Perfectionism is a tricky flaw to have. It makes me want to do everything perfectly – and doing a thorough and awesome job at something can bring on the accolades, which in turn makes me want to be just as perfectionistic the next time.
But striving for perfection is stressful. And sometimes it stops me from doing anything at all.
Take my blog, for example. After not even having a blog for many years – especially embarrassing considering my profession, first as a web designer building custom WordPress sites and later as a WordPress Happiness Engineer – I finally launched one in late 2013. But I’ve only published 26 posts since then! I want each entry to be special and memorable, whether it’s a gallery of images I’ve taken, a story I tell, or an experience I’ve had.
Other bloggers I follow talk about their kids, or their cats, or…
Earlier this month I took an extraordinary trip to Hawaii. The entire Automattic theme division met for its annual gathering on the island of Kauai – a meetup locale rather different from last year’s Charleston ice storm. I stayed on in Hawaii a bit longer, getting a few more days to enjoy this beautiful place.
As cliché as it may sound, Hawaii was simply magical. Sea turtles silently crawling up the shoreline on Poipu Beach, scenery as stunning as it gets, and an unforgettable helicopter ride around Kauai – including the waterfalls where the famous arrival scene from Jurassic Park was filmed. It rejuvenated my soul and provided sustenance to carry me through the rest of this vicious winter.
The gentleman sat back in the bus seat in front of me, put up his feet and took out his phone. He was going through his contacts, making the requisite round of New Year’s calls. I could tell this one was a message he was leaving on someone’s voice mail.
“Hi, happy New Year. Everything is the same as before. Nothing has changed. OK, good-bye.”
And so it is.
I’ve never been one to make resolutions, but today I went to the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts for a culture injection and realized that is something I’d like to do more of this year: feed my soul through art. I’d also like to eat more fruits and vegetables – to that end I stumbled on a new recipe compendium with an amazing collection of salads. Both happen to be WordPress sites. Coincidence? I’ll let you decide. Happy 2015.
Nuits de Liban at Cocktail Hawaii
Christian Rohlfs – Birch Forest
Andy Warhol magazine cover – “for the girl with a job”
I’ve always been fascinated by hospitals and the world of medicine: curious about the secrets of “authorized personnel only” zones, addicted to shows like House and ER, and devouring behind-the-scenes tales like The Night Shift.
Today I had a chance to tour my neighbourhood’s brand new “Superhospital”, before patients and staff move in next spring. The McGill University Health Centre (MUHC) will consolidate several large – and aging – Montreal-area hospitals on one site, including The Montreal Children’s Hospital, Royal Victoria Hospital, and Montreal Chest Institute, as well as the Research Institute and Cedars Cancer Centre. A new Shriners Hospital for Children will also be housed nearby.
The visit was a rare opportunity to explore a huge, pristine, health-care facility before the first blood draw is taken and first baby born. Here’s what it looked like.
Before my great-aunt Leba (Presner) Mayerovitch died a few years ago, she lent me some thick photo albums, in which I found some family pictures I’d never seen before. This is the story behind three of those images.
My grandfather Samuel “Shia” Presner was a second-generation Canadian whose parents escaped poverty and anti-Jewish sentiment in Poland around the turn of the twentieth century, coming to Canada and settling in Montreal.
Education was the clear route to success in the new world, but despite top marks, when Shia applied to medical school at McGill, the well-regarded university in his hometown, he quickly discovered he wasn’t welcome. A “a strict quota” limited “Jewish enrolment to 10% of all students” in the Faculties of Medicine and Law. (This was not a friendly time for Jews in several parts of Canada. My father remembers being told about a prominent resort in Quebec’s Laurentians with a sign at the entrance proclaiming: “No Dogs / No Jews.”)
So Shia did the next best thing, as did many of his friends: he became a pharmacist. After graduating, and thanks to a loan from his brother-in-law, he opened a drugstore around 1936 on busy Ste-Catherine Street West in downtown Montreal, just a few doors west of Crescent. He dispensed prescriptions at the back of the narrow shop, served up chocolate sodas and malted milks at the “luncheonette” counter, and sold all manner of knick-knacks, or should I say tchotchkes. Evidently the pineapple ice cream sundae was also a big seller.
My grandmother Lillian (Bierbrier) Presner helped customers with cosmetic purchases in a role then called a “beautician,” which didn’t really take advantage of her Bachelor of Commerce degree. (She would put her education to use later in life, starting a mortgage company.) The store stayed open seven days a week – even though some Sundays saw only one or two customers – because Shia felt an obligation to be available, just in case someone needed some toothpaste or Aspirin or an urgent prescription filled.
After acquiring two more pharmacies around Montreal, my grandfather’s three-pack-a-day (unfiltered!) cigarette habit took its toll, and he was hit with a heart attack in 1955. He quit smoking and scaled back his work, selling his stores but still practicing pharmacy until the age of 80. He died three years later when I was 16.
Shia, thank you for persevering in the face of ignorant and prejudiced people. I’m glad you found a profession you were proud of, even though it wasn’t your first choice. I wish I’d gotten to hear your stories directly, but am still grateful to have learned them now.
Special thanks to my dad Bob Presner for help piecing together and fact-checking the stories in this post.