Death/End of Life, Need to prepare, Support Group, What to consider

Planning for the end of Life

Time passing concept

Welcome back blog readers,

I realize that I have not been as active writing or spending as much time on social media this last week. That’s mainly due to feeling under the weather and also trying to make an effort of not getting sucked into all of the negative drama that is posted on social media.

While I’m still not feeling 100%, I am inspired to write about a topic that is affecting my family, some members more so than others due to the varying stages of grief that are associated with death.

  • Denial
  • Anger
  • Bargaining
  • Depression
  • Acceptance

These stages are all part of the grieving process for both the person that has received the news about their health and for the surviving family members. A person may go through these stages in a different order, they may also revisit a stage. There isn’t a timeframe as each person will grieve differently and in their own time, to which is perfectly normal.

To better explain these stages.

https://grief.com/the-five-stages-of-grief/

While we all start our life in the same way, one egg one sperm, our end of life varies. For the most part, we either have a bit of a warning that our loved one has limited time left or things happen so quickly that there isn’t time to prepare, just immediate shock, and devastation.

The topic of Death still seems to be taboo, and many people still find it very uncomfortable to talk about. Death is a natural part of Life, and at some point, we all will mourn the loss of a loved one, just as our loved ones will mourn over the loss of us. Not talking about death won’t make it go away or make your grieving phase any easier. Knowing what to expect can make the process easier to go through because there is nothing to fear.

We tend to seek out information and books about what to expect when we are creating life, but we don’t put that same effort in when it comes time to dealing with the end of life. Medically, there are many resources that share information to help us make sense of the process from a scientific point of view. I suspect that religion and our beliefs in spirituality are what make the end of life process difficult to come to terms with. Nobody really knows. It’s mostly speculation and theories when talking about our soul/energy and what becomes of that after it leaves our body.

Medically/Scientifically, here is what happens to the human body:

Read about it here- https://www.verywellhealth.com/what-happens-to-my-body-right-after-i-die-1132498

Watch a short informative video here- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nUsdWOCPIQQ&feature=youtu.be&fbclid=IwAR3FGEmuAAXmZhEphv62AgXfLjyw2RWTnQX2aisWarmgpHtIt1Vx3JS3gNM

With spirituality and religion aside, it is important to talk with our loved ones about what kind of arrangements they want done after their death. Just as you should be voicing your concerns about you want done with your body. Often times the most difficult decision a family makes is coming to a decision about funeral arrangements, cremation, donating to science, or eco-friendly biodegradable options and where the money is to pay for these last expenses.

Having a Living Will or a Living Trust in place before your death will ease the burden on your family. Click here to learn more- https://www.thebalance.com/living-will-vs-living-trust-3505198

Most people have no idea about the costs associated with death are. In many cases, the costs are left up to the family to sort out at the last minute, and it puts a strain on their personal finances. The average funeral costs $7,200. That includes a viewing and burial, embalming, hearse, transfer of remains, service fee and more. It doesn’t, however, include the cost of, say, a catered luncheon with drinks after the memorial service or the copy of the death certificate.

If you are inclined to shop around, you might find this link helpful. https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0301-funeral-costs-and-pricing-checklist

Interested in the cost of Cremation? Check out your options here- https://www.neptunesociety.com/resources/what-does-cremation-cost

Once you’ve decided on what you want to be done, you may want to consider either setting the money aside for those expenses or making sure that you have a life insurance policy that will cover the cost plus a little extra to account for inflation. Many life insurance policies don’t cover a quarter of the funeral/burial expenses, something many families are left scrambling to make up with the difference.

My point is this, While many of us prepare for the new life that we are expecting (baby showers), we should also take the time to plan for our end of life. What your surviving family members want is closure after we’re gone, not a burden of debt due to a lack of planning. With life there is death, while it’s not fun to talk about, we should take time to consider what our final wishes are and who we entrust to make that happen on our behalf.

 

 

 

 

 

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Immigrants, Immigration Process, Living Abroad, Moving, Need to prepare, Speaking from Experience, What to consider

My Immigration Process, Part 2

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Welcome back blog readers,

Here is the continuation from yesterday’s blog post. I left off just having received my Visa that was permanently affixed to my passport and I was getting all of my ducks in a row before making the big move across the border.

I feel like I have to make this point again, you can’t just show up at the border with your belongings and expect entry and start your life in Canada without having gone through the proper process.

Here’s the link that I shared in the previous post, it’s the link I highly recommend that you use as your main resource for information.

https://www.canada.ca/en/immigration-refugees-citizenship/services/immigrate-canada.html

There is so much to consider when you now have the OK to move to another country.

  • Finding a place to live, establishing a permanent address.
  • Updating your address with the government, IRS, Banking, Social Security, Credit Card companies.
  • Having your mail delivery put on hold for a couple of weeks while you get settled/established.
  • PAY OFF YOUR DEBTS! I chose to consolidate all of my debts into one easy monthly payment. Back in 2008-2009 online banking and e-transferring was not as popular. I had to figure out how I was going to pay my debts in US funds while in Canada. I ended up creating two PayPal accounts, one attached to my US bank account and one in Canada attached to my new bank account. I was then able to transfer myself money back/forth until I no longer needed my US bank account (about 2 years later). I had to keep it open for pending tax returns and making automatic monthly payments to pay off my credit card debt in the USA.
  • Make sure you have enough money to cover you for a few months as you look for work and wait 2 weeks for your first paycheck. Most jobs pay bi-weekly in Canada, something to keep in mind. My first job up here paid on the 1st and the 15th, that took a bit to get used to after being paid every Friday. You’ll also have to show proof of the funds in your bank account(s), so have a print out of your last statement handy.
  • Downsize, sell or donate items that you can live without. If money is no object, then rent a U-haul or POD. In any case you will have to figure out which is the best way to move your belongings across the border. As for me, I was on a super tight budget and chose to sell the bigger furnature items. Actually, my husband was down with me helping me pack during this process. While I was at work, he was at my apartment wheeling and dealing selling just about everything that wasn’t nailed down. In fact, I came home on day from work and found that he had sold my bed, curtains for the bedroom window, my microwave and the cart, my TV and my couch. While the extra money was needed, I still had 2 weeks left before I was ready to move. We ended up sleeping on a twin air mattress and a pile of folded bath towels on the floor.
  • Schedule to cancel your utility services, Internet/cable/phone and make sure you pay your last bill.
  • Cell Phone: While I didn’t own one at this time, I suspect that you may want to look into an International Plan or buying a new SIM card once you get into Canada. Roaming charges will add up quickly unless you’re using skype, magic jack or a messenger app.
  • Tax Returns: Make sure that you have a copy of your tax returns (going back at least 7 years). I didn’t have the luxury of having them saved onto a USB drive as they were paper copies from H&R Block. In any case, make sure you can access them as you will be asked for that information when you apply for any line of credit in Canada.
  • Important paperwork: Birth cerificate(s), Social Security card(s), Marriage Certificate(s), Adoption Certificate(s), Divorce or other court documents of proof, Driver’s Ed proof of completion, Diploma(s), A copy of your medical history and refill your prescription(s), Vaccination record(s).
  • Pets: If you’re bringing your pet(s) they also need to go through the Import/Export process. Have their Vet/Medical history, make sure they are up to date on their vaccinations and refill their medication(s).
  • Vehicle insurance: Get a copy of your driving record as proof of your driving experience as you will need to have vehicle insurance in Canada. If you have a Drivers Education certificate, make a copy of that as well as that will be handy when applying for your new Canadian drivers license. Inform your insurance company of your intention to move and coordinate with them as far as making your last payment, returning your plates and cancelling your policy once you’ve established yourself in Canada, especially if you plan on driving your vehicle across the border.
  • Import/Export: While I did my best to research this before I packed up my car, there is a lot of misleading information as well as information that was not clear at the time. Learn from my experience and take from it what you will. You will need a complete itemized list of everything you are bringing across the border. Keep a copy for yourself and you will turn in a copy to the Customs agent. I chose to pack small boxes and with each box, I numbered the outside. I wrote down the contents, on the outside of each box I attached a copy of the contents, the second copy I kept together with the rest to hand over to Customs. The same thing with any backpacks or luggage, I attached a copy of the contents to the bag for my records and another copy of the contents was placed in the packet of the other lists of contents to be handed in to Customs.
  • Import/Export of your vehicle: Please keep in mind that this took place in November 2009, so it’s possible laws may have changed since then. I was able to find information about having to IMPORT my car into Canada, but I didn’t find anything solid about EXPORTING my car from the USA. I learned quickly once I arrived at the border. Canada did not require that I EXPORT my car from the USA before IMPORTING it. I was warned that the USA prefers that I do EXPORT my car and the issue that may come up from not EXPORTING my car from the USA is that if I cross the border (driving) into the USA and happen to get an agent that specializes in the IMPORT/EXPORT of vehicles after they notice my US passport with Canadian plates on my car, I may get fined and may be denied entry into the USA until I follow the EXPORT process. So, I simply didn’t cross the border in that car, crisis averted.

Here is the website I was directed to use from the Canadian Border agent to properly IMPORT my car.

https://www.riv.ca/importingavehicle.aspx

You may have more things to consider, especially if you have to sell your house, have other real estate or own your own business that you may have to dissolve. I can’t offer any advice on those concerns.

Now that we’ve successfully crossed the border and are ready to start our life in Canada, we’re not done yet. We still have to apply for a Permanent Resident Card which is mandatory to carry with you and have to show with your passport anytime you reenter Canada should you leave for any reason. This form of identification expires in 5 years and you will need to reapply/renew before it expires.

Being a permanent resident grants you all of the same rights as any Canadian citizen, with the exception that you can’t vote or be summoned to serve jury duty. You also can’t serve in the Canadian military and there are some government-funded benefits that you may not qualify for.

You also have to apply for your Social Insurance Number (SIN) which is the equivalent to the US Social Security card. You’ll need your SIN card to apply for jobs, open a bank account, apply for credit just as you needed your social security card for similar things. Keep your social security card as you will also need that, or at least the number to file your tax returns.

There is another important piece of information about filing taxes that needs to be clarified. Many Americans living abroad are under the misconception that they don’t have to file a tax return to the USA. This is only true if you renounce your American Citizenship and by renounce I mean you have to follow the process, file the paperwork pay the USA a hefty fee (close to $2,000 last I checked), and receive confirmation. Then and only then will you be exempt from filing a US tax return.

https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/legal/travel-legal-considerations/us-citizenship/Renunciation-US-Nationality-Abroad.html

Now it’s not to say that you actually OWE anything. If you are like me (most of us, middle class income) and you don’t own property, you don’t work in the USA, you don’t live in the USA, you don’t conduct business that results in income in the USA, then all you have to do is file a ZERO return. Filing basically states just what I mentioned above, you made nothing, you claim nothing, you owe nothing. This MUST be done when you file your Canadian (T4) taxes as a means of keeping the IRS informed, keeping them off of your back and remain in good standing with the USA because you are still a US citizen.

You are still a US citizen even if you apply to become a Canadian and obtain a Canadian passport. You will still have to file a zero return for the USA and file your regular taxes for Canada. You are now considered a DUAL citizen and hold 2 passports. You can stop renewing your permanent resident card at this point, but as long as you hold on to your US citizenship, you will be expected to file a tax return each and every year and yes, it’s still due April 15th even though you have until the end of April to file with Canada.

Renouncing your citizenship is a lengthly process as the USA wants to retain as many tax paying citizens as possible, even those living abroad. So they make the process long, costly and brutal. It’s just easier to file a few extra papers along with your Canadian taxes just to keep the peace.

As for me, I have thought about applying to become a Canadian Citizen as it makes sense to me. I don’t have any ties to the USA (besides a few family that I can visit whenever), I don’t own property, I don’t have financial ties (besides filing a zero return). Yes, I can still cast my vote for US Presidential candidates, but otherwise considering the state of the USA under its currant leader, I don’t see the point in maintaining my US citizenship. On the other hand, I don’t see the point of paying $2,000 (more like $2,600 if you consider the conversion from CAD to USD at today’s rates) just to get out from filing a few pieces of paper once a year. Even the cost of renewing my 10 year US passport is cheaper ($110 USD) considering that I might renew it 4 more times before I die or stop traveling to the USA. I’d rather pay the lesser fee and become a Canadian citizen, but that is my choice and not one that you have to make for yourself.

If you are a US citizen living abroad and would like more information about renouncing your citizenship, what it means, what are the pros and cons for your situation, if you are behind on filing your US tax returns then I encourage you to click the link below and contact a representive there.

https://www.moodysgartner.com/blog/

Since November of 2009, I have had to renew my Permanent Resident card once and renew my 10 year US Passport once. I am allowed to travel outside of Canada as long as I follow the same rules as Canadian citizens, we have to remain in Canada at least 6 months each year to maintain our status. I have to carry my permanent resident card with me along with my passport when I travel or when I expect to show proof of my status.

Now I have 2 US passports, both of which I have to carry as the first has my VISA and immigration landing document and the new passport, well it hasn’t expired as I just renewed it a few months ago. I will have to continue to carry both until I become a Canadian citizen; at which point I’ll only have to carry that one passport going forward.

That about sums up the immigration process if your going from the USA to Canada. I had no idea what I was getting into, what the process entailed or how long it would take. Knowing all of what I shared would have been super helpful because the not knowing was more frustrating than the waiting.

I’m happy to answer any questions or clarify if something I mentioned didn’t make sense. The link for the Canadian government website is truly a great resource to help you find work, answer questions about living in Canada and reassure you that not all Canadians live in igloos. That was a running joke from my former co-workers before I moved.

Actually most of the people live close to the border up to 2 hours away. Unless you live further North, then you better like the colder weather year round. Research the different Provinces, what the climate is like, what jobs are available, what the tax rate is (Ontario has a 13% sales tax while Alberta has a 5% sales tax) before you decide on which Province to settle in. Canada has so much to offer and if you have the means of coming up for a visit or a few visits, you should.

With that said, that has sparked another topic for a blog post… I won’t spoil it, you’ll have to come back to find out.

I hope that my experience has helped you to make your choice on whether immigrating to Canada is for you. At the very leas,t I hope that you have learned what the process is like for those of us that go through it legally and you know it’s an on going process to maintain our status. Please feel free to share, like, comment especially if you know someone that may be considering such a big move as they will have a better idea as to what to expect before going into this blind, like I did.

Have a great weekend!

Hannah, the international traveller.

 

 

Immigrants, Immigration Process, Living Abroad, Moving, Need to prepare, Speaking from Experience, What to consider

My Immigration Process

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Welcome back blog readers,

Today’s topic is about immigration, what you need to know and consider should you be thinking about immigrating from the United States to Canada. I will share my experiences and tips to help you get through this process. But first, here’s a link that will get you started. Most of your questions will be answered here, so please use this website as it is verified by the Canadian government and other websites may contain misleading information or may be a scam.

https://www.canada.ca/en/immigration-refugees-citizenship/services/immigrate-canada.html

There is so much information that you need to know before applying as an immigrant. First, How do you plan to apply? Do you have family in Canada that are willing to sponsor you?  Are you married to a Canadian citizen that can sponsor you? Are you coming to Canada to study in which there is a special student/study Visa required? Do you have a special trade skill or work experience that may qualify you to be sponsored by an employer? Are you a refugee seeking a safe place for you and your family to live?

Again, I will refer you to check out the link above. I was able to immigrate by means of meeting a Canadian citizen and falling in love. I did look into the special skill process, but my set of automotive skills/knowledge wasn’t enough to qualify, even though I had an employer that was interested in hiring me.

The first thing I should make clear is that you can’t just show up at the border and expect to be allowed entry and start your life in Canada. There is a process, there is a ton of paperwork, there is proof and documentation that is required, there is a medical exam that each member of your family will have to go through, there will be fees costing up to $1,000 and most importantly, you need a valid US passport. Expect this process to take up to 9 months to complete, maybe longer.

There was a packet of paperwork that we printed off, one set for me (the applicant) and another set for my husband (the sponsor).  Both applications, various forms of proof, and payment were all sent in one large envelope to begin the immigration process.

Here are some things that needed to be answered or required more documentation (proof).

  • All names (aliases) I have used, last names, maiden names, legal names
  • All addresses where I lived for the first 18 years of my life
  • Copies of my birth certificate, marriage certificate, copy of the picture page of my passport
  • I needed to obtain a copy of my fingerprints, FBI clearance to prove I didn’t have a criminal record or any outstanding warrants in any of the 50 states.
  • I had to seek a doctor (one approved by Canada which ended up being 2 hours away) to clear the medical exam, which was basically a physical, blood work and a “womanly exam” to ensure that I was not infectious and free of serious diseases and not trying to abuse the Universal Health Care that Canada offers.
  • Proof of our relationship, the marriage certificate was not enough, we needed to include photos, chat logs from skype and MSN messenger (2008), copies of emails that we exchanged, proof that our families knew/had met the other person. We sent in boarding passes and ticket stubs when my husband came down to visit me. We sent in receipts to prove that we bought joint items or gifts that we bought for each other. All to prove that we were in a legitimate relationship/marriage and weren’t trying to scam the government.

I suspect that if the proof we provided wasn’t enough to convince the immigration officer, that we would have been asked to come in for an interview. We were able to avoid that part of the process. Once we finally mailed out the large application packet and it was received, we were able to check the status online. My husband was approved to be my sponsor within the first week. Going through the paperwork (which we put in order, using paper clips as they requested) took them about 4-6 weeks. I did get a notification in the mail asking for me to resubmit my fingerprints as the first set were smudgy and there was a hiccup on one of the dates on the application. I inverted the last two numbers by mistake and had to correct it. Once completed, I sent that back to the immigration office. Another 4-6 weeks would pass before we received another notification in the mail, I was to send my actual passport in so they could affix my VISA to one of the pages before mailing that back to me.

Ladies, here’s a tip: Make sure that your passport is updated with your legal married name (if you took your spouses last name or hyphenated it). You want to send that updated version to have your Visa attached. Also make sure you get the correct sized passport photos taken. My first set were not taken properly and I had to get them retaken, wasting more time and adding to my frustration.

If my memory serves me well, I want to say that we started (mailed in the application packet) in February 2009 and I received my full passport back with affixed VISA in early October 2009, so about 8 months. Once I received that, it was a sigh of relief but it also meant I had a limited time to get my affairs in order, tie up loose ends, sell my belongings, seriously downsize and pack before actually crossing the border to live in Canada.

There is more information to share, but sadly the world of retail insists that I show up for my shift. I’ll come back tomorrow (on my day off) to share the rest of my experience.

Happy Friday! ~ Hannah

 

 

Cruises, Need to prepare, Speaking from Experience, Vacation, What to consider

Cruising 101

Welcome back blog readers,

Today’s topic is all about cruising and what you need to know or should consider before booking your vacation. As mentioned in a previous post, I don’t use notes or draft outlines, all posts are written as my inner monologue thinks it.

With cruising there is much to consider:

  • What’s your budget for your entire vacation? Including airfare, hotel, shuttle to/from the cruise port plus actual cash for tips.
  • Do you have a passport or require a passport for where you are going? Make sure you have at least 3 months left before it expires from the date you plan to travel.
  • Do any of the ports (countries) require vaccinations for Malaria, Typhoid and are you up to date on your Hep A, Hep B, Tetanus? If you require any of these or a booster this should be started 3 months before you plan to leave as some vaccines are given in stages.
  • Do a bit of research on the ports (cities in those countries) that you are visiting. Some may prohibit civilians from wearing camouflage (like Belize) because that is what their military wears. We didn’t know until we were on our excursion in Belize, better safe than sorry so leave your camo clothes at home.
  • Are you traveling alone, as a couple, a family with kids? There are cruises to accommodate every scenario.
  • Do I need to bring cash? YES! Bring at least $100 USD if you are traveling to the Caribbean, down the East/West coast of the United States, Mexico, Canada/New England and Central America. Most ports will accept Visa and Mastercard if you don’t have cash or they don’t accept US currency.

 

Now that you’ve decided on taking a cruise, where do you want to go? Which cruise line should I consider? The where and for how long is up to you. I can help with the Pros & Cons for various cruise lines.

  • Cruising solo, no expectations, just want to get away on an all-inclusive vacation. Any cruise line will work for you.
  • Cruising Solo or with friends: Maybe a Theme Cruise is something to consider, like the Walking Dead cruise or a Star Trek cruise, what about a celebrity cruise filled with heavy metal/ rock n’ roll/ country music played by the actual artist or meeting your favorite wrestler? Definitely a 21 and over crowd with lots of drinking and partying! Search Themed Cruises to find one that interests you. Here are a few links to get you started.

http://www.walkerstalkercruise.com/

https://www.celebritycruises.com/specialty-cruises/music-and-themed-cruises

  • Cruising as a family with kids: There are so many options available as most cruise lines offer a separate kids only area/section and members of the crew will look after the kids onboard and offer many activities to keep them busy while you relax by the pool with a cold drink in your hand.

https://disneycruise.disney.go.com/

Most cruise lines are kid-friendly and offer many family activities onboard like:

Water slides, wave pools, ziplining, rock wall climbing, bowling, wave riding, mini golf, arcade games, basketball, character parades and much more. Look into Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Norwegian, and Disney as they tend to be the better family friendly/kid friendly options.

As a side note: Holland America is a great cruise line, my favorite in fact. While they do offer Club HAL for the kids, their ships don’t have character parades, ziplining, wave pools, or water slides but the one thing Holland America does offer and the most other’s don’t are jars of baby food at the buffet. So if you’re traveling with an infant or toddler, then Holland America may be an option for you. Just something to consider as airport security has tightened up.

https://www.hollandamerica.com/en_US/cruise-ships.html

I have cruised on the Norwegian Epic (most recently), the Allure of the Seas from Royal Caribbean, The Carnival Legend and 3 ships from Holland America, the Westerdam, the Nieuw Amsterdam and the Eurodam. With that said my reviews/opinions are based on my experiences on these ships. Keep in mind that I have traveled with my husband, no kids and we are introverts in our early to late ’30s (non-smokers).

Norwegian Epic: Stateroom with balcony cruising the Western Caribbean/Central America on a 10 day cruise during early December 2018. A great ship for families with kids of any age. The outdoor deck had two pool areas, one with the waterslides and kiddie pool with lots of places to sunbathe. The other was an adult only area (until 6pm) with 2 hot tubs and a very large projector screen where movies and sports games could be watched. This section also served as a designated smoking section. There is so much to list, so here’s a link to give you a better idea.

https://www.ncl.com/ca/en/cruise-ship/epic

The ports were beautiful, lots of great shopping and excursion options. The food quality at the buffet was good, not great. The food options at the buffet again, good not great. Many hand sanitizer stations were available throughout the ship, especially at the buffet where there is a crew member at each entrance ready to greet you with “Washy Washy, Happy, Happy” as they are ready to squirt all those that enter with Purel. At the buffet you pretty much serve yourself, hence the need for the constant “washy washy”. Finding seats were like playing musical chairs, although you could take your food outside to the pool area or back to your room. I suggest if you are traveling with someone, one of you find a table while the other gets their food and returns to hold the table.

The internet package for 250 minutes (as a Canadian not having an international plan), hardly worth the money as it was more aggravating as we spent more time trying to log in/log out than we did actually having a good connection to do anything. The only place in our stateroom that had a decent connection was just behind the door next to the shower. Public areas were better for a connection, Port days were great as most people we off of the ship not sucking back the bandwidth. Early mornings and late evening were also better, less people awake. Days at sea were near impossible.

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My husband trying to get on to the ships’ internet as per his morning routine before breakfast. Like a kid being sent to the corner for punishment.

As for the shows and entertainment, half of the shows were not FREE (inclusive) and you have to reserve your seat and pay extra. The number of seats in the theater(s) are not enough to accommodate the guests that wanted to attend (the FREE shows). Many were left standing. Make sure you arrive 30 minutes before the FREE shows start to ensure you get a seat or can save enough seats for your party. Not impressed.

The Manhattan Dining Room: The food was good, not great definitely expected better. What typically happens with the dining rooms (My Time Dining/ inclusive meals) is that you can either reserve a table/time and show up each night, get to know the waitstaff or show up when you’re hungry, wait 20 minutes (sometimes longer) and get seated in a different section each time or with other guests if you don’t mind mingling.

  • One thing to note about dining anywhere that is not the buffet, is that 9 times out of 10 there is a dress code which is usually stated on the daily activity list that gets delivered to your stateroom each night to prepare you for the next day. Normally, the first day you arrive is a freebie and the dining room (may) allow you to wear very casual attire. This applies to all cruise lines that I have experienced.
  • Second thing to note about the dining room is that if you or anyone you are dining with has a food allergy, food sensitivity or any sort of food restriction, it is best to let the waiter know (as they don’t always ask). If there is something they should know, you are better off asking for a copy of the menu for the next day, picking out what you want, make substitutions if needed and have the waiter turn in your request to the chef (especially if you have a reserved time/table). This applies to all cruise lines that I have experienced.

Room Service, NOT INCLUSIVE on the Norwegian Epic. You are better off going to deck 15, getting what you want, hoping not to spill your drink or get bumped in the elevator as you stop at each floor and juggling for your room key card if you don’t want to pay the $7.95 fee. The only exception was ordering breakfast using the door hanger that you fill out the night before.

In fact most things on this ship had a *FEE attached including band-aids that can be purchased via vending maching on Deck 10. We were traveling with my sister in-law and her husband who had a Drink Package (free soda which is not inclusive and free alcohol with exceptions). Coffee is FREE, a shot of Bailey’s (for them) was FREE, ordering an Irish coffee, NOT FREE. They had to get their coffee from one to the drink stations, go to one of the bars or flag a server down for a shot of Bailey’s to then add to their coffee in order for it to be FREE. Be sure to read the fine print before buying any drink package from any cruise line.

The stateroom on this ship (The Epic), not a fan and so far our least favorite as far as the overall layout. While there is ample storage space; both shower and bathroom doors are loud to open/close and the curtain to pull across offers nothing to dampen the sound. If you are traveling alone, no worries. If you are traveling with someone, I hope you are not too shy to pee, poop, and fart in front of them. The Do Not Disturb sign will be your saving grace from being walked in on by housekeeping. Our room was set up exactly like the room in the video. From what I understand this ship was designed to appeal to the European cruisers (hence why the guy in the video doesn’t mind the layout). Since the European cruising market had too many ships/not enough passengers to fill them, the Epic was brought to North America. Many North Americans are not too keen on the set up.

In reality how much time do you anticipate spending in your stateroom? Hopefully not much since the TV has 18 channels, one for TV shows, one for movies (the same 3 that play over and over), Two news channels and the rest are ship related, Shopping at Port, Shopping onboard, Excursions, Navigation, What to do/Where to go in the event of an emergency, Onboard game shows playing on repeat that you watched on your first night, The view from the Bridge which is great until the sun goes down then it’s a view of pitch blackness outside, The onboard Pay-per-View movies ($9.95 each) be warned that some of those same movies are shown for FREE on the big screen outside or in the theater.

Compared to the Balcony Stateroom on Holland America (my favorite). Why is Holland America my favorite? It’s due to the many little things that this cruise line offers that the others don’t. Robes in your stateroom, I love them and wear mine every morning on the balcony. A fruit bowl that you can get refilled with fresh fruit, also a nice touch as I am the first one to wake up, sometimes 2 hours before my husband, so it’s a great start to my day. Put on the robe, grab an apple or pear and sit out on the balcony watching the sunrise. The turn down service includes chocolates on your pillow. Holland America is the only line (of the 4) that offers a Happy Hour (at 2 bars) buy one get one free from 4pm to 5pm.

Compared to Allure of the Seas… We had an actual balcony over looking the sea, not overlooking the Boardwalk. Something to note when considering an interior balcony, the balconies are not soundproof. You will hear the music playing until 1am.  One thing to consider of you decide to go with the Allure of the Seas, the interior balcony over the boardwalk will give you a great view of the Aqua theater shows that the rest of us chumps had to reserve seating. Just something to keep in mind. If you prefer a quieter room with a view, go with an exterior view of the sea instead. It’s ironic that the largest ship had the smallest bathroom in the stateroom and they don’t come with complimentary shampoo, conditioner, body wash. So pack our own or opt to spend $14 USD on a regular sized bottle of shampoo at the gift shop.

It wouldn’t be fair to compare the Ocean view room on the Carnival Legend as we opted not to go with a balcony for our Alaskan cruise. We figured it would be too cold to spend time out there at the end of April/early May and we were right. The room had a good sized window to which I was able to get some amazing picture from. Like the picture below, notice how close to the water we are? Not too shabby from the ocean view window.

Jaw Drop Point
Jaw Drop Point, a scenic view as we slowly cruised through Glacier Bay.

Tip for first time cruisers: Research the ship, the layout and the rooms before booking. Many rooms appear in a Youtube video to give you a better idea. If you are unsure as to whether or not you might suffer from motion sickness, I suggest a room mid-ship. Rooms at the very front (forward) or back (aft) lower than the balconies tend to be noisy when docking at ports when the anchors are dropped/pulled up. You are more likely to feel the motion of the ocean as well.

To be continued…

Self-Doubt, Speaking from Experience, Stigma/Taboo, Venting, What to consider

To the Misfits, Underdogs, Loners and Black Sheep…

To the Misfits, Underdogs, Loners and Black Sheep… You are my kind of people!

These groups of people are the ones that I can and do identify with as well as the creative introverts. Many of us struggle to fit in with our peers, to be accepted for our contributions and the ideas that we bring to the table. We put ourselves out there and hope that we are not ridiculed, teased, laughed at or bullied for being ourselves.

While in high school (a time when most of us are still trying to figure out where we fit in), I decided to go against the grain as I typically do if given the option and decided that I was not going to learn a trade that 95% of the other girls were going to do. Most girls join Allied Health (aka Butt wipers in high school hence the immature nickname), but rather I decided to join Automotive Technology because that was more interesting to me.

I knew my choice wouldn’t sit well with other people, and I knew there would be a backlash of snide comments, rumors and some might wonder what my motive was. There was no motive, I wasn’t interested in dating the guys (in fact I didn’t date any guy from any grade in that program), I knew I would risk being teased/harassed/bullied (which I was for the entire 4 years), but I did it for me, for my own knowledge. I didn’t have a father figure, or anyone for that matter to teach me about vehicle maintenance/safety and I didn’t want to get screwed over for being helpless woman that doesn’t know any better. There was a part of me that also wanted to prove that I could do it when there had not been 1 female to successfully finish the program and I wanted to inspire girls that they could join a male dominant trade no matter what anyone else thinks.

During my senior the automotive program went from 1 female (me) to having 2 in the junior class, 3 in the sophomore class and 3 or 4 in the freshman class. I had a chance to speak with most of these girls during their exploratory week (the time when the freshmen experience each trade to see if it’s a good fit) and they felt the same as I did. They had an interest in a male dominant trade but were afraid to be the only female. It only took 1 black sheep to prove that we (young females) don’t have to follow the rest of the herd when it comes to our education/choosing a profession.

While on the topic of high school and the cliques/groups that we are all too familiar with, I didn’t fit in with any of them. I was not popular (which is code for girly girl/cheerleader, every guy wanting me, every girl wanting to be me, prom queen). I was not a jock, while I was a decent athlete I was always underrated and next to last to being picked (due to my lack of coolness/popularity). I wasn’t a stoner (smoker, drug user, party until you puke). I wasn’t a nerd even though I was a friend to most. I was a loner and sat by myself at lunch; since I was approachable and sympathetic I was often joined by other loners, misfits, outcasts and a few nerd friends. As an introvert, I don’t have an issue being alone or sitting quietly not feeling the need to be the center of attention. In fact the less attention the better.

Creativity comes in many forms from writing books, poetry, writing music, being musically inclined, painting, designing bridges, photography, graphic design even applying makeup and styling your hair. All forms of art are subjective and there is no right or wrong, only do or don’t. Being creative is a self-expression which is open to interpretation and not everyone will “get it” and that’s okay. It’s more important to appreciate what has been created because it takes courage to bare your soul and share that part of you.

Even amongst authors/writers/poets there are many cliques with their rules and standards as to who and what they will accept to join/promote. I had joined a few upon releasing my book to gain insight from those with more experience. I found that there may be a handful of people that do take the time to share their insight, most just want to brag about how well they are doing while avoid answering your question(s). Those that aren’t bragging and rubbing our noses in it, are busy being dramatic. I have since removed myself from such groups as they only cause me stress and their views are not aligned with my own.

I write for me. I find it therapeutic and I don’t require guidelines/standards, specific word counts to do so. I refuse to compromise my style of writing to fit inside impossible parameters that are made up by others to follow. I’ll keep doing my own thing, if you get it, Great!  If you don’t, that’s okay too.

It’s okay not to follow the crowd. It’s okay to follow your own path even if you have to clear that path yourself. It’s okay not to fit in or be associated with a certain group. It’s better to be yourself than to compromise who you are or what you believe. You are unique and it’s okay to embrace that individuality.

While this idea for a blog post has been something I had considered a few months ago, there was something I read this morning that gave me the little push to get this out there. (Thanks Anthony)

Be creative, Be you, you don’t have to be a follower. ~ Hannah

Moving, Need to prepare, What to consider

Planning a big move?

Unpakt-Moving-Quote

I have a few friends that have been pondering whether or not to make a long distance move with their family. As a person that has made four cross-country moves, I have tips to share on this topic.

On a quick side note, I don’t make notes or write up drafts for any of my posts. Everything you read is a stream of consciousness and completely off of the top of my head. So in no particular order, let’s get started.

Moving, in general, can be stressful and most of us try to avoid moving at all. But life happens, sometimes our neighbors suck, our jobs might require a change of scenery, our past continues to haunt us in our current location. We know that there has got to be something better out there, but we may not have the courage to leave and take that first step because all that we know is right here. Our family, friends, and memories are right here.

Moving around town or up to an hour away isn’t so bad. Moving out of state, out of the province, or out of the country (I’ve done them all) and there is much more to consider and prepare before packing up your belongings and moving. In this post, I’ll discuss the out of state and out of province moves and leave the topic of immigration for another post.

Here is a list of things/items you will want to have copies (originals) of before you move.

  • Birth Certificate, long form if you have the option. Get copies for each person in your household. There may be a small fee and you may have to go in person to verify your identity. You may get lucky and have to option to get them online or by phone and have it mailed to you.
  • Driving Record from your insurance company. Especially if you have a clean record, no accidents or traffic violations. Talk to your insurance agent, let them know that you are planning to move out of the area and that you will require a Letter from them stating that you paid your monthly payments on time, you are in good standing and need a copy of your driving record. Also, if you completed Driver’s Ed and have a certificate, make a copy of that as well. These items will keep you in good standing, in the sense that you will not be treated as a new driver with no experience in your new location.
  • Marriage license/certificates, it’s a good idea to have a few copies just in case.
  • Vaccination records and Medical history, this applies to everyone in the household. Schools will require it when you’re ready to register your kids. These days your medical history can be transferred online, but it’s good to have the address and contact information from all of the doctors and specialists that you have seen. Don’t forget about the dentist, chiropractor, and veterinarian.
  • Pets, make sure they are up to date with their rabies, distemper and any other vaccinations. Most places will require that you register your dog(s) and you should find out if the new location has a limit as to how many dogs you can have.
  • Letters of Recommendation, If you are renting and have been a stellar tenant that has paid the rent on time and you’re not a slob, perhaps your landlord will provide a letter of recommendation for you. While this is not required to move, it certainly wouldn’t hurt to have. Also having one from your boss, co-worker, a neighbor might help when looking to find a place to rent or come in handy when looking for employment. Again, not a must-have, but definitely good to have if you can acquire it.
  • Medications, while this doesn’t fit under the topic of copies, you should try to get a refill of your prescription(s) and have them ready for pick up a few days before you move, as you might not be able to find a new doctor right away. Expect to be put on a waiting list. If you can get a month or two months worth without an issue, get it refilled.
  • Tax Returns for the last 7 years, whether you have the original on paper or you can scan it to a USB drive, it’s important that you have this with you when you move.

 

Let’s move on to discuss things to consider before you move. Not so much about where and when as that is ultimately up to you to decide. Again, in no particular order…

  • Job, Career, Self-Employed, Business Owner: I hope that you will do a bit of research on the job market for the area(s) you are considering moving to.  It’s time to update your resume’ and update your Linkedin, Indeed, Monster, Workopolis profiles. Are you in a position to be able to transfer from your current job to another location with the same company? If you are a business owner, what is required of you to close/dissolve your business before you leave and what is required for you to restart your business in a new location? If you are self-employed or work from home, are you able to put together a portfolio to showcase your work? Can you continue working seamlessly? Would you benefit from customer reviews/testimonies?
  • Bank Account/Funds/Debts: Does your bank have branches in your new location? If not, then you will have to be creative in order to transfer funds in order to pay bills that are set to come out automatically each month. Luckily things have changed, technology gets better and it’s easier to transfer money from one account to another. Out of country money transferring is tricky and I’ll cover that in the immigration post. The point is, make sure that your debts/loans are able to be paid without too much of a disruption. If you suspect that you might have a hard time, contact the company (ies) and let them know and they will be more willing to work with you and they may overlook any late fees or interest payments because you contacted them first. Debt consolidation may be an option and will reduce multiple payments per month down to 1 easy payment per month.
  • Change of address/phone number: Changing your address online is easy, especially if you already receive statements online. If you don’t, I recommend that you opt in for that. Yes, it may be time consuming to go through all of the sites but the most important places to focus on are the DMV (Registry of Motor Vehicles) for your driver’s license and vehicle registration, Insurance (home, vehicle, life, boat, RV and health), Loans ( mortgage, student, vehicle), IRS ( Government for tax collection purposes). Lastly, WORK, make sure your employer or human resource manager has your new address on file so they can forward your tax forms and any other paperwork to you.
  • Utilities/Services: Water, Electricity (Hydro), Propane, Natural gas, Phone, Cable, Internet, Septic/Sewer. If these services are not set up online, I suggest that you do for easy automatic payments until you cancel your service(s). Don’t forget to notify all of them to let them know to either shut off the service or when to transfer the service to the new tenant. If the same company is available in your new location, you may have the option of transferring service out there when you are ready. On a quick note, if you require an internet connection (work from home, for example) do yourself a favor and make sure that you can get a good reliable connection with the speed that you require.
  • Moving Company/PODS/U-HAUL or Minimalistic: I suppose this depends on your funds and how much you intend to take with you. I won’t lie, moving can be very expensive, especially if your employer isn’t offering to cover the cost. There are pros and cons to each option, but I’ll let you decide for yourself.
  • Air Miles/Travel Points/AAA or CAA: Utilizing the benefits from any or all of these will save you a bit of stress. If you have credit cards that earn points/perks for gas or hotel lodging great! Are you a member of AAA/CAA the auto club that can assist if you get a flat tire, need a bit of gas, need a tow? Great! Use your memberships to your advantage if you need to book a hotel while you are driving to your new location or while you are finding a rental. Many people overlook these perks. I’ve used them to save money and earn free lodging during my long distance moves.

Please keep in mind that the lists above just cover the basics. Cities, States, Provinces, and your families needs will vary from my experience (no kids to consider or health requirements). I trust that you will do the research and make the best choice for you and your family.

My cross country moves were from Massachusetts to Florida then back after two years. I went with the minimalistic approach and packed whatever could fit in the bed of my truck and drove. I was young (late teens early 20’s) and didn’t require anything more where I was staying. I did the same thing when I moved back two years later.

I’ve moved internationally from Massachusetts to Alberta, Canada (as a legal immigrant/permanent resident). I was in my late 20’s early 30’s living in a one bedroom tiny apartment, sold/donated the big items. I packed the important papers, photos, clothes, some towels/bedding. Basically whatever could fit in my Saturn SL2 while still allowing me to see out of all the windows and use the rear view mirror was brought over the border with me. That will be 5 days of driving that I won’t soon forget. For those of you planning that same drive, do it before the snow falls.

My move from Alberta to Ontario was a bit different. I upgraded the Saturn SL2 to a Dodge Caliber with a bit more room. While we opted to drive the entire way (again) that meant we had to downsize (again). This time it wasn’t just my belongings it was also my husband’s things and he insisted that we keep the 42″ LG flatscreen TV that we bought less than 6 months ago (at the time). We sold items on Kijiji, we donated items to the Goodwill down the street, we packed smaller boxes and shipped them (Purolator) to Ontario because we had a family connection and my husband spent the night before planning exactly how to pack the rest into the Caliber to ensure the TV was coming with us on the 5 day journey.

During our two years in Alberta, we acquired many air miles that we used to book our nights at various Best Westerns between Alberta and Ontario. I worked at a dealership and some of the associates got together to start a collection (knowing how expensive it is to move) and the money they gifted us paid for the gas for the 5 day drive across Canada. I think we even had enough in air miles to get a gift card for Shell worth $25 which also helped. We had family in the area (Ontario) that helped us acquire an apartment and secured it for us to ensure we had a place to move into when we arrived. We were smarter this time and made the journey in the summer, not the middle of Alberta Clipper season.

Our last few moves have been more local, a few minutes down the road to 30 minutes out of town. Both moves we opted to use a moving company. We have since upgraded from a 2-bedroom highrise apartment to a 3-bedroom townhouse, to a 2-bedroom +1/ 2 bathroom house. My point is, that while it will take time to refurnish and buy things to make your home feel like YOUR home, don’t be discouraged if you have to downsize. Keep the important things, the things that you can’t replace and take that with you because the rest is just stuff, unimportant stuff.

If you have to downsize it’s worth looking into the community buy/sell pages online to find what you need. Tag sales, yard sales, garage sales, flea markets, Salvation Army and other thrift stores are your new best friend if you are low on funds. It’s worth shopping at the Dollar stores for canned goods, pasta, sauces, snacks until you can get back on your feet. There are many great deals out there, you just have to open your mind and look for them.

Just know that one day a year or two from now, you will be a in a position to donate many of the items that you bought from the thrift stores. You will be helping folks in the same manner that others have helped you (indirectly). It’s all a matter of perspective. I’m happy to think that the countless items that I donated have helped others to get back on their feet. Maybe one of my items brought a sense of comfort to a young girl that is having a hard time adjusting to her first move, she spots the pretty unicorn lamp that I donated, turn out she needs a lamp next to her bed and now it brings a smile to her face each time she turns it on.

I can see that I’ve gone on for over 2,200 words at this point. As a self-proclaimed professional long distance mover, I am happy to answer any questions on this matter.

Just keep in mind that the family and friends that really do care, they will make an effort to visit you. As for the rest of them, there is Skype, Facebook and Facetime.

Good Luck future movers! ~ Hannah