Seven on Seven

The new order of things, working seven days a week, brings a new meaning to being tired on some days. Tired is okay as long as it doesn’t turn to fatigue it’s all good. The extra money has been handy for things like heating oil, fixing the van and groceries. We didn’t quite break even last month but were a lot closer than we have been in a long time and with any luck, if I can hold off heating until the third week of October, we might make the turn to being back in black. It’s amazing to me that it requires two jobs and seven days a week for someone who is debt free to break even.

Last weekend I spent some time with the owner of the art supply store that I’m working at part time and we had a good talk about life, the universe and everything. At one point he was telling a story about a woman he knew, and didn’t much care for, who went in to hospital on a Friday and was dead by Sunday. It turned out she had been terminally ill, knew it, and told no one. He didn’t think much of that approach and was a little surprised when I defended her. We went back and forth on it, but the upshot is that neither of us changed our minds.

I’m in her corner because I think it’s the right call. Worrying the people you care for, and take care of, doesn’t make any sense because there’s nothing they can do about it. A few years before Lynn got sick I had to visit the hospital for some tests. I told Lynn they were routine follow ups for elevated blood sugar, but the tests were a little more involved than that. She could not have benefited in any way from knowing what tests were being done or why. As it turned out it was all a false alarm. Talking about it would only have made a simple situation into a complicated one. No point in doing that – regardless of the results it would have been my new normal. We acclimate to our situations whatever they may be or become.

Seven days a week is the new normal, but I still get stat days so there will be breaks this month, December and January. In the meantime, when I can, I’m still making art.

Lac St. Louis from the Galipeault Bridge

Lac St. Louis from the Galipeault Bridge

Montreal Migratory Bird Sanctuary

Montreal Migratory Bird Sanctuary

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The gig economy

The new job has been going well.

By new job I mean the part time job that I took to fill the waking hours when I am not at my full time job. It’s back to picture framing. I always enjoyed the framing part and the new gig keeps me in production most of the time so the part I don’t like, dealing with customers, I get to avoid most of the time.

Our son was in hospital again last week. Two days and a follow up appointment to come for an endoscopy. The last time out they found polyps that they wanted to keep an eye on. I guess they are going to go have another look. I’m glad he’s back home where, even if he doesn’t take the best care of himself, he can count on support and someone to nag him about taking better care of himself. Parenting is an unending thing.

Years before my mother died I phoned her one day and said “I’m sorry.” She asked “What for?” and I replied “Everything and stuff I don’t even remember doing.” She laughed, but I was sincere. Once you are a parent you do get it. It’s a life long gig. There are people who can walk away from it – millions do every years – and there are those who would never consider it.

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A haiku for Donna

Everyone needs a
Safe haven as each day ends
For me it is you

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Alleyway and Cape Cod

Snowdon Alleyway - Stillman & Birn Zeta, Winsor & Newton halfpans.

Snowdon Alleyway – Stillman & Birn Zeta, Winsor & Newton halfpans.

Cape Cod - Stillman & Birn Zeta, Winsor & Newton halfpans.

Cape Cod – Strathmore Windpower Cold Press, Winsor & Newton halfpans.

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The view from here

You cannot see the mountain from the top.

Not an earth shattering observation, but one which is easy to lose track of. I haven’t seen the mountain in a long time. It sometimes takes someone who isn’t standing right with you to see the mountain for you and describe it to you. Even then you might not believe that you are on a mountain. Why should you? You can’t see it.

Donna described my mountain to me a few months ago. I didn’t see it. Didn’t want to see it. Still don’t really want to see it, but I got a better understanding of it over the last few weeks.

Our daughter’s health problems are in remission and things seem to be going well. Parent’s sometimes get the feeling that their children work a tag team to keep the pressure on and such is the case in our family. Just as our daughter got out of hospital our son was on his way there. The past few months, most especially the past two weeks, have been a lot of effort and worry to see things going in the right direction. He is moving back home tomorrow which will be good for him. There is the mountain that Donna observed and I tried to ignore: I’m a parent, first, foremost, forever.

One of the things that I think Donna likes about me is my steadfastness. It’s also one of the things which can be most annoying about me and inevitably most disruptive to any relationship which involves children. It’s not that our children are young, they aren’t, but they aren’t independent adults yet either, and need more than the average amount of care. I do my best for them, but in doing so often neglect Donna who does her best for me. It’s not hard to imagine that no one likes to come second, and no one deserves to be an afterthought on any day of their life.

My mountain, Donna observed, is something off of which I will not come because I cannot and she won’t join me because she cannot. She understands that I have to be there, that’s what parents do. Knowing that doesn’t make it any easier on either of us but it is much harder on her. Being aware that you are standing on a mountain doesn’t change the view, only what you think of it and an awareness of how unfair things can be for those who care for you.

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A little painting

The painting I’ve been doing this week has been all about repainting the bedroom. It can be hot work during a heat wave but it’s done now.

Last week I finished a watercolour that I am going to use as the reference for my first effort in casein. Of course I’ll do a colour chart first but after that I’m going to try plunging in with casein and see how it handles. Here’s the painting in its watercolour form.


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Forced Sale

Since we bought the house the valuation on it has increased almost two hundred percent to roughly three times the value of when we bought it. On the one hand that looks great on paper because how many investments have paid off at that rate over the last 18 years? Not many, especially if you’re with Investors Group.

The flip side of that is that when we bought the house we were a two income family with two children. Fast forward two decades and we are a one income family with two adult children. Our son is out of the house which means that he is wholly independent and never taps me for cash…exactly the same way I was at his age…whoops, had to replace my computer monitor – my nose grew so fast it broke the screen.

Our daughter still lives at home and goes to school but, according to all levels of government, she is full independent and self-sustaining and paying her own way in the world. What that means is that all those little benefits of being a parent have dried up, all the little tax breaks, all the little payouts that help offset costs over the year are all gone.

Single, one income (well two if you count the second part-time job), house at triple the value of when it was purchased, untenable.

This works out well for the City of Dorval. I cannot possibly afford the taxes on my house any more so they get to get rid of a long time resident and bring in someone who will likely build more value into the house and increase the valuation even more. No one at the city cares that the valuations are outstripping the ability of some home owners to pay the property tax. What the city cares about is the increase in city coffers which are fairly bursting at the seams. To put it in perspective there are about 20k people living in Dorval and the city budget is about 122 million dollars. Right next door with a population of 35k is Pointe Claire which has a city budget of 130 million dollars. Almost twice the population but only 8.5% larger budget. Hmmm.

The long and the short of it is I have to sell. The mortgage is up for renewal in February so I plan to renegotiate it at a monthly rate and put the house on the market.

In my own defense I can say I hung on as long as I could. Other than the mortgage I have no debt. After Lynn died I made certain to get rid of every last dime of debt we were carrying because I knew there would be little to no wiggle room in the future. It turns out I was wrong. There is less than no wiggle room. I thought that if I managed to keep the mortgage to 12 pays out of 26 I’d be able to manage. For a little while there I was right.

I haven’t lived in an apartment for a long time and our daughter never has. So it’s going to be an adventure of paring down what we have and living in a different environment and, like as not, a different city – Ville Emard appeals to me and so does Verdun. We’ll see. In the meantime here are my most recent efforts at escaping from reality into paint.

Musings of a non-smoking man

Musings of a non-smoking man

Night Bridge

Night Bridge

Kodak Moment

Kodak Moment

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Most recent

Just proof that art is still being produced. 🙂

watercolour painting by d. bernicky

Papaya King – NYC

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Who still reads this!?!

It was a little bit of a surprise the on Wednesday when a message showed up in my Facebook messages under the Message Request tab (the one that doesn’t go red but stays pale grey even when a message comes in). Laura and her husband Mitch, friends of Lynn’s from theatre days, had messaged that they had a bike they were not using that our son could have. At first I said no because I thought it was a loan and our son can be very hard on his bikes because he rides in a very urban environment – lots of curbs, pot holes etcetera – but the offer was for a gift of said bike. Wow! So it was off to their house with our daughter in tow to pick up the bike. Laura and Mitch have three kids two whip smart girls, one who just finished her first year at one of Quebec’s best high schools with an 86% average, another who will be heading to the same school soon and a little titian haired boy who redefines enthusiasm and persistence. It was nice to see them all again and the bike, even if it had been “gathering dust” as they put it, is wonderful. Our son was very happy to hear about it.

Our son's new bike courtesy of Laura and Mitch

Our son’s new bike courtesy of Laura and Mitch

While this was happening Morrie emailed me to tell me that he too had a bike that he was willing to pass along to our son. It was raining bikes.

Very cool, very generous, and very eye opening. I really do forget sometimes that there are people who read this page, for that I am thankful and for their generosity I am equally thankful.

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Jack Russell

Once upon a time, and for all I know it still goes on, there was a “sport” called Ratting.

The premise was simple. A walled pit would be filled with rats. Punters would be encouraged to place bets as to the the number of rats that would be killed by a particular dog during a particular time period. Once the bets were closed a Jack Russell Terrier was dropped into the pit and the blood bath began. Rats would climb over each other, attack each other, all in the effort to evade the Jack Russell. The bookies never offered odds on the rats killing the dog. Rats do their best to look out for themselves and the dogs always had someone even bigger and more powerful to protect them.

Our son’s new bicycle was stolen. It’s a hard hit he uses the bike to get to and from work. It was locked up properly to a bike rack outside a metro station with security cameras and it was stolen. No doubt the person who stole it was poor and this is how they support themselves. There is always a need and a motive. I get that. What never fails to surprise me though is how we, the poor, behave like rats every time. We’re so predictable that it must be an unending source of entertainment for the rest of the universe.

The trouble of course is that he still needs to get to and from work. By foot that’s eight kilometers each way while we save up for a replacement bike. I’m looking for a second hand bike on Kijiji and Craigslist but have my concerns about buying bicycles from people who, like as not, are selling stolen goods. I messaged someone this morning about a bike asking two simple questions when and where was it purchased. Still no reply.

One day maybe we’ll all wise up and realize there are more rats than there are Jack Russells or handlers for that matter. At the very least we should stop attacking each other.

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