Thursday, 27 March 2014

The Joys and Perils of Working from Home

Working from home definitely has its perks. Setting your own schedule, choosing the type of projects you want to take on, and not having to answer to anyone but yourself. Last week I said good-bye to the 9-5 grind and set off on an adventure to become to be my own boss. It was all very thrilling and nerve-wracking at the same time. 

Monday morning I re-arranged my room, making space for a desk to set up my brand new MacBook. This would be my new office -- my safe haven to work and create without any distractions. It was all a great plan, except for one small problem: I live in a house with 4 other people. No, not roommates who I share the rent with and can expect to know the boundaries of co-living. I live with my entire family -- My mom, step-dad and two school aged siblings.

You see, I used to share an apartment with my older sister downtown. While she wasn't the perfect roommate (God forbid if she ever replace the toilet paper roll!) for the most part we had very different schedules and our paths rarely crossed during the week. It was the perfect set up. We stayed out of each other's hair during the week, then actually enjoyed each other's company on the weekend. But my dear sister met the love of her life, and got married this past fall.. leaving me to find a new living situation. 

After an endless apartment hunt turned up nothing but overpriced shoe boxes, strange landlords, and sketchy basements, I finally conceded defeat and decided it was time to move back home. My mother was thrilled. I was not as optimistic.

But as they say, everything happens for a reason. Little did I know, just four months down the road I would be leaving my job to take on some personal projects of my own, and I would never have been able to take the financial leap had I not been living with my parents. 

But as I mentioned, being at home permanently comes with is challenges, especially now that I'm spending much more time in my "home office" (aka bedroom)

My first week working from home went like this..


I'm working at my desk, trying to figure out my new computer. My 13 year-old brother comes into my room without knocking, as he often does. 

"Ginella, you have to watch this video. It's so sick!" 

I continue typing away, not looking up. "Okay, later. I'm busy right now." 

He's persistent as always: "It will just take a second. Look!" I'm getting annoyed because, as usual, he doesn't seem to comprehend the word "no". 

"I said I'm busy right now. And we've talked about knocking." 

He retreats to the door. "Okay, I'll knock. Knock, knock!" he raps on the open door with his knuckle, and asks in his sweetest voice, "Ginella, can I show you a video?"

I finally turn to give him my attention. "Ok, we're going to have this conversation once," I tell him in a gentle but firm voice. "Just because I'm home now doesn't mean its 24-hour play time, and you can come into my room any time you want. When I'm at my desk, this is my office. So I need you to respect that I'm working. Okay?" I know I have to set the boundaries or he'll trample all over them. 

He nods, "Okay okay, sorry. I'll come back later." I muss his hair and promise to watch his video later as he skulks off.   

I thought he was the only one I was going to have to give this speech to. But it was just the beginning... 


I'm on the phone trying to set up a meeting. But my 17 year-old sister is laughing uncontrollably in the hallway. "Ginella, come look at this!" she calls, exploding in a fit of giggles. 

I shut the door trying to drown out the noise. "Yes, Thursday sounds great," I say into the phone, trying to wrap up the call. But apparently she cant take a hint and opens the door, still laughing out loud. "Come look at what your brother is doing! Hahahaha! "

I give her an exasperated look and point to my ear. "I'm on the phone!" I mouth. 

"Oh sorry.. " she says, and sheepishly slinks away. 

I thought it was just going to be the kids, but my parents are just as guilty...


I'm working on my website, and being the technologically impaired person that I am, it's not going well. 

My mother comes into my room, without a knock. "Okay, I need to cut my hair. Can you help me?" (see my previous blog for more on this one!)

I sigh. "Mom, do I have to give you the same speech I gave your son? I'm working." 

"Oh." She replies. "I thought you were just playing on your computer."

Right. Because I quit my job and bought a thousand dollar laptop to play. I just shake my head and tell her I'll be out to help her in a few minutes. 

It doesn't end there.. 


My car is missing from the driveway. I find my step-dad working in his office. "Um, where's my car?" I ask.

"Oh, I told your sister to take it instead because it was parked behind mine," he says, not looking up.  

I just stand there, giving him a moment to let those words sink in. Finally, he looks up and sees my less-than-impressed face. 

"Oh, sorry. I didn't think you were going out." 

"I have a meeting," I reply tersely. It comes out harsher than I intend. My poor step-dad is about the become the straw that broke the camel's back. I want to scream, "I'm not on vacation! Why is that so hard to understand?" 

"Sorry, sweetie," he says, reading the frustration on my face. "Here, you can take my car." He reaches for his keys. 

I take a deep breath, take the keys from him and force a smile. "Thanks. Just check with me next time, please." 

I think I'm going to start spending more time at the library...  

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Sunday, 2 March 2014

Confessions of a Hijabi: The Quest for a Haircut

By Ginella Massa

Every couple of months I'm faced with a dilemma I can no longer avoid. I try to put it off for as long as I can, but eventually I can't fight it any longer and I must face the inevitable: I need a haircut.

My tresses have grown out into that awkward stage where the layers are barely distinguishable and the mop on my head is something akin to a mullet. I'm desperate for a decent cut.

Sadly it's not as simple as walking into the nearest Supercuts, or making an appointment at a chic salon downtown. As a hijabi, I cover my hair in front of men who are not related to me. So I'm left with two options: find a private female-only salon. Or... gulp... cut it myself.

Over the years I've had various encounters with female stylists. I've driven out to Rexdale where private salons have popped up to accommodate large Muslim populations in the area. I've been referred to friends of friends who run businesses out of their basements. I even found a trendy salon in Mississauga that offered a private section away from the prying eyes of passers by.

But between distance, price, or quality of haircut, I have yet to find the perfect hairstylist for my grooming needs.  As a woman of colour, I also have the added stress of finding someone who knows how to deal with my particular hair type. A few years back I thought I'd finally found THE ONE - a little corner shop in Scarborough run by an Ethiopian lady. Good price, good location, good cut. But sadly, she closed down after a few years and I was back to square one.

Some of the best haircuts I've had are ones that I got while travelling abroad. In Dubai and Istanbul I was able to get great styles at great prices -- the Islamic influence in both countries make private salons, and other female-only services like gyms, spas and swimming pools, easy to come by. I remember getting an awesome cut and colour in Dubai (yes, hijabis colour their hair!) and wishing I could freeze that moment in time. I knew it would only be a few months before it was gone forever and I was back in Canada looking for someone to recreate it for me.

As children, we've all learned the #1 rule in life (some of us the hard way): never cut your own bangs. Unfortunately I've broken that rule time and again. Every once in a while, annoyed and desperate, I reluctantly search for a YouTube tutorial (thank God for the internet!) and reach for the trusty pair of haircutting scissors I purchased a Walmart. For a while, I became the resident hairstylist in my family, offering trims to my mom and sisters, with varying results. Luckily, we can hide the not-so-great haircuts under our hijabs while we wait for them to grow out.

The last hair cut I got was just a few months ago. The stylist seemed afraid to cut too much off, even after I'd asked for it to be short. "But why short?" She asked. "It's so nice!" Just the opposite of most stylists who get a little scissor-happy when you ask for "just a trim". As a result, I left paying for a cut that barely looked like it had happened.

As I write this, I still haven't figured just what to do with my current mess of locks. "What's the big deal?" Some may ask. "No one's going to see it anyway." And it's true. But I'M going to see it, and so will my family and female friends. Any girl who's ever painted their toenails in the winter, only to cover them up with socks and boots knows it's more than just showing it off to others -- It's about feeling good and doing something for yourself.


What's a girl to do? Maybe I'll just shave it all off. After all, it's just hair, right...?

Shate your haircut horror stories (hijabi or otherwise) in the comments!

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