Dispatches from the Swamp – the ‘cold and windy’ edition

  • I love my job but I have to say that I hate board meetings. They are getting better but still leave a lot to be desired. The only good thing is that they happen only once per month.
  • It is too freaking cold out there. I know that no one really listens to us Lower Mainlanders when we complain about the cold. personally, I don’t care. Minus 3 is damn cold here because it is so damp. The good news is that our drainage is working quite well. We still get some flooded areas in the heavy rain but it resolves quite quickly. This is a very good development. While me may live with mud for the winter, it does bode well for the spring and summer.
  • I am still amazed at how much I use my iPad. It is constantly with me. I no longer dread an hour long wait in doctor’s office anymore because I can play silly games like Ranch Rush 2. I read books on it, I read blogs, and, most importantly, I play Qrank everyday!


Weekend Crash and Burn

I usually don’t have to go in to work on a Monday. I have every other Monday off and I work at home on the alternate Mondays. Living with a chronic disease, that always has nasty surprises for me, I need to use my time off effectively. I love my job. I find it challenging and I have no intention quitting. A couple of times a year my doctor asks me why I continue to work. She says most of her patients with inflammatory bowel disease* do not work. So, my plan is to take it easy this weekend. I will stay home and hang out, watch tv and pet dogs.

*Ulcerative Colitis and Crohn’s Disease are the two most common types of inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD).

Dispatches from the Swamp – the ‘I am being stared at’ Edition

  • First, an update on Madison. She has gone from not weight-bearing on her right rear leg yesterday to going down the stairs by herself this morning. She is able to walk the length of the house now without stopping to lay down and rest on the way. To say that we are relieved would be an understatement. We lost 4 dogs last year and we are not ready to lose Madison. Besides, clearly Madison is not ready. Even when she was clearly in agony, she so desperately wanted to be with us that she would get up and try to come over.
  • Shihtzus have an amazing capacity to be singularly focused on what they want. Take Mabel, that dog once stood in front of the stove barking at a ham for over 90 minutes. Zoe has been staring at me for over an hour, without a break. She occasionally would paw my stomach, which was agony due to the cellulitis. I have to say that I really admire that level of perseverance. It seems to be a standard breed characteristic.
  • The best part of hiring staff is when you interview someone and you know, in the first 5 minutes that you have found the right person. What is even better is when the person you are interviewing with feels exactly the same way.

Dear Job Applicants

I have been reviewing resumes for two positions we have available where I work. To say that this is a frustrating endeavour would be the biggest understatement ever!!! I have developed this ‘Dear Applicant’ list in order to be of assistance to those of you who are applying for jobs and wonder why you never get a call back! This is only Part 1 of what I suspect will become a much longer post. Here are the first 7 points.

Dear Applicant – I would like to help you find your dream job. As someone who reviews resumes to fill positions on occasion, I have developed this list to assist you with this task. I am sure if you do not make any one of these classic errors you will succeed!

1.    Only apply to the email address provided. Do not and I repeat DO NOT show off your computer skills by finding every email address owned by the company and then send your resume to all of them. While some employers may be impressed by your ability to research the organization most will just be annoyed. Seriously this is a huge problem – at least 20% of the applicants for one position sent emails to almost everyone in the office. This meant that not only did I get the copy you sent to the correct email address, I then received no fewer than 3 other forwards because staff thought it was important that I receive them. If you can’t follow basic directions before you are hired how does this bode for afterwards?

2.    Do not put your picture on your resume. I don’t care what you look like. I am interested in your skills, what you can do and where you have worked before.          If I decide to short list you, I am going to be comparing the person in front of me with the picture. This will ultimately reduce the time I spend thinking about your skills and suitability for the job.

3.    Do not send your resume in word. Please convert it to a pdf. Why? Well it shows you can do it first of all. You never know what software is being used. While MS Word is ubiquitous someone may be using an older version and may not be able to open your .docx file. If I can’t open your file quickly I am not likely to spend a great deal of time trying to do so unless your email really grabbed me. The other reason to convert to pdf is that your resume contains personal information – information you may wish to ensure people don’t tamper with it. Yes, it is still possible to do this with a pdf but most people won’t bother to spend the time. Last, it shows an employer that you understand about document security. Where we are we don’t send anything out that electronically that has not been converted to a pdf.

4.    Try to tailor your resume to the position for which you are applying. Receiving a resume entitled ‘Jane’s new resume’ or ‘Bob’s security and office resume’ does not give me confidence. Even if the contents don’t change at least give it a meaningful title. Something like ‘Jane’s resume for ABC Company’ at least tells me that you thought about it.

5.    If you don’t exactly meet the job requirements then at least give me some idea that you understand about transferable skills. Tell me how you can fulfill what I am looking for especially when I have provided a complete job description for you to work from.

6.    Talking a lot about your religious beliefs and how you incorporate them into your work means your resume will not be considered. We live in a secular society and I cannot take the chance that you will proselytize to our very vulnerable clients. I need to know that you can separate your religious beliefs from your work obligations. If you don’t do that with your resume then Houston we have a problem.

7.    If you are trying to get a professional job please don’t use your teenage Hotmail account especially if you are in your 30s. Seriously seeing an email come from I’mapinkprincess@hotmail.com does not inspire confidence or show maturity.

Budgets, Budgets, Budgets

I have spent the last couple of weeks learning about budgeting and trying to figure out the finances at the non-profit where I work. I am sure many of your will find this all a little boring. This is the third round of budgeting I have done since starting work there. The first year, I compiled spreadsheets of the actual experiences for the first 8 months of the year and then extrapolated from there. In that first year it was looking at the funds (limited) against the revenues (many) and trying to make tough decisions. Last year things were much better financially so that made things much easier.

This year we have 3 accountants on our board who, along with me, comprise the finance committee. Most non-profits would be grateful to have one accountant let alone three. One of them in particular has been very helpful with the budgeting process. They have brought so much financial structure, reporting and a real sense of security to our organization, which ultimately, helps us to serve our clients better.

As I approached preparing the budget I did it in my usual way. This year I also had the benefit of a variance analysis report.* By using that report, I can see exactly what has been spent and when. Unlike last year we are not expecting any increases in funding yet facing budget pressures in several areas like rent, increased HST and a need for some increased staffing. Our client caseload has doubled in the last 2 years, so overall service delivery costs have increased.

Instead of budgeting the normal way, one of the accountants asked me to prepare an ‘Expected Value’ budget. In this kind of budget you take a conservative amount and a less conservative amount, determine a weighting (by percentage) and calculate. For example, you have a funding source that has given you $30,000 for the past 3 years. This year, based on your increased client load you are going to ask for $45,000. You decide that you have a 60% chance you are going to receive $30,000 and a 40% chance you will receive $45,000. You then multiply both numbers by their percentage and add the two numbers together. The sum gives you the ‘expected value.’ In this case the expected value would be $36,000. You do the same thing with expenses – especially the ones you can’t predict.

I may be weird but I really enjoyed doing this and learning this new process. I still used many of the same tools I had previously like various reports along with the needs of clients and staff within available funds. I thing this way of budgeting really provides a much more accurate picture of revenues and expenses. It also allows you to try and find a balance with variable revenue sources and expenses.


*A report of expenses vs budgeted amounts.

I just don’t understand…

At work, we currently have 2 vacancies. I have posted an ad with an email address for people to apply. Yet for some reason about 10% of the applicants have sent their resume to other email addresses. I am not sure why someone would do this. Note to job applicants out there: if you don’t follow basic, simple directions you are not likely to be considered for the job!


Apparently I have run out of luck the last several days. I am not sure why or what I did to piss off the cosmic gods but things are not going my way at all. I am generally a pretty easy person to get a long with. I don’t have unrealistic demands about service or what I expect from retailers. What I do expect though is to be treated politely and with respect.

Yesterday I had to attend a conference. I really did not want to drive in from Maple Ridge because traffic is so unpredictable we decided to stay in a hotel. The parking overnight at the hotel was $15 per night, per vehicle so instead of taking 2 cars I left mine close to the office. I decided to take a taxi to the venue as I was told that it was about 5 minutes a way. All was going well. We had a fantastic evening. I didn’t get enough sleep but enough to make it through the day. I was running a little slow but otherwise things were fine. That is, until I got into the taxi.

I went downstairs, found a taxi parked there and got in. I gave him the address 1 Athlete’s Way in the Olympic Village. He assured me he knew where that was and off we went. I had no idea where this place was and, in fact, I am really not at all familiar with False Creek or Granville Island. We got to what the driver said was the destination. It didn’t look new to me nor did it seem like what I was looking for. He assured me that it was 50 feet behind me and that he could not get in there because it would be too hard to get  out. Stupidly I got out. I walked around me and asked a few people where the Creekside Community Centre was located. I was finally told it was about a 20 minute walk from where I was. I was stranded. I had no idea where I was when I called Yellow Taxi. I was actually at 990 Lamey’s Mill Road. The only thing I could see was a sign for Charleson street. I am not going to go into too much more about this as it was extremely upsetting and I am going to complain to Yellow Taxi.

We had new flooring installed in 2007. We are still having issues with the installation and they still have one more thing to fix. In 3 years, I have likely called over 50 times, he says that he will  call me back with a plan and then never does. I have written letters with no results. Even though he told me they would fix the back porch flooring last week today he refused to do it. I don’t know what to do anymore. I guess it is on to the BBB.

My day completely sucked. I spent over 2 ½ hours in the bathroom. I feel very weak and shaky and on the verge of tears. Ulcerative colitis has completely changed my life, including how I cope with stress. Having developed an anxiety disorder because of ulcerative colitis I am constantly annoyed with how it impacts my life. It is like you just don’t have control over your reactions to situations. Some days I have just had enough. Today is one of those days so excuse the whine.

Dispatches from the Swamp – the Hell has Frozen over Edition

Oh my god! My mother is freaking out because Calgary has elected a Muslim mayor, Naheed Nenshi! When we talked him she did not really know anything about his platform. Her main concerns were that he was Muslim and not married. She went on to say that he got everyone in NE Calgary (code for visible minorities) to vote for him. She also blamed students because he used social media. My mother and I spar a lot over politics mostly she pushes my buttons and I correct her racist language.

Our drainage work is back on. They are laying the drain pipes, filling it in with gravel and putting the dirt back on top. I am really looking forward to it all being done. I hope we have a better winter. It already is less damp in the old part of the house.

I had a major grant application to finish this week. I really don’t know why I don’t just do it all early rather than working steadily and getting it done. Oh well, perhaps it is just human nature. I finished it today and will send it in tomorrow. There is always another grant application to try to not procrastinate.

We are a little worried about the dogs being left alone 3 days a week for several hours. They have been very spoiled for the last couple of years as they were rarely alone. Madison is our real concern as she is getting increasingly anxious because of her dementia. She gets upset when gates are closed and tries to destroy them so we have to leave them all open. So far, so good.

Dispatches from the Swamp – the Beef Stew Edition

You know it is autumn around here when I start making stew. Personally, I am not a big stew fan because I do not like all the root veggies that Deb does. I hate turnip and parsnips in particular. Plus she likes it really thick which I do not. Anyway, I do make good stew. We picked some blade roast at Hopcott as it was on sale for $3.99 a pound. Their beef is so tender, it does not seem to matter the cut. The beef is melt in your mouth good. The best part is that it is local, no antibiotics and humanely raised.

I made a video (I hate how I look on camera!) for the ‘It gets better’ campaign started by Dan Savage. The hope is that LGTB adults will make videos letting queer teens know it does get better. The purpose of the project is to talk to teens about what they are going through and letting them know there is help out there and hope for the future. Please spread the word.

Our yard is continuing to dry out. We are very hopeful about this process. Our contractor ensures us that we will have a useable lawn once he is done. We have decided not to hog fuel the yard when he is done. All of this is very hopeful!

I thought I was coming down with a cold. I had a really bad 7 or so hours and then it seemed to get better. However, my face is all broken out no doubt as a result of the virus. If you watch my video you will see what I am talking about.

I have to say that the last couple of days have been horrific pain wise. I am not sure why this is happening but I need it to end soon.

The dogs are all good. Madison has been getting a little more anxious lately. She pretty much needs to be with someone all the time. Closed gates really upset her and she takes it out on the drywall. Sawyer is continuing to mature and he is turning into a lovely little dog. Mollie is doing well. The cough medicine worked for her. Bella is also much improved. She seems to be back to her normal self. She is eating like a horse so I am hopeful she will put some weight back on and hopefully re-build her muscle mass. She is not giving Deb or Angelina any grief when they pill her. I got her some grain-free wet food as she was allergic to the other stuff.

Dispatches from the Swamp – the I am exhausted edition

I had a 2-day work thing over Friday evening and all day Saturday. It has exhausted me. I slept until noon and then I fell asleep in my chair. I guess Monday’s blood tests will tell me what is going on.

Molly’s cough is virtually gone. She is only coughing occasionally. No more than she normally does. This makes us all very happy. It is hard to watch an ancient dog cough all the time.

Bella also seems to be doing better. She goes for a re-check in a couple of weeks to make sure the medication is at the right level. Hopefully she gains back some of her muscle mass and weight. She did not have a UTI or crystals in her urine. If I have already blogged about this see above.

Dexter is on in 15 minutes. Gotta run!