Rounding out the New Westminster-based non-profit organizations that my students worked with this semester is New Westminster Family Place, which is “a community hub where families access support, opportunities for engagement, and community resources.”
They run a variety of programs for families with children, including arts, cooking, and nature-based programming, and have drop-in locations around the city. As a community hub, they bring families together so that parents can connect with other parents, children can enjoy a variety of activities and learn social skills – and it’s all free for families!
As we hear more and more about the negative effects of social isolation on mental and physical health, I think that an organization like New West Family Place, which provides opportunities for engagement and community building is well worth supporting!
Another non-profit organization that my class worked with this semester was the New West Hospice Society. This is a relatively new non-profit organization in New Westminster that is working “to provide services and to facilitate processes for those in New Westminster experiencing end-of-life and bereavement”.
Death and dying are a fact of life, but so often we don’t know how to talk about it or how to support people going through it – both people who are dying and those close to them. The Hospice Society is looking to change that.
One of the things that I learned as my students worked with the New West Hospice Society is that there is something called the Compassionate City Charter, which is “a framework to address 13 social changes/sectors to normalize dying, death and loss”. The Society works with partner organizations from a variety of sectors (including schools, trade unions, religious organizations, arts groups, etc.) “to support those at end-of-life to live as fully and comfortably as possible in locations that are conducive and appropriate.”
When my dad died, my mom, sister, and I received a lot of love and support from our family and friends and work colleagues and classmates. But not everyone has that kind of support. The New West Hospice Society is working towards a future where everyone is supported – and everyone knows how to be supportive – around death and dying. And I think that is very important work.
This semester I taught a program planning and evaluation class at SFU and the main assignment was for the students to work with a non-profit organization to develop an evaluation plan that the organization can use. So I figure I will highlight the five nonprofits that we worked with as part of my course.
In recognition of the great work that the Arts Council does, both the Executive Director, Stephen O’Shea, and the President, Leanne Ewen, won Platinum Awards1 , this year. Stephen won Citizen of the Year and Leanne won the Bernie Legge Cultural/Artist of the Year award!
As I’ve mentioned before, my charitable giving “strategy”, well, doesn’t really exist. I typically end up giving to charity when someone I know is doing a fundraiser, like a fun ride or the Ride to Conquer Cancer. Some years I get a lot of asks and end up donating to a variety of charities. But this year, I haven’t seen any asks like that from family and friends. I’m not sure if people have become tired of fun runs or if everyone is just asking on Facebook instead by email and I’ve missed them all. So in the interest of actually doing some giving, I decided to do my own version of the 12 Days of Christmas, featuring one charity per day that I’ll give some money to.
Today I’m starting with the one ask I’ve actually seen from people that I know – specifically, the trainers at my gym. As I have mentioned before, the people at my gym are the best people ever and here’s yet another example. They encourage gym members to donate to the Purpose Society, which is a social services agency located about a block away from the gym. And the trainers have to lift a kilogram for every dollar that is donated. So if we donate $1000, they have to lift 1000 kg! (Not all at once, of course, but enough reps with enough weight so that they’ve listed the total).
This is not the lightning bolt that struck my building. But I’m sure it looked something like this.
I was at a conference on Friday in Vancouver and apparently while I was there, the apocalypse happened in New West. There was torrential rain, hail, rivers of blood, plagues of locusts, and lightning struck my building. Ok, maybe the rivers were just made of rain and there weren’t any actual locusts, but lightning did, in fact, strike my building. And apparently that killed our building’s transformer1, so they had to bring in a generator, which will power the building until they can bring in a portable transformer, which will get us through until they can fix the building’s transformer, which is expected to take 10 weeks. Ten weeks! Fingers crossed that the strata’s insurance will cover all of this!
The power ended up being out for about 12 hours on Friday, so when I got home from the post-conference dinner, I met up with Scott at Waves, as he had an assignment due at midnight and Waves has free wifi, lots of access to electrical outlets, and lets you sit there pretty much forever. When they closed at 10 pm, we went over to the pub2. By about 11 pm I was too tired to stay up anymore3 and it occurred to me that I didn’t actually need electricity to go to sleep. As I was brushing my teeth by the light of a flashlight, the power came on!
Just a few weeks ago, I had bought a stand up freezer, because I was sick of both having to be selective of what frozen foods I could have at any given time since the freezer at the top of my fridge isn’t very big and of having stuff fall out of my freezer at the top of my fridge every time I opened it. So I bought this lovely appliance, and filled it up with a whole bunch of frozen meats and vegetables, homemade veggie stock, homemade waffles, fish that Scott’s dad caught on his most recent fishing excursion, etc.
So of course I was worried that 12 hours of no power was going to have ruined all that food. But lo and behold, this thing must be super well insulated, as after the power came on I opened it up to survey the damage and everything was still frozen solid!
Yesterday afternoon, the power went off again! I had just gotten home from having been out most of the day and was going to try to fix the wifi, which wasn’t working since the first power outage, and the power to the whole building went out again! We got a letter from the strata later telling everyone that the generator they have running cannot provide enough power for everyone to do all the same things they are able to do under normal circumstances, so we need to minimize our electricity use. So don’t, for example, do laundry while cooking dinner and, if possible, cook dinner outside of the peak hours of 4-7 pm. And maybe turn off the lights when you aren’t in a room. Most of this (other than the not eating dinner between 4-7 pm) is stuff we really should be doing anyway, when you think about it, so I’m going to use this as a way of getting myself into the habit of being more energy conscious!
Image Credit: I did a search for a Creative Commons-licensed photo of a lightning bolt on Flickr and one of the first ones to pop up was the above photo, which was taken by Derek Miller. You may recall Derek from his final blog posting. It’s really an incredibly cool photo!
Fun fact: I did not know that my building had a transformer! When you think about it, it makes sense, but I guess I thought the transforming happened somewhere outside, rather than in the building. [↩]
Fun fact: Kelly O’Bryan’s pub has free wifi! You just have to ask for the password! [↩]
In my defence, I’d been at a full day conference at which I gave two presentations, than ran an AGM, and then went to dinner, all after having stayed up late the night before putting the finishing touches on my presentations and making sure I had everything prepared for the AGM! [↩]
Starting next week, I’ll be on holidays for a few weeks, but it will be mostly a stay-cation (though we might take a road trip for a few days somewhere, possibly the Sunshine Coast, since I haven’t been there before). If anyone else has time off in the next few weeks and is interested in going hiking during the week, hit me up!
I may or may not have also been catching Pokemon. Shut up – lots of people were doing it, including an adorable elderly couple! [↩]
Today was the Annual General Meeting of the Arts Council of New Westminster, followed by its 50th birthday party! For the past 50 years, the ACNW has been bringing community of New Westminster together through the arts and I’m proud to have been a small part of that.
I joined the board of ACNW back in June 2014, at the encouragement of my friend, Tig. It was shortly after I finished my MBA and it gave me my first experience of being on a board of directors. For the past year, I served as the secretary on the board. I got to work with a fabulous group of people, got to contribute to an organization that supports artists in the community and runs many of the amazing events that makes New West such a cool place to be. I learned a lot, made some great friends, and am proud of what we’ve accomplished over this time. I made the tough decision to step down from the board after 3+ years – with my day job getting busier and busier and my new role on CESBCY, I felt like I should not spread myself too thin and that it was a good time to make way for some new blood on the Arts Council board. I will continue to be a supporter of the ACNW, but now as a cheerleader on the side rather than as a member of the board. Looking forward to seeing what amazing things the ACNW does in the next 50 years!
Happy birthday, ACNW and thank you to all the artists, art enthusiasts, donors, staff, volunteers, board members, and ACNW members who make it all possible!
Much like the Plumbing Edition of Stuff I Learned This Year, this is a lesson I’d have been happy not having learned. It all started on my drive home from work on Friday – I was slowing down for a red light on Stewardson Way and my car jerked (sort of like it would if you were driving a manual transmission car and accidentally put it in the wrong gear) twice, and then as I stopped at the red light, it died. Like, it would not start. And I was on a busy road during rush hour! I put on my four-way flashers and called BCAA to get some emergency roadside assistance. Pretty soon, a couple of women came up to my car and asked if I need some help: “We can push your car around the corner and into this parking lot”. A guy from the business whose parking lot they were referring to, Kirmac Collision1, also came out to help push. Since I drive a Smart car, they were very amused at how light it was to push! I was so thankful that they took the time to stop and help me – no one wants to be the car that they talk about on the traffic report: “A stall on Stewardson Way is blocking the right lane, so there’s only one lane getting through eastbound and everyone just wants to be home already!”
The BCAA tow truck driver showed up in about 20 minutes, which is exactly the time the BCAA dispatcher had estimated (and was more than enough time for me to take over the Pokemon Gym that was there), and he was super nice. Here was where I learned the first thing of this adventure: the location of the battery in my car! Now, lots of things in Smart cars are not where they are in other cars – the engine is in the back and the ignition is in between the driver’s seat and the passenger seat, near the gear shifter, for example. Well, it turns out that the battery is located under the foot well on the passenger side! Also there was the tow hook for the car! I’ve never needed to check my battery before – it’s never been a problem. And the only other time I had it towed was when I had a flat tire and that time it was still under warranty, so I had Smart Car roadside assistance still, and they just took care of it. I knew the battery was working, as I could still roll up my windows and the radio was still working, but the tow truck guy tested it, and decided that I would indeed have to get it towed somewhere, because whatever was making the car not start wasn’t something he could diagnosis on the spot.
Now, I’ve never had any trouble with my car before and I’d only ever taken it to the dealership for its regular maintenance (while it was under warranty I had to take it there or else the warranty would be void and once the warranty was up, I just kept going there out of habit/being too lazy to find an alternative). Smart cars are sold at Mercedes dealerships, so you know that there is going to be a bit of a premium on their prices. But I really wasn’t prepared for how bad it would be!
First, when I called the dealership to say I was going to have my car towed there, they said it was no problem even though they would be closed for the night, the driver could just drop off the car and put the keys in an envelope with my name and number on it through the drop spot they have for just such occasions. However, the next day when the service guy contacted me, he was all “We have 68 cars with appointments ahead of you, so we can’t even look at it until Monday and I won’t do anything until you approve the $200 minimum fee to diagnosis it. Plus it is due for a major service appointment (replace spark plugs, belts, oil, etc.) and that costs $970. So with have halted everything until you approve the fees”. My first thought is “why is he making a big deal that other cars have appointments. My car died with no warning. Sorry I didn’t make an appointment for that!” And my second thought was “why would I approve $1000 of maintenance if I don’t know what is wrong the car? What if it isn’t even fixable and they just do all that maintenance on a car I’m going to throw away?” So I said I’d pay the $200 diagnostic fee, but not approve the maintenance before I knew what was wrong with the car.
On Monday, they contacted me with a diagnosis – the clutch actuator motor had died – and an estimate – $900 for the part, $800 for labour (including the $200 diagnosis fee). So in total they wanted $2700 + tax to fix my car, which is 8 years old and only worth about $4000 (if it weren’t broken!). So this made me an unhappy camper because I have a lot of more exciting things that I would want to spend $2700 + tax on, such as anything else. I would rather spend that much on pretty much anything else. Also, they would have to order the part of Toronto and it wouldn’t arrive until Friday, and that’s only if they placed the order that day (i.e., trying to pressure me to make a quick decision!).
So this is the major car part thing that I learned: what the heck is a clutch actuator motor? I knew what a clutch was from my years of driving manual transmission. When you drive manual, you step on a clutch pedal, which allows you to shift gears (or to start the car moving from a stationary position) – basically, stepping on the clutch pedal disconnects the running engine from the turning of the wheels so that you can shift gears; then you release the clutch pedal, which allows the engine to continue turning the wheels with the car in the new gear you’ve just selected2. However, Smart cars don’t have manual transmissions – they have something called a Tiptronic – with this type of transmission, you can shift the gears yourself, but you don’t need to step on a clutch pedal and if you fail to shift correctly, the car will just shift it for you so that the car doesn’t stall. In the photo above, you see that there is Park, Reverse, Neutral, and Drive, which in an automatic car and you can just drive your Smart as an automatic using those. If you want to do the shifting yourself, when in Drive, you push the stick over to the left (where the + and – are) and then you push up (towards +) and release to shift up or down (towards -) and release to shift down. I did this when I first got my car, but it just wasn’t as satisfying as driving a real manual, so I’ve driven it as an automatic after about the first month of owning. Anyway, the clutch actuator is a part that basically takes the place of the clutch pedal that you would step on to change gears in a manual transmission car. So, the fact that the clutch actuator died and was making my car not work was like insult to injury – it’s a part that my car has because of a feature I don’t even use!
Anyway, I called a friend of mine who is into cars for advice and he said, “They are likely charging you a Mercedes tax. I know this other shop run by a good guy – they know their stuff and they are straightforward and charge fair prices.” So we contacted them and they gave me an estimate for all the same work (replace the clutch actuator and do the full maintenance service): $1200 + tax! So basically Mercedes was trying to fleece me out of $1500! So I called them back and said I would not be having them do anything more with my car – I would pay their $200 diagnosis fee and then have a tow truck come to take it away. He said it would take some time to put my car back together and he’d call me when it was ready. And then he called me back shortly after, said he’d talked to his manager, and since I’ve been such a good customer, they wanted to know what I was planning to do with the car3. I said that I was taking it somewhere else to get it fixed, where they are charging me a reasonable price and where they can get the part tomorrow, not Friday. He asked what the other place was going to charge me and when I told him, the guy says that because I’ve such a good customer4, they can match the price for replacing the clutch actuator ($1000 for parts & labour, instead of $1700), but he didn’t believe that the quote of $200 for maintenance (vs. Mercedes charging $970) could be right. “Are you sure it’s a full maintenance, with spark plugs and belts and everything? Are you sure it’s not just an oil change?” And I was sure, because I’d sent the shop the list of what was included in the list of things for maintenance. But he was all “nope, we can’t drop the price on that”5. And then he also dropped in that “We’ve found the part locally, so we can have it by today instead of 5 days from now”. At this point, I was just pissed off, and I said, “Well, if you can drop the price of replacing the clutch actuator almost in half, just like that, now I just feel like you were trying to fleece me! And that’s a very interesting coincidence that all of a sudden you found the part locally, once I told you that I taking it to another shop! I’m taking my car – please tell me when you have it reassembled so I can tell my tow truck driver it’s ready.”6
So that was Monday. They didn’t have my car reassembled until the next morning, but I got a tow truck to take it to Deckers Auto in Burnaby, who had the car fixed and all the maintenance done in about 24 hours, and the cost was right on what they’d estimated! And to put a cherry on top, when I got there, the guy was super friendly and helpful, he showed me the parts that had been replaced and explained what was wrong with them, and basically treated me like I was a person capable of understanding information about cars (which many mechanics do not do when they speak to women.). He also told me that my car is in great shape, so I shouldn’t have to worry about it for quite some time! I was just so pleased with their service and I will be definitely going back to them for all my maintenance from now on. If you are ever looking for a great auto shop, I highly recommend them!
Reflecting back, I have a lot of people to thank for helping me out in this situation:
the two lovely women who stopped to help me out when I was stalled in traffic, along with the lovely gentleman from Kirmac who helped them push my car. Also, the other nice guy from Kirmac who came out while I was waiting for my tow truck to make sure I was OK
the friendly and professional BCAA driver who came for emergency roadside assistance
my friend Tig who gave me a ride to our hockey game that night!
my friend Randy who recommended Deckers Auto and who talked with me through my options
the amazing mechanics at Deckers Auto who treated me fairly and professionally and who charged me a fair price for the work they did
my Dad, for teaching me about how cars work
my sister, for pointing out that my Dad’s legacy lives on through our tendency to call people out on their bullshit
Here’s a video of how a manual transmission works, in case you are interested:
Cross section of Smart car showing engine location is from Wikimedia Commons shared with a Creative Commons license.
Gear shifter in my Smart car photo was taken by me!
Those of you from New West may be noting that Kirmac just so happens to be right next to New West’s craft brewery, Steel & Oak. And if I didn’t have a hockey game to play later that evening, I definitely would have meandered into S&O’s tasting room for a pint after the tow truck took my car away! [↩]
Here’s a simple explanation, if you are interested: http://auto.howstuffworks.com/clutch.htm [↩]
At this point, I was assuming he was going to try to sell me a Merc. [↩]
Interesting that they didn’t seem to care that I’d been such a good customer until I was threatening to leave! [↩]
Of course, he couldn’t drop the price on that because then if I came back for my next service appointment, they wouldn’t be able to charge me the hundreds of extra dollars anymore! [↩]
I was telling my sister this story and said that I wished Dad was here to help me deal with this car stuff – he is the one who taught me all the things I know about cars – and she said “It seems like he is. What you said to them was such a Dad thing to say!” I guess the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree! [↩]
This goes back to the old time-y days of 2016, when I was injured so bad with bursitis that I had to walk with a cane for 2 weeks and I had to spend all of the dollars on physiotherapy for months so that I could walk again and I haven’t been running since then. When I was walking with a cane, one of my work colleagues told me that the best thing she ever did was after she got injured, when her physiotherapy was completed, she got a personal trainer. A personal trainer was able to help determine which of her muscles were weak and which were compensating for the weak ones and was able to give her an interesting exercise routine (as opposed to the super boring stretches you have to do when rehabbing an injury) that helped her get stronger so she wouldn’t get re-injured. And while I had made doing regular strength training one of my 2017 goals *and* I have a weight room in building in which to do said strength training, I spent the first two months of 2017 never lifting a single weight. And then I remembered that I suck at weight training because I have no idea what I’m supposed to be doing when I walk into a gym – I need someone to tell me what to do1. And then I remembered that I don’t really do any exercise unless I have some external motivator2. And I also remembered that I dislike doing exercise if it takes much more than walking out of my front door to do it because I begrudge the time it takes to drive to a place to exercise and then drive back afterwards3 – it’s one of the reasons I like running! So I joined a gym with personal trainers that is about a block from my place. It meets my needs of being super-conveniently located, it has someone telling me what to do, and I’m externally motivated because I’m paying money for it (and I have to show up 3 days a week to follow my plan!). The place is called Strong Side Conditioning4
But it wasn’t just the super-convenient location that convinced me to go to this place. I did a free assessment there where I got to learn about the gym and their business model, to go through an assessment and hear what a plan for me would be like, and to meet some of the staff5. The business model of the gym is that it’s sort of halfway between a gym membership and a personal trainer. With a regular gym membership, you would pay less but not have assistance in creating a plan or assistance with your training (like making sure your form is correct or helping you decide when to go up in weight or number of reps). With a regular personal trainer, you get all 1-on-1 training sessions and pay by the hour (and then maybe do some other training sessions totally on your own, following the plan they’ve created for you) – and the hourly rate is not cheap. At Strong Side, they come up with a training plan for you each month and at the start of the month, you get a week’s worth of 1-on-1 sessions to learn your exercises (in my case, I chose 3 days a week, so I got 3 training session to learn my 3 workouts) and after that you have 3 weeks where you drop into the gym at your convenience to do your workouts, but there are a bunch of trainers circulating to help you if needed. You record your workouts and the trainers can see how you are progressing and then they make up a new training plan for the next month and repeat.
I started on March 3, and so far I’ve had my three training sessions, and done four solo sessions. My assessment had shown that I basically use my diaphragm and my quads for everything and all my other muscles don’t do anything. So I’m working on releasing the tension in my ribs and quads and strengthening my everything else so that my everything else will stop being such a bunch of freeloaders. I do exercises with a variety of resistance bands, free weights, kettle bells, machines, risers, sliding thingys, and more, so I’m learning the proper form for all kinds of exercises and what muscles should be doing stuff during those exercises. There are always plenty of trainers around watching during my solos sessions to tell me if my form is right or needs adjusting and I’m already seeing some improvements (in that I can do more reps of some things and squat lower than I could two weeks ago). And the trainers I’ve met, which I think is most of them by now, are all really friendly and helpful and down-to-earth.
The only thing that I can say that I don’t like is that I wish they had longer hours – they open at 6:30 am on weekdays, so if I want to do a morning workout, by the time I get through my workout, go home and shower and get ready, and then head into Vancouver, I’m not getting to my office until about 9:30 am, which is a bit later than I’d like (and on many days, too late as I have meetings at 8 or 9 am). Similarly, they close at 9 pm on weekdays, which means that if I don’t want to have to rush through my workout, I have to get there by 7:30 pm, which can sometimes be difficult for me on a busy day. I get that the hours of operation are constrained by the need to have enough trainers around and it doesn’t make any business sense to have the gym open at 5:30 am and close at 11 pm on the off chance that I might want to be there extra early or extra late once in a while. All in all, having to get to the gym within their set hours is a small price to pay for what I’m getting out of my membership!
Anyhoo, so far so good. I’m sure I’ll blog more about my exciting strength training adventures as the year goes on!
Similarly, when I’m running, I always have to be training for a race, because I need a plan to follow as without one, I can’t seem to make a simple decision, like how often I should run or how far should I run on a given day. [↩]
Unless it’s hockey, but that doesn’t count because it’s so fun in and of itself that I don’t even think of it as exercise. [↩]
As always, I haven’t been paid to blog about them, nor have I even talked to them about the fact that I’m writing a blog posting – I am blogging about them because I like them! I’m actually paying lots of money to go there! lol! [↩]
I also did a free assessment with a personal trainer whose gym is literally across the street from my office (Did I mention I need something conveniently located?). He seemed nice and all, but he charges by the hour for training sessions, so it would work out to a lot more than Strong Side (though in the end I’d get less service) – I liked the business model of Strong Side better and I clicked more with the staff. Also, the trainer near my work said he was a Philadelphia Flyers fan and said “I have to have a Canadian team too, so I’m a Leafs fan.” I’m not saying that I decided I couldn’t work with a Flyers/Leafs fan – but I’m not saying that I could. [↩]
So I finally, after years of living in New West, went to the Canada Games Pool last night. My physio recommended that I try water running1 as a way of being active while my hip isn’t 100% ready for real running yet. It allows you to do the motions of running and get some cardio, but without putting weight on the injured joint. Plus it’s also just a good workout because of the resistance of the water. Also, there’s a hot tub right next to the pool.
Water running was definitely a good workout and because I’m new to it, I was really paying attention to my form, which I’m hoping will help me once I’m back to non-water running, as it will hopefully get rid of the bad form that I had due to the sprained ankle which lead to the borked hip.
Tonight I went skating to see how that would feel. My physio said once it feels OK to skate *and* it feels OK the next day after I skate, I’m allowed to play hockey again. The skating felt OK today, so I guess I’ll see how I feel in the morning and then make a decision on whether I will play hockey on Sunday!
In conclusion: progress!
Yes, water running is exactly what it sounds like – running along a swim lane in a pool. [↩]