Friday, 18 August 2017

Weekly Column: Advice for the weekend warrior

Advice for the weekend warrior

When the snow melts in the spring, many homeowners look around their property with renewed energy and see a number of projects that need attention as the days get longer and warmer. Whether it be painting a fence, replacing some windows, rebuilding a deck or installing flowerbeds, it is all bound to cost money before it gets done.

Anyone who makes their living in the oil patch knows that when there’s time for these projects, there usually isn’t money. And when you’ve got the money, you are working and don’t have the time. 

Spring break-up is a great time for that “honey do” list, but when your work is shut down with no definite date of return, it can and should be a time of conservative spending.

Of course, not everyone is putting in the extreme hours and distances of the oil patch workers. If you work a nine to five job with weekends off, the last thing you might want to do is get home from work and change out a toilet, or spend your weekend off struggling with a home repair.

And then there’s the farmers. Making hay while the sun shines is more than just an expression. It’s a way of life. Those jobs around the house, no matter how big or small, have to wait until the cows are out to pasture, the crop is in, the haying is done, and the list goes on. When there’s a break from the most urgent work there are still fences needing mended, machines needing serviced, and probably some tinkering do in the shop. 

You get my point.

What everyone has in common is that home and yard maintenance often gets left until the last minute. And when it does, it can cost significantly more to do when you are unprepared and disorganized.

Gathering the supplies to do a job around the house or yard can take as long as the job itself. Also, trying to purchase the necessary tools and hardware at the last minute is bound to cost more—if you can find it at all. Save yourself a headache by making some lists and shopping around. This can not only make the job go more smoothly, it can also save you time and money.


When deciding what jobs to tackle at your next opportunity, prioritize the most vital ones and leave the cosmetic touches for later. Yes, it would be nice to get that fence painted, but if you have a drip somewhere that has the potential to become a costly, inconvenient emergency, deal with it first. Once you have a good list itemized from most important to least, you can begin budgeting and pricing out materials for all of what you need.


At some point, most everyone has been caught off guard by the price of materials when they start a project at home. You can lessen the sticker shock, though, if you do your homework and call around for quotes on supplies. Whether it’s lumber or windows, a large price difference might exist between stores. Leaving your shopping for the weekend, also, might greatly increase your costs if some of the competition is closed. Make the effort to shop during the week if it will save you a great deal of money.

Likewise, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. Check out kijiji and online trade and sell groups before you pay full price at the hardware store. Know your prices and decide if used is right for you. As well, consider listing anything you want to get rid of. That lime green tub, toilet and vanity combo you hate might be the retro look someone is going for.

Get your supplies and tools ready for when you have time to tackle the job. If that basement bathroom reno is waiting for a day of rain, have everything on hand if at all possible. Don’t spend your precious day off rounding up the necessaries.

Lastly, know when you’re in over your head. There are many home repairs and renovations that need to be up to code. Don’t create issues that will cause you, or a future buyer, costly problems down the road.

Nothing is more frustrating than realizing you have overpaid for things. When it comes to home maintenance and repair, you already don’t want your free time taken up with difficult and expensive extra work. Do your research. Figure out ahead of time what it’s going to cost. Set money aside for the project, then do your shopping, and tackle the job in a strategic way. Getting the most urgent tasks off the list will leave time for the cosmetic ones, and maybe even some rest and relaxation when the list is completed. 

Friday, 11 August 2017


It's been too long since I've come to this space to centre myself.

Blogging used to bring me back to my foundation, or at least it felt so. In putting my thoughts and intentions into words here, I always felt clarity and grounded-ness return. I'm not sure of that now, nor am I sure why.

It all has to do with with actually following through on what one publicly declares, and the pernicious contradiction between introversion and the online world. I'm not sure I can go on with it.

At the same time, there are things left unsaid that I feel I will need to write out to understand...about life, motherhood, writing, gardening, and all the things that make me feel whole. And I have no problem sharing that, in fact, it seems in some odd way to help me. And there's the paradox.

It's been a summer of high expectations that no doubt had to fall short in some way or another. When you have such long winters it's hard not to lay the hopes and dreams of the whole year at the feet of a couple unsuspecting months of sunshine and tell them, "work, damn you. Make it all worthwhile!"

But of course summer can't do that. A garden doesn't simply grow and produce without weeds (and oh how many weeds). You can't just hit the end of the school year and drop everything and expect that only fun will ensue. When you abandon all the personal growth you've undertaken and achieved in increments over what seems like years, mowing down on chips and hotdogs and, yes, alcohol, all in the name of summer's freedom, it is hard not to come out the other side bereft and constipated and wondering what hit you.

I guess that's where I am right now.

I began the summer by throwing in the towel on my organic aspirations and buying a jug of Round-Up and poisoning thistles around my yard. You see, the thistle problem here has morphed into a situation that feels really drastic and hopeless at the same time. I haven't taken a single picture of what used to be my pride and joy. And I've felt unable to write about it because I've abandoned a principle that felt so important. And I felt that I've taken this blog and changed it and can't really return to it now that I've broken a sacred trust.

I felt like the couple readers I have would pick up and leave me, which you might.

While I'm confessing my sins I might also add that the spending this summer has also veered from my comfort zone. We've done more camping and I'd like someone to explain to me how food that you cook over a fire is so exorbitantly more expensive than that which you cook inside your home. I suspect it's all those chips. Whatever the case, a couple of shopping sprees where I justified the binge with the statement, "this is what we save all year for, kids!" has left me feeling completely out of whack.

I haven't been living in alignment with my values and it gets me every time.

I think I expected 40 to be an age where, though I might have insecurities regarding my looks and womanhood, at least I would have my proverbial shit together in a mental sense. And lately that just hasn't been the case.

The old truck I drive just cost a bundle of money to fix and the indecision whether to fix it or nix it feels like a twenty-something conundrum. But these situations are going to arise and no amount of writing about budgets and being proactive and the like is going to make the obvious choice stand out. And I guess I thought we were above these situations and decisions. But life still happens to those who budget. And when those who budget justify some major discretionary spending blowouts, coming back to earth hurts.

I allow this to happen to myself too often. I regularly exercise, for awhile, and recognize how good I feel when I eat right. I get more confidence and my body and mind and ideals are in tune with each other. For whatever reason, I derail when faced with temptation. Often, the sweets and sentiment of Christmas. In this case, the indulgence and allure of childhood memories at the lake. Missing from those pictures is the balance that allows me some latitude while also keeping me on the right track.

I can see now, also, that it was a mistake to abandon writing for the summer. I took a class and felt I had made some progress in the winter and spring. But this was an important summer in that both kids start school in the fall, and I felt that hunkering down with them was the best way to savour these days together. I intentionally set aside my writing goals and now feel it's impossible to regain my momentum. I can also see how hard the transition will be in September and I'm already freaking out.

Luckily, there is time. There is time every day to return to exercising. I have time right now to make a smoothie and sit on the deck visiting my guys. And there's a couple weeks yet to establish a routine that will help carry me over the bump in my road where two little boys get on the bus and I am alone for the day. That's a day I've pictured for years, sometimes with longing and often with trepidation. Right now I view it with something akin to terror, because I don't see who will be here alone without them. I don't see, right now, who that person is or how she will manage.

I feel like I allowed two months of summer, with no routine or goals, to derail my confidence and intentional life I'd been living. How silly of me to allow that to happen. But it is easily rectified. A trip to the library, plenty of books and snuggles, fresh air and exercise and some gentle self-care. I really let myself go this summer and I'm disappointed in how I veered from my course in almost every way possible. But it was me who had set the course to begin with, and me that must set it right.