Saturday, December 31, 2011

A new year, like all the others

January 1, 2000: Cold Lake, Alberta
Kiss Recipient: No one, unless you count the short-lived game of "suck and blow."

January 1, 2001: Cold Lake, Alberta
Kiss Recipient: Kenny 

January 1, 2002: Cold Lake, Alberta
Kiss Recipient: Darryl 

[Photo missing. This was the first night I ever got legitimately drunk. I was supposed to be the DD until I locked my keys in my car and Katherine made me a drink while we waited for AMA. And then AMA took two hours to arrive.]

January 1, 2003: Edmonton, Alberta
Kiss Recipient: My cousin, Katherine 

January 1, 2004: Cold Lake, Alberta
Kiss Recipient: ChloƩ first, half the bar later.

January 1, 2005: Edmonton, Alberta
Kiss Recipient: ChloƩ (she later punched me in the face and poured ketchup on my white sweater, neither action with intended malice)

January 1, 2006: Cold Lake, Alberta
Kiss Recipient: Katherine first, half the bar later. (I also broke my toe this night. I suspect Katherine was the cause.)

January 1, 2007: Edmonton, Alberta
Kiss Recipient: Alex Dodd

January 1, 2008: Toronto, Ontario
Kiss Recipient: No one.

January 1, 2009: Toronto, Ontario
Kiss Recipient: Jason H.

January 1, 2010: Toronto, Ontario
Kiss Recipient: Jason H.

January 1, 2011: Toronto, Ontario
Kiss Recipient: Jason H.

Friday, December 30, 2011


Whoever said that diamonds are a girl's best friend was an idiot.

Monday, December 26, 2011

When I get that feeling, I need hula healing

I was spoiled all those years with my access to Final Cut Pro.

Nonetheless, upon request here's a special Christmas Day movie, all about my hula hoop. (I've never used iMovie or an iPad before. Also, apologies for my annoying neighbour's dog in the background. No apologies necessary for the Sexual Healing.)

Friday, December 23, 2011

This was not unexpected.

I always knew this time would come. It actually happened later, rather than sooner. I'm glad for the time that I had, for the time that was.

And now? Now there is no more time for flirting or for beer. Now's the time to return home early, prompted by the rolled eyes of wives, to the baby-sitters who are waiting to be paid. Now is the time for the next 20 years, to be played out in repeat, night after night, fuelled on by town gossip, hockey triumphs and the occasional all-inclusive vacation to Mexico.

But it's okay. It's okay because loneliness is what Cold Lake does best.

This is what I miss most about Cold Lake winters. I miss the stillness. I miss going to bed early because there's nothing else to do. I miss the winding car rides past the lake and through what will never be again, the echo of the bathwater as it cools down. I miss the pointless errands, scraping ice off my car, hiding in bed until 11 a.m. I miss when music had meaning.

I miss the quiet and the dark and the cold and the stars and the northern lights. And sometimes, I even miss the insomnia.

But most of all, I miss the kind of loneliness that only comes when you're actually alone.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Shared mythologies

The invitation was issued late at night, as is the case most weekends in Cold Lake. We're a town that leaves for the bar at midnight on a good night and makes it home to bed when the sun is coming up. It's a process that works well in the endless light of summer and even better in the permanently dark days of winter.

Yet, it's a process I had somehow forgotten in the last four months away. But I had nothing better to do so I changed my clothes and quietly left the house, driving in the pitch black to the next town over.

I arrived a little before 11 p.m., parking my rental car, slipping through the back door, past the machinery and towards the music. Inside and up the stairs, there were three familiar faces and a new one. They were playing virtual golf, the shelves lined with empty beer cans and the floor with spilled rum. After hugs and greetings, the new one, the foreigner, approached me. "So how do you know these guys?" he asked.

I didn't give my response much thought. It just seemed that obvious. "I'm from Cold Lake," I said.

He looked confused. "But how did you meet these guys? How do you all know each other?"

"Well, we're all from Cold Lake," I repeated.

"We're locals," chimed in one of the guys, laughing. To him, too, it was obvious. "We all know each other because we grew up here."

There are no other words, no other explanation. Sure, there were water balloons thrown in seventh grade, campfires at the lake, swimming lessons in Bonnyville, teenage makeouts at the CLPS playground and piano recitals. There were a billion nights spent at Kaos, before and after it was the Camel's Toe, and a billion more spent at Legends. There were thousands of kilometres clocked, just driving up and down mainstreet and past Kinosoo Beach. There were next door neighbours and unrequited crushes and roommates in Edmonton. There are stories of falling in love and late nights spent spooning in tents.

And then there is now, when it would be pointless to ever pinpoint where it began.

We're not lifelong friends and we may not have known each other since birth. We didn't go to school together and we may not even be Facebook friends. But none of that matters. Yes, it's a matter of circumstance, but it's more than that. It's not a single story or an explanation. It's a place.

We're locals. Those are the only words. That's all there is to know.

Monday, December 05, 2011

Two Rants, One Blog: The Updates

I wrote something other than a postcard. This is it.

The Job

Two weeks ago, I was called in to an interview for a job. I went. It was okay, but I knew I wasn't right for the position.

When I got home, I checked my sent messages folder only to realize that they had invited me in for the interview without ever seeing my resume. I forgot to attach it to my application. (A shame, too, because my carefully tailored resumes are a sight to behold.) But they still asked me in.

This was really good for my self-esteem.

I didn't get the job.

The Internship

Last week, after an intense application process, I was invited to interview for an internship at a well-known magazine. I went. As I sat in a tall leather chair that probably cost more than my entire wardrobe, I felt beads of sweat running down my back. I was nervous. Unlike the job, I knew that I was right for the internship. It was a great learning and networking opportunity at a magazine that I love.

There was just one hitch: the position was unpaid.

But as I left, I knew I had no reason to worry. I had bombed the interview. I took strange comfort in knowing that.

The next day they called to offer me the job.

It was a hard decision. I thought a lot about my peers, particularly the ones who accepted unpaid internships shortly after graduating and I thought about how far they've come. I wanted that. I want that.

It's not the first internship I've been offered. A week out of school, I was offered a place at one of Canada's biggest magazines. I really wanted it. And sure, it paid. It paid a $800/month, to be exact. My rent at the time was $700/month. The same day, I was offered a meagre salary of $28,000 and benefits at a non-profit organization. Guess which one I accepted?

The post-secondary system is obviously stacked in many ways, most clearly against those who come from lower-income households. But from start to finish, it's also stacked against "rural" Canadian women who want to access employment that doesn't include becoming a health care practitioner, an educator or a homemaker. (All of which are chosen professions that I respect, but just weren't right for me.) In addition to paying twice as much to obtain a degree of my choosing because living with relatives simply wasn't an option (at the time of my application to school, undergraduate degrees in journalism were only offered in Ottawa, Halifax and Toronto), I've failed tests because I didn't know who Ontario Governor General was (classmates were shockedyet they didn't know who Lois Hole was) and had reduced access to Ontario-specific grants and loans.

And then, after we shelled out tens of thousands of dollars to graduate, there were the internships. The unpaid internships. (Where were the jobs, we wondered?)

In the three years since I graduated, little has changed. Show me a person who has accepted an unpaid internship and I'll show you a person who moved home in order to be able to afford it.

No matter how much I wanted the internship, I couldn't accept it.

I sent my resignation (or whatever the equivalent of resigning before you even start is called) email on the way to one of the four jobs that I've been working to make ends meet.

The Work

I know that later I'm going to regret turning the internship down, but right now I'm too busy working to think about it much. I have one new contract and a contract extension into the new year. (Unpaid internship or gainful employment in my field? Maybe it seems like an easy choice, but it wasn't.)

But there's something else that's really been bothering me lately. Despite the fact that everyone seem to think that I sit around my house eating bon-bons and playing with my dog all day while upbeat montage music plays, most days I barely have enough time to shower. (Actually, it's 7:30 p.m. as I'm typing this and it just occurred to me that I have yet to brush my teeth today.) Photographic evidence follows: 

I should at least give myself credit for painting my nails.

So for those who have never freelanced, here's a fun fact: as a freelancer, you'll always feel like you're poor. I still haven't been paid for work that I did in June. When I decline dinner, it's not because I don't have money because I'm too busy refreshing Facebook all day longit's simply because I don't receive a lump sum in my bank account at 12:01 a.m. every other Thursday. And sure, I take off time to go travelling. But I also work seven days a week, sometimes for 12 hours at a time so that I can afford to go travelling.

I'm not asking anyone to sympathize with this. It's the lifestyle that I've chosen for myself (at least for now) and I like it. It's kind of awesome, actually. I can drink hot chocolate in the afternoons, wear my pajamas all day and cuddle with Brockton while I write.

But you know what's not awesome? People criticizing, judging and making assumptions simply because my current career doesn't fit into the nine to five status quo.

You can stop now, please, because it makes me second-guess myself. (It also hurts my feelings. And. . .cue Flight of the Conchords for this montage scene.)

The Friend

My friend moved away. I miss her.

I helped her move further away from me. In the pouring ice cold rain. At night. While I had menstrual cramps. Directly after my weight lifting class.

That's true love.

The Future

I'm going to embody the word "hustle." It's going to be awesome.

But I'm still going to put Amarula in my coffee and snuggle with my dog while I write.

It's a solid plan.

(Oh and 2012? It's totally the year that I'm going to write a bestselling young adult book. It's going to be epic.)