The Irony of Ironing ...

As I sit here this morning, staring blankly at the computer screen while a load of laundry spins furiously 'round in a washer that insists on bouncing across the room at each cycle, I can't help but wonder what our maid, Tita L., is doing while on leave in the Philippines.

If she were here, she would likely be setting up the ironing board about now, preparing for her daily ironing session.  Have I mentioned she loves to iron?  Like, everything?  Like the rumpled but clean sheets I am about to throw on the bed?  She would make sure every last crease was nought but a memory before setting them down for us to toss in restlessly and crinkle shamelessly.

I, on the other hand, am much more practical.  I will throw them over the mattress while they are still hot (old university trick ... you can avoid a lot of ironing by hanging clothes up while still steaming), figuring if we are going to rumple them ruthlessly within the space of 12 hours, why bother pressing?  The fact of the matter is, I hate ironing.  Hate it with a passion.  Hell for me would be to stick me in a room full of clothes that has been lying rumpled in a hamper for a week and arm me with nothing but a can of starch, an ironing board and a hot iron.  You simply could not pay me enough.

Et voila!  Bed freshly made.   (I was going for that 'previously slept in' look.)

Et voila!  Bed freshly made.  (I was going for that 'previously slept in' look.)

Yet Tita L. happily spends hours ironing everything from underwear to hair ribbons every week.  For a salary that I have guiltily calculated works out to about 4% of Smilin' Vic's and my combined income.  I often gaze upon her in wonder and amazement, truly perplexed at how she can find such contentment in this tiresome activity, smiling to herself as the steam rises from a skillfully pressed shirt collar whilst humming Air Supply and Celine Dion tunes.

What is it about the paltry salary and tedious chores that contribute so to her happiness?

I know it's not because this salary is going towards a month of luxuriating on a beach, getting pampered in a spa, or going on a safari expedition.  So what could possibly bring such a smile to her lips as I watch her enraptured by the 5 foot high pile of laundry that separates us?

Ahhh, yes.  I think I've got it.  Tita L. is gone home this month to whisk around town on the scooter she purchased last year for her family.  

She is flitting from store to store to choose the building supplies she needs for construction of her second house.  She is gone home to approve the floor plans, to oversee the pouring of the foundation, to supervise erection of the walls, and to make sure the wiring is being properly laid out.  

She wants to make sure the living room will accommodate the home entertainment system we gifted to her (save the applause, it was the annual gift from Smilin' Vic's work, and since we already had one it would have been silly to keep a second one even as back-up), and the flat-screen T.V. she won as a result of dutifully filling out the million raffle tickets I bring home each year from the grocery store (and am to lazy to fill out).

She is building this second abode on the plot of land she purchased three years ago in anticipation of setting up a small farm and house to sustain her through her old age.  

She is building it right next to her existing mortgage-less house, which she will gift to her children so they can remain close and not have to worry about a mortgage, at least not in the foreseeable future.

I make a few quick calculations and realize that Smilin' Vic and I only have to work here another 24 years at well-paying jobs to afford the equivalent back in Canada as Tita L. is securing in the Philippines.  

I think I'm starting to get the irony of ironing for a pittance.  

Release Me From This Cone of Silence ...

An alternative title to this post could well have been something along the lines of "My Cat and I Lead Oddly Similar Lives".

It all started for her about three days ago. A day like any other here in the desert ...

dusty

sunshiny skies,

furnace-like wind

warm breeze,

horns blaring

birds chirping as we

rushed like lunatics

enjoyed a leisurely morning preparing for another day in Doha.

The only thing that was different for kitty that morning was that after breakfast (ours, not hers - kitty was fasting) she got crated.  She doesn't mind her crate; most nights she sleeps in it, on a pink fluffy comfy pillow.  It is the perfect kitty cat dream machine.  I'm not sure if cats dream, but if they do, this would be the perfect place to do so. 

Then she got loaded into the car along with Kiddo, lunch bag and backpack.  Not kitty's most favorite thing in the world, car rides, but sunlight was filtering in through the holes on the side of her cage, and it was warm, and the car was humming along smoothly, and soon enough she was purring contentedly in the back seat, simply enjoying the ride.

Quite oblivious to the fact that I was about to drop her into the hands of individuals who would leave her dreamless, disconcerted and ill, in that particular order.  And I was doing so willingly (though not happily).  

Many scientists believe that cats do dream, or at the very least relive memories as they sleep.  

Many scientists believe that cats do dream, or at the very least relive memories as they sleep.  

She would be given anesthesia that would put her under for a few hours and blissfully erase any memory of the obligatory surgical slicing and tugging she was about to undergo.  (I wonder if it will forever erase any dreams she may have had of kittens bouncing about and scurrying excitedly around her.  Do cats dream? )

She would awaken from that surgery confused and weak.  Unsure of what atrocities she had endured, unsure of why she should be feeling such numbness and all the while feeling such discomfort, feeling so agonizingly wretched.

Then she would come home; be given food to eat and water to drink.  But she wouldn't feel like eating or drinking anything.  She would just want to sleep, to make the numbness/dull ache go away.  And then she would notice the cone that had been tied around her head.  A cone that was restricting her movement, annoying her, driving her mad.  And she would scratch and paw to no avail, and finally open her mouth to  

ROAR!

....

Meow!

.... squeak?????

How the  hell  did I get myself into this mess?

How the hell did I get myself into this mess?

Yes, at the end of the day, our kitty found herself battered, barren and silenced.  Through no choice of her own ... only because people did what had to be done; cats are subjected to spaying every hour of every day.  The vet said she likely lost her voice simply because she is a little more sensitive than the average kitten.  

I brought her back in for a check-up today.  The vet said she is doing fine; her sutures have taken, her wound is healing nicely.  But he gave her a course of antibiotics for her throat, just to be on the safe side.  He said he would remove the cone and the stitches in seven days.

This evening she managed a little meow; ever so slight, but we all heard it and cheered her on.  We keep on telling her the cone will come off soon, and she will get her roar back (which is kind of a lie, because her meow has actually never been much more than a squeak, but we're trying to motivate her, build up her self-confidence).  And she's seeming more sprite, not quite bouncing around, but moving a lot quicker than she has the last few days.  And she's cuddlier than ever.  Like we're her safe place.

And I'm struck by my own dissection of the last two or three years, the one that left me feeling oddly numb/bruised, listless, empty, confused, disoriented, frustrated.  The one that caught me unawares.  The one that silenced me.  And I think about the cone around me that I pawed at constantly, futilely.  The cone that friends and family told me would eventually come off.  The one that did in its own good time.

So I sit here tonight, gainfully unemployed, with my kitty as my muse.  

The cone that started to become undone when I handed in my resignation has finally and completely come off this week.  

With no cone, it's a lot easier to look around and see what's going on around me.  

At barely 4 lbs, surgery was hard ... but she's tougher than she looks.  You probably can't see the fiercely huge and ferocious fly she took on in this shot.

At barely 4 lbs, surgery was hard ... but she's tougher than she looks.  You probably can't see the fiercely huge and ferocious fly she took on in this shot.

I feel my voice returning too, just like they promised me it would.  It feels funny though, and I've been saving it this week ... almost like I'm afraid if I actually use it I'll lose it.  

Or maybe it's just because I have all the time in the world.

For now I'll focus on my kitty.  She needs some love.  And some inspiration.  I think I'll go remind her that the cone of silence will come off.  And that she will

ROAR

again!

A New Me, or Just the Me I Was Meant to Be?

Those of you who have laboriously waded through the treacle of my desperation by way of my early posts will know that professional disillusionment initially motivated my foray into 'BlogWorld'.

Isn't it odd that my disenchantment has metamorphosed into hope in the space of just a few short months?  

Or was it, perhaps, simply meant to be?

I feel like a new person; like I've been reborn.  

A decision I'd wrestled with for years seemed to make itself.  I quit my job.  Simple as that.  No more trying to avoid the reality that was staring me in the face.  I wasn't happy at work.  And it was making me unhappy in general.

Of course, over the last few months, I've questioned my decision to quit.  I've wondered whether I was simply using my job as a scapegoat for my unhappiness.  Wondered if I had really considered all the repercussions of quitting.  And ultimately I've come to the conclusion that the decision is without a shadow of a doubt the right one.

Tomorrow is my last day of work.  And while I will be sad to say goodbye to a good many friends made along the way, I feel, way down deep inside, like this is exactly where I am meant to be at this moment in time.

I must admit to feeling somewhat nostalgic these past few days.  It's made me look back on my life.  It got me to thinking about where exactly this decision fit into my "10-year Plan".  I started thinking back 10 years.

Which is when it hit me.  

It's ten years ago that I made another monumental decision to quit.  I found myself separated, on my own for the first time ever.  And I remember waking up that first morning, alone in bed, in the foreign surroundings of my first 'on-my-own' apartment, thinking "This is exactly where I am meant to be."  

I will never, ever forget the liberation of that feeling at that moment.

On that morning, I had a great job, promising career, I was upwardly mobile, I was gloriously single with no desire to be anything but.  I had a car, I could go where I wanted.  I had a wonderfully quaint apartment.  I didn't have much in the bank, but I didn't have much debt.

But my plans for the future on that day had nothing to do with a job, a car, money or relationships.

My 10-year Plan that morning was to harness that incredible feeling of freedom, of happiness.  To make sure I never forgot what it felt like again.  

And it worked.  I didn't plan to ever get remarried, yet my path collided with Smilin' Vic's.  I didn't plan (like really, REALLY didn't plan) to get pregnant, yet I was blessed with the most amazing kiddo ever.  I just committed to letting the happiness in, and the rest followed.

But somewhere along the way, I forgot the feeling.  I forgot my commitment.  I let one small professional disappointment in.  It was quickly followed by another.  And it brought two friends, and they brought to friends, .... you know how it goes.  After a while, I tried to convince myself that the disappointment and the frustration was ok.  

I've spent a lot of time letting the happiness back in over the last few months.  Blogging has forced me to focus on the positive in my life: my family, my friends, my general lot.  I had to start dwelling on the positive or else I'd forever be known as the frustrated blogger.  I didn't want every post to be a rant.  I wanted to feel inspired again.

And somehow the memory of that happiness from ten years ago started fighting its way back to the fore.  Some days I really do feel like it's a new me.

But it's not.  It's just me.  The me I was meant to be.

Souq Waqif.  October 2012.  Sometimes you just know things aren't quite as they should be...

Souq Waqif.  October 2012.  Sometimes you just know things aren't quite as they should be...

I Failed Me a Little Today ...

Every day, I'm confronted with something I've failed at.  My days are filled with mistakes and failures of varying degrees.  Some days it's something small, like failing to remember to put the water bottles out for the water delivery truck on Wednesday.  Some days it's something big, like failing to read the e-mail from kiddo's teacher reminding me that today is "Crazy Hair Day" at school.  And some days it's something monumental, like failing at my job.

But one thing I've learned from failure is that 9 times out of 10 it teaches me something.  I like to believe I've actually grown from my failures, that I've become a little bit better at some things.  It might be that I've only become more accomplished at failure itself, but I'll take any success I can get.  Surely my failures have made me somewhat smarter than I once was?

For example, I once ran freely through my mom's yard wearing jelly shoes.  We had a huge Husky/German Shepard mix back then.  I failed to realize there was a chance I would collide with one of the doggy land mines littering the yard.  I realized my mistake as soon as the poo started seeping through the gaps in my jelly shoe.  I've learned not to run through open fields wearing jelly shoes.

I once rubbed my eyes after basting ribs in hot sauce with my bare hands.  I failed to heed the warning label that said "Avoid contact with eyes.  If product comes into contact with eyes, immediately flush liberally with fresh water."  Lesson in self-macing quickly learned.  Tabasco BURNS!

I failed to wait until AFTER pulling a shirt over my head to apply lipstick ; I learned that you can remove a lipstick stain with hairspray.  

I failed at freely acknowledging a mistake; I've learned that you can avoid a lot of pain with a sincere "sorry".  

I failed at admitting that I didn't know what the hell someone was talking about; I've learned that you can avoid a lot of frustration by just admitting that you don't have all the answers.  

I failed at telling a lot of people exactly how I felt; I've learned that when you stop pretending, life becomes a lot simpler.

There are always exceptions; e.g.  I repeatedly fail to get to work on time.  That is the 1 time out of 10 that I just can't seem to learn from.  I figure I more than make up for it on the one hand, staying late on the job more than my turn.  However, this usually perpetuates the cycle of failure, with me arriving consistently three minutes behind the school bell most every day as I rush for after-school pickup.  On good days I convince myself that one could consider my tardiness a success if measured in terms of consistency.  

Then there are other failures, bigger failures, monumental failures, that make me rethink the implications of my actions on my life and that of others.

Yesterday I failed at sunscreen protocol.  Up until then, I could boast almost eight years of immaculate protection of kiddo's pearly-white skin in the ME.  I started off well, immersed Kiddo in spf 50 as is custom.  But then I let her swim and play in the desert sun for just a little too long without re-applying.  Her red shoulders and the pink hair part on her skull were the first indication that I had failed.  Her desperate attempt to rouse us at 1:00 a.m. by vomiting profusely over Smilin' Vic and I and our bedding was the second sign.  Her dry sunstroke heaves throughout the early morning hours lent credence to the epic proportions of my failure to protect this amazing little translucent being.  (I'm happy to report she's back to running about care-free as I type this post.)  I consider this a MONUMENTAL failure.  I am supposed to keep her safe.  Safe from the bad guys, safe from harm, safe from the elements.  Lesson learned: Failing my child is not an option. 

Recently, I admitted to failing at my job.  This hasn't been my biggest failure ever, but it's been a really hard one to admit to.  Me, who has always prided myself on my ability to 'get the job done'.  But I finally found a job I just wasn't willing to invest any more of me into.  So I quit.  In case I forget how massive a failure this one is, kiddo has been running around telling everyone for the last few weeks "My Maman quit her job!'  Funny thing is, I feel ok about it.  Lesson learned:  There is sometimes victory in failure.      

Years ago, I failed at marriage.  This one nearly killed me.  Slowly.  The failure dragged on for years, and it hurt - not only me, but many around me.  But then I succeeded at divorce.  Life has a way of throwing curve balls like that.  Lesson learned:  Sometimes success doesn't look quite like we expected it to.

For over six years, I have been failing my family back home.  As an expat, I just don't think there's any way around it.  I am not there to listen to them, to help them, to wrap my arms around them, to comfort them when they most need it.  Lesson learned:  Sometimes failure is the only option ... and it sucks.

Yup, every day I fail me a little.  But as they say in these parts, "What to do, yannih?"  I take the good with the bad and move on, and hopefully a little growth will come of it.  Hopefully the multitude of failures accumulated over the years will help define a successful lifetime.

May we all fail a little so that we may grow a little, and ultimately emerge triumphant.

"You build on failure. You use it as a stepping stone. Close the door on the past. You don't try to forget the mistakes, but you don't dwell on it. You don't let it have any of your energy, or any of your time, or any of your space." - Johnny Cash

They Like Me, They Really, Really Like Me!!!!

Ok.  So I've been waiting for it, thinking the day would never come.

Hoping against hope that I would be "The One", the chosen candidate, the lucky lass, the "next best thing".  And yesterday, the phone call came.  

HR Rep:  "Hello, Gypsy, I'm happy to tell you we have your offer letter.  Can you please come collect it in person, between 9:00 and 11:00 or 14:00 and 16:00?"

ME: Oh Happy Dance, Oh Happy Dance, I done won the LOTTERY, Oh Yeaaah, Oh Yeaah, "We Are The Champions My Frie-ends" "Lovely. I can probably make it between 15:00 and 16:00. Shall I call ahead?"

I gathered myself together and drove down to the HQ office today at 15:00.  

I think I drove.  Maybe I floated.  Maybe I dreamt it.  

Anyhow, I ended up at HQ.  Was issued a security pass allowing me access to the 44th floor.  The bubble floor.  The lollipop floor.  The floor where magic happens.  The floor where dreams are fulfilled.  The floor where the impossible becomes possible.

After four fumbled attempts to enter the 44th floor lobby, the receptionist/security guard smirking at me through the glass paned door signaled for me to use my security pass/swipe card to disarm the doors.  

Mission successful, I glided through, presented myself professionally confidently as "Gypsy, here to see HR Rep, to receive my totally awesome, incredible, radically insane, absolutely dreamt of, miraculous, gnarly, intense offer of employment".  I think I blew him away with my professional confidence.

I then sat in the reception area for the requisite 20-minute (the HR rep is completely engrossed in a whirlwind of "oh-so-much-more-important-than-your-offer" tasks) waiting period, flicking aimlessly through a corporate magazine that read like gobbledygook to me.  By the time I was summoned, I had the gobbledygook lingo down pat.  

The receptionist/security guard informed me that I "could now be seen".  He escorted me down a hall of cubicles, at the end of which we entered an "office with a view".  I sat there alone for a few minutes alone, fidgeting with my iPhone, until I started to worry there might be hidden cameras behind which sat some psychoanalyst quietly analyzing my apparent fixation with technology while ignoring the natural splendor outside the floor to ceiling windows.  So I stood up, put on my best "pensive and appreciative" face, adopted a "wonder and awe" stance (body slightly slanted to the side, arms crossed against my chest, leaning slightly backwards, nodding my head gently side to side).

I could only maintain this pose for a minute or two before it started to look fake.  So I sat back down.  The HR Rep came in.  Walked me through the acceptance process.  Showed me the paperwork.  I caught a brief glimpse of the offer.  Oh, yeah, this is gonna happen!

If you've been following my blog at all, you've read about some of my 'dissatisfaction issues' with my current job.  It's not about the hours.  It's not about the money.  It's not about the office space.  It's about disempowerment.  This offer is a fresh new start.  It may well end up being an "out of the pot, into the frying pan" scenario.  But in the end, all I see is a new lease.  It is my chance to spread my wings.  

I am leaping, peeps, I am LEAPING!  Come what may, I've always committed to living my life without regrets.  I have stayed in my present job way past its expiration date because I did not want to live with the regret of compromising my family's income and future.  But today, today, I am leaping into the unknown, because I have the chance to offer them something better.  I can't be sure that it will be better, but I never want to have to ask myself "what if I had given it a shot?"

So now I must tender my resignation prior to submitting my signed acceptance of the offer.  I have to undergo a medical (creaky bones at age 43 make for an uncertain future).  I have to undergo State security clearance.  And then maybe, maybe, maybe, if everything goes well, in four to five months I will be able to step into these amazing, glittery, bejeweled, stiletto 'new job' shoes.  Or maybe they'll end up being frayed flip flops.  Who knows?

But I couldn't miss this opportunity.  No way in hell was I gonna risk asking "what if?" And I just can't get over the fact that they liked me ... they really, really liked me!!!!

Here's hoping I'm stepping into amazing, glittery, bejeweled, stiletto, 'new job' shoes.

Here's hoping I'm stepping into amazing, glittery, bejeweled, stiletto, 'new job' shoes.