In a struggle to be happy and free

Drystone Wall

Category: relationships Page 2 of 7

Digital ghosts

My unpacking has been a complete non-starter. My main mode of storage is an embarrassingly large number of Ikea Billy bookshelves. Prior to moving, I disassembled all the bookshelves and stored the bolts and dowels in an old peanut butter jar. Then, I managed to leave the jar at Lori’s place, 600 kilometres away!

To my good fortune, Don is visiting his family this weekend, and he’s coming here tomorrow. His day-trip will bring the jar to my doorstep! Thank you, Don. I can’t wait to get my hi-fi set up. Listening to the TV through the TV speakers is dreadful. Manufacturers take such great pains to present us with beautiful images, accompanied by audio that sounds like it is delivered through the telephone.

So in preparing to send Don the directions to my place, I opened Google Maps to make sure my directions were correct. Afterward, I activated the Street View feature to see if they had updated the street-level images. I got far more than I bargained for. In new images from last summer, my mom and dad are visible in the garage:

My mom and dad often sat out front, sheltered in the shade of the garage. And there they both are. Initially, it seemed entirely normal because I’ve seen them out there many times. But of course, I quickly remembered that my father is gone, alive only in memories and photographs. It was nice to forget his absence, if only for a brief moment.


If you haven’t heard, I’m moving.

Part of the reason is with my dad having passed away last year, my mom needs more of a hand. My siblings help her a great deal, especially my sister and her husband, but my mom has three children, not just two. In addition, my job search in town hasn’t worked out as well as I had hoped so maybe a renewed search in a new area will lead to better results.

So I’m moving back to my old stomping grounds … the city in which I grew up and left 24 years ago.

I’ve commented before, not entirely in jest, that I’d rather the water go out than lose Internet connectivity. In a surprising turn of events, I cut off my own Internet. On purpose! It started with the germ of an idea Lori planted during a chat late last week…

Rick: I’d be embarrassed to explain how far away from being done [packing] I really am!

Lori: Can I make a seemingly harsh suggestion?

Rick: You can suggest, yea. But I think I know what it will be…

Lori: What?

Rick: No computer?

Loti: hah. turn off internet. get it disconnected. all together.

Rick: Oh! Yeesh. That’s a thought!

Lori: there’s no option but to wake up and face the stuff.

Rick: I know it!

Lori: Interwebs suck my life away.

Rick: …with their awesomeness!

Lori: guh. you see my point.

And I did and do see her point. I hadn’t yet arranged for an Internet connection where I’m moving so I got on the phone with Teksavvy. They’ll be out to make the required connection on June 11, and the required modem is already in the mail to my new address.

I then asked when I could have my current service cut off. She explained that I could have it active until they activate the new service, or if required, I could even have an overlap. I said, “No, you don’t understand, I want my current service terminated as soon as possible.” Then she understood. She said I could have it cut off that very same day. I told her that’s exactly what I’d like, thank you.

Unfortunately it didn’t happen. Most of the time, having the service too long would be fine, but all it did was have me use it even more and neglect packing because it would be gone any time now. It turns out that it was finally cut off almost four days later.

It’s not like I’m completely cut off, however. My smart phone has wireless Internet connectivity and I can use it to provide Internet access to my iPad or iMac, but it’s far more limited than a hard-wired connection so my packing is coming along nicely, now.

Not to say that it’s entirely without issue, however. My problem now is my complete lack of exercise. I’ve really let myself go and the packing is work. If you’ve seen my books, you know what I mean. I’m also disassembling my book shelves for transport to save space and also because I hope not to need all (nine) of them when I set everything up again.

So now, I pack and take a sort break, and pack again. Rinse and repeat. My current favourite break is reading. I started book three of A Song of Fire and Ice a few days ago and I’m now nearly half-way through it. In fact, I’m just about at the point the Game of Thrones television series has reached.

I can handle muscle aches, but I worry about my back. I’m careful to lift things with my legs and not my back, but my back is still making its complaints felt!

This is how things appear at the moment. All but a few of my books have disappeared into the dozen grey bins, and my CDs are all packed away. I’ve disassembled two of the book cases as well. The work continues.

I can’t wait for this to be over!


My father died in the early hours of Monday, December 3rd. As you might guess, I’m sad and miss him terribly.

Three days before his passing, he started displaying signs of a flu or bad cold. He even took his bicycle to pick up the mail that day. The symptoms got worse, and when they became bad enough, and he also became occasionally delirious because of his fever, my Mom called an ambulance. The doctors soon learned the bad news that he had pneumonia and his condition looked dire. Despite this, he told my mom that he wanted his reading glasses and his newspaper.

That day my sister called me with the news. In the evening, my mom and my sister called, telling me that I’d better get down there. Given that I was unlikely to sleep that night, I packed the car and was on the road at 12:15 am. I pulled into the hospital parking lot at 6:00 am and my phone rang. It was my mother calling with the news that my father had passed. I was upset because I’d missed seeing him. She told me to come home anyway. I said I’d be there in ten minutes. Her reaction reminded me that I hadn’t told her I’d driven through the night. Instead of leaving, I went into the hospital to see my father.

As I made my way to him, my sister called. She told my that she was bringing my mom, and they’d be there in 15 – 20 minutes. I found my father’s ‘room’ in the observation section of the emergency department. I grabbed the curtain with both hands and paused. I tried to control my breathing. I’ve never lost anyone close to me. I’ve never seen a dead person. I didn’t know what to expect on the other side of the curtain. I didn’t know what to expect from this moment forward, now that my dad was gone.

I opened the curtain. Although his colour was wrong, he looked like he was sleeping. He was not suffering, and for that I am very grateful. I sat and cried. I also talked to him and told him that I loved him. I am so glad that I had that time alone with him. Of course I would have preferred to have seen him before he died, but I’m still very pleased to have had that time with him.

My dad was a very difficult man to get to know. He was far from perfect but he was my dad, and I love him. I missed seeing him alive one last time by just 45 minutes, and I’ll continue to miss him and love him for the rest of my days.

Family, redux.

20111201_60thI was away this past weekend visiting my family for a very special occasion, as you can see by the newspaper announcement reproduced here.

We arranged for a fancy dinner at the Hilton and had a wonderful time. I don’t even know what it’s like to live for that length of time, much less married, but it’s certainly a remarkable achievement. I can’t always be easy, but I’m very grateful for everything my parents have done for their family. As I sat there and looked around at my family, I realized that few of the guests would be alive if my parents hadn’t wed, and the rest certainly would not have been there at that time because their spouses would not exist!

It’s a sobering thought and a testament to what family is.

Congratulations Mom and Dad. We all love you dearly.

Cog or team member?

The story in this post has few details. It’s partly because I don’t believe it’s wise to slag a former employer explicitly. It’s mostly because I do not remember the details!

I was given a task by a former boss. It was straightforward but I didn’t do it because I thought it was a mistake. A doorway connected the room in which I worked to an adjacent room. Not a door, but an arched doorway. The instructions directed me to create a permanent distraction for myself. It involved setting something up in the adjacent room that would draw other employees throughout the day. They’d talk amongst themselves while they were there and distract me from my own work.

Normally, I’m careful about changing the rules. I check in advance to make sure. In this case however, the idea was fundamentally flawed. It was so flawed, that I didn’t check in advance before I started work on something else that would achieve the same result without sabotaging my own work.

Sabotage is a good word to bring up, because it reminds me that there are two types of bosses. One tells you what to do and expects you to do it. Period. The other type of boss tells you what he wants achieved, and lets you figure out how to do it, providing the resources you need.

The first type of boss sees you as an appliance. You’re a mere cog in the machine. Questions other than those required to follow the directions will annoy this boss. “I don’t pay you to think!” is something this boss might say. Ultimately, if your task has flawed instructions, you’re doomed. If you follow the directions faithfully, you’re going to get yelled at because you should have realized the directions were flawed. If you realize the directions are flawed and find another way to the same end, you’re going to get yelled at if the result isn’t perfect, because you didn’t follow the directions. If your attempt improve on the directions fails utterly, you’re really going to get an ear-full.

The second type of boss sees you as part of a team. This boss is more likely to facilitate than issue orders. Being part of a team means that you can contribute ideas and use your experience and specialized knowledge. Further, everyone else on the team does the same thing, creating a pool of expertise and experience that a single person isn’t likely to have.

I was going to say that most bosses in the real world are a fusion with varying proportions of each type. In thinking about it though, my experience is that most bosses tend strongly toward one type or the other, with few in the middle.

The boss in my story had no interest in telling me the ‘why.’ As a result, I thought my solution was better, but even after I explained my reasoning, he said, “When I tell you to do something, I want you to do what I told you to do.” I still don’t know if my understanding of the goal was correct, but I do know his directions would have negatively affected my work.

Maybe it boils down to how willing a boss is to trust employees. A micro-manager doesn’t want your ideas. If they ask you how you’re going to do something, it’s because they don’t trust you to do it without knowing your plan first. A team leader knows that trusting for his people means fewer conceptual and planning errors and often results in better ways of doing things because of a larger pool of talent and ideas to draw upon. Trust does involve risk, but it opens the door to new opportunities and lots of learning. I’d rather be trusted to use my abilities to solve problems than to blindly follow directions.

Do you want to be part of a team, or an assembly line robot? The latter is safer, but the former is more rewarding.

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