Making the choice to believe in people, or: Why I choose to be "naïve"

Guestpost by Sariah on Apr 24th

Becoming cynical and afraid of my surroundings is not worth sheltering myself from the world. (Photo by: Federico RacchiCC BY 2.0)

When someone cuts me off in traffic, I imagine that they're in a terrible hurry and didn't see me. When a young man asks to use my cell phone in a bad part of town, I hand it over and ask if he needs anything else. When I'm taking a Greyhound bus ride and the bus is half full of freshly released prisoners, I always happen to end up right in the middle of their group of seats.

I tell people about the choices I make and I am almost always met with disbelief and fear. They say, "That man could have run off with your phone!" or "How can you feel safe by yourself in that situation?" I am often called naïve.

I have lived in low-income areas. Bars on windows are not new to me. Nor are police sirens, crime, or poverty. But I won't let that change my world.

I could walk around all day and refuse every request made of me. I could always be on alert and ready to defend myself. I could keep pepper spray on my keys and my phone pre-programmed to 911 as I walk down side streets at night. I know the "right" and "safe" choices to make, but I choose to keep living the way I do.

Continue reading »

Offbeat Home Hunters: The "Yukon, ho!" edition

Guestpost by Allison on Apr 24th

yukon offbeat home huntersMy partner and I spent over three years house hunting in Ottawa, Ontario. We dragged our poor real estate agent through a seemingly never-ending series of former grow houses, condemned buildings, and major fixer-uppers (like this).

We spent hundreds of dollars on inspections, made several offers (a few of which were even accepted) and had mortgages approved, but thanks to bad luck and a number of unfortunate events, we never got a house.

So we were still living in our tiny, smoke-filled, rental apartment (which we had moved into as a "temporary" arrangement to save up money for a down payment), when I was offered a job in the Yukon. It was just two months before our wedding, but adventure called!

Things we quickly learned about Whitehorse: The rental market in recent years has been at almost 100% occupancy. Rent is therefore high, and would be significantly higher than what we were paying to live downtown in Canada's capital. House prices are comparable to some of Canada's larger cities, so we could expect to pay similar prices to what we had been looking at in Ottawa

After crunching the numbers it was pretty clear that if we could find a house, it made sense to buy.

A bit about us as home buyers: We are a single-income family of two (plus our pet rats), and while I'm the only breadwinner, I am fortunate to make a comfortable salary. We're pretty handy and not afraid to tackle home projects (as evidenced by the sort of places we were looking at in Ottawa). We're environmentally-conscious city-center dwellers and wouldn't be comfortable in the suburbs.

Our house wish list:

  • Under $350,000
  • Detached home (we make too much noise to be good condo or townhouse neighbours)
  • Walking distance to my work
  • Two bedrooms (one for us and a craft room/guest room/future child room)

We didn't have much time to house hunt, so we decided to see every place that met our requirements, which was a total of 9 houses. Two were about to fall down on top of us, and four were almost an hour walk from my office, which left three potential homes…

Continue reading »

3 ways to keep the peace when you move in with your partner "too soon"

Guestpost by Ellie on Apr 23rd

Before you start unpacking your kawaii heart pillows, read this post about moving in with your partner early on in your relationship…

Before you start unpacking your kawaii heart pillows, read this post about moving in with your partner early on in your relationship…

Five months into our relationship, I moved in with my boyfriend. But it wasn't necessarily happening because we wanted it to.

To make a long story short, the living situation I had planned fell apart on me pretty suddenly, and he offered to take me in. My only other option was uprooting everything I'd built for myself, and moving back in with my mother — over 100 miles away.

While part of me was really stoked, a much larger part of me was sizzling with anxiety. We'd only been together about a short while, his house is barely big enough for him and his cat, let alone a second human, and there is a ten-year age difference between us; I was deathly afraid that he'd be so used to living on his own that we'd clash horribly living together.

Originally, the plan was that I'd live with my boyfriend temporarily while I look for another place. After a week or two of me moving in, he suggested that I stay with him; he figured that if we're going to take the step to live together, why live separately again. So I went from paying rent and utilities every month to helping with the mortgage and other home expenses.

There were a few things I knew would have to happen right off the bat in order to keep the peace between us. And as a result of the following tactics, we haven't had a single problem with this living situation.

Continue reading »

This Game of Thrones party snack spread should win the Iron Throne by rights

By on Apr 23rd

The most important thing that has ever happened to me, my reason for living — Game of Thrones — is back on the air. Every Sunday I get together with a group of friends and we watch the magic and the madness unfold together. Usually I just put out some cheese and crackers, with enough wine to make Cersei proud.

So imagine how huge my eyeballs got when I saw this spread show up in our Flickr pool…

Game of Thrones party snacks

I immediately begged Heather (of art nouveau boat wedding fame) to not only give me all the details, but to come to my apartment and re-create it.

If you want to make your viewing parties as epic as the show itself, here's how to pull off the perfect snack spread for your Game of Thrones viewings…

Continue reading »

Learning to fold: everything I know about laundry I learned from working shitty retail jobs

By on Apr 22nd

step7Having just finished my first year of college, the summer of 1994 found me looking to take a step up in my career. I'd spent a few months toddler-wrastling for a daycare, but really wanted to ascend to the world of retail … the cash register and lack of juice breaks made it seemed more glamorous, and I could make $6.25 an hour instead of $5.75.

I found a job at The Disney Store in downtown Seattle's then-newish Westlake Mall. I thought the job would be so much fun…I was still a big Little Mermaid fan, and I figured that my experience with children at the daycare would translate perfectly into children's retail.

My disillusionment began quickly. I had to sit through "orientation" which included two sessions watching lengthy bullshit corporate videos about synergy and the Customer Service Cycle. I was introduced to the tenets of the retail industry, the fantastically swishy sounding theory of FAB — Features And Benefits. The t-shirt is COTTON [feature] which makes it SOFT and ABSORBENT! [benefit] This stuffed Sebastian lobster doll is SAFE FOR BABIES [benefit] because it's made from NON-TOXIC NON-ABSORBENT ACETATE! [feature]

If the orientation made me wary, I was soon overwhelmed by the level of control the company exacted over me. I learned never to ask a customer a question to which they could answer "No." The question was not, "Can I help you?" but rather, "What can I help you find today?" I suppose the theory was that "Nothing" has two syllables, and that puts you at a better syllable-to-statement ratio with the customer. I'm confident many years of research have been conducted on this issue, and that it's always better if you can get a duo-syllabic rejection.

I learned how to semantically assimilate with the Disney Corporation. I was a "Cast Member," not an employee. It was the "Stage," not the store floor. It was "Backstage," not the storage room. As they are in many places now, customers were "Guests." I learned how to wear my socks appropriately (folded down neatly over the ankles, bobby-sock style) and which color of nylons to wear under my uniform of grey shorts and faux letterman's sweater.

Once, my chipper manager sent me Backstage to Windex my sneakers. "Gal," she chirped "they're looking a little dingey. You need to go clean those up Backstage!"

Continue reading »

Should I volunteer or start a job?

By on Apr 22nd
I am on my last semester of college, majoring in Art History and Pre-Law. My hope is to work in the non-profit field, specifically with grant-writing and fundraising. The problem is that this is a recent realization and I have little experience with grant-writing and volunteering.

I know that volunteering would be an amazing way to gain the experience that I need, but with graduation quickly coming and all my debt looming in the distance, I worry if I can afford it and if it's worth the risk. Then again, I have had a few professors tell me that I should get a job instead of volunteering or interning, but I worry that no one will hire me due to lack of experience.

I want so much to make a real and lasting difference, I just worry that I don't have the skills and experience to actually do it.

So my question is: should I volunteer or should I begin my job search? -Sara

Continue reading »

Be your own cheerleader against the zombies of self-doubt and celebrate your accomplishments

By on Apr 21st

Zombies of self-doubt are no match for cheerleaders. By: mczonkCC BY 2.0

You did a thing! You accomplished a goal you had set out for yourself, and it took hard work to get there. It might have been a large goal that took months or years; it might have been a smaller goal. But you can dust your hands — you achieved something!

…But now you're having trouble internalizing your accomplishment. Maybe you struggle with impostor syndrome and have trouble acknowledging when kudos and accolades from your colleagues and support network are deserved. Your self-doubt is holding you back from really feeling good about what you achieved. Or maybe, your support network isn't very supportive. If you've ever excitedly told a friend or family member about something to have them say, "Well, I knew that would happen," you might have felt a little disheartened. While it's nice that they have faith in you, they haven't exactly made you feel like celebrating. Worse yet, you don't feel comfortable enough to tell anyone at all.

You might feel that the best thing to do at this point is to brush your accomplishment aside and refocus on the next task. You might even begin to doubt that your accomplishment is worth acknowledging at all. If you succumb to the zombies of self-doubt, you risk burnout, loss of motivation, and being generally bummed out. Besides that, the zombies are really not good for your self-esteem. I struggle against them myself. Here's what I've come up with to try to help remind myself to be my own cheerleader and celebrate my accomplishments.

Continue reading »