Spring 2021

For any update recently I would be remiss if I did not write that “the ‘COVID’ year continues”. As described previously, the majority of 2020 (starting March) and 2021 so far we are still solidly in the midst of a pandemic. Happily our outlook is that things seem to be getting under control etc with vaccines and we can maybe see the light at the end of the tunnel. I think we all have a sense that hopefully in the next months/year we’ll be able to return to more normal life. I’ll write about vaccinations a bit later but first, what has been going on?

Melissa has continued her time in Girl Guides. How does that work in the long nights of winter/early-March when there has been required social distancing? Well, her guide troupe continues to meet virtually using Discord, a multi-point video conferencing application. Meetings have seen her making models (one night was spiders made out of corks) and doing biology/chemistry research (one night they were extracting DNA from bananas). As we got a bit further along into spring and the days got a bit longer and evenings a bit warmer (late April/early May), meetings returned to a bit more traditional style and the troupe returned to meeting in person in Confederation park. Still socially distanced, each girl generally sitting on their own orange Home Depot bucket. I really shouldn’t imply they were just “sitting”, one night it was building shelters out of tarps, another night it was hiking a portion of the Trans-Canada Trail (along with garbage bags doing trail cleanup). As this 20/21 Girl Guides year winds down it is the end of Melissa’s 6th year in the guiding program. She is already signed up for her first year in Pathfinders starting next year, continuing out of the same location.

Kayla hasn’t been in guiding this past year, but has been weekly continuing to attend (virtual) weekly piano lessons. She is progressing well. She isn’t focusing on Royal Conservatory of Music tests and grades as she says it just takes too much time to focus on only a few songs, and enjoys playing a wider variety of songs and music in the year. Her main chosen style this past year is jazz. For music, Melissa is continuing as well with her (virtual) weekly accordion lessons. Melissa got a new accordion (new to her as “old” accordions are generally the best) from an accordion store in Victoria (delivered through the mail). With Melissa now finishing more than three years of lessons, it seemed sensible to upgrade her accordion, as her “starter” accordion had always had an air leak through the bellows making it tough to play the phrasing which she should be able to. Hopefully with vaccines getting into the arms of Canadians the last few months, both girls will be able to continue their lessons non-virtually and be able to attend lessons with their instructors weekly in real life.

For those of us living through this past year of COVID, isn’t it amazing how healthcare technology has managed to find a vaccine that works and has been developed and is going in to arms all in the last year. You know what other healthcare technology is amazing? Insulin pumps! As some of you may know, I’ve been diabetic for a very long time, and have been on an insulin pump for the last 13 years or so. I think I wrote a web site entry about it not long after going on to it and how it had improved quality of life, with more flexibility to eat when and what I wanted. I have to say there wasn’t significant technical improvements though since I went on that pump in 2008 until recently. Last fall I got a new insulin pump, the Tandem T-Slim X2, which sadly isn’t covered by the BC Pharmacare plan yet (I guess they’re focussed on COVID). Luckily I do have extended medical and got this new pump. Unlike pumps of old which were delivered with the features present when the pump was delivered, and stayed the same until you replaced it (probably every 5 years or so), this one can be software upgraded over the life of it, and I did my first upgrade in mid/late March. What a huge improvement! The pump pays attention to a continuous glucose monitor that I also wear, and adjusts insulin throughout the day to match where my blood sugar is going. I still have to tell it when I’m eating food (since it is quite the latent effect between eating something and having your blood sugar go up), and I still tell it that I’m doing some exercise (since it can take a while for exercise to cause BG to go down after exercising), or that I’m sleeping, but by doing those not too hard things it does a relatively brilliant job of keeping my blood sugar where I want it to be. I had almost a month of use of the upgrade while I was still skiing/snowboarding/snowshoeing three times a week up at Seymour, and it was greatly helpful as I didn’t have to manually stop and manually adjust my insulin rate. It’s a great upgrade!

So yes, we did continue heavily with snow sports as the winter came to a close. It was one thing that Glen really appreciated, as outings to Mount Seymour continued to give some good strenuous activity, outdoors with wide open spaces, automatic social distancing, and everyone easily wearing masks. Sundays generally would be Glen and both girls, and quite often friends Layla and Tristan. A few times it was less, with occasionally just Melissa or Kayla with Glen. Saturday afternoons were sometimes skiing, but often snowshoeing, usually with Spot along. Then a weeknight, usually Wednesday night, but sometimes a Tuesday or Thursday, Glen would go up, sometimes skiing but more frequently as the season wore on for some snowboarding. Occasionally Melissa would come along as well, but more frequently it was just Kayla and Glen. The first night in probably five years that Glen had his snowboard out the bindings ripped off (it was a 30 year old snowboard after all), but since it was a bit of a legacy board, the fellow working in the Seymour service desk was happy to buy it at a reasonable price, allowing Glen to buy himself a new (to him) prior season’s demo board a few weeks later. So admittedly on the night the board broken, it was just a night with only Glen at the mountain, and everyone was surprised when he was home so much sooner than usual. Glen quite reliably got up to the mountain 3 times every week. Kayla made it many times for 3 times a week, giving Glen the amusement of saying she had a workout “8 days a week” — all because Kayla’s school being on a quarter system meant she took 2 courses at a time for 2½ months, and one of her courses as the ski season was ending was gym, so she had 3 hours of gym 5 days a week, plus of course 3 strenuous exercise outings to Mount Seymour, resulting in the joke of activity “8 days a week”.

So as mentioned, Kayla has been spending her grade 8 year on the quarter system, with gym and social studies from February through mid-April, and now math and science from mid-April through to the end of the year in late June. She has been doing very well in her schooling, keeping up with her assignments which allows her to get not only good grades but also nice comments from the teachers she has had. Melissa too has been doing well in school. There is a yearly math contest that occurs in grades 5, 6, and 7 each year (except for last when they called it off due to the unexpected changes that COVID forced). The grade 5 contest is called the Abel contest, the grade 6 is the Mirzakhani, and the grade 7 (national) contest is the Gauss. Melissa this year competed in the Mirzakhani and spent much time practicing her math leading up to the test, and her effort paid off as we recently learned she got the best mark in her school.

From an extra curricular perspective, Kayla got onto the school grade 8 Ultimate team and attended practice and games after school twice a week for the last few months. They had their final games this past week, and for the first time all year her team lost so came in second (but got a team spirit award anyway), earning Kayla and her team a box of Timbits.

A bit outside of school, Kayla has been taking part in the Teen Advisory Group at the Burnaby Public Library. The description of this group is “… for teens who want to make the library better for themselves and other teens. The library belongs to teens as much as anyone else in the community, so we want to know what you’d like to see from us–whether it’s physical space, stuff you can borrow, programs you wish we had, or places you wish we visited.” It has been Zoom meetings this past year, but I imagine when COVID concerns are over it will return to in person meetings in addition to the virtual attendance necessary this past year.

Around home, we have taken up a new tradition the last few months, where we have family nights a couple of times a month. We have a scheduled rotation where each (human) family member gets to choose the meal/events that the family will take part in. It’s regularly scheduled for a Sunday evening, between 5:00 and 9:00pm. We’ve had simple pizza nights, movie nights, fish and chips, bocce, ladder ball, and volleyball in the yard, neighbourhood walks, greek food, BBQ, fancy deserts, kangaroo pie, sushi, game nights, etc. Ideas floating around that haven’t yet been able to happen either due to weather or to COVID concerns are a night of climbing, golfing at the Kensington Pitch and Putt. I (Glen) have the luck of picking the events for tonight, but am at a total loss since the weather is terrible today (we are in the first weekend of June currently).

The best man from our wedding, Dave, along with his wife Miriam and family, all who have been living in Edmonton for the last 15 years or so, are this summer moving back to the lower mainland. They found a good job here in the lower mainland which she will start at in the fall. So even though they still live in Edmonton, they have been looking for a place to move to the last few months as well as searching for a school their boy, same age as Kayla, to attend. Real estate (and rentals) in the lower mainland have been quite out of control the last few years, and so they have been struggling for a few months to find something to rent. We’ve gone to look at a few places at their request, but they’ve been snapped up. This past week they finally managed to get a 1 year agreement for renting a house in North Vancouver. No chance for extension due to the plan being for the house to be torn down in a year. Thank goodness we have a place settled we can call home.

The last place Dave phoned for us to look at was surprisingly a house we had just walked by on an urban hike we were on. We’ve been doing a lot of hiking these last few months since the ski season ended. Public Health Authority restrictions in place due to COVID these past few months meant we all need to stay close to home (we’ve been recommended that we don’t even travel “a city” away), so we have done a lot of walks around where we live. Thankfully we live in a good neighbourhood that has lots of interesting hikes. We’ve walked around Burnaby Lake a few times, even though it is close we have been avoiding Deer Lake since it gets too busy for comfort, we have hiked up and around Burnaby Mountain. As keen hikers too, we have been joined by friends Tristan and Layla. There has been an annual challenge the last few years where Burnaby challenges New Westminster in an event called Walk 30. Individuals or as part of a team you can sign up and take part where for your city you try to walk the most minutes per day, hopefully at least 30 minutes each and every day. It was Kayla this year who was on the ball and aware of what was going on in the community and pointed out to us that we should sign up. So Melissa joined her school team, filled mostly with teachers, while Kayla and I joined as individuals. Because of this, we quite reliably get out for at least 1 walk every day for the last month. I think I’ve only had one day where I didn’t walk for 30 minutes, and that was on a day where it was pouring rain all day. Spot, who loves walks, enjoys every one of them.

So how is Spot? As you may know, as a COVID dog who arrived with us as a youngster at the height of the first wave necessitating social distancing, he never got socialized at the right age for interacting with people. So he continues to be a challenge for acting nicely when around strangers. We’ve got his anxiety of walking past people and other dogs mostly solved, so so long as we keep walking we’ve got no concerns. Stopping to talk to people, or having anybody into our house (such as Shirley — not a lot of visitors this past year) can still be a problem. We’ve consulted with our trainer Marilyn who confirms we’re probably on the right track and doing as well as we can. We’ll just keep working on him. He still loves to run, and when we’ve taken him to the dog park still is one of the fastest dogs around. Although it’s probably not his favourite thing to do, he can act fine as a lap dog. What is his favourite thing? Well, food, but I’m sure that’s no surprise to anyone who has ever had a dog. Walks and hikes. That too is no surprise. He’s still enamored with Kayla, and follows her around. But as you know Kayla does a lot of reading, so what does Spot do when she is reading? One of his favourite things to do when in the house and there’s not much else to do is to look out the window. We joke that it is his big screen TV. He likes to watch first thing in the morning, all day when Glen is downstairs working, and into the evening. He gets a bit excited (but don’t many sports enthusiasts watching their game on the big screen?) when somebody (human, dog, or bird) goes by.

So as briefly mentioned, it seems as if the worst of COVID may be over (at least we hope so) as vaccines do seem to be working and getting into arms. Susan’s mom was one of the first getting a Pfizer shot in early March, Glen’s parents also Pfizer in later March, Glen himself as a diabetic got moved up in priority and got a Pfizer shot in early April, and Glen’s brother Jim and wife Ellen managed to get a very hard to get Astra Zenneca shot when they first became available in pharmacies, in early May Susan got a Moderna shot, and just yesterday on this first weekend in June both Kayla and Melissa got a Pfizer shot. Glen’s parents got their second doses just in the last few days. Glen himself is scheduled to receive his second shot later this week. With current timelines it’ll probably be early July when Susan gets her second, and probably early August when Kayla and Melissa get theirs. Spot himself a week or two ago was in at the vet getting vaccines, just not the COVID type but standard canine vaccines for things such as rabies, so things are looking up.

Something we hope doesn’t go up is inflation, but in some ways it won’t be surprising if it does with the Canadian government as well as other governments around the world pretty well having to print money to keep economies from crashing. As part of a safeguard against inflation making material goods feel outrageously expensive, and for the reasons that a) Kayla is likely to be at home with us for somewhere between 4 to 10 years, (b) Melissa for between 6 to 12 years, (c) a desire to drive to places in the Yukon, Alaska, and North West Territories sometime in the next few years (which are all places that don’t have continuous cel coverage), (d) still wanting to be able to tow our tent-trailer, (e) still needing to tow our boat to launch it, (f) improvements in fuel mileage in regular ICE (internal combustion engine) vechicles, (g) the fact our current vehicle meeting all these criteria is more than 12 years old and will likely need to be replaced sometime in the next few years and vehicles DURING inflation are one of the things that are very expensive, (h) current hybrid or EV vehicles that can tow our trailer and boat are very expensive, (i) my prediction that for an average vehicle that would be able to tow that would be hybrid and/or EV at an affordable price is likely to happen early 2030s but almost certainly by 2040; means that if we leave our Kia Borrego to “expire” at probably the more natural end of it’s attractive life to us, in say next 5 years, that would put us at a terrible time to need to buy another ICE vehicle to meet the listed criteria (being possibly in an inflationary time) PLUS being a time that would be just a few years before hybrids/EVs likely would meet the criteria, we decided it sensible to probably replace our big vehicle now. For that reason we’ve negotiated to buy a new Kia Telluride and have put in an order after paying a down payment. Telluride’s are notoriously difficult to buy off the lot, so putting in a factory order was necessary. A silver SX. The fact it will take likely a good few months is actually very attractive to us because it is locking in our price, yet not giving us the vehicle for quite a few months (as we said, by many measures our Borrego doesn’t need replacing yet). I’m actually wondering what will happen because there is currently a world-wide silicon shortage that is causing chips to be unavailable at traditional prices (start of inflation?) and is causing vehicle manufacturers difficulties in building their vehicles (such as definitely the Telluride) that are dependent on this high technology. So if things go well, we should probably take delivery of our new big vehicle this fall. No rush on our part, we’re just glad we have been able to lock in our price (crossing our fingers that other than needing to wait which is what we want, all the rest goes well with our plan).

So what’s upcoming? Well, both Kayla and Melissa in the last few weeks have taken up Martial Arts. They are currently at White Belt level, and have been attending classes twice per week at Master Gee’s Black Belt Academy. Unlike many traditional schools (dojo’s) that focus on one martial art, with the head of this academy having multiple black belts in Tae Kwon Do, Hapkido, Jiu Jitsu, Modern Ninjutsu, and Kickboxing; as well as being the Canadian representative on the American Martial Arts Organization, this school focuses not on just one style but more of mixed martial arts.

With the province opening up in the coming weeks, we look forward to getting to our cabin, and seeing Glen’s parents in person for the first time since last summer. In the past half year we threw around a lot of ideas on how to spend our vacation time, including the possibility of making this year be the year that we went north to see some territories, but the uncertainty of how the world will open, and the fact that must sees such as the Liard River Hot Springs in Northern BC (near the Yukon border) have been closed the last year due to COVID, it just seemed too much risk to plan such a big trip when there was no guarantee that things would be open as we would like them to be. So we decided we would spend a few weeks at our cabin and look forward to that.