Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Juggling projects

I think for all of us juggling of multiple projects can be a challenge. The more projects that you have on the go and the bigger the projects the harder it seems to manage everything easily.

I am one of those individuals that normally has multiple projects on the go and am trying to figure out how to manage all of them and actually get things done on all of them. The challenge with the larger projects is actually feeling like you are getting somewhere on them. Sure you can spend hours working on something and sure you have moved the project ahead a bit but can you really see any progress.

How you manage the projects will depend on you and also how many projects that you have on the go. Here is how I manage some of the projects that I do both professionally and personally.

Work projects
For the work projects that I have on the go the list of the various tasks that are going to be involved in the project normally get written out. Sure the list can be rather long but just being able to mark off as even the little things are done can help a lot. The long list of tasks is also helpful to ensure that all the tasks are completed and nothing is forgotten.

For the work projects I also try and keep each project listed separately so that it makes it easier to see how each project is moving along. The number of projects can vary and the detail for each of the projects can vary but the lists are normally handy and something that I can update when I have a few minutes.

Personal projects
For my personal projects I handle it in a couple of different ways. In some cases the list of the various tasks are listed out similar to the work projects because it helps me see that I am getting things accomplished. This can mean some time of feeling overwhelmed when you see the size of the list but it does get a little easier once things start to get marked as completed.

For my cross-stitch projects when I am working on a project I have got into the habit of taking a picture each day that I work on a projects. This gives me a picture of the progress that I have been able to make. With cross-stitch there are days that it doesn’t feel like you have made much progress but when you can compare pictures you do see that you did get the project moved forward. Also for my cross-stitch projects I have got into the habit of tracking the completed blocks that I do. A block is an area of 10 x 10 stitches or possible stitches and I track when I get blocks done for the month.

General notes
For me yes there can be times when I have a lot of lists on the go but I have to admit that I am one of those individuals that like seeing progress on things. I know that some people complain when they see the lists that I make but that is how I manage the juggling of all the projects and tasks that are needed to be completed.

Not everyone would be able to handle the lists that I made and I know that. This is how I handle the various projects that I have on the go and it can make my life just a little easier to manage. Sure the tracking of all the projects both for work and personal can be challenging but at least I know that I am getting things done.

The other tool that I use lots is my calendar because that is where I track a lot of different things. It can be the various conferences and meetings that I attend as well as webinars, appointments and even when the various bills are due. Just having one place where I can go to see what some of the obligations are makes it a little easier for me to manage things.

Juggling projects can be a challenge at the best of times but when you have a large list of projects it can really start to be something that takes a bit of time and energy. Making sure you have a means of managing your projects is important and knowing what works well for you is also something that you need to figure out.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Volunteering

Volunteering is something that some people would like to do and it is something that I know that we do when we have the time. There are organization that take volunteers throughout the year because there is such a demand and then there are organizations that take volunteers at a specific time during the year to meet their demands. Organizations that take volunteers at a specific time during the year normally need the volunteers for a specific project or if there is training involved they want to do the training at a specific time.

When you ask a charity or organization if they need help when you put your hand up it is important to understand that you may get a variety of answers to that question like the following:
  • What experience do you have volunteering with an organization like ours?
  • What is your available time evenings, weekends, or weekdays?
  • How much time are you willing to volunteer?
  • What type of volunteer work are you looking to do?
  • Where are you located? (this can happen when you apply for a volunteer position with an organization that is national and you don’t give your location)

Now here are some of the answers you might receive when you volunteer:
  • Thank you for your interest, please let us know a good time to contact you and we can discuss how you can assist our organization.
  • Thank you for your interest, at this time we are currently not accepting volunteers but will keep your name on file for when an opening comes up.
  • Thank you for your interest but we are not accepting volunteers. Please try again at a later date.
  • Thank you for your interest and we are having a meeting on (specific date) and look forward to meeting you then.

Sure the questions and answers are just a few ideas of what you might receive and you have to be willing to accept any of these. I work with an organization that does need volunteers for specific events and projects and we always have to ask where the person is located to see if volunteers are needed at the specific time. We always keep the contact information so that when we need volunteers we have a list of people we can reach out to.

When you get an email saying that an organization doesn’t currently have any positions available, understand that and appreciate that you get a response. Don’t get upset that they don’t have something immediately for you because everyone organization is different. Also it is important to understand that if you reply again with a tone of being upset that the organization cannot assist you immediately it doesn’t look good on you.

Volunteering is something that can be very rewarding but it can also require a lot of your time and energy and you have to know what is expected of you before you make the final commitment of your time for any organization.




Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Women in IT

Women in IT
I have heard a lot of people make comments about being women in IT and yes I am one of those women.

I may not have the full networking and security knowledge as some guys or even other women however I am not afraid to stand in front of a rack and do some of the work that is required.  Yes, I will even stand behind the rack and work on the connections if that is required.

A lot of the work on the servers is now done remotely so it means that you don't have to stand like I am standing very often.  In this case the work that needed to be done required a physical presence so that meant it was a trip to the client site and into their server area.

In this case this is only part of the servers that the client has because they are located in more than one location so they spread out the servers to the various locations. Yes this rack looks small but because of virtualization is means that there can be a lot of data in a smaller space now.

I have heard a lot of comments when I have attended the various IT conferences because I am a women.  In some cases I have been asked if I am in sales or marketing or was I an assistant in the IT department.  Well, in a lot of cases I am in sales, marketing and accounting and every other department that a business has because when your business is only two people you work in all the departments at various times. Having the opportunity to learn and understand some of the server work that is required for the clients has made me happy because now I can assist the clients better.

In some cases for our clients I don't do any of the server or computer work and in some cases I am checking to ensure things are working like the client expects them to be working. It is sometimes nice to let the client know that they have an issue even before they are aware of it and sometimes we have even solved it before anyone sees the issue.

Through the various courses, seminars and conferences I have attended I have learned quite a bit and am now able to say that yes I am a women in IT.




Monday, October 30, 2017

Confusing sign

Confusing sign
Recently we were grocery shopping and I noticed a sign that was a little confusing. This was a shopping trip on October 16, 2017.

The big sign reads:
Savings This Week
Comp Lasagna Meat
Now 10.00 each
Expires May 3, 2018
Save $4.99

Why this is really confusing is that the sign that the sale sticker is on is for Compliments Meat Lasagna regular price $8.99

Now what I have noticed is that the sales price is probably on the wrong price tag but it really does look funny no matter how you look at it. I was looking to see if I could find a manager to show them but wasn't able to see anyone.  Now to see if this sign is still on the display when we go back later in the week.

When you are grocery shopping it can be a challenge at the best of times when looking at the different sales prices because sometimes the item that is where the sales sticker is has nothing to do with the actual sale.  We have found that quite a few times no matter what store we are in.  People put things where they shouldn't be and that could be the staff or even customers so it is important to always read labels before decided if it really is a good deal and also if what you are picking up is really on sale.

I think this sign really caught my eye because we had recently have the meat lasagna and enjoyed it so I was looking for it on sale so that we could make sure that we had one in the freezer. The other funny thing about this sign is it says weekly savings and it expires May 3, 2018.  I think either the price should just be changed or there are more problems then anyone is really seeing.

Sales are something that can be misleading even at the best of times but when the signs are confusing everyone that really doesn't help.  We always check to make sure that the sale is still valid and also that the sku is the same on the item we are purchasing compared to the sku on the sales sticker.

Sales signage is something that can cause a lot of issues and this is just one example of some of the sales signs we have seen.  Now to see what the next one is like because I know that there are going to be others.








Monday, October 23, 2017

Recycling made difficult


How can I recycle?
Everyone is on the green and recycle kick and I totally understand it because I know that I try and recycle as much as I can.

Recently we were at an Ikea store and when walking by the cart return area I saw something that really caught my attention.  Ikea is really big on recycling and reducing the amount of garbage that is thrown out.  I do like seeing all the recycle and garbage bins within the store to ensure that people do the right thing.

What caught my attention was where the recycle and garbage bins were located.  Sure they have them in the parking lots but I have to admit that the location of the actual bins was a problem.  The bins were located at the centre of where all the carts are returned.  Sure they are tucked out of the way but they are also tucked out of reach of people.  In the case of this location at least one of the rows didn't have carts currently in it but I can image on a weekend there wouldn't be a time that someone could walk down any of the cart aisles to do the recycling.
Another view

I understand that it is difficult to find spots to put the recycle bins in a parking lot but why wasn't there located near the stairs and elevator.  Also if you want them located near the cart return why not put the recycle bin closer to the outside so that more people will but their bottles and cans in the recycle bin and not just through them in the garbage.

Ensuring that you get the message out about recycling and the importance of it can be difficult but making it difficult to actually do the recycling can mean that people just won't care even when the bins are easy to use such as in the store or by the front doors.

Another thing that I noticed that Ikea has a great shuttle service to the closest subway start and again right at the location of the bus is a garbage bin without any recycling.  Sure the recycling is near the door but if you are running for the shuttle all the cans, bottles, etc will end up in the garbage instead of in the appropriate recycle bins.

Recycling is something that we all need to think about and making it easier for people to do it when they are out in public would be wonderful.  So when you see a recycle bin  remember to try and use it if you can reach it.




Monday, October 16, 2017

Education and continual learning

You hear so many young people say that when they have finished high school or university that they have finished learning. I always laugh when I hear that because I don’t think you ever finish learning new things.

For some people once they have finished school they are finished with the formal learning but that may change over time. I know that when I finished college I was immediately looking at what else I could be taking to further my education. Now I didn’t take full time school any more but I was one of those people that found going to school, even night school enjoyable. Now that courses are offered online it means that I am taking online classes instead.

I always joke with people and say that I am not sure what I going to do when I grow up because I have taken a variety of courses through the years. I have taken Accounting, Fundraising, Instructing Adults, Project Management and other courses along the way. I find that when I am not learning I am one of those people that gets frustrated. Sure I don’t enjoy the stress of the exams at the end of some of the courses but the reward is nice.

Having the variety of courses behind me means that I have the knowledge in a bunch of different areas and that makes me happy. I recently decided that I wanted to try for a certification that I had heard about and so that is what I did. It was a bookkeeping certification offered through the Institute of Professional Bookkeepers of Canada and to become a Certified Professional Bookkeeper you needed to understand some material and then write an exam to achieve your certification. With having my accounting knowledge from before I figured it might be something that would be useful to have for work so I did some checking into the certification and figured out what I needed to learn and then when I could take the exam. I took the exam in September 2017 and passed it which means I now have the initials CPB behind my name but in order to maintain my certification I am required to take 20 hours of courses each year. So, even with a certification it means that the learning isn’t over but that doesn’t bother me because I enjoy the continual learning.

Learning is something that happens even when you finish school because there will be things that you are going to learn on the job and learn for hobbies. Sure you might not take any more formal courses but the actual learning will not end.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Conferences

There seem to be more and more conferences now and maybe being in IT means that I am a little more aware of the various events. Conferences can range from 1 day to an entire week and how you handle them will basically be based on the length of them. A one day conference is easy to handle because you will be attending some lectures during a day and then after maybe a bit of a networking event you can go home. Now it is the longer ones that are going to be entirely different. I have gone to two and four day conferences and they are both entirely different experiences.

Two day conferences

Now a two day conference or at least the one that I have attended may have early pick-up of your badge and all the attend stuff so that is something that is good take advantage of if you can. Picking up your badge prior to the official start of the conference means that the lines might be a little shorter.

The first day is normally pretty full of lectures, some key-notes and then a networking event in the evening. Yes, the first day of the event can be extremely long and it is up to you how you handle everything. You may want to find a place to hide for a few minutes to ensure that you have the energy for the rest of the event.

Day two is normally a little shorter but again there are going to be lectures, more key-notes and yes the vendor area that has been part of the two days of the event. It can mean that you are going to be running around a lot over the two days but at the end of the second day once the closing remarks have happened you are on your own.

Four day conferences

A four day conference can be similar to a two day conference with regards to the early pick-up of your badge and all the attend stuff. This also gives you time to go over the schedule prior to the actual start of the event and maybe figure out the sessions you may go to. In the case of the conference that I was at there was a dinner set up as a meeting of the attendees. Sure the attendees had to pay their own way at this dinner but it was a great way to start meeting some of the other attendees, especially those staying at the hotel.

I can sum up the first two days of my conference as extremely busy because there were the key-notes, sessions and then there are the evening events that are normally hosted by some of the sponsors. These days can be extremely long and on day two is when the vendors had their booths so they were added to the amount of running around that was involved.

Day three was once again busy with the key-notes, sessions, vendors and then the evening cocktails and banquet. Again another long day but fun as it gave everyone more chances to network. By now most of the attendees were starting to feel the exhaustion set in but everyone still wanted to try and keep going and not miss things.

Day four now this is the wrap up day and for us it was a half day and we were all glad to be heading home after the conference. Again there were sessions, a couple of vendors still around and then the closing key-note and prize draws. By the time the final key-note was delivered people were realizing that the conference was coming to the end and it was sad because some people were heading off to a quick flight home and others were waiting until the next day to fly home depending on their flight schedules. For others it was time to pack up the hotel room and drive home.

General feelings

I have now been fortunate to attend one, two and four day conferences and they are different in some ways. The four day conferences are exhausting and if you aren’t prepared for the crazy schedule and lack of sleep you will be exhausted. I think even with being prepared you hit the point where you can’t learn any more and are ready for the conference to end.

Having the opportunity to attend the longer conferences means that you will also have a chance to network a little more and I realized that being able to stay at the host hotel or a near by hotel can be a great benefit at these longer events. The hotel gives you the opportunity to have a home base and if you want a quick escape even for a half hour you have your own private hiding spot.

Conferences are great for networking and learning new things and I will continue to go to the various conferences and learn what I can.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Scam

Everyone knows that there are hundreds of different scams going on around us and it can be through emails, mail, phone calls or the knock on the door.

Recently we had someone knock on our door and try and sell us something. Of course, we are both very cautious about people knocking on our door especially in the evenings. On a Friday evening we received a knock on our door at around 10 pm so that was a sign of something different. As we live in an apartment building I was able to do the entire conversation through the locked door and was looking through our peep hole at the person.

Now the person on the other side of the door let me know that they were with a major internet provider and asked if we had internet in our home. I asked why he was asking and he then said that this provider had a wonderful offer on internet service for our area and he could give me a good deal. Well if the personal had of been with the provider that was knocking on our door he would have had a list of the units that he didn’t need to knock on. I reminded him that there is a no solicitation notice in our building and he would have to leave and I was going to call someone on him. He did walk away from our door but continued to knock on the doors around us. Yes, this is 10 pm and a lot of people will either be getting ready for bed and some will already be in bed for the night.

The person did have the correct colour shirt on for this internet provider but there was still something that bothered me about the knock on the door, so I decided to call the internet provider to see if they did door to door campaigns. The support and customer service is open until midnight so that meant that I would be able to talk with someone to see if this was a scam or not.

The lady that I ended up talking to with the internet provider was very friendly and was immediately unhappy when I let her know about the knock on the door that we received. Once I explained the situation she put me on hold for a couple of minutes as she wanted to speak with her manager to check to see if door to door campaigns were something that were done and especially at that late a time. When she came back she let me know that they do not do door to door campaigns and especially not at that time of the evening. I thanks her and she did let me know that there were going to note this so that if people from our building called in later that they would be away of the issue being raised right away.

I had a feeling that this was a scam because this internet provider has done a table in our lobby offering the internet service but they haven’t come door to door before. I am thinking that this may be one of the individuals that we get flyers from where they say we can get internet through them at a reasonable price but they have the major internet providers logo on them. I think next time I get one of those flyers I am also going to call in just to see if they really are a reseller for the provider.

People are trying to get smarter and smarter in the ways that they do the scams but we just have to remember to always be cautious when dealing with people. For us, if we want to investigate new services we will either walk into a store front for the store or we will do the reaching out either through the website or phone the company. Knowing that we have done the initial contact gives us a better feeling because then we know it should be the actual company we are talking to and not something just trying to get our information.

When you get that email, phone call or knock on the door remember to use caution when dealing with them. It might be the real company but there will be a lot of times that it isn’t and it is someone just trying to steal your identity.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Fish and chips and the challenge

Recently we went on a vacation up towards Tobermory in Ontario and everyone was telling us about the wonderful white fish that is used for the fish and chips in Tobermory. As someone that enjoys good fish I was looking forward to trying this out and we were told that the restaurants understood the shellfish allergy so I should have a problem.

Once we arrived In Tobermory we found that there were at least four different places that served fish and chips so that should mean an easy time for us to have a meal of fish and chips. I should have figured it was too good to be true because it didn’t take us too long to start to figure out that my wanting fish which was fried was going to be a challenge.

The first restaurant we went into had white fish as the fish and chips so that started to make me happy until I saw that shrimp and calamari was also served that this restaurant. We sat down and looked at the menu and when the server came over we asked if the fish was cooked in the same oil as the shrimp and calamri and it was confirmed they were so that meant that fried fish was out of the question for me. They did let me know that they could pan fry the fish if I wanted but again it wasn’t fish and chips. We left the restaurant and let them know that we were leaving because of the issue of the fish and shrimp being cooked in the same oil.

The second restaurant was a small restaurant so I didn’t even sit down when I saw that shrimp in a basket was another option on the menu. We once again asked if it was fried in the same oil and were told that they were. We left the restaurant after letting them know that they had lost our business because of that.

The third restaurant we decided to just look at the menu and quickly discovered that shrimp was once again being offered as an option so we didn’t even ask question but did say we were leaving because of the shrimp being an option on the menu. It was getting extremely frustrating because of course after hearing about white fish I really wanted to have it as I don’t get to have deep fried fish very often because of the shrimp and calarami being good in the same oil.

Now it left one last restaurant as an option for lunch so we figured that we were going to go and have something to eat there even if I couldn’t have the fish. We arrived and looked at the menu and once again found out that they server shrimp and calarami so that meant I was once again going to have an issue. We asked the server if the fish was fried in the same oil as the other items and she said she didn’t think so but would confirm that for me. I started to feel a little happier but of course didn’t want to get my hopes up because I figure she was going to tell me that after checking with the kitchen everything was fried in the same oil. Well, she came back to our table and gave us some good and bad news. The good news was that the fish was fried in a separate area but the french fries were in the same oil as the shrimp. So that meant that I could have the fish but not the french fries but I could have a salad with the fish so that is what I decided to have. The fish was wonderful and it went down way too quickly so now I know that there is at least one place where I can have deep fried fish.

During this trip we wanted to let restaurants know that they were losing business because of serving fried shrimp and calarmi as well as the fish and chips. I understand that we are only two customers but the more of us that let restaurants know about the issue of cross contamination and the issue of serving shrimp and calarmi also with fried fish may help moving forward.

I am very thankful that at least one restaurant in Tobermory was able to help me have the deep fried white fish that I wanted. There may be others there but I know of the four restaurants we checked only one was able to really accommodate the shellfish allergy in a way that was great for me. I hope to go back to Tobermory next summer and I know that I will be checking out this restaurant and one other restaurant that we saw after we had lunch.

Shellfish allergies can be a real challenge for someone eating out and especially when fish isn’t an issue. If a restaurant promotes something that is very local maybe they should think about not serving something that isn’t local so that more people can enjoy the local specialty. I enjoyed my white fish and now to see if I can have it again next time we are back in Tobermory. I am happy that one restaurant fried their fish differently because it meant I got to enjoy something local.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

If you want my help ask, don't assume

So many times you hear someone mention something that they would like to do and you are not sure if they are asking for help or not. If you want my help ask for it and don’t assume I am available to help or if I will offer to help.

I have run across times especially as a volunteer that you hear “oh, I figured you would be available to help”. I can only be available to help if I am asked to help and you give me some lead time about an event so that I can see if I am going to be available or not. I think this is one of the biggest frustrations for me and that is making the assumption that I am going to be available to do something just because you need the help. The other issue is when someone thinks just because I volunteer to help that it is automatic that my husband is going to be there as well. There have been times when one of us has the time to help with something and the other one is busy.

There are times that you listen to someone talk about something and it sounds like they are basically asking for help and when you offer you hear, “oh, no I don’t need the help you are too busy.” This is something else that people need to understand that if I am offering to help you, I am willing to help and just need to figure out things. Sure there may be times when we are just too busy to help with something but then we wouldn’t be offering to help but would be saying “I would have loved to help but given our schedule right now it isn’t possible.”

The other fun one is when someone is talking and sounding like they need the help and when you offer you hear, “oh no I am planning on doing this myself.” This is one that makes me laugh because the person has made it sound like they need the help and when you offer they want to do it themselves. At least I have offered to help so the person can’t complain that no one offered to help.

I have heard people complain that no one was willing to help them and it either was they never asked for help or when it was offered they didn’t want it. Now if you are going to say that no one was willing to help please make sure that you have asked for the help and not just assumed that people would be there to help out on your schedule.

It can be interesting when you know something is going to be happening and you figure that your help is needed but you aren’t asked until the last minute. We deal with this sometimes and it can be frustrating because you knew you needed the help at the beginning of your planning so even if you don’t have a plan totally figured out at least start asking people if they are going to be available around a given date to help. Just getting the date when something is and then hoping that people are going to be able to jump and help doesn’t always work. Also it can be a challenge to get people to help even with the notice but at least you have a better chance of getting the help.

So remember, if you need my help ask for it and don't’ assume I am going to be available to help. Volunteers are volunteers for a reason and one of those is because they only have a limited amount of time to give to a cause so respect that and ask for the help ahead of when you will need it.

Monday, September 11, 2017

September 11th

Where were you on September 11, 2001?

I think for a lot of people September 11th is a day that we are going to remember for a very long time no matter what. For me, I will always remember September 11th and the next few days with some very mixed feelings. September 11th was the day that the World Trade Centre in New York was hit by two planes. September 14th was National Day of morning in Canada so yes a lot of emotions that happened during that time. September 14th also have another meaning for me and that is because September 14th, 2001 was my wedding day.

September 11th will always be in my memory as I day that I was sitting in my office and was listening to the radio and trying to make sure that all the things that I needed to do for the wedding had been doing. Little did I know that within an hour of arriving at work that day was going to be changed and the excitement about the wedding was going to be changed to sadness and worry. The sadness and worry were for all the people whose life had been changed that day. There were all the people that lost their lives and then there were all the people that last loved ones and also the first responders that had to deal with the overall impact of what had just happened.

As we were in an office it meant that we were trying to function and continue on with our day but then we walked into a boardroom and turned on CNN to see what was really happening. Hearing that a plane had hit a building you always figure it must have been a small plane and never would have thought it was a jet until you see it. The morning to me is still something that I will remember because we sat as a rather large group just staring at a television and we watched and saw the two World Trade Centre towers disappear from view. Seeing the towers go down is something that I remember so clearly because the vision and the reaction of the media was total shock.

The impact of that day has an impact not just in New York but around the world as people realized it could happen any where. Planes that were heading to the United States got either cancelled or if they were in the air they were diverted to Canada or turned around and landed where they had left. Also planes that were even flying within Canada were cancelled for security reasons so that meant that life for a lot of people were changed.

Working in downtown Toronto also meant that all the office towers were going to be evacuated in case there were something planned for here. The office towers were cleaned in a very orderly fashion with the tallest towers being the first ones to get notified and then the smaller towers got told to evacuate after that. I was in one of the lower towers so we were told that the building was closed and everyone was asked to leave around noon so it was time to head home and realize things had changed all over the world.

Life in Toronto got back to normal the next day but it was a new normal for a lot of people because they saw things a little different then they did before. I tired to get back to normal and continued on with work that needed to get done before I left to get married. Now the one question that we had and that wasn’t going to be answered for a few days and that was were we leaving on our honeymoon that weekend. Sure it may found a little bad to say that but the world was trying to get back to normal as quickly as possible even with all the news stations still covering New York City and Washington.

The good news is we got married on the 14th of September and left on our honeymoon on the 16th. Sure life changed on the 11th of September in a lot of ways and it did impact our day but we decided that we had to try and forget all the sadness and enjoy our day. Our small wedding stayed small and our honeymoon was a little different but at least life got back to the new normal for us even with the thoughts of New York and all those that had lost loved ones in the back of our mind.

Everyone has a memory of where they were on September 11th, 2001 and for some it was just another day and for others their life changed forever. Whatever that day means to you that’s ok because we all deal with the impact of that day a little different.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Allergies and how I deal with them

Allergies to me are something that I have been dealing with for a long time. When it comes to my allergies I find that I have learned to deal with them differently depending where I am and also who I am with. When I am talking about allergies I am referring to my severe allergies and not just the seasonal allergies that are easy to deal with in a lot of cases. The severe food allergies can be a challenge at the best of time and you just have to learn now to deal with them.

At home
Dealing with the allergies are home is probably one of the safest spots for me but again it isn’t an easy spot when it comes to grocery shopping and buying the ready made meals. Grocery shopping is a longer process for us than a lot of other people because besides looking at some of the health content (salt, sugar, etc) we are having to read the labels on everything that we buy each time we go grocery shopping. It does mean that a quick trip into the grocery store really doesn’t happen unless it is to pick up things like meat, vegetables and eggs. The ready made meals are the things that are a challenge because some of those don’t come with ingredients on them and some do so that is another thing that we deal with is the constant checking of those meals.

At other people’s homes
In a lot of cases we don’t go to visit friends that don’t understand my allergies because it can be a risk for me. We have friends that each time they invite us over will ask for a confirmation of the allergens so that they can ensure they are getting things right. If we are somewhere and I am not certain about a food I will just pass on it to be safe. We have found that a lot of our friends will even confirm once we arrive to make sure that things are going to be safe. There has been a couples of times where I have had to miss eating something because they have purchased an ingredient in error and that doesn’t bother me so I just don’t have that item. I would rather someone let me know there has been a mix-up and then we continue on.

Restaurants
Restaurants have always been a challenge and that is one of the reasons why we don’t eat out very often. We have found a few places that we visit for special occasions but normally we find it is just as easy (and cheaper) to make the similar meal at home where we can verify all the ingredients. There are times when we have to eat in a restaurant and that is when I will ask the questions that I need to ask to ensure my food is safe or I will have something simple like a salad.

Conferences
Conferences are like restaurants in some ways but can also be a bigger challenge. Most conferences have a preset meal and you aren’t sure what you are getting. Some conferences provide a boxed lunch so that will be a sandwich of some sort, a salad and then some type of dessert. These can all be a risk and it means that I just have to be extremely careful and watch what I eat and as I always say go with my gut feeling. If my feeling is something isn’t going to be safe I just avoid it and always ensure that I have munchies with me to make up for the meal or food that I haven’t eaten.

Overall
In a lot of cases it is just a matter of communicating my allergies and then hoping the person receiving the message and the person preparing the meal understand. Allergies can be a challenge for the person that lives with them and all of their family and friends. Understanding the impact of a severe allergy can make a big difference and your safety is the most important thing to consider.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Why so many WIP's?

Before I try and answer that question I first need to explain what a WIP is. It is work in progress and it is used by a lot of crafters to explain that they have things that they are working on.

Now to try and answer that question because I get that question asked of me quite often especially when I start talking to someone and they ask me what I worked on during a given week. For me a week of evening crafting can mean a week of a different project being worked on each night. Yes, I have more than 7 WIP’s on the go at one time and they are things that are on the currently being worked on projects.

For me I like having a few projects on the go because it means that depending on my mood and even where I am I can choice a project that can fit that need. I cross-stitch, sew, knit and crochet besides a bunch of other crafts so yes there are normally things on the go in each of these categories.

Cross-stitch WIPS’s now I have a few of these projects currently on the go and a lot of them meet a different need when it comes to my cross-stitch time. I have projects that I can work on that are basic fill in large areas with one colour and these projects are get when I am sitting outside or with a group of people and don’t want to have to focus on counting stitching but just stitch. I have projects that have lots of different colours in a small area and that needs the focus of making sure that the stitch goes into the correct spot and these are projects that I normally go with good lighting and alone. I also have projects that are simple one colour projects and these are projects that I can take with me when we travel or when I am out among people and can do some stitching and talking.

Crocheting and knitting projects call into the same categories as the cross-stitch because there are things that you can do when you are around people. There are projects that need focus and concentration so that means they are the projects that are done when you can spend the time thinking them through. Smaller knitting and crocheting projects also work great when you are a passenger in a vehicle and can work on them while keeping the driver company as well as getting something accomplished.

Sewing projects have there own categories because there are things that need to be done in front of the sewing machine and then the other stuff can be done in different spots. Sure these are the projects are more done at home and when there is more time to focus on getting something done.

Sure WIP’s can be a wonderful thing to have on the go but it is also the managing of the number of WIP’s that are getting the attention that needs the attention. For some people they can only have one project in each category on the go at once and then there are people need the variety in each category. I am one of those that needs the variety in each category so if you ask me what I am currently working on beware as I won’t just have one thing on the go.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Helping others doesn't rely on a language

Recently I ran into a situation that I figured out how to help someone when there was a language barrier.

We were sitting in a coffee shop and I heard a man ask how to get to the Casino that was close by. Well when the man said Casino I realized that he didn’t speak English very well and maybe didn’t speak much English at all. The guy behind the counter figured out where he wanted to go and gave him some quick directions which would help if you understood English and knew how all the street names were spelled.

The man asking for directions turned away from the counter and looked at his device and I understood that he was still very confused and wasn’t going to be able to get to the Casino with the directions that he was just given. As we have a tablet for work I quickly pulled it out and looked up the directions to the Casino using an app that we have on the tablet. I found the map and then we decided it would be a good idea for me to go and show the man how to get there. Of course, I still didn’t realize that English wasn’t a language he was comfortable with.

I walked over with the tablet and asked if they were going to the “CASINO” making sure I said Casino slowly. I showed them the map that I had on the tablet screen and that is when they got very excited because they figured out I was there to help them find the directions they needed. What I quickly discovered was the man had the same app as we had so that was going to make things a little easier. Through a lot of simple words and hand jesters I was able to show him how to get to the Casino. He then marked the Casino on the app which then provided him with the same directions that I was showing him. He was very happy to know that they were going to be able to get there without a problem now.

It was wonderful to be able to help someone even when language was going to be a challenge. Being able to show the directions on a device and then use the hand jesters the family was off to the Casino and we felt good. Sure it was something simple to show them how to get where they were going but it was seeing that they appreciated it so much was nice. All of the family said thank you to us for our help and then they were off.

Language doesn’t have to be a barrier when you are giving or receiving directions. Having another method to communicate can make a big difference. Sure, the man’s app had Chinese words for the various commands but we were able to see the street names in English and then he knew where he was going.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Back to school sales

For us in Canada the Back to School sales seem to start so early but there are a lot of reasons for that.

One of the biggest reasons for our back to school sales starting so early is the various times that different places do go back to school. I know that in Canada most of the schools start again around the Labour Day weekend. Now for some kids in some states in the United States school starts in early to mid August. Of course, they also finish their school year in May and not the end of June like some of the schools here in Canada.

The reason that the sales seem to start early for us is that the sales are company bases and not location based. I understand that sometimes here it seems that the kids are just starting their summer holidays and all the school supplies start coming out. I have also heard that some parents even here like the idea of having the sales early because it means that they can spread out the expenses of going back to school and everything doesn’t hit at the end of August.

When we have been out shopping in the last month it is amazing how many people have been picking up the school supplies. Sure it may seem early in some ways but if you pick up the supplies when the stores first get them and put them on special you will get the items that you want in the colour that you also want. I know that not everyone cares about the colours of their binders or such but a lot of students want things a certain way and I know I was one of those students. A binder colour meant something and I wanted enough different colours so that I had a binder for each subject and all of them were different colours.

Back to School sales can seem to indicate the end of summer but it also indicates that for some school starts are different times and we have to accept that the sales may seem to be early for us. I know that even without kids I enjoy the back to school sales because it is a chance to stock up on the highlighters and pens that we use.

Summer is very short no matter how you look at it. It is a chance to have a vacation for some and for others it is the time to sit at work and deal with all the other vacations that are going on. Back to school is just one time and remember if you are complaining about the sales that are happening for school remember that the Halloween and Christmas stuff will be in the store soon as well.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Festivals in a city

During the summer there seems to be a festival or some sort of event every weekend so there are always things to do.

When you live in a big city like Toronto it doesn’t take you long to find some festival that is happening on any given weekend in the summer. Now the long weekends is where there are lots and lots of different events and you then have to decide what you are going to do and also if you aren’t going to the events how you are getting around the city. I was looking at some of the events that are happening this weekend and of course found some that result in road closures and others that don’t.

For us in Toronto the biggest event that happens on the August long weekend is the Caribana Parade that closes Lakeshore Boulevard for a stretch. It is a major festival with a huge parade that starts at 8:30 am on the Saturday and runs until around 6 pm in the afternoon. Now this is just one of the activities that happens during the Caribana Festival that happens in the city. This festival started on the 9th of July and has been going on in various parks around the city since then and will wrap up August 6th with a couple more big events. Yes it is a big event that the city has and something that brings lots and lots of visitors into the city so things specially in the downtown area are a little busier.

Of course, there are smaller festivals also happening this same weekend in other areas of the city. We have things like the Toronto Food Truck Festival happening as well as a bunch of other things like a Ribfest and other cultural events so the city is full of various activities so there is always something to do on the weekend.

Some people complain that there are too many events on weekends in the city but what they don’t think about is all the tourists that some of these events bring into the city. The tourists are what helps the city through all the shopping, hotels and meals that these people do. When you are in the downtown core during the summer it is always interesting to see how many people have shopping bags full of stuff compared to how many people have lots of shopping bags during the rest of the year. Yes, there may be road closures that we all deal with in the summer but then we have to think about all the businesses that survive because of the business they do in the summer months thanks to the tourists.

Festivals in the city are something that everyone should try and do during the summer. You may get to see some new things that you weren’t aware of before. You may also see how many different areas of the city there really is.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Vacations

So many people take vacations during the summer while other people will take their vacations either in the winter or once the kids have gone back to school.

For people with families the summer vacation is the easiest one to plan because that is when the kids are out of school. Sure, parents do take the kids out of school sometimes but that is normally because of a special vacation and not just the getting away vacation. The people that take their vacations in the winter are ones that like to travel south to the warmer weather and they have the time and flexibility to do that. The one that take their vacations after the kids have gone back to school are normally people that don’t have kids and don’t travel south.

We are ones that enjoy taking a vacation once the kids have gone back to school. There are some advantages of this besides the lack of kids in the hotels. Another advantage is that the hotels are a little cheaper and also you can get to see more things without having to line up as much. Sure there are still lots of people on vacation through September and into October but it isn’t like the number of people on vacation in July and August. The other thing about the July and August vacations is that it is when some plants have a shutdown so that they can do maintenance on the equipment.

For the last few years we have been taking our vacation over the august long weekend and it is a lot busier at the hotel and even on the highways. This year we are changing it up and are going to take some time once the kids are back at school. We haven’t decided when we are going away but we know that it will be nice to have some time away from home and maybe see a different area of the province. Of course for us it means figuring out what we haven’t seen and then plan our vacation around that.

Vacations are nice when you can get away from the normal routine and see places that you haven’t seen before or you haven’t seen in a while. Some people are even doing the staycation and that is where you stay home and do the day trips around to different areas or even become a tourist in your own city. These can be a nice change as well because it is nice to see the city you live in from a different perspective. We have done that type of holiday and it is fun when you can take the various tours that the city has and just see things that you sometimes just pass by and don’t really see.

Vacations are a time to spend together with your family or friends and also time to try and recharge some of those buckets that have been kind of emptied with all the work and other obligations. Vacations are times to get out of the normal routine and do something. It doesn’t when you take a vacation it just feels great to be taking one and it is also nice to get home after one.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

A new project

All of us have a bunch of projects that we are working on at once. In some cases there are times when one project is the main focus and it gets all or as much attention as you can give it.

When a new project comes along there needs to be the juggling to see how this new project is going to fit in or is it the one that is going to get top priority for a little while as you figure out what you really want to achieve out of the project. If you are lucky someone is going to tell you the goal of the project and the go live date and you just have to work on making it come to life and achieve the goals.

Now what happens when a project is figured out and it is a project that you are in charge of and also you are the one that is setting the dates and the overall goal of the project. This is something that I am currently dealing with and there are of course the different questions that need to be answered and things that have to be moved forward.

The project is something that I had sort of thought about for a while but again didn’t think it was something that I was going to make a go of until this past weekend. I am now working on a project that needs a lot of questions answered and also a bunch of other steps along the way. For me it also meant that the brain decided that it was going to try and juggle everything and just start to overwhelm me with questions and ideas.

One of the first things that I started to do was try and keep everything in my head and not write anything down which was a major problem. Sure this project doesn’t have a drop dead date but there is a date that I have in mind that I want to have the project basically ready for. Now to see if that is going to happen. After feeling like I was going to throw my hands up, I figured out the major problem I was having and that was having all of the questions in my head and also a bunch of steps also in my head. Thankfully I have a partner that is willing to sit and list to me and we decided to write down all of the questions and steps and it didn’t matter in which order they came out. The things that were in my head just needed to be put onto paper and then things might seem a little easier to manage. The list quickly grew into a page of point form notes but I felt better about things.

Sure the project is still very new and I still have a lot of questions that need to be answered but at least now I have a foundation and some place to put more of the questions and all of the answers and decisions that I am making. A new project, of course, is going to have a lot of unknowns with it but at least finding a means of making the unknown known is helping.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Benefits of loyalty cards or membershps

Recently I discovered one of the benefits of having a loyal card for a grocery store. I have also heard from others that they have experienced the same benefit and it does make me happy hearing that this is now happening.

What I am talking about it getting an email about a specific food or item that is being recalled that you have purchased. Sure in some ways it may feel like the store is being nosy and checking to see what you purchase but then there is the benefit of it being in their system.

I have loyalty cards from a number of the stores that we frequent because I figured if I can get some sort of bonus that makes shopping there a little nicer. Most times I will get my card scanned by the cashier to see if I have earned any points during that visit and also to see what the point total is for that specific store. What I didn’t realize is some of the benefits that scanning the card even when I am only purchasing one or two items. The benefit that I received recently was an email from a store letting me know about a food recall on a product that I had recently purchased. At first I wasn’t too sure about this but then I realized that yes it can be a real benefit to receive this type of email.

The message I received was:
Please be advised that a public safety notice has been issued on select units of xxxxx.
You are receiving this notice because your records indicate you purchased this product.
Click here for full details about this recall.”

I was very happy to receive this recall because it meant that I could double check the recall to ensure that the item I had purchased was either in the recall or it wasn’t in the recall. In my case the item wasn’t in the recall as it was just a specific date. For me I had heard about the recall the evening before I received this email because I also get all the food recalls from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency due to having the various food allergies that I have. Not everyone gets the food recalls from the agency so at least when the store lets you know you can check what you purchased.

I didn’t know that I would receive this type of email as a benefit from using my loyalty card but now that I have it lets me know how important it is for me to have that card scanned each time I do some shopping at the grocery stores.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Window coverings

window coverings
Well recently I was sitting on our balcony and looked over to the apartment beside us and noticed the various types of window coverings that are used in the different apartment units.  I understand that no everything wants drapes or sheers or things like that on their windows but it is interesting to see what people have done.

In this picture that I took there are basically three different types of window coverings.  One of them that is the normal drapes or curtains and then the other two types of things that to me shouldn't be used on the windows.  My basic concern is how are you sticking the material onto the window in the first place and how easy or hard is it to remove late.

On the bottom left of the picture where is what looks like foil over all of the window.  Sure it might help keep the heat out but considering you can now purchase blackout curtains at a reasonable price that would probably work as well and you would even get some air into the room as well. I understand that it may help to keep the room cool but it sure doesn't look nice from the outside of the building.  I know that with the new windows that they have just put in our building that you aren't allowed to put foil on the windows.

The top right of the picture is another method that to me really doesn't seem to be very useful and it looks like they have stuck sales flyers up to cover all of the window.  Again making it extremely hard to get air into the room as it is on all of the windows. The newspaper would be a good idea if you were painting the room and didn't want to get paint on the window but this paper has been up for weeks so it isn't that the unit is just being painted.

Sure everyone has a different view of window coverings and that works for them and what doesn't.  I think what gets to me is when there are the newspaper coverings because those are the ones that I really can't figure out.  I don't think it would keep a lot of the light out but maybe I am wrong. I also understand that no everyone can afford to purchase new curtains or drapes for their home but maybe just going into a thrift store may help them out.  A lot of the thrift stores have tons and tons of curtains and even if they are too big for the window it would probably look a little nicer than the sales flyers.

Window coverings are yes the choice of the people living in the unit so that is why it can be very interesting to just look at the various window treatments you see when you pass by some apartment or condominium buildings.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Being polite does payoff

There are times when just asking a question politely can make a big difference in how things are handled.

Recently there was an issue with the school bells ringing even after the school year had ended. I was trying to figure out why there were ringing when there was no students in the school and won’t be until September. As this is a large school there are a number of recesses which means a number of bells ringing in the morning and afternoon.

What I decided to do was to look up the website for the school board and ask if they could let me know why the bells were ringing. I simply asked if they could explain why the bells would ring in the summer when there were no students in the school. I got a reply early the next morning with a reply of “we have turned off the bells for the summer and apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused.”

Yes, I got the results that I was really looking for and am happy with it. It now means that I can relax and have the windows open and not hear the bells ringing all day long. I think a lot of people will be surprised when they realize that the bells aren’t ringing everyday.

This proves that when you have an issue and would like to understand it simply asking the question politely can really make a difference. I could have written an email just complaining about the continuous bells and it probably wouldn’t have got me the results that I wanted. I just asked for an explanation about the bells because I wasn’t sure if there was a reason for them ringing all the time.
Just asking a simple question and politely can really help you and get you the results that you really wanted. Now I am going to enjoy working even sitting outside without the continual sound of school bells. In the fall the sound will return but at least then I will be inside more often and won’t notice it as much.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Listening to customers

Knowing the important of listening to customers can make a big difference in how you are seen by the customers.

Recently we were attending a conference and there were quite a few issues with regards to registration and the app that the conference was using to plan your agenda. I was fortunate to be able to express some of my frustration with the registration progress to someone from within the company. What I didn’t expect was the outcome of that conversation.

The outcome after the conference was an email from a vice president wanting to talk to me to discuss some of the issues that I had. Now the organization that I am talking about is not a small one location company but a multi-national company which a lot of locations world wide as well as lots of clients, which we are one of them. The email was a touch base and a question to actually talk to me so that they could hear about my issues without anyone else translating them. I had no problem accepting this request and am happy that I did accept it.

The conversation took place and I am happy that he was willing to listen to my issues and help explain why some of them actually happened. I was also provided with some follow up on one of the major issues and am happy that it was handled as quickly as it was. Now the rest of the issues that I talked to him about are things that can be improved moving forward and I hope that they are. The end of this conversation was a promise by him to follow up with me again once he has some more information. I appreciated the time he took to listen and the promise of following up with how some of the issues will be addressed moving forward.

Now what I have promised to do is if needed is to test both the registration and the app for next year to ensure that some of the issues that I pointed out have been resolved and the system is working better. I am glad that this organization did want to list to an end user / customer because I will now favourable recommend them as a software provided and know that they really do listen.

Listening to the customers can really make a difference on how you as an organization will be seen. Not everyone that is unhappy will provide the feedback but when they do make sure you take the time to listen and inquiry about the issue because if one person has had the problem and is complaining about it, how many have had the same issue and are just frustrated and maybe left.

Friday, June 30, 2017

Tourist in my own city

Toronto sign
City Hall with Toronto sign
There are times when it can be a lot of fun to just be a tourist in your own city.  We had a little bit of an opportunity this week to spend a bit of time downtown and of course I had to walk around City Hall so that I could take a few pictures of what I saw.

Part of the reason I wanted to see City Hall was because they had just finished redoing the Toronto sign that sits in Nathan Phillips Square.  As it is Canada's 150th birthday they added the Maple Leaf beside the word Toronto so I wanted a couple of pictures of that.  It was pretty busy down around City Hall but with all the various conferences and tourists in the city it is not surprising.

Old City Hall
The weather actually cooperated which was nice as we have been getting a lot of rain in June so having a day where we could walk around outside without an umbrella was also nice.  I think that might have explained also why it was so busy as it was one of the nice days this week where you could be outside.

Old City Hall Clock
We didn't spend a lot of time walking around as we were heading back from a conference and also had some work that needed to be done.  I decided that besides having a picture of the new City Hall I also needed to ensure that I had a couple of pictures of Old City Hall as well.  Old City Hall is right across the road from City Hall so it meant that I didn't have to go anywhere else to get these additional pictures.

It is always fun when you can be a tourist in your own city even if it's only for an hour or so. I hope to be able to spend some more time as a tourist in my own city this summer.  I think just being able to do it at various times is wonderful.  We hadn't planned on going to City Hall to take pictures so the pictures that I was able to capture were actually taken using my smart phone.  Sure I might have been able to capture more detail with my camera but it was nice getting the pictures that I did.

Being a tourist in your own city can be a lot of fun and even those shorts trip can be worth it.  Next time you have a free hour look at what you can see in your own city and enjoy it.


Thursday, June 22, 2017

Frustration with forms


I recently received an email about receiving an e-book that I could easily download. It sounds simple enough and so I decided to fill out the form that I needed to before getting the download. Now the form was pretty simple as it included my name, city and then State. Well I figured that I would be able to at least find the provinces on the list because a lot of companies realize that there are places in Canada that would want this information. I was surprised when I couldn’t find either Canada or any of the provinces but you needed to provide a state to continue with the download. So I decided that considering I had to pick a state I decided I would pick Alaska as it would really confuse the data. I could have picked New York or a state close to Ontario but I decided to make it obvious that I wasn’t happy with the selection that I had.

I did receive the e-book so will now read it and I will probably get a call from the company in the not too distance future asking how they can help me. My answer is going to be that they can help me by making sure the form includes provinces especially since they do have a Canadian presence as I have seen them at various IT shows. I understand that a lot of people joke around that there is nothing north of the 49th parallel and here is an example of why sometimes Canadian’s get upset about how we are treated.

There are a lot of businesses that have their main head quarters down the States but when you providing a service to Canada please ensure that you at least let me either select Canada or a province on your form. When I have to select a state I will pick one that is very obvious and I know that the next time I have to pick a state it will be Hawaii.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Blog posts and ideas from them

I know that I have been writing blog posts for quite a while and now I am thinking what I am going to do with some of the blog posts that I have written.

I haven’t been writing a lot of posts lately and part of that is because I have been trying to think of what to write and I have also been looking back at some of my older posts. I have come up with an idea for some of my posts but that is going to involve quite a bit of work. I have decided that some of my blogs could be combined into one larger document or at least I could collect all the blogs on one topic into something that is easily shared. Of course, to do this it means going back through lots of posts and figuring out how to combine the different posts and see what happens from there.

I am going to continue to work on writing the posts because I can normally find things to write about. I have been looking around me lately and haven’t had a lot of new topics so that has made it a little harder to actually write about something. I hope that over the next couple of weeks that I will be able to start getting back to the overall writing that I have been doing and have more ideas.

Writing a blog post can sometimes be a challenge because coming up with a different idea or topic can sometimes take a while. I am happy with all the posts that I have been able to write and know that it will continue.

A collection of various posts is going to be a lot of fun to work on and it will also mean that the posts may be edited a little bit as I start to pull them together into the various topics. I may even get some more post ideas just by going through some of the topics that I have written about in the past.

Writing for me is something that I really enjoy doing and I just need to get back to the actual writing instead of just looking at the page and not having ideas that I can write about.