Back from the Olde Country

At the very end of June, we headed out for two weeks with an extensive agenda.  First, we helped Evan and family move from their rental residence that had a wicked driveway at the treacherous angle.  NO ONE was sad to wave goodbye to that!  I recall several winters’ visits when I feared planning a day out since it involved negotiating that piece of pavement when it was glassy with ice…

That house was located in a lovely neighborhood within the city of Peterborough.  When local homes started popping up for sale the price tags alone made them realize that this was not a realistic spot to house hunt, especially for first time buyers that were both self employed.  Banks dislike anything that isn’t written in ink and signed by a handful of corporate power monkeys.  After much perseverance, they did manage to find a bank that was willing to listen to them, and they finally found a house that they could love just outside the city.

The village of Norwood, pop 1400, has a vibrant downtown, with a grocery store, a couple of banks, some small mom-and-pop restaurants, and an amazing Home Hardware.  Glenn got to know the manager of the former quite well due to his frequent visits while we were staying with the kids.  This location makes for a slightly longer commute for Evan, on the days when he needs to visit the shot/warehouse.  Luckily, he is able to work from home most of the time, since his role entails such varied roles as sale support, order tabulation, and marketing.  His home office has been set up on the 3rd floor of this amazing hand crafted house.  This eagle’s nest location allows hm to survey his entire 3 acre property.  It will be many years before they manage to clear a lot of the deadfall of trees, but that’s all fuel for heating their home.

Oh yes, did I mention that they don’t have central heat or air?  Heat comes from a gigantic wood stove/brick fireplace that stretches the full height of the 3 stories.  After a good blaze, the brick retains and reflect the heat for hours.  If it is an especially chilly period, there is also baseboard heating in some areas.

NOW FOR THE MORE IMPORTANT REASON FOR OUR VISIT……  Meet Hattie Anna Henshaw, born July 5th, at 7 pounds 8 ounces.

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Summer suffering

As of this weekend, summer heat has found Silicon Valley.  By the feel of it, Mother Nature has been saving it up for a while!  The max heat was doled out upon Pittsburg, in the north bay area, just east of San Francisco.  That molten city hit a high temperature of 111F yesterday,  Not an all time record for the Bay area, but more than enough for any of the residents!

The ‘official’ beginning of the summer holidays is always the big July holiday.    July 1st is Canada Day, the country’s 150th birthday!  July 4th is Independence Day, which is the American holiday.  The two days are quite close together , which is why Windsor Ontario and Detroit Michigan always celebrated both of the shared waterway, the Detroit River, as Freedom Festival.  We both grew up enjoying the celebration, especially down at the river where massive barges staged a spectacular fireworks display.

This year, our summer includes some travel plans.  Claire and Evan have purchased their first home, with possession set for on June 30th.  As well, their second baby girl will arrive by C-section on July 5th.  Although they would have preferred us there earlier to help with the packing, we were restricted by number of  remaining holiday days due to our trip to Florida in February!  As it is, we’ll only be able to meet our new granddaughter at the hospital.

We were dismayed to find out that Anna’s recent knee surgery caused unforeseen complications.  She developed blood clots in her lungs, causing extreme shortness of breath.  She has been put on blood thinners to destroy the clots, but that takes time.   So far, she is still unable to have a conversation on the phone without tiring terribly.   As a result of her issues, we have added on a quick visit to see her, at the end of our Peterborough visit.  This will turn our planned week long trip into ten days, but checking in on Anna is essential for our peace of mind!

Glenn just warned me that his absence from work at this particular time may necessitate a take a trip to China in mid July.  Yuck!  This would be a perfect opportunity for our air conditioner to stop working, just like it did in our previous residence in Santa Clara.  The news is currently warning of our hottest day yet:  Thursday temperatures may reach yo to 107F.  After that statement, the newscaster said that extreme heat is the number one killer in the USA.

Cold comfort we get from watching the news, no pun intended.

 

Landscape architect

Landscape architect

I don’t know.  Perhaps I, in my beguiling naivety, searched for something of which had I had no knowledge.  Or, at least, insufficient knowledge, to actually know what I’m searching!

After ‘googling’ the term, I landed on the name of a magazine, printed by the Society of Landscape Architects.  Perfect!

Not exactly…

What I discovered was a very artistically elegant publication with beautiful illustrations. Some very artistically interpreted photographs  of plants in a rainbow of modern shades.  No mention of ‘structures in the garden’ could be found.

What I NEED is a skilled someone who can stand back, and objectively view my backyard, such as it is, and quickly know what I’d need to do to obtain the maximum amount of shade on my much loved porch!  I see a wise,  but artistic,  individual in that role, who would take a small step backwards, tilting his or her head, and viewing the 50 foot expanse through a frame created by their raised hands.  Thumb to thumb, index finger to index finger.IMG_0713

I really enjoy sitting out there with my morning coffee, trying to formulate my plans for the day.   Then , later, I’ll return there with  a pre-dinner glass of wine, hoping to sort my day into a nonexistent file folder.  Does there exist an answer to both extremes,  morning AND late afternoon shade?  Other than the obvious conclusion of an inclusive roof over the whole area, I’m stymied.

The turquoise shelter above does an okay job, when the sun is directly overhead.  But since I’m rarely home at noon hour, you can see why this isn’t very helpful!  The little beige triangular sail is helpful for the angle light, but not all of it.

Ideally, the structure would be tastefully designed, providing for modern aesthetics and environmental concerns.  Anything more specific than that is still far too ethereal, wandering in and out of my imagination at will.  Lots of time to dream, fantasize and plan.

In a perfect world, all construction could be done in something like redwood, this being California and all.  That’s not a frugal choice, but it MUST be cheaper than ‘Trex’, the wood-like material that is essentially a polymer!  VERY weatherproof, but also very hard to build with!  Of course, there are a lot of competitors now, in the pseudo-wood market, so perhaps the price has settled down a bit.

As most if not all of my MS buddies know, sunshine equals heat, and heat equals non functional body parts!  I like to carry that equation to an extreme:  I CRAVE SHADE.  I’ve even gotten to the point where bright sunlight hurts my eyes, making me steal Glenn’s Oakley sunglasses, since they are SUPER dark.  My drugstore junkers pale in comparison, pun not intended but I’ll take it!  My tendency to lose things on a regular basis makes me disinclined to invest in pricey sunglasses, but I may have to change my tune after my next appointment with my retinal specialist at Stanford!

One step at a time.

Problem solved!

Planning a several thousand miles trip back to the Olde Country (Canada) is much more challenging for me than it used to be.  A long time friend of mine who also has MS explained that it was something to do with the “executive function” that our brains seem to have lost.  Sounds as good as any explanation!  All I can say for certain is that it happens when you dig your old suitcase out of the back of the closet, and open it up on your bed, ready to stuff with the exact amount of clothing that you’ll need.  Logically, the number is directly related to the length of your trip, the availability of laundry facilities,  your planned activities, the weather forecast, and the number of members of the Royal Family you plan to see.

Slight miscalculation on my part:  Bill, Kate, and the kids will be visiting Canada later in the year.  My bad!

The MAIN reason for this visit is the anticipated arrival of our very own Princess, on July 5th!  To my knowledge, she is as yet unnamed, although there has been a lot of chatter about Hattie.  We’ll know soon enough!  My sympathies are with Claire, since I remember well the misery of being VERY pregnant in the heat of the summer.  Our son, the baby-daddy, Evan, arrived on July 19th.

There is yet another reason for this trip.  THE BOUGHT A HOUSE!  Tired of ‘pouring money down the drain’, aka renting, they finally fought the insane real estate market in Peterborough.  The reason this little city in central Ontario is having a wild time in the real estate market is that the behemoth of Toronto just noticed that they were just a ninety minute drive out of the big city!  Now, lots of would-be cottagers are discovering this area with lots of lakes and forests, with prices much lower that Muskoka, the usual Toronto go-to for vacation property.

They get possession of the property on June 30th, and are already busily packing and downsizing any unnecessary items in preparation.  Their new home will have 5 bedrooms, which they will need, since Claire’s mom, Bonnie, is moving in with them so she can help get them settled, and then eventually provide child care, when Claire goes back to work.  She’ll be taking most of the next year off as maternity leave, but since she’s self employed, that mean NO income!

Once they are settled, they hope to build a chicken coop on their large property.  As well, a generous garden is planned for NEXT year, on their 3 acre lot.  It will be a huge cost savings as well when Evan installs a reel-to-reel clothesline, for all those clothes that won’t need to use an electric dryer!  For the winter months, a clothesline can be set up in the basement, just like I remember my mother having when I was growing up!

They are SO excited at this new adventure that is unfolding for them, and I really can’t blame them at all.  They will no longer be living in the city of Peterborough, but in the nearby town of Norwood.  They will have a few nearby neighbors, but their road isn’t like a city street.  It’s a “Line”, 12th Line to be specific!

I will definitely post lots of pictures from our visit, in June/July, including some baby pics!

Vasper

When a local scientist was recently diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, he wasn’t content to simply watch his diet and take Metformin for the rest of his life.  He began to research what he could do to reverse this condition that could eventually take his eyesight, his kidney function, and his heart health.  With the knowledge that weight loss could reign in blood sugar,  Peter Z Wasowski got to work designing a multifaceted exercise machine.

Taking a basic machine found in most gyms, called a Nu Step.  This equipment is most often used by people that are in need of gentle exercise, at a slow speed.  What Peter did was to add tight pressure cuffs to both the arms and legs, in order to trap the lactic acid that the body produces in exercise.  This cues the body to produce more growth hormones, which helps with healing injured limbs, and fools the body into thinking that it has been exercising for a much longer period of time.  These machines are used extensively in rehabilitation for stroke victims, as well as those with chronic illnesses.nustep vaspar (1)

These blue seat covers, as well as the cinching cuffs, are piped full of icy cold water on a continuous basis.  The pump doesn’t start until you are on the seat with the cuffs in place, but once you are and the switch is thrown, BRRR!   This is supplemented by the frosty metal pedals!  These accommodations are ideal for folks with multiple sclerosis, like me!  Those  20 minutes  actually provides the benefits of a 45 minute workout.

IMG_0678Peter is currently working on outfitting some other pieces of exercise equipment to fulfill this same role.  Currently, there is a rowing machine and an elliptical trainer, that have had modifications made to accomplish these lofty goals

My favorite part of the whole experience is the “Cool Room”.  Soft nature sounds are played, and lavender oils are available for use.  It is a softly lit room with four cots that have the same chilled ‘bubble wrap’ as the seat of the Nu Step.  It is actually filled with extremely chilled water that is pumped through it constantly, the same way it is pumped through the cuffs and the seat cushion.  The water tank used is shown in the above picture.

The value of persistence

I’ve been having a battle with the Department of Motor Vehicles lately.  My driver’s license expired in March, and even though I sent my renewal in February, I’m still waiting.  Since we have to show our license to get in to Moffat, I got pulled aside.  Up comes the military police, who wouldn’t let me drive OR go to Vasper for my exercise session!  I had to call my Glenn to come and get me and the car!  I got an official warning to renew my license, even though it was actually sitting in the hands of the DMV.
When we got home, I called the DMV, and asked what I was supposed to do.  They said to call the DMV’s Legal Presence in the morning, which I did.  The voice in the recording said I was ‘caller # 45.  When a live body finally answered after half an hour, he told me  to come in to the bureau with all of the usual paperwork us non natives carried.  Next day, #3, we got in line and waited.  FINALLY, we are next.  We showed the clerk our stack of paper, ,our passports, copies of  his H1B, my H4, our I94 (which lists all of our entrances and exits from the USA.  NOT good enough!  They required us to present the ORIGINAL I94, not a copy.  As a concession, they did extend my drivers license by 3 weeks.
Next morning, I headed off to Vasper once again, and once again, I was pulled aside.  Why?  The officer looked at my ownership, saw the red tag on it, and said that I had to put it on the car, since it was invaled if it stayed on the document.  I agreed to attend to that right away, so he nodded and walked away.  Good girl that I am, I immediately got out of the car, went to the rear of the vehicle, and attempted to removed the sticker from the ownership.  I scratched at it with my fingernail, to no avail.  It wasn’t a sticker, it was a photocopy!  I looked down at the plate, and sure enough,  there was the sticker.
Fast forward to day #4, when we return once again to the DMV.  Early afternoon is the time to go!  Our wait was minimal, just half an hour.  It’s amazing what you can be grateful for.  Finally our number is called.  Finally, the fates were on our side!  This gal was super friendly, and was half Canadian!  We chatted about the ‘old country, and compared the real estate markets of here vs Vancouver, BC.  She looked at my drivers license, which had been renewed for 30 days, and commented that this was not nearly enough, given the way bureaucracy  is inclined to drag its heels.  She took it for a few minutes, and cam back with having extended it for a YEAR!
Now, with that adventure put to bed, our youngest son and his wife found a house they wanted……AGAIN!  This was their fifth try.  But finally, it worked, and they got it!  They live in Peterborough, Ontario, which is a couple hours north of Toronto.  It is a small city, population of about 200,000, with a real estate market that was kind of sleepy, until about a year ago.  It is now as competitive and vicious as it is here, since Toronto has realized the proximity! They had wanted to live in the downtown area originally, but had been looking outside of town more recently.  They found a home in the village of Norwood,  that is, well, quirky, but they fell madly in live with it.  Luckily, they were able to bargain with the owner, and get it!  Possession date was set at June 30th.  Only problem is that his wife, Claire, is very pregnant, with a baby due July 1st.  They currently have a 4 year old girl, who is most anxious for her baby sister to arrive.