Wednesday, June 30, 2010

A Reason to Win Friends

A couple months ago, I set a goal for myself to look for some way to do something for someone else everyday. In doing so I have learned that service is great; it makes me feel happier, it makes other people happier, and it wins you friends. This however, is not the reason I'm blogging about it; I'm not writing an online Sunday School lesson. Although that would also be cool.

Doing service is great because with the accumulation of friends, the wheel can turn back on you. Case and point:

You are walking home from the train station on your way back from school; on your way to work. As you walk to your car you start digging around in your purse and realize your keys are not there. Nervously you approach your car, wondering if they're in there but secretly hoping they are in your backpack even though you never put them there.

Yep, you guessed it; they're in the car. You can even see your lanyard hanging out the driver's door where you probably dropped them when you got out. So you call home, and see if anyone can come to your rescue with a spare key. You call your mother's cell and your sister's cell. No answer.

You phone your father's work and speak to his receptionist; with whom you used to work - and ask if you dad drove to work today. He biked, and the office is crazy busy. Not wanting to be a bother, you say you'll figure it out.

Two minutes later she calls back and asks if you're okay. You explain and she tries to figure out a way to rescue you until your cell phone dies. You are at your church, where you park everyday and save three dollars. It just so happens that as your cell phone dies, a friend from church walks out to his car and sees you there. He asks if you're okay. Once the situation is explained to him, he offers to drive you to your dad's work to see if he has a key. He even offers to drive you back if you find one.

Your dad has no key, so you thank your friend and send him on his way. He is, after all, on the way to the jewellery store with his fiancee. You call home again and reach your sister; who's having a sick day. She grabs a key and says she'll come get you, but calls back a few minutes later to say she doesn't have a car.

Well, that's it. You've dried up all possible resources for rescue on a Monday afternoon. You call a taxi and let your work know you will be late. You are not looking forward to paying cab fare.

Your plan is to have the cab take you home, grab a key, and drive to your car. You call home to ask your sister to have a key ready. Who should answer but your mother! She just walked in the door and immediately goes out to the car to come rescue you and save you cab fare. As she drives you back to your car, she thanks you for giving her a service opportunity.

You see? By doing service and acquiring friends you can, in turn, help your friends give service back. I helped so many people be charitable yesterday. I should be so proud of myself.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The Roadkill Burger

It's occurred to me that I don't blog much about my school. I do this mainly because there is not a lot of interesting stories to tell about paralegal school. However, this is a lesson of blogworthy proportion. In fact, it has been so for quite some time, I just haven't gotten around to posting it.

A few weeks ago, I was still in my Business Communication class. You remember, the one where they taught me what a noun was? Well in the last week of this class, they went over correct methods for writing business letters that are turning people down; the diplomatic no. My teacher explained it like this:

"Your letter should be a like a hamburger made out of roadkill. The main content is unpleasant, but it's surrounded by cheese, tomato, pickles, and special sauce, so you don't even notice that it's disgusting. Cushion the no with lots of other good stuff; let them down easy."

While this metaphor brings up a variety of disgusting mental pictures, it has stuck with me more than anything else I learned in that course. It was even interesting enough for me to talk about it outside of class; on the way to work with my sister Janine.

Neen thought this metaphor and business practice was as exciting as I did. Seriously, who doesn't want to learn how to say a diplomatic no? She told me the Roadkill Burger is a great skill not only in the business world, but would also come in handy in my personal life.

"If ever you get proposed to by letter to someone you do not want to marry, you know how to say no," she pointed out.

While I doubt this will ever be a problem I will face, the idea was intriguing nonetheless. So intriguing, that one day, when I finished my assigned letter early, I did an extra practice and sent it to Janine. Now I have decided to share it with you, and hopefully you can learn a little something about the Roadkill Burger too.

June 2, 2010

Edmund Bertram

123 Notmytype Way

Lives-Somewhere-Hot-And Won't-Move

Dear Mr. Bertram:

Thank you for your kind offer. I admire your boldness and the way in which you express yourself; you most certainly have a way with words. I understand your desire for matrimony. It truly is a very desireable goal, and I admire your meticulous search for high quality.

As part of my personal values, I have taken on very high standards in the kind of men I review as marital candidates. In 2002 I made an official list of these qualifications that has become a standard of quality I continually strive towards. While this list is not available for public consumption, its standards are expected to be present in successful applicants' demeanor without their knowledge. Universal female policy dictates that I do not lower these predetermined standards beyond the phrase "close enough" as this could compromise my own state of happiness.

Your application has been given serious consideration, and I am again flattered by your proposal. However, your application has fallen short of the strict "close enough" policy. Should you still be in pursuit of a wife in the near area, I can offer you suggestions of women who may more fully suit your criteria. Please let me know if you would be interested; I would be more than happy to recommend a different candidate.

I appreciate your interest in me. If you would like to maintain our current relationship, I would be happy to remain pen pals.

Sincerely yours,

Elena Redd

Wife Candidate

NOTE: If you're wondering about the reasoning behind the name choice of my rejected paramour, click here.

Sunday, June 27, 2010


I have sort have been aware my whole life that I am a little bit sheltered and a lot naive. This is pointed out to me when people discover that I have no idea what vodka really is, when I don't know that weed, cannabis and pot are all the same thing, and when I make assumptions such as:

"Well of course everyone goes to church on Sunday. That's what you mean when you say the stereotypical Sunday activity, right? What else would people do? Play golf? Oh, never mind."

I am pretty sure that since high school, people have been giving me that condescending shake of their head, smiling to themselves and saying:

"Oh, Elena, you are such an innocent."

I have never seen this as a bad thing, in fact, I'm rather proud of it. I never thought that it was in any way holding me back. Until recently, when I discovered it could affect my work.

This past week, I was training for my new job as a weight loss coach. I learned a lot about nutritionals, weight loss, and motivational tools. Friday afternoon, my trainee group was divided up into pairs and asked to practice advising each other through various stumbling blocks clients have. The scenario we started with was a client who is doing well, but is concerned that she might slip up going to girl's night with a bunch of her friends later that week.

In our role play, my partner stepped right into her role; sharing plenty of personal details (as we learned clients are prone to do), and discussing where she was going, what she was doing, and the fact that chippendales will be present. To me, chippendale sounds like a kind of corn chip, to most people, it is a male stripper. So naturally, as a practicing weight loss coach, I ask my "client" if she's concerned about the chippendales.

My partner gives me a look of confusion, and then bursts out laughing. Still not sure what's so funny about corn chips, I stare back at her for a minute before I realize what my possible mistake is. I then explain that my idea of a girls night is eating junk food and painting my toenails, that when I go out for a night on the town I typically go to diners and if I'm feeling dangerous I order Coke, and then I politely ask what a chippendale is.

She explains, I turn bright red, she says she has never thought to worry about men who take their clothes off for a living, and we move on, but not before the signature head shake, smile and the endearing phrase; "you are so cute," said as if I were five years old.

Has anyone else ever had such fabulous luck with guessing word definitions?

Thursday, June 24, 2010

The Fizzling Out of Fantasy's Familiar Tunes . . .Or Not

I'm part of the this online writer's community called Absolute Write. I go there from time to time to see what other writer's are saying, see if anyone has solutions to writing problems I have, and because I am always mildly entertained by people who get on cyberspace soapboxes. Myself inlcuded.

A couple weeks ago, I came across a discussion board arguing how terrible fantasy fiction is. The initial post went on a tirade about how fantasy is dead because everything has been done before. The several posts that followed vehemently argued either side of the discussion. Some agreed that we have seen far too many stories where a lowly farm boy goes on an adventure to save the world, where a mythical object can destroy or save the world, or where an ordinary child gets sent to a magical school.

Others argued that several writers have been able to revive certain ideas in fantasy with new twists. Case and point: Stephenie Meyer. Whether or not you are a Twihard, she revived vampire fiction, made it cool again, and opened up the market to be saturated so we could all get sick of pale-faced, bloodsucking creatures of the night all over again. People making these arguments also suggested that those opposed to fantasy could simply read something else. This was the best and most rational comment I have ever read on the Water Cooler.

As a writer of fantasy, I was a little concerned about this issue. Am I heading into an industry that is just beating a dead horse? The more I think about it though, the more convinced I become that fantasy is still alive and kicking. Here is my thesis:

I read somewhere that there is nothing new in fiction except talent. We've all seen it before. Most authors follow traditional plot formulas and add new tricks like sparkly vampires or a new take on what happened to Elvis. For me, the experience of reading was never about finding something brand spanking new, it was about being entertained and escaping reality for a few hours.

As a kid, I knocked on the back of wardrobes and suffered severe disappointment on my eleventh birthday when no one invited me to Hogwarts (or the Candian equivalent). These things happened not because I waqs so enamoured with CS Lewis and JK Rowling (especially Rowling), but because both had created a world I wanted to explore, I kept reading. I will never grow tired of fantasy because there will always be new talent out there writing a different world, and whether or not they put in a love triangle, turn their protagonist into a twit or kill off my favourite character, I am always going to be finding things I love in those repeated fantasy cliches.

So let me pose a question: is fantasy dead? More importantly, why do you read fiction? What does it hold for you? Why do you repeatedly pick up stories when you can guess how it will end?

For writer's wanting to see what Absolute Write is all about, click here.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The Procrastination Parable

I just started a new job yesterday. Part of said job includes going in every afternoon this week and training after school. I have been in the job hunting market for a long time, and was just plain relieved when I finally found one, so I was very determined this weekend that I was going to get everything right and be a model employee from day one.

Unfortunately that concept registered in my brain but not in my actions. Late last week I was sent by e-mail a series of documents to read over and fill out before I started training on Monday. This was especially relevent as my new employer is allowing me to miss morning training for school. Naturally I forgot about these documents until Sunday evening, at which point I discovered something very interesting; my printer wasn't working.

This is a dilemma. While my printer is, at it's best, sporadic in dependability, it usually likes at least one of the laptops in my house and I can print off someone else's computer. On Sunday the printer was angry at everybody. Not knowing what else to do, I decided I would print off said documents at school the next morning.

7:55 Monday morning - I arrive at school and try to print the first document, only to discover that the network is down. In an act of desperation, I called my dad's receptionist and asked her to print them off for me. She's happy to help, but this means I now have to take the train to the northwest, drive to my dad's office, pick up paperwork, and then drive to South Calgary to the center where I am being trained. This becomes even more delightful on the drive home as I'm hitting rush hour traffice the entire trip; hence the desire to take the train in the first place. Think of all that reading time I missed out on.

In actuality, I sang along with my iPod the entire trek home and arrived there with a sore throat. Also, I was the only person who arrived with their paperwork done; most people were just glancing through theirs when I got there. Some are handing it in today and no one cares.

Let this be a lesson to me: procrastination is stressful, causes unnecessary side trips, and is all around bad. But it does make me look like a fabulous teacher's pet.