Overheard after 6pm

Working late at the office.

The cleaning man is doing his rounds. 1-2 cubicles over from my desk, he takes a call.

Hello? Who is this? Who?! Why you keep bugging me?! Why? Imma come find you, ok? Imma come find you.

I’m torn between curiosity – what kind of life does this cleaning man live?!- and more than mild concern. I kinda wanna get on the phone and tell the person on the other line,

If I were you, I would stop bugging him. He is a rather intimidating individual, and while I am not an expert in these matters – I am an accountant, you know – I can’t help but feel he might actually come and find you, and know what to do with you once he did. I thought you should have all the facts before making any further decisions. Good night!

But I didn’t. I just kept working my Vlookup formulas like a boss. #excelisbae #microsoftofficeismylife Still. I wonder if I ask nicely in a week from now, whether the cleaning man will give me a synopsis of the situation, a high level update. #nodetailsplease

If only my peeps at my gangsta boxing gym could see me now. #ratchetwhat?



A little Russian with your chanting?

My grandmother wanted a hymn, the Song of Simeon the God-Bearer, to be sung at her burial by an all-male choir. When she told my uncle of this wish a few years back, he pointed out that in the Russian Orthodox Christian tradition, we do not sing hymns next to the casket, something my grandmother was well aware of. That ended the conversation.

Until, last week, when my uncle saw that she put the request in her will. #LOL

If that isn’t the perfect example of a pragmatic Russian Baboushka, I dunno what is.

But wait, you say. Isn’t that a rather risky request? It can’t be that easy to find an all-male choir that is available on short-notice to sing a hymn they may or may not know on a Tuesday mid-afternoon at a funeral. What about the cost? What if it just can’t be done. What a burden to impose on her children, the risk an unfulfilled request. How could she?!

Because she was Russian. Music is in our blood. All it takes at any Russian gathering is a few shots of vodka and copious amounts of wine, and heyooooo the singing starts. And that’s exactly what happened here. The night before the funeral, my father and my uncle and their cousin practiced the hymn a handful of times. No sweat.

It was a beautiful moment, the next day, at the funeral.

My father (left), my uncle (right), their cousin (middle). It’s a 4 part melody, so they adlibbed and improvised à trois. #nailedit.

My grandmother died on June 30th, 2018. She was 97.

It’s rather incredible, when you think about it. She was born 4 years after the Russian revolution, part of the massive exodus of Russians who fled and found security in France. She lived through WWII in Occupied France. She met my grandfather in Paris right after the war. The first time he saw her at a party, he told his cousin, “that’s the woman I am going to marry” and a few weeks later, he did. They had 3 boys together in 4 years, and in 1952, moved to North America, first to Long Island, NY and then after my grandfather retired, back to Ottawa, Canada.

  • She lived through the Kennedy years, and his assassination;
  • She lived through MLK; she saw the civil rights movement live;
  • She was in the USA when birth control was approved and feminism was born;
  • She lived through the Vietnam war, and the social turmoil it caused;
  • She was in the States when NASA put a man on the moon.
  • She was in Canada during the years when the first Trudeau was in power;
  • She maintained correspondence with her family in Russia throughout the Cold War;
  • She lived and visited Europe before it was the EU;
  • She lived most of her life in a world where internet did not yet exist – she wrote hand-written letters her whole life;
  • She never owned a cell-phone;
  • She never drove a car;
  • She could knit the most fantastic intricate outfits, masterpieces really;
  • Her husband was a proto-deacon, and her son, my father, became a priest, but her knowledge of liturgy and canon law was extensive without being academic;
  • She buried her brother, sister-in-law, husband and two of her daughters-in-law;
  • She met her great-grandchildren.

That’s a life.

I love this video so much. I’ve watched it possibly a hundred times. I’m so happy my uncle’s wife recognized the value of those moments and filmed them with her ipad.

Is it perfect? No.

Are they the best vocalists out there? No.

Is it sleek and professional and high def? No.

But is it it’s own form of beautiful and good? Yes. I posted it on my personal Facebook page. 89 likes. 5 shares. 1.4K views. 44 comments. People responded to this video. Friends and coworkers that are not of Russian descent, have never met my family, have no personal bias whatsoever that could cause them to react more favorably than warranted, wrote to me to say how lovely they found it.

It made me realize. Sometimes, I take certain aspects of my family and myself for granted. It is not everyone that can whip up on such short notice a nice rendition of a hymn to be performed publicly. This capacity to be the music is a talent and should be appreciated, even if the only form of expression it ever takes is in songs sung at family gatherings. It is not the size and scope of its impact that determines it’s goodness. It is that it is.

This made me question how I view myself. I often believe that because my blog has not achieved success or widespread readership, my writing is nothing special. But that is not true – I have a voice, and my voice does matter; it is better that I speak it than I remain silent. I definitely believe that because my dancing is not as good as so many others that I see around me and on the web, that it is worthless. But that is also not true. When I dance, truly, for myself, I radiate joy, and joy makes the world a happier place. It doesn’t matter that the rays of my joy only impact my partner at the moment and whoever happens to notice us on the dancefloor. What matters is that there was a moment of joy.

Joy is a form of beauty.

And beauty can save the world.

I think it is time I start searching for the little beauties in this world, in myself and those around me.

I wonder if my grandmother realized what the legacy of her will would be. #wisdom

My booté saga: a chapter at the office

Not the point of this post – part 1

Clothes. I like how they can be a form of self-expression. I also like analyzing why I put on wtv outfit I do in the morning: sometimes it reveals stuff on my mind, or a mood, that I wasn’t fully aware of. For example, last week, when discussing vanity, I put on that outfit because I felt it was a perfect mix of professional, sexy, fashionable and stylish (those are NOT the same thing!) and made my facial features pop. That was the version of myself I felt needed emphasis for a day with the auditors and a board meeting at night: during those meetings my intelligence would be on display anyhow so I wanted to highlight the other, more appealing aspects of myself to balance everything out. In contrast, earlier this week, I scheduled a meeting with CFO-boss that was likely to be very tense: I needed to communicate 1-2 messages that he wouldn’t be delighted about, and I had a vested interest in convincing him to endorse my proposed action plans. What did I wear? Something very corporate? No, my boss knows I am smart AF, that is why he hired me, no need to emphasize that. Something sexy? No, he’d find that displaced, no sense in unconsciously irritating him. Something very fashion forward? No, he is an accountant. So I wore work slacks, and a baby pink finely knit sweater – the kind that is office-appropriate but makes you wanna hug the person. Simple makeup, glasses, and an outfit to highlight that I am a cute, adorable girl. I chose to dress in such a way as to offset my strongly-worded arguments and my intense emotions, as those would be abrasive enough for my boss. It worked.

Not the point of this post – part 2

My team is young. Young enough that they are all on Facebook, and we are Facebook friends, weeeeeeeeeeeeeeee! (We are also coworker friends, but as everybody knows, if it isn’t on Facebook, it isn’t real). As such, they sometimes read this blog. The things they know about me! Makes me blush, except it doesn’t, bc #vulnerability, y’all. Anyhow, they know both this story about my dismay about my shrinking butt, and this epic prank by Coach Dr. Booté. A good story is a good story, even if it makes me sound like a vain, superficial twit. Bc I am totally not a vain, superficial twit, no way. I am a vain, superficial, nerdy SMART twit. Obvi.

The point of this post

Yesterday at work, I was checking out my outfit in the mirrors of the ladies washroom. I had a meeting in late afternoon with a supplier, and I’d chosen an super corporate dress for that purpose: previous meetings had left me with the impression that the supplier did not respect me to the extent I desired, thinking of me more as a girly girl than as a business woman to negotiate with. I was evaluating the severity of my outfit, distracted by the excellent workmanship of the cut (discreetly flattering, of course, because #bougie), when my youngest team member walked in. She pointed to me checking out my profile and consoled me with a smirk,

Vanilla, if you are worried about your butt being flat in that dress, I promise you it’s not.

Consider this a free lesson in How to Get Your Staff to Respect You 101.

#onpoint #howwellsheknowsme #hmph #thisvainsuperficialnerdysmarttwitisalsoademandingslavedriver #iswear #irunatightship #butmyshiphasbooty #teambootyaccountants

Booté post afterword

A little video of my latest attempt at mimicking a Pussycat Doll.

My coach the puppeteer

Coach. He is the best. Not just because he is one of my favorite people on the planet, but because he is a source of endless blog material. 2 of my favorite posts featuring him: Xmas 2014 and his 2015 bday.

What I specifically like about him is how he is a walking contradiction. He is a large cuddly teddybear (nobody gives better hugs or advice than him) AND scary as fuck (when he gets pissed… Run. Hide. Do apologetic burpees.) The world always feels a little bit safer when he is around, more stable; this, even though he is a big bully AND a drama queen. He can be vulgar, generous, considerate and well-mannered: all of his moods are suitable vehicles for his unshakeable sense of humour. Even when he is mad, he is very funny (but you pity the fool that has caused his ire). He really annoys me, because he knows exactly what buttons to push to get me to do exactly what he wants. And even though I know he is mind-fucking me, I still end up playing along. Jedi-knight level manipulation. He is a puppeteer.

Interweb humiliation

After 4 months of hard work (5-6 workouts a week), a revamped notion of portion size and nutrition, and prodding/nagging/encouragement/tough love from Coach, I’ve dropped 15lbs and packed on a lot of muscle. I can’t really see the change, other than an overall improved sense of confidence and consistently attracting more male attention from both strangers and friends. I only focus on the things that need improvement: my cardio isn’t where it should be. I still hate burpees. Whenever we do reps for time in class, I always finish in the 2nd half of the group – my conditioning needs work.

A month ago, I went shopping for a dress to wear to Dynamo’s wedding in Beirut. And suddenly, I saw myself the way others must see me. It was like I had two brains. I would look at myself in the mirror, and see the Vanilla that I see everyday – the work in progress – and then I’d blink, and see the Vanilla that rocked every dress she tried on.

I decided to make a before and after pic, and that is when I finally acknowledged just how far I’d come. On the left: May 2015, 175lbs. On the right: January 2016, 160lbs. I sent it to Coach & his girlfriend, who put it up on Instagram and Facebook on the gym’s page as a success story.

Since taking the above pic, my work schedule for the winter/spring has changed: I’ll be travelling 1-2 weeks out of the country, every month from now until June, inclusively. Coach made menacing noises, “Don’t be getting all outta shape, now!” I promised him that I would train when away and that I would maintain my newfound physique.

Coach vowed that if I didn’t, he would take a picture of me all soft and chubby, and he would post THAT pic up on Facebook and Instagram, as a warning: “Behold, Vanilla used to be a hot sucess story, and now look how she let herself go. BOOOO.”

Did I say Coach was a bully? Yes.

I’m going on my first trip next week, to Baltimore. I’ve done my research, and found the best boxing gym in town, where I will train at least twice during my 5 day trip.

Did I say Coach was a puppeteer? Yes.

Giving credit where credit is due

On Monday night, after class in the locker rooms, one of the girls suddenly screeched, pointed at my torso and exclaimed, “Vanilla!! You have a four-pack!” I was swarmed by all the girls, who crowded around me, prodding my abs, and counted them, “1-2-3-4! There are 4! That’s awesome.” I had to push them out of the way, to get a clear view of myself in the mirror, and yup. I had a four-pack! A baby four-pack!

Before leaving the gym, I told Coach. He high-fived me, and then gave me an odd look. What? I asked him. “Where is the, “Thank you Coach, I love you Coach, You’re the best Coach”? I haven’t heard you say that in a while.” Laughingly, I repeated, “Thank you Coach, I love you Coach…” before he interrupted me, with a huff, “It’s not the same if I have to ask you for it. It needs to be spontaneous.”

Did I say Coach was a drama queen? Yes.

Here I am writing yet another post about how much I enjoy Coach.

Did I say Coach was a puppeteer? Yes.

Now for the spontaneous part

On Thursday, I was feeling super unwell. I texted Coach to apologize for bailing on training, left work early and went home, slipped on my pjs, crawled into bed, and began working on this post. The more I wrote, the more I thought longingly of my teammates and Coach, and I realized that really, the thing that would MOST make me feel better would be to see them, and sweat out some of the icky that was consuming my body. I majorly flip-flopped, and texted Coach I was coming to training (with a caveat that my output would suck).

I went to class. It sucked, I felt pukey, but was comforted to be with my gym-family. Mary Poppins got it all wrong: a spoonful of sugar does not make the medicine go down. Interval training, circuits, friends and Coach ARE the medicine.

“Thank you Coach, I love you Coach, You’re the best Coach.”

Women of Color in Ballet

Go Misty Go! Misty Copeland is gaining widespread cultural fame after being the fist black ballerina to be named a Principal Dancer at the ABT American Ballet Theatre – one of the most prestigious ballet companies in the USA, if not the world.

Funnily enough, I first discovered Misty Copeland after Cap, from my boxing gym, told me about her, having seen her in one of her Under Armour campaigns. He spoke enthusiastically about her powerful, athletic body, and her great attitude. Score 1 for Under Armour and Misty, that campaign was clearly a great success!

The ballet world and beyond has been dazzled by Misty Copeland’s rise to fame—from the cover of dance magazines to a giant ad in my local Dick’s Sporting Goods, her face is everywhere.

Misty Copeland in one of her ads for Under Armour---simultaneously inspiring young dancers of color and reminding us what a strenuous sport ballet truly is. Misty Copeland in one of her ads for Under Armour—simultaneously inspiring young dancers of color and reminding us what a strenuous sport ballet truly is.

I’m a former ballerina, and I was one of the only minorities in a studio that was predominantly, overwhelmingly, white. Ballet, as a cultural sphere, is particularly exclusionary in a way that is both obvious (the high price of this “hobby”) and hard to pin down. Perhaps it’s the subtle, often insidious atmosphere of a discipline that prizes certain bodies and certain aesthetics above all others. In a medium so focused on the visual body, the importance of seeing role models who look like you cannot be overstated. Small wonder, then, that…

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That time I tried to set Miss Piggy up with Alphonse

As you all know, Miss Piggy and Kermit the Frog announced their split a few weeks ago. Very sad. But, seeing as Miss Piggy is one fine lady, I didn’t want to wait too long before introducing her to Alphonse – no doubt she would be courted left and right, as the news of her newly single state spread throughout the world!

Crickets, you guys, crickets.

Poor Alphonse got denied. I guess his dating game is just as bad as mine.




P.S. May I strongly recommend y’all follow her on Twitter? She is a font of wisdom and delight.