My First Seven Jobs

Thanks to Lynn (my blogging mentor and inspiration) over at Turtlehead for this idea. Since one of the first things anyone asks is “What do you do?” and my current position of mom/writer (or is that writer/mom?) is under review, it’s kind of fun to look back (waaay back) at the first seven jobs I ever held. (Plus, #firstsevenjobs is super trendy on Facebook and Twitter right now, so why not?)

  1. BABYSITTER: From the age of 12, babysitting was my bread and butter. I had an awesome gig just five doors down the street. David and Linda were young enough to still need a babysitter but old enough to be fun to hang around with when their parents (and mine) headed to their monthly euchre club. I also raked in the babysitting cash ($2 an hour, $2.50 after midnight) for looking after them for countless date nights and conferences and pretty much every New Year’s Eve of the 80’s. Mr. and Mrs. S. were awesome to work for. Every time I babysat, Mrs. S. left me a box of Bridge Mixture chocolates to enjoy once the kids were in bed, and Mr. S. would always walk me home. Several years ago, I was thrilled to learn through a mutual friend that David is now an award-winning photographer. And I love getting updates on Linda and her family via our parents’ still ongoing euchre club.
  2. VACCINATION REMINDER SENDER: My dad was a vet and owned and ran two veterinary clinics in London. At around the same age I started babysitting, he hired me to send out vaccination reminders to his furry clientele. Saturday mornings I would haul out stacks of client files by the drawerful and, using the colour-coded plastic tabs on the tops, determine which cats and dogs were due for vaccinations. I had a pack of pre-printed postcards that I would fill in (“Dear Rex, Happy Birthday! Please be sure to tell your owners that you are due for your annual shots!”) and then address by hand. The best part (besides seeing all of the weird and wonderful names people call their pets) was the Canada Post stamp machine: making sure the red ink was topped up, then shooting the postcards through to be stamped and seeing how far down the counter (or across the room) they could fly. (Sorry, Dad. It was a little boring in the back room all by myself!)
  3. CASHIER AT THE A&P: I worked part time at the A&P grocery store for several months the year I was 15. After my initial training I don’t know that I spoke a single word to a single other employee the entire time I worked there. I showed up, cashed in, worked my shift and cashed out. There was no overcoming the divide between the older employees and the teenagers, nor the further divide between teens. Very cliquey. But the pay was awesome (even the part-timers were unionized), and it was because of this job that I’ll never forget my Social Insurance Number (we had to recite it to the lady behind the tinted glass window in the back before she would slip us our paycheque through the metal slot in the counter…just another indication of the unfriendliness of the place: they couldn’t even be bothered to put names to faces). My only other enduring memory of this job: dreaming about punching in hundreds of memorized produce codes all night, every night.
  4. PIANO SELLER: When I was 16, my piano teacher scored me a job working in a piano store. The owner was expanding in new digs and adding synthesizers and digital pianos to his offerings, so he wanted some young blood in there to help with sales. I guess to be called a “piano seller” I would actually have had to sell a piano at some point during my employ at the pianohaus. Never happened. Customers were few and far between and I’m sure the business made more money renting out the space for piano recitals than it ever did selling instruments. I loved spending hours alone playing on the 9-foot grand that was the store’s showpiece and hosting evening recitals. The only item I had even a small hand in selling was one magnificent grand. The parents of a boy I knew in elementary school came in looking for a piano to set in the circular entryway of a new custom house they were having built. No one in the family played, but the mother had briefly taken lessons as a child and always wanted a grand piano, more for show than anything else. Because I happened to be working the day they came in and they recognized me, we got to reminiscing. They ended up coming back another day to purchase their piano of choice directly from the owner, but when they mentioned my name and the fact that they had already been in talking to me, I ended up getting a nice little bonus…not, as the owner must have assumed, for my sales skills, but just for being me.
  5. CLEANING LADY: Off and on through high school and the beginning of university I cleaned houses for cash. It started when my mom fired our cleaning lady (long story) and started paying me to do the job instead. After that, some of her friends found out and hired me as well. I could get a two-storey, three-bedroom, two-and-a-half bath suburban home looking brand spanking new in four and a half hours…and working moms were willing to pay me some serious money to do so. These days in my own home I have trouble even getting around to scrubbing the toilets on a regular basis, but that’s a post for another day…
  6. SALESGIRL AT RICKI’S: As a teen, most of my money went towards buying clothes, so working at one of my favourite clothing stores seemed like a logical choice. I worked at Ricki’s the summer I was 17 and was let go two days shy of the end of my three-month probation period. They told me I wasn’t “pushy or agressive enough” and pointed to my refusal to upsell customers (as in “Would you like a blouse to go with those pants?”). Ironically, that was the very reason I had repeat customers that summer (as in “I love how you never try to sell me something I don’t need and didn’t come in for”). On the plus side, I made excellent use of my staff discount for the time I was there…
  7. HOSTESS AT MCGINNIS LANDING: I’m not even sure if my ever-so-brief stint at this restaurant qualifies as a job. I had gone in looking for a waitressing position because I’d heard the tips were fabulous, but they tried me out as a hostess instead. At the end of my very first four-hour shift of seating patrons, the manager expressed his concern that I wasn’t “perky” enough and instructed me to try harder to be so the next day. By the time I got home, I’d decided that “perky” (along with “pushy” and “aggressive” (see No. 6 above)) was something I never wanted to be, so I called him and quit. Never saw a paycheque, but learned the valuable lesson that in addition to sales (see Nos. 4 and 6 above) I was not meant for a stellar career in service either.

Wow. Working through that list has brought back a slew of memories!

What were your first seven jobs?



The Front Door Dilemma

When we bought our home in 1999, it was already a decade out of date, boasting 80s décor throughout. Every room was a different shade of pink, from palest blush through bubble gum. Plush dusty rose carpet covered all of the floors and the pink flowered wallpaper in the entry and under the chair rail in the hall was a perfect match to the pink flowered drapery in the family room. But worst of all were the garage and front door: both a shocking shade of fuchsia.

Over the next few years the wallpaper came down, the carpet was replaced with hardwood and we gradually de-pinked every room in the house with gallons and gallons of paint. But the one thing we had vowed to take care of the minute we moved in–covering up the ghastly colour on our home’s exterior–just didn’t happen. It became a running joke, as well as our address: “Don’t worry about remembering our house number,” we’d tell visitors. “Just look for the fuchsia. You can’t miss it.”

When we finally decided to put some time and money into our home’s curb appeal a decade later, we were thrilled with the results. The gorgeous grey interlock driveway, pathway and front porch tied in beautifully with our light grey siding. And the coordinating deep charcoal paint we finally chose for the garage door and front door finished off the classy and classic look we’d always wanted.

Not everyone was as thrilled as we were, though. My directionally challenged friend had to program our actual address into her GPS now that she didn’t have her colour-coded landmark. And my dad, on more than one occasion when he has visited from out of town, has driven right on past.

But we seem to be at a colour crossroads yet again.

Two years ago the motor on the garage door died. We’ve gotten by until now by opening and closing it manually, but last week one of the panels came off the rails and there’s no forcing the twisted metal beast back into place. So a brand new garage door in a timeless glossy black is soon to be installed.

The question now is what to do with the front door?

The grey has got to go, not only because it just won’t match the new garage door, but also because the nasty fuchsia is showing around the new handle and deadbolt we recently installed.

We could go with a glossy black to match the garage. That would be the safe, conservative way to go.

But something in me is calling for colour. Contrast. Personality. Like a candy apple red. Or a jade garden teal. Something that says, “This is us. Welcome.”

Here’s my dilemma: I’m sure the previous owners, when they selected their fuchsia failure, were going for the same thing. And I don’t want my front door to become just another drive-by joke.

So do we play it safe? Or bring it on?

(And just out of curiosity, what colour is your front door?)




My Own Little 4-H Hell

Today’s forecast is 32 degrees with a humidex of over 40 (for my American friends, that’s Really Freakin’ Hot Fahrenheit) and it’s been similar weather almost every day here for going on three weeks now.

Guess what else is hot and steamy lately?


No, I’m not getting my sexy on. I’m having hot flashes.

Welcome to the menopause years.

I was out with girlfriends the other night, and we were commiserating over the regular topics: kids, work, husbands, finances. Then I started venting about the 4-H hell I’ve found myself in lately (heat waves, humidity, hormones and hot flashes) expecting one of them to chime in at any moment.


Apparently I’m the only one of the group whose body has taken to spontaneously combusting.

I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. I was the first girl in my class to wear a bra. The first to get her period. Why not the first for this?

But commiserating isn’t the same when there’s no “co” to my “misery.” It just feels like plain old complaining.

So if you need me,  I’ll be just over here, standing on top of the A/C vent, fanning myself with one hand and holding my hair off the back of my neck with the other, asking “Is it hot in here, or is it just me?”