This was my third time applying to the program, and I'm the only non-management employee who was accepted this year.  There are only seven of us, so I'm really excited that I got in this time.  The city also reimburses my tuition upon successful completion of the program, which is a definite bonus.

I'm a little intimidated by the whole process.  Not only am I the only non-management member of the city-sponsored group, I also think I'm the youngest.  Some of our courses will involved students in the MPA program, as well as other masters degree programs and even PhD students.  It's been 10 years since I've been in university, so the idea of diving back in at such a high level is a little nerve wracking, especially since I've never taken a poli sci course before.  There seem to be a lot of really great resources though.  It's a very small program and the program coordinator seems really accessible and helpful, and apparently there's an amazing librarian who specializes in this area.  Still, the idea of balancing work and school and Vivian and pop culture consumption over the next few years is more than a little daunting.  This is why for now I'm distracting myself by just buying cute office supplies and finding the perfect laptop bag.

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Very Vivian - Art Everywhere

Vivian is becoming quite the prolific artist, so tonight we took some time and a little sticky tack to hang up some things in her room.  I think she's seen enough of the weird stuff I hang on the walls throughout the rest of the house and decided to take a stab at it in her own space.  She wanted some of my Canadiana so I gave her some Canadian Tire money and a spare $2 bill, along with some old IKEA art cards I had around.

The rest was filled with pictures she had drawn herself.  She loves to draw and practice her writing, so I always make sure there's lots of new notebooks and pens and markers on hand to encourage her.

She was so proud of herself for hanging things up on her own, and I'm sure it isn't going to stop here.  I can remember when I was young and just wanting to hang anything I liked on the wall.  I suppose I've never really outgrown that.  In high school I even covered my ceiling with pages I had torn out of magazines.

Between the two of us at this rate we should have the whole house wallpapered in no time.

It also appears that I've lost my mirror for outfit post purposes - I'll have to come up with an alternate arrangement!

Monday, 27 July 2015

Treats of the Week - Like the first day of school

Today was my first day back to work after that long strike.  It was a weird day - kind of like the first day of school.  A mix of excitement and nerves and uncertainty.  All in all, things went pretty well.  I'm really just looking forward to getting back into a routine before I actually go back to school next month (more on that part later in the week after my orientation session).  As always, there have been lots of treats along the way.

  • Vivian has been having quite the summer so far - she even got in a horseback riding lesson!  She was so good with the horse and really seemed to enjoy herself.  There's just not enough time for all of this kid's hobbies.

  • I may have gotten a little click happy while ordering some prints from the street artist, Morley.  I love his messages and how open he is - almost an anti-Banksy.  Can't wait to get those prints in the mail!
  • I treated myself to a "Hey you don't have to picket anymore" manicure/pedicure at my favourite spa.  It was an hour and a half of heaven, worth every single penny.
  • I had quite the movie week - I saw Trainwreck (twice), Ant-Man (for the second time), Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior, Southpaw, and Evil Dead 2 (for the very first time!).  So far this week only has one movie lined up, but it is a long weekend so who knows, there might even be a triple feature at the drive-in in my future!
  • I am really digging these digital manipulations by Eva Stenram.  Pro tip - follow artists on Instagram, there's always something new and exciting popping up.

  • Amanda and I took the kids to Greenview Aviaries this week.  It was a perfect day for it - the weather wasn't too hot, and all the kids did really well.  Any daytrip where the parents don't lose their minds by the end of it is a success.

  • I am loving the Talbot Street Bridge Twitter feed - especially their rivalry with the Blackfriars Bridge.
  • You know how when you're pumping gas it's nice to stop at an even number?  So after it clicks that the tank is full you just top it up so it's a nice, round number?  The other day I was pumping my gas and it clicked as full at exactly $48.  I was beyond thrilled.
  • So while going through the McDonald's drive-thru for a little McFlurry action I had the most overly enthusiastic server.  He said "Thank you" then I said "Thank you" then he one-upped me with a "No, thank YOU".  It was bizarre and hilarious.
  • Vivian started swimming lessons tonight and it was so hot out that we both hung out for a swim afterwards until 7:30.  With the heat wave that we're expecting this week it just might be a regular occurrence.
  • My cousin Adam is currently biking from Toronto to Montreal as a fundraiser for People With AIDS.  I'm so proud of him, it's pretty incredible!  If you're interested in sponsoring him, you can find the information here.
  • I got told a bunch of times today that I was looking awfully pretty.  I think it was mostly because either it was people who haven't really seen me in a couple of months because of the strike (and are therefore not familiar with my blonde hair and killer tan) or they have seen me looking like hell on the picket line for the last eight weeks.  Whatever it was, I'll take a compliment wherever I can take it.  And why else do we have cellphones if not to take a selfie when people tell you you're looking fine?

Boom.  That's me back at work.  Yay desk!

Wednesday, 22 July 2015


It's been two months since I last stood in my office.  I can no longer remember any of my passwords.  I have no idea what is piled up on my desk.  I'm quite sure that my water glass needs to be washed.  Two long months of being away from a job I enjoy and at which I excel.

Today our union voted to ratify our tentative agreement.  Tonight city council will most likely do the same, and then I'll officially be back to work.  Do I feel like the last nine weeks of picketing were worth it?  No, not really.  I don't think we're any better off than we were when we started out.  I'm out a lot of money, and have spent countless hours stressed out and upset and trying to navigate the constant uncertainty.

I'm angry.  I'm frustrated.  I'm relieved.  I'm tired.  I'm excited.

The next stage won't be any easier.  Returning to work will be a whole new minefield of hurt feelings and broken trust and backlog that needs to be cleared out.  It will mean a lot of employees who will only do what needs to be done, feeling like they don't owe their employer anything more than that.  Here's the thing though: the City might be my employer, but that isn't who I work for.  I work for the public.  I work for the justices of the peace.  I work for the prosecutors and the officers and the defence counsel and agents.  I work hard because I work for them, and that means more to me than who the City Manager is or who "won" or who "lost".  I intend to move on from all of this, focus on my work and my future and keep moving forward.  I have no interest in tallying up the minor wins and losses that made up our agreement.

And so, as we prepare to head into the true aftermath of the strike, I wanted to thank everyone.  Every single person who commented or texted or wished me luck or said they were thinking of me.  Everyone who brought me a treat on the picket line, or even just offered to do so.  Every kind thought, every visit, every message was truly, completely appreciated.  The strike made me realize that there are some people who won't stand by me when times are hard, but that there are others who will put up with my whining and complaining and grumpiness.  Thank you guys, really.  From the top of my sunburned head to the bottom of my blistered feet - thank you.

Now, what should I wear for my first day back to work?  My tan is on point!

Monday, 20 July 2015

Treats of the Week - Roller Coasters

The other day I was explaining to a friend the emotional roller coaster that is a week on strike.  On Monday things are rough.  You're physically more drained because you haven't picketed for a couple of days.  Emotionally things are hard because you've had to hit that mental reset button and resigned yourself to the fact that you are on strike for yet another week.  Tuesdays are cheque day, so there's a little something to look forward to.  Wednesday is when the walls start to close in and you become convinced that things will never change.  You'll be on strike forever.  This is your life now.  On Thursdays things start to take a weird turn and you get oddly hopeful - maybe things will be magically resolved over the weekend.  You start to speculate about what next Monday will be like if you're back at work.  Fridays close the week out with some optimism - maybe that's your last shift.  Or at the very least, it's the weekend.

This week was a little different.  On Sunday the news came down that there was an actual tentative agreement.  There's been enough progress that the union is ready to show us the offer and allow us to vote.  The vote comes on Wednesday, so now there's a whole new range of emotions.  Will the offer be worthwhile?  Will people vote for it?  Will council ratify it?  When would we potentially go back to work?  And the scariest question of all: what awaits us when we do go back to work?

Yes, my friends.  It's an endless series of ups and downs.  Such is life, right?  On with the treats.

  • I did spend a couple of days away from picketing because of Vivian's swimming lessons.  It worked out well though, since not only did I get to enjoy working outside, but I also got enough typing done in two days that my invoices totalled over two weeks' worth of strike pay.  

  • My sweet friend Karen offered to stop by with an iced coffee this week since she was in the downtown area and was hoping to catch me on picket duty.  Unfortunately I was already home and couldn't take her up on the offer, but it was much appreciated.
  • I can't seem to stop myself from ordering from Hello Holiday.  My newest purchase was this adorable planner and set of pens.  I mean, how could I not?  I'm going to be super organized now.

  • I watched 7 Days in Hell this week and thought it was hilarious.  It just seemed like such a fun and bizarre project.  I especially enjoyed it after reading this interesting article.
  • If you've had the misfortune of spending any degree of time with me, you've probably heard me talking about my love of GOMI.  It's my not so deep and dark secret.  Anyway, once a month the administrator, PartyPants, posts her number on Instagram and invites us to call or text her.  This would be part of what I love about GOMI, even though it's a snark site, it's a really fun community.  Anyway, she posted her number and I fired off a text just for the hell of it.  Wouldn't you know it that that was the 10 minutes of the day when I put my phone down so I could tuck Vivian into bed and SHE CALLED ME.  I missed a call from PartyPants, the High Hamlord (I swear, that makes sense in the forums).  I couldn't believe that I had missed her call.  Next time.  Next time.
  • Pizza and beer in my bed?  Always the best option..

  • Today set my new record for distance walked while picketing - 21.5 kilometers in a four hour shift.
  • Got my first swim in at the lake for the year, and some selfies in with Vivian.

  • Shag (Josh Agle) is one of my favourite artists - I just want to live in the world he creates.  I especially loved this Batman piece he posted on Instagram the other day.  (Also, you would not believe how many screencaps I take from Instagram.  It's a sickness.)

  • In further Instagram screencap news, my brother Matt got the world's greatest tattoo - this shrine to Sweet Chili Heat Doritos.  He's seriously the funniest person I know - he says his goal is to have all tattoos that he will regret.  I'm not joking when I say that I want him to pick out something that we can get done as matching tattoos.

We'll see what this week brings, friends.  Who knows, I might just be back to being Madam Clerk next week!

Wednesday, 15 July 2015

Keeper of the Things

Sometimes I get sentimental about the things I find while thrifting.  I've said before how I love thrifting because I love when things have a story.  I like thinking about who owned the items before me, where they've been and how they were used.  Sometimes I'm just drawn to certain pieces, like they're supposed to be mine because no one will love them quite like I will.  It's sappy, and probably stems from watching too many Disney movies with anthropomorphic animals and furniture or something.  In any event, sometimes I just feel like something is mine and it's just waiting for me.

On a recent thrifting outing with Jenn I was perusing the art section.  I always keep my eye out for interesting art pieces, especially ones that might fit in well with my Canadiana or London walls.  Initially I came across a large photo of what I thought at first might have been Toronto's Old City Hall, but quickly realized it was Big Ben.  I liked it well enough, but set it back down.  Further down on the shelf I found this image of London, England.

I loved the energy of the street scene, the vintage cars and Big Benn and a double decker bus in the background.  I also noted that the frame and matting was the same as the picture of just Big Ben, so I assumed they belonged together.  I held onto this one and kept checking out the section.

Next I came cross this one - leading Jenn and I to both exclaim, "Hey it's Western!"

Once again, a closer look proved us both wrong.  And a quick bit of Googling later told me that this is actually the London National Theatre.  I do have a soft spot for Brutalist architecture, and I liked the story of how Jenn and I both mistook it for Western, so I grabbed it as well.

As I kept looking over the section I realized there were actually five of these large photos that all seemed to belong together.  They had the same frames, and the same matting.  I imagined that they were all from some amateur photographer who took the time to lovingly enlarge and frame their favourite photos from some of their vacations.  Most of them seemed to be from this trip to London, England, while another was from Marineland and yet another that appeared to be an aerial shot of Epcot.  I considered buying all of them to keep them together as a set, but they're pretty large and I wasn't as drawn to the other images as I was to these two.  Something about the pair of them just gave me that nudge, that they belonged with me.  Even though I don't know who took them or when or under what circumstances, and even though I've never been to London, England myself, I just felt like they were mine already.

So to that mystery photographer, whoever they are, don't worry.  Your art is being appreciated and lovingly kept.

Tuesday, 14 July 2015

Ask And You Just Might Receive

Remember how last week I had mentioned that I loved this Kate Radomski menu from Earls?  I love how Earls changes up the art on their menus pretty frequently by commissioning work from different artists.  Little details like that really help me enjoy a place.  I liked the Kate Radomski one so much that I contemplated stealing it, then settled for checking out her website later on.  I was hoping to be able to order a print, but didn't see it anywhere on her website.  Luckily, the interwebs came to my rescue.  I posted the picture on Instagram and tagged Earls in the picture saying how much I liked it and asking if there was any way I could purchase one.  To my delight I got a reply saying they were so glad I liked the menu and if I wanted one to email them.

I fired off my email and quickly got a reply from their social media coordinator who said he would be happy to send me a copy of the menu.  Not only that, he would try to find me one that didn't have the menu printed on the back, just a fresh copy just for me!  I was blown away by the customer service.  The next day he said he had located one and would send it right out to me.

I was expecting just some envelope in the mail in about a week, but instead this FedEx box showed up at my door.

Inside he had packaged my menu by securing it between a couple of pieces of cardboard and even swaddled the damn thing in bubble wrap.

And there it is - a copy of my very own!  I love it, it's so vibrant and fun.  I can't wait to get a nice frame for it and find just the right spot for it.

Needless to say, I'm pretty blown away.  It was such a nice surprise that they even offered to send me a copy, and then to go the extra mile and ship it priority overnight and so lovingly packaged?  It's pretty safe to say that I have a new favourite restaurant.