Tuesday, January 31, 2017

some see the fact that i have experience, talent, and skill as a threat, others see it as being 'over qualified', but a good chunk of employers see the complete opposite. the latter immediately scroll to the education section of my resume and see that i don't have a degree, or any letters behind my name. i tell them that castrucci is long enough, but they don't buy it. instead, they move on to a more educated applicant.

the thing is, though i see the value in education, there are other ways to learn, too. life experience being the greatest teacher in my opinion, and i, for one, have a lot of that. [don't we all?].

i've applied to countless leadership roles in hospitals, coffee shops, book stores [who wouldn't want a discount?], airlines [see cover letter below], youth organizations, and the list goes on, but at this point i've only received two calls back. both, coincidentally, being in the youth department. my favourite.

i'm in the process of interviewing for a position that fits me 'to a T' - in fact, this very job description matches the non-profit that i've been working on creating. i filled out an application, sent my resume in along with the required five [yes, five] references, had a pre-interview coffee with the director, and am currently awaiting an email with the date of my upcoming two hour interview as i write this. things are looking good.

the other job i interviewed for was for a child and youth worker position in regent park, a community i feel 'called' to. i just, however, received a phone call moments a go letting me know that though she was 'certain the job was mine because i interviewed so well', she decided to give it an applicant who was, as she put it, 'more qualified than her'. she did, however, ask that i interview for a similar position that just opened up, but due to the fact that it starts at the end of march, i kindly turned her offer down. i have a lot of bills to pay in between now and then.

that being said, i have a lot of time on my hands, and maybe you don't. need help around the house? babysitting? painting? writing? speaking? want me to entertain you? holla for paula. i'll even give you a discount - if you're lucky ;)[i'm also happy to help you out for free if you need that, too].

now if you'll excuse me, i should make like a basketball and bounce, but before you do the same, enjoy this very clever [and humorous] cover letter i wrote a few weeks a go:

Hey West Jet!

I've been on 68 flights in the past decade - not including the perfectly good one I jumped out of last summer - and I must say, West Jet is hands down my favourite Airline to fly with, and one that I would be honored to work alongside.

I also, as you may have noticed, get bored on flights and deem 'counting how many flights I have been on' as a good way to the pass time from one city to another =)

I imagine, however, that nothing cures inflight boredom quite like taking care of people as they fly. I'm really good at taking care of people on the ground, and am confident that the same can be said of me in the air.

The only downfall, I must admit, is though I am an incredible communicator in my native tongue [English], I don't speak much French, Spanish, or any of the other languages you listed in your Ad. I am, however, fluent in sarcasm [the funny kind, not the hurtful kind], and am really good at speaking the language of love, which, as I have learned throughout my travels, transcends any other language. So does genuine care.

That child in 2B who's crying? I have a plethora of silly faces to distract him/her. 
That exhausted woman in West Jet Plus? I will make sure she gets plenty of rest, or coffee if she prefers. 
That nervous flyer in 10C? Being an experienced flyer myself, I'm just as comforting as the blankets you sell ;)

All 'kidding' aside, distraught guests or not, I'll do what it takes to make sure that every single person who flies West Jet sees no choice but to fly West Jet from that flight on, just like you do.

Besides, I look really good in blue and teal ;) Please hire me!

I've attached my Resume for your viewing and look forward to hearing from you. I can be reached by phone [I AM NOT PUTTING THIS ON MY BLOG] or by email [THIS EITHER] at your earliest convenience.

Thanks so much,


just for the record, i would never send this kind of cover letter to a company that didn't have a sense of humour.

ps. for those of you wondering, west jet didn't even humour me; the only thing i got back from west jet was a rejection letter. HA.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

i've been thinking about the importance of job culture as i've been sending off countless cover letters and resumes these past few weeks [all the while praying that the next job i land isn't as toxic as more recent ones have been]. and really, for me, most of the problems i've encountered along the way have come down to poor leadership. below are three key observations i've made as a manager, and an employee, over the years.

1) you get what you pay for.

i once got paid $0.25 more than minimum wage to manage a coffee shop. my staff's role? make coffee, and serve it. my role? the same + manage the staff we had during the daytime, count the tills and make the bank deposit, receive and put away coffee and food orders, address customer complaints, and so forth. realizing the weight of my responsibility compared to others, i asked my boss for a raise, to which he replied, "i can give you a $0.10 raise, sure". needless to say, i made like a baby and head out.

i couldn't help but think of this as i was hunting for a job today. it floored me when i'd come across someone looking to fill a management position yet only willing to pay $12/hour [which is only $0.60 above minimum wage, and $0.60 more than every other staff would get]. and even worse, i came across a detailed ad describing all of the employer's expectations of their future employee - and the list was many - followed by a "we pay $10/hour". $10.00 an hour? isn't that illegal?!

managers, owners, leaders, respectively, listen up - salary should be based on job description, education, and/or experience. good leaders pay their staff accordingly.

2) your staff don't listen to what you say as much as they watch what you do.

years a go, my boss was doing everything she could to get rid of one of my fellow staff members and would write her up for the most ridiculous things. one day, while i was in the office, i overheard her telling other staff that she was going to fire this certain someone today because, get this, she was wearing blue socks, not black ones as per our dress code. the truth is, my manager didn't even wear black socks - most people didn't - in fact, i had white socks on that particular day. i did what anyone else would have done [okay, maybe just what i would have done]; i pulled my pant leg up, showed her my clean, fresh, white socks and said, "i'm not wearing black socks, either, so if you're going to write ____ up, you can go ahead and write me up too". [for the record, no one got written up that day].

whether it's as small of an issue as following dress code, or bigger ones like being on time and possessing a strong work ethic, good leaders lead by example.

3) a thank you goes a long, long way.

encouraging others comes naturally to me. if you need a pat on a back, a 'you got this', or a 'thank you', i'm your girl.

that being said, i realize that it doesn't come as naturally to other people, but, and there's a big but, that doesn't change how vital appreciation is to your company's growth, and to those you lead.

at the risk of sounding too urban, happy staff create a good vibe, a good vibe = happy guests/customers/clients, which, in turn means, more of them, which, get this, in most cases = more money, which means, happy YOU. it's really not rocket science. we all win.

but what often happens is, we forget to show our appreciation. public acknowledgement. a pay raise. staff christmas party or dinner outing. THERE ARE SO MANY WAYS TO SAY THANK YOU, and so many benefits of doing so. good leaders appreciate their staff.

of course, being a good leader isn't limited to the above three things. there are other things that contribute - checking in with your team, understanding work-life balance, giving constructive feedback, allowing room for growth etc. - but these are the three that are dear to my heart, and this is my blog, so, well, you get what's dear to my heart.

until next time, friends.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

yesterday, we talked, but today, we still need to.

in 2008, i walked into a psych ward. i had to. my mind was going crazy and wouldn't shut off, so out of desperation, i walked into the hospital in edmonton, spent every ounce of energy i had left checking off boxes and filling out piles of paperwork, and sat there, alone, for hours, wondering what 'help' was going to look like.

what seemed like hours later, my name was called. i followed a lady down a long, bright hall to a room where two counselors sat across from me. i remember feeling such a sense of relief when i entered that room; i was finally getting the help i needed.

only, i never did.

the senior counselor, who sat in that room and stared at me, laughed at me and told me that i wasn't depressed, i was 'just unemployed'. so off i went an hour later, without any help, and still just as 'unemployed'.

somehow, i made it through. unfortunately, not all do.

i found a really great counselor out west, who helped me process everything i was feeling and assured me that i was 'normal'. thankfully, i had benefits to cover the costs. some don't.

i moved back home shortly after, but my depression followed. at times, it was circumstantial - other times, it wasn't - but both carried the same weight; both felt like a dark, suffocating cloud.

i tried the med route, and the counselor route again, but i couldn't seem to get the right fit with either. so i battled it alone. the truth is, a lot of people battle it alone.

after losing my dad in 2011, i put myself on a six month waiting list with an organization that offered free counseling because i couldn't afford to pay for it. waiting felt like forever, yet at the same time, gave me a reason to hang on. it didn't take me long to realize, however, that the man i was assigned to wasn't qualified to help me process my grief - something he willingly admitted after our first session - so again, i was left to battle my depression alone.

but somehow, i made it 'through'. again.

i gave counseling another chance a few years later, only to have one counselor, during my first session, tell me that the reason i wasn't in a committed relationship [which is not why i went to see him] is because i'm a lesbian [which i'm not], and the next one didn't know how to handle a client who didn't 'fit in a box', and i certainly didn't fit in his box.

and so i was forced to take ahold of my own life, something that unfortunately not everyone with a mental illness is able to do.

over time, i was able to come up with some tools to conquer my mental illness. there are days even now where i battle it, especially since my mother passed away, but thanks to these tools [a better diet, getting fresh air, doing things that occupy my brain and make me feel alive, finding a good counselor etc], my bouts of depression are less frequent and less intense these days.

but i remember them as if they were yesterday, which is why days like yesterday hit close to home for me.

thanks to bell's generous initiative, all of the their customers who sent texts yesterday, and all of YOU who included the hashtag #BellLetsTalk throughout social media, a grand total of $6,585,250.50 was raised for mental health funding - which is absolutely incredible - but let's not stop there.

while education and awareness play a vital role in any healing process, action is what paves the way for change.

education leads to understanding.
understanding --> compassion,
compassion --> action [or compACTION as i like to call it]
and action, change.

so ... let's be people who act! let's keep the conversation going. reach out to someone you know who is struggling. accompany a friend to the doctor's office. connect them to a much needed resource. help them search for a counselor, or better yet, help them pay for one if you're able to. [someone did that for me once, and i'll never forget it].

while ultimately it's up to the one struggling to get help [no one can help someone if they don't want it], we can all play a part.

moved about the stories you heard yesterday? let that which moved [and moves] your heart activate your hands.

bell, let's act.

Monday, January 16, 2017

my mind used to go crazy, you see – and not the ‘i’m going to hurt myself or anyone else' kind of crazy – but the isolated kind; no matter how many people i had in my life, how many people told me they loved me, or showed me, i made myself believe that i was alone, and because of that, i projected this particular thought pattern into all of my relationships. [we project what we believe].

so this is why i feel the 'need' to say hello to anyone who makes eye contact with me each day. it's my way of saying, "i see you".

we, north americans, live in a very 'image based' culture. we waste so much time searching for the right instagram filters [i know i'm not the only one] or picking out the right outfit. we spend money upgrading a phone we were happy with last week when there wasn't a newer model, or maxing out our credit to make sure we have the biggest house on the block or the best car in the driveway, and, on a smaller scale, we put a smile on our face when we're falling apart on the inside. whether you resonate with any of these examples or not, you fall into the image trap somewhere. we all do.

i was strolling through toronto this morning when i stopped to say hey to a fella sitting on the cold sidewalk. we didn't exchange much more than a few smiles and a few "have a great day"s, but we acknowledged each other, and sometimes, that's all one needs. sometimes, acknowledging a fellow human being is enough.

people often ask me why i have such a heart for the marginalized, and really, my answer is simple, and twofold: 1) because God does, and 2) because i can relate on a certain level. i do not, for the life of me, understand what it's like to lay my head down at night on a heating vent, or even a mat, nor do i know what it's like to sit on a cold and brittle sidewalk and rely on people's leftover change, but i do understand - whether my my mind played tricks on me at times or not - what it's like to feel overlooked and isolated.

our stories [what we go through and the pain we feel] connect to more people than we realize. how does your story connect with the people in your life? your family? coworkers? the strangers you pass each day? we may not get to have a heart to heart with everyone [who has time for that?], but we can, at the very least, take our eyes off of our phone, make eye contact, and say hey to each other once in a while.

i see you.

Friday, January 13, 2017

5, 4, 3, 2, 1 ... HAPPY NEW YEAR!!! [or, in mariah carey's case, a not so happy one].

with the exception of my beautiful mother passing away, 2016 was really good to me. i knocked 11/12 things off of my bucket list; i conquered my fear of karaoke [i hate mics] and driving tests, watched the jays play in different parks, sat on a beach in the dominican, let my picasso out during paint nite, saw garth brooks live, and the list goes on.

in a weird way, i didn't want to say good bye to 2016. not because i feared this year wouldn't be as fun [it certainly will be], but because my mom was a part of it. [i realize i carry her with me everywhere i go, but it's different, ya know?]

i also realize that time is just an illusion, but changing a year - or a day, month, whatever - makes it seem more ... i don't know ... real? it's as if our lives are measured in markers and milestones, and time.

i can't wait for this year to be over.
tomorrow will be better.
this week sucks, and so forth.

but the truth is, time is just time; it keeps moving, and it certainly doesn't change because the date does. [how's that for encouragement?].

but, if we let it, it can be useful. and full of hope. but it's not the ticking of the clock that makes it meaningful, it's the way we spend it. the thoughts we think. the choices we make. the people we hang out with.

i started 2017 off on the right foot by quitting my job. [some of you may call that the wrong foot lol, but it was a long time coming]. after months of persevering and a moment of clear direction, i made the courageous decision to leave. i've since spent my time job hunting [i have an exciting lead and meeting on monday], singing, dancing, reading, studying poverty and homelessness, and hanging out in used book stores without a care in the world. seriously, i don't remember a time where i felt this happy or at peace.

do you have some changes you need to make in your life 'this year'? why not start today? because, well, the even crazier thing about time is that it's not guaranteed. not for you and not for me.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

my hotel phone rang hella early. "room service", they said. only 'they' was my brother trying to prank me. "i'll get him back", i thought. only i didn't. i was too wrapped up in the beauty of the day that i had forgotten how it started. [he is so lucky].

before i knew my brother was coming to see me on christmas day, i had made a list of things i wanted to do to honour my mom and dad. the night before, as mentioned in my previous blog, i served christmas dinner in regent park in honour of my dad. he loved food and family more than anything else, after all. but today? today was about my mom.

i remember it as if it were yesterday. i arrived at princess margaret cancer centre to have dinner with my mom one night when she was undergoing radiation and she began telling me how she cried that day. my mother never cried - at least not admittedly - so she had my full attention when she began telling me how she saw a 'homeless man' scurrying through the garbage that day, and eating anything he could find. "could you imagine?!!", she said. without hesitation she opened up her favourite spider-man wallet and handed him a crisp $5 bill.

my mom, who was battling cancer and had every right to be selfish, wasn't selfish. instead, she was compassionate and generous.

so you can see why i decided to dedicate my 'operation hydration' to her this christmas. and it was extra meaningful to have my brother come along for the ride.

"let my humanitarian career begin!" he said, as we got out of his truck. oh how he makes me laugh.

we walked around toronto for a good few hours, talking to anyone who made eye contact, and handing out water and socks to anyone who wanted some. we weren't alone either; dozens of people were out doing the same thing. vans full of people, in fact. my heart was in a good place. so much christmas cheer.

everyone was so grateful and chatty. a man was in tears because he saw my brother's dog and missed his. a deaf guy started talking to me when i handed him a pair of socks. i had no idea what he was saying, and yet i walked away thinking about how beautiful our conversation was. our whole day was beautiful. even when my brother feared for his life and asked me where i was taking him. [did i mention that he makes me laugh?].

jeff and i went for lunch after, which was nice, before he dropped me off at home, where i was surrounded by love, too. 'auntie b' filled a stocking - my stocking - with good cheer. 'grandma robson' gave me a gift card, the kids spoiled me with a cool journal, and cards that i can send to my peeps, my neighbour bought me a rad puzzle, and my housemate sharon bought me a flying lesson at the brampton flying club because she knows how much i love airplanes and saw how excited i was when her son dan flew one. i felt so loved and taken care of. God really does put the lonely in families. [psalm 68:6]

i couldn't help but smile when i sat down at the dinner table and saw the ever so popular "christmas cracker' sitting on my plate. unbeknownst to sharon, these were my mom's favourite and a tradition in my house growing up. as i cracked mine, memories flooded in as if my mom and dad were right there with me.

presents are great - especially thoughtful ones - but presence is better. thanks to everyone who made my Christmas so meaningful. my church, the community at regent park, my brother, the people that stopped to talk to us downtown, the robsons, and especially, God. i'm so very thankful. xo

Thursday, January 5, 2017

check in was at 3:00, so naturally i, punctual paula, arrived ten minutes prior. i had somewhere important to be at 4, after all.

at 3:10, i was told by the man at the front desk that i "should go down the street and stay at the hotel that accepts cash".

you see, days prior to this, i had put just enough money on my pre-paid credit card to cover two hotels; one in toronto on christmas eve, and the other in brampton on christmas day.

only, i didn't account for the $250 incidental fee [which so happens to be more expensive than my room was] that was required at check in, and truth be told, they couldn't use my card any ways has i loaded it because there would be no way of putting the money back on my pre-paid card when they realized i was a responsible adult and didn't break anything.

look, i understand policies [or paulaC's as i like to call them], i really do, but i don't understand why he couldn't give me the room i already paid for, and be mean about it, especially at christmas, and especially because i had enough cash in my wallet [baller] to cover the fee. his solution? either call someone who, on christmas eve, had time to print out [and fill out] an authorization form, and send it back to him, or, as i mentioned above, "go down the street and stay at the hotel that accepts cash".

i ended up walking out 40 minutes later without a room and with tears in my eyes. here i was trying to be intentional about enjoying a christmas that could have potentially knocked me off of my feet, but instead left feeling stressed and upset. i took a deep breath and made a few phone calls, and thanks to a great friend having the time to fill out that stupid form, checked into my hotel just under two hours after i had stepped foot in front of the check in line the first time.

i looked around, threw my stuff into my room, and rushed to regent park, where i was expected an hour earlier to help serve dinner.

thankfully, it didn't take long for things to turn around. church - well, this church - is my happy place. i come alive when when i'm there and feel like i belong.

a few hours later, i stood at the back of the church and belted out some christmas carols with tears rolling down my face. come let us adore him. immanuel, God with us. frosty the snowman. just kidding.

but seriously, these songs have a way of into my heart, reminding me that God is ever-present in my life, and throughout my grief.

sometimes, he 'shows up' through the lyrics of a song - or through a tug on my heart - or, through one of my personal favourites, people.

shortly after the service ended, my friends, who just so happen to be the pastors of the church i go to, hung out with me for a bit, showered me with gifts, and bought me groceries for my hotel before dropping me off at the room i almost lost hours before.

but you know something? my day may have started off rough, but i sat in my bed that night with a sense that everything was going to be 'okay' this christmas. and it was.

stay tuned: part two coming at you soon.