Virtually real- Virtuellement vraie

Micheline Harvey: Virtual Assistant, real person/Adjointe Virtuelle, mais tout à fait vraie

I hated my summer September 19, 2013


I’ve always loved summer. I’ve never complained, even in the worst heat waves. I sincerely believe that I was born to live in a tropical climate. And yes, I realize how ridiculous this sounds when you notice my green eyes, pale skin and freckles. But I tan, I swear that I do! I just don’t tan as dark as people with deeper complexions. And it takes me longer. And I have to do it gradually.

Or should I say, I used to.

Since I had a BCC (basal cell carcinoma) removed from the side of my nose last March, I feel as if I’ve turned into a vampire. They told me to avoid the sun, wear SPF 60 and a hat. Not wanting to go through the experience of surgery on my face and the hideous recovery period, followed by up to two years before I know what my scar will actually look like for the rest of my life, I listened. Oh, how I listened!

At first, it was a relief to avoid the sun. No more longing to be laying out in the warm, caressing rays, getting some color on beautiful sunny days when I should be working. Since I was to avoid the sun, I could simply concentrate on my work and not be concerned about wasting precious sunshine.

I kept telling myself that my skin would look so much younger than everyone else’s, because it is shielded from the evil sun and its aging effects.

I preached to everyone to be careful, avoid the sun, consider the damage and check their skin for anything suspicious. And I believed it. I still do.

But then, I became somewhat depressed. I felt pale and pasty. I missed the sun. So I figured that if I slathered on the SPF and wore a hat and caught just 15 minutes of sunshine from time to time, it would be plenty, and not dangerous.

Then I got fed up with having to put sunscreen on for 20 minutes just to sit out in the sun for 15 minutes. More often than not, I’d remain indoors.

I convinced myself that I could go out walking really early in the morning or late in the evening, when the sun was not strong at all. Then I got too tired to get out of bed at the crack of dawn and too depressed to go out walking in the evening.

And I put on weight. Not much, but enough for me to feel it.

And I stopped wanting to wear my swimsuit when anyone else was around.

Oh, I enjoyed road tripping to PEI and surprising my family in NS. I enjoyed going for drives, and rides and visiting different areas of Quebec.

But I hated my summer.

Spray tan, you say? It’s not that affordable or available around here and, let’s face it, it’s not the same. Also, I can’t stand the smell of self-tanners or chemicals on my skin.

And now, just about the time I always start to shop for a trip south for the winter, I am at a loss. Can I even consider going south for a week when the sun is so strong and my skin has not been exposed for so long and I always get at least some sunburn even if I’m super careful? I think not. Then again, I look at pictures of our favorite destinations, and they call to me.

I hated my summer. Do I have to hate my winter too?


Bad E-Bay Attitudes September 11, 2013

Filed under: My view/mon point de vue — matamich @ 4:46 pm
Tags: , , , , ,


I shop on E-bay from time to time. I’ve found many things that I could not find elsewhere. I’ve made good deals, located rare and original stuff, found 1960s Kiddles and Flatsy dolls for my mini collection. I enjoy E-bay.

Except for the E-bay terrorist tactics that have developed from certain sellers (many sellers, let’s face it) in order to get perfect feedback. They set up automatic messages to remind you to please leave perfect five-star scores and nothing less, to contact them before leaving anything less than a perfect score, they warn you that giving them anything less than top scoring may hurt their business, they say that they will leave negative feedback on you if you do it to them…and so on.

Hey, E-bay sellers. Nothing in life is perfect. An above average to high score is absolutely great. Buyers have the right to leave realistic scores and I am quite sure that the public is smart enough to know that even if a rating is not 100%, but is close, the seller is a reputable one.

I don’t even pay attention to E-bay scores anymore, I just hope for the best because to me they don’t mean much if the seller has bullied the buyer into leaving a perfect score in order to protect his or her online reputation.

Get real, people. What’s the use of these scoring systems if we can’t be honest and use them to reward good sellers and to help others get their act together and improve their business?


Irresponsible June 25, 2013


Just how irresponsible can you be in life and get away with it? I see irresponsible people every day. I hear about them on the news, in conversations, witness their idiocies and apparent complete lack of awareness that their actions have consequences and that they need to think before they act.

I was recently confronted by an act of such heartless irresponsibility that I was floored by it. I stopped minding my own business and gave that person a piece of my mind. I knew that doing this would not change anything, because even as I told him off, he was oblivious to what he had done and how many people he had screwed over in various ways. I felt that this was the last straw for me and that irresponsible people need to be confronted, and have their actions thrown in their face.

This person signed a lease starting July 1st with a roommate. He then suddenly decided to go out West (way across the country) to work “temporarily” to make money. Throughout this time, he was offered on several occasions to see if the lease could be cancelled or if the roommate could transfer to another place and share the rent with someone else, etc. Every time, this unspeakable jerk insisted that he wanted to keep their apartment and he was coming back, that he was out there making money for a better life for them, and bla bla bla … Not once did he decide to be honest and give his roommate a chance to turn things around.

Instead, he waited until 10 days before the moving date to call her and tell her that he was never coming back and did not want the apartment.

Let me remind you that he signed the lease.

And he thinks he did the right thing. She was ready to move in 10 days. We had boxes, furniture, a rental truck, small appliances, were all set to purchase a fridge for them, we even had groceries (basics) prepared.

Everyone moves on July 1st in Quebec, so there are not many apartments left and on her own, she can’t afford it.

I only hope that if there is a penalty to pay for cancelling at the last minute, he is the one who pays. I hope they go after him and garnish his wages.

At some point, oblivious people who do unspeakable things to others have to pay.

Karma is a bitch.

But thankfully, she always finds you.

It’s only a matter of time.


In between June 18, 2013


As far back as I can remember, I’ve always felt like I was in between. Not fat, not skinny, not even thin, just something in between. Chubby from some angles, athletic or muscular from other angles, or just a little too soft to be considered thin. You see, I’m only 5 feet 2, and believe me, you don’t have to eat much at all to fill this up.

This in between state has never been comfortable for me.

When I was a little girl, I remember standing on the playground with the sun at my back, casting a slightly elongated shadow in front of me. I’d twist my legs together to make it look like my tall, thin shadow was wearing a mermaid gown and I’d toss my hair behind my shoulders so that my shadow would look like she had straight, thick, long hair like Cher. In reality, even my hair was very so-so. It was thin, poker straight, baby fine and ended up full of split ends when it hit my shoulders.

In the mirror, the image I saw has always been okay, but not quite beautiful. Not interestingly ugly either. Just in between. Why couldn’t I at least be interestingly ugly?

Oh how I longed to look like Brooke Shields when I was a teenager, with those gorgeous eyes, tall thin build and those fabulous eyebrows. I tried to mimic her “nothing comes between me and my Calvins”, but I ended up looking like a sausage stuffed into the jeans, that were always just a bit too long and that I had to roll up. Rolled up jeans are not sexy.

Sometimes I wished for a prominent nose, skin that would tan deep and dark, because my skin tans, but only very gradually and you can’t tell unless you see the actual tan lines, so that too is sort of so-so and in between. Besides, I don’t go out in the sun much anymore.

It was as if someone tried their best to erase me, to make me nondescript, but didn’t quite succeed, condemning me to the in between, forever.

Two years ago, I tried a fad diet and lost 17 pounds. I felt fantastic. My collarbones stuck out, my clothes were loose, I actually felt confident in skinny jeans. I even kept the weight off for over a year. But then I started eating real food again, the pounds crept back on, and now I’m back to… in between.
In my defense, I work out, I do cardio, I eat well, I have pretty good muscle tone. I think the goal is being healthy.

You’d think that being exquisitely beautiful or very large would be exhausting. To tell you the truth, I think being in between is worse.


It can happen to you May 7, 2013

Filed under: My view/mon point de vue — matamich @ 2:00 pm
Tags: , , , , , ,


I admit, I didn’t think it could happen to me either. I always use SPF 30 at least, sometimes SPF 60 and always higher on my face. I don’t bake out in the sun for long periods of time. I tan normally and am active out in the sun, but sensible. I often wear hats. I live in a northern climate, so I’m protected from the sun for many months.

And yet, I had a basal cell carcinoma lesion removed from my face last March. Although I am healing nicely, it will take from six months to a year before I am completely healed and I may need plastic surgery or shots if my scar does not flatten nicely or if it pulls too tightly or leaves marks or discoloration.

A year is a long time for a girl to wait for a scar to heal on her face.

The truth is, we all think it won’t happen to us. We’ve been out in the sun for years and nothing any worse than the random sunburn ever occurred. So we’re safe. Skin cancer is for other people. Weird, pale people who can’t handle the sun. Wrong. Skin cancer is dramatically on the rise in younger people. It is estimated that as many as one in six people born in the 1990s will be diagnosed with some form of skin cancer in their lifetime.
I was lucky. My cancer is the least dangerous form of skin cancer. It does not metastasize (or very rarely) and is slow growing. Despite this, I now have a 50% higher chance of having another lesion. My form of skin cancer is probably due to sunburns in my childhood and youth, exacerbated by trips South in the winter (exposing your skin, even with sunscreen, to intense sun for a week after being out of the sun for months).

There is no changing what was done years ago and no deprogramming my skin cells. But I can prevent another episode like this. And I am.

I love the sun, although I never laid out in it for very long. Now I’m nervous, aware and a little sad. It’s very recent, so I suspect that I will eventually calm down and get used to seeking shade, wearing hats and sunscreen at all times, saying goodbye to my lovely golden summer hue and embracing my lily white paleness.
I think the saddest part for me is probably giving up my trips South.

But then I remember months of a tiny sore that refused to heal on my face, several attempts to get in to see a dermatologist, showing it to my doctor who shrugged it off and prescribed a cream that did not help at all, trying home remedies, staying inside when the spot on my nose flared up, finally seeing a dermatologist and hearing her tell me that I have skin cancer, the agonizing wait for a surgery date. Then spending four hours at the cancer center, two Mohs procedures, surgery on my nose while I was awake, which was surreal experience, twelve apparent and eight hidden stitches on my nose once the bandage was removed. My swollen and discolored face. Cleaning the wound. Looking at the wound. Not being able to wear my glasses. Not being able to go out in public.

I don’t want to go through that again.

The golden tan is not worth it, people. Also, on the upside, because I have to find an upside, sun exposure and tanning beds make your skin age dramatically and damages it on a very deep level. This damage is irreparable. So, if you choose to ignore my warning and keep baking in the sun, at least I’ll look younger and prettier than you… and I’ll also be rocking some pretty fabulous hats!


You’re gay? Well then I don’t love you anymore. April 6, 2013


I’m tired of hearing stories about people who stop speaking to friends or family members who come out to them as being gay. I’m sick and tired of hearing about how awful it is for the parents, siblings, etc.

 Have you ever considered how horrible it is to have to pretend to be what you are not in a society where there is still prejudice and violence and you feel that even the people who are closest to you, even your own parents, will no longer love you if you are honest and true to yourself and come out as a gay man or woman?

 This is the root of the problem, people. If this pressure and judgement did not exist, then gay and lesbian youths would stop pretending to be straight, entering into heterosexual relationships and marriages and then coming out much, much later and upsetting everyone, including their own children!

 How can you honestly say that you love your child and yet turn your back on that same child when he or she admits his true sexual orientation? How can prejudice and fear affect true love?

 It makes no sense. And as long as we don’t address the true root of the problem i.e. society’s prejudice, judgement and violence, there will continue to be heartache, sadness, tension and even the unthinkable. Wonderful, caring, loving men and women may turn to suicide because the people that they love most can’t get past petty judgement and fear.

Take a look at the real problem. Then make an effort to change.


Big decision number 3 – Not worrying about what other people think February 10, 2013


I had an AHA moment during my recent trip to Cuba in January, when I turned to my husband and said “That’s it! That is my Big Decision Number 3. Please remind me to blog about this when we get back.” Well, of course either he completely forgot or he wasn’t really listening (I vote for option 2), and I really need to carry a pen and paper around or something so I can write, even when I’m on a tropical vacation, because whatever it was slipped my mind as well.

Of course, at the moment I was still angry at him for acting like a toddler and having a temper tantrum about an outing we were supposed to book while on vacation, so perhaps it wasn’t really a Big Decision, but more an immediate reaction to the situation.

No matter, Big Decision Number 3 snuck up on me on its own, perhaps with the help of Big Decisions 1 and 2 that required much effort on my part and are still ongoing. This time, it was natural.

Big Decision Number 3 is not to worry about what other people think, or at least worry less about it. Not that I am obsessed with what other people think. I’m able to be silly, even in public, laugh at myself and I’m not that easily embarrassed. But I have always been self-conscious, and believed that people watch me and see just about everything that I do. In reality, most people are quite oblivious to what is going on around them. Unless it involves them directly, they mostly don’t give a crap.

This may sound silly, but feeling like this has kept me from trying or doing many things, and I’m sure I missed out on quite a few opportunities specifically because of this tendency to be so self-conscious, unsure, much too preoccupied with what other people might think, and afraid.

Well, today I can honestly say that I don’t feel like people are watching me. Also, I don’t really care what they think if they are looking at me. I had proof of that just last week when I brought my lunch to the research center on Tuesday and the only plastic bowls that I had to mix my oatmeal and my soup in were a Carmen Campagne bowl for little kids and a Disney Princess bowl, both very flashy and ridiculously juvenile. Normally, I would have waited for the staff kitchen to be empty to prepare my meals and wash my bowls. This time I didn’t even give it a thought. I marched right into the full staff kitchen and did my thing in full view of all the young lab employees, without a care in the world. I OWNED my silly kid bowls and did not care.

This may seem like nothing to you, but it was a significant step forward for me.

As a reminder:

Big Decision 1: Severing ties with a major client.

Big Decision 2: Letting go.

Big Decision 3: Not worrying about what other people think.

Stay tuned for Big Decision Number 4!


Les personnes toxiques February 8, 2013

ToxiqueLe pervers narcissique n’est pas celui qui va vous coincer seule dans un coin pour vous voler un baiser, ni celui qui va vous interpeller tard le soir, histoire de tenter de vous séduire. Au contraire, le pervers narcissique n’a qu’une seule idée : tout ramener à lui, tout en considérant l’autre comme un objet que l’on peut consommer et jeter.

Ce type de personne réussit et se retrouve souvent même à la tête de compagnies de prestige, qui brassent de grosses affaires.  Elle s’est rendue où elle est car elle croit en elle au détriment de tous les autres. Aucune opinion n’est valable sauf la sienne, et parfois celle des autres, à condition qu’elle soit identique à la sienne.

La personne toxique divise pour régner. Bien qu’elle crée un sentiment de peur autour d’elle en espérant entretenir une espèce de caractère intouchable, elle évite généralement toute confrontation sérieuse et a tendance à prendre des décisions en l’absence des personnes concernées et à faire passer les messages difficiles ou délicats par d’autres. Cette personne sera introuvable lors de mises à pied massives, conflits de haut niveau, congédiements, crises dans son environnement.

Cette personne sera flatteuse un jour et insultante le lendemain, parfois même à l’intérieur d’une même journée, ou d’une même heure. Elle changera d’idée à la dernière minute, reviendra sur ses décisions, ne respectera pas les suggestions des autres, même si elle finit par faire exactement ce qu’ils ont recommandé au départ. Elle s’appropriera les idées des autres, ne se présentera pas à des réunions où elle sait qu’elle devra se justifier (et ce souvent sans avertir les autres participants de son absence). Cette personne remettra souvent des décisions à plus tard, sans raison valable.

Les personnes toxiques et narcissiques se protègent entre elles et se reconnaissent. Elles ne croient pas que les employés ont des droits, font des demandes exagérées, exigent la perfection de leur équipe alors qu’elles font régulièrement des erreurs et omissions mais ne les admettent jamais.

Ce type de leader n’est pas bon pour l’entreprise car en bout de ligne, son but ultime est de s’approprier le travail, les efforts et le succès des autres sans leur donner l’encouragement, la confiance et la reconnaissance mérités.

Il est parfois possible de travailler à long terme ou d’être en relation avec une personne perverse et narcissique, mais généralement on y laisse beaucoup de nous.

Vaut mieux vérifier les principales caractéristiques de ces personnalités toxiques afin de pouvoir juger de leur niveau de dangerosité et de la distance à garder. Selon Isabelle Nazare Aga (auteur du livre « Les manipulateurs sont parmi nous », il existe 30 critères pour reconnaître un personnage manipulateur dangereux :

1. Il culpabilise les autres au nom du lien familial, de l’amitié, de l’amour, de la conscience professionnelle

2. Il reporte sa responsabilité sur les autres, ou se démet des siennes

3. Il ne communique pas clairement ses demandes, ses besoins, ses sentiments et opinions

4. Il répond très souvent de façon floue

5. Il change ses opinions, ses comportements, ses sentiments selon les personnes ou les situations

6. Il invoque des raisons logiques pour déguiser ses demandes

7. Il fait croire aux autres qu’ils doivent être parfaits, qu’ils ne doivent jamais changer d’avis, qu’ils doivent tout savoir et répondre immédiatement aux demandes et questions

8. Il met en doute les qualités, la compétence, la personnalité des autres : il critique sans en avoir l’air, dévalorise et juge

9. Il fait faire ses messages par autrui

10. Il sème la zizanie et crée la suspicion, divise pour mieux régner

11. Il sait se placer en victime pour qu’on le plaigne

12. Il ignore les demandes même s’il dit s’en occuper

13. Il utilise les principes moraux des autres pour assouvir ses besoins

14. Il menace de façon déguisée, ou pratique un chantage ouvert

15. Il change carrément de sujet au cours d’une conversation

16. Il évite ou s’échappe de l’entretien, de la réunion

17. Il mise sur l’ignorance des autres et fait croire en sa supériorité

18. Il ment

19. Il prêche le faux pour savoir le vrai

20. Il est égocentrique

21. Il peut être jaloux

22. Il ne supporte pas la critique et nie les évidences

23. Il ne tient pas compte des droits, des besoins et des désirs des autres

24. Il utilise souvent le dernier moment pour ordonner ou faire agir autrui

25. Son discours paraît logique ou cohérent alors que ses attitudes répondent au schéma opposé

26. Il flatte pour vous plaire, fait des cadeaux, se met soudain aux petits soins pour vous

27. Il produit un sentiment de malaise ou de non-liberté

28. Il est parfaitement efficace pour atteindre ses propres buts mais aux dépens d’autrui

29. Il nous fait faire des choses que nous n’aurions probablement pas faites de notre propre gré

30. Il fait constamment l’objet des conversations, même lorsqu’il n’est pas là

Lorsque vous retrouvez la plupart de ces caractéristiques chez un employeur, un amoureux, un ami ou une personne de votre entourage, il vaut mieux vous en éloigner, histoire de sauver votre peau, votre estime de soi et ultimement, votre carrière.

Car la vie est trop courte pour s’entourer de personnes toxiques!


Big decision number 2 – Letting go January 4, 2013

decision-diceRecently, I had been feeling sad and somewhat trapped by my life. I had to do something to change this. All around me, I was witnessing people making major life decisions, difficult ones, separations, quitting their job to pursue a dream, giving up things that were part of their lives, shaking things up and, not only feeling better about themselves as a result, but also looking better, feeling healthier and more optimistic about their future.

My first big decision was to end a relationship with a client who treated me as an employee instead of a collaborator or consultant.

My second big decision touches every sphere of my life, but mostly my personal life and my relationships with my spouse, my daughter, my family, and my friends.

This decision is to do my very best to let go. In French, we use the lovely expression lâcher prise. Although I know that I should always live by this simple rule, it is very difficult to achieve, as I am a perfectionist and a worrier and I tend to take on other people’s problems and situations as if they were my own.

I am the one who reminds my spouse not to forget someone’s birthday, or to return a call, to show up where he’s expected, to call his dad or his brother, etc. I am the one who organizes and frets over family gatherings, meals, gift exchanges, and so on. I am the one who reminds my daughter to thank people or give them some news. I am the one who reminds people about deadlines, payments, to check up on things, to remember appointments, meetings, etc.

Nobody reminds me or acts as my backup brain. Not many take charge and organize things. And if they don’t happen, the other people implicated don’t seem overly bothered by this.

So I’m setting myself free. I will strive to stop thinking for others. I will not feel that I have to remind people of things and it will not be my fault if they forget. It will only be theirs. I will not take things so seriously and if an event doesn’t happen, then it was simply not meant to be.

I will focus on my things, my schedule, and my projects. I will focus on ME.

Stay tuned for big decision number three.


Where have all the good men gone? January 3, 2013

insecurity1Is life with an insecure man possible, long term? Or is it a road to disaster? I understand that insecurity often stems from childhood, the way he was brought up, bad experiences, trauma, being overly criticized. I know it can come from a previous bad relationship if he was taken advantage of.

The thing is, we’ve all been through stuff, and we all have baggage. At some point, you have to grow up and let it go.

Most of the time, you can’t even spot an insecure man in a crowd. The insecure man will put on a show when in the presence of others, acting as if he’s fully secure in his own identity and has total confidence in himself, his ideas, his beliefs, his actions.

But the insecure man is unable to laugh at himself. If you make a joke about something he says or does, even if it’s quite funny, he’ll become insulted. He’ll accuse you of attacking him. He’ll shut down and give you the silent treatment. He’ll lash out at you, and insult your personality, your character traits. He’ll fight dirty and attack you personally.

You may laugh because he’s all excited about going to the gym and talking about it for the umpteenth time, although every time he talks about this, he never goes. Or he goes a few times and then gives up, letting his costly membership run out without getting his money’s worth. Will he laugh and sheepishly admit that you’re right, he’s a big talker but he never quite makes the commitment? Oh no. He’ll stop talking to you, turn his back, and ignore you if you talk to him. And when you ask him what’s wrong, he’ll tell you that you are a mean spirited person, that you constantly attack him all the time, you don’t encourage him, and so on.

The insecure man needs constant praise. Whether he paints a fence, washes the car, cooks a meal, picks up take-out or gives you a ride to work. If you don’t give him praise, he will feel neglected and hurt. He will take it personally. Does he praise you when you perform your multiple daily, weekly, monthly tasks? Of course he doesn’t. Praising you is quite secondary. He only cares about what he gets.

It makes you wonder what on earth his mother did to make him so needy. It makes you wish moms would step up and raise their little boys to be real men.

The recipe for survival with an insecure man is to never, ever say anything negative, derogatory or laugh at anything he does or says. Never tease him. Not even in good spirit. He’ll take it the wrong way and make you feel like crap for days. The price is too high to pay.

You have two choices, either you praise him for every little thing that he does or at the very least agree with him and say “okay”. Don’t express yourself. Don’t react normally. Whatever you do, do not laugh.

If you are able to live while constantly walking on eggshells, or turn yourself off and become partially dead inside, then things will probably run smoothly for a number of years. If the very thought of turning into some deranged robotic Stepford Wife terrifies you, the operative word would probably be… RUN.

Or you could just rethink the whole thing over a glass or two of wine and practice the fine art of “letting go”. This way you don’t even notice the insecurity. You just smile and carry on.