Saturday, December 28, 2013

Travel Medical

My right upper deltoid is sore because I've just gone through another round of travel immunizations with my new travel doctor.  I wanted a second opinion because I found conflicting advice and didn't feel I received adequate explanations.  So I searched for someone who has had experience "in the field" and hit the jackpot. 

Even though you assume all doctors ought to have the same book knowledge, real experience does stand out.  She was able to list all the recent travel health notices, anticipate my questions, understand my concerns right away and could help me anticipate for the future.  Having recently returned from a 3 month mission in Asia was just the bonus.  That alone was worth many times the second consult fee.  Outside of the rabies vaccines, I am now ready for the developing world!

You'll read a lot of varying opinions on the merits and costs of travel medication and immunization.  A lot of people complain about the cost.  My tally so far is around $500.  And surprisingly our extended health insurance covered about 2/3rd of it. Wasn't expecting that.  Last time I went for shots (Yellow Fever and Typhoid), I hadn't even bothered to submit a claim as I assumed it fell in the category of elective procedures.  A lot of other people complain about potentially disastrous side effects.  Friends of ours feel so strongly against it, they won't immunize their children.  It can be a touchy subject, that's for sure.

I think of it this way:  Drugs and immunization has helped more people than not.  Considering the flight alone cost more than our new washer and dryer, what's $500?  How much is my life worth to me?  How much risk do I want to take on physically and mentally?  How keen am I to want to be looking around for a qualified doctor and clinic solo in a country where I don't speak the language and where I may be hundreds of miles away from anything?  Some countries will require proof for entry.  Yes, you can choose to not go.  That's where D stands and it works for him.  No hassle then.

You can apply the above thinking to the topic of travel insurance.  We have coverage through our travel credit cards and through D's work which we've paid extra for. And silly me has been travelling without really knowing the absolute direct number to call as I've been complacent with the places I've gone to.  Even when I knew I was going to Greenland I felt secure that I would receive good care should something happen.  Having gone, I would say -- Know your policy and make sure it covers the activities you plan on undertaking as well as emergency evacuation for the country you are visiting.  Plans often have their own definition of what a "risky" activity is (ie. dogsledding, camel riding). 

Levels of medical facilities and care in the developing world can be real scary.  In the "I would not allow them to put an IV in me" (and hopefully I'd be lucid enough to say that) sense because of incidences of re-using needles even in hospitals and prevalence of HIV etc.  For example in Cambodia, the level of care is basic enough that should anything moderately serious happens, you will want/need to be medically evacuated to Bangkok.  And seriously, the Only Thing remotely exciting about that would be the potential helicopter ride...and even that isn't always as straightforward as described in your policy.  Have a read of this post

So make sure your policy really will get you out of there if need be.  Know where your home country's Embassy is (There isn't one in Cambodia for us Canadians -- We have to go to the Australian Embassy).  And talking to agents at an insurance call centre isn't all that fruitful as they aren't always able to tell you much outside of what you are able to read anyways.  And being told "You'll be covered..." when they can't get over the concept why you'd go to places where there is no running water, cell phone coverage or a hospital hasn't been all that confidence boosting.  Talk to someone in the actual claims department if you can.  Or buy extra insurance from a company that does lay it all out and have experience in certain types of travel.   Unless I get better answers, that's what I'm going to do. 

On a real positive note about travel, my flights in April have been changed by the airline fairly significantly.  It wasn't such a great itinerary to begin with (3 hops each way with an 11 hour layover in Seoul on the way home) but I was making the best of it -- 5 hour free transit tour and time at what is supposed to be an incredible airport!  The email came barely 2 weeks after I purchased the ticket.  I panicked because it made things even more uncomfortable on the way there and back, increasing my average layover to 4 hours and the one return layover in Seoul to 13+ hours. 

So I called and got someone right away.  He was fantastic.  Didn't explain any rules or anything to me when I asked what my options were.  Just asked me if I had to connect through Seoul?  When I said 'no', he proceeded to find me flights that were so good, I almost giggled out loud. 

Not only do I no longer have to make 3 hops each way, I am now able to make it home on the same day I left.  It's still going to take about 30 hours but psychologically it feels better, like I've cheated time or something.  And the kicker?  When D called (because it wasn't available to be purchased online and having seen what I've come up with for that trip, has decided he might want to join me after all...) to see how much it would cost to take the same flight?  $4200..... Score!!!  And that's for economy....

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Munich x 3

This was our 3rd time visiting Munich.  Twice to take in their Christmas markets and once at the start of Biergarten season (May). 

Here are some of our observations this time around:
  • Increased numbers of people (especially young adults) smoking -- Disturbing considering all we know.
  • Road rage from Audi drivers!  Not sure what is going on there.  Normal vehicular experience is quite quiet due to the type of cars on the road (mostly luxury sedans vs scooters and small cylinder vehicles in say, Paris or Rome) so honking really stands out.
  • Increased numbers of beggars -- Non German.
  • We found it overall to be busier than last year.
  • Popular street food trends this year include the crepe and flatbreads with various toppings.  We stuck with the traditional German selections such as Reiberdatschi, lebkuchen, spatzle, knodel, schupfnudeln, leberkase etc. etc.  We were surprised to see a plethora of places offering Currywurst as well.
  • Noticed prices have gone up slightly compared to last year.  Each snack/item/alcoholic drink costs in the 4 - 5 Euro range this year.  A plate/entrée (still talking street food portions here) will be in the 8 - 10 Euro range.  Small bottle of water 2 Euro+ depending on where you are.  And you won't find people drinking water either, which is totally opposite from Canada.
  • We continued to stand out amongst everyone else because we shared dishes and drinks.  People just don't do that.  I can't imagine eating or drinking one of everything on my own as there is just too much food to choose from and to do so would mean gaining many pounds.  Considering how many hours of walking we did each day, I still managed to gain a pound. 
  • It took us a couple of days of visiting and tasting various markets treats to develop a list of favourites (and about 3 days before we were thinking in basic German -- pretty pathetic, I know).  I can't imagine being there for 2 weeks.  Just too much food!  Temptation is everywhere!  I think 4 - 5 days is the ideal length of time to hit all the highlights and to go nuts trying everything. 
  • From a food allergy perspective, this was my best trip.  No nasal congestion or itchy eyes post wheat/egg/sugar/dairy exposure as I didn't hold back.  Just noticed a drop in energy.  I will take it as a sign I am healing.  Good thing as we will be spending New Years in France (last minute bonus trip courtesy of sheer luck with finding decent flights and Skymiles).
  • Did you know their Ice Tea is sparkling?
  • Few things help complete a meal laden with meat (mostly pork) better than a skewer of dark chocolate covered strawberries.  D really took to the chocolate covered grapes (yuck -- not for me).  Tasted so refreshing.  I also enjoyed the dark chocolate covered hazel and macadamia nuts.  Most people walked around snacking on candied nuts of one sort or another.
  • If you enjoy looking at and buying beautifully displayed gourmet food, head to Dalmayr -- Simply gorgeous store.  Reminded us of the food floor at KaDeWe in Berlin.
  • If you like riding style leather boots, you will find a lot to chose from -- Won't come cheap.
  • We loved how if you order a fresh waffle with chocolate, one side is actually dipped in a chocolate that dries/hardens so when the cherries and whipped cream is added on top, it prevents the warm waffle from becoming soggy in a hurry -- So Smart!
  • It still hasn't failed to surprise us just how quiet the Munich airport is.  It is literally almost silent.  People are so respectful.  Love it!
  • Speaking of airports, AMS and MUC are offering real food for "good" prices.  Airports are notorious for bad quality food at high prices.  I actually had an organic hamburger made fresh with salad and fries for 10 Euro in Amsterdam!  Usually I am paying 17 Euro for about 8 pieces of sorry looking sashimi and a bad green tea or 6 Euro for a small freshly squeezed fruit juice.  That was just earlier this year too.  And in MUC, you can get a plate of leberkase, potato salad and a Weissbier for 10 Euro!
  • Another point about European airports -- WiFi has improved in AMS and MUC.  If you do not have a data plan for outside of your home country, be cautious as roaming fees can be exorbitant.  Check with your provider as to how to disable roaming on your phone.  Case at point -- My new android phone uses more data than my old BB.  I was able to email D from Hawaii over the 2 weeks I was there and incurred only about a $4 charge (no package).  In Sept, when I was in Bar Harbor, I noticed a "R" by the bandwidth strength sign up top but not before getting charged for roaming -- $7.03 for 2.34 MB (think I just managed to receive 2 emails and was starting to check the weather)!  My new phone needs to be in flight mode as well as disabling the data while roaming and mobile data settings in order to be able to use WiFi without roaming.  Found this out in AMS after a few minutes of surfing...We'll see if I'm dinged anything shortly.  I had time to burn as we got there 1 hour ahead of schedule (due to high winds).  Add to it our usual 1 hr 40 min layover between flights and 1 hour subsequent delay as the winds were wrecking havoc for other planes. 
  • Starbucks is serving up an Orange Mocha coffee this season in Europe...Too sweet for me but I had to try.
  • We discovered a really fun store -- Manufactum.  There is this toy horse I wanted for myself --  Video below. (Turn your sound on)
  • Should you find yourself with extra stomach room and energy to burn after regular market hours, head to Tollwood as the fun there goes till 1 am daily.
  • I'm going to take this opportunity to Wish You All a Merry Christmas & A Happy New Year!!! May your lives continue to be better than you imagined.

Friday, December 6, 2013

It's Time

For the last decade and a half, especially the last 2 years, I've been travelling to explore some of my dream places.  

Now that my work schedule is comfortable and my psyche has had a chance to decompress from what feels like decades of "torture", it's time to start travelling for a larger purpose than myself.  I'll still incorporate some fun stuff but there is something I've wanted to do since I was a teenager:

To give back in a more personal way than money.  I want to experience viscerally what it is like in true adversity, not the "first world problems" that I contend with here.

Here's what's been on my reading list lately and the subject matter has made my gut feel very uneasy and has negatively affected my sleep.
  • Notes From My Travels:  Visits with Refugees in Africa, Cambodia, Pakistan and Ecuador --  Angelina Jolie
  • I Have Seen The World Begin:  Travels Through China, Cambodia and Vietnam -- Carsten Jensen
  • First They Killed My Father:  A Daughter of Cambodia Remembers -- Loung Ung
  • Cambodia Calling:  A Memoir From the Frontlines of Humanitarian Aid -- Richard Heinzl
In order to do the types of things I would like in the places that are needed, I have to get over myself. 

I have to be able to brave heat, bugs, potential disease, cultural shock, mental angst, emotional overload, safety concerns, long transit hours, disease, delays, frustration, potentially appalling levels of hygiene and public health standards, overwhelming sadness and despair...To rise above discomfort and still be productively helpful.

Will I be able to do it?  I honestly don't know but I would like to give myself an opportunity to find out.  To go beyond my current limitations and open myself to be changed forever.  I know I would have lots to offer if I can manage all the noise that comes with a more extreme environment.

Should I discover I don't have what it takes or am truly not cut out for this line of work, then I'll be satisfied with continuing to donate money.  But if there is a chance I can adapt and participate with my own hands, I will. 

This is the focus of my initial travels for 2014.  I'm seeking first to understand so haven't signed up for a solid commitment of any sort, as tempting as it is -- I don't want to let anyone down should I have a "breakdown".  I would like time to acclimatize literally and mentally/emotionally. 

It will be a challenge as I currently exist in a pretty controlled, clean, safe and manageable environment and it has taken a long time before finally feeling ready to take this on.  D will be the first to tell you that I'm not a huge fan of change in my everyday routine.  Not to mention mosquitos love me and heat and I have not traditionally gotten along too well. 

He'll also add that he simply choses to not go to places where there is so much to deal with but has been surprised with my persistence and how much I've been putting into my preparations.  I'm hoping a strong enough purpose will make all the difference.

Until then, I will allow myself to revel in the safety of a country that is at the opposite end of the spectrum.  A place where I'm free to wander at my leisure, where spirits will be high.  We're returning to Munich to bask in their Christmas Market culture.  Back in about 1 1/2 wk.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Working With Friends Pt 2

Negotiation is too strong a word.  All I wanted was some facts from R -- Timing, schedule, costs, procedures -- Really, what "is".  Nothing earth shattering.  Stuff that a business owner ought to know off the top of their heads.  A starting point.

When the straightforward answers didn't arrive as expected, it caused some confusion on my end.  At first I thought maybe there was some stuff going on at home with his wife's health.  And indeed there was, so I waited as obviously what we were talking about wasn't important compared to that.

So when the answers still didn't come, I began to be suspicious.  Maybe our easy communication wasn't going to apply to this topic?  I consider myself a fairly clear communicator.  And when you are dealing with schedules, rent and utilities, how far can you go off track?

The experience was like pulling teeth and I began to lose patience. 

In order for me to adequately assess my interest in a option, I need to know what the facts are.  Then I can compare it to the other options on the table and get a gut feel.  Pretty basic stuff.  I could ring off my monthly expenses for the office without much hesitation.  And if the offer was a 50:50 split, then I need to know what 100% is.  Simple, right?

Turns out R has issues with talking money and business with me.  He was really nervous.  It was like I was speaking to a totally different person!  And he came across "wishy washy" with respect to time slots that were really available.  If I don't know what is open, how can I decide if they will work for me?

However, he was confident that we would be able to work it out...

What??! As much as I like R, that doesn't fly with me.  I can't blindly jump into something with just his confidence that "it will work out".  Aren't we a ways too old for that???  He's a few years older than me and I thought he was a control freak too so to me, that meant easy to get details from, so why the about face? 

I don't really know.  All I know is that it is difficult for some people to talk about money.  I'm so used to it at home, on this blog, it feels natural.  He really surprised me by not being comfortable.  And how could he expect I could go for that?  This is the kind of thing that will wreck friendships. 

So that is why it would not have worked out.  We never got to first base in our "discussions".  There wasn't enough for me to even say a maybe to, much less a resounding yes.  It needs to be resounding yes if I am going to pick up and move across country. 

And I got tired trying to squeeze answers out of him.  I am not able to commit to him as a person and count on everything sorting itself out later.  Too pragmatic for that and I feel, disrespectful to our history.  We are not compatible in business handling.  He is way better off keeping his office solo. 

Being the "helpful" person I am, I did leave him with some advice (fairly long bullet list of points) should he ever decide to try again with someone else.  He took it well but still came across slightly confused why I was moving on.  I chose not to bite.  Best to stay with what we know works -- Just friends.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Welcome To Canada

Even I thought this was a bit too much to wake up to...
We were all laughing in disbelief and grimacing at the impending amount of work.
The snow unfortunately wasn't light and fluffy but instead packed some weight.
We have the largest snow blower on the block and the amounts almost overwhelmed it.
This morning the plows came by and the overflow made our sidewalks knee deep.
Oh Canada...

That lump is our BBQ.

As seen from inside the garage.

There are 2 steps that lead up to our side deck.

Snow changes depth and distance perception.  So does sand, I guess.
There's at least 8 feet between the car and the red brick house.

Sunday, November 24, 2013


Normally it would have gone like this:

MW!!! It is so good to see you...(followed by hug and kiss on cheek)

-- I smile a bit nervously because I know what I will be in for in the next hour.

What are we doing today?

-- Well, my dance classes are completed, so...

We can do something more interesting and beautiful?

-- Ah, OK...with maybe 2 - 3 inches off and I still have to be able to put it up...

OK!!!  Tell me your news.  Where have you gone?

***45 min later, after all the washing, conditioning, drying, setting, tugging, coaching on how to style it (which he knows will fall on deaf ears because I'm just not into it), I emerge with Victoria's Secret model hair (with instructions to go out that night).  One of 2 times a year that I get my hair cut.***

Instead, it went like this:

MW!!! It is so good to see you...(followed by extra long hug) as I asked him softly,

-- How is your family?

My sister got swept away and my other sister has her 2 and 5 year old now...They are worried about looters...I feel so helpless...They are not allowed back there yet so what can we do?...We are angry at how many people died but my sister said so many died because there was no warning in her area...China got warned but not them...In Sept they already had flooding, enough to reach the ceiling of the main floor (9 ft) and it took 2 weeks for the water level to come back down.  That is why their main living areas are built on the second floor...I don't know how long it will take this time... They have been through so much already...It is so difficult being so far away...And they have not found her body...How do you grieve? [Typhoon Haiyan]

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Working With Friends Pt 1

Even if we had decided to move out west, I wouldn't have been working in the same office as my buddy R.  I had decided long before we met in person the second trip, after having gone through a number of email exchanges. 

Our friendship spans almost 20 years.  Right from the start, it was easy to spend time together.  Even 14 hour days wouldn't seem long.  When D saw us together for the first time, he even said "you guys are crazy together", meant in a good way.  He got to see a different side of me.  When I met R's wife for the first time, I could tell she was initially looking at us a little harder.

R is very detailed oriented and a very thorough (occasionally too much so) communicator.  Which normally really works for me because I hate having to ask for clarification.  And he "gets" me.  He speaks in a way I understand immediately.  We don't agree on a lot of major topics but we can usually calmly and technically talk/work it out, him with loads more patience than I.  I've been known to be abrupt when I've made up my mind to drop something. 

Communication is the number one thing D and I work on because of my need for detail.  Yes, I can be exceedingly difficult to live with.  It's getting there but certainly didn't come naturally to us as a couple.  I firmly believe a part of that for D comes from his upbringing.  Not being encouraged or inspired to communicate clearly and D also not being the type to self motivate back in the day.  Different story now.

There was never ever anything romantic with R, not even a hug until the last few years (hug that is, which initially freaked me out because it was so uncharacteristic of him -- Whereas he knows I am a hugger).  He always kept his private thoughts and feelings hidden quite well and I never pushed.  Occasionally I'd get to hear about some girl trouble but that was about it. 

We had lots of other things to occupy our conversations and time.  If anything, I always thought he was too much of a gentleman.  I might have tried to consul him on showing more passion once and it got a bit awkward so that was that.

So he really was the perfect guy friend when we were in school.  His enthusiasm for life is contagious.  Someone I could go dancing with and feel safe walking home with at 4 am.  Someone I can count on to tell it to me straight.  In my experience, that is truly hard to find and I cherish anyone around me who is capable of such frankness. 

Not even D can do that consistently.  He will edit things in efforts to "let me down easier" or "tell me what he thinks I want to hear", which will make me mad and offended because I feel I can handle it.  Just tell it to me straight.  I hate trying to second guess things. 

So when R suggested we share office space, it was the first time money, future planning, work logistics, need for control entered into our communication arena.  He was quite nervous and likened it to "getting married".  I didn't see it that way at all even though the idea carried a certain weight because of our history.  To me it was a straight up business negotiation. 

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Travel Plan Update & Misc.

The appointment with my local travel medical doctor has been made. Visa applications printed and the timing of them kind of figured out.  This will be my first time sending away my passport and required extra passport pictures for travel visa use.  The thought of being separated from it makes me nervous as the timing may be tight.  I have to remind myself to suck it up as people do it all the time and there is nothing special with my case.  Can you tell I'm a tad protective of my passport?

Two of the three trips next year are mostly planned and am feeling pretty good about it.  It wasn't my intention to organize both at once but once I started calling and emailing about info, availability etc. and happened upon people who were exceptionally great at responding, things just fell into place. 

Have gone back and forth about 20 times with representatives for each country so it made sense just to commit rather than wait and get back to them in a couple of months.  Some aspects of the trips required advance deposits to secure spots.  And because the people I corresponded with also assumed a certain amount of knowledge, it challenged me to get my Learning On quick in order to respond properly. 

I'm making this sound far more involved than it really was.  When your knowledge base is pretty much zero, anything new is a big deal.  Good thing I like maps as most of this was logistic planning.  Other aspects were variations of what I already know such as train, bus, ferry scheduling, albeit in a different language and some I cannot buy without an agent, but there is lots of support out there.

I find myself in the strange position of knowing where I'm going and big picture of what I will be doing once I arrive but with no flights (yet) to get there or for once I'm there.  Completely opposite from how I normally approach things.  Usually I am seat sale driven as it is commonly the single largest expenditure for me.  Already started buying appropriate clothing and supplies. 

However there are no current flight sales to where I'll be heading.  Not expecting there to be much give in price as I'll be travelling during high season (unusual for me).  Same for trip number three if I get my way.  In fact, I'm giving up skiing this year just to go. 


I know you have all been sitting on the edge of your seats awaiting the riveting conclusion to our washing machine woes, so here it is...  : )

The saga has ended with the purchase of a new set after all.  The part came on time but when D removed the back part of the motor, a crack was discovered in the actual basket/drum.  Normally a warranty issue (25 year coverage on the part) but because the washer came with the house, we don't have a receipt to prove it.  To purchase it will cost in the $400 range, so we opted to just replace the set.

The manufacturer gave us a refund on all the parts once he heard what we discovered, which was awesome.  And D found a local fellow who will take away our washer for free and will give us $50 for the dryer. 

Poor D felt completely defeated.  He wanted so badly to be able to fix it (be the hero) and save us the cost but it just didn't make sense.  We tried hard.  That's good enough for me.  Currently the washer is back ordered so it won't be here until next week.  We are going with Samsung this time.

Moving on, D is trying to talk me into letting him change the brake pads on our cars.  Yeah... I don't know about that...  Washing machines are not in the same league as brakes -- A Safety Issue.  Apparently it is "ridiculously easy" and there are tons of videos on it...  Admittedly I haven't done any research on it but the idea makes me even more nervous than not getting my passport back in time.

Because I've been actively avoiding dairy when I'm in North America, I've not had any of Starbuck's signature festive coffees for the last couple of years.  I used to enjoy their peppermint mochas a lot.  They were like dessert to me.
For those out there who are also on the dairy free, soy free bandwagon and don't mind indulging in a little liqueur, D has come up with a fantastic substitute.  It's basically 1/2 cup of dark roast coffee or espresso shot, 1/2 cup of dairy free creamer (I use rice milk.  Coconut creamer works too) frothed up using espresso machine, 1/2 shot crème de menthe and 1/2 shot of crème de cacao.  Voila!  A grown up substitute.  (modify the volume amounts according to your tastes)
And in case you have been wondering just what to do with your no-longer-pumping detergent dispenser that is part of your kitchen faucet?  And you've tried to dilute your detergent, clean it out and put it together again etc.?
Know that you don't have to replace the entire thing (meaning the brush nickel part, in our case), for about $40 no matter what they say.  You can just buy the plastic pump part on its own, at a plumbing supply store for $12 and pop your existing pump head on it. 
You will probably want to find the part number from the manufacturer in advance to make the transaction easier.  In our case, it was a "special order" and took 3 weeks but we finally got it.  In hindsight, probably should have ordered 2 of them. 

Friday, November 15, 2013


ephemera:  what a beautiful word. 
also known as:  
the various assorted suddenly found again surprise reminders
 of places past that put a big smile on my face. 
How's that for a run on sentence?

Last minute decision and it turned out to be a great one. 
Otherwise not much to do in Charlottetown on a Sunday.
Not normally a fan of musicals but it won me over and blew me away.
Highly recommended. 
Monod Sports, Banff AB.
They send a Thank You card signed by everyone at the store with each order.
The store has a long history with supporting mountain rescue programs.

Yummy reminders of Reykjavik.
Swiss Mocha and a couple of "Laki" cookies
to enjoy on the trip back to the airport.
If you want to eat here (The Clam Shack), be prepared to line up in what seems to be
a perpetual line of a dozen or so people -- Moves fast and gives you time to study the menu!
Their "lunch boxes" are quite filling (to me) and their lobster roll won again this year.
Preferred the covered benches facing the water vs the picnic tables facing the line up / street.
Chatted with a lovely couple from Boston who just decided to drive out that morning for some clams.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Mystery Noises Revealed

The second of the mystery noises has resulted in the entire motor drum assembly of our front load washer to be sitting out on the side of our kitchen since Sunday.  Our laundry room is just adjacent.  Just lovely.

In case you are wondering, if and when the bearing decides to let go, it will cause instability during the spin cycle and create sufficient force to snap the shock(s).  The resultant sound is like a machine gun or semi automatic weapon going off continuously.  I was upstairs when this delightful noise came about.  Boy did it make me move fast. 

So far D has replaced the shock and when the spin cycle was tested, it still made a horrendous racket which helped to diagnose the bearing issue.  That part is on order and will cost ($250) and the install will take about 2 - 3 hours.  He already has numerous battle scars in form of metal scrapes to show for it and we have had a talk about wearing proper clothing when doing such work... Men and their "invincibility".  Heard of necrotizing fasciitis??  I would be far more impressed if he came out of all that work completely unscathed. 

Before bothering with the self fix, we did price out a new washer/dryer set just in case as we estimate our current ones to be coming upon 10 years old.  We were pleasantly surprised that you can buy a fancy enough for us model for around $1500 delivery, taxes and disposal included.  And we could have gotten it by tomorrow.  Whereas the part on order will be arriving by the end of the week and the attempt to fix will be made and should it turn out positive, we would have saved ourselves from spending an extra $1100.

The first of the mystery noises pales in comparison.  It was around 11 pm and I was enjoying a quiet evening, when an irritating beeping noise started, non consistently, about every 5 - 10 min.  We had recently started up our furnace.  (No, I'm not one of those folks who forces themselves to wait until 'whatever time' before being willing to turn on the heat.  No thanks.)  So the first thing I thought of was the furnace.  I know you can find error codes on its main electrical board in the form of blinking lights and sounds.  So off I went. 

In the meantime, I kept hearing the beeping and it wasn't coming from the furnace.  It seemed to emanate from the duct work which made it really frustrating.  I checked the carbon monoxide and smoke detectors.  We have a combination of battery and wired in types.  It was driving me crazy and I was starting to foresee a night of little sleep.  So I took to just sitting and standing in between rooms and waiting for that irritating sound.

Not long after my initial search, D called as I had sent him an email (he had arrived at the cottage) and here we were on the phone, me trying to capture that stupid sound so he could give me his 2 cents.  It wasn't in the basement.  It sounded like it was in between the floors.  Finally D walked me through where all the detectors were and it turned out I missed one in an obscure place that I needed a ladder to get to.  It was a battery operated smoke detector after all. 

Something we learned from all this.  Check the date on your detectors.  They do "expire" and will beep because of that and not because it has run out of battery juice.  Wired in units are not exempt.  Turns out we have a number of units that will need replacing.

There you have it.  A little "excitement" to brighten up our every day lives...

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Men & Their Tools

Ever since D decided to turn down the job offer out west, we've had 2 incidences where he has been away for short periods of time and I've had to deal with strange noises at home within an hour of him leaving.  He is now beginning to wonder if the universe is showing him more reasons it was good decision to decline. 

The first incident occurred when he went up to the cottage for the annual water shut down a few weeks ago.  This year he decided to forgo our usual plumbers (as they were fired this past spring for incompetency -- same company we've used for 10 years but new contractors -- lowered customer service and results) and do the job himself.  So off he went armed with our large compressor and his wagon packed.

It made me nervous as it was normally my job to hunt down contractors, interview them over the phone by asking some pointed questions and deciding if I could trust them.  When you live far enough away, it is especially important you find capable people to turn your keys over to.  D didn't want me to look for someone new.  Told me not to worry, which pretty much ensures that I do...

He attempted this 7 years ago and it did not end well.  The following spring, our plumbing bill came to almost $400 as a pipe that still had water in it had burst over the winter.  No damage to the cottage was done as it was in the crawlspace.  Nonetheless the opening weekend wasn't as calm as it could have been. 

He had decided to used our small compressor (Why??!!) and did not bother with the correct hose fittings (I'm shaking my head)...Since then, I've opted out of being around for all the drama a Grown Man can get himself into while attempting something that is often out of their league but totally doable in their mind...

To be fair, he has surprised me many times with success (various electrical, vehicle, household and opening of the cottage) but has not yet proven it in the close down plumbing procedures up north.

Since I'm the only one in the household who actually took shop classes, I don't believe D enjoyed having me around the first few years, peering over his shoulder asking him about stuff because of course I took it upon myself to read up on it and talked to people at Home Depot etc. ahead of time...

Why would that surprise him?  What did he expect?  He knows the type of woman he married.  In my mind, we're both after success/results so what is the problem?!

Wow, I've gotten completely off track here.  I'll have to continue the original purpose of the post in part 2.

Friday, November 8, 2013

More Stories

***We have SNOW!!! A light dusting on the rooftops and trees this morning!!!  Really beautiful.***

Funny how some things show up all at once.

I met the wife of D's colleague a while back and had a chance to meet again over the weekend.  She is a stay at home mom with a couple of young children.  Used to work as an admin for a large law firm.  We chatted about a bunch of stuff, one of which was my food allergies which came up as she was observant enough to notice I was actively thinking while browsing a table full of foods. 

Turns out she suspects she might have allergies too as she gets pain and discomfort after eating certain things.  However, her husband doesn't Believe her...and won't "allow" her to go seek help in form of medical testing, even though they have really excellent extended health coverage! 

She behaves like she gave up all the rights to her life when she decided to be a stay at home mom.  And because she isn't currently bringing in any income (but supported him while he was in school), she feels like she has to ask permission to do stuff, buy stuff etc... 

Obviously hearing this really bothered me.  And in many ways, I'm the last person she should be talking to about this kind of stuff because I can get so worked up when faced with unfair things in general but especially when someone is clearly short changing themselves.  And I'll want to encourage them to overcome it as it's painfully difficult for me to witness someone being mean to themselves.  However, that may not be what they were hoping to hear. 

The truth is I have had a whole lot of "unfair" things (some quite horrible) happen to me growing up.  Knowing just how much it has taken to move beyond it, I tend to spring into action when witnessing self defeating behaviour. 

I thought her husband was an OK guy, a bit old school in terms of how he runs his household with "old European" views on family but seemed reasonable.  What happens behind closed doors can be very different.  I did have to rein myself in because I don't know her well enough to feel comfortable asking certain questions that may come across like I'm trying to create a wedge in their marriage.  But it sounds like it is might already be there.  And this is a couple in their mid 30s. 
I feel a key issue is respect.  Respect for a spouse that is doing non paid work.  Respect for the Mother of your children.  Respect for self/life/health.  I'll be the first to admit to having control issues but that level of it enacted on someone else can be construed as abusive if it is interfering with their well being. 

She doesn't have an assertive personality and I know I was trying to light a fire under her feet a bit but I believe you can be sweet and strong at the same time.  Personally I feel that makes for an even more attractive woman.  Her dream was to get married, have kids and not have to work.  So in that sense, she got what she wanted.  But being with someone who appears to not care about your health?  I know if it were me, I'd be feeling pretty hurt and neglected (and steaming mad).

Here's a contrasting story.

Our return out west allowed my buddy and I another opportunity to get together.  Things are still really tough on his end with respect to his wife's health.  It is still agonizingly difficult for her to work even two 4 hours shifts a week due to pain.  (remember she is an MD)

Because our week was so jammed pack full of assorted appointments and meetings, there was only one day that worked.  We went for a morning coffee at a French café D and I discovered and ended up having gelato instead.  Walked and talked with coffee after, then continued onto lunch. 

He looked at me with such sadness when he said that what we just did in the past few of hours was no longer possible with his wife.  What?!  Go for coffee, ice cream, walk on flat ground and have lunch at a restaurant over a period of 4 hours?!  I was speechless.  And the gravity of how much their lives have changed really hit me.  I immediately lost my appetite. 

I knew he had changed up his whole office schedule to accommodate her various ongoing appointments.   That was why he was able to offer me space.  He didn't feel optimistic that his life was going to allow for full time work anytime soon or maybe ever again.  But he has accepted what could be "the worst" and will continue to be her support for as long as it takes.  They are in it together.  His commitment to her is unfailing.  Almost made me cry.

When I told him of my upcoming laser surgery, he had an immediate reflexive mini "freak out" reaction.  That told me just how sensitized he had become with anything associated with health issues.  I had to assure him that it was not serious a couple of times before I saw that alarmed look in his eyes go away.  To which he replied with, in a very low controlled tone, neither was his wife's first surgery and look at how things turned out.  Fair enough.

He was really disappointed we weren't moving out there.  Told us we have a standing offer of lunch or dinner on him whenever we don't feel like cooking -- Just come on over.  I think we'll consider doing a short layover on route out west as we now have met a number of great people during this adventure and it would be super to see them all again. 

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Future Travel

The gates have officially been opened... D wanted to let everyone know that although this down time was longer than previous, he knew it was going to happen.  I'm not feeling antsy to go away immediately or anything -- Far from it actually.  Just cannot turn my mind off from exploring and learning, even if it doesn't lead to anything concrete. 

A bit ashamed to admit I've burned up more hours researching new to me countries and logistics in the last week than I actually spent working.  Which led me to start my work week feeling as if it was already Thursday... Completely self inflicted. 

For me, it never hurts to understand how different regions of the world goes about doing things.  It might come in handy some day.  I just tuck away the knowledge for when an opportunity or desire surfaces and I'll already have a head start, or at least an idea if I'm interested or not. 

I'm happy though.  Have learned a whole lot, ruled out a couple of other places and approaches for now and although the current prospects frighten me a little, I have booked 2 hotels in the anticipation of new adventures.  Until I actually plunk down money on the flights, it isn't necessary firm but the picture of possibilities in my mind are getting stronger and clearer.  I'm slowly psyching myself up (and out) about it. 

I'm limiting myself to 3 trips next year (We will be heading out west also but I don't consider that a "real" trip, instead a visit home) so the goal is to make them extra special.  It's a bit of a tall order as I've done some real peak (to me) discoveries recently.  And I don't mean financially going all out either. 

A better descriptor would be I'm aiming to push myself in a different way next year.  To stretch myself mentally and emotionally.  Despite always seeming to have a strong need to thrust myself "out there", I do feel I live in a bit of a protective bubble.  Time to start shaking things up gently.  We'll see how this all ends up going down.  It's easy to feel oh so brave in front of a screen. 

Thursday, October 31, 2013


I was in line the other day, waiting to check out, when I witnessed a conversation that made me sad. 

It was an older lady (guessing late 70's) describing her current experiences at home.  She suffered multiple compression fractures to her spine at her cottage while doing some outdoor work.  Had been active her whole life.  And since then, had not been able to enjoy doing much and spends the majority of time going to appointments to help manage the pain.

The sad part of the story was her description of how her husband was still expecting her to do everything as if she was not hurt.  "He's used to having everything done for him.".  And the act of cooking absolutely kills her now.

I can understand generational differences up to a point.  But where is the humanity?  How many of us are able to stand by and witness suffering and not be moved to do something to help?  And we are talking about his spouse!  I was appalled.  The pain, hurt and exhaustion was apparent on her face.   

Even though I knew I was only hearing one side of the story, the angry woman in me immediately thinks about what I would do in that instance if everything I heard was true.  Kicking the guy out to the curb comes to mind pretty quick.  And that separation would cost him too.  I'd be hiring some at home help until I got better.

It's frequently the tough times that show true colours and commitment.  It would be even sadder if she had felt all along that she was part of a wonderful marriage.  Could you be in a marriage that long and have no hint or idea that could happen?  Or do you hold onto the hope that they would step up if and when something serious happens?

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Settling Down

It appears I'm going through a strong nesting phase right now.  Not surprising from all that has gone on with the search for a new home location.  Had my east coast trip happened last year on schedule, it would have been to 2 cities for the purpose of exploring housing and career options. 

Because it was delayed to this year and we had already gone through the process out west and decided it was a our one and done, this year's trip was for leisure only.  No more energy to keep searching.  It is far easier to plan a retirement move than 2 career moves. 

I don't even have one trip booked for next year yet.  Normally by this time, I've got a couple set.  The desire is there but not feeling the urgency.  Perhaps it is because I've done so much this and last year.  Really got out to the places that were tugging at me the most and feeling satiated from it. 

Told D I thought next year would be more temperate with respect to travel.  He wasn't convinced, proceeded to laugh and was positive that it will only take one photo or article or conversation and I'll be off.  I don't know about that.  Something feels different right now but I cannot pin point it.  Think I am settling into a new level of contentedness.  Whatever it is feels peaceful and unrushed. 

Perhaps it has something to do with my recent laser surgery (cosmetic, non serious procedure).  The culmination of 2 years plus of dealing with my food allergy stuff.  It went really well and getting rid of the visual scars from the allergy gave me a greater sense of relief than I would have imagined.  It was one of those things that people would ask me what I was referring to when I would tell them about my hive scars.  It bothered me more than others and now it doesn't bother me anymore. 

Also have an overwhelming desire to go over everything we have around the house and decide if it is still useful.  We've been at our current location for 7 years now and I'm embarrassed to admit we have not gone through a thorough overhaul yet.  Little bits here and there mostly related to clothing and books but that's all. 

I want to tackle the kitchen, basement and garage first, 2/3rd D's domain.  So I'm expecting some push back.  I feel I've neglected my home and taken it for granted with being away a lot the last year or so, leaving D to shoulder the majority of the burden.  He hasn't complained but it isn't right.  Need to place my energy back onto my biggest financial investment and get my head back into the game. 

[There is currently a contest (via Facebook) going on to win a trip to Greenland.  Imagine my surprise when I see an entry by someone I recognized.  One of their pictures, I am very sure, was taken by me as we were sailing back through the Icefjord to Ilulissat!]

[The Icelandic clothing company -- Cintamani has come to Canada!  I couldn't believe my eyes when I was walking around in Halifax and suddenly saw the store frontage.  Ran across the street to find out they had just opened 3 1/2 weeks prior.  The fellow working there was from Iceland and was surprised (and probably overwhelmed) by my enthusiasm for his country.  Couldn't help it.]

Sunday, October 20, 2013


I don't have the good fortune of having in-laws I get along with.  It is what it is.  We just don't get each other and likely never will.  At first I thought it was a nervousness thing.  In time, I've concluded we are just very different people with vastly different communication preferences. 

By that I mean they don't communicate effectively or at all whereas I like conversation and make an effort to ask questions and find out what's been going on.  In the 10 years I've known them, they have Never asked me how I was doing.  I just get to hear a lot of ramblings about neighbours and their kids, people who I don't know.  It is totally one sided.  Times that by 3 days and I want to kill myself. 

It feels like (is) a huge chore to spend time with them.  I dread it.  I know D would like it if we got along better.  But you cannot force what isn't there.  Plus I don't have much of a tolerance for mediocrity.  It's downright painful to be around them.  And though I've never met her, D's ex-wife felt the same. 

I consider myself to be a fairly decent communicator and have a wide interest base but seriously, I cannot find any amount of common ground outside of some hobbies with D's dad (target shooting and fishing).  If they weren't my in-laws, I'm sure we wouldn't chose to be around each other. 

They just aren't very caring or giving people but insist on a certain amount of "face time" to appease some social norm.  I've managed to duck out of a number of such events because they aren't pleasant and I hate pretending to be interested in something I'm not.  That's not respectful to either party.  I'm at the point where I don't care what they think of me.  The unbelievable part is that they feel they have been so successful in creating a "close and loving" family!

I wish they could be honest with themselves and admit they don't really care about anyone.  That they prefer being alone on their 9 acre property in the middle of nowhere.  It would solve a lot of problems and take the pressure off of everybody.  D is used to having parents who are more into themselves than their children.  His brother is cut from the same cloth but with sarcasm and mean spiritedness added in.  So no, I don't get along with him either. 

D tolerates it because it is what he knows.  After all they aren't "bad" people...He is used to them not caring enough to ask about what's going on and who manages to forget things like him losing his job a week after he told them...A lot of times I get so angry for him.  He just shrugs it off which makes me even more angry.

So am I surprised when they didn't bother to ask how I was doing after I broke my arm?  Not at all.  If they were my real parents, I'd have some serious issues.   

I'm of the school that you teach people how to treat you.  And if you continue to allow someone to treat you like crap, then you are consciously propagating an unhealthy relationship. 

Thursday, October 17, 2013

East Coast Apparel Tips

I have much more experience with cold weather travel (meaning snow) versus rain.  Being soaking wet isn't always fun and can make you miserable in a hurry especially when it is a cool rain. 

So my best tip is to bring along waterproof gear -- Jacket, shoes and rain pants if you are considering a trip to eastern Canada/USA in the spring or fall.  I had a water resistant pant but it wasn't enough when I found myself hiking in the rain. 

My jacket (similar idea but without the down coat underneath) went to just above the knees so that was great.  But once the rain ran off the jacket it just soaked through my shell pant.  Luckily I had on my Icebreaker tights underneath (merino) so the moisture wasn't clinging.

Three hours later worth of pouring rain, I made a bee line for the first sports store I could find and bought myself a pair of waterproof pants and boy was I a happy girl after!  Especially when the following 3 days were wet as well.  I wondered how I made it all these years without a pair?!  Just dealt with it I guess.

You know what the best part is?  Being able to sit outside on a bench in the rain and be toasty dry.  People (if there are any around) look at you funny but I was really enjoying myself.  Felt like a kid again and grinning ear to ear.  The feel and sound of rain can be so therapeutic. 

Which brings me to the next part -- Shoes.  My hikers (low rise) are waterproof so no issue there.  Though, when water dripped off your waterproof (or not) pant and happen to catch the edge of your socks, you will get wet feet from the inside, if you know what I mean.  So higher rise shoes or being extra diligent about the overhang of your pants should take care of this.

The last part is gloves.  I had my leather ones with me.  Not the best choice.  They weren't waterproof so they let in water at the seams and eventually through the leather.  The only gloves I own that are waterproof are for skiing, so too warm for the climate I was in.  Ideally a pair that is liner thin and waterproof would be perfect.  They do exist. 

Don't know if this is universally happening but in Canada, there are currently some great sales on last season's cold/transition weather merchandise.  I don't care about subtle changes in style from year to year and as far as I'm concerned, black is black so I stocked up on more Icebreaker pieces as well as other assorted gear for half price or better. 

This is not a small stream, it was the hiking trail.
However I managed to miss the small steps that were supposed to get me
over the pipe as I was too busy looking away from the rain.  So I just ducked under.

This was the small stream.

I've never seen a tree like this before.  The bark was so shiny.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

The Condensed Back Story

As with my previous post where I wrote about saying no to the move, the paragraph or so of its description made it seem so simple, so obvious.  However, it did not reflect all the mental emotional effort that led to the short summary. 

When this opportunity came about for D, it was unexpected.  It wasn't one he had applied for but rather one he was recommended for when a previous boss found out we were considering a relocation and had a connection to what he felt was a super company out there. 

So we were very surprised and had no idea what to expect when D was offered an interview/meet and greet with 2 of the 3 Principals of the company.  Which led to a second interview with the 3rd Principal where D was offered a position which involved significant travel.  Something he did not have extensive experience with before but felt he was capable of doing.  It was 50% travel as they were assuming our move was definitely happening. 

When D told them we were not moving, that's when the level of travel increased to 75% to compensate for being out of province. 

Because I had already said "no" to the relocation, I found myself in the position where I felt like I was going to be the "bad guy" again.  I know that I wasn't really but couldn't help feeling that way.  Why was that? 

Because my first impression of the offer was not a positive one.  I didn't care about the money being offered but D did.  It was more than he had ever seen on paper.  For me, there isn't an amount where I would be OK with such a significant material change to our marriage.  To put it bluntly, it wasn't what I signed up for.  It would be a different story had we had grown into this together.  This came out of the blue for both of us.  And in many aspects, we are far from a newly established couple.

So what to do when your spouse was feeling so pumped about the potential of the position?  This was a role he felt he could excel in, a role he had always dreamed of.  How could I not be supportive and work on finding a solution?

In order to adequately access what life on the road will look like, I did what I knew.  I checked out all the flight schedules, main airlines, airport hubs of locations he would be going to.  By doing so, we could figure out just what a travel week would look like.  How early he'd have to leave, if he could make it to location the same day and if he could make it home by the end of the week.  I even looked at apartment rental options so he wouldn't have to stay in a hotel for the week.  A much healthier alternative to restaurant food all the time.

For most if not all locations, it would be a Sunday afternoon - Friday travel week.  Which leaves Saturday as a home day before leaving again.  I didn't like it.  Seemed easier and less stressful if he would just stay on location, finish the work before coming home. 

It was very difficult to stand by and allow D adequate space to sort this through.  I have a horrible habit of wanting to "fix" things and offer solutions whether asked or not.  Obviously, I wanted him to come up with the same conclusions as me without coming across as the overly emotional wife.

But it is my marriage too.  I like the amount of time, contact, level of interaction and cooperation we have together.  Negotiating the pros and cons was a real test of our communication.  On another level, it was hard not to think the thought that maybe he didn't want the same things anymore?  That the lure of this position was stronger than what we had?  Was this a sign we were growing apart?

It also played on something I worried about a long time ago when things started getting serious between us.  I worried that because we met at a time when my life and dreams were more established than his, that my lifestyle may have steamrollered his.  I believed him when he said he wanted the same things.  This process challenged that and I was afraid it was going to be proven wrong.

I know that as a person, I'm well suited for a husband that travels for work as I'm fairly independent, can keep myself amused and handle stuff around the house.  Worse case, should I not want the extra work, I'm not averse to hiring out.  As I do travel up to 10 weeks a year solo, I obviously don't mind spending alone time.  But was it selfish to not want him away so much?  I questioned my motives a lot.

Another issue was D's perception that the position would mean greater autonomy.  I have a lot of autonomy in my work.  And he would like to experience the same.  But it isn't the same.  I interpreted the position as a "turn your life over" to the corporation for one goal and one goal only.  The title may sound more impressive and powerful but the level of subjugation I felt would be much higher.  His life would be all about work.  Opposite of what we had been building and living.  And he is going to have to work extremely hard to earn the extra dollars.  There are no freebies.

It was a lucky coincidence that I ended up travelling on continent for once because time change wasn't an issue and we were able to touch base daily.  Because the start date wasn't going to be until Jan '14 (as they initially assumed we'd need time to move), there was time to discuss the various facets though neither of us wished to make a career of it.  My being away was a good thing too.  Allowed both of us to sort through thoughts and feelings without the others' interference/influence.

In the end D came to his own conclusions and they happily matched mine.  Yes I did provide lots of opinions and questions -- Wouldn't be my way not to but hopefully done in a manner where I wasn't coming across like I was trying to control or "spoil" everything. 

I learned he is as protective of our life as I had hoped (phew!).  Had it turned out differently, then time would tell if the glue that holds us together is strong enough to withstand such a large voluntary change.  Voluntary being the operative word. 

There are changes that are forced onto couples and families that cannot be easily understood or negotiated, only managed.  This wasn't one of them.  We had to remind ourselves that this whole out west search was self / lifestyle motivated, not out of need for more income.  So it was imperative to remain highly cognisant of potential consequences during this process. 

That's not to say he wasn't upset or sad about it.  D did feel like he was letting his old boss down and all the friends who travelled for work (who were rallying for him to accept) by not stepping up.   Bottom line was he decided He was about more Life, over more money and more work.  We are both ecstatic to lay this whole adventure to rest.  Have much to be grateful for.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

D's Work Offer: The Decision

Here it is: 

Excerpt of D's email to my "Parents" (the couple who have been more supportive of me than my biological ones).

MW has just come home from the East Coast and is swamped at work, so I thought I would reply with an update on the job decision.

The opportunity itself would be a real chance for me to use my skills and do some great work, and will lead to plenty of opportunities further down the road. But, once we started getting a clearer picture of what 75% travel looks like, I am not sure I am up for that big of a change and be even coherent once I get home.  It would mean selling the cottage, as we would not have time to use it.  Currently we go up on Thurs night and I work remote on Fridays.  (Turns out my travel work week is more accurately described Sun to Fri.)

Our lifestyle is pretty great right now, and something like this, which on one hand would scratch my career ambition itch, would leave me with a very different leisure life.  Combined with MW's travels, we run the very real possibility we might not see each for extended periods of time.   So as you can imagine, it really does not work with our life and this week, I will be declining the offer.  This officially ends the XYZ Adventure.

And an excerpt of their reply:

Thanks for keeping us updated on what has been a very difficult decision; however, you clearly carefully considered all factors and have no doubt made the right decision.  As you note quality of life counts for more than the job!  We trust (your company) will be pleased, as no doubt was MW.

Speaking of MW, how was her east coast adventure?  It seems she would have had pretty fine weather, which is rare and quite essential in those parts.  And how is your biking going?  Tour de France next?

We eagerly anticipate your visit.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Final Pictures & A Decision

I was fascinated with the density of these pilings.  Never did find out why. 
Waterfront -- Portland, Maine

D has come to a decision about the offered work position. 
I will write about it once he has made it official with the company.

Thursday, October 3, 2013


On this trip, I learned that for me, being around water outranks mountains by a hair.  I've always thought of them as equally important.  Not this time.  Nothing decompresses me faster than the sights and sounds of big water.

So the timing of this couldn't have been more perfect.  I had a lot to purge and sort out.  This was the trip I was supposed to have taken last fall right at the time hurricane Sandy made landfall.  So I had a year to use the travel credit.

I spent a lot of time in transit because of the various modes of transportation -- Also related to said travel credits.  Normally it would have bothered me as I like to "get there" in the most efficient way possible but I quite enjoyed the lengthened time between places.  I needed it.