My Augusta Horribilis
I received a Facebook message today from a friend. The first few lines read as follows: “Hi Dan, I’m not seeing much of the ‘real’ you around, and I’m guessing the new book is taking up much of your time. Hopefully you’ve had a great summer, and the goats are well.”
My friend meant well—and there was more to the message further down—but to be truthful, it was my breaking point. Or perhaps I cracked when an employee of a moving company blindly walked out from his truck into my bicycle riding path today. Crash. Ouch! Either way, my friend was right. The “real” me has not been around much on social media.
It’s hard to fathom the past 30 days or so. My reticence to be myself on social media was related to what I’m about to share. In part I believe it’s due to the “shiny happy people” syndrome that afflicts social media users. Everyone is trying to keep up with the Joneses of happiness. Facebook is arguably the worst. It’s all rather boring. My abandonment is likely related but I’ll have to write about it another day.
For now it’s me, naked, opining about my Augusta Horribilis. I share it with you in this space because I like to think of myself as being a real human being, with faults, issues, idiosyncrasies and enemies. I love myself, don’t get me wrong, but there are oodles of things I’m still working on. Writing seems to be a cathartic way in which to become whole. I am not looking for pity, rather, (perhaps) using this medium as a way for others to learn from my mistakes. “We’re not here to see through each other; we’re here to see each other through.”
The month started out splendidly. Our second born turned 12 on July 28, a Friday, and then we were off to Nanoose Bay for a 3-week holiday. The tiny hamlet of Nanoose is located just north of Nanaimo, British Columbia on Vancouver Island. Door-to-door it’s about a two-hour drive from our home in Victoria. A glorious Oceanside house awaited us. No neighbours, only deer and hares. To be fair there were seals and orcas too, but I digress. After flying just over 100,000 miles between January and the end of July, I was ready for an unplugged family holiday that bathed in West-facing sunsets, fresh fish purchased off the boat, good books and wine. Glorious wine!
Calamity Number One
Calamity number one (of, ahem, three) started about seven days into the trip.
Denise received a phone call from a friend that was checking in on our Victoria house while we were away in Nanoose. The conversation went something like this. “Denise, hi. Umm, you are not going to believe this, but there is about a foot of water in your basement.”
Denise is my infinitely better half. True to form, before she could explain exactly what was happening she shot out the door—a bit like Clark Kent does when he has to turn into Superman to save Earth from freaky looking aliens—and headed back to Victoria to sort out the catastrophe.
Someone had to stay behind to pick up one of our goats later that night from a soccer tournament. Also, who would protect the deer? Who would bark back at the seals? Who would ride the orcas? There was also an open bottle of wine to finish. (If you are downright confused, goats is a term of endearment for our children, and yes, Denise is the “handyman” in our relationship.)
As it turns out, we are well versed at floods. Professionals you might say. After all, this was our fourth. (No, not a typo.) My favourite flood—when you have four, you are able to rank them—came on July 1, 2013. A pipe burst on the second floor of our Vancouver home, and, well, as we were sleeping in the basement it began to rain. Inside the house. It was not pretty. Scratch that, it was very pretty. How many times does it rain inside your house? There was even a rainbow. Don’t believe me? Check out the footage below.
Back to flood #4. Back to Augusta Horribilis. Denise was providing me with up-to-the-minute status reports via text, photos, videos and phone calls. The plumbers, restoration company, mayor and paperboy could not get over the amount of water that was piping through our sump pumps.
That’s right, I pluralized sump pump. We have three. One in the garage, with a back-up pump for emergency purposes. There is also one in our basement. The good news? I know what a sump pump is for. The bad news? Both sump pumps in the garage failed, causing external drain water from the perimeter drains around the house to leak into the basement. But was that water ever clear. You could see right through it.
But that’s a good question you just asked. “How did two sump pumps fail at the same time?”
Before I answer it, did you know that the restoration company called in a water removal tanker to clear the garage sump pump area of water and sludge? It did. Take a guess at how many gallons of water and sludge it cleared out of the sump pump area?
A City official showed up with a glint in his eye. “The historical records of this area shows a natural spring running under your property. The reason your sump pumps failed was due to iron ore build-up. The iron ore is as a result of the natural spring. You need to get your sump pump(s) and perimeter drains serviced every six months. That’s why your perimeter drains got clogged and flooded your basement.”
He went on to say that had we inquired with the City when we purchased the house in 2011 about historical records, we would have discovered this information. Of course the people we bought the house off of in 2011 did not disclose this information to us. And I had no idea one was supposed to check on the historical information of a property with City Hall before purchase. (Irony? The individual we bought the home from was the developer/builder of the house, who had lived in it for two years prior. Ouch!)
So, to this moment, our basement remains unusable as the drywall is missing, the floor has been ripped out, and there is no bathroom. In other words, it looks as though North Korea has landed one of their “we’re not sure where it’s going” missiles on our basement.
The cost? If you include the deductible, the replacement sump pumps, the labour to fix the sump pumps, and the newly rewired DEFCON alarm system to prevent a calamity like this from ever happening again, the total bill is $12,000. None of the aforementioned is covered by insurance. So the lesson learned here kids is when buying a home, always check with City Hall and their historical records. You never know if there may be a catacomb tunneled underneath your property with not-so-dead mummies.
The good news is there is no way for this to ever happen again. The new system is literally waterproof. Further, we hired six kindergarten children to work for us underground. Their job is to bottle the water from the natural spring. We lower them down into the sump pump area every morning, and bring them back at night. If they’re productive there are snacks. It’s about 60 feet below ground, but they seem fine. Everyone gets Sundays off. We’re selling the water for $5/bottle and paying the children $1/hr. It works out splendidly in terms of net profit.
Calamity Number Two
If you enjoy irony of the dripping sort, we’re also in the middle of building a new home. Building a house is one of those bucket list items of ours, although I just realized I should not be using “bucket” and “house” in the same sentence ever again.
Gack! I shouldn’t use the word dripping either.
Thankfully those kindergarten children are now helping to pay for the new house.
About a week after Calamity Number One while still on holiday in Nanoose, I received a call from my banker. (Just saying that word out loud feels downright naughty.) Banker.
He said, “Dan, umm, I’ve got good news and bad news. I’ve managed to save you about $300,000 on your house build. The bad news is you can’t start as planned next week.”
In February of this year we purchased a property in Victoria that was dreamy. West-facing backyard. A block from Willows Beach, a glorious spot in the Victoria area. There were only six houses on the street. It was perfect! We interviewed a few developers and chose one that we thought was going to steer us in the right direction of our dream home.
Over the next several months up until the beginning of July we worked on the plans. Being a “design guy” I took the lead. Denise provided feedback, but abdicated most of the responsibility to me. She fixes things, I design things that usually break. That’s basically our relationship in a nutshell.
I must say, it is a sexy, open-concept, respectful home. I can’t wait to move in at some point next century.
Not ever having built a house, I simply thought this was the normal pace of development. It turns out, it’s not. Furthermore, after the plans were submitted to City Hall for approval in early July, a budget finally landed in my inbox from the developer. I thought this was the normal process. Being naïve and a bit clueless, I took it at face value and submitted the budget to my banker. (What a word!)
He thanked me for it, and began to work on various valuations of our existing property and the future home.
When I received that call from him a week after Calamity Number One I thought the world was ending. How could this be? How could I have been led astray?
The demolition of the house did not happen. It sits in its dilapidated 1940’s glory yearning to be put out of its misery. Why? (For the record, we cannot lift it and move the building elsewhere.) My banker said he would not approve a construction mortgage based on the proposed budget. Although everyone in our family was excited to watch the “demo” and get on with the build, it has become a calamity-turned-good-news-story.
The house will be built. But it will be built nearly $300,000 cheaper. Our family will be thankful for it in the long run. (We’ll be able to afford their university tuition, for example.) But what a letdown, and what a disappointment to not be moving in next June 1, 2018 … which was the original plan.
The lesson? Don’t expect a developer to be looking out for your best interests. I really wanted to believe them, I wanted them to be that collaborative partner who understood we wanted a “nice” home, not an extravagant home. Sadly, it didn’t happen. I love Ford’s and I definitely don’t need a Mercedes-Benz. It’s just not my style, or my ride.
Calamity Number Three
While Calamity Number One has cost us roughly $12,000, Calamity Number Two has really only cost us time. Not too calamitous, really. This too shall pass.
Calamity Number Three will wind up costing me $50,000.
Yer right, it has not been a good month.
On top of having the time of my life as Chief Envisioner at TELUS, I am an author and speaker. These roles wind up overlapping, but if anyone ever approached me and asked if I’m in the “sweet spot” of personal, organizational and role purpose, you can bet your bottom dollar, pound or euro that I would scream “yes!”
I am very fortunate.
But that does not mean I am immune to bullshit in my professional life. Case in point a few days ago, to top off my Augusta Horribilis. I present to you Calamity Number Three.
I was informed by my book publisher that the entire staff had been laid off. After piecing together what was going on, it became clear to me my publisher was in the process of going insolvent.
My heart went out to the fine people that worked there. They are “salt of the earth” folks who likely did not see it coming. Like with the floods, I am very good at publishing houses being closed down. Four floods, and two publishing houses so far. When I published my first book, FLAT ARMY, that same month in May of 2013 I was informed the Wiley Toronto publishing house was being “shuttered.” The good people that believed in me were being shown the door, and I was being punted to an American office. It did not end well.
I found myself shopping around for a new publisher. I knew I had several more books to write, so I wanted to be a part of a familial publishing office again. I landed at what I believed to be as close to a facsimile of Wiley Toronto as was possible.
My second book, THE PURPOSE EFFECT, published with Elevate Publishing based in Boise, Idaho. It was splendid. The experience was fabulous. I thoroughly enjoyed the process, their care, attention to detail, and commitment to be a partner. I raved about them so much I pointed four future authors toward Elevate. Each of them signed with the firm. Imagine my guilt when I received news of its imminent closure this week.
I bought back the rights to FLAT ARMY from the Wiley mother ship and placed its trust with my new publisher. After THE PURPOSE EFFECT released in May of 2016, I immediately began work on my next project, OPEN to THINK. Of course Elevate was the publisher again. Why change? Three books, and likely more to come.
Between May of 2016 and August of 2017, OPEN to THINK was written. I had my trusty independent editor, Richard Martin, at my side and Elevate was there to back the copy editing, indexing, typesetting, cover design, graphic design and of course production and distribution. All was going according to plan.
The book was finished with all of its final copy edits, and we began working on the production pieces. Cover, art, bio, book description, etc. A rough draft of the cover can be found to the right. (Open to your feedback now.)
OPEN to THINK was scheduled to release April 10, 2018. There is even an Amazon page.
Last week, the Elevate team stopped answering my emails. Any phone call into the office was either not returned, or a strange telecom “not in service” message was relayed.
Imagine how low my heart sank when I received an email from the CEO about the company’s troubles. Picture me thinking about a conversation I had with the CEO last year. “Don’t worry about paying me any royalties for the January-June period of 2016, you can get me on the next one. I trust ya.”
“The next one” was due on June 30, 2017 for the book selling period between July and December, 2016.
I didn’t even inquire until last week. I thought it was normal.
So, not only have I not been paid a dime for the release of THE PURPOSE EFFECT, I do not have my third book coming out next April 10, 2018 which is already written and ready to release. Between the royalties, other investments and inventory, I am out approximately $50,000.
The good news?
If you are looking to have a flood or a publisher to go belly-up, look no further than ringing me up.
Seriously though, there are good people out there. I have already discussed my options, and I hope to have good news in short order. I have no idea if I will ever see my missing $50,000, but that is for another day.
My royalties were supposed to pay for our family Xmas holiday to Oz which had already been booked in April of this year. Somehow I need to make the trip still happen. I wouldn’t ever want to disappoint the goats, but disappointment is a factor in life. Denise and I already let them know that there will be no Xmas gifts this year. They were shocked, nonetheless. We were blunt: “It’s how you handle the hurdles in life that defines who you are.” Life lessons are to be transparent in our house, not kept a secret.
Even if there are three hurdles in 20 days to jump over.
Take it from me, life can really suck at times. Always read the fine print, go the extra mile in terms of due diligence, don’t trust people “just because that’s your expectations, quid pro quo,” and always always always remember there are good people out there.
Never doubt your faith in humanity despite what might go wrong in your life.
And life does go wrong. Always.
But Calamities One, Two and Three have taught a lot about myself in Augusta Horribilis. In a masochistically weird way, I’m kinda thankful for what happened. I am better for it. I’m selling spring water, will eventually move into a new home, and will also eventually have a new, trusty publisher. OPEN to THINK will publish in 2018! (I wish you could preorder it, but, alas, you can’t.)
Finally, a request for everyone. Be a little more real on social media. We all have shitty months.
To my Facebook friend, I will (eventually) answer your questions. Thanks for pinging me.
As always, to you the reader, thanks for reading. Much love.
No pity, please.
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