December 24th

Even though I am FAR past the giddy child stage of anticipating Santa’s visit, I find myself  pondering all thing seasonal.  Today, we dropped off an enormous bag of bath towels and a bag of clothing at our nearby homeless shelter.  Once we found the correct building, we were welcomed in warmly.  A staffer immediately began creating a tax receipt for our goods, as we chatted with the clients.  Before we left I asked the staff person about whether or not yesterday’s Christmas party was able to provide gifts for each of the hundred child residents.  Oh yes, she assured me, since the local community has found out about this shelter they have received far more than ever before!

” We have been absolutely overwhelmed with the unexpected generosity, especially from the people at your mobile home park!  It all started with the efforts of a couple of older ladies that just couldn’t stand the idea of kids being overlooked, especially in this incredibly wealthy area.  They felt that it just wasn’t fair to have these innocent kids go without something as simple as a baby doll or a dump truck.  ”

I must admit to being taken aback when we first entered the building.  It was an old manufacturing site with grey concrete floors, but now it was littered with mattresses.  Hundreds of mattresses, all different sizes, some with people napping or sitting on them, others empty but for blankets folded neatly on top.  Occasionally a child’s drawing was taped to a nearby wall.  As we arrived, a man exited the building with a leashed  chihuahua, sporting in a pulled red sweater who was obviously heading out for a stroll.

We are having a quiet evening, in preparation for getting up in the morning, enjoying the breakfast casserole I’ve made, and prepping the turkey for its noon hour oven date.   We will cook the meal here at our home, so we can continue learning everything about our new LG oven that was our big holiday expense this year.

Then, at around 5:00PM, we’ll load everything up and head over to a friend’s house, in a ‘meals on wheels’ adventure!  Cathy is a retired engineer that lives by her self, just a few streets away from us.  She married and divorced young, and never had kids.  Now, she is quite disabled from longtime MS, and manages with daily visits from caregivers and nurses.  I try to visit her for a cup of coffee and a chat, most weekdays.

I get frequent updates from the Canadian Weather Network in Ottawa, Peterborough, and Windsor.  The last broadcast warns of a foot of snow in Windsor where Glenn’s mom is, and closer to eighteen inches in Peterborough and Ottawa!  Because it is Christmas, that level of snow is welcomed, to enable Santa and his sleigh of course!  This, the first major winter storm also signals the COZY feeling, as the wind howls, the savvy Canadian throws another log on the fire, and turns the kettle on for another cup of tea.

I remember our last autumn in the Ottawa area.  We had recently moved into our cedar cottage overlooking the Ottawa River.  The evocative smell of woodsmoke reminded us that we should get a load of firewood in, chopped and stacked.  This time, we didn’t have to order any, as we had a large woodlot, just out of our back door!  There was plenty of dead wood available there, so it would’t even need an extra season to dry before burning!  The fireplace in the main living area was a Heatilator, which was a bonus, but hidden in the back corner of the basement was a wood stove.  When we got both going, the furnace quietly shut off.

I LOVED that little house!  The main living area was all one room, with two beds and two baths completing the main floor.  The front of the house was a gigantic window overlooking the waterfront cottages, the river, and the Gatineau Hills in the distance.  That first fall, the felling of trees, the burning off of the small branches, the chainsaw and the axe making short work of half a dozen trees, and ME stacking the wood down the wall of the garage.  The whole process of preparing to settle in and hunker down, while winter has its way with the world around you, is immensely enjoyable.  I often wished that I had learned canning and preserving skills from my mom and grandma, but alas it was not to be!

Our chat with Evan and the girls earlier today brought longing into my heart.  The snow was howling, and Evan explained the need to create a path to their woodpile, further back in their three acre yard.  He mentioned purchasing a wood splitter, and the lengthy learning curve of living in a house that doesn’t have central heat.  The large wood stove in the basement has an immense brick chimney, climbing all the way to his third story office.  His company is still located in Peterborough’s industrial park, but he hopes to relocate it into a ‘sea-can’ on his lot,  But due to the increasing popularity of repurposing these large units, they are getting expensive, so timing is everything.

We are often asked about our plans for retirement, a short eight years away.  But though short, eight years is still long enough to bring about much change.  We’ll see……

 

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Christmas waits upon mere days….

As the 25th hovers  ever near, my latest batch of bronchitis is hanging on with stubborn resolve.  Coughing is my constant companion, but I’ve finally found a brand of cough drops that is able to smack the hack down, enabling me to get some rest.  After nearly a week of misery, I happily anticipate an uninterrupted night’s sleep!

Jack’s family has had their holiday plans shuffled.  Now, his Daddy and paternal grandparents will be spending the holiday in Pittsburg with Jack, hopefully in the Ronald McDonald House, if Jack is stable enough by then.  Currently, he will suddenly become violently ill, necessitating his return to the unit at CHOP.

That means that Mommy will be able to spend Christmas at home with Jack’s siblings;  Elizabeth age 8 and Cameron age 4.  My friend Joan will be there, as well as Jack’s maternal grandparents, and undoubtedly a massive collection of extended family!  This was all arranged to give Jack’s siblings a holiday that they can draw strength from, since when their brother returns home,  everyone’s life will be drastically altered.  The brother they remember is gone, and this ‘new’ sibling will require a LOT of care, from the adults in the family.  At this stage, they can only guess what all these changes will look like.

Once the family is all back together living in the same house again, there are plans to have another Christmas celebration of mammoth proportions!  The current plan is for Jack to return home in February 2018, but that’s not certain.  SO much depends on a considerable improvement in his health, which has become so frail with the treatments he has endured.  Imagine a six year old boy with a small frame at the outset having had to have several forms of strong chemo, radiation, and a bone marrow transplant!

And just six months ago, he was a normal first grader.

 

Monterey Aquarium, 15/12/17

Due to its extreme size in the Bay area, Apple has had to break down its holiday parties for its staff into much smaller pieces than in previous years.  This year, Glenn’s VP elected to take his staff of 80 + significant others, to the Monterey Bay Aquarium, which we’d never before visited.  Located in nearby Santa Cruz, on the Pacific ocean, this still involved a 2 plus hour drive, through the coastal mountains.  This would be a wonderfully scenic drive during the daytime hours, but not so much in the evening.  Keeping in mind the odds that some imbibing might take place at a seasonal party, one of Apple’s ‘big silver busses’ was enlisted to safely take people to and from this Friday evening event.

These dapper gents are obviously jelly fish, of which this facility has many.  Since the windows all looked out on the various tanks housing many of their critters, I was eventually able to appreciate the fact that the tanks actually encircled the building!  This was most obvious in viewing the tank holding the millions of little anchovies, or similar creature.jelly fishanchovies

The most entertaining display was the one picture that refused to turn out, meaning I’m unable to show you what I mean.  They had one large, wide open tank that encouraged people to ‘pet the inhabitants’.  These intimidating looking creatures were BAT EELS that were very tame, and clearly enjoyed attention and caressing.  They would circle their enclosure, splashing water with their large flippers, and surface just enough to encourage approach, and  make them readily accessible to be pet.  They were large, pale grey, and yes SLIMY!  They clearly enjoyed the attention, and began splashing with abandon when we walked away.  Clearly, we were supposed to STAY PUT!

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We also saw a Hawaiian dolphin fish, also know as a Mahi mahi.  Not an attractive fellow, but he makes up for it in taste…..I mean, flavor, uh deliciousness!

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Since the return leg of the trip, we were all rounded up at 1215AM, hurriedly loaded into the bus.  Luckily the driver had thought to preheat it, so it was very easy to doze off as the miles ticked by through the dark countryside.

 

Latest word from CHOP

The Children’s Hospital of Pennsylvania is struggling valiantly to help Jack Varty gain the strength he so desperately needs, in order to fulfill his dream of going home.   The original projected return date for Jack was January, but then they started wondering if it might be possible to get him home to California for Christmas!

Now, after four months of exhaustive chemotherapy and radiation, there is little left that is recognizable of Jack.   To use his Grandmother’s description, he is a merely  a sketch of the boy they all love.  They all just want to get him HOME, where they can all help him work his way back to the boy he once was!  Now,  doctors have had to install multiple feeding tubes to provide him with the nutrition he so desperately needs, to regain strength.  He is completely unable to digest and retain any food orally, as he vomits violently and repeatedly.

Now, Jack’s target return date has been pushed off to February, at best!  He frequently whimpers weakly about wanting to go home, but even that can’t sway the medical personnel’s decisions.  They know they must keep a tight hold on their hearts, for his own well being.

The family has arranged their holiday plans around Jack.  His paternal grandparents, his father, and his siblings will be heading to Florida, and staying in the grandparents’ home.  His mother and grandmother will stay at the Ronald McDonald house on CHOP’s campus.    His grandfather, and his great grandmother will join the rest of the family at the home of Jack’s aunt and uncle, in a nearby city.  Everyone is frantically trying to arrange to ‘celebrate’ the holidays, with as many family members as they possibly can.

Simply put, Jack is very VERY sick.  Until that changes, he’ll be staying put,  at this hospital that performs so many miracles,  for these children suffering from such  extremely rare diseases as leukodystrophy, as Jack has.

Approaching normalcy

As an exit reward for ending a wonderful four day vacation driving down the Pacific coast of California, I have been battling extreme spasticity.  This was THE most painful pas de deus I have had in recent history!  Picture if you will the sensation of being poked with a burning hot rod in one butt cheek, just below your waist.  This continues over the period of a couple of hours, refusing to abate until I was able to locate some specific medication designed to alleviate such nerve pain.

Of course I have no one to blame but myself.  This same pain appeared last February, when visiting my brother in Florida.  The connection?  Walking on the beach, and not just walking:  STRIDING!  An old homily comes to mind:  fool me once, shame on you;  fool me twice, shame on ME!  I guess I never learn, or perhaps I only learn if the message suits me.  Either way, I have had an uncomfortable few weeks.

Now that December has moved in and begun to unpack, I am starting to plan.  Plan what?  THAT is the question that stumps me every time.  Ordinarily, I love to plan holiday festivities, but since it is just the two of us, I am missing the thrill and delight that usually accompanies this task.  Ho hum comes to mind, for which I really only have myself to blame.  We COULD have gotten ourselves in gear and planned a trip back to Canada for the holidays.  Evan’s new house always had that extra bedroom for us, so we could have booked tickets and be happy in the knowledge that a big family Christmas was awaiting us in Norwood!

Now however, life has moved on without us.  I suspect that Evan will be hosting Claire’s large family, and all his extra bedrooms will be booked.  Since our Green Card put a hold on our travel plans temporarily, grounding us for most of the early fall, we reconciled ourselves to staying put.  This hold was only removed at Thanksgiving, giving us insufficient time to get ourselves organized!

Recently the Health Department here announced that it made a boo-boo, in choosing the specific viruses that the annual flu shot would protect us from.  Now, our diligence in getting that vaccination on board was all for naught.  We might as well not have bothered, since the circulating virus that we now know is the big problem is not the one that the shot protects us from!  Given that traveling back to Canada would involve lengthy air travel in a recognized disease incubator, staying put seems ever so sensible.  My recently identified COPD doesn’t need much encouragement to land me with severe bronchitis or pneumonia, so White Christmases are out for us this year!

Looking back on our experience with SNOW, and I mean S N O W, in our past years, I really wonder why THIS time of year makes us long for the stuff!

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At what point did this become desirable??

 

 

 

Christmas on the horizon

Christmas on the horizon

The shining highlight of 2017 was the birth of our second granddaughter, Hattie Anna Henshaw, on July 5th, at the Peterborough General Hospital.  We have been warned that she is the grand finale of their family, but as someone wise once said, ‘never say never’.

By all accounts, Hattie is an ‘easy’ baby, compared to her big sister, Willa.  She has dark curly hair, and big dark eyes, unlike her blue eyed blonde sister.  Since Willa is in school all day now, Hattie is the center of attention for her mom, dad, and other grandma.  This makes me really feel the dreadful distance separating us!

Luckily, we were on hand for Hattie’s arrival, which coincided her parents taking possession of their first purchased home.  They bought a large four bedroom 3 bath home in the little village of Norwood, that had been designed and built by the home’s vendor.  It has some quirky features, like the hand hewn spiral staircase, between the first and second floors.  Luckily, there is a standard staircase outside, but it will lose its appeal shortly, as winter settles in. All of the bedrooms have custom built in drawers in the closets, giving them more storage than houses twice the size!

Ryan and Carolyn bought their own first home this year as well.  With stainless steel appliances and granite counters, it is a stylish unit!  They are now happily settled in their  trendy condo, near downtown Ottawa, where both work.  They plan to spend the holidays with her family, in Kincardine Ontario, but have told us that they have booked tickets to come down here in February next year.

We seriously discussed heading back up to Evan’s for Hattie’s first Christmas, but inevitably decided to stay here.  We’ve been hearing a lot of warnings on TV that the flu shots we all had this year are proving to be MUCH less effective than in previous years.   I at least would like to avoid planes during the flu season.  With my propensity to develop severe bronchitis, the risk is too great!  Glenn unfortunately has NO choice about plane travel, since he has been scheduled to go to China late next month for two weeks.  He will also have to go back in February or March.  He is currently in charge of two different projects, so I guess that is why he is so heavily booked.

This is why I’m so glad we have a dog:  Lacey likes to bark when she hears anything  outside.  Even though she isn’t a huge dog at 50 pounds, she sure sounds intimidating!

 

 

Return on investment?

An important meeting is scheduled for Wednesday afternoon.  Glenn is geared up for battle, but I’m really hoping that it doesn’t come down to that.

This meeting has been in the works for a while.   It has taken several months to find a time that suits both us and Karim, the park manager.  We are hoping to accomplish several tasks,  from addressing the exorbitant level of our monthly rent, to determining our ability to sell our unit when we eventually retire.

In the year that we have lived here, we have learned that the owner of the park, the corporation,  is determined to expunge all of the units built previous to 1990, and replace them with brand spanking new ones!   This would enable the owner to justify substantially raising the level of the monthly rents.  The owner is actually a hedge fund manager, whose only mandate is to generate income for his investors.  They are not even remotely interested in dealing with the residents here;   they are just the source of income for this firm.

Our unit was built in 1981.  Of the approximately seven hundred units here, ours is one of about three dozen ‘garage units’.  These units are NOT mobile homes, they are ‘manufactured homes’.  Mobiles have the ability to have wheels underneath them, so that they can be moved to a different location.  Ours has a garage attached to it, so it cannot be  moved in the same way as the others.

When we bought our home last summer, this determination of extermination of all units older than twenty-five years old didn’t exist!   We chose this unit because it was a perfect size for us:  twelve hundred square feet.  Also, the kitchen and laundry had been updated and remodeled, with lots of built-ins in the cupboards.  Corian counter tops and sink was the clincher, after having dealt with ceramic tile counters in our rental in Santa Clara!

We viewed dozens of units in several different parks, some as large as 2000 square feet!  Somehow, this little unit had touched our hearts,  even though the two bathrooms desperately need to be completely overhauled.

We had originally figured on using our Christmas break to start the planning and shopping to rehab at least one of the bathrooms.  A neighbor told me about a wonderful local firm that specializes in kitchens and bathrooms, so I was very much looking forward to doing some exploratory shopping.  But is there any point in sinking thousands of dollars into fixing up these rooms, if we won’t see a return on our investment?

Since Glenn is on the board of directors for the park, we often get the inside track on a lot of issues.  Sometimes this is advantageous, but sometimes it just increases your frustration! We know first hand that the park is blocking the sales of the older units, thus forcing owners to sell to the park itself.   Then, the old unit is pulled out, and replaced with a new one!  Then, this new unit is paid for by a   consortium of the park itself, and a mobile home vending firm.  Then, the owner of the old unit receives the minimal price that the park offered, and moves on.

Obviously, if we had known that this practice was commonplace,  we wouldn’t have chosen this unit OR this park!  Hindsight is twenty-twenty and all that, but this is gratingly irritating.  I know that I just have to put it out of my mind until Wednesday, when hopefully we’ll get reassurance from Karim.