Tuesday, January 1, 2013

2012 Year End Review

2012 ,all in all, not a bad year.

 January 1st 2012 saw us towing the house off of Ken Rowleys property and moving it slightly upstream. We had no power or running water  but we also didn't pay any moorage. Access to the house was pretty dicey and I conquered a lot of fear walking over those dodgy planks every day.

The winter was bitterly cold some days, but thankfully we had hardly any snow to deal with. We basically spent the winter huddled in our bedrooms watching vhs movies that I found in thrift stores and counting the days until spring.

The year before I had petitioned the City of Richmond to take on my floathome as a maritime heritage building, hoping to find a safe berth for it down in Steveston where I work. After 6 months of meetings, it boiled down to: they wanted the house but no one living in it and they had no money to buy it. We were back to square one.

 The Port Authority was breathing down our necks, threatening us constantly about moving the house out of their juristiction. Running out of options, in desperation we climbed in the car and started driving up and down the river asking total strangers if we could park in their back yard.

It took us the most part of the spring but by June we had found someone willing to let us moor at their dock. It was a lot further away then I had hoped for but in the end totally worth it! Our landlord was also a tug boat operator and offered to tow us up here but it would have to wait until the fall as the freshet was running very hard this year.

Now that we had secured a place and could give the Port Authority the assurance that we were going away at some point soon , we had some breathing room to try and enjoy life a little. Augusts heat wave was doing my lungs in so I took a week off work and we went camping up in the mountains where the air was so much cooler. We swam in small lakes, hiked through woods and cooked food over an open fire, pure bliss! On the way home we stopped and toured through the old mine at Brittanea Beach.

We managed to get tickets to Roger Waters :"The Wall" concert and thoroughly enjoyed that. We visited the pow-wow over on the North Shore, ate lots of good salmon and bannock. I made a point of going to Steveston on my days off and exploring the cannery and the Britannea shipyard. On Canada Day, we went there for the parade and local salmon festival.

In the fall it was time for the PNE. We went there a number of times and saw a few of the concerts,:Heart, Trooper and Burton Cummings, all great shows! The last ride I took on the old roller coaster seemed to have dislocted a rib. Over the next few days, the pain intensified to the point that I couldn't work anymore. It finally came time to move the house up river and I missed the ride because I had a chiropractic appointment that morning. By the time, I finished and drove up to the new location, they had already docked. I ended up having to take off almost 3 weeks while waiting for my rib to heal. It couldn't have come at a better time. We had a beautiful Indian summer and I got to just sit on my patio and relax and enjoy the scenery.

From September to December we finally got to work on the house and our surroundings. Dave did a ton of work building docks and floats, cutting and building a huge ramp, as well as building and filling a garden shed. The inside of the house got tackeled pretty good as well. We finally got running water, the gas stove hooked up, a pantry built, some more  sub-floor finished off, the tub plumbed in, and a 20 ton truck of stuff moved into the house ( I emptied my storage locker and finally took the rest of my belongings out of my old house, primarily my collection  of 3000 books ).

 While Dave was doing all that, I worked long hours at the clinic in Steveston. I left the house at 11am and got home at 11pm, had dinner and fell into bed. Days off we spent exploring our new neighborhood.

Our neighbors who rent the house on the property are a lovely couple who have adopted us into their large family. We have been honored to be invited to BBq's, family dinners, Christmas dinner and New Years Eve. It has really made the transition to living out here much easier.

Unfortunately I couldn't make it to the NYE celebration. Back in the spring I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia. Basically every muscle feels like its been run over and every joint feels like it has broken glass in it. Unable to bear the pain any longer, I have been taking Demerol on a daily basis so I can function and get things done. Unfortunately after taking it for so long, it has built up to a toxic level in my system and I have been feeling very ill for the last few months. I decided as I had a week off over the holidays, that I would use this time to get off of my medication.

I don't crave it as a drug, in fact if I had a good day pain wise, I had no problem not taking any at all, but after such a long time there was enough in my system to make me sick if I didn't keep taking it. It's too bad, as it really gave me many pain free hours for which I was very grateful for after living with daily pain for over 20 years. However, if nothing else, I need to take a break from it, so I have been cutting down my dose as much as possible for the last few weeks and now on New Years day I am on my fourth day of complete withdrawal.

 All I can say is, thank god for Gravol, it has been very helpful in controlling the nausea and stomach upset. I have horrible crawly muscle sensations and my restless leg syndrome is in high gear. I am irritable, restless, and finding it hard to focus on anything. I can't wait to feel normal again.

I've got two more days off and am praying that this is over by then. I look forward to starting the New Year with a clean body. Now that the house situation is under control, I really want to focus on my health. When I was first diagnosed, I tried every kind of treatment I could think of. Nothing seemed to work except my indigestion cleared up while I was on a three month anti inflammatory diet. I know that a lot of what was going on was related to all the stress I have been under. I am hoping that now that things seem to be going ok, my stress levels have dropped and maybe my pain is decreasing.

I want to take the time this year to be mindful of what I put in my mouth, make the effort to move my body on a regular basis and to do loving things for it like go for massages and some pampering now and again. I am quite happy with my resolution for 2012, I feel I did get out and do quite a few local touristy things. I finally made it to many of the local festivities and toured a bunch of the local sights.

So once again we turn a new page and begin a new year. I hope that 2013 continues the good fortune trend that 2012 turned out to be for me. I look forward to seeing how this year unfolds. All the best to you and your families. I hope that this dawn of a new age brings about the changes in the world that we need to see in order to remain sustainable,healthy and happy.

Love, Rhianna

52 Lifestyle Changes for 2013

Reminders to myself of the person I want to be.

1.Lose at least one pound a week
2.Seek spiritual guidence every day
3.Be grateful every day
3.Exercise every day ( before going online)
4.Take a daily picture of something that catches my eye
5.Perform a random act of kindness
6.Limit sugar
7.Aim for raw food when possible
8.Fast food doesn't exist, make another choice
9.Mindful Eating
10.Clean and sort one closet or drawer every week
11.Start saving 10 percent of all income
12.Attend at least one yoga class a week
13.Read a book before bed ( turn off the computer)
14.Play a game once a week
15.Have a "do not spend money" day once a week
16. Un-clutter a room
17.Record receipts once a week and file
18.Clear your inbox
20.Learn a new skill
22.Learn a new language
23.Study a new plant in my neighborhood
24.Work on making a smaller garbadge pile each week
25.Play an instrument
26.Be creative
27. Write
28.For every new thing I bring home, two things must go out
29.Learn the words to a song
30.Visit a friend
31.Feed the wildlife
32.Take a bit of all food I intend to eat and make an offering to the spirits to say thanks
33.Try a new food
34.Try a new restaurant
35.Pick up litter
36.Sign a petition
37.Take a course
39.Take a bath, make it as healing as possible
40.Breathe mindfully
42.Get out of town, do something different
43.Walk in a forest
44.Sit by a fire
45.Moon bathe
46.Skinny dip
47.Star gaze
48.Remember and honour someone who is gone
49.Decorate a place in nature
50.Repair something that is broken
51.Plant a perrenial
52.Perform rituals and ceremonies to ground yourself and mark your passages

Friday, February 17, 2012

The Local Tourist - Christmas Lights at Stanley Park

On Christmas Eve, after spending a few hours at the German Christmas Market, I wanted to go see some Christmas light displays. The original plan was to go to Vandusen Gardens on Oak Street, which always puts on a huge display, but the place was packed and parking non-existant, so we decided to go check out Stanley Park instead.

 I'll know better for next year, but they have a miniature train you can ride that takes you through the woods which have over 2 million lights twinkling in them. It was booked solid for 3 hours in advance when we got there, and we didn't want to wait in the cold that long, so skipped the ride and just enjoyed the displays in the main plaza. Next year, I would book tickets online, so I don't miss the main attraction.

The whole show is a fund raiser for the Vancouver Firemans Burn Fund, a worthy cause if ever, so I was generous in my entrance fee donation. The plaza was ablaze in lights and filled with every Christmas/Winter image you could think of. It was if they had cleaned out every garage in town and confiscated all their outdoor winter decorations. Strangly, they were all clumped by catagory. A field of snowmen, next to a field of plastic Santa Clauses, next to a field of reindeer..... you get the idea.

Here is a couple of blurry cell phone pictures

It was a nice cheerful way to spend Christmas Eve, but a bit on the hokey side, nice for kids.

The Local Tourist - The Vancouver German Christmas Market

Although I was born in Canada, I grew up in Germany as an Air Force brat. They were magical years in so many ways, but sometimes it seems like it was all a dream. One of my favorite memories was the German Christmas markets. Masses of twinkling fairy lights, amazing aromas of cooking food, lots of tasty treats and a slew of hand crafted ornaments. All this washed down with copious amounts of mulled red wine known as Gluehwein and frosty beer. Those markets seemed to capture the essence of Christmas in a way that our malls with their muzac never could.

Well, now Vancouver has its own German Christmas Market and on December 24th, I went downtown to check it out. I was not disappointed! For a few hours, I was transported back to my childhood.

Excitedly, I dragged David from one booth to another as memories came flooding back. First stop was to the bratwurst stand for sausage on a bun as only the Germans can make them, yummy! Then we sampled the large bread pretzels ( damn, I forgot how good those were), I went back for more but they were sold out :(  We purchased some Gluehwein to wash it down,... now that's a seriously tasty drink! Everywhere we turned we were accosted by the fantastic smells of baking apples, molten cheese, gingerbread cookies and so on.

Once we had had our fill of food and drink, we turned our attention to the arts and crafts. The Germans have a long tradition of making beautiful intricate handmade ornaments. The prices were out of this world, but I bought a couple anyway as they had special meanings for me. I called my Dad when I got home to tell him about the market and when I mentioned the prices he said they had always been extravagent even back in the sixties and seventies. I really wish I had hung on too the ones I had, but they got lost in my many moves over the years.

These German Pyramids were a typical sight and the incredible detail and workmanship made them  a highly sought after item. They dont come cheap!, These can run in the hundreds of dollars but are something that can be handed down for ages. The heat from the candles creates air currents which cause the blades to spin. That in turn,spins the different levels around, each one carrying a carved vignette of life.

At the end of the evening, there was a beautiful old-fashioned carosol which we took a ride on, David on a gorgeous pink pony.... priceless. Mysteriously, I  lost my camera before I got that picture downloaded..hmmmm.

It was a wonderful experience to dust off old memories, I can't wait for next years, I'll be lining up early for the pretzels, and plan to take a taxi home so I can have a second glass of Gluehwein.

Heres a short video to show you what it looked like ( I lost my camera)

Thursday, February 16, 2012

The Local Tourist - Winter Solstice Lantern Festival

I have lived in Vancouver BC for twenty years now and have worked almost every weekend of those twenty years. This resulted in me missing every: parade, festival, farmers market, ethnic day celebration, cultural event, health and lifestyle expos,.... you name it, I missed it! So this year it is my mandate to try and experience as many of these as I could. For different reasons, I didn't have my camera for the first few things I attended, so will post a few pictures that I found online to illustrate what I was seeing. I will try and do a better job of chronicling the rest of my adventures as I go along. So sit back, be an armchair traveller and join me as I check out my city and what it has to offer.

First up was the Winter Solstice Lantern Festival. It is held simultaneously in five different Vancouver neighborhoods on December 21st. I must admit, I have attended this festival before in two of the other locations. Once on Granville Island and the other in Yaletown. This time I went to experience it at the Dr Sun Yat-Sen gardens in Chinatown.

 The Secret Lantern Society hosts a number of city-wide lantern parades and events through-out the year and all of them are worth checking out if you have never been to one before. There is something magical about the glow and flicker of candle-light on a dark night, when all things wondrous might happen. The look on a small child's face as they gaze with awe at the fantastical creations is a joy to behold. The infectious music from the various carnival bands are a delight for the senses. The incredible creativity of everyone is inspiring. These are the perfect events to come and really feel like you are part of a community for you don`t just come to look , you are the parade, you are the show. This is your time to shine and entertain, whether by your fanciful dress, your creative lantern or your skills as a juggler, stilt walker, drummer etc.
                                                Photo: the Secret Lantern Society
The Dr Sun Yat-Sen gardens are wondrous on their own, but filled with glowing lanterns,  their light dancing in the reflecting pools, is a whole other experience in itself. A band played beautiful music in the central gazebo as people milled around on the many paths throughout the gardens. It was a sweet, gentle evening, perfect for lovers taking a stroll.

                                              A beautiful altar with prayers on white ribbons

                                                               Sun and Moon lanterns
                         A fuzzy picture from my cell phone of an ingenious stork lantern

Each of the locations has something unique to offer on this night that celebrates the return of the sun. The one at SE  False Creek had a wonderful fire show on a small hill. A representation of the sun cresting the top of the hill was lit on fire and dancers spinning fire poi`s whirled around in a frenzy of joyous celebration. At the Roundhouse in Yaletown, there were many activities going on, one of which is a magical labyrinth made of candles flickering in paper bags which created a place to take a sacred walk through the allegorical womb to be reborn with the sun.

The Lantern Festivals are a sweet, gentle way to celebrate the return of the sun when the world is at it`s darkest hour. I plan to go again next winter and will check out the celebrations on Commercial Drive this time. All- in- all , a very pleasant evening, suitable for the whole family. Two thumbs up :)

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