Do As I Say, Not As I Do

In my role as the communications director for a large nonprofit organization, one of my many responsibilities involves serving as a national spokesperson. This often requires me to do media interviews for TV, radio and print news. 

There is nothing I dislike more than public speaking, so whenever possible I try to respond to media requests by email or phone. This only works some of the time, so I do occasionally need to be on TV or radio for an interview. When this happens, I do my best to slow down and not say “like” every five seconds. I usually get through theses experiences with my fragile ego intact, but I still remember one interview in which I awkwardly stood sideways to the camera in an effort to hide the black eye that my three-year-old had given me with his elbow the night before. 

The worst interviews for me happen in a “green room.” This is usually a small circular booth where I need to sit on a stool and listen to an interviewer through an earpiece. A fake background (ie Toronto skyline) is added digitally by the technicians. During the interview I can’t see anyone or even locate a camera in the booth to focus on, so the process feels very unnatural to me. I often have a panic attack right after the interview wondering if I remembered to keep my eyes open while I was concentrating on hearing the interviewer through my earpiece.

So, it’s totally logical that I will spend tomorrow morning leading a training session on how to speak with the media. The truth is that I’m better at teaching people how to be effective spokespersons than I am at doing it myself. Rather than feeling like a fraud, I’m trying to own up to who I am and accept myself for my strengths and weaknesses.

Standard

Puppy Love

I’m allergic to dogs. This meant that I never had a pet dog growing up, but I did have a few of them chase me on my walks home from school. As an adult, I still experience unleashed dogs racing after me, especially when I’m running on urban trails. Of course their owners always tell me that their dogs are friendly, even while the dogs are nipping at my legs and butt. And when I lived in Zimbabwe, I often had to start my morning runs carrying two large rocks that I could throw at the wild dogs terrorizing the neighbourhood. I’m definitely not a dog person.

I’m not sure how I was talked into this, but I brought home a bichon frise puppy last November. The boys named him Shadow as he’s always following us around the house. This breed of dog is hypoallergenic, so I don’t have trouble being around him … at least with my allergies. However, the first six months were very stressful for me, as I couldn’t get Shadow to stop peeing and pooing in the house or biting our ankles or fingers.

The good news is that he’s stopped using the house as his personal washroom. I think the warmer weather helped with this, as did his desire to have free range of the house. He’s also getting much better with the biting, but he’s still a bit nippy when he wants us to play with him more.

Shadow is always so excited to see us when we come home. He’s particularly fond of peanut butter and is extremely clever at convincing the boys to give him some of their human food. Most of all, he loves cuddling with us on the couch once he’s used up all of his puppy energy. It’s these quieter moments that I enjoy the most. No matter how hard of a day I’ve had, I know that I can sit with my faithful friend who always seems to appreciate me.

I’m still not a dog person. But I’m my dog’s person.

Standard

Skipping

On Sunday afternoon, R is leaving for Uganda, where she’ll be volunteering in the north for two weeks to support former child soldiers. She’s upstairs right now packing everything that she will need for her trip. The boys are having a sleepover with their cousin at their grandparents’ house, so this is a free night for the two us to hang out together.

I skipped my run this evening so that we could walk along the boardwalk at the beach while we ate ice cream and walked the dog. And now I’m about to skip writing my daily blog post so that I can go help her pack. Does writing a blog post about not writing a blog post count as a real blog post? Doesn’t matter…

Standard

Full Circle

I was 12 when I started my first job. It involved selling popcorn and cokes on a Saturday at the football stadium in Winnipeg. I was excited about the opportunity as I could make some money and also watch the Blue Bombers play.

My job involved carrying around a tray of soft drinks to sell to people watching the game in the stands. When I was almost finished one tray, I asked some of the other kids if I could leave a few of my drinks with them while I got another tray. I only did this because I saw the other young people doing the same thing to maximize their opportunity to make more sales early in the game.

When I came back to get the drinks I’d left, the other kids pretended that they didn’t know what I was talking about so that they could sell these drinks without having to cover any of the costs. When my father picked me up after the game, I had to tell him that I’d made no money as I had to pay the stadium back for the drinks that I’d lost. I’d worked for hours with nothing to show for it. My dad never let me work there again, so my first job only lasted one day.

When I was growing up, I was naïve and overly trusting, but experiences such as the football stadium job helped toughen me up so that I could protect myself from those who might try to take advantage of me in the future. It’s easy to take this toughness too far, though, and become cynical and distrustful of others. Now that I’m in my mid 40s, I’m finding that I need to allow myself to be more vulnerable and trusting of others, as this is a healthier and more fulfilling way to live. Yes, I will be taken advantage of at times and likely hurt by others, but it’s better to assume that people are good and generous than to expect the worse of them.

Standard

Distal Radius

At my appointment at the fracture clinic this morning, I expected to leave the hospital with a new cast on my right arm, but instead I managed to receive a removable splint, with the proviso that I take extra care with my wrist. I can take the splint off when I take a shower, do the dishes or give the kids a bath, which will be extremely helpful while R is away in Uganda for two weeks.

Two weeks ago, I would have been disappointed to learn that I had a hairline fracture on my radius bone. While having a broken wrist still sucks, I’ve spent the last 10 days thinking that I’d fractured my scaphoid bone, which would have required many weeks in a cast and taken months to heal properly (if at all), so receiving this information about my distal radius fracture almost seemed like good news.

It’s interesting how negative information can come across positively when I’m expecting a worse outcome. Generally the opposite happens, as I’m conditioned culturally to expect things to work out fine for me in the end. Perhaps this is why some people who are wealthy (ie most of the western world) can feel unhappy and discouraged when we have such easy access to many resources and opportunities. When we expect everything to work out to our benefit (and often to extremes that are unrealistic), we are likely to be disappointed.

Standard

Taken

Imarii? When I lived in Zimbabwe, this was one of the most important Shona words that I learned. Imarii means, How much is it? Whenever I went to buy fruits and vegetables or other items in the market, I would be quoted at least eight times more if I didn’t ask in the Shona language about the price. As a murungu (white person), I would generally be viewed as a visitor and would be charged more. Sometimes when I asked in Shona I would still be quoted a ridiculous amount, but after a quick aiwa (no!) and a shake of the head, I’d usually get a fair price.

Here in Canada, I wish there was a similar way for me to pay an appropriate amount for goods and services that I’m not knowledgeable about. When I left my car at the service station this morning, I expected to pay just over $200 for an oil change, new wipers and a summer tire installation. By the time I picked up my car in the afternoon, I needed to pay nearly $1,000, which is a significantly higher amount. This kind of situation happens to me more frequently than it should.

When it comes to things such as home repairs or car servicing, I have no idea how much these goods and services should cost so I’m occasionally taken advantage of when I seek out assistance. I’m never sure whether I’m supposed to bargain or haggle in these situations, and I wouldn’t know what work would be essential or not anyway. I wish there was a guidebook that could help me navigate through my interactions with tradespersons and salespersons.

Standard

Dumb Smartphones

I need to spend less time on my phone. Some of my usage is an occupational hazard given my work in public relations, but there is absolutely no need for me to constantly check my phone during breakfast, lunch or supper, while I’m at the playground with my children, or when my parents come by for a visit. Last Wednesday I unintentionally left my phone on my desk when I went for lunch and I felt incredibly lost and uncomfortable without it.

Tomorrow I will not check my phone until after I’ve dropped my children off at school. Nor will I check it while they’re at their swimming and martial arts classes or when I’m about to go to bed. It’s time to set some boundaries before I’m completely controlled by my technological gadgets. I’d get rid of my GPS watch as well but that might send me completely over the edge.

Now I’m off to bed to read The New Yorker … in print not digital.

Standard