Sunday, March 30, 2014

Greg Marcus' Busting Your Corporate Idol

dogbert work life balance

As many of you know, I am more than aware of the impact that not having a work-life balance can have on one's health, emotionally and physically.

After my piece appeared in the Globe and Mail,  Dr. Greg Marcus, Silicon Vally work-life balance guru reached out to me and we had a very interesting chat.  Well actually, I babbled on to him and he listened very kindly.  I could tell he must be a good coach!

It seems that though New Brunswick is a fraction of the size of the part of California in which Greg lives, the issues I faced were identical to what he faced before he left his job and are identical to those experienced by the many individuals with whom he coaches.

Greg sent me his book to read and I am so glad that he did, as it was a revelatory experience. 

I connected again and again with the stories Greg shares in the book and wished I'd read it before I left my job (which is not to say I still wouldn't have left anyway, but is to say I might have survived the experience a little more intact).

In a previous life, Greg was an MIT graduate, working for large corporations, doing cutting edge research and work and a true believer in the cult of work at all costs. Until the cost became too high and he realized this his idol didn't share the same values and feelings for him (since, by definition, organizations are not capable of having feelings).

The central conceit of the book is Marcus' belief that our places of work have become in many cases false idols, a concept which occurred to him during Yom Kippur.  For those unfamiliar with Yom Kippur, it is the Day of Atonement for the Jewish faith that involves fasting from sunrise to sunset and prayers of reflection on one's life.  A time for atonement, amends. 

The idolatry metaphor is a good one.  The corporation, and work in general, has become a 24-7 taskmaster, requiring our full love and attention, and often at the expense of the things that are most important to our well-being - our family and our health.

A caveat here for those of you who are going to write and tell me that you love your job and are happy - I loved a lot of my job, too, and was very happy at times in my position(s) - and that therefore even if you are tethered to work, physically and emotionally, that's okay, I say "have at it".  But I would also say that having balance is a good thing.

Throughout the book, Greg uses case studies and offers helpful ideas and key questions for self-examination aimed to assist the reader to identify if they have an issue and how they can fix it.

However, let's face it - if you are drawn to this book, you have an issue.  I was working so much and was so distracted constantly by the incoming emails and phone messages and the constant crises and documents, that even when I wasn't working, I was never, ever, truly "not working".  And though there was an expectation that people should take vacations, the sheer volume of work piling up during our absence often leads people to continue to do some work (or even be called in for a crisis by the same boss who encouraged them to take a vacation), because the thought of returning to 2000 emails after a couple of weeks off made the vacation seem not really worth it.

This was so me...

The overworking culture is promoted in most organizations I've worked in - either people are sharing (bragging) about how worn out they are, or they are one-upping one another to see who can stay the latest, "be there" when the organization needs them.

There was even a certain esprit-de-corps that existed, where we would all share war stories about having the shit kicked out of us constantly and working around the clock.

And while I worked very hard to make my children a priority, what I lost along the way was quality time with friends and quality time with myself, so that by the end I was dragging myself from day to day, bootstrapping it through meetings and long nights of work.  And to be honest, in the end I didn't feel I was making enough of a difference in my job that it was worth getting sick for.  I heard from a lot of people within the organization about how happy they were for me at being able to leave for my health's sake and wished they could do likewise. The silence from others, whom I had thought were comrades-in-arms, was deafening.  Because dropping out is a cardinal sin when you are talking corporate idolatry.

Greg posits that organizations which are money driven are particularly susceptible to this type of corporate idolatry.  I think that when the economy suffers, as is certainly the case in New Brunswick right now, the pressure to deliver gets jacked up even higher, both within the private and public sectors.  Individuals with whom I chat with regularly across all levels within Government right now appear to me to be as demoralized as I've ever seen them, which makes sense given the need to find savings, not fill vacant positions (which in turn requires existing staff to work more and harder) and the ongoing uncertainty of future job cuts if the economy doesn't bounce back.  Friends in the private sector are saying the same.  And all of them mention a lack of balance, an expectation that they will work every evening and most weekends and be on call via email.

international assignment work life balance

Of course there are ways around it that are less drastic than leaving one's job, and thank goodness Greg Marcus provides some helpful tools that can be used to recalibrate balance between one's workplace and one's home life.

And while a crisis often forces the change - in my case my father dying and my inability to sleep due to stress - we do our employees and our society a disservice if we allow it to get to that point.

A fundamental shift is starting to fester around the edges of our obsessed-with-work-and-getting-ahead culture.  Organizations would do well to buy Greg's book and see what they might do differently, how their leaders can push back and create a different kind of workplace that values people's health and recognizes that if our whole sense of self comes from our jobs, we really have no sense of self, since the organization's sense of self does not come from us.

But most importantly, people who are currently experiencing this kind of stress need to read this book and take the baby steps necessary "to get a life".  And I understand all too well that many of you who are reading this are frankly too busy to imagine taking the time to read this book and even the thought of that makes you feel stressed, so I say one thing: put it by the toilet.  Surely to god you are taking a break for that!

If you are interested in buying the book or learning more about Greg and his Idolbuster Coaching Institute, click here.The book is also available to purchase from Amazon.  The book is well written, a straightforward and compassionate read and leaves one with the feeling in the end that this cane be tackled if only there is a the will to do so.

Thanks Greg!  And best of luck saving all of us who have or who are struggling to find a real work-life balance!  

Saturday, March 29, 2014

J Crew Brogues

Well Lordy Lordy, another package arrived late yesterday with a little something-something from J Crew that I have decided to keep (I am now officially talking like Miss Maudie in To Kill A Mockingbird - go right over to the book club meeting at Dani's today and put in your two cents!)

Oh J Crew, you crazy kid, every time I think I'm out you pull me back in.... (Now I'm talking like Al Pacino).  I wish I knew how to quit you...Cue Heath Ledger...

I love a men's-style (man's style? Which is grammatically correct?) shoe.

Well, whatever, I love them because I have flat feet.  I no longer wear heels above 2".    I admire the sexy height of a heel on others.  Myself, I must derive all of my sexiness from an over-abundance of panache and a keen mind for the kind of useless information that makes one a Jeopardy! champion but serves no other real purpose in the real world.  Still, I soldier on.

So anyhow, as you know, I ordered the Women's Wing Tip Oxfords:

Wing tip oxfords

I was slightly nervous, since the monk's strap oxfords I'd ordered last fall were a dud.  But not these.  Oh, no, not these.

I pulled them out of the box just as I was enjoying a St-Germain cocktail. 

The Official Cocktail of Wendy and Dani's Shenanigans (oh wait till the disco balls come out!)

They looked good through the gauzy glow of a genteel potable, and I am happy to report that in the cold light of day, they continue to wow!

Note the fancy-schmancy tying.  I will need a lesson in that...

The fresh cream is just that, but more like if you added a teaspoon of vanilla to your cream.  There is a science to colour and you can tell that it is not a science that I understand!

A side view.

Beside the seersucker eyelet dress:

Now really?  How cute is that going to be?  Cute I say!

Beside last summer's schoolboy blazer in ecru
I ran around and put these shoes beside every article of clothing in my closet, cooing with delight, but I spare you those photos...

And with today's outfit

I wanted to post on this ASAP as they are still on promo, plus 30% off that price) for anyone who might be interested.  I plan to wear these with trousers, jeans, capris, skirts and dresses.  I don't have a ton of any of those things, but these shoes are sure to be workhorses in my closet!

Really, I ought to send a note to Mickey and encourage him to keep this up!  Quality Mr. Drexler, that is the key, old chap...

Have a rousing Saturday!  I am off to make a Pavlova in honour of Miss Jody's birthday and because my friend Martine is coming over!

Stay Safe Out There!

Friday, March 28, 2014

Miller Time Friday: Vulnerability

 “When we were children, we used to think that when we were grown-up we would no longer be vulnerable. But to grow up is to accept vulnerability... To be alive is to be vulnerable.”
Madeleine L'Engle

Happy Friday All! 

First, thanks for the feedback on the dresses yesterday.  Never ask a question you don't want the answer to, and I certainly got a lot of varying responses!  It is always fascinating to me how people can see the same thing and have such different perspectives on it, which is, I think, what makes life interesting!

But it got me to thinking about the whole act of sharing one's life, even if it is only a sliver of that life, publicly.

Blogging is both a narcissistic and wholly exposed enterprise.

Some bloggers share a lot of personal information - this is the camp in which I fall - others utilize a more op-ed or salon conversational approach to areas that interest them.  I think Tabitha over at Bourbon and Pearls falls firmly and brilliantly into this camp.  Some blogs are mostly beautiful pictures and images. 

Regardless of the type of blog, what having a blog or doing anything public requires of a person is a certain degree of vulnerability. 

Not everyone will like what you write on any given subject. 

Not everyone will like the look of you or what you wear or what you ate or where you traveled.

Some will think you spend too much money, others may think you are cheap.

You may think you have written something in a very diplomatic way, only to discover that you have hurt someone deeply.

I am thinking of vulnerability again as I recently signed up for part II of Brené Brown's online course The Gifts of Imperfection.

brown imperfect

I did the first course last year and loved it, though if truth be told, I suspect you could jump right into part two without any concern about having missed part one, so long as you have read the book by the same name - which, by the way, is required reading for the exercises in the course anyway.

I've posted on Brené before on this blog and admit to being a full blow fan girl because a) she is a social work professor and how many of THEM make it big?  b) she is a Texan, a no BS kind of gal, but her no BS involves disabusing people of the notion that everyone else is living a bigger, more exciting, and meaningful life than they are.

Surrounded as we are by Facebook posts of the happiest moments of someone's life, of bloggers who share what two dresses they are thinking of keeping but perhaps don't mention that they need two dresses because the last summer dresses they bought 3 years ago are way too small because they've gained weight, we somehow think that our lives don't measure up.

When I left my job last year and then subsequently wrote that very personal story of my unhappiness and frustrations with the life choices I'd made (and which I proceeded to share with the whole frigging country), I opened myself up to a whole lot of vulnerability.  And it was hard, but oh so worth it, because it opened me up to some people that I'd never otherwise know and it also opened me up so that people could see the real me, not the manufactured me.

It also opened me up to some harsh realities about myself.  One of the hardest things about writing this blog or writing the piece in the Globe and Mail or trying to get published at all is that you open yourself up to judgement - your own and other people's.

People talk about you behind your back.  I know, because I used to be one of them. 

I used to judge people all the time.  Now I have come to realize that the act of judging others, while human perhaps, is the sign that you are trying to divert yourself and others away from the ugly truths about yourself.  

You have to love yourself enough if you really want to love other people.  And people often clam to have good self-esteem, but in my experience, we are works in progress and some of us are working through pain, regardless of how we present ourselves to the world.

Now when I start to judge, I stop myself and ask: "why is that bothering me so much? why do I feel the need to judge it?" 

Sometimes my judging is born out of jealousy. 

Sometimes someone has hurt my feelings.

Sometimes it's born out of that feeling that we are not meeting our own expectations and that somehow, that person is smarter, better looking, more competent than us.

Sometimes it is out of some kind of self-righteous feeling because the person or situation is being mean or self-serving or petty and look at me, I'm none of those things.

But of course we are all of those things, aren't we?  Because we are human.

So I'm signing up for part 2 of Brené's online course because I am most definitely a work in progress and I find that every step that I take that enables me to be more vulnerable, more authentic, more me is a step that helps me find my tribe in life.

And that tribe, scattered as they may be around the world (or standing in a snowstorm with me burning effigies!) are the people that I am meant to be with and whom I love.   

They know me, they know the whole me (okay, maybe they know most of me!), because I am no longer afraid to share who I am, with the understanding that those who remain milling around after the big reveal are the ones that I'm supposed to be with anyway!  The rest are looking for their own tribe and I wish them well in the journey!

And that is a nice thought to end a week with!  So thanks Brené Brown and thanks to everyone who shows up here to read about my unglamorous, but real, life!

Ah who I am kidding - here's what really happens:

So thinking of Brené, I think I will make a cocktail today related to Texas!

How about:

Texas Tea

Ingredients : Texas Tea
- 2 oz tequila
- 2 oz rum
- 2 oz vodka
- 2 oz gin
- 2 oz whisky (whiskey,bourbon...)
- 2 oz orange liqueur (cointreau, grand marnier...)
- 2 oz sweet and sour mix
- 2 oz cola (pepsi, coca cola...)

 Use a "In glass" for Texas Tea drink recipe
Fill a 1 gallon pitcher with ice. Add all the ingredients except the coca-cola. Stir, then add the coca-cola and stir again. Pour into your favorite glass with

Now that was refreshing.  Now I want to go to Texas!

Happy Friday and thanks for reading along!  Stay safe out there!

“Vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity and change.”
Brené Brown

Thursday, March 27, 2014

J Crew: Review of Two Summer Dresses and a Linen Sweater and a Linen T Shirt, Plus HELP!

Morning All!

Am getting this done earlier than anticipated as I am sending some things back later this afternoon and need your opinion.  Or perhaps moral support!

My J Crew box arrived with the two dresses and a ride along thing or two.

Before I show what arrived thought I would share today's outfit, which is simple and designed to keep me warm - a lightweight  merino v neck, beige cotton skirt and my black Pliner boots which are old and comfy,  It is freezing after yesterday's blizzard, so I definitely needed the scarf!

Don't know why I took this - I have a thing for circles I guess.

I ordered the Linen Ribbed Knit sweater to try.  On the site, it looks much darker:

Linen rib-knit sweater

IRL, not so much, but I really liked it and have decided it is a nice sweater for spring and summer

Yes, that is my childhood teddy bear, who has had his eyes and most of his fur, loved off him..

I don't know why I ordered the linen tee below.  I blame it on a moment of madness.  Not that it horrible or anything, but it neither me nor the style I aspire to.  Back it will go, but wanted to share in case someone else is curious..

Ah, here is where we get on the fence.  The eyelet shirtdress in white:

 I like it.  My daughter loves it on me.  I am dithering over white.  I will not ever have a tan, so I despair of looking like Caspar the Ghost.

 The one I know I am keeping for certain is the seersucker eyelet, which I really, really like.


Yes, those are club fairy shoes...

A close-up of the blue:

It is pale blue/ecru combo, which you can get a better sense of when I pair it with my cotton Clare cardigan in Champagne:


 I kind of like the tie...

 It goes well with my blue blazer:

And here it is paired with a few other shades:

 This is staying for sure, given the comfort level and all of the things that it matches in my wardrobe as well as my spring shoe purchase which is en route:

Wing tip oxfords

I have decided there is no sense purchasing sandals till end of May, but these I will be able to wear much sooner and have been on my wish list for quite awhile.  Thanks Rose, for the gift card, which, when added to 30% off, put me over the edge!

So here's the thing.  I believe I will send back the white dress.  I do not really need two summer dresses.  I am wondering if I will see something else in the next couple of months that I will like better.  Or conversely, is this so fabulous on me that I ought to keep it?  Thoughts?

Since it has been so long since I have bought and shown any clothing I am quite in a dither!

Thanks in advance and have a great day!  Stay Safe out there!


Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Random Things that Make Me Happy in the Middle of the Blizzard...

We are in the throes of a full throttle blizzard here.  The wind is howling like a banshee on the moors, the snow is blowing, the liquor store closed at 4 p.m. (!) and even the corner store where my son works closed at 6.

Hard to tell from the photograph below, but the whitish aspect of the photo is horizontal snow.

I admit to watching the massive pine trees and power lines suspiciously.  The scariest part of a blizzard with 50 km an hour winds is that a power line might go out

a) losing internet
b) losing heat

which is worse?  You decide...

But never mind.  I was stuck inside all afternoon which gave me the opportunity to finish cleaning my office.  I recently finished the final (for me) draft of my novel.  I am in revisions in the 2nd.  I have a nifty idea for a completely different third book, BUT, since I didn't sleep well last night, this seemed like a good day for chores, not brain power!

At three o'clock, I saw the top of my desk...

See all that empty space on the wall?  It is soon going to be home to two dry erase planning surfaces that will help me plot my next novel!

Yes, that is indeed a J Crew box under my desk full of returns.  However, I did receive my dresses and love them both!  More on that later in the week!

Daughter's shoes and my work books.  Yes, apple falls close to this tree.

Then Barry and I moved a bunch of furniture and cleaned.  It was very satisfying, though I am dead tired right now.

But I need some cheering and so I am ending this post with random images that make me happy.  I deserve at least that!


The cottage we stayed at in Normandy in 2008:

Larry, Moe and Curly reading:

Three of the six Three Stooges read.


Am I the only one who rubs the oil of geranium leaves  behind my ears?  I was afraid so..


Fitted Caftan.  Pink Love Poppy

I don't own a caftan, but as my body becomes ever more Mrs. Roper-like, I do think there is something quite divine about them..


Oh I like my duvet.  But what I really want is a silk eiderdown!

Just like Mr. and Mrs. Miniver had folded neatly on the end of their beds...That would make me happy!  I could use a fireplace in my room, too...

Oh Walter Pidgeon, you good New Brunswick boy, look at that lovely eiderdown...

How about the future house of the chickens Barry is certain we will never have?  That makes me happy?

xx tracy porter..poetic wanderlust.- follies, guest house- shed- greenhouse
My favourite picture of the Princess of Wales makes me happy:

A picture of a Lhasa apso who could be Indy's twin:

The Tattinger caves in Reims.  All that champagne around me made me giddy before I'd even drunk a drop.  Even thinking of all those bottles of bubbly makes me happy!

Just knowing that someday soon, there will be fields of sunflowers in bloom in France...

And the last thing making me happy tonight?

Yup, I am feeling like a room without a roof!

I have cheered myself up considerably!  Anything making you happy?

Happy Thursday and hope your weather is a little more hospitable than mine..  Stay safe out there!


Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Style Wednesday: My Life, in Boxes and Piles

There is nothing so overwhelming as a good old-fashioned de-cluttering.

I am currently doing this in my office and have become trapped by the boxes and flotsam and jetsam of my life!

To wit, the top  of my desk, awaiting filing and sorting tomorrow morning:

Not sure if you can see, but in the right hand corner, under the camera bag, is Arianna Huffington's new book,  Thrive.  I will do a review later this week or early next.   I heard an interview with her on the radio earlier this week and was intrigued enough to go and buy it!

Anyhow, I completed the purging of my closet(s) - I had some things in the back room as well - and decided to follow a more orderly approach to seasonal dressing.

I follow Jennifer L. Scott's Blog, The Daily Connoisseur, faithfully and many of you will know her as the author of Lessons from Madame Chic.

One of the central aspects of the book is that of the ten core item wardrobe.  And since Jennifer is about to unveil her new Spring Ten Item Wardrobe, I thought now was as good a time as any to start getting ready to pull mine together.

Lest you think that either Jennifer, or I, will be strictly living on only ten items, never fear.  Well, I think she will be a LOT purer than me, but I am getting there and I think I am down to a lot less.

Having a seasonal core colour story, a la our beloved Dani, or having fewer, but well-loved options, makes for a simpler life.  Or so I hope.

So I basically have divided my wardrobe into Spring, Summer, Fall and Winter.  A novel approach to be sure...

Except for my winter coats and boots, the rest of winter has been packed away into its own bin, as has fall and summer.  I have saved one cashmere sweater, but there is a rumour that after tomorrow's blizzard, temperatures will rise, and I am ever hopeful.

The bins, ready to be stored away:

Hope it's a long time till I see you Fall....

Two large bags of spring and summer clothing and shoes and purses awaits a visit to the consignment shop, after giving some choice pieces to my close friend.

A navy Calvin Klein blazer waits to be taken to the seamstress tomorrow to get the sleeves shortened so I will actually wear it.  These are tasks that we so often put off (or at least I do) and as a result our clothing languishes in our closets unworn.

A massive bin of fall and winter clothing is being stored away for a visit to the consignment shop in the fall:


It almost look like a gift card, doesn't it?  "Dear Consignment, Please Love My Unworn Clothes..."

 Where did I struggle?

Well not with my clothing, surprisingly.  I found it easy to let most of that go and focus on choice pieces, and things that made me feel good. 

I kind of struggled with shoes.  I got rid of a few pairs and then organized things, packed a few away and have all of my shoes (excepting boots and including sandals) on my infamous wall of shoes.

Why did I keep so many?  Well I realized I really love my shoes.  I can be simple and accessorize fewer articles of clothing, but every decision about getting rid of a pair of shoes (unless I simply couldn't walk in them) was like a Sophie's Choice.  Could I really abandon Tory, Stuart, Donald J, Cole Haan, Sam Edelman's, van Eli's and Kiki?  No, I could not.

I love, love, love my shoes.  I was pretty sure that Jennifer would approve. 

And if I make enough consigning, hello new pair of Stuart Weitzmans...  Ah hell, who am I kidding, they're coming at some point...

 The work goes on, and some decisions about my spring wardrobe are still being worked on.  But my closet is a place of peace these days, with few choices, and my little wall of shoes are the cherries I choose to put on top...Or more accurately, on bottom.

Now I just have to keep organizing and cleaning... Not even one room done and many more to go... I think I'll go take a bath and take a rest...

How's your spring whittling going?

Have a great day and stay safe out there!
PS - on a completely different tangent, just heard that Gwyneth and Chris are through. 

You know how I love him.

I am sorry for their family and anticipate there will be many stories about this in the coming days.  I never wish anyone ill, so hope that it is amicable for the sake of their young children...

And no, I didn't go look at the statement on Goop...;-)