50 Things About Jo!

The Centennial Babies are Turning 50!!!

me-on-the-blue-chairWas born in Ottawa, on one of the coldest day of the year 1967. I think the low was around -15F (-26C). The pipes froze and my then 4ish year old brother Mike woke Dad at dawn to tell him the toilet would not flush.

Speak French very very badly and very rarely. I was mocked as a child for my crappy French so I have very little confidence speaking it in public. In the 8th grade, I was publicly humiliated by a French teacher and I never recovered. Fuck you Mme. Neville. I hope you are burning in hell.

Cannot sleep with the closet door open. When I was three I saw a doll (I called him Man, he looked suspiciously like GI Joe) walk out of my closet and just stand there and stare at me. Mom explained that this was a bad dream but to this day I am convinced that this really happened because neither of my brothers had a GI Joe doll.

Hate baked beans so much they make me sick. Just the smell brings on nausea.

Worked in the call centre industry for ten years and that ruined phones for me. I like phones about as much as I like baked beans.

B cup.

Incapable of being bored. If you ever uttered the sentence “I am bored” within earshot of my parents, well, you didn’t make that mistake twice.

Have ten titanium screws in my jaw. I had corrective surgery in 1990 for a jaw problem.

Favourite fruit is not very original. I am bananas about bananas.

Am an above average swimmer which is amazing because growing up I had to take every single level of class twice and usually I was passed out of pity the second time around. When I was 15, I stopped listening to adults and got better.

Like to write. Writing books is easy. Getting people to read them is very difficult.

Runs like a spaz.

Loves Diet Coke.

I love naps. Naps are wasted on children.

Belly button is an innie.

Love pumpkin pie. I could eat it three times a day, every day, until the pumpkin pie finally kills me.

Blue is my favourite colour.

Don’t believe in scales. I believe in the existence of scales but refuse to use one. I come from stocky Irish peasant folk so I weigh at least twenty pounds more than I look and that can be really demoralizing when you step on the scale. So one day back in 1998, after way too much obsessing, I gave away my scale and have not used one since.

Prefer to write in pencil. This subversive behavior annoyed a number of teachers. They got really really upset about this trivial matter. To this day, I have no idea why. I am sure my unwillingness to conform to the world of ink is listed somewhere on my Permanent Record.

Lay my clothes out the night before. Even if the next day is a day off. I cannot stop this habit.

Not much of a drinker anymore. One day I realized, even when my life is crappy, it’s still pretty good so there is no reason to get buzzed.

Do not like hot drinks. No coffee, tea or hot chocolate. Hot drinks makes me very thirsty.

WILL NOT CARRY A PURSE. My mom made me carry one on a trip to California back in 1978 and the thing weighed more than me and the strap rubbed my neck raw. NEVER AGAIN.

Wish I had better emotional intelligence. If I were to assign a grade, I’d give myself a C+ which is not great, but there has been significant improvement. All those calls helped develop that rather under developed muscle. Will work on improving over the next 50 years.

A firm believer in karma.

Pineapple on pizza is just wrong.

Was a terrible student. Not because I didn’t try, trust me, I really tried. Just a lack of resources and support from those who should have helped me with those resources and support. Because I grew up in an environment where a teacher was never wrong and a student was always wrong, I have a strong distrust of teachers. I wish I could stop seeing them as advisories but my brain is hardwired to see them as the enemy.

Terrible at memorizing things which is why I am a dedicated list maker.

Prefer milk chocolate to dark chocolate.

Am right handed but hold a hockey stick, golf club and swing a baseball bat left handed. I hold rackets and throw a ball with my right hand. It’s like my two sides were arguing and then came to some sort of compromise.

Have a hate hate relationship with technology. If you spend most of your day exposed to broken technology, you are going to hate technology. In my case, technology does not improve my life, but makes it more expensive and aggravating.

Enjoy riding my bike around town because it makes me feel like a kid. I don’t really ride for fitness but as a way to get from point A to point B. Getting fit doing this is just a bonus.

Am afraid of snakes. I get the willies just looking at a picture of a snake.

My minimalism lifestyle is 50% living simply, 50% not making a lot of money.

Clutter makes me very anxious. That’s why I am a neat freak. I seethe in anger when other people’s clutter and disorganization wastes my time.

Took my driver’s test twice. I had a raging flu the first time and when I think about it, I had no business being behind the wheel of a car.

Never met anyone who I like enough to share my quirks. Insults, slights and systematic mean spiritedness has destroyed any confidence. Giving me a pep talk is not going to help. It’s my own private battle to sort out.

Read about a 100 books a year. For some reason people think this is too much. To that, I say it’s not enough. And fuck you.

Love dogs but love poodles the most!

My favorite movie is Plesantville.

Sleep commando unless it’s really cold out and my apartment is chilly.

Sleep on my side. With 4 pillows.

Start every day with a cryptogram (code breaking puzzle).

Once saw an elephant go for a swim at Dow’s Lake. I was riding home from a summer job back in 1990 (alas before the days of digital cameras and smart phones). The circus was in town for the Ex and it was very hot and humid so the handlers took the elephant to Dow’s Lake for a dip. I have no idea if the circus treated their animals well or not, but at that moment, I saw one really happy elephant.

Am sensitive to grapes. Ate a ton of them when I was five and threw up many times. Since then, never been much of a fan. Fermented grapes, as in wine, makes me very sick so I don’t drink wine.

Practically tone deaf. Had to take a hearing test to be eligible for band in junior high (more students than instruments) and I managed to fail it four times. After I failed the first test, I had no interest in taking the test again but forces beyond my control intervened and I am pretty sure I got progressively worse with each test. Not because I didn’t care. Okay, a little because I didn’t care, but the anxiety of the test made me an emotional wreck.

Had ballet lessons for six, six very long years. To turn me into a girlie girl. This particular project failed.

Have a profound sense of loss over the fact that I have not been able to establish a career. Just an adulthood filled with, low paying, unfulfilling, stressful jobs. Not from lack of trying but just a lack of resources and opportunities. If you live on a single income, there comes a time when you have to swallow your pride and take a crappy job so you have some source of income and then try and find something else while you are working at the crappy job.

Was a witness to an armed robbery. Back in 1981, I was at Merivale Mall and waiting for Dad to pick me up when two men ran into the Dominion store waving guns. I was about 30 feet away from the entrance and I slowly backed into another store and stood behind a rack of bags. The robbers were apprehended about 40 minutes later. They’d been out of Milhaven penitentiary for all of six weeks. You got to wonder if they were incompetent or just homesick.

Tapioca is my favourite pudding.

We’re Here Because We’re Here


This weekend is very different in places like St. John’s, Bradford, Edinburgh, Belfast and other small and large towns all over the Colonies. July 1 2016, marks the centennial of the first day of the Battle of the Somme. It was the worse day in the history of the British Army, 57,470 casualties in one day where 19,240 men were killed.

The Newfoundland Regiment sent 721 men over the top that day at Beaumont Hamel and by day’s end, 619 were listed as wounded, killed or missing in action. About 91 men trickled in over the next few days, many too wounded to rejoin the battle.

And there were 140 more days to go, but nobody knew that on July 1st 1916.

So while many of us in Canada and the US enjoy a long weekend of parades, sweet treats and fireworks, take a few moments to reflect on the extraordinary effort and sacrifices made on this day and more days to come.

Is Minimalism Different on a Lower Income?


I have been trying to figure out the answer to this question for weeks now and I keep going back and forth and then I told myself, dammit make a decision. I scanned the internet reading about other people’s minimalism journeys and I couldn’t fully relate to some of the articles and videos because their lifestyle is just so different from mine.

It’s hard to fit me into a specific demographic because statically I am not like people in my age group. My peers have homes, vehicles, cluttered garages, spouses, pets, children (and even grandchildren). I live alone, in a small apartment with few assets.

The Job
My job is confusing to many. I work as a cleaner and I like it. I have a routine, the days fly by, and I provide a valuable service and everyone is very friendly. I am pretty well paid thanks to our collective bargaining agreement. I went to school, learned a craft, but the job market tanked and my industry crashed and burned and never recovered. There are those who loathe that I do work that is perceived as beneath my white middle class upbringing but the very same people are very much out of touch of the realities of finding well paying meaningful employment in a global economy. It’s complicated, a little cut-throat and extremely demanding. The stress of my old job was going to shave years off my life but working as a cleaner probably has added years to my life because the job keeps me fit and is very low stress. As much as I like my job, I cannot ignore the fact that I don’t make as much money as other people and since I live alone, I don’t have the flexibility of a two-income household. I have no debt and some savings stashed away but this didn’t come easy. I have to work at it and living with less, certainly helped me achieve that goal.

There are, of course, many things about living a minimalistic life that are universal no matter how much or how little you earn. A life with less crap means less time and energy spent on physical and mental clutter. It helps you prioritizes your needs and wants and gives you the freedom to value experiences and people over material possessions.

Like everything in life, you can’t really ignore the subject of money. It’s just there. I can’t speak for everyone on a lower income, but this is how minimalism is for me.

I’ve never made a lot of money so that means I’ve never been able to accumulate things. There has never been an excess of clutter piling up in a house, garage, storage locker, because there’s no house, no garage, and certainly no extra money to store things at a storage facility. I won’t lie, it can be frustrating to someone who has to monitor their budget constantly to read about people who mindlessly shopped in the past and then have to sell items at a loss to gain control over their clutter. I want to say what the fuck where you thinking? You spent good money on [gadget/toy/novelty item] and used it for a week and then abandoned it to the back of the closet. Do you think money grows on trees?
Nevertheless, I imagine if you are more secure financially, you don’t think about it as much. A wasted $100 might not be a big deal to someone who has an income of $80,000 but a big deal for someone with an income of $30,000.

Fewer Choices, More Decisions
I have fewer options for things which helps me practice minimalism. Many things are unavailable due to my budget (i.e., cable TV, cell phone plan, gym membership, gadgets) so I don’t have to worry about them sucking away any mental energy. I have to say with fewer options, life is considerably less complicated. If you don’t have a cell phone bill, then you don’t have to fret about the cell phone bill every month. If you don’t have the gadget in the first place, you don’t worry about the gadget breaking, being stolen or becoming obsolete exactly 15 seconds after you walked out of the store. Having fewer spending choices result in the freedom from material possessions that minimalism preaches. I do find it maddening when people say “but for only $25 more…” Folks, there is no $25 more. That’s not true, there is the $25 but that would mean either going into to debt or not putting money toward my savings.

I don’t feel as if I am missing out, but I do have to be creative with my choices and decide how to prioritize things. Yes, I can go to the event but I can’t also go out for a meal after. It’s the event or the meal. Not both. I can do spending activity A this week but not participate in spending activity B next week because I know I have to get my haircut or visit the dentist or replace something that has worn out. I may have to cut a night short because I need to catch the bus rather than take a cab home. I still read the bestseller, I just have to wait for the book to come in at the library. I build stuff instead of buying stuff because it’s cheaper (it’s also fun).

So to answer my own question, minimalism is different on a lower income. That’s neither good or bad, just different. Minimalism is a lifestyle that encourages the benefits of less and each person has their own definition of what level of less makes them happy. My experiences are just a different slice of the minimalism pie. A smaller slice because pie doesn’t grow on trees you know.

Writing About Writing

writing-girlI made more than a few mistakes in the last 15 months when it came to my writing career.

I didn’t take my work very seriously and subsequently nobody else did. When asked about my books, I would get all shy about it and say the books are silly light fiction and ramble a bit about the plot and people would generally nod politely and change the subject.  I think I gave people the impression that this was a hobby or a passing fancy and not a job.

It is a job.

Now, if someone asks me of my weekend plans I say in my most confident voice, “when I’m not cleaning offices, I write books and sell them on Amazon.”   This gets people’s attention. All positive. People associate me more as a writer at work than a cleaner.  Fake it ‘til you make and all that.

The great thing about the advent of e-books is that anyone can write and format a book and put it online. The drawback to such an accomplishment is that people still associate self publish with amateur shit.   I wish I had a way to kill this misconception but I don’t.

In all my books the characters are always searching for insight (the characters in my book are much smarter than me and really have their shit together) but I fear I have no insight about my writing except that I produce an excellent product at a fair price.

That’s why I just keep typing away.

My Second and Third Week Without A Car

I sold my car this week and as an added bonus, I got a ca$h refund back on my apartment parking spot.

More Learnin’

vintage-me-bkingMore Biking!
I bike to work (15km round trip) then walk all day at work (2-4km), then bike home. Another extra 2-5km a day was manageable even though I was a wee bit grumpy by Friday night. The weather was unusually warm so that made things easier, but twice I had to pickup/return a car in heavy winds and when you are tired at the end of the day (I have a physically demanding job), the last thing you want to do is battle heavy winds while riding up a hill. Unfortunately not all the cars in my area are easily accessible by public transit (I know, irony) so I am biking to pickup/return the car. Once I buy a monthly bus pass, things will be a lot easier as far as getting to a car. There are three cars right on my bus route and that is a major route and the buses run frequently.

Better Planning!
I consider myself a good planner but I didn’t take into account some of the expansion going on (for the next three years) with the transit system and the trip to pick up the cheque for my car took hours. And, the battery in my phone ran dry so I could not read my ebook.  I had no book to read while on public transit. The horror.

Despite a grocery list, I forgot a few items and had to go back again on my bike. I forgot to buy eggs so I had to be extra careful when I biked home this afternoon. I also managed to forget to buy tortillas, not once, but twice. I’ll get them on the way home from work on Monday.

It takes me about 90 minutes to buy two weeks worth of groceries. I never can get them all at the same store. Luckily, the three stores I shop at the most are near each other. It takes me about 15 minutes to get all the groceries upstairs to my apartment. Someone abandoned a shopping cart last night in the loading bay of my building and that made things much easier.

Spent Less!
Since getting to a store required more planning and effort, I didn’t go to the store much which saved me money. This week, a pair of pajamas fell apart and I was going to replace them but then I decided just out of plain laziness just to see if I can manage with the ones I had. If I had a car, I’d probably would have zipped by the store and bought another pair without thinking too much about it.

Final Thoughts
I learned it’s much easier to sign up to give away your money, usually one step, but getting rid of a service, seems to require many steps to get a refund.

Like any process, there will be mistakes learning opportunities, but I think all of the difficult challenges are behind me. If anything, I will be fitter and richer.

My Week Without A Car

blue-carI know, not a lot of activity in the last year. I wrote four books so that took up a wee bit of time.

So I went a week without a car.

It sucked. But it will get easier.

My car died on Friday and while not unexpected, the timing was bad because I had a few car related errands to run. That’s how I discovered the car was dead. I got into the car to run those errands last week and the battery was dead. A battery that no longer holds a charge, failing brakes, a small exhaust leak and the need for new tires are just the things I know about. It’s not practical for me to keep the ten year old car running when I hardly drive it.

The Good
I rode my bike to work and I did all my “don’t have to carrying anything heavy” errands on the bike. Trips to the bank, library, hardware store and chiropractor were easy errands.  I mainly use my car for trips in lousy weather and for groceries. If pressed, I can go other places on foot or via public transit.

The Bad
The car dying was unexpected which meant I could not get my no car infrastructure in place. I have a bike trailer but I was storing it at my brother’s place and it got packed up when he moved to Europe and I have no access to the storage unit.  I have a folding grocery cart that is falling apart. The wheels keep popping off which is not a huge deal in the parking lot of my apartment building because I can fix it, but the possibility of a broken cart is disaster in the making when using the bus.

I managed to do all my errands on my bike this week up until about two hours ago, when my back tire went pffff. Again. The second flat tire in three weeks. So I had to finish my errands on foot, pushing my bike and carrying groceries. Grumpiness ensued.

The most difficult thing for me was groceries. I probably spent four hours this week doing groceries. I live about 5km (round trip) from the grocery store and it’s a two bus ride so it’s faster and easier to bike.  I had to carry everything on my back and milk crate on the back of the bike, which was more annoying that difficult. Straps digging into you and sudden shifts can affect your balance.  I also got caught in the rain once. More grumpiness.

I don’t like buying a few groceries here and there just because the grocery store is not on my way home or close by. If I lived a few blocks from the store, then I would buy a few days worth of groceries.  I prefer to buy two weeks worth of food in one 90 minute errand. Without a car, what took me four hours this week, netted me half my food for the week, and, well, took four hours. Also, with a car, if a store is sold out of a particular item, I can get it somewhere else fairly easy.  It was irritating that my choices were limited. I had to balance less choice with get on the bike again and bike to another store to find the item.

How I am Going to Get Around?
I joined the car share in my city! My application to the car sharing service was delayed because of a glitch getting my driver’s abstract (driver record). I hoped to have access to a car this weekend but alas, not until next week.  There is a car about a ten minute walk away and another one near the bus station I use when I ride the bus.  I can also book online 24/7 with a PC or smartphone.  Right now, not including maintenance, my 2005 Toyota Echo hatchback costs me this:

Insurance = $66/month (I live in Ontario)
Gas = $30/month
Parking = $40/month (I know, crazy that I pay more for parking than gas!)
Total $136/month

I don’t think I will spend more than $30/month on the car share so that’s an extra $100+ in my pocket each month. Sadly, last winter I was paying the cost of car ownership and a $100/month for a bus pass (parking is very expensive at work). I think I can still bike some days in November and then come December 1st, I’ll have to buy a monthly bus pass. Boo!

All in all, I am up about $100 a month.

What I Learned
Doing errands, especially in cooler temperatures, takes a bit of planning.  Lots of layers and Kleenex for sniffles.
It’s not all or nothing. You can still live without a car but still use a car. You can join the car share, rent a car or use a ride service if you feel comfortable about your safety using that type of service.
I managed to get stuff done this week without any access to a car. Next week I will have access to a car (based on availability) and this means the hard part is over and the added bonus is that I don’t have to worry about insurance, maintenance and parking!

A Big Shot

big-shot-ideaI wonder if things would be different if I was an executive, a leader, rich, powerful, A Big Shot.

Would people return my calls promptly instead of not at all?

Would I move to the front of the line?

Would I have to repeat myself less because people pay attention to the wisdom and brilliance of a Big Shot?

Would people lie less to me cause they are a little afraid of the repercussions of misinformation?

Would my quirks and idiosyncrasies be touted as innovative and cutting edge?


Perhaps it’s time to treat everyone like a Big Shot?