Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Ceasing to exist

Raise your hand if you’ve ever worked for a company that (appears to) suddenly go through a ‘restructuring process’? (I say appears to, because to us it’s often sudden news, but to the powers that be, it’s been in the works for months.)

I know in this day and age, a lot of us have gone through it. I think it’s one of the reasons that very few people in our generation stick around with the same company for a lifetime – or heck, in many cases for even a decade. I personally, have been through it twice and have been fortunate enough to have never lost my job over it. And now, I’m going through it again.

Three times, in two different companies, since I started full-time employment in 1999.

Yesterday morning at 10:30 a.m., the director of HR came around to everyone in my department and asked “are you free at 11, the CEO wants to speak with you”? Oh, oh, that’s never a good sign.

At 11, the 14 of us in Marketing and Communications were told, without tiptoeing around the issue, that the department will cease to exist. The marketing folks will join the revenue and development team and the communications folks will join a yet-to-be-formed department – with some members of another department that is being broken up – called public affairs. The transition will take approximately two months.

The job loss because of it? So far, just one that I know of – the VP of Marketing and Communications. I guess your job becomes redundant when there’s no department to VP over anymore. She was told a week ago, which now makes sense why she hasn't been around for a week.

Needless to say, the news has been a real mood-killer around here for the last day and a half and a real motivation-killer. It’s really hard to feel motivated to work on something when you don’t know whether or not that project is going to be deemed important enough to carry over.

What’s worse is we still don’t know all the details of this ‘restructuring’. It’s easy to say the marketing folks go here and the communications folks go there – but what are you supposed to think when you fit into both portfolios? I’m lucky in that respect, I’m 95% sure I’m headed to public affairs – which for me could turn out well, because doing outreach and working on prevention and advocacy tactics are the parts of my job that I enjoy the most. But others aren’t so lucky and are feeling in limbo.

But just because I think I know where I’m going doesn’t mean I know what I’ll be doing when I get there.

And rumour has it that the restructuring is a lot bigger than just the dismantling of our department.

The official all-staff announcement will be made Wednesday – so things will start to become clearer then, I hope.

The hardest part for me and the biggest work motivation-killer right now, is the two month time frame is exactly when I’m leaving for my maternity leave. So, it puts the whole plan of hiring and training a replacement for me in jeopardy. Oh yeah, and did I mention that if I do move to public affairs, I’ll be reporting to someone who is on maternity leave until the end of February and she’ll be reporting to someone who is on maternity leave until June? Welcome to working for a company that is 88% female.

All I know, is that with less than 10 weeks left until my maternity leave, I was ready to start winding things down, closing out projects and preparing to transition other ones. Now, I feel like I’m tinkering away at everything and nothing at the same time and wondering if it’ll be April 2009 before I really know what’s going on.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Life without Outlook is bleak

Today at work, our e-mail servers and everything associated with Microsoft Outlook is down. It ran off to warmer climates sometime around 8 a.m. and it’s not expected to return until at least Monday morning.

You’d think that a day without being able to get a single e-mail would be a day in heaven. No one to harass me, you’d think. Hours on end saved by not having to follow-up on this subject or that.

But the sad reality is you don’t realize how much of your work life revolves around that one little program – that without it, you’re not actually in a blissful place where you can do work without interruption. You’re actually in a weird limbo place where you think “ok, I’ll finish this up then” only to realize that the file you need is attached to the e-mail so-and-so sent last week. I think I’ve started and stopped three different projects today because they’ve all ended in the same results – “damn that file is in my inbox.”

And, I now have a post-it note stuck to my monitor reminding me of the important e-mails I’ll have to send first thing Monday morning.

But what’s almost worse than not having e-mail, is not having access to my calendar. For eight hours every day, that stupid little tool tells me where I have to go, who I have to meet and how long I have to meet them for. Without it, I have nowhere to go because nothing is reminding me to go anywhere. Again, this sounds great in theory, but when you suffer from some pretty serious baby brain these days, (as I do) you’re stuck in a void with no idea of what future days hold.

Case and point, my phone rang an hour ago with the question “how’s Friday for meeting up at my office?” My answer, “well probably as good as any…I hope.” Thankfully, the person asking also works here (just not in this office) and is suffering from the same ails I am.

Two more hours and the day is done – I’m sure I have some phone calls to make or files to work on somewhere. I just hope no one is expecting me to show up somewhere.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

The toy that drives this mom mad

Every child has that one toy that drives their parents mental. Most children probably have more than one.

For Christmas, we bought Austin the Backyardigans Karaoke machine because every time he played at Lilo’s house, he practically sought it out and played the same song over and over again. We briefly debated on whether or not to buy it for fear that it would drive us mad – but figured what the heck – he likes it and that’s all that matters, right?

Surprisingly, it doesn’t bother me at all. He can press the button that says ‘Hi, I’m Austin, are you ready to go-go-go?’ 85 times in a row, and I can just tune it out. He’s happy listening to the music – even singing and dancing to it – so it doesn’t bother me one bit.

Then there’s the toy that Nana (Ryan's mom) gave him, that as he unwrapped, she looked at me and said “I’m sorry”. What was it? The Busy Bee drum set – a bunch of music instruments shaped like bugs.

Again, almost a month later, this is a toy that he loves and the more he bangs the more it doesn’t bother me.

So what’s the one toy that drives me mad? It’s the stupid little barking dog that my grandmother gave him. It’s not even a ‘real’ kids toy – it’s one of those Hallmark plush toys that run on batteries. Some of them sing, this one walks and barks. You put it on the floor, it walks three or four paces, stops and makes this annoying yipping sound.

And Austin loves it.

He gets excited every time he sees the dog. He cuddles it, he kisses it, and he knows how to turn it on. He’ll turn it on and leave it sitting on his lap. He’ll turn it on and watch it walk. But worst of all, he’ll turn it on and then walk away to play with something else but get mad if I walk over and turn it off.

I tried removing the batteries and telling him the dog was sleeping – he got upset. I tried hiding it – but he looked everywhere for it until he got upset and I caved and helped him find it.

So I guess I’m doomed to listen to the yip, yip, yip of this dog – at least until Austin finds the next great toy and I can make it disappear.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

When did everything become pink?

When did it suddenly become universally accepted that girls want to have everything in pink?

I’m not talking about the baby-girls-wear-pink and baby-boys-wear-blue concept because let’s face it, with so many bald newborns out there (and I can say that because my kid was one of those for many months), how else are you supposed to distinguish boy from girl other than by the colour of their clothes?

I’m talking about the assumption that older girls – toddler and older – must have everything in pink.

The other day, we were at the Raptors game and during halftime, I was checking out some of the merchandise, particularly the kids’ merchandise. And there, front and centre, were Raptors’ red jerseys, hats, baby track suits and bibs. And nearby, there were sickly sweet bubble gum pink Raptors’ jerseys and track suits.

This isn’t the first time I’ve noticed the pink jerseys, but it’s the first time that they actually bothered me. Because last time I checked, bubble gum pink wasn’t an official Raptors colours. There’s red, there’s white, there’s black, there used to be purple (and you can still get away with that retro colour) but there isn’t, and never has been, pink.

And while I’m on the subject, last time I checked, pink isn’t one of the Leafs’ official colours either – but there they are, bubble gum pink baby Ts with the Leafs logo on them.

This ‘girls must have pink’ trend is not only stuck in kids’ clothes (or women’s clothes – which some of the jerseys and T-shirts were). And that’s where I find it even sillier.

While doing Christmas shopping at Toys ‘R Us last month, I noticed an entire section of pink toys. Do you know the yellow Little People school bus (it’s the same bus you and I used to play with, just with more bells and whistles (read requires batteries))? Well it comes in yellow and it comes in bubble gum pink. Same goes with the Little People airplane – it comes in white and blue and it comes in bubble gum pink. Now, last time I checked there were no pink school buses on the road and very few passenger airplanes painted in bubble gum pink. Toy makers have even taken it one step further by offering the Magna Doodle in traditional royal blue and in pink; as well as the corn popper (you know that toy you pushed all around the living room to drive your parents’ crazy) in traditional blue or in bubble gum pink. There are probably others, but these are the four that come to mind.

Now I know I have a boy, so by default I’m not interested in buying ‘pink’ merchandise for him. But I honestly feel that even if I had a girl, I still wouldn’t be interested in buying pink merchandise. What does a child learn from owning a pink bus that they can’t learn from owning a yellow bus? The fine motor skills that they develop from the toy are the same, but, in my opinion, wouldn’t knowledge and understanding of the world be greater with the yellow bus – because that’s the colour of the bus a child sees on the road? I know Austin shouts with joy every time we drive by a school bus.

Girls and boys are already differentiated enough when it’s assumed that girls play with dolls and boys play with trucks – let’s not now make girls assume that they can only have the pink toys and the pink clothes.

Because I can tell you, whether my next child is a girl or a boy, only yellow school buses and Raptor red jerseys are coming into my house.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

The great purge

As much as moving can be a tedious chore, there’s a lot to be said for packing up and moving every few years. It means you never really get the chance to collect too much ‘stuff’.

We’ve only been in our house for three and a half years, but I’ll let you in on a little secret – I’m married to a pack rat.

Now I’m not saying that I’m a saint when it comes to the pack rat syndrome, because goodness knows I keep my fair share of ‘what the heck is this anyway’ and ‘when will I ever use this again’. But I’m a lot better at going through things and pairing down than my other half is. When my dresser drawer is too full to close, I’ll pull out all the shirts that have no business being worn anymore and toss them in a garbage bag. When my other half’s dresser drawer is too full to close, he just pushes harder to squeeze it all in. It’s no wonder he ends up with a drawer with about two dozen unworn T-shirts.

But regardless of that one example, we have a lot of ‘stuff’. Everything from old cell phones and empty boxes from electronics that we probably don’t even own anymore, to old childhood mementos that you can’t remember what you’re supposed to remember from them and unwanted gifts that you wouldn’t even dare re-gift.

So, with a new baby on the way and the need to make the most out of the space we have in our house, I started the purging process during the week off work in October.

At that time, I emptied our storage area under the stairs – which was so full you could barely walk in. (I mean does anyone really need five (yes five) picnic baskets/knapsacks when really, a big cooler or two is far more useful (and already taking up space in the same storage area?) Then I cleaned out the two closets in the basement.

When I was done, I combined the ‘unwanted stuff’ with the ‘unwanted stuff’ from the garage cleanup earlier in the year and together I had a full car of boxes and bags to go to Goodwill.

Just before Christmas, between cleaning out my side of the closet and some other odd and end places, we took another few boxes to Goodwill.

Last week, during the Christmas break, the great purge started to take on a whole new level. The office upstairs is going to become Austin’s room this spring, so that means that everything in it needs to find a new home. The desk and computer moved downstairs to the new family room and I started packing up the room.

In the end, I only have one box for Goodwill, two garbage bags and two recycle bags, but I’m well aware that much of what I boxed up may never find a new home in the basement, meaning more garbage and/or Goodwill bags to fill.

The next room on my purge list is the spare room in the basement. In that room is a double bed, a dresser and built-in floor to ceiling shelves. For three years, those shelves have been the place things go to die. Now, I need the shelf space (for much of the stuff from the office) and really, if things went there to die – shouldn't that mean they’re dead by now and we can get rid of them?

I think I’ll start on that room this weekend. And if I get really ambitious, when that room’s done, I may start on Ryan’s workshop. Goodness knows you can’t even walk into that room, let alone find anything. But then again, Ryan might kill me if I touch anything in there.