Monday, 15 August 2016

Monday Musings

A little lot less excitement was to be had this past week in my world.  Work was boring, as it has become this past year or so, and at home this weekend things were quite calm and relaxed.  

I can’t see any significant changes coming at work and that’s a good thing.  We’ve been through so much upheaval in the past three years; it is nice to think that we’re finally in somewhat of a stable routine.  Of course, as I say that, who knows what the powers that be will decide…it isn’t as though they ever consult with us in the field offices anyway.

Time keeps ticking along slowly though I know that when I look back in a few months it will seem to have passed quickly.  My friend C and I were chatting today at lunch and saying, we come into work on Monday saying “it’s only four days until the weekend, I can do that”.  Then at the end of the work week we mentally check off another week.  She plans to be out of here on February 1, 2018 while I plan to leave ten months later.  We'll both use accumulated vacation leave to allow us to "leave" before we actually retire.  The light at the end of the tunnel shines brighter every day and we’re both anxious to get to the finish line.  Sad really when you think about it.  

I don’t either of us want to wish the time away but we’re both fed up with the way the organization has changed.  While there is supposed to be an emphasis on integrity, there have been numerous examples that, in fact, it is simply a buzz word with no meaning behind it.  Further, where once my role would have been to coach and mentor my staff, I have been thrust into the position of babysitter, monitoring their comings and goings, tracking and reporting their progress on a monthly basis, as well as our conversations and my involvement in their workload.  Anyway, suffice to say, I’ve lost a lot of enthusiasm for my work and it simply makes me wish for a different time.

Back at home, I’ve spent a fair amount of time watching the Olympics.  How many of you saw the 100 meter sprint last night?  OMG, those guys are fast!!!  And finally, a Canadian man has made it onto the podium during these summer Olympics.  The Canadian women have fared much better. 

I’ve watched sports I’ve never paid any attention to before, including rugby and weight lifting.  I’ve watched sports I don’t really enjoy – basketball and beach volleyball.  Is there any reason why the women must wear bikinis to play?  The guys don’t wear speedos.  I used to enjoy the diving but found it tiresome this year.  Swimming and gymnastics have been great and I’m looking forward to more track and field events.   Are you watching the Olympics, and if you are, which events are you most enjoying?

While I’ve been plunked in front of the television I’ve been knitting as well.  I have a number of UFO’s (unfinished objects) that I’ve started over the years.  I’ve finished one of these and started sewing together a second one; both are sweaters, one for 0-3 months while the other should fit a one year old.   There is a third sweater in pieces that can wait…it will fit a toddler.  

In the meantime I started a baby blanket…I only had blue yarn in my stash to work with but since my daughter is certain she is having a girl, I went out and got more yarn, this time in pink and white.  Once the blue blanket is complete I’ll start working on the second.   My son’s best friend from high school is currently expecting her second child, a boy, so if D’s second ultrasound confirms her belief I’ll pass this blanket to C’s friend.

 The photo below shows both the front and back of the blanket.  The front looks much like corduroy, while the back has a raised effect.  Even with the edging I think it could be used with either side up.
I’m finding I will have to slow down the knitting though as I’m feeling it in my right arm, as well as some eye strain.  Good thing the Olympics will be finished in a week’s time!  Though perhaps this might be a reason to use up some of the sick leave I’ve accumulated over the past 18 years…
I’ve been meaning to take some photos of my front flower bed.  It is entirely planted with perennials – it took six years to get there – and I’m so pleased with the way it looks.  The purple bee balm is especially beautiful and attracting lots of bumble bees.  I have a couple of containers for added color, but really appreciate the more muted colors and variegation from the perennials.  Plus they are such easy to care for… a little weeding and sufficient watering (which all the rain has provided) and I can pretty much ignore them.

Off to watch the track and field hurdlers and possibly some volleyball while I work on the edging.  Have a great week everyone!

Wednesday, 10 August 2016

Wow, just wow!

First of all, I want to say thank you to everyone who has commented, leaving words of encouragement and support.  You can't possibly know how much your kind comments mean to me.  It helps so much to write down my thoughts and feelings.  Getting your feedback helps me see my current situation was other perspectives and that is so beneficial.

Today brought more support my way, when I met with my assistant director to arrange to cancel my leave for March.  I couldn't have asked for more understanding and empathy.  The form was completed and the ticket sent off to our compensation center within a half hour.  When I left her office she said I should feel free to come and chat with her anytime.

As I shared my news with my peers and my team, there were some excitement, well wishes, and a few hugs too.  While most of my staff and peers are not aware of some of the issues, I have shared some of the history with my closest peers.  They offered words of encouragement and told me I'll be an awesome grandmother.*  I'm joining a club that more and more of my peers are part of, so I'm in good company.

And then this evening, there was all this and more!
Yesterday I had an e-mail from my younger brother.  One of his co-workers (a city police officer) and wife were getting ready to have a garage sale to divest themselves of their baby gear.

They have two girls who've outgrown the items, a small house, and wanted to get rid of the clutter.  I took a look at the photos (not these ones), added up what they were asking to be about $200 and I said I'd take it all.

R called this evening to see if I was home, and he personally delivered everything to me and refused to take any payment for it.
In addition to this Baby 1st car seat (and base not pictured) there are two more car seats.  The photos I had seen were two car seats, but they threw in the third!  This means I can keep one here for the times that I may need to transport the little one.  We've checked the dates and none of the car seats have expired and will mean until the child needs a booster seat we're set.

For the uninitiated (like me) this car seat can also fit the matching stroller...which was also part of the haul.  It releases from the base in the car and can used to carry the baby.  I just realized looking the photo I have it upside down....oops better not do that when the baby is in it.

 The bumbo seat was a nice surprise though I've read some reviews that are less than positive because the child may not be strong enough to hold him/herself up.

I think it comes down to the fact, as with most baby gear, the child needs to be monitored and not left on his/her own.  I'm not sure why that is such a difficult concept for some people to understand.

Below is the playpen that also has an attachment (the plaid piece) for diaper changing.  This will definitely stay at my house as the baby can sleep in it need for an extra crib....and it will keep her/him contained!

In addition, there are two strollers - the one that fits the Baby 1st seat and a jogging stroller, a diaper Genie (basically a fancy garbage can for dirty diapers), a wipe warmer (seriously?), a play mat, a couple of toys, and a diaper bag. Truly amazing!  I can't help but feel blessed by the kindness of this family and the generosity of my little brother.**

D has already found a crib, which she'll borrow from a friend, and I have a rocking chair I bought before she was born.  While she'll need bedding, clothing, and other items, she's definitely got most everything she'll need....and definitely most of the expensive items.

The other thing that happened this evening was a good chat with my daughter.  I won't get into the details but after our discussion I feel somewhat relieved of some of my concerns.  For the first time, that I can ever recall, she took responsibility for and acknowledged that for many years she blamed her actions and failures on her mental healthy issues and/or addictions.  I'm not entirely familiar with the 12 step program but I think that is one of the steps that recovering alcoholics/addicts must go through.

I'm feeling more hopeful today about this situation.  With the support of so many and the possibility this will truly be a positive change for D, I feel the weight has lessened.  Plus I still have six more months to get used to the idea!

*I think I've come up with my grandma name, Grandy.  My niece and nephew have called me Aunty since they were little, and Grandy isn't too far off from that.  Of course, when the little starts talking she/he may have other ideas.  

**I did convince him to take a garden cart I had bought 6 years ago in exchange.  It has been sitting in my garage since we moved six years ago in it's original box.  I'd bought it just before be moved and never needed it here.

Tuesday, 9 August 2016

Life is what happens to you

When you are busy making other plans – Allen Saunders/John Lennon

 Well, I can say tell you first hand there is a great deal of truth in this saying, as life has certainly thrown a bit of a curveball my way.  While I’ve been busy making plans for retirement, determining what my finances will look like, where I want to live, and initiating or planning other decisions necessary to achieve those goals, another hand has been dealt. 

My oldest child, my daughter D, informed me a few weeks ago that she is expecting a child in early February 2017. While this would be, for most prospective grandparents, an exciting announcement, it fills me with some angst.  It has also caused me to re-think and revise some of my plans for the upcoming year, and even into retirement. 

As I was, D will be a single parent, as it is unlikely the father will be involved or at least not to any great extent.  She has never been financially responsible and in the last year this tendency has been exacerbated by what I assume was her desire to please her former boyfriend.  I’m aware of the debt because she has continued to have the account statements mailed to my home (I believe she doesn’t want to know) and I’ll be honest I’ve opened the envelopes. Based on my projection at the minimum payments it will take her 10-12 years to pay off her debt.  Of course, that was based on the assumption she would be working full-time and living as a single adult.

I also have concerns due to her mental health issues.  Some of this I have shared previously, and I won’t go into detail here, suffice to say she has been known in the past to make decisions that are neither appropriate nor reasonable as a result.  I fear that her health, both physically and emotionally, will not be stable enough to see her through the sleep-deprivation, limited finances, and the resulting stress that raising a child will bring.

I am well aware that there is little I can do regarding the pregnancy.  We’ve had the chat about taking responsibility for birth control (she didn’t and hasn’t apparently for several years), and discussed some of my concerns, most specifically relating to her finances.  She is blissfully unaware or is looking through rose colored glasses towards the future.  I sat down with her over breakfast one morning and laid out what I believe she will be receiving for employment insurance benefits and child tax credit and offset that against the current and additional expenses she can expect during her maternity leave.  She was shocked but insists she will be able to survive as she realizes that from now on….”it’s all about the baby”.  I wish I could believe her but I know that isn’t realistic even if she really means it.  Just because a person has a child does not mean they’ll never need to spend another dime on themselves.  It just means she might be wearing the same winter jacket for five years in a row and buying the cheapest shampoo and conditioner she can find.  Based on knowledge of her, this latter purchase will be hardest for her as she has a preference for brand name products.

Financially, I can help her to some degree.  I had always planned that when I sold my house in 2018 I would give each of my children an amount of money for a down payment on a property of their own.  However, she needs the support now, so I have agreed to pay approximately ½ of her current debt if she is able to reduce it significantly by the end of January.  While she will still owe a good amount of money, I would expect it will reduce the period to payout to 3-4 years.  I have also told her she must close that line of credit so that the only transactions will be the interest charged and the payments received.  It means however, that she will not, in a few years, be receiving the funds that would permit her to purchase her own home. 

Unfortunately, this means I will need to use my line of credit to finance this payment, as I don’t want to refinance my mortgage early – it would be far too costly – and I don’t want to dip into my RRSP’s and I don’t have enough set aside in savings.  So I’m thinking of this advance as the new (used) car or the home improvements I won’t be purchasing at this time but will be making payments on for about the same amount of time. 

Further, I’ve decided I cannot afford to take my leave in March either, as I’ll have the additional payments to meet.  While I probably could manage, it would quite tight financially, and I won’t be surprised if I’m called upon to help with the extra costs she encounters.  My son C says I should not be expected to do so, but to be honest, I know my parents did a lot for me when D was first born.  For the sake of the baby, I cannot see myself denying her financial assistance during the first few years.

Emotionally, the only thing I can truly do is to be here for her.  This means my plan to spend a month in British Columbia in March 2017 is pretty much out the window.  The timing couldn’t be worse; with the baby due in February I expect she’ll need my support for the first couple of weeks at the very least.  However, it is quite likely and probable she will want me close for a much longer period.  I am already mentally preparing myself for the late night calls when baby won’t stop crying and she is unable to cope a minute longer.

If my fears hold true, I suspect I may also need to postpone my plans to retire to B.C.  On the other hand, my friend L tells me I may never leave once this little one is part of my life.  At this point, I disagree, because I’m not sure anything or anyone could keep me here during the dead of winter.  But I may decide to spend only part of the year there, and stay in Regina the rest of the time.  In any event, I’m reconsidering my decision to sell the house in the summer of 2018, and instead, may renew the mortgage extending the amortization period to ensure I can afford to remain in it when I retire.  But that's a decision that doesn't need to be made for some time yet.

Today, I got to meet my grandchild for the first time via an ultrasound.  All of the planning, worrying, and decision making has become very real.  Here's the newest on-the-way member of the family. 

D is pretty certain he/she is a girl based primarily on the heart rate (176 bpm).  Since I was positive she was a girl and her brother was a boy when I was expecting, she could very well be right.  Either way she has a 50% chance of being right because this is definitely not a pony.*

Phew, things are about to get very interesting around here!!

*Family story - my cousin Deb was having her third child.  She already had a boy and a girl, so when anyone asked what she wanted this time, she said "a pony for the kids would be nice".  When her second son was born at nearly 11 pounds we used to say she darn near got her wish. 

Thursday, 4 August 2016

Friday Funny

Note - this is a rhetorical question...I know exactly why I am getting older and wider. :)

Tuesday, 2 August 2016

Long weekend wrap-up

Well, that was a short long weekend!  At least it feels that way after almost a full day of work is complete. It was a pretty standard weekend, shopping, housework, yard work, etc. with one notable exception.  My friend S stopped for a visit and an overnight stay on Sunday.  She was on her way through from Camrose, Alberta to Kenora, Ontario.  She plans on spending the night on her way back on this Friday as well.

We talk frequently on the telephone, sometimes once a week, more often once a month or so.  While we were waiting for our dinner at the restaurant that evening, we realized we actually haven't seen one another for more than 6 years.  Wow!

We met sometime in 1996 at the University of Regina.  We were both working on our B Admin degrees, and were brought together when S asked for another student's assistance in taking notes for her classes.  One of the counsellors gave her my name for the class we were taking together.  S explained to me. then, that she has a learning disability that makes it difficult for her to understand what is being said while taking notes at the same time.  I agreed to give her copies of my class notes, and after the end of the class we'd head for the nearest photocopier. 

As time went on, we started going for coffee after making the copies to discuss the information.  We soon learned we had a lot in common;, we were both about the same age (I'm a year older), we were both single moms, and we were both working part time while attending school full time.  My oldest child is 3-4 years older than her oldest, and my son is the same age as her middle child.

Eventually, we extended our friendship beyond school.  Our families spent time together, and when she married P a year or so later, I was a guest at their wedding.  When we left university, my first job was with the RCMP as a budget analyst, and when I left that job for my current workplace, she got the job I had left (and was much better at it than I had been)

A few years later, after P retired from teaching, S had an opportunity for advancement at another federal department in Saskatoon.  She and P moved the family there and I went up to visit a couple of weekends after they moved.  They promised me wine and time in the hot tub.  What they neglected to tell me is I got to help with the renovations.  Obviously they din't know that I wasn't much of a painter, either.

Since then they've moved twice more, once for another advancement and once due to a WFA situation.  WFA stands for workforce adjustment and is government speak for lay-off (we have other suggestions for what it really stands for).  S has been with the federal government in one department or another for 25 years, and has been WFA'd three times.  Each time she's been able to find another job in another department in their finance area except the most recent.

She has transitioned from the finance division to facilitating training.  She's had to create course material, develop work plans, obtain funding, and write numerous reports.  (Recall this is a woman with a learning disability).  She's met or exceeded the expectations set for her over the past two years.  S is truly an amazing woman.

We had a wonderful visit on Sunday, catching up on what hasn't been expressed over the phone, talking about our work, our kids, our plans for retirement.  I took her for a drive around the city to see all of the growth.  It took 2 hours for the drive, but we did have a side trip to DSW (Designer Shoe Warehouse) that took us a a half hour or so.  Dinner followed at a nearby restaurant, then it was home to visit some more on the patio, (later the sun room) before bedtime.

Monday was a holiday but we were up and out of bed by 7:30 a.m. as S wanted to be on the road around 8 a.m.  I fixed breakfast for the two of us, helped her pack the car, and waved her off to Winnipeg where she was meeting her daughter before heading to Kenora.  I'm sure it was a very long day for her.

As for me, I got to have a nap that afternoon.  It felt good!

Do you have a friend in your life who you see rarely see but when you get together, it is as if, not a moment of time has passed?  That's how I feel about S and hers is a friendship I will treasure for the remainder of my life.