turning forty

2013.03.03 (updated : 2013.03.06)

So it's happened, I've turned forty. Some enormous changes have come with it, and while there are new challenges I have to say: so far so good.

turning forty in interesting times

My 40th birthday came about ten weeks after we came to Canada, fleeing the economic instability in Japan. And only a matter of days before the great Tohoku earthquake in that country.

On the day, I celebrated with my just-turned-three-year-old son, my wife, and some close family. A quiet affair for a suddenly quiet time of life.

That year turned out to be a fairly difficult one. The process of acquiring Mari's permanent residence visa was an unexpectedly—and unnecessarily!—opaque and slow ordeal that took a ten month bite out of our lives. She couldn't work, and she couldn't go to school. Compounding the shift to her first foreign land, she was sidelined! And then she became pregnant, with no health insurance.

It didn't take me long to realize that I was going to have to start living according to a plan. I would have vomited at the idea of living according to a plan, back in my twenties. All I wanted in those days was to see something of the world, to learn all I could while doing fun things like software development, and to find the girl of my dreams. And I did those things.

But now it's about the kids. Providing for a family by relying on the vagueries of an IT career wasn't going to cut it anymore; I'd burned through half of my working career already, and while I'd chosen a life less ordinary I certainly saw a gap between my skill set and what the job market of the future was going to need. The days of greybeards in IT are over. I wasn't going to be able to rely on an IT career to see us through. So in the months following my 40th birthday, Mari and I sat down and put together a plan.

The first thing I did was take an introductory Marketing class, with an eye to taking a certificate in business administration. But that turned out to be a bit too introductory; I'd need something with a bit more meat.

At the same time, I was finding success in the risk management work I was doing. I was certainly having more of an effect on my small employer than I would in an IT capacity. Deciding I wanted to learn more, I turned to some industry contacts and hit upon a new strategy. One that would earn some much-needed credentials. And keep me in school for more than five long years. I'd start with the ubiquitous project management certification, the PMP; then I'd complete an internal audit certification; then an MBA, where I'll take all of the risk management electives I can.

It's now been two years since my 40th birthday, and living the life that would have made younger me vomit is coming along just fine. I did the PMP, I'm halfway through the CIA, and I've found an MBA program that I can afford and that suits my hectic schedule. I go to "networking functions" with the associations I've joined. I've learned an enormous amount.

It's paying off at work, where I'm scaling new heights. And I've been asked to sit on a panel of experts at a risk management convention, and I've contacted the president of an industry association about writing a book. And I've found that having a long term plan is great for overcoming the little struggles at work - they all seem trivially short-term. As I said; so far, so good.

Meanwhile, Mari's decided that what she needs is a business plan. Toronto may be a city of immigrants but it's not a city that value foreign experience. With no Canadian work experience, and with an immigrant's imperfect English, she's not going to be able to just slot into some employer in this market. So we're working on a plan that she can pursue from home as little Emma starts to get a bit older.

falling apart

One thing I didn't expect to come so soon was the raft of changes to my body. I needed a new prescription for my glasses this year: the strength bumped up fully 25%! And I'm scheduled for orthodontic surgery all of a sudden; it seems that I've got thin gums and after years of being told I have great teeth I've now got some exposed roots. And I can no longer do my daily push-ups without first doing stretches, or my neck and shoulder muscles will seize up and I'll get a migraine. And my back; it now hurts in no fewer than three places.

How did this happen to once-invincible me? Um, right, I've been toodling about since 1971, that's how. My son's doctor doesn't remember the cold war; I remember stuff that half the population is too young to have seen. I'm middle-aged!

Still, getting old beats the alternative.

too busy for friends

In Tokyo, in my late thirties, I had an active social life and several friends: probably more than I'd had at any other time in my life. Now I'm back in "work makes free" Toronto, and I don't see my few friends in the city very much (who has time to get together in busy, congested Toronto?). But it's great knowing that they're doing the things they want to do with themselves. They've settled into the sort of work they want to do, several having changed their work quite radically from earlier years. Like me, several have gone back to school. Some are raising kids, and the children mostly seem to have come relatively late in our lives - I see a lot of fellow greying forty-somethings watching four year olds run around in the parks. A few are really making their mark in their profession, those years of effort paying off. Everyone's insanely busy, but living with purpose.

On the whole, it's good. Yes, I'm middle-aged. And I like it.

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Hi Michael!

Got your email re: my blogger site—I have two—to shy to let you see the personal one just yet but here is the one where my family posts messages for my son who is in Sri Lanka www.dusterbuster.blogspot.com

Saw your list of greatest movies. Being in the film business, I would have posted it differently (not based on box office!) and it definitely would have included "Like Water for Chocolate".

On my way to Australia to get me a husband! Yes—the immigration papers finally came through!! He can officially become a landed immigrant. I am flying through Auckland this time—will miss Sydney all together which is too bad—really wanted to see the real impact of those fires.

Watch CBC Newsword on the 22nd at 7:00 PM! Rough Cuts is airing a documentary that I worked on—"Shipyard's Lament".

And give me your honest opinion!!

Iris Merritt
2002.01.16 00:00:00

Hiya, Iris. Missed your documentary, but I hope the husband worked out! ;)


Well, it all started when I was looking for advice on woodworking tools. Somehow I ended up at your site and got sucked in by all the interesting stuff. For some reason I read you're whole autobiography and pretty much spent the last 2 hours reading about YOU. So weird as it may sound, it feels like I kind of know you in a never met you kind of way.

I live in San Diego and never really ventured farther north than San Francisco or West Virginia. The idea that people live in the frozen tundra of Canada just blows my mind. I just like the warm weather I guess.

By the way, I'm 24 yrs old; so not too much younger than you. And yes, I do have a real life; just procrastinating studying or getting a good nights sleep is all. I have finals for school tomorrow. I go to UCSD. So, just thought I should say something since you have provided me with so much entertainment. Take care and good luck dealing with the jack-hammers!

2003.06.09 00:00:00

Yes, the tundra really is that unimaginable. But as long as you steer clear of the bears, wolves, and SARS, you're okay.

Good luck with the hunt for woodworking tools!


I dreamt a murder..............

I had this strange dream last night, it was almost real. In my dream I was at a person's birthday party...The location and atmosphere was vivid; the house was modern with fancy ceilings, and walls with portraits hung up. A fireplace made of marble with a glass door, large windows with white curtins and a wide staircase.....

Music played in the background but, was unidentified! In the large family-room crowds of young men and women talked amongs each other with beers and wine in one hand. I remember seeing two family dogs...particularilly pitbulls, they didn't bark at my presence. I thought it was strange that it wasn't

2003.09.10 00:00:00

Yes? Yes? Oh, don't leave us hanging!


Someone Raping Me

Last night I had this dream, where I went to this grocery store with a lot of my girl friends. We were just cruising the isles when I realized that I had seen my old next door neighboor with his girlfriend. I stopped to say hi to him and he returned the greeting. We got to talking and he told me about this really cool party. We all thought it sounded like a good idea so we went to the party and had a few drinks.

But then everything got really fuzzy and the next thing I know, was that I was naked next to a guy I had never seen before in my entire life. And that day I woke up was my birthday.

I left the house immediately without calling anyone and the cops were out in the apartment hall. They grabbed my shoulder and took me to a hospital where they checked me for HIV.

I tested positive and started cry. I never wanted to tell my parents, so I went to my party and was trying to have a good time. When all of my friends were about to sing happy birthday to me, they stood me up on the table, and started singing. Then the same guy who had raped me came in and I started crying.

My parents made me tell them what had happened and it seemed like they didn't even care about me. So I was just left alone and no one ever wanted to help me. No one would even talk to me about it.

Katherine Bynum
2002.11.14 00:00:00

Ugh. I'm going to take your word for it that this was really a dream? Or - even better - a prank?



I had this dream a while ago and the next night it continued. Rubble of houses and nature. I curled up in fright of the scene. War planes zoomed above me ,the skys dark grey. A boy, I knew him from my school. He guided me through the rubble to a hill by the state capitol. Half the valley was in flames and crators. The moon in shards above.(end of the night and I woke up, the next night it continued)I somehow got to a worknig TV, The whole US was in ruins. We were to evacuate immideatly before the enemy gets to us, but, who was our enemy? I awoke soon after.....is this just a dream to you?

2003.06.30 00:00:00

Phrew! I don't know what to say. Sounds a bit like a politically-inspired episode of one of those anime flicks.


In someone elses body....

Last night I dreamt that I was a girl.....dating this freak, some over protective loser.....

Yeah, pretty messed up huh? I mean, I did'nt do anything like that....Hell no, it was really wierd. It was like I was living someone elses life, I did'nt recognize anything that related to things that exist in my life........

The house that I was in was large, a rich home. Nothing like my house! Two dogs? I don't have pets!

Plus It was my birthday, people that I did'nt know were there, and what made it strange was that I was a girl who ahd broken up with some guy....

He came by to the party and asked me to go with him to the liqour store. He drove passed a isolated road at 90 miles per hour, and was menacing me with his fist.

I was emmotionally distrought, in conflict with him shouting "Stop your gonna kill us!" I guess he was jealous cuss he slapped my face.

I was in panic and horrified....I had never felt soo vunerable in a dream before. Soo fragile and powerless.....like I was'nt a man. Shit, it was messed up! It just was'nt me!

Anyways he tried to drive into a lake, atempting to kill me and himself. I turned the steering wheel rapidly to avoid disaster but,instead he pushed me towards the door, decided to change directions. He drove straight into a conctrete fence in someones back yard.

The man was killed on impact, and I was critically injured yet I still managed to pull him out of the car corpse and all. Police, investigaters, and ambulances surrounded the scene asking quetions......everything else was blurry....but I remember taking a bubble bath crying and all fucked up and emmotional.

2003.09.11 00:00:00

Bizarre. I guess the moral of the story is that a bubble bath will help even dreamtime ersatz women cope in a crisis.... ;)


Even Stranger A Dream

Last night I had the weirdest dream... And it's making real life today very unsettling... I had dreamt that my mother took very ill and was shrouded in a blanket in a loveseat, coughing, upon which she died. Seeing her corpse its was yellow and shriveled. My dad was situated near my dead mother and held her hand silently weeping even after death without release. Funeral... morning... next scene... We(father, sister, and I) were returned to my house, and at somepoint in a small isolated room. There was one door that had shut tight, and the room was filling with water, until it was filled. My dad and sister survived. My corpse was the palest of whites and still damp when I beheld it. Even though I was dead I still walked with the living and my dead mother was their with me. And slowly I made myself known to them, I spoke to my father, my sister( but befriefly), and various other family members. I was present in church and at the house of my girlfriend where I still expressed my undying love. So for the remainder more and more people accepted I was dead but still spoke of me as directly to me because at certain times they would feel my presence and be able to communicate, and at other times I was not acknowledge. But my girlfriend always spoke with me, even across the fone. We still continued the relationship after my death, but I had no hope of ever being revived and felt accordingly... What does this macabre dream imply?? Any insites would be appreciated

Dean Gunaj
2003.11.23 00:00:00

Heh! I have no insights. Sounds like a difficult dream, for sure.


the basement

I had a very strange dream last night.

Although I am not so sure it was a dream, I think I astral projected.

I was in my bed, and for some reason, I flew into the living room. I was suspended in air. I seen the door to the basement open up all by itself.

I floated over to the door and looked down the stairs. It was dark, but suddenly, the vacuum cleaner that doesn't work started up and I could hear it. It was moving on it's own and when it got to the bottom step, it stopped. Even in my dream, I was scared.

I slammed the door and locked it, and I remember leaning up against the door and hoping nothing would come out.

I woke up still afraid that something was in my basement.

2004.01.24 00:00:00



bizzare dream

I have dreams from time to time that leave me physically exhausted when i get up in the morning. By that i mean i feel like ive been in the gym for a few hours when all ive been doing is sleeping. Its so strange. It started with a dream that I was standing next to yuri gargarin? (first man in space) at the launch pad as he was about to go into space, the dream was in colour and in the dream i felt the g-forces that yuri felt as the rocket launched off the pad. I felt the weightlessness of being in space and when i woke up i was so tired and my body felt so sore that i could hardly walk. weird eh? p.s. i also have dreams where i can fast forward or rewind the dream like a vcr. is that common?

2004.07.06 00:00:00

Yuri Gregarin, cool!

I wish I could fast-forward or rewind, some times.


weird dream

I dreamt last night that i was sitting on a bridge, and then i went underneath the bridge and there was a pile of dirt. I was pushed into the dirt and held there, i was trying to move the dirt around with my hands to get free. It didnt work, i had gotten some of the dirt in my mouth during it all and when i woke this morning my hands had dirt on them and i could taste and rub some dirt off my tongue. (now i know it wasnt a joke by anyone my door was loked from the inside and my room is on the second floor.) what is this type of dream called and why does it happen?

2004.07.09 00:00:00

Called? Uh, I think it's called fncked up!


Bizarre dreams

Have bizarre dreams all the time and whats worse is that I remember them. Contantly have dream where I am dead but can come back to life—many different ways—usually being reconstitued with water (yea—weird I know). I think that has to do with needing to get 'living water' (the Bible—church) back in my life. The one that disturbs me the most is when I posses a dead person's body—that freaks me out—have no explaination execpt that maybe my own life is too boring? Third and last weird dream I had today—gave birth to very premie baby—isn't having sex necessary for that?!? Comments welcome, sorry, offers to make babies not accepted here.

Too Normal Looking
2004.07.15 00:00:00



Hey - I was just checking out your photography. You have a real talent there. Some of those pictures are very interesting. (Cute kids too). I just re-tooled my music studio. It's like going from Frankensteins's lab to a alien base on the moon. It's friggen' cosmic!

Kevin Atwood
2010.02.17 13:53:11

Thanks for that, Kevin! Good to hear that you're still working in (and on) the home studio.

We've just launched our business, by the way (see link in upper-right).


Just popping in to say hi, and to have a bit of a look around (looks like I could be looking a while).

2011.07.29 23:01:13



Hi Michael. It's been a while..... I hope you are doing great and you are happy in Japan. Good luck , Margaret

2011.11.07 05:09:18

Hello, Margaret! Thanks for writing.

I\'m back in Canada as of this January. We came back after two grueling years of the economic downturn in that country. Happily, it was about two months before the earthquake, tsunami, and the incident at the nuclear power plant.

How\'s everything on the west coast? I see the B&B\'s still on the go. 8)


wow. I'll bet he will remember it, too.

2012.08.19 21:03:52

This morning he was talking about a time that you and he and I and his mum went for a walk in a tunnel in a forest. After asking him a few more questions I think we're pretty sure that he was talking about the bamboo forest in Kyoto. When he was about nine months old. Does that make any sense at all?


this is pretty after the fact but it just came to my attention that there was a hello kitty hell website. i started reading comments and saw yours wondering if the canadian really made the hello kitty combat patch on his fatigues. i can assure you he did because i am his sister and i heard about it and saw pics of it back then!! just the irreverent family humour coming thru! there are only 2 patches and he was in afghanistan at the time. i was amused to see all sorts of kitty sacriliges on the website!! long live a warped sense of humour!! :) Chuckling Canuck

kat (not kitty!!)
2012.11.23 20:06:46

Good to know! Thanks for taking the time to write.

Is your brother back in Canada?


Michael, Thanks much for the shitlist! Spammers are the devil's spawn.

2013.10.22 09:46:02

Can't say it's been a pleasure to build, but I'm glad you found it useful James.


I have some question relating to jewelry photography and I was wondering if you might be kind enough to provide some insight. The article you wrote was great but there are still some question left unanswered Thank you

2014.12.31 15:00:32

Happy new year, Tony. I'm not sure that there's a lot more I can add about photographing jewelry, but what would you like to know?


Michael -

How does one get off your "shitlist"? The IP address of our car club's website and listserver (zmgna.org at xxx.xxx.xxx.xxx) appears on your shitlist. I don't know how or why it got there, but we are having random problems with our members not being able to get messages, and as far as I can determine, your list is the only SPAM list that includes our IP.

Chris Kotting
2015.06.29 00:00:00

Hi! You've just been removed from my list, but I know that others have picked mine up over the years and may still be doing so. Moreover, if you got on my list by spam being sent to my little domain, my guess is the IP was used for sending a spam to others. There are a wide number of blacklists out there.



That said, I've had a look at the following site, your IP came up clean.


No response from this one, but the lists look like the real deal, you might check each individually.


P.S. You're the first person to ever write to have an IP removed.


Hi, My husband is a Permanent Resident in Canada and were both filipinos. He sponsored me and submitted the application in CIC Mississauga. Is that what you mean inland? I:m currently in the Philippines waiting for the email of CIC since my husband submitted it last Sept 30, 2015. How long it would take to wait for there update regatding this?regarding

2015.11.24 15:55:34

It's been almost five years, but I believe that if you filed through Mississauga, you're in the outland process. The CIC website has good figures on the wait times by country.


As of today, that's 17 months, but that's after the "64 day" first setp (see the link near the top of the page).

You did the right thing by choosing the outland process. The inland process has a total of 27 months. And if your application is denied, you're finished!


All the best with your application Angelie.


Hi Michael. I'm from the Philippines and married to a Canadian Citizen. My husband have just submitted our spousal visa application. My concern is that I used my maiden name in the application. I plan to submit my updated Surname once I get my updated passport with my husband's surname. Do you think that they will consider the change during the application? If yes, when should I submit my updated passport? (Should I send it while the application is still in CPC or when it's in the visa office in country?) How can I submit the change of my surname? Will it delay the processing time?

2016.03.24 12:34:07


Thanks for writing. I don't know if it will delay your processing time. Whatever you do, make sure you tell the CPC about changes in your status as soon as possible. Surprising them with something like a name-change could be a show-stopper altogether: my (amateur) advice is not to risk it.

If you've already been told that your case has been sent on to the visa office in Manila, then I suggest you contact that office. I always found the in-country office more helpful than the general CPC help line in Canada. Try to find a website for the office in Manila and see if that offers any help.

Best of luck with your application. We've been in Canada for five years, now, we've had a daughter here and life is stable. It's worth the hassle!


Hi Michael, I am a Canadian but has been working in ASIA for the past 20 years. My son who is 13 years old is currently going to school in Canada, where my wife, a Japanese, is taking care my son in Canada on a visitor status. I applied the Outland spousal sponsorship last Oct and we got our "decision made" last week. While we are waiting for the COPR, I would like to ask do I, as the sponsor, need to return to Canada right away with my wife after she gets her PR? I have a job here in Asia which takes time for me to resign and I am not sure if they will start to deem me as a resident (from a tax perspective) right after my wife becomes a PR. Can I return to Canada on a later date and would it jeopardize my wife PR status?

2017.03.03 17:35:21

Hello, KK. I'd love to respond but you didn't provide your email address.

I am not an immigration specialist or a lawyer, but here goes:

You shouldn't need to accompany her, but it would be a good idea if your son were there: kids have a positive effect on these interactions.

Also, you only jeopardize the PR status if you don't show that you're living together. You don't have to be in Canada, but you do have to be together wherever you live, for the majority of each period they consider. The period changed recently, and will recently change again, so I won't quote the current statutes, you should look that up. This might be a good spot.



Hi Michael !

Rohito Bhambhani
2019.02.26 16:56:19

Why hello, Rohito. How nice to hear from you after all this time. How's the wife and kids?


Dear Michael: I was wondering if you could send me your old PR sponsorship story..was about six pages printed out, if I recall correctly. Perhaps you took it off your site as some of the info is out of date? I would still like to review it. Canadian, with a Japanese spouse, in Japan. We are legally divorced, as that was the only way for her to survive there. The Canadain Consulate, in Fukuoka, now defunct, lost our marriage registration, among other things. A Canadian woman I used to know, daugther of my parent's friends, is going through hell to get her British husband into Canada. Both had UN jobs in Europe, and the type to folow the rules. They sent him on a plane back to the UK one Xmas. Thanks for the very useful website. Regards, Timothy

Timothy Breitkreuz
2019.07.09 16:49:13

Hi, Timothy;

Thanks for reaching out. Yes, I took all that off the site when I rebuilt on the new domain because it was already eight years old. I'll see what I can dig up and will send that along.


rand()m quote

Unless you try to do something beyond what you have already mastered, you will never grow.

—Ralph Waldo Emerson