Dusting the wheels on the fridge-a true story

Sayings that take on a life of their own

It is my observation that families and/or people who have known each other a long time and shared many experiences end up with some unique words or phrases in their vocabularies.  The phrase might be the result of someone making a mistake in the use of a word…or an idiom gone wrong and then over time the phrase becomes normalized within the group or family.  In fact it becomes so “normal” that it’s used without thought or thinking that you might need to explain the phrase to those who aren’t aware of the history.

In our family a few of those off-kilter phrases are:

  • If you give a man an inch, he’ll take a rope RATHER THAN if you give a man an inch, he’ll take a mile.  A mistake someone made once in the presence of my mother and so 60 years later, the phrase lives on in our vernacular.
  • Pronunciations we know are wrong but we use them either for effect or automatically leaving the listener wondering about knowledge our grammar. One such word is fingernilefail RATHER THAN fingernail file.  
  • </. Our mother used the former and now I have to think hard before using the word at all.

    And so we come to Dusting The Wheels On The Fridge. Years ago when we were invited to our dear friends' home for dinner we arrived to find them in the middle of a marital "discussion". It went something like this-he felt they should be focussing on the dinner party preparations for the evening. She (according to her husband) was spending the limited time cleaning things and doing tasks that were not on the critical path to a successful evening. He coined the phrase and asked her to stop "dusting the wheels on the fridge!"

    It is a phrase we have used since. And one that rings so true for me- particularly when I am going away for a bit. Instead of focussing on the packing or preparing I suddenly have a need to send cards I should have sent weeks ago or finish all the laundry (even if not needed for the trip) or phone someone or or or.
    A true story and recently born out yet again as I readied for a few days away. Is it just me who is compelled to dust the wheels on the fridge at the least appropriate time?

    Do you have sayings and words that are unique?

A July afternoon.. from the other side of the desk….

How great is this?

I do hope to maintain, for a long time, the sense of winning a lottery when it comes to having more time to do whatever comes next.  With three plus months now between me and full-time work, I remain surprised by the world that goes on beyond the day to day office atmosphere.  Who are all these other people?  There are so many of them out and about during the day.  Don’t they have jobs?  And why are they on the golf course so early in the morning…they should hold off on their tee time until my playing partners and I are well down the course.  

The best laid plans of mice and men….Simply Biscotti Project off track

I had visions of eating my way through the dessert counter at Simply Biscotti, a local bistro in Ottawa, by visiting weekly and knocking off a new dessert every week.  Not so.  It seems that with one thing and another-gardening, golfing, a little contract work, cycling, lovely social gatherings, visits with friends and such-weekly visits have not been the order of the day..or order of the week in this case.  Well, really, what does it matter that the initial project plan is off a bit.  It would appear I am over committed-or whatever that term is in project management.   It means that the Simply Biscotti project will last longer.    More time to savour and to enjoy.  Recently a friend and I met and I tried a new addition to the treats, a Red Velvet cupcake.

They seem to be all the rage, these things.   I am ok with them overall-the icing makes the whole thing in my mind.  With this one, the cupcake was light and the cream cheese icing delicious.  The icing made the creation top heavy and after a few bites, the whole thing toppled over and onto the table!  The three second rule was called and the dessert eaten.  

July afternoon transportation

In attempt to manage the equation of calories taken in and calories burned, a bike ride to and from eating a cupcake makes some sense.  On a July afternoon then you can take along a book and stop along the way to read “WordPress for Dummies” with the hopes that you will learn some new thing about blogging.  How great does this look….serene, I’d say.

And there you have it

And so that’s one July afternoon-from the other side of the desk.  Oh, wait.  There is no desk!  

Beyond full-time work and perhaps beyond help

Old dog, new tricks?

The more things change, the more they stay the same.  That’s an old adage.  When one has moved on from full-time work, there should be more time.  The pace should slow and in theory, one should be less prone to mistakes and mis-steps.  However, there is a chance that you might now be so excited about doing all the things there wasn’t time for before that you still operate on minimal looking before leaping.  It could be this has nothing to do with more or less daily paid work and a whole lot about one’s innate character.  I have always gone for quantity over quality when doing things.  Give me many experiences over few any day of the week.  It frustrated my mother to no end.  My dear patient mother, who loved and cared for us. She also knew us and with me, she would often say I did things too quickly and didn’t take enough time to do things really well.  As a teenager there were other things she noted too.  One day she was totally exasperated with me-I think it was something related to lack of initiative.  She let me have it with the most forceful of statements and a dire warning “Barb!” she said, “You are going to grow up to be nothing but a lazy twerp!”  Yikes, I thought, that doesn’t sound great.

When it comes to getting stuff done, I am of the school that says-if a man on a galloping horse wouldn’t notice it, then it’s good enough.  Perfection is over rated.  It can stifle you, immobilize you and while you are trying to do one thing perfectly, there are two other things you will never get around to.

And so I got lost

The above is the build up to rationalize how I got lost trying to find a golf course recently. It’s a course that is, in theory, about 30 minutes from our home.  The golf league gave out detailed instructions on how to get there on the website.   Why would I write down the detailed instructions when I had a pretty good idea where I was going.  I looked at the instructions on-line (likely while I was baking muffins and thinking about the garden and reading the newspaper), had a look at what’s what on Google Maps (while I was searching for the stain for the garden furniture and practising my blessed swing tip from the recent golf lesson and packing the car to go golfing).  Now, in my defense, I wrote down on paper the number of the highway exit and I stuffed it in my pocket.  To make a long story short, I don’t know where I got the exit number from but it was 3 exits too soon.  I’m thinking instead of the exit number, I wrote down the paint number of the stain for the garden furniture.  Who knows.   I was lost.  The map in the car didn’t cover the area and every other aid I had just was not helpful when I was getting later and later.

Get me to the golf course on time or maybe not

In the end I was late for my golf tee time.  This is not looked upon favourably in the golf world.  Thankfully, the course and the league accommodated me.  It was a glorious day to golf and I met some new people.

To sum it up, being beyond work, does not mean you are beyond your usual pattern of behaviour.  Ah, well, what’s the big deal.  A lot of this could be avoided if one of my wonderful colleagues from work had come home with me and lent her immeasurable organizational abilities to my next chapter.  She declined and I am where I am.  If my mom was still here I would like to tell her I didn’t grow up to be a lazy twerp and I still do many things without regard to achieving the highest of standards.   Now I am going to stain that furniture, pot those plants, take that bike ride, read that book and go golfing later today.  I’ll look up the directions to the golf course…really  I will.

Simply Biscotti and Next Chapters

I met a friend at Simply Biscotti recently.  We “shared”.  Shared the experience of ordering the same Simply Biscotti cookie; shared some experiences of life beyond full-time work.  We have both recently moved on and are enjoying what comes next.

We hemmed and hawed and looked at various things in the dessert counter before both settling on a nutella and peanut butter cookie.  Interesting how we choose these things.  We must have asked about the ingredients in at least 5 delectables but it was when we asked “and what’s in that cookie” that we were sold on the choice.  It may have been how woman who was serving us lit up as she said “that’s my favourite!”.  And maybe somewhere deep inside we thought it sounded like a healthy choice.

The cookie was tasty-it had some tiny crunchy bits-not too sure what they were-perhaps bits of peanuts.  If Rosa, the owner, looks at this blog she may just comment and let us know.  The cookie was enjoyable although it took second place to the conversation.  Well, maybe it was just a seamless part of the conversation and we consumed the snack while enjoying hearing what we’ve each been up to in our lives beyond full-time work.

Fair to say, it’s still full-time.  Life is always full-time.  The time now is filled with  a new mix of experiences.  Active living that can be given more time each day-hikes to be had, bikes to ride, gardening joys and woes, time spent with friends and family.  And then there’s some volunteer and paid work utilizing a career’s worth of experience and understanding.  Trying things that have been on one’s personal list and guess what-there is now the latitude and luxury to give it a go.  Wonderful things like a nutella and peanut butter cookie at Simply Biscotti mid-afternoon on a  weekday.

Simply Biscotti, on being part of a race and gardening fashion

Simply Biscotti

There is an old saying and it goes like this-a picture is worth a thousand words.  So here’s a picture of last Friday, mid- morning, when one is beyond full-time work.  This is a glimpse of the ‘next chapter’

An almond shortbread cookie from Simply Biscotti.  It is two cookies sandwiched with almond paste and topped with icing sugar.  It’s dense and rich and large enough to eat half now and half later.  It may not be true morning fair but there’s a reason I went for an early-in-the-day delectable.  I was signed up for the 10 km walk the next day and my walking partner said we had to load up on carbs.  Cookies have carbs, right?  The friend I was walking with has also trained for the West Coast Trail and I think she was very kind to do a little walk with me compared to the arduous trekking of which she is capable.  

I have hardly made a dent in the dessert counter at Simply Biscotti.  And I have yet to have a biscotti…so many good things yet to eat.

On being part of a race

And we did walk in the Ottawa Race Weekend 10 km race the next day.  We were in the group at the back of the pack.  There is lots of excitement in the air.  Downtown is crowded with people.  I arrived early and decided to have a large coffee to kill some time.  We found our place along with thousands of participants and off we went.  This year the course included running or walking through Chinatown and Little Italy.  Did I say I drank a large coffee before leaving?  I was watching for porta-potties.  None to be found.  Somewhere in small print it might have said something about washrooms or about not drinking a large coffee just before you walk.  As we walked through Little Italy and up to Simply Biscotti, I made my second stop of the week.  This stop could have been called more of a pit stop.  We got some cute comments from spectators as we entered and left the building.  We did finish the race-came in 499th-not sure but I think it might be out of 5oo.

Gardening fashion

Our community garden plot is STILL too wet to till but we are hoping this week will change all that.  Our yard at home on the other hand is much different and with our warm weather the past few days it was time to plant, dig up and move and re-plant today.  I went out early to beat the heat.  When I came back into the house my spouse commented on my fashion sense when gardening.  I hadn’t really thought about it…it’s one of those things that just comes together (or not) : orange top, navy shorts, Lee Valley Gardening apron with various tools inserted into pockets, powder blue gardening gloves that go up to the elbow, runners with socks and a red and black International Harvester hat.  Since said spouse was being picked up by a friend later in the morning, I asked if should make myself scarce rather than expose him to the fashion debacle.  “Not necessary” came the reply “I’ll text him and tell him to wear two eye patches”.

What did I learn during my career

As I prepared to leave an almost 40 year career recently, I thought about what I had learned. I learned things through trial and error and from seeing things common things in uncommon areas. It’s my lens on a bit of the working world. I talked about these things at my “Next Chapter” celebration and have had a number of people ask for the list. And so, take it or leave it, these are the ones that come most to my mind of lessons learned. What have I learned after almost 40 career years.

• Take chances, leave your comfort zone, take some risks. Failure and mistakes come with the territory….it was once said that those who never fail are those who never tried.

• Believe it or not, people don’t pay that much attention to you-so don’t get too full of yourself or think you are really hot stuff. Remember my Polish Grandmother’s saying: The higher the monkey climbs, the more you can see his ass.

• Don’t be complacent. On occasion in my working career my husband labelled me a chronic malcontent. I really didn’t mind. If I do the same thing too often I don’t stay fresh or have the zeal I should.

• Don’t avoid difficult decisions-take the tough ones along with the easy ones-if you don’t they’ll come back to haunt you. Make the decision thinking about the overall impact, weigh all the factors and make the decision and carry it out with purpose and respect.

• If you are privileged to be in a position of leadership, your role is to support those who report to you so they succeed and ultimately progress further than you.

• Give people a stage-a chance to demonstrate their potential and then sit back and watch what happens and cheer for them from the wings. It was once said “it is better to prepare a stage than to walk across it”.

• Create and nurture relationships-not only your own but link others together-for business, professionally watch the synergy, watch the good things that happen from getting people together.

• Have fun…have fun at work…be creative. Do things like dressing up, buying something from the dollar store for your team members, write a poem or a song, design a synchronized snow shovel routine and use play dough to visually demonstrate something at a business planning session. If teams are creative in fun, they will be creative in work.

• Finally, bask in joy of working with others.

What do you think? What have you learned? What did I miss?

My ideas and your eyes

Beyond full-time work: There’s something about knowing your time is much more your own that is just the most fertile ground for growing possibilities and opportunities!


You think, I could do this or that or maybe this and that and something else too!

  • Class 1A driver’s license….why not?  During an appointment last week I was asked about my plans for the next chapter and I said perhaps driving big trucks.  Well, I learned there’s all sorts of openings in Nova Scotia-doing short hauls across the border.  That might work since short drives, rather than the ones where I get sleepy and have to pull over for a nap, sound like a better fit.
  • Re-decorating-all those things we could do-painting, repairing, refurbishing.  It’s never-ending.
  • Then there’s said garden plot-just rented for the season.
  • And golf.
  • And cycling.
  • And accordion lessons.  Ah the much maligned accordion.  It’s the only instrument I learned to play.  Well, that might be an overstatement.  It’s the only time I took music lessons.  I would like to try my hand at it again.  A loved one recently smiled and said “Do you know the difference between an accordion and an onion?  No one cries when they cut up an accordion”.
  • And Simply Biscotti runs….well this skims the surface of possibilities!  Speaking of Simply Biscotti the inaugural ‘beyond work Simply Biscotti eat your way through the dessert counter’ visit happened last week.  It was a beautiful day and I was joined by a friend.  The little coffee shop was full-we lingered over the dessert counter asking about this treat and that treat.  What type of filling, how sweet is it and so on.  And so the first choice was:

Fruit Tart-a cookie crust-the edges dipped in dark chocolate.  There was a custard filling topped with fresh berries and finished with a nicely flavoured glaze.  It’s not a really sweet dessert-very nice on a warm afternoon.  As far as calories, the total count is known but the subtitle is ” well I didn’t bike or walk a great deal today so let’s find dessert with fresh fruit in it”.  I’d order it again-but not till I’ve tried everything else.


There’s a noticeable connection between my ideas and my spouse’s eyes.  I am sure upon his next eye exam the optometrist will ask if he’s suffering eye strain-perhaps he’s been straining to look up too often.  No, my spouse will say, it’s from looking to the heavens and rolling my eyes so very often when my wife come up with another IDEA!

Five days beyond work

Well, it’s really only 3 ‘what would have been work’  days beyond work as 2 of them were weekend days.  It is, though, a whole new mindset.  The possibilities are endless-there are so many choices and things to explore-just where to start!

I filled most of my first day beyond work by spending it at a spa on the premise that what you do on your first day sets a tone for all the days to come.  After a work-a-day career, the thought of the unstructured freedom has not yet fully sunk in.

An example of my new mindset was a Saturday morning ritual…. receiving and opening up the Globe and Mail.   What was totally different was how I read it.  For I have routinely (or at least for a considerable length of time) separated the paper into sections and gone directly to the Financial section and from there directly to the segment entitled Financial Facelift.  I was keenly interested in people who were about our age and stage in life and considering life beyond work.  I’d look at their assets and liabilities and compare their status with ours and look at what the experts had to say.  This Saturday I didn’t go there first-I thought that article will wait its turn.  It’s interesting . I suppose if we haven’t got a fair handle on this sort of planning by this time…….well, we should quit buying the paper for we likely need to be saving those resources too.

It will take some time for me to shift gears.  Last night I thought about baking muffins for the morning and then I thought-hey-I can get up and make them in the morning!  No need to rush off for that routine morning commute.

There’s been time for good long hikes with friends, dinners and theatre and reading in the afternoon and maybe even a little nap here and there-knowing there’s time for those other things like laundry at any time I’d like.  Time and space to settle into what comes up next.  What luxury.

I do have to take some time to thank so many people who contributed to my farewell “next chapter” party last week.  I’ll do some personal thank yous, however I thought I’d try my hand at a cartoon response.  After you look at it, the old phrase “keep your day job” may come to mind.  Oh, wait-that won’t work-I don’t have a day job!

My first Simply Biscotti excursion needs to be taken too.  I wonder if we became subject to the Financial Facelift what the experts would say about a monthly expenditure entitled biscotti and decadent desserts.

The Pioneer Blog!

April Fools -I’m done working!

A quick introduction-indeed my name is Barb Shea and I have been known to tell a true story, on occasion.  Yesterday, March 31st, 2011 was my last day at work after a pretty lengthy and very satisfying career.  My wonderful colleagues at work held a send off party for me and it was party to end all parties!  I think I’ll need weeks to process the well wishes and kind remarks and to remember all the thank you’s I need to send.  I couldn’t have asked for a better time to spend with friends and colleagues.  If I’d had known it would be that much fun I would have left years ago!

And so to the blog-it was one of the gifts!  It was set up and titled and ready to go and launched yesterday-by my colleagues-they put on the initial content.  I tell you this to help explain my biography-which isn’t entirely factual-and the cartoon-which was authored by two witty co-workers.  Witty but not too wise in the ways of gopher hunting-they have my cartoon character asking about buying a shotgun-you don’t shoot gophers with a shotgun! At least asking for 22 calibre rifle would have added some credibility.

I was given a t-shirt with my picture and url on it.

So thanks to Chris and Tarry for getting me started.  You may live to regret what you’ve unleashed! My blog will follow my life beyond full time work and any stories that show up along the way.  The stories may be true or otherwise.

It’s exciting to think about what this next chapter in my life will hold.  I’ve many interests and great family and friends-who could ask for anything more.  It’s important always though to have goals and even on day one ‘beyond work’ I have at least one goal.  To regularly visit the independently owned coffee shop Simply Biscotti (the cartoon makes reference to it) in Ottawa, ON.  They have this lovely dessert counter-all made onsite.  I plan to systematically eat my way through that counter and blog about it as I go.  My knowledge of blogging and my waistline should grow together.