January 9, 2017

Sometimes you need to compromise in life.

A very wise woman once told me that it’s totally acceptable to take a day and just recharge. Sometimes our bodies and minds need a break. Life can get pretty crazy and if you don’t take some downtime your health an suffer. Thank you JoAnn.

This is contrary to how I was raised. I was taught, through observation mostly, that an idle day was a wasted day. The only reason to be at home and not accomplishing something was illness. And it better be a serious illness. The kind that keeps you in bed. Thanks Dad.

So today I compromised.

Dad, you would be proud of what I achieved this morning.

Jo Ann, you would applaud my slothness this afternoon.

Five Things I’ve Learned So Far About Renovating a Bathroom

bathroom

I’m getting a new bathroom. Well, actually my kids are getting a new bathroom. (Not the bathroom above, that is way too fancy for them) Our house is over thirty years old and I’m guessing that the second bathroom upstairs has never been renovated. While the lovely yellowish linoleum has been easy to care for through two young kids, it is time for a fresh new look.

The problem is that I know zero about renovations and my husband is knee-deep in organizing an international sporting event, so he is no help. This is just one of the many times that I am grateful to know somebody. When I talked in my first blog post about knowing so many passionate and talented people, I didn’t realize how handy it might be.

My friend is an interior designer. She and her husband designed and built the house they now live in. My project isn’t quite as involved or expensive as that. It’s only a small bathroom. Basic vanity, toilet and tub. How hard could it be? Apparently pretty hard because I didn’t seem to be able to get it done on my own. We are still in the early stages of planning and ordering but here is what I have learned so far:

1.  If they tell you it’s going to cost x amount of dollars, you can pretty much add 20%-30% on top of that when all is said and done. Not because they don’t know what they are doing or are trying to rip you off. It just happens. You suddenly realize that your 30-year-old window will look like crap with your new bathroom. Add $. If you are ripping up the floor anyway shouldn’t you put in radiant heating now? Add $. Yes, the cheaper vanity is okay but the more expensive one will last longer. Add lots of $$.

2.  There are a LOT of different toilets to choose from. “I just want it to flush” I naively said. I didn’t know how many different types of toilets there are. Floating toilets are very popular right now for example. Somehow I narrowed it down to two or three and then I was stumped. I had already picked a rectangular sink so my friend pointed out that two of the toilets had rounder tanks. I should choose the one with the more square-shaped tank so that it continued the shape of the sink. That is the kind of thing I am paying her for.

3.  Colours come in many colours. White tile is never just “white”. It’s cloud or ecru or steel or egg. Grey slate flooring comes in many shades and can range in price from reasonable to ridiculous. Of course the one that is exactly what you want is always the ridiculously priced one. And the colour you choose is usually the one that was discontinued last year.   There may come a point where I just close my eyes and point.

4.  Interior designers are not all created equally. One of the many advantages of using a designer is that they receive discounts from the suppliers you will be using. The discounts can range from 25-60%. Some designers keep that discount quiet and you pay the full price while they keep the difference. Think of it as their insurance in case anything goes wrong. Others take a portion of it. Others (like mine) pass the entire discount on to you.  Love that.

5.  Contractors don’t have to be crooks. Contractors scare me. I will admit that right from the start. You hear so many horror stories about contractors that seem legit or even are legit and then totally screw you. And there you are stuck with a half done project and a huge bill. Knowing that my friend has used this contractor before to build two houses is a huge relief. They actually went to high school together so they have a history and a trust that I would never be able to reproduce with a complete stranger.

I’m sure that there will be more to learn in the month ahead as we rip everything out and see what is underneath. The whole process is a bit of an experiment for me really. A testing ground, if you will, for the rest of the house that is also stuck in the ’80s. The Best Thing in Life is learning from a pro….who is also a friend.

No More Pity Parties For Me

No_Pity_Party

It was Sunday night and my husband was packing his bags for yet another week away. I felt a small pity party coming on. He has a job that requires him to travel a lot. Typically he is away for at least three weeks a month and often that involves being away for the weekends too. It’s hard on all of us. He practically lives in a hotel and misses out on so many little things that happen at home. Our seven-year old misses him like crazy and knows exactly how many minutes it takes for him to get home once his plane has landed. But, as he packed and I felt the typical Sunday evening disappointment of being alone again creeping in, I stopped for a moment. The night before we had enjoyed dinner with our friend Nicole and her son Jacob. Jacob is three weeks younger than my daughter. The love of Nicole’s life and Jacob’s father died four years ago. They are alone all the time.

Lucas was only 29 in late 2005 when he was first diagnosed with small cell lung cancer. It wasn’t found in his lungs though. The first tumor was found in his nasal passages. After a horrific surgery Lucas and Nicole thought they were in the clear. Wrong. During the appointment to have his surgical staples removed they were given some literature and an appointment date with the BC Cancer Agency. They asked why and were told “Oh, it’s cancer. You didn’t know that?”  They were shocked but still weren’t particularly worried though as the doctor didn’t seem to be. But after meeting with an oncologist and doing what every sick person does, googling his condition, Lucas and Nicole realized just how bad things were. The doctors were now saying “we will do all we can” but the odds were not in their favor. Somehow in that horrific, stress filled time of radiation and chemo and sickness there was a bright spot. Early in 2007 Nicole discovered that she was pregnant.

Jacob was born on September 26, 2007. Fortunately, the next eighteen months were free of treatment for Lucas. It was a welcome change from all they had been through so far. I remember those times well. My daughter and Jacob as babies. Lucas playing Lego with the two of them at one of Jacob’s birthday parties. Comparing milestones, as all new parents do. The joy that Lucas had for being a dad. It wouldn’t last though. Over the course of six years the cancer came back 7 times and Lucas had 5 rounds of radiation, 3 rounds of intense chemo, 2 brain surgeries, a hip replacement, and countless other appointments and tests. Sadly on January 30, 2011 Lucas passed away. Aside from losing her husband, Nicole was now the sole provider for her family and at the young age of 38, a widow. Your not supposed to be a widow at that age. But she was and despite the fact that she has an amazing family and support group, she and Jacob were now on their own.

Feb 25 Jacob and Olivia...aren't we cute!

It’s not a particularly fun thing to do, but try to imagine your life right now if your husband was gone. Not just for a week-long business trip, but forever. Think of all the things that you rely on when your spouse walks through the door at the end of the day. I know that I struggle with things when my husband is away. Typically it revolves around discipline. Was I too hard on her? Should I have let that one go? Maybe I should have been stricter? Not having your spouse there to bounce things off of can make you question yourself. It breaks my heart to hear Nicole say. “I would give anything to have him by my side to tell me I’m doing alright. Even if just for one minute”. She often finds herself wondering in those times “What would Lucas do? To Nicole’s credit, Jacob is the sweetest little boy. He does well in school, loves to swim, loves Lego and can keep up with my crazy daughter on the dance floor. No small feat.

Liv and Jacob

Jacob is seven now and a great kid. He is a mini Lucas. Kind, funny, smart and energetic. But he is having a bit of a hard time right now understanding why all the other kids in school have dads and he doesn’t? He’s even gone so far as to ask Nicole “will I ever have a new daddy”. If that doesn’t break your heart then I don’t know what will. Can’t even imagine how you would answer that question. Nicole keeps Lucas’ memory alive as best she can for Jacob. They look at pictures and she shares stories of Lucas. His love of sports and the Miami Dolphins. Most stories, she says, include the word “fart.” Its a boy thing. Lucas liked a good “fart” story too. He was a big kid with a huge smile and a positive attitude about everything. Mostly she tells Jacob how proud Lucas would be of him.

I’m pretty sure that if all of this happened to me that I would find a dark closet corner somewhere and curl up into a ball. I can’t even imagine how hard it would be to not only lose the love of your life but to then be a single mom and entrusted with raising a little boy without his father. Nicole doesn’t understand how people see her as an inspiration but if you met her and saw the love in her eyes for that little boy and the smile that is on her face every day, you would understand. When I asked her if she had any advice for somebody else going through this she said. “Be easy on yourself. It’s a tough journey”.  What keeps her going?

Jacob-the reason she gets up each day
Family-her mom and brothers
Friends
Lucas’ strength of never giving up
Wine-it’s not an answer but some days it sure helps!

So going forward I will not hold pity parties. Whenever I am feeling like the world has dealt me a poor hand or if I feel like I just can’t quite make it through a difficult time, I will think of Lucas, Nicole and Jacob. They were all short-changed in the game of life but somehow have managed to move on and are seeing all that is good in what they do have. Beautiful memories, love and family. The Best Things in Life.

 

Get a Job

working man

As my seventeen year old begins his search for a summer job I got thinking about all the jobs that I have had over the years and what they have taught me. Jobs, I think, are not always about learning how to build things, or add up numbers or serve people. They can be full of life lessons without you even realizing it. Simply having a job teaches you responsibility, time management and economics. It can also teach you how to deal with disappointment if you were to, perhaps, lose said job.

My first job was at the Fish and Chip Shop in the shopping area close to my home. I was probably thirteen years old. The owners were a lovely British couple named Rina and Paul. (I think…c’mon it was 36 years ago). Arriving for my first day of work I imagined that I would be taking orders and serving the much loved fish and chips. Nope. The first task I was given was pulling the bones out of the fish in the back of the kitchen. After a few weeks I was elevated to washing dishes in addition to pulling fish bones. Eventually I got to take orders, but it did take a while. I learnt that you need to start at the bottom.

When I graduated from high school I was pretty sure that I wanted to work in the hotel business and I think I know why. A close family friend was a VP with C.P. Hotels. He and his wife lived in a suite at the Hotel Vancouver and had wicked parties catered by hotel. I assumed that this was were I would end up. With his connections, I got a job as a bus girl at the Banff Springs Hotel. The dining room was huge; like football field huge. Breakfast shift started at 6:00am. Huge tour groups would flood in, eat and then leave to catch their buses. Dirty dishes, heavy bus pans and sore feet became a regular part of my life. I learnt that a lot of hard work is required before those great parties can happen. If they ever do.

Over time I realized that hotel/restaurant work was not my destiny. I took a two year Business Administration program at the local technical school with the hopes of getting into the business world. I was fortunate to get a job with an actuarial consulting firm as their office manager. For those of you who don’t know, actuaries calculate the future incomes of pension plans. There is a lot of money in actuarial consulting and the firm did really well. It was all very L.A.Law. Partners meetings, extravagant Christmas parties and lots of office politics. I learnt that some people really do use the math they learnt in grade 12 to make a living.

In 1995 Orca Bay Sports and Entertainment was where I met my husband. It’s a bit of a funny story. When I started working there I was married. When I left, three and a half years later, I was divorced and the mother of a three year old who was dating a co-worker. Talk about office gossip. I worked in the finance department helping with payroll. My future husband, worked in arena operations. It was a very dynamic place to work. Lots of young, energetic employees, exciting basketball games, concerts and the occasional Russian hockey player sighting. What did I learn from this job? I learnt that if you can open yourself up to new opportunities that great things can happen. Also, that NBA players are very highly paid.

When I went for my next interview I didn’t know that the company I was interviewing with was Starbucks. What a crazy experience. The job was Administrative Supervisor for Western Canada. It was pretty intense. To start, I was trained to work in a Starbucks store and had to complete a certain number of hours as a Barista. Regular trips to Seattle included a tour of the bean roasting plant, meeting Howard Schultz and numerous coffee tastings. I spent the first few months learning the Starbucks language. At Starbucks it was never half way. You were either all in or you weren’t. I learnt that some companies want your heart and sole and if you can’t give it to them, it’s not the right job for you.

My most recent position was with a small business software re-seller. It started out as an admin position but eventually I ended up in the sales department. I loved the company and the people were great, but sales was not my thing. If they didn’t want to buy it, they didn’t want to buy it. Who was I to change their mind? The hours were flexible though and the owners were understanding of the fact that my husband traveled and sometime I just wasn’t available. From this job I learnt that sometimes you can’t have everything all in one package. You have to take the good with the bad.

So what advice would I give my son as he goes out into the world looking for a job. I know that my advice should be “Do what you love” or “Follow your passion”. But the truth is that he just needs to get a job. A job that will teach him that he needs to be on time. Every day. That he needs to be able to follow procedures and rules. Even the ones he disagrees with. That he may not like his co-worker, but he still needs to get along with them so that he can do his job. That the government will take a potion of what you earn whether you like it or not. Really, he just needs to get a job and know what it feels like to work for a living. Or in his case. Gas money.

I Love to Ski

One of the best things in life for me is skiing. There is just something about the freedom, speed and fresh air that, for me, is completely intoxicating. I think the culture of skiing is appealing too. There’s a certain camaraderie amongst skiers. And then of course there is après ski.

It’s a life I have tried to pass on to my kids and so far have been fairly successful. For me the ultimate ski day starts at first tracks and ends when they close the runs. It’s just the way I was brought up. Occasionally my husband needs to remind me that just because I love it, it doesn’t mean that my kids will love it with the same zeal that I do. And they may not want to ski all five days we are in Whistler. Whatever.

I was probably five, maybe six when my dad first took me skiing. Seymour Mountain; Goldie Rope Tow. It was cold and wet and I was miserable. My dad is not a patient man and after a few attempted runs we had both had enough. He took me back to the car and then went back to skiing by himself. Remember this was 1969 and this was still considered okay. So I sat in the car and pouted. After a while a ski patrol guy happened to pass by. I guess he felt bad for me and since the car was unlocked ( again, they did that back then) he asked if I wanted some hot chocolate. Um, yes. Eventually my parents came back to get me and well, I wasn’t there. I was a happy camper drinking hot chocolate with the nice. ski patrol. I’ve loved skiing ever since.

Somewhere in my elementary school years I actually became quite a good skier. Perhaps it was the hundreds of runs I did with my dad skiing a few feet behind me yelling “bend your knees, skis together, bend your knees, skis together”. That and the crack of dawn wake up calls for road trips to Mt Baker or Hemlock Meadows where we skied all day, only stopping for a picnic lunch at the back of the car. I can’t say that I always enjoyed that part of it, but it did improve my skiing.

So what do I want for my kids? I want them to enjoy life and all that it has to offer. Am I going to get them up out of their beds to go skiing with me? Hell yes. Will it be at the crack of dawn? Probably not. I’ll take the good parts of what my parents did and put my own spin on it.