Home Friends: Part 2

Back in Victoria my longest visits were with friends who were able to help out with the packing. Ryan and Renata were heroes, lending me their car, their awesome strength and their patience. They kept me motivated and on track. Plus we managed to have some good laughs and even dinner at my favourite Saigon Nights (mmmm #20…I know the rest of you love #18, but my heart can’t be swayed.) R & R occasionally threaten to move to Europe to work; I can only hope.

One set of Rebecca’s grandparents, Ken and Susan, also came down from Mill Bay a couple of times to lend a hand. Susan is warm and wonderful, and Ken will do anything to help out. Over the last three years they have become much-loved grandparents to Annie as well. I was just overwhelmed with how much they helped me out. It was such an incredible outpouring of goodwill. The first day they came over I put them to work on the kitchen, thinking that this could be a medium-sized, self-contained job. Um, well, it turned out to be a massive four-hour marathon for us (mostly the two of them…I just answered questions occasionally as I focused on other rooms.) It was a huge weight off for me once it was done and I can’t thank them enough. They moved, packed, carted things away and even cut the lawn. Crazy kindness.

My friend Rose came with her packing advice, moving supplies and cleaning skills extraordinaire. She listened fearlessly as my stress level peaked. (Did I mention that amongst all of this I had to negotiate a settlement with the contractor we were having a disput with over our home renovations, because Markus couldn’t get back to Canada for the court date? And the contractor’s wife is his lawyer, who I imagine is a very nice person most of the time but clearly hates us and wasn’t afraid to pretty much scream at me over the phone?) Rose has always been my touchstone, reminding me of what is important in the world.

And Stacey…wonderful, beautiful Stacey. She helped with the moving and cleaning, storing boxes and my piano, letting me stay with her when I had no bed, letting me bail on our plans without complaining so that I could pack more, was completely supportive yet helped me to keep things in perspective. How did I get so lucky to have such a friend?

I also enlisted Stacey’s awesome husband, Andrew, to help me with the bags and boxes from our attic office, which has very steep, rickety, fold-away stairs. (Let’s face it, I’m prone to accidents. I try not to use the word ‘clumsy’, which is an accurate term at 12 and endearing at 20, but just ridiculous and a bit weird at 40. Nonetheless, there aren’t many people who break their elbow falling off a bike while going for a leisurely ride by the river, so I thought those stairs may be the death of me.) He skillfully managed (drawing on his experience as a reservists with the Navy) and helped without complaining, even though I learned towards the end that he had a bad back. Um, sorry about that Andrew. And thanks!

With all of that help, as well as throwing money at the problem by hiring movers for two days, garbage/recycling collectors, and a yard work cleanup crew, I was able to squeeze in visits with some friends.

Sue, who I’ve connected with a great deal in the last year through our blogs and online chatting, (but not Facebook…she is a conscientious objector) kindly threw an AbeBabes gathering in her great new home. We were celebrating the arrival of Marci’s gorgeous baby boy, Archer. AbeBabes is our version of a book club, minus the books. All of us worked at AbeBooks at one point, although I think only 2 or 3 are still there. (It has been about 5 years since our first gathering.) It is a great group and I’m thrilled we still make the effort to get together.

Sue and Cathy and their children were a big part of my first year as a mom. We were all on maternity leave at the same time and had many, many lunches and get togethers, which certainly helped to keep me sane. And Antoinette has been fantastic about keeping in touch this last year, despite a busy time with her she-ought-to-be-in-pictures daughter. It was so much fun to see all of the children a year later. Crazy how much they have changed, of course.

And I loved catching up with people I haven’t talked to in a year…it sounds like such a long time! So many changes with jobs and relationships and homes and dreams. Too much fun. Marci and I got a chance to chat quite a bit. We are both moms who need to work (psychologically and emotionally rather than just financially), so we shared our stories about the ups and downs of that adventure.

And I even remembered to click some pics (what a beautiful group of women!!):

Marci with the guest of honour, Archer
Marci with the guest of honour, Archer
Stacey and Archer...that happy baby was help by everyone
Stacey and Archer...that happy baby was held by everyone
Janice and Kathy
Janice and Kathy
Antoinette, Maisha and Ange
Antoinette, Maisha and Ange
Cathy and Marci
Cathy and Marci
Gracious host Sue with sweet Amy
Gracious host Sue with sweet Amy

I manged a quick lunch with our wonderful friend Beth. (Whenever Annie sees their picture on the computer, she says in sing-song voice: “I love Beth and George.”) Beth was ridiculously busy at work and I know she felt bad about not being able to help with the move. But it was lovely to get a chance to catch up in person. Annie will be so excited to see her in August.

Some of the crew from the Marketing department at AbeBooks met me at Spinnakers for lunch. It was great to catch up with them and hear all the latest news about everyone’s lives. The company hasn’t changed much since it was purchased by Amazon, so we mostly talked about families and travel, soon-to-be babies and new relationships. I miss all of them. Here is a picture of the group, minus Beth, who had to leave a bit early and Julie, who ducked out when her beautiful new baby, Georgia, started to get sleepy.

Shauna, Michael, Maria, Heather and Kathleen
Shauna, Michael, Maria (with baby-to-be), Heather and Kathleen

Easily the most hilarious time I had on this visit was with Jennie, Sheenagh and Karen. We all worked together at Taylor Personnel many years ago, and every time we get together my stomach hurts from laughing after about 2 minutes. One of the few pictures I have up on the wall in Innsbruck is of the four of us (all looking gorgeous, of course) at our regular haunt, Cafe Mexico. We would get together every few weeks, and it is one of the things I am most homesick for living in Europe.

My calm in all of the storm was definitely the dinner I had with our friends, Arleen and Chris. They invited me to their beautiful house and we ate a delightful meal in their garden. (I experienced a real shock with how big and beautiful the homes are in Canada…including my own house on Richmond…as we currently live in a small, desperately-needs-to-be-renovated apartment here in Innsbruck. But hey, location, location, location.) I talked their ears off and hope someday they will recover enough to invite me back. They are coming to Innsbruck with their two girls at the beginning of July. We are totally stoked to visit and show them our beautiful part of the world.

I also squeezed in a tea with Monica, who I met during my stint at the Mary Street apartments. Monica is an Across The Water fan. (O.K., she is a fan of the pictures and videos of Annie, but I’ll take it.) She is funny and interesting and also a world traveller; I’m hoping that she makes it to our part of the globe next year. Monica also makes and sells lovely beaded jewellery, so I got some craft-talk time in as she gave me a tips on perfect wire wraps. (I know this is soooooo interesting to the rest of you.) I actually remembered to take a picture of Monica; here she is in front of her house:


I did miss out on seeing Kyra, which was quite disappointing. I was a little too optimistic and scheduled a visit with her for the Monday before I left. Yeah, so that didn’t happen. I was really looking forward to seeing her and catching up. Kyra has been awesome with keeping in touch since I have been far, far away. It is impossible to describe how important messages and contact from home friends is when you abandon your old life for a new one. Not to mention that she has the best Facebook photos, which always keep me interested. Kyra will be first on the list to see in August.

Whew. Great to see everyone but glad to be done. So, are you moving? I have some serious karma to pay forward, so give me a call and I’m there with a smile on.

**Update: Now I’m starting to get messages from all of the people who I said I would visit, but didn’t. Or those friends who live in Victoria but I didn’t even contact. I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry. I’m pleading insanity, overwork, stress, poor planning. Please, please let me make it up to you in August. I’ll be in Victoria on the 19th and will buy you a coffee. Promise this time.

Home Friends: Part 1

As you may know, I spent the last two weeks of May in Canada. I was there to pack up our house, it having finally sold. (The closing date is the end of June.) It was a lot of work. Really an unimaginable amount of work. I walked around the house the first night I arrived and just went, “I’M SCREWED!!” But of course in the end, with much help from friends, it was done. I whittled our lives down to one small storage locker. (O.K….Stacey is storing a few boxes as well. Oh and my electric piano. And the (K)Catherines have our flat screen T.V. Still not much.) If we do end up moving back to Canada in the near future, I guess we will be experiencing the famous “fresh start,” as we pretty much have nothing left there but some books, a computer (nowhere to sleep, but we’ll be connected…priorities people), Annie’s toys and clothes that I haven’t been able to part with yet, and some kitchen utensils. What else does anyone need? Yikes.

I had visions of packing a bit each day, visiting with friends, seeing English movies nightly, and going for long walks by my much-missed ocean. Right. For most of my 9 days in Victoria I basically woke up at 4:00 each morning in a panic and started filling boxes. I did try to see at least one friend each day, and managed to carve out time to see one movie with Renata. (Illuminati. I think it was a good flick; my perception is possibly flawed since it just felt so great to be surrounded by all of that English.)

Thankfully, I had planned on spending 4 days in Vancouver to visit my brother’s family and some friends. My timing couldn’t have been worse, as they were in the last days before they had to move from their house. (I called myself the house guest from hell, but they were all good natured about it.) But I really enjoyed seeing Ian and Lynne and my three awesome nephew/nieces. (Why isn’t there an amalgamated word in English for nieces and nephews, like ‘siblings’? An irritating lexicon hole.) I got to see the shell of their new house (it is being completely renovated), which is going to be amazing. It is on a cul-de-sac and sits on a huge lot with a forest-like ravine behind. Annie and I are going to have a blast when we visit in August.

Evan, Emma and Amie pretending to be asleep. Poor Amie has a broken elbow.
Evan, Emma and Amie pretending to be asleep. There are lots of games amongst these three.
Emma at swimming lessons.
Emma at swimming lessons. She is a very good athlete.
Amie was very brave with her broken elbow. Unlike her Aunt when she had a broken elbow and was screaming in the ER.
Amie was very brave with her broken elbow. Unlike her Aunt when she had a broken elbow and was screaming in the ER.
Sporty Evan taking a final slapshot at the old house.
Sporty Evan taking a final slap shot at the old house.

In terms of friends, I had great plans to take pictures of everyone to post on the blog. But I just couldn’t stop talking long enough to remember to do that, so I only have a few to show. As I mentioned in my last post, it is just different to have a conversation with someone who has learned your own language from birth. I didn’t realize what I was missing until I had it back. It was like I hadn’t noticed my left arm was gone, and then it suddenly returned and life was so much better and easier and whole.

My first visit in Vancouver was with Vern. I hadn’t seen him for at least a year. Vern suggested that we attend the BC Food Fair, which sounded great to me. I met him at the Olympic clock in front of the museum…Olympic fever is really heating up in the city.


We ate our way through a very tasty couple of hours. I had been there at least an hour and had a spicy taco from the Mexican stand before I remembered about swine flu. I imagine that a large gathering of people eating questionally heated food might not have been the best idea in terms of fending off communicable diseases. Oh well. All’s well that doesn’t end in hospitalization. And, as always, Vern made me laugh and feel great about myself. The best kind of friend to have.

Vern kindly walked me to the bus stop where, after a short ride, I connected with my friend Lesli. I’ve known Lesli for many years, since the first or second year I lived in Victoria. She wrote some great articles for the ill-fated Pacific Island Gourmet and we took an alternative healing classes together. (Way ahead of ‘The Secret’ curve.)

Lesli is a brilliant communications specialist working for the city in support of the Olympics. We often talk about working together, as we think our skills would complement each others. Maybe someday. She is one of those friends where we can listen and talk and interrupt and finish each other’s sentences all at the same time. I love that. And miss that.

The next day I met up with Alexander for a walk on the beach. We were going to take a walk by the beach, but my sandal gave out so we went barefoot on the sand. The very hot sand. As good as a pedicure I think.

I met Alex a few years back at a yoga retreat on Vancouver Island (she was the instructor). She has this amazing balance between alternative beliefs and down-to-earth practicality that is just completely inviting. We haven’t spoken for a while so it was wonderful to catch up on each other’s lives and loves and dreams for the future. I can talk about anything with her without ever feeling judged. That is a rare gift indeed.

The last night the five ‘Vancouver Samsons’ were moving into Lynne’s mother’s one-bedroom apartment, where they will live for a month while the new house is being finished. So I moved over to Steve and Jodi’s place.

I met Steve doing my MBA at UVIC. He, John Turner (not the PM) and I did most of our projects togther. I learned more working with those two smarties than I did from my classes. (If you ask Steve about working with me, he will make some joke about my ability to make coffee or me crying too much, so don’t bother.) And I met the very lovely Jodi through Steve. They were dating at the time but are now married and living in a great apartment in Yaletown. (Complete with the Hillary Samson guest suite.)

Steve and Jodi always steer me towards some tasty places to eat…there are hundreds to choose from in the area. (I think many people in Yaletown subscribe to the Carrie Bradshaw philosophy of kitchen use; the oven is used for extra storage). I was having a Mexican craving, as that isn’t available in Innsbruck (some restaurants claim to have Mexican here, but it is totally inedible) and managed to fit in two Mexican meals. Yum!

Oddly, no video games were played while I was visiting. I think that is the first time. Steve has been in the video game industry for many years, and always has the latest games on all of the platforms. I remember visiting one time and pretty much forcing them to just play Wii with me the whole weekend. But they are good sports. I guess my need to talk and hang out with friends overroad my gaming addiction this visit.

And I sure did enjoyed talking with them very much about life in Canada and Europe. And about the biz. Steve started a company, Pug Pharm, about a year ago and is working on releasing the first online game title. I have been helping a bit remotely from Innsbruck and it has been great to reconnect with the corporate world. We would both like to work together (despite the coffee comments) so are hopeful that this can turn into something more permanent. Working for a Canadian company from Europe would be the best of both worlds for me. Here’s hoping.

Jodi thankfully found a deal on the float plane back to Victoria, so I saved myself the 6 hour ferry/bus/taxi ride and was able to squeeze in another meal with them. If our lives bring us to Vancouver to live (anything is possible at this point), it will be so comforting to know we have amazing friends there. I am very lucky.


I’m sitting in the Calgary airport, enjoying their free Internet access. I had to laugh making my way through the airport security. Canadians really are friendly! It isn’t just a myth.

I had a momentary crisis of consciousness filling out my customs declaration form. (And not just because I couldn’t remember how many litres of wine I brought with me as gifts.) I actually had to think about whether I was a visitor or a resident of Canada for a few seconds. It seemed so strange. I still have a house in Victoria, but I live in Innsbruck. I’m a resident of Austria, but am only legally allowed to work in Canada. Of course I am a visitor, but it did feel very strange to tick off those boxes. And that mixed with the excitement of coming ‘home’ as well as already feeling very far away from Annie and Markus made it all that much harder.

Travelling to Canada, on the other hand, has (so far, please don’t let me jinx my last leg from Calgary to Victoria) been a breeze. When I was rowing we used to do ‘fartlek’ workouts, where we would try to row at 45+ strokes per minute. The concept was that when we then rowed at 37 strokes per minute during a race, it would feel easier, more in control. The last couple of years, I have found that this principle holds true throughout most of life.

Getting less than 6 or 7 hours of sleep used to set me up for a very tired day, until I had a baby and didn’t see a 7-hour stretch of sleep for over 9 months. It felt like I could go days on 7 hours of sleep after that. Parenting on weekends now with Markus seems so much less stressful after this year’s long stretches of single-motherhood (in a foreign country, not speaking the language, with no friends or family). And travelling, even on long-haul flights half way across the world, is a dream after travelling to Europe with a small child. I watched 3 movies, had a short nap and am now easily filling a 3-hour layover in Calgary by emailing, Facebooking and blogging.

And most of all, I can’t tell you how easy it is going to be to arrange things when the people at the other end of the phone speak the same language as I do. Before I set out for even the most mundane errand these past 10 months (going to the dry-cleaners, drugstore, doctors, etc.), I’d try to practice and look up the German words that I might need to make myself understood. A couple of times I caught myself doing that with tasks I have to complete here in Canada. But no need!!!  Movers arranged? Phone lines disconnected? Bank transactions? Easy peasy lemon squeezy compared to trying to do all of those things with my poor German and the other person’s broken English. Of course, all of those tasks are generally irritating, but I just know it will seem easier after this last year’s experience. I guess that is what is meant by the quip that you can’t appreciated the good times without some difficult times. Now if I can just remember this lesson the next time a difficult day hits.

House Maybe Sold…Emotions Conflicted

Well, we had a solid offer on the house, which we have accepted yesterday. We dropped the price by a good lot, because all indications are that the spring is going to be even worse than now.

So, of course, part of me is relieved that we can check this off the list and can pay off some of our bills. But I am also experiencing a fairly large amount of angst over this. Interesting.

I’m sure that this is partly because we had to sell for about $100,000 less than what was going to be our ‘bottom price’ only 7 months ago. It is so close that it is hard not to do the woulda coulda shoulda thing. If we had only dropped the price in the spring, we would likely have at least an extra $50,000 in our pockets right now. Ah well, 20/20 hindsight and all that.

But I am also feeling (perhaps irrationally) like my most tangible connection to Canada has been severed. I guess that (without realizing it) I had in the back of my mind that if things didn’t work out here we would just move back to the house and go from there. With the house gone, everything seems like a bigger decision. Even visiting Victoria becomes more of a challenge. I know, I know that we could always move back and rent a place. But somehow that is different.

And of course it is really hitting me that I won’t be seeing the place again where Annie was born and did all of her ‘firsts’, where Rebecca spent so many years growing up, where Narnia brought in that snake…oh right, that I’d like to forget. As you all know, I wasn’t even in love with our condo, and yet I still feel sadness over seeing it go. As I say, interesting.

Everything else is still up in the air (the Aerie, The Hotel), so it is nice to have one major event (hopefully) behind us. And all of these financial issues have started to make me think about working again. Susi (sister-in-law) let me know that there are a couple of positions in the Marketing department of Swarovski that require a business degree and no other language other than English. And Markus discovered that there is at least one business college that teaches all of their courses in English (although I think I might need a PhD to apply there.) It is making me think hard about what I want to do. I’ll keep you updated.

On the home front, I am still sick as a dog. I forgot to take my ColdFX this morning and almost didn’t make it through class. I dare any of you to try to conjugate verbs in a foreign language when your head is full of cold and throat is blazing sore. Good times. My pharmacist friend from school, Ana, has a homeopathic remedy she is bringing me tomorrow that I really, really hope does the trick. I have so much fun in these classes and am feeling like I am making some progress, so I want to be mentally as well as physically present the rest of the week. I know my family in Vancouver are also suffering from various illness. I wish all of them, and you, good health.

Every Jouney Begins with…

Saying goodbye this last week has been sad and sweet and a bit surreal. Mostly I think I am in denial; I’m going to be so fabulously busy I’m not going to miss anyone. Right.

The house saga continues. One offer too low, another just right but then they bailed the next day. Packing your life up and running after a toddler while trying to keep the house clean for showings is a real treat. Thank goodness for Terry (amazing woman who runs Annie’s daycare).

I think in some ways I’ll miss the house, even though I’ve wanted to sell it the last 2 years. I guess the home where your child is born, took her first steps, spoke her first word, will always be special. I really like this picture of our back yard. Since we’ll be living in downtown Innsbruck, we’ll be lucky to have a balcony. Thankfully there are lots of parks, lakes and, of course, the mountains nearby. Markus is already sourcing new skis.

Annie and I are off to cottage country in Manitoba for a few weeks. We leave today and then head over to Austria on the 26th.

The adventure begins!

Backyard at Richmond house in Victoria
Backyard at Richmond house in Victoria