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.