Monday, December 30, 2013

Ch-ch-ch-changes: Year in Review 2013 (Part One)

This is a long post, people. I understand if you've got other, more important stuff to do beside read my drivel. So much has happened in the past year that I wanted to take the time to explore all the changes in my newly minted life, like a diary entry one would make at this time of year. Cause this blog has always been, and will always be, my diary and you guys will always be the sneaky farts who steal my key and see what I've been up to ...

(heh heh)

Did I mention we're the outdoorsy types? At the end of 2012 we made a resolution to camp every month in 2013. We started out on course, spending a snowy night in our backyard, but our resolution soon crashed when our lives changed in a huge way.

Everybody's a daredevil in Niagara Falls but Dave and I became real life daredevils early in the year. After several happy and profitable years working at a family-run car dealership in our area, the dealership was sold, leading Dave to question whether or not he wanted to stay with the new owner. He decided he didn't, so he began looking for work at other dealerships in the general area. Nobody was hiring, even someone with Dave's experience and training. He looked further afield, even into towns up to two hours away, but Ontario's struggling economy meant no jobs. I also had a nagging feeling that my job wouldn't be lasting forever at the newspaper I worked for in Bracebridge. Our brother-in-law, also a Chrysler mechanic, knew a guy who went to Alberta and made a mitt full of money. Apparently they were desperate for guys like Dave in "Oilburdah." Out of curiosity we Googled Chrysler jobs in Alberta and immediately found a listing in some place in northern Alberta called Cold Lake. Dave called. The boss wanted to meet him and suddenly we agreed to flying out west for an interview. The week before we had spent in Niagara Falls. I hadn't been there since a field trip in Grade 8 so we hopped in the car, put our worries in our old kit bag, and smiled through all the tacky tourist stops Niagara has to offer. One of the other daring things I did in 2012/2013 was cutting off all my hair. I had decided I was sick and tired of colouring it so, with inspiration from Lisa (who blogs at Diary of a Square Toothed Girl), I cut off my long brown locks and began life grey. Boy it was short. Almost a year later and it's touching my shoulders again. Thank gawd. It looked hideous in this photo.

It was the first time Dave had ever been on a commercial airline. I hadn't been on one for decades. Neither of us had ever been west of the Manitoba border. So it was a pretty big deal when our local yokal selves boarded a West Jet flight for Edmonton, Alberta. When we arrived in Edmonton there was a rental car waiting for us, paid for by Cold Lake Chrysler. We stopped at Denny's for the lumberjack breakfast, which steeled us for the three and a half hour drive north. The first part of Dave's interview was at Bonnyville Chrysler. When that went well, we drove another 40 minutes north to Cold Lake, to meet the general manager and to see where Dave would be working – IF he took the job. At first we thought he'd take it. But when we went to talk to the local mortgage manager at the Royal Bank, we were told that we wouldn't qualify for a mortgage – this despite the fact that Dave had an excellent credit rating and had been an RBC customer all his life. Her negativity was the main reason Dave decided not to take the Cold Lake job. The guys at the dealership were disappointed but nice – they told Dave if he ever changed his mind to let them know. About a week later, Dave had a word with the RBC mortgage manager, Darlene, in Huntsville. He told her how awful the Cold Lake experience was and Darlene was appalled. She apologized profusely on the other woman's behalf and, after crunching a few numbers, said it wouldn't be any problem at all to get us a mortgage in Cold Lake. We thought about it some more, then decided WHAT THE HECK! Dave called the dealership in Cold Lake and took the job. We thought THAT whole process had its ups and downs ... the real rollercoaster was yet to begin!

We had always promised to take the kids to Niagara Falls. After we decided to move, we realized we wouldn't have a lot more chances. So, two weeks after we had been on our own, we got back in the car with Sam, Angus and Jess (Gus's girlfriend) to do some more sightseeing. We had a great time and I'm so thankful we went. Times moves quickly – kids don't stay kids long. You have to make the most out of every moment together. I love those kids ... to infinity and beyond.

I can't describe how sad it was, watching Dave pull out of our driveway early in the morning, a U-Haul full of his mechanic's tools, a suitcase full of clothes and the GPS. We had decided I would stay in Bracebridge and sell the house while he started work in Cold Lake. We didn't know how long we'd be apart and both of us were bawling as Dave started on a marathon drive halfway across the country. We're not kids, you know. We're middle-aged old farts who should be settling in for the final haul of our lives, not picking up stakes and moving a zillion miles away. Daredevils, that's us. Crazy daredevils in a U-Haul.

I asked Dave to take pictures of his trip so I could see what he was seeing. He was so cute about it, taking "selfies" at various points along the way, using the Jeep as a tripod for the camera. He made the trip in four days, driving 10 hours and more every day. It's a long drive across Canada. You need lots of motivation and even more coffee. On much of his trip across northern Ontario he was without cell service, driving on icy snow-covered roads. I worried about him, needlessly as it turned out. I think he probably had the trip of a lifetime.

Selling a home is tough even when everything goes according to plan but nothing, it seemed, was going right for us. Our little log cabin across from the Muskoka River was as dry as a bone. It had never flooded, ever, as far as we knew. But after someone put an offer on our house, the river flooded its banks. It wasn't just our place – it was everywhere in the Muskoka and Haliburton area, everywhere that was anywhere near water. That wasn't the worst of it, though. During a home inspection, asbestos was found in our attic. The people who were buying our house contacted a lawyer and said they didn't want it anymore – which left us high and dry because we had already purchased a house in Cold Lake. Suddenly we faced the reality of TWO MORTGAGES and were panic-stricken. Luckily there was another family interested in buying our place, even with its flooded front yard and assorted warts. I just about had a heart attack with all the stress. The only good thing was Dave flew home to help sandbag the yard and save our house trailer and other belongings. The house, thank goodness, stayed high and dry. On a positive note, we enjoyed watching Canada geese float around in our yard and we had no grass to cut.

It was really, really hard being away from Dave for so long. Not only did I miss HIM, I also missed all the things he did. Suddenly I had to figure out how to use the snowblower and later, the lawnmower. I took out garbage and scraped dog turds off the lawn. I packed almost the entire house all by myself. Everything I did, I did by myself. Life wasn't fun without him, that was for sure. We spent a couple hours every night on the telephone, like teenagers, with about a million tears and I-love-yous and I-miss-yous blubbered into our phones. Meanwhile, Dave seemed to be settling into his new job and the community. He was already making friends and had moved in with a work colleague, Matt and his lovely wife Shauna and their two kids. We were beginning to feel that we had made the right decision. Dave took this photo of a rainbow over Cold Lake and it really did seem to be our pot of gold. Right at about the same time he took this picture, I got a buy-out package from work and suddenly was unemployed. It was a good thing, as it turned out. I mean, I was going to leave anyway and the lump sum payment helped pay the moving costs. But still, it was a sad moment. I had worked in newspapers all my life and knew they were on the way out but my actual lay-off came as a shock. I haven't worked since. What saddens me the most is the rather abrupt way I "retired" from the newspaper business. No party. No farewell. Just take the money, pack up your stuff and go. There should have been cake, you know? *sulks*

I hate moving. I swear I'm never moving again. (Of course I have said that before.) When we were making final moving preparations (i.e. heavy lifting), Ontario was sweltering under a heatwave and packing became a sweating, gruelling nightmare. Thank goodness for friends and family who helped us. The hardest part was winnowing our "stuff" down to fit into one U-Haul, one truck and one house trailer. We got rid of so much! Still, we felt like the Beverley Hillbillies as we finally hit the open road. We had planned a slow journey across the country, camping as we went. Our first stop was Chutes Provincial Park outside of Sudbury. After that we stayed at Pancake Bay (beautiful swimming, beautiful view of Lake Superior), Neys (nice park but it stormed and we stayed in our trailer) and Sleeping Giant (fabulous wildlife but mosquitoes the size of helicopters). We had wanted to stay at Blue Lake Provincial Park but we stayed in a hotel that night instead, after the park staff were ignorant to us. Everyone else at every park was wonderful about all our gear, helping us get situated and finding parking for our ginormous U-Haul. But the folks at Blue Lake were anything BUT helpful so we left. The hotel room in Kenora was way more comfortable anyway! After that we stayed in hotels in Winnipeg (Manitoba), Yorkton (Saskatchewan) and Lloydminister (Alberta). We arrived in Cold Lake eight days after we left Muskoka, but because our house closing wasn't until July 8, we camped at Cold Lake Provincial Park for a week.

I wouldn't recommend travelling across the country with two cats but it wasn't as hard as I thought it might be. Ben-Ben (above) turned out to be an excellent traveller, sitting in the front seat checking out the scenery. Our other cat, Dodge, acted like he was being killed. Every day, being killed. It was pathetic. Sam came along for the trip and spent the summer with us. It was wonderful, having him here in Cold Lake. I can't even tell you how much I miss not seeing Angus and Sam all the time. I can't think about it without crying, so I'm definitely not going to go on about it here. *gets kleenex*

JULY 8: MOVING DAYThe months leading up to this point were so busy and emotional and just plain crazy that I almost thought moving day would never happen. But it did. We moved in and we've been here ever since. 


  1. We are so thankful you took the big leap and took the adventure to come out west. You're the best neighbors ever!!!!!

    1. Thanks She-She!!!!!! It's wonderful to live next door to you, too! ox

  2. I don't think I'd seen a photo of your new house yet. It's nice!
    You've had quite an adventure this year. Sorry you miss the kids so much. Hope they get to come visit soon.

    1. Thanks Alex!!! It IS a nice house. We love it! Happy New Year, friend!

  3. What a wonderful part 1 of your journey for this year. I also enjoyed my trip out to Cold Lake with my daughter but the drive back to Ontario without her not so much. I had lived in cold lake many years ago with my first husband and boys and loved the summers and not so much the winters but we did fine. I miss you guys but I also know that I have life long friends on facebook or when I visit Cold Lake to see my kids. Have fun guys and can't wait to read part 2.

  4. Dave and I hope everything works out well for you both. Best wishes for happiness and good health for 2014.
    Oh, and if you need some Muskoka Maple coffee, I can send some out for you.

    1. OH, that's the best offer I heard all DAY! Lucky for you I got some for Christmas and now have three and a half bags stashed in the cupboard. I went cold turkey from the stuff for a while and somehow convinced myself every other coffee is just as good - but the moment I sunk my lips around a cup of Muskoka Maple, I KNEW there was none like it! *drools*

  5. C'mon - the real reason you moved is because you heard I was crossing the 'pond' & would be almost within hailing distance of you! ;-p

    What a year you've had, though - hope 2014 pans out well for you both!

  6. C'mon - the real reason you moved is because you heard I was crossing the 'pond' & would be almost within hailing distance of you! ;-p

    What a year you've had, though - hope 2014 pans out well for you both!

    1. And that's STILL exactly why!!!!!!!!! :)

    2. Don't know why my comment posted twice? (Mind you, it's the first time I've been able to comment via phone in ages!)

  7. What an awe inspiring, death defying roller coaster ride you have been on. I have been cheering from the sidelines and, being a bit hoarse, am so very glad that you have made the happiest of landings.

  8. I empathize about the kids. I don't know how I would be able to deal with something like that.
    And, yeah, nice house!

  9. What an odyssey. But now, you are settled....the cats are happy (and no longer being killed) and you can start accumulating 'stuff' again. No doubt your kids will come to visit n the summer? Lovin' the house.

  10. I wondered why you had moved! Good for you!
    My hubby has moved to work in 3 provinces, and you have to go to where there is work. I moved to take care of palliative parents. Of course, I didn't know they were palliative. Great diary!
    Cheers from Cottage Country Ontario , ON, Canada!

  11. Cathy, I think you should have had a cake, too. :)

    Love the pic of the rainbow and your house looks really nice - the porch part especially.

    I wish you all the best in 2014!

  12. I'm so glad you guys got the opportunity to move out to Alberta! It was totally meant to be!

  13. Love your new blog look. It is not just life - it is an adventure if we are not afraid to do the unconventional.

    We traveled across Canada with cats (Maine to Alaska) so we can identify with this post.

    We have packed up - left our lifestyle and relocated a number of time; but know it must be especially difficult with children to consider.

    Great post:
    your constant reader
    the Ol'Buzzard

  14. You had a very busy year. I can just imagine the sounds of Dodge while in transit!

    I do like the header you're using! Very funny!


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