Throwing away history

It is November 29, 2017. My husband would have turned 63 yesterday. It has taken me two years to get to a point where I can start sorting through our life together and let go. I have almost finished clearing out the last storage locker and I am horrified by how much money I have spent storing things that I am now selling for peanuts, donating or tossing into the landfill. 

All these things are a part of my history. Some I am happy to dispose of, others cause me great angst. All the records the govt says we have to keep for 7 years. The dat tapes, CDs, DVDs, floppy discs, and Zip discs with years of work on them that can never be recovered because technology thrives on change and even if I could plug in the drives and pull off the files, the current programs won't recognize them. Samples of work that are really just ink on paper. Awards. Oh what to do with the awards. I don't really feel like hanging them up. I can't bring myself to throw them away. So they are in the back of my SUV and will likely find their way into the house. Maybe I can pull them out of the frames so they don't take up space. Tuck the trophies into a corner - maybe use them as doorstops.

None of it matters anymore.

It is the past. 

Which makes me think of how our society seems hell-bent on erasing history - the good and the bad.  On the news, people are screaming to pull down statues. In our homes new generations scorn antiques that have survived 100 years and buy "contemporary" furniture made of bits of wood held together by enormous quantities of glue. Furniture that will off-gas, burn in a flash, and contaminate our landfills with its toxic contents. Yet we all scream sustainability. What is sustainable about our any of this.

Have we learned nothing from history? 

Seems we don't really want to. We are a throw away society. We do not want "baggage". Clearly, ignoring all the things we don't want to think about or admit makes life much more palatable. It is easier to live a nomadic lifestyle where there is no need to move belongings because they have a lifespan of 2-3 years. But what does it say about us as people. Where are our roots. Are we just as willing to toss our friends and neighbours?

As I donate his belongings and throw away paperwork from his various businesses, his school projects, memorabilia from high school and his first marriage, my husband slowly fades from view. I will keep a few photos and his Little League trophy from when his team competed for the world championship but most of his life is secreted away in a computer that I do not have the password for.

Life will go on. His children will marry and start lives he will never be a part of. His future grandchildren will never meet him. I feel I need to keep some parts of him so they can catch a glimpse of who he was. Otherwise he is just dust. 

Death, Fear and Drowning

Another post, from over a year ago, that deserves to be read. 

I am sitting here in a half finished house with my son and his friend watching a movie and thinking about everything I have to get done. It is alot. I have learned to have patience. I have learned to forgive myself for not getting everything done that I need to. But I am coming to the understanding that I have been drowning.

First I was drowning in chaos and the fear of losing my husband and having to sell our home. I would cry alone in the shower hoping that he and the boys would not hear me. I went to a councellor who helped me accept things I did not want to, especially that it was his life and he did not have to include me in his choices of treatment. I did my best to make moving away from our home a great adventure. Moving a log house and creating a modern version of a homestead. It was exhausting trying to distract myself from real life.

When Wes died, part of me was relieved that he was no longer suffering and that we could hopefully find some solid ground to rebuild our lives on. But I was drowning in loss. Spiralling down into a place where I could barely keep up. Over the years I had been so focussed on work, family and serving on committees to make our neighbourhood safer, that I had lost touch with all but a few friends spread across the country. With the exception of one sister, my husband's family had never accepted me so they were mostly distant and sometimes cruel. Six months after our first move and a few weeks after Wes died, I managed to move our home again, get my son to school, and finally to the dentist, and squeeze in a few playdates. The local hospice helped with getting him involved in some great programs. A friend came and helped me repack all the belongings we had used in our temporary home. Every bit helped. A year after his death I was able to gather some family and friends together to remember my husband. I still have not finished all the paperwork as a result of his death, or gone through all his things and I am still in a battle with CRA who is coming after me for his tax debt even though we had no shared assets. I still cry sometimes, but the pain comes and goes rather than continuously coursing though my veins.

Now I am drowning in fear. Will I be able to get the farm running with so many setbacks - bad existing soil, more bad soil that I bought to amend the existing soil, trades that take months to get onsite, the financial costs of delays that have added up to thousands of dollars in storage fees for items I will likely just sell or donate once I have time to see what my husband put in there. Will I be able to bring in more paying work while I am busy trying to raise a child, finish the house and get my farm set up. Will I be able to afford to build my barn? Will I have the mental and emotional strength it is going to take? 

I guess time will tell. For now I am going to go build some shelves in my office and storage closet so I can start organizing. Then I will go pull some weeds, feed the chickens and spread some compost. Distraction is exhausting, but if handled properly it helps get things done.

Another thought on affordable housing.

I wrote this in June of 2016 but never got around to posting it due to reasons I will post about another time.

I am not a developer, or a builder, but I am a serial renovator. And I am currently 2/3 of my way though a renovation project that would wilt some of the hardiest souls out there. So I have a different perspective on at least one factor effecting housing costs.

I want to talk a little about red tape, engineers who overbuild and a building code that adds more layers instead of fixing the broken ones.

When I applied for my building permit I got in just before the new code came into effect. According to my builder who worked on my foundation and framing, the new code would have added at least $20k to my costs (about 10%). As it was, an engineer (who I wish I had fired) decided I needed to add support to almost all the beams in the existing house which will likely end up costing me between $10-15k (5-7%). The fact that there is a house built in 1956 with the exact same building structure and beams that is .5km away and at the same elevation not withstanding. Apparently my identical yet newer beams would not be able to withstand the snow load. And, in case you are wondering, engineers trump code. So even if you house is to code, if you need an engineer's stamp you are at their mercy.

Fact is, many engineers now overbuild so a new structure should be able to withstand a 500 year event. Why? Because they are afraid of being sued. In fact, engineers are becoming hugely expensive because they have enormous liability insurance costs. Which comes back to one of my favourite pet peeves - people's need to blame others for their misfortune. Forget mishaps or accidents, it is always somebody's fault. 

What also gets me is that there are wood houses that are over 100 years old and still in good shape. I understand the need for creating more energy efficient homes but sometimes it seems like the building code can cause more issues than it fixes - take the condo crisis of the '90s for instance. From what I learned, the buildings were sealed up in a way that water could get in but not out. 

The building code can also be an impediment to innovation in building. How does it deal with container houses, or some of the new prefabs being developed. The building code is often different between municipalities that share the same environmental factors (go figure). Some municipalities won't even let you build a house that is under 500 square feet. Why not?

So maybe, just maybe, if we sat back and assessed the need to build more efficiently and be innovative and created an entirely new building code we might actually come up with a way to cut the cost of building a house. Every step towards affordable housing is a step in the right direction.