Written on the Wall

Art, History, and Culture for the rest of us…

It’s great to be working again…

I have a contract job at a global professional services company and it’s working out well. I hope they hire me full time. The job offer came exactly a year after losing my 19 year job at an Insurance company.

There were a lot of issues I had to face – my age being tantamount and a perception that spending 19 years at one company indicates you’re not ambitious, don’t like change or maybe just aren’t up to date with technology.

Thanks to the coaches at CareerHMO.com, I was able to tackle all of these issues and respond persuasively in interviews. CareerHMO also gave me a sense of community, with daily online coaching sessions where we could share our experiences and difficulties. I think the CareerHMO community is the main reason I managed to avoid job search depression and I’d like to pay it forward.

Right now I’m working on a post about job search over 50 – I hope my experiences and advice can help fellow job seekers. I’ll be posting that soon.


This dress is on display at 130 Adelaide Street West, in the lobby. Each petal on the dress takes 6 weeks to complete.

I love to find art in the concrete jungle…

A while back on LinkedIn, I was a part of a discussion group about job search over age 50. Someone made the comment that there was “no such thing as age discrimination”, only the “poor attitudes” of older job seekers.

Yes, it’s true – all hiring is discriminatory, it’s not solely about age, but I also can’t deny that age discrimination has been the major obstacle in my own job search.

I got top-notch career coaching at Career HMO – they have excellent content for age 50+ job seekers and I did everything necessary, from tailoring my resume to begin at 1993 (so I could pass for 40) to upgrading my technical skills and making sure my wardrobe and appearance was professional and up to date. I am someone who is young at heart by nature, so appearing “old” didn’t concern me. I knew that I had to stress my skills to an interviewer, but not to oversell myself; and even though I’ve had a lot of experience working with Gen X and Millennials, and can articulate the differences, I continued to follow the relevant content on LinkedIn, Harvard Business Review and Fast Company, among others. When push came to shove, I was well prepared for the interviewer who was wary of a mature candidate.

Despite my best efforts, I experienced age discrimination at most of my interviews.

Sometimes it was about technical skills – “you don’t know SharePoint” or “you’ve never done budgets”; other times it was “we only want to pay 40K”. It was such an ongoing issue, that I decided I had to blog about it. And I’m setting out to prove, that in my case, it’s not about a “poor attitude”.

The absurd story that follows is the first of a series:

On a miserable spring day I interviewed at a major insurance broker for an Executive Assistant position. The generation gap was apparent the moment my 30ish interviewer bounded into the room wearing yoga pants and a t-shirt. She had unkempt hair and was carrying a frozen coffee drink. I immediately felt ridiculous – how dare I wear a trim black dress and matching jacket to a job interview?

She eyed me with barely concealed contempt – One look at me and she had already written me off. There was no small talk, not even “tell me about yourself”. Her first words to me were “how do you organize your day?”. I gave her a very good answer based on my experiences as an EA which ended with the observation that sometimes you have to put your phone on forward or close your email program for an hour when working on an urgent task.

“That’s not the right answer!” she thundered.

I was startled by her aggression, but wanted to keep the conversation civil. It was after all, a job interview. My response was this: “Surely there are no right or wrong answers– there are only work styles. What works for one person may not work for another…”

That rationality seemed to go over her head: “You won’t get very far in this job by ignoring your email for a whole hour” she scoffed. (Translation: “you’re so old and dumb you’d never last here”…)

I continued to treat her respectfully, hoping to salvage the situation – “would you mind telling me what you think is the right answer?” I asked politely

“MUL-TI-TAS-KING” she enunciated, as if she believed I’d never heard the term before. “You’ve got to be able to juggle 8 balls at once”.

It was on the tip of my very sharp tongue to suggest she might add a 9th ball to her own juggling act – and that would be dressing properly for work.

Her sheepish boss, (who was my age) suddenly appeared and without asking me another question, she left the room in a huff. He and I had a wonderful interview. It was clear to me who wore the pants in that working relationship and I might have gotten the job if it hadn’t been for “the barbarian at the gate”, but the word shortly came back to me: “you’re not a good fit”.

Now there’s an HR cliché – “not a good fit”. Excuse me, but giving that feedback to an employee/ jobseeker is the coward’s way of avoiding the truth. The truth, after all, would make them vulnerable to a lawsuit, which is utterly despicable.

I would much rather a hiring manager tell me the truth, rather than insult my intelligence, but I guess that’s not going to happen anytime soon…

Now, I must stress, that I interviewed with EAs on 3 other occasions and those experiences were much more civilized. These are stories yet to come….


I didn’t think this day would ever come – today I finally got to participate in an art show. Trouble is, it was the worst fit for me!

Short story – I ended up hanging my beautiful unframed monoprints, from a wire strung between two poles; then suffered the additional indignity of “caution tape” to warn pedestrians of potential decapitation. My work needs to be seen framed – it’s not ego – just a fact, and since this was a neighborhood street art fair, no glass, no frames, and no accidents.

It wasn’t the way I wanted discriminating folks to view my works. All of this I took with good humor, as there was nothing I could do to change things – I didn’t get stressed out or angry. And, when it was clear I wasn’t going to make a dime, I calmly counted the hours till I could go home.

Guilt factors – my sister spent the better part of her Saturday baking in the hot sun in order to support me. My merchandiser friend Carol pointed out all the faults – and she was right. My monoprints need to be seen mounted on rich fabrics, she said, not windows at the Aroma Coffee Bar.

So, I’ve licked my wounds, (which didn’t take very long) and I’ve reviewed what I experienced, what I’ve learned and how I will grow from this.


The Annex is a neighborhood I could easily thrive in. There is a real camaraderie there – folks meet for prolonged discussions in coffee bars, then join their friends at another. There is a real sense of community there. They don’t have a lot of money – except for frozen coffee drinks…


The Good…

• A woman, who was watching me take notes, stopped to tell me I have beautiful penmanship – good to know! Don’t know what she thought about my art.
• Many people told me – “you have beautiful artwork”
• I enjoyed explaining the monoprinting process to passersby.
• One man said to me: “alas, all I have for you is my good wishes”.

The Bad..

• The big windows overpowered my work
• I could not compete with the external advertising
• Exceedingly hot patio
• Over-all quality of the art on the street was not that great
• Big public shows are probably not my thing.


• Small, curated shows from now-on
• Presentation more important than anything
• What’s best for my art?

So back to my title – “I Failed ..and it’s OKAY”. Yes, it’s okay, because I’ve quickly learned what I did wrong and what I need to do to correct that. I tried and failed and I learned. Nothing worthwhile is going to happen without fits and starts. I think that has come home to me after a year of unemployment and all the ups and downs that has entailed. You learn to roll with the punches…but that’s a topic for another post…

After a long period of unemployment, it looks like my life is slowly getting back to normal. I start a new job in 2 weeks, and although it is not full time, I’m hoping it will eventually go that way.

When I wasn’t looking for a job over these last 12 months, I was working on my art career. A great friend/teacher convinced me it was time to show my monoprints. So here I am with the following upcoming shows:

July 12/13/2014 – Annex Patio Art Show
July 30/2014 – Kensington Market Art Fair

Hopefully, I’ll be able to get some good photos of my work posted here shortly. For now, I’m unhappy with the way my stuff is photographing and am going to have to do some research in that regard…

Yup, slowly but surely.


Now this is what I’m talking about – restoring our history, instead of tearing it down. Most of us remember the Dineen Building as a near-derelict ash-grey building with some very lovely exterior details sitting at the corner of Yonge and Temperance. In the 80s and 90s, Dineen had become a gathering place for the city’s bike couriers.

Dinee 2
The Dineen Building was built in 1887 and it’s main tenant was W.& D. Dineen Hats and Furs Co. Ltd. The building was a mix of Renaissance Revival architecture and Art Nouveau decoration.

As a heritage building designed by famed architect F.H. Herbert, Dineen could not be demolished. Enter Clayton Smith, President of Commercial Realty Corp. Smith bought the building for $7 million and embarked an a multi-million dollar renovation of the property, which was completed in 2012. Today Dineen houses brand new offices, 3 upscale restaurants, one of which is on the newly installed rooftop, and the Dineen Coffee Company which beautifully wraps around the ground floor and stays true to the original footprint.

Here’s a look at the beautifully restored art nouveau sign “18AD97”


…and the sandstone balconies, restored, after most had been removed over the decades.


Credit for this beautiful renovation (aside from Clayton Smith) goes to George Robb, Architect and Empire Restoration Inc.

The Dineen Building was the first building outside of the United States to feature the “Sprague Electric Elevator”. You can read about Sprague Elevators here:


Here is a wonderful newspaper account of the store’s grand opening in 1897:


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