Thursday, February 28, 2008

Well today was one of those days where I really thought I would have to seriously hurt someone, and there were several choices for that honor. The following email exchange with a colleague sums it up. I had written of my frustration and possible homicidal tendencies but the situation was resolved and I was glad that I didn’t have to put a contract out on anyone, as I was too busy so they got to ‘live another day’. To which the reply came “good, I’m glad I didn’t want to have to visit you in jail” And of course my response “Jail is looking good at this point - I have many hobbies, which I could pursue.” No argument as her reply was “I hear you....”

I’m posting the link for the word of the day, as there are a couple of good entries lately. Especially the pound symbol article. I’m reminded of the pound/pound confusion when we were newlyweds and living in Labrador as we had a British couple (midwife and dentist who I worked with as International Grenfell Association was our employer) over for the evening. There was a discussion about their trunk not having arrived from England, although they were reassured that it was insured for 500 pounds. My amazed husband asked “are you serious? 500 pounds, how big is it?” To which my co-worker said “oh about the size of this coffee table” My husband was still skeptical and inquired “what do you have in it anyway, books?” My colleague began to list off some articles and ended with “and all of David’s jumpers” My Canadian husband who thought of jumpers as something I wore over a blouse was completely floored and said, “you wear jumpers?” to the dentist who replied “well only when it’s cold but this is Labrador in the winter” by way of defense. By now my friend was the one looking perplexed and I had to intervene to translate for my husband that the pounds insured was a monetary value not a weight!

Now this Yahoo News posting – had an irresistible title……

Blind Irishman sees with the aid of son's tooth in his eye
Wed Feb 27, 12:28 PM DUBLIN (AFP) -

An Irishman blinded by an explosion two years ago has had his sight restored after doctors inserted his son's tooth in his eye, he said on Wednesday. Bob McNichol, 57, from County Mayo in the west of the country, lost his sight in a freak accident when red-hot liquid aluminium exploded at a re-cycling business in November 2005. "I thought that I was going to be blind for the rest of my life," McNichol told RTE state radio. After doctors in Ireland said there was nothing more they could do, McNichol heard about a miracle operation called Osteo-Odonto-Keratoprosthesis (OOKP) being performed by Dr Christopher Liu at the Sussex Eye Hospital in Brighton in England. The technique, pioneered in Italy in the 1960s, involves creating a support for an artificial cornea from the patient's own tooth and the surrounding bone. The procedure used on McNichol involved his son Robert, 23, donating a tooth, its root and part of the jaw. McNichol's right eye socket was rebuilt, part of the tooth inserted and a lens inserted in a hole drilled in the tooth. The first operation lasted ten hours and the second five hours. "It is pretty heavy going," McNichol said. "There was a 65 percent chance of me getting any sight. "Now I have enough sight for me to get around and I can watch television. I have come out from complete darkness to be able to do simple things," McNichol said.

And this article in the newspaper which I read part of in my 20 minute lunch hour – I am determined to still call it that – explained many things from my not too distant past:

Blame biology for sullen teenagers
By The Times of LondonThu. Feb 28 - 5:00 AM

A little-known region of the brain has been pinpointed as a key factor in the transformation of mother’s little darling into a rude and moody adolescent.

Scans of adolescent brains have shown that the length and intensity of their tantrums correlates directly with the size of their amygdalas. The bigger the amygdala, a region linked to anger, the bigger and more aggressive the rows with the parents are likely to be, according to research.
Teenagers with smaller amygdalas were likely to be delights to have about the house but those with an expanded version were identified as real nightmares.

Researchers identified the link between stroppiness and the size of the amygdala when they carried out brain scans on 137 children who had been arguing with their parents.

Volunteer families were put in rooms and asked to talk through sensitive issues. Among the topics that quickly prompted rows, even in the laboratory, were homework, lying, bedtime, talking back, and the use of the internet and mobile phones.

Children with the largest amygdalas displayed the "longest sustained aggressive behaviour," Nicholas Allen, of the University of Melbourne in Australia, said. "Some of the behaviour of young adolescents isn’t driven simply by the environment. There’s also some biology involved."
The findings, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, were part of a study to identify early warning signs of mental problems including eating disorders and depression.

As children enter adolescence, their brains undergo radical rewiring to help them cope with all the changes their bodies are undergoing, including puberty and hormones. Human brains continue to develop into a person’s early twenties, and many of the inbuilt neural safeguards against losing their tempers have yet to be put in place.

Allen said that children aged 11 to 13 had been chosen for the study to monitor behaviour immediately after the onset of adolescence. "What we were able to do is look at the relationship between the kids’ biology, the brain structure and their behaviour during their interactions with their parents," he said.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Good coaching

We enjoyed the movie Bucket List last evening - you know the one with Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson working through their 'things to do before we die' list - with two other couples. It was nice to get out socially and we stopped off for a visit at the first of our houses which was on the way and had some snacks, conversation and a glass of wine. For middle aged rural folks this is as exciting as it gets.

This afternoon I'm going to put together my application package in anticpation of being able to pick it the audition DVD on a trip to the district facility. If I get particularly ambitious I may even rough out the NS Duck Toller Retriever presentation. But my first priority is taking one of those for a walk.

I am offering this article out of the Chronicle Herald this weekend as a motivational boost in keeping with my plans for cruise speaking/retirement etc. although it's important NOT to think of the author as on speed and focus on the speaking points as it's a tad exhausting just to read it:

Good coaching will change your life

IT IS NO WONDER life coaching is one of the hottest trends for people wanting to get the most out their lives, organizations and communities. The word "coach" in "life coach" comes from the sports coach who challenges the athlete to go for gold by consistently improving themselves every day.

The Power Within motivational event is coming to Halifax next week. If you are one of close to 7,000 people in attendance, promise yourself one thing before you go: Make a commitment to live out everything that moves you to action, and get past any fears that are preventing you from living your best life long after the event.

For if you do, I can guarantee that one year from Feb. 26 your life will be much richer, more directed and more successful than you dared imagine.
When I lived in British Columbia, I attended the Power Within conference. In between presenters, I met Mike Lipkin, the opening speaker. I recall how Mike heard me talking about the city with a colleague.

He walked up to me and said, "You are on fire!" At the time I was on contract with a municipality in B.C. Mike and I spoke at great length about motivating people inside bureaucracies to become engaged, present, excited, fearless, to demonstrate leadership and to muster the courage to do the right thing for the citizens at all times.

I channelled all that I learned from that experience and conference and exercised the philosophy of seeking the best from myself from that day forward. I got the discs and the books for every speaker that presented, and I read each book, listened to each CD in the car and then when I was finished I gave them to every manager at my city that had been frustrated with stalled progress.

My city went on to win the highly competitive Cultural Capitals Grant, garnered many national marketing awards for municipal economic development, and the model we created for revitalizing impoverished neighbourhoods and commercial areas was the only model in North America presented at the World Urban Forum.

The reason I was able to be the champion to spark all of this, was that I was able to excite my team and my leaders to stretch for excellence and to let go of their fears.
I got the chance to thank Mike Lipkin this past weekend as I interviewed him for this column. I found that he has stretched and grown significantly since that session several years ago. His new book, called One Life, One Meeting, in coming out in March.

It is about being present. It is about paying the fullest attention to the person or people you are interacting with at that moment. "The best leaders, the best friends, are fully inside the conversation, and giving all of themselves," he said. He defines that as integrity.

Lipkin is president of Environics/Lipkin, a motivation company. He has worked with over a million people in 22 countries and specializes in helping people leverage social values to boost their personal productivity and build strong teams around themselves.

As Nova Scotia universities face declining enrolments and businesses look for ways to attract and keep tradesmen and workers, it’s clear we can use some of Lipkin’s advice.
Lipkin says the size of your dragon (challenge) is directly proportional to your demons (fears). So the bigger the desired goal of achievement, the more work you have to do to achieve it. It begins with being accountable and facing your fears.

He suggests the worst thing that can happen when advancing towards any goal is backing off. When you set out to achieve something, go all the way. A start-and-stop pattern that indicates fear can become a pattern.

"We have an infinite ability to delude ourselves — rationally we get it, but fear stops us and at the end of the day, if we are not meeting our goals, if we are not passing our measures, we lack courage."

Lipkin has a fantastic quote, "If a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, its entire success depends on the final step." Sometimes projects seem to be going 300 steps, 600 steps, but in the end it’s the final step, the 1,000th step that needs to occur. As we wrap up our two-hour invigorating conversation, Mike asked me what the saddest word in the English language is. I said, "Can’t?" He says worse, "Almost."

We need to know where to start. We need to know where we’re going. And we need to commit to the 1,000th step before we embark on any journey.

Barb Stegemann is an ex-pat back home from British Columbia. Her column, Culture Shift, appears regularly. Her book, The 7 Virtues of a Philosopher Queen, is scheduled for release in March.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Digging out again

I would've posted a photo of the life partner plowing the driveway today with the 4 wheeler/plow but frankly I found the thought of documenting yet another dumping of the white snow just too depressing. We were predicted to receive 15 cm last night and we got that and then some. It took me almost 1/2 an hour to clean off the two steps.

Thank goodness yesterday was Friday as the past five days felt like one long work week. When I arrived for Casual Day in my jeans and t-shirt (which read The Beatings Will Continue Until Morale Improves with pirate motif) I was told firmly by the Dietician with a very disapproving look that I should not be wearing the shirt and not to go to the kitchen as she had instructed her staff the skull and crossbones was inappropriate attire. My reply was that 'if the 60+ Rehab Assistant can wear a shirt that says 'I'm not a Doctor but I can take a look at that for you' I'm going to continue as I walked away. There were many crises du jour including one where a family member told me a patient having to be isolated was weepy and I could certainly identify with that. In response to one situation/fiasco I quote the Nurse Manager who is leaving for sunny Florida on the weekend "just another example of why I need a holiday" which I can certainly understand and to think I am only back one week already. But enough about work this is the weekend after all and meant to be enjoyed.

This afternoon has turned into a sunny winter wonderland which was very pleasant for a dog walk but I could still live without seasons. We're off tonight to watch Bucket List so must get supper started. Fried of course - remember - like the oven.

I leave you with this cute poem sent to me by my birthday twin - neither of us are Grandmas yet but we're planning our revenge - the rest of you can put it into action!

When I'm an old lady....

When I'm an old lady, I'll live with each kid,
And bring so much happiness...just as they did.
I want to pay back all the joy they've provided.
Returning each deed! Oh, they'll be so excited!
(When I'm an old lady and live with my kids)

I'll write on the wall with reds, whites and blues,
And I'll bounce on the furniture...wearing my shoes.
I'll drink from the carton and then leave it out.
I'll stuff all the toilets and oh, how they'll shout!
(When I'm an old lady and live with my kids)

When they're on the phone and just out of reach,
I'll get into things like sugar and bleach.
Oh, they'll snap their fingers and then shake their head,
(When I'm an old lady and live with my kids)

When they cook dinner and call me to eat,
I'll not eat my green beans or salad or meat,
I'll gag on my okra, spill milk on the table,
And when they get angry...I'll run...if I'm able!
(When I'm an old lady and live with my kids)

I'll sit close to the TV, through the channels I'll click,
I'll cross both eyes just to see if they stick.
I'll take off my socks and throw one away,
And play in the mud 'til the end of the day!
(When I'm an old lady and live with my kids)

And later in bed, I'll lay back and sigh,
I'll thank God in prayer and then close my eyes.
My kids will look down with a smile slowly creeping,
And say with a groan, 'She's so sweet when she's sleeping!'
God Bless All Moms and Grandmas

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Application plans

The first visit of the morning was from the telephone repair tech who gave me phone access so that was a positive start. I waded through my list of tasks, being constantly sidetracked of course but told myself that my 'take back the lunch hour' plan was a priority so locked the door and read the paper, ignoring several knocks. The boss instructed that I make plans for the national conference in Montreal the first week of June as it is my turn to attend so I will sort that out tomorrow. The following exchange between myself and one of the Managers shows how folks feel just before they leave on vacation:

She: I will let you proceed as I will be on vacation. Handle it roy

Me: I need another vacation after the ‘tree incident’ can I come with you? Who is roy?

She: I do not know but he is always in the saying (A Lockeport thing maybe)

Apparently he spells his name without a capital as well. The day ended on a rather hectic note and when I finally extricated myself from the furor it was 5 p.m.

I am most pleased to announce that the casa was positively balmy when I got home from work thanks to a functioning heating system and solar gain from the weak winter sun with the bitter wind chill held at bay by low E windows. Almost unbelievably mister had been out with the chain saw and was helping one of his employees load firewood on the back of his truck. As I pointed out, that is pretty expensive wood you're handing out there. Appears he hadn't shared his "I'm a lumberjack and I'm okay" story with the colleagues at work yet so I filled in the blanks.

I had a message from the videographer who filmed my lobstering presentation at the library saying she was having some technical difficulties getting it burned to a DVD but was just making sure it could be viewed in Miami. Good to have connections with an ex-pat when you're dealing with Stateside issues. We were both on the same wavelength as I was thinking of getting my act together to submit my application to an agent for the cruise ship speaking.

With this scheme in mind I was trying to pin down the shore captain as to his projected schedule for the next civil service fiscal year (April 1) and that was an exercise in frustration considering I'm dealing with a man who can't tell you whether he'll be unloading a boat Saturday or Sunday. Every decision we've ever had to make for the past 28 years has been 'weather dependent' and here I am asking him when it's likely he can free up a week so I can give a heads up for the vacation rota. When I asked him what was the latest date in April he could get away before things really took off with lobstering/fishing he says "where were you planning on going?" To which I replied "what does it matter? That's like asking what's for supper when you've been invited to someone's house. Didn't your mother tell you that's not polite?" So he pondered briefly and decided that nothing after the 1st of April would work. When I questioned as to when things might slowdown (and trust me the winnowing process was like pulling teeth) he finally suggested that with a great deal of planning he MIGHT be able to free up a week in mid-November. This I pointed out was at the peak of hurricane season in the tropics. He eyed me skeptically (afraid to ask again where the intended destination was) and agreed. He is afraid of being left behind, not sure of the plan but not willing to take the chance - he DID learn his lesson last spring by being too busy to be my travel partner.

Tomorrow is Friday and it begins with a visit from the cleaning lady. There are plans to see the movie Bucket List at the local theatre and if the husbands are antisocial when Saturday night arrives then it will be a girl's evening. I picked up the latest Michael Ondaatje book Divisadero which I'd ordered from the library so I don't care if the predicted snow arrives. Already things are looking up.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Dysfunction and then some

On Tuesday as I headed back to the office I had a very frantic day for myself which started with trying to find where my stuff was – stacked into one of the psychologists office (meaning I spend a good deal of my time redirecting people looking for help – they must not realize I need it myself more than anyone) with nothing hooked up, no key to get into the room, and a door that locks automatically behind you – can certainly see myself getting locked out.

I discovered that the phone and internet were not functioning so by 8:30 a.m. I called the help desk (not really sure why they call themselves that) from my cell phone, leave a voice mail message instructing folks to call my cell and make an attempt to straighten out the office.

Not to be - as within a few minutes there’s a fire drill if you can believe it. One of the counselors asks me “who’s in charge if there’s a drill now that everyone is moved around?” Good safety question I think as I gaze at the orange tarp covering the construction zone and stacks of furniture in various squatters offices…too bad I don’t have the answer.

Shortly after we all resettle ourselves, I faintly hear above the construction noise an overhead page for me to call an extension. I wander over to the admin office to use the phone and say “why did you page me, I don’t have a working phone?” and the reception staff says “yes I heard your voice mail message saying to call your cell that’s why I paged you” So I again repeat, “I don’t have a phone, why would you page me, how am I going to call you?” So she says “I wanted you to call this extension, oh, that’s right you can’t call can you? Oh well, there’s a man here who wants to talk to you shall I send him up, and where are you by the way?” Oh sure, why not!

One of the maintenance staff appears to advise me that a request for the phone service has to be faxed to Aliant (which he has done) but it may ‘take a while’ to get the technician here. When I question the measurement of ‘a while’ he finally concedes days not hours. Sigh. In order to lift my mood he says “I see that the IS tech is here somewhere as the door to their office is open, I’ll see if I can locate them for you” and disappears. So I eat lunch at my desk, which I had promised myself on vacation, I was NOT going to do and make plans for salvaging the rest of the day. At one point one of the staff calls me on my cell phone to come over (it’s a few metres really) due to the no phone and not knowing where I am.

By 1 p.m. when no one returns, I take it upon myself to go on a search mission and find a technician who I have never seen staring at me so I say “are you here to fix my internet?” and she looks blankly at me and then asks my name and says “oh I thought someone would’ve answered that ticket by now” Now who she thought that would be, I’m not clear on but I convince her to come check things out. She moves the cord from one jack to another (I told the maintenance guy not to give up his day job) giving me access and then starts questioning each and every file I have on the computer because she’s going to set up the new system I am on the list for. First she has to get the old system functioning (it’s acting like it’s dying) and this requires my logging on and off repeatedly and then I have to review the files with her and she will transfer “if it works”.

In the confusion I print a list of patient names and when I go looking for the printer, I discover that it has disappeared and several piles of boxes fill the space. I stand in a panic trying to think where this confidential information might have traveled. When I try to find where the data printed the tech suggests in a rather condescending tone as if speaking to a mentally challenged adult “it would print to the printer you usually use” so I point to the empty space and say “and just where is that now?” She has no anaswer so suggests - downstairs (nope) admin (nope) and finally I think of the Mental Health group (other side of the building) and yup – there it is. When I ask her to change my printer settings she does but adds a feature where I have to type in a five digit password for each document I now print because “the other way wasn’t allowed” as obviously one of the other techs is into making life easier not more difficult for staff. How dare they?

By 4:05 p.m. my new computer is set up and ready to go and so am I. I head out to pick up a map of town, mail it to the sociology student needing it for a project, go to the bank and spend 45 min. closing out the rest of our accounts there, fill up with very expensive gas and head along home. I find the man of the house has again been playing lumberjack with thankfully no further damage – pretty expensive firewood he’s giving away I’m thinking. A quick dog walk in the less than tropical breeze and then daughter #1 arrives for supper. We fill her in on all the Cuban friends and review the photos.

Although it’s past his bedtime the shore captain had been tasked with a letter to the Minister of Fisheries and insists on dictating it over my shoulder. No matter that I try to focus his approach by asking him to rough out some points he refuses to be swayed and I am forced to be the grammar police, typist, and creative consultant. Bedtime becomes the next day after I hit send.

As I type the electrician has just left – second time today, first time was 7:15 a.m. after I had a major meltdown due to NO HEAT! On Sunday after all the electrical damage I asked the man of the house if the switches for the heating system had been fried “oh no, everything was just fine” Now on Monday evening when I commented on the coolness of the house – nothing, just turn on the propane fireplace. On Tuesday when I put on a sweater – nothing, actually he did feel the pipes when I mentioned that the thermostat read 67 F. So this morning when it read 64 F, the floor was cold and I had to take a shower before work as I said….I lost it! Shortly the brother-in-law electrician appeared, as I got ready for work because he was summoned after my spousal lecture about not listening to the little woman. However….a part was needed which wouldn’t arrive until the afternoon so it was a bit on the coolish side when arriving from work.

There is no wall oven in stock at the appliance store and parts, which will cost almost as much ($500+) as a replacement ($900) will not arrive until next week at the earliest so we will be on a stove top / slow cooker meal plan for a while longer.

As well, today at work was a continuation of yesterday’s dysfunction with no phone, computer working but 200+ emails to deal with, and many issues, which have been awaiting my return. A long dental appointment where I had my permanent bridge installed after having the temporary one removed with extreme difficulty and gave them $1000 extra which our dental plan doesn’t cover completed the picture. This necessitated a soft diet for lunch and several doses of Tylenol to get through the afternoon.

After warming up in the sauna which mercifully was spared and turning on the fireplace I’m finally warm. Needless to say the interest in watching the lunar eclipse, which is just beginning, is starting to fade, as am I.

Monday, February 18, 2008

It was a dark and stormy night

It was a dark and stormy night – yes it is for sure this evening. I’ll keep this brief, as due to all our electrical/technological issues yesterday I don’t want to tempt fate with a lightening strike.

I was glad to be off to the district facility today and not dealing with the home front. The update from the man coordinating the post silviculture clean up was that the price of a new wall oven would be $900, not sure of the parts cost or if these will work, that the cable and phone lines were repaired this morning so…progress is being made. Mister was looking out the window at the trees blowing this evening and I firmly advised that he won’t be doing any tree clean up if it’s required. He was content to hibernate in front of the sports channel due to his deprivation of last night’s updates.

While searching for the website of our Cuban island getaway I ‘googled’ the name Cayo Damas and came up with daughter #1s entry on 43 Things about her time in Cuba. Here is some background on 43 Things which is a social networking site to basically list your goals, plans etc….you know your Bucket List (as in the movie) Not so much like Facebook you can just share lists of goals etc. Kind of to keep you on track – much like sharing New Years resolutions (well is meant to do) with others.

I’m thinking that 43 things isn’t a very long list with all the plans I have – retirement written 43 times doesn’t take up much room.

Both of the team members who do full time positions in the district facility are planning to be off the last two weeks in March so that will mean I’m holding down the fort – can’t wait. Tomorrow will be the test of my patience as I head back into the office (wherever it is now) to wade through the emails, mails and messages. What fun.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

More drama than we needed

Well as the friend who dropped down this afternoon to borrow corks (don’t ask) said “if you folks don’t have enough drama then you have to cause some” in summing up this afternoon’s events. Details as follows:

Man of the house leaves at 11 a.m. to “go over to the shore to see what’s going on” and doesn’t return until 1 p.m. when he appears at the back door with an odd (odder than usual) look on his face and starts shaking sawdust out of his socks. As he comes into the mudroom he says, “well you won’t believe what just happened” which is punctuated with a loud crack and flashing of various lights in the house.

He starts flicking light switches while explaining that he decided to cut down some dead trees near the driveway and even though he notched it properly, leaned it correctly and left one side attached… the evergreen bounced off a big maple and with slow motion circles crashed into the power pole with our meter, the cable and phone lines attached ripping the power line off and apparently…causing the line to short circuit.

As the man of the hour is on the phone with the NS Power damage to equipment line I’m asking, “what is that loud humming sound in the mudroom and why is there smoke coming out of the oven?” Now as some of you of the opposite gender may be able to attest to (and please excuse this sexist generalization) those with a Y chromosome often have difficulty multi-tasking, meaning he is completely ignoring me and when he gets off the phone and I finally convince him of the situation he throws the main power switch in the panel. When I inquire as to whether NSP is coming shortly he says “oh I told her at the call center it was okay, I’ll have to call back”

This he does before he goes in search of the brother-in-law electrician as the power crew have to a certified electrician present to reconnect the power again. The electrician goes in search of supplies to reconnect and arrives shortly before the NSP crew. The truck with cherry picker blocks the driveway exit for the cork borrower so we have a visit as we watch the progress.

By 4 p.m. the power is reconnected, tested and we do a survey of appliances/electronics where it seems that the only casualties are the wall oven (or at least the computer board) the transformer for the doorbells and the cordless phone (which was ill if not terminal anyway) so certainly better than it could’ve been. And since the deductible on the insurance policy is $1000 we would’ve had to lose more than the oven to make a claim a reasonable possibility. The scenarios were no power for several days, all the appliances fried etc. so we are simply without the oven for a bit. And of course the cable is non functioning, which on the day of the Daytona 500 broadcast, was being treated as equal to the water pump by the armchair race fan as he glumly listened to the progress on the Sirius radio. Mind you it will depend on what the NSP decides is a reasonable fee to charge for a Sunday reconnect due to defective silviculture practices before we are really in the clear.

So the supper invite to daughter # 1 was retracted and the request to shower at a friend’s place was also withdrawn. I managed to get supper together on the stovetop/microwave and the remainder of my chores done which had been postponed in the excitement. One positive was that I didn’t have time to grieve about returning to work in the a.m. as it’s almost a relief. And no I don't make this stuff up to have something to write about, that would be fiction this is definitely a realilty show. I'm thinking that retirement with this life partner sure wouldn't be boring would it?

We're baccckkk

For all those who are missing their novella (our Cuban friends watch Brazilian or Cuban soap operas known as novellas and nothing gets in the way of those!) here I am. Back to reality or at least our version of it here and have been getting caught up/sorted out/straightened away since Thursday p.m. Why is it so much more enjoyable to be packing than un? Why is there so much grieving associated with saying goodbye to the warm weather clothes after they’re washed to be put away for another three months? Why do vacation days go by so much more quickly than workdays? What’s so special about having four seasons anyway – especially that one which starts with W?

Actually the place was in good shape as the prodigal son’s girlfriend had been playing housekeeper to the point I thought the cleaning lady had made it down – she didn’t due to + + storm days. The only casualty was the phone cord for dialup for my laptop, which Gary had apparently been gnawing on in our absence. The pets and the plants were in fine form although the felines were miffed at first and pretended they didn’t miss us, dogs have no such pretensions. Well actually there was one incident the house sitters mentioned where Stanley hid for several hours, not even responding to the shaking of kitty treats, and there was some concern he’d escaped somehow. He hadn’t, just came out from wherever he was hiding in his own sweet time.

We (of course and as usual) had a wonderful trip to visit our Cuban family. And this year with all the attendant added stress it was really therapeutic. It’s been a tough year for Cubans and they looked tired and worried so it’s always harder to leave them. However, we all enjoyed a pig roast on the final Saturday of our stay and it’s always nice to have ‘staff’ to do all the work.

I managed to finish Kite Runner (excellent – a must read) Killing Che (which was very good and both mister and I read for free as there were pages missing and I returned it to the Montreal airport bookstore I purchased it on the way back through) Snow Falling on Cedars, The Pilots Wife, an Elizabeth George novel (I’m her fan now) and Digital Fortress (Dan Brown of DaVinci Code / Angels & Demons fame) which was ok but not as good as I expected and some of the travel partners sailing stories book. Not bad considering all the visiting, snorkeling, sun soaking, eating, sleeping and gazing at sunsets we did.

Had lots of time to decide that I’m going to have to get serious about my retirement planning as we met Quebecois tourists traveling in Cuba for three months each winter and a German couple traveling the world for two years, friends from NB who are retired and travel frequently – envy is not nice. Vacation is one thing but retirement…sigh.

The reports of really rotten Canadian weather in our absence didn’t hurt either. We were really lucky to make it out after the ice storm and back following another big winter storm and apparently several more in between. Yah for sunscreen.