Why I Vote for Dilshan


My friend Dilshan Hetti-Hewage has an opportunity to win a $25,000 scholarship with Lethbridge College in their Extreme Career Makeover contest.

Let’s take a small break here and vote.

Done. I just voted for Dilshan. How about you?

Truth is, it is damn hard to pick just one person to win. It’s even hard to pick four, which is how many of the ten contestants you can vote for every single hour until 11:59 on Sunday, March 30th. In fact, when I emailed Jen and Dilshan to let them know I was all geared up to help out any way I could and suggested doing a blog, this is what Dilshan emailed back:

“Jen and I will talk about this as an option. There is a part of me that thinks a few of those folks deserve it/need it more than we do. Let us think on it a minute to see how aggressively we want to pursue this.”

See? Even Dilshan was torn about promoting himself. Who’s to say that Dilshan deserves this scholarship more than any of the other contestants? I can’t say that, because after reading everyone’s stories I want them all to win. I probably want Dilshan to win just a little bit more because I know him and Jen.

Jen and I both worked for ATCO in Kandahar Airfield (KAF), Afghanistan, while Dilshan was working for Ecolog. Sometimes I would run into the two of them after work, during meals or on the Boardwalk. I’m not the most observant person in the world so Jen and Dil were probably dating for ages before I thought to myself “Hmmmm…. those two sure hang out a lot together. I wonder.

(To learn about how Tim Hortons brought these two lovebirds together read here.)

I worked in KAF for four years, but it was only when I started a new job as a Security Officer during my last two months that I got to know Dil in a professional capacity. I worked at an Entry Control Point (ECP) where Afghan employees and contractors entered and exited the camp. I used to see Dilshan almost every day when he was escorting local employees or dropping off paperwork at the ECP. It was always a pleasure to see Dilhan’s smiling face. When you’re surrounded by blast walls and your job is occasionally interrupted by rocket attacks or lockdowns because an explosive was found in a contractor’s truck, you remember the smiles.

I was thrilled when I found out Jen and Dilshan were getting married. I’m a sap at heart and was so happy to see a KAF romance workout.

I left Afghanistan before Jen and Dil and had been working in northern Alberta for a year when they moved to Calgary. We kept in touch and I was honoured to be invited to their Canadian wedding (on the anniversary of their Sri Lankan wedding!) but it never worked out with my rotation. In the meantime Dil kept me posted on his job search and I forwarded his resume to people I knew in the oil field camps and in Calgary.

I remember noticing Dilhan’s LinkedIn address at the bottom of his every email and wishing I was as on the ball as he was about networking. I also recognized the quote he included in his signature block from when I used to brief new ATCO employees in Bosnia:

“Excellence – going far beyond the call of duty. Doing more than others expect. This is what excellence is about. It comes from striving, maintaining the highest standards, looking after the smallest detail and going the extra mile. Excellence means caring. It means making a special effort to do more.” ~R.D. Southern, Founder, ATCO Group

Dilshan never worked for ATCO. You could say he was just clever to include a quote from a very well-known Albertan businessman, but the thing is if you knew Dil, you’d know that he means it. He aims for excellence. He goes beyond the call of duty and makes that special effort to do more.

And even though winning this scholarship could be a real game-changer for him, Dilshan’s first response to me was that other contestants might need or deserve it more.

That’s why I’m voting for Dilshan Hetti-Hewage.

How about you?



Despite support from around the world, Dilshan didn’t win the contest.

I do agree with Dil that most of those votes from 80 different countries likely came from Team Dilshan. Check out Dil’s latest blog post here for the low-down and the thank-yous. Truly a class act.

“A winner is a loser who never gives up…so I know I won in so many ways.”

Absolutely Dil, absolutely.

Thank you from Dilshan

Crazy, Horny or Feminist – You’re Gonna Love This

Jesus Loves a Crazy Horny FeministWhen I first saw the Facebook page for Jenn Hayward’s one-woman-show Jesus Loves a Crazy Horny Feminist, I thought it would be fun to see. But once I read her blog, I knew it was a show I couldn’t miss – and neither could my family.

Jenn Hayward is a mother of three who at the age of 38 penned and performed her autobiographical play which debuted at the Saskatoon Fringe Festival last August. She’s been performing comedy in Ottawa since 2007 and credits both stand-up and her family for helping her through mental health issues she’s had since she was a child.

Jenn is an astonishingly open and ferociously funny woman who wants to encourage dialogue about women and mental health – and make you laugh your ass off while doing it. Earlier we chatted via email about her show’s titillating title, the importance of setting boundaries, and why she’d pick Wanda Sykes as her understudy.

Why should we come to see Jesus Loves a Crazy Horny Feminist? (playing 2-5 March 2014 in Ottawa) 

Mostly to laugh, then to cry and then to laugh again. Honestly the main reason to come is to be engaged in a dialogue that is long overdue. My story is one that is relatable to many people.  Maybe not ALL of it lol, but some part or another. Also supporting local artistry is always reason enough, but the fact that this show has received great reviews thus far should provide more confidence in your ticket purchase!

What is the toughest part about doing this one woman show? 

To me it’s the producing part. I am thankful to have a publicist [Susan Murphy] who is doing so much legwork; she is amazing! The rest is just time management. When I perform my husband usually is home with the kids but this show has him involved (he is the voice of God) so it’s managing sitters and such. This is NOT a child friendly play. 🙂

What’s the best part about doing the show? 

Doing the show! All of it; the writing was fun, rehearsing with the husband, the reviews and accolades have been nice, but to me the best part is when I have a woman who comes to me after the show and says “I’ve never talked about my mental health, I’ve always been ashamed, thank you.” Every show, EVERY show I have at least one woman approach me. This is the best part of this show, having this important dialogue.

I would imagine some people might consider your show’s title controversial. How did you come up with it and what would you say to people who may pronounce it as a cheap marketing ploy?

The title of the show is very representative of what is in the show. I have had people love it and one of my besties back home hate it, lol. I chose it easily for one reason; it is direct and really gets to the meaning of the show. I talk about God, I talk about sex, I talk about feminism, and I talk about mental health and how all of that connected in my life.

You’ve dealt with mental health issues since you were 11 years old and were 35 when you were diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder. What is BPD and what sucks most about having it? 

Oh dear, there is so much. It’s not known as the fun disorder to be honest. I’d say I think this explains it best: http://bpd.about.com/b/2009/03/07/maintaining-a-friendship-with-someone-with-borderline-personality-disorder.htm

When did you start becoming vocal about your own mental health issues and why?

I used to do jokes about it on stage but it never felt right. Just making fun of being crazy has never been what I’m about. That’s why I wrote this play I guess. It wasn’t until after I wrote it that I really understood myself and my last 20 years the way I do.

A good friend of mine who is in AA talks about being a “grateful alcoholic”.  Is there any part of having BPD that has made you grateful for what you’ve learned, or lead you to positive experiences that outweigh the pain of BPD?

Not really, though I will find the humour in everything, it’s hard to go through it. I am relatively stable now, have an amazing job, friends etc., but I still have those bad thoughts.They will always exist; I’ve just learned better management. 

In one of your blog posts you talk about the intense pain of having a former friend cut ties. What do you do to help yourself get through that kind of pain? 

I’ll let you know when it happens! I have had friends come and go, but in the end I always remember who has stayed, not who has left. This last one was particularly hard, but sometimes space makes life better. BPD people can be prone to drama and sometimes the person triggering the drama needs to be gone. Ultimately the only way to get rid of the pain is to feel it and let it pass.

I always considered myself to be comfortable handling mental health issues because of Mom’s history with bipolar disorder, but I’ve been slow with looking into my own. If I were completely honest I’d have to say I’ve been dealing with some anxious behaviour since returning from Afghanistan, and sometimes wonder if it’s related to PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder).  What advice would you offer advice to people dealing with mental health issues of their own?

My advice is that first you are not alone. So many people suffer, many in silence. The second is to seek information and help.  The third is to then stop reading about it. We can become so obsessed with learning about the disorder that we start to hate ourselves for what it says.  Finally, my advice is to never use mental health issues as an excuse to hurt others. This may in fact happen – I have lashed out with harsh words or neediness while in my pain – but in the end no one deserves to be treated badly, ever. 

One of the hardest things for my sister and me to handle was not taking it personally when Mom wasn’t well. What advice would you give people who care about someone with mental health issues that occasionally lashes out? 

Funny I didn’t read this before the last question!  I would say forgive them, but have STRONG boundaries. We as mental health folks need to learn to manage on our own. My husband doesn’t try to fix me; he just loves me and lets me know where his boundaries are. He will have to put his foot down and trusts our relationship. Be compassionate but also take care of yourself. Accept apologies but don’t allow yourself to be mistreated.  It’s a balance.  

With everyone talking Oscars, who would pick to be your understudy for Jesus Loves a Crazy Horny Feminist

This is a great question. I think Wanda Sykes, not for any other reason but that she’s my comedy hero! 🙂

Jenn, Jenn & Wanda

My mom was diagnosed with bipolar disorder more than 25 years ago. Last week I called her at 5:20 am to read aloud one of Jenn’s blog posts likening a messy accident in her Jacuzzi to dealing with the crap life throws at us. Mom laughed her ass off and told me to buy her a ticket to Jenn’s show.

Jesus Loves a Crazy Horny Feminist is playing in Ottawa March 2, 3 and 5 at the Arts Court Theatre on 2 Daley Avenue from 8 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. Tickets are $15 each and the show is for (mostly) mature audiences only.

Jenn’s Website facebook  Jenn’s Blog

Getting My Ninja On @ LinkedIn

Last month my LinkedIn profile consisted entirely of my name, a title for a job I finished last year, and a grand total of 18 connections.

I hadn’t paid any attention to my account until a colleague handed me a newspaper article on the importance of keeping your profile up to date, posting a profile picture and having 500+ connections – especially if you needed to look for a new job.

I immediately updated my resume, copied most of it over to LinkedIn, uploaded a profile pic, hunted down connections under the People You May Know section, all the while madly scouring the internet for LinkedIn tips that would help me find my next awesome job which would ideally be an apprenticeship position as a computer instructor/ photographer / English teacher / tiny house carpenter/writer/step dancer/clock seller on Etsy. I would totally NAIL that interview.

In all seriousness, I wanted that killer LinkedIn profile because I was afraid I might need it soon. Our company’s government contract is up for rebid and we should know any day now what’s next for us all come April 1st.

The part I had the most trouble with was the summary and my job title. Sure, I am a Contracts Support Coordinator now, but I’m more than that. And two months from now if I don’t have that job, what am I then?

I struggled for at least two weeks trying to write that summary, figuring out how to convince potential employers that having had a dozen jobs in a dozen years is a good thing, that there’s a reason why people hire me to do the odd job here and there with little previous experience, and trust I’ll get ‘er done.

And then it came to me – I could be an Odd Job Ninja.

Call an Odd Job Ninja

Crazy right? I mean – it’s ridiculous. No one would take me seriously. Who calls themselves a ninja, especially on LinkedIn?

Apparently quite a few. Not only is adding “ninja”, “guru” and “rockstar” to your job title an old trend, even the backlash is dated, although there is still fun to be had in mocking people who make up ridiculous job titles.

I didn’t know about this dated ninja trend when I wrote my super-duper summary and changed my job title on LinkedIn. Nor did I know about it when I emailed Andy Foote to thank him for his brilliant article with examples of stunning LinkedIn summaries and for inspiring me to leap into my new career path as an Odd Job Ninja.

Imagine my embarrassment just hours after emailing Andy when I discovered that throwing around “ninja” as a job title was not only unprofessional, it was unoriginal. Bad ninja, bad!

I lived with my embarrassment for a couple of days and then decided what the hell, just have fun with it. Obviously I am not a ninja, a guru nor a rockstar. I’m just someone with an odd collection of job experiences who is trying to make the most of being a generalist rather than a specialist in the job market. Plus I also like the alliteration of odd+job+ninja. It just rolls off the tongue, don’t you think?

Since then I’ve started a dozen Odd Job Ninja projects that should lead to new skills and connections provided I don’t blow anything up or scare people off with my enthusiasm. I will blunder about and most certainly embarrass myself along the way, but I promise to share the gory details here, whether it’s learning to Mod Podge my motorcycle, building a website for expat Labradorians or how to teach Zumba without passing out.

As for LinkedIn, I have made some progress since last month: I’m now at 278 connections, a handful of endorsements and one unsolicited recommendation (thank you Dave Palendat!). If I ever want Blogging and Carpentry to beat out Procurement and Purchasing in the endorsement race then I’ve got some work ahead of me. And that’s ok because with every new thing I learn, I’m also going to have some fun too; it’s just how we ninjas roll.

Endorsed by Santa.

Thank you Susan Murphy for the great course on writing for the web, and especially for helping me make a couple of connections afterwards.  And thank you Mom for showing us it’s never too late to learn and grow and change. We are so proud of you.