How I survive December without entering a mall, or The beauty of small shops

December 13, 2010

I hate malls. I’ve always hated malls. Even when I was a teenager and worked in a mall for three years, I wan’t big on malls. I don’t like the crowds, I don’t like the cooped-up indoors feel of them. These days, I most hate the same-ness of the stores and the throngs of crowds. In fact, in our first months together, one of the first times my now-husband told me he loved me was when I told him I hated malls.

So you can imagine just how very much I hate malls around Christmas. I make an annual vow not to darken the door of a mall all of December (yet even I make an exception on Boxing Day to brave the crowds for sales, although I never queue up to enter any store).

While it’s easy enough to get my holiday shopping done before the deadline, especially this year with Hanukah starting December 1, that doesn’t mean I have no shopping to do all month. Sometime you just have to get something that you can only buy at the mall store.

On the weekend, I really needed to buy a certain-sized curtain rod. I tried driving across town to a fabric store, but they didn’t have the one I needed, which really just left me the department store at the local mall. I had to go the mall. But I tried to outsmart the mall. I went to the upper parking lot no one ever uses, came into the department store only, found my curtain rod and headed straight to cash. Five minutes–I could have held my breath — except for the ridiculously long waits at the checkout.

I thought I would collapse from anti-mall-itis, but someone with a huge basket of stuff let me cut ahead for my quick purchase and I escaped mostly unscathed.

The funny thing is the next day, still the weekend, I was walking along the street of my local shopping block, which features some of the same stores as the mall but also many smaller boutiques and coffee shops. And those stores were busy but not crushing. I could go in without hyperventilating, and I could get served and buy what I needed without huge waits or loads of frustration.

This has really renewed my faith in local shopping areas, in small shops and customer service, and has also renewed my vow to stay the heck out of a mall after December 1 every other year. I vow, never to return. At least, not until Boxing Day.


My twentieth Terry Fox Run

September 20, 2010

I ran the Terry Fox Run this morning with my family, and it was the 20th run that I have done. I’m proud that we raised money for cancer research, I’m proud that we ran (the kids completed the 3K route with parents lagging behind), but mostly I’m proud that I am able to pass on this tradition to my children.

This year is the 30th anniversary of the Terry Fox Run. I can’t believe I missed the first ten, but I have made a point of doing this run every year since 1991. I’ve run it in Ottawa, in Kelowna, in Winnipeg, and in Vancouver. Wherever I was, wherever my family was travelling that weekend, we always got to a run site.

Why do I do this? Well yes, it’s a good cause. A wonderful cause. Nearly all the money raised goes directly to funding innovative cancer research. But mostly I do it because Terry Fox was a real hero to me. I was a teenager when he ran across Canada. I was living in Winnipeg then and was really excited about him coming through my city. I wanted to run alongside him when he came through. But of course he never made it to Winnipeg. His run ended in Thunder Bay, about 700 kilometres from my home.

So I run the Terry Fox Run every year to honour my hero. And I drag my family along every year to teach them about Terry and why he is such a wonderful person to look up to. I think I’m even getting through to my kids.

Life on the Wet Coast — enough with the rain!!

May 30, 2010

When I used to live back East, what I knew about the west coast and Vancouver was primarily that it rained a lot, they had almost no winter, and everyone was kind of hippy dippy.

Well, I moved to Vancouver in 1996 despite all that, and discovered that some of it was true. It did rain a lot, but it also got very sunny a lot, and summers and even springs and falls could be very lovely. I remember fondly rowing on the ocean in February in t-shirts and shorts on sunny days. And everything is almost always green, which makes up for a lot of the rain. And boy do we ever appreicate the sun. Back East, a sunny day when I had to work was no biggie. Out here, I really feel it if I let a sunny warm day go by being stuck in my office. I must get out and enjoy it.

Last summer was amazingly warm and sunny. So sunny we worried about water shortages and dying lawns. But so far this year, it’s nearly June and it feels like the last month has been all rain. I know we’ve had a couple weeks of sun, but it’s been chilly and rainy the entire last two weeks. And the forecast is for more rain next week. And we took a weekend at the seaside only to have rain and cold the entire weekend.

Plus, it’s baseball season, and we’re having a hard time playing games in the rain. We got rained out at the game on Wednesday, then rained out the next game on Saturday. We have makeups scheduled Sunday and Monday but the forecast is for rain then too. This weather is really putting a crimp into little league season.

Plus, frankly, I’m ready for more sun. It’s not like I suffer from SAD or anything, but after getting drenched walking on the beach this weekend, I’ve had enough.

Is it summer yet?

Media relations: Will there be a flood of pitches after the Olympics

February 22, 2010

The advice for media relations professionals from the time the Olympics pulled into full gear this month is to not pitch anything, unless it was an Olympics story. And that’s good advice, because very little else is making news anywhere in the Lower Mainland this last couple weeks.

I have a couple things I want to get out to media, but am advising clients to hold back until next week. In fact, I could be pitching about four different stories early next week. Yikes.

And that’s just me. If every PR agency and consultant is in the same boat as me, will we flood media with non-Olympic news? And if we do, will we fatigue them right away? Will they be too tired to listen after two weeks of non-stop Olympic celebrations?

Maybe I should wait another week or two. Oh, but then I run into the Paralympics. What’s your advice on timing for media pitching in the post-Olympic era?

Networking Olympics-style

February 20, 2010

Before I became an Olympics booster this week, I had vowed to stay out of downtown the entire Olympic period, other than must-do work meetings and the hockey game to which we have tickets on Sunday.

But then the Board of Trade sent out an email inviting members, of which I am one, to come to a free networking event at the BC Pavilion at the Vancouver Art Gallery. And while I originally said I wouldn’t attend, given that it was downtown and at night (working mom, not much for late-night partying), my husband talked me into it, reminding me that my part-time job is ending and I need to find more work now, which means I need to network.

So after biking home from Burnaby on Wednesday, I cleaned myself up and boarded a bus for downtown to see what all the fuss was about. The number of people milling about is staggering. I walked all around the Gallery, and it seemed like everyone was just walking around, not really doing anything, but with that many people, it sure seemed exciting.

In I went to the Gallery, and headed up to the fourth floor where the reception was. The displays were interesting and eye-catching, and the short 3D movie there is fun, but the touchscreen interactive art stuff was my favourite part of the Pavillion. Then I went to the bar part, and it was packed to the gills with networkers. Of course the giant screens were showing competitions, but people were moving about and sharing Olympic stories. It was kind of the same happy, no worries atmosphere I encountered on the bus to figure skating, but in a business context. I even traded some pins with a man who turned out to be the Mayor of Coquitlam!

It was getting late and I thought about leaving before things ended, but I was convinced to stick around to see “the show.” It seems that every Olympic night at 9:30 pm, there is a fireworks/laser light show in Robson Square, and the balcony of that bar overlooks Robson Square offering the best view possible. So I stayed, and it was phenomenal!

I can’t say I picked up any business leads, but I did reconnect with a few associates and friends, got access to a great venue without any lineups, and got to experience networking, Olympics style.

I am now an Olympic booster — or how I met two skating superstars in one day

February 19, 2010

The view from our seats as Patrick Chan skates

I admit to being a bit cynical about the Olympics taking place in my backyard. I’ve never been much for crowds, and as the mom of two young kids, late night concerts and parties don’t mean much to me. Yes, we had won the lottery and have tickets to two hockey games this weekend — one men and one women — to which we’re taking the kids. But I wasn’t all that keen on joining the throngs crowding downtown. But all that changed for me on Tuesday.

The other tickets we’d gotten were two of the cheap ($250!) seats for figure skating, for Men’s Short program. My friend bought my second ticket, as hubby is not interested in skating and I’m not interested in spending that kind of money on one of my young kids. And going to that event Tuesday has totally changed my perspective.

First, the ride there. The boys have been getting excited about trading Olympic pins, ever since we got started on Granville Island last weekend. So I wore a few pins on my scarf and approached a few people for trades on the bus. And got some great ones! Then, as we were riding on the second bus that would take us to the Coliseum, the driver was calling for people to move to the back of the bus, but a man was blocking the aisle. Turns out he was signing autographs, because ELVIS STOJKO WAS ON THE BUS!!

Me & Elvis

He got pushed to the back and we followed. He was so nice and gracious, and singed my ticket, and let me take this photo.

And then for the entire ride there, on a public bus, Elvis held court and answered everyone’s questions, talking about what he’s up to now, and giving us commentary on the competitors we were about to see. It was an amazing experience. My friend joked that maybe Elizabeth Manley would be on our bus back.

Then we got off the bus, and even though we had to walk about 2 km around the PNE to get to the Colliseum, no one complained. Security was no big deal, there was live entertainment as we walked, and everyone — everyone!! — was happy.

Our seats were very high up, but we could see, and it was fine. The energy was wonderful. Yes, the food was expensive, but not horribly so, and there were healthy choices. Yes, there were lines for food and washrooms, but they were moving very quickly, so no problem.

Me & Liz

The skating was lovely and exciting, and we really enjoyed being there. And then I went to use the washroom. As I was exiting to wash my hands, a woman came in the exit and asked if she could cut in line as she was on t.v. I didn’t  see her at first, but washed my hands slowly so I could see who it was when she came out. And incredibly, it was Elizabeth Manley, and she let me take her photo.

Honestly, I didn’t think I’d get into this, but now I totally am. Go to an event — there are tickets on sale at the box office at the venue. It’s really worth it. And who knows who you’ll meet!

I can't stand the rain — anymore

November 25, 2009

I moved to Vancouver 15 years ago, and when decided to move here from Ottawa, all my friends said they’d hate to trade Ottawa’s sunny but cold winters for the gloom and rain of Vancouver’s winters. But I scoffed. I would be fine.

And mostly, I have been. I’ve pushed through the clouds of winter by rowing (before kids), then biking (this past year) through the winter. And whenever the sun came out, I revelled in it, and felt happy enough to not feel down when it wasn’t sunny.

But this year, I think I may have reached a breaking point. It feels like forever since I’ve even seen the sun. And it’s getting to me. Yes, we’ve had days without much rain, and yes, I’ve gotten outdoors, the kids have played outside, yadda yadda. But this year, my mood is starting to match the sky. I feel overburdened, a bit gloomy, I’m grumpy a lot and can’t remember the last time I had a good laugh. I’ve had enough.

I can’t stand the rain anymore (follow that link — it’s a great song!). Bring on the sun, and fast!