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?



In Praise of the Banana Clip

My hair issues go waaay back and could fill a book. (They have, in fact, already filled a short story, which I might just share with you all one day.)

Of course my hair issues aren’t just about my hair; they’re all tangled up with the requisite mommy issues, self-esteem problems and existential conundrums that go along with any prolonged contemplation of a particular body part.

So I won’t get into my Samson moment at age 4, when my mom took me to the hairdresser’s and insisted on hatcheting my waist-length hair into a “fun and easy” bowl cut that had me repeatedly mistaken for a boy until I hit puberty.

Nor will I attempt to justify the platinum blond rat tail I sported for a few brief rebellious weeks in Grade 7.

And I certainly won’t get into the unfortunate phase with the crimper.

But I would like to state for the record, with my all-natural-dark-brown-streaked-with-grey-shoulder-length-slightly-wavy head of hair held high, that I miss my banana clip.

banana clip
Who knew you could order one of these on Amazon?!


It was 1987 and I was determined to have long hair for my high school graduation photo. For months I let it grow and when the time came I paid a hefty sum from my babysitting money for (yet another) perm.

It was the longest, fullest, curliest hairstyle I’d ever sported. And with my bangs blow-dried, back-combed and hair-sprayed, it was the height of 80’s fashion.

But best of all was how it looked in a banana clip.

Oh how I loved that clip! I remember leaning backwards in front of the bathroom mirror and gathering up my curls into its teeth. The result: a cascading mane of curls down the back of my head that in retrospect probably made me look like a deranged My Little Pony, but made me feel like the coolest thing going.

I’ve never learned to braid my own hair.

I still haven’t mastered the art of the well-placed bobby pin.

But, man, I rocked that banana clip.




Happy National Proofreading Day!

Today, March 8, is International Women’s Day.

Every 2nd post in my Facebook newsfeed is some sort of celebration of that. I’m all for celebrating women and women’s acheivements, as well as pondering how far we’ve come (and, yes, how far we still have to go). So, absolutely, Happy International Women’s Day!

I am a little upset however that I haven’t seen one single post wishing anyone a Happy National Proofreading Day.

Proofreading is something I have loved my entire life. It all started when my mom was in university and I was in highschool. Mom was getting her degree part time while working full-time and raising my brother and I. Whenever she had an essay to hand in, she would ask me to take a look at it first and correct it. It always felt like a challenge or a treasure hunt, as long as I could find at least one mistake to fix, it seemed worthwhile.

Fast-forward 30 years and here I am making a living in communications, in equal part’s writing, editing and proofreading. I’d have to say proofreading is still my first love though. Its still like a treasure hunt every time.

So here’s to all my fellow proofreaders.Enjoy the day!

PS Want to practice your proofreading? Try to find all the errors in this post. (Hint: 15 of them are intentional. If you find anymore then that, let me know!)

Control Freak, Yes…But a Puppet Master?

If you asked me who knows me best in the world, I’d have to say Luc.

This year, we’ll be celebrating our 20th wedding anniversary. That same month (October) will mark 22 years that we’ve been together.

Luc knows my routines, my moods and my quirks. He understands my hopes, my dreams and my fears. He loves me. He accepts me for who I am.

He’d also be the first to tell you that I’m a total control freak.

Cases in point:

  • I keep lists of everything: grocery lists, to-do lists, rainy day project lists.
  • I keep an overall budget spreadsheet, I save all of our receipts until the Visa bill comes in, and I enter every last little cash purchase, right down to a pack of gum, into an app.
  • I meticulously keep track of every dentist, doctor and specialist appointment for the four of us, including results and follow-ups.
  • Everything (and I mean EVERYTHING) goes on the family calendar. (My mantra: If it’s not on the calendar, it doesn’t exist.)
  • I colour code the file folders in the filing cabinet. I colour code the labels on the colour-coded file folders. I colour code the writing on the colour-coded labels on the colour-coded file folders…
  • And although my spices may not be alphabetized, they are grouped by which ones are most likely to be used together in a recipe (MUCH more efficient!)

Yes, I need to plan ahead. Yes, I need details. Yes, I have trouble delegating. No, I’m not very good at spontaneity.

Luc knows all of this.

But a couple of weeks ago, I learned that even he doesn’t know every little thing about me.

I was reading an article in The Ottawa Citizen about an upcoming production of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night. The elaborate set was designed by an Alberta-based puppet company and the show incorporates other elements of puppetry.

“That reminds me of the Shakespearean puppet show I was in in university,” I commented to Luc, pointing to the article.

He blinked.

“A puppet show?” he said. “You were in a Shakespearean puppet show?”

Now, I realize that “Shakespeare” and “puppets” don’t often come up in everyday conversation (let alone in the same sentence). So my chances over the past 22 years of ever having used that as a segue to telling him about my briefest of stage careers as the courtesan (and other bit speaking roles) in the 1989 Brescia College production of The Comedy of Errors were pretty slim. But still. If anyone were to know that tiny little tidbit of personal information about me, it would be Luc.

It just goes to show that no matter how well you know someone (and their control freak–dare I say “puppet master”–tendencies) there’s always more to learn.