Thursday, July 31, 2008

no money, mo' problems

I finally got my backside to the gym today.  All I did was 20 minutes of cardio & some abs but man, I feel like a rock star!  I've got endorphins runnin' all through me.  I really need to go there more often - not just for the obvious benefits but for the sheer amusement!  Between the untrimmed hedges in the ladies' changeroom to the juice pigs working out 1 muscle group to the dexters working up the courage to pick up some unsuspecting chick on the elliptical trainer, it's pure entertainment.  In case you were wondering, I love to people watch.  You can find out so much about a person just by observing their mannerisms.  Good times!

Saturday's Lotto 6/49 jackpot is $36 million dollars.  Betcha ten pennies you got yourself a ticket, eh?  I sure as hell did!  The way I see it, it's just more government cheese but more refined; I'm currently receiving Velveeta whereas now I have a chance to dine on fine French brie with crudités.  Sometimes I catch myself daydreaming about what would it be like to be $36 million dollars richer than I am now.   (cue the dream sequence)

What would you do with $36 million other than the given (pay off bills, etc etc etc)?  I'd pee my pants then pass out.  After I come to and clean myself up, I'd go out for dinner.  The thought of all that dough is quite daunting, now that I think about it.  I'm sure all kinds of characters would come out of the woodwork looking for a hookup - not gonna happen!  They can crawl right back where they came from.

Do we see the lottery as a means to escape the humdrum of our daily lives?  I've seen executives making six figures play the lottery.  What the blank, eh?   That's sheer greediness in my opinion.  Maybe they could use the winnings to import their latest nanny from God-knows where and buy that house in the Hamptons just to be part of that 'crowd'.  Cha.  The Hamptons and places like it are for later - all they are is a big swordfight to see which person has the biggest, widest... property.  We all dream about how our lives would be so much easier with all that dough.  We wouldn't have to worry about finances ever again.  Our kids would never have to worry about finances ever again.   We could do all the things we always dreamed of doing.  Would it be easier, though?  Biggie said "mo' money, mo' problems".  Somehow I do believe that's true.

A few years back this guy in Nebraska won $314 million in the Powerball lottery.  He was head of a contracting firm and had a decent life.  After electing a $170 million cash payout, he ended up with $114 million after taxes.  Next came what would make a great reality TV show - wife left him, DUIs, lawsuits... all kinds of tomfoolery!  For the record, if your backside has $114 million, why are you getting arrested for DUIs?!   Call a blanking cab - not like you can't afford it!  Shame befall you!!!  I don't think this guy's life got any better after he won the cash.  Poor soul.  That's gonna be one heck of a fight for his estate after he kicks the heavenly bucket.

If I won $36 million, this is what I'd do with it (just in case you were curious)
  1. Pay off my $40K debt
  2. Go out for dinner
  3. Plan a ridonkulous shopping spree with me & the girls
  4. Buy a Wii, Wii Fit and Guitar Hero
  5. Buy a home (not a house but a place where I really call it my home)
  6. Invest - my $$$ will work for me so I won't have to work for my money
  7. Travel the world
  8. Continue my blog
I'm sure I'd do more but I can't think of anything immediately right now.  What about my family?  Not sure.  Cruel as this might sound, I'd have a hard time giving them cash when they refused to help me in my time of need.  Just because we share the same DNA does not obligate me to do anything.  Go ahead and call me a selfish beeyatch but right now, this is my time to be selfish!  I've never been truly selfish in my life.  Actually, it's kinda fun.  

I'm sure my life would be totally different with a fat bank account.  I'd have an entirely new set of issues to deal with.  Isn't that what makes life what it is - life?  Granted, I could live like I've never lived before. I could see the world.  I could experience new cultures and traditions.  I could even buy myself a date or two.  

In case you were wondering about my big decision, I've decided to spend the Velveeta on food.  I was all set to save it for rent then I remembered how I lost 30 pounds 6 years ago because I couldn't afford to buy food.  As much as I probably should lose the weight, I don't want to experience that starvation EVER again.  At least I could get a few of this blasted bill collectors off my back.  I'm praying to have a bill collector-free day just once... where no one would ask me when to expect payment... when the clock strikes when-I-have-it o'clock is when you can expect payment.  Grr!

In 48 hours I'll know whether I'm going to be a rich beeyatch or still broke as a joke.  Good luck to all of you who bought tickets but know this - that's my money!!  Get your own sandwich!!

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

decisions, decisions

My day started around 11am this morning.   Can you believe it?  I haven't slept in that late in years!  I didn't even party it up last night!

So I start looking over my financial picture and then it hits me - in the next few days, I have a big decision to make.  Once I get my next chunk of government cheese I can either pay rent for August on time or spend some of that money to buy groceries and pay my rent late.  What's it gonna be, Athena?  Food or shelter?

Never did it cross my mind that I would ever have to make a choice like this.  My first inclination was to pay rent so it would be on time for the 1st time in 4 months however despite all these shenanigans, my rent does eventually get paid.  Besides, it's not like I don't have food... I do but I just don't know how long it will be able to sustain me since these days I'm eating myself out of house & home.  It's a good thing I know how to cook because if I didn't, I'd be in big trouble.

What about using that money to buy food?  That's always an option.  Of course it's important to sustain myself and stay somewhat healthy.  I could stand to lose a few pounds so technically I could just buy a few heads of romaine lettuce and have myself a party.  I could even pay a few bills off with that money.

Back in the winter I saw this commercial about this family having to decide to either pay the heating bill or buy food.  That's unfathomable to me at this point.  I'm sure they didn't elect to be in that predicament.  Maybe in my case I chose this path.  Maybe this path was inevitable because I needed time to figure myself out.  While I figure myself out (which is still an ongoing project), I have to come to a decision.

Food or shelter.  Shelter or food.  Can I have both?  Truth be told, I'm not all that sure.  I feel like this decision is a test to see if I have indeed 'grown up' at all throughout this whole ordeal.  Is there a right or wrong option here?  Would I be wrong to choose shelter over food?  Better yet, would I be foolish to choose food over shelter?

As you can tell, I have no idea what I'm going to do.   The long weekend is coming up and guess who's got a date with her PVR?  Yes, that would be me.   The Caribana parade is on Saturday and as much as I would love to get some saltfish & bake, I might have to just make it myself.   

Hey world, if you were me, what would you do?  Would you pick food or shelter?  I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

I got my own back

This morning I woke up from a lovely dream where I was having a torrid love affair with Rob James-Collier (Google him and you'll see what I mean) to rays of sunshine streaming through my window.  I thought to myself, it's gonna be a great day.  Things are going to change for me today.  A paradigm is already in motion.   I even had lunch with a good friend this afternoon and worked on my tan!

Of course, what was waiting for me at home but 3 messages from bill collectors.  Had I known I was going to spend all afternoon gallivanting all over creation for these fools I would've stayed in bed desperately trying to recreate my dream affair with Rob.  This is getting insane.  For a brief second I found myself feeling hopeless without anyone to turn to.  Did I really create this hole for myself?  Even if I had stayed in my job to endure further picomanaging, I'd still be in this situation - at least that's what I keep telling myself.

Am I really alone in this time in my life?  Do I have someone to truly depend on?  Does anyone for that matter?  Does anyone truly look out for one another?  What does it really mean to 'help' someone out?  When you say to someone, "I got your back" is that really true?   See, I don't think so.  At the end of the day, I got my own back.  Athena feeds, clothes, shelters and amuses Athena.  These days I really feel like the world just doesn't give a blank.

I guess I could say I've got higher power looking out for me.  I'm certainly not a Bible thumper nor do I have a tambourine to sing gospel at all hours on Sunday morning.  I do believe there is a higher power out there that looks out for us all.  Some people call it Buddha, God, Shiva, Zeus... either way it is what it is to each individual.  I do wish I had the means to really explore my own spirituality - I could add that to my list of "Things To Do During The Day When You're Bored Outside Your Mind".  Either way, it is nice knowing that I'm not totally alone.  Hey - if I believed in the Jedi religion, I could say the Force will always be with me.  Okay, so maybe not.  I'm not a total dexter despite my love for all things Star Wars.

Where's my family in all this?  I'm still trying to figure that out for myself.  Sure, we share the same DNA but really, that's about it.  I can say on pain of being struck by the divine that I have been the glue holding my family together.  When in doubt, call Athena and she'll put aside her own needs for her family because that's what families do, right?  Not mine.  Every member of the Titanides family has their own back, of which they turned on me one by one in my time of need.  That hurt like nobody's business.   I could be whoring myself for my next fix of crack rock and they wouldn't blink an eye because it won't affect them unless someone finds out about it.  Oh well.  At least I now know that Athena Titanides is her own family.   Athena's got her own back.

By now I would've gone absolutely mad if I didn't have my friends around me to offer their support or just a few laughs to take my mind off my dismal existence.  I don't expect anything from them other than their friendship.  It's nice to call them up from time to time and just chat about The Bachelorette or what's on sale at Eaton Centre this week.  We all have our cross to bear and it is what it is to each of us.   It's comforting to know that my friends understand this and together we can all get our own backs.   Having said that, I now know who my REAL friends are.  I may not have a ton of friends but the ones I do have are true.  You know I gots love for my crew!!

I read the most interesting book called "Yes I Can" by Devon Harris, a member of the 1988 Jamaican bobsled team.  Everyone knows how the Jamaican bobsled team faced so much stink at the Calgary Winter Olympics because people thought they didn't belong.  In the end, they didn't win a medal but they won the world's respect.   You won't find me sliding down a hill anytime soon but I'll be here working my parts off to make my life better for myself.  Yes I can! Yes I will!  

This is why I rock.

Monday, July 28, 2008

my sneaky feelings are always right

Lately I've noticed that my gut feelings have been spot on.  I never used to trust my gut - I would always go with the decision that I thought was the best one or the one I really wanted to come to pass.  Within the last year or so I've learned to trust my gut feeling.  Call it women's intuition or something more poetic... I call my gut Wilbur.

Wilbur and I have a wonderful relationship.  We grow together as life moves on.  These days you can't miss Wilbur - he's the first thing you see when I walk by.  He brings me comfort during my monthly rage blackouts and sage advice when I'm faced with a particular situation.  Wilbur is my shelter from the storm of life (sniffle).

Most people don't pay too much attention to their intuition.  I do believe we all have it to an extent.  For me, it's like a feeling that something just isn't right.  Most of the time it's indescribable but it's there.  

A few years back I went out with this guy to a jam at a club downtown.  I had a sneaky feeling it wasn't going to be a good evening but I went ahead with it anyway.  When he came to pick me up he looked almost green - mostly because I towered over him in my 3" stilettos.  We get to the club and it was jumpin' jumpin'!  I met up with some friends and immediately proceeded to the dance floor.  After a few songs, I found my date in a corner nursing a Molson Canadian.  I asked him if he was having a good time and he said no (the audacity!) because he just saw his ex with her new man and he still wasn't quite over it and asked to go home.  I was full & ready to tell him check ya later but of course, he left his car keys in my apartment.  Blast!  We had been at the club for a grand total of 30 minutes.  Had I listened to my gut I would've either just gone to this jam myself or left him to his own devices.

Remembering that fateful evening is making me snicker right now because I went on to date this poor soul.  Yet again, I didn't have a good feeling about the relationship but silly Athena went ahead with it anyway.  Of course, it all ended in heartbreak.  He broke up with me then wanted me back and I told him no blankin' way.  For once I heeded the advice of my gut!

These days my gut and I find ourselves by ourselves.  We're ok for the most part.  We're still unemployed & we're still benefactors of government cheese.  I trust my gut more than ever these days.  It's one of the few constants in my life at the moment.  No matter where I end up, Wilbur will always be there to comfort me.  Now all he & I have to do is shape ourselves up!

Saturday, July 26, 2008

cumulonimbus clouds

Last year I was considering moving to England.  I always enjoyed traveling there - the sights, the shopping, the food... why not?  I wouldn't have to deal with snow anymore and rain doesn't pile up all over the sidewalk.  After much consideration, I decided against it.  My home and my path are here in Toronto.  I'd miss the seasons way too much.  It is commonly known that a lot of rain falls in England and I'm here to tell you it's true.  The last time I was there it rained 4 times in 7 days & that's not counting the intermittent hailstorms and fleeting moments of sunshine.  

Then again, I'm getting a great taste of jolly ol' England right about now.   What the blank is up with all this rain?  I'm very confident I'm developing Seasonal Affective Disorder since the beginning of July.  Oh, don't be all weird about it - we all are a few Timbits short of a Snack Pack in our own way.

As I'm staring out the window, I can see this massive cumulonimbus cloud.  These are the clouds that make up thunderstorms, which is something else we've been getting a lot of lately.  It's quite a view, I must say.  It looks very majestic from here - like there's supposed to be some deity that lives within the cloud itself.  A few hours ago there was a thundershower but now it's sunny - thank the deities that exist for that.

This is not just about the weather as I'm sure you can check out The Weather Network for that.  It's more about how I feel about rain.  As a child, I was terrified of lightning & thunderstorms. Every time it happened,  I would run into my parents' bedroom with my fake Care Bear in tow. At one point they considered taking me to a child psychologist because my fear was so intense but once I started to display gifted reading talents at school they figured I would grow out of it. I don't know that I really have because to this day they still make me nervous.  As for the gifted stuff, well, maybe.  I'm no Doogie Howser but I'm also not an idiot (contrary to previous employers' beliefs).

On my 19th birthday, I had a high school track & field (I think they've changed the name to athletics) meet.  The sky looked quite threatening by the time we got there however I did remember to pack my rain gear just in case.  By the time I ran the 100m final it had started raining and better still, it was around 3-5 degrees Celsius.  My next event was the 100m hurdles. Keep in mind all I'm wearing is this skimpy tank top & running shorts in my school's colours.  I get to the starting line and take a look at the track before me - covered in 3cm of snow.  Yes folks, snow.  After that meet, I developed pneumonia for 3 weeks. My coach was livid because I was also on the 4x100m relay team and couldn't train but hey, it's not my fault that I had liquid in my lungs, right?  I tried going back to school but I passed out in math class so they sent me home.  That's when my abhorrence for rain began.  Actually, it might have been when a boy in my grade 8 class threw a nightcrawler in my face... shudder.

Rain is so dreary, wet and miserable.  Rain makes my hair all messed up and that bugs me.  Rain makes the worms crawl out of the sidewalk.  Rain cancels outdoor events and forces the masses to fashion rain coverings out of just about anything as they run for shelter.  Since I have so much time on my hands, I've done some thinking about this type of precipitation and you know what?  It's really not so bad after all - as long as I'm indoors, of course.

Without rain, the city would look like tundra.  Trees would look like cans of smashed apples.  Flowers wouldn't bloom, etc, etc.  So really, it's a temporary crappy situation essential to make things better.  It's raining in my life right now.  I have to believe that once the rain stops, my life will begin to bloom again.

Friday, July 25, 2008

time to lime

It's Friday evening and I'm sitting here racking my brain about what to do next.  See, when you're a statistic, the world thinks that you should be out the pounding the proverbial pavement and hustling around cleaning toilets to 'do what you have to do'.  Times have changed since our old LaSalle ran great... these days I farm out my resume into cyberspace and hope for the best.  In the meantime, I can clean my own toilet while I collect government assistance (read: cheese).

Yeah, that's right, I said it.  I, Athena Titanides, am a recipient of government assistance.  I'd like to thank the average Canadian taxpayer for covering my basic necessities of life (rent, food, Metropass and my Rogers bill).  Funny how there's a common stereotype about people like me - they live in bad neighbourhoods, wear a lot of plaid and have an f-load of kids of which they feed copious amounts of Kraft Dinner.  Why is that?  In fact, stereotypes on a whole are ridiculous but that's a whole other ball of wax.  

I used to be ashamed to say it, especially to my family.  They're a proud bunch of folk who are extremely mindful about that others think.  Heaven forbid they have a daughter or sister who's just in a temporary spot - gasp!!  Cha.  Those 'others' should just stop throwing stones from their glass stoop - their kids are either wanted by the fuzz or run 2-3 shifts at the baby making factory.  At least I behaved myself somewhat... heh heh.  

There's nothing wrong with my situation.  I'm now beginning to realize this could happen to anybody.  In fact, my dear friend Jasmine was laid off from her job just today because the economy is brutal at the moment.  I remember not too long ago Jasmine and I had unemployment parties where we'd get together and try to figure out what went wrong with our lives... and here we are again!  We could very well get it right this time around.  Or she'll also end up on assistance and we can have whine & cheese parties... get it?  WHINE and cheese? Muah ha ha ha!   (ok, so I'm no Bernie Mac)

Truth be told, there are some advantages to being home all day.  For instance:
  • I can go to appointments without having to beg or plot for time off
  • The malls & grocery stores are fairly quiet in the middle of the day
  • I can people watch at 'lunch hour' - nothing like seeing those CrackBerries fly!
  • I watched Euro 2008 in the comfort of my home without having to rely on text updates from their website
I like to think of this time in my life as a time to really figure out what I really, really want.  The notion of work is something that I personally see as constricting and lemming-like.  I've had jobs where they were just that - jobs.  Something I do for 8-12 hours per day to earn money to pay bills.  Yippee.  Sound dismal?  Or does this sound like you?  Where's the joy in that?  I want to live my life as much as I can.  There is indeed a clear difference in a job and a career so now I have plenty o' time to determine my new career.  I want to spend 8-12 hours (well, hopefully not 12) doing something meaningful and something that really contributes to the world and makes it a better place.  I know this might sound really Miss Teen Texas USA but that's the honest truth.  Working for billion-dollar multinationals as a cog in the wheel is cool for some but not for me anymore.  I have worked for some high-profile organizations in the past and while others thought I was set for life, there was something missing.  I didn't feel anything for them.  In my eyes I was a serf while the lords & ladies feasted at my expense.

Granted, I used to aspire to be a top executive.  Back in my Junior Achievement days (I was indeed a JA rock star) I always thought I'd be the one with the designer suit and stilettos walking into a room of suits saying, "This is how it's going to be".  As I got older, I didn't want that life anymore mostly because that would end up being my life.  I'm already a singleton now - do I really want to have a close and personal relationship with my office plant because I spend so much time at work?  Non, merci.

So here I sit, with time to lime.  I think about the possibilities to come.  I can do anything I want to do.  I can be anything I want to be.  I'm 31 years old and it's only now I've come to truly understand this concept.  I will be happy in what I do and I will lead a very salubrious life.

When that day comes, I'll let you know.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

"we hafta fo-cuss on customer ser-visse"

Don't you just love talking to bill collectors?  I could never do what they do.  I don't have the heart to say to someone, "I know you've lost your job because it's being done in a part of the world for a hapenny per day and you live on cat food and don't have a loonie to speak of but just gimme the $15,000 you owe us in full and we can make it all go away".  Funny how they all ask the same questions:  Can someone lend you the money?  Can you borrow someone's credit card?  Do you have investments that you can cash in?  If I had any one of those things, I'm sure I wouldn't be where I am right now.  That's right, I've got nothing but lint in my pockets.  No one is willing to lend me any $$$ much less their credit cards.  I've already cashed in my investment portfolio (wow, that makes me sound fly).  My net worth is somewhere in the toilet right about where the good stuff meets the lakefront.

I had an enchanting conversation with a particular collector yesterday that vexed my soul to the core.  I told this man (let's call him Bob) that I could either pay him or pay rent - what else can I do?  He then proceeds to tell me that I made him into a liar.  Excuse you!?!?  A liar?!  What the blank is this nonsense?  

Gone are the days when I worked in a 'contact centre' that actually taught its employees about proper customer service.  I remember this one client who was yelling in my ear about something-or-other that went wrong on his account.  After he was done, I politely said to him, "No amount of yelling is going to help solve your situation any faster."  He actually stopped yelling at me then I was able to assist him in resolving his account.  The moral of the story, you ask?  Yelling at someone gets you nowhere.

So I'm cussing out Bob for all I'm worth.  This fool doesn't know me from dirt.  Does he think I'm sitting on a fortune (I could be... I do have a Lotto 6/49 ticket from last night's draw) and I just choose to let my bills fall by the wayside?  No way.  I'm not having it anymore.  I had an epiphany at that very moment - I've let people push me around and talk down to me for TOO LONG.    Athena Titanides is going to finally stick up for herself!!!  Being the good Canadian that I am, I sent this letter to Bob:

In regards to your account recovery techniques, I must say I will not tolerate any further insolence from yourself or any other member of your organization.  I am well aware that this account must be resolved immediately.  However, no amount of bullying will incent me to work with you.  I do not believe you were trained to deal with clients in this fashion.   If ever you find yourself in a position similar to my own, would you like to have someone treat you with such blatant disrespect?  

I am more than willing to work out a payment plan as originally discussed.  Note if you or any other colleague of yours chooses to use the same insolent tactics which you used on me this morning, this will NOT persuade me in any fashion to resolve the situation any faster.  

Bob has yet to respond.  WOOT, WOOT!  Score a point for us statistics.  

On a brighter note, I did speak to a lovely bill collector this morning - we'll call her Susie.  I have only had positive conversations with Susie and she completely understands what it's like to have a temporary setback.  Here's to Susie, everyone!  It just goes to show that those who know and understand the basic principles of customer service will go very far in this lifetime. 

Speaking of which, here's my wise words of the day: Treat others as how you would like to be treated.  End of.


Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Meet Athena Titanides

I've never had a blog before and I don't actually know if there are any rules to this sort of thing.  If there are, I'm out.  Read on if you like - if not, I do hope whatever else you're doing gives you sustained satisfaction.

First things first.  My name is Athena Titanides.  I'm a curvy 31 year old woman living in Toronto.  I'm educated and currently unemployed.  I know there's a ton of people in my situation and I just want to say to you all - LET'S STAND TOGETHER!  Only now I am actually able to discuss my tale of woe in an open forum.  Besides, it gives me something to do during the day while I ponder my sudden economic downturn.

I grew up in Southwestern Ontario to a non-Greek family.  As soon as I was physically able, I ran as far away from there as possible to attend Laurentian University.  Brrr.  Four years later I decided to reneg on my $40,000 education and pursue a save-the-world career in Human Resources.   So human is this profession that my resources sit untapped... kinda like this thermal energy option I saw the other day on Global News.

Since the spring I've been a statistic.  Granted, it was by choice; I chose not to succumb to the continued daily vituperation of my boss who, incidentally, holds an Ph.D. in picomanagement.  Back then I thought I would let karma do its thing and that person would get their due.  Now I'm a warrior for karmic justice!  Maybe that's why my name is Athena - she was a bad-ass mutha who won't take no crap off of nobody!

Did you know I was going to write a book?  It was going to be about corporate life and how it affects so many other elements of the rest of our lives.  You might disagree but think about this: Ever come home from a crappy day at work and felt, well, crappy?  Then you go to bed feeling crappy.  You wake up to start your crappy day all over again.  Perpetual crap is no way to live.  

So now what, you ask? I'm going to tell it like it is.  This blog isn't about some kind of Chicken Soup for the Soul story that's happened to me.  My story is the same as millions of others.  Maybe you can identify with me and maybe you can't.  Maybe you think I should get off my duff and do something about it.  Maybe you want to tell your story as well.  Either way, it's up to you.