Five Ways to Really Help Someone Who’s Been Laid Off

Downtown Chicago. Photo credit: my husband
Downtown Chicago. Photo credit: my husband

With the unemployment rate in Calgary hovering around 8.5%, lots of people are looking for work, including myself and my husband.  This is not a place either of us, at this time in our lives (we are in our 50’s) would have ever thought we’d find ourselves.

What’s said and done by family and friends, while well-meaning,  are often less than helpful.  Advice-giving, sending public job postings from various job search websites, not taking the time to really understand what type of job the person is looking for, or even what they do for a living, and saying things like “I don’t understand why he / she can’t find a job”, are all examples of things that don’t help.

Here are five things that might:

  1.  Take the person who’s been laid off out for coffee.  This is likely a treat they have cut back on to save money.  Being at home and unemployed is isolating.
  2. Ask the person exactly what they do for a living, what type of job they are looking for, and keep your ear to the ground for upcoming opportunities in your company – or other companies and people you are connected with –  before they are published on Workopolis, Indeed, or other job search websites.
  3. Give them a gift card for a movie or a restaurant.  Again, this is something that the one who’s laid off hasn’t been doing to save money.
  4. Think of any projects you have on the go at your home that you could hire your friend or family member to help with such as lawn care, snow removal, renovations, etc.
  5. Now that summer is here and the kids are out of school, child care to attend interviews, networking events, job fairs, etc. could be difficult to obtain and / or costly. If able to, offer to provide child care gratis so those seeking employment can attend important events.

I daresay any of the items on this list would make a real difference to your laid off friend or family member.  I know they would to us.

Five Ways Wasps are Like People



We have been dealing with a wasp infestation in our home.  They had built a nest in a small opening at the place where the roof and chimney meet and were getting into the home through the fireplace.  The fireplace is located in our family room in the basement.  The family room has no door but the wasps were staying mostly in the basement.   Once I found out where these creatures were getting in at, I contacted a pest control company. I found out how good I was at multi-tasking and thinking under pressure:  I’m on the phone with the pest control company, phone in one hand, and a can of Raid in the other, spraying the wasps as they came out of the fireplace.

As the pest control company couldn’t come out until the following Monday, I was able to seal off the room using some poly plastic wrap & duct tape.  (Ok wasps, I thought, you can have this space and we will take the rest).

I suffered one sting, my first sting ever.  I did react with flu like symptoms and congestion; however I was allergy tested last week and I am not allergic.

It took two applications of chemical to finally get rid of all the wasps.  My husband climbed on the roof and caulked the areas where they were getting in.  This weekend, approximately three weeks later, we were finally able to “take back our family room”.

(This reads so calmly; in reality I was pretty freaked out and it felt like something out of a horror movie.  Hearing that buzzing behind the fireplace glass was quite unsettling).

It got me thinking, though, that there are certain commonalities between wasps and humans:

  1. Wasps attack when they are out of their element (I was stung by one that was in our family room).  When humans are out of their comfort zone, they can do the same thing.
  2. Wasps attack when they feel threatened or their nest is threatened. If someone is threatening us or our nest, we want to attack too.
  3. Wasps are territorial.
  4. The queen rules the nest. Often, the woman is in charge of the home.
  5. I asked the owner of the pest control company why the wasps were crawling on the floor.  He told me they were confused, I guess because they were out of their natural environment.  Don’t people also experience some sense of confusion when in an unfamiliar place?

I guess wasps have a role to play in nature and apparently they do help pollinate but seriously, God, what were you thinking when you created them?

Five Businesses That Prosper During a Recession



Not every business is losing money during the recession Alberta (and other parts of the country) are having.  I’m betting these businesses are doing okay for themselves:

  1. Shoe repair places – People who are economizing will opt to get shoes, handbags, belts, etc. repaired rather than replaced with pricey new alternatives.
  2. In a similar vein, those who alter clothing for a living may see an uptick in their business as consumers choose to have clothing “re-imagined” rather than buy their new expensive counterparts. If the consumer has lost a great deal of weight, having their existing clothing taken in is cheaper than purchasing new. [I can attest to this from personal experience having lost almost 50 lbs. My husband’s lost about 30 lbs.  Getting our clothes altered vs. buying new has saved us a bundle.  My husband’s Tommy Hilfiger t-shirts, for example, would be easily $50 each CAD to re-buy new. Alterations came to just $20.00/shirt.]
  3. Dollar stores, thrift and second hand retailers and discount food emporiums – As consumers search for the best deals possible for the necessities of life, as well as clothing and furniture, retailers in this category likely see an increase their profits.
  4. Campgrounds – vacationers select camping as the low-cost alternative to pricey fly/hotel –based getaways.
  5. Home renovation stores – homeowners opt to do their own repairs and renovations rather than higher expensive contractors to do the same (know your limits – some jobs are best left to the professionals such as plumbing, gasfitting and electrical). For example we had to re-do our deck this year – the wood was so rotted out, it had become a safety issue. The cost of doing it ourselves, even with hiring my husband’s nephew to help, was around $3,000.00.  A professional would have likely cost between $5,000 and $10,000.00.

Sadly there are also businesses such as gold buyers, and pawn shops, who profit off the misery of others.

I’m no economist so I may be off in these predictions, but this makes sense to me.

Now That’s Ironic

irony meter


Since last spring, I’ve been on a journey to try and improve my health by eating better,  and exercising more often.  Fifty percent of my diet is now fruits and vegetables, with protein and grainy carbohydrates rounding out the rest.  As a result, I’ve lost 30 pounds.

My quality of sleep improved in 2013 when I started using a CPAP machine for sleep apnea.

I got the flu shot as I do every year.

I have never had a sicker winter.  It’s been one virus after another. I am now on my third virus (head cold, mostly in my ears). My immune system clearly sucks.

Irony, you are a bitch.

Quit While You’re Ahead

Obtained under creative commons licence attribution: "Television" by Vande Walle Ewoud
Obtained under creative commons licence attribution: “Television” by Vande Walle Ewoud

Here’s a story of a man named John Q. Public.

John Q. Public drops cable/satellite tv because of ridiculous costs, and joins Netflix, subscribes to Apple TV and/or finds other ingenious ways to get content into his home.

At first, the Canadian networks offer their content online for free, until big telecom buys them (Bell owns CTV , Shaw owns Global TV, and Rogers owns City TV. The Canadian government owns CBC network, but since no one watches it anyways, likely there’s little threat to revenues!)

After Big Telecom buys the networks, and indeed purchases most of the cable channels such as HGTV, John Q. can only watch their content online if you have a cable account. (CTV is one exception – according to their website content is online for seven days after first being posted. However, to watch archived content online, you must log in with your subscriber account).

Costs to have cable and/or satellite TV continue to skyrocket.

John Q. Public sighs, figures out a way to get American Netflix from Canada –believing the internet should be borderless—blocks his IP address and streams and downloads more. (If the CRTC is going to block content at the border, why not block violent pron? Just saying…)

More loss of cable subscribers ensue. (I can only surmise Telus Optik TV was a dismal failure, perhaps because if you had it, you changed to a dynamic IP address and thus lost the ability to stream due to no static IP address).

John Q. Public rolls his eyes, makes popcorn, and now nearly all John Q’s content is now streamed and downloaded. He buys a digital antenna to watch the local news.

One of Big Telecomm (Telus, but can Shaw be far behind?) latest moves is to charge for excessive data use, as if trying to get account holders coming and going.

John Q. rolls his eyes once again and ditches Big Telecomm and switches providers, perhaps to a company like this.

The takeaway? John Q. will find a way to get their content as cheaply as possible and, for every roadblock Big Telecomm tries to put up, some industrious entrepreneur will find a work around.

Big Telecomm should quit while they are ahead.

What I Wish I Knew (When I Graduated From High School)


I’ve accepted that gauntlet thrown down by our pastor to speak at our church’s graduation night this Friday, a night where we honor our high school grads. This year, there’s one high school grad. However, at my behest, we are also honoring our three class of 2014 university grads (of which I’m one).   The university grads have been asked to speak on “what I wish I knew when I graduated from high school”.

This is my speech:

Back when I graduated from high school…

  •  Dinosaurs roamed the earth
  • Apple was just a piece of fruit
  • An “I-Pad” was something you put on your eye if it hurt
  • Personal cassette tape players were all the rage
  • And a cell phone was what you used only if you were arrested!

Graduation from high school, for me, was a hard place to land. I was 17. My foster parents were moving to the US. I was not. Panicked, I married the guy I was dating. I was frightened of the future, and self-preservation kicked in; I needed someone to look after me. (Our marriage ended in divorce four years later). I only share this to provide a bit of context.

Five things I wish I’d known when I graduated from High School:

  • God is a god of grace, love and forgiveness – not just rules.
  • A high school diploma does not a great job make.
  • Career testing – at least the kind I had – is not terribly accurate or useful.
  • A teacher or guidance counsellor taking me under their wing and giving, well, guidance would have been extremely helpful.
  • Apple and Microsoft would achieve world domination. (Apple’s first stock offering was in Dec., 1980, just 1.5 years after I graduated. Microsoft’s followed in 1986.) Honey, we could have been rich!

[name of graduate], in the words of that learned scholar, Dr. Seuss:

Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind, don’t matter and those who matter, don’t mind.

And, one final thought from Teddy Roosevelt:

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat. Theodore Roosevelt

I think what Roosevelt’s saying with that quote [name of graduate], is simply: GO FOR IT. Whatever you choose to do, you’ve a soft place to land with your family always, in success and in failure. If I’d had a soft place to land when I graduated from high school, who knows what I might have accomplished?

Too Much Trouble


We went to our good friends’ cottage for Sunday/Monday. We took our 5th wheel and parked it in their drive way.  I require an electrical plug in because of my CPAP machine.

Plugging in the 5th wheel into their outdoor plug required a bit of finagling. I’m not sure what wasn’t working but eventually whatever was wrong, got fixed.

Watching this play out, I began to feel all uncomfortable inside.  I apologized for being “high maintenance.”

Shortly thereafter, as we’d arrived around lunchtime, we started talking about eating and I stated something to the effect of my body is on a bit of a schedule, eating wise.  A lunch was quickly assembled for the adults in the group.

About this time, I was feeling quite anxious and nervous about these two events.  Later in the afternoon I started to relax.

On the way home from the weekend, I started to wonder why I felt all these uncomfortable, anxious feelings.

I think I got it. The story I figure I ended up telling myself as a child, getting moved around from foster home to foster home every 6 months – 2 years or so, was “I was too much trouble.”  So, somewhere along the way, I vowed not to be too much trouble.  Not too much trouble looked like:  not asking for anything, helping out as much as possible, being agreeable.

You see, as a child if I wasn’t too much trouble then:

 I won’t be changing foster homes, someone will love me, keep me, like me.

Yesterday, I cried for that little girl.

 As an adult, if I’m not too much trouble:

I’ll be a welcome guest, a good employee, a good friend, a good girlfriend, a good wife, someone will love me,keep me, accept me and like me.

 [On the flip side, If I’m not too much trouble I’m also someone who can’t ask for what she needs and gets taken advantage of and even abused.]

It’s funny how these situations this weekend acted as a bit of a trigger.

I’ve done much better over the years at asking for what I need [my husband would say I have NO problem asking stating very strongly to him what I need] but every so often. “don’t be too much trouble”  rears its ugly head.