the thirties grind

get up, go to work, raise kids, pay bills, sleep. repeat.

Archive for the month “July, 2014”

BC Government to provide $40/day subsidy to parents if BCTF strike continues into school year

Canadian-Money

B.C. parents will receive $40 per day per child under the age 13 if schools are not open in September due to the BCTF strike, Minister of Finance Mike de Jong announced today.

The $40 per day will be paid by savings from the teachers’ strike.

De Jong says that if there is no deal with teachers by September, the BCTF will lose any hope of receiving strike savings.

Parents will be able to claim their $40 per day per child through a website set up by the provincial government.

What are your thoughts on this announcement?

Absurd Vancouver Property (July 31, 2014)

I am absolutely drooling over Mad Men star, January Jones’ new LA abode.  Mother of one, Jones will have lots of space for her little family in this 4 bedroom, 5 bathroom, 3,279 square foot home.

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The all-white kitchen has been completely remodeled with high-end appliances and sleek quartz surfaces and has great ‘flow’ – it opens into a family room with fireplace.

Upstairs, you’ll find all 4 bedrooms. One has its own full bath and two share a Jack-and-Jill bathroom.  January’s master bedroom is massive, and the master bath has been beautifully remodeled and features a spacious glass-enclosed shower, a clawfoot tub and a walk-in closet. The master bath also opens to a large outdoor deck with views of the surrounding natural landscape and overlooking the pool and spa.

In the charming and lush backyard, you’ll find a small child’s (and adults!) paradise: a large covered outdoor seating area, a play structure, a zip line, a large pool/spa with automatic cover, an outdoor kitchen, a working organic garden, a putting green, a fire pit. and even a 200 square foot studio. – Trulia.com

All for a cool $1.7 million.

Here in Vancouver, you could be a “mad man” and buy this for the same price:

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Vancouver…are you f*%king kidding me??!!

The REAL Real Housewives of Vancouver: Arieanna Schweber

File168 copyArieanna Schweber is a mom to 2 boys, age 4.5 and 2, who are always on the go – hence the name of her blog, ActiveMama, and her high consumption of coffee. Arieanna Schweber began professional blogging back in 2005, becoming Canada’s first female professional blogger, all just just 6 months after graduating from Simon Fraser University with a Business degree. For many years, Arieanna balanced her Vancouver-based corporate clients as well as a high profile career in entertainment, writing many websites and managing a team of 30 other writers across 70 entertainment-focused websites. Since having kids, Arieanna scaled back to be a stay-at-home mom, retaining only her corporate clients. Arieanna launched ActiveMama to chronicle the life of her boys. Several years later, ActiveMama continues to share the lives, travels and adventures of her family, with a particular focus on community events and reviews that Vancouver-based families could benefit from. Arieanna can be found @arieanna, on Facebook or on Instagram.


 

What characteristics define the Vancouver Housewife?

I don’t think “housewife” is a term any Vancouverite would use for herself, at least not the ones I know about. Most of the Vancouver women I know who could be called a “housewife” have found ways to empower themselves through home businesses or through engaging online via their blogs. Perhaps a Vancouver housewife could be called a woman, regardless of whether she has kids or not, who is willing to fulfill her personal goals.

Are you a good representation of a Vancouver Housewife? Why?

I feel like I’m everything but a traditional housewife, but I think I could call myself a “Vancouver housewife.” One of the assumptions of a “stay at home mom” is that we, well, stay at home. Which is exactly what I do not do. My boys and I are on the go all the time, going to playgroups or to parks or adventures to many of the family-oriented spaces in Vancouver. While my daytime focus is on my kids, engaging with them and feeding them what feels like 50 times a day, I still have enough “me” time to focus on my clients, my own blog, and hopefully also my friends and my fitness. I think this desire to “do it all” is very common in Vancouver, but it’s also quite fulfilling.

Do you feel that living in Vancouver in some way defines who you are? Please explain.

Yes, without a doubt. I grew up in Deep Cove, and I can’t really imagine living anywhere else. Even though my work is technically quite portable, I never feel “home” without the mountains and the ocean around me. Living in Vancouver has defined what I value most in life. For example, living so close to nature has prioritized that area of our life, from local hikes to our explorations when we travel. As well, I think the local culture, from community events to gourmet dining, has become a really integral part of our lives.

Have you ever had cosmetic surgery, Botox, Restalyne injections, etc.? If so, please provide details. If you haven’t had any of the above procedures performed, would you consider it?

No, though I did have a chronic pain specialist who wanted to inject me with Botox to help with my neck pain. I declined and I’m glad I did. I’m not completely against cosmetic surgery, but at this point in my life it’s not a priority.

Other than your children (if applicable), what is the accomplishment of which you are most proud?

I’m proud to have been self-employed for nearly 10 years, doing what I love and balancing that with my life now as a mother. Though I’m proud of the career I was establishing before I had kids, I am just as happy now to say that I have had clients for many years who I have helped support and grow, while also doing the same for my family. I feel lucky to have that balance in my life.

Has the desire for affluence/power/money been a motivator in the choices you’ve made for your life?

I don’t think I would be a stay-at-home-mom if that were true! Although the cost of daycare is ridiculous in Vancouver, I still put my family before my career in choosing to step down from a full-time and very demanding career.

Tell us about your stuff. What do you like to buy, collect, etc.?

I would rather have less stuff, actually. I’ve been on a major purge during the last year. Helping minimize clutter helps me feel more centred. When it comes to buying things, though, I do admit to clothes shopping (which thankfully I rarely have time for) and shopping for my boys – I love finding them cute clothes and our book collection is quite extensive.

Do you have “staff”in your home? (E.g. nanny, driver, chef, etc.)

I wish! I have tried many times to find a part-time Nanny, but it’s harder than you’d think. We do have someone who comes to clean our house every 2 weeks, which takes some of the heavy duty cleaning off my to-do list and saves my injured back and neck unnecessary strain!

Do you belong to any clubs, teams, groups or social organizations?

I’m a part of a fantastic book club! Unofficially though, I participate in what feels like a billion playgroups with the kids, but not a whole lot for myself. Unless Facebook groups count? 😉

Finish this sentence: “My life’s motto is ….”

When the days get tough, head outside or go for coffee.

Areola Tattoo Clinic only one of its kind in Vancouver: returning normalcy to breast cancer survivors

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Sandi London and her husband, Dan.

Imagine losing your sister to cancer.  Then imagine losing your mother to the disease shortly after.  Imagine moving forward through life without them, and eventually finding happiness…and love.  Imagine finding your soul mate, planning your life together and living your dreams.

Then imagine being diagnosed with breast cancer.

This is what happened to Sandi London.  She was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2011.  At the time, she and her fiancé, Dan, were blissfully happy and planning a future together.  Then their world came crumbling down.

“The most difficult part..was the worry I was putting on my soon-to-be-husband.  Dan had cared for his late wife Pat for 6 years as she faced her cancer with zero chance of survival,” Sandi reflects. “I could see the stress, but somehow we knew my cancer was caught early so eventually we could return to a normal life.”

So, Sandi underwent a double mastectomy.  With the history of cancer in her family she wasn’t taking any chances.  However, as anyone could imagine, it was a challenging time.  She recalls the time after her surgery saying, “I seemed to be more emotional…after the surgery you are so vulnerable. I had to depend on Dan for so much, to help with the little things we take for granted.”

Once Sandi’s body had recovered, there was a final stage of reconstruction, which is typically offered at a cost.  Usually, women who undergo mastectomies are left without areolas or nipples.  Areola tattooing completes the breast reconstruction process.  This procedure is normally an “add on” and is not included in medically covered breast reconstruction surgeries.

Lucky for Sandi, Eagle Ridge Hospital is the only hospital in the Lower Mainland to offer areola tattoo services to breast cancer survivors at no cost and, as such, it is visited by patients throughout the province. The clinic is managed by a trained nurse and areola tattoo specialist, Sandi Saunier in conjunction with plastic surgeon, Dr. Dao Nguyen.

"The best part of my job is helping women feel good about themselves. I help them - physically and psychologically - bring closure to the lengthy ordeal of breast cancer through the reconstruction process." - Sandi Saunier, nurse and areola tattoo specialist

“The best part of my job is helping women feel good about themselves. I help them – physically and psychologically – bring closure to the lengthy ordeal of breast cancer through the reconstruction process.” – Sandi Saunier, nurse and areola tattoo specialist

Saunier believes this procedure is “the icing on the cake.”   She explains how the tattoo, “changes the look (of the breast) from a ‘mannequin’ to a very normal nipple and areola.”  She believes the procedure is also therapeutic and encourages closure.  She feels immense satisfaction in her work, explaining that “…during the two-hour appointment, my patients get a chance to reflect on the ordeal, tell me about their experiences and explain how cancer has changed their lives and the lives of their families. It gives me a chance to focus on all the positives, to help them move on.”

For Sandi, having normal looking breasts makes her feel, well, normal.  “The difference the tattoo has made in my life is that every day when I’m out of the shower I no longer look in the mirror and think about breast cancer. I’m now able to get ready and start my day without the reminder of the disease. Physically the process is complete.”

“Urban Sculpture” home for sale in Vancouver’s Main Street neighbourhood: $2.2 million

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I’ve been watching the construction on the north east corner of East 17th for some time now.  Actually, I recall a few years ago when the property sold (complete with a beauty shack of a house) for just under one million, I believe.

Finally, the construction is complete.  It looks a little space-age from the outside, but upon viewing the listing, I think it’s pretty cool.

$2.2 million cool, though?  You be the judge.

135 East 17th Avenue, Vancouver

INSPIRED. SUSTAINABLE. STYLISH. Vancouver’s first super prime House is built by Vanglo Sustainable Construction Group and architecturally designed by LWPAC. Featuring high-end finishing, a chef’s kitchen with Leibherr, Viking and Wolf appliances, custom milled cabinetry, polished concrete floors, radiant heating, triple pane windows, sound proofed garden suite, HRV and in-ground irrigation system. The top floor is an open living and entertaining space, boasting a peak ceiling height of thirteen feet that flows into a stunning, 300 sqft outdoor lounge. This home is 1 of only 3 homes in Vancouver that is Energy Star certified. Don’t miss this Urban Sculpture! 

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Have fun in Vancouver with the KD Fun Shop + Giveaway!!

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Where has all the fun gone? With the launch of the first ever KD Fun Shop, Kraft Dinner is on a mission to get Canadian’s back to their fun-loving selves. Visit the Fun Shop this week downtown at Granville Square near Waterfront Station —you can’t miss it!

What?

The KD Fun Pop-Up Shop (the only place in the world where you can pay for KD-inspired items with fun instead of money) will take over Granville Square at 200 Granville Street from July 23rd-25th from 7am to 7pm.

  • This big and bright noodle shop will be stocked with never-before-seen items that Vancouverites of all ages (kids too!) can take home by simply having a little fun, while sampling KD – no wallet necessary.
  • Stop by the Pop-Up Shop and take your pick – KD Funderpants, t-shirts, bed sheets, noodle socks, aviators, cufflinks…and complete a fun challenge to earn your purchase instead of paying with real money (Can you talk like a pirate? Can you breakdance on the spot?)

Wait – there’s more!

  • From July 23rd-31st, a KD Fun Kiosk will surprise shoppers outside places like transit stops, dry cleaners, and more (i.e. other un-fun daily tasks) where they’ll let people trade fun for actual goods and services. Shhh—the roving kiosk locations are secret…unless you want to be there to capture the fun…

TheThirtiesGrind wants to get in on the fun by giving away an $100 value gift basket—complete with lots of Kraft Dinner and an assortment of one-of-a-kind gifts!

To enter, leave a comment on this post telling us the most fun thing you and your family do to have fun in Vancouver.

For extra entries, follow the directions in the Rafflecopter form below:

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BC Teachers Strike: is it time for parents to take back the schools?

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On CKNW this morning, Bill Good interviewed Minister of Education, Peter Fassbender.  He expertly alluded to the fact that the government will be looking at ways to “assist parents” if the BC Teachers’ Federation (BCTF) strike continues into the fall.  When pushed, Fassbender wouldn’t say what this meant.  Will the government issue a subsidy to parents to cover the cost of childcare?  Fassbender wouldn’t budge, but said they were looking at “all options”.

One parent called in and suggested that parents get together with their school PACs and district PACs to plan for looming BC Teachers Strike action continuing through September.  She suggested that parents just bring their kids to school en masse.  If this happend, she stated, “you’d better bet things would get moving.”

Bill brought up the good point question of “who owns the schools anyway?”.  We do!  Taxpayers, parents…we pay for the schools and, as such, shouldn’t we be entitled to use them?

Although we do love to complain, and the strike action is a serious burden on many (okay most) parents across British Columbia, I personally feel that parents have become too apathetic to take drastic action like this.  Further, many would not, out of principle, cross the picket line.

What are your thoughts?  Would you be in support of a parent “walk in” come September?  Finally, do you believe the government should provide some kind of subsidy to parents for childcare if school doesn’t begin in September because of the BC Teachers Strike?

Family to live separately as Vancouver housing prices too high

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We all know the cost of real estate in Vancouver is absurd and that lack of affordability for the average person is not a new phenomenon.  Many people are waiting for “the bubble to burst,” others are planning to rent for life and a few are taking matters into their own hands, coming up with creative ways to become property owners.

Michelle and Peter are an example of just how creative people are getting.  Their solution is not without sacrifice, but to them it makes sense.  Here is their story told by Michelle:

Peter ( from Ontario, 45, divorced father of 2) and I (Vancouver born and raised, 38, divorced mom of 1) are engaged and have been together almost 5 years. He is a brand manager and I’m an account rep. Both of us coincidently work in the food industry. We met at Kokopellis 5 years ago when our two kids were fighting over a Thomas the Tank Engine toy.

We’ve spent the last year trying to find a home for our blended family of 3 kids (all boys, 6, 7 and 11 years old).

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Michelle and Peter both wanted to be homeowners, but could not afford to buy a house together in Vancouver…their solution? Two separate places to raise their blended family.

We had hoped to keep to under a million – being mindful of property transfer tax, closing costs and light renovations. On the wish list: a 3 bedroom house with a rec room and a garage. We looked in West Van, North Van, East Van and Coquitlam. We were saddened to see what a million would not buy us!  We bumped up our budget to $1.2 million and found a few homes-but they needed at least $100k in work.

We could swing it – but we would be totally house poor.  No more morning coffees or skiing at Whistler. To us, being house poor was not worth it.

The solution?

We decided to purchase separate townhouses and live between the two.

Peter purchased a new Northshore townhouse- two bedrooms and a garage (so important for bike and ski storage). Most importantly, it’s close for him to see his two children who live in West Vancouver. I purchased a new 3 bedroom and garage townhouse in Morgan Creek (South Surrey). We did this for under a million and we individually own our respective townhouses (as opposed to having both names on title).

I’m sad to be priced out of my childhood area of Dunbar. However, it is no longer the place I grew up in. I want my child to open the garage door, take out his bike and go play with the other neighborhood kids. This is now a possibility in our new place. (I have a garage, and neighborhood kids who play outside).

Our divorced friends appreciate and understand our two-place strategy. Our finances are separate (this isn’t our first rodeo). We have our own space!  Peter and I both have found a way to get what we need (him proximity to his kids, me a garage and a family oriented community).  Our townhouses are new and won’t require extensive renovations for some time.  Finally, I can still afford to buy that coffee every morning!


Tell me your creative real estate story!

Have you or someone you know come up with an extreme or creative way to afford housing in the Lower Mainland?  I’d love to hear from you!  Email me at thethirtiesgrind@gmail.com

 

 

The death of community

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This morning I was interviewed by a reporter from Thompson Reuters.  She is working on a piece about the absurd pricing of real estate in Vancouver.  Inevitably, when I do these interviews, I am always asked about my opinion on foreign investment and its contribution to the lack of affordability for local families.  Today I was asked if I feel that, as Vancouverites and Canadians, we fear being deemed racist if we talk about the so called “elephant in the room”…that is, the foreign buyers.

“Absolutely,” was my answer.  We have become a society that is, in my opinion, politically correct to a fault.  We are afraid to talk about the issues that affect us…I mean, really, really talk about them.  For fear of offending someone, we would rather stay quiet.

Here’s the problem with that.  When you have a feeling about something (legitimate or not) and you choose not to discuss or debate it…you decide, instead to suppress your opinion…resentment festers and grows.  I feel the undercurrent of this resentment in Vancouver all the time.  People laugh about how expensive housing is…we joke about it, entire dinner parties revolve around it.  At the end of the day, however, people are pissed off…they’re just not coming out and saying it.

Look, I have no problem with who buys houses in Vancouver.  What I do have a problem with why people purchase houses in Vancouver.  When there is a significant amount of realty being purchased for investment purposes only, when homes in neighbourhoods sit empty, when new buyers make no effort to get to know their neighbours or contribute to the community in any meaningful way, that is where my concerns lie.

An example is a home in my parent’s neighbourhood.  The offshore buyers purchased it for over $2 million.  Yet, it sits empty.  The lawn is mowed, the exterior lights go on and off on timers.  Knock, knock…who’s there?  Nobody.  It would be better if the owners even rented the home to someone.  A family or individual who would love to be part of the neighbourhood and member of the community.  However, the investment is enough on its own…the owners, I am assuming, have no need for rental income.

Communities are slowly starting to erode.  I barely recognize the little neighbourhood I grew up in.  People keep to themselves.  Kids don’t play outside with one another.  Eager, involved and hard-working people are moving away.  This is what we should be focusing our efforts on in our conversations about real estate in Vancouverinstead of trying to lay blame, we need to address what the effects of rising investment ownership are – and find ways to resolve them.

The benefits of feeling like you belong to a community are endless.  In my neighbourhood, many (definitely not all) kids attend the local school.  People know their neighbours and we say hello, hell, we even ask to borrow some milk every once in a while.  The teenager up the street babysits for us, our neighbours avail of each other’s businesses and refer them to others…I can drop my kids off at the house down the street if I need to do a quick grocery run…”you need anything?”…yup, I’ll even pick something up for you while I’m there.

It’s nice to feel like you belong, like you’re a contributing and respected member of the community…you can’t put a price on it.  It’s what I grew up with and what I want my children to have. Yet, as houses in my area rise to well over $1.2 million, I wonder if the community I have grown to love will begin to disperse. Is it only a matter of time before the homes around me become completely out of reach for the majority of people also?  I’m beginning to feel like we’re almost there.  I don’t think housing prices in Vancouver will come down anytime in the near future, and I feel that for many of us, our children will not be able to afford to live here.  I fear that mine will move far away to a place where they will be able to comfortably raise a family, in a community – providing they remember what that is.

What do you think?

A kick in the ball: so long old friend

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Our family has been dealing with a health issue for the last few months. We are coming to the end of my husband’s treatment and, thankfully, he’s doing great. We’ve remained very private throughout all of this, however, in the interest that our story may help someone, provide some comfort or just spread the word about testicular cancer, I want to share what we’ve been going through and how we’ve been dealing with it. These are journal entries I have been keeping along the way…so, keep in mind, they are not in real time.


 

July 4th, 2014

What’s that old saying…don’t kick a man when he’s down? Life just sometimes has a way of really piling shit on.

Way back in 2002, Dave and I had been a year married. We had been thinking about getting a dog for a while. After months of searching, we ended up at the Abbotsford SPCA. Someone had brought in a puppy who they apparently found at the side of the road. As we approached the kennel, we saw a big German Shepherd…then, from behind, a little ball of fur tipped his water dish all over him. Our hearts melted when we saw him and we knew he needed to become the third member of our little family.

I brought Myo home two weeks later in a wicker laundry basket, in the back of my mom’s car. From the very beginning, he was a clever dog. He was quick to learn basic commands, and Dave and I absolutely doted on him. He was our baby.

As the years went by, Myo grew with us. He welcomed our two children into our pack…gracefully accepting his new, lower, position within the family. Sometimes I caught him giving me a sideways glance as he walked towards the front door each morning…”let me out of here,” I imagined he was thinking as the two crazy kids came bombing downstairs. Nevertheless, he loved our kids. He was patient and kind. I never once heard him growl or snarl at either of them…through every poke, hair pull, tail tug and wrestling match, Myo was always steady and true.

When Dave has his surgery last fall, I saw how Myo could sense something wasn’t right. He started to come up to our room at night, something he was never inclined to do. It was like he wanted to be as close as he could.

Soon, climbing the stairs became too much for him. In early May we noticed a rapid decline in his weight and speed. Then a tumble down the front stairs led us to believe he must be having severe joint pain. I brought him to the vet, expecting to be given steroids for arthritis…what they found was a mass in his abdomen. It had grown to such a size that it was encroaching on his organs. This was the reason for his loss of appetite and, subsequently, weakness. We were told there was not much we could do except make him comfortable.

A week later, we were faced with the hardest decision we have ever made as a couple. Dave had just finished a long week of chemo. With tears in his eyes, he looked at me and said, “it’s time.” We couldn’t let Myo go on in pain any longer.

I slept beside him on the floor that night…his breathing was laboured and he couldn’t get comfortable. In fact, neither of us slept that night. I scratched his ears, talked to him and made him promise me that when he left us, he would send us a sign that he was still with us in spirit.

The next day Dave had another chemo session. Our vet was so wonderful and came to our house after office hours.

Myo was laid to rest in his favourite spot on our front porch. His last image of this world was of his street and his people. Dave and I held him as he slipped away. Nothing could have prepared me for the horrible grief that followed.

It seemed so unfair that this happened right while we were going through all that we were. We were…we are absolutely heartbroken.

I’m grateful for 12 years of amazing memories with my little guy…he was one of a kind. I’m still waiting for his sign to me that he’s still around. I like to believe he is.

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