Need a Better Work/Life Balance

Well Sunshine, I can already tell that today is going to be one damn rough day! I woke up this morning and couldn’t exactly use my right arm. At first, I thought I just slept on it funny had a kink in my neck and shoulder. As the morning wore on, the pain got worse though. My mother told me to just take a really hot shower, and that would help loosen me up. Oh, she could not have been more wrong!

I was trapped in the shower for almost 40 minutes because of the pain. It didn’t matter which hand I used when I tried to turn the faucet handle pain shot through my arm and neck to the point where I was immobilized. I was standing there, head up against the wall, bawling my eyes out and howling in pain, while hot water was pouring down on me. With my head propped against the wall, I somehow managed to turn off the shower with my foot after more than half a dozen attempts. I dried myself off, attempted to put my pj’s back on, and bawled my eyes out as I made my way back to the bedroom.

Thankfully, the Amazingly Awesome Boyfriend came home from work in the middle of this. He knows that I have a pretty high pain tolerance, and he looked pretty damn scared to see me crying in pain like that. I managed to put on my deodorant and coconut oil, but it took both of us to try and get some clothes on me. He tried to rub my back and shoulder for me a bit, but the pain was so intense I almost threw up on him. So after checking the hours of local clinics, he convinced me to call in sick to work so he could take me to the urgent care clinic.

I’m stubborn, so I never go to clinics. Usually, I just check WebMD, laugh at their diagnosis, and then just power through whatever is wrong with me. Today WebMD said I have two types of meningitis, West Nile (again), Lyme disease, a dislocated shoulder, and a broken neck. I don’t know what I was expecting, but I was a little disappointed with my visit to the clinic today. WebMD was definitely more fun! The doctor didn’t exam my shoulder and neck and didn’t even touch me.  She just asked me a few questions and sent me out of there with a few prescriptions. I have some pretty nice pain pills and a muscle relaxant I can take to help me sleep.

So today has been pretty strange. It hurts to move much, and I’ve cried a lot so far. I called in sick for the 3rd time in 4 years at this job, and am determined to make it for my evening inventory shift tomorrow. The pain pills are working pretty well, but I still hurt. I went out to the clinic, in public, in my pj’s and soaking wet hair without even drawing on some eyebrows. And the not-so-helpful Bowser Kitten can’t understand why I won’t pick him up or play fetch with him today.

So, I’m taking it easy today. Spent most of the day at my desk, working on some reports I have to bring to work tomorrow. Read some funny stories, looked at memes and cat videos, watched a little Drag Race. I’ve got a few magazines here I can browse through, some books that need reading, and games on my phone to keep me entertained. It’s weird, not being at work on a Saturday night. It also made me realize a whole lot of things I wish I could do, but can’t with this current job.

1) Brunch on weekends

I have a few friends I’ve been meaning to catch up with for ages, and most of them are looking for something to do on Saturday mornings. What could be a better way to keep in touch than around a table, surrounded by poached eggs and avocados? I used to get together with my sister, brother, and a few cousins once a month for brunch. When my cousins were too busy, me and my siblings went a few times. Then, I started having to work every single weekend and we just stopped getting together.

2) Farmers Markets

Again, these are Saturdays around here. I missed every single market downtown last year because of work and only made it to the west end market once the entire season. I used to love hitting up the market, buying things from local merchants, and trying new things.

3)Hitting up the markets across town

We have a really big market called Market Square, and another market just down the street from it. Again, it’s all local merchants and there is a huge variety of stuff there to explore. I used to go to the market with my dad, pick out some fancy meats or new veggies, grab some authentic polish sausage (or hit up one of the stands selling vegetarian substitutes just for me when dad wasn’t looking), and then just relax and snack on our new finds while we watched tv. I haven’t done that in years though.

4) Grocery shopping in general

AAB just came back from a run to the grocery store, and I couldn’t go with him because of this damn pain. I’m going through what he bought, looking at the receipt, and all I can focus on is the tiny cans of pop he bought me. They’re a pack of six 222mL cans, and two six packs are $5. My inner bargain shopper is screaming right now because I buy two six packs of the 710mL bottles for that price.  I just never have time to do a full, good grocery shop because of when I work. AAB has the van during the day, so I would have to walk to the store (which is right next to my work), load up on everything we need, take a cab back, unload everything and put it away, and then walk back up to the store to go to work. If anything, I usually run to the store on my break and grab a few small things. I miss being able to spend a good hour or so comparing prices, looking at flyers, planning meals, and working with a shopping list and a real budget.

5) Yoga

This pain in my shoulder and neck probably could have been avoided with proper stretching, or with just not sharing a tiny bed with AAB and the super long Bowser Kitten. Truth is, I used to be pretty bendy and flexible. I could never do the splits for some reason, but I never got stiff or sore because when I would read or write I was always in super weird positions. But lately everything is done at my desk, and my only exercise (especially since my fall) has been walking to and from work. I miss being bendy and not sore and wish I had time for the kitten yoga classes they have on weekends across town.

I know it doesn’t sound like much, but I absolutely love these things. For me a perfect weekend would involve a brunch with my sister and brother or a few friends, a yoga lesson or two (and maybe one or two during the week, if I had a schedule I could actually work around), a trip to the Multifoods and to the grocery store near work, and hitting up the market and/or farmers market. I could do a little food prep, make my snack bags, sip on some tea (and wine), and curl up with a good book at night.

But instead, I have this strange schedule that is impossible for me to work around. AAB gets up for work by 6:20am, which usually wakes me up. I either wake up with him or try to nap for an hour or two if I was up later the night before. I drink coffee, check social media, do a bit of writing or read some of my research (which I’m super behind in), and then start on the cleaning. There is somehow always so much cleaning to do. Between the cleaning, trying to write, the oh-so-distracting Bowser Kitten, and attempting to cook something healthy for lunch instead of mac’n’cheese yet again, I don’t hop in the shower until a little after noon usually. After a brief hair and makeup break, I try to clean up a bit more or get started on some sort of project here. But by the time 2pm rolls around, it’s too late to start any big projects or go anywhere before work. Depending on my start time, I’m out the door sometime between 3pm and 4:30pm and am at work until just before 9:30pm. AAB likes to eat right before bed, so he waits for me to come home before he eats dinner. Unless I get stuck in a YouTube loop (thanks, WatchMojo) or actually pick up one of the dozens of books I need to read around here, we’re both in bed by 10:30pm. Even if I get a giant to-do list done in a day, it feels like a whole wasted day of nothing.

I miss being able to feel like I accomplished something in my day. I miss being able to buy my mushroom meat anytime I want it. I miss the smell of the European market and the sight of the giant fish swimming in their tanks just waiting to be killed at the Asian market. I miss green tea and yoga on a Saturday afternoon and hurting myself laughing over granola and poached eggs. I guess this schedule just makes me feel trapped. Having a day off, regardless of the immense pain I’m in, was a bit of a blessing. It’s helping me to see the things that are really important to me when considering a work-life balance, other than the usual “I need time with AAB and to cook dinner sometimes”.

Before I have to take my muscle relaxer (which supposedly will make me goofy), I think I’ll work on a few job applications. The one I’m working on the hardest inspired a post I have in my drafts to work, about the pains of the job hunt. I think I’ll work on it more once I’m done with the pains of having nerves and muscles.

 

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Self-Care Weekend, Embracing My Inner Sloth

Right now there is a little black fuzzy face staring up at me from under the desk with giant kitten eyes that just scream “cuddle me”, but tiny razor-sharp claws that scream “touch me and your PJ pants become booty shorts”. He’s upset that the Amazingly Awesome Boyfriend had to get up early today and head into work, and I’m sitting here in my favourite blanket drinking coffee, which means I’ll be getting ready for work soon too.

I somehow managed to get this past Sunday off, and Monday was a holiday so we both had a day off. Yes, somehow we had a full, entire weekend to ourselves. That never happens to us! Sundays are the only day I am pretty much guaranteed a decent shift at work, so I very rarely get them off. And even though AAB takes the occasional Monday off, I’m usually closing up the store and doing what feels like 37 things at once at home before work. I honestly can’t remember the last time we just randomly had an actual full, unplanned weekend off where we had no responsibilities to attend to, no family events, no huge tasks to complete, and no feeling a panic setting in while we realize all the things that we didn’t do.

This weekend, our to-do list was minimal, at best:

  1. Clean out Bowser’s litter box real good, like AAB does every Sunday so that Bowser has a nice clean place to poop.
  2. Take out the garbage.
  3. Make sure we get anything we need from the grocery store and liquor store before they close.
  4. Hydrate at some point.
  5. Watch Olympics.

Seriously, that was all we had scheduled for the entire weekend!

Ok, so AAB’s mom and aunt announced they were coming over on Sunday, which threw a slight wrench in our “go to the really cute grocery store I love, eat fresh spring rolls in front of the tv, and read a bunch” plan we had somewhat worked out in our heads.  But they were coming over because AAB’s mom bought a small freezer for him for his birthday, which meant a brand new giant box for AAB to turn into a small castle for the regally fuzzy Bowser Kitten.

The rest of Sunday was pretty damn breezy. AAB didn’t go to university, and we live in a student neighbourhood near y old university, so he said he’s always felt a little out of place.  So, I gave him the full “random Sunday night in the middle of the semester” university experience. After setting up our freezer and making a quick trip to the Multifoods for my mushroom meat and random Japanese snack foods, we came home for a quick dinner. While I ate my tempura shrimp, spring rolls, and ramen, AAB made himself tomato soup and a grilled cheese sandwich. After throwing his dishes in the sink, he promptly pulled a blanket up over his head and fell asleep on the couch next to me. It was not even 7pm yet on a Sunday night.

I let him nap for close to two hours while I moved over to the other couch to stretch out. I grabbed my books, the wireless mouse for the TV, and a giant glass of wine. I did a little research for the writing project I’m working on (which is what’s been keeping me from updating my blog the last week or so), curled up with the super cuddly Bowser Kitten under a pile of blankets, watched a little figure skating, and then threw on some old 90’s SNL episodes.

After he finally woke up and crawled off the couch, he grabbed himself a snack and his book and crawled right back onto it. We sprawled out on our respective couches, vowing we were going to get some actual read (and in my case, writing) done when we really just sat there watching the masterful Chris Farley crash through tables and choke on polish sausage. We distracted each other with YouTube videos ranging from pipe fitting tutorials to the 1998 Bourne and Kraatz Riverdance on-ice competition performance. We goofed off, munching on snack foods and watching whatever we could click on first on YouTube for hours. We jumped between random videos, Olympic highlights, and reading each other exerpts from the Bathroom Readers we had in our laps.

Suddenly, it was 4am. We were starting to crash a bit, drunk and full of popcorn. Instead of reaching for the energy drinks I had stashed in the fridge for the weekend, I suggested making a 7-11 run for provisions. So there we were at 4:30am, me with ripped up jeans over my baggy flannel PJ pants, him goofy from tiredness, stumbling around near campus in search of caffeine and snacks. Despite my lactose intolerance, I wound up getting an ice cream cone to go with my giant coffee and container of fried chicken. AAB got himself a much smaller coffee but still went for a bunch of fried chicken.

We chugged our coffees and curled up on our respective couches, snuggled deep in piles of blankets and throw pillows. I was the first to fall asleep a little before 7am, while AAB stayed up just long enough to watch the sun start to come up. We dozed on our couches for maybe 4 hours before waking up for much-needed water. And after that…… we really didn’t do all the much. AAB had gathered up the garbage and cleaned the litter box the night before, all we had left to clean was our dishes. I made a giant plate of Chinese dumplings and leftover tempura shrimp to snack on and moved my lazy butt over to AAB’s couch while he sat in the office for a change of scenery. Basically, I snacked and napped all day in front of the TV. I embraced my inner sloth, letting myself be all adorable and fuzzy with a stupid grin on my face. I napped, Bowser napped, AAB napped. We ate random junk, he baked chicken for his lunches, I made more noodles and dumplings, and we napped more. Then we stayed up extra late to watch the ice dancing final dances.

By the time we rolled into bed after 11pm on Monday night, we were both goofy from a weird form of exhaustion. We didn’t really do anything all day. At the most, AAB took a cab to the grocery store to buy himself some chicken, and I stood at the stove for an hour cooking and cleaning. We didn’t get done any of the things we had somewhat planned for the day, took multiple naps, lazed around all day, and still, we were exhausted. Maybe it was the fact that we both only got maybe 4 hours of drunken sleep the night before and were both hungover as hell. Regardless, somehow AAB forgot that Rod Stewart and Sting are not the same person, I forgot how to brush my teeth, and we both collapsed into bed for a few hours before he had to be up for work at 6am.

Usually, I feel super guilty for not doing anything for even a morning. We both needed this weekend though. I don’t remember having this much fun with AAB in a very long time. We were both just relaxed, my anxiety was almost non-existent, and he didn’t snap at me once the entire weekend.

In the end, this weekend just re-energized me. I was in quasi-sloth mode yesterday but was wide awake at 6am instead of going back to bed after AAB left for work. Even though I have today off, I’ve been up since 6:30am and have worked through a large chunk of my giant to-do list. The adorably sleepy Bowser Kitten is so confused, he had to take an extra nap today just to deal with me so far! I’ve cleaned, written, gathered my research, cooked, and it’s not even noon yet! After a quick shower, I’m off to go do my laundry, and then finish cleaning up the house yet again!

Sometimes we all need time to just embrace our inner sloth.

This I wish I could tell…..

Grade School Me

  1. You don’t have to prove yourself to anyone. As a wise SNL character once said: you’re good enough, you’re smart enough, and doggonnit, people like you.
  2. You don’t have to pick one genre of anything to solely like. Want to listen to Pantera, and Bjork, and New Kids on the Block, and Love Inc., all in the same evening? Go for it. Want to take out Stephen King, and Judy Blume, and William Gibson from the library in one go? Then just do it.
  3. When you audition for a school play, and the director/teacher says you can either stay and watch the other auditions or go back to class, stay. Sit around, watch the auditions, relax. It’ll pay off.
  4. When you feel the need to tell off your basketball coach, don’t. If there’s a serious issue, go tell mum and the principal. And if you do tell him off, and he says he’ll pretend he didn’t hear you, don’t take out the sheet of paper you’ve been rehearsing from and say “Well, you can’t pretend you didn’t read it!”.  This isn’t going to end well if you do.
  5. Write. It doesn’t matter if no one else reads it right now, or if someone else doesn’t like your writing. You’re not writing for them, you’re writing for you. Just keep at it.
  6. When you go to cross country practice, actually run.  Don’t walk the course. Trust me, actually running during practice makes a big difference when you get to the meets.
  7. You don’t need to follow every piece of advice you see in fashion magazines. You will have your own style if you just let yourself be you. You don’t need to try and become some sort of carbon copy of an ad in a magazine.
  8. Don’t wear second-hand makeup. Just because grandma liked that one concealer stick for a while before getting rid of it doesn’t mean it will look good on you. She tossed it because it looked orange. You’ll have orange dots on top of your zits. Just don’t.
  9. Don’t bother worrying about what the cool kids are doing, or trying to impress them. Just because they’re cool right now, this very moment, in your grade school, does NOT mean they’re going to be cool everywhere you go. And who knows, someday when you’re in your late 20’s you may just open up the paper to see surveillance video images of one of those cool kids, with an article saying they’re wanted in relation to a string of small robberies and dealing meth to high school kids.
  10. Don’t keep a diary. Your sister and cousin will find it and read it and mock you for months about it. Keep a journal of creative writing instead. At least if they try to mock you about that, they won’t have any personal information to try and use against you, like the name of your crush while he’s standing right there next to you.

Myself in High School

  1. You know that kid with the bleached yellow hair on your bus that creeps you out and makes fun of you as soon as you move to that school? He doesn’t matter. So what if he doesn’t like you. You don’t like him anyway, so why the hell should his opinion of you matter? You think his friends are pretty cool, so don’t let him push you to be an outcast. You’ll find out much later in life that a lot of the things he tells you, and a lot of the things he says other people think and say about you, are complete lies.
  2. When you meet that cute weird guy who randomly sings to himself in class and is a total goofball, the one you wind up with a crush on for four freaking years, just talk to him. Anything. Try “hi, I’m new here”, or “what are you singing” maybe. Just say anything.
  3. And when you that boy comes to talk to you after an embarrassing drama presentation, let the boy talk! It doesn’t matter if you’re upset and crying, find out what he has to say! Otherwise, you’re just going to hear more lies from that damn yellow-haired boy and you’ll just admire the adorable goofball from afar for the rest of high school.
  4. Just because a guy likes you, doesn’t mean you have to date him. And if you do choose to date someone, the second he tries to tell you what you’re “allowed” to do as his girlfriend and who you’re “allowed” to be friends with, suddenly remember that you’re not “allowed” to date a controlling, manipulative jerk and leave. You don’t need that in your life.
  5. Just because you get picked on doesn’t give you carte blanche to pick on others. You don’t get some special “get out of jail free” card that lets you make fun of other people and be a general asshole to them just because you get picked on too. You’re better than that.
  6. You want to play the guitar, then practice! It doesn’t matter if you’re family laughs at you, or your boyfriend says you suck. If you like it, do it.
  7. Keep writing. Every chance you get, write. Challenge yourself to become better.
  8. You’re really smart, and that’s a good thing. Don’t get pressured into dumbing yourself down. Don’t take lower level classes just because they seem easier, or you won’t have to study as much. Work your ass off, get good grades, join a club or a team. Don’t let others pressure you into being less than you really are.
  9. When adults give you advice based on where they see the world going because of the introduction of the internet, nod and smile politely and just keep doing what you’re doing. I’ll tell you right now, the entirety of world news is not being handled by a few dozen journalists for only three newspapers worldwide. People still buy books and magazines, and now there are blogs and social media you can look forward to. Throw yourself into your writing, throw yourself into all new social media as it emerges. The internet is going to open up opportunities for you, not destroy them like you’re being told. Just keep going with the flow, stay true to you, and keep doing what makes you happy.
  10. You have a lot of passions building inside you that you are completely allowed to immerse yourself in, even if your ideals and interests are nothing like those of the people around you. Learn about politics, even if yours are different than your parents. Dabble in vegetarianism on your own terms. Chop off your hair, dye it, pierce your nose and your ears and wear black eyeliner every day if that’s what makes you happy. Read and write as much as possible, even if it’s all nothing like what everyone thinks you should be reading and writing. You have a heart and a voice that need to develop, and they will be yours and yours alone. Don’t let the people around you tell you that your mind is wrong because it’s not like theirs. Variety is the spice of life, and you’re more “cayenne pepper and cilantro” than the “salt and pepper” you’re being fed. Stay true to you.
  11. When it comes to choosing what to do after high school, look at ALL of your options. You’re going to have some people with very strong opinions, people who think they know what’s best for you, and you will pressure you into doing what they think is right for you. You don’t have to listen to them. You will have the money to apply to school and programs you want when others refuse to pay your application fees unless you do what they think is best for you. You can look at other universities, other cities, other countries. Look at college, look at taking a year off if you’re unsure. Look at scholarships and bursaries so you have some degree of financial independence. Don’t just look at what you feel you’re supposed to look at because that’s what you’re told you’re supposed to do. There is a huge world out there, with endless opportunities at your age. No choice is completely right or wrong, as long as it’s your choice and you make it for yourself.

Myself after high school (19 years old and my early 20s)

  1. “Ninja” is not an occupation. No one in this country gets paid to be a “ninja”. You really shouldn’t be impressed that a guy claims to be a “ninja”.
  2. No one owns you. No one has total and complete say over what you do except for you. Don’t let someone convince you that they know entirely what’s best for you. Yes, you can listen to opinions, but you have the final say.
  3. The second a man lifts his hand to you, leave. You’re not going to calm him down by staying with him. He’s not hitting you because he loves you and you screwed up somehow. He’s only going to get worse.
  4. Save some damn money! There’s no shame in working retail or food services. But don’t go blowing your measly paychecks eating out and hitting the bars. When your car breaks down, gas prices go up, you want a tattoo (which you never did get because you had no money, btw), and you walk through the soles of your favourite boots, you’ll be glad you had money saved in the bank.
  5. Go get your Smart Serve and apply for bartending jobs. If not, people will be telling you for years that with your personality, you would’ve made a great bartender. So just do it, find out if they’re right. Bartenders make great tips, and you don’t have to work in one of those sleazy clubs downtown either. There are great places and restaurants all over this town, despite what people will try to tell you.
  6. If your parents are offering to pay for schooling for you, take them up on it. You don’t have to commit yourself to full-time classes, and you don’t have to plan out your entire future this very second. Take the classes you want to take. Work part-time. Study hard. Learn more about yourself without the student loans you would otherwise have to take out. Even if you don’t wind up in a career in that field, or you change your major a few times, you’ll learn more about yourself and open your mind to new ideas and experiences.
  7. Keep writing. Find others who write. Learn from each other. Ask for help. Challenge yourself. Embrace your position at a local magazine, find a mentor there. Enter contests. Get rejected. Learn to deal with the rejection. And then write some more.
  8. Don’t settle. Doesn’t matter if it’s guys or jobs or school, don’t settle. Explore the world, go for the jobs you want, and never date any guy who isn’t worth your time.
  9. If you still haven’t decided on schooling yet, do some damn research. Don’t just pick a program because your parents want you to take it, or it’s only one year to get a certificate, or your friends are looking at it. Look at the schools, look at the programs. Figure out which ones interest you. And for the love of all things sacred, do some damn research into how the hell you’re going to pay for all this too! Don’t just rely on student loans.
  10. You parents aren’t going to like every guy you bring home. But if they really, truly seem to hate a guy, hear them out. There may be something about him that you can’t see at the time. As outsiders to the relationship you know you pretty well, they may pick up on certain behaviours from him early on that can turn into something major later. Basically, if your parents don’t like a guy because when he snaps you jump, they’re worried about what will happen that one time he snaps and you don’t jump. And that time does happen, it’s not pretty, and it’s damn painful.

Me in my late 20s.

  1. Seriously, I know you didn’t look into all your options when it comes to financial aid, and you’re going to finally go back to school. Before you apply for those loans, look at ALL your options. Yes, you can still get the loans, but you need more than that so that you don’t wind up $59,000 in debt by the time your degree is done.
  2. While you’re at it, look at scholarships and bursaries again. There’s always new stuff out there, and now that you’re a mature student you qualify for a bunch of new ones.
  3. You should still be writing. It doesn’t matter if other people think it’s a waste of time, or if you’ve never had anything published before. It’s what makes you happy. Start a blog, sign up to write reviews for websites, anything to keep you busy. Enter contests. You could make a bit of money off of it too, which could help pay for school.
  4. Keep up with new social media. Take classes in it, if you can. As much as people groan and complain about it, and think it’s just some silly fad, there are going to be people paid decent money to manage the social media for companies and corporations soon enough.
  5. If it saves you money, there’s no shame in living with your parents while you’re a student. This goes doubly true if you’re getting student loans, so that loan money doesn’t get eaten up by rent.
  6. While we’re talking about your loans (yeah, this is a huge thing for you later in life), don’t spend them all! Every time you get a loan, put some away in savings. If you’re working while you’re in school, put a little bit of each paycheck down on your loans. Start paying them back while you’re still in school.
  7. Make a damn plan. Then a backup plan. Then a backup plan for your backup plan.
  8. Build your resume. You don’t need 7 volunteer position in two years that you barely show up for. One or two that you’re really committed to, that shows you have the dedication and a good work ethic, and prove that you’re willing to go above and beyond (by volunteering outside of paid work, in this case) go a long way on a resume.
  9. You only need one credit card. And pay it off! Don’t carry a balance. Debt just builds and builds and builds until suddenly it feels like it’s smothering you. You don’t need that on top of your student loans. Use your credit card for emergencies and online shopping only.
  10. Ok, if you’re going to go back to school as a “mature student”, then take it seriously dammit! You’re not there to live that student life and blow off class to go to frat parties. Yes, you can have fun. But you’re paying a tonne of money to be there, and you need to do well. At some point, you’re going to have to think about graduation and grad school and your future. There’s so many more option open for you if you just do your damn job as a student and work your ass off. You’re good at it, so freakin do it.

Me in my 30’s (now)

  1. Save your money. Save up as much as you can. Just start stashing it away and don’t spend it. You’ll need it soon.
  2. Do whatever you can to pay off those credit cards. If it means moving back in with your parents for a while to save on rent, then just do it. Swallow your pride and do what you have to do.
  3. Retail is not a bad job. Stop thinking to apply for that job at the liquor store is beneath you. You wind up loving it and you’re damn good at it. Just because you have degrees doesn’t mean you’re going to find another job anytime soon.
  4. You’re going to get rejected for a lot of jobs. Like, a tonne. Some of them are going to damn near destroy you. Learn to handle the rejection and just keep applying.
  5. You still need to write. Even if everyone else thinks it’s a stupid waste of time, a hobby you should’ve grown out of years ago, keep at it. Find websites to write for. Write reviews. Write short stories. Blog. Whatever keeps you writing, do it.
  6. Spoiler alert: you hate living with roommates! Seriously, it drives you insane. All you want in life is to get a place where you can walk from the bathroom to the bedroom naked after your shower, and not have to talk to random people every time you want to use the microwave. All that money you should’ve been saving would make a great downpayment on a little house in the area right about now, wouldn’t it?
  7. You are going to fall madly, hopelessly, head-over-heels in love. He will be perfect for you in every single possible way. He knows when you’re sad and cuddles up to you to cheer you up. He loves to curl up on the couch to watch tv or while you read a good book. Yes, he will do things to piss you off sometimes. Yes, you two will fight. But there is literally nothing in the world you wouldn’t do for your one true love, your Bowser Kitten. From the moment you bring him home, he has your heart. You will spend the rest of his life trying to better yourself to provide a better life for him. And yes, he will eventually learn to love curling up in your lap while you’re on the computer. Just give him time.
  8. You’re going to lose grandma. You’ll almost lose mum. Your brother is going to move to another continent for a while. You’ll lose one fuzzy brother but gain two new fur siblings. You’re going to be faced with the people you love and the heart disease, and cancer, and depression, and addictions, and mood swings. A lot of shit is going to happen in a very short time, and it’s going to feel like you can’t handle it all. Hang in there, you’ll get through it.
  9. Speaking of all that heart disease and cancer: take care of yourself better! Once you quit smoking, don’t start again! Cut back on the drinking. Get up off your ass and exercise. Make smoothies and fresh muffins. Learn to eat better and move more. You’re already going to spend a lot of time sitting down while you write. Throwing in a bunch of soda, junk food, and red wine in the mix isn’t going to help much. In fact, it will only serve to exacerbate the genetic betrayal that is your legacy. So get up, right now, and take a walk. Do some yoga.
  10. Seriously, you and your Work BFF have a tonne of material in your heads. Be goofy. Make Vines. Make YouTube videos. Do stand-up.

 

 

Well, the ever-cuddly Bowser Kitten did not want me to get any work done today! I sat down at my desk more than an hour ago with my coffee and a muffin, ready to start an online blogging course and catch up on the news. Instead, I got sucked into a Vine compilation because someone decided I didn’t need to get anything done. He planted himself in my lap, tried to steal my muffin in the cutest ways possible, and grabbed my wrists with his tiny little paws every time I tried to touch the keyboard. So instead of doing any actual work, I just sat there with him and watched some old Vines.

Not that it matters much today. This overwhelming feeling of blah isn’t breaking anytime soon, I think. I went back to work yesterday and reunited with my coworkers. After the long stretches I was doing last year, having two days off felt like an eternity away from them. Being back felt so useless though. With the holidays done and over with, my 6am-2:30pm shift is done. I no longer work 8 hours a day, 5 days a week, guaranteed. Instead, the dreaded 4-hour shifts have returned. I’m back to closing almost every single night, barely seeing the Amazingly Awesome Boyfriend thanks to our conflicting schedules. There isn’t as much work to be done at the store, meaning we have a lot more “standing around looking for things to clean” time, as opposed to the “throwing cases up on shelves and running around helping 7 customers at once” I’ve gotten used to over the last few months.

This switch in work schedules and responsibilities always leaves me feeling blah. I feel like I’m useless like there’s no point in me even being at work. That feeling bleeds into everything else too. Add that to the cold weather that keeps me indoors more often than not, the shortened days, and those holiday credit card bills arriving in the mail, and I wind up wanting to crawl under my flannel blanket with somewhat comforting Bowser Kitten and just hide from the world.

For a few years now, I thought there was something wrong with me. I mean, with all that joy and sugar from Christmas, how could I be so down right now? Well, it turns out this is a very common thing and there are varying degrees of it. Some people wind up with a case of the Winter Blues like I have. Everything is just kind of blah and pointless, but you can still mostly kinda function.  Others have full-blown cases of Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD. The season, lack of sunlight, and lack of time outdoors can take a much greater toll on some people’s mental health than others. Thankfully, I’ve never seemed to be affected by full-blown SAD. I just get down and blue this time of year. Thankfully, there’s a lot of different things that can help mood and mental health. Here are some of the things I’m trying this year to get me out of this funk.

1. Try to eat healthier

I know, this is one of the first New Years Resolutions most people break. You stock your fridge with veggies and tofu, vow to do meal prep every weekend, and then wind up ordering pizza yet again. And you know what? That’s freakin fantastic!

You don’t have to switch from your holiday diet of red wine and cookies to a macrobiotic vegan diet overnight to get any benefits. I like to make little changes, like my muffin this morning. Usually, I would just guzzle coffee on an empty stomach and then wolf down a huge meal later. But yesterday I decided to use up the leftover pumpkin puree I had in the fridge, throw in the last of my flax seed, add some protein powder one of my last roommates left behind when he moved out, and make muffins topped with pumpkin and sunflower seeds.

Another thing to try is to just add veggies and fruits to your meals. You want to shove your face with pizza instead of cooking tonight? Then order a salad to go with it, or keep some bagged salad in the fridge. Then, instead of a meat feast pizza with extra cheese, just get regular cheese and one meat with a few veggies. Ideally, your meal should be 1/2 veggies, but no one is looking over your shoulder and counting. Just put forward an effort to throw some veggies into your meal. Pretty much every meal AAB cooks includes a big pan of sauteed or boiled veggies. When I throw meat into the oven to cook, I like to throw some baby carrots and potatoes in there with it, just in case I’m crunched for time later and can’t manage to make another veggie. We keep frozen veggies in the freezer (because keeping them in the cupboard is a dumb idea), canned veggies in the cupboard (far away from the frozen veggies), and we buy fresh produce bit by bit throughout the week.

2. Guzzle water like your very life depends on it.

I don’t mean start chugging gallon jugs of water, multiple times a day. While it’s damn near impossible to wind up with water intoxication when just drinking water throughout the day, there was a famous case about a decade ago of a young woman who chugged two gallons of water without going to the bathroom in an effort to win a radio contest. I wouldn’t ever recommend going that far with the water. But staying hydrated is important for your health and your mood.

New Year’s Eve, AAB and I had some drinks. On New Years Day, we went off to my parents’ place for their New Years Day party. I had a glass of juice before we left, and then dove straight into the mimosas once we were there. I played bartender for my cousins throughout the day and wound up drinking quite a few mixed drinks and a lot of red wine. The next day, I woke up and had my coffee as usual. I didn’t bother filling up my water bottle, and instead grabbed a half-finished bottle of Coke Zero. At some point int he day, I made some tea. But that was it for the day. I felt like absolute crap. I wasn’t hungover, but I was so slow and sluggish. I couldn’t focus, couldn’t manage to get anything done, and I just wanted to cry all damn day. Yesterday, after my coffee, I immediately chugged two glasses of water. I had energy enough to clean the kitchen, bake my muffins, make a batch of couscous, organize my grocery list a bit, to some stretches, and get some much-needed mopping and hand-scrubbing done on the entranceway floor here. Just drinking water can make a huge difference.

3. Get some sunlight and Vitamin D

A lot of times, I leave for work as it’s starting to get dark a bit, or it’s stormy out. On my holiday schedule, I would be out the door before sunrise, but have plenty of natural light through the big windows at work and running errands on breaks. Now, my breaks are long after the sun has gone down, and most of my daylight hours are spent in the house. Thankfully I have the ever curious Bowser Kitten here who loves to look out my bedroom window and watch people and animals walk by. So I have the blinds open for at least a few hours each day, letting in that natural sunlight.

Another thing I’ve found is that taking a Vitamin D supplement when I’m not outdoors much is a huge help. You get Vitamin D from the sun, so not being in the sun means you’re not getting your Vitamin D. Makes sense, right? Years ago when I was in university, one of the doctors in the school clinic told me to grab a cheap bottle of Vitamin D at the pharmacy in the winter, since I was spending so much time indoors reading and writing. It made a huge difference in my energy levels, my mood, my complexion, even my contact lenses felt better (as strange as that sounds).

4. Get up off your ass and move a bit.

This is a huge problem for me right now. Before New Years, I was on a stock shift. Every morning we would come in, sweep the store out, scan a store-wide divert, run the floor machine, pull stock in the warehouse, put stock away in the store, and then work on the load for the day. Basically, we were on our feet all day, lifting cases of wine and booze, putting away bottles, and just generally keeping busy physically. I got two 15-minute breaks and a half hour lunch on those shifts. The Work BFF and I would head to the coffee shop on our first break for bagels every day. Usually at least half of my lunch was spent running errands. And when we actually did take our last break (it would get so busy most days, we’d forget), half the time I’d run out and do a soda run for everyone or hit the Bulk Barn for a little bag of nuts and a Zevia soda (my new love). I was averaging around 13,000 steps just at work each day.

Last night, I had to job in place and dance around just to stay awake on my four-hour shift. There was no stock, there was no load to work on. We faced the store, scanned every price tag outside of the fridge to make sure the new year price change went through smoothly (it didn’t), and stood around talking a lot during the long stretches with no customers. I’m not lifting heavy things or running through the warehouse moving and reorganizing stockpiles. No, now I’m just standing at my register, bopping along to the radio and trying to resist the temptation to go buy a jumbo bag of M&M’s. A huge reason why I get so blah this time of year is because of that drastic and sudden change in my physical motivation.

One thing I keep up no matter how cold it gets is my walk to work. Right now I’m scheduled 6-7 days a week. Just the 20-ish minutes it takes to walk to work each day makes a huge difference in my mood. AAB went out and got me TWO coats for Christmas this year, and a new Oogie-Boogie hat to make sure I’m warm on my walks. Just walking to work and getting some steps in before my shift is a huge mood booster for me.

Unfortunately, when I’m around the house I am Lazy AF. Our bedroom is so packed with our stuff that there’s not much room to exercise in there. Our tiny little office is so small, there’s no room there either. And the last time I tried to exercise in the living room, I had a creepy-ass roommate constantly peeking around the corner and watching me. I hate working out in front of people, and that was just too damn creepy for me. So, I have to find little things to do around here. I make Spotify playlists and dance around the room to them, sometimes with Bowser Kitten and his four left feet. There’s enough room on the bed for some planks, and I can do stuff like standing donkey kicks and work with light hand weights in the bedroom. I just need to keep up the motivation to keep doing all of this, since it makes a huge difference in my mood for the day.

5. Find a new hobby.

I know, I’ve been saying I’m going to learn to knit for years now and I never seem to get around to it. This is the perfect time to try it, though. When the blah’s hit, stimulating the mind with something new can be exactly what you need to keep your mind from creeping further into crisis-mode. Last year I taught myself to arm-knit, which was a colossal waste of time. I mean, that really thick, chunky yarn is damn expensive! But, it gave me something to focus my mind on while I watched Walking With The Dinosaurs yet again and learned about the mating habits of the T-Rex.

It doesn’t have to be an entirely new hobby, either. Like I said, I learned to arm knit last year. Before that, I had been loom knitting for years. This year, I want to move onto traditional knitting, with sharp needles and all that dangerous stuff. I also plan on writing more, both here and on one or two projects I’ve been making notes on for way too long.

6. Find something new.

Something AAB like to do when we order Chinese food is to order things we’ve never tried before. That’s how we absolutely fell in love with the Moo Goo Gai Pan at the closest Chinese restaurant. Sometimes we Google something to see what it is first, but most of the time we order it anyway.

This is the time when we try new things. There’s a bunch of small restaurants in our neighbourhood, since we live near the local university, that cater to people on a very tight budget. Instead of our usual pizza or Chinese dinner, I’m hoping to try a new place every week or two. There is a vegetarian place just down the road that I have been dying to try for months that I think I will finally hit up!

And as any of my readers know, I watch the same damn thing over and over and over. I have a collection of Vine compilations that I watch over and over. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve rewatched Daria and the first two seasons of Twin Peaks. And if I watch Tank Girl any more, I’ll have it memorized. So to cut through the gloom of the season, I am making it a point of watching new things. Already today I found Cheapest Weddings on Netflix and love it. AAB and I have found a bunch of shows and documentaries online about criminal profiling, serial killers, serial criminals, and crime theories. Even when it comes to books, I’m branching out and going through my huge unread pile. I’m already on my second Twin Peaks book of the year, and I may actually finish reading the Ray Bradbury collection I started last summer instead of rereading Stephen King’s Insomnia yet again.

7. Get warm!

I love curling up with a giant mug of tea, maybe another mug of soup, and a third mug with some noodles or scrambled eggs. In other words, I’m a big fan of stuff in giant mugs. When you get cold, you get cranky. The cold saps your energy and makes you tired and miserable. While it’s unavoidable to get cold ever in this weather, there’s a lot you can do to stay warm, even without giant mugs.

I have a small collection of warm blankets and a Snuggie, all of which were either gifts or I got dirt cheap at a thrift store. I also have a small collection of flannel shirts (and Bowser’s favourite flannel blanket) to curl up with. Even just having a warm hat and mittens this time of year can go a long way as far as keeping you warm. Dollar stores and thrift shops are pretty much the greatest places to be this time of year, with all their cheap warm accessories and mugs (and they’re always freakin hot as hell this time of year, so free heat!). Keep nice and toasty this time of year, and it will help keep the gloom and blues away.

 

I know, this all won’t work for everyone. These are some of the things that help me the most, though, when the blues set in this time of year. My anxiety is pretty high right now, and I wake up not wanting to get out of bed in the morning. But following through with some of this stuff each day really seems to help me. Hopefully there’s something here that can help you, too.

Happy New Year!

I was in a bit of a funk for the month of December. I had a list of topics to write about for the month. I even had seasonal topics, mainly holiday-specific things that pop into my head sometimes. I had every intention of writing quite a bit and of getting my life together throughout the month. Instead……. I barely existed.

Usually, the holidays give me energy. This year, they just drained me. My job drained me. My relationship with the Amazingly Awesome Boyfriend drained me. Friendships drained me. Even some of my co-workers drained me. It just seemed like the entire month was one giant ball of ick, without all the festiveness and that controlled chaos I love.

You see, I like being busy. I love my holiday 6am shift. It’s draining, and exhausting. I leave feeling sore, and walk a whole bunch while lifting things. We looked at how many skids of product we got for our deliveries, and how many people we had working the delivery shift. Between pulling the warehouse, putting away the delivery load, and stocking shelves, we each lifted an average of just over 12,000lbs each day. With the exception of hurting my back yesterday, I’ve been loving this shift. I’m awake at 4am to have my coffee and take a quick shower. I’m out the door by 5:30am for a freezing cold walk to work. I leave by 2:30pm and then have the entire afternoon and evening to do stuff. My plan was to clean, cook, bake, and craft my afternoons away and then have a nice dinner with AAB before going to bed early.

None of that has been happening though. I was going to declutter the bedroom, deep clean the floors, do a little reorganizing, and completely clean and reorganize the kitchen. There are some new knitting needles on my desk from a coworker with a list of instructional sites so I can learn how to knit. My mending is piled up in the corner with my sewing kit. And I pulled out my box of notebooks to finally go through. And none of this got done. Most days, I came home and did just what needed to be done. I scrubbed the bathroom, swept and mopped, maybe ran the vacuum through the bedroom quickly. But none of the projects I had lined up for myself got done. Hell, they didn’t even get started!

Instead, I sat around watching YouTube a lot. That’s when I knew I’m in a funk and need to do something about it soon. I’ve watched a few hundred Vine compilations, but am like nine weeks behind on listening to my favourite podcast. I rewatched a bunch of Bar Rescue but stopped watching things that were new to me and I was enjoying like Mindhunter and Bob’s Burgers. I haven’t touched the new coffee maker or straightening iron I got for Christmas. I haven’t even wanted to eat the Christmas treats I baked, opting instead to eat halushki (plain potato and flour dumpling balls boiled in water and served with a little salt and/or sauerkraut) every day for lunch. I have been the walking definition of the term “in a funk”.

As opposed to the happy jolly front I’ve had on at work, I’ve been miserable. Instead of loving the stress and busyness of this time of year, I’ve hated almost every minute of it. I was happier getting yelled at by customers while working a cash register for 8 hours than I was at home with all of my decorations and projects. I didn’t watch most of my favourite Christmas specials or movies. I didn’t play my It’s A Wonderful Life drinking game this year. I didn’t get any mulled wine or send out Christmas cards. I busted my ass to finish the few crafts and writings I needed for gifts, and that was it. For the most part, I plopped myself down in my desk chair and watched reruns I’ve seen dozens of times before. Not even festive reruns, just the same old crap I watch all year.

I know I need to make some changes. AAB and I have been talking about the things in our lives right now that we’re not satisfied with, and the things we have a chance to change in the new year. He has a great opportunity to learn a trade at work, and I have the chance to finally get some medical benefits so I can afford to see a dentist (damn wisdom teeth coming in!) and get my eyes checked (damn glasses!). We have a bit of money saved up and are looking into buying a home in our area. Homes are pretty cheap in our part of the city, and our city is one of the cheapest ones to live in Canada right now. Once we buy a home, we’re looking into adopting a rescue kitten for the surprisingly mature Bowser Kitten to teach how to be a cat. And then we want to look at used cars.

We have all of this coming up in the new year, I know I need a severe kick in the arse to get myself in gear. We have a lot of big goals we want to accomplish together that will need quite a bit of working on. I also know that I need to personally make some changes in my life in order to stop these constant funks.

Today is New Years Day. Traditionally, it’s the day that all New Year Resolutions begin. Today not only the first day of 2018 and the first day of January, it’s also Monday, the first day of a new week. On top of that, tonight is a full moon. Not just any full moon though: tonight is the Wolf Supermoon. If any time were a time for a fresh start, today would be that time.

Unfortunately, as you’re reading this, I’m sitting at my parents place eating shrimp and kielbasa and drinking wine. It’s their annual New Years Day party, and I’m not starting any resolutions during the party. We’ve been having this party every year since before I was even born. It’s a day to gather with family and friends, eat too much, drink a little too much, and catch up with everyone. It’s like Christmas and the Super Bowl combined!

Also, I don’t make resolutions. I’ve found that whenever I consciously make a “resolution”, I fail before the end of January. Something about that whole “I’m going to change my life for the better, and make some major changes, and they’re all happening right now” mentality I’ve always seen with anyone I’ve known making a resolution puts too much pressure on me to keep it. It doesn’t feel like a gradual improvement or a lifestyle change. It becomes this all-or-nothing major change to a person’s life, where one wrong move can derail the entire thing in seconds.

Now, when I break things up and set goals instead, it makes everything seem a lot more capable. Instead of the usual “I’m going to get my shit together this year” resolution I’ve been pressured into making every year since the early 2000’s, I’ve decided to set some concrete yet flexible goals for myself this year. The point of them is to be something to work towards, without them strict that one tiny slip-up would cause everything to come crumbling down around me. So, I’m setting myself a whole bunch of goals this year.

1) Start living that roommate-less life

I go to work every single day and deal with random-ass strangers. Then I come home and live with random-ass strangers. When there aren’t enough random-ass strangers renting rooms in our house, then I have to show vacant rooms to random-ass strangers when I just want to relax, put my feet up and read. I am getting pretty damn sick of all these random-ass strangers in my random-ass house!

So this year, we want to change our living situation. Ideally, we would want to buy the house we are in right now. We wouldn’t kick anyone out right away, but I would get some new leases drawn up putting a time limit on how long they can live here (6 months to a year, probably). Then we just wouldn’t replace people as they left. Then I could start deep cleaning the house without wondering “is this even mine? Does random-ass-roommate use this? Did another previous random-ass-roommate leave this behind?”. We could make some small improvements, slap some fresh paint on the walls, move in the furniture I have stores at my parents’ place (which includes a real bed, instead of dinky twin bed we’re sharing now), and the ever curious Bowser Kitten could explore the basement finally.

If that isn’t possible, our next plan is to buy another house in the area. I’ve been combing websites, talking to coworkers and friends, and even once talked to a mortgage broker for advice. In the new year, we’re going to look into pre-approval for a mortgage through our banks and through some private lenders. Knowing what we qualify for and what we can afford, I can narrow our search down and we can hopefully find a place.

If the housing market jumps again like it did early last year (homes were going for almost 30% more than their asking price!), then we’re prepared to look into apartments in the area. I already have a list of building management companies to stay away from, which buildings don’t allow fur-children, and which buildings in the area have horrible reviews from current and previous tenants.If it comes down to renting an apartment for a few years, we’re willing to do that if it means not living with roommates anymore.

2) Figure out that whole career-path part of life

Now, this isn’t as drastic as it sounds. I’ve been applying for jobs for years, with no results. I’ve been turned down so many times, it reminds me of trying to find a date for my high school prom (FYI, I went alone and freakin’ loved it). I have applied for everything from government positions to university secretaries to random-ass office positions. Nothing has panned out.

Then, this really weird thing happened: when I got day shifts, I started to really love my job. I have some fantastic coworkers that I love working with, and my wages aren’t that bad. Even with our slow period coming up in the new year, I’m not too bad off for hours. Mind you, it’s all closing shifts and weekends again, and I will most likely have to do a few 14+ day stretches again, but at least I put my foot down and declared to everyone that I’m not doing the 30-day stretches this year.

What I need to figure out is: do I want to dedicate myself to my current job and hope for the best, or is there another job out there I want that I should be going for? I don’t want to be applying for any job with a desk and a chair just to get out of my current position. I also don’t want to just accept my current job and declare myself a lifer if there’s something else out there that I want. I need to look through job ads with a better eye and try to figure out if this is a job I could not only see myself doing but one I could see myself leaving my current job for. I don’t want to be working two or three jobs at the same time right now, so I have some choices to really look into in the coming months.

3) Stop being such a lazy piece of crap and exercise more

Yesterday while I was trying to take a case down from on top of another case on the top shelf in the warehouse, the case I was handling opened and a bottle started to fall out. In a panic and not wanting to get a full bottle of sangria smashed into my face at 7am, I jerked the box towards me and twisted myself in an awkward way to keep the bottle in the box. My back has been in pain ever since. I filled out an accident report, and the district manager even came in to check on me, so my ass is covered if I seriously hurt myself.

But now I’m being extra careful of my back at work. There’s a lot of stuff I can’t lift or carry right now, and I have to be extra cautious when lifting pretty much anything. I’m doing more squats to lift and move things, and am engaging my core muscles to support my back. And all of this is damn near killing me. I am so out of shape, just trying not to murder my back is going to murder the rest of me.

I am ridiculously out of shape. I walk everywhere and have been using that as an excuse not to exercise. I mean, why work out when I’ll be on my feet at work all day anyway? While I have always been ridiculously strong for someone who doesn’t work out, my muscle-tone is almost non-existent. I stopped wearing sleeveless tops in public a few years ago because I was so embarrassed by my arm flab. And I can feel now just how out of shape my core is.

I’m not pledging a certain number of workouts a week or a month. I’m not setting a step goal, or a calories-burned goal, and anything else as rigid as that. Instead, I am setting a goal to move more and get in some basic exercises each week in order to help myself feel better. I know I need to get some planks in there, and I need to find leg and butt exercises that won’t aggravate my bad knee. I also want to work on my arms. But I’m leaving the details loose. Maybe I’ll do YouTube exercise videos. Maybe I’ll find some apps for my phone that help me work out. Maybe I’ll do a plank challenge, or just stretch a lot more often when I wake up or before I go to bed. It doesn’t matter what I’m doing, as long as I’m doing something to help my body.

4) Drink. Less. Alcohol.

This is a pretty important one for me. As I’ve said before, my job involves selling alcohol. I see a lot of addicts every day, and the fact that I’m helping them fuel their addiction really bothers me. At the same time, I come home from work pretty much every night and pour a glass of wine. Many nights I’ll have two or three glasses.

I know this isn’t a healthy behaviour, and it’s something I need to address. Pretty much everyone I know outside of work tells me to just jump into a Sober January and start doing long stretches without alcohol. I know this isn’t going to work for me, not where I work now. So, I’m making plans for cutting back. Add some club soda to my wine to make a spritzer. Cut back on the actual number of glasses I drink each night. Replace wine with juice or soda. Track the nights that I don’t drink on my calendar.

I know to a lot of people, this seems pretty weird. But I live with an alcoholic, deal with alcoholics daily, and have no intention of committing to total sobriety. I want to re-teach myself to deal with stress without drinking. I want to prove to myself that I do not have a problem with alcohol, I’ve just recently let the habit of “take off the uniform, pour a glass of wine, bitch about work with AAB” get a little out of hand. I don’t crave the alcohol, I just grab it as a force of habit. In this new year, I intend to change those habits.

5) Stop putting off grown-up things, like doctors appointments

I’m already one step ahead on this one! I have appointments one day the second week of January to have all of my moles checked (I have a lot on my back and arms that I can’t regularly check myself) and to see my gynecologist. I’m also working on getting benefits so I can make appointments to get my eyes checked, see a dentist, and maybe even get my back and knee looked at in the new year.

I have put these things off for so long, it’s scary. My family has a history of heart disease, cancer, and arthritis. I should’ve been keeping an eye on these things all along, but put them off out of fear. The last time I ordered contact lenses, I guessed on my prescription because it’s been so long since my last eye exam that my prescription has changed. Now my contacts and my glasses are different prescriptions and it bothers my eyes changing from one to the other. And my wisdom teeth started coming in two years ago, which was more than two years since my last dentist appointment.

6) Sort through all the crap in my life.

I have so much stuff in this house right now, it’s ridiculous. I keep telling myself I’m saving things for when I don’t have roommates, but they just get combined in with everything the roommates borrow and destroy.

Well this year for Christmas, my brother gave us a nice set of dishes. They’re white with a black and red pattern of a black cat and some yarn. It’s a full set in a box, and there’s no way in hell I’m letting any roommates touch them. So, I’m setting aside a large Tupperware bin for anything I’m not going to use now but will be once we are roommate-free. So far my plates and my new Harley Quinn dish towels are going in there. As for the rest of the stuff I’ve been saving up…… we’ll see.

I’m going to slowly go through everything, bit by bit, and pare down what I have here. Whatever makes the cut and can stay, I’m organizing. I got an early start on my last day off and already have a small bag of things to donate to the local women’s shelter. I intend on growing that donation quite a bit and bringing something there every month or so. I have some gently used clothes, my current coffee pot (which is being replaced by the lovely new one Santa brought me), perfume, and even some blankets and sheets. I’m going through everything, bit by bit.

I’m not stopping at what can be donated though. I’m getting rid of the piles of crap I have around here. I have a box of old notebooks that are all partially used. I’m going through all of them, saving what notes I want, and then deciding which notebooks I’ll actually keep to write in again and which ones are going in the recycling. Same goes for all my bins and piles: I’m not keeping what I don’t want or need anymore.

7) Embrace and work with my creativity.

The one time all year I was happiest and most content was the entire month of November. I was working crazy hours, had two days off the entire month where I didn’t even get to relax, and I barely had any time to get anything done. But I was writing every single day. I put forth the effort every single day to sit down at my computer and type something out. No, not everything I wrote was great. Hell, a lot of what I wrote wasn’t even good. But I was sitting down and writing something every single day. I know I can’t realistically write out a blog post every single day, but I can do it most days. I’ve always put so much pressure on myself to write these great posts, and then never gotten around to writing them because I never thought what I wrote was any good. Just putting my writing out there, not caring if it wasn’t all my best work, made me feel more alive. I wanted to create more, and I did. I know that I need to get back into that again.

Also, my Work BFF and I are pretty much walking Vine compilations. If we aren’t quoting Vines to each other or quoting Instagram videos from our favourite Viners (RyDoon, that would be you mostly), then we are able to be funny for a whole 6 seconds at a time before dissolving into hysterical laughter together in the warehouse. Well, word on the street (and by street, I mean the internet because the information superhighway is the only road I use since I never leave the damn house) is that V2 is coming. Yes, a brand new Vine is supposed to come in the new year! And guess who has decided to make videos: me and the WBFF! We just want to make some funny clips, share our bizarre sense of humor with other people, and see if anyone else out there can burst out into random laughter as much as she does.  This is just something fun that we can do together while we’re goofing off, or in the parking lot after work when we’ve gone goofy from lack of sleep.

 

There is so much more that I want to do this year. I have stacks of books I want to get through. I want to learn to knit and take free online courses and learn French again. I’m not going to start making lists of 2018 goals like “read 45 books” or “take 12 Coursera classes”, because I know I never follow through with them. But with all the other goals I have lined up for the year, I know I can fit in a bit of everything I want to get done right now if I just see it as something I want to do instead of something to check of my to-do list for the year. I love to-do lists, but they can only last so long before I lose track of them. A week, maybe two for short-term goals, and without my old “day planner + monthly calendar + four-month calendar + daily/weekly/monthly to-do lists” organizational scheme I had back in school my long-term goals go maybe a month. I need to fix that. I need to get my life in that organized chaos state again, before the boredom and the blah kills me.

I’m not going to force it all at once. I’m going to let things happen, work on things a bit at a time. Things need to flow properly, and I need to go with that.

So Happy New Year, Sunshine! I hope that 2018 brings plenty of love and cheer your way, in whatever way you need it!

I Am So Old Right Now

Sorry for the two days of silence on here. I had one crazy busy past couple of days.

-Saturday, while I was writing to you all about my Bob Geldof/Santa Claus conspiracy, I had to get everything done. I had my regular Saturday chores to get done before work, plus I had to get done my Sunday chores. On top of that, I had to find something to wear to my Christmas Party, gather up all my stuff to bring to work, and make a list of what I still needed to pick up. Got to bed a little later than I had hoped after a crazy shift at work, but got almost everything done.

-Sunday I had to leave a list of things for the Amazingly Awesome Boyfriend to get done while I was at work. We all got pulled for the 9-hour shift, with an hour-long lunch. Had to be at work early because I had the keys to the store, but another co-worker had the security code for the alarm, so we both had to be there together. Walked all the way to work before realizing I left my uniform shirt and apron at home, so I had to call AAB to run them out to me. Ran errands on my lunch break, so I barely got to sit down all day. Was on my feet running cash most of the day.  Actually got threatened by a customer who didn’t bring ID to the store so I couldn’t serve him. Buddy, if you’re stupid enough to stand at my register while holding a bottle, and then loudly call your friend to tell him you don’t have ID with you so he has to come in to buy the bottle, then hand over your money to him while standing right in front of me at my register, then you have no right to get mad and scream at me when I ask for your ID.  Skipped one of my breaks so I could cash out 15 minutes early to go wrestle with pantyhose and get my dress on for the Christmas party.  AAB met me at work, and the work BFF and her fiance picked us up there. Went right to the party and stayed until just after midnight. Drank ALL the red wine, danced in high heels to almost every song, and had my contacts in for 17 hours straight.

-Yesterday, I didn’t want to move. Had a bit of a hangover from all that red wine. The worst part, though, was the physical pain. I don’t go out dancing like I used to when I was in my early 20’s. And I have never made it the whole night without switching to my purse flats before, especially after I hit the dance floor. My legs and knees are just killing me! Had a headache from the combination of red wine and sitting at a table right next to the speakers, so the boss let me wear sunglasses while I worked last night. We all had a good laugh at the fact that I couldn’t crouch down.

All I’ve been saying the last two days is, “I am so old!”. I feel old, physically, right now. I’m really not used to this. I mean, I know that I’m not a kid anymore, despite my behaviour. But my sore knees and aching legs made me realize a lot of things.

I was up there dancing all night with my much younger co-worker. I paid for it dearly the next day. With my current lifestyle, I just can’t randomly jump out on the dancefloor in heels all night long and go crazy out there like I did when I was 23. I could sit around and mope about that, or I could find something good to take away from all this. I can tell now that walking everywhere just isn’t enough. I’m still crazy strong, especially for someone who doesn’t work out. But I’m not toned, I’m not flexible like I used to be, and my cardio just plain sucks. I keep telling myself that I’m going to start doing yoga, or I’m going to work out more. But this experience, feeling so old after just a night of drinking and dancing, shows me how important this really is. I’m not even middle-aged yet, but my knees felt 90 yesterday.

When I was in my early, and even my late, 20’s I could stay out late drinking and still get up for work or class in the morning. I had what now seems like super-human recovery time. These days, not so much. I am still feeling tired and worn out from Sunday night, and this is Tuesday! And you know what? This is a good thing. I don’t need to be going out at night, pounding back vino like grapes are going extinct. I went out and drank too much, and smoked too many cigarettes, and now I’m paying the price. I don’t need to be treating my body like that anymore.

The truth of the matter is that I need to take better care of myself. I feel so old right now because I don’t take the time to make myself feel young. I don’t do my stretches, or work out. I don’t eat all that well sometimes. I smoke, which I’ve been meaning to try quitting yet again. The reason I feel so old is that I’m making myself old. I may be young at heart, and act like an overgrown child at times, but I don’t treat myself this way.

I’m not about to quit smoking and drinking completely today, and go vegan and start meditating and running 5Ks a day. Hell, I haven’t even done anything real to better myself today while I’m realizing all this! I still feel like crap, and don’t want to move. But I know that I need to make some changes, and I need to make them soon.

I finally get two whole days off next week, after a 21-day stretch! I think I’m going to go to the awesome international market on one of those days and grab some mushroom meat. A week from tomorrow, I start my holiday 6am shift. This means packing food and drinks that will keep me going for the day. Like I’ve said before, shifts like this are my healthy shifts. I eat better, I move around more. I get home early enough in the afternoon that I’m going to put forth the effort to at least do some stretches when I get home from work. I’m planning out my to-do lists for the holidays, and I’m going to be keeping myself really super busy.

Hopefully having all this crazed holiday madness right after my post-Christmas-Party pains will be a real kick in the ass for me. I really need to make some changes to my life, and fast.

More Praise for the Internet

Sorry lovelies, but today my head is just a giant pile of mush. I had a few glasses of red last night and the got assaulted with cuddles all morning by the surprisingly loving Bowser Kitten. It’s already after 11am, and I have done exactly nothing all day. I played a game on my phone, checked my Twitter, messaged my mum to see how dad is doing (she’s supposed to be at work, so I can’t just call), and have been hiding in my room from roommates all morning. Even the super snuggly Bowser Kitten is in a mood, burrowed into the blankets on the bed with only his little head poking out.

I just can’t wrap my head around anything today. I’m going over to-do lists, trying to get things done, but no one else around here gets anything done so I get side-tracked. This morning, I got up to make coffee around 9:30. Instead of my usual “put the coffee on, go to the bathroom, brush my teeth, go grab coffee” routine I do most mornings, I had to wash a sink full of dishes, scrub old macaroni and some sort of brown sauce off the counters, and clean off the stove. My 10 minutes routine was more than half an hour thanks to that! And I seem to be doing everything in super slow motion today, too.

I think part of this is because I spent so much time looking at my schedule for work. They decided to open our store later on Sundays for the holidays, and the first night of this is the night of our Christmas Party. The Amazingly Awesome Boyfriend and I are supposed to head out to the party around 6:30 with the work BFF and her fiance, but I am scheduled until 8:15pm. So I have to do a little finagling of the schedule, perhaps a little bribery to switch some things around and get an earlier shift. That’s my only 8-hour shift that week, so I can’t afford to just give it up. Actually, it’s one of the few 8-hour shifts I have in the 21 straight days I’ve been scheduled. Yes, after working a 30-day stretch and getting hell from my manager for working that many days, I take two whole days off just to be thrown into a 21-day stretch. If I hadn’t taken this past weekend off, then I would be working 53 straight days.

There are a few really crappy things that come with this. First off, in our collective agreement it states that we can only be scheduled 6 days a week unless we agree to pick up hours on that 7th day. I could totally go to management and tell them I can’t do all these days in a row, and they’d just give away a shift a week. But they don’t have to make up those hours anywhere on the schedule for me. That means I would be losing 5-8 hours a week just to have a day off. Another crappy thing is that I’m working 7 days a week, and still not being scheduled for 40 hours. In the past, I’ve had weeks where I’ve worked 7 days and not even gotten 30 hours! If I want to pay the bills, then I have to work all of these shifts somehow.

The weird thing is, my managers just gave me hell for doing a 30-day stretch! True, part of the streak was my own doing. When people needed shifts covered, or we knew in advance that we would be short on certain days, I volunteered to pick up hours. But I also did that with the assumption that the days off I was already scheduled for later in the schedule would remain as days off for me. I’d plan for a 14-day stretch, only to have my day off on day 15 rescheduled as a closing shift, give me 20+ days. Even at the very tail end of my streak, I was supposed to get days 27 and 28 off, but the manager tweaked that and gave me shifts instead! On day 30, when I made it known that I had survived yet another 30-day stretch, my manager said I can’t do long stretches anymore and have to take days off. Then he turns around two days later and schedules a 21-day stretch!

All of this scheduling, re-scheduling, and long stretches makes having a life outside of work nearly impossible. It’s already hard to schedule around my job since my shifts change so often. I can be scheduled to close at 4:15, just to get a call at 8am to come in at noon instead. Or I can get a highly coveted morning shift with the expectation to be out of there by 3pm, only to get extended until 6pm. And we just found out recently that the company as started to log everything you do regarding the schedule, possibly to use against you. Every time you request a day off, call in sick, refuse to switch shifts or come in early or pick up an extra shift…….. this all goes in a report they add to your annual review. They even log the reasons why you turn down shifts!  This makes scheduling anything else in my life damn near impossible!

Take, for instance, doctor’s appointments. It’s time for my full physical, something that I simply cannot ignore. We have a history of cancer in my family, and cervical cancer is one of them. I’ve had to have cryosurgery before, to get rid of pre-cancerous cell growth that was caught before it became full-blown cancer. It’s uncomfortable enough for me to make an appointment like this already, but my doctor left his practice and was replaced by a brand new doctor. My down-under exam will be my first time meeting this doctor! I have been trying to find the time to schedule this appointment for almost a month now, and it looks like it will be another few weeks before I know for sure I can have the time to do so without penalizing myself at work. I have a physical to book, moles that need to be checked, I haven’t had my eyes checked in 6 years and need to get new glasses, and I should probably see a dentist someday to check on that wisdom tooth that started coming in a little over a year ago.

What really gets to me, though, is that one of the only ways to really advance in this company is to learn French. Actually, not being bilingual is one of the things that has really been holding me back from getting a government position in my field. There are places around here where I could learn French, but it’s impossible to both afford this and take the time to make it to these classes with the way schedules are done. The work BFF has it in her file that she is only available until 7pm on Mondays and Wednesdays. There are 8 different shifts that the manager has given out on the current schedules that she could possibly work on these days. Still, since she’s not available to close, he doesn’t schedule her at all most weeks. Taking even a few hours off of my availability each week to take French classes could mean giving up 10-16 hours of paid work each week! I really can’t afford to do that.

That’s where the third great love of my life comes in (the first two obviously being AAB and currently hiding Bowser Kitten): the internet. Ever check out Duolingo? It’s free online language lessons! I haven’t been able to keep up with mine much lately, but I’ve been chipping away at them bit by bit. As you learn, you have the option to strengthen your skills and go over things you’ve previously learned. They even have a TinyCards page with little flashcards to help you keep up with your skills. Also, they have an app that lets you learn on the go. And it’s not just French you can learn on there. There are 27 different courses for English speakers to help them learn other languages!

Duolingo isn’t the only free online resource for learning, either. Go do a Google search for free online classes. There are a tonne of resources out there! One of my personal favourites (even though I have a hard time finishing courses sometimes) is Coursera. They have a tonne of courses that you can either take for free (just to gain the knowledge and upgrade your skills), or you can pay to take them to get official credits from schools around the world. You can specialize in things from every area of knowledge in their catalog, from marketing to teaching English as a second language.

Can’t find exactly what you’re looking for on there? Well, try out Open2Study, an Australian-based website that follows the same model. What I love about this site is that it features a lot of self-paced courses. The problem I have when taking online courses is that I’ll start one, get all excited about it, and can only go so far at a time. You have to do a little bit each week, which kind of kills my motivation. With my constantly changing schedule, and putting my writing before anything else online right now, I tend to just drop courses after the third week. With self-paced courses, you can do as little or as much as you want at a time. Have a day off? Laying in bed sick all day? Don’t feel like watching reruns of Friends on Netflix yet again after a long day? You can throw on a lecture video, pull up some online notes, and do just as much work as you’re feeling up to at the time.

One thing I’ve been meaning to look into more is learning a bit of web development online. I learned some very basic HTML way back in my MySpace days, but pretty much stopped there. Having some basic development tools is essential for a lot of jobs out there now. Web development is becoming the new “proficient in Microsoft Office” in resumes. There are a tonne of resources out there, which I haven’t really evaluated for you guys at all. Like I said, this is something I’m looking into, not something I’ve actually thrown myself into yet. Still, I’ve been going over the sites listed here in this article. I’ve heard of a few of them before, like Khan and Code Academy. Maybe one of you out there has a little more insight into which online sites would be best for someone looking to learn online, and would like to leave a comment for us.

It’s actually mind-blowing how much there is that you can learn online. Did you know Yale has free classes online? University of Toronto? MIT? I mean, how great would that look on a resume? “While employed with [XXX], I independently upgraded my skills by taking online courses through both MIT and Yale”. I mean, it just sounds cool. Like, I live in the little border town, working my little retail job, working on my homework for MIT. Need an excuse to get out of a social situation? “Sorry, I can’t make it to your Silly Sock Social and Spritzer Mixer. I have to finish a paper for that class I’m taking at Yale.”

And for anyone who doesn’t think that any of this free online learning is “official” enough for them (I’ve heard that complaint from a lot of people, actually), or you specialized education like a Masters Degree or a few university classes to finish your major, there’s something out there for you too. Almost every single university out there now offers some sort of online learning. All through my two degrees, I took at least two online classes a year, usually during the summer months. I was a Teaching Assistant for an online Sociology class for three years. For us Canadians, there is even an entire university dedicated to online learning: Athabasca University. This online school is a collection of majors, courses, degrees, and certificates from universities all over Canada. Most Canadian universities will allow you to substitute online classes from Athabasca for courses you’re unable to take physically at your school for whatever reason. It’s just a matter of filling out some paperwork and using the online classes kind of like transfer credits. You can pick up a few classes here, or do a full degree. I’ve looked into a few certificates recently that would go great with my degrees, and really add something to my resume!

I don’t know, I’m in one of those moods where I feel like my entire life is falling apart, and I need to do something to get out of here. Like I said, my schedule doesn’t allow me to take the time off to upgrade my education, so I’ve been looking into all of this online learning a lot lately. These classes are perfect for anyone who needs to do a bit of learning but doesn’t have the time to dedicate the same time each week to physically going to a class.

I do have some words of warning, though. Like I said, I took quite a few online classes at my university and was the Teaching Assistant for one course. I know how easy it is to blow off work for these classes. When I had to physically go into class and participate in lectures, go to labs, hand in work, then that pressure to keep up was the motivating factor in me getting anything done sometimes. With my online classes, I could put off doing any reading at all until just before an assignment or paper was due. I once took a course and didn’t even take the plastic wrapping off the textbook until more than halfway through the semester! Unless there is some sort of schedule to the class that makes you hand things in, or take tests and quizzes, and all of this is at regular intervals, then it is ridiculously easy to dig yourself an academic hole that is stupid crazy hard to climb out of.

So, is there anything out there that you need to learn? Always wanted to learn a little bit about Ancient Rome? High school Spanish teacher always tell you that you’d never be able to learn more than a few words of Spanish, and you want to prove him wrong? There is something out there for everyone online. You just need to know where to look for it.*

*Google. Google is where you look for it. Type it into the damn search and look for it.