Wednesday, May 25, 2011

I'm still here.

There are lot of ways I could have died yesterday:

I woke up at 5:30 am. (Yes, in my books this is a death-defying feat.)

I drove 358 km on a 400-series highway.

I accidentally ate meat sauce.

I biked 4.3 km home in rush hour traffic without a helmet on.

Later, I biked 6 km to trivia in a dress. Five minutes into my ride I realized that someone had tried to steal my quick-release front tire. (They apparently didn't bother to check if it was locked before unscrewing it.) Thankfully, I was riding uphill. The dress is now covered in grease. (A small price to pay in exchange for avoiding a horrific biking accident.)

I lost at trivia. Turns out that two brains are not enough. (That was our team name, by the way.) Our performance was so poor, in fact, that we won a pint of beer for the lowest score. (It's unlikely that my poor performance would have resulted in death, but I'm not going to rule it out.)

I biked 6 km home in the cold dark.

There were lots of ways I could have met my untimely demise yesterday.

And yet, I'm still here.

So today, I'm going to celebrate being 27, an age I honestly thought I'd never reach. I'm going to do all my favourite things. I'm going to eat coke bottle candies for breakfast and pasta for lunch. I'm going to drink coffee while listening to music and blogging. I'm going to take Brockton to the dog park. And while I bask in the sun and Brock tumbles in the sand, I'm going to plot my next adventure. I'm going to go to go for a jog. I'm going to read new books from the public library on my patio. I'm going to cuddle with Jay and tell him how lucky I am to know him.

I have a good life and it's only getting better.

Today, I'm going to promise myself that no matter how many birthdays come to pass--even when I'm bald and my breasts sag to my bellybutton--I will never going to complain about how old I'm getting. Instead, I'm going to celebrate each birthday as another day that I'm still here.

Friday, May 20, 2011

The Rapture

In the summer of 2005, I spent four months working for the government in Bonnyville and Cold Lake. Here’s a not-so-surprising fact about government-funded summer desk jobs in isolated communities—they’re really boring. So it should also come as no surprise that 2005 was also the summer of my epic correspondence with Paul #2 started.

Readers of the 2005 incarnation of my blog (“I Enjoy Being a Slut,” which focused on my dating misadventures) will recall that Paul #2 was the second in a series of Pauls. (Oddly enough, I referred to the first Paul as The Newfie.) After developing a crush on the back of his head in class, I worked up the nerve to talk to him at China’s legendary “Green Light, Red Light” housewarming party. He showed up wearing a green sticker, indicating he was single. All signs said go.

This is not Paul #2. This is Tristan at the Red Light Green Light Party

But a week later I returned to Alberta before our relationship had the time to take off. But as luck would have it, his career was just starting and my summer job was painfully boring, so we both had a lot of time on our hands. We started emailing and soon our messages evolved into the Question Game. Here's how it worked:

1. I would write a question.
2. Paul #2 would answer the question, then add his own question.
3. I would answer Paul #2’s question, answer my own previous question, then write a new question.
4. Paul #2 would answer my question, answer his own previous question, then write a new question.

A typical email would go something like this:
Q57 (Paul’s Question): what 7 letter word would you use for your phone number if you could? (Jessica does not count.)
A (Jess’ Answer)- seven letter words are challenging. In scrabble, they are "bingo" words. Hmmm, I'm counting on my fingers right now. prodart. As in, professional dart player. Yah, that's right! (776.3278)
A (Paul’s Answer): spatula.... or quackle, which i found on a website that only had 7 letter words and thought it amusing, but now webster is telling me it means to suffocate or to choke, so maybe not.
Q 58 (Jessica’s Question)- Name the last person you were addicted to and why?
A (Paul’s Answer) i like to think that i am somewhat addicted to you, your emails anyways... though prior it was a few years ago - a girl named beth. I just thought she was an amazing person, and i felt lucky to be able to spend time with her. after we stopped seeing each other i still thought about her. that's how i know i was addicted, you wish you could be with them when they're gone.
Q 59 (Paul’s Question): Have you ever had a supernatural experience?

When I wasn't getting paid by the government to give away free cotton candy at the marina, I was otherwise wasting tax-payers dollars by sending excessively long emails to Paul #2.

The questions were diverse, ranging from the goofy to the serious. By the end of the summer, nothing was off-limits. That’s probably why I confessed to Paul #2 something that I don’t think I’ve told anyone before—or since.

And then, a couple of weeks ago, I realized that with my birthday next week and with the rapture tomorrow, there needed to be some sort of public record of this. It's time to share.

I’ve always been convinced that I would not live past 26.

Now that that's out of the way, it may surprise you to know that the origin of this belief is much more embarrassing to publicly admit than the fear itself.

But I'm going to anyway.

Way back in 1996, when I was about 11, I came across a TV show on ancient prophecies. At the time, I was obsessed with witchcraft and the paranormal, so it’s no surprise that I stopped channel surfing to watch. In 2012, the show told me, technology would turn against us. Waffle irons and fax machines would attack. Animals would go crazy. Houses would collapse. People would die.

Laying in bed that night, I couldn’t sleep. My mind was filled with images of computer printers sucking me in and ovens incinerating people. I did the math. I would be 26 in December 2012, I determined. (Math never has been my strong suit.) It was clear to me that people would die in 2012. And I would be one of those people. It was, I think, the first time that I really began to think about mortality.

I didn’t sleep that night.

Or the next.

Images of food processors attacking plagued me whenever I tried to shut my eyes. And this strange fear, the very belief that I would die at 26, didn’t fade with time. As a teenager, it was such an acute belief, that I couldn’t be bothered to plan my life beyond my mid-twenties. I didn’t develop much of an interest in getting married or having kids because I didn’t think I’d be around long enough to do so. And sure, I’d pick a university major. But actually pursuing a career? What would be the point? (Until a couple of years ago, the possibility didn’t even dawn on me that maybe, just maybe, I should actually plan or save for my late 20s.)

The one good thing about thinking you’re going to die at 26 is that it causes you to push yourself to live your life to an extreme. I've been "seizing the decade," if you will.

There's no succinct or happy conclusion to this story. Just an embarrassing admission.

However, for your viewing pleasure there is this--the very TV show that caused me to become an insomniac. I encourage you to fast-forward to the 4:00 minute mark to let the sheer terror set in. Enjoy!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

27 Candles

As a consequence of having acquired a common-law partner, I seriously doubt that I have any mysterious benefactors out there (it really comes as no surprise that my male readership has dropped substantially over the last four years). But just in case there's some Internet perv out there who wants to buy me stuff, here's what I want for my birthday this year:

Lulu Lemons
With exactly a month left until I'll be boarding my plane to Peru, I'm desperately in need of new Lulu Lemons. I bought one pair in 2006 and I've since worn them faithfully through Vanuatu, Australia, Guyana and on countless plane rides across Canada. They never stretch out, they dry quickly and they can (arguably) be dressed up or down.

But they're expensive and unfortunately the knock-offs just won't do. (Trust me, I've tried. Nothing quite repels the smell of week-old backpacking filth like my trusty Lulus.) My current ones are pilled and worn and with four days of hiking planned, it would be nice to have two pairs.

Laptop/All Purpose Tote Bag
I'm not a purse girl. Not only do I hate the word purse, I hate the act of carrying them. As a result, my bag selection is limited to the bare necessities (a blue satin clutch for weddings, a vintage black snakeskin purse for the rare night out, a small over-shoulder bag that just fits my phone and wallet, and my everyday tote for coupon-carrying). So every time I leave the house to do work, I turn into a bag lady--one bag for my wallet and another for my laptop and work notes.

And while I love carrying my work things in my Toronto Public Library tote, I hate carrying multiple bags. I'd love to have just one nice-looking tote that I can fit everything into, including my MacBook.

I've been joking a lot lately that I can't tell the difference between the hipsters and the homeless in Parkdale. I think that this statement may shortly apply to me.

I need a hair cut. Seriously. I've been cutting my own hair with a pair of shears purchased from the drug store. I suspect a child could do a better job. Throw in a pedicure and I'll be a happy girl.

Tattoo Time!
I haven't gotten a tattoo in nearly three years now and I have something in mind. Two things in mind, actually.

However, unlike all those "street" kids sitting at the corner of Bathurst and Queen, I don't have disposable income to spend on getting inked.
I want every single dress and playsuit on the Motel Rocks website right now. (But if I really have to narrow it down, my top choices are the Bella dress in Night Sky Grey, the Dalphine Triangle dress, the Erica Triangle dress, the Melissa dress, the Lesley dress in peach or black, the Nina dress in black. I don't ask for much.) UK size 10 please.

[Edit: After finding a 25% off promo code online, I broke down and bought the Bella and Melissa dresses. I seriously need Gail Vaz-Oxlade to come and take my credit card away. But at least I'll look cute when she does it.]

On my way-too-practical birthday wish list, this has to be the most unsexy. Seriously, if a mysterious Internet benefactor was instructed to buy this for my birthday, I feel like he (or she--who knows?) would be seriously disappointed. I tried to counteract this request by choosing a sexy bathrobe picture--because obviously, this is always what I look like in a bathrobe. (And not this.)

My current bathrobe is begging to be retired. My grandma gave the flannel number to me in 2002 and after 10 years of daily use, its threadbare back has developed large holes.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Self-depricating? No, I'm just realistic.

There's some aspects of starting out as a freelancer that make me feel a bit like a five-year-old clunking around the house in my dad's work shoes. They make feel grown-up, but to observers the overall effect is just comical.

Even the job title is clunky and unsettling. I try avoid saying it out loud. Instead, I prefer to tell people that I'm unemployed.

(Or, in the case that I'm talking to someone born before 1962, I might tell them that I work in international development. The term is just jargony enough that they pretend to know what they means--but they really have no idea, so there's little opportunity for awkward follow-up questions. Or, if I'm feeling particularly in need of establishing that, contrary to my appearance, I'm not a 21-year-old general arts undergrad, I might even go so far as to say that I'm an "international development practitioner." But I'm not. I suppose in conversation with non-profit peers I could legitimately refer to myself as "field staff." But then I run the risk of hearing about the three years they spent working with genocide victims in the Congo and how they single-handedly started an organization that gives refuge to blind children orphaned by HIV/AIDS. And then my measly two weeks in Guyana would just sound kind of lame.)

There's less shame in being unemployed. It's arguably less embarrassing than trying to pass myself as a "freelance writer." (I would never, ever say "freelance journalist." That would imply that I actually know what I'm doing. And it would likely result in uncomfortable conversations about "the media," which has to be my least favourite idiom. Except that I'm not even sure that that term is technically an idiom. This just serves to further illustrate that I don't know what I'm doing here.) In fact, I'm sure if I told people that I was a childless stay-at-home wife, it would be more publicly acceptable.


My friends (that would be the ones with gainful employment at national publications) can't seem to understand my reluctance. I should embrace my career change! (Can one legitimately have a "career change" only three years out of school,  particularly when the career that one is "changing" to is the same profession that one went to school for in the first place?) Pitching should be easy. In fact, I'm a step ahead--I've never had to sit in a radio room, I've never had to fetch anyone coffee, and I've never had to stay out late drinking with the editors just to make sure they remember my name.

But that's just the problem. I've never sat in a radio room. I've never fetched coffee. I've never been invited out drinking with my editors. (Other people's editors? Sure. But they definitely don't remember my name.)

I know that I'm not selling myself short here. Eight months of unemployment has given me plenty of time to evaluate what I am and am not good at. Just like I know I'm not good at choreographed dance routines, I know that I'm not good at pitches or story ideas. I am, however, good at meeting deadlines. I am not good at using commas and I use em-dashes in excess--but I can use a semi-colon correctly. I am not good at using big words (as evidenced from my "idiom" attempt above) or creating complex metaphors. And while I'm being completely honest here, my sense of story structure is probably a 6.5 out of 10. But I'm good at submitting clean work of the requested length. And that should count for something, right?

And I know that at some point, it will. But for now, if anyone asks, I'm unemployed.

In other news, last Thursday I attended a social media conference hosted by AutoShare, where I fell in love with Shawn Micallef and his tales of Rebel Mayor. I also got to listen to a ton of speakers present on why social media isn't the bee's knees. Particularly of interest was Nolin LeChasseur's presentation. He spoke about how people are desperate for information that will help them solve a problem in their lives. (Did you know that "how to" and "how do I" are the most commonly Googled phrases?) His number one rule for social media engagement? It's about them, not you.

For me, his presentation just reinforced that personal blogging is a form of public masturbation. It feels really good and people can't seem to look away--but it serves no real function. And at the end of the day, it's just kind of embarrassing.

Time to eat a grilled cheese sandwich.

[Edit: Much love to my personal champions and aforementioned friends who never seem to get annoyed by my way too frequent "I'm unemployed and chickenshit" self-pitying rants. Your verbal ass-kickings are the only reason I haven't given up yet.] 

Sunday, May 15, 2011

How to get your girlfriend what she actually wants for her birthday.

It's Sunday, it's raining and Brock is contentedly destroying his monster toy (a Frankenstein toy comprised of various parts of previously destroyed toys). I have work to do, but instead I'm reviewing my budget and lamenting my negative bank account balance. What better way to turn the day around than to write my birthday wish list of things I want and need, but can't possibly afford!

A couple of weeks ago, Jay asked me what I want for my fast-approaching birthday. I had no idea, so I Googled it. (Yes, that's right. I actually typed "what do I want for my birthday?" into a search engine.) I should have known the results would be disastrous.

The results were appalling. The Internet is a smorgasboard of shitty service features on gifts you should and shouldn't get for your girl. (Blog post spoiler: candles are NOT "always a safe choice" "since most women like to decorate their rooms with them." The last time I got candles, I nearly cried from boredom. The guy in question told me that it was because his mom likes candles. Fact: Just because your mom likes it, doesn't mean your girlfriend will. Sub-fact: You are not dating your mom.) After reading the lists, I can't help but wonder who are these women who are "treating themselves to foot massages after a long day at work" while wearing their "personalized thong bikinis" anyway?

Okay, so I get that some people are just bad at gift-giving. I get that it's a nerve-wracking experience. I get that there are women out there who read into every little action when it comes to gifts, looking for fault or subtexts of marriage. And I get that some ladies actually like getting candles.

But if you're one of those guys who is going to categorically determine that your girlfriend is a "geeky girl" or a "fit chick" based on some shitastic man magazine article, maybe it's time to rethink being in a relationship altogether.

Fact: Maxim thinks its readers are stupid enough to believe it's 1958.

However, if you're mature enough to realize that your girlfriend doesn't fit into some tidy category, but you're still grappling for gift ideas, here are a couple of places to start:

Play to her childhood whimsy.

On the morning of my 24th birthday, Alex Dodd and I were setting out from Owen Sound to visit the Collingwood Caves. But instead of heading towards the highway, Alex started driving downtown. "We need to make a quick stop first," he told me cryptically. After parking the car, he led me, of all places, into a toy store. Once inside, he guided me to a display of stunt kites. "Pick one out," he told me, "and happy birthday."

Why a kite? Because weeks earlier, I had mentioned that when I was a kid, I loved flying kites. On weekends, my family would go out and fly a giant purple octopus in the field by our house. From a simple act of shared nostalgia came one of the most thoughtful (and unique) presents I've ever received.

Jewellery done right.

My first-ever boyfriend, Adam Wilson, gave me a pair of sterling silver heart earrings for my 15th birthday. I can remember the moment like it was yesterday--I remember the excitement of eagerly opening the blue velvet box, followed by immediate disappointment, and then the subsequent realization that if I didn't dump him (and soon), I would actually have to wear the things.

Because at 15, not only did I hate anything too feminine, I was also struggling to assert my individuality. And the person who was supposed to love me best for being me--the unique snowflake that I was--had just given me mass-produced heart-shared earrings. Barf.

You know that scene in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind when Clementine gets a necklace from Patrick (technically it was from Joel) and she's shocked at how to her taste it is? ("I've never gone out with a guy who bought me a piece of jewellery I liked," she tells him, surprised.) Let that scene serve as your inspiration--not the weekly special at People's Jewellers.

Contrary to what you've been led to believe, household appliances are not necessarily off-limits. 

I like practical things. For my 25th birthday, Jay got me a Swiss Army Knife right before we took off for a backpacking tour of Croatia. It was simple, affordable and practical. Perfect.

But last year, his gift was so practical and perfect that it brought me to tears.

All week, co-workers and friends alike had been asking me what I was going to do if he proposed. (Or rather, in their minds, what I was going to do when he proposed.) And although I knew the likelihood of that occurring was highly improbable, there was a small part of me that worried they were right. So by the time my birthday rolled around, the idea had ingrained itself so deeply in my amygdala that when he took me to Trinity Bellwoods Park, with no gift in sight and insisted that I sit down to receive it, I was terrified. (To me, marriage is a conversation, not a question.)

Instead, he handed me a card. Inside was a picture of a KitchenAid stand mixer. Immediately, I started crying. Maybe it was from the surprise. Or maybe it was from the relief that it wasn't a ring.  Either way, I was so happy. I love to bake and I've always wanted a KitchenAid.

Similarly, my circle of friends swoon over Dysons. They're a topic of dinner conversation at least every other month.

In conclusion, nothing is off-limits. We're adults, not teenage girls. Buying practical, is well, practical.

Celebrate them.

This is a story I've related to many female friends--both single and attached--and without fail, it makes them swoon:

Two years ago, I was at a hair salon getting a cut and colour. While there, I overheard a young blonde woman talking to her stylist. Her boyfriend had surprised her by sending her to the spa for the day. He was paying for her cut and colour before they went on a date that night. Cute, right?

But it gets better. When the blonde girl's hair was done, the stylist handed her a large box with a bow around it. (Turns out, the boyfriend had given the hairdresser instructions to present the box at the end of the appointment.) Inside was a black lace dress from Mendocino, a pair of black heels and a note instructing her to put them on. Both items fit her perfectly. Once she was dressed, her boyfriend showed up exactly on time to whisk her away on their date. 

While I have no idea what the rest of the night entailed, I also have no doubt that it contained more surprises and careful planning. And that's the exact reason girls like this story--it isn't because they all want a new outfit, or to go to the salon for the day, or even to be surprised. It's because of the thought and planning that went into the gift. The dude had planned out the day for his girlfriend down to the very last detail, picking out things he knew that she would love.

And that's the thing--the point of celebrating birthdays isn't about getting older or eating cake or getting to be the centre of attention for just one day--it's about celebrating birth. It's about celebrating the fact that the person you love exists. And in the end, that's all anyone really wants on their birthday--to know that someone is grateful they were born and to be reminded that they're loved.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

I need a home run.

At the start of last week, it felt like everything was coming up Jessica. Two new potential contracts, one assignment and one job interview. 

And then, just as suddenly, it just felt like I was striking out. Here's what happened:

The Job Interview

Looking for regular part-time employment has been a challenge. (Next month, I'm going to be trekking in Peru for 10 days. Following that, I'll be in Alberta for five weeks. Based on this alone, securing an appropriate part-time job is a near impossibility.) So when I got invited to attend an interview with a catering company, the flexibility seemed perfect. 

On Wednesday evening, after playing lab rat all day (more on that later) I tarted myself up, jumped in the AutoShare car and drove up to Vaughn during rush hour. Of course, as it turns out, the interview wasn't just in Vaughn--it was in Maple. After nearly driving out of the city, I arrived just on time and walked into a banquet room filled with about a hundred 15-year-old boys filling out paper applications. 

Without a question, I was the oldest applicant in the room. As I patiently waited in line to get an application from a woman conducting interviews, two other teenage girls came in late. "Can we get an application?" they asked, interrupting the interview. "Sorry girls," she told them, directing her comment at me, "because you came in late I don't have any left. Go sit at the back of the room."

I should have left then and there. But I had already paid for the AutoShare rental and I'm not a quitter.

For the next 20 minutes, I sat watching everyone fill out their applications. I noticed that across the room, new employees were being trained. That's when I realized that the job training would also be in Maple--and that it would be financially impossible for me to attend training. So I did something completely against the grain of my personality--without filling out an application or being interviewed, I walked out.  

The Contract

Next up was the potential writing contract for an American hotel review website. After submitting an application, I had a telephone meeting with the company and found out that I was one of two writers being considered. 

I felt pretty solid about my 50 per cent shot of securing the contract. I spent all weekend completing my test review and on Monday, I eagerly refreshed my email every 20 minutes. By Monday night, I had figured out that I didn't get the job. 

Then on Tuesday, I received this email, which I've read about 10 times now:

I'm hung up on that one word: truly. Did the loss of this contract come as the consequence of a misplaced comma or two? (I'll admit that I really don't know how to use commas. I never have. I like them way too much and use them way too often.) Was it because I submitted my review two hours before the deadline, rather than a day before the deadline? Was it because the writing samples I sent through were two years old?

I don't want to know the answers to these questions. At the end of the day, it wasn't even about the money. It was about the experience and the chance to add some work to my portfolio.

The Assignment

With no new part-time job and no hotel reviewing contract, I'm working on an assignment for a publication that has been very good to me over the last four months. I'm really interested in the topic that I've been assigned and it will be a great addition to my portfolio. Only problem? At $0.10 per word, I'm making about $5.00 per hour working on it.

No job. No contract. No money.

So it's a bummer, but it's also time to move on. It's also time to get over my hatred/fear of pitching stories and accept the fact that assigned stories are few and far between.

(And in closing, here is an amazing piece that Nina linked on Facebook about how there is no fucking way Carrie Bradshaw sustained herself on one column. Fact.)

Thursday, May 05, 2011

Dear 16-Year-Old Me

It's not often that I share viral videos on my Facebook and even rarer that I share them here. But for me, this is one worth watching.

When I was 16, I had my first stitches. They were the result of my first biopsies. Now, where moles use to form the constellation of Cassiopeia on my stomach (or so I liked to think), neat little Xs mark the spot. They were removed with a cookie cutter-like instrument and when the flesh was gone, I watched blood pool neatly into the holes. And just above my bra hooks, there is a gouge. Just a little blemish. But it was big enough that the cookie cutters wouldn't do the trick. As my doctor inserted the scalpel into my back, he told me that maybe someday I could have laser therapy to remove the scar.

But I really didn't care about the potential for scarring. It was the least of my concerns. Because at 16, I had already watched my brother have a chunk of cancerous flesh removed from his ear a year earlier. It had started as a tiny fleck on his earlobe and nightly at dinner, as I shuffled my green beans around on my plate, I would look across the table at him and watch it grow. At 16, I had already seen my brother crying in the bathroom, fearful of what would happen next.

It was just his earlobe, which is minor, right? Nothing to worry about. Try telling that to a teenager who used sunscreen consistently for his entire life, but didn't know that the lips and the ears are where it usually starts. (Because who remembers to put sunscreen on their earlobes? Well, hopefully after reading this you will.) Try telling that to an 18-year-old who knows skin cancer can kill.

Try telling that to someone who has cancer, any kind of cancer.

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Does Obama self-google?

This isn't the first time self-Googling has returned strange results. The first time was much worse. (As the result of a mistaken identity, my blog was linked on a white supremacy message board. That wasn't the worst part though--they also included a picture of me, looking super pasty and white. Awkward.)

This message board discussion about me, while less embarrassing, is equally peculiar:

Screenshot from the All Aircraft Are Not Involved forum.

For the record, I'm not the author of a conspiracy theory website. (If you read the message board, you'll note that the author of these posts later got in touch with me. I clarified that I have nothing to do with "Kade" and my identity has not been stolen. That I know of, anyway.) But I also don't believe that Osama is dead. (Or maybe he's been dead for years?) 

I guess that makes me a conspiracy theorist.

I'm okay with that.

Monday, May 02, 2011

The Electoral Process

It was the only Miss Universe rehearsal that I dressed up for. 

Most days I showed up looking slovenly compared to the other girls. While they rocked black tights with five-inch heels and coordinated earrings, I showed up to the studio in the same pair of faded jeans (purchased at Winners, no less) and whatever t-shirt was on the top of the pile.

But this rehearsal was going to be different. With only three days until the show, I was making a last-ditch effort to step up my game. I wore my trusty brown ankle boots over black tights and a borrowed French Connection dress, complete with power shoulders.

My outfit wasn't the only thing that made this rehearsal different. Rather than having criticism slung at us as we stumbled through our dance routines for the 83rd time, we were finally being given a chance to practice for the interview portion of the competition.

Waiting for the rehearsal to begin, we sat in rows murmuring about what the questions would be like. As Denis, the pageant director, came into the room, everyone was still sharing horror stories of pageant contestants who somehow simply got the answer wrong. 

Denis gave us one final pre-show pep talk before instructing us to write down two of the most "intelligent" questions we could think of. "And take notes," he told us, "because we'll be using the questions that you write on the night of the pageant."

I gnawed on the end of my pen as the girls around me confidently wrote down their questions. This was going to require some thought.

My first question, which I had been once asked in a job interview, was admittedly difficult. But, I rationalized, we had been instructed to write down the most intelligent questions we could think of and it was the first thing that came to mind: 

1. How do you feel about mixed member proportional representation and why? 

Hmm. Time to follow that up with an easier question.

2. What reforms would you like to see made to your electoral process? 

Yes, that was good. It could be answered directly ("I would like to see the first past the post system abolished") or in classic vague pageant-style ("I'd like to see more youth get out and vote" or "I'd like to see voting made more accessible for students").

Happy with my questions, I handed them in.

For the next two hours, we went around the room. Denis would call on a girl, ask her to stand up, and then he would read her one of the two questions from each scrap of paper. As he read each question, everyone would furiously scribble down both the questions and the responses. The questions themselves varied quite greatly--from the typical abortion and same-sex marriage queries, to questions about Wiki Leaks and dental hygiene.

After I confidently answered my question, I sat down feeling like any chance for embarrassment had passed. I was wrong. My questions still had not been asked.

Denis called on one of the last girls and she stood. "How do you feel about mixed member proportional representation and why?" he read aloud.

A hush came over the room and then the murmurs started.

"Who would even ask that?" someone said in disbelief and others nodded in agreement. "Um, I did," I admitted, my face turning crimson.

"Okay, how about this one," Denis continued, reading my second question, "what reforms would you like to see made to your electoral process?"

Again, it was quiet. "I don't know how to answer that," the girl admitted.

"Don't worry, don't write those questions down," Denis told everyone. "We won't be using them in the pageant," he said, tossing my intelligent questions aside.

Sunday, May 01, 2011

April Savings: Year of the Deal

I'm sick for the first time in a year. So naturally, I'm sitting at home plotting ways to make money. And while there really are no ways to make money quickly, here are a few of my favourite ways to find cash that you didn't even know you had:

1. Roll your change

I'm a fastidious change spender (as in, I count my pennies out at the till regardless of the size of the line behind me) but Jay throws his change haphazardly into every possible crevice in the house. Coins are in his laundry bin, in the back of the shelves of his closet, in his drawers, all over his dresser and in various tupperware containers. So I don't technically ever roll my change--I roll his change.

Don't make the mistake of using the automated machines at the grocery store. The last time I rolled a seemingly small amount of change, there was over $150. Had I just thrown it into the automated machine, I would have lost out on $15.

2. Sell your stuff

I'm going to be honest--we're running out of things to sell. I do, however, have a closet full of clothes, some of which I don't wear.

For years I've just shipped my clothes off to Goodwill, but this spring I'm determined to sell them. After reading SNP's eyeweekly article on consignment clothing stores, I figured Fashionably Yours was the best bet for my rejects. Er, not so much. After showing them my duds, I was told everything I brought in was "too conservative."

No worries, though. On Monday, I'm going to head down the street to Common Sort, where I suspect I'll have better luck. (Only problem is, will I take 25% for the clothes? Or a 50% store credit? Tough decisions.)

3. When all else fails, craigslist

If you have the time (which I do), a simple search for "research" under jobs or gigs will render tons of fast cash opportunities. I've been applying for brain imaging studies over the last couple of weeks--mainly because I just really want an image of my brain. Sadly, I haven't had any responses yet. However, I've just signed up for another study. I can't divulge details now due to confidentiality, but if all goes well it should make for an interesting story down the road.

Here's a picture of my dog. That way, even if you could care less about Year of the Deal, at least you got to see a cute puppy.

Year of the Deal: April Savings

Grocery Purchases: $191.41
Pharmacy Purchases: $57.75
Total Spent: $249.16

Coupons Used: $23.50
2011 Total Coupon Savings to Date: $134.95

We were gone for a week in the middle of April, which partially accounts for the lower expenses. But since February, our costs have been cut by more than 60%. Our expenses seem to be continuing to decrease as we continue to stockpile items, collect coupons and shop smart. (I'm excited to grocery shop this month because we have an Airmiles coupon for $20 off and a coupon for $20 at Sobey's. That's savings of $40 and the month hasn't even started yet!)

In May, I'm going to track my total spending and create a budget. This is going to be my biggest challenge yet.

Unemployment/Work Update

I'm happy to announce that I have work again! The rhetoric that it's either feast or famine seems to apply here: in addition to the research study, I have two new contracts AND a job interview on Wednesday. Now, I just need to shake off this fever, put some cover-up on the scab that's formed under my nose and get inspired.