Baby steps

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The last two weeks have been red letter weeks for me. I have been getting things done than have been wearing on my mind. I think that publishing my guilt list in this forum really encouraged me to get this things taken care of.

I'll list the accomplished items in order of how long they've been on my 'to do' list starting with the present.

Met client A at their new home
Time it took me to get over there: 4 weeks
I finally made the time to see my client in their new home. Also gave them a card, a gift certificate, a magazine subscription, and a survey for them it fill out. It felt great to see them so happy in their new place.

Central air in Tennessee doesn't work.
Time it wore on my brain: 4 weeks
We have a great guy that rents our house every year, and he took the inititive to get the AC fixed in Tennessee. What a relief. Thanks for Randy, we have working central air in the house. Yippee! Only cost $125!

Weeded behind the hot tub and under the deck.
Time it took me to start this project: 5 weeks
Oh yes, those weeds have been neglected and annoying me for five weeks now. It felt great to get rid of them. Some were three feet high.

Met client B at their new home.
Time it took me to get over there: 8 weeks
Well, these people are really busy too, so I finally just stopped by unannounced with a card, a gift certificate and a survey for them to fill out. They put in a pool, and it look amazing. I'm so glad I finally went over there!

Worked out my orthodic insurance issue.
Time it took: 3 months
Finally! That stupid bill for $500 was wearing a hole in my brain. The letter from Great West Life sits on my computer desk and has been mocking me for months now. Finally I'm moving in the right direction!

Concerns about our property tax bill.
Time I've spent worried about this issue: 6 months
At last we have received our long awaited tax bill from the Town of Kingsville. Why the concern you may ask? Well, we haven't had a tax bill, and we moved in here in November of 2004. We waited over a year for the assessor to come. Luckily we've put money away every mortgage payment in preparation for this enormous bill. Now we can get it paid, and not worry about it.

Incredibly unorganized in the closet under the stairs
Time it took to do something about it: 1 year
It was our dirty little secret. (Well, beside the garage, but the garage is not really a secret, because when it is open everyone can see what a complete disaster it is) Finally I went to Home Depot and bought a shelving unit. It looks so much better. So much more room. You can actually see the floor in many places. It's a good thing.

Mortgage Insurace being automatically withdrawn my my chequing account.
Time it took to get this matter resolved: One and a half YEARS
Yes, you read that correctly. I have had $19.60 withdrawn from my chequing account every month. We moved out of our house in Cottam in October of 2004, and this insurance covered only that particular mortgage, and we've been paying unnecessarily. (I only realized it in February of 2005) I've called my bank, Billy's bank, telephone banking, tried to stop payment online, etc on and off for months now. Finally I was put in the right direction, and after only 3 easy phone calls, all with people that spoke English, I am only a letter away from not only the withdrawls ending, but being reimbursed for the amount paid without warrant. Whew! Finally!

Receiving $.037 cheques from PepsiCo
Time it took to take care of this annoyance: 11 YEARS
Yes, that is correct. 11 years. A friend of mine bought me a stock in PepsiCo about 12 years ago. (As a joke, not investment. I ate at Taco Bell so much he thought I should own a part of the company, and that's PepsiCo) Every 3 months or so I receive $0.19 cheques in the mail as a dividend. The cheques have gradually gone up over the years, (and the stock split in the late 90's) and now I get $0.37 cheques, which I've never cashed because they are in US. I got a notice in the mail that the stock is considered 'abandoned' because these cheques have never been cashed. I called the number, and the paperwork to get these cheques automatically depostited in my and Paul Foster's US account is in the mail! I've tried a few times to get the dividend re-invested into the stock, but of course, being a Canadian citizen, it's almost impossible to do anything like that without a Social Insurance Number. The guy on the phone told me how to fill out the forms so they don't need a SSI number. Woo Hoo! Finally!

I don't consider myself a procrastinator, but these little details in life can really get me down. Now that the above items are taken care of, or almost, I feel so much better!

Here's me new list:
Call Erika and Liz S
See Sarah, Lisa, Mar and Thad
Buy shelving unit for second bedroom
Start something in the garage (it's unrealistic to wish to complete it, as it needs drywall and that's not going to happen anytime soon)
Do a client mailout (ugh)
Hang diplomas, awards, etc. in office
Go to Point Pelee
Go to Ikea in Canton MI
Buy pots for indoor herbs
Commit to a clock in the family room
Try staining some furniture black

Give me a few months, and see how I do!

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The speed of life

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If I wrote this post this morning, it would have a completely different feel to it.

So what do you do when life throws you a curve ball? Do you continue on your happy path, (I've had a very happy path lately…) or do you let it bring you down? Are you consumed by it? Does it eat you up inside, even though it is out of your control?

Do you simply except this new 'hit' and move on? I guess I'm the type of person that deals with a new and difficult situation with a direct and logical approach. Efficient effort. Luckily I haven't been up to bat too many times in my 33 years.

I remember being on autopilot when my dad died. I felt I had to push emotions aside to be there for my mom. Then it was to help with final arrangements, and finally greet people at the funeral and hope that they were as comfortable as possible. It was strangely easy. It is like being told by your boss to count the beans, when you've counted beans your entire professional life, yet you've never even seen a bean! You are actually in totally unfamiliar and painful territory. You really see what you're made of in a time like that.

Looking back, I can't see anything I could have done differently. I don't think it would have been beneficial to me or anyone else for me to breakdown and become a catatonic mourner. It still would have been a long and heart-wrenching healing process.

So I accept and move on. Deal with it. Analyze the state of affairs and carry on, as best I know how. In the end, after all is said and done, I hope that I see within myself a strong, capable, and yet sympathetic and loving person.

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Backyard ponderings

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I love the outdoors. Not so much in the last few days because of the extreme heat and humidity, but in general I love being outside.

I could (and have) spend hours puttering around in the garden, pulling weeds and moving rocks by the pond. It's just a quiet, peaceful way to spend time.

I would love to have one of those properties with rolling hills, a wooded area with a walking path, and a stream. One of those hidden garden areas with lush vines and dense foliage would be a dream. I'd love to look out and see deer, fox and other critters. What we do have is a 180 ft by 200 ft lot, with sparse grass, 3 trees, (the tallest is 10 ft), and the only hill is the funky front grade, and the huge septic bed bump.

I acknowledge how lucky we are to own land and to have a great house. I'm sure many city people would love to have a blank slate in a 'county' atmosphere. Open fields behind, and no 'immediate' neighbors.

Landscaping is a slow and expensive process. The grass has been a huge issue. Last year was so dry, and this year has been better, but we have a lot of area to cover. We did a little bit of deorative landscaping beside the back patio and near the pond, but that's about it for this summer.

So anyway, back to wildlife. The first sign of Spring were the robins sitting on the 10 foot high property marker posts. For weeks there were always at least one robin perched there. We've had a few cardinals, the occasional bunny, a skunk, (I have never encouraged Halia to get in the house faster than that time!), 2 pheasants, (Halia didn't know what to make of them), the neighbors' cat, (a calico, always facinates Halia), my mom's cat, (Rat – with no tail), and of course the dogs.

After a huge rain in the Spring, the low area in our yard, which used to be our garden, was totally flooded. Off and on for about a week were two mallard ducks, having a great time in the water. That was pretty cool. If you ever have seen the first episode of the Sopranos, I felt like Tony…

Last year, (our first summer) it would totally freak Billy and I out to step outside and almost smush a toad, (they are the size of my fist!). They always sit right in front of the back patio door Billy would tell people that they were trying to get in. We came to the conclusion that they were attracted to the light for the food factor. This theory makes more sense then the toads wanting to become roomies….

Yesterday in the extreme heat, there were about 100 boring black birds, all around our tiny, itty bitty pond and bird bath. They were bossing the sparrows around. (The pond usually hosts 4-5 sparrows.) It was a really strange sight.

Today, and the inspiration for today's post, there are hundreds of seaguls in the field right behind our house. They won't step foot into our yard, it's like we have an invisible seagul fence. What are they doing here? Where did they come from? How long are they here for? I'll keep you updated….

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The garden

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This entry is all about our garden. Consider this a warning to those who couldn't care – less to skip this post.

I just want to start by saying how much I love our vegetable garden. Early in the Spring, Billy built me 4 raised beds 4 feet by 8 feet, and 12 inches deep. We sunk them in a bit, and each needed just over a cubic yard of soil to fill. Awesome. The advantages to having a raised bed with good soil included the following:

The growing period is extended
Fewer weeds
No compacted walk ways to weed
Higher yield
Less bending
Easy to access

It is the best garden I've ever had. I believe that all gardening is based on trial and error. You learn something every year. My first garden was at the cottage. It was only about 3 feet by 10 feet, and recieved full morning sun. I planted way too many tomato plants. (The seeds were incorrectly labeled, and all the plant except one were cherry tomatoes) Neighbors were encouraged to raid it any time they wanted to, and they did! I also grew green beans, which worked great because I really like green beans, and I was poor, and green beans go with anything. Radishes and carrots were ravished by the wildlife, so it was quite limited. I later realized that it was poorly located, as it was a favorite spot for male partiers to use as a urinal…

Our second garden was in Cottam. It was located at the very back of our 200 feet deep lot. it was huge! (about 12 feet by 45 feet) It had full morning sun, and lovely afternoon shade. At one time, the previous owner thought it a good idea to dump gravel, broken concrete blocks, and screenings in the garden. The garden was also infested with wild garlic chives that sprung up everywhere, and were impossible to control or pull out. The soil was borderline terrible. We needed 150 feet of hose to water it… We grew (again) way too many tomato plants, and failed miserably with shrunken, deformed green peppers. Jalepenos kicked butt, and cucumbers did well. We were never able to enjoy rhubarb or asparagus, as we moved before the two year waiting period.

Last year's garden, before the raised beds, was located at the back corner of our lot (150 feet of hose again came in handy), in a depressed area about 15 feet by 30 feet in size. Combine the low area with clay soil and it was either rock hard with huge, dry cracks, or flooded and swamp like. We planted way too many tomato plants, but canned some, and made salsa, had a few cucumbers, beautiful sunflowers, Black Eyed Susans, (which I successfully transplanted this year into the landscaping), pathetic green and jalepeno peppers, and 1 watermelon the size of a soft ball. It was impossible to keep the garden weeded, the paths were rock hard and riddled with stubborn weeds. The garden's end came when Billy drained the hot tub in August, and all the chemical water sat in the garden. I never quite trusted the tomatoes after that, not have I ever seen tomatoes that colour…

Needless to say, our garden this year is incredible, but I have already learned some lessons, and will improve next year. Here's what we have goin' on:

Bed A
Spinach (all done now…)
Cherry Tomatoes (Holy Hannah tons of the little buggers)
Asparagus (next year we can actually eat it…)
Cherry Bomb hot peppers (never had one…)
Swiss Chard (favorite of bugs the world over)
Beets (just canned)
Brussell Sprouts (not doing that well)
Green peppers (third crop… not doing so well)

Bed B
Green beans (good)
Cucumbers (second crop, take up a ton of room despite trellis)
Jalepenos (awesome, huge yield)
Other peppers (can't remember their name just now…)
Red Chilies (starting to turn red just now)
Watermelons (have two the size of cantelopes… the kids can't wait to eat them)

Bed C
20 roma or plum tomatoes (doing REALLY well)
Peas (all done and yanked out)
radishes (done and done)
Okra (for my mom, not doing great, you'd have to grow a ton to make a meal)
Herbs, all grown from seed except chives and rosemary – basil, parsley, mint, thyme

Bed D
Cucumbers (1st crop, doing really well)
3 varieties of tomato plants (including the 5 1/2 foot high early girl, or as my mom calls it, 'the tomato plant that ate Cincinati)
Green peppers (first time they've grown well for me!)
Spinach, second crop (done)
Random 3rd crop peppers plants (too hot to grow)

Okay, that must have been really boring to read, and I'm sorry, but this garden is important to me. I love seeing things grow from seed. I love eating what I've nurtured and cared for. (that's why no kids, HAHA!) It is a good feeling. I'm already looking forward to next year. Later in the season, I'm going to post some changes for next year, and lessons I've learned… don't worry, I'll warn you to skip it too….

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Some observations

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If you live in Essex County, you know that today was hot. I think it reached about 97* F, and apparently the humidex was a balmy 117* F. (I totally admit that I do not know the Celsius temperature…) That's pretty hot.

I checked out the weather channel this afternoon, and it was warmer in the 'Metro Detroit' area than anywhere on the West Coast, and East Coast with the exception of Washington DC. Today's heat was comparable to places in Arizona and Texas. Funny, it was only 6 short months ago that it was 0* F with a wind chill of -25* F. Crazy.

So anyway, the heat really brought me down today, I felt completely drained, although I was only in the heat while swimming with Myles in the pool, hanging up laundry, and observing the frogs.

Here are some thoughts for today:

Do not can beets when it is 97* F outside. Standing over a steaming pot of beets, and dealing with hot jars straight from the oven is not fun.

It is not only acceptable, but encouraged that males in the town of Essex wear wife beaters and flip flops in public.

Nobody wants to sit at the Grand's outdoor patio on days like today.

Halia likes to lie in the sun, on the burning hot deck during the warmest part of the day.

Mike and Lilly (mom's dogs) both know that the side gate to the pool rarely completely shuts, and a cool, refreshing dip is only steps away.

Dogs don't like having cleaning solution shot into their ears. They should relate this to sneaking into the pool.

It was 90*F at 8pm tonight.

If you buy a kid a new boogie board, they don't know that it is hot outside. They only want to be in the pool.

The cherry tomato plant is out of control. There is probably 120-150 tomatoes on it.

People who have air conditioning in their car tend to drive 5 kms under the speed limit. They do it on purpose, because they know that my A/C is broken.

People leaving the Dairy Freez forget how to drive. Perhaps they think that their soft serve ice cream will protect as they pull out in front of me.

Tim Horton's is packed at all hours despite the heat. People still walk down mainstreet when it's 92* F drinking a cup of nice hot coffee.

Well that's about it. I know I had more observations, but my brain is fried. Did I mention that tomorrow is supposed to be hotter? Still, I'm not looking forward to winter… maybe just to hug a snowman…

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When you speak…

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Everyday I strive to be a little better than the day before. In this personal journey, I look for inspiration in others, as well as faults in others, so that I can improve myself.

Communication is obviously the most important way we interact with friends and family. Are you good at expressing yourself? Are you a good listener? Is your conversation positive and enjoyable, or are you bringing, or putting someone down?

Here are some types of people I've noticed lately:

The Back Patter

These are the people that want to let you know how fabulous others think they are. Often these interjections into conversation come out of the blue, and leave me wondering, 'what is your point?'. Are they trying to convince me that they are a fantastic human being? It results in the opposite. They come off as self absorbed, shallow, and attention piggies.

Mrs. I. Me

These people cannot stop talking about themselves. They often interupt and change the subject back to them. 'Enough about me, more about me'. Do they hear themselves? It doesn't seem to bother them that nobody cares.

The One Upper

These people often interrupt a story with a phrase such as, 'oh that's nothing!' or 'Better than that was the time…' or 'the best was the time…' They have completely disregarded your story because they have a better one.

Waiting to Exhalers

These people have no idea what you're saying because they are thinking of they are going to say next. As soon as there is the smallest break in the conversation, they interject their brillant idea. I'm quite guilty of this, and I've been trying to truly focus on the conversation at hand.

Mother Superior

These people like to slide in little stabs at you in the conversation. If they are called on it, they'll claim that you've misunderstood them. Often the tone they use is important.

The 1/2 of a Couple

These people appear to be totally engrossed in a conversation with you, (with perhaps a slightly vague expression on their faces) but every once in a while, they interupt you to butt into their spouse's conversation at the next table.

The Rambler

These people go on and on and on and on. It takes them 30 minutes to tell as story that could have been related in 4. Often their audience have glazed looks on their faces.

The Gossip

These people, (I'm guilty) talk badly about others, often to make themselves appear better. I feel that the worse of these violators talk about your friends or family, making you wonder a) how do they talk about you when you're not around, b) are they saying this in hopes that I mention it to my friend/family member, c) if they think because I'm listening that I'm agreeing with them.

Here are some questions to ask yourself when talking:

Does this person actually care about what I'm saying?
Am I rambling?
Am I insulting them when talking about friends/family?
Am I looking for validation, or just expressing an opinion?
Is this entire conversation revolving around only me?

I think that the most important aspect of being a good friend is being a good listener and I hope to do better. If I'm not, just give me the glazed look, and hopefully I'll get the hint…

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Queen of the frogs

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In case you didn't know, I am the self-appointed Queen of the Frogs. (I should mention that I don't know the difference between frogs and toads, so I may be the Queen of the toads, but frogs sound better. I will not let my ignorance go unchecked, so after I write this entry, I'll google it.)

Just about everyday I walk over to my mom's pool to dump the filter, and just about everyday, there are frogs floating in it. Some days there are several, (the record is 7), other days there are none.

Occasionally, there is a stiff little froggie corpse at the bottom of the basket. The little guy just couldn't swim against the constant pull of the filter. This is why I wake up at 7 everyday, wondering if I could possibly save a frog life. Imagine my surprise, when, as I was preparing for a frog funeral, the frog in question, moved his leg! Could this rigid amphibian be alive? Vague memories hover on the fringe my consciousness. Words like 're-animation', and 'winter survival' are close to my lips. Yes! Frogs can basically drown, and live again!

So, I realize that I am not the frog savior I deem myself to be. I am a caretaker for the undead. How dark!

Now I need you to understand, that I don't particularity like frogs. They freak me out! They can move really quick, they're jumpy, bumpy and wart like. I don't touch the frogs. They're bodies are ruddy and cold, and I'm concerned that they'd jump at me, and I'd inadvertently smush them. I do like to observe them, but they don't like to be watched or seen. They like to conceal themselves, (part of their sneaky behavior..) and be part of the landscaping. This frustrates me, because as Queen of the frogs, my life duty is to protect them. Why must they hide from me? Do they not love their sovereign? It is a lonely lot for me as their overseer…

I admit that currently I know very little about normal frog behavior. I do hope to learn, so I can speak for my subjects, and rule them well. If I could ask a frog anything, I would like to know what attracts them to the pool after a rainfall. There are considerably more frogs in the filter after a storm. I have developed a theory: I believe that frogs love the rain, it makes them want to party. They gather all their friends together for a poolside soirre. The martinis flow like water. Eventually the frogs get tipsy, and with the encouragement of their drunken mates, they try to walk on two legs. Into the pool they go! That's when they hope and pray for the existence of the mythical frog queen, because, although they can reanimate themselves, it has to be a pain in the ass when they're hungover.

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