On the Pending Homeownership

One week from tomorrow, we’ll own a house. Well, our fruit-based financial provider will but you get the idea.

This morning, I dropped a fairly substantial amount of money in the form of a down payment, notary fees, and taxes at the notary’s office before heading to work. The next meeting is May 1st when we get the keys.

This morning, as I left the office, my nervousness over this milestone in our lives together turned to elation. As I often do during life’s milestones, I looked for a song to connect to this moment so that I would remember it forever.

I tuned into Mike-FM, and this is what I got.

Songza’s 80s Dance Party in Canada is my favourite playlist so I’m not exactly adverse to a little Luba in my life. It reminded me, however, of that scene in Jerry Maguire. I guess you can’t pick your life’s soundtrack all the time.

I turned up the radio and sang along.

On Sue Townsend

Yesterday, novelist and playwright Sue Townsend died at the age of 68. Way, way back in the mid-80s, Some friends introduced me to her books and her most celebrated character, Midlands diarist Adrian Mole. I related to him because he was about my age and we both thought of ourselves as intellectuals who were not very clever.

I’m saddened that we’ll likely never hear from Adrian Mole again. In the most recent novel, he was recovering from prostate cancer and while there was news that she was working on a new book, I don’t know how much of it she completed due to her failing health.

Despite the numerous British references I didn’t get like the launch of Channel 4, Malcolm Muggeridge, giros, anybody in Margaret Thatcher’s government who wasn’t Margaret Thatcher, Noddy, I loved the books and re-read them several times and with each re-read I’d find things I didn’t appreciate the first time. It was her writing that made me want to pick up a pen because it showed me that there’s really nothing to be afraid of. You can write whatever you like and nobody needs to tell you otherwise. She didn’t come from a particularly rich or literary family and dropped out of school at 15. And yet, here she was, with a huge body of work that would make a lot of people from far more privileged backgrounds envious.

I feel like picking up a pen again.


A Different Kind of Blue


Rhythmic Blue!

I thought I should let you all know that, because of a sale on Behr paint yesterday, we purchased the paint we’ll be needing to do the new house next month. Last month, I mentioned wanting to do the house in Yarmouth Blue but because that’s a Benjamin Moore brand and Behr was on sale, we got a relatively close approximation called Rhythmic Blue (with Steam White for the trim). It’s important that you are kept abreast of these colour changes.

We’re not particularly “on trend” when it comes to interior design. We just wanted something bright and cheerful for the majority of the house. That decision was as much in reaction against the paint colours that were already there as it was with regards whatever style we think we like. But then, we tend to make these types of decisions quickly anyway, rather than agonize over colours. I looked at a couple of dozen different iterations of blue and, in the end I basically decided I like lighter shades of blue compared to darker one because we have dark floors and dark furniture so the contrast would be nice.

We’ll have other rooms to paint, including the bedrooms, the bathrooms, the kitchen, the front hall, and the basement/tv room that currently has half the walls done with stucco.

I understand if these posts are a bit dull but other than my new job, this is literally all I am doing these days.

On Choosing “the Right” School


As you know, we bought a house in a new neighbourhood. We’ll be moving from south of the Trans-Canada to north of the Trans-Canada which puts us in a new municipality. This means a change in the access to the services we’ve gotten used to where we are now.

This means we’ve had to look at new schools. Fortunately, our new house is very close to two schools in the Lester B Pearson School Board: one bilingual and one French immersion. As our guy is currently in French immersion, we decided to stick with that and we’ve begun the process of enrolling him in the new school, starting in September. He’ll continue to go to his current school until the end of the school year even after we’ve completed the move in late May. He’s also been enrolled in a day camp south of the Trans-Canada for the summer so we’re going to be doing a bit of extra driving this summer.

But as far as the school choice process went, that was it. The school is close to our house therefore that’s where he’s going. We didn’t do much more research beyond discovering that principal seemed like a nice person and they’re very good at keeping in touch with the parents.

Where I grew up, my elementary and junior high school were on the same street as me so guess where I went to school for nine years? School years were different in that Ancient Land, in the Before Times. And I’m pretty sure I wasn’t enrolled in French Immersion because that was at a different school and my parents couldn’t be arsed to bus me over there.

I mention this because a recent reddit thread took the position that West Island high schools are, by and large, terrible. This didn’t include elementary schools but there seemed to be a general agreement that parents tend to put their kids in private school because it’s cheap and the quality of the public drops as a result. Or something. And “cheap” by the original poster’s measure is somewhere between $4,000 and $12,000 which is a bit out of our budget range by approximately $4,000 to $12,000.

In fact, the very idea of even looking for schools beyond their proximity is a recent one for me but perhaps it’s because I’m from a small city and you just went to your neighbourhood school. Mind you, once I got to high school, I had a choice of going to neighbourhood high school or any other school in the area. I lived in the suburbs but chose to go the school in town because it had a better reputation (and because my elder siblings went there). So maybe getting picky about schools isn’t so new, at least when it comes to high schools and maybe the high school choice is more of an issue than the elementary school choice.

I don’t know if this is a general consensus among West Islanders who aren’t discussing education on reddit but it does make me wonder if we’re doing the right thing. Anyway, the West Island Mommies Facebook Group seems to like the school so I guess we’re ok. They have ice cream on Fridays and I hardly think those fancy pants posh private schools can say the same thing.


On Irish Origins, Yarmouth Blue, and the Price of Beer

Two weeks ago, we were in New Brunswick to visit friends and family. As I often do, I went through old photographs of my family in generations past to see if I could find anything new. This time, I found my aunt’s birth certificate from the 1930s. She died in the 1950s, years before I was born.

On the certificate, it listed the “racial origin” of her father as “Scotch,” and “Irish,” for her mother, aka my grandparents. My grandmother had complicated and difficult childhood, due to her own mother burying three husbands and before dying relatively young herself. At one point she was placed in a Catholic orphanage when she could find nobody in her extended family to take her.

All of this was relatively new to me as the only thing I really knew about my grandparents is that their families rejected them when they were married due to the religious differences: She was Catholic, he was Anglican (for my own part, my parents were married Anglican and baptised us Anglican but raised us in the United Church). There was more to the story: their eldest child was born out of wedlock and that, I think, was a bigger scandal than the religious one in 1920-whatever.

This is all to say that I’m discovering stuff about my family’s past as I get older that I had no idea about. Not because it’s all coming to light or something, but because I just never asked,

Elsewhere on the trip, I managed to see some friends I hadn’t seen in a while which was nice because in my day to day life these days, I don’t have a friend locally who I can just call up and go do something with. Many of my high school friends ended up in Toronto but I do have a few in town I should make an effort to see more of.

Now that we’ve bought a house, the plan to move back to NB is on hold. But in eight years, I will have been at my job 25 years. Retiring in my fifties and moving to a cheap part of the country might be nice way to spend a retirement. Not sure my Montreal-born son would ever forgive us for moving him back to the boonies, though.

Speaking of housing, I’ve had a few friends and co-workers tell me the only paint to buy is Benjamin Moore or Behr. I’m keen to do the majority of the house in Yarmouth Blue, which I saw in a Martha Stewart magazine and felt it really spoke to my WASP sense of taste. But I’m pretty sure we can find a close approximation somewhere else. But would we just be painting the dark red and brown (I know!) walls six times over because we bought cheaper paint? I dunno. If money were no object, I’d just hand the L.L. Bean home catalogue to an interior designer and say, “Make it look like that!” But then, if money were no object, we wouldn’t be buying a 44 year old condo townhouse.

It’s weird that the minute I signed to buy a house, that whole section of the magazine stand opened itself up to me where it was a blind spot in my field of vision for years.

Suddenly I am at once interested at intimidated by the concept of home renos. But I imagine I can tackle anything on a weekend with enough beer, a how to guide on YouTube, and decent tunes on the iPod.

Which brings me to one of the biggest impediments to moving back to NB: The price of beer is easily twice what you’d pay in Quebec. This is a shame because NB has some great brewers like Picaroons, Pumphouse, and the new Hammond River Brewing. Now, to be honest, I don’t drink beer like I once did. I like a pint now and again but I rarely keep it in the fridge (but I do love me some scotch). I just think a truly visionary government would make this their top priority instead of, you know, jobs and shit.

And then all those plans you make change…

Hey remember when I said I was going to take a stab at running again? Well, things are gonna be a little busy for the next little while so I’m not sure I’m going to have the spare to devote to taking up a new activity.

You see, last year was a big spending and traveling year with the trips to Florida and the United Kingdom as well as the purchase of a new-to-us car. I said that in 2014, we’re going to take it easy on ourselves and stay away from any big purchases.

So…uh…we kind of went and bought a house. 

We had been unofficially looking for ages and knew where we wanted to be/could afford but never made the jump because we always thought we were going to leave Montreal for the Maritimes to be closer to my family. However, last year I got a new job which acted a kind of a new start for me so we made the decision that we’re putting down roots here, at least until my retirement. Maybe.

We had a few things we wanted to find in a house:

  • West Island with no option to ever leave the island of Montreal
  • Access to public transit
  • Access to schools, shopping, services
  • A condo to help keep the pain of constant upkeep at bay
  • An asking price that would not make us cry

We found these things in Dollard-des-Ormeaux, a neighbourhood we’ve always sort of knew we’d buy in.

The process was actually very quick for us because we knew exactly what we wanted. We spent very little time looking at houses and in the end, chose an end-unit townhouse close to Sources. We move in May.

It’s a nice neighbourhood. Walking distance to Centennial Park, the Library, the Marché de l’Ouest, Five Guys, Adonis, a synagogue, and a Sikh and Hindu temple. And I think one of two of the last Cote-St-Luc BBQ chicken joints in Montreal.

Of course, our timing is never good. Yesterday, on CBC’s Radio Noon, host Monique Lacombe discussed the slowing of the Montreal housing market. There was some speculation that it had something to do the election, which was called one week after our offer was accepted. I don’t think it’s entirely election related but the uncertainty surrounding the possibility another referendum probably don’t help. I think it’s more likely a market correction but really, what do I know? 

I suppose if the prices were going to drop further, we could have waited but I’m 42. How much longer can I wait to buy property? I don’t want to be paying for a house when I’m 70.

Making a commitment to a 25 year mortgage is a statement of optimism that, in the long run, things are going to be ok and if they’re not, well, we’ll muddle through as we always do.


“Macleans Magazine: The new worry epidemic by Anne Kingston”

I admit to be being a worrier. I worry about finances, bills, my son’s happiness, my job, my weight, my family, things that may happen in the future, things that won’t happen, and the environment. 

It doesn’t provide me anything to worry, except for a diagnosis for “extreme anxiety” and a prescription for Cloneazapam for the occasional panic attacks that I get.

So it was interesting to read in Macleans that there are a lot of opinions about anxiety and worrying, and what’s the line between an actual disorder and the everyday challenges of modern life. Worrying anticipates possible dangers. Coping plans for them. And it’s always going to be a challenge to know the difference between the two.


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