2010 year in review

January - Exciting for me as I got a new job! I started on the 19th. Hubby to Toronto for meetings. My car in the shop with a not so cheap repair. And we mourn the loss of a (very) loved one.

February - New owners to the house that we rent an apartment in, but they didn't kick us out. People who lived upstairs (and who were insanely inconsistent with the heat) moved out. New owner moved in, and minus some extra noise from renos, all in all, not too bad. We also decided we were ready to start house shopping. My sister and her family visited us. Finally got $$ back from the Province from damage to my car on the 401 last August.

March - Lots, and lots of houses were looked at... All the ones in town were too expensive for what you get, so we started looking further out. Not much else exciting happened. We found the house we like! First offer basically rejected, so we offered more than we were hoping to have to pay, but still a good price and a good value.

April - Offer accepted, money arranged, house inspection done, gave notice to landlord... everything ready. Now begins the packing! Went to Sudbury for Easter, cousin's daughter's baptism. Some more car repairs, not too bad this time. Boo (kitty) got spayed, no more "Goopy Boo!"

May - Didn't actually do any packing in April, started this month. At least 1/3 of our stuff was still packed from the move last October. Hubby in Toronto again for meetings. Later in the month we took possession of the house, scrubbing and cleaning, ripping out carpets, and a week later we moved in! Got help from my brother and two guys from the church. Took about 4 hours to load/travel/unload, not too shabby! Went to Sudbury for Mother's Day - 'little' bro was in town too!

June - house set up, yard work, more house set up, more yard work. Fun! Got new hours at work, so I no longer work Mondays.

July - pretty much settled in and just living. My (not so new anymore) job going great. Hubby gets a raise! Spent a day at the beach with yet another sister and her boys.

August - just living... My sister from another province visited us, twice! AWESOME. We started a puzzle while she was here, which started my puzzle-a-holic-ness. Also spent a day boating with another sister and her family. I actually went knee-boarding too!

September - Went to Sudbury for our good friends' 10th anniversary vow renewal ceremony, was nice! Hubby in Toronto for meetings. This time I went with him and visited my sis and family, and some friends. Good time. I started teaching Sunday School at church. Sad that an Uncle passed away.

October - Our good friend got married on Thanksgiving. Visited my brother and his family. Furnace guy came to clean/service our 40 year old boiler... almost shut us down for good, but thankfully he got CO emissions back down, and we're good for (hopefully) another year. Hubby's got benefits now, so to the dentist we both go.

November - Hubby super busy with work. Levi (our almost 13 year old cat) died near the end of the month, still miss him. To take my mind off it I decorated and put up our Christmas tree - the earliest ever (too early!)

December - Busy with Christmas parties, extra activities and the like. Got a new kitten, she's cute, cuddly and crazy! Both of us had time off at the end of the month, lots of visiting of family here and there. Oh, and we may FINALLY have a family doctor.

All in all, a good year! Looking forward to 2011, and hopefully not so busy! House renos... here we come!

northern zen

It's easy to be relaxed when you live in an environment that is mostly peaceful, an environment that is not in a rush, people like to take it easy. But even then, life can get busy. Balancing work, hobbies, play, visiting, etc... can be tough.
Lately we've been fortunate to do some visiting and to have people visit us. It is always nice to reconnect with family and friends. What is especially nice about many relationships that we have: maybe we don't always talk on the phone or see each other in person as much as we'd like, however, when we do get-together, we can pick up where we left off, like no time has passed. To me that is a relationship with love, one that is not strained by grudges and second-guessing, a relationship that is honest, and they are ones that are cherished.
Sometimes, however, I think of relationships that I do not have that at one time I did. I try not to have any regrets, but there's still a quiet longing for something that isn't there. Don't get me wrong, I understand there's only so much that I can do, and I will not dwell on what I do not have. Perhaps its the naive dreamer in me that hopes for things that are unlikely. I will not lose hope, but I will accept the way things are, and the way things will be.
Most of the time I am truly content. A state of comfort, a sense of well-being. I feel I belong, and I feel I am home. I enjoy life and I enjoy work. I have changed some since moving here to the north - I am calmer for one. I have learned to slow down and enjoy things, which is simple to achieve when virtually everyone around you is doing the same thing. In this state of mind, and in this place of living, its quite easy to see the good in things, easier to look on the bright side.
I feel blessed, and for that I am truly grateful.

2 out of 3 ain't bad

Its been just over 5 and a half years since my Mom passed away. I never knew that I would lose my father too.

No, he has not passed away, but he has moved on. He's moved on so much that he seems to have forgotten most of the life: family, friends, children, that he had while Mom was still alive.
Father's Day was a bit of a tough day, tougher than Mother's Day. You see, I have accepted that Mom is better off in heaven. Mind you there are still times that I grieve and miss her terribly, but I realize that she's still with me in spirit, and always in my heart.
Mom being gone because she's been taken home to heaven is a very good reason for someone to be gone. Dad being gone because he chooses to not be a part of my life is tougher. How do you grieve for someone who is still alive, and well (as far as I know...)
I couldn't call my Dad on Father's Day. I am not even 100% sure if I really wanted to, but even if I did, I had no way to call. He has moved to a new home, and has not provided me with his new contact information. I know I have done my diligence by ensuring he received my new address and phone number, but he has not returned the favor.
I try not to be bitter about the situation, but to me it feels as though I care a lot more than he does. Every now and again it takes its toll - on me. If he was a 'friend' or acquaintance I would have written him off already, but he's my Dad, and no matter what, I still love him. But I cannot continue to fret over the man, he has his life, and all I can do is hope that he is happy with it.
Besides... I have 2 other Dads (hubby's father and step-father) whom are reachable, and whom I have a better relationship with.
As they say... 2 out of 3 ain't bad!

irony of the e

Last month I wrote an entry about our fiasco with ING and our mortgage. Jeff had said something to the supervisor at ING that made me chuckle.
The issue was the fact that we deposited more than one item at a time. Jeff had said "to save paper, no?" Apparently she didn't appreciate that comment. Then Jeff said to her, "you know, I do good work, I try and be good to the earth, and this is how I am rewarded?" I don't think the lady had a response for him.
But the thought did strike me that he had a point. ING is a bank that is mostly paperless, and branch-less unlike traditional banks. One might think that for such an e-forward (as in digitally, or electronically forward) they would appreciate the savings and efforts, but no. Thankfully God appreciates it, and after all, its done for Him and for that reason alone its worth doing!

the un-unmortgage

Business can be tough... Take the business of getting a mortgage, or house insurance. Here describes two interesting, yet equally incomprehensible (if you ask me) decisions made by two companies.

First came the issue with house insurance. Lets rewind for a moment to August 2005 when we first purchased our home down south. We had house insurance through Allstate. We sold the house Sep 30, 2009. We (unfortunately) do not have tenant's insurance.
In April of 2006 we got vehicles and insured both of them with Allstate. We have had this policy ever since.
We asked Allstate for a quote on house insurance for the new house we are buying. Their decision? Declined. Why? Well, basically they told us that we have no history or loyalty with them. You see, from closing date to closing date, over 6 months will have passed, so we are apparently brand-new disloyal customers. No amount of discussion was going to change their minds, and the lady's attitude wasn't very friendly or helpful to the situation. (I will not name the specific lady, but I do not mind naming Allstate itself, as I believe these are Allstate mentalities and methods of practice, and not necessarily the "fault" of the individual, they were just doing their jobs).

Second issue came with Mortgage. We applied with ING Direct (and a couple of other places: A mortgage broker, and RBC). We were pre-approved by all 3 sources - nice! ING had the best rate, so we decided to go with them. We sent them all the paperwork they requested.
Then they asked for additional paperwork, provided. Then some more, again, provided. We were declined. Why? You see, my husband works for a not-for-profit organization. He is a regular salary-paid full time employee just like anyone else who works there. Just so happens that he is also one of the founding members, and just so happens that his brother is the President & CEO.
This was a problem for ING. Somehow this translated into them not being able to verify his income (even though we provided pay stubs, deposit records, letter from employer, etc...). They classified him as being self-employed. No amount of discussion was getting anywhere, their decision was final.
There was another slight problem too, a silly thing if you ask me. We both get paid via an actual cheque that we have to deposit. Because we can't have the funds be held, we have to deposit at the teller. We deposit both at once, and they show up as one deposit on the transactions. ING could not confirm that the deposits matched the pay stubs, even though all but a few were provided (and the few could easily have been provided). Apparently they didn't want to do the "math" to add the two pay stubs together and see they matched the deposit.
(I make note that I do not hold any ill-will towards our account rep, he did everything he could and we appreciate that. I disagree with the organization.)

We are fortunate though. These two experiences (that in my opinion should not have happened), could have broken the deal of buying the house, we'd be in trouble! But we had those other approvals, and we have other insurance connections. Nice to say that we have an almost equal mortgage rate from RBC, and we have a property insurance policy and a much better vehicle insurance policy with another organization (its great to have family in the business).

As for ING and Allstate, they do not get any of my business. Our 11+ year old savings account with ING will be closed (all the money transferred out, waiting to close it until they pay current interest earned). Our vehicles will no longer be insured with Allstate. Their business policies are not acceptable to us, and we will not do business with them.

flourish by detachment

Sometimes we are put into interesting situations. Take starting a new job, for instance. No matter how well you can read people, an interview (or more than one) can only tell you so much. Only time reveals how things are, whether they be good or bad. When you are fortunate enough to enter a work place that has very little negatives that is great.

But what about those places that are in disarray? Maybe the prior management/administration really fouled things up... Maybe the person who had the job before you was so well loved that your presence becomes insult to them... Maybe people got so used to doing things a certain way that any change (even good changes that truly are NEEDED) becomes a hindrance and you are resented for representing that change. With any of these types of situations, time spent in a new role can be very difficult. After many years of experience in the 'field' one may learn how to better deal, but even like the newbie, some things are just too much to handle.

How long do you spend in such an environment? How much effort do you put forth just to be met with resistance at every step? How much can one take? Would anyone in those shoes question a decision to just walk away?

Too many workplaces become the main source of stress in life. Its bad for health, not just our health as the newbie, but those who were there before our time. Its uncomfortable for everyone, and the worse the relationships get, the more the work suffers. It brings pleasure to no one, no sense of accomplishment, and certainly no sense of reward.

Sometimes the situations are so dire that animosity is everywhere, and emotions run high. Everyone seems to be working against each other, rather than together. To that new person just starting out, this can be very discouraging. There are some professions where this disappointment can be overcome simply with a new place to go to work, but for others, it can make or break a long career ahead.

If newbie is going no where, and no one around them is getting anywhere either, wouldn't it just make sense to part ways? Would anyone blame the newbie?

* No, this post is not a real story, not one that is happening to me. Though it's roots do lie in the truth, I've simply created a hypothetical situation based on real-life experiences. Comments are welcome!

an altruistic pursuit

My work at the church is far from glamorous. I perform relatively mundane tasks, many that are repetitive tasks.

But glamor isn't the reason I applied for the position. I never wanted to be front and center in the spotlight (though when there's a typo in the Sunday bulletin, everyone knows who did it! hehe). No, I applied for the position in an attempt to give back.

I have been blessed with skills and talents. Many of these talents could easily be used for positions that have a much higher gain in terms of finances, or personal recognition. However, those pursuits are not for me.

When I was little and thought about what I would be when I grew up, there were many things that came to mind. I can honestly say that philanthropy was not one of them. However, the reward I feel from doing such altruistic work is far greater than anything I initially could have imagined.

So I am not going to "strike it rich" by being a church secretary. So what! Being rich and materialistic is not in plans for me anyway. When I think of a big house, fancy car, lots of "stuff," I just can't see myself being the one that owns it all. I have what I need, and I love what I am doing, for me, that is enough.

I am also blessed with a husband who feels the same way. He also has a benevolent and generous spirit. Helping each other grow in this regard is a wonderful thing to experience. We both feel that we are not put on earth to conquer, to *have*, or to take more than we need.

Yes, we need to earn a living, to support ourselves and the needs of our household. But while doing that, we are fortunate to do work that we love, work that allows us to directly give back to God while earning income to sustain ourselves. Its the best of both worlds, if you ask me!