Sunday, October 30, 2005

Making Amends

For a significant part of my life, I was blessed with a furry companion, my cat Tiger. She was with me for 12 years, from the days of my first high school boyfriend, through my college years, my first job, my first house, and my relocation to California. Throughout all these years, and all this change, Tiger was a constant fixture, my four-legged companion and friend. She passed away two years ago.

As a tribute, I had a custom frame built, that included two pictures of her, the little bell she wore around her neck, her favorite toy (a piece of speaker wire !), and the heart-shaped tag engraved with her name and my previous phone number.

After some time, however, this composition began to fall apart. The speaker wire, meticulously and expertly glued in place by my former husband, became separated. The mat underneath was irreparably stained, and needed replacement. I went to a frame store near my new apartment to order one.

There, I gave them a baggie with the mementoes, and a rough drawing of the desired layout. I returned a couple of weeks later to pick up the finished piece.

The heart-shaped tag was missing.

Tiger's tag, the one she had worn on her collar, was gone.

To say I was upset is an understatement. It was all I could do to keep the tears at bay. This, and the fact that the batty lady who initially took my order had messed up my name, my address AND my phone number, led me to ask nicely for a discount. The assistant manager was kind enough to grant me one.

Tiger's tag was gone ! Even though I could make another one, it would not be the same. I sadly accepted, however, that this was what I needed to do. I guess it is a good thing that I didn't get around to it.

A few days ago, while unloading groceries from my car, I found the tag. It was at the bottom of the trunk, underneath my CERT helmet, hidden from view until that moment.

The store hadn't lost it. I had.

An ocean's wave of guilt washed over me. Why didn't I check that the tag was in the baggie before I handed it to the dumb lady behind the counter ? She may have been reprimanded because of my mistake. And even though she had erred on every part of my contact information, I was still given a discount that I wasn't truly entitled to.

Standing at the crossroads of this new discovery, I asked myself the two critical questions:

What would someone with integrity do ?

Someone with integrity would walk into the store, apologize for the error, and offer to pay back the discount.

Would I like myself if I didn't do this ?


I didn't have to go back to the store. It would have been easier just to let it go. I could have justified taking the discount because of the multitude of mistakes, and the almost 45 minutes of my time taken by the scatterbrained lady behind the counter.

But that's not the person that I want to be.

So yesterday, I went back. I found the assistant manager, and with every shred of courage I could muster, I looked him in the eye and apologized for my mistake. Thankfully, he was understanding. He even refused my offer to take back the discount. I left the store, with a newly-purchased frame for another item, and a huge weight off my shoulders.

Last night, for dinner, I ate a healthy serving of crow. And as I lay my head on my pillow and drifted to sleep, I was at peace.

Tiger's tag was in its rightful place.

And so was my conscience.

Link: [Sad News About Tiger, 11/2003]

Friday, October 21, 2005

An Epiphany

Last weekend was like any other weekend, filled with activities, friends, and various bustling around. My goal was to finish organizing my filing cabinet, and to put away that monstrous, pesky file-pile once and for all. Sunday was my day to accomplish this, with the uplifting trance beats of Digitally Imported Radio streaming from my computer speakers.

That Sunday was unremarkable, yet profound. It was that day that I completely obliterated the once-astronomical to-do list for my new apartment.

Everything is done.

The boxes are all unpacked. The pictures and mirrors are hanging on the walls. My CDs, tapes, and 12" records are sorted alphabetically in their respective display cases. My yearbooks, old sports uniforms, and other souvenirs of my life are in plastic crates, sorted and labeled by time period.

Everything is done !

My extensive collection of photographs, once haphazardly stuffed into non-contiguous albums and envelopes, are now in albums in chronological order. And that pack of pictures that I removed when I was 15 years old ? It finally made its way back into its place. 16 years later.

For the first time in my life, everything that I own is organized.

Beforehand, all my beloved books were hastily thrown in boxes and hidden away in the closet. These boxes followed me from Toronto to California - still closed, still hidden, still waiting for their release. Now, they are prominently displayed in my spacious new bookshelf, alongside my growing collection of new acquisitions. I actually have time to read these days. Imagine that.

In my previous life, my domicile was perpetually filled with piles of papers, collections of junk, and an inconceivably long to-do list that could never be reduced. The 3-4 hour daily commute, and a then-husband with severe packrat tendencies, prevented me from doing any more than routine cleaning and scrubbing. I was powerless. My life was out of control. I could barely avoid being overwhelmed by it all.

Now, the huge piles of papers are ancient history. I have a nice three-tiered tray from Ikea for all my bills and paperwork. It sits on my new kitchen stand, accompanied by a cup of pens and my Weight Watchers tracker. And the mail is always opened the same day I receive it. No more backlog. Ever.

When I first moved into this new apartment, striking out on my own, I made a promise to myself. I promised that my place would always be 'company ready', and that I would never have to apologize for messes or dirt. Of course, I am nowhere near perfect, and don't want or strive to be. My goal is simply to be presentable at all times.

For the first time in my life, my home is something I can truly be proud of.

I decorated it all myself. Yes, the bill from Bed, Bath and Beyond was a staggering amount by the time I was done. I think I paid a year's worth of salary for one of their employees. But it was worth it, to create my sanctuary.

For the first time in my life, I am truly free.

Free from the debilitating chains of a relationship that had run its course. Free from the crushing weight of disorganization and lack of focus. Free from my own inner dialogue that for years held me back from striving for my goals.

I am free to become the person I have always wanted to be.

My space is my own. My future is my own. My life is my own.

There is nothing left that can take that away.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

I Hate Turkey.

I don't really hate turkey. I hate the person in the country of Turkey who has just gone on a spending spree with a forged Visa card on my account.

Over $800 total in 21 charges. Luckily I caught it within 4 hours of the offending action.

One of the charges was McDonald's. I hope the turkey who ate there chokes to death on his fat-laden dinner.

GRRR !!!!

Slinky Little Camera

I recently purchased a digital camera. The just-released Sony DSC-T5. Compact, functional, cute and sexy all rolled into one. I knew it was the right choice when I purchased it last month.

This ad, found by my friend Aaron in a Mac magazine, confirms this beyond any reasonable doubt.

I swear I did not see this ad before I bought the camera. :)

Saturday, October 08, 2005


Now that I live much closer to work, I have been blessed with the gift of an extra three hours per day. What better way to use this time than to explore new opportunities and activities I never had time to in the past. One such activity I have chosen is volleyball.

I've always loved the sport. I was an 'ok' player in school. Lately I have been wanting dig deeper, to expand my ability, to improve my skills, and to increase my social circle in the process. The perfect opportunity manifested itself in the lunchtime league hosted by my company. I signed up as an individual, and somehow, was placed on a Division 1 team.

Division 1 is the hardcores.

My teammates have been playing for a number of years. I found out very quickly that they all have skills on a level well above mine. In the first two games, as is my custom, I played my heart out as best I could. I watched my teammates, took note of their style and where they were expecting me to be, often sacrificing my body in various aerial horizontal positions to keep the ball off the grass. I thought I did a relatively decent job, however, it was obvious that I was not quite at their level.

Still, I was ready to play my heart out, and to ramp up as quickly as I could to contribute to my new team. Until I received this email before this week's game:

"Today, I was told we are playing against the strongest team. So, I need to put the 6 strongest players on the court to beat them.

"You are welcome to come and cheer for the game."

Those words hit me like a stab in the gut.

The logical, engineering side of me immediately kicked in and started rationalizing. My team is in D1, which is more competitive than the D2 league. I am the extra, the add-on, and am obligated to do whatever the team captain wishes. And let's face it, the last thing I ever would want to do is to be the cause of the team losing the game.

I can convince myself of all the reasons why I shouldn't play this game.

But I can't deny that my feelings were hurt.

Competition. It is the very core of the sports and games we play throughout our lives. It is what drives us, what motivates us, what inspires us to play our hardest and to improve our skills. From the intellectual stimulation of chess and poker to the hardest-hitting of physical combat, the spirit of healthy, friendly or downright adversarial competition is what propels us to keep coming back for more.

Sometimes, however, we take it a little too far.

A perfect example is the youth sports of today. Organized sport, once a healthy outlet for kids to burn off energy, play a game, and interact with one another, is infused with parents attempting to live their lives vicariously through their children. They stand on the sidelines, screaming at their progeny for every wrong move, arguing with the umpires or referees, even fistfighting with each other. And while many of the coaches are positive, encouraging and fair-minded, there are some who mimic the actions of the parents, creating a pressure-cooker of contention between themselves, the coaches and the players.

All for a game. A kids' game no less.

How much fun can one truly have in such an environment ? Surely, the tougher kids can tolerate, endure and even excel when surrounded by this testosterone-driven hostility. However, most cannot, and would not if given the choice. More than once, I have heard stories of kids who simply want to play and have fun. They do not need to be the best player or to win the championships; they play for the pure love of the game, and the camaraderie amongst other players their age. Yet the vitriol of the parents and coaches, and the single-minded focus of winning at all costs, became the dealbreaker that turned them off the game for good.

What ever happened to playing the sport just for the sport itself ? That concept appears to have been lost. Muffled by the screams of negativity from the coaches and parents. Drowned out by the myopic vision that all that matters is the score.

Long ago, I made a pact to compete only within myself. I promised myself that I would always endeavor to reach higher, to play harder, to be a better teammate and player. I vowed that it would always be about the game and the people first, and about winning last.

Now, as an adult playing in various recreational leagues, I still keep that vow.

This week, my volleyball team put its six best players on the court. The other team only had four, and was forced to play shorthanded. Even so, my team was defeated in two straight matches. Decisively.

In a way, I'm relieved I was called out for an ERT emergency and was not able to spectate. Deep down, I wish they had just given me the chance to improve. But I know that winning the game is more important to them than building the skills of an enthusiastic but still-learning teammate. So I resign myself to sitting on the sidelines when I'm asked to.

As much as I love competition, as much as I enjoy the challenge of playing with those at a higher level than I, as much as I want to contribute to this team, I think I'll stick with the recreational D2 league next season.

Sitting on the bench, even if it gives the best chance of a win, is a lonely place to be.

I don't wish that feeling on anyone.
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