Me and My Amazon Echo

Secretly, alternatively known as “Mrs. Hughes”

My son gave me an Amazon smart speaker for Christmas, known as Alexa. I am intrigued, not knowing a whole lot about these things.

When I found out I could change her name (aka “wake word”), I was gleeful with the possibilities. Immediately I thought of the housekeeper and/or butler from Downton Abbey (hoping I could also switch Alexa to a male voice). However, when I opened the Echo app I downloaded to my phone, I only had a few options to choose from: Alexa, Echo, Amazon, or Computer. So I settled for Echo, as it had the least syllables. I am so disappointed I can’t call her Mrs. Hughes.

So I’m trying to learn how to relate to this new device. It’s more difficult than I thought. For example, it feels super weird not to be polite when asking Echo to give me information or do things for me.

After all, I am a Canadian! And yes, I have already told her I am sorry!

Conversely, it feels about as weird to be saying please and thank you to an inanimate object. I’ve had to process my feelings on this, and for now, I have decided to use my manners with Echo. She is responding very nicely to my thank yous, telling me “absolutely” and “that’s what I’m here for”. So that makes me feel slightly better about using my natural way of speaking on a THING.

A few months back, I watched a hilarious Saturday Night Live spoof on “Alexa for Seniors”.  Because I live in Canada, I can’t see the YouTube clip on this, but here is a link to the video Mizz J forwarded me from Facebook – hope it works (for my fellow Canuck readers) once this post is published!

https://www.facebook.com/william.ward.1297/videos/1488225857902559/

So far Echo is very good at letting me know the weather and setting timers. She also excels at answering random questions. Except for Game of Thrones plot lines and characters – I give her only passing grades on that. She couldn’t tell me what happened to Barristan Selmy and I can’t remember either. Maybe I didn’t phrase the question correctly. Anyhow, he’s probably dead and I forgot. Because there are way too many deaths to keep track of on GOT anyways…

There are a bunch of things that can be controlled through Echo. My son also gave me a smart plug that I can use to let Echo turn on or off (through me, of course). I’m still deciding what to use the plug for. My TV, a light, my humidifier?

Echo says she is always getting smarter. Will that make me dumber? I don’t know about that. 😉

Rock on,

The WB

 

 

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My Decorating Style can be Described as Pornographic, Apparently

How’s that for a click-baity title, huh?

I have a day-bed in my home office. It makes a handy space for naps or reading or for when I have a houseful of stay-overnight guests.

I found some cute throw pillows at Homesense one day. I loved the designs and the colours so much they came right home with me. Behold:

Colourful, comfortable, and inviting, no?

Mizz J was studying on the day bed one day last week. Oh boy, was she studyingthe pillows.

Mizz J: Mom, did you look at these pillows before you bought them?

Me: Of course! You know how much I love colour and mandala designs!

Mizz J: Did you look closely at them?

Me: Why?

Mizz J: Take a closer look.

Me: OK.

 

 

 

Closeup of Pillow

Me: OK, yeah. I ‘m looking but what am I supposed to be looking at?

Mizz J: Look closer. Much closer.

Mizz J points to a part of the design.

 

 

 

Once seen, never to be unseen.

Me: Huh? What the…!!! OH MY!!!

Cut to Mizz J killing herself laughing at her ol’ mom’s realization of the not-so-hidden design on her pillows.

Hope this post made you laugh as much as I did when I discovered my pillow…er…porn.

Rock on,

The WB

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A-Z Reflections of a Survivor

Survivor Badass

Made it through another April and another A-Z Challenge. This is my 3rd year (and 3rd year of successful completion!).

I found having a theme made it easier to write the posts, actually. This was NOT what I was expecting at all. And, also in the NOT what I was expecting department is this: I think I have decided to actually put off retirement for a bit longer than I was thinking at the beginning of the challenge.

I was so sure, that by working through all my little trepidations, by April 30 I would have convinced myself to pull the plug at 60, if not sooner. I also was thinking of moving, once retired, to my lakeside dream abode.

Instead I am (surprise!) undertaking yet another renovation project at Chez Badass – once again investing in my current space and making the people at the bank love me even more than they already do.

This time the foyer (shared space between my tenant and myself) is getting an overhaul, as well as the bathroom on the stair landing, just outside the apartment proper (as a second, guest bathroom). I’m also fixing up the former janitor’s closet off of the foyer, to be a kitchenette for my tenants’ use, and making a bunch of other little improvements too. The ceiling in this closet has to be removed in order to get at the plumbing for the landing bathroom so it seemed the perfect time to do the other improvements to this space as well.

I have to thank my sponsor (Full Time Employment) for making this renovation project happen. 😉

With regards to the lakeside dream home, it could still be a thing. However, I am not as enamoured of the idea as I have been for the past 6 months.

Let’s face it – I have it pretty sweet right here. The library, recreation/seniors centre and many shops that I patronize are all within easy walking distance (5-10 minutes for most). Also within walking distance are the river and some beautiful trails. My building is commercial as well as residential, so I have year-round property maintenance set up. This means I don’t have to cut grass or shovel snow –  just pay others to do it for me (and claim as a legit business expense). And because of the zoning of the property, I can park my future Airstream (drool) or what-have-you trailer right in my driveway, year-round. Some years ago, I checked the bylaws and this was confirmed by the city staff. Public transit is available practically right outside my doorstep. I still get mail delivered right to my door. And I can pick up the City’s free downtown wifi in my office if I had want to.

Pretty much a retiree’s dream set-up, doncha think?

I’m still going to be checking out waterfront real estate options as I ramble around the province, and I’ll be loving the idea of moving to each place under consideration for at least 15 minutes. I may change my mind (yet again) but if I do move, there’s a lot of boxes that need to be checked off first.

I figure now that I can probably get my lake fix via camping, renting a cottage and/or crashing with visiting  Me Too for bit every summer.

Going through this exercise and theme has made me appreciate what I do have even more.

Rock on,

The WB

 

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(Almost) Wordless Wednesday

Fake it ’til you can make it – Chez Badass: Christmas 2016 Edition

Fireplace mantle

 

Minimalist Tree This Year

 

Very pleased with JD’s grandmother’s old couch since it was reupholstered.

 

Porcelain statues given by JD’s late dad many years ago. Painting by JD’s late Auntie Hazel in background (wedding gift).

 

Can’t seem to keep poinsettias alive so snapped this when plant was only in house a couple of days. It might last till Christmas?

 

Dining room. Mom and Dad’s nut bowl from childhood has pride of place on table. This only made an appearance at Christmas and I am keeping up the tradition. This room is full of the ghosts of Christmases Past.

 

And to all a good night…

 

Jingle Bell Rock on,

The WB

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Jumpin’ June

I had a feeling that June was gonna be a bit crazy and it did not disappoint.

First there was the wedding of the son of a good friend, which was delightful and took place on one of those perfect June days that make it such a popular month for nuptials.

Then there was prepping for renovations AND for leaving for Edmonton for my Convocation:

Accepting MBA degrees for both myself and JD.
Accepting MBA degrees for both myself and JD.

It was emotionally draining, to say the least. But I was glad I did so that JD got his recognition. He received a spontaneous standing ovation and many eyes were filled with tears. The dean broke down several times while reading the short biography I prepared about JD. Afterwards so many strangers approached me to say how touched and inspired they were, and to offer me a hug.

After the ceremony, with JD's hood draped over my arm.
After the ceremony, with JD’s hood draped over my arm.

Meanwhile, back at Chez Badass floors were being sanded down and refinished! I came back home on a Sunday evening to my planned interior  and exterior renovations in full swing.

There was nothing to do but put up with the disruption and hit the trails. Almost every night that week I was at the Dundas Conservation Area for the annual 4 Day-Evening Walk (a Dutch tradition brought home to Canada):

Walkers ahead of me got their Dutch on, wearing orange for the Dutch royal family (House of Orange).
Walkers ahead of me got their Dutch on, wearing orange (official colour of the walk)  for the Dutch royal family (House of Orange).

Four 5 km walks earned me my Year 5 participation medal.

Renovation work continued, both inside and out.

Painting the trim around the building
Painting the trim around the building.
New entrance doors and exterior lighting.
New entrance doors, just installed…and new exterior lighting (LED).

Another escape from all the dust and debris and flaking paint, onto the Speed River:

Kayak parking only...hehehe.
Kayak parking only…hehehe.
Back to Black Bridge
Back to Black Bridge
Breakfast on the water. A grain-free Morning Glory muffin.
Breakfast on the water. A grain-free Morning Glory muffin.
Wish Floyd came with a cup holder.
Wish Floyd came with a cup holder. Don’t possess a thigh gap really – more of a tea gap 😉

When indoors, I have been working away at the Badass Budget and have set up another automatic savings account (Emergency Bucks) as a result, and in addition to my pre-existing Travel Bucks account. Lest I fritter away all my discretionary cash on stuff like these lovely Fluevogs:

Is this truly the last pair of shoes I will buy in 2016?
Is this truly the last pair of shoes I will buy in 2016? Check back with me after my upcoming trip to the Netherlands.

And I have placed myself on a shoe moratorium for the remainder of 2016, after having to find new homes for my clothing and shoes during the apartment renovation. I’m not approaching Imelda Marcos territory with respect to shoe collecting but damn…I realized I do have many pairs….and many pairs I cannot or will not wear any longer. So I did a bit of purging in June also.

So badass yet so practical.
So badass yet so practical. Yes, those are skulls on the buckle.

And finally, on the last day of June, my dining room dreams came true as I took delivery of the table I had custom-made, from reclaimed threshing mill floor planks (hemlock):

Dining room furniture: check!
Renovate room and acquire dining room furniture: check!

A bit of mixed feelings on this one, as this room was last in regular use as my mom’s bedroom. But I know she would be very happy that I have a table again at last, for everyone to sit down at.

Party ready for my Canada Day baby's birthday on the 1st.
Party ready for my Canada Day baby’s birthday on the 1st.

Hope everyone had a lovely June and has an exciting July on deck!

Rock on,

The WB

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R is for…

R

Round 2 of Renovation Madhouse!

This time last year I undertook several major renovation projects at my place – new upper and lower roofs; installation of solar panels; kitchen and bathroom “to the studs” teardown and remodel. And, as luck would have it – they all occurred at once! And I continued to live there the whole time!

So. Much. Fun.

Yet. I. Survived.

Never. Again. I. Said.

Hah!

Now Round 2 is about to begin – more exterior work including painting, new entrance lights, new entrance doors, and restoration of the clock in the clock tower of my building. Inside, I am doing some improvements in the basement for my tenants as well having work done on my own place.

Three more rooms in my little aerie will be getting the spa treatment – new electrical, new ceilings, refinished hardwood, walls prepped for painting, and the pièce de résistance…a walk-in closet in the room to become my bedroom!

This will leave only my living room as yet needing an overhaul, and I hope to be able to schedule that (if time and budget allows) for later summer/early fall.

It’s gonna be another busy, dusty spring at Chez Badass!

Rock on,

The WB

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P is for…

P

…Patio!

The return of decent weather means it’s time to get the patio functional again.

I made a few improvements this year – namely a rug, and a set of lights. But basically it is the same patio set and sun shade I have been enjoying since 2014.

Sorry I couldn't capture the lights perfectly. I don't have the skillz.
Sorry I couldn’t capture the lights perfectly. I don’t have the skillz.
Or the camera.
Nor the camera.
Still, I think you get the idea that this is one of my favourite hangouts in the warm weather.
Still, I think you get the idea that this is one of my favourite hangouts in the warm weather.

I was hoping to be able to afford a real railing this year but unfortunately I have other projects at Chez Moneypit that are taking precedence.

So no little ones, no pets, no dancing, no drinking to excess on the Badass Patio…yet again. Sigh.

Other than that, you are welcome to enjoy the patio with me.

Rock on,

The WB

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A is for…

A

…several things actually…Adventure, Attitude and being Alone.

Last year on April 1 I wrote about Adventure and this year the Adventure continues! Since last April I have gone through a few things including the palliative care and death of my mother…and a TIA. I have taken up recreational kayaking and I just purchased a second, two-seater kayak. I guess that means I now have a “fleet” of the durn things, hehehe.  I visited Barbados for the first time (and hopefully not the last!). And  I FINALLY completed my MBA studies. I recently started a new challenge – to hike the 885 Km Bruce Trail, section by section, in its entirety. Wonder what I will be writing about at this time next year?

Every year has 365 days, and those days pass whether we like it or not. Some people don’t like looking back but I find it very useful and gratifying…especially when I see that things I talked and dreamed about, like the Bruce Trail quest, are actually coming to pass.

Life is full of changes and surprises, not all welcomed. However the one thing – the only thing – we have complete control over is our attitude about life. And to be present for what life throws at us. Taking my mother into my home for the last 3 months of her life, to care for her and to give her the death at home she wanted, was not easy but I couldn’t imagine not doing it. It was an incredible experience to be present for.  I was blessed to become reacquainted with my aunt and my 2 sisters as when they came to live with me and help out during this time. The special quiet times with my mother as her life wound down were also a gift and joy to all of us.

So now, everyone is back to their real lives, my mother is gone, and I am alone once again. At first my home seemed so much larger and emptier than it has ever been. Now I treasure my solitude once again. I understand that a lot of people can’t bear to be alone. That has never been my experience. I am often lonelier in a group than I have ever been by myself.

Feel free to comment with your thoughts about adventure, attitude or being alone. I look forward to reading them!

Rock on,

The WB

 

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I had a TIA

Happy Leap Year Day everyone! Yesterday I electronically submitted my very last assignment of my very last course for my MBA studies. I. AM. DONE.

My next post on ye olde blogge was supposed to have been a light piece about my recent trip to Barbados. Now instead, there is this:

On the morning of February 12th I got up early (5:50 am) and thought “Great, I’ll have time to do some homework before work!” So I got myself a drink (lemon juice and water, in case you are interested) and sat down in front of my laptop to log on to the school’s discussion site. I started scrolling through my classmates’ posts when I noticed my right hand was not responding to my brain’s requests for action. Then I noticed my right leg was not operational either. I remained seated as I didn’t want to fall while testing out if I could still walk. I picked up my right hand with my left and let it drop to my side, wondering if maybe I had pinched a nerve? Nothing. I picked it up again with my left hand and put it back on the desktop. Within a couple of minutes of all of this starting, I regained use of both my right arm and leg. I immediately walked to the bathroom to check out my face in the mirror. No right-side droopiness…just the normal symmetrical droopiness I see every morning. 🙂

I really wanted to ignore this whole episode and get back to my busy day but that would be the “denial” thing to do…and I had made a vow to relinquish my Cleopatra’s crown quite a while ago. So I called Telehealth Ontario, the free helpline staffed by nurses. The nurse I spoke to told me I needed to go to the Emergency department immediately, and that I could not drive myself. Great. I called my son,  got dressed and off we went.

Blood work, ECG, Doppler and CT scan later…nothing was found other than elevated blood pressure and a couple of areas of poor blood flow in the brain (but no damage). The CT scan diagnosis was later refuted by a doc at the Secondary Stroke Prevention Clinic who  pronounced my brain completely normal and healthy, but let’s err on the side of caution and say the first doc called it correctly.

Nothing has happened to me since that couple of moments on that Friday morning. And everything has happened. I am now on medication to lower my blood pressure and cholesterol, and thin my blood. I don’t think I need to be on the latter two of these drugs.  I think the docs are trained by the drug companies to be pill dispensers. But for now  I am being a good girl and taking them all.

I bought a home blood pressure monitor so I can see if I am making a difference as I change my life (112/86 this a.m.).

I have to go to the cardiac clinic this morning to be fitted with a Holter monitor for wear for the next 28 days.

I have to spend a night in a sleep lab (yet to be scheduled).

I signed up for meditation classes and am going to talk to a counsellor specializing in grief and stress.

I plan to lose a significant amount of weight and increase my stamina and muscle mass.

YES. I see this as a LIFE. CHANGING. EXPERIENCE. (Cue dramatic music…Also sprach Zarathustra would be appropriate.)

My plan is to get off of all of these drugs ASAP by making the appropriate changes. Or, to accept graciously (huh?!) that I need to stay on them if that’s how things turn out.

My mantra for getting through tough times has always been “blinders on; full speed ahead; I’ll deal with the wreckage later”. Well, the time to deal with the wreckage is NOW, and the wreckage is apparently ME.

Looking back, over the past 4 years, I have:

  • Had to deal with my husband’s worsening OCD and then his illness and death due to lung cancer
  • Had to deal with his complicated estate
  • Experienced the loss of my mother due to non-Hodgkins Lymphoma and am currently dealing with her estate
  • Experienced the loss of my father-in-law due to old age
  • Experienced the loss of my dog due to old age
  • Spent a year cleaning up both house and rental property (20 years of husband’s hoarding = seven 14-yard dumpsters filled with trash, hundreds of bags of garbage put to the curb and I lost count of all the items recycled or donated or given away)
  • Sold my house and used proceeds to clear up husband’s debt
  • Moved into rental property and became a landlord
  • Undertook the following renovations at the building where I now live and act as landlord: plumbing repairs, electrical upgrade, solar project, new boiler system, new air conditioning systems, new roof, new kitchen, new bathroom…and there are still many more projects to undertake
  • Trained for and completed at least 2 half-marathons
  • Finally completed my MBA!!!

Yeah, I guess you could say it’s been a lot. You could say I have been experiencing undue stress.  I guess you could say I am lucky to have gotten off with a warning in the form of a TIA.

I really do feel blessed on this Leap Year Day 2016.

Blessed to live in a country where access to medical treatment is free, and is the least stressful thing about being unwell.

Blessed to have had the support of family and friends while going through all of the above.

Blessed to yet have the opportunity to make changes to improve my health…

Rock on,

The WB

 

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Hello, it’s me. Summer of 2015 Edition.

This post is brought to you by sheer determination to get something, anything, written on this here blog before summer is over. OK, I know that technically speaking, there are still a few weeks of summer left. But who among us is that technical? We all “know” that Labour Day Weekend and the start of school (kindergarten to high school) is REALLY the end of summer.

Anywhoodle…

Since the last post in early May, I have lived through a kitchen/bath/laundry/roof renovation

1898798_10153593411619924_101524585380306331_o
New kitchen.

and solar panel installation, helped empty out my late father-in-law’s house to prep it for sale, helped arrange a wedding in my building for my lovely sister and new sister-in-law,

P1010020
Typical family gathering. Inevitable descent into silliness. At Carol and Cathy’s wedding.

and completed my second-to-last MBA course. Oh yeah, and I completed another half-marathon race,

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Niagara Fall’s Women’s Half Marathon. Just before starting out.

and took in a few rock concerts.

P1000876
Rush at the Air Canada Centre.
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Cheap Trick and Peter Frampton at the Molson Canadian Amphitheater.
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Jane’s Addiction. BIG Music Fest, Kitchener.

This took me to the end of July-ish.  I decided August was to be dedicated to more relaxing pursuits…such as spending time at various beaches and kayaking on the river a few steps from my building. This plan needed a kayak in order to actually happen:

P1010091
I christen thee Pink Floyd.

P1010112 P1010165

I was also able to fit in a visit to the Canadian National Exhibition again, for the first time in practically a decade.

Mizz J eating a chicken waffle on a stick. Carnival food – usually disappointing and this was no exception.

Can’t complain about this summer. Got a lot done, and a lot of it was pure fun. The way summers should be.

Rock on,

The WB

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