Monday, December 26, 2011

Year End Review 2011

2011 SUCKED!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Seriously, one of the worst years of my life. It wasn't all bad, but the bad definitely took its toll on me.

I still have my house and progress is being made on the renovations, but I have spent most of this year in a panic looking for a new location for it.

We were terrorized the entire year by crazy, death- threat- uttering tenants, an enraged landlord, the entire police force and cranky neighbors.

We lived under the constant threat of death and destruction from the huge football- field- size barge that broke loose from its ties every other day for 8 months until the new buyer finally got around to taking it out of here.

I lost four of my best friends to cancer and am praying for a few more fighting the same battle.

My body HURTS like never before. I have suffered with bulging discs pressing on nerves, excruciating pain in all my joints ( possibly fibromyalgia), a huge weight gain since quitting smoking a year and a half ago which isn't doing my numbers any good and tendinitis in all the joints I need to do my job. I have spent about half of this year under the influence of Demerol and Advil just to get through my days.

 I have battled depression, exhaustion, fear by the bucket load and way too much grief. I have alternated between wanting to give up and being fueled with rage to stand my ground.

About the only really positive thing to come of this year has been my work situation. At the beginning of the year I was working in three different clinics all of which were quite slow. I ended up working 6 days a week, treating a few people a day just to cover the bills. It really cut into my time to get anything done as I was always having to stop and go to work.

 In April I was approached by an old colleague to do a locum for him so he could take a break to be with his newborn son. I thought it would just be for a few months but as the year wore on it became obvious he wasn't in any rush to come back. I was still juggling all my other shifts as well as taking on more days and clients at the new location. I finally asked him what his intentions were, and he said even if he came back it would only be part time so I could keep my shifts there. So with that in mind, I slowly over the months quit all my other jobs until I was only working at the new clinic in Steveston.

My last shift in Kitsalano was last Sunday. Christmas day marked the first time I have had a full weekend off in years. I took an extra day on Boxing day as a gift to myself. My resolution for this next year is to get out and attend as many events as I can. I have lived in Vancouver for 20 years and have missed almost every event, parade, and festival that happens here. So far I have been to the Solstice lantern Festival in Sun Yet Sun Gardens, the German Christmas Market on Christmas Eve, followed by a visit to Stanley Park that evening to see all the lights. Christmas day was a wonderful dinner at Shelley and Todd's place followed by a day in bed with leftovers.

I love Steveston, the small village where my clinic is. I like it so much, I realized I didn't want to leave when work was done. With that in mind, I decided to try and find a way to get my house moved down there. I am close to realizing my dream, just waiting for the slow-moving wheels of city hall to get a few things in place and hopefully I will be moving there soon.

It is the neighborhood I have been dreaming of all my life. All the stores are in a 2 block walking radius. Everyone knows your name and are happy to see you and be of help. It gets the best weather in Canada, the sky is almost always clear there. The air is fresh as it sits on the edge of the ocean and there are miles of walking paths along the dike.

 My favorite part of this town is the fact that it is working hard to keep its heritage as an important fishing and canning town. There are maritime museums and Japanese heritage sites all around Steveston. It has kept its quaint seaside character which separates it from all the rest of the surrounding townships which are overrun with condo units. I can't wait to finally have my own home in a beautiful location, be able to walk to work and the shops and have clean fresh air and a park in my backyard to explore.

 I have already signed up for a few courses at the local community center which start in January. One is called Taiko fit and is a course in Japanese drumming which is supposed to be vigorous enough to be considered a workout. The other is a yoga for plus size people course which sounded less intimidating to me than a regular one.

 I have met the neighbors who share my building at work and have traded services with a few of them. I have had my astrological chart professionally read, acupuncture and cupping done and am getting my old age sun spots lasered off my face all in trade for my massages.

Manifesting a spot in Steveston for my home is what has kept me going. I see a paradise and I want to be part of it so bad. I can't wait for 2012, it couldn't possibly be any worse than this year, and if all goes according to plan, it should be a stupendous year where I finally get to realize my dreams and aspirations.

 I truly hope that none of you had to face such burdens and that the new year is filled with grace and endless possibilities for a new future filled with love,light and laughter.

May your health be good, your pockets full and your heart glad, bless you all xoxo Rhianna

PS    here is a link to a wonderful photo essay on Steveston, hope to see you there someday!

When Life Hands You Lemons, Make Lemonade

I haven't posted for a long time because things here have been a challenge ( to put it mildly), however life isn't sugar-coated so neither is my story. From every adversity thrown at me I have learned lessons and grown as a human so I am not posting a" woe-is-me" story but sharing how hardship is shaping my life.

I am not going to get into all the nitty, gritty details of " he said this" and "he did that" but our relationship with our landlord has completely deteriorated. People weren't paying their rent on time, new bills were being presented by the landlord that David had no idea that he would be liable for and the stress levels were mounting daily. It got to the point where David couldn't handle the insanity anymore and so relinquished his water lease back to the landlord. At that point, having resolved his responsibilities here, David went back to Ontario for a well needed rest. The landlord took his absence as an opportunity to shake things up here. His first order of business was to tell me that he had never had a lease with me himself and wanted me and my home off of his property ASAP.

Another tenant here had managed to convince the landlord that he could make him more money by filling the marina with boats in the space that my house was taking up, so the landlord hired him as the new caretaker (or "Harbour Master" as it was described in the notice we got) and made it his sole job to get rid of us. The first order of business was to cut off our power and water and to tell our neighbors that if any of them got caught helping or even talking to us, they would be evicted as well.

So since October 1st, I have been living off-grid, so to speak. People are always asking me "how do you do it"?

 I wasn't at all ready for that scenario. It has been my long term goal to be self sufficient, but at the time this happened, my reality was that I was hooked up to 30 amp shore power which ran a few lights, a portable electric heater in my bedroom, my computer and charged various batteries. I had cold running water to flush the toilet and run in the kitchen sink. That was it!

 I showered and did laundry at Davids house ( next door to me). I ate all my meals at his house and washed all the dishes there. The landlord told David, that if he disconnected his house from the property, that he would turn my power back on. David did ....and the landlord didn't.

Now we were totally screwed as my house didn't have any facilities built or hooked up and we couldn't access Davids house anymore. His house ended up sitting badly on the hard at low tide, cracked in half and within a few weeks, sank with all the furniture etc still in it.

So this is what my life has looked like for the last three months:

 I shower at local rec centers and occasionally a friends house.
 I take my laundry twice a week to the laundromat.
 I use buckets of water from the river to flush my toilet.
I use a broom, mop or carpet sweeper for the floors.

I buy large jugs of bottled water to drink and do dishes with.
All cooking/water heating is done on a propane stove and BBQ, outside in the rain and dark on the front deck.
 My unheated kitchen is my fridge. Meats and perishables are kept safe in a cooler.

 I have 2 indoor propane heaters to heat the two bedrooms upstairs, which we basically live in, the rest of the house is whatever temperature it is outside that day.
 I take hot water bottles to bed at night and have flannel sheets, 2 cotton quilts and a feather comforter to snuggle under.
I wear lots of clothes in the house and to bed.

 After our first generator was sabotaged, I bought another smaller one which is brought indoors each night before going to bed. It's a small 1300 watt which powers 3 lights, a combination tv/vcr which is our entertainment and my computer and modem. We also use the generator to charge up car batteries which we use to run things like the answering machine and the computer late at night.

 We use flashlights a lot to move around the house at night, a propane lantern for the kitchen, LED stick-up battery lights, which are motion-activated, for dark spots like stairs or the attic hallway. Sometimes we light candles and oil lamps for added ambience.
We have a few lamps which run off the generator when it's on.

Right now my costs are pretty high. I am paying for lots of bottled water, approx 60 liters of propane/month, 100 plus liters of gas/month, $40 plus a week in laundry costs, not to mention all the extra fuel and time it takes to go to the showers, laundromat, water selling places etc.

 I am quite proud of the fact that I hunkered down and made the best of the situation. It's not ideal, but we are warm enough, well-fed, clean and dry. Now the trick is to lower my living costs.

I looked into putting a wood stove in, but to have all the legal clearances from the walls, the stove would have sat right in the middle of my kitchen. I have three doors in the kitchen which makes that set-up totally impractical. I need $2,500.00 to get a licenced gas fitter to come and hook up our propane fixtures. Once that is done, I would have a propane stove, fridge, dryer and hot water on demand system as well as a propane furnace which would heat the whole downstairs. If I run gutters down each side of my 60 foot roof, I could collect rainwater in barrels for showering and washing up. Some solar panels would offset the cost of the gas generator.

I am learning to live with less appliances, less water and less waste when it comes to power. I'm still not sure how I can produce enough power for all my eventual desires though. These are the bare necessities but I have things like an infra-red sauna, a Jacuzzi tub, steam shower and a bunch of beautiful light fixtures that I would like to be able to use now and again.

 I miss having an oven ( although the pressure cooker has made some nice roast meals), I really miss running water. I would like to have at least one room with a heater that is thermosatically controlled so I can keep my plants alive over the winter. All in good time I guess, I just have to keep upgrading my system as funds come in.

I did have a spot of luck while all this was going on. For about 2 months, a friend who is a jack-of-all-trades came and did 2 hours of work a day for room and board. My wiring in the house was a total gong show. Before I got the house, someone had stolen the power box and left all the wiring cut. I had managed to get a few things hooked up in the beginning but most of it hadn't been sorted out yet. Dan managed to get a good chunk of it rewired and hooked up a bunch a light fixtures for me and set up all the connections in the bathroom for my spa units. He also framed in my bathroom doors and got the sliding door installed from the bathroom to the massage room. The steam shower unit is mostly set up, we just have to connect the water before putting the last few pieces together. The bathroom is about 75 percent complete. It's such a shame that I finally got thisclose to a bathroom but can't use any of it with no power and water. Still, progress is being made even admidst all the chaos in my life.

As if all this wasn't fun enough, my van did its usual balk at winter weather and spent 5 weeks at the mechanics. I had to bus it to work which added a lot more strain to my already very full days. I bought a bunch of water proof clothes and bundled up for the one km daily walk to the bus stop. The good part of this was: saved lots of money on gas, got to read books again on the one hour bus ride and got some sorely needed exercise. The bad part was trying to run all my fuel buying errands on my days off. Luckily good friends chipped in to lend me vehicles when needed. I finally got the van back, five hundred dollars later and it still runs like shit. Never when the mechanic drives it of course, only when I am alone and on the highway. Every engine light comes on and I sputter down the road for some time until mysteriously, they go out and all is well again. Oh well, beats walking!!

This whole time, I have been scrambling and looking for somewhere else to move the house. It has not been easy at all. My biggest drawback is my size. Most floathome communties have berths set up for something in the 20x20, 25x30 type of range. I am a collasal 28x66. Its like looking to park a bus in a smart car parking stall, not going to happen! After spending months phoning every single marina in BC and knocking on strangers doors with river front property, I decided to try a different method. That is another post in itself, so stay tuned for the story of how I manifested a berth for my home.

Updated: here is the link to that story